Nigeria - Buhari: Why Nigerians seek medical care abroad
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by FricNews
Nov 06, 2019 - 9:11
News
President Muhammadu Buhari has named the poor attitude of health workers across Nigeria as a major reason for the growing culture of Nigerians seeking medical care outside the country.

The president stated this Tuesday at the second National Health Summit of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) and the 25th Triennial Conference of the Commonwealth Medical Association (CMA).

The summit is being held between November 4 and 8 in Abuja.

Mr Buhari who is currently in the UK for a two-week ‘private visit’ was the special guest billed to declare the event open. He was, however, represented by the health minister, Osagie Ehanire.

Superintending broken system

The minister said many Nigerians have lost confidence in the country’s health system because of the poor service delivery in Nigerian hospitals.

“If we must be honest to ourselves, we must admit that even more than lack of equipment and medical technical expertise, poor housekeeping and sanitation and often poor and disrespectful attitude of health workers and also a perceived lack of confidentiality are damaging the image and reputation of the health system and also the public confidence in it,” the official explained.

“There is no doubt that this loss of confidence in our hospitals is the father of medical tourism,” he noted.

The minister said only a change of mindset can reverse the trend.

Medical Tourism

“Why is Nigeria losing billions of naira to medical tourism?” asked former Nigerian head of state, Yakubu Gowon, in his opening remark as the chairman of the summit.

Thousands of Nigerians travel abroad each year to seek medical treatment as the nation’s health care system remains dogged with multiple challenges.

Former Minister of Health, Onyebuchi Chukwu, had in 2017 estimated that Nigeria was losing N175 billion annually to medical tourism.

Also in 2017, PREMIUM TIMES reported how South Africa’s Health Minister, Aaron Motsoaledi, scolded African leaders seeking medical care away from the continent, saying the culture has become a major drain on their countries $ health expenditure.

President Buhari’s current ‘private visit’ to the United Kingdom is one of his numerous trips to the European Country.

Many believe the President frequently travels to see his doctors in the UK where he spent several months in his first term in office receiving treatment for an undisclosed ailment.

‘Patient-centred care’

Themed “patient-centred care”, the doctor’s summit is coming amidst growing concern about poor treatment of patients resulting in inadequate health outcomes.

“The care of the patient also envisages that the patient must have access to information and education regarding his illness to enable him participate in making informed decision. That means he must also be kept updated on nature, extent of possible complications of treatment. Patient dignity even in the most vulnerable state must remain sacrosanct.”

Deliberations

At least, 67 speakers will speak in the course of the event to highlight the negligence that patients suffer in the health sector.

The health minister described the theme as pertinent because, “the patient is at the centre of all healthcare activities and there is no greater measure of the quality of healthcare anywhere than the priority accorded the patient at every level of treatment. The patient must be accorded full confidentiality and due respect…

During a pre-event press briefing on Monday, the NMA President, Francis Faduyile, attributed cases of medical negligence in Nigerian hospitals to a “total systemic failure” in the health sector.

“It’s the total systemic failure that we have been decrying. We don’t have enough personnel; we don’t have enough equipment and the government does not have enough health facilities,” Mr Faduyile said.
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Health minister, Osagie Ehanire delivering an open remark for President Buhari in his absence.
Nigeria - Arrest of prominent journalist shows Buhari is up to his old tricks
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by FricNews
Nov 13, 2019 - 10:11
Opinions
By Jason Rezaian

Political strongmen would have you believe they're tough as nails, but they always turn out to have very thin skin.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari likes to call himself a "converted democrat." At least that's what he said during his 2015 presidential run, when he was attempting to re-brand himself as a reformer after a long career built on repression.

Yet dictatorial habits have proved hard to give up. When Buhari ran for president in 2015, it was with the promise of a Nigeria free from the political repression and silencing of dissent that were hallmarks of his tenure as head of state from 1983 to 1985.

Since his reelection earlier this year, matters have only gotten worse for journalists in Nigeria. Perhaps the most outrageous case involves Omoyele Sowore, a prominent journalist and political activist who remains in prison in Abuja, the Nigerian capital - even after a judge last week ordered that he be released on bail. He is being cited, among other things, for "cyberstalking" the president - a bizarre accusation, unless you consider reporting and political commentary a form of predatory behavior. It would seem that Buhari does.
"Across the board, journalists were worried about an escalation of anti-press patterns in a possible second Buhari term," says Jonathan Rozen, senior Africa researcher at the Committee to Protect Journalists. "Unfortunately, they've been proven right."

In a November 7 statement, Femi Felana, Sowore's lawyer, said that, although bail conditions were "stringent," his client had met them all. "But in utter contempt of the orders of Justice Ojukwu, the State Security Service has refused to release Sowore."

Sowore, the founder of the New York-based website Sahara Reporters, is being charged with seven felony counts, including treason and the "cyberstalking" of Buhari. Whatever that means. "In Nigeria, we see repeated attacks against journalists and the use of alleged cyber crimes to silence them," Rozen told me.
Sowore created Sahara Reporters - which is devoted to political coverage of Nigeria - in 2006. His aim was to bring greater transparency to Nigerian politics. The website is credited with breaking many stories of financial corruption by the state, which is what landed Sowore behind bars this time around. In a media landscape known for being vibrant if heavily influenced by political elites, Sahara Reporters has become one of the key sources for news that exposes official wrongdoing.

