…touches on economy, infrastructure, security, education, judiciary, border closure, reward for sportsmen

…rolling out last-ditch projects

As the clock ticks towards the handing over date of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration in government, Buhari himself and some custodians of key Ministries, Departments and Agencies have been launching strategic projects, rendering account of their stewardship and in some cases, pointing the way forward for the succeeding administration that takes the helm in the days to come.

Dangote Refinery Launch

At the launch of the Dangote Refinery and Petrochemical Plant, in Lekki, Lagos, outgoing President Muhammadu Buhari , acknowledged that the private sector is the driving force in contemporary economies, and that the role of government is to provide an enabling environment.

He stressed that his administration had therefore undertaken to focus attention on creating an enabling environment for the private sector to thrive and fill the enormous depth in investments in infrastructure and all critical sectors.

“We recognise that without active participation of the private sector and a strong commitment to public/ private partnership, our economy will continue to remain severely challenged”, Buhari said.

He added: “Government, therefore, will and should continue to provide an enabling environment and encourage innovative public, private partnership in all sectors of our economy.”

The Dangote Petroleum Refinery, with a capacity to process 650,000 barrels of oil per day (bpd) sits on 2,635 hectares of land located in Dangote Industries Free Zone in Ibeju-Lekki, Lagos, and will employ over 100,000 persons.

The coming on-stream of the project is expected to mark Nigeria’s exit from the league of oil-rich nations which are heavy importers of petroleum products.

The new refinery has the capacity to meet 100 percent of the Nigerian requirement of all refined products (gasoline, 53 million litres per day; diesel, 34 million litres per day; kerosene, 10 million litres per day, and aviation jet, (2 million litres per day), and also have a surplus of each of these products for export.

Second Niger Bridge

In a similar vein, on Tuesday, President Buhari commissioned the 1.6 kilometre Second Niger Bridge, a critical and much vexed infrastructure linking Asaba in Delta State to Onitsha in Anambra State and other south-east states.

Named after him, Buhari said the bridge is one of the critical infrastructures delivered by his administration to fight poverty, promote economic growth and ensure progress for the people.

He said the bridge and other projects being commissioned symbolised his administration’s sharp focus on delivering prosperity across the country.

The bridge will reduce travel time and promote economic activities in the South-East, South-South and other parts of the country” he said.

Buhari said he was happy to have developed Nigeria’s stock of infrastructure of Gross Domestic Products from about 20 per cent in his eight-year tenure as president to 40 percent.

Payment of N226bn, $566.7m Judgment Debts

The President has also written to the Senate, seeking approval for a request to pay the judgment debt in the sum of $566,754,584, £98,526 and N226 billion. The President’s letter of request was read at plenary by Senate President Ahmad Lawan on Wednesday, four months after 648 cases were brought against the President and other Federal Government parastatals.

“In view of the foregoing, I wish to request the Senate to kindly consider and approve, through its resolution, the settlement of top priority judgement debts and general judgement debts incurred by the federal MDAs in the sum of $566,754,584, GB98,526 and N226,281,801,881,” the letter read.

The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami (SAN), revealed that the Buhari administration had secured conviction in 397 terrorism cases, while 7,000 crime and anti-corruption cases had been successfully prosecuted by the government in eight years.

Malami said the secured convictions were among 3,000 terrorism-profiled charges, of which 1,500 were filed.

Border Closure

President Muhammadu Buhari said he deliberately shut the country’s borders to encourage food production in Nigeria.

While the move was heavily criticised, Buhari said Nigerians later appreciated it. He made the remarks at the inauguration of the new Customs Headquarters in Abuja on Tuesday.

“I deliberately closed the borders because knowing Nigerians, they order rice, give some Niger address, and then they bring the rice here,” he said.

Buhari believes Nigeria can be self-sufficient in food production

“You eat what you grow or you die. I tried to make my point. Later Nigerians appreciated it because it provided more jobs,” he added.

House Gifts To 1994 Victorious Super Eagles

In a magnanimous farewell mood, President Muhammadu Buhari approved the allocation of houses to the 22 members of the victorious Nigerian National Football team, the Super Eagles, who won the coveted 1994 African Nations’ Cup competition 29 years ago in Tunisia.

The victorious Super Eagles, captained by the late inspirational central defender cum libero, Stephen Okechukwu Keshi, beat an inspired Zambian side by two goals to one in the hard fought Nations’ Cup final match in 1994.

