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Editorial

Exploring alternative strategies for economic growth amidst forex shortages

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Last week, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu demonstrated astute leadership by implementing a temporary restriction on foreign travels for ministers and government officials.

This timely move followed revelations of unnecessary expenditure, exemplified by the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation sponsoring state finance commissioners to a workshop in London.

In a directive addressed to ministers, the Presidency emphasised the necessity of this measure to streamline governance expenses while ensuring uninterrupted governmental operations.

The directive mandates all officials seeking public-funded international trips to obtain Presidential approval at least two weeks in advance, underlining the imperative for such journeys to be truly essential.

President Tinubu’s decision strikes a balance between fiscal responsibility and maintaining government efficiency. By prioritising cost-saving measures without compromising the delivery of public services, his administration sets a commendable standard for prudent governance.

In the realm of government affairs, jet-setting has become a lucrative pastime for officials and civil servants alike, not out of necessity, but for the allure of hefty estacodes. Take, for instance, the recent London workshop organized by the OAGF, where participants raked in $600 per night, with longer stays translating to even more lavish earnings. Yet, as Nigeria grapples with forex shortages, such indulgent excursions represent a squandering of funds desperately needed for revenue-generating endeavors.

President Tinubu’s bold move to rein in ministerial jaunts abroad is a step in the right direction. Rather than lavish London workshops, why not bring the expertise to Nigeria’s shores? Our nation boasts safe and comfortable venues aplenty, making costly foreign escapades unnecessary extravagances.

Indeed, Nigeria’s diplomatic corps stands ready to represent our interests worldwide. By tapping into this existing infrastructure, the government can engage in fruitful negotiations and attend crucial meetings without draining the nation’s coffers. It’s high time we prioritise thriftiness in governance, especially as Nigerians demand a reduction in overhead costs.

In the quest for fiscal prudence, President Tinubu’s recent directives on curtailing excessive foreign travels by government officials are commendable strides towards a more economically sustainable future.

However, true leadership demands leading by example, and there lies an opportunity for the President to elevate his commitment to austerity.

While the reins tighten on ministerial voyages abroad, it’s imperative for President Tinubu to scrutinise his own itinerary. The spectacle of presidential excursions, often accompanied by a retinue of state governors, ministers, and agency heads, exacts a substantial toll on forex reserves, particularly in estacodes. The statistics speak volumes: 16 foreign trips in the first seven months of his tenure, spanning a staggering 91 days.

In the spirit of shared sacrifice and accountability, the President can pivot towards a more judicious approach. Emulating Malawian President Lazarus Chakwera’s bold stance on foreign travel restrictions, President Tinubu could opt to delegate representation at select international events. By leading from the front and forgoing unnecessary trips, he not only underscores his commitment to cost-cutting but also inspires confidence in his administration’s resolve to uphold its promises.

As the nation navigates economic challenges, President Tinubu stands at a pivotal crossroad. Will he seize the opportunity to redefine leadership by embracing frugality at the highest level? The choice is his, and the nation eagerly awaits his decision.

Amidst the fervor of foreign trips touted as investment-seeking endeavors, state governors find themselves under scrutiny for expenditures that yield little return. While ostensibly pursuing Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) and Foreign Portfolio Investments (FPIs), the reality, as evidenced by data from the Open Nigeria States (OPS) portal, paints a starkly different picture. Over three years, 14 states collectively spent a staggering N21.04 billion on foreign jaunts, yet yielded no tangible investment.

This stark revelation finds resonance in a 2023 World Bank report, which highlights Nigeria’s struggle to attract net FDI inflows, exacerbated by structural challenges and FX availability constraints. The folly of relying solely on foreign trips as a panacea for economic growth is laid bare, as the report underscores the critical role of local environmental factors in attracting investments.

As custodians of their states’ economic destinies, governors must embrace a pragmatic approach to investment attraction. By fostering local conditions conducive to investment, they can chart a course towards sustainable economic growth and prosperity for their constituents. It’s time to recalibrate investment strategies, steering away from the allure of foreign junkets towards pragmatic, homegrown solutions.

In the current climate of economic strain, the ostensible necessity of government officials’ foreign excursions raises eyebrows and tempers alike. As ordinary Nigerians tighten their belts amidst financial uncertainty, the conspicuous absence of self-discipline among officials embarking on globetrotting escapades for personal gain becomes a bitter pill to swallow.

Indeed, the reality of everyday Nigerians grappling with economic hardships underscores the imperative for government officials to exhibit restraint and prudence in their international travels. At a time when the majority of citizens are feeling the pinch of austerity measures, the indulgence of unnecessary foreign trips by officials is not justifiable.

As such, we echo the sentiment for a stringent embargo on foreign travels to be upheld beyond the initial three-month period. This extension is not merely a symbolic gesture but a practical necessity to demonstrate the government’s commitment to fiscal responsibility and solidarity with the populace.

