The Saraki Led Senate: A Midterm Assessment
By Omoshola Deji
The Nigerian legislative arm of government, comprising the Senate and the House of Representatives, is rarely in the good books of the public. No congregation of legislators in Nigeria has arguably suffered public condemnation like the 8th Senate. Some learned figures and media commentators at a point moved beyond reproach to demand the scrap of the Senate. They question the significance of debated bills, the running costs of bicameralism, the motives behind oversight functions and brand legislative summons as vendetta. Right on time, this trending doubt on the necessity and the credibility of the Senate amplifies the need for an assessment of its accomplishments and shortcomings.
The Nigerian Senate is largely a gathering of prominent, but inefficient persons. Majority of the legislators are ex-occupiers of vital public positions, but virtually none of them has a distinct record of public service. The Senate seems to be the most preferred retiring ground for power-addicted ex-governors, ex-military officers, ex-party chairmen, political juggernauts, industrialists and the stupendously wealthy. Aside that these bigwigs have done almost nothing to better the lot of the have-nots in their communities, not to mention constituency, most of them are enmeshed in controversies, scandals and allegations of monumental corruption.
The Senate President is standing trial for false asset declaration at the Code of Conduct Tribunal. Change is indeed here! A foremost figure of the ruling party and chief lawmaker is facing the law. Apparently, Saraki’s ordeal is twisted in twists. Only a member of the ruling inner caucus can affirm whether Saraki prosecution is genuinely based on alleged infractions or he is being persecuted for orchestrating a political coup against his party to emerge Senate President. Either ways, Saraki’s integrity to hold public office has been badly tainted; he is broadly considered a symbol of corruption.
Undeterred, Saraki has resolutely fought to remain the Senate president. The unalloyed support of a substantial number of the senators remains his shield and armor. The pro-Saraki senators have ruthlessly relegated their anti-Saraki counterparts to benchwarmer. Since the presidency is unwilling to smokescreen corrupt conducts, the pro-Saraki senators have played a no-friend no-foe game in the discharge of their oversight duties. They swiftly draw attention to the flaws of the Presidency and publicize investigation findings.
One of such findings that remains a key accomplishment of the Senate is that of her committee on the Mounting Humanitarian Crisis in the North East. The Shehu Sani led committee unraveled the alleged corrupt practices of Babachir Lawal, the suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF). Babachir was indicted of awarding N233million invasive-plant-species (grass) clearing contract to firms he has strong stakes in. Presenting a temporary report at plenary, Shehu Sani throw up mindboggling evidences that Babachir received kickbacks of over N200 million into the account of Rholavision Nigeria Limited – a firm he co-founded and remains an account signatory. Upon concluding the investigation, Sani lamented during plenary that Babachir actually misappropriated over N500 million. Impenitently, Babachir’s arrogance and pronouncement that the senators are “talking balderdash” triggered the Senate’s determination that justice must take its course. Their persistence largely led to the suspension and ongoing investigation of Babachir.
Anyone proclaiming there’s nothing good about the Senate is merely tendering a malicious criticism. The 8th Senate just passed the first out of the three-part Petroleum Industry Bill. The Senate is worth commending for passing a 17year old bill that outlived the 5th, 6th and 7th Senate. Aside that, the Senate has shown commitment towards ensuring transparency and equality in the operations of government agencies. The Senate has mandated its committee to investigate the lopsided DSS recruitment that mainly favored some northern states. Instead of the allocated five slot per state, 51 persons were recruited from Katsina, the home state of President Buhari and the DSS Director-General, Lawal Daura.
It could also be recalled that the Senate compelled the Customs Comptroller General, Hameed Ali, to stay action on the plan to collect import duties from vehicle users across the country. Worth commending, you and I would have been paying for customs inefficiency, if the Senate didn’t condemn Ali’s obnoxious policy. Nonetheless, customs officers are using the policy to extort the public without authorization. The Senate is also challenging the electricity distribution companies over high electricity tariffs and inefficient service delivery. Efforts are being made to ensure metering determines actual consumption. When this is fully effected, the astronomical monthly billing termed ‘cost reflective tariff’ would be abolished.
