Friday, 31 July 2015

1 Dollar = 1 Naira: Buhari approves an exchange rate of N160 to $1

I DIDN’T vote for President Muhammadu Buhari in the last election, though I know that Nigeria needed change. I just disagreed with the change agent due to reasons I have explained in various write-ups in the lead up to the election. I didn’t vote for Jonathan either; the PDP as was constituted and operated just wasn’t a Party I could even consider for anything. In the end, I voted for one of the lesser known Parties. But Buhari it is. The majority vote will always prevail and that is respected here without any equivocation. So we move on. As we move on however, it is becoming a struggle not to be uncomfortable in the way things have unfolded and in the way they are playing out. Some of the reservations expressed by some of us are now rearing their ugly heads. Contrary to his inauguration speech, and contrary to reasonable, logical expectations, Buhari hasn’t put a fully functional government in place. This is already the end of July. As we say around here, nothing spoil. The only harm I saw were incompetent governors (who are unable to manage quite sizable resources) dancing around the President, taking advantage, and getting off easy. The mound of flip flops and reversal of official pronouncements have only meant a slight loss of face; nothing major. However, I began to panic when I read a news report that Buhari has approved an exchange rate of N160 to $1 for Christian pilgrims. This report was publicised widely and with plenty of fanfare. To me, it is another indication that the President sorely needs all the help he can get. He needs technical advisers and a seasoned cabinet like a fish needs water. But the President has already and unwittingly set up his eventual Ministers for failure. They can’t win. Expectations are just too high now. Ministers would still have to be Nigerians, working in Nigeria. The current perception is that Buhari is searching for the best of the very best – folks with no blemishes at all but blessed with superpowers. Optimal performance bothering on miracles would be expected from these Ministers and other appointed government functionaries. How could anyone go into a job like that? It is unrealistic and quite unfair. All the same, I am becoming increasingly convinced that the President created this governance lacuna in order for him to have unfettered, unchallenged (dictatorial, if you will) shot at managing the country for a while before Ministers, Advisers and other technical and legal people are brought in and begin to rein-in some of his more impulsive and autocratic tendencies. It seems to me that Buhari wants to get in a few military- style diktats, strong-arm a few people before settling down to normal democratic governance. Because, so far, the only things on the table are hunting down people, dire innuendos and promises of persecution. As has been whispered all along, the President has finally confirmed that he intends to probe just Jonathan’s government. It is only that government that is corrupt in Nigeria’s recent history. Obasanjo is living large. The bribes from the Halliburton scandal are the major stakeholders in Nigeria’s present day change project. Even the scions of Abacha are running loose, obscenely flaunting stolen wealth. No problem with that. No investigations. Now tell me; how are certain sections of this country supposed to feel? Does this not seem like the start of marginalisation and dehumanisation of the usual suspects all over again? Even Madam Patience Jonathan was comprehensively humiliated at Port Harcourt airport last week when she attempted to use the VIP waiting area. She was refused access by security personnel citing “orders from Abuja.” How petty! If a former First Lady cannot use an airport’s VIP lounge, who should? I suppose Rotimi Amaechi is using his APC mates to exact revenge. Anyway, there is God o! The inclusiveness that was pervasive in the last four years is fast dissipating. Perhaps, someone needs to remind the President that we are in a thriving democracy. The opposition and opposing voices are not supposed to be treated like conquered prisoners of war, or like burnt offerings. Which brings me back to the issue of the pilgrims’ exchange rate. I could have sworn that I heard candidate Buhari campaign that he would scrap government’s participation in, and subsidy of religious pilgrimages. But he has only gone and directed that pilgrims should exchange N160 to the dollar. What this means is that a pilgrim with N400,000 who would have received $1,740 at the normal exchange rate will now get $2,500 under the Buhari plan. The government will cough up the difference. Last year, about 14,000 Christians made one form of pilgrimage to one place or the other. 76,000 Muslims went to Mecca. If we do the math, the government is going to end up subsidising around a further $68 million or N13.6 billion on top of whatever is already subsidised for these pilgrimages. Can you see why the President needs ministers and other technical people like yesterday? Furthermore, a pilgrim with N500,000 would get $3,125. In theory, this person could turn around and sell back dollars on the black market and make a profit of $1,000 or N237,000. Now, an…emm…shall we say, enterprising Pilgrims Board official can fund 100 people into this scheme and he is looking at a cool N23,700,000 million per pilgrimage cycle. The Christians alone run four pilgrimages in one year! Heavens only know what they are looking for. Please, please, we do not desire on a national scale a situation like that which currently exist in Osun State. The struggling governor of that State, Arigbesola, who has not been able to pay workers salaries in like forever somehow manages to find money every year to pay for Osun citizens transportation during sundry religious holidays; no audits, no questions asked. Tweet @Lastborn11 (07060428346)

