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Senators’ Jumbo Allowance: Are We Really Ready For The Change?

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One Nation!Forget about the big things; so let us talk about the small things says AfroBeat singer Tecno. The small pot holes on our roads are issues we have financial ability to tackle in weeks. In fact, we can increase the funds and strengthen the supervision required for maintaining the condition of our roads. But poor condition of roads is just one among a myriad of problems we face and which we get reminded of every day in Nigeria. Every time we made complains on the bad condition of infrastructure to them, our leaders would say they would want to solve all these problems but their capacity to do so is limited by insufficient funds. This is true! Our government, considering our population and our land mass, can barely be financially strong enough to tackle all our problems. But are we really leveraging on the little we have to maintain even the most basic infrastructure? Or are we just buying those flashy cars when we haven’t got enough to eat yet?

Oh Wait! Let us not go too far in talking about infrastructure because this piece is not intended to lament poorly maintained infrastructure. When I heard about the expose by a senator representing Kaduna Central that each of 109 Nigerian senators receive N13.5 million ($37500) maintenance allowance at the end of every month, my inquiry to ascertain whether we really mean the change we are clamouring for became more intense. It got most intense when a governor hinted that people would be more terrified if he should reveal what Governors earn.

As naive as I was, I presumed Senators received not more than 2 million Naira (about $5600) including their allowance from government coffers which was still in my opinion ‘too high’. This is too high indeed when compared with the monthly salary of a public school teacher who lives with dust and particles of chalk dropping into his eyes as he writes on the board to impart knowledge in the leaders of tomorrow. Now, the sad fact is that each senator gets $37000 monthly courtesy of the Federal Republic of Nigeria when traffic lights are shut down to save money, when the President reduces the number of his ministerial appointments in spite of national efficiency simply to save some money for the state, and when the country borrows huge money from both internal and external lenders to fund our budget (not more than $25 billion), and when emergency healthcare service is not free.

It will be crucial at this point, to remind readers that U.S senators — despite the amount of dollars (about $3.9 trillion or 3,900,000,000,000 times N360) budgeted by America – which an ordinary calculator cannot convert to naira, receive less than half of what the average Nigerian senator receives every month. Yes! Senator Dino Melaye receives more than twice what Barrack Obama received when he was a senator as well as what the always politically correct Senator Bernie Sanders receives.

I have tried talking about the hugeness of the money these law makers receive with anyone I thought could share same concern with me and I even attempted persuading some individuals to politically challenge the status quo and call for a massive reduction or even cancellation of such waste of funds.

The sad story, however, is that people tell me that reducing the allowance of legislators at the National Assembly has to be approved by the legislators themselves and, obviously, this is impossible. “Impossible” kept pronouncing itself in my mind all the time I am told this. This is worrisome. Even more worrisome is how the Buhari led APC government has shown no sign of a plausible plan whatsoever, in doing the obvious to ease life in Nigeria by embarking on radical reforms such as reducing the allowance of over-paid lawmakers and other government officials to enable the government do more for the populace. Although, the incumbent party has successfully convinced and attracted the support of  Nigerians by promising unimaginably progressive changes that PDP had not brought due to corruption, it brought about an atmosphere which has taught us that even with less corruption, a government can still be ineffective.

Politicians always claimed they would want to provide the highest number of water boreholes in their communities, construct the longest kilometers of road in their constituencies and offer the highest pay to teachers in their states. The fact, however, is that few of them have so far proven their commitment, knowhow and selflessness to achieve these. And even those who have taken drastic steps to prove their selflessness are being seen as politically unwise people.

It is high time we woke up to ensure that democracy works well in our country. It is time to challenge the political parties we voted into power to do more. It is time to bargain the manifesto of every political party. We cannot continue paying $450,000 (annually) to senators when there are other pressing issues to be addressed. It wouldn’t be wrong to vote (for the second time) for an entire political party that will promise to reduce national assembly budget by a third in order to do more pro poor projects.

Considering the unreasonableness in what we pay lawmakers in Nigeria, I have reached a conclusion that; unless we become the architects of the efficient Nigeria we want and we give the right politicians the mandate to engineer the efficient “Nigeria Project” at the least possible cost, we will continue seeing the emergence of over ambitious and ill-equipped but attractive political movements that would form governments only to disappoint us with “We are sorry; we did not know there was no enough fund for Nigeria to miraculously change. Let’s borrow some money from the World Bank”.

