Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Gani at 70: Celebrating a unique icon

CHIEF Ganiyu Oyesola Fawehinmi, friend of the toiling masses, fearless advocate, humanist par excellence, irrepressible enemy of oppressors, human rights crusader of inimitable courage, unassuming philanthropist, and an indefatigable patriot of unparalleled commitment is 70. This is really something to cheer about. To begin with, given the harassment, physical and psychological torture inflicted on him and his family by the Nigerian state, not many people thought that he would live to mark his 60th birthday not to talk of being with us at 70. Whatever the state of his health may be, this is an occasion that the masses and their friends must celebrate to high heavens.

Gani, as he is fondly called by his admirers and foes alike, is a unique Nigerian in a number of respects. Here is one Nigerian who lives his life for the good of the country only in every way. At great personal risks to himself he dared the military adventurers who usurped political power and imposed the authoritarian ethos of the garrison on our people. A consummate social critic that he is, he has never been caught pushing positions for selfish reasons or for the mere purpose of attracting attention to himself as many gallingly do these days.

I have told several people before and I believe it is appropriate to repeat it during this festive occasion that Gani is the only lawyer that I know, living or dead, who does not take a position on national issues simply because he is protecting the interest of a present or prospective client. These days one frequently read opinions that amount to hankering for briefs among lawyers or that is nothing but indecent defence of the interest of an existing client. I have had cause to disagree with this great African on some national issues, but as I told him on some of those occasions, I knew that he was merely expressing his deep and genuine convictions. Happily, those occasions were very few. I challenge anyone with a contrary opinion to express it now, I wish I could take the liberty of a priest to add the phrase, 'or never'.

He is not one to refrain from expressing unpopular positions. In recent times he has been challenged and even excoriated by many for some of his positions that go against the general tide of public opinion. One thing that is clear is that one cannot miss his nationalistic fervour and passion in any of his interventions and commentaries. Beyond that, a nation without an avant-garde like Gani who sets agenda and thinks ahead will soon atrophy. As a human being he does not claim to be without his own flaws. The truth, however, is that compared with many people in his generation and generations behind him, Gani is closer to a saint.

Gani is a very solicitous and caring person. Several thousands of indigent people, and I am not exaggerating, have benefited from his large heart. Personally, it was Gani that paid my law school fees, an act of benevolence for which I shall remain eternally grateful. As a law student at Ife, when the power that be had made it clear that I could not get regular employment by seizing my NYSC Discharge Certificate after my first degree, Gani placed me on a monthly stipend that did not fail once. Even while still on his sick bed in far away London Gani still looked after the welfare of several people. For example I know that he ensures that the medical bills of his sister who had taken ill before him are settled promptly.

It is not an exaggeration to state that all Nigerians, without any exception whatsoever, have benefited from his legal activism. This is so because he is the doyen of public impact litigation in this country. Regardless of the narrow conception of the doctrine of locus standi by the superior courts, Gani has used the instrumentality of the law and the court to challenge every form of misbehaviour in government. Thanks to his persistence, it would appear that the doctrine has been relaxed in the case of the dollar Ministers filed by him. There is no Nigerian, again living or dead, that has challenged governments and their policies in court on matters that are not personal than Chief Gani Fawehinmi. He has expanded our legal frontiers in such a way that every branch of the law bears his imprint.

This is not the appropriate forum to discuss his forensic skills. I have already accepted the challenge thrown at me by no less a person than Odia Ofeimun, the well-known poet, to do his biography. It suffices however to recall how he used his skills in court to get us back to school after the authorities at Ife dismissed us apparently for not learning what our parents asked to go there to learn. In the midst of his arguments, he suddenly pointed to the ceilings and told the court that 'what these boys dismissed by the University are saying is that this roof should not collapse on your Lordship'. The ceiling, unknown to any of us and perhaps the judge too at the time, was caving in. Everybody laughed, but he had made his point. We won our case and that is one of the reasons why I am today a lawyer. That was vintage Gani. He would use any lawful means to secure justice for the downtrodden.

His courage is scary. One incident that will forever remain etched in our collective memory was the scene at Yaba, under the military, where he lay down on the ground and dared the security personnel drafted to quell a public protest to run over him with their armoured tank. Thank God, they did not. But that underlines his willingness to pay the supreme sacrifice in the defence of the oppressed.

He has been jailed more than any Nigerian, living or dead, not for stealing public funds or for any crime but for challenging infamy in government; he has been tear-gassed several times; humiliated on countless occasions and brutalised times without number. Yet he remains undaunted, unshaken and unwavering in his single-minded pursuit of the common good. I wish him more years of fruitful contributions to the progress of this country. Gani, may God multiply your kind in our midst.

Espionage and national security

The men of the Joint Task Force (JTF), Operation Restore Hope, in the Niger Delta recently arrested four Americans and a Nigerian for alleged espionage in the creeks of the Niger Delta region. The Commander of the JTF, Brig-Gen. Wuyep Rintip, said that the four Americans were arrested along with a Nigerian, Mr. Joel Bisina, in the creeks of Sapele in Delta State.
Rintip further explained that the suspects were arrested because they were found at a suspicious location in the Niger Delta without the authorization of the security agencies in the area.

Besides, the suspects at the time of arrest were said to posses sophisticated gadgets which raised the suspicion of their having ulterior motives. The JTF also opined that the expatriates and their host violated the nation’s rules that require them to seek clearance and protection from it before embarking on the trip.

The JTF is also working on the theory that since the militants were planning to kidnap 25 expatriates in Delta State, these Americans would have unwittingly offered themselves as victims. The suspects have been flown to Abuja on the orders of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Gen. Andrew Azazi.
The Nigerian, Bisina, is the National Co-ordinator of the Niger Delta Professionals for Development, a non-governmental organization. The group had reportedly spearheaded the search for peace and development in the highly volatile region. It was alleged that the ill-fated trip was meant to expose the foreigners to the plight of the inhabitants of the region with a view to attract foreign investment into the region.

Bisina, the leader of the group, said that their visit was with the knowledge of the CDS. But, the military authorities stoutly denied it saying that there was no record of any appointment with the group or individual with the CDS.

The current espionage is coming on the heels of an earlier one involving Dr. Judith Asuni, two Germans and a Nigerian. They were arrested and arraigned on espionage charges, which were later dropped, and the suspects released for want of evidence. We hope that the present one does not turn out to be a ruse like the previous one. We would want this matter to be thoroughly investigated to unravel the veracity or otherwise of this allegation. Let the investigation be thorough and transparent so that no clues are left unexplored in this fact-finding matter.

We are tired of allegations of espionage that would later turn out to be a hoax. Such arrests in Nigeria have become embarrassing and laughable considering their falsity and increasing occurrence. Espionage matters bother on national security and as such should be treated with utmost seriousness and concern.

Espionage matters are not trifle that our security agents would be making capital of. The issue of security should be taken seriously in view of its obvious implication to public safety. It is a fact that negligence of security reports has caused nations avoidable agonies.

But we want our security agents to be careful in the way they handle such matters. There is need to be cautious in reaching conclusions in these matters.

No tears for Aremu of Ota

PLEASE permit the use of this identification tag Aremu of Ota, a coinage by the hard-hitting General Theophilus Danjuma in a recent interview he granted The Guardian which generated so much controversy and bad blood in certain quarters - understandably. Lt. Gen. Danjuma (rtd.) has the copyright; it only comes in handy for this exercise. Incidentally, Aremu himself is a retired General of the Nigerian Army. Ummhnn! When Generals talk...

For Chief Olusegun Aremu Obasanjo, immediate past president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria who almost forgot that power is transient, these are not the best of times. And he knows it even if he tries to maintain the steely mien of a soldier, pretending that all is well around him. Unfortunately he has just started to reap the seed of discord he sowed in many hearts in the last eight years in office as he served this great nation of ours. This is by no means taking away the credit he deserves in some respects regarding his tenure in Aso Rock. Of course, there are many positive achievements worth recalling about his administration. But I foresee more of the widespread criticism and caustic comments he is getting from every nook and cranny in the months - and years - ahead because to many Nigerians, the bad side of him tilts the scale. Somebody who describes himself as a prophet has even predicted a second term behind bars for the chicken farmer. How sad! My fear is that in future, a content analysis of these comments about the former president could easily portray him as a misfit who deserved to be consigned to the dustbin of history.

Here is a man who fought gallantly in the civil war to keep the country as one indivisible entity. Here is a man upon whom providence thrust leadership mantle following the needless killing of the then Head of State, Gen. Murtala Muhammed in February 1976, although he was very reluctant to step into Murtala's big shoes.

That was his first shot at real power which to his credit he voluntarily relinquished in 1979, even as a military man.

Almost twenty years after, he had to make a crucial personal decision. Providentially, he had just regained freedom from a life threatening incarceration engineered by the state and had hardly settled down to tend to his chickens at Temperance Farms in Ota when interest groups mounted pressure on him to come out to lead the country once more, as a civilian. We were told he consulted wide before taking the decision to join the murky waters of politics. We also heard that some people actually advised against his return. They probably foresaw what Obasanjo did not see at the time. The rest is now history.

As the president, his actions or inactions spoke volumes. He stepped on many toes, which is normal. But he derailed when he got intoxicated by power and wanted another term outside of the constitutionally prescribed two terms. It was his undoing. Thanks to some individuals and interest groups who stood up to him and blocked his moves. His rating as a statesman plummeted. He never recovered as he was literally forced out of office against his will. Who would ever imagine a former president being rubbished at home so soon after his exit? In the international community, I am not too sure many are ready to welcome him yet with open arms as a statesman. Even in Yoruba land, his roots, the animosity is monumental. He tried to foist himself on the race as the leader but unknown to him, it takes more than garrison politics to become one.

