Stealing Public Trust
...Premium Times’ Low Premium Reporting.
The stupidity of the THOUGHT that a public officer will take such money on a consistent and repeated basis with impunity reveals the mindset of Premium Times about what they can do in such circumstances.
The pen writes what the mind thinks.
That stupidity is magnified by the thought that the public officer who is trying to steal would be paying the money into his bank account where it can be found.
The stupidity initially informed my decision not to respond to Premium Times in their latest publication headlined under my Name. It is a continuing line of a series of Attack FASHOLA.
Regrettably, what Premium Times has done is to damage its reputation as a news medium for those who seek the truth.
Clearly, no investigation was undertaken in respect of this publication as the report was from “Open Portal.”
If it was from the Open Portal then there was nothing to hide.
If Premium Times had conducted any investigation it will find and report that payments like this occurred in many other ministries and have been a source of concern reported in other media by Compliance Authorities.
If Premium Times investigated, it would have found and reported that Ministers do not manage accounts and finances of Ministries.
A little investigation would have shown Premium Times that Directors of Finance and Accounts (DFAs) are those who do this job and they are staff of the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation and seconded to the Ministries as part of financial controls.
If Premium Times investigated it would have found and reported that government in 2007 initiated a payment platform called Integrated Payment Platform and Information System (IPPIS).
Any well meaning and right thinking member of the public will recall that this administration has been engaging all sectors of Government to fully migrate to the IPPIS platform.
What has happened is that not all Government Officials who, from time to time, needed to be paid for approved expenses were registered on the platform.
In order to ensure that government work was not hampered, the DFAs sought and obtained approval of the Accountant General to pay these monies through the Accounts of an Approved few who were on the platform.
Those so approved then collect the money and disburse to the beneficiaries who sign Receipts all of which are retired and available for verification as approved by the Accountant General.
The Accountant General has recently issued new guidelines to deal with this process because not all public officials have fully enrolled on IPPIS and the DFAs have the mandate to comply and not FASHOLA.
In all, no money was stolen or is missing. There is No Smoking Gun to criminalize Fashola.
If anything has been stolen it is the Trust of the public by Premium Times.
I will not believe anything they write again.
This is not investigative Journalism. It is Irresponsible Journalism.
BABATUNDE RAJI FASHOLA, SAN
HON. MINISTER OF WORKS AND HOUSING
FG Assures Completion of Bodo-Bonny Road, Bridges on Schedule
The Federal Government has assured Nigerians that the construction of the Bodo-Bonny road would be completed on schedule as funding would no longer be a challenge.
This was disclosed by the Director Highway Road Design, Federal Ministry of Works and Housing, Engr. Omotayo Awosanya during an inspection tour of the project to ascertain the level of work done and update Nigerians on what the present administration had achieved so far on the project.
According to Engr.Awosanya the project had a counterpart funding mechanism when it was awarded in 2014, 50% from the Ministry and the remaining 50% from the Nigeria Liquified Natural Gas Limited.
He stated that funding would no longer be an issue in the execution of the project because the Federal Government is adopting the Tax Credit Scheme with the Nigeria Liquified Natural Gas Limited to completely fund the project.
Out of the 37.9km road, Engr.Awosanya disclosed that 31km has been completed. He said that with the speed of work put in by the contractor,Julius Berger Nigeria Plc recently, the project would be delivered in November 2021 as scheduled.
He further stated that the project was important to President Muhamadu Buhari as it would open up Bonny Island in particular and generally lead to economic empowerment of the country as a whole.
Speaking during the site visit, the Project Manager of Julius Berger Nigeria Plc, Thomas Haug said since commencement of work two years ago, his company had completed all the parapets, started work on eight mini bridges and constructed 200m long pipeline crossing bridge. He said two mini bridges had been constructed and 1.4million cubic meters of sand dredged to the point of the inspection.
Mr. Haug disclosed that they would be constructing the major bridge at Opobo next.
Also speaking, His Royal Highness, Chief Benson Egwenre, a community leader from Andoni said the community was happy especially with the prospects of economic benefits from the project. He said as per local content, the contractor has promised to employ youths of the community from January next year.
However, a total of 587 persons have been employed by the Contractor, out of which 438 (consisting of unskilled, semi-skilled and skilled labour) are from the immediate host communities while more people will be employed from the host communities by the main contractor, Julius Berger Nigeria and subcontractors as the work progresses.
NIHTE Inaugurates its Abuja Chapter
...Members pledged to uphold and defend Memorandum and Articles of Association
The Nigerian Institution of Highway and Transportation Engineers (NIHTE) has inaugurated its Abuja Chapter with the aim of upholding and defending the Memorandum and Articles of the Association.
At the inauguration and investiture ceremony of the new members in Abuja on Wednesday 4th November, 2020 the National Chairman of the Association, Engineer Oludayo Oluyemi, FNSE said that the Abuja Chapter would assist the Government of the Federal Capital Territory and the nation in formulating good policies in the area of Highway and Transportation Engineering, pointing out that their professionalism would come to bear in FCT Highway development.
He said, “The city of Abuja is very important in the history of Engineering in Nigeria and more particularly in the roles our members here have played in NSE and the infrastructural development in Nigeria."
Continuing, he said that the investiture of the Chairman for the NIHTE Abuja Chapter and its Executive would drive the affairs of the Chapter for two calendar years.
He therefore charged the newly constituted EXCO to serve the society with all their might and be fair to all in the discharge their duties.
According to him, the NIHTE division since its formation six years ago, had made tremendous achievements. " We are poised in keying into the new strategic plan and vision of the Nigerian Society of Engineers," he said.
Delivering his Vote of Thanks, the newly inaugurated Chairman of the Abuja Chapter, Engineer Musa Saidu, FNSE pledged and sworn on behalf of other members the to uphold and defend the Memorandum and Articles of Association of NIHTE.
He added that they would conduct their engineering practices with discipline, sincerity and fairness as well as to show interest in the affairs and welfare of their fellow engineers and members.
Safety Is A Key Factor for All Workplaces – Aliyu
The Honourable Minister of State for Works and Housing, Engr. Abubakar Aliyu has reiterated that in order to promote the wellness of both employees and contractors in the ministry, safety is a key factor in all construction sites.
The Minister made this assertion at the opening ceremony of a two-day workshop on Specialized Health and Safety, Training for Engineers/Officers of the Federal Ministry of Works in collaboration with the Occupational Safety & Health Association (OSH Association UK Nigeria – Region with the theme “Safety First in the Construction Site) on Thursday 22nd October 2020 in the Ministry.
Abubakar Aliyu, who was ably represented by the Director Human Recourses Management, Umar Utono stated that the objective of the workshop was to equip the engineers and field officers in the ministry with the knowledge and skills that will help them discharge their duties in the worksites and ensure safety of workers during construction activities in the country. Continuing he said that at the end of the workshop, the Engineers and officers would be equipped with the necessary knowledge and managerial skills to supervise construction sites without risk of accidents.
The Minister noted that one major factor responsible for accidents and deaths at workplaces was poor safety attitudes of workers, contractors and supervisors in charge of projects. He said improving safety at worksites had now become government priority to ensure change of attitudes of workers and contractors working at sites.
According to him, globally over 63,000 people die as a result of occupational accidents or work-related illnesses while 317 million accidents occur on the job annually. He stated that the global statistics by the International Labour Organization (ILO) were worrisome and government is committed to reducing accidents and fatality rates in construction sites.
The Minister disclosed that the Ministry would like to partner with professional institutions like Occupational Safety and Health Association UK – Nigeria Region being one of the leading organizations in the field of Occupational Safety & Health that strive to achieve the mandate of the Ministry towards zero fatalities at worksites. He requested OSHA to work closely with the relevant Departments of the Ministry on capacity building and training of staff on Health, Safety, Security and Environment (HSSE)
Aliyu pledged government total commitment towards implementing safety best practices in every activities of the Ministry.
