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MOTION WITHOUT MOVEMENT by Nasir @elrufai March 29, 2013

Posted by seunfakze in CHANGE, POLITICS.
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Budget 2013: Motion without Movement
By: Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai

The first quarter of the fiscal year has practically ended, yet Nigeria and Nigerians are yet to know how the approximately $140 million dollars the country earns daily from crude oil sales alone are being spent and how much more is going to be borrowed in our name to provide for services that we can neither see, nor feel. This hefty amount does not include daily collections for royalties, petroleum profits taxes,sales of liquefied natural gas and other condensates, income taxes, value added tax and other “internally-generated” revenues.

For an annual ritual that started about six months ago, the questions are: why is it that the Presidency and the National Assembly have been unable to reach a common ground on the federal budget? Is government blind to the urgent need for infrastructure development, social services, poverty alleviation and job creation? Is the budget really for the Nigerian people, or simply a convoluted mechanism to further defraud long suffering citizens?

To answer these posers, we will continue with deeper analysis of the 2013 budget which, from all indications is not different from preceding Jonathan-era budgets in terms of absence of positive improvements. We will look at some major sectors of the Nigerian economy and their
indicative budgetary allocations, attempt to correlate how the appropriations have been designed and determine whether they are structured to bring about meaningful development to our country. It
would also be important to assess if there have been any improvements over the years, drawing comparisons with model countries and possibly identify solutions where government has veered off, in the hope that policy makers would be willing to make necessary changes.

The importance of sensible and prudent budgetary allocations cannot be overemphasized because the budget in itself is an expression of public policy. It is the vehicle through which the various programs and agendas of a government come to life. It is the major economic policy instrument which indicates a government’s priorities, and is also a tool to correct anomalies and inequities within the society.

An efficient budgetary system is critical to economic growth and developing sustainable fiscal policies. On the flip side, a poorly designed budget where attention to details are neglected and figures just altered from existing templates can only exacerbate social and economic problems within the country. The effect of faulty budget choices will inevitably be felt mostly by the ordinary citizens who are at the mercy of dysfunctional government policies and facilities. Sadly, in the Nigerian context, budgeting is still based on guess work as alluded to by the Accountant General of the Federation a couple of weeks ago.

In light of the fifth Brazil, Russia, India, China and South (BRICS)summit on emerging national economies currently taking place in South Africa, one cannot help but understand why Nigeria with all our numerous resources and potentials still does not qualify as a member. These countries have succeeded in managing their resources by effective prioritization of their budgets. They have also channeled adequate financial resources to those sectors which yield the highest return on
investment for their economies. These nations have pulled hundreds of millions of their citizens out of poverty into middle class status while our leaders have pushed more and more citizens into poverty – from about 57% in 2007 to a disgraceful 72% of the population by the end of 2011!

Hitting closer to home is the fact that Nigeria and BRICS’ latest entrant, South Africa, are regarded as Africa’s economic power houses. In 2011, South Africa’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was estimated at $368 billion while Nigeria’s was $232 billion. South Africa’s revenue sources are diversified rather than totally dependent on mining income which used to be the mainstay of its economy. South Africa has also adopted participatory budgeting on some levels which allows citizens contribute directly in deciding how their budget priorities and figures are arrived at.

Disappointingly, in comparing Nigeria with other emerging economies, the federal budget has simply been one where the same things are done over and over again while expecting different results. Let us assess the electric power sector budget to see if it is geared towards revamping what every Nigerian would agree is the most debilitated sector of the economy.

The first electricity generating plant was built in Lagos around 1898. It was not until 1950 that the Federal government passed the Electricity Corporation of Nigeria Ordinance No. 15 which resulted in the Electricity Cooperation of Nigeria (ECN); the statutory body responsible for generation, transmission, distribution and sale of electricity in Nigeria. After independence in 1962, the Niger Dams Authority (NDA) was established, its primary responsibility was to construct and maintain dams in river Niger and other areas. Ten years later (1972), the National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) was formed by a merger of ECN and NDA. NEPA was mandated to “maintain and
co-ordinate an efficient and economic system of electricity supply for all part of the federation”.

