Today, new ministers will take office amid huge challenges in every sector of the country’s life. SIMEON EBULU, RAYMOND MORDI, JOSEPH JIBUEZE, BOLA OLAJUWON, ADEYINKA ADERIBIGBE, ADEYINKA ADEDIPE, DANIEL ESSIET and ROBERT EGBE set agenda for President Muhammadu Buhari and his men.
After the inauguration of the Federal Executive Council (FEC), attention will focus on how the Federal Government will tackle the poor state of the nation’s economy.
Challenges, such as unemployment, insecurity and growing social malaise, have been attributed to the failure of the government to engage the people in productive activities.
Nigeria’s economy is largely monolithic, the reason being that there is complete dominance of crude oil as the major contributor to the nation’s purse or revenue. Sadly, only very few hands, in terms of the labour force are engaged in the sector. So why oil contributes hugely to government’s revenue profile (about 85 per cent), its contribution to the GDP is considered abysmally low at less than 10 per cent, which is why there have been agitations and promptings from the business community and the private sector that government should begin, in a much more focused and consistent basis, to shift emphasis to diversification so that there would be more sectors, other than oil that should contribute to the GDP.
And this process of diversifying the economy is not a steep step to take, but sadly, the system has made it looked like it’s an uphill task.
Before the advent of oil, Nigeria earned most of its foreign exchange from agro-based sources. We had and still have cocoa, palm oil, groundnut and other minerals that constituted the basis upon which the level of infrastructural development the country attained unto was achieved. Unfortunately, oil discovery changed the equation and turned Nigeria to nearly a one resource revenue earner country.
This should not be and should not be allowed to continue. The task of diversifying the economic base of this nation away from its reliance on oil as sole revenue earner is what every incoming minister must address their mind, starting from today. There should be no excuse to continue to fritter the nation’s oil revenue, going forward on debt servicing, bloated recurrent expenditures, medical tourism, bogus politicking in the guise of democracy and the seemingly unending restiveness now challenging the nation’s security apparatus and infrastructure.
The areas that should immediately arrest government’s attention right now, among others, are food security, job creation, electricity, roads and railways, provision of affordable healthcare, education and with particular reference to Lagos, a resolution of the Apapa Road gridlock. The continued existence of these challenges, among others, have held back and stalled the growth of the nation’s economy by several decades, and sadly, the authorities that be, both past and current have somewhat handled the issues as though they are insurmountable. Most policies are not followed through, the fisticuffs are too many. There appears to be no continuity, no government is prepared to inherit and absorb the policies of its predecessor, which is why abandoned projects are prevalent everywhere. The absence of the culture of building blocks is the reason Nigeria does not have a National Carrier today, no shipping line. It is also the reason why there are dysfunctional refineries. It is the same reason Ajaokuta Steel Company is grounded. Talk of the then vibrant Delta Steel Company and the Iwopin Paper Mill.
Nigeria has over 13,000megawatts installed capacity of power generation plants, but most of that is sitting in situ because the recurring excuses of no gas to fire them remain unresolved. Nigeria is the only oil-producing nation in the world that imports refined petroleum products.
All these anomalies must be corrected by those who will manage the economy.
The fight against corruption is one of the key agenda of the Buhari administration. Some successes have been recorded, such as huge asset recoveries and return, and prosecution/conviction of high profile corruption suspects and politically exposed persons (PEPs).
However, there is a need to strengthen the anti-graft agencies for effective prosecution.
Most prosecutors carry a workload that, because of its excessive size or complexity, interferes with quality prosecution and attention to detail.
It is not unusual to see prosecuting counsel shuttling from one court to another. In some instances, cases have been adjourned or stalled due to the absence of a prosecutor.
Such a situation endangers the interests of justice in fairness, accuracy, the timely disposition of charges, or has a significant potential to lead to the breach of professional obligations.
The incoming AGF must ensure that the workload of prosecutors does not cause inefficiency. Prosecutors should be encouraged to not accept additional matters until their workload is reduced, and should work to ensure the competent conclusion of existing cases.
