Sunday, September 20, 2009

Who Killed Citizen Amanda Uhunmwangho


Amanda Uhunmwangho, a 32 year old lady, and a staff of the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) died under suspicious and questionable circumstances while in custody of the Nigerian Prisons Service, after having being under police detention for about 24 hours or thereabouts. While she was a complainant in an ongoing fraud litigation case within the jurisdiction of Edo State, how she came to her sorry end, especially as she was charged before a Magistrate Court hours before her untimely and unfortunate death becomes mysterious. There are a lot of questions that need to be asked, and I would implore all to join me in asking the Nigerian State, "Who killed Citizen Amanda Uhunmwangho?"

Story contained in Vanguard, September 18, 2009.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

In these troubled times

Anytime one domiciled within the Nigerian territories picks up any of the nations many dailies, he is immediately greeted with stories of other Nigerians from the other parts of the country, from the far flung reaches of the fringes of the Sahara to the coasts bounding the African continent with the two Atlantics. Once in a while, they might catch glimpses of stories from other continents, especially if it might have some connection with nationals. In a manner, the average citizen might seem helpless in the face of the many complexities and contradictions that the contemporary international system have foisted on a 21st century world. But more importantly, the things that will concern him the most are those things that have an immediate impact on his existence and livelihood. Within the context of today’s Nigeria, a great many issues have led to a feeling of solemn despondency by the at least 54.4% of the population living in relative poverty of $1.08 at the 2005 Purchasing Power Parity (PPP).

Almost on a daily basis, news stories and reports ranging from the criminal to the scandalous, and all the negative concepts and terms in between, continue to feed the dumbfounded throng of eager Nigerians, whose sole reward is to argue subjective opinions spiritedly after the daily dose of state ineptitude and inefficiency had been guzzled. The fact that most of these issues become ‘yesterdays news’ at the point of consumption plays little or no role in the gusto into which parties put into their individual analysis of issues, either in the hallowed halls of university faculties or in the many selling spaces of the various street side vendors strewn all over the nooks and crannies of Nigeria.

By now, even when the citizenry await the much talked about electoral reforms, and the Nigerian populace have come to question the electoral process, the only one means by which a Nigerian citizen can have a say in this complex grill of uneven integration that the Nigerian polity had become, other issues such as unending industrial actions, spurious developmental claims, disarticulated policies, private and public corruption, the sophistication of organized violence, and an ever rising crime rate exacerbate the tensions within the polity leading to one living in a state of perpetual insecurity. However, the incidence of wanton and institutionalized violence becomes salient in the sense of its questioning the monopoly of force that underlie the preservation of security, a principle which defines an effective state. On a regular basis, reports of brazen criminal operations assail our sensibilities. When it is not mobilized and armed religious centered groups meting out mayhem to hapless and innocent citizens, it is often times violent agitations for resource control by disadvantaged and marginalized ethnic groups, venting their spleen, albeit justifiably. We should not forget the popular militants from the Niger Delta, couching their competition with the state for the regions resources with genuine demands that obviates the need for asking the question, “What has the state been doing for the last 50 years?”

The avid follower of events since political independence would recall the concept of the ‘developmental state’ that heralded the proliferation of new states since the culmination of the Second World War. But while it can be argued that these brood of former colonies were merely reinforcements of the prevailing international political economy, and that their development have either been stymied or supported to grow, benefiting from catalysts provided by the political and economic power poles of the international system, consideration is given of the fact that there exist an embarrassment of endowments spread across the vastness of the landmass of Nigeria that it can well provide in abundance for the nearly 200 Million peoples that have been destined to live as one within her geographical confines, leaving considerable surplus that can well be invested in the millions more unborn Nigerians that would inhabit these lands long after our generation must have departed.

A flip through the nations dailies would indeed raise serious questions on the sustainability of the Nigerian project on the eve of her golden jubilee of sovereign existence. Judging from the reports being provided by the heroes of the contemporary struggle, the courageous newshound, who permeate the armour of the petite bourgeoisie to provide us common proletarians with much needed enlightenment, a projection into the next fifty years seem littered with pain, with the peoples perennially subjected to a vicious cycle of poverty.

It must be mentioned that the heart which one shows in actually purchasing a newspaper publication reflects the unrelenting spirit of the average Nigerian citizen who is not put off by the economic tailspin which the global financial meltdown had inflicted on an already dysfunctional domestic economy. Many have remained unrelenting, sacrificing at least 100 of our distressed Naira currency, to be in the know of the scheming and shenanigans of the political gladiators that bestride the political space. This token amount could well be the difference between ones status and position in the international classification of poverty. These ones actually contribute to the contemporary Nigerian debate, with their hope that it would yield to a genuine social contract that would bind the essence of our togetherness and genuine nationhood.

This emerging national debate, which if it must be said have been consistently and consciously shirked by the party going on in the Federal Capital Territory is proving to be like the proverbial light that cannot be hid. Unfortunately however, the appropriate mechanisms for engaging in such debates under the contemporary constituted order are rather preoccupied with more mundane things, as both the green and red sides of the divide are as yet enmeshed in their attempts to define and redefine protocol over a year after their respective committees were convened. Meanwhile, quite ominously, the continuous search for where ‘Satan’ is domiciled makes headline news. How else could have the Nigerian populace been aware of the fact that ‘sciances’ and exorcisms still exist in the upper echelon of both the national state and its sub national appendages?

The average Nigerian is indeed rewarded when he debates the hypocrisy of the assumedly religious politicians. For the same pages one confronts state and public officials, indicted of one deviant act or the other, gleefully posing for nude photographic shots within the deep recesses of fetish primitivism, are the same pages that these officials give thanks with pomp and pageantry in various religious institutions and denominations, thanking God probably for aiding them in their successful actions of primitive accumulation. Makes one to wonder which God is actually being worshipped.

