Saturday, 24 February 2018
Items filtered by date: October 2016 Northern socio-cultural and political groups have called on President Muhammadu Buhari to avoid unnecessary feud with a National Leader of the All Progressives Congress, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, which they described as capable of destroying the ruling party.

This, they said, had become imperative because of the insinuation that Buhari and Tinubu are not in very good terms even though none of them has publicly admitted it.

Political analysts have also linked the recent disagreement between Tinubu and the APC National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, to the purported crisis between the former Governor of Lagos State and the President.
Speaking to Saturday PUNCH, the groups noted that the speculated crisis between the two titans of the ruling party should be resolved.

The Chairman, Coalition of Political Parties in Kaduna State, Muhammadu Sani-Ahmed, blamed those he described as the “kitchen cabinet” of the President for the seeming feud between Buhari and Tinubu.

He said there was no hiding the fact that there is no love lost between the two leaders.

“On the pages of newspapers, the two leaders have consistently denied any feud; but somebody close to them has told me there is a crisis between them,” he said.

Sani-Ahmed noted that with the pivotal role played by Tinubu during the 2015 presidential election, there was a need for the two leaders to come together and settle their differences.

He said, “Nigerians are not stupid. Even the blind knows that the relationship between the President and the National Leader of APC is not cordial.

“This feud is being fuelled by those close to the President. They are telling the President the wrong things. The President and Tinubu must come together regardless of their differences to settle their rift before the 2019 elections because if it continues like this till that time, it will certainly affect the chances of the APC.”

Second Republic Member of the House of Representatives and also the Convener, Coalition of Northern Intellectuals, Politicians and Businessmen, Dr. Junaid Mohammed, called on Buhari to apply caution in his handling of the alleged feud with Tinubu and the internal crisis in the APC.

He said, “Given the tenuous nature of this administration, the party (APC) and of course, the powerful enemies undoubtedly which Tinubu has, he (Buhari) should do well to please take it easy. Some of us believe that he (Tinubu) certainly has done some good for the party, (Muhammadu) Buhari as a person, and for the country; we would not want him to fall by the wayside as a result of lack of tact.

“I also believe that he (Tinubu), Buhari and leading members of the party must all rush back to the drawing board because rightly or wrongly, their making Buhari as the presidential candidate and his arrogance and megalomania may in fact, sooner than later, destroy the party.

“And to make matters worse, Buhari does not have a clue about forming a party or running one. If care is not taken, he will throw the party into complete disarray and by the time most of them in the party realise it, it would have been too late.

Also, an elder statesman and National Chairman, Northern Elders Council, Tanko Yakasai, who spoke in his personal capacity, noted that Buhari would not have won the last presidential election without Tinubu’s support.

Yakasai said Buhari was elected by a two and half million majority, which he described as the “lowest majority in Nigeria’s presidential elections.”

“A large chunk of these votes came from the South-West and Tinubu was instrumental to this, but right now, he can’t claim to be in the picture of what is happening in government,” he added.

“Yes, the Vice President (Yemi Osinbajo) came from his (Tinubu’s) camp but Buhari’s biographer gave a different picture of how Osinbajo came about to be the VP. If you remember quite recently, it took Tunji Bello to correct the impression created by the President’s biographer. It was he who revealed that he was there when the decision was taken.

“I think they (Buhari and Tinubu) should ensure peace for the good of the party and the country.

Chairman, Adamawa United Forum, the umbrella body for all the ethnic minorities in the state, Musa Jekeko, said Buhari could not afford to treat Tinubu with disdain as it would amount to biting the fingers that fed him.

According to him, Buhari should not allow his relationship with Tinubu to degenerate because the latter remains a “vital” asset to the APC because of his political influence and financial clout.

“By virtue of the President’s position as leader of the party, there should be no dissenting voice, and if there’s any, Buhari should be held responsible because as the leader of the party, he should be able to bring everyone together,” he said.

Chairman, Adamawa Awareness Foundation, Abdulrazak Buba, described the crisis In the APC as political.

“This is just politics; we want to call on everyone within the APC, including Tinubu to rally round the President so that we can get out of this current economic hardship, which is the major concern of Nigerians who voted for the APC,” he said.

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Published in News & Stories Vice president Yemi Osinbajo has said the federal government is not interested in arresting former President Goodluck Jonathan over various allegations of corruption during his administration.

The Lagos state chapter of ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) recently called for the arrest and eventual prosecution of former president Goodluck Ebele Jonathan.

But addressing US based Nigerians in Houston, Texas, on Friday at a Townhall meeting, Professor Osinbajo said the federal government was not contemplating probing the former president.

According to a statement issued by his spokesperson Mr. Laolu Akande, the VP gave the hint when he interacted with US-based Nigerians who asked questions live at the event and also via the Internet.

The Vice President fielded about thirty questions at a well-attended townhall event moderated by Mr. Rudolf Okonkwo of Sahara Reporters and Prof. Nimi Wariboko of Boston University.

Answering question from the internet on when former President Goodluck Jonathan would be arrested, Osinbajo pointed out that the Buhari administration is not in the business of arresting just anyone anyhow.

He said all the Buhari administration does is to empower the security agencies and the anti-corruption agencies to do their jobs, without the administration trying to teleguide them.

He also added that the fight against corruption in the country is not fought on ethnic, hasty or premeditated grounds.

According to him, “ corruption is not an ethnic thing, there is an equal representation in the stealing as no one operates with his/her ethnic group alone, the culprits are in every case seen so far, united by greed to steal and not by ethnic or religious interest.”

The VP frowned at a situation where for instance as much as $15 billion has disappeared from the national coffers into private pockets, pointing out that no responsible government would wave that aside so as not to offend people.

He also said Security agencies in Nigeria have arrested about 800 suspected violent herdsmen across the country.

