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2023: The Clouds Still Hang Low

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2023: The Clouds Still Hang Low

For a nation that was once described as Africa’s Hope, the present trauma of surviving hard times by fear-stricken citizens is, no doubt, strangulating. Ranked in the same group with countries like India and some other Asian countries at independence in the 1960s, the future bristled in bright lights as many thought that in no time Nigeria was bound to lead the way for other nations to emulate.

Decades of military regimes, following the collapse of the First Republic in January 15, 1966, would expose the underbelly of a House divided against itself. At the end of a fierce civil war that culminated in the killing of millions of citizens, the guns of rebellion were subdued and thereafter, then Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon would commence the journey to national reconciliation and healing under the banner, ‘No Victor, No Vanquished’.

Nearly 62 years after attaining political independence, the country that once held the promise of a new day has been turned into a ceaseless flowing stream of innocent blood. The horrifying death toll, made worse by the destruction of our communities, has drawn Armageddon closer than ever before. Flustered citizens have become disillusioned, clothed in dread and trepidation. Despite the fervent hope for the promised future; the anguish of the present has robbed inhabitants of consistent faith for the future that carries the scars of troubling past and traumatising present. Nigerians are too hopeless to yearn for a glorious future amidst the depressing present.

For those who see light at the end of the tunnel, they are quickly reminded of previous hopes that have been mismanaged and promptly replaced with sardonic lamentations. Over 23 years of Nigeria’s unbroken democracy have taught citizens to embrace caution and be circumspect of the mirages as we journey in the task of making a nation out of our Tower of Babel. In the journey to nationhood, the political class has treated the citizenry in the most disdainful manner. Not only have leaders turned our nation into a profitable farm house, their commitment in the Nigerian project has only been demonstrated in verbal output than resolution. Members of the three tiers of government have become worshippers of their stomachs to the detriment of overall majority wreaked by monsters of insecurity and economic hardship.

There is no time better that now to retrieve our nation from the teeth of these monstrous terrorists and other criminal groups running riots over our communities. As our nation marches to next year, not a few citizens are convinced that citizens must be outraged at the inexplicable dehumanisation of humanity without whimper of challenge from those elected to protect us.

Many factors are vitiating the prospect of holding elections in 2023. Apart from the success achieved by the Professor Mahmoud Yakubu-led Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as demonstrated by the increase in the number of new voters, Nigerians are increasingly becoming weary and wary of our inability to tame forces of insecurity and tackle challenges made possible by so-called democrats that have turned democracy into a weapon of tyranny for personal gains.

Ahead of next year’s polls, our democratic experiment has been indubitably cheerless and depressing since the two    presidential candidates of the two most political platforms, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), picked their running mates. Against popular request by PDP critical stakeholders, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar roundly rejected the choice of Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike as a running mate. Thereafter, the ‘Wazirin Adamawa’ would settle for Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State, a decision that has not gone down well with the Wike-led group. It is clear to even the undiscerning that Atiku’s choice of Okowa has touched on raw nerves. It is apparent that if something is not done quickly, the hope of the PDP to return to power may remain a fleeting illusion; to be pursued but never attained. Insiders are convinced that if the PDP ever hopes to wrest power from the APC, something drastic must be done to resolve the lingering feud tearing the opposition party apart.

It’s not only the choice of Okowa as deputy to Atiku that is becoming an albatross for Atiku’s presidential dream, the violation of the PDP’s constitution that believes in zoning remains a contentious matter even as the National Chairman of the PDP, Dr Iyorchia Ayu, insists on clinging to the chairmanship position, even after the emergence of a Northerner as the presidential candidate of the PDP.

Perhaps, that is what informed the Wike-led group to demand for the resignation of Dr. Ayu in line with a previous agreement that both the presidential flag bearer and the National Chairman of the party must not come from the same zone. For now, no one can tell where the pendulum would swing to as the tension continues to rip through the party, thus introducing frightful uncertainties for the PDP. Not much is expected to thaw the somehow frozen relationship between Atiku and Wike. Even after the Abuja visit, the two most important PDP members for now are yet to sheathe their swords. It is certain that with the appointment of Senator Dino Melaye and a former APC loyalist, Barr. Inuwa Bwala as spokespersons of the PDP presidential candidate, the campaigns may degenerate into a propaganda. Many are convinced that Melaye, a staunch supporter of the former vice president, may not let go of efforts to drag Atiku’s foes into the mud, no matter whose ox is gored.

