Abba Dukawa, Kano.
Global Hunger Index 2020 report has ranked Nigeria 98th out of the 107 countries with a score of 29.2.
The same organization ranked the country 93rd out of 117 with a score of 27.9 in 2019. Relatively the country has not sufficiently improved its capacity for self food reliant or it either has level of hunger or food scarcity that is serious.
For almost two years now, the Buhari administration has shut Nigeria’s land borders. Nothing has changed except that the policy has caused serious hardship and impoverished more than 2/3 of the 306 million peoples who are either without food or the price of foodstuffs is beyond their affordability and already paying a for the border closure disproportionately.
Nigeria consumes 6.7 million tons of rice annually. It produces 3.5 million tons locally. The deficit of 3.2 million tons. Without recoursing the impact on teaming populace’s wellbeing The closure has provoked increment of prices of some commodities between 15% and 100%. For instance, rice, which is the most staple food in the country is increasingly unaffordable, a 50kg bag of imported rice which used to sell for about N14,000 has increased to about N25,000, while the price of local rice has moved from about N11,000 to about N20,000. Prices of vegetable oil, frozen chicken, among others, have all gone up. Since the closure, local rice milling manufacturers have found an opportunity to exploit the market disproportionately.
Within the year FGN took roughly 40,000 tonnes of millet and sorghum from the regional economic bloc’s (ECOWAS) strategic stocks last month and released 30,000 tonnes of its own maize. The federal government itself knows the negative impact of the border closure. The decision which is meant to make the country self- sufficient is far away from being achieved.
What Nigerian gain from closing its borders.
Last month, the government stealthily gave the Dangote Group and other companies special permission to import maize. With this waiver granted to these companies, it is obvious that the government of Nigeria have mistaken border closure for an efficient self food reliant and the objectives not being achieved except causing hardship to masses.
Right from day one when Buhari’s administration made its decisions known, economy watchers dismissed the closure. The reason for the border closure, so to speak, is to halt massive smuggling of rice and arms importation into the country, among others.
But it seems the policy and the enforcer have woefully fallen and the government had no more reason to continue punish innocent Nigerians with land border closure.
This policy of shutting land border has failed to stop the flow of arms into the country. Insurgents, militants, bandits, kidnappers, name them, carry arms freely and kill at will. Smuggling of rice into Nigeria has continued to thrive.
In general, border closure is counter-productive; it is like chasing shadows rather than the cause.
The war against smuggled rice should have been fought in mechanized farms and modern rice mills that can process the farm produce to international standard.
For Sabo Nanono’s contradictory view against President Buhari’s intent to reopen the border is unfortunate an minister, and contradicting president decision can best be described as the hangover of a power drunk, to insist on the closure even when Nigerians, the electorates, are suffering. Maybe the Minister of Rural and Agricultural have unterior motives toward the masses that brought the administration in power, or enjoys seeing innocent Nigerians being punishing by the border shut.
What Nanono is benefiting from the border closure? Does he want to add another colossal damage to the administration already tattered image?
The closure of the borders clearly violated the spirit and the letter of the ECOWAS and AfCFTA which mandates the free movement of goods and people.
The bloc is dominated by Nigeria by dint of the size of its economy and its regional influence. Minister and his cohorts or rather advisers should not forget that African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), will unarguably serve as an opportunity for Nigerian business.
Dukawa write in from Kano State.
Usman Okai Austin: His Ordeals, Trials and Triumph Gallantly.
The Kogi State-born political activist and member of the PDP, Austin Usman Okai is a man among men imbued with positive attitude and dedication to shape democracy in Kogi State, Nigeria and across the globe. He is an indispensable advocate of good governance. He is a no-nonsense soldier of democracy.
Comrade Okai Austin Usman has become the strongest voice of opposition today in Kogi State and a national People’s Democratic Party (PDP) youth frontier. The usual fashion and style of life Austin lives makes it clear: sitting idle is not an option particularly when democracy is indeed under threat – but we also have momentum. He opened our eyes to gory divisions, insensitivity on on the part of those at the helm of affairs, in a way many people had never seen before.
