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Inside Abuja

Seeking restructuring the female way

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The agitation for restructuring is spreading like a wild fire in the harmattan and sweeping through every segment of society, including women groups. REGINA OTOKPA reports

 

Prominent Nigerian women recently embraced the clamour for the restructuring of Nigeria. The women, who joined the fray at the weekend, said womenfolk would no longer sit on the fence on important issues capable of changing the fortunes of Nigeria. Leading the women’s vanguard were the Director-General, National Centre for Women Development (NCWD), Mary Ekpere-Eta; Chairman, Senate Committee on Women Affairs, Senator Binta Masi Garba and a former Minister of Women Affairs, Josephine Anenih, among others.

The trio, who were at an event marking the Finalization of the Draft Memorandum by Nigerian Women on the Restructuring of Nigeria pledged to mobilise other women to support the agitation. In her remarks, Ekpere-Eta said the draft document was the outcome of a round table dialogue which had in attendance, female politicians, academia, professionals, women with disabilities, market women, female youths and women civil society organizations and the submissions of organizations. She said the document covered history of restructuring debate in the country, with key ingredients of the debate, where women stand and why.

“It is expected that this small group of experts will finalise the draft document which was borne out of consensus and wide agreement such that women are willing to uphold, defend and argue its points and resolutions at different levels. “We expect that the final outcome will be submitted to the Federal Government Committee on Restructuring, as well as National Assembly, while ensuring bipartisanship ownership around the women agenda.

“In addition, we are hoping to step up the women’s agenda in the six geopolitical zones of the country and monitor its utilization by various groups on a continuous basis, using all available media,” Ekpere-Eta said. Ekpere-Eta disclosed that the women have been on the draft memorandum for over three months, having held series of meetings before they came out with the draft.

“The 15-man experts that we have, analysed the drafts and we are going to send them back to Nigerian women for further input and we will come out with a position for the Nigerian women,” she stated. Ekpere-Eta said the involvement of women in the agitation for the restructuring of the country, was auspicious considering that women were the most important factor and key players in the society, being the best in terms of organizational skills and the economy. According to her, there was need for the women to come together to take a decision on the restructuring of the country. Nigerian women, she said, were throwing their weight behind the issue because of its importance to the development of the country.

“Of course, women are in support of restructuring and they want to play a major role to make sure that they are not left out, and that they take their position in the national policy making,” Ekpere-Eta said. On her part, Garba said the issue of restructuring was not new in the country, but had been with us as a nation for a very long time.

“History has shown that way back in the 50s, restructuring has been on the front burner of women and today, for the first time, for women to come together and name their own voice in the advancement of Nigerian governance. “It has shown that women came from all over the country, even some from abroad to have an input on the draft bill that will be sent to the National Assembly on the overall view of what the Nigerian women are agitating for in terms of restructuring.

“We are fully in support of the restructuring. Like we said, it is a draft bill. At the end of the day, the common decision of the Nigerian women will be taken and we will see if it will be accepted by the National Assembly,” Garba said.A former Minister of Women Affairs, Iyom Josephine Anenih, said the draft was of great importance because the debate on the restructuring of the country cannot be left on the doorsteps of the malefolks.

“We must bring in our own perspectives to the conversations, the demand for restructuring. One thing is certain, we as Nigerian women, want this country restructured if we are going to survive as a nation and how do we want it to be restructured? That is what we are brainstorming on now and putting our thoughts together, so that we can show and tell them how we want it to be done. “So, we are looking at all the different agitations. Some are asking for state police; so all those issues that have been talked about, we are bringing them out and looking at them,” Anenih said.

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Business

Post-recession: Savouring gains of diversification

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With the recent economic recession over, the Federal Government has shifted focus to non-oil sector with emphasis on agriculture and solid minerals where lies huge economic potential. reports Abudlwahab Isa

 

