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Aisha Buhari: The travails of a first lady in Aso Rock



By Olalekan Abdullahi
Nigeria’s First Lady, Mrs. Aisha Buhari is certainly facing an existential battle, despite being the wife of the President of the most populous black country in the world.
Her travails are not actually from her husband, President Muhammadu Buhari, but from those that surround him, who she strongly believes are trying to make life difficult for her and her children, and she appears to be helpless as her husband does not seem perturbed by what she has been complaining about right in Aso Rock, the seat of Nigeria’s government where the first family resides.
Hajia Aisha Buhari has never failed to express her views on issues concerning the running of the government and matters that have to do with her family and her husband’s administration generally.
Aisha comes across as a very strong woman and what most Nigerians appreciate about her, is the fact that she speaks her mind.
The First Lady has voiced out the truth on many occasions damning whatever consequences that may arise.
She once spoke up fiercely against the “cabal” frustrating her husband’s government. An act many people, especially first ladies, have notably shied away from.
The First Lady is noted to be active on Facebook, twitter, Instagram and other social media platforms where she objectively criticizes the policies of the government and even offers suggestions when and where necessary to the surprise of many Nigerians.
In October 2016, Aisha Buhari during an interview with BBC, openly criticized the President suggesting that she might not support his 2019 re-election bid.
Aisha Buhari also claimed that some people had hijacked Buhari’s government.
“The president does not know 45 out of 50, of the people he appointed and I don’t know them either, despite being his wife of 27 years.
“Some people are sitting down in their homes folding their arms only for them to be called to come and head an agency or a ministerial position”.
“…If things continue like this up to 2019, I will not go out and campaign again and ask any woman to vote like I did before. I will never do it again,” she said.
Mrs. Buhari also alleged that a ‘powerful caucus’ is behind the presidential appointments.
In response to APC party’s mishandling of 2019 elections party primaries, Aisha publicly said: “It is disheartening to note that some aspirants used their hard-earned money to purchase nomination forms, got screened, cleared and campaigned vigorously yet found their names omitted on election day, these forms were bought at exorbitant prices.”
The Nigeria’s first lady also accused the APC Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole of condoning impunity and threatened to dissociate herself from the party if it continued.
Flashback to July 10, 2017, when the media was awash with the outbursts of the First Lady during a visit to her husband in the United Kingdom, where he was receiving treatment for an undisclosed ailment.
Apparently frustrated Aisha had described some people around her husband as Hyenas and Jackals and wrote a piece entitled; “Hyenas, jackals will soon be sent out of my husband’s kingdom.” This was in response to Senator Shehu Sani’s (representing Kaduna Central District) post which read: “Prayer for the absent Lion King has waned; until he’s back then they will fall over each other to be on the front row of the palace temple. Now the hyenas and the jackals are scheming and talking to each other in whispered; still doubting whether the Lion King will be back or not…”
There, Aisha Buhari gave an insight into the power play at the Nigerian seat of power in the wake of a sickness that had kept her husband out of the country for two months then.
Responding to Mr. Sani’s comment also proverbially, Mrs. Buhari said: “God has answered the prayers of the weaker Animals. The Hyenas and the jackals will soon be sent out of the kingdom. We strongly believe in the prayers and support of the weaker animals”.
Mrs. Aisha’s comment attracted many comments from her followers on Facebook, wishing her husband quick recovery.
Upon her return to Nigeria back then, the President’s wife had said he was recovering well and that he expressed appreciation to Nigerians praying for him.
However, the First Lady kept making statements about issues that has to do with governance and she was able to endear herself to the hearts of numerous Nigerians, who felt she has been doing her best to protect the nation’s nascent democracy. She was dubbed the amazon of African democracy because her voice has been the loudest from any woman in the continent of Africa, fighting vigorously for the sustenance of democracy and preservation of the office of the president.
On Wednesday, 11, December, 2019, Mrs. Aisha Buhari came out in another form to tackle her husband’s spokesperson, the Senior Special Assistant, Media and Publicity to President Muhammadu Buhari, Mr. Garba Shehu on issues affecting the country and how she is being undermined and doubted Shehu’s loyalty to the president. Trust the amazon, she poured her heart out through a piece she posted on her verified Instagram page and other platforms.
The piece is entitled; “Garba Shehu Has Gone Beyond His Boundaries.’