It is no more news when gross incompetence is reported. What becomes news is the size and degree of appropriation. For that observer since independence, the brazenness of the late 20th century pale into insignificance when compared with the bizarre of the 21st century thus far. Some years ago, $12 Billion was lamented to high heavens and personal aggrandizement was redefined with platforms constructed for the storage of filthy lucre in some quarters. Those were the heady days of the ‘gap toothed general’ and the ‘dark goggled one’. However, little did we know that we were being primed for the incredulous when colossal sums were mentioned in a plethora of graft cases, from Halliburton to Siemens, to the unspecified monies of the power probes and the irony of the Rural Electrification scam where a hunter has paradoxically become the hunted, amongst countless of others.

Expectations that the emerging democratic order would bring with it the goods that the battered people badly needed continue to fizzle with the passage of time, and the Nigerian people who marched on into democracy and the new century with a hope borne of the fact that our collective experience as a nation would place the new political and ruling elite in good stead to recalibrate the trajectory of the nations political and socio-economic development have been disappointed to say the least. What has become of the sacrifices made in sweat and blood, the aftermath of the post June 12 pro democracy battles? Have they all been in vain? Where is transparency and accountability? What happened to the rule of law that we were all promised?

The story since the turn of the century have been founded on hollow growth and a haphazard and directionless policy regime, that does the common man no good. Governance has been abused and the system had been intentionally and consciously corrupted to maintain the access which some small fraction of the populace have to the paraphernalia of state. By incorporating segments of the economic, military, traditional and religious elites, this hybrid Polygarchy have let loose the fangs of the state on other sectors of the society, replicating itself at various sub state levels, for the sole purpose of self preservation. Protecting its networks of puns by promoting double standards, while meting selective justice for appeasement purposes, and for the benefit of the sycophantic cadre who see their role as official applause providers for state policies, good or bad. Under this reality therefore, it is hardly surprising that there is a morbid competition to accumulate bordering on the insane. With a false paradigm orientation entrenched by the discredited capitalistic notions copied from the colonial dispensation, capital accumulation had been turned on its head in its expression in Nigeria, and her economy is being sabotaged from within under a presumed logic of neo classical liberalism.

A computation of figures arrived at from some of the alleged misappropriations since 1999 would amount to all or most of the annual budget of many of the states in Sub Saharan Africa. With the political class consuming almost half of the nations budget each year, it is begging the question why the country has remained the way it is in an increasingly globalizing 21st century, disarticulated, disjointed, disillusioned and underdeveloped.

However, this piece is not meant for lamenting the subsisting state in Nigeria, as that job has become the favorite pastime of our political leaders, who when not lamenting our absence from the congregation of states that would form the core of the emerging international economic order (if not political as well), are either lamenting the snub given by the American head of states’ below par rating of the country’s efforts at governance, or lamenting their incapacity at providing a paltry 6000 Megawatts, power capacity that would not be able to scratch the surface of our drive towards being amongst one of the top 20 economies in about a decade from today. Even consistent failures at ensuring that the federal road networks are failure free are no longer news, not when the Lagos/Apapa federal roads he vein of the nations economy, are in a critical condition of disrepair.

Our leaders should know by now that tears and emotion laden tones do not make good roads, nor do they lead to development and economic prosperity. Even, their various throng of ‘abracadabra’ specialists would have told them so. One can recall a few years ago when a federal minister, fully fatigued in construction gear with a safety hat to match, along the Benin-Ore-Lagos Federal Highway, exhibited her enviable talents at ‘stagecraft’ in the glare of lights and cameras, but two years down the road, we are yet to see concrete action, and she was appropriately rewarded for that spectacle with another ministerial position and her continuous presence in the midst of the noveau aristocrats in their midweek backslappings and camera sessions.

Now when the nations educational sector lie prostrate, parties are being held by actors in the midst of the crisis, and more fundamental issues are trivialized with an emphasis on income. It is beyond the rationalizing of the authorities that education and a sound academic base provide the fulcrum on which growth in knowledge is firmed upon, and that for our educational institutions to rate at par with its contemporaries from other parts of the world, infrastructural development and better funding is required. While talks of accelerating the development efforts of the Niger Delta was ongoing, the subsisting regime chose to mark its two years in office with carnage in Gbaramatu, following this up with an offer of amnesty that few have subscribed to due to it’s disregard for the local oil bearing communities exploited these past fifty years and its lack of a sustainable post amnesty framework.

As if to rub the scale of its insensitivity to the Niger Delta in, the state had proposed, via the suspect Petroleum Industry Bill some unacceptable proposals that underlie the constant insinuations held by this most deprived of peoples that some individuals within the polity actually feel that the state exist at their behest. What can one say about a minister who has been in the corridors of the petroleum industry, and have not only amassed stupendous wealth as a result, but has also contributed to the rot over the last three decades making unguarded statements and utterances belying his comprehension of the immensity of a problem he cannot deny not being a major party to?

It is a sad testimony that when some elements should be called to account for their years of association with the development of underdevelopment in the country, statements that emanate from them are fraught with provocation and an air of imperial aloofness. Over $400 Billion have been frittered away by previous regimes and governments, according to the United Nations and the World Bank, many of the current officials of state were at various points active partakers of previous governments, but no one is asking for stewardships, much less prosecutions. Similar events are unfolding before our very eyes as the rate at which the nations surplus crude accounts and foreign reserves is being depleted, decreasing over 30% the last 12 months with no significant improvement in any of the ntions domestic developmental index, gives one cause for concern. At this rate, by the time of the 2011 elections, the nation might not have up to $10 Billion in her foreign reserves, while calls are already on for a second term for the present regime. At a point when reasonable rational heads of governments of more developed countries apologize for government failure and take responsibility for inefficiency, our African leaders continue to foist themselves on their hapless peoples, disregarding norms and harboring interests of self perpetuation in power irrespective of performance or otherwise.

Rather, this piece is for the Nigerian citizen who see through the crocodile tears and unguarded statements of state officials, and hold a firm belief in the bright and positive future of our nation without cosmetic attempts at (re)branding. This piece is for all those who daily flock the news stands, wanting to know, and still wanting to know more, for their belief that one day they will gather and comment on the positives that emanate from the system and reminisce on the dark days of the insane polity when the ‘lunatic minority’ held sway. This piece is for the brave news editor/reporter who despite threats, blackmail and a hostile working environment, where the freedom of information is stifled and harangued and mere reporting of the state of health of public officials could land one in the comfortable confines of State Security detention centres, continue to hold tenaciously to the principles of their profession. This piece is for all Nigerians who feel betrayed when the nation has to stand in line and beg the G8 and other High Income Countries for bread crumbs when the nation is fully capable of baking her own pies and teaching others the art of industry and productivity.