Earlier in his opening remark, the Director of Engineering Services, Federal Ministry of Works and Housing, Engr. Julius Olunrinola said the Ministry have stepped up inspections and enforcement actions hence the need to deploy safety Engineers/Officers to all construction sites to enforce HSSE Policy.
Also speaking at the event is the President of OSH Association UK – Nigeria Region, Dr. Dahatu Mohammed who affirmed that safety was fundamental, basic and everyone’s business. He added that this safety workshop was very important to the Ministry as 90% of work done by the Ministry is basically construction. The creation of awareness to workers is meaningful to be able to achieve zero accident in construction sites.
Safety tips were highlighted by the Deputy Director, Central Workshop & Equipment Unit, Engr. Augustine Okwudiafor, as follows:
In time of emergency –
a) Do not panic
b) Stop all you are doing
c) Leave calmly at the pace of the person in front of you
d) Do not use the lift
e) Assemble at the designated muster point
Quality Engineering Education Ensures Delivery of World Class Infrastructure – Engr Aliyu
Minister of State for Works and Housing, Engr Abubakar Aliyu has stated that focus on quality engineering education will ensure the delivery of world class infrastructure in order to better the lives of citizens
The Minister was speaking as a Special Guest of Honour at the 18th International Conference and Annual General Meeting, (AGM) , of the Nigerian Institution of Civil Engineers (NICE), which was held in Abuja, with the theme “ Reform of Engineering Education: A Strategy for Sustainable Development in Nigeria.
In his reaction to the theme of the Conference, he said “… it is only fair that we focus on quality engineering education in order to ensure the delivery of world class infrastructure to better the lives of our citizens”
Engr. Aliyu also explained that, it is only through a better adoption and adaption of Engineering that we can share in the good life that it offers in other climes, and this he said can solely be achieved through quality Engineering education
Accordingly, the Minister noted that Sub-Saharan Africa seriously lacks engineering capacity and relies heavily on imported expertise, which he said was attributable to insufficient output from training institutions, poor- quality education, and lack of practical experience among graduates.
He said that according to UNESCO landmark report on Issues, Challenges, and Development Opportunities, Nigeria produces 3,500 engineers a year, a modest number relative to its population, but suffers significant unemployment among them because of the lack of the requisite training.
However, the Minister assured the delegates that the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, in line with its change mantra, is committed to development of the engineering profession considering its critical role in bringing about sustained economic growth.
He added that this administration has heavily invested on Research and Development generally and particularly on engineering education, however only modest achievement was made due to challenges that are huge but not insurmountable.
He also pointed out that synergy and harmonization of programmes, cooperation and collaboration can link Nigerian engineers’ consultancy services to global practices and marketing frameworks
Earlier, in a welcome address, the National Chairman of the Nigerian Institution of Civil Engineers (NICE), Engineer, Mrs Aishatu Aliyu Umar stated that the annual Conference which is the second in her tenure is exceptional to Civil engineers who gathered from different sectors of the economy to deliberate on the sustainable ways to enhance the profession.
She added that the conference is also an opportunity for the engineers to individually analyse their performance, asses impact and restrategise on ways to practice the profession for sustainable development of the nation
Engineer Umar described the 2020 theme as well thought out considering the fact that the World is being reshaped for better technological advancement and Nigeria cannot continue to be left behind.
While delivering an opening address, the President of the Nigerian Society of Engineers, (NSE), who was also the Chairman of the occasion, Engineer Babagana Muhammed described the annual conference and AGM as a gathering of professional engineers for the advancement of engineering practice in Nigeria in line with the global best practice.
Engineer Muhammed urged engineers to talk to stakeholders in their respective states on the water bill so as to give it the necessary support that will be in the interest of the people. He charged Nigerians who have the wherewithal to give back to society especially those that enjoyed free education.
Among the dignitaries that graced the occasion were: Engineer Umaru Bago Tafida, the Emir of Lapai and Royal Father of the day, Engineer Alimasuya Rabiu, President of COREN, Michael Jiang Yigao, Chairman/MD CCECC, Engineer Chris Okoye, Chairman/Principal Consultant CCGE Ltd
FG Approves Local Production Of Bitumen To Boost Job Creation, Conservation Of Foreign Exchange
* Directs Ministries of Petroleum Resources, Mines and Steel to develop strategies to enhance, stimulate, and encourage local production
* Fashola calls on entrepreneurs to tap into the production of bitumen locally as he presents Memorandum on Initiative to FEC
* “We see a demand of 500,000 metric tonnes of bitumen locally per annum,” he says
* Local production is also expected to generate no less than 30, 000 jobs for the unemployed in the country
Local and foreign investors with focus on the immense opportunities in the production of Bitumen in the country have received further boost with the Federal Government approval of investment by manufacturers, in the local production of bitumen and other construction materials that are being imported currently for construction of roads across the country.
The Federal Executive Council (FEC), which gave the approvals sequel to a memorandum presented to it by the Minister of Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola SAN, also directed the Ministries of Petroleum Resources and Mines and Steel to develop strategies to enhance, stimulate and encourage local production.
The memo, which originated from an initiative of President Muhammadu Buhari, who had made inquiry about the sources of the major components in Road Construction and the possibility of producing them locally, will boost job creation and preserve foreign exchange.
In the Policy Memorandum titled “Approval For The Local Production Of Bitumen And Other Construction Materials In Nigeria”, Fashola, who drew the attention of Council to the fact that bitumen and other major road construction materials were currently being imported, submitted that when produced locally bitumen was expected to be sold at about N125, 000 per metric tonne, which, according to him, is 48. 8 per cent of the cost of the imported one which stands at N285, 000.
Also, according to him, in terms of job creation, producing bitumen locally would, aside reducing the cost of road construction significantly and other benefits earlier mentioned, would also generate no less than 30, 000 jobs for the unemployed in the country.
The Minister informed the Council that the Policy Memo which, was meant to stimulate local production of bitumen as a component of road construction, was an initiative of President Muhammadu Buhari, adding that the President has accordingly challenged the Kaduna Refinery and Petrochemical Company to key into the policy by collaborating with related agencies of government to realize the goal.
Noting that, in buying bitumen at such reduced price, the nation would be saving 56.2 per cent of the cost of importation, the Minister also argued that aside boosting the nation’s construction capacity, the local manufacture would also create thousands of jobs for Nigerians adding that the product, which he described as “a low grade crude oil which is either extracted from the ground or gotten as a by-product of refined crude oil”, has an estimated 38 billion barrels of reserve and extra heavy oils that have remained untapped for years across the country but especially in Ondo, Lagos and Edo States.
Also drawing the attention of Council to the fact that the Kaduna Refinery and Petrochemical Company (KRPC) is the only refinery in the country that has the capacity to produce bitumen deposits, Fashola pointed out that with current installed capacity of 1, 796 metric tonnes per day, well above the present annual local consumption which, according to him, stands at 500, 000 metric tonnes, the company could produce bitumen to satisfy the nation’s requirement and even for export, adding, however, that to achieve that the company has to function at full capacity.
Some of the advantages derivable from the local production of bitumen and other construction materials, the Minister said, also include the diversification of the nation’s economy, improvement in technological growth, establishment of contracts vital for international cooperation in the new expanding technology and socio-economic impact on the areas of operation, among others.
According to him, local production would also help to maintain quality control on production through the Standard Organization of Nigeria (SON) and related Consumer Protection Agencies to ensure that the right quality of bitumen is produced for use by the construction companies while also ensuring further diversification of the nation’s economy.
Assuring investors wishing to invest in the local production of bitumen of government patronage and encouragement, Fashola said local production would also free the foreign exchange currently being expended on the importation of the commodity for other socio-economic needs of the country.
