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Firm Recommits To Closing Service Gaps In Engineering Standards

BGEN international has stated that it’s committed to closing service gaps in engineering standards across Africa, adding that this would enhance capacity building by training and re-skilling homegrown talents to deliver on local and international projects to strengthen market operations.

This, it said, would enhance capacity building, strengthen market operations and deepen Africa capacity in the key areas of industrialisation such that it will drive growth in manufacturing sector with the adoption of cleaner energy sources to reducing gas flaring emission which it said has high negative impact of carbon emissions and carbon monoxide in human health and industries.

The company mentioned that it’s setting up an Academy in Africa to deploy potential engineers for training, saying that this will deepen institutional partnership and unlock skills for apprenticeship programmes to break even into the Nigerian market and across Africa boundaries.

While stating that the process will drive artisanal training, instrumentation to provide a range of mechanical and electrical services including design and management, HVAC and building services, instrumentation and control systems, LV assemblies and system integration, LV/MV power distribution, piping systems and steel fabrication.

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Speaking on the development, managing director, BGEN International, Don Foy said BGEN academy would have workshops for training artisans to exploring their skills in mechanical, electrical engineering to drive the BGEN quality standards adding that this further strengthen their operations as a multinational based investor in engineering services.

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Foy stated that BGEN will attract local expertise across Africa to establish market to develop several projects across Africa with their 30 years professional and quality standards in engineering footprint.

On cleaner energy sources, Foy stated that they will bring in technology that will devise alternative ways of renewable energy sources to reduce carbon emissions while stating that the adoption of cleaner energy sources would ensure a better climate change for the manufacturing sector and industries.

He said the distribution of solar distribution process and adoption of diesel generators will bring an effective climate change.

Also, the company will initially support its existing and new Nigerian-based clients along with those based in countries including Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ghana and Kenya.

On his part, International &strategic business director at BGEN, Vinnie Edge stated that the academy is committed to training people in building their skills by adopting technical knowledge to develop the capacity of Nigerians with high standards while adding that this will be promising time for young talents in Nigeria.

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The team combined, with more the 60 years’ experience would operate in the continent, with the specific market entry expertise, an exceptional understanding of the African marketplace, and a wealth of engineering knowledge.

Vinnie Edge affirmed that “We already have an enviable client list including multinationals such as Diageo, Mondelez and PZ Cussons, having successfully completed more than 200 projects in Africa,”

“We’re looking forward to supporting local and international businesses in the region with bespoke electrical and mechanical engineering services to help optimise their operations. At a personal level, I’m looking forward to supporting the company as we look to create a positive legacy in the continent.”

The operation will be headed up by a senior management team including Vinnie Edge (international & strategic business director at BGEN), Don Foy (managing director at BGEN International, Nigeria) and Bolaji Sofoluwe (chair of BGEN International, Nigeria).

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Free Seed Movement Still Hampered Despite ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme

Despite ECOWAS trade liberalisation scheme, the problem of free movement of seeds within the ECOWAS region  still persists.

This was among the challenges identified by stakeholders at the 4th edition of Seed Connect Africa 2021 Conference and Exhibition in Abuja to be hampering availability of quality seed for farmers in Nigeria.

In a communique issued at the close-out of the conference, stakeholders who were drawn from the National Agricultural Seeds Council (NASC), IAR&T- Lead Rappoteurs,  Intera  Networks Ltd, SEEDAN among others jointly agreed  that ECOWAS should increase advocacy among member nations to facilitate the implementation of the regional agreement.

Other challenges identified to pose threat to robust seed industry in Nigeria include the activities of seed fraudsters, low inclusion of women and youths in seed business and other various seed value chains and encroachment of inter-agencies roles.

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Also crop productivity with emphasis on maize is still considered to be marginal due to low level of penetration of hybrid seeds into the system, difficulty in assessing high quality inbred lines, utilization of land races and old varieties, orchestrated by limited research fund were identified as some of the problems bedevilling the resilience of seed industry in Nigeria.

There is also low level adoption of improved seed  in the seed system arising  from unstructured nature of the informal market, diverse perception of farmers on seed support, to none availability of the seeds.

To address these challenges, stakeholders suggested the repositioning of NARIs and academic institutes towards addressing their major mandates, shifting from headquarter based organizations and provision of more fund for research  to bridge the gap between demand and supply of quality seeds.

Stakeholders were also charged to provide  ancillary services in remote seed production clusters, aggressive seed promotional programmes is recommended to be adopted by seed companies to enhance farmers’ knowledge on the potentials of the improved seed and bridge the gap between demand and supply.

They identified the role of technology in terms of varietal development  as being important for the optimal agricultural productivity in the country and encouraged  stakeholders in the Industry  to develop profitable collaborations in achieving the goal of building a resilient and robust seed industry in Nigeria and the region at large.

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How Telecom Shutdown Impacted Lives In Zamfara, Kaduna

The pronouncement by Governor Bello Muhammad Matawalle of Zamfara State last Saturday promising to restore telecommunication network in 13 local government areas of the state by Tuesday was received with high  celebration by the citizens, especially considering the impact of the shutdown strategy on the people in especially the rural communities.

While people patiently waited for the fulfilment of that promised, their hope was dashed when till yesterday the  local government areas remained without telecom services even as no explanation was given by the government.

On Thursday night the state commissioner for information Ibrahim Dosara released a statement explaining reasons for the continued  shutdown of networks. Citizens took to the media to express mixed opinions on the sincerity of the government in its own pronouncements.

“This is to notify the general public that following the directives by His Excellency the Governor Bello Matawalle Maradun to restore all networks of telecommunications services, the directive is on course.

The attention of the general public is therefore hereby drawn to  the processes involved in the restoration of the telecommunications networks.

“These include the legal procedure of drafting and signing of the executive order permitting the restoration, the survey of the current security situation in each of the 14 local government areas to ascertain the type of arrangements to be put in place after the restoration of the telecommunications networks,

“The request for the restoration from the Minister of Communications and NCC which must be nacked up with the security reports and other bureaucratic procedures involved.

“The government therefore pleads with the good and law abiding people of the state to exercise more patience, as all the processes are on course.

“The Attorney General and Commissioner for justice has given  the assurance that the executive order is almost completed and will soon be forwarded  to His Excellency for signing.

“In the same vein, security situation reports from various communities and local government areas are being compiled for onward submission to the Honourable minister of Communications and digital economy along with our letter of request,” the government later explained.

But reactions trailed the u-turn  of the government regarding the effect of the new development.

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A legal practitioner, Barr. Bello Idris Galadi said the statement further exposed the weaknesses of the government.

He said by virtue of the statement the governor should have waited until all the procedures and conditions were fulfilled before going to the public to make the pronouncement.

He added that it should be good for a leader to make statement which the people would take with high degree of confidence and not the other way around.

“When a leader issues a statement without wider consultation he is bound to get things wrong,” Galadi added.

On the impact of communication shutdown, Galadi said the impact was less to reckon with because there had been continued recorded cases of attacks and kidnappings in the state.

“No matter what was recorded in terms of successes, we may not know because the government has not been communicating to us regarding what is happening in terms of fighting the activities of bandits across the state,” he said.

Also, speaking, Zamfara State Coordinator of the National Human Rights Commission, Mr. Abdallah, said the integrity of the governor and that of his government was at stake since he had been making statements that were not seeing the light of the day.

He said it was unfortunate that the governor promised to open the network but it had not been restored as at Thursday.

He added that when Tambuwal visited Goronyo after the massacre of his citizens he instantly made pronouncement and the NCC complied by opening the telecommunication in all the affected local governments and asked why it was different in Zamfara.

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Regarding the successes of the telecommunication network, Abdallah wondered how people from the government would keep telling Zamfara citizens that successes had been recorded when people were being attacked on the daily basis.

“Even yesterday they blocked Shinkafi road three times, and we have evidence with pictures and last night they attacked several communities in various parts of the state.

“I told you a few days back that I slept at Yankara when the bandits blocked the road and the police along the border had to rely on the commuters to be accessing information because there was no network to communicate,” he said.

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Another legal practitioner in Zamfara Barr. Abdullahi Ma’aji Governor Bello Matawalle may be right for not talking to Zamfara people on the reason for not re-opening of the network in other local government areas of the state.

He said there were certain executive decisions that the governor may make pronouncements over, but due to some emerging issues they may not happen as planned and the reason may not necessarily be made public.

On the successes recorded since the shutdown of the network, Ma’aji said, the measures recorded about 65% success even though he expected up to between 70% to 80%.

He emphasized that even if not for anything the crippling of the power of the informants was a good achievement because for now, they don’t have access to the network through which they can speak to the bandits in the forest.

“We all know the danger of strategic places like Garejin Mai Laina, Lalan and other places’ shutdown by the government of Zamfara, and we knew how informants took advantage of the nature of these places to cause serious problem for the innocent people,” he said.

In Kaduna, the commissioner for internal security and home affairs, Samuel Aruwan, had announced the restoration of the network services recently.

However, residents while commending the state government for restoring network services urged government to take the full  war to the bandits.

A resident of Sabon Tasha, Geoffrey Akpan, claimed that bandits were still operating as the ban was in force.

“The ban of telecommunications services did not end banditry, bandits were still operating. However, we thank the state government for lifting the network ban. We also acknowledge the government’s efforts in ending the insecurity in the state.”

Another resident, Joe Haruna, decried the continued attacks of bandits on some communities especially in Ungwuan Gimbiya in Sabon Tasha: “The state government is doing its best but they should do more. Bandits have continued attacking many communities especially in Chikun local government. To be honest, during the ban of telecommunications services, reports of kidnapping were reduced but the economy was going down.”

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KANO APC CRISIS: Shekarau Faction Petitions IGP

The Ibrahim Shekarau faction of the All Progressives Congress (APC) has named officials in the government of Abdullahi Ganduje, including two commissioners and four local government chairmen, as those behind a recent arson attack on the campaign office of Senator Barau Jibrin.

In a petition to the Inspector General of Police, Usman Alkali Baba, dated December 2, 2021, Shakarau along with five other lawmakers, asked the police chiefs to investigate and prosecute the officials.

The petition was signed Senator Shekarau, Senator Barau Jibrin, Hon. Nasiru Abduwa, Hon. Tijjani Abubakar Jobe, Hon. Shaban Sharada and Hon. Haruna Isa Dederi.

They also vowed not to embark on reprisal attacks as that is exactly what the attackers want, which could turn Kano into a killing field.

Though a number of officials were named, when contacted for a response to the petition, the state commissioner for Information, Muhammad Garba, declined to comment, insisting it was purely a party affair.

The petition noted: “We are senior elected government officials serving in both chambers of the National Assembly.

You will recall that on the 30th of November, 2021, an FCT High Court had delivered judgement in a suit concerning Kano APC Congress and said judgement did not go down well with those who lost out.”

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Regrettably however, “instead of fighting their cause through due legal process, these frustrated elements resorted to carrying out the criminal acts mentioned above.

