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A Glance at President Buhari’s Christmas and New Year Statements

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buhari broadcast

By Jerome-Mario Chijioke Utomi

For Nigerians that have their thinking divided between the present and the future, with part of it dedicated to finding solutions to current nagging challenges in the country, and the other, concerned with what becomes the future of the country, if the present administration fails to get its leadership priorities right, President Muhammadu Buhari’s Christmas and New Year messages to Nigerians were received with mixed feelings.

Essentially, there is no doubt that the country recently made some political and socio-economic progress. But looking at the federal government’s performance in the out-gone 2021, it becomes evident, in my view, that President Buhari’s remarks, though qualify as an easy read, yet, some of his claims are in dire need of re-appraisals in areas of approach and outcome.

It showed Nigerians quite clearly that there is still a need for our public office holders to learn how to match words expressed with faith and behavioural patterns that demonstrate the faith.

This observation becomes overwhelmingly important when one remembers that there exist in the greater part of 2021 particulars of demonstrated idleness, laziness, cluelessness and outright lack of leadership and problem-solving creativity on the part of the present Federal Government. These failures are very re-sounding in the areas of incapacity to end insecurity and non-pursuit of the economic welfare of citizens which of course are the only two constitutional responsibilities of the state all leaders must achieve.

At this stage, let’s cast a cursory look first, at the good side of Mr President’s declarations

First, this piece aligns completely with President Buhari’s plan to in the year 2022 and going forward, intentionally leverage ICT platforms to create jobs, while ensuring that the diversification of our economy creates more support to other emerging sectors.

It is also gratifying, and the world is of course in agreement with  Mr President’s position that the path to nationhood is often fraught with unpredictable difficulties and challenges, and most tried and tested nations have often prevailed through dogged determination, resilience, concerted commitment to unity, and the conviction that the whole of the nation, standing together against all odds, is by far greater and would ultimately be more prosperous and viable than the sum of its distinguishable parts.

However, despite the validity of the above positions, the ideas about the procedure to follow in this effort as well as the order of priority are not very clear. Making this a crisis and a reality that all should worry about is the awareness that the federal government has recently become reputed for applying methods and operating along with frameworks that are outdated.

Another troubling aspect of the New Year speech has to do with Mr President’s declaration that the issue of security remains at the front burner of priority areas that his administration has given utmost attention to.

Without a doubt, Mr President may have re-energized and reorganized the security apparatus and personnel of the armed forces and the police.

These realities notwithstanding, looking at the level of insecurity that flourished in the country through the year 2021, particularly; banditry, terrorism and kidnapping, it will in my view not be characterized as an overstatement to describe the gains emanating from Mr President’s efforts as too few.

Away from insecurity to the economy, Mr President among other things said; “we have shown a high level of resilience to record some significant achievements despite the turbulence that has characterized our economy and indeed the global economy.”

Continuing, he said; “the major wins we have recorded can be clearly seen in Nigeria’s most recent Gross Domestic Product (GDP) figures released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). The 4.03% growth recorded in the third quarter of 2021 is indicative of the recovery being recorded in our economy and the confidence that is being shown through the policies that our administration has put in place after the outbreak of the pandemic.

“We may also recall that this recent growth is closely followed by the 5.1% (year on year) growth in real terms recorded by Nigeria in Quarter 2 of 2021. This growth was one of the best recorded by any nation across Sub-Saharan Africa. The 5.1% growth at that time was and remains the highest growth recorded by the Nigerian economy since 2014. The good news is that we have so far recorded four consecutive quarters of growth after the negative growth rates recorded in Quarter 2 and Quarter 3 of 2020 due to the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Certainly, in my view, President Buhari’s narrative looks good and alluring. But regardless of what others may say, this piece holds the opinion that the orchestrated growth of the nation’s economy only exists in theory. The poor masses are not feeling the impact of such growth.

Viewed differently, one point Mr President and his handlers must not fail to remember is that ‘principles work only when we work the principle’. I trust Nigerians. They are not interested in data, figures or statistics. Their indomitable spirit could have been well expressed or demonstrated if those in public leadership like Mr President had taken responsibility for their actions, failures and failings or better still created the enabling environment.

Still on Mr President’s promise that his administration will continue to create opportunities for our teeming youths to ventilate their tremendous energy, this piece could not emphasize strongly but there are those who might wish to ask; why is it still a mere declaration by President Buhari that his government will not abandon the promises made to Nigerians for a better lease of life, whereas he has been in the office for close to 7 years without achieving the feat?

