The Sun News » Editorial http://sunnewsonline.com/new - Voice of The Nation Thu, 30 Jul 2015 15:54:35 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.6 One year without polio http://sunnewsonline.com/new/one-year-without-polio/ http://sunnewsonline.com/new/one-year-without-polio/#comments Wed, 29 Jul 2015 23:00:29 +0000 http://sunnewsonline.com/new/?p=129169 Nigeria, this week, marked one year without any reported case of Wild Polio Virus. As we commemorate this, we commend the efforts of the government and other stakeholders in the war against this disease. Organisations such as Rotary International, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), the World [...]]]>

Nigeria, this week, marked one year without any reported case of Wild Polio Virus. As we commemorate this, we commend the efforts of the government and other stakeholders in the war against this disease. Organisations such as Rotary International, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), the World Health Organisation (WHO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Dangote Foundation deserve kudos for this achievement

Speaking at a brief event to mark this milestone in Abuja, President Muhammadu Buhari promised that the Federal Government will mobilise and deploy all necessary resources to   complete the task of eradicating polio from the country.
The elated president pointed out that he was looking forward to the formal declaration of Nigeria as a polio-free country in 2017. Nigeria has not recorded any polio case since July 25, 2014.
Strident efforts to eradicate Wild Polio Virus from Nigeria started in 1997 when the Federal Government established the National Programme on Immunisation (NPI). Not much success was recorded in the first decade of this programme, hence its reorganisation. After the reorganization in 2007, appreciable progress was recorded between 2009 and 2010, before a lull.
However, a great push to eradicate polio  from our shores was launched in 2012 under the administration of the then President Goodluck Jonathan. He declared a national emergency on polio and set up the Presidential Task Force on Polio Eradication (PTFoPE). The national polio eradication initiatives were also complemented with expertise from the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI).
We congratulate the government and people of Nigeria and our development agencies and partners on achieving one year without any recorded case of polio in the country. We also commend all the health agencies and donors that have worked tirelessly to achieve this noble objective.
The government and its polio eradication partners should step up the eradication effort through the National Immunisation Days (NIDs) and other routine immunisations. There should be no room for complacency to avoid a relapse of the disease. State and local government health authorities should complement the efforts of the Federal Government towards achieving the set goal of formal declaration of Nigeria as polio-free by the World Health Organisation in 2017. We say this because any complacency on their part may lead to a resurgence of the disease. Now that our country is free from the disease for one year, we should keep the good record.
The campaign against polio should be taken a step higher to ensure that every child in Nigeria is reached with the polio vaccine. In fact, no Nigerian child should be left unimmunised including those in hard-to-reach areas. Efforts should be made to ensure that all children entering the country through any of our borders are either immunised or have evidence of such immunisation, especially those coming from polio-endemic countries.
We enjoin parents to ensure that their children and wards are immunised against polio. Rejection of the vaccine should attract some sanctions. We plead with traditional rulers and religious leaders to prevail on their members to immunise their children. Let all hands be on deck to ensure that polio is kept off our shores.
We laud President Buhari for his resolve to step up the fight against polio to ensure that Nigeria is finally declared polio-free.
Let the nation’s health authorities keep up the polio fight. The template and strong resolve that were used to kick polio out of Nigeria should be deployed to tackle other child killer diseases in the country.

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The World Bank rehabilitation package for N/East http://sunnewsonline.com/new/the-world-bank-rehabilitation-package-for-neast/ http://sunnewsonline.com/new/the-world-bank-rehabilitation-package-for-neast/#comments Wed, 29 Jul 2015 02:38:03 +0000 http://sunnewsonline.com/new/?p=129035 One of the gains of President Muhammadu Buhari’s recent visit to the US is the announcement of the World Bank plan to provide a $2.1 billion (N413 billion) rehabilitation package for the ]]>

One of the gains of President Muhammadu Buhari’s recent visit to the US is the announcement of the World Bank plan to provide a $2.1 billion (N413 billion) rehabilitation package for the North-Eastern states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa that have been ravaged by the Boko Haram insurgency. Within the past six years that the terrorist group has been waging a bloody campaign against Nigeria, over 20,000 people have been killed and about one million displaced, most of them in the North-East geo-political zone of the country.

The insurgency has seriously thwarted the developmental aspirations of this region and it is encouraging that the World Bank has come up with this facility to ease its rehabilitation. This financial intervention will go a long way in ameliorating the plight of the inhabitants.

We commend the World Bank for granting Nigeria this facility and urge that it be judiciously used. If properly applied, it will help redress the devastation of the region and encourage other institutions to offer similar aids. The task of rebuilding the North-East is huge and cannot be borne by Nigeria alone. We encourage other countries and well- meaning institutions to lend a hand to Nigeria to restore normalcy to the troubled region.

The effort to totally rid the zone of insurgency must also be tackled more urgently and decisively than ever before, as it will be  impossible to rebuild the area in the present atmosphere of war. Let all hands be on deck to end this insurgency so that the task of rebuilding the North-East can begin in earnest.

The intervention from the World Bank is a soft loan, which is interest-free for the first 10 years, and will thereafter attract interest that is below the capital market rate for the next 30 years. We can expect the bank to adhere to best institutional safeguards to ensure that this money is not misapplied. It is, however, necessary to enjoin Nigerian officials who will be involved in its management to display high level of circumspection that is required to ensure that the loan is used to   achieve the objective for which it is to be granted.

It is heartening that the Federal Government has assured the World Bank that  Nigeria and the affected states will ensure due diligence to facilitate the quick disbursement of the funds. This should quicken the rebuilding of the region. The task ahead is gargantuan and it will require a lot of money, personnel and management know-how to make the desired impact.

In the re-building process, the restoration of basic of infrastructure must be prioritised. Rebuilding of destroyed houses, schools and healthcare facilities deserve urgent attention. So also, arrangements should be made for food, clean water, drugs and safe waste disposal facilities.

The North-Eastern zone has been a fertile recruitment ground for insurgents because of its poor human development records. It is the region with the lowest school enrolment figures, and a high   unemployment rate. The zone is the most-prone to desertification. It is the least developed, yet the most expansive in terms of size.

This loan is a wake-up call that this region badly needs help. Millions of its inhabitants need to be rehabilitated. Many have lost their loved ones in cruel circumstances and have suffered physical and psychological trauma. They have been stripped of their sense of self-worth and they have to start their lives afresh.

The time has come for the government to step in boldly and address their problems.  Let the Buhari government chart a new course for the region, with all the affected states, local governments and other governmental and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) playing their parts. The Federal Government cannot do it alone, so we urge all relevant local and international agencies to stand up and be counted in this onerous effort to restore normalcy and rebuild the North-East.

We heartily welcome the World Bank initiative and call for more of such facilities to help restore peace, progress and prosperity to the zone.

 
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Dealing with Scholarship/Unity School admission racketeers http://sunnewsonline.com/new/dealing-with-scholarshipunity-school-admission-racketeers/ http://sunnewsonline.com/new/dealing-with-scholarshipunity-school-admission-racketeers/#comments Tue, 28 Jul 2015 01:35:47 +0000 http://sunnewsonline.com/new/?p=128905 The recent disclosure that some unscrupulous persons have been impersonating staffers of the Federal Scholarship Board to defraud scholarship applicants of huge sums of money is worrisome. Victims of the fraud ]]>

The recent disclosure that some unscrupulous persons have been impersonating staffers of the Federal Scholarship Board to defraud scholarship applicants of huge sums of money is worrisome. Victims of the fraud syndicate are said to have paid as much as N119,000 each  to the scammers to “benefit” from the Federal Government Scholarship Scheme. The same syndicate has also been implicated in admission racketeering, fraudulently collecting money from unsuspecting members of the public ostensibly to give their wards admission into the nations’ Federal Government Colleges/ Unity Schools.

The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education, Dr. MacJohn Nwaobiala, who announced this development in Abuja, said the government has launched an investigation into the alleged scams with a view to bringing their perpetrators to justice. He pointed out that his office had been inundated with complaints from victims of the fraudsters.

It is suspected that some staff of Federal Scholarship Board might have connived with the syndicate to scam scholarship applicants. Nwaobiala has, however, warned that anyone indicted in the scam will not be spared.

We strongly condemn the activities of this criminal syndicate. Such criminal acts, which are traceable to the desire to cut corners by some members of the public,   can only dent the nation’s image.

It is good that the government has set up a panel to investigative this matter. We call on the members of the panel to discharge their duties with a high sense of responsibility. They should not leave any stone unturned in unearthing those behind the scams, and ensuring that they are brought to justice. On no account should the matter be swept under the carpet. The only way to prevent a recurrence of such embarrassing incidents is to punish those responsible for it.

Scholarships and school admissions should be given on merit only. Compromising this stance can only vitiate the objectives for the establishment of the scholarships and the Unity Schools. It is wrong to try to compromise both the admission and scholarship processes as this will keep the truly deserving candidates out of contention. Offering of bribes or other inducements to get admission or scholarships is corruption, and it stands condemned.

We urge members of the public to desist from patronising members of this syndicate whose only objective is to defraud unsuspecting persons of their money. Parents and students are enjoined to refrain from falling prey to the scammers. They should note that payment of extraneous monies is not required for getting scholarships. Monetary inducement should also have no place in admissions into Unity Schools.

One of the reasons for the increasing rush for admission into Unity Schools is the declining quality of teaching in the nation’s other secondary schools. There is a glaring dearth of qualified teachers and requisite teaching facilities in most of our secondary schools. Since education is on the concurrent legislative list, the state governments that own most of the nation’s schools should improve the institutions. The condition of most state secondary schools leaves much to be desired. It is necessary to bridge the quality gap between Unity Schools and the nation’s other secondary schools. This will go a long way in reducing the desperation for admission into Unity Schools and the propensity for fraud in their admission processes.

Besides, the Federal Ministry of Education should fine-tune the admission procedure into Unity Schools and make it more transparent. Similarly, the Federal Scholarship Board should conduct its affairs with fairness and ensure that only qualified candidates are allotted the available spaces.

Unscrupulous persons found taking advantage of loopholes in its processes to defraud scholarship applicants should be relieved of their positions and prosecuted.

Above all, education authorities must plug all loopholes in the administrative systems that make it possible for scholarship/admission fraudsters to scam unsuspecting Nigerians.

