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Inside Abuja

When Air Force commissioned 195 officer cadets

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In continuation of its avowed commitment to enhancing manpower needs and professionalism through training, the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has commissioned a total of 195 officer cadets of Direct Short Service Commission (DSSC) Course.
Interestingly, 16 of the newly-commissioned officers were females.

According to the Director of Public Relation and Information (DOPRI), Air Vice Marshal Olatokunbo Adesanya, three sets of DSSC officers had been commissioned since the coming on board of the Chief of Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar.
“Since the inception of the current administration in 2015, 3 sets of DSSC officers have been commissioned.

“The intensified enlistment of more officers into the NAF is part of the capacity building efforts of the current NAF leadership towards further positioning the NAF to meet the nation’s security imperatives”, Adesanya said.
During the six months training, the cadets were exposed to military regimentation as well as NAF operations and administration, covering subjects such as Drill, Weapon Training, and Airpower in addition to officership, leadership and command.
One of the high points of the colourful event, was a Passing Out Parade (POP), which saw the cadets file through in stylised slow and quick marches, to the admiration of guests, including the Minister of Defence, Muhammed Mansur Dan-Ali, who was the Reviewing Officer at the parade.

In his speech, the minister observed that the NAF had been at the vanguard of efforts to protect the territorial integrity of the nation, in addition to internal security operations.
That was as the Reviewing Officer reminded the cadets that they were subject to both military and civil laws, and must subordinate themselves to civil authority.
Dan-Ali further enjoined the cadets against allowing themselves to be used by some retrogressive elements in the society.

Some of the graduands, who had distinguished themselves in the course of the training, were presented with awards.
The award recipients were Cadets MG Saleh, SS Yikwe and I.O Alum, who won the President’s Award, Minister of Defence Award and Chief of Defence Staff Award for coming first, second and third in order of merit respectively.
Cadet J.O Olayinka also received the Chief of the Air Staff Award for demonstrating exceptional skills in field exercises.

Five medical consultants were commissioned as Squadron Leaders, while others were commissioned as Flying Officers.
Meanwhile, the NAF’s Combat Sports Competition, which held in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital, has come to a close.
The DOPRI, while commenting on the competition, said: “Team Ground Training Command (GTC) has emerged the overall champion, as the third edition of the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) Inter-Command Combat Sports Competition.
“Team GTC was able to edge out the six other teams drawn from the five remaining NAF Commands and the Headquarters NAF (HQ NAF) in a keenly contested competition.

“The winner snatched six gold and one silver medals. Team Logistics Command (LC), which came second, had 5 gold medals, 6 silver medals and 9 bronze medals while team Tactical Air Command (TAC) came third with 5 gold medals, 6 silver medals and 3 bronze medals.
“The fourth, fifth and sixth positions went to HQ NAF, Air Training Command (ATC) and Special Operations Command (SOC) respectively. Team Mobility Command (MC) came sixth with 2 silver medals and 7 bronze medals.
“As part of events to mark the end of the games, an invitational Combat Relay Race was held. Out of the three security agencies that participated, the Nigerian Army (NA) Team carted away the gold medal while the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) and the Nigerian Police came 2nd and 3rd respectively.”

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Inside Abuja

A march for science, humanity, food security

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The March for Science, has become a global event through which scientists draw attention to the importance of science in enhancing humanity and preserving nature. Last week, CALEB ONWE was part of the walk in Abuja

 

Experts believe that the march became necessary in view of the fact that many policymakers were not making informed decisions, due to acute scarcity of the scientific knowledge, and this has deprived the ordinary people the benefits of science.
This may be why so much efforts are been channelled into demystifying the myths attached to science by ignorance. It has become a task, not just for the scientists alone, but for everyone that has come to understand the enormous benefits inherent in it, and the implications of its relegation in the scheme of things.
In some places, scientists are often viewed with so much suspicions and utter bewilderment, especially by those not divinely or academically endowed with scientific knowledge.
Scientific products and innovations have also been misconstrued as conveyors of mysterious and coded contents that require extra care to use.
The situation is even more alarming in this part of the globe, due to insufficient education. Ignorance appear to be fighting science, which apparently, could be described as the only lifeline available to humanity.
In developed countries, adequate education has aided both policymakers and industrial icons to rightly commit more resources to the development, application and deployment of science in order to enhance standard of living.
Suffice to say that, though, scientific procedures may be complicated for a layman’s comprehension, patience needed to decipher the rudimentary components, are always a scarce commodity.

