ONE thing, which has become clear from the unfolding drama about the expenditure of $2.1 billion and N640 billion by the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) in the Goodluck Jonathan administration is that a substantial part of the security votes in Nigeria has over the decades been used for purposes other than that for which the votes were approved. A former governor, allegedly received N4.6 billion from the NSA purportedly to get imams to pray for Jonathan’s reelection. The result of all this abuse of security votes is deteriorating security all over Nigeria.
The squandering of riches under the guise of security expenditures has over the years been prevalent in most states. There may not be more than four states in the entire country where security budgets have been spent for the purposes for which money was allocated. It is self-evident that ex-governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State, now the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, spent his security budget wisely. For the eight years he was governor of Lagos, violent crime reduced to an all-time low in decades.
Another remarkable example is Anambra State. Just two years ago, the state was practically held hostage by kidnappers and armed robbers, forcing residents and indigenes to scamper for safety to Lagos, Abuja and elsewhere. My senior professional colleague and a doyen of the Nollywood industry, Chief Pete Edochie, MON, was on Sunday, August 16, 2009, kidnapped in Onitsha. Elvis Eze Emecheta, for instance, was compelled to relocate his manufacturing firm from his hometown of Abatete, in Idemili North Local Government Area, to Abuja. A past president of the Association of Town Unions of Anambra State, Ichie Charles C. Ifeanyi, who retired from the Customs Service as the number three man, was forced to conduct the traditional marriage of his daughter in Lagos during the Christmas season about four years ago. It was hitherto considered almost sacrilegious for such a respected titleholder in Ihiala to perform this very important ceremony outside his country home.
The good news is that Anambra State has in less than two years become Nigeria’s safest state. Kidnapping and armed banditry have fast receded from the minds of the people. And foreign as well as local investors are now moving into the state in droves, with $2.3 billion investments recorded in recent months in agriculture, industry, oil and gas as well as trade and commerce. All this shows the difference one person can make in leadership.
On Friday, December 11, 2015, Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State took his security campaign to an unprecedented height. The governor donated 25 purpose-built cars and speed guns to the Nigeria Police. He equipped the vehicles with state of the art facilities that make them look like vehicles used by American police. In addition, they have alcohol detectors. This is the first time any security agency in Nigeria has been provided with both speed guns and alcohol detectors.
Two of the major causes of road accidents around the world are speeding and driving under the influence of alcohol, factors more pronounced in undeveloped countries like Nigeria where the facilities to check them are rarely available. Yet, each of us lives with the terrible consequences.
As President Muhammadu Buhari was assuming office last May 29, a tanker laden with petrol fell at Upper Iweka, Onitsha, roasting over 40 people alive. Seven months ago, a multiple accident was reported in Umuchu, Aguata Local Government Area of the state, involving an 18-seater passenger bus, two sedan cars and a haulage truck. Eleven persons died on the spot and 21 others were in critical condition. The governor promptly visited the victims and undertook to write off the medical bills. To worsen matters, a car accident last November 27 led to the death of nine members of the Catholic Women Organisation (CWO), returning from the burial of their member at Nawfija in Orumba South Local Government Area of the state. The governor’s wife quickly led a large delegation of sympathisers to the place. Earlier in July, an entire family from Enugwu-Ukwu in Njikoka Local Government Area of the state was wiped out when a trailer and their Toyota Camry were involved in an accident in Awka.
The auto crashes in Anambra cited above only represent what happens regularly all over Nigeria. What may be unusual in the Anambra case is the governor’s decision to address the tragic phenomenon from the roots, namely, speeding and driving under the influence of Bacchus, the Greek god of alcohol. And the governor has employed technology to tackle the problem. Technology is the way to go in the modern world. Our leadership must learn to think out of the box.
There is a profound point Governor Obiano has made by providing purpose-built vehicles with state of the art facilities: Some facilities in Anambra State can be raised to international standards. By so doing, Governor Obiano has inadvertently thrown a huge challenge to other governments in Nigeria, including the Federal Government. As the Great Zik of Africa told us, when leaders show the light, the people will find the way.
Anambra State may well have begun to live up to its reputation as the light of the Nigerian nation.
•Udokwu, wrote in from Lagos.
THE 2016 appropriation bill is hanging on a delicate tissue of lies. And that is putting it mildly.
Firstly, was such a landmark project as the Lagos/Calabar Coastal Rail Line so insignificant to the executive that it had to enter the budget proposal as a footnote – literally smuggled in? As for the legislators, was the project so inconsequential that it escaped their ‘oversighting’ eagle eyes?
But then, a friend saved me from bursting a nerve over the matter. He said: “A few months ago, we were accusing Jonathan and his PDP government of cluelessness and inability to implement the budget, now we have replaced them with a government that can’t even prepare one.”
And, by the way, which version of the budget are we even talking about? The padded one? The version that was clandestinely withdrawn from the National Assembly? The replacement? The one with the Reps? The version with the Senate? Or the version that was shown to President Buhari, but which never made it to the National Assembly?
This is a national embarrassment! Yet, people are hanging unto their jobs as if nothing happened.
That’s why I won’t join the call for Senate President, Bukola Saraki, to resign over all these fun-seeking revelations from Panama’s Mossack Fonseca. Reason? I smell a rat – especially, when people are already being positioned to succeed him.
Of course, that does not mean Saraki is innocent. It’s just that we’re still waiting for the real case to begin. What is currently going on is a high drama of exposing everything that Saraki and his wife and family have. The substantive case of false declaration of assets, to my uninitiated mind, is yet to begin.
Until then, if there are to be any resignations, we should start with those behind the budget scandal, and those stoking the fire of ethnic bloodbath.
How come government’s only response to the orgy of herdsmen, sacrificing farmers to the god of cattle is to arrest victims of the mindless killings? And to weave an incredulous tale of ethnic killings? Isn’t it benumbing that we would take one look at decomposed corpses and, without visiting any forensic lab, instantly determine the ethnic group they came from? Wonders! Yet, APC is carrying on as though it’s the best thing that ever happened to democracy in Nigeria!