In the literal sense, the Yoruba say numerous other calamities take advantage of a bigger one that has befallen a man to rub in the misfortune. The home front is nothing to write home about. Or how do we describe the situation a former president's son is in court for a divorce over the wife's alleged infidelity with his own father who was accused of using contracts as bait to have his way with the daughter-in-law? The former first daughter, a princess, is also on the run from the law having been accused of corruptly enriching herself and others with state funds. We didn't know until now that Senator Obasanjo-Bello could beat the legendary Maradona in a hide and seek game with men of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission(EFCC) . It's just that somebody is being clever with the truth in fishing her out. Let no one pull wool over our eyes that a senator is in Abuja there and her whereabouts could become so intriguing. The distinguished senators too are looking for their colleague and had to arrange a search party! If she is not guilty, why has it become such a difficult thing for her to report herself at the EFCC's office as some former state governors have done, although to their own detriment? The anti-corruption war must be fought to a logical level. Interestingly, the founder of the anti-graft agency is Obasanjo, the father to Senator Obasanjo-Bello.

On assumption of office in May 1999, Obasanjo gleefully treated Nigerians before the klieg lights to his zero tolerance for corruption and pledged among other things a war on the scourge. It is ironic that on leaving office eight years after, he bequeathed a legacy of corruption to the nation. We have just been treated to tales of a rip-off as the House of Representatives investigated the total collapse of electricity supply in the country, well after $16 billion was pumped into the power sector, and many of the contracts facilitated by Obasanjo himself without the much taunted due process of his administration. At least officials in the administration who should know told a shocked nation this much. The father of all probes is around the corner - a look at the oil industry which will be as messy as crude oil itself. Here, the searchlight will beam on oil blocks contracts and the activities of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation(NNPC) and the Department of Petroleum Resources(DPR) in the past eight years or so. You already know the possible target - the de facto Minister of Petroleum himself during the period, the indefatigable former president. But if you ask me, I feel it is much more desirable that the House of Representatives should move the power sector investigation to some logical conclusion before launching into the oil industry. The tendency is that we would soon forget about the shocking discoveries about why we had to remain in darkness.

On daily basis, Nigerian dailies go to town with one headline or the other about Obasanjo. If it is not about how OBJ got 17 plots of land in Abuja it will be how OBJ's rule was a disaster. The headlines are inexhaustive: "how Obasanjo subverted Nigeria's federal system - Itse Sagay; eight years of Obasanjo rule a waste - Oba Akiolu ; Obasanjo, Iyabo are a disgrace to Nigeria, Egba - Balarabe Musa/Afenifere; Obasanjo, Iyabo should face the law - NACOMYO" and so on. A concerned Nigerian in a letter to the editor of a national daily summed it up: 'Everything about Obasanjo has been brought to the laundry.' Yet, this is less than one year after leaving office.

Amid the storm, Obasanjo has chosen to be mute. If silence is golden, this is definitely not the time for the former leader. The nearest thing to breaking the silence was during his unconfirmed meeting with some party (PDP) leaders at Ota where he reportedly berated Nigerians for being an ungrateful lot. By the way, where are the courtiers who filled the hallowed corridors of Aso Rock. The Femi Fani-Kayodes and the Frank Nweke Juniors. I feel sorry for this country.

Could it be that Nigerians cannot be satisfied? I am afraid, no. At the lower level, let us consider Alhaji Lateef Kayode Jakande. It's not as if he did everything right as Governor of Lagos State then. But his footprints are there for all to see. That is why he was given an applause for leadership qualities at the weekend at the Sardauna Magazine Leadership Awards ceremony in Abuja ,long after he left office. Let us for a minute too compare the post-service days of Obasanjo with United States former President Clinton. There are presidents and there are presidents.

Obasanjo's predicament could not have been a better lesson for anyone who longs for a position of trust and leadership. But will Nigerian politicians ever learn? I have no tears for Aremu Okikiolu because he had all of eight years to make a good impression.

Soaring prices of food

The recent worldwide increase in the prices of foodstuff, especially grains, has elicited stern warnings of a growing global food crisis from the World Bank and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), that should be taken seriously by all responsible governments. The World Bank, which confirmed the international dimension of the dreary news in a report entitled “Rising Food Prices: Policy Options and World Bank Response” gave examples of the price of wheat which had increased by a whopping 181 per cent in 36 months, and the overall Global Food Price increase of about 83 per cent. The bank has called on the international community to fill the hunger gap with a $500 million intervention.

The World Bank report came on the heels of news that the Federal Government had to release grains from the nation’s strategic reserves to bring prices down, last month. The inflationary trend has been especially noticeable in the country in the price of the local staple, rice, which rose from between N5.500.00 and N7000.00 in December 2007 to about N10,000.00, or more today.

The price of the grain is expected to go even higher as major producers and exporters of the product, notably China and Thailand, have warned that they are running out of stock, as explained by the Minister of Finance, Dr. Shamsudeen Usman, in Washington DC, recently. Members of the Master Bakers and Caterers Association of Nigeria, citing increases in the price of wheat flour, have also disclosed a plan for a 25% increase in the price of bread, after a brief closure of their factories from April 23, 2008. They are calling for subsidies on wheat flour to make bread cheaper for Nigerians.

The problem of soaring food prices has drawn the attention of the House of Representatives, which recently invited the Minister of Agriculture, Alhaji Sayyadi Abba Ruma, to appear before it to explain the short and long–term plans that the government could adopt to check the situation.

The minister, who laid the blame for the problem in the country on post-harvest losses and over–dependence on food imports, called for a N200 billion special intervention fund to redress the problem and improve the nutrition intake of about 65 per cent of Nigerians who have been determined to be food insecure. He lamented a situation where the nation loses 50 per cent of fruits and vegetables, 30 per cent of tubers and 20 per cent of grains to lack of storage facilities with $2.797 billion spent on food importation in 2006.

The increase in the price of food items is a regrettable development given the already high poverty level and desperate feeding conditions of a large population of our people. It is a direct fallout of our neglect of agriculture, which led to the collapse of the framework for an agricultural revolution, and our status as a net importer of food, which cannot feed its population. This situation, which arose out of our over-dependence on oil as a revenue earner, has to be quickly addressed.

Even without the warning of an impending global food crisis, Nigeria has to work hard to improve food production and reduce prices. It is obvious that the nation today cannot absorb any shocks from disruptions in both the local and international food supply chains.
Our best bet, therefore, is to develop a framework to revolutionize agricultural production. A country with our massive landmass, good climate and a teeming population of unemployed persons, should not be so dependent on food imports.

We need to pay attention to food cultivation and develop policies that will multiply output from that sector. We should invest seriously in production, processing, storage and distribution. The 2008 budget, which gave seven per cent to agriculture, should be improved upon, henceforth, to meet the 10 per cent of annual budget recommendation by the Maputo Declaration.

The warning from both the World Bank and the FAO should serve as a wake up call for action that will lead to massive agricultural growth and increased food supply. We should strengthen the agricultural sector, which once drove our economy and can still do so, if we have the will to commit necessary resources into the effort.

Excess Oil Funds Challenges

THE Revenue Mobilisation and Fiscal Commission, RMAFC, has acquitted itself well in its quest for the use of the countries funds in line with the constitutional provisions that only National Assembly should decide how federally generated revenue is shared.

Revenue from oil is the most contentious of these funds. The Obasanjo administration created the Excess Crude Oil account Funds to warehouse funds, in excess of the budget benchmark for the sale of crude oil.

The account was at the disposal of the former President, who put it into uses that matched his own plans, one of which was the national power projects that are currently under the scrutiny of the House of Representatives.

Sections 80 and 81 of the 1999 Constitution state that all funds the Federation earns should go the Consolidated Revenue Account. The Excess Crude Oil account is therefore illegal. Debates about how extra money from oil should be used are resolved in favour of the monetary authorities who claim that the economy could go into a spin if the Constitution is followed on this issue. The excess oil fund also boosts foreign reserves.

Dr. Haman Tukur, Chairman of RMAFC has proposed for the money to be spent on infrastructure. This proposal would halt the practice of the Federation Accounts Allocation Committee, withdrawing occasionally from the money to augment funds shared at its monthly gathering.

Reasonable as this proposal seems, it has its challenges. The most tasking of these are legality and equity. How would we ensure that these infrastructures are of national benefit? When we talk about infrastructure, attention is always on urban Nigeria, not the rural areas. Funds in the Excess Crude Oil account belong to all tiers of government, with various responsibilities.

Is it equitable for the money to be managed from a central purse, through the dictates of the National Assembly, when the constitutional provision is for it to be shared to all tiers of government?
The National Assembly can determine the method for sharing money in the Federation Account, not how states and local governments use the money.

To determine expenditure, the National Assembly would then be looking at the Appropriation Act, which it can only make for the Federal Government and the Federal Capital Territory. Our Constitution is succinct about this.

RMAFC must distinguish between revenue allocation and budgeting. The new proposal confuses both. The National Assembly approving the proposal may be a veneer of legality, but it would amend Sections 80 and 81 illegally.

