Coronavirus came like a bolt from the blues. No one saw it coming, and even where scientists predicted an ominous pandemic, governments that have always been at the forefront of nipping such potential disasters in the bud, were numbed by exertions and postulations of superiority on political and economic terrains.
There is no doubt that economies are hibernating, interest rates have fallen to lowest possible levels, millions of jobs are projected to be lost, people are dying in rates only comparable to wartime situations, families and friends are being separated, the best hospitals and health tech facilities in the world are crumbling under the weight of overflowing casualties. All over the world the figures are increasing and here in Nigeria we listen to updates twice daily with frayed nerves.
A partial lockdown in our dear Lagos came into force a week before a total lockdown was announced by President Buhari to begin Monday March 30, 2020. With 19 states of the Federation affected by the virus, different States have adopted different measures at curtailing economic activities. Some are on partial lockdown, some have imposed curfews, while some are even opening up their economies. The reality of the lockdown in Lagos, Ogun and Abuja has gradually played out in more ways than imagined or thought of, as more and more Nigerians find it excruciating staying locked in their homes with no food to eat and other essential needs, no water, even with its dire necessity at this time, and the traditional epileptic power supply which otherwise could have kept people more comfortable and also abreast with crucial information in the Covid-19 fight.
In the face of the lockdown, there have been agitations where people have expressed their annoyance with the government for ordering a lockdown without appropriate cushions to mitigate its effects.The worst part of the lockdown perhaps is the reported cases of daylight looting by miscreants and robbery by night marauders, incidents which have rocked parts of Lagos and Ogun States, turning residents into vigilante groups at night to ward off robbers, leaving others with one eye open while asleep.
These acts of thievery are totally unacceptable and must not be condoned, even with the fact that palliatives and other measures announced to cushion the stricture of the lockdown by the Federal Government are hardly felt by the larger society, over 70% of whom work in the informal sector and have to fend daily for their survival. The situation also underscores the urgent need to put quite a few things right in our country, and in alignment with acceptable global standards; for example, our health care facilities; which remain in deplorable condition with a long string of successive governments. It is time to seriously ponder automating processes of governance in the country. If the country had a comprehensive data base, at a time of emergency such as now, it would have made for easier, methodical and successful planning and implementation of whatever palliatives to dish out before locking down the country or more specifically the states locked down. As it were however, with an extension of the lockdown for another two weeks until April 27th, and with the waning hope of most Nigerians on the Federal Government to provide any reasonable relief, it does not cut a comfortable picture.
The Lagos State government’s palliatives was way ahead and a good intention it must be said. The Sanwo-Olu government has been the at the forefront of the fight and the model other governments have emulated in the Covid-19 fight. Indeed the effort of the Lagos State governor and his team in trying to ameliorate the bite of the lockdown must be commended, perhaps with little reservation in quantity and the manner of distribution.
At this point it is imperative to note that this fight goes beyond the government. The food distributors themselves and everyone involved in midwifing palliatives to the people must be honest and selfless in their approach and do the right thing, the right way. The effort of Nigerians at showing care and love is praiseworthy, even though the intention of some is just to get attention. In any case, It is not just a fight that demands support from only the Otedolas’ Dangotes’, Alakijas’ the Adenugas’ or Elumelus’ but also from the Yahayas’, Demolas’, the Uches’, Yetundes’etc. It demands all hands to be on deck. Every community has varying levels of wealthy people; while some have truly been showing care and love, more others need to be compassionate to the poor lot around them, as well as those who may not be considered poor but are in dire straits at this moment due to the pandemic.
Throughout history, every lifetime comes with its peculiar crisis or challenge, often requiring the efforts and contributions of every citizen to overcome. Covid-19 happens to be the crisis we face today, which requires the patriotic zeal of every Nigerian in the effort to put it behind us and move on with our normal lives. It may be likened to watching a horror movie, patiently waiting for ‘the end. Everyone is in a certain degree of fear and no one knows when it will end. That ending requires everyone to step up and contribute their quota and help in taking this war headlong.
