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Accelerating Ogun devt with 2018 Budget

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Ogun State was in the news recently for all the right reasons. It’s been about two weeks since the 2018 Budget of the state was presented to the State House of Assembly by Governor Ibikunle Amosun in a ceremony that was both poignant and significant.
In many western democracies, the presentation of the budget purports an eloquent restatement of the obligations of the state to the citizens and is often conducted in colour and sobriety. An annual event required by law, it encapsulates the deliverables of the government to the governed in all areas of economic interactions and in furtherance of the tenets of the ‘Social Contract’.

On November 21, Governor Amosun, in his characteristic enthusiasm for and faith in a brilliant future, presented to the representatives of the people, the vision of his government for the acceleration of development in all spheres of life in Ogun State, over the 12 months ending December 31, 2018.

A budget footing of N345 billion, approximately $1 billion, is clearly challenging, unprecedented in size and prospects, certain to attract interest and cynicism, open to accolade and criticism. A closer assessment, however, will invariably show that the budget is actually realistic, achievable, doable and could even be pushed further.

Ogun State has undoubtedly been achieving appreciable development in the past half-decade so why present a budget focused on the acceleration of development?
The answer lies in the immediate past.

The government has set itself on a mission to educate its young population, keep its people in good health, utilise its abundant agricultural resources to feed its people and propel industrialisation, enhance environmental quality, renew its urban centres through massive infrastructural investments and ensure security of livelihoods and property amongst other goals. All these were predicated on a diminishing reliance on oil-driven federal allocations and an increasing anchorage on the resources available within the state and the industry of its people.

Unfortunately, a global glut in oil supplies leading to a cataclysmic fall in prices in the course of 2015 led the Nigerian economy into slower growth. In January of 2016, a family chicken bucket at KFC was priced higher than a barrel of Nigerian crude at $25 for the first time since 2003. The newly constituted Federal Government under President Muhammadu Buhari scrambled to put in place the appropriate policies to keep the economy growing.

Eventually, the economy went into recession by the 1st quarter of 2016 and it was the persistent prudent management of the economy by President Buhari and his team that brought the economy out of recession late in the 3rd quarter of 2017. The economy got some help also from sustained increase in oil production, achieving 1.84mbpd in mid-2017 and steady but modest rises in global oil prices. Of most important is the increased IGR of the state from a low of N700 million per month to an impressive N7 billion (target of N10 billion in view). These and other domestic economic policy initiatives portend robust growth for the national economy in 2018.

Needless to say, the recession impacted growth in the Ogun State economy, slowing down many programmes in Education, HealthCare, Infrastructure, Housing and Agricultural production and so on. It is plausible therefore that the nascent national economic recovery and growth will be sustained hence the imperative for a budget of accelerated development to catch up with the timelines and milestones of the Mission to Rebuild.

It is important to note that the 2018 Budget is more far-reaching than any previous budgets of this government or any other past administrations, not just in size or in scope or in ambition but also in its potential to impact the people as well as the array of top quality partnerships like The World Bank, Samsung Heavy Industries, the GIZ, the CBN and so many others that have committed to support its implementation.

For the first time in its history, the Government of Ogun State is attracting many international funding organisations with lower interest rates i.e. 1-2% with long term tenures coupled with attractive moratoriums. We are committing almost a quarter of a trillion naira to capital projects (imagine the impact on our state economy and youth employment).

Conceivably, the government will sustain its budget performance rate of about 72%. That translates into effective investment of N150 billion – N175 billion into capital stock in 2018 alone, reflecting in the rehabilitation of over 200 kilometres of urban roads, various flyovers and bridges, over 250 kilometres of rural and semi urban roads, schools, hospitals, markets and shopping malls, sporting arena etc.

The 2018 Ogun State Budget commends itself to the unequivocal support of every citizen of Ogun State. In the words of Governor Amosun, “Ogun State has an important role to play in the unfolding story of Nigeria’s economic diversification and we (Ogun State) must not be found wanting.”
In all areas and in all endeavours that promote growth, development and prosperity, we (Ogun State) must be number one.

The future looks bright and promising for our dear state and Senator Amosun must be commended for his audacity of hope. It is therefore important that we maintain the momentum, remain focused, lessen all the noise and distractions (Ariwo ko ni music) with an abiding faith that nothing is impossible if we believe ‘Yes we can’.
After all we are Ogun state.

•Chief Odebiyi is the Chief of Staff to Ogun State Governor and APC governorship aspirant in 2019.

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Nigeria, Britain and the naira

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The Nigeria’s history won’t be concluded without mentioning the United Kingdom (UK). The latter has hitherto remained a household name when discussing the former, particularly in the aspect of the country’s politics as well as economy.

