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Buying Naira with naira, rantings and musings

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Buying Naira with naira, rantings and musings

By Prince Charles Dickson Ph.D.

Under pressure we wail under pressure

Under pressure black people under pressure

Under pressure nigerians under pressure

No food in we belly

No money in ah we pocket

No bed we lay we head

The people dem are suffer

In ah ghetto, in ah city

Everywhere dah me go oh

Me see them, some are cry, some are die

Some are weeping! Some are wailing!

Everywhere dah oh eh

Under pressure we wail under pressure

Under pressure everybody under pressure

Ras Kimono Under Pressure

You see the Nigerian looks upon Nigeria as a theatre and the entire population representing and manifesting the full spectrum of acts and actors. In this revelry, life is the theatre; the nation is the stage upon which we perform. The politicians and a few of us are the actors, very often mediocre. When stars appear, it is more often because a play must have a star rather than because the player is possessed of some dramatic genius. We saw it with Obasanjo, we saw it with Mr. Yar’adua, and with the shoeless one, we are seeing it with the soon-to-end Mr. Buhari. We falter and we muff our lines; sometimes our performance takes on an aspect of the grotesque-nobody takes this seriously because it is perceived as being the nature of the play. Our people become the audience.

I once watched with bemusement, a deaf and dumb boy who caught his mom with a stranger in bed. When his father came home, the poor young boy was at loss on how to communicate his discovery. After several futile attempts, the boy ceased trying. The father on the other hand patted him, walked into the bedroom and was scolding the wife, he asked her why she was sick, rolling on the bed and could not call for help from the neighbours or the family doctor?

I am not going to talk about the currency redesign brouhaha, because as good a policy it supposedly is, again it has exposed the gross behavioural nature of some Nigerians. The Central Bank, the Commercial Banks, the Bankers, the PoS Operators and the general populace are guilty of varying degrees of culpability.

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And, then the fuel palaver, same one that once upon a time Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, said: “This is the winter period. There is always more demand for refined products from petroleum during winter in the colder countries. This is what we are experiencing now.” Today, I guess it is winter in those places again. And at the black market, the usual trend, certainly high petrol price, unavailable and weak Naira, low minimum wage and increasing poverty.

Legislators neither here nor there, governors’ not sure where they stand. In all the noise the product disappears. Transportation fare increases, food prices sky rocket…a nation that has a disconnect between the ruled and its rulers, like the deaf and dumb boy, his mother, the stranger and his father.

Fact is, our currency wahala, and fuel palaver is not the government’s problem. What are we really subsidising, is it the high cost of energy or unavailable petroleum products. Nigerians are tired, hungry and not in protest mode. There’s no fuel scarcity but fuel criminality because leadership lacks will.

Where are the refineries promised, all gone with the wind called Turn Around Maintenance! There is no PMS in the fuel station but unregistered marketers/blackmarkers all have the commodity… a continued rationalisation and justification of absurdities like a commentator put it. It is even more disheartening when the intellectual effort and voice of elites are at the heart of such theatricals due to ethno-religious cleavages birthed on economic disenfranchisement.

Our major problem is the lack of leadership manifesting itself in every facet of our human endeavors. Some of these areas may be fixable in future if we get the right people with the right policies but how do you fix the future of the mass population of our children who are not getting educated today?

The future of Nigeria is bright, interesting, but scary if we reflect about it. Teachers are illiterate, students can’t go to school because schools are closed down and alternatives are unaffordable, the change is bleak…

The fuel management chain is a lucrative cankerworm of corruption, our banking system is not exactly different, a serious government can yet tackle it, it’s beyond committees and white papers. Its action, only action can stop the rot. Nigerians can, I believe we can but we don’t know that we can, doubt if we are ready.

