Nasir El-Rufai on Friday: Introducing Young Voices – Ayobami Oyalowo

Published:4 Jan, 2013

Nasir El-Rufai on Friday:
Introducing Young Voices – Ayobami Oyalowo

Our young voice for this Friday is not that young – Ayo Oyalowo (@Ayourb on Twitter) is in his late 30s, so part of the demographic group that accounts for nearly 80% of our country’s population. Ayo’s experience has been in financial services and today is one of the most vocal and emerging voices on social media particularly on Twitter.

Ayo’s New Year message is about the distortion of our incentive structure in Nigeria which has reached stratospheric levels under the Jonathan administration – the rewarding of laziness, crime and bigotry while punishing hard work, righteousness and social inclusion amongst our people. Our leadership has failed massively in 2012. Ayo and the rest of us hope that they will listen to the voices of the majority and do better in 2013.

It is my singular honour and privilege to present Mr. Ayobami Oyalowo and his contribution to improving our nation, in the footsteps of young patriots like Chinedu Ekeke, Elnathan John, Auwal Sani Anwar, Japhet Omojuwa, Zainab Usman, Jude Egbas and Ogunyemi Bukola. Happy New Year.
– Nasir El-Rufai

Crime: Nigeria’s Only Thriving Industry?
By: Ayobami Oyalowo

The rising wave of crime is disheartening to most Nigerians. On Sunday, November 28, 2012, Nigerians were greeted by a hitherto unimaginable event: the bombing of a church in Jaji (near Kaduna, North-Central Nigeria), one of the “most-secure” military facilities in Nigeria. Hardly had the news sunk in than news of another attack on the office complex of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) in Abuja greeted the airwaves. Then came the news about a heavy bombardment of banks, a police station and some military facilities in Auchi (Edo State, South-South Nigeria). All these incidents happened within a 24-hour interval, leaving in its wake a huge number of casualties. The reality of today is that life has little value in the Jonathan-ruled Nigeria.

But, how did we get here? Gradually. Because, while the rot did not start with the present government, it is clear to any discerning mind that the highly unfocused posture of this government has given criminals and militants the boldness to take on the state without fear of retribution.

No society is totally crime-free. However, in egalitarian societies, where equality is a norm and justice is guaranteed should there be a breach, crime rates are generally at the barest minimum. In present day Nigeria, though, this is not the case. No thanks to the high unemployment statistics – swelled even more by the huge number of graduates and other school-leavers churned out annually, add to that the large number of underemployed and frustrated citizens – Nigeria is in a highly volatile state, armed with willing youths needing economic emancipation. And since our society does not frown anymore at sudden wealth or a display of opulence, we are surely ripe for the picking. Throw in an inept, rudderless government, and you have the complete recipe for disaster.

A cursory look at the proposed budget of Nigeria in 2013, tells a sad tale to any discerning mind. The health of a corporation, state or nation, can easily be ascertained by looking at the quality of the budget; and a look at next year’s budget, as proposed by the “most brilliant” Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, shows a nation bereft of developmental ideas and a leadership lacking in sincerity and focus. With the sum of N2.6 billion budgeted for the president’s numerous, but mostly avoidable, international junketing termed ‘foreign trips’, and another N1.3 billion budgeted for feeding and snacks for the office of the President and his vice, one wonders at the focus and priority of these “leaders”.

How do you allocate N60.1billion to education, N55.8billion to health and N31.8billion to Science & Technology, then N23.6billion to only 30,000 ex-militants? Why shouldn’t the 70% of the population under the age of 35 years join these militants? Because, if you take up arms against the state, create as much tension, shed as much blood as possible, and then negotiate with the government, you will go scot-free, get juicy contracts and enjoy federal patronage, as well.

In August, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) broke some disturbing news about Nigeria. It was reported that some ex-militants in the Niger Delta had been paid about N6.32billion within the past one year by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). Yes, for the ‘noble’ service of providing security against vandals for the Corporation’s oil pipeline network. Imagine! The breakdown, as outlined by WSJ, is this:

Chief Government Ekpumopolo (alias Tompolo), Alhaji Mujahid Asari-Dokubo, ‘General’ Ebikabowei Victor Ben (Boyloaf) and ‘General’ Ateke Tom were respectively paid N5.1 billion, N1.44 billion, N608 million and N608 million yearly by the state-owned NNPC, as ‘protection money’ to guard the pipelines they once attacked.

As if that was not enough an insult on the collective intelligence of Nigerians, earlier in the year the Federal Government awarded a contract worth $103.4million (over N15billion) to the Global West Vessel Specialist Limited (GWVSL) – a firm widely believed to be owned by Tompolo to supply 20 vessels for the use of the nation’s military authorities to secure the waterways. Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Ziadeke Akpobolokemi, had last year sent a memo titled, “Award of Contract for the Strategic Concessioning Partnership with NIMASA to Provide Platforms for Tracking Ships and Cargoes, Enforce Regulatory Compliance and Surveillance Of The Entire Nigerian Maritime Domain,” to President Goodluck Jonathan.