“It will preserve local jobs and also create thousands more that are currently being created in countries from where we import the commodity”, the Minister said adding that the envisaged employment boost, especially in transportation haulage was in line with the President’s projection of lifting 100 million Nigerians from poverty’ and his mandate, “to use what we produce and produce what we need”.
In order to implement the initiative, he recommended that the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and the Kaduna Refinery and Petrochemical Company should come up with strategies and requirements that would enable the KRPC to resume the production of bitumen at its plant.
Assuring the Council that President Buhari has directed the reconstitution of the Bitumen Committee for auctioning of the Bitumen Blocks while the Nigerian Geological Survey Agency (NGSA).is also engaged in exploration of more blocks, the Minister informed Council with delight that upon reviewing the Memorandum, the Minister of Mines and Steel Development had already given his “No Objection” to the position of the Ministry of Works and Housing on the need for local production of bitumen to reduce cost of road construction.
Aside bitumen, Fashola also sought the improved local production of other essential road construction materials such as cement, crushed rock and steel explaining that while cement constitutes the major component of reinforced concrete utilized in the construction of bridges, drains, culverts and rigid pavement, crushed rock is used as the base course to give road pavement the desired load bearing strength while steel is utilized as reinforcements in the construction of drains, culverts, bridges and other hydraulic structures on roads.
In inviting the Council to approve the Memorandum, the Minister noted that there was need to encourage local production of essential construction materials in the country to reduce the cost of road construction, create employment and stimulate growth adding that the spiral increase in the cost of construction materials over the years has resulted in the rise of road construction cost and led to repeated requests for augmentation of ongoing contract sums.
He said while efforts were on to revamp the Ajaokuta Steel Complex to achieve full local production, the required quantity of bitumen for construction of roads across the country are being imported because the Kaduna Refinery and Petrochemical Company had stopped the production of bitumen since 2017 adding that road construction utilizes major part of the average 500, 000 metric tonnes of the product made locally when it was still in production.
Stressing the importance of bitumen in road construction, Fashola declared, “Bitumen is used at almost all levels of road construction, from sub grade, sub base, base course and asphaltic course (Binder and Wearing)”, reiterating that the lack of the product contributes significantly to the high cost of road projects in the country.
Speaking to newsmen later on the approvals, Fashola, who also disclosed government’s intention “to give encouragement and support to all those who take up the opportunity of manufacturing bitumen”, said the Kaduna Refinery and Petrochemical Company was expected to also raise its game by participating in the production sub-sector of hydro-carbon industry, adding, “We expect that it will improve the quality of bitumen that is produced and goes into our road construction just as we are now able to control the quality of cement that goes into local construction”.
“We are also promoting the use of more cement, stones, and rocks in road construction”, the Minister said adding that his Ministry was now developing a design manual of rock and stone used in road construction in the country which, according to him, formed the framework of the policy documentations that he presented to Council and which were approved.
“So, we expect the Nigerian entrepreneurial community to now respond to all of the existing government policies for setting up businesses and embracing this policy as part of ways to develop our made-in-Nigeria capacity”, Fashola said.
Text Delivered By H.E, Babatunde Raji Fashola, SAN At The Commissioning Of Woodhill Estate Under Akacare Cooperatives, And Flag-Off Of Cooperative Housing Development, Kuje, FCT, Abuja
Welcome one and all to the commissioning of Woodhill Estate of AKACARE Cooperative Housing Scheme and the flag-off of our cooperative housing initiative, one of the series that will happen in each of the six (6) geo-political zones of Nigeria and the Federal Capital Territory.
One of the NEXT LEVEL commitments of the Federal Government of Nigeria as declared by President Buhari at the ministerial retreat held in September 2019, is to deepen access of Nigerians to affordable housing and consumer credit.
This is a mandate item of the housing sector of the Ministry of Works and Housing; as the policymaking arm of government, and we have assigned the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN) a parastatal of the Ministry of Works and Housing, the implementation responsibility for executing our policy of PARTNERSHIPS with cooperatives.
For those who may wonder, why cooperatives? The answer is simple.
By definition, co-operatives are "an autonomous association of persons united VOLUNTARILY to meet their common economic, social and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly-owned enterprise.”
The key word in that definition is the "voluntary" nature of cooperatives, and this is critical in the formulation of our policy of partnerships with cooperatives as a means of overcoming the problems of "Acceptability" and affordability that stand in the way of access to housing.
This is important because our experiences, our investigations and our observations reveal starkly that there are hundreds of thousands of empty and unoccupied houses in major cities across Nigeria.
They are empty and unoccupied because they are either over-built, in being too big, or under-built in being too small and therefore not acceptable to those who need them, because in many instances no consultation took place between the builders and the consumers they built for.
This is why we are undertaking a pilot scheme based on our studies to build in 34 states who provided land, what the people we consulted said they will find acceptable.
Because of the lack of consultation and acceptability problem, the problem of affordability creeps in.
Our policy development team finds the voluntary nature of cooperatives very useful because members will be expected to design and build according to their needs and their income, as they find affordable.
Co-operatives have traditionally proved to be successful in areas like transportation, agriculture, trade and commerce, market associations and amongst large groups in the informal sector.
It is these large members of the informal sector that we seek to reach, scale up constructions of houses and the multiplier effects on the economy for cottage industries who make building materials like paint, doors, roofing materials, nails, and electrical fittings to mention a few.
The scale of construction by voluntary associations is expected to ramp up employment and income for artisans who will build houses. This will be our contribution to President Buhari’s commitment to raise a hundred million out of poverty in a decade.
As in other sectors, when cooperatives have been successful, we can point to modest successes of partnerships by FMBN with some cooperatives in the formal sector that currently has 52 housing projects under construction to deliver 4,624 units in 2020.
It is this number, that the policy we flag-off today seeks to multiply in many fold by unleashing the power of cooperatives and empower their voluntary will to act together in pursuit of the common desire to access housing and credit.
In order to be eligible, cooperatives must be registered, they must acquire their own land, get title to it, seek and obtain a building permit from the governments of the respective states where their land is located.
This last requirement is instructive because it seeks to eliminate incidents of unapproved buildings and slums which governments later seek to demolish.
All the state government agencies in charge of land have been duly briefed at the National Council launch meeting held in Abuja on November 7th 2019.
The Mandate and the role of the FMBN is to then provide construction funding to the cooperatives to build the houses, and to provide mortgage finance to the individual members to buy the house and pay back in instalments at a rate not exceeding 10% per annum.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is the sum and substance of the policy and partnerships that bring us to Kuje, in the FCT today because AKACARE cooperative has embraced this NEXT LEVEL initiative to deepen access to housing and consumer credit.
It is therefore my honour and pleasure to flag off this cooperative partnership in the hope that it will quickly spread to other states in this Geo political zone.
As every cooperative chooses what it desires and can afford, the FMBN, representing the Federal Government of Nigeria will be your partner, providing financial support to enable you to act voluntarily to choose and build what you accept and your income can afford.
On behalf of President Muhammadu Buhari and the Federal Government of Nigeria, I commission this Housing Estate and flag off this co-operative development away from poverty and towards common prosperity.
Babatunde Raji Fashola, SAN
Honourable Minister of Works and Housing
INSECURITY: Taking Actions Against Organized Crime, Speech Delivered By H.E Babatunde Raji Fashola, SAN At The 4th Annual Lecture Organized By The United Action For Change At The Digital Bridge Institute
It is no longer news that world leaders are facing enormous challenges in the execution of their primary mandate which is the security and well-being of their citizens.
From mass shootings and school shootings, with massive opiod crises and gang wars in the United States, to knife killings in London, bombings in Paris, mass shootings in New Zealand, just to mention a few; our Civilization is facing new challenges of security.
Please see Appendix 1 for some Crime Data Statistics
Nigeria is not insulated from these happenings and therefore has had her own share of old and emerging security challenges.
It is the Nigerian situation that I seek to address. The numerous conversations that have been held about what to do and how to overcome the challenges that we face, omits to make critical linkages between security challenges that we face and the deliberate conduct of a few of our people and others who are not Nigerians.