The reason is simple…we are not just part of the problem, in some cases we are the problem, when Sunny Okunsun sang

which way Nigeria

which way to go

I love my fatherland

o yeah

I want to know

Yes, I want to know

I love my fatherland

which Nigeria is heading to

many years after independence

we still find it hard to start

how long shall we be patient still we reach the promised land

let’s save Nigeria

so Nigeria won’t die

which way Nigeria

every little thing that goes wrong

we start to blame the government

we know everything that goes wrong

we are part of the government

which way Nigeria is heading to

inefficiency and indiscipline

is ruining the country now

corruption here there and everywhere

inflation is very high

we make mistakes in the oil boom

not knowing that was our doom

some people now have everything

while some have nothing

which way Nigeria

which way to go

I end with this encounter, a politician was charged with profanity for calling an opponent a bastard: the politician retorted, “When I call him s.o.b I am not using profanity. I am only referring to the circumstances of his birth”. What is the circumstance of the birth of Nigeria, can anything be done to bring destiny and fate to conjure up some good for us all?

The elites are having a field day but each fleeting moment , three facts of life beckons, the rising of sun, setting of the moon and truth—Only time will tell

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Opinion

Why Press Freedom in Nigeria Remains Threatened

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Why Press Freedom in Nigeria Remains Threatened

Why Press Freedom in Nigeria Remains Threatened

By Halima Abdulkadiri

Press freedom in Nigeria is protected by the country’s constitution, which guarantees freedom of the press and speech. However, in practice, press freedom in Nigeria faces several challenges.

Journalists in Nigeria are often subject to threats, harassment, and violence from both state and non-state actors. Government officials frequently use legal and regulatory measures to suppress critical reporting and stifle dissent. Intimidation, arrest, and detention of journalists are common tactics used to silence independent reporting.

Additionally, the media landscape in Nigeria is highly polarized and often controlled by wealthy individuals and political elites, leading to self-censorship and biased reporting. Many media organizations are financially dependent on government advertising revenue, which can compromise their editorial independence.

Despite these challenges, there are still many brave journalists and media outlets in Nigeria that continue to work tirelessly to hold those in power accountable and provide the public with vital information. Efforts are being made to improve press freedom in the country, including advocacy campaigns, legal reforms, and training programs for journalists.

Overall, while press freedom in Nigeria is under significant pressure, there are ongoing efforts to protect and promote the rights of journalists and the independence of the media.

The right of a journalist and the independence of the media are essential components of a free and democratic society.

Journalists have a responsibility to seek out and report on information that is in the public interest, hold those in power accountable, and serve as watchdogs for the public. The right to freedom of expression, including freedom of the press, is enshrined in international human rights instruments such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. This right is crucial for ensuring transparency, accountability, and a well-informed citizenry.

The independence of the media is also crucial for ensuring that journalists can carry out their work without interference or influence from political or economic interests. Media outlets should be free from censorship, intimidation, or manipulation by governments, corporations, or other powerful entities. An independent media is necessary for providing diverse and balanced reporting, fostering public debate, and promoting the principles of democracy and good governance.

Protecting the rights of journalists and the independence of the media requires a commitment from governments, civil society, media organizations, and the public. Laws and policies that guarantee press freedom, safeguard journalists from violence and harassment, and ensure media plurality are essential. Journalists themselves must uphold ethical standards, pursue accuracy and fairness in reporting, and resist external pressures that may compromise their independence.

Ultimately, a free and independent media plays a crucial role in safeguarding democracy, promoting transparency, and protecting human rights. It is important for all members of society to support and defend the rights of journalists and the independence of the media.

Why Press Freedom in Nigeria Remains Threatened

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Opinion

Olayemi Cardoso’s Dilemma

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Olayemi Cardoso’s Dilemma

By Tunde Rahman

Those who know Mr. Olayemi Cardoso will agree he got his current job as the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria on a platter of solid professional background and strong personal attributes. His pedigree is rich as his character is unsullied. Cardoso had a remarkable private sector career where he shone brilliantly in banking, stockbroking, and consulting.

Cardoso also came from a very solid family pedigree. Nigeria’s late Prime Minister, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, appointed his late father, Mr. Felix Bankole Cardoso, as the first Accountant-General of the Federation in 1963. The late elder Cardoso served with an enviable record until 1971.
Part of the remarkable private sector career of Olayemi Cardoso was his appointment as the Chairman of the Board of Citi Bank in Nigeria.