In the piece, the First Lady made it clear that Nigeria’s development is hinged on the ability of public officials to execute their mandates professionally, and to be shining examples in their various areas of endeavor.
“As spokesperson of the President, he has the onerous responsibility of managing the image of the President and all the good works that he is executing in the country.
“Rather than face this responsibility squarely, he has shifted his loyalty from the President to others who have no stake in the compact that the President signed with Nigerians on May 29, 2015 and 2019.
“To make matters worse, Mr. Shehu has presented himself to these people as a willing tool and executioner of their antics, from the corridors of power even to the level of interfering with the family affairs of the President. This should not be so.
“The blatant meddling in the affairs of a First Lady of a country is a continuation of the prodigal actions of those that he serves.
“We all remember that the chief proponent appropriated to himself and his family a part of the Presidential Villa, where he stayed for almost 4 years and when the time came for him to leave, he orchestrated and invaded my family’s privacy through a video circulated by Mamman’s Daughter, Fatima, the public was given the impression that on arrival into the country I was locked out of the villa by Mr. President,” the First Lady said.
The First Lady added that Garba Shehu, as Villa Spokesperson, knew the truth and had the responsibility to set the records straight, but that “because his allegiance is somewhere else and his loyalty misplaced, he deliberately refused to clear the air and speak for the President who appointed him in the first place.
Aisha Buhari stressed that Mr. Shehu was privy and part of the plan and it’s execution and that he was shocked when he realized that she had publicized her return to Nigeria on October 12, 2019 and cleared the air on the many rumors that took over social media, a job she said he was supposed to do but kept mute to cause more confusion and instability for his Principal and his family.
“Garba then, vented his anger on the National Television Authority (NTA) Management insisting that the media crew to my office must be sacked.
“He succeeded in getting them suspended for doing their job. I had to intervene to save the innocent staff from losing their means of livelihood by involving the Department of State Services (DSS) in order to ascertain roles played by key actors in the saga.
“It is at this late hour that I recall, sadly, that it was the same Garba Shehu who claimed that the government will not allow office of the First Lady to run.
“He was later to confirm to one of my aides that he was instructed to say so by Mamman Daura and not the President.
“This antic attracted the anger of Nigerian women. He didn’t realize the fact that First Lady’s office is a tradition which has become an institution.
“Today, even without a budget, I am able to run my humanitarian programmes.
In saner climes, Garba Shehu would have resigned immediately after going beyond his boundaries and powers,” she said.
Aisha added that the “latest of his antics was to wage a war on the first family through an orchestrated media campaign of calumny by sponsoring pseudo accounts to write and defame my children and myself.”
Several Nigerians however, wondered why the First Lady makes this kind of outburst, when her husband is not around, and if President Muhammadu Buhari would support his wife or Garba Shehu, when he returns to the country from Egypt on Friday, 13th December, 2019 or keep mute on the matter as he has done in the past.
With these, millions of Nigerians have applauded Aisha Buhari as a defender of democracy, who is never afraid to lend her voice to issues despite being the wife of the President.
The First Lady is seen as a rare breed and Africa’s First Lady with the loudest voice, when the need arises despite the fact that she comes from the northern part of the country, where women are not expected to speak loudly.
Aisha might be hated by those in power that are immensely benefiting from the system, but she is loved by women and the masses and they see her as the icon of democracy and hope that all is not lost after all despite the travails of the country under the present government.
Aisha is seen as a very dependable woman that has been with her husband all through the period he had been contesting elections right from 2003 until he eventually succeeded in 2015. She stood by the husband through thick and thin, keeping the family and raising beautiful children since she married Buhari 30 years ago.
The thinking of many in Nigeria and beyond is that the likes of Garba Shehu and Mamman Daura should let the first lady live in peace with her family and reap the fruits of her years of labour. But many believe despite the travails she has been going through, Hajia Aisha Buhari will hold her ground, and continue to fight for good governance and protection of democratic ethos in Nigeria. She is indeed an iconic amazon worthy of emulation by other wives of African leaders.
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Nigeria: The need for enabling laws to site gathering centres for intercepted illegal petroleum products by JTF, By Otete Darlington



