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The significance of Tinubu’s first week of 2024

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By Tunde Rahman

There couldn’t have been a better predictor of what to expect from President Bola Tinubu in 2024 than the way and manner he began the New Year. For the President,  2024 started on a business-like, work-filled note. While many were still savouring the New Year, the Nigerian leader cut short his Christmas/New Year holiday in Lagos on January 1, returned to Abuja to sign the N28.7 trillion 2024 Appropriation Bill passed by the National Assembly. It was his first assignment in the New Year. The way he did it demonstrated the seriousness and patriotic commitment he brings unto the exalted job.

For him, nothing must stand in the way of the onerous responsibility bestowed on him. Senate President, Godswill Akpabio and House of Representatives Speaker, Tajudeen Abbas were shocked to learn the President had returned to Abuja and was ready to sign the budget.

Since that first day of the year, it has been one impactful governance step and an important decision after another. Indeed, it was one week of 2024 to remember.  It reminds me of a song by Canadian rock band Barenaked Ladies with the same title “One Week”. The song was released as the first single from their 1998 album, Stun.  The song is unique for its significant number of pop culture references and remains the band’s best-known song. According to Wikipedia, the song reached No.1 on the US Billboard Hot 100.

In one week of 2024 to remember, President Tinubu made pivotal and landmark decisions that have been widely applauded.

Critic-turned-admirer of President Tinubu, Reno Omokri, catalogued some of these important decisions and developments in a recent tweet.

The decisions include the suspension of the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, Dr. Beta Edu, and Coordinator of the National Social Investment Programme Agency, Hajiya Halimotu Shehu, for alleged financial transgressions and the ongoing investigation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to determine their guilt; the summon by the President of another minister alleged to be involved in a controversial contract; the drastic reduction in the entourage of the President’s domestic and international travels; the banning of the money-for-degree universities in Benin Republic, Togo and other countries; and the clearing of the N12 billion outstanding allowances and other arrears for the Super Eagles, taking part in the African Cup of Nations tournament beginning this weekend. Arrears owed to other national teams were also paid by the President.

In that preceding week, the Bola Tinubu administration  embarked on the payment of wage support benefits to civil servants, the disbursement of N105.5 billion for emergency repair of 266 roads across the country, the launch of the automated passport portal and the unfolding of plans to build a new Chinese-funded steel plant in Nigeria following on the heel of a visit to China by the Minister of Steel Development, Shuaib Abubakar Audu.

The swift suspension of Betta Edu, one of the visible ministers at present, pending the full investigation of the alleged scandal in her ministry not only demonstrates there are no sacred cows in the anti-graft crusade, it will also serve as deterrent against others who may otherwise believe the present government is business-as-usual.

However, as some have argued, the Minister should not be pilloried until after the full investigation of the allegations and her culpability or otherwise established.

Perhaps, the most exciting of the President’s decisions during that important week, in my view, is the resolve to cut the cost of governance by drastically reducing the number of people in his entourage on local and international trips. President Tinubu directed that top government functionaries, dignitaries and aides on his travels be slashed by 60 per cent, more than half.

On local trips, the President, for instance, ordered that, in the area of security, his team should rely more on the capacity of the security establishment and existing protocols in the host states.

It must be pointed out here that when the President visits a state for instance like his recent visit to Lagos during the Christmas/New Year holiday, during which he decided to observe the Jumat  at the Central Mosque in Lagos Island, the long stretch of vehicles noticed in his convoy are not entirely his own. Some dignitaries in Lagos, top security officers, top traditional rulers, political associates and many others simply joined the entourage to the mosque at no prompting of the President.

The importance of cutting the number in the President’s travels apart from the concomitant reduction in total cost of the trip is unmistakable. First, it is in tandem with the demands of the present challenging times when prices of goods and services have skyrocketed owing to what many tie to the prevalent foreign exchange rate.

Second, by slashing the  presidential entourage, President Tinubu has again demonstrated leadership by example. He has shown he fully understands what the people are experiencing at present and shares in their pains, which he says will be temporary, following his New Year Day speech.

Indeed, the cost of governance and administration in Nigeria is  high, and it has become imperative to bring it down. Every possible avenue must be employed to do this. It is estimated that the country mostly spends over 75 percent of her federal budget on recurrent expenditure, leaving less than 25 percent for capital expenditure. The present administration is set to change this governance narrative. For instance, in the N28.7 trillion 2024 budget, recurrent expenditure was pegged at N8.7tr and capital expenditure at N9.9 trillion. This trend is expected to continue going forward.

Rahman is a Senior Presidential Aide

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3 injured as 2 armed drones from Lebanon explode in Israel

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Two unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) from Lebanon carrying explosives exploded in northern Israel on Tuesday, lightly injuring three people, Israeli authorities said, amid heightened tensions between Israel and Iran and its allies.

