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Editorial

State Govts, fix our roads, stop the carnage now!

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In just three short months, 295 lives have been lost and 315 people injured in road accidents across 24 states and the Federal Capital Territory. Ogun State and Kwara State have been particularly hard hit, with 43 and 28 fatalities respectively.

The sheer scale of this tragedy calls for an urgent need for unwavering action to tackle the scourge of road accidents in Nigeria.

As we mourn the loss of precious lives, we must also ask ourselves: what can be done to prevent such carnage on our roads?

It is alarming that the causes of these accidents remain unchanged over the years, indicating a lack of meaningful progress in addressing the underlying issues. The status quo is unacceptable, and it is imperative that we take concrete steps to tackle this national crisis.

The deplorable state of our roads is a significant contributor to the alarming rate of accidents. Crumbling infrastructure forces drivers to navigate treacherous potholes, leading to avoidable tragedies.

It’s disheartening that governors prioritise building flyovers in capital cities while neglecting other critical road networks. Even when efforts are made to repair these roads, they often deteriorate rapidly due to subpar construction.

Furthermore, the roadworthiness of vehicles plying our roads is a major concern. Commercial vehicles, in particular, are often operated with worn-out tires, faulty brakes, and poor lighting, putting lives at risk. Enforcement agencies tasked with ensuring compliance frequently fail to do their job, and when they do, they prioritize revenue generation over safety.

Corruption also allows unqualified drivers to operate vehicles, further compounding the problem.

To make matters worse, some drivers operate under the influence of alcohol, posing a significant threat to themselves and others. It’s imperative that we address these systemic issues to reduce the number of accidents and ensure safer roads for all.

Nigerians’ driving habits are a significant concern, requiring extra caution on our roads due to the prevalent poor road manners. Many drivers exhibit impatience and disregard for basic traffic rules, such as stopping at traffic lights.

Commercial vehicle drivers often prioritise quick profits over safety, overloading their vehicles and even using goods vehicles to transport passengers.

To address the urgent need for improvement, our law enforcement agencies must take their responsibilities seriously.

The Federal Road Safety Corps and directorates for road traffic services must shift their focus from revenue generation to ensuring proper driver licensing, vehicle roadworthiness, and enforcing traffic regulations. By doing so, we can significantly reduce road accidents in a short time. It’s time for a change in attitude and a commitment to safety on our roads.

It is crucial for them to intensify efforts in educating the public on the importance of following basic traffic rules and ensuring that vehicles on the roads are roadworthy. This can be achieved through cooperation with various road unions to educate drivers.

Federal and state governments also have a responsibility to provide Nigerians with good road networks. The current state of many roads, which can be described as death traps, is unacceptable. We urge state governors to prioritise fixing the numerous roads in their regions over constructing flyovers in state capitals to ensure the safe movement of people and goods.

Additionally, we strongly advocate for the strict enforcement of laws against drivers whose reckless behavior results in the loss of lives. It must be made clear that such reckless actions will not be tolerated, or the situation will only worsen.

More importantly, Nigerians must learn to observe basic traffic rules and respect each other on the road. Being patriotic and law-abiding citizens is essential for ensuring a prosperous and peaceful nation. This responsibility begins with each one of us.

The persistence of these avoidable tragedies requires a multifaceted approach. We must improve road safety infrastructure, enforce traffic regulations, and promote public awareness campaigns.

It is important to address the root causes of these accidents, such as reckless driving, poor vehicle maintenance, and inadequate emergency response systems.

Also, the Governments should implement mandatory retraining programs for drivers who have been involved in accidents or have multiple traffic violations. This can help improve driving skills and awareness of traffic rules.

Meanwhile, there should be enhancement of emergency response systems to ensure timely and efficient medical assistance for accident victims. Quick response times can significantly reduce fatalities and severe injuries.

Launching community engagement programs to educate the public about road safety which may involve local communities can help create a culture of safety and responsibility among road users.