Forty-one years after formalizing the structure for power management and supply in the country, have there been significant improvements? With the continuous promises from the government about power outages becoming a thing of the past, how is it that the electricity supply situation has only gotten worse? What is happening to the continuous budgetary allocations to the power sector and the numerous projects undertaken by the federal government? How is it that smaller and more impoverished nations have been able to provide steady and improved power supply while Nigerians constantly hear fables?

Most adults who have spent a great portion of their lives in Nigeria have probably never experienced constant 24hours of government-supplied electricity without breaks between. This scenario only even exists for the urban dwellers in large cities that enjoy a fair amount of electricity per day. For those who live in many of the state capitals within Nigeria, the power supply is less reasonable and it gets worse for the rural dwellers. No one is immune to the power outages so much so that the Presidential Villa and Governor’s lodges are all powered by stand-by generators.

The horrendous power supply in Nigeria has become a source of national embarrassment to say the least. During the FIFA U-17 football championship hosted by Nigeria some years back, there was an electricity outage in Kano during the game between Spain and USA. An extra 14 minutes had to be added to compensate for the embarrassing moment. Upsetting power outages have also been experienced at our international airports several times.

The importance of reliable power supply in Nigeria cannot be overemphasized. For there to be a major boost in the economy and the diversification away from dependence on oil, the power sector must be given utmost priority in budgetary spending and implementation. The benefits of having steady power supply will impact tremendously on manufacturing, SMEs which create employment, attracting foreign investment and boosting business in general.

In the 2013 budget, total allocation to the power sector is N74.26bn, a measly 1.4% of the total budget. Capital expenditure for the power sector is pegged at N70bn (about 1% of the total budget, or 3% of the total capital budget) while recurrent expenditure is N4.26bn. For a sector in dire need of rehabilitation and resuscitation, these figures are not indicative of any sense of prioritization leading to improvements anytime soon. Could it also be that successive government are simply uninterested in fixing the power sector as majority of the people think? Or could it be that truly, the power situation is beyond human capacity and is being manipulated by ‘ghosts, witches’ and
‘wizards’?

It is disheartening that a nation with a population of nearly 170 million hardly generates 4000 megawatts steadily while South Africa which has less than a third of our population (about 50 million) generates ten times more electricity (about 45,000 MW). It is not difficult to understand why South Africa surpasses Nigeria on major development indicators in spite of the latter’s potentials.

Is the government relying wholly on the private sector to shoulder the short-term investments in the sector? For the power situation in Nigeria to be turned around, government would need to invest massively in the sector. The investments needed must include federal budgetary intervention to expand and modernize the nation’s transmission infrastructure, some investments in renewable generation capacity using wind and solar, and even some hydropower stations to be placed under
private sector management or ownership as soon as they are commissioned.

Unless the government pragmatically pursues a mix of public and private investment in the various segments of electricity supply industry using our ample gas, hydro, coal, wind and solar
resources, our nation will remain in partial darkness for at least the next five years. South Africa on its own has recorded success in its power sector by harnessing their freely available natural resource (coal) and converting it to power. It did not go about importing natural resources which it already has, or relying solely on a private sector solution. Instead, it invested in making available resources usable to the public and private sectors.

Until this government or any other government for that matter is able to tackle the power supply problem in the country, it would not be taken seriously because this is one area where it is easiest to prove that a government is indeed working for the benefit of the people. Corruption and impunity which are the major culprits for the chaos in the sector must be dealt with. A good starting point – a massive national signal – would be for all federal government facilities (including the Presidential Villa, the National Assembly and Supreme Court) to stop forthwith the use of generators to supply electricity for their day to day activities both at work and home. Such a signal will not only compel the public electricity providers to sit up and get better, but will encourage policy makers to experience some of the pain that the ordinary Nigerian feels every day. Hopefully, this will engender change in official attitudes – and perhaps raise the budget for the power sector from the pathetic amount provided for in 2013!