As this piece expects the FG to provide answers to the above question, another thorny issue mentioned by President Buhari has to do with the Niger Delta region.

He captured it this way; “on August 16, 2021, I signed the landmark Petroleum Industry Act into law. The signing of this legacy legislation is a watershed moment in the history of our nation, considering the massive positive impact the new Act would have on the economy. I would like to sincerely commend the 9th Assembly for the grit they demonstrated, succeeding where others have failed, and the cooperation that led to the completion of this process after almost two decades.”

Whatever Mr President may say about the Petroleum Industry Act/Niger Delta region, two stands out; first, the truth is that until the federal government see through to completion of all the critical projects embarked upon in the region as promised at an event in Lagos, by the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, nobody will take the present federal government seriously.

Secondly, the people of the region are particularly not happy with the paltry 3% allocation by the Petroleum Industry Act, for the host communities.

But of all the content of Mr President messages, the hardest to believe is his claim that the diversification of the economy embarked upon by his administration is yielding fruits.

Utomi Jerome-Mario is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He could be reached via jeromeutomi@yahoo.com/08032725374

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Still on Nigeria’s Electricity Crisis

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Nigeria's electricity crisis

By Jerome-Mario Chijioke Utomi

Similar to history, which according to historians, is an unending dialogue between the present and the past through a continuous process of interaction between the historian and his facts to assist the anxious enquirer improving the present and future based on a clearer understanding of the mistakes and achievements of the past, the conversion on electricity power supply challenge in the country has like history, become neither unending nor abating.

Essentially, the first half of this recurring circle was captured recently in my piece titled FG’s Assurance on Generation of 25,000MW Electricity, as it explains why Nigerians are no longer comfortable with assurances from the federal government, the present piece which qualifies as the beginning of something new was elicited as a response to a declaration by Garba Shehu, the presidential spokesperson.

Shehu, who spoke in an interview on a Channels Television programme, Sunrise Daily, among other things stated; that President Muhammadu Buhari has greatly improved electricity generation in the country, he concluded.

Let’s face the fact; he spoke convincingly with actual authority that flows from the position that he occupies. However, the only difference here is that, unlike history, his run on fact, particularly his fervent belief that the outlook of the nation’s electricity remains good, in the face of the current epileptic power supply and unjustifiable high tariff regime in the country, has not in any way advanced our conversation on or assisted the nation’s quest to find a quick solution to its electricity/energy crisis.

Let’s face the fact; it is true that the 2005 Power Reform Act (EPSR, ACT of 2005), which provided for the privatization of the power sector did not go far before President Olusegun Obasanjo administration left office in 2007. Yes, it is also true in parts that the present frustration in the sector was further fed by the reality that the current federal government as noted by Garba Shehu during the interview, inherited reckless privatization of the power sector done by the Goodluck Jonathan administration (the roadmap for power sector reform of 2010), Despite the validity of these claims, yet, Shehu’s analytics for reasons did not go without opposition.

First, enough evidence supports the fact that no administration in the country, not even the present Muhammadu Buhari led federal government can boast of clean hands when it comes to Nigeria’s electricity crisis.

Without going into analysis to establish how culpable each of these administrations appears in this case, one point, in my view, that mustn’t be overlooked when discussing the power/electricity crisis in Nigeria is that the challenge has nothing to do with privatization. It is neither fuelled by the desire to fashion an authentic roadmap for restoring the health and vitality of the sector nor is it the function of the current effort to bring about a new tariff regime.

Rather, it’s simply and squarely a conceptual problem of what successive federal government has been doing which has never been in the best interest of the people, the nation and the sector.

Very fundamental of the challenge is the operation of the obsolete grid system, an arrangement where the power generated in the country is pooled/assembled or channelled to a control/switch centre before it is finally distributed to consumers across the nation.

Aside from qualifying as a clumsy arrangement and operated in an environment laced with outmoded transmission lines and facilities that cannot hold supplies over time, the practice itself, going by what industry watchers are saying, is not only out-fashioned, old-schooled but visibly runs contrary to the global vision/model which presently favours decentralization of energy generation and distribution.

In my view, energy/power centralization has never assisted the socio-economic development of any nation desirous of making headway industrially.

There exist yet another frustration, this time around fuelled by painful consciousness that instead of acting as energy sector regulator, successive administrations’ for yet to be identified reasons choose to function in the nation’s power sector as both ‘ captain and coach’,- owning shares in Gencos, Discos and TCN.