Asked about the issue of Fulani Herdsmen attacks in certain states across the country and what the Federal Government was doing to curb the problem, the Vice President said “the President has given firm instructions to the security agencies to arrest not only herdsmen who are attacking communities anywhere in the country but anyone of them or anyone at all in possession of firearms.”

“There are about 800 of suspected violent herdsmen in the country that are currently in custody” The Vice President said but however decried the slow pace of the criminal justice system which is affecting the prompt trial of such suspects.

Prof. Osinbajo reminded the audience that the issue of killings by such violent herdsmen has been a perennial issue especially as grazing lands continue to disappear over the years and the cattle feed on people’s crops on the farmlands. He clarified that the matter just did not crop up when President Buhari assumed office.

The Vice President warned against the tendency of interpreting the herdsmen issue as a religious issue, stressing that it is important for all Nigerians to refuse such divisive narratives and tendencies.

He reminded his audience that there has always been conflict between herdsmen and communities across the country and that people should disabuse the notion that the problem has just started because President Buhari, a Fulani is currently at the helm of affairs in the country.

Answering question on the need for community policing, the Vice President indicated that community policing via State Police is indeed a cardinal program of the ruling APC and noted however, that the party agenda cannot be introduced until there is an amendment to the nation’s constitution.

He gave a scenario where a policeman from Bayelsa State for instance is working in Borno State where he cannot even speak the language or understand the culture of the people he is policing, noting that such is counterproductive.

“The current situation where police activities is controlled at the federal level sure has some limitations”, he conceded adding that the “the federal government is currently working to introduce community policing that would be in line with the constitution.”

Commenting on the recent arrest of judges in the country, Prof. Osinbajo told his Nigerian audience in Texas that impunity could be very dangerous in any sector and that the federal government is only exercising its executive function in attempting to check excesses.

He pointed out that the important thing is that due process is being followed as the judges were released about 24 hours after their arrest and once they had given their statements.

The Vice President also responded to a question on the state of the nation’s economy and attributed the current recession to the loss of about 60 percent of government revenue due to pipeline vandalism and endemic corruption in the system.

He however stated that getting back oil production is a sure way to get out of the recession and the federal government is working to sort it out.

Commenting on the declining fortunes of Nigeria in international sporting competitions occasioned by poor funding by the government, the Vice President said that a long-term solution to inadequate funding of sports is private sector involvement.

According to him, looking around countries that have excelled in international sporting competitions, the private sector in those countries are directly involved and that is exactly what should happen in Nigeria. By the time companies and organizations take up sports sponsorship, he believes that the tide would change for good.

Nigerians from all walks of life in Houston, Texas and from other parts of the US attended the town hall meeting which was preceded by a Nigeria Infrastructure summit which showcased opportunities for foreign investors in Nigeria.

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Published in Politics President Muhammadu Buhari formally married off his daughter, Fatima, to Malam Yau Gimba Kumo on Friday in Daura, his home town. The wedding took place at the President’s residence on Mai’adua road, Daura at about 2.40 p.m. Here are some faces at the wedding:

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President Buhari and well wishers during the wedding


Fatima Buhari (L) with former chief Physician to the President, Prof. Sadiq Wali at the wedding fatiha to Alhaji Yau Gimba Kumo in Daura, Katsina state on Friday


Fatima Buhari (M) with friends and relations


The Emir of Daura, Alhaji Umar Faruk (m) at the wedding


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Published in Arts & Culture
Sunday, 30 October 2016 14:32

I’m in charge, not my nephew — Buhari

President Muhammadu Buhari on Saturday, debunked allegations that his nephew, Mamman Daura, was in charge of the affairs at the Presidency.

Buhari stated this in an interview with reporters. Asked whether it was true that Daura, following his perceived strong influence over Buhari, was acting as unofficial president, as being alleged in some quarters, Buhari noted that, as the duly elected president of the country, he was in charge of the Federal Government.

He said, “I don’t know where they got their information from. I stood for the election; I visited every local government in Nigeria by air, by road and so on. And we had one of the most credible elections. So, whoever feels that he has lost (out) somehow is his own problem, I have no problem.”

Buhari further said the Presidential Committee on the North East would ensure that the monies donated for humanitarian aid in the North East to tackle malnutrition among children in Internally Displaced Persons camps would be judiciously used.

He said the former general in charge of the committee was one ‘reputed for his integrity.’

“His headquarters is situated in the presidency, he’s got some staff and there is legal instrument developed on how this money would be spent. So, whoever has got any money to contribute or food items will go and make a presentation.

“We have a list of infrastructure, especially educational infrastructure, and it is up to them to go and choose what they would do,” the President said.

UNICEF estimates that about a quarter of a million children are malnourished in the North East as a result of Boko Haram insurgency.

Published in Business and Economy
Sunday, 30 October 2016 14:29

Obasanjo, Folorunsho Alakija clash in Lagos

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo and Africa’s richest woman, Mrs Folorunsho Alakija on Saturday in Lagos exchanged words over the latter’s decision to take over an oil block allocated to her in 1993. 

The verbal exchanges took place at the 2016 Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Forum.

Alakija, in her speech, alleged that the Obasanjo administration frustrated her effort when she ventured into oil business by illegally taking an oil block allocated to her company after her family had invested all its savings to strike oil in commercial quantity.

“This oil block is in 5000 feet depth of water and was extremely difficult to explore.

“It took 15 years from the time that we were awarded the licence in 1993 till 2008 when we struck the first oil

“When this event happened, 60 percent out of our 60 percent equity in the business, was forcefully taken from us by the government of the day without due process.

“We had to fight back by going to court to seek redress and it took another 12 years for justice to be served in our favour.

“In all those years it was my trust in God, my perseverance and the support of my family that got me going,” she said.

She used her experiences to charge the 2000 budding entrepreneurs at the event to be dogged, determined and not to give up in the face of challenges.

But responding, Obasanjo denied the allegation, saying that infact, Folorunsho Alakija was among the 25 billionaires he made during his tenure as President.

