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Jonathan and The Burden of African Development

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By Mike Tayese, Yenagoa

Former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan was a man who began his political career from a humble beginning but Rose to become one of the African most celebrated leaders of our time. He started as the deputy governor of Bayelsa state to late Chief Diepreye Alamieyesigha Solomon Peter fondly called DSP from 1999 to 2003 and from 2003 to August 2005 when he became the Acting governor of the state and later governor.

While still as governor of Bayelsa state was nominated as the running mate to late president Umaru Musa Yar’Adua under the platform of the Peoples Democratic party in an election they won in 2007.

Jonathan took over as the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria following the death of President Umar Ya’radua on May 5, 2010, and contested in 2011 and won.

In 2015, he lost his reelection bid to former president Muhammadu Buhari in the presidential election. Jonathan was the first sitting president to have conceded defeat and congratulated his opponent because he openly said “his political ambition does not worth the blood of any innocent Nigerians.”

His actions have endeared him to African and World Leaders as one of the most peaceful politicians in recent times. Since Jonathan left office, his desire has been how African leaders can imbibe the culture of having and organizing a peaceful election across the continent without shedding innocent Peoples blood and how the winner of the election can translate it to overall development.

Hence the establishment of the “Goodluck Jonathan Foundation” (GJF) in 2017 in order to give meaning to the African Democratic Process that benefits not only the political gladiators but most importantly the electorates. The birth of the Foundation has witnessed tough provoking Topics in the last few years.

Over the past eight years, the Goodluck Jonathan Foundation has implemented a range of Initiatives in several African countries aimed at contributing to the building of Democratic accountability, strengthening governance, and promotion of a culture leadership that is both transparent and conducive to the peaceful transfer of power.

Although democracy may be good in and of itself as a system for ensuring participation and accountability, it is also clear that for it to be sustained, it must deliver and be seen to be delivering material improvements in the lives of citizens and progress for society as a whole. The 2023 Goodluck Jonathan Foundation Democracy Dialogue was devoted to exploring the interface between democracy and development more closely and in all its dimensions. The foundation gathered who is who in the African Democratic Process to rub minds together on the way forward.

The 2023 edition which took place at the 1000 capacity auditorium of the Nigerian Content Development Monitoring Board in Yenagoa was the first time since 2017 the event was taking out of Abuja. An event that was loaded with different topics with different erudite scholars in their field of endeavors.

This year’s theme: “Breaking New Grounds in The Democratic Development Nexus in Africa” had Prof PLO Lumumba as the keynote speaker while His Majesty, Ogiame Atuwatse CFR, The Olu of Warri as the royal father of the day. While delivering his keynote address, Prof Lumumba, believed that the Sit-Tight mentality of African Leaders Were Responsible for Frequent Coups because those who find themselves in the corridors of power have failed to meet the desired development by their citizens. Prof Patrick Lumumba stressed the need for Africans to look inward to solve their problems.

According to him, the sit-tight African leaders were responsible for the frequent coups in the continent. He said there are too many individuals in Africa that are claiming to be leaders but they are not leaders. Saying the thing we need to interrogate in Africa is who is a leader? According to him, since the colonial masters left and we started electing leaders, our leaders have not changed nor have they used the God given resources for the benefit of the people. “You can construct roads and build bridges, they can be destroyed and rebuilt but when you build human beings intellectually, that is development. The end and beginning of development is human resources”.

In his remarks, chairman and founder of the Goodluck Jonathan Foundation (GJF), Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, said the GJF Annual Democracy Dialogue is an initiative that brings together stakeholders across Africa to examine issues of democracy and crisis in the continent towards proffering solutions. According to Dr. Jonathan, “democracy in the continent has gone through a period of crises that thrive by social tension, coup d’etat, insecurity and poor management of the electoral process, which in itself is a threat to our democracy in Africa.”

He pointed out that the theme of the dialogue underscored the fact that the people need to see democracy beyond elections and what happens after by the way of good governance. In his welcome address, governor Douye Diri of Bayelsa state, said the decision to re-elect him or choose a governor for the state should be the people’s prerogative. “On November 11 this year, Bayelsans will be going to the polls to elect a governor. I hope I have done enough to merit their endorsement for a second term. The decision should be theirs to make. I am inviting you all back here to be observers of the process.”

