2023 elections: Hitting rock bottom, finding a way up | The Guardian Nigeria News - GIST NOWNOW
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2023 elections: Hitting rock bottom, finding a way up | The Guardian Nigeria News

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The subject of this article was imposed on me by TASCK Creative Company Limited, who were the organisers of the Ignite Conference 2021 which took place in Lagos on 17 November, 2021. Led by MI Abaga, the musician/rapper/entertainer, TASCK has, over the past few years, actively tried to mobilise influential voices in the Creative Sector to drive activities to promote civic engagement, including campaigns and music tours to encourage the youth to vote and actively use their voices and platforms for change. According to TASCK, they took the learnings from previous conferences, other interactions and the EndSars Protests in October, 2020 and deployed all these to create the IGNITE platform. 

I do not know what informed TASCK to invite me to be the Keynote Speaker at their 2021 IGNITE Conference. However, I accepted the invitation because I admired what they were trying to do, which was to be a “force for good”. In any case, it dovetailed nicely with the work of Anap Foundation, which I founded in 2003, and which has only one declared objective/mission as shown on our website (www.anapfoundation.com); TO PROMOTE GOOD GOVERNANCE.

I am an economist and an investment banker by training and an entrepreneur by choice and so I understand that it is impossible to separate economics from politics. Indeed, in most countries where the economy is under-performing substantially (including Nigeria), nothing might change significantly for as long as politics continues to be allowed to trump economics. To move the needle significantly in Nigeria, you need more knowledgeable leaders as well as a more discerning electorate. An ignorant and hungry electorate can give politicians a licence to do whatever they want with the economy, provided they pay each voter a little amount of money to secure their votes once in four years. Such an arrangement can go on in perpetuity, if the more educated voters get disillusioned and opt out of the electoral process.

Demography is important and in Nigeria’s case, 53.9% of our population are aged 19 and below, whilst 95.2% of the population are aged 59 and below. A corollary of this proposition is that 4.8% of the population are aged 60 and above. When youths complain that old politicians continue to dominate top political appointments, I remind them that it is for the 95.2% to rise up, organise themselves and kick out the oppressive 4.8%. The good news is that there are even some converts within the 4.8%, who will gladly work with the 95.2% to kick out the old “failed” politicians.

Nobody is going to come from Mars, Jupiter, Australia, the UK, USA or France to improve Nigeria. That said, I sympathise with our citizens who are seeking greener pastures in Canada and a few other rich countries that will take in a smattering of Nigerians on selective criteria; usually to accelerate the brain drain from Nigeria. The fact however is that, with a population of 200 million (of which at least 100 million are below the poverty line), Nigerians are far too many to be absorbed by the rest of the world. Whether we like it or not, it will remain the responsibility of knowledgeable, skilled and patriotic Nigerians (at home and abroad) to improve the country and the plight of our impoverished citizenry. Shirking that responsibility does not come so easily to some of us who have had Nigeria embedded in our DNA from childhood. I have personally not found that country that I would like to emigrate to – and I have travelled through all of the 5 major continents as well as Australia.

A very worrying trend in Nigeria is the falling voter turnout, which invariably is a measure of voter apathy. Voter turnout as a percentage of total registered voters, climbed from 52.26% in 1999 to 69.08% in 2003, but then it has been dropping ever since; 57.49% in 2007, 53.68% in 2011, 43.65% in 2015 and 34.75% in 2019. Even if we accept that some of the earlier percentages were heavily inflated, the downward trend is real. Anap Foundation has commissioned opinion polls several times across the country since 2010 and those polls also confirm increased voter apathy. We hit ROCK BOTTOM (so far) in the Anambra Governorship elections of November 2021, where total number of valid votes cast was marginally below 10% of registered voters. Indeed, Professor Charles Soludo won that election by securing only 112,229 votes out of 2,466,638 registered voters i.e. 4.5% of the registered electorate only. Do not misinterpret this to mean that I am unhappy for him. I heartily congratulate him on his important victory, but I am simply stating the facts as regards the very low voter turnout. 

All over the country, it has almost become fashionable for the educated young voter (18+ and above) to brag that he or she has no intention of registering to vote or voting or both. This was my definition of ROCK BOTTOM at the Ignite Conference. 

