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OPINION

Like Buhari, Tinubu Starts Strong With Budget Padding

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Tinubu and Buhari

By Ikeddy Isiguzo*

On Wednesday 23 November 2022, Abubakar Malami, Minister of Justice of President Muhammadu Buhari, was regaling himself with stories of $1 billion recovery, his latest figures being $300 million from Switzerland in 2017. He said nothing about the $20 million that the United States returned more recently. The amount was too small for accountability.
The matter of the day was the padding of the 2023 budget, the last budget of the administration in which he had served since 2015. It was no longer discussed in hushed tunes. Three Ministers – Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management, and Social Development, Defence, and Health – had publicly accused the Minister of Finance Mrs Zainab Ahmed of inflating their budgets. Can anywhere be more public than the National Assembly where the allegations were made?
Euphemistically called budget padding, instead of looting public funds, which it is, these three eminent Ministers in the same party, All Progressives Congress, APC, accused their colleague publicly. Malami said the Federal Government was studying the revelations and would explore available measures to deal with them. How long would the study last?
“Whichever way one looks at it, budget padding is bad. If you budget N5bn for roads and N3bn of that fund is diverted, it means the government has lost that money and it will take longer to complete the project. The government is concerned and will do what is necessary to address the issue,” the Minister said.
Malami meant the government would do nothing, absolutely nothing. He dropped a hint that budget padding could be as high as 60 per cent if we are to follow his N5 billion/N3 billion example.
The matter had been closed. Malami fought corruption by minimalisation. His ministerial colleague was accused by other colleagues of N206 billion budget padding, and his best example of the possible impact of inflating the budget was with N5 billion. Where he operated, there may not be a difference between N206 billion and N5 billion.
The anti-corruption war died and had a public funeral between July and August 2016, just a year into the Buhari administration, and with Buhari’s first budget. A tugging of our minds could be necessary.
Abdulmumuni Jibrin, Chairman of the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee, and APC member from Kano State, had accused Speaker Yakubu Dogara of padding the budget with N40 billion for himself and principal officers of the House. Jibrin made a show of taking tomes of documents that he said had the proofs to the offices of different security agencies. There was live television coverage of the event.
Jibrin said he was involved in the crimes and was ready to be punished, too. Things moved fast. A 206-member Transparency Group emerged in the House, asking Dogara to resign after he made demeaning remarks about other geo-political zones to justify the allegations against him.
Dogara struck. Jibrin was suspended for 180 days for violating the privileges of members. Not a single voice rose in his defence. His politics was a sore thumb in the anti-corruption fights that Malami supports.
Nobody was investigated. No trials. No convictions. Maybe it is important to mention that none of the characters in this sleaze had immunity, the major legal reason given for not prosecuting public fund looters.
Jibrin’s vuvuzela ran its course. The political eclipse of Jibrin in that era started with his remarkable fight against the leadership of the National Assembly.
Unlike Senator Abdul Ningi, who made general insinuations about money that was not tied to any projects, Jibrin was specific and had loads of documents that he handed over to the security agencies. Were they impressed?
Perhaps, because Jibrin is from the North, nobody accused him of trying to pull Dogara down because they were from different parts of the country.
When Senate Leader Michael Opeyemi Bamidele speaks of “a failed coup” against Godswill Akpabio, the Senate President, he deliberately misses the point. What we had was a successful coup against the people. Where was the interest of the people represented in those unclear projects for which trillions had been set aside?
Opeyemi was happy that as a lawyer and public administrator for decades, he would gloss over the allegations and proudly tell us he got N500 million for constituency projects. Does he know what others got assuming he thinks the N500 million he got was a lot of money? Was that a reward for being in Akpabio’s corner and the divisive insinuation that Akpabio was being made to account because he was from the South?
Any suggestion that Akpabio represents anyone other than himself is the sort of ad hominem response only an Akpabio acolyte can give.
Next, Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume sprang to his feet to impress us with his legendary self-importance. He got more than N500 billion, he said, and that he would not tell us how much. The issue was still the opaque dispersal of public resources that have been personalised.
Similar arrogance was Dogara’s response in 2016. He pointedly alluded to knowing what he was doing. He reminded us that he was a lawyer and that there was no crime called “budget padding”. Nothing happened to him even after he shunned an invitation from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
President Tinubu sees the questionable use of national resources for personal gains as a matter for the Senate. He will not intervene, supposedly on the principles of separation of powers. Is Akpabio in charge of the Senate’s version of the resolute nepotism that the President has shown in his appointments that abhor reflection of federal spread?
Akpabio deserves pity while he gloats about diminishing the Senate yet blames others for his failure to provide leadership. The last strips of his integrity are at stake. He should answer questions clearly about the issues Senator Ningi asked and the newer ones the co-owners of the Senate Bamidele and Ndume have raised.
We remember that Tinubu promised to continue Buhari’s projects. He has already exceeded Buhari in every way. Under Buhari, budget padding was alleged to be in billions. Now, the figures alleged are in trillions. Is that not a monumental achievement under a year, no matter how we blame the unstable Naira?
Nigeria is broke. Oil, the country’s main revenue source, is stolen so much at source that revenue has dwindled to very low levels. Funding of the budget includes foreign loans. Some people are making hay throwing the loans into the wind, as if they do not know where they will land.

