Vanguard Newspaper 03 February 2018
36—SATURDAY Vanguard, MARCH 3, 2018 As poll draw near, Nigeria has responsibility to Sierra-Leone, West Africa The West African sub region has f a r e d poorly in the last twenty to twenty five years, with regards to infrastructure, social structure and the economy. Worse still, the region- like much of Africa- has also suffered unprecedented unrest and fully fledged warfare in many cases. Nigeria had been one of the lucky countries. In Liberia and Sierra-Leone, politically fawned insurgency had given birth to a surreal but rabid insurrection, not only killing progress in the course of at least a decade but actively taking those countries and the entire region decades back in terms of infrastructure and social structure. It had taken the effort of Sani Abacha’s The Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group, ECOMOG, forces to finally quell that fire for good. We will return to this. Trouble in the West African sub region has not been limited to these two countries however, and Nigeria has become the newcomer to the class of troubled West African nations. Our incredible amount of diversity which we often point to as being the cause of our troubles might well be the only reason why the country has not disintegrated into total chaos. It gets worse daily. While we continue to attempt to grapple the slippery essence of the Boko Haram insurgency in Borno, Adamawa and now Yobe, pastoral conflict has consumed the better parts of Taraba and Benue, as well as parts of Cross Rivers. Last month, there was a security report that separatist groups in Nigeria’s neighbour, the Republic of Cameroon, had declared war in their push for an independent country. This declaration, not by the official separatist group, is the result of growing frustration with what people in the region see as Yaounde’s attempts to wipe them out. Until a few years ago, Cameroon seemed like an oasis of calm in a region buffeted by storms of violent insurgencies; the proliferation of small arms; increasing ethnic division; and crushing poverty. It had not experienced any major challenges to its external sovereignty and internal cohesiveness, and the regime of Paul Biya, while imperfect, added a veneer of certainty and predictability in the Sahel region of West and Central Africa that was an Illusion. This has clear security implications for Nigeria and the region. Nigeria’s longest international border is with Cameroon at 1,975km. This essentially means that, at every point along the Nigeria-Cameroon border, there is a proliferation of arms and ammunition, trained fighters and complicated violent clashes. This is a cauldron of gunpowder not only for the two countries with a combined population of over 225 million, but for the whole region. In the south, militancy continues to hold sway, despite immense efforts and resources expended. Come March 7, the gentle country of Sierra Leone will vote for another leader. Despite their abundant natural resources and far more than 10 years after their insurrection, the country is deemed the most dangerous country in the world to be a young person (defined as aged between 15 and 29), with one youth in every 150 there estimated to have died in 2015. Its youth mortality rate per 100,000 (671) is almost 100 people higher than the next country on the list, war-torn Syria (579). Nigeria, 25 times the population of Sierra Leone, pales in comparison in terms of numbers of casualties in violent clashes, attacks and other situations. As though this were not bad enough, the tiny country has had more than her fair share of natural misfortunes and disasters in the past five years. The Ebola scourge, which was quickly contained, handled and eradicated in Nigeria; killed thousands upon thousands in Sierra Leone. Last year’s mudslide killed off those who survived Ebola. Those who remain, hunger is threatening to finish off. Neighbouring Liberia only recently installed legendary footballer George Weah as her second post-war president. The entire affair was mostly peaceful, and Nigeria’s role has been commended internationally. The economic impact of all the trouble cannot be overemphasized. The regional economy has been severely affected in Cameroon. Big corporates with significant interests in the region are reporting reduced profits; councils are unable to realise budgeted revenue; most development projects have stopped; and government officials are unable to collect taxes and levies. The wider economic impact on the trickling cross border trade has been significant. With its market of almost 170 million consumers, Nigeria is Cameroon’s largest trading partner (22% and 17.8% of imports in 2011 and 2012 respectively), with whom trade exchanges total on average FCFA382 billion (¦ 217 billion) a year according to the Cameroonian Ministry of Commerce; not including the robust informal trade linkages on both sides of the almost 2000km border shared by both countries. Cameroon will also hold local council, parliamentary and presidential elections in 2018. It appears that the outcome of the coming elections will hold a huge significance in the outcome of the calls for independence in the Ambazonia region. All these polls and the Libera success have brought an incredible amount of hope to the region. The big brother role played by ECOMOG in the 90s has given rise to the big brother role that has been thrust upon us where these countries are concerned now. But the role should not be thrust upon us. By now, Africa- specifically West Africa, should be able to run its own affairs. It should begin with