The most popular reasons, which educated youths give for opting out, are: 1) the votes will not count anyway; and 2) the candidates are uninspiring.  I would like to remind these youths that, over 2,000 years ago, Socrates famously said: “One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.” 

Three very important and significant things happened this month: 1) The Federal Executive Council approved the National Development Plan 2021-25, in respect of which I was the Private Sector Co-Chair of the National Steering Committee for the Plan (alongside the Finance Minister who was the Public Sector Co-Chair); 2) Anambra Governorship Election results confirmed a new low in terms of voter apathy (actual turnout of registered voters was only 10% approx); and 3) The Judicial Panel for the EndSARS Protests/Lekki Tollgate Shooting completed its report and some of its key findings became public knowledge. 

On the face of it, 1), 2) and 3) above are totally unconnected, but in reality they are interwoven.
Atedo N A Peterside CON is the president & founder of Anap Foundation and the founder of Stanbic IBTC Bank Plc.

I pointed out during an Arise TV interview last week that the findings of the Judicial Panel and the ensuing WHITE PAPER are important because they tell the world whether we are building a society on JUSTICE and the TRUTH or whether we have chosen a path of INJUSTICE and LIES. I also pointed out on an NTA TV Panel last week that the National Development Plan 2021-25 will only succeed if there is a dose of political activism that will hold the “feet of politicians to the fire” and “force” them to implement the right policies plus uphold truth and justice. If we do not do this, the projected N348 trillion private sector financing (86% of the projected financing need for the Plan) may not materialise. Private capital will seek a home where it feels more comfortable or where the risk/reward equation is more interesting.

The three tiers of Government between them are expected to contribute less than 15% of the projected financing for the Plan – achieving that might sound like a stretch because total Nigerian Government revenue as a share of GDP is currently only 7% approx (among the lowest in the world). In truth that 7% figure can rise to 15%, but only if we significantly eliminate wastage and revenue leakages as well as force many Government agencies to limit their costs/overheads to no more than 50% of the revenue that they receive or raise, as recommended by the Plan. The political will to do all this might only be found, in part, through the injection of a right dose of political activism. Meanwhile, the Anambra election result tells us that, instead of increased political activism, we have entered a new era of heightened voter apathy and mass disillusionment amongst educated youths.

To find a way back up, after hitting rock bottom, we must reinvigorate our educated youths. We must bring back a large volume of discerning young educated voters into the political equation because it is their active presence and participation that will inject the required dose of political activism that will force politicians to get serious and also bring out a new type of politician that can win an election on the back of harnessing the votes of educated youths. 

The structure of the Nigerian economy is changing. By far the fastest growing sector of our economy in 2020 was the ICT sector, which grew at 12.6%. Nigeria is also fast becoming a global “soft power” on account of the successes of our Creatives who excel in Music, Film, Art, and Fashion etc. These are all newer activities that grew immensely in the 21st Century and they are sectors that are not well understood by old fuddy duddies. For these new sectors to thrive (and they are driven largely by the youth) it will be a big mistake for the youths to leave the economic management and political space to ancient mariners who still think that the economy is only about agriculture, manufacturing and fossil fuels. 

For those who continue to argue that the 2023 elections are not the priority, because you favour a new Constitution and/or restructuring or indeed you favour a separatist agenda, my advice is that, whilst agitating for those things, you should also go ahead and elect, in 2023, persons who share your agenda to represent you in your Local Government, State House of Assembly, House of Representatives, Senate etc. I still do not understand how surrendering all of those positions, plus Governor and President, to your opponents constitutes your best option. How does empowering your “enemy” to represent you improve your position? Is that mindset not akin to deliberately scoring an own goal against yourself in a soccer match, whilst still hoping to beat your opponent? 

Anap Foundation is now working hard with selected influencers from across the country and the diaspora to try and bring back or bring in many more young voters. This is the raison d’etre for our decision to launch the #GoNigeria Initiative last week which aims to encourage youths aged 18+ to register en-masse now and collect their voters cards well BEFORE the 30 June, 2022 deadline for registration so that even the angry youths can properly channel their anger towards the 2023 elections.  Our challenge to the youths who have already registered is that they should undertake to convince a minimum of 4 other youths to do the same because 1 + 4 = 5. If our youths respond positively and engage politically instead of withdrawing, we can very quickly turn this ship around and create the Nigeria that they desire and deserve.
Atedo N A Peterside CON is the President & Founder of Anap Foundation and the Founder of Stanbic IBTC Bank PLC





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Ekiti 2022: APC’s lethargic outing, PDP’s crowded race

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In about two months, political parties interested in the 2022 governorship election in Ekiti State are expected to conclude their primaries.