Evolution of march for science
The ‘march for science’ started as a series of rallies in Washington D.C, United States of America, and was organised by scientists and their supporters, who wanted the society to be abreast of what science stands for in the society. It has gradually become a global event that seeks to remove suspicion and scepticism around science.
The march, which has gained global recognition, emphasises that science needed to be accepted as an instrument for evidence-based policy, for common good and for the interest of the public.
It has become a strategic platform in Nigeria, which Scientists are deploying to cure the malaise of ignorance that has increased scepticism and unwarranted onslaught against scientific innovations and products.
This year’s march, with the theme: ” Science and Technology, an Agent for Economic Development,” was organised by the National Biotechnology Development Agency(NABDA), the Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology( OFAB) in Africa, Nigeria Chapter and the Cornell Alliance for Science.
The streets of Abuja felt the impact of the scientists, government officials, over 280 Civil Society Groups, farmers, students and others who carried placards with various signs in support of science and all its products.
Inside Abuja gathered that the call for a mindset shift on the adoption of science and especially biotechnology that has proven to be the only hope for food security and safety had drawn the attention of even the Nigeria Nollywood stars.
This was evidenced by the presence of a notable Nollywood actor, Paul Obazele, who joined in solidarity to proclaim the good news of biotechnology.
Country Coordinator or OFAB, Dr. Rose Gidado, while explaining the essence of the march in Nigeria, said that science is a human process that if well harnessed and deployed, could enhance humanity with a sure guarantee for improved standard of living.
Gidado lamented that scientific research was not gaining enough support it needed to drive the plan towards revitalizing the agricultural sector. She said that both scientists and other stakeholders needed to create an open honest science communication and inclusive public outreach.
“Science works best when scientists share our findings with and engage the communities we serve in shaping, sharing, and participating in the research process”
On why Nigerian scientists aligned with their counterparts in other parts of the world in the March, she stated that there was the need to speak up for science because ” Science research is not gaining enough support it needs to drive the plan to revitalize Nigeria’s agricultural sector.
“Science is a vital feature of a working democracy, spurring innovation, critical thinking, increased understanding, and better, healthier lives for all people”, she noted.

How science enhances humanity, food security
Director General of NABDA, Abayomi Oguntade, pointed out that Science has proven to be a dependable ally in making the society a better place not just for humanity but also for animals.
“Nigerian scientists have developed various scientific tools that can help in the area of food security, combating climate change. The public have not been fully aware of it. This march for Science therefore, has provided yet another opportunity for Science supporters to come together, join voices to amplify available science based solutions the nation can adopt to ensure food security,” Oguntade said.
Another scientist, and a University lecturer, Dr. James Igwe, told Inside Abuja that science has given birth to agriculture biotechnology, but unfortunately, the society that should appreciate the new life that has come through the technology is fighting and resisting it due to ignorance.
Igwe, who is also the Public Relations Officer of the Biotechnology Society of Nigeria ( BSN), noted that biotechnology is a veritable tool that is needed both in the field of agriculture, medicine and environment, even in molecular analysis.
He stated that those who are fighting agriculture biotechnology, are ignorant and do not understand its applications which are very important in all spheres of human endeavour.
“Fighting agricultural biotechnology in Nigeria is like moving the hand of development backward. Biotechnology is the only tool that can be applied in agriculture to enhance the products for food security. Other parts of the world have seen and understood what biotechnology is and are taking advantage of it.”

