I hope we are checking the news and the changing rhetoric of the runners of our economy? I should gladly claim that somehow, some of the branch-out efforts I have been humbly putting in, to ensure this country changes for the better because we got involved at this time, are paying off. I have in particular mounted some campaigns that are somehow gaining traction in the policy sphere even if nobody acknowledges. I don’t expect anyone to actually, because this will amount to them giving me prominence at this point (something they cannot afford in a political season). I repeat that I am running for presidency for positive impact, not self-aggrandization. I was clear about my quest from day one. And this assignment I have embarked upon, will continue to be alive even after the elections are over. The job of rescuing Nigeria is a task that must be done. In fact for me, this is a more urgent and important task than any other thing on the political scene today.
The campaigns I would want to highlight include the one where I have emphasized that the Nigerian budget is too low (and has been for many years now). At half of what 25million people in Angola enjoy, or a sixth of what is budgeted for 60million South Africans, our national – and by extension state – budgets are a big disgrace to governance – not only in terms of the massive corruption that bastardise and it up the enture budget, but even in terms of volume and the lack of imagination that underpins the budget. We slept on governance for too long, feeling ghetto-fabulous, with our leaders spending corrupt money freely while manufacturing poverty en masse. By some luck, I happened on this fact and have since weaponized it to cause a change in the motherland. Another matter of concern, among the many unique issues I have raised, is that the Nigerian economy should by now be growing at double digits. I am talking of between 15% and 20%. I do not believe we should be targeting single digit inflation or even single-digit lending rates for now, but rather should be growing in leaps and bounds (high inflation and interest rates are corollaries of fast growth). This is equivalent to saying that we all should be so busy being productive, building our country because this is an unbuilt country. This is equivalent to saying we should be pressing to service, our idle, unskilled labour, and should be providing public goods like health services, education, environmental services, subsidized and integrated mass transit, security and generally organizing society in ways that add value to our human capital and wakes us all up to a new revolution and renaissance.
No one knows it all. But I believe that after 4 protests, and several articles, facebook posts, tweets and hundreds of TV, Radio and newspaper interviews, we are beginning to see the germination of some of the ideas I have been humbly espousing.
In the January 13, 2019 edition of Thisday Newspapers, Minister for Budget and Planning, Senator Udo Udoma was reported as saying:
“(Some commentators are asking for a higher budget)… We all want a larger budget. Indeed, Nigeria deserves a much bigger budget. Our budget is too small for our needs. However, we have to find the money. But there is no point having a large budget that you can’t fund. This is a budget that I believe we can fund… I believe that as we get more revenue, we would continue to increase the size of our budget.”
This is all we need actually. But his statement is too futuristic and seeks to kick the can down the road. We are saying that we can begin to move the needle on this country immediately. We want them at the helms of affairs to begin to see things differently and shall continue to engage with them. I will take up the matter of this budget with the National Assembly where it is at presently. The budget must be reviewed upwards significantly. And who says we cannot fund a higher budget? How are Angola, South Africa, Egypt, Algeria, Kenya, able to fund budgets that are far larger than ours, so-called Giant of Africa? We are unable to fund budgets simply because of ingrained madness called corruption. 95% of state funds are cornered by Mafias whom we are all forced to worship in order to survive. If government wakes up, gets honest, develops some spine, this economy will grow properly and our people will enjoy their citizenships. The mafias holding down this economy also basically dump our commonwealth abroad. The biggest issue with Nigeria’s corruption is that even the corrupt funds don’t stay here. They are dumped in Dubai, USA, Europe, Saudi, and anywhere but here. Our leaders hate this country, they detest the people. This trend must be reversed.
Let us hear what Mr Ben Akabueze, the DG Budget had to say on the issue of our growth rates. The January 17, 2019 edition of Punch Newspapers reported him as saying:
“…We are projecting a 3.01 per cent growth (in GDP). Often times, I hear Nigerians asking whether we can meet this growth. This is the minimum level of growth we should be aiming, going by the rate which our population was growing. If we are growing at anything below the rate the population is growing, it will not be felt and that is why a lot of people do not feel the economy is growing. It is not surprising that you don’t feel it, because last quarter, the economy grew by 1.8 per cent and population was growing significantly higher than that. So until we restore growth to seven per cent or preferably double digit, the vast majority of Nigerians are not going to feel any growth. So that’s the debate we should be having.”
