Thursday, 31 May 2012


By 'Kuti Sofumade
   "University of Lagos (UNILAG)?! What's in a name really? I think its rather depressing to see how young people have grown so accustomed to labeling their Commander-in-Chief all sorts of absurd monikers at the slightest opportunity. 'Great men are detected in their words first of all'!

In 1992, I set my foot as a ruck-sack hugging new student on the architectural wizardry that is Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) when it was categorized as the 4th most expensive real estate in the world. After I encountered that listing around October of that year in an Architecture bulletin that compared properties ranging from stadia, universities, palaces, cathedrals, seats of government etc...I went on to discover that what was OAU then was actually the first step in a 7-phase colossal developmental project...that school for goodness sake was designed to have its own aerodrome at some point, in the later phases.

Instead of feeling bad that University of Ife (UNIFE) was re-christened OAU, I thought with hindsight, it would be better as concerned alumni to accomplish one or two of the remaining phases.

On an edition of Oprah Winfery Show, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg gave a USD100mn gift for community and educational development in a neighbourhood of his interest. That, from someone that couldn't even claim Harvard as alma mater...or do you drop out of an Alma mater???

If so many current and ex-students were as a matter of duty engrossed about taking their alma mater to the next growth level...names and semantics would be a no-brainer!

I don't agree with having an umbilical attachment to an alma mater in sound, cult and 'length' of name only...I thought we should have recorded demonstrations by UNILAG Alumni in time past where they would hold the Lagos metropolis to ransom demanding that the FG should allow them invest their last naira on transforming the great institution into a mercurial academic Mecca of some sort.

Not all those camcorder seeking poses and gestures...the wine goblets clanking, high decibel speeches and reminisces...gaily assembled repertoire of activities...tables and chairs procurement and unnecessary self-serving awards that have come to colour annually congregated 'owambes' called Alumni meetings.

We are meant to improve the 'life' of our schools as current students and alumni...not hold on to some names in a cult like manner. This does not expressly adjudge the re-christening of UNILAG as Moshood Abiola University expedient...but its not erroneous either...or a treasonable offence or some travesty as its being treated in some quarters of the media.

The culprit here is perception...many people that attended UNIFE before the OAU name-change still cling to the UNIFE name in the inner chambers of their beings...what does that produce? What does it achieve? What does it build? Perceptions of this scale have even failed to 'build castles in the air' to say the least.

UNILAG for whatever it stood for and would continue to stand for has not got much to do with the name...let's cut ourselves loose from barbarism, sentiment, denial and myopia.

Did you see those placards being brandished by the great Akokites? I felt the bad spellings were too much...or were they St. Finbarr's students sympathising with their 'Ivy league' neighbours?

And that argument about stationery, domain name change and all other expensive alterations? Is UNILAG not a Federal university anymore? I thought the DJ would normally set the tunes for the gig usually...stop kidding, ARE ONA KAKANFO joor"~Kutero, NEW TUNES!

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Democracy Day: Critical Reflections by Nigerian Youths

Democracy Day: Critical Reflections by Nigerian Youths
Today, Tuesday, May 29, 2012 is DEMOCRACY DAY and a public holiday in Nigeria!  An early morning national broadcast by Nigeria’s President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (GEJ) highlighted the progress and results his administration has achieved in different sectors within the last twelve months.  
The highpoint of the address is the detailed listing of specific milestones across sectors: education, health, agriculture, road construction, job creation, foreign policy and so forth. Electoral reforms got the greatest attention in the entire broadcast, showing how the current administration has gone “to great lengths to strengthen our democratic institutions, particularly the Independent National Electoral Commission”.  Noting that the successful elections, last year, opened new vistas for Nigeria’s foreign policy more than ever before, GEJ reiterated that Nigeria’s achievements have generated a lot of international goodwill and recognition.
Nigeria’s mounting insecurity challenges got some light mention, with emphasis placed on the action taken to “investigate the causes and nature of 2011 electoral violence”. No allusion or reference was made to the Boko Haram insurgency and incessant bomb explosions that have resulted in massive civilian fatalities, job losses, displacement and economic downturn in northern Nigeria.
Through the broadcast, Nigerian youths also learned about the steps forward made with regard to the Youth Enterprise with Innovation in Nigeria Programme,(YOUWIN) designed to encourage entrepreneurship and provide grants for small and medium scale enterprises. Over 1, 200 Nigerian youths have benefitted from this initiative. To scale up that initiative, the government has also launched the Public Works Women and Youth Empowerment Programme, which is designed to employ 370, 000 youths per annum, with 30% of the jobs specially reserved for women.

How did Nigerians react to the national broadcast? Has GEJ as he is popularly called, fulfilled his election promises made prior to the 2011 presidential elections? Are there flashes of progress that inspire an optimistic view of the remainder of his tenure as Nigeria’s president?
SPACES FOR CHANGE presents the unedited reactions of Nigerian youth  from different ethnic groups and social backgrounds, as they express themselves in a no holds barred manner:
 The benchmarks for measuring how democratic a country is include, in the main, strong, independent, effective and efficient institutions (including the judiciary, legislature, police etc); open and transparent social space; probity and accountability, popular participation, respect for human rights and rule of law,as all of which confer legitimacy on the government. As we celebrate 'Democracy Day' today, let us look at these indices to determine if we are, indeed, in a democracy or just on a journey to democracy. – Okechukwu Nwanguma
  Nigeria now produces power at her highest level EVER at almost 4.500 MWs and with the completion of four turbines within the Papalanto-Sapele Power plant axis, this figure is set to increase by year's end.