“There is a saying in my part of the world that when a proverb touches you and you failed to reply, then you are a coward,” he said.

Obasanjo explained that the action of the government then was in line with the Mining Act, which regulates oil prospection and exploration.

“For you to come here and say that, for no cause whatsoever, you were denied what was rightfully yours, is not fair.

“I do not know you from Adam and there is no reason I would have denied you what rightfully belonged to you.

“So, you have struggled, and you have struck oil. God bless your heart.

“My delight is to be able to create Nigerian billionaires and I always say it that my aim, when I was in government was to create 50 Nigerian billionaires.

“Unfortunately I failed. I created only 25 and Madam, you are one of them,” he said.

Obasanjo hailed the vision of Mr Tony Elumelu for helping to build African young entrepreneurs with his resources.

He also urged the government to create conducive environment for people to move businesses into the country.

The former president urged government to relax its visa policy and company registration process to encourage investors.

He said the government should create certification centres in the country for easy exportation of agro processed products.

The President of Sierra Leone, Bai Koroma noted that what transpired between Obasanjo and Alakija was part of the challenges and difficulties that leaders lived with in the discharge of their duties.

With limited resources competing for unlimited demands and expectations from the people, leaders were seen to be larger than life, he said.

Koroma also commended Elumelu for his project for African young entrepreneurs adding that his vision resonated with a new Africa development agenda.

Published in Headliners

Manchester City returned to the top of the Premier League in emphatic style as victory at West Brom ended Pep Guardiola’s worst run in management.

City and boss Guardiola were without a win in six matches in all competitions, but Sergio Aguero flashed in Ilkay Gundogan’s through ball to give them the lead.

The Baggies were flat and Aguero struck again, punishing hesitant defending with a powerful, top-corner finish.

West Brom improved hugely after the break but failed to take their chances before Gundogan twice slotted home – first from Aguero’s chip and then after being found by Kevin de Bruyne.

The win means City leapfrog Arsenal, who won 4-1 at Sunderland earlier in the day, into first place in the table with 10 matches played.

Tony Pulis’ side struck the post through Gareth McAuley late on and should have got one back at 2-0 through Salomon Rondon, but they slip to 15th and are now without a win in their past five games.

Aguero’s last goals for City came in the 3-1 league victory at Swansea on 24 September, which was also City’s most recent win before today. Who better, then, to set the tone at the Hawthorns?

The Argentina striker’s first was rifled in brilliantly after his clever run was matched by Gundogan’s quality pass into the space between West Brom’s two centre-backs.

His second was spectacular, but equally simple. McAuley and Jonas Olsson both should have cleared a loose ball on the edge of the box but hesitated, allowing the 28-year-old to set himself up and smash home.

That was his seventh league goal of the season – the joint best return with Chelsea’s Diego Costa – and ends a spell of six matches without a goal.

West Brom’s players were obviously deflated by Aguero’s two goals in nine minutes, so Pulis deserves credit for managing to galvanise his side into producing a spirited second-half display.

They might have got themselves back in it when Rondon miscued his finish when meeting James McClean’s excellent cross, and Claudio Bravo almost gifted the Venezuela striker a goal when he rashly came to clear and left his goal exposed, but Rondon’s header bounced just wide.

But City managed to ride out the pressure and always looked dangerous on the break, with Aguero hugely influential in driving forward on the counter-attack.

He was in search of the hat-trick, but it was Gundogan who expertly slid the ball past Ben Foster to end the Baggies’ revival – meeting Aguero’s fantastic dinked pass through the back line.

The 26-year-old Germany midfielder was excellent throughout, and his first-time finish for City’s fourth capped his best performance since joining from Borussia Dortmund this summer.

Published in Sports

For the first time in hundreds of years, the marble stone above the tomb of Jesus Christ in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem was lifted as part of historic renovations at the holy site 

According to the Christian faith, after his crucifixion, Christ’s body was laid on a shelf that was placed within a cave, now covered by a structure called the Aedicule – a small chapel which will also undergo renovations alongside the tomb itself, which Christians hold to be empty following Jesus’ resurrection.

The marble stone covering the empty tomb was lifted as part of the attempt to renovate the tomb itself and the Aedicule. This is most likely the first time since the 16th century that the huge marble stone covering the tomb has been moved.

The renovation of the structure began a number of months ago after a historic agreement was reached between the Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Armenian churches – the three main churches sharing the structure according to the status quo.

The last time the actual structure was renovated was by the British in 1947, when thick metal cables were put in place to support the Aedicule, but the actual tomb stone wasn’t touched. Since then, no substantial renovation was conducted on the structure and its condition has deteriorated, a situation which was further exacerbated by the inability of the three churches to agree on a course of action.

A year and a half ago, antiques’ officials warned about the structure’s state and the police decided to close the site to pilgrims for a number of hours, fearing additional damage to the site. The closure prompted anger and protest, with church officials claiming that the police took the decision without conferring with them or informing them in advance.

Greek preservation experts work to strengthen the Adicule surrounding the Tomb of Jesus, where his body is believed to have been laid, as part of conservation work done by the Greek team in Jerusalem

Greek preservation experts work to strengthen the Adicule surrounding the Tomb of Jesus, where his body is believed to have been laid, as part of conservation work done by the Greek team in Jerusalem

In wake of the incident, representatives of the three churches involved in the running of the site began holding negotiations and some six months ago they reached an agreement. According to the deal, the renovation would be led by the National Technical University of Athens under the oversight Greek Orthodox Patriarchate and the Custody of the Holy Land – an order of the Roman Catholic Church that is the site’s custodian.

The renovation is substantial and includes dismantling the metal cables put in place by the British, and putting large metal rods inside the columns and injecting advanced cement-like materials inside the cracks and crevices in the stones to reinforce them. Part of the structure itself will also be taken apart to be restored independently before it is placed back within the holy site.

