Friday, February 2, 2018

Buhari ignored federal character in security chiefs’ appointments —Obasanjo

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has berated the National Assembly and the Federal Character Commission for failing to check the excesses of President Muhammadu Buhari in the uneven distribution of public offices.
Obasanjo also said his recent open letter to President Buhari was not borne out malice or ‘bad belle’ but out of his deep concern for the situation in the country.
He said this on Thursday at the secretariat of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Oke Ilewo area of Abeokuta, shortly after the Coalition for Nigeria Movement was inaugurated in Ogun State, and he was registered as a member of the movement.
The former President, who was flanked by a former Military Administrator of old Ondo State, Gen. Ekundayo Opaleye and a former Minister of State for Defence, Mrs. Dupe Adelaja,  said the ethos of nation building through even distribution of public offices had been abused.
He said, “Let me emphasise important areas, programmes, priorities or processes for improved attention. To start with, we seem to have taken nation building for granted. Nation building must be given continued attention to give every citizen a feeling of belonging and a stake in his or her country.
“For instance, the Federal Character principle, as espoused in our constitution, was to guide the leadership to search for competent holders of major offices to be distributed within the entire nation, and avoid concentration in a few ethnic hands or geographical places, as we currently have in the leadership of our security apparatus.
“To avoid such non-integrative situation, we have the National Assembly and the Federal Character Commission, both institutions which must raise the alarm or call for correction of actions by the executive that violates the spirit of our constitution.”
Obasanjo’s registration came almost 24 hours after the CNM was inaugurated in Abuja.
Obasanjo arrived the venue at exactly 12.44pm in company with dignitaries including former governors of Cross River and Osun states, Donald Duke and Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola.
The former President, while addressing scores of potential members who had gathered at the venue, said he was surprised that many Nigerians were worried that he exchanged pleasantries with President Buhari at the African Unity summit in Addis Ababa, capital of Ethiopia, few days after he wrote the open letter to the President.

He noted that he never condemned Buhari in totality but commended him in areas where he had performed well.
Obasanjo said, “Last week, I issued a statement which I did not do lightly or frivolously but out of deep concern for the situation of our country.
“I wonder why some Nigerians were worried why I had to pay respect to the Nigerian President at Addis Ababa. That’s my own upbringing as a well born and bred Yoruba boy.
“That doesn’t mean that what I have said about the President, was said out of bitterness and hatred. It is evident that the President has performed,  in some areas, good enough.
 “In other areas not good and a proper advice was given which he may take and he may not take.
“I didn’t do that out of malice or out of ‘bad belle.’ I did it out of my respect for that office and my interest, and I hope, in your interest and the interest of Buhari in Nigeria.
“I went to him just before the beginning of the opening of the AU summit. I had gone round to greet some few other Presidents, should I ignore him? So, I went to my President, greeted him and we joked before General Abdulsalami (Abubakar) said we should have a group photograph.
“I had wanted him (Buhari) to stand in the middle before he said I am the most senior and the photograph went viral on the social media.”
Obasanjo, while justifying the need for the CNM, argued that if all the instruments the country had used in the quest for nation building and governance since independence had failed, it was imperative to try new ways.
He said, “If what we have tried in the past has not taken us to the Promised Land, we have to try something else and something else is this grassroots popular movement built from the bottom-up to lead us, I hope and pray, to the Promised Land.”
He, however, warned that if the movement “decides to transform itself and go into partisan politics, I will cease to be a member.”
Obasanjo further said the spate of violence, and other forms of criminality had not received sufficient proactive ameliorative responses through transformational leadership.
He said the youth and women would be carried along, as “they must be part and parcel of governance in this country.”
Obasanjo, who urged Nigerians to go online and register as members, said the CNM currently had no link with other movements.

But he, however, said “if there are people of like minds, people who share the views and the aims and objectives of the Coalition for Nigeria Movement who want to join this movement, we will not object, we will welcome them.”