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Business

Privatisation: Strengthening mechanisms for transparency

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Recent disclosure by the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) that 37 per cent of the 142 businesses sold by the government are not doing well, reinforces views expressed by some Nigerians that that bureau should strengthen its due diligence mechanisms on willing investors. ABDULWAHAB ISA reports

 

The Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), the government’s agency midwifing the privatisation exercise did a self-appraisal recently. It revealed key disclosures previously tagged classified and restricted to public consumption. The current Director -General, Mr. Alex Okoh, gave status update recently of enterprises handed over to core investors, concessionaires by the bureau.

 

This is one approach that is rare in over two decades of Nigeria’s journey in the privatisation exercise. It offers an insight into the performance levels of state-owned businesses sold to private investors. A sketchy information, which the bureau unconsciously let out to the public, doused the curiosity of most Nigerians craving for assessment of the exercise since inception.

 

Privatisation over view

 

Privatisation/commercialisation of enterprise is a process, which entails complete or partial relieving of the government of her stake in state-owned enterprises to private operator operators. Transferring state-owned firms to private sector players via a competitive open bidding process is a global norm imbibed by developed and developing economies.

 

 

With the shift in global perception that the government is never a good manager of businesses, the clamour for government to relieve herself of the task of administering businesses and focus on providing conducive environment for businesses to thrive, private investors assumed controlling positions in the hitherto government/owned firms.

 

 

Nigeria’s experiment with the process began in late 80s by the military regime of General Ibrahim Gbadamosi Babangida. It was his administration that enacted the privatisation and commercialisation decree that later gave birth to former Technical Committee on Privatization and Commercialisation (TCPC). The agency was pioneered under the leadership of late Ambassador Hamza Zayyad.

 

 

The old TCPC midwifed first set of the government partial divestment from businesses in organisations such as United Bank for Africa, First Bank and Union Bank. In 1999, the BPE was established to undertake the sale and divestment of government stakes in the state owned enterprises.

 

 

Score card

 

Hosting some members of the National Assembly recently, Okoh confirmed figures of privatised enterprises and their performances.

 

 

He received in audience members of the House of Representatives Committee on Privatisation, led by its Chairman, Alhaji Ahmed Yerima. Okoh said 37 per cent of 142 businesses privatised by the Federal Government through BPE from inception till date were performing optimally.

 

 

Of the 142 firms, he said 63 were through core investor sale, nine through guided liquidation, one through sale to existing shareholders, five through public offer and two by liquidation.

 

The BPE boss said eight were privatised through private placement, 41 through concession, two through debt/equity swap and 11 through sale of assets. Breaking it down sector by sector, BPE boss told the committee members that five were in agric machanisation, eight in automobiles, seven in banking and insurance, six in brick making and six in the cement sector.

 

 

Besides, he said 10 others are in energy construction and services, 12 in hotels and tourism, eight in oil and gas, four in paper and packaging, 19 in solid minerals and mining, seven in steel and aluminum, four in the sugar sector, 26 in marine transport sector, 19 in power and one in telecoms.

 

 

Shedding additional information on sold firms, Okoh said of the privatised firms, 94 enterprises were being monitored while the rest are not. “Some were either assets sale or in the first phase of privatization and as such did not fall within the BPE’s monitoring purview” , he said.

 

 

Failing trend

Okoh ‘s honest admittance that significant percentage of businesses privatised by agency are not doing well reinforces the notion that entire privatization process deserves overhaul.

 

 

He attributed poor performances of the enterprises to harsh operating business environment in the country in which many private or privatised public enterprises have either closed down or relocated to neighbouring countries. BPE helmsman informed the lawmakers that his agency had commenced a thorough review of the non-performing enterprises to ascertain the issues affecting them.

 

 

The bottleneck, the very big issue that largely account for failing of most privatise firm, is engineered by core investors. Proven cases abound where core investors went for outright assets stripping of businesses they emerged preferred bidder.

 

 

There were reports of core investors turning a whole automobile assembly plants in to warehouse. The bureau, which sold these firms based on written agreement watch helplessly, unable to invoke any of the post- privatisation guidelines, which leaves a room for sanction on erring core investors.. Without mentioning names, many vibrant businesses that were thriving before their sale to new investors are currently in comatose state. Many have laid off their staff. Others are floating on skeletal operations.