 

It’s noteworthy that the UK comprises mainly the Great Britain and the Northern Ireland. If further split, the former consists of England, Scotland and Wales; among these three, the first two countries majorly constitute the Britain. Owing to both the population and landmass’ percentage Britain occupies in the bloc, the UK is usually referred to as Britain.

 

 

The Britain, which remains the prime sovereignty in the UK, has invariably been playing the role of a father in the Nigeria’s polity as a whole. The obvious fact that Nigeria was a British colony from the 19th century till it became an independent nation in 1960 can never be swept under the carpet or be forgotten in a hurry. The unending appreciation of the two countries’ bilateral relation cannot be unconnected with the aforementioned record.

 

 

Penultimate week, the UK’s Export Finance agency disclosed its intention to add the Nigeria’s legal tender, naira, to its list of ‘pre-approved currencies’, allowing it to provide financing for transactions with Nigerian businesses dominated in the local currency. By so doing, the naira will become one of the three West African legal tenders that the UK export finance has pre-approved for its means of funding transactions that promote trade with the UK.

 

It would be recalled that the Britain voted in 2016 to leave the European Union (EU). The awaited exit has persuaded London, the capital territory of the UK, to embrace a rethink over its trade ties with the rest of the world. It’s thus needless to state that the country is currently reviewing its existing trade and investment policies towards ushering in more suitable and beneficial ones.

 

It’s worth noting that in the last three years, severe dollar shortage in the Nigeria’s foreign exchange market caused by the emergence of lower oil prices, forced the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to allow the naira to float after it lost third of its official value against the dollar. This, therefore, is the reason the currency has not ceased to stagger within the period in review.

 

It is imperative to acknowledge that the pronouncement in question, if duly implemented, would go a long way in strengthening the Nigeria-UK bilateral cooperation, thereby easing the rate of importation of goods from the latter to the former. Since the naira would be accepted as a legal tender in the aforesaid foreign country, Nigeria importers can easily pay for goods and services over there with the use of the currency. This implies that the said set of traders wouldn’t need to queue at the Nigeria’s foreign exchange market to change the naira for dollar or pound sterling.

 

But if critically viewed, it would be realised that such a policy can cause overflow of the naira, which is presently in a pathetic mood. More so, the ongoing double-digit interest rate will equally soar the prices of the goods to be imported into the country from the UK since it’s understandable that borrowing is synonymous with importers. I’m afraid; these foreseen consequences might result to further depreciation of the naira.

 

Besides, the President Muhammadu Buhari–led government that is deeply concerned about boosting the country’s local market may not be favoured by the policy, which is likely to lead to another phase of over-dependence of imported commodities that has overtime bedevilled our economy. It’s not anymore news that the present administration’s mantra is anchored on diversification of the country’s revenue base. So, for this to come at a time Nigerians are encouraged to think home is enough reason to say that anyone that really means well for Nigeria is still sceptical over the actual merits that are attached to the policy.

 

This is to say that, in the long run, the monetary policy might mainly boom individual pockets to the detriment of the national coffer. Such resultant effect wouldn’t augur well for the country’s export base that’s seriously yearning for rescue, hence at the expense of her economy at large. Any fiscal measure that’s liable to benefit just a few individuals but impoverish the majority isn’t worth celebrating.

 

 

As much as the UK is apparently trying to boost the Nigeria’s pride in the international market by initiating suchlike policy, we mustn’t forget so fast that the former stands to be the key beneficiary of the initiative, hence the need for us not to be carried away by the euphoria that accompanies the news.

 

The good news is that, such an approach would make the naira to be more recognized and respected globally. On the other hand, it could also reduce the ongoing influx at the parallel market because most importers may have little or no business to transact over there, thereby returning the rightful status of the commercial banks.

 

However, that doesn’t change the fact that if critically examined, the naira might not get its fair share of the deal; that the naira might cry foul as the odyssey progresses; that it may end up causing the currency more harm than good. We must note that in any business or relation, every partner involved is more concerned about what his personal benefit entails. Think about it!

 

•Doc Nwaozor, the Executive Director of Docfred Resource Hub, writes via: frednwaozor@gmail.com

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The furore over INEC’s timetable

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In the last few days, the amendment bill on the Electoral Act, 2010 that is due for passage into law, continues to dominate discussions across the country. Ordinarily, this should be expected as the next general elections are fast approaching and many events would naturally be unfolding. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) recently released the elections timetable, which is in line with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), as well as the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended).

 

From the INEC schedule, the presidential and National Assembly elections would hold on February 16, 2019; gubernatorial and state Houses of Assembly election would take place on March 2, 2019. Expectedly, series of reactions have trailed the commission’s timetable because of the belief that the idea of fixing the presidential election first, being the extant provision, would give the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) undue advantage over the opposition parties while other observers believe that timely release of the schedule was as a good move that would ensure adequate preparation for the polls.