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Full text of what Obama and Buhari said when they met yesterday

Below is what President Obama said to President Buhari and his entourage... Well, it’s a great pleasure to welcome President Buhari and his delegation here to the Oval Office for his first visit since the historic election that took place. Nigeria is obviously one of the important countries in the world and one of the most important countries in the African continent. Recently, we saw an election in which a peaceful transition to a new government took place. And it was an affirmation of Nigeria’s commitment to democracy, a recognition that although Nigeria is a big country and a diverse country with many different parts, nevertheless the people of Nigeria understand that only through a peaceful political process can change take place. President Buhari comes into office with a reputation for integrity and a very clear agenda, and that is to make sure that he is bringing safety and security and peace to his country. He’s very concerned about the spread of Boko Haram and the violence that’s taken place there, and the atrocities that they’ve carried out, and has a very clear agenda in defeating Boko Haram and extremists of all sorts inside of his country. And he has a very clear agenda with respect to rooting out the corruption that too often has held back the economic growth and prosperity of his country. On both these issues, we’re looking forward to hearing more about his plans and how the United States can partner with Nigeria so that Nigeria ends up being an anchor not only of prosperity and stability in the eastern part of the continent, but can also be an outstanding role model for developing countries around the world. And we very much look forward to talking about security issues, how we can cooperate on counterterrorism. We’re looking forward to discussing how we can be helpful in addressing some of the corruption issues that have held Nigeria back, and unleashing the incredible talent of the Nigerian people. We all recognize that some of the best businesspeople in the world are from Nigeria, and they thrive as they travel to other countries, but we want to make sure that they’re also helping folks thrive in Nigeria. We’re also going to have an opportunity to talk about some of the other areas where Nigeria has taken leadership — in public health issues, fighting tragedies like Ebola. Nigeria has an outstanding track record working with us to eradicate polio, and that gives us a framework and a template to continue to work on public health issues throughout the western part of Africa, as well as throughout the subcontinent. We’ll have a chance to talk about issues of climate change, electrification. As many of you know, Power Africa is one of our top priorities, making sure that we’re electrifying the continent so that it can grow faster and more people have access to the power that they need. So we’ve got a busy agenda, but I want to emphasize how much I appreciate President Buhari’s work so far. I’m looking forward to seeing him put together his team so that we can do everything that we can to help him succeed and help the people of Nigeria succeed. Because if they’re successful and doing well, that will have a ripple effect not only in West Africa, but throughout the world. So thank you very much. What President Buhari said Nigeria will remain ever grateful to President Obama and the United States for making Nigeria to consolidate its gains on a democratic system. The visit of the Secretary of State, when he visited Nigeria to see the President and the whole government of Nigeria, see the Chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission for Nigeria, and saw the operation was very clear and a positive trend that saw us through for this credible election we had. And the maintenance of pressure by the United States, mainly, and Europe, to make sure that the elections were free, fair and credible led us to where we are now. It would have been almost impossible if the United States did not maintain the pressure on the former Nigerian government, but they would not accept anything less constitutional as far as the processes of the election are concerned. We will ever remain grateful to you because there are fundamental objectives that are identify all of Nigeria’s people’s Congress — security, economy, employment especially of youth, and then fighting corruption. We are extremely happy that the United States had made it absolutely clear before the election that they are prepared to help Nigeria in this aspect. And this is why I am here, and I am very grateful for the invitation Mr. President extended to me. Thank you very much, Mr. President.Tweet @Lastborn11 (07060428346)

