Tested in many ways he never could have imagined on assumption of office, the Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, isn’t just getting better at what he does as the Chief Marketer of the State of Aquatic Splendour, he has also shown that beyond theoretical misgivings, nothing really is esoteric about governance, administration and leadership. With a little over two years in office, Sanwo-Olu has learnt to deal with the heat in the kitchen without appearing disturbed or overwhelmed and yet, he gets the work done without shifting blames or side-stepping responsibilities. In almost two hours of interaction with THISDAY, he shares his experience about the journey so far, the challenges then and now, the progress reports, plans for the future and why being Lagos governor is not a job for small minds. Excerpts:
It’s over two years since you assumed office, and most of that time have been defined by challenges. Indeed, more of challenges than opportunities, so to say. How have these affected your initial enthusiasm?
You’re right. It’s been over two years. Indeed, it’s almost 58.3 per cent of my 100 per cent four-year tenure. You know, it’s supposed to be 1,460 days and to date, I think we’ve done slightly over 850 days, which means that indeed, we’ve crossed well over half of the time. And you’re right with the observation that there’s been a whole lot of challenges than opportunities. But, this is it: this is how to govern the biggest economy in the country.
It’s the biggest city that has the largest population in the entire black race. This is how to govern a place that is less than 0.5 per cent of the total landmass of our country, in which over 10 per cent of the population resides. To imagine that you want to come and run the shop called Lagos State; you want to be the chairman and chief executive of Lagos State, you need to think twice.
You need to know that it’s not going to be a tea party. This is where the real movers and shakers of thought process, a well-informed audience, are. So, it’s not something that you’re going to carpet under the rug and believe that nobody is looking. No! People are going to ask questions. People are going to ask you difficult questions. So, to be honest with you, I wasn’t expecting less.
But, not that I was expecting a pandemic from hell or I was expecting a security issue. But I know that to run a state given the challenges and complexities, that I just talked about, I will indeed need to continually roll up my sleeves, have shorter nights, and burn the midnight candlelight and be ready to appreciate what your people want. And you have to be up to it. But, it’s all about taking your people to a better level from where you met them. It is what leadership is all about.
The question is what should be your own commitment to ensuring that you leave the place better than you met it. So, it’s going to take something out of your body and at the end of the day, it’s a position of honour. It’s a position of grace, when your people believe and see that you have deliberately and consciously made an attempt to improve their lives. We are just trying to make an impact in the lives of Lagosians who gave us the sacred mandate to govern.
I think it’s only generations and historians that can write the script of how you fared, and how your life and your time had turned out while you were in government and what belief and what people believed was the outcome of it. But, I’m grateful to God for giving me the energy, for giving me the strength, for equipping me also with people that are on the same page with me and understanding that what we’ve promised as citizens is that we will not shy away from every bit of energy that we have to make this place better than we met.
How much has the pandemic disrupted that promise to the people of Lagos?
It has actually, and it’s not localised. It’s a global thing. It has because what it meant was, for example, all throughout last year, we couldn’t mobilise as many contractors as we’d have wanted to. We couldn’t supervise as many projects as we’d have wanted to. We couldn’t see the real brick and mortar growth as we’d have wanted to. That’s not to say that we didn’t do anything at all. But, wanted to do a lot of things quicker, faster and smarter.
So, in terms of our deliverables and timelines by the second end of the second year, we thought we’d have rolled out a lot of schools, a lot of hospitals and all of that. So, in that sense, it has disrupted our workplan. It also affected the revenue or the proceeds that would have helped us and our ability to raise enough funding, because businesses were not on. When life had been all threatened, so, everybody just needed to slow down, you know, and reappraise themselves.
Last year, for example, we had to take about a 30 per cent cut in our budget, but, we couldn’t take a cut in the health budget. We couldn’t take a cut in some critical sectors, where we needed to help people out of a very difficult time and ensure that we support even the organised private sector. One of the things we said to them during the pandemic was, do not retrench people, or lay people off from your payroll.
So, for us to have asked them to do that for us you can imagine what that means and appreciate the extent we were willing to go to keep people employed – things around delayed payment in remitting pay as you earn (PAYE); things around delayed returns in terms of their taxes. We also needed to be gracious and not come with a big stick and ask them to continue to do this, when we knew that indeed, it’s been a difficult time for everyone; for all of us and for all of them. It’s also been a learning point.
Like people say, you never let a crisis get bad, or you never lose the lesson of a crisis. It taught us how to think very quickly and very smartly. For instance, we were able to wrap up infrastructure in health sector very quickly. For example, in health training, we were able to wrap that up rapidly, not wasting time, thinking about what to do. We needed to identify the skills we required in some of those places and get them in place – up and running. But then, like people say, we’ve learnt what we’ve learnt. It sort of toughened us in some areas, but, at the end of the day, you will also see a human face to everything that we’re talking about, and doing.
How has lessons from the first and second waves, helped to prepare you for the third wave of the virus?
To be honest, I think we’re a bit lucky. We’re luckier, because we understand how the virus moves now; we understand what we need to do, and I will tell you some. We believe that the graph is coming down. It has actually tilted up, and we have begun to see it come down. I’ve had a lot of things that we were able to do with this. We have telemedicine and a platform that is working well, which means you can call people twice daily to know how they’re doing to respond quicker.
That’s number one. Number two, we have stocked up all the medicines we require. Everything is sealed up in a pack. So, we can give it like a goody pack but, it’s a COVID-19 pack. Also, our first responders know all of the symptoms better. Thirdly, we also have a ramped-up stock of oxygen. We’ve done three oxygen plants, you know, like in the second wave, when we didn’t have anything at all. Now, we have three oxygen plants on our own. We produce almost three hundred bottles of oxygen every day. I mean the Lagos State government owned. This is apart from the private sector.
We understand that the virus affects the chest when you’re heavily infected, so, it’s really good to have oxygen to continue to breathe. So, in terms of our response, we understand the virus better. However, they talk about the Delta variant that is more potent, and it’s true. It’s a lot more potent but, the bottom line is that we have studied how the virus itself moves. We know how it evolves and then, there’s been a lot of communication; there’s been a lot of community engagement. We did not stop at that at all.
We continue to communicate with our citizens in the various communities, and we’ve also ramped up testing. Now, in Lagos, I think we have almost 30 testing centres from a year and half ago, when there was only one or two. So, there’s been a lot of investments by the private sector side. So, basically, we now have a load of testing centres and PCR laboratories. In terms of infrastructure, it has been extensively improved. Communication has been ramped up, medicine and response have been improved. We can indeed nip it in the bud, as it were.
Can you put a cost to all that?
I’ll give you an example. To date, the state has done almost 400,000 free tests. If you calculate at the rate of N50, 000 per test and we have done 400,000, that is almost like N20 billion, that’s on testing alone. If we monetise the cost of testing, because that’s what the private labs charge, and Lagos State had to do that number free from the beginning till now. We have had to carry all of that free. So, that is just one expense line.
By the time you talk of the three oxygen plants that we have built, the training and retraining of the staff that we have done, the isolation centres that we have done and when we begin to look at the numbers, in a very strict sense, are massive. But, because it’s health, it’s a public health thing. We want to keep our people well. We want to keep them alive and in good health. In that sense, we are not bothered by the cost. Lagosians must be safe and we are willing to go any length to achieve that.
And, numbers in terms of expense, there are things that we can work back but, I just wanted to give you just that one single line. By the way, we’re still paying all of our frontline health workers. Maybe we owe them one month in arrears as critical frontline workers that are dealing with COVID-19. But, we’re still paying allowances, and the allowances are a lot of money, so, all of that we’ll continue to do; we’ll continue to help; we’ll continue to ensure that we keep the state safe and secure.
Away from health concerns, the Rivers State government recently took the federal government to court over VAT collection and won. Lagos, too, has applied to be joined in the case even though the FIRS has opposed your application. But Rivers has also gone ahead to enact its VAT collection law. What took Lagos, a state that usually leads in things like this, so long to be prompted by Rivers? Why did Lagos drop the ball?
We did not drop the ball. Go and check the history. This whole war actually started during Asiwaju Bola Tinubu’s tenure. Incidentally, the current Vice President (Prof. Yemi Osinbajo) was the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice then. If you had studied the case, it’s his case in 2004, that is, the sales tax case that they used as a reference in the court of appeal right now, even as we speak. What happened then? I was in that same government. We took the FIRS to court, and the decision at that time – the ruling was that we should go and settle out of court.
They didn’t care. Mind you, the Lagos State government was in opposition at that time. So, it’s like they threw you under the bus when they said we should go and sort it outside the court. They also now said something: the federal government at that time said Lagos didn’t sue the federal government. It was an agency of the federal government, the FIRS, so, if Lagos State court gave a ruling – Lagos State went and now tried that federal agency in a Federal High Court – go back and go and start all over at the federal high court.
So, it’s like they hung it. We couldn’t make a lot of movement at that time. There was nobody ready to sit at the table. That is the real fact. It’s the same Prof. Yemi Osinbajo that led the case for Lagos State at that time. Lagos State was like an orphan (at that time). It was alone, as it were, and nobody wanted to take it up or talk to them further, and the FIRS at that time did not even listen to them. They said no, it was an abuse of court process for us to have gone to Lagos State court, because we won and wanted to go forward, they said no, go and start it all over again.
When we got to the Court of Appeal, the court said, ‘go and sort it out yourselves.’ So, they didn’t make a pronouncement. What does that tell you? It shows that, indeed, we didn’t want to get around it. That was what happened, and that has been there. If you remember, we now set up a sales tax shop. We now said okay, if you guys are good, we now set up a sales tax. We won that one at the Court of Appeal. I think that case is currently in the Supreme Court. Some people are still fighting us on that. We have actually made progress, because when they said we couldn’t touch VAT, we went to sales tax. So we never for once stopped in the championing of fiscal federalism.
Let’s step back a bit. What we’re talking about is really not about, who collects VAT or how VAT is collected; it’s about the fabric of federalism. If, indeed, we’ve agreed to stay together as a federation called Nigeria, that fiscal federalism or federalism, as it were, is important for us to continue to engage and live. A component of fiscal federalism is monetary control from resources generated from the states. Which include revenue from taxes. These are things that should be controlled by sub-national government in the spirit of true federalism.
It is not in the constitution that it is an exclusive tax. It’s not there that it’s a concurrent tax. So, meaning that it’s a residual tax and so if we’re talking about fiscal federalism right, this is one of the two tests of fiscal federalism and coincidentally, at our Asaba first declaration, we made it clear. If you remember, the communique that came out of that meeting, was that we all believed in federalism, restructuring. It was clearly stated in that very first much-talked about Asaba declaration.
