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Nigerian Army: Emulating General Buratai’s Accountability Aura – By Yemi Itodo

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I have followed the operations of the Nigerian Army keenly since 2015 when President Muhammadu Buhari assumed leadership of Nigeria. My interest in the activities of the Nigerian Army stems from two factors. One is the promise made by President Buhari on assumption of office, to tackle insecurity headlong and two, my childhood ambition to join the Nigerian Army.

I must state that I haven’t been disappointed so far with the leadership strides of the Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Tukur Buratai, who has indeed displayed that burning passion in repositioning the Nigerian Army for greater exploits. The various innovations introduced indeed buttress this point.

The achievements of Lt Gen Tukur Buratai did not come to me as a surprise because as one who has held various commands and positions in the Nigerian Army before his appointment, he has understood the importance of accountability as a panacea for service delivery in public service.

The Nigerian Army of today is such that has elicited commendations from and far and near. The Nigerian Army of today is that which is involved in counter-insurgency operations, as well as internal security operations across the country simultaneously and still achieving results. All of these were made possible because of the regime of accountability that has characterized the operations of the Nigerian Army with Lt. Gen. Tukur Buaratai at the helm of affairs.

I recall some years back when some civil society organizations led by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), Enough is Enough (EiE), and BudgIT issued a joint Freedom of Information request, requesting the Chief of Army Staff to use his “good office and leadership position to provide information on spending on military operations across the country, particularly in the Northeast.”

This was indeed the first time such a request would be made to a military institution in Nigeria and as usual, social commentators debated extensively on the merits and demerits of such request. It was even speculated in some quarters that the Nigerian Army was not going to honour the request due to precedence and the likes. But guess what?

The country was stunned when the Nigerian Army responded to the request not just to the Coalition of Civil Society Organizations; it indeed went public in a rare display that elicited commendation from all and sundry in the country. I recall that in response to the gesture of the Chief of Army Staff, one of the Civil Society Organizations, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) in a rare act of endorsement of public institution accountability, was profuse in eulogising the Nigerian and only stopped short of condemning others public institutions for not being so transparent.

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It stated thus: “While we ascertain the level of compliance of the information provided, we welcome Mr Buratai’s demonstrated commitment to the Freedom of Information Act by responding to our request, especially at a time when high-ranking government officials including the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr Audu Ogbeh and Minister of Power, Works and Housing Babatunde Fashola continue to exhibit a blatant disregard for FOI requests by refusing even to acknowledge several of such requests.”

“The National Assembly, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), ministries, agencies and departments should also learn from the good example shown by Mr Buratai by at least honouring and responding to FOI requests from Nigerians, NGOs and others if they are ever to contribute to the efforts to achieve a greater level of transparency and accountability in Nigeria.”

“A quick look at the documentation shows a list of several projects reportedly implemented by the Nigerian Army. Among those listed and displayed, which appeared to show specific projects the Nigerian Army carried out with budgeted funds, include places where operations were carried out; renovation of barracks and military hospitals, spending to honour late soldiers; training and workshops; repairs of some old military equipment; and completion of offices and housing projects. Others are feeding of soldiers; the building of new barracks and schools; acquisition of arms and ammunition and vehicles for military operations; as well as the provision of welfare for soldiers. These are indeed commendable.

I can bet that the response of the Nigerian Army indeed shocked quite a number and silenced a majority that had the erroneous impression that in the Nigerian Army, anything goes as in the previous times where a lot indeed went wrong in the operations of the Nigerian Army. But little did they know that it was indeed a new regime that was anchored on nothing less than patriotism, the sincerity of heart and purpose, as well as dedication to duty.

It is my view that the Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Tukur Buratai quickly understood that the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, President Muhammadu Buhari has a covenant with the Nigerian people to lead with transparency and accountability towards attaining our developmental goals. The Chief of Army Staff was also aware that President Muhammadu Buhari took an oath to defend the Nigerian state. He is fully aware that the Army which he leads must be accountable to the Nigerian public hence the entrenchment of transparency and accountability in its operations.

I can go on nonstop with regards to the transformation of the Nigerian Army under Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai. However, I must not fail to mention that some of the projects implemented by the Nigerian Army in the past five years were indeed phenomenal.

Taking the example of the establishment of the Nigerian Army University Biu, a unique university in all standards and designed to make it a solution provider and a centre of excellence for a variety of technologically related ventures such as generation and armament production as well as the development of counter-insurgency manuals for use by the Nigerian Military.