 

This article was written by Mustapha Sa’eed, a speaker and commentator on Nigeria and African issues.

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U.S ELECTION – ‘WHAT YOU MAY WANT TO KNOW’ by Mustapha Sa’eed

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It’s now less than a week until more than 300million Americans will be queuing at the polling booths to vote for the 45th President of the United States (POTUS) – a system which emerged in the last 240 years. The U.S has an advanced democracy; one which requires some homegrown explanations to everyday Africans and therefore, I thought it will be interesting to write about the American electoral system and the chain of events that have been occurring since 2016 race began 2 years ago.

As voters prepare for their decision on whether to tick on Clinton’s column or Donald Trump’s on Tuesday the 8th of November, the date of the Election Day in fact carries its explanation. This is because it is in the tradition of the American Presidential polling system that elections be conducted on the first Tuesday that follows the first Monday in the month of November in which the election is taking place. So if for instance, the first Tuesday happens to be 1st November, that wouldn’t make an election day because it isn’t preceded by a Monday.

The most interesting thing to know about the election however is the fact that 8th November’s vote wouldn’t be a direct vote (a popular vote); it implies that voters would only be casting decisions to guide the final voting of the U.S President by the Electoral College. The Electoral College is a body of electors whom are also elected to form it. Each of 50 American States has varying representation in the college depending on its population with minimum of 3 for a state like Washington and maximum of 55 for a State like California – an electors rich state.

‘Winner Take all’ has been the dominant principle in US polls, impliedly, any candidate that emerges with the majority or a plurality in popular vote in a given state counts electors apportioned for the very State in their favor. There are sometimes cases of faithless electors in which the electors vote against the wish of the majority in their states but that attracts penalties in States like Vermont – home to Bernie Sanders. For a candidate to emerge as outright winner of the presidential election, he must have secured at least 2 thirds of 538 Electoral College votes. In 2012, Barrack Obama won the election with 332 electors while Mitt Romney secured just 206. The varying number of electors in US states has made candidates to concentrate resources in swing states than in Electors deficient states like Washington and Alaska where there are only 3.

The winner take all has been the running principle even in party primaries where the candidates are nominated. Since Primaries are organized by States – primaries, by parties – caucuses or a combination of the two, the nomination process is not done at a ‘go’ on a single day in a stadium like it is in Nigeria. The primaries for each party are hosted spontaneously in various states in a piece meal. There is a total of 4,051 delegates that vote in the primaries for the Democratic Party and a candidate must secure a total of 2,382 number of delegates to emerge as a flag bearer of the party. However the Grand Old Party GOP (The Republicans) maintains a total delegate of 2,472 and winning the nomination is attained by securing at least 1,237 of those.

In 2016 presidential primaries, Donald Trump appeared earlier as a presumptive nominee than Clinton as his rivals such as Marco Rubio and Ben Carson suddenly pulled out of the race. He unsurprisingly reached the required number of delegates before fierce rival Ted Cruz and it was already proving mathematically impossible for Ted Cruz but Trump to be presumptuous nominee from the Republican Party. Clinton on the other hand lingered for a little after Trump had already began calling himself the presumptuous nominee of his party. Weeks later, she also reached the 2382 delegates required to secure her nomination.

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were all confirmed their official nominations by their parties in National Conventions of the respective parties this year marking the beginning of their campaigns for the oval office. There had since then been nationwide aired debates between Clinton and Trump followed by opinion polls made by organizations concerned.

The keenest thing about Presidential Election in America is the non-existence of a single electoral agency that organizes elections like INEC in Nigeria. Something more or less similar to INEC in the U.S is the Federal Electoral Commission FEC which is saddled only with the responsibility of monitoring campaign finances of contestants’ spending money in excess of $5000.

Therefore, since the election is not unified by a Federal government agency, votes are organized by State governments starting with an early vote where voters go to polling stations in advance before the official polling day to choose from a handful of candidates running for the Republicans, Democrats, Independents and Write-in Candidates. Independents are presidential candidates running under either of the less popular political parties in the US or candidates running under no political party. A Write-in Candidate conversely is a candidate who is officially recognized as a contestant but whose name is not pre-written on the ballot, so voters wanting to vote for write-in candidates can do so by writing in the contestants names themselves.

It is on record that a write-in Candidate has never won an election in the U.S but 2 independents; George Washington and John Addams have won the Presidential Elections in 1789 and 1797. The Republicans have had 18 Presidents While the Democrats have recorded 16. Richard Nixon was the only American President to have resigned from office in 1974.

