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THE FRONTLINES With Joseph Ushigiale

This is my second commentary on the same subject matter, the first was published last weekend and I am again compelled to follow up in the hope that truth and reasoned argument would eventually prevail over parochial sentiments by canvassed by the present administration.

Alot has been written about the desirability or otherwise of this project. Majority of the commentaries are against the extension of this rail project to Niger republic because it serves no meaning economic benefits to Nigeria.

However, the federal government has been very adamant and hell bent on seeing through this project at the expense of tax payers money with President Muhammadu Buhari insisting that the rail project to Niger is in Nigeria’s interest. This is standing truth on the head.

The most revealing truth about this project which again provoked this commentary was revealed by Minister for Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi. Remember it was Amaechi who first announced that the federal executive council (FEC) had approved the award of contract for the rail line to Niger Republic few weeks ago. An announcement that provoked the deluge of criticisms and vituperations from a cross section of Nigerians..

During the week, Amaechi also made a startling revelation. At a meeting with Nigerien Ambassador to Nigeria, Alat Mogaskia, he said the federal government is going to contact the governments of Nigeria, Chad, Burkina Faso to intimate them of its intention to extend the rail project into Niger Republic. This evidently means that while our own government had approved the project, allocated funds, those to benefit from the project are unaware.

According to Amaechi, “We are trying to build a rail up to Maradi, we want to meet the State Governor over the infrastructure where it would be located because we plan to construct rail stations and a warehouse.

“Since the contract was awarded, this is the first meeting we are having to see what we really need to do to get the rail into Maradi, I plan to do a letter by Monday to the Minister of Transport in Niger to help us seek approval from the State governor or federal government to enable us to construct the rail to Maradi.”

Mogaskia in his response assured that “We are really behind the development, the matter is not too late for the Nigerian government to intimate the Niger government about the project. The most important person in the parliament is from Maradi and he welcomes this idea.

“On leaving this place now, we will immediately contact all the relevant bodies in Niger, they will all be sensitised about the project.

“Whatever presentation we are making today will get a good reception for a quick response, so that the project can go ahead,” Mogaskia assured.

It is very clear from these exchanges that the federal government has a hidden agenda by choosing to engage in this project without carrying out due diligence. It has also raised a lot of moral questions bothering on where our President’s loyalty resides.

What does he mean when he says the project is in our national interest? Since when has the siting of a project in a foreign country becomes our national priority? Is our President Nigerien or Nigerian? Is he loyal to Niger or Nigeria? Who carried out a business case to determine the viability of this project?

There are those who believe that this unilateral decision taken by Buhari is first to pave the way for easy influx of more fulanis from neighbouring countries into Nigeria. They also argue that the rail line to Maradi is compensation to the Nigeriens for their overwhelming support in the 2015 and 2019 presidential polls.

To be sure, projects of this nature abound all over the world. For instance, the European infrastructure corridor linking various EU countries has been in existence for decades funded by the EU. Recently, an ambitious project ‘The Connecting Europe Facility (CEF)’ which is the EU funding instrument was launched for strategic investment in transport, energy and digital infrastructure.

In the transport sector, CEF is dedicated to the implementation of the TEN-T and aims at supporting investments in cross-border connections, missing links as well as promoting sustainability and digitalisation.

During the period 2014-2019, CEF Transport awarded EUR 23.3 billion in grants to co-finance projects of common interest, out of which EUR 11.3 billion was transferred from the Cohesion Fund.

In Asia, The Belt and Road Initiative, formerly known as One Belt One Road or OBOR for short, is a global infrastructure development strategy adopted by the Chinese government in 2013 to invest in nearly 70 countries and international organizations. In Africa, the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) now the African Union (AU) also launched an infrastructure development plan aimed at linking all African states by road and rail networks and quite a lot has been achieved in this direction. The new Kenya born African Union’s high representative of infrastructure and development, Raila Odinga says he intends to oversee the construction of 60,000km highways linking the entire continent and the Trans-African highway project commissioned in 1971 to open up continent for trade.

He assured that the “Primary projects will be an 8,000 kms highway linking Cairo (Egypt) to Dakar in Senegal. Another 8,0000 kms road will stretch from Cairo and Cape Town (South Africa). A 6,000kms road linking Mombasa (Kenya) to Lagos (Nigeria) is part of this ambitious project.”

Raila said he believed land transport was an integral part of the continent’s economic growth, added that he intended to have another 4,700kms road between Dakar and Lagos built. He explained that out of nine highways proposed over four decades ago, only the 4,500kms road between Dakar and N’Djamena in Chad had been constructed.

“My belief is that having reliable road infrastructure and railways linking all corners of Africa will open up the continent and make it a gateway to the 21st century. Through my new position I am determined to take Africa to economic independence,” affirmed Raila.

