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Nigerian Army: Emulating General Buratai’s Accountability Aura – By Yemi Itodo

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I have followed the operations of the Nigerian Army keenly since 2015 when President Muhammadu Buhari assumed leadership of Nigeria. My interest in the activities of the Nigerian Army stems from two factors. One is the promise made by President Buhari on assumption of office, to tackle insecurity headlong and two, my childhood ambition to join the Nigerian Army.

I must state that I haven’t been disappointed so far with the leadership strides of the Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Tukur Buratai, who has indeed displayed that burning passion in repositioning the Nigerian Army for greater exploits. The various innovations introduced indeed buttress this point.

The achievements of Lt Gen Tukur Buratai did not come to me as a surprise because as one who has held various commands and positions in the Nigerian Army before his appointment, he has understood the importance of accountability as a panacea for service delivery in public service.

The Nigerian Army of today is such that has elicited commendations from and far and near. The Nigerian Army of today is that which is involved in counter-insurgency operations, as well as internal security operations across the country simultaneously and still achieving results. All of these were made possible because of the regime of accountability that has characterized the operations of the Nigerian Army with Lt. Gen. Tukur Buaratai at the helm of affairs.

I recall some years back when some civil society organizations led by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), Enough is Enough (EiE), and BudgIT issued a joint Freedom of Information request, requesting the Chief of Army Staff to use his “good office and leadership position to provide information on spending on military operations across the country, particularly in the Northeast.”

This was indeed the first time such a request would be made to a military institution in Nigeria and as usual, social commentators debated extensively on the merits and demerits of such request. It was even speculated in some quarters that the Nigerian Army was not going to honour the request due to precedence and the likes. But guess what?

The country was stunned when the Nigerian Army responded to the request not just to the Coalition of Civil Society Organizations; it indeed went public in a rare display that elicited commendation from all and sundry in the country. I recall that in response to the gesture of the Chief of Army Staff, one of the Civil Society Organizations, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) in a rare act of endorsement of public institution accountability, was profuse in eulogising the Nigerian and only stopped short of condemning others public institutions for not being so transparent.

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It stated thus: “While we ascertain the level of compliance of the information provided, we welcome Mr Buratai’s demonstrated commitment to the Freedom of Information Act by responding to our request, especially at a time when high-ranking government officials including the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr Audu Ogbeh and Minister of Power, Works and Housing Babatunde Fashola continue to exhibit a blatant disregard for FOI requests by refusing even to acknowledge several of such requests.”

“The National Assembly, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), ministries, agencies and departments should also learn from the good example shown by Mr Buratai by at least honouring and responding to FOI requests from Nigerians, NGOs and others if they are ever to contribute to the efforts to achieve a greater level of transparency and accountability in Nigeria.”

“A quick look at the documentation shows a list of several projects reportedly implemented by the Nigerian Army. Among those listed and displayed, which appeared to show specific projects the Nigerian Army carried out with budgeted funds, include places where operations were carried out; renovation of barracks and military hospitals, spending to honour late soldiers; training and workshops; repairs of some old military equipment; and completion of offices and housing projects. Others are feeding of soldiers; the building of new barracks and schools; acquisition of arms and ammunition and vehicles for military operations; as well as the provision of welfare for soldiers. These are indeed commendable.

I can bet that the response of the Nigerian Army indeed shocked quite a number and silenced a majority that had the erroneous impression that in the Nigerian Army, anything goes as in the previous times where a lot indeed went wrong in the operations of the Nigerian Army. But little did they know that it was indeed a new regime that was anchored on nothing less than patriotism, the sincerity of heart and purpose, as well as dedication to duty.

It is my view that the Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Tukur Buratai quickly understood that the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, President Muhammadu Buhari has a covenant with the Nigerian people to lead with transparency and accountability towards attaining our developmental goals. The Chief of Army Staff was also aware that President Muhammadu Buhari took an oath to defend the Nigerian state. He is fully aware that the Army which he leads must be accountable to the Nigerian public hence the entrenchment of transparency and accountability in its operations.