I Trust Buhari, He Has Integrity & A Clear Agenda – Obama

President Barack Obama has praised President Muhammadu Buhari’s efforts at working to bring “safety, security and peace” to Nigeria and Nigeria. At a joint press conference at the Oval Office in Washington DC, Obama said President Buhari had “a very clear agenda in defeating Boko Haram and extremists of all sorts inside of his country. And he has a very clear agenda in terms of rooting out the corruption that too often has held back the economic growth and prosperity of his country.” Speaking to reporters at the outset of the meeting, Obama said the US hoped to partner with Nigeria “so that Nigeria ends up being not only an anchor of prosperity and stability in the eastern part of the continent, but can also be an outstanding role model for developing countries around the world.” Obama said, “It is a great pleasure to welcome President Buhari and his delegation here in the White House for his first visit since the historic election that took place. Nigeria is obviously one of the most important countries in the World, one of the most important countries in the African continent. “Recently we saw an election in which a peaceful transition to a new government took place. Nevertheless, the people of Nigeria understand that only through a peaceful political process that change can take place. President Buhari came into office with reputation for integrity and a very clear agenda, that is, to make sure that he has been bringing safety, security and peace to his country. “He is very concerned about the spread and the violence that is taking place there and the atrocities, and has a very clear agenda in defeating Boko Haram and extremists. I want to emphasize how much I appreciate President Buhari’s work so far. I have seen him put together a team so that we can do everything that we can to help him succeed and help the people of Nigeria succeed.” Pressures From US Made Jonathan Conduct Credible Polls In Nigeria – Buhari Meanwhile, Buhari has asserted that the continued pressure on former President Goodluck Jonathan by the United States and some European countries forced his administration to conduct free and fair general elections in Nigeria. Tweet @Lastborn11 (07060428346)

Thursday, 2 July 2015

We Won’t Pay Staff Schools Workers Salaries Again – FG

The Federal Government has formally hands off the payment of salaries of teaching and non-academic workers of staff schools in institutions across the country. The National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission specifically said government should not be responsible for the payment of their salaries because of its overbearing effect on the budget. Part of the mandate of the commission includes monitoring the wage sector and advising the Federal Government on the fixing and regulation of workers’ salaries and other remuneration as well as the control of personnel costs. The announcement by the chairman of NSIWC, Chief Richard Egbule, during a press briefing on Wednesday in Abuja came on the heels of threat by the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities to embark on strike if the Federal Government refused to fund the schools which were said to have been established by the institutions. “I would like to appeal to staff unions not to distract the new government with unnecessary demands. The government has stopped payment of salaries of members of staff in the primary and secondary schools in these tertiary institutions and the decision is final,” he said. He recalled that in an agreement signed between the Federal Government and SSANU in November 2009, it was clear that universities should bear the full capital and costs of both staff primary and secondary schools, while parents of pupils and students should bear the recurrent costs. Egbule said that in the course of its inspection, the commission observed a trend in which government- owned institutions charge the funding of staff schools established by them to government treasury. This, he said, contributed to the overbloating of the recurrent cost in government budget. To correct the situation, the commission said a study it carried out in 2013 to ascertain the number of staff schools in the country revealed many disturbing trends. “Fourty-eight did not have staff schools, 21 funded their staff schools from their internally generated revenue, while 51 funded theirs from federal treasury budget sources by hiding the staff lists of such schools as part of the institution’s authentic members of staff. “In some instances, the staff salary of such schools was placed on the salary structure meant for tertiary educational institutions, which is higher in quantum than the Consolidated Public Service Salary Structure which has been costing the Federal Government about N4bn per annum,” Egbule stated. The commission added that based on its findings, it issued a circular with reference number SWC/S/04S.446/ T2/85 dated August 27, 2014” in which it stated that the policy was applicable to all staff schools meant for the children of the personnel of such institutions and other members of the public regardless of the nomenclature used. The National President of SSANU, Samson Ugwoke, told had journalists in Abuja that the government’s decision would contravene an earlier agreement reached between government and relevant associations in 2009. The agreement, he said, was that government would continue with the funding of recurrent and capital expenditures of universities’ staff schools. “An institution (the National Universities Commission), that is supposed to advise the government rightly is not doing so. We are calling on the government to do the needful and what is right. This is the last warning and you will not hear from us again until we take action because strike is imminent,” he threatened. According to him, the schools were established by statues and therefore made provision for employment of relevant workers by the universities’ council. Ugwoke had said government should not resort to distribution of directives through circulars and throw thousands of employees into the labour market. He argued that the law should be changed before such a directive could be implemented. Tweet @Lastborn11 (07060428346)