Given these windows of opportunities at the AU, there are question begging for answer is: why did our government not exhaust and keyed into these opportunities open to it as a member state before deciding to drag the country into needless debts?

Apart from the AU, Nigeria, Niger are members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and in fact the Nigerien president is the current Chairman of the body. Why did Buhari who recently stepped down as Chairman of the body not canvassed joint funding of this project by the benefiting countries rather than choosing to saddle Nigeria alone with the debt burden? It would appear Buhari also believes money is not Nigeria’s problem?

In all this, the greatest culprit is the Minister of Transportation. He has failed to articulate a local, regional and pan African transport roadmap with funding alternatives to guide the government going forward.

With the examples from Europe, China Silk Road Initiative and ongoing projects initiated by regional and continental bodies, it is not late for the Buhari administration to stop this project forthwith. If the project must be extended into those countries, the benefiting countries and not only Nigerians must bear part of the cost of project realisation.

The current headwinds buffeting the country as a result of COVID 19, fall in crude oil prices and with the country sliding into yet another recession, it is clear that squandering $2bn on a project that has no direct benefits to Nigerians and for which these benefiting countries did not even ask for, smacks of insensitivity and an outright misadventure.

  • ThisDayLive

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El-Rufai sacks 99 political appointees



El-Rufai sacks 99 political appointees

Governor Nasir El Rufai has said Kaduna state has started implementing its rightsizing policy by disengaging 99 political appointees, but is yet to disengage any state civil servant.

The governor disclosed that only agencies connected to the local government system have disengaged staff and these include the 23 local government councils, SUBEB and the Primary Health Care Board.

El-Rufai who made the disclosure at a media chat with some Kaduna-based broadcast journalists on Thursday night, explained that the disengaged political appointees constitute 30% of political office holders.

‘’So far, 99 political appointees have lost their jobs but we have not commenced rightsizing civil servants. We want to be fair with regards to civil servants. We had earlier promised that before we reduce the size of the civil service, we will start with political appointees and we have done that,’’ he said.

The governor who spoke in Hausa, said that the rightsizing of civil servants will still go on as planned because of dwindling revenues that is accruing to the state government from the federation account.

El Rufai explained that the rightsizing commenced with political appointees because their details are clearly known, making it more straightforward to disengage them.

‘’However, civil servants with question marks on the veracity of their data have to be given a chance to clear the doubts before any action is taken on them,’’ he clarified.

The governor said that his government has employed 11,000 more workers in the health sector, Kaduna State University as well as primary and secondary school teachers across the state.

The governor disclosed that it is a fallacy to allege that the salaries of political appointees account for the bloated personnel cost of Kaduna State Government.

‘’In March 2021, the salaries of these political appointees amounted to N259 million , while civil servants were paid N3.13 billion, aside from costs related to state contributions to pension, accrued rights and other personnel costs. So, it is false to insinuate that political appointees are the ones that guzzle most of the state’s resources,’’ he said.

Justifying the rightsizing of the public service, he said that all states and the federal government are affected by this shortfall of revenue and some states have even reverted to paying the old monthly minimum wage of N18,000.

‘’Kaduna State cannot continue to use 84% to 96% of our revenues to pay salaries of less than 1% of the population. The rest of our people, all 99% of them, need better schools, hospitals, water supply, roads, markets and support for agriculture to make a living outside government,’’ he said.

The governor however promised that Kaduna state will not reverse the N30,000 minimum wage that it has started paying.

“We are the first government, federal or state, to pay the minimum wage. We will retain the minimum wage of N30,000 and the consequential adjustments that gave most of our civil servants a 66% salary increase. We will also retain the minimum pension of N30,000 monthly.

“The unified Local Government Service continues to pay the minimum wage, even though they varied the consequential adjustments for their workers below the level for state civil servants,’’ he added.

The governor also promised that the state will still fund free education from primary 1 to the SS3, adding that ‘’we have directed our Ministry of Education to find ways of ensuring that we sponsor students for WAEC exams, the same way that we sponsor them for NECO. ‘’

El Rufai emphasized that basic education is a priority for Kaduna State Government because ‘’we see it as the bedrock for equality of opportunity.’’

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By Oladimeji Ramon

A group, the Federal Social Democrats, says the credibility and integrity of the Lagos State Governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, have been diminished by the alleged shooting of #EndSARS protesters by soldiers at the Lekki tollgate on the night of October 20.

According to the group, the Lekki incident has eroded the admiration that Sanwo-Olu won with his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The group, in statement on Sunday signed on its behalf by Olutola Mobolurin, also condemned the harassment of #EndSARS protest leaders through the freezing of their bank accounts and stopping them from travelling outside the country.

The FSD’s statement was titled, ‘Statement by the Federal Social Democrats On the #EndSARS Movement and Violence in the Wake of Lekki Shootings.’