As a passionate democracy advocates, Austin resolves to use pen and paper, online blogs, (social) media to give voice to the voiceless, making heard those who cannot speak. This singular painstaking efforts forces everyone including Kogi State Government to act sometimes unknowingly, unwillingly.
The first thing Austin achieved is a credible and free flow of information between governments, and the public characterized by incessant incarcerations. First, he published a fact-based verifiable report on media which sparked circumspect argument / debate on policy options of Alhaji Yaya Bello APC led administration, secondly on the public trust in politics that democracy relies on. Kogi government at a certain point had no option but to be accountable to the electorate. Because the syndicate system mounted by Austin to have first-hand information and make it public before the appropriate authority could fathom it is a mystery yet to be unravelled.
From round table talk to town hall meetings and village square, Comrade Austin initiated regular, open and often times empathetic communications with the public to win their solidarity for what were fairly severe anti-people policy. His advocacy against man’s inhumanity to man, gory demonstration of insensitivity on the part of the government continue to inspire kogites in diaspora and at the home front democracy to serve as a strong reminder that every citizen can stand up against bad governance, ridiculous mass retrenchment under the guise of Staff Verification Exercise or screening and diversion of public fund to finance projects incapable of addressing direct primary needs of the masses.
There comes a time in Kogi State that it became the trade mark of Alhaji Yaya Bello APC led government to clamp down on dissenting voices.
“ I wonder how many times we will have to organise protests to free people who have been arrested for speaking against this government” :
Austin Okai was first arrested in 2017 by security operatives believed to be from the Special Anti-robbery Squad, SARS. Mr. Okai was seized by the police in a Hitler Gestapo-style raid in Abuja, handed him over to the Kogi State Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). Afterwards, In February 2017, he was arraigned before Kogi High Court and Magistrate Court for allegedly inciting workers against the state government.
On 11 April 2017, Austin was arraigned at a Magistrate Court in Lokoja on charges of falsely accusing the government of buying cars worth $12m, bla, bla bla. His arrest was condemned by many and they took to social media to call for his release with the hashtags #FreeAustinOkai and #IStandWithAustinOkai.
The blogger was no doubt, embroiled in fierce battles with his aides, some of whom have issued open threats to him. In the words of Usman Okai Austin ” arrest me and thousands of my kinds Will spring up”. Okai is one keg out of a very big jug containing many of his likes.
On 12 April 1917, Ocho Baba Ripples Nigeria succinctly puts ;
“Usman Okai Austin is … a man with an indomitable courage, an opposition figure in the struggle for good governance and citizenship engagement not minding his modus operandi.”
“Unfortunately, the State by their actions and inaction’s has succeeded in binding him with a cause all well-meaning Kogites are yearning for. He is now a necessary evil.”
“Love him or hate him, his mode of advocacy has been notorious on the social media with a blow by blow detail and account of every action undertaken by the leadership of Kogi State Government since inauguration in January 2016.”
On the 20 April 2017, Usman Ogbo, once wrote “… with sincere but unsolicited advice… intimidation and continuous detention of Usman Okai Austin is rather misdirected and unwarranted. This is because If a man hit his toe and fell, he should not look at where he fell, but the spot he hit his toe to know the actual object that caused the accident.”
“ Practically speaking, government should free Austin and search within … . Austin is certainly not the issue but good governance. He is paying the price on behalf of those within and outside the government who are genuinely aggrieved and not satisfied with the performance of the government so far but are afraid to speak out at least for now.
The government needs him like other critics to objectively point at errors for corrections.”
Austin was also arrested by officers of the Department of State Services (DSS) on Friday February 22nd 2019, in Lokoja, Kogi State. He was detained and held without charge.