This piece is also for the African brethren domiciled in Africa. As our leaders have restated their determination to make those difficult choices that will enable them deal with the complex challenges facing Africa, and since they have recognized that the responsibility for peace and development rests squarely on their shoulders (paraphrasing President Umaru Yar Aduas recent G8 speech), it is only a hope that Africa can hope. That rhetoric begin to be backed up with action, and that genuine efforts be made by African leaders towards meeting the welfare and developmental needs of her peoples by genuinely working towards realizing the goals and targets of eradicating poverty and human suffering.

According to the United Nations Under Secretary General For Economic and Social Affairs Sha Zukang, writing in the 2008 Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) Report, all citizens of the world, especially the poor and the most vulnerable, have the right to expect that their leaders fulfill the commitments made towards achieving these set of developmental goals. The Nigerian citizen has a right to development, and it is not a privilege.

But a flip through the dailies imbues one with less cause for confidence. But to the good Nigerian citizen, and to the African who have gone through the trouble of flipping through the days dailies, this writer says courage. Trouble may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Saturday, May 9, 2009

A lamentation song

Hear oh my ear a great lamentation
the fall of a man equals a fallen nation
Hasten to make a great show of grief
for this night will belong to the thief

There is a gloom at dawn on the noon of man
let the wailing be heard over all creation
See he sought to create an imitation
now a perfect work has become imperfect

In all still subject to the earth
even as the watchman gives the warning call
Just as the expansive beyond begins to burn all
more like light from the searing sun

In the many things that will never be certain
in the midst of these tears and toil
A pall on the sight blurs a vision
but even man still has a mission

The blood the moon cried dried too soon
emptied into depths in the bowels of the earth
How the mighty belied reason
how the mighty proved no less a person

From far fathoms of the deep, seas of souls are seen
the time and tide become mild if we abide
These eyes see a bringing low of mountains
where the wilderness swallowed regurgitated fountains

To every time occurring there is an appointed time
so the lamentation holds us all attention
As the wild winds of the world blow strong
it is each one to their lamentation song

Dedicated to the victims of the recent Eki'edo fire disaster

Saturday, March 28, 2009

As the lights went off...


Today was marked worldwide as the world Earth day, and something that enjoyed wide appeal worldwide was it's marking with a "one hour light's off" ceremony to draw attention to the energy and environmental issues that are critical to the sustainability of life on Earth. The Earth hour this year was truly significant. The very first event held was in the city of Sydney, Australia in 2007. A year later, some four hundred cities joined in the call to politicians and decision makers to take bolder action to stem the tide of climate change. This year however, over four thousand cities joined in this campaign of global significance as the environmental issues continue to gain more relevance in the psyche of the Earths inhabitants, in the midst of a global crisis of multifaceted dimensions. Even as the global financial meltdown is still assumed to have as yet reached it's nadir, the onus on the decision makers in world affairs to take immediate action to mitigate an awaiting calamity, as a deterioration of the planets climate and environmental conditions would far more exceed the limits of mankind's capabilities to manage should necessary warnings are not heeded today.

With the wind down of the Kyoto Protocol due in 2012, and the expectation that the Copenhagen Summit in Denmark later in the year holds, it is important to take into cognisance that the efforts of the international state system be in correlation with the genuine needs of the entire inhabitants of our common heritage, the Planet Earth, as not only a bequeathal to one, but a bequeathal to all the entirety of humanity. As the contemporary system was left a legacy to our generation, we must strive to leave a befitting legacy for the generations yet unborn.

This is by no means implying that the Earth can be healed in our lifetime, but reason dictates that we begin that process of recovery, at least to such an extent that it can be progressively built upon by those ones who would assume such responsibilities long after our generation and most probably, our childrens', might have passed on. The challenge starts now, further delay might prove costly for life as we know it to be. The reality of extinct lifeforms from the field of Paleontology is ample evidence that catastrophes (terrestrial or extra-terrestrial) of incomprehensible magnitude can occur and has occurred, leading to total annihilation of once predominant and flourishing lifeforms.

Well, this is not meant to be a doomsday sermon however as that might be a distant probability at this moment. It is only hoped that with the rhetoric of international collaborative, cooperative and coordinated camaraderie fleeting across the speech of the worlds political elite in the face of the subsisting economic crisis, the necessity for a realistic pragmatism would win through, and climate friendly policies would be incorporated not just in the statute books of international diplomacy, but also in the minds, consciousness and orientations of each and every one of the 6.5 Billion (and counting...) individuals in the world today. At least, for the international capitalist system to remain the focal ideological perspective of a Globalizing 21st century world, there has to be an environmentally sustainable way of harnessing the worlds plethora of energy sources.

Oh, and one might want to ask, how was the day marked in Benin City? Well, there was actually no consumption of electricity for most parts of the day, this was not due to any premeditated or deliberate efforts of the citizenry at marking an event that was marked in all the regions of the globe (as most were not even aware of the occasion). Rather, the notoriety of the national power grid meant no power supply for most parts of the nation, and in the stipulated hours between 8.30 pm and 9.30 pm, most of the households in the city (and in many other parts of the country as well) were powered by generating sets which actually contribute a significant percentage of Nigeria's over 100,000 Metric Tonnes of CO2 emissions, about 0.4 % of the total world percentage. And the lights are still off...

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Good people, great nation. What about governance?


If there ever was an inspiring slogan, it has to be the one that was constructed by the team assembled by the irrepressible Dr. Dora Akunyili, the present Minister of Information who made a credible name for herself in her popular campaign against fake and sub-standard drugs while in the drivers seat of the National Agency For Food And Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC). This new initiative at branding the nation by the Yar-Adua administration was heralded with such pomp and peagentry, chopping up some few hours off of airtime on national television. Although the rhetoric is rebranding Nigeria, the exercise in it's very conception reeks of an attempt in futility.