“We have been reliably informed, which information we verily believe to be true and correct that through the night of 1st December, 2021 to the early morning of 2nd December 2021 the persons mentioned below, together with some other well-known thugs organized and set ablaze the campaign office of the Distinguished Senator Barau I. Jibrin who represents Kano North Senatorial District and attempted to kill those they met at the scene.”

According to the petition, the attackers also tried to burn the faction’s party office on Zaria Road and kill or inflict bodily harm to its occupants.

Shekarau and the five other lawmakers also alleged that the attackers passed by the residents with armed thugs chanting war songs in an attempt to unleash violence on law abiding citizens.

Those named in the petition include: “Abdullahi Abbas (former Kano State APC chairman), Murtala Sule Garo (Kano State Commissioner for Local Government), Gwamai (a well-known thug who is even on police wanted list, but still an appointee of Kano State Government), Faizu Alfindiki (chairman of Kano Municipal Local Government Council), Khalid Ishaq Diso (chairman of Gwale Local Government), Hassan Garban Kauye (chairman Kumboto Local Government Council) and Auwal Lawan Shuaibu (chairman of Nasarawa Local Government Council).”

These people, according to Shekarau, led several others in the perpetuation of the criminal act of arson here above mentioned in addition to chanting several words of intimidation threatening the lives of persons who signed the letter of complaint.

They claimed that “It is irrefutable that Abdullahi Abbas is well known throughout Kano for his persistent and arrogant use of abusive language and enlisting the help of thugs.

“We the undersigned as well as our teeming followers in Kano constantly face threats to our lives and safety from the people. It is therefore pertinent to stress that, should anything happen to us and our supporters, the aforementioned people should be held responsible,” they added.

The petitioners called on the IGP to investigate the matter and bring everyone involved to book so as to forestall a breakdown of law and order, as well as prevent reprisal attacks.

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Join Crusade Against Sexual Violence, Sanwo-Olu Tells Religious Leaders

Wife of Lagos State Governor, Dr. Ibijoke Sanwo-Olu on Friday called on religious and community leaders in the state to join the ongoing massive campaign to end violence against women and girls, especially rape and all forms of sexual and gender-based crimes.

She also urged parents and guardians to be watchful and do everything necessary to protect their children and wards from sexual predators.

The governor’s wife spoke separately at the interfaith parley of religious leaders with the governor, organized by the Lagos State ministry of Home Affairs, held in Lagos, and during the official flag-off of Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health Week held at Ikorodu.

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She said as the first point of call in the communities, religious and community leaders have key roles to play in stepping up the fight against rape, defilement, and associated crimes.

“There is a zero-tolerance to rape in Lagos State. We are serious about stamping out domestic violence, gender-based violence, and associated crimes in Lagos. We don’t pray for rape and similar crimes but they do happen and most times religious leaders and community leaders are the first point of contact.

“When you have such cases at hand, whoever has been attacked should not bathe, douche and they should not change their clothes. If the rapist used a condom and you have it, do not destroy it but go straight to the hospital to have a test in order to preserve the evidence.

“If a child is raped and the mother quickly bathes her, you have lost the evidence and you can’t win the case because you don’t have evidence. So, when you are talking to people in our communities, please mention these things,” she said.

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Pfizer Foundation Donates $6.4m To Combat Infectious Diseases In Nigeria, Ghana

The Pfizer Foundation has announced the donation of $6.4 million in grants to address critical infectious disease challenges in Nigeria and Ghana as part of a long-term commitment to help protect underserved communities.

According to data from the Global health Exchange, globally nearly eight million people lose their lives each year from infectious diseases that could be avoided with access to basic healthcare, often in the most underserved communities. Of those lives lost, more than two million are among children under-five, almost half of which take place in West Africa.

In a press statement, made available to LEADERSHIP, the president, The Pfizer Foundation, Caroline Roan, disclosed that the grants which was given to CARE International, International Rescue Committee (IRC) and PATH will support programs to reduce childhood mortality, improve maternal health and address the growing threat of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in the region.

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“The global pandemic has magnified the disproportionate burden of infectious diseases, particularly in resource-limited settings where people have inadequate access to essential health services. We are proud to support the critical work of our partners in West Africa as they create localized approaches to bring quality health services to the community level and address persistent inequities in infectious disease prevention, diagnosis and treatment,” Roan averred.

Through the Infectious Disease (I.D.) Impact Initiative, The Pfizer Foundation has been partnering to create sustainable solutions that help strengthen healthcare systems in West Africa and around the world. This project aimed to reduce under-five mortality through a community-based care model that delivers a core package of quality child health services and enhances community-based surveillance to improve the detection of infectious diseases in Nigerian Yobe state and develop a functional and effective AMR stewardship program within health facilities, aimed at reducing child mortality, in northeast Nigeria’s Borno state.

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This program will serve as a model for other humanitarian health programs, where crisis has contributed to a growing number of drug dispensaries with undertrained staff and knowledge gaps at the community level.

The country manager and cluster lead West Africa, Pfizer Inc, Olayinka Subair said, “Consistent with our responsibility to deliver breakthrough medicines and vaccines into patients’ hands across the world, we collaborate with health care providers, governments, and local communities to support and expand access to reliable, affordable health care. We work every day to provide access to global scientific innovation that can help patients to live longer, healthier lives.”

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Gender Disparity Slowing Uptake of Family Planning Services

Early in July this year, the Sokoto State House of Assembly passed a bill for a law to supplement the provisions of the Penal code law, 2019 and provide for the punishment of offences relating to Gender-Based Violence (GBV).

The bill was passed following the consideration of the report of the House Committee on Judiciary, Justice and Human Rights report

The Committee had recommended that an interpretation section be created in the Bill on all phrases relating to violence against a person that includes abandonment of women, children, circumcision of a girl or women, domestic relationship and violence among others.

According to him, a provision for compensation of victims should be created and the court shall in addition to penalties provided for the offences, award appropriate compensation to the victim as it may deem fit in the circumstance.

The new law also provided that a finding of guilt in rape will be punished with imprisonment for life or for a term of not less than 21 years. It also made various crimes out of female circumcision and wife or children abandonment.

It is yet to be seen how these provisions are enforced. The governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwal said that his government in the past two years has sent half the 1.2 million school-age children roaming the streets of the state back to the classroom.

With so many deficiencies in human development indicators, one wonders if the large families and the low uptake of family planning services in the state is a credit. Sokoto faces a situation of high fertility and low contraceptive use, driven in large part by high-fertility norms, pro-natal cultural and religious beliefs, misconceptions about contraceptive methods, and gender inequalities.

Available data shows that thousands of women in Sokoto State would prefer to avoid becoming pregnant either right away or space the time period between each pregnancy but are not using any contraception. These women are said to have an “unmet need” for family planning.

The 2018 Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS) indicated that the total fertility rate in the northwest of the country where Sokoto sits comfortably as a leader was 6.6 live births per woman, and that women aged 40 to 49 years averaged 8.3 births in their reproductive lifetimes.

This high-fertility situation places women at greater risk of birth complications and maternal mortality. Nigeria currently has more maternal deaths annually than any other country in the world and the fourth highest maternal mortality ratio.

Contraceptive use to limit or space births is not the norm in this region. In the 2018 NDHS, only 6.2 per cent of married women in the northwest were currently using any form of modern contraception, and the majority of married women – 68.7 per cent – reported no need for family planning for either spacing or limiting.

Apart from certain overt reasons such as the need for family preservation, misconceptions around contraceptives and religion, covertly, gender inequality sits at the heart of unmet demand for family planning services in Sokoto State.

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Children in this part of the world are driven by gender power imbalances, fostered by patriarchal social structures in which women have limited autonomy over most decisions, including those affecting marriage, health and fertility. Men are often the final decision-makers on important household matters, including those related to household purchases, health of family members, timing of pregnancies, family size, and education of children. As the decision-makers on family size, men ultimately determine contraceptive use through their fertility desires and approval or disapproval of contraception.

The woman’s limited education chiefly blamed on a culture of early marriage puts her even in a more disadvantaged position.

The Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) Nigeria recently published data from a review of Sexual and Gender Based Violence and the Budget in Sokoto State between 2016-2019 wherein it was found that in 2013, less than 1 per cent of women in Sokoto were using traditional or modern methods of contraception (0.30% and 0.7% respectively) while only 7.5 per cent had unmet need for family planning. In the same year, the national average indicates that 5.40 per cent and 9.8 per cent of women were using traditional and modern contraceptives respectively while the unmet need was 16.1 per cent. This shows that more women were using contraceptives of any type across the nation when compared to the Sokoto percentages.

Also, in 2018, 0.20 and 2.3 per cent were using traditional and modern contraceptives respectively in Sokoto State while the national average was 4.6 and 12 per cent for traditional and modern methods of contraception respectively. Again, this indicates that more women were using contraceptives of any type at the national level when compared with Sokoto State.

A 2021 study published in the BMC Public Health journal found that in the northwest, Sokoto state inclusive, nearly two thirds of adult women have no formal education, and only 29 per cent are considered literate. Forced and early child marriage are common and many girls are married as young as 12. The median age at first marriage is approximately 15.9 years. The median age for men, in contrast, is 25.3 years, revealing considerable age differences, and hence power differentials. In this context, women are valued largely for their reproductive functions.

From a woman’s perspective, fertility is one mechanism by which women can impart some control over marital situations that are largely beyond their control. Wives often see having many children as a way to discourage husbands from taking on other wives, which can affect a wife’s standing within the polygynous familial structure.

In polygynous marriages common in this region, resources and wealth are generally distributed to wives based on the number of children they have, both on a daily basis and at the husband’s death, thereby limiting incentives to use contraception. Researchers have identified conjugal relationship dynamics as explaining 11 per cent of the variation in contraceptive use between northern Nigerian states and southern Nigerian states.

In fact, low fertility can have dire consequences for women as husbands may cite limited childbearing as an excuse to marry additional women and to divorce their existing wives.

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Right to health to which women in Sokoto State are entitled to requires that all sexually active women, whether married or not, need accurate information pregnancy and about the full range of contraceptive options so that they can choose the method that best meets their needs.

Manifestations of gender inequality and sexual violence do not stand on their own but are products of discrimination outlawed in international standards, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) – being products of patriarchy and unequal power relations.

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The prevalent patriarchal practices in different Nigerian cultures continue to predispose women and girls to violence, resulting in poor reproductive and sexual health outcomes, poor access to and control over resources, higher vulnerability to poverty at certain ages in life, poor access to education, lack of inheritance rights, lack of voice and minimal participation in decision making processes at different levels.

The Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa makes elaborate provisions on freedom from violence for women and girls.

The Protocol mandates State Parties to enact and enforce laws to prohibit all forms of violence against women including unwanted sex, whether the violence takes place in private or public as well as identifying the causes and consequences of violence against women and take appropriate measures to prevent and eliminate such violence.

The Sokoto State Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2019 has some interesting provisions. In Section 190, there is a remedy for a married woman against her husband and others in respect of her person and property. It states that a woman who has contracted a valid marriage shall have in her own name against all persons whatsoever including the husband of the marriage the same remedies or redress by way of criminal proceedings for the protection and security of her person or her own separate property as if such property belonged to her as an unmarried woman. The key interesting words for gender rights relate to the protection and security of her person which reinforces the constitutional protection of human dignity.

