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EXPERTS UNDERSCORES IMPORTANCE OF INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY IN FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT

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Information Technology (IT) has been identified as a vital element to achieve maximum productivity, efficient and effective service delivery, with faster communication in Public Financial Management (PFM).

The Head, Management Information Unit, of the Office of Accountant General/State Treasury in Ogun State, Mr. Abdulfattah Odusanya stated this while presenting a paper at a 2-day Training on Public Financial Management held at Itori in Ewekoro Local Government Area of the State.

The programme was organized by the Ogun State Government (OGSG) through its Project Support Unit, Ministry of Budget and Planning, in collaboration with the Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President (OSSAP) on Sustainable Development Goal (SDG), for Financial Managers in selected Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), as well as those in Local Government Areas (LGAs).

Odusanya, while speaking on a paper titled “Information Technology: An Enhancement to Public Financial Management” said IT is a network of networks that has brought unprecedented change and redefined methods of communication, work, study, education, interaction, health, entertainment and commerce across the globe.

“Investment in IT system and infrastructure has become a key element in productivity and effective Public Financial Management.  Increased investment in IT-Capital has accelerated growth and development”, he said.

Speaking further on PFM enhancement through IT in Ogun State, Odusanya suggested integration of the State payroll with, Pension system for seamless transfer of retiring employee information, Biometric Time and Attendance Management software, seamless Online payment solution for salaries, pensions and vendors payments, all electronic revenue collection platforms for on-line real time monitoring and comprehensive reporting in the Treasury departments among others.

In her closing remark, the Director of Planning in the Ministry and the State Focal Person, Mrs. Yetunde Olatubosun urged participants to ensure that the knowledge gained from the training reflected in their professional conducts.

In their separate responses, the Head of Account Unit, Rural Water Supply and Sanitation, Mr. Adewale Adesanya and the Treasurer, Ifo LGA, Mrs. Hassan Enitan, described the training as impactful, assuring that knowledge acquired would enhance their performances as financial managers in the State and also enable them operate in line with best global practices.