Last Wednesday, for the first time in hundreds of years, the actual stone above the interior tomb was lifted, exposing the holy site to about a billion Christians across the globe.

The marble blocks were placed above the grave some 500 years ago. Underneath them, workers discovered another marble block marked with a cross and dating back to the 12 century crusaders, as well as building materials used at the time the upper marble slab was placed above the tomb.

As far as is currently known, the workers did not reach the surface of the tomb shelf itself, which was where Jesus’ body was placed after the crucifixion and before he ascended to heaven, according to the Christian faith. After the tomb area was renovated, the marble block was put back in its place and on Saturday the site was reopened for visitors.

Prof. Joseph Patrich from the Hebrew University’s Institute of Archaeology said that he was amazed that restorators were given authority to lift the stone to begin with: “It very much surprised me that a secular activity was permitted in such a sensitive and holy site, but this renovation is ‘holy work’,” he said.

Last week, the project’s chief scientific supervisor, Prof. Antonia Moropoulou spoke at a Jerusalem conference organized by Israel’s Antiques Authority. The talk was attended by the Patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophilos III.

Published in News & Stories

Oshione Igwonobe ,The Juice Lady

Oshione Igwonobe resigned from her day job to start making pure juices using her mother’s blender. She moved from making juices in her mother’s kitchen to start her own brand; The JuiceLady , where fresh juices with no concentrates, preservatives, sugars or sweeteners, are produced, a business she started at a local Buka and at some point she and her team hawked the products just to make sales, today Igwonobe supplies big malls and outlets across Lagos. She shares her inspiring story in this interview.

My upbringing played a large role in my line of work. Growing up, my mother always sought to experiment with our meals introducing different healthy options. As kids, we’d grumble and complain but she created delicious recipes we all loved eventually. Baking and juicing were regular practices in our home and I took after that. After quitting my day job in 2009, I experimented with cooking healthy meals and preparing juices, supplying offices in my neighbourhood. After a few months I realized I would have to focus on one aspect as I didn’t have the resources to grow both aspects of the business. I stopped catering and focused solely on making juices using my mother’s blender in her kitchen. At the time it was pretty small scale but I’ve been able to grow it significantly.

Meet Me
My name is Oshione Igwonobe and I am the JuiceLady. I am from Edo state; the first child from a family of six (6). Most of my formative years were in Warri then my family moved to Lagos in 1997 where I continued my Senior Secondary School and University. I’m quite passionate about healthy living, I absolutely love food, traveling and adventures. I produce 100% fresh fruit juices under the brand The JuiceLady. Our juices are fresh, not from concentrates, no preservatives;, no sugars or sweeteners. Simply no additives: just juice.

Inspiration behind my brand “The juice lady”
The JuiceLady started off as an affectionate moniker when I started producing and supplying juices about 6 years ago. I would carry my juices in my cooling bag and head off to offices and parks and the receptionist would announce my presence like “Hey guys, the juice lady is around o, in case you want to buy juices” (Laughs). Most of my clients didn’t even know my name; everybody just called me The JuiceLady. So, the name just stuck and I decided to build a brand around it. Anytime I see it now, it reminds me of the days of humble beginnings, of hauling a cooler bag down corridors and offices, of a determination to carve a niche and succeed against the very heavy tides of frustration at the time.


My YOUWIN grant experience
It was an enlightening experience really. Beyond the grant, I gained a deeper appreciation of the business. We passed through intensive business training sessions organized by the Enterprise Development Center (EDC) and participated in the Youth Enterprise with Innovation Program and these training have helped me move the business forward. The people I met at the time also increased my network; I keep in touch with them today and I’ve done business with a number of them. YOUWIN boasted a number of innovative people and it was a creative space where you could tap off the energies of other brilliant minds. So yes, I had a great experience.

It’s been interesting. Starting off wasn’t easy. When I decided I was going to focus solely on juices, opportunity came in the form of The Lagos Carnival and I thought, here’s a huge crowd to test our product. My parents were out of town and had given me money for upkeep. I convinced my dear siblings to support my cause and we even borrowed extra money to produce our first ever large scale batch of juices. I mean, a large crowd of thirsty people under the Lagos hot sun, of course we would rake in lots of money. We were going to make a killing. We were all so excited. The challenge then was that our production process was largely manual so before we could finish up and head out it was already 2pm or thereabouts and we got to the carnival at about 3pm. Not surprisingly, the ceremonial activities had come to an end. Here we were, six of us with about 200 bottles of juice and no crowd (Laughs). I think we ended up selling about 15 bottles. It’s safe to say that for that period when our parents were away, my siblings and I drank juices until we were fed up of it (Laughs).

After this episode, I decided to scale back and convinced a neighbor to set me up at his office in TINCAN Apapa. I would set up a cooler at the Buka where the tanker drivers, bus drivers, and others came to eat. And from there I would haul my cooler bag into the offices. My clients ranged from tanker drivers to directors and executives at the company (MRS Oil) and they were very encouraging. There were times we had to literally hawk them on the road to sell out.

From Tincan, I moved to several offices in Victoria Island and now we supply key stores like Farm City in Lekki Phasse 1, Café Neo outlets and several other stores. Only last week, we attended our first major food exhibition (Flavours of Lagos) and we had a lot of people truly enthralled by the quality, taste and price for our juices.

The Nigerian mass market is only getting accustomed to fresh juices and as such sometimes, it can be a struggle to explain to consumers why the product is priced above other options with concentrates, preservatives and sugar. This is a learning curve that we are navigating quite well and because the overarching vision of the business is to create wholesome living, we are careful to price our brands competitively to ensure more people have access to this option.


On giving up
Only about a million times (Laughs). Truth be told, there is a limit to how far passion can take you. Many start-ups believe that passion is the balm that heals all wounds. The reality is different. If we are to discount the attendant challenges of any business across the world, the Nigerian system is designed to frustrate SMEs. This is because we are a society orchestrated to administrate and not to produce.

