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MY THOUGHTS ON RESTRUCTURING THE COUNTRY

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MY THOUGHTS ON RESTRUCTURING THE COUNTRY

By Arch. Gabriel. Y. Aduku,

INTRODUCTION:
In the last couple of months there have been strident calls for the restructuring of the country from a lot of people, from different parts of the country. While some of the calls have primordial and political undertones, a lot of the calls are anchored on well-established premise of ensuring the survival of the country. But why are the calls for the restructuring of the country so loud and reverberating across the country? I think it is the failure of the leadership to keenly address the nagging needs of the citizenry and all segments of the federating units. This failure on the part of the leadership and the political elite, essentially, has led to a disequilibrium in the distribution of the common wealth, thereby giving rise to calls for restructuring. Some parts of the country feel alienated in the scheme of things with the attendant calls for self-determination by some ethnic groups, some Nigerians do not feel safe in parts of the country – so much violence and insecurity in the land – and economic marginalization of the majority.
While I subscribe to the call for the restructuring of the country, I do not seem to agree with the voices of those who see restructuring wholly from the perspective of restructuring along ethnic or regional lines. Restructuring along regional divides alone will not achieve the much desired results. It may simply end up as a pyrrhic victory. I also do not think that restructuring the country, so that the regions will have control of the resources in the regions is the best way to go. Certainly, I believe in resource control but my point is that having control of the resources in one’s region is not the panacea to the problem. In fact, it may end up creating more problems. I agree with those who have posited that mineral resources should not be the only and real resources we should be trying to control. I also buy the idea that the real owners of the resources are not usually the real beneficiaries of the resources but the political elite in the host communities or regions.
There has to be a more fundamental peg to restructuring the country if we must achieve the results and benefits of restructuring. For me, the focus remains using the revenue accruable from the resources within our environments for the development of the ultimate resource: human resources.
EDUCATION:
Education is critical and absolutely fundamental for developmental growth and enduring positive progress. It cures ignorance, which is a chronic disease afflicting many in the country. Restructuring the country should start from a fundamental restructuring of our educational system and a massive investment into the educational sector. Let us pause and ask ourselves a question: if we have control of resources in our communities and our youths are lacking in quality education, what would be the outcome? It means we will still be having militancy and other related crises because of inequality of access to quality education and the attendant ability to hone skills and talents. We need to restructure the educational system by rebuilding schools, training and retraining the teachers, re-examining and enhancing the curricula to include, among others civic education, moral instruction, and ensuring access to quality education for the Nigerian child.
It is through quality education that we can lay the foundation for a country where everyone will have equal opportunity to excel. It is the well-developed human resource of a country that can engender a keen sense of responsibility among the citizens, unalloyed commitment to common goals and positive action in governance across all tiers of government. I wish to state emphatically that human resource supersedes mineral resources, which is why we need to restructure the whole gamut of our educational system. Obafemi Awolowo once said and I subscribe wholeheartedly to it, that any system of education which does not help a man to have a healthy and sound body and alert brain, balanced and disciplined instinctive urges, is both misconceived and dangerous. That is the kernel for the urgent need to revamp and restructure our educational system. This restructuring, if properly done, will undoubtedly reduce cries of marginalization, curb militancy, kidnapping and other social vices which are currently threatening our national existence. And we will have the right manpower to drive the wheel of progress.
MORAL REARMAMENT:
In addition to restructuring the educational sector, there has to be a mindful and well-articulated effort to enthrone a positive value system as we had in our traditional societies before the oil boom of the seventies and eighties. We need to have the right social values in place if we have toreap the benefits of a restructured Nigeria. A moral rearmament anchored on waging wars against indiscipline and insincerity can be driven through education, moral suasion and leadership by example, from the family, the community and public office holders. Moral rearmament as a tool for social orientation can, significantly reduce the level of insecurity in the land and usher in a system where positive values are appreciated. Moral rearmament will also aid the enthronement of a just and equitable society where the resources, mineral and all, will be used for the good of all. A society that is dependent on mineral resources alone without a positive value system and strong moral fiber cannot thrive in the comity of nations.