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COLUMNISTS

Nigerian Pastors and Private Jets: The Future of the Gospel

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By Adebayo Raphael
As is often the case in Nigeria, each week has its own peculiar national issue around which the public discourse for the week is formed. And, this week has not been any different, specifically because, once again – like many times in the past – the issue of Internet Fraud in Nigeria reappears on the desk of public discourse. The argument had always been about whether Internet Fraud is right or wrong. But this time, it was in reaction to a public statement by a budding musician who said Internet Fraud in Nigeria is what’s keeping Nigeria’s economy afloat.
While I am unopposed to the fact that there is no justification for whatsoever crime a person commits, and one deemed blameworthy of any type of crime must be punished in accordance with the law, I am ideologically and practically inclined to believe, vehemently, that Internet Fraud is not the main problem in our society, but a symptom of a bigger problem which is the erasure of our value system.
Beyond this, I am dissatisfied by how the frenzied reactions to the ‘Yahoo-Yahoo’ discourse has somewhat rendered inconspicuous, another issue of note concerning the General Overseer of the Omega Fire Ministries, Apostle Johnson Suleiman, who is said to have purchased a new private jet, joining a disconcerting list of other high-taste pastors like Bishop David Oyedepo of the Living Faith Bible Church; Prophet T.B. Joshua of the Synagogue Church of All Nations; Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor (former president of Christian Association of Nigeria); Pastor Enoch Adeboye of the Redeemed Christian Church of God and others in their vainglorious gusto for luxury.
Before I proceed, however, I must establish that the urge to write this piece was specifically inflamed by the manner in which those who are called ‘Servants of God,’ ‘Messengers of God,’ ‘Men of God’ and others who ceremoniously answer such names, have recently developed a repugnant penchant for luxury and wealth, at the expense of their religious congregations. This costly penchant for opulence among Pastors, or leaders of different churches – which strikes one as though the purpose for which Christianity has become a widely-accepted religion is being turned upside down and sacrificed on the altar of fanfaronade and presumptuousness – indicates a very disturbing trend that must be nipped in the bud before it transmogrifies into a noxious epidemic, lest the entire Christian world and our dear nation be consumed by it.
I must also establish, that this piece has been written in a comparative manner, specifically drawing comparisons between Pastors and Elected Public Officials. This is so, because, there are some basic similarities between Pastors and Elected Officials – with some peculiar traits in the Nigerian context of the similarities – which makes them almost identical. For, on the one hand, the Pastors and Elected Officials benefit from the right of citizens to make choices. And, on the other hand, the success or failure of their respective endeavours, will be largely determined by the level of acceptability of their actions, by the people whose choices made them.
While, of course, the Elected Officials are easily grilled and excoriated by their constituents and the citizens at large; the Pastors enjoy a glorified system of deification, which makes them almost totally immune from questioning. In addition, just as elected officials are immune from prosecution during their time in public office; the pastors, too, enjoy different types of immunity from both the government and their ardent followers. However, an equally shared trait between the Pastors and Elected Officials, is their unabashed tendency to be unaccountable to the people whose mandate enabled them to be leaders.
To be clear, I admit that the traits ascribed to pastors above are equally shared by leaders of other religious groups. Nonetheless, I have chosen to leave out their names because the matter at hand is primarily about the Pastors. And, in all fairness, we can conveniently exclude leaders of other religious groups from matters of luxurious cravings because there is hardly any evidence of these leaders engaging in such wanton promiscuity. To avoid all doubts, I must warn that it would be a foolish thing to do; to compare these Pastors and their voracious tastes for luxury, with individuals who hold no elective positions or religious leadership positions.
Having established the aforementioned, I will proceed with a few points:
Firstly, it is no longer news that Nigeria; the country with the highest Christian population in Africa, is the Extreme Poverty Capital of the world – where more than 80Million of her citizens live in abject penury and below one dollar per day. Among the 80Million living in abject penury, at least, half of them (about 40Million) are Christians. Of this half, at least 50% of them are compelled by the damning messages of their Pastors and ‘Spiritual Leaders’ in their respective churches; to pay tithes, offerings, and other such monies weekly. And, despite the fact that the majority of their congregations live in penury, these pastors still exact tithes and other monetary commitments from them. These tithes and offerings, and other monetary commitments from Church members are monies for the Church – not monies for Pastors. However, these monies are susceptible to abuse because there is no established system of accountability to the congregation. To be clear, just as Elected Officials are accountable to the people, Pastors (and religious leaders in general) ought to be accountable to their congregations. The absence of a system of accountability makes abuse the norm and a luxurious life for Pastors its inevitable concomitant.