An agreement on how to spend this money would require more profound proposals to ensure equity, instead of stopping one illegality for another - stopping an illegal fund and handing its proceeds illegally to the Federal Government for use at its discretion. It would be a worse position than the current practice.

The solution actually lies on derivation, where various tiers of government generate their own funds and pay appropriate taxes to the Federal Government.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The EFCC and Iyabo Obasanjo

The public perception of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is that it is an outfit that does its job, sometimes ruthlessly, without minding whose ox is gored. Having arrested the famed high and mighty in the society including former governors, ministers and even Inspector General of Police, the anti-graft agency can hardly be described as one which shies away from its challenges.
But the recent circus-run between the commission and Senator Dr Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello, the daughter of former President Olusegun Obasanjo casts some flakes of doubt on the sincerity and commitment of the EFCC. This has to do with the alleged attempt by the commission to arrest the senator and bring her to book over her alleged misdeeds.
The senator had been named in a N300 million scam in the Health ministry, in which she was said to have received the sum of N10 million, allegedly on behalf of the senate committee on Health over which she is the chairman.
The said sum, the unspent fund of the ministry ought to have been returned to the national treasury as directed by Mr President. It is both in the failure to do so, as well as sharing the “loot” that the Minister of Health. Professor Adenike Grange and her deputy, Mr Aduku were not only forced to resign from the cabinet, but have also been arrested and charged to court for alleged stealing of public funds.
The breakdown of the recipients of the ‘cornered’funds had shown all those who partook in the sharing—including Mrs Obasanjo-Bello. All those who were found to have been indicted in the preliminary findings by the EFCC have been arraigned before an Abuja High court. Only Iyabo-Obasanjo was arraigned in absentia. The EFCC had claimed that she was “at large”, while some media reports announced that she had fled to Cuba. Few days after, Iyabo spoke up and accused the EFCC of lying, stating firmly, that she was not only available, she was indeed at the senate chambers on the very day the commission was alleging that she was at large in the courts, stressing that nobody had come to arrest her. She however sent her counsels to represent her at the arraignment.
Despite her declaration of being around, it took the EFCC about three days before warming up to arrest her, at a time Professor Grange et al had been detained in EFCC custody. Even when the EFCC finally summoned courage to go for Iyabo, it was an operation that ended up being bungled in needless drama and hollow theatrics.
First, we are not sure the EFCC had followed the basic procedures for the arrest of a suspect in this case. Pray, was she ever invited by the EFCC and she failed to show up , after the first round of obtaining her statement? The public is blank on this.
If indeed, the EFCC is serious about arresting Senator Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello, would it really be this difficult? How could a suspect the EFCC operatives is tailing from the National assembly drive so leisurely to her residence in Jabi district where another set of EFCC operatives are supposed to be laying siege in waiting, escape all the vigilance of these men, get into her apartment and eventually escape by scaling a high fence? The plot of the EFCC reports beggars belief.
It is either the EFCC is playing on the intelligence of the public on this matter, or the commission has become terribly deficient in its duties. Either way, the image of the commission suffers bloody nose.
We are not convinced that the EFCC has shown sufficient commitment to the arrest and proper prosecution of the senator. In any case, what stopped the EFCC from leaving a message or warrant in her office or residence to report and see whether she will do so or not instead of the endless theatrics the public has been treated to.
We also believe that the distinguished senator must make herself available to answer for her role in the saga. The so-called clearance she got from her fellow senators is immaterial in the eyes of the law, because the senate is not the court of law.
All said, we expect the EFCC to do its duties courageously and do less of needless dramatization, no matter who is involved.

Our Allergic President

PRESIDENT Umaru Musa Yar’Adua went to Germany for a medical review, his spokesman said. Additional details have it that it was a case of allergic reaction, in which case a review could mean an unsuccessful treatment of the ailment in Nigeria.

What concerns us, however, is foreign medical treatment for our public office holders. It is an area the examples are appalling, just as medical facilities in Nigeria have fallen into decay, notwithstanding all the noise about the renovation of the teaching hospitals two years ago.

A few weeks to the elections last year, there was an international scare over the Yar’Adua’s health. He was his party’s presidential candidate. Again, Germany was where he was rushed to treat severe nasal congestion, which hampered his breathing. Yar’Adua blamed the tedious campaign trips across the country for his illness then.

We wish the President quick recovery. Nigerians need him around to attend to the monumental neglect the country has suffered over the years. One of the minor indicators of that neglect is that he has to be flown abroad to mend the slightest ache.

For a private citizen, who would have been depending on private funds for his health bills, Nigerians would not have bothered. The issue is really more profound than the money spent on our President’s health.

It is more about leading by example, one area the President promised he would be different. Is the President not alarmed that there are no hospitals in Nigeria that can treat him? This concern is being raised because we have been assured that this presidency would be different. His trip abroad to obtain medical services repeats the same verdict of poor services that has been passed on the Nigerian health system for years by those who run it.

We should remember we are talking about a President who calls him a servant-leader! Is it then appropriate for our servant and our leader to seek medical intervention abroad, when millions of Nigerians, who he serves, die from common illnesses like typhoid, malaria, dysentery, guinea worms, and other diseases that are mostly water-borne. How many more die from breathing difficulties, in view of pollution in the country?

They are not asking to be taken abroad. Many of them would be happy to get medical attention from the old dispensaries that now stand as relics of a forgotten past. They have no options, and it hurts that nobody cares about them.

Suggestions have always been made for our leaders to give up their privilege of going for treatment abroad. It is an obscene privilege that hurts the poor, and makes it even more difficult for public health faculties to get attention, since those who can effect changes do not taste the paucity of services in Nigerian hospitals.

The President should set the example in this. If he makes medical services of his taste available, more Nigerians would use. Nigeria too can earn foreign exchange from our neighbours who would patronise the facilities.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Environmental degradation and loss of arable land

RECENTLY, the Minister of Environment, Housing and Urban Development, Mrs. Halima Taylor Alao bemoaned the rate at which Nigeria is losing valuable land to the forces of desertification and ocean surge in the northern and southern parts of the country. The Minister expressed her disgust in Abuja when she received the Bauchi State Governor, Mallam Isa Yuguda, who came to seek the assistance of the Federal Government to combat desert encroachment in his state.

According to the Minister, in an effort to tackle the menace of desert encroachment and prevent further loss of arable land, the Ministry is planning to plant about 70 million trees under the Green Wall Sahara (GWS) project, which is expected to cover most of the 11 frontline states in the north. In the same vein, she stated that proactive steps would be taken towards preventing the incidence of flooding and coastal erosion in the south.

It is no longer news that large chunks of the country's landscape have been lost to erosion and desertification. In the north, for example, the Sahara Desert is advancing at increasing speed into the terrestrial landscape of the adjoining states. We have stressed this fact in our previous editorials and yet nothing has been done. At the moment, desert encroachment has practically swallowed parts of Sokoto, Kebbi, Kano, Jigawa, Bauchi, Yobe and Borno states. Further southwards, fast moving desert conditions have caught up with Adamawa, Gombe, Kwara, Kogi, Nasarawa, Niger and Plateau states. As it is now, desertification has virtually affected the entire savanna landscape of the country.

In the southern states, there is considerable anxiety over the extent of ecological destruction caused by aggravated soil erosion in many states. For instance, in parts of Anambra State, including Ekwulobia and Agulu Nanka, hundreds of family homes and thousands of people have been displaced by gully erosion. Villages and farmlands have disappeared due to massive landslide caused by gullies.

Soil erosion has similarly wreaked havoc in parts of Imo, Abia, Edo, Ondo and Benue states. The country's coastline is not spared from the environmental damage. The exposed coastline stretching from Lagos into the Niger Delta states are continuously washed away by tidal waves as the coastline recedes inwards. In all, the country is facing severe environmental degradation, which unfortunately is not being given any serious attention by the authorities.

The Environment Minister was right to advocate the importance of tree planting as a solution to the loss of ecological landscape. One common denominator in losing land to either desertification or soil erosion is the loss of vegetal cover. Regrettably, Nigeria is among the countries in Africa where massive destruction of forest is taking place because of the supply of firewood. The current energy crisis plaguing Nigeria is taking severe toll on the indigenous forests across the country.

Firewood has become the main and only dependable source of domestic energy just as the price of gas and kerosene remains prohibitive and unaffordable to the average Nigerian family. There is hardly any Nigerian family that does not depend on firewood in one way or the other for heating or cooking.

In absolute terms, it has been found through research that Nigerians consume from 1.9kg to 4kg/day/capita of firewood depending on household size. When applied to the country's population currently put at about 140 million people, the country consumes about 266 million kilogrammes of firewood daily. This is indeed enormous for the forest to bear.

There is a flourishing firewood business enterprise in the country. Firewood merchants are aggressively ravaging the country's ecosystem through massive firewood harvesting. Some traditional industrial processing businesses such as fish processing and palm oil production depend wholly on firewood as source of energy. Nigeria is a major producer of palm oil.

In the light of the foregoing, the solution to combating desertification and soil erosion lies in tackling the problem of forest destruction, which in turn requires tackling the country's energy crisis.

Be that as it may, the question should be asked: what the states are doing with the ecological fund that was set aside to tackle ecological problems? There is nothing to suggest that the ecological fund is being properly utilised. The fund is unaccounted for, as it has been treated so far as booty for the governors. It is disheartening that money meant for tackling ecological problems is pocketed while the country's ecosystem disappears.

The Federal Government cannot address ecological problems in all the states. Under the federal structure, each state is responsible for dealing with environmental problems within its borders. The Federal Government may assist in severe cases when it is absolutely necessary, and it should see the need to do so.

