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People & Politics

Abubakar Malami (SAN)  . Photo by Gbemiga Olamikan

Malami and his bogus $2trn

WHEN I first saw the figure on newspaper headlines, I thought the proverbial “printer’s devil” had made a media round as the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Magu recently did. But, of course, though the “printer’s devil” can do and undo, it does not have the power to visit more than one newspaper house and cause them to portray wrong figures on the same issue same day. It has since turned out that media houses quoted the man correctly, from a speech he authored, signed and read by himself.

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Bama IDP Camp: Cross Section of women at Bama IDP Camp in Maiduguri  during Minister’s Tour of Bama . Photo by Gbemiga Olamikan.

“We are hungry”

WHEN the journey to Maiduguri came on stream last week, I was all over the place with mixed feelings. I was there last 25 years ago. I wanted to see what had become of it in this Boko Haram era. There were two other things I wanted to see. The first was life inside an Internally-Displaced Persons’ (IDPs’) camp. The second was to make a personal assessment of where we really are with regard to the war on terror, beyond the banal propaganda pabulum that Buhari’s Information Minister, Lai Mohammed, and the military, regularly dish out.

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PRESIDENT MUHAMMADU BUHARI

A basket full of crabs

BEFORE Nigeria became independent, the British colonial masters organised a series of conferences in Ibadan and London to enable the elites of the various regions and socio-cultural divides to negotiate and agree on the terms of their future cohabitation. Since independence in 1960, there have been series of conferences, some of which ended with new constitutional proposals or documents.

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#our5k

FG’s N5,000 SWP: Questions, questions

NIGERIA waited impatiently for the
All Progressives Congress, APC,
Federal Government to come forward
and tell the nation when it is going to
implement one of its controversial
campaign promises – payment of
N5,000 monthly stipends to poor Nigerians.
You will recall that the party,
which dethroned the Peoples Democratic
Party, PDP, at the 2015 general
elections, had listed an unprecedented
litany of 81 campaign pledges, of which
this welfare stipend was number 15.
It specifically states as follows: “Creation
of a Social Welfare Programme,
SWP, of at least five thousand naira
(N5,000) that will cater for the 25 million
poorest and most vulnerable Nigerians
upon demonstration of their children’s
enrolment in school and evidence of
immunisation to help promote family
stability”.
When the opposition PDP senators
raised a motion some weeks ago, compelling
the APC Federal Government
to start implementing this campaign
promise, their counterparts of the
ruling party used their numerical
majority to quash the motion, thus
setting the public agitated as to whether
the government was interested in
carrying out its promise to Nigerians.
People feared that the APC might have
backed out of this, like it has attempted
to disown some of its other campaign
pledges.
However, at another forum, Vice President
Yemi Osinbajo reiterated the intention
of the Federal Government to
implement it. Wife of President
Muhammadu Buhari, Hajiya Aisha,
called on the APC Federal Government
to pay the money as promised. The
most recent indication that the SWP
stipend is still very much on the cards
was the announcement by the new
Minister of Youth and Sports, Solomon
Dalong, who, on a condolence visit to
the National Chairman of the APC, Dr
John Oyegun, disclosed that the
N5,000 SWP stipend will be provided
for in the 2016 federal budget, meaning
that the payment will start next year.
The imminence of this programme is
now beyond question, so it seems. But
the “how” and “wherefore” of it are very
hazy. Questions are waiting to be
answered if this programme is going
to work at this juncture of our queasy
economic standing. Number one: WHO
are the beneficiaries of this
programme? Who are these “25 million
poorest and most vulnerable
Nigerians” and HOW do you determine
it? This alone is going to cause a lot of
trouble unless it is properly addressed.