Secondly, I must mention that for as long as Pastors remain ‘messengers’ of the Gospel – as they would have us believe, they have absolutely no need to acquire private jets – not at this time – not in today’s Nigeria. Also, Biblically and morally, it is incontestably wrong, for Pastors to own properties as expensive as Private Jets or its equivalence, and quirkily defend such impropriety as a necessity in the propagation of the Gospel. For it is too much luxury, for Pastors to own luxurious cars, mansions and so on, in proportions only similar to a swarm of bees, while their congregations suffer in penury.
During his days, the Bible did not record Jesus as one with wanton desires for the acquisition of luxury and wealth. In fact, Biblical records show that he traversed many places mostly on foot – covering about 3000 miles during his missionary adventures. Even specific parts of the Bible like Matthew 19:21; Luke 12:33; Acts of the Apostles 4:32-35 and so on, enjoins Christians on how to manage personal and collective properties. It is, therefore, inexcusable, that in this day and age of widely affordable mediums of transportation and communication, those who traverse the face of the earth supposedly continuing the work of Jesus, are given to needless flamboyance and showiness, with a special knack for joining the propertied class, while their congregations are mostly urged to live modestly and cast their thoughts away from the things of the world.
Even morally, it is unthinkable, that leaders who lead many congregations and benefit from their hard-earned weekly donations, would consider the acquisition of Private Jets and other luxurious properties to be more important than the elevation of those congregations from abject penury. And, to be precise, what I mean by ‘elevation’ is the existence of deliberate and effective programs designed to uplift their congregations from penury – not tokenism in the form of occasional reach-out where people are given devotional materials and a handful of food to last barely a week.
In comparison with the Elected Officials, many of these Pastors are no different. In fact, one can easily conclude that they share the same modus operandi as far as the management of resources is concerned. For most elected officials in Nigeria are also given to vainglory and the acquisition of luxurious properties, depriving their constituents and citizens the comfort and good life they deserve.
Apparently, the aspirations of Nigeria’s Elected Officials are now similar to the aspirations of Nigerian Pastors: They all aspire to travel in luxurious comfort, live in luxurious mansions, drive luxurious cars, acquire luxurious properties and probably even die a luxurious death. They would rather be surrounded by bootlickers than be surrounded by frank and honest advisers. They consider their privileged positions as empires that must be protected by all means necessary and handed over to their offsprings. They are basically self-driven, not service-driven.
Thirdly, we must carefully observe how anomalies percolate through the length and breadth of different societies before becoming the norm: wherein it begins among a clique, it subsequently spreads to a larger group, and eventually becomes the sole aspiration of the whole society. Presently, we have only a handful of pastors purchasing private jets; but in no distant time, if we fail to nip this monstrous trend in the bud, it will become the aspiration of other religious leaders and eventually become the norm. When such a time comes, there will likely be more impoverished people to cater for (according to the projection of experts), and a remedy may be farther from reach than now.
Regardless of how this issue is viewed, we must, as a nation, urgently consider reforms for our religious organisations. We must question this untamed knack of pastors for ostentation and flamboyance. We must question how leaders of religious organisations (non-profit organisations) – are able to acquire properties worth millions of dollars without any explanation as to how these properties were acquired. We must ascertain the sources of these luxurious acquisitions, to avoid a situation where pastors unscrupulously use the funds of their churches for themselves, or, even worse; use their churches to siphon stolen public wealth through their unholy alliances with politicians. Perhaps, when the latitude for abuse is considerably minimal in religious organisations, the ostentatious desires and lifestyles of their leaders will also reduce.
Before it is too late, Christians must begin to demand transparency and accountability from their Pastors and General Overseers; the same way we all demand transparency and accountability from elected officials. The Nigerian government, also, must review its sacred-cow treatment of religious organisations; for it makes no sense, that while these churches are enjoying exemption from paying taxes, their religious heads are busy accumulating wealth and luxurious properties. Our nation suffers deficits in numerous areas, and we can’t have people accruing wealth and living boisterously under false pretences while citizens continue to suffer.
Adebayo Raphael is a Human Rights Activist and Development Consultant. He writes from Abuja and can be reached on Twitter via @Asorosobioro.
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COLUMNISTS