While over 70% of Nigerians live from hand-to-mouth on less than $1 daily, many workers in the semi-private and SME’s sectors are yet to be paid their wages for March, as some employers are taking cover under the Covid-19 pandemic. As a result, these people cannot stock up on food or other essentials, which all project deep concerns about the financial implications of the lockdown.
It is important to note that every country has different structures and capacities, and are also being hit by the virus in different ways, with some highly hit and some not as bad. Many nations of the world have risen from the desolation of adversity to attain remarkable heights of greatness. This pandemic being a time of solitude and introspection for many, without doubt offers a world of lessons to individual citizens as well as leaders and governments, but it might well be said that, only the wise ones however, will be able to pull out some lessons from this unprecedented disaster.
It is a time different people are taking solace from different things to stay happy. While some find happiness with their phones, some cannot even turn on their phones. While some cannot afford data, some others are dealing with network and other related issues. While some don’t mind staying indoors, others love it out in the daylight. Much as some would prefer physical engagement with people, others find the isolation a time for reflections and re-arranging their priorities. It’s just a case of different folks, different strokes.
There are businesses that are making great profit at this time as well as those which are grounded. I have been in touch with a number of people in the last three weeks and I know friends who can afford to eat more than three square meals daily and others who are having difficulty having one per day. I have spoken with some friends to whom N500 means a lot to at this time and to others to whom N50,000 is nothing to. I have seen families left in anguish with nothing to fall back on, worsened by the fact that they cannot step out. I see 24 hours running like 72 hours daily.
Apparently a lot of people are increasingly getting despondent. It is therefore a time that well meaning individuals, corporate and responsible citizens should show some level of responsibility, in complementing government’s efforts at defeating this enemy, not just for the government, but for us all.
Our campaign at staying home and staying safe implies a directive for people with homes. However, how about those without homes? These people are also our brothers and sisters who need our support and help, and there couldn’t be a more opportune time for that than now.
As an nation, we must rise up and help ourselves. It is not the fight of the government alone. The government has set the ball rolling so, we must stand firm, continuing to follow all given directives to ensure a successful curbing of the virus; we should reach out in genuine love to one another. This goes beyond just donating money to the government, but also looking and touching areas that the lives of ordinary Nigerians could be impacted the most. You might just be doing it for your own good.
As Mrs Ibukun Awosika, who has also stepped out on this issue rightly coins it, “every one of us holds a piece of what is required to build the right world where we can all survive.”
That piece in your hand might just be the needed bit to make the difference in lives of the needy at this challenging time.
I dearly hope that we’ll learn some lessons in the aftermath of this pandemic and become even more united than ever. I also use this opportunity to implore security operatives drafted to enforce the lockdown not to get trigger-happy or assault innocent Nigerians who are going through a lot right now, but to remain friendly while carrying out their lawful assignment.
We’re all in this together, Together we’ll end this pandemic, Together we’ll be stronger, Together we can reset our our minds on the paths of genuine patriotism, and Together in love against Covid-19, victory is sure.
Once again, I am Aregbe Idris, willing and PLAYING MY PART; PLAY YOURS!
Enugu State Government and the Quest for Growth
…with a special focus on rural development and the execution of feasible policies)
Enugu State got recently recognized in the National news as one of the top six states of the Nigerian Federation surviving on its internally generated revenue. This news sparked off debates among people from resident citizens to political stakeholders and diaspora communities straddling the fence in either support or opposition
The management of funding in Nigerian states is an ongoing uphill task, as evidenced by the low number of 6 out of 36 states that survive without the monthly federal allocation and reflects a major achievement by the Enugu State government.
This feat is due to the combined efforts of the leaders who have shown consistency in pushing and prioritizing top policies that positively affect the state both in real-time and future long term.
Right from the inception of the fourth republic in Enugu State in 1999, Enugu continues to recover from the history of military-style administration and repression which has existed for over two decades. There have been noticeable improvements in the state’s administration that continues to date in the Ugwuanyi’s administration.