And they were not even ashamed to pen this? This is the amount Dubai uses to power its airport?! Whatever happened in the last 12 years with PDP at the helm all the way?? – Ndubuisi Victor Ogwuda
It is thirteen years today since our famed return to democracy. Certainly, it has meant blessings for some, but to many, a curse. It has been years of anomie, of failed promises, of dashed hopes and of missed opportunities. It has been years of blood and regrets, of massive destruction and minimal improvement. Religiously, we have seen more churches and less Christians; more mosques and more terrorists. It has been years of flagrant looting and increased poverty. We have grown to a stage where more than 60% of Nigerians live on less than 1$ a day, while the leaders live like medieval kings – with enough to eat and waste. Politically, we have been so divided as never before, by our politicians. Thus, the same people who fought 'away' IBB and Abacha, can no longer agree on anything, including fighting the flagrant rape by their successors. We are daily been divided by tribe, religion etc: and we cannot fight the rot overtaking us.
Violence has long been enthroned and defended; while dialogue has taken a new toga, becoming a tool for empowering state known criminals. Corruption has been canonized that an individual could steal money enough for a country’s two year budget; and worse, there are many such individuals parading as leaders. The standard of our educations keeps declining, even as the cost of educating keeps skyrocketing: leaving most graduates unemployable, while making it difficult for the poor to be educated. Private universities mushroom, championed by religious men and women, while its extortionate fees show there is nothing religious about them. It has been thirteen years of pains and pangs, of blood and broodings, initiated by our politicians, spearheaded by the PDP and not unsupported by the political parties; against the country, against her people.
And so, let us not celebrate just the President’s one year of transformation - whatever that means - but our failed leaders at all levels - Federal, State,LG, family and individual levels- in this thirteen years: years eaten indeed 'by the locust'. In all these though, let us NEVER lose hope, Nigeria go survive!       -    Chukwudumebi Nobert

1999-2012: Thirteen tragic years of unrestrained looting and abuse of power. Thirteen years of Chop-I-Chop politics, proudly powered by the Peoples Demonic Party,PDP. From Mr Do Or Die to Mr Go Slow, and now to Mr No Shoe. Thirteen wasted years of under-development and insecurity. Fellow Nigerians, welcome to National Lootocracy Day! A Celebration Of Looting!  - Chris Nwokocha
To continue to allude to a "rising" foreign reserve of 37.02 Billion Dollars, is not the progress Nigerians are yearning for.  - Mamefe David Wanogho
AM I STILL IN NIGERIA? 9 New federal universities have been built since last year and i never knew. Mr president would have helped me by mentioning their names and the states. Four new International airport have been built since last year, in Lagos, Abuja and two other states. I stay in Lagos and i use use Abuja and lagos airport frequently but the only airport in know till Saturday last week was MM1,MM2 in Lagos and the Only existing international wing in Abuja with the Local wing which is being reconstructed. Everybody in Nigerian now buys local , cook local and eat locally made cassava bread and Abakiliki rice except me. Please how does it taste Nigerians? Nigeria has started assembling locomotives in every state, yet I have not used the train one day in Nigeria. Youth unemployment has been reduced by about 38% yet I have never been employed by anyone.  – Jasper Azuatalam
Patrick Obahiagbon wrote: A celebration of democracy or a deprecable apotheosis of an hemorrhaging plutocracy,cascading into a mobocracy with all the ossifying proclivities of a kakistocracy?With our"democracy"enveloped in a paraplegic crinkum-crankum ,we must all rise up to bring to focal hiceps and biceps, Nigerias"Pluto-mobo-kak istocracy"....Certainly not democracy.
Mohammed HusainDemocracy day, but the custodians of democracy are locked up in their palatial mansions, after cancelling the formal parade, out of fear for their personal safety despite budgetting a trillion for defence.  -    Mohammed Husain
Fellow Compatriots,i join you in the celebration of 13years of civil governance in the country as we are yet to witness Civil Democratic Governance. However i am very optimistic that very soon we shall get there & it shall remain permanent. Once again,i say happy Civil Governance in Nigeria.  -   Gideon Musa Gajere
 "After thirteen (13) years of our democratic governance, there is still no way forward. The speed of our nation towards backwardness is highly dissapointing. The government in power is short of positive initiatives and reasonable ideas to move this coutry forward.

Right from day 1, the present administration hasn’t been enjoying peoples' confidence. The rate of corruption increases on daily basis and the government is watching. The EFCC does not have the power to prosecute the corrupt public officers without the approval of Mr. President. The state governors have converted local governments and state Houses of Assembly to an extension of their bedrooms, controlling them with their funds in an unhealthy manner.

We lack good roads, basic health care, portable water, employment opprtunities, food security and power. The present administration has failed woefully on their responsility to protect the lives and properties of Nigeria. Our stock market and the entire economy is less viable. Our education system is nothing to write home about.

Come June 1, the National Electricity Regulatory Commission would begin to implement the newly increased rate of power, thereby causing more hardship to Nigerians. This I guess is President Jonathan's Democrazy Day gift to all Nigerians. Apart from the continous existence of Nigeria as one and payment of salaries to public servants, this government has nothing to mark or celebrate today except failure in all aspect of human endearvor. Is this how we would be for more 3 years to come? We really need urgent divine intervention".  -  Abdullahi Abdullateef As-sudaisiy
  Today is Democracy Day not "Goodluck Jonathan Day" and not "PDP Day;" and there are more than 10,000 Elected Representatives in this country today that were chosen from different Political Platforms; so Nigerians should challenge each one of them on what have been doing to enhance this Democracy. Nigerians should also remember how many lives and years we lost while seeking this Democracy, let us not end it ourselves by our utterances and actions that seem to portray each of us as "Enemies of the State" but continue to seek all legitimate and responsible ways to develop it - Favour Babatope Afolabi


Fellow Nigerians, 

1.   One year ago, I was privileged to stand before you, to take the oath of office as President of our dear country, the third to serve you as President since the return to democratic rule in 1999. 
Today, I remember that day and the processes leading to it with profound gratitude to God Almighty and to all Nigerians who have worked very hard to enrich our journey from military dictatorship to inclusive democratic governance. 