Pendulum: And My Idol Died (By Popular Demand)

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By Dele Momodu

(I wrote this article the very night MICHAEL JACKSON died and wept throughout the typing… My wife looked on in wonderment… I rate it as one of my top three articles in 40 years… Now that Michael Jackson is back in the news, more for bad reasons than good, many people have requested me to intervene on behalf  of one of my known heroes of all time. I have nothing more to add or subtract from
what I scripted on Thursday, June 25, 2009, which was published on this very page on June 27, 2009… Please, enjoy, or just read, and form your opinion…)

God, please forgive me, for claiming publicly that I worshipped an idol. Truth is I did. I worshipped Michael Jackson. I hated anyone who ever passed snide remarks about this greatest showman on earth. Strangely, I never met my idol. He was a god I accepted in good faith. A god I would have loved to meet. But I kept faith with his music, and was privileged to have met some of his siblings. There was nothing I did not try to meet him. I always knew it was only a matter of time before the relentless vicissitudes of life would take its final toll on this extremely frail but prodigiously talented artiste.
Michael was supposed to be the peak of success but he was the limit of sadness. His fame eclipsed that of all his siblings combined. He was the very epitome of achievement. No artiste in history had generated as much controversy in one lifetime. Like the quintessential dancer that he was, Michael waltzed from one crisis to the other. He was the true example that the world may pretend to love success, but the world actually hates success. Every imaginary story was conjured, or concocted, around this stupendously famous man.
He packed more than the activities of a thousand years into the 50 years he lived on earth. The world is allowed a glimpse of such demigods once in a blue moon. Michael was a deviant in all ways. He defied the laws of gravity and motion. He was a spirit child, and he acted the part perfectly. He was bound to go the way he came, with a bang. It was impossible for him to go with a mere whimper.
In his time, most things he touched turned into gold. He became as popular as the Coca-Cola bottle. He was known everywhere and was more popular than most world presidents. In our school, every music group mimicked Michael Jackson. At the then University of Ife, one young man became famous on campus for his dexterous performance of Michael Jackson in “Beat it”. He is the same Femi Elufowoju who’s currently doing Nigeria proud as an actor in the elite theater of London’s West End. Michael was every child’s ultimate idol. Even for those of us who grew up in rural settings, and had no television sets at home, we knew this boy who danced better than James Brown. His name resonated like Iraqi bombs, exploding beyond boundaries.

This was the main cause of his problems. Success breeds more sorrow than joy. There is the intrusion of privacy. The financial demands of trying to put up an appearance. The envy of peers, and the subject of sibling rivalries. It was impossible to ignore Michael, whether you hated or loved him. To describe him as an icon was an understatement. Everything around him was big news. He was never going to live a normal life, like you and I. He was sentenced to his own prison, and would never be able to break free.

Michael lived in a society where the policy was everyone for himself and God for us all. He was a lonely child. He started life too early. And fame and fortune beyond imagination chased him. He was haunted by both. They became his albatross. He had to wear a mask to go out. He was said to have experimented with all manner of weird disguises. He earned the acronym, Wacko Jacko. He was easy prey for both genuine and counterfeit extortionists. They found all manner of excuses to take his money, and practically took him to the cleaners.

Michael lived and was sustained on maximum hype. He regularly reinvented both his person and his career. From being an innocent Black kid, he transfigured into a white ghost, who became whiter than snow. It was speculated that the record labels that made incredible fortunes off him had encouraged him to engage in bleaching away his blackness, a terrible habit that would later become an incurable obsession. It probably worked initially. But it soon became a tragic flaw in his persona.

Those who wanted any reason to detest him found perfect grounds for merciless assaults. He was insulted and abused. His unusual love for children was another sore point. He was called a child molester. Who knows? Neither you nor I were eye-witnesses. Such stories abound about newsmakers everywhere. As a devotee, we accepted him warts and all. He was human after-all. I learnt a lot from his life. That success would never guarantee happiness. That money would never buy peace. That your friends would rather watch you die when you get into trouble than offer a helping hand.

All those shedding crocodile tears now obviously saw Michael in his various stages of dilapidation – that those who can never match your talents would always attack your efforts. That at the end of it all, all is vanity indeed. Human beings are always quick to judge others. They leave the log in their eyes and chase the speck in that of others. Michael this, Michael that, was all we heard. Now that he’s dead, may be they’ll leave him alone, and allow the dead to bury their dead.

The problems were just too many for Michael. And the burden must have been too heavy to bear. It is difficult to imagine how he even lived for this long. He had marital problems. He had acute financial problems. From being one of the richest men in showbiz history, he became a pauper, as poor as a church rat. His grace to grass story was one of the most frightening examples of the fall of man. It could not have been easy. It was as if he had no family, and no friend.

The man had helped to raise money for the world, but the world failed to raise money for him, in his time of dire need. They watched his life collapse while everyone minded his own business. This is usually the tragedy of great people. They are often seen as the supermen who can solve all problems alone. But my illiterate mum knew better, and used to warn that there is a thin chord holding the heart to the human body. It is just too fragile.
Die-hard fans like me were hoping for a miracle that would teleport Michael back to his original state, when he was that adorable kid, and everyone thought he was older than Michael. Michael had that childlike innocence that made him vulnerable. But he was awesome. The world was not big enough for his stage. Music was his life and we had all foolishly believed that he could live, sing and dance forever. We followed his every move, shared in his triumphs, and suffered in his pains. He was human, very human. He had his foibles, like all mortals do. He tried to keep to himself a lot, and came out of his shrine only when necessary. He was called the weird one. He had to be. His life was too extraordinary and too sensational.