Votes are thereafter an Election counted before results are announced; since 1848, no winner in the Presidential election has ever emerged without winning in Pennsylvania – a swing state. A state like Texas also known as a red state due to its traditional devotion for the GOP usually votes for Republican candidates whereas Vermont votes more frequently for the Democratic candidates.

Funniest thing I heard about U.S Presidential vote is that the winner does not feel it’s worthy to celebrate until who loses calls on phone to congratulate the winner and concede defeat. In 2012 when it appeared obvious that Obama has won, a phone call by Romney left Obama tweeting “Four more years” on his twitter. But for 2016, with Trump’s numerous rhetorics about not conceding defeat, only God knows how Hillary would mark her celebrations if Trump refuses to call her on phone. Oh wait, we aren’t certain if Clinton would win either.

WHAT IS THIS ‘EU’ AND HOW WILL ‘BREXIT’ IMPACT NIGERIA? ‘An eye opener’ by Mustapha Sa’eed

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EU means European Union, founded after the 2nd World War to foster trade relations between European countries. The widely held view was that if countries engage in trade, they’ll hardly go into war. Six countries namely Luxembourg, West Germany, Belgium, Italy, France and The Netherlands established the EU first as the European Economic Community but changed to European Union by the Maastricht Treaty of 1993. Unless the UK finally withdraws from the EU, there are 28 member states in the union 19 of which use the same currency known as the euro and carry the responsibility of managing it through a unified central bank system –The European Central Bank ECB. The EU also has a parliament in which each member state has a representation depending on its population size.

 

The EU is therefore an economic integration featuring a common market and a unified customs union that is seen as the most absolute economic integration in the world with a nominal GDP of more than $16trillion or $18trillion measured at Purchasing Power Parity. Their main aim is to remove all border restrictions on trade and allow all factors of production, goods and services to move freely within the union (similar to what ECOWAS is aiming at) within the Schengen area -The area in which the EU jurisdiction of the free movement and trade applies. For example, an Italian can come to the UK at anytime without being asked to present passports or Visa by immigration services and search for job or sell his goods in the UK being that both Italy and Britain make-up the Schengen area.

 

UK joined the EU in 1973, 2 years later they held a similar referendum as the one in 2016 to leave or stay in what was then referred to as the Common Market. 67% of them voted to stay. Agitation to leave the EU was reignited by both right and left wing politicians and political parties in UK House of Commons (Similar to House of Reps in Nigeria) including Boris Johnson of The Conservative Party and Nigel Farage of UKIP (UK Independence Party) respectively. They argue that UK pays more money in membership fees to the EU than it benefits from it, for instance in 2015 UK paid some £4.5 billion to the European Union as membership fee which it claimed to have received only about half of that in return, also leftists claim that the UK is unable to set its own laws and maintain its sovereignty by remaining in the EU.

 

So a Leave/Remain referendum was promised by the Prime-Minister of the United Kingdom on the condition that his Conservative party took its lead and maintained its majority in 2015 UK parliamentary elections. It did, and David Cameron went on to organize the referendum in which he campaigned for Britain to remain. 51.9% of Brits voted to leave. The announcement came with aftershocks in World’s financial hubs causing a fall in the value of British currency (the pounds sterling) and a rise in demand for dollar making its value higher.

 

The EU gives millions of euros to African countries in aids currently; for instance it pays for a variety of vaccines that are made available at hospitals in African countries by establishing development organizations like the EU Prime to give expertise assistance to developing nations. Now with UK’s exit from the Union (Brexit), the amount of aid is expected to plummet which could be affecting the budgets of African countries specifically those that heavily rely on European aids and grants. As Britain divorces with the EU in this manner no one can describe as amicable, it is expected that further trade deals with the union will be difficult for Britain. A number of analysts have predicted that the United Kingdom could shift focus to multilateral trade agreements with countries colonized by the Great Britain (Common Wealth of Nations) of which Nigeria is inclusive. Again, since other migrants from the 28 nation bloc can no more enter into the UK so easily since it will seize to be in the common market, some African migrants living in the UK now expect to be given a higher priority in employment since their country of residence will have fewer migrants to welcome.

