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[Opinion] N60b Phones: The Questions Mr Reno Omokri And His Principals Must Answer

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by Kikiowo Ileowo

In his controversial style of using social media, Reno Omokri- the Special Assistant to the President on new media on Thursday, the 3rd of January 2013 took to the platform to further explain the President’s much belated New Year gift to Nigerians as revealed by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture.

 

Basking in the euphoria of a similar gift to Nigerians on the 1st of January 2012 through the removal of fuel subsidy that lead to a week of national protest, President Jonathan this time around unleashed his 2013 gift on the Nigerians with a policy for the purchase of 10million cell phones valued at about N60billion to 10 million rural farmers.

 

In his message on twitter, Reno Omokri said “One of the aim of this administration is for Nigeria to be self sufficient in food production”, adding that “The FIRST priority of a people is FOOD SECURITY. One way to ensure food security is by ensuring that farmers are informed of best practices”. Continuing, he said “…to ensure that they plant, irrigate and harvest at the right time, SMSs are being sent to our farmers by agric experts at the ministry”.

 

He further added that “For those who have an objective mind, 60billion divided by 10million farmers gives you a unit cost of 6000 Naira per phone.”

 

Now let’s begin by asking where Mr. Jonathan got the 10million Nigerian Farmers? This is a joke intended for April 1st.

 

According to the National Bureau of Statistics, Nigeria’s population as at 2011 stood at 164,385,656. The same Bureau in 2010 released the report of a research it carried out with the title “The Labour Force Report” with an highlight of the population of employed and unemployed Nigerians as well as the age grade they belonged to. The report shows that persons Aged 0–‐14 years constituted 39.6% of the total population of Nigeria, those aged, between 15–‐64 (the economically active population), constituted 56.3%, while those aged 65 years and above constituted 2%. The report went on to state that of the 92,384,738 who are economically active, 67,256,090 of them are in the labour force out of which 51,181,884 are employed, and 16,074,205 are unemployed.

 

The question Mr. Reno and his principal needs to answer is where exactly are the 10million farmers? Are they from the army of the unemployed 16,074,295 or from the already employed 51,181,884. If their answer is the former, what exactly are they producing that Nigeria has not become a hub of everything food?

 

Now, understand that a large portion of food production in Nigeria is done through mechanized farming which makes use of less manual labour. The ‘farmers’ Mr. president wants to provide handset for are subsistent farmers who produce what they mostly consume in their homes. I have a garden at the back of my house, does that qualify me as a recipient of the ‘Jona-phone’?

 

I see no reason why the president in conjunction with his minister of Agriculture would insult the collective intelligence of Nigerians by playing to the gallery with a noble idea that has revolutionised countries like Uganda, Kenya and India. Giving telephones out as part of a 2015 campaign strategy is just plain unintelligent.

 

 

Now, let’s say we accept the president’s assertion to be true, then, the cost of purchasing each handset is simply bogus and outrageous. First of all, no one would dare deal with a supplier in this type of contract. Speaking at Ijebu North East on Wednesday, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture declared that the Ministry will deal directly with the manufacturers of the handset in China and the United States. What she failed to tell us was if there was a bidding process involved in selecting the manufacturer to the extent that it has determined what country to buy them from?

 

Having seen the mounting opposition to the proposed illegal purchase of the mobile telephone handset, the Minister of Agriculture hurriedly released a press statement, stating among other lies that Agriculture employs 70% of the population, but if we go through the figures of the report earlier analysed, we would see that the Agriculture sector only employs 14million Nigerians representing 30% of the total 50M employed for that year.

 

By the way, there are more noble ideas we can channel resources too. The road needed by the farmers to transport their goods to the market is non-existent. The much needed power required to preserve their produce is non-existent. Questions are how is the purchase of handset going to impact the government’s aim of food security? Can the subsistent farmers, majority of whom are illiterates, read and understand the text message that would be sent to them?