2.   For the past 13 years, we have remained a stable democracy. We have together demonstrated that the government of the people is an ideal that the people of Nigeria cherish. We have our differences as individuals and as politicians, but we have shown great faith in democracy and its institutions. We have refused to be limited by our differences. Despite reservations about some of our institutions, we have refused to submit to despair. This achievement is a testament to the courage and optimism of the Nigerian people. 

3.   As we celebrate this year’s Democracy Day, I pay tribute to all the men and women who have made our democratic experience meaningful: the ordinary people who resisted military rule, and have remained resolute in their embrace of democracy; the army of Nigerian voters who, at every election season, troop out in large numbers to exercise their right of franchise; the change agents in civil society who have remained ever watchful and vigilant.  

4.   I pay special tribute also to all patriots who are the pillars of our collective journey, most especially, our armed forces who have steadfastly subordinated themselves to civil authority in the past 13 years. They have continued to demonstrate a great sense of professionalism. They have discharged their duties to the nation with honour and valour.  In a sub-region that has witnessed instances of political instability, authored by restless soldiers, the Nigerian Armed Forces have remained professional in their support of democracy. 

5.   When General Abdusalami Abubakar handed over the baton of authority to President Olusegun Obasanjo, in 1999, it was a turning point for Nigeria. We did not arrive at that turning point by accident. Many Nigerians laid down their lives for the transition to democracy to occur.  Some were jailed. Media houses were attacked and shut down. But the people’s resolve was firm and unshakeable.  This is what we remember. This is what we celebrate. On this day, I recall especially the martyrdom of Chief M. K. O.  Abiola, whose presumed victory in the 1993 Presidential election, and death, while in custody, proved to be the catalyst for the people’s pro-democracy uprising. The greatest tribute that we can pay to him, and other departed heroes of Nigeria’s democracy, is to ensure that we continue to sustain and consolidate our democratic institutions and processes, and keep Hope alive. 

6.   Let us individually and collectively, continue to keep the spirit of this day alive. No task is more important. We must continue to do well as a people and as a democracy. We must remember where we are coming from, so we can appreciate how far we have travelled. 

7.   When I assumed office as Acting President, in 2010, on account of the health challenges suffered by late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, there was so much anxiety in the land. The tone of public debate was febrile. Some persons sought to use the situation in the country to sow the seeds of discord. My primary task at that time was to do all that was humanly possible to ensure stability within the polity. With the support and commitment of patriotic Nigerians from all walks of life, and the grace of the Almighty God, we were able to do so. 

8.   On May 6, 2010, following President Yar’Adua’s death, I assumed office as substantive President. I subsequently presented myself as a candidate for the 2011 Presidential elections, with a promise that under my watch, the elections would be free, fair and credible. We kept faith with that promise. On May 29, 2011, I was sworn in as President, the fifth elected leader of Nigeria since independence. The success of the 2011 elections and the international acclaim that it generated was due to your patriotic zeal and commitment. I will like to seize this opportunity to thank all patriotic Nigerians who stood by us, and have remained unwavering in their support. These Nigerians understand one thing: that we all have a duty to protect and promote our country, and that this country belongs to all of us. Electoral contest is about values. We must not lose sight of those values that strengthen us as a people. As long as I am President, I will do my utmost to continue to work hard in pursuit of the common good. 

9.   There are challenges, yes, but we are working hard to address those challenges. And, by God’s grace, we will succeed. My confidence is bolstered by the results which we have achieved in different sectors within the last twelve months. 

10.                Our democracy is stable. Its foundation is strong and firm. Its future is bright. Last year, I had spoken about the policy of “one man one vote, one woman, one vote, one youth, one vote”. I am glad to see that the Nigerian people in all elections have continued to respect the principle of fair play.  Since this administration came into office, we have gone to great lengths to strengthen our democratic institutions, particularly the Independent National Electoral Commission.  There are still persons who believe that elections should be violent and unhealthy, but they are in the minority. They will not derail our democracy because the majority of Nigerians will not allow them to do so.  

11.                Following the spate of violence, in some parts of the country, after the 2011 elections, our administration set up a committee on post-election violence to among other things, investigate the causes and nature of electoral violence and make appropriate recommendations. We will be guided by the White Paper, on that committee’s report,  in dealing more firmly with electoral violence and fraud. This will include the establishment of Electoral Offences Tribunals to deal speedily with established cases of electoral violence. We cannot afford to treat the success we have recorded with our democratic experience with levity. Electoral reform is central to our administration’s transformation agenda. I urge all political parties to embrace this reform.

12.                Our successful elections, last year, opened new vistas for Nigeria’s foreign policy. More than ever before, Nigeria’s achievements have generated a lot of international goodwill and recognition. We have continued to build on this by further showing leadership in the sub-region and the African continent. Under my watch as Chairman of the sub-regional body, ECOWAS, and subsequently, Nigeria was in the forefront of the efforts to ensure democratic stability in Niger, Mali, Guinea Bissau, and particularly at a critical moment in Cote d’Ivoire. Our foreign policy process has proven to be dynamic and pro-active. Nigeria’s place is secure among many friends in the comity of nations. We are building on that friendship to open up opportunities for foreign investments in the Nigerian economy and to provide necessary support for the vibrant community of Nigerians in the Diaspora. 

13.                We will continue to work hard, to turn domestic successes into a source of motivation for greater achievements in the international arena. We are fully aware that it is only when our people are happy and confident that they would be in a good position to walk tall in relating with others. 

14.                Today, I want to talk about what we are doing and what we have done. I want to reassure you that we are making progress. But we can also do a lot more. We must. And we will. 

15.                Our economic outlook is positive. When I assumed office last year, there were still fears about the impact of the global economic recession, and implications for investments. Many Nigerians were worried about the growing rate of unemployment.  In order to set Nigeria on a sound and sustainable path toward economic growth, this administration unveiled a set of priority policies, programmes, and projects encapsulated in the Transformation Agenda.  These programmes and policies are aimed at consolidating our budget, fostering job creation, engendering private sector-led inclusive growth, and creating an enabling environment for businesses to thrive for the ultimate betterment of the lives of Nigerians. 