In Enugu State, Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi popularly addressed by the moniker, GburuGburu is the third democratically elected governor since 1999 who came into power in the 2015 general elections, after he defeated competitors to emerge as the winner.
He was sworn into power to succeed Governor Sullivan Chime on the 29th of May 2015 at the Michael Okpara Square, Enugu.
On resumption of duty, he instituted his cabinet and members of the current administration. Subsequently, they continue working to grow and build the state with a special focus on rural development and the execution of feasible policies.
In addressing the varied policies of the Enugu State government that strives to impact all the sectors of the state ranging from education, business, and security among others. From the court of public opinion, these policies rank on different levels of effectiveness with positive and negative responses. We explore the verifiable facts on ground.
Enugu State Policies
As earlier mentioned, the policies of the state government have been varied and cover most sectors of the state’s economy. The most important of these policies which are highlighted below are those that have positively impacted the standard of living and quality of life for Enugu State’s residents and indigenes.
One wonderful aspect of the democratic government since 1999 is its continuous focus on human capital development with the policies on:
The most important policy that shows governance focus is its provision of affordable and quality education for the children and youth populations. “Education is a weapon through which people can become better or fight subjugation” – Nelson Mandela.
The Enugu State Government is continually funding, expanding and improving access to quality education. By making basic education relatively free and affordable, the state literacy rate has risen to nearly 89%.
This was done by broadening the foundations set by past governments for public schools through the provision of over 50 new classrooms and the renovation of more than 150 old classrooms across several of the public schools scattered through the entire state.
Furthermore, the government of Ugwuanyi, in a bold and unprecedented move to close out competence gaps, also employed an additional 2000 teachers who were posted largely to rural areas.
The consistent payment of teachers’ salaries, building new classrooms, provision of numerous school supplies, students’ scholarships and staff training are among some of the ongoing measures been driven by the government to improve literary levels within just the Basic Education level. Complementary efforts in secondary, tertiary and adult education levels would be examined in the future.
- Business Development/Investment Attraction
The ease of doing business in Enugu is another aspect that has borne fruition due to efforts by the current administration. The Ugwuanyi led government has fully improved the available resources and facilities that help establish businesses. With Enugu State’s huge available workforce that allows interested parties to tap into available markets. For instance, ICT which holds more than 20% of the world market share and is currently the largest biggest sector worldwide has risen in Enugu with organizations like the Genesys Tech Hub and TechX Innovation Hub who have set up headquarters in the state to train skilled software developers and programmers with support from the government.
The government also established the SME center that connects young people and small-scale businesses to entrepreneurial opportunities. This center provides loans at minimal rates to small scale businesses and conducts training for skilled and unskilled participants interested in setting up businesses.
This focus on business drivers for the state is sure to yield positive results as these SME startups begin to set up, grow and expand in the future.
Moreover, there exists low, effective and transparent taxation, good security and accessible road networks that help boost businesses within the state.
Despite the set governance limitations in not getting directly involved in the establishment and running of industries, the Enugu government seems to have largely focused on creating a more secure and business-friendly environment to encourage private-sector investments.
- Skill Acquisition Programs/Youth Empowerment
Youth unemployment in Nigeria has reached crisis proportions and Enugu is also affected by this national issue. Although the resident youths are vibrant, skilled and intelligent, too many remain unemployed or under-employed and poses a challenge for the government. This crisis is being managed with targeted collaborative efforts to provide skill acquisition programs as well as offering business aid to young entrepreneurs. This is evidenced by the over 400 traders who are beneficiaries of the popular Ugwuanyi market traders’ initiative, promos and grants.
The health status in Nigeria is another area of national crisis and this has been brought to light with the ongoing COVID 19 pandemic. At the State level, Enugu is better suited in comparison to neighbouring states in the South East region in the management of health care with reports of coordinated efforts by the government in managing the pandemic.
Under primary and tertiary health care, there are over 360 primary health care centres, 35 cottage hospitals, several district hospitals, and this is topped with the State university teaching hospital, Parklane.