I remember when I was seeking machinery for juicing. I went to the Federal Institute of Industrial Research, Oshodi (FIIRO). I paid for training and was told we had to wait to be a certain number. This was in 2013. I’m still waiting for that training. I was referred to a consultant technician who fabricates machinery and he gave me a bill of about N10million to set up my factory. I visited another agency to make enquiries about the process for certification, I was told by an official to ‘look for something else to do” as processing/manufacturing was too difficult for a woman.

There are periods where it just seems like anything that can possibly go wrong, does go wrong. Periods I made huge losses financially, or I’d see my peers and it felt like I was wasting time and everybody else seemed to be ahead. When faced with these trying situations, I dug into a reserve of strength I never knew I had and found the resolve to move on. Failure is just not an option. My Plan B is to find ways for Plan A to work.

Greatest reward
Honestly, the praise of a new consumer. It is one thing to know that you have a good product, it is another to be validated time and again when someone tries the juices and they call me to rave about it. It is a new feeling every single time and that beats any achievement I’ve had thus far.

The high cost of setting up a factory
(Sighs). The challenges are many-fold and I touched on some of them earlier. Financing is a mammoth challenge. I got a break with the YOUWIN grant but there’s the timidity of our financial institutions when it comes to partnering with start-ups. Financing needs to be scaled to the level of the business but our banks simply don’t understand that. Also the lack of technical capability in Nigeria made it a nightmare to set up my factory. Sourcing for machinery is such a herculean task, especially when you’re an SME. Importing machinery is very expensive, then there’s the added cost of bringing in a technician to train your staff on how to use the equipment, maintenance and the rest. I ordered an equipment two (2) years ago that I’m yet to receive.

Nigerians view on women in your line of work
In my experience, there is an active conversation on women in business and this is increasing the perception positively. My line of work largely sees women as the forerunners and there has been an increased respect for the profession. I do understand that women in other fields may not be finding it as easy and that is the reason why I am actively engaging women for raw material supplies, production and delivery. The conversation is significantly bigger than me and I am consciously ensuring I play my part in the empowerment of the Nigerian woman.

I am a Woman of Rubies
One word: Tenacity. I have been through a lot in my line of work and I’m still standing. I believe firmly in the future and I believe that it can be shaped by the actions of the present. Regardless of the obstacles, I am determined to raise the bar for women in agro-processing and this is what makes me a woman of Rubies.


Published in Parliament

In this interview with JOHN ALECHENU and Gbenro Adeoye, the Deputy National Chairman (South) of the All Progressives Congress, Mr. Segun Oni, speaks about the crisis in the party and preparations for the Ondo State governorship elections among other national issues

The crisis in your party in Ondo State seems to have divided your members’ loyalty and some Nigerians, including the Peoples Democratic Party, have ruled out any chance that the All Progressives Congress can win the forthcoming governorship election in the state. Do you agree?

We are very prepared and just like we won handsomely in the just concluded Edo State governorship election, I am confident we will win in Ondo State.

Are you saying that the crisis in your party, the job losses and hunger in the land, will have no effect on the outcome of the election?

Yes, things are very difficult, but luckily for us, the next general elections will not hold next week or next month. The policies we are putting in place would have started showing very good results before then. The budget implementation would have gone far, a lot of contracts would have been awarded and things would have started to show improvements. We would have also announced the board memberships; it means some people would also have areas of influence, either through being a board member or another. It can only get better. We have seen the worst of this situation; we can confidently say it can only get better. The PDP members, instead of using the opportunity now to get out of coma, they are thinking they can deride us. But once the economy starts getting better, and it will get better very soon, they will have very little or nothing else to say. Their party is not yet a party; my advice to them is to face their own business, mend the house that is almost collapsing on their heads and repair their umbrella that is leaking profusely.

Your party has been accused of complaining too much about the last 16 years instead of concentrating on the task at hand. You forget that some leaders in the APC today were part of the years in question. Is that not irresponsible?

You see, I don’t support a complaining attitude; that is not what we are doing. What we are doing is to remind the people of the past, especially the days of (former President Goodluck) Jonathan. Nigerians experienced what nobody thought was imaginable. Only recently, an account that allegedly belonged to the former First Lady (Patience Jonathan) was said to have $15m. That is probably more than the personal worth of all first ladies ever in Nigeria put together, and that belongs to a woman that was there for less than six years. This is the spirit of looting that brought Nigeria down. There is nobody in his right senses that would not encourage that this should be talked about. We are talking about it, not just because we want Nigerians to appreciate how they brought us to where we are now, but also for Nigerians to be so sensitised that nobody will be able to bring that mentality back without such eliciting public reaction. So, it is for all of us. These people really went too far and took things to the extreme; they went beyond the limits; they went berserk, looting as if there was a stealing competition. This is the only economy in the world I know that could go through that and survive; not even the United States’ economy, which is the biggest in the world, would have survived the looting. That we are alive now, Nigerians should recognise that it is by the grace of God and also by the fortune that we had a change of government at the federal level. It’s not a complaining attitude; we must continue to sensitise Nigerians and if we are quiet about it, it could happen again; but God forbid that it should happen again.

The President Muhammadu Buhari-led APC administration has also attracted a lot of criticisms for being slow and unable to take timely decisions that could have prevented the current recession. Is that the party’s style of approaching national issues?

Let me say this clearly, every administration will have its own style, just like every individual has their style. There are people who will be quick to take actions but will regret them later. When I was in school, in my class, there were pupils who would be quick to put up their hands to say something, but five times out of ten, what they said wouldn’t make sense. They were prone to making a lot of mistakes. There were people who managed to put up their hands once and it would be a hit. So it is the style of this administration not to be repeating itself, especially when we are trying to get over the rot that almost sank the ship of state. I am not saying that we should always be very slow, no. There are cases and situations that require that we do things almost instantly, but you should know that it is also our style. What is important is that whatever style we adopt, it should produce the result that will give us a better Nigeria; that is what should be our focus.