Conversations have focused on the capacity of law enforcement officers, from numerical strength, to financial resources, training and equipment as if this was the only problem.
While all of these are necessary and welcome, they are regrettably not enough and they are inadequate to resolve the problems we have to overcome.
This inadequacy is best captured in the often-repeated statement of fact by elected leaders and security personnel as well, that the challenges of securing all of us requires many more of us and indeed, all of us, to act.
I have argued and restate the argument that the ability to mobilize well-armed, well trained, well funded security personnel to a point of crisis in a pre-emptive or reactive manner only helps to achieve enforcement of the law.
It does not guaranty security, if there is no peace.
It is peace and peaceful co-existence that inures to safety and security; otherwise no sooner are the personnel redeployed, as they inevitably will be, do the communities or persons involved return to hostilities.
Therefore one of the points of action that I urge us to commit to, is to seek to identify the causes or sources of conflict amongst people, groups of people, and communities, and seek to eliminate, resolve or manage them better, in a quest for permanent peace; and, by extension, security.
This requires the involvement of local people, people close to the problem, people with influence and people with some authority to play this role.
The logic of this argument often finds expression in the persistent calls made on traditional rulers to play a more active role.
It must involve teachers, market leaders, and spiritual leaders, elected and appointed public office holders and in every manner of speaking it must involve the whole village.
But while we may have identified law enforcement and persons of influence, there are many more people who do not constitute members of this class who have an all important role to play.
But their ability to rise up and respond requires them to understand the gravity of the problem; and this is the Centrepiece of this intervention.
Majority of the issues that heighten the spectre of insecurity are not accidental, they are deliberate.
They are often driven by reward or expectation thereof, in cash, kind and influence. What the world (and by extension Nigeria) is contending with is not just insecurity and crime, it is insecurity escalated by ORGANIZED CRIME!!!
Organized crime is a chain whose links must not only be broken, but whose individual parts must be separated, degraded and prevented from ever linking together.
With this background, I propose to move to specifics and examples, from my experience in government, to link this chain and highlight their connectivity, and explain why it requires more than law enforcement and persons of influence to make all of us safe.
The collection of information and the use of it to prevent crime or apprehend criminal activity is often discussed as if it is the prerogative of law enforcement agencies alone.
Let me be clear that this is the duty of the citizen and it starts with all of us being interested in our own wellbeing and security.
Indeed section 24(e) of the Constitution provides that:
“It shall be the duty of every citizen to-
(e) render assistance to appropriate and lawful agencies in the maintenance of law and order;”
It involves not only careful choices about our lifestyle which will prevent us from being attractive as victims to Criminals. It requires us to show more interest in what is around us, who is around us and to pay more attention to unusual things.
It also requires courage, a lot of it, to be able to share information, no matter how innocuous, with law enforcement, to enable them keep us safe.
There is no magic to intelligence gathering. It is rooted in civic responsibility.
One institution of civic participation that we must revive, reform and re-Use is the RESIDENTS/LANDLORDS ASSOCIATION. We need them very quickly.
Know Your Neighbour is a critical first line of Defence against any criminal activity and in particular against organized crime. This is because it:
a. Helps to occupy the space of anonymity in which all criminals thrive;
b. Provides information or suspicion about irregular or abnormal behavior that requires attention.
It is when information is offered that law enforcement must act to check, re-check and verify.
So, when 17 (SEVENTEEN) suitcases loaded with explosives were brought into Lagos in 2013, law enforcement missed it.
It was citizen information (which we did not discard) that led to their seizure, apprehension of the suspects and their cargo of terror, their trial and eventual conviction, which enabled Government put them in a place where they could no longer harm residents of Lagos.
OPEN SPACES/ EMPTY BUILDINGS
It is my humble view, and one which is very strongly held, that there is no time more compelling than now for State governments to dominate open spaces within their territories.
By law, State governments control urban and development planning, and how these powers are exercised or not exercised affects how law enforcement agencies perform and how criminals can either escape justice or be apprehended.
Apart from street signages, house numbering which helps with identification and response to distress calls, State Governments must use the provision of the Land Use Act to reduce and ultimately eliminate the number of abandoned, uncompleted buildings in their states. They constitute an easy refuge not only for destitutes but also for people with untoward intentions.
Abandoned buildings provide free and unmonitored accommodation for criminals, and also storage for implements and proceeds of crime or evidence of it, like guns, drugs, cash, stolen goods kidnap victims or even dead bodies.
In an apparent display of “COMPASSION” (if that is what it is) for vulnerable members of our society, we have allowed all manner of people to dominate open spaces like sidewalks, street corners as acts of empathy for the poor and vulnerable.
The truth is that by planning laws, the PROPERTY LINE of residents ends where their fence or land beacon ends as shown in their survey plans.
The landed property of individuals does not extend to the sidewalk or the road, upon which many have built and many have appropriated for personal use.
Every piece of land beyond the property line belongs to the government. The unauthorized uses of the public spaces are liable to sanctions by law under any vigilant government.
It is the DUTY of Civil and Public Servants to understand this, and take steps to Occupy, Dominate and Manage these spaces for lawful activity only (such as Parks and Gardens that are MONITORED), in collaboration with members of the public.
Governments, State and local, who fail to dominate these spaces, do so at the peril of their residents.
It is from these spaces that people masquerading as traders, hawkers, have either launched criminal attacks on citizens, or helped to ferry arms, drugs or proceeds of crime.
Therefore, urban and town planning departments are important building blocks for law enforcement and security, and critical points of immediate action against organized crime.
ROAD TRAFFIC LAW; OKADA VEHICLE LISENCE/REGISTRATION
Stolen vehicles, unregistered (and therefore anonymous) vehicles, tricycles, and motorcycles constitute a vast area of neglect that we must attend to especially at State level where road traffic laws have been enacted but largely unenforced.
The decision not to register a vehicle is a choice which indicates a deliberate (organised) decision as against an accidental one.
Very often these are the conduits for getaways from crimes because without registration, tracing it is difficult.
As governor, with my police aides, we once apprehended a motorcycle with three (3) male passengers. When we searched, we found a fire arm under the seat, a lady’s handbag, baby diapers and a feeding bottle.
I leave the rest to your imagination.
In the days when Lagos was plagued by frequent bank robberies, unregistered motorcycles were the favoured getaway vehicles for the robbers. We also discovered that they were the medium for trafficking in hard drugs like marijuana, cocaine and heroin.
In one Robbery incident on Ikorodu Road where a Young Medical Doctor unfortunately lost his life, the Getaway vehicle was a Motorcyle riding against traffic.
Unknown to many residents, while their children were at home and seemingly safe, organized drug rings used motorcycle riders to deliver hard drugs to them right in their houses under their parents noses.
These and many more reasons informed the strict enforcement of the Lagos Road Traffic Law on motorcycles at the time.
In a society where nobody is above the law, then, everybody’s vehicle, from President to the ordinary citizen must carry a license plate, registered with government.
Throughout my tenure as governor, my vehicle always displayed the registration of LASG 01. I was told by my security aides that there was a regulation that required them to cover my licence plates after a particular time of the day; I refused to comply, first because “the regulation” was not produced and more importantly because I was certain that the Traffic Law commanded my obedience.
Our security challenges require actions by legislation to eliminate anonymity to reduce the sphere of operation for organized crime.
The Attorneys-General of the States, the Speakers of all State Houses of Assembly and legislators must be visionary and far sighted in developing legislative reforms that cover and dominate this space of criminal operation.
PUBLIC BUILDINGS, HOTELS, GUEST HOUSES
In most parts of the world today, it is inconceivable to take up lodging in any hotel without a credible form of identification, and where that is achieved, no visitor of a registered guest is allowed beyond the reception area into the rooms without presenting an identification which is scanned, copied and recorded.