He said the movement did not regard itself as a third force, but “it sees itself as a popular movement that can accommodate all Nigerians irrespective of their political interest or affiliations and will propel Nigeria forward.”

Obasanjo added, “This is the new message in town, the new dance in town, the ceremony in town and I will appeal to you to join this ceremony and dance in town.

“There may be many masquerades and those of you who had my own type of background, when we were growing up,  we were playing masquerades too but those were small masquerades, but when big masquerades come out,  the small masquerades must go.”

Obasanjo later led the gathering to sing a chorus titled, ‘I see a new Nigeria, in the hands of God.’

Others at the event included a former deputy governor in Oyo State, Taofeek Arapaja, a two-time governorship candidate in Ogun State, Prince Gboyega Isiaka and some other politicians in the state.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Nigerian Army embarks on road project in Sambisa forest

The Nigerian Army on Wednesday said it had embarked on road construction project in the Sambisa Forest as part of the ongoing clearance operation to dislodge remnants of Boko Haram insurgents.

The Director, Army Public Relations, Brig.-Gen. Sani Kukasheka, made the disclosure in a statement issued in Maiduguri.

Kukasheka said that the army had begun construction of access road to open the forest and link  communities around.

He listed the projects as Gwoza-Yamtake-Bita-Tokumbere-Sambisa and Gwoza-Yamtake-Bita roads.

“In its efforts to make Sambisa forest habitable and also training ground, the Nigerian Army is following up the ongoing clearance operations with road construction into main heartland of the forest and adjoining communities.

“Already, work has commenced in earnest on Gwoza-Yamteke-Bitta road, as well as the reconstruction of the road from Gwoza-Yamteke-Bitta-Tokumbere, leading into Tokum forest”.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the military authorities had set up a military training facility in Sambisa Forest after dislodging the insurgents’ tactical ground at Camp Zero.

Also, the Borno State Government on Monday restricted vehicular movement on three major roads in the state, to prevent fleeing insurgents from escaping military offensive from infiltrating into the communities.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

FG replies Obasanjo, lists achievements

We have read the press statement by former President Olusegun Obasanjo on the State of the Nation.

For the record, Chief Obasanjo is a patriot, and he has proven this time and time again. We appreciate what he said concerning the Administration’s performance in two out of the three key issues that formed the plank of its campaign: Fighting corruption and tackling
insurgency. Specifically, the former President said President Buhari must be given credit for his achievement so far in these two areas. We
thank him for this.

Apparently, the former President believes that the Administration does not deserve a pass mark in the area of the economy, which is the third of our three-pronged campaign promises.

We have no doubt that in the face of massive challenges in this area, this Administration has availed itself creditably. We believe that Chief Obasanjo, because of his very busy schedule, may not have been fully availed of developments in the government’s efforts to revamp the economy, which was battered by the consequences of over-dependence on a commodity as well as unprecedented pillaging of the treasury.

Today, most of the indices by which an economy is measured are looking up. Permit me to say, however, that Nigeria would not have exited recession through a mere order or if the Administration had not made use of ”good Nigerians” who could help.

READ: Full text: Obasanjo’s letter to Buhari

This Administration is making steady progress in its determined effort to revamp the economy, and the results are showing:

* Foreign Reserves have peaked at $40b, the highest level in about four years, and up from $24 billion just a year ago, even though when we came in, the price of oil had crashed woefully.

* According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBC), headline inflation has fallen for 11 consecutive months, standing at 15.37% as at Dec. 2017. This is the lowest inflation rate since Jan 2017, and it has met and surpassed the target set for inflation in the Administration’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP).

* Our determined implementation of the Treasury Single Account (TSA) has stopped the haemorrhaging of the treasury. Some 108 billion Naira has been saved from removal of maintenance fees payable to banks, pre-TSA. The nation is being saved 24.7 billion Naira monthly with the full implementation of the TSA.

* The elimination of ghost workers has saved the nation 120 billion Naira

* At about 1.8 billion dollars, the capital inflows in the second quarter of 2017 were almost double the $908 million in the first

* In the wake of a stable Naira and increased investment inflows, Nigeria’s stock market emerged one of the best-performing in the world, delivering returns in excess of 40 percent.