 

 

The way out

 

 

Privatisation programme is the new order in most economies. The Governments are increasingly relieving themselves the burden of administering businesses for private operators who are equipped with managerial competency to run them for value addition.

 

For Nigeria to reap full benefits of privatisation programme, creating employments and adding values, BPE must take the front lead, first by overhauling its due diligence checks mechanism on investors bidding for enterprises.

 

 

Managerial and technical competency mustn’t be sacrificed on the altar of political expediency. The bureau must also commence a thorough review of the non-performing enterprises to ascertain the issues affecting their non- performance and come up with intervention package to address them.

 

The bureau must work on its recent declaration that it will remain guided by transparency and integrity in the sale and management of public assets.

 

 

Last line

 

Integrity of privatisation lies with BPE, the custodian of privatisation exercise. If it succeeds above average, the bureau receives overwhelming public thumps up. But if it keeps the current tempo, failing to address the gaps, it remains a bad reference for showcasing privatisation.

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Inside Abuja

Shiites’ protest: Intensifying protests against perceived injustice

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In the last couple of weeks, members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), popularly known as the Shiites, have raised the tempo of their protests, raising fears that the group is running out of patience and might, one day, become violent. CALEB ONWE reports

 

The Arab spring

A 26-year old Tunisian man angrily set himself on fire in the front of a government building in protest over what he considered as insensitivity of the leaders of his country to the sufferings of the commoners.

The death of the young man triggered a chain reaction of spontaneous protests across Tunisia. It ushered a mass revolution that swept like wild fire throughout the length and breadth of the Arab world.

Within a few days, protesters across Tunisia, demanded President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and his regime to step down. About a month later, he fled the country. It was the people’s revolution which spread up to Egypt and Libya, sweeping away every government on its way. It became known as the Arab Spring.

The Shiite challenge

For those, who subscribe to the alluring consolation that Nigeria is insulated from the possibility of a mass insurrection capable of producing another ” Arab spring” in this part of the globe, may have to think again considering the recent activities of the Shiites in Abuja. In the recent street protests staged by these aggrieved and justice seeking followers of the detained Sheik El’Zakzaky , they marched through some of the restricted places, pouring insults on President Muhamnadu Buhari and other top government officials.

They have vowed to sustain their protests until the authorities hear their cry. The latest dimension assumed by the protests is not only a demonstration of an unflinching support for a man they consider as their spiritual head and mentor, but a form of civil disobedience that might metamorphose from a cry against perceived injustice to an uprising against the state.

For the past one week, residents of the Federal Capital Territory have been soaked with palpable tension as these die-hard Shiites broke all seemingly water- right security boundaries that had hitherto restricted their daily sit-out protests to the Unity Fountain in Abuja.

The resolve of the Shiites to sustain the protest demanding for the release of their leader is akin to what happened in the Middle East. With grief and painful memories of the collateral damage their movement suffered after their bloody encounter with the Nigerian Army in Zaria, Kaduna State, over what was officially described as security breaches, the Shiites have vowed to go to any length in their demand. After losing dozens of their comrades to that bloody clash in Zaria, and the subsequent arrest and continued incarceration of their frontline leaders, the Shiites, who appear to still be clad with their mourning garments, have refused to cry until justice is seen to have been done.

Soon after the clash, IMN resumed a legal battle with the hope of getting redress. However, their hope and expectations for justice, seem to be getting more faded, hence, the decision for a daily sit out in the seat of power, where their leader has been illegally detained. They claimed the detention of El’Zakzaky was illegal because the court had ordered his release, but the authorities have continued flouting the court order.

It is becoming apparent that these Shiites are ready to sacrifice everything including their lives for the cause they believed in, hence they have sustained their daily sit-out protest in Abuja for close to three months. In one of the recent protests, the sect practically shut down the Central Business District and par-alyzed activities around the National Assembly for several hours.

They trooped out in their hundreds and overpowered security operatives, both at the Unity Fountain and the National Assembly, chanting war songs and demanding the freedom of their leader.

