STATE OF THE NATION ADDRESS
Saturday, 13th July, 2019 – Saturday, 12th October, 2019
by the TMC Committee on Social Mobility, the Economy & Politics
Presented by the CFSDhair of the Committee,
Dr. Luqman AbdurRaheem on Saturday, 12th October, 2019
1. FEDERAL GOVERNMENT’S HANDLING OF THE XENOPHOBIC ATTACKS ON NIGERIANS IN SOUTH AFRICA IS COMMENDABLE
The xenophobic attacks on Nigerians in South Africa presented a really trying time for Nigerians who deeply felt the pains of the sufferings of their compatriots in a foreign land. It was also a difficult time for the government regarding its response to the ugly episode. The xenophobic attacks were condemned and they still stand condemned by all well-meaning and peace-loving individuals and organizations in Nigeria and all over the world. South Africa must never repeat the despicable actions ever again in a world that is developing at a frenetic pace. It was understandable that the emotions of Nigerians ran high due to the deaths and loss of properties of fellow Nigerians for no other reason than residing in a foreign land. We are glad that Nigerians quickly retraced their steps from the looting of so-called South African businesses in Nigeria. We have therefore not allowed ourselves to be dragged down the valley of shame and ignominy. There were calls for the government to take a very stringent position on the matter but the government’s response showed calm, dignity and maturity even though the stakes were very high. We want the government to continue on the path of diplomacy and ensure that the incidents never repeat themselves for any reason and that government of South Africa pays compensation for lives and properties lost. We are glad that as Nigerians and as a government, we did not lose our heads when we had enough reasons to do that. We need to always maintain our enviable position and also be role models for other peoples and governments in Africa and beyond irrespective of the trying times that we face.
2. THE BURDEN OF THE PROPOSED VAT INCREASE AND OTHER TAXES ON THE PEOPLE
This is indeed a trying time for just not the government but also the hardworking people of Nigeria. The people are facing the burden of multiple levies and taxes that have the effect of reducing the purchasing power of the people and eroding their desire for quality living. The government needs to make more money for developmental purposes but the people also need to live lives that are qualitative and fulfilling. A balance needs to be sought between the needs of government and the need of the people for quality living. This will not be achieved by making the people bear the burden of more taxes but by government creatively reducing the cost of governance at all levels. Let there be a reasonable reduction in the number of political appointees across all tiers of government. The number of elective offices especially at the House of Representatives and the Senate needs to be considerably reduced. Closely following this will be a drastic reduction in the emolument and allowances of members of the National Assembly. This same treatment should also apply to all political appointees. This should bring considerable savings that can be channeled for development so that the long suffering masses can heave a sigh of relief from the tax overload.
3. WE SUPPORT THE NLC ON PROMPT IMPLEMENTATION OF THE NEW MINIMUM WAGE
The call by the organized labour for the immediate commencement of the payment of the N30,000 new minimum wage is indeed reasonable. The payment should not be allowed to drag further since it has already dragged for sometime. The people deserve the increase since they have always received the short end of the stick. The disagreement over the percentage increase in consequential adjustment arising from the new wage structure should be resolved quickly and amicably since the nation and the people cannot afford any disruption in societal activities should the organized labour decide to go on strike as is being planned. Let the government respond to the needs of her people with the urgency it deserves.
4. NIGERIA’S 59TH ANNIVERSARY: SO FAR, SO FAIR
Nigeria celebrated its 59th Independence Anniversary on 1st October, 2019. It was another moment for reflections and stock-taking. There is a motley of opinions extending to the extreme as to whether the performance of Nigeria is worthy of its chronological age. As bad as things may seem, it is indeed necessary to state that it is not gloom. Granted that Nigeria is still far away from the position of our dreams, we have also not stood still at the same point. Nigeria has advanced as a nation in terms of credit financing especially for SMEs, increase in agricultural production, enhancement in training and equipment for the armed forces, increased budgeting and better deployment and on-going efforts at providing better infrastructural facilities. This is not the time to lose hope in our country but rather a time to rekindle our hope and spirit of patriotism to contribute our best quota in the progress and development of the nation. We are hopeful and confident that better days lie ahead in the near future.
5. THE P&ID COURT CASE AND NIGERIA’S HANDLING OF CONTRACTUAL AGREEMENTS
The Process and Industrial Development Limited (P&ID), a UK firm, took Nigeria to court in UK and was able to get a ruling in its favour which means that Nigeria has to pay a whopping sum of 9.6 billion dollars or forfeit assets in UK to the tune of that amount. Even though Nigeria is now running from pillar to post to avert the implementation of the court ruling, we left a lot undone when it mattered most. It is important to note that we are being embarrassed for our lack of regard for the sanctity of contract terms and agreements. Nigerian officials also fail, in some cases, to enter into agreements that are in the best interest of the country and its people. There was a clear lack of diligent prosecution of the court case by the people whose duty it was to do so. Nigeria even failed to appeal the ruling given on August 16, 2019, until the company later filed for enforcement of the ruling. The shoddy way the whole prosecution by Nigeria went may suggest collusion between our representatives and the officials of P&ID. The trial and jailing of P&ID representatives in Nigeria is a step in the right direction but more needs to be done. All the people that were involved including lawyers and state officials must be thoroughly investigated and those found culpable must be made to face the full wrath of the law. Nothing short of miracle will ensure that Nigeria does not to pay this penalty.