Many are of the opinion that the last economic recession was self-inflicted, induced by over dependence on crude oil and absence of elaborate plan for diversification.
With the economy out of the woods due to rapid deployment of various policy instruments and miraculous rebound in crude oil price, there is a renewed push to escalate the huge potential in the non-oil sector of the economy with agriculture and solid minerals taking the lead.
Interestingly, the Federal Government, having seen the danger of relying predominantly on crude oil with all its unpredictable vagaries, initiated reforms in these alternative sectors for economic value addition.
Besides the steps taken to boost the agric sector and the gains derived therein so far, a major policy thrust put in place to enhance the sector’s potential is the Agriculture Promotion Policy 2016-2020 document otherwise known as “The Green Alternative,” which is the outcome of an intensive consultative process starting in November 2015 through April 2016 and involving multiple stakeholders.
From farmer groups to investors to processors to lenders to civil servants to academics, many stakeholders provided detailed input, commentary, and support.
While commenting on the initiative, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development expressed gratitude for the resources, energy and intellect put at the disposal of the ministry by parties too numerous to mention for their continued dedication and resolve to build a next generation agribusiness economy in Nigeria.
“Building on the successes and lessons, the vision of the Buhari administration for agriculture is to work with key stakeholders to build an agribusiness economy capable of delivering sustained prosperity by meeting domestic food security goals, generating exports, and supporting sustainable income and job growth.
“Therefore in 2016 to 2020, Nigeria’s policy now needs to be readjusted to solve the aforementioned challenges. The go forward federal priorities (in partnership with state governments) will be the following four: food security; import substitution; job creation; and economic diversification,” FMARD noted.

Solid minerals
On the other hand, is the sold minerals sector with large deposits of about 44 minerals located in different parts of the country.
These include glass sand, limestone, salt, shale, ball clay, galena, granite, marble, laterite, bentonite, phosphate, kaolin, pyrite, feldspar, lignite, gypsum, sphalerite, clay to mention just a few.
Sadly, these minerals were long abandoned in preference for crude oil until recently when concerted efforts are being made to give them priority attention.
Going by the current economic blueprint, the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, the Federal Government envisages to grow the solid mineral sector’s Gross Domestic Products (GDP) to N141 billion at an average annual growth of 8.54 per cent between (2017- 2020) from the N103 billion in 2015.

Streaming revenue profile
The revenue stream from solid mineral sector is still low compared to earnings from crude oil. However, it is steadily improving on the strength of reforms and overhaul of the sector. Unlike previous dispensations when solid minerals paid no dime to the federation account, it is a different ball game today.
For instance, the sector remitted about N14. 6 billion in to the federation account in the last eight years.
A breakdown of the remittances to showed that in 2009, solid minerals revenue paid to the federation account was N931.7 million, N1.2 billion in 2010; it increased to N 1.3 billion in 2011 and N1.8 billion in 2012.
Similarly, the sector’s remittance stood at N 2.037 billion in 2013, N2.3 billion in 2014, N2.085 billion in 2015 and N2.8 billion in 2016.
As recent as last December 2017, revenue performance report of the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development (MMSD) showed that the sum of N413 million was collected and paid to the federation account, an amount higher than November figure of N397.4 million.
The December figure was higher than the ministry’s monthly target of N262.22 billion by N150.77 billion indicating an increase of 57.50 per cent. Outstanding balance in the revenue account as of December 2017 stood at N8.5 billion.
Commenting on the huge potential of solid mineral sector at a recent interview with New Telegraph, Acting Chairman, RMAFC, Alhaji Shettima Umar Abba Gana, said the commission’s effort to achieve resource diversification was paying off.
Abba Gana confirmed that as applicable to oil producing states, 13 per cent derivation was currently being paid to states whose solid minerals revenue is paid into federation account.
“The result has been very positive. The reason we took that line was simply because depending on only one source, oil, for revenue has opened Nigeria to vicissitude of oil price fluctuations. If we are going to diversify, the revenue commission has identified two veritable sources of income. The solid minerals and agriculture.
“Apart from their high potential in Nigeria, the two sectors are conveniently available in every state and every local government in equal proportion. That means unlike oil, which is located in five or about six states, there is presence of solid minerals everywhere. Every local government and state will benefit from derivation fund. The commission for the first time about two years ago worked out the 13 per cent derivation of solid minerals.
“About N15 billion was collected as taxes and royalties from solid minerals and included in the sharing formula as applicable to the 13 per cent of oil revenue. We wanted the states to see the benefits of allowing solid minerals to be developed because they will also earn 13 per cent of whatever revenue that comes out of solid minerals so developed. That was the main reason why we pursued the diversification of revenue across states and local governments.”