This state of affairs occurred in spite of part breaking studies that suggest that the private sector is likely to better understand the location and nature of market failures/bottlenecks/barriers that inhabit the energy sector.

It was also argued elsewhere that the government capacity to design and execute an appropriate resolution of identified market failure/bottlenecks is the sector is often always laced with controversy.

From this  ‘unrelenting’  failures/failings on the part of policymakers to define the business of power generation and distribution in the country and lack of clear strategy for penetrating it profitably, or allow conventional market forces to determine electricity tariff regimes in ways that will lead to the realization of economic rights of the investors while expanding fundamental freedoms and choices of the individual consumers; and with government, unwillingness to follow swiftly, the ‘changing needs of time’, which of course are the sufficient ingredients of foresighted decision making and condition that every leader desirous of success must constantly fulfil, it obvious that the nation’s handlers have finally left the survival of the sector to chance.

As we know, anyone that fails to search for his potential leaves his survival to chance

Again, it is weak regulations and untidy oversight such as these, that largely promotes a situation where according to a commentator, an electricity consumer buys pole, cables, meter and contributes money to buy or replace the community transformer; and, as soon as that is done, they automatically become the Disco property and the electricity distribution companies will, without taking the meter reading, send outrageous estimated bills he/she never consumed.

That is not the only apprehension. There exists also some unforgivable abuse of trust within the sector.

The first that comes to mind is the recent report that the Senate Committee on Public Accounts has begun the investigation of N14.7 billion proceeds of privatization of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) allegedly hidden in commercial banks by the Bureau of Public Enterprise (BPE).

The committee is acting on an audit query in the ‘Auditor-General for the Federation’s Annual Report on Non-Compliance/Internal Control Weaknesses Issues in Ministries, Departments and Agencies of the Federal Government of Nigeria for the Year Ended 31st December 2019.’

Before the dust raised by the above worrying/worrisome development could settle, another was up. This time around has to do with a new awareness of how TCN, DISCO’s Inefficiencies Caused Electricity Generating Companies to about N120.25 billion to stranded power which averaged 2,448.50 megawatts every month in 2021.

According to industry data cited by Business Standards, an average of N13 billion was lost every month by generating companies. This is the total monetary value of the volume of electricity generated by generating companies but which unfortunately could not get to consumers either due to infrastructural problems or because they were rejected by distribution companies for fear of not being able to recover the money from consumers.

What the above development tells us is that it is a difficult venture to implement meaningful changes when institutions are the cause of the problems in the first place.

It also suggests that engineering prosperity without confronting the root cause of the problem and the politics that keeps them in place is unlikely to bear fruit as the institutional structure that creates market failure will also prevent the implementation of interventions.

To catalyse the process of serving the sector, we must recognize that what we need today, perhaps, is not a new theory, concept or framework, but people who can think strategically with a balanced perspective.

Utomi Jerome-Mario is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), a Lagos-based Non-Governmental Organization (NGO). He could be reached via Jeromeutomi@yahoo.com/08032725374.

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Advancement, Money, Transcendence and Vanity

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Money truck going over a cliff

By Nneka Okumazie

The progress that a country makes does not depend on what some individuals can afford. That an individual can have something or afford it does not mean that the happiness the individual now has would become useful to development.

There are countries in the world with people whose priority is to be able to afford high-end things. The acceptance of their society is about that – not about making it, or how it was made, or how to make extraordinary things that people would want, in future.

Money is the global standard of success, but the availability of money is not the eradication of problems. Most developing countries in the world with complex problems have internal and external revenues, with people of means, but low to zero probability of solving their own problems.

Money is its own pet, necessary for continuous tend. Those who have it live for it and are its subject, those who don’t, want and serve for it. There is normalcy to continue to make money, but many people, decades and decades ago, who did, and lived for it, rarely transcended its shackles.

They are gone. Their time and pleasures are gone. What it was to be what they were is forgotten. Their conflicts, bias, strife and competition are all past. Many left without leaving lessons. There is no difference between some of those who had now forgotten, and others who didn’t, also forgotten.

In a world where sudden death is possible, money should not be this important. Knowing that void can become of anyone should make the total war for advantage to money or resources less important. Time passage also, is a lesson, as some fade off, after being in the centre stage for years.

Money should have been a tool mostly adapted to progress, not as the meaning of life. The loss that the place of money is, to life, is unquantifiable. There are people who have things and that is all for them. Pride, arrogance, discrimination and irritation are tosses of money.