Another example of the ingenuity of the Chief of Army Staff is the recent commissioning of a 200 bed Nigerian Army Reference Hospital in Maiduguri, Borno State to cater for the health needs of soldiers who sustained injuries while fighting the counter-insurgency war. The hospital would also attend to the health needs of families of soldiers, civilians and people in the host community. Also, the Nigerian Army inaugurated a water treatment plant in Enugu State capable of treating and supplying one million litres of water daily to the barracks and its environs constructed by Nigerian Army engineers.

This is aside the numerous inventions of the Nigerian Army in projects across the country. I dare to say that without transparency and accountability, the Nigerian Army would not have been able to achieve results, not just in the prosecution of the Boko Haram war, but also inadequately attending to the welfare of officers and soldiers whose morale have been bolstered in recent times.

It is thus my considered opinion that if the Chief of Army Staff decides to invite members of the general public on a tour of its projects, it is not for grandstanding, but to be accountable to the people and that should be commended and emulated by others entrusted with public offices in Nigeria.

It is on this premise that I give a charge to other public institutions in Nigeria to emulate the Nigerian Army regime of accountability. If the Nigerian Army can do it, I do not see why others should not give account of their stewardship.

Itodo is a social critic and public affairs commentator based in Abuja.

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Opinion

Jalingo City Flyover: The Lies Imported By Hungry Social Media Influencers – By A. A. Mshelia

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It has become obviously clear that the politics played in Taraba State by the said opposition and the enemies of State has reached it highest peak.

Those familiar with the trends of polity being played in the State should by now come to the know, the intensity and how determined certain folks are in ensuring they pull down everything good happening in the State.

It is true that fake news trends faster than those said to be the facts, but, it amazes me and those that have common sense how some people are falling for the said collapsed picture of the flyer over in Taraba State, which is under construction by the Darius’ administration.

As much as Governor Darius appreciates creative critism, and most times swallows the trash pushed on him by certain folks,it is becoming expedient that some people needs to be dealt with, so it can serve as an example that the government have the powers to protect the good of the land.

Below is the laughable, yet stupid and foolish pictures spread around on social media. Not only is it circulated by some hungry opposition, but also by some sponsored peanuts-seekers called online TV stations, and social media influencers.

Fake

Since common sense is never common, let’s make some analysis and show some facts about the said collapsed bridge.

  1. The said bridge is an old bridge, looking at the texture of it surface..
  2. The people working on the bridge, to those standing around it to take a look and passer by are Indians
  3. The present bridges under construction in Taraba are within the City centre, in the State capital Jalingo, while the said picture is one that’s completely in a bush in a village in India.
  4. The bridge in Jalingo is thicker, wider, longer and Stronger than the one making rounds in the picture.
  5. The current stage of the bridge in Jalingo has not yet reached the level of the top layer as it is seen on the said picture.

Though it seems the work in Jalingo is taking longer than other States that copied such from Governor Darius, one needs to know the bridge in Jalingo is thrice in size, length, strength etc. Compared to anyone seen in the Northeast.

Governor Darius is an Architect, thus, at no cost will he allow quality to be compromised.

Jalingo city flyover under construction
More pictures
Construction on going
Taraba flyover bridge under construction

According to the report captured by The times of India, it States:

“KAITHAL: An under-construction flyover near Dulyani village of Pundri town in Haryana’s Kaithal district collapsed on Saturday evening minutes after it was laid. However, no one was injured in the accident.”

“According to the villagers, the structure came crashing down about 30 minutes after concrete material was laid atop pillars. As two pillars supporting the flyover collapsed, the newlylaid structure also came tumbling down, they said.”

“Sources said that soon after the incident, the project officials attempted a coverup and covered the broken pillars with cement mixture from the top and spoil at the base.”

“National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) project director K M Sharma said, “Prima facie, it appears to be an outcome of mechanical fault. I have initiated a probe into the matter to fix responsibility.”

The flyover was coming up on National Highway 152D, known as Trans Haryana Greenfield Expressway and Ambala-Narnaul Expressway, on the stretch between Gangheri in Pehowa town of Kurukshetra district and Narnaul. Foundation stone. The foundation stone of the flyover stretching 227km was laid last year by Union minister for road transport and highways Nitin Gadkari. The structure is slated to have 122 bridges and underpasses.”

“Kaithal deputy commissioner Sujan Singh said, “The project director has been called to explain the reasons of the collapse of the structure.”

For further research and prove to every well meaning Taraban, click on the link to read the total storyline and watch videos. Click on this link: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chandigarh/under-construction-flyover-on-e-way-collapses-near-kaithal/articleshow/81266207.cms

I call on all Tarabans to understand that it’s high time we stand with the facts and realities on ground, we must also fight such fake news and those that propagate them through propagandas. One thing is obvious, God, and even nature will deal with such inventors of evil against Taraba State and it Leader.

