Former President Obasanjo is one of the luckiest living Nigerians having served as Military Head of State and a two term elected President of Nigeria. Obasanjo by himself presided over the affairs of this country for 11 years, a period long enough for any good leader to have built strong economy and enduring national institutions. In 11 years, a good leader would have deepened democracy, obedience to the rule of law and respect for human rights. Did Obasanjo as president uphold any of these essential values?
Despite the obsession to criticize his fellow journey men in power, Obasanjo is part and parcel of the problem with Nigeria due to his contributory leadership failures. The least expected of him is an open apology to fellow countrymen and women and not the open admonition of one of his pupils whom he railroaded into power knowing in his words that; ‘he was weak on economy’. Why give a man a job you know he cannot effectively? What use is a good advice if the recipient lacked the capacity to analyse and appreciate the good and bad in the advice?
In his now infamous letter, Obasanjo catalogued Buhari’s leadership failures. Apart from nepotism and clannishness which are indisputable, President Obasanjo is guilty of every single sin he enumerated against Buhari and therefore in no position to act holier than though.
Again, he also misfired on the fine essence of democracy when he asked President Buhari not to seek for re-election in 2019, just like his idea of a third force at this hour and time is a no brainer.
I will refuse to accede to any process that will abridge President Buhari’s right to vote and be freely voted for. The decision for him to contest in 2019 should be his personal decision after he has consulted with his family; his core supporters and he consider himself physically fit for the rigors of office.
Re-elections as well as the performances of a leader all over the world are determined by the electorate, who, in Nigeria’s case, run into multiple scores of millions. In fact, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) recently said it has over 70 million registered voters. One man, in his arrogance, must not be allowed to appropriate such voting power to himself. Election is not a do or die; it is either won or lost. I believe President Buhari understands that the 2019 election is his to win or lose based on his stewardship.
The same reason I was opposed to the attempt by some elements to stop former President Goodluck Jonathan from running in 2015, is also why I am opposed to anyone stopping Buhari from exercising his legitimate right to seek re-election.
Assuming, President Buhari’s performance is irredeemably woeful, stopping him from running in my view will not help our democracy as that will be cheating and shielding him from angry voters. Our politics will become better when voters interest are put at the heart of our politics. Whereby the leadership fail to deliver on the dividends of democracy, voters must summon the courage and bravery to vote them out.
Make no mistake; this is a dark and dangerous time. Look at our country, look at what is happening.
Things are bad; people are suffering. We are now more polarized than we were before 2015. Our democracy is under assault and at a grave risk of collapse. Our democracy is not guaranteed just as there is no guarantee to our continued corporate existence. Look at the way we treat one another. Talk to one another. Look at the way we spread hate and fear and the way we kill one another.
Millions of our citizens are disgruntled and no longer feel any sense of belonging and ownership of the country.
Fundamental values that define our unity as a nation are being shredded. The dignity and respect that every Nigerian should be accorded is being erased.
Rather than finger pointing and blame game, some questions we must consider providing answers to are: What do we do ahead of 2019?
What do we do to elect leaders with not just good intentions but leaders capable of good actions?
What do we do to elect leaders who are determined to solve our toughest problems by putting their heads down and getting to work, not leaders with closed minds? How do we do away with leaders who do not feel the whip when laid on the back of the other man? What do we do to elect leaders who will unite the country?
Bravery they say resides in every heart and the time will come when it will be summoned.
Well, the time has come.
I still have faith in Nigeria. I know Nigerians like me who still believe in this country and it is to those patriots that I direct this message to: Friends, even as we saw unprecedented levels of partisan division in our politics, anyone paying attention may also have noticed a new kind energy taking root all across the country. I have faith that this energy is going to grow this year. So I’ll tell you what I’m looking for in 2019.
Friends, I am going to be working with you to find and elect leaders with courage. Leaders who will truly stand up for Nigerians and stand up for what’s right for the country.
Today I invite you to join me in the formation of the Nigeria Voters Society (NVS), an all-inclusive political pressure group comprising of registered voters who are determined to influence the outcome of 2019 elections.
NVS promises to work hard to protect and enhance the quality of life of Nigerians and to improve the well being of citizens through the promotion of civic engagement and awareness about issues and their implications for the public good.
We shall be open to work with others in our campaign for a better society by supporting candidates that share in our values and vision of a democracy fit for the 21st century, where every voice is heard, every vote is valued equally, and every citizen is empowered to take part. We shall make case for informed voting even as we seek to embed democracy into the heart of public debate, and to foster the democratic spaces which encourage active citizenship.
We pride ourselves as the real voters’ mass movement. Our membership will be open only to registered voters. That is; citizens who are entitled to vote and be voted for in general elections.
