The Muslim Congress (TMC), in its usual characteristics of lending voice to the social, political and economic discourse of our country, Nigeria, has taken a bold step of putting pen on paper to comment happenings in the last three months from Nov. 1, 2015 to Jan. 1, 2016.
The Amir (President) of TMC, Dr Lukman AbdurRaheem, on Saturday addressed newsmen at the Congress’s headquarters, Jibowu, Yaba. Text of the press conference is here:
That President Buhari’s “I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody” statement became BBC Africa’s Best Quote of 2015 is not at all surprising.
Also coming second in the list of 16 quotes is PMB’s quote on Independence Day: “We must change our lawless habits, our attitude to public office and public trust.
We must change our unruly behaviour in schools, hospitals, market places, motor parks, on the roads, in homes and offices. To bring about change, we must change ourselves by being law-abiding citizens.”
The “I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody” statement is a clear affirmation that the Buhari administration is ready to support everybody who is willing to do the right things by working to earn a decent living and also comporting himself or herself to the best moral and ethical norms.
It also affirms his avowed disapproval of anybody who holds in disdain moral and ethical standards, and whose earning is not a reflection of his or her productivity. President Buhari at the outset, therefore, clearly set the tone for his administration, and it is for this that he becomes liable.
President Buhari seemed to have made a slow start to his presidency since it took a waiting period of 166 days before the members of his cabinet were sworn-in on Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015. It is good to note that he has taken this much time in order that his cabinet might reflect his central message of change and integrity.
He made some good choices by selecting capable hands especially for the critical sectors of the economy. We have experienced hands like Babatunde Fashola as Minister for Power, Works and Housing, Kemi Adeosun as Minister for Finance, Ibe Kachikwu as Junior Minister for Petroleum and Udo Udo Udoma as Minister for Budget and National Planning.
Other notable personalities are Rotimi Amaechi as Minister for Transportation, Kayode Fayemi as Minister for Solid Minerals, Audu Ogbeh as Minister for Agriculture and Ogbonnaya Onu as Minister for Science and Technology.
On The Budget
Despite the little time that the government had to put up the budget, it was still able to submit the document relatively early. The ministers must have had a hectic time making their inputs because of time constraints.
Despite that, the budget presented to the National Assembly is a clear departure from the budgets that were presented years before. The unique difference is in the social investment made on the citizens, especially that which is designed to impact the very poor people in the society.
The budget, with about N500 billion as provision to take care of social security, has indeed provided for the most vulnerable people in the society. The hope of stimulating the economy with the about 70 per cent spending on recurrent expenditure, if well-targeted and directed, can revive production within the economy.
This production will further empower the people for more economic progress. There is a lot of production capacity hitherto untapped that the one-meal-a-day programme for school children can make use of.
Since infrastructural developments do not necessarily contribute to poverty reduction, especially for the most vulnerable, it makes a lot of sense for the government to directly face the problem of social welfare headlong.
Granted that there may be some errors in the budget, a recall of the document is not necessary as is being touted in some quarters. It is the duty of both the executive and the legislature to see the screening of the 2016 budget as a patriotic national assignment that must be judiciously and timely executed in the interest of long-suffering Nigerians who have put their hopes and aspirations in the good consciences and integrity of their leaders.
The legislature should allow the executive to work on the aspects where there are errors while consideration of the other aspects continues. The executive and the legislature should close ranks and make the adjustments that are necessary so that the budget can be passed within the next two or three weeks.
On security, the administration must be commended for putting up a good strategy and for involving the armed forces in the way that has led to the technical degrading of the Boko Haram insurgence. But the war is a long away from being won.
The Boko Haram still has the capacity for guerrilla warfare. This capacity must be eliminated through the use of superior intelligence and superior weaponry.
The complaint of the armed forces about insufficient funding should be immediately addressed so that they can deploy the best human and material resources in winning the war. The government needs to do so much in running a large scale awareness campaign that makes every citizen key into the national security project.
The Ministry of Information and/or the National Orientation Agency must be seen to take a pro-active step in this direction. Regional co-operation is also a key factor in winning this war. It is however noteworthy that the President did a lot of work in this direction when he visited the neighbouring countries and ensured the release of $21 million (N4.2 billion) to the Multi-National Joint Task Force, MNJTF, fighting the insurgent Boko Haram group.
It is indeed proper that Nigeria, and indeed the African continent, must brace up to the 2020 challenge – the year set at the Peace and Security Council meeting of the 25th African Union Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, to put an end to the crises in the African region.
Since a study conducted in 2012 by Prof. Iron Aghedo from University of Benin and Prof. Large Osumah from Ambrose Alli University indicated that Boko Haram is a corollary of economic inequality, poverty, and radical ideology, the use of soft power must therefore be a simultaneous strategy in order to win the war.
