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Governor Okowa and the failure of leadership….

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Over a year after his election on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the manner in which Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, has conducted the affairs of the state, in terms of governance and delivering the dividends of democracy, gives enough cause to worry about both his preparedness and capacity to deliver on his central electoral promise of inclusiveness to, assumedly, better governance. Rather, contrary to general expectations, Delta state has been hijacked by a cabal of political contractors and sundry jobbers, who have captured and taken the state hostage, even as the governor appears clueless and confused on the way forward in addressing the life and death challenges facing the people of Delta state. Honestly speaking, Okowa is carrying about as if he sought to win power first and then plan what to do with it after; he is just so unprepared for office, that not a few Deltans are having voter’s remorse. It is axiomatic that Okowa has set himself to fail. This is an embarrassing letdown by a man to whom much has been given; and from whom much is expected.

Since the creation of Delta state in 1991, the people have suffered under successive corruption-ridden, intrigue-filled, undisciplined and rapacious governments; the poster child of which was James Ibori, who was convicted of corruption and money-laundering and currently serving jail time in Britain. The people had waited to see a change for the better and Okowa’s election held out that promise and hope that a new Delta State was possible. So far, that hope and expectation has turned out to be a luxurious desire as Okowa has put on display, the most embarrassing verdict on his poor leadership credentials, proving to be worse than even his predecessors. Okowa seems addicted to primordial sentiments and prebendal instincts. Granted that before him, the Anioma people of Delta North and the Ijaw have never occupied the exalted office, that in itself; should not justify the abusive patronage and clientelism which Okowa has elevated to instruments of statecraft and governance.

Okowa has return to the old order when Delta state was a jungle in which political warlords and rent-seekers held sway to the detriment of the people. Looking like a man in a hurry, Okowa picked up the baton with gusto and went to work with aplomb, determination and zeal to rehabilitate his disgraced political mentor, James Ibori. To begin with, he stuffed his cabinet with relics of the old guard; people bereft of integrity in all its ramifications. Okowa’s choice for Commissioner of Finance had served in that same capacity in the Ibori administration. His Commissioner for Education was charged alongside Ibori by the anti-graft agency the EFCC. After sacking 3000 workers, Okowa seem not satisfied with the dubious title of “Governor Delta is broke.” He has taken corruption to obscene levels. His modesty in public appearance is put to shame by the splendor of ostentatious living, advertised so gleefully, by his entourage and cronies, who are boasting to anyone who cares to listen that “this is our time to chop.”

It is incredulous, that Okowa, who has elevated the phrase “Delta state is broke” to a personal motto found nothing wrong awarding an airport renovation contract worth N5 billion to ULO Construction Company owned by one of his side-kicks, Uche Okpunor. With practically no experience in the aviation sector, Okpunor sold the contract to a Chinese firm for N500 million and pocketed the difference as commission. The Chinese outfit has abandoned the project and Okpunor defended his action by claiming he received only half of the N5 billion. The balance N2.5 billion reportedly went to underwrite the cost of securing Okowa’s victory at the election appeals tribunal. It is worth noting that the same ULO company received hundreds of millions of naira to renovate the presidential lodge but did a shoddy job, resulting in a fire; only to be rewarded with another contract to renovate the damaged building.

In another paid-to-play scam, Okowa approved a three-year N360 million contract for Daily Independent Newspaper for coverage of activities of the Delta state government. The funds were disbursed by the Managing Director of the Delta State Oil Area Producing Communities (DESOPADEC), William Makinde, an Ibori proxy, who has taken financial recklessness to a level, never before seen in Delta state. If Makinde has seen anything wrong with combining public office with incurable money-mindedness and lust for material aggrandizement, his actions are yet to reflect it. Here is a man who could not pay workers their salaries for the month of December 2015, but spent N50 million in a lavish end-of-year party at the Brown Hill event center. Makinde claims to have paid N5 million to rent the venue, whereas the standard rent was N1 million. Makinde runs DESOPADEC as his private kitchen.