Government can’t be spending money to clean oil spill in some areas while other arm of government continue to spill same oil in other areas.
Over the years we have been hearing JTF (security operatives) intercepted stolen crude oil from illegal bunkers but till date there is no law established to control their method of either storing or to give back recovered product to the facilities owner after conducting test to establish or verify facility of origin.
There is no law that neither gives ownership to government thereby creating government storage centre for such purposes nor does government aid the joint task force with facilities for identification of Operators that owns the product for possible return.
A situation whereby Intercepted illegal Petroleum products are burnt or spill is of great economic loss to the country and must be discouraged.
It is more harmful to the People and the environment when security operative set illegal intercepted product on fire or spill them in the environment. While carrying out their security duties it’s also important to protect the environment and the health of the inhabitants must be considered. They can’t be reporting cases of intercepted illegal product without making same available for all to see.
The absence of the law means the commander of the JTF should act based on his discretion or at best “as the spirit leads”.
However the consequences of the said absence of law and the JTF “action” method of disposing off the intercepted or recovered illegal petroleum products is of negative impact on the people and the environment.
If a product is intercepted the options opened to JTF security operatives is by spilling the product or burning since there is no law/guiding what should be done next. Whichever method they choose is of negative impact to the people and the environment.
Spilling intercepted illegal crude oil or “Kpo Fire” whether on land or water have great negative impact on humans, aquatic live and vegetation as a result of pollution of surface and underground water.
As a country looking up to agriculture as alternative measure of generating income and self sustainability, it’s important to check all possible root cause of low agricultural produce and take corrective actions. This makes enacting law to check the Security Operatives and the method of disposing the intercepted product mandatory.
This law should as a minimum provide JTF operatives with requisite facilities or retainership with nearest DPR accredited laboratory for partnership to carryout accurate sample analysis and return recovered product to the right owner.
Burning of intercepted illegal crude oil or “Kpo Fire” is detrimental to the people and the environment as a result of air pollution. The average life expectancy of Nigerians leaving in Niger Delta is getting shorter by the day as a result of Oil exploration activities. We must do everything humanly possible to discourage/ control further reduction of human life expectancy within the Niger Delta region and Nigeria at large.
The negative effect of oil exploration activities on the inhabitants of the Niger Delta is unquantifiable.
The theory of NON DESTRUCTIVE forbid destroying one to repair the other thus the method deployed by security operatives on product disposal is negative and not traceable to any global standard or best practices therefore the only lasting solution is establishing a law to ensure intercepted product gathering centres are established for such purpose since both former and later method of product disposal disadvantages outweigh the advantages.
– Darlington MNES, Lead Auditor ISO 14001:2015, writes in from Warri, Delta state
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Changing the narratives: Proposed agenda for the President Buhari’s FGN in 2020, By Kayode Ajulo, PhD





The power of retrospection, introspection and foresight affords an individual, a group of individuals and even a nation the ability to make and hypothesize meaningful projections into the future.

Without a doubt, there is an undeniable wisdom in the proverbial saying that doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result is the definition of madness.

I want to believe that as a nation, we cannot continue to toe the quite familiar but unacceptable path of ethnic and religious sentiments.

Today as Nigerians, we are at a risk of becoming liabilities to humanity when all we do as citizens or leaders is to view things using the lens of religion and ethnicity. As a matter of urgent national importance.

I want to urge Nigerians and indeed the leaders that such sentiments, tendencies and actions should be avoided by all possible means this year.

I had to start off the conversation from this position because of the dire consequences it portends for the corporate existence of any nation.

However, in the spirit of patriotism and national expediency, I have decided to couch a number of suggestions for the President Muhammadu Buhari led administration for 2020 under these standpoints; Economic Development, Human Rights and Respect for the Rule of Law and lastly an All-Inclusive Government.