With regard to tree planting, experience from dry land regions of Eastern and Southern Africa shows that effective reforestation programme are people-oriented. The Green Belt Movement project initiated by Wangari Mathai in Kenya has demonstrated the need to carry the people along. The mobilisation of grassroots population in extensive tree planting has the capacity to transform large expanse of degraded landscape into green belts.

On this note, both the people and groups in civil society should be involved in the much talked about Green Wall Sahara project. The states in the north should mobilise their people in a conscious effort to re-green their degraded landscape. Similarly, the southern states should carry the people along in tree planting campaigns. The ecological fund should be applied judiciously and monitored to ensure that the states and local governments work together to tackle emerging environmental challenges. Faced with the challenge of climate change to which Nigeria is vulnerable, the problem of ecological destruction is bound to worsen.

Regrettably, Nigeria has contributed nothing but has remained silent on the matter. The states and local governments should show a greater determination to tackle environmental degradation in their areas of jurisdiction.

The Challenge Before Pakistani Coalition

In what could be described as a big set back for President Pervez Musharraf and his United States backer, but good news to the people of Pakistan, two Pakistani opposition parties have agreed to a coalition government after they won most seats in the country’s parliamentary election. Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) led by Asif Zardari, the husband of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and Pakistani Muslim League Nawaz (PML – N) led by Nawaz Sharif another former prime had announced a new alliance which gives them not only control of the country’s main legislature but also opportunity to form the new government. This development which most Pakistanis welcomed would certainly put pressure on president Pervez Musharraf a former military dictator who had plunged the country into serious crisis following his iron-fist rule. Musharraf had seized power from then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in a military coup in 1999, resigned from the army without vacating office and got himself manipulated into the presidency in October last year in a parliamentary vote boycotted by the opposition because of its unconstitutionality. The dictator had colluded with a faction of Pakistani Muslim League called (PML – Q) to railroad his sham election.
Musharraf is a long term ally of the United States and had since his take over of government in 1999 come to be seen as the most dependable of all the Pakistani leadership elites in the fight against terrorism in the India sub-continent and Asia generally. As a result, the Bush administration, to the dismay of people of Pakistan and the international community has shut its eyes to the dictatorial excesses of Musharraf. The General sent his country on the boil last year when he sacked the country’s Chief Justice and other Supreme Court judges for refusing to cooperate in an attempt to civilianise himself. This particular action among other anti-democratic policies sent the country’s opposition parties, human rights groups and civil society against his rule and the resultant violence was exploited to declare a state of emergency. It was also part of his divide and rule tactics against the opposition that made him fraternise with exiled ex-prime minister Benazir Bhutto who was eventually assassinated on her return home during a political rally, an incident that observers believe was Musharraf’s government’s handiwork.
The international outcry that followed Bhutto’s assassination forced Musharrat to relax the emergency rule and allow the parliamentary election in which he and his collaborators in PML –Q have now been worsted. Both Zardari and Sharif’s parties now have more than half of the new parliament’s seat. With other small parties they may now be able to have a two-thirds majority, enough to call for president Musharraf’s impeachment. The president has announced that the National Assembly would soon convene during which a new prime minister to be nominated by Pakistan People’s Party would be installed. The lawmakers are also expected to debate Mr. Musharraf’s fate, but it is uncertain whether they can muster the necessary votes to force him out of office which is what the majority of Pakistani people have always wanted. And if this does not happen soon, then General Musharraf would continue to remain a big albatross to the democratization process in the country. With him in the saddle, it is unlikely that the tension his rule has generated will abate which has a serious implication for a country possessing the nuclear weapon in a long troubled region.
In the meantime, the new coalition government must seize the momentum created by their parliamentary victory. The restoration of the deposed judges which the coalition has pledged to bring about through a parliamentary resolution within 30 days of formation of new government must not be reneged on. This and the restoration of civil liberties in general will help ease tension and civil strives. The Coalition must also be wary of Musharraf’s antics, as he would want to divide them for his own selfish ambition and that of his American backers. They must work together in the interest of the country and its people. The greater challenge therefore is how to contain the former general and how to steer the country away from the path of violence that has consumed the nation’s former leaders and many ordinary Pakistanis. Peace and democracy in Pakistan can only be achieved if the opposition remains together and not get consumed by private partisan interests

The Challenge Before Pakistani Coalition

In what could be described as a big set back for President Pervez Musharraf and his United States backer, but good news to the people of Pakistan, two Pakistani opposition parties have agreed to a coalition government after they won most seats in the country’s parliamentary election. Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) led by Asif Zardari, the husband of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and Pakistani Muslim League Nawaz (PML – N) led by Nawaz Sharif another former prime had announced a new alliance which gives them not only control of the country’s main legislature but also opportunity to form the new government. This development which most Pakistanis welcomed would certainly put pressure on president Pervez Musharraf a former military dictator who had plunged the country into serious crisis following his iron-fist rule. Musharraf had seized power from then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in a military coup in 1999, resigned from the army without vacating office and got himself manipulated into the presidency in October last year in a parliamentary vote boycotted by the opposition because of its unconstitutionality. The dictator had colluded with a faction of Pakistani Muslim League called (PML – Q) to railroad his sham election.
Musharraf is a long term ally of the United States and had since his take over of government in 1999 come to be seen as the most dependable of all the Pakistani leadership elites in the fight against terrorism in the India sub-continent and Asia generally. As a result, the Bush administration, to the dismay of people of Pakistan and the international community has shut its eyes to the dictatorial excesses of Musharraf. The General sent his country on the boil last year when he sacked the country’s Chief Justice and other Supreme Court judges for refusing to cooperate in an attempt to civilianise himself. This particular action among other anti-democratic policies sent the country’s opposition parties, human rights groups and civil society against his rule and the resultant violence was exploited to declare a state of emergency. It was also part of his divide and rule tactics against the opposition that made him fraternise with exiled ex-prime minister Benazir Bhutto who was eventually assassinated on her return home during a political rally, an incident that observers believe was Musharraf’s government’s handiwork.
The international outcry that followed Bhutto’s assassination forced Musharrat to relax the emergency rule and allow the parliamentary election in which he and his collaborators in PML –Q have now been worsted. Both Zardari and Sharif’s parties now have more than half of the new parliament’s seat. With other small parties they may now be able to have a two-thirds majority, enough to call for president Musharraf’s impeachment. The president has announced that the National Assembly would soon convene during which a new prime minister to be nominated by Pakistan People’s Party would be installed. The lawmakers are also expected to debate Mr. Musharraf’s fate, but it is uncertain whether they can muster the necessary votes to force him out of office which is what the majority of Pakistani people have always wanted. And if this does not happen soon, then General Musharraf would continue to remain a big albatross to the democratization process in the country. With him in the saddle, it is unlikely that the tension his rule has generated will abate which has a serious implication for a country possessing the nuclear weapon in a long troubled region.
In the meantime, the new coalition government must seize the momentum created by their parliamentary victory. The restoration of the deposed judges which the coalition has pledged to bring about through a parliamentary resolution within 30 days of formation of new government must not be reneged on. This and the restoration of civil liberties in general will help ease tension and civil strives. The Coalition must also be wary of Musharraf’s antics, as he would want to divide them for his own selfish ambition and that of his American backers. They must work together in the interest of the country and its people. The greater challenge therefore is how to contain the former general and how to steer the country away from the path of violence that has consumed the nation’s former leaders and many ordinary Pakistanis. Peace and democracy in Pakistan can only be achieved if the opposition remains together and not get consumed by private partisan interests

NFA's New Coaches

HOW Shuaibu Amodu would end his third tenure as Super Eagles coach is more important than the fact that he has held the position thrice. References to him as a third term coach confirm some of the forebodings about his choice.
His selection was bound to be controversial, considering that each time he held the position, he left in circumstances that overshadowed his results. Moreover, our football is now at the foot of the ladder.

After the debacle of the Nations Cup in Ghana, Nigerian football ran for weeks with uncertainties. The blighted coach Berti Vogts, who with his astounding pay package, managed to return Nigeria’s worst Nations Cup result in 28 years, abandoned the team and the Nigeria Football Association played ostrich all along.

NFA’s defence one day would be that Amodu was appointed in line with the clamour of Nigerians for an indigenous coach. That sentiment though well situated, did not mean that Nigerians wanted just any Nigerian coach. There are good coaches, who appear mostly unappointable, by the skewed standards of the NFA.

Stephen Keshi, who qualified minions Togo for the 2006 World Cup, is one. Everyone considered him a natural heir to the position. He had the pedigree – results, a rounded playing career, and the players respect him, something that is key, but missing in their relationship with Nigerian coaches.

Keshi had a major minus, he speaks his mind, he could also insist on things being done in particular ways. Nigerian football authorities do not want someone with Keshi’s convictions. Other countries were falling over themselves to pick Keshi. Mali finally engaged him.

What terms would Keshi have sought that Mali met, but Nigeria could not? Why was Keshi not considered? These questions are still agitating the minds of Nigerians. They cannot be wished away by calls for all to support Amodu, and his imposed assistants.

Insinuations that Amodu was also not the best in the interview cast blurs on the appointments, even before the results become factors in accessing Amodu. Other curious things happened.

The National Sports Commission summoned what it tagged a stakeholders meeting where sports journalists voted for their choice of head coach from those who the NFA interviewed. The sports journalists voted in support of Amodu’s appointment, meaning they cannot criticise it!