The World Bank, in 2014, put the
number of “poor” Nigerians (those
living on about two US Dollars or below
a day) conservatively at 58 million
people. Vice President Osinbajo,
however, paints a gloomier picture of
the situation. When a delegation of the
Alumni Association of the National
Institute for Policy and Strategic
Studies, NIPSS, paid him a courtesy
visit in his office at the State House
Abuja. Osinbajo who (like his party)
likes to dramatise the “parlous” state
of affairs that this administration
inherited from the last regime, said that
110 million Nigerians are living below
the poverty line. This was a rehash of
the 2008/2009 figure published by the
Nigerian Bureau of Statistics, NBS,
which the World Bank figures of 2014
had adjusted to 58 million.
Whether it is the World Bank’s 58 million
or Osinbajo’s 110 million, the truth is
that the APC’s 25 million target for payment
of the stipend is a far cry from the
number of Nigerians waiting to collect it.
If you give the stipend to some and leave
out the others, that is a recipe for disaster.
You will be creating a problem where none
existed, all in the name of winning an election.
Now, let us look more closely at APC’s
25 million people. Contrary to popular
expectations that this “windfall” is
targeted at “the unemployed youth”, the
APC says it will be paid to the poor who
show evidence of enrolling their children
in school and presenting them for
vaccination. In other words, the
beneficiaries must be parents (whether
married or single, I presume). If you have
no child to show evidence of school
enrolment and vaccination you may not
qualify, unless, of course, the government
decides to waive the proviso.

Obviously, this campaign promise had
the intention of encouraging the section
of the country with high rates of out-ofschool
children and reluctance to embrace
vaccination in mind – the North East and
North West. It is also in these areas that
people get married and start having children
even as unemployed youth, mendicant,
disabled or destitute citizens. The
noble intention of encouraging more people
in these areas to send their children to
school and get them vaccinated cannot be
overlooked. The hallmark of a sound government

policy is that they are used to
solve problems in society. But where you
pay this stipend only to married people
ignoring the unmarried, unemployed
youth struggling to cope with poverty, two
unsavoury outcomes are inevitable.
Number one is that those excluded because
they are not married will be up in arms.
Number two is that the youth who are living
in unemployment and poverty might
be encouraged to become parents in order
to qualify for the stipend, thus perpetuating
poverty.
Now comes the next question: Will the
APC Federal Government also provide
free education to the children of these desperately
poor parents? Or will they (the
parents) be expected to pay for the
children’s school bills from this paltry
sum?
More questions. Where will the
government get this huge amount from at
a time that governors are trying to back
out of paying the minimum wage to their
workers due to lack of funds? My layman’s
math tells me the Federal Government will
need a hefty N1.5 trillion annually to offset
the bill. This is more than the amount
that former President Goodluck Jonathan’s
government paid as fuel subsidy in
2013. Some people will argue with sentiment
and say why not? If trillions can be
spent to enrich a few members of the petroleum
“cabal”, why worry about a welfare
programme for the poor? The difference
is that while the subsidy actually enriches
the “cabal” the stipend will merely
tranquilise the poor while keeping them
poor. Few will be able to ride on their
N5,000 out of poverty.
If this amount of money is available to
be doled out, why not put it into policies
that will multiply benefits and actually
give the more enterprising jobless a chance
to escape poverty? Why not invest it in
agriculture and associated value chain,
mining, real estate, capacity building,
entrepreneurship training and
entrenchment, infrastructure and such
other areas that create gainful
employment on a massive scale? Why give
fish to the “poorest and most vulnerable”
Nigerians rather than teach them how to
fish? Why foist this form of undignifying
dependency on our youth?
The APC Federal Government is really
confusing us with their conflicting signals.
The President is shouting it on the rooftops
of world capitals that the country is
“broke” and unable to pay its ministers,
but his VP and one of the ministers are
telling us that implementation of this
controversial and improperly chewed
Social Welfare Programme that will gulp
trillions annually is around the corner.
I smell trouble.

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Buhari-Dasuki

Buhari batters Dasuki while we watch!

The Japanese have a proverb which says: “Revenge is a delicious dish best eaten when cold”. There are people (and cultures) that have the capacity to harbour ill-will against their neighbours and would never let go of their quest for vengeance until they get the opportunity to get their own back, no matter how long it takes. Some would even call their children, embellish the grievances and enjoin them never to rest until they have equalled the score

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President Muhammadu Buhari

Buhari now going solo

In my articles during the presidential campaign, I had wondered aloud whether a President Muhammadu Buhari would share power with the touted National Leader of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. I also answered the question by saying that knowing the professional and cultural background of Buhari, and against the precedents of our political history, he would gradually relegate Tinubu to his proper place as just one of the big men in the ruling party, on assuming power.

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Biafra protesters

Renewed agitation for Biafra(2)

THE mass anger among the Igbo youth is justified as I noted in the first part of this article. But is secession or the call for Biafra the answer? The purpose of this second part is to put across my opinion that secession is neither viable nor in the best interest of the Igbo nation. I will try and proffer what I believe is the way forward.

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