I was always hoping to meet him, one on one. And even dreamt of bringing him to Nigeria to live under our protection, when his troubles became too suffocating to watch. We toyed with asking the Ooni of Ife or the Alaafin of Oyo to make him an African Chief and get our government to turn him into our national treasure. That would have been feasible in a land that understood the power of entertainment and tourism. But one Arab tycoon stole him to Bahrain, where I believe life must have been very miserable for him. He was just too broke, and was facing certain humiliation of unimaginable proportions.
The bailiffs were after him like bullets. Before his very eyes, his prized possessions were auctioned. His Neverland Ranch, which was his recreation of paradise on earth, became a dead place and he had to give up the ownership of this private sanctuary. By the time the relationship between him and his Arab friend broke down, and he had to return Los Angeles, the damage had been done. He was forced to move into a rented apartment. Just imagine, from living in paradise to living in the pit of hell. It is better imagined than experienced.

What I admired most about him was how he kept readjusting to his excruciating conditions. He accepted his fate with uncommon equanimity. He was determined to prove that he wasn’t finished. He travelled to London recently to promote his forthcoming world tour. He needed to disappoint the cynics who thought he was down and flat-out. His plans were going fine. He had sold a record 750,000 tickets for his concerts. For him, the shows were meant to be the grand finale to an incredible career, the sort we are not likely to see again in our generation.

Also, he was working hard to leave a worthy legacy, and a formidable empire for his family, especially his children. He was said to have written hundreds of songs which he never performed, but were meant to be released only after his death. He was a workaholic. He probably died working. He didn’t want his fans to be disappointed in him. They were the reason for his existence. We meant everything to him, just as he meant everything to us.
You don’t have to be a doctor to know he must have died of exhaustion. The London concert was meant to be his final farewell to the world. He had gone as far as getting a personal trainer to beef him up for the tour. His existence depended on proving this ultimate point. It was a dangerous fixation that would prove fatal. He had been off-stage for too long. Unknown to him, age was no longer on his side. Everything that has a beginning must have an end. He did not accept the verdict of God. The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh. It was time to go and the time to be set free.

The elephant collapsed two nights ago. I cried like a baby. My wife had always found my love for Michael Jackson very strange. If she did not know me well, she may have suspected me of unprintable inclinations. I had wished Fela truly kept death in his pouch. We would have begged him to keep Michael for us forever. But Fela himself was killed by death. It is one debt we all owe. Sooner or later, the king of all bailiffs must come, and take possession of all. This is the reason we must do our best and leave the world better than we met it.

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COLUMNISTS

Spectrum: The Giant of Poverty

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By Anikulapo Macmillan

Is it this period when political parties are jostling on whom will become the president of the ninth assembly— that I am talking about poverty? Or maybe they are not bothering about the citizenry that lives below two dollar a day. That means how government has not understood its importance. Shame!

Let me be a little sarcasm here: what is poverty in a nation when senator is buying a Roll Royce, and the populace, are barely hungry? Maybe those exotic cars are for the serfs to understand that Nigeria is a poor country?

Oh! This is somehow a fable that Nigeria is extremely poor. That is why the EFCC has recorded billions from our rotund politicians in the last four years. Still, this is shameful to our system.

Is famished a kind of household name; or an inheritance curse for the poor Nigerians? Or is it deliberates from God that they should be poor? Please, who knows God should tell him that poverty in Nigeria is outrageous. Our hospitals can’t survive anymore because there is no money to buy equipment. Even schools are deteriorating. Thus, it is simply, a kind of system, Fela called ‘’ Roforofo’’

Last week, I encountered the speech of Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi at the Gala Night of First Bank’s 125 years anniversary. I listened to his insightful speech because I admired his intelligence since he was the governor of our apex bank.

