Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu says his administration will support the Digital Switch Over (DSO) being embarked by the country, saying it would enhance job creation and content development.

Governor Sanwo-Olu who acknowledged that the DSO would be of immense benefits to residents said Lagos State would be providing publicity support for the rollout.

Speaking on Saturday when the Ministerial Taskforce of the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture on Digital Switch Over led by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, paid him a courtesy visit at the Lagos House, Marina, Governor Sanwo-Olu said the DSO will provide job opportunities for youths and many businesses, especially those in the entertainment and tourism industry.

He said the DSO will also provide opportunity for government to use the content to inform and engage the citizens as well as bring governance closer to the people.

Governor Sanwo-Olu who advised the Ministerial Taskforce on the Digital Switch Over to make the FreeTV box and after sale support easily accessible, said making the FreeTV Set Top Box a one-off payment with a yearly renewal, will provide opportunity for millions of Nigerians who cannot afford to pay the subscription fees being charged by the PayTV platforms to enjoy the benefit of digital television.

He said: “The movement from analogue set up that we currently have to digital is apt and it speaks to reality of what we have today. Everywhere in the world, technology is now a fundamental and critical deliverable of government. It presents an opportunity for citizens to have access to local, national and international space.

“As a forward looking state, we are in partnership and we see it as bringing the future to our citizens, so we do not have a problem with it at all. Even for us as a state, we have been developing our metropolitan fiber optics to provide fiber connectivity as one of the solutions for our citizens to have access to cheaper data.

“We will support the DSO. We want Lagos to continue to set the pace for the nation. We will help our people to be exposed to modern and international best practices. We will be willing to work with you and ensure that we deliver jointly on April 29.”

Speaking earlier, Alhaji Lai Mohammed said the proposed rollout in Lagos would be a critical milestone for the DSO and the creative industry as over one million jobs would be provided nationwide.

He said with the FreeTV of the DSO, Nigerians would have opportunities to watch over 60 channels with great contents at a cheaper rate and without subscription to pay TV.

Mohammed who presented Governor Sanwo-Olu with the Set Top Box for the DSO said it would also enable government to get the data of every household with television, thereby making the collection of television and radio licenses easier, adding that the Nigerian Broadcasting Code (NBC) had been amended to make provisions for the switch over from analogue to digital.

The Minister of Information and Culture also disclosed that six months after the rollout of the DSO in Lagos, the NBC would ask television stations to shut down their analog broadcast equipment, thereby making more spectrum available for data and other telecommunication services.

Mohammed who noted that the DSO is relevant to the Lagos Smart City Project and the Lagos Broadband initiative, urged Governor Sanwo-Olu to direct the Lagos State Signage and Advertisement Agency (LASAA) to provide out-of-home boards, lamp post and other publicity support for the DSO launch for at least three months.

He said: “The rollout in Lagos reflects our decision to take the DSO to commercial centres across the country. With a population of over 20 million, and projected TV Households of over five million, the launch of FreeTV in Lagos State will be a critical milestone for the DSO and for Nigeria’s broadcast and creative industry.

“Lagos State, which is the hub of the Creative Industry, will take a large share of the 1 million jobs to be created. Since FreeTV helps to provide Value Added Services, the 20 Local Government Areas and 37 LCDAs in Lagos State will be supported in the collection of Television and Radio Licenses from residents. With FreeTV’s push system for information services, the FreeTV platform can be used to broadcast information on Lagos State activities to all viewers.

“A major advantage of the DSO is that viewers will not pay subscription fees. Once they have acquired the Set Top Box and pay the once-a-year access fee, which is a token, it is free viewing all the way. Millions of Nigerians who cannot afford to pay the rising subscription fees being charged by the PayTV platforms can now enjoy the benefits of digital television. This is the meaning of bridging the digital divide.”

APRIL 18, 2021

SERAP writes Buhari, seeks probe of ‘missing N106bn in 149 MDAs in 2018’

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to “direct the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Mr Abubakar Malami, SAN, and appropriate anti-corruption agencies to investigate allegations that N106bn of public funds are missing from 149 ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), as documented in the 2018 annual audited report by the Auditor-General of the Federation.”

SERAP said: “Anyone suspected to be responsible should face prosecution as appropriate, if there is sufficient admissible evidence, and any missing public funds should be fully recovered.”

SERAP also urges him “to direct Mrs Zainab Ahmed, Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning to create a system of public announcements to name and shame the indicted 149 MDAs, including those that reportedly failed to remit over N55bn of their revenue; awarded contracts of over N18bn for services not rendered; and spent over N23bn without any supporting documents.”

