Nigerian Issues that Bother Me (2)

Eddy Odivwri

Last week, I began the examination of the curious issues that have been plaguing the Nigerian state. This week’s column is a continuation (and conclusion) of that series.

It is interesting to note that on the issue of security, the Nigerian state is still held down by the menace of Bandits and terrorists. With the unprovoked killings in Katsina, Plateau and Kaduna States early this week, it is clear we are in for a long night.  At the end of July, 7,223 persons had been killed in this country, this year alone. 

However, there is quasi-cheering news with the release of five more Kaduna train captives, last Tuesday. At that, 38 have been released, while 34 are still being held.  One of the released victims, Professor Mustapha Umar Imam, a medical doctor, narrated a touching and harrowing ordeal saying he practically became the “medical doctor in camp”, as he kept treating both fellow captives and even the bandits, lamenting that there were no medications in camp at all, even as they ate, most times, just once a day. Understandably, he looked terribly languid and exhausted. Sad!

 Well, the other issues I will look at today include:

POWER SUPPLY AS AN ENIGMA

It is befuddling to note that government after government, the question of stable electricity supply has remained elusive and even appears like an enigma. It is shameful and difficult to explain that with all the human and material endowment of this country, we are unable to fix the issue of electricity supply, 62 years after independence.

Recently, we have been hearing reports of the grid collapsing, every now and then as if it is mounted on a match stick. The national grid at Osogbo, Osun State, was reported to have collapsed seven times in seven months, although an official of the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN), explained that the grid has not been collapsing, just that it is “system failure”, as if that makes a difference.  The grid has forcefully shut down for over 140 times since the federal Government privatized the power sector. Rather than grow the megawatts being generated and distributed, the TCN has been transmitting megawatts of darkness all over Nigeria. And there is an annoying surfeit of explanations that don’t make sense. It is even more painful to note that the federal government has been spending huge sums, in foreign currency, to support the projects of electricity supply in the country, even though it is largely a private company. And you wonder if we are jinxed. There is no difference in efficiency and service delivery between when the power sector was government-owned and when it is now a privately run company/companies.

Put simply, is it that we do not have the money enough to install a system that can guarantee steady supply of electricity or we do not have the technical expertise to do it? For Heaven’s sake, isn’t that all the hullabaloo about engaging Siemens to help us with our energy issues? How come that it remains an enduring pain to Nigerians?

Is it not embarrassing that a country of over 200 million people is being serviced by about 4,000 megawatt whereas a country like South Africa, with about 60 million people is serviced with over 55,000 megawatts. Are we still wondering why our economy is wobbling?

Needless to say that the dismal state of our electricity supply has crushed many SMEs and even surviving companies are producing in tears, just as the cost of production has risen sharply because of the prevailing cost of diesel.

POROUS BORDERS 

Simply put, the border posts are like compound gates. They check those who enter and exit the country/ compound. The men and women of the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) are trained to man the borders. Yes, there are several illegal routes (often bush paths) that circumvent the official borders. So, while the Nigerian state spends huge sums every year servicing the manning of the borders, we yet see inpouring of illegal immigrants into Nigeria, some officially and others unofficially. Few years ago, the Buhari administration announced a policy of visa-on-arrival from many African countries, especially Fulani-dominated countries. Right from that time, the towns and cities of Nigeria have been flooded with foreign nationals from Niger, Mali, Chad, Gambia, etc. Many of the Okada riders who have become an affliction in our towns and cities, including some of the bandits, are not from Nigeria. They barely can even understand our pidgin English. Many of their motorcycles are unregistered. And nobody complains, not even the police. They are characteristically wild, tempestuous and violent.  Many of them go around with the swag of miniature conquistadors. Not only do they seem to have come to stay, they even boast that they are Fulani, the rightful owners of the land. 

The billion-dollar question is:  where are the Immigration Officers? How did these strangers besiege our land with violence and death? No doubt, border posts are like cash dumps because of the heavy illicit deals they organize and execute. Little wonder Customs officers and NIS officials lobby fat to be posted there.

The same heavily-manned-but-porous borders are where the smugglers of petroleum products pass through to neighbouring countries. The reason why Nigeria is spending ungodly sums in subsidizing petroleum products consumed even in other countries. Does President Buhari not know this? What has he done about it?  