 
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The ban on 133 oil vessels http://sunnewsonline.com/new/the-ban-on-133-oil-vessels/ http://sunnewsonline.com/new/the-ban-on-133-oil-vessels/#comments Mon, 27 Jul 2015 00:24:02 +0000 http://sunnewsonline.com/new/?p=128738 FOR many years now, the accounting and reconciliation systems used for crude oil liftings and receipts have been widely acknowledged to be grossly inadequate for the important task of monitoring Nigeria’s oil exports. There are also frequent discrepancies in data produced by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and those on bills of lading for [...]]]>

FOR many years now, the accounting and reconciliation systems used for crude oil liftings and receipts have been widely acknowledged to be grossly inadequate for the important task of monitoring Nigeria’s oil exports. There are also frequent discrepancies in data produced by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and those on bills of lading for oil exports.

It is in this regard that we welcome the banning of 133 oil vessels from crude oil and gas-loading activities at terminals within Nigeria’s territorial waters. This ban, if properly enforced, should help check the high level of impunity in Nige­ria’s oil and gas sector.

The ban, which is believed to be at the instance of President Muhammadu Bu­hari, was communicated through a circu­lar signed by the Group General Manager, Crude Oil Marketing Division of NNPC, Mr. G.O. Komolafe, to all terminal opera­tors. The ban has since taken effect, with the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), the Nigerian Navy, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agen­cy (NIMASA) and Nigerian Customs Ser­vice (NCS) mandated to enforce it.

Undoubtedly, this ban is in order. It is, indeed, a bold statement by the Buhari ad­ministration to shut the revolving door of corruption in the oil sector, in particular, the Augean stable in the NNPC. The oil agency has been at the centre of various allegations of scams, including non-remit­tance of huge revenues to the Federation Account.

In the last two years alone, NNPC has been indicted for oil pilferages and non-remittance of sundry oil revenue. In 2013, for instance, the House of Representatives Committee on Finance headed by Hon. Ab­dulmumin Jubrin said it uncovered N321 billion revenue shortfall to the Federa­tion Account by NNPC and its subsidiary companies. Within the same year, former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, alleged that NNPC had failed to remit the sum of $20 billion due to the Federation Account, as provided for in the Nigerian constitution

Indisputably, there have numerous re­ports of irregularities in the NNPC and some of its subsidiaries. Past probes into the operations of the agency unraveled huge financial malfeasance. The report of Pricewaterhouse Coopers’ investigation of allegations of unremitted funds by NNPC hinted that the organisation’s operations are largely opaque and vulnerable to cor­rupt practices.

Therefore, if the banning of these vessels from lifting crude oil in Nigeria will help stem some of the identified irregularities, that will be good for the oil sector and the economy, especially in this period of fall­ing oil prices and the resultant shortfalls in revenue accruing to the Federation Ac­count.

The ban might well be the first in a se­ries of steps to be taken by the current ad­ministration to sanitise the oil sector and set NNPC on the path of accountability and transparency in its operations. Presi­dent Buhari has repeatedly said he would tackle corruption in NNPC. Also, in his just-concluded official visit to the Unit­ed States, he vowed to expose fraud and corruption in the oil sector. He alleged, among other things, that certain ministry officials stole millions of dollars daily and operated “secret accounts”. He promised to trace, freeze and recover the loot.

Beyond the ban on the oil vessels and the exposure of oil thieves, we urge the government to revisit the plan for a Na­tional Production Monitoring System that will ensure accurate measurement of re­al-time oil production. The mechanism is an effective, efficient, non-intrusive real-time surveillance that will check irregu­larities and abuses by oil vessel owners and traders. The absence of an accurate technology-driven system has made it easy for oil theft to continue to thrive.

Although the plan was mooted by the Jonathan administration, he could not push it through. Considering that about 400,000 barrels of crude are lost every year to oil thieves, which translates to over $5 billion a year at the current in­ternational price, excluding N105 billion loss of refined petroleum products, gov­ernment should embrace a multi-faceted approach to ensure accountability and transparency in the production and sale of crude oil, which is the nation’s main revenue earner. It is important that all av­enues of leakages in the oil industry are plugged. Sustaining crude oil production at the present level of 2.2mbpd is already threatened by oil theft, but proper moni­toring can help change the situation.

If the oil sector is to be made transparent as Buhari has promised, comprehensive policies should be put in place to ensure proper documentation of vessels, bills of lading and other details of oil lifting. The ultimate goal should be accurate ac­counting and reconciliation. NNPC should henceforth operate in accordance with the NNPC Act, Laws of the Federation No 33 of 1977. There must be full disclosure of its operations in its own interest and that of the Nigerian economy.

 

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Buhari’s good outing in the US http://sunnewsonline.com/new/buharis-good-outing-in-the-us/ http://sunnewsonline.com/new/buharis-good-outing-in-the-us/#comments Sat, 25 Jul 2015 23:08:20 +0000 http://sunnewsonline.com/new/?p=128578 We congratulate President Muhammadu Buhari on what has turned out to be a successful visit to the United States. He may have felt a little disappointed on US’ insistence on enforcing the Leahy Amendment, which deprives Nigeria of some of the weapons it needs to prosecute the war against Boko Haram. But, the arms affair [...]]]>

We congratulate President Muhammadu Buhari on what has turned out to be a successful visit to the United States. He may have felt a little disappointed on US’ insistence on

enforcing the Leahy Amendment, which deprives Nigeria of some of the weapons it needs to prosecute the war against Boko Haram. But, the arms affair must  be seen as a small part of the outcome of his trip.

The visit appears to have reset Nigeria’s lacklustre relationship with the United States in recent years, especially the last seven years that Mr. Barack Obama has been president. To the Obama administration, Nigeria was a country paralysed by unrelenting corruption which should not be encouraged by nursing a relationship that could be misconstrued as an endorsement of its leaders. Nigeria’s relationship with the US had just been polite, if not cold, in the past few years.

But, the election of Buhari, a man who has a reputation for integrity, appears to have been a game changer. The Obama administration has embraced this new administration in a manner it

did not embrace any of its predecessors.

This was reflected in the level of the delegation sent to grace the occasion of Buhari’s inauguration. Above all, the invitation of President Buhari for a fourday official visit for an administration that is less than eight weeks in office speaks volumes of the high regard for his person, and the huge expectation from his administration. Buhari’s warm reception in America signposts a new measure of trust in Nigeria, which our government needs at this time.

At a time Nigeria is under pressure by one of the most brutal terrorist organizations in the world, it is reassuring that we have the support of the United States, a country which has confronted terrorism for years and boasts a great deal of resources for that fight. It is not just arms that Nigeria needs against Boko Haram. It needs intelligence and diplomatic support, as well as resources to deal with internally displaced persons. The promise of the US President to support the Buhari regime in the fight against Boko Haram is encouraging. We urge the administration to make the most of it.

The pledge by the World Bank to provide $2.1 billion toward the reconstruction of the North-East region of Nigeria which has largely borne the brunt of the carnage and destruction by the terrorists is a very important accomplishment. We urge the Nigerian government to make the most of this soft loan, and see its liberal terms as a measure of international support for Nigeria in the battle against insugency.

Nigeria is reputed to be one of the most looted countries in the world. President Buhari’s promise to recover stolen wealth and govern with integrity apparently resonates with Obama and the American people, who are reportedly cooperating with Nigeria in the effort to track and repatriate $150 billion stolen Nigerian funds. Nigerians are cheering the effort to recover the looted funds, and we know it is not going to be an easy task. The world is, however, reassured by Buhari’s promise to spare no one, including members of his own party or his associates, in the fight against corruption.

The business discussions were no less momentous. President Obama, without prompting, reiterated his earlier promise to the African continent that the United States is dedicated to the electrification of Africa. As the single biggest catalyst of development, electricity is a sine qua non if Africa must realise its full developmental potentials. We urge Buhari to explore the full potentials of this promise. The United States practically completed its electrification many decades ago. This unleashed its enormous productive powers and propelled it to its position as the number one economy in the world. There can be no doubt that the biggest hindrance to Nigeria’s industrial and economic development is the acute lack of electric power, a problem that has become worse in the last two administrations.

Buhari and Obama seem to have a meeting of minds on the need to appoint some technocrats and professionals into his cabinet. Every effort must be made to encourage the US Chamber of

Commerce, which has expressed interest in various sectors of our economy, to invest in Nigeria. The government should improve our investment environment to encourage foreign direct investment and spur our economic development.

Beyond Buhari’s commendation of America for its contribution to the success of the 2015 elections, and his faux pas on how the election might not have gone well but for America’s role, (which drew the ire of many commentators in the country) we think he, indeed, had a good outing in the United States.

All he needs now is to consolidate the relationship and follow up on the initiatives. If he is able to do so, the gains of the visit will be enormous.

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Sunday Oliseh and the future of Nigerian football http://sunnewsonline.com/new/sunday-oliseh-and-the-future-of-nigerian-football/ http://sunnewsonline.com/new/sunday-oliseh-and-the-future-of-nigerian-football/#comments Fri, 24 Jul 2015 23:26:05 +0000 http://sunnewsonline.com/new/?p=128527 The recent appointment of ex-Super Eagles skipper, Sunday Oliseh, as the new coach of the national team is generating sundry reactions from keen followers of Nigerian football. The new coach replaces Stephen Keshi, who was sacked last week. Oliseh has a three-year contract under which he will earn N5 million a month. While some football [...]]]>

The recent appointment of ex-Super Eagles skipper, Sunday Oliseh, as the new coach of the national team is generating sundry reactions from keen followers of Nigerian football. The new coach replaces Stephen Keshi, who was sacked last week. Oliseh has a three-year contract under which he will earn N5 million a month.

While some football fans have hailed the appointment, and described it as the best for football in Nigeria considering the many reverses it has suffered in re­cent times, others are quick to point out that Oliseh is not the best man for the job. The handler of the national team during Oliseh’s days as a player, Clemens Wester­hof, a Dutch, has condemned the appoint­ment. He, among other things, said that the new coach lacks the capacity and ex­perience to manage the team.

Despite the criticisms of Oliseh’s ap­pointment, it will be recalled that he coached in the Belgium lower tier between 2008 and 2009. He is a holder of UEFA’s Pro Licence coaching qualification and a member of FIFA’s Technical Study Group. Besides, Oliseh demonstrated a deep knowledge of football during his var­ious appearances on Supersport, a cable television network.