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Cardoso began his public service journey when he became the Commissioner for Budget and Economic Planning in the cabinet of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Governor of Lagos State as he then was in 1999. In addition to superintending that ministry, Cardoso was charged with several other responsibilities, including heading important cabinet committees that birthed landmark agencies in the state. Cardoso was known for enforcing strict budgetary discipline that contributed significantly to the overall success of the Tinubu administration in Lagos. He refused to authorise the release of funds for projects or programmes that had no budgetary head. For all of that and many more, Cardoso was nicknamed the Headmaster.

Armed with a Bachelor of Science degree in Managerial and Administrative Studies and Masters in Public Administration from the prestigious Harvard Kennedy School of Government and parading strong personal attributes, Cardoso is obviously a perfect fit for the CBN top job. He is calm but firm, strict but fair, prudent but practical, straightforward, and honest with loads of integrity. These are the unique qualities he carried unto his job at the apex bank and his major selling points when, on September 23, 2023, he officially assumed office with the Senate confirmation of his appointment.

However, it does appear Cardoso will need much more than that to succeed in his present assignment. Under him, the CBN seems to be doing the right thing or doing things right: thinking and working on coming up with appropriate monetary policies, moving to rein in the rising foreign exchange rates and particularly achieve an appropriate value for the naira, which Cardoso believes has been undervalued.

But in the wake of the floating of the Naira, some of the variables shaping the value of the national currency, including limited production in the country as a result of insecurity, Nigerians’ high taste for imported products, dwindling exports, poor dollar remittances, humongous school fees of Nigerian students abroad and medical tourism all of which engendered a strong demand for dollar, far outweighing supply, seem to be clearly beyond his control.

Until these situations change for the better, no amount of monetary policies by the CBN will work any miracle, hence Cardoso’s predicament. For instance, in his presentation at the sectoral debate organised by the House of Representatives two weeks ago, the CBN governor lamented that the growing number of Nigerian students studying abroad, increasing medical tourism and food imports have led to the depreciation of the Naira against the Dollar. According to him, over the past decade, foreign exchange demand for education and healthcare totalled nearly $40 billion, surpassing the total current foreign exchange reserves of the CBN, while personal travel allowances accounted for a total of $58.7 billion during the same period.

Another critical yet intriguing factor but seemingly odd in Cardoso’s reckoning is the perception in some quarters of some of the decisions of the CBN, which the apex bank considers purely administrative, but which some others give strange connotations.

Olayemi Cardoso’s Dilemma

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Feature

War Against Hunger: A call for collective action

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War Against Hunger: A call for collective action

By Tosin Kolade

“A hungry man is an angry man”, according to James Howell, a Welsh writer and historian. This timeless quote is resonating in some parts of Nigeria.

Some citizens are taking to the street to protest against some government policies which they allege are exacerbating hunger. What started in Minna, Niger, has spread to Ibadan, Lagos Osun and Kano.

In Ibadan, the protesters commenced their march from the Mokola axis carrying placards with messages such as “End food hike and inflation,” “Insecurity not our birthright,” and “Mr President, this is not the hope, this is shege.”

They also chanted songs to show their grievances as armed policemen stood by to ensure the protesters conducted themselves within the ambits of the law.

There is a video currently circulating in the social media showing Nigerians looting a truck carrying farm produce.

This is akin to what happened in Venezuela, a country hit by acute economic hardship, as angry citizens forcefully entered shops and looted food items.

President Bola Tinubu’s decision to end the petrol subsidy regime on May 29, 2023, has triggered soaring food prices.

However, figures from World Food Programme indicate that Nigeria is not alone in this situation.

It says that in the 78 countries it operates, over 333 million people face acute food insecurity, unsure of where their next meal will come from.

The recent warning from the African Development Bank (AfDB) about potential unrest in Nigeria, coupled with rising living costs due to fuel subsidy removal and naira devaluation, adds urgency to the situation.

According to the AfDB, similar challenges in other African nations like Angola, Ethiopia, and Kenya could lead to internal conflicts and violence.

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Similarly the Nigerian Red Cross Society (NRCS) sounded an urgent alarm, declaring that the country’s hunger crisis has reached a critical state.