INEC said it has over 70 million registered voters. Our goal is to reach over 10 million of the 70 million registered voters whose decision on how to vote will be a major deciding factor on who wins in the elections
Another reason for the emergence of the Nigeria Voters Society is to remind elected officials at all levels that they are always accountable and not just at election time. They should listen to and respond to the wishes of the public in genuine ways.
Friends, if you’re feeling powerless about the way the country has drifted, don’t! We’ve got important work to do together, and its work that can deliver the strongest possible referendum on the political class.
We’re looking for earlier and more effective participation from the public in both development and planning processes in all of our activities in NVS, so people have more meaningful opportunity to contribute. If you want to be a member of the Nigerian Voters Society, please contact us through: email@example.com. Or visit: www.votersociety.com
Looming job loss over upward review of excise duty
In March, the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, announced on behalf of the Federal Government that new excise duty rates have been approved for alcoholic beverages and tobacco with effect from June 4, 2018. According to the minister, the new excise duty rates were spread over a three-year period from 2018 to 2020 in order to moderate the impact on prices of the products.
She said the new excise duty regimes followed all-inclusive stakeholder engagements by the Tariff Technical Committee of the Federal Ministry of Finance with key industry stakeholders. According to her, the upward review of the excise duty rates for alcoholic beverages and tobacco was to achieve a dual benefit of raising the government’s fiscal revenues and reducing the health hazards associated with tobacco-related diseases and alcohol abuse. While the ideas behind the review are quite respectable, there also seems to be a lack of absolute comprehension of the economic consequences, especially in terms of jobs loss.
Unemployment rate in Nigeria, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), is currently over 18%, and with about 250,000 direct and indirect jobs set to be lost due to this new policy, things are only going to get worse and the pressure will spread out into the entire system.
The current excise at 20% for Spirits amounts to N31 per litre while the new one announced by the minister amounts to N200 per litre for spirits and N150 per litre for wines. This is over 500% increase at a go, by far the highest within the subsector.
The excise duty currently paid by the Wines & Spirits Sector stands at 20% across board, while under the new approved excise duty tariff, it is fixed at 67% for the wines and spirits sub-sectors respectively.
The spirits and wine subsector represents 6% by volume of the alcoholic beverages sector and is dominated by local distillers, the group that will be most affected by this decision. Checks revealed that the data used in computing the recently approved excise tariff were largely luxury foreign products to which excise tariff will not apply like it will on the fledging but largely underdeveloped local subsector. Domestic spirits production is dominant in Nigeria, accounting for an average of 53% of spirits consumption over the 2012 to 2016 period.
With an investment of about N420 billion, it will be Nigeria’s loss if this industry is crippled, and even worse for those whose source of livelihood will be cut off. While the industry remain fragile, local distillers have recently made significant investments to grow capacity as well as achieve backward integration, but all that is at the danger of being washed away by this latest astronomical increase in excise duties which many have said to be inconsiderable.
Contrary to the minister’s claims, neither the Distillers and Blenders Association of Nigeria (DIBAN) nor the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) confirmed that they were consulted before the decision was taken.
The economic impact of such drastic decision is well known to everyone. The jobs of over 250,000 Nigerians will be in jeopardy and consequently, family cohesion, social stability and economic wellbeing of at least five million people will be threatened. The astronomical increase in tariffs on locally produced goods such as spirits and wine is a systematic way of destroying credible local distilling industry with the implication of unleashing avalanche of illicit and unsafe drinks on the Nigerian masses.
The danger of increasing the restiveness and disgruntlement of a citizenry under enormous socio-economic pressure as we approach the 2019 general elections can only be imagined. According to Lateef Oyelekan, President of The National Union of Food Beverage and Tobacco Employees (NUFBTE), the union had written the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, on the implications of the new tariff, which may further exacerbate the problem of unemployment in the country, and that the drive towards foreign direct investment would be jeopardised as no investor would like to invest in an economy with low return on investment.
“Our employers have already notified us that it would lead to shut down of some of their companies. What government should be doing is to come up with policy that will discourage employers from downsizing, but before they can do that, tariff has to be reasonable. “This new policy of the government will increase the cost of production and if that happens, the employers would have to look for a way of cutting cost, and workers are always the first option,” he said.
According to him, the union, in a bid to register their displeasure, has also vowed to down tools soon. A study on Excise Duty Changes for Spirits and Wine conducted by KPMG also revealed that given the challenges of border control and the illicit market, price increase driven by higher excise duty rates may also result in loss of government revenue. This means that even jobs that are un-associated with the distilling industry can become affected by this decision.
If anything, the government should at this time be encouraging local industries through provision of enabling infrastructures and reasonable excise duty rates that can enable them to flourish and affect the worrisome unemployment rate in the country.