 

 

But with the just-concluded amendment by the National Assembly, there is a reversal in the order of elections by virtue of Section 25 of the Electoral Act, which would now see the National Assembly elections holding first; elections into the state houses of assembly and governorship would be held on a different day; while the presidential election would come last. For emphasis, the amendment goes beyond reordering of elections. The main thrust of the new electoral act is to improve how elections are conducted and reduce human interference in the process, thereby reducing corruption in a number of ways.

 

 

For instance, the amendment mandates the immediate transmission of voting results from polling units to collation centres. The implication of this is that it would help give real-time results and updates of proceedings. In addition, the amendment would provide a fairer platform for all contestants by mandating INEC to publish available voter registers 30 days before elections. When this is done, it would end the usual manipulation of voters’ register that had characterised our electoral process, as missing names on the register could be detected and addressed within the stipulated 30 days.

 

The amendment would make it impossible for political parties to impose arbitrary qualification criteria on candidates; an innovation that would encourage much younger voters to participate by promoting competition. Furthermore, the amendment would make it more rigorous to determine the suitability/quality of candidates and curtailing unnecessary imposition. It would give room for dispute resolution mechanisms that would enable aggrieved parties to petition and raise objections on contending matters without delay. Under the new arrangement, the electoral umpire is empowered to deploy full biometric accreditation of voters using smart card readers and other technologies.

 

 

Other provisions include setting out the maximum expenses that can be incurred by politicians seeking elective positions and acceptable fees payable thus reducing the influence of money politics to the barest minimum and reducing the exorbitant fees charged by their parties. The amendment also allows for names of candidates to be submitted not earlier than 90 days, and not later than 60 days before elections such that substitutions can be carried out without affecting existing schedules, as candidates can now be substituted not later than 30 days before the dates.

 

Another important feature of the amendment is that if a candidate is resigning, it would be done in person and the letter to that effect has to be transmitted to INEC while there is going to be specific instructions on what to do in the case of a death occurring before an election. When this happens, such an election would be suspended for 21 days and a replacement would be done within 14 days while the remaining seven days would be utilised for campaigning, as against the initial provisions with the lacuna in our polity on what to do in the event of sudden death of aspirants, thus leading to crisis and avoidable litigation.

 

However, critics believe that aside Section 76 of the 1999 Constitution that empowers INEC to organise elections, the impending reordering of the sequence of elections would have dire cost implications on both public and business life of the nation, considering the compulsory restriction of human and vehicular movements on election days. They also alleged that the idea was selfish on the part of the legislators and was never thoroughly discussed before making the bill. The controversy trailing the amendment is a sort of mixed blessing for two main reasons. For the big politicians and stalwarts, it is a ‘yellow card’ for them because it is going to be a radical departure from the past and for fresh and politically not-too-strong candidates, it would be a better arrangement and hope for them as there is presently no room for independent candidacy; thus freeing them from party hawks.

 

Another implication is that if the bill becomes law, after presidential assent, there would not be any need for the legislators to ride on the back of any presidential candidate before getting elected into office. This crucial point is coming to play in view of the perceived frosty relationship between the current leadership of the National Assembly and the executive. For the legislators, the amendment would truly give them an independence, especially from the dominance of the almighty executive that may not likely to give the expected support to coming back to their respective seats. It would mean that the result of the presidential poll would not impact on the outcome of other elections that follow.

 

 

As it is now, registered parties in the country have just few months to go before they conduct their primaries. The situation now is that most of them seem not set for the task ahead, including the ruling APC that is busy talking about restructuring at the last minute, as well as the main opposition party (PDP) that is saddled with series of alignment and realignments while the recently registered parties appear not to have strong structures in place for many Nigerians to even ascertain what new they are bringing into the political turf.

 

 

In the final analysis, the amendment is a welcome development that is good for our polity. There is nothing unconstitutional in what the federal lawmakers are doing. However, one of three things may happen in the political terrain in next few weeks.

 

First, the president may give his assent to the bill and the amendment becomes law. This is not likely because of the belief that the amendment may not favour his political interest. Second, the president may refuse his assent and the National Assembly may veto the bill. This too may not happen because of the sharp division among the lawmakers. Third, legal action could be instituted by either party (legislature v. executive) for the courts to come in and resolve the constitutional logjam. Of the three possibilities, the third option may hold sway. While I cannot accurately pre-empt what may happen next, one can confidently say that, if the amendment is passed into law, it would definitely add value to our electoral process.

