Sewing Nigeria back together
Source ThisDay (Nigerian Newspaper)
Date: June 11, 2014
By Atiku Abubaka (Nigeria’s former vice-president)
Nigeria is at a crossroads, entombed within a growing quagmire shaped by chronic apathy and an institutionalised disregard for human welfare. A once promising nation, Nigeria was a beacon of hope for African development, education, security and economic prosperity. Today, however, we find ourselves the victims of extreme insecurity resultant of lackadaisical policy implementation and enforcement, coupled with the persistent neglect of the needs of the Nigerian people.
Due to insecurity, a broken economy and increasing environmental misfortunes, Nigeria has become a collection of fragmented pieces, loosely held together by a common history and identity. Roughly six million Nigerians have found themselves homeless after relocating to unfamiliar lands after violence and insecurity, insufficient economic opportunities or uninhabitable environments took away their livelihoods, homes and loved ones. 3.3 million Nigerians are internally displaced within Nigeria, while the remaining 2.7 million have found themselves scattered across the globe. Often times, the improvement brought by the move is minimal at best as combinations of prejudice, poor economic conditions and insecurity provide for widespread instability across Nigeria.
In a recent report by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) and the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), it was discovered that “the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Nigeria is approximately a third of the IDPs in Africa and 10 per cent of IDPs in the world.” According to the report, approximately “470,500 persons were displaced in Nigeria in 2013 alone placing it as the country with the third highest number of displaced persons in the world. Nigeria is only ranked behind Syria with 6.5 million IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons) and Colombia with 5.7 million IDPs.”
I find this news devastating and unacceptable. For decades, earnest Nigerians at all levels of society have made efforts to change the wave of negligence and dishonesty that have fuelled the rash of insecurity, violence, instability and economic misfortune, but their efforts have been disjointed, tenuous and in vain.
Change does not happen in a vacuum full of individuals acting independently of one another, but takes the conscientious, collective effort of an entire community. Together Nigerians must recognise the underlying problems that have ushered in Nigeria’s current problems, and develop sustainable solutions to reverse the downward trends of apathy, insecurity, unemployment and intolerance. In order to resolve these mounting issues, it is necessary for Nigerians to implement a multi-level, unified effort, incorporating a steadfast government policy and enforcement programme coupled with grassroots attention to local conditions and needs.
Nigeria’s journey towards recovery will require unprecedented focus and perseverance. Violence, insecurity, and the multitude of maladies that have caused millions of Nigerians to relocate will take time and the dedication of our leadership and our people to resolve, but there are a number of proactive steps that can be undertaken to alleviate some of the pain of relocation in the interim. There are two primary tiers of action involved in addressing internal displacement of Nigerians.
The first tier addresses the immediate concerns of displaced Nigerians, by appointing a government body in charge of guaranteeing the safety, protection and economic vitality of displaced persons. A former Minister of the Niger Delta, Dr. Sam Ode, recently called for a constitutional provision that would ensure the security and resettlement of displaced persons while providing shelter, clothing, and food. In tandem with a federal body tasked with overseeing and protecting displaced persons, local agencies will need to be established to develop localised solutions to the needs of the displaced persons, while serving as the main distributors and monitors of the identified goods and services. Key areas of services will include vocational education and job training, health assistance, access to clean water and cooking fuel, and more.
The second tier addresses pervasive and damaging apathy of governing bodies while simultaneously confronting the current instability, insecurity, intolerance and insurgency in Nigeria that have arisen from deep-seated avarice. Together, Nigeria can make kidnappings, bombings, disenfranchisement and intolerance a thing of the past.
I see a future Nigeria free of oppression, insurgency and widespread indifference – a Nigeria where its people are unified in an effort to bring criminals to justice and pave a safe path upon which Nigerians can return to the comfort, safety and familiarity of their homes.
Change is constant and unpredictable, but even uninvited change can be transformed to represent a new beginning with new opportunities for Nigeria’s future. Nigeria has been presented with an opportunity to cleanse itself from its bleak past, and to unite once and for all as a Nigerian people who will no longer withstand the intolerance, violence, apathy and economic volatility of yesterday, but join together with a single goal of creating a better tomorrow.
“Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
His imperial majesty: Godswill Akpabio
By Swill Mavua (08035820955, email@example.com)
Source: Daily Independent, Nigerian Newspaper
Date: June 4, 2014
Away from the litany of outrages occasioned by Boko Haram, other national issues that really bother the mind are: the delayed 2014 budget just signed into law and any hope of it bettering the life of the average Nigerian; the would-be-outcome of the National Confab now in plenary, after the committee stage; any hope for a steady electricity supply; the ever depreciating value of the naira; and, help me God, when Nigeria will be lucky to have good governance.
Good governance, while pondering that I remembered my name-sake; Godswill. Ha-ah! Godswill Akpabio, the most decorated Nigerian governor. Governor of Akwa Ibom State, the man who has won and worn many medals in good governance. His achievements are listed in no bounds: infrastructure in education, healthcare, roads and the environment, a functional airport and an independent Power Plant. He is reputed to be a great achiever and Akwa Ibomites are in agreement. “There is no better thing to have happened to us,” they say; “in Akpabio, God’s will is done in Akwa Ibom.”