On financial issues, it would be flattery to label the senators prudent, but their rejection of Buhari’s request to borrow $29.960 billion abroad is worthy of applaud. Although the loan is supposedly meant to finance the provision of key infrastructures across the country, it is ludicrous to borrow for infrastructures that cannot generate enough funds to repay the debt. Besides, Buhari’s health challenges would have paved way for his aides to squander and embezzle a significant portion of the loan. If not for the resistance of the Senate, our unborn generation would have been plunged into slavery. The burden of the soft-looking, but hard to fulfill loan conditions would force them to follow the dependency economic dictates of the western nations. Not again! Nigeria is yet to recover from the afflictions of Ibrahim Babangida’s Structural Adjustment Program (SAP).
Startlingly, the senators shielding Nigeria from the bondage of foreign loans are enchaining Nigerians with their insatiable greed and unscrupulousness. They earn humongous salary and allowances to deprive the masses comfort. Their prodigal pay is nearly 200 times the nation’s GDP per capita and 10,000 times the minimum wage. While many Nigerians sleep hungry, the legislatures allotted themselves a whopping N13 billion for refreshment, travels and welfare in the 2017 budget. Still not contended, they corruptly enrich themselves via constituency project allocations and budget padding. Sadly, the amenities in their constituencies are either dilapidated, unmanaged or non-existing. In a time of recession when the price of commodities has doubled, the Senate’s budget increased while the minimum wage remains unchanged.
Resigning to fate cannot bring us change! If relentless protest can force the legislators to publish their hidden budget, then we all must remonstrate till the senator’s lack of conscience seize to fuel our inconvenience. Despite been sufficiently remunerated, most of the senators don’t attend sittings regularly. Many just attend as observers – nothing to contribute. In fact, the contributions of the vocal lawmakers are often below what is expected of a senator. Unfortunately, the below-average intelligence quotient of most of the senators affects the thinking of the chamber and the quality of motions presented.
Be that as it may, the Senate has protected democracy by condemning coup intents and embracing electoral reforms. The lawmakers ensured no state is denied representation by compelling the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conclude the legislative elections in Rivers state. A day after the senators threatened to suspend sittings till every state is properly represented, INEC swiftly scheduled dates for the conclusion of virtually all non-concluded elections. While the senators must be commended for entrenching democracy, they have ceased to walk the talk.
The same cabal of senators that condemned Rivers de-representation are currently denying Borno South representation via the suspension of Ali Ndume – an estranged ally of Saraki. Ndume bagged a six month suspension for bringing unproved allegations of certificate forgery against Dino Melaye and the avenging of seized bulletproof Range Rover against Saraki. Despite pleas from the Borno state governor, elders and traditional rulers, the Senate has refused to lift Ndume’s suspension. Evidently, the suspension of Ndume is to wholly dissipate the mutinous moves of the anti-Saraki senators.
The Saraki cabal has also proven to be proficient in facilitating the rejection of any bill or nomination they interpret as a threat to their interest. This made many predict the rejection of Ibrahim Magu as the chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Magu’s rejection is a tale of many tails. President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB) crushed Magu by allowing him act for too long. Unfortunately, the DSS – an agency under PMB – helped the Senate nail Magu by submitting and resubmitting damning reports against him. To be candid, the Senate would have ridiculed itself if Magu was confirmed the EFCC chairman with such an indicting report.
Even if the DSS had cleared Magu, the rejection or confirmation of nominations is absolutely the discretion of the Senate. No law says anyone presented to the Senate must be confirmed. Nevertheless, it was quite obvious that the senators used their constitutional power to avert the imminent imprisonment of their corrupt colleagues. In truth, most individuals castigating the senators wouldn’t have scored a ruinous own-goal in such circumstance.
Nigerians insistence on Magu shows our level of retrograde. In a nation of over 150million population, it is depressing to see people fuming as if all that is needed to end corruption is Magu. In an ideal world, a hundred of better Magu should be readily available to replace a rejected Magu. Sadly, Nigeria has been – and still prefers to be – building strong individuals rather than building strong institutions.
The Senate is as guilty as the Presidency. Deliberations on the passage of the 2017 budget ceased upon Senator Dajuma Goje’s outburst that police raid his home and confiscated budget documents. In a show of legislative infamy, the Senate backed Goje by insisting that budget scrutiny can’t proceed until the police release his belongings. What a strategic way of blackmailing the police! Are other members of the Appropriation Committee not having copies of the documents in Goje’s possession? Could the institutional arrangements in the Senate be so weak that Goje-is-budget and budget-is-Goje? Apparently, shielding Goje from criminal investigation appears more important to Saraki than national welfare.