Three meetings after that, we now have a real test of what we had just spoken about eight months ago, and we will not now be able to push it? No. It will amount to flip-flopping, and a lot of us are very decent gentlemen to say if this was what we said six months ago, what has changed? Let’s stay the course and continue to push about what we’ve talked about, and this is one case of testing what we have all seen, and that’s what we’re doing.
What, really, is the difference between sales tax and VAT?
If you listened to an interview and it’s very recent, and I think it was also on ARISE TV by a famous tax practitioner, Chief Ijewere, he was the expert that during the military, I think it was President Babangida, that set up a tax regime and listening to him a couple of days ago, I also got a lot of answers and closure for some of the things. It was meant to be a sub-national tax at that time, and because they wanted to improve, they added some luxury items to it.
That’s why they now use the updated VAT regime. That’s how it’s done in other lands in which VAT is charged. Go to America that we all talk about, there are different value-added taxes charged. It’s really the same thing as a sales tax. But, sales is just for sales. VAT takes charge of goods and services, not just consumption. It takes care of also goods and services and other services like import transaction and all of that.
That is why the listed items have been increased, but, essentially, it is supposed to mitigate the challenges: the problems that emanate from the sub-national or the entity or from the area, where all of that services and activity had taken place. That is the overall understanding of it. It was meant to help the sub-national, locality, or entity where that transaction took place.
The argument of FIRS is that this is not a tax that sub-national governments collect and that it could lead to multiple taxations if states collect VAT as well as affect foreign direct investment. Are there some merits in that submission?
Essentially, there are two or three fundamental issues around maybe multiple taxes. There would, indeed, be for us, for example, a closure on some of the conversations, because we have got experts to review that and be sure that everything has been done. So, that we don’t have any overlap or double taxing, but the fundamental thing is the test of the fabric of our constitution. It is not there. It is not stated. It is a residual thing. It is not even a concurrent thing. So, it’s there fundamentally, and that’s why we need to look at it.
You and I can now sit and say, okay, how do I collect it? What are the things that I need to do? We’re speaking with the organised private sector. We’re speaking with everybody that is a stakeholder in this. We’re not just irresponsible and unreasonable with it. And like you said, if I choose and say someone should collect it on my behalf, it’s a different conversation. But, let’s first understand that it is me that owns it. That’s the point that we’re trying to make for closure.
By the way, when Mr. Ijewere was also speaking, the only reason they got involved at that time was because they said, okay, we’ll help you collect it and now, to help you collect it, and the deviation coming out of it has since changed. Some people might say, ‘okay, continue to help me collect it, but, wait a minute, let’s agree that it is we that should be collecting it. you. It’s interesting for us, even as a nation, to continue to sit together, not political now, try and get the very best for our people at every point in time.
Based on the Asaba declaration and the different tunes coming from some southern states, are you sure the southern governors are united on this? Governor David Umahi is opposing the stance of Rivers and Lagos on the VAT issue. Some governors did not even show up at the recent Enugu meeting, sending their deputies. Are the southern governors united?
It will be a bit presumptuous for me to know the reasons their governors were not there and their deputies sent. Among ourselves, we raised the question, and the response we got was that these are joined mandates. They had the full support of their governors to be at the meeting. So, all of that we needed to respect, as to all of us being together and this is the beauty of democracy, and this is the beauty of everybody sitting in a room – everybody would have a say. I don’t want to use the word majority will have their way, but it’s also an engagement that we all need to continue to have, going forward.
It’s really around understanding and appreciating. What is the real essence of what you are trying to drive at? VAT is being talked about today. There might be other things around fiscal federalism or federalism, as it were, that may come up tomorrow that might affect these other states that’ll come up in a seemingly more positive manner than some other states. The question will be that because it’s not also Lagos. Lagos is the smallest state, for example. If we’re now going to be talking about natural resources and the rest of it, it’s almost certain that Lagos can never be comparable to other states with bigger land areas, where they can have a lot of natural resources.
These are some of the things that we need to look at, that sometimes, some of these things might not be 100 per cent in the same way and manner, but, we can all be gracious and sit on a table to discuss. We can all be very statesmanlike. It’s unfortunate, but, we’ll continue to engage ourselves. We’re brothers, and we’ll continue to ensure that we speak to ourselves and sort out whatever differences we have.
There’s growing insecurity across the country, and either by design or accident, Lagos tends to be lucky. Is there something you’re doing in particular, or everything is left to providence?
To imagine that we’re leaving everything to providence will mean lighting gunpowder and closing the entire doors to the house and expect that it’ll not explode. Far from it! We’re doing a lot. We’ve started from the very first thing, when we came into government. What are the things that we have set for ourselves to do? Remember that we’ve always had a working Lagos State security trust fund that has continued to help out in terms of resources, equipment, allowances, and logistics that security operatives across the line will require, not only police, also the military and other paramilitary agencies.
This also includes immigration and correctional centres. So, that has been a model that I was privileged to have set up in Lagos several years ago. Therefore, it wasn’t very difficult for me to further engage it, widen it, and give it a lot more depth. So, that is going on. Secondly, we also have that, whilst we are gradually part of the Southwest security formation, we have about 7,000-strong neighborhood watch complementing policing. They go into various communities and bring back intelligence.
They’re feeding this back to support the main security operatives, which means things can happen faster if they’re sharing information quicker. These are in terms of the background that we have working for ourselves. But more important, security is also not too far off from the economy and poverty. We say to ourselves that we need to be deliberate at ensuring that we can make the environment in which our people work, we can make it a sort of. We can create a sort of livelihood for our people in that environment, where people can’t get something to do, and move away from any act of criminality.
We’re ensuring our communication engagement with various stakeholders. Regularly, we talk among ourselves and ask questions, what is going on in the community? What are the things we need to do differently? All that information is plugged with the security architecture in the state, allowing us to go around very quickly. Maybe the other thing that is also working well for us is that we don’t have many border posts. Apart from Ogun state, the only border that we have, apart from Benin, which is an international border, is really the Atlantic Ocean.
If we can protect our waterways well, the inland border is only one state. We have a working relationship with Ogun State. We have a joint commission. We have security movement. We have a planning approval movement. We have a traffic management movement. But one that is peculiar to us, I will not shy away from it, is cultism demonstrated in some neighbourhoods. In the past six months, cult-related activities have actually come down. What we’ve done is that we’ve engaged them extensively at the community level. We’ve picked up some of the arrowheads, and we’ve sat with them to say what exactly the issues are?
They’re fighting around, who controls the street, who controls this and who controls that. We sat down and engaged with them: ‘Let’s give you a source of livelihood.’ All of that is going on and it’s because we always have a means of engagement. I can tell you that some of them are even working with us. So, all of those security issues are being attacked, taken up, and dealt with at the grassroots level. But we’re not dropping our eyes on the ball. We’re not complacent. We’re not taking anything for granted. We’re also checking. We’re monitoring. We’re ensuring that even at the community level, there’s relative peace through the cooperation of all.
There are assumptions that the federal government is handling insecurity with laxity. Will it be right to say that could be undoing your efforts in Lagos?
I feel it’d be unfair to assume that things are not happening extensively at the federal level. I might not have all indices and parameters of the local issues in various states. I might not have, but I certainly know that, on a broad basis, given the information and what we read, things are really up for it. For example, the Chief of Army staff probably would be meeting with me on Monday (today). It’s also part of their engagement at that level. You could see that they’ve also made it a duty among themselves. I believe that their eyes are on the ball.
How are you dealing with the growing influx of people into Lagos, especially, those difficult to identify their origin and may pose security risk to the state?
These are real facts. These are real challenges. If you noticed, in the last two weeks, we’ve actually heightened our call on picking up miscreants and beggars on the street. There are social media videos that you see claiming that we are just deliberately picking people. We’re not just picking, we try to identify them and know where they come from and if there’s a means of rehabilitating them. That is actually going on. Many people flood Lagos for economic reasons and for prosperity. We do not have a problem with that. But if you are here with criminal intentions or security challenges, we would make this place uninhabitable for you.
Where are you on the Lagos rail project?
We’re actually on track. We’re on budget. There are two rail projects that we are doing. There’s the red line, and there’s the blue line. Outside of the State House, Marina, here, is the blue line. And you could see while you were driving down that there is more piling work now than in the last three or four months than has ever been. It’s because we are driving straight to completion. The completion time that I gave a commitment to at the beginning of the year is the last quarter of 2022. We’re on track regarding the delivery date, ensuring that phase one of the blue line. The blue line is from Okokomaiko to Marina.
The phase one of it is from Mile 2 to Marina. We’ve done the C-crossing. We’re doing the final piles; we’re doing the final piers for them to now have the columns that will stay on top. All of the columns have already been fabricated. Then, we’re building the Marina station. All the standing piles that you’re seeing, Marina station is going to be an elevated station. It’s going to be an iconic station, a station we’ll all be truly proud of. That’s the blue line. We’ve ordered the coaches; the maintenance and other things have been signed.
The red line is from Ebute Meta, on the old corridor that the federal government is also doing the Lagos-Ibadan rail, up to Alagbado. That one is also on track, and what are we doing? The federal government is running from the big Ebute Meta station to Ogun state every two hours. We have some rail tracks that we need to build. Our own rail station at Ebute Meta is in Ebute Meta proper, not the old Alagomeji. We’re building seven stations, as we speak, concurrently.
We have in Yaba, Ilupeju, Oshodi, Ikeja, Agege, and Agbado Oke. We’re not just building stations. We’re also building overpasses. We’re building four overpasses concurrently. There’s an overpass at Ebute Meta as you enter Apapa road. There’re overpasses at Yaba, Ikeja, and Ayoola Coker by Iju – all of them have been awarded, and contractors are on site. So, we believe that by the third or last quarter of 2022, we’ll also be meeting our target. We’re very excited that the infrastructure will be delivered before the end of our administration in 2023.
But let me quickly use this opportunity to talk about the transportation master plan. The whole idea is that those are two rail lines. The plan is to have seven rail lines. So, the expression of interest and the documentation, and the five others are going on concurrently. We have international consultants and financial advisers helping us develop the PPP model that we have. One of them is on the Lekki corridor. There’s another one that will take you on Ikorodu and Abule Egba. That’s on the rail. But the master plan for transportation in Lagos is what we call an integrated master plan, including rail, waterways, and road infrastructure.
We’re building 15 jetties as we speak on the waterways – small terminals and jetties concurrently. About eight of them should be completed this year. We’re dredging. We’ve bought more ferries, about 24 with various carrying capacity. So, we’re pushing a lot of traffic on the waterways. We’re investing in the command and control centre for the waterways and buying security equipment, including emergency and safety boats. We’re trying to motivate our citizens to use the abundant waterways in Lagos.
