Saturday, January 14, 2012

Intransigence

...and as the clock struck 12, a sleepy nation headed towards meltdown. Thanks GEJ...


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Questions...

Why is an agency like NIPOST getting NGN7bn when it can be run commercially?
What is the difference b/w head of Service and Civil Service Commission?
How many complaints did the Public Complaints Commission take in 2011?
Why is it worth NGN3.2 bn in the budget?
Why spend NGN343mn on computers for Aso Rock alone?
Presidency budgeted NGN477mn on foodstuff/catering, this is minus the NGN1bn budgeted for feeding.
At that NGN1bn, it means they have already spent NGN42mn in 2012.
This struggle is about waste, not fuel subsidy.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Chaos theory

As things go, there's nothing else in the news to talk about other than the nationwide protests over the removal of fuel subsidies. The noise being made has reached such a crescendo that the government in a fit of panic(?) has started to go on the offensive, albeit slowly. Some top government functionaries have also started began to defend themselves.

Yesterday, both the Minister of Finance and the governor of the Central Bank appeared on a television programme and somewhere along the lines, we were told that the governors of our states are the people behind the heavy new year present that we received.

However, Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala did offer us a present in the sense that she announced that transporters had agreed with the government to reduce fares despite the fuel increases. Given that the vast majority of transporters in the country are private concerns who are set up to run for profit, we wonder quite how that will happen. Unless of course, the government wants to subsidise transport costs. Oops! That word again, subsidy...

The government on its own part has adopted a rather tough stance in the whole matter, what with the Head of Service reducing all of our federal civil servants to primary school pupils who have to sign a register and appear at work. Bobs, na wa o!

Sadly though, we do not harbour too much hope about the sustainability of this mass action. You see, the unfortunate reality is that Nigerians in general live a subsistence existence, day-to-day, and the urge to go out and find the day's daily bread is equally as important as the urge to tell the government to roll back a rather punishing policy. In reality, the urge for daily bread is even more important as the occupants of Abuja's satellite towns are proving.

Meanwhile in the day's funniest piece of news, the government has decided to investigate the activities of this elusive cabal. Something they should have done in the first place. The arrangement of carts and horses comes to mind here...

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

...and it's no sacrifice

Demola Aderinde began yesterday like any other, unaware that it would be his last. A few hours into the day, he was dead, shot at point blank range by a policeman identified as Segun Fabunmi, the DPO of Pen Cinema Police Station. We want to use this medium to offer our condolences to Demola's family, and to call for justice. We also want to strongly call for the reform of the Nigerian Police. The trigger-happy brutality is mind boggling to say the least.

Demola wasn't the only Nigerian murdered yesterday. In Kano another teenager was feared dead as protesters clashed with the police during protests against the removal of fuel subsidies. The government has ended up imposing a dusk to dawn curfew on the city.

Lagos was virtually brought to a stand still because of the protests, but it remains to be seen whether the protests can sustain, or what long term impact they will have given that some organisations are alleged to have insisted that their staff turn up for work come what may. And in a final twist to yesterday's tale, organised labour have said that they will sue the President and Inspector-General of Police over the deaths of protesters.

What we do know for sure, is that the strike is going on. For the moment that is...

Monday, January 09, 2012

What is happening?!?

No matter what side of the coin you are on, yesterday presented a very interesting debate as our Representatives engaged one another in a show down over the Executive arm of government's removal of fuel subsidies, an action which raised the cost of living of the average Nigerian by a whooping 117%. After all the speaking, the Reps asked the Presidency to halt action on subsidy removal. Whether he will consider their request remains to be seen, but we are not making such bets yet because the day before, the President had addressed the nation and asked us to bear with the pain because it was necessary. To show us that he is also feeling the pain, he by executive fiat, cut his salary and that of his officials, by 25%, but quite tellingly failed to even mention the deaths of 26 people in Adamawa state the day before.


Those deaths have been compounded by the fact that the police in Kano in the early hours of this morning have seized military uniforms from suspected Boko Haram members, an event that is sadly, likely to compound an already volatile situation of mistrust among the populace. A mistrust that is not necessary given that our problems are more than likely not religious, nor are they ethnic. Nigeria's problems are more economic, and we can only ask that you spare a thought for the Northerners being forced to flee Warri and Sapele and other parts of the South for fear of reprisals. They will, like the rest of us, be paying huge sums for transportation, and in order to finance their own government's incompetence.


An incompetence that is shown off quite brightly in the fact that 1600 buses were launched in Abuja yesterday to cater for a population of more than 160 millions. Mathematically, that translates to one bus per 100,000 inhabitants of this space called Nigeria, but as of the last count, the largest bus launched has a capacity of 32.