The monarch addressed in a kind of modicum that was relevant to what etch us in Nigeria. However, what he said was nothing but the truth. That poverty has beleaguered the citizens.

We have failed to know that it is the responsibility of the government to adequately restructure the society— this, is like, what a novelist, Harper Lee, wrote in her famous novel, To Kill a Mockingbird.  And this particular novel described rape as an instrument of hunger and racial inequality.

These two things are relevant in our beloved country. It is apparent to what the Monarch said. When I listened to him intensely; I began to feel a cataclysm.

We don’t know what we want than to follow those who don’t have our time. Whose children are not facing kind of conundrum the poor people are facing. Like the Success Adegor’s story whose educational love went viral because her parent could not pay for her school fee.

Meanwhile, what happened to her showed that poverty in Nigeria is not about race. It is about the government failing to do what is right. Oftentimes, I do feel dissipated of our democracy.

Is it not Democracy they are practicing in the US? It is painstaking that at this level, our government can’t provide basic school for our children. It is pathetic. Even majority of those public schools are dilapidated. It is unfortunate that by now we still live in abject poverty.

I have considered the Emir’s speech as part of what is germane in this country at a time when our politicians have failed to know that the priority of the government is to provide wealth across the citizens.

And the nation’s economy is not determined by the economy index alone. Either is it by the out flowing of resources. But, it is in Nigeria that our politicians use millions of dollars for tour.

Please hear the monarch: ‘’ I listened to all elections debate and nobody talked about child’s education and malnutrition. They are being marginalized because those millions are not important. The poor should be the major shareholder and not the multibillion shareholders

And at 2017, 58 percent of children under the age of 5 in the Kano have chronic malnutrition and 48 percent of all women of reproductive age are suffering from Iron deficiency and the high mortality rate and we treat that as a medical problem not as a nutrition problem’’

This scourge of poverty in our society has made us to go into dismay. It has let us to believe that poverty is part of us. We die like prey in what a poet describes to human condition in his poem: ‘’ to sea is fish/to live is human/and to die is the hunger that kills human’’ stoically, this is the narration of poverty in this country when an average Nigerian doesn’t have expectations. No jobs. No facilities in the hospitals and schools anymore. People are now dying because the government is not showing concern to the level of poor Nigerians.

We are now acting like we are all puerile to ourselves. We then begin to act like interlopers to ourselves rather to know how to fight for our system. Subtle, is it that people in the US are better than us in Nigeria? Where we die and we still bereaved with hunger while our elite die with smiles of billions in their account. This is obviously kind of argument Karl Marx talked about when he wrote his book: Communist Manifesto.

To live as a citizen means we need to know our right. We need to benefit in the government policies. And to be citizen that has the equal right and not citizen that suffers from inequality.

Unfortunately this is not the society that we find ourselves. A society that is squirmed with temerity and it is fickle with our societal impetus. However, what the Emir said at the First bank anniversary was remarkably an act for President Buhari because if he fails to eradicate poverty to a limit that means his administration has failed woefully.

So, our expectation in this country is nothing good than an economy where every Nigeria can have access to good health care and good education. Thus, Nigeria had about 87 million people in extreme poverty, compared with India’s 73 million. What is more, extreme poverty in Nigeria is growing by six people every minute, while poverty in India continues to fall.

Also, this is peculiar to us in Nigeria that poverty has become callous to us since the government has failed to realize that even the rich also cry. Therefore, we don’t need to undermine ourselves if truly we want to live out of this parvenu.

And lest I forget, permit me to digress a little bit, to what happened during the 2019 election both in Kano and Rivers State. These events showed that our people are hungry as a result of the political imbroglio in our system.

Having said this, those who perpetrated electoral evil that later led to some politicians’ hoopla from those people who were suffering from the menace of poverty scourge. So, poverty has caused drug addiction, kidnapping, armed robbery and other kind of atrocities that have made us to despise our humble beginning as a nation whose wealth is bigger the England. Enough! To become a giant of poverty.

@Babatunde_Mac

+2348076926109

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