Tag Archives: federal government

ASUU To Call Off Strike As FG Exempts Union From IPPIS, Offers N65bn To Varsities

The Federal Government on Friday agreed to exempt the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) from the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System pending when the university lecturers will complete the development of its own payment platform- the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS).

The government also agreed to ASUU’s demand to pay their members’ salary arrears from February to June through the old salary payment platform – the Government Integrated Financial and Management Information System.

After weeks of negotiations and foot – dragging, the government offered to raise the Earned Academic Allowances to university staff from N30bn to N35bn and the revitalisation fund from N20bn to N25bn.

Cumulatively, the government, through the Accountant – General of the Federation, offered the lectures N65 billion to call off their eight – month old strike.

The government also shifted grounds on a number of issues, including the insistence that all the academic staff of the federal universities must be paid through the IPPIS platform.

Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, who read out the communique at the end of a seven-hour negotiation with ASUU members in Abuja, the funds will be shared by all the registered Trade Unions in the universities after providing necessary evidence of having earned the allowance.

“Responding to the demand for immediate payment of 50% of the initial amount allotted for the purpose (revitalisation) which translates to N110 billion, the FG stated that this is not possible because of paucity of funds.

“The government however, offered to pay N25 billion based on the Memorandum of Action (MoA) of 7th February, 2019 signed with ASUU or in the alternative, urged ASUU to accept N30 billion with the reduction in the earlier Earned Allowances.

Between the revitalisation and earned allowances, the FG has offered a cumulative sum of N65 billion.

“The Accountant – General of the Federation offered to immediately release N40 billion or in the alternative N35 billion to be shared by all the registered Trade Unions in the universities after providing the necessary evidence of having earned the allowance.

“The FG reiterated that her offer of N40 billion or 35 billion whichever is accepted by ASUU was for all the universities unions: ASUU had proposed that N40 billion be paid immediately for all unions ,” the communique said.

The breakthrough in negotiations is expected to end the eight-month strike embarked on by the university lecturers.

Before the new offer by government, ASUU had demanded N110 billion for revitalisation which should be paid in tranches.
The union also told the government that the N30 billion EAA was for only ASUU members, a position the government rejected, citing lack of funds to meet ASUU’s financial demands.

On his part, ASUU president, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi said that the union has received the new proposals by the federal government and that it will go and consult with it’s organs before taking a position.

“I don’t really have much to say as the minister had said it all. Government has given us offers and we have promised to go back to our organs to brief them and then come back to government. We acknowledge that progress has been made,” he said.
Ogunyemi said that ASUU will need till Friday next week to meet with its organs before reverting to government.

The meeting was therefore adjourned till next Friday.

The Nation

Federal Government begins construction of N64bn fence for University of Maiduguri

THE Federal Government has begun the construction of the 27.3-kilometre perimeter fence for the University of Maiduguri to check incessant attacks by Boko Haram terrorists.

The project, which is valued at N64bn, is to stop the terrorists who have been penetrating the North-East part of the institution’s campus.

Chairman, Academic Staff Union of Universities in UNIMAID, Dr Dani Mamman, who stated these in an interview with The PUNCH, said only the western and southern parts of UNIMAID campus were initially fenced.

He said, “The UNIMAID perimeter fence is still being constructed. The Federal Government approved N64 bn for the construction of 27.3-kilometre perimeter fence for UNIMAID. That place is very porous.

“The ASUU UNIMAID wrote to the Minister of Education through the ASUU president after an explosion during which we lost a professor and seven other staff.”

8 Major Indicators Vicariously Linking The Present Government Of Nigeria To Herdsmen & Boko Haram Jihadism

Intersociety, Onitsha, Eastern Nigeria, Friday, 31st July 2020.

There are eight major indicators vicariously linking the present Government of Nigeria and its security and law enforcement agencies to ongoing orgy of terror against Christians in the country.

The jihadist terror activities against Christians especially by Jihadist Herdsmen is likened or modeled after Sudan’s “Janjaweed Jihadism” under the ousted Gen Omar Hassan el-Bashir Government (1989-2019).

The present Government of Nigeria and its security and law enforcement agencies have since mid 2015 defended and stood by Jihadist Fulani Herdsmen whose frontiers have further expanded to include ‘foreign’ or ‘imported’ Jihadist Fulani Herdsmen and Shuwa Arabs. These Jihadist groups are also fingered in the ongoing socio-political instabilities or crises in the Central African Republic and Republic of Burkina Faso, etc.