 

•Kupoluyi writes from Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta via: adewalekupoluyi@yahoo.co.uk

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The imperative of re-orientation of security agencies

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The notoriety of executive agencies in transgressing the very laws that create and empower them have become commonplace, and regrettably the norm. The issues that arise from this exhibition of impunity and gross ignorance of the law are a real threat to our budding democracy, and a mockery of laid down procedures and guidelines painstakingly enacted by our lawmakers.

The misplaced zeal of the Nigeria Police Force and the Department of State Services (DSS) in handling the non-issue involving Mr. Kassim Afegbua once again throws up this concern for contemplation. First, we must reiterate that the law seeks to establish laid down procedures for securing the attendance of accused persons in court.

This is important because where no proper procedures are laid down for securing the attendance of accused persons in court, there is bound to be violation of the rights of persons. These procedures are crucially important and must be jealously guarded and enforced.

Usually, when a declaration that a person is wanted is made by any security outfit it is usually under the impression that a crime has indeed been committed and such offender has suddenly gone under the radar. Also such declarations usually pre-empt an arrest. Under our extant laws, a person may not be arrested or declared wanted without a warrant duly obtained from a competent court and endorsed by same authorising it. The exceptions to the above do not bear on the case in point.

The law demands that before making a Wanted Declaration on a public platform or any other for that matter, that the police ought to obtain a warrant of arrest duly signed and endorsed by a competent court. Said warrant must also be presented at the point of arrest, and in it the particulars of the arrest ought to be spelt out. Where a person sought to be arrested makes a run for it or evades arrest, then a public declaration informing the public of the accused’s status may be made. By implication, where such an accused declared wanted is seen, the public is to assume that such a person is not just a wanted criminal but a potentially dangerous one.

The serious implication of such presumptions thus makes any deviation from the above process an abrogation of lawful processes, a clear indicator that said agency seeks to appropriate to itself powers vested singularly in the courts and also a gross disrespect of the accused’s dignity of self or person especially where he or she is neither on the run, in hiding nor knowing of the summon, invitation or intended arrest.

Barely had the public knocks and dissent of that audacious and ambition gambit by the Force settled, however, before the DSS assumed the role of an arbiter in a civil issue, and followed suit with an invitation. At first glance one could see into the real substance of that move but the question is: by what authority, real or imagined where the DSS operating under?

The issue of the circumference of the DSS’ operative power has been severally delineated by statutory and case law authorities. Section 3 of the National Security Agencies Act, binding on the DSS and sister agencies materially restricts the function of the DSS to dealing with the prevention and detection within Nigeria of any crime against the internal security of Nigeria; the protection and preservation of all non-military classified matters concerning the internal security of Nigeria; and such other responsibilities affecting internal security within Nigeria as the National Assembly or the President, as the case may be, may deem necessary.
As reaffirmed by the courts in Director of State Security Service & Anor. v Olisa

Agbakoba (1999) 3 NWLR (Pt 595) 314, the above statutory functions remain the scope of the DSS’ operational power as anything done outside those provisional functions are ultra vires and null ab initio.
While security agencies continue to gamble with statutory powers and functions, the real crimes and criminals operate freely.

The summon of Afegbua by the DSS is a total waste of time that could have been better put to the strengthening of the nation’s internal security. It is befuddling to common sense what threat to internal security is occasioned by one’s exercise of his right to freedom of speech. It is equally sobering to note that those entrusted with securing the nation’s internal security cannot tell apart a real threat from a non-existent one.

The sheer zeal exercised by the DSS in its invitation of Afegbua reveals an ambitious undertone that may not border well for Nigeria and Nigerians. There have been previous outcries denouncing the personalisation of security agencies, particularly the DSS by the executive who deploy them into intimidating and muscling perceived opposition into submission. While it is not my brief to outline the demerits of such a situation, I nonetheless denounce it strongly as it limits and weakens the DSS, while exposing them to ridicule.

The absurdities at play in this political theatre of interests, ambitions and ultra vires appropriation of functions and powers must end. No institution can be bigger than the people it was created to serve, nor assume a role not within the character of its enabling laws.

Afegbua remains a patriotic Nigerian caught in the whirlwind of power politics, and his rights under the constitution and other similar legislation cannot and should not be trivialised by ignorant or overzealous agencies and agents quick to scurry a favour or two from their political handlers. We have laws and laid down procedures for a reason; to create order and set boundaries.
•Ajulo is a legal practitioner based in Abuja

Mr. President must be duly advised as to how the continuous haranguing of Mr. Afegbua by agencies under his direct control reflect badly and poorly on his democratic scoresheet. At a time when this government is hard-pressed to prove its respect for the law and due process, the negative publicity stirred up by the antics of the Force and DSS cannot be reckoned as good for its image.
I would recommend that all security agencies in the country begin an immediate re-orientation of its agents as a matter of national emergency.

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