Moral rearmament will not necessarily be a government affair alone. It can be an initiative driven by the government but entrenched in the families, communities, local governments and state and federal levels. It will require a strategic campaign like we had in the War against Indiscipline of decades back and a reinvigorated national orientation movement. It should be a mass movement requiring passionate and charismatic Nigerians to drive the initiative, which will ultimately change the way we view and do things that affect us as Nigerians.
ETHNIC AND TRIBAL COMPLEXITIES:
Most of the fears which tend to drive present day agitations for self-determination stem from ethnic and tribal dominations. The minority tribes are afraid of the dominance of the majority tribes, while the majority tribes are afraid of the onslaught of the agitators from the minority tribes. The fears in most cases are real. I believe that while education and moral rearmament are vital for survival and sustenance, managing the ethnic and tribal complexities of our national life should be tackled through a bottom-up approach in the twin issues of responsibility and authority. Each federating unit should be made and reassured of a sense of belonging through a well-articulated charter of equity. Authority and responsibility should be driven from the local authorities (family, community, town, local government), to the state and the centre. I do recall that in the first republic, communities and native authorities played essential roles in ensuring compliance to, and the enforcement of law, order and values. We can look at such a structure, the things that worked effectively, modify them based on current realities and incorporate them into our national code. When communities and native authorities have a stake in the collective survival of the country, they will play their roles keenly, thus reducing the fears of dominance or stampede, which are fuelling crises in the country.
RELIGION:
I share the opinion of others who have argued that Nigeria should remain a secular state. There should be a distinct separation of activities between the government and religious bodies, irrespective of the faith or the denomination. The government, for instance has no business in funding pilgrimages of any religious faith. A restructuring of the country without taking into account our religious diversity and with a concerted effort by government to ensure neutrality in religious matters will not bring about the much desired growth and development. Instead, it will breed mistrust and discontent because, whether we like it or not, religion is now akin to an opium which government ought, and should be detached from.
DEVOLUTION OF POWER:
Devolution of power is an absolute necessity. The present political arrangement whereby so much powers are concentrated in the states and federal level is unnecessary. It breeds economic waste and is unsustainable. There is so much concentration of power at the centre and unwieldy law making organs, which in reality, especially in the last seventeen years, seem to be more and more detached from the people. A natural realignment of political authorities is the answer to realizing peaceful co-existence. There has to be a conscious transfer of power from the centre/state to local authorities for effective administration of all units. I also think that traditional authorities should be give constitutional roles that can help maintain security, at least.The issue of community policing cannot be put on the back-burner any longer. We need to look at it critically with a view to adopting a workable model of community or state policing for the overall interest of the people. The legislature should be made to be a part-time role at the federal and state levels. The present arrangement where the legislature does part-time work under a full-time garb is a complete drain on the dwindling resources of the country. I also believe that when the legislature is constitutionally made to be a part-time organ of government, we will begin to have men and women worthy of character and imbued with passion for the people and the country in the national and state assemblies.
CONCLUSION:
The above are just a few of my thoughts on restructuring the country and they are, by no means conclusive. It is my considered opinion that political restructuring is imperative, but we also need to pay close attention to the subliminal factors that can make such a restructuring a positive one. It should not be restructuring along geo-political or ethnic/linguistic boundaries alone. We should look comprehensively at our past, current state-nation structure and where we want to be in a world that is now a global village.

