By Friday Idachaba
ActionAid Nigeria has called on government and all stakeholders to use high level of budget discipline, accountability and good governance to tame Violent Extremism.
Mr Anicetus Atakpu, Resilience Programmes Coordinator with ActionAid Nigeria made the call at a One-day Policy Dialogue with Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and the Media on Monday in Lokoja.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the dialogue was organised by ActionAid in collaboration with Participation Initiative for Behavioural Change In Development (PIBCID) with funding from Global Community Engagement Resilience Fund (GCERF), Geneva.
Atakpu said that budgeting processes and implementation at all levels of government should take cognizance of the welfare and peculiar position of the youths, women and the vulnerable in the society to address drivers of violent extremism.
He said that a study by ActionAid Nigeria in Kogi, Nasarawa, Benue and Plateau States revealed that Social Injustices; inadequate access to Economic and Social opportunities; Inequality; Inadequate empowerment programmes for young women and youths; Deprivation and Poverty were identified as major drivers of Violent Extremism.
According to him, these factors have “Push and Pull contextual effects” that expose individuals and groups to radicalisation which in turn, increases the cases of violent extremism and provide a breeding ground for extremist groups.
The Resilience Programmes Coordinator said that the study also revealed that, “There is a rising trend of cases of Violent Extremism in Nigeria and this is more pronounced in states with high unemployment, poverty and Social Exclusion rates.”
To address the issues, he said that citizens’ participation and involvement in the budget preparation process should be given priority as it would allow for a bottom-up approach to budget preparation.
Atakpu said that in spite of the increase in allocation to sectors hosting the contextual factors that fuel violent extremism, government allocation to key projects and programmes in Kogi and Nasarawa states do not allow for accountability follow-up and monitoring.
He said that budgetary allocations to projects did not effectively address social and economic ills that constitute the root cause of persistent cases of violent extremism.
Atakpu therefore called for budgetary provision for the physically challenged persons adding that engagement by the media Civil Society Organisations should go beyond the ceremonies to oversight, to assist in the fight against violent extremisim.
Speaking earlier, Ms Halima Sadiq, Executive Director of PIBCID, ActionAid’s local rights partners in Kogi said the one day Dialogue aims at budget funding, tracking allocation, and spending geared towards preventing extremism in Kogi State. (NAN)
Bricks to Cribs CEO urges Nigerians to embrace Online Entrepreneurship to boost the Economy
The Chief Executive Officet and Group Managing DirCribr of Bricks to Cribs & Bar (BTCBARS) Akarah Ebenezer Ulochukwu has urged Nigerians to embrace online entrepreneurship to boost the nation’s economy.
This he said is expedient as many economies of the world are gradually recuperating from the heat of Covid-19 pandemic.
He made the call during a virtual interview with journalists in Lagos over the weekend.
“Online entrepreneurship will definitely be a plus to Nigeria’s economy. This is because everyone can do it. It is not secluded to the elites or enlightened anymore,” he emphasised.
If this path is towed, the CEO said, it would be a soothing relief for the nation, seeing that so many youths are out of jobs, a situation orchestrated by the Covid-19 pandemic.
He further implored the government to consider such new age ventures, create more opportunities for people to learn, and enact policies that would aid people to give room for more entrepreneurs to emerge.
As the founder of the Royal Niger Green Farms foundation, Akarah, described online entrepreneurship as every other kind of business opportunity.
“It is time-taking, risky, requires dedication and hard work. It is definitely not a get-rich quick scheme as some people have been made to believe,” he emphasised.
For the CEO, today’s world is different hence, he said with a new age comes a new way of doing things. “The internet has taken over, and it’s only right that we exploit opportunities that it offers us.
“The world is now connected globally, giving you access to the other parts of the continents in just a click,” continuing he said globalisation is one of the main ingredients in the new type entrepreneurship. “You can buy, sell, trade, discuss, and sign deals almost immediately.”
In a swift switch, he shared an insight into BTCBARS, which is a group of companies that has invested in making impacts in various sectors including real estate, agriculture, entertainment, logistics, finance, and a few other industries.
With the aim to creating a stable market that offers high-quality and reliable services and products, he enthused, “Our main goal is to be a pathway to financial freedom in Africa.”
Its group of companies include BTCBARS, a real estate firm; Afri D Ltd, a courier and logistics company; ZL Empire Ltd, our entertainment arm of the group; Afri Festival Ltd, African Financial Revolutionary Innovators (AFRI); and Royal Niger Green Farms, an agricultural investment firm.
