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Nigeria Threatens To Pull Out Of ECOWAS Over Lopsided Recruitment

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2023: Fear Of BVAS, Beginning Of Wisdom

Nigeria has threatened to withdraw its membership of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) if the regional body does not suspend its ongoing recruitment exercise as recently directed in the 2022 First Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Parliament in Abuja.

 

Nigerian representatives at the ECOWAS Parliament issued the threat when some principal officers in the regional bloc allegedly defied the directives and embarked on the illegal process of recruiting their relatives and cronies.

The lawmakers cited the huge financial commitments which Nigeria makes to the body amid its internal security challenges.

They said there was no commensurate return on investment for Nigeria in ECOWAS for all the country has done and is doing for the regional body from its inception in 1975.

This development is coming on the heels of recent lopsided recruitment exercise at the ECOWAS Parliament, which was discovered to be manifestly skewed to serve the personal interest of member-states to the exclusion of Nigeria.

Leader of the Nigerian delegation to the Parliament and Deputy Speaker of the Nigerian House of Representatives, who is also the First Deputy Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, Ahmed Idris Wase, said it has become imperative that Nigeria review its relevance and membership of the bloc.

“If you are in a system, and you are not getting the right results where you are investing your money, it pays best to walk out of the union.

“In a situation where we are having an infrastructural deficit and witnessing security challenges, why should we continue to invest our money where it will not benefit our country.

“Yes, we will pull out if we don’t get the desired result from this,” Wase said.

He added, “we are asking for justice not just for Nigerians alone, but for the entire ECOWAS community. That is what MPs are asking for. There are few countries that want to run ECOWAS like a cabal but we will not tolerate that.”

The Nigerian Permanent Representative to ECOWAS, Musa Nuhu, also wrote to the Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, Sidie Mohamed Tunis, on the nepotistic employment scandal rocking ECOWAS.

The letter from Nuhu was dated July 20, 2022, and titled, “Formal Complaint About Unfair Treatment and Confirmation of Staff at the ECOWAS Parliament.”

He wrote in the letter that, “I have the honour to refer to our verbal discussion on the above subject matter and formally inform you that the attention of the Permanent Mission of Nigeria to the ECOWAS Commission has been drawn to a number of complaints by Nigerian staff working at the ECOWAS Parliament. The grievances border around stagnation and overlooking of staff already working in the parliament in favour of outsiders in the ongoing recruitment for divisional heads and professional staff.

“This action directly contravenes the recommendations of the 30th meeting of the ECOWAS Administrative and Finance Committee as well as the position of the Council of Ministers, which directed that internal candidates should be prioritised in filling existing vacancies in ECOWAS institutions, as recommended in the Staff Skills Audit Report.

“The Honourable Speaker may kindly wish to note that the mission has examined the complaints of the staff of the parliament based on existing staff regulations as well as the decisions and guidelines given by the AFC and Council of Ministers for ECOWAS institutions to carry out the recruitment and found that their grievances are genuine.

“Therefore, as you rightly observed during our discussions, recruiting individuals outside the system to place them above the existing staff would only lead to discontent, demoralisation and continued stagnation of the staff. This will inevitably affect the overall performance of the Parliament.”

LEADERSHIP report that at the centre of all of the controversy is the implementation of the provision of the staff regulation of ECOWAS.

Nuhu continued, “It is understood that each institution in ECOWAS gets the permission (since there is a freeze on recruitment) to employ from the AFC/Council of Ministers. Thus, Parliament needs to show that the permission was given.

“Again, Parliament’s bureaucracy is subject to the Bureau of Parliament. Were these positions first considered and approved by the Bureau of Parliament before the recruitment exercise or even before taking such a request to recruit to the AFC/Council of Ministers? They should not be complicit with illegality maybe because they are benefitting one way or the other.

“The problem is that the process of ensuring that internal candidates are first considered for positions (internal advertisement of positions with the institutions of ECOWAS) before looking externally for candidates where internal candidates have not measured up to requirements, have been jettisoned because it allows the powers that hold sway to bring in their relatives to occupy those positions.

“Let me tell you, those recruitment exercises are never fair because before they are even conducted, you will start hearing about preferred candidates already and about instructions to the so called consultant in charge of bringing out the long-list from the entire list of applicants, to ensure that some people are not on that list and also that those preferred candidates make it to the top of those lists.”

Also, according to Deputy Speaker Wase, the fact remains that as at today, Nigerian lawmakers are in receipt of certain misgivings, and protestations by people who are so affected.