The Nigeria’s central Government has continuously failed woefully in its constitutional duties to protect and secure the country’s individual and group citizens irrespective of their religion, tribe and creed. Same Government has also failed woefully to protect the country’s secularity status and seemed most likely to have adopted radical Islamism as ‘a state religion’, contrary to Sections 10 and 38 of the 1999 Constitution as amended. The Government’s defense of the Jihadist Herdsmen and their heinous atrocities had included and still includes description of their anti Christian butcheries as “herders-farmers’ clash(es)”, or “killings arising from revenge and reprisal violence and criminal gangs”, or “communal clashes” such as ‘killings involving two warring Christian communities”. The latest of such indefensible Government’s cuddling and defense of Jihadist Herdsmen is a false narrative of “balance of terror” or ‘symmetric killings and counter killings’ between communal Muslims and communal Christians’.

In all these, we, the Int’l Society for Civil Liberties & Rule of Law, are not unaware of the fact that the Government is bent not only to continue its monumental failure to act to end the butcheries but also its attempts at deceiving and misleading the world. Therefore, having, since 2010, carefully followed, monitored, researched, investigated, documented, exposed or published the killings perpetrated against Christians and Minority Muslims in Nigeria or any part thereof including patterns and trends of the attacks, we have identified eight major indicators vicariously and inescapably linking the named Government and its security and law enforcement agencies to Fulani Herdsmen Jihadism in the country. The eight major indicators are summarized as follows:

One (1): Government of Nigeria has consistently and undeniably risen since mid 2015 in strong defense and protection of Herdsmen Jihadists and their atrocities which have now escalated and spread country-wide. The central Government of Nigeria and its Armed Forces has also vicariously and officially maintained a policy of soft spot for Boko Haram and its terror jihadism in the Northeast. This, the same Government does to through window dressing and, some say, ‘conflict profiteering’.

Two (2):Government has introduced RUGA (Rural Grazing Area or Settlement for Fulani Herders throughout Nigeria) and NLTP (National Livestock Transformation Plan); all resulting in forceful settlement of Fulani Herders or making them to violently occupy indigenous Christian lands throughout Nigeria. Included, too, is the Nigerian Military (Fulani) Cattle ranching program which seems to have reduced same to a “Fulani colony or Armed Forces”.

Three (3): The Nigerian Military particularly the Army has also since Oct 2016, established annual regional military operations with different code names, camouflaged and remotely targeted at Christian parts of Nigeria; during which ways are militarily and vicariously paved for Jihadist Fulani Herdsmen to move into indigenous Christian lands and occupy them under heavy military or security backing and protection. Strong pieces of evidence abound.

All the programs above are widely viewed as jihad friendly or oriented and through them the Jihadist Herdsmen have been provided state cover to move in and forcefully occupy indigenous Christian communities and their forests, bushes and farmlands across the country; from where they launch attacks and jihadist campaigns targeted at Christians, their lands, farmlands, houses and worship and learning centers. They have been responsible for burning or destruction of not less than 1,500 churches and Christian learning centers across the country since 2015.

Not a single Mosque has been destroyed or burnt in their name till date. As a matter of fact, it must be reminded that Jihadist Herdsmen have never killed a single Muslim or destroyed or burnt any Mosque or Islamic learning center anywhere in Nigeria or any part thereof. All their victims are Christians and other non Muslims. Before mid 2015, for instance, less than two percent of the farmlands, bushes and forests in over 500 Igbo communities in Igbo Land (including Igbo parts of Delta, Benue and Kogi) presently occupied or under the occupation of the Jihadist Herdsmen was occupied or under occupation by same Jihadist Herdsmen. They had existed as “Hausa Settlements” or “Ogbe Hausa”. This is also similarly the case in the Christian parts of Benue, Southern Kaduna, Plateau, Nasarawa, Kogi, Yobe, Taraba, Gombe, Adamawa, Edo and Delta, etc.

Three (3): Grossly lopsided composition of the country’s security forces including their commands and controls which have remained, some say, “90% Muslim controlled”. Three (3): refusing to arrest and prosecute the atrocious jihadists or hold them to account for their heinous atrocities since July 2015.

Four (4): Continued recognition of the mother bodies of the genocidal Fulani jihadists (i.e. MACBAN, FUNAM and Fulani Koutal Hore) as ‘registered organizations” and deregistration of nonviolent socio-cultural, etc groups and declaration, using draconian legal instruments, of other nonviolent ethno-religious groups as “terrorist organizations”.

Five (5): Indiscriminate and unilateral granting of state pardon to terror jihadists (i.e. “repentant Boko Haram combatants”) and their alleged enlistment into security forces as well as abandonment and persecution of victim groups or communities.

Six (6): Government’s false labeling of killing of Christians as “killings arising from herders-farmers’ clashes” and use of different false narratives to back and protect the jihadists and cover their atrocities.

