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Abia and the December Local Government Election

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Abia state tower

By Okechukwu Keshi Ukegbu

The local government, which is referred to as the third tier of government in Nigeria, may be defined as the lowest level of government in a country established by law to ensure the effective and efficient administration of the localities or rural areas.

The United Nations Department of Public Administration defines the local government as the political sub-division of a country which is designed by law and has substantial control of local affairs including the power to impose levies and exact labour for prescribed purposes.

The local government is an indispensable unit of the federation. It is the tier of government nearest to the people. Part II, section 7 (1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended 2011) guarantees that the government state shall ensure the existence of local government under a law which provides for the establishment, structure, composition, finance and functions of such councils.

The local government is created to bring government nearer to the people; serve as the medium to articulate and promote local interest; act as the instrument for political education; and promotion of rural development. Others are to mobilise and harness local resources, and to serve as a link between the rural dwellers and other tiers of the government.

It will be recalled that there a time for more than half of a decade in Abia State, the local government elections were not been held in Abia State. The local government system was operated under a caretaker arrangement.

While this attracted barrage of criticisms in the past, it seriously hampered the progress and development of the local government areas in the state.

But fortunately, the narrative has changed as Abia is about to conduct the second local government election under Governor Okezie Ikpeazu’s administration.

The Abia State Independent Election Commission (ABSIEC) recently fixed elections for chairmanship and councillorship positions in all the 17 local government councils and 292 ABSIEC wards in the state for December 18, 2020.

This is cheering news for all Abians despite their political divide. The commission has also issued a timetable for the poll.

Abians across the 17 local government areas are viewing the action beyond the exercise of the powers conferred on the commission by Part 11, Third Schedule, Section 4, sub-section (a) and (b) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and pursuant to the Fifth Schedule, Section 160 of Abia State Local Government Law No. 9 of 2002.

This singular action portrays Governor Ikpeazu as a man whose words are his bond. It portrays him as a man who has departed from the previous ways of doing things and wants to do things differently.

The important roles the local government plays in a system cannot be overemphasised. They are divided into Mandatory, permissive and concurrent. The obligatory roles of the local government are those roles provided by Schedule IV of t Constitution. They are functions which the local government is bound to render to the people because of its knowledge of the local problems.

The obligatory roles include maintenance of rural roads, streets, and drainages; construction and maintenance of motor parks, public conveniences and cemeteries; provision of health facilities such as clinics, dispensaries and maternities.

Others are the disposal of refuse; the building of primary schools; the collection of rates; radio and television licenses; licensing of bicycles, trucks, wheelbarrows; naming of streets, roads and numbering of houses, registration of births, deaths and marriages; establishment and maintenance of recreational facilities; and regulation of outdoor advertisements, movement of domestic animals, shops and kiosks, restaurants and food and liquor renders.

Indeed, it is not out of place to state here that these functions have suffered for lack of democratically elected executives in the local government areas in the state.

Also, Governor Ikpeazu’s developmental strides in urban centres cannot be complete if there are no complementary efforts in rural centres because this is where the bulk of the residents dwell.

No wonder the Mr Ikpeazu’s administration in its bid to close the gap of infrastructural development between rural areas and the cities, is opening rural roads such as Agalaba Ring Road.

The forthcoming local government elections have provided Abians with another window to contribute meaningfully to the development of the state. There is a passionate appeal to shun our differences and embrace this golden opportunity. “There is no tomorrow better than today”!

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Fuel Subsidy Removal and the Concept of Change

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Fuel Subsidy Removal

By Jerome-Mario Utomi

It is common knowledge that the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) recently rejected the federal government’s proposed N5,000 for 40 million poor Nigerians when the subsidy on Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), commonly called petrol, is removed.

While describing it as ‘nonsensical’ the argument that the complete surrender of the price of petrol to market forces would normalize the curve of demand and supply as it is being wrongly attributed to the current market realities with cooking gas, diesel and kerosene are very obtuse, the union, according to media reports, warned that the bait by the government to pay 40 million Nigerians N5,000 as a palliative to cushion the effect of the astronomical increase in the price of petrol, is comical.

Essentially, before going ahead to admit the fact that the NLC captured what has been on the minds of Nigerians, there is a need that I add context to the present discourse.

It is public knowledge that prior to the 2015 general election when the word ‘change’ made its way to the nation’s leadership lexicon via our political leaders, who at that time, in the image of their actions, and in their quest for new but personal fields to increase their wealth and wellbeing, redefine the word and lavishly promised Nigerians same, Nigerians have never paid ‘disciplined attention’ to, or hobnobbed/romanced such a word.

Also lamentable is the awareness that without studying the various propositions presented by the change proponents, and failures by well-informed citizens to inform the masses accordingly, politicians persuaded Nigerians to endorse and applaud the lavishly promised ‘change’ without knowing or recognition that it was harmful to their interest.

With the above highlighted and in order not to allow the true meaning/obligation of change in any given society, state or nation, to go with political winds, this piece will further keep issues where they are.