 

By Mustapha Sa’eed

(@MustapherSaeed)

‘ABUJA REAL ESTATE CRAZE – BUBBLE OR MARKET CORRECTION’ by Abubakar Tata

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AAEAAQAAAAAAAAZYAAAAJDQ1NTcwOGI1LTkyMDUtNGU4My1hYzUxLWI1MzQ5MGZiNDJjZAAbuja, undoubtedly is the fastest growing city in Nigeria and West Africa in general. The city became the popular destination/residence for federal government workers, law makers, contractors, rent seekers and politicians. The population of the city has been growing since the country’s return to democracy as new sets of politicians are injected into the city every four years with their friends and associates. The growing number of population could not match housing demand, causing prices to double and triple in some cases, which was not exactly unjustified at that point. This development has over the years attracted land speculators and racketeers and since there is free entry and exit, many people jump into property and real estate businesses pumping huge amounts of money into the real estate market. People pay too much per square metre ranging from N18,000 to N100,000 depending on location and sources of fund. Like a stock, the price keeps going on artificially.

It is important to note that a bubble occurs when investors put so much demand on a stock or piece of land that they drive the price beyond any accurate or rational reflection of its actual worth, which should be determined by the performance of the underlying assets. Unlike other property markets around the world, Abuja real estate market is not driven by loans from commercial banks or Federal Mortgage Bank or other associated primary mortgage banks but rather, is driven by proceeds of loots, fraud, rent seeking and speculations which excessively affect property prices. However, a correction is supposedly the market’s way of bringing sanity into the market by slapping some sense into overly enthusiastic investors and as a general rule, a correction should not exceed a 20% loss of value in the market.

With change of guards at the leadership of the African most populous country and President Buhari’s resolve to purge the country of corruption, it became apparent that the market is in for a crash or correction as real estate and land prices begins to come down. This was premised on current government reform that minimized leakages and suffocate corrupt officials and their benefactors of easy money which they integrate into real estate than laundering it abroad.

Furthermore, with continuous decline in international oil prices, couple with dogged determination of the current administration to recovery looted funds and confiscate properties of those involved, the market is expected to go down further as depressed demand prevails. It could be a crash or correction but the tendencies are toward bubbles as there were no “greater fools” to buy the disgustingly overpriced land and properties as looters dispose them to raise fund to finance their uncultured lifestyles. Speculators may also wish to minimize their lost by selling now and with depressed demand, the consequences will be market glut and a free fall may ensue as there was a limit to the boom.

If I may drop an unsolicited advice which I will not be liable, I will advise people with legally earned money to take position as the market melt down. A piece of land we priced last year at N18,000,000 is now going for N15,000,000 and there are no buyers. Who knows, with the closure of BDC window (another source of easy money) market operators may turn to disposing their assets to keep up with the joneses. Remember, the market is not driven by fundamentals but by easy money and certainly, there is no easy money now.

By Abubakar Inuwa Tata

 

 