Sowore came to the United States in the late 1990s. Before leaving Nigeria, he'd been detained on eight separate occasions for his political activities. After arriving here, he completed a graduate program at Columbia University.

"It is not so much a problem of freedom of speech," Sowore told the New York Times in 2011, "but freedom after speech. You can say a lot of things in Nigeria, but the question is: Will you still be a free person? Will you still be alive after you freely express yourself?"

This year he returned to run against Buhari in the election. He did not win and instead ended up in prison for being a vocal critic of the state and its policies.
"My husband is not the only journalist in this situation. It's always the same thing. They've taken others for speaking out against corruption," Opeyemi Sowore, the jailed journalist's wife, told me. "It's a disturbing trend when journalists and others who are trying to make the country better are silenced through detention."

The judge in the case this month set bail at more than $550,000, with additional conditions, barring Omoyele Sowore from speaking to the press, participating in rallies at other political events and barring him from leaving the capital, Abuja.
Sowore was originally set to be released last Wednesday, but his website reported that agents of Nigeria's secret police blocked court bailiffs from following through on the judge's order.

His wife and their two children, a 12-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son, who live in the New York area and are all U.S.-born citizens, have not heard from the journalist since August when Opeyemi Sowore did a radio interview here in the United States.

All indications are that Sowore has been held in solitary confinement during the entire period of his detention, which has now passed the three-month mark.
"Since the State Security Service is not above the law of the land, we shall embark on appropriate legal measures to ensure compliance with the court orders," Falana said.

Nigerian authorities should immediately release Sowore.

The Washington Post
 
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Nigeria - House of Assembly promises to create budgetary provision for talent hunt
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by FricNews
Nov 06, 2019 - 8:11
Innovation
The Cross River State House of Assembly has said that it will soon create a budgetary provision for talent hunt to return the state to its number one position in football and other sports.

The Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Mr. Williams Jones Eteng, who stated this while speaking with some newsmen in Calabar yesterday after performing the kick-off of the fourth edition of the North-West Calabar Municipal Football Tournament, said: “The state House of Assembly will do its bits in that regard by simply creating a budgetary provision, especially encouraging the sports commission with budgetary provision for talent hunt.

“That is all our responsibility. We cannot legislate on this but we can encourage full budgetary provision.

“The first football team came from Calabar. In the national league now, we cannot find our name anywhere, but when we see tournaments like this, we need to encourage. For us in Cross River, we will encourage the sports commission to take up its responsibility.

“From what I have seen now, the state can reclaim its position in the nation if we keep to the model of catching them young and going forward for the best talents. I have seen a lot of talents today and I think if we keep it up, we will discover a lot of players that will play for Cross River State.”

“Other corporate organisations in the state should emulate the North-West Petroleum Company in sponsoring competitions and community-based initiatives as this. This is what we keep preaching that if big companies in this state do things like this, we will be better off as a state. This is what we pray for. This is what say every day and even our laws keep emphasising that every company should add value to the society where they are doing business.

Chairman of the tournament organising committee, Ntufam Donatus Etim, said that since the tournament started, it had helped in checking crime rates.

He said: “When football used to be mentioned, Calabar was often in the front-burner but it has changed from that record and football has lost its place in the state. We no longer have school sports where schools play against themselves and even community games where these talents are harnessed.

“But thank God for this tournament and a big thanks goes to the Managing Director and Chief Executive of North-West Petroleum and Gas for their magnanimity over the last four years as far as this tournament is concerned. We can tell you that some other states have borrowed a leave from what we have done with this tournament in our community. Like in Delta State, this is going to be their second year of this similar tournament. We are also grateful for the media coverage this tournament has enjoyed as well.

“We urge other companies and even capable individuals to also look into similar sports tournament sponsorship like this. It should not be only football. Let other sports be given attention. It will surprise you how much this state and the nation will generate as foreign direct investment and exchange if we have players from the state playing overseas.”
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Kenya - Man who fell from Kenya Airways plane in London identified as airport cleaner
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by FricNews
Nov 13, 2019 - 9:11
News
A family in Kakamega town in Western Kenya is in shock following revelations by a British TV that its firstborn could be the person whose body fell from a plane in London in June.

Sky TV Tuesday published a report that strongly indicated that Paul Manyasi, a worker at a cleaning services firm, may have been the stowaway, even as his father, Isaac Manyasi, said he is yet to get details of the news.

“No one has called to inform me of the death of my son from the time media people in the UK informed me about him,” he said yesterday.

Paul, who was 29, was a cleaner for Colnet Company at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Nairobi. He hailed from Namakara village, Malava, Constituency.

In an interview by a Sky News reporter, the cleaner’s girlfriend said Paul reported to work on the day but disappeared.

The reporter zeroed in on the former worker at Colnet after following a number of leads.


According to the report, a taxi driver called Kamau confided in the journalist that a cleaner from the company had gone missing.