In the letter dated 17 April 2021, and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said: “The reported missing public funds reflect the failure of the indicted MDAs to ensure strict compliance with transparency and accountability rules and regulations, and the failure of leadership of the MDAs to foster institutions that uphold the rule of law and human rights.”

According to SERAP, “Recovering the alleged missing public funds would reduce the pressure on the Federal Government to borrow more money to fund the budget, enable the authorities to meet the country’s human rights obligation to progressively realize Nigerians’ rights to quality health care and education, as well as reduce the growing level of public debts.”

The letter, read in part: “SERAP urges you to ask Mrs Ahmed and Mr Ahmed Idris, the Accountant-General of the Federation to explain why they allegedly failed to ensure strict compliance with relevant legislation, rules and regulations across all MDAs, despite the warning and recommendations by the Auditor-General.”

“SERAP also urges you to direct Mrs Ahmed to publish full details of the yearly budgets of all MDAs, and issue regular updates that accurately detail their expenditures, including by making any such information easily accessible in a form that can be understood by the public.”

“The Auditor-General stated that the alleged infractions by the 149 MDAs could have been prevented if the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, and the Accountant General of the Federation had heeded his warning to ensure strict compliance with relevant legislation, rules and regulations across all MDAs.”

“SERAP is concerned that the alleged missing public funds have hampered the ability of the MDAs to meet the needs of average citizens, as the missing funds could have helped your government to invest in key public goods and services, and to improve access of Nigerians to these services.”

“Investigating and prosecuting the alleged grand corruption documented by the Auditor-General would improve the chances of success of your government’s oft-repeated commitment to fight corruption and end the impunity of perpetrators. It will improve the integrity of MDAs, as well as serve the public interest.”

“Any failure to promptly investigate the allegations and prosecute suspected perpetrators would breach Nigeria’s anti-corruption legislation, and the country’s international anti-corruption obligations.”

“We would be grateful if the recommended measures are taken within 14 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, the Incorporated Trustees of SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions to compel your government to comply with our request in the public interest.”

“SERAP has carefully analysed the recently released 2018 audited report by the Auditor-General of the Federation and our analysis reveals the grim allegations that N105,662,350,077.46 of public funds are missing, misappropriated or unaccounted for across 149 MDAs in 2018.”

“According to the Auditor-General, 35 MDAs failed to remit N48,551,274,468.35 of generated revenue, and N5,418,780,747.23 of statutory deductions including value added tax, withholding tax, and stamp duties in 2018, thereby ‘depriving the government of the much-needed fund to pursue its agenda.’”

“Similarly, 25 MDAs awarded contracts amounting to N18,369,595,564.47 in violation of the Public Procurement Act (PPA), 2007, including disregard to due process, irregularity in payment for contracts, excessive pricing of procurements, payment for services not rendered, and payment in full for uncompleted projects.”

“Another N23,486,881,920.49 was spent by 48 MDAs without following the rules and regulations relating to spending procedures and policies, and without any documents to support such spending. Furthermore, 11 MDAs paid N8,389,842,637.88 for store items that were not taken on store charge. The Auditor-General fears that the items may be ‘missing/misappropriated.’”

“In addition, 18 MDAs paid N354,223,774.67 as cash advances to staff without duly retiring the money, contrary to the Financial Regulation 1405 and Financial Regulation 1420. According to the Auditor-General, ‘unretired cash and personal advances may be a deliberate attempt to divert public funds for personal use.’”

“Moreover, 12 MDAs spent N371,750,964 as cash advances, above the approved threshold of N200,000.00, contrary to the Treasury Circular Ref. No. TRY/A2&B2/2009OAGF/CAD/26/V, which requires all local procurement of stores and services costing above N200,000.00 to be made only through the award of contracts.”

“There are several other infractions documented in the report, a copy of which can be obtained from the Auditor-General’s office. The 2018 audited report therefore suggests a grave violation of the public trust. These damning revelations also suggest that the indicted MDAs lack effective and credible internal processes to prevent and combat corruption.”

“Our requests are brought in the public interest, and in keeping with the requirements of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended]; anti-corruption legislation, and the country’s international obligations including under the UN Convention against Corruption; and the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption to which Nigeria is a state party.”