I can go on nonstop with regards to the transformation of the Nigerian Army under Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai. However, I must not fail to mention that some of the projects implemented by the Nigerian Army in the past five years were indeed phenomenal.

Taking the example of the establishment of the Nigerian Army University Biu, a unique university in all standards and designed to make it a solution provider and a centre of excellence for a variety of technologically related ventures such as generation and armament production as well as the development of counter-insurgency manuals for use by the Nigerian Military.

Another example of the ingenuity of the Chief of Army Staff is the recent commissioning of a 200 bed Nigerian Army Reference Hospital in Maiduguri, Borno State to cater for the health needs of soldiers who sustained injuries while fighting the counter-insurgency war. The hospital would also attend to the health needs of families of soldiers, civilians and people in the host community. Also, the Nigerian Army inaugurated a water treatment plant in Enugu State capable of treating and supplying one million litres of water daily to the barracks and its environs constructed by Nigerian Army engineers.

This is aside the numerous inventions of the Nigerian Army in projects across the country. I dare to say that without transparency and accountability, the Nigerian Army would not have been able to achieve results, not just in the prosecution of the Boko Haram war, but also inadequately attending to the welfare of officers and soldiers whose morale have been bolstered in recent times.

It is thus my considered opinion that if the Chief of Army Staff decides to invite members of the general public on a tour of its projects, it is not for grandstanding, but to be accountable to the people and that should be commended and emulated by others entrusted with public offices in Nigeria.

It is on this premise that I give a charge to other public institutions in Nigeria to emulate the Nigerian Army regime of accountability. If the Nigerian Army can do it, I do not see why others should not give account of their stewardship.

Itodo is a social critic and public affairs commentator based in Abuja.

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Opinion

Zamfara Gold As A Common Wealth By Zailani Bappa

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For a very long time, the land of Zamfara has witnessed gradual, but progressively negative development, no thanks to the massive exploitation of the innocent souls of this historical land of golden bliss. It is a metamorphose of an earlier exploitation of the people under repressive time predating Sheikh Usman bn Fodio era when men, women and children were forced into inhuman Labour in the name of slavery. With the liberation of the people by Islamic justice and later re-inforced by British wisdom.

However, the destruction of the very fundamental justice brought about by the Fodio jihad by the British created what the vintage Ali Mazrui called the triple heritage. This situation actually left the people with no certainty and, hence, tripod concepts without a definite direction. From it sprang our present confused and blurry vision of what is right and what is wrong in terms of social justice. In a democracy, where supposedly justice is provided for the people, yet the people are living like slaves in their own land. In Zamfara state, the common man has been exploited over time for what God has given him but denied by fellow men.

Yes, the gold. And of course, the other precious stones, some of which are more precious than the gold itself. I was amazed when I once read a report last two months that of all the 35 different types of solid minerals found in Nigeria, 17 are found in Zamfara state. That’s more than half. Indeed, there is gold in Zamfara and there’s allurvial gold, qwartz, granite, chromite, galena, silver, lead, zinc, gem stone, tin, silica sand, tantalite and many more. The crude oil Nigeria discovered in the 1960s was officially proclaimed by the Federal Government. It’s excavation, processing and marketing was structured by the government. It is now being exploited for the benefit of all Nigerians with special consideration to the derivation areas.

In Zamfara state, Governor Bello Mohammed has met a rather uncoordinated mining sector. The wealth discovered was like a mystery to many. The more they looked, the less they see. The Youth in these areas are exploited for cheap labour while the common people take the brunt of the environmental hazards such as the popularly and widely reported lead poisoning in the last few years. Governor Matawalle has come with a new law in town. A law to revolutionalise the mining sector in the state.