“We want to state clearly that nothing must happen to our brother Comrade Usman. He has not committed any offence against Kogi State, against the Governor or against the Federal Republic of Nigeria. We also want to remind Governor Bello that criticising the government is not an offence against the law. He must equally remember that the actors of today can become the victims of tomorrow”, said Atoye Coalition in Defence of Nigerian Democracy and Constitution (CDNDC) and many other Civil Rights Group
It is a big potential threat for politicians, who have military ambitions inside-out to win an election into any political office. Such a leader will not hesitate to clampdown on the likes of Okai’s outspokenness and revelation on the alleged activities of, and political shenanigans of the leader. It is also a big danger for a man or woman from military background to have political ambitions. The merging of civilian skills with military virtues does not help the likelihood of future democratic consolidation. This birthed leaders born with “murutus” impetus whose political set goal is anti-people. In fact , it ushers in inhumane leaders, turning dynamic security reforms against the masses it is expected to protect. This indeed is totally a direct assault on our democratic order. It is as a result this kind of draconian leaders hard-won democratic rights are being swept aside through threatening statements, power of incumbency, policies initiated and implemented without opposition input, elections becomes selections and incarcerations here and there. Essential freedoms are eroded talkless of an attempt to voice out 30%, 20% or non-payment of workers salaries, areas and pensioners entitlement. Nevertheless, Austin Usman Okai has come, he has seen and has conquered.
No seed ever planted in the right path with a large heart can grow in vain. On every failure , there is a seed of success. Austin is more than a conqueror because God is his defender. Austin’s recent appointment as a global citizen comes as a rude shock to his traducers. Comrade Usman Austin Okai is honoured with an appointment letter into the UN Economic and Social Council in Africa, ECOSOC. Comrade Okai was carefully selected to represent Nigeria, Africa at the frontiers of the UN council to pursue further seamless humanitarian services, that is related to economic, social, environmental issues. What a rare feat!
Written by Attai Stephen.
Why Ondo Gov Akeredolu Needs To Wear The Ortom Armour
There has been a fierce battle ongoing between Ondo State Government and the federal government over the pronouncement of the Ondo government asking Fulani herdsmen to leave the forests as well putting restrictions on times of grazing in the state.
Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, on Monday January 18, 2021 issued a statement asking Fulani herdsmen to vacate state forest reserves within seven days, saying activities of herdsmen had for long threatened the security of the state.
In a swift reaction, the media aide to President Muhammadu Buhari, Garba Shehu responded where he argued saying ‘’insecurity is not alien to any group, the language they speak, their geographical location or their faith.’’ Garba went on to ask Ondo State government to concern itself with fighting all forms of crime in the state and not picking on one tribe.
The crossfire of words did not cease as the Ondo State commissioner for Information replied the presidency saying “The statement from Garba Shehu is brazen display of emotional attachment and it is very inimical to the corporate existence of Nigeria,”
This is just a small fraction of what Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State faced from the government at the centre and its agencies. The Ortom administration dammed the consequences and braved all odds to ban open grazing in the state for which today Benue is reaping the benefits.
But can Akeredolu conquer? Does he have the balls? How about the political will? Can he be an Ortom for Ondo people? These and more are the big questions awaiting answers as events unfold in the western state.
It is instructive to point out how Governor Samuel Ortom succeeded and did not yield his position even as the forces were all against him.
Governor Ortom made it clear that the safety of his people comes first. His priority was and has been the safety of his people who without them he would not have become the Governor that he is his today. His message was clear, single and consistent.
The Benue State Governor did not just ban open grazing; he provided a viable option to ending the perennial attacks on farmers by herdsmen. Ranching he said was the solution. He backed his argument with facts and figures thereby dwarfing vague sentiments and skewed views.
Ortom has been calling for an option better than ranching and till date no one has come up with one. This is a clear quality of one who had studied the issue before becoming Governor.
Governor Ortom’s refusal to shift grounds with the federal government saw the death and burial of several obnoxious policies like, Ruga, cattle colonies and grazing routes as championed by the federal government.
One thing hugely worked for Ortom: the people. When Benue people saw his selfless determination to fight for them, they supported him across party lines. Benue was united. Even when he the Governor was in the All Progressives Congress, APC, same as the President, he did not stutter to make the position of Benue clear.
Governor Ortom literally gave his life and political ambition to ensure the safety of Benue people. It was at that time he left the party to join the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. The Governor gave up the benefits Governors from the same political party with the president enjoy for the security of Benue people. He did not mind losing his second term election which the federal government tried to rig him out but got fierce resistance from the people.
