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Posts tagged ‘GoodluckJonathan’

In New Year Message, Jonathan Promises To Cut Unnecessary Government Foreign Travels.


The African Examiner

In his New Year message to Nigerians, President Goodluck Jonathan has declared that Foreign travel by government personnel will be reduced as part of government’s efforts to block financial leakages in the system.

He said “this directive shall apply to all Ministries, Departments and Agencies of the Federal Government.”

President Goodluck Jonathan

President Goodluck Jonathan

The president also said financial reforms will continue in the system through the introduction of biometrics and digitizing government payments.

“Through these reforms, we have already saved about N126 billion in leaked funds and intend to save more,” the president assured.

 As usual, the president also promised to fight corruption in key sectors of the economy and to confront the security challenges facing the country.

The President’s Message reads in full:

“I greet and felicitate with you all as we enter the year 2014 which promises to be a momentous one for our country for several reasons, including the fact that it is also the year of our great nation’s centenary celebrations. I join you all in giving thanks to God Almighty for guiding us and our beloved nation safely through all the challenges of the outgoing year to the beginning of 2014.

“Exactly 100 years ago today, on January 1, 1914, the British Colonial authorities amalgamated what was then the separate Protectorates of Southern Nigeria and Northern Nigeria, giving birth to the single geopolitical entity known as Nigeria.  For us therefore, today is not just the beginning of a new year, but the end of a century of national existence and the beginning of another. It is a moment for sober reflection and for pride in all that is great about Nigeria.

“Whatever challenges we may have faced, whatever storms we may have confronted and survived, Nigeria remains a truly blessed country, a country of gifted men and women who continue to distinguish themselves in all spheres of life, a country whose diversity remains a source of strength.  We pay tribute today, as always to our founding fathers and mothers, and all the heroes and heroines whose toil and sweat over the century made this country what it is today.

“As I noted, a few days ago, the amalgamation of 1914 was certainly not a mistake but a blessing.  As we celebrate 100 years of nationhood, we must resolve to continue to work together as one, united people, to make our country even greater.

“I assure you that our administration remains fully committed to the progressive development of our country and the consolidation of peace, unity and democratic governance in our fatherland. Despite several continuing domestic and global challenges, for us in Nigeria, the year 2013 witnessed many positive developments which we will strive to build upon in 2014.

We have diligently carried forward the purposeful and focused implementation of our agenda for national transformation in priority areas such as power, the rehabilitation and expansion of national infrastructure, agricultural development, education and employment generation.

“You may recall that our 2013 Budget was on the theme, “Fiscal Consolidation with Inclusive Growth”, and I emphasized the need for us to “remain prudent with our fiscal resources and also ensure that the Nigerian economy keeps growing and creating jobs”. I am pleased to report that we have stayed focused on this goal.

“Our national budget for 2014 which is now before the National Assembly is specifically targeted at job creation and inclusive growth. We are keenly aware that in spite of the estimated 1.6 million new jobs created across the country in the past 12 months as a result of our actions and policies, more jobs are still needed to support our growing population. Our economic priorities will be stability and equitable growth, building on the diverse sectors of our economy.

“In 2013, we commenced implementation of the National Industrial Revolution Plan (NIRP) aimed at industrializing Nigeria and diversifying our economy into sectors such as agro-processing, light manufacturing, and petrochemicals. We have also negotiated a strong Common External Tariff (CET) agreement with our ECOWAS partners which would enable us to protect our strategic industries where necessary.

“I am pleased to note that as a result of our backward integration policies, Nigeria has moved from a country that produced 2 million metric tonnes of cement in 2002, to a country that now has a capacity of 28.5 million metric tonnes. For the first time in our history, we have moved from being a net importer of cement to a net exporter. Foreign direct investment into Nigeria has also been strong. In fact, for the second year running, the UN Conference on Trade and Development has named Nigeria as the number 1 destination for investments in Africa.

“We are witnessing a revolution in the agricultural sector and the results are evident. We have tackled corruption in the input distribution system as many farmers now obtain their fertilizers and seeds directly through an e-wallet system. In 2013, 4.2 million farmers received subsidized inputs via this programme. This scheme has restored dignity to our farmers.

“Last year we produced over 8 million metric tonnes of additional food; and this year, inflation fell to its lowest level since 2008 partly due to higher domestic food production. Our food import bill has also reduced from N1.1 trillion in 2011, to N648 billion in 2012, placing Nigeria firmly on the path to food self-sufficiency.

“The sector is also supporting more jobs. Last year, we produced 1.1 million metric tonnes of dry season rice across 10 Northern states; and over 250,000 farmers and youths in these States are now profitably engaged in farming even during the dry season.

“This Administration is also developing our water resources which are key for both our food production and job creation goals. In 2013, we completed the construction of nine dams which increased the volume of our water reservoirs by 422 million cubic metres.  Through our irrigation and drainage programme, we have increased the total irrigated area by over 31,000 hectares creating jobs for over 75,000 farming families while increasing production of over 400,000 metric tons of assorted irrigated food products.

“Fellow Compatriots, I have always believed that the single greatest thing we can do to ensure all Nigerians realize their potential and play a full part in our nation’s future, is to invest in education. The education of our young people is a key priority for this Government. We take this responsibility very seriously and I urge all other stakeholders in the sector to recognize the national importance of their work, and to help advance the cause of education in our nation.

“Between 2007 and 2013, we have almost tripled the allocation for education from N224 billion to N634 billion – and we will continue to vigorously support the sector. We have improved access to education in the country with the construction of 125 Almajiri schools, and the establishment of three additional Federal Universities in the North, bringing to twelve, the number of universities established by this administration.

“In 2013, we rehabilitated 352 laboratories and constructed 72 new libraries in the Federal Unity Schools; and also rehabilitated laboratories of all the 51 Federal and State polytechnics across the country.

“In the Health sector, we are building strong safety nets and improving access to primary health care under the Saving One Million Lives programme. In 2013, we recruited 11,300 frontline health workers who were deployed to under-served communities across the country. Over 400,000 lives have been saved through our various interventions. We have reached over 10,000 women and children with conditional cash transfer programmes across 8 States and the FCT and we intend to scale up this successful initiative.

“Our national immunization coverage has exceeded 80%. And for the first time in the history of the country there has not been any transmission of the Type-3 Wild Polio virus for more than one year. We have also eradicated the guinea worm that previously affected the lives of over 800,000 Nigerians yearly. In tertiary health care, we upgraded medical facilities across the country. Two of our teaching hospitals – the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital in Enugu, and the University College Hospital in Ibadan – commenced open heart surgeries this year after the installation of new facilities.

“Fellow Nigerians, I have dwelt on some of our administration’s achievements in 2013 to reassure you that we are working and results are being achieved on the ground. As we enter our Centennial year, there is still much work ahead. We are determined to sustain our strong macroeconomic fundamentals, to strengthen our domestic institutions, and to invest in priority sectors. These investments will create more jobs for our youth. Government will at the same time, continue to scale-up investments in safety nets and the MDGs to take care of the poor and the vulnerable so that they too can share in our growth and prosperity.