Diri had stressed that the introduction of armed non-state actors in political contests poses a greater threat to democracy than the military, noting that unless the people insist on building strong institutions capable of resisting the antics of strong men, more countries would be affected. “The introduction of armed non-state actors in political contests poses a greater threat to our democracy than the military. And unless we insist on building strong institutions capable of resisting the antics of strong men, more and more countries will be infected. “The antidote is the rise of accountable leaders, vibrant civil societies, and engaged citizenry who shape their own destinies and demand transparency, justice, and equal opportunities.”

The governor said the timing of the conference could not have come at a better time in view of what he described as “recent epidemic of military takeovers in the sub-region, which have woken us rudely from our sweet dreams that Africa has come a long way from an era marked by oppressive regimes and limited civic participation.”

The Bayelsa’s helmsman noted that if the people build the right foundations, they would leave enduring legacies, and applauded the unexampled conduct during the 2015 presidential election when President Goodluck Jonathan wrote himself into history as the father of Nigeria’s modern democracy.  He said, “in accepting to host this important event, I am aligning myself with the ideal so famously expressed in his immortal words that his “ambition is not worth the blood of any Nigerian. “Democracy should be about ballots, not bullets. It should be an exchange of ideas and convictions. That is why I often say, “those who will kill you to rule you, cannot mean well for you.”

Similarly, the Olu of Warri, His Majesty Utieyinoritsetsola Emiko, Ogiame Atuwatse III, noted that the interest of the people should be paramount in whatever system of government that is adopted, whether traditional or democracy.

Also, a panel of discussants – former president of Sierra Leone, Bai Koroma, former Vice President of the Gambia, Fatuomata Tambajang, Prof Ibaba Samuel Ibaba and Amb. Joe Keshi among others made their contributions towards the development of Africa, as President of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission, Dr Omar Touray, blamed the lack of development in Africa on weak institutions that have failed to hold leaders accountable, while the Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, Amina Mohammed called for strengthening of democratic institutions through inclusiveness of women, youths and the vulnerable in the society.

Perhaps, former President Jonathan sees all these anomalies in Africa democratic systems as a burden on how to make democracy work. Would the likes of Jonathan and some few African leaders who believe in the development of this African continent, democracy and development get the opportunity to impact the citizens?

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Benue First Class Chief, Abu King Shuluwa Dies at 79

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From Attah Ede, Makurdi

The Tiv Area  Traditional Council has announced the passage of a first  class traditional ruler, Tor Sankera, Chief Abu King Shuluwa. He died Tuesday at the age of 79 at the Federal Medical Centre  where he was receiving medical attention.

Secretary to Tiv Traditional Council, Shinyi Tyozua in a statement said the departed monarch will be buried February 10 in Katsina-Ala

Shuluwa was Chairman of the Sankera Traditional Council, which comprises Katsina-Ala, Ukum and Logo LGAs as well as member of the Benue Council of Traditional Rulers.

Before his ascendancy to the throne, Shuluwa had a fulfilled career in the public service and politics of Benue state.

He was educated at the famous Government College Katsina-Ala and Kaduna Polytechnic, Kaduna after which he proceeded to the Atlanta University, Atlanta, Georgia, USA where he obtained M.Sc in Social Works.

He was also at  the London School of Economics and University College Swansea, Wales, UK for further studies in the course of his civl service career with the Benue state government.

While in the service of Benue state, he was appointed to numerous positions including Chairman, Katsina-Ala LGA, Commissioner for Sports, Youths, Arts and Culture and  Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources.

 In 1999, he was appointed by President Olusegun Obasanjo as  National Commissioner of Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission(RMAFC), a position he held for one term of four years.

The late Shuluwa had an equally engaging  career in  politics as he  played active roles in the formation of the defunct Social Democratic Party(SDP) in the aborted third republic and was a frontline governorship aspirant of the party in Benue state.

Although he failed to clinch the governorship ticket,  he became the party’s sole administrator in 1991 and successfully led it s campaign to victory at the polls to return the candidate, the late Rev Fr Moses Adasu as Governor.