Finally…
A VIDEO of some official louts breaking the legs of a private sector competitor in the growing extortion industry in Anambra State caused me personal distress. Almost everyone I called confirmed that it was a common practice and tried to justify it. Torture is among the crimes the Constitution is specifically against. I learnt the State Government had arrested the louts. But what happens to the shattered legs of the man they tortured? I assume that he survived the torture.
KIDNAPPING is thriving again. The targets again are students. The incidents are so frequent that a President whose aides say gets a few hours of sleep daily, as he broods over Nigeria, cannot visit, all the places. More than words are necessary to address this matter that affects the present, and the future.
When the President decides to name an airport after himself he should be bold enough to say so, in the same way he has shown that the entire country is his. It is disingenuous to pretend that Niger State Government named an airport that belonged to the President after the President? What is the hurry, though, in naming the airport after Tinubu? Muhammadu Buhari, his mentor named an airport after himself but on the last day of his eight-year tenure.

  • *Isiguzo is a major commentator on minor issues

OPINION

The Scourge Of Rising Inflation

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By Dakuku Peterside*
An increasing number of Nigerians are being driven into poverty, not by choice, but by the current political and economic climate, shaped by stringent macroeconomic policies. These policies, such as subsidy removal, devaluation of Naira, and increase in electricity tariff, have had unintended consequences. For instance, removing subsidies has led to a significant increase in the cost of living, while the devaluation of Naira has made imported goods more expensive. These factors, combined with the high level of insecurity, have affected food security in Nigeria and created a perfect storm of economic hardship. The signs of this unavoidable reality are readily apparent. The interventions to prevent this descent into poverty are either ineffectual or remedy the condition too slowly.
An unprecedented rise in inflation has destroyed households’ disposable incomes and pushed many families into poverty. Spiralling inflation is having a devastating impact on all, but especially on households in the lower rungs of the working class, who in their millions are joining the already over 133 million multidimensionally poor Nigerians struggling to earn a living because high inflation has eroded the value of their income. As shown by the NBS Consumer Price Index of April 2024, published in May 2024, the headline inflation rate rose to 33.69% in April 2024 compared to March. The headline inflation rate was 11.47% higher in April 2024 compared to the previous year. During the same period, inflation in urban areas was higher than in rural areas. Even worse, the food inflation rate in April 2024 was 40.53%, increasing by 15.92% compared to April 2023. What does this mean for the ordinary citizen? More money can purchase fewer goods and services.
We cannot dismiss the direct correlation between rising inflation and rising poverty in Nigeria. A household with a monthly income of N300,000 in April 2023 would have lost 33.69% of its real purchasing power if it earned the same amount in April 2024. This means that the same amount of money can now buy significantly fewer goods and services, putting a strain on the household’s budget. Imagine this household struggled in 2023 to make ends meet; how will it cope with less than 33% of its value in goods and services this year? It is little wonder many Nigerians are in despair and are calling on the government to tweak its policies and salvage the situation before it is too late. Families in the earning bracket mentioned above are even better than many whose total income is less than N100,000 if both parents in the household earn minimum wages per month.
The government intervention so far, with the best of intentions, has yielded little result as inflation continues unabated. The monetary policies of increasing base interest rates to above 22%, improving the cash reserve ratio by banks to above 40%, and constantly engaging in the money market to mop up excess liquidity have yielded less than the expected result in curbing inflation. More is needed, and my little knowledge of street economics shows me that the Nigerian economy often defies some fundamental economic concepts that work in developed countries because of our economy’s informal and unregulated nature. The Nigerian government must creatively use other bespoke and practical fiscal and monetary measures to tame our raging inflation.
Paradoxically, there is compelling evidence that inflation continues to rise because of critical government policies. Instead of providing more concerted anti-inflationary measures, the government has added more inflationary steps to the economy. The government cannot confront inflation while imposing limitless taxes, tariffs, and charges on the things that people spend money on daily. The impact of excess tax is on everybody, but the burden is more on people experiencing poverty whose purchasing power has been eroded by inflation. The government cannot tax itself out of our economic predicament. Increasing personal income tax is one way the government reduces disposable income to curb demand-pull inflation, but the inflation in Nigeria is not because of an increase in household income, but caused by cost-induced factors. So tax on people whose income has not increased in the past year is a recipe for hardship.
