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An Open Letter to Mr. President

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By Olusegun Akande

Your Excellency, first of all I want to let you know that on more than a few occasions during the past few months a reminder of the fact that you lost four presidential elections before finally securing the public’s mandate to govern Africa’s largest economy has been a great inspiration and encouragement to me. Your tremendous achievement reminds me that divine destiny doesn’t necessarily mean an easy journey.

A few days ago I came across an article in the Economist – The Secrets of their (Scandanavian Countries) Success.

The article focused on two main areas – 1. Welfare, and 2. Pragmatism

It was no surprise to me that a nation with a good welfare system as its’ foundation is more likely than not to be a prosperous and successful one.

Why?

Because a government governs best with its’ people in tow and in support; and a nation prospers most when its’ people and its’ government are in unison in Ideology, Desire, and Implementation.

If I were to score the performance of your government so far I would give it 25% – a score based entirely on your desire to build a new nation in which the less privileged are well catered for. I passionately agree with this desire, but unfortunately I’m not able to support your policies because as yet there don’t seem to be any.

Has your government actually studied the principles of a welfare state? More importantly are the members of your government fully in support of a welfare state? The unfortunate stillbirth of your first budget suggests there are many within this government. – both the Executive and Legislature – that couldn’t care less about the less privileged.

Furthermore does the public you serve understand your vision? And the policies / strategies you intend to utilise in achieving it? Surely the support of your government and the people that voted you in is key to your success?!

There’s something political leaders of developed nations have learned to do with such aplomb; and that is winning the support and backing of the public in order to enforce the support of your administration. Power is addictive. Once ministers and policy makers recognise that failing to toe the line can lead to an angry response from the electorate, and thereby a loss of their seat, they tend to behave themselves.

But unfortunately we the public have absolutely no idea what your vision is and even less an idea of your policies. After nine months in office, not once have you addressed the nation -the very people that voted you in – to explain your socio economic policies. A nation is built on the attitude of its people. The attitude of the people is often determined by the Ideology, Policies, and Attitude of the government. The two are intertwined; hence the saying ‘you get the government you deserve’.

We have no idea what you desire and how you want to achieve it. All we know is that you dislike corruption. We also dislike corruption; but surely there comes a time when anti-corruption news for breakfast, lunch, and dinner is no longer enough for our well-being??!!

At some point we need to start believing in something else as well – such as a well structured economic policy. What really concerns me is that the statement many have been making for several months, but which I refused to accept is now starting to ring a little too true for comfort; and that is the grim possibility that your government doesn’t actually have an economic blueprint. Please tell me these statements are gravely misguided.

The longer your administration remains silent on the direction we’re heading, the less we believe you know what you’re doing.

Another prominent feature of successful nations is the ability of their governments to be practical.

Surely it’s time to be practical regarding the exchange rate?!! I’m as passionate about self sufficiency as anyone can be, but I also recognise that we cannot be an island. Allowing foreign investments to dry up completely (which is what leaving things as they are will inevitably lead to) is tantamount to economic suicide!

Before going any further I believe it is important for me to point out that I’m not speaking on behalf of the elite few. How could I be when my station in life is so very far from them?! My late father was a civil servant who worked hard to ensure his children attained a good education.

I most probably earn less than many civil servants earn today. But that is not to say that I do not work hard or add value.

I’m speaking on behalf of millions and millions of ordinary, hard-working Nigerians.

If you refuse to be practical then at least explain to us why you insist on not devaluing the exchange rate. Is there a cunning plan that will somehow make everything better? Or is this a case of sit tight and hope for the best?

History tells us that no matter how long you sit tight for, you will eventually have to agree to officially devalue the naira. The parallel market has now become the official market as with all the restrictions and rationing, this is where most businesses buy their foreign exchange from. Goods with import content are now being priced against the parallel market rate, and the lucky few who are still getting N199:1$ are making wide profit margins. By the end of March the naira to dollar exchange rate will most likely have reached NGN500 to US1, if not more!

Your Excellency, even your government, state governments, and their employees are presently reeling from the adverse effects of your refusal to devalue the naira. Their share of oil revenues is still being converted at 199:1; and as a result most of the states cannot afford to pay salaries. Furthermore the inevitable inability to balance your budget will naturally subject future generations to a debt burden once again. The words ‘a vicious cycle’ come to mind.