Kamau’s hint led the journalist to Colnet, where an employee revealed that her colleague called Paul Manyasi had gone missing towards the end of June.

“We were at work in the morning and he vanished suddenly. I attempted to call him but the phone was switched off,” Paul’s colleague told the journalist.

According to her, the supervisor called all employees the following day and told them that one of them was missing though he was not sure who it was.

She added that the supervisor told them not to tell anybody until the identity of the missing worker had been known.

As the interview progressed, the report went on, it turned out that woman, whom the journalist called "Maureen" to protect her identity, and Manyasi were having an affair.

“I just feel like I have lost someone I loved very much,” Maureen told the reporter.

Manyasi stayed in Mukuru Kwa Njenga slum which is not far from the airport.
Armed with an e-fit photo produced by the London Metropolitan police and the images of Paul’s personal belongings which were found in the landing gear of the plane, the investigative journalist headed to western Kenya where he caught up with Maureen.

After taking a close look at the photo and the image of the bag found in the aircraft, she said Paul was definitely the stowaway.

While in Kakamega, the journalist traced Paul’s parents who were still distraught about the disappearance of their first born son.

“I don’t know where to start or end because his phone has been switched off,” Paul’s mother reportedly told the journalist.

From the photos, the two identified their son. According to the journalist, the elderly couple could not bear the pain on knowing that Paul had died after hiding in a plane.

Her only request is for the government and well-wishers to help her raise money to bring her son home so that he can have a decent burial, the report said.

Last month, British police released an e-fit photo of the stowaway hoping to have him identified and his family informed. Also released were images of his belongings, among them a Sh20 coin, a bag and a bottle.

“This has been a sad incident to investigate. This man has a family which needs to know what happened,” said DS Paul Grieves while releasing the images.

“Our investigations have included liaison with authorities in Kenya, where the flight originated. I hope by releasing this e-fit, someone known to the deceased will recognise him and make contact.”

Paul’s body is at a mortuary awaiting the conclusion of investigations, before a file is submitted to a South West London coroner and an inquest held.

Paul’s parents, his former roommate and girlfriend described him as jovial.
The parents, who rely on their one-acre piece of land, said they were hoping Paul would land a job and lift the family from poverty.

“I was happy when my son left the village to look for a job in Nairobi. I knew that once he got a job, he would help us and his siblings," the elderly Manyasi said.
Paul was the first born in a family of five.

He completed high school and travelled to Nairobi two years ago.
His first job was at Colnet after being linked there by his friend and room mate called Patrick.

Following the publication of the story, British police said its officers are investigating the circumstances surrounding the death and are taking steps to confirm the identity of the stowaway.

“Sky News has provided us with images of Paul Manyasi,” the Metropolitan Police Service said in a statement released by Chioma Dijeh, the media and communications manager.
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Four months after he fell from the sky, London police released an e-fit image of the stowaway in hunt for his identity. Pictures of a bag that was found in the compartment and its contents were also r
Nigeria - Works Minister Fashola: Roads not that bad?
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by FricNews
Nov 11, 2019 - 9:11
Opinions
By Hope Eghagha

It was with infinite sadness that I read a statement that was credited to respected Minister of Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola, former governor of Lagos State, to the effect that Nigerian ‘roads were not as bad as we portray them’. For those who have travelled the roads in Nigeria in the last one year, the statement flies in the face of hard facts. For the avoidance of doubt, I would like to quote the Hon. Minister in full: “the roads are not as bad as they are often portrayed. I know that this is going to be your headline, but the roads are not that bad”. I refused to believe the statement credited to the poster boy for good governance in his Lagos days, some body I had had absolute faith in; that if there was going to be any change, it would come with the presence of such men of character like Raji Fashola. This statement therefor is out of character; it is a misjudgement of the situation and he owes his admirers an apology, I dare say.Mr. Fashola shot into national fame as Governor of Lagos because of his no-nonsense and strategic approach to governance. He walked the talk. He drove round Lagos without the typical fanfare of state governors to know the real problems of the state. The Badagry Marina rail track which he started was a strategic project which subsequent governments have abandoned.  Indeed, when it came to light that Fashola’s second term ambition as governor of Lagos was threatened, I was one of those who said that if Fashola was denied the opportunity, all hope was lost for Nigeria and migration should be an option. I was that steadfast. At a point Fashola was quoted as saying that we should pray that our loyalty is not tested. Very deep, very instructive in godfather politics. When he was appointed minister to head three super ministries during President Buhari’s first term, I was also one of those who felt that the powers-that-be were bent on demystifying the efficient and goal-getting Minister. I was not proved wrong. When the first tenure ended, Nigerians were not impressed. Fashola, who had once boasted that a government that could not solve the power problem had no business being in government, became an apology to the nation on power generation and distribution.