It is time the Sokoto State House of Assembly enacted the Child Rights Law, Gender and Equal Opportunity Law, Violence Against Persons Prohibition Law and Sexual and Gender Based Violence Response Team in the state.

Equally important is the need to target the male population in gender-based programming against violence and unequal treatment. This is important because improving contraceptive knowledge among women alone will not increase modern contraceptive use. Women do not make family planning decisions in a vacuum, there are social influences from husbands, family members, and health care providers.

While at that, more emphasis should be given to the dissemination of reproductive and contraceptive information through the mass media in order to get a wider circulation.

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Day Katsina Stood Still For Akpabio

By Jonathan Nda- Isaiah

Information about his planned visit to the state had spread like a wildfire all over the nooks and crannies of the state and when he finally landed at the Katsina State International Airport, at about noon on the 26th of November, 2021, the enthusiastic crowd went into a frenzy.

The Minister, Niger Delta Affairs, and former Senate Minority Leader, Godswill Akpabio, is no stranger to Katsina State. Records reveal that he has so far visited the state over 10 times. He is, therefore, a well-known face in Katsina.

Akpabio was in the state to perform the ground Breaking-Ceremony for the Muhammadu Buhari Faculty of Law Building, at the Federal University of Dusen- Ma and to deliver a Pre- Convocation Lecture titled: “IMPACT OF SECURITY ON EDUCATION AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT IN NIGERIA.”

From the airport even before his arrival, virtually all available space at the arrival area of the airport had been taken over by various groups, drumming, dancing, and singing the praise of the former governor of Akwa Ibom State. The support groups at the airport to welcome him had cut across all ethnic, cultural, and religious linings. Expectedly, Akwa Ibom indigenes resident in the state came in large numbers with their traditional dancers to welcome the August visitor in November.

While Akpabio and his entourage had a hectic time, meandering through the horde of supporters at the arrival point, he was to face another ‘obstacle’ on his way out of the Airport. It took the intervention of security operatives attached to the Minister’s convoy from the state to appeal to the various women groups who came in their hundreds to welcome him to Katsina. Various women groups within and outside the state, lined up the road leading to the gate of the Airport, as they tried to catch a glimpse and wave to the Minister, while he waved to them happily with smiles in acceptance of their overture.

From the airport arrival ceremony, the Minister and his entourage made a journey of almost an hour to Dutsin-Ma, the permanent site of the federal institution where he formally laid the foundation stone for the MUHAMMADU BUHARI FACULTY OF LAW BUILDING.

Akpabio, himself a legal practitioner of over 30 years standing, said the decision to name the law building after the President was in recognition of his contributions to the rule of law and independence of the judiciary under his leadership. He specifically recalled the granting of financial autonomy to the judiciary which was made possible under the present President.

According to the legal practitioner cum politician, “ this an honor done the President, who has shown respect and love to Nigerians and the rule of law. My presence today signifies unity and love. I am very happy this Faculty of Law Building is named after the President of this great country, who has done enough for the judiciary”.

After the foundation laying ceremony, Akpabio arrived at the lecture hall for the Pre-Convocation Lecture. Clad in an academy gown of Red and Green colors, Akpabio was led in an academic procession comprising the Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor, Registrar of the Institution, members of the Senate, and well-wishers which included the Interim Administrator of the NDDC, Dr. Efiong Akwa.

His citation which was read by the university’s Orator was intermittently stopped by the students, who kept singing his praise and recalling all thathe achieved as the governor of Akwa Ibom State and his activities in the Niger Delta Ministry.

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In his lecture, the Minister suggested ways sustainable development in Nigeria and National security can be achieved, saying,” to a large extent, the synergy between security and education impacts substantially on the quantum and quality of development achievable in any organized society. National security is the first duty of every government, but education is the foundation of every nation. Where we are today is the fruit of our investment in education yesterday. And where Nigeria will be tomorrow is the fruit of what we invest in education today.”

The Minister announced to the admiration of the students and school management the decision of his friends and associates to contribute and donate the sum of N50m for the take-off of the building, an announcement which almost brought down the roof of the building.

At the end of the lecture, gifts and awards were presented to the Minister by the students, university management, and the various ethnic association in appreciation of his contributions to the development of the institution.

Before leaving Katsina same day, Akpabio and his entourage, largely  made up of Northern leaders and stakeholders, paid a courtesy visit on the Governor of the state, Rt Hon Bello Masari, in Government House, Katsina. They both spoke on the unity of the country devoid of religious or political linings.

At the airport back to Abuja, finding his way to the aircraft that brought him was another test for the security operatives as they had to create a way for him with all the “tricks in their pocket”

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Akpabio left the state a fulfilled visitor, having laid the foundation for the Law Building named after his boss, President Muhammadu Buhari and delivered a thought provoking lecture on national security. By Jonathan Nda- Isaiah

Information about his planned visit to the state had spread like a wildfire all over the nooks and crannies of the state and when he finally landed at the Katsina State International Airport, at about noon on the 26th of November, 2021, the enthusiastic crowd went into a frenzy.

The Minister, Niger Delta Affairs, and former Senate Minority Leader, Godswill Akpabio, is no stranger to Katsina State. Records reveal that he has so far visited the state over 10 times. He is, therefore, a well-known face in Katsina.

Akpabio was in the state to perform the ground Breaking-Ceremony for the Muhammadu Buhari Faculty of Law Building, at the Federal University of Dusen- Ma and to deliver a Pre- Convocation Lecture titled: “IMPACT OF SECURITY ON EDUCATION AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT IN NIGERIA.”

From the airport even before his arrival, virtually all available space at the arrival area of the airport had been taken over by various groups, drumming, dancing, and singing the praise of the former governor of Akwa Ibom State. The support groups at the airport to welcome him had cut across all ethnic, cultural, and religious linings. Expectedly, Akwa Ibom indigenes resident in the state came in large numbers with their traditional dancers to welcome the August visitor in November.

While Akpabio and his entourage had a hectic time, meandering through the horde of supporters at the arrival point, he was to face another ‘obstacle’ on his way out of the Airport. It took the intervention of security operatives attached to the Minister’s convoy from the state to appeal to the various women groups who came in their hundreds to welcome him to Katsina. Various women groups within and outside the state, lined up the road leading to the gate of the Airport, as they tried to catch a glimpse and wave to the Minister, while he waved to them happily with smiles in acceptance of their overture.

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From the airport arrival ceremony, the Minister and his entourage made a journey of almost an hour to Dutsin-Ma, the permanent site of the federal institution where he formally laid the foundation stone for the MUHAMMADU BUHARI FACULTY OF LAW BUILDING.

Akpabio, himself a legal practitioner of over 30 years standing, said the decision to name the law building after the President was in recognition of his contributions to the rule of law and independence of the judiciary under his leadership. He specifically recalled the granting of financial autonomy to the judiciary which was made possible under the present President.

According to the legal practitioner cum politician, “ this an honor done the President, who has shown respect and love to Nigerians and the rule of law. My presence today signifies unity and love. I am very happy this Faculty of Law Building is named after the President of this great country, who has done enough for the judiciary”.

After the foundation laying ceremony, Akpabio arrived at the lecture hall for the Pre-Convocation Lecture. Clad in an academy gown of Red and Green colors, Akpabio was led in an academic procession comprising the Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor, Registrar of the Institution, members of the Senate, and well-wishers which included the Interim Administrator of the NDDC, Dr. Efiong Akwa.

His citation which was read by the university’s Orator was intermittently stopped by the students, who kept singing his praise and recalling all thathe achieved as the governor of Akwa Ibom State and his activities in the Niger Delta Ministry.

In his lecture, the Minister suggested ways sustainable development in Nigeria and National security can be achieved, saying,” to a large extent, the synergy between security and education impacts substantially on the quantum and quality of development achievable in any organized society. National security is the first duty of every government, but education is the foundation of every nation. Where we are today is the fruit of our investment in education yesterday. And where Nigeria will be tomorrow is the fruit of what we invest in education today.”

The Minister announced to the admiration of the students and school management the decision of his friends and associates to contribute and donate the sum of N50m for the take-off of the building, an announcement which almost brought down the roof of the building.

At the end of the lecture, gifts and awards were presented to the Minister by the students, university management, and the various ethnic association in appreciation of his contributions to the development of the institution.

Before leaving Katsina same day, Akpabio and his entourage, largely  made up of Northern leaders and stakeholders, paid a courtesy visit on the Governor of the state, Rt Hon Bello Masari, in Government House, Katsina. They both spoke on the unity of the country devoid of religious or political linings.

At the airport back to Abuja, finding his way to the aircraft that brought him was another test for the security operatives as they had to create a way for him with all the “tricks in their pocket”

Akpabio left the state a fulfilled visitor, having laid the foundation for the Law Building named after his boss, President Muhammadu Buhari and delivered a thought provoking lecture on national security.

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Beware Of Christmas Scams As Phone Thieves, Hackers On The Rise

Phone theft in Nigeria appears to be on the rise, especially Androids and iPhones. Perhaps, a more worrisome dimension is that some of the thieves are more interested in SIM cards than the phones. Via access to SIM cards without SIM lock, they hack into the owner’s personal and confidential information such as BVN, and banking details and ultimately, end up defrauding them.

“I took my leave a few weeks ago and I decided to traveled to Lagos, to see my parents, though not my first time. With my back and overload of confidence as if my father is the governor of Lagos State or the popular Nigerian treasurer of the Nigerian Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) in Lagos State, MC Oluomo.

“Shortly after our plane landed at the domestic wing of Murtala Muhammed International Airport, I ordered a taxi to take me to Mile 12 Market to buy foodstuff for my parents. Everyone knows how Mile 12 Market can be very rowdy.

“Soon after buying the foodstuff. I was on my way to negotiate a taxi when a middle-aged man bumped into me, claiming he knows that I look like his cousin, and he instantly apologized for the mix-up.

“A moment later, I noticed he had stolen my phone already. I don’t like to talk about it. When I got home, I tried to log in to my email on another phone and all I saw was debit alerts. Till they emptied my account. It was indeed double jeopardy for me. I lost my phone and my account was emptied.

‘’I am still in doubt on how they easily got my pin or phone password. Sadly, I just received my salary and they withdrew all the cash in my account via a POS transaction,’’ said Zainab Hassan as she recalled her encounter with phone thieves in Lagos.

Hassan, who is an online vendor, said she lost N275,000 and her phone in just one night. She added that she did not enjoy her stay in Lagos as her mother and other family members were moody over the sad occurrence.

Unlike Hassan, a student Ms Christiana Adeyemo while narrating her ordeal to LEADERSHIP Weekend said her mother, a civil servant who retired in 2019 received a call from 0814635**** who claimed to be Mr Samuel a Custom Care Agent with Access Bank. She said her mother believed the person calling, thinking they were calling her to rectify her account to receive her pension money.

She, however, said the fraudster who claimed to be a banker asked her mother some questions after which she told her mother to call the number on her ATM and she did.

