Monday, September 30, 2013

Media Chat Shocker: Jonathan Shocks Nigerians, Says ‘I Don’t Know If Shekau Is Dead Or Alive - PREMIUM TIMES

President Goodluck Jonathan shocked Nigerians on Sunday when he declared that he did not know if the leader of the dreaded sect, Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, was dead or alive.

The Joint Task Force, JTF, in Borno State, had said in a statement August 19 that Mr. Shekau might have died of gunshot wounds he received in an encounter with Force’s troops in one of their camps at Sambisa Forest on June 30.
However, Mr. Shekau appeared in a new video last week, claiming that he was not dead.

He also claimed responsibility for the attacks that killed several civilians on September 17 in Benishek, Borno State.

The military vowed to investigate the claims as well as the authenticity of the video.

Mr. Jonathan, our Commander-in-Chief, who receives briefing from security agencies daily, repeatedly said during the media chat that he could not say if the Boko Haram leader had actually died.

“I don’t know whether he (Shekau) is dead or alive,” the President, said in a response to a question tweeted to the panel of interviewers but read to him.
“I don’t know whether Abubakar Shekau is dead or alive. I don’t know him. I have never met him. You journalists know more than us, “some of you always talk to them (Boko Haram).”

Mr Jonathan noted that the Boko Haram saga worsened because it was not “properly handled in the beginning.”

On the killing of some students at the College of Agriculture in Yobe State, on Sunday, the president debunked the claim that such acts were due to widespread poverty in the country.

“Can poor people buy AK47?” he queried.

The president said some of those arrested in the uncompleted building in the Apo District of Abuja where security forces killed no fewer than seven squatters, were member of the Boko Haram sect. According to him they confessed to terrorism.

He said the crisis in Plateau State “is more of ethnic rivalry about who controls land, but Boko Haram is different.”

Mr. Jonathan assured the people that his government would try its best to protect Nigerians in order to forestall the type of incident that occurred at a Kenya Mall recently where over 60 persons were killed by suspected Al Shabaab insurgents.

He said, “We will try our best to ensure Kenyan mall attack is not repeated in Nigeria. If the drum is changing we must change steps. I assure Nigerians we’ll continue to do what is required to protect them.”

Mr Jonathan said there would be no elaborate ceremony on Tuesday to mark Nigeria’s 53rd Independence Anniversary, because government had already planned the Centenary ceremony next year, to celebrate the amalgamation of the defunct protectorates in the country.

He added that the decision to have a low-keyed Independence celebration was not because of insecurity, insisting that most parts of the country were now safe.

According to him, “We are not going to do any elaborate ceremony until 2014″…the low key celebrations are not because of security.

“Most parts of this country are safe now for any celebration, even in Maiduguri.”

Jonathan offers no plan to resolve ASUU crisis, says strike politicized

President Goodluck Jonathan on Sunday offered the clearest sign yet that his administration was in no haste to resolve the three-month-old strike by university lecturers, calling their demands “politicized” and urging the lecturers to return to work for the sake of the students.
On his fifth presidential media chat on the Nigerian Television Authority, NTA, the president said the nation’s bitter politics had crept into the strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities, and was responsible for the refusal of the lecturers to suspend their action despite the government’s effort.
“In the past, they did not go this far when strikes were called off; but now politics has gone into everything,” the president said. He did not elaborate when pressed further by a five-member interview panel on his claim about ASUU demands being politicized.
Mr. Jonathan said his administration had made concessions for the strike to be resolved, and has demonstrated remarkable commitment to addressing the massive infrastructure in the universities, one of the key demands ASUU has made.
He said the lecturers have refused to accept the government’s explanations that broad range reforms cannot be achieved instantly.
“ASUU strike is very very unfortunate,” Mr Jonathan, himself a former lecturer, said. He said crisis in education, in developing countries would always continue.
The president said the biggest indication to his government’s commitment to such reforms was the decision to catalogue the perennial rot afflicting all the universities.
“Throughout this time, no government has taken inventory of all the problems in federal and state universities,” the president said. “We said this must change. But it cannot change overnight. So for ASUU to go on strike over infrastructure, they need to understand that we are serious about intervening starting with N100 billion.”
The president’s remarks on the strike was his first since lecturers downed tools in June, asking for improved pay and better funding for universities. They vowed not to resume until the government fully implements the last agreement both sides reached in 2009.
The lecturers have vowed not to accept partial implementation of the agreement, with multiple intervention by the Senate and the House of Representatives stalemated.
The government said the challenges of improved funding requires more time, and claims it has made concessions by providing initial funding.
As the negotiations deadlock, millions of students have remained stranded at home with each claim of quick resolution to the crisis turning out unrealistic.
Mr Jonathan’s comments on Sunday provided the strongest indication yet, that, save a change in decision, students will remain at home longer as the crisis stretches without a resolution.
Asked specifically what the way forward would be for the strike, the president said he was calling on the lecturers to resume work for the sake of the Nigerian children and to realize that the government was committed to improving education.
He said the 2009 agreement which ASUU has harped upon, was negotiated by officials incapable for such a responsibility as the agreement was “not implementable”.
“Even if we have all the money in the world we cannot change things overnight,” he said. “The members of ASUU are our brothers and sisters, they should look at these young people and look at the commitment of govt.”