32 is an interesting number, because that is the number of people alleged to have been injured by the Nigeria Police in a charge of protesters at the Occupy Nigeria event in Abuja. The police, as happened in Kano a few days ago, chose the dead of night to make their charge. Makes you wonder if the increased fuel prices does not affect them...


For those of you in Lagos, we kick off the Occupy Nigeria movement today. In less than 30 minutes actually. Venue is Gani Fawehinmi Park, Ojota. Be there or live forever with the knowledge that you are a fucking coward.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

GEJ's speech

Unedited. Think what you may, but the man didn't offer anything new. Quick one, despite promising cuts in the speech you are about to read below, the man is going to jet off to South Africa this evening to attend the 100th anniversary of the ANC. What kind of leader runs away when his house is one fire?

NATIONAL BROADCAST BY PRESIDENT GOODLUCK EBELE JONATHAN, GCFR, ON THE DEREGULATION OF THE DOWNSTREAM PETROLEUM SECTOR SATURDAY, JANUARY 7, 2012

___________________________________________

Dear Compatriots,

A week ago, I had cause to address Nigerians on the security challenges we are facing in parts of the country, which necessitated the declaration of a state of emergency in 15 Local Government Areas in four states of the Federation. That course of action attracted widespread support and a demonstration of understanding. With that declaration, government had again signaled its intention to combat terrorism with renewed vigour and to assure every Nigerian of safety.


The support that we have received in the fight against terrorism from concerned Nigerians at home and abroad has been remarkable. We believe that it is with such continued support that progress can be made on national issues. Let me express my heartfelt appreciation to everyone who has expressed a commitment to support us as we strive to improve on the country’s security situation, and build a stronger foundation for the future. The recent mindless acts of violence in Gombe, Potiskum, Jimeta-Yola and Mubi are unfortunate. I urge all Nigerians to eschew bitterness and acrimony and live together in harmony and peace. Wherever there is any threat to public peace, our security agencies will enforce the law, without fear or favour.

This evening, I address you, again, with much concern over an issue that borders on the national economy, the oil industry and national progress. As part of our efforts to transform the economy and guarantee prosperity for all Nigerians, Government, a few days ago, announced further deregulation of the downstream petroleum sector. The immediate effect of this has been the removal of the subsidy on petrol.

Since the announcement, there have been mixed reactions to the policy. Let me seize this opportunity to assure all Nigerians that I feel the pain that you all feel. I personally feel pained to see the sharp increase in transport fares and the prices of goods and services. I share the anguish of all persons who had travelled out of their stations, who had to pay more on the return leg of their journeys.

If I were not here to lead the process of national renewal, if I were in your shoes at this moment, I probably would have reacted in the same manner as some of our compatriots, or hold the same critical views about government. But I need to use this opportunity as your President to address Nigerians on the realities on the ground, and why we chose to act as we did. I know that these are not easy times. But tough choices have to be made to safeguard the economy and our collective survival as a nation.

My fellow Nigerians, the truth is that we are all faced with two basic choices with regard to the management of the downstream petroleum sector: either we deregulate and survive economically, or we continue with a subsidy regime that will continue to undermine our economy and potential for growth, and face serious consequences.

As you all know, the subject of deregulation is not new, we have been grappling with it for more than two decades. Previous administrations tinkered with the pump price of petroleum products, and were unable to effect complete deregulation of the downstream sector. This approach has not worked. If it did, we would not be here talking about deregulation today. I understand fully well that deregulation is not a magic formula that will address every economic challenge, but it provides a good entry point for transforming the economy, and for ensuring transparency and competitiveness in the oil industry, which is the mainstay of our economy.

As a President, elected and supported by ordinary Nigerians, and the vast majority of our people, I have a duty to bring up policies and programmes that will grow the economy and bring about greater benefits for the people. Let me assure you that as your President, I have no intention to inflict pain on Nigerians.


The deregulation of the petroleum sector is a necessary step that we had to take. Should we continue to do things the same way, and face more serious economic challenges? Or deregulate, endure the initial discomfort and reap better benefits later? I want to assure every Nigerian that whatever pain you may feel at the moment, will be temporary.

The interest of the ordinary people of this country will always remain topmost in my priorities as a leader. I remain passionately committed to achieving significant and enduring improvements in our economy that will lead to sustained improvement in the lives of our people.


I am determined to leave behind a better Nigeria, that we all can be proud of. To do so, I must make sure that we have the resources and the means to grow our economy to be resilient, and to sustain improved livelihood for our people. We must act in the public interest, no matter how tough, for the pains of today cannot be compared to the benefits of tomorrow. On assumption of office as President, I swore to an oath to always act in the best interest of the people. I remain faithful to that undertaking.

