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OPINION: Tinubu, Scrap The Scam

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By Suyi Ayodele

It is not enough to suspend that minister who (attempted) to post half a billion naira public funds into a private account. Sacking her won’t even be enough. Put another person in that ministry, you will get the same result. The thing to do is to stop the bleeding by scrapping the ministry and its associated tributaries. They are a scam, designed to be so. I am a good student of the 18th century poet, Alexander Pope. In one of his ‘beatitudes’, the poet pens: “Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.” This is exactly my attitude to the statement by the Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris, that President Bola Ahmed Tinubu would take appropriate action “to ensure that any breaches and infractions are identified and decisively punished, in line with the administration’s commitment to public accountability and due process”, in the corruption-infested Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation. Rather than wonder when President Tinubu began to wear the garments of “public accountability and due process”, I would rather ask, like the people of yore asked their deity that could not save them from disasters, that this government scraps the scams known as the National Social Investment Programme Agency (NSIPA), and the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation. If the deity cannot help us, it should leave us the way it met us (oosa boo le gbe mi, fi mi sile b’ose ba mi).

My biggest ‘New Year Resolution’ for the year 2024 is to answer the name Falana; and pay more attention to my personal issues. But, like the elders of my place would say: omo buruku o ni je ka gbagbe oro ana – a bad child will always remind one of a better forgotten past. Honestly, the year is far too young for me to break my ‘New Year Resolution’. We are just in the second week of the year. Even at that, the bad children that dominate our political landscape are at it again. They have taken us back to the avant-garde Orwellian year, 1984, where everything is the opposite. Nigeria has become a huge crime scene, especially with the rudderless leadership of more than a quarter of a century the nation has had. The Nigerian masses have been turned to the proverbial pitiable and helpless woman, who is at the mercy of a serial rapist with the biggest of phalluses, ever. When gripped and devoured by the merciless rapist, the best the female victim could do is to groan and grunt. To worsen the situation, there appears to be no help or helper in sight.

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The last four days have been very interesting. Our new husband in Abuja and his gang of serial economic rapists have shown that no matter how thoroughly a housewife washes the local ebolo vegetable, the aroma it produces after it is cooked is that of the bush. Nothing has changed, nothing is changing, and nothing will ever change. It is going to be business as usual; it may even be worse than we experienced under the self-acclaimed Mai Gaskiya (the honest one), General Muhammadu Buhari, whose eight-year leadership of the country, promoted corruption to its very zenith. Those who are disappointed with the current happening in Abuja, as it relates to the novel move by Dr Betta Edu, the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, to move the sum of N585, 198, 5000, to a private account of a member of staff of the ministry, Bridget Oniyelu, are the very people who invested their hope, trust and confidence in the ability of the present men of power to chart a new direction for the nation. And, in all honesty, I must give kudos to the new set of “wailing wailers”, for having the courage to speak out in loud groaning, the pains the President Bola Ahmed Tinubu government is inflicting on the people. For those of us who, right from day one, came to the conclusion that omo ejo, ejo ni – a snakelet is also a snake -, we don’t have to beat our chest and ask: “did we not warn you?” The agony in the land is like the rain. The rain spares nobody. Again, the Scripture is also complete. When the unrighteous suffer, the righteous too are not spared. Could that be what our forebears described as what affects the eyes equally affects the nose – ohun to ba oju, ti ba imu?

Everything about Nigeria is always in the opposite direction of the happenings in the sane countries of the world. Like the George Orwell’s 1984, the Nigerian Ministry of Information does nothing but misinform the people. Our Justice Ministry and its departments dispel injustices in full measures, just as the ministry and agencies saddled with the responsibilities of alleviating and eradicating poverty in our land engage in activities that will only promote and sustain the same maladies they are established to cure. The Humanitarian Ministry in the last eight and a half years has become the most inhuman government department. It is a ministry that steals from the invalid and robs the dead! Everywhere we turn to for help, the rain keeps beating us; drenching us down to our inner ibante (pant). When my people from Ijeshaland are asked to sum up our situation, they have only one exclamation: eshio, ka bi a tia bere – where do we start from!