APC accuses PDP of plotting to rig 2015 polls, destabilize Nigeria

The PDP has denied the allegation, saying the “guilty are afraid”
The All Progressives Congress, APC, on Sunday, said it has uncovered a grand plot by the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and the presidency, to rig the 2015 general elections, especially the presidential poll, and also destabilize the country.
In a statement issued in Lagos, on Sunday, by its Interim National Publicity Secretary, Lai Mohammed, APC said a multifaceted strategy that was being employed by the PDP and the presidency in a desperation to win the 2015 general elections at all cost, include the suppression of votes in areas where the president’s chances were slim, using police and the military.
But in a swift reaction, the PDP dismissed the claim, saying the APC was not only distracting the party and the president, who were focussed on the development of the country, adding that the opposition party was merely accusing it of what it was planning to destabilize the country.
According to the APC, the PDP and the presidency planned to use what they have tagged “a Third Force” to deceive Nigerians and project the image of a performing presidency, even when they admit that the current public perception of government was less than salutary because of its weakness and lack of vision.
The opposition party further alleged that the ruling party and the Presidency planned to engage in destabilization it (APC), using moles and fifth columnist, instigate chaos in the South-West geo-political zone, using what they called the ”Old Afenifere Guards” as well as infiltrate and weaken socio-cultural and socio-political organizations in areas they deemed to be unfavourable to the president.
The party claimed that the PDP and the Presidency’s grand plot also did not exclude even the PDP itself, as they were pursuing a strategy of decisively and ruthlessly purging from the ranks of the party’s inner decision-making caucus all recalcitrant members, including governors and House of Representatives members.
”The dogged pursuit of this action of dealing with supposed recalcitrant members has led to suspensions, expulsions and alienation of some PDP members, and it was the immediate trigger of the collapse of the party of tattered umbrella. ”After all, it is said that a house divided against itself cannot stand,” APC said.
Elaborating on the plot, the opposition party said the North-East and the North-West geo-political zones had been singled out as areas where votes must be suppressed in 2015, by creating an environment for the deployment of ”special forces” in the run-up to the 2015 elections.
“Simply put, they intend to launch police/military actions in the run-up to 2015, to ensure most of the registered voters in the zones are disenfranchised.
”The reason these two geo-political zones have been singled out for ‘vote suppression’ is because of what the PDP/Presidency called the ‘voting demographics’ in the zones in 2011.
“The North West had 18,900, 54 registered voters in 2011 while the North-East had 10,038,119. By contrast, the president’s ‘safe support base’ of South-South and South-East had 8,937,057 and 7,028,560 respectively, the total of which was less than that of the North-West alone!
”The PDP/Presidency therefore believe that unless the votes in these two zones are suppressed, and those of the South-West (14,298,356) stifled one way or the other, the chances of the President winning re-election are very poor. Needless to say that these three zones (NE, NW and SW) are considered to be hostile to the President, hence must be tamed,” APC said.
On what it called the Third Force, APC alleged that it would involve rail-roading unsuspecting credible and independent-minded Nigerians with deep knowledge of, and extensive penetration of the media, civil society, labour, youth, women and ethnic nationalities into the plan, in which they will be given scripts written by the government and sent out to inundate the airwaves and the print media, posing as experts and public analysts to peddle lies and reel out statistics that have no bearing on the standard of living of the average Nigerian.
The party noted that perhaps the most dangerous aspect of the plot is the determined attempt by the PDP and the Presidency to constrict the democratic space by moving against the main opposition party which they regard as a ”real threat” to the President if it (party) does not implode or forced to break up before 2015.
It added, “The strategy to achieve this is multi-pronged: The PDP/Presidency will use those they called fifth columnists, disillusioned party members and ‘deep cover plants’ to fracture the APC; play up clash of ambitions among its leaders, as well as create and empower a new anti-APC political force in the South-West, comprising the old Afenifere guards whom they described as spent and disillusioned forces, but who can be manipulated to achieve the desired objective of neutralizing the APC, and to revive some dormant political forces.
APC said while it was not bothered by the desperation of the PDP/Presidency to engage in unfair and foul means to win elections, it is astounded that a democratically-elected President will resort to actions that are far from democratic just to retain power at all cost.
”The PDP/Presidency should know that no power in the world can stop an idea whose time has come. For Nigeria, this is the time for change, and change will come in spite of the shenanigans of the devilish duo. Our hope is that these desperadoes do not destroy the country in their rabid ambition,” the party said.
The party called on Nigerians “to be vigilant in the days, weeks and months ahead as the PDP and Presidency begin to roll out their grand plot.”
However, the Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Jalo Ibrahim debunked the allegations, saying the opposition party was the one planning to rig the polls and destabilize the nation.
“It is not true. The APC is overheating the polity; they are prophets of doom. Instead of focussing on development, they are talking about rigging of elections. This is a case of ‘the guilty are afraid’. It is what they have made up their minds to do that they are accusing PDP of doing,” Mr Ibrahim told PREMIUM TIMES in a telephone interview on Sunday.
The PDP spokesman said President Goodluck Jonathan was busy trying the fix the nation, including the providing efficient power supply and would not have the times to waste on election rigging as claimed by the APC.
Mr Ibrahim said, “Jonathan is busy trying to see that the issue of electricity supply is tackled. He is trying to see that those companies that bid for the power formation start working in October, and so he will not waste his time thinking of election rigging.
“As far as PDP is concerned, APC is like ACN before the amalgamation. The marriage has not been tested. Let them solve their internal problems. PDP is mindful of pushing the country forward in terms of development.
PDP is not afraid to go into electoral contest let alone, doing so with APC which comprises politicians who are not prepared to move the country forward. We were with some of them in PDP – people like Nasir el-Rufai. You know how Gani Fawehinmi tried to prosecute Bola Tinubu over his certificate scandal.
“So, APC should go and give Nigerians their programme and line of action. We are not distracted by what they are doing. We will continue with what we are doing to move this country forward. The focus of the president to move the country forward is very solid. Mr President is a democrat. I know him right from the days he was deputy governor. He is patient and does not habour ill-feeling against anybody.”