Who can fault them? That notwithstanding, Akpabio does have a pocket full of critics. And they don’t mince words in their criticism. They say in the Akwa Ibom political-mix Akpabio is a conqueror. He conquered the former governor Obong Victor Attah – with all the factors of incumbency at his disposal – to emerge governor in 2007 and subsequently re-elected in 2011. He conquered the people with the visible projects that abound here and there. Finally, he conquered the 31-man House of Assembly. And so, with the air of a conquersidor he operates a fiefdom in the capacity of an imperial majesty. That is why he is a senator designate. Critics insist that Akpabio’s administration accounts to nobody, not even the House of Assembly. In spite of the fact that the state earns the highest allocation from the Federation Account, most times in excess of N20 billion, yet the state is in debt. The cost of the various projects for which he receives accolades are better imagined than stated.
As if to prove critics right, Akpabio recently pricked the national psyche with his Pension Bill. Of course, with haste the House of Assembly push the bill through and passed it within 24hours, in apparent confirmation of their absolute loyalty in their conquered state. Ordinarily, there shouldn’t be much hulla about a pension bill for an out-going governor. But there are extant laws that have taken care of that for all the governors in Nigeria, so why this bill? So much so, for the jumbo package:
Pension for life at a rate equivalent to the salary of the incumbent governor
N5million per month for the employment of domestic staff
N100million per year for medicals for himself and his wife
A five bedroom mansionette in Abuja or Akwa Ibom
300% of annual basic salary as severance gratuity
In the name of democracy, can somebody tell Nigerians what the annual salary of a governor is? That plus N60million for domestic staff and another N100million for medicals – aside the mansionette and the one-off severance package – is what Akpabio wants Akwa Ibomites to pay him yearly for the rest of his life. That handsomely approximates N240million per annum.
How the people are reacting to this will be of little consequence, presumably. But the speaker of the State Assembly, Sam Ikon, is all smiles in justification of what ought to be an absolute absurdity. Hear him: “the bill is geared toward enabling Governors and their deputies stay focused while in office.” That cannot in any way hold water on the ground of sound reasoning. Should the Governor assent to the bill, which he will most likely do, it would only confirm Unyimeh Usoroh’s – chairman, Nigeria Labour Congress(NLC), Akwa Ibom chapter – position that the bill is not only disappointing but showed the level of greed and insensitivity of Nigerian leaders. Yes, the only way to summarize the intension behind that bill is a better future life for me at the expense of all – greed.
How else could one justify that? An imperialist leader is retiring from office but he wants to continually have a feel of the treasury, what would be the options open to him? Simply make a law that will enable him have a feel of the treasury in retirement. It also shows that he is an unwilling retiree. Should he have his way, he may want to remain forever in office or at least ask for an elongation of tenure.
Perhaps, Akpabio may need be asked these questions; what has he been paying to the former Governor, Attah, in his seven years in office? Will Attah benefit from this Pension Bill? If the answer is no, then what makes Akpabio think he is entitled to such pension benefit and Attah is not? We live in interesting times and interesting things are truly happening. One would have thought that the Akwa Ibom Governor, a smart looking lawyer, who has been in public office for 15 years, would know better than display an act not far-fetched from greed in public. In seven years of his reign as Governor, there is no report or record of any effort by him to improve the welfare of retirees in the state, whose meagre pension they hardly get in due time.
We may want to look at Akpabio today as the harbinger of imperialist administration at the state level, that be far from it. Truth is, rather than build strong institutions, our democracy since inception in 1999 has been building strong personalities. The case of Akpabio just happens to be a classic example. In their various domains, whatever the Governors say is final. The Houses of Assemblies are mere rubber stamps. That is why the Akpabio’s highly controversial Pension Bill could be passed within 24 hours. It is a shame. Because the political survival of the legislators depends largely on the Governor, as he overtly decides who becomes what, they cannot summon the courage to question the equitability of the Pension Bill for fear of losing their political relevance to the Governor’s anger.
I sympathize with the Akwa Ibom legislators; but cry the more for our country for the need to build strong political institutions instead of strong politicians. The United States of America President, Barrack Obama, had earlier advised us on that.
AKWA IBOM ASSEMBLY PASSES GOVERNOR’S PENSION BILL INTO LAW
Source: Nigerian News Agency (NAN-H-105)
Date: Uyo, May 26, 2014 (NAN)
The Akwa Ibom House of Assembly on Monday passed former Governor and Deputy Governor’s Pension Bill 2014 into law.
The executive bill, which had earlier passed the first and second reading, was presented for deliberations at committee of the whole at plenary.
The bill seeks a pension for life at a rate equivalent to the salary of the incumbent governor to a former governor and deputy.
The law also provides for a former governor a sum not exceeding N5 million per month to employ domestic staff while the deputy gets N2.5 million for the same purpose.
A former governor will also be entitled to free medical services for himself his spouse at a sum not exceeding N100 million per annum and N50 million for a former deputy governor.
The bill also seeks to provide for a former governor a befitting accommodation not below a 5- bed room maisonette in either Abuja or Akwa Ibom.
The bill also provides for yearly accommodation allowance of 300 per cent of annual basic salary for an ex-deputy governor.
A former governor will also receive a severance gratuity of 300 per cent of annual basic salary as at the time he leaves office.
After a debate by members, the deputy house leader Dr Ekaete Okon (PDP) moved a motion for the bill to be read the third time and passed into law.
The motion was seconded by Mr Aniekan Akpan (PDP-Ukanafun).
After the passage the Speaker, Mr Samuel Ikon, directed the clerk of the House to forward a clean copy of the bill to the governor. (NAN)