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Editorial

Addressing the power challenge

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When in November 2013, the government of the then President Goodluck Jonathan unbundled and sold the power generating plants and 11 distribution companies from the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), expectations were high that the new investors will bring the expected succour and end the lingering power outages which had plagued Nigeria, Africa’s biggest economy.

But reverse is the case as Nigeria currently has a lower electricity capacity than Slovakia, a country with about three per cent of Nigeria’s population.

This is because the current level of supply and the overall production capacity of around 6,427 megawatts remain grossly inadequate. In over 10 years, the Federal Government has invested billions of dollars in the power sector with nothing to show for it.

The power situation has also not improved in spite of the Muhammadu Buhari administration forcing frustrated electricity consumers to accept increases in energy tariffs so as to get constant, stable electricity supply nationwide. Investors had complained, among other things, that they bought these companies unaware of their true worth.

They alleged that they discovered the companies were not financially viable. Among the reasons the investors gave for non-performance is the staggering debt of government ministries, agencies and departments, put in the region of N100 billion which the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, said was subject to verification.

Other problems include shortage of gas supply for thermal plants via vandalism of gas pipelines, corrupt and uncouth staff inherited from NEPA/PHCN, the slump in oil prices and Nigeria’s currency, the naira, which discourage investors from coming into the sector.

There has also been a blame game between the power distribution companies (DISCOs) and the generating companies (GENCOs) over the N300 billion debt allegedly being owed the GENCOs by the distribution companies.

It is a shame that in the 21st Century, two-thirds of Nigerians have no access to electricity.

The one-third that have access to it are being treated shabbily. Many of them have not been given metres and so are being forced to pay for power that they don’t use through ‘crazy’ bills.

To cap it, blackout is the order of the day, and when consumers complain, they are rarely given the attention they deserve.

This must have prompted Fashola, at the 11th monthly meeting of power sector operators held in Lagos, to charge the operators and service providers to improve on metering and reduce estimated billings.

Senate President Bukola Saraki as well as President of Dangote Group, Aliko Dangote, had earlier suggested the revocation of the sale of the power companies if they would not perform to expectation, as power is the livewire of commerce. Inasmuch as we advocate Nigerians’ access to 24-hour electricity, the revocation of the sale of these power companies, as proposed, will send a wrong signal to investors and this will be counter-productive.

It is a fact that MDAs owe. Government and the DISCOs should meet to ascertain how much is being owed and clear the debts so that the distribution companies will have no excuse not to perform.

We subscribe to whatever will give Nigerians electricity 24/7. We call on the generation and distribution companies to wake up and live up to their responsibilities.

Whatever financial obligations that need to be settled among themselves should be settled.

It is a shame that in spite of the huge government investment in the power sector, we generate under 5,000mw in a country of over 180 million people. How does the country hope to get out of recession and back on the path of prosperity if companies do not have electricity to power their businesses?

It is a reality that both small (barbers, tailors, welders etc.) and large scale businesses need electricity. Government should not play the ostrich in this matter. All the challenges of these companies should be addressed. Government should fulfil its own part of the obligations by releasing part of the intervention funds.

Government should also tackle the problem of pipeline vandalism head-on so that the thermal GENCOS will have enough gas to generate electricity. Government should, most importantly, provide the enabling environment to attract more investors into the sector.

The more people investing in this sector, the better it will be for Nigerians. The issue of estimated billing should, by now, not be an option as every power consumer should be metred. It is wrong and fraudulent to expect consumers to pay for services not rendered. Nigerians need light and need it now.

Let there be light!

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Editorial

Killings: Defence minister, IGP’s gaffes

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Since the beginning of this year, Benue State has been at the centre of controversies in the country. No thanks to the killings of 73 people on January 1, 2018 by suspected herdsmen in three local governments of the state. For a state visited by such orgy of violence in the beginning of the New Year, what the state deserved was pity and a treatment of the case as a national emergency.