“In 2014, we will continue to prioritize investments in key sectors such as  infrastructure development, power, roads, rail transportation and aviation. In the past year, the Federal Government completed the privatization of four power generation companies and 10 power distribution companies. We are also in the process of privatizing 10 power plants under the National Integrated Power Projects (NIPP).

“We shall boost investments in transmission to ensure power generated is properly evacuated and distributed. In this regard, we have already mobilized an additional $1.5 billion for the upgrade of the transmission network in 2014 and beyond.  Government will also strengthen regulation of the sector, and closely monitor electricity delivery to increase this beyond 18 hours per day. We will complete the privatization of the NIPP projects, accelerate work on our gas pipeline infrastructure and also continue to invest in hydro-electric power and clean energy as we monitor the effects of climate change on our economy.

“Our administration believes that the cost of governance in the country is still too high and must be further reduced. We will also take additional steps to stem the tide of corruption and leakages. We have worked hard to curb fraud in the administration of the pension system and the implementation of the petroleum subsidy scheme. We have introduced a Pensions Transition Arrangement Department under a new Director-General. This department will now ensure that those of our pensioners still under the old scheme receive their pensions and gratuities, and are not subjected to fraud. Prosecution of all those involved in robbing our retired people will continue. The Petroleum Subsidy Scheme is also now being operated under new strict guidelines to tackle previous leakages in the scheme and prevent fraud.

“Foreign travel by government personnel will be further curtailed. This directive shall apply to all Ministries, Departments and Agencies of the Federal Government. Our strategy to curb leakages will increasingly rely on introducing the right technologies such as biometrics and digitizing government payments.

“I am therefore pleased to inform you that we shall complete the deployment of the three electronic platforms in 2014 – namely, the Treasury Single Account (TSA), the Government Integrated Financial Management Information System(GIFMIS) and the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) – which are all geared towards improving efficiency and transparency in our public finances. Through these reforms, we have already saved about N126 billion in leaked funds and intend to save more.

“To sustain Nigeria’s ongoing agricultural transformation, we have planned further investments in the sector. We will provide input subsidies to five million farmers nationwide using the e-wallet system.  This Administration recently launched a self-employment initiative under the Youth Employment in Agriculture Programme (YEAP), called the Nagropreneur programme. This scheme would encourage our youth to go into commercial agriculture as entrepreneurs and we plan to develop over 750,000 young Nagropreneurs by 2015.

“We will also establish new agro-industrial clusters to complement the staple crop processing zones being developed across the country. In 2014, this Administration will continue to work with the private sector to improve financing in the agricultural sector. For example, we will launch the Fund for Agricultural Finance in Nigeria (FAFIN) which will serve as a private equity fund to invest in agri-businesses across the country.

“Our Small and Medium scale enterprises (SMEs) will be the bedrock of Nigeria’s industrialization. We have about 17 million registered SMEs, and they employ over 32 million Nigerians. When our SMEs grow, more jobs will be created for our youth. Therefore, in 2014, this Administration will focus strongly on implementing the Nigeria Enterprise Development Programme (NEDEP) to address the needs of small businesses. Our interventions will include helping SMEs with access to affordable finance, business development services, and youth training. In addition, our new CET policies will enable us to support our emerging industries.

“We will also intensify our investment promotion efforts abroad, to ensure we bring the biggest and best companies from around the world to invest in Nigeria.

“Dear Compatriots, the housing and construction industry is a critical sector in most developed economies. When the housing sector booms, it creates additional jobs for architects and masons, for electricians and plumbers, for painters and interior decorators, and for those in the cement and furniture industries.

“Today, I am pleased to inform you that this Administration is reinvigorating our housing and construction sector. We have established the Nigeria Mortgage Refinance Company (NMRC) which will increase liquidity in the housing sector, provide a secondary market for mortgages, and thereby increase the number of people able to purchase or build homes at an affordable price in the country.

“In 2014, we will work in a number of pilot states where the State Governors have agreed to provide fast-track land titles, foreclosure arrangements, and serviced plots. This new institution will enable us to create over 200,000 mortgages over the next five years at affordable interest rates. In addition, those at the lower end of the economic ladder will not be left behind as this new initiative will expand mass housing schemes through a re-structured Federal Mortgage Bank and other institutions to provide rent-to-own and lease-to-own options. I am confident that very soon, many more hardworking Nigerian families will be able to realize their dream of owning a home.

“In this our centenary year, we will continue our efforts, through the Saving One Million Lives initiative to strengthen primary health care services. We will scale up interventions in reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health, nutrition, routine immunization, HIV/AIDS, malaria elimination, tuberculosis, neglected tropical diseases, and non-communicable diseases. We will pay greater attention to the provision of universal health coverage. Besides the implementation of new initiatives such as my comprehensive response plan for HIV/AIDS, we shall continue to collaborate with global health partners to deliver our health sector transformation agenda.

“I am glad that the issues responsible for the long-drawn ASUU strike have been resolved and our children are returning to their campuses. We are committed to making our tertiary institutions true centers of learning for our young people. We will therefore focus on upgrading hostels, laboratories, classrooms, and halls.  As the 2015 deadline for the Millennium Development Goals approaches, we will continue to expand access to basic education for all Nigerian children. Working with State Governments, we shall decisively tackle the problem of the large numbers of out-of-school children in this country. We will also invest in technical and vocational education to promote skills development for our youth across the country.

“Nigerian entrepreneurs still lack access to affordable financing, with medium-to-long-term tenors. To address this gap, a new wholesale development finance institution will be established in 2014 to provide medium-to long-term financing for Nigerian businesses. We are working with partners such as the World Bank, the Africa Development Bank, the BNDES Bank in Brazil, and KfW in Germany, to realize this project. Our existing Bank of Agriculture and Bank of Industry will be re-structured as specialized institutions to retail financing from this new wholesale development bank.

“In addition to the foregoing, our administration will also do all within its powers to ensure the success of the forthcoming National Conference. The report of the Presidential Advisory Committee on the Conference is undergoing urgent review and the approved structure, guidelines and modalities for the conference will soon be published as a prelude to its commencement and expeditious conclusion.

“It remains our sincere hope and expectation that the success of the national conference will further enhance national unity, peace and cohesion as we move ahead to the 2015 general elections.

“In keeping with our avowed commitment to progressively enhancing the credibility of Nigeria’s electoral process by consistently upholding the principle of one man, one vote, our Administration will also ensure that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) receives all required support to ensure that it is adequately prepared for the next general elections.

“As peace and security remain prerequisite conditions for the full realization of our objectives, we will also do more in 2014 to further empower our security agencies who are working in collaborative partnerships with our friends in the international community to stem the scourge of terrorism in our country and enhance the security of lives and property in all parts of Nigeria. The allocation of over N600 Billion to Defence and Policing in the 2014 Budget attests to this commitment.

