RingTrue

with Yemi Adebowale; yemi.adebowale@thisdaylive.com; 07013940521 (text ony)

The attack on hapless worshippers in a mosque in Molai-Umarari Village, Borno State by Boko Haram on Wednesday which left over 26 people dead did not come as a surprise to many. The truth is that the security situation in Borno State is still abysmal. The capacity of the terrorists to launch attacks is obviously yet to be degraded. There are so many security agents in and around the North-east, nonetheless, the terrorists move around easily and inflict deep cuts on ill-fated Nigerians. Persistent claims by the government that the terrorists have been decapitated; that they only attack soft targets is an embarrassment to this nation. A forward-looking government should get serious with the war by critically and honestly examining how to reduce attacks on these soft targets. The military must truly recover all occupied territories, because this is where the terrorists plan and launch attacks on soft targets. The use of technology, intelligence- gathering and pragmatic community policing are also vital in protecting soft targets. It is not just enough to have the North-east brimming with thousands of soldiers. This year alone, the so-called attacks on soft targets have claimed over 300 lives. Some of them included the January 11 attack in Madagali which claimed seven lives; January 26 attack in a forest in Borno State during which five firewood traders were killed; the January 27 attack in Chibok which claimed 14 lives; the January 31 attack in Dalori Village which claimed 86 lives and the February 13 attack in Yakshari and Kachifa villages in Damboa during which 30 people were killed.

Another big point that has been a major drawback to this war against Boko Haram and the tenacious attacks on soft targets is the dishonesty of the Buhari administration about the war. Stories about thousands of terrorists killed are rolled out daily, yet, attacks by the sect persist. In just nine months of President Muhammadu Buhari’s watch, about 3000 Nigerians have been killed by the terrorists. We cannot win this war with propaganda. Buhari’s story that the terrorists no longer control any part of Nigeria is all propaganda that will take us nowhere. I was shocked about two weeks ago when the Armed Forces Special Force (AFSF) announced that it had cleared all traces of Boko Haram occupation from Gudumbari, the headquarters of Guzamala Local Government Area of Borno State. Army spokesman, Colonel Sani Kukasheka Usman told the nation that, “In continuation of the clearance of the remnants of recalcitrant members of Boko Haram terrorists in the various nooks and crannies of the North-east, the AFSF carried out successful clearance of Boko Haram terrorists hiding in Gudumbali general area.” Even displaced people celebrated the recapture of Gudumbali. So, Gudumbali had just been cleared of terrorists? How do we reconcile this with stories by this administration that no Nigerian territory is under Boko Haram’s control?

Just as the Commander of the US Africa Command (USAFRICOM), General David Rodriguez, stated recently, Boko Haram terrorists are still holding territories in Northern Nigeria. “Boko Haram does hold some significant territory in Northern Nigeria,” declared Rodriguez. This is a fact Buhari must face and address properly instead of resorting to propaganda and deceiving Nigerians. The terrorists launch attacks on soft targets from these strongholds. Lies come with huge consequences. This is why IDPs don’t want to return to their homes; they know that these places are still not safe.

Virtually all those directly involved in the war against Boko Haram have chosen to be economical with the truth. Anything built on falsehood will always crumble. If we are going to make progress in this war, we must learn to be honest; otherwise, we will be doing a great disservice to the ill-fated people in the affected communities. Just as Senator Baba Kaka Garbai representing Borno Central in the National Assembly reported recently, Borno State is still divided in equal measure between the terror sect and the Nigerian military. Only the truth can get us out of this mess. The government must stop telling us that the terrorists have been weakened while attacks occur regularly. We cannot continue like this and expect a positive result.

The Case against Power Generating Companies
Electricity supply across the nation has gone from bad to worse. Most of us are now permanently on generator. I can’t remember the last time I got up to two hours of supply in a day. Manufacturers are spending billions of Naira to power their generators. For how long will these dark days persist? Already, this administration has wasted its first year doing nothing on improving electricity supply. If it fails to do the needful swiftly, we would most likely remain in darkness for the next three years. Many are sick and tired of lame excuses pushed out daily by the government stating why the generation companies are unable to operate optimally. They attribute their failure to things like inadequate supply of gas, low water level and sabotage of gas pipelines. I am horrified that this administration is making these excuses on behalf of the private companies running the generating plants. This amounts to failure of this administration and its regulatory agencies. The power generating companies ought to be told to go and source for their gas from anywhere and operate at optimum capacity. That was one of the reasons tariffs were recently increased. There should be new rules of engagement, with severe penalties for those who fail to operate at optimum capacity. After all, there are gas-powered electricity plants in many countries where gas is not produced. They simply source for their gas from anywhere in the world. Our electricity generating companies should do the same. Hydro-electric power plants should also supplement their water supply with multiple mega boreholes.