The new coach is passionate about Ni­gerian football and has come up with fresh ideas on how to raise the standard of the game in Nigeria. He appears to have sound technical knowledge on how best to improve the dwindling fortunes of foot­ball in the country. It is good that he has been given a chance to prove his mettle in this regard, and we urge him to live up to the expectation of Nigerians.

We congratulate Oliseh on his appoint­ment and advise him to learn from his predecessor’s mistakes. He should try to improve on Keshi’s achievements. It will also be in his interest to avoid the mistakes that led to Keshi’s sack, which are clear­ly far beyond his rumoured search for a coaching job in Cote d’Ivoire.

Oliseh should also be mindful of the politics of Nigeria’s football house and the intrigues that can sometimes be frus­trating for even the best coaches. Nigeria has a long history of hiring and firing of coaches, foreign and indigenous. How­ever, the erstwhile strident clamour for a foreign coach is ebbing, and Oliseh should do all he can to demonstrate that he is up to the task.

Oliseh is coming to manage the national team at an auspicious time that the for­tunes of the team have plummeted. The task before him is, indeed, enormous. This is a period that discipline is at a low ebb and calls for national assignments are no longer taken seriously.

The first assignment before Oliseh is to map out workable strategies for building a formidable national team. He should strive to build a team that can instill fear in our opponents and triumph over them on the field.

We need a team with players who are hungry for success and ready to do what is required to win laurels for the country. We need a team that will inspire interest, hope and confidence each time it is on the pitch.

For some time now, our football has been predictable, especially with regard to avoidable defeats and humiliations. The Super Eagles did not qualify for the 2015 African Cup of Nations (AFCON). It did not advance beyond the round of 16 at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

If Oliseh must succeed, he should, be­yond fielding players in top leagues abroad, look for talents wherever they are and give them opportunity to wear the national colours. Local talents should not be excluded from his searchlight. There is no doubt that there are talented foot­ballers in all parts of the country. What is required to bring them out is a diligent and rigorous search, and good training to blend them into the national team.

But, Oliseh cannot do this alone. He re­quires the assistance of a sound technical crew. He needs a good psychologist who can motivate the players and psych them up for football glory. He also requires good football administrators who will ca­ter for the needs of the players in camp and at tournaments. We have had cases of unpaid match bonuses and other aber­rations in the past. This should no longer be so. We will also like to see a reduction of the meddlesomeness of officials of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) in the running of our football. Their interference in the choice of players and other similar decisions contributed immensely to the ruination of the game in Nigeria.

We wish Oliseh a successful tenure as he strives to bring football glory back to the country.

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The rising wave of cultism, gangsterism http://sunnewsonline.com/new/the-rising-wave-of-cultism-gangsterism/ http://sunnewsonline.com/new/the-rising-wave-of-cultism-gangsterism/#comments Fri, 24 Jul 2015 01:10:04 +0000 http://sunnewsonline.com/new/?p=128413 The Lagos State Police Command recently raised an alarm on the increasing activities of cultists and gangsters in the state.]]>

The Lagos State Police Command recently raised an alarm on the increasing activities of cultists and gangsters in the state. The problem is, however, not limited to Lagos, as many instances of gang violence have been reported in different parts of the country in recent times. Rivers, Benue, Ondo and Delta are among states which have recorded instances of gangster violence of late and it is important that the nation’s security agencies nip this criminality in the bud.

It is not surprising that sundry criminal gangs are harassing innocent people in different parts of the country,  considering the difficulties the police are experiencing in ensuring  law and order in the society.

Nigeria’s police personnel put at about 400,000 is far from adequate to police a population of over 170 million, especially when we take the dynamics and fluidity of the figure into consideration. Lagos, by its peculiar cosmopolitan and extremely complex nature, presents more difficulties. The challenge, therefore, is for the government and people to work together to afford the megacity state the level of policing that is commensurate with its size and status.

Criminal cults and gangs, to be sure, are not a new phenomenon in the country.  But, the increasing struggles for political ascendancy, business advantage, sheer survival and general control of turfs have increased the intensity and violence associated with them. In a season of elections like the one we just came out from, it is not unusual for touts and other criminal elements that were armed and used by politicians during the elections to move on to other criminal engagements after the polls. Some of these criminal elements move from being mere gangsters to cultists, to strengthen their hold on the communities they terrorise.

It is self-evident, as the Lagos Police Public Relations Officer (PRO), Kenneth Nwosu, said in a statement, that “the activities of these hoodlums are at the root of armed robbery, kidnapping and other forms of violent crimes being experienced in our neighbourhoods”.  These gangs engage in robbery, kidnapping for   ransom and all manner of odious rituals which earn them stupendous wealth and promotion in their cults.

This is the magnitude of the challenge the police face in many parts of the country and it is good that the Lagos Police Command has correctly identified the problem. It should now go ahead to design strategies to tackle it, while other states that have similar challenges should do the same. Cultists usually have godfathers in very high places, and so are difficult to deal with. In Lagos, there have been frequent eruptions of their activities in Mushin, Lagos Island, Bariga, Shomolu and Ikorodu, and the police need to pay special attention to these areas.

For the police to deal with this kind of criminality, it will need to change its modus operandi. It will have to infiltrate these gangs with a view to understanding their operations and sponsors in order to burst them and bring them to account. This will require specialised training and vastly improved equipment and logistics which are presently inadequate.

The efforts of the Lagos State government in sustained collaboration with the police through trust funds and other such financial instruments appear to be waning. It should be reinvigorated. Special arrangements should be made to improve funding of security in the state because the challenge is enormous and the task cannot be left to government or a few public-spirited individuals or organisations alone.

When the police are empowered, we expect that these criminal gangs   will be fished out and their activities curtailed. What is paramount in this and other police duties is the ability to gather intelligence and quickly act on it before the gangsters are able to strike. This is not a task that can be easily achieved by poorly equipped and ill-motivated police.

When these criminal elements are arrested, it is imperative for the police to diligently prosecute them in accordance with the nation’s laws and secure convictions. This is important as it will serve as a deterrent to other youths who may want to take shortcuts to wealth.  There are, however, many among these cultists who were misled into cultism.

The criminal justice system must look out for them with a view to rehabilitating them and making them productive elements of the society, after they might have been punished for their offences.  Reformed gangsters can even be part of campaigns to rid the society of   criminal elements in future.

We call on the Police, especially the Lagos Command, to be more pro-active and diligent in their operations to bring the wave of cultism and criminal gang activities under control.

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The alleged forgery of Senate Standing Orders http://sunnewsonline.com/new/the-alleged-forgery-of-senate-standing-orders/ http://sunnewsonline.com/new/the-alleged-forgery-of-senate-standing-orders/#comments Wed, 22 Jul 2015 23:58:34 +0000 http://sunnewsonline.com/new/?p=128262 THERE is growing disquiet in the country over the allegation of forgery of the Senate Rules and Standing Orders used for the elections that produced Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, and Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, on June 9. The Senate Standing Orders guide all aspects and procedures of the Senate, including the promulgation of [...]]]>

THERE is growing disquiet in the country over the allegation of forgery of the Senate Rules and Standing Orders used for the elections that produced Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, and Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, on June 9. The Senate Standing Orders guide all aspects and procedures of the Senate, including the promulgation of parliament and the election of its principal officers. The document became a subject of intense controversy following the rejection of Saraki and Ekweremadu’s elections by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), and the allegation by some of its senators that five of the standing orders were forged.

The alleged forged section of the Senate Standing Orders 2015 (Amended) that is at the heart of the current controversy provides for secret and electronic balloting for the elec­tion of the Senate’s leaders, whereas the Sen­ate Standing Rules 2011 used by the immediate past 7th Senate that was dissolved on June 6, provided for open balloting. Some senators who have made statements to the police on this matter have reportedly affirmed that the 7th Senate, at no time, amended the Senate Standing Rules 2011, while the 8th Senate had also not held any sitting at which it could have amended the document prior to the inaugura­tion of the National Assembly on June 9 and the election of its leaders. The contention, then, is over the source of the Senate Standing Orders 2015 (Amended) used by Senate Clerk, Alhaji Salisu Maikasuwa, for the elections that pro­duced Saraki and Ekweremadu.

Senators who have risen in stout defence of the Senate Standing Orders 2015 used for the recent elections have said that the 2011 Stand­ing Orders were amended “administratively” by the Senate bureaucracy. However, both the 2011 Standing Orders and the controversial amended 2015 edition reportedly provide that the Stand­ing Orders guiding the work of the Senate can only be amended by the Senators themselves. Specifically, Order 101 provides that (1) any Senator desiring to amend any part of the Rules or adding any new clause shall give notice of such amendments in writing to the President of the Senate. Other sub-sections of this Order provide that the proposed amendment shall be printed, circulated to all members, considered and adopted as part of the Senate Rules, pro­vided that two-thirds majority of Senate mem­bers decide to go ahead with the amendment. These steps were allegedly not taken before the recent amendment.

The controversy over the alleged forgery is, however, now being investigated by the po­lice. Forgery is a criminal act and the Nigeria Police, through its spokesperson, Emmanuel Ojukwu, says it has interrogated all those who were involved in the matter, while the result of its investigation will soon be made public. Le­gal advice, he said, will determine those to be prosecuted on the matter. Among those said to have been quizzed by the police are the former Senate President, David Mark, Ekweremadu, former Senate Leader, Victor Ndoma-Egba and former Chairman, Senate Committee on Rules and Business, Senator Ita Enang.

The allegation of forgery of Senate Stand­ing Orders is embarrassing, to say the least. Although the allegation is not unrelated to the rejection of Saraki and Ekweremadu as Senate President and Deputy Senate President respec­tively, by the leadership of the ruling APC and some of its members in the Senate, it is simply unacceptable that the distinguished members of the nation’s Upper Legislative House would be associated in any way with criminality. This is a serious allegation that must be immediately resolved so as not to tar our Senators.