•Mr. Obayuwana, an industry expert, writes from Abuja.
The evolution of Ebonyi charter of equity
One of the greatest fallacies I have heard in recent times is that Ebonyi State has no written charter of equity depicting modalities for the rotation of political positions especially the seat of the governor among the three senatorial districts. But the big question every Ebonyi man/woman needs to answer now is: Assuming without conceding that there is no written charter of equity for power rotation among the senatorial districts in Ebonyi State, is a charter of equity not necessary in Ebonyi State even now? What will it cost to make one?
The naked truth is that a charter of equity for power rotation is so necessary in Ebonyi State that if there is none, one should be invented! I come from Effium community, which has been at the receiving end of injustice and inequity from the rest of Ohaukwu for close to half a century; and I know that nothing is more abhorrent than injustice and inequity.
Having said this, let us examine the claim which forms the major thrust of this piece: Has Ebonyi State a written charter of equity for the rotation of the governorship position among the senatorial districts? If the answer to the question under review is in the affirmative, where was it written and who endorsed it? The search for the answers to these core questions, compels a detailed study of the key word “written”!
A thing is written when it has been reduced into writing in contrast to verbal or oral form. Simply put, to write means to inscribe letters, words or symbols on a surface for the purpose of communication.
In the Bible, God wrote the Decalogue on stones. After some time, God in His omniscience decided that important documents like His commandments are better written on durable and better medium other than stones which can be broken like we saw in Exodus 32:19. In Jeremiah chapter 31 verses 33 to 34 and Hebrew chapter 10 verse 16, God promised a new covenant which would be written in the hearts of His people.
By that token, it suffices that the heart of man is a better medium for writing solemn charters. Ebonyi people and the rest of the world are in the era of that new covenant! At this juncture, let us pit the questions before us against the prism of historical facts in the hope of unravelling the answers: The truth is that from the onset, it was not the intention of the founding fathers of Ebonyi State to have a state where one section or senatorial district would be marginalized in whatever form. This was why the Movement for the Creation of Ebonyi State constituted a committee on Charter of Equity as one of its strategic committees on October 2, 1994.
The committee headed by Chief Celestine Okeagu Ogada drew up the charter of equity for Ebonyi State which was submitted to Ebonyi founding fathers under the aegis of Ebonyi State Movement on July 21, 1996. That the charter of equity was not signed due to the selfish and intransigent postures of Ebonyi elites did not in anyway constitute a derogation on the necessity or authenticity of that very charter of equity in Ebonyi State.
In my essay, Ebonyi 2019: A prophecy of what Ebonyi people will do in fact, I submitted that: “Ebonyi masses have been and continued to be the conscience of Ebonyi State; it is their resilience that has bequeathed us with the pride we have as a people and truly earned us the label of ‘a people of honour and integrity’! This is contrary to the character of majority of our elites who have often pursued their personal interests/ambitions beyond bounds and at the expense of our common good.”
This humble but considered submission is true even in this matter under review. When the democratic processes presented its opportunities, Ebonyi masses rose to the occasion by enforcing the contents of the unsigned Ebonyi Charter of Equity on power rotation by voting for an Ebonyi Northerner, Dr. Sam O. Egwu, in 1999 as the pioneer elected governor of Ebonyi State.
This was in line with the contents of the charter of equity which had specified that Ebonyi North which hosts the state capital should take the first slot in the governorship of the young state. In 2003, Ebonyi masses ignored the desperation of some selfish Ebonyi elites who constituted themselves into the notorious Abuja Group and voted for Dr. Egwu to enable him consolidate on his achievements and complete most of his projects.
In 2007, Chief Martin Elechi, a man from Ebonyi Central who was part of the struggle for the creation of Ebonyi State, took over from Egwu. Elechi allegedly ran a biased and unbalanced administration characterized by avoidable wars and inequitable siting of projects. Confronted with an impending electoral defeat in 2011, the old man chose Engr. David Umahi who was undoubtedly Ebonyi goodwill ambassador as his running mate.
For this reason and the fact that Elechi’s predecessor had taken two unbroken tenures, Ebonyi people voted him into power for the second term in the hope that Elechi will complete his projects for whatever they were worth.
Unfortunately, many of those projects were not just uncompleted in 2015; most of them like Ebonyi power projects were equally discovered to be both ill-conceived and unviable! When it was the turn of Ebonyi South to produce the Governor of Ebonyi State in 2015, the then governor with some members of Ebonyi elite club foisted a curious political imbroglio on the state in the hope of derailing the successful evolution of Ebonyi charter of equity on power rotation by denying Ebonyi South their turn to produce the Governor of Ebonyi State.