Seven (7): In furtherance of the above false labeling and narratives, the present Nigeria’s central Government also tries to introduce “a balance of terror” or symmetric narrative, between the Fulani Herdsmen jihadists and the victim Christian communities by describing the brutally asymmetric killings as “killings arising from revenge, reprisals and criminal gangs”.

Same Government has till date, refused to recognize and declare Jihadist Fulani Herdsmen as a terror group. This is despite the fact that the group is internationally outlawed and named ‘world’s fourth deadliest terror group’. The “balance of terror” Government’s false narrative has further exposed the complicity of the Nigerian Government in the anti Christian butcheries and its monumental failure in discharging its constitutional duties of protecting and safeguarding the citizens irrespective of their religion, tribe or creed.

Eight (8):Nigerian Government and its security and law enforcement agencies particularly the Nigeria Police Force do not have official credible data or crime statistics particularly with respect to ceaseless massacre of Christians in Nigeria. The Government has not only failed to provide official credible data of the killings, maiming and Christian properties destroyed or burnt but also undermined, mangled and denied same when independently presented.

Government has also failed woefully in letting Nigerians and the Int’l Community know, with verifiable statistics, the proportionality or dis-proportionality of such inter faith asymmetric killings, maiming and destroyed or burnt or lost properties. That is say that there are no credible data from the present central Government of Nigeria or its security and law enforcement agencies including Nigeria Police Force and Defense or Army Headquarters, showing the percentage or number of attacks against defenseless Christian communities by the state backed and protected Jihadist Herdsmen or reprisals by the victim Christian communities, if any.

In other words: there are no credible Government’s records or from its security and law enforcement agencies showing the number of attacks against Christians since mid 2015 by Jihadist Fulani Herdsmen, number of Christians killed, number of their lands seized and occupied by the Jihadists and number of Christians’ properties including dwelling houses, worship and learning centers destroyed or burnt or lost to Jihadist Herdsmen. Government or security or law enforcement records are near totally absent, if not totally absent regarding the number of Jihadist Herdsmen arrested and investigated, convicted and jailed since mid 2015 for killing Christians or seizing or destroying their properties especially their sacred learning and worship centers. Independent records have continued to indicate that such perpetrators are often not arrested, but shielded by the security forces.

On the other hand, there are also no credible records from the same Government or its security and law enforcement agencies showing the number of attacks against Jihadist Fulani Herdsmen or Fulani citizens or settlements by the victim Christian groups or communities, number of Fulani citizens killed, number of their lands seized and occupied, number of Fulani properties including dwelling houses, Mosques and learning centers destroyed or burnt by same Christian “avengers”. The present Government of Nigeria and its security and law enforcement agencies should also answer the following questions: how many Muslims or Muslim farmers have been killed by Jihadist Herdsmen in Nigeria since mid 2015 and how many Islamic properties such as Mosques and learning centers have the same Jihadist Herdsmen destroyed or burnt?

Therefore, since the central Government of Nigeria is now introducing locally and internationally, ‘balance of terror’ narrative or symmetric violence ratio into the anti Christians’ massacre, we challenge them to furnish Nigerians and the Int’l Community with credible official records or data or ‘crime statistics’ regarding the above highlighted. The failure of the Government in this regard will mean same shutting up its mouth permanently and licking the wounds of its monumental failure to act to protect the vulnerable and persecuted Christians in Nigeria.

On our part and independently speaking, the evidence on the ground grossly shows the contrary or contradicts all the Government claims. Apart from attacks on Christians in Nigeria being brutally asymmetric or ‘98%/2%’ ratio; or radical Islamists’ attacks or violence against Christians 98% and reprisals against such attacks or violence 2% or less; the Nigerian Government, adding to its monumental failure to protect Christians and fish out and punish their attackers, has also repeatedly repelled such reprisals if rarely risen or rarely about to occur. Under the same Government, any reprisal killing of a Fulani Herdsman is given widest media attention locally and internationally; with wheel of justice speeded up against the perpetrator(s). But when Christians are massacred, Government rolls out industrially its media censorship and inaction including aiding and abetting; for purpose of dwarfing or mangling same.

Both in principle and in practice, the present Government of Nigeria has provided and still provides maximum protection for Fulani settlements and their jihadist groups and turned and still turns blind eyes including little or zero response to early warning or distress calls on the side of the persecuted Christians and their properties, especially when under attack or about to be attacked. Naturally, individual or group victim citizens’ reprisals become inevitable when governing or securing authorities woefully failed in their duties to protect them and go after their attackers; or whereby same governing or securing authorities take sides and shield the perpetrators and cover up their atrocities.