By President Buhari’s assent Tuesday, surviving members of the team, as well as the kin of the deceased, are to be allocated apartments in National Housing Estates, in the states of their choice in Nigeria.

It will be recalled that the then team captain, Stephen Keshi suffered a cardiac arrest at the Benin Airport on 7 June 2016 and died on the way to hospital. Rashidi Yekini, the mercurial striker and one time African footballer of the year, died earlier on May 4, 2012 reportedly of depression. Dogged midfielder, Thompson Oliha is also deceased. Oliha died on 20 June 2013 due to complications from malaria.

Pardon Me If I’ve Hurt You

On April 22, a mere 37 days to the end of his tenure, President Muhammadu Buhari pleaded forgiveness from all those whom he might have hurt in the course of steering the affairs of state since he assumed office almost eight years ago.

He spoke at the final Salah homage, which took place in April at the Presidential Villa, Abuja. He said: “I think this is a very good coincidence for me to say goodbye to you and to thank you for tolerating me for more than seven and half years now. I assure you, I have deliberately arranged to be as far away from you as possible, not because I don’t appreciate the love you’ve shown to me, but because I think I’ve gotten what I have asked and I would rather quietly retire to my hometown.”

He further added: “I can’t wait to go home…I deliberately arranged to be as far away as possible from you people.” He described himself as a lucky man to have led Nigeria in various capacities as governor, minister, head of state and elected two-term president.

Buhari was military governor of the then North-Eastern State from 1 August 1975 to 3 February 1976. In 1977, when the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation was created, Buhari was appointed as its chairman, a position he held until 1978. Buhari also served as Nigeria’s military head of state from 31 December 1983 to 27 August 1985, after toppling the then President Shehu Shagari in a military coup d’état.

Defence Chief Says Approach To Insurgency War Must Change

Nigeria’s Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Gen. Lucky Irabor says the country requires much more than military intervention to deal with the complex forms of insecurity it is faced with and that the transition has started.

In a related development, President Muhammadu Buhari says the fighting power of the Nigerian Army has increased significantly under his administration, with 60,000 more troops and the acquisition of strategic arms and armament, making it the fourth in ranking among African militaries, as against seventh in 2015.

Irabor advocates an “All Of Society Approach” comprising multi-sectoral and specialised efforts and involving all of society.

He says: “The country has been grappling with various forms of insecurity in the past decade, which include terrorism, banditry, kidnapping, communal clashes, oil theft, piracy, drug and human trafficking, illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing and cybercrimes, among others.

Irabor’s position is particularly telling, as Nigeria prepares for a change of administrations in government in the days to come.

Buhari says since he was sworn in as the President in 2015 he has facilitated the recruitment of over 60,000 soldiers for the Nigerian army, asides thousands of commissioned officers from the Nigerian Defense Academy, Kaduna.

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According to him, this administration has achieved remarkable transformation of the military in the areas of fighting power, training, operations, manpower, remunerations and medical services.

Chief of Defence Staff, Irabor says the Armed Forces of Nigeria (AFN) have reviewed their strategies and policies and given prominence to the whole of society approach, to ensure effective attainment of military goals and national development objectives.

Irabor made this statement in Abuja, in April, at a two-day workshop on “Use of Broadcasting in Complementing the Military in Conflict Mitigation and Management.

“The approach involves the participation of the government, security agencies, civil organisations, religious leaders, traditional leaders, the press and the general public,” he said.

He added that the military has been recording successes in the fight against terrorists and other non-state actors in the last decade.

“Recently, the FGN adopted a non-kinetic approach by developing a policy framework and National Action Plan for Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism (NAPPCVE).

Irabor explained that the Non-Kinetic military operations involved the use of psychological, diplomatic negotiations and economic sanctions to achieve military objectives.

He added that it included civil military operations, cyber warfare, covert intelligence operations and media operations, among others.

“These operations can be used in combination with each other or with traditional military action to achieve specific objectives,” he said.

“They are often used in situations where traditional military activities are either not feasible or not appropriate,” Irabor added.

The Nigerian military typically steps up attacks against the insurgents soon after changes of government, security sources say.

Education Minister Presents New Curriculum for Nigerian Universities

Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu has presented a new curriculum for Nigerian universities, saying it will add value to graduates from the universities.

Adamu presented the Core Curriculum Minimum Academic Standards (CCMAS) Book 1 series for Nigerian universities and a book in his honour, earlier in May.

The document was put together by the Nigerian Universities Commission (NUC).