For Governor Darius Ishakus, he remains focused to delivering the Rescue Mandate against all odds.

God bless Governor Darius, God bless Taraba State, and God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

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Alkali’s Answers To The North -East Humanitarian Question – By Raphael Odoh

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Apparently, Boko Haram insurgents and the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) have gravely injured and shackled the North East Development Commission (NEDC), a baby created out of necessity to cater for humanitarian crisis incited by Boko Haram. The NEDC’s Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, (MD-CEO), Alhaji Mohammed Goni Alkali experiences grippingly retells the story of managing the near post-insurgency gores with a nauseating taste.

In his heart of hearts, Alkali wishes to relinquish the job to someone else because the burden is damn too much. But what are the real alternatives at his disposal? Virtually none! Those affected are directly his kith and kin. Someday, questions would be asked from the countryside on why he shirked from coming to their assistance in the hour of need. So, Alkali grudgingly trudges on.

Established in 2017 by the Government of President Muhammadu Buhari, the NEDC has had a tortuous path attending to the multifaceted infrastructural and humanitarian crises created by the over 10 years Boko Haram insurgency in the region. In his solemn moments, he seats and reflects on how the NEDC’s efforts in rebuilding the devastated region are again sabotaged by same Boko Haram and its local conspirators. It pierces the heart with pain. But he is determined never to give up.

NEDC’s main responsibilities includes, to receive and administer funds from the federation account, international donors and other humanitarian organizations for the settlement, rehabilitation and reconstruction of roads, houses and destroyed business premises of victims of insurgency. NEDC also has the mandate to intervene in ameliorating pervasive poverty, mass illiteracy, ecological problems and any other such linked social problems that would make life more meaningful to the suffering populations living in insurgency ravaged Northeast states of Adamawa, Borno, Yobe, Bauchi, Gombe and Taraba.

At the inauguration of the NEDC Board, President Muhammadu Buhari gave it a limitless gamut of operations. Mr. President was emphatic that the commission should superintend on the development activities and structures at all levels of government-funded agencies legitimized to work in the region.

NEDC daily sees an internally displaced or deprived population of over 2.6 million Nigerians or more in dire need of rehabilitation and succor under its responsibility. It’s a frightening statistic. It’s precisely the cause of Alkali’s nightmare.

Whether the MD/CEO accepts its or not, the NEDC appears bowed under the weight of sheer destructions by these terrorists’ gangs in the Northeast region of Nigeria. The job is very tasking, strenuous and energy-sapping.

The NEDC’s Managing Director, Alhaji Mohammed Goni Alkali is clearly dazzled by the magnitude of work on his hands. His admirers and acolytes are asking everyday whether he has enough capacity to solve the humanitarian crises of varying proportions exacerbated by subsisting and continuing destructions of public infrastructures perpetrated by Boko Haram insurgency. And his fever is understandable because the NEDC is the fulcrum of the peace-building, reconciliation and de-radicalization agenda of the Buhari Presidency.

Encouragingly enough, Alhaji Mohammed Alkali is a uniquely talented administrator, widely acclaimed for his defiant battles with obstinate challenges. His consociates’ mouth that the MD/CEO does not shudder or contemplate surrender on any challenge until he conquers the obstacle and snatches success.

Ab initio, Alkali knew that a savior in the neighborhood would not be noticed until he announces his presence. Therefore, the NEDC -MD’s first area of concentration was the engagement of the various communities in the Northeast on sensitization of indigenes on the prevalence of fleeing remnants of Boko Haram insurgents in their midst and how to dismantle unexploded landmines in their communities after the Military’s complete subjugation of the cursed jihadist campaigners’.

Selected persons across communities in the Northeast region in the Boko Haram worse hit states were selected and trained to lead the battle of disabling unexploded landmines. The idea captured the mindset of an administrator perfectly conversant with the preliminary rudiments of his job

The NEDC boss has launched and progressively pursued the agenda of Education Endowment Fund , which has engaged over 20,000 beneficiaries annually to enable them access academic and professional capacity training and development in diverse fields of human endeavors. It has further sparked the anger of Boko Haramists, a sect stridently opposed to western education. Alkali has courageously dared their gods!

Therefore, the commission disburses N6 billion yearly on scholarship for students in the region, which is more than the annual education budgets of most states in the federation. The drag net of the scholarship scheme covers over thousands of students from bachelor’s degree to doctor of philosophy degrees.