To save Nigeria, we must all be prepared to make sacrifices. On the part of Government, we are taking several measures aimed at cutting the size and cost of governance, including on-going and continuous effort to reduce the size of our recurrent expenditure and increase capital spending. In this regard, I have directed that overseas travels by all political office holders, including the President, should be reduced to the barest minimum. The size of delegations on foreign trips will also be drastically reduced; only trips that are absolutely necessary will be approved.

For the year 2012, the basic salaries of all political office holders in the Executive arm of government will be reduced by 25%. Government is also currently reviewing the number of committees, commissions and parastatals with overlapping responsibilities. The Report on this will be submitted shortly and the recommendations will be promptly implemented. In the meantime, all Ministries, Departments and Agencies must reduce their overhead expenses.


We are all greatly concerned about the issue of corruption. The deregulation policy is the strongest measure to tackle this challenge in the downstream sector. In addition, government is taking other steps to further sanitize the oil industry.

To ensure that the funds from petroleum subsidy removal are spent prudently on projects that will build a greater Nigeria, I have established a committee to oversee the implementation of the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme. I sincerely believe that the reinvestment of the petroleum subsidy funds, to ensure improvement in national infrastructure, power supply, transportation, irrigation and agriculture, education, healthcare, and other social services, is in the best interest of our people.

Fellow Nigerians, I know that the removal of the petroleum subsidy imposes an initial burden on our people, especially the rising cost of transportation. Government will be vigilant and act decisively to curb the excesses of those that want to exploit the current situation for selfish gains. I plead for the understanding of all Nigerians. I appeal to our youth not to allow mischief-makers to exploit present circumstances to mislead or incite them to disturb public peace.

To address the immediate challenges that have been identified, I have directed all Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government to embark immediately on all projects which have been designed to cushion the impact of the subsidy removal in the short, medium and long-term, as outlined in the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme Document.

Tomorrow, 8th January, I will formally launch a robust mass transit intervention programme to bring down the cost of transportation across the country. The programme will be implemented in partnership with state and local governments, labour unions, transport owners, and banking institutions, and supported with the provision of funding at zero interest rate as well as import duty waiver on all needed parts for locally-made mass transit vehicles, which will create additional jobs in the economy.

We will keep these incentives in place for as long as it takes. I want to assure you that Government will not rest until we bring down the cost of transportation for our people. Let me thank the transporters’ associations that have agreed to reduce transport fares. I have directed the Minister of Labour and Productivity to work with these associations to come up with a sustainable plan to guarantee this within the shortest possible time.

In addition, I have ordered the mobilization of contractors for the full rehabilitation of the Port Harcourt –Maiduguri Railway Line and the completion of the Lagos-Kano Railway Line. I have also directed the immediate commencement of a Public Works programme that will engage the services of about 10, 000 youths in every state of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory. This will create an additional 370, 000 jobs.

Government has taken these decisions in the best interest of our economy, so that we not only have benefits today, but to ensure that we bequeath even greater benefits to our children and grandchildren.

Let me assure Nigerians that every possible effort will be made to ensure that we march forward, with a collective resolve to build a Nigeria that can generate greater economic growth, create and sustain new jobs, and secure the future of our children.

This Administration will aggressively implement its programme to reposition and strengthen our economy, while paying adequate attention to the immediate needs of our citizens.

I assure you all that we will work towards achieving full domestic refining of petroleum products with the attendant benefits.


As I ask for the full understanding of all Nigerians, I also promise that I will keep my word.

Thank you. May God bless you; and may God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, GCFR

President

Federal Republic of Nigeria

January 7, 2012

Friday, January 06, 2012

Naija harmattan...

...and so Nigeria's own season of discontent is in full swing. Protests are happening in almost all the major cities of Western and Northern Nigeria, one wonders when the East will actually join in.

The government's response is belligerent at best, with one publication alleging that the government has concluded plans to infiltrate protesting groups and even go as far as hacking the phones of known activists.

While our government seems more interested in imposing the fuel subsidy removal regardless of the cost to the average Nigerian in both mental and physical terms, they appear less interested in sorting out the Boko Haram mess. The militant group, or at least a faction within it, have carried out their threat to begin targeting Christians based in the North of the country. A church was attacked in Gombe in the wee hours, with six people losing their lives. This despite our National Security Advisor saying for the umpteenth time, "No shaking, no cause for alarm". How many have to die before General Azazi realises that there is indeed cause for alarm?

But then maybe the good General is a little too busy perfecting strategies to cause confusion amongst normal Nigerians going about their day to day businesses, businesses which from Wednesday would be interrupted by the matter of the strike. However, organised labour have come out to categorically state that they will not be negotiating with anyone until prices are brought back to pre-Janauary 1 levels.

In case all of this news is too gloomy for you, here is some entertainment.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Anger boils over

Today marks exactly a year since Mohammed Bouazizi died. He had suffered for three weeks in pains after self-immolating himself as a result of a humiliating experience he suffered. His action, and subsequent death brought out the anger in his native country Tunisia, and in the wider Arab region, changing the world forever.

