Long before he was called to public service, Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim (Pantami) had prepared for the task ahead. His life- long foray into the highly complex, intellectual world of digital scholarship, long before we even embraced technology in these climes, is testimony that nature had behooved on him the role he is so excellently playing today. It is neither accidental nor a mistake or even some inexplicable phenomena that at this very auspicious time in our nation’s history, a man of Pantami’s standing and repute is exactly where he is today. No great leader happens by accident and nature makes no mistakes. In fact, it is God’s grand design that a leader is born, shaped, prepared , tested, purified and molded for the task ahead. Like the true worth and weight of gold is tested by fire, so is the life of a great leader tested and strengthened by trials and the stormy weathers of life.
However one looks at it, whether from a microscopic or a telescopic perspective, Pantami is one of the greatest , most influential leaders of this generation, a living attestation that the wisdom of Solomon has nothing to do with Methuselah’s age. Pantami was born ready, armed with uncanny wisdom, knowledge, focus, determination, resilience, an awe inspiring fearlessness in the pursuit of justice and truth, a doggedness that defies distraction and the ability to set the pace in the most unpaved paths.
The renaming of the Ministry which he oversees to the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, which has become a thorn in the flesh of some myopic, misguided or out rightly unpatriotic elements, gives an insight into the depth of Pantami’s understanding of where we should be and how to get there. A man who is thoroughly meticulous in his actions and responsibilities, he initiated and pursued the name change to properly position the Ministry, expand its scope to include the requisite functions and give legal backing to it, in line with global best practice. He took his team back to the drawing board and laid a formidable foundation for the process of digitalising the economy. This is the same strategy deployed by technologically advanced societies globally, the same strategy that has put them ahead of us, the same strategy we have always yearned for but lacked the leadership to implement. Pantami has risen to the occasion and filled the vacuum, by demonstrating the will and courage to execute his mandate, as tasked by President Muhammadu Buhari GCFR, and the very people who should lend their support are indeed the crusaders of stagnation and retrogression.
Judging from the numerous feeble and cowardly recent attempts, at distracting or even stopping the laudable strides of Dr Pantami in the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Sector, through cheap blackmail, it is only logical to conclude that quite a number of hitherto, “lords of lawlessness” have become quite uncomfortable with his mass oriented, people friendly policies which uphold the rule of law.
It is both ironic and shameful, that while fifth columnists are working against the very principles and ideas we should all project, our neighbours on the continent both near and far flung, are inspired by Dr Pantami’s strategies and have refocused their countries’ digitalisation agenda drawing from his policies back home. At the Cyber security Conference for ECOWAS ICT Ministers, held in Ghana in October, his Ghanaian counterpart, Honourable Ursula Owusu-Ekufu after Nigeria’s presentation, stated that they were inspired by Dr Pantami’s policy of deactivating all improperly registered SIM Cards and right there and then, she followed in his footsteps and issued the same directive to the sector in her country. And that is not enough for an African female leader who has publicly declared Dr Pantami as a source of inspiration, she has also demonstrated her government’s willingness to collaborate with Nigeria for knowledge transfer as she has requested that a team from Ghana, visits Nigeria for the sole purpose of understudying NITDA, so they can benefit from Dr Pantami’s legacies and implement them in their country. There is no history of such a feat based purely on exemplary leadership and merit in the sector.
On the 2nd of December 2019, South Africa’s Communications Commission ordered its Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) to reduce the cost of data, a clear twenty six days behind the same directive by our own proactive, forward thinking Honourable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy. If indeed there is any justification in the attack and totally baseless criticism of the policy, I expect that the same venom should have been directed at the South African Authority, for after all, the pursuit of what is right and just, should not be selective or discriminatory. Commissioner for communications Tembinkosi Bonakele, went even further to threaten legal action against MTN and Vodacom if they fail to comply within two months.
The Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI), in its latest report released on the 22nd October 2019, declared that Africans face the most expensive internet charges in the world! The A4AI’s report is based on its definition of affordability as, 1GB of mobile broadband data, costing no more than 2% of average monthly income. Studies conducted across the continent reveal an appalling 7.12% averaging almost a sixth of monthly income in some cases. The cost of data is a major determinant of access.