Added to it, the NEDC has implemented the rehabilitation of drinking water and sanitation facilities in states of the Northeast Nigeria pinned down by insurgency. It is part of NEDC’s Multisectoral Crisis Recovery Project (MCRP) with the support of the World Bank. The MD/CEO, Alkali is steadily surmounting these challenges because for every kobo into the commission’s coffers, there are human upliftment projects to justify it.

So, within three years, the NEDC has implemented humanitarian reliefs projects totaling 1, 310 under the ambitious scheme of “Rapid Response Intervention” (RRI) in all the 112 local governments of the Northeast region. Humanity survives on food and it is the basic traditional occupation of people of the Northeast. But Boko Haram insurgency pierced it badly resulting in the massive hunger and starvation in the land.

A sensitive Alkali’s focal agenda as NEDC boss has restored it. The commission has funded the implementation of an “Integrated Agriculture Programme,’ (IAP) under the broad umbrella of RRI, which yearly provides agricultural machinery and equipment, seeds, fertilizers, agrochemicals and extension services logistics vehicles from NEDC’s funds.

It has bolstered the production capacity of small-holder farmers in Northeast region, and boosted economies of families, which are currently regaining their lost farming treasures and domestic food sustenance. The NEDC sees it as a sacred obligation of the holistic rebuilding agenda of the Northeast region. Annually, the NEDC funds the IAP scheme in each of the 112 LGAs in the Northeast with N50 million.

NEDC has also has also directed its attention to skills acquisition, training and provision of starter packs to over 5, 000 Information Communication Technology (ICT), knowledge seekers. About 5, 000 women and youths in the region are trained annually on entrepreneurship, and another 2, 000 on vocational skills in each of the 1,028 wards of the region ravaged by Boko Haram. And Alkali deems it a faithful a yearly ritual. For the people of the Northeast, it is a narrative of a steady regaining of lost grounds under NEDC’s boss, Alhaji Mohammad Alkali.

The NEDC has also prominently and actively registered its shadows at the De-radicalization, Rehabilitation and Reintegration (DRR) Programme of the Nigerian Military otherwise known as “Operation Safe Corridor” (OSC) at Malam-Sidi, in Gombe State in the same region. After the initial work tour to the camp and assessment of intervention areas, the NEDC boss has continued to financially assist the programme with needy facilities.

Alkali’s humanitarian focus on rebuilding the Northeast resounds more in the ambitious housing projects for the IDPs in Borno state, the epicenter of Boko Haram terrorism. Its Mr. President’s consolatory initiative or the FGN to these displaced persons, which is worth N20 billion, but routed through the NEDC.

At the moment, the construction of 10,000 housing units spread across 10 Borno LGAs for the resettlement of the internally displaced persons (IDPs) are aggressively pursued. Through the supervision of Alkali, these housing units have reached advanced stages of completion.

The outbreak of the global coronavirus in early 2020 really shook Alkali’s heart. The NEDC boss was sensitive enough to understand that various Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps were potent vectors of the spread of the epidemic. He personally went round the IDPs camps in the Northeast and supplied essential disinfectant products worth millions of Naira in the collective national struggle to combat the transmission of Coronavirus.

He kick-started the exercise at Bakkassi, Stadium and Muna IDPs camps in Maiduguri. It is reason Nigerians have not heard of COVID-19 related deaths in any of the IDPs camps in the Northeast region.

Hard work is noticed and acknowledged by Nigerians. Alhaji Mohammed Alkali’s leadership of the NEDC is rated high both by the Senate and the civil society. An unpersuaded and uninfluenced body known as the National Accountability Watch Group (NAWG) though its Executive Director, Dr Okpe Joseph Okpe applauded NEDC’s boss for holding the mandate of the Commission evidently sacrosanct by impacting on the economy, social wellbeing and infrastructural development of peoples of the Northeast region.

Under the supervision of another compassionate woman, the Minister of Humanitarian affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Hajiya Sadiya Umar Farouk, the NEDC boss has replicated her posture of delivering services to Nigerians with a human face. Alkali is sincerely working for the people on whose back he got the mandate to lead the NEDC.

Alkali has dispensed himself as a selfless gentleman by every detail of his assignment today as always. He is doing all within his powers to ensure that citizens in the Northeast forget the sorrows that Boko Haram insurgents and ISWAP terrorists have wrought on the populations. For conscionably comforting the downtrodden and traumatic peoples of the Northeast through various intervention programs, Alkali looks ripe for a reward in heaven. #

Odoh, a humanitarian worker wrote from Maiduguri.

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NPHCDA, COVID -19 And The Fall Of Anti-Vaxxers- By Pine Oralu

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The coronavirus pandemic indeed brought the world to its knees, with various countries imposing lockdown in the bid to stop the further spread of the virus. Consequently, efforts were deployed towards developing a vaccine that would halt the further spread of the novel coronavirus.