In the December 19, 2018 edition of Thisday newspapers, Akabueze also read a riot act to some Ministries, Department and Agencies, especially as pertains to their nonchalant attitude to revenue generation, remittance and accountability. He promised that the current reporting requirement will be enhanced, and that CEOs of MDAs will now be benchmarked with performance contracts. Hear him:
“We have not made the required progress in revenue generation, and (economic diversification through the ERGP is being constrained by)… continuous underperformance of the GOEs, (which has) made it difficult to achieve enhanced domestic revenue mobilization from operating surpluses of the GOEs…Despite an investment of about N40 trillion in the Government Owned Enterprises (GOEs) over the years, they had only been able to pay an “insignificant” amount as operating surpluses into the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF)…. Annual GOE capital budget may be mainstreamed into the Federal Government capital budget in order to ensure that they are subjected to the same level of scrutiny, procurement and monitoring processes…. It shall be mandated for all GOEs to use the Treasury Single Account for all financial transactions, the accounts of GOEs shall henceforth be audited within five months after the end of each financial year,”
The present government is actually waking up too late. But we appreciate they are trying to wake up at all. Now the ball is in the courts of the Nigerian people to step up pressure in this direction.
Also quite interesting is the statement by the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Yusuf Lasun when the 2019 budget was debated on the 23rdof January, 2019. His words were music to my tired ears and totally echoed my major war in this season. Hear him;
“In contributing to this debate on this 2019 budget, the question is whether we have a budget that can sustain the size of the population we have. The answer is, no…. We are not what we think we are as a nation. We can deduct it from the figures the executive arm of government has always sent to us. We think we are a rich country but from the figures, we are very poor… The 2019 budget says the proposal is N8.7tn, of which if we do a direct conversion, that is just merely $28.5bn. What does that mean? It means the totality of the Nigerian budget for 2019 is just $29bn. Apple alone declare a profit of almost $100bn after tax. So, if for 160 million people, it shows that for 2019, the total money that is due for one head is just $178.52 in a year. And so we all have the duty as Nigerians to begin to think outside the box of how we can develop our country.”
Earlier on, and as reported in the November 11, 2018 edition of the Punch Newspaper, the Minister of Budget and Planning, Senator Udo Udoma had issued a fiscal paper to the MDAs, in which he promised not to accommodate the usual frivolous purchase of official cars in the 2019 budget. The document read in part;
“Only expenditures on programmes/projects that are truly of a capital-nature, and which align with government priorities will be admitted into MDAs’ capital budget proposals… Except where absolutely critical to the functioning of respective MDAs, proposals such as expenditure on vehicles, furnishing, construction or purchase of office or residential buildings and equipping of non-critical offices will not be accommodated in the 2019 budget…. MDAs are reminded not to provide for recurrent expenditure in their capital budget. The Budget Office shall reallocate any such provisions to Capital Projects within/outside the MDAs as it deems.”
There are some low-hanging fruits in our economy which I believe, politics apart, we should be able to pluck almost immediately. I and a few colleagues have promised to keep an eye on the 2019 budget to ensure it doesn’t go the route that others passed. There is way too much suffering, wastages, cheating, fraud, impunity, vandalism, gluttony in our country and especially on the part of those who are put in charge of the commonwealth, and now is the time to totally put a stop to it. I have always stated that my platform as a presidential candidate is to push these issues at a very high level. If I could get the thinking around our budgeting to change, and also affect our economic ideology – in terms of much-faster, and more inclusive growth, with a thinning down of the debilitating inequality in the land, truly, I would have ‘won’. The lives of our most-vulnerable people should never remain the same again because we got involved in the leadership of Nigeria. This quest must never be all about our own self-worship. For this reasons, the statements of these government functionaries above must be taken serious, and pursued to its limits by all of us. Now is the time to mount pressure. Empirical evidence and reasonability points to the fact that we can do a whole lot better than this.
STATEMENT FROM THE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE OF THE ANRP (ABUNDANT NIGERIA RENEWAL PARTY), MR TOPE KOLADE FASUA, ON THE SUSPENSION OF THE CHIEF JUSTICE OF NIGERIA, MR JUSTICE WALTER NKANU ONNOGHEN BY PRESIDENT MUHAMMADU BUHARI
I have observed with great concern the events surrounding the eventual suspension of Mr. Justice Walter Nkanu Onnoghen by President Muhammad Buhari on Friday the 25th of January, 2019. This is an unprecedented action in the history of our democracy. I observe that even our military governments were extremely careful with their interference with the leadership of our judiciary. I believe this is a momentous occasion deserving of everyone’s attention and care.
