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Why should we care: Debts yielding no results(6)


(Sixth in the series of address delivered at Dowen College, on 7th October 2019)

The front-page report of “Nigerian Tribune” newspaper of October 2, 2019 headlined: “Nigeria owes over $90 billion debt with nothing to show for it” – Peter Obi

“Vice Presidential Candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the last general election, Mr Peter Obi, on Tuesday lamented that Nigeria has a $90bn (N28tr.) debt portfolio with nothing to show for it. Obi made the disclosure while speaking in Lagos as the guest speaker on the theme: ‘Redesigning the Nigerian Economy with New Ideas,’ on The Platform, a programme of The

Covenant Christian Centre. This was just as he equally disclosed that Nigeria, in 2017 spent over N1,6tr to service debt and a total of N2.9 to service debt in 2018, adding: “Yet, there was nothing to show for it.”

Obi, who is former governor of Anambra State, said while other nations borrowed to embark on developmental projects, Nigeria borrowed to consume, contending that such situation made growth impossible, just as he pointedly noted that “the problem is not about debt, but what you use your money to do.” According to the former governor, more people now live in extreme poverty in Nigeria than both China and India, the nations with the highest populations in the world combined, declaring that 98 million people in the country now live in extreme poverty, indicating a growth of over 5per cent annually.

“Nigeria is home to the highest number of poor people living in extreme poverty in the world. Nigeria now has more people living in extreme poverty than any other country in the world. Every minute, six Nigerians fall into extreme poverty,” he disclosed. Obi warned that the country is like a keg of gunpowder on the verge of exploding with over 22 million young people in their productive years unemployed, adding: “It is worrisome.”

Lagos state governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who also spoke at the forum, appealed to residents for patience over the poor state of roads in Lagos, attributing the condition to the continuous rainfall since he was sworn-in about four months ago, which he said had been slowing down rehabilitation/palliative work on the affected roads. Sanwo-Olu promised that there would be extensive and massive rehabilitation of roads after the rainy season, but added that all the roads cannot be fixed at the same time.

What followed on the next day was a bombshell!!

Also, on its front page, “Vanguard” newspaper of October 3, 2019 carried the following headline: “Ambode left huge financial debts for Lagos – Sanwo-Olu.”

“Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State, yesterday, said paucity of funds and huge debts he inherited from his predecessor, Akinwunmi Ambode, were hindering execution of projects.

Sanwo-Olu, who said his administration had various programmes to address the current challenges in the state, lamented that the implementation of his development agenda had largely been slowed down by a number of irrevocable financial liabilities tied to the state’s resources by Ambode.

Beyond a short-term fix that resulted in the ongoing rehabilitation of highways and arterial roads, the governor said Lagos would be expanding the capacity of its water transportation and leveraging Information and Communication Technology to address various challenges in the mass transit system. The governor spoke as a guest at The Platform Nigeria, a yearly programme to mark the

Independence Day organised by the Covenant Christian Centre, Orile- Iganmu, Lagos. The church’s senior Pastor, Poju Oyemade, coordinated the session.

Sanwo-Olu said: “We have to look at the finances of the state. But I know I cannot give excuses to Lagosians that I met the state in financial mess. It would be meaningless stories. And nobody will ever know the real status of finances of any state until they get there. It is until I got there that I realised how bad we are in terms of outstanding liabilities, financial commitments to local banks and Federal Government’s bonds.”

The governor, however said that efforts were on to widen the tax net and amount improve the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of the State, which, he said, would be used to fund some of the pending capital projects.

Sanwo-Olu, who cautioned critics of his four- month old government, said that the period was “too short” to measure the impact of the administration. “I believe in proper planning of key programmes implementation decisions that would affect lives of the people. Giving details about why Lagos would continue to experience congestion, Sanwo-Olu said more than 10 per cent of the nation’s 180 million population reside in the state.”

The repercussions of Sanwo-Olu’s audit report under caption: Post Balance Sheet Events and Key Audit Matters have attained the gravity of nuclear fallout. If we are indeed convinced that we can rely on those who have been awarded prizes at the 22nd Prize-Giving Day of Bowen College as being sufficiently equipped to deal with the mess we have created, so be it. why should we care, anyway?

Perhaps we should pause to reflect on the extent to which parents are willing to go in our desperation to ensure that our children gain admission to the best universities in the world in order to get them into the lane reserved for the elite in their pursuit of their future careers.

A case in point is the scandal unfolding in America which has engulfed famous names such as Felicity Huffman, Lori Loughlin and her husband Mossimo Giannulli among others and has embarrassed several Universities including Georgetown, Yale University, Stanford University, the University of Texas, and the University of California Los Angeles etc.

We cannot but commend Dowen College, especially the teachers and parents for their tradition of excellence and enduring commitment to be the best – by developing exceptional talents who can hold their own anywhere in the world. They are the ambassadors – having been found worthy in learning and character. Added to this of course is the spiritual dimension which has been captured in the message from the desk of the Principal, and Head of School, Adebisi O. Layiwola: “Great indeed is God’s faithfulness.”

It is up to the students to do the rest and draw inspiration from the superlative achievements of: Nelson Oyesiku who has just been elected as the President of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons. He has on two occasions been confirmed as the best doctor and surgeon in America. First was when he was selected by his peers and the second time occurred when the Consumer Research Council of America said he is so.

Jude Igwemezie who has just won a huge $500 million contract to build a monorail network in Iraq. Igwemezie, who was also trained in Canada, heads TransGlobim International, the engineering company that won the bid. The contract is to construct what is described as “a viable rail transportation network” for the city of Najaf. The network will connect three Islamic holy and historic mosques in Imam Ali, Kufa and Sahle.

An elated Mr. Igwemezie told NEXT in a telephone interview that the project is billed to be completed in three years, and will be built in two phases. The first phase, he said, will cover the design, construction and operation of the system while the second phase will involve the expansion of the system and its extension to the Najaf airport and the final phase.

Igwemezie, who said he has been involved in negotiation with Nigerian officials in the last 18 months to construct several rail lines in the country, disclosed that it took “only two months to get the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) executed with Iraqi officials”.

Hinting at his frustration to offer his services to Nigeria, Mr. Igwemezie said, “as a Diaspora person, I kept coming back, knocking, to help Nigeria. On the other hand, I can’t knock forever”

Olusegun Adeniyi has provided us with a troubling snapshot of the country into which we are launching our prize-winning students.

Front page editorial. October 3, 2019.

“So much has happened in our country in the past one week that speak to the challenges confronting us after 59 years of independence. Last Thursday, following a police raid, as many as 300 boys were rescued from an Islamic Centre in Kaduna State. Many of the victims said they had been sexually molested and almost all were starved. Some, with fresh injuries on their bodies, had metal chains around their ankles. While that tragedy was still playing out, police in Lagos uncovered a ‘baby factory’ with 19 pregnant girls in the Ikotun area of the state. We have heard heart-rending stories from these girls as to how they were impregnated and weaned of their babies who were then sold like merchandise by unscrupulous Nigerians.”