Under the new structure, the mining of solid minerals in the state will no longer be done on impulse. It will be a licenced business that will have a set of laws and indemnity governing its operations. The state Government will establish an agency that is charged with the administration of this sector. Among the juicy part of this arrangement is that the Government will generate revenue from the sector, the business of marketing, selling and buying of the resources will be concentrated in the state in order to boost commerce and it will generate employment opportunities for a good number of youth in the state.

It is along this arrangement that Governor Bello Mohammed took his mission to President Muhammadu Buhari for blessing and Federal Government support. While with the President, Governor Bello Mohammed explained his mission to the Presidency, a mission of hope. It was a mission from a rather poor state in terms of fiscal comparison but has the potential of being the richest state in the country. And that is exactly what Governor Bello Mohammed is trying to transform Zamfara state into. President Muhammadu Buhari was Visibly overwhelmed and even took to his social media handles of Facebook and twitter to endorse this effort as well as challenged other Governors of Nigeria to borrow a leaf from Matawalle.

In the present transformation attempt to empower the people of Zamfara from their God-given wealth and enrich the Government, a turn around is now in the offing. In the past, the solid minerals in the state were mined and smuggled out of the state and the country like nothing was happening. Today, every miner will be officially licenced.

Moreover, the licenced miners will have to process their gold and other resources in the state, market it and sell it in the state thereby generating employment for the youth, improving commerce in the state, creating a revenue base for the state and federal Government through taxation and boosting tourism as another source of revenue for the state Government.

Already, Governor Bello Mohammed has set the machinery in motion for the establishment of the agency for the regulations of this sector, the enforcement of laws governing mining activities in the state, registrations and licencing of miners and awareness creation for those who genuinely want to partner with the Government in the mutual exploitation of wealth for common good not for a few.

When Governor Bello Mohammed visited China, Russia and other countries abroad last year, one of the central focus of his bi-lateral talks with business groups led by their Government officials was how to employ modern technology in the mining sector of the state. The method employed today is crude, less result oriented and has more environmental hazards and devastation. Already, several companies have indicated their interest to partner with the Government, some of which will soon sign memoranda of understanding with the state government. They will equally come down with value added projects such as generating power, not only to the mining sites, but to the communities in the state.

Indeed, God has endowed Zamfara state with wealth no other state has in Nigeria. The state has no business being poor. It is rich; but its richness was cornered by a few while the majority could not even prove the wealth exist in reality. Majority of Zamfara state indigenes saw their gold for the first time when Matawalle took a sample to Mr President last week. Today, Governor Bello Mohammed has shown the way. He has proved to all that the wealth is real and that it is a common wealth. With the support of the federal government and more importantly, the people of Zamfara state, the wealth so endowed will henceforth be to the benefit of everyone.

Bappa writes from Gusau.
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Opinion

Tambuwal: Sustainable Agricultural Revolution In Sokoto State (1) By Anselm Okolo

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It has been a telling story, but returning Sokoto state on the path of economic prosperity through agriculture had always been a cardinal ambition of Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal from the first day of his assumption of office as governor of the state.

“You will all agree with me that the mainstay of our state’s economic activities lies in agriculture” he told a team of journalists on a fact finding tour of the state recently. “It is the business of every town and every home” he noted while pointing out that “Allah SWT has bestowed us with mass arable land for variety of crops for both domestic use and commercial purposes”.
What he did not envisage, he told the team, was that to achieve his ambition he would have to virtually re-start from point zero.

First, he had to deal with the issue of poor data on the sector and the capacities and inadequacies of key players engaged in real agriculture.
A Technical Committee on a research driven Framework for Agricultural Development in the state was appointed. The committee was chaired by His Excellency, the Former Deputy Governor, Chiso Abdullahi Dattijo to recommend mechanisms to revive agriculture as a reliable business in the State.
Prior to the findings of this committee, which now serve as a baseline for all agricultural considerations and decisions in the state, there was no data to tell who is producing what and where and at what capacity.
Conducted in two phases, the state wide farmers’ enumeration culminated in what is today the Sokoto State Agricultural Database, SSAD. The first phase captured over 65,000 Fadama farmers covering over 125,000 hectares across the state. The second phase captured another 70,000 farmers across over 130,000 hectares. Information collected includes pictures, coordinates of the farmland and what crops is/are farmed on the farmland.
Governor Tambuwal confesses “It has helped us to take appropriate decisions as to what support and assistance the individual farmer will need to be productive”.