He was on the governorship bloc again in the 1999 and 2007 election circles on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, when he again vied for the governorship position without success.

He was an influential politician and political strategist, whose capacity to electrify the crowd at campaign rallies was unmatched by his peers. He played various other roles in the politics of Benue state and the nation at large.

When the Sankera First Class Chieftaincy stool was created in 2019, he became the first occupant of the revered stool, the position he occupied until his demise.

He is survived by his wife, Mrs Elizabeth Shuluwa, a retired Permanent Secretary and former Commissioner of Agriculture in Benue State, children and grand children.

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NBS and the Task of Delivering Reliable National Data

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By Okeoghene Akubuike

The role of data in the national development of a nation cannot be overemphasised, it is the bedrock on which policies that have a meaningful impact are developed and sustained

The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) is the agency responsible for the gathering and management of official statistics for Nigeria.

It is the authoritative source and custodian of official statistics in Nigeria.

The NBS meant to coordinate statistical operations of National Statistical System in the production of official statistics in all the Federal Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), State Statistical Agencies, and Local Government Councils.

The NBS responded to this in various ways, including its monthly and periodic release of socio-economic statistical data on all aspects of development in Nigeria.

However, on many occasions stakeholders have disagreed with NBS.

In 2021, then Minister of Labour, Dr Chris Ngige disputed the unemployment data in the country as released by NBS, questioning the agency’s data collation methodology.

The Labour Force Statistics report published by the agency had shown that the unemployment rate jumped from 27.1% in Q2 2020 to 33.3% in Q4 2020.

“We have a virtual meeting of the National Economic Advisory Council with the World Bank to look at Nigeria’s modalities for employment statistics data collection.

“There has been a little confusion there as to the accuracy of data generated by the NBS.

“So, we want to align everything tomorrow. The World Bank says the NBS methodology doesn’t conform with the global standard, especially the ILO format of arriving at such Employment Index.’’, he said.

He spoke while receiving the leadership of the Chartered Institute of Personnel Management (CIPM) in his office.

As part of its efforts to do things better, NBS recently held a National Stakeholders’ Workshop on the Production of National Strategy for the Development of Statistics (NSDS) Phase III 2024-2028 in Abuja and Uyo.

The objective of the workshop is to assess the National Statistical System (NSS) at the national and sub-national level, harness inputs and proffer recommendations for the development of NSDS.

It was held in collaboration with the World Bank under the Fiscal Governance and Institutions Project (FGIP)

The NSDS is a strategic document for the development and management of statistics.

The Statistician-General of the Federation, Mr Adeyemi Adeniran, at the workshop promised to build a stronger and more vibrant statistical system that would ensure the economic development of the country.

He said that it was crucial to forge a robust strategy to guide the growth and development of the system that would be responsible for producing the data that the country would depend on.

Adeniran who is also the Chief Executive Officer of the NBS said the 2024-2028 NSDS would serve as a guiding light to steer the country towards a modernised and transformed statistical system.

“Statistics, often hailed as the ‘silent language of governance,’ form the bedrock of an informed and thriving society. They guide policy formulation, resource allocation, and progress evaluation.

“Let us recognise that statistics go beyond mere numbers; they articulate the narrative of the situation in society, inform decisions, policies, and programmes, and pave the way for a brighter future.

“The accuracy and quality of our statistics are paramount. We must continuously strive for excellence in data collection, analysis, and dissemination to maintain the trust and confidence of our data users and policymakers.

“We will continue to work together to build a stronger and more vibrant statistical system that is capable and well-resourced to produce and facilitate the use of data in our progress toward sustainable development“, he said.

The Minister of Budget and Economic Planning, Sen. Abubakar Bagudu, said the new NSDS would bridge existing gaps and challenges in the statistical system, as he called for a robust, and inclusive national statistical system in Nigeria.

“Over the years, the NSDS has played an instrumental role in enhancing the quality, relevance, and accessibility of statistical data in Nigeria.

“It has also provided the necessary guidance for the systematic and coordinated development of statistical activities in our great nation.”