In the case of persecuted Christians and their communities in Nigeria or any part thereof, they have remained substantially pacifist, nonviolent, peaceful and law abiding; allowing themselves to be massacred at will; only for the same Government and its security and law enforcement agencies especially the Nigerian Army and the Nigeria Police Force to torment and punish them for being nonviolent. Even in the midst of vicious, systematic and coordinated attacks or violence against them by the Jihadist Herdsmen, the Government does little or nothing to protect and secure them other than to criminalize and collectively frame them up with all manners of false labeling and accusations.

Links below contained conspiratorial statements of the Federal Government, the Kaduna State Government, the Nigerian Army and the Kaduna State Police Command, directly or indirectly justifying the ongoing massacre of Christians in Southern Kaduna; these are same Governing and Security authorities constitutionally charged with responsibility of securing and protecting individual and group citizens’ lives and properties irrespective of their ethnicity and religion:

Presidency: https://globalsentinelng.com/2020/07/22/presidency-blames-revenge-killings-for-worsening-insecurity-in-southern-kaduna/.
Kaduna State Government: https://www.premiumtimesng.com/regional/nwest/404891-why-insecurity-persists-in-southern-kaduna-el-rufai.html
the Nigeria Army: https://www.thecable.ng/military-commander-we-have-limited-manpower-to-tackle-southern-kaduna-killingsand https://www.premiumtimesng.com/regional/nwest/405610-southern-kaduna-crisis-not-ethnic-cleansing-military-commander.html
Kaduna State Police Command: https://guardian.ng/news/police-deny-fresh-killings-in-southern-kaduna/
A counter statement by SOKAPU: https://www.thisdaylive.com/index.php/2020/06/01/kaduna-community-urges-security-agencies-to-recover-30-corpses-of-victims-of-attacks/

Signed:

For: Int’l Society for Civil Liberties & Rule of Law

Emeka Umeagbalasi, Board Chair, Amaka Damaris Onuoha, Esq., Head of Campaign & Publicity, Samuel Kamanyaoku, Head of Field Data Collection & Documentation and Obianuju Joy Igboeli, Head of Civil Liberties & Rule of Law

Contacts:

Mobile/WhatsApp: +2348174090052

Email: info@intersociety-ng.org

Website: http://www.intersociety-ng.org

Who N-Power epp? Success Stories Validate Programme, by Onyema Dike

If you have been following the news lately, on and off social media, you must have been apprised of the N-power programme, which has been described as a critical component of President Muhammadu Buhari’s National Social Investment Programme (NSIP).

The ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development under which the N-Power programme was domiciled after it moved from the office of the Vice President announced the transitioning and exiting of Batch A & B beneficiaries beginning June 30 and culminating on July 31st 2020.

The announcement was greeted by vitriol and anger on and off social media by the youthful, extremely vocal and so, not surprisingly social media savvy beneficiaries who did not wish to exit the programme even though Batch A beneficiaries had, somehow, managed to stay for over 40 months, 16 months longer than the programmes advertised 24 months.

When the Buhari administration took office in 2016, it shared the very ambitious vision of taking 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years.

The vision was clearly an ambitious one when viewed through the prism of available insights. Statistics indicate that our institutions of learning push out 4.5 million young people annually into the bulging job market. In 10 years that figure would be 45 million. Where were the jobs going to come from?

The president’s vision, it turned out, was not just a good-to-have election promise. It was a well-thought out policy of engagement and manpower development. In a technologically advancing world the president and his advisers had hit upon the idea of using the N-power programme to upskill graduates and non-graduates aged between 18 and 35 with skills and attributes that would make them employable for jobs of today and the future while also preparing them to take up the mantle of entrepreneurship.

The N-power programme was the administration’s silver bullet and it proceeded apace. In 2016, 200,000 beneficiaries were enrolled in the programme while another set of 300,000 were enrolled in 2018.

Four years down the line, as the Batch A and B beneficiaries begin their transition, it is imperative to undertake a cursory of audit of how the programme has performed vis a vis that presidential vision while also taking a hard look at whether it is really needed.
The application portal for Batch C enrolment opened on Thursday June 26th 2020 to an enthusiastic response.

Figures from the ministry indicate that the portal was receiving as much as 100 applications per minute and in 48 hours over 1 million young and eligible Nigerians had registered. That number would climb to 3.9million in seven days.

If anyone needed proof regarding the imperative of such a manpower building programme that was proof positive.
But could the stampede to register have been a function of that long queue of young people out of jobs or was there something else?

A few weeks before the application portal opened, the ministry had begun a sensitization campaign and part of that included the sharing of testimonial videos on social media. The videos called “N-Power Success Stories” featured N-Power beneficiaries who had exited the programme voluntarily and had applied skills gained and funds saved during their time on the programme in setting up small and medium scale businesses.

