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Uproar Over Gov Lalong’s Move To Sign MoU With Bank

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Uproar Over Gov Lalong’s Move To Sign MoU With Bank

Penultimate week, there was palpable tension in Jos and its environs following the news on the social media alleging that the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led government in Plateau State under Governor Simon Lalong, has conceded the ownership of the Jos Main Market that got burnt in 2002 to Jaiz Bank, an Islamic and Sharia compliant bank to be rebuilt at the cost of over N10 billion.

LEADERSHIP Weekend recalled that in 2019, the Lalong administration spent a whopping sum of N1 billion to demolish the structure and the government was recorded to have celebrated this regarding it as victory over the most difficult phase in the rebuilding efforts of the market.

Besides, previous administrations in the state have made efforts to see the rise of the fallen glory but till now the beautiful bride, known as Terminus Market and the largest indoor market in West Africa, has remained in the ashes of desolation.

In his efforts to rebuild the ultra-modern market, Governor Lalong last week reportedly approached the management of Jaiz Bank, seeking a partnership for the rebuilding of the Jos Main Market. At a stakeholders’ meeting preparatory to signing of the Memorandum of Understanding, the state government was represented by the commissioner for Commerce and Industry, Idris Gambo and his Information counterpart, Dan Manjang; the permanent secretary, Ministry of Commerce and Industry as well as directors and staff of the ministry.

Lalong’s proxies agreed with representatives of Jaiz Bank that the reconstruction cost of the project is N10 billion and conceded the ownership and control of the market at a ratio of 60:40 percent in favour of Jaiz Bank.

With the design of the project for reconstruction showing that it will contain 4,321 shops, only 1,700, representing its 40 per cent holding, will be owned by Plateau State during the 40 years covered by the agreement.

According to details of the stakeholders’ meeting obtained by LEADERSHIP Weekend, the reconstruction of the market, which will be done in three phases, is to be funded by Jaiz Bank, while the Plateau State Government will provide land, security, and an enabling operational environment, as the reconstruction work is billed to be completed within 12 months.

With Lalong’s representatives at the meeting dispatched to proceed to engage the leadership of the church in Plateau State and convince it to accept the emerging arrangement, the two partners (the Plateau State Government and Jaiz Bank) are expected to sign the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), at a later date.

However, this development did not go down well with critical stakeholders as condemnations and backlash trailed the action of the state government.

First to express disgust over what it titled “Lalong, APC must explain the secret transaction with Jaiz Bank” was the opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Plateau State chapter.

According to a statement by the state publicity secretary, Mr John Akans, “the PDP is alerting the people on the unexplained and secret business transaction going on between Governor Lalong and Jaiz Bank over plans to hand over the Jos Terminus Main Market to the bank.

He said the party has it on good authority that the state government has reached an advanced stage in its plan to sign an MoU with Jaiz Bank (a commercial bank) with the view to handing over the entire market to the said bank to run for forty years at the cost of N10 billion.

Akans said this is coming just shortly after the governor informed Plateau citizens that over N4 billion has been spent by his administration on the same main market without giving an account of how it was expended.

“We dare ask why Lalong is rushing to sign an MOU of N10 billion at the expiration of his tenure and what happens to the N4 billion already spent on the same project?” the party querried.

The opposition party also said Lalong should “explain to Plateau people the logic in mortgaging a market with a fiscal multiplier effect in the state income that will benefit the citizens for a N10 billion-lease for 40 years, while founding flyover at the cost of N18 billion. What is the ratio?”

Similarly, in their reaction, the Youth Wing of the Christian Association of Nigeria (YOWICAN), Plateau State chapter, said that giving Jaiz Bank over 60 per cent control of the market when completed is perceived to be an enslavement and a destiny-mortgaging agenda.

Plateau State YOWICAN chairman, Pharmacist Markus Kanda and the secretary, Nehemiah Michael made their views known while addressing newsmen at the CAN Secretariat in Jos.