It is a fact that Justice Onnoghen admitted his infraction with respect to a breach of the Code of Conduct Act to wit non-submission of an updated and accurate list of his assets as required upon assumption of office as the Chief Justice of the Federation and President of the Supreme Court. It is also true that forgetfulness or ignorance can never be an excuse in law. However only our courts can validly make a pronouncement on whether the funds found in Justice Onnoghen’s accounts are proceeds of the crime of corruption (except he expressly admits to that crime). We believe that especially in a matter concerning the principal officer in the judicial wing of our national government (which is meant to be totally independent), every step must be taken and every option explored to ensure that justice is done and seen to be done in this instance.
The timing of the suspension on the eve of our elections, the speed with which the petition against the Chief Justice was fast-tracked to culminate in his suspension within two weeks, with all the details of the case in the public space, leaves a bad taste in the mouth and plays into the hands of many people who have alleged partiality and deliberate victimization of the said Chief Justice. I personally find it hard to ignore this possibility. The optics for the government and Nigeria at large is terrible at this point. Also the decision tugs at the worn out fabrics of Nigeria’s unity, what with the fact that many have complained in the past that judicial/security leadership of Nigeria has totally ignored the principle of inclusivity. I believe strongly that anything that can be done at this moment to strengthen our unity as a nation should be considered. It is therefore difficult for millions around the world to believe that this act is a genuine tactic in the tired anti-corruption war, but rather an act of political vendetta, and a deliberate blow to the nation’s democracy which rests on the sanguine principle of separation of powers. It must be noted that the current purveyors of this act were the same people who cried blue murder when in 2011 the Chief Judge of the Appeal Court, Justice Ayo Salami was removed from office AFTER he had been duly suspended by the National Judicial Commission which is vested with that duty. In that instance, the case was not fast-tracked and determined within two weeks.
I also take note of the fact that the public had complained bitterly in the past about the tardiness of the same government in the cases involving Mr Babachir Lawal, the former Secretary to the Government, Alhaji Abubakar Maina, a former Pensions administrator, Mallam Abba Kyari, the Chief of Staff to the President, Prof. Usman Yusuf, the former ES of the NHIS, among others. There are also clear signs that corruption and sleaze are still very much alive at the moment, what with the arrest of the Aide-de-Camp of the Wife of the President for collecting bribes worth a whopping N2.5billion (over $8million), and other sundry cases of impersonators who have defrauded dozens of people for billions of naira in the guise of providing access to Aso Villa, the seat of government, and its powerful inhabitants. This shows nothing has changed in the way business is done in and around our seat of power. A number of people with integrity issues have also been recalled and some remain power brokers in this government. It would have been great to see speedy action in the arrest and prosecution of hundreds of people who cannot obviously explain their sources of wealth in Nigeria today, but the agencies set up for that purpose have allegedly made themselves available as willing tools in the hands of our executive.
I therefore most humbly call for a thorough review of the current case with the CJN, and that the process must reflect great caution and balance. Also, that the unity of Nigeria be strongly considered. In the interest of peace, unity and togetherness, we may consider the option of the CJN forfeiting what he has failed to declare, and also perhaps an option for him to honorably resign – not under the gun. This will save the little dignity left in our judiciary. There is no point destroying the entire system just to make a point.
I will close this by urging all Nigerians to learn from this incidence. Especially those in public service, who have access to Nigeria’s commonwealth and also the opportunity to obtain favors from contractors etc, should see the sheer folly of acquiring what you cannot be linked with, or what you will be afraid to declare. Public service is for sacrifice and charity. Anyone who wants to compete in rich lists should remain in the private sector. Even private sector people elsewhere have started to show great examples in charity. Mr. Bill Gates, Warren Buffet among other people are doing a lot more for our poor people (and I must note people like Tony Elumelu among others here too), while our political leaders, administrators and government officials would rather impoverish the people and strip us of dignity. This is totally unacceptable.
President Buhari, please review your position and do the right thing. The Onnoghen case must not only follow every judicial process, methodically, but must be seen to be totally transparent and just. And note also, that whoever must come to equity, must continue to show that he understands the need to carry an antiseptic handwash around.
TOPE KOLADE FASUA
ABUNDANT NIGERIA RENEWAL PARTY
ANRP – THE COMPUTER/TECH PARTY
21 St Andrews Way,
Tel: +44 208 808 8800