6. COMMENDATIONS FOR AN EARLY BUDGET PRESENTATION BY THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT
The need to return to a January to December budget cycle seems to be on the right burner this time around. Quite unlike what happened in the last four years when the budget was normally passed into law around May or June, the 2020 Budget might be a surprising departure given the seriousness on the part of the Federal Government and the National Assembly. The President, Muhammadu Buhari, presented the budget to the joint session of the National Assembly in Abuja. The aggregate expenditure of the budget is 10.33 trillion as it seeks fiscal consolidation, investment in critical infrastructure and incentives for private sector investments. Nigerians are eagerly awaiting the passage of the budget into law before the end of December 2019.
7. THE SEX-FOR-MARKS CRISIS ROCKING OUR UNIVERSITIES
The BBC Sex-For-Grades report has further highlighted what we already know to be happening in our universities. The sex-for-marks crisis rocking our universities needs to be tackled headlong in two ways. First, any lecturer found culpable should be suspended by the respective institution of learning and made to defend himself at the court of law. If the person is proved guilty, he faces the penalty stipulated by the law. In 2016, the Senate passed the ‘Sexual Harassment In Tertiary Education Institution Prohibition Bill.’ This bill which stipulates a five-year jail term for any lecturer, educationist or person in a position of authority in any tertiary institution in Nigeria found guilty of such conduct should be revisited and passed into law. Secondly, female students who are found guilty of contravening school code of dressing where there is one suspended and females found to have gone out of their way to seduce their lecturers should be dismissed from the university with immediate effect. This way, we will be on our way to putting a stop to this deplorable situation.
8. THE BORDER CLOSURE BY THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT: THE PROS, THE CONS
The recent border closure by the Federal Government means in part that the busiest land border in Nigeria, Seme, remains closed. This has affected several workers and traders who commute between Benin Republic and Nigeria. The government intends to stop the fraudulent export of petroleum products and importation of second-hand vehicles, rice and some other products through land borders. It also aims to stop the influx of arms and ammunition into the country through smuggling. The Rice Processors Association of Nigeria (RIPAN) has said that the border closure would save Nigeria about 400 million dollars spent on smuggling rice into the country. This border closure will help Nigeria reduce the rising cases of smuggling and help develop local capacity. The Customs has also recorded daily increases in revenue generation since the border closure commenced and especially generating a record 115 billion Naira in the month of September alone. But the closure should be a temporary approach put in place while a permanent solution is being worked on. Part of the problems this border closure brings is that it hurts legal exports from and imports into Nigeria and also creates artificial scarcity with the consequent rise in consumer prices of certain products. Several trucks of major consumer companies who move goods into neighbouring regional markets through the borders have also been affected. While we commend the government for the courage to take this bold move, we also urge that the unintended effects should be mitigated.
9. THE LINGERING HIJAB CRISIS AT THE INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF IBADAN
We are aware that the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), the umbrella body of Muslims across the country, has accused the management of the University of Ibadan of stifling the voices of Muslims on the campus and ostracizing them during key decision-making processes on the campus. The NSCIA also condemned the denial of female Muslim students the right to use Hijab at the International School, University of Ibadan. We also recall that the use of Hijab had since November 2018, been generating a lot of controversies and crises, which made parents of some Muslim students to jointly sue the school, its principal, University of Ibadan and Chairman of the Board of Governors of the school who also doubled as Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the university. The latest was the suspension of a female Muslim student, Miss Ikhlas Olasubomi Badiru, for wearing Hijab in July this year after school hours. We are also aware that about 38 Muslim professors from the university had also recently petitioned the Prof. Idowu Olayinka-led administration of the University over what they described as deliberate action of denying Muslims participation in various important statutory meetings. While waiting for the court to make its pronouncements, we urge the vice chancellor and council of the university to retrace its steps by allowing Muslims have their rights in the university. The university management must ensure it is committed to the liberating ideals that an academic institution guarantees for its people and the society.
10. GOV. WIKE’S DEMOLITION OF RAINBOW TOWN CENTRAL MOSQUE STANDS CONDEMNED
The demolition of the Rainbow Town Central Mosque in the Trans-Amadi Area of Port Harcourt by the Governor of Rivers State, Governor Nyesom Wike, is outright abuse of power. The mosque was under construction and already being used for worship on Fridays before being demolished on the pretext that the construction did not have valid approvals from the state. A demolition actually took place since the fence, the foundation to DPC level and pillars were brought down. The constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria gives everyone the right to own property in any state in the country and the right to freely practice his religion without discrimination or fear of molestation. Why then did the governor carry out this dastardly act against the law-abiding Muslim citizens of the state? We are not at a loss as to why this is happening. The antecedents of the governor have actually prepared us to expect the worst from a governor who willing chose to divide his people along religious lines for cheap political gain. We urge the governor to undo the destruction it has caused and to compensate the Muslims for the damages they have suffered.
11. NATIONAL ISLAMIC TRAINING PROGRAMME IS BILLED FOR DECEMBER 2019
The national leadership programme of The Muslim Congress (TMC), the National Islamic Training Programme (NITP), is billed for December 2019. The coming edition, the 26th of its type, is a camping programme aimed at enabling youths acquire skill sets that allow them live fulfilled and happy lives, be positively God-conscious, be effective and efficient professionals/artisans, and also develop empathy for fellow humans irrespective of ethnic, religious and social divides. The programme will be holding in four venues across Nigeria.