The impasse in the National Assembly is af­fecting its work. The unity and sense of purpose that the ruling party needs to pursue its agenda and fulfill its electoral promises are missing. Sittings of the National Assembly, which were expected to resume on July 21, have again been shifted to next Monday, July 28. The longer the impasse attending the non-resolution of the leadership tussle in both houses of the National Assembly lasts, the worse for our democracy and the cohesion that the federal legislature needs to perform its constitutional duties. It is disheartening that since June 9 when the 8th National Assembly was inaugurated, its mem­bers have been embroiled in bitter struggles for offices, instead of focusing on the larger na­tional interest on the basis of which they were elected by their constituents.

Ekweremadu is, unfortunately, in the vortex of this alleged forgery because his election as Deputy Senate President on the platform of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has been rejected by the ruling APC, which ap­parently believes that he might frustrate its intentions, considering the important role a Deputy Senate President could play when pre­siding over plenary in the absence of the Senate President.

Nonetheless, it is important that we get to the root of the alleged forgery of the Senate Standing Rules/Orders. We hope the outcome of the police probe will go a long way in laying this forgery saga to rest. The probe should neither be selective nor targeted at any particular sena­tor. But, it should not spare anybody indicted in the forgery, or shy away from recommending them for prosecution. It would, of course, also go without saying that any action that had been taken using the controversial Senate Standing Orders 2015 (Amended) would be null and void, if the document is proved to have been forged.

It is necessary to state that every chamber of the National Assembly must be guided by rules made by a majority of its members. If the need arises to amend the rules/orders guiding pro­ceedings, including the election of officers, the matter ought to be discussed on the floors of the chambers, and notice taken of the input and contributions of members, before the matter is decided by a majority of the members.

We must also add that if any group of Sena­tors is suspected to have amended the Senate rules unilaterally without the knowledge and agreement of other members, the investigation of the allegation ought to have been handled by the Rules and Business Committee of the Sen­ate, and not the Police.

We hope that the outcome of the police in­vestigation of this matter will not exacerbate the furore in the Senate. Everything should be done to restore normalcy in the National As­sembly after weeks of bad blood and confusion that prompted the sudden adjournment of the two houses last month, and the further post­ponement of their resumption to July 28.

 

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Averting another Ebola outbreak http://sunnewsonline.com/new/averting-another-ebola-outbreak/ http://sunnewsonline.com/new/averting-another-ebola-outbreak/#comments Wed, 22 Jul 2015 00:41:37 +0000 http://sunnewsonline.com/new/?p=128130 Following the re-emergence of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in Liberia, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has enjoined the three most Ebola-affected countries – Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone - and neighbouring West African countries to build resilient health systems that can withstand another possible Ebola outbreak.]]>

Following the re-emergence of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in Liberia, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has enjoined the three most Ebola-affected countries – Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone – and neighbouring West African countries to build resilient health systems that can withstand another possible Ebola outbreak. Nigeria is one of the countries that have been advised to strengthen their health systems to forestall the resurgence of this dreadful disease. It will be recalled that no fewer than 17 people lost their lives to the EVD epidemic in the country last year.

The global health agency has warned countries in the sub-region that lack of functional health systems that can monitor the situation and quickly develop an integrated response may fuel the epidemic and pose huge problems to huge populations in Africa. Nigeria and the other vulnerable countries should, therefore, not discountenance the WHO timely warning and advice. They should do whatever is necessary to increase the capacity of their health systems to avert and respond to any outbreak of the disease.

This has become imperative considering the statement of the WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, on the matter. Moeti contended that there may not be full recovery from Ebola without the strengthening of health systems in the affected countries. WHO also advised that the strengthening of health care financing will help Nigeria and other West African countries to build resistant health systems that can withstand another Ebola epidemic.

Harping on this fact to underscore its importance, the WHO Assistant Director-General for Health Systems and Innovation, Dr. Marie-Paule Kieny, stressed that one big lesson the world has learned from the West African Ebola outbreak is that no one is immune from disease outbreaks. That is why WHO is calling for a workable health system in West Africa. In her words, “We need to ensure health systems everywhere can detect and treat emerging diseases and still keep their routine healthcare services up and running.”

Available statistics show that Liberia has budgeted $550 million but requires not less than $169.7 million to rebuild its health systems and provide services over the next 24 months.

In the same vein, Guinea has earmarked $1.176 billion but requires additional $386.5 million while Sierra Leone budgeted $361 million and is expected to raise another $140 million to meet its health needs. Right now, The International Union has promised a bailout funding of $5 billion for the three Ebola-affected countries while the World Bank Group will commit $650 million over the next 12-24 months to support recovery and development needs in these countries.

We call on Nigeria’s health authorities and those of other countries in the West African sub-region to adhere to WHO’s clarion call to strengthen their health systems. Nigeria, in particular, should intensify EVD checks at all our entry ports. This is the time to be alert and intensify public enlightenment programmes on the disease. There is also the urgent need to prevail on Nigerians to return to frequent washing of hands and application of sanitisers as was done during the Ebola crisis, but which has largely been jettisoned.

The search for drugs against the disease should also be intensified by local and international researchers until a cure is found. There is no need to become complacent on the Ebola disease because it could stage a comeback if adequate precautions are not taken to check its spread to Nigeria. Churches, mosques and other worship centres should put in place measures to prevent Ebola outbreaks and educate their members on the need for hygiene and cleanliness at all times.

However, it should also be reiterated that Ebola is not a death sentence. Nigeria has a good history of managing the disease, with many survivors from last year’s outbreak. Although Nigeria has been certified Ebola-free, it is necessary that we work towards maintaining that record by reverting to those health practices that helped us to overcome the epidemic. We must not allow a relapse.

Above all, Nigeria should assist Liberia and other West African countries affected by the disease with manpower training and other required support. Let us put everything in place to avert another Ebola outbreak in the country. The Federal, State and Local Government health authorities should work in concert to ensure we keep Ebola out of the country.

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Beyond Buhari and Osinbajo’s pay cut http://sunnewsonline.com/new/beyond-buhari-and-osinbajos-pay-cut/ http://sunnewsonline.com/new/beyond-buhari-and-osinbajos-pay-cut/#comments Tue, 21 Jul 2015 02:23:04 +0000 http://sunnewsonline.com/new/?p=128011 The decision of President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to take only 50 percent of the salaries approved for them is commendable.]]>

The decision of President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to take only 50 percent of the salaries approved for them is commendable. The pay cut is a demonstration of leadership by example, which will go some way in projecting the idea that political office is for service to the nation, and not for the financial gains that can be made from it at the expense of the public.

But, this sacrifice by the two top citizens of the country should be seen only as the first of many steps that they need to take towards reducing the high cost of governance and ensuring more prudent management of the nation’s resources.

The president’s annual remuneration, as approved by the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), is N14,058,820, while  Vice President Osinbajo will earn N12,126,290 per year. With the pay cut, Buhari’s annual salary will now be about N7million, while Osinbajo will earn about N6 million. The President and Vice President’s decision has since been conveyed to the Office of the Secretary of the Government of the Federation.

We commend Buhari, Osinbajo and some state governors who have also   slashed their salaries and perks of office. They should see this as a huge personal sacrifice for national development. However, despite this voluntary sacrifice by the President, the Vice President and a few state governors, a lot still needs to be done beyond the

pay cut to rein in public expenditure. The fiscal crunch ravaging the country will likely continue if the economy is not properly managed. There is need to check financial recklessness at all levels of governance, including the local governments. Poor management of state finances has resulted in non-payment of workers’ salaries and states’ indebtedness standing at N660 billion. This sad development culminated in the recent massive federal government bailout of over N700 billion.

The nation’s poor financial condition that led to these pay cuts has again underscored the need to diversify the revenue base at the three tiers of government. Crucial, too, is the need for politicians to shun greed and ostentatious living, while ensuring prudent management of public funds entrusted in their care. Some sitting governors are living in obscene opulence. Some of those who have left office are facing prosecution by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on corruption charges.

This pay cut, as we had suggested in earlier editorials, must extend to the salaries and jumbo allowances of national legislators. Unless there is a drastic cut in the emoluments of public officials, especially elected officials, the essence of public service might be lost at the altar of personal aggrandisement. This is one of the reasons why calls for part-time legislators have received popular endorsement across the country. At present, lawmakers at the National Assembly are reportedly the highest paid on the continent, if not in the world, for sitting for a minimum of 181 days in a year.

Altogether, the tempers of these times call for creative thinking in the management of the nation’s resources. It calls for diversification of the economy and a close monitoring of dwindling public funds to ensure that the available funds are deployed to areas where they will have the greatest possible impact on the welfare of the people.

Beyond salary cuts, however, the allowances of all political office holders and the humongous security votes of state governors need to be reduced. There is also the need to expand the productive base of the economy and explore more avenues for wealth creation in the country. Above all, we need more measures to ensure that aspirations to public office in the country are driven by genuine desire to render service to the people.

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Checking Boko Haram’s renewed offensive http://sunnewsonline.com/new/checking-boko-harams-renewed-offensive/ http://sunnewsonline.com/new/checking-boko-harams-renewed-offensive/#comments Mon, 20 Jul 2015 00:35:20 +0000 http://sunnewsonline.com/new/?p=127863 BEFORE the inauguration of President Muhammadu Buhari’s government on May 29, the impression had been created that most of the territories held by Boko Haram terrorists had been recaptured by the Nigerian military, with the assistance of the forces of our neighbouring countries – Chad, Niger and Cameroon. Nigerians had then hoped that the war [...]]]>

BEFORE the inauguration of President Muhammadu Buhari’s government on May 29, the impression had been created that most of the territories held by Boko Haram terrorists had been recaptured by the Nigerian military, with the assistance of the forces of our neighbouring countries – Chad, Niger and Cameroon. Nigerians had then hoped that the war against insurgency in the country would soon be over and peace would be restored to the troubled parts of the country.

But, this has not been the case. In spite of Buhari’s efforts to cement the military co-operation between Nige­ria and its neighbours with visits to Chad and Niger, as well as approval of the budget for the Joint Multi-national Task Force to be based in Ndjamena, there is a resurgence of at­tacks by Boko Haram in the country. The president also attended the G-7 Summit in Germany at which Western nations made commitments to assist Nigeria rebuild the North-East region and help in the mission to get rid of Boko Haram.

These efforts have not dissuaded the terrorists from their violent cam­paign. Between the president’s in­auguration on May 29 and today, no fewer than 500 Nigerians have been killed, hundreds more injured and property worth millions of naira de­stroyed by the sect. Having been re­portedly deprived of the territories they had earlier controlled, the insur­gents have now resorted to murder­ous suicide bombings.