The post Ekiti 2022: APC’s lethargic outing, PDP’s crowded race appeared first on The Guardian Nigeria News – Nigeria and World News.



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Delta Independent Power Project Is A Fraud—Groups Accuse Vice President Osinbajo Of Inaugurating ‘Illegal’ Project

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Delta State Coalition of Civil Societies has described the state’s newly inaugurated Independent Power Project (IPP), located in Asaba, the state capital, as a ‘fraud and conduit for government officials to loot the state treasury’.

The coalition described the project which was inaugurated on Monday as ‘illegal’, saying it does not have the mandatory Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report and approval from government regulatory bodies. 



It, therefore, blamed Vice President Yemi Osinbajo for allowing himself to be used to inaugurate an illegal project that has no approval.

The multi-billion naira 8.5 Megawatts IPP project has continued to generate controversies and ripples across the state following the alleged fraudulent manner it was done in utmost secrecy. 

The project was done by the state government in partnership with Bestanchury Power Solutions Nigeria Limited (BPSL) and Africa Plus Partners.

The coalition condemned the project in an open letter titled, “Open Letter To Delta State Governor And Deltans Who Will Have Cancer In The Nearest Future Due To Poor Government Regulations”. 

The letter was addressed to the state governor, Ifeanyi Okowa and also sent to the state Commissioner for Environment and other relevant authorities. 

Signed by its public relations officer, the coalition of civil societies and the state Director-General of Young Nigerian Rights Organisation, Victor Ojei, in the letter called on the Nigerian government to stop the project because of its health hazards to residents in the area.

The coalition said, “The IPP project of Asaba located at NTA Junction, Asaba does not have EIA license and exposes residence of that region to respiratory diseases and cancer in future. Prior to this petition, we had sent two petitions with respect to the above subject on our concerns as watchdogs of the society. 

“We are social justice crusaders, we consulted with appropriate stakeholders and state actors but till date, we did not get any response thus making it obvious that the government is trying to legalise illegality with respect to enforcement of power laws that thus violates the rights of Deltans be it in construction of shops under high tension transmission cables or setting up an IPP at a location which poses a risk to the lives and properties on the immediate environment it was setup.

“We have made efforts to drag in other stakeholders who can help resolve these challenges which obviously calls for concerns over lives and properties. But since the consultations did not work based on the silence of both state actors and non-state actors (NERC, BEDC and NEMSA- Nigerian Electricity Management Services Agency), then confrontation via institution of legal action means becomes inevitable. The IPP does not have any authorisation document to be in operation. The Company needs a PPA (Power Purchase Agreement) because the former expired in 2019. They were supposed to have an EIA from the Federal Ministry of Environment, of which the Federal Ministry of Environment is not aware because nobody has told the ministry that the project exists.

“PPA is an agreement between the parties, the government and the company involved. The original arrangement was that the Delta state government will pay the private investor N300,000,000.00 (N300 million) monthly, this will last for ten years thus giving billions of naira which eventually the project will become theirs based on the project is a B.O.O (Build Operate and Own) as against B.O.T (Build Operate and Transfer). The state government before now paid an estimate of N25,000,000.00 monthly to BEDC for all parastatals which the state has abandoned and negotiated with the IPP investor to pay the sum of N215,000,000.00 monthly after we raised our concerns.

“The Delta state government went on with the investors to pay these monthly payments in two components. (i) Energy which cost N185,000,000.00 (ii) Fuel component which mandates the Ministry of Energy to pay for the fuel at the cost of N30,000,000.00 monthly and totally N215,000,000.00 monthly. Be conscious of the fact that nobody also confirms the usage of fuel to measure fuel consumption from the Ministry of Energy. Nobody also confirms the usage of energy, they lack the capacity of an engineer. The project also doesn’t have any electricity metering to measure the energy consumed. The project does not have NEMSA certificate, the role of NEMSA is to validate the materials used for the installation of the IPP. NERC and BEDC were compromised by the Delta state government because they both failed in enforcing statutory duties.