Luckily, Adeyemo said her mother withdrew the N480,000 out of the N480,600 in her account a day before she received the fraudulent call.

“Instantly they debited her N600. Apparently, the hackers have bought airtime with her money,’’ she said.

She said the hackers called her again asking for her Polaris Bank ATM details again, already there was a debited alert on her phone so she hung up on that person when she saw the debit alert, she ran to the bank to inform the customer care staff who told her that the call was not from them.

She said some bank customers waiting to be attended by the customer service staff were even laughing at her ignorant mother that she has been defrauded of N600.

‘’It is not funny, I don’t blame them,’’ she said.

She added that Nigerians need to be more cautious on Instagram and other social media handles, some criminals do claim that they are a philanthropist on Instagram. They make a post saying: “Drop your account for breakfast or follow this account and win N10, 000.”

In Iyanapaja, Adebanjo Usman learned not to leave his car window open while driving. He said his phone was picked via his window, adding that he became helpless to chase the thief. “I was driving down Iyanapaja. The sun was scorching and there was traffic so I turned the windows down. I dropped my phone on the passenger seat in front absent-mindedly. After a few minutes, a middle-aged man walked up to my side and tried to talk to me about a flat tire.

“Just within a jiffy, I can’t really remember what happened to be honest, all I observed was that my phone had been stolen.”

unwarranted access. He noted that crime in the bustling city of Lagos is something every resident learns to come to terms with.

Moye stressed that pedestrians should stop pressing their phones while walking on the street. He said surfing through social media while on Lagos roads, saying the street is so overridden with gangs.

He said, ‘’Within a twinkle of an eye your phone might be snatched forcefully from you, or even be a victim of an accident probably from a car or bus trying to avoid Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA).

‘’Focus on where you are going and don’t get distracted. Phone snatching, burglary, petty theft, and instant scam; these threats follow you around the city.’’

He said getting by safely usually involves recognising the signs that you are in the wrong place at the wrong time.

‘’Receiving or calling someone requires your mental attention and this is because the city moves at a breakneck pace, most small crimes occur in a near-instant. The most frequent of these, understandably, is phone snatching,’’ he said.

He noted that the mode by which this happens varies, adding that sometimes, a motorcycle zooms past and grabs the phone out of their hands.

Moye stated that residents must learn to pick safe spots like restaurants, police stations and libraries which tend to be more suitable for meetings to avoid getting into dangerous situations.

When GSM was introduced in the country, Nigerians must have breathed a sigh of relief when Econet (now Airtel) and MTN Nigeria launched their GSM mobile services in 2001. Truth be told GSM has contributed positively in boosting economic activities in Nigeria sadly, it has led to the upsurge of high-level insecurity in the nation including insurgency, kidnapping and mobile banking fraud.

While kidnapping, insurgency, and SIM fraud loom, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) identified Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) swaps and Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) e-payment frauds as some of the cyber threats confronting the telecom industry.

This is even as the commission disclosed that attackers target telecom networks with the intent of getting access to consumers’ information in the database of service providers.

The director, Consumer Affairs Bureau of NCC, Efosa Idehen stressed that fraudsters conduct SIM swaps of targeted individuals and then carry out USSD-based transactions to defraud citizens of their money.

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Speaking at the maiden edition of a sensitisation programme tagged: “Shine your eyes, no fall mugu”, in Benin City Idehen who was represented by Clement Omife, a deputy director in his department, advised Nigerians to be careful when opening unfamiliar emails.

He also urged Nigerians to be careful while responding to unfamiliar inquiries so as not to fall prey to cybercriminals.

According to him, “These fraudsters do this by stealing victims’ identities- names, address, bank information and other information which they use in gaining access to their victim’s bank accounts.”

‘’They also use the stolen identities to defraud other people and even apply for loans or make online purchases, leaving the victims with debts.”

To empower telecom consumers with knowledge and inform them to be alert not to fall victim to fraudsters, Idehen said the enlightenment programme was organised by the commission in conjunction with the African Entrepreneurial and Human Development Initiatives.

He continued: “As the telecom industry evolves, there are growing concerns over the rising trend of fraud perpetrated on the platform (electronic fraud) across key sectors of the Nigerian economy.’’

Via e-banking, he said the menace, which follows wide acceptance of new methods of mobile money and electronic banking and payment systems, has been discovered to cost the country whooping sums of money.

“It is in view of this and in line with its consumer-centric posture that the commission with relevant advocacy groups, embarked on this sensitisation programme in locations across the country, starting with Benin City, Edo State.”

To tackle the menace of electronic fraud, he noted that effective collaboration between government agencies, private organisations and individuals is pivotal.

How they operate

When a syndicate described as ‘’Digital Thieves’’ led by one Muritala Mohammed alias (swallow) was paraded by the Police in Lagos.

Mohammed, who is a member of a six-man gang, said they are always two in number during operation and a motorcycle rider. The suspect explained that they get the phones via numerous means by tricking their unsuspecting victims. Mohammed said if they have the phone, they will quickly call a motorcycle rider Solomon Dike who is on standby to come around so that they can flee with the phone.

Having picked the phone, he said they hand it over to Muritala ‘’Swallow’’ whose interest is the SIM card, when he gets a hold of it, he sets out to hack the SIM card using a shortcode to check the victims BVN where he receives a message that tells if the SIM is enrolled to a bank account or not, then he proceeds with other hacking tricks using other computer applications.

Mohammed said once he confirms the funds, he sends the money to another suspect Ali Hassan whose job is to provide other account numbers for the transfer. He also explained that he can also get random account numbers from unsuspecting members of the public where he transfers the money into their account.

He said he has mastered how to hack data from Access Bank, UBA and GT Bank. He further said the computer application brings out the account number, Bank Verification Number (BVN), and account name of the SIM card in his possession.

Phone theft in Nigeria appears to be on the rise, especially Androids and iPhones. Perhaps, a more worrisome dimension is that some of the thieves are more interested in SIM cards than the phones. Via access to SIM cards without SIM lock, they hack into the owner’s personal and confidential information such as BVN, and banking details and ultimately, end up defrauding them.

“I took my leave a few weeks ago and I decided to traveled to Lagos, to see my parents, though not my first time. With my back and overload of confidence as if my father is the governor of Lagos State or the popular Nigerian treasurer of the Nigerian Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) in Lagos State, MC Oluomo.

“Shortly after our plane landed at the domestic wing of Murtala Muhammed International Airport, I ordered a taxi to take me to Mile 12 Market to buy foodstuff for my parents. Everyone knows how Mile 12 Market can be very rowdy.

“Soon after buying the foodstuff. I was on my way to negotiate a taxi when a middle-aged man bumped into me, claiming he knows that I look like his cousin, and he instantly apologized for the mix-up.

“A moment later, I noticed he had stolen my phone already. I don’t like to talk about it. When I got home, I tried to log in to my email on another phone and all I saw was debit alerts. Till they emptied my account. It was indeed double jeopardy for me. I lost my phone and my account was emptied.

‘’I am still in doubt on how they easily got my pin or phone password. Sadly, I just received my salary and they withdrew all the cash in my account via a POS transaction,’’ said Zainab Hassan as she recalled her encounter with phone thieves in Lagos.

Hassan, who is an online vendor, said she lost N275,000 and her phone in just one night. She added that she did not enjoy her stay in Lagos as her mother and other family members were moody over the sad occurrence.

Unlike Hassan, a student Ms Christiana Adeyemo while narrating her ordeal to LEADERSHIP Weekend said her mother, a civil servant who retired in 2019 received a call from 0814635**** who claimed to be Mr Samuel a Custom Care Agent with Access Bank. She said her mother believed the person calling, thinking they were calling her to rectify her account to receive her pension money.

She, however, said the fraudster who claimed to be a banker asked her mother some questions after which she told her mother to call the number on her ATM and she did.

Luckily, Adeyemo said her mother withdrew the N480,000 out of the N480,600 in her account a day before she received the fraudulent call.

“Instantly they debited her N600. Apparently, the hackers have bought airtime with her money,’’ she said.

She said the hackers called her again asking for her Polaris Bank ATM details again, already there was a debited alert on her phone so she hung up on that person when she saw the debit alert, she ran to the bank to inform the customer care staff who told her that the call was not from them.

She said some bank customers waiting to be attended by the customer service staff were even laughing at her ignorant mother that she has been defrauded of N600.

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‘’It is not funny, I don’t blame them,’’ she said.

She added that Nigerians need to be more cautious on Instagram and other social media handles, some criminals do claim that they are a philanthropist on Instagram. They make a post saying: “Drop your account for breakfast or follow this account and win N10, 000.”

In Iyanapaja, Adebanjo Usman learned not to leave his car window open while driving. He said his phone was picked via his window, adding that he became helpless to chase the thief. “I was driving down Iyanapaja. The sun was scorching and there was traffic so I turned the windows down. I dropped my phone on the passenger seat in front absent-mindedly. After a few minutes, a middle-aged man walked up to my side and tried to talk to me about a flat tire.

“Just within a jiffy, I can’t really remember what happened to be honest, all I observed was that my phone had been stolen.”

unwarranted access. He noted that crime in the bustling city of Lagos is something every resident learns to come to terms with.

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Moye stressed that pedestrians should stop pressing their phones while walking on the street. He said surfing through social media while on Lagos roads, saying the street is so overridden with gangs.

He said, ‘’Within a twinkle of an eye your phone might be snatched forcefully from you, or even be a victim of an accident probably from a car or bus trying to avoid Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA).

‘’Focus on where you are going and don’t get distracted. Phone snatching, burglary, petty theft, and instant scam; these threats follow you around the city.’’

He said getting by safely usually involves recognising the signs that you are in the wrong place at the wrong time.

‘’Receiving or calling someone requires your mental attention and this is because the city moves at a breakneck pace, most small crimes occur in a near-instant. The most frequent of these, understandably, is phone snatching,’’ he said.

He noted that the mode by which this happens varies, adding that sometimes, a motorcycle zooms past and grabs the phone out of their hands.

Moye stated that residents must learn to pick safe spots like restaurants, police stations and libraries which tend to be more suitable for meetings to avoid getting into dangerous situations.

When GSM was introduced in the country, Nigerians must have breathed a sigh of relief when Econet (now Airtel) and MTN Nigeria launched their GSM mobile services in 2001. Truth be told GSM has contributed positively in boosting economic activities in Nigeria sadly, it has led to the upsurge of high-level insecurity in the nation including insurgency, kidnapping and mobile banking fraud.

While kidnapping, insurgency, and SIM fraud loom, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) identified Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) swaps and Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) e-payment frauds as some of the cyber threats confronting the telecom industry.

This is even as the commission disclosed that attackers target telecom networks with the intent of getting access to consumers’ information in the database of service providers.

The director, Consumer Affairs Bureau of NCC, Efosa Idehen stressed that fraudsters conduct SIM swaps of targeted individuals and then carry out USSD-based transactions to defraud citizens of their money.

Speaking at the maiden edition of a sensitisation programme tagged: “Shine your eyes, no fall mugu”, in Benin City Idehen who was represented by Clement Omife, a deputy director in his department, advised Nigerians to be careful when opening unfamiliar emails.