In the meantime, as the executive and the legislative arms of
government continue to bicker over who has the power to do what, or who
has the mandate to award what contract, the whole budgetary process is
becoming more and more like the famous axiom: All motion, no movement.
Sadly, from economic development, poverty alleviation and job creation
perspectives, that, exactly, is what the 2013 budget may be turning out
to be.

GOODLUCK JONATHAN: JUSTIFYING CRIMINALITY By @seunfakze March 22, 2013

Posted by seunfakze in CHANGE, MORALITY, POLITICS.
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Wednesday, 13th March, 2013 will go down as a day of blemish in the fight against corruption; for patriotic citizens of Nigeria, for those who truly desire an end to corruption. On that day, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha got a state pardon which automatically absolves him of all indictment of corrupt act. I write this now, so history can judge the act of Mr President. I write it, so posterity can weigh us! I writeto emphasize the implications of the pardon, justifying a criminal, justifying willful murder of Nigerians (mothers, fathers, children)

Mr Alamieyeseigha, like other present and past corrupt Nigerian leaders, stole funds meant to improve Nigerian lives in Bayelsa state, he looted the people’s treasury, an act which ultimately led to many deaths: Accidents from roads traps and potholes not fixed; loss of lives from lack of access to basic health infrastructure, especially of pregnant mothers; lack of access to pipe-borne water and basic amenities. These state resources would have been available in certain quarters (definitely not all) and would have prevented needless deaths where necessary.

Mr Alamieyeseigha, like Mr Ibori, stole the people’s funds, violated public trust. Rather than punish him, Mr president pardoned him. Your action, Mr President, is in no wise different from Mr Adolf Hitler, he justified the killings of millions of Jews and other nationalities by his personal and extremely ambitious ideals for nationalism. Yours, however sir, is borne, not out of love for nation (as your aides Messers Reuben Abati, Doyin Okupe, Labaran Maku) would want many Nigerians to believe; but out of personal interests weighing over the collective.

You promised to fight corruption, instead this singular stroke has brought us to one of the most deplorable depth of corruption ever witnessed. We were told of how General Babangida introduced Nigeria to large scale corruption; but you Mr Goodluck Jonathan’s action justified it, legalized it and put the highest stamp of authority on it.

Mr President, you granted pardon to a man who stole from Nigerians on a large scale, you granted pardon to a man who Deprived Nigerians, and impoverished them. You granted pardon to a man who we may never know the true extent of his corruption. How can you, Mr President, claim to fight corruption, when your actions speak otherwise? Double Standards! You granted pardon to a man wanted by the United Kingdom for his heinous public expropriation!

Mr President, we know you allegiance is with Alameiseyeigha because you served with him. You were loyal to him and last week’s pardon shows how that allegiance is to undying ends. Mr Alameiseyeigha was a very corrupt man, his corruption led to the loss of many lives. I condemn your actions on behalf of those precious lives who died from the neglect of Mr Alameiseyeigha; I condemn the pardon on behalf of precious Nigerians who suffered from the economic onslaught brought by his corruption. You may have forgotten but is is a country where Children hawk on expressways! You just justified someone who’s economic actions sent them on that path.

I condemn your actions Mr President on behalf of the mothers who died because of lack of access to basic health infrastructure; on behalf of lives lost on the death traps on Bayelsa roads, on behalf of lives who are impoverished from the economic implications of Alamieyeseigha’s corruption. Nigerians will not do anything about this, because many are too engrossed in how they will feed once a day, they are too unconcerned to care. It’s a sad time in our history. May history judge you Mr Goodluck Jonathan for justifying corruption, for justifying criminality.

2015: The Naked Dancers and the Two-Year Marathon by Nasir @elrufai March 8, 2013

Posted by seunfakze in Uncategorized.
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In a functional democracy, the arguments and divisions currently wracking the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) would be seen as a sign of the healthy debates and disagreements that are critical to democratic progression and the constant alignments and re-alignments that are permanent features of the electoral process.