16.                Today, progress has been made. The country’s credit rating is positive, in contrast with many nations being downgraded.  In 2011, our economy grew by 7.45%. As at mid-May 2012, our foreign exchange reserves had risen to $37.02 billion, the highest level in 21 months. We have stabilized and improved our fiscal regime. We brought the fiscal deficit down to 2. 85% of GDP from 2.9% in 2011. We reduced recurrent expenditures from 74% to 71% and reduced domestic borrowing from N852 billion in 2011 to N744 billion in 2012. We cut out over N100 billion of non-essential expenditure and increased our internally generated revenue from N200 billion to N467 billion.  

17.                For the first time in over a decade, we now have a draft Trade Policy which provides a multi-dimensional framework to boost our trade regime and facilitate the inflow of investments. We have generated over N6. 6 trillion worth of investment commitments. The total value of our trade is also much higher than the value estimated the previous year due to deliberate government policies. To facilitate the ease of doing business in Nigeria, we have a policy in place to make visa procurement easier for foreign investors, with safeguards to prevent abuse.  

18.                   The goal of our administration is to ensure that every Nigerian can find gainful employment. Given my dissatisfaction with the prevailing unemployment situation in the country, our administration has embarked on an ambitious strategy of creating jobs and job-creators through the launch of several initiatives mainly targeted at the youths and women. 

19.                 In October 2011, we launched the Youth Enterprise with Innovation in Nigeria Programme, designed to encourage entrepreneurship and provide grants for small and medium scale enterprises. Over 1, 200 Nigerian youths have benefitted from this initiative. We have also launched the Public Works Women and Youth Empowerment Programme, which is designed to employ 370, 000 youths per annum, with 30% of the jobs specially reserved for women. Let me make it clear here that our YouWIN programme is designed to nurture and mentor young entrepreneurs to become major players, employers and wealth creators in business. 

20.                We are gradually reducing the footprints of government in business activities through privatization, liberalization and deregulation based on our recognition that the private sector should be the engine of growth in our economy. To ensure that the private sector is well positioned for this task, our administration has embarked on key structural reforms in the Power Sector and at the Ports. 

21.                To improve reliable power supply, our administration is judiciously implementing the Power Sector Roadmap, which is at an advanced stage, to fully privatize power generation and distribution while reducing the cost of electricity to rural households and the urban poor.

22.                The commitment of this Administration to the provision of regular and uninterrupted power supply remains strong and unwavering.  We all agree that adequate and regular power supply will be the significant trigger to enhance this nation’s productive capacity and accelerate growth.  It is for this reason that I remain optimistic that the reforms we have initiated, the decisions we have taken so far and the plans we intend to faithfully prosecute will yield the desired results. 

23.                To underline this commitment, three weeks ago, I convened a special session on Power and gave specific instructions on the fast tracking of gas production and delivery to ensure improved availability of power.   I also directed that the power sector reforms must continue on schedule and that privatization of the sector must be completed according to plan.

24.                Our approach is two-pronged:  First, is the immediate repair of power plants, as well as transmission and distribution infrastructure in the short term.  The second is the building of institutions and the provision of enablers to attract investors. We have revived and are accelerating the completion of the National Integrated Power Projects. We are also building about 4000km of transmission lines and hundreds of substations. We have completed the design for the construction of both Mambilla and Zungeru Hydro power plants which will add about 3, 000 MW to the national grid. 

25.                By mid 2010, the national power output was about 2, 800 MW. By the end of 2011, we reached a peak of more than 4, 000 MW. A National Gas Emergency Plan has also been launched to redress the problem of gas supply which arose essentially due to poor planning. 

26.                  For long-term power availability, we have strengthened a number of key institutions such as the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, the Bulk Trader, the National Power Training Institute of Nigeria, and others.  We are also working with the World Bank to provide guarantees for gas and power providers.  The signing of MOUs with World Leaders in power equipment – General Electric of USA and Siemens of Germany as well as US  and China Exim Banks for financial investment, is a clear indication of the level of confidence which the world investment community has in our power sector road map.  

27.                In addition, the privatisation programme has attracted expression of interest from 131 companies across the globe.  Our decision to bring in the private sector is clearly intended to achieve our target of generating and distributing sufficient and reliable power within the shortest time possible.  With the measures we have put in place, we will surely achieve success in transforming the power sector. 

28.                We have also focused our efforts on Ports and Customs reforms to ensure efficiency in the handling of ports and port-related businesses. Our administration has streamlined bureaucratic activities at the Ports by reducing the number of agencies from 14 to 7. We have also reduced the time for the clearance of goods from about a month, to seven days, with the long-term objective of ensuring that cargoes are cleared within 48 hours in line with international best practice. In the meantime, our ports, for the first time, now open for business for 24 hours. 

29.                In the Oil and Gas Sector, our Administration has charted a new course that will ensure enduring transparency and accountability. We are re-drafting the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) to ensure it meets the aspirations of all Stakeholders given the current realities and future expectations in the global energy landscape. Work on the PIB will be concluded in June 2012 and formally submitted to the National Assembly. Additionally, Special Task Forces dealing with Governance and Control, Petroleum Revenue and National refineries are finalizing their work to ensure probity across the oil and gas sector, and self-sufficiency in refined petroleum products.   

30.                In the Downstream Sector, the Nigerian Content Development Act, since inception in 2010, has boosted the local production of line pipes, in-country fabrication tonnage and engineering support services. As a result, retained in-country spend has grown from approximately US $1bn to a current estimate of US$4bn, and over US$3 billion Foreign Direct Investment has been brought in for upgrading and building new yards, altogether generating over 120,000 direct and indirect jobs.