Mr Abubakar Kende, the Secretary General of NRCS, emphasised the need for immediate attention and collective efforts to alleviate the suffering of vulnerable individuals.

While expressing deep concern about the escalating food insecurity in Nigeria, Kende called for decisive action from the government.

During the launch of a partnership between the Red Cross and Ecobank in Abuja, he highlighted the impact of rising fuel prices, leading to hyperinflation and pushing food prices beyond the means of many Nigerians.

Kende said that approximately 26.5 million Nigerians, including women and children, are currently facing acute hunger, urgently requiring assistance to prevent death and prolonged suffering.

He stressed that over half of Nigeria’s 36 states were food insecure, with the hunger crisis reaching alarming levels due to increased insecurity, inflation, extreme weather patterns, and global conflicts.

The Red Cross move collaboration with Ecobank aims to mobilise local resources to address the pressing hunger crisis, signaling the critical need for swift and coordinated action to mitigate the dire situation.

Worried by the impact of the situation on workers, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) announced that there would be a two-day nationwide protest on Feb. 27 and 28.

The labour body highlighted the pressing need for collective action to address the escalating food crisis and the challenges faced by citizens in the wake of economic reforms.

But the Federal Government is not relenting in its efforts to mitigate the impact of its economic reforms on the citizens.

On Feb. 6, the Presidential Committee on Emergency Food Intervention convened at the Presidential Villa in Abuja to address the escalating cost of living in the country.

Under the chairmanship of Mr Femi Gbajabiamila, Chief of Staff to the President, the meeting had in attendance key figures such as Nuhu Ribadu (National Security Adviser).

Also in attendance were Yemi Cardoso (Central Bank of Nigeria governor), AlhajiTahir Mamman (Minister of Education) and Mr Wale Edun (Minister of Finance).

Others are Abubakar Kyari (Minister of Agriculture), along with Mustapha Shehuri (Minister of State for Agriculture).

Following the meeting, President Bola Tinubu, on Feb. 8, directed the immediate release of 42,000 metric tons of assorted food items from strategic reserves and the Rice Millers Association of Nigeria as a short term measure the address the challenge.

Alhaji Abubakar Kyari, the Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, has also assured that the federal government was committed to ensuring that the released grains reach impoverished Nigerians.

Collaborating with the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and the Department of State Services (DSS), the Ministry of Agriculture is actively working to determine the recipients and locations for the distribution of these food items, he said.

Kyari said these efforts were in line with the broader agenda set during the first federal executive council meeting.

He said the agenda focused on food security, poverty reduction, economic growth, job creation, access to capital, inclusivity of women and youth, and addressing corruption and insecurity.

He clarified that the ministry’s blueprint includes immediate, short-term, medium, and long-term plans.

While the authorities are working round the clock to save the situation, insecurity seems to be putting spanner in the works.

This has prompted the National President of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria, Alhaji Kabiru Ibrahim, to urge farmers to establish vigilant groups to protect themselves amid increasing insecurity.

According to him, while the North faces concerns about bandit attacks, the South-West grapples with the herder-farmer crisis, and the South-East attributes insecurity to the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra.

He cited the case of Zamfara where bandits allegedly take control of farms, demand access levies from farmers.

Ibrahim underscored the importance of farmers taking proactive measures to secure their farmland, stressing that the nation’s food production system is under severe strain.

Addressing the challenge, experts say, require a collective not only among Nigerians but also across Ministries, Departments and Agencies.

An Economist, Dr Sam Idaho, says for instance Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs mandates should include interventions to boost food production, distribution, and support to communities affected by hunger crisis.

Idaho highlighted the necessity for a comprehensive middle and long-term strategies, advocating investments in sustainable agricultural practices.

He said the intervention should also include the promotion of technology-driven farming, and the implementation of policies that address the root causes of the food crisis.

He recommended the establishment of an appeal fund, mobilising financial resources from both domestic and international sources to effectively combat the hunger crisis.

This fund, he said, could be utilised as emergency relief and long-term sustainable initiatives.

Experts say that developing state-specific agricultural plans, addressing local challenges, and collaborating with communities are essential in Nigeria’s battle against the hunger.

War Against Hunger: A call for collective action

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