Amodu ended his two earlier tenures following rancorous encounters with her employers. His results then had the public on his side. The sophistication of the game at the international level since then has overtaken him. Our players want coaches who apply similar tactics as obtain abroad in their approach to training and the game. It will not take too long for this issue to resurface.

The NFA’s sinister motive in this appointment could be to prove that there are no Nigerian coaches fit to do the job, so it can resort to foreign coaches in the Vogts hue. They would return to Keshi soon, but it would have been too late.

Hypocrisy of another kind

IN January 2007, months before he was named the winner of the unresolved presidential election, controversy broke out about the true state of Umaru Musa Yar'Adua's health. Sixteen months later, Yar'Adua's health condition has returned to the front page of national newspapers. Although his minders have been quick to play down the seriousness of the President's health, there is no indication that the debate would disappear soon. Even as he signed the long-delayed 2008 budget on Monday this week, Yar'Adua looked pale and unwell.

By training, medical doctors (at home and overseas) are skilled to assess the conditions of their patients, to diagnose symptoms that could prove terminal if undetected, and also to assist in treating their patients. Prompt diagnosis serves as early warning signals and helps to detect future trouble spots. There is no better place to seek medical check-up or treatment than a highly equipped and professionally staffed hospital. Of course, healthcare in Nigeria is in a mess. But governments are elected to solve problems and to provide for the basic needs of the people. Healthcare is a basic need.

The debate about Yar'Adua's health has also raised questions about whether it is appropriate for a president to shun the services provided by local medical hospitals and consultants in preference for overseas medical facilities and specialists. We are in awe of overseas medical institutions. No. Our political leaders are in some kind of debt to overseas medical hospitals, specialists and consultants. It is hypocritical for political leaders to encourage us to patronise national institutions in the name of patriotism while their actions contradict what they preach.

There are troubling contradictions that must be resolved by anyone who seeks to justify Yar'Adua's decision to go overseas for medical check-up. Yar'Adua has a personal physician who is paid by the state to look after the president's health. But Yar'Adua also prefers to patronise the services of overseas medical specialists. This much we can deduce from the media statement attributed to one of the president's special assistants. Each time Yar'Adua rushes overseas for medical check-up or treatment, he casts an adverse vote of confidence on his personal physician and the medical facility that is attached to the presidency in Abuja. Each time Yar'Adua goes overseas for medical treatment, he makes an unmistakable statement that neither the president's physician nor the Abuja hospital is capable of dealing with the president's medical condition.

It might seem alright for the president to patronise overseas specialists because he can afford to pay for their services but that kind of behaviour also suggests the president has no regard for the quality of medical services available to the rest of us in public hospitals in the country.

The last time Yar'Adua staggered on the floor of his presidential campaign podium and his doctor noticed some unusual movements in his heart, he (Yar'Adua) was rushed to Germany straight from his campaign camp for medical attention. That was in early March 2007. One year later, Yar'Adua, now president, has hopped off to Germany because something unusual has gripped his health and it was deemed urgent enough to hurry him overseas for proper attention.

We can now glean a standard response from the Presidency each time Yar'Adua shows signs of fading health - don't muck around with "ill-trained" medical doctors and poorly equipped hospitals in Nigeria. Take the president to an overseas medical facility once you notice anything unusual in his medical condition.

As president, Yar'Adua's health deserves priority attention. But does priority attention justify taking him to an overseas medical hospital or clinic even for a check-up? What message is Yar'Adua conveying to the nation by patronising overseas medical institutions and belittling local doctors and hospitals? Is he saying that public and private hospitals in the country are not good enough to attend to the president's health? Is he suggesting that it's alright for political leaders to undertake medical check-up overseas because they can afford to do so? Is he suggesting that political leaders are morally entitled to shop at overseas medical institutions whenever their heartbeat goes off their regular rhythm?

Is Yar'Adua implying that medical specialists and consultants in the country lack the professional training and skills to treat political leaders? Is the president hinting that medical institutions that train doctors in Nigeria are glorified high schools? Is Yar'Adua insinuating that it is better for university teaching hospitals in the country to shut down, relocate overseas or auction their facilities to the highest foreign bidder? Is the president implying indirectly that the sustained campaigns by the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) for better funding of public hospitals are justified or unjustified? Surely, if public hospitals are not good enough for our political "servant-leaders", they cannot be good for anybody.

There are antecedents to Yar'Adua's latest health scare. Amid swirling rumours of his poor health early last year, journalists sought to clarify directly from the man the true state of his health. So, when Yar'Adua visited President Olusegun Obasanjo at the presidential villa in Abuja on Thursday, January 4, 2007, Yar'Adua was asked pointedly whether he was in good health or poor health. He responded: "I am fit and healthy." Yar'Adua added he would be happy to prove his enemies wrong by engaging them in a game of squash. "I will invite them to a game of squash. If they can play 12 straight sets with me, they are welcome." He missed the point. Good health is not all about playing squash.

Yar'Adua's claim to good health did not jell with public opinion because the Nigerian Tribune of Thursday, January 11, 2007, noted how Obasanjo had acknowledged that Yar'Adua once suffered from ill health but Obasanjo also insisted that Yar'Adua had since been "healed" as far back as 2001. Not many people, in particular medical doctors would accept Yar'Adua's argument because playing squash (or any game for that matter) is clearly not sufficient evidence of good health. There are many people who don't play squash but maintain good health. Playing squash might be a very good form of physical exercise but it is incorrect to assert that a good game of squash is all we need to maintain excellent health. Good health is like a nutritious salad. It comes with the right mix of ingredients, such as regular medical checks, good exercises, as well as healthy food.

For clarity, the rush to overseas medical institutions by Nigerian leaders did not start last year. At a point during his eight-year dictatorship, Ibrahim Babangida dashed to France to treat a recurring knee problem. At about the same time that Yar'Adua was guest of a German medical facility in March 2007, vice president Atiku Abubakar was also flown overseas for urgent medical treatment of his problematic leg which, we were informed, developed after an accident during a round of physical exercise.

Even the disgraced Bayelsa State Governor, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, also went to Germany for another kind of medical treatment -- to repair a bulging tummy. That medical trip marked the beginning of his troubles because it was on his way back from Germany that Alamieyeseigha decided to stop over in London. His predicament multiplied in London when he was picked up by the Metropolitan Police and charged with money laundering.

The quality of services provided in our medical institutions and hospitals will never improve if political leaders continue to shun their responsibilities. Yar'Adua and his ministers must show greater commitment to improving the deteriorating medicare situation in the country, not by running to overseas medical hospitals for personal medical treatment. The question that confronts all of us is: how can the nation ever uplift the standard of medical practice in the country and the poor state of diagnostic equipment in hospitals when the policy makers are more interested in superior services offered by overseas medical institutions?

NERC Can Do More

NOT much is known about what the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission does. The truth, though, is that Nigerians are unlikely to take an organisation that has anything to do with electricity serious.

Some circumstances are thrusting NERC into the public glare. The death of a girl through electrocution in Abuja is one of them. The incident took place last April 18.

The Abuja Electricity Distribution Company Limited, AEDCL, one of the many companies that the former National Electric Power Authority, NEPA, spewed, without any visible improvement in power supply, is in the dock. When the death was reported to NERC, it set out guidelines for all operations of AEDCL, as they relate to the location of their transformers and sub-stations, based on NERC’s initial investigations of the incident.

NERC asked AEDCL to - Clear the bushes and trees in the sub-station; Construct barbed wire fence and fit a gate to separate the place from the walk way; Compensate the family of the victim for the loss; and Carry out an audit of the substations in Abuja and come up with a programme for making them secure.

AEDCL responded with details of its compliance, adding that it was embarking on campaigns to sensitise the public to the dangers of being close to its installations. NERC was not satisfied. After inspections of the installations, including one last February, it thinks AEDCL still runs foul of existing regulations.

“The Commission carried out several inspections of the sub-stations in the respondent’s area of operation, the last being that of February 22, 2008, and observed that they have not been secured to ensure the safety of lives and property as directed by the Commission and in accordance with existing regulations,” NERC stated in a public notice inviting AEDCL to a hearing on the issue. NERC should do more with the enormous powers the law gives it.

Electricity installations all over the country are hardly constructed with a consideration for the safety of the public. If a modern city like Abuja has power installations that endanger the safety of the public, it takes little imagination to know what happens in places with power installations that are more than 50 years old. Some newer ones could be more dangers.

Its inspections of the AEDCL installations should be extended to other parts of the country. The findings would be startling. The public does not even know that NERC handles cases of electrocution, which abound all over the country, especially when the rains come. The Abuja case cannot be treated in isolation.

NERC should be proactive by setting standards for installation of electricity equipment and ensure compliance. It serves little purpose calling for hearing after deaths or destructions from power installations.

This case could open a floodgate of petitions to NERC over power installations that put the public in perpetual danger. NERC’s capacity to tackle the cases can be enhanced by enforcing regulations that would minimise these cases.

Iyabo Obasanjo and the EFCC

"NO. No. No. I think these EFCC people are overdoing it. Don't they respect anybody? Can you see what they are doing to the General's daughter?"

"What are they doing to Obasanjo's daughter, please?"

"They laid siege on her house in Abuja and tried to arrest her, and she had to escape through the back door"

"No. They said she scaled the fence and bolted away from the waiting hands of the law. They gave the impression that she ran like a frightened chicken. Did they not say they managed to arrest one of her shoes which fell off as she gathered speed like Marion Jones on an athletic dash."