For the APC presidential candidate, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, 2023 remains the last opportunity of making it to the pinnacle of political power. That BAT survived all the intrigues of a power cabal to emerge as the standard bearer of the APC reflects how resilient and committed he held to his presidential ambition he described as life-long. It must be acknowledged that the dream of Buhari of becoming president would have continued to be a pipe dream without the strategic relevance of Tinubu whose political sagacity and almost bottomless connections cleared the way for Buhari who had, before 2015, contested for the presidency thrice without success.

Having watched from the sidelines and convinced that he has paid his dues, the former Lagos State Governor is persuaded beyond reasonable doubt that 2023 is his year of political ascendancy to Nigeria’s leadership. To drum his confidence that 2023 is a sure bet for him, he could not but declare to his traducers: “Emi Lokan” (It’s my turn).

Not many gave a chance to BAT to pick the APC ticket as he was never seen as the favourite of the candidates. The poster kid on the block, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, seemed to hold the four aces, but when the time came, the old political war horse pulled the carpet off Osinbajo’s feet. The rest, as they say, is now history. By emerging victorious at the primaries,  Tinubu has shown himself as a strategist whose understanding of politics has sustained him in the past and present. The choice of former Borno State Governor, Senator Kashim Shettima, as his choice of his deputy has been accompanied with strong winds of resistance. In a country where faith is fast turning into a badge of identity; it is an act of mischief to insist that religion does not matter. Those in love with Tinubu/Shettima are quick to douse fears over same-faith ticket, stressing that competence remains the yardstick, not politics.

Peter Obi’s Labour Party (LP) can only be ignored by those who are not ready to confront realities. Of course, the political elite may not be comfortable with the wind of ‘Shishi we no dey give,’ but the LP has become a rallying symbol for the electorate, mostly the youth, who are determined to change  the present system that has relegated younger generations to the backwaters of national politics.  One week may be too long a time to change political dynamics for desired changes, but it can also prove decisive in changing narratives. 2023 may turn out to be a titanic battle between the old folks and new hounds not schooled in the game. With Atiku and BAT in their last attempt to realise their ambition, a little slip in strategy could make things go awry for both of them.

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ECOWAS Probes Alleged Marginalisation Against Nigerians

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ECOWAS Holds Retreat For Interdepartmental Trade Facilitation C’ttee

The Speaker of the Parliament of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Sidie Mohammed Tunis, has set up an ad-hoc committee to investigate allegations of marginalisation against Nigerian candidates in the ongoing recruitment process at the regional parliament.

 

A statement issued on Sunday by the Communications Division of the ECOWAS Parliament, Abuja, said the Speaker constituted the ad-hoc committee following written complaints from the 1st Deputy Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament and Deputy Speaker of the Nigerian House of Representatives, Ahmed Idris Wase, and the Permanent Representative of Nigeria to the ECOWAS Commission, Ambassador Musa Sani Nuhu.

“The action of the Honourable Speaker is in conformity to Rule Thirty-three (33) and Thirty-four (34) of the Rules of Procedures of the Parliament which provides that a Special Committee may be set up to address specific matters. The Speaker, in response to pressing emergencies, can set up an Ad Hoc Committee, in consultation with the Bureau, and inform Parliament at its next Session.

“The Adhoc Committee would be headed by Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume, Chairman of the Committee on Administration, Finance, and Budget,” the ECOWAS Parliament said.

Other members of the committee include Lynda Chuba Ikpeazu (Nigeria); Fatoumatta Njai (The Gambia); Amadou Djibo Ali (Niger); Kounon Nahou Agbandao (Togo); Caramo Camara (Guinea Bissau); Moussokora Chantal Fanny (Cote d’ Ivoire) and Arboncana Oumarou Dicko, Clerk to the Committee.

“The Terms of Reference of the Ad Hoc Committee shall be as follows: Investigate allegations of inappropriate conduct in the ongoing recruitment process at the ECOWAS Parliament;

“Investigate allegations of marginalization of Nigerian Candidates in the current recruitment process;

“Investigateand determine if indeed the plenary adopted any Resolution concerning the subject matter (Recruitment of Staff), using normal parliamentary procedure;

“In the execution of its mandate, the Committee shall be granted access to all documents relating to the recruitment exercise and work with the Advisory Committee on Recruitment and Promotions at the ECOWAS Parliament, to under-study and review the exercise. The Adhoc Committee would be guided by the provisions of the Supplementary Act and the ECOWAS Staff Regulations.

“The work of the Ad Hoc Committee is expected to commence on 22nd August 2022 and its findings are expected to be reported to the Honorable Speaker in one week, following which a Bureau meeting will be convened to consider the report for onward submission to the Plenary.

“In the meantime, the Right Honourable Speaker has directed the suspension of the ongoing recruitment exercises, pending the outcome of the investigation by the Independent Adhoc Committee.