The third component is the road. We’ve done the large-capacity buses, and we have done the medium-buses and the last-mile small buses. Finally, we’re going to do the taxis as well. On the road too, we give you options: you can go the 60-seater, the 30-seater, the 10-seater and the one-seater, which is the taxi. We’re providing options for the citizens: options on the road, rail, and the waterway. At the end of the day, you’ll have one payment system.
Any option for the air space?
We’re actually going back to our Lekki airport project. We’re actually having an extensive conversation. We’re bringing the Lekki airport project. We’ve done extensive study on it, and we believe that it’s a viable project given all the investments that we have at the Ibeju-Lekki corridor. The airport will complement the refinery, which is the biggest in the world. It will complement the deep seaport.
It will complement all of the investments and companies. And the road, being a six-lane highway on the Lagos-Epe expressway, will complement all of that. The study on the airport is ongoing, and we’re checking the numbers. Maybe we’ll make an announcement in another three or four months as to the partners we intend to work with. All of that will help to develop Lagos into a megacity that’s resilient, competitive, and can be equated with other big cities across the globe.
Where in all of these is the fourth mainland bridge?
Like we did promise, it has been a very extensive and elaborate process. For the bidders, we started with about 32 international firms, now it has come down to about three. So, the final three are going to get their final request for proposal (RFP) and the final analysis of their bid document would be done. We are hoping that before the end of October, that should come in. Once that comes out, we would be able to identify in November, then we go into final negotiation with that person.
So, there will a preferred bidder and a reserved bidder. And, with the preferred bidder, we can go into negotiation. If we are able to complete the negotiation in one or two months, we should do ground-breaking immediately. So, I have committed to doing groundbreaking by December this year. Latest, by January, we should have done the groundbreaking.
Is it going to be a fully private sector-driven project?
Absolutely, it going to be private sector-funded. It is 37 kilometres. It has bridge and it is going to finally terminate on Lagos-Ibadan expressway.
When is the completion period?
Those are some of the things the builders would push in. But I think they would take it like in two phases and it is a safe thing to say in two or two and a half years, it should be completed. There are a lot of benefits to derive from that project, especially, the traffic that is going to be addressed. So, for you to embark on a project like this, its viability is very important and so you need to have extensive social impact assessment. And we are also going to be throwing in some real estate around there and there would be some land acquisition so that there would development on both sides.
The Dangote refinery is the biggest in the world right now, and the NNPC is taking 20 per cent equity. Why is Lagos the host state not taking equity, too?
It was dealt with as a pure commercial conversation at that time. What Dangote said he wanted at that time was a purely commercial transaction, where he would fully be in charge. But as you’ve seen, it’s now live, and that’s why I think he’s selling down gradually to investors. For us, we’re landowners; we’re the landlords, and we’re the stakeholders around this. I believe that on a CSR basis, there will be some conversation that he also would be thinking about. So that there will be that community protection and acceptability. We’ll have a conversation with him, possibly about just having a peep into the room, a small peep. It is a conversation worth having.
There’s so much going on in terms of projects in Lagos. These cost a lot of money. How is it affecting the state’s debt profile?
What we have done is to continue to make sure that Lagos sustainability indices are one of the lowest in the country. Given the size of our GDP, given the size of the budget that we have, if you look at our sustainability ratio, the World Bank at least would expect you to have almost 40 per cent sustainability ratio, but we’re still below 30 per cent even with the debts incurred.
But the question we should ask ourselves is: what’s the quality of the debts taken? What are we using the debts for? If a debt is being used for infrastructure, it means that you’re just building a future, bringing it to reality today. You’re building a future at a cheaper cost. Indeed, it will pay itself back, because of the economics and the benefit that it will give your general citizens over the life of that infrastructure. You’re not borrowing to pay salaries. You’re borrowing to develop infrastructure like rails and roads. These are some of the drivers of the economy that will make a state and city more sustainable.
Fitch Ratings recently upgraded Lagos from AA+ (nga) to AAA (nga) in terms of its debt sustainability and resilience. How did you receive the news?
We are very excited about the Fitch rating, because it is the best in the country. It is an ‘AAA’ rating by the foremost rating agency in the world. It looked at our debt ratio and our bond. Last year, we raised the biggest sub-national bond which was N100 billion and the utilisation was 100 per cent on capital project. And we are going back to the market again. We are trying to do an 8-year or a 10-year bond. But we did something very creative during the year. What we did was that for the first time in history of this country, we pulled the call option on our existing bond.
So, we have bonds that were running, and there was an option in which you can do what we call an early redemption of those bonds. We recalled it because we realise that we can re-price the bond at a cheaper price. When we called those bonds and we saw how the market was moving, we were able to save almost 500 to 600 basis points from what it was to what we are able to re-price our borrowing to. It means that over the next couple of years, we have saved interest expense that goes into billions.
From the calculation, it could be between N10 billion or N14 billion that was saved from that exercise. So, we have a team we are working with and these are people that are very cerebral. We did not default, it was just an option that was available in the bond programme and we took it and we are able to pay. So, we did for about N85 billion. We paid early and re-priced ourselves and we were able to make savings of about 5.56 per cent to six per cent on the interest expense, which is helping us to even clean up our books.
So, we are very excited about how we are managing our debt and we are believing that everything that we are doing are things that can bring about infrastructure development, improve the quality of life, improve the economy of the state so that people can do a lot more, have reduction in the time they spend on the road and have better property valuation on their investment. That is how economies are grown everywhere in the world. So, we have both internal and external consultants that are working with us and are doing a great job. I want to continue to thank them for that.
And we’d continue to assure our citizens that we will never be irresponsible with the finances of the state. It is something that I personally take responsibility for and I continue to look at it, given my personal experience in the finance industry. You also talked about something very top in my heart and it is something that last year was taken up seriously. It is the unfortunate incident of October last year, the #ENDSARS.
First, is to tell you that we still have the judicial panel working and I can say that we are the only one in the country that still have an active panel, which you all see on daily or on weekly basis still working. I must quickly add and I am saying this with all sense of responsibility, that since we inaugurated that panel, I have not seen the chairman of the panel for one day. I have never called her, not that I don’t follow what is going on, but I don’t have any form of interaction with anybody on that panel.
All they bring to me is that they need funding to continue to run the panel, they need funding to get experts, they need funding to pay their bills and we give to them. That has been my only engagement with them. Moving forward, they asked for an extension, which I think they have said to us that they will be ending sometime in October and they will be able to bring up their recommendations.
At the National Economic Council (NEC), we have given a small note to NEC, because all state governments that have a panel were asked to submit report, so we had to report to NEC that our panel is still active and working and we requested that they should give them time to finish up. But for the lessons from this, there are several things that we can take away.
First, is to say that even the men of the Nigeria Police Force, in my reckoning, now understand their responsibility to the citizens better. I even helped them to ensure that they become better officers and men, who understand that they are there because the citizens are the ones they are protecting. And so, we continue to have extensive community engagement with them. We have also seen and understand that we need to continue to engage our youths at various levels and that we have done extensively with all channels available to us over the last one year.
In tourism, art, sports and in community engagements, we have continued to open up the space and engage them. Part of the problem that we saw, studying the effect of it was that the lockdown had a lot of psychological effects on everyone. People were held back for months and so, it brought out a negative response at that time. And so, we have learnt about the psycho-social effects of a pandemic and a lockdown and how it affects the economy. But, more importantly, is to say that at the end of the day, whatever are their recommendations, we would take them seriously and we will ensure that we deal with all of the issues they are going to be telling us about.
The government would face them squarely and ensure that we have a mechanism in place to ensure that we do not have to repeat of the unfortunate incident. And for us, it is to continue to appeal and appraise ourselves. We all need ourselves and we can see things from different sides of the same coin, but the bottom-line is that we are all in this together and at the end of day, we all can build a bigger, stronger state and economy for everyone, create space for all of us to sit and resolve issues.
You recently launched a Joint Development Commission with the Ogun State government, what is it all about?
The only neighbour that I have among the states is Ogun, so, it makes economic sense to have such an arrangement. The joint commission is for us to look at areas of common interest – security, fiscal planning transportation, public transportation, especially, road infrastructure, boundary issues and land. And we have started. And I will give you several examples.
As recent as two weeks ago, when the Governor of Ogun had a huge traffic in his state during the burial of his father, the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA),for example, based on the engagement that we have, moved beyond Berger Bus Stop, into Mowe, which is in Ogun State, to help. So, we were able to deploy towing vehicles, men, bicycles and all that, and we are able to push the traffic and eased congestion on the Lagos-Ibadan expressway so that people could move.
You can imagine moving officers from Abeokuta to control traffic at Mowe or on that long bridge, because both are in Ogun State. But because it is closer to Lagos, we are able to do it quicker, better and faster. But we can only do it if we have this kind of Commission. At the end of the day, our citizens really don’t know the difference; they just want traffic to move and not be held down. So, it makes sense for both of us to sit back and develop this Commission.
Security is also another thing. We have joint border patrols by our police officers, neighborhood watch, Amotekun and they are all speaking with each other by exchanging information. Another one is infrastructure. If you go to Epe, Lagos, we have done the road from Ibeju Lekki to Epe, to the border town of Ogun State, going towards Ijebu Ode. The Ogun State governor has also done same thing, and we used same contractor.
So, you would see a seamless ride moving from Epe to Ijebu Ode – first class road, which has been done very well and there is a toll plaza that has been put there. The revenue coming out from the toll plaza, we are having a conversation to see how we would share it because both of us have done different parts of the road and so, we just have to share the resources. There are several other engagements like that such as in transportation. They want some of our buses to be getting to Ota. So, these are some of the things that the Joint Commission is working on.
Has the disagreement over Pay-As-You-Earn (PAYE) tax between both states been resolved?
We don’t have any problem with that. We are actually paying Ogun state. There has been some reconciliation of accounts. So, we don’t have any problem at all.
By this time next year, preparations for the general election would have started, are you seeking re-election and if yes, why do you think you deserve to come back?
This is September 2021. Like I started this conversation with, I have done 58.3 per cent of my 100 per cent of four-year tenure. Lagosians need all of my energy and strength to continue to provide security, public transportation, carry refuse and ensure that I make their lives better and deal with issues of Okada. I swore to a four-year tenure, I didn’t swear to two and a half years; I didn’t swear to do 58 per cent of my term, I swore to do 100 per cent.