Globally, the concept of change has been a subject of metaphysical discourse and dispute.

As noted by an author, the notion of change is always related to being, the relationship of being and becoming in infinite beings. Whatever change is and is not, it has a past, a present and a future. Change as it were, is a self-evident fact; we experience change.

Hence we can say for certain that change is the primary datum of experience. Everything given to experience is subject to change. Hence, change is a universal phenomenon. Change involves movement from one pole to another. It is a transition of being from one mode of being to another mode of being. To change implies to be different and yet somehow to remain the same. That is, the past mode and the present mode are somehow different and somehow the same.

Second and very fundamental, like so many unpalatable experiences in the past (electricity tariff among others), this piece holds the opinion that engineering change is not the problem but how the government defines/understands the concept of change. This understanding daily reflects in the federal government choices and slanted decisions that today paints our nation with the politics of fear and bankruptcy of ideology, perpetuates poverty and promotes powerlessness, impedes socio-economic development, leaves our democracy down-graded and troubled; visits Nigerians with tears while eroding opportunities for sound policy formulation.

More importantly, aside from the fact that the planned fuel subsidy removal has recently seen the relationship between the government and the governed transcends to a chaotic coexistence, leaving Nigerians as both victims of blasted hope, there are of course more reasons why Nigerians are not particularly happy with such development and can no longer trust the social contract or the framework of rules that governs the state.

Here is my philosophy; recently, life in the estimation of Nigerians who once lived in comfort and loved to stay alive, has become not only a burden but the shout of the ‘good old days’ now rends the nations’ wavelength with the cost of living comparatively high and national security now a problem, our value system which used to be sound has gradually been eroded and people no longer have value for hard work and honesty.

The country is currently the direct opposite of what it used to be. There is uncertainty and collective fears of the future, stemming from state weakness, clientele and indiscriminate repression which have resulted in the emergence of armed responses by marginalized groups and nationalist, ethnic or other populist ideologies.

The situation says something more. Across the board, there exist political and institutional factors: weak state institutions, elite power struggles and political exclusion, breakdown in social contract and corruption, identity politics. Socioeconomic factors such as inequality, exclusion and marginalization, absence or weakening of social cohesion, poverty among others.

Most importantly, with the promised change by the present administration; Nigerians thought that they (FG) will make conscious efforts to enhance primary health care facilities across the country, reduce costs and unnecessary pressure on secondary/tertiary health care facilities.

Personally, I have personally thought that the promised change in 2015 would increase the number of, and improve the quality of all federal government-owned hospitals to world-class standards within five years.

In the area of education, Nigerians are particularly not happy that the present Federal Government is unable to carry out a thorough review of the education sector and tackle the main causes of the sectors’ decline, implement fully and enforce the provisions of the Universal Basic Education Act with emphasis on gender equity in primary and secondary school enrolment while also improving the quality and substance of the schools.

Without a doubt, Nigerians had earlier believed that the present administration would reinstate the now abandoned Teacher Training College to train teachers, make substantial investments in training programmes at all levels of the educational system, re-introduce technical and vocational education nationwide by giving adequate material support to such institutions. They (Nigerians) expected the APC led administration to spend up to the UNESCO budgetary recommendation on the education sector.

Whatever may be the failures, this piece believes that we must as a nation return to where it started from. This is because, despite the validity of the federal government’s present argument, nobody will believe them particularly as Mr President had during a media broadcast on October 1, 2020, insisted that petroleum prices in Nigeria must be adjusted as it makes no sense for oil to be cheaper in Nigeria than in Saudi Arabia.

Let’s again listen to that remark; we sell now at N161 per litre. A comparison with our neighbours will illustrate the point; Chad which is an oil-producing country charges N362 per litre; Niger, also an oil-producing country sells 1 litre at N346; In Ghana, another oil-producing country, the petroleum pump price is N326 per litre; Further afield, Egypt charges N211 per litre. Saudi Arabia charges N168 per litre. It makes no sense for oil to be cheaper in Nigeria than in Saudi Arabia, Buhari concluded.

No nation, in my view, can become great under a leadership arrangement with such orientation/thinking.

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

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CNPP Accuses FG of Deceit in Subsidy Implementation

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NNPC fuel retail station

By Modupe Gbadeyanka

Leaders of the Nigerian labour unions, including the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC), have been accused of “representing their personal interests and not that of their members.”

This accusation was made by the Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP) in a statement issued on Sunday in Abuja by its Secretary General, Mr Willy Ezugwu.

The group said it was prepared to lead the anti-subsidy struggle when Nigerians are ready to take their future into their hands.

It also accused the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and the federal government of being deceitful in implementing the subsidy regime, saying that “what the federal government wants to do is fuel price increment, not subsidy removal.”

The CNPP noted that “it is disheartening that the Nigerian labour unions have joined the All Progressives Congress led federal government in its deceitful and manipulative tendencies since the APC government came to power.

“Before they won the election in 2015, the APC made Nigerians to believe that fuel subsidy does not exist, tagging it a scam. But immediately after they won the election, the APC led federal government swiftly increased the pump price of petrol.