“We also have ZILLYBRAIN — this is a branding for my stocks business they nicknamed me the Blackwolf of Wall Street. ZEE AUTOS LTD- we do car mortgaging. ZL SOUNDS is a record label,” he highlighted.
In what he termed a wake up call to the youth, the GMD suggested, “You should be willing to take your time, experiment, see what works for you, and everyone you choose to work with.”
According to this youth business guru, in the end, it is a transaction, and that can’t be done alone. Hence, he chipped in, “Take your time, learn, adapt, and innovate.”
As commercial activities begin on the Lagos-Ibadan railway corridor
By Goodness Adaoyiche
As part of the infrastructural development drive of the Muhammadu Buhari-led administration, the President commissioned the 157-kilometre Lagos-Ibadan standard gauge railway project for full commercial activities at the Mobolaji Johnson Railway Station, Ebute Metta, Lagos, on Thursday, June 10, 2021.
The $1.5 billion project, which is a product of a loan agreement between Nigeria and China, is in line with the Buhari administration’s plan to revitalise the railway system and establish it as a choice mode of transportation for both passengers and freight.
Speaking at the event, President Buhari noted that when completed, the project would link Lagos-Kano and Kano – Maradi rail line in Niger Republic.
‘‘This vital line establishes an end-to-end logistic supply chain in railway transport within its short corridor, Lagos – Ibadan, as goods to the hinterland would now be transported by rail directly from the Apapa port Quayside straight to the Inland Container Depot located in Ibadan from where it can be distributed to other parts of the country,” Buhari said.
‘‘In clear recognition of the challenges posed to our economic growth by absence of strong and effective infrastructure, we have in the rail sector, further to other ongoing railway infrastructure projects, embarked on the completion of the outstanding segment of the Lagos – Kano railway, which is Ibadan – Kano.
“The Lagos-Kano railway project when completed will link the Kano – Maradi line at Kano and a rail link from the Nigeria southern ports of Lagos to Maradi in Niger Republic will be achieved.
“The connection through rail would position Nigerian ports as the choice for import and export business of the people of landlocked Niger Republic,” he announced.
The President noted that Ibadan-Kano project would have a connection to the Tin Can Island port as well as the East – West Coastal rail line from Lagos to Calabar linking Onitsha, Benin, Warri, Yenagoa, Port Harcourt, Aba and Uyo.
A testament of FG’s investment in Lagos – Sanwoo-olu
While expressing the gratitude of his people to President Buhari, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos, who spoke on behalf of the governors of Ogun and Oyo states, noted that the standard gauge rail project is a testament of the federal government’s investment in the state.
“It is indeed a thing of pride to see a project start and end within the lifespan of an administration. The social and economic importance of this project cannot be over emphasised. The commissioning of this rail line has made it possible for people to work in Lagos and live in Ibadan,” the governor stated.
He added that it was the first time President Buhari would be visiting Lagos state since he became governor in 2019.
I lost my car while inspecting this project – Amaechi
While appreciating President Buhari for his commitment towards revamping the railway sector in Nigeria, Transport Minister Chibuike Rotimi Ameachi recalled how he lost his car during one of the many inspection tours of the project.
“Mr President, I will like to let you know that I lost my car during this project,” Amaechi announced.
“I was driving to inspect the project and my car caught fire. I spoke to the Permanent Secretary about a replacement but she said the Federal Government does not replace cars for anybody. So, that car is gone,” he added.
The minister who had attended the event with his wife, Dame Judith, was also quick to mention the many times he had to explain to her the reason he had to be in Lagos at least once every month. She was also a part of the inspection a couple of times.
“Mr President, I brought my wife here today so that she can see why I was always coming to Lagos. I am glad that she is happy at what she is seeing,” he added.
The obviously elated minister noted that he does not pay attention to criticisms of “politicians who have lost power” but was more concerned at how history would judge him.
“When politicians leave power, they become critics. The moment they get power, the stop criticizing. Let history judge us. This is history,” he said.
Continued partnership with Nigeria – Yigao
Chairman of the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC), which handled the project, Mr. Jiang Yigao, said the company has been in Nigeria for forty years.
Describing the Lagos-Ibadan railway as a “real way of impacting the lives of the people.” Yigao expressed China’s commitment towards greater partnership with Nigeria in the coming years.
Full commercial operation begins June 15 – NRC
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) has announced that it will commence full commercial operations of the standard gauge railway service from Lagos to Ibadan on Tuesday, June 15, 2021.
This was contained in a statement issued by the management of NRC and signed by the corporation’s Lagos District Manager, Mr Jerry Oche, in Lagos on Sunday, June 13, 2021.
