34 Priority Projects in Seven Months?

with  Eddy Odivwri

Apparently worried about the general feeling of slow or poor performance thus far, the Buhari-led government, last Wednesday, at the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting had announced that it has identified 34 priority projects which it intends to execute during the year.
I carefully read through the document of the Ministry of Budget and National Planning detailing the projects that will be targeted during the year. They looked to me like a campaign manifesto, which normally appears too beautiful to be true. The campaigns are long over. The government is almost one year in office and is still grappling with how to do what. What I interpreted from the document is that they are still largely statements of intent. Here is a government that has practically taken one year to boot, and hoping to execute 34 projects within the remaining seven months of the year.
As I write, the budget from which the projects will be derived is yet to be ready. Nigeria is heading into the raining season. Not much work, especially road construction can take place during the rains. But the Federal Government is hoping to restore failed  portions of major national highways in a stretch of distance covering 210,093 kilometers.
The projects which are classified into four major objectives have sub themes ranging from policy, governance, through to security and diversification of the economy.
Of a truth, Nigerians have been waiting for the Buhari government to begin to govern in ways that are practically measurable and relieving. The last one year, seems to have been used studying the map.
The government has in specific terms proposed to gain self sufficiency in refined petroleum product within three years and even become a net exporter of petroleum products. How will this be achieved? Is the government going to build new refineries between now and 2019? Or is it going to keep pouring hard currency into the old and (jinxed?) existing refineries?
The government has also promised to increase the megawatts of electricity from the nearly 3,000 megawatts to 7,000 megawatts in generation and distribution during the year. This is great, but how feasible?
And in a bid to achieve increased mass transit niche, it has planned to conclude the Abuja-Kaduna-Ajaokuta rail way just as it will revise the National Rail master plan which will see to the execution of the Lagos-  Kano standard guage line. It smells nice but far-fetched.
That the economy is in a comatose state is beyond controversy. With inflation evading our homes and   the amount of money in our pockets getting smaller and even weaker, the entire areas of priority of the government will be completely useless if the purchasing power of Nigerians is still abysmally low.
During the week, the World Bank had declared that it is now more difficult to do business in Nigeria than it was last year. The World Bank  ranked Nigeria in the 169th position. But the government says it wants to improve on this by moving 20 places up in the index. That is herculean but not impossible. The several parameters that led to the poor ranking have to be worked on as a way of rescuing the nation’s economy.
The workers through the NLC have asked for minimum wage increase from N18,000 to N56,000. The leap seems astronomical, but it is not an over reach. Any fight against corruption can hardly be successful without minding the real worth of what workers are paid. Lee Kwan Yu of Singapore knew this and raised the salaries of Singaporians before he began the war against graft in that country. It is the realistic thing to do.
It will require more than glib talks and statements of intents.  So the government, in making Nigeria a better business-friendly country, again, intends to have low interest lending rates to the real sector, and also maintain a stable debt management strategy.
While all of these, if well implemented, will reflate the economy, the one that will be more impactful to the public will be the plan to utilize 5,000 arable hectares of land in 12 River Basin Development Authorities, all with the intent of becoming self sufficient in some agricultural produce like rice, cassava, fruits, cashew nuts, etc.
It is hoped that this will generate enough job opportunities for our teeming youths.
If there was any doubt about how bad things are, the planned recruitment of 10,000 policemen is a clear proof, given that almost a million persons have now applied for 10,000 job vacancy, not even because they love the Police job as such, but because they just want to be engaged. The agric sector holds a big key that can unlock  the unemployment door.
It is significant that the government is also planning to meet the needs of the weak and vulnerable in the society, by implementing social projects like rehabilitating 5,000 primary health care centres in 5,000 wards across the country. Aside providing  temporary jobs to those who will undertake these tasks, the projects will create greater access to health care.
The same is planned even for education where some 5,000 primary schools will be rehabilitated.
I am not already enamoured by the plans, which as I said earlier, look like campaign promises. The taste of the pudding is in the eating. The Buhari administration must walk its talks, in order to redeem its dipping integrity. I am a Buharian (believer in the Buhari administration) but I am not unmindful of the political landmines in the highway to good governance.
 Nigerians are waiting. The hawks are watching. The opposition’s diary is busy. It is redemption time.
Budget and National Planning Minister,  Senator Udo Udoma
Budget and National Planning Minister, Senator Udo Udoma              

Taking a Connecting Flight
For those who are frequent travellers, the practice of taking connecting flights must be familiar.
Most times, travellers will prefer to take a straight flight to their destinations, essentially to avoid the stress associated with changing flights and all such warts that come with long distance flights.  Yet, connecting flights enable travellers to have a “short break”, stretch your legs, and eventually taste of another flight, with a fresh ambience and new sets of crew and passengers, sometimes with more pleasant experience.
All things considered, what is uppermost in the mind of the traveler is to eventually arrive his/her destination safely, without issues or stress.
In a way, life’s journey is likened to the flight scenario.
As we live, we explore many routes to our programmed and pre-determined destinations.  Sometimes, it may require taking a “connecting flight” by seeking other routes to where we are headed. Sometimes, this search for other routes may delay early arrival. But what is ultimately key is safe and purposeful arrival.
For many who have asked and those who have not, I hereby declare that I have taken the connecting flight. I am on board another vessel now, with different configuration and design, but headed to the same pre-determined destination. While I crave your good wishes and prayers, I add that this column will continue to run, courtesy of my Captain in the earlier flight.
Herdsmen Killing in Self Defence?

