By Joel Popoola
Latest loans can turn an unprecedented crisis into an unprecedented opportunity, and this is if we make sure the money goes to the right place.
We all know the challenges facing Nigeria. But seeing those challenges laid out in black and white still has the power to shock.
This week a report from the International Monetary Fund pulled no punches in its assessment of our nation.
“Half of the student-age population is enrolled in schools.
“Healthy life expectancy is 49 years, placing Nigeria among the bottom six countries in the world.
“Some 54% of the population is connected to an electricity grid that collapses about once a month.
“Roads are in precarious condition.
“Less than four per cent of the population have access to safely managed water.
“Overall, Nigeria’s indicators of human and physical capital are worse than countries with lower GDP per capita.”
The IMF estimates public spending will need to go up by 18% to fix these problems.
As William Shakespeare put it; ‘when troubles come, they come not as single spies but whole battalions’. And these troubles have been compounded by the COVID-19 crisis, which has crippled Nigeria’s economy while demanding extraordinary increases in public spending.
But this crisis has brought with it unparalleled financial assistance too, and not a penny of that assistance should be wasted.
In April, the IMF approved a $3.4 billion package of emergency financial assistance for Nigeria to support the government’s efforts to stabilise our economy in particular in the face of the dramatic slump in world oil prices.
This is likely to be followed by an additional $3 billion dollar loan from the World Bank, which will be used to fund to restart and re-energise our economy.
As I write, the World Bank has also agreed a $750m package of investment aimed at ending power cuts across Nigeria, which are estimated to cost our economy $2.8 billion a year and reduce economic growth by at least 2%.
This is exactly the kind of infrastructural investment I have repeatedly called for. But that investment can only be delivered with transparency and accountability.
It is something of a cliché to say that the Chinese use the same word for ‘crisis’ as ‘opportunity’. But this unprecedented crisis has created an unprecedented opportunity to put Nigerian on the path to a better future.
But based on bitter experiences, many Nigerians may worry that some of these funds will never be used for their intended purposes. Cronyism. Misappropriation. Downright theft. Many of us have a depressing story to tell.
This time things could be different.
The IMF’s mission chief for Nigeria, Amine Mati, has already highlighted what measures the government is taking to enhance transparency and governance of the emergency financing.
These include independent oversight of the spending of the loans and the procurement processes related to that spending, and the publication of procurement plans and notices for all emergency response activities including the names of companies awarded contracts and the owners of those companies.
And most important of all, these reports will be published daily on Nigeria’s treasury website for everyone to see.
Every penny must be accounted for.
As the head of the Digital Democracy campaign, created to use technology to bring people and politics closer together, I welcome these announcements. But we need to go a little further.
Our politicians need to be as transparent and as accountable as these accounts. That’s why we created the free Rate Your Leader app.
The free app puts registered voters in direct person-to-person contact with their local decision makers, forcing them to justify every decision they make and every penny they spend, and making them truly accountable to the people they serve.
And if their voters don’t like the answers they get, they can rate their politicians appropriately for everyone to see.
Generations of underwhelming and underperforming government has brought Nigeria to where we are today. Many Nigerians do not trust their leaders. To many, they are self-interested and self-serving. This is not true in my experience, but like it or not, many think this way.
The first step to addressing that lack of trust is to build better relationships between electors and elected and using the technology you might be reading this on – that can very easily be achieved.
Joel Popoola is a Nigerian tech entrepreneur, digital democracy campaigner and is creator of the free Rate Your Leader app. You can reach him via Joel@rateyourleader.com or @JOPOPOOLA
Kogi Gov Blames Federal Roads for Tanker Explosion
The Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello, has blamed the Wednesday fatal tanker explosion in Lokoja, the state capital, on the deplorable state of federal roads.
The tanker carrying Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) ran into oncoming vehicles after the brake failed around Felele area of Lokoja about 8:00 a.m.
Cars, motorcycles and a school bus were destroyed in the inferno.
About 23 lives, including students of the state polytechnic and primary school pupils, died in the blaze, the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) confirmed.
Following the incident, Mr Bello visited the minister of works and housing, Babatunde Fashola, to solicit urgent Federal Government’s attention to the deplorable condition of federal roads in Kogi.
According to his spokesperson, Onogwu Muhammed, the governor told the minister that the deplorable state of all federal roads across the state led to recurrent accidents in the state.
“He said the state government has done a lot in maintaining the roads but owing to the large volume of traffic on the roads, in view of its strategic location as gateway state, such repairs and maintenance do not stand the test of time.
“He appealed to the minister to expedite action in carrying out reconstruction of roads across the state to curtail the preventable accidents on the road.”
Also, Mr Bello begged Mr Fashola to direct contractors handling repairs on the Murtala Bridge at Jamata “to speed up the rate of work,” noting that the slow pace of work has caused the commuters untold hardship.
In a similar vein, he urged the minister to direct the contractors in-charge of the Kabba-Ilorin road project to return to site.