 

The governor of Benue State, Dr. Samuel Ortom, who has battled all sorts of problems in the state since assumption of office in 2015 is exasperated by the humanitarian crisis dumped on his laps in the New Year.

 

Today, Nigerians are worried by the massive orgy of violence and bloodletting across the country. Yet, the killings have not stopped, even though not in the magnitude of the January 1st attacks.

 

Bad as it is that citizens of Nigeria were killed like ordinary animals, despite the vaunted security set up of the Federal Government, what baffles us is the posture of security chiefs on the carnage in Benue.

 

From the Defence Minister, Brig.-Gen. Mansur Dan-Ali (rtd) to the Inspector- General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, down to the spokesman for the Nigeria Police, CSP Jimoh Moshood, their comments have at best been saddening. Rather than face the security challenges that have hit the nation, they are more after criminalising Ortom, adducing reasons that seem to justify the killings.

 

Rather than being the victim, Ortom is today the aggressor in the eyes of security agents. Nothing could be more annoying than the careless remarks that seem to justify the mass murder by the very people charged with maintaining the security of the country.

 

Dan-Ali, in whose hands the defence of the country falls, above all security chiefs and just below President Muhammadu Buhari as the Commander- in-Chief of the Armed Forces, obviously needs to apologise for insisting that the killings were because of the enactment of the anti-grazing Bill and blocking of grazing routes in Benue.

 

Speaking after a security meeting chaired by President Buhari at the State House, the minister said: “Look at this issue (killings in Benue and Taraba). What is the remote cause of this herdsmen/ farmers’ crisis? Since the nation’s Independence, we know there used to be a route which the cattle rearers take because they are all over the nation.

 

You go to Bayelsa, Ogun, you will see them. If those routes are blocked, what do you expect will happen?

 

Herdsmen are also Nigerians. “These people are Nigerians. It is just like one going  to block shoreline. Does that make sense to you? These are the remote causes of the crisis. But the immediate cause is the grazing law.” His position seemed to justify that of the IGP, who has insisted that the killings were a result of communal clashes in the state.

 

The IGP was also mandated by Buhari to relocate to Benue in the wake of the killings. He spent one day in Benue, apologised for his initial statement on communal clashes only to head to Nasarawa State and, again, blamed the crisis on communal clashes. Since then, it has been de ja vu.

 

 

One careless statement here, the other there! We note with deep regret that such gaffes by the Defence Minister and the IGP might have given fillip to the insult by the Police spokesperson, Moshood, who referred to a distressed governor as a ‘drowning man’.

 

We believe that such comments not only make the security agents culpable in the crisis, but actually should be enough reasons for them to resign, having failed woefully in their mandates. It is on record that killings have been going on in the Benue Valley and other parts of the country for long in the hands of the herdsmen. Were the killings after promulgation of the grazing law the first?

 

Have Enugu, Delta, Imo and other states where killings took place enacted grazing laws?

 

What of Plateau, Adamawa and Nasarawa states where killings have taken place? Rather than engage in shadow chasing and unnecessary hair splitting over the killings, we demand in unequivocal terms that the defence minister, IGP and other security agencies rise to the challenge and see the killings as a security challenge that requires the highest attention from security agencies.

 

Resorting to blaming the governor over the anti-grazing law is akin to playing the Ostrich, hiding the head when battle calls. We also believe that President Buhari has a major role to play in all these.

 

He visited Nasarawa State last week. Did he visit Benue? No! Whatever he went to do in Nasarawa could have been left for a more pressing issue of Benue to commiserate with the government and people of the state. Rather, Benue has become a state where opposition governors have gone to make political capital over the death of innocent citizens.

 

We hold very strongly that the security chiefs have danced on the graves of innocent people of Benue with their utterances. It does not in any way make them innocent of allegations of culpability.

