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Soyinka: Buhari in a trance, committing ‘unforced’ errors

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Presidency: He lacks broader perspective of event

Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, has said that President Muhammadu Buhari is under a trance and that the sooner the president gets out of that trance, the better for the nation. He also expressed frustration about the ‘unforced errors’ of the Buhari administration.

The Nobel Laureate called on relevant authorities to check the wave of attacks being perpetrated by armed herdsmen across the country, which he described as new breed of Boko Haram. Soyinka, who spoke yesterday at a press conference in Lagos, also called for an organised resistance to the menace, describing the armed herdsmen as a new breed of Boko Haram and internal colonialists. When asked what he would tell Buhari if he met with him, Soyinka replied: “I would say: Mr. President, I think you are under a trance.

The sooner he gets out of it the better. “So many unforced errors are going on,” he added. When was asked the form of trance the president was in, Soyinka cited Buhari’s recall of the Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Prof. Usman Yusuf, after he was suspended for alleged graft as an example of the ‘unforced errors’ that has characterised this administration.

“There are so many unforced errors. Take, for instance, the suspended Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme, Usman Yusuf, reinstated by the President. “It is like a certain kind of alienation from reality.” He noted with concern that “we have undergone internal colonialism by the military. We have undergone and resisted internal colonialism of Boko Haram. Now we are being subjected to another form of colonialism of herdsmen.”

Soyinka expressed support for the call for state police and restructuring of the country, which he said is overdue. He said the phenomenon of herdsmen and farmers’ clashes is not new, but that the issue has graduated to an alarming state in the last eight years.

“Clashes between farmers and herdsmen are not unusual; what is unusual is the use of sophisticated weapons, the rhetoric and statements by those in governments. “On the 27th of January this year, the herdsmen invaded a place in Sagamu and destroyed over 20,000 tree seedlings. The police succeeded in arresting one of the cows which they handed over to the nearest police station. We have written letters to the Governor of Ogun State and the police in the state. “One thing is that this is not new; this has been happening. But this is the first time that tree seedlings are eaten by cows. I am worried that it has got to a stage where tree seedlings are being eaten by cows. Cows are infiltrating and now seeking for space with humanity,” he said.

He added: “The important thing is the consciousness of a need for organised resistance against the incursion of cows. “In Ogun State, we have formed a sort of informal organisation called OSHA (Ogun State Hunters Association) and we intend to collaborate with similar movements, the police and the military.” He also said that state governments, who have set up organisations to protect their citizens from attacks by the armed herdsmen, need to take the organisations seriously and make them well equipped to successfully disarm the armed herdsmen and prevent recurrent invasions. Soyinka also called for concerted effort, particularly support from voluntary organisations such as OSHA, OPC, Vigilante, and others to join hands in the fight against herdsmen by collaborating with security agencies. “Hunters associations should, anytime they see armed herdsmen, call the nearest police station.

If they find the same herdsmen armed again, then these organisations should move in to disarm the herdsmen. Long term planning has got to go hand in hand with the security of lives and property.” Building of ranches, he said, is the way every other society has solved the herdsmen/farmers’ clashes. “Setting up ranches has got to be accelerated.

We used to have functional ranches. What happened to them?” he asked. On the issue of state police and restructuring of the country, the erudite scholar and activist said: “We need to decentralise the police in a nation like this. We need to restructure this country.”

He, however, expressed satisfaction with the efforts by the military to curb the menace of Boko Haram terrorists. “We must commend the progress being made by the military in the war against Boko Haram. Enormous progress has been made.” But the President has stated that Soyinka’s view lacks broader perspective. Speaking on Channels TV last night, Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity to the President, Mr. Femi Adesina, said Soyinka’s view was not a gospel truth. His words: “The Nobel laureate is somebody that we respect so much. He is one of the most noble people we have in the country.

He is one of Nigeria’s greatest gifts to the world. We respect him. But then, despite all that, his opinion would still be his opinion; his opinion would not constitute the gospel truth. “And don’t forget that Professor Soyinka is coming from one perspective. You know he is not in government. If he is in government, he may have a broader view; he may see the different sides of the coin. So, I will just say he is talking from one side of the coin that he knows. But he is an illustrious Nigerian and he has my respect.

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Editorial

End health workers’ strike now

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The game being played by the Federal Government and health workers under the auspices of the Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) is dangerous to the health of Nigerians and the economic wellbeing of the Nigerian nation.