The AGF should regularly interface with prosecutors and review their cases.
He should ensure there are clear lines of communication so that he can be notified when the workload exceeds the appropriate professional capacity of a prosecutor or prosecutor’s office.
A reasonable workload for prosecutors will ensure they can operate within the day-to-day trial requirements of Section 396 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015.
Rule of law advisor to the President, Office of the Vice President, Dr Fatima Waziri-Azi, believes there is a need for more prosecutors.
“Appointment of more prosecutors would help minimise the caseload on individual prosecutors,” she said.
Good cases can be lost due to weak prosecution. Judges cannot convict when a prosecutor is unable to prove cases beyond reasonable doubts.
With some crime, such as money laundering, becoming more advanced and complicated, prosecutors need to be abreast of developments to be able to guide investigators on what to look out for.
Poor knowledge of information technology is also a challenge. Some investigators are said to lack basic computer skills and cannot type their investigative reports.
The AGF is expected to strengthen programs of training and continuing education for both new and experienced prosecutors, investigators and staff.
In addition to knowledge of substantive legal doctrine and courtroom procedures, a prosecutor’s core training curriculum should address the overall mission of the criminal justice system.
Expert say a core training curriculum should seek to address investigation, negotiation/plea bargaining, litigation skills; knowledge of the development, use, and testing of forensic evidence; available conviction and sentencing alternatives; civility, commitment to professionalism; exercises in the use of prosecutorial discretion; available technology and the ability to use it, etc.
The AGF should ensure that specialised prosecutors receive training in their specialised areas, including for supervisors.
Experts believe that funding remains a major criminal justice delivery challenge.
The AGF should push for increased funding for the anti-corruption sector, either through advocacy for more budgetary allocation or through donor funding.
For instance, it takes money to bring witnesses to a court or to transfer suspects from prison to court. In some instances, there are not enough vehicles.
Due to paucity of funds, prosecutors from the Federal Ministry of Justice are often compelled to spend from their purse to mobilise witnesses to court and prosecute cases.
Underscoring the need for effective investigation, Federal Justice Sector Reform Co-ordinating Committee (FJSRCC) Secretary, Felix Ota-Okojie, said the gap between investigation and prosecution that must be filled.
According to a criminal justice expert, Omolola Quadri, there is the need for anti-graft agencies to be truly independent in their operations, in powers granted them through legislation, and in funding.
According to her, investigating high profile corruption is not only time-consuming but capital intensive.
Such cases, she said, require varied expertise in gathering evidence by persons skilled in criminology, finance, economy, technology, money laundering and forensics.
One of the major challenges faced by investigators is the use of outdated methods. Other challenges include undue interference from superiors, lack of a reliable database and lack of incentives.
Investigators also need better protection so that they are not victimised for sticking to principles or for refusing to call off an investigation they believe has merit.
With their lives at risk, the AGF must ensure that comprehensive life insurance is provided for investigators.
The AGF must ensure strict monitoring of how money budgeted for investigations is applied, even as there is the need for independent funding of investigations if possible.
The AGF must ensure that the fight against corruption is not selective. It must be seen to be fair and not targeted at only opposition figures. The AGF must not abuse his power of nolle prosequi (the power to terminate criminal proceedings before judgment).
Sincerity in the fight will address the issue of lack of cooperation by the public. Observers believe the fight against corruption is seen as that of the government alone. Due to the lack of trust and fear of victimisation, many are afraid to report acts of corruption.
The AGF should create awareness on modes of confidential reporting and create or strengthen whistle-blowing mechanisms.
The inter-agency rivalry has been identified as a major problem. There have been instances of sister agencies withholding crucial intelligence because they do not want to be outshined.
Anti-graft agencies also tend to work at cross-purposes. An example was when the Department of State Service (DSS) operatives raided the homes of judges, without carrying the Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) along. The AGF must ensure that all anti-graft agencies are on the same page.