* Nigeria rose 24 places on the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business ranking, and earned a place on the List of Top 10 Reformers in the world.

* According to Q3 2017 figures, agriculture export is up year-on-year by 25%, solid minerals exports are up year-on-year by 78%, raw materials exports are up 70% year-on-year and manufactured goods exports are up 22% year-on-year.

* Government agencies such as the Nigeria Customs Service are reporting highest-ever revenue collection, while JAMB, under the new management appointed by President Buhari in 2016, remitted N7.8 billion to the coffers of the federal government. The total amount remitted by JAMB between 2010 and 2016 was a paltry N51 million!

These positive indices may not have immediately impacted positively on Nigerians, but Nigerians will definitely get a new lease of life a short while from now. This is because the good news from the agricultural sector, which is recording a bumper harvest, will bring down the cost of foodstuffs, especially such staple as rice, and our massive Social Investment Programme will ease the pain of the most vulnerable in the society.

When we assumed office in 2015, some 6 million farmers were involved in rice production. Thanks to the Anchor Borrowers’ programme of this Administration, we have grown that number to over 12 million farmers. The result is that our rice import from Thailand alone has dropped from 644,000 metric tonnes to 22,000 MT in just two years. This is phenomenal.

Apart from rice, Nigeria is also doing well in other grains, especially Millet, Sorghum and Maize. We are now the second largest
producer of sorghum after the US, the third in millet after India and our breweries are now enjoying local sourcing of those commodities.

For maize, we are producing 10 million tons while we need about 13 million tons for both human and animal nutrition. Nigeria leads the world in the yam and cassava production. We account for 70% of the world’s yam production. In two years, we hope to be the world’s
largest exporter of yam! Overall, our ambition is that agriculture should rise from 25% to 40% of GDP, so that we can banish poverty and
overcome our economic anxiety.

Our Social Investment Programme is Nigeria’s most ambitious social welfare programme ever. Currently, 5.2 million primary school children
in 28,249 schools in 19 states are being fed daily; 200,000 unemployed graduates have enlisted into the N-power Job Scheme, and a quarter of a million loans already distributed to artisans, traders, and farmers.

Finally, our investment in infrastructure is simply unprecedented. This is because infrastructure is key to faster economic growth and development.

Here is a synopsis of what we have done in this area:

* Power Generation at an all-time high of 7,000mw and all can be transmitted

* RAIL: Lagos-Kano Standard Gauge is on. Lagos-Ibadan sector ready 2019, Kano-Kaduna ready 2019; The entire stretch ready 2021; Negotiations on for Coastal Rail covering 15 cities from Lagos to Calabar.

* ROAD: 25 major highways being funded with the N100b Sukuk Bond, and all geo-political zones are benefitting equally

This Administration is not unaware of the enormity of the challenges facing the nation, but we are up to the task. We have taken the bull by the horns, and long-suffering Nigerians will begin to experience a new lease of life as our efforts yield fruits. We will not go into a state of funk for whatever reason.

On the Herders/Farmers’ clashes, this Administration is determined to end the crisis resulting from this once and for all, not minding the fact that the clashes predate us. we urge Nigerians to have faith in the Administration’s ability to resolve the crisis, and to watch out for concrete measures in this regard.

On whether or not President Muhammadu Buhari should run for another term, it is true that many Nigerians have been calling on the President to run again, while others are opposed to his return. However, we believe this issue is a distraction for the President at this time. This is because Mr. President spends every waking hour tackling the enormous challenges facing the nation, most of which were bequeathed to his Administration by successive past Administrations. He is committed to fulfilling the mandate given to him by Nigerians in 2015. And that’s where we are right now!

Finally, we have no reason to believe that former President Obasanjo has any motive beyond the well-being of the nation in issuing his Special Press Statement. We have also taken his admonition in good  faith, and we thank him most sincerely for taking time off his busy schedule to pen such a long statement.