Under Okowa, the developmental aspirations of Delta state have taken a back seat, and everything he does is to empower and fill the pockets of his Ika kinsmen to the exclusion of people from the central and south areas. He has missed no opportunity to reward his political sinecures. A case in point is the decision to re-constitute the moribund board of Direct Labor Agency (DLA) with former Speaker of the legislature, Frank Enekorogha nominated Director-General. Besides the fact that Okowa provided no evidence how the DLA would benefit a state in dire financial straits, that the governor would be opening more drain pipes on the public treasury, at a time workers and contractors are owed arrears, tells badly on his understanding of political leadership as a trust from the electorate to put the people’s interest above any other.

With all the squandermania, Okowa cannot definitely move Delta to a higher level on the scale of development. It is trite to state that development strategy is anchored on some essentials. Following health and housing, transportation infrastructure is arguably the next human imperative and critical factor essential to development. So far from the look of things, the Okowa administration has done next to nothing to improve service delivery and the welfare of the people. Rather, it has been a special purpose vehicle for an admixture of people who, like soldiers-of-fortune, have migrated to where the fortune is, persons driven by greed and self-interest who will stop at nothing in their quest for personal financial gain. This is not what Deltans voted for and it is no exaggeration to suggest that unless he changes direction, Okowa will not win a second term, even if he is foolhardy enough to seek re-election.

Given that Delta State has peculiar developmental challenges, the legitimate expectations for someone coming into the job with impressive grassroots and public service credentials, was that the new governor would bring some sobriety and decency into the governance of the state and possibly surpass the performance of his predecessor. Alas, Okowa has failed. The question now is how long will Deltans tolerate his vampire government? With Okowa having lost his way so early in the day, and if as the saying goes, morning shows the day, then are these signs of worse days ahead? No one except Okowa can answer these questions. To continue to hide behind “Delta state is broke” while lining the pockets of your cronies is hypocrisy that stinks to the high Heavens.

It is indeed pathetic that a man who was given the chieftaincy title of Ekwueme of Ika (meaning a man who does what he says) would turn out to be such a terrible disappointment, yet arrogant and disdainful to the electorate. Because leadership is key to change the present sad state of things in Delta state, the governor must commit himself to, and be seen to so do, a life of rectitude and an integrity-driven government. The only effective leadership is by example and Okowa as the pinnacle of state authority and power, must earn and claim without an iota of doubt, the moral high ground from which to exercise leadership. This, certainly, can be done. The only thing required is for Okowa to walk his talk and lead by example. Surrounding yourself with parvenus, court-jesters, opportunists, political touts and rogues who see their appointments as an invitation to “come and eat” instead of an opportunity to serve is not governance, not to talk of good governance.

 

 

By: Emmanuel Asiwe

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NASRE Advises FG On Food Crisis, Forex Shortage Amid Calls To Suspend Import Ban

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As Nigeria finds itself at a critical crossroads, grappling with simultaneous challenges of a food crisis and a foreign exchange (forex) shortage.

 

This is even as the nation seeks solutions to mitigate these pressing issues, the debate over whether to open its borders for importation has intensified.

 

The food crisis gripping Nigeria has raised concerns about food security and access to essential nutrition for millions of citizens.

 

Adverse weather conditions, supply chain disruptions, and other factors have contributed to dwindling food supplies and soaring prices, placing a significant strain on households and exacerbating the vulnerability of already marginalized communities.

 

Meanwhile, the forex shortage has hampered Nigeria’s ability to import essential goods and raw materials, further exacerbating supply chain disruptions and exacerbating inflationary pressures.

 

Industries reliant on imported inputs, including agriculture, manufacturing, and healthcare, have been particularly hard hit, impeding economic growth and development.

 

In response to these challenges, some stakeholders advocate for opening Nigeria’s borders to facilitate the importation of food and other essential commodities.