"That is the EFCC's version of the story. Did you see her jumping the fence? I mean does she look like the kind of lady that will scale the fence and take to her heels? I mean, this is a heavy duty lady, a Ph.D, and the daughter of one of the most important Nigerians alive today."

" I see you are up to some form of mischief"

"I mean let us look at it this way. The EFCC must know that there are some persons in this country that they cannot just treat anyhow. A former President's daughter? Chasing her across the fence? Can you imagine American security forces chasing a distinguished former First daughter like that? "

"I am listening"

"Those EFCC officers must realise first and foremost that the EFCC was created by President Obasanjo. If the lady's father did not set up the EFCC, all of them would still be regular policemen chasing N20 bribe all over the place and struggling to earn their salaries as and when due. Nigerians should learn to show some gratitude. And how much are we talking about, anyway?"

"N10 million belonging to the Nigerian people; the EFCC simply wants Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello, also bearing the title of a distinguished Senator of the Federal Republic, to come and explain how public funds ended up in her pocket. She has been charged to court. She is expected to report to the EFCC and have her day in court like all citizens under the law."

"She says she is being victimised. What of the Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Health. Why is he not being hounded?"

"Are you aware that Iyabo is practically on the run and may be declared wanted by the EFCC? She has not been sighted again anywhere near the National Assembly. Even her house, I hear, has been deserted."

"Because of N10 million? I don't believe that."

"It is not the amount that matters. It is about the alleged offence, being a receiver of stolen funds, abuse of public office, and aiding and abetting the act of corruption I don't think the young lady knows what she is doing to herself."

"Is that what she has been charged with or are you just expanding the charge list?"

"Wait a moment. Are you really serious about what you are saying? Because I assume that you are just being funny?"

"What do you think?"

"I think Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello is misbehaving by playing hide and seek with the EFCC. She had promised to report to the EFCC and appear in court to respond to the charges against her. That is what she should do. That is what she should have done. Nobody is above the law"

"I try to imagine how President Obasanjo will be feeling right now."

"His feelings are actually not important in this matter, right now. When he was President, the General always said that there would be no sacred cows. But he ended up creating so many. His administration did not show any mercy towards those that it brought before the law. What the Yar'Adua government is doing is simply to give further effect to Obasanjo's own logic. He created the EFCC. We expect him to advise his daughter to respect due process and the laws of the land. What comes round, goes round. In nature, nothing is lost."

"She is an adult, she can make up her own mind."

"By running away from the EFCC, Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello is knocking the lid off one of her father's legacies. Why are the man's children disappointing him?"

"You think it is easy to face the law? Did you not see how one EFCC official was trying to push Professor Adenike Grange? If those EFCC officials had arrested Iyabo the day they went to her house, they could have put her in handcuffs. I don't know whether she actually jumped the fence or not, but if she did, I can understand. I don't know about you."

"You don't understand. You are just ridiculing her."

"How? Who am I to ridicule the daughter of a former President and a very distinguished Senator of the Federal Republic?"

"Listening to you, you know I just remembered some of those people that the former President used the EFCC to frighten, humiliate and embarrass, and all those people he got the state to label as thieves, and all the persons he pushed out of the Presidential race. They must all be having a good laugh now at his expense. In particular, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar must be laughing so much his ribs must be aching by now. And people like Tafa Balogun, Joshua Dariye and Diepreye Alamiyeseigha are suddenly beginning to look like victims. Even Orji Kalu's mother."

"Nothing is ever straight forward in Nigeria. You should know that."

"But there are serious lessons in the Obasanjo story. What is going on simply means that indeed power is transient. When you are in power people respect you, and bow and scrape before you, but the moment you no longer have authority and influence, you are treated as if you are worse than the door mat. If the EFCC had gone after President Obasanjo himself, and he proves difficult, you'd be surprised that they will push him and maltreat him."

"And they will justify it on the grounds that the law does not respect anybody."

"Certainly The state is all-powerful. People should always remember this. And that is why when you are in a privileged position, you should learn to be humble and careful. And it is not just in government that this is true, even in the private sector. If you are the boss in a company and you think that you are so important, the moment you lose that position, you'd be surprised that the same receptionists who used to bow before you will keep you waiting and ask you to fill the visitor's form should you show up in that company again. Who would have dared lay siege on Iyabo Obasanjo's home when she was holding court as Nigeria's First daughter?" "

"To be an ex or a former whatever is a curse in Africa. They make it look like you have lost relevance. They treat you like a pest."

"It is the way of the world. The day Tony Blair left office as Prime Minister of Great Britain, he went home in a train. He became a commoner instantly. And that is why people should be careful. The Obasanjo clan was not careful enough. Even in the Presidential Villa, the Obasanjo boys who are still there are being exposed as bribe takers and double agents. One of them was said to have collected $200, 000 to leak a document."

"Do you know that some people who call themselves the Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders also went to the National Assembly this week to campaign against former President Obasanjo and his daughter? They want the two of them to be probed by the Nigerian state. And in Ota two weeks ago, the entire Ota community rose against Obasanjo and insisted that he should leave Aworiland. Nationally, locally and even within his own family, the man is under pressure."

"To be fair, sometimes I get the impression that some people out there are determined to teach former President Obasanjo a lesson. Dictators do not have an after-life It is either they die in office or they face life-long humiliation. The General offended too many people. "

"But you are right, I share the view that the protection of power and office cannot be relied upon."

"You can say that to former Governor Aliyu Wammako of Sokoto state."

"You known when the man was removed by the Court of Appeal as Governor of Sokoto state, only last week, he was attending the wedding of the daughter of former President Ibrahim Babangida. All his aides and security details abandoned him at the party the moment they heard the news that he was no longer Governor. They drove away immediately to report for duty under the new dispensation"

"I read somewhere that he was the one who asked them to leave."

"And you believe that? Look, the man was lucky the Governor of Niger State lent him a car. He would have gone back to Sokoto in a chartered cab. And if he didn't have money on him, he would have trekked. In fact, he could not return to Sokoto, he had to go to Abuja first. He must have had difficulties sleeping soundly that night. To be thus at one moment and to be nothing soon after is a sad fate to behold"

"That is why African leaders don't ever want to leave office. This is why Mugabe is holding on to the Presidential election results in Zimbabwe. This is why President Obasanjo wanted a third term in office. I think we the people are part of the problem. We tend to be nasty to the powerless."

"No. People in fact respect good leaders. It is important that persons who hold positions of authority realise that the only thing that is important about them is the service that they render, not their ego and certainly not their personal fears."

"But et tu Umoru? Et tu Umoru treating my daughter like this? Et tu Umoru humiliating me like this?

"Et tu? Et tu? Who be dat? Who talk dat just now?"

"General Obasanjo."

"What can he possibly be tu-ing about?"

"President Umaru Yar'Adua"

"Please leave that man alone. Have you not heard that he has gone back to Germany?

"There is definitely a German dimension to this Presidency. But we thank God that the President is able to run the country effectively from a German hospital, thanks to technology. After all, with a phone call he managed to avert a crisis in Bayelsa state when some forces did not want the Speaker of the House of Assembly to be installed as the Acting Governor after the removal of the Governor by the Court of Appeal."

"I recommend that we should set up an annexe of the Nigerian Presidential Villa in Germany. I like President Yar'Adua. I don't see any reason why he can't run Nigeria from Germany with the help of e-mail, phone calls and text messages. I mean why not?"

"Yes, why not? Since in any case, there is no Nigerian hospital, no Nigerian doctor in any local hospital, not even a private hospital inside Nigeria, that can take care of the President's health."

"What do you expect when those who are supposed to take care of the health sector and raise standards are busy sharing money including your sister, your very own representative in the Senate, Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello."

"Make una leave my sister alone o. Hen hen. If she like make she jump fence, na exercise she been dey do."

"You should advise her to go and meet the EFCC in court"

" It is not your fault.. You mean if the EFCC really wants to arrest Iyabo, or the court actually wants her, they won't know how to go about it? "

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Yet Another Mismanaged Police Funds