It was a delighted honourable minister, Sadiya Umar Farouq, who announced a few days after the Batch C applications began that 109, 829 beneficiaries from Batch A and B had become entrepreneurs running small but thriving businesses in their communities. These were aside from those who had become gainfully employed after passing entrance exams and psychometric tests set by companies.

The announcement was significant because it underlined and highlighted the imperative of the N-Power programme by showing that it was not only bridging the unemployment gap by upskilling young Nigerians for employability, it was enabling and empowering them to become entrepreneurs and employers of labour.

Some of the beneficiaries, the ministry announced, had even been engaged as aggregators for the National Home Grown School Feeding Programme, another component of the NSIP.
Development experts tell us that SMEs are the engine room of most developing and even developed economies. Statistics from Nigeria indicate that this is also true here. According to the CBN, SME’s not only contribute 48% of national GDP in Nigeria they make up 98% of businesses in the country while providing employment to 84% of gainfully employed Nigerians.

A careful consideration of these statistics and insights will show that the coming of N-Power Batch C with a new set of young Nigerians who will gain skills for employability and entrepreneurship, Nigeria is gearing up proactively for post-Covid-19 when battered economies all over the world will be needing a shot-in-the-arm.
This speaks eloquently to the imperative and impact of N-power.

Onyema Dike, a public analyst writes from Lagos

Ohaneze to FG: Call Miyetti Allah to order to avoid burning down Nigeria

The apex Igbo cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, has told the Federal Government to call to order the Miyetti Allah, the umbrella body of Fulani herdsmen in the country, over their incessant unguarded and provocative statements and threats capable of setting the country ablaze.

In a press statement, Ohanaeze Ndigbo condemned the effrontery of Miyetti Allah in seeking a constitutional arrangement that would make them take over the security of the entire South East.

In a story that has gone viral, Miyetti Allah asked the Federal Government to make a constitutional provision that would enable them to take over security in the South East as a panacea to the nefarious activities of their fellow herdsmen in the region.

But reacting to the proposal, the leader of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Youth Wing, Mr Arthur Obiora, frowned at the suggestion which he said was an affront to the youth of Igbo land.

Mr Obiora said that the suggestion implied that Ndigbo were incapable of guarding their place and that unless Miyetti Allah were allowed to have their way, the constant killings, raping and harassment of the people of Igbo land would continue unabated.

The Youth Wing Leader admonished the Miyetti Allah and warned that it has become apparent that the herdsmen are not prepared to coexist with their hosts for their mutual benefit, but to take over their land for the grazing of their cattle.

Ohanaeze Ndigbo wondered what fate would have befallen any Igbo organisation that dared to make such an infuriating, provocative and impetuous demand in the North.

The Youth Leader warned that since the Miyetti Allah was underrating the ability and capacity of Igbo youth to sufficiently man and protect their land from Marauders, they would henceforth ensure that any future flagrant breach of peace in Igbo land by anybody or group would be met with stiff penalties and reprisals.

Ohanaeze Ndigbo reiterated that while Ndigbo are committed to playing benevolent hosts to anybody or group that wants to do genuine business and coexist with the people, stiff penalties would henceforth attend any act of brigandage or callous acts from any quarters.

Ohanaeze Ndigbo said that it was the indifference of the Federal Government to the hideous activities of Fulani herdsmen in the country that gave the Miyetti Allah the audacity and unbridled arrogance to venture such a vituperation.

It called on the Federal Government to publicly denounce the call by the Miyetti Allah to prove its noncomplicity in the demand which could set the country ablaze.

Ohanaeze Ndigbo noted that while the county’s constitution guaranteed everybody free movement and residence anywhere, it doesn’t permit killings, harassment or intimidation by or on any group in any manner.

No going back on decision to bar students from writing WASSCE – FG

Nigerian government on Wednesday said it would not yet reverse its decision not to reopen schools to allow SS 3 students participate in the 2020 West African Senior School Certificate Examinations, WASSCE.

There had been outcry and condemnation since the Nigerian government announced that SS 3 students would not take part in this year’s WASSCE in order to avert the spread of Coronavirus.

Minister of State for Education, Chief Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, after the Virtual Federal Executive Council, FEC meeting on Wednesday said the position remained unchanged.

The minister said the Ministry was still consulting with education stakeholders on what the best position should be, adding the West African Examination Council (WAEC) had also started consultations with West African nations on a possibility of shifting dates.

According to him, government was still meeting with parents over the decision of the Ministry, adding that what the Minister said reflected the true position of the Ministry.

“We are not confident yet that everywhere is safe, the numbers from the NCDC are still alarming and we have put this before parents and all the stakeholders in the the Education ecosystem, we are still meeting with them. In fact, there’s a stakeholders’ meeting convened for Monday,” he said.