But Nigerians now know better because the people currently in control of the PDP have no altruistic guiding principles and ideology to shape the party and promote good governance. The PDP’s top brass: President – Goodluck Jonathan, former president and BoT chairman – Olusegun Obasanjo, National Chairman – Bamanga Tukur, former and new BoT Chairman – Tony Anenih, Chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum – Rotimi Amaechi and a number of Governors have been engaged in a naked dance that amounts to exhibition of little more than raw and unbridled ambition.

At the root of the argument is not about which approach to adopt to tackle the enormous challenges confronting Nigeria. No one is talking about how to address the problem of our 20 million youth who have no jobs and are losing hope, or how to improve our collective security. None of the naked dancers is interested in seeking solutions to the problems of growing poverty, de-industrialization, deteriorating infrastructure, rising inequality, falling standards of education or decaying healthcare. None of the combatants in the PDP’s disagreements is concerned with tackling Nigeria’s mind-boggling corruption, impunity or even how to prepare for the day when our oil revenues will dry up. The one and only thing on the minds of these PDP apparatchiks is personal ambition, the pursuit of power and the senseless looting and primitive accumulation associated therewith.

In essence, what should be a public debate between and among the ruling party members to chart the path of progress for the country it has ruled since 1999 and has promised to govern for at least 60 years has been reduced to a voluble public fight about who gets what, where, how, and knowing the PDP for what it has become, how much! Eventually, because the fight is not predicated on any ideological or principled stand, whether by the instrument of the EFCC or the sheer need to remain on the corridors of power, all the gladiators will fall back in line at the right moment in order for the party to continue its nuclear war on the Nigerian people.

A year or two ago, it would have gotten away with it, too. Except that things are beginning to change, and a two-year marathon that would determine the future of Nigeria’s 170 million people is beginning to take shape and form: From mysterious campaign posters appearing overnight, PDP governors that have gone missing for months, trillions of stolen fuel subsidy and pension funds, unneeded and unsolicited 10 million cell phones for farmers, the first lady’s death and resurrection, endless political intrigues, revelations and long knives within the PDP – up to the emergence of a new opposition political party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), the tone for the 2015 elections seem to be taking shape.

Now, the issue is: what does the current situation and evolving developments entail, and what are their possible implications for the 2015 general elections, if we ever get there? Does the current discord within the ruling party signal the beginning of the end of its existence? Will the formation of the APC which is the merger of the four major opposition parties – ACN, CPC, ANPP and parts of APGA, signify the emergence of a ‘new’ and better Nigeria for the over 125 million Nigerians below the age of 35? Will the new party, APC survive its teething challenges and emerge with a manifesto and truly representative yet formidable candidates that will sweep away majority votes at the poles?

As all parties gear up towards 2015, we need to ask: Is President Jonathan capable of participating in the election without deliberately dividing the country along ethnic and religious lines for his short-term political gain? Is INEC willing, able and capable of delivering free, fair and credible elections in 2015? Can we trust INEC not to be what the opposition perceives it to be – a mere tool and toothless subsidiary of the PDP? How do we as individuals and stakeholders contribute our quota to ensure that we do not remain pawns in the hands of selfish politicians? Can we see through the antics of the false prophets who promised fresh air and transformation, only to lead us to the path of division and destitution?

There is no gainsaying that the PDP is in turmoil and chaos at the moment. On the surface, it began in January with the call by PDP governors for the sack of the party chairman – Bamanga Tukur due to the latter’s interference in the Adamawa PDP politics. This was followed by the move against Obasanjo’s henchmen in the party which led to the sack of its National Auditor Chief Bode Mustapha and his replacement by Alhaji Fatai Adewole Adeyanju while National Vice Chairman, South West, Segun Oni and National Secretary Oyinlola, were somehow also removed.