I fully sympathise with your desire to cater for the masses, even if it means it is at the expense of the well to do. But the irony of your present stance is that the people who will be most severely affected are the masses. After-all a large percentage of the masses are employed by the middle class. The middle class are the people that drive the small /medium sized business sector. Small /medium sized businesses drive the economy.

I do wonder whether we the electorate are presently behaving like the Israelites did in the wilderness after God delivered them from captivity in Egypt. They grumbled on a daily basis; wondering whether it would have been better to remain in Egypt where they at least had a routine and knew when they would eat. However their situation was fairly different. They knew they were being taken to the promised land. ‎

Does the average Nigerian know where you’re taking him / her?

Mr. President, the nation’s economy is in a critical state. Corporations are laying people off by the second, small businesses are barely existing, most people are struggling to make ends meet, government is not paying employees or contractors, and to make matters worse nobody has any idea where we’re going.

I recall getting up at 6.00am on Saturday, 28th March 2015 to vote for you. Despite the knowledge of an impending 6km walk to my polling booth the fervent hope of the better future your government of change would bring made it seem more like a 100 metre dash. A government focused on the welfare of the people; a government for the people, and by the people!

I put my trust in you.

We all put our trust in you by voting for you.

It’s time for you to return that trust by telling us where we’re going, and how you intend to get us there. Kindly reciprocate the trust we put in you by respectfully explaining your plan for the next three years to us – in person, and not through your media spokesman.

We deserve that much.

Yours sincerely, and with kindest regards

Olusegun Akande

Akande is Managing Director of SBA Interactive and Founder of Arise Africa Foundation

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Paris-bound bizman arrested with 111 cocaine wraps

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The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency has arrested a 48-year-old businessman, Emmanuel Orjinze, at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, for ingesting 111 wraps of cocaine.

The suspect, who claimed to be a professional footballer in Europe, was arrested on May 21 during the outward clearance of an Air France flight to Paris, France.

This was made known in a statement signed by the agency’s Director of Media and Advocacy, Femi Babafemi, and shared on the agency’s website on Sunday.

The statement read, “Operatives of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency have arrested a 48-year-old Paris, France-bound businessman, Emmanuel Okechuku Orjinze, for ingesting 111 wraps of cocaine, which he excreted after days of observation in the agency’s custody following his arrest at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.

“Okechukwu, who also claims he is a professional footballer in Europe, was arrested on Tuesday, May 21, during the outward clearance of Air France flight AF 878 from Abuja to Paris, France.

“After a body scan confirmed he ingested illicit drugs, he was taken into custody where he excreted a total of 111 pellets of cocaine that weighed 1.603 kilograms over three days. The suspect claimed he did business in the maritime sector while still scouting for any European football club to engage him. ”

In the same vein, the NDLEA officers operating at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Ikeja, Lagos hinted that they had dismantled another drug trafficking syndicate at the airport.

This, they said in a statement, followed the arrest of four members of the network and the seizure of a total of 8kg of methamphetamine and 7.60kg of Loud, a synthetic strain of cannabis imported from South Africa.

The statement added that a drug trafficking syndicate was busted at the airport when an official was caught with illicit substances in their backpack and bag.

On May 21, 2024, the NDLEA officers, supported by aviation security, intercepted the official at Terminal 1 and discovered the drugs during a search, blowing the lid off the syndicate.

“A swift follow-up operation at the Ajao Estate area of Lagos led to the arrest of two other members of the syndicate: Chris Nwadozie and Chinedu Nwaosu. Further investigation led to the arrest of another member of the cartel working within the airport system on Saturday, May 25,” the statement added.

In a related development, the agency also arrested a freight agent, Sonubi Abiodun, for attempting to export eight parcels of cocaine concealed in paint buckets to the United Kingdom.

Additionally, the NDLEA operatives arrested suspects producing and distributing skuchies, a mixture of black currant and illicit drugs, in Lagos, and recovered 2,480 litres of the psychoactive substance.

In Cross River State, a suspect, Ogar Emmanuel, was arrested with 2.5kg of cannabis, while 290kg of cannabis was recovered from the warehouse of Usani Ikpi, who is still at large. Additionally, three suspects – Sa’adu Sule, Mukhtar Nura, and Hamza Nura – were arrested in Katsina State with 70kg of cannabis, which originated from Ogun State.

