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
Kila Inaugurates YWC Global Library Project Committee, Calls for Participation
In a bid to preserve and promote Yoruba culture, the Yoruba World Congress (YWC), led by emeritus professor and leader, Banji Akintoye, has unveiled plans for the YWC Global Library.
In unveiling the project, the YWC Secretary General, Prof Anthony Kila explained that the YWC Global Library will have two parts: Brick and Mortar Libraries in various parts of the world starting from Ibadan and Lagos and the Digital Library that everyone anywhere in the world can access and at any time.
To manage the project, the YWC has put together a team of experts who are academics, IT practitioners, education managers and lovers of Yoruba culture.
The project will be led by a steering committee to be chaired Prof Ajayi-Soyinka and with Dr Pat Akinbola (Secretary) Princess Olayinka Adebayo, Mr Babafemi Odutayo (Esq) Dr Sunkanmi Odejide and Mr Luke Tikare
In his address to steering the committee, Prof Anthony Kila stated that our lofty aims include conserving and promoting Yoruba arts, language, history, cosmogony, literature etc. This project will help put Yoruba people and culture on the world map and also put libraries in our peoples mind.
Prof Kila also noted that to make the YWC Global Library a success, all hands must be on deck and asked all Yoruba people come up with what they can offer the project. “We shall be need Suggestion of list of books, Journals Art Work etc., Ideas on how to maintain the best Yoruba library in the world, Donation of books (new and old), journals, art work and Donation of Funds.
To Participate and Donate to the YWC Global Library Project, all are urged to visit the website www.yorubaworldcongress.org
WAEC to Release Fresh 2020 WASSCE Timetable
The West African Examination Council is set to release a fresh timetable for the 2020 West African Senior Secondary Certificate Examination.
Speaking at a Presidential Task Force Briefing on COVID-19 in Abuja on Monday, the Minister of State for Education, Emeka Nwajiuba, said school facilities would be made available for revision classes ahead of the examination.
Nwajiuba advised parents to take note of the date, noting that “as soon as we conclude WAEC, we will take up the NABTEB and NECO exams.”
He added, “The idea is that we have a month from now till then. Those who can and those who are willing, the states who are willing should make their schools available for their children to revise.
“We’ve done the most we can to talk with our representatives at WAEC and this (Monday) afternoon, we confirmed dates allotted for the exams will be from the 4th of August through to the 5th of September. “Local timings will be published.”
The minister, therefore, urged all candidates to start preparing for the examination, saying, “We will be asking that those who are not prepared yet should please go and prepare.
Subsequently, WAEC Nigeria stated via its Twitter handle, “The Head of the Nigeria National Office of WAEC, Mr Patrick Ehidiamen Areghan will address the Press tomorrow (Tuesday) morning. #StayTuned #WASSCE2020 #Timetable”
Also, speaking in a telephone interview with The PUNCH on Tuesday morning, the Head, WAEC Public Affairs, Mr Damian Ojijeogu, said Ehidiamen would address a number of issues regarding the 2020 WASSCE.
He said aside from the timetable, health and safety guidelines would be issued including the mandatory use of face masks for all candidates, temperature checks, use of sanitisers, amongst others.
Ondo Ex-SSG Vows to Work Against Akeredolu’s Reelection
A few hours after the resignation of Mr Sunday Abegunde, as Secretary to the Ondo State Government, the governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, appointed Mr Tayo Oluwatuyi, as replacement.
Akeredolu announced Oluwatuyi at the weekly media briefing in Akure, the state capital on Monday.
Abegunde had resigned through a letter which partly read, “I, Hon. Ifedayo Sunday Abegunde, the Secretary to the State Government of Ondo State hereby tender my letter of resignation.
“I want to thank Mr Governor for giving me the opportunity to serve the Government and people of Ondo State.”
However, Abegunde later granted an interview in Yoruba language on Crest FM, during which he said he resigned from office because of the ill-treatment meted out to him by the governor.
He said, “I suffered in his (Akeredolu) administration because he didn’t release any fund to my office. He has been telling lies that he was giving me N5m every month even when he knew he didn’t give me such money.
“Akeredolu didn’t win the election in 2016 but we made it possible for him to become governor. We were the pillars behind him and we will not support him again. He will lose this time around.”
Abegunde, a two-term member of the House of Representatives further said that he resigned because he could no longer be part of a government that made its subjects to pass through hardship.
He said, “The Akeredolu’s administration is making the entire people of the state to suffer and I cannot be part of that any longer. ”
In his reaction, Ondo State Commissioner, Mr Donald Ojogo, said, “We make bold to say that there can’t be a better reaction than the fact that the man talking has since been replaced with immediate effect. This means he has not been missed and shall not be missed at all. So we wont join issues with the former SSG.”