The new Core Curriculum Minimum Academic Standards (CCMAS) Book 1, upgrades the content of 17 academic disciplines in Nigerian universities.

The purpose of the upgrades is to equip Nigerian graduates with the skills and frame of mind to compete in a rapidly changing global employment and entrepreneurship environment.

To facilitate these upgrades, Adamu called for the establishment of a Federal Teachers Service Commission, which he is confident would ensure that reforms put in place in the teaching profession yield desired results.

He said the proposed commission had been approved by President Muhammadu Buhari.

In the past two decades, the quality of Nigerian graduates has been broadly questioned, with captains of industry asserting that the graduates often needed to be retrained to be able to fit into industry.

As a result, a big and costly market for quality education abroad has since evolved. So far, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) data on payment analysis has shown that Nigerians have spent about $4 billion on foreign education since the outgoing administration came on board eight years ago.

Some of the causes of falling standards in Nigerian universities are listed as including a massive influx of unprepared students into tertiary institutions, inadequate funding, poor infrastructure and outdated curriculum, a brain drain of teachers seeking greener pastures, long closures due to strike actions by academic staff, as well as student unrest, exam malpractices and cultism.

Also speaking at the event, the Executive Secretary of NUC, Prof. Rasheed Abubakar, commended the minister for the several achievements recorded under his watch, especially in the area of universities development.

Abubakar said:” As at yesterday (Monday) morning, there were 111 private universities in the country, as of yesterday evening, the number had risen to 148 private universities in the country.

”That is, of the 148 private universities in Nigeria, 87 or 60 per cent came during Adamu Adamu as Minister of Education, ” the NUC boss said.

Rasheed, who also described CCMAS as a game changer in Nigerian universities, commended former NUC Executive Secretary, Prof. Peter Okebukola, for his role in its development, describing him as chief architect of the curriculum.

Nigeria currently has 246 accredited universities and churns out an estimated 500,000 graduates a year.

Virtual Courts Will Decongest Correctional Centres, Says Aregbesola

Nigeria’s minister of the Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, says one sure and effective way of decongesting the country’s correctional lock-ups would be to try the defendants virtually from the Correctional Centres for speedy determination of cases.

This would eliminate the need to provide transportation and security enroute the courts which is a major challenge for the correctional system and has been at the root of the frequent failures of inmates to meet court appointments.

This move would however require adequately equipping of the nation’s correctional centres and courts spread far and wide, with Internet facilities and interactive technology portals.

It would further require the training of staff of the correctional facilities and judicial system for the handling and maintenance of the facilities.

By November 2022 accounts, Nigeria has more than 76,000 inmates in its 240 correctional centres.

Of these, more than 53,200 are awaiting trial and they constitute the bulk of the challenge to the nation’s judicial and correctional system.

The NCS data shows that Nigeria’s correctional centres have the capacity to hold 50,083 inmates but they currently hold 76,000 inmates.

Aregbesola observed that 70 percent of the population of inmates in the country’s correctional centers are awaiting trial and have spent more time in detention than the maximum sentences their alleged offences carry.

One major consequence is that this statistic brings several thousands of innocents, or first time offenders into close and long interactions with hardened criminals, thus serving as an induction into lives of crime thereafter, which is the direct opposite of the intention of the correctional system.

Aregbesola was speaking during the commissioning of a 20-bed space medical facility at Port Harcourt Maximum Security Custodial Centre a fortnight ago. He said while the Federal Government is finding long term solutions to the challenge of prison decongestion, the state government can in the interim, provide basic support.

He said it was within the ambit of state governors’ authority to offset or grant waivers to inmates with redeemable fines of less than N1 million, in lieu of incarceration, as well as building court houses at the correctional services premises or try the defendants virtually from the Correctional Centres for speedy determination of cases.

He observed that some of the inmates were held behind bars for minor offences that could be easily waived by the states.

He further asserted that he recently asked the Comptroller of Correctional Centres to compile a list of inmates whose reason for incarceration were fines or debts not exceeding N1 million, meant to be paid to the state governments.

He said about 5,000 inmates where shortlisted in this category and that all of them had stayed long enough in the care of the Federal Government to consume food worth more than they are supposed to pay as fines and debt to the states.

According to him, in Rivers State, there are about 22 of such inmates and the 22 of them collectively owe a little above N3 million, an amount he thinks the State Government can offset or waive for the inmates to be freed.

He said for instance, the Maximum facility in Port Harcourt was designed to accommodate1,800 inmates, but as of May 12, 2023 the centre was holding 3,100 inmates.