 

If I understand the Minister of Agriculture correctly, the aim of buying the phones is to make use of it as a means of communication with the farmers, but the rural farmers already have phones if the tweet by Reno is anything to go by. Reno had tweeted that “to cut fraud in the fertilizer distribution system a voucher system was introduced whereby farmers get their voucher to access frtiliser via SMS”. What this means is that the ministry has already started communicating with the farmers through SMS. Now let’s ask, who bought the phones the farmers has been using to receive sms vouchers for fertilizers? If the farmers already have phones, why does the government want to provide 10million more phones for them?

 

As a professional in the field, one would expect that the Minister should understand that there are alternatives i.e. Agricultural Extension Programmes…’train the trainers’, where people who understand the various languages of the farmers would deal directly with them in the dissemination of information. That on its own is a noble way of creating employment and still achieving the aim of educating the farmers.

 

The idea of importing phones from other countries is nothing short of exporting thousands of jobs and income to those economies, whereas, we could create those jobs here to add to our national GDP growth.

 

Though the minister has denied any knowledge of N60 billion budgeted for such spurious project. It should interest you to note that the telephone handset jamboree was not included in the 2013 budget which we woud consider in a moment.

 

A variant of the phone used in Kenya is a low-end phone, which would cost N2,000 at the computer village in Ikeja, Lagos. Dealing directly with the manufacturer will cut the unit cost to at least N1,500 totaling a wholesome of N15 billion (i.e. N1500 x 10 million pieces).

 

Sundry cost which includes Freight, Insurance, Duty, TLC Charges, CISS, VAT, Clearing Agents, Local Transport, Demurrage, Storage and Rents would cost close to another N2 billion (bear in mind that most of this cost would not be paid by the government) but I won’t bore you with the calculation.

 

Adding another N1 billion as profit for sub-contractors and other unforeseen expense, the purchase is thus estimated at around N18 billion.

 

If a total of N18 billion is more than enough for a project, you can be rest assured that the N60 billion tag is a fraud and another way by the Jonathan administration to ‘create food’ for the boys. The extra N42 billion excess will be looted and misappropriated.

 

It is insincerity of the highest order for the government to use a noble idea as a means of fleecing the people.

 

The last questions I want the honourable Minister to answer are how are we going pay back the loans proposed for the execution of this project? Is this how best we can make use of the fund? Who are the sponsors? The press statement he released has done nothing but raise more suspicion. According to the Ministry of Agriculture’s budget, nothing of such is budgeted for in 2013 or are we looking at another withdrawal from the Excess Crude Account (ECA) to fund repayment or will it be budgeted as debt for future generation?

 

We the people need to know how a Ministry with a total budget of N81 billion for year 2013 plans to execute this project. Ministry of Agriculture Recurrent expenditure for this year is N32.9 billion with N29.8 billion going into personnel cost and another N3.09 billion going into overhead cost. The capital allocation for 2013 for the Ministry of Agriculture is N48.7 billion. I think expending a fund that equals 80% of the total budget of a ministry on a single project sounds scrupulous.

 

We must understand that N60 billion is no small money, it’s almost the total of Capital Allocation for Ministry of Education, just N5 billion greater than the Capital Allocation for Health, 10% lower than the Capital Allocation for Power and half of the Capital Allocation for Ministry of Works which is a very critical sector of the economy.

 

N60 billion is greater than N52.3 billion which is the total budget for Ministry of Transport. N60 billion is no small money as it can do a lot.

 

I am @ileowo4ever on twitter

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Awowole tosin

    January 14, 2013 at 11:21 pm

    what a useless government,phone for farmer.
    How will they get through the network?
    They are just looking for the means to steal our revenue.
    Our government is as an absurd groups.

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Opinion

Who Will Explain Coronavirus To Buhari?

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Coronavirus (COVID-19), an exorable doom, threatens life on the planet. It is exorable because it is conquerable. This explains why world leaders are taking the charge to combat this ominous apocalypse. It is a time for leadership from the fore-end; a time when citizens must hear their leaders speak to them; see them take action, making assurances and fulfilling those promises. The counsel, consolation and firm statement of a leader is imperative at this moment.