 

Proponents argue that increased importation could help alleviate immediate food shortages, stabilize prices, and provide relief to vulnerable populations facing hunger and malnutrition.

 

However, others caution against the potential risks of opening borders amid a forex shortage. Critics raise concerns about the impact on domestic production and self-sufficiency, as well as the long-term consequences of relying heavily on imported goods. They emphasize the need to prioritize investments in domestic agriculture and infrastructure to build resilience against future crises.

 

As Nigeria navigates these complex issues, the government faces the daunting task of balancing short-term relief efforts with long-term strategies for sustainable development and economic resilience.

 

Proffering suggestion on how the government can address the unending inflationary pressures, Forex shortages, food prices hike and revitalise the nation’s economy, the Nigerian Association of Social and Resourceful Editors (NASRE), has advised the Nigerian government to adopt collaborative efforts involving policymakers, industry stakeholders, civil society organizations, and international partners to identify holistic solutions that address both immediate needs and underlying structural challenges.

 

On the debate over whether Nigeria should open its borders for importation amid the food crisis and forex shortage, the President of the advocacy group, Mr Femi Oyewale, underscores the urgency of coordinated action and innovative thinking.

 

According to him, now more than ever, solidarity, cooperation, and forward-thinking policies are needed to ensure the well-being and prosperity of all Nigerians.

 

“The question of whether Nigerian borders should be opened for food importation in the face of a food crisis is complex and multifaceted. However, there are factors to consider, which basically, Domestic Agricultural Capacity. Because opening borders for food importation could undermine domestic agricultural production by flooding the market with cheaper imported goods.

 

“However, if domestic production is insufficient to meet demand, importing food may be necessary to avoid shortages,” he said.

 

On the economic implications of borders opening, the President of NASRE, Oyewale, said: “Importing food can have economic ramifications, both positive and negative. On one hand, it can provide access to a wider variety of foods and potentially lower prices for consumers. On the other hand, it may negatively impact local farmers and exacerbate trade imbalances.”

 

The resourceful editors, while commenting on Food Security, pointed out that relying heavily on imported food leaves a country vulnerable to supply chain disruptions and price fluctuations in the global market. Therefore, it urged the federal government to develop a robust domestic agricultural sector, which is crucial for long-term food security.

 

According to Oyewale, the Nigerian government must consider its broader economic and agricultural policies when making decisions about food importation. This includes evaluating subsidies, tariffs, and investment in agricultural infrastructure.

 

“Importing food often involves long-distance transportation, which contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and environmental degradation. Promoting local production can help reduce the carbon footprint associated with food consumption.

 

“Food is not just a commodity; it is essential for human well-being. Government policies should prioritize ensuring access to nutritious and culturally appropriate food for all citizens, particularly those most vulnerable to food insecurity,” he added.

 

The Nigerian Association of Social and Resourceful Editors, NASRE, therefore, noted that the decision to open Nigerian borders for food importation during a food crisis should be approached cautiously, taking into account the country’s domestic agricultural capacity, economic implications, food security goals, environmental concerns, and social welfare considerations.

 

“A balanced approach that supports both domestic production and responsible trade practices may be necessary to address immediate food shortages while also promoting long-term food security and sustainability,” the Association stated.

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Lagos State Government to prosecute 11 suspects for extortion

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The Lagos State Government said 11 suspects arrested at the Ibeju-Lekki junction and Akodo area of the state will be prosecuted to serve as deterrents to others extorting residents and motorists in the state.

The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Transportation, Olawale Musa, disclosed this while addressing journalists on Wednesday.

He added that the suspects parade themselves as enforcement officers to extort unsuspecting motorists and residents in the state.

Musa said, “Lagos State Government has declared zero tolerance for extortion of unsuspecting residents, especially motorists, by miscreants parading themselves as enforcement officers at the Ibeju-Lekki junction and Akodo area of the state.

“We have announced severally that nobody is allowed to collect money for the local government on the street of Lagos, and the government has set up a team to ensure that anybody that does that is picked up and from that Lekki axis.