The current government has consolidated on the achievements of the past governments by building new clinics and hospitals alongside improving health infrastructures for existing ones.
The government continues to prioritize the health system of the state to meet the needs and demands of public healthcare which takes a huge chunk of the state’s funding and budget.
This support is further reflected through its offering of free antenatal care and treatment of children under 5 years and free treatment for special cases like HIV and Tuberculosis.
There are ongoing studies in academia on the impact of these health infrastructural developments in the health statistics of the state and these will likely be explored in the future.
“Good roads breed good development”. This oft-quoted phrase perfectly describes the status of roads within Enugu State. Considering the cost implications, yet building public roads is one major infrastructure that the state government continue to invest.
The efforts by the Ugwuanyi’s government in constructing roads that cover most parts of the state to connect rural and urban areas has been extensively extolled.
These roads have given the impacted rural communities a sense of belonging and pride in their state. With farming as the major occupation for most rural indigenes, the improved transportation routes ensure agricultural produce are less likely to perish. Thus food items are easily processed, effectively supplied and made accessible to the public at affordable market worthy prices without complications.
A cursory examination of the human interest perspectives will provide numerous anecdotal evidence as this focus on rural communities has strongly impacted the state’s agricultural industry growth.
The final aspect worthy of commendation is the management of security within the state. Across the years, successive governments have enacted policies and procedures that help boost the security levels in the state.
Recently, the government created the Enugu State Neighborhood Watch that works in tandem with community policing and this has reduced the crime rate in numerous communities.
Furthermore, with public outcry and complaints about herdsmen invasion of the state’s forests and farmlands, the Enugu State government created and continues to finance Forest Guards who help police the state’s lands and their efforts have helped immensely.
Also, the government set up channels of communication through the aid of community stakeholders to foster bonds among the Hausa and Fulani migrants where they encourage self-monitoring in these communities to help security agencies fish out deviants who try to threaten the peace.
Finally, the Ugwuanyi’s government has constantly provided automobiles such as cars and trucks from local suppliers like the Innoson Group for the state security agencies to aid their monitoring and safety measures.
Despite these highlighted good policies being driven by this administration, it is not without criticism.
As this administration focuses on improving Enugu State’s capacity, there are some decisions in need of execution to ensure consistent progress.
For instance, in their attempt to get effective government delivery to the people and manage public expectations, the state spends a large part of its funding in employing civil servants and managing political stakeholders. Too many people seem to be the government’s payroll.
Besides, constant acquisition of some non-essential items like cars for public convoys seems to take a toll on the state’s finances. The governor and other politicians need to reduce the number of cars in their convoys and stop buying more.
Lastly is the defensive way most of the government’s criticisms and decisions are handled. Too often, politicians with personal interests, who sometimes are in the same ruling party seem to constantly be on the attack.
Honest and constructive criticism is good for the development of the state, but malicious attacks without evidence seek to divide the state and create bad public opinion among the citizenry.
This distracts the people in government and can better be managed by sharing more stories, facts, figures and information of the collaborative efforts they take in reaching decisions that affect the public.
Adopting these suggestions will help all who are working towards the state’s peace, unity and development.
Edited by Ese Okereka
NDDC Acting MD, Daniel Pondei lists contracts allegedly paid for
Acting Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Prof. Kemebradikumo Daniel Pondei, has listed some contracts the commission allegedly paid for under duress before its 2019 annual budget was approved.
Pondei who alleged that some lawmakers, especially members of adhoc Committees have held the Commission hostage over the years with the annual budget approval, also disclosed that they were arm-twisted to pay for some contracts that “were never done or sometimes, never completed.”