The Israeli military said in a statement that the armed drones crossed from Lebanon into Israeli territory and exploded in the area of Beit Hillel in the Galilee.

Three people sustained light injuries, Israel’s state-owned Kan reported.

The drones did not trigger air raid sirens, and the military said the incident was under review.

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CBN expresses commitment to harnessing digital technologies

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The Central Bank of Nigeria says it is committed to harnessing the power of digital technologies to enhance financial inclusion.

Mr Yemi Cardoso, CBN Governor, said this on Tuesday in Abuja, during a strategic institutions tour by participants of Senior Executive Course 46 of the National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS).

Cardoso, who was represented by Dr Bala Bello, Deputy Governor, Corporate Services, said that digital technologies would also boost productivity and create an enabling environment for innovation and entrepreneurship to thrive.

According to him, the apex bank has already deployed robust digital technologies in driving most of its processes towards achieving optimal performance.

He said that NIPSS, as a foremost national policy think-tank, had made invaluable contributions to the socio-political and macroeconomic development of Nigeria.

“We are, therefore, not surprised at the apt and relevant choice of your research theme.

“The CBN and NIPSS have had a long-standing and robust working relationship since the establishment of the institute. This has culminated into positive mutual benefits for the two institutions.

“The CBN, on the one hand, has provided infrastructural support to the institute through construction of an auditorium and a hostel, in addition to the provision of technical support.

“On the other hand, NIPSS has supported the technical capacity of the CBN through the training of some personnel both at senior executive course level and intermediate course cadre,” he said.

The Director-General of NIPSS, Prof. Ayo Omotayo, said that the study visiting would be representing the institute in getting information from operators of the apex bank on the relevance of digital technology to developing jobs for Nigerian youths.

According to Omotayo, a lot of progress has been made globally in using digital systems to run the economy.

“The more of our activities that we can put in digital format, the more we get the opportunity of providing employment access to a whole lot of the 120 million active Nigerians.

“We at NIPSS always knock at the frontiers of knowledge, checking what is going to happen in the immediate future.

“We are working towards a system where we believe that almost every service can be delivered digitally,” he said.

The Acting Director, Monetary Policy Department of the CBN, Dr Lafi Bala Keffi, commended the NIPSS study group for its interest in the apex bank.

She urged the participants to explore the time-tested culture of NIPSS, which is to diagnose national, profer practical solutions and recommend ways of making such solutions realisable.

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NCAA suspends licences of 3 private jet owners

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Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has suspended licences of three Permit for Non-Commercial Flight (PNCF), otherwise known as private jet owners, over alleged failure to comply with regulatory requirements.

Acting Director-General of NCAA, Capt. Chris Najomo, disclosed this to newsmen on Tuesday in Lagos.

Najomo said that after issuing a stern warning to the PNCFs in March, the authority deployed its men to monitor activities of private jet owners at airport terminals across the country.

He said that consequent upon the heightened surveillance, three private operators were found to have violated the annexure provisions of their PNCF and Part 9114 of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Regulations, 2023.

Najomo further stated that NCAA would be carrying out a re-evaluation of regulatory requirements compliance of all PNCFs owners within the next 72 hours.

This, he said, this was in line with the authority’s zero tolerance for violations of regulations.

“In line with our zero tolerance for violation of regulations, the authority has suspended the PNCF of these operators.

“To further sanitise the general aviation sector, I have directed that a re-evaluation of all holders of PNCF be carried out on or before April 19, to ascertain compliance with regulatory requirements.

“All PNCF holders will be required to submit relevant documents to the authority within the next 72 hours,” he said.
Najomo recalled that in 2023, the use of private jets for commercial purposes had gotten the attention of the Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development, Mr Festus Keyamo (SAN), who issued marching orders for cessation of such acts.

He said that in March, NCAA issued a stern warning to holders of the permit for non-commercial flights, PNCF, against engaging in the carriage of passenger cargo or mail for hire and reward.

Najomo said that the riot act was also directed at existing Air Operator Certificate (AOC) holders who utilised aircraft listed on their PNCF for commercial charter operations.

“It must be emphasised that only the aircraft listed in the Operation Specifications of the AOC are authorised to be used in the provision of such charter services.

“Any of those AOC holders who wish to use the aircraft for charter operations must apply to the NCAA to delist the affected aircraft from the PNCF and include it into the AOC operations specification.

“NCAA wishes to reiterate to the travelling public not to patronise any airline charter operator who does not hold a valid AOC issued by the NCAA, when they wish to procure charter operation services,” he said.

The NCAA boss, thereafter, encouraged legitimate players in the aviation industry to promptly report such illegal activities to the authority for necessary action.

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