The Committee on Social Mobility, the Economy & Politics of The Muslim Congress, TMC, on Monday, August 1, held its quarterly state of the nation address where it dwelled on plethora challenges bedeviling Nigeria.
In the 1660 word count press release presented by its Amir, Alhaji Abdul Wasi’i Taiwo Bangbala, who also chaired the Committee, the faith-based organisation said the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration owes a duty to the entire nation to find the mindless killers of innocent Nigerians and bring them to justice.
Below are the major takeaways from the press briefing
NIGERIA’S ENDLESS SECURITY THREATS AND THE MACABRE TURMOIL
Insecurity remains Nigeria’s most intractable problem as terrorism is fast becoming the order of the day. Like other pockets of internal security crises, the gruesome attack on worshippers at the St. Francis Catholic Church, Owo, Ondo State, on Sunday 5th June and the recent attack on a construction site in the same city on 27th July by alleged bandits has left many in awful fluster as widespread security breaches around the country continues to generate palpable concerns among the citizens. The worsening violence by armed groups has left the over 200 million people in perpetual trepidation as the nation is bedevilled by an unprecedented wave of overlapping security issues – from kidnapping to extremist insurgencies in almost every corner of the country. The President Muhammad Buhari-led government needs to shake off its seemingly lethargic posture towards the monstrous security challenges besetting the country and prove that it still wields the capacity to secure and protect the lives and properties of every integrant part of the country. The authorities owe it a duty to the entire nation to find the mindless killers and bring them to justice. By the same token, the government needs to take decisive action on the remaining abductees of the Abuja-Kaduna train attack who have now spent over 100 days in captivity. The Kuje prison attack and the brutal killings of soldiers and policemen in Shiroro, Niger State, make clearly evident that insecurity is, by far, the biggest challenge facing the country. The mayhem and unmitigated daredevilry ravaging South-east, especially Anambra State, is another case in point. The government must deploy its machinery and every strategy at its disposal to entrench security and welfare of the citizens. The military onslaught against bandit-terrorists wreaking havocs in and around the country must be intensified with strategic coordination with the counter-terrorism department of the Police force and other security institutions. Nigerians have endured years of great misfortune and truly deserve a break.
2. GLOOMY FORECAST: NIGERIA IN THE THROES OF ECONOMIC COLLAPSE
On the back of pervasive insecurity, rising inflation and extremely huge spending associated with the fast-approaching general elections, international financial institutions; the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank have both projected a bleak economic outlook for Nigeria in the days ahead. The petrol subsidy is the elephant in the room conversation that the government has not shown enough courage to address. The subsidy policy is one that has proven to be counterproductive over the years. Apart from hurting the economy so badly, the ability of the government to service the nation’s rising debts is also being hampered. It is a sticky issue that continues to set the government against the citizens and organised labour. Worse still, the current energy crises has compounded the economic woes exacerbated by perpetual nationwide blackout due to incessant collapse of the national grid; a situation that has contributed to shrink public and private businesses. These unfortunate developments have had far-reaching implications on the economy with increasing job loss, high inflationary pressure and deepening poverty rate. The government needs to initiate policy reforms that will get the country out of the woods. This is the time to intensify diversification of the economy through huge investment in non-oil sector. Although, we acknowledge that the government has recorded commendable strides in export promotion but there are more grounds to be covered for the efforts to significantly boost the economy and also yield the required foreign exchange. The government must create an enabling environment that will attract local and foreign investors. In the same vein, the federal government should resolve the age-long challenges in the nation’s power sector which includes capacity expansion for future power needs while providing effective and stable framework for managing the power sector.
3. MONETISATION OF POLITICS: A GRIM REMINDER OF THE PITFALLS AHEAD OF 2023 POLLS
As the countdown to the 2023 general elections gets underway for what will be the 7th consecutive elections since the return to civil rule back in 1999, one unfortunate feature of the electoral practice in the country that has become an obscene phenomenon over the years is vote-buying. The sordid and unsavoury issue of vote-buying that allegedly marked the Ekiti State and the just concluded Osun State elections constitute an abuse of the constitutional rights of the people to choose their leaders in a manner that is credible. This ugly trend is indeed a mockery of our much vaunted democracy. The recourse to financial inducement did not just start today. It has pervaded our electoral space overtime and has grown in leaps and bounds, so much so, that vote-buying magnates have now become very brazen. The allegations of delegate inducement at the presidential primaries of the leading political parties make evident that we are fully immersed in the neck-deep culture of vote-buying; a steep dive from the height of recognition for our hard-earned democracy, to the depths of infamy. Vote-buying robs the electoral process of moral credibility and puts a dent on the legitimacy of the entire process. However it is viewed, the monetisation of politics as it stands is antithetical to national development and there is urgent need for proper re-orientation to reverse the current detestable drift. Curbing vote buying and all forms of financial inducement in the electoral process is crucial to the survival of our democracy. Hence, our electoral system must be re-engineered. Elections should never be on a winner-take-all basis. The federal government on its part should criminalize the act and charge its enforcement arms to come up with strategies that will deter potential violators.
