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OPINION

Ambode: Wheeling Lagos to wonderland

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“If Governor Ambode were to be a student in your class, what grade will you give him? Distinction, I believe. He has performed wonderfully well and all that he requires is the support of everybody to continue this magical feat.”

The above extract, which succinctly portray the giant strides of Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode as Lagos State governor, is taken from a published interview with the Balogun of Epe, Chief Lanre Razak, who also a chieftain of All Progressives Congress (APC).

Going by the intimidating template set for Lagos development by Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu while he was governor of the state between 1999 to 2007, not again will a governor occupy the Round House, Alausa, without having it thrust upon his shoulders the decree to continue raising the bar of making Lagos an Eldorado.

Ambode has not only shocked the doubting Thomases, he has also left those who backed him for the coveted office with no reason to regret the choice made two years after.

It still beats the imagination of many residents of Lagos, the commercial nerve of Nigeria, the amount of bridges, roads, laybys built by Ambode within two years to eliminate traffic bottlenecks. In a way and speed never seen before, Ambode is busy opening up inner city roads in various parts of the Lagos metropolis.
Ambode hit the ground running on May 29, 2015, when he was sworn in as the number one citizen of the state. So, he left no keen watchers of the development radar of Lagos disappointed 365 days after, when he commissioned 114 roads in all the 57 local councils and Local Council Development Areas in the state simultaneously. A feat seen by many as unprecedented in the history of the country.

From Surulere to FESTAC Town, Agege, Alimosho, Ikeja, Kosofe, Epe among others, Ambode’s footprints in visible projects is boldly written everywhere. To him, it appears it does not matter who voted for him or not, all that matters is the development of Lagos.

LAKE Rice project, a brainchild of comprehensive rice cultivation joint-ventured by Lagos and Kebbi states to ensure food security, remains a flagship agricultural feat in a sector not many thought Lagos could ever veered into let alone exceling in such a short time.

Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, described by many as the architect of the 21st century Lagos, said that “Akinwunmi Ambode has reflected that he is clearly a thinker and doer. I want to say thank you because experience is a great teacher and I am experienced. I am on the spot and I have watched things in Lagos since my tenure ended.
“I was worried hell when you (Ambode) took over, not about your credibility, character or capacity, but because however wise or smart a man is if there are no resources to back the ideas, production would be zero, progress would be zero.

“When you (Ambode) took over, I know you inherited a burden of debt. The debt profile of Lagos was high, I was wondering how you will re-engineer and face the challenges to make progress. Today, I can see your report card, you have scored well, and you have shown prudency especially in the judicious use of resources of the state. You didn’t disappoint us.”

According to Time Magazine, in a lengthy article featuring the extraordinary project and team which, in less than ten years, have transformed Lagos, once a dusty and crime-ridden state, into one of the top 100 best places in the world to live and do business in, noted that “Quality of air is better than in Paris or London. Unemployment is lower than in Germany. The state’s GDP is now the first in Africa above Johannesburg, Cairo, and Pretoria. In less than ten years the city became the financial and entertainment center of Africa, with Nollywood becoming bigger than Hollywood in terms of number of movies and revenue.
“Crime has almost disappeared, and a decade of a responsive and accountable government has raised the revenue per inhabitant to the same level as in China, Brazil or Poland. In term of people’s happiness, the international happiness index now places Lagos at the same level as Finland.”

The report added that “Lagos is already a megacity of 21 million people with a strong internal brand. If Lagos was a state in the United States, its GDP would be higher than the one of 14 other states, including New Mexico, Delaware, North Dakota.

“The GDP of Lagos state alone is already bigger than the GDP of Kenya, and bigger than the combined GDPs of 25 other African countries. Inside the federated states of Nigeria, Lagos contributes 25% to the national GDP (or 32% to non-oil national GDP) while being the smallest of the 36 states.”

Lagos is 65% of Nigerian tourism, 50% of national port revenue, over 70% of international air traffic, and 50% of national energy consumption. The state economy growth has been estimated to be 7% during the last three years. Lagos adds 600,000 new inhabitants every year, growing at a rate of 6 to 8% a year, ten times faster than New York or Los Angeles, which makes it one of the fastest-growing cities in the world.”

Ambode said his administration would rehabilitate all the Federal roads in the state even without necessarily asking for reimbursement from the Federal Government, as is the tradition, in line with the dream of making Lagos one of the sanest cities in the world.

“Some of these roads pose problems to the people of Lagos and they do not make us to be globally competitive. So, it is in our interest that the roads are upgraded,” Ambode said.
Therefore, at a period that other governors would have been settling down for real governance, Ambode commissioned two eye-popping flyovers in Ajah and Abule-Egba to mark his second anniversary in office, Lagosians were full of praises to the governor for walking his talking.

Ambode has been working round the clock to make Lagos a globally competitive city-state, by improving connectivity and providing permanent to perennial gridlock in the city.
The governor is also planning drastic facelift to the ever-busy road linking Murtala Mohammed International Airport to Oshodi to a globally befitting class, which despite the initial hitch has got the blessing of the Presidency. The project, when completed poised to be yet another milestone that Ambode has become synonymous with.

The governor also disclosed that a new road was being built to link the Meiran/AIT Road to the Lagos State University (LASU) and the Lagos-Badagry Expressway.
Ambode said the road was also being extended to enable motorists to link Sango-Ota without necessarily going on the Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway.

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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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