“Fellow compatriots, the task of making our dear nation a much better place for present and future generations cannot be left to government alone. I therefore urge you all to be ready and willing to do more this year to support the implementation of the Federal Government’s Agenda for National Transformation in every possible way.

“Let us all therefore resolve as we celebrate the new year, and Nigeria’s Centenary, to place the higher interests of national unity, peace, stability and progress above all other considerations and work harder in our particular fields of human endeavour to contribute more significantly to the attainment of our collective aspirations. I urge all Nigerians, no matter their stations in life, to rededicate themselves to contributing meaningfully to further enrich our national heritage. The time for that re-dedication is now, not tomorrow.

“I wish you all a happy and rewarding 2014. God bless Nigeria. Happy New Year.”

President Jonathan: My Government Created 1.6 Million Jobs In 2013.


By SaharaReporters, New York

In what appears to be an election campaign statement to rebut those who say his government has failed, President Jonathan has in a New Year message to Nigerians rolled out a list of his “achievements” in the past year.

Among them, he claimed his government may have been responsible for an astounding 1.6 million jobs in 2013 alone, but did not clarify where the jobs were filled.

“Our national budget for 2014 which is now before the National Assembly is specifically targeted at job creation and inclusive growth,” he said.

“We are keenly aware that in spite of the estimated 1.6 million new jobs created across the country in the past 12 months as a result of our actions and policies, more jobs are still needed to support our growing population. Our economic priorities will be stability and equitable growth, building on the diverse sectors of our economy.”

Mr. Jonathan did not say anything about the challenge of leading by example, and only referred to corruption and bad governance, which his critics claim he is nurturing in the country, in passing.

“I urge all Nigerians, no matter their stations in life, to rededicate themselves to contributing meaningfully to further enrich our national heritage.  The time for that re-dedication is now, not tomorrow,” he said, referring to the 2014 being Nigeria’s centenary year.

He reiterated that the amalgamation of 1914 was a blessing rather than a mistake, and called on Nigerians as they celebrate the landmark, to continue to work together to be “even greater” as one, united people.

“Whatever challenges we may have faced, whatever storms we may have confronted and survived, Nigeria remains a truly blessed country, a country of gifted men and women who continue to distinguish themselves in all spheres of life, a country whose diversity remains a source of strength.  We pay tribute today, as always to our founding fathers and mothers, and all the heroes and heroines whose toil and sweat over the century made this country what it is today.”

On the issue of peace and security in the country, he said his government will do more in 2014 to further empower the security agencies who are working in collaborative partnerships with its friends in the international community to stem the scourge of terrorism in our country, adding that the allocation of over N600 Billion to Defence and Policing in the 2014 Budget attests to this commitment.

Mr. Jonathan also highlighted, among others:

•    The commencement of the National Industrial Revolution Plan in 2013, aimed at industrializing Nigeria and diversifying our economy into sectors such as agro-processing, light manufacturing, and petrochemicals;

•    Nigeria has moved from a country that produced 2 million metric tonnes of cement in 2002 to a country that now has a capacity of 28.5 million metric tonnes; for the first time becoming a net exporter of cement;

•    A revolution in the agricultural sector, where 4.2 million farmers obtained their fertilizers and seeds directly through an e-wallet in 2013;

•    Nigeria produced over 8 million metric tonnes of additional food in 2013 and inflation fell to its lowest level since 2008 partly as a result, the nation’s food import bill reducing from N1.1 trillion in 2011 to N648 billion in 2012;

•    Between 2007 and 2013, the government has almost tripled the allocation for education from N224 billion to N634 billion; and

•    Nigeria is building strong safety nets and improving access to primary health care under the Saving One Million Lives programme, and in 2013 recruited 11,300 frontline health workers who were deployed to under-served communities across the country.

Mr. Jonathan promised that in 2014, his government will continue to prioritize investments in key sectors such as infrastructure development, power, roads, rail transportation and aviation.

“We shall boost investments in transmission to ensure power generated is properly evacuated and distributed,” he said.  “In this regard, we have already mobilized an additional $1.5 billion for the upgrade of the transmission network in 2014 and beyond.  Government will also strengthen regulation of the sector, and closely monitor electricity delivery to increase this beyond 18 hours per day. We will complete the privatization of the NIPP projects, accelerate work on our gas pipeline infrastructure and also continue to invest in hydro-electric power and clean energy as we monitor the effects of climate change on our economy.”

He said his administration believes that the cost of governance in the country is still too high and must be further reduced, and would therefore take additional steps to stem the tide of corruption and leakages, including curtailing foreign travel by government personnel will be further curtailed.
He did not say how he would recover public faith in his government that has been shattered by his refusal to declare his assets publicly, his protection of corrupt government Ministers and the state pardon granted to his corrupt friends, all being elements that are known to curtail or compromise every government’s best initiatives.

Full text of the statement:

NEW YEAR MESSAGE TO THE NATION FROM PRESIDENT GOODLUCK EBELE JONATHAN, GCFR
DECEMBER 31, 2013
Dear Compatriots,
I greet and felicitate with you all as we enter the year 2014 which promises to be a momentous one for our country for several reasons, including the fact that it is also the year of our great nation’s centenary celebrations. I join you all in giving thanks to God Almighty for guiding us and our beloved nation safely through all the challenges of the outgoing year to the beginning of 2014.

Exactly 100 years ago today, on January 1, 1914, the British Colonial authorities amalgamated what was then the separate Protectorates of Southern Nigeria and Northern Nigeria, giving birth to the single geopolitical entity known as Nigeria.  For us therefore, today is not just the beginning of a new year, but the end of a century of national existence and the beginning of another. It is a moment for sober reflection and for pride in all that is great about Nigeria.

Whatever challenges we may have faced, whatever storms we may have confronted and survived, Nigeria remains a truly blessed country, a country of gifted men and women who continue to distinguish themselves in all spheres of life, a country whose diversity remains a source of strength.  We pay tribute today, as always to our founding fathers and mothers, and all the heroes and heroines whose toil and sweat over the century made this country what it is today.

As I noted, a few days ago, the amalgamation of 1914 was certainly not a mistake but a blessing.  As we celebrate 100 years of nationhood, we must resolve to continue to work together as one, united people, to make our country even greater.

I assure you that our administration remains fully committed to the progressive development of our country and the consolidation of peace, unity and democratic governance in our fatherland. Despite several continuing domestic and global challenges, for us in Nigeria, the year 2013 witnessed many positive developments which we will strive to build upon in 2014.

We have diligently carried forward the purposeful and focused implementation of our agenda for national transformation in priority areas such as power, the rehabilitation and expansion of national infrastructure, agricultural development, education and employment generation.

You may recall that our 2013 Budget was on the theme, “Fiscal Consolidation with Inclusive Growth”, and I emphasized the need for us to “remain prudent with our fiscal resources and also ensure that the Nigerian economy keeps growing and creating jobs”. I am pleased to report that we have stayed focused on this goal.