“Finally, the ECOWAS Parliament, under the leadership of Right Honourable Dr. Sidie Mohamed Tunis, affirms its stern commitment to fair labor practices and is devoted to upholding and protecting the rights of all Citizens of the Community to aspire for positions in any Community Institution, in line with the provisions of the ECOWAS Staff Regulations and all related Protocols,” the ECOWAS Parliament also said.

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JUST-IN: Buhari’s Nephew Dumps APC

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JUST-IN: Buhari's Nephew Dumps APC

A lawmaker representing Daura/Sandamu/Mai’Adua federal constituency in the House of Representatives, Hon. Fatuhu Muhammed, has dumped the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

 

The lawmaker, who is a nephew to President Muhammadu Buhari, resigned his membership of the party, stating that he ceased to be a member of the APC effective July 15, 2022.

 

The lawmaker’s decision was contained in letter dated July 13, 2022 and addressed to the APC chairman in Sarkin Yara A Ward of Daura local government area of Katsina State.

 

“This is to notify you that I have resigned my membership from the All Progressives Congress (APC) with immediate effect commencing from Wednesday the 13th day ofJuly 2022. Attached herewith is my party Membership Registration Slip with slip No. KT/DRA/10/00002.

 

“While I thank you and the party for the opportunity given to me to serve the interest of the people of Daura/Sandamu/Mai’Adua Federal Constituency while working with the party, accept my best wishes please,” the lawmaker said.

 

LEADERSHIP gathered that the lawmaker might be planning to join the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), even though he was yet to make public a next choice of political party.

 

Recall that earlier in June this year, Hon. Fatuhu decried alleged manipulation of the APC primary election in his constituency, where he alleged change of the delegates’ list, a development he blamed for losing a re-election ticket.

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‘What Kaduna Has Spent On Students’ Scholarship’

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‘What Kaduna Has Spent On Students’ Scholarship’

Kaduna State Scholarship and Loans Board has been giving scholarships to students to study abroad for almost two years now. Why did it take so long to commence the award to students studying in Nigerian tertiary institutions?

I think it is not a case of it taking so long. Between April 2019 and February 2021, we gave out local scholarships to 6,858 students as bursary and we disbursed N675.17 million and each of these students got N109,000. But in February 2021 to March 2021, we suspended bursary and we decided to replace it with Need-Based Scholarship. With bursary, we didn’t have a means of identifying the indigent status of students. So, it was an all-comers affair. It is the policy of Kaduna State Government to award scholarships based on merit and need. The award of Merit-Based Scholarship is straightforward, we give students based on their academic performance. But with the bursary, it was just going to everybody who applied, passed the essay, irrespective of the student’s capacity and capability to pay. That was why we suspended it in March. So, we now decided to come up with the Need and Merit-Based Scholarship modules and government directed that we should come up with a guideline of processing and accessing scholarship.

Before now, awarding scholarship was at the discretion of the Executive Secretary and senior government officials. So, it was necessary to have a standard guideline. I can tell you that we are now the only scholarship board that has an elaborate guideline, where applications have to go through a lot of administrative processes.

 

How are beneficiaries selected for both the Merit Based and Need Based Scholarship modules?

With the Merit Based Scholarship, we did a pilot flag off, we wrote to our state tertiary institutions to give us a list of their merit students who have the minimum GPA of 4.0. We then worked with Social Investment office to access the state social register. The register has about two million people that have been adjudged to be indigent. It is the go-to data, we integrated it into our data base. So, when a student applies with his National Identification Number (NIN), the first thing that the system does is to check if he is on the social register. Once his name is there, the system automatically takes the name of the student to verify if he is a student and he gets paid. But if you are not on the social register and you are applying for a Need Based Scholarship, we will ask you to submit tax documents for economic evaluation, to be able to determine your indigence. But if you are a merit student, it is just your academic record; any student in any Nigerian tertiary institution, that has 4.0 upwards should apply.

So, a lot of students applied but we suspended the process because we needed to come out with a standard guideline that will be the unifier of processing scholarship. And now that has happened. We suspended scholarship award until this time. Now, that we have it, by August we will continue. We have already collated state own tertiary institutions and this payment will start. We have N520 and something million on ground. We are already paying N219 million to state own tertiary institutions and the balance is available for every resident that applies and he is qualified.

 

A cursory look at the beneficiaries of those who were given cheques on July 20 suggests that only students from Kaduna state owned tertiary institutions were awarded scholarships. Is my assumption correct? If so, when will students from other institutions benefit?