us putting our ‘big brother’ affairs in order. I campaigned for Tinubu, Agbaje; now Atiku— Fatima Mohammed Continues on pg 35 much money involved in politics because we are a developing nation. When we get developed like America and other countries that will change. Why the choice of Atiku? I belong to the People’s Democratic Party, the only party that is set to change the bad change. It is a personal conviction, you set out your card on the table, all the players in the field, and during the political calendar we have the pretender, the contestants, and the contenders. Right now we have a lot of pretenders; they all want to come out. We have a lot of contestants, but for me Atiku is the only contender, and I know a lot of people feel the way that I feel. Atiku Abubakar is a credible candidate in every aspect and by the grace of God he will be the next president of Nigeria. You said Atiku Abubakar is the only credible candidate. Why do you say so, when we have other notable candidates like Sule Lamido, former Jigawa state governor? I make bold to say it again. It is not in my character to really talk about people but we all know that Lamido Sule has a case with EFCC bordering on alleged corruption charges. So are you saying that I should go after someone who has a precedence of allegedly squandering tax payers’ money? I don’t have anything against Alhaji Lamido but he has a case in court. It has been alleged that he squandered money, he and his son. I am sorry; I want to continue to go with Atiku Abubakar. How do you intend to sell Atiku Abubakar most especially to the south south, south east and the north central, because when you look at the North they have APC on ground? How do you intend to convince the south west people with the issue of Atiku /Obasanjo on ground? When you have a good product, you don’t need to hype it or do advertisement. Atiku is the most sellable candidate. The politics of the southwest is very dynamic. You have a lot of people who are exposed, because the usage of the internet is much here than any other part of the country. Do not forget that Atiku Abubakar is one of the people that made APC stand on its feet and when he left the APC you will see a downward trend because the pillar that held them just left. So selling Atiku is not a problem at all, you don’t go through so much trouble to market a sellable product. Atiku is the largest employment of labour, his company employs over 50,000 people, and he is a lover of youth. In all his organisations youths are his departmental heads. He is very detribalised, he has a wife from the southwest, he has a wife from the south east. He believes in the girl child, and giving hope to the women. Above all he believes in restructuring and deepening of democracy. I am a woman of possibility -I don’t want to think that he will not get the ticket. I want you to know that even if the party begins to play games Atiku would run on any other platform. •Fatima Mohammed
SATURDAY Vanguard, MARCH 3, 2018—37 Popular public affairs commentator and veteran journalist Jimi Disu bared his heart to the Akinwunmi Ambodeled Lagos State Government in the popular Front Page Comment, a morning newspaper review programme on Classic FM. Disu was analysing a news story in the dailies about the increase in Land Use charges in Lagos. This was the major issue Disu and Bukola analysed on the day. Many Lagos residents reacted and today we published some of their reaction to the usual insightful analysis of Disu. The headline of the story in the Punch Newspaper read this: Lagos State government commends residents for paying land use tax. According to the Punch, the Lagos government on Wednesday applauded property owners and occupiers in the state for trooping into designated banks in fulfilment of their civic duties. The turn-out followed the launching of the payment platform by the state governor, Akinwunmi Ambode. Part of the story reads that a renowned comedian and resident of the state, Mr. Gbenga Adeyinka who paid his land use tax on Tuesday said massive payment of the levy would enable government to embark on more infrastructural projects for better living conditions. Disu made the following comments in his analysis: “I will like to plead with the Lagos State government officials to always try and do the right thing or ask for advice when issues like these come up. The Lagos state government introduced a new system of paying for land use and that has been virtually condemned by almost everybody in the state in the sense that the new rates are more than punitive. For example, someone called in to say he used to pay N58,000 before, but now has a bill of more than N400,000. In any business transaction, an increment of about N400,000 to N500,000 is completely unacceptable. If you’re paying a rent of N100,000 per annum, your landlord cannot increase the rent to N500,000 per annum. The Lagos Chamber of Commerce issued a statement that they are even going to court. Most people see these new charges as punitive and that is very clear. Now the usual manner in which government officials react to this is, they see it as a challenge. Rather than take a second look and say to themselves ‘How best can we handle this situation so that it’s a win-win situation for everybody?’ The same headline in all the papers tells me that it is a planted story and I’m surprised they fell for this because it is the same photograph of Gbenga Adeyinka you have across all the newspapers, so he’s being used.... And the issue is beyond that. What you have is that in most cases, people are not even in a position to pay and it’s going to reflect on rents. What is typical in Nigeria is that everybody wants to defend the boss. ‘Since the governor has put this in place, it will be bad for him to retrace his steps’... I think the governor who luckily is an accountant, should take a second look at these land use charges. They are punitive. You’re going to have a lot of defaults therein, no doubt. Most of the houses where he wants to get the highest charges from are empty – go to Ikoyi, VGC, all these houses are empty. You have a crisis on your hands and you need all the ingenuity under the sun to resolve that •Houses in Lagos New Lagos State Land Use Charges: Jimi Disu appeals to Ambode, residents react crisis. You cannot be hard on your citizens. If you have very good consumer protection laws, for example, a landlord cannot just increase his rent from N58,000 to N400,000. So why should the government be seen as doing this? I buy their argument, but you must find a way to make life bearable and tolerable for citizens. And the typical thing is officials will always be thinking about the governor “We cannot afford to embarrass the governor in this instance” . And so what do they do? They go on publicity. The publicity is not going to bring out any money I don’t have from my pocket. That is the reality. Am I going to get a bank loan because I want to pay for land use charge? Definitely not! The approach is wrong and I’m sorry I have to do this again and again and again. If Gbenga Adeyinka has paid his land use charge, what has that got to do with me? Is Gbenga Adeyinka going to put money in my pocket? The whole attitude is completely wrong. Luckily the governor is an accountant. He needs to sit and take charge of this process •Ambode because the truth of the matter is, if you spend more of government money on publicity and getting people to endorse what you’re doing, it’s not going to put money in the pockets of the landowners. For the Chamber of Commerce to have gotten up within a week to make a definite statement, that they were even ready to go to court to get to the bottom of all these should give the governor some concern. So my message this morning to His Excellency is that, please take control of this process. Luckily, as God would have it, you’re an accountant. Bring people from the private sector – consultants... and see how you can make this more realistic for people to adhere to or else, I can assure you what they are going to have is a lot of default. I also think that generally Lagos state has to be a bit careful, there are a few things happening that are making life more difficult for Nigerians. I think we need to get our priorities right in this state. Reactions.... Sylvester Steve Obiakor sends a message which says “Is there no legislation controlling these government charges and fees or the government is just arbitrarily increasing charges?” Jimi Disu: To be fair to the government, it’s not as arbitrary as you might think, but the bottom line is, that is the responsibility of the government – To make life bearable for its citizens. The government must do something. Laws are made for men, men are not made for laws. It is the system that was put in place that brought about that. It’s a bit technical, I don’t want to go into that. But it’s not as if the government just decided to... Where I’m going is, first of all, you need to explain it to the people. But most importantly, if that system is not working, choke it! It’s going to break the backs of a lot of our citizens and I don’t think the government will want to inflict pain on the citizens, because we have enough pain around us. I also want to plead with the handlers of the governor to be a bit more creative in some of the things they do. That a comedian has paid his land use charge is neither here nor there. •Disu Akugbe Daniel says “So they used a comedian as their posterboy... Jimi Disu: While we are at it, I think the press need to be very careful about their relationship with politicians. We need to be extra careful, even if we have them as friends and whatever... The press should not be against the government, we should work hand in hand, but part of our job is to tell these people some home truths. Remember that the intents of the politicians might not necessarily align with yours, so you have to be very careful. I don’t mean that you should be antagonistic at all times. The same story and photograph is in about three to four papers... Is there also a pun in using a comedian? Another person says “What is the penalty for not paying the land use charge because I can tell you categorically that most people won’t pay?” Jimi Disu: It’s not that they won’t pay, but it’s that that they won’t be in a position to pay. The truth of the matter is most people may not have the capacity to pay. Radioman says ‘The challenge with the government today in Lagos is the fact that they think Lagos state is their birthright. They need another party to give them a good run for their money. Loius says “Governor Ambode is taking Lagosians for granted with some of his policies” Jimi Disu: That’s why I say to people “Know the honourable in your neighbourhood”. He’s there to protect your interest, that’s what you voted him in for. Michael says “It has become the norm for Lagos state government to use celebrities in endorsing some distasteful policies” Jimi Disu: I don’t think I will go as far as call it a distasteful policy because the truth is you must pay land use charge. But I think that the government must also protect its citizens and as for using comedians I don’t see anything wrong with that.