This in itself does not signify an attempt to demean the significance of this new project, rather, in the consciousness of the average Nigerian, there really are things that need to be done that would fundamentally engender development and progress of the contemporary Nigerian society, are these things being done? In the speech read on his behalf by the Vice President, President Yar Adua was quoted thus, "If we as a nation must meet the MDGs, we must readily put in place a positive perception of Nigeria". It was surprising to witness yesterday that for an event which is being marketed to the over 140 Million peoples of Nigeria as the step that would lead us to our own developmental eldorado, the President and CEO of the Nigerian project was conspiciously absent. Not only was his esteemed presence missing, neither the Senate President nor the Speaker of the House deemed it neccessary to grace such a momentous occassion as the official "rebranding Nigeria" ceremony.

The read speech of Mr. President left so much to be desired, his absence from the ceremony was far from encouraging, and the good image which the Information Minister had garnered over the years is at the risk of being tarnished by the very forces which she so willingly intend to please by her image laundering attempts. The powers that be are very well comfortable with the status quo and until this decadent structure of the state is reformed, nothing much should be expected from the people as they have been giving their best all these years and cannot be expected to do more than the scope that the restraining Nigerian state had foisted on them.


Much as most of the nation had been forced to watch the wanton abuse of political office and power, much as security of lives and property had been threatened by an insecure state, much as injustices left unattended to for years had been left to fester into full blown internecine violence, much as education and infrastructure had been deliberately allowed to depreciate and dilapidate, the Nigerian people had remained unwavering, tenacious, resolute in their belief that "one day, e go better". The average Nigerian is confident, she will choose to be industrious in the face of challenges and he will work his socks off to fend for his family with a belief that it can be done. So, for the fact that the President feels the need to embark on a campaign for Nigerians to, "once more have confidence in themselves and in Nigeria" seem rather ambiguous and more like a cosmetic reason for a project that should hold so much hope.

It was interesting to hear the speech touch on the image that the nation is viewed by the international community, but what happens when the world sees Nigeria on CNN and BBC as one good and great nation, and elections are still witnessed to be replete with irregularities with questionable decisions from the Judicial processes? When a vast number of the people are without adequate electricity supply that perpetually cast the nation as a dark spot on the globe when viewed from outer space satellite images? This is a country where official transparency is shadowed in official oath taking ceremonies and accountability is being truncated by the sabotaging efforts of the anti "Freedom Of Information Bill" advocates. No element of window dressing ever keeps the cracks invisible from the naked eye, the practical thing to do is to replace a louver.

Listening to the Vice President speak, one must've wondered what was going on through his mind when he reeled out some beautifully constructed vocabs, consolidating the impression that Nigerians are indeed a great people. Even the original owners of the English language would be green with envy when they listen to the words as penned by the presidential speech writer. Hear, "The campaign signifies a renewed dawn to our collective interests to reorient, and embrace positive values of accountability, selfless service, diligence, transparency, abiding pride in our country which will not only drive the maximization of our creative and productive energy, but also diagnose a shared and progressive interest". I guess if the above were to be intepreted in the average Nigerian Pidgin English to the rural dweller in Biri'Nafada in Gombe state, or the peasant cassava farmer in Ugboha, Edo State, or to the average motor boy in Ago-Iwoye, Ogun state or the market woman in Mbaise, Imo state, they would express similar sentiments. Sentiments that they see the government as a good initiator of programmes, but a bad implementer of them.

Sorry for sounding harsh, but fifty years of a common history, fifty years of aborted programmes (laudable as some might have been), fifty years of failed promises, fifty years of misrule and corruption and inefficiency and ineptitude on the part of the state, fifty years of directionlessness and a wanton disregard for the yearnings and aspirations of the people are enough to cause one to at this point take any highfalutin rhetoric from a government that has been a part of the rot for the last two years of our history without meaningful significant change in the socio, political economic life of the nation, with a pinch of salt.

The Seven Point Agenda remains just that, an agenda, and the Vision 20 20 20 might just as well remain a vision in the light of the subsisting economic crisis which is defying the intellectual capacities of those saddled with the enormous task of managing the economy for the millions of hard working Nigerians who are at risk of experiencing the effects of delayed and brittle economic policies. The MDGs of which the President is so fond of mentioning (maybe due to it's technical sounding nature in speeches) is hardly being met by Nigeria, as we are neither on the road to achieving any nor are we making meaningful efforts towards achieving them except for the basic education goal which if not for a culture of education in the some parts of the country would have been mired in its non-accomplishment as there are as yet remains that big push required to engender a universal education policy that would benefit all parts of the nation.

While not apportioning blames, while identifying with the fact that even this writer is not trying to be "holier than thou", we must begin to address certain realities. Have we not discovered ourselves? The president said it is not about celebrating our failings, but about recognizing them and challenging ourselves and rising above it. Fine, agreed and accepted, lets do that now. The state is the problem in Nigeria, the state and all it's agents have been hijacked by thugs and charlatans in the garb of leadership. When a nation is being ruled by rogues whose political language is violent and well met with the violence evidenced in our electoral and political process, what does one expect governance to be?

Remember Mr. President that upon assumption of duties on that fateful May day in 2007, your speech was inspiring in its rhetoric of "rule of law" and a "zero tolerance for corruption". Two years down the line, how would your administration be assessed based on these two criteria alone?

Now the challenge is to the state and not to the Nigerian people. The way we speak, our utterances and our actions, as Dr. Akunyili mentioned, are just a reflection of the ripple effects of communication dissemination as emanating from the state being dispensed to the polity. The state takes the lead in any attempt at national development and the onus should not be on the people.