They divided themselves into different sub-groups according to gender and age as they marched from the Unity Fountain, to the National Assembly gate, blocking both the entrance and exit ways and creating a serious traffic gridlock.

At some point, the protesters descended to the political arena and addressed the perceived failings of the government of the day One of the leaders of the group, Sheikh Ibrahim, said that President Muhammadu Buhari was unfit to run a democracy, and cannot be trusted to handle the economy. ” Buhari cannot run a democracy. He has continued to violate the constitution, even the principles of a secular state. How can he be suppressing other sector Islam, simply because he belonged to a different one.

“Allowing Buhari to run the country’s economy is the same as bringing a carpenter, who only knows how to handle the hammer and nail, to the theatre to perfom surgical operation”, they said. According to Ibrahim Musa, the President of IMN Media group, security operatives have resorted to actively spreading misinformation and wild rumours with a view to breaking the will and resolve of the citizenry. According to him, the situation was designed to cause confusion, so that they could seize the opportunity to turn peaceful protests into violence.

“Credible reports have confirmed that hoodlums and security operatives have already been commissioned by the authorities to massively infiltrate our Free Zakzaky campaign activities to wreak havoc in our name and thereby instigate members of the Islamic Movement into misconduct, which they will then capitalize on to paint the Movement black.

They will pretend they are working to free our leader while in fact they mean evil. “We will however not relent in our peaceful mass protests as long as the government continues to keep Sheikh Zakzaky in illegal detention even with his deteriorating health situation and without access to proper medical attention and his lawyers. We will continue to employ all lawful, legal and constitutional means to achieve our goals, and would not be blackmailed into submission or surrender.

“To this end, our timely rallies, processions, campaign and other religious activities will continue as at when due and in our usual peaceful ways without fear of intimidation or any recourse to illogical violent means.

We will also continue to seek redress in national and international courts of justice as we have done all along. We would not be held responsible for anything contrary to our peaceful resolve and methods”, he noted.

Build up to anger

Inside Abuja’s checks revealed that this religious sect means different things to different people. While some view the Shiites as troublesome religious fanatics, others view them, as persons with a religious ideology that deserves respect, to the extent of the limitation guaranteed by the constitution of Nigeria.

The group may have been linked to a couple of civil unrest and violent clashes in the time past, but no evidence has been established to put a tag of an outlawed organisation on them. Inside Abuja learnt the Shiites was put on the spotlight when in December 2015, some of its members allegedly blocked the right of way of the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai, who was passing tbrough the area.

That obstruction led to a violent clash, resulting in heavy human casualties and gross abuse of human rights. Following the bloody clash, the National Human Rights Commission Special Investigation Panel on the clash, released its report with some findings, that both parties are yet to come to terms with till today. Chairman of the panel, Mr Anthony Ojukwu, who presented the report to the NHRC Executive Secretary, Prof. Ben Angwe, said that by blocking ” the public highway, the IMN infringed on the freedom of movement of the Chief of Army Staff.”

The report further said that there was a violation of rights to life of the persons who died during the clash. The Human Rights report also alluded to the reality of IMN properties said to have been destroyed without due process by the Kaduna State government. Inside Abuja also gathered that the protest of this movement could have been instigated not just by the number of their members who died during the Zaria clash, or the continued illegal detention of their leader, but affirmation by the report of the Human right Commission that the right of the IMN to property was violated. Inside Abuja also gathered that while both the government and the sect continue to flex muscles, certain recommendations of the Human Rights committee have not been implemented. While the Committee recommended that members of the IMN arrested for various violations and offences should be speedily and fairly tried by the Kaduna State High Court, IMN was also asked to issue a public apology to the appropriate authority and members of the public for the abuse of their rights to freedom of movement by blocking the public highway.

Last line

The activities of the Shiites may not be quenched with any form of intimidation from the government and its security agencies because of their seeming resolve to fight and to the last man. Therefore, it is in the interest of national security and the rule of law that the Federal Government should address the demands of the group before it becomes too late.

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