4. HOPE FOR CREDIBLE ELECTIONS: THE NEW ELECTORAL ACT & INEC’s REJUVENATION
In spite of the perils of vote-buying and the many challenges confronting electoral process in Nigeria, the new electoral act has given a glimmer of hope that the integrity of the electoral process is about to be restored. We commend President Muhammadu Buhari for signing the 2022 Electoral Amendment Bill into law ahead of the 2023 general elections. It is a major development, especially where elections are often marred by widespread rigging and voter intimidation. The new law accords the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) more decision-making powers and also sets aside timely funding to forestall the perennial logistic and technical glitches. The electoral umpire, INEC, must also be applauded for the year-long registration of new voters and for acceding to the calls of Nigerians to extend the deadline to accommodate the new enthusiasm towards the 2023 polls. Its adoption of the voter authentication and accreditation system technology, BVAS, and the relentless efforts to drive the amendment of the electoral act to enable direct transmission of results from the polling units to the Commission’s server in Abuja is indeed a breath of fresh air. These moves are indeed helping to boost the confidence of Nigerians that the 2023 general elections will be a success. INEC indeed deserves a great deal of commendation for its recent feats and must continue to demonstrate its readiness to midwife this newly found political consciousness and awakening into a historic outcome.
5. HIJAB AND THE SUPREME COURT RULING: A STEP TOWARDS AN INCLUSIVE SOCIETY
The recent verdict of the Supreme Court of Nigeria approving the use of Hijab in government-owned schools in Lagos State is indeed a welcome development. The ruling ends a long-drawn legal battle over the constitutionality of the head-covering clothing for female Muslim students. The Supreme court upheld the appellate court’s judgement which had earlier set aside the jaundiced decision of the High Court, Lagos State, banning female Muslim students from wearing the Hijab to school. The apex court rightly deemed the ruling a violation of the fundamental rights to freedom of thought, conscience, religion, dignity of human persons and freedom from discrimination. The court judgement underscores the need for guarantees of religious freedom to extend to workplaces where discriminatory policies are often used in subjugating citizens who choose to uphold their religious beliefs. The federal government must see this development as part of the efforts to create a truly inclusive society where religion and culture are not just respected but also protected. Authorities in public institutions, leadership of organizations and business owners must brush up on the nuances of bias and do more to accommodate the diverse background of their workforce. The right of Muslims students and workers to worship must be respected, especially the observance of the Friday (Jumat) prayers at its appointed time. For all intents and purposes, this court verdict should impact how our diversity is reckoned going forward.
6. COMMERCIALIZATION OF NNPC: A NEW DAWN OF TRANSPARENCY & ENERGY SECURITY
A major concern with a number of government-owned parastatals is the burden of inefficiency and obscurity in the way they are run. For a state-run behemoth like the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to have only published an audited financial statement for the first time in its over four decades of operation in 2020 speaks volume of the abject lack of transparency in the corporation. It is therefore, right to commend the government’s effort at changing the narratives with the push for transparency as evinced by the recent commercialization of the corporation. The old NNPC has now metamorphosed into NNPC Ltd in line with the provisions of the Petroleum Industry Act 2021, with private investors being allowed to own shares in the new limited liability company. NNPC Ltd will operate as a commercial, independent and viable national oil company on the same pedestal with its peers around the world while adhering to the principle of integrity and transparency. Per this development, the new NNPC is enabled to operate in a competitive manner while the change would be expected to signal a new era of accountability and energy security for the country. Expectation is indeed rife that, with the new status of the NNPC, the company would lead Nigeria to start having functional refineries, and rather than importing, it would be exporting refined petroleum products to other parts of the world and sub-region of Africa.
7. ENTRANCE EXAMINATION: INJUSTICE TO NON-CHRISTIAN PUPILS
The entrance examination for Lagos State public schools that was held on Saturday July 23rd has come under the spotlight in controversial fashion over the inclusion of Bible knowledge questions in the General Knowledge examination, giving undue advantage to Christian candidates over Muslims and non-Christian students. In a socio-cultural landscape rife with vast inequalities and religious diversity, issues that reflects divergent views , especially with religious connotations, have always kicked up a rumpus and one would have expected the examiners to, at least, shrug off the idea rather than act against the better judgement.
The intrepid boldness to instruct innocent kids, 10 to 12 years old primary school pupils, to compulsorily attempt questions on a subject never taught them before while at the same time offending their religious sensibilities is beyond the pale. That no less than 3 questions of a supposed General Knowledge examination were extractions from Christian Religious Studies, when it is not an appraisal for early catechumen waiting in line for baptism, is a subtle attempt at proselytism. The indiscretion of the examiners is not only unfair, offensive but also a damning indictment on the Lagos State Ministry of Education.
It is, therefore, incumbent on the Ministry to hold culpable those responsible for this sheer imprudence. The authorities must look at providing redress in the interest of justice and fairness and as a matter of priority, must seek to calm frayed nerves by issuing an official statement to denounce the affronting aberration.
We implore the Lagos State Ministry of Education to either consider having the examination retaken or to award the controversial questions (nos 11, 12 & 14) as bonus marks in the interest of candidates who were apparently disadvantaged. Going forward, the authorities must ensure careful scrutiny of the activities of the examining body in order to forestall a re-occurrence of this travesty.
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