The coming on board of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration in 2015 saw the merger of three key infrastructure ministries into a mega ministry known as the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing, with the mandate of facilitating the sectors’ development. In this review, PREMIER x-ray the progress so far recorded within the three years of Buhari’s stewardship.
Following his swearing in on the 29th May, 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari while delivering his inaugural speech, stated clearly that his administration would focus on the economy, fight against corruption, and provision of security. And under the economic reform programmes rolled out, the development of infrastructure, which was identified as a major vehicle through which any sustainable economic development can be achieved, was prioritised.
This must have informed the premium placed on the three economically key sectors of power, works and housing by Mr President to provide basic infrastructure and service needed to accelerate social and economic developments in the country.
On appointing and inaugurating his cabinet, the Hon. Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Barr. Babatunde Fashola assumed duty On 10th November, 2015 with a glowing zeal to tackle the underdevelopment challenges that have bedeviled these sectors largely due to neglect by successive administrations in decades.
Presenting the scorecard of his three years stewardship as the ‘Chief Servant’ of the ministry on 12 November, 2018, Fashola stressed that the ministry under his watch had fulfilled at least to a greater extend the campaign promises of Mr. President regarding infrastructure. The Super Minister, as he is fondly called, recalled that shortly after his inauguration and specifically on the 8th day of December, 2015, he prefigured what members of the public should expect in a statement titled “Setting the Agenda for Delivering Change” in which he set out what they inherited, what they planned to do, and what members of the public should expect thus:
“For the sake of consistency, let me refresh your memories by repeating some of what I said about each sector, as a benchmark for assessing our progress in the report which I will present shortly. With regard to our mandate on power supply, I promised that we will improve on the gas supply, increase the transmission capacity, pay MDA debts and generally improve your experience with power supply, first by getting incremental power, then proceed to stable power and hopefully reach uninterrupted power.
“With regard to works, I said as at May 2015, many contractors have stopped work because of payment and many fathers and wives employed by them have been laid off as a result. The possibility to return those who have just lost their jobs back to work is the kind of change that we expect to see.
‘‘And with regard to Housing, I said the Housing Sector presents an enormous opportunity for positively impacting the economy to promote not only growth but inclusion. I also said that government will lead the aggressive intervention to increase supply” starting with a pilot scheme,” he said, adding that virtually all that have been achieved going by what the government has achieved within the short three years that the administration has been striving to meet the yearnings of Nigerians infrastructurally.
Details of what has been achieved in each sector in the last three years were given in the Minister’s speech.
Road Sector (Works)
The Nigerian road sector no doubt may have witnessed unprecedented improvement going by the record of on-going and completed highway and bridge projects that cut across the 36 states and the FCT in the last three years that the present government boldly made known its intention to upgrade the country’s infrastructure which hitherto have been in utter decay.
When the Hon. Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola presented to the public a sketch of the achievement of the Buhari-led government regarding road rehabilitation, construction and maintenance, it became clear to many Nigerians that the government has been on its toe in a bid to deliver on its promises of revamping the country’s infrastructure as a gateway to sustainable socio-economic development.
When the Minister assumed office in November, 2015, the lamentation was that the ministry inherited about 206 road projects across the country, most of which were abandoned by the contractors mainly for lack of fund, and in a few cases, insecurity, with the attendant loss of jobs by thousands who were engaged and earning their living from those contracts. However, while presenting the scorecard of the 3 years, the Minister affirmed that contractors have since been mobilised back to the sites while thousands of job lost in the course of abandoning the projects have been recovered.
He explains: “We have recovered the thousands of jobs that were lost to public works.
“This recovery is the result of an expansive infrastructure spending that saw works budget grow from N18.132b in 2015 to N394b in 2018.
“The outcome is that there is not one state in Nigeria today where the Federal Government is not executing at least one road project and construction workers are engaged on these sites.
“Difficult or abandoned projects like the 2nd Niger Bridge, Lagos-Ibadan Expressway and the Bodo-Bonny Bridge have been brought back to life.