In Canada, Justin Trudeau, prime minister, despite being in self-isolation and his wife battling the virus after contracting it at a conference in the UK, is leading the fight against this dreaded disease from the fore. He is providing regular updates of the efforts of his government to roll back this scourge, listening and speaking to citizens.

In a popular broadcast on March 13, Justin spoke to citizens of Canada announcing measures to relieve the financial stress brought on by the pandemic on Canadians.

“We do not want any Canadian to have to worry about whether or not they’re going to be able to pay their rent, whether or not they’re going to be able to buy groceries, or care for their kids or elderly family members. We need to make sure that Canadians have the options and the ability to follow the best public health advice and keep themselves safe,” he said.

In the UK, Boris Johnson, prime minister, leads the struggle against coronavirus. He provides updates, alongside health experts, on the measures his government is taking to tackle the spread of the disease. And in the US, Donald Trump is not shying away from speaking to Americans on the virus.

As a matter of fact, President Muhammadu Buhari’s lapses are often easily dismissed by his supporters or by Nigerians who do not know better. Some of them say, ‘’ Why must the president speak when the minister of health and the NCDC DG are already doing that?” This is a contemptible rationalisation of incompetence. Are they suggesting the president lacks the capacitance to understand the issues?’’

Really, I surmise the president has been walled off the ‘’candid cameras’’ over the years by his handlers – not just now – because he lacks the intellectual propensity to understand and discuss incisive issues. The last presidential media chat he held was in 2015 and it was a woeful outing. Also, his non-choreographed media interviews have been abysmal to say the least.

The truth is the unfiltered Buhari is a vacuously gaffing one. On October 14, 2016, standing beside Angela Merkel, German chancellor, Buhari said his wife, Aisha, ‘’belonged in the kitchen and the other room’’, when he was asked to comment on the first lady’s criticism of his government.

On April 18, 2018, at the Commonwealth Business Forum in London, the president said the young citizens of the country he leads are lazy.

“More than 60 per cent of the population is below 30, a lot of them haven’t been to school and they are claiming that Nigeria is an oil producing country, therefore, they should sit and do nothing, and get housing, healthcare, education free,” he said during a panel appearance with world leaders at the forum.

In a February 2016 interview with UK Telegraph, Buhari dropped another clanger. He said the young citizens of his country have a knack for criminality and should not be granted asylum in the UK.

With the Buhari experience, it is indubitable that Nigerians must place a high premium on education — not just certificate – in choosing their leaders. The cost of electing leaders who do not have the intellectual grit to understand and handle matters is far too high.

The senate has asked the president to speak to citizens on this threat, and Nigerians are also asking the president to speak to them. This is an abnormality. Citizens must not beg to hear from their president. But because it is Buhari involved here, we have to beg and even excuse the crass inefficiency and vacuity.

Perhaps, the president is still trying to get a hang of it. I think he has ‘’capable handlers’’ who can break it down to him in ABC.

Mr President, speak to your citizens. The words of a leader are more resounding and assuring than the blandishment of proxies.

PS: Let’s follow all health protocol as advised by the NCDC.

• Wash your hands regularly with soap under running water.

• Cover your mouth and nose properly with handkerchief or tissue paper when sneezing and/or coughing. You may also cough into your elbow if a handkerchief is not available.

• Avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing.

• Avoid self-medication, report to the nearest health facility when you experience any of the above-mentioned symptoms.

Fredrick Nwabufo is a writer and journalist.

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Opinion

Sanusi: Once Upon An Emir, By Wole Olaoye

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We are all potential Ex-es: ex-student, ex-director, ex-lecturer, ex-senator, ex-governor, ex-president, ex-oba, ex-emir…. The inimitable Zik famously reminded us when he had a spat with Ukpabi Asika that Ex was an inevitable prefix for any human being as was evidenced by the fact that a certain young man who would someday become an ex-Administrator, was the son of an ex-postmaster!