But I am not naïve and I am not politically unaware that there have been several drums coming up. But Lagosians need me to focus. What I will plead for is let me even do 75 per cent of my four years first. I test myself on a daily basis. Let me get to around 75 per cent of my time and I can now go back to Lagosians and say, see, what do you people think? Do you think I should come back? Do you think I have done enough job? That conversation has to happen. I cannot imagine that it is right here for me to just pluck and take them for granted.
So, you are saying Lagosians will decide for you?
Yes, Lagosians will determine my fate.
Let’s put it differently, do you think you have done enough to deserve a second term?
To be honest, I think so and I say this at the risk of rating myself, because I am a humble person. And why do I say this? You do not see leadership being put to test back to back as what we have seen in Lagos in the last two and a half years. It happened so often and so quick, that one could be stretched to its limit. And it is like a question you need to ask yourself: if you have a crisis, who do you call?
When you guys came in here some minutes ago, I told you that the only thing I check in the morning is if my emergency general manager has called me; If my Commissioner of Police has called and if my Transportation Commissioner has called me. That is because this is what I live and dream – to see how I keep the state and the city alive and well – working for the citizens.
And this is an experience that is only when you are in the eyes of it that you can get it. People can talk, people can assume, but indeed you need to be on the seat for you to appreciate and see. As I said earlier, you don’t throw away an experience that is so critical and so forceful – you certainly cannot throw it away. I never imagined it is going to be this tough, but with God and all the people I have been surrounded with in terms of support, and Lagosians giving me the full backing, I think we have done a fairly good job.
What is the COVID-19 vaccination percentage in the state currently and are you impressed with it?
To be honest with you, we can do a lot more. The vaccination percentage is still very low. It is about two per cent now and it is a function of how much we have taken in as a country. It has to do with availability. So, part of the things that we are doing is to be able to continue the advocacy and get a lot more people in to get vaccination. I want us to have piles of people waiting to take the vaccines such that as soon as additional vaccines are gotten in, you have a huge influx of people, who need to take them.
But why are you waiting for the federal government to give you vaccines?
Not only in Nigeria, but in most countries, it is a national health issue. That is, it is a primary national health issue. And a lot of the nations have taken it up nationally as a sovereign. We have also done same. However, we are at a stage, where we are having conversation with the Presidential Task Force (PTF) to see see if we can make an in road as a sub-national and see if we can actually engage the private sector, quicker and faster in terms of access to it. But, fundamentally, when you have a pandemic like that, it is usually a national response everywhere in the world.
So, we cannot outrun Nigeria. We needed to stay under a national health response so as to deal with it nationally. But like I said, getting vaccines and all of that, we are having that conversation with the PTF and also trying to see if we can engage more of the private sector and the private hospitals. As we have been able to reduce the pressure on testing by engaging the private labs, let’s also do the same thing with vaccines by engaging some of the private hospitals.
Aside availability, are there concerns about hesitancy?
Oh, well, it is latent somewhere. So, it is more of advocacy and continuous communication that people need. This is a fairly mature state and citizens, but sometimes people need to be nudged on and encouraged. So, sometimes you just need to tell them that it’s available and it is not costing you anything. But it is not as if people are running away completely, there are lots of people that want to have it.
Recently, the FIFA President, Infantino, came to Lagos and you met and even hosted him many people had wondered what the meeting was about. Is there something in the offering…?
Yes, we were excited that FIFA President and also the CAF President were around. So, everybody that is involved in football in the entire world were in Lagos earlier in week. We were lucky to have been asked to host the maiden edition of the Aisha Buhari Cup, which is for female national teams. It is a six-nation invitational tournament for Nigeria and five other African countries. It brought together their female national teams to have like a round-robin competition among themselves. By the way, it is a FIFA-rated competition, so, it is going to count for the countries’ ratings.
But it speaks to our own deliberate intention to improve our interventions in sports for our youths and for our citizens. And what do I mean? You have seen that we have consistently signed something with the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), where the last three matches of the Super Eagles games are to be played in Lagos. So, you are going to see that all the qualifying matches are going to be played in Lagos, due to the deliberate investment that we have made, not only because Lagos is home to football in Nigeria, but we also want to use it to wrap up our infrastructure.
So, concurrently, we are building about nine mini stadia. We are revamping the Teslim Balogun Stadium and we are building eight new ones in different nooks and crannies of the state, so that we can have our youths go to all of these facilities, expend their energy, grow the future of football, tennis, and every other sporting activities and take them to their various communities and make sure that organically, they have infrastructure and amenities and they can be the future world players. But we needed a competition like this to be able to put Lagos on the map and to be able to activate all the investments we are making in sports for our citizens to know that it is a deliberate attempt for us.
We are very excited about this and the female national teams that are in the state are extremely excited. We have got pitch and I dare say one of the best in the country is the Mobolaji Johnson stadium at Onikan. We believe that in the next three to six months, the Teslim Balogun stadium will have similar quality in terms of the grade of the pitch. So, it is part of our deliberate intervention under our T.H.E.M.E.S agenda. We have got stadia coming up in Igbogbo, Epe, Badagry, Ibeju Lekki, Ajeromi, Ifako Ijaye, and so, it is everywhere.
Lagos is the richest state in Nigeria, why is it so difficult to build a world class healthcare centre in the state to stop people from going abroad to seek good medical care?
For us, as a government, we are spending more on health than ever before. Last year, as I did mention, during COVID-19, we reduced the entire budget by about 20 per cent, but only the budget for health and education increased. So, year-on-year, we have increased our budget on health from 10 per cent to 11 per cent, 11.5 per cent and this year it is almost 13 per cent. We are currently building four brand new hospitals; we are renovating six general hospitals concurrently. We are building the biggest child hospital in Africa; we are building a health rehabilitation facility at Ketu; we are building a renal cardiac hospital at Ojo. And these are major infrastructure.
And as I said, the general hospital here at Lagos Island, in fact, on your way out, go there and you will see the level of infrastructure and the new development there. You can put me to test, go there and take pictures today. So, deliberately there are infrastructure that we are developing. But the next question you ask yourself is affordability? Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) today is the foremost tertiary health institution in the country. Well, LUTH used to be, but unfortunately LASUTH has over-taken it.
If you go to LASUTH at 6am in the morning and do a demographic statistics of where patients are coming from, a lot of them are coming from outside the state. Some will take night bus, come into Lagos, just for medical care at LASUTH. And by the way, we are recruiting more doctors than we have ever done in the history of the state. Concurrently, we have approval to recruit about 700 new doctors and there is a standing rule of a quarterly replacement if you have any exit of either retirement or for whatever reason. It is unfortunate that the resident doctors nationally are on strike, but we have managed our own case in Lagos.
All of their issues – that we should build residency accommodation, we have started building it in LASUTH; we should pay residency allowance, we have signed it off, and we have paid; that we should pay outstanding on some federal government allowances, we have paid. So, really, we are doing our best. But back to your question, which is why don’t we have a first class international health facility? The question we ask ourselves is, who are those to be using these facilities, because it must be something that is comparable to anywhere in the world? What we are looking at are people that travel so that we can stem medical tourism and be able to give them the facility they want to see here?
I am glad to announce to you that the old school of nursing at Awolowo road, Ikoyi, we have gone through an extensive appraisal and pre-qualification process, and we have just identified, a concessionaire on a Public-Private Partnership model that is going to build an international first class medical park. I don’t want to announce the name now, because I signed it off during the week. So, we have identified a partner that is going to build it.
And if you drive through there, you will see that the place is becoming ground zero and all the buildings are being taken down. So, it is going to be an international medical park, where the wealthy can have a place to go. But based on the model that we are working with, they are going to give us a percentage that will be subsidised so that the poor and the middle class can also access it.
Where do you stand on the agitation by the separatist groups in the country as seen in those clamouring for Yoruba nation and others for Biafra?
Nigeria, as we have seen, is big; it is complex, but we believe that we are stronger together. I believe that we can deal with all of our problems if we are sincere and we come to the table and solve the issues. There are classical cases in the world that we have seen. All agitators come back to the table at the end of the day. Agitations never end. You will see people that even beyond the South-east and South-west, go to the clans and tribes and still say for example, let’s divide Lagos into seven and some will tell you that Awori is different from Badagry; Badagry is different from Ijebu Epe and all that.
That is how myopic we could get when some people are saying that some places are for some indigenes. These are all rubbish. On the one hand, we celebrate when we see Nigerians appointed abroad as ministers in the cabinet of Joe Biden in the United States and some people will be here saying it must be indigenes only that should get appointments. It won’t work. So, for me, it is for us to be sincere. Yes, we have problems, but let’s deal with them. It might appear as if it favours you today, but another one will favour another person tomorrow. All we need to do is to understand and appreciate the skills and strength we all have. Let’s appreciate it and be able to genuinely resolve our problems and give responsibility to everyone and we will all be bigger and better together.
Lolo Ebelechukwu Obi, wife of the chief priest, Idemili Cultural Centre, Agulu in Anaocha Local Government Area of Anambra State, Chief Ralph Ndidi Obi has revealed how pastors patronize her husband for powers.
In an interview with BBC pidgin, the young lady who got married to the chief priest eight years ago, said some popular pastors usually visit her husband seeking for spiritual power to enable them perform miracles in their churches.
She revealed that prior to her marriage with the chief priest, she was a prayer warrior in church, stressing that she was dismayed when she saw the secret of some ‘men of God’ who display power in church.
“After getting married to my husband, some pastors that I cannot even mention, I started seeing them here and my husband, the chief priest, usually works for them.
“They used to come to him for power but when they return to their church, they will begin to cast the water spirit. We deliver people from spiritual husbands and wives. When you come to us, we just settle the spirit and you will go and marry your spouse”, she stated.
According to her, there is nothing wrong with being a traditional worshipper, saying Nigerians’ perception of the religion was wrong.
“When I was a prayer warrior in church, I used to see traditional worshippers as bad people but after marrying my husband, I found out that it is not even a bad thing”, she added.
Chris Ngige, minister of labour and productivity, has appealed to striking resident doctors to resume work.
Speaking on Sunday during an interview on Channels Television, Ngige said the resident doctors should come for discussions after they return to work.
On August 2, the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) embarked on strike over “irregular payment of salaries”, among other issues.
Efforts of different stakeholders, including President Muhammadu Buhari and the house of representatives, to ensure the resident doctors shelve the strike did not yield the desired result.
On Friday, the National Industrial Court, in a ruling by Bashir Alkali, had asked the resident doctors to return to work.
But the striking doctors faulted the court’s ruling, vowing to appeal the order.
Reacting to the development, Ngige described the decision of the resident doctors to continue the strike despite the court order as “contemptuous”.