“The IPP was supposed to have NERC certificates, one certificate for power generation and the second certificate will be for power distribution. Below are the disadvantages of CNG (compressed natural gas) being used to power the project. Its low energy density results in low engine performance. It has low engine volumetric efficiency because of gaseous fuel. It needs large storage tanks, which is a safety concern. It has inconsistent fuel properties. Its refuelling is a slow process. It’s highly combustible. Disadvantages of Liquified Natural Gas include combustion, temperatures. There are some disadvantages of NLG such as leakage of gas; they may be explosive, main problem is that it is odourless and undetectable so without odourless.

“Combustion of NLG produced carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and other toxic carbon. With the above disadvantages, you can see that the Delta State government, state actors and non-state actors do not care about the health and safety of an average Deltan. It is now very obvious that the Federal Ministry of Environment is not aware of the project so where did they get EIA from? NEMSA only gave them a temporary certificate which does not permit them to operate and has been expecting them to undertake corrections and invite NEMSA to come and inspect the said corrections before issuing them a proper certificate that will permit them to operate fully.

“Both documents are requirements for them to get a NERC license which they need to be recognised and operate as a GenCos on the Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry (NESI). NERC is compromised as they are authorising plant commissioning verbally and without reference to any of their regulatory documents. (It is) a project which seeks to take from the Delta State government a monthly bill of N215 million (on average) for ten years. At the end of the ten years, the Delta State government would have paid the IPP a total of N29 billion and still not own the project because it is a B.O.O (Build, Operate and Own) business model and not a B.O.T (Build, Operate and Transfer) business model.”

Our correspondent gathered that the project was the result of an alleged deal between some top government officials and private individuals. However, it was observed that following the controversy trailing the IPP project, the vice president, Osinbajo declined to make comments on the IPP during inauguration but rather commended Governor Ifeanyi Okowa while inaugurating the multi-billion naira state secretariat shortly after the IPP inauguration.

Meanwhile, when contacted about all the allegations on the inauguration of the IPP by the vice president, Osinbajo; the state Commissioner for Energy, Jonathan Ukodhiko, dismissed all the allegations, saying the project is not under Public-Private Partnership (PPP), as the state government didn’t contribute a dime to the entire project adding that the IPP project is a better deal, favourable and convenient for the state government.

Ukodhiko, who seemed angry and incoherent, wrongly insisted that projects are not inaugurated but commissioned.

 “Please, please, please correct yourself, that English is not correct, the Vice President didn’t inaugurate the project but commissioned. There’s no English like inauguration, you don’t inaugurate projects but commission. You can only inaugurate a board, committee or panel, so, there is nothing like inauguration of projects. You commission a project, not inauguration. 

“However, all those, especially the civil societies criticising the project are fools who don’t know anything about such a project. They are mad, stupid and foolish. What the state government is paying now is far better than what the state was paying to BEDC at the end of the month. We were merely paying for darkness. Let anyone who is angry go to court. Where were the so-called civil societies when Nigerians were being killed and with the hike in prices of commodities?” the commissioner said.

 



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‘Citizens should be free to come forward with cases of rights violation’ | The Guardian Nigeria News

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Hon. Jerry Alagbaso is a PDP chieftain and member representing Orlu/Orsu/Oru east federal constituency of Imo State. He is the current chairman, House of Representatives committee on public petitions. In this interview, he tells MSUGH ITYOKURA how his committee has resolved many issues through alternative dispute resolutions.

Yours is one of the critical committees of the National Assembly, owing to the work you do. Can you tell us how much work the committee has done to promote citizens rights?
For you to appreciate this committee, you must attend some of our sessions to see how busy we are and understand how some of these things are being taken care of, in terms of examination and investigations. I have a formidable team ranging from my secretariat where I have seasoned clerks who are in charge of documentation and other things. A visit to the secretariat will reveal to you the number of cases we have discharged in the 9th assembly. We have statistics on how these cases are documented, we have files where they are enclosed, especially those that have been discharged. The rule is that, when we discharge this cases, we present them on the floor of the House for consideration after which the overall clerk of the house will write to those whom it may concern, giving them the resolution of the National Assembly for them to implement, but where it is difficult to implement, we have what we call status compliance. You go to that place and they will also write as a way of reminder for the respondents to carry out the resolutions of the House. So, if you want to know the number of cases discharged. You go to my secretariat and the clerk will show you. But I assure you, you will be satisfied with the number of cases we have discharged as far as the 9th National Assembly is concerned. 