‘Once a Governor’ by Ibrahym Sambo

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“Good morning ma”,the JSS 1A students greeted-in a rather orchestrated manner,the short light black skinned Literature teacher that has just entered. She placed her eyes on the chain wristwatch of hers to confirm whether it was still morning before she replied “morning,sit down”.She went straight ahead to our form master and they exchanged greetings.The class was still as noisy as Old Trafford during a derby match,or a busy Monday traffic. As she started to speak, a deathly silence was achieved.”If you know you’re below the age of thirteen raise up your hand” commanded she.Few of us who are below the age or slightly above by a month or two, hesitated not in raising our hands.She further asked us to go with her to the staffroom.
Wondering what we would do there we followed her.As we were following her we attempted in vain to know what we were to do their before we finally gave in.The staffroom’s door was widely opened as it is all the time,and we wasted no time in -first excusing ourselves and then moving in.We saw some newly faced teachers-as we thought- wearing black blazers.Rain of anxiety fell all over our body.They gave us no idea on what we were to do. Minutes after,we were,starting from the first person,given a passage from our English Language textbook to read one after the other.We read; some of us with extremely high voice full of confidence,others with great pace,while others-who were to be later ousted from the race-were speedily slow.
The panel of Judges, after we had finished,selected five students of which I wasn’t among.But as fate would have it the other judge commanded that the last reader-which happened to be me- be included.I was,and rightly so,very elated.But then what will happen was veiled to us. “You shall be summoned later” was the only thing we were told.With a sense of joy we-who made it- return gladly to our class.
In the class we met the eager- to- hear- what- happened colleagues of ours waiting.They threw a lot of questions to us like the EFCC questioning a looter.The catechism among us continued and it was only brought to an end when the closing time bell rang.I got back home-as it was the case each day,weary and debilitated.
On Thursday,precisely two days after,while coming back from the famous Sweet and chocolate trader,Shukura, after breakfast time with my friend Almustapha Lamido, we heard the sound of security sirens. Before we knew it,we saw a convoy of cars with a security power bike in front and behind.They sped passed us leaving behind a dust-filled atmosphere. They turned a corner and entered our school. Before then we saw,to our greatest surprise, a young girl probably our age mate, sitting in a Toyota Camry ‘Anaconda’ amid the convoy. She comfortably sat at the ‘owner’s corner’ of the car.Protecting her eyes were glasses,maybe medicated.
They drove straightly to the Headmaster’s office. All the students from class five to JS One were converged in a class.The damsel in the car was exceptionally dressed.”Who the hell this girl is?” was the question emanating from the mind of every student.However the answer to our question was boldly written on the Number plate of the Toyota Camry. It was written “CHILD AMBASSADOR 01″.She came out of the car and walked majestically to the student filled class.The head-teacher introduced them.After that, the leader of the team started to talk.The students listened with rapt attention as he unveiled to us there plans.”We are representative of the Federal government” he said.”We’re selecting the Child Governor, the Deputy and Members of the Children government from students all over this state…”. ” The form for applying is two thousand Naira.You’re suppose to fill the the form after which you will contest twice with the best students for various posts…”.After he had finished the Child Ambassador took over.She speaks an unmistakable fluent English; a feature very uncommon to students of her contemporaries.
Even before she finished, one would observe from the manners of the students,a high level of euphoria.And immediately after she had finished, the students weakly controlled their euphoric feelings as they uproared and applaud loudly.After all, a door was opened to anyone who has a question to ask.The essence of this was for the organisers to detect confident student who will be selected for the contest. A lot of students were courageous enough to ask questions and their names were put to paper.I did not ask any question thus my name wasn’t written.
However,to my huge relieve, we-the one’s that passed the test two days back,and the ‘courageous enough’ students were called to the principal’s reception office.We were about ten or eleven.
A video tape of a similar children parliament in Plateau and Bayelsa States were displayed on screen to us.We were greatly thrilled,and more so,determined to make it to the top.Mr Patrick,the Chief Coordinator, thrilled us even more.We became very excited like electrons in an atomic orbital.He told us that anyone of us who was lucky to be selected will be giving an official car,a lengthy convoy, security guards and most importantly an access to the State Governor.”Wow”, thought I.In all sense of honesty,I had wanted to become the most sought after Child Governorship post.But I thought It was a mere wish;that there are too many outstandingly genius students that will push me off the victory path.So I blindly and focus-less-ly made up my mind to contest.
Upon arrival home that day…
To be continued.

Three Reasons Why We Should Be Optimistic About the SDGs by Zainab Usman

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Source: Three Reasons Why We Should Be Optimistic About the SDGs

Working With The Statistics

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“Recent Statistics from National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) indicated that 7 out of every 10 people in Gombe State live in poverty which affects school enrollment beyond secondary school level due to lack of funding. As a young prospective undergraduate, here is what I have to say” students at amtriculation ceremony   Indeed Poverty poses a very serious threat to virtually all areas of endeavor. Education could however not be exclusive. It was shocking to learn that few children in Gombe State find their way into the tertiary institution due to financial inability. Its 2014 and so, we need not to spare anymore time but proffer solution to this problem, especially, at this time when education is mostly needed for economic development.

Fortunately for us in Nigeria, the GDP is booming, this boom however is mostly coming as a result of an expansion in the informal sector. Children whom are keen to further their studies have quite a number of alternatives through which they can earn what they need for an education beyond secondary school. A child can start a mini trade at home like establishing a local laundry during weekends to enable him study while working. Moreover others can work as apprentices for the numerous sales stores available within Gombe metropolis. For some of the most intelligent children, non-merit and merit scholarships are existent to enable everyone acquire a tertiary education. Less privileged children should therefore search intelligently for such scholarships online or locally.

Again, recently, a micro-finance bank was established to provide micro-credit facilities to the community. As a student of economics, I would rather advice this bank to also be giving study loans at cheap interest rates to eligible candidates that gain admission to study at any tertiary institution on the agreement that students pay back as soon as they find job. On the other hand, the government and other stake holders should establish a fund with the mandate to giving loans to students for furthering their education. These will surely go a long way in halving the number of those who are unable to get into tertiary institution in the state.

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