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OPINION

House indictment of NEMA, VP: Why politics is involved, By Amarachi Iwuala

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An emergency is any unplanned event that can cause deaths or significant injuries to the public such as Floods, earthquakes, civil disturbances, terrorism, war and so on. In view of the frequency of these events in our planet and the widespread nature of their effect, emergency management has developed into a professional discipline. People who work in the emergency agencies of developed countries, from bottom up, are seasoned professionals who knows and appreciate the demand of disaster management.
Reading through the House of Representatives Committee’s report on the investigation of NEMA, I was left to wonder whether the legislators are Nigerians or aliens and whether they truly believe in the indictments they so generously handed out to the NEMA Director General, Mustapha Maihaja and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
First let us examine the terms of reference of the committee and the findings and weigh them against the evidence and principles of disaster management.  The committee said it had the following issues to probe:
(i) The release of N5,865,671,389.26 and N3,153,000,000.00 as emergency intervention of Food Security to support the population affected by insurgency in the North-East in June 2017 and other releases for the North-East intervention;
(ii) The 6,779 metric tons of rice donated by Chinese government to the internally displaced persons in the North-East;
(iii) Payment of about N800 Million Demurrage on the donated Rice by the Chinese government;
(iiii) Over 10 Billion Naira being statutory 20% Ecological Funds released between January 2017 to February 2018 to NEMA;
(v) The Federal Government of Nigeria Flood Intervention in the sum of N1,600,000,000.00 to 16 States in July 2017; and
(vi) The over N1.6 Billion released to NEMA for Evacuation of Nigerians stranded in Libya in 2017.
The committee gave its findings on each one of these but the one that has been hyped more is the alleged refusal of NEMA to distribute the 6,779 metric tons of rice donated by the Chinese Government, and the issue of payment of N800 million demurrage, which the members said was unnecessary if the rice had been cleared as and when due. The committee found:
– That more than one year after the goods were donated, there is no evidence that the 6 States of the North East, who are the beneficiaries have received the items.
– The Federal Government paid about N800 Million as demurrage to APM terminal and Maersk Line for the consignment due to delay arising from inability and negligence on part of NEMA, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Budget and National Planning to secure the items as at when due.
I’m aware that NEMA has debunked the allegation that it did not distribute the rice to the affected states. But let us for the sake of argument accept that NEMA had not distributed the rice as at the time the committee was doing its investigations, does it then mean that the rice had been sold by NEMA, or that it never meant to distribute them? The committee itself did not say NEMA or any other government agency had sold the rice. It only said it saw no evidence from all the invoices presented to it, because I presume, none of the invoices indicated Chinese rice!
Now it’s important to know that there are four stages in emergency management-mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery. Any emergency agency has to be painstaking at each of the four stages to achieve success. The committee did not tell us in its report at what stage the rice was delivered at the Nigeria port. But let us again assume that since it was just a gift to Nigeria, it was delivered not as an immediate response to a disaster. This assumption is reasonable since the rice was meant for states ravaged by insurgency.
That could mean that distributing the rice to the states mentioned was not such an emergency that required the consignment to be swiftly cleared and distributed to save lives. This could be the case if you consider the fact that there were others who made generous donations of rice and other foodstuffs to those states including our own Aliko Dangote.
So, the issue is not that NEMA allowed citizens to die by failing to supply them necessary foodstuffs. The quarrel of the committee is that the rice shipped from China was not distributed to those they were meant for. Again, on this score one can say that efficient disaster management is a planned series of activities, not some adhoc crisis management as the committee will have us believe. If NEMA already had an appropriate response of its own in place before the China rice was delivered, it makes sense that it doesn’t have to immediately distribute them. If NEMA is a serious agency, one expects it to have its own response plan in place and not wait for donors, except where there are no other alternatives.
The committee did not claim that the refusal to distribute the Chinese led to deaths or serious issues of starvation in the affected states, thus confirming NEMA’s claim that it did indeed distribute rice to those states. Moreover, since it was not an emergency, there was nothing wrong in NEMA keeping the Chinese rice in a wherehouse while planning for further deliveries.
While the alleged payment of N800million demurrage was regrettable, the House committee should not have made it look as if NEMA delayed clearing of the rice so it could pay demurrage. Not only does it not make sense, but it shows a deliberate refusal of the legislators to acknowledge issues with our Ports’ administration. Moreover, as the committee also acknowledged in its report, the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed by Nigeria and the Chinese shows that the clearing of the rice was supposed to be a multi-agency task and not that of NEMA alone. Yet the committee recommended the sack of NEMA DG because of this? And why has the Speaker of the House of Reps Yakubu Dogara picked on NEMA alone with such venom? So much was Dogara in a hurry to indict the DG that his media aide issued a press statement about the discovery of the Chinese rice in NEMA wherehouse, accompanying it with photographs. Shortly after, his media aide issued another statement alleging that NEMA was moving the rice from its wherehouse to an undisclosed location. In the three years he has been speaker, this is the first time Dogara has shown strong interest in any House report. Does it have anything to do with 2019?
The briskness and alacrity with which some PDP stalwarts, including its presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar have lashed on to the so-called indictment gave it away as a game plan focused on 2019. In a statement released by his campaign organization, Atiku sought to parry allegations that he attempted to smuggle campaign cash into the country by alleging that it was a ploy by the APC “to distract attention from the recent indictment of Vice-President Osinbajo by the House of Representatives for grand corruption…,” referring of course to the committee report.
Disaster management is not a tea party as any serious legislator would know. In a country as big as Nigeria the challenges are even more. That is why NEMA recently declared a resolve to engage state governments through intensive advocacy and sensitization on the need for states to key into disaster risk management as a multi-stakeholder activity. Instead of calling for anybody’s sack for some expected laxity in government, the lawmakers should have thought of enactments that could improve disaster management in the country.
Ms. Iwuala contributed this piece from Owerri
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OPINION