Our national budget for 2014 which is now before the National Assembly is specifically targeted at job creation and inclusive growth. We are keenly aware that in spite of the estimated 1.6 million new jobs created across the country in the past 12 months as a result of our actions and policies, more jobs are still needed to support our growing population. Our economic priorities will be stability and equitable growth, building on the diverse sectors of our economy.

In 2013, we commenced implementation of the National Industrial Revolution Plan (NIRP) aimed at industrializing Nigeria and diversifying our economy into sectors such as agro-processing, light manufacturing, and petrochemicals. We have also negotiated a strong Common External Tariff (CET) agreement with our ECOWAS partners which would enable us to protect our strategic industries where necessary.

I am pleased to note that as a result of our backward integration policies, Nigeria has moved from a country that produced 2 million metric tonnes of cement in 2002, to a country that now has a capacity of 28.5 million metric tonnes. For the first time in our history, we have moved from being a net importer of cement to a net exporter. Foreign direct investment into Nigeria has also been strong. In fact, for the second year running, the UN Conference on Trade and Development has named Nigeria as the number 1 destination for investments in Africa.

We are witnessing a revolution in the agricultural sector and the results are evident. We have tackled corruption in the input distribution system as many farmers now obtain their fertilizers and seeds directly through an e-wallet system. In 2013, 4.2 million farmers received subsidized inputs via this programme. This scheme has restored dignity to our farmers.

Last year we produced over 8 million metric tonnes of additional food; and this year, inflation fell to its lowest level since 2008 partly due to higher domestic food production. Our food import bill has also reduced from N1.1 trillion in 2011, to N648 billion in 2012, placing Nigeria firmly on the path to food self-sufficiency.

The sector is also supporting more jobs. Last year, we produced 1.1 million metric tonnes of dry season rice across 10 Northern states; and over 250,000 farmers and youths in these States are now profitably engaged in farming even during the dry season.
This Administration is also developing our water resources which are key for both our food production and job creation goals. In 2013, we completed the construction of nine dams which increased the volume of our water reservoirs by 422 million cubic metres.  Through our irrigation and drainage programme, we have increased the total irrigated area by over 31,000 hectares creating jobs for over 75,000 farming families while increasing production of over 400,000 metric tons of assorted irrigated food products.

Fellow Compatriots, I have always believed that the single greatest thing we can do to ensure all Nigerians realize their potential and play a full part in our nation’s future, is to invest in education. The education of our young people is a key priority for this Government. We take this responsibility very seriously and I urge all other stakeholders in the sector to recognize the national importance of their work, and to help advance the cause of education in our nation.

Between 2007 and 2013, we have almost tripled the allocation for education from N224 billion to N634 billion – and we will continue to vigorously support the sector. We have improved access to education in the country with the construction of 125 Almajiri schools, and the establishment of three additional Federal Universities in the North, bringing to twelve, the number of universities established by this administration.

In 2013, we rehabilitated 352 laboratories and constructed 72 new libraries in the Federal Unity Schools; and also rehabilitated laboratories of all the 51 Federal and State polytechnics across the country.

In the Health sector, we are building strong safety nets and improving access to primary health care under the Saving One Million Lives programme. In 2013, we recruited 11,300 frontline health workers who were deployed to under-served communities across the country. Over 400,000 lives have been saved through our various interventions. We have reached over 10,000 women and children with conditional cash transfer programmes across 8 States and the FCT and we intend to scale up this successful initiative.

Our national immunization coverage has exceeded 80%. And for the first time in the history of the country there has not been any transmission of the Type-3 Wild Polio virus for more than one year.We have also eradicated the guinea worm that previously affected the lives of over 800,000 Nigerians yearly. In tertiary health care, we upgraded medical facilities across the country. Two of our teaching hospitals – the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital in Enugu, and the University College Hospital in Ibadan – commenced open heart surgeries this year after the installation of new facilities.

Fellow Nigerians, I have dwelt on some of our administration’s achievements in 2013 to reassure you that we are working and results are being achieved on the ground. As we enter our Centennial year, there is still much work ahead. We are determined to sustain our strong macroeconomic fundamentals, to strengthen our domestic institutions, and to invest in priority sectors. These investments will create more jobs for our youth. Government will at the same time, continue to scale-up investments in safety nets and the MDGs to take care of the poor and the vulnerable so that they too can share in our growth and prosperity.

In 2014, we will continue to prioritize investments in key sectors such as  infrastructure development, power, roads, rail transportation and aviation. In the past year, the Federal Government completed the privatization of four power generation companies and 10 power distribution companies. We are also in the process of privatizing 10 power plants under the National Integrated Power Projects (NIPP).
We shall boost investments in transmission to ensure power generated is properly evacuated and distributed. In this regard, we have already mobilized an additional $1.5 billion for the upgrade of the transmission network in 2014 and beyond.  Government will also strengthen regulation of the sector, and closely monitor electricity delivery to increase this beyond 18 hours per day. We will complete the privatization of the NIPP projects, accelerate work on our gas pipeline infrastructure and also continue to invest in hydro-electric power and clean energy as we monitor the effects of climate change on our economy.

Our administration believes that the cost of governance in the country is still too high and must be further reduced. We will also take additional steps to stem the tide of corruption and leakages. We have worked hard to curb fraud in the administration of the pension system and the implementation of the petroleum subsidy scheme. We have introduced a Pensions Transition Arrangement Department under a new Director-General. This department will now ensure that those of our pensioners still under the old scheme receive their pensions and gratuities, and are not subjected to fraud. Prosecution of all those involved in robbing our retired people will continue. The Petroleum Subsidy Scheme is also now being operated under new strict guidelines to tackle previous leakages in the scheme and prevent fraud.

Foreign travel by government personnel will be further curtailed. This directive shall apply to all Ministries, Departments and Agencies of the Federal Government. Our strategy to curb leakages will increasingly rely on introducing the right technologies such as biometrics and digitizing government payments.

I am therefore pleased to inform you that we shall complete the deployment of the three electronic platforms in 2014 – namely, theTreasury Single Account (TSA), theGovernment Integrated Financial Management Information System(GIFMIS) and the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) – which are all geared towards improving efficiency and transparency in our public finances. Through these reforms, we have already saved about N126 billion in leaked funds and intend to save more.

To sustain Nigeria’s ongoing agricultural transformation, we have planned further investments in the sector. We will provide input subsidies to five million farmers nationwide using the e-wallet system.  This Administration recently launched a self-employment initiative under theYouth Employment in Agriculture Programme (YEAP), called the Nagropreneur programme. This scheme would encourage our youth to go into commercial agriculture as entrepreneurs and we plan to develop over 750,000 youngNagropreneurs by 2015.

We will also establish new agro-industrial clusters to complement the staple crop processing zones being developed across the country.In 2014, this Administration will continue to work with the private sector to improve financing in the agricultural sector. For example, we will launch the Fund for Agricultural Finance in Nigeria(FAFIN) which will serve as a private equity fund to invest in agri-businesses across the country.

