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Weekly political notes


Patience Jonathan

Nigeria’s Foreign Debt Up By 40% Under Buhari-NBS
Nigeria’s total domestic and foreign debt stocks as at June 30 stood at about $15.1 billion and N14.1 trillion respectively, the National Bureau of Statistics said on Tuesday.

A review of the total foreign debt profile of the Federal and the 36 states governments and the FCT also shows a continuous rise since the coming of the present administration, from $10.718 billion in 2015, to $11.406 billion in 2016 and $15.047 billion in 2017.

Out of the current total figure of $15.047 billion, the Federal Government accounts for $11.106 billion, or about 74 per cent, while the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT owe about $3.94 billion, or 26 per cent.

The Federal and State government shares of the debt stock grew from $7.349 billion and $3.369 billion in 2015, to $7.84 billion and $3.568 billion in 2016, and $3.94 billion and $11.106 billion in 2017 respectively.

There is nothing unusual in the rise, considering the crash in the price of crude oil, that is major source of the country’s revenue. But even at that, Nigerians are not against government borrowing. It is normal and expected. After all, developed countries borrow when the need arises. The only worry in Nigeria’s case is lack of accountability and transparency in managing borrowed funds. But who expects transparency over borrowed funds, when there is no accountability and transparency in governance in the country. Leadership and governance is more of a business and self-enrichment than selfless service to humanity.

Hiding under the dictum that government is a continuum and relying on immunity cover, successive governments have over the years borrowed and mismanaged public funds with impunity. Not even the activities of anti-graft agencies have deterred them. A typical example of such mismanagement is the controversy trailing the expending of the refunded Paris fund and bailout fund by state governments. Again, not even the APC-led government, who came to power on the “change mantra” has been able to properly account for the recovered and borrowed funds so far. This is despite the fact that anti-corruption war is one of its major priorities.

Also annoying is the fact that majority of the leaders, who were active participants in previous administration, instead of being brought to book are often rewarded with higher leadership positions, where they continue to loot public fund unperturbed for personal use.

IPOB: Reps Leader Tackles Saraki For Faulting Military Declaration
The Chief Whip of the House of Representatives, Alhassan Doguwa, has criticised Senate President, Bukola Saraki, for faulting the military’s declaration of IPOB as a terrorist group.

Saraki on Monday said the military has no constitutional power to declare any group a terrorist organisation. He also said Southeast governors, who proscribed the pro-Biafran separatist group had no power to do so.

In his reaction, Doguwa, a member of Saraki’s All Progressives Congress, said the senate president’s stance was a mere “political statement.”

“For me, the recent comment made by the Senate President on this matter was a mere political statement that would only portray him as a controversial leader,” he said.

Both Saraki and Doguwa are entitled to their opinions. They are both lawmakers, who ought to understand the position of law on issues like this. Looking at the position of law, Saraki aired his view, but Doguwa appeared to be sounding emotional. Now that the military has backtracked on its declaration, who has been vindicated; Saraki or Doguwa?

Doguwa’s position is expected of him, considering where he is from. The North has never hidden its disdain for IPOB activities, which it has blamed Southeast leaders of not addressing before now. But neither Saraki nor Doguwa’s position will change the situation on ground, especially as the military has insisted that it will continue with the Python Dance Exercise in the Southeast.

The Python has already danced in the Southeast and the damage has been done. What is at stake now is how to restore normalcy in the region. So, instead of playing to the gallery on the pages of newspaper, Saraki and Doguwa can take their views to the floor of the National Assembly for deliberation and resolution or to a law court for judicial interpretation.

IPOB: Visit Our States, Northern Governors Tell Southern Colleagues
Governors from Northern region have invited their counterparts from the Southeast to visit their states to interact with Igbo communities as a means of promoting peace and communal harmony among various groups in the country.

The chairman of Northern Governors Forum and Governor of Borno State, Kashim Shettima, said this after he led a delegation of five governors on a visit to Rivers, Abia and Imo states, to promote peace.

“The visit will afford them the opportunity to assess first hand, efforts made by their colleagues in the North to prevent escalation of the recent crisis in Abia.