31.                Capacity utilization of existing domestic refineries has greatly improved from 30 to 60 percent. We have commenced the phased plan to return the refineries to 90 percent capacity utilization with the expected completion of the rehabilitation of Port Harcourt refinery by the end of 2012, to be followed by Warri and Kaduna refineries in 2013. 

32.                In the Upstream Sector, the April 2012 commissioning of the Usan Deep Offshore Field has increased crude oil production capacity by 180 thousand barrels per day. Also, Government continues to support the National Oil Company, NPDC, by assigning 55% equity in 8 divested blocks which has resulted in increase in reserves from 350 million barrels to 2.1 billion barrels and 160, 000 barrels of production. We have also made significant progress in gas infrastructure development, investing close to US$1bn for the construction of some 1000 km of pipelines, gas supply growth and stimulation of gas industrialization.  Between now and the third quarter of 2013, Final Investment Decisions (FIDs) will be made on  gas-based industries, such as the petrochemicals and fertilizer plants at Koko, the Central Processing Units (CPF) in Obiafu/Obrikom, and the gas growth projects. Also, the sum of N11 billion is provided in the 2012 Budget for Hydro-Carbon exploration in the Lake Chad Basin.

33.                The Gas Revolution initiative will fully support and sustain domestic power, whilst creating Africa’s largest gas based industrial park, which on completion will underpin the creation of over a million jobs and attract over US$16 billion in Foreign Direct Investment.  To protect the gains of these initiatives for all Nigerians, we are aggressively addressing the increasing incidents of crude oil theft and other criminal activities in the sector.

34.                As a deliberate move, our goal is to transform Nigeria from a mono-modal economy, to a diversified one. The sector that we are focusing on to diversify our economy – and one in which Nigeria has huge comparative advantage - is the agriculture sector. Agriculture accounts for about 40% of our GDP and over 70% of all employment. Increases in agricultural productivity will drive down rural poverty and revive our rural economy. 

35.                In this regard, we are aggressively pursuing an agricultural transformation agenda. Agriculture is no longer a development programme. We are now treating agriculture as a business, one that can generate wealth and create jobs for millions of our youths. 

36.                We have implemented major reforms in the sector, notably in the fertilizer sub-sector. We have ended the practice of Federal Government procurement and distribution of fertilizers. This we did because only 11% of farmers get the fertilizers that are bought and distributed by government. The old system encouraged rent seekers to collude and deprive farmers of access to fertilizers, while some of the fertilizers ended up with political farmers and in neighbouring countries. 

37.                Now, the procurement and commercialization of fertilizers and seeds have been fully deregulated to the private sector.  We have ended the culture of corruption in fertilizer procurement.  We must also end the era of food imports. Nigeria spends over 10 billion dollars every year importing wheat, rice, sugar and fish alone. This is unacceptable. 

38.                Our agricultural transformation agenda is directed at promoting local production, substituting for imported foods, and adding value to our locally produced crops. We are recording successes already. Government’s policy to ensure rice self-sufficiency by 2015 is already paying off. New rice mills are being established by the private sector to mill locally produced rice. Ebony Agro Industries located in Ikwo Local Government Area of Ebonyi State has rolled out its high quality parboiled rice. In Kano, Umza rice mill has taken off and can hardly meet demand, while in Benue State Ashi rice has hit the market. Consumers are buying more of Abakaliki and Ofada rice too. 

39.                To further accelerate the local production and milling of high quality rice, government is facilitating the import and installation of 100 new large scale integrated rice mills across the country. This will allow Nigeria, for the first time in its history, to have the capacity to mill all of the rice that we consume.

40.                Our cassava policy is working, as we accelerate the pace of utilization of cassava to create markets for millions of our farmers. Our goal is a bold one: we will make Nigeria, which is the largest producer of cassava in the world, to also become the largest processor of high value cassava products in the world. 

41.                To further encourage cassava utilization and value-added products, government will support corporate bakers and master bakers across the country to use high quality cassava flour for baking. Last year I announced an increase in tariff and levy on wheat. To encourage the cassava flour inclusion policy, I now direct that part of the levy and tariff on wheat be set aside to support the promotion of high quality cassava flour and composite cassava bread. This will include support for needed enzymes, technical training and equipment for corporate bakers and master bakers, as well as accelerated cassava production.

42.                We have also secured markets for cassava outside Nigeria, and for the first time ever, Nigeria will export this year 1 million metric tons of dried cassava chips to China. This will earn Nigeria 136 million US dollars in foreign exchange. Last week we also successfully started the commercial use of feed grade cassava grits, produced locally, for use in our poultry industry.

43.                We are reviving our lost glory in cocoa, with massive distribution of 3.6 million pods of high-yielding cocoa varieties for farmers all across the cocoa growing states of the country. The pods will be provided free of charge. We are reviving cotton production in the North, as well. I have directed that all seeds for cotton should be provided, free of charge, to all cotton farmers. 

44.                Let me reiterate my personal passion and commitment to driving the agricultural transformation for Nigeria. The prosperity of Nigeria must start with improving the living standards of our farmers, and revitalizing rural economies across the nation. The newly inaugurated Agricultural Transformation Implementation Council, which I personally Chair, will further drive our continued revolution of the sector. Our goal is to add 20 million metric tons of food to our domestic food supply by 2015 and create 3.5 million jobs. To achieve this, the appropriate infrastructure to support all-year round farming through irrigation is being rehabilitated and developed across the country. 

45.                We must use our population to create markets for what we produce. We must grow local, buy local and eat local. To promote this, I have directed that all official functions of government serve local foods, especially our local rice and cassava bread and other foods. In the State House, I am faithfully keeping to my promise of eating cassava bread and local rice.