 

On April 17, JOHESU called out its members, which include the Senior Staff Association of Universities, Teaching Hospitals, Research Institutes and Associated Institutes (SSAUTHRIA), National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives (NANNM), the Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU), Medical and Health Workers Union (NHWU) and the Nigerian Union of Allied Health Workers (NUAHP), on a nationwide strike to force the hands of the Federal Government to accede to its requests.

 

JOHESU’s demands include the implementation of the adjusted Consolidated Health Salary Structure (CONHESS), the payment of specialist allowances to deserving health professionals, payment of arrears of the skipping of CONHESS 10, increase of retirement age of health workers from 60 to 65 years and the review of the composition of the Boards of Federal Health Institutions (FHIs), as well as the abolition of the position of Deputy Chairman Medical Advisory Committee (DCMAC), among others.

 

But the Federal Government, from all indications, is not ready to accede to the striking workers’ demands.

 

In one of his reactions to the strike, the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, said JOHESU’s demand to be on the same pay level with doctors was not realistic. Adewole, said instead, salaries and wages of the health workers would be adjusted.

 

While the altercation between the union and the Federal Government is going on, the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) threw its hat in the ring.

 

The association threatened to embark on strike if the Federal Government acceded to JOHESU’s demands. Both the F e d e r a l G ov e r n – ment and the NMA seem to be on the same page in terms of their stand on the JOH E S U ’ s strike. But while the Federal G ov e r n – ment and the medical pract i t i o n e r s have taken healthcare to the chess b o a r d , many people, the majority being the poor, are paying the price.

 

While patients have been sent away from public health facilities, those who could afford to pay have gone to seek medical attention in private hospitals.

 

But those who could not pay have resigned to fate. It may be difficult to get the number of those who might have died because of lack of data in Nigeria. But certainly, a lot would have needlessly lost the battle to stay alive, albeit due to what could be termed minor health challenges, because of the ongoing strike. The strike has claimed lives. We sympathise with the 19 members of JOHESU who were injured in an accident on the Benin-Auchi Road on Saturday.

 

About 40 health workers, said to be staff of the University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH) chapter of the union, were on their way to a function in line with the strike in Auchi, when the accident occurred. An engineer with an information technology firm reportedly lost his life.

 

The man, a victim of armed robbery, was reportedly rejected at a private hospital because there was no police report, but there were no health workers to attend to him at the government-owned health facility he was later taken to.

 

So the breadwinner of a family lost his life because of the strike. Several others are dying but their deaths are probably not reported. Unfortunately, the strike came when the President also had to take a medical trip to the United Kingdom. But apart from the leaders, how many Nigerians could afford to go outside the country for medical attention?

 

That probably explains why the leaders may not be keen in addressing the demands of the striking health workers.

 

While we cannot deny workers, particularly those in the health sector, the right to take steps to seek redress to their perceived short-change in the hands of their employers, going on strike at the slightest opportunity does nobody no good. In other climes, strikes have gone out of fashion. We encourage workers’ unions in Nigeria to devise new but proactive means to get employers to accede to their demands.

 

It is also pertinent to note that JOHESU was yet to comply with the directive by the National Industrial Court (NIC), Abuja, which, last Thursday, ordered the union to suspend its strike and resume duties within 24 hours.

 

Justice Babatunde Adejumo, who is president of NIC, gave the order after listening to the submissions of Mr. Okere Nnamdi in an ex-parte motion filed by a non-governmental organisation, Incorporated Trustees of Kingdom Human Rights Foundation International.

 

Adejumo ordered the Ministers of Health, Labour and Employment, among others, to immediately set up a committee to address issues raised by labour.

 

The judge ordered that the parties should arrive at an acceptable and amicable solution in the interest of Nigerians who are bearing the brunt of the strike action. We also implore the Federal Government to immediately find a lasting solution to the incessant strikes in the health sector.

 

This is necessary in order to safe many more souls which will be lost to the strike. A failed nation is it which cannot provide for the economic and health needs of its citizens.

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Customs CG to Buhari: I won’t seek election at 70, if I were you

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…says only lazy Nigerians now complain of hunger

Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Col. Hameed Ali (rtd) yesterday stressed that but for the love of country; President Muhammadu Buhari has no reason to remain in Aso Rock, in his current age of over 70 years.

The Customs boss, who stated this when he led the Buhari Support Organization to meet with the President, said Buhari has made a great sacrifice by choosing to abandon his comfort zone in order to serve Nigeria and improve the lives of the citizens.

“I have said it and I will repeat it here, Mr. President, with all due respect, at 70 plus, with a good retirement benefit and with your house in Daura, if I were you, I will see no reason to be in this arena.