According to the duo, Governor Lalong should have first embarked on a wider consultation and mobilisation to engage the people at community levels with the view to sensitising them and seeking their consent before embarking on the project.

YOWICAN also noted that the terms and conditions of the engagement had been unknown until the revelation that made its way to the public on the social media which has generated the most heated criticism and condemnation.

They argued that Jaiz Bank engaged for the reconstruction of the modern market is an Islamic Bank and with the happenings around the globe and in Nigeria with particular attention to Plateau State, suggest that every reasonable man will seek some explanation to assuage the fears that engaging the bank to grant loan to the Plateau State Government in this manner and magnitude should require more than simply circulating information on the social media space.

“It may be a coincidence that this is happening at a time when a Muslim-Muslim ticket of the ruling APC has been established amidst a nation-wide clamour for justice and equity.  This is also coming in the midst of suspicion of an Islamisation agenda in Nigeria and the obvious fear of economic control on the Plateau,” the group said.

In the same vein, the Coalition of Plateau Indigenous Youths and other related organisations have expressed concerns over what they described as “the unacceptable piling up of debts by the state government, the award of bogus unrealistic so-called legacy projects, inflated contract of Over-head Bridge at British/America Junction and now, a very unfavourable, poorly negotiated Jaiz Bank/Government MOU on the Jos Ultramodern Main Market contracts.

The coalition pointed out that they are being pursued belatedly only to serve as conduit pipes to drain scarce public funds of the state as well as selfish desire to commandeer shops and allocate the same to so-call party’s stakeholders and other cronies.

According to a statement issued in Jos and signed by Barr. Zachariah Awang,

Chairman and Amb. Duwam Bosco, Secretary General stressed that the tenure of Lalong administration shall expire come May 29, 2023 and therefore, lacks the legitimacy to mortgage the financial viability of Plateau State and indeed, the future of the youths in a dubious contract/MOU lasting for 40 years.

The coalition further argued that they reliably gathered that the House of Assembly is complicit on this matter as it remains quiet with “no open condemnation of this strange development.”

“It’s on this note that citizens cannot trust the lame duck House of Assembly which has been a rubber stamp parliament failing to carry out proper oversight functions on the super-powerful executive,” the group said.

According to the coalition, “they are all aware that government has openly demonstrated its sectional and nepotistic patronage in the award of contracts which lacks equity and fairness” noting that “this is why the indigenous youths strongly believe that the Jaiz MOU is inimical to its interest now and in the future.

“Further concerned that the choice of Jaiz Bank continues to heighten the suspicion of many Plateau citizens that given its religious credentials and biases, it’s waging a holy war (jihad) through buying and mopping of the assets of infidels who according to them, need to be financially and economically subdued.”

The statement further said “We have resolved to speak out, reject and mobilise for the liberation of our dear state from the claws of corruption and maladministration as well as dubious contracts.”

They warned Jaiz Bank to withdraw and completely “reverse all commitments made with regard to the Jos Ultramodern Market as the youths of the state will be forced to take necessary actions to protect their interest should the bank persistently remains adamant.

“The Lalong administration should desist from the ill-conceived last minutes decisions that would jeopardise the collective interest of the Plateau people particularly, the youths.”

But the Plateau State Government, in its efforts to douse the tension the development has generated, in a statement issued by the commissioner of information and Communication, Hon Dan Manjang titled “Jos Main Market: Plateau State is not ceding market to Jaiz Bank,” the government allayed the fears of citizens adding that “it is a common knowledge that the Jos Main Market is one of the iconic landmarks of Plateau State and a source of pride to the citizens who hold it dear to their hearts.”

According to the commissioner, the destruction of the market in 2002 has therefore remained one of the most tragic incidents to ever befall the state which caused unquantifiable economic loses, emotional trauma and denied the state tourist and business opportunities which prevailed before its destruction and vowed to rebuild the edifice.