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Opinion

RAMP and Nigeria rural roads

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RAMP and Nigeria rural roads

By Ahmed Mohammed

The Rural Access and Mobility Project (RAMP 2) is a six-year World Bank project focused on the rehabilitation of rural roads and associated capacity building of institutions mandated to provide and maintain rural transport infrastructure. The project commenced in February 2014 and operates in six states: Adamawa, Enugu, Niger, Osun, Imo and Cross-River.

The objectives of the project include increasing the share of the population with access to an all-season road, increasing the share of the total classified roads in good and fair condition and increasing the number of roads receiving adequate levels of maintenance. There is no doubt that the programme has greatly assisted in transforming the rural settings, creating access and expanding frontiers in areas hitherto inaccessible.

In Niger State which has the highest landmass in Nigeria and equally higher number of hard to reach communities, the programme has become the fulkrum that drives the state government’s rural transformation policies aimed at creating economic and social equality among the urban, semi-urban and their most rural counterparts.

The past two phases of the tripartite programme focused on rehabilitation of rural roads , community based road maintenance and annual mechanized maintenance and project management and strengthening of state and federal road sector institutional , policy, and regulatory framework.

Through the RAMP activities coordinated by Hassan Etsu 391 communities across the state have benefited. The efforts show that 519kilometers of roads have been constructed with about 230 km targeted for surface dressing on going.

The breakdown shows that 117 kilometers were constructed in the first phase, while 402 kilometers including 30 river crossing bridges were put in place in the ongoing effort to improve movement of people and goods within and outside the rural communities especially in the hard to reach areas.

Some of the roads to include Wuya Suma – Lemu , Mokwa – Jaagi, -Kudu, Sabon Wuse-Ijah Gbagyi, Sullu –Tafa, Suleja-Abuchi-IzomAuna –Tungajika-Shafini, Wawa-Malali, in the first phase with the projects were completed and handed over to the state project implementation unit.

Key bridges such as Maza Kuka, Adogon Mallam, Ibeto-Gyengi, Gganran sagi, Ragadawa-Baban dogo, Kutriko-Salawu Cikan, Mukugi- Ajitupa, Eyangi-Liman , Wuya- Kanti, Emi egimazi, Dabban, Sabon Daga, NAkpankuchi river, Maikera- Beji Labude among others were constructed.

According to the coordinating office a total of N9 billion have been spent cumulatively within the first and second phases of the programme. This is aside the N6 billion approved by the state government for surface dressing of 230 kilometres of the rural roads earlier constructed under RAMP .

At the flag off of the surface dressing of the Izom-Abuchi-Suleja road recently, he Governor Abubakar Sani Bello, who was represented by Commissioner of Agriculture Hon Zakeri Jikantoro at the event, spoke on the reasons why the state government has to go out of its way to release extra funds to aid the programme, saying the move was to ensure that the quality of the rural roads were upgraded to withstand the volume of traffic.

According to the governor, the traffic on the roads become unprecedented beyond what the earthen roads can withstand, necessitating urgent steps to upgrade the roads. ” This has prompted the state government to engage surface dressing of these roads to increase their durability in serving the people. We have to do this to ensure that the huge investment in constructing the earthen roads does not go down the drains,” he had opined.

This intervention was in addition to 169km of rural roads that were also rehabilitated under the Spot Improvement and Annual Mechanized Maintenance Intervention of the World Bank (WB) and French Development Agency (AFD) co-financed initiative to improve transportation in the Rural areas.

It must be noted that six roads earmarked for surface dressing have the potential for high volume of traffic and are spread across the three-geo-political zones of the state.

The affected roads were Suleja – Abuchi- Izom road , Wuya Suman – Lemu road, Old Gawu – Farindoki road, Kampanin Bobi- Bangi road, Kutigi- Tashan Hajiya road and Wuya Kanti – EtsuTasha road

These efforts are estimated to cost the state government the sum N6,067,554,358.34 and the cumulative result of the government’s back up initiative is that the implementation of Rural Access Mobility Projects II (RAMP2) programmes has reduced rural mortality by 60 percent.

Jikantoro himself confirmed the feat at forum, stating that the mortality rate has been reduced by 60 percent in intervention areas because many communities can now access secondary and tertiary health facilities due to availability of roads constructed by RAMP 2.

According to him , the benefits of the programme included the construction and rehabilitation of 176km roads in the first phase and 403 km roads in the second phase of the project, adding that the programme has greatly assisted in the economic empowerment of the rural dwellers by enhancing movement of farm produce to markets.

It is really gratifying that governor Bello has continued to meet the state’s counterpart obligations through realy releases of funds for the project and also assured of the state government’s commitment towards punctual release of the same as the project enters the third phase.