“Sections of Ilorin-Jebba, Sokoto to Jega, Sokoto-Ilela have been completed, while progress of works continues nationwide from Jada to Mayo Belwa, Enugu to Port Harcourt, Lagos to Otta, Ikorodu to Shagamu, Benin to Okene, Lokoja to Abuja, Kano to Maiduguri, Abuja – Kaduna, Kano to mention a few.
“Apart from recovered construction jobs and growth in construction sector of the economy, the feedback from road users is that the journey times are reducing on the completed roads. This is what we promised in my inaugural address.
“We acknowledge that the work is not finished, but as long as we remain able to finance the projects, I have no doubt that it will get better.”
‘‘The intervention on roads, as made clear by the ‘infrastructure’ Minister, does not stop on interstate highways. It has also entered 14 Federal Universities where unattended internal roads are now receiving attention.
The universities include: University of Nigeria, Nsukka; Federal University Oye, Ekiti; University of Benin; Federal University, Lafia; Fed University, Otuoke Bayelsa; Bayero University Kano; Federal University of Technology Owerri (FUTO); University of Maiduguri; Federal University, Lokoja; Federal Polytechnic Bauchi; Federal University, Gashua; Kaduna Polytechnic; Federal College of Education Katsina; and University College Ibadan’’.
“This is the First Phase under the 2017 Budget and we are preparing to do more under the 2018 Budget,” the Minister noted.
He also stated that even as rehabilitation and reconstruction works were on-going, maintenance of existing roads and bridges was not left to suffer.
“As we build roads, we are also attending to old or damaged bridges and restoring the value of maintenance.
“So, while the Loko -Oweto Bridge is nearing completion, the damaged Tatabu Bridge linking Ilorin and Jebba has been reconstructed and the Tamburawa Bridge in Kano, the Isaac Boro Bridge in Rivers, Eko Bridge in Lagos and the Old Niger Bridge that links Anambra and Delta are receiving regular maintenance attention,” he said.
Also during the briefing, the Ministry also gave statistics of road projects in the last three years. It said in 2016, 277 kilometres of road was constructed, 345km was rehabilitated and 17,749 people were employed in the process.
For 2017, the federal government constructed 488 roads, rehabilitated 256 others and engaged 31,227 persons. For 2018 till November, 497km of road has been constructed, 284 rehabilitated and 30,402 persons employed.
Expatiating on this, the Permanent Secretary (Works and Housing), Mr Mohammed Bukar said there have been award of 365 roads for construction since 2001. He said the Buhari government awarded 121 of these in three years while the previous government awarded 144 others in the whole of 17 years.
“You will see that out of the 365 roads, 144 were awarded in the period of 17 years while in just three years, we awarded 121 roads, just within three years and we are still counting because the 2018 procurement is on-going,” Bukar noted.
On the N206bn 2nd Niger Bridge being funded by the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA), the ministry said about N31bn has been given to Julius Berger as advance which resulted in the significant record of pillars erected on site as the project is expected to be completed in 36 months.
Section 43 of the 1999 Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria recognises the right of every citizen in Nigeria to own property, especially land and its resources.
Also, access to livable, safe and secured shelter is a fundamental human right as enshrined in Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
Given that low income earners constituted over 80 percent of Nigeria’s active workforce, federal government needed to strike a balance between affordable housing for low income cadre and housing for selected Nigerians.
Currently, Nigeria is challenged with over 18 million housing shortfall despite the large number of completed and unoccupied houses dotting the landscape of major states in Nigeria.
To this end, the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari initiated and commenced the pilot phase of the National Housing Programme (NHP) in 34 states including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), with the exemption of Lagos and Rivers states whose governors failed to donate land for the project.
The two agencies, Federal Housing Authority (FHA) and Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN) under the ministry are also pushing for the provision of affordable housing to workers as seen in various projects and programmes.
The pilot phase of the NHP is directly executed by the federal government through the federal ministry of power, works and housing (housing sector).