In Nigeria, it was not any different as the country was also in lockdown. The government introduced measures that would mitigate some of the adverse effects the coronavirus has had on our socio-economic life.

There was also a challenge, which was essentially how to convince the populace of the coronavirus’s existence and why all must observe known safety protocols such as wearing of facemasks, observing social distancing and ensuring proper hygiene through the washing of hands frequently and avoiding crowded places.

By and large, there was some level of compliance when the number of deaths increased, and the reality dawned on us. I think credit must be given to the government in its sensitization efforts, and the rest they say is history.

However, we must all be glad that the vaccines are here. There seems to be some glimmer of hope towards the world returning to normalcy if the vaccination process goes as planned. This is indeed the crux of this piece regarding the various conspiracy theories that have come out since the vaccines’ rollout, especially in Nigeria. I must add that it has been such a daunting task for the National Primary Health Care Development Agency officials to ensure that Nigerians are vaccinated.

The NPHCDA has stated that close to 400,000 Nigerians have been vaccinated so far since the vaccination programme began. This is quite commendable given the various conspiracies across the country that condemned the vaccine, so much so that stakeholders in the health sector doubted if Nigeria’s vaccination programme would be successful. They were wrong.

This is where I would commend the NPHCDA for its sensitization efforts and the orderly manner it has gone about in ensuring that the administration of the vaccines across the country was seamless. The registration portal created before the commencement of the exercise was ingenious because it was a departure from the past where such programmes were marred by poor planning, execution and other logistics impediments.

If truth be told, Nigeria has fared better than most countries in administering the vaccines to the populace. And this further reinforces the role of leadership in our daily lives. The Dr Shaibu Faisal led NPHCDA has once again demonstrated that indeed what is needed in Nigeria is purposeful leadership that is anchored on transparency, accountability and a sense of direction.

The NPCHDA knew what was at stake if the conspiracies against the vaccine thrived. Consequently, their efforts paid off handsomely with the reception the administration of the vaccine has received, even from the most critical individuals and groups across the country. Suffice I add that the vaccine administration’s success in the country didn’t come on a platter of gold. The sensitization was top-notch. The distribution of vaccines across the states was seamless. And the results have been outstanding.

If not for anything, I am particularly joyous that one of the most critical fellows against the vaccine, Femi Fani-Kayode, has taken to the social media to flaunt and inform Nigerians that the vaccines are safe and encouraged Nigerians to go for the jab. This is indeed a great victory for all and a sign to tell that the NPHCDA has done well in ensuring the success of the vaccination campaign in the country.

If this is not victory, I don’t know what else to call it. This is not just victory for the NPHCDA, but a victory for all Nigerians that are desirous of the progress of the country through the demonstration of a burning desire to see to the fact that coronavirus impediment is quickly put behind us so that we can resume our everyday lives in the quest for sustainable growth and development.

It is not yet Uhuru as the journey is just beginning in the vaccination journey. However, if the NPHCDA sustains the current tempo, we should be sure of timely vaccination of the entire population in the country.
For us to achieve this, two things are of utmost importance.

One is for the NPCHDA to continue to sensitize the populace on the vaccines’ safety and effectiveness in line with the position of the World Health Organization. And in the words of the WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus “Every new, safe and effective tool against COVID-19 is another step closer to controlling the pandemic,”

In my opinion, this message must be sustained by the NPHCDA towards ensuring the vaccination programme is not jeopardized by conspiracy theorists who want to capitalize on any given opportunity to cause disaffection in the polity.
Secondly, we must continue to give credit to encourage the leadership of the NPHCDA for their invaluable role it has played so far in ensuring the success story of the vaccination programme in Nigeria, not just for COVID 19, but other immunization and other vaccination programmes in the country.

Dr Shaibu Faisal remains a leader with eyes on the ball and matches words with action since his assumption of office as the head of the critical National Primary Health Care Development Agency in Nigeria. His ideas and thoughts with regards to delivering on the mandate are concise and effective. His leadership acumen is also infectious. And a true definition of what leadership entails and what it should be in the critical point of our existence.

At this point, I would say that indeed those against the success of the coronavirus vaccine in the country have fallen flat on their faces. And like I said earlier, it would be too early to roll out the drums, but we must admit that we are on that steady and desirable path.

And for Dr Shaibu Faisal, your efforts are noble and commendable; I encourage you to continue to devout energy and time to sustain the tempo in service to Nigeria.

Oralu is a public affairs analyst based in Makurdi.

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