What are the functions of your committee?
We deal with petitions all over the country and even abroad that borders on even administrative injustice, whether private or public. But we don’t deal with cases that are in court because we are talking about ADR, Alternative Dispute Resolution. What we do is to provide a platform for people to sort out their cases, settle matters and then go home, exchange banters and be happy with themselves. And during the COVID-19, a lot of people were laid off without payment and we are still resolving some matters arising from COVID-19 now that it has subsided, even though it is not yet uhuru and the victims are usually happy with how we have been carrying out our duties. We don’t deal with frivolous petitions, the petitions must stand the test of time before we handle them and that is what we have been doing

Are there challenges your committee faces while discharging its duties? 
During COVID-19 it was difficult to receive and preside over cases through zoom meetings, as far as communications is concerned, that was difficult. Another thing is that, some cases were that of the 8th Assembly that were carried over into 9th and we started afresh. You see that when some of the cases are inconclusive like the ones taken over from the 8th Assembly, it lingers and time is being wasted as far as those good cases are concerned. However, they are not serious challenges as we are equal to the task. We have discharged so many cases we inherited from the 8th Assembly and even more of the new ones, so I won’t say that these are challenges. We have experienced members, we have accountants, lawyers, educationists and other experts on the committee and we discovered that we are familiar with some of the cases, so we are talking out of experience.

How do you ensure your committee’s recommendations are enforced?
We know because we usually give a plan. When your case is finished and it is remaining implementation and you are having any problem especially when the clerks of the National Assembly write and the respondents are very slow, you come back to us and we tell you what to do. We always give that advice. When you come back, we write a reminder even if it is a court case that is in your favour. What we do is to align the committee with the court case. We monitor cases and not only that we give judgement and monitor the resolutions. We don’t look back and the Speaker has never intervened in our work and that gives us satisfaction in terms of speed. The Deputy Speaker that considers the report as a matter of our standing rules also moves with speed. So we have a record of about 95 percent of implementation of judgment and recommendations.

What are some of the achievements of the 9th House Committee on Ethics, privileges and public petitions?
We have cases of those who lost their jobs and if they are 50, we have restored the dignity of about 40 of them, especially the police through alternative dispute resolutions. Sometimes, I commend the Inspector General, (IG) of police and his team, they always take the recommendations of the National Assembly serious. So in terms of achievements, I can tell you that we have conducted a lot of cases successfully. We have performed even more than our predecessors. We have speed in this 9th Assembly maybe, because of our commitment because we don’t stay up to six O clock, by two O clock we are done with our cases and this gives our clerk enough time to do his work effectively and everybody is happy. We also had a case of the police assaulting a naval officer in Delta State, but we were able to resolve it, the police apologised and the naval officer accepted and everyone was happy. We also had a situation where somebody took money to the bank like today and the next day the money vanished and we asked the bank to pay her and they paid. We have several of such cases we resolved, including extra judicial killings. Anytime we write the army, civil defence and NDLEA, they come and we seek God’s intervention to give us the right direction to handle the cases and we resolve the matter and everybody is happy.

How do you avail citizens the opportunity the committee provides for them to deal with human rights violations?
We have various media organisations that cover us especially when we have critical cases and we are always open. Our meeting room, the 429 is a popular place that has COVID-19 compliance. There are times people just come in to listen to how we handle particular cases. There are some cases that are very easy to solve, like when you are discharged from police over one thing or the other, it is not something that will take you so long, we look at the merit of the case and then judge it.

Would you need additional support from the National Assembly to ensure resolutions of your committee are complied with by respondents?
We don’t have any problem, the Speaker is doing very well for the various committees. We have enough support in terms of manpower and the finances are available for us to carry out our work. The speaker is doing very well for us so we are not complaining.





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