Blocking revenue leakages
To ensure maximum revenue is raked in by the Federal Government from the sector, government is leaving no stone unturned in blocking leakages.
It has therefore engaged the services of about 100 revenue consultants to work on areas of leakages in revenue accruing from the mining sector, with a view to shoring up earnings.
The consultants to be deployed to the six geo-political zones of the country in the coming week are to examine financial and production records of companies involved in mining activities in the last six years in order to determine whether appropriate royalties were remitted to government.
Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Dr Kayode Fayemi, disclosed the new step recently during the opening of a three-day induction and training for the revenue consultants in Abuja.
He said the main target of the ministry was to ensure that the Federation Account gets its fair due in royalties and taxes.
“Our expectation of this project is that the ministry would emerge as a lead revenue agency for the Federal Government of Nigeria in line with the growth projections of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP), which recognises the mining sector as one of Nigeria’s most promising growth sectors and acknowledges that its contribution to GDP doubled from N52 billion in 2010 to N103 billion in 2015.
“The ERGP further projects that revenue from the mining sector would grow from N103 billion (2015) to N141 billion (2020) at an average annual growth rate of 8.54 per cent (2017-2020)”
Dr Fayemi said he was optimistic that the ministry would surpass these targets, as all stakeholders work collaboratively to ensure the success of the R.O.V. Project, resulting in improved levels of voluntary compliance of operators.
The minister admitted that leakages in government revenue was a big challenge in the mining sector, a development, which, he said, the ministry was determined to redress with the ROV Project, following its approval by the National Economic Council (NEC).

Challenges
The biggest headache troubling the mining sector, however, remains the activities of illegal miners. While their activities pre-date the current administration, the minister in conjunction with other stakeholders have mapped out plans to get rid of them. Quite a number of culprits, who were nabbed, are currently facing prosecution.

Last line
There is a refreshing confidence that given the level of reforms in both agric and solid minerals sectors to ensure their economic viability and make it attractive to genuine investors, both have the potential of becoming Nigeria’s next cash cow and capable of replacing crude oil.

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Inside Abuja

A dark afternoon for parents, three kids

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February 1, 2018 will forever send shivers down the spines of two extended families who lost their wards to an inferno on their way back from school. REGINA OTOKPA reports

The first of every month for most families is a time to offer prayers hoping for more happy times and greater opportunities, good health and divine provision for the rest of the month.

These were also some of the projections of the families of Dr. Ikechukwu Eze, who lost two of his sons Udochukwu Eze, 5, and Sommachi Eze, 2 on the spot, and his brother Godwin Eze, whose 4-year-old daughter, Amarachi Eze, couldn’t survive the burns sustained from the inferno and died on Saturday.

All were pupils of Je’nisi Little Drop Academy, located at Trade Moore Estate, Lugbe, Abuja

. Trouble started at about 3:30 pm when the driver of the school bus conveying 13 children to their various homes after the close of school activities, noticed the bus had developed a mechanical fault and could not move anymore. Inside Abuja Investigations revealed that rather than ask the pupils to alight while seeking solution to the problem, the driver had left the children alone locked up inside the bus, left and came back with a mechanic to fix the bus.

But according to an eye witnessed who gave her name simply as Ifeoma, the driver of the bus had dropped a can of petrol in the car.

According to her, all of a sudden, the bus went up in flames with the children screaming and crying for help. The driver and the mechanic who were stationed by the bus had scampered to safety leaving the children to battle for the lives.

“The bus going up in flames is still a mystery. The children were screaming, shouting for help but when they didn’t see help forthcoming, they began to break the door and that was how God helped them to breakout from the fire. By the time some people came to render help, it was late and two of the children had died.

The rest were immediately taken to a hospital but we learnt one of them, who was badly burnt could not make it and died after some days. “This is very sad and scary. Most parents are too busy with work that they prefer to have school bus pick up their children. Who will ever think that this kind of incident will befall his or her family?

“If you ask me, the driver was careless. He shouldn’t have locked those kids up. Neither were they supposed to even be in the bus while a mechanic was trying to fix it. What happens to contacting the school to get another bus pick up these children to their homes?

“A vehicle does not just break down and refuse to move just like that. It must have been giving him signs which he obviously ignored for reasons best known to him.

It simply shows lack of coordination and negligence,” she lamented. Filled with grief and puzzled by the inferno that claimed the lives of his sons prematurely, Dr. Ikechukwu Eze has demanded that a coroner’s inquest be constituted to unravel the true cause of the inferno.

“There are several unanswered questions in this entire scenario. The coroner’s inquest will provide the opportunity for the unanswered questions to get convincing response.”

Eze, who broke down in tears while describing one of his son as a great and brilliant mind with passion for engineering, said, “he was inquisitive to challenge the existing practices, bold, courageous and curious.

He had done what people at his age were always afraid to attempt

. His mum and I had great plans for him to get better and quality education that would support his plans and life aspirations. But all these have gone with the wind. I will miss them greatly.” However, his brother, Mr. Godwin Eze, said though he was distressed by the death of his daughter and nephews, he has no plans to pursue the matter further as he has forgiven the school management.