You’ve had a lot of crisis at the various state chapters of your party like Edo, Kano, Kaduna and a host of others…

We didn’t have any issues in Edo.

But the APC National Headquarters set up a committee to look into some issues in Edo State, which was headed by Olagunsoye Oyinlola (former Governor of Osun State). What was it for? 

We didn’t want a situation where members would break out of the party after the primary that we had in Edo State. There were members who might not be too comfortable with the outcome of the primary and might be tempted to leave; we didn’t want that to happen, so we set up a high-powered committee to ensure that such did not happen. The committee’s mandate was to reconcile all the aspirants and our party’s supporters so that we would go into the election as one united family. You will agree with me that the committee delivered and we want to thank all those who aspired for the party’s ticket in Edo State for keeping faith with the party and not abandoning it. We don’t have problems in as many places as you have mentioned. We recognise the fact that when it is politics, the individual that comes into politics comes in with their own objectives and most of the time, we have to try and harness individual objectives to become corporate objectives so that every one of us can travel in the same direction. Sometimes, things do not go the way you expect; there are divergencies of opinions and styles. It is the responsibility of the party to align the divergencies and that is what we are doing in most instances. Don’t forget that the APC is a relatively young party as its members came from different backgrounds. Some from the Congress for Progressive Change, some from the All Nigeria Peoples Party, some from the Action Congress of Nigeria and some from factions of the Peoples Democratic Party and the All Progressives Grand Alliance; so, you should give us the credit that we’ve even been able to make our differences count less than our zeal to achieve our corporate objectives.

What about Kogi State, where a member of your party, James Faleke, took the Governor of the State, Yahaya Bello, to court. Does that not show that there is trouble in the party?

We are working on that. When a court process is on, you cannot do much but to wait. It is after the court process has been exhausted that you have a very good chance of mending fences and bringing people together. We are working on that.

So many campaign promises were made by your party before the elections. One, which has generated a lot of interest among Nigerians, is that of the exchange rate. The naira has plummeted to almost N500 to $1. Yet, your party promised to make the naira equivalent to the dollar.

I do not remember any member of this party saying that at any time before, during and after the campaigns. Making the naira equivalent to the dollar is a statement that can only be made by somebody who is very far from understanding basic economics. We didn’t say that. We know that the naira, being where it is today, relative to the dollar, did not happen overnight. It did not start overnight; I remember the value of the naira was higher than the dollar 40 years ago. At the time, one naira was equivalent to about one and a half dollars, and then it was losing and losing value against the dollar. If anybody says he will make the naira equivalent to the dollar, it will mean that first, government wants to fix it and that will be against the spirit of allowing a free market. And that is not the attitude of this government. That is why we have allowed the market forces to determine where we are. Secondly, it is not part of our manifesto.

Talking of market forces, a lot of people don’t have a full grasp of your administration’s plans to sell or not to sell national assets. What is the true state of affairs?

Personally, I don’t believe government has any business in business. If we have national assets that can change hands and be profitably run to a position that it would be able to create jobs and contribute to the economy, I will go for it. If we have national assets that we will allow to run and waste until they have zero value because we don’t want them to change hands, I will not go for it.  I can tell you that there was a time we had the Nigerian Airways; it was a very strong airline and maybe then, if we had decided to sell it to either Lufthansa or British Airways to run and under terms that would create opportunities for us, maybe today, we would have a bigger fleet and more people in employment. There was a time we had Nigerian National Shipping Line and we had a fleet of ships, but we allowed it to go down until the value was in the negative. By the way, the Nigerian Airways also had negative value because it will not stay at zero. If there are assets that we can sell to improve the lot of Nigerians and invest better in the future, I will go for it. Let me tell you, Nigeria must first take care of its responsibilities now and be a respectable economy so that in the future, it can participate properly in the global economy. If the reality is for us to sell, then we should sell at the right value, as far as I am concerned. I am sure that President Muhammadu Buhari is not the kind of President who wants to just acquire and acquire (material things); he has grown beyond the spirit of acquisition. Anybody who is still battling with physiological needs should never be allowed to get near the Presidency of Nigeria. Again, that is what I have observed. These are people who are still battling with the spirit of acquisition, people who see money as the goal and objective of their existence. Anybody who is still operating at that level is the one Nigerians should fear. At least, we are lucky to have somebody we can say is beyond that. When he says he will sell, he will not sell to get kickbacks; he will not sell to himself or his cronies because that is what has killed Nigeria. They sold National Electric Power Authority, the distribution arm of NEPA, who bought them? They sold to themselves. So, if it is not performing, it is not because it was sold. It is not performing because it was sold fraudulently and the deals were not open enough. Right now, you merge a couple of states and put them under one distribution company and the span of control is so wide that it is almost unmanageable for those who bought them to cover, so all those guys are making money for themselves. I cannot see anywhere today that is operating differently from when NEPA or Power Holding Company of Nigeria was operating. You have not created value. If you want to create value; you go ahead and create value in a much more strategic way such that people who will acquire such assets will prove that they know what they want to do with what they are buying. Yes, if Nigeria needs to sell some of its assets, we will support it. I know that with an administration like this, it will be done transparently.

But even if government wants to sell now, it’s like Nigerians no longer trust government with such initiatives because they will ask that what has happened to the ones sold in the past.

Our people have stayed and suffered too long under deceit that they almost will believe that there is nothing that can happen other than deceit. Yes, if there is the promise of the second Niger Bridge and it has gone on and on, I am sure it is going to be a reality under this government. Even the promises that tarried for so long like the East-West Road and rail line will become a reality. This government is a determined one and it will be different; that is why I keep saying, we were not elected for a two-year term; it’s a four-year term. In four years, Nigerians will have seen a reason to view this government as determined to deliver on its promises.