Our Small and Medium scale enterprises (SMEs) will be the bedrock of Nigeria’s industrialization. We have about 17 million registered SMEs, and they employ over 32 million Nigerians. When our SMEs grow, more jobs will be created for our youth. Therefore, in 2014, this Administration will focus strongly on implementing the Nigeria Enterprise Development Programme (NEDEP) to address the needs of small businesses. Our interventions will include helping SMEs with access to affordable finance, business development services, and youth training. In addition, our new CET policies will enable us to support our emerging industries.

We will also intensify our investment promotion efforts abroad, to ensure we bring the biggest and best companies from around the world to invest in Nigeria.

Dear Compatriots, the housing and construction industry is a critical sector in most developed economies. When the housing sector booms, it creates additional jobs for architects and masons, for electricians and plumbers, for painters and interior decorators, and for those in the cement and furniture industries.

Today, I am pleased to inform you that this Administration is reinvigorating our housing and construction sector. We have established the Nigeria Mortgage Refinance Company (NMRC) which will increase liquidity in the housing sector, provide a secondary market for mortgages, and thereby increase the number of people able to purchase or build homes at an affordable price in the country.

In 2014, we will work in a number of pilot states where the State Governors have agreed to provide fast-track land titles, foreclosure arrangements, and serviced plots. This new institution will enable us to create over 200,000 mortgages over the next five years at affordable interest rates. In addition, those at the lower end of the economic ladder will not be left behind as this new initiative will expand mass housing schemes through a re-structured Federal Mortgage Bank and other institutions to provide rent-to-own and lease-to-own options. I am confident that very soon, many more hardworking Nigerian families will be able to realize their dream of owning a home.

In this our centenary year, we will continue our efforts, through theSaving One Million Lives initiative to strengthen primary health care services. We will scale up interventions in reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health, nutrition, routine immunization, HIV/AIDS, malaria elimination, tuberculosis, neglected tropical diseases, and non-communicable diseases. We will pay greater attention to the provision of universal health coverage. Besides the implementation of new initiatives such as my comprehensive response plan for HIV/AIDS, we shall continue to collaborate with global health partners to deliver our health sector transformation agenda.

I am glad that the issues responsible for the long-drawn ASUU strike have been resolved and our children are returning to their campuses. We are committed to making our tertiary institutions true centers of learning for our young people. We will therefore focus on upgrading hostels, laboratories, classrooms, and halls.  As the 2015 deadline for the Millennium Development Goals approaches, we will continue to expand access to basic education for all Nigerian children. Working with State Governments, we shall decisively tackle the problem of the large numbers of out-of-school children in this country. We will also invest in technical and vocational education to promote skills development for our youth across the country.

Nigerian entrepreneurs still lack access to affordable financing, with medium-to-long-term tenors. To address this gap, a new wholesale development finance institution will be established in 2014 to provide medium-to long-term financing for Nigerian businesses. We are working with partners such as the World Bank, the Africa Development Bank, the BNDES Bank in Brazil, and KfW in Germany, to realize this project. Our existing Bank of Agriculture and Bank of Industry will be re-structured as specialized institutions to retail financing from this new wholesale development bank.

In addition to the foregoing, our administration will also do all within its powers to ensure the success of the forthcoming National Conference. The report of the Presidential Advisory Committee on the Conference is undergoing urgent review and the approved structure, guidelines and modalities for the conference will soon be published as a prelude to its commencement and expeditious conclusion.

It remains our sincere hope and expectation that the success of the national conference will further enhance national unity, peace and cohesion as we move ahead to the 2015 general elections.

In keeping with our avowed commitment to progressively enhancing the credibility of Nigeria’s electoral process by consistently upholding the principle of one man, one vote, our Administration will also ensure that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) receives all required support to ensure that it is adequately prepared for the next general elections.

As peace and security remain prerequisite conditions for the full realization of our objectives, we will also do more in 2014 to further empower our security agencies who are working in collaborative partnerships with our friends in the international community to stem the scourge of terrorism in our country and enhance the security of lives and property in all parts of Nigeria. The allocation of over N600 Billion to Defence and Policing in the 2014 Budget attests to this commitment.

Fellow compatriots, the task of making our dear nation a much better place for present and future generations cannot be left to government alone. I therefore urge you all to be ready and willing to do more this year to support the implementation of the Federal Government’s Agenda for National Transformation in every possible way.

Let us all therefore resolve as we celebrate the new year, and Nigeria’s Centenary, to place the higher interests of national unity, peace, stability and progress above all other considerations and work harder in our particular fields of human endeavour to contribute more significantly to the attainment of our collective aspirations. I urge all Nigerians, no matter their stations in life, to rededicate themselves to contributing meaningfully to further enrich our national heritage. The time for that re-dedication is now, not tomorrow.

I wish you all a happy and rewarding 2014. God bless Nigeria. Happy New Year.

Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, GCFR
President,
Federal Republic of Nigeria
December 31, 2013

Nigeria Boko Haram Member Jailed Over Christmas Bomb Attack.


Kabiru Sokoto
A Nigerian court sentenced Kabiru Sokoto, a member of Islamist group Boko Haram, to life imprisonment on Friday for his involvement in bombings. (Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde)

A Nigerian court sentenced a member of Islamist group Boko Haram to life imprisonment on Friday for his involvement in bombings, including a 2011 Christmas Day attack on a Catholic church near the capital that killed 37 people.

The militant group Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the bombing of St. Theresa Catholic Church in Madalla, on the outskirts of Abuja, which also wounded 57 in the deadliest of a series of attacks at Christmas.

Kabiru Sokoto was initially suspected of being the mastermind of the Christmas bomb, although the Federal High Court‘s Justice Adeniyi Adetokunbo-Ademola found the prosecution had only proved that he knew it was going to happen and failed to disclose this to the authorities.

Ademola found him guilty, however, of being the mastermind of a bungled coordinated strike in the northwestern city of Sokoto in July the same year. Several bombs were planted by government buildings there, including next to the police headquarters, but were discovered before they were detonated.

He also noted that Sokoto was a member of an “illegal terrorist organization Boko Haram.” President Goodluck Jonathan declared the Islamist rebels—seen as the main security threat to Africa’s top oil producing nation—a terrorist group in June.

Boko Haram, like many hardline Islamist groups, sees Christians as infidels who must either convert or be crushed. A wave of attacks on churches two years ago seemed aimed at triggering a sectarian war in a country with the world’s largest mixed Muslim and Christian population.

Sokoto slipped the net the day after his arrest but was recaptured the following month.

He received a life sentence for masterminding the failed Sokoto bombs and 10 years for not informing authorities of the Christmas attack.

Jonathan launched an all-out offensive against Boko Haram seven months ago in its stronghold in the northeast.

Initially this appeared to temper the violence as soldiers secured towns, cities and semi-desert bases.

But Boko Haram fighters have survived many assaults during the 4-1/2-year-old insurgency. After retreating this year to remoter areas, they have mounted deadly counter-attacks—including one on several military barracks and the air force base in the main northeastern city of Maiduguri this month.