46.                Our administration is committed to the rapid and beneficial development of our country’s Minerals and metals potential.  In the last year, we recorded remarkable achievements in Mines and Steel Development. We increased the number of investors in the mining sector due to the transparent manner in which titles are now issued on a “first come-first served and use it or lose it basis.” A total of 2,476 active mineral titles were issued compared to 666 titles issued out in the previous year, thereby reducing, significantly, illegal mining activities. About 350, 000 additional jobs were created, arising from the activities of newly registered operators. We have initiated a programme to support private steel production outfits. This has resulted in an increase in production figures for steel and other metals to over 1 million tonnes. 

47.                It is our collective desire as Nigerians to improve the standard of education. We are particularly aggressive in addressing this challenge. As a former school teacher, I know that it is not enough to create jobs; we must develop human capacity, and train a generation of Nigerian children with better competencies and skills. This will grant them the edge that they require to compete in a skills-driven global economy, and by extension, strengthen our national competitiveness index.

48.                I want every Nigerian child to have an opportunity to receive quality education and acquire useful skills. We are reforming the education sector from basic to tertiary level. The Federal Government recently launched the Almajiri Education Programme to reduce the number of out-of-school children which currently stands at about 9 million. Similar programmes will soon be introduced in various parts of the country. At the tertiary level, it is the policy of this administration that every State will have a Federal University. 

49.                To this end, we have established within the last year, nine (9) new Federal Universities and licensed nine (9) new private universities, bringing the total number of universities in the country to 124. Even with this, there is still the challenge of getting adequate admission space for prospective undergraduates. While we are addressing this, the Federal Government is also conscious of the fact that our universities need to be better equipped, particularly with well trained teachers. Government is, therefore, working on a programme to provide scholarships for Nigerians who are interested in academics, to enable them obtain their Doctorate degrees within and outside the country. 

50.                 In addition, the Federal Government has launched a Special Presidential Scholarship Scheme for our best and brightest brains. We are selecting the best out of our First Class graduates in various disciplines, especially engineering and science. They will be sent for post-graduate studies in the best universities in the world, with the expectation that this will lay the foundation for a desirable scientific and technological revolution that will take Nigeria into Space in the not too distant future.  
51.                One of the first steps taken by this administration was the creation of a Ministry of Communications Technology. Its mandate includes the design of programmes and initiatives to deploy ICT as a driver of sustainable growth and the training of skilled manpower. For our country to remain relevant, we need to adequately educate our people, as it is through education that we can turn our people into assets that can help Nigeria compete globally, and create jobs in the new knowledge economy.   

52.                By the same token, the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs is providing training opportunities for the youths in the Niger Delta. In the past year, a total of 704 youths have been sent for training, abroad and locally, in various fields of endeavour, including agriculture, petroleum engineering, commerce, tourism, and maritime studies.  Nine skills centres are being built, one in each of the nine states of the Niger Delta; three of them will be completed this year. 

53.                An efficient and affordable public transport system remains a priority of this Administration. Our transformation agenda in the road sector which seeks to deliver better and safer roads to Nigerians, as well as to link the six geo-political zones in the country with dual carriageways, is very much on course. There has been increased construction activities in the ongoing dualisation of Abuja–Abaji–Lokoja Road, Kano–Potiskum–Maiduguri Road; the Benin–Ore–Shagamu Expressway; the Onitsha–Enugu Expressway; and the construction of the Loko–Oweto bridge, across River Benue. 

54.                Work has been slow on the East-West road due to budgetary constraints, but government will discharge all liabilities to contractors before the end of June, and funds for the remaining part of the year, will be provided to accelerate the pace of work. In other parts of the country, about 21 other road projects are in different stages of completion. These include the Yola–Numan road, Aba–Owerri road, Owerri–Onitsha expressway, Oyo–Ogbomosho old road, and the Gombe-Potiskum road. Many others are at different stages of completion. 

55.                Government is also currently rehabilitating about 3,000 kms out of the 3,505 km existing narrow gauge rail lines across the country. The Lagos-Kano corridor will be completed this year, while the Port Harcourt-Maiduguri corridor, which has equally commenced, will be completed by the end of 2013.  We have also commenced the construction of the Abuja–Kaduna segment of the Lagos–Kano standard gauge rail lines, while the Lagos–Ibadan segment will be awarded this year. The Itakpe–Ajaokuta–Warri standard gauge rail line is nearing completion with the entire tracks completely laid. 

56.                To enhance sustainability in the rail sector, this Administration has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with General Electric (GE) to establish a locomotive assembly plant in the country.  Our goal is to make Nigeria a major hub in West and Central Africa. 

57.                Within the last 12 months, we completed the capital dredging of the Lower River Niger from Warri (Delta State) to Baro (Niger State) to boost our inland water transportation. This year, work will commence on the dredging of the River Benue in addition to the construction of River Ports at Baro (Niger State), Oguta (Imo State), and Jamata/Lokoja, (Kogi State). The Onitsha River Port in Anambra State, equipped with modern cargo handling equipment, has been completed and I shall be commissioning the project in the next few weeks. 

58.                The Aviation sector remains pivotal to our economic growth. Within the last year, we have developed a road map for the restoration of decaying facilities and infrastructure, some of which had not been attended to since they were first constructed over 30 years ago. Currently, we are renovating airports across the country and have begun the development of four new international terminals at Lagos, Port Harcourt, Kano and Abuja.  We have also reviewed our Bilateral Air Service Agreements to ensure improved service delivery, and more customer-friendly processes. We are working to ensure that within the life of this Administration, the aviation sector in Nigeria will be transformed into a world class and self-sustaining provider of safe, secure and comfortable air transportation. 

59.                Globally, the role of women in governance has assumed great significance. In Nigeria, it is also widely acknowledged that women who constitute about half of the Nigerian population are great and invaluable assets, in both the public and private spheres.  On our part, we have demonstrated serious commitment in further empowering women and projecting their role in public life. Out of the 42 members of the Federal Executive Council, 13 are women, heading major Ministries of Government. 