“The former Minister of State for Petroleum Resources and Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Ibe Kachikwu in December 2015 revealed that the federal government has concluded plans to remove the subsidy on fuel by 2016.

“By May 2016, the Federal Government announced that it had removed fuel subsidy and petrol was to sell for N145 per litre. In fact, NNPC made Nigerians believe that marketers were free to bring in fuel cargoes and sell, subject to meeting standard quality control.

“But in the deceitful character of the federal government, the NNPC then insisted on a benchmark of N145 per litre as a recommended pump price. Do you remove subsidies and dictate or suggest prices at the same time if you are sincere?

“The CNPP at the time queried the rationale behind removing the subsidy and at the same time interfering in pump price by fixing a benchmark of N145 per litre of petrol.

“While highlighting the contents of a briefing after a meeting with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo in 2016, Kachikwu said: “We have just finished a meeting with various stakeholders presided over by His Excellency, the Vice President. The meeting had in attendance the leadership of the Senate, House of Representatives, Governors Forum, and Labour Unions (NLC, TUC, NUPENG, and PENGASSAN)”, the then minister told Nigerians.

“But at a point, the federal government made a U-turn on the fuel subsidy removal when, contrary to viral media reports in 2016 that the federal government has ended fuel subsidy, Vice President Yemi Osinabjo said it was not true, explaining that what the government did was to withdraw the monopoly enjoyed by the NNPC to allow free market sales.

“The free market sales and importation of petrol by the independent marketers never happened because the federal government simply deceived Nigerians that subsidy was removed. Nigerians endured but till date, there has not been any meaningful improvement in the lives of the poor.

“This cycle of deceit has continued till date as the federal government has hinted on yet another fuel price increment which it has again tagged fuel subsidy removal. How many times will the government remove fuel subsidies?

“The same labour unions leaders who were part of the earlier negotiations are the same ones negotiating with the federal government today in another cycle of personal enrichment while Nigerians are to pay N340 per litre of petrol and at a time cooking gas is already out of the reach of the ordinary citizens.

“It is laughable that the only palliative from the federal government is N5, 000.00 naira to a few Nigerians, which government officials will eventually siphon into private pockets like the COVID-19 conditional cash transfer.

“With the level of infrastructure decay in the country, where all federal roads are not motorable, the federal government is talking about cash transfer because it is the new safe way to siphon our commonwealth.

“The CNPP is ready to lead Nigerians anytime they want to end this series of subsidy removal deceit by the federal government in connivance with labour leaders in the country”, the CNPP concluded.

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NCC Charges NODITS on Local Content Development

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NCC

By Adedapo Adesanya

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has challenged the Nigeria Office for Developing Indigenous Telecom Sector (NODITS) to adhere to standards and ethical conduct in promoting local content in the country’s telecommunications sector.

This was disclosed by the Executive Vice-Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of the NCC, Mr Umar Danbatta, at a two-day brainstorming and team building session organised by NODITS team in Abuja.

He urged NODITS to ensure effective delivery of its mandates with respect to the promotion of indigenous content nationwide.

In a statement by Mr Ikechukwu Adinde, the Director, Public Affairs at the NCC, he advised the team to adhere to regulatory and ethical principles held in high esteem by the management of NCC.

“The commission’s commitment to maintaining high standards, ethical conduct, and superior performance is a priority of the Management, hence by extension, NODITS should reflect the established values, guiding principles, strategic awareness and the goodwill associated with the NCC,” he said.

The statement described NODITS as a special purpose vehicle (SPV) designed to stimulate the creation and development of top quality indigenous content in the telecommunication sector.

It said the creation of the NODITS on July 5, 2021, and its domiciliary in the Commission was sequel to the signing of the National Policy for the Promotion of Indigenous Content in the Telecommunication Sector (NPPIC) by the President in March 2021.

Mr Danbatta, who was represented by the Director, Human Capital and Administration, NCC, Mr Usman Malah, said the development of NPPIC, facilitated by the Minister for Communications and Digital Economy, Mr Isa Ali Pantami, is essentially aimed at driving the desire of the current administration and the NCC to ensure that indigenes become more active participants in Nigeria’s telecoms sector.

On management’s expectations from NODITS, the EVC said, as an SPV under the purview of the commission, NODITS would be expected to get involved in the development of new guidelines and regulations bordering on indigenous content, local manufacturing of telecom equipment, outsourcing services, construction and lease of telecoms ducts, succession planning in the telecoms sector, among others.

“In essence, NODITS will be expected to initiate strategic programmes and projects that will stimulate the growth of the telecoms sector through an approach that is visionary, focused, sustainable and based on incentives to indigenous telecom stakeholders,” the EVC said added.

In his remarks, the Team Lead, NODITS, Mr Babagana Digima said, “to deliver on the objectives of the National Policy for the Promotion of Indigenous Content in the telecom industry and the Executive Orders 003 & 005, its vision is to harmoniously integrate indigenous content in the Nigerian telecommunications sector.

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