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BudgIT: When Apologies Are Not Enough

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BudgIT: When Apologies Are Not Enough

By Adam Adedimeji

Tracka is a kind of feedback mechanism on governmental projects in Nigeria. It is meant to facilitate citizens’ access to respond to projects and programmes carried out by government’s Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) in their communities.
Tracka is one of the schemes used by BudgIT, a Civil-Society Organization, with a selftasked role to engage citizens on budgetary responsibilities from the government with a view to ensuring institutional improvement. Set up in 2014, it is said to be functional in twenty (20 ) States in Nigeria.
The activities of BudgIT, especially with reference to Tracka, showcase the beauty of democracy by enhancing open society and citizens’ participation in governmental projects. In other words, it is a manifestation of the common meaning of democracy, which entails a government with premium on the people in all manner of actions.
Provided it carries out its functions as outlined, which include monitoring government projects with a view to assessing their standards and completion as spelt out in budgetary allocations and, in turn, reaching out to relevant public offices and the concerned communities, BudgIT could be an eloquent testimony that the people in our respective communities are not puppets that have to accept whatever is dished out to them without questions or right of reply.
Recently, Tracka through its Twitter handle, @trackNG, brought its (un)doings to the public when the group alleged that Senator Adelere Oriolowo of Osun West Senatorial District got N40 million for a training programme for select persons in his constituency but ended up spending N2.5 million.
The tweet stated: “N40m was allocated in the 2020 FG ZIP (Federal Government Zonal Intervention Programme) for practical skill development and training of youths and women in fishing in selected areas in Osun West Senatorial District, Osun State. We confirmed (that) 50 participants selected across 10 LGAs (Local Government Areas) attended the training and received N50,000 (each) as start-up grant.”
Tracka’s rush-to-the-social-media comment was further amplified by The PUNCH rush-tothe-press report of September 24, 2020. Typical of how any job done in unnecessary hurry always ends up, both the social media post and the mainstream media report turn out to be a hatchet job that could misinform the undiscerning members of the public due to their deficiency in truth.
Since it is elementary knowledge that the legislature and the executives do not fuse functions especially in a presidential system of government as ours, it amounts to gross ignorance, to say the least, that Tracka appears not to know the glaring distinction between the constitutional roles of the two arms of government. While legislators enjoy the liberty of nominating or sponsoring projects through budgetary provisions, the responsibility for implementation of projects is strictly that of the executive arm.In fact, projects, whether emanating from the legislature or the executives, are domiciled in
the relevant Ministry or Agency of government responsible for the implementation of such.
In clearer terms, notwithstanding being the facilitator of the project through his legislative
input, there is no way Senator Oriolowo can be involved in the implementation of Zonal
Intervention Programme for practical skills development and training of youths and women
in fishing recently conducted in selected areas of the Senatorial District.
It follows therefore that enquiries regarding projects implementation ought to
be channelled to such relevant Ministry or Agency, except the mission of the enquirer
revolves around mischief or anything other than overall public interest.
Had Tracka not rushed to make defamatory insinuations that Senator Oriolowo had pocketed
N37.5 million, the group would have found out the actual number of persons targeted to
benefit from the programme and it would have realized that the beneficiaries are more than
fifty persons that took part at the first batch of the training programme.
Tracka would have further known the exact percentage of the budgeted amount that was
eventually released by the Ministry to the Agency in charge of its implementation.
Also, while it is true that N50,000 was disbursed to each of the fifty participants as starter-
pack after the training, it is far from the truth that only N50,000 was spent on each of the
participant.
Is it that Tracka’s network was not available or fluctuating, hence its inability to compute
logistics needs of the trainees and their trainers, such as accommodation, transportation,
feeding, workshop facilities, among other necessities? What of renting a hall for the training
and equipment provided for the participants as part of the start-up incentives?
Tracka also failed to put into its consideration that as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, it
is unwise, if not hazardous, to gather all the selected beneficiaries of the fish farming training
at one place at a time.
Obviously, it is not hard to find out that the project is slated to be done in phases and not a
one-off thing. With this, no one needs rocket science to understand that Tracka’s post that
only N2.5 million out of the earmarked N40 million was spent is nothing but a fallacy.
Was Tracka in a trance? Was Tracka just out to twist facts in order to impugn
Senator Oriolowo’s hard earned integrity and mislead the general public? The whole scenario
is antithetical to the values of creativity, insight, accuracy, excellence and accountability
enunciated to be the hallmarks of BudgIT, the parent body of Tracka.
In the course of writing this piece, precisely on Sunday, September 26,
BudgIT had apologised to the Lagos State Government for another misrepresentation in its
latest release of States Report.
In tweets after tweets, the organisation said it has retracted its graphic that listed the Lagos
State government some days ago among states with inability to meet their recurrent
expenditure.
Given that ours is a clime where those who own up to their wrongdoings are in short supply,
BudgIT ordinarily ought to be commended for acknowledging its fault and apologizing in
that regard. But then, that apology is too insignificant to have any meaningful impact on
healing the wounds caused by the organisation.Through Tracka’s spurious allegation, it is hard for one to believe that BudgIT is on a mission (as it claimed) of using “creative technology to simplify public information, stimulating a community of active citizens and enabling their right to demand accountability, institutional reforms, efficient service delivery and equitable society.”
Except the civic society advocacy group takes urgent steps to do the needful by correcting itself on this issue of 2020 FG ZIP, it is doubtful whether BudgIT would ever realize its noble vision to “see a community of active citizens that relentlessly make effective use of public information to demand accountability, geared for institutional improvement, efficient services delivery, and an equitable society.”
Indeed, with what misinformation could do to humans, BudgIT’s false information on 2020 FG ZIP is extremely dangerous not only to the constituents of Osun West Senatorial District and Senator Oriolowo but also to the FG and the Nigerian people in general. This is quite disappointing in view of the role expected of BudgIT.
This matter goes beyond Lagos State government and the 2020 FG ZIP. It transcends tendering apology in a series of tweets to only the Lagos State government. BudgIT needs to be evaluated psychiatrically.
If nothing mentally is wrong with the organization, BudgIT should apologise to Nigerians and pay appropriately for the inestimable damage its avalanche of misinformation has caused Nigeria and Nigerians.

