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Editorial

The need for prudence and foresight in managing natural resources

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Nigeria’s recent achievement in extending its continental shelf by 16,300 square kilometers is a landmark victory that solidifies its position as a major maritime nation.

This feat, announced by President Bola Tinubu, is a testament to the country’s unwavering commitment and scientific prowess.

The journey to this triumph was long and arduous, spanning over a decade of meticulous research, diplomatic negotiations, and persistent lobbying efforts.

The significance of this achievement cannot be overstated. By expanding its maritime boundaries, Nigeria has not only secured a valuable asset for future generations but also demonstrated the importance of diplomacy and international cooperation in resolving disputes and advancing shared interests.

The responsible exploitation of these newfound resources could catalyse economic growth, create employment opportunities, and generate revenue streams that could be channeled into critical areas such as infrastructure development, education, and healthcare.

As Nigeria prepares to capitalise on this newfound bounty, it is imperative that the government exercise prudence and foresight in its management of these resources.

Lessons must be learned from the mismanagement and environmental degradation that have plagued the oil-rich Niger Delta region. A comprehensive and sustainable development plan, centered on transparency, environmental stewardship, and equitable distribution of wealth, must be formulated.

This plan should prioritise the diversification of the economy, investing in renewable energy sources, and promoting sustainable fishing and maritime industries.

A portion of the revenue generated from these resources should be allocated towards addressing the pressing challenges faced by coastal communities, such as sea-level rise, coastal erosion, and marine pollution. By investing in resilient infrastructure, climate adaptation measures, and environmental conservation efforts, Nigeria can ensure that the benefits of its maritime resources are enjoyed by present and future generations alike.

As the world grapples with the existential threat of climate change and the growing importance of the blue economy, Nigeria’s achievement serves as a beacon of hope and a reminder of the immense potential that lies beneath the waves.

With judicious stewardship, international cooperation, and a commitment to sustainable development, Nigeria can harness the power of its maritime domain to forge a prosperous and resilient future for its people.

This victory belongs not only to the dedicated team of experts who tirelessly pursued this endeavour but to every Nigerian. As the country embarks on this new chapter, it is incumbent upon all stakeholders to work in unison, ensuring that the fruits of this achievement are equitably shared and that the foundations are laid for a thriving, sustainable blue economy that will benefit generations to come.

Experts have pointed to the potential for hydrocarbons, gas, solid minerals, and a variety of sedentary species within Nigeria’s expanded maritime boundaries, enhancing the country’s significant energy and maritime resources.

However, Professor Larry Awosika, a member of the Hydrocarbon Pollution and Remediation Project (HPPC), has emphasised the need to safeguard sensitive data acquired during surveys to protect Nigeria’s interests and possibly monetise the information to recoup project costs.

This newspaper underscores the immense significance of this achievement. By extending its maritime boundaries, Nigeria has bolstered its status as a major player in the global blue economy and secured a valuable asset for future generations.

Responsible exploitation of these newfound resources could drive economic growth, create jobs, and generate revenue that could be invested in critical sectors such as infrastructure, education, and healthcare.

Moreover, this success underscores the importance of diplomacy and international cooperation in resolving disputes and advancing common interests.

Nigeria’s achievement was realised through adherence to international law and constructive engagement with the United Nations and its member states, contrasting sharply with the frequent resort to armed conflict over territorial disputes.

President Tinubu’s praise for the team for “gaining additional territory for the country without going to war” is well-deserved.

Nigeria has shown that complex territorial issues can be resolved peacefully, setting an example for other nations facing similar challenges.

As Nigeria looks to capitalise on this new opportunity, it is crucial that the government manage these resources with prudence and foresight.

Lessons must be learned from the mismanagement and environmental damage in the oil-rich Niger Delta, where benefits have been unevenly distributed and ecological consequences severe.

We advocate for a comprehensive and sustainable development plan centered on transparency, environmental stewardship, and equitable wealth distribution.

This plan should prioritise economic diversification, investment in renewable energy, and promotion of sustainable fishing and maritime industries to ensure long-term stability and job creation.

Additionally, a portion of the revenue from these resources should address pressing coastal challenges such as sea-level rise, erosion, and pollution.

As the world faces the existential threat of climate change and the growing importance of the blue economy, Nigeria’s achievement is a beacon of hope, highlighting the potential beneath the waves. With careful stewardship, international cooperation, and a commitment to sustainable development, Nigeria can leverage its maritime domain for a prosperous and resilient future.

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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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