Nwajiuba said WAEC on its own part was also negotiating with other West African countries to look at possible shift in date.

He said once they were through with that meeting and that hopefully when government was through with the consultation with stakeholders, if there was any change in the Ministry’s position, it would be communicated.

”But as it stands, the position of the Honourable Minister, as communicated to you last week, remains the position of the Ministry until further evidence to the contrary or further agreements that may alter those arise,” Nwajiuba said.

FG to tax house rents, C of O, others

The Director-General of the Budget Office of the Federation, Mr Ben Akabueze, says tax on rents, Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) and others is not a new law to the system.

Akabueze made the clarification while fielding questions from participants at a virtual presentation of 2021-2023 Medium Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper (MTEF&FSP) in Abuja on Friday.

He said the law that permitted payment of tax on rents and others was an existing one but had not been observed for a very long time.

“It is not new, it is just N50 to be paid and the law has always been there. I recall in early 80s when I started work, the receipt my landlord used to give me, he would paste a physical postage stamp on that receipt.

“Over time, because the culture of postage has dropped off and that was not been implemented, what FIRS has done now is to make that into electronic stamp that you can still use to comply with the existing law,” he explained.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) had last week announced that henceforth, there would be stamp duty paid on house rent and C of O in the service new adhesive duty.

FIRS urged Nigerians and other residents in the country to make sure that documents pertaining to rent or lease agreements for their homes or offices, C of O as well as a list of other common business-related transaction instruments were subject to authentication with the new FIRS Adhesive Stamp duty.

It stated that it was necessary in order to give these instruments the force of law and make them legally bidding on all parties involved in such transactions.

According to the service, the new FIRS Adhesive Stamp Duty was inaugurated in Abuja at the official inauguration of the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Audit and Recovery of Back Years Stamp Duties recently. (NAN)

COVID-19: Another nationwide lockdown imminent, Nigerian govt hints

The Nigerian government has hinted on ordering another lockdown across the country.

Boss Mustapha, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, said ordering another lockdown won’t be out of place, considering the increasing number of COVID-19 cases across the country.

The Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 stated this during the Thursday’s daily briefing of the committee.

He stressed that the way Nigerians are romancing the virus was an indication of danger in the nearest future.

According to Mustapha: “This is the time to lock down if it were within my power. This is the time to lock down because I can see the attitude of people romancing with COVID-19.

“The daily increase in confirmed cases, the federal government feels a sense of frustration because we can see glaringly the danger ahead and you can see the level of recklessness on the part of people who should know better.”

N-Power and Sadiya Farouk’s Detractors, by Emma Agu

In my early days as editor, one day, as I agonised openly over what I had considered was a misreading of my intentions leading, at times, to hostility towards me, my colleague Tony Nzotta, asked me to come over to the newsroom. Nzotta had a penchant for the dramatic. Once we got to the door of the newsroom, he stopped abruptly, halting me in the process. He then re-enacted what he described, was the action of a one-time editor of the New York Times who, faced with similar predicament, had gone to the entrance to the newsroom and, in exasperation howled at nobody in particular: “For crying out loud, why does everybody hate me here?” The reply was instant. One of the personnel who was in a similar position as Tony Nzotta was now occupying, retorted: “Because you are the editor of the New York Times”. Looking straight into my face, Nzotta quipped: “Because you are the editor of The Statesman”. That was in 1988. I was 31 at the time.