The labour minister said he is determined to protect the profession from being “vandalised”.
“I want to appeal to NARD for them to reconsider their position, get back to work tomorrow or next and then come back again for discussions. We have so many things to discuss,” the minister said.
“I have nephews who are resident doctors. I have three of them in the east — at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Teaching hospital, UNTH Enugu, Orthopaedic Hospital, Enugu. I have so many of them.
“I have my son — a house officer. I have my daughter who is joining housemanship in October. I have a son, God willing, who is going to graduate again in October. I cannot destroy the profession but I have to protect the profession too if it is going to be vandalised.”
U.S investigations into Binance Holdings Ltd. has expanded, with authorities now investigating the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange for possible insider trading and market manipulation.
According to a Bloomberg report, U.S officials have been looking into whether Binance or its employees profited by taking advantage of its customers, citing people with knowledge of the matter who asked not to be identified because the probe is confidential. The review involves Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) investigators, who in recent weeks have been reaching out to potential witnesses, one of the informants said.
Binance runs one of the largest cryptocurrency exchanges by volume of transactions which gives them a bird’s eye view into millions of transactions. U.S authorities want to uncover whether or not the cryptocurrency exchange exploited that access, including by trading on customer orders before executing them.
Binance has come out to say that there is no foul play in their dealings in a statement. A spokesperson for Binance said the firm has a “zero-tolerance” policy for insider trading and a “strict ethical code” to prevent any misconduct that could hurt its customers or the crypto industry. The spokesperson also added that Binance’s security team has long-standing guidelines for investigating wrongdoing and holding workers accountable, with termination being the minimal repercussion.
Binance has become the focus of many other regulators worldwide, including those in the U.K, Netherlands, Thailand, Malaysia, Japan, Germany, Hong Kong, Lithuania, and South Africa. They claimed Binance had been operating without authorization in their jurisdictions. Japan, Germany, U.K. and the Canadian province of Ontario all cracked down on Binance exchange offerings a few months ago. The most recent country is South Africa whose financial watchdog warned its citizens that Binance is not authorized to operate in the country. Before this probe, the U.S Justice Department and Internal Revenue Service have launched criminal probes into whether Binance has been a conduit for money laundering and tax evasion.
Although Binance hasn’t been accused of any wrongdoings and the investigations may not lead to any official action, the consistent outcry of many regulators worldwide about Binance’s operations has been one that makes many investors and customers worry about using Binance’s platform. The firm has however made significant efforts in ensuring they are regulatory compliant in their dealings as Binance’s Changpeng Zhao stated that Binance had grown its international compliance team and advisory board by 500% since 2020 and expects to grow the team by another 1000% before the end of the year. Notable appointments include Greg Monahan, former US Treasury Criminal Investigator, as Global Money Laundering Reporting Officer (GMLRO), Jonathan Farnell as Director of Compliance, former FATF executives Rick McDonell and Josée Nadeau as compliance and regulatory advisors and former US Senator Max Baucus as policy and government relations advisor.
Binance’s native token BNB is currently trading at $410, down 2% for the day, as of the time of this writing.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo said in South Africa yesterday that the Federal Government’s plan to source for fresh loans is understandable if the borrowing is for development and not recurrent expenditure.
President Muhammadu Buhari last week wrote to the National Assembly, seeking approval to borrow fresh sums of $4,054,476,863 and €710 million in an addendum to the 2018-2020 borrowing plan. At the weekend, Presidency also clarified that major proportion of the loan would be used to finance 15 infrastructure projects
In July, the national assembly approved the sums of $8.3 billion and €490 million loans contained in the initial 2018-2020 borrowing plan.
Speaking to Channels Television on the sidelines of an event in South Africa, he said if the existing debt is left unserviced or unpaid, it might become a problem for successive administrations.
Obasanjo said, “If we are borrowing for recurrent expenditure, it is the height of folly. If we are borrowing for development that can pay for itself, that is understandable. Then the payment, how long will it take to pay itself?”
While noting that borrowing is not a problem, the former Nigerian leader stated that what could be a problem would be what one is borrowing for and the plan or capacity to pay back.
“But if you are borrowing and accumulating debts for the next generation and the next generation after them, it is criminal. What are you borrowing for?” Obasanjo asked.
The ex-president recalled that during his tenure in 1999, the country was spending $3.5 billion to service debts that kept on increasing.
“When I came into government as elected President, we were spending $3.5 billion to service debts. Even with that, our quantum of debts was not going down.”
Nigeria’s debts have continued to rise as the Federal Government seeks foreign loans to deliver key infrastructural projects.
In the letter, Buhari explained that owing to “emerging needs,” there is a need to raise more funds for some “critical projects,” while seeking the parliament’s nod to also approve grant components of $125 million.
The request was in a letter read by Senate President Ahmad Lawan on the floor of the upper legislative chamber on Tuesday.
A sociopolitical group in Owerri zone, known as Owerri Zone Development Union, OZDU, has said that the Secretary to Imo PDP, Nze Ray Emeana is set to dump the party for the governing APC.
The group noted that Emeana claims that the Ihedioha administration did not treat him right, regretting that since his ouster, the former Governor has used him as his attack dog against Governor Hope Uzodimma.
Similarly, a highly placed source within the PDP confided in our correspondent that apart from Emeana, other big wigs are also planning their exit following major conflict of interest.
“The truth is there is too much bad blood in Imo PDP at the moment and it’s all because of 2023 especially in Owerri zone,” the source said.
When asked wether such exit was imminent, he said:”Well, they have been meeting. But I think someone like Ray Emeana will want to receive certain assurances before he officially defects. It all depends on what compromise they reach and how soon they reach it,” he said.
Meanwhile, members of the APC caretaker committee would neither confirm nor deny whether Nze Ray Emeana was being expected in the APC.
But a text message from a member of CampHope who pleaded anonymity, because he was not authorized to speak to the press, simply said: “Not only Ray Emeana, please. Discussions are ongoing.”
He said,” I will leave politics any day I leave PDP and i remain a strong member of the leading opposition PDP in the state. For avoidance of doubt , no member of the failed APC administration had approached me. They cannot because they know I won’t join them” I’m a contented person and not like Femi Fani-Kayode.
“Their allegations show the level of frustrations in Imo State chapter of of the APC.
APC had the impression that if they took Ogubundu Nwadike , former publicity secretary of PDP that PDP is finished but they are now frustrated to know that our party is still very strong and formidable in the state.
Let me also correct the impression that I’m Rt Hon Emeka Ihedioha’s attacking dog, Ihedioha is an outstanding person so he can speak for himself. I attack only those working hard to destroy what Imo stands for.
“Moreover, Emeka Ihedioha’s 12 years as a federal lawmaker and 7 months as the Governor of Imo State speak for him. Ihedioha has not even declared for Imo gubernatorial seat, remember.”
Emeana further said there must be fairness , equity and justice in Imo State if APC is sincere. They should join the campaign for a governor of Owerri zone extraction.
The revenue generated from the sale of Nigerian gas to three neighbouring countries for electricity generation rose by 11.36 per cent to $6.47m last year from $5.81m in 2019, according to official data obtained by our correspondent.
N-Gas Limited, a company owned by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Chevron and Shell, buys gas from oil companies in Nigeria and transport it to Ghana, Benin and Togo through the West Africa Gas Pipeline.
The company has executed agreements with upstream producers in Nigeria (Chevron Nigeria Limited Joint Venture and Nigerian Petroleum Development Company/ND Western Joint Venture) and with gas transportation companies (Nigerian Gas Company Limited and West African Petroleum Company) for the supply and transportation of gas to its customers.
The audited financial statements of N-Gas showed that its profit jumped by 53.32 per cent last year to $9.52m.
“Revenue arose from the delivery charges on sale of gas to Volta River Authority and Communaute Electrique du Benin- Lome/ Cotonou under their respective gas sales agreements,” the company said.
The revenue generated from gas supply to Ghana’s VRA was $4.64m while those of CEB Cotonou were $1.22m and $608,000, according to the financial statements.
In the notes to the financial statements, N-Gas said the outstanding receivable balances from VRA relating to gas sales from August 2014 to December 2020 stood at $69m.
“The bulk ($48m) of these receivables are way past due in line with the GSA contract Clause 13, which states that payments should be made to the seller within 10 business days of receipt of an invoice,” it said.
The company said it assessed the material impairment of the receivables by computing a fair value of the receivables as of December 31, 2020 with the impact reflected in the financial statements.
It said, “The Political Risk Insurance expired in December 2019, invalidating the debt guarantee provided by the Government Consent and Support Agreement. The renewal of the PRI is being processed by WAPCo with Marsh Insurance Brokers & underwriters.
“However, N-Gas has made good progress on recovering the balance of the legacy debt from the TAPCo (Takoradi Power Company) Account. The Escrow agreement for the TAPCo Account has been approved by N-Gas Board and awaiting approval from VRA Board.”
N-Gas said it recognised the efforts by VRA and the government of Ghana to liquidate the debt before the end of 2021.
The company said the force majeure declared by NGC, a subsidiary of NNPC, was lifted in November 2020, adding that all parties in the WAGP value chain agreed for the principal terms of the chain of agreement to kick in from May 2021.
“However, VRA has informally requested for a further six months’ extension till 31st October 2021, after which the force majeure will be lifted unless the waiver is further extended by written agreement of the parties,” it added.
N-Gas is jointly owned by the NNPC (62.35 per cent), Chevron N-Gas Limited (20 per cent) and Shell Overseas Holdings Limited (17.65 per cent).
Lead Obstetrician and Gynaecologist at the Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital, Edo State, Dr. Joseph Okoeguale, has warned women against inserting ice cream into their vagina or injecting seasoning cubes into their buttocks.
Dr. Okoeguale also warned against inserting potash alum and other chemicals into the vagina, noting that those engaging in such practices are putting their health at risk.
Women who indulge in the practice of putting different substances in their vagina claim that such practice boosts sexual pleasure and fertility. They also believe that injecting certain substances in their buttocks can equally help increase their buttocks size.
However, the expert says there is no scientific proof supporting their claims.
Speaking in an interview with PUNCH HealthWise, Dr. Okoeguale warns that these methods have the potentials to cause ulcers and infections in the genitals.
Okoeguale, who is also the Deputy Director, Institute of Viral Haemorrhagic Fever and Emergent Pathogens at ISTH, said his unit has admitted and treated many women with severe burns and ulcers in their genitals, after using chemicals for the genitals.
“Ice-cream is full of sugary and carbohydrate substances and it may encourage the growth of microorganisms within the vagina. This may increase vaginal discharges and even bacterial growth because some of them may become contaminated and they introduce it into the vagina.