NNPC and the fuss over staff re-deployment, By Gbenga Adeleke

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It’s hardly tenable that any enlightened interest could question the rationale for the announcement of staff retirement and re-deployment at a public institution the way the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) did last week.

The NNPC last week announced the retirement of 11 senior management staff and redeployment of 19 others in an exercise it described as statutory. Most of those redeployed are to replace those exiting the Corporation into retirement by end of May and early June.

But there have been insinuations about the exercise in the media, and some have questioned while the GMD did it at a time of transition for the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari. Some have even read ethnic interests into the exercise.

I am sure the Group Managing Direction, GMD, of the Corporation, Maikanti Baru, who must have initially felt relief being able to get the approval for the retirements and redeployments at once(considering his busy schedule), must be bewildered by grumblings in the media over the exercise. The frustration was almost palpable in a press statement issued by NNPC Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division, Mr. Ndu Ughamadu, explaining the exercise.

He described the staff movement as “normal replacement and backfill exercise” to bridge the gap occasioned by impending retirement of some management staff of the corporation, among others. He stressed that the process followed extant rules and that such replacements were always effected before the final exit of the concerned staff.

The NNPC spokesman said it was usual for the corporation to obtain approval on replacements of retiring staff ahead of schedule. He said this was the case with the recent exercise that takes effect as at when the retiring staff departs at various times within the period. Ughamadu said the exercise was effected to ensure uninterrupted operations of the corporation in achieving its mandate and urged members of the public to disregard any insinuations.

It certainly beats the imagination that some vested interests would not see the exercise for what it was- an administrative effort to promote efficiency and prevent lethargy. While it is not always a surprise that some Nigerians would be skeptical about NNPC figures or operational efficiency due largely to the unsavory history of the Corporation, it must be the height of pessimism(or even mischief) to ask questions about an administrative action that did not breach any law or public service rules.
It is quite obvious that the retirement of these officers will open up gaps in the management of some important Strategic Business Units and Commercial Strategic Units of the corporation. This undoubtedly calls for urgency in proposing competent staff within the corporation for promotion to fill up those vacancies. Only an indolent management would allow a vacuum to be created at such strategic units of the Corporation.
It is quite instructive that the faceless critics of the NNPC action are not concerned about those retired.