Dilemma is when the undesirable becomes the unavoidable. The executive and the ruling party are ostensibly not comfortable with Saraki, but the Senate he leads is pivotal to the success of this administration. The presidency and the legislature must work together on policies that can move Nigeria forward. Any am-not-wanted feeling will further make Saraki a friendly serpent. In plain sight, the commendable efforts of the Senate has been largely misinterpreted or unappreciated due to a public perception that the legislators are not progressives.
Nevertheless, the senators are always anti-people whenever their interest collides with public interest. Saraki is helpless in this regard. He must align with the majority, else he would be uprooted. It is obvious Saraki cannot afford to lose. He would rather associate with any available protective force than face mutiny or conviction at the Code of Conduct Tribunal. If he loses in court, unlike Obasanjo, his own episode would be from power to prison.
Omoshola Deji is a political and public affairs analyst. He wrote in via firstname.lastname@example.org
The Exciting Relationship Between Women and Mobile Money in Africa
By Rashi Gupta
The success of mobile money in Africa is well known. If you’ve paid any attention to the continent’s financial and technology spaces over the past decade or so, you probably won’t be surprised to learn that it accounts for around 70% of the world’s $1 trillion mobile money value.
You’d probably also be unsurprised to learn that in Kenya, the country that effectively kick-started Africa’s mobile money revolution, mobile money transactions now account for 56.8% of GDP. What you might not know is that mobile money has long played (and continues to play) an important role in empowering women across Sub-Saharan Africa.
That’s important because, despite gains in representation (in 11 African countries, women hold over a third of parliamentary seats, more than in Europe), gender inequality remains stark across Africa. While there are obviously differences from country to country, women throughout the continent fare worse than their male counterparts in a number of measures, including wages, investment, access to capital, and education.
Of course, mobile money can’t fix all of those issues on its own. That requires serious investment as well as shifts in policy and societal attitudes. But it can play a significant role in making life better for women across the continent, especially when it comes to financial inclusion.
Taking care of business
That’s not just conjecture either. Research conducted on behalf of the World Bank shows just how substantial the impact has been. It notes, for example, that mobile money has enabled Kenyan women to move away from subsistence farming and towards business and retail, helping alleviate poverty in the country.
The research further notes that, for individuals and households, mobile phones can help reduce transaction costs, lower travel costs, improve welfare by smoothing unexpected income shocks, increase security, and facilitate remittances.
Perhaps the most significant impact, however, lies in what mobile money can do for female entrepreneurs.
Using mobile money leads to a 19.8% increase in the likelihood of female-led businesses receiving investments from outside sources. Given that the average capital investment by female-owned firms is more than six times lower than the average for male-owned firms in Africa, that’s especially critical.
That same World Bank research shows that such female-owned businesses are then more likely to invest that money in fixed assets and their business’s expansion, more likely to offer credit to customers, demand credit, and have better relationships with suppliers.
A state of constant evolution
It’s also worth noting that mobile money has evolved considerably since it landed on the African continent, further enhancing its ability to empower women.
Advances in interoperability, for example, mean that it’s easier than ever for people and businesses on different mobile money systems and in different countries to send and receive money. That has massive potential benefits for female entrepreneurs as it allows them to sell their products across borders without having to rely on traditional international e-commerce infrastructure that can be costly, resource intensive, and require business owners to travel away from home on a regular basis using unsafe or unreliable modes of transportation. Unlocking new markets is vital for any business’s ability to scale and grow.
In the coming years, mobile money will continue to evolve in new and innovative ways. And if history is anything to go by, then women will embrace and benefit most from those advancements.
Breaking barriers across borders
That’s because financial inclusion is the most effective way of reducing inequalities. That’s especially true for women. And few technologies have fostered that kind of inclusion as successfully as mobile money has. It has given unbanked communities and people in remote and rural areas the kind of access to financial services that would’ve taken far longer if they’d had to rely on traditional financial institutions. The fact that it’s had such a profound and lasting impact in elevating women across the continent should, therefore, never be underestimated.