Tony was to explain further. The convention was: nobody ever loved the editor of the New York Times. If he was ever loved, then he was not the task master extra-ordinaire; he was not the deadline maestro and he was likely to fail in his duty. According to him, all that the job called for was respect and if love came along, it was a bonus.
Some jobs come like that. Not many a worker ever admired the auditor or the person in charge of internal control in an organisation. Similarly, not many people are patient with a reformer or any functionary with an honest desire to effect change, particularly disruptive change that bothers on transparency. In fact, in most cases, the advocate of change becomes a victim of all manner of umbrage and blackmail. The reason is simple: change comes with the loss of privilege; and those whose comfort zone have been threatened or disrupted are not likely to let go without a fight.
The Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Hajiya Sadiya Umar Farouk appears to have fallen into the editor’s (or should I say, auditor’s) dilemma. In recent weeks, she has been subjected to serious vilification over the activities of her ministry. Principal targets have been the Modified School Feeding Programme and the N-Power Programme. While criticism of the former has focused on the desirability or otherwise of continuing implementation under the lockdown, critics of the later have demanded the outright removal of the minister, claiming that she is incompetent. I shall dwell more on the later whose proponents happen to be enrolees of the programme.
Their grouse is that payment of the stipend has fallen into arrears since the minister assumed office. For that reason, they have employed expletives such as “wicked” and “incompetent” to malign her. Besides, they claim that the programme was better run by its previous managers.
For a better understanding of the controversy, it is well to recall that the programme, a laudable one at that, was initiated by the President Muhammadu Buhari Administration as a platform for capacity building, employment creation, people empowerment and social engineering. It has the strategic imperative of taking jobless graduates off the streets and crime; of equipping enrolees with life skills and in the process, boosting the economic power of families. For effect, it was domiciled in the office of the Vice President.
However, the programme, with other components of the equally ambitious Social Investment Programmes (SIP) of the Federal Government, was transferred to the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs upon its creation in 2019. Ever since, hell has known no greater fury.
For good reasons therefore, the minister is bound, like the editor, to be worried that she is so viscerally hated, to the extent of calling for her head. Why not? How many people of her age have been privileged to occupy such a huge strategic ministry? What does she expect when her charge touches directly on jobs creation and the daily livelihood of millions of people, in a personal manner? At any rate, as a public officer, every action or inaction of the minister is fair game for public scrutiny, including, occasional insults or throwing of rotten tomatoes and eggs; the price you get to pay when you are being fed, by the poor tax-payer. To that extent, the rage of the enrolees will seem understandable. But is their logic justified. I doubt that.
For a start, granted that uneasy lies the head that wears the crown, the attempt to personalise the delay in payment of stipends is not only mischievous but patently untenable. An honest enquiry would have revealed that, as the minister stated, payment was delayed by technical hitches that were beyond her control. Of course, it would not have helped the case of the petition writers if they had acknowledged that the minister had kept to an earlier pledge that the payment would be done, the week before last. Good a thing, that has been cleared. But would that be the first time that payment was delayed? The answer is an effective no.
Obviously, without prejudice to the effort of earlier managers of the programme, any attempt to paint a picture of a scheme that had, hitherto operated, seamlessly, would tantamount to standing truth on its head. For one, long before now, there had been protests, by N-Power beneficiaries, over delayed stipends. Besides, while it is acknowledged that the stipend, the bread, is a very important component of the programme, it will defeat the noble objectives of the program to hinge its success on that singular value.
Anyone who has monitored the programme would have observed the several shortcomings calling for concerted and decisive solution if its overall objective is not to be defeated. One of such malfeasance that the Ministry is working to eliminate is the situation whereby some already gainfully employed people connive with unscrupulous officials to defraud the system. Under the arrangement, some enrolees who never reports for duty agree to part with a percentage of their stipend, in favour of a cartel that spans a broad gamut of the programme. In fact, as far back as 2017, while on a visit to one of the states, the Special Assistant to the President on Job Creation and Youth Employment, Mr. Afolabi Imoukhuede reportedly discovered cases where enrolees were receiving their stipends without reporting for work. Interestingly, in a sting operation in January 2019, that was several months before the creation of the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, an undercover journalist of The Cable newspaper had detailed the elaborate conspiracy of a broad network of persons who gamed the system by hosting “ghost” enrolees. Though Imoukhuede had denied any such infractions, he nonetheless admitted that, like any other programme, the N-Power programme was not perfect. Pray, how could a programme that was not perfect in January 2019 be said to have been running seamlessly, at the same time? And if the programme was already fraught with problems several months before the Minister, Sadiya Farouk, assumed office, does it not translate to blatant falsehood, deliberate mischief and wanton character assassination to pillory her in the brazen manner that those calling for her innocent head have done?
If her critics were sincere, rather than engaging in puerile and scurrilous demonisation of the minister, they should be supporting her genuine effort, to fix fundamental flaws that continue to undermine the lofty objectives of the programme. One such flaw is the lack of a clear exit strategy which explains the untenable situation whereby enrolees whose programme is for 24 months have grossed 40 months without any clear exit strategy. Paradoxically, even with such a serious flaw, the petitioners still claimed that the programme was running efficiently, with the deceptive caveat that the former managers were already concluding their exit plan. Pray, why did it take all of one year after the expiration of their programme for the exit plan to begin to take shape, if the program was indeed running efficiently?
As things stand, the Minister, Sadiya Farouk, should realise that she is in a rocky flight; she must tighten her seat belt as she seeks to correct the obvious anomalies that have frustrated the full realisation of the vision of the N-Power Programme. In this regard, she should never capitulate to the ploy of some enrolees who, in their desperation to remain in the system, are ready to deploy every sinister tool of blackmail, to scuttle her resolve to return to the original vision of the program; that is, to work with other stakeholders towards exiting those who have completed in order to create room for others.
During a recent briefing of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Sadiya Farouk had disclosed that the Ministry was reviewing the program with a view to reforming and streamlining it for better efficiency. The minister’s definitive clarification demands that, the time for selfish conspiratorial inter-agency and politically motivated filibustering is over. For the sake of the Nigerian youth whose fate may well be tied to this programme, it is time for every hand to be on the deck; to facilitate the emergence of the new template being put in place by the ministry. to promote transparency and overall effectiveness of the programme. Achieving a transparent recruitment process; eliminating collusion to defraud the system through effective internal control and establishing workable exit strategy for the enrolees, on completion of the programme, are some of the long-standing deficits inherited by Sadiya Farouk that, when resolved, will place the program on near auto-pilot.
Agu, publisher of ZEST TRAVELLER Magazine is a fellow of the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) and the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ).