Source: CHARISMA NEWS.


Reporting by Camillus Eboh; Writing by Tim Cocks; Editing by Rosalind Russell

© 2013 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.

Boko Haram terrorists: Fulfil promises to Borno others, US tells President Jonathan.


US-state-department

THE United States has urged President Goodluck Jonathan to fulfil his promises to implement developmental projects in the troubled states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa in order to curb Boko Haram insurgency in the region.

The three states have been under the emergency rule since May.

US Permanent Representatives to the United Nations, Samantha Power, who said this in her opening remarks at a meeting with some civil society organisations in Abuja on Wednesday, also expressed worry about what she called uncoordinated security crackdown on Boko Haram members.

This, she noted, had resulted in loss of lives of many innocent people.

She said, “The United States is concerned by some of the stories we hear of inhumane detention practices in Nigeria, and I have discussed this with officials here.

Security crackdowns that do not discriminate between legitimate targets and innocent civilians are both counterproductive and wrong.

“We know how hard it is to fight insurgency and terrorism, but we have also seen how much more effective we are when we put the welfare of the local population at the heart of our efforts.”

The envoy, who regretted that the US and Nigeria had been targets of terrorists, said the Nigerian government must implement policies that would help lay a foundation for longer term progress.

“I was pleased to hear President Jonathan’s announcement earlier this month of his development plan for the North-East. Efforts to fight poverty, create jobs, and respect the dignity and rights of all people would help lay a foundation for longer term progress. My government will be urging President Jonathan to fulfil his commitment to implement his plan as soon as possible,” she said.

Power said the meeting was called to have a candid conversation with civil society organisations to know the challenges confronting them in promoting free, fair, and transparent elections, fighting corruption, advancing responsible, effective, and rights-respecting approaches to insecurity.

She observed that the US and Nigeria shared much in common because they “both have vibrant civil societies, whose promotion of civic engagement was key to advancing important reforms and making government accountable to its citizens.

Power said, “In Nigeria, civil society organisations like yours have tirelessly advocated for increasing the credibility of elections and citizens’ participation in the electoral process, which is so vital for any democracy. You all have also worked to highlight the impact of poor governance and public corruption on the average Nigerian citizen who wants to contribute meaningfully to society.

“Tragically, we have both been targeted by terrorists. The brutality of the attacks against your people is shocking. In responding to these attacks, it is essential that we do so consistent with the most fundamental of international human rights norms.”

She said efforts of the civil society could help Nigeria to empower women, create new opportunities for young people, expose and curb corruption, strengthen democratic institutions, and ensure that the electoral process became free and fair.

Expressing the US concern over the irregularities in last month’s governorship election in Anambra State, Power said her country would follow closely the next governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun states.

“The 2015 election will draw global attention and can – if you push hard enough – prove a model for all of Africa, if they are free, fair, and transparent,” she added.

Source: Radio Biafra.

Why we’re committed to confab President Jonathan.


President-Goodluck-Jonathan-11

President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday justified the need for a national conference, insisting that Nigerians must discuss on the best direction to take as a nation in the face of current challenges.

The President also told his critics that he needed not “carry cane to flog Nigerians to show that we are determined” on the confab. He stated that his government came up with the initiative of a national dialogue to ensure that discussion about the future of the country must have a direction.

President Jonathan said this in Abuja when Vice- President Namadi Sambo led Muslim faithful in the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, to his residence on Sallah homage.

His words: “When you listen to radio and read in the papers and you see sometimes even our elders that are supposed to give us leadership quarrelling over nothing, sometimes even insulting themselves and even making provocative statements that will sometimes instigate one group against the other.

“We decided that we cannot continue that way; the talking must have a direction. What has been happening on the pages of the newspapers are discussions that have no direction.

“We want a country that will have a direction, so the discussions must have a direction, the discussion must lead Nigeria to where we want to be, not a divided Nigeria, not a Nigeria that is sown on hate, not a Nigeria that will be based on acrimony, ethnicity and tribal sentiments in the way we conduct ourselves,” Jonathan said.

The President, however, lamented that in spite of the good intention of his administration to conduct the national conference to discuss how the country would move forward; there was still opposition to the initiative.

He noted that “some people are still instigating others that the president is doing this, the government does not have the capacity to do that. We are totally committed to do what is right. We don’t need to carry cane to flog Nigerians to show that we are determined.”

The President assured that the recommendations of the planned national conference would be passed to the National Assembly for deliberation, ratification and possible inclusion in the process of amendment of the constitution.

He explained that the national conference was critical and coming at the right time when the National Assembly was thinking of amending the constitution for the benefit of the country. Jonathan, however, assured “that government is totally committed to doing what is right.”

The President further reassured that his administration would implement the reports of previous committees set up by government on national dialogue.

He said some of the reports had already been submitted to the National Assembly for further considerations. His words: “Even the Justice Uwais’s committee that was set up, that report was passed on to the National Assembly in 2010. We brought (Justice Alfa) Belgore and others and I said in 2005, Nigerians discussed some things; why don’t we begin to implement some of them.

“So, we need to come up with some bills in those areas we have agreed and we will push them to the National Assembly. “Of course, some of those bills have not come out from the National Assembly, but we believe that even in the constitution amendment that is going on, some will be useful.”

Jonathan maintained that Nigerians must impress it on members of the national and state assemblies to work together to ensure that the result of the national conference were properly enshrined in the constitution in order to hand over a better nation to posterity.

He thanked God that in spite of the challenges facing the country, the Muslims were able to celebrate the Eid-El-Kabir. He urged Nigerians to inculcate in their children the virtues that would encourage unity in the country to ensure that the coming generations lived in peace. “We must build a Nigeria that wherever you go, you call the next person your own brother or sister.

A Nigeria that our young children who will become adult will say that I am proud to be a Nigerian, not a Nigeria that people will kill them probably because they don’t recognise them.

“The killing has been going on in some parts of the country; it has nothing to do with religion and ethnicity. That is why I asked those who killed those 50 students if they even bothered about their religion or ethnicity? “It has nothing to do with religion, it has nothing to do with ethnicity, it is because the world generally is experiencing terrorism.”

Earlier, Sambo had commended the efforts of the President in ensuring political stability in the country, particularly in the conduct of elections. According to him, the national conference initiated by the President was also commendable, saying it would promote peace and the unity of the country. Sambo noted that the transformation agenda of the Jonathan-led administration was yielding positive results, bringing about a better country.

The Vice-President and the Minister of the FCT, Olajumoke Akinjide, later presented Sallah card to the President. Present at the Sallah homage were the Chief of Defence Staff, Admiral Ola Sa’ad Ibrahim; the former National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Ahmadu Ali; the Inspector- General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar and the National Security Adviser, NSA, Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd) and Metropolitan Head of Catholic Archbishop of Abuja Diocese, John Cardinal Onayeikan.