The grumbling, as is to be expected, must be coming from those whose sense of entitlement had been hurt by the exercise. These are NNPC senior staff who had hoped to reap from the retirement of others, but who were, in the wisdom of those at the helm at NNPC, not suitable yet for the offices.
This is why there is such desperation to discredit the exercise as a promotion of cronyism and ethnic interest by those who had waited in the wings, and perhaps lobbied to no avail for those positions.
It is almost a rehash of the sentiments usually expressed by mischief makers anytime the Nigerian military announced new promotions and posting. The military often found itself having to explain that its exercise was a routine activity which carried no sentiments.

While the NNPC is not the military, those who alleged the exercise did not follow due process have not stated what rules were breached. And those who claimed the redeployment favoured only a section of the country have not mentioned those who were suitable for the appointments but were bye-passed.

It is pathetic that a promotion exercise at a profit-driven public institution such as the NNPC would be viewed as if it were political appointments. Anyone who has cared to look through the list of those recently redeployed would appreciate the thoroughness of the selection process.  These are positions requiring special technical and administrative skills. No one has said any of those redeployed was not suitable for the position appointed.

While one cannot claim to know the level of competence of those appointed, we must have faith that those who carried out the exercise knew what they were doing. The NNPC has only one group managing director and the bucks stops at his table. If the GMD has to respond to queries on simple administrative actions from his table like staff redeployment, what right have we to demand efficiency from NNPC?

The fuss over the redeployment is a storm in a tea- cup. It is simply noise making, and it helps no one. The question any serious-minded Nigerian must ask on the exercise are few and simple.  First, did the exercise follow extant corporate guidelines of the Corporation? Two, are those retired due for retirement within the month or two or three as required by the rules? Three, are those redeployed to fill the expected vacancies qualified and competent? Is the approval for the redeployments beneficial to the efficiency of NNPC or not?

So far from what is available in the media, the answers to these questions are positive. If the answers to these questions are in the affirmative, it goes without saying that any insinuation about other ulterior or exterior motives must be what it is: mischief!

The NNPC under Baru has earned our confidence, even if it’s in a small way, and we must give him the benefit of doubt. In a first of its kind in recent times, the NNPC was able to detect fraud in its operations and stop it.  Through fraud and forensic investigations of activities of its subsidiary groups, the NNPC was able to save $1.6bn that could have gone to the Atlantic Energy Drilling Concept Nigeria Limited. This is already in the public domain.
The companies were fleecing NNPC’s flagship Upstream subsidiary, the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC) and the Corporation got an award against them to refund 1.6 billion dollars to the NPDC. Incidentally, the NPDC is among companies affected by last week’s redeployments.

Baru was the second Chairman of the NNPC Anti-Corruption Committee in 2004, and as GMD he’s ensured all staff of the corporation and its various stakeholders were educated about NNPC’s corporate policies and the various anti-corruption acts in the country in order to avoid fraudulent transaction.

This is why the frenzy over the redeployments is meaningless.

Adeleke writes from Lagos

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OPINION

Babatunde Fowler: The zero sum game in political appointments, By Abubakar Ismail