The private sector may likely participate in the second phase depending on the acceptability of the designs by intending off-takers.
Premier Newspaper findings highlighted that the sum of N35 billion was budgeted for the project in 2016, about N41 billion from the N64.9 billion budgeted for capital spending in the housing sector 2017 budget was set aside for the project while in 2018, N35 billion was also budgeted for the project.
The essence of the project is to provide affordable homes for low income earners.
To achieve this objective, state governments and Federal Capital Territory (FCT) were asked to provide suitable lands on January, 2016 in their state capitals and municipal council areas.
The houses which are at various stages comprise of 1 bedroom, 2 bedroom and 3 bedroom semi-detached bungalows.
The NHP expected to add 2,736 units to the national housing stock, has provided about 13,680 direct jobs and 41,000 indirect jobs according to the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Raji Fashola.
In order to eliminate issues bordering on abandoned projects and shoddy job, the former minister of state II for Power, Works and Housing, Mr Suleiman Zarma, accompanied by staff and media team embarked on massive inspection of federal government projects in Nasarawa, Benue, Plateau as well as other states.
Zarma disclosed that the aim of NHP is to build communities that would integrate with one another both within and around the estates.
Federal Housing Authority (FHA)
The preparation for Abuja Mass housing project, Zuba started in the second half of 2017 following the release of N5 billion from the federal government.
All technical documentations were done and the first phases of the award were carried out in February 2018 through selective tendering process while subsequent awards were done through open tendering process.
The Zuba project was initially planned for 16 nos 3 bedroom blocks of 8 flats, 25 nos 2 bedroom block of 8 flats, 10 nos 1 bedroom block of 16 flats and 5 nos 3 bedroom block of terrace duplex of 4 units, with a total of 508 housing units.
The Kwali mass housing site is another project undertaken by FHA to boost affordable housing.
Located at the Lambata, behind federal government college Kwali, it is a 305 hectares of land given to FHA under the Abuja Mass Housing Programme.
The Kwali project consisted of 12 blocks of I bedroom flat (192) and 8 blocks of 2 bedroom flat (64).
Contracts were awarded for the development of phase 1 of the land in May 2018 but due to conflicts in payment of compensation and poor weather conditions like rainfall, the project was relocated to Zuba as approved by FHA board.
With the relocation of 256 units from Kwali site, the project, expected to roll out 754 houses for off-takers comprising of civil servants and informal sectors has gulped the sum of N6.62 billion already.
The entire estate covers over 2.6 kilometres of 7m carriageway road with trapedozial drain.
Over N10 billion would be spent on the project upon completion and it is expected to be commissioned by President Muhammadu Buhari by the beginning of the second quarter in 2019.
Managing director of FHA, Prof Mohammed Al-amin, stated that many jobs have been created at the site which absorbed the services of skilled and semi-skilled labourers.
He noted that the idea is in line with President Muhammadu Buhari’s vision of creating jobs and wealth for Nigerians, stating that 35 percent of the houses have been sold to interested Nigerians.
Al-amin maintained that its Gombe mass housing project was completed in 2018 and sold out through the Federal Integrated Staff Housing (FISH) scheme anchored by head of service while payment was made to FHA through the National Housing Fund (NHF) managed by Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN).
Al-amin hinted that the phase 1 of its Oshogbo project was completed and handed over to off-takers, noting that all elements of corruption and indiscipline would be eliminated from FHA.
He pointed out that the work progress was hindered due to the presence of some structures on the roadways and inaccessibility of some roads due to undefined boundaries with some adjoining public institutions like the LEA primary school.
He further advocated the increase for the agency’s budgetary allocation from N5 billion to N 50 billion, stating that it would create more jobs and circulate wealth for many Nigerians.
Senate Committee on Lands, Housing and Urban Development led by its chairman, Sen Barnabas Gemade and other members visited the site to access the level of work done.
Gemade was satisfied that the committee took the right decision at the parliament to integrate the FHA into the national housing scheme, noting that it is one of the most advanced stages of national housing projects around the country.