He also urged Nigerians to be careful while responding to unfamiliar inquiries so as not to fall prey to cybercriminals.

According to him, “These fraudsters do this by stealing victims’ identities- names, address, bank information and other information which they use in gaining access to their victim’s bank accounts.”

‘’They also use the stolen identities to defraud other people and even apply for loans or make online purchases, leaving the victims with debts.”

To empower telecom consumers with knowledge and inform them to be alert not to fall victim to fraudsters, Idehen said the enlightenment programme was organised by the commission in conjunction with the African Entrepreneurial and Human Development Initiatives.

He continued: “As the telecom industry evolves, there are growing concerns over the rising trend of fraud perpetrated on the platform (electronic fraud) across key sectors of the Nigerian economy.’’

Via e-banking, he said the menace, which follows wide acceptance of new methods of mobile money and electronic banking and payment systems, has been discovered to cost the country whooping sums of money.

“It is in view of this and in line with its consumer-centric posture that the commission with relevant advocacy groups, embarked on this sensitisation programme in locations across the country, starting with Benin City, Edo State.”

To tackle the menace of electronic fraud, he noted that effective collaboration between government agencies, private organisations and individuals is pivotal.

How they operate

When a syndicate described as ‘’Digital Thieves’’ led by one Muritala Mohammed alias (swallow) was paraded by the Police in Lagos.

Mohammed, who is a member of a six-man gang, said they are always two in number during operation and a motorcycle rider. The suspect explained that they get the phones via numerous means by tricking their unsuspecting victims. Mohammed said if they have the phone, they will quickly call a motorcycle rider Solomon Dike who is on standby to come around so that they can flee with the phone.

Having picked the phone, he said they hand it over to Muritala ‘’Swallow’’ whose interest is the SIM card, when he gets a hold of it, he sets out to hack the SIM card using a shortcode to check the victims BVN where he receives a message that tells if the SIM is enrolled to a bank account or not, then he proceeds with other hacking tricks using other computer applications.

Mohammed said once he confirms the funds, he sends the money to another suspect Ali Hassan whose job is to provide other account numbers for the transfer. He also explained that he can also get random account numbers from unsuspecting members of the public where he transfers the money into their account.

He said he has mastered how to hack data from Access Bank, UBA and GT Bank. He further said the computer application brings out the account number, Bank Verification Number (BVN), and account name of the SIM card in his possession.

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Why Insecurity Persists In Nigeria – Sen Enagi

Nigerians are wondering why the senate would consider 2022 budget when they haven’t felt the impact of the 2021 budget?

I disagree with you that, Nigerians don’t feel the impact of the budget. The 2021 budget is ongoing. When you go round the country, you will see projects going on, some may not feel the impact now but lots of Nigerians are feeling it, and very soon, every Nigerian will feel the impact.

What will it take for Nigeria to have an effective and enduring budget implementation process?

I don’t think we have a problem with budget implementation because there is no country where the budget is 100% implemented especially in this part of the world where we run on deficit. We don’t have enough money to ensure that we carry out fully the activities of the budget. But substantially, I think there is a good budget implementation in Nigeria.

With the recent approval of another loan by the senate, many Nigerians worried that the future of Nigeria is being mortgaged. Don’t you think this is a loan too many?

Fortunately, I am a member of the foreign and local debt committee in the senate. Nigeria’s debt level is not too bad considering our population and GDP. The ratio of debt stock is still quite favorable. It is within the best practice. Anything below 40% is still quite good. I think what we should do is work on our revenue-generating base.

But don’t you think the continuous borrowing could mortgage the lives of the future generation?

No, I am not afraid. The loans that this country is taking are used to develop infrastructures like rails, waterways, and other key infrastructure. The more our infrastructure is fixed, our revenue generation will be improved. We service loans every year.

Despite government effort, Nigeria seems to be sliding into depression with daily inflation, rising food prices and other basic amenities. What is your take on this?

We are not doing badly as a nation. I agree that prices of foodstuff are going up, but people are not losing their jobs. I am not aware of agencies or companies laying off staff. We have people from all sectors of the country in the senate. So whenever a request comes to the Senate or House of Reps, every request that comes to the national assembly is scrutinized by the committees set up for that. Every loan is taken to improve our infrastructure.

The national assembly seems to be silent on the constitutional amendment. What has happened to the zonal reports gathered?

The senate and national assembly are working hard to ensure that, we do good work. I believe the committee is still gathering all they have been given before it is presented at the plenary. We are determined to see to the conclusion of the amendment. As a Nigerian, there are areas that one is interested to see that are amended, like devolution of powers to the state and local government, also whether the police should be decentralized or remain the way It is.

Going back to insecurity, are you worried about the increase in kidnapping, a situation scores of schoolchildren are kidnapped for weeks and months?

Every Nigerian is worried about what is happening …

How did Nigeria get to this stage where schools are being shut because of kidnapping

We are all to be blamed for what is happening in the country. Our value system has gone down in Nigeria and until we bring it back, things might get worst.

Security agents seem to be overwhelmed by this insecurity, is there anything we are doing that should have been done otherwise?

I don’t think this is true. I think we can crush and defeat these criminals but, it takestime. If you look at developed countries like America, they were in Afghanistan for 20years yet, immediately they left, the country sink back. Ours is worst because we lack basic modern war equipment. if the government can deploy modern equipment, our security will gladly end this insurgence.

The south/east is also not left out of challenges. Are you worried about the security issues in that zone?

We are all worried. We pray that elders and youths from that zone will sit down and come up with solutions to this problem.

Some Nigerians see what is happening in the south/east as a ploy by them to be given the presidency. What is your take on this?

I don’t think that killing and maiming will give them the presidency. If that is what they want, then they need to sit down and talk. They need to negotiate with the rest of Nigeria. You don’t carry weapons to get the presidency, That will even scare people from you because if you are not in position and you carry weapons, what will you do when you are in position? I think the youths have been misguided.

Still, on security, the south/west came up with Amotekun to check insecurity and some Nigerians think that other zones should do the same. What is your take on this?

I do not fully think it may be right for the various geo-political zones to be creating security outfits that will take on the responsibility that is already enshrined in the constitution for the Nigerian police and army but if such outfits are used for intelligence gathering and to assist the conventional police, then I am okay with that.

Do you think going back to regionalism will help because some Nigerians are agitating for a renegotiation of our unity?

A disintegration is never an option because we are stronger together. We have seen what has happened to other countries that have toed similar paths. What is happening now is a surmountable challenge. Nobody will benefit from disintegration.

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But with over 60years of independence, can you say that Nigeria has attained true nationhood?

Not yet but we are on the path to true nationhood

Going back to Niger state, your state has been under siege for a while now, what has been the impact on the social and economic activities of the state

Unfortunately, my state has experienced the worst of the insurgency, about five local governments are experiencing these challenges. Women and youths cannot go to the market, young boys cannot go to school, people can no longer go to the farms. Fortunately both the federal and state government are battling these challenges and I believe it has drastically gone down in Niger state.

What will it take for peace to be restored to Niger state?

It is not only Niger state, the insecurity cuts across tribe and zone. These can be attributed to the decadence in society. We have to start teaching our young people how to love and appreciate others. We must also teach them containment. When I was growing up, we used to love and appreciate our neighbors

The constitutional mandate of the government is to secure lives and properties. Can you that the APC has done that in Nigeria?

Our government has not failed and no government in Nigeria will ever fail. We met this security challenge on the ground and it is not peculiar to Nigeria. Looking at what happened in Libya and other countries, I believe that with the kind of efforts APC is putting in place to surmount these challenges, we will defeat the insurgence and restore peace.

Talking about APC the recent state congress left lots of division and bitterness. Don’t you think this will affect the state of the party come 2023?

These are family issues and when there are problems like that, we resolve them within the family. I can assure you that come 2023, APC will overwhelm everywhere.

It is generally believed that the APC revolves around the presidency and he has cowme out to state that, he will hand over after his 8years term. Some believe that the moment he leaves, the party will implode. What do you think?

Yes, Mr. President is the leader of our party and will be stepping down in 2023, but he is still our leader. He has inspired so many people. I am in APC today because of his leadership and when he leaves, we will carry on his message and the character that we have imbibed.

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Were you surprised with the heavy losses the APC incurred at Anambra recently?

I wasn’t surprised because we have never really controlled the government of that state…

But don’t you think this is a sign of things to come?

Not necessarily. We are still on the ground and we will only gain more votes going forward

Nigerians are wondering why the senate would consider 2022 budget when they haven’t felt the impact of the 2021 budget?

I disagree with you that, Nigerians don’t feel the impact of the budget. The 2021 budget is ongoing. When you go round the country, you will see projects going on, some may not feel the impact now but lots of Nigerians are feeling it, and very soon, every Nigerian will feel the impact.

What will it take for Nigeria to have an effective and enduring budget implementation process?

I don’t think we have a problem with budget implementation because there is no country where the budget is 100% implemented especially in this part of the world where we run on deficit. We don’t have enough money to ensure that we carry out fully the activities of the budget. But substantially, I think there is a good budget implementation in Nigeria.

With the recent approval of another loan by the senate, many Nigerians worried that the future of Nigeria is being mortgaged. Don’t you think this is a loan too many?

Fortunately, I am a member of the foreign and local debt committee in the senate. Nigeria’s debt level is not too bad considering our population and GDP. The ratio of debt stock is still quite favorable. It is within the best practice. Anything below 40% is still quite good. I think what we should do is work on our revenue-generating base.

But don’t you think the continuous borrowing could mortgage the lives of the future generation?

No, I am not afraid. The loans that this country is taking are used to develop infrastructures like rails, waterways, and other key infrastructure. The more our infrastructure is fixed, our revenue generation will be improved. We service loans every year.

Despite government effort, Nigeria seems to be sliding into depression with daily inflation, rising food prices and other basic amenities. What is your take on this?

We are not doing badly as a nation. I agree that prices of foodstuff are going up, but people are not losing their jobs. I am not aware of agencies or companies laying off staff. We have people from all sectors of the country in the senate. So whenever a request comes to the Senate or House of Reps, every request that comes to the national assembly is scrutinized by the committees set up for that. Every loan is taken to improve our infrastructure.

The national assembly seems to be silent on the constitutional amendment. What has happened to the zonal reports gathered?

The senate and national assembly are working hard to ensure that, we do good work. I believe the committee is still gathering all they have been given before it is presented at the plenary. We are determined to see to the conclusion of the amendment. As a Nigerian, there are areas that one is interested to see that are amended, like devolution of powers to the state and local government, also whether the police should be decentralized or remain the way It is.

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Going back to insecurity, are you worried about the increase in kidnapping, a situation scores of schoolchildren are kidnapped for weeks and months?

Every Nigerian is worried about what is happening …

How did Nigeria get to this stage where schools are being shut because of kidnapping

We are all to be blamed for what is happening in the country. Our value system has gone down in Nigeria and until we bring it back, things might get worst.

Security agents seem to be overwhelmed by this insecurity, is there anything we are doing that should have been done otherwise?