Rashi Gupta is the Group Chief Operating Officer at MFS Africa
Nigeria’s Naira Redesign; Avarice Versus Envy
By Prince Charles Dickson PhD
Two neighbours came before Jupiter and prayed to him to grant their hearts’ desires. Now the one was full of avarice, and the other ate up with envy.
So, to punish them both, Jupiter granted that each might have whatever he wished for himself, but only on condition that his neighbour had twice as much.
The Avaricious man prayed to have a room full of gold. No sooner said than done, but all his joy was turned to grief when he found that his neighbour had two rooms full of the precious metal. Then came the turn of the Envious man, who could not bear to think that his neighbour had any joy at all.
So, he prayed that he might have one of his own eyes put out, which meant his companion would become totally blind.
Vices are their own punishment.
How does the above relate to Nigeria—especially in these times? What constitutes a crisis worthy of leadership attention? At what point is enough really enough? I will write a few paragraphs’ gists with us. For better understanding, let me tutor us!
Nigeria has been facing a currency crisis for several years now. The country’s currency, the Naira, has been steadily losing value against major foreign currencies like the US dollar, Euro, and British pound. The following are some of the factors that have contributed to the currency crisis in Nigeria:
- Overdependence on oil exports: Nigeria is a major oil-producing country, and the economy heavily relies on oil exports for revenue. The fall in oil prices in recent years has led to a significant reduction in foreign exchange earnings, thereby putting pressure on the Naira.
- High inflation rate: Nigeria has been experiencing high inflation rates for several years. This has eroded the value of the Naira and made it more expensive to import goods and services.
- Weak economic fundamentals: Nigeria’s economy has been characterized by low productivity, weak infrastructure, and a poor business environment. This has led to a lack of investor confidence, which in turn has contributed to a weak Naira.
- Foreign exchange restrictions: The Nigerian government has put in place several foreign exchange restrictions in an attempt to conserve foreign exchange reserves. However, these restrictions have led to a scarcity of foreign exchange and have further weakened the Naira.
The currency crisis in Nigeria has had several negative impacts on the economy, including rising inflation, high unemployment, and low economic growth. The government has taken several measures to address the crisis, including devaluing the Naira and introducing foreign exchange policies aimed at stabilizing the currency. However, more needs to be done to address the root causes of the crisis and put the economy on a sustainable growth path.
In light of these, we decided on a Naira redesign. A currency swap naturally followed it in the Nigerian context. The fact of the matter was, there was no campaign to enlighten the masses. There was no form of advocacy; the ordinary man on the streets did not know what to expect and did not understand the entire process. Who we be sef? And after all, what do we know, it came with a cash crunch… the last time Nigerians experienced this was in the 1980s. Why the naira design, we still don’t have a grasp.
A nation with no sense of emergency; maybe that’s why we don’t have any natural disasters, albeit self-inflicted floods, that can and should be avoided. We are not bothered about the crisis, the Central Bank chief went ahead with his mandatory role of redesigning the Naira notes, he did not tell the minister for finance, the ministry was left in the loop, and those in economic and national planning were not aware. The national assembly was as usual, not beyond an assembly.
We all started the blame game, the apex bank chief feeling like James Bond and others went on the defence. We were told that it was targeted at politicians who wanted to buy votes for the upcoming (now concluded) elections. The politicians played their roles, went to court, government carry government go court. Nigeria is indeed a country. Governors threatened banks, banks punished citizens. And one ponders, if indeed we are 200 million Nigerians, why should we bear the brunt of the thievery of barely 1%? Abi Nigerians politicians pass 1 million?
We are a people that just do anyhow, go anyway and in the end, nothing happens. In the interim, banks were touched in parts of the country, no one was held liable, while other parts just moved on painfully. The old notes disappeared, and the new notes were nowhere to be found. If Venezuela was picturesque, Nigeria is the reality; Nigerians were buying naira with naira, and all the authorities did was, at the best rant and dramatize.
The central bank said they had destroyed the old notes, they said the new notes were not enough or were being printed. Who is printing, and why was the printing not done first? Why reduce the old notes and not make available the new notes? We just dey play! Banks are operating at the lowest capacity; electronic banking is, at best, working in babalawo mood. The more you look, the more your eyes hurt from seeing nothing. We are possibly impossible people. The governors had alleged that contrary to the CBN defence that they had destroyed the old notes, the notes were there, and months after, we know better, the old notes are appearing, after the dance of the naked at the nation’s apex court, the old notes stay till the end of the year.