By now, the rank and file of the police Force must be thoroughly embarrassed by the spate of mismanaged Police Funds currently being investigated and which has become a major topic of discussion in the public. This is coming at a time when the Police Force is increasingly finding it difficult to deal with the large scale armed robbery in the country with its men being felled daily by better equipped criminals due to lack of modern sophisticated weaponry, low morale, poor logistics and welfare.
First, it was the scandalous revelation over Kenny Martins-led police equipment Funds in which fifty billion naira were collected from several stakeholders across the country supposedly to help upgrade the capacity of the Police force only to be allegedly expended frivolously and the entire project converted to the personal NGO of some of the funds managers who have arrogantly ignored the public clamour to account.
Even the Presidency and the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) until recently, were non-challant about the scandal. It took the grace of his eminence, Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Saad Abubakar for the EFCC to begin investigation following his resignation as Chairman of the board of trustee just as he called for immediate probe. And while the nation was trying to cope with that, came the news of invitation of the immediate past inspector General of Police, Mr. Sunday Ehindero by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) over the N557 million grant by Bayelsa State Government for the purchase of arms and ammunition for the police. Mr. Ehindero was alleged to have failed to inform the presidency immediately the money was paid but instead put the fund in fixed deposit accounts in two banks, the interest of which, it was alleged, he converted to personal use.
The former IG is not alone. The former Police Affairs Minister, Mr. Brodericks Bozimo is also being quizzed for allegedly deducting 27 million naira of the money to cover his medical expenses abroad.
All these allegations are still being probed by the relevant agencies at the moment. However, our immediate concern is the contemptuous, corrupt, selfish and incompetent manner in which the immediate bastion of public security has been managed over the years. If government exists first to protect security of lives and property and the institution entrusted with that task is so mismanaged and undignifyingly treated by its custodian, the government may as well pack and go home and then tell Nigerians to elect another. Given the way the police is currently being run, it will not be long before the public loses confidence in the government itself. Following the public disgrace and trial of former Inspector General Tafa Balogun not too long ago, who would have thought that the Police hierarchy and its allied organizations can still be alleged to be toying with Police funds at a time when innocent and poor policemen on the fields who are so starved of the needed money for their tooling and welfare and up-keep are being killed everyday by men of the underworld due to low capacity. Yet funds meant for them are being allegedly diverted for personal use by the Police bosses at the top. This is nothing but an act of treachery and sabotage, equivalent to treason under the security personnel rules.
We condemn the initial apathy shown by the presidency and the EFCC. Now that they have decided to look into the issues, the incidents must be thoroughly investigated and culprits brought to book. It is gratifying that the EFCC has arrested some accused persons on this matter. We caution on the witch-hunt of anybody just as nothing must be swept under the carpet as those being quizzed are still presumed innocent. Perhaps it is high time President Umar Yar’Adua looked at a more efficient and transparent way of disbursing funds to police commands across the country in view of the evidently corrupt central command system in Abuja headquarters which has, overtime, demoralized the force and promoted more inefficiency.

NYSC: To be or not to be?

THE National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme was established in Nigeria on May 22, 1973 by the then military regime of General Yakubu Gowon as a programme to involve Nigerian graduates in the development of their country. As a developing country, Nigeria was plagued by problems attendant with conditions of under development such as poverty, mass illiteracy, acute shortage of high skilled manpower (coupled with most uneven distribution of the skilled people that are available), woefully inadequate socioeconomic infrastructural facilities, housing, water and sewage facilities, road, healthcare services, and effective communication system.

Faced with these almost intractable problems, which were further compounded by the burden of reconstruction after the civil war, the government and people of Nigeria set for the country, fresh goals, and objectives aimed at establishing Nigeria as a united, strong and self-reliant nation; a great and dynamic economy; a land of bright and full opportunities for all citizens; and also a free and democratic society.

The government and people of Nigeria were aware that sound and patriotic leadership is a precondition for the rapid social and economic development of the country. Hitherto, as a nation, Nigeria had been less fortunate in the kind of leadership that governed her

affairs in the period immediately after independence, a leadership whose achievements notwithstanding, was none the less ill-prepared and generally not properly motivated to tackle the problems of socioeconomic under-development, in the interest of the country as a whole.

There is no gainsaying the fact that the future of any country depends on the youth and this was acknowledged with the youth consistently laying claim to the nation's leadership. But while one may give credence to the saying that leaders are born, not made, one must also concede the fact that leadership in a modern society requires a certain degree of preparation and orientation before the assumption of that role.

Assessing the success of the programme so far, a one-time Director General of NYSC, Major General Hafiz Momoh (rtd.) in his preface to NYSC: Twenty Years of National Service, observed that the scheme has impacted, positively on various aspects of our

national life. According to him, the NYSC "has come to be acclaimed as one of the most effective and successful instruments in our continuing efforts at achieving a humane and egalitarian society, based on mutual understanding, trust, tolerance and a common vision of our national destiny".

So much was the perceived success in his view that he even recalls how a former Minister of Youth and Sports in the Gambia, Mrs. Aminah Faal-Sonko, told him, "that members of The Gambian Study Team that visited America, Europe, the Middle East and a number of African countries in search of a model Youth Service Scheme for The Gambia, were unanimous in their report that the NYSC in Nigeria is the best organised Youth Service programme in the world." As part of its achievements and multiplier effects, the NYSC could be said to have touched all known spheres of human endeavour. Over the years, it has allowed for regular and effective distribution of skilled manpower, the steady breaking of social and cultural barriers as well as the building of friendly bridges across the nation.

It has also promoted higher values of national unity and development, rekindled interest in neglected but vital areas of national development like agriculture, and promoted leadership qualities in the youth. In these and other ways, the scheme constantly pricks the conscience of the nation to the right course of development, thereby keeping the hope alive for a better Nigeria.

The regular invitation of members of the Corps to participate in the conduct of such sensitive national assignments as Population Census, Elections, and the like and to provide material for the Technical Aid Corps (TAC), is not only an expression of faith in the ability of the scheme, but also an appreciation of its monumental achievements since its inception in 1973. The positive multiplier effects of these achievements on society are worthy of further examination, taking, for instance, the deployment of corps members. From its humble beginning of about 2,000 corps members in 1973,it has rapidly grown to the staggering annual figure of about 100,000 corps members. This phenomenal growth, apart from ensuring that the presence of the scheme is felt in all nooks and crannies of the federation, also allows for even distribution of manpower in the best interest of the country. In addition to these, other areas of benefit include the elimination of ignorance among the people, becoming a regular source of labour, leadership training and national consciousness. Others are socio-economic development, education, health and rural development.

In the face of these seemingly overwhelming success, it is noteworthy that the scheme has also not been devoid of operational problems. Since inception it has been confronted with a plethora of problems; some of which have been traced to the initial hurried birth and hasty implementation of the scheme. It is also believed that some arose out of political developments totally extraneous to the programme, while others are the inevitable products of the economic recession and the attendant review of budgetary priorities as enumerated hereunder.

This responsibility has not been effectively carried out due to the unsatisfactory Secretariat Staff/Corps members' ratio and the inadequate number of vehicles and other logistic aids available to State Secretariats. While the introduction of the zonal system and the growing utilisation of Corps liaison officers have somewhat ameliorated the situation, the problem is yet to be decisively addressed and resolved. The under-utilisation and/or non-utilisation of Corps members in their primary duty stations have been perennial. In many establishments, corps members are reduced to glorified clerks and office assistants, untrusted with the real duties for which they have been posted and therefore unable to contribute meaningfully to national development.

In other cases, the Corps members are assigned tasks, which are either far below their qualifications or are totally irrelevant to their training. The end result is that Corps members are unable to acquire the experience, which was supposed to form a main component of their service year. In addition, many of them are frustrated and unenthusiastic, forced into truancy and idleness, failing to imbibe the necessary work ethics, while one of the key objectives of the scheme accelerating socioeconomic development is left unattained.

When the scheme started in 1973, there were 12 states in the country, with only six universities and a total graduating population of less than 2,500 per academic year. The situation is vastly different today. Over the years since the inception of NYSC, the country has been divided into 36 states, plus the Federal Capital Territory. In addition, the number of accredited participating institutions has risen to about 170, thus churning out an average of 100,000 graduates on yearly basis.

This remarkable expansion has posed some very serious problems for the organisers of the NYSC, the most debilitating of which has been that its limited facilities; skills and other resources have been stretched to breaking point. The Herculean problem of organisation, coordination and management have been severally compounded by the now grievous under-funding of the scheme to the extent that many states yet lack permanent orientation camps.

It is indeed ironic that, while the scope and responsibilities of NYSC have grown tremendously since its inception, its allocation as a percentage of federal and state budgets has drastically gone down. The states have been particularly guilty in this

regard, as many of them choose to see the NYSC as a federal initiative, which the federal government must fully provide for.

It is true that many of the newer states are still battling to erect the minimum infrastructure essential for modern government, and still regard the scheme as something of a luxury which they can ill afford. But it is again ironic that it is these new states, which depend disproportionately on the manpower services of the NYSC.

The reality of the situation is that the NYSC can not continue to provide these essential services to the states, and the more intangible but no less essential benefit of fostering national unity, unless all the tiers of government are willing to bear their share of the financial responsibility for the scheme. More painful is the fact that that many Corps members now roam the streets in search of where to serve, and that many graduates of the scheme do not readily get jobs after service. Other social issues that bother our country in the aftermath of this failure is the growing insecurity and increasing poverty line. Add this to the fact that in 35 years of the scheme, the rate of ignorance in socio-cultural behaviour has not abated; the national psyche on cohesion seems low, and work ethics even among the young have not improved; a further proof that the scheme has perhaps not been effective along these lines which were supposed to be its main features.

With these contending problems now taking the better of the scheme, in the process jettisoning the goals for which it was set up; and with the necessary authorities not willing to come to its rescue in terms of doing the right things, it has become absolutely heart-rending and absurd that the scheme should be allowed to continue. It is perhaps the reason the call for an abolition of the programme is rife. It is high time government heeded the call by people in some quarters for a review of the scheme with a view to determining whether it should be abolished or not.

Between wisdom and fear of Ribadu

TOO many things happen every day that sometimes confound us little mortals. They make us lose track of developments. In the course of another day, we sometimes forget acts of great men and touching events in history. What about the deeds of mean or genuinely evil minded persons who are privileged to be in positions of authority? Is it true that human memory is short? It goes without saying that man, no matter how insignificant he may be in the society, is a part of history. We were almost forgetting that there was a harmless looking man called Mallam Nuhu Ribadu - a tough police officer who took his job of policing money launderers and economic saboteurs seriously. If many Nigerians had their way, he would have retained his seat as the chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for his efforts in bringing to justice some persons he had to deal with among the lot.