He assured that the committee would look into the request made by Al-amin to raise the agency’s budget to N50bn, which he described as ambitious.
Gemade commended the management of FHA in its efforts towards the re-birth of the agency, adding that the agency was almost going into extinction since 2002.
He kicked against constant bickering and numerous petitions received by the committee from disgruntled staff and contractors, noting that the notion that over 90 percent of contractors handling FHA projects must be members of staff is wrong and must stop henceforth.
Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN)
The Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN) has played a crucial role in providing shelter and loans for workers across the states.
The bank in partnership with the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (NUC), and Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA) commenced the construction of 1,400 affordable housing units for workers nationwide last year.
The Nasarawa and Kogi housing sites were the first of the fourteen locations to be used as the pilot phase of the programme, with 200 housing units expected to be constructed in each of the six geopolitical zones in addition to Lagos and Abuja.
The housing scheme is a product of strategic collaboration between FMBN and labour unions towards addressing the housing needs of its members estimated at 3.75million units.
The first phase of 100 housing units each in Kogi and Nasawara states were projected to be completed within six months.
The house types captured proven social housing models, comprising of one bedroom, two-bedroom and three-bedroom units, with prices ranging from N3.1 million to N8.3 million.
Also, the bank has expended N2.8 billion in the construction of 985 housing units in Enugu State for Nigerian workers contributing to the National Housing Fund (NHF) under the National Affordable Housing Delivery Programme (NAHDEP).
The FMBN has so far disbursed housing loans totaling N40.9 billion to 1,843 contributors, provision of home renovation loans totaling N14.072billion to 16,031 Nigerian workers, processing of N12.4billion refunds to contributors to NHF and registration of 224,752 workers to the fund.
Other innovative products undertaken by the bank include the rent-to-own scheme, where contributors could own a home and pay monthly or yearly rents over a 30-year period as well as the NHF individual housing construction loans that are payable over a 15-year period at interest rates of 7 percent.
Another notable effort is the reduction of equity contribution for accessing NHF loans to zero percent for N5m and below as well as 10 percent for N15 million and above.
The unveiling of FMBN digital platform code *219# for National Housing Fund (NHF) contributors was also a strategic move aimed at improving access to home ownership for workers.
The managing director/chief executive officer of FMBN, Arc Ahmed Musa Dangiwa, said it is the first time the bank and labour unions have synergised with stakeholders to develop a realistic and acceptable framework for delivering affordable housing to workers.
According to him, “The collaborative spirit provided an opportunity for labour leaders who understand the financial challenges faced by workers to make constructive inputs to the designs, pricing range and other relevant conditions for delivering the project”.
Dangiwa disclosed that the programme is targeted at shrinking the national housing deficit estimated at over 22 million units, stressing that the project is a departure from earlier social housing projects that was executed without considering the economic realities of the workers.
Also, the president of NLC, Comrade Ayuba Wabba commended the FMBN for boosting the partnership, noting that the project is laudable and would touch the lives of many Nigerians.
Ayuba lauded the Nasarawa state government for speedily providing land at zero cost, saying that the state workers contributing NHF would be excited with the project.
Family Homes Fund (FHF)
The Family Homes Fund (FHF) is another housing project domiciled in the office of the Vice President, Prof Yomi Osinbajo.
Through the fund, the presidency is expected to invest about N500 billion in five years for the construction of social and affordable housing.
The Special Adviser to the President on Economic Matters, Mr Adeyemi Dipeolu, hinted that government would release N100 billion yearly for the next five years to FHF with the intention of leveraging N1 trillion from the private sector.
Dipeolu confirmed that the money is meant for the construction of affordable housing, adding that Nigerians earning N30, 000 could buy houses through the FHF.
He emphasised that some houses had been completed in Nassarawa state while about 3,000 to 6,000 are under construction across the country.