The AGF must ensure that investigators who achieve great feats are commended and adequately rewarded or promoted to boost morale.
Investigators must also be well paid to reduce the temptation of being swayed by money. The AGF must tackle corruption within anti-graft agencies. Every effort must be made to weed out corrupt elements.
Justice sector watchers say the war against corruption would be more successful if anti-graft agencies were truly independent, accountable and well-funded, and backed by political will. The AGF has a critical role to play in making it happen.
President Buhari has just this one term to berth a sustainable national transportation masterplan and the minister of transportation is in the best position to achieve that. One of the assignments still on the to-do tray of former Minister of Transportation Rotimi Amaechi is the berthing of a national Transportation Policy.
Not a few experts and stakeholders wanted the new minister to prioritise it.
For 59 years, Nigeria has continued to totter as a country, with no policy direction to guide a sector that is said to the catalyst of the nation’s economy. The result, the transportation sector has been left in the hands of quacks with the sector contributing a paltry four per cent to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), its highest, in 2016.
Amaechi had once demonstrated the will to get this done. He once told reporters, that the Federal Government is “developing a national transportation master plan to diversify the economy and improve non-oil sector revenue.
If properly positioned, the transport sector, he reasoned, could contribute more than it presently does to GDP.
He listed the problems of the transport sector to include bad roads, total or near absence of public sector transportation, inadequate bus fleet and trucks, the proliferation of non-approved public transportation modes such as motorcycles and tricycles, irregular and inadequate trains and aeroplanes services and congested seaports.
In addition to these, are human problems such as the dearth of suitably trained transport managers and planners, capital restructuring bottlenecks, serious issues of institutional reforms and ineffective traffic regulation.
“The Buhari administration as a first step, he assured, will pursue the enactment of legislation that will open up the sector to new investment in its determination to fully exploit the potentials of the transport sector.
A transportation consultant for over four decades Dr Adegboyega Banjo said, Amaechi’s position is hardly new. He challenged the incoming minister to prioritise the masterplan.
“Nigeria,” he said, “has been tinkering with a transportation master plan since 1974. The saddening part is that, while we keep on talking about developing a masterplan after 59 years of independence, some countries that were nowhere when we started the talks, 45 years ago, have copied what we discussed then, and have implemented them.”
Like a national economic rolling plan, experts said the nation ought to have begun the implementation of a transportation master plan long before now, adding that the absence of the policy had been responsible for the uncoordinated growth of the transportation sector where much of the potentials have remained stunted while the gains have been cornered by a few.
Banjo and other stakeholders believed with its 200 million population, badly needed a masterplan and a policy to guide transportation planning. Such a policy would guide the national and sub-national government’s plans and interventions in the sector.
The new minister, stakeholders argued, should merely update those policy documents gathering dust in the ministry’s archives to be in sync with present global transportation realities and implement.
They argued the policy should guide government’s spending on transportation systems, arguing that such would promote the intermodal linkages badly needed to address congestion on the road mode and allow the maximisation of other modes in which the nation and its federating states have a comparative advantage.
The new challenge
According to transportation experts, a transportation masterplan that would address the nation’s status as the biggest economy on the African continent is primal, especially now that the government is thinking of developing other critical sectors and moving away from oil as the mainstay of the economy.
In a changing global economy where travel demands and meeting passenger needs are becoming increasingly complex, new avenues must be developed if the sector must meet the need and remain relevant.
Chief Executive of the Lagos State Vehicle Inspection Service (VIS) Hafiz Toriola said an integrated master plan that includes all modes of transportation, especially land, water and air, must be pursued strenuously if the nation is to be taken seriously.
He also canvassed for the full involvement of all the 36 states of the federation in designing individual templates of a masterplan that suits their environment, while the federal government set the rules of integration and facilitates and coordinates inter-state involvement.
For Mr Michael Olatunji, a logistics expert, said transportation master plan is what the country badly needs, and urged the Buhari administration to take the bull by the horn and implement it.