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Why do we have the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation in the first instance? The ministry was established by the same elite class which has weaponised poverty as an art, to hoodwink the people into believing that they actually care. Anyone can argue this: there has been nothing shoved down our throats by the rogues in power in the name of social welfare that is not a scam. Not just a scam, but a big one! It is only in our clime that the government shares money to “the vulnerable” without any data of who the beneficiaries are. In the first instance, how does a nation which has not been able to put an accurate figure to its population, and without any demographic boundary, arrive at the number of those below the poverty level? What parameters is the government using to determine who is entitled to its social welfare packages? Where are the records? Till the second coming of the Saviour, Nigerians will never get to know how many school children were fed during the 2020 COVID-19 lockdown, and how much was expended on the misadventure, nor would they ever guess right, the actual amount of money given out as tradermoni in the last regime! What about palliative materials? How many beneficiaries can you identify in your neighbourhoods? Even in response to emergency situations like ameliorating the pains of victims of natural disasters like rainstorms, has our government ever given us an account of how much it spent and what is remaining on the balance sheet?

This is why I refuse to join the fray in castigating Dr Betta Edu in her recent request to the Accountant General of the Federation (AGF), for the sum of N585, 198,5000 to be paid into Bridget Oniyelu’s account for disbursement to “vulnerable Nigerians”. While my unwillingness to join the fray is not because I approve of her conduct, I restrained myself because I know that Nigerians are only talking because someone somewhere decided to “leak” the request memo. Have we asked how many of such memos had been written and approved before that of Edu became a public issue? How many of such memos is this administration still going to approve because the government has learnt its lessons now, and would always ensure that such a sickness does not affect another child under its watch again? When President Tinubu won the February 2023 general election, many of his supporters assured us that we should wait for him to unveil the “technocrats” that he would appoint into his cabinet. Can any of those supporters point out an individual in the Tinubu cabinet who appears to have a faint idea of what he or she is doing in the ministry assigned to him/her? Who is the technocrat in this government that has appeared to have the basic aptitude for the jobs assigned to him? Which technocrat would request that more than half a billion naira be paid into an individual’s account for a government project, when the same ministry has numerous bank accounts? Who does that?

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And while pondering on that, what has been the response of the appointing authority, President Tinubu, to the scandal? Oh yes; he directed a probe of the ministry! How do you probe a minister and her ministry when the same minister is still in her office directing affairs? Who, among the members of staff of the ministry, would have the effrontery to appear before the ‘probe panel’ to testify against a sitting minister? What should come first, if not the immediate suspension of the affected minister so that the paddy-paddy panel can have a semblance of objectivity and freedom in the discharge of its assignment? So, why should we bother ourselves as a people when we already know that the pregnancy of the panel asked to do “a thorough and comprehensive investigation” would only result in stillbirth? How do we even expect a hen to eat the entrails of another hen? What happens to class solidarity? Is the president ordering “a thorough and comprehensive investigation” aware that Dr Edu has never denied ever raising the scandalous memo? What else does the president want? Belatedly, President Tinubu, has announced the suspension of Minister Edu. Shall we then clap for the president for putting the cart before the horse! Would he have taken that afterthought decision if there were no public outcry?

The very day I gave up hope on our redemption from the hands of the locusts in our national field was the very day the All Progressives Congress (APC), came to power in 2015. It would have been better if in chasing away the ruinous People’s Democratic Party (PDP) from power, Nigerians did not hand over to the worst of humanity, who populated the APC! With the APC in power, and its victory in 2019 and the retention of power in 2023, decency took flight in Nigeria. Don’t forgive my pessimism here. But I say this without qualms: for as long as the APC retains the leadership ladder at the centre, Nigeria can kiss opposition politics good bye! Where is the PDP in the scheme of things now? Where is the man who lost the centre power to the APC in 2015, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (GEJ)? What efforts has he made to help the party out of its present coma? What about the ‘OBIdients’? Were the lawmakers elected under the banner of the ‘redemption party’ not part of the shenanigan of N160 million Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs), as official vehicles for federal legislators? Who is asking this government questions? Who is holding it accountable? If the current Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Nyesom Wike, can serve in an APC government, what is remaining of the opposition?