In a statement released by his Special Adviser on Media, Edgar Ebigoni, the contracts and benefiting firms were listed as follows;
Kith Global Ventures Ltd; Remedial Works at New Ogorode Roads Lot 3, at the cost of N493,684,169.00 and paid on the 17/03/2020, 301 Constr. Ltd; Remedial Works at Nja Road to Akoku Uno Lot 1, at the cost of N350,027,919.80 and paid on the 17/03/2020. Cracked Stone Constr. Ltd; Remedial Works at Ajaolubeti Road Environs Lot 2 at the cost of N394,010,952.10 and paid on the 17/03/2020. Collincrystal Energy Ltd; Emergency at Benin Township Road Lot 7, at the cost of N 431,053.035.20 and paid on the 17/03/2020. Collincrystal Energy Ltd; Emergency at Benin Township Road Lot 3, at the cost of N361,357,276.20 and paid on the 17/03/2020 and Grapik Ltd; Emergency at Umudee Internal Road, at the cost of N207,673,107.70 and paid the 17/03/2020.
Others were, Southland Constr. Ltd; Remedial Works at Umuduru Chukwu Umuorlu Road, at the cost of N518,409,089.30 and paid on paid on the17/03/2020. Southland Constr. Ltd; Remedial Works at Umuduru, at the cost of N519,949,949.10 and paid on the 17/03/2020.
Grandfox Global Services Ltd; Emergency at Ope Road Okigwe LGA, at the cost of N580,438,578.00 and paid on the 17/03/2020. Collincrystal Energy Ltd; Emergency at Benin Town Road Lot 6, at the cost of N348,853,184.60 and paid on the 7/03/2020 and Crism Constr. Building Ltd; Emergency at Eziama Osuama International Roads Isiala Mbano LGA, at the cost of N561,592,377.80 and paid on the17/03/2020.
Also paid were, Argento Ltd; Emergency at Benin Township Road Lot 4, at the cost of N382,805,411.60 and paid on the 18/03/2020. Two Rocks Cont. Ltd; Remedial Works at New Ogorode Road Lot 4, N500,875,848.00 and paid on the 18/03/2020. Elkan Zibson Ltd; Emergency Repairs of failed and unmotorable sections of Ezumoha Internal Roads Isiala Mbano LGA, at the cost of N531,150,414.29 and paid on the 19/03/2020. Cracked Stone Constr. Ltd; Remedial works on Failed and Unmotorable sections of Benin Township Road Lot 8, at the cost of N417,806,787.01 and paid on the 19/03/2020. PDH Global Logistics Ltd; Emergency Repairs of Failed and Unmotorable sections of Umuezuo Umuagbavu Road Remedy Failed and unmotorable sections of Chikwe Orlu Street Environment, at the cost of N543,247,587.35 and paid on the 20/03/2020. Aritel Oil and Gas; Remedy Failed and Motorable sections of Chikwe Orlu Street Environment, at the cost of N550,100,132.34 and paid on the 24/03/202.
Dis Concept and Solutions Ltd; Urgently Remedy Failed and Un motorable sections of Jessy and Jenny Road off peter Odily Road PHC, at the cost of N476,794,367.22 and paid on the 26/03/2020. Ogugo Concept and Solutions Ltd; Emergency Repairs of Failed and Unmotorable sections of Environs Yenagoa LGA, at the cost of N300,029,695.14 and paid on the 26/03/2020. Webster Global ventures Ltd; Instruction of emergency Repairs of failed and unmotorable sections Benin Township Road Lot 2 Oredo LGA, at the cost of N357,242,054.35 and paid on the 26/03/2020. Webster Global ventures Ltd; Remedial Works of Failed and unmotorable sections of Akuku Illah Road Oshimili North LGA, at the cost of N 463,489,890.13 and paid on the 26/03/2020 and Webster Global ventures Ltd; Remedial Works of failed and Unmotorable sections of New Ogorode Road Lot2 Sapele LGA, at the cost of N 466,416,380.71 and paid on the 26/03/2020.
The statement added;
“This blackmail scheme explains why the 2019 Budget of the NDDC was passed by the NASS Committee in March, 2020”, adding that, “we are talking about a budget that was billed to expire in May, 2020. This implication is that the management of the NDDC had only five weeks, to implement the budget of one fiscal year, and present a performance report on the same budget.