That is not correct because the 6,858 that I told you cut across every institution in the country that applied. But in this new scheme, we started with state owned tertiary institutions but it does not end there. So, every student can apply but the only difference is the bursary that we were giving out before and the scholarship that we give now. One, in the latter, you have to show that you are indigent in your economic evaluation. Two, unlike when we were paying students N109, 000 per session, this time we are going to pay their tuition fees till graduation. Then three, unlike before that we were paying the money to the students, and we had situations where some diverted the money, now this money will go directly to the schools. So, these are some of the highlighted changes that differentiates the Need Based Scholarship from the bursary. So, it is a better one. With bursary, you apply this year and there is the tendency that you may not get it next year.

Like these 1,251 students that have been earmarked to be paid, their money is going to be paid till graduation. The only reason that we will withdraw it is if they fall below the acceptable GPA—for merit is 4.0 and for Need Based Scholarship it is 2.5. Once you step down, we will withdraw the scholarship.

 

Government is a continuum, why is Kaduna State Government in a hurry to pay the tuition fees of students on scholarship, till their graduation?

Yes, government is a continuum but Malam Nasir El-Rufai, the Executive Governor of Kaduna state, has given a clear directive that he wants to pay every tuition fee to the institutions before he leaves this government. He says that he doesn’t want to have any burden of raising the hopes and aspirations of students and getting them dashed under any circumstance. Yes, he believes that government is a continuum but we should help the students and even the incoming government, to at least take this off their shoulders.

 

The Board has been giving out scholarships to undergraduates and post graduate students in the last two years. Can you give a figure as to how many have benefited so far and how much has been expended?

With the foreign scholarship for example, at every point in time, we have over 120 students outside the country – as this set graduates, another comes on board. But at every point in time, you have this number. Those that went in September 2021 and came back, they are currently doing their internship for two years, for Kaduna State Government. And we are posting a lot of them to tertiary institutions so that they can give back by also teaching students. The essence of spending huge amounts of money on them is to allow them study courses that are not available in Nigeria or those that are in short supply.

We have disbursed over N819.79 million as loans to people to finance their education. N2 billion was on ground and out of that, over N800 million has been disbursed to about 509 beneficiaries. This loan gives opportunity for parents to be able to finance their children’s education and pay back over a period of time, especially parents whose children are in institutions that school fees have been increased. Or even parents that sent their children outside the country and got stuck financially, they can access the loan. So, with about 509 beneficiaries, it is also funds that have been unlocked for the purpose of education financing in Kaduna state.

N675.18 million was disbursed from April 2019 to February 2021, to 6,858 students as bursary. Another N524.13 million has been cash backed for payment of merit and need based scholarships in 2022. Tuition fees will be paid directly to schools.   Kaduna State University will be paid N158.53 million for 755 students, Kaduna State College of Education, Gidan Waya will receive N33.45 million for 317 students and Nuhu Bamalli Polytechnic will receive N27.6 million for 179 students. The remaining funds will be spent on Kaduna state students across the country. From 2020 to date, over N1.5 billion has been expended on foreign scholarships. N2 billion was set aside for students’ loans and N819.79 million has been disbursed to 509 beneficiaries. So, over all, over N3 billion has gone into scholarship and over N800 million has been spent on loans. Government has expended up to N4 billion in financial intervention to scholarship. This is unprecedented.

 

How is your Board able to determine that an applicant is a citizen of Kaduna state?

For us, it is not about citizenship; it is about residency. So, even if your state of origin is Kaduna state and you are not resident in Kaduna state, you cannot benefit from the scholarship award. So, it is only for residents and they can come from wherever as long as they are residents and as long as they have stayed a certain minimum number of years in Kaduna, they are residents. We have people like Opeyemi and Co that are in the UK and government is paying their school fees because they are qualified and were residents of Kaduna state.

 

Is it correct to say that one of the conditions attached to sponsorship abroad is that beneficiaries will spend two years teaching in Kaduna state when they complete their studies?

Yes, they will spend two years giving back to community as the government deems fit. Some of them will teach, others will work in our Ministries, Departments and Agencies. They will need to identify a transformational project that they will execute. They went to study abroad and they have learnt best practices and everything. So, they learnt new things. So, they are expected to identify a gap in wherever we post them to. And together with the MDA, Scholarship Board and the beneficiaries, we will agree on one particular project that each one will embark on within the period of those two years. So, that is their contribution to the development of the society.

 

SCHOLARSHIP Facts

-N675.17 million was disbursed from April 2019 to February 2021, to 6,858 students as bursary;

-Another N525 million has been cash backed for payment for Merit Based students in 2022;

-From 2020 to 2021 date, over N1.5 billion has been expended on foreign scholarships;

-N2 billion was set aside for students’ loans and N819.79 million has been disbursed to 509 beneficiaries.

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