“It is our collective endeavour to ensure that the new NSDS not only addresses the strategic issues of the past five years but also anticipates and adapts to the evolving statistical landscape.”

He said that statistics would play a vital role in assessing the implementation of the Federal Government’s policies and projects.

“Hence, strengthening the statistical system is paramount to evaluating the current position and subsequent progress of the current administration”, he said.

Biyi Fafunmi, NBS’s Director, ICT, said to effectively review the last NSDS and facilitate the development of an inclusive new one, the bureau had engaged sets of consultants.

Sen. Yahaya Abdullahi, Chairman, Senate Committee on National Planning and Economic Affairs, called on the Statistician-General to deploy methodologies in data gathering and processing.

The private sector is crucial in data gathering, processing and usage and Mr Dakuku Peterside, urged NBS to ensure that its data are reliable.

Dakuku Peterside, former Director-General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency said `statistics is the compass that guides us in the labyrinth of national planning and development`.

“The NSDS is not just necessary but crucial, as a well-developed statistical system is essential for effective governance. It empowers policymakers with accurate and up-to-date information to make informed decisions.”

Peterside called on the NBS to pay attention to climate change in the development of the new strategy, saying that climate change has an impact in almost every sector such as health, transportation, and agriculture.

Utz Pape, the Lead Economist and Lead Poverty Team at the World Bank said it was important to look at the national statistical system in an integrated way.

According to him, it is important not to stop at the federal level but move vertically to the state level to have an integrated statistical system.

“This is why it is really important to not just think at the federal level but think about the states and how this can become an inclusive and integrated national statistical system based on data”, he said.

Prof. Olusanya Olubusoye, a professor of economics, University of Ibadan, in an inaugural lecture delivered at the University of Ibadan, had canvassed that to attain genuine national development and progress, political leaders must harness the power of statistics.

In his lecture titled “From Data to Wonders: Unlocking the Extraordinary Powers of Statistics”, Olubusoye described statistics as the golden thread that weaves through the fabric of knowledge, progress, and innovation.

The role of data and statistics in national development cannot be overemphasized. The NBS has a pivotal role to play in the availability of reliable data of every aspect of the nation.

Stakeholders agree that the NBS can achieve this through an improved, robust, inclusive, well-developed national strategy which would help build a stronger and reliable statistical system. (NANFeatures)

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Oil and Gas: What Lessons for Nigeria from Russia?

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With over 200 trillion cubic feet (tcf) Nigeria has the largest gas reserves in Africa. It is ranked 9th globally.

Given our high dependence on oil and gas for industrial and domestic energy the global transition from carbon fuel to sustainable energy sources poses a significant threat to Nigeria’s economy.

Most African countries, including Nigeria, are still facing energy availability problems as their energy consumption is several times below the world’s average.

Experts estimate that Africa will account for over 60 per cent of global population growth by 2050.

In view of urbanisation experts forecast that Africa will experience significant economic growth to be accompanied by two-fold increase in natural gas demand.

Nigeria, Africa’s largest Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) exporter lacks access to energy and since gas is the energy transition fuel, it is only logical that its development, availability and utilisation be enhanced.

Natural gas offers effective solutions to major areas of activities causing air pollution, including power generation, transport and household applications.

It can replace coal in power generation and oil products in transport; as for household applications, natural gas substitute Biomass (firewood) which according to experts account for up to 45 per cent of Africa’s energy mix

Apart from being used for cooking, transportation (in vehicles), heating and powering machines, industries among others, the gas is also a valuable raw material for the production of fertilisers.

A trip to Russia by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on the invitation of its state-owned, Gazprom Energy Company revealed that partnering and emulating Russian Gas Projects and Gazprom’s competencies along the entire value chain of gas business is paramount for Nigeria’s gas development.

Russia has the largest proven natural gas reserves in the world, worth 47.8 trillion standard cubic meters. Iran and Qatar follow, with more than 30 and 20 trillion cubic meters.

Gazprom, its state-owned energy corporation, established in 1971 with sales of over 120 billion dollars is ranked as the largest natural gas company in the world and the largest company in Russia by revenue.