The return of the National Sports Commission (NSC) should be a top priority for the incoming minister. Nigeria has accomplished a lot of success under the NSC arrangement and it will be a welcome development to see the country return to a system that has brought so much verve into the sector.
The bill to return the NSC is already with the National Assembly and when passed can lead to a resurgence in the sports sector. With this in mind, the minister should work closely with the National Assembly to ensure the bill is passed into law so that technocrats and not bureaucrats are put in charge of sports development in the country.
The technocrats, on the other hand, should draw up policies that will ensure that the grassroots (including the schools) become the catalyst for sports development in the country. Sports should be introduced to pupils in school so that they can imbibe the rudiment at an early age and become adept in their various sports before they are now introduced to the states who will now nurture them for competitions.
By the time they do well at the states level, they will be invited to the national level where they will undergo further training and are prepared for international competitions. Those who excel at this level are wooed by top corporate organisations who give them mouth-watering sponsorship that would help them develop further.
Provision and maintenance of facilities is also a key component of sports so the minister must ensure that facilities are available for the athletes to train. It is a fact that talents abound in the country but they need top-class facilities to develop their skill. The government and the state and federal levels should endeavour to build these facilities and ensure that they are maintained and not allowed to rot like it is presently obtained.
Also, there should be competitions for the athletes to take part at all levels so that they can be monitored and brought into the national limelight. Competitions like the Principal Cup and many others in different sports should be instituted and enduring. The more competitions there are, the better for the athletes and by extension the country.
There should also be a system that will ensure that funds are readily available to drive different programmes in the sector. The days of going cap-in-hand to the government should be brought to an end. Sponsors should be encouraged to come into sports by giving them tax rebates. It is appalling to see sports federations suffer because there is no avenue to source for funds and carry out their programmes. The government, in turn, will only give financial support when necessary.
Talking about grants, the national athletes who meet certain criteria should be given grants to train for international competitions. The era of the fire-brigade approach should come to an end under the new dispensation. Athletes should train ahead for programmes as it will help boost their chances of winning a medal for the country but they can only achieve this if funds are made available on time.
The emphasis on football should also be minimised. While football is the king of sports in this clime, it can only win a medal at multi-sports event, so there is the need for the minster to avoid the pitfall of becoming a Minister of football at the expense of other sports that are also begging for attention. All sports are medal prospect at the international competition if given the right attention.
After appointing technocrats the new man should give them free hands to operate but must establish a monitoring system that will ensure that they (the technocrats) do their jobs within the rules of the NSC.
On gaining independence in 1960, Nigeria emphasized a commitment to improving the lives of its people and harnessing the resources vital to the economy of the country and her neighbours.
Nigeria then became one of the founding members of the Organisation for African Unity (OAU), which later became the African Union (AU). The OAU was concerned about the political stability of African countries.
Nigeria thereafter backed the African National Congress (ANC) by taking a tough line about the South African government and their military actions in southern Africa.
When civil war broke out in Angola after the country gained independence from Portugal in 1975, Nigeria mobilised its diplomatic influence in support of the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA). The support helped tip the balance in their favour, which led to OAU’s recognition of the MPLA over the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola.
Nigeria and the OAU had tremendous influence in West Africa nations and Africa as a whole – through the influence became antagonistic to Nigeria, especially in some French-and Portuguese -speaking countries.
But still, Nigeria kept on pursuing its African centric and focused policy by additionally promoting regional cooperative efforts in West Africa, functioning as the major financier of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and championing the establishment of ECOMOG, others economic and military organisations at a great human, financial and diplomatic cost.
Nigeria played a central role in the ECOWAS efforts to end the civil war in Liberia and contributed the bulk of the ECOWAS peacekeeping forces sent there in 1990. Nigeria also has provided the bulk of troops for ECOMOG forces in Sierra Leone.
But the question is: must this ‘Father Christmas’ policy continue? Since the international system is fluid, it is believed national interests must take the centre in international relations. Therefore, there must not be permanent friends but permanent interests.