# Adedimeji is an Abuja-based legal practitioner and can be reached through: ilovedisjob@yahoo.com

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Opinion

North: The silver lining through Zamfara gold

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North: The silver lining through Zamfara gold

By Yusuf Abubakar

It’s not all gloomy after all for the North. Away from the dark cloud of insecurity fostered by the insurgents and banditry activities, comes the rays of light across the horizon. First came the cheering news of the discovery of oil, gas and condensates in Gombe State and the stretch of Gongola basin by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation(NNPC) and its sister agency, the Department of Petroleum Resources(DPR), which threw the doubting thomases who believe nothing positive could come from the region off balance in 2019.

The landmark uncovering of the treasure specifically along Kolmani River region at the border community between Bauchi and Gombe States, ought to have ordinarily silence the anti-north elements, but some still questioned the effort, describing the breakthrough as political. However, the planned exploration of the oil and gas from the basin for commercial purpose would clear all misconceptions, even as it would no doubt put the affected state on the list of oil producing states with consequent fallout.

As the region basked in the euphoria of the oil discovery comes another silver lining from Zamfara through its rich gold deposits which has hitherto fuelled bandit activities in that state. The bandits, as it was widely reported, were taking advantage of the situation by acquiring gold at cheap rate and use same to acquire arms and ammunitions for their nefarious activities.

But as it were, Governor Bello Matawalle is turning the tide against these agents of darkness and their sponsors. The governor had approached the nation’s apex bank, the Central Bank of Nigeria(CBN) and by extension the Federal Government for the possibility of boosting the mining sector in the state under the anchor-borrower scheme. The bank will invest the sum of N5 billion for the state to supply it with gold as a proceeds of the investment over time, while under the arrangement, the state government is to purchase the gold from the miners and supply it to the bank.

Already, the federal government has commenced the process of licensing the companies that have indicated interest in mining in the area. What this means for the state is that the gold will no longer be used to fuel the activities of the bandits with the governor stylishly cutting their hold on the supply chain. The second fundamental advantage Matawalle’s gesture throws up is that the state government would have more fund to embark on more projects as he works relentlessly to build a new Zamfara State.

But as usual, those who were profiteering from the seeming lucrative “banditry business” were uncomfortable with the turn of event and have resorted to campaign of calumny against the governor. The sworn anti-north elements are fuelling the misconception that the state government is taking over the minerals within its domain, even as it is public knowledge that mining is exclusive right of the federal government. Their charade has needlessly attracted resources control agitators who are already shouting themselves hoarse in response to the mischief.