What happened during the APC’s National Working Committee meeting over the Appeal Panel Report on the party’s primary in Ondo State?   

Well, what is happening is that we have some differences which we have to sort out among ourselves and we will do that.

But you have already submitted the name of Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN) as your party’s candidate. Does it mean the party has not taken a position on it?                        

We are working on this.

A National Leader of the APC, Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu, appeared to have been bothered about this situation that he wrote a letter asking for the resignation of the party’s National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun. What is the update?

I have told you. It is obvious we have some differences amongst ourselves; we will sort ourselves out. This party is large enough and we have the internal capacity to sort out ourselves.

There are Nigerians who feel the economy would have been better handled by professionals trained and experienced to handle such at this time. Do you agree?

There are experts and they are managing the economy. There is an economic management team under the chairmanship of the Vice President (Prof. Yemi Osinbajo). Yes, he is a lawyer, but if there is anything this Vice President cannot do about economy, then I don’t know who can. He has the pedigree and has committed people around him. You see, we should not forget where people are coming from. He is a lawyer and a professor of repute, who has done a lot of consultancy jobs for the World Bank, African Union and so on. He has a team that he heads; it is not a one-man team. The economic adviser is a person that all of us had known in school as one of the best brains we could find on the terrain and a person who also had a brilliant career in Foreign Service. I am very confident that things would work; it is true that we were overwhelmed by the high expectations of Nigerians but we are working through all of that. It is wrong for anybody to say we don’t have an economic management team. What is happening in our economy today did not start last year. Who would have managed the economy as it is now better than we are doing? Is it our team that destroyed the economy and brought it down? Look, Nigerians didn’t complain when they (players in the last administration) were buying dollars as if it was going out of fashion; the legal tender during the electioneering ahead of 2015 general elections was dollars. As a party which Nigerians voted into office, we are keeping faith with our campaign promises of making life better for Nigerians. The pains we are going through will not last long, we are trying to right the wrongs of the past and do things right. In the long run, Nigeria and Nigerians will be a lot better than we met them.

Not long ago, you spoke against the violence and killings in Rivers State. What is the situation now? 

There is still violence, which has led to some people being killed. The only thing I can say is that the violence has reduced, but the state is not completely free of violence. I’m thinking the Governor of Rivers State (Nyesom Wike) is no longer encouraging violence. And if he is not doing that, it means that the source of fuel for some of the violent activities is no longer there. There is still violence in Rivers and Bayelsa states, but it is reducing. We want a situation where all peace-loving, law-abiding Nigerians and non-Nigerians living in these states will feel safe to live their lives, and not only in these two states, but all over the country.

Your party talks about fighting corruption but it has largely been quiet about the allegations of bribery made against the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi; his counterpart in the Ministry of Science and Technology, Ogbonnaya Onu; and the APC candidate in the 2015 governorship election in Akwa Ibom State, Umana Umana. Isn’t it ironic?

I have said something as a person and it is that attempting to pervert the course of justice is a crime. If a Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria saw somebody doing that and he did not get the person arrested immediately but later came out to say that so and so attempted to pervert the course of justice, I believe it was an afterthought. And if I were a judge, I would not even say that because I know it would not be taken seriously. Even you, if you saw somebody committing a crime last year and did not say anything until now, would it make sense? I don’t believe that the judges should be taken very seriously. But if there is the need for an investigation, let the matter be investigated. I believe that we all owe this country a responsibility to uphold the integrity of the system.

But some lawyers have said that there is no time limit to the prosecution of criminality and that it does not matter if it was an afterthought or not, and that as long as a crime is alleged to have been committed, then it should be investigated. What do you say to that?

I am not saying that anybody should not be investigated; how can I stand in the way of investigation? What I am saying  is that, as far as I am concerned, the judges did not do the right thing.

The APC Deputy National Publicity Secretary, Timi Frank, said that the party may implode before 2019, which seems to be in line with the rumours that Tinubu and Atiku Abubakar may soon leave the party to form an alliance. Does this not bother you?

I’m not bothered by all that. I have never attended any meeting where I have seen any ill tendencies and I don’t see something like that as so prominent. If that tendency is so prominent, we would have known. We have a party to run and we will run it very well. Yes, there are aspects of it that people may not be too comfortable with now; we will do everything within our power to improve the situation. But as for Timi Frank, anyone that reads between the lines will know that his statement is not worth what anybody should fret about.

Published in Parliament

Chief Rasheed Gbadamosi is a former chairman, Petroleum Products Prices Regulatory Agency. He was also a Minister of National Planning. He discusses some economic issues with Ademola Olonilua

Were you surprised when it was officially declared by the Federal Government that Nigeria is in recession?

No, I was not surprised. It had to happen but it was a question of when it would happen. It was meant to have come a long time ago.

Why were you not surprised?

I was not surprised because before Buhari’s regime, we had anticipated that the recession would come. It was something that was anticipated but what did we do? There was a feeling that somehow it would not happen and we would be able to weather the storm but that was not the case. Poor mother Africa was hopeful that the cross would pass over us but it did not seem to be so. There was a feeling that Olusegun Obasanjo could have averted such a situation if it happened during his time.

In what way do you feel Obasanjo could have averted the recession we are currently facing?

Baba Obasanjo in a way had this magical capability but it is a shame he could not bring things about. When we talk about the awful turning point in the economy, I don’t think Buhari can do anything about it, to be frank.

But what do you think brought about the recession Nigeria is currently facing?

I really cannot say what caused it but what I know is that it was meant to have hit Nigeria a long time ago. I need to think a lot about it.

The government has said that the pains of the current recession would not have been severely felt if Nigeria had been saving. Do you agree with them?