We urge the Nigerian military to return to the offensive and not give the impression that it has become complacent after its earlier victories. The attack on Buni Yadi on July 7 was particularly dispiriting because it was a motorized assault.

We had thought that the era of Boko Haram riding around and launching attacks from long convoys of vehi­cles was past. Yet, they arrived Buni Yadi in nine Hilux pick-up vans, and wreaked havoc on the community.

But, the biggest hole in the fight against Boko Haram remains the lacklustre performance of our forces in intelligence. It beggars belief that after seven years of a terrorist on­slaught that has killed nearly 15,000 Nigerians, our intelligence agencies – the Department of State Service (DSS) and the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI) – appear inca­pable of preempting and forestalling these bloody attacks. There is also no strong indication that they know the inner workings of Boko Haram. This seeming intelligence failure is re­sponsible for much of the death and destruction, which may continue un­til this gap is plugged.

The president has recently replaced the boss of the DSS and also named a Chief of Military Intelligence, alongside new service chiefs. These are steps in the right direction, be­cause the only way to win this war is through information, which seems to be eluding our forces.

The bombing in Zaria, Kaduna State, exposes the levity with which we han­dle security in the country. Wisdom ought to dictate that the authorities should discourage huge gatherings of people because they are primary tar­gets of attacks by terrorists. This is the time for all Nigerians to be vigi­lant and proactive in their efforts to protect themselves against terrorists.

This is also the time to ensure that the military is properly equipped and motivated to put its very best into the efforts to win this war. The Joint Task Force deserves all the support and encouragement it can get at this time.

Sadly, the resurgence of Boko Ha­ram is already raising speculations about a possible negotiation with the terrorists.

It has never been wise to negotiate with terrorists, but if it must be done, Nigeria should remember the old ad­age that anyone who must dine with the devil should have a long spoon. The government should not negotiate on Boko Haram’s terms.

What the war against insurgency requires now are concerted efforts to rout it. The military must avoid complacency, make the best use of intelligence and launch a decisive of­fensive that can end this insurgency, once and for all.

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The plan to probe political murders http://sunnewsonline.com/new/the-plan-to-probe-political-murders/ http://sunnewsonline.com/new/the-plan-to-probe-political-murders/#comments Sat, 18 Jul 2015 23:16:42 +0000 http://sunnewsonline.com/new/?p=127702 The resolve of the Muhammadu Buhari administration to deal with political assassinations and kidnappings in the country can hardly be questioned. Right through the campaigns that brought him to office, he had consistently maintained that all political assassinations and other such serious offences committed for political gain would not go unpunished. It is, therefore, not [...]]]>

The resolve of the Muhammadu Buhari administration to deal with political assassinations and kidnappings in the country can hardly be questioned. Right through the campaigns that brought him to office, he had consistently maintained that all political assassinations and other such serious offences committed for political gain would not go unpunished. It is, therefore, not surprising that he restated this resolve at a recent meeting with state chairmen of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

Nigeria’s history since independence is replete with unsolved political murders. Successive governments have appeared helpless in the face of growing numbers of politically-motivated killings. If they were not outright complicit, then they clearly lacked the political will to solve the murders and bring their perpetrators to justice.

Fortunately, the prosecution of any crime, especially crimes against the state, is not statute-bound. So, no matter how long ago some of these murders were committed, the cases can be re-opened. But, how far back do we expect the present administration to go in these investigations? Reading President Buhari’s body language so far, he may be ready to go as far back as evidence can be available. He is not one to be daunted by personal, filial or political considerations. His life-long career has been one of personal discipline and impeachable integrity. This is partly what has been lacking in the investigation of these cases, and we believe that he will deliver on his resolve.

Our laws, whether the Criminal Code Act (2004) or the Penal Code Act (2004), frown at such criminal acts. Many of them were not diligently investigated because of lack of political will to do so. From what Buhari has said, it does seem that there will no more be a hiding place for criminal elements on the nation’s political landscape. The police may have tried to solve some of these politically-motivated murders in the past, but because of the high-profile nature of some of them, political interests and interference may have gotten in the way. Now is the time to crack these murder cases that have troubled us for so long.

The list of these political murders is not exhaustive. But, it includes Chief Bola Ige, Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation in the administration of former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. Others are Chief Alfred Rewane, Funso Williams, Harry Marshall, Ogbonnaya Uche and his wife. The failure to bring the killers of these people to justice may have strengthened the hands of other political killers in the just-concluded 2015 general elections.

Yet, the place of peaceful and credible elections in the sustenance of our democratic project cannot be over-emphasised. All of these murders must be solved for the good of our country and people. Many families have been deprived of their breadwinners and loved ones for no other crime than having a different political opinion. Such crimes against the state must be unraveled and punished.

To achieve this objective, President Buhari will need the cooperation of the relevant bodies and agencies. The National Assembly must stand firmly with him in this resolve to solve and deal with political murders. Where the laws are found to be inadequate and vague, they must be strengthened and clarified. The 8th National Assembly must be mindful of the apprehension in the polity that the crisis attending the emergence of its principal officers and its inability to resolve it may indicate its unwillingness to make a clean break with the past and put the nation first in its deliberations.

The judiciary must stand up to be counted too. It must take some responsibility for the present state of affairs. When both the Bench and Bar seemingly connive to shield suspects, and stall judicial processes that could lead to a quick resolution of high profile crimes, they are inadvertently empowering criminal elements in the society. The time has come to do away with our old and unhelpful ways, and embrace the positive change mantra of the present administration.

Our security personnel, especially the police, should also play their part in Buhari’s plan to deal with political offenders. Our security personnel have consistently come back with laurels and distinctions from engagements abroad, so the problem cannot be a lack of ability. Now that Nigeria appears to have found the leadership to do things differently, the police should not be a clog in the wheel of progress.

Whatever is required to motivate the police should be provided for them so that they can resolve political assassinations and kidnappings in the country, and consign them to the past.

Going forward, the police must be strengthened and re-oriented towards preemptive and proactive crime detection. An alert police force should be able to sniff out some of these crimes before they are committed. To succeed in this assignment, the president will need the support of his cabinet and a conscientious Attorney-General.

What will be required after the identification of suspects will be their diligent prosecution to bring a closure to the cases. In this assignment, there should be no sacred cows and no grounds left uncovered.

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The ban on local council roadblocks http://sunnewsonline.com/new/the-ban-on-local-council-roadblocks/ http://sunnewsonline.com/new/the-ban-on-local-council-roadblocks/#comments Fri, 17 Jul 2015 23:26:34 +0000 http://sunnewsonline.com/new/?p=127608 The Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Solomon Arase, has or­dered Police Commissioners to dismantle roadblocks set up by lo­cal government officials for collection of revenue on the nation’s highways. The directive, which followed a similar order for the removal of military checkpoints by President Muhammadu Buhari, was announced via a statement by Force Pub­lic Relations Officer, [...]]]>

The Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Solomon Arase, has or­dered Police Commissioners to dismantle roadblocks set up by lo­cal government officials for collection of revenue on the nation’s highways. The directive, which followed a similar order for the removal of military checkpoints by President Muhammadu Buhari, was announced via a statement by Force Pub­lic Relations Officer, Emmanuel Ojukwu. The roadblocks, he said, were banned be­cause they disrupt the free flow of traffic. They are also used to harass and extort money from motorists.

This order is a welcome relief for many motorists who have fallen victim of these illegal contraptions on our highways, and we hope that it will be enforced im­mediately. With the new directives on the removal of military and local council roadblocks on the nation’s highways, the responsibility for security on these roads will now largely be that of the police. This will confer more responsibility on the force and we hope its officers will rise to the occasion.

We call for strict enforcement of the bans. With the exception of the states af­fected by the Boko Haram insurgency and any other states that may be identi­fied to have peculiar security challenges that make military checkpoints necessary, our roads should be free of unnecessary bottlenecks that these roadblocks consti­tute. That these local government officials could operate and constitute themselves into a nuisance on federal roads is an in­dictment of the police. The police, before this order, usually looked the other way while local government officials operated unhindered. What had then appeared to be police acquiescence on the matter had fuelled speculations of an illegal collabo­ration between them and the LG extor­tionists.

It must, however, be noted that this is not the first time this directive has been is­sued in the country. Edo State in particu­lar had, sometime ago, ordered local gov­ernment revenue officials off its highways.

We applaud the IGP for this ban. What is required now is the strong will to en­force it. Only a proper and sustained en­forcement of the directives will convince the local councils about the IGP’s seri­ousness on this matter. All those caught contravening the new directive should be dealt with decisively to serve as a deter­rent to others who may want to test the will of the police.

The need to improve the Internally Gen­erated Revenue (IGR) of local govern­ments and states cannot be wished away. But, sending council officials on express­ways to demand receipts of spurious lev­ies from motorists who are just travelling through their states is not the way to do this. These officials are quick to resort to acts of intimidation and violence in their desperation to extort instant fines from motorists. They have been known to dam­age vehicles and assault travellers in this process.

This illegality must not be allowed to go on, as it is targeted at travellers who are not familiar with the various levies they are asked to pay or the receipts they are asked to produce. Even then, how can the usually thuggish and amorphous council officials be trusted to remit whatever they collect in the name of revenue generation to the appropriate authorities?

These revenues are better collected and accounted for, off the roads. Proven sources of such revenues at the local gov­ernment level include market fees, rents from lock-up shops, tenement rates, util­ity bills, levies and surcharges on local roads, parks, halls and the rest. In all these cases, because the people who are paying are mostly resident in those areas, the ac­counting and auditing processes are much easier to carry out and sustain. How easy is it for councils to track such payments from non-residents who may never have cause to visit the areas again?

There is also the security risk involved in such ubiquitous council roadblocks. Many motorists have been victims of armed robbery gangs when they stopped at such roadblocks believing they were dealing with legitimate government offi­cials. The trauma and losses suffered from such encounters are better imagined.

On the whole, whether this new directive works or not will depend on the police, who are widely believed to have been com­plicit in sustaining the questionable tradi­tion in recent years. There can only be a difference now if the IGP and state police commissioners are seen to be strongly re­solved to enforce the directive.