“But why are you here? It is because you love this great country. You left your comfort to serve Nigeria and that is why for those of us who love you for who you are, said we must follow you and ensure that your second term in this country becomes a reality,” he said.
Buhari had told a gathering of Nigerian citizens resident in South Africa in June 2015, a month after he was sworn in, that there was a limit to what he could do given that age was no longer on his side.

“I wish I became Head of State when I was a governor, just a few years as a young man. Now at 72, there is a limit to what I can do,” Buhari told his audience on the sidelines of the 25th assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union in Johannesburg, South Africa.
While speaking yesterday, Ali explained that the three years of the Buhari-led government has changed Nigeria for the better.

He said: “Today is 2018. Way back in 2014, for those who did not know when you talked about your integrity, your achievements as a governor, as a minister, those that have gone are the ones who will understand what we are talking. Those of us who have experienced those past years know exactly what it was.

“But today, 2018, those of us here know that your being president has changed this country. Three years into your tenure, the tremendous achievements that have been made, we have laid the foundation, we have started building roads, but Mr. President, we must complete the building.

“What do we need to do? We must, as your loyalists and people who believe in this country, tell you that we are with you shoulder to shoulder and ensure that you are re-elected. And then the building will be completed so that never again will there be cause to destroy Nigeria,” he added.

Ali continued that: “For me, you have been my mentor in service and out of service and I have been fortunate enough to have worked very closely with you. And so when I say some of these things I am saying, it from the bottom of my heart because I know you, I know your commitment and your respect to this great nation.

“Mr. President, it is always politics, and when politicians speak, they speak with two sides of the mouth. Some of us from the North-East were not praying in the mosques, some of us from the North-East had moved from our places of abode to settle somewhere else. And Mr. President, here in the city, the seat of government, there were booms going off every day.

“Today, we can sleep with eyes closed, today I drive at midnight, today we can breathe the air and most importantly, those of us who are Muslims can pray in the mosques during Ramadan. That would never have happened. I remember as far as Kaduna is from the North-East, we could hardly sleep at night because of insecurity. Today, we have that security. What else are we looking for?

Ali said that with the achievement recorded by the government, only lazy people who chose not to work, are presently lazy.

“What more can we say in terms of growth of wealth? People say we are hungry; of course, the lazy must be hungry because if you do not work hard, Manna doesn’t fall from heaven.

“So when people say we are hungry, there was never a time in Nigeria that food is dropped in the mouth of the people and they can never be. I can go on and on and enumerate what you have done in just three years of your administration,” Ali said.

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MTN, Glo, Airtel set to increase data, call tariffs

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Nigerians may soon begin to pay higher tariffs on calls and data as the telecommunications companies in the country brace up for a new cyber security levy to be implemented by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

This is coming on the heels of a directive from the CBN to all banks on the collection of 0.005 per cent levy on all electronic transactions into a National Cyber Security Fund.

Section 44 of the Cybercrime Prohibition and Prevention Act 2015, which the CBN seeks to implement, states that “there shall be paid and credited into the Fund established under subsection (1) of this section and domiciled in the Central Bank of Nigeria: a levy of 0.005 per cent of all electronic transactions by the businesses specified in the second schedule to this Act.”

Businesses affected by this charge include GSM service providers – MTN, Glo, Airtel, 9Mobile etc. and all telecommunication companies; Internet service providers; banks and other financial institutions; insurance companies and Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE).

However, speaking at a press conference in Lagos yesterday, the President of the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Mr. Olusola Teniola, said the implementation of the levy is ill-timed, considering the fact that the telecom operators are currently battling with multiple taxation, which has risen from 26 in 2015 to 38 under the current administration.

“At this point, if the CBN decides to go ahead with the implementation, we will have no choice but to pass the cost to the subscribers. Nigerians should be ready to pay more for calls and data subscriptions,” he said.

Teniola added that with the additional burden, the operators might also consider downsizing their staff strength to stay afloat.

ATCON, which is a professional, non-profit, non-political umbrella organization of telecommunications companies of Nigeria, said all its members have concluded that the only way to survive with the new levy is to increase tariff across board. “The eventual implementation of this levy of 0.005 per cent would cripple, if not render useless government and private sector efforts to speed up the broadband penetration in Nigeria and our association has a mandate to protect the investment in the telecom industry from undue pressure from the government in the form of yet additional burden on our members that are already overtaxed by all tiers of governments,” the ATCON President added.

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