Friday, September 27, 2013

New York Judge Orders Jimoh Ibrahim To Pay $10 Million For Defaulting On Aircraft Lease

US District Judge Katherine Forrest has ordered a controversial Nigerian businessman, Jimoh Ibrahim, to pay over $10 million for failing to meet his obligations on two aircraft he leased for the operations of his Nigerian air traffic business that is now grounded. Mr. Ibrahim had personally guaranteed the leased aircraft on behalf of his defunct airline, Air Nigeria.
SaharaReporters obtained a ruling by Justice Forrest in which she ordered the shady Nigerian businessman to pay up the initial $8 million owed to Aersale Inc., the owners of the leased aircraft. In addition, the judge ruled that Mr. Ibrahim must pay interests on the lease as well as legal fees.
Delivered in the form of a summary judgment, the ruling criticized the Nigerian businessman for seeking to find loopholes to enable him to disown the lease guarantee. She ruled that his legal schemes could not invalidate the lease agreement.
Mr. Ibrahim had challenged the authenticity of the lease document he had personally signed on behalf of Air Nigeria. He claimed that some pages of the lease document were not initialed. He also claimed that the passport number used on the document was from one of his expired passports. In addition, he tried to shift the blame for his business decisions on the moribund airline’s former managing director, Kinfe Kassanye, claiming that the former MD misled him into signing the lease.
But an unimpressed Judge Forrest dismissed Mr. Ibrahim's pleadings, describing the case as a straightforward issue of breach of contract. She added that Mr. Ibrahim did not deny that he signed the lease and was well aware of its implications.
The judge also denied Mr. Ibrahim's request to have Air Nigeria named as the main defendant in the case.
The ruling has been certified, and Judge Forrest has asked the plaintiffs, Aersale, Inc., to file papers in the form of a motion detailing the full scope of the company’s interests and costs. The firm’s filings are expected to include how much it cost the company to hire attorneys to file and pursue the lawsuit against Mr. Ibrahim.
Air Nigeria collapsed a few days after a Dana Airways flight crashed in a Lagos suburb, killing all passengers on board as well as some people on the ground.
A whistleblower who worked for Air Nigeria, John Nnorom, provided SaharaReporters with detailed information of the depth of the airline’s financial and technical crises. Mr. Nnorom and other anonymous staff sources told SaharaReporters that Air Nigeria would have sustained a tragic air crash because Mr. Ibrahim was more interested in carting away profits than in maintaining the aircraft in his airline’s fleet. They also revealed that he owed numerous service maintenance providers and lessors huge sums of debt.
The revelations compelled the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority to revoke the airline’s air worthiness certificate, leading to its collapse.
A New York-based lawyer told SaharaReporters that Aersale, Inc. would likely seek the seizure of Mr. Ibrahim's private jet as part of a broader strategy to recouping debts owed to them.