Let the Police boss match his words with action, and be ready to go the whole hog. He should enjoin his commissioners to punish any police officer found collabo­rating with council officials in this regard, until the message fully percolates down the ranks. So far, he has been responsive to the demands of the times. He should continue along this path until the desired change in police orientation and effective­ness is attained.

 

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Happy Eid-el-Fitri http://sunnewsonline.com/new/happy-eid-el-fitri/ http://sunnewsonline.com/new/happy-eid-el-fitri/#comments Fri, 17 Jul 2015 03:13:58 +0000 http://sunnewsonline.com/new/?p=127500 We felicitate today with millions of Nigerian Muslims on the occasion of Eid-el-Fitri, which marks the end of the Islamic holy month of fasting and self-denial, the Ramadan.]]>

We felicitate today with millions of Nigerian Muslims on the occasion of Eid-el-Fitri, which marks the end of the Islamic holy month of fasting and self-denial, the Ramadan.  We congratulate all Muslims who went through the 29 days of abstinence and prayers, and we have no doubt that the Almighty Allah will shower his blessings on them for partaking in this critical religious observance.

It is also our hope that the piety, self-sacrifice, humility and altruism which characterised the Ramadan season do not terminate with the fast.  We urge all Muslims to hold fast to those virtues,   and demonstrate restraint, modesty and temperance in all things for the glory of Allah.  That way, the Muslim faithful will truly become a shining light in the country. They will be living examples of the virtues that can help to stabilise Nigeria, and be   truly deserving of the blessings of Allah.

As Muslims celebrate and feast on this important occasion, let them not forget the obligations they owe the needy, the sick, the less privileged and the poor.  The most powerful testimonies of gratitude to Allah are humility and charity toward the downtrodden, the despised, the hopeless, and the forgotten.

The Ramadan has taught humanity how ephemeral vanity is, how temporary and shallow earthly glory and self-righteousness can be. It has also taught the faithful that the most certain assurance of the forgiveness of their sins in the sight of Allah is their willingness to forgive their fellow men and women.  Grudges, prejudices, anger and hate weigh the faithful down, whereas the spirit of forgiveness sets all men free, makes them whole and prepares them to be receptacles of Allah’s blessings. True believers thus become a medium to radiate His blessings and love to everyone around them.

We must use this occasion to remind Muslim faithful to pray for Allah’s blessings on the country. They should pray that Nigerians begin to love one another as fellow citizens. We all also ought to pray to be able to stand up for justice and fair play, in order to create an atmosphere of contentment and a land where no man or woman is oppressed.

In praying for our country, we must acknowledge that its prosperity is simply a manifestation of Allah’s blessings.  Current challenges can, therefore, turn into opportunities which, with His blessings, could lead to a more prosperous Nigeria as long as we trust Him and walk in His ways.

We should use this occasion to pray for Allah’s guidance and protection for our leaders.  Our new President, Muhammadu Buhari, has, even before he was inaugurated, condemned terrorism in the country.  We share his outrage and urge all Muslim leaders, Imams and scholars to join him in preaching peace and understanding.

We must pray for our other political leaders at federal and state levels to govern the country with the fear of Allah.  They should cultivate the virtues of humility, steadfastness, trust in Allah and kindness to their fellow citizens.  We should pray that Allah may give them the gift of wisdom in their decisions.  A public official who works with the fear of Allah will not engage in corruption.  He will not tolerate graft, nepotism and all manners of injustice   bedeviling our public service.

We urge all Muslims to pray for peace today and at all times, so that Allah can have mercy on our country and give it peace.  For the past six years, a deadly insurgency has ravaged this nation.   We must pray for forgiveness and the loving kindness of Allah to restore peace within our borders. Let the prayers that will be said today be the beginning of the resolution of the security crisis in Nigeria. We wish all Muslim faithful a happy Eid-el-Fitri celebration.

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Service chiefs, the Igbo and case for fairness, equity http://sunnewsonline.com/new/service-chiefs-the-igbo-and-case-for-fairness-equity/ http://sunnewsonline.com/new/service-chiefs-the-igbo-and-case-for-fairness-equity/#comments Wed, 15 Jul 2015 23:34:33 +0000 http://sunnewsonline.com/new/?p=127281 PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari sacked service chiefs inherited from the former President Goodluck Jonathan ad­ministration last Monday, and replaced them with new ones. The new appointees, who are coming on board in acting capac­ity until they are confirmed by the Senate are: Major-Gen. Abayomi Gabriel Olon­ishakin, Chief of Defence (Staff); Major- Gen. Tukur Y. Buratai, Chief [...]]]>

PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari sacked service chiefs inherited from the former President Goodluck Jonathan ad­ministration last Monday, and replaced them with new ones. The new appointees, who are coming on board in acting capac­ity until they are confirmed by the Senate are: Major-Gen. Abayomi Gabriel Olon­ishakin, Chief of Defence (Staff); Major- Gen. Tukur Y. Buratai, Chief of Army Staff and Rear Admiral Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas, Chief of Naval Staff. Others are Air- Vice Marshal Sadique Abubakar, Chief of Air Staff, Air Vice Marshal Monday Riku Morgan, Chief of Defence Intelligence and Maj.- Gen. Babagana Monguno (rtd.) as National Security Adviser.

The appointments, which are expected to rev up the war against terrorism and possibly reform the military, have been received with mixed feelings by Nigeri­ans, especially the Igbo nation, which is not represented in the appointments.

 

While the appointment of service chiefs is well within the rights of the president, the absence of any officer of Igbo extraction among the appointees is generating consternation in Igbo land. Although the president alluded to the fact that the appointments are based on merit, this exclusion of the Igbo indicates that they are not representative of the ethnic composition of Nigeria. In the appointments and others made by the president since he assumed office on May 29, there is a glaring distancing of the Igbo ethnic group, either from the South-East or South-South.

This unsalutory development will not augur well for an administration that was voted in on its mantra of change. The ex­clusion of the South East in the president’s appointments, so far, is also contrary to Section 14 (3) of the Nigerian Constitu­tion, which provides that “the composi­tion of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote na­tional unity, and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few states or from a few ethnic or other sec­tional groups in that government or in any of its agencies.”

The composition of the new service chiefs cannot be said to reflect adherence to federal character, as stipulated in the Constitution. The poor representation of the Igbo at the upper echelons of the Nigerian military has, for decades, sign­posted their continuing marginalisation in many areas of national life.

Since the end of the Nigerian Civil War in 1970, very few Igbo citizens have been appointed as service chiefs in the country. Vice Admiral Alison- Madueke briefly held the position of Chief of Naval Staff, while Lt. Gen. Azubuike Ihejirika also only served as Chief of Army Staff in Good­luck Jonathan’s government for a short period before he was relieved of the ap­pointment. Mr. Ogbonnaya Onovo was ap­pointed Inspector General of Police for a brief period during Umaru Yar’Adua re­gime, while Ambassador Thomas Aguiyi- Ironsi was the Minister of Defence for a short time during the regime of former President Olusegun Obasanjo.

Aside these tokens, the Igbo have not really been taken into the mainstream of Nigerian military in terms of appoint­ments since the end of the civil war. Po­litically, the South East appears to have been emasculated to the extent that no­body from the area has been considered capable of being trusted with the leader­ship of any of the arms of the military for a reasonable period.

This tends to suggest that Igbo are not considered worthy of being entrusted with military power, or trusted by Nige­ria’s leaders, past and present. But, we know that this is not the case with Presi­dent Buhari. He is a well known lover of the Igbo ethnic group and the absence of the Igbo in the recent appointments is more likely to be an oversight on the part of his administration, and should be cor­rected in his future appointments.

Naturally, all major appointments ought to take cognizance of our ethnic diversity and ensure some measure of balance and sensitivity in ethnic representation. We say this considering the fact that the Igbo is one of the major ethnic groups in the country like the Hausa and the Yoruba. Short-changing the ethnic group in these appointments does not bode well for Ni­geria’s unity.

With these appointments, there is no doubt that most Igbo will rightly feel that the tribe has not been forgiven for tak­ing part in the Nigerian-Biafran war, over four decades after the end of hostilities. The earlier gains made through the ap­pointment of Madueke, Onovo and Ihe­jirika now seem to have been reversed. The continued distancing of the Igbo in the nation’s top security composition is not only symptomatic of marginalisation, it may be interpreted as an unconsciona­ble orchestrated alienation.

The exclusion of this major ethnic na­tionality from the national power equa­tion will not augur well for a government that has equity and fairness to all parts of the country as part of its mantra.

This inexcusable oversight should be corrected in subsequent appointments by the president. As a friend of the Igbos and somebody that has had a good relation­ship with notable Igbo leaders, we believe that it is not too late to make amends in future appointments.

All the same, we congratulate the new service chiefs and urge them to discharge their duties with utmost dedication. No, doubt, the war on terrorism is still on course and the results so far show that there is still much to be done. With the appointment of the new Chief of Defence Intelligence, there is no doubt that the war on terrorism will naturally assume a new dimension, with more verve and im­petus. Those involved in the war against the insurgents must of necessity up their game on intelligence, which to a large ex­tent has not been sufficiently deployed.

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Move Boko Haram suspects out of South East http://sunnewsonline.com/new/move-boko-haram-suspects-out-of-south-east/ http://sunnewsonline.com/new/move-boko-haram-suspects-out-of-south-east/#comments Wed, 15 Jul 2015 01:03:41 +0000 http://sunnewsonline.com/new/?p=127176 With the resurgence of Boko Haram and the expansion of its theatre of operation outside its traditional stronghold in the North East geo-political zone of the country, Nigerians would have expected that the best way forward in the war against the terrorist group would be to restrict its spread, attack it with every available arsenal and finally rout it.]]>

With the resurgence of Boko Haram and the expansion of its theatre of operation outside its traditional stronghold in the North East geo-political zone of the country, Nigerians would have expected that the best way forward in the war against the terrorist group would be to restrict its spread, attack it with every available arsenal and finally rout it.

Instead of this, Nigerians have been inundated with reports of the movement of Boko Haram suspects from the  northern part of the country to the South East geo-political zone, specifically, the Ekwulobia Prison in Anambra State.