Meanwhile, the Convener of Save Nigeria Group, SNG, Pastor Tunde Bakare; constitutional lawyer, Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN) and the President of Campaign for Democracy, CD, and Women Arise, Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin have thrown their weight behind the move for a national conference as proposed by the President.

Speaking at the Centre for Change maiden lecture in Lagos yesterday, the trio also took a swipe at those kicking against the national conference and, therefore, urged Nigerians to seize the opportunity of the dialogue to rebuild and restructure the country.

Bakare, who is the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, BoT, of Centre for Change, noted that the rebuilding process of the nation must visit the foundation of the country and examine how Nigeria’s founding fathers sowed the seeds for the woes that have plagued the nation from the late pre-independence era till date. He, therefore, urged Nigerians to seize the opportunity to reason together and engage in sincere talk.

“The founding fathers of our country laid the foundation of the Nigerian state. Through agitations, conflicts, dialogues, negotiations and concessions, these statesmen designed the structural, constitutional, institutional and governmental blueprint that became the foundation upon which the nation was built.

“Through visionary and selfless leadership, astute organisation and peopledriven service that produced competitive regional development, the founding fathers became the pillars upon which the nation rested. But 53 years later, these frameworks are nothing but rubble.

“Right from the days of our founding fathers, the gangrene of corruption began to infest the polity and sectional interests tore the fabrics of nationhood. The pillars of democratic governance were demolished by the military and the cornerstone of our collective existence was shaken by forces of balkanisation.

Years later, having tottered through decades of military subjugation and eventual civil rule, the nation still lies in dilapidation with security blown away by winds of violence, with poverty plaguing the land, and lives and property becoming prey to banditry, with justice cast a far off and integrity becoming a stranger in the land while impunity and corruption remain comfortably seated in high places. “Any rebuilding process must visit the very foundation.

We must now get set to rebuild and restore; we must retrieve what is remaining of the pillars of our founding fathers and we must restructure and reconstruct; we must rebuild from wall to wall, from gate to gate; from community to community; from city to city; and from region to region until the whole nation is restored to its former and even greater glory.

“That is why we must seize every given opportunity to reason together and sincerely talk. Above all we must walk the talk. Not to do so may be suicidal for our nation. God forbid!” In his address, Prof. Itse Sagay, the chairman of the occasion, said that national conference was necessary to address the political and structural problems in Nigeria.

He, therefore, urged stakeholders and Nigerians to participate actively in the national conference so that people could have a Nigeria that had future.

Sagay also derided those describing the national conference as diversionary, as unfocused people in the society, saying that the most important life-saver for the country and her posterity was the dialogue as proposed by President Jonathan.

“The conference is the establishment for the future of this country. If you are going for any other thing like the 2015 elections, that is irrelevant when you compare it to the future of the country as typified by the conference.

Personally, I won’t mind sacrificing the 2015 election in order to have a successful National Conference that is more important. “My attitude is that we should ignore the supposed motive of the President who has set it up.

We should all go with our motives and ensure that our motives are the ones implemented which is to have a new constitution which reflects a new federalism and bring it into being by referendum.

Let us impact and bring our own agenda. Nigerians must participate actively, firmly and positively.” Okei-Odumakin, who is the Convener of the Centre for Change, said there should be no-go areas during the conference, noting that the decision of the conference must not be tinkered with without being subjected to public referendum.

“The proposed National Conference by President Jonathan’s administration must not end the way other previous conferences was ended without any meaningful things coming out of the conference; thereby amounting to waste of time and resources,” the CD boss advised.

Source: Radio Biafra.

Salvaging Nigeria: Only A Sovereign National Conference Will Suffice! By Ogaga Ifowodo.


Columnist:

Ogaga Ifowodo

Over lunch at the Ocean View restaurant on a humid July afternoon in Lagos, my good friend Yinka Odumakin sought to add a little spice to our dismal discussion of “Project Nigeria”: he had it on good authority, he said, that President Jonathan would soon surprise and confound the forces arrayed against him by acceding to the call for a national conference. It was not a matter of if but when, he said. Thus, when Senate President David Mark spoke last month of the urgent need for a national conference, I heard the voice of Jacob but saw the hands of Esau. Retired Brigadier Mark, leader of the Babangida Boys, life-time public servant reputed to be wealthy beyond belief — a reputation he may have confirmed now that he is about to build and name a university after himself in his hometown of Otupko. Mark, who until now had been vociferous in dismissing a Sovereign National Conference (SNC) as “not workable under the 1999 constitution,” who to me is a poster-boy of everything lamentable about Nigeria.

But as the old saying counsels, one must not throw the baby out with the bathwater. And soon enough Jonathan would announce in his Independence Day speech an Advisory Committee to prepare the grounds for a talkfest. If there was any doubt that Mark had been flying a kite for Jonathan, it was promptly erased. Both men have studiously avoided the all-important word “sovereign” in every reference to national conference. Indeed, Jonathan seems unsure what to call it, so he has settled for “National Dialogue or Conference.” Perhaps the advisory committee to be chaired by Dr Femi Okurounmu, an SNC stalwart, will help the president decide but we should be clear: what well-meaning Nigerians have been demanding as far back as 1989, when progressives began to suspect a “hidden agenda” in Babangida’s never-ending transition programme and worry seriously about Nigeria, is not an ordinary conference.

“What is in a name?” some might ask, and add that a “conference of the people by any other name called sounds as sweet.” Yet if the tragic fate that Shakespeare assigns Juliet despite her magical thinking that things and what we call them are two essentially different things is anything to go by, then we must insist on the proper name for this conference. After all, it matters that Satan and Archangel Lucifer do not mean the same thing though they refer to the same being. Against the guns and bombs speaking the language of bloody violence and dismemberment, words offer us the only peaceful weapon for winning the battle for Nigeria and we must choose them carefully. This is even more important given that power tends to accede to the people’s demand only when sure of turning it into a means of perpetuating the status quo under a different name. It shouldn’t be forgotten that, first Abacha, and then Obasanjo, convened constitutional conferences. Mark’s senate may be eager now to back a national conference, but how willing will it be to abide by the people’s earnest wishes and desires? This is the same senate, we must remember, that twice voted down Okurounmu’s bills for an act to convene an SNC; a senate that was denouncing proponents of an SNC as anarchists just last year.

Opponents of a sovereign conference fall into two broad camps. The first consists principally of federal legislators tortured by the dangerous illusion that the sovereign will of the people resides in the national assembly. Thus, for them an SNC would tantamount to a divided sovereignty.  Then there is the camp of entrenched interests tied inextricably to the perpetuation of Nigeria as a structurally deformed polity, the bastion of reaction served by every government in power from independence till now. Lacking any convincing argument against the most feasible option for correcting “the mistake of 1914,” as Ahmadu Bello summed up Nigeria, they brandish the bogey of disintegration at every turn. To them, Nigeria is inseparable from their narrow, selfish interests.