Again, Ebonyi masses resisted the old man and his elite cabal by voting for Engr. David Nweze Umahi who personified justice and equity in the 2015 election. It is instructive that through their voting pattern over the years, Ebonyi people have proved that Ebonyi charter of equity on power rotation is boldly etched on their hearts and endorsed in their heartbeats! We have seen in Jeremiah 31:33-34 and Hebrew 10:16 that the heart is the best medium for writing solemn or sacrosanct agreements, covenants or charters! It suffices that Ebonyi State has a charter of equity which stipulates rotation of the governorship position of the state among Ebonyi North, Ebonyi Central and Ebonyi South senatorial districts in that order.
The second clause of this solemn charter which is coordinate with the first clause is that each of the occupants of the seat has a right to two unbroken tenures. I dare to add that Apostle Umahi who has in three years achieved more than any governor in the history of democracy in Ebonyi State deserves not just an unbroken second term: He equally deserves an unopposed second term come 2019! It is well with Ebonyi State!
•Eze writes from Abakaliki, Ebonyi State.
Fractionalizing the power supply industry
From the times of NEPA, meter has been an apple of discord in Nigeria. The Federal Government connived and the monolith became a law unto itself. Against the previous practice, it decided that customers should be paying for meters. Unhappily, most customers paid for several years, but many paid NEPA back claiming ownership and doing what they liked with meters. Revenue insecurity had begun and NEPA was in tatters.
Many years later, NEPA decided that customers should pay monthly charge for meter maintenance. However, it did no such maintenance. Many Nigerians were scandalized and they said so in newspaper articles. I challenged NEPA and the FGN in an article of eponymous title in my weekly column, Public Utilities Watch, in the Vanguard on March 11, 2003.
Electric power supply authorities have turned their backs on illegalities in the management of electric power in Nigeria for so long, they have, themselves, begun to create situations as defiant and disruptive of norms, as illegalities often are.
Let us look at the @NERCNG tweets – “The payment of metering service charge by the customer to the MAP shall cease upon full amortization of the meter asset over its technical life.” It talks of payment of a metering service charge. That is new. NERC had previously warned DISCOs not to charge for meters. And that was right because meter cost has always been part of monthly electricity rates that customers paid. For many years, that had amortized the meter cost over the service life of the instrument.
Clearly, Meter Assets Providers (MAPs) are, by the second @NERCNG tweet – “Where a customer elects to pay in full up-front for a meter under MAP, he/she shall be exempted from the payment of metering service charge” – to charge for meters throughout the service life of the instruments as well, although as meter service charge to the customer. That means that the MAPs have to prepare own bills, and customers have to pay to two, instead of one server. I argue that that will create a higher cost situation that will make rate hike inevitable.
The most challenging aspect of MAP, though, is that it is not specified in terms of sustainable infrastructure and technology, as well as finance. It will take Nigeria back to the mid-1960s. Then, meter touts swarmed the ECN with notes from some members of the Board of Management. But the corporation was up to the challenge. It had sent an engineer and three meter technologists to Uher in Vienna, Austria, for a three-month course in meter manufacture and testing. Through thorough testing and inspection, it was able to do away with the worst credit meters ever imported to this shore. How will Nigeria handle a similar situation today?
Nigerians usually do well at hawking anything. However, goods bought are sustainable only when backed by expert after-sales service. Sustainable infrastructure and technology would guarantee that for Nigeria. Without it, DISCOs would be better if they share meter maintenance technology directly with the meter manufacturers.
I warn that meter assets go far beyond the meter itself. Executive capacity, maintenance workshops and test laboratories are mandatory. It includes the ability to provide and test current and voltage transformers as accessories to industrial forms of metering, which must be tested along with those accessories. Remember that meters are the DISCO’s only true vehicles to legitimate revenue; and DISCOs are safer and better using their own meters!
Nigeria’s meter challenge evolved over more than 40 years. In a dynamic industry and situation, it is ludicrous to throw a fire brigade solution at it. Indications are that the country has more unmetered, than metered customers. Added to that, will be several new customers as well as old ones with obsolete meters to be replaced from time to time. And all of that against a backdrop of lean financial resource, desperate distribution networks to put right, and a deficit of technology as well as of executive capacity.
Clearly, this is an issue to last 10 to 12 years of organised effort. There should be annual budgets for meters and technical training, to increase meter availability and increase executive capacity. Done that way, Nigeria does not need to create a new class of licensees, such as MAP.
Besides, MAP, a clumsy attempt at solving an extant problem that is not clearly understood, creates more problems and solves none. Together with approved customers, they fractionalize the industry, and increase the per capita cost of the common facilities left to a reduced population, and a poorer load factor. And inevitably, rates must increase to barely sustain the industry. That is unhealthy for Nigeria’s electric power supply.
•Engr. Uwaifo writes in from Lagos
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