The truth is that roads, both state and federal across the country, are in a terrible shape. The craters which we run into when travelling Lagos-Benin on to Warri, the huge potholes if you travel by road to Abuja and even between Abuja and Minna show that we are in a state of emergency. In some cases, the roads have virtually disappeared. Travellers drive into the bush through old routes in a very hazardous manner. Heavy duty trucks break down in some cases because of the bad roads causing a build up of traffic. A journey of one hour could last three hours or more. Terrible accidents leading to loss of lives have also been on the increase. This is the reality which Nigerians travel every day. The statement by Fashola therefore is unfortunate. It is a desperate situation and it requires desperate measures. It has also happened that when state governments want to intervene, the federal authorities are reluctant to give approval. The purpose of this essay is to suggest positive steps to be taken in order to address this menace.

What can be done? What should be done? Short term measures include massive deployment of funds to road rehabilitation and reconstruction across the country. This would pump money into circulation and stimulate the economy thereby leading to job and wealth creation. Reputable contractors whose bills of quantity have been professionally verified should swing into action and make Nigeria a construction site. But beyond this, the road camp option which FERMA stands for should be vigorously pursued. Bad spots develop slowly. If we have a strong maintenance culture there should be immediate intervention before a mole hill becomes a mountain.

Road construction and maintenance require a change structurally. The roads which are under the control of the federal governments are too many. The federal government should consider the option of ceding some roads to the states and concentrate on issues that are more fundamental. In other words, road construction and maintenance in Nigeria cannot really improve as long as we maintain the present allocation of resources to the federal government and the states.

Mr. Fashola should remember that he made a name for himself as governor of Lagos State and ought to focus on retaining the positive image. I also know that the field of play at national level is somewhat different from the State’s. But whatever happens, the image of the name and the name itself must be kept. The ‘roads are not so bad’ statement is a serious gaffe. There are whispers across the country whether or not the government has an agenda that could make nonsense of those who takes exception to government’s moves. The name which one has made in years of service should not be muddied by a few reckless remarks because of the giddiness of power.It is not easy to earn a good name through governance in Nigeria. People enter with a good name and come out with a dented image. There must be something about political power in Nigeria that makes this a recurring nightmare. Too many lives have been lost through bad roads this year. Too many businesses have collapsed because a trailer-load of goods crashed while moving from one destination to another. I suggest that the Honourable Minister should do a road trip from Abuja to Lagos or from Lagos to Port Harcourt. I suggest also that all ministers and legislators should travel by road during these last months of the year led by Minister of Works. At the end of the trips, our dear minister would have a new story to tell.
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[FILE PHOTO] Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola
Nigeria - Bank worker, accomplices emptied customer’s dormant account, thinking he’s dead —EFCC
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by FricNews
Nov 14, 2019 - 10:11
News
An official of a commercial bank and three others have allegedly emptied the account of a Nigerian man who resides in Saudi Arabia.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission said the suspects had concluded that the owner of the account, Sanusi Yakubu, was dead when he did not operate the account for years.

One of the suspects, a worker in the bank, reportedly contacted his suspected accomplices, namely, Ado Shehu, Ali Muhammad and Abba Sanusi, who work with the Sharia Court, Kano State, to obtain court documents stating that the account owner was dead, and that, as his heirs, should be given access to his money.

Yakubu subsequently petitioned EFCC’s Kano zonal office, which has since arraigned Shehu and Muhammad before Justice Amina Aliyu of the Kano State High Court on three counts bordering on theft and receipt of gratification.

The complainant, Yakubu, in his petition, alleged that one Williams Aondo (now late), who was a staff of a commercial bank (name withheld), conspired with Shehu and Muhammad, both of whom are staff of Sharia Court, Kano State, and instituted a civil action claiming that he (Yakubu) was deceased, after Aondo had noticed inactivity on his account for a few years, whereas he was alive and well in Saudi Arabia.

Yakubu also alleged that the court, acting upon the information presented before it by the said Shehu and Muhammad, ordered his account to be closed and that the sum of N1,255,728.00 that was in the account be remitted to the court for distribution to his heirs.

Count one of the charge reads: ”That you Ado Shehu, Ali Muhammad and Abba Sanusi (now at large), sometime in December 2017 at Kano, Kano State, within the jurisdiction of this honorable court, conspired among yourselves to do an illegal act, to wit: conspiracy to commit theft against one Sanusi Yakubu and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 96(1)(a) and punishable under Section 97 of the Penal Code Law (1987).”

The defendants pleaded not guilty to the charges against them.

In view of their plea, prosecution counsel, Zarami Mohammed, asked the court for a trial date and for the defendants to be remanded in the custody of Nigerian Correctional Service.

Defence counsel Rabiu Sani, however, made an oral application for bail for the defendants, which Justice Amina Aliyu granted.

He admitted the defendants to bail in the sum of N100,000 each and two sureties in like sum.

One of the sureties must be a staff of the judiciary, not less than Grade Level 12; and the other must also be a judiciary staff.

She ordered them to be remanded in the custody of NCS pending the fulfillment of their bail conditions.

The case was adjourned until November 14, 2019 for hearing.
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Nigeria - ‘Interim management ploy to cover up corruption in NDDC’
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by FricNews
Nov 11, 2019 - 9:11
News
Olorogun Atuyota Ejughemre is erstwhile interim Secretary General of the South/South Peoples Assembly (SSPA), as well as a Second Republic Electoral Commissioner in the defunct Bendel State.