CBN disburses N109.3 billion towards improved power supply

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has disbursed N109.3 billion out of the N300 billion Power and Airline Intervention Fund (PAIF) established in March 2010 to fast-track the development of electric power projects through the provision of the much needed long tenured, fixed interest funds to catalyse private sector investments in the power sector.

CBN Governor, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, disclosed this while speaking at the Bankers’ Committee Special Forum on Financing Power Sector Reforms for Economic Development held today at Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja.

Restating the CB’s support for the current efforts by the President Goodluck Jonathan administration to reform the power sector and stabilise power supply, Sanusi said: “As at 20th September, 2013, the sum of N109.3 billion was disbursed to twenty (20) companies, mostly manufacturing giants, by eleven (11) banks (Access, Diamond, Ecobank, FBN, FCMB, Fidelity, GTB, Stanbic IBTC, UBA and Zenith).”

This, he said, is in addition to a grant of N1.6 billion made to the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) by the CBN in 2011 to support the electric power privatisation as follows: to engage HR and Actuarial Valuation Advisers for Successor Companies of PHCN; and to fund the activities of the FGN negotiations team that will negotiate severance liabilities with the unions of PHCN.”

Sanusi said that the apex bank has in addition financed captive power projects by manufacturing companies principally to guarantee stable and reliable power supply and to free the national grid to other users.

“To ensure sustainable framework for leveraging Private sector finance into Infrastructure development, the CBN has produced an Infrastructure Finance Policy. The Policy which is now an input into the financing strategy for the National Integrated Infrastructure Master plan if implemented will ensure the tailored finance to the project development chain in Nigeria,” he said.

He identified other steps taken by the CBN to include a “a review of Prudential Guidelines recognizing longer time lines for measuring asset quality, based on the gestational periods for projects in the target sectors,” introduction of specialized banks, and review of the performance of the Development Finance Institutions (DFIs) “in collaboration of other stakeholders . . . with a view to restructuring them to effectively contribute to nation building.”

Sanusi said that the ambition of the FGN to meet the vision 20: 2020 target of 20,000MW requires an investment in power generating capacity alone of at least US $3. 5 billion per annum, for the next 10 years (BPE, 2013). “The total investment required to reinvigorate the distribution system over the next 5 years is also put at $1.8 billion (N288 billion) which translates to annual investments of N57.2 billion in the Discos,” he stated.

On the next steps that should be taken, Sanusi said: “The economy needs to leverage pension and insurance funds to provide financing for power and other critical infrastructure projects.” He also highlighted the need for “perfect modalities for the floating of development bonds as a means of low cost and long term funding” and to “facilitate the intervention of international financing particularly from the emerging markets (China, Brazil, India) to augment local funding options.”

The CBN Governor made it clear that “the banking community regards electric power supply as the prime development catalyst that deserves special attention due to its multiplier effect in the economy.”

He declared that “the power sector privatization that kick-started in December 2010 has reached an enviable milestone,” adding: “Indeed, the Bankers’ Committee wishes to identify with the Federal Government in its desire and zeal to fast-track the full implementation of the initiatives outlined in the EPSR Act.

“The Bankers Committee will continue to collaborate with government to create an enabling environment to attract private sector funding that will increase the national power generation capacity, ensure availability of gas for power generation, and reduce losses resulting from inefficient transmission/distribution network.”