If we reflect on the number of murders that have taken place in hotels or criminals who have been apprehended in hotels, guest houses or hospitality facilities, we can only imagine what might have been missed.
Again these are local matters under the dominion of State and Local Governments.
Any State that is serious about security must pay attention to the identification of persons at Hotels and Guest houses.
This is an area begging for urgent national action while promoting hospitality, entertainment and tourism. Safety is the underlying currency on which this industry thrives.
Cameras in lifts, staircases and corridors of these types of buildings must be made mandatory by Legislation. Technology is making cameras more affordable and cost should not be meritorious argument against compliance.
A commitment to documentation, identification and transparency, will itself create jobs as it will drive growth of the business.
Let us make no mistake about this, organised crime looks for those unmanned spaces to plan, and sets up itself deliberately to occupy them and hurt us.
Organised crime does this, not only by physical pain, injury and sometimes unfortunately death, but reputationally as well, by giving us a name we do not deserve.
EDUCATION, SPIRITUALISM, MIRACLES
This is a very serious and almost endemic issue in many parts of the developing world where people, partly because of poor education are led to believe in miracles induced by fetish, occult and spiritualism or “black magic”.
Recently, our public space was dominated by stories of youthful (and perhaps the not so youthful) men in a desperate search for ladies’ underwear.
The story suggested that this was an avenue to get rich. I assume it was somehow convertible into cash.
I know that money (cash) is produced by printing in a mint, but a belief system to the contrary is difficult to change and this is why I say this is a serious problem. Our entertainment industry albeit unintentionally, has helped to promote this belief and I say that the time to stop it is not now, it was yesterday.
If we reflect on the number of people who have disappeared without trace, if we consider that they might have been murdered for ritual purposes, if we reflect on the number of people that have been arrested with human parts, without any identification of whose body parts were recovered, it would not be difficult to agree, that we should have acted yesterday.
What I have attempted to demonstrate is that criminal activity of many types that threaten our peace and security are demonstrably mainly organized and not accidental.
We must therefore beam a very bright searchlight on organised crime.
We must recognize that organised crime is a business that we must put out of business because it thrives at our collective peril.
The people behind organised crime earn their livelihood from it and also employ people, including the young and able bodied who play critical roles in the value chain of its operation.
They have collaborators in critical institutions of State and at sensitive places like our borders, (land, sea and air), as we have recently heard from reports about illicit drugs planted in the luggage of an innocent Nigerian lady who travelled to Saudi Arabia.
Seizures of containers of arms and Tramadol at our ports are not accidental. They are the products of vigilance and dedication by border security personnel against organised crime.
But the question to ask is how many actually got in undetected.
Therefore, the case for immediate action by budgetary commitment and spending against an illegal business that is investing must be a compelling matter of national consensus.
The United Kingdom recently made the case for investing an additional £2 Billion to its existing budget, in order to fight organised crime.
Because of the rewards that organised crime offers by way of illicit funds, and its appeal to the young, old, unemployed and vulnerable, we must move financial controls to another level.
While the BVN (Bank Verification Number) initiative is welcome, the amount of money outside the banking system, such as that with traders of foreign exchange on major streets of some of our cities command action by way of more imaginative financial controls.
I must not in this sense be misunderstood to be suggesting that these types of businesses or other vending businesses be put out of commission where they are not manifestly illegal.
On the contrary, I am recommending actions such as record keeping of all currencies they buy and sell, and from whom, to whom, and provide reporting and check on their transaction.
This is more easy to understand as being organized. A recent report by a victim that his abductors were using a laptop to monitor all efforts by law enforcement to rescue him supports the case for spending and investing in technology.
It is comforting and encouraging to know that the Nigerian Communications Commìssion (NCC), the Regulator of the Telecoms operators is continuing to review data to ensure that unregistered and therefore anonymous SIM card holders ( used to demand ransom and for other Organised criminal purposes) are identified and delisted from the network.
CATTLE RUSTLING AND BANDITRY
This is another face of organized crime that is perhaps not well understood.
To the urban dweller who is not connected to rural life and those involved in the business of animal husbandry, it is easy to miss the cash and material benefit in every head of cattle.
Therefore conversations about the ethnic connection of these crimes rather than the organized criminal activity, is what dominates the public space.
We take ourselves away further from the solution if we do not see an organized pattern and the reward of cattle stolen and re-sold for cash, as a stronger motive for these actions.
The spectre of human trafficking, a modern act of human slavery, for sex, prostitution rings, forced labour, lies at the heart of large scale migration. Yes they may be compounded by bad governance, poor education and poverty. But a group is organizing around it and profiting.
The victims see “opportunities” in Europe while organized crime sees “vulnerability” which makes them perfect targets to be used as sex slaves and cheap (and forced) Labour, being undocumented and therefore “illegal” immigrants.
The media like other non-state actors in any society have an important role to play. The people behind organised crime also watch television, listen to radio and use telephones, laptops handheld devices and are therefore connected to the media.
It is therefore important to understand that in the discharge of the duty of Security, the Odds against Government and all her institutions are VERY HIGH.
Government and her institutions must get it RIGHT ALL THE TIME, while criminals need to be right ONLY ONCE, to create, fear, pain, terror, Victims and consequently NEWS.
All acts of ”valorising” and ”eulogising” the “successes of the criminals in the media in our apparent frustration and the “political” weaponising of their “feats” only helps to promote their illicit brand.
I had the privilege of accompanying President Muhammadu Buhari to the G7 meeting held in Germany in June 2015.
One of the Resolutions of the world leaders, Barack Obama, Angela Merkel, David Cameron, Sarkozy and others at the meeting was to go back home and engage their local media to stop broadcasting images of “Islamic” terrorists beheading victims, and recruiting young people.
We can now think back when last you saw such images on an international network. Instead, those images have been replaced by images of Western governments destroying strongholds of “Islamic” Terrorists.
You can view it as a reverse propaganda, and my view is that it advances the security effort rather than undermine it. This must be a front burner contribution that our media can make, while still reporting news of unfortunate acts of crime.
Specifically, I recommend that leaders of our Media Resolve to take down those images of terror, such as those showing girls in captivity, with Masked gun-wielding men standing over them. They inadvertently promote the “Brand” of crime.
All of us, and especially the media as managers of information must remember that FEAR, PAIN, MISERY, TEARS, INJURY and CONFUSION are the purpose of Criminals.
Reportage of crime must innovate to document and report the incident without inadvertently lending itself to spreading the message of the criminals.
I suspect that those who are behind some of the unfortunate criminal incidents that have happened recently must be rubbing their hands with glee and patting themselves on the back when they see the screaming headlines, the scathing commentaries and the doomsday predictions.
What we must not do, is deliberately or unintentionally valorise, eulogise crime or provide propaganda for it.
What is true of images is true of spoken words that foster hate, breed mistrust and incite conflict and violence.
The media must make the investment and commitment to take away their platforms from the purveyors of such messages.
We must also remember that the people who perpetrate these acts are not only local people. There are international collaborators especially those seeking access and control of economic resources like timbre, cocoa, oil and other minerals.
Conflicts have therefore been known to be planned, as deliberate STATECRAFT launched and perpetrated, in order to distract government from regulating the control and access to those resources while being focused on conflict management.
It is my humble view that with globalisation, the damage of media exposure has exceeded the reality of our security challenges.
It seems to me that we can also learn from what some other media outlets, especially of the Electronic cadre now do in the global age.
What they broadcast to the whole world about their Country is not exactly the same as what they broadcast within their Country. This must be a matter of editorial choice about which I claim no expertise.
But this brings me to the provisions of Section 24 (b) of the Nigerian Constitution imposes a duty on all of us to:
“help to enhance the power, prestige and good name of Nigeria, defend Nigeria and render such national service as may be required.”