To the first group, the answer is a lesson in civics: Sovereignty belongs to the people, as acknowledged even by Abacha’s militarily imposed 1999 Constitution: “sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria from whom government . . .  derives all its powers and authority.” Government is only a means of exercising the sovereign will of the people, which means that presidents and legislators are their agents. An agent enjoys only a delegated or limited version of the principal’s full power and authority. In any case, it is the people who establish parliaments and elect legislators, then delegate powers to them, and not the other way round. To members of the second camp, we need only point out that Nigeria is already crumbling, though perhaps unbeknownst to them since they are too busy looting and raping her.

Well, then, let all who fear the unfettered will of the people to self-determination be informed: a sovereign national conference means no more than that it be autonomous, and that the constitution to embody its decisions be subject not to the whims and caprices of the president or the national assembly, but only to ratification by the people through a referendum. If Jonathan deems this goal too high, then perhaps he had better not raise false hopes. To salvage Nigeria, only an SNC will suffice. That is Jonathan’s test of sincerity.  And that is the only way he can redeem his rather catastrophic tenure in power so far and transform himself into a hero of the Nigeria of our dreams.

omoliho@gmail.com

Source: SAHARA REPORTERS.

Be careful with that conference!.


Bashir-Tofa

President Goodluck Jonathan‘s acceptance of the National Conference/Dialogue on the 53rd Independence Day last week, may be a Greek Gift. He was adamantly against it just a few months ago; and so was Senator David Mark, just a few weeks ago.

For them both to make such a sudden and complete U-Turn makes the whole thing suspicious. If they plan to use it to cause some confusion toward the 2015 elections, then they better make another U-Turn in the best interest of stability, as well as the existence of this country.

If that is not the case, and I want to believe it is not, then they should only receive and widely publish the report of the conference committee just formed, but suspend all other actions on the conference until well after the 2015 elections. In fact, I would want such a suggestion to come from the committee members themselves. No such a conference or anything about it, besides the ad hoc committee’s work, should take place before the elections.

Better still, this government should hands off this matter, and leave it to the Nigerian people to organise their conference. I say this, not only because of the negative subterranean influence the government will certainly exert, but also because of the billions of naira that will be stolen in the name of the conference. President Jonathan should please pay more attention to the educational, health and infrastructural problems that bedevil the nation presently.

The way this conference is being conceived by its initiators, as a negotiation forum between the various nationalities (that is, the tribes) of this country, will be a very difficult, if not impossible, to organise. First, they have to define who are these nationalities, and how they would elect or nominate their representatives. They also have to define the role of the civil society in all this, who they represent and how they should be nominated. I am sure also, that the federal and state governments, youth and women organisations will need to participate, and we cannot be sure whether the criteria they will use in nominating their delegates will be the same or on an equal basis. God knows who else will demand to be represented! No one will accept to be left behind. But, we all know that certain nominations are made in order to steer meetings like this to some specific outcomes. That is where we must also be very careful.

With all these people populating the conference, you certainly need a huge indoor Stadium, to accommodate all the patriots, zealots, fanatics, terrorists, militants, anti-unity and anti-democracy groups, secessionists, fundamentalists, and whatever else you might think of among them. These are the representatives of the people, and all would demand seats and stipend and accommodation etc. That will be too expensive for the country to bear, especially at this time when the Federal Government, it is said, cannot fully pay the states their monthly allocations.; when they cannot settle with the Academic Staff Union of Universities and the students; when some doctors are planning to go on strike; and when nothing really works.

And, if you deny any of these groups and go for nomination of participants by some other means using other criteria, then the conference will not be properly representative, and will be dead on arrival. And, if you gather all those people listed above by whatever means, the confusion will be endless, and may even precipitate the unthinkable.

And then, how do you protect the conference from a terrorist attack?

Or, may be the other alternative is to elect a new Constituent Assembly to debate the Constitution and make the necessary amendments in the vital areas that concern most Nigerians. But then, some will say, “That is what the National Assembly is doing right now”. Or, they will say, “The National Assembly should convert itself into a Constituent Assembly, and do the job. Some nominated members from the civil society may be added to it to bridge some of the gaps of representation, and to allow some advocates to participate. And, they will add that, whatever they produce should then be put to a national referendum; and the new constitution will then be a truly people’s constitution. Even these suggestions, I am sure will be objectionable to the agitators of the Sovereign National Conference, whose real agenda are unknown.

Many people have in the past said the question to be asked is, “Do we want to remain as one country? If so, under what conditions?” What if this question when asked, the resounding answer is, “No! We do not want to remain as one country?”

Whether these type of risky questions will be asked and negative answers be given, it has to be warned that separating this country is not going to be an easy task. Any such attempt may land us into another war, in which the country will end up completely destroyed and millions killed. And, we must not forget, we are in an era of war throughout the world. We certainly cannot escape it. Separation can only come by itself, if for example, a section, on its own, decides to leave the union. In that case, the proponents should be allowed to do so, completely with their people. Another war to keep the country one will result in the same destruction and loss of lives and, therefore, defeat its purpose.

Many people will not like anyone to die, or even to spill a drop of blood to keep this country one. It cannot be kept one if a war happens between these “nationalities”; it will be destroyed. So, the best thing to do, is for the National Assembly and any other groups to continue debating on what is really wrong with us. How do we make the necessary adjustments, structurally and politically, that will ensure we remain one in whatever form?

If the truth is to be told, we all know of a few matters that truly disturb and distort the minds of Nigerians, about the country and its remaining united.

1. Many people feel completely dominated in their own states, by people from “other” places. We do not like to say this, but it is now important to say it. It is natural for people to feel this and resent it, and even become violent because of it. Even in Europe, we’ve just been hearing David Cameron of the United Kingdom and Angela Markel of Germany say openly that multi-culturism is not working; that it is dead. This is mostly because “foreigners” are beginning to dominate them and take away their jobs and their livelihoods. In the UK, for example, the Asians, Middle Easterners and East Europeans are the new middle-class. Almost all of the corner shops -dry cleaning, news agencies, green groceries, restaurants, food halls, even the traditional fish & chip shops are being taken by foreigners. Building works, house refurbishing, repairs and decorating by East Europeans. Even the pimps and their commodities are foreigners!

We have also seen what is happening in other countries that were once peaceful, but now almost on the verge of violence, or already doing it against new comers. In Italy, Russia, Burma, even Britain and Australia, nationalist parties are spring up to challenge immigration and beat up or even kill immigrants! The world is becoming smaller, population growing at an incredibly fast rate, and resources getting meaner! The same thing is happening to us in Nigeria, because we still regard ourselves as foreigners to one another in our own country. This is a contradiction, but we cause and encourage it. We senselessly say bad things against each other, without thinking of the consequences to our national unity. For example, “northerners are useless, they are parasites etc. Or, the Igbo have dominated us. Or, the Yoruba alone don’t own Lagos, we built it. Or, it is our oil, or, it is our land, get out of it and so on.” Clearly, some Nigerians do not have the freedoms they ought to have in other parts of their country. Everybody is on every other body’s nerves. Everybody believes that their problems are caused by someone else, especially if that someone else is doing much better.

Source: Radio Biafra.

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