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Editorial

LMC too soft on unruly Sunshine Stars

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Nigerian football has come of age. With three Africa Cup of Nations trophies through the Super Eagles and two CAF Champions League titles courtesy of Enyimba of Aba, the country’s profile in the round leather received major boost. Between 1994 and 2014, six FIFA World Cup competitions took place in different continents. Nigeria featured in five of the competitions and these shot the country’s name to international limelight.

 

The country’s footballers who move from the domestic league abroad also made impact especially in the late 90s and early 2000s.

 

Some Nigerian administrators rose to become executive members of the Confederation of Africa Football (CAF) and the Federation of International Football Association (FIFA). Dr. Amos Adamu was a former member of CAF and FIFA executive bodies while the President of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Amaju Pinnick, is currently an executive member of CAF and head of the organizing committee for the Africa Nations Cup. Many other Nigerians have served in various capacities at continental and global stage while some are still doing so actively.

 

The implication of the little profile is to show that there is no hiding place for anyone in the country to pretend about the country’s pedigree in football. We believe it is crucial for the administrators and all the stakeholders in the game to behave in accordance with the world’s best practices in football. All over the world, football hooliganism is one of the major acts of football fans that FIFA frowns at.

The world body always preach fair play at all levels of the game both on and off the pitch. It is expected that fans of opposing sides should tolerate one another and be mature to accept match results that come their way.

 

The referees are expected to also make the right calls and avoid corruption or any act that could make them shun objectivity in officiating. Last week, it came as a rude shock that referees that handled the Match Day Eight of Nigeria Professional League Encounter in Akure were molested after the game between Sunshine Stars and Kano Pillars which ended in a draw.

 

Damian Akure was the centre referee with Emmanuel Apine and Lewis Gwantana as his assistant referees while Kenneth Onyiro was the fourth official. Gwantana was the most hit among the officials as a sharp object thrown at him gave him a cut on the forehead. The photographs of the injury sustained went viral on social media.

 

 

It took the League Man- agement Company (LMC) one week to arrive at a decision on the matter because all the officials did not indicate in their report that anything happened after the match.

 

We condemn the unruly act of the fans and also frown at the compromising disposition of the officials who failed to tell the truth in their report to help the home team avoid LMC’s hammer. Only on Friday, the LMC slammed a three-point deduction and a fine of N1.5 million on Sunshine Stars Football Club following the attacks and the body also called for the withdrawal of the three match officials who posted injury pictures on social media, but failed to reflect it in their official report.

 

The most annoying aspect of this incident is the fact that Akure is fast becoming a venue for crowd incidents.

 

The LMC on its website said: “In an unprecedented application of the NPFL Framework and Rules, the LMC reviewed a series of past breaches of the rule by the club (Sunshine) dating back to the 2014/2015 season for which varying sanctions, including monetary fines, playing without fans, ban of use of home ground and an order to identify for prosecution, supporters cited for acts of breach of security and or interference with match officials.”

Last year, Sunshine were banished to Ijebu-Ode, fined N1 million and the goalie received 12-match ban following crowd incident.

 

Twice in 2016, Sunshine were sanctioned and ordered to pay N2.5 million in September for an incident after a match with Heartland and in March, the team was asked to pay N5 million following an incident after a match with Shooting Stars. In November 2015, Sunshine were banished to play in Lagos following a crowd incident in the encounter against Lobi Stars.

 

After evaluating several incidents involving this team, we make bold to say the punishment meted at Sunshine by the LMC was too soft. Teams and referees will be in fear anytime they go to Akure for matches and this is very bad for the game and the league.

 

We recommend that the LMC should revisit the case and take NPFL matches away from Akure for not less than one year. The punishment given to the team is not enough to teach lessons since the same unruly fans will still come to the same stadium to watch matches. We also urge the officials of Sunshine and the government of Ondo State to educate fans to always be calm while security should be improved at the stadium to prevent recurrence.

 

Nigerians should be encouraged to take their families to stadia and this can only be done if fans are peaceful.