NAN discovered that the company operates many active oil, gas and condensate fields with cluster of producing gas wells, comprehensive gas treatment unit, booster compressor station, and transportation and power infrastructure.

Gazprom is the main supplier of natural gas to the country and to other countries. Under its Gas Infrastructure Expansion and Unified Gas Supply System, gas is supplied to millions of households and public utility enterprises.

The Russian government is also committed to its All-Russia Gasification Programme which started in 1960 and had promoted clean energy and energy security till date, according to Mr Buzin Vyacheslav, Diretor-General, JSC, Gazprom Distribution.

Vyacheslav said the total length of Gazprom’s Gas Distribution Networks transmitting gas to end consumers was more than 800,000 kilometres.

“To make clean energy widely available to Russians, Gazprom is actively bringing gas to cities and villages, by building gas pipelines stretching from major gas trunk lines to the land plots of consumers.

“Gas infrastructure expansion is the most ambitious socially significant project of Gazprom that helps improve the living standards of people and the main benefits of pipeline natural gas are convenience of use, eco-friendliness –reliability and cost efficiency.

“Uninterrupted delivery and safety are the main principles of Gazprom as regards gas supplies, both construction and operation of gas infrastructure facilities are performed in compliance with stringent requirements.

“Pipeline natural gas is the cheapest energy source available in Russia today. For instance, gas prices for the population are regulated by the government which makes them as affordable for households as possible“, he said .

According to Vyacheslav, gas infrastructure expansion is a powerful driving force behind the development of regional economies.

“Owing to the access to pipeline gas, availability, larger tax payments; growth of employment and increase of living standards and better environmental conditions are achieved,’’ Vyacheslav told NAN.

He also said gas infrastructure is being expanded extensively across Russia, adding that by 2030, gas networks will be present in all places of Russia where it is technically possible.

Vyacheslav said for Nigeria to achieve gasification, technical and technological designs are involved to ascertain the cost.

He said it would also involve geological survey to identify rocky areas which might not be penetrated hence other options could be applied.

The energy company had expressed readiness to partner African countries, including Nigeria on gas technology, infrastructure and development, according to Dobycha Nadym, Mr Dimitry Stratov, its Deputy-Director General, Prospective and Development.

Prof. Stanley Onwukwe, an Oil and Gas Expert, said it was unfortunate that Nigeria had the resources and projects like the National Gas Development Strategy, Trans Sahara Gas Pipeline Project among others which were yet to be fully harnessed.

Onwukwe said Russia was proactive and had supplies gas to almost all the western world.

Onwukwe, a professor in the department of  petroleum engineering, Federal University of Technology Owerri, said there were blueprints established for gas developmental projects to thrive in the country but lack of political will hampered such projects.

“Nigeria has Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) already being used in Benin, most cars in the state are running on CNG.

“Initially the conversion of vehicles was free but they later started collecting almost a million naira which put people off.

“Such should be replicated nationwide while CNG refill stations should be established in various places for refilling but no such thing.

“The problem is not to have your vehicle’s engine converted for natural gas use but to see where to refill if you are on transit.

“It is a global village; just that the government does not have will power to implement such developmental projects after contract award,’’ he said.

He said the facility including gas base infrastructure for industries were necessary for distribution of gas but required proper investment and finance.

Dr Chijioke Ekechukwu, an economist said it would take a strong political will and implementable policies for Nigeria to attain such feat as Russia including having all our vehicles converted to CNG.

According to Ekechukwu, piping gas to homes is also possible if the supply is guaranteed.

He said it would be win-win to have policies in place towards achieving this, especially the fact that we have an abundance of gas.

“Only recently, the Nigerian government inaugurated a committee to convert cars and buses from petrol and diesel to CNG engine that can be used by these vehicles.

“We have an abundance of this gas, which is flared and wasted. Gas consumption both at home and by vehicles is climate friendly and should be encouraged,’’ said.

Also speaking, Mr Yusha’u Aliyu said Russia and EU have an excellent working policy on energy production and consumption, saying that technological advances also added value to their efforts.

“Gas is cost effective and environmental friendly. We have to develop a strategy and culture of commitment and efficiency to thrive,’’ he said. (NANFeatures)

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