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ASO ROCK WATCH: Dealing with stubborn Nigerians. Two other talking points

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The Presidency, last week, ran out of patience with non-adherence to the recently signed Executive Order that makes the observance of COVID-19 protocols mandatory.

President Muhammadu Buhari had signed the Order, which prescribes 6-month jail term for defaulters, to check the spike in COVID-19 cases.

Concerns over an explosion of the pandemic had heightened following the discovery of a new coronavirus strain in the country.

This, and other engaging stories dotted the Aso Rock Villa in the past week.

Stubborn folks

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On January 31, the Presidency charged Nigerians to wear facemasks and comply with other COVID-19 protocols to avoid another lockdown.

“Nigerians have come a long way from the dreaded lockdown and administration is unhappy about any prospects of bringing it back as many citizens will not have food on the table without venturing out on a day-to-day business. We have a duty to protect ourselves and others in this difficult global health crisis; no one has immunity against this pandemic,” a statement issued by President Buhari’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, read.

The frustrations of the Buhari-led administration are understandable given the manifest disregard for COVID-19 protocols by citizens.

However, what appears to be the greatest challenge in getting most Nigerians to observe the needed precautionary measures against the disease is their carefree and unbelieving attitude about its existence in the country.

This is made worse by the fact that some state actors, who ordinarily were expected to lead the charge in the awareness campaigns, are themselves instigators of revulsion against government efforts. A ready example is Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State who has severally labeled COVID-19 a scam and criticized the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), and the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19.

It is difficult, therefore, to reconcile why the presidency has kept mum while one of its own has done everything to rubbish its campaigns aimed at attitudinal and social change among the populace.

All said, in calling for adherence to the COVID-19 protocols, Mr. President needs to lead by example. The reports of him, and his party leaders flouting the protocols can only discourage Nigerians.

Two other stories

Stinking petroleum industry

President Buhari, on February 4, said that his administration had achieved successes in stemming corruption and sharp practices in the nation’s oil and gas industry.

Speaking at Aso Rock during a virtual presentation of four books written by the former Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Ibe Kachukwu, Buhari said among others, “The current transparency and accountability drive in the NNPC is good indication of the success of our administration’s effort in stemming corruption and sharp practices in the petroleum industry.”

While the President glories, however, he needs to be reminded that some of the yet-to-be addressed anomalies still bear the badge of corruption on the industry. A few posers will suffice:

1. What became of the October 4, 2017, leaked internal memo, where Kachukwu accused the then Group Managing Director (GMD), of NNPC, Dr. Maikanti Baru of awarding contracts totaling $25 billion without the input of the NNPC board?

Read also: ASO ROCK WATCH: Who wants Buhari rubbished? Two other talking points

2. What became of the revelation made by the House of Representatives, in 2019, during a public hearing, that the NNPC is among agencies that do not account for their publicly generated funds to the Federal Government?

3. What about the reports of billions of Naira pumped into refinering petroleum products, in the country, with very minimal production to show for it?

Indeed, a classic case is the September 2020 report published by the NNPC which revealed that, from June 2019 to June 2020, the Port Harcourt, Kaduna and Warri refineries cost the country N148 billion in expenses but produced less than 40,000 metric of fuel.

Having sat as the substantive Minister of Petroleum Resources since coming to power, the mess in the petroleum industry is one the President cannot fully extricate himself from.

Time for an honest introspection is now!

Supporting youths

On February 4, President Buhari expressed his intention to support Nigerian youths to grow in their chosen vocations.

In a virtual meeting with All Progressives Congress’ (APC) youths at Aso Rock, he had said: “While I will be looking forward to a more robust engagement with young people across the country, I wish to emphasise to you all that in me, you have a major supporter. I will offer you my fully support to grow in politics, public service, entertainment, entrepreneurship and many other sectors, because I know that the future we envisage as a country cannot happen without our youths.”

Buhari’s remarks are a fitting end to his once held views about Nigerian youths who he had branded as lazy.

What becomes a thing of concern for many is whether Buhari’s administrative policies and programmes are enough foundation for youths to stand and fulfil their dreams.

Indeed, given the disconnect between promises and the stark reality of rising youth unemployment, heightened insecurity and harsh economic realities, it is doubtful the future of an ordinary youth in the country.

Amidst Buhari’s pledge, therefore, is the need for him to address the many obstacles that stand in the way of youths. It is never too late.

By John Chukwu…

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