It is a fact that cannot be gainsaid or misconstrued that the term “sustainable economic growth and development” is one of the key indicators of good governance in a country and as such the right policies must be put in place to ensure this. To put it in another way, good governance is central to economic growth and development and the absence of the latter is symptomatic of the failure of government to deliver on the former.

Economic development is attainable through the provision of the right infrastructure and engaging all the variables in the market so as to attain the desired equilibrium. This is to be contrasted with economic growth which is simply accounted for by market outputs and a rise in GDP.

An enabling environment must be created by the government to ensure a steady development of the economy and this agrees with the reasoning of scholars that economic development has a direct relationship with the environment. This implies the provision of physical infrastructure, increased spending on health, education etc. which invariably stimulates economic growth. The consensus therefore is that economic development and economic growth are inseparable.

As a legal practitioner, I do not want to be caught in the web of encroaching for instance, on the competence of the Economic Advisory Council inaugurated by the President in the course of the outgoing year by delving professionally into the nitty-gritty of the nation’seconomic outlook for 2019.

However, as a lawyer, it presupposes that I should have a fair understanding of a wide spectrum of issues including this instant one and it is on the strength of this that I will comment on the economic outlook for 2019 and suggest some possible ways of fostering economic growth and development going forward.

2019 has been a year of adjustment for Nigerians in terms of economic realities particularly in the aftermath of the closure of our borders which was an economic measure /policy to primarily curb the menace of smuggling and heavy dependence on foreign goods. It however came with a mixed impact for the economy because of the unexpected nature of the announcement.

In all sincerity, one would have thought that such economic decision of dire implications would not have been taken overnight without recourse to the concernedstakeholders in particular and the Nigerian people as a whole.

This is partly responsible for the public outcry that greeted the announcement, with market analysts arguing that the shock created negatively impacted the economy especially in the area of price inflation,notwithstanding increased local production. For instance, the price of a locally produced bag of rice has risen from 15000 to more than 20000.

It is therefore expedient that while the government is keen on boosting and increasing local production, it should also devise an interim means of ensuring price control even though economists may want to argue that what we are having now is the interplay of the forces of demand and supply.

The current price inflationespecially of rice which is arguably the most commonly consumed staple should be reversed as soon as possible because even though the border closure is an encouragement for domestic producers, it has however led to price increases for consumers and this is capable of making a mess out of the lofty economic decision.

Petrol which is another commonly smuggled commodity is a very important economic product that constitutes the major source of our foreign earnings and therefore efforts must be made to ensure that the country is not shortchanged by the activities of smugglers who sneak out the subsidized product to neighbouring countries where it is sold for a much higher price to their gain and to the detriment of Nigeria which incur losses in terms of customs’receipts and duties.

This protectionist mechanism of our economy is commendable given the fact that Nigeria incurs a lot of cost as a result of payment of subsidies on petrol which will be unaccounted for in this instance by the activities of the smugglers. With a careful look at the situation, one can safely assert that the Nigerian treasury stands to benefit more from the falling cost of petrol subsidies and an increase in customs receipts.

Still on the issue of border closure, I am not unaware that many have criticized the action as insensitive and untimely. However, I must admit that Nigeria would have been more economically stronger if the bold measures currently undertaken by this administration had been considered and adopted by previous administrations.

This is the reason why I must commend the government on one hand and also adviseit as noted earlier that economic policies of this nature will be better appreciated and welcomed when all the stakeholders and indeed the Nigerian people are carried along in terms of media advocacies, engagements and campaigns for such scheme.

I must admit that it is not easy for us as a nation to adjust our consumption pattern to suit locally produced goods overnight but with time we will learn to appreciate this sacrifice.

Further, a lot has also been said by our neighbours in West Africa, particularly about the possible breach of the ECOWAS protocol on the free movement of goods, services and people.

As a lawyer, I have gone through the protocols which only bother on goods produced by respective member states and not goods produced by non-member statesand as such neighbouring countries will do well to comply with the ECOWAS protocols on transit of goods.

It is therefore imperative that this current administration use this period to aggressively pursuecapacity building for local production of goods hitherto smuggled through our porous borders.