The need becomes imperative for the government to address the socio-economic and governance issues that impoverish the population and provide a vast recruitment pool of unemployed youths for Boko Haram. Social welfare must be within easy reach of the ordinary people.
This is also why the reconstruction of the North-East which the federal government is spear-heading is of utmost importance. If development and good governance are brought closer to the people, the feelings that this inclusion evokes in them can trigger acts of patriotism that lead the people to reject the dangerous ideology of the Boko Haram group.
The anti-corruption war is at the heart of the success of the nation if we are ever going to be a developed and progressive nation. This must have fuelled the determination and commitment of President Buhari in pursuing the anti-corruption war with tenacity.
Slowly but gradually, the anti-corruption war is gaining momentum. Probably very soon, we will see the jailing of convicted politicians, businessmen, military officers and civil servants who have put their hands in the public till. Huge sums of money are also reportedly being recovered by both the Economic and Financial Corruption Commission (EFCC) and Independent Corrupt Practices And Other Related Offencec Commission (ICPC).
The job of the anti-corruption agencies like the EFCC and the ICPC is to serve the citizens by protecting the public’s trust and by independently assessing the federal, state, local government and other entities. This duty is to ensure that public funds are properly received and are legally, effectively and efficiently spent.
This duty also extends to ensuring that public funds are accounted for and accurately reported. The prevention of public fraud is a must.
There must be adequate assurance for fair and equal punishment for those who break the laws. We must also deter those who may be tempted. Public fraud must first and foremost be prevented.
It must not just be to continuously investigate embezzlement after the fact. This is where the anti-corruption agencies have failed the most. They need to be more proactive and get their intelligence right so as to prevent embezzlements from taking place.
It should be mandatory that when public officials steal public funds, they should be made to go to jail upon conviction. There should be no suspended or reduced sentences, neither probation nor parole.
A public officer who embezzles should not just be treated as an ordinary offender because he is not just a thief. Rather, he has broken the public trust given by the people to conduct the public’s business. Citizens must be able to have the utmost trust in the honesty of those they have chosen to lead them.
This is why the two bills sent to the senate by the president are timely. The two executive bills seek to prohibit money laundering and criminal activities.
The bills are: “The Money Laundering (Prevention and Prohibition) Bill, 2016″ and “The Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Bill, 2016”. What must be added is a bill for the creation of special anti-corruption courts that will dispose of corruption cases speedily.
The other bill that must also be added is one that makes mandatory a prison term of at least a year for anybody who embezzles N1 million and above. This would remove any form of interference or plea bargain and ensure that people who embezzle never go free after paying a small monetary penalty or after having returned the money.
The recent pronouncements by the Supreme Court of Nigeria on disputes arising from the governorship polls must hold sway since it is the highest court in the land. Once the Supreme Court has spoken, it is the end of litigation.
The parties involved in the governorship polls in the states must now sheathe their swords and co-operate to bring progress and development to their respective states. And just like the learned judges have advised, INEC must go back to the National Assembly to amend the extant laws of the Federation which provide for the use of voters’ register.
It is only then that the card reader, a good and important innovation that it is, can become a basis for nullifying or upholding an election.
The tripartite arrangement amongst the executive, the legislature and the judiciary is a delicate balance whose influence must impact the direction in which the nation moves.
Irrespective of the separation of powers and independence among the various arms of government, there must be a synergy that pulls in the direction of the values and norms that the Nigerian nation represents. It is the responsibility of these three arms to jointly work together to translate into practical reality the yearnings of Nigerians for a peaceful, progressive and developed nation.
With the scheduled re-run elections estimated to cost about N10 billion, it has become imperative for the INEC, politicians and the voting public to follow the rules and guidelines enacted for the elections so that litigation leading to the cancellation of elections can be minimised.
If we all conduct ourselves with the utmost decorum, the huge amounts of money being used for election re-run can be further channelled towards improving the economy and making the country a better place for us all.
We commend the Federal Government for the mature way it is handling the Biafra issue. In as much as people will have grievances with government at one time or the other, it is necessary to express such grievances within the law and without subverting the constitution of the land.
The Biafra agitators must do a re-think and roll back all activities that are not in consonance with the terms and spirit of the constitution. Having done this, they can then present their grievances in a dialogue with the government.
This should be done in the spirit of giving the new government the opportunity of looking at their grievances and proffering amicable solutions to the problems. It should also be done in the spirit of peace, progress and stability for the nation.
The government must be pro-active in ensuring that the rights and privileges given the people in the constitution are protected. Muslims who live within the law have every right to freely practice their religion. This is why it is becoming increasingly worrisome when law-abiding Muslim sisters are frequently being molested for no other reason than that they choose to put on their hijab.
There is no hijab ban operating anywhere in Nigeria. The government must therefore call its officers to order so that the fundamental human rights of Muslims will not be infringed upon anywhere in Nigeria.
Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
By Dr. Luqman AbdurRaheem