I don’t think this is true. I think we can crush and defeat these criminals but, it takestime. If you look at developed countries like America, they were in Afghanistan for 20years yet, immediately they left, the country sink back. Ours is worst because we lack basic modern war equipment. if the government can deploy modern equipment, our security will gladly end this insurgence.

The south/east is also not left out of challenges. Are you worried about the security issues in that zone?

We are all worried. We pray that elders and youths from that zone will sit down and come up with solutions to this problem.

Some Nigerians see what is happening in the south/east as a ploy by them to be given the presidency. What is your take on this?

I don’t think that killing and maiming will give them the presidency. If that is what they want, then they need to sit down and talk. They need to negotiate with the rest of Nigeria. You don’t carry weapons to get the presidency, That will even scare people from you because if you are not in position and you carry weapons, what will you do when you are in position? I think the youths have been misguided.

Still, on security, the south/west came up with Amotekun to check insecurity and some Nigerians think that other zones should do the same. What is your take on this?

I do not fully think it may be right for the various geo-political zones to be creating security outfits that will take on the responsibility that is already enshrined in the constitution for the Nigerian police and army but if such outfits are used for intelligence gathering and to assist the conventional police, then I am okay with that.

Do you think going back to regionalism will help because some Nigerians are agitating for a renegotiation of our unity?

A disintegration is never an option because we are stronger together. We have seen what has happened to other countries that have toed similar paths. What is happening now is a surmountable challenge. Nobody will benefit from disintegration.

But with over 60years of independence, can you say that Nigeria has attained true nationhood?

Not yet but we are on the path to true nationhood

Going back to Niger state, your state has been under siege for a while now, what has been the impact on the social and economic activities of the state

Unfortunately, my state has experienced the worst of the insurgency, about five local governments are experiencing these challenges. Women and youths cannot go to the market, young boys cannot go to school, people can no longer go to the farms. Fortunately both the federal and state government are battling these challenges and I believe it has drastically gone down in Niger state.

What will it take for peace to be restored to Niger state?

It is not only Niger state, the insecurity cuts across tribe and zone. These can be attributed to the decadence in society. We have to start teaching our young people how to love and appreciate others. We must also teach them containment. When I was growing up, we used to love and appreciate our neighbors

The constitutional mandate of the government is to secure lives and properties. Can you that the APC has done that in Nigeria?

Our government has not failed and no government in Nigeria will ever fail. We met this security challenge on the ground and it is not peculiar to Nigeria. Looking at what happened in Libya and other countries, I believe that with the kind of efforts APC is putting in place to surmount these challenges, we will defeat the insurgence and restore peace.

Talking about APC the recent state congress left lots of division and bitterness. Don’t you think this will affect the state of the party come 2023?

These are family issues and when there are problems like that, we resolve them within the family. I can assure you that come 2023, APC will overwhelm everywhere.

It is generally believed that the APC revolves around the presidency and he has cowme out to state that, he will hand over after his 8years term. Some believe that the moment he leaves, the party will implode. What do you think?

Yes, Mr. President is the leader of our party and will be stepping down in 2023, but he is still our leader. He has inspired so many people. I am in APC today because of his leadership and when he leaves, we will carry on his message and the character that we have imbibed.

Were you surprised with the heavy losses the APC incurred at Anambra recently?

I wasn’t surprised because we have never really controlled the government of that state…

But don’t you think this is a sign of things to come?

Not necessarily. We are still on the ground and we will only gain more votes going forward

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One Oil Spill Too Many

For three long weeks, between November 5 and 25, 2021, a wellhead owned by Aiteo Eastern Exploration and Production Company (AEEPCO) and Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) leaked oil, water and gas in Nembe Local Government of Bayelsa State. Reports have it that at least 45 communities in Nembe were affected by the spill.

It took more than two weeks for the incident to gain the attention of the federal government, suggesting that no effort was made by authorities to contain the oil spill between that period of time. And when the minister of state for petroleum resources, Timipre Sylva, finally embarked on an inspection on November 24, it was only to proclaim that such things happen and are part of the operational hazard of the business. Sylva, himself a native of Bayelsa and a former governor of the state seemed to imply that occasional oil spills have become an accepted practice in the oil industry. The government might need reminding that oil spills, the pollution and degradation of Ogoniland was the source of the Niger Delta crisis, which lasted for decades and claimed the lives of some prominent citizens.

And till date, the government is yet fix the damage to the land, livelihood and health of the people of Ogoniland. This is in spite of the resources, paperwork and manpower devoted to the efforts. The federal government had, in 2006, commissioned the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to carry out an environmental assessment of Ogoniland. And in August 2011, UNEP delivered its final report.

It recommended a comprehensive cleanup of Ogoniland to restore polluted environments and bring to an end all forms of oil contamination in the Niger Delta. As yet, the cleanup is yet to be completed. In fact, at no time have oil spills in the region stopped, they never gain the attention of the government or the Nigerian public. As recently as July 2021, Mohammad Abubakar, Minister of Environment, said Nigeria recorded 4,919 oil spills between 2015 to March 2021 and lost 4.5 trillion barrels of oil to theft in four years. This shows the magnitude of the problem, yet very little is being done to bring the oil spills under control.

That is why it is no surprise that Nembe oil spill could go unnoticed for close to three weeks.  According to Ndiana-Abasi Matthew, spokesperson for the Aiteo group, the spill was from a non-producing wellhead in the Santa Barbara South field in block OML 29. What is of surprise is that, it took international expertise to stop the spill in spite of the frequency of this environmental disaster in the Niger Delta region.

The company responsible for the spill itself admitted and said that preparation for well kill, a 1000 ramp barge containing all pimping and simulation equipment, had been approaching Santa Barbra, one day before the leak was successfully stopped.

In the name of taking responsibility, Aiteo distributed relief materials to people of the affected communities. These are farmers and fishermen, who over the years have completely lost all means of livelihood due to the pollution of their land and waters. Palliatives cannot compensate for that.

The government, on its part appears to be paying lip service to the issue coming up with excuses for why the oil spills keep occurring by blaming the victims and showing an unwillingness to hold the oil company responsible by making it pay a hefty fine.  This is what Sharon Ikeazor, the minister of state for environment had to say, “It goes beyond the oil companies giving out palliatives, they must put measures in place to prevent such accidents from happening. They are also claiming that the spill was due to sabotage by the local communities. We are going to have a targeted approach to illegal bunkering, tampering with oil installation, and artisanal mining in the Niger Delta to get an alternative livelihood for the young people of the Niger Delta so that they would desist from this because it is further polluting the environment.”

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In response to the incident, the minister would go on to threaten stiff penalties. The only snag is that there has to be first a review of NOSDRA bill, suggesting the present law could limits fines to maybe N100 and “anyone can pay that and go back and re-pollute.”

In our opinion, the people of Nembe deserve better than that. The Nigerian people deserve better than that. There needs to be an independent assessment of the level of environmental pollution caused by this oil spill. There is also no reason why the oil company cannot be made to pay for the damage it has caused. And if the federal government is unwilling to hold Aiteo to account, the courts should to do so. For three long weeks, between November 5 and 25, 2021, a wellhead owned by Aiteo Eastern Exploration and Production Company (AEEPCO) and Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) leaked oil, water and gas in Nembe Local Government of Bayelsa State. Reports have it that at least 45 communities in Nembe were affected by the spill.

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It took more than two weeks for the incident to gain the attention of the federal government, suggesting that no effort was made by authorities to contain the oil spill between that period of time. And when the minister of state for petroleum resources, Timipre Sylva, finally embarked on an inspection on November 24, it was only to proclaim that such things happen and are part of the operational hazard of the business. Sylva, himself a native of Bayelsa and a former governor of the state seemed to imply that occasional oil spills have become an accepted practice in the oil industry. The government might need reminding that oil spills, the pollution and degradation of Ogoniland was the source of the Niger Delta crisis, which lasted for decades and claimed the lives of some prominent citizens.

And till date, the government is yet fix the damage to the land, livelihood and health of the people of Ogoniland. This is in spite of the resources, paperwork and manpower devoted to the efforts. The federal government had, in 2006, commissioned the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to carry out an environmental assessment of Ogoniland. And in August 2011, UNEP delivered its final report.

It recommended a comprehensive cleanup of Ogoniland to restore polluted environments and bring to an end all forms of oil contamination in the Niger Delta. As yet, the cleanup is yet to be completed. In fact, at no time have oil spills in the region stopped, they never gain the attention of the government or the Nigerian public. As recently as July 2021, Mohammad Abubakar, Minister of Environment, said Nigeria recorded 4,919 oil spills between 2015 to March 2021 and lost 4.5 trillion barrels of oil to theft in four years. This shows the magnitude of the problem, yet very little is being done to bring the oil spills under control.

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That is why it is no surprise that Nembe oil spill could go unnoticed for close to three weeks.  According to Ndiana-Abasi Matthew, spokesperson for the Aiteo group, the spill was from a non-producing wellhead in the Santa Barbara South field in block OML 29. What is of surprise is that, it took international expertise to stop the spill in spite of the frequency of this environmental disaster in the Niger Delta region.

The company responsible for the spill itself admitted and said that preparation for well kill, a 1000 ramp barge containing all pimping and simulation equipment, had been approaching Santa Barbra, one day before the leak was successfully stopped.

In the name of taking responsibility, Aiteo distributed relief materials to people of the affected communities. These are farmers and fishermen, who over the years have completely lost all means of livelihood due to the pollution of their land and waters. Palliatives cannot compensate for that.

The government, on its part appears to be paying lip service to the issue coming up with excuses for why the oil spills keep occurring by blaming the victims and showing an unwillingness to hold the oil company responsible by making it pay a hefty fine.  This is what Sharon Ikeazor, the minister of state for environment had to say, “It goes beyond the oil companies giving out palliatives, they must put measures in place to prevent such accidents from happening. They are also claiming that the spill was due to sabotage by the local communities. We are going to have a targeted approach to illegal bunkering, tampering with oil installation, and artisanal mining in the Niger Delta to get an alternative livelihood for the young people of the Niger Delta so that they would desist from this because it is further polluting the environment.”

In response to the incident, the minister would go on to threaten stiff penalties. The only snag is that there has to be first a review of NOSDRA bill, suggesting the present law could limits fines to maybe N100 and “anyone can pay that and go back and re-pollute.”

In our opinion, the people of Nembe deserve better than that. The Nigerian people deserve better than that. There needs to be an independent assessment of the level of environmental pollution caused by this oil spill. There is also no reason why the oil company cannot be made to pay for the damage it has caused. And if the federal government is unwilling to hold Aiteo to account, the courts should to do so.

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MTN To Help Millions of Nigerians Out of Poverty – CEO

The chief executive officer, MTN Nigeria, Karl Teriola, has the service provider  is determined to help millions of Nigerians from the shackles of poverty to become  successful millionaires within the shortest possible time as part of its corporate social responsibility (CRS).

Teriola said the reason why they were making a public offer of their shares was to bring in as many Nigerians as possible to become part owners of the company.

He spoke in Kano during an interactive session with prospective investors and members of the public yesterday.