Many foreign analysts have stressed the need for the Federal Government to jettison the utopian policy of the big brother of Africa. Others have also argued the need for Nigeria to get something tangible for putting so much into freeing the continent from colonialism with little in return for such efforts. Many of such concerned experts mentioned Nigeria’s contributions to freeing Southern African countries from colonialism. Ironically, scores of Nigerians have been killed in xenophobic attacks in South Africa without Nigeria taking drastic action, except condemnation of such killings by the Chairman, Nigerian Diaspora Commission Mrs. Abike Dabiri-Erewa as well as her subtle diplomacy. As of the last count, about 127 Nigerians had been murdered in that country in the past few years.
On June 13, the Deputy Director-General of the Chartered Insurance Institute of Nigeria, Mrs Elizabeth Ndubuisi-Chukwu, was killed in her hotel room in South Africa.
Just a few days ago, a former minister Dubem Onyia, said Nigeria has no Foreign Policy.
However, the coming on board of the immediate past Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, as a ministerial nominee made analysts believe that he might return to his erstwhile office.
Onyeama, as the nation’s chief diplomat for over three years, was able to push many Nigerian representatives into various world organisations, including the United Nations Human Rights Council, Governing Body of the International Labour Organisation, the UN Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations, and the UN World Tourism Organisation.
But still, diplomatic arena watchers argued that Onyeama’s tenure did not impact on the international profile of the nation going by the continued xenophobic attacks on Nigerians in many parts of the world. The minister, others argued, performed impressively on the international scene during his tenure.
Many of the 110 Nigerian missions and embassies abroad are still a national embarrassment despite promises of reforms and rationalisation. They are still groaning under financial difficulties.
Some of them have reportedly not paid salaries for months and owe huge debts. As part of its cost-saving measures, the Federal Government ordered the closure of three of Nigeria’s foreign missions and down-sized one. The closed missions were in Sri Lanka, the Czech Republic and the Republic of Serbia. The one in Ukraine was downsized.
Nigerian embassies and consulates do not render their duties to Nigerians abroad. To procure a common passport when one is in dire need is a problem.
The country’s missions do not follow up on the cases affecting Nigerians abroad and many compatriots are languishing in jails without legal representation. A British court’s ruling affirming that Nigeria owes and should pay a foreign firm $9 billion (about N3.2 trillion) is currently generating concerns.
Nigeria’s food security depends on producing cereal crops, as well as increasing its production of fruits, vegetables and livestock to meet the demands of a growing population with rising incomes. Stakeholders expect the new Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development to take measures to create a productive, competitive, diversified and sustainable agricultural sector.
While agriculture’s share in Nigeria’s economy has risen gradually in the last eight years, enough has not been done to boost overall contribution to the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP). Agriculture still contributes about 30 per cent to the GDP but provides a direct livelihood to two-thirds of its population.
Stakeholders expect the Minister of Agriculture to present a proposal for a productive, competitive, diversified and sustainable agricultural sector that will increase Nigeria’s production of fruits, vegetables and livestock to meet the demands of a growing population with rising incomes.
They expect the new minister to present a comprehensive proposal for a progressive overhaul of the sector.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) in May this year, unveiled a new five-year strategic programming cycle, to assist the Federal Government to develop the agriculture sector and ensure efficient management of the country’s natural resources.
The Country Programming Framework for Nigeria (CPF) 2018-2022, outlines five priority areas to assist in the implementation of the nation’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP). It also spells out a set of medium-term support objectives and results as approved by the FAO Regional Office for Africa (RAF).
Under the CPF 2018 – 2022, FAO will bring together innovative, international best practices and global standards with national and international expertise during the five years. The priority areas include: Strengthening national food and nutrition security through enhanced nutrition-sensitive and climate-smart food systems; supporting appropriate and operationally effective agricultural policy and regulatory frameworks; supporting Nigeria’s Economic Diversification Agenda and the promotion of decent employment for youth and women in the agriculture value chains; improving the management of natural resources and ecosystems; and enhancing disaster risk reduction, resilience building and emergency management towards strengthening the Humanitarian-Development Nexus.