It is not just a question of Nigeria saving, we were not totally prepared. I think we threw caution to the wind. Look at what happened to some other nations of the world, they had been through this but they weathered the storm. I think Nigerians thought the world owed us a meal, they believed the world owed us a living.

Some people have opined that the government should spend more on capital development in order to get us out of this recession; others have argued that government should borrow money. What do you think government should do?

What do we need to do? I am frightened, but I believe we do not need to shrink the economy yet again. I really don’t know what the government can do and that has frightened me greatly in the past 24 hours but we don’t need to shrink the economy. I wonder why we believe we need to shrink the economy. I think we should review what has happened in the last four years and open up the economy. We should let the great, the good, and the gullible people of our various spokespersons in the president’s cabinet to start talking in terms of what is happening. I think we should talk a lot now.

Are you saying that Buhari’s cabinet members are not vocal enough about the current economic reality in Nigeria?

They are frightened. They are so frightened by the current situation and they fear for their lives. I think they believe that we may not be able to weather the storm. If we experience another period of drought in this country, we would be in trouble.

When you say trouble, what should Nigerians be expecting that is worse than this?

If we are not able to bring in investors, then we would face the drought. I have noticed that there have been drought in some parts of the country and we don’t want it to be a generalised thing. Let’s hope that there would be no shortage in the land.

Despite the reported effort put in place by the current government, Nigeria still solely depends on importation of fuel. Do you think Nigeria would ever work on its refineries and stop fuel importation?

I am afraid not. I have worked in that sphere and I can tell you that we totally depend on fuel importation.

What can be done to stop that dependency?

I think for a start, we might have to look elsewhere. I have been thinking of the coastal region of Lagos that the Folawiyos might want to do something about. We should look at the coastal ways and see if that might work if we open it up. Also, I have read about the northern coast line but it is very expensive. It is too expensive to explore oil there at the moment. Let us see if they are able to do something about that. They should also look at the promise of gas. We thought we could do something with gas but we did not. What happened to us? It is very sorrowful that we have not been able to utilise the gas. Why did the Niger-Delta boys blow up all what we can get from gas? What were they trying to do? How can you have a nation and not see the promise of the state?

A lot of Nigerians have been clamouring that the government should privatise the refineries. Do you support such calls?

 I have always believed in the privatisation of the refineries but my take on that is to say what we believed in and it is that the whole world is going to get saturated sooner or later. There would soon be saturation of hydrocarbon because the whole world would be filled up and I really don’t think there would be redemption.

But do you think the refineries should be privatised?

I have always believed in the privatisation of the refineries. You must just get the proper pricing, get the appropriate amount and if you do that, everything would be alright.

A lot of Nigerians had believed that the fuel subsidy has been removed only for the NNPC to announce that there is still subsidy on the fuel we buy. What do you think is the way forward?

To be frank, I don’t believe there is any subsidy. In all the years that I have worked in that sector, I have never believed in subsidy. If you do not put the appropriate price on a product, you would not get its right price.

It was reported that bodies like MAN, NECA and others came out to say that Buhari’s economic policy is not working. Do you think it is working?

It cannot be ideological. Perhaps in six months down the line, something else can happen, you can never be sure. Wait until the American economy would crash and then Trump would just go crazy. Let’s see what would happen but you would never know.

Do you think Buhari’s administration has a sound economic team?

I am sorry but no, he doesn’t. I am afraid that the man has taken on too much and he needs to rest for a while and then we would see how it goes.

Some people have argued that he has not included major stakeholders like Dangote in his economic team…

Look at what happened, there is a patent exhaustion in the last few days. Suddenly there is a fatigue. Talk to me in two months and let us see.

Do you think that in two months things would get better or worse?

I hope it gets better. There is palpable exhaustion in the air because we are tired, I am very tired. A lot of my investment is in real estate and honestly things are not moving. I just cannot make a sense of it, things are very bad. That is where we are now. I am sorry for the next generation and I hope they would be able to make sense of whatever Nigeria becomes.

Are you saying things are still good for this generation and it can only get worse for the next generation?

I am afraid so. Look at what is being reported in the newspapers.

What do you think can be done to rectify the situation?

We would continue to suffer and smile, things are awful.

So you don’t think there is a quick fix that the government can embark on?

Quick fix? Where? It is not going to happen. I am sorry but it is the way things are.

Are you saying that there is no light at the end of the tunnel?

There would be light at the end of the tunnel in the end. We would wobble through and it is not going to be an easy ride.

So Nigeria has never had it this bad before?

No we have not. If you had spoken to me about five months ago, I might have been more optimistic. But Buhari has nothing to offer Nigeria when it comes to economic policies. He has no clue when it comes to economic matters. He has no clue. Nigerians should just leave him and let him play the agriculture card.

Do you agree with people that say agriculture might be a way out of this economic mess?

Yes, it can and it     better be a way out, otherwise we are all doomed.

What do you think the government can do to make agriculture enticing to the people again?

We would beg and pray because the agriculture sector has a lot of promise and it might do something to the economy. However, we can only be hopeful. Agriculture was something we believed in at a time.

Some months back, the Minister of Finance said that the recession experienced by Nigerians would soon be a thing of the past. Do you agree with her?

I think she is a sweet young lady but I don’t agree with her. Nigerians should just leave her and see how things happen from now till next year. However I feel sorry for her because she is not going to get there. The workload is too heavy for her to bear. It is too much for her. I pity her a lot. When it does not work, it is never easy. She is an adorable lady but she is not going to get there.

Do you think Nigeria can ever have a stable power supply?

Yes I believe so. We have the promise of gas and it can bring that back. What we can do is to beg the world to look at us and help us open up the promise of gas.

 The ruling regime has also argued that recession crept in because of Nigerians’ preference for foreign goods, do you agree?

When I was much younger, we used to manufacture things. I was making Ragolis water but that is no longer the case. We would pray that small scale businesses would begin to thrive again in this country.


Published in Parliament
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