But they are bound to fail because the governor’s action is within the ambit of the law as due process was followed in the purchase of gold from artisanal miners. “Individuals, corporate bodies, including states and local governments, are free to buy any mineral product, as long as you go through the normal process. We have what we call private mineral buying centres. We issue licensees so that anyone that is interested will come to us, and once you meet the criteria, we give you a license to purchase these minerals.

“And that is the angle that Zamfara State is exploiting. From their own funds, they are buying gold from their people.” This clarification by the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Arc. Olamilekan Adegbite in the face of the uproar by the elements over the matter should suffice.

It is sad that senior lawyers who should be abreast of the stipulation of the constitution have joined the misconception foray by creating discontents across the land.

They claimed that the governor’s gesture may trigger other minerals endowed states to deny federal government access to same, while urging the FG to shut down the initiate entirely. This is totally absurd and tended to give credence to the already entrenched speculations that powerful forces who were aiding illegal mining of gold deposits in the state were using bandits as alibi to shield their nefarious activities.

It is public knowledge that some highly influential and prominent personalities, including top politicians, security agents are fully involved in gold mining business in the state, thereby denying governments revenue that would have accrued from the proceed for a very long time.

More disturbing is the fact that these activities have been going on illegally without the federal government’s backing through licenses from the federal government. The situation also denied the state government any commission as its source of generating revenue directly or indirectly. A mining survey report indicated that the federal government lost about N3.23 trillion equivalent to $9billion in revenue accruable from gold exports due to the activities of illegal miners across the country, including Zamfara in 2017.

This is the anomaly Matawalle met on ground and is working hard to correct through collaboration with the federal government, and expectedly, those who have been benefiting from the situation are fighting back. it is therefore the responsibility of all well-meaning Nigerians especially pressure groups in the north to rally round the governor in the ongoing effort to make the state uncomfortable for the bandits and their sponsors who are using our commonwealth to fight us.

Abubakar is of No1, Jama’a Street, U/Rimi, Kaduna, Kaduna state.

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Opinion

‘Nzenwa should know, IPAC code has no position like IPAC chairman’

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‘Nzenwa should know,IPAC code has no position like IPAC chairman’

By Barrister Igwe Emeka Benjamin

We are not surprised, but appalled by the rantings of Dr. Leonard Nzenwa who has been going about parading himself as the chairman of IPAC, a position that is non existent in the IPAC Code of Conduct, 2019.
Dr. Nzenwa also lives in great denial about the existence of the Court of Appeal decision in Re:ACD & 21 ors vs AG Federation & INEC, Appeal No. CA/ABJ/CV/507/2020 wherein the Court unanimously nullified all the acts done or deemed to have been done on 06/02/2020 declaring the deregistration illegal, and deemed the deregistration as having not occurred, and which INEC has found difficult to appeal.

For Nzenwa and his cohorts to turn themselves into the megaphone of INEC has shown their credentials as hypocrites who profess democracy without believing in the rule of law.
Because of their greed, and threats by presence of MEN like Chief Ralphs Okey Nwosu, A.A Salaam, Peter Ameh, Barrister Godson Okoye,, Hon. Adekunle Rufai Omoaje, etc they have been going about urging INEC to disobey the aforementioned Court of Appeal decision, which unknown to them is for their own good and benefit, knowing that lightening does not strike twice in the same place.

Indeed there is no division in IPAC as High Chief Peter Ameh did hand over to Chief Ralphs Okey Nwosu on 04/09/2020, just a day before the expiration of his term which was restored by the Court of Appeal.

Dr. Nzenwa and his confederates must come to terms that the days of impostoring are over and should henceforth begin to obey and follow the duly constituted Central Management Cimmittee authority of Chief Ralphs Okey Nwosu, A A Salaam, Hon. Adekunle Rufai Omoaje, and Elder Chuks Achusi who were handed over to in the full glare of all the national television cameras, the major print media, and bloggers in Nigeria.

Dr. Nzenwa and company should forever remain grateful to the dogged determination of the 22 political parties that went to court to challenge the illegality of INEC’s decision to follow the laid down constitutional and other statutory provisions knowing that lightening hardly strike twice in the same place.