He said: “We are going public for one reason and only for one reason. We want Nigerians, every common Nigerians in every part of Nigeria to have a share in the wealth creation that MTN is going to take us through in the coming years 20, 30  and in the next 100 years.”

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He added that they do not want to give a chunk of MTN Nigeria to a few large institutions, adding rather, “We want as many people as possible to holds shares however little you can afford. That is why we are going on road shows all over the country.”

“Kano being the commercial capital of the North, with a very large population, it is only natural that this should be the very first stops of our first day of the road show to communicate to the people what MTN is all about,” he said.

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He said their mission during the show was to explain to the public and Nigerians in general, “How to subscribe to the offer, what the benefits of the offer are, the digital subscription process, the bonus we give after one year and really about the strength of MTN as a company, its governance potential and the quality of the management team”

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Appeal Court Frees Ondo Prophet, Alfa Babatunde

The Court of Appeal sitting in Akure, Ondo State capital has set aside the judgement of the state High Court that sentenced the founder of the Sotitobire Praising Chapel, Prophet Babatunde Alfa to life Imprisonment.

In the judgement read by Justice Gamma Barka on behalf of other judges, the court quashed the judgement of the Ondo State High Court which sentenced the Prophet to life imprisonment.

The lower court, presided over by Justice Olusegun Odusola had in 2020 sentenced Babatunde and five others – Omodara Olayinka, Margaret Oyebola, Grace Ogunjobi, Egunjobi Motunrayo and Esther Kayode – to life imprisonment, having found them guilty of two charges.

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The Sotitobire founder had asked the Appeal Court to nullify his life sentence conviction by the court.

The court ruled that the circumstantial evidence the High Court based its judgement on was not enough to convict him. Prophet Alfa was therefore discharged and acquitted

Meanwhile, the Sotitobire praising chapel in Oshinle Akure went agog when the news of the judgement filtered in.

The members of the church had arrived early to offer praise and worship as well as pray for the judgement to be in favour of their General Overseer.

The atmosphere, however, changed to that of a carnival when the news came in that Prophet Alfa had been set free by the court.

In his reaction, the Ondo State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Charles Titiloye, who is also the prosecutor, said the state government would study the judgement before deciding on the next step to take on the matter.

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Concerns Over Safety Of Nigerians Caught In Ethiopian Civil War

The civil strife in Ethiopia is a safety concern for Nigerians living in the East African country following advisories issued by some countries and organisations for their citizens and staff to leave the country amid the escalating civil war.

As of the time of filling this story, Nigerian authorities had yet to issue any travel advisory or articulate evacuation plans for Nigerians who may be trapped in the war-torn country, saying they were yet to receive distress calls from Nigerians resident in the country

Ethiopia is Africa’s second largest country with 118 million population and hosts the headquarters of the African Union where many Nigerians work.

The Ethiopian government on Thursday closed all secondary schools in the country due to the war against Tigrayan rebel forces.

The government had also four weeks ago declared a state of emergency and ordered residents to prepare to defend the capital.

The United Nations has since evacuated family members of its international staff.

In November, the US Embassy in Ethiopia, in a statement warned American citizens to leave the country.

It said, “the security situation in Ethiopia continues to deteriorate. The US Embassy urges US citizens in Ethiopia to depart now using commercially available options.

“Although the Embassy continues to process emergency passports and repatriation loans, and to provide other emergency services, the Embassy is unlikely to be able to assist US citizens in Ethiopia with departure if commercial options become unavailable.”

The embassy also said American citizens wishing to depart the country had multiple commercial flights options at the Bole International Airport and added that it will provide repatriation loans for those citizens who cannot afford a commercial flight ticket to the US.

Similarly, the United Kingdom also advised its citizens to leave Ethiopia ‘immediately when they still have the chance to board commercial flights in the Horn of Africa nation.

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The situation in Ethiopia is “deteriorating quickly” and fighting may move closer to the capital, Addis Ababa, in the coming days, U.K. Minister for Africa Vicky Ford said in a statement in late November.

However, the Nigerian government is said to be having plans to issue advisory to Nigerians living in the war-torn country while it is not certain if there are any evacuation plans, as sources from the Nigerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs have said they are yet to receive any distress calls from Nigerians living in the country.

Speaking to LEADERSHIP Sunday on the issue, the spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Esther Sunsuwa, said although the country had not received any distress calls from Nigerians in the country, the Nigerian embassy in the country is monitoring the situation and will act accordingly.

“On our end we have not received any distress call from Nigerians in Ethiopia.  If the situation is so alarming our embassy is on ground and they know what to do. The embassy is handling the issue of the safety of Nigerians.

“The ministry has not issued any advisory, but there is a plan ongoing. But I don’t know how soon that may be or how long it will take because we have to work with our embassy that is on ground there so that we get it right,” she said.

Also speaking on the issue, spokesman of the Nigerians in the Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), Abdul Rahman Balogun, said the situation might not have gotten to an alarming level as the commission is yet to receive any calls for evacuation from Nigerians in that country.

He, however, assured that the commission and other agencies of government will always assist Nigerians in troubled areas just the way it had done in evacuating thousands of Nigerians from troubled spots around the world recently.

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“I don’t think that has gone to the level where countries are evacuating their people. I don’t think it has gotten to that level because the Ethiopian airline is still flying.  It has not reached such an alarming stage, because nobody has called for help – that they want to be evacuated from Ethiopia. When we had a similar incident in Ghana, Nigerians cried to the Nigerian government to take them away from there and the government responded promptly,” he said.

Efforts to reach the Ethiopian Embassy in Nigeria for more information was not successful.

The war started in November 2020 between the Ethiopian government led by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Northern Tigray rebels, when Tigray forces were accused of attacking an army base to steal weapons.

Prime Minister Ahmed then started a military campaign against Tigray forces, which led to thousands of deaths and a frightening humanitarian crisis that the UN and its agencies are struggling to contain.

Both sides have reportedly committed human rights violations in the conflict especially in the Tigray region where much of the conflict has taken place.

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Palpable tension pervaded the country when the Tigray rebels threatened the capital, Addis Ababa, which forced Prime Minister Ahmed to lead war at the front as the situation deteriorated further.

According to the United Nations, over 400,000 people are at the risk of starvation in a war that has displaced over two million people in one year.

Meanwhile, a French news medium, France24, is reporting that another rebel group, the Oromo Liberation Army, which is wallied with Tigrayan Defense Forces, is fighting the government from the south and west of the country.

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Abubakar: Honor For Soldier In Love With Democracy

I was opportune to attend the concluding session of a three-day festschrift conference that took place last week in Abuja to honour the former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar (retd). It was this bearded military leader whose intelligence and determination led to the final exit of the military from the corridor of power in May 1999; over 15 years after the sack of the Second Republic by soldiers in the dying days of December 1983.

Apart from the quality of academic papers presented at the occasion by scholars across the globe, the presence of national and world leaders at the conference, either physically or virtually, reflects the level of admiration enjoyed by General Abubakar. Among some of the personalities in attendance were President Muhammadu Buhari, Nigerien President Mohammed Bazoum, ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo, former Military President Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, ex-President Dr Goodluck Jonathan, ex-President of South Africa, Mr Thabo Mbeki, and former President of Liberia, Professor Amos Sawyer.

The ex-President of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Dr Mohammed Ibn Chambers, Chairperson of the African Union (AU) Mr Moussa Faki Mahamat, and the Governor of Niger State, Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello, among others were not left out.

The occasion also provided an opportunity for members of the academia and other professionals, including persons involved in the promotion of peace at both continental and global level, to honour a leader whose quest for deepening democracy through transparent electoral process sets him apart as an indisputed statesman and global icon.

The event, organised by the Abdulsalami Abubakar Institute for Peace and Sustainable Development Studies (AAIPSDS), was organised to honor an accomplished national and global leader whose bridge-building endeavours in Liberia, Niger, Sudan, Darfur, Congo and Nigeria since 1998 have attracted local and global commendations. The Niger-born General got shot into limelight by stroke of luck after the mysterious death of the dark-goggled General Sani Abacha who, 24 hours before his demise, had signed Abubakar’s retirement letter.

His emergence as Commander-in-Chief of Nigeria’s Armed Forces on June 8, 1998 did not obliterate the despair that trailed the death of General Abacha who then had concluded plans to transmute into a civilian president. The five parties, which the former governor of Oyo state and later Attorney-General of the Federation, Chief Bola Ige, described as leprous, had adopted the military strongman as their presidential candidate. Weary of the endless circles of transition programmes embarked by the military, not many Nigerians were convinced that General Abubakar could be trusted to hand over power to the civilians.

Ahead of the planned exit of the military as announced by the General Abubakar-led regime, prominent citizens and other military officers incarcerated over their alleged roles in what has come to be referred to as the “phantom coup” of March 1995. Among those released was the former Head of State, General Olusegun Obasanjo. Abubakar ascended to power at a time when the frightening clouds of uncertainties were hanging low over Nigeria’s skies. Not many thought the nation stood a chance to survive the protests rocking the country and fueling ethnic tension that was threatening to assume conflagration, following the death of the presumed winner of the June 12 presidential poll, Chief MKO Abiola.

To douse tension, Abubakar engaged competent people to assist him  realise the dream of pulling through the transition time table. He demonstrated humility and unsurpassed honesty in reaching out to pro-democracy groups who, before then, had become thorns in the flesh of the immediate past military regime. According to Chief Ayo Opadokun, a leading member of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), General Abubakar “kept faith with his pledge to hand over and he in fact, handed over on May 29, 1999 has revealed his human characteristics and trait as a dependable, trustworthy and credible statesman who could be counted among eminent global leadership cadre”.

Aware of the despondency ripping across the country, and determined to retrieve Nigeria from the mud of a pariah status imposed on it by the comity of nations, Abubakar reached out to critical members of the Nigerian society to ensure that the transition train is not reversed on its track. Despite his promise to return the country to democracy, not many believed he was committed to his promise. The high level of cynicism brought by citizens’ lack of confidence in the military, as shown in the annulment of June 12 presidential poll, rendered Abubakar’s promise a fairy tale to be believed.

If the past was anything to go by, some insisted, then Abubakar’s political transition programme must be taken with a pinch of salt.  That was not the case with the former military leader who swore he would stop at nothing to return power to the civilians. When he finally guided the transition train to a final stop, culminating in the inauguration of General Olusegun Obasanjo as President on May 29, 1999, he attracted accolades for successfully supervising the shortest transition programme in the history of Nigeria.

While he served as Head of State, Abubakar deployed discretion and avoided misuse of state powers in violating the rights of citizens. His interaction with the media, as confirmed by one of the founders of the now rested ‘Newswatch’  magazine, Mr Ray Ekpu, reveals him as a lover of the media whose appointment of Chief John Nwodo and Mallam Mohammed Haruna as  Minister of Information and Chief Press Secretary respectively, created a healthy relationship between media and his government.  The former military leader, Ekpu is quick to add, loved the media when he wielded power and ran a transparent system where information was available to reporters. His media minders were not engaged in labelling critical articles as songs of wailers.