I read the PDP’s response to Edu’s scandal and I laughed. What a party-in-opposition? Can we just imagine if Alhaji Lai Mohammed were to lead the opposition in a situation like this! The PDP in its statement as endorsed by Debo Ologunagba, its National Publicity Secretary, on the N5.8 billion scandal, said, among other things that the earlier N44.8 billion scandal in NSIPA, and the N585,198,500 in the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation “is just a tip of the iceberg in the unprecedented treasury looting, unbridled stealing and plundering of resources going on in the President Bola Tinubu-led All Progressives Congress (APC) administration”. Then it followed up with the usual plodding demand of “immediate sack and prosecution” of the minister concerned! Nothing more! You may wish to ask if that was how APC acted while in opposition such that GEJ and his party were retired from Aso Rock? The bitter truth this government needs to know is that Nigerians can do better than the Bettas of this administration and its poverty escalation policies! From what we can now see, it is better life for Betta Edu and her ilks at the expense of the so-called ‘vulnerable Nigerians’

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Climate Change: Foundation Trains Students On Impacts, Adaption

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Group photograph of students, teachers and the foundation staff

In a bid to mitigating the effect of climate change in our society, a non-profit organisation, LILBECKKING DEVELOPMENT FOUNDATION in conjunction with The Social Change Nest, recently trained and enlightened students from selected secondary schools in Benin on how best to cope with the present situation.

INFO DAILY reports that the programme which was held at Leaders College, Ugbiyhoko, Benin, had in attendance: Stone Bridge Academy; Hallmark International School; Joyce Scholars Educational Centre, all in Benin city.

INFO DAILY also reports that 33 students and few teachers were trained and enlightened in the programme themed: ‘Youth Action on Clean Energy.’

Cross section of students trained during the training programme.

Enlightening the students, Secretary of the foundation, Mr. Destiny Aigbokhae, said climate change has significant impacts on youths and young people, hence the training.

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He said the focus was to train young ones so that they too “will be able to spread the message on climate change, it impacts and how best to adapt to it.”

Mr. Destiny Aigbokhae taking the students during the programme

According to him, “climate change does not just affect our lives alone, but it affects us socially and economically.”

Enumerating health risk, disrupted education, limited economic opportunities, inter-generational equity, etc, as impacts of climate change, Aigbokhae urged the society to embark on recycling of waste as a way of mitigating climate change.

He said to mitigate climate change, there’s a need for electrification of industrial processes; greater use of renewable energy and efficient means transport implementation.

 

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Wike Lists His Priorities As FCT Minister To British High Commission

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Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Nyesom Wike, has told the British High Commission in Abuja that security, agriculture and job creation are among the top priorities of the FCT Administration.

The minister made this statement when he received a delegation from the British High Commission in Nigeria led by the British High Commissioner, Richard Montgomery, on a courtesy visit to the FCT Administration on Tuesday.

The British High Commissioner had sought to understand the priorities of the FCT Administration for the development of the FCT in order to improve bilateral relations.

Responding, Wike said the creation of jobs, especially in the agricultural sector, is being prioritized to ensure that the teeming youth in the FCT are provided with a source of livelihood. He added that the FCT Administration, in line with the Renewed Hope Agenda of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, has also provided the necessary support to the security agencies to address the security challenges in the FCT.

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He said the ongoing provision of infrastructure in the Abuja city center and the Area Councils, apart from accelerating the development of the FCT, are also avenues for job creation for the youths who would be engaged during the course of the projects.

According to the Minister, “When you say priority, creation of jobs is key. If you are not able to create jobs, of course, you know what that will mean for the teeming youths. So, we believe that the creation of jobs is not only in the white-collar sector. Through these activities, many of the youths are employed.

“If you go to the area councils today, there are lots of jobs going on that have created opportunities for the youths to be employed. So, the creation of jobs is a priority for this administration.”

Stressing that the FCT has vast arable lands for agriculture, the FCT Minister also expressed the readiness of the FCT Administration to collaborate with investors in the agricultural sector to create employment for youths and promote food security.

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We have to remove the youths from the streets. So, we believe that in partnering with investors in the area of agriculture, that will also create jobs. So, that, in fact, to us, is a major priority. We will be interested if we can see partners in these areas,” the minister stressed.

Wike also added that the FCT is open to investments and collaborations in the tourism sector to make the city a major tourist attraction.