He said the total neglect of the road in the area has made life unbearable for motorists and commuters plying the road.
“The governor also drew the attention of the minister to the Lokoja-Ganaja-Ajaokuta road which the federal government awarded for over three years but contractors were yet to be seen on site.”
Meanwhile, Mr Muhammed said the minister had ordered the Federal Road Maintenance Agency to immediately fix the bad portion of the road at the Felele end of the Okene/Lokoja/Abuja road.
“The minister equally put calls across to contractors handling Kabba-Egbe-Omuaro road, Okene-Lokoja-Abuja road to inform them of the governor’s presence in his office and the need for them to speed up the works on the roads.
“He assured the governor that the ministry will use the remaining part of the year to achieve more in fulfilling the governor’s request in respect of federal roads in the state.”
NCAC Holds Discussion on Resuscitating Culture, Morality
A one day Cultural Roundtable on Morality, Culture and the Nigerian Youth has been organized by National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC). The aim of the program was to address the progressive deterioration of our cultural values and the urgent need to mount a comprehensive and sustainable value re-orientation programme to return Nigerian society on the path of moral rebirth.
In his welcome address at the event held at Abuja Sheraton Hotels and Towers, the Director-General of the National Council for Arts and Culture, Otunba Olusegun Runsewe decried the progressive deterioration in our cultural values.
Runsewe stated that while Nigeria had always been known for a rich culture, anchored on the virtues of hardwork, integrity, high public morality, respect for elders and constituted authority, decency in dressing and in public speeches among others, these virtues are rapidly giving way to various social vices.
He noted that in the past, agents of socialization like the family, school, religious institutions, took collective responsibility in inculcating high moral values among our youths. According to Otunba Runsewe, today the story is different. Runsewe lamented that what we now see, is laziness, get rich quick syndrome and primitive acquisitive tendencies by yahoo-yahoo boys, scammers, internet fraudsters and all forms of social vices.
In her speech, the Chairman of the occasion, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Women Affairs and Administration, Office of the First Lady, Dr. Hajo Sani stated that our youths in imitating foreign cultures in the way they talk and dress, are early signs of deviation from our moral values and customs.
She lamented that in our schools, many teachers who are supposed to tutor our children in cultural ethos now take advantage of the same children they are supposed to take care of. She added that the society at large, has now become bad examples to our youths by exposing them to other immoral vices like rape and other forms of evil activities.
She noted that the First Lady, Mrs. Aisha Buhari will be willing to collaborate with NCAC on building a good foundation for our youth right from childhood.
The Managing Director of Africa Independence Television (AIT), Dr. (Mrs) Tosin Dokpesi, who gave the keynote address, commended the DG, NCAC for putting up the roundtable discourse, adding that there is no better time to start the moral rebirth crusade than now. She said all hands must be on deck to rid the society of the social vices and inculcate good values in our youths. She stressed the need to arrest our eroding values and tradition with a commitment to restore the lost culture and glory of our country Nigeria.
Highlight of the occasion was the presentation of a book titled “Morality, Culture and the Nigerian Youth”, authored by the Director-General, National Council for Arts and Culture, copies of which were distributed to all the participants: discussants, speakers, journalists and other invited guests. The Director-General, National Council for Arts and Culture, Otunba Segun Runsewe also used the occasion to express the resolve of the National Council for Arts and Culture to rise up to the occasion and rid our society of moral rot and put Nigeria on a sound social and cultural footing.
Runsewe added that the book will serve as one of the literature materials that his Council intends to use to prosecute the moral rebirth in our society. He urged every parent, teacher, religious leader to critically review our values as a nation as that is the only sure way we can aspire for accelerated growth and development we urgently desire.
The one day roundtable attracted the participation of critical stakeholders from different sectors of the society.
INEC Issues Obaseki Certificate of Return
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has presented a certificate of return to Godwin Obaseki as the elected governor of Edo state.
Obaseki and Philip Shaibu, his deputy, both of whom contested in the state governorship election under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) were presented with the certificate in Benin on Tuesday.
The commission had declared him the winner of the Saturday poll after he got the highest votes.
May Agbamuche-Mbu, INEC south-south National Commissioner who presented him with the certificate, said Obaseki fulfilled all the constitutional requirements to emerge winner of the election.
The governor was re-elected after securing 307,955 votes across 18 local government areas (LGAs) while Osagie Ize-Iyamu, candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), came second with 223,619 votes.
The PDP candidate, who will begin his second term in office in November, 2020, won in 13 LGAs while Ize-Iyamu won in five.
Total votes cast is 550,242 while the total number of valid votes in the election is 537,407, and rejected votes – 12,835.
Ize-Iyamu is yet to concede the election though. After the results were announced, he hinted at challenging the outcome in court, saying his supporters were disenfranchised.
But his party has since accepted the results. The APC leadership described the outcome as a victory for democracy and asked Ize-Iyamu to congratulate Obaseki.