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Outside the corridor of power, General Abubakar has not let down the bar in the pursuance of worthy causes and rallying prominent national and global leaders in ending electoral violence, promoting interfaith dialogue and spearheading national discourses for unity and development. As Chairman of the National Peace Committee (NPC), the former military leader has been engaged in facilitating peace agreements with candidates contesting elections. In 2015 and 2019, the NPC, under this leadership, supervised the signing of peace agreements between the presidential candidates of the two major parties in a bid to avoid the breakdown of law and order.  When in 2015, the swords of Damocles was suspended over the nation’s skies, following the apprehension generated by the conduct of the presidential poll, the former Head of State worked behind the scene in thawing tension.

Secretary of the NPC and erudite Bishop of the Sokoto Catholic Diocese, Dr Matthew Hassan Kukah, hinges the success of the Peace Committee on the credibility of General Abubakar. He is quick to tip the former Head of State for the Nobel Peace Prize: “I believe, but I don’t know how, but I think the next campaign that all of us must now wait for is to work hard because the Nobel Prize for Peace is long overdue. As far as we are concerned, General Abdulsalami is a Nobel laureate, all we need to do is for those who took the award to have the decency to stamp their stamp of authority over what we have already agreed on.”

For a nation cursed with a political class that is enmeshed in a barbaric quest for power, General Abubakar remains a lesson in humility and untainted service to humanity. His brief stint in the corridor of power and his recognition of how far power can be tamed for transparent governance epitomise his personality. He remains one of our nation’s finest leaders who was thrown into the national stage by divine intervention during a period of national emergencies.

Unlike others who would have tempted God and engage in elongating military rule, General Abubakar flew above the tempter’s trap by sticking to what he came to do: Return the military to the barracks. In doing what he did, he secured for himself an enviable place in our nation’s history. Abubakar did not achieve this by simply hoping, he was committed to the dream of a successful transition programme and he worked for it. In ending Nigeria’s endless transition programmes, the former Head of State, who now spearheads calls for the deepening of democracy through a deliberate transparent electoral process, is a demonstration of the true essence of an Aristotelian quote: “Excellence is never an accident. It is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, and intelligent execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives – choice, not chance”.  I was opportune to attend the concluding session of a three-day festschrift conference that took place last week in Abuja to honour the former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar (retd). It was this bearded military leader whose intelligence and determination led to the final exit of the military from the corridor of power in May 1999; over 15 years after the sack of the Second Republic by soldiers in the dying days of December 1983.

Apart from the quality of academic papers presented at the occasion by scholars across the globe, the presence of national and world leaders at the conference, either physically or virtually, reflects the level of admiration enjoyed by General Abubakar. Among some of the personalities in attendance were President Muhammadu Buhari, Nigerien President Mohammed Bazoum, ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo, former Military President Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, ex-President Dr Goodluck Jonathan, ex-President of South Africa, Mr Thabo Mbeki, and former President of Liberia, Professor Amos Sawyer.

The ex-President of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Dr Mohammed Ibn Chambers, Chairperson of the African Union (AU) Mr Moussa Faki Mahamat, and the Governor of Niger State, Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello, among others were not left out.

The occasion also provided an opportunity for members of the academia and other professionals, including persons involved in the promotion of peace at both continental and global level, to honour a leader whose quest for deepening democracy through transparent electoral process sets him apart as an indisputed statesman and global icon.

The event, organised by the Abdulsalami Abubakar Institute for Peace and Sustainable Development Studies (AAIPSDS), was organised to honor an accomplished national and global leader whose bridge-building endeavours in Liberia, Niger, Sudan, Darfur, Congo and Nigeria since 1998 have attracted local and global commendations. The Niger-born General got shot into limelight by stroke of luck after the mysterious death of the dark-goggled General Sani Abacha who, 24 hours before his demise, had signed Abubakar’s retirement letter.

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His emergence as Commander-in-Chief of Nigeria’s Armed Forces on June 8, 1998 did not obliterate the despair that trailed the death of General Abacha who then had concluded plans to transmute into a civilian president. The five parties, which the former governor of Oyo state and later Attorney-General of the Federation, Chief Bola Ige, described as leprous, had adopted the military strongman as their presidential candidate. Weary of the endless circles of transition programmes embarked by the military, not many Nigerians were convinced that General Abubakar could be trusted to hand over power to the civilians.

Ahead of the planned exit of the military as announced by the General Abubakar-led regime, prominent citizens and other military officers incarcerated over their alleged roles in what has come to be referred to as the “phantom coup” of March 1995. Among those released was the former Head of State, General Olusegun Obasanjo. Abubakar ascended to power at a time when the frightening clouds of uncertainties were hanging low over Nigeria’s skies. Not many thought the nation stood a chance to survive the protests rocking the country and fueling ethnic tension that was threatening to assume conflagration, following the death of the presumed winner of the June 12 presidential poll, Chief MKO Abiola.

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To douse tension, Abubakar engaged competent people to assist him  realise the dream of pulling through the transition time table. He demonstrated humility and unsurpassed honesty in reaching out to pro-democracy groups who, before then, had become thorns in the flesh of the immediate past military regime. According to Chief Ayo Opadokun, a leading member of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), General Abubakar “kept faith with his pledge to hand over and he in fact, handed over on May 29, 1999 has revealed his human characteristics and trait as a dependable, trustworthy and credible statesman who could be counted among eminent global leadership cadre”.

Aware of the despondency ripping across the country, and determined to retrieve Nigeria from the mud of a pariah status imposed on it by the comity of nations, Abubakar reached out to critical members of the Nigerian society to ensure that the transition train is not reversed on its track. Despite his promise to return the country to democracy, not many believed he was committed to his promise. The high level of cynicism brought by citizens’ lack of confidence in the military, as shown in the annulment of June 12 presidential poll, rendered Abubakar’s promise a fairy tale to be believed.

If the past was anything to go by, some insisted, then Abubakar’s political transition programme must be taken with a pinch of salt.  That was not the case with the former military leader who swore he would stop at nothing to return power to the civilians. When he finally guided the transition train to a final stop, culminating in the inauguration of General Olusegun Obasanjo as President on May 29, 1999, he attracted accolades for successfully supervising the shortest transition programme in the history of Nigeria.

While he served as Head of State, Abubakar deployed discretion and avoided misuse of state powers in violating the rights of citizens. His interaction with the media, as confirmed by one of the founders of the now rested ‘Newswatch’  magazine, Mr Ray Ekpu, reveals him as a lover of the media whose appointment of Chief John Nwodo and Mallam Mohammed Haruna as  Minister of Information and Chief Press Secretary respectively, created a healthy relationship between media and his government.  The former military leader, Ekpu is quick to add, loved the media when he wielded power and ran a transparent system where information was available to reporters. His media minders were not engaged in labelling critical articles as songs of wailers.

Outside the corridor of power, General Abubakar has not let down the bar in the pursuance of worthy causes and rallying prominent national and global leaders in ending electoral violence, promoting interfaith dialogue and spearheading national discourses for unity and development. As Chairman of the National Peace Committee (NPC), the former military leader has been engaged in facilitating peace agreements with candidates contesting elections. In 2015 and 2019, the NPC, under this leadership, supervised the signing of peace agreements between the presidential candidates of the two major parties in a bid to avoid the breakdown of law and order.  When in 2015, the swords of Damocles was suspended over the nation’s skies, following the apprehension generated by the conduct of the presidential poll, the former Head of State worked behind the scene in thawing tension.

Secretary of the NPC and erudite Bishop of the Sokoto Catholic Diocese, Dr Matthew Hassan Kukah, hinges the success of the Peace Committee on the credibility of General Abubakar. He is quick to tip the former Head of State for the Nobel Peace Prize: “I believe, but I don’t know how, but I think the next campaign that all of us must now wait for is to work hard because the Nobel Prize for Peace is long overdue. As far as we are concerned, General Abdulsalami is a Nobel laureate, all we need to do is for those who took the award to have the decency to stamp their stamp of authority over what we have already agreed on.”

For a nation cursed with a political class that is enmeshed in a barbaric quest for power, General Abubakar remains a lesson in humility and untainted service to humanity. His brief stint in the corridor of power and his recognition of how far power can be tamed for transparent governance epitomise his personality. He remains one of our nation’s finest leaders who was thrown into the national stage by divine intervention during a period of national emergencies.

Unlike others who would have tempted God and engage in elongating military rule, General Abubakar flew above the tempter’s trap by sticking to what he came to do: Return the military to the barracks. In doing what he did, he secured for himself an enviable place in our nation’s history. Abubakar did not achieve this by simply hoping, he was committed to the dream of a successful transition programme and he worked for it. In ending Nigeria’s endless transition programmes, the former Head of State, who now spearheads calls for the deepening of democracy through a deliberate transparent electoral process, is a demonstration of the true essence of an Aristotelian quote: “Excellence is never an accident. It is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, and intelligent execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives – choice, not chance”.

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EFCC Re-arraigns Fayose Over N2.2bn Fraud

Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) yesterday re-arraigned the former governor of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose, and his company, Spotless Limited, before the Federal High Court in Lagos over alleged conspiracy and money laundering.

Fayose, who was first arraigned before Justice Mojisola Olatoregun on October 22, 2018, is now facing an 11-count charge of the same offences before Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke, where he is currently standing trial.

In the amended charge dated November 24, 2021, the EFCC alleged that the former governor and one Abiodun Agbele, who is also standing trial on alleged money laundering offences before another division of the court, on June 17, 2014, took possession of N1.219 billion, to fund Fayose’s 2014 gubernatorial campaign in Ekiti State.

The anti-graft agency also accused the defendants of committing criminal breach of trust, theft and stealing of public funds.

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The EFCC further claimed that the defendants on the same June 17, 2014, without going through financial institutions, received the sum of $5 million USD, from Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, who was then minister of state for Defence.

The commission also alleged that Fayose on April 7, 2015, retained the sum of N300 million, in his fixed  deposit account number 9013074033, domiciled in a commercial bank.

It also told the court that the former governor and his company, Spotless Limited, between June 17 and August 4, 2014, took control of the sum of N317 million, and deposited the same account.

Fayose was also alleged to have between June 26 and August 27, 2014, taken control of the sum of N305.760 million, which formed part of proceeds of unlawful act.

The EFCC further alleged that the defendant used the sum of N270 million and N1.151,711,573 billion respectively, to acquire properties at Plot 1504, Yedsema Street, Maitama, Abuja from one Rabi Kundili, and Chalets 3, 4, 6 and 9, at Plot 100, Tiyamiyu Savage Street, Victoria Island, Lagos, in the name of JJ Technical Services.

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Fayose was also alleged to have between October 16 and December 31, 2018, failed to declare his assets and properties, by not completing the declaration form during investigation.

The offences according to the EFCC counsel, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN) violated sections 15(2)(d); 1 and 16 (d) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 as amended, and punishable under section 15(3)(4); 16(2)(b) of the same Act.

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Jacobs also alleged that the defendants violated section 27(1)(3)(c) of the EFCC (Establishment) Act, 2004.

The defendants, however, pleaded not guilty to the charge.

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