The report is understandably generating concern and street protests in that part of the country. State governors in the geo-political zone have met to discuss the matter, and   jointly rejected movement of suspected insurgents to the South East, to prevent the spread of insurgency to the area. Governor of Anambra State, Willie Obiano, and the Chairman of South East Governors Forum, Rochas Okorocha, also separately met with President Muhammadu Buhari last week, and obtained reassurances that action would be taken on the matter to prevent a breakdown of law and order in the area.

The protests against the relocation of suspected terrorists to the South East are in order. Although the Ekwulobia Prison is owned by the Federal Government, it is a small, medium security facility that is completely inadequate and inappropriate for the detention of terrorists.

We share the anxiety of the people of South East on this issue and commend them for being proactive and united on the matter.  The thinking which informed the decision to transfer Boko Haram suspects to the South East is murky. We see no plausible reason for it. The transfer of suspected terrorists to the South East betrays a lack of sensitivity to the plight and feelings of the people in that part of the country.  There is hardly any community in the South East without a small crowd of refugees who fled Boko Haram terrorism in the North.  Some of them were maimed in bomb blasts, while most returned to the East destitute having lost all their belongings.  The people of Ekwulobia, in particular, were reported to have just buried 14 of their kinsmen who were killed in the recent Boko Haram bombings in the North.

Boko Haram has concentrated its attacks in the North East region for years, but its stated ambition is to engulf the entire Federation in a conflagration. The spread of its recent bombings to the North Central and North West of the country underscores this intention.  Transferring Boko Haram detainees outside the North, therefore, amounts to playing into the terrorists’ game plan.  And, if the nation has had difficulty containing them within the North East, the situation is likely to spiral out of control  when they are allowed to spread their tentacles to the South East and, indeed, anywhere in the southern part of the country.

In other words, the Federal Government should not inadvertently broaden the theatre of the Boko Haram war.  On the contrary, it should strive to constrict, isolate, encircle and eventually root out the group

Ultimately, the terrorists will have to be held accountable for their crimes in court.  The distance between the scenes of their crimes and Ekwulobia or anywhere in the South East precludes the possibility of their being tried in the proper geographical jurisdiction, as required by law.  Given the numerous occasions that Boko Haram stormed prisons, including maximum security prisons, and released their fellow terrorists, transporting the detainees between the South East and the North East for court hearings is a risk beyond contemplation.  Thus, we believe that the transfer of Boko Haram suspects anywhere outside the North East does not make legal sense.

Experience in the last few years has taught Nigeria and the world that any location in which terrorists are held is automatically a terrorist target.  It was partly for this reason that the United States created the Guantanamo Bay Prison and detention facility, carved out of its isolated naval base in Cuba, for suspected terrorists. Since Boko Haram terrorists have been operating in Nigeria for many years now, there is no doubt that more maximum security prisons would be required to hold those who are arrested for terrorism, and the nation’s planning authorities ought to have made adequate arrangements for this.

Boko Haram has become a threat to Nigeria.  It behooves the nation, therefore, to take all necessary measures to protect itself. If this means building new holding facilities to contain the terrorists in the areas where they committed crimes, so be it.  The criminal daredevilry of Boko Haram are well known, and we must do whatever is necessary to stop the group from having a wider berth.  The decision to move suspected terrorists anywhere outside the North East must be reversed.  No matter how and from whom the idea originated, it is a very bad idea that has no redeeming feature. It should be jettisoned forthwith.

 
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CBN’s new forex policy http://sunnewsonline.com/new/cbns-new-forex-policy/ http://sunnewsonline.com/new/cbns-new-forex-policy/#comments Tue, 14 Jul 2015 01:18:19 +0000 http://sunnewsonline.com/new/?p=127065 Public opinion is sharply divided on the decision of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to deny importers of certain goods access to foreign exchange at the official window. Forty one items, including cement, ]]>

Public opinion is sharply divided on the decision of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to deny importers of certain goods access to foreign exchange at the official window. Forty one items, including cement, margarine, palm kernel/palm oil products, vegetable oils, toothpicks, glass and glassware, are affected by this  restriction. Others are meat and processed meat products, turkey, private airplanes/jets, Indian incense, tinned fish in sauce, sardines and cold rolled steel sheets, among others.

The CBN has stated what the new forex import policy means for the country. According to the Governor of CBN, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, the action became necessary to stimulate the domestic production capacity of the excluded items and overall economic stability. He explained that the apex bank will be vigilant and do a periodic review of the restricted items until it is satisfied that the excluded items are produced locally.  It is estimated that Nigerians spend $1.3 trillion every year importing items like rice, fish, sugar, wheat and toothpicks.

Those opposed to the policy, however, insist that it is bad for the economy since Nigeria is still largely import-dependent. They also argue that government should have first improved the structural weaknesses and inadequate public utilities/infrastructure that hamper Nigeria’s business environment. One of these structural   weaknesses is the absence of tight border controls required to curtail   smuggling of the products into the country. It is important to curb the smuggling of these identified goods into the country to promote their local production.

Altogether, we support the new forex policy as it will have a positive impact on the government’s backward integration policy in the affected sectors, reduce pressure on scarce foreign exchange and generate investment and employment opportunities. The CBN has estimated that the excluded items consume over 20 percent of total forex utilisation of the banks. This is unacceptable.

There is no valid economic reason to continue the importation of   toothpicks, cement and vegetable oil, among others. The products     can be easily manufactured locally. Without excluding these items from the forex market, it will be hard to achieve backward integration, the essence of which is to encourage investment in the production of these goods. It will amount to a waste to continue to allocate vast amounts of forex to rice, toothpaste, palm oil and vegetable oil imports when there are local manufacturers of these items. We must ensure the enforcement of the restriction of importers of these items from the forex market to encourage local production.

It is an irony that few decades ago, Nigeria was one of the world’s largest producers and exporters of palm oil. Today, according to CBN statistics, the country imports nearly 600,000 metric tonnes of palm oil from Indonesia and Malaysia, two countries that used to buy the product from Nigeria. Indonesia and Malaysia currently account for 90 percent of world’s palm oil exports.

The new policy will help to ease the pressure on demand for forex and help conserve our depleting foreign reserve, which recently went down by 14.8 percent. Nigeria must institute measures to increase local production of these goods.

Although the nation is likely to witness an increase in the prices of the goods in short run, these prices will come down as local production capacity increases and meets the national demand.

It is not enough to mouth the need for increased local production of these items, enabling environment such as steady power supply, low interest loans and other supportive measures should be available to local producers. CBN should quickly engage the stakeholders to enable them appreciate the benefits of the policy within the larger economic context, their pains notwithstanding.

The CBN should be mindful of the fact that this new forex policy may fuel inflation, as prices of the goods excluded from the official forex market will rise when their importers seek forex from the parallel market. This will likely create a big exchange rate differential, and possible round-tripping. We, therefore, call for a disciplined implementation of the policy to avoid creating a secondary or ‘false economy’ which government might find difficult to bring under control.

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Matters arising on bailout for states http://sunnewsonline.com/new/matters-arising-on-bailout-for-states/ http://sunnewsonline.com/new/matters-arising-on-bailout-for-states/#comments Mon, 13 Jul 2015 00:07:30 +0000 http://sunnewsonline.com/new/?p=126954 The financial relief that came the way of states last week is a well-inten­tioned intervention by the Federal Government to help them meet their outstanding obligations, especially arrears of workers’ salaries. President Muhammadu Buhari approved the release of $2.1 billion (N413.7bn) for sharing between the states and local governments from recent taxes and dividends paid [...]]]>

The financial relief that came the way of states last week is a well-inten­tioned intervention by the Federal Government to help them meet their outstanding obligations, especially arrears of workers’ salaries. President Muhammadu Buhari approved the release of $2.1 billion (N413.7bn) for sharing between the states and local governments from recent taxes and dividends paid into the Federation Ac­count by the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG). He also ordered the Central Bank to package N300 billion soft loans for the insolvent states, and the Debt Management Office (DM0), to help with the restructuring of their loans. This is with a view to spread­ing their debt repayment obligations, to reduce the strain on their diminishing al­locations from the Federation Account. Ac­cruals to the states from this account have been on the decline for many months now on account of the crash in the price of crude oil, which is Nigeria’s main revenue earner.

However, the objective of this financial in­tervention will be defeated if the lessons of the current insolvency of the states are not learnt and acted upon. These lessons in­clude the need to check financial reckless­ness, which has sadly become the norm in many states. There is also the need to en­sure prudent management of state resourc­es, development of their economies and reduction of their dependence on monthly allocations from the Federation Account.

In managing these fresh funds, financial discipline is very important. We urge the state governors to use the new funds judi­ciously. The money should not be seen as a gift to be frittered away. At least 22 states of the Federation are in arrears of workers’ salaries, ranging from two to ten months. This necessitated last month’s emergency meeting by State Governors under the aegis of Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF). The fo­rum had urged President Buhari to come to the rescue of the states. And, the President has done exactly that. The onus is now on the states to ensure that they use the relief package for the intended purpose, which is to pay the salaries owed their workers, and ensure that they stay clear of insolvency, henceforth.

Interestingly, the bailout package has un­leashed a raging controversy on the propri­ety of the president giving bailouts to states that had likely been irresponsible in the management of their finances. The initial report that the relief package was sourced from the Excess Crude Account (ECA) also attracted flaks from the opposition Peo­ples Democratic Party (PDP) and other Ni­gerians. It is, however, now clear that the money is not from the ECA as speculated.

The planned restructuring of the N660 bil­lion commercial debts owed by the states, which will spread their repayment ten­ures, is a two-edged sword. It will re­duce their debt servicing expenditures, but spread the loan repayments over a longer period, thereby effectively eat­ing into funds that will be available for the future administration of the states.

Altogether, while the bailout may not be enough to clear all the arrears of workers’ salaries, it should go a long way in reducing their distress. It is, in­deed, a step in the right direction, and it is good that it did not involve any ex­ternal borrowing.

It is, however, high time the state gov­ernments became more proactive and effective in generating revenue inter­nally. They should strive for financial in­dependence from the Federal Govern­ment. A situation in which states rely on Federal Government handouts to meet their obligations is unacceptable. It ne­gates the argument for the creation of more states, and even the continuing existence of some of the current ones. The development of the economies of the states has become even more im­perative than ever.