The preeminence of capitalism paved way for intense use of technology, contributing in part to unprecedented loneliness, dissatisfaction and gross sadness. Money is the centre of most technology contents, to make or to show, drawing those trying to make or looking to show.

When it was said that all is vanity, there is a point where the money for the sake of it, is included. Progress, real useful advancement carries more meaning than money for things, status or class.

Lack of money is what can make people brand others danger or stranger. The thing about network or connection is not about integrity or purpose, but mostly about who has money or who is close to it.

There are lots of talks about the end of the world, but the world has long driven over the cliff with money as the one true throne everyone bows before.  Those who should have understood more about the risks of money supremacy are blinded by it. Those who understand nothing about its emptiness are controlled by it. The position of money in the world is greater than all people, nation, government, work, school, knowledge, all. Money may be the main, unbreakable hex.

[Psalm 144:4, Man is like to vanity: his days are as a shadow that passeth away.]

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Germ Traps in the Kitchen

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SweepSouth germ traps in the Kitchen

From fridges to coffee makers, these are 5 germ traps in your kitchen.

We all want our homes to feel sparkly clean, but there are some areas that may not be making it onto your household chores list.

Aisha Pandor, whose on-demand home services company SweepSouth helps people to keep their homes spotless, lists the places we often forget to clean.

In a study by global health organisation NSF International looking at where the highest concentration of germs can be found in the average household, three of the top five germ hot spots were in the kitchen – which leads to the first area that needs a good clean.

The back of your fridge

Topping the list of places in the home that rarely gets cleaned is the back of the fridge – that’s the exterior back, not inside! The coils located there work to cool the air down, but they can’t do so efficiently if they’re coated with grime. To reach the coils, Aisha advises you to unplug your fridge, pull it away from the wall and gently brush off any dirt and dust on the coils.

Do this annually and it will help you save on power costs. A fridge is one of the top energy-using appliances in the home, and simply cleaning its exterior coils can reduce the amount of energy it uses by up to 30%. Remember to leave space between your fridge and the wall once you’ve pushed it back into position, to allow air to freely circulate.

Backsplashes

Tiled backsplashes are often overlooked during cleaning, but they’re notorious for attracting grease and grime. That grease acts as a magnet for dust and dirt, says Aisha — not exactly the type of environment where you want to be preparing food.

To clean backsplashes using natural products, mix two cups of distilled white vinegar with a cup of water and 15 drops of eucalyptus oil. Dab a cloth into the mixture and rub over the tiles to clean. You can use this cleaning mixture on any shiny non-porous surface, like sinks, too.

Ovens and hobs

At the very heart of the kitchen’s food preparation, ovens are prime real estate for germs. Clean the interior regularly, and line the bottom with foil to catch any drips and spills. When the foil becomes grimy, simply peel off and throw it away.

It’s not just the inside that needs cleaning, though — stove knobs are in the top 10 for common places where germs hide. To clean, remove the knobs and wash in hot soapy water. Rinse well, allow to dry, and reinstall. On a gas hob, dismantle the gas rings and clean separately in hot soapy water.

Can opener

Chances are that you seldom take a close look at your can opener, yet it’s surprising how grimy this kitchen aid can become. Can openers can harbour bacteria like salmonella and e.Coli, and should be washed after every use to clean the gears and cutting wheel.

Dry thoroughly to prevent rust. If there’s a build-up of dirty residue in your can opener’s wheel, Aisha has a nifty trick to clean it: simply clamp the wheels onto a piece of dry paper towel and turn the handle to get rid of any gunk.

Coffee maker cleanse

Coffee machines’ water tanks or reservoirs usually have lids to stop dust, dirt and insects from getting in. However, a study by a health organisation, NSF International, of where the highest concentration of germs can be found in the average household, showed that coffee machine water tanks are the fifth most germ-ridden place in the house.

A tank’s moist, dark, location is a prime place for germs and bacteria to grow. In fact, the study discovered that 50% of households had yeast and mould in their coffee maker water tanks, and one in 10 had traces of coliform, a bacteria found in animal and human faeces that can cause gastrointestinal upset and flu-like symptoms. If you regularly make coffee, Aisha advises that you rinse the water reservoir regularly — if not daily, at least every week.

While experts do say we need some exposure to germs to help build strong immune systems, we need to limit being around germs that cause serious illnesses, says Aisha. By cleaning the above areas regularly, you’ll help keep your kitchen more hygienic and safer.

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