“Some of them introduce ice cream during sexual intercourse; the man may pour ice cream into his mouth and pour it into the woman’s vagina. So, the microorganism within the mouth – mixed with saliva and whatever thing is in the mouth – will be poured into the vagina, and a lot can happen from there.
“I don’t think injecting seasoning cubes into the buttocks does anything. It has no benefit really; I don’t understand the rationale behind that.
“Why would anyone do that? There will be complications for such action,” he said.
Speaking further, he said women who use medicated soaps, alum, and other chemicals or substances to douche are also at risk of having vaginal discharges, scars, and pains during sexual intercourse.
“Some people use different types of chemicals just to make the vagina tight for more sexual pleasure during sexual intercourse; but as experts, we discourage it.
“For them, they just want the vagina to be extra clean, they feel they perceive some very bad odour in the vagina so they use medicated soap to wash the vagina, which is wrong because there are good bacteria called lactobacillus, which help to keep the vagina healthy, serving as a defence and preventing harmful infections to the vagina.
“When people use those medicated soaps to wash the vagina, they are prone to having vaginal discharges; and that is why we tell people not to use medicated soaps to wash inside the vagina.
Vivacious plus-size model and brand influencer, Eva Adaeze, known on Instagram as @theevaofficial has bared her mind on the issue of sex and marriage.
The multi-dimensional curvy beauty who graduated from Enugu State University of Science and Technology, told Potpourri that sex goes beyond the bedroom and should mean much more to lovers and married couples.
“I think the mental and physical benefits of a healthy sex life goes beyond your bedroom. In my opinion, sex makes you happier,there’s even a physiological reason as to why an orgasm makes you blissful. There are many healthy benefits of sex, therefore it should be had as often as one can,” she said.
As a girl with high moral values, brought up in a good Christian home, she believes a woman should never cheat in a marriage but advised that before marriage she should have explored her partner deep enough to know what lies in wait for her in marriage sexually.
“I think that cheating in whatever form in marriage is totally unacceptable. Marriage is for better or for worse . This is why couples still courting are advised to explore the abilities of their partners all round before getting married” she intoned.
Eva has blossoming interests on Instagram which include her @letsgo_lagos, @evaluxury.ng, @thecurvyplanet.
Big Brother Naija, BBNaija, housemates, WhiteMoney and Queen seem to be getting closer to each other more than friends.
The ‘Shine Ya Eye’ housemates on Saturday night were seen dancing together almost all through the night at the party arena.
It didn’t end there as they went to the garden after the party and had a passionate kiss.
Queen sitting on WhiteMoney’s legs kissed him passionately.
Recall that Queen had confronted WhiteMoney Over his closeness with Jackie B.
According to her, WhiteMoney’s closeness with Jackie B will affect their relationship and she was not comfortable with it.
it is not certain if WhiteMoney is moving closer to Queen because Jackie B is out of the house or he has finally decided to explore a relationship with Queen.
Meanwhile, Queen and WhiteMoney were saved from possible eviction this Sunday after WhiteMoney emerged as the head of house.
Those up for possible eviction today are Cross, Saskay, Yousef, Emmanuel and Angel.
At least, one of the aforementioned housemates will exit the show during the live eviction show Sunday evening.
Sheikh Ahmed Abubakar Mahmood Gumi has been consistent in his quest for dialogue and amnesty with bandits, killing and kidnapping Nigerians. In this interview with NewTelegraph, the retired military officer disclosed that many of those against dialogue did not really understand what was happening
As a retired military officer, how do you view this continuous attack on Nigeria by terrorists?
Before you make any judgment on anything, you have to understand the theology, mechanism and circumstances. When you don’t have this information at your disposal, you will make a blunder in trying to address the issue.
What we are seeing and calling banditry, yes, we see banditry, but the person doing it is not seeing or doing banditry. Just look at it from both sides. There are fighting a system that has long neglected the people, neglected them and they are fighting back.
You know many of them are illiterates and the only wealth they have is the cow. They are reacting to the society that has been unfair to them.
How do you cure this by increasingly being unfair or by bringing them close, pacifying them, tame them like a lion. I am trying to tame a lion, a wild animal, that is what I am trying to do. Not to excite it to cause more damage.
Another point I want people to understand is, when you have people, one, two, three up to ten, armed robbers or bandits, we understand they are criminals but, these bandits we are talking, they have more than documented 63 leaders. We are talking about 63 groups of not less than 100 and we are still calling these banditry? They are reacting but this is a kind of insurgency. But not against the state! But reacting, just like the IPOB.
Are they not reacting? Their reaction is separation. Sunday Igboho is reacting but his reaction is separation. Boko Haram is reacting but theirs is religious separation. Boko Haram did not take up weapons until they killed their leaders summarily.
They were killed on camera. So, they said no more negotiations. We will revenge. So, how can we trigger a reaction, and then we think the solution is the same way we trigger a reaction is the cure.
How to pursue them? It is not every conflict that has a military solution, especially a conflict that was started by the military or the security agencies. The solution has to be political, social or economic because like Boko Haram, they killed Yusuf.
There was widespread unemployment among the youths. So, there was the resistance to the army. You know any movement among the youths grows like wildfire. You get a rifle and it makes you feel important like the soldiers. Like the kidnapping started with Boko Haram, they have been kidnapping people for long.
So, the children taught they now have a job. You know youthful delinquency? With Boko Haram, they taught we are respected and feared. With Nigerians, we are unemployed.
So, we have to look at that, look at these factors. If we had addressed the issue of poverty seriously, people feel the impact of the economy, constructions, business, they will leave Boko Haram. The same thing with the Fulani herdsmen.
From all that you have said and seen, what do all these mean for the north and Nigeria as a whole?
Yes, that is why I am looking for a permanent solution to this banditry, and that solution is to accommodate them and redirect them. Human beings can bring a lion, tame the lion, and make it a friend of the human being without eaten him. We have the country, the population to tame these people.
But if we say we want to fight them, we don’t have the force to fight them. Why? Because they are widespread.
They are not in one place. Which army can you employ? You will exhaust them and let us not forget, Boko Haram is not yet finished. Only that they had a disarray when they lost their godfather and leader, Shekau and they are not well accepted by ISWAP.
So, they feel disoriented and feel since they is a safe corridor for food and education. Even the army is now talking about the carrot and not the power and this was the same thing I said.
Herdsmen, let us show sympathy for their plight and also educate them. What they are doing is crime not only against humanity but God and that was why I went to them with books.
Books I translated into the Fulani language, to tell them it is wrong to steal, fornicate, deceive and cheat. I talk to them, the way I am talking to you. I also tell them let’s take your complains to the society.
But your efforts have not been looked at in a positive way. Many people have sort of misunderstood what you are doing?
I know and I quiet understand that, I am not surprised and I don’t feel anything against anybody even those who abuse me. I don’t feel anything because I know that they don’t know what I know.
What is your take on the recent attack at NDA and even the abduction of an Emir in the state?
Honestly, when we speak with these people, they said they would give us respite, and stop hostilities, but the hostilities from the government did not stop.
The aerial bombardment did not stop, the pronouncement did not stop, shoot at sight, kill anyone you see with a rifle. But even you, if you spend one day in the bush, you will need a rifle, even if you are not a criminal, because if you do not have a rifle a criminal will attack you.
These things should be gradual. The political atmosphere was very toxic in promoting peace- don’t negotiate, kill them; they are thieves, these and that. Some people want me to be saying criminals but I said no, I am very careful about saying criminality, because I am trying to build confidence. I understand what you are doing but it is wrong.
This is not how to do it. It is the same thing with government. When it is tackling a problem wrongly, you speak. What we are trying to do is get their confidence, so that they can have trust in us. Then, we can show them the way out.
Is that the basis for your call for amnesty against the use of force by the government?
Let me tell you why we are pursuing am- nesty. When I tell them why won’t you stop, drop your weapons and embrace peace, they said if we drop our weapons, they will come and arrest us and execute us. That is why we are talking about amnesty and this amnesty means, they will not be arrested.
Also, the whole package of rehabilitating them and bringing them out to the society. Do you know when they is a budget distribution, the herdsmen have little or nothing at all from it. Myself, if I ply Abuja – Kano road, I am enjoying the road construction.
If I have light now,I am enjoying what government is spending on light. If I go to the hospital, I am enjoying the amenities. My children are in the university. They are enjoying the education. What are the herdsmen enjoying from the Nigerian government?
Nothing! So do some projects for them to feel they are part of the society. You know the Fulani man is a shy man. They have hierarchy and respect like the Yoruba.
This Sunday Igboho, if high ranking Yoruba leaders call him and say stop this, would he not stop? It is the same thing with these people. Look, bring the real actors and tell them stop these things, they will stop it, but when the elders will not.
Would it be right to then say that the quest for power by northern leaders instead of the socio-economic development of the region is a contributory factor to what is happening?
What you are saying is not a question. This is a correct statement and it is true. Actually, what have they been doing?
The most important thing you can give a human being is education and who is concerned about education, educating the masses? So, there is a problem. So, now,
we are harvesting what we sow and attacking them militarily will be worse. It will compound the issue because they can likely join themselves with terrorists groups.
What actions do you think should be taken against the sponsors of bandits and those who benefit from what is happening
? You see, before now, it started as a crime by criminals but in trying to tackle these criminals, it crossed the boundary and they stated attacking innocent herdsmen and they become victims of profiling, victims of everything and they are now fighting for survival.
The best way now is what I am doing-the stick and carrot approach. I know as a government, they have to show their strength. I know and nobody argues about that.
But also we have to go in, bring them out, dialogue with them, pacify them, do whatever it is that will make them feel there is need for them to drop their weapons and we have seen their reactions that they are willing. Just imagine.
I heard the Governor of Zamfara State saying that a high level delegation of Fulani herdsmen came to him to say there should be a ceasefire after this recent incursion and he said no, this is time for war. He does not differentiate between battle and war. You know you can win a battle but you can lose the war, or is he not thinking it is a war?
With what is happening across the country, do you really think President Muhammadu Buhari is really in charge of governance and fulfilling his electoral promises?
I think President Buhari is in charge. What I think is that he is not in charge of the situation but he is in charge of his mode of governance. He is governing the way he likes and nobody can approach him with a contrary opinion.
Just look at the issue of herdsmen. I have been trying to get across to him to sit down with him, so that he can understand directly what is happening. Because myself, I did not understand the situation until I went into the bush to speak with them man to man.