The government should also strive to strengthen the nation’s borders by boosting the capacity of border agents to ensure compliance with the relevant regulations on trade. The joint border patrol involving the Police, Customs, Immigration, Navy and State Security Services currently being proposed by Niger, Benin and Nigeria is a step in the right direction.

The electronic monitoring of our border posts alongside the deployment of relevant technology should also be considered. Some kind of technology will definitely be required to provide some form of“force multipliers” to such an extent that a border post or (an illegal route) can be effectively manned and controlled with just two border agents. I am certain such technology should not be far-fetched in this 21stcentury.

Going forward, there is no gain without pain; I want to commend Nigerians for enduring the temporary hardship occasioned by the border closure which is a necessary sacrifice for a vibrant and a robust economy. Undoubtedly, since the border closure, government accruals have increased in terms of payment of dutiesand there has been an increase in local production of some goods.

Nigerians however await price affordability of these locally produced goods which also should not be found wanting in terms of qualitybecause it is premised on this, that the current hardship being experienced can be reasonably justified, otherwise, the government should rethink the border closure altogether.

Another important area that should be brought into focus by this present administration is the diversification of the economy in order to achieve sustainable economic growth. The pressing demand of this new decade is a well planned decentralization of the economy from the oil sector to other sectors of the economy such as agriculture, solid minerals. We should stop paying lip-service to the issue of diversification and start “walking the talk”.

The revenue potentials in the manufacturing, financial technology, banking and other viable sectors should be harnessed by this administration. There should also be an intentional transitioning from a heavy dependence on oil exports to non-oil exports.

Exporters and prospective exporters of non-oil products such as groundnut, cocoa, yam, rubber, timber among others should be incentivized to enhance more participation in the economic development of the country.

The present infrastructural drive by this administration is expected to have an impact on its diversification plans and as such must be commended. One is not in doubt that there are quite a number of road projects going on in the country.

A few deserve to be mentioned; the Second Niger Bridge, Lagos-Ibadan expressway and the Abuja- Kano highway. Tangible progress is also be made with respect to the rail projects scattered across the country. There is no better way to open up our economy to a lot of investments other than by creating the enabling environment which includes the provision of both basic and advanced amenities as well as the implementation and enactmentof key policies and legislations respectively.


Human rights and the Rule of Law which possibly are two sides of the same coin have prominently featured as topics of interest in Nigeria. Both terms are adequately provided for under the Constitution and other laws of the land.

A country’s sure path to peace, economic prosperity and development is secured when laws are respected, obeyed and upheld no matter whose ox is gored.

The duty of protection of the fundamental human right of citizens rests on all fours on the three arms of government, i.e. the executive, the legislature and the judiciary. The fourth estate of the realm- the press also has a role to play with respect to the protection of these rights.

The National Assembly which comprises of the Senate and the House of Representatives in exercise of its power under Section 4 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as altered enacts laws for the peace, order and good government of the Federation.

There is no gainsaying the fact that the essence of protection of Nigerians (majority and minority alike) via the instrumentality of laws is toprevent one from taking advantage of the other either in terms of numbers or influence.

I must stress here that majority may not necessarily be in terms of numerical strength but in terms of the influence wielded by a group against the others.

Thus it is the duty of the legislature to think ahead and put in place measures which may prevent any possible eventor occurrence which may cause widespread monumental humanitarian crisis.

I am compelled to believe that this is what informed the proposed hate speech and social media bills currently before the Senate, the bills have however generated heated debates with many Nigerians seeing them as a contravention of the right to freedom of speech as embedded in the Constitution and other international human right instruments such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Notwithstanding, the sincerity of the intentions of the sponsors of the bills in particular and the Senate in general, I want to canvass that the Senate should pander to the instincts and wishes of Nigerians by suspending deliberations on them.

As we speak, the bills are just so unpopular among the populace and there is also the legitimate question that they are capable of being manipulated against perceived “enemies” of the State. In this instance, it is better to err on the side of caution than on the side of utter recklessness that the political class is well known for the hate speech bill may inadvertently become an anti-free speech law if passed and this seems to be the legitimate fears of citizens.