In considering the memo, President Goodluck Jonathan and Akpobolokemi chose GWVSL as the preferred company for the 10-year concession agreement, renewable for two terms of five years each. Jonathan, in a memo dated 9th November, 2011, with reference number PRES/99/MT/61, approved Akpobolokemi’s memo, which the Federal Executive Council rubber-stamped on 5th January, 2012. According to Akpobolokemi, GWVSL “will provide platforms for effective policing of Nigeria’s maritime domain and ensure compliance with international maritime conventions on vessels and ships voyaging the country’s waters”. NIMASA maintains that the concessionaire would help the Federal Government to enforce the sabotage law and collect levies on its behalf. This, in a country that still maintains a statutory Naval force, and without a track record for GWVSL?

When you consider the reckless budget, and the pampering of criminals nicknamed militants by the government as led by Jonathan, the conclusion is very grim. Now, the government plans to negotiate with the Boko Haram terrorists group. This is a clear indication of the failure, nay, surrender, of government. It points to just one thing: this government lacks balls! Harass and intimidate it and you are assured of juicy returns after negotiation.

The Basque Separatists Movement in Spain, which has been on a collision course with the Spanish authorities since 1959, has a casualty figure of 800 in their 53 years of existence. Boko Haram, which came alive just about 3 years ago, the figure is in thousands. Indeed, the lives of ordinary Nigerians mean little or nothing to those in government. After all, the government itself routinely murders citizens extra-judicially through its security personnel at check points. The case of Lucy of Apo in Abuja and the 5-day old groom in Lagos readily spring to mind, amongst countless others.

The total annual emolument of a senator as recommended by Revenue Mobilisation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) stands at N12.766 million per annum (about N1.063 million per month), with slightly less figures for members of the House of Representatives, amounting to N5.6billion for the 469 members of the National Assembly. The 2013 budget, however, makes a provision of N150billion for the National Assembly, so members earn in a month more than they are entitled to in a year (based on the RMAFC recommendation). Indeed, the recklessness is not limited to the executive; it is a total package of bare-faced fiscal irresponsibility, by all arms of government.

Though the above paint a grim picture, the entire story is yet to be told: Mallam Nasir El-rufai had earlier stated that, to clear the backlog of jobless youths, Nigeria will need to create about 3 million jobs annually for 5 years. Add to this the number of NYSC members that get discharged annually, plus the number of those recently laid off by banks and the picture gets bleaker. And why won’t it, if over 60% of the budget is either lost or unaccounted for and only 30% annual budget performance?

In all these, though, I dare say that the case of Nigeria is not a hopeless one. Yes, Nigeria’s foreign debt profile currently stands at about $7billion. But, then, Nigeria’s problem is largely a man-made problem. Greed, avarice, selfishness and corruption in high places are our bane. Hence, our government officials only need to stop stealing or, at least, reduce what they regularly steal. The
government cannot continue to preach sacrifice to the suffering Nigerian masses while its executives live in opulence. The governor of Kano state recently bought 3 bullet-proof SUVs valued at N156million, while the governors of Rivers and Akwa Ibom states also acquired Bombardier jets, each valued at about $45million.

Government at all levels must cut down on avoidable expenses. No nation can develop with a 70:30 recurrent to capital expenditure ratio. We must wake up and realize that developing Nigeria is an assignment for us all. We don’t determine the price of the oil which provides the bulk of our national revenue. Again, it is a volatile product, whose terminal date is about 39years away. A sensible government, therefore, should begin to plan for that time.

Again, more countries are discovering oil, as well as alternative sources of energy. This means that soon, our oil will no longer be as important and lucrative as it is today.

Furthermore, the discarded probe reports and endless committees/panels have revealed that the government lacks the will to fight corruption. Then, with KPMG declaring Nigeria the most corrupt country in their half-term report of 2012 and the Gallup poll showing the Nigeria government to be the second most corrupt in the world, the government must work at improving the statistics.

Finally, like I earlier averred, the case of Nigeria is not a totally hopeless one, but the government must be sincere and be truly ready to fight corruption and nepotism. Until corruption is killed, Nigerians will continue to die cheap deaths, while criminals will continually have a free reign in the land. Awarding contracts to kingpins in the guise of amnesty is not only travesty, but an open invitation to anarchy, as well. Accountability and probity are non-negotiable in our march to greatness. The government either exterminates corruption or by consequence of inaction, will continually contribute to dividing, impoverishing and punishing Nigerians.

As a wise man once said, “You can deceive some of the people some of the time, or even all the people some of the time, but not all the people all the time.”

I am @Ayourb on Twitter.

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