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Let’s first look at the role of the media in politics. The media is supposed to be a medium where news and events is transmitted in its pure form to people. In Nigeria the media has become mediocre. It’s an avenue some pawkvy journalists and so called bloggers use to enrich themselves. It’s also an avenue for people to malign each other. Most news these days are sponsored and specifically targeted at opposition or someone perceived to be an enemy. They receive douceur to publish news these days, ofcourse there are a few trusted mediums.Even the president himself has been a victims of these bloggers/journalists. A story was written to say he’s a double called Jibrin, how can someone fabricate such a story and isn’t punished for his or her act. This is because the laws of our country regarding fake news and the media are lacking, government should ratiocinate putting a new law in place to curb this menace.
For democracies to work, politicians need to respect the difference between an enemy and an adversary.
An adversary is someone you want to defeat. An enemy is someone you have to destroy. With adversaries, compromise is honorable: Today’s adversary could be tomorrow’s ally. With enemies, on the other hand, compromise is appeasement.
Between adversaries, trust is possible. They will beat you if they can, but they will accept the verdict of a fair fight. This, and a willingness to play by the rules, is what good-faith democracy demands.
Between enemies, trust is impossible. They do not play by the rules (or if they do, only as a means to an end) and if they win, they will try to rewrite the rules, so that they can never be beaten again.
Adversaries can easily turn into enemies. If quality parties never let minority parties come away with half a loaf, the losers are bound to conclude they can only win through the utter destruction of the quality. Once adversaries think of democracy as a zero-sum game, the next step is to conceive of politics as war: no quarter given, no prisoners taken, no mercy shown.
This is the scenario currently being played out at the highest levels as the brilliantly acclaimed FIRS Executive Chairman Mr. Babatunde Fowler is witnessing an alarming character assassination attack on his person all in a bid to wreck his celebrated career. Let there be no mistake about it. The chairman honestly has a JOMO. Tunde Fowlers adversaries have declared war and surreptitiously worked behind the scenes under the vicious cover of social media to publish vile and unconscionable articles designed to sway public opinion on his person. No quarter given, no prisoners taken, no mercy shown. You can’t even pin point this wilder  pseudepigraphy. What do they stand to gain? They want his seat, Thats all. They have realized how juicy and important the position is. Mr Tunde Fowler raised the revenue generated to over 5 trillion naira last year and trying to achieve an estimated 8 trillion this year even in this trying times. Government is beginning to see that revenue from taxes can surpass revenue from crude oil sale, which was the main source of income for the country.
But we ask. Is this what high level lobbying in Nigeria has been reduced to? What happened to the days when the appointment or reappointment of top government assignments were adorned with competitive honor? When they were decorated with competence and brilliance and ultimately assigned or reassigned to the benefit of our great country? When the saying “may the best man win” was greeted with pride. Let there be no mistake about it. The industry and the corridors of power know the truth. They know that this accomplished academician and innovator of brilliant policies . Most times consummate professionals like Mr. Fowler are so engrossed in their work that they do not feel the need to address petty character assassination attempts on their person. But in this day and age. To remain silent  in the face of surreptitious social media mischief is seen to some as consent to the barrage of lies that are published on unverified on those poisonous social media handles who will kill the character of any man for a few shillings. At some point the Federal Government will get to the bottom of the peddlers of such falsehoods. However, in the meantime. All the lies in the world cannot change the accomplishments of the soft spoken brilliant advocate of fair taxation and ample representation of the people. To this we say, we salute you Mr. Fowler. Executive Chairman FIRS, Chairman African Tax Administration Forum, Board Member and First Vice Chairman United Nations Tax Committee of Experts On International Cooperation on Tax Matters.
It is with this in mind that we urgently seek to advise Nigerian Political Appointee seekers. As well meaning Nigerians whose primary responsibility it should be to deepen our young democracy. Try to respect the difference between an enemy and an adversary.
We also ask people to be camp and know that there’s always a reward for hard work. Pls say NO to FAKE NEWS.
– Abubakar Ismail is a public analyst and lives in Abuja.
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OPINION

9th Senate Presidency race: Why Danjuma Goje is the man to beat

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Senator Mohammed Danjuma Goje
By Sebastian Anuforo

At no time since 1999 has the race for the senate presidency been so competitive in a robustly healthy manner. Unlike in 2015 when some ambitious senators-elect ignored the ruling party’s zoning arrangement for the National Assembly, this time senators-elect are sticking with the party.

Barely a month before the inauguration of the 9th Senate, the race for the senate presidency is too close to call. Although the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC, had zoned the seat to the North East and anointed Ahmed Lawan from Yobe State, returning and new senators are yet to officially endorse hm.