60.                Last week, I appointed the first female Chairman of the Federal Civil Service Commission. In the Armed Forces, female cadets have been admitted into the prestigious Nigerian Defence Academy, an institution that was hitherto an exclusive preserve of men. The first set will graduate in 2016.  This year, we reached a significant milestone as the Nigerian Air Force produced the first Nigerian female combatant pilot. Our administration will continue to empower women and the girl-child as a focal point of our Transformation Agenda. 

61.                More than anything else, health matters.  We are upgrading the country’s tertiary health facilities to bring them up to international standards. We have increased funding for health-related MDGs. We are also committed to reducing maternal and infant mortality, and to eradicating polio completely by 2014. 

62.                I want to reassure all Nigerians that this administration remains committed to waging a sustained battle against the menace of corruption. In the last one year, we have taken specific steps to reduce opportunities and avenues for corruption, and to strengthen the capacity and integrity of our institutions.  For example, our ports reform programme has reduced the number of agencies at the ports which hitherto frustrated the speedy clearance of goods at the ports. We have also cleared the stretch of trailers and lorries blocking the Apapa Expressway. We have put an end to the fertilizer and tractor scam that once dominated the agricultural sector. Our review of the pension payment system has also blown the whistle on corrupt practices which are now being addressed. 

63.                Within the last one year, we set up a committee to identify leakages and waste in the Ministries, Departments and Agencies. I am confident that the implementation of the recommendations of that committee will help to eliminate corruption channels within the system, and improve the efficiency of the public service. In January, we announced a policy of deregulation in the downstream sector, but this was misunderstood by naysayers and reduced narrowly to a fuel subsidy removal initiative, whereas the policy was designed to completely eliminate the grand corruption in the downstream sector, and create the necessary incentives for private sector investment. 

64.                 We have strengthened the leadership of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC). Both agencies are being re-positioned for more effective service delivery. We will continue to strengthen the law enforcement and anti-corruption agencies for optimal performance.  We will also need the support of our courts. The courts have to do more. 

65.                Terrorism, a new menace, totally alien to our way of life and culture, has reared its head and is posing a serious challenge.  My thoughts and prayers go  to the victims of the terrorist attacks, and their families. 

66.                As President, it is my solemn duty to defend the Constitution of this country.  That includes the obligation to protect life and property. We are doing everything possible to check the menace of terrorism.  In this regard, we are determined to review some of the existing laws, to further strengthen the national counter-terrorism strategy. Coordinated joint action among our security agencies has now assumed greater importance.  We have developed a new security architecture to strengthen the security environment. 

67.                I wish to reassure every Nigerian that we will confront this threat against our collective peace and security, and bring the perpetrators to justice. We will confront the few misguided persons who falsely believe, that through violence, they can impose their agenda of hate and division on this nation of good people. We must confront all those who think they can derail us by engaging in indiscriminate violence and mass murder, perpetrated in places of worship, in markets and public places, against the media, and security personnel. Nigeria is a nation of resilient people. We will never yield to the forces of darkness. Nigeria will never, ever, disintegrate. 

68.                Let me end this address at the point where I began. What matters most to all of us, is Nigeria. It is what binds us together. We have a duty to be loyal to our country. If we believe this to be a sacred obligation, it will not matter whether we are Christians or Muslims, or politicians, irrespective of political parties or divide. It really will not matter whether we are civil society agents, social activists or union leaders.  What matters is Nigeria. This nation exists because we are one. We must, therefore, remain as one family, and work together to defend our country. 

69.                Within two years, it would be exactly 100 years since the Northern and Southern protectorates were amalgamated and Nigeria was born. We need a lot more introspection, even as we look forward. We must take steps to heal the wounds of the past and work together, as a people with a shared destiny under one flag. We must strengthen our collective memory, draw strength from our history, and build bridges of unity to take our country to greater heights. 

70.                 This is what we should do. And we must. As a starting point, we must draw strength from our history and work to ensure that the labour of our heroes past is not in vain. It is partly for this and other reasons, that I have directed, as part of the activities marking today’s Democracy Day, that all due processes should be initiated for the building of a Presidential Museum in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory. This Museum will document the lives and times of Nigeria’s Presidents and Heads of Government since 1960, and remind us, by extension, of the high points of our national history. 

71.                It is also in this regard that the Federal Government has decided that late Chief M.K.O. Abiola  be honoured, for making the ultimate sacrifice in the pursuit of justice and truth. Destiny and circumstances conspired to place upon his shoulders a historic burden, and he rose to the occasion with character and courage. He deserves recognition for his martyrdom, and public-spiritedness and for being the man of history that he was.  We need in our land, more men and women who will stand up to defend their beliefs, and whose example will further enrich our democracy. After very careful consideration, and in honour of Chief M.K.O. Abiola’s accomplishments and heroism, on this Democracy Day, the University of Lagos, is renamed by the Federal Government of Nigeria, Moshood Abiola University, Lagos. The Federal Government will also establish an Institute of Democratic Studies and Governance in the University. 
72.                 Thank you.
73.                 God bless you.
74.                God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria. 

Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, GCFR
President, Federal Republic of Nigeria   

Friday, 25 May 2012


SPACES FOR CHANGE’s executive director, Ms. Victoria Ibezim-Ohaeri delivered the lead paper at a workshop exposing the worsening climatic conditions and negative impacts of the World Bank-financed Chad-Cameroon Oil Pipeline and the West Africa Gas Pipelines (WAGP) projects. The workshop, organized by Friends of the Earth Nigeria, Togo, Ghana in partnership with Friends of the Earth International brought together Friends of the Earth’s senior legal officers and researchers from Togo, Ghana, Nigeria; representatives of project-affected communities from Togo, Ghana, and Nigeria; civil society leaders, concerned environmentalists and the media to explore strategies for assisting project-affected countries and communities to assert and defend their  economic, social and cultural rights.