According to reports from the Ministry, power generation was at 4,000 megawatts (MW) in when the present administration took over in May, 2015. Recent reports say it has increased to over 8,200 MW and transmission from 5,000 MW in 2015 to 7,000 MW while distribution has increased from 2,690 MW to 5,222 MW.
Despite the increase already recorded, Fashola emphatically stated that the work was clearly not finished, stressing that the Ministry was still in the process of delivering additional power to the grid.
According to him, the additional 215MW would come from the Kaduna Power Plant while 240MW would come from Afam IV, 40 MW from Kashimbila, 30 MW from Gurara, 29 MW from Dadin Kowa and a total of 3,750 MW from two big Hydro power plants in Zungeru (700MW) and Mambilla (3,050MW) while power is also programmed for nine universities and 15 markets across the country.
Also expected transmission expansion from 90 transmission projects nationwide to boost the capacities of the Distribution Companies to distribute power across the country, the Minister said adding that some of the transmission substations recently completed included Apo, Mayo Belwa, Damaturu, Maiduguri, Odogunyan and Ejigbo substations.
On distribution, the Minister explained that the sub sector is being boosted through over 100 injection sub-stations, a distribution expansion programme to be funded by the Federal Government. To this end, the government recently announced the approval of N72 billion distribution expansion program which is being implemented by the transmission company of Nigeria (TCN) in conjunction with the ministry.
While the Minister agreed that there are still much to do to give the consumer the best experience, he noted that the challenges posed by disruptions from time to time and people who also needed meters remain valid but stressed that, “it is indisputable that we have delivered on incremental power”.
Supporting his points with data, the Minister, recently quoted the 3rd Quarter 2018 report of the National Bureau of Statistics as revealing that Electricity made the highest contribution of 18 per cent to the 1.8 per cent growth in the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). He added that previous quarterly reports from 2017 had consistently recorded growth, which, he noted “is a clear departure from 2014-2015 and proof of change”.
On rural electrification as it relates to deploying Solar Power, Fashola while speaking at an interactive section recently recalled the “Thank You” visit of the Gora Community of Nasarawa State to his office to express their gratitude to the Federal Government over the provision of Solar Power to their Community saying it was a testimony to the growth in electricity supply and increasing accessibility to the rural communities.
The Community delegation, led by its Traditional Head, Alhaji Jafaru Adamu, thanked the government of President Muhammadu Buhari for initiating the rural electrification programme and the Minister for driving it adding that since the installation of the Solar electricity, the Community has consistently enjoyed several benefits hitherto not known to them, especially in the areas of social life, education and health.
Arguing against the reversal of the privatisation policy in that forum, Fashola, reiterated the existence of challenges in the sector which, but assured they were being dealt with.
He declared, “But you must decide in this country whether you want to continue to see devils or angels. I like to see angels; my glass is always half full and problems are opportunities for me to show that nothing is wrong with us and to benchmark what I have achieved. There are problems no doubt and we must deal with them”.
Speaking further on policy, he said as the policies on Mini Grids, Meter Asset Provider, Eligible Customer, and liquidity sustenance and improved governance deepen, the experience with power supply could only get better adding, however, that the success of the plans now would depend on “energy users who must conserve energy when not needed”.
Whatever your perspective may be the Minister is certain that the ordinary Nigerians now have course to say progress has been made in the power sector’’.
This is evident when he said, “As some citizens recently reported, they no longer have to iron all their clothes one week in advance as they previously used to do, because the supply is proving reliable and predictable even if not yet fully stable and uninterrupted. This is progress that we must move forward by consolidating on our mandate of change. We cannot go back”, the Minister declared.
These achievements in relatively shorter time may have triggered the Minister’s emotive bulk passing statement while fielding questions at the briefing on the poor road networks in the country. Fashola who admitted it said, “Yes, we know they are bad. There is no magic to it. If those who came before us had done their work, we won’t meet bad roads. That is the simple truth.
“We earned $100 per barrel of crude oil for about five years. We knew what other countries like Abu Dhabi (UAE), and Saudi Arabia did with their own. What did we do with ours? This is a President and a government that is now trying to do more with the less that it has. So give us some time, we will get there.