Yesterday, the anger spilled out to the streets across our country, Nigeria. From Lagos, to Abuja, to Kano, people took to the streets to protest new year day's massive increase in petroleum prices. But it was in Ilorin that the pivotal event may have happened as
anti-riot police killed at least one person (up to six depending on whom your sources are). What we do know is that there is a picture of Muyideen Mustapha who was shot on that day. We pray for him to rest in peace. Amen.

That unnecessary death because our police forces have failed to evolve proper riot control techniques may have finally jolted the Nigeria Labour Congress into real action. In the strongest language ever used by organised labour against a sitting government in Nigerian history, the NLC called our President a liar, and feelers coming out of the top echelons of the NLC indicate that in today's meeting, the body may actually ask the President to resign. Meanwhile while Nigeria is on the boil, the House of Representatives, still on holiday, have announced that they have no position on the fuel subsidy removal.

Speaking of stories that may be true or untrue, the NCC, Airtel and MTN have come out to deny the stories that circulated yesterday. Yesterday, we were told that the government had directed that blackberry services be shutdown from today to prevent protesters from using them to organise themselves.

But blackberry services being shutdown shouldn't affect the organisation that much afterall, services in Nigeria have never been known to be the most efficient, services such as the 'cashless Lagos" programme which was meant to kick off on New Year's day, and herald a "Cashless Nigeria". There is a lot of confusion as to what it all means sadly.

But then again, confusion seems to be the name of the game as the Boko Haram threat looms. Today is the final day of the nebulous group's ultimatum...

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Fiddling while Rome is burning

Yesterday, Boko Haram gave an order that would essentially split Nigeria along its fabled fault-line. They asked Christians in the North to quit the region in three days or else...

What the Bokomites did not take into consideration is the fact that there is a very substantial population resident in the North, who are not Muslim, and who have called the area now known as Northern Nigeria home since time immemorial. Think the Tera people, the Zangos, the Katafs, and you will the get where we are headed.

Sadly, our government has reacted in its usual manner with the National Security Adviser telling us that there's no cause for alarm, and some other person within the FG telling us that Niger Delta militants will not retaliate. It is funny how the FG seems to have suddenly become the spokespeople for the Niger Delta militants, a situation that first reared its ugly head during the aftermath of our 50th independence anniversary celebrations...

The Niger Delta militants through Asari Dokubo have put an end to such rubbish talk though. Mr. Dokubo has made it clear that any rubbish of that sort will be met with equal force.

For those of us writing this, we are more interested in the rather testy issue of increasing prices as occasioned by Sunday's rather abrupt removal of the fuel subsidies. Organised labour has ordered a nationwide strike in an attempt to force prices back to 2011 levels. Meanwhile the government appears nonplussed as the President has set up a committee to talk with labour over the issue. Whether this is just a tactic to buy time, only time itself can tell. It certainly seems so though, as the President's media aide has publicly backed the increase.

My own view on the whole debate about protesting or not is very simple.

Any protest that does not return us to the pre-January 1 levels of NGN65 per litre is a waste of time.

Let me tell you a story.

In 2004, the Obasanjo government "removed subsidies" and increased the price of petrol from NGN27 as it was then to NGN48. People hit the streets in sometimes violent protest, and eventually negotiations occurred, and a pump price of NGN38 was agreed upon. Did we achieve our aim? No. Was there an increase? Yes. Did the costs of other goods and services go up? Yes. So who are we kidding?

Prior to Sunday's "shock" announcement, the government had flown the kite that when "subsidies are removed" that the price of petrol would come to about NGN120. Then suddenly the PPPRA fixes prices at NGN141?

First, if it is indeed market forces that are in control, how can the PPPRA be in control of what people sell at as implied here? Someone is being very economical with the truth, and we all know who that person/those people is/are.

This is the script that has been planned: raise prices 116% (done). People begin to protest (on-going). Then come to the negotiating table, and somewhere along the line agree to a decrease and final price of between NGN100 and NGN120 (still to come).

Then six years down the line, the next government will sell us that bullshit of having to remove subsidies!

When will this vicious cycle ever end?

I can tell you when it will end. It will never end because Nigerians are bloody cowards. Remember the immortal words of Fela the Sage in Sorrow, Tears and Blood?

"My people sef dem fear too much..."

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Happy new year

I was getting angry about the new, improved fuel prices today and someone reminded me that the SSS is still very much around!

"Until we, as Nigerians get up and say enough is enough. Until we realize that we deserve much, much, much more than we are getting, until we get to the point of no return, when we are prepared to die for what we believe in- indeed until we believe in anything other than in our personal comfort- we will continue to be led by our noses." ---Chxta in 2007.

Enjoy your new and improved fuel prices Nigeria.