Information from the baseline study has helped improve results from intervention in agriculture especially in CBN Anchor Borrowers Scheme in the state. Relying on it, the state was able to accredit uptakers who now provide all what a farmer needs from plantation to harvest serving as a safeguard and guarantee for end benefit, a reason the state is today first among equals in rice and other farm produce production.
It has further helped in other ways. Potentially irrigable Fadama land in the state is now known, also known are all individual farmer’s data, farmers groups and clusters. The knowledge has eased planning and investment promotion. Governor Tambuwal says “these data have helped us in our support to farmers and helping them get best returns on their yields through our uptakers groups and the state grains board”.

As a result, procurement of certified seedlings and distribution free to farmers in the state since 2016 have been targeted to individuals or groups engaged in actual farming. So far 981,000 kg of certified rice seed Faro 44 valued at over N285 million was procured and distributed to targeted farmers since 2016 while 6,000 bags of 100 kg of wheat seed (Attila gan) valued over N161 million was similarly procured and distributed free to farmers.

As production was booming, accredited uptakers like Forse, Popular Farm, Labana, AA Rice Mill and Flour Mills Nigeria Limited through the Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP) of CBN were waiting on the sides to buy up the produce from the farmers thus guaranteeing good returns on their efforts.
On the side of the CBN programme, the state has also promoted a private sector driven Out-Grower Programme similar to CBN Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP) called the Dangote Rice Out-grower Scheme Programme at Goronyo in the state. 500 hectares of land has already been committed to the programme on a pilot basis. Over 1000 farmers are currently engaged in dry season rice farming.
To ensure that farmers do not suffer unnecessary losses due to the disruptive activities of birds, the state government under the programme has spent heavily on the purchase of protective nets for distribution free to farmers and farmers’ clusters in the state.
Indeed, the Rice Out – Grower scheme will be replicated soon in Silame and Kware under the 2nd phase of the programme.

The state has similarly made giant strides in the area of procurement of farming inputs for farmers. It has procured 15,000 units of 2” and 3” water pumps to support dry season farming of which about N450 million has so far been spent. The pumps were resold to farmers and farmers clusters at a rebated rate of N10,000 per unit. This has tangentially increased yields of the farmers per hectare by nearly 30 percent.
Within the same period 300 trucks of assorted fertilizers were procured at the cost of N617 million and sold to farmers at a subsidized rate of N2,200 per bag for 2016 wet season farming. Also, under 2017/18 wet and dry season farming, the state government procured another 15,000 metric tons of fertilizer at the cost of N1,650,000,000.00 including cost of transportation under the Federal Government Presidential Fertilizer Initiative and sold to farmers at subsidized rate of N4,000.00 per bag.

In an unprecedented demonstration of support to farmers in the 2017/2018 wet and dry seasons farming, the state government procured 25,000mt of NPK fertilizer from Messrs Ponglomerape Limited at the cost of N6,800 per bag amounting to N3.4 Billion. The sale of this fertilizer was flagged-off at Sabon Birni by Governor Tambuwal at the subsidized rate of N4,000 per bag. Total Government’s subsidy to farmers under the intervention alone was N1.4 billion.
The State is also collaborating with the fertilizer firm OCP to make subsidized fertiliser available to Sokoto farmers even during this COVID 19 period. According to Tambuwal: “The palliatives will go a long way in boosting the agriculture sector of the state and country as farmers will be able to plant in time and harvest rich yields for national food security.”