In this interview with CHIDO OKAFOR, the community leader examined the intricate web of insincerity and lack of commitment by officials of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), which has been grounded by a myriad of uncompleted projects and huge debts.


President Buhari should address this problem, says Olorogun Ejughemre

Why do you think NDDC is enmeshed in crisis?
The crisis is basically because the amount of money budgeted for that agency to tackle the ecological, infrastructural and human capital challenges is enormous. And the management has been very poor. As such many people see it as a Christmas cake for our people.

So, they go take contracts with the sole aim of collecting mobilization and thereafter abandon the project. There is a litany of abandoned projects all over the place. Briefly, this is why there is crisis.

Are you saying NDDC does not have internal control mechanisms? 
They’ve been having internal audits to check those who receive contracts, those that executed contracts and whatever the challenges. But, because a majority of them have their fingers also deep in the mess in the rot they are not able to do their work effectively. So, it is not only the political appointees, but even public servants who are in the system are allegedly involved in the mismanagement of the finances of the commission.

The National Assembly recently screened and confirmed a new board, what do you think is hindering it from taking over the affairs of the commission? 
I think the board did not take over the affairs of NDDC since the Senate cleared all of them, save the lady representing River State, Joy Nunieh; because of the interference by the Minister, who set up his own interim committee, which is not known to law. That is why they have not taken over. There is fear of imminent clash and the president is absent, so even the directive of the Senate President, Senator Ahmad Lawan, has not been carried out.

But the previous board alleged that the Federal Government owes NDDC about N1.8trillion. Could that explain why so many projects are abandoned in the Niger Delta?
No, I don’t think so. It is lack of prudent management of what have been available to subsequent administrations in the commission. Yes, they may owe them and if that had come it would have ameliorated the situation, but what about what they owe legitimately? I think this is what the forensic audit would expose.

How much did the National Assembly appropriate, and the other is about how much was received by way of physical cash, as well as how much the oil industries are supposed to pay and how much they actually paid? This is the whole gamut of revelation that will come out when a forensic audit is carried out.

The last board also said they were indebted to the contractors to the tune of about N1.5trillion. With these huge debts, how could projects have been executed? 
What has emerged in the media and utterances are quite negative of the funds. Instead of paying contractors we saw very glaringly during elections that most of the people who occupied office in NDDC are politicians and they are more interested in how to win elections than to apply the funds for the project, which they awarded.

There seem to be some shady deals between the officials and the contractors and so the projects are abandoned after money had been paid. I can give you an example of a mega project that was supposed to improve the lives of the people from Omadina to Kpokiti, to Okerenkoko to Escravos, about 24 bridges and roads, awarded in 2009 and three certificates were raised for jobs not done and they siphoned N2.3billion from NDDC coffers.

Now, the immediate past board, headed by Nsima Ekere and Senator Victor Ndoma–Egba conceived the idea of re-awarding the same contract for which N2.3billion had been stolen. But the board never awarded the contract before they left, and nothing was said about it. That is where Chevron is operating, from Omadina to Okerenko to Escravos. Remember that Okerenkoko is where the Maritime University is located.

A former commissioner in the NDDC said the commission’s problem was that it embarked on too many projects, amounting to about 9000 ongoing projects, which is about 1000 project per state in the Niger Delta…
Apart from embarking on too many projects, there are duplications of projects, where for instance, a state government is doing water borehole in a community, NDDC will also award the same contract. So, when the NDDC contractor sees that the state government is doing the same thing, they quietly collect their money and abandon the project.

That is why you see a plethora of abandoned projects. So, it’s not really that too many projects were awarded, because the essence is to improve on infrastructural facility in the Niger Delta region, but the commitment of the official is at the lowest level.

Their interest is pecuniary and I think that is what is impairing and impacting negatively on the finances of the commission. That’s why a lot of money has been carted out and little job has been done.

Some people think the President should personally intervene to resolve the impasse? 
I think the question should be, what is the way forward? Mr. President has done well by nominating a new board made up of transparent people, who have integrity and have shown a track record of performance in different fields of human endeavour. So, the president should cut short his leave in the UK, come back and address this particular problem besetting the entire Niger Delta region.

Others believe that the forensic audit is coming at the right time, but would the audit report transform NDDC? 
Yes, the NDDC needs a forensic audit just as they ordered in the NNPC (Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation) some time ago, when the Buhari administration came on board.

It would not interfere with the day-to-day management of the commission. My only fear is that the political will of the board is what matters. If Pius Odubu as Chairman and Chief Bernard Okumagba, as Managing Director put their feet down, get the support of their colleagues they will implement the report of the forensic audit.

It is not the Presidency that will implement it, or even pay for it and implement it. The implementation will be for the organization, a way of recovery. I overheard Senator Akpabio on Channels Television saying that some of the contractors are going back (to site) so that the forensic audit will not catch up with them. But, the truth of the matter is that monies are going to be recovered and judiciously applied.

The new board can pay for some of the uncompleted jobs that have not been paid for and also award some of the immediate projects that are needed in communities like the ones I mentioned earlier. I think it is worthwhile.