Her paper, “Protecting Communities Affected by WB-financed Initiatives through Litigation” developed an advocacy and litigation strategy for engaging the World Bank and its investors whose handling of the project has caused arbitrary land takings, heritage losses, biodiversity, pollution, outbreak of communicable diseases,  high unemployment  rates, mass eviction, food insecurity, and loss of livelihoods. Litigation option is considered as a major response to the gross social and economic rights violations exposed in the Friends of the Earth International’s recent report, Broken Promises: Gender Impacts of the World Bank-Financed West-African and Chad-Cameroon Pipelines. Jointly owned by Exxon/Mobil, Petronas Malaysia and Chevron, the 6.7- billion-dollar, 650-mile pipeline, which carries crude from the oilfields of land-locked Chad to a shipping facility off Cameroon's coast, was made possible by World Bank loans amounting to 337.6 million dollars. 

 Extensive research shows how the projects have undermined the rights and livelihoods of entire communities, and placed disproportionate burden on women, young girls, children and the youth. The authors chided the Bank and its investors for “pandering to the patriarchal tendencies of certain communities where their projects – especially resource-extraction projects – are implemented”.


Outlining a variety of legal advocacy and litigation strategies that may be employed to demand corporate accountability and remedial action for the project-affected communities and countries, Ms. Ohaeri educated participants on the national, regional and international legal frameworks and foundations, including the specific provisions that govern such complex initiatives. She further explained how the accountability mechanisms, with emphasis on the African Human Rights Systems and institutional grievance platforms at the national, regional and international levels, especially the World Bank Independent Inspection Panel work. Participants learned about the procedures for engaging those mechanisms, the respective roles of stakeholders and the necessary steps for the launch of an effective litigation campaign: beginning from the identification and selection of plaintiffs, the framing of the issues using the human rights paradigm; the selection of forum; compilation of legal evidence, seeking technical and research support and amicus curiae interventions, including the effective use of friendly settlement procedures. 

From that discussion about applicable standards, mechanisms, and procedures, she highlighted the different challenges that both communities and their legal representative may face in a high-profile litigation of this nature, using her experiences gained from nearly a decade of direct involvement and engagement in several complex development initiatives involving oil multinationals, Chinese Consortiums, state and federal governments in Nigeria and Africa. 

As part of its broader efforts to build support for human rights-centered responses to the prevalence of development-based displacements and the accompanying social and economic rights deprivations, SPACES FOR CHANGE will continue to interrogate the rhetoric and empty promises such as “employment generation, infrastructural development and fair compensation” of multi-billion dollar investments in Africa, which the WAGP project represents.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012



By John Ogunlela

I reacted almost like everyone else when I read about Buhari's speech. A little later, however, I read the whole story and that he spoke his native language in employing a well-understood figure of speech. O, that takes issues somewhere else, friends. I might tell you in Yoruba, "Oju aja n' ṣẹjẹ". Flip that over into English, what do you get, even with the best of intentions?

 "The dog is shedding tears of blood", or  "The dog is bleeding from the eyes". 

But wait a minute and don't pack nerves, this gory expression should really be translated, with linguistic fidelity: "He's running quite a gauntlet" in the toughest form or, "He's taking some heat", (intermediate) or, "He's facing quite some difficulties" in the plainest form. But certainly, the expression NEVER has anything to do with both the animal and the body part mentioned. It NEVER has to mean I'm referring to the guy as a dog in the derogatory sense or that he needs an ophthalmologist to cure him of a strange ailment. But if the King at that period was hospitalized for an eye problem and I've been suspected of not being his fan, my words can morph into anything once it hits the thin air of the ears of English language speakers, especially the ones not my fans either.

 I'm not afraid someone might accuse me of being academic now. The reason they sent us to school is precisely so we wont reason in the most ordinary manner. That we will reason with some skills and sophistication so that we will have better outcomes in our relationships. What the man said in a Hausa idiom did not mean bloodshed to the speaker and DID NOT CONVEY A CALL TO VIOLENCE TO HIS AUDIENCE. 

2. The presidency is the most politically sacred institution in any country and it is a smooth link from the past into the future. The way the presidency handled this matter is woeful as it deliberately opened a former president up to public ridicule and divided the citizens so sharply along ethnic lines. And I am very crestfallen that the presidency will put petty party politics before nation building and leadership. I have read many opinions since the incident that read pretty much like what oozed out of the state house: off-handed, predictable, easy-going and without that conciliatory tone that must set a leader apart. I can't believe a former president will be cleaved up by the serving president to be railed at, vilified and washed down by the public. In dishonouring a former leader of the nation, this government dishonours itself and makes the presidency look trite. It is a presidency of very, very ordinary people, friends. 

President Jonathan missed a leadership moment: an opportunity to be gracious, fatherly and to tower above common squabbles and ordinary perceptions. He should have made a staged but seemingly off-the-cuff comment to correspondents at the airport denouncing election rigging (affirming a former president) and then assuring on his commitment to a better and peaceful future for the country. He could use words to precise effects such that this debates would have been smothered before they began. But look at what a whole presidency was saying! 

3. You get a better grasp of the situation if you reflect on the mood in the South West(SW) under the much regarded Obafemi Awolowo. Better still if you lived in the SW that period. Get the nuances? I think most of us underestimate Buhari's popularity in the north and the perception of his supporters, within the context of election rigging and that perception. It is costly error in political leadership to make that mistake and one that can cost the nation a great deal.

 4. Buhari has not been linked to any of this violence by the security organs. That means something. 

5. The atrocities of Boko Haram is being unconsciously connected to northern leaders in most southern minds. I can't blame the people for that one bit. Suicide bombing, opening of machine gun fire inside crowded churches is a very sordid thing indeed and you can only commend Christians for being restrained. But long as we are interested in keeping Nigeria united, we have to do a bit more. And we must start by trying to see through the fog of war(an idiom please, and one that does not mean I hint that we are at war for that matter!) and not allowing our judgement to be clouded by easy hate. 


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