If the APC expect a coronation for Lawan when the next senate is inaugurated, it may be in for another shocker as it was in 2015. This is because whether the APC admits it or not, the emergence of Bukola Saraki as senate president in 2015 showed that legislators want to choose their own leaders and may not tolerate a third party doing that for them.

This is why in my opinion, despite the choice of Lawan by the party, forces in the National Assembly and outside of it have thrown up other candidates for the throne. Alli Ndume, the senator representing Borno Central was the first to challenge the choice of Lawan as soon as it became public knowledge after senators-elect met with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Villa shortly after the general elections.

Ndume, as expected, boasted he was the most qualified person for the position and that he enjoined the support of his colleagues. But a few days after he declared interest, some senators and groups started calling on Danjuma Goje, a senator from Gombe, to declare interest in the senate presidency. These senators worked underground to sell the candidacy of Goje to all the senators-elect.

Goje was a two- term governor of Gombe State who transformed the infrastructure of the state. He put Gombe State in the national limelight with his aggressive performance as governor. His cool-headed, progressive leadership style endeared him to the electorate who fondly called him “Limamu Change” (leader of change).

Among leaders of the APC in the north, no one did more for the party than Goje. Despite the fact that the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP,was in power in his state, he staked everything to ensure the people voted APC in the presidential election of 2015 and 2019. It is a mark of high he is in the estimation of his people that he has won re=election to the senate twice.

The fact that he is the chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriation is a strong indication that his colleagues in the senate hold him in high esteem. Unlike Ndume who has remained a controversial member of the senate, Goje has remained focused on his legislative duties and keeps a clean record. It is incredibly admirable that Goje has also managed to avoid getting involved in any legislative scandal despite heading a critical committee.

This is why it is not surprising that he is the only senator from the north east that has been endorsed by different groups and individuals who are not in the national assembly. The support he has enjoyed from people and groups outside the national assembly clearly show that the people strongly believe he is the only one among the three contenders who could properly represent their interest in national affairs.

If the APC is smart, it should give Goje all the necessary support to ensure he becomes the senate president in June. The party should be thinking of 2023 and the leaders who could ensure victory for the party in all zones of the country. Clearly, none of the three contenders have the political clout of Goje in the north east zone. Given him the senate presidency would help APC consolidate when Buhari is no longer in the equation. This is what smart parties do to keep their party in power.

Several groups including the North East Consultative Forum (NESF) and five other groups in the geo-political zone, had endorsed Goje and asked him to declare his intention to contest for the office of the Senate president.

The groups including North East Elders Mobilization Forum, APC national youth caucus, Borno Discussion Circle, Gombe Political Associations and North East Youth Awareness for good governance, urged Goje to run.

The group followed up with a letter to the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Oshiomhole on their endorsement of Goje. In the letter, dated 17th April, titled: “North East stakeholders endorse Goje,” the conveners, Barrister Mustapha Saidu and Alhaji Bello Ambo, commended APC for zoning the Senate Presidency to the North East.

They said the zoning of the position to the geopolitical zone was a confirmation of the party’s commitment to reward hard work, following the zone’s contribution to the party’s victory in the just concluded general elections.

“Following very wide consultations among stakeholders, party members and North East Consultative Forum and after careful assessment of his contribution to the party and Muhammadu Buhari’s led administration, we hereby present to you, Senator Muhammad Danjuma Goje as the choice of the people of the North East for the Senate President of the 9th Assembly.”

Since that letter became public knowledge, no group or individuals in the north east has contradicted the claims contained in it.

Feelers from lobby groups in the national assembly show that Goje is the man to beat in the race for the senate leadership. More and more legislators are said to be jumping on the Goje train. His admirers are impressed that he has an unblemished administrative and legislative record after so many years in governance. Not many are able to pull this off.

Compared to Lawan or Ndume, Goje would undoubtedly bring prestige and integrity to the office of the senate president. These are the attributes the next senate president must bring to the office if the national assembly wants to be taken seriously by Nigerians and the world.

-Mr. Anufor writes from Abuja

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