Following the above, the PDP set up its own Governor’s Forum with Governor Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom emerging as chairman in an attempt to polarize the already existing Nigeria Governor’s Forum which has the ‘stubborn’ Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers state as chair. As stated, the whole saga is indicative of PDP’s desperation to hang on to power and not allow democracy take its course. It has been alleged that this new forum was set-up to trim down the influence of Amaechi who is seen as too independent and non-conformist for the current PDP leadership. Those who know the PDP well will tell you that the quarrels can easily be resolved as soon as some of the excess crude, the looted fuel subsidy and pension funds are released and redistributed – and the gravy train that is the PDP will begin to roll again. But that is another matter for another day.

For now, the newly formed APC seems to have a grasp of what they are doing. Just a week ago, the opposition governors in the APC made a bold statement by holding the party’s third meeting in Maiduguri – the capital and base of the Boko-Haram insurgency. They also donated N200m to victims of the crisis. So far, the current government has neither been able to curb the insurgency nor has it set up a relief fund for victims of the menace. It would be recalled that President Goodluck Jonathan, once said he could not visit Maiduguri because the ‘airport was not in good shape’ and just about a month before was ‘too busy’ to visit and sent his deputy, Namadi Sambo. The APC governors have now shamed Jonathan to visit Maiduguri and recognize Borno as one of the 36 states of Nigeria!

The emergence of the APC, apparent crumbling of the ruling PDP alongside the deregistering of political parties by INEC appears to be gradually paving way for a pan-Nigerian opposition platform capable of ending the PDP’s hegemony. Although the two-party system may have its disadvantages, it would be advantageous for Nigeria by providing a sturdy check and balance as well as choice for Nigerians. It will also reduce the clutter and confusion created by numerous existing ‘briefcase’ parties which possess no clout. In fact, some political economists believe that the two parry system leads to political stability and in turn, economic growth.

In spite of the positive direction we are headed with the merger of the major opposition parties, the APC on its part has its work cut out for it to stand as a stronghold in the 2015 elections. It has to ensure that we do not eventually become another failed merger bereft of individuals who truly have the interest of the nation at heart. Individual ambitions have so far been shelved in favor of truly democratic ideals, and this is encouraging. As APC, we must reach out to the populace at the grassroots and earn their confidence rather than appease the ‘godfathers’ to ensure political advantage. It is gratifying that the inter-party merger teams led by Chief Tom Ikimi have focused on these true democratic principles in shaping the APC’s birth.
As everything is being set in place for the elections in 2015, the only way more bloodshed would be averted is by ensuring free and fair elections. This is the only way to save our nation and its democracy. Looting in advance of 2015 to buy up votes, militarization and deployment of coercive instruments will not work but only lead to open confrontation and violence. The electorate must be encouraged to vote by providing a safe and serene atmosphere devoid of any intimidation for voting to take place. If neighboring Ghana has been able to conduct several successive peaceful, free and fair elections, then we have no reason not to better that record, given our vast human and material resources.

It is time for our elites to rise to the challenge and actively engage in the political activities, and encourage the involvement of all citizens in the electoral process, knowing that sovereignty lies with them. It is time for our professionals and Diaspora to move from being armchair or online critics to work towards informing the broader electorate that it is only when we elect people with proven track records of excellence, hard work and integrity that we can truly move forward as a nation. Nigerians must understand that voting on the basis of tribe or religion has never, and will not lead to the emergence of the Nigeria of our dreams. Those that voted for Jonathan for these reasons can see the unintended consequences of their decision.

As we watch the PDP’s naked dancers strut their raw ambitions in public, Nigerians need to appreciate the power of their vote and do all they can to guard it jealously. Knowing that the PDP will do everything under the sun to remain in power at all costs despite deteriorating infrastructure, growing insecurity, poverty and unemployment in Nigeria, it is clear that we must all play active roles in what may be a tough two-year marathon towards 2015. Eventually, it is the power of our vote – how wisely we use it – and the deterrent structures to ensure PDP and its partners do not write and declare fictitious election results, that will free us from the current regime of corruption, impunity and incompetence.

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