“They will be charged to court to explain themselves, and I want to sound a note of warning to others that do the same thing that we will not relent; the government is all out for them.”

He noted that it is unlawful for any local government area within the state to place personnel to conduct such operations on the highways.

“If you have any issues, you call us, and we will come and address them, but when you have people coming on the road on the guise that you want to have revenue at this hard time, collecting money from motorists on the road is not fair, and it is illegal in Lagos State to resist it.

“It is illegal for any local government area in the state to deploy people on the roads as it negates the Lagos State Road Traffic Law, Section 18, 2018, which empowers only the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority to carry out such operations on the roads,” he added.

In March 2023, The PUNCH reported that the Lagos State Government arrested four suspected hoodlums in some parts of the state over extortion.

The suspects were arrested in the Amuwo-Odofin area of the state while attempting to extort motorists.

 

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N10bn fraud: EFCC to arraign Abdulfattah Ahmed, ex-Kwara Governor Friday

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The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission will arraign the immediate-past governor of Kwara State, Abdulfattah Ahmed, for alleged N10bn fraud on Friday, The PUNCH has learnt.

Credible sources in the anti-graft agency said the ex-governor would be dragged before the Federal High Court in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital.

“He is going to be arraigned on Friday at the Federal High Court in Ilorin for diversion of funds, amounting to N10bn,” the source told our correspondent.

The ex-governor has been detained by the EFCC since Monday when he honoured an invitation for interrogation.

His Chief Press Secretary, Alhaji AbdulWahab Oba, confirmed his principal’s visit to the EFCC office on Monday, stating that it was only “procedural and routine”.

“Dr Ahmed’s visit to the EFCC is procedural and routine. He was invited and he honoured them as he’s always done. He’s always ready to respond to any query or question regarding his tenure as a governor of the state.”

On Tuesday night, Oba lamented that the EFCC was still holding on to Ahmed, saying he was given stringent bail conditions.

“Yes, he is still with the EFCC and we are now in a dilemma over the issue because they keep changing the goalpost during the match. The case is taking a new dimension, which we don’t really understand for now.

“Initially they said they wanted him to produce two sureties who are federal directors. The sureties came and were asked to provide landed properties in Abuja. We see this as a contradiction. The case was initially handled by the EFCC office in Abuja before it was transferred to Ilorin over the issue of jurisdiction. Additionally, he has been denied access to his doctors, medication and direct access to his cook,” Oba said.

Meanwhile, members of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party in Kwara State on Wednesday staged a peaceful protest to the EFCC zonal office in Ilorin, where Ahmed was being detained.

The protesters, who carried placards with various inscriptions, expressed displeasure over Ahmed’s detention.

Led by the state Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Olusegun Adewara, the party members alleged that the All Progressives Congress in the state was behind Ahmed’s troubles.

Some of the inscriptions on their placards read: “EFCC should stop being a tool in the hands of Abdulrazaq led-APC”, “Governor Ahmed was very transparent”, “EFCC is not a department in the APC, EFCC, stop the harassment”, “The opposition cannot be silenced”, “Maigida will not join the APC no matter the persecution”, “EFCC, don’t instigate political crisis in Kwara State”, “No to illegal detention. Respect the rule of law”, among others.

But addressing the protesters, the zonal commander of the EFCC, Michael Nzekwe, said Ahmed had been given an administration bail but he could not meet the conditions.

“We’re wrapping up. Once we wrap up, the law will take its course. The anti-graft agency, being a creation of law, would not go contrary to law.

“Everything we’ve done is within the ambit of the law. The former governor is cooperating with us and we’re making good progress following rules of law. As I speak, he’s with his lawyer, a SAN; he attends to everyone who comes to see him, and he has a doctor who has attended to him. He eats what he wants to eat. I urge us to allow the law take its course. We’re not partisan nor prompted by anybody. This body is solely sponsored by the Federal Government,” Nzekwe said.

 

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