What I have observed in the style adopted by some other international media houses while reporting tragedies and disasters, is how they shift the focus to the human angle of positivity by emphasising on stories of bravery, survival, human empathy, heroism and stoicism with which they project the positive image of their people, communities and Country.
The Boston Marathon bombing was an example. It was not that there were no intelligence failures or that people were not killed.
But the media took us away from the story of killings to the survival stories.
One year after, Boston was not only holding the Marathon again, she was hosting the Annual Conference of the International Bar Association.
The mass shooting in Texas in 2019 was dominated by the story of defiance of a people who will not be cowed and a few months after the tragedy, Texas was hosting the world in a pre-planned sports meet that was not cancelled.
Regrettably, the erroneous impression now being created by public reportage is one that suggests that all of our country is unliveable, and unenjoyable.
The facts do not support this even as we clearly have challenges.
We must therefore work together to remake this image from one that is not us, to one that fairly and accurately reflects us and our situation.
Babatunde Raji Fashola, SAN
Hon. Minister of Works and Housing
Road Infrastructure, A Necessary Factor for Nigeria’s Unity : Mohammed Bukar
The Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Works and Housing, Mohammed Bukar has disclosed that road infrastructure was a necessary factor for the unity of our geographically vast and culturally heterogeneous nation, Nigeria.
He made the disclosure today at the ongoing meeting of Federal and State Permanent Secretaries at the 25th National Council on Works in Calabar Cross River State. The theme of the Council Meeting is ‘’ Infrastructure as the pathway for prosperity’’ which according to him was ‘’Apt and deliberately chosen to address issues of job creation , poverty alleviation and wealth creation.” Bukar who was ably represented by the Director Highways, Planning and Development, Engr, Chibike Uzo maintained that ‘’ In spite of the present improvement in GDP growth , road infrastructure deficit and its attendant adverse effect on the transport sector remained a major impediment to future economic prosperity of Nigeria , especially in the area of food supply, employment generation and wealth creation.
The Permanent Secretary assured Nigerians that his Ministry was committed to integrating and developing Nigerian roads infrastructure through the completion of projects with positive impact capable of providing more conducive environment for local and foreign investments.
While welcoming all Stakeholders to the Council meant to look at the issues raised during the Technical Meeting which took place on Monday_ Tuesday(25th_26th November, 2019), Bukar expressed immeasurable gratitude to the Government and good people of Cross River State, especially, the Executive Governor, His Excellency, Prof, Ben. Ayade for providing the conducive environment for stakeholders in the Works Sector to deliberate on the myriad of infrastructure challenges in Nigeria.
In her address, the Permanent Secretary, Cross River State Ministry of Works, Dr. ( Mrs) Ihort Achu , commended the Directors from various MDAs for patiently brainstorming on issues of roads infrastructure which according to her were crucial to the economic development of Cross River State in particular and Nigeria in general. Achu happily welcomed the Permanent Secretaries from the 36 States of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory and enjoined them to feel at home and enjoy the hospitality of Cross River State.
DPRS Council of Works Remarks
Introductory Remarks by The Director Planning Research & Statistics, Federal Ministry of Works and Housing, Dr. Famous S. Eseduwo at the On-going 25th Meeting of The National Council on Works at Calabar on Monday, 25th November, 2019.
I am delighted, on behalf of the Organizing Committee, to welcome you to the 25th Meeting of the National Council on Works with the theme: “INFRASTRUCTURE AS THE PARHWAY FOR PROSPERITY”, holding here in Calabar, Cross River State from today, Monday 25th to Thursday 29th November, 2019.
2. I wish to express our profound gratitude to the Honourable Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola, SAN, the Honourable Minister of State Engr. Abubakar D. Aliyu FNSE, the Permanent Secretary Mohammed Bukar, the Directors and entire staff of the Ministry for their support in organizing this meeting.
3. As you are aware, the Meeting of the National Council of Works is an annual event and the highest policy formulating organ of the Works sector where stakeholders in the Works sector deliberate on issues concerning the Sector.
4. It is important to highlight that the council meeting is signaled by a two day technical meeting of Directors and the Permanent Secretaries Meeting. Our responsibility is to create a solid and resourceful foundation by diligently reviewing the memoranda submitted and fine-turning the recommendations for presentation to Council through the Meeting of Permanent Secretaries.
5. I urge all Directors present to own up to the process and show the right attitude and commitment towards heralding a successful Council Meeting.
6. At this juncture, I will like to assure you that all necessary arrangements have been put in place by the Ministerial Organizing Committee (MOC) and the Local Organizing Committee (LOC) to ensure the success of this year’s Council Meeting. The secretariat is available for any possible assistance.
7. Once again, I welcome you to the 2-day brainstorming session preceding this year’s National Council Meeting on Works and also wish you all a fruitful deliberation.
Restructuring For A Better Life – Lessons From BREXIT, Being Address Delivered By H.E, Babatunde Raji Fashola, SAN At The 2019 Island Club 76th Anniversary Lecture
I must commence this address by issuing a caveat or a series of them namely:
a) That I started writing this piece intended as a public contribution to the restructuring debate in January 2019.
b) The views I express here are personal to me and do not reflect the position of the Government in which I serve or that of the All Progressives Congress of which I am a member.
c) The views are also informed by further reflections on positions I have taken on the need to strengthen our federal system of Government and to do so based not on emotions or political interests, but in the interest of improving the quality of life of Nigerians and for the purpose of developing Nigeria.
d) More importantly to state is that in seeking to solve a problem, we must look at many options, analyse their strengths and weaknesses and resist the temptation to jump at what first appears as a “solution” because it may not be the solution after all.
The quest for a better life has been an unending aspiration of the human civilization and will remain so till the end of time- that is if time ever ends.
From the agrarian to the industrial and now the information technology age, all the peoples of all nations are seeking a better life.
But the quest for a better life has led to many choices, sometimes well thought out and in some cases not so well thought out.
Some have sought constitutional amendments only to realize that a new document does not a better life procure. Some have sought geographical demarcations and creation of new nations, states and local governments only to realize that a new territory does not necessarily deliver a better life.
Some have sought increased control of resources and wealth only to find out that more wealth does not necessarily translate into a better life. These are facts of life, yet the quest for a better life, being a natural human longing and seeking, must continue.
There are a few things that Nigeria and Britain share in common in their quest for a better life and their coincidental reach for new political and economic realignments that currently dominate their public discourse in the name of “Restructuring” and “Brexit” respectively.
First to be noted is that both nations as they currently exist are not originals and this is true of many nations (Texas). (Netherlands).
Nigeria’s recent history of statehood or nationhood is still very fresh in the memory as having evolved as an amalgamation of many territories of diverse ethnic and religious dispositions in 1914.
But it is a story that dates back much longer; first to the British conquest of Lagos in 1861, the Berlin Conference of 1883-1885 and then to the Southern and Northern Protectorates that were the predecessors to the 1914 amalgamation.
This saw many Muslims, Christians, animists and people of diverse languages bound together in a household where a better life has now become a common aspiration.
It is important to point out that in Britain or the United Kingdom as they are also known, England was the kingdom, and that is why till date there is only a Queen of England not of Britain. The Scottish, Welsh, Irish who together with England constitute Britain are not English people. They have Christians and Muslim citizens, Anglicans, Catholics and Protestants.
While this speech may not be able to delve into the detail of their diversity and historical origins, it will suffice for comparison to point out that crude oil is largely to be found on the soil of the Scottish who continuously express an intention to leave the union.
And Britain as we know it today first emerged in 1801 when it united with the neighbouring Kingdom of Ireland, forming the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. This was renamed the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland following the secession of the Irish Free State in 1922.
In perhaps the same way that Nigeria has moved from two (2) protectorates and one (1) colony to three regions, four regions, 12 states, 19 states to 36 states, Britain in its original form has had to concede independence to the southern part of Ireland now known as the Republic of Ireland while Northern Ireland remains a part of the United Kingdom.
