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OPINION

Ambode at 55: Lowers his voice, raises his logic, By Idowu Ajanaku

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Good leaders are trailblazers, making a path for others to follow” –Forbes.com

As global attention is riveted on the unfolding spectacle of the 21st edition of the FIFA World Cup in Russia today, there are interesting parallels to draw with a goal-getting Nigerian, whose illustrious life trajectory clocks 55 years on this same day. Much like the world-acclaimed beautiful game, which few observers gave a chance to survive, talk less of exploding when it began back in England in 1863, Lagos State Governor Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode was the little known aspirant when political pundits began to permutate on the likely successor to erstwhile Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola then in 2014.

But the leadership narrative has since changed, as Lagos state has become a reference point to Nigerians, nay Africans within the political power context. In a similar compelling, centripetal attraction that soccer enjoys amongst people of diverse races and religion, social strata  and even political persuasion, the question on virtually everyone’s lip is what magic wand has Ambode waved to turn Lagos into an emerging smart city? That is, within a short span of three years in the saddle of the world’s fastest growing city and Africa’s fifth largest economy. The questions persist.

However, to be on the good side of history and more significantly to become better by the day, let us attempt answers from Ambode’s life experiences. Especially, those that have stood him in good stead. Just like football, with its thrills and frills and its team- game format there are rules to obey. We can only win life’s daily matches if we, like Ambode have the focus, the desire, the determination to excel no matter who would tackle us when we eventually have the ball.

 For instance, the early death of his father was one of such challenges. However, instead of capitulating, he took it as a stepping stone to climb to greater heights by sacrificing his time and talents to concentrate on his studies. That he emerged the second-best student in the West African Examination Council(WAEC)   O\L examinations at the end of his secondary school days is a testament to such iron-will determination to succeed against the odds, as John Harold Johnson(now  late) of Ebony Magazine fame  once admonished.

Secondly, Ambode was one young man who was written off by his uncle, at the age of 11 years, especially when he expressed his desire to becoming an accountant. The older man thought he did not possess the DNA to ever qualify as one. But the story has since changed its tempo and tenor.  By 2015 when  Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode became  the APC flag-bearer of the state, he had already metamorphosed into a  thoroughbred, tested and trusted technocrat.  He was the former Accountant –General, Permanent Secretary Ministry of Finance and Auditor-General who has traversed several of the local government councils in the state.

Another salient, vital feature of successful leadership, as exemplified by Ambode is to be fully prepared for the onerous tasks at hand. Based on his wealth of experience he knew the needs and nuances of the state like the lines on his palms. So, he hit the ground running.

Little wonder that within six months in office his forward-looking administration, achieved all these and more.  Specifically, in the health sector, the governor commissioned 20 Mobile Intensive Care Units (MICU) and 26 Transport Ambulances one for each of the 26 General hospitals.  He ensured that ambulances were bought for all the public hospitals in the state,  paid the aggrieved medical doctors their outstanding  salaries and the  long-suffering pensioners.

 Similarly, Ambode approved the recruitment of more paramedic staff and  special medical coordinators to guarantee 24 hours service.  Besides, he  upgraded the General Hospitals and constructed a Medical  Park fully equipped  with quality drugs and new mobile X-Ray machines. He similarly lent helping hand to victims of disasters including motor-accidents, fire outbreaks as well as mudslide in addition to diffusing governance to those at the lower rung of the Lagos  society.

 Making a wise choice, he began by beefing up security across the state. This he did by acquiring 10 armoured tanks, three helicopters for aerial surveillance and policing, two gun boats, 15 armoured personnel carriers and dozens of Isuzu trucks.  Still on security, he initiated the Light Up Lagos Project covering at least 365 streets across the state.

On the massive infrastructural development, Ambode has turned Lagos into a vast construction site, as people are currently awed by the 10-lane Airport Road and the Oshodi Interchange edifice. Indeed, Lagos now boasts of state-of-the art flyover bridges at Ajah and Abule-Egba with that of the popular Pen-Cinema in the works.

   Also, in less than one year in office some 282 inner roads received massive rehabilitation, as requested by the people during his tour of the LCDAs before  his election. In fact, his ‘114 Roads’ project where each of the 57 local councils in the state got two good roads was completed by May, 2016.