Nigerian lawmakers issue #OurNass accountability protesters outdated pay slip

National assembly pay slip #OurNass protesters received contained no new information.
Nigerian lawmakers on Thursday gave youth groups protesting the lack of transparency in their remuneration system outdated pay slip containing no new information.
Hundreds of young Nigerians, who networked through social media, stormed the National Assembly demanding answers to five key questions management of the assembly had refused to answer through freedom of information requests.
They were denied entrance to the National Assembly protest ground.
They were rather restricted to the outer gate of the National Assembly where four senators met and addressed them.
The senate team that addressed the protesters was led by the senate spokesman, Enyinaya Abaribe (PDP Abia state).
In response to the scathing criticism of lawmakers for earning outrageous salaries and allowances in a country where majority live on less than a dollar per day, Mr. Abaribe promised the protesters he would make his pay slip available to the public, if they wanted.
“We have no reason to tell lies,” he said. “If you want my pay slip, you can come and get it.”
When the documents were sent out, the protesters were stunned to find Mr. Abaribe issued them a January 2010 pay slip containing only earnings apportioned by the Revenue Mobilization And Fiscal Commission.
The pay slip captured the legally permissible N1.4 million monthly salary of an average senator, but left out the contentious quarterly allowances, sitting allowances, and other allowances the lawmakers receive, which are the main reasons for the protest.
The pay slip, printed on a white plane paper confirmed that the senators are ranked, with an average senator graded C05. Principal officers of the National Assembly are ranked higher and receive higher perks too.
Although outdated, the pay slip is the first public confirmation of Nigerian senators’ legal earnings.
The pay slip contradicts claims by lawmakers that their ‘outrageous’ quarterly “constituency allowance” is a cumulative payment. Actually, an average senators receives N422 thousand monthly as legal constituency allowance.
A senator’s basic salary is N168,666.67, while he receives a little over N337,000 monthly for housing – rent.
Legally, an average Nigerian senator earns N47,000 daily. But works only three days in a week or six months in a year.
Lawmakers total perks still a big secret
Outside the legally permissible, Nigerian lawmakers are believed to earn extra huge allowances, ranging from sitting to hardship allowances. Most of these allowances, they allocate to themselves.
Neither the public nor any other government agency oversee these in-house allocations.
In December 2010, after Central Bank governor, Lamido Sanusi, put the National Assembly on the spot over its huge overhead expenditures, the Senate president, David Mark, pledged to review the National Assembly’s recurrent expenditure downwards.
“Based on realities of our economic situation and the need to channel our scarce resources towards nation building, we must drastically cut down the cost of running government vertically and horizontally in the three arms of government as well as the three tiers of our federating unit,” the Senate president said while receiving the 2011 budget proposal documents in December 2010.
“In this regard, the National Assembly will lead the crusade. We will make the required sacrifice and review downwards our recurrent expenditure. We expect others to make similar sacrifice,” he added.
That year, rather than a downward review to reflect the senate president’s promise, the National Assembly budget was jacked up.
In the proposal, the National Assembly’s portion in the 2011 budget – including overhead and capital – was N112 billion. But the lawmakers were unimpressed with the figure. So, while passing it, they raised their chunk of the budget by 100 percent, to N224 billion. After an outcry, the lawmakers passed the amended budget, pegging their take of the slice at N153 billion.
Yet, officials of the National assembly insisted they implemented a pay cut of 67 percent at the House of Representatives and 40 percent at the Senate.
According to a National Assembly experts, if the 2011 pay cuts were implemented, the House of Representatives members will earn N15million quarterly, saving Nigeria N30.45 million on each member quarterly and N121.82 million annually.
That indicates that they were earning N45.45 million quarterly.
There are 360 members of the House of Representatives and collectively, the nation would save N43.8 billion annually if the House of Representatives’ cut were implemented.
The senators are 109 and announced a cut of 40 percent. Although they are more discreet about their allowances, savings would have mounted way higher than the House of Representatives’.
Despite the announcements and expectations, the cuts were never backed by official documents or public records. The National Assembly annual budgets never dropped, but has remained at N150 billion – the same amount it was without the cuts.
Since then, the detailed annual budget of the National Assembly remained confidential, hidden away from the public.

Exploitation At Nigerian Embassies, Diaspora Nigerians Protest

According to the information displayed on the Nigerian Embassy website in Vienna, with the headline “VERY IMPORTANT NOTICE!” the embassy introduced awkward new commercial telephone numbers of the embassy beginning with ‘0900’.  These new telephone lines are awfully exploitive, inconsiderate and a national embarrassment as an oil producing country.

Since early this year, if one is looking for Nigerian visa or has got passport related issues in Austria, one must call this number “0900 370 123” and will be charged €1.80 per minute (about N300 - N400.00 Nigerian money), and on administrative issues one must call “0820901269” at the cost of €0.80 cent per minute if one is calling from landline otherwise the cost to both numbers could be more. The situation should not be different in other countries. As at the time of writing this article, the above figures were displayed on the embassy website in Vienna, but let nobody be surprised if it changes to another figure because it has happened several times.

In Austriathese types of numbers are purely commercial business lines and also very similar to prostitutes' numbers. Thus, Nigerian Embassy telephone lines have gone commercial, even when you want to make inquiries, you call and you pay like the trade of harlots through telephone calls. This policy perhaps became imperative because the government could no longer afford to pay the salaries of the embassy workers when due and also maintain other administrative costs without struggling.