In the face of mounting economic challenges, now is the time for government officials to lead by example, showing empathy and restraint in their actions.

Let us use this moment of national struggle as an opportunity to cultivate a culture of accountability and prudence within our governance structures.

Editorial

Renewed Hope Initiative: Beating back inequality in all spheres

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Nigeria is full of inequalities that its leaders contend with administration after administration. With every President comes a partner who shares in the vision, and does her part to alleviate the pains of the citizens. Oluremi Tinubu has etched her name in the annals of history as one of such compassionate ones.

Recently, in Abeokuta she flagged off the Renewed Hope Initiative for women in agriculture and people living with disabilities nationwide in a bid to achieve this noble goal of equity in Nigeria.

“We are supporting 20 women farmers per state with the sum of N500,000 each. To this end, a draft of N10 million per state for the South West zone will be handed over to the first ladies of Ekiti, Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, and Oyo states who are the Renewed Hope Initiative (RHI) state coordinators for onward disbursement to all beneficiaries in their respective states,” she said.

“The Renewed Hope Initiative Social Investment Programme will be empowering 100 persons with disability, small business owners in Ogun State with a sum of N100,000 each to recapitalise their existing businesses.”

In Kebbi, represented by the Wife of the Speaker, House of Representatives, Fatima Tajuddeen Abbas, in Birnin Kebbi, she said, “Agriculture plays a pivotal role in achieving sustainable development and food security. Consequently, we are introducing ‘Every Home a Garden’ competition to encourage each Nigerian woman to cultivate a garden at home to feed the family and share with neighbours, we want to see food on every table.”

We commend the forward thinking and passion for national growth required for such a herculean task. If emulated in all quarters, it will stimulate the economy at the grassroots. It is well acknowledged that the government cannot do it alone. Private individuals who are capable must rise up to contribute to national growth.

It isn’t alien to the Nigerian condition, after all. The country was able to survive the assaults of the COVID-19 pandemic thanks to the joint efforts of private individuals under the umbrella of Coalition Against COVID-19, CACOVID, a Private Sector task force in partnership with the Federal Government, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). The Renewed Hope Initiative joins the tradition of programmes committed to national improvement. History will look upon it kindly.

 

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Editorial

Increasing access to community healthcare

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Recently the World Health Organisation (WHO) decried the increasing threat to the right to health of millions of people across the world. The WHO Council on the Economics of Health for All has stated that 140 countries recognise health as a human right. Unfortunately, these countries are not passing and putting into practice laws to ensure that their citizens are entitled to access health services. According to the global health agency, about 4.5 billion people, over half of the world’s population, were not fully covered by essential health services in 2021.

The WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, in her message underscored the fact that health is not only a fundamental human right, but also central to peace and security. According to her, addressing health inequities requires intentional efforts. Considerations of vulnerable groups must be addressed. Their needs ought to be purposefully integrated into health programmes at all levels to accelerate progress toward Universal Health Coverage (UHC).

‘My health, my right,’ the global agency used the occasion to call for action to uphold the right to health amidst inaction, injustice and crises. The year’s theme, according to the organisers, was chosen to champion the right of everyone, everywhere to have access to quality health services, education, and information, as well as safe drinking water, clean air, good nutrition, quality housing, decent working and environmental conditions, and freedom from discrimination.

Moeti noted that many in the African region still need help with access to quality essential health services due largely to unfulfilled rights. She observed that this is further compounded by protracted and ongoing crises such as conflicts, climate change, food insecurity, disease outbreaks and epidemics.

Available figures show that the number of people aged 15 and over living with HIV is still high at an estimated 24.3 million in 2021 (3.4 percent of the total population) compared to 15.6 million in 2015. This underscores the continued transmission of HIV despite reductions in the incidence of people newly infected and the benefits of significantly expanded access to antiretrovirals. Moeti called on member states to uphold the progress towards fulfilling the right to health, agreed by all nations of the world in 1948 and enshrined in the WHO Constitution.

“The right to health is a universal right of all human beings, regardless of race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, or another status,” Moeti stated.

Nigeria, the Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Prof. Muhammad Ali Pate, has reiterated the ministry’s commitment to ensure the health and wellbeing of all Nigerians. The minister is of the view that the right to health is not just the ideal, it is a fundamental human right enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

For millions of Nigerians, accessing quality healthcare is a challenge. However, the federal government has mapped out some initiatives to address the challenge. These include Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF) and the Nigeria Health Sector Renewal and Investment Initiative and strategic partnerships through which the health ministry is ensuring access to health of Nigerians in remote communities across the country.

Unfortunately, the right to health for all Nigerians has not been enshrined in our laws. Therefore, we call on the federal and state lawmakers to make laws that will ensure the right to health of all Nigerians. We need laws that will ensure Universal Health Coverage for all Nigerians.

Such laws will ensure that every Nigerian has access to quality health at all times. These include having access to potable water, clean air, quality nutrition and quality housing, decent working environment and freedom from discrimination.