“The updated timetable for Tuesday to Friday is as follows: Lagos to Ibadan: 8:00 a.m from Mobolaji Johnson Station at Alagomeji, Ebute – Meta Lagos. Also, the train will take off from Ibadan to Lagos: 8:00 am from Obafemi Awolowo Station at Moniya.
“The train will take off from Lagos to Ibadan: 4:00 pm from Mobolaji Johnson Station Alagomeji, while from Ibadan to Lagos: 4:00 pm from Obafemi Awolowo Station at Moniya.
“The standard gauge train schedule on Saturday from Lagos to Ibadan: 8:30 am from Mobolaji Johnson Station at Alagomeji while the train will leave from Ibadan to Lagos: 8:30 am from Obafemi Awolowo Station at Moniya.
“For Saturday evening from Lagos to Ibadan: 6:00 pm from Mobolaji Johnson Station at Alagomji, while the train will take off from Ibadan to Lagos: 6:00 pm from Obafemi Awolowo Station at Moniya.”
He pointed out that Alagomeji, Abeokuta, and Moniya were still the stop stations of the Lagos Ibadan train services.
A cross section of Nigerians who spoke to our correspondent expressed satisfaction over the completion and commissioning of the Lagos-Ibadan railway project.
Morayo Olatunji, 18, said the project would afford her the opportunity to have her first train ride.
“This (Mobolaji Johnson Station) is beautiful,” she exclaimed. “This place is even finer than the airport. I posted some pictures and my friends cannot believe that this is a railway station in Nigeria.
“We’re are grateful to the Federal Government for this project because some of us will be having our first train rides today or next week. This is really beautiful,” the 100-level student of the Lagos State University added.
For Ransom Maduka, a trader, the project would ease the movement of his goods from one place to another. He, however, expressed concerns over the speed and security of the trains.
“This project will help people like us who buy and sell. But I am concerned about the safety and also the speed. Because time is money. And we hear of vandalism in other places and also security is important so that thieves do not board the trains and attack passengers on the way.
Others who spoke to our reporter harped on the maintenance of the trains and coaches, tracks as well as the stations.
Lawan admits Nigeria’s debt burden is outrageously high, but necessary evil
The President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan on Friday admitted that the debt burden on the Nigerian economy is very high, the profile of which is estimated at roughly N32 trillion but said is necessary evil to help Nigeria build needed infrastructure for development.
Speaking at a media briefing on the 2nd anniversary of the Ninth Senate on Friday in Abuja, Lawan noted that a substantial amount is owed by State governments but guaranteed by the Federal Government.
“In fact some of the loans, the bilateral ones particularly are even zero interest rate concessionary so to speak.
“Since we don’t have better options and not to do anything is not an option at all. We have to bite the bullet and accept request.
“We are not doing enough to educate Nigerians on some of these issues because many Nigerians feel the debt burden is too heavy, honestly, it is but I think, it is a necessary burden.
“Because to do otherwise will be irresponsible of any government to keep an economy that is stagnated, we have to move on.”
“But we must ensure also that those projects when completed are able to help in revenue generation to pay for the debts.
“Before us in the Senate are two requests from the executive arm of government.
“One is to construct and rehabilitate rail lines to the different parts of the country. The other one is to boost the economy directly, investments into agriculture and other real sectors of the economy including mining.
“That also includes request for loans guaranteed by the federal government for some states. Because the N32 trillion you are talking about is not all federal government debts. Part of it belongs to the states, only that the federal government gives the guarantee.
He said to develop the country there is need to build infrastructure however he observed that there is need to raise funds to achieve that.
“There are several ways, are we going to raise taxes, can we afford that in the current situation to raise taxes for us to fund the building of our infrastructure and it is a must, that Nigerians must have infrastructure; roads, railways, bridges and many other things.
“So what are the options. Definitely that option is out, that option is not to do anything. Because we can’t afford not to construct roads.
“In fact, what we have is not the kind of infrastructure that will boost our economy and we can’t raise taxes, the option is to borrow.
“And to borrow responsibly. Before we borrow, we have to identify those essential infrastructure that we need to provide for our economy to grow.
“The job of the national assembly is to look at the request; first, are those projects identified as essential projects for funding with the loan.
“Do we really need roads, due we need railways. I’m sure the answer is yes. So it means if the executive is able to convince us that these are the only items they will fund, we will say OK.we agree with that.
He said the National Assembly is concerned with the fair distribution of these projects because Nigeria is so large that we need to touch every part of it.
Another area of concern he said is what the conditions of the loan are, whether it is with favourable conditions, moratorium, the interest rate.
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