Ribadu's name almost became synonymous with fear. But his employers knew better and insisted he just had to move on in his career by attending a course at the Nigerian Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru. The mantle has since fallen on Ibrahim Lamorde who also for good reasons is trying to keep hopes alive (he has no choice because we the people are watching and will soon be making comparisons between him and his predecessor).

Nuhu Ribadu resurfaced again this week as he and his course mates at NIPSS went round key government formations on a study visit. I was particularly fascinated by a photograph inside page of the Tuesday edition of ThisDay as Governor Babatunde Fashola received Ribadu and his course mates at Alausa secretariat. One wonders what was going on in the minds of many officials in the photograph who smiled admiringly and watched Ribadu with some consternation as he shook hands with deputy governor Adebisi Sosan, a princess. From the expression on one or two faces, obviously they must have been thinking aloud and wondering whether that truly is the much feared anti-graft policeman they've heard so much about. Only that none was expressly asking him if indeed he was that 'troubler of Israel'. The kicker written for the photograph proclaimed: " From Kuru with love..." as if to reassure everybody that Mallam Nuhu was not making any sinister move. Before now, a visit of Ribadu (or even his agents) would most likely be ominous. Ribadu surely is enjoying all the attention and publicity his studentship at Kuru brings to him.

Interestingly till today, for many Nigerians, the fear of Ribadu remains the beginning of wisdom. An analogy may suffice here. As a young boy, wisdom began with the fear of my old man. His was a very strict regime, all because he wanted the best for us. Sometimes, we got wrongly punished. He was always the accuser, the judge and the executor of punishment. Thank God the law does not make provision for the EFCC (or Ribadu) to hold such power.

Last week, it became imperative for some public officials to exhibit that time tested wisdom in Jalingo, Taraba State when Mallam Nuhu visited a couple of days ago. (That was before the man's visit to Lagos). In Jalingo, a mild drama was recorded. Before anyone had time for any ceremony, panicky government officials and political office holders in the state were on the run as the presence of the anti-graft agency's top officer became public knowledge. And to think the fleeing officials were scheduled to receive Ribadu and his study group! How did Ribadu himself feel? Embarrassed? Amused? He is yet to tell us. One day he may have to write his memoirs.

Who would blame the public or elected officials for doing the Ben Johnson stuff? They cared less whether Mallam Nuhu was still in charge at EFCC or not. It is better to be on the safe side, they reasoned. That is the crux of the matter. If a man does not have any skeleton in his cabinet, why would he take to his heels because an ordinary student at Kuru was on a study visit? It took the institute's director-general Prof. Akin Akindoyemi to reassure the uncomfortable officials about Ribadu's presence in the team. But come to think of it, are they surprised that EFCC officials would find it an uphill task to come up the Gembu hills to investigate their misdeeds? They now know it's a mission possible. It's just a matter of time before the bubble bursts.

The country is into another season of probes - justifiably. It is a never-ending exercise in this country. How does a serious country defend before the international community the monumental waste of billions of dollars in the power sector in the last eight years or so and we still live in darkness? What manner of leaders have we been blessed with or are we blessed with in this great country? Leaders who are only good at pontificating? This is agonising. How do we explain the disappearance daily of millions of barrels of crude oil from the high sea without trace. Or the sharing of unspent votes by a group of people, ably assisted by some unscrupulous civil servants who know the a-z of the processes of taking the funds out. How can we forget in a hurry how people in positions of trust mismanage state funds and make plea bargains later? A serious society does not sit by and watch when billions of naira police equipment fund cannot be accounted for while armed robbers freely roam the streets and maim and kill the citizens at will.

Nigerians earnestly wait for that day when political corruption, a more serious form of graft, would be tackled. It's a form of corruption that has for long made this country a laughing stock when democracy is being discussed and Nigeria also boasts of democratic credentials. It won't be a bad idea after all if the EFCC (or other anti-corruption agencies) included political corruption as one of their briefs. That is the root of most of this country's problems. The desperation to get into a public office must be checked. Such offices must be made less attractive to make room for people who are genuinely interested in service of the people. President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua has promised Nigerians a reform of the electoral process. We pray he succeeds for that may signal the beginning of true democracy here, to make Nigeria a place where the right calibre of people get into public offices and think first as servant leaders and not a place where people will get wind of Mallam Nuhu Ribadu's presence and will be making for the next exit.

This is a challenge to Ibrahim Lamorde, the current boss of the EFCC. We are by no means campaigning that Lamorde should turn himself into a terror machine. But he would do well to keep the agency on a pedestal that Nigerians would be proud to identify with in bringing sanity into the rotten system. So far, he has not done badly. But it is still morning yet for him.

Nigeria is the only country we have. We can only make it better if a few greedy ones among us in positions of trust would not see the treasury as an extension of their mansions.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Abandoned N4bn Power Equipment

In Nigeria, it is often difficult to understand how government works and reasons. What ordinarily should be treated with dispatch is given the most lackadaisical treatment. This wasteful approach to governance was again exposed when recent media reports indicated that some N4 billion worth of energy equipment was just being deployed to user companies, ten years after they were procured. Some of the equipment included transformers, circuit breakers and isolators.
For ten years, after procurement, the items were abandoned in the warehouse of the Energy Ministry without distributing them to the user agencies. This is most worrisome to say the least. How can it be explained that in the face of the daily agony Nigerians are going through on the energy sector, equipment meant to improve the efficiency of the sector were left to rot for a decade? Was it that the Ministry did not have need for the equipment at the time they were bought as to warrant abandoning them since then? But even if that was the case, won’t the nation-wide complaint of worsening power situation , often blamed on lack of equipment to service the power stations have caused the ministry to urgently release the materials? Whose interest were the abandoned equipment serving in the store?
How could six hundred transformers, for instance, have been bought and abandoned for ten years when most of the complaints of electricity distributors is that there are not enough transformers to facilitate efficient power distribution? Listeners to the FRCN radio programme I Beg Una are often treated to the routine complaint of how consumers are tasked by the PHCN staff to contribute monies with which to buy new transformers, so they can enjoy improved power supply. How can this be the case when transformers are left to rot in the ministry’s store houses? It is no surprise that ten years after, some of the equipment are no longer functional necessitating their repairs before they can be distributed.
No doubt, the life span of the equipment would have been shortened while they lay fallow in the store house. They must have also lost their warranty.
This unfortunate development is akin to a doctor having a critically ill patient with all signs of anemia, and who has all the needed vitamins and other drugs to boost the health of the patient, yet refuses to administer them on the patient. It is either the doctor wants the patient dead, or has lost his professional competence. Either way, he is no longer fit to bear the name.
A former Power and Steel minister confessed that he was aware of the abandoned equipment, for which he had set up a committee to work out how to distribute it. Yet the committee’s report never saw the light of day. The bureaucracy apparently stalled the distribution of the equipment all these years.
What that simply means is that it is either a clear case of sabotage or criminal professional negligence. It is for acts like this that the civil service is sometimes likened to evil service.
Any wonder that the civil servants have sometimes been accused of conniving with Generator sellers in ensuring that the power sector remains perpetually prostrate, so that the generating plant market will continue to boom.
Were it not so, how come for ten years, the audit unit of the Ministry of Power and Steel did not file a report on the abandoned items in the store? Is it a case of collusion with the powers that be in the ministry? Or was it done so that the abandoned equipment can always be presented as the supplies from current orders? The puzzles are many.
This is inhibitive bureaucracy on parade. Hence we believe that all those involved should be summoned to explain their role in this scandal.
This sort of development impels us to recommend that external auditors be always invited to look into the books

If Power Ever Comes…

MOST Nigerians are not interested in how much it costs to build a power station. They want electricity today. Nobody should blame them for this impatience. They have lived for years without the well advertised benefits of uninterrupted power supply. Individually, and as a nation, they have been burdened with statistics of the cost of darkness, yes, the cost of living without electricity.
What is modern existence without electricity? Can industrialisation, education, commerce, or hygienic living be possible without electricity? Are we not aware of the security implications of inadequate electricity supply?

Yet we have had governments that not only paid lip service to improving electricity supply, but showed no interest at all in the execution of contracts that they awarded, even where these contracts were meant to improve the conditions of the people and the economy, which everyone touts as growing.

The investigations into the award of contracts in the electricity sector point to the failure of the authorities to connect with matters of importance to the people. It would seem that the unwillingness to privatise the power sector had more to do with embedded selfish interests. Who would have lost if electricity supply took the leap that we have seen with telecommunications?

If the revolution that placed more than 40 million telephones in Nigerians hands had taken place in electricity supply, Nigeria would have changed dramatically in the past eight years. What we have rather seen is a decline in power supply, more private power supply (through generators that are expensive, ineffective, pollute the environment and leave more Nigerians with poor hearing).

Sadly, what went wrong in the power sector is very Nigerian in the sense that there is hardly any side of our national life that can undergo scrutiny without letting out the same rot that the power sector represents. The last nine years of reforms could actually have been squandered in a way that could have taken us further back, yet we were and are still being blissfully led into believing that we are making progress in all ramifications.
It hurts to note that there are defences for these things.

Those in government should however note that Nigerians were saddened when they thought government was doing nothing to improve power supply. While they calculated the cost of darkness, they never knew there were ancillary costs like contracts government awarded without abiding interests in their execution.

Now, it is time something was done to forestall repetition of this tendency to treat national interests with unbecoming mindlessness.

If these power stations ever produce power, they would be delivered at a time we may never need them. The situation looks that bad, but we treat it as comedy.