Death For Sale! Toxic Cigarettes Flood African Market
Nigeria at risk of circulation of dangerous brands
Few years back, manufacturers of cigarettes sold in Nigeria were compelled to carry warnings on their packs such as “Cigarette smokers are liable to die young” . Warnings such as “The Federal Ministry of Health warns that tobacco smoking is dangerous to health”, “Smoking causes lung cancer, heart disease, and emphysema and may complicate pregnancy”, and “Quitting smoking now greatly reduces serious risks to your health” are widespread, but perhaps what they failed to point out is that cigarettes are licensed to kill. Cigarette smoking Even though smoking is a “gradual killer”, it is a deadly finisher. A cigarette is the only consumer product guaranteed to kill the user when used exactly as prescribed. All over the world, smoking is routinely linked with adverse health and declining wellness. Smoking is the No.1 cause of preventable death, killing more people than many known non-communicable disorders. Approximately one person dies every six seconds due to tobacco, accounting for one in 10 adult deaths. Up to half of current users will eventually die of a tobacco-related disease such as cancer, cardiovascular and metabolic diseases and other respiratory diseases. Now there are fears that cigarettes sold in some African countries are more toxic than those smoked in Europe. Ordinarily, cigarettes are toxic to human health, but some brands are even more toxic because they contain higher levels of addictive nicotine and tar. The chemicals in cigarette smoke harm nearly every organ of the body. Tobacco smoke contains a deadly mix of more than 7,000 chemicals. Hundreds are toxic. About 70 are known to cause cancer. None of these chemicals has an overall health benefit. One of the components of cigarettes is nicotine, which is deadly and habit-forming. While smoking harms the smokers’ health, it also puts lives of people around in danger because they inhale the smoke exhaled (second hand smoking). An investigation by Marie Maurisse, winner of Public Eye’s Investigation Award found that every year, Switzerland exports more cigarettes than it does chocolate. Also, exclusive tests showed that the tobacco industry has double standards: cigarettes sold in Africa are more toxic than those smoked in Europe. One of the major destinations of the toxic cigarettes, according to the report, is Casablanca in Morocco where every smoker favours cigarettes made in Switzerland. It was found that cigarettes produced on Swiss soil and sold in Morocco are much stronger, more addictive and more toxic than those sold in Switzerland or France. For each substance tested, according to the report, nearly all cigarettes produced in Switzerland and consumed in Morocco contained levels higher than that found in Swiss and French cigarettes. The results reveal a double standard – if Moroccans smoke cigarettes that are more harmful than those smoked by Europeans, it can be taken for granted that every other African who smokes actively or passively is at risk. According to the report, Switzerland often promotes the fact that it exports its delicious chocolate, or prestigious watches, to the world. Yet there is another Swiss product that is just as successful, but far less vaunted: cigarettes. In 2016, Switzerland produced 34.6 billion cigarettes – nearly two billion packets. Some 25 per cent were sold on the domestic market. Nearly 75 per cent were exported, providing enough cigarettes for over four million people to smoke a packet a day over the year. Although tobacco sales have fallen by 38 per cent in Europe, over the past 20 years, thanks to preventative campaigns and price increases, the reverse is the case in Africa where producers are increasingly pushing so-called new “reduced-risk products”, which supposedly provide consumers with nicotine without the harmful effects of tobacco. The implication of smoking such toxic cigarettes, according to medical experts, is rise in deaths from lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and pneumonia, and other respiratory diseases. Emerging markets such as Nigeria remain attractive target, no thanks to ineffective regulatory and enforcement activities and weak health policies. Researches estimate that 80 per cent of smokers live in low- or middle-income countries. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that there are 77 million smokers in Africa, namely 6.5 per cent of the continent’s population. The institution predicts that by 2025, the figure will rise by nearly 40 per cent compared to 2010 – the steepest increase globally. The number of tobacco-related deaths on the continent will double by 2030 in what the WHO describes as an “epidemic”. Marie Maurisse said: “It’s very difficult to investigate the tobacco industry because it’s very secretive”. Morocco appears to be an excellent gateway into these markets: according to a study carried out by the Moroccan Ministry of Health, 13 per cent of smokers in the country are aged 15 and under. And the proportion of girls who smoke is starting to rival that of boys. Producers use very aggressive advertising campaigns to attract new and young customers and to promote their cigarettes. In many African countries, there is weak enforcement of laws for preventative measures against tobacco. However, the reverse is the case in Western countries. According to the WHO: “Evidence shows that measures such as taxing tobacco, graphic warning pictures, a full ban on advertising and promotion of, patronage for and help to stop smoking, all serve to reduce demand for tobacco products. Many of the big global tobacco manufacturers engage in widespread lobbying and legal procedures against evidence-based anti-smoking policies going as far as opposing introduction of health warnings on cigarette packets in some countries. In Morocco just like in Nigeria, there is law adopted to ban smoking in bars and restaurants but it is not enforced. However, the bottom line is that smoking is no longer fashionable. Many countries have pushed out some of the toughest anti-tobacco laws and restrictions in history. In many countries smoking openly in public places such as restaurants, airports or bus stops is forbidden. Smoking is restricted in designated places and even when you smoke in privacy, people who see you smoking consider you a nuisance and threat to public health. Family and friends repeatedly tell you smoking will kill you. And they are right. The National Tobacco Control Bill, NTCB 2014 stipulates a minimum of six months imprisonment or N50,000 or both for individuals that smoke outside public places designated as smoking areas. However, stronger policies are required to protect the citizens from the dangers of tobacco. Enforcing the ban on public smoking and saving lives and reducing health costs through the new smoke-free laws are continue to be relevant.
No Nation, No Election – Abdulsalami
Former military head of state, Gen Abdulsalami Abubakar yesterday said there cannot be an election if there is no nation, urging politicians to conduct themselves in a peaceful manner in this year’s general elections starting from next week. Abdulsalami, who said African countries are usually tension soaked because of the very cut-throat competition involved during elections, warned that electoral tension that affected national security and development in Kenya, Cote d’ Ivoire and the Gambia should not be repeated. Speaking at a one-day conference on ‘peaceful elections and National Development organised by Goodluck Jonathan Foundation (GJF) at the Transcorp Hilton Abuja, Abdulsalami said Nigeria is not a stranger to electoral violence. “African countries are usually tension soaked because of the very cutthroat competition involved,” Abdulsalami said referring to the election conduct. “Africa indeed is a hot bed of election controversies. In African countries like Kenya, Cote d’ Ivoire and the Gambia, we have seen the serious implications of electoral tension to national security and development. “Nigeria is not a stranger to electoral violence. This country has historically had its fair share of election violence. Some of the violence even dates back to pre-independence era and Nigerians have witnessed the destruction that took place and retarded development. “General elections where the doom sayers were predicting the balkanisation of Nigeria,but thank God through the action of Nigerians and the then President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan;, they were proved wrong because this gentleman kept his word that his presidency is not worth the blood of any Nigerian and he graciously conceded defeat at that election,” Abdulsalami said. The former head of state who on behalf of all Nigerians, thanked former President Goodluck Jonathan for saving the country from falling into political crisis, added that his action further strengthen the growth of democracy not only in Nigeria but in Africa and indeed the world. “All Nigerians and indeed the whole world are praying that the election will be peaceful. As we all know, peace is absolutely necessary for the survival of a nation because without peace their will be no nation, without a nation there wouldn’t be any election,” Abdulsalami said. The immediate past Nigeria’s president who is also the founder/chairman, GJF, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, who spoke extensively on the need for African leaders to be responsive, added that there is a strong nexus between the struggle for power and national development. “There is a vicious cycle in Africa where the struggle for political power leads to conflicts that bring up poor governance and creates hardship which fuels the struggle for change of leadership, thus creating further conflicts and poor leadership. “It is my considered view that, as African leaders, we must change our approach and disposition towards stewardship. We must get to the stage where we should be more interested in developing our people, rather