Other factors also imperil government efforts to curb inflation. Imported inflation has been the bane of Nigeria, given the number of raw materials and goods imported into Nigeria from countries with high inflation rates. This is not helped by the new exchange rate regime that has seen the Naira fall to its lowest value in a generation. The government has been trying to control the erosion of the value of Naira to no avail. The increasing cost of energy has pushed some businesses to pack up. These factors have exacerbated the rise of inflation, and unless the government starts tackling them, it cannot effectively win its fight against runaway inflation.
The consequences of inaction are severe and far-reaching. The system requires a set of anti-inflationary measures to relieve the people and companies so that livelihoods can improve, and real incomes recover from shock to encourage people to live and save. Savings and prosperity will fire up investment, production, supply, and consequent demand. If inflation worsens, the economy will, at best, go into stasis, further regression, and possibly depression. More manufacturers will quit, and unemployment will worsen with even more crime and insecurity. The picture I painted above is not far from us.
Recent statistics about the hunger level in Nigeria occasioned by food inflation are alarming. There is a deteriorating food security and nutrition crisis in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe (BAY) states this lean season between May and September 2024. According to the Government-led Cadre Harmonise analysis released in March this year, in Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe states, some 4.8 million people are estimated to be facing severe food insecurity, the highest level in seven years. Children, pregnant and lactating women, older persons, and people living with disabilities are among those who are most vulnerable. About 2.8 million of these people need urgent interventions.
The prices of staple foods like beans and maize have increased by 300 to 400 per cent over the past year because of a cocktail of reasons. Inflation is outpacing the ability of families to cope, making essential food items unaffordable. Furthermore, the report stated that “malnutrition rates are of great concern. Approximately 700,000 children under five are projected to be acutely malnourished over the next six months, including 230,000 who are expected to be severely acutely malnourished and at risk of death if they do not receive timely treatment and nutrition support.”  The Acting Representative of UNICEF Nigeria argues that “this year alone, we have seen around 120,000 admissions for the treatment of severe acute malnutrition with complications, far exceeding our estimated target of 90,000”.  These statistics are for only 3 states in Northeast Nigeria. Imagine what it will be like for the whole 36 States in Nigeria. There is real fire on the mountain!
This rising hunger is not peculiar to the Northeast. From my knowledge of street economics, hunger and poverty is pervasive across all six geopolitics zones. Increasing poverty is directly linked with more severe economic outcomes. Increasing poverty can result in a more divided society, Issues with housing, homelessness, limited access to healthcare, nutrition poverty and poor living conditions that have a detrimental effect on one’s health. Children living in poverty have less access to education, which will reduce their chances in the future. More families facing poverty will experience conflicts, stress, and domestic violence. Poverty can set off a vicious cycle in which the effects of it act as catalysts for additional episodes of poverty. Increasing inflation and poverty are bad omens that blow us no good. They are bad for our economy. They are bad for our people. The government must pay attention to these factors and be more sensitive in our economic policy choices.
Only some anti-inflationary measures that comprehensively capture the macroeconomic dimensions and provide solutions may work. Poverty alleviation measures are barely temporary and, at best, work in the short run to cushion the effect of heightened inflation and food insecurity. The government should provide solid medium- to long-term solutions to tackle these problems. They should re-evaluate some of their policies to see whether they are inflationary and jettison them to allow good policies to thrive. We can only imagine the unintended consequences of allowing poverty and inflation to fester. The increasing inflation and poverty are creating desperation among a portion of society, which is increasingly becoming despondent and seeing itself at the fringes of society. The implications of this are plausible. Many ordinary citizens are burdened by poverty, hunger, and severe inflation, which have made their lives miserable. The government must take action to alleviate this scourge and help Nigerians lead meaningful lives.