Governor Tambuwal however believes that actual production of Fertilizer in Sokoto will save huge foreign exchange for Nigeria and boost the economy of the State. To this end, he visited MOROCCO and sealed a deal to tap into Sokoto State’s massive phosphate reserves, in producing phosphorus-containing fertilizer. The Sokoto phosphate reserve is estimated at about 10 million tonnes and is very suitable for fertilizer production. The establishment of the plant is at an advanced stage through a strategic partnership with the Moroccan government-owned firm. As a concrete expression of the state’s readiness to partner with OCP Morocco, Governor Tambuwal has allocated 10 hectares of land at Kalambaina Industrial Layout, for the Phosphate Blending Plant, with a Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) issued to OCP Morocco.

The government has also purchased assorted seeds (carrot, watermelon, onion, pepper, garlic, cabbage etc) at over N11 million distributed free to farmers to improve farming and revenue to farmers as well as availability of vegetables for citizens of the state.
In the area of land preparation Governor Tambuwal is confident that “with what we have been able to do in the last five years, farmers in the state will readily testify that they have never had it so good”.
The reconstruction of Kware Irrigation Scheme under the ATA-SP II

intervention has been completed. Its completion was facilitated with the payment of the State Government’s counterpart contribution of N91 million to the project.
The state government similarly paid its counterpart funding of N1.2 Billion to Nigeria Erosion and Watershed Management Project (NEWMAP) for rehabilitation of Wurno Dam and for the control of erosion /flood that affects over 4,000 farmers within the area.

The real deal for farmers in the state will be the start of the state government’s collaboration with Zenith Bank that will usher farming credits worth over N3 billion across value chains.
According to the current commissioner of Agriculture, Mohammed Adzika Tureta, “arrangements are at advance stage for the start of this credit scheme, I can assure you that farmers, their yield and revenue will skyrocket with this intervention”. This will be an addition to an earlier approval of the release of N1,312,914,435 under the ABP to 3 banks namely UBA, Access Bank, and Unity Bank for the payment of 5% Equity and 30% Credit Risk Cover for dry season farming covering all farmers in the state.

Anselm Okolo is a journalist based in Abuja and can be reached via [email protected]