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Editorial

NHIS: Another blunder from Buhari’s men

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The sounds of discordant tunes from men within the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari appear endless. While the country was still to come to grips with the recall of the sacked Chairman of the Pension Reform Task Team (PRTT), Abdulrasheed Maina, the recall of the suspended Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Prof Usman Yusuf, surfaced.

 

Yusuf was, some months ago, suspended by the Minister of Heath, Prof. Isaac Adewole, over allegations bordering on corruption, insubordination and sundry issues. He was accused of spending about N860 million without approval.

 

Usman was appointed in July 2016 by President Muhammadu Buhari. He took over from Mr. Olufemi Akingbade, who acted for almost two years after the former Executive Secretary, Dr. Femi Thomas, was removed a day to the exit of former President Goodluck Jonathan.

 

The case was so serious that both the Senate and the House of Representatives set up committees to investigate the matter with a mandate to report back. Nigerians have waited for the reports, which have not been released, but Yusuf was restored to his position by the Presidency without the consent of the minister who suspended him in the first place.

 

Rather than keep quiet on the matter or at best not insult Nigerians, the Federal Government, through the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, came up with the lame excuse that Yusuf’s recall would not stop any investigation into his case by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

 

The Presidency had, in a letter it released, reinstated Yusuf without the consent of Adewole. Rather, Adewole was summoned a day after the controversial move, where he was told to work with the man he suspended.

 

The letter marked SH/COS/10/6/A/29 and signed by the Chief of Staff to the President, Mallam Abba Kyari, informed the minister of health of Yusuf’s recall. According to the letter, he (Yusuf) had been “admonished to work harmoniously with the minister.”

 

Ordinarily, the position of the Federal Government could have been glossed over, if not that the idea of recalling men, who have been accused of corruption, is gradually becoming a dark spot for this present government. We recall that Yusuf failed to appear before the panel set up to investigate his involvement in the alleged corruption cases against him. We also recall that Maina was recalled controversially, forcing Buhari to set up an investigation into his recall. Till date, nothing has been heard of the outcome of the report submitted by the Head of Service of the Federation, Mrs. Winifred Oyo-Ita.

 

There was also the case of a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Babachir Lawal, who was suspended and a panel set up by Buhari to investigate his alleged involvement in corruption allegations. Although he was relieved of his appointment reluctantly, nothing has come out of that investigation, except the mere invitation by the EFCC and his administrative bail two days after.

 

We note with sadness that the implications of these cases might be interpreted to mean a Presidency that protects its own. For a government whose one major policy plank is anti-corruption, the recall of the NHIS boss and the other cases mentioned clearly rubbishes whatever gains that have been made in the fight against graft. Rather, it arms the opposition and critics of government in the argument that the anti-corruption fight is just one of those strategies designed for the enemies of this government.

 

We accept the fact that corruption has, over time, dealt a major blow to the Nigerian system. We also accept the fact that one of the selling points of Buhari as a person is his perceived non-corrupt nature. But we submit that a situation where some people become sacred cows when allegations are levelled against them negates the spirit and letter of the anti-corruption fight.

 

One of the reasons adduced by former President Olusegun Obasanjo in his now famed letter to Buhari in January this year against the president was his feeling that the Presidency is shielding its own from corruption charges. Does the reinstatement of Yusuf not give credence to that assertion? Can those who re-instated Yusuf argue in good conscience that his recall was the most pressing decision in the Presidency? How do they convince Nigerians that the issue of anti-corruption is broad based and not targeted at the opposition? These are serious questions that need answers from the Presidency.

 

By the same token, how would Yusuf be working with his boss, Adewole, when he knows that he is not accountable to him?

 

In saner climes, Adewole ought to have resigned in protest by now. But being Nigeria, we do not expect him to resign, even though he has been told boldly that Yusuf, his subordinate, is his boss. We expect that the presidency should stop being disruptive of itself. Men within the Presidency should also stop undermining the administration through unnecessary favouritism. That way, they would not end up rubbishing the little legacies being left by Buhari, if any.

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