How true is the claim that some projects were sold to alleged briefcase companies and agents of NDDC officials?    
I think I also read that in the newspapers and I think it is true. Some of NDDC officials over the years have been in that abominable act of selling projects. People who buy don’t have capacity, because even the banks now are afraid of giving out loans that have to do with NDDC.

So, what they do is, they talk in terms of percentage, you give us 10 or 15 percent you take it and go, and those people will look for somebody else who will buy it from them. The contracts end up not being executed.

Therefore, I think there is a cabal, which must be broken within the NDDC that is involved in this sale of projects. I read yesterday in The Guardian, where Professor Jasper Jumbo said he bought from (Emmanuel) Iwuanyanwu and he completed, but was not paid. That was his grievance, but he was involved in the laws setting up OMPADEC (Oil Mineral Producing Areas Development Commission) and NDDC. So, you know there is no smoke without fire.

Is it possible to buy back NDDC projects that have been given to contractors?
Many of them are really briefcase contractors; they don’t have the financial wherewithal and expertise. Contractors worth their salt in the country are very few and they have foreign connections.

If you talk about Julius Berger, for instance, they are doing very well. So the truth of the matter is that many of them are really briefcase contractors, who go there and the cabal within the NDDC tells you we have so and so projects, it is either 24-kilometer-road or it is water hyacinth as is being alleged that Akpabio did and so on and so forth.

The immediate past NDDC Managing Director, Nsima Ekere, said he gave ten contracts to Akpabio, and Akpabio collected mobilization for the contracts and none of them were executed, apart from other monies that he collected. Ekere has told the public that he will not fall alone, that he will fall with Akpabio, a former governor and a former deputy governor.

Could these be some of the undercurrents fueling the crisis in the NDDC? 
Yes, these are some of the undercurrents. The interim management is a ploy to pool cotton wool on the eyes of Nigerians, so that they would not know what to do, because they want to cover up this rot, which many are part of.

Senator Akpabio was a governor and he nominated people for so many years from 2007 to 2015, and he nominated three sets of Managing Directors to NDDC. I am sure that those people were also giving him feedback.

Now if he does not fight that the audit team is nullified, how would they be able to cover up the rot?

Who wants to cover what rot? The Minister mooted the idea of forensic audit… 
Akpabio of course; both for himself and those he nominated unto the NDDC board.  He has advertised and asked audit firms to apply, so that he will screen them and pick a particular one that he will give guidelines on how to carry out the forensic audit.

Do you think someone who has skeletons in his cupboard would want an audit panel set up? 
Well, that is why they are crying for the head of Akpabio, that he is not a fit and proper person to oversee the day-to-day running of the commission instead of the Managing Director as enshrined in the NDDC Establishment Act of 2000.

His duty is to make policies for implementation and I think he has overstepped his bounds and that is why the lady, Joy Nunieh, had the impudence to say she does not want to be screened. She is a member of the new board and she refused to go for screening. She wants to remain there as the acting Managing Director.

But the minister of Niger Delta Affairs does not have powers to oversee the commission? 
Overseeing does not mean day-to-day running of the commission, and in any case I think it is incongruous and an affront to Mr. President that Akpabio, as a minister to whom power is delegated, to delegate power to another committee. That committee would serve as a parallel body to the new board, which the President himself has forwarded to the National Assembly for screening.

Let me give you an instance from William Shakespeare, who said two stars keep not their motion in one sphere, each person will go its own his own. So the management committee is on its own, the board is on its own and when they meet at a point, there will be a collision and a clash, and it will be to the detriment of Niger Deltans.

The acting MD said the interim committee has stopped N1billion paid monthly to a consultant that collects the commission’s dues from the oil firms, she said the NDDC has no business asking someone to collect monies due it…
If the new board comes, these illegal payments in place will also be identified, she is not the only one that can do that. What we are saying is that it is not right and proper for two bodies to operate as parallel agencies. The moment the list went to the Senate and the moment Senate screened the board that committee should be disbanded and I think that Akpabio owes Nigerians an apology for giving an affront to Mr. President.

How can the incoming board stop the incidence of briefcase contractors? 
There are people who are non-Niger Deltans, who will be happy if Buhari takes steps to shut down the NDDC, but the truth is that there is reason for three percent, 10 percent and 13 percent, to the setting up of OMPADEC and the NDDC in 2000.

To those people, a huge sum of money is coming to the Niger Delta, the same thing you have in the NDDC allocation is the same thing that goes in 13 percent to the producing states. Now if you throw away the child and the bath water you have lost the child and the bath water.

So what I am saying in effect is that there is no problem without a solution. And so looking at the pedigree of persons on this board and at the template of the situation in NDDC, they are human beings, they know that Mr. president is driving the process of anti-corruption in the country. They will adjust their dancing steps.

Has NDDC lost focus or deviated from the purpose for which it was set up?
Yes, because there are many abandoned projects and the stealing of monies. Some of them that stole money are still alive, some are dead, they may even go and knock at the graveside of those people who have stolen money.