It may also interest the Senate to know that the United States which also practices a presidential system like us does not have hate speech laws, as a matter of fact; American courts have repeatedly ruled that laws criminalizing hate speech violate the guarantee to freedom of speech contained in the First amendment to the United State Constitution.
It is on the strength of the above that I want to assert that some provisions of some extant legislations such as the Criminal Code Act, the Nigeria Penal Code Act and the Cybercrimes (Prohibition, Prevention etc.) Act, 2015 have the capacity to address the issues raised in the proposed bills.

With particular reference to human rights, the National Assembly ensures protection of Nigerians across all divides and it is needful to stress here that the Chapter IV of the Constitution was not just inscribed in the Constitution to achieve nothing. The framers of the Constitution left no one in doubt as to their determination in ensuring that no Nigerian should have to suffer needlessly without getting justice and this lends credence to the legal maxim, Ubi Jus, Ibi Remedium that is, where there is a right, there is a remedy.
However, there is the delicate issue of how to strike the balance between upholding the Rule of Law and National Security. In my humble but considered opinion, the rule of law is quite accommodative of National Security; the ultimate threat to National Security is the lack of respect for the rule of law.

The executive arm of government cannot be seen or fingered to be breaking the law in the name of upholding national security, the rule of law and National Security are not two mutually exclusive terms.

The government cannot continue to rely on the Obiterdecision of the Supreme Court in the case of Asari Dokubo v. FRN, which is to the effect that when an individual interest conflicts with national interest, the national interest will naturally prevail.

I want to counsel that it is not within the purview of the executive arm of government to determine in each respective case whether there is a national interest to protect neither does it come within its domain to determine whether national security/interest supersedesindividual interest.

In any case, the judiciary is the only constitutional organ vested with the power to determine disputes in whatever form and I want to respectfully submit that assuming without conceding that a particular case reveals a prima facie threat to national security, the same does not extinguish the overriding power of the court to grant bail as enshrined in Section 35 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as altered.

Still on the judiciary, it is pertinent to reiterate that as an independent arm of government, it is vested with judicial powers for the enforcement of the fundamental human rights of citizen pursuant to Section 46 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as altered.

The executive on its part has been caught in the web of misconceptions by the public as well intended actions taken by it for the peaceful coexistence of the nationhas either been met with public outcry or outright condemnation.

This is evident in the perception of the public towards its handling of the cases of Sowore and Dasuki. The misconceptions were further heightened by the apparent disobedience to court orders as witnessed in the afore-mentioned cases.

I must state that there is simply no legal justification for such disobedience; the executive would have shown its predisposition and posture for the rule of law by complying immediately with the orders while also pursuing and exercising its right of appeal for a stay of execution of those orders.

It will however be counterproductive and self-serving to sum up based on these two cases that the totality of this administration’s drive towards the prevention of anarchy amounted to acomplete disregard for the rule of law.

I am not an advocate of executive lawlessness or arbitrariness, we are all stakeholders in issues of governance and as such we can put the government in check when there is a likelihood of it going above board to ensure the protection of the entire citizenry as intended in the Sowore’s case. We can do this by voicing out our genuine concerns as joint stakeholders in the Nigerian project.

By way of digression, I want to point out that disobedience to court orders is capable of diminishing the confidence of foreign investors in investing in the economy because of the fear that such investments may not be insulated by any known mechanism of the law which are unenforceable in case of a likely breach of agreement.

Of a fact, I am aware that most arbitration clauses contained in agreements with foreign businesses usually stipulates that the venue of arbitration in the event of a dispute should be overseas and not Nigeria.

This brings us to the duties, rights and obligations of the press as provided for by Section 39 of the 1999 Constitution as altered. The fourth estate of the realm should ensure a dispassionate and objective dissemination of information at all times to the citizens.

The government should endeavour to constantly engage the press so that it will not suffer perception issues. The freedom of the press is non-negotiable and paramount in a constitutional democracy and its protection must be guaranteed at all times, an attempt to gag the press or criminalize free speech is an invitation to the rejection of governmental authority which is entrusted on the government by the people.

Freedom of speech which is also provided under this section must be respected, citizens must be educated by the press that every right comes with its corresponding duty and responsibility, free speech therefore should not be construed to mean license to make careless, reckless and violence evoking statements.