Stakeholders observed that supporting farmers to diversify to higher-value commodities will be a significant factor for higher agricultural growth.
The President, Federation of Agricultural Commodities Association of Nigeria (FACAN), Dr Victor Iyama, believes the considerable potential exists for expanding agro-processing and building competitive value chains for local and export markets.
While diversification initiatives should be left to farmers and entrepreneurs, he thought the Government can partner with the private sector to liberalise constraints to marketing, transport, export and processing.
Agro exporters said the port infrastructure is impeding trade and causing high transport and logistics, especially for those transporting produce through Apapa ports.
NIGER DELTA AFFAIRS
THE Niger Delta mirrors the malaise in the Nigerian economy. Like the larger society, the region is plagued by youth unemployment, environmental degradation and lack of infrastructure. Successive governments in the past failed as far as management of the oil industry is concerned, by failing to use the resources that God gave the region – oil – for the benefit of the people.
The major challenge facing the incoming Minister of Niger Delta Affairs is providing credible leadership. The Niger Delta is the region that lays the golden egg because oil has been the life-blood of the Nigerian economy. But earnings from oil have not been invested for the benefit of the people of the Niger Delta and the country in general. Crude oil is a nonrenewable resource, it would not last forever. So, the challenge for the ministry is to gradually prepare the region for a world without oil.
The problems of the Niger Delta, such as youth restiveness, unemployment, environmental degradation and lack of infrastructure, could be attributed to a lack of credible leadership. Observers say the lack of stable policies in the country over the years has also adversely affected the Niger Delta. Successive governments have come up with laudable policies, but they were not implemented to yield dividends for the region and the economy at large.
For instance, there have been many attempts and many plans made in the past to improve the lives of the people of the Niger Delta. Sadly, each ended with very little to show for the time and resources spent; as they continue to gather dust on the shelves. One of such is the Niger Delta Master Plan. Like previous attempts, the stakeholders were not carried along in the formulation of the Master Plan. So, it is difficult to secure their buy-in in its implementation. Unfortunately, it was designed to offer stakeholders at all levels (individual, group and community) the opportunity to participate fully in the planning and decision-making process.
One project that has turned a sour point and an albatross to the ministry is the East-West Road which has remained under construction since 2006. It was first handled by the Ministry of Works, until 2009, when it was handed over to the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs. Over N300 billion has been spent on the project so far, but it is yet to be completed. This road is a task that must be done.
JUSTICE AND HUMAN RIGHTS
Whoever President Buhari appoints as Attorney-General and Minister of Justice in this second term will have his work cut out in several areas, especially justice administration and respect for human rights.
This is because, as former AGF Abubakar Malami (SAN) would have found out to his chagrin, almost every act, inaction, comment or silence of the President is examined from a legal prism.
Thus, the quality of the legal advice the government receives is critical in ensuring that its acts do not run foul of the law.
Malami came under the spotlight for much of the President’s first term following several acts which, according to critics, questioned the government’s commitment to justice, human rights and the rule of law, including obedience to court orders.
Whatever gains the justice sector made under him, his stewardship was, dogged by the Federal Government’s failure to comply with several court orders.
An example was the July 5, 2017, Federal High Court judgment ordering the government to publish the names of looters.
Another is the judgment ordering the administration to compel the regimes of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, the late President Umaru Yar’Adua, and former President Goodluck Jonathan to account for how much of the late Gen Sani Abacha loot was recovered and how it was spent.
Other high profile incidents include refusal to obey judgments ordering the release of the leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, Sheikh Ibraheem El-Zakzaky; his wife, Zeenat; and a former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki.
The case of El-Zakzaky and Zeenat, who were recently permitted to travel abroad for medical care, led to violence and deaths following clashes between law enforcement agencies and IMN members protesting the government’s failure to comply with a 2016 order granting their leader bail. It will be good for things to change in this era.
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