While the laws that will enforce the right to health of all Nigerians are being awaited, the government must improve access to health by ensuring that quality healthcare services are provided at the Primary Healthcare Centres (PHCs) across the 774 local government areas.

If the primary healthcare centres are functional, the nation’s disease burden would have been reduced by over 70 per cent. The government should provide free health services at the PHC level. For Nigeria to increase access to quality health for millions of Nigerians and ensure UHC, the health funding must be significantly increased.

Pathetically, it has become an eyesore that millions of Nigerians living at the grassroots don’t have access to quality healthcare services. This is a wakeup call to the various state Governors and their Chairpersons to reinvest in the health sector, especially the community people.

Most of the health institutions and healthcare facilities are in a dilapidated stage at the rural communities and there is no motivation for health personnel in terms of incentives, knowledge acquisition such as training and retaining of staff, the equipment in various hospitals and clinics are outdated. The federal government in partnership with international donors should reenergise in the health system for the betterment of the masses.

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Editorial

Urgent action needed to stem rising violence in Nigeria

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In a recent high-level meeting convened by Inspector General of Police, Kayode Egbetokun, alarming statistics were revealed: in just eight weeks, Nigeria has witnessed a staggering 537 cases of murder.

This revelation, coupled with 141 incidents of terrorism/secessionist attacks, 26 cases of armed robbery, 214 instances of kidnapping, and 39 cases of unlawful possession of firearms, paints a dire picture of our nation’s security landscape.

The gravity of these figures cannot be overstated. Each number represents a life lost, a family shattered, and a community in mourning. It is a stark reminder of the pervasive threat to the safety and well-being of every Nigerian citizen.

As a nation, we must confront this crisis with unwavering resolve and urgency. The current measures in place to address this surge in violence are woefully inadequate. It is evident that mere rhetoric and half-hearted efforts will not suffice in stemming the tide of bloodshed that plagues our country.

Furthermore, cooperation and collaboration between the government, security forces, and communities are paramount in the fight against crime and insurgency. Only through a united front can we hope to achieve lasting peace and stability in our nation.

As a society, we cannot afford to be complacent in the face of such staggering violence. The lives of our fellow citizens are at.

Kayode Egbetokun, recently unveiled the stark reality of our nation’s security predicament – a harrowing tally of 537 murder cases, 141 acts of terrorism/secessionist violence, and a myriad of other criminal atrocities.

Yet, amidst the chaos, glimmers of hope emerge – 3,685 suspects apprehended, 401 kidnapped victims rescued. These are the valiant efforts of our law enforcement, battling against a rising tide of criminality that threatens to engulf our nation.

But behind these statistics lies a deeper malaise – the scourge of economic hardship driving desperate souls into the arms of crime. In the crucible of survival, patriotism wanes, and criminality becomes an industry unto itself.

As the specter of insecurity looms large, the response from our governments remains tragically predictable – hollow promises, ineffectual rhetoric. The blood of innocents flows freely, cries for help drowned out by the deafening silence of those tasked with our protection.

It is a damning indictment of our society’s fabric when the guardians of law and order are themselves shackled by inadequacy.

With a mere 300,000 officers to police a population of 200 million, our forces are stretched thin, unable to meet the demands of a nation in turmoil.

The expectations are clear – to enforce justice, safeguard lives, and stem the tide of criminality. Yet, the reality falls short. The wheels of justice grind slowly, convictions dwindle, and offenders roam free.

In this crucible of despair, the call for divine intervention rings loud. But it is not divine providence we seek, but rather a concerted effort from our leaders to confront the scourge of insecurity head-on.

For it is only through effective policing that the foundation of our nation can be secured. The safety of our citizens is non-negotiable, and it is incumbent upon our governments to rise to the challenge. The time for platitudes is over.

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has highlighted a concerning trend of cases where offenders are not convicted due to gaps between the Ministry of Justice and the police. This failure to prosecute perpetrators undermines national security by allowing them to evade accountability for their actions.

The lack of consequences for criminal behavior fosters a culture of impunity and reinforces the belief that crime is a profitable endeavor. This is evident in the brazen acts of banditry, criminality among herdsmen, Boko Haram insurgency, and other criminal activities across Nigeria.

To address this issue, governments at all levels must prioritize the deployment of skilled and professional legal practitioners in the criminal justice system.

Additionally, we propose that governments at all levels should allow private legal practitioners who are inclined towards criminal prosecution to collaborate with the state in prosecuting criminal cases.

This collaboration could take the form of private consultancy, engagement on a private basis, or through pro bono services. We believe that this approach could potentially help alleviate the burden on the state by reducing the backlog of criminal cases pending in courts, particularly those related to awaiting trial and others.

The time for action is now. Law enforcement agencies must be empowered with the necessary resources and support to effectively combat crime and ensure the safety of all Nigerians. Additionally, there must be a concerted effort to address the root causes of violence, including poverty, unemployment, and social inequality.

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