"Why is it that our leaders are so
insensitive to our complaints and
the pains we are going through?
Most policies of Nigerian
embassies are always based on
how to get money from Nigerians."

When I heard the unfortunate news, I felt so sad and went to the Nigerian embassy to find out the true situation of things. Alas! I was officially told that it was an order from the Nigerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and that somebody had come from Abuja and had made sure that the lines had been installed and had left to other European countries with the same mission because it was a policy not only for the Nigerian Embassy in Vienna, Austria but for all the Nigerian embassies across the globe.
Unable to comprehend the reason why a country so naturally rich and producing billions of barrel of crude oil every day should come up with this kind of inconsiderate and hungry policy, I called a few embassies in Europe and America of smaller African countries whose national budgets may not be up to one month revenue generated in Lagos State, and surprisingly none had this kind of uncaring policies, I wept. I wept because I rhetorically asked, why in most cases Nigeria was first in this kind of harsh policies but lacking behind most times when it mattered most.

I said so because self-acclaimed giant of Africa not long ago told Nigerians in Diaspora through the National Assembly that Nigeria was not yet ripe for Diaspora voting citing logistic problems and money as the reasons. But the law makers have continued indiscriminately to promulgate laws that increase their income and allowances to millions that have ensured that their individual monthly salaries are more than that of President Barrak Obama of the USA as reported in some Nigerian print media houses.

"Before one starts the usual song of ‘crucify Jesus
and give us Barnabas-kill Uzoma, kill Uzoma’,
how will one judge the current exploitation of so
many helpless Nigerians at the Nigerian Embassy
in ViennaAustria?"  

If smaller African poor countries have managed to run their embassies without imposing this kind of embarrassing and uncaring policy, why must the giant of Africa, Nigeria do so? Does it mean that Nigeria's government cannot successfully run their embassies without Nigerians gnashing their teeth in agony and regret? Is Nigeria a poor country? Senate President David Mark while reacting on the floor of the Senate about the shabby ways Nigerians are treated by their host countries abroad and the ill equipped Nigerian missions and the attitude of their staffs, said, “We should have our missions well-funded. We say we are the giant of Africa but if you can’t fund missions, you are not. The attitude of members of staff of our missions abroad is not the best. Their first reaction is to defend our country. Our mission staffs need to change their attitude.” As much as one could rightly guess the disappointing tone of the number three citizen of the federal Republic of Nigeria on these issues, but one thing is very clear, history will never exonerate him from the cries of Nigerians as one that has been active at the forefront of Nigerian politics for decades.

Why is it that our leaders are so insensitive to our complaints and the pains we are going through? Most policies of Nigerian embassies are always based on how to get money from Nigerians. From confirmation of names given to new born babies, driving licences or stamp on any document for authentication and even in their own failures like the non availability of ECOWAS passport that has kept many Nigerians as prisoners in many countries Nigerians are callously forced to pay heavily in tears like it is in Vienna. Why? But when a Nigerian has a problem one will see them playing hide and seek or a popular children game in Nigeria that goes like this, "Copyyyy oh yes".

"As a matter of fairness I appeal that those
Nigerians that have already paid this €50
should be called by the embassy and given
back their money and those that are yet to
take their passports should collect them
without a further €50 toll gate fee."

Before one starts the usual song of ‘crucify Jesus and give us Barnabas-kill Uzoma, kill Uzoma’, how will one judge the current exploitation of so many helpless Nigerians at the Nigerian Embassy in ViennaAustria?  

In a state where so many Nigerians had applied and paid for international passports at the embassy in Vienna and had endlessly waited for the past one, two or three year/s (as it may apply to individuals) with stories from the embassy officials that this had been as a result of the non availability of a passport printing machine, some of the affected people who could no longer wait in the status of ‘Open prison’ they were confined to were inconsiderably charged extra €25 (around N500) before they were given an ordinary letter by the embassy that enabled them process their passports in another country like Italy or Germany where these printing machines were operational. Please, Ambassador Gbenga, were these exploitations fair?

Now there is a passport printing machine at the embassy here in Vienna, again these same patient Nigerians that completed all what had been required from them to get their passports about three years ago are again compulsorily extorted €50 through an institutionalised system by the embassy in the name of administration fee before they can be allowed to have their passports. Please Ambassador Gbenga, is this fair? Please, is it fair, is it fair? This process of exploitation and oppression against Nigerians through policies should please be halted. We are human beings and deserve to be treated with feelings. I have never heard of this kind of policy somewhere else in my whole life.