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Editorial

Presidential air fleet maintenance: Profligacy amid austerity

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As Nigeria grapples with economic challenges, the Federal Government’s priorities are once again called into question. Under President Bola Tinubu’s administration, State house report showed that a staggering N14.77 billion has been spent on repairing and maintaining the presidential air fleet in just 11 months.

This extravagance is particularly galling when considered against the backdrop of a proposed $623.4 million expenditure on two new aircraft, as recommended by the House of Representatives Committee on National Security and Intelligence.

The justification for this lavish spending? The committee cites the “fragile structure of the Nigerian federation” and the need for a “suitable, comfortable and safe carrier” for the President and Vice President.

One wonders if our leaders have lost touch with the realities faced by ordinary Nigerians, who struggle to make ends meet amidst rising poverty and inequality.

This is not an isolated incident. The previous administration, under President Muhammadu Buhari, spent a whopping sum of money despite promises to reduce the size of the fleet and cut costs. It appears that our leaders are more concerned with projecting an image of grandeur than with prudent fiscal management.

The proposal to procure two new aircraft by the National Assembly should be reconsidered, with a refocus on allocating resources to sectors that directly benefit the nation. It’s time to move away from extravagant spending.

Recent concerns about the state of the presidential air fleet highlight ongoing challenges despite significant past investments. These issues have led President Tinubu to resort to chartering private jets and Vice President Shettima to cancel international engagements.

On May 6, 2024, Shettima had to cancel his attendance at the 2024 US-Africa Business Summit due to a technical issue with his official aircraft.

Similarly, the President himself had to opt for a commercial flight to Saudi Arabia after his primary luxury jet required rehabilitation, and another aircraft he was using developed mechanical problems in The Netherlands.

Currently, the Presidency operates a fleet comprising six aircraft: a Boeing 737, a Gulfstream G550, a Gulfstream GV, two Falcon 7Xs, and a Challenger CL605. Additionally, there are six helicopters in service—two Agusta 139s and four Agusta 189s.

Given these operational challenges and the financial implications of maintaining such a fleet, it’s important to reassess spending priorities.

We implore that the focus should be on prudent fiscal management and directing resources where they can have the most meaningful impact on national development

During President Buhari’s eight-year tenure, the operation and maintenance of the Presidential Air Fleet (PAF) incurred a substantial cost of N62.47 billion. Despite his initial pledge to downsize the fleet as part of cost-cutting measures, government records indicate that this promise was not upheld.

The budgetary allocations for the PAF provide a clear insight into the financial commitment over the years. In 2016, N3.65 billion was earmarked, which increased to N4.37 billion in 2017.

The following years saw significant rises, nearly doubling to N7.26 billion in 2018 and N7.30 billion in 2019. A minor decrease to N6.79 billion occurred in 2020, followed by a substantial surge to N12.55 billion in 2021 and N12.48 billion in 2022, before moderating to N8.07 billion in 2023.

In contrast, President Tinubu’s administration, since assuming office, has taken a different financial approach. Recent reports from GovSpend, a civic tech platform monitoring government expenditures, revealed disbursements totaling N14.77 billion within a single year.

This expenditure, distinct from travel costs incurred by top officials domestically and abroad, underscores a renewed financial commitment to maintaining the presidential air fleet.

The debate surrounding the necessity of acquiring two additional aircraft has sparked considerable dissent among political parties.

The Labour Party and the New Nigeria People’s Party have openly challenged the federal government’s rationale, questioning the timing and fiscal prudence of such a significant investment amidst ongoing economic challenges faced by Nigerians.

Peter Obi, Labour Party’s presidential candidate, criticised the move as untimely, emphasising the economic hardships inflicted by current government policies on the populace.

Similarly, the New Nigeria People’s Party expressed scepticism, accusing the ruling party of insensitivity to public sentiments.

As discussions continue, the focus remains on balancing governmental responsibilities with prudent financial management.