But, in truth, for every problem there is a solution. And I think that it will not be right to shut down the NDDC, but to encourage the new board do things differently. I want to say boldly that apart from the integrity of Odubu, a lawyer and former federal lawmaker and Deputy Governor of Edo State, Bernard Okumagba in particular, can raise his head anywhere as a chartered accountant, as an auditor and as a banker.

He is a team player that could rally his colleagues and say let us leave a legacy. The negative legacies that our predecessors put here let us do it differently. I see him as a man who can do that.

Is it true that the NDDC master plan has been swept under the carpet leading to the duplication of projects all over the region? 
My recommendation to the incoming board is that they should set up a team to look into the issue of the master plan. Because the master plan was swept under the carpet, there has been duplication of projects between the state governments and the NDDC. Therefore I would want the incoming board to bring out the master plan, dust it up and set up a committee to look at it critically. I believe if they look closely they would see to what extent the commission has adhered to the recommendations and ideas contained in that vital document that cost the commission so much money to put in place. I can recall that foreigners were brought to help formulate the master plan. As such, if the master plan is adhered to there will be no duplication of projects.
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Olorogun Atuyota Ejughemre
Nigeria - Peril of high cost of governance
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by FricNews
Nov 13, 2019 - 9:11
Opinions
By Editorial Board

The high cost of governance in Nigeria which has become a very disturbing phenomenon, and has been widely acknowledged by many both within and outside the corridors of power is engaging our attention again for one inescapable reason: state actors at all levels in Nigeria do not seem to understand the importance of cutting cost of governance at this time.   The suffocating impact of the high cost of governance on our national life has made it to assume a national emergency dimension. With this high cost of maintaining the bureaucracy, the economic fortunes of the country have recently been pronounced as uncertain with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) downgrading the growth prospects of the economy for 2018 and 2019.

In addition, the minister of finance recently cried out that insufficient revenue has been the major problem in the effective implementations of the federal budgets. In spite of this hue and cry about revenue shortfall, not much has been seen to be done by the authorities to address this unsustainable level of the cost of governance, which invariably has not reduced despite these clearly identified revenue challenges. Thus something drastic needs to be done in this regard to arrest this undesirable trend.

President Muhammadu Buhari, on his own part, recently vowed as always, to reduce the cost of governance in the country. While receiving members of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, PACAC at the State House, Abuja the other day, the President promised to beam the searchlight on cost the of governance and weed out possible corruption that exists anywhere. While this may be considered commendable, as we noted a few weeks ago on this page, it clearly displays a lack of holistic strategy in assessing this cancer of high cost of governance in the country. There is this penchant by the same (Buhari) administration to view virtually everything from the prism of “fighting corruption,” which is only a part of the problem. It is largely structural as well as attitudinal, without downplaying the context of corruption in this regard.

The appropriate structure of government is one major issue that needs to be addressed in reducing the high cost of governance in Nigeria. Hence the bicameral nature of our legislature, for instance, needs to be critically examined. Given our current economic circumstances, can the country afford to continue with this arrangement when some developing countries have modified imported parliamentary structures to suit their peculiar circumstances? A country like Senegal is a case of reference in this regard. There appears to be the need for the country to consider reducing the number of members of the National Assembly by having only one House, to reduce membership and thus cut high costs of maintaining them as we noted the other day. The core principles of equality of states and population can be fittingly incorporated in a formula that would determine the composition of the emergent unicameral national legislature from the constituent parts.

By doing this, significant costs can be saved. This could also be accompanied by a reasonable reduction in the remuneration of the legislators at all levels. The reported recklessness in spending on unnecessary new vehicles at the National Assembly is a sore point in the aggravation of this cost issue.

In this regard, some members of the public have even called for an arrangement where the legislators will operate part-time – to enhance cost reduction. Except the country considers restructuring along these lines, reducing the cost of governance will remain a mirage. 

Let’s not be distracted: The executive arm of government is the main culprit in incurring excessive costs in governance. This applies to all the tiers of government. The State House, in the nation’s capital, Abuja, as well as those of the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory, are the first culprits. There’s a lot of wastage at these State Houses, ranging from the bogus and mysterious security votes to the unimaginable expenditures in maintaining the bureaucracy, utilities, and even victuals.

At the ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) of government where the ministers, permanent secretaries, and director-generals hold sway, it is a routine merry-go-round with a preponderance of unnecessary foreign trips, poor public procurement practices and entrenched corruption that result in poor outcomes for the national economy. Many of these men and women at the helm of affairs in these arms of the government seemingly turn out to be the owners of choice estates in Abuja and many parts of the world, leaving office as multimillionaires or even billionaires while the national economy continues in a state of stupor.

Attitudinally, the government needs to convince the public that it is serious in reducing the cost of governance by changing its ways in the incurring of overheads. Though this applies to the three arms of government, it is particularly so for the executive branch, which controls about 90% of all public expenditures. In this time of economic emergency, why is the Buhari administration calling for a reduction in the cost of governance, yet it is creating new ministries and thus increasing the recurrent expenditure? Buhari just got himself a new luxury and expensive car when the old ones are still functioning well. This administration does not appear to be practising what it is preaching. The President has made such cost-reduction promises during and after campaigns, even before his first term in office but his actions, on health tourism, the size of the presidential fleet of jets among others, do not support such posture. The use of irritating convoys of vehicles by the President, governors and other officials and their wives has not stopped and yet the public is being told of a “vow” to reduce the cost of governance. Also, the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) in its manifesto had promised, if elected to power, to have a leaner government bureaucracy, yet since 2015 what is being experienced is totally different. This smacks of a lack of integrity and people are no longer amused by these contradictions. 