“This scheme has continued to play out, because as at this Month of August 2020, the budget of the NDDC for the 2020 fiscal year has not been passed by the Joint National Assembly Committee on NDDC. Sadly, nobody seems to care to ask questions because people are falling for the well-scripted smokescreen playing out in the two Chambers of the National Assembly.
“This document, is among the many others tendered before the NASS Committee, which never saw the light of the day, and which the NDDC Committee were never allowed to speak on, when they eventually appeared before the Committee, during the public hearing. It was based on this evidential claim that the IMC of NDDC staged a walk-out, on the first day they were to testify before the Committee.
“The details of this list can be verified from the Central Bank of Nigeria, through a Freedom Of Information (FOI) request.
“Indeed, the same allegation informed the reason all well-meaning Nigerians urged the Committee Chairman, Hon. Tunji-Ojo to recuse himself from the Chairmanship of that hearing. This is in keeping with the Nemo judex in causa sua, which is a Latin phrase that upholds the principle of natural justice that no one can judge a case in which they have an interest”.
“It is very unfortunate that against all objective appeals and moral persuasions, Hon. Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, alongside some other accused members of the House Committee on NDDC, proceeded to hold a public hearing, which was initially slated for two days, being the 15th and 16th of July 2020, but which effectively ran till 20th of the month, only for him to decide, at his own pace and time, to recuse himself from the hearing, on the last day, an action which cast a dark shade on the entire public.
“This is because, the same reason for which he recused himself on the last day was enough for him to steer clear from the matter, ab initio. The foregoing points to a clear fact that the Committee set out to do a bidding, that was never in the interest of the public. They obviously needed a public hearing to tell the public what they wanted the public to hear, rather than the facts of the matter.
“The Spokesperson the House of Representatives, Hon. Benjamin Kalu, on a National Television Programme, recently, admitted publicly, that Contractors often approached Chairmen of the House Committees and the members, to use their office to compel MDAs to pay them. This definitely should be the new height of the abuse of the oath of office they swore, not to allow their personal interest interfere with the discharge of their official duties.
“Recall that since these allegations were first made by the Acting Executive Director, Projects, Dr. Cairo Ojougboh on National Television, Hon. Olubumni Tunji-Ojo has not deemed it fit to discountenance the allegations by way of a law suit”.
DRC gets $7.5m additional US aid to combat Ebola
The United States, through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), is providing more than $7.5 million in additional humanitarian assistance to help end the 11th outbreak of Ebola in Équateur Province in Northwestern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The funding also will support Ebola survivors and maintain a rapid-response capacity in Eastern DRC, where the DRC’s 10th outbreak, also the second-largest outbreak of the disease in history was declared over in June 2020. The U.S. Government remains the DRC’s principal partner in countering Ebola: USAID has provided nearly $350 million since August 2018, including for preparedness and response activities in the DRC and neighboring countries. The funding announced today is in addition to contributions from other U.S. Departments and Agencies and the U.S. private sector.
Through USAID’s NGO and UN partners on the ground, the United States is scaling up to providing life-saving assistance in Northwestern DRC’s Équateur Province, where a new outbreak of Ebola was declared on June 1. This assistance includes support for the deployment of rapid-response teams to remote areas, surveillance for cases of the disease, and treatment facilities. Additionally, this assistance will help survivors facing stigmatization, as well as fund continued engagement with communities on prevention and post-outbreak training on safe and dignified burials.
The U.S. Government is the largest-single bilateral donor to the response to Ebola in the DRC. U.S. support and expertise played a major role in helping the Government of the DRC and its partners bring an end to Ebola outbreaks across the country, including the recent epidemic in South Kivu and Ituri Provinces. USAID’s Disaster-Assistance Response Team, made up of disaster and health experts, continues to work with the U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, humanitarian partners, and the Government of the DRC to help contain the latest outbreak and bring it under control.
Stopping the spread of Ebola requires a concerted, unified effort from the international community – all in close partnership with the Government of the DRC and affected local populations. USAID strongly encourages other donors to provide additional financial and technical support to help end the outbreak in Équateur Province.
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