“I may not know if such protestations existed in the Fourth Assembly, as at today, these protestations are evident before us and we are duty bound to attend to them like we have indicated and in the cause of our engagement we are not restricting ourselves to what has happened today. If you listened to our intent on the floor, we said that for the past ten years, whatever it is that had happened in the past ten years, the one that has to be remedied, the one that requires sanctions, I am sure that at the end of the day, without preempting the resolve of the committee, we will get to that point,” he stated.

Hon. Wase reiterated that Nigeria has done so much for ECOWAS, explaining that over 60 per cent of ECOWAS funding comes from Nigeria.

“We have staffers who are of Nigerian origin that may have done better or progressed rapidly in their career if they were within the bureaucracy of the Nigeria Nigerian civil service. Their colleagues and contemporary in the Nigerian civil service are now directors and even permanent Secretaries and those of them in ECOWAS institutions have stagnated for years. They are not promoted because they are engaged as casual staff. We cannot subject these staff to remain at the same level for more than 10 years. ECOWAS employed them as casual staff, and kept them as casual staff for that long.

“It offends the International Labour Organization (ILO), Convention on Forced Labour. I was an activist and a unionist, before joining politics. We cannot keep an employee for more than six months on a casual basis, it is against international law. But here we have kept them for a number of years, up to nine years, it is inhuman.

“What the Parliament is talking about is transparency, and doing the right thing in the right manner. I heard them saying that the audit report was inconclusive, it then meant that there were issues. Whether inconclusive or not, in Parliament, there is what we call an interim report. So, there was an interim report, and that is what some members were relying upon, it does not mean that because they were unable to conclude, then there was nothing. There was something on the table, and I will refer to that inconclusive report that the Secretary General mentioned as an interim report before the Parliament, which of course should be used, and considered because it raised issues regarding the imbalance in the composition of the staff,” he added.

According to Wase, the Nigerian Constitution in Section 14 (4) provides that, the composition of government shall be in a manner that it reflects the federal character.

“Now, we have people who possibly have one opportunity and they want to bring in their relatives, and their siblings against the larger interest of our community. Common judgment teaches us that when you have nations coming together, we should do the distribution in such a way that justice and fairness takes the centre stage,” he further stated.

He said that if Nigeria had not asked for 60 per cent benefit in ECOWAS before now, it must have been a mistake “because our dividend should be equivalent to our contribution and investment. And if that is not done and the little that we have in the system is being humiliated, we will not take it.

“From the National Assembly of Nigeria, we are also going to probe our Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Finance Minister who is giving the money and the Commissioner who is representing us at the Commission. What are they doing there, are they part of this nonsense going on, possibly because they have one interest to protect or the other? We will not allow that to happen. We will expose everybody from the Nigerian Parliament and sanctions will follow. We will sanction anybody found wanting in the process,” he added

Last month, at the 2022 First Ordinary Session of the Parliament, the lawmakers had passed a resolution to suspend the recruitment exercise after Nigerian representatives at the parliament alleged discrimination and lopsidedness in the recruitment of workers at the ECOWAS Commission in Abuja.

The motion to suspend the recruitment and promotion in the ECOWAS Parliament was moved by Hon. Awajim Abiante, a Nigerian lawmaker at the ECOWAS Parliament.

The motion was seconded by Senator Abiodun Olujimi, a Nigerian lawmaker at the Parliament, supported by Hon. Yousoufa Bida and unanimously agreed by the House.

Abiante, who represents Andoni/Opobo/Nkoro federal constituency in the Nigerian House of Representatives, said: “The Speaker of ECOWAS Parliament is duty bound to respect the resolutions of Parliament.

“If he does not respect the resolution of Parliament, I wonder which Parliament he is heading.

“So, it is left for him to answer where he stands.

“You know, probably some of us are not well experienced, relative to Parliamentary requirements and procedures.

“Therefore, if one is not experienced, we could expect this kind of action. But the Speaker is duty bound to obey the resolution of Parliament.

“He is first amongst equals, but we are all members of Parliament, by certain requirements, somebody has to lead.

“So, if he is the Speaker today, it does not make him senior or superior to any Member of Parliament.

“And who is he speaking for? He is speaking for the entirety of all of us and if we have come and raised issues, and resolutions taken, saying stop this, he is duty bound to obey.

“So, whatever they had done, we the parliamentarians see it as an effort in complete futility.”

When contacted, the Secretary General of the Parliament, John Azumah from Ghana, said he was unaware of any audit report that talked about employment and promotion.

“I don’t know where they got that information from that they were talking, but you know that on the floor of the Parliament, you cannot stop them.