The letter was copied to Mr Malami; Professor Bolaji Owasanoye, Chairman Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC); Mr Abdulrasheed Bawa, Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC); Mrs Ahmed; and chairmen of the Public Accounts Committees of the National Assembly.

Kolawole Oluwadare
SERAP Deputy Director
Lagos, Nigeria
Twitter: @SERAPNigeria
For more information or to request an interview, please contact us on: +2348160537202

April 16, 2021
Press Statement
Currency Printing: PDP Calls Out President Buhari
…Demands Finance Minister’s Sack

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) condemns the attempt by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration to deny the printing of N60 billion by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) at its behest.

The PDP asserts that the admission by CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, that the apex bank has been printing money at the bidding of government, has vindicated its earlier stand that the Buhari-led APC administration is characterized by concealments, deceit and falsehood.

The PDP flays the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Hajiya Zainab Ahmed, for attempting to mislead Nigerians by denying the revelations by the Edo state Governor, Godwin Obaseki, that N60 billion was printed in March to support federal allocation to states.

Governor Obaseki, as a financial expert, who is not known for flippancy, must be commended for his act of patriotism in exposing the dire economic situation our nation has been plunged under the Buhari administration.

A situation where the Federal Government cannot articulate and implement policies favourable to wealth creation but resorting to borrowing and indiscriminate printing of currency notes, only goes to further confirm that the Buhari administration lacks the credibility and capacity to run a nation.

Indeed, the admission by the CBN governor that “Nigeria is unfortunately in a very bad situation” further justifies our position that the Buhari-led APC administration has wrecked the economy of our nation.
Our party is worried over the huge negative impact of indiscriminate printing of currency which has led to the unprecedented rise in inflation rate to 18.17% as disclosed by the Bureau of National Statistics (NBS) on Thursday.

This situation has led to further economic hardship with surging prices and fallen purchasing power throwing millions of families in distress and unable to afford the basic necessities of life.

The PDP calls out President Buhari to come clean on the amount that has been printed so far by the CBN to finance the deficit caused by the financial mismanagement of his government as well as what the funds had been used for.

Furthermore, for failing the full disclosure test, the PDP demands that the Minister of Finance should immediately be relieved of her position, while the President accepts responsibility for the indiscriminate printing of currency in our naira.

Our party implores President Buhari to save our nation by allowing better hands to manage and salvage our economy before it is too late.
Kola Ologbondiyan
National Publicity Secretary

April 15, 2021
Press Statement
Twitter: You Have A Poor Understanding of Governance, PDP Replies APC

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) describes the declaration by the All Progressives Congress (APC) that the by-passing of Nigeria by Twitter to cite its African Headquarters in Ghana is “a non-issue” further confirms APC and Buhari Presidency’s poor understanding of governance.

The PDP asserts that the statement issued by the APC in a desperate bid to justify its manifest misrule and abuse of human rights, shows that the APC and Buhari administration are not ready to end their policy inconsistency and the fettering of our youths through suppression of free speech, stifling of online freedom and open internet, for which Twitter shunned our nation for Ghana.

This disposition by the APC and the Buhari Presidency has further strengthened the widespread view among Nigerians that this administration suppresses every vocation in which our youth demography has shown interest.

Their statement also validates apprehensions in the public space that the APC deliberately worked against the citing of Twitter headquarters in Nigeria because of their plot to forcefully regulate the use of internet in our country.

A more responsive government and political party, who have the interest of the people at heart, ought to device all means possible to attract the Africa Headquarters of Twitter to our country given the huge benefits such would have served in the face of grinding unemployment which the APC administration has imposed on our nation.

It is indeed saddening that rather than devise means such as this opportunity to create wealth and revamp our economy, the APC and the Buhari Presidency are mortgaging the future of our nation through all manner of foreign loans which they cannot account for.

Now that they have borrowed from all corners of the world and turning our country into a debtor nation, with nothing to show for it, the APC and the Buhari administration have resorted to primitive printing of naira notes not minding the huge inflation as well as devastation such would trigger in our economy.

From the arrogant disposition of the APC, it is clear that it has no regard for Nigerians and as such has no business being in governance.