FG’s Home Grown School Feeding Programme To Take Off With 3 States, Targets 3,131,971 Households

The Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development will commence the Home-Grown School Feeding Programme on Thursday May 14, 2020 in Abuja and subsequently in Lagos and Ogun states before the other states of the federation.

Although school children are at home with schools shut as a result of the pandemic, President Muhammadu Buhari via a March 29th, 2020 pronouncement directed the Honourable Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development to liaise with state governments to develop strategies on the continuation of the school feeding programme.

The Ministry in consultation and collaboration with state governments identified the distribution of Take-Home Rations (THR) to the households of the children on the programme as a feasible method of achieving this directive after exploring several options. This is a globally accepted means of supporting children to continue to have access to nutrient rich foods despite disruptions to the traditional channels of school feeding.

The Ministry has requested states to carry out mapping exercises in order to trace the households of the children using all available data sources including the School Based Management Boards, community focal persons, cooks on the programme and most importantly existing school registers in the LGAs where the schools are domiciled, which is the primary source of data of beneficiaries used by the National Home Grown School Feeding Programme.

As a second level of verification, the door to door voucher distribution process will be used.
The provision of Take-Home Rations will, therefore, be carried out based on data provided and structures put in place by the HGSFP over the years, with the Federal Government providing funds to the States for implementation.

Following requests from Kwara and Bayelsa where the programme was not fully operational before the lockdown, the two states will be able to benefit from the modified programme once certain requirements are fulfilled.

The target beneficiaries are defined as children in primary 1 to 3 in public schools participating in the programme. A total of 3,131,971 households are targeted for this intervention.
Employing vouchers which are QR coded, serialized as well as date and time stamped, identified households will be able to access Take-Home Rations from distribution centers.

Each household will receive uncooked food items that have been assessed and approved by nutrition experts as adequate for the children.

Over 6,000 schools will serve as distribution centers for clusters of communities except in some states with unique security and safety issues where other structures will be used.

The Ministry is receiving Technical Support from the World Food Programme (WFP). Following on the technical partnership with the WFP, a joint document on “Safe Distributions during COVID” has been developed and will be shared with the State Governments before implementation.

Because safety remains a collective responsibility, the Ministry has also incorporated rapid sensitization into all phases of this model, so that people are equipped with the knowledge they need to stay safe and maintain social distancing while accessing and delivering this service.

Each household will receive a Take-Home Ration valued at N4,200 and made up of 5 kg Bag of Rice, 5 kg Bag of Beans, 500 ml Vegetable Oil, 750 ml Palm Oil, 500 mg Salt, 15 pcs of eggs, 140gm Tomato Paste. These rations have been reviewed by nutrition experts to ascertain the nutritional value and benefit to the children.

The Ministry is also deploying resources to provide oversight for these processes to ensure equity and accountability. Field personnel and monitoring teams have been set up and are ready to move. As an extra layer of monitoring the Ministry has requested other agencies of government including the DSS, EFCC, ICPC, Code of Conduct Bureau and a host of NGOs and CSOs to help monitor. The Ministry’s hotlines will be made available to the public to provide accurate information and for grievance redress.

While the intervention is primarily for school children currently enrolled on the programme, the Ministry has also been engaging partners and other agencies to explore options for those children who are not current beneficiaries.
Going forward, there is a need to critically examine and review data management strategies so that when faced with emergencies such as this, there will be easy access to rich, readily available and accurate data of all persons of concern for swift implementation of critical interventions. The Ministry is working diligently to actualize this in the shortest time possible.
The ministry solicits the support of state governments in deploying security agents to ensure the safety of beneficiaries, sensitize the communities and programme personnel on the need to ensure that this intervention reaches the intended beneficiaries and facilitate the timely delivery of quality food supplies provided by the state aggregators.

In addition, the Ministry invites well-meaning Nigerians to continue to donate to the poor and support those in need because the resources available to government are limited but together we have a better chance of overcoming this challenge.