If the people see murderers and rapists go unpunished, if the people see that corruption is celebrated and flaunted by the state and her many networks of patron-client relationships, if the people see that justice is being transformed into a commodity that is subject to market forces, if the people see their taps without water and their roads riddled with death traps, if the people continue to power their subsistence existence on fuel powered generators, if the people cannot have the basic necessities of a life that is expected of such an endowed nation in the 21st century , then ten thousand branding or rebranding attempts would continue to meet with the failures earlier experienced by prior half hearted attempts at cosmetic surgery on the nations image. The "Heart of Nigeria Project" is a recent sad reminder of the cost of such failures with it's over 1 Billion Naira expenditure.

But must we continue to embark on such white elephant projects, rather than lining the pockets of a few individuals, such sum might have been invested in creating cottage industries, or awarding PHD grants or other educational/academic research, among the many other positive things that would have had a more positive impact on the nation, but we all know that even with it's been classified a monumental failure, no one would be held accountable why such a project was allowed to fail.

Like we mentioned earlier, we are good people, great nation? Potentially maybe, yes. We have the potentials to be great, but whether we attain greatness would depend on the goodness of our governance and the actions of the leadership of this nation at this critical point in our collective history and not on some official ceremony that does not hold much of a significance as to attract the presence of the heads of the three arms of government.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

New Beginnings


Being the text of the 2009 Edo State Budget read on the floor of the State House Of Assembly on Monday, 16th February 2009 by The Executive Governor Of Edo State, Comrade Adams Aliu Oshiomhole:

Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members of Edo State House of Assembly

1. Introduction

I wish to express my profound appreciation to the Honourable House for the opportunity to present
The 2009 Budget Estimates for Edo State. Let me again use this occasion to acknowledge and appreciate the magnitude of cooperation extended to my administration over several issues that have arisen in the interaction between the Executive and Legislative arms of government. I wish to assure you of my irrevocable commitment to sustaining this partnership. This is necessary for the progress of Edo State and the welfare of our people.

2. Our Approach to budgeting

As the first budget presentation of this administration, it is necessary for me to re-state that we take the budgetary process very seriously. Therefore, the preparation and presentation of our budgets will not be a mere-annual ritual. Accordingly, we have thoroughly analysed the desirability and feasibility of all the capital projects while the recurrent headings have been painstakingly scrutinised and streamlined.

3. The 2009 Budget - Overall Vision

Mr. Speaker, the 2009 budget is a Budget of a New Beginning.

It is designed to kick-start the integrated, accelerated, sustainable and people-driven development of Edo State. Our vision is to transform Edo State qualitatively through the empowerment of our people with the resources, infrastructures, institutions and all-inclusive policies to enable them live more productive and secure lives.

In Edo State, for too long, it has been Government as usual, to the unfortunate extent that the people have virtually resigned to the notion that government is a burden, rather than an institution for meeting popular aspirations. We insist that our people are entitled to a government that works and a society that cares.

In consultation with major segments of the populace and the various agencies of government, this administration has identified the major development challenges we need to confront, namely:

1. Poor infrastructure, especially intra-city and rural roads;

2. Unemployment;
3. Poor agricultural output and a primitive rural economy;
4. Flooding, erosion and other forms of man-made environmental nuisance, including the
wilful blocking and non-maintenance of existing drainages, particularly in Benin City;
5. A decadent public school system;
6. Poor and inaccessible public health facilities;
7. Insecurity of lives and property;
8. Absence of potable water; •

9. A top-heavy, poorly trained, ill-equipped and thus under-performing public service and
high overhead costs;

10. Housing shortage;
11. A chaotic transportation system, especially intra-city;
12. Epileptic power supply and absence of electricity in most of the rural areas;
13. A hostile operating environment for productive activities in the real sector.

Our communities in the oil producing and riverine areas have peculiar and more acute problems inflicted by the natural terrain and the environmental consequences of oil exploration.

Addressing these and other multifarious crises certainly requires a huge outlay of financial resources. Yet, we have assumed stewardship at a time of a deepening global financial crisis and steady erosion of the capacity of national, state and municipal governments to deal with development challenges.
Today in Edo State like the rest of Nigeria, we are confronted with a drastic decline in revenue arising largely from the persistent fall in allocations from the Federation Accounts. This is compounded by our meagre internally generated revenue. At an average of N350 million monthly as internally generated revenue, Edo State is grossly under-performing. All we earn in taxes is one-quarter of the monthly personnel and overhead costs.

Worse still, we met the state in a total mess. In the period immediately preceding our tenure, the massive inflows of monthly revenues, including those from the Excess Crude Account and Paris Club Debt Forgiveness Funds, were squandered. Not only were the funds squandered, Prof Osunbor left a total liability of N9.8 billion, made up of N5.1 billion in approved vouchers and a N4.7 billion loan.
This administration met very many abandoned and poor quality capital projects, especially roads and drainages, which were clearly designed to siphon funds. Not only were the contracts inflated, the quality of execution was a far cry from the massive sums paid to contractors, most of whom lacked the requisite capacity to execute the projects. The result is that in spite of the over N50 billion Prof Osunbor received from the Federation Accounts in 18 months, there is no evidence that much had happened in the life of the people. In some cases, it was established that cash withdrawals were made from Government accounts and paid into private bank accounts.

Our covenant with Edo State is to place government at the service of the people, who had fought so hard and made heroic sacrifices to install it. It follows therefore, that we will not join the bandwagon of lamentations and prophecies of tougher times for the people. Today, the challenge is to provide a more imaginative and purposeful leadership, to re-order our priorities, eliminate wastages and manage available scarce resources prudently, in order to meet the high expectations of the people. This will require looking inwards to tap available sources of revenue and block all leakages.

4. The 2009 Budget - Objectives and Priorities

Our major objective this fiscal year is to stimulate employment-led productive activities, create additional jobs, improve infrastructures, combat poverty and enhance the quality of life.