However, the damage done to small businesses and the fact that Nigerians have painfully learned the difference between cash at hand and cash at the bank cannot be quantified. For a policy that ordinarily should have enhanced the security features of the currency and prevented counterfeiting because the new Naira notes were supposed to feature new designs, images, and colours, which are meant to reflect Nigeria’s diverse cultural heritage. Counterfeiting has been on the rise, with even the ordinary Nigerian not knowing anything about the new notes, as counterfeiters are producing fake notes every day.
Public confidence in our naira is at an all-time low. We are supposed to have witnessed a reduction in transaction costs for businesses that handle cash transactions. But it has rather tripled costs, many argue that the new notes are not more durable than the old ones.
This exercise has killed the economy; all the aims for which the two neighbours came before Jupiter and prayed to him to grant their hearts’ desires, have failed because we are a nation full of avarice, and the other eaten up with envy, nothing works according to the original plan, until some interests are being served, when will it change—only time will tell!
6 Ways Google and YouTube Can Help You Celebrate Ramadan
Ramadan is a holy month that is observed by Muslims all around the world. It is a time for reflection, prayer, and community. With the help of Google and YouTube, celebrating Ramadan has become even easier and more enjoyable.
From Lagos to Nairobi, Accra to Johannesburg, Africans can access a wealth of information and resources to make the most of this special time. Here are 6 ways that Google and YouTube can help you celebrate Ramadan in Africa:
Celebrate Ramadan’s Joy with Colors and Greetings: Simply search for “Ramadan 2023” in your language on Google, and you will have access to all the information related to this month, including prayer times, recipes, and more. You can also find articles on Ramadan etiquette, Ramadan recipes, and Ramadan greetings to help you navigate the holiday with ease. Additionally, you can access greeting cards online to share with your loved ones, and scroll through our Ramadan colouring book on Google Arts & Culture to engage your inner artist and colour beautiful artwork to share with family and friends.
Set Reminders for Prayer Times with Google Assistant: With Google Assistant, you can set reminders for prayer times throughout the day, making it easier to stay on track during Ramadan. Simply ask Google Assistant to set a reminder for the next prayer time, and you’ll receive a notification when it’s time to pray. You can customise the reminders to fit your schedule so you never miss a prayer. Plus, Google Assistant can provide inspirational quotes and spiritual guidance to help you stay focused and connected during the holy month.
Shop What You See with Google Lens: By using the camera on your phone, you can search for a delicious type of dessert you’ve tried at your friend’s house, or find your next favourite decoration item to buy during Ramadan. You can open the Google app on your phone, tap on the camera icon, and use Google Lens to snap a photo or screenshot. With Google Lens, you can easily find exact or similar results to shop from or explore for inspiration.
Watch Ramadan-related videos on YouTube: YouTube is a great resource for learning more about Ramadan. You can find videos on how to prepare traditional foods, tips for fasting, and spiritual practices related to Ramadan. There are also numerous Ramadan vlogs and Ramadan routines videos, where you can follow along with the daily activities and experiences of content creators during the holy month.
Use Google Maps to Find Local Mosques and Halal Restaurants: Google Maps is a valuable tool for finding local mosques and halal restaurants during Ramadan. You can search for mosques in your area or around you and get directions to join in community prayers. You can also search for halal restaurants near you to break your fast with delicious and authentic cuisine. Additionally, Google Maps can help you navigate through unfamiliar areas when you are travelling to different cities or countries during Ramadan. With Google Maps, you can plan your Ramadan activities and explore new places with ease. Plus, you can read reviews and ratings from other users to help you make informed decisions about where to go.
Browse Our Shopping Guide for Inspiration: To help you prepare for Ramadan, Google has created a Ramadan Shopping Guide that collects trending products helpful during the holiday. When we analysed search and shopping trends, we found common themes related to home decoration, like Ramadan lanterns, which grew 20% year over year. You can browse through the guide for inspiration and find new ideas for decorating your home, preparing for Iftar, or giving gifts to your loved ones during the holiday.
We hope this Ramadan brings you and your loved ones joy — and that these tools help you find the information you need to make the most of this special time of the year.
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