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ASO ROCK WATCH: When Buhari gets condemned to a reality check. 2 other talking points

ASO ROCK WATCH: Do calls for Buhari to address Nigerians over COVID-19 amount to cheap politics? 2 other talking points

Waking up to reality

On July 1, President Muhammadu Buhari woke up to the sad reality of some government officials abusing public trust. This came on the heels of continuous reports of fraudsters using referral letters from presidential aides and other government officials to seek employment, contracts and other illegal favours.

The President’s warning was made public in a statement signed by Segun Adeyemi, Special Assistant to the President (Media), Office of the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed.

He cautioned Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to disregard any alleged request from government officials to confer undue advantage on anyone. He further emphasized that such corrupt culture was “antithetical to the character of the administration.”

It must be said that the racketeering of government contracts and jobs are not a new phenomenon within government circles. The practice had, indeed, become so notorious that contract papers and job placements in the public service are allegedly being traded openly on the corridors of power.

For instance, on January 15, 2018, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Police Command paraded one Aisha Bello for using the First Lady’s name, Aisha Buhari, to solicit for contracts from members of the public who are mostly heads of government agencies.

The FCT Commissioner of Police, Sadiq Bello had said: “Upon her arrest, a phone and newly acquired Airtel SIM card registered in the name of Aisha Buhari, was recovered from the suspect.”

He then promised to lead his men to conduct a thorough investigation and thereafter charge the accused to court.

Nothing specific has been heard about the case, leaving the impression that it may have been swept under the carpet. The development clearly exposes the many illegal insider deals within the presidency and inherent gaps in the management and coordination of presidency affairs.

The warning of July 1, therefore raises some fundamental questions. Why did the President keep mum on the many related issues of insider abuse until now? And, is his administration now keen to make perpetrators of this corrupt act face the full wrath of the law in a very transparent manner?

While it may be right to argue that it is better late than never to confront the everyday challenge of managing the country, the President must come to terms with the urgency required to deal with these issues.

Nigerians expect him to make good his statement that “the administration has put in place a systematic and disciplined approach to ensure that the government runs smoothly for all Nigerians, whether in the area of employment or contract procurement.”

More importantly, change must begin at the top for, as it is said, if the head is rotten, the rest of the body is dead!

2 other talking points

And, Buhari makes history!

President Muhammadu Buhari made history last Tuesday when he flagged off the 614-kilometre Ajaokuta-Kaduna-Kano (AKK) gas pipeline to boost domestic gas consumption, power generation and industralisation.

Said to be the single biggest gas pipeline project in Nigeria’s history and estimated to cost $2.8bn, the Chinese-backed project is expected to boost energy capacity by nearly 4000 megawatts and generate over three million jobs.

Buhari said: “We promised the nation that we will expand the critical gas infrastructure in the country to promote the use of gas in the domestic market.

Read also: ASO ROCK WATCH: When Buhari played judge in APC’s power games. Two other talking points

“These projects are fundamental to our desire to industralise and energise the entrepreneurial spirit that is ever-present in our population.”

Buhari noted that the project would create steady and guaranteed gas supply network between the Northern and Southern part of Nigeria, and eventually extend to North Africa.

For driving this epoch-making project, the President deserves every accolade heaped on him. He must, however, realize that the job is not fully done until it is commissioned.

A priceless gift to Nigerians will be to ensure that the project is fully delivered within the lifetime of his administration. The time to rally all stakeholders and mobilize all the necessary support required to make the dream come true is now.

On post-COVID-19 economy

Last week, President Muhammadu Buhari reiterated that the recently developed Economic Sustainability Plan (ESP), prepared to stimulate the economy amid the COVID-19 pandemic, will help protect poor and vulnerable Nigerians and groups through pro-poor spending.

The President’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, noted in a statement that Buhari’s position was conveyed in the course of a virtual meeting at the UN in New York with other global leaders in attendance.

Buhari, he said, assured among others that, “Nigeria will also continue to provide easier and increased access to financial services for micro and small-scale businesses through the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme.”

No gain saying that the Yemi Osinbajo-led ESP, and its proposed action plan, have been long awaited. The Nigerian initiative is in tandem with what many other beleaguered countries are doing to revive their economies post-COVID-19.

Though the specifics of the program are yet being unfurled, many critics have termed it too ordinary and not strategic enough to radically alter the envisaged descent into an era of economic depression.

Whatever the merits of contending opinions are, Nigerians are earnestly hoping that the President and his team would be painstaking in implementing far-reaching decisions capable of pulling the country from the brinks of economic collapse.

Until then, Nigerians can only hope that the Buhari-led administration would help them return to work and secure a future that is now threatened by the ruins of COVID-19.

By John Chukwu…

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