As a precursor to the preceding subhead, I want to emphasize that good governance is not ensured by leaders alone but also built by the trust reposed in the leaders by the citizenry. Thus an inclusive government is based on accountability and trust in the institutions put in place for effective governance of the nation.

A lot of negative incidents have transpired in recent times in our national development which could be attributed majorly to the wrong perception of the government coupled with a shallow, almost non-existent feedback mechanism.

Consequent upon this and as a matter of urgency, the Federal Government should shun whether covertly or openly all acts of nepotism, sectionalism and division which are some of the things the present government ably led by President Muhammadu Buhari has been severally accused of.

The President who is conferred with the executive powers of the Federation by virtue of Section 4 of the 1999 Constitution needs to keep faith with Nigerians by showing that he is indeed in words and action, the leader of the entire country.

It is counselled that he should ensure that appointments indeed reflect the principle of Federal Character in recognition of Section 14(3) of the 1999 Constitution.

The government should not only run an open door policy but if possible a “no door” policy which ensures a steady interface of the government with the people. Premised on this point, I will like to suggest that the Presidential media parleys should be held from time to time in order to stimulate healthy conversations between the President and the citizens.

Therefore, in the final analysis, I want to humbly assertthat for the nation to get out of the woods, a number of suggestions have been proposed in the entire stretch of this article which if carefully considered and adopted as part of the agenda of the government for the new year, has the capacity to transform and set our dear nation on the path of economic progress, political stability and social justice.

Thank you.

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Atiku to Buhari: Endless borrowing will lead to endless sorrowing



By Atiku Abubakar.

John Quincy Adams once said “there are two ways to conquer and enslave a nation. One is by the sword. The other is by debt.” He may have very well been referring to Nigeria of the last three years.

Barely two weeks ago, I warned during my Founder’s Day lecture at the American University of Nigeria, Yola, that Nigeria had taken almost as much foreign debt in the last three years, as she had taken in the thirty years before 2015 combined. Now that is frightening. And very true.

Frightening, not just because of the amount, but because after such unprecedented borrowing, we have emerged as the world headquarters for extreme poverty and the global capital for out of school children. It begs the question: what were the funds used for?

I have said it time and again. The business of government is too serious to be left in the hands of politicians. We must all ask questions because if they throw away the future, it is not going to be their future they are throwing away, it will be all our futures.

The fact that Nigeria currently budgets more money for debt servicing (₦2.7 trillion), than we do on capital expenditure (₦2.4 trillion) is already an indicator that we have borrowed more money than we can afford to borrow. And the thing is that debt servicing is not debt repayment. Debt servicing just means that we are paying the barest minimum allowable by our creditors.

And while spending 50% of our current revenue on debt servicing, this administration wants to take further loans of $29.6 billion! To say that this is irresponsible is itself an understatement.

As a businessman, one of the very first things I learnt is that you do not take loans except you are expanding your business. Even as an individual, when your income cannot fund your lifestyle, you are challenged to grow your income, not your borrowings.

Even if this administration borrows $1 trillion, it will never be enough because their challenge is one of capacity. They are not using the funds they already have wisely. They do not need more debt. They need more intellectual capacity.
The money the Muhammadu Buhari administration wants to borrow to fund its Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) could be acquired without sinking the nation into further debt. All it requires is visionary leadership and business acumen.

In my economic blueprint, I said that rather than turn in regular losses (which it has consistently been doing), the best thing to do with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation is to reform it. Of course, the administration’s paid propagandists went into overdrive, accusing me of planning to sell the NNPC to my friends. But just last week, Saudi Arabia’s ARAMCO, the most profitable company in the world, took that route and almost broke the global stock market with the most successful initial IPOs in world history, bar none. Ironically, Saudi Aramco raised $29.4 billion via this IPO. Just the amount this administration wants to borrow.

That could have been Nigeria’s story, but for our failure of leadership. By reforming the NNPC, Nigeria can raise the $29.6 billion the Buhari regime wants to borrow, and we will raise the money without going into debt.