The decisions made regarding the presidential air fleet will undoubtedly shape perceptions of fiscal responsibility and government priorities in the eyes of the Nigerian public.

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Editorial

Nigeria’s culture of wastage: 2023 national population census

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Since 1921 when the then Governor-General of Nigeria, Sir Hugh Clifford conducted the first census during the colonial era, with the country’s population put at 18.8 million, the nation has been battling with the problem of conducting an  accurate and generally acceptable census.

There have been several abortive attempts to conduct a credible national population census after that with little or no success.

For instance, in 1962 the President Nnamdi Azikiwe and Prime Minister Alh Abubakar Tafawa Balewa administration census put the Nigerian population at 45.26m, but it was cancelled due to opposition from the North.

The 1973 national population census under Gen Yakubu Gowon as Military Head of State that put the Nigerian population at 79.76m was also cancelled due to opposition from the South.

The 1991 census that  estimated the Nigerian population at 88.5m was not an exception.

After that, it has been estimation galore by groups and individuals. While some say Nigerians are 100m people, others say we are over 200m.

So the question is where are we going from here? The latest and perhaps the most painful is the postponement of the 2023 national population and housing census, that a whopping sum of N190bn was earmarked and the exercise got up to 90 percent completion before it was suddenly postponed.

The National Population Commission (NPC) came out clearly to say that the postponement had no business with lack of funds, clearing the air on rumours in that direction. The reason we were told later was that it was too close to the 2023 transition (election) period. And who said census cannot go pari-passu with general elections?

A very lame excuse to either deceive or confuse the people, it turns out. What has happened to the N190bn allocated to the project? The current Federal Government, led by Sen Ahmed Bola Tinubu is one year old and no mention has been made of the aborted or postponed census.

Are we pretending that we don’t know the intrinsic value or benefits of census? In the USA, census is conducted every 10 years and the Government is meticulous about it.

A census allows a country or society in question to have accurate data on the population of its citizens for effective planning in all spheres of the economy. For example, a successful census avails the country the information on state of education, agriculture,health, housing, business, security and even disabilities.

Only when a country is armed with the accurate information on these sectors, can its leadership plan properly. A nation without data is a ship navigating on the high seas without rudder or compass. The result could be catastrophic. The country needs to know precisely how many its citizens are, how many are physically fit, how many are living with disabilities, among others.

In terms of economy, how many Nigerians are employed, doing businesses and number of unemployed? In the health sector, how many hospitals are operational, where are they located and their classes? Housing is yet a very big challenge to every government. Government can by the reason of the census, ascertain the existing houses in the country, their locations and population without shelter and so on.

These are some of the major issues the census intends to unravel and tackle. Nigeria is missing a lot by not conducting an acceptable national census since 1973. An exercise that will not ordinarily last for more than six months, has taken Nigeria several years to accomplish and still counting.

Is it only in Nigeria that people play politics or conduct elections? So why should our own case be different? It simply boils down to lack of political will which to us is not rocket science. The question on the lips of well-meaning Nigerians is what is the way forward?

The solution is simple and within reach. First, there must be that political will from the government of the day. Therefore, the Nigerian government must come out clean, if it is ready to conduct an acceptable national census.

A whopping sum of N190bn appropriated to the 2023 National Population and Housing Census must not be allowed to go down the drain like the previous exercises. Let the money be used for the purpose it was meant for and luckily the general election is over, so there is no more excuse.

Nigerians are waiting anxiously to a logical conclusion of the 2023 National Population And Housing Census. Anything short of that won’t be acceptable to Nigerians.

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Editorial

Ending the menace of insecurity in Nigeria

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The issue of insecurity has become a major challenge towards achieving developmental programmes and policies in the country. The hike in price of commodities in the market today is occasioned by insecurity factors as farmers couldn’t access their farmlands.