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Opinion

A Right Of Reply To Louis Odion’s Pale And Weak Case Against Obaseki

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I read Mr. Louis Odion’s half-hearted case against the re-election of Governor Godwin Obaseki as governor of Edo state with surprise and nostalgia. Surprise that he is senior Technical Assistant on Media to President Buhari, meaning it must be a glorified position on paper as he clearly has not been effective and nostalgia because the write up reminded me of my school days when you needed to write an essay and you were short of substance and decided the only way out was to crowd the essay with prose, whereas one could never deceive the experienced examiner.
The emergence of the write-up itself is not a surprise because the feature came almost immediately on the hills of Pastor Osagie Ize Iyamu’s meeting with editors in Abuja where one thousand dollars was shared to each of them and Mr. Louis Odion was there present. Given today’s exchange rate, that is nearly five hundred thousand Naira, therefore I can understand the hurry to put something in print to justify the brown envelope and perhaps demand for more. I am sure the coming days will see an uptick in positive reports about Ize Iyamu in the media. Unfortunately for them most of the write ups will be as vacuous as Odion’s because you cannot have much to say about Ize Iyamu in trying to sell a man whose CV is thin just as and you cannot have much to say against Godwin Obaseki because of his rich CV and obvious performance as governor. The people of Edo state have made up their minds and it is clear that a national media outreach by the Ize Iyamu camp is an exercise in futility and another opportunity for the media to cash out.
This response to Louis Odion will be very short as I cannot rebut prose, but substance and his piece has a lot of substance deficit. Mr. Odion attested to sitting in executive council meetings with Godwin Obaseki when Adams Oshiomhole was governor. This is the period Godwin Obaseki was the head of the economic team. As I read up to that point, I could not find anywhere Obaseki was found wanting in the discharge of his assignment, instead it is on record that Oshiomhole largely gave him credit for being his brainbox when he was governor. This means Odion had a front row seat to Obaseki’s pedigree during the Oshiomhole years. Juxtapose this with the person Odion thinks should replace Obaseki and you will find that Mr. Louis Odion does not have much to sell about Osagie Ize Iyamu apart from being a professional politician in the last twenty years, no election victory under his belt nor a private sector success story to talk about. Now you see why Odion’s write up was belaboured as the only case he could make for Ize Iyamu is that it might just be his time having tried for so long and not necessarily because he can vouch for any substance. For an Edo man to reduce his choice to such thick reasoning is sad. I guess you cannot sell beyond what is placed in front of you. Beyond an ambition to become governor of Edo state Osagie Ize Iyamu doesn’t have anything to offer, his simple agenda of which the candidate is not sure of the meaning of the acronyms depending on the time of the day is at best a mash up of tired political campaign clichés.
I thought our revered Oba Ewuare II already made clear that he is not for nor against anyone and whomever the people chose, the ancestors have told him to work with.  Why is Mr. Odion still dragging our Oba’s name into this mix, just to find a way to give weight to the title given to Osagie by the Otaru of Auchi? Unbeknownst to Mr. Odion he only succeeded in amplifying why the Oba of Benin is held in high reverence as he will never stoop to the levels of the Otaru’s political title offerings. Ize Iyamu’s title on election day will be “this is his own” as the Otaru has one vote and his subjects have theirs.
If Mr. louis Odion has any quarrel with Governor Obaseki’s achievements he should take it up with his colleagues in different federal government agencies, Afterall he is an employee of the federal government. He can start with the National Bureau of Statistics that has declared that the unemployment rate has dropped in Edo state under Gov. Obaseki. After complaining at NBS he can make the short drive to Wuse in Abuja to the office of Nigerian Electricity Management Services NEMSA to verify if they indeed visited Ossiomo Power plant in carrying out their role ensuring the 55 Megawatts station meets all standards before inauguration. I am very sure with his influence in the Presidency, he can track the federal delegates that recently came on a verification visit to the nearly completed modular refinery in Ologbo. These and many others are the results of the “opaque” MOUs. Louis can also chose to ignore the news of when the gainfully employed youths of Akoko Edo came out to debunk Mr. Akerele’s claim of where are the jobs, or he could have been more credible if he had visited Akoko Edo and got first-hand knowledge instead of peddling the statement of an unknown Akerele in Akoko Edo. Projects and progress cannot be hidden and the people of Edo state are not blind either.
If the communities now benefitting from the multiplier effects of the projects in their communities had caved in to short sighted counsel of people like Louis Odion and opposed locating some of these projects on their land, who would have lost? Only a visionary governor like Governor Obaseki and a people convinced to be part of that vision know that their bare land today is useless if not put to meaningful use. Which brings me to the people management argument against Godwin Obaseki by Odion. While giving the governor credit for eradicating the menace of Agberos and the dreaded Community Development Associations, Odion cunningly took the credit away by advocating for integration of the miscreants. Miscreants are miscreants and they do not have a place in government. They can avail themselves of all the skills acquisition programs that the government of Godwin Obaseki have so successfully engineered. Neo Nazis cannot be part of modern-day Germany’s government nor can the grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan be named as a cabinet member in the American government. Mr. Louis Odion here again inadvertently made the case for us again reminding us we cannot return to the government propelled by agberos and beholden to agberos and if it takes a Governor Obaseki to call a miscreant a miscreant to ensure we continue to enjoy the sanity we have now, so be it.
Mr. louis Odion may have penned his piece with conviction or obvious motivation although the emptiness of his case will suggest the later, but that his is right while the people of Edo state will also exercise their right in returning Governor Godwin Obaseki at the polls on September 19 howbeit without the benefit and comfort of a fat brown envelope filled with dollars.
Oghogho Omoruyi Writes from Benin City

 

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