This was the result of the Good Friday Peace Agreement that secured a truce after many years of conflict between Catholics and Protestants in Ireland which spilled to several parts of the United Kingdom and resulted in bombings and acts of terror in the 1970s, similar to some of what we have experienced in the North East of Nigeria.
In spite of these, POLITICAL REALIGNMENTS, the quest for a better life exists in both countries – Nigeria and the UK. There are problems of unemployment, security, health care, homelessness, quality of education, cost of living and business competitiveness to mention but a few in both countries.
What is different is the scale of the problem, characterized by how the resources have been invested or misused, the level of development, which is manifest in the quality of infrastructure that supports transport, energy, health care, education and law enforcement.
What does not change is the quest for a better life on both sides, and interestingly, the political leadership has weaponized this quest for maximum benefit.
In the United Kingdom, the answer to the quest for a better life is in seeing Britain leave the European Union, a union they joined reluctantly in 1973.
So, to the people of Britain, “Brexit” (one word) was sold as a politically nebulous term that suggested to the ordinary people that the free movement of other Europeans into Britain was responsible for the lack of jobs.
That the amount they were paying as membership fees of the union was part of the reason why there was not enough money to spend at home on British education and healthcare.
That the need to subordinate their laws to the European parliament affected the British government’s ability to properly protect their own people.
It was a fascinating proposition. Their constitutional arrangement required that a referendum be conducted to ask the people to decide.
In the quest for a better life, the people voted in the referendum that Britain should leave or exit from the European Union. So was formed Brexit.
The people voted for a political Rearrangement in the belief that it would deliver economic and social benefits, and therefore a better life.
But, at the time they were voting, nobody told or reminded the people, that:
Most of the insulin that diabetic patients used to treat themselves in Britain came from France and the cost might go up.
Some of the best medical personnel in Britain were Europeans who might leave. ( 5,000 Nurses from Europe have since left the United Kingdom , as alleged by a member of Parliament on the 29th October 2019 and Nigeria and some other countries are paying the price with 2-3 year contracts being offered to their medical personnel to fill the Gap).
40 per cent of their food comes from Europe.
If they travelled to European cities, they may require visas to enter, or will have to share the same queue with Asians, Africans and other nationalities at immigration points at airports and may lose their right to use the European entry point.
Needless to reiterate, while it is doubtful that the people will all have voted for the risk of high cost of insulin, high cost of food or loss of their right of entry, the vagueness of the details of Brexit as presented by the political spin masters, has certainly left the country in some quandary.
Some people are now saying it was not well explained to them. Some have gone to court to stop the process but were unsuccessful and some are now saying they want a fresh referendum.
The political class that set the stage for Brexit now say there is no going back. The people have spoken in a referendum, and that it is a threat to democracy not to do their bidding.
Here is the tyranny of democracy’s fixation with the will of the majority and its supremacy. The majority is not always right while their supremacy is not always unimpeachable.
While this debate goes on about how to Brexit after 3 years of the Referendum to leave, businesses are either Relocating or shutting down, Jobs are also being lost , and uncertainty is hobbling investment decisions.
Of course, because things are no longer what they used to be, those who described us as “fantastically corrupt” are now “visiting us fantastically”. The Prime Minister and the Prince of Wales have been here.
Their views have not changed. We are simply a market that can replace what they might be losing in Europe as a result of Brexit.
So, while we roll out cultural troupes, take them to entertainment spots and queue to take selfies , they are looking for where there is food supply, skilled labour, and possibly a new source of insulin that will be cheaper than that of France, post-Brexit.
How we react to this opportunity is another matter for another conversation, but it is one that must take place very quickly. This new friendship must be defined by mutually beneficial parameters.
But this takes me now to Restructuring, which is also one word, like Brexit.
The proponents of restructuring have not been specific. Some of them, with very great respect, it appears that some of them simply want what they were used to in their more youthful days which was a parliamentary system of government and not a presidential system of Government. There is nothing wrong with this, after all we are often victims of habits that are difficult to change.
However, a much younger generation did not experience the parliamentary system and may be taken in by some arguments such as cost of getting elected and the cost of legislative work. In a parliamentary system, you may have a Prime Minister in the saddle for 16 straight years for as long as he is the leader of his party. Mrs. Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister for 16 years for example. Given our current realities and diversity as a people, is that desirable in our land?
True as the cost of legislation may be as a factor, this generation must be told in clear terms that it was during the Parliamentary system that the political crisis of the 1960s started, and with a combination of other factors, led to a civil war in which many died.
They must read up about it, and demand more explanation as to why it did not prevent our division from resulting in a full blown civil war.
Of course we must not forget that the UK Parliamentary system has produced 4 (Four) Prime Ministers in the last 12 (Twelve years) including the incumbent. Do we want such rapid political leadership changes like this? What does it portend for policy consistency and continuity?
All I can add is that empirical evidence has shown that diversity such as we have, is better managed with a federal arrangement and that this generation should look before they leap.
A federal arrangement reduces suspicion, hate, and acrimony and prevents hostilities. It makes for greater stability over all and collaborative working of the federating units, forging a sense of belonging in its trail and setting the tone for competitive spirit.
However, when the protagonists of restructuring are pressed to say what they mean, some say they want a more federal union and that what we have is a unitary government masquerading as a federal one.
So, their argument becomes an argument of political arrangement. The issue is, therefore, not so much the objective but the artery road, shun of bypass to the objective goal of restructuring.
When the constitutional amendment to allow for the creation of state police was voted down, very few of the champions of a wholly federal arrangement raised a whimper. This was a big item of restructuring to reform law enforcement.
I have previously said and I repeat my views that multi-level policing by whatever name called, is something that I agree with.
What is a true federal arrangement without decentralized law enforcement, when you have a decentralized judiciary and law making arrangement? Shouldn’t states that make their own laws have their own agencies to enforce them and local governments that make bylaws have their own community policing?
Put simply, it seems that some of the protagonists of Restructuring want a true federation but prefer a unitary police. Even at that, the structure of the police system is not on its own a guaranty of efficiency.
The unitary British political system has operated a decentralised policing system which is now being considered for wholesale merger in order to save costs.
With rising crime, especially gang violence and knife attacks, such as a recent report of 13 knife stabbings over a 24-hour period, thorough reflection requires one to ask whether simple structural re-arrangement will resolve the knife attack problems.
As we grapple with the issue of a minimum wage, I expect the voices of the Restructurers, apostles of true federation, and those who want control of resources to stand with REASON, that the wages should not be uniform if the resources and the cost of living are not uniform.
This is a position I have previously advocated publicly, that states must be allowed to decide their own wages, and that wages must move from the Exclusive to the Concurrent list of the Constitution.
Sadly, I have not heard those voices raised at the same decibel as they have argued for restructuring.
My position on state police, wages and other issues also make a protagonist, but not all protagonists will agree with me, because they also want something different.
For yet some other people, the appeal of restructuring is the opportunity to agitate for more states and more local governments. That may be legitimate.
But the aspiration must answer some questions like, which states will be carved up? What is their viability? How do we solve the problems of existing ones that are at the point that wages of the public servants cannot be paid?
It might interest members of the public to know that boundary disputes from states creation that took place in 1967 and after that are still unresolved before the National Boundaries Commission, as some asset sharing and ownership issues have also persisted from states created after the 1967 episode.
It is perhaps helpful to also point to the fact that some of the states created over two decades ago such as Anambra, Bayelsa, Nasarawa, Zamfara and Ekiti feel that they are not fairly treated because there are no Federal Secretariats in their state.
The Buhari Administration is now completing and in the process of furnishing some of these secretariats while new ones have recently been awarded.
For yet another group of the protagonists of restructuring, the argument is in favour of a weaker centre and stronger states as federating units.
Apart from the case which is appropriately made for a change in the revenue allocation formula, they hinge the argument on the case that the President is too powerful. In fact, some have argued that the Nigerian president is the most powerful in the world; however, recent facts do not support this assertion.