Economic empowerment was next. It received a boost in December of that year as he began the disbursement of the N25 billion Employment Trust Fund,(ETF) to carpenters, tailors, hairdressers, vulcanizers and other players in the informal sector in the state. The initiative will see the disbursement of N6.25 billion annually over the next four years. It was also one of the promises he made during his campaign in 2015.

The food security issue was kick started with the launch of the Lagos-Kebbi (LaKe Rice) in December 2016.  It came at the right time as thousands of residents trooped out to various centres across the three senatorial districts to buy the commodity which sold for N12,000 (50kg bag); N6,000 (25kg); and N2,500 (10kg). It was a much needed respite for a population that had been reeling under the impact of economic recession. The smiles widen as Lagos is getting ready to commission one of Africa’s largest rice mills months from now.

Barely over two years in office the state had raked in N287 billion in IGR, a whopping N19 billion more than was generated the year before. A revamp of the state’s revenue generation agency played a major role in this feat, but Mr. Ambode also gave credit to tax-paying citizens in the state.

It is a similar swan song from education through agriculture, to transportation and tourism. One great lesson for millions to learn from the governor’s success story  therefore, is for one to be blessed with a strong God-fearing  family. Both he and Bolanle, his woman of virtue have their lives firmly rooted in God. She is there as a pillar of support and as one who has stood by him through thick and thin. Besides, is their humility and tracing every success to the throne of God.

 Said he, at a recent Sunday Service to mark his three years in office: “No matter how much strategy that you have read in school or how much work you have done in the public service, …if it is working back- to -back and consistently, there has to be some other source that is making it work because you are just one out of several others. Why it works for Lagos is the more reason why one has to be very sober and humble, to actually know that there is something that is making that to happen and that has to be God”.

If, for the first time in the history of Lagos state and indeed Nigeria no other politician has come forward to challenge Gov. Ambode, nine  good  months to the 2019 gubernatorial election , it must be God. That explains why he is being celebrated nationally and globally, like a World Cup winning goal!

Many happy returns, my dear, iconic boss.

-Ajanaku is the Special Adviser, Information and Strategy to the governor.

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OPINION

Before you crucify Primate Ayodele, By Lukmon Akintola

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Those who know Primate Babatunde Elijah Ayodele would acknowledge that he is one of the finest prophets of God.

As far as prophesy is concerned, Ayodele, has been the most consistent, prophesying on both local and international fronts.

His prophesies that have come to pass are countless and as such it would be a waste of time reeling them out. However, for the sake of those just familiarizing themselves with the servant of God who leads the flocks of Inri Evangelical Spiritual Church both home and abroad, his prophesies includes demise of Oba Adeyinka Oyekan, death of General Sanni Abacha and the return of Olusegun Obasanjo as President.

Others are the reorganisation of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), the travails of the Lagos state governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, a loss in profit by social media platform Facebook, and attacks on camps of Internally Displaced People (IDP). Also, he did prophesied about about the sack of erstwhile Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, and the death of Punch Newspapers Chairman, Gbadebowale Adeborin

His annually released collection of divine signals titled ‘Warnings To The Nations’ is verbosed on his prophesies, and till date remains one of the best collector’s item and reference point of call any day or time.

However, in recent times a misconception about a certain prophesy by the man of God involving the Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki, has necessitated clarifications.

The spirit of God is necessary for the understanding of prophesies in some cases, while at other times common sense would suffice. One prophesy which has been consistently heard from Primate Ayodele remains his prophesy that “Only Saraki can up seat President Muhammadu Buhari if given the right support by Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)“. While there is no denying that the man of God had said this, there is the need to understand the meat of the prophesy. Primate Ayodele severally said “Only Saraki can up seat President Buhari if given the right support by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He however didn’t make mention of the fact that he (Saraki) would win the PDP primaries, something which is currently being confused by a lot of people who have been trying to misconstrue the prophesy. Indeed, you have to win the primary election to be able to contest for the President.

While it might be easy to confuse both positions, they are indeed very clear cut and separate issues. There is a clear difference in the statement that “Only Saraki can up seat President Buhari if given the right support by PDP” and his winning the primaries. While the confusion has been ragging on for a while, it would make more sense if in February when the Presidential election hold Atiku Abubakar, the PDP candidate defeats President Buhari in the polls. Then, the talking point would be that the man of God was wrong in his prophesy and that someone other than Saraki had up seated President Buhari.