These Nigerians ought to be given their passports with apologies and without any demand of cash and harassments or insults in any form. As a matter of fairness I appeal that those Nigerians that have already paid this €50 should be called by the embassy and given back their money and those that are yet to take their passports should collect them without a further €50 toll gate fee. For God's sake, is Nigeria not the giant of Africa?

Uzoma Ahamefule, a concerned patriotic citizen writes from ViennaAustria

Thursday, September 26, 2013

#OurNASS: Who will pay the hardship allowance of 112 million poor Nigerians? – @alkayy Alkasim Abdulkadir

In truth the cost of governance in Nigeria is tragically appalling.  There are 112 million poor Nigerians living below the poverty line, some of them in abject, debilitating penury according to the national bureau of statistics; however our national assembly in a magnanimous show of self love pays itself a plethora of the following allowances Hardship, Constituency, furniture, newspaper, wardrobe, recess, leave, severance gratuity accommodation, utilities, domestic staff, entertainment, personal assistant, motor vehicle, vehicle maintenance and duty tour allowance.
For those who are familiar with social media, young people in Nigeria have decided to take the conversation offline; they have resolved to protest at the National Assembly. The three arms zone will receive those who are rightly the proverbial leaders of tomorrow in a bid to set Nigeria path to redemption.
With this action they have not only transited from the years of siddon look, but have also transited beyond what some call social media rants on Twitter and Facebook.
Stemming from a life time of military rule, some components of governance in Nigeria are still shrouded in a veil of utter secrecy. The opaqueness is so alarming that government after government have maintained the status quo irrespective of their progressive inclination. Take for instance the NNPC, perhaps one of the most opaque and shadowy organisations in the world with a labyrinth of accounting and auditing parameters, or other opaque government expenditures like the security vote, the ubiquitous financial pool to maintain law and order in states and local governments.
A while back at a convocation ceremony in Benin the CBN Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, had raised an alarm in his speech where he challenged the deficit reasoning in spending a whopping 25 percent of the country’s budget on the national assembly. This singular action no doubt created a ripple in the polity.
The catalyst for this protest in my opinion was the Economist Magazine’s analysis that  A Nigerian legislator receives an annual salary of about $189,000, equivalent of N30 million, which is 116 times the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) per person.
Nigerian legislators beat their counterparts in Britain who take $105,400 yearly, as well as those in the United States ($174,000), France ($85,900), South Africa ($104,000), Kenya ($74,500), Saudi Arabia ($64,000) and Brazil ($157,600).
In terms of lawmakers’ salaries as a ratio of GDP per capita, the gap is even much wider. While the salary of a Nigerian lawmaker is 116 times the country’s GDP per person, that of a British member of parliament is just 2.7 times.
The report also said Britain’s legislators pay is “relatively parsimonious” when compared with that of their counterparts in poorer countries, including Nigeria, who “enjoy the heftiest salaries by this measure.”
According to the data, only Australian lawmakers, with $201,200 annual salary, receive higher amounts compared to Nigerian legislators, but their salaries are only 3 times their country’s GDP per person.
Other yearly salary details published by the Economist are those of lawmakers in Ghana ($46,500), Indonesia ($65,800), Thailand ($43,800), India ($11,200), Italy ($182,000), Bangladesh ($4,000), Israel ($114,800), Hong Kong ($130,700), Japan ($149,700), Singapore ($154,000), Canada ($154,000), New Zealand ($112,500), Germany ($119,500), Ireland ($120,400), Pakistan ($3,500), Malaysia ($25,300), Sweden ($99,300), Sri Lanka ($5,100), Spain ($43,900) and Norway ($138,000).
However, the RMAFC in a bid to do damage control has said  described the lumping of all salaries and allowances into yearly totals as erroneous as some of the entitlements were “non-regular” and are paid only once in four years.
According to the RMAFC each Senator gets N 4 million while each House of Reps member gets N3.97 million. As vehicle loan each Senator takes N8 million, while Reps collect N7.94 million. The furniture allowance for each Senator is N6 million, while Reps’ furniture allowance stands at N5.956 million for each member. Severance gratuity for each Senator N6.09 million, for Reps, it is N5.956 million. Like the vehicle loan, severance gratuities are paid only once in 4 years. The commission however made it known that accommodation allowance is paid to each legislator every year.
Other annual allowances include those for motor vehicle fuelling and maintenance, for which Senators are entitled to N1.52 million each and their House of Reps counterparts pocket N1.489 million. Constituency, Senators get N5 million, Reps N1.985 million, domestic staff allowance for Senators amounts to N1.519 million while each Rep takes N1.488million.
Legislators are also given allowance for personal assistants, for each Senator, the figure is N506,600 while for Reps it is N496,303, for entertainment Senators take home N607,920 and Reps N595,563, recess allowance for Senators stands at N202,640 and N198,521 for Reps.
Senators get N607,920 for utilities as against N397,042 for Reps. For newspaper/periodicals N303,960 accrues to each Senator and N297,781 to each Rep, house maintenance for Senators, N101,320 and for Reps,N99,260 while wardrobe allowance for Senators is N506,600 and Reps are given N496,303 for the same purpose. .
The protest is not just about the National Assembly it is a metaphor for the sky rocketing cost of governance in Nigeria in the midst of such hopeless poverty, it is time the citizens of Nigeria begin to take Nigeria more seriously than complaining on radio talk shows, at vendor spots or hissing at passing motorcades blaring sirens. It is time to begin to take Nigeria back, it looks herculean, but it can be done.