The group said, “Governor Sanwo-Olu, who before now has been credited with responsible and energetic response to the COVID-19 pandemic, has by this one act lost his credibility and integrity for many. He has a big task in regaining the confidence of the public and youths; his credibility gap surrounding what happened at the Lekki Toll Plaza is not helped by the insensitive bluster of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu at the governor’s residence stating that those who were injured and presumably those who died had questions to answer.”

Though the group condemned the destruction of public assets and looting that trailed the shootings at the Lekki tollgate, it said the mayhem pointed to the alienation of a large number of youths from society by government.

It said, “The so-called hoodlums are the youths that have been denied any stake in society by the self-dealing and state capture that have characterised governance over the last 30 years. Millions of our youths have been uneducated, unemployable and with no meaningful social safety net. Even for the millions who are educated and skilled, long-term unemployment has been their experience in the Nigerian prebendal political economy that serves primarily the interests of public office holders and their cronies.

“Some of the ‘hoodlums’ responsible for the trashing of Lagos are the youths and ‘the toughies’ that many politicians have over the years employed to subvert the democratic process through intimidation of voters and perpetration of violence during elections.”

The group said the organisers of the #EndSARS protests deserved commendation for the resourcefulness, transparency and accountability which they demonstrated.

The group condemned “the growing reports of compilation of names of the assumed leaders and facilitators of the protests for government reprisals.”

It said, “Those that are being targeted are reportedly being prevented from travelling outside Nigeria while accounts of some have been frozen. This is hardly the hallmark of a democratic government that is interested in dialoguing with the youths or learning positive lessons from the #EndSARS protests. It is also a violation of the spirit of government’s acceptance of the 5 for 5 agenda. The President should stop all these acts of witch-hunt.”

The FSD solicited support for the Lagos State Government to rebuild and replace the vandalised public assets.

  • PunchNg

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A man who never put tribalism, religion or differences in his work…. True to his calling to serve our nation without influence of any politician. Not an Igbo man but he speaks Igbo in a way you will be mesmerized and full of laughter whenever he speaks.. He will tell you “Nwannah why disobeying the law?”
People say police is not your friend but in this man I disagree with that notion. In him, i immensely believe that police is a friend when you meet the good type…. The person I am talking about is my Honorable CSP. RABIU GARBA, the DPO of Fegge Police Station.

Yesterday the youth was rampaging looking for Police Station to burn down. When they troop to his Fegge Police Station with gallons of fuel and weapons, most of his men was grip with fear, Behold !, when he came out, the Chants of the angry youths Change from
” We no go agree oh we no go agree oh” to
“DPO Garba you be our friend,
DPO Garba You be our man”

He addressed then properly, lectured them all and changed their perspective towards embracing calmness.. If you know him well you will know he can lecture very well from every angles of courses, law to Biology , physics to Science, religion to culture, he is the master of all… We fondly call him Professor Rabiu, Onye Nkuzi. Tears nearly fall from my eyes, tears of Joy and appreciation of a good man still serving and existing in Police.

This is a Police man i have ever see who believe that hardworking pays. He is a police man and a Farmer as well. He is a Police man and a Civil Engineer. He is a Police man and a Lecturer as well…

To me, I am encouraging all police men and woman to emulate this Young man and learn from his Public relation skill. Because I strongly believe Public relationship should be practiced to serve the public interest, to develop mutual understanding between organizations, the neighborhood and their publics.

As a Psychologist, i have noticed that without publicity there can be no public support, and without public support every nation must decay.”

DPO Rabiu Garba we all know was the man who single handedly build a Borehole water for the people of Fegge Where his station is situated without donations from the public. If i lie verify from anyone you know living in fegge.

He also Organized Sports event for the youth at fegge Stadium where he normally engaged them in Table Tenis playing competition after work.. He walks among all without gun, knife or tear gas because he does his work diligently without corruption. So no fear of the mob.

He attends many church events he is been invited for around onitsha which shows his sense of unity.

When police do bad we mock them when we see one doing good pls my brothers and sister let us encourage that one as to lift his or her spirit to do more because ndi ba anyi is na Etoo dike na nkem omeru omekwa ozo….

DPO Rabiu Garba anyi Oha nile. No wonder people once cried when you wanted to leave to another Station. How i wish we have thousands of police men and women like you, the Police institution would have been so harmonized…..keep up the good work. Good market sells itself in the market…

No wonder Odumeje cherish you so much.

Thank you once again for the way you handled the youth matter yesterday which resulted to zero casualties at Fegge District…

Honourable Ozoigbondu na Umuoji. ( Odoakpa ward 7 Youth Mobilizer and Organizer)

Pls read and Share to appreciate a good work.

EndSARS #uprising #Lekkitollgate #policebrutalityawareness #PoliceReform #anambra #onitsha #DPO #Ndigbo #hausa #yoruba #IgboAmaka #channelstv #AITLIVE #AriseNews #NTA #abcnews

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