So, what’s so apocalyptic about Sanusi Lamido Sanusi joining the ranks of ex-potentates? Nothing? Everything! Don’t ever think that bell you are hearing is tolling for the former Emir of Kano. No. It could be signalling the beginning of a comprehensive demystification of traditional rulership by plebeians holding tenured political power. In centuries past, no plebeian messed with the traditional institution. The halo of nobility, the sheer vastness of a prince’s hereditary powers, rights and privileges, made the subject know his place.

Yesterday’s subjects are today’s political sovereign. They make no pretences to sophistication. They load a gun to kill a spider. When you dethrone a monarch and then deprive him of his liberty, forcefully banishing him to a place without electricity and potable water, you are playing god. If it was all a public relations Olympics, the calm dignity with which Sanusi handled the humiliation made people all over the world admire his chutzpa and hand him the gold medal. A

Life and its many puzzles! Why is it that for some men and women, “their sleep is taken away unless they cause some to fall”? What do you do about an ego that knows no satiation? As the Preacher in the Good Book timelessly says, “All the rivers flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full… The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear content with hearing… there is nothing new under the sun”.

The Yoruba have a poem that says just that. “The horse struts and frets and then dies. Being a veteran walker is no immunity to getting lost. Nothing new under the sun. I’ve seen kings reduced to slaves; and servants who mounted the throne. Haven’t my eyes beheld both river and sea? Haven’t I seen a hunchback on spindly legs, and a midget climbing a ladder to add condiment to the soup pot? Tell me, has anyone ever started a building from the roof?

The new Emir of Kano, Alhaji Aminu Ado Bayero, is a cousin of his predecessor. As royal intrigues go, when the dust is settled the sword will be sheathed and brother will embrace brother. That is the way of princes. Eventually, outsiders will realise that all they can ever be in palace politics is outsiders. Our very own Nobel prize winning Kongi was not amused by the scandalous extra-judicial detention of the former emir.

He put the emir’s travail down to his progressive stance: “Emir Sanusi was a one-man EFCC sanitisation squad in the banking system, taking on the powerful corrupters of that institution…. “Most important of all, and most pertinently for the nation, Sanusi was one of the early warning voices against religious extremism whose bitter fruits the nation is currently reaping….

The doors of enlightened society remain wide open to Muhammad Sanusi. As for his current crowing Nemesis, a different kind of gates remain yawning to receive him when, as must, the days of governorship immunity finally come to an end.” Support for Sanusi is not limited to radical voices.

Veteran technocrat Alhaji Ahmed Joda penned a panegyric in support of the ex-emir: “The purpose of this letter to you is not to commiserate with you, because I know that you must have known the likely consequences  of the principled position you have taken. The reality we must face in Northern Nigeria is that the evil forces of feudalism that have kept us in bondage for so long are still there and fighting. You have been the only voice that has been telling us this truth….”

It is easy to kick a man given a pin-fall by fate, or piss on the grave of a fallen warrior. Dead men don’t bite. Real friends show up when you are in life’s valley. Say what you will, I would rather have a friend like Nasir el Rufai when the chips are down. In the midst of all the turmoil, conspiracy theories have surfaced to the effect that the dethronement is but a political sleight-of-hand to propel Sanusi to Nigeria’s presidency in 2023. Caution! Let’s separate the issues. Political succession is totally different from fundamental human rights. Sanusi is not my next president.

My views on power rotation are well documented. The ex-emir will go down in history as a champion for the rights of the poorest of the poor. He advocated for a new Northern Nigeria where old backward practices such as the almajiri system and irresponsible parenting will be abandoned. His was the voice crying out in the desert, lift my people up from the cesspit of penury. The attempt to demonise him after dethronement through various allegations, including one on religious fundamentalism, is dead on arrival. The same fate will befall the vilification of El Rufai on account of his loyalty to Sanusi. Please quote me: Modern challenges can never be resolved with a resort to medieval solutions.

Christopher Hitchens’ Q&A may someday apply to the ex-Kings College boy who’s now an ex-king.