The statement added, “No fewer than five suspects including Ezekiel Munda, 30; and Sule Mustapha, 21, were arrested by the NDLEA operatives on Thursday, May 23, during raids at the Karu Abattoir, Jikwoyi and Tora Bora hill area of the FCT, Abuja, where 95.01kg of cannabis and different quantities of opioids were recovered from them.

“In Edo State, operatives arrested a physically challenged notorious drug dealer, Zekere Sufianu, 45, at Auchi town on Wednesday, May 22. At the time of his arrest, he was found with 751 grams of Loud, 178 grams of tramadol, and pills of swinol,” the statement concluded.

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FG suit against 36 govs over LG funds begins

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The Federal Government has approached the Supreme Court with a suit seeking to compel governors of the 36 states of the federation to grant full autonomy to the local governments in their domains.

The suit, marked SC/CV/343/2024, was filed by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), on behalf of the Federal Government.

The Federal Government is urging the apex court to issue “an order prohibiting state governors from unilateral, arbitrary and unlawful dissolution of democratically elected local government leaders for local governments.”

In the suit predicted on 27 grounds, the Federal Government accused the state governors of gross misconduct and abuse of power.

The FG, in the originating summons, prayed the Supreme Court to make an order expressly stating that funds standing to the credit of local governments from the Federation Account should be paid directly to the local governments rather than through the state governments.

The justice minister also prayed for “an order of injunction restraining the governors, their agents and privies from receiving, spending or tampering with funds released from the Federation Account for the benefits of local governments when no democratically elected local government system is put in place in the states.”

The Federal Government further sought “an order stopping governors from constituting caretaker committees to run the affairs of local governments as against the Constitutionally recognised and guaranteed democratically system.”

The originating summons was backed by a 13-paragraph affidavit deposed to by one Kelechi Ohaeri of the Federal Ministry of Justice.

Ohaeri, in the affidavit, averred that the AGF instituted the suit against the governors under the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court on behalf of the Federal Government.

He said,“The Constitution of Nigeria recognises federal, states and local governments as three tiers of government and the three recognised tiers of government draw funds for their operation and functioning from the Federation Account created by the Constitution.

“By the provisions of the Constitution, there must be a democratically elected local government system and the Constitution has not made provisions for any other systems of governance at the local government level other than a democratically elected local government system.

“In the face of the clear provisions of the Constitution, the governors have failed and refused to put in place a democratically elected local government system even where no state of emergency has been declared to warrant the suspension of democratic institutions in the state.

“The failure of the governors to put democratically elected local government system in place is a deliberate subversion of the 1999 Constitution which they and the President have sworn to uphold.

“All efforts to make the governors comply with the dictates of the 1999 Constitution in terms of putting in place a democratically elected local government system has not yielded any result and to continue to disburse funds from the Federation Account to governors for non-existing democratically elected local government is to undermine the sanctity of the 1999 Constitution.

“In the face of the violations of the 1999 Constitution, the Federal Government is not obligated under Section 162 of the Constitution to pay any state, funds standing to the credit of local governments where no democratically elected local government is in place.”

The AGF, therefore, urged the apex court to invoke sections 1, 4, 5, 7 and 14 of the Constitution to declare that the state governors and state Houses of Assembly are under obligation to ensure a democratic system at the third tier of government in Nigeria and to also invoke the same sections to hold that the governors cannot lawfully dissolve democratically elected local government councils.

Furthermore, he urged to invoke sections 1, 4, 5, 7 and 14 of the Constitution to declare that “the dissolution of democratically elected local government councils by the governors or anyone using the state powers derivable from laws enacted by the state Houses of Assembly or any Executive Order is unlawful, unconstitutional, null and void.”

The apex court has fixed Thursday, May 30 for hearing.

Meanwhile, the Nigerian Union of Local Government Employees hailed the move by the Federal Government, saying it would join the lawsuit as a concerned party.

 

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JUST IN: Tribunal affirms Diri as Bayelsa governor

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The Bayelsa State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja, on Monday, upheld the election that produced Governor Douye Diri of Bayelsa State.

A three-man panel led by Justice Adekunle Adeleye dismissed the petition filed by the candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Timipre Sylva, and the party for lacking in merit.

In a unanimous decision, the tribunal held that the petitioners failed to prove any credible evidence to back up any of the allegations they raised against the re-election victory of Diri.

Details shortly…

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