If we had taken that route, not only would we have attracted Foreign Direct Investment into Nigeria, but even better than investment, we would have attracted confidence in our economy, because it would have shown that we have a thinking leadership.

Take the example of the Nigeria Liquified Natural Gas company. This is a joint venture between the Nigeria government and the private sector. Yet, while the NLNG declares very handsome profits, in billions of dollars every year, the NNPC declares loses! This is proof that the NLNG model works, and the NNPC model does not.

Moody’s, the world’s preeminent rating agency, has just downgraded Nigeria. Ghana, a nation with only 15% of our population, now attracts more Foreign Direct Investment than Nigeria, and Rwanda, a country with less than 15% of our mineral endowment, has an economy that is growing at twice the rate of our economy. The problem is not revenue. The challenge is not Nigerians. The issue is leadership.
While there is scant information in the Medium Term Expenditure Framework for what the loan would be used for, I could not help but read a communication from the Presidency to the effect that one of such projects would be the digitalisation of the Nigerian Television Authority and other similar projects.

Spending revenue on such projects would be foolish, but spending loans in such a manner is nothing short of foolhardy. The Nigerian government does not have a good record of running businesses, and a public television network is unlikely to yield the type of income that would justify taking out loans to digitalise it. Besides, is that a priority, when we have 12 million children out of school? Like I said, capacity, not revenue, is the problem.

And in proof of this, I offer the example of how this administration took delivery of $322 million Abacha loot in 2018 and claimed it shared it out to poor Nigerians, only to obtain a $328 million loan from China, allegedly for ICT development the very next month. How do you share out $322 million and then borrow $328 million? Who does that? At the risk of repeating myself, it is clear that no amount of money, whether from revenue or borrowings, will be enough for an administration that lacks capacity.

So, what must Nigeria do now? Rather than profligate borrowing, what Nigeria needs to do is restore investor confidence in our economy. Key to that is respecting the independence of key institutions, such as the Judiciary and the Central Bank of Nigeria. Both of these institutions are now the captives of Buhari and his cabal, and though they are loathe to admit it, they cannot take one step without watching their backs.

Why are foreign investors leaving Nigeria for Ghana? The answer is that Ghana, unlike Nigeria, has learnt how to divorce key institutions from politics. The Ghanaian central bank enjoys a degree of independence that our own CBN can only dream of under the prevailing atmosphere. You will not hear Ghana’s leaders give flippant interviews overseas about their plans for the cedi, as Buhari has done in Europe about the Naira. It rang alarm bells because it is not the job of the executive to interfere in the role of the reserve bank.
Neither will you find Ghana’s leaders blatantly intimidating the judiciary by obviously setting up judges and invading courtrooms. Why would any investor come to Nigeria under such prevailing circumstances? Their thought would be that if they had industrial disputes, our courts, under this administration, could not be counted on to deliver impartial justice.

I was part of a team that paid off Nigeria’s entire foreign debt. I, therefore, cannot sit and watch an administration without vision squander our children’s future by taking and wasting loans that they do not even have the capacity to utilise properly.

Thank God for leaked memos that have exposed the lies this regime has told Nigerians about unprecedented revenues in the Federal Inland Revenue Service and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation. Now, we know that Nigeria is not poor because she is not making enough money. The truth is that Nigeria is poor because she is not making the right leadership decisions.

Thomas Jefferson said, “to preserve our independence, we must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt.” Dear citizens of our beloved nation, this is a call to heed.

President Olusegun Obasanjo and I paid off this nation’s debt, and I will not stand idly by and watch while Nigeria is plunged into second slavery by those who only know how to reap where they have not sown.

Our youth must have something better to inherit from us than unsustainable debt fuelled by insatiable greed. That is why I call on the Senate of the National Assembly to show loyalty to Nigeria and reconsider its decision with regards to approving Buhari’s $29.6 billion loan request.

We need to pay heed to Benjamin Franklin’s advise that “he that goes a borrowing goes a sorrowing”. I call on Nigeria’s youth to identify the Senator representing their senatorial zones and write to them, urging them to vote against this request. Do this, because it is you and your children that will pay back these loans that would be squandered by this ravenous cabal who do not have the word enough in their vocabulary.

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