than ruling or just governing them,” the former president said. According to him, a development-minded leader is visionary and selfless adding that he or she does not seek power at all cost and will not wield it for its own sake. “The ten most developed nations on this earth are those countries that experience the least conflicts while the ten least developed countries, many of them here in Africa, are the ones wallowing in the worst form of conflicts,” Jonathan said while stressing the need for politicians to pursue people oriented interests. “The lesson in this existential reality is that any leader who is committed to the development of his country will do everything to save it from turmoil and conflicts,” he added. On his part, the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Matthew Hassan Kukah said peace is absolutely necessary for the survival of the nation. Kukah who presented a paper entitled: “Electoral Violence In Nigeria; Causes, Consequences and Options for Preventing Them,” suggested that inter-tribal marriages will curb the menace. He condemned the way and manner politicians treat those they claimed’ to be representing. “Voters must not leave their fate in the hands of politicians. Leaders should be interrogated. Only common solidarity can save the country from electoral violence,” he said. Also speaking, a former president of Liberia, Prof Amos Sawyer, noted that faults in the electoral law should be the most reason why the electoral umpire should be more transparent. “The election processes are new, and there are bound to be glitches, which need to be treated with transparency,” Sowyer said, adding that the importance of peace to national development cannot be overemphasized. “Nigeria has a track record of conducting peaceful elections from 1999. I have continued to show that there can be life after office, a life that is productive and impacts humanity,” the former president added.
APC, PDP don’t deserve our votes – Soyinka
By Lukman Amusa
Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, says the two leading political parties – the All Progressives Congress and the Peoples Democratic Party – do not deserve to return to power.
Soyinka said this today at an interactive session at Freedom Park in Lagos titled, ‘Citizen Forum 2019’.
The playwright had last month seemed to lean towards President Muhammadu Buhari when he faulted ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo’s support for former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar of the PDP.
Speaking on Thursday, however, he said, “It is time for a totally new direction, and when an alternative emerges, we will give the candidate our backing,” he said.
“For the avoidance of doubt, let me make my position quite clear because I don’t want any ambiguity; I, Wole Soyinka, will not be voting for either the two so-called contesting parties. I find both of them worthy of absolute rejection.
“For a number of reasons which I will not go into here, I’m not interested in a comparative assessment. My position is simply that it is time for a totally new direction. And obviously, I’m not the only one, as I’m speaking, there is a coalition having its meeting in Lagos from which they hope to produce a consensus candidate.
“There is another group meeting in Abuja, also at the end would send us their consensus candidate. Things have been going on quietly in the background to try and change the direction of this nation in a very positive way and to make the public understand that they do not have to be enslaved permanently to the old discredited order. It is my sole business in this election.
“I don’t believe in what is called negative vote which means, for me, throwing your vote in a wastebasket, I believe instead in a creative vote, not a protest vote, not a negative vote but a creative vote.
“And a creative vote means that the will to at least sow a seed through your vote that will germinate eventually. The pace of germination is beyond the control of everyone, but it is never too early to make a beginning. It has happened before in other societies. When a dark horse emerges from nowhere and trumps all the political juggernauts caterpillars and so on with their performers, worthless, their capacity for violence and treachery.”
He added that the reason they are yet to arrive at a consensus candidate was because the supposed genuine third force was hijacked.
Soyinka is believed to be one of the persons who prevailed on a former Minister of Education, Mrs. Oby Ezekwesili, to step down as the Presidential candidate of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria.
Ezekwesili, a former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Dr. Kingsley Moghalu of the Young Progressives Party, Mr. Fela Durotoye of the Alliance for New Nigeria; and Sahara Reporters publisher, Omoyele Sowore of the African Action Congress are all believed to be working on a partnership ahead of next month’s elections.
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