Mr. Speaker, in order to maximise the impact of the limited resources available, we have carefully re-appraised the challenges I outlined earlier; we have also carefully determined the priority areas for decisive intervention this fiscal year. Much as it is desirable to address all the identified problem areas, the fact of very limited resources makes this impossible. Therefore, we have identified three major critical priority areas for decisive government intervention this fiscal year. Mr. Speaker, these areas are:

1. Roads;
2. Drainage rehabilitation, flooding and erosion control; and
3. Primary and post-primary education.

Even as we have identified these priority areas, we are also focusing more particularly on Benin City this fiscal year in order to deal decisively with the flooding and erosion problems. After diligent evaluation, the expert opinion is that disilting the drainages and fixing the erosion and flooding crisis require a holistic approach based on the Benin City master plan. Such a holistic approach will require. massive investment in construction and a substantial capital outlay to mobilise highly reputable and competent contractors to the sites. This government wants to avoid the ineffective piecemeal approach of the past and the use of roadside and emergency contractors, selected based on political patronage. This explains why we have devoted nearly a third of the capital budget this fiscal year to restoring the Benin City master plan.

The idea is to avoid the mistake of the past, which was to spread funds too thinly every where and make no impact anywhere. While some might argue that this new and holistic approach is not equitable, the reality is that Benin City is home to people from all the other local governments. This means that the positive social and economic effects of this investment will accrue to all. In any event, the benefit of an elected government with a clear four-year mandate is that over the rest of our tenure, this administration will execute projects in other sectors and the rest of the State, such that the entirety of the people will ultimately feel the impact of development. Therefore, it is not this year or never! Of course, we have also allocated funds for capital projects in the areas of health, water, rural electrification, industry, sports, agriculture and other areas.

5. Highlights of the 2009 budget

Mr. Speaker, the sum of N75.54 billion is being proposed for the 2009 fiscal year. The breakdown is as follows:

1. Recurrent revenues - N35.66 billion;
2. Capital receipts - N39,88 billion.

The projected revenue is made up of the following components:

1. Statutory allocation - N20 billion
2. Internally generated revenue - N15.6 billion
3. The 13% mineral Derivation N0.50 billion
4. VAT - N4.72 billion
5. Ecological Fund - N3.00 billion

Out of the N75.54 billion, the sum of N45.38 billion is allocated to capital projects while N30.17 billion is proposed as recurrent expenditures. This budget, however, contains a deficit of N20.5 billion, which we intend to fund through borrowing.

Mr. Speaker, it is instructive to note that this administration has made deliberate efforts to reverse the disproportionate relationship between capital and recurrent expenditures, which was in the past skewed in favour of recurrent spending. The cumulative effect of deploying more funds into general administration and recurrent expenditures is that public finance management had over the years been consumptionist rather than developmental. The backbone of the 2009 budget is capital projects. This is why we have allocated 60% of the total budget towards capital expenditures.

Mr. Speaker, I will now outline the capital projects for the 2009 fiscal year and share with you this administration’s rationale:

6. Capital Projects

6.1. Roads

In this fiscal year, we intend to take bold and decisive steps to improve the quality of our roads, which are death traps and a nightmare to motorists and commuters. All over the world, the quality of roads positively affects the standards of living of the people. Good quality roads reduce maintenance costs on vehicles, enable commercial operators to charge reasonable fares, reduce repetitive stress and allow citizens more time for productive activities. Therefore, we have allocated N14.60 billion to roads and N10.70 billion to drainage, erosion ‘and flooding control mainly in Benin City this fiscal year. The road construction projects will be integrated with efforts to address the flooding challenge and generally beautify the city. These substantial allocations to roads, drainages and beautification constitute part of a broader strategy of gradually but steadily transforming our capital city into a 21st century metropolis.

We believe that this investment in the transformation of Benin City is justified in the first budget year. More than any other city in the state, Benin increasingly absorbs a heavy population from rural and provincial centres, in and outside Edo State, which continues to exert enormous pressure on infrastructures.

Mr. Speaker, the road projects to be executed will be durable, aesthetically appealing, functional and capable of enduring future population expansion and increased vehicular traffic. For instance, the Airport Road and the Ugbowo Road will be expanded to six lanes, complete with streetlights, drainages, sidewalks and other features of a durable modern highway. To guarantee the attainment of these high technical specifications, Government will mobilise capable and reputable contractors.

However, even as we concentrate on Benin this fiscal year, this administration has allocated funds to some road projects in the other Senatorial Districts. These details are provided in the main budget document, which I will present to Mr. Speaker shortly.

In addition, we have provided funds for the establishment of a Public Works Agency. This agency will execute repairs of failed surfaces as they develop and keep our highways in motorable conditions all the year round. The agency will be responsible for sanitation, traffic management, beautification, enforcement of environmental laws and urban renewal in general.

6.2. The Flooding and Drainage Challenge
The flooding and erosion challenge in Benin City is formidable indeed, which explains the substantial allocation we have made this year. This will enable us to mobilise reputable contractors to the most critical sites, to clear blocked channels and construct new ones.

In addition, Government will evolve tough measures to deal with the abuse of town planning, land use and environmental laws. We have to take painful but necessary measures to demolish houses erected on the moat and other natural drainage paths.

6.3. Education
Mr. Speaker, the next major area of focus this fiscal year is primary and post-primary education, which attracts over N5 billion. To arrest the systemic decay in our school system requires massive investments on infrastructures in the short term. Our contract with Edo people in the area of education is that we must give our children the quality of education that will ultimately enable them to break out of the poverty cycle. Consistent with our resolve to reform the public school system, we will embark on the construction and furnishing of new standard classrooms in the 18 local governments. Funds have also been allocated to commence the establishment of a model primary and secondary school in each local government area and two in Oredo local government area. The administration will rehabilitate and furnish existing classrooms all over the state.

From this amount, Government will equip and reinvent the inspectorate arm of the Ministry of Education in our quest to improve standards in the public schools on a sustained basis.

Another N1 billion has been set aside for some of the capital requirements of the Ambrose Ali University. This is in addition to the allocations for capital projects in the other state-owned higher institutions. In the course of the year, we will finalise discussions with the authorities, staff and students of these higher institutions on how to deal with their capital requirements on a holistic basis in subsequent budget years.

The total allocation to education, therefore, is N6.5 billion, which is more than a 300% increase over the preceding year.

6.4. Health
Mr. Speaker, this administration is determined to give effect to our commitment to provide quality curative and preventive care in order to improve the health status of our population. This year, Government will commence with the comprehensive rehabilitation of the Central Hospitals in Auchi, Benin City and Uromi.