What hurts the tree isn’t the axe. But that the axe handle is made of wood……..”The axe forgets; the tree remembers.”

If INEC disobeys a Valid judgment of the Court of appeal does not invalidate the judgment Because the judgment of the court is potent and alive as of today.

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Opinion

Of Corruption And State Ownership Of Refineries

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Of Corruption And State Ownership Of Refineries

BY DINO MELAYE

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo had two days ago said the problems associated with Nigeria’s refineries will not go away if the Federal Government continues to own and run them. He was revalidating the usual saying that, ‘the government has no business in business’.
He noted that experience has shown that refineries were better managed by the private sector, hence the need for the government to restrict itself to providing the regulatory framework for such businesses to thrive.

Nigeria has the third largest refinery capacity in Africa. It boasts of an installed capacity of 445,000 barrels per day (bpd) only trailing behind South Africa with 540,000 bpd and Egypt with about 774,900 bpd. Unfortunately, with our four government-owned refineries and one private one, we don’t produce anywhere near this installed capacity for many years now.

The four plants are owned by the Nigerian Government through the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), while the fifth one is owned and operated by Niger Delta Petroleum Resources (NDPR). Apart from the single fully-fledged petrochemical plant, two of the refining plants, Kaduna Refinery and Petrochemical Company (KRPC) and Warri Refinery and Petrochemical Company (WRPC), have petrochemical complexes that utilize their refinery intermediates to produce petrochemical precursors.

The refineries are almost non-functional while they keep gulping millions of Naira as overhead costs and in the name of Turn Around Maintenance (TAM), which has become a ritual carried out by successive governments, yet local needs still cannot be met and the NNPC has had to rely largely on the foreign importation  of petroleum products especially premium motor spirit (PMS) to meet the daily consumption needs of Nigerians. Also, there is the existence of certain unscrupulous individuals who are benefitting from the system through their influence on the periodical award of TAM contracts each time a new government is in place.

The twin menace of corruption and inefficiency are responsible for the current state of the nation’s refineries and they have provided the grounds for the privatization option because it is generally believed that private-owned entities are well-managed and profitable than public enterprises.

Brazil, India, Singapore and South Africa have refineries that are managed by private firms and are extremely efficient. Therefore, provided the refineries are sold through a transparent process to independent private firms with the requisite capital and technical expertise, there is no reason why the same would not be possible in Nigeria’s case.

It’s unfortunate that, Nigeria, which is Africa’s leading crude oil exporter and a regional leader in installed crude oil refining capacity, sadly, remains the continent’s largest per capita importer of refined petroleum products. Nigeria still imports petroleum products from countries like Brazil and India, which were no where on the oil map of the world when Nigeria discovered oil in Oloibiri in 1956. Strangely, Nigeria has also been importing petroleum products from Niger Republic, which has a modest refining capacity of 20,000 bpd. It is instructive to note that the Soraz Refinery in Niger is 60 per cent owned by Chinese state owned oil company (CNPC) and was built with $980 while Nigeria once earmarked more than $1bn for one TAM contract on its refineries. 

The truth is that the government must think out of the box on practical ways of stopping endemic corruption in the refinery management and maintenance circle. There are state-owned refineries in Africa and beyond, and they are efficiently and productively run.

This defeats the argument that government has no business owning and running the refineries. Why do things that work in other countries don’t succeed in Nigeria? When people in authority want to privatise public assets to themselves and their cronies at give-away price, they begin with such warped argument that government has no business being in business. 

They don’t interrogate the abject failure of all privatised companies since privatisation started. Even all the banks that were privatised have all collapsed. All the paper mills have collapsed before they even took off. 

What happened to the privatised NITEL and Mtel and so many others? What stops individuals from building their own related businesses instead of waiting to buy government-owned enterprises at cheap prices? 

The Federal Government spent N8.94 trillion in 10 years on fuel subsidies. That amount would have built at least two 100,000-barrel capacity refinery per year, with a total of 20 refineries. Alas! They preferred to import because of the unproductive quick and corrupt money and the entrenched system that supports the so-called private rent-seeking prebendal businesses.

We cannot continue like this as a nation and short-cut theories and approaches will not help us overcome our challenges on the long-run, they will rather compound the problems and successive governments will continue to exploit the situation.

*** Senator Melaye was a three-time member of the National Assembly.

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