Then, I understood. If you depend only on what is written in the security reports, if security reports are always correct, no coup will happen. Recently, there was coup in Guinea. Security reports are usually embellished, and he is the man who stays and depends on what he reads.
He does not have people outside the system who speak with him, honestly and directly. Whoever gets close to him knows what he wants to hear and tells him what he wants.
With the agitations all across the country, and insecurity, don’t you think Nigeria may collapse after Buhari?
No, Nigeria will not collapse. Nigeria is so stable. All that is happening is just like a tempest in a cup of tea. Look, there was an election in 2019. The Igbo came out in millions to vote; the North, they have representatives, Senators. Yoruba people came out in their millions to vote and they have representatives, the same in the north. Even this Fulani people you are seeing, when it was election time, they stopped fighting and voted.
So, Nigerian democracy is stable. In fact, no military can even think of any coup like they did in Guinea. It will fail. Military coup will fail because the dynamics is changing.
The Orkar coup did not succeed because you cannot use power. No military man can take power in Nigeria, especially with these herdsmen, Boko Haram, IPOB, no one can take power through the military might. It is impossible.
So, we have no option than to practice democracy. The only thing is that we have to educate our people. I go there to educate these people so that we can have prosperity.
Look at the sit at home by IPOB, who is cheating who? They are cheating themselves. They will lose market. They will lose billions and even now, if people want to do business or any foreign investment, they will not go there. If Sunday Igboho had continued with what he was doing, people would run away, like they are running away from the north.
So, the polity is there and is not going to be breaking anywhere but the problem is each region is cheating its own self. The herdsmen are cheating us in the north. The Boko Haram members are cheating people in Maiduguri. IPOB is cheating the Igbo.
Sunday Igboho is cheating the Yoruba because if you are going nowhere and you can do nothing. Nobody can break Nigeria like that.
How would you access the role of state governors in the war against terror? Are they meeting up with their role as chief security officers?
No, they have not been able to meet up, not at all. They have not met up to the expectations of those that voted them into power. But for me, I am more concerned about their affluence in the ocean of abject poverty. I don’t want to see a governor flying a plane.
He should ride in a car. If he knows what he is doing, talkless of going to Dubai, Britain. You will see them and their children. How can you leave other children at home here and you are celebrating that your child has graduated from UK? Which kind of irresponsibility and insensitivity of governance is that?
What impact do you think, the return of the Taliban to power in Afghanistan have on global insurgency? Is Nigeria at risk?
Nigeria is at risk. Just like Boko Haram surrendering, the return of the Taliban will be like, they will be saying maybe, if we stay a little bit longer. I know the mind of the terrorists.
He is so parochial and stupid. But the coming back of the Taliban this time is different from the first time. They have instituted changes. The modern terrorists groups will find that it is not easy to maintain their hard-line stand. You will have to civilise yourself. You will have to accept diversity. You will have to give people their rights.
They are also coming to the centre gradually and I think it is a good omen because it will reduce sharply, this fanatic lines, dogmatism, about religious issues that are not supposed to be, because religion is easy. Allah will not ask you what you cannot do. So, just do what you can do and leave the rest to God.
Why has the military failed to make huge success, in spite of the serious amount of money spent in the fight in the last 11 years?
I heard almost N6 trillion has been spent so far on security, fighting terrorism. There was a businessman who came to me and said if he is given one trillion naira, in the spate of three months, Nigeria will know there is money in Nigeria. Why? Because I am going to institute low cost houses in Nigeria, to provide houses to the looming population.
One trillion is a big money. What more of six trillion? If that money is spent on education, welfare, health and food, all these agitations will disappear. But where is the money? I heard our g o v e r n o r when he was in t h e o p – position, saying categorically that the money spent by the Jonathan administration in fighting Boko Haram ends up in the pocket of generals, who are building choice houses in Abuja. So, what is the difference today?
Sir, it was said that majority of our revenue in Nigeria is being used to service debts. Where do we go from here?
I read an article somewhere that they were surprised that Nigeria is pursuing policies that are not only archaic, but have been tested and failed in other countries. But our country is pursuing those same economic policies and these policies have not changed. So, this is a government that is zero in terms of the economy.
This government first and second term is zero in terms of the economy. In terms of growing and building the economy, they don’t have the knowhow. Nobody in that government knows how to grow the economy and equitable distribution of wealth.
They have been distributing money like the trader money and N-power but to their cronies. The ordinary Nigerians did not get it. All these money you are giving out, the herdsmen are hearing it but there is nothing about them. All these incentives for farmers, nothing for herdsmen.
All the loans, nothing for them and yet you are sending the military after them. They don’t even have clean drinking water. They drink from the same stream where animals drink. So, it is a combined failure of governance that we are seeing. It did not start with this regime. It has been there all along. I cannot exonerate any government.
The only government that tried to look into the issue of herdsmen was the Ibrahim Babangida regime. We have to be fair to him. His time, if you check, there was no any agitation. Not one person will say he was kidnapped by herdsmen. Kidnapping then was done by city dwellers.
With the poverty in the land, which people say is contributing to the insecurity, what can government do differently?
The economy is the most important part of what is happening today. Even Bill Gates was here in Aso Rock and told them that government spending on human and capital development was so low.
Why are our universities complaining? Why are our doctors running away or these human services are not getting enough money?
This is a government that is building expressways, railways. What they called infrastructure is what is good for Nigeria. I went by road from Ilorin to Ilesha. People are suffering. Railway is good but serves very few.
These roads you see interconnecting villages, the are the most important because farmers can easily go to their farm and take the products back to the city. Only few Nigerians use railway. Many of them are on the highways. Maybe, only one per cent of Nigerians use the airport but these feeder roads are the most important but they are in a terrible situation. I went from Zamfara to Zuru. The road is terrible I went to Kontagora when we were going into the bush. The road is terrible.
With all these journeys you are making, are you not afraid of the insecurity?
Normally, we don’t move in the night and we move in convoy but still we are predisposed to the insecurity but what I tell myself is even if you sit at home, you are liable to be attacked at home.
So, I feel I should travel and see if I can salvage something and my going out has taught me a lot. I have a vision now. If I have the power, just one month, this problem will disappear.
These people kidnapping people, I sent them a word; come, I want to talk to you. They all came and they listened with rapt attention and they said ‘this is our grievances and I said okay my only handicap is for the government to listen and do it.’
So, if I have the power, in one month, they will stop. It is that simple. So it is poor governance that is prolonging this issue. Even this IPOB, if you gather all the Igbo leaders and say let us dialogue, it will be solved.
For about a decade, their voices were heard from the rooftop. This report examine the opulent lives of ex-agitators and their new roles
Though they go by different names -activists, agitators, militants and what have you – they had a common denominator in agitation, irrespective of what part of the country they came from.
They claimed their agitations were informed by the injustices and deprivations meted out to their people. These injustices ranged from pollution of their communities, farm lands, rivers and all forms of degradations as a result of oil exploration activities in their areas without commensurate level of development.
Others agitated for good governance and since the advent of civil rule in 1999, the Federal Government had to contend with the various agitators who go by different names and leaders. The agitation threw up a lot of names who made fame and fortunes.
Then militancy was a big business as oil pipelines were blown off, expatriates were kidnapped for ransom, until the Federal Government granted them amnesty through its amnesty programme. Consequently, these militants dropped their arms and were reintegrated into the society.
Over 30,000 of them were registered at the post amnesty programme, where almost all of them were trained and reintegrated into the society.
Of course most of them have seen the other side of life contrary to their life at the creeks which was devoid of any form of civilisation. Haven embraced amnesty with both hands and dropped their arms, many of them went back to school, some today are monarchs while others hold political positions besides a few others who have delved into business.
At the peak of the Niger Delta struggle, Mujahid Asari-Dokubo, the renowned ex-militant leader controlled the Niger Delta Volunteers Force (NDVF), which clashed severally with the military.
But before then, he had served as the president of the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) in 2001. During the implementation of the amnesty programme the Federal Government granted repentant militants,
Asari was the only militant leader that rejected the programme, arguing that he didn’t commit any offence for which he should be pardoned. Since then, he has enjoyed massive patronage, especially during the Goodluck Jonathan administration.
Then, he was reportedly contacted by the Federal Government for arms purchase for the prosecution of the war against Boko Haram. Sometime in 2013, it was reported that Asari-Dokubo had soccer institutions in Abuja and in Benin Republic to provide free training to youths. He also had a private university in Benin.
In an interview, Asari-Dokubo said he decided to establish the institutions in Benin Republic because he does not only live there, but has adopted it as his country.
However, during the last general elections in Rivers State in 2019, soldiers raided his compound in Buguma in Asari Toru Local Government Area. These days, Asari occasionally airs his views on issues via video recordings that uploaded in the social media.
Lately, Asari-Dokubo has been criticising Nnamdi Kanu, the rearrested leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, (IPOB) of fleecing the people. He vowed to bring Kanu down, stating pointedly: “Nnamdi Kanu, I’m not in your category but for this, I will surely bring you down.
I will destroy this evil empire that is working as a hindrance to the restoration of Biafra. Biafra is your business now; you have no other avenue for gainful income. It is a pity how Igbo people have fallen for this evil, but your time is up. I am out for you.
And I will get you.” Asari-Dokubo, leader of the Niger Delta Peoples Salvation Force (NDPSF), accused Kanu of turning the Biafran struggle into a business.
He tackled Kanu over a N20m gift. In a new video, he accused Kanu of diverting funds meant for the Biafran struggle. Both activists have been at loggerheads over the quest for Biafra – the very cause that unites them.
The cold war between them resulted in the formation of the Biafra Customary Government (BCG) which Dokubo announced in March, with himself as the head. In the video, he accused Kanu of failing to account for some funds donated for the quest for Biafra, adding: “They are now telling U.S. India, Russia etc. This is how they audit accounts.
This is what Biafra will look like under the criminal Nnamdi Kanu. “They claim that they brought money to Cotonou to give to me -N20 million. We are waiting for them to bring the evidence.
They came to Cotonou to meet with me and I hosted them. They did not bring a dime. Biafra is your business now; you have no other avenue for gainful income. It is a pity how Igbo people have fallen for this evil, but your time is up.”
King Ateke Tom
The story of the Niger Delta struggle is incomplete without mentioning Ateke Tom, who led the Niger Delta Vigilante, an ethnic Ijaw militia for many years. Ateke Tom is now a traditional ruler and the first Amanyanabo of Okochiri Kingdom, in Okrika Local Government Area of Rivers State
He was crowned king on November 25, 2017. Ateke Tom came into limelight during the first tenure of former governor Rotimi Amaechi, after soldiers raided his home. He advanced deep into the Okochiri forest and control the axis using his men. For a long time, he felt that Amaechi was obsessed with arresting him for reasons he failed to give.