As in other sectors, the severity of the crisis in the healthcare delivery system cannot be tackled in one budget year. However, we believe that with the allocation of N1.74 this year, we shall make substantial impact that can be built on in the subsequent fiscal dispensations.

6.5. Security,
This administration will continue to make efforts to guarantee the security of lives and property. In this respect, we will continue to support the Edo State Police with the means to combat crime.

Furthermore, Government is currently engaging the leadership of the Edo State Police Command on operational modalities for the establishment of a rapid intervention squad.

The security challenge requires partnership with the private sector. Therefore, this administration will launch the Edo State Security Trust Fund which will be jointly managed by Government and the

Private Sector.

Mr. Speaker, a fundamental element of our security strategy is the mass employment programme, for which provision has been made in the budget. Even our security chiefs in the State Security Council fully agree with me that the most viable and sustainable means to fight crime is secured employment for the mass of our people, especially the youths.

6.6. Administration of Justice

Mr. Speaker, if we must guarantee access to justice and truly promote the rule of law, the challenge is to give infrastructural empowerment to the judiciary. This administration will commence this process this fiscal year with the renovation of the State high court complex in Benin, renovation of magistrate courts all over the state and construction of some quarters for judges and magistrates.

6.6. Mass Transit

Mr. Speaker, we are determined to adopt a new and more effective approach to dealing with the urban transportation challenge. Government has provided counterpart funding towards the acquisition of some big buses for intra-city operations. The rationale for the procurement of these buses is to ensure the effective and easy mobility of passengers and goods, reduce wastage of commuters’ time and address the horrifying traffic bottlenecks, especially in the city centres. Thus, the Edo City Transport Services will be re-engineered and re-focused to provide effective intra-city service, which was the original mandate. We will also explore the possibilities of merging the Edo line and ECTS.

An immediate challenge is to eliminate the blockade and congestion of our highways. I am renewing my appeal to traders to vacate the roads and the walkways, while mini-buses, cabs and okadas should refrain from operating parks in areas not designated for that purpose. Our roads and walkways are not meant to be markets, motor-parks, mechanic workshops or places for abandoning unserviceable vehicles.

With effect from this quarter, traffic marshals and mobile courts will be deployed to sanitise our highways. Government has allocated funds to procure towing vehicles, vehicle scrap crushers and related capital equipment for this purpose.

6.7. Agriculture !.-
Government has set aside NO.39 billion to strengthen the capacity of the ADP to deliver support to farmers and procure tractors and other agricultural equipment. A major programme to be funded in the sector is the replanting of the Urhonigbe Rubber Plantation. Above all, we will encourage and partner with private investors in the area of large-scale mechanised agriculture, through the provision of land and counterpart funding where necessary.

6.8. Energy
This administration recognises that without providing our rural communities with electricity, we cannot deliver on our vision to promote cottage industry, raise rural income and improve the quality ofrural life. With an allocation of NO.81 billion this fiscal year, Government will develop infrastructures that will link about 50 rural communities to electricity supply.

6.7. Water
The sum of N1.1 billion will be allocated to some ongoing water schemes including the Benin City Water Improvement Project, Ojirami Dam Improvement Work, Iyagun Headwork, and rehabilitation of the Ugbalo/lbore Water Supply Surface Scheme. Government will also sink boreholes in many communities, so that we can raise the levels of sanitation and combat water-borne diseases in the 18 local governments.

6.8. Sports

Mr. Speaker, in the area of sports, N100 million has been allocated for capital projects in the Michael Imoudu College of Physical Education, Afuze, in order to commence its restoration as the premier training institute for sportsmen and women. The sports development budget also covers the rehabilitation of Dr Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium. The restoration and equipment of the other stadia will be executed in subsequent fiscal years.

6.9. Commerce and Industry

Through the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Government will disburse fund to micro-credit schemes to empower small and medium enterprises and cooperatives. This is consistent with the administration’s objective of stimulating productive activities and promoting self-employment. Government will also explore the re-capitalisation of some of the ailing public enterprises through partnership with the private sector.

6.10. General Administration

Mr. Speaker, in order to function with optimum effectiveness in the implementation of public policies, this government is committed to improving level of performance, competence and commitment of the public service in Edo State. This fiscal year, Government will ease the office accommodation crisis by completing the C and D Blocks in the State Secretariat as a starting point. This is in addition to the provision of vehicles, office equipment and internet-connected computers. In our recurrent budget, provision has been made for training, retreats and similar capacity-development programmes to boost the performance of the public service.

6.11. Other Sectors
Mr. Speaker, the provision for capital projects in the other sectors are as follows:

- Arts, culture and tourism - N178.36 million
- Information - N264.10 million
- Land and Survey - N260.20 million
- Women Affairs & Social Development - N450. million
- Oil Producing Areas Development - N604 million

7. Implementation Strategies

Although, our budget of N75.54 billion is N1.84 billion less than the preceding year, we will adopt creative strategies to ensure greater performance and attain much better value for the money expended.

7.1. Performance in Meeting IGR Target

The performance of this budget is predicated largely on the attainment of the high Internally Generated Revenue target of N15 billion. In furtherance of meeting the target, this administration will overhaul the IGR machinery. I will personally take charge of this process.

The reality today is that we cannot meet our needs by depending on the Federation Accounts, which is itself under-performing because of the steady decline in oil revenues. Indeed, the growing use of bio fuels and the aggressive research into alternative energy sources in the world will invariably result in less demand for oil, and ultimately less income for mono-cultural economies like Nigeria.

Progressive development thinking requires that we plan ahead and upscale internal generation of revenues, especially taxes, levies and charges for services. This process will commence this fiscal year and I appeal for the support and cooperation of corporate and individual citizens.

7.2. Dilequent Implementation and Fiscal Governance.

This budget will be operated based on the strict application of the principles of accountability, fiscal responsibility, probity and value for money. We will intensify measures to block the vast leakages caused by over-invoicing of contracts and procurements, and outright theft of public funds, as we have established through the Assets Verification Committee.