The National Coordinator of RAMP, Engineer Ubandoma Ularamu had always commended the state for taking the best position in the successful implementation of RAMP projects in the country, acknowledging that there has been unprecedented growth in agriculture in the state. I therefore urge the state government to continue to support the programme to enable more communities to benefit from it.

It is because of this feat that he assures that the state will be enlisted to again participate in the New RAMP that will commence soon.

Overall, the project has so far constructed over 600km rural roads and has empowered the local capacities through the community based rural roads maintenance model which entails the engagement of the rural people along the corridors of rural roads rehabilitated by the project thereby creating employment opportunities in the state.

The project also intends to institutionalize rural roads maintenance activities, management and funding as part of its deliverables and making it last beyond the implementation period of 2020 .

With Participating States of Niger, Osun, Enugu, Adamawa and Imo states and Donor fund: USD60million(IDA:45M, AFD:15M Niger state has indeed trail the blaze to open the rural areas.

The Special Adviser political and strategy Alhaji Mohammed Nma Kolo whose office has been monitoring the progress in the implementation of the project noted that the success story has indeed changed the political dynamics in the Rural areas.

To him, the success has further increased the confidence of the people in the government and the desire of the government to change their lives for better.

Mohammed is of the office of Special Adviser Political to Niger State Governor.

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Opinion

TRUMP WASN’T BAD AFTER ALL

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TRUMP WASN’T BAD AFTER ALL
By Frank Tietie
Preceding the American Presidential elections, in October, 2020, I was invited to join a Zoom Meeting hosted by Nigerian-Americans who had the right to vote in the US elections.

Listening to both sides of the argument between the supporters of incumbent President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden, I became persuaded that Trump would be better for the USA as a second term President. He probably earned it.

I got to know how much Trump revived the American economy and subsequently created an unprecedented number of jobs for people of African descent in pre-COVID times.

In that Zoom Meeting, Trump was said to have stood up against bare faced official hypocrisy and corruption in Washington. Also, he ensured funding for Black colleges and did many more revolutionary yet, positive things for the Black American community.

I was impressed with reasons given why Black celebrities like Ice Cube, Lil Wayne, 50 Cents, Kanye West and many others support Trump. They do acknowledge that he talks ‘trash’ but they claim that he is sincere, makes things happen and does exactly what he promises. Ice Cube said that Trump represents the American spirit of freedom and success.

Later that week, I was privileged to be interviewed by a correspondent of the Voice of America (VOA) on why Nigerians took interest in the US Presidential elections. I was not allowed to mention a preferred candidate. So I told the VOA that Nigerians somehow believe that the USA is a very powerful country and that whoever became its president would determine interests in such matters as Nigerian immigration to the USA and regional security in Africa.

Also, I got to know that Joe Biden, in his 47 year career in government has done more harm to the Black people in America by enacting a law that has put a large number of black men in prison compares to any other people of different racial backgrounds.

Many Nigerians hated the Trump presidency because of its tough stance on preventing immigration to the US, from certain countries in the Middle East and Africa. But you can’t take it from Trump that he minded American interests and didn’t care what the world thought about him. He said after all, that “America First!”. Who can really say: Nigeria First?

Really, how can a Nigerian hate Trump for building a wall to prevent illegal migration when South Africa whose liberation from Aparthied, that was literally paid for by Nigeria, yet it chose as a people to systematically chase away Nigerian immigrants from South Africa? That country has exhibited the worst yet, most undeserving form of xenophobia against Nigerians. We shall never forget so quickly.

How can Nigerians blame Trump for building a wall? Everyday, many Nigerians, especially from Southern Nigeria cry on both the social media and traditional media that the government of President Buhari is allowing Fulanis from all over Africa to easily move into Nigeria in order to cause mayhem, carry out land grabs and change the demographics of native Nigerian communities with the plan to dominate and take over Nigeria. What then do you have against a president who wants to define the citizenship of his country by preventing illegal migration?

On LGBT. I don’t have anything against gay, lesbians, bi-sexuals and transgender (LGBT) persons. So I don’t have any apologies for defending their rights whether in court or in public because they are human. But I sincerely believe that there is something is wrong with them!