“At no point have I suspected any foul play or sabotage. My family and I have good a relationship with the school management.

They have also been kind and friendly to my children and at no time have I had any cause to question their competence and capacity to care for my children. I have accepted the situation in good faith.”

Angered by the death of the young Ezes, some sympathetic mothers had taken to the streets dressed in black and armed with placards, accusing the school authority of negligence and recklessness to issues of human life, which has led to an unending loss of school children in the Federal Capital Territory.

Only in October last year, a vehicle belonging to Transcorp Hilton Hotel ran over a school bus in Dei Dei neighbourhood of the territory with two pupils of the Executive Primary and Secondary School reportedly killed. One of the aggrieved parents, who gave her name as Mrs Olabode, called on government to accord top priority to the issue of safety in schools. While blaming the school management for not being careful enough, she urged relevant stakeholders to double their efforts in ensuring compliance to minimum safety measures by undertaking periodic inspection of the schools. She further called for stringent laws and operational guidelines by authorities of the Federal Capital Territory Administration to protect school children.

President of the National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools (NAPPS), FCT chapter, Mrs Samira Jamira, who described the death as shocking and disastrous, said the association had made it a point of duty to sensitise school authorities on the need to take adequate security measures to ensure the safety of school children while in school.

However, she lamented that not all private schools within the FCT were duly registered with the association or attend the sensitisation programmes organised to avert such mishap. “It is so sad that lives were lost.

We have done so many training for teachers, school drivers and school owners to ensure safety.

But it is not everyone that attends our meeting; some of the school owners are not even our members. “We will also continue to engage school owners and give them the advice we can.

We cannot force them to do the needful because enforcement comes from the regulatory agencies.’’ Inside Abuja checks however shows that the FCT administration and regulatory agencies have not been alive to their responsibilities toward safety of pupils in school.

Based on their mandate, these regulatory bodies are supposed to embark on inspections of school to ascertain the level of security vis-a-vis security gadgets like fire extinguisher, and to ensure that all buses used in conveying school pupils were in order with all the security gadgets in place.

Jamira, who also expressed concern over the poor safety and security measures put in place by school authorities in the FCT, has mandated all school owners to ensure all buses are safe and in good condition.

“The drivers should also know the safety measure to take when such thing happens and also the mode of communication is very important to assist in case of emergency. On our part as an association, we will continue to train and sensitise school owners on safety measures in schools,’’ she added.

Although the proprietress of the school, Je’nisi Little Drop Academy and the school bus driver, were said to be in police custody, the school has been closed temporarily pending the conclusion of investigation to ascertain the true cause of the inferno.

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Inside Abuja

Oyo-Ita: Re-engineering public service for efficiency

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Public service sector reforms in Nigeria is like the proverbial “cataract in the eye”. Getting rid of it at all cost is painful, but it is essential for the eyes to see very well. CALEB ONWE reports

 

Undoubtedly, public service reform is one ‘dangerous’ national assignments that lillylivered person cannot undertake. It takes a lion’s heart filled with patriotism and courage to venture into it, without suffering an unexpected cardiac arrest on the way. It is also viewed as an onerous task and one of the most dreaded terrains that many top management public officers wouldn’t dare to consider.

This is so because in this part of the world, people prefer the status quo than adapting to inevitable changes. In some cases, some misguided people could go to any length to resist any change that is capable of upsetting their comfort zones. Their measures for opposing a proposed change can include outright blackmail, which may be orchestrated to tarnish good reputation that may have come to one after many decades of meritorious services.

Successive governments in Nigeria had individuals who threw caution to the wind to plunge into the mucky waters of public service reforms. Some recorded some levels of success, while some failed; others ostensibly chickened out when the demonic forces against the projects reared their ugly heads in opposition.

 

Oyo-Ita’s reforms

Like many past Heads of the Civil Service of the Federation who ascended the highest peak of the ladder in the public service with a desire to etch their names on the golden tablets of history, Mrs. Winifred Oyo-Ita, the present Head of Service, though not the first woman to mount the ‘ horse’ at that level, is obviously showing some signs that her being on the back of the horse was not just to showcase her expertise, but to aggregate other expertises for the desired destination in proposed reforms.

Inside Abuja, having been following the activities of the Head of Service for some time now, decided to beam a torchlight on the agenda of the reforms, while also highlighting the possible pitfalls that must be avoided to keep at bay the evil forces that may instigate miscarriage of purpose.