THE BANAL NEPOTISM IN NIGERIA

It is perhaps safe and correct to say that until the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, we merely knew the dictionary meaning of the word ‘nepotism’. But Buhari came and caused us not only to experience what nepotism really is, he valourised the word.  You don’t have to search far to know and see this. Now I understand the verbiage spewed by many Fulani boys: that Nigeria belongs to them—from Birnin-Kebbi to Bomadi, etc. These days I give deeper interpretation to the many accusations of some senior citizens including former President Olusegun Obasanjo, former Defence minister, Lt Gen Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma (rtd) and recently, of Gov Samuel Ortom of Benue State, that there is an organised plan and plot to Fulanise Nigeria.  One instance had remained stuck in my head for over four years now.  In August 2018, Professor Yemi Osinbajo was then the acting President (following the medical travel of President Buhari). He had sacked the DG of DSS, Mr Lawal Daura for deploying DSS operatives to block the National Assembly. The next in rank was Mr Matthew Seiyefa, an Ijaw man. He was named the acting DG, DSS by Prof Osinbajo. He was due for retirement in August 2019. But the notorious cabal in the Villa was very uncomfortable that such a sensitive position was being occupied by a non-Fulani, especially in the build-up to the 2019 general election at the time. Pronto, as soon as President Buhari returned, Mr Seiyefa was sacked. They could not even wait for him to retire in less than a year. Worse still, before he was sacked, he was ordered by the late Chief of Staff to Mr President, Abba Kyari, to reverse all the postings he had made within the service, because he had distorted the arrangement of the oligarchs.  Seyeifa was replaced by a Fulani, Mr Yusuf Magaji Bichi. I cannot forget this.

Looking through the template of governance in Nigeria, one would understand the true definition of nepotism.

There are 17 security outfits in Nigeria. All 17 are occupied by Fulani persons. Are you still wondering why the problem of insecurity (perpetrated by Fulani terrorists) looks intractable?

Mr Dele Momodu, a columnist in this paper, in April last year, chronicled the many offices occupied by Fulani men in Nigeria. More than a year after, nothing has changed. For each of the following positions named below, they are occupied by Fulani persons, and thus they are all Muslims. The National Assembly, NNPC, Nigerian Customs, NPA, FIRS, Defence, EFCC, FCT, Transportation, Education, Finance, NFIU, Agriculture, Aviation, Army, Police, Power, Water Resources, NYSC, PTDF, NTA, FAAN, INEC, ICPC, Humanitarian Affairs, etc., etc. Even the Judiciary, until few weeks ago, was also occupied by a Fulani. Look around, what else is left of Nigeria that is not under the control of the Fulani? Until Justice Ariwo-ola became the acting CJN few weeks ago, all three arms of government (Executive, Judiciary and the Legislature) were all occupied by people of the same ethno-religious stock. What kind of dominance is that? It was to avoid a scenario like this that the idea of the Federal Character Commission was founded. But even with it, there is an aggressive manipulation of the system to circumvent the provisions of the Federal Character Commission.  Perhaps it should be reiterated that there are no second class or third-class citizens in Nigeria. We are all equal and deserve an equal slice of the national cake.

THE ASUU IMBROGLIO 

Since February 14, a day youngsters celebrate love, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has been on the neck of the Federal Government, or is it the other way round?  Since then till now, all federal and many state universities have remained shut.

Long before now, it was somewhat a matter of status symbol if one was able to send his child to a federal University. Not anymore. What is a show of status symbol now is that one is able to send his child to a foreign or at least a private Nigerian University.

Any parent who insists on sending his child to a Nigerian university is either deemed not to have the financial muscle to send the child abroad or he/she does not care so much about the child’s education and future. 

 It is difficult to explain why both parties have refused to have a common ground, even if it is for the expediency of saving the academic pursuit of young Nigerians—the famously claimed leaders of tomorrow.

While the government team argues that the employees cannot dictate how they should be paid by their employer (referring to the controversy over the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) and University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) system of payment), the lecturers insist that the issues are beyond method of payment. That since 2009, many elements of the agreements signed with the federal government have remained unfulfilled. 

That ASUU will need about N1.3 trillion to redeem the standard of university education in Nigeria. 

That amount cannot be beyond Nigeria. Since February till now, their salaries have been halted, thus throwing them into some kind of financial agony. Yet, they insist that it is for the good of the University education in Nigeria. That standards are dropping fast is beyond argument. Many years back, many West African countries looked up to Nigerian universities for quality education. Today it is the other way round. Nigerian parents now send their children to universities in Ghana, Niger, Lome and even Benin Republic— just anywhere but Nigeria.

In all, it is clear that the Nigerian government does not care about the value of education in Nigeria. It is a ruinous position, as it destroys the very foundation of development. How can a nation develop without education?

The paltry 5.4% allocated to education in the nation’s annual budget, instead of the UNESCO-recommended 26% speaks volumes of the kind of attention education enjoys from the government. Many of those who take decision on Nigerian education have their children schooling in foreign countries where the system runs robustly and efficiently.

Surely, the government cannot claim there is no money enough to meet the demands of ASUU. If one so-called Accountant General of the Federation, can steal over N80 billion, and N400 billion can be spent on poverty alleviation (even as poverty remains our presiding officer)  and over N230 billion used in feeding unseen and unknown schoolchildren (even during the COVID months) and government can spend over N1.3 trillion per month to subsidise the importation of just petrol, and surreptitiously sends N1.4 billion to Niger Republic to buy vehicles (after extending rail line to them) then the Universities can and should be easily funded by the same government. It will surely be a matter of priority or opportunity cost.

How can a responsible government allow its universities to remain shut for nearly six months? 

The two weeks ultimatum given by Mr President for the Minister of Education to resolve the impasse has expired. Nothing has happened. ASUU has instead announced the continuation of the strike by another four weeks. It may not even really end then. What kind of laissez faire government is this?

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