On Sunday, November 5, 2017, members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, popularly known as Shi’ites during their annual Arbeen trek were intercepted and for reasons still unclear, gun shots were fired and two members of the Shi’ites killed. The Shiites, whose leader – El-Zachary remains in custody despite a Court order, are the minority group among Muslims in Nigeria. The majority are Sunis. Virtually all the predominantly Muslim states in Nigeria are governed by Suni Muslims and the Shi’ites have for long been regarded as an outlaw group despite the country’s constitution that neither Nigeria nor states should adopt a religion.
On Tuesday, November 7, 2017, the Kaduna State government released a statement warning about a planned Shi’ite march in the state despite the proscription of the movement in the state and asked security forces to stop the trek.
A few weeks ago, Sokoto state government also warned the Shi’ites to desist from preaching in the state and asked the security forces to deal decisively with them. A few Northern States have also started experiencing Shi’ite movement activities.
Since power abhors a vacuum, altogether, the emerging picture is one of a Shi’ite movement which has regrouped under an unknown new leader in the absence of El-Zakzaky. The new leaders are determined to exercise their religious freedom to worship as they choose – even if the majority of their Muslim brothers and sisters don’t like it.
The uprising is also coming at a time when the Shiites in the Middle East led by Iran, Iraq and Qatar are engaged in rising hostilities with the Sunis led by Saudi Arabia. If care is not taken, Nigeria might be drawn into the global proxy wars being waged by Iran and Saudi Arabia. The consequences for Nigeria will be highly catastrophic.
Nigeria is already faced with the Boko Haram problem; the Herdsmen issue threatening to get out of hand in several states and the renewed threat by Niger Delta Avengers. We don’t need another religious conflict at this time.
The Federal Government should as a matter of urgency find an amicable solution to the confrontation between Shi’ites and Sunis in the country. Basically, each individual should have the right to worship God as he chooses and that right should be enjoyed by all.
FG DESERVES FULL CREDIT FOR TIMELY PRESENTATION OF 2018 BUDGET.
For the first time since 2000, the annual budget was presented to the National Assembly in fairly good time. It was promised for October and delivered on November 7, 2017 by President Buhari. The few days delay are insignificant compared to the time gained in ensuring that for the first time in recent history the nation’s budget can be approved before December 31 of the outgoing year and become operational from January 1 next year. This is a welcome departure from the past and it represents the sort of change Nigerians expected from the Buhari administration.
The ball is now partly in the court of the National Assembly, NASS. The Joint Appropriation Committee of both Houses should now move expeditiously to apportion responsibilities to various committees and give the Chairmen timelines by which their reports must be submitted.
Meanwhile, the FG should also help matters by desisting from sending amendments to the NASS after the budget had been submitted. Ministers as well as heads of Departments and Agencies who are called by the NASS to shed light on their budgets should also be under strict instruction to appear as and when needed.
The 2018 Budget is coming on the heels of the 2017 Budget which most lawmakers assessed as being badly implemented. Most of the capital projects listed for the year have not been funded and may never see the light of day again. The lawmakers whose constituencies were adversely affected by the shortfall in funding are obviously spoiling for a fight if the 2018 Budget fails to address their concerns. That is to be expected.
But, if the time gained by getting the budget delivered on time will not be dissipated in needless confrontation later, the FG must be prepared to compromise by prioritizing in 2018 those states which missed out in 2017. At all costs, the 2018 Budget must be approved before the NASS proceeds on its Yuletide recess.
It will be a new year indeed if that happens.
DSS AND EFCC UNDERMINING THE FIGHT AGAINST CORRUPTION
The recent announcement by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, that the Department of State Services, DSS, of protecting certain individuals suspected of being implicated in the alleged $2 billion arms scam said to have been perpetrated by the office of the National Security Adviser, NSA, is the latest in the series of squabbles between the two security agencies which cast great doubt on the abilities of the two heads to continue to lead them.
The first volley of accusations was fired by the DSS in a memorandum to the Senate alleging financial improprieties against Mr Magu, the Acting Chairman of the EFCC. That memo resulted in Magu being denied confirmation by the Senate till today. Since then, there has been discernible bad blood between the two agencies.
The latest revelation by the EFCC not only rekindles the hostilities between the two government agencies, it raises a wider question regarding the security of the nation as a whole. When a security agency deliberately protects a certain class of criminals, it is not just engaged in obstruction of justice it inevitably creates a class of untouchable enemies of society. That is clearly unacceptable.
President Buhari should as a matter of utmost urgency wade into this new revelation and if found to be true should effect a change in the leadership of the DSS. The leader of any security outfit must, at all times be above suspicion for protecting criminals and engaging in obstruction of justice.
N2 BILLIN CHICKENS WASTING AWAY IN NIGERIA.
The statement made by the immediate past President of the Poultry Association of Nigeria, PAN, Dr Ayoola Oduntan, that N2 billion worth of locally produced chickens are wasting away in cold rooms in Nigeria should embarrass all Nigerians as it makes a complete mockery of our Made In Nigeria slogan. It should also challenge us to save Nigeria’s poultry sector from collapse if our efforts at economic diversification is to yield lasting results.
To begin with N2 billion worth of chickens, for a nation with population of close to 180 million is not a lot. In fact, it is not nearly enough. At N2000 per chicken, approximately one million birds are involved. Again, that comes to one bird for 180 Nigerians. That is definitely not enough. Then why are they wasting away.
The answer lies in our collective lack of patriotism and the failure of the Nigerian Customs Service, NCS. Far more than one million birds are smuggled into Nigeria every week and sold in supermarkets and open markets while the Customs and the rest of us pretend not to see what is going on. Governments, at federal and state levels have to join hands to stamp out smuggling of chickens into the country by enacting laws in every state prohibiting the sale of chiken not bred in Nigeria and the penalties should be stiff enough to compel compliance by all but the most desperate.
PAN must also help itself. The truth is, most poultry firms only produce chickens and eggs. They have no plans to sell them. They employ no sales people; they expect customers to line up in front of their gates to buy what they produce. That is a fundamental flaw which PAN must correct among its members. The world will not come to them; they must go out to sell their products. PAN can also benefit from the experience of others in foreign countries when faced with gluts of eggs and chicken. They organized themselves to keep the wolves in form of smuggled birds away from their countries. Complaining can only get PAN so far; taking responsibility for their survival will get them farther.
BUHARI’S CONFESSION ON 2017 BUDGET AND ITS CONSEQUENCES.
President Buhari while presenting the 2018 Budget to the joint session of the National Assembly, NASS, made a crucial confession couched as a promise. He promised to raise the implementation of the 2017 Budget to “about 50 per cent” by the end of December this year. It was a clear admission that as late as November of this year, the percentage of budget implementation is less than 50 per cent. Buhari did not disclose how far the nation is from helf-way mark. Some analysts have projected that implementation is as low as 25 per cent for the first ten months of the year.
Irrespective of the percentage achieved, Buhari’s statement constitutes the first concrete admission of what many critics of the administration have been saying. The 2017 Budget, like the 2016 Budget is already a woeful failure. With two failed budgets in a row to its credit, Nigerians and the global community must be wondering how much reliance can be placed on the 2018 Budget given the fact that the same Economic Management Team is in place and there is no discernible change of orientation towards raising internally-generated revenue and encouraging Public-Private-Partnership and increasing taxes.
While the President has been honest by admitting the truth, he was not candid enough to tell Nigerians what will be the consequences of failure to reach 50 per cent of budget this year. Unfortunately, there will be grave repercussions and those will negatively impact the 2018 Budget by casting doubt on its acceptability.