We are witnesses to the fact a president once seized local government funds and the Supreme Court, an arm of Government that is set up as a check and balance on excessive powers and abuse of same, rightly declared that there was no constitutional power to do so.
Although the order to release the money was not immediately complied with, another president who recognised the limits of presidential power appropriately ordered the release of the funds.
We are living witnesses to how difficult it has been for these so called all powerful presidents to get their Budget passed without alterations, (some of which are so fundamental) by the parliament.
I leave you to decide whether the all-embracing “powers” of the Nigerian president is a “fact” or a contrived “myth” to bolster the case for restructuring.
I also urge you to read the Nigerian constitution and see for yourself the power and duties of the Nigeria president. If you do, as I have done, you will find 48 items of mention concerning the office of the president.(Duties, functions of the President- See Annexure I).
It seems that in the determination to support the unfounded argument about the enormous powers of the President, those who make the case, conveniently lump Powers with Functions and Duties.
Power is the legal right or authorization to act or not to act. It is the ability conferred on a person by law to alter, by an act of will, the rights, duties, liabilities and other relations, either of that person or another. On the other hand, the term ‘Function’ is the duty of the office.
The summary of references to the President show:-
a) Powers exercisable by the President = 23
b) Powers exercisable by the President, subject to National Assembly = 9
c) Power exercisable by the President, subject to other institutions = 4
d) Duties and Functions = 9
e) Restriction on the powers of the President = 3
Total = 48
For yet another group of Restructurers, they want their own country created by excising their zone. I only need to say that they should look closely at the break-up of Yugoslavia, the Soviet Union, and lately Sudan, to see whether it has delivered on the expectation of a better life.
In addition to that, they must look at the potential of what they might gain as being separate nations, to what they might leave behind from inter-marriage and families that they have created in other parts of Nigeria.
Recently the Cable News Network featured the story of the emotional reunion of an octogenarian mother with a son she had left behind when Korea was broken up into North and South as different nations in the 1940s.
And it is not just about people, it extends to resources and sustenance that contribute to better life. Think of whether you want to live in a new country and have to spend money to import some of the things you could get by driving just an hour without a border or the need for a visa.
That is the reality of Brexit today.
Before writing this piece, I thought it might be worthwhile to find out what ordinary Nigerians, as distinct from political actors know about Restructuring.
I commissioned a survey, in December 2018, which was a repeat of a similar one , in late 2017.
Just over 2 in 5 of the respondents are aware of the ongoing restructuring debate in the country. Even after prompting, a third of the sample still remain unfamiliar with the term (Restructuring.)
33% Don’t know what restructuring means.
15% Think that it means amending the constitution.
14% think that it means reorganising/rebuilding the country.
8% think that it means devolution of power to the states.
6% think that it means changing the revenue allocation formula.
6% think that it means reverting to Regional Government.
3% think it means increasing Federal Resources to selected states that are viable.
2% think that it means abolition of Federal Character and adoption of merit based appointment.
2% think that it means restructuring the economy.
While the findings may not vitiate the imperative of restructuring, what these point out is that there is a great deal of work to be done by its protagonists. Restructuring is inherently desirable.
Those not overtly enthusiastic even when they grasp what restructuring means, what are their fears? We must make efforts to allay their fears. Because a leader leads, carrying his vision of a higher goal and a better life even when a larger section of the citizenry are yet to see his cause clearly, it means the call for restructuring requires greater public education. It is in this way we would not plunge the country into intractable confusion, to put it mildly.
Let me say emphatically that the quest for a better life in Nigeria is legitimate and salutary. That is because there is so much more that we can do and will do.
However, it seems to me that while the quest for a better life may be assisted by amending some parts of the constitution, on its own it will not deliver a better life. A better life is the commonwealth that is produced by what I call common contribution. In other words, it is the result of hard work and dedicated productivity. It is what we produce that we can distribute.
For example, how much do we produce in terms of human activity and how will amending some parts of the Constitution on their own, translate to increased national productivity?
How many of our people in public and private sector who are contracted for an 8(Eight) hour daily work shift, actually work for 4(four hours)?
A better life is not a miracle product. It is the harvest of the investment of labour.
While considering numbers, it might be useful to see how they impact education.
The default argument for poor quality education is Government.
That is true to the extent that Government is the regulator, responsible for setting standards and all. But how many schools does Government own? The record indicates that there are a total of 165 universities in Nigeria; (not including a few recently approved ones) 43 belong to the Federal Government; 47 to the state Governments and 75 are private universities.
At the secondary level, there are 104 unity schools owned by the federal Government; this is a drop in the ocean, compared to the number of secondary and primary schools owned by state governments and private organisations nationwide.
Let me use the data from Lagos that I can claim some degree of familiarity with to make this case of responsibility.
There were a total of 8,274 schools primary and secondary in Lagos State. The state government owned a total of 1,681, made up of 1,045 primary and 636 secondary, representing 20 (%) per cent of the total number of schools.
The remaining were owned by the private sector, individuals, non-profit organisation and religious missions. These numbers show where the bulk of responsibility for foundational education lies, with us, the private people, entrepreneurs and less with Government.
The same is also true of the health sector where critical life saving intervention, like ante-natal care, immunization of babies, sanitation and refuse management all lie with the Local Government system under our Constitution.
Do we wish to restructure and pass these to the federal government, whose powers we say are already too much, or will we get down to work and make these primary health centres do their work of preventing disease, supporting wellbeing and deterring illness, or do we want to blame the constitution?
Let me remind all of us that we already have in our constitution a provision that seeks to promote the equitable distribution of opportunities called the Federal Character provision.
Has it solved the problem of access to opportunities and jobs?
The Supreme Court of Nigeria has also advanced the cause for restructuring in its judgement in the case popularly called the Resource Control Case by which certain oil producing states get 13% extra revenue from the distribution pool.
Has it achieved a better life for the peoples of those states?
I think the jury will be out for a long time on this one.
These are some of the hard facts.
They point clearly to where the responsibility for a better life lies. While admittedly a document may point the way; while it may show direction, it is we who must tread the path it shows to us. A good document not backed by the right attitude does not take a people far.
So, in addition to restructuring our political and administrative arrangements, we must restructure our attitude and our mind set. A better life does not necessarily exist in a new document without the right political education, a change of attitude and our inflexible commitment to public good.
Hearty felicitations to the Island Club at 76, and long the Federal Republic of Nigeria .
Babatunde Raji Fashola, SAN
Honourable Minister of Works and Housing
FASHOLA, DAPO ABIODUN, OTHERS AT THE PROJECT UPDATE INSPECTION OF THE REHABILITATION, RECONSTRUCTION AND EXPANSION OF LAGOS – IBADAN DUAL CARRIAGEWAY, SECTIONS I & II (LAGOS, OGUN AND OYO STATES) & TOWN HALL MEETING IN OGERE, OGUN STATE
Hon. Minister of Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola, SAN (left) and Governor of Ogun State, Mr. Dapo Abiodun (right) during the Project Update Inspection of the Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Expansion of the Lagos -Ibadan Dual Carriageway, Sections I & II in Lagos, Ogun and Oyo States and Town Hall Meeting with Stakeholders on Saturday, 21st November 2020
FASHOLA AT THE PROJECT UPDATE INSPECTION OF THE MAIN WORKS AND ASSOCIATED INFRASTRUCTURES OF THE SECOND NIGER BRIDGE IN ANAMBRA AND DELTA STATES & TOWN HALL MEETING
Hon. Minister of Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola,SAN(right) and Igwe Chidubem Iweka Eze -Iweka III, Eze – Obosi, Anambra State during the Project Update Inspection of the Main Works and Associated Infrastructures of the Second Niger Bridge Project in Anambra and Delta States/ Town Hall Meeting with Stakeholders on Friday, 20th November 2020