In Nigeria, a reported forty million citizens have no access to the internet and Dr Pantami finds this situation totally unacceptable. He has the mandate to change the narrative and has proceeded to act accordingly. I personally, and millions of other Nigerians find it totally incomprehensible as to why anybody would stand against it. This ilk of illegality, who feed fat on the deprivation and dry milking of the ordinary consumers, and have no sense of loyalty or duty to country, should know that Dr Pantami’s ultimate objective transcends local recognition not for himself, but for Nigeria. The A4AI, for the purposes of clarity, is a globally credible initiative of the Web Foundation founded by Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the Web, in partnership with Google and Facebook. This organisation has put in place a Good Practices Database which monitors improved access and affordability. Namibia and Kenya have already been cited on the platform for improved access and tax eliminations. Dr Pantami aims to effect such a phenomenal change in the sector as to put Nigeria on that pedestal. So unless the naysayers have more credibility than the A4AI, or nobler patriotic intentions than the Honourable Minister, I humbly advice they desist from their ignoble acts as no cabal will survive under the leadership of Dr Pantami in the ICT Sector.
The precedence he has set in NITDA, has become the solid bedrock on which sanity, the rule of law and professionalism now thrive. That same inherent leadership quality is what is manifesting in his capacity as Minister today. You cannot change or stop a man like Pantami from following his convictions, the law and his heart, when it comes to the discharge of his duties especially in upholding justice for the benefit of majority.
Here is a man who has staked everything to give his very best to the service of country, here is a man who is inspiring governments of other nations and galvanizing them into action, here is a man who has proven his mettle through his antecedents, one of our own, willing ready and committed and all some nitwits can do is attempt to discredit his efforts by ascribing petty politics to his office for their own selfish gains.
Dr Pantami is not a man to make loose or unguarded statements, so when he speaks, his words resonate substance. At a meeting with stakeholders in his office recently, he declared his stand. In his words, “They say, it is unwise to put all your eggs in one basket, I have deliberately put all my eggs in one basket, so my attention remains undivided. I have no choice but to commit all I have to ensure my eggs are protected and productive”. There is no Agency or Parastatal under his purview, that is left out of his transformation drive. He attends to issues with equal zeal as they exist and arise in every facet.
In the event of doubt or ignorance, let me make it categorically clear that if I have not learnt anything in the three years and three months I have been privileged to serve, under the impeccable leadership of this great Nigerian and extraordinary human being, it certainly is not his strength of character. This is a man whose determination and focus is further fuelled by criticism. The failure to support worthy leadership, and the oppression of it has been the bane of development in these climes. Both challenges however, do not apply to the intellectual par excellence, as he has the full backing of President Muhammadu Buhari GCFR, to deliver his mandate, legal might, a formidable and competent team loyal to his cause and the support of millions of Nigerians. Every strategy, policy, reform, directive and action, is inextricably linked to the President’s three (3) point Agenda of National Security, Anti Corruption and A Digital Economy. He is effectively blocking the leakages deployed as conduit pipes to siphon national resources and shortchange the people, he is deploying technology to enhance security and address distress situations across the country, and of course doggedly pursuing the Digital Economy Agenda, with the strategy document in green mode already.
We are at a point in our nation’s history where business as usual cannot hold. The world is developing at the speed of light aided by technology and Dr Pantami is too busy, trying to make sure we are on board that train as a nation to reckon with, in the areas of innovation, capacity and infrastructure. He is too busy delivering his mandate to the millions of Nigerians who benefit daily from his mass-oriented leadership style. Those who cannot add value to the system should not sabotage the laudable efforts and achievements of those who are.
Pantami will not be oppressed or suppressed, he will not be intimidated and he will not abandon his mandate.
Uwa Suleiman is Spokesperson to the Honourable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy.
Nigeria: The need for enabling laws to site gathering centres for intercepted illegal petroleum products by JTF, By Otete Darlington
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.
1. ECONOMIC GROWTH ANDDEVELOPMENT
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.
2. HUMAH RIGHTS AND RESPECT FOR THE RULE OF LAW
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.
3. AN ALL-INCLUSIVE GOVERNMENT
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.
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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