The pronouncement by Governor Uba Sani of Kaduna State that the military will soon establish three new forward operating Bases in Southern Kaduna, Giwa, and Birnin-Gwari Local Government Areas as part of efforts to combat the menace of banditry, kidnapping, and other related security threats bedevilling the state is a good step stopping the activities of the underworld in that red zones.

The governor who gave the hint during a meeting with members of the Kaduna Elders Forum at the Sir Kashim Ibrahim House Kaduna on Monday, noted that the presence of more boots on the ground in the frontline locations will enhance security.

According to him, “The only way we believe we can do that is by collaborating with the relevant security agencies. Because of our government’s efforts, we have been receiving a lot of support from security agencies. Particularly, I want to use this opportunity to thank our brother, the Chief of Defence Staff,  General Christopher Musa, who has been supporting us, and the efforts of other service chiefs. Kaduna State has been benefiting from some level of intervention by the military.

“Only a few weeks ago, we concluded our arrangement with the military to set up Forward Operating Bases in the Southern and another in the Giwa and Birnin-Gwari axis. All the arrangements have been concluded, and by the grace of God in the next few weeks, we will certainly see those Operating Bases in Operation.

“As I always say, we need more boots on the ground, we need the support of the military generally.  Last week also, the Chief of the Air Staff, agreed to set up one of the operating Bases in Millennium City in Chikun local government area. And I believe that will also go a long way to enhance security.

“For us, security is important,  because we have to also encourage our farmers to farm.  And that’s the reason why we believe without security, we cannot be able to achieve that. We distributed about 150 patrol vehicles to all the security agencies that are working in Kaduna. From the Army, Airforce, DSS,  Police,  Civil Defence, Customs,  Immigration, all of them benefitted. The office of the NSA also benefited.”

On the other hand, Zamfara State remains the hotbed of bandit terrorism in Northern Nigeria. It was from here that bandits, consisting mainly of Fulani nomadic herdsmen who turned to crime, spread to nearby states such as Katsina, Kaduna, Sokoto, Kebbi, Niger and the fringes of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.

Governor of the state, Dauda Lawal, was recently on television and disclosed a number of issues which left one bewildered about the seriousness of our leadership elite. He said the Police and Army have lost their willpower to fight the bandits. Whenever they are needed, they are either nowhere to be found or unwilling to confront the criminals.

This may not be one hundred percent correct because we still read about the army neutralising three or five bandits from time to time. But obviously, enough is not being done to eliminate this vermin as a threat to the corporate existence of Nigeria. The same fierce power the military demonstrates in their operations in the South does not seem visible in the North, especially states like Benue, Plateau, Taraba, Niger and states in the North West.

Governor Lawal also said the people behind the bandits and where they stay are known, expressing worry that the pressure to negotiate with them is always overwhelming. Finally, he said the obvious: that the President is always updated about the situation.

Nigerians are baffled that our Police, security, Army, Air Force and other paramilitary agencies, with their equipment and full control, cannot defend our people and remove the threat to our nation’s territorial integrity against bike-mounted ragtag bands of criminals whose main weapons are assault rifles and improvised explosives.

At first, we thought the problem was the service chiefs under former President Muhammadu Buhari. Later, we thought it was Buhari’s fault. A new president and fresh service chiefs have since a year ago taken over, yet the situation remains the same. Could it be that we no longer have the armed forces capable of defending this country? What is happening to Nigeria?

We must bear in mind that without securing this country and making its people safe again, the hunger, hardship and extreme suffering ravaging this land will continue to worsen. There is always a breaking point to every tense situation.

We cannot continue to stew in this insecurity for much longer. Something must give. If our armed forces can no longer defend us, the people should be empowered, and they will defend themselves. Many state governments have formed uniformed vigilante outfits. But without arms, they are just window dressings and a further drain on public purses.

The breeding insecurity threats in Rivers State should be collaboratively addressed by both the federal government and state to avoid the breakdown of law and order by miscreants..

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