Kola Ologbondiyan
National Publicity Secretary

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Pulling back from the Brink —– Remarks by Malam Nasir El-Rufai, Governor of Kaduna State, at the national conversation; The Fierce Urgency of Now: Tactics and Strategies to Pull Nigeria from the Brink, held in Lagos on Friday, 19th February 2021

Pulling back from the Brink

Remarks by Malam Nasir El-Rufai, Governor of Kaduna State, at the national conversation; The Fierce Urgency of Now: Tactics and Strategies to Pull Nigeria from the Brink, held in Lagos on Friday, 19th February 2021

1. It is an understatement to say that Nigeria is in one of its most difficult moments. The genuine fears for their lives and property felt by many citizens across the country need to be assuaged, along with urgent steps to stop the attacks, relieve human misery and rebuild collective trust and will to jointly confront and defeat the criminals that menace us all.

2. This moment of peril is compounded by an avalanche of extreme rhetoric, ethnic profiling and fake news that only ignite passion without comforting the afflicted, nor offering a way out. Leaders and all responsible persons must show compassion to our compatriots that have been affected while calming nerves. Banditry is a national problem, with victims from all parts of the country, and we should address it with a common resolve and not further delight the felons by letting them divide us.

3. It is regrettable that banditry has been allowed to develop a nationwide footprint. In 2015, we in Kaduna State inherited a crime mix of mainly rural banditry, cattle rustling and kidnapping, along with the menace of urban gangs. In parts of the southern senatorial district of the state, communal clashes with ethno-religious complications have been the norm for over three decades. Many livestock holders and farmers had abandoned their farms, either because the bandits had stolen their assets or out of fear for their lives.

4. We identified the Kamuku-Kuyambana forest range, running from Niger State through Birnin-Gwari in Kaduna State and across most of the NorthWest states, as the major bandit enclave. We initiated discussions with our neighbours and the governors developed a shared appreciation of the problem and decided to try and solve it. With remarkable unanimity, the governors of the North-West states and Niger State jointly provided the funding of a military operation for which the Federal Government committed its military assets.

5. The military operations in the Birnin Gwari axis decimated the bandits and heralded a massive reduction in cattle rustling. But the relief proved sadly momentary. With the military operations not becoming continuous or simultaneous in all states, the bandits regrouped and intensified kidnappings in rural communities, highways and on the fringes of major population areas. Banditry is badly hurting our rural economy, driving farmers off the land, stealing their cattle, kidnapping them and their families for ransom, and often killing them.

6. About a third of our 23 local governments are affected by these crimes. The locus of banditry in the last 15 months has been in the northern and central senatorial districts of our state. Bandits have also complicated the communal clashes that blighted lives in parts of the southern Kaduna senatorial district in the latter half of 2020. Thanks to some courageous leadership at the grassroots, a community-based peace process in Zangon-Kataf and Jema’a local government areas is helping to reduce communal tensions and incline the communities towards exclusively peaceful way of resolving differences.

7. I am telling the story of our experience in Kaduna State to remind everyone that our people are victims of these criminals and illustrate that we feel the pains of victims in other parts of the country. Our experience also teaches us a few things which should inform our responses:

i. The Nigerian state has not jealously and consistently protected its prerogatives and status as the leviathan, the ultimate guarantor of security, the protector of rights and the promoter of the rule of law. That is why its power is being challenged, in a frighteningly sustained manner by a phalanx of armed non-state actors.

ii. Our national level security response to these challenges has been uncoordinated and ineffective in wiping out the threats. None of the military services nor other security agencies has been suitably expanded in numbers and equipment for over a decade since the insurgency in the North-East pushed things to a new low. This country does not have enough soldiers, uniformed police and secret police to project state power across its vast swathes, particularly the forests. The limited number of boots on the ground are not well equipped and are significantly lacking in the technology that can make their limited numbers matter a lot less.

iii. The justice system operates with ethos and at a pace that do not reflect the fragility of the situation and the urgency to demonstrate that the rule of law is meaningful. Prosecutions take so long that many citizens assume that the criminals have long been released, encouraging criminal conduct, and raising the dangerous appeal of illegal self-help.

iv. The subnational levels – that is the states and local governments combined – have limited hard power but considerable options and scope for the exercise of soft-power which require for its effectiveness the looming shadow of credible coercive power;

v. Notions of a common humanity, not to talk of a common citizenship are not as widely or deeply shared as it would appear. Identity politics holds sway. This reflects the absence of an elite consensus about who we are and how we should live together.

8. We can overcome these debilitations. Nigeria is not the only diverse country in the world; neither are we the only federation. We are not the only country cobbled together by accidents of history. We are more integrated than we think, and there are many shared stories of triumph and tragedy. There are fault-lines, but we can be rational about managing and navigating them; we can be conscious and deliberate about overcoming some of them while rendering those that remain less toxic.