Meanwhile, mere lamentation without action plans by the people must stop. There is a need for the development of a more politically sophisticated electorate. The public should make their voice to be heard in seeking redress on how they are governed. That is why this democracy should not be truncated and the mainstream and social media should not be censored. Doing any of these would be counterproductive and not augur well for the Nigerian society. The attitude to power by the political class needs to be interrogated. Power should be acquired to enhance the public good and the human condition. Hence, the people should hold the leaders accountable for how society is run.

How do we come out of this quagmire? Aside from the issues raised earlier, public recurrent expenditure should be drastically reduced. We will continue to say this: The verification of personnel in the public service should be undertaken to institutionalise an integrated, automated payroll system. Government should restructure its economic policies by resisting the temptation of unnecessarily taxing the already impoverished working class through taxes on telecommunication and others.

The speed of incurring public debts should be reduced and discipline should be introduced in government operations such that recurrent expenditures can be drastically reduced and capital expenditures increased – to develop the critical infrastructure needed for economic growth. The Buhari administration should look beyond corruption in addressing this issue of reducing the cost of governance. It should have a change of attitude, by leading by example, keeping to its promises as well as consider spearheading the movement to restructure government to enhance the well-being of the Nigerian people which it swore to serve well. 
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Nigeria - Dangote Refinery starts production early 2021
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by FricNews
Nov 01, 2019 - 9:11
Business
Nigeria’s Dangote refinery, which is being built privately by Africa’s richest man, will be ready for commissioning at the beginning of 2021, with production reaching full capacity by the end of the first half of the year.

Devakumar Edwin, a group executive director at Dangote Industries Ltd., gave this update in an interview at a conference in Lagos.

The refinery, which is designed to maximize gasoline output, will produce enough to allow for a small surplus of that fuel for export. It will also be able to send a large volume of diesel and jet fuel to international markets, Edwin said.

“We are confident that we can meet 100% of the requirement of the country, so the balance will go for export,” Edwin said.

Dangote plans to take advantage of local crude supply and it won’t participate in the crude-for-fuel swap deal that is managed by the NNPC, which recently extended its crude for fuel deal for another three years.

“We are going to buy the crude just at the export price and will sell our products at the import price, the crude swap is operating only for the importers of the product,” Edwin said.

The new refinery has been designed to process varieties of crude from sweet to light crude sourced both locally, and abroad. Dangote plans to export its diesel to Europe and gasoline to Latin America, Western and Central African markets, Edwin said.

Evacuation of refined products will be done by sea and through roads, he said.

“We are thinking of investing in vessels. We want to make sure we are not held for ransom by any transport operators.”
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Work going on at the refinery in Lekki
Nigeria - Power generation collapses to 145MW
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by FricNews
Nov 11, 2019 - 8:11
News
The total amount of power on Nigeria’s grid collapsed from a peak of 4,735.8 megawatts on Friday to as low as 145MW on Saturday but the Transmission Company of Nigeria said it had been restored.

Industry data obtained in Abuja on Sunday showed that the grid actually collapsed twice on November 8 and November 9, but this was refuted by the TCN as it argued that the second incident occurred during the process of restoring the grid.

On November 8, the country’s electricity grid recorded a partial collapse as it dropped from 4,735.8MW to 429.5MW.

It, however, picked up and recorded a high of 4,407.1MW on November 9, 2019. But this was not sustained as the grid collapsed again to 145MW.

Reacting to the collapses, the transmission company stated on Sunday that it restored full supply to the national grid at 4.54pm on November 9, 2019, after the partial system collapse which occurred at 11.15pm on Friday November 8, 2019.

It stated that during the entire period, the nation did not experience full loss of supply at the same time.

The TCN’s General Manager, Public Affairs, Ndidi Mbah, explained that the incident was caused by the tripping of the Lokoja-Gwagwalada transmission lines 1 and 2 on power swing.

She said the causes of the power swing were yet to be determined, adding that the tripping of the Onitsha-Alaoji transmission line on overcurrent also triggered the grid collapse.

Mbah said this made the grid to operate in two parts, with the second part, the western and northern axes, experiencing outage.

According to her, efforts immediately commenced to bring the western and northern axes back into circuit.

She said the TCN went on to fully complete the restoration of the two axes and began the restoration of supply to the eastern axis of the grid.

“When the grid was almost fully normalised, there was a fire incident at the Onitsha substation, which necessitated the isolation of that substation to save lives and properties,” she stated.

Mbah added, “At this stage, because the grid had not fully stabilised, the shutting down of Onitsha substation led to the tripping of some power stations connected to the grid and supply loss in the North and western axis.

“Through the period of the power restoration process, however, some other power stations equally tripped while others continued to supply the grid.”
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