“For me, I don’t have any information about this, but let me tell you this, the First Deputy Speaker would have done himself good, if he had called me to explain what is happening in ECOWAS to him. I don’t know where they got that information from. There is no audit report like that. It is true that ECOWAS did a skill audit some time ago, but it was inconclusive. The skill audit that was done for the whole ECOWAS institutions was inconclusive.

“So, if you went and were extracting information and you got something from staff, you are looking for your interest, sometimes they will give you half information, because of their interest. They would not give you the full information, then you just pick it as an MP and you start talking.

“The staff will tell you that this is happening at the Commission, this is happening at the court and this is happening at the Parliament, it is not true, just because of their interest. For me, if you have that, you have to rely on some credible officers to validate the veracity or otherwise of the information before you come to the floor. When they were talking, I was just laughing in my heart, I am telling you the truth because they were just ridiculing themselves,” Azumah added.

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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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Rolling Back Malaria With Nets

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Rolling Back Malaria With Nets

The statistics are scary and they point to some kind of national health emergency. One in every four malaria patients in the world lives in Nigeria and one out of four global malaria-related deaths is recorded in this country. According to the latest World Malaria Report, “four African countries accounted for just over half of all malaria deaths worldwide: Nigeria (31.9 per cent), Democratic Republic of the Congo (13.2 per cent), United Republic of Tanzania (4.1 per cent) and Mozambique (3.8 per cent).’’

Approximately, this translates to 200,000 deaths in 2021 and over 60 million people are infected by the disease yearly. In addition, an estimated US$1.1 billion is lost yearly due to malaria related absenteeism and productivity losses according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Besides, the disease is responsible for high death rate among under-five children and pregnant women.

The casualty figures, rate of infection and loss of man-hours and financial resources to malaria are quite huge and the government has been battling the disease. Over the years, there have been several campaigns to stop the spread of malaria, such as the Zero Malaria Campaign, Roll Back Malaria Campaign, all advocating for the use of Insecticide-Treated Nets.

On July 6, Governor Nasir El-Rufai flagged off the distribution of over five million nets in Kaduna state. The governor had admonished recipients not just to collect the nets but to sleep inside them. As a practical demonstration, His Excellency and his wife, Arch Hadiza Isma El-Rufai, lied down in an Insecticide Treated Net during the flag off. After the event, Ministry officials, Development Partner and 10,000 adhoc staff went out to the nooks and cranny of Kaduna state and distributed nets in all the 23 local governments.

In addition, the Team interacted with journalists on how to use the nets and the behavioral changes that are necessary to keep malaria at bay. Specifically, they paid advocacy visit to the Special Adviser to the Governor on Media and Communication, Mr Muyiwa Adekeye, on July 20, where members of the Team highlighted their successes and challenges. Led by Dr. Hajara Kera, the Director for Public Health in the Ministry of Health, the Team gladly said that Kaduna state has almost completed the distribution of these treated mosquito nets as at July 19,2022, having distributed 92% of the 4.5million. Dr Kera disclosed that the distribution of nets was not a one-off intervention of Kaduna State Government, towards battling malaria. According to her, the Ministry of Health has been undertaking seasonal malaria chemoprevention campaigns for targeted children in the state, early diagnosis and treatment of uncomplicated malaria and management of severe ones.

In fact, during the flag off, the Commissioner of Health, Dr. Amina Mohammed Baloni, was more elaborate about government’s efforts towards the fight against malaria. She said that Kaduna state has built a robust partnership with international and national donor organizations, and it is also one of the 13 Global Fund (GF) supported states in Nigeria for the elimination of malaria. Besides, the state has also achieved 68% refill rate order for all antimalarial commodities and there has been a reduction of malaria test positivity rates from 60.3% in 2020 to 37.2% in 2021. In addition to these, through its Health Supplies Management Agency, KDSG has procured anti-malaria commodities worth about N300 million, as part of its commitment to the counterpart fund obligation to the State Malaria Elimination Programme of about N900million.

Significantly, other Ministries, Departments and Agencies are collaborating with Ministry of Health, according to Dr Baloni, to end malaria in Kaduna state. In this regard, the Ministry of Public Works and Infrastructure is also supporting the campaign to end malaria, by completing and clearing drainages along roads to reduce the breeding sites of mosquitoes in communities.

However, the fight against malaria is largely in our hands, especially if we adhere to basic hygiene, clear our environment of stagnant water where mosquitoes lay their eggs and above all, sleep in Insecticide Treated Nets. According to statistics, nets ownership has risen to 80% but only 30% of those who collect the nets actually sleep in them. This has to change.

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