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Opinion

Sanusi Dethronement: The North Only Beheads The Bearers Of Truth

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By Fredrick Nwabufo

Northern Nigeria is prostrate. It is the axis of uglies – banditry, insurgency, kidnapping, diseases, ignorance, and drug abuse. Alas! The region’s elite are aware of the problems, but look away because the disequilibrious status quo sustains them. What is petrifying, however, is that they maul and clobber at anyone who spits the truth in their faces.

I think, this is the mortal sin of Muhammad Sanusi II, emir of Kano – beyond his politics with Abdullahi Ganduje, governor of Kano.

But wait!

The World Bank says 87 percent of Nigeria’s poor are in the north. And that while poverty is plummeting in the south, it is rocketing in the upper region.

READ: Dethroned Sanusi Will Be Under House Arrest – Ganduje’s Aide

“Poverty in the northern regions of the country has been increasing especially in the north-west zone. Almost half of all poor lived in the north-west and the north accounts for 87 percent of all poor in the country in 2016,’’ the Bretton Woods institution said in its report entitled ‘Advancing social protection in a dynamic Nigeria’ in February 2020.

In August, 2019, the federal government revealed that 1,460 people were killed by bandits in seven months. And that the north-west is the worst-hit by this bloody enterprise. The killings have steadied, expanding in proportion and execution in the region.

In his accustomed manner, Sanusi recently vocalised these depressing figures of retrogression in the north – as regards the World Bank report — earning himself praise from progressive Nigerians and reprimand from the usual suspects — those stuck in the cesspit of bigotry.

Also, the gadfly emir of Kano, whom I regard as the John the Baptist of the north for his vociferous condemnation of this status quo, is alone in his advocacy against irresponsible polygamy, Al-majiri and child marriage – practices the northern elite espouse. He is the face of a progressive north; the northerner of the new age.

As a matter of fact, on different occasions he had complained about the northern elite whom he said wanted to silence him for speaking the truth about the region.

‘’Our colleagues and compatriots among the elite do not like statistics. Numbers are disturbing. I recently gave a speech in which I said the north-east and north-west of Nigeria are the poorest parts of the country. This simple statement of fact has generated so much heat; the noise has yet to die down. The response to this speech has been a barrage of personal attacks and insults aimed at silencing any voices that dare shine the light on the society to which we are saying Bring Back our Girls,’’ he said at a lecture held to commemorate the Chibok girls abduction.

READ: Sanusi Breaks Silence After Dethronement As Emir Of Kano (Video)

And I guess they can only take the throne away from him but cannot take away his royalty in the community of decent humans. Really, I believe the emir would rather give up his throne than be gagged by the shareholders of iniquity.

To say the least, Sanusi’s dethroning was not unexpected. Ganduje had always shown his hand in this plot. Really, the emir of Kano never hid his dislike for him. But what is there to like about a governor who was allegedly caught on camera stuffing wads of dollars into his babariga? In the build-up to the 2019 governorship election in the state, the emir was not shy in expressing his disapproval to Ganduje’s candidature.

So, Ganduje, who considers Sanusi a ‘’loud mouth’’, plotted a bitter revenge after he was re-elected. He had moved to remove the emir in 2018 but for the intervention of some ‘’higher powers’’. However, he whittle-down the power of the emir by creating new emirates from his domain. He was not done though. He rustled-up allegations, set up probe panels – all in the desperation to embarrass Sanusi.

But Sanusi was still talking.

Really, one of the most abrasive places to exist is in the circle of non-progressives. You talk different, think different or act different, they will feel threatened. Even when you try to clown around; the aboriginal clowns will still feel threatened because you do not look the part.

I think, Emir Sanusi is light-years away from the people he is dealing with in Kano government. He is needed more at the top echelon of government where he can contribute more meaningfully to the development of Nigeria.

Northern Nigeria is not ready for an emir like Sanusi. He is ahead of his time.

Fredrick Nwabufo is a writer and journalist.

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