ONE: A grassroots coalition of women groups rose up last week to storm the capital yelling enough is enough. The National Council of Women Societies, Market Women Association of Nigeria and the Federation of Women Associations of Nigeria protested the embarrassing delay of the passage of the National health bill. The bill meant to harmonize the functions of all the branches of the health system has been traveling between the Senate and the House of Representative since May 2009. Their protest resulted in a rare but ultimately hopeful show of responsiveness by the legislature, which finally passed the bill on the 20th of May. While the bill is 2 years late, this happy ending is one that I will enjoy for a very long time. These women are the very standard of what patriotism is. I have never been so proud.
TWO: The grand master of the PDP, the great oracle of Ota, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo has decided to leave the Nigerian political arena for the “younger generation” so as to focus fully on future Ambassadorial posts. His last duty as the PDP Buddha will be to oversee the proper zoning of the position he is leaving.
THREE: Justice Mohammed Idris, a Federal High Court judge has nullified the removal of the former director-general, Ndi Okereke-Onyuike of the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE), and awarded her N500 million in damages for the unlawful termination of her employment. Ndi Okereke rise and fall as the goddess of the Nigerian corporate class fascinates. She began her career at the NSE as a low level manager and was ousted last year as the DG of the institution. She is well known for her “Nigerians for Obama” concert that resulted in the donation of $100 million the American Senator’s election or as she put it to “sensitise Africans living in America” to Obama’s greatness. She was humiliated after Obama’s campaign rejected their offer and publicly dissociated his campaign with her organization. She had a falling out with Aliko Dangote, the billionaire and an official of the SEC, which resulted in her being fired and escorted from the NSE building by law enforcement officials. Many expect the SEC to appeal the decision.
FOUR: The growth of the top 10% of Nigerians and their grand opulence has become more apparent recently. The 10% are members of the corporate elites, former government officials and more surprisingly the leaders of the mega churches that seems to spring up regularly in the southern region of Nigeria. Apart from owning a home in the exclusive Banana Island, they apparently must also own private luxury jets. A recent investigation reported that between March 2010 and March 2011, Nigerians bought 6 luxury jets. The aggregated price of the jets is $225m, with Dangote’s at $45 million. The annual cost of keeping a jet is estimated $52.3m. One wonders how many sermons the good Dr. David Oyedepo of the Winners chapel has to give to earn that much cash.
FIVE: The annual process of appropriating public funds is often a magnet for high drama and intrigues. The 2011 process is no failure in this regard. The Nigerian legislature recently passed the Appropriation Bill that budgeted “N4.226 trillion based on a benchmark of $65 per barrel, an expected crude oil production of 2.3 million barrels per day and an exchange rate of N150 to a dollar”. The budget was then sent to the president for the final step in this process where the budget had magically grown by N200 billion. One wonders if the office of the speaker or whoever is responsible for this idiocy, had hoped the president would not have read the bill.
SIX: The soon to be ex speaker of the House of Representative is facing a rainstorm of investigations by the EFCC. He is being questioned concerning the case of the missing N10 billion loans borrowed by the House to pay for its member’s remuneration. The leadership of the House allegedly did not conduct the members and did not follow the protocol of taking out loans. Mr. Bankole has 2 other outstanding cases with the EFCC that are yet to be resolved. These include the allegation that the Speaker purchased of cars at N2.3 billion and also the unaccounted for N9 billion-infrastructure budgetary allocation. We have a long way to go towards transparency and true accountability but it seems the right questions are being asked.
SEVEN: The state of the health systems in Nigeria is not good. However, the horrid treatment of the few health workers in a country with a shortage of epidemic proportions is even more disheartening. While anecdotes of lavish public spending on inaugurations and panels dotes the news, health workers all over the country are striking. All they claim to want is fair compensation for their work. The Ondo state branch of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria has joined the ranks of the discontent in the health sector. The health workers will live, so will the government, but the horror of all these will only find its way to the home of the poor and disposed among us. Ekiti, Lagos, Imo, Osun all had their strikes recently and now Ondo has joined them. It seems the government has forgotten that without a healthy populace, there will be no development for this country.
EIGHT: The Nigerian version of Al Qaeda, Boko Haram continues its rain of terror in the Northern region. In a twin attack last week, the increasingly bold organization allegedly injured 5 citizens of Maiduguri. Four suspects have been arrested.
NINE: The technology sector of Nigeria is showing remarkable growth and it is exciting. A structured collaboration between MTN, the communication giant and the Guaranty Trust Bank has resulted in a product that allows for secure mobile transfer of money for the Nigerian market. The beta testing process for the Mobile Money service will begin as soon as the CBN grants its approval that the security of the service is sound. The service will be available for those MTN with a Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) registered SIMcard.
TEN: The government of Goodluck Jonathan is ready to launch a transport scheme for the FCT area soon. I was not aware of a pressing need for governmental transportation in Abuja.