Ortom was criticized and blamed by some of his governor colleagues whose states have today come under heavy attacks from herdsmen. He warned them but they would not listen.
It is interesting to note that enforcement of the Benue State Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law, 2017, has also been successful.
Therefore, If the Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, hopes to succeed on this fight to provide security to his people in the face of armed Fulani herdsmen attacks, he needs to adopt the Samuel Ortom example. The Ortom example mandates a leader to be on the side of his people at all times. Gov Akeredolu has to be courageous, but he must also be willing to let go political correctness and the favours that come with it from the Villa. Sacrifice is key in this endeavour! Ondo must enact a law to ban open grazing which will also evict herders from Ondo forests. Gov Akeredolu should propose an alternative – Ranching.
He has an opportunity on his hands to be another Samuel Ortom. True leadership comes with sacrifice, integrity and selflessness.
Ngutsav is a public affairs commentator write in from Benue.
Despite Hefty Debt Why going For Unclaimed And Dormant Accounts?
By Abba Dukawa, Kano.
President Muhammadu Buhari signed the 2020 finance act on December 31, 2020. The Act, takes effect January 1, 2021. Now Buhari’s administration has perfected ways to borrow funds from unclaimed dividends and dormant bank account balances unattended for at least six years.
Nigeria had perpetually grappled with the twin problems of heavy budget deficits and weak balance of payments. What is the guarantee that the incoming administration in the next two years and the subsequent ones will have the capacity to repay Nigeria’s debt that has reached a scary situation where total debt stock stood at some humongous rose to N31. 009 trillion ($85.897 billion).
From every economic indexes that if the country keep borrowing, and our debt increases beyond accepted level, and our growing share of GDP now needs to go into debt servicing or repayments, it may start to take the tax revenue that is needed for development. We have seen nations, especially developing ones like ours, suffer severely from such bloated debt burden, which means struggling to meet even the debt interest payments with nothing left to develop
Now financial Act, takes effect from January 1, 2021. Despite Hefty Debt for the country Why now Federal government intend to go after the amount of money in dormant account balances is about N737.5 billion. When combined with the N158 billion outstanding unclaimed dividends, the total amount of money that would be taken over by the FG may be up to N895.5 billion.
Even Though Minister of finance, dampened fears of owners of dormant accounts and unclaimed dividends. She stated, “They have nothing to lose as they would be paid their entitlements from the Special Trust Fund to be set up by the Federal Government once they are properly identified. How sure the owner of the unclaimed fund will access they fund considering bureaucratic bottleneck in the country is too inefficient and will not help the claimant to access his unclaimed dividend problem been solve.
Is this not be stressful for an owner to request for returns of his fund. To be fair, how can a shareholder with an unclaimed dividend of about N10,000 expected him go to Abuja just to make a claim of the unpaid dividend.
The shareholders had opposed the idea , saying the government lacks powers to manage funds belonging to private sector investors. In spite the existence law before this financial act clearly states that there shall be no forceful takeover of any private movable property of any Nigerian without due and appropriate compensation and or valid court order. In view with guaranteed of rights to own property as provided by the nation Constitution, this move was unnecessary because capital market regulators and operators had leveraged technology to put in place initiatives that are already addressing the issue.
Almost every day, Concerns Nigerians and Economists experts express worries over the country’s rising debt profile. Even 2021 Budget over N3.3trn will go to Debt Servicing. federal government has disclosed how it plans to sell and concession government owned properties and non-oil assets to fund the 2021 budget.
One may surprised too about the speed with which leaders at all level go for questionable bonds while legislators were preoccupied with determining their immediate benefits with unnecessary and conventional allowances which took no account of the state of the economy and the welfare of the people they represented. Nigerians current concern, however, is who will pay these huge debts? Really not us and also too weighty for the lean shoulders of our children? Is this not our children will be turns to slaves in their own country by the creditor nations, just because they want to pay off the debts left by the frivolous political class that have ravaged our common patrimony?
Dukawa write in from Kano state and can be reach firstname.lastname@example.org
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