“It will also reaffirm the need for all Nigerians to feel safe in all parts of the country, irrespective of their ethnic or religious inclination,” Shettima said.

Shettima should be reminded that the visit was belated, and an afterthought. But it is better late than never. Northern governors should go beyond visiting the South. It is not their responsibility to remind their Southern colleagues to visit North, after all there are more Southeasterners in the North, than Northerners in the Southeast.

Common sense demands that governors of Southeast and their colleagues from the North ought to have visited each other in the wake of the October 1 quit notice issued to Igbos by some Northern youths. That would have been an avenue for them to form a common front on how best to resolve the lingering issues, before it degenerated to the military/ IPOB clash and its accompanying casualties.

Meanwhile, it is hoped that the visit is not political, because the world is watching to know what happens. What is at stake now is not 2019 elections, but peace and unity of the country called Nigeria. It is a big challenge mere statement and visit cannot solve. What is required now is concrete steps towards restructuring the country.

Reps Orders Banks To Unblock Patience Jonathan’s Accounts
The House of Representatives Committee on Public Petitions has directed six commercial banks to free accounts operated by former first lady, Patience Jonathan.

The committee chaired by Uzoma Nkem-Abonta (Abia-PDP), gave the directive on Tuesday in Abuja at a hearing on a petition by Mrs. Jonathan.
The affected banks are Union Bank, First Bank, EcoBank, Diamond Bank, Fidelity Bank and Skye Bank.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had directed the banks to freeze the accounts over allegations of corruption in the sources of the funds.

While it is not an offence to operate accounts in different commercial banks in Nigeria, cash inflow into the accounts if suspicious could be suspended by the anti-graft agencies on order of court, pending conclusion of its investigations. In this case, a mere resolution by a committee of the House of Reps may not be enough to give ex-First Lady Patience Jonathan, a relief now.

Since leaving office, Patience Jonathan has remained in the news in connection with several battles with EFCC over some financial transactions. Many may see this as mere witch-hunt by the APC-led government, but others argue that one needs to be a witch before he or she could be hunted. Besides, no one is above the law.

But if one may ask; why the freezing of Mrs Jonathan’s accounts in six commercial banks? Is EFCC saying that all the monies in her accounts are proceeds of corruption? EFCC, where are the evidences? Is the anti-graft agency saying that Mrs. Jonathan never earned legitimate money in her life, even as a senior civil servant in Bayelsa, while serving as the country’s first lady?

It is expected of the EFCC to urgently come out with clear position and evidence of sources of funds in Mrs Jonathan’s accounts, before Nigerians will be forced to draw conclusion. Blocking her accounts appears unconstitutional, unfair and vindictive. She needs to spend her money, especially now that she is out of power. But she also needs to make some explanations on sources of her money.

Recall: Melaye Warns INEC Against Flouting Court Order
The embattled senator representing Kogi West senatorial district of Kogi State, Dino Melaye, has said that his recall process being undertaken by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) could be rendered null and void if the commission does not adhere to a certain order by the Federal High Court.

Just last Monday, INEC released the amended timetable and schedule of activities for the senator’s planned recall.

Melaye, who gave the warning on Tuesday via his twitter handle, said any action taken by INEC on his planned recall without first complying with Justice Nnamdi Dimgba’s order requiring him to have two weeks to study the so-called constituents in the documents after service on him would render such action void.

Melaye is sounding like a broken record. Of what importance is his advice to INEC on this matter, especially when such action by the Commission will be in his favour? Is it not the same Melaye that INEC recently accused of evading court service?

With this, it is obvious that the comical senator is not only embattled, he seems to be confused. What should be of utmost concern to Melaye now is how to survive this democracy test and prove his traducers wrong again.

The outcome of the recall process will not only be historic, it will remain a reference point in the country’s democratic process, considering that it is first of its kind. Instead of playing hide and seek with INEC, it is time Melaye submits himself for the recall exercise. The onus lies on Melaye to prove to Nigerians that he was not rigged into office by his godfather, late Abubakar Audu as alleged, but rather, he was voted into office by his people.

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