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OPINION

New Approach To Combatting Terrorism In Nigeria: Truth Alliance And The Path Forward

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Terrorists

By Ahmed Mustapha*

Three weeks ago, a high-level UN counter-terrorism summit in Abuja concluded that a new approach to fighting terrorism was needed across Africa.

As the head of one of Nigeria’s largest NGOs dealing with this problem, I strongly agree and hope that the conclusions of this meeting will herald new and exciting approaches to reducing the risk of more violence and its terrifying consequences for the people of this country and the Continent of Africa.

The summit gathered one month after the brutal kidnapping of over 100 students from Kuriga, Kaduna State.  Even more recent kidnappings show how the terrifying reality of violent extremism remains in Nigeria. Both provide a stark reminder of the ruthless tactics of terrorist or violent extremist groups who target innocent civilians, using suicide bombers in markets, places of worship, and crowded venues, further exacerbating the region’s humanitarian crisis – all to further their cause.

As the summit discussed, the terror unleashed by Boko Haram, Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), and their likes has led to widespread displacement, with millions forced into refugee and internally displaced persons (IDP) camps under dire conditions. The social fabric of entire communities has been torn apart, with trust eroded and countless families mourning the loss of loved ones.

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But there is hope.  Our pioneering work to reduce the risk of violence and rehabilitate those who leave these groups and the tireless works of other groups like us give points to a new way forward.

Our work in affected communities is heralding great results and pointing to a new wave of defections and surrenders from Boko Haram for those fed up with the hypocrisy of its leadership, the brutality of its actions and the cruel manipulation of those whose job it is to recruit people into their ranks.

That is why a group of stakeholders, CSOs and concerned citizens formed the ‘The Truth Alliance’ – a network committed to unmasking the truth behind violent and extremist groups and empowering communities to resist tyranny and violence. Through education, outreach, and collaboration, the Truth Alliance strives to build a safer, more resilient society for all.

In a campaign tagged ‘Time to Tell the Truth’, the Truth Alliance has come together to expose the truth behind how violent extremist groups draw young people into their ranks. Their message is simple: these groups manipulate, they deceive, they control, they kill, and they destroy the hopes and dreams of people, their families and the communities in which they live.