Lessons from Governor Ganduje’s Freedom
It is heart-warming to know that Governor Umar Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State is now a free man. For almost 10 months, former Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso practically turned Ganduje (his erstwhile deputy) into a puppet. The man in Ganduje died, as he was taking instructions from Kwankwaso on virtually all issues. The former governor decided who got what, when and how much in the state. Contractors queued in front of Kwankwaso’s house instead of that of Ganduje. When Kwankwaso comes into town, Ganduje would abandon all functions to receive him. That was how powerful Kwankwaso was until two weeks ago when the Kano State governor decided to rebel and take full charge of the state. Kwankwaso the godfather went to the extreme and was sacked, thanks to support from powerful indigenes of the state. Ganduje, who was just in government, is now in power. The decision of the state’s House of Assembly to pass a vote of confidence in Governor Ganduje this week is a good development. The governor also needs to move quickly to dislodge members of the Kwankwasiyya Amana political movement in his cabinet in the interest of the people.

Ganduje is the first governor in this dispensation to sack his godfather. This move is clearly in the interest of the people of the state as it offers an opportunity to get a clear picture of the alleged rot left behind by Kwankwaso in the state. Also, the Kano State governor can now implement his own agenda devoid of external influence. Many other governors across the country are still under the yoke of their godfathers. Some of these ex-governors still maintain their apartments in the Government House while the incumbent governors are pushed to the backyard. Unfortunately, many of these incumbent governors are happy taking instructions from their predecessors. They are simply errand boys. I hope the development in Kano State will motivate these eaglet governors to fight for their emancipation from the shackles of godfatherism.

GovernorCivil servants in Ogun State have been on strike since March 7 over a long list of complaints against Governor Ibikunle Amosun. Union leaders say the five years of Amosun have brought immense pain on their members. They also say that most of their members have not been enjoying full salaries for a while now. According to the General Secretary of the state’s Joint National Public Negotiating Council, Olusegun Adebiyi‎, “about 45 percent of our salaries are being paid and the government goes to the media to tell them they have paid salaries while 55 per cent of the salaries are being withheld by the government.” The workers are also angry about non-payment of gratuities and non-remittance of various deductions from their salaries. Gratuities were last paid in this state in October 2012. There is also a huge unremitted contributory pension deduction. Workers in the 20 local government areas ‎in the state also joined in the strike. Public schools and courtrooms remained shut. Everything has been at a standstill in Ogun for days.

Rather than engage the seething workers, Amosun, who reneged on a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed with the workers sometime in January, has been going about threatening them with a sack. Clearly, this is not the time to threaten these hapless workers. I don’t think Amosun will achieve anything with this. He needs to be reminded that we are not under a military regime. This governor has disappointed the workers on several occasions. Ogun civil servants have never had it so bad in the 40 years history of this state. Amosun should seek forgiveness and restitution. Amosun and Angry Civil Servants.

Musings on Forex Restrictions
Several months after foreign exchange and import restrictions were imposed by the Buhari administration, ostensibly to stabilise the Naira, the measures have failed to achieve the desired objectives. The Central Bank of Nigeria restricted forex supply, and fixed the Naira at N197 to N199 per dollar in the official market. These have created difficulties in accessing imported inputs and have continued to hurt the manufacturing sector. Hundreds of Nigerians are being laid off daily. According to the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, about 200 of their members may be forced to shut their plants by the end of the first quarter of this year if the problem persists. I witnessed the sack of about 120 workers at Niger Biscuit in Apapa two weeks ago. The experience was heart-wrenching as the retrenched young men and women wailed. These are the victims of the archaic economic policies of this administration. Currency controls are evidently killing our economy, eroding confidence, slowing growth, fueling inflation and increasing joblessness in our nation. Just look around you and you will understand better what I am talking about.

The parallel market also responded to forex restrictions; at a point, it soared to over N400 to the USD. This led to a rise in the prices of goods and services in the country, as businessmen and other Nigerians turn to this market for forex. The huge gap between the official and parallel market rates has been encouraging fraud and round-tripping in an era of change. Where I am going is that the CBN and Buhari must allow our battered Naira to float in accordance with market realities. This is the way forward for Nigeria.