9. In Kaduna State, we are implementing a project that conceives livestock production as a viable business, rather than a culture. We are working with a global dairy giant Arla of Denmark to deliver a project that sedentarises herders, in a community with roads, veterinary clinics, schools and health facilities. Arla of Denmark is the commercial and technical manager of this project, called the Damau Milk Project, based in one of our 14 grazing reserves located in Kubau local government area. This project would deliver better life chances for the herders, create new businesses and remove a perennial source of conflict. We hope to replicate this project across more of the grazing reserves in the state.

10. In my view, we must approach organising our country as a deliberate task, beginning with a collective decision regarding what sort of society we intend to be and the means of attaining it. That collective decision manifests in elite consensus, and it would include an understanding of the medley of measures required to make it happen. It may involve a set of drastic actions to signal a firm direction and some more medium to long term measures that require patient nurturing. Based on elite consensus, managed under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping, China went in 40 years from poverty to first world status, lifting hundreds of millions out of poverty and making the country the second largest economy in the world.

11. Nigeria does not have to remain mired in an identity bind. Rather than leaving its peoples moored to the past, we can create a shared vision of a new future. We require an elite consensus to take the poison out of identity politics and emphasise personal qualities, including competence, application and responsibility. We must be pragmatic in economic and political choices, choosing what is efficient above what is popular, caring more for results than the drama of ethno-religious entrepreneurs.

Elite consensus must include agreement on the following:
i. Commitment to the Rule of law and quick dispensation of justice;
ii. Common citizenship;
iii. Meritocracy and equal opportunity
iv. Prioritisation of human development;
v. Respect for diversity and protection of citizenship rights guaranteed by the Constitution;
vi. Devolution of powers to return the nation to the true federation of our founding fathers.

12. The APC Committee on True Federalism proposed significant devolution of powers between the national government and the 36 States. We recommended that about 10 items be transferred from the Exclusive to the Concurrent List and therefore fall under the control of both the states and federal government. I will dwell on three of the issues that I believe are critical to the immediate needs of the country to pull back from the brink:
a. Imperative for Federal, State and Community Police;
b. Vesting control of Oil and Gas, Mines and Minerals (other than offshore in the Continental Shelf and Extended Economic Zone) in the States with royalties and taxes payable to the Federation Account, and
c. Rectifying the anomaly of a federation that has a more or less unitary judiciary.

13. I am firmly convinced that restructuring on the lines proposed by our committee is a nation-building opportunity. It would allow states that states to exercise consequential powers, assume more responsibilities and control resources to enable them deliver better outcomes for those they govern.

14. In addition to, and in line with the foregoing points, I will conclude by recommending the following immediate decisions and actions by the federal and state governments, with the support of our civil society and all well-meaning Nigerians:

i. Implement the three key devolution proposals outlined above. Give us state police now. Vest all minerals in the states now, and decentralise our judiciary now, not later.
ii. Be emphatic about the right of every citizen to security, freedom of movement and rights of residence, and that the choice of livelihoods must conform to the laws of the land;
iii. Identify, focus on and deal decisively with all state and non-state actors engaged in conduct that amounts to challenging the supremacy of the Nigerian state and our Constitution without ethnic profiling or discriminatory treatment;
iv. Provide immediate and enhanced funding to acquire advanced equipment, armament and ordinance for the armed forces, police, security and paramilitary agencies by drawing down from various ‘rainy day’ federation funds;
v. Implement the national livestock transformation plan already produced four years ago to enable accelerated investment in modern animal husbandry incorporating the rapid sedentarisation of herders in known locations;
vi. Aggressive reduction of the cost of governance at federal, state and local government levels through merger of MDAs with similar mandates and functions, and a nationwide freeze on creation of any new administrative, regulatory or executive bodies for the foreseeable future;
vii. Forge national consensus now, not later, to collect more taxes at both Federal and State levels to be viable. This means we must stop pretending that the regulated levels of monetary policy rates, exchange rate, prices of petrol and electricity, and salaries of the public sector are realistic, sustainable and will lead us to the promised land.

15. As leaders, our obligation is to turn Nigeria’s moment of peril into a breakthrough moment, a time to stand together and drag the Nigerian state to modernity, imbued with a capacity to exercise robust control of security, that is uncompromising in its prerogatives and has an ability to protect rights, lives and livelihoods. Let us make a rational decision that we would be defined by what we achieve in common.

Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai, OFR
Governor of Kaduna State
Lagos, Nigeria

February 19, 2021