Background Notes for #OurNASS Protest to the National Assembly

“If our people lose the courage to confront what is wrong then we become collaborators.”
- Jerry Rawlings
“It does not require a majority to Prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people’s minds.”
- Samuel Adams
Raise awareness about the disconnect between legislators and Nigerians and freedom of information requests to mark the International Right to Know Day (September 28).
469 men & women represent 170 million Nigerians.
Date: Thursday, September 26
Venue: National Assembly, Abuja
Similar protests to state assemblies in Lagos, Ilorin and Benin. More might be added.
Peaceful march to the National Assembly with five demands, which are:
  1. 1.      Immediate disaggregation of the National Assembly’s 2013 allocation of N150 billion.
Most Nigerians believe the entirety of the allocation goes to salaries for 469 people. Various members of NASS have publicly stated that this is false though some have also anonymously stated that they are overpaid.
Estimated salary per yearN400 millionN300 million
Estimated salary per  monthN33.3 millionN25 million
Salary per month from RMAFC*N1.42 millionN1.25 million
*Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) 2009 Report
The Economist magazine recently released a study showing that Nigerian parliamentarians are the highest paid in the world relative to GDP.
In a country where 71.5% of the population live under the poverty line (N300), their allowances are obscene.
  • Constituency
  • Furniture
  • Newspaper
  • Wardrobe
  • Recess
  • Leave
  • Severance Gratuity
  • Accommodation
  • Utilities
  • Domestic Staff
  • Entertainment
  • Personal Assistant
  • Motor Vehicle
  • Vehicle Maintenance
  • Duty Tour
The last disaggregated budget was in 2010 and it included some atrocious expenses. A summary table is below.
Security Vote for SenateN1.259 billion
Refreshments & MealsN1.156 billion
Senate AdminN2.289 billion
Programmed ActivitiesN9 billion
Total Goods & Non-Personal Services – GeneralN31.742 billion
  1. 2.     An account of income and expenditure of the over N1 trillion the National Assembly has been allocated since 2005.
There is a subsisting court judgement on this issue and our representatives in the National Assembly owe it those they represent to give an account of their use of our common wealth.
  1. 3.     Make available functional email addresses, phone numbers and constituency office addresses for all members of the National Assembly.
Nigerian citizens should be able to reach their representatives.
  1. 4.     ALL voting records on ALL the constitutional amendments made public.
Aside from the voting record on Section 29 4(b), none of the other records have been made public. For all Nigerians who are engaged in this review process, we deserve to know if our representatives voted in line with our wishes.
  1. 5.     Attendance list for each plenary made public.
Pictures and videos from both chambers show considerable truancy. Nigerian citizens would like to know when their representatives attend plenaries.
Furthermore, ASUU is on strike to enforce an agreement. The Federal Government is looking for N87 billion. Based on available data, CJET under the Citizens’ Wealth Platform estimates that the National Assembly can operate with N25 billion per year. So, for the 2014 Budget, the Federal Government will have an extra N125 billion, from which they can honor their agreement with ASUU!
We have every intention to be orderly and peaceful as we ask #OurNASS.
Enough is Enough Nigeria (EiE Nigeria), Youth Initiative for Advocacy Growth & Advancement (YIAGA), Reclaim Naija (Community Life Project), Nigerian Women’s Trust Fund,  Say No Campaign
Freedom of Information Coalition, Beacons, SleevesUp, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Centre for Policy Advocacy and Leadership Development, Youth Alliance on Constitution & Electoral Reform, United Action for Democracy, National Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN), Original Inhabitants Descendants Association of Abuja (OIDA).