The commissioner stressed that the governors’ determination yielded positive results when he, upon learning of other huge market projects in various Northern, Eastern and South South States funded by Jaiz Bank Plc, decided to engage them on the idea of rebuilding the burnt Jos Main Market.

“Having gone through the offer by Jaiz Bank, the State Executive Council further subjected the proposal to extensive deliberations and scrutiny and came to the conclusion that the deal was good for the state and the investor, hence its approval.

“Besides, government carried out its due diligence to study the track record of Jaiz Bank in delivering such projects. It found that the bank in partnership with Kano State Government and private investors, is constructing a multi-million world-class drug-only wholesale market, the first of its type in Nigeria, at the Kano Economic City.”

He added that in a similar arrangement, the bank in partnership with the Niger State Government, “is developing three hectares in the Minna City Centre to provide for a shopping complex, modern underground parks, modern filling station, warehouses, corner shops, restaurants and a recreational centre. It is also doing so in Kaduna and Enugu states, among others.

“But regrettably, the outcome of this engagement has been twisted, politicised and reported under the caption ‘Governor Lalong cedes Jos Main Market to Islamic Bank.’ This has unnecessarily invoked passions and emotions portraying a false narrative that the state was parting with its cherished heritage to an ‘Islamic Bank’.”

He disclosed that the success of this partnership will boost the confidence of other investors to come into the state and establish their presence and partner with the government in other projects and programmes.

Mangjang therefore appealed to all citizens to carefully peruse the project and avoid being deceived by politicians who he claimed are bent on ensuring that the market is not reconstructed so as to score cheap political point against Governor Lalong and the APC particularly at the eve of the general elections.

“There is no need for anxiety, sentiments, misgivings, misconceptions and misrepresentation as is being pushed out by political forces which has resulted in name-calling, insults and hatred of both government and individuals on the social media and otherwise,” he said.

Above all, the proposed memorandum of understanding MoU between Plateau State Government and Jaiz Bank had further received further resistance from the Christian Association Nigeria (CAN), Plateau State Chapter and a coalition of indigenous ethnic youth leaders of the state.

Speaking with journalists shortly after the end of a stakeholders’ meeting held at the Banquet Hall of the Government House, Little Rayfield, Plateau State, CAN Chairman, Rev Fr Polycarp Lubo said they have advised the government to put the deal on hold until proper consultations were made.

He pointed out that the major fears of the stakeholders as discussed was the partnership with Jaiz Bank, an interest-free bank which is 100 per cent Sharia compliant, considering Plateau as a Christian dominated state.

The second issue he highlighted was the duration of the proposed deal which spans 40 years, describing it as mortgaging the lives and property of Plateau citizens.

He further stated that as stakeholders, they have advised the government to put on hold the proposed deal with a view to addressing the concerns and fears of the citizens before any implementation.

“The resolution of everyone at the meeting is that the deal should be put on hold. Though the government has not responded, it has promised to look into it and if they find any issue, they will call our attention and also get back to us.

“These people that convened here are the real stakeholders and the government did not consult any of them, I wasn’t consulted too. However, we have confidence in the government. They are there for the people, so they will definitely listen to the people but our resolve is that they should put it on hold first,” he said.

Speaking on behalf of the government, the Managing Director, Plateau Investment and Property Company (PIPC), Mr Chrysogonus Yilzak, said the meeting was to make clarifications regarding the proposed deal, reiterating that the proposed MOU will serve the best interest of Plateau State and been bona fide indigenes of Plateau State, they will never contemplate selling the heritage of the state.

Also, the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice of the state, Barr Chrysantus Ahmadu, emphasized that no one was ceding any property to Jaiz Bank as portrayed on various social media. Rather, Jaiz Bank is providing funding which will be paid back after 40 years in a ratio of 60:40 to government ownership of the shops.

However, observers of the happening on the Plateau warned that the state government should as a matter of urgency respect the wishes of the people so as not to plunge the state into another round of crises. Be that as it may, whether the state government will hearken to the voice of the people or go ahead with the signing of  the MoU, only time will tell.

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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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