However, claims that because Saraki lost the primaries to Abukbakar, thus Primate Ayodele’s prophesy is wrong is like trying to tag the north and south pole as the same.

The need to be precise and on point when when analyzing cant be overemphasized, but at this point, it is very important to clarify that the the chance to crucify Primate Ayodele would only come after the general election. For now, please let Primate Ayodele be.

 

* Akintola wrote from Lagos? Nigeria.

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OPINION

A.B.C Orjiako, Shebah Petroleum and creditor banks: Getting the facts right

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Facts emerging in the on-going case between Shebah Exploration and its creditor banks which has been reported by few media channels since a Thisday newspaper publication of Sunday October 14, 2018 have provided actual  insights.

Further investigations into recent reports reveal that actual facts are at variance with contents of the publication.

In the said publication, the writer made references to an ongoing legal matter involving Shebah Petroleum, its owner Orjiako and some of their creditor banks.

Sources knowledgeable about the matter indicate that the story contained some misrepresentations leaving the facts of the matter at variance with the contents of the publication.

Contrary to the publication, it was the banks: Afrexim bank, Skye bank (now Polaris)  and Diamond bank who filed the action at the Lagos high court, where they registered the judgement of the English Court. So, any suggestion that the judgement was registered in Nigeria with the knowledge of the defendants is false.

The fact of the matter is that Shebah Exploration, Allenne Ltd and Dr Orjiako merely filed defensive action against the registration of the summary of the English court’s judgement.

Now to the issue of payment; contrary to the insinuation that Shebah had only paid back about $6.1million, the fact is that Shebah has been working to negotiate and settle with the creditor banks and meet its obligations in respect of the facility. Going by evidence filed at the Federal High Court Lagos, Shebah has paid back over $68 million in principal and interest to the creditor banks and is committed to full resolution of the issues of the loan.

Another fact that was glossed over in the report is that creditor banks suffered a huge setback when they made an attempt to obtain a Mareva injunction (freezing order) and failed as the presiding judge ruled against the creditor’s application on 25th September, 2018 according to the records of the court.

SEPCOL is a foremost indigenous player in the oil and gas industry in Nigeria, which became the first indigenous company to operate an offshore shallow water block with an FPSO, following the acquisition of 40% working interest in OML 108 from ConocoPhillips in 2004. SEPCOL was producing and meeting its obligations until 2014 when it suffered inconclusive workover program due to inadequate funding and collapse of oil prices. Consequently, the creditor banks called the facility on the company after two and half years tenure. The default in the facility was further triggered when the lenders declined a $50m repayment offer from a reputable Nigerian bank that offered to join the syndication with an additional facility in the sum of $200m

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OPINION

In NHIS, corruption fights back even harder, By Suleiman Abdulaziz

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The Executive Secretary (ES) of the NHIS Professor Usman Yusuf’s effort to sanitise and rid the NHIS is being sabotaged and resisted every step of the way by Agents of the corrupt both within and outside the Scheme. When the scheme was created about 13 years ago, it was expected to provide affordable healthcare to all 180 million Nigerians and give them the comfort of reducing their out of pocket spending and a net of protection from huge bills associated with serious illnesses.

But several years after, the Scheme’s coverage is an embarrassing number of little above 3 million in-spite of the massive Federal Government’s contributions on behalf of its employees.

Billions of Naira have gone down the drain without any obvious benefit to majority of Nigerians who still have to pay for critical services from their pockets and are not treated well in hospitals.

This was the national embarrassment and injustice that no one had the courage to challenge until Prof. Usman Yusuf, a Bone Marrow Transplant Physician based in the United States of America was appointed the Executive Secretary in 2016. Prior to his appointments, no one was talking about the massive corruption perpetrated by Health Management Organizations (HMOs), the middle men paid by the NHIS to pay hospitals on behalf of contributors.

These HMOs were considered as untouchable sacred Cows because they are owned by strong and powerful politicians that are well connected to the corridors of power.