Firstly, humbly, as a liberal-conservative, with values that are shaped by African trado-cultural beliefs and Judeo-Christian indoctrination, I will never promote LGBT lifestyles. Also, I do not support abortion and same sex marriage. Very many Nigerians share this same position with me yet they support Joe Biden and Kamala Harris who are staunch promoters of LGBT culture.

Both Biden and Harris have officially conducted same sex marriages in America. The Catholic church once rebuked Biden for his support for same sex marriages. How would Nigerians want those kind of leaders over themselves?

The Democrat led US government of Barrack Obama and Joe Biden scolded Nigeria for enacting the Same Sex Prohibition Act. They so hated former Nigerian President, Goodluck Jonathan and refused to sell arms to him, to fight boko haram. They mobilized resources against Jonathan’s re-election and sent John Kerry to execute their plan. It is not that they love Buhari, they just hated Jonathan. They didn’t know that their hate for Jonathan was akin to hate for Nigeria. These were the same people who had always wished that Nigeria gets into a political conflict. They even went ahead to predict that Nigeria would break up in 2015. Frankly, I don’t like US democrats!

Alas! Trump became US president and invited Buhari to the United States and unconditionally agreed to sell arms to Nigeria, to fight boko haram. Against political correctness, he inquired of the Nigerian President why he was allowing the killing and persecution of Christians in his country. Yet someone wonders why some Nigerian Christians hold street processions for Trump in Nigeria?

Many Nigerians do not understand the issues in US politics and like I told the VOA correspondent, many Nigerians take interest in American politics, particularly with regards to who becomes the US president, wishing their own country could have such powerful and influential persons running things in Nigeria at the highest level of governance.

Really, who would Nigerians prefer to be President of Nigeria? A Trump or a Biden?

Frank Tietie,
Human Rights Lawyer
writes from Abuja

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Opinion

JUSTICE ISHAQ BELLO & THE ICC BENCH: A CASE FOR NATIONAL SOLIDARITY

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JUSTICE ISHAQ BELLO & THE ICC BENCH: A CASE FOR NATIONAL SOLIDARITY

                                

BY LEMMY UGHEGBE

Many unsavory comments have trailed the nomination of the Chief Judge of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Justice Ishaq Usman Bello for a seat as a judge at the International Criminal Court in The Hague by President Muhammadu Buhari. It is disheartening when such comments come from Nigerians, who ordinarily rally support for their fellow citizens when they are involved in regional or international contestations against other nationals. It is a notorious fact that, the country enjoys an unprecedented level of solidarity during such regional or global contestation as citizens of various ethnic groups pull together, unmindful of differing tribes, tongues and religion, but united in a common purpose – to see Nigeria win. At such a time and stage, the people do not see the nominee as Isoko, Yoruba, Hausa, Ibo, Ibibio, etc. In recent times, the admirable level of national solidarity and bonding for a common purpose came to the fore. In recent times, the successful unified national clamour of Nigerian citizens with one voice to lobby international support for the second term re-election of Dr. Akinwumi Adesina and the on-going support for Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala for the office of Director General of World Trade Organisation (WTO) exemplify the apogee of national solidarity in pursuit of a common objective – to put Nigeria first on the regional and global landscape. In both cases, their nomination was backed by the government and people of Nigeria. And while Dr. Adesina has been successfully re-elected, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala is in the final lap of the race with bookmakers tipping her to clinch the top job. No Nigerian raised questions as to the tribe, tongue or religion of either personality.