Years later, he said he has forgiven Amaechi, who he described as a man that bears grudges and hardly forgives. During the crisis in the Niger Delta, some of the actions taken by Ateke’s men were credited with the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), the invincible group which only sent email signed by Jomo Gbomo.
When Ateke Tom accepted the Federal Government amnesty, he surrendered heavy weapons to the amnesty officials and the Nigeria Army, and vowed never to return to the creek. More than 10 years after, he has kept his promise. During the 2019 general elections, soldiers raided his home in Okirika and destroyed some valuables, forcing him to cry out that he was not a politician and was not participating in the election.
Now stupendously rich and hardly hides this fact through his acquisition of ultra-modern property in Port Harcourt, Ateke is a major beneficiary of the amnesty programme.
He is a benefactor to some top Nollywood actors who he hosts occasionally at his mansion in Okochiri. These days, the “Area Father,” as Ateke is fondly called by his admirers, hardly speaks in public on issues. He once said that his concern now is how to better the lives of his subjects.
Sobomabo Jackrich (Egberipapa)
Jackrich was relatively unknown until security operatives arrested him at a king’s palace. Jackrich, unlike Asari and Tom, did not have a group that could be easily used to track his activities during the Niger Delta crisis.
But he had a well-organised and compact group that drew the attention of MEND that claimed him as one of their commanders Egberipapa, like Asari Dokubo, hails from Buguma Community, Asari Toru Local Government Area.
He was among the last batch of ex-militant leaders to be considered for amnesty because after his arrest, he remained in detention until calls for his release became stringent.
When he was eventually released he accepted amnesty and vowed never to return to the creeks for armed struggle. Since then, Jackrich has set up an NGO apart from being the founder and leader of Kengema Unity Forum (KUF) and Network for Defence of Democratic and Good Governance (NDDGG).
During the first term of Governor Nyesom Wike, Jackrich was appointed the Caretaker Committee Chairman of Asari Toru Local Government Area. In 2020, the Acting Managing Director of the Interim Management Committee of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Kemebradikumo Daniel Pondei, appointed Jackrich as the Chairman of its COVID-19 Palliative Committee.
He is politically active. Once an ally of Wike, he has fallen out with the governor. Now 43 years old, during his 42nd birthday reception, he berated political leaders in the state for keeping quiet in the face of the ongoing ‘abnormalities’ in the governance of Rivers State.
He is the first politician to declare interest in succeeding Wike as the governor of Rivers State. Jackrich declared his intention to contest for the governorship of Rivers at the first 2021 national stakeholders’ meeting of KUF convened in the three Kalabari areas of Asari-Toru, Akuku-Toru and Degema local governments.
Henry Okah and all
Among the militants from Bayelsa State are Henry Okah who is currently serving his prison term in South Africa, Ebikabowei Victor Ben (aka Boyloaf) who is a former commander in MEND but dropped his arms during amnesty.
Others are Selky Torghedi (aka Young shall grow) who accepted amnesty and since then has been living in Abuja. Paul Eris (aka Ogunboss) immediately after embracing amnesty dropped his arms and went back to school.
Today he has a very big rice farm in Peremabiri, his community in Southern Ijaw. Africanus Ukparasia also embraced amnesty and dropped his arms. He was the leader of Bayelsa State Security Task Force.
He also embraced western education and modern life, and he has been reintegrated into the society. Joshua Machiver was one of the gubernatorial aspirants in the 2019 election. He embraced higher education and got his Bachelor of Arts in Linguistic Communication in 2013.
He is the president, Iniebi Group, a dredging company and managing director of BAJEROS Nigeria Limited. Most of them have mansions and are living luxurious life with government support.
Many now control companies which have made them to retire to their shells and mind- ing their businesses. Most of them are into their private businesses now and have been empowered by the state and federal governments. Some have been granted surveillance contracts running into billions of naira.
This has made people to lose trust in them because they have enriched themselves from contracts from NDDC and the Amnesty Programme and are enjoying their money quietly. Many of them are said to be on the payroll of both state and federal governments.
High Chief Government Ekpemupolo, (a.k.a Tompolo), headed the Egbesu and operated mainly in the Creeks in Delta State before late President Musa Yar’Adua granted the militants amnesty. He is currently in his palace as a chieftain of Gbaramatu kingdom where he hails from and wields power.
Not long ago, he held the Minister of the Niger Delta Affairs, Chief Godswill Akpabio at the jugular when he issued ultimatum for the board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to be inaugurated.
He threatened to resume hostility if the Federal Government takes him for granted. The Minister had to lead a high power delegation to him to calm his nerves. Before now, former President Jonathan had awarded contracts to him, taking charge of the surveillance of the waterways in the region.
It was a very lucrative contract, which placed him far above his kinsmen. He became a factor to reckon with in the politics of the state and Nigeria at large because he has money and belongs to the ruling class.
This status kept him busy for several years until Jonathan left office. He soon fell out with the government of President Muhammadu Buhari and was declared wanted when he refused to show up for the charges preferred against him over contracts awards.
And for many years, he kept a low profile until recently that he regained his voice. At the twilight of the administration former Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan, he played a major role in the politics which produced incumbent Governor Ifeanyi Okowa.
He allegedly supported Senator James Manager, representing Delta South, to broker the peace-deal which determined the choice of Okowa, against all odds, through his alleged connection to a former president.
Hence, he was said to have produced the incumbent Deputy Governor of the state, Barr Kingsley Otuaro and he is still relevant in the buildup to 2023 governorship race in Delta as Ijaw axis of the state.
His militancy business seems not to be fashionable again and his boys have scattered all over the place, majority has been empowered through the amnesty programme. Sources said that some of his foot soldiers have lost confidence in him.
Comrade Joseph Evah
He is the coordinator of the Ijaw Monitoring Group (IMG), and speaks truth to power. His position is that ‘Niger Delta-born politicians are oppressing the people of the region and not the Federal Government as erroneously speculated in some quarters.
An agitator for good governance, Evah is not a militant leader or an ex-militant but he is from the militant axis of Delta State.
For him, the Niger Delta region is in economic and infrastructural quagmire till date because governors of the zone behave like cowards. He is still vocal because his business is not strictly for money-making.
Recent, he said unless the Federal Government takes drastic step against high rate of insecurity, there may not be elections in 2023. Also, he condemned the incessant communal war in Isoko ethnic nationality of Delta State and heaped the blame on the Okowa-led administration for being irresponsive, even as he called for 24-hour military presence to quell the killings in Emede and Igbide communities].
Leader and founder of Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), Chief, Chief Ralph Uwazuruike, holds court in Owerri, Imo State from where he controls the struggle and his other business interests.
He is still in the struggle for the actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra but has become a lot more temperate and not as fierce as he used to be it. He superintends over the Biafra Independent Movement (BIM). Perhaps he seems to have moved to the background with the entrance of some younger and radical pro-secession activists.
He is becoming a lot more circumspect in the level of risk he allows his members to take in the course of the struggle A trained lawyer, Uwazuruike is not known to have practised since he commenced the Biafran struggle.
He is however, known to have some interests in estate development and loves posh cars. It is only fair to say that Uwazuruike has seen almost all sides of the struggle for self- determination. He has lost men, had very close shaves with death, yet he has sustained his non-violent approach to the struggle. With the energies and radicalism of the rapidly emerging young activists,
Uwazuruike may have opted for a lower profile to avoid his men unwittingly getting carried away with the frenzy of the time. While many see Uwazuruike as a freedom fighter that has paid his dues, others perceive him as a wheeler-dealer who may have benefited from the struggle.
Another section of the people has their doubts about him, but believes his usefulness to the Igbo nation far outweighs their doubts about him. This is why he is still accorded some level of relevance in the contemporary society.
A 2023 presidential campaign poster of Kogi State Governor Yahaya Bello and former Aviation Minister, Femi Fani-Kayode has emerged online.
The poster has Bello as president and Fani-Kayode, as his running mate in the campaign, with All Progressives Congress (APC) party logo on it.
The poster stated: “Yahaya and Femi 2023.”
Recall that Fani-Kayode on Thursday officially joined the APC and was ushered in by President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja.
Amid claims of Bello nursing a presidential ambition, however, he is yet to declare his ambition to run for the presidency in 2023.
The Nigerian Army yesterday revealed how its officer, Major CL Datong, who was kidnapped when bandits attacked the Nigerian Defence Academy on the 24th of last month was rescued
The deputy director, Army Public Relations at 1 Division, Nigerian Army, Kaduna, Colonel Ezindu Idimah, said the division in conjunction with the Air Task Force, Department of State Service (DSS) and other security agencies jointly conducted sustained operations in the Afaka general area to rescue Major Datong.
“The operations were being conducted based on several leads received from various sources regarding the abductors and likely locations the officer was being held,” he said.
Idima added that the operations which were sustained since the kidnap of the officer proved quite successful and led to the destruction of several identified bandits’ camps at the Afaka- Birnin Gwari general area of Kaduna State and neutralization of scores of bandits, particularly in the late hours of September 17, 2021.
“The troops arrived at a camp suspected to be the location where Maj CL Datong was being held. At the camp, they exchanged fire with the bandits and overwhelmed them. In the process, the gallant troops were able to rescue the abducted officer,” he said.
He disclosed that although the officer had a minor injury, he was treated at a medical facility and handed over to NDA.
Colonel Ezindu Idimah said Major Datong was rescued in compliance with the directive of the Chief of Defence Staff and service chiefs that all security agencies conduct decisive operations to rescue him and find the perpetrators dead or alive.
Gunmen Kill 2, Abduct Ortom’s Aide’s Father-in-law In Benue
Meanwhile, gunmen suspected to be herdsmen yesterday attacked Yelwata community in Guma local government area of Benue State, killing two persons on the spot.
LEADERSHIP Weekend gathered that the criminals also kidnapped the father-in-law of the senior special assistant to Benue State governor on media and ICT, James Igbudu.
When contacted on telephone, Igbudu who confirmed the killings and kidnapping of his father in-In-law, Iorver Igbo, told our correspondent that the attackers invaded the community around 7am shooting at everyone in sight.
He said, “The herdsmen attacked the community around 6 to 7am of Saturday killing two persons on the spot and kidnapping my Father-in-law and up till now we have not heard from them so we don’t know whether he is still alive or not.
“My father-in-law who is about 64 years of age does not even have a phone with him, and his abductors are yet to open conversation with the family,”
When contacted, the State Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), DSP Catherine Anene, said he was yet to get the report of the killing and abduction.