In a new report, the Alliance has highlighted what we call “the significant revelations about the internal conflicts and growing disenchantment within Boko Haram.” We believe the group’s cohesion and operational effectiveness are weakening, illuminating the underlying vulnerabilities within its ranks.

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The personal testimonies from young insurgents who defected in April provide a disturbing glimpse into the group’s operations and the brutal reality that reveals the truth behind their recruitment practices, which contradict the group’s recruitment propaganda.  This manipulative recruitment strategy targets the most vulnerable, often deceiving them with twisted interpretations of religious texts.

The report also describes how Boko Haram, infamous for its brutal campaign of violence, has long engaged in atrocities, including mass kidnappings, indiscriminate killings, and the exploitation of children as soldiers. However, the growing number of surrenders and defections from Boko Haram indicates a loss of control and diminishing morale among its members.

If we act fast, these internal fractures are critical vulnerabilities that could provide opportunities for regional security forces to capitalise on. This could potentially accelerate the group’s decline and herald exactly what the summit asked for—a new scale of effort to tackle this enduring and terrifying problem facing the people of Nigeria.

*Mustapha is the spokesperson for The Truth Alliance and can be reached via info@truthalliance.org.ng

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OPINION

Manchester City Beat West Ham  To Become First Team To Win English League Title Four Seasons In A Row

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With Manchester City needing a win to be sure of holding off Arsenal, who started the final day two points behind but with a better goal difference, Phil Foden put Pep Guardiola’s side ahead after just two minutes.

The England star added another before the break and although Mohammed Kudus pulled one back, midfielder Rodri restored the home side’s two-goal cushion with a shot from the edge of the area after 59 minutes.

City survived a late scare when West Ham had a second goal ruled out by VAR for handball.

However, their victory was never seriously in doubt

The win completed a staggering run of 19 wins and four draws since their last defeat in the league, at Aston Villa on 6 December.

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City have now won six out of the past seven Premier League titles. Last term, they joined Huddersfield, Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United, twice, in winning the top flight three years in a row.

Now Guardiola’s team have achieved something no other side has managed since the English league was formed in 1888, 136 years ago.

On 25 May they will aim to become the first side to complete the domestic Double in successive seasons when they face Manchesterter United in the FA Cup final at Wembley.

Foden has already collected the Football Writers’ Association and Premier League Player of the Year awards. Few would argue against a clean sweep when the Professional Footballers’ Association eventually confirms theirs.

At 23, Foden now has six titles to his name. He is still a long way behind Ryan Giggs, who holds the record with 13.

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However, it is worth noting Giggs did not achieve his sixth until he was 26 and while the Welshman was 39 when he got his last, given City’s current dominance, Foden is likely to keep chipping away at that total in the short term.

Guardiola feels there is further improvement in the England international, but he has already developed his all-round game, makes better runs with and without the ball, and his close control is sublime.

James Ward-Prowse must have felt he was chasing shadows as he closed in to make a tackle when Bernardo Silva provided Foden with a square pass. But with one touch, Foden ghosted away from the West Ham man before delivering the perfect finish.

There was no real evidence of nerves in the crowd before kick-off. City had not lost at home all season and they had a 100% winning record against West Ham on home soil since Guardiola arrived in 2016 .

The visitors had nothing to play for, manager David Moyes is leaving and top-scorer Jarrod Bowen was ruled out with tonsillitis.

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But any home anxiety that did exist was rapidly swept away.

Foden’s second – his 26th goal of the season – wasn’t long in arriving as Jeremy Doku delivered a slide-rule, square pass through a crowd of bodies to the edge of the six-yard area. Foden was calmness personified in a frantic situation and found the net with a first-time finish.

Only a bit of bad luck and West Ham keeper Alphonse Areola prevented West Ham being completely swept away in the first half hour.

The France keeper turned away De Bruyne’s vicious free-kick, repelled Doku twice and also denied Manuel Akanji. Rodri, Erling Haaland, acrobatically, and Josko Gvardiol all missed the target from reasonably close range.

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