The argument has been made in some quarters that the Federal Gov­ernment should have left the insolvent states to bail themselves out or be drowned in their debts. But, we believe that the Federal Government has a re­sponsibility to facilitate succour for dis­tressed Nigerians, wherever they are in the country. Non-payment of workers’ salaries had become a huge problem for workers in the affected states and the president was right to intervene on their behalf. However, the state gover­nors should, henceforth, shun profliga­cy. The federal and local governments will also be wise to take the same ad­vice.

Therefore, prudence, financial disci­pline, plugging of leakages, effective utilisation of resources and prioritisa­tion of projects should be hallmarks of the administration of the states. They also need to invest in productive sec­tors of the economy that can yield divi­dends to buoy the states’ finances dur­ing periods of financial crisis such as they are currently facing.

Altogether, this is the time to reap­praise Nigeria’s entire financial profile, to avoid over-borrowing and over-de­pendence on oil revenue. The country and its constituent parts must aim for self-sustenance and fiscal manage­ment that is consistent with current economic realities. All of these may not be achieved overnight, but this is the time to re-think the management mod­els that brought the states to this sorry situation.

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Keshi’s sack and football in Nigeria http://sunnewsonline.com/new/keshis-sack-and-football-in-nigeria/ http://sunnewsonline.com/new/keshis-sack-and-football-in-nigeria/#comments Sun, 12 Jul 2015 00:33:45 +0000 http://sunnewsonline.com/new/?p=126817 The unending intrigues in football administration in the country led to the sack of the senior national coach of the Super Eagles – Stephen Keshi – last week. The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) terminated the two-year contract signed with the coach only last year on account of what it described as insubordination and “lack of [...]]]>

The unending intrigues in football administration in the country led to the sack of the senior national coach of the Super Eagles – Stephen Keshi – last week. The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) terminated the two-year contract signed with the coach only last year on account of what it described as insubordination and “lack of the required commitment to achieve the Federation’s objectives as set out in his contract.”

Meanwhile, the NFF says it is in touch with former captain of the Super Eagles, Sunday Oliseh, to replace Keshi. Its chairman, Mr. Amaju Pinnich, who signed the termination of Keshi’s contract, said talks with Oliseh have reached an advanced stage and he could be confirmed as the next coach of the senior national team, this week.

Keshi’s sack has brought to an end his fractious relationship with the authorities of NFF in the last two years. This is the second time in less than two years that Keshi has been relieved of his managerial post, and the fourth time he would be sacked in his coaching career, having been similarly fired by Togo and Mali in 2006 and 2010, respectively. Sadly for Keshi, all his misfortunes as a coach of the national teams of Togo, Mali and Nigeria were anchored on allegations that he did not meet targets set by his employers.

Before his sack last weekend, Keshi was queried by NFF for allegedly applying for a vacant coaching job for the national team of Cote d’Ivoire. Keen followers of football in Nigeria did not see his sack as a surprise as a result of his constant disagreements with NFF, which peaked last year when he failed to qualify the team for this year’s African Nations’ Cup held in Equatorial Guinea. His employers have also voiced out their disappointment over a string of poor results by the Super Eagles under his watch, especially in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and the African Nations Cup qualifiers.

There is no doubt, however, that Keshi left remarkable footprints in Nigerian football. He was the first Nigerian, and second African, to have won the African Nations Cup as a player and coach. In 1994, he captained the Super Eagles when it lifted the Cup, even though he played few matches in that competition. He also coached the team to Nigeria’s third victory at the Nation’s Cup hosted by South Africa in 2013. Besides, to his credit, he had the longest unbeaten streak as a coach of the senior national team. That streak, however, ended in last year’s FIFA Confederation Cup in Brazil, when the Super Eagles lost 1-2 to Uruguay.

In spite of these accomplishments, Keshi is widely believed to be a victim of his own errors. He is regarded as having been blinded by his successes, leading to a seeming failure to respect constituted authorities.

Many Nigerians blame him for failure to quit as Super Eagles coach when the ovation for him was loudest. After his success at the 2013 Nations Cup in South Africa, he reportedly “resigned”, only to change his mind a few days later. Even when it was clear that the newly constituted NFF was stoutly opposed to his stay as coach, he defiantly dug in, perhaps, with the support of top officials of the past government.

Now that the sun seems to have set on Keshi’s career as Super Eagles coach, (although he has petitioned the Court of Arbitration, at Laussane, Switzerland, on the manner of his sack), what is crucial is the way forward for the senior national team and the appointment of a competent coach with the necessary experience.

There is no doubt that football plays a vital role in the lives of millions of Nigerians. Its administration, therefore, deserves more attention and commitment than it is currently getting from those entrusted with it. Coaching a national football team anywhere in the world requires necessary technical experience, which includes the ability to read matches as well as organise and control players to achieve outstanding performance. A coach must also be able to earn and retain the respect of his team.

Keshi’s successor must be someone with these qualities, and very importantly, a coach with a good track record that can give hope of success. The next coach of the Super Eagles should have a ravishing appetite for success and his competence should not be in doubt.

We urge NFF to be diligent in its search for a new national coach. It must set out its goals for the new coach, as well as boundaries and rules within which he must work. This is necessary to avoid the kind of run-ins that beset Keshi’s troubled tenures, and his eventual sack.

Nigeria should put its football house in order. The frequent changes in the coaching crew is adversely affecting the ranking of the country in global football. Currently, Nigeria has dropped to 57th in the latest FIFA ranking, the worst slip in as many years, no thanks to the woeful performances of the Super Eagles. Now is the time to get it right by building a solid foundation for our football with a reputable national coach who has the skills to achieve our goal of football glory for Nigeria.

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FRSC’s initiatives on tanker/ truck accidents prevention http://sunnewsonline.com/new/frscs-initiatives-on-tanker-truck-accidents-prevention/ http://sunnewsonline.com/new/frscs-initiatives-on-tanker-truck-accidents-prevention/#comments Fri, 10 Jul 2015 23:42:16 +0000 http://sunnewsonline.com/new/?p=126727 In a direct response to the spate of tanker accidents on our roads in recent times, the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) is billed to open four Specialised Drivers’ Licensing Centres for tanker and truck drivers in the country. The centres, which are expected to become operational this month, are located in Warri, Suleja, Kaduna [...]]]>

In a direct response to the spate of tanker accidents on our roads in recent times, the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) is billed to open four Specialised Drivers’ Licensing Centres for tanker and truck drivers in the country. The centres, which are expected to become operational this month, are located in Warri, Suleja, Kaduna and Lagos to ensure proper cover­age of the country. With these centres, the FRSC hopes to ensure the proper training and re-orientation of drivers of articulated vehicles, which have become a major source of worry on our roads. The FRSC’s initia­tive is, therefore, most welcome.

It is good news that part of the training and re-orientation of these drivers will in­clude eye and psychiatric tests, as well as psychological re-orientation to curb, if not eliminate, their drinking excesses and drug abuse. It is also gladdening that some of these new measures are being undertaken by the FRSC in collaboration with the rel­evant drivers’ union- the Petroleum Tanker Drivers sector of the National Union of Pe­troleum and Natural Gas Workers (PTD-NUPENG). Both bodies have agreed to achieve zero tanker crash by the end of the year, by ensuring that no tanker is allowed to ply our roads from September without being fitted with the speed limiter. In addi­tion, FRSC has now made it mandatory for all tankers to use retroflective tapes which will ensure better sighting and anticipation of long vehicles when light from other ve­hicles are beamed on them. The agency has also directed truck drivers to ensure that the containers that they carry are firmly latched onto them, failing which they will be arrested. We urge the FRSC to enforce and sustain these initiatives.

However, it is not going to be easy to change the attitude of these drivers. The majority of them have little or no formal education. They have become accustomed to their many deviant ways, with many re­garding themselves as “kings of the road”, who are not subject to traffic and road regu­lations. Many drive under the influence of alcohol and drugs, believing that they can bribe their way out of any infraction if they are caught. They seem to derive fun from intimidating drivers of smaller vehicles, thereby causing many avoidable accidents and deaths.

In the most recent accidents involving this category of drivers in Lagos and Onitsha, scores of people lost their lives while houses and other property worth millions of naira were destroyed. In some of these cases, the containers on these trucks were unlatched, making them to roll-off the trucks, leaving destruction in their wake. These dangerous habits are now deeply engrained.

Yes, a point can be made of the poor state of most of our roads and the extremely long distances these articulated vehicles, espe­cially fuel tankers, travel to deliver their ser­vices. But, the truth is that the main prob­lem is with the attitude of these drivers and the inability of road regulators to enforce the laws. The laws have always been there, but the problem remains because they are not observed.

Now, that the FRSC’s Licensing Centres have been set up to ensure proper training and re-orientation of existing and would-be drivers, we hope that only competent per­sons will be certified to drive articulated ve­hicles. There are many unfit persons in that sector of road transportation. The drivers, these days, are mostly very young people who exhibit all the exuberances of their ages. They are prone to drug and alcohol abuse, which many of them consider a re­quirement for their trade.

The task of ensuring greater safety on our roads is rightly that of all tiers of govern­ment and all responsible road users. But, we doubt if the directive of FRSC to local governments to provide rest bays for tanker drivers will be heeded. Even the more en­dowed Federal and state governments are having a hard time dealing with these driv­ers, how much less local governments. The running battle with the drivers on the Apa­pa-Oshodi Expressway and the idle Ogere rest bay which was provided by the Ogun State Government are sufficient indicators of the hard battle ahead.

All relevant law enforcement agencies should be involved in efforts to ensure safe­ty on our roads. The ages of the vehicles in a challenged economy like ours may be an issue, but of greater concern is the mainte­nance and roadworthiness of these vehicles. Tanker owners are called upon to ensure this and maintain strict adherence to safety standards in the construction of tanks and containers that are fitted on these vehicles.

When all these have been ensured, what is left is the strict enforcement of the laws. The FRSC has promised to ensure the arrest of trucks with unlatched containers hence­forth. It should not stop there. Such drivers should be prosecuted and sanctioned ad­equately as a deterrent to others. There are too many of these unlatched vehicles on our roads now. The recent tragic death of some students of the Olabisi Onabanjo Universi­ty, Ago-Iwoye, Ogun State resulted directly from this infraction. FRSC must continue to do its very best to avoid repeats of these avoidable accidents.

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