He was advised to tread carefully and not to “rock the boat” if he wanted to finish his tenure in peace. Little did they know the measure and resolve of this unassuming Patriot. He took time to do a thorough analysis of the situation. What he found shook him to the core and he vowed that he was not appointed to “rock the boat” but to “sink this boat of corruption “.

Prof. Yusuf started the cleansing process by reaching out to all stakeholders including Anticorruption and Security Agencies for help. He started cleaning the procurement, finance and ICT departments. He created a Department of Enforcement to go after defaulting HMOs. He started recovering NHIS funds from HMOs, Banks and Contractors.

At the time he came in, the State Security Services (SSS) was in the middle of an investigation of the Scheme’s corrupt practices. This investigation was completed and the report submitted to Prof. Yusuf in April 2017.

The report, which this writer was privileged to have seen at the time, indicted some top members of Management of the Scheme who colluded in compromising the database of NHIS by padding the number of enrollees to favour some HMOs.

The Management also paid over N1.5 billion to these HMOs in fraudulent financial transactions within a year. The scam is perpetrated by the insertion of non-existent hospitals and ghost beneficiaries in the database and using the corrupted data to release funds to HMOs who smile to their banks monthly. Of course, their accomplices at NHIS are carried along and adequately compensated.

This was the kind of work environment Prof Yusuf walked into and had to choose either to rock the boat or join the gang that had turned the NHIS into an automatic teller machine. Predictably, he chose to be a change agent and decided he was going to stop the rot, especially knowing very well the stand of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration on corruption.

Out of the six recommendations for executive action, two turn out to be the reasons Prof Yusuf incurred the wrath of some powerful interest groups.

The first is the recommendation that the ES should place all staff of the ICT Department on suspension to allow for a thorough screening of the NHIS database and find out those culpable in the scam.

The second is that all payments to HMOs must be put on hold until all irregularities in the NHIS database were rectified.

While he did not suspend all the ICT staff as recommended, Prof Yusuf simply redeployed these staff and seconded new people from other Federal Government Agencies including the EFCC to clean the organization’s database. The new staff in the ICT department discovered thousands of ghost beneficiaries of the scheme. More than 23,000 names of ghost enrollees were flushed from the database in a moth by these seconded staff resulting in savings of N23m fraudulently paid to to HMOs monthly. Not only that, dozens of hospitals were also fraudulently listed among those offering services to enrollees of the scheme.

The discovery led to sanction of some top guns at the NHIS and further re-gig of the administrative organogram. The status quo was torpedoed to pave way for a sanitization of the scheme.

But entrenched interests were determined to fight back, and they have been fighting back throwing spurious allegations at the NHIS boss and mobilizing workers to protest in their interest. Redeployment of new staff to hitherto ‘lucrative’ departments, especially ICT led to allegations of nepotism against Prof Yusuf. In the minds of his adversaries, he must have brought his own men to continue the milking of NHIS funds.

This explains all the recent unsubstantiated allegations by Unions who are merely foot soldiers of the corrupt. They accused him of seconding his ‘brother’ to the procurement department “so that he can prepare the ground for him to award contracts” to his brother’s company. How can you read only such a sinister meaning into a redeployment made to correct long-standing irregularities in the operations of NHIS? In any case, how can someone be found guilty of an offence he has not yet committed?

It is sad that labour unionism is today is bereft of all vestiges of patriotism and people-interest. Whether at the levels of national, state or organizations, labour activism has been reduced to promoting narrow interests of leaders and paymasters, and not the interest of the majority of workers. The welfare of workers and their families is no longer the motivation for protests, but the threat to the interests of a few.

Why has the labour union of NHIS not hold any demonstrations calling for the delisting and prosecution of HMOs that have fed fat on people’s Contributions?Why would a patriotic and worker-centered Union not call for the sack of any staff implicated in the corruption of NHIS database?

Why is the focus of the Union on the Executive Secretary who has come to clean the system?

Who are the people that have turned the NHIS into automatic teller machines? Workers must start asking the leaders of their Unions questions and demanding answers.

I call on all well meaning Nigerian to speak up and support Prof. Yusuf in his quest to rid the NHIS of corruption.

Nigeria needs more of this fearless patriot.

LONG LIVE THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA.

Abdulaziz wrote in from Abuja

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