Speaking further on the security challenges in the FCT, the Minister stated that remarkable improvements have been achieved in the last few months due to the level of support and commitment of the security agencies.

The FCT Minister, who blamed the heightened insecurity in the FCT in the recent past on the activities of kidnappers and bandits, from the states sharing borders with the FCT, noted that the security agencies have done quite well to tame the activities of the bandits and other criminal elements.

He expressed confidence that the improved security in the FCT will also increase investors’ confidence in the nation’s capital.

We cannot say that we have been able to solve all the problems, but it is important to know that we are making progress, particularly on the issue of security, which has been a source of concern, not only to residents but the diplomatic community,” Wike said.

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Alleged Diversion Of Palliatives: Sacked Kogi Council Boss, Atawodi Breaks Silence

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Hassan Atawodi, the sacked Transition Chairman of Ofu Local Government Area, has opened up on why he was removed.

The Secretary to Kogi State Government, Folashade Arike Ayoade, had on Monday announced the sack of Atawodi in a statement by Governor Ahmed Usman Ododo, for allegedly diverting palliatives meant for his local government.

Speaking to journalists on Tuesday, Atawodi said he was removed from office courtesy of some political leaders who do not like him.

He added that the palliative meant for Ofu LGA was not handed over to him, saying, “How can I divert what was not given to me?”

While noting that it was a gang-up against him, as there was no time he diverted any palliatives meant for his people, Atawodi stressed that he was denied the clearance letter that would have allowed him to collect the palliative.

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“My travails began from the first day I was appointed, possibly because I was not the choice of some alleged power brokers in my local government. After signing for the palliative for Ofu, the next day I could not get the clearance letter because of orders from above.

“Upon assumption of office, I appointed my five aides and six special advisers. Later, they reported me to the powers that be that I made the appointments without consulting them.

“They went to the extent of sending pictures of somebody I appointed to say he was a member of an opposition party.

“I was asked to meet with the Leader of the local government in the company of the House of Assembly member, the local government, and the zonal party chairmen, which I did and asked that they should please forgive me, following their report, with a call on them to please join me so that we can work together.

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“Following my appeal to those who reported me over the appointment, I was asked to dissolve the aides I appointed, which I did by going on air as promised and dissolved all the SSAs.”

The former Transition Chairman said he is innocent of the allegations of diversion of palliatives leveled against him, calling on the State Governor of Kogi State to look into the matter critically, as the said palliative was never handed over to him.

Continuing, he said, “I was not given a palliative to share. On hearing about the palliative, I went to the Commissioner for Humanitarian Affairs, who said there is an instruction for me not to be given the palliative.

“The ommissioner asked me to put a call across to the Deputy Governor before it could be released. I called from the morning through till about 4:00 pm on the said day, without my calls being picked.

“I later went back to the Commissioner, who said the Deputy Governor is yet to call. I had to leave to return the following day.

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“The next day, upon arrival at the Government House, I saw the DLG, SLG, and the APC Chairman for my local government. The commissioner said he has been directed to release the palliative to them.

“I was asked by the Commissioner to remain calm, particularly that with the several leaders I have in my local government, he doesn’t think I should bother myself with how the palliative would be shared.

“After they moved the palliative from the Muhammadu Buhari Civic Centre, I called the DLG to ask about the whereabouts of the palliative, that is the 1200 bags of rice. He said it was off-loaded at the residence of the Zonal Chairman in Ejule. I asked if it was safe there, as I would have guaranteed that if brought to the Local Government Secretariat, it would be safer and would reach the intended beneficiaries.

“I was at the Governorship Tribunal in Abuja yesterday when somebody called me to inform me that a letter of replacement was being typed to replace me, after which I was later told that I had been replaced.”

While the former Transition Chairman said he has taken the power play against him as the will of God, he lamented that he was surprised to read on social media that his sack was connected with the alleged diversion of palliatives that were never given or handed over to him.

“My hands are clean, and I know that my God will fight for me. Since my assumption, it’s been one battle to another. The DSS are all aware of my travails.”

The former Transition Chairman called on Gov. Ahmed Usman Ododo to constitute an investigation into the reason behind his removal, pointing out that it could not have been over a palliative that was not handed over to him.

 

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