 

Overreaching partnerships

Inside Abuja observed that while Oyo-Ita is on the saddle overseeing the overall blueprint of the reform probably to ensure that ‘the building of the reform’ is constructed according to the pattern or the mental picture she has, she has also succeeded in sustaining her tempo in driving the reform initiatives with pragmatic partnerships that include the best brains from both the public and private sectors.

The latest of the partnership was the recent endorsement by the Institute of Directors (IoD) which did not want to remain aloof from the radical reforms taking place in the Federal Civil Service, but decided to get involved in the critical national assignment.

Oyo-Ita restated her resolve to remain courageous in weathering the storm and completing the reforms, to the President/ Chairman of Council, Institute of Directors, Alhaji Ahmed Mohammed. Inside Abuja learnt that she also reaffirmed her commitment to a working partnership between and among various services, government and private institutions to leverage development, innovation and capacity building of the entire public service for effective service delivery and to accelerate economy development.

“The country must look inward to provide service and actualize the programme of the present administration, hence the 2017-2020 Federal Civil Service Strategy and Implementation Plan (FCSSIP), which is line with the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) of the administration,” she said.

The President /Chairman of the Institute of Directors, Nigeria (IoD) Alhaji Ahmed Rufai Mohammed, said to have shown admiration for what is happening in the public service sector, said that the vision of IoD is to be a catalyst for public sector transformation across the country, hence its decision to partner with the HoS in the ongoing reforms.

While extending the hand of fellowship of the Institute to Head of Service for partnership, Mohammed noted that the partnership would “boost and enhance competence and per formances of the civil servants through access to world-class training both home and abroad”

He also added, “that IoD connects private sector innovation with active public sector partnership that seeks to attract, inspire and support leaders of the public sector. The IoD, Nigeria is a prime leadership development organization in the country. It focuses on the professional and development needs of Directors, Business leaders and policy makers in the economy”.

 

Spirit of the reform

Inside Abuja gathered that Oyo-Ita had remained stable in promoting the ideals of the reforms, even in the face of sponsored propaganda meant to derail and distort the vision, and consign it in the dustbin of failed projects, like several attempts by her predecessors. Curiousity to know her driving force, revealed that she is an ardent believer ” that the Public Service remains the most potent and viable instrument available all over the world for the formulation and implementation of policies and programmes of government”

According to her, it behoves on Public Servants to avail themselves of the opportunities that the ongoing reforms provide to deepen and expand their knowledge; improve capacities and hone competencies for the performance and efficient public service.

Oyo-Ita argued that for the Civil Service to remain relevant in the fast changing and highly technological modern work environment, it would be important that individuals and workers strive at continuous capacity building to meet the challenges. “We are all aware that the application of information technology in the administration of government, particularly in payment and human resources management is becoming the norm. Under my watch, the implementation of the Human Resources module of the IPPIS has commenced.

“This will no doubt, enhance human resources administration in the service but also on the other side generate some challenges for civil servants working in the Human Resource Management department. Hence, we must avail ourselves competencies in Information Communication Technology (ICT) without having to wait for support from the service. We cannot become global citizens if we continue to operate in analogue environment.

We should envision service delivery in a paperless economy; this is the goal of the E-learning initiative”

 

Pitfalls to be avoided

Inside Abuja’s investigation show that the applause and the goodwill generated by Oyo-Ita’s team to resuscitate the moribund workers housing scheme, was depleting as fast as the whirlwind. Close to one year after the commencement of the Federal Integrated Housing Scheme ( FISH), no single worker has taken possession of the home.

This notwithstanding, the fact that many workers had keyed into that project remains a driving force. Many of the workers who have managed to cross the hurdles in the applications meant to launch them into their dream homes are already expressing mixed feelings following an undesirable discordant tune coming from the managers of that project.

Inside Abuja’s visit to some of the FISH project sites show that work had abruptly stopped. Though, the Head of Service had explained that the project had not gone the way of others but undergoing some technical realignment, workers who are known for their impatience in following due process are already grumbling with some negative permutations.

Another possible pitfalls that may lay an ambush to the ongoing public reforms, is the fall out of the promotion exams for directors for the position of Permanent Secretaries. While there is a peace entreaties going on to pacify the aggrieved affected senior directors, there is an urgent need to ensure that there is an inclusive process in following the age long civil service rules.

Inside Abuja gathered that the affected directors had opted for out of court settlement. However, any miscarriage in the process may jeopardize the efforts of the ongoing reforms. Inside Abuja also gathered that while the aggrieved directors might agreed to settle out of court, their plan ‘B’ is still intact and if allowed to be unleashed, might not completely stop the reforms, but spell doom to its overall peace and sustainability.

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