I am happy that there appears to be some light at the end of the tunnel now on this herdsmen’s clashes with local communities
Really, what gave you that assurance?
Didn’t you hear the army authorities warn the herdsmen to stop the killings or be crushed? Didn’t you notice that the presidency is now joining others in condemning the attacks?  Did you also not observe that even the hitherto faceless Fulani herdsmen have now spoken under their umbrella body (The Miyeti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria)? Who ever knew that such homeless, ever on-the-go people, had such an association? At least, there is a face and voice to the suspects now.
And what did the said association say that has re-inforced your confidence on the resolution of the crisis? Look, if anything, what the leader of the association, Senator Dagiri Alkali said is quite inflammatory. To claim that the Fulani herdsmen had been killing in self defence is quite provocative.
What do you mean by provocative? Should the Fulanis not defend themselves when they are threatened? Are their lives not as precious as well?
Who is threatening them? Are they not the ones threatening and killing people unprovoked? Look, who threatened their lives before they attacked and killed Agatu people? How and when was their lives endangered before they unleashed bloody mayhem at Enugu? Or when they kidnapped and killed HRM Edward Ofulue, the monarch of Ubulu-Uku in Delta State, last January, were the Fulani herdsmen threatened by the murdered monarch? Or were they also threatened when they organized and kidnapped elder statesman, Chief Olu Falae last year?  Can’t you see that the so-called speech of the herdsmen’s association is arrant nonsense?
But didn’t you see photo images of over 80 shot cows in Nasarawa bush? Is that not an attack on the economy of the Fulani men? Shouldn’t they protest and protect themselves?
I shudder at the skew of your argument. You cite the example of the killing of cows in Nasarawa to explain the pogrom in Agatu (Benue State) and even the recent killings in Enugu State. Does it add up? If Nasarawa people kill their cows, when vent their spleen on Agatu or Isoko or Enugu people? Does that make sense? In any case, if they feel so offended, why did they not report to the police? Why did they take the laws into their hands as to avenge any wrong done them? Are they above the law? And pray, Mr Fulani defender, who gave these herdsmen those AK 47 assault riffles and the other sophisticated weapons they unleash on defenseless villagers? Who taught otherwise rustic herdsmen how to fire AK 47? Who supplies them the ammunition? Are they licensed to bear arms in the name of so-called self defense? Or are they really above the law in Nigeria?
You are asking too many questions. Do you realize that many of these herdsmen migrate from other grazing belts like Mali, Gambia, Niger, Chad etc?
Rubbish! Is that not the more reason they must respect the laws of the land? How can strangers come and oppress the owners of the land just because they are Fulani herdsmen? Do they own Nigeria? Does Nigeria belong to anybody or any group of persons exclusively? Answer me and stop moping at me!
What do you want me to say? The point I am making is that as Nigerians, the Fulani herdsmen also have right to seek economic activities in any part of the land, just like every other Nigerian in any part of the country. That is the point that you mustn’t forget.
Yes, but must they now use their own economic pursuit to endanger and imperil the livelihood of others especially of people in their own ancestral hearth? Is it right that in their search for their own economic activity by shepherding cattle all over the place, they should kill and damage the crops of peasant farmers? Is it even fair that they will also forbid the farmers from complaining even in the face of naked injustice, just because they are Fulanis who now carry guns instead of sticks, bows and arrows?
That is why the National Assembly must quickly work on the Grazing Reserve Bill so the herdsmen will have their own grazing space and that will eternally stop these frequent clashes.
Another raw rubbish! That cannot and will not work. If all Nigerians are truly equal as the constitution preaches, why must the ancestral land of an Ogoja man or an Urhobo man or an Ekiti man or an Idoma man be allocated to Fulanis as grazing zone?
Away with such vexatious argument! I can assure you that the National Assembly will cease to exist the day it makes any move to pass such an inherently combustive Bill.
Do you realize that cattle rearing is a private business and the practitioners of such private business should go and buy their own land which they can turn to grazing fields with Terms and Conditions applying? Are the herdsmen special Nigerians? Hey, do they even pay tax despite the huge sales they make of cows across the land? They must be special indeed. Remember these same herdsmen almost caused a plane crash when an Air France taxing to a stop ran into cows which strayed into the tarmac of the Port Harcourt International Airport a few years ago? Not long ago, the Ministry of Education came up with a policy of Nomadic education. People who are resident and willing have not had education, but the government packaged nomadic education for roving people. How much of success came from that silly venture? Have we not had enough of these nomads?
My friend, you must have heard it before that No grazing zone, No Nigeria. And trust the Fulani man to mean what he says and say what he means. I think we must find a solution to this blazing fire.
What a heck men! To hell with any threat from anybody. Nigeria is bigger than any one group or person. The country is a collective. Nobody or group can hold it to ransom. The laws of the land must not be abused. In order to have peaceful co-existence, we must respect the rights of one another. That is the way to go. Such tough talks are empty vibrations that will lead nowhere. Let the madness stop. Nobody is allowed to kill for any reason. Anything less is a working manual for trouble.