Towards enforcing these principles, government will operate a Due Process and a Project Monitoring Unit to ensure that all projects are executed at reasonable costs in accordance with prescribed quality specifications. I believe that with these controls, coupled with public vigilance and your ove~sight scrutiny, we will give effect to our collective determination to ensure value for money.

This administration will also commence the process of full computerisation of the operations of government in order to enhance capacity to plan. This will also eliminate wastages and fraud, especially in such areas as Salary and Pension administration, revenue collection, project monitoring and expenditure tracking.

7.3. Effective Oversight and Monitoring

Mr. Speaker, we will establish an Economic Team made up of a highly specialised pool of technical expertise beyond what is institutionally available. This team will provide critical and independent perspectives to guide the implementation of the budget and economic planning in general.

7.4. Popular Participation

While Government will rely on experts, the ultimate advisers will be the people. In executing this budget, we will use the tools of popular consultation and popular participation to ensure that the people remain part of every step that government takes. In furtherance of involving the people in the implementation of the budget, there will be regular town hall meetings and sectoral engagements with stakeholders in the 18 Local Government Areas.

7.5. Building Partnerships

This administration will continue to work in partnership with Mr. President and the relevant agencies of the Federal Government towards the successful implementation of the budget. As I have acknowledged before, Mr. President has been supportive of our development aspirations in Edo State. We will deepen this synergy between the Federal Government and the Edo State Government for the economic development of our state and the overall prosperity of our nation.

We recognise that government alone cannot bear all the burden of financing development, especially with the current inauspicious economic scenario. Therefore, we need partnerships with the private sector and fresh investments in the State. I wish to assure the private sector and new investors of the administration’s readiness to provide appropriate incentives, including counterpart funding.

Let me also assure the International Development Community of our readiness for constructive partnerships in our priority areas and in meeting the targets of the Millennium Development Goals. with the reforms in fiscal governance, which we have initiated in Edo State, there will be better value and greater output for development assistance.

In the final analysis, the successful implementation of this budget lies in the effective engagement with the people. I am convinced that our people have what it takes to transform Edo State and make it a positive reference point for people-oriented governance. But Mr. Speaker, in this transformative process, leadership is critical. Our duty to the people is to provide creative and committed leadership that will inspire the people to unleash their creative energies, will and resourcefulness. Ultimately, the resourcefulness and energies of the people remain the major catalyst for development.

As leaders of both the Executive and Legislative arms of government, we have a duty to share the burden of finding solutions to the problems that confront our people. We have to set aside political and other differences, provide purposeful stewardship to the people and give them hope in a new and better Edo State. In this regard, all arms of government will have to make severe sacrifices particularly in the areas of overhead expenditures in the light of dwindling resources.

I am conscious of the heroic sacrifices and efforts that Edo people invested in bringing about change in Edo State. We will not betray the trust, confidence and support of the people. We will do everything that is humanly possible to meet the aspirations and collective expectations of our people, to ensure that we do the greatest good for the greatest number of people in the shortest possible time.

I wish to appeal for your patience and understanding, especially in relation to the bad roads and floods in Benin. In order to get the best value from our expenditures on roads and drainage in Benin, we must holistically revisit the master-plan. This will naturally take some time. Thus, the reality is that not much can be done before onset of the rainy season. However, when are done with this holistic approach, flooding and erosion in Benin would have been eradicated before the next rainy season.

At this point, allow me, Mr. Speaker, to express my appreciation to you and your colleagues once again for your partnership. I wish to thank His Majesty, the Oba of Benin, for remaining a source of moral stability and rectitude in our State. We thank our other royal fathers, religious, community and opinion leaders for the support, prayers, encouragement and advice.

I wish to salute the sacrifices made by Organised Labour, professional bodies, the market traders and self-employed, okada riders, transporters, farmers, students and youth, civil society organisations and pensioners.

Mr. Speaker, it is now my honour and pleasure to present for your deliberation and adoption the 2009 Budget Estimates for Edo State, our Budget of a New Beginning. I thank you for your attention.

Now our duty here as Edo people is to monitor the effective implementation of this budget, especially when it gets passed by the State House Of Assembly. This budget, according to the Governor is intended to bring about a new beginning for the Edo people, let us all join hands to make this a reality.

Friday, February 6, 2009

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United as one against the ills of the world societies...

Friday, January 30, 2009

Edo Citizens


While walking along the Textile Mill Road area of Benin City, it was observed that men from the state ministrty of works were on ground laying asphalt on the portion between Chrismerry and the Iye Oba grounds. This is some welcome development as it encourages the citizenry to expect accelerated development and to feel the state in their lives. Similar works were reported in other parts of the state, and this coming just a few days after the official resumption of full executive responsibilities of the present administration. The previous administration had commenced the project sometime last year, but political uncertainties rather, prevented it from concluding the project. Concluding the project might take a while though, but watching the men in their duties today gave one a feeling that they knew what they were doing.

It is hoped that this fresh air would blow good for Edo people and that the expectations of good governance and official responsibility would be fulfilled and even exceeded by the performance of the present team. What becomes significant is that, the Edo people together brought this regime to be, and that all those in positions of the executive arm of the state should be accountable to the people that make up this ancient society.

As we hopefully march on into an uncertain 21st century, let us together firm our resolve to hold to those tenets of brotherliness, and love for mother and child. Let dealings not be about exclusion or marginalization, or capital accumulation, let it be about a resolve to imbue in the citizen, a yearning for a better life for self and for all. The developments of the past few months should make us begin to redefine our identity as similar to our citizenship, and as citizens protect the sovereignty of the sustaining order. Let us call to mind the commonality of our humanity with all the citizens in Nigeria to demand a better life for all. Things have to get better and the state has the werewithal to bring that about. To the State in Edo, we say courage...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Questions

As a new era dawns, what hope can one expect? What change can one create? Will this moment define our generation?
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Thursday, January 15, 2009

For Gaza


In all the things that hold us united
In all the things that make us whole
In the commonality of our collective humanity
To all the victims and casualties of war
We say courage...