However, this was not the same cup of tea for Justice Ishaq Usman Bello when President Buhari nominated him to represent Nigeria as a Judge at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague. Rather than enjoy the customary national solidarity and endorsement, he got the contrary for no fault of his. The Judge is merely what you will call a collateral damage owing to the criticism that has become a recurring decimal whenever Buhari announces his political appointments. In this case, critics have also wondered why Buhari must nominate a northerner, accusing him of always giving advantage to the north in terms of appointments. While one cannot dismiss that with a wave of hand, given Buhari’s clannish nature evident in his political appointments in the last five years, it does come across as an unfair basis to deny Justice Ishaq Bello the national support, which he deserves and obviously would have received had his name been anything close to Adesina or Okonjo-Iweala. As qualified and competent as Bello may be, the track records of lopsided of Buhari’s political appointees have clearly seen him, literarily, in the line of fire with false narratives against him, which include the claim that he is deficient in the knowledge of criminal law justice. Justice Bello is not just a sound and courageous judge, he is knowledgeable and passionate about the administration of criminal justice and this IS evident in how innovatively he has tried to make the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015 more effective and goal scoring in terms of accelerating the dispensation of justice. Specifically, the Chief Judge signed an order of Practice Direction (PD) for the ACJA as a direction on how to apply the act to ensure more efficiency in prosecution and investigation. The said PD is to give life and fervor to the said Act and give the toothless bulldog some teeth to bite.

For instance, the PD confers authority on a judge to award cost against a counsel that is absent in court on an agreed date. According to Paragraph four, Order Seven, “Where a counsel who was present in court and agreed on the next adjournment date fails to attend the hearing without good reason or sufficient notice, costs may be awarded against him.” Parapraph 7 0f the said order also provides that “where a counsel, holding brief for another counsel is unable to proceed with the business of the day, due to his unpreparedness, costs may be awarded against him personally.” Another piece of ingenuity in the Order signed by Justice Bello also almost completely discourages a defendant from jumping bail because his head will be shaved in his absence. The provision that relates to that reads: “Where a defendant who has been granted bail, or having due notice of his trial date, fails without reasonable explanation to attend or refuses to attend court for his trial, and a summons and/or warrant as the case may be, has been issued to compel his attendance without success, the trial shall continue in his absence.” The Practice Direction also empowers a judge or magistrate to award cost against any lawyer personally who files applications that have no foundation in the law in any criminal proceedings and such cost cannot be passed to his client. This caveat is very innovative as it is an incontrovertible fact that lawyers are at the heart of long delays of trials through the constant barrage of frivolous applications they throw at the court.

Being a forward looking progressive, on the 30th day of October, 2017, Justice Bello introduced the new High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja (Civil Procedure) Rules 2018 and the Rules came into force on the 15th day of February, 2018. Under the new rules, Order 37, Rule 4 is truly commendable as it provides for fast track procedure in civil cases. Under the fast track, the period from commencement to conclusion of trial in fast track procedure shall be within 30 days, the filing and adoption of final addresses is within 14 days, judgment shall be delivered within 7 days and the issuance of certified true copy of judgment shall be within 4 days. The ingenuity of this provision is made clearer when you take into cognizance the fact that cases that take 10 to 15 years could begin and conclude within 55 days under the new rules. As great as this fast track procedure may be, it is a bit too wide in scope as cases that go there are subject to the approval of the Chief Judge. But a criticism against the fast track procedure which provides that an applicant must pay a filing fee of One Hundred Thousand Naira is that it makes quick dispensation of justice the preserve of only the rich, yet the say the court is a place for the common man. Perhaps, the filing fee may require a downward review to make it more accessible to the common man. The new rules also provides for a place for electronic services of court processes and document. This has helped to checkmate those who evade services of court processes as the courts now accept substituted services electronically. The tales of how lawyers and their clients evade service of processes is public knowledge and therefore makes that provision expedient. Justice Bello has also created the enforcement procedure rules for the Child Rights Act, which has seen to even as he is documented to have enhanced the welfare of judicial offices.

Despite these laudable efforts by the eminent jurist, his nomination has been greeted by criticism within the Nigerian shore; and that portends a negative impact to his quest to sit on the bench at the Hague. What makes it more worrisome is the fact that it is coming from his fellow countrymen who are until now famed for national solidarity at a time and in circumstances like the instant one. Even the African Bar Association (AFBA) had recently warned against the negative comments from the region against Justice Bello and other nominees from the region, saying it would work against the continent’s interest at the ICC and called for a sheathing of swords. Nigerians may do well to heed that advice and rally behind their country’s nominee – Justice Ishaq Usman Bello for the common good of the country

Ughegbe, a journalist, Public Opinion Influencer & Human Rights Advocate writes from Abuja.

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