By Owei Lakemfa
There are optimists. Vice President Kashim Shettima is one. While many lament the negative effects of astronomical fuel price increases, which have resulted in drastic traffic reduction on our roads, he sees the reduction as positive. In applauding this phenomenon, he posits that with the removal of fuel subsidy, the country may save over 15 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions in one year.
Then, there are the pessimists, which many of us are, who lament that Nigerians are still punch-drunk and disoriented from the heavy blows administered by the fuel price increases since May. This tribe of Nigerians see the reduced traffic and dwindling street hustle in terms of job losses and crumbled businesses.
But His Excellency Kashim Shettima is busy spreading the positive effects. He told Nigerians: “Preliminary analysis conducted by the National Council on Climate Change on the co-benefits of fuel subsidy removal indicates that there has been about a 30 per cent reduction in daily fuel consumption, amounting to about 20 million litres, equivalent to an estimated daily saving of 42,800 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions.”
Our Vice President adds that: “When projected over one year, it amounts to over 15 million tonnes of CO2 saved, representing about 40 per cent greenhouse gas reduction from the baseline projection of 45 million metric tonnes of total GHG carbon dioxide equivalent by 2030. This places Nigeria on course to achieve our NDC targets ahead of time.”
I was tempted to run to the United Nations and shout from its New York podium this good news from Nigeria. But I had second thoughts; won’t the diplomats take Nigeria for a joker? Going by World Bank statistics, China emits 27 per cent of global carbon dioxide and the United States 14 per cent, while the Giant of Africa emits a tiny 1.01 per cent.
One of those pessimists, Professor Anthony Kila says the Vice President’s logic “is like saying to a person who has just lost, or is about to lose, a dear one to death, that the total cost of buying gifts will certainly reduce since there will be fewer dear ones to cater for.” He adds: “I have an indecent suggestion for you, Mr Vice President: why wait till 2030? Imagine how much carbon dioxide emission we can reduce by 2024 if we put a total ban on cars, buses, lorries and planes.”
Those in favour of Kila’s motion, say ‘ayes’ those against, say ‘nay’. The ayes have it; so we ban all vehicular and aircraft movement, and return to the state of nature.
Given the near comatose state of the economy, growing hunger, despair, contending and conflicting ideas, clearly the pessimists and optimists have different prayer points. The former’s prayer would be like: ‘Oh Lord, I go out today seeking what to eat, may I not encounter what will eat me.’ On the other hand, the prayer point of the political elite would be: ‘Oh Lord! As I wake up today, may it be to the sound of a heavy alert in my bank account.’
To answer such a prayer, Senate President, Godswill Akpabio last Monday told our hard-working Senators who had just finished the onerous task of clearing 45 Ministers, and therefore had to go on well-deserved holidays, that they will receive extra bank alerts. He announced to his fellow Distinguished Senators: “In order to enable all of us to enjoy our holidays, a token has been sent to our various accounts by the Clerk of the National Assembly.”
My friend, the Senate President, had not “off the mic” when he announced this good news and so he had been heard by the hungry masses. When he realised his error, he withdrew the statement and rephrased it: “I withdraw that statement. In order to allow you to enjoy your holiday, the Senate President has sent prayers to your mailboxes to assist you to go on a safe journey and return.” So, the prayer point was answered.
Some Distinguished were not happy about the openness of the Senate President on this unbudgeted largesse being shared in the hallowed chambers. One of them, Senator Abdul Ningi, of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, publicly criticised Akpabio: “Some of these things, if they happen, you don’t broadcast it the way he did.” Ningi admitted that some Distinguished have now been paid the extra pocket money but said: “Nothing has come to my account yet.” He did not say whether he would reject the unbudgeted payment by returning it, or that he would always reject such payments.
One of the personalities cleared to be a Minister is His Excellency Bello Muhammad Matawale, Governor of Zamfara State, for four years from 2019. I am not concerned here about the N70 billion corruption charges the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFFC, leveled against him or his counter-allegation that then EFCC Chairman, Abdulrasheed Bawa, allegedly demanded a $2 million bribe from him. Rather, I am concerned why Senior Secondly School final year students in Zamfara State have for some years not taken the basic West African School Certificate because as Governor, Matawalle, a professional teacher, refused to pay the examination body. Supposing such a person is handed the Education portfolio, what will be the fate of Nigerian students?
In response to the July 26, 2023 coup in Niger Republic, the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, four days later, directed the closure of land and air borders between member states and that country.
In compliance, the Acting Comptroller-General of the Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, Mr Adewale Bashir Adeniyi hopped to Katsina State to enforce the closure of all Nigeria land borders with neighbouring Niger Republic.
The dutiful Adeniyi directed the full blockage of all the land borders and also suspended cargo movement between both countries until further notice.
As the spokesperson of the NCS for about two decades, head of its Command and Staff College, and now its chief, I know that Adeniyi is conversant with the duties of the Customs Service. So why is he spending the resources of the service like a busybody leaving his own primary duties to usurp the functions of other agencies?
The duties of the NCS are accounting revenue, collection of revenue (duties), anti-smuggling and related security activities. In contrast, the Immigration Act, 2015 states that, the Immigration Service is responsible for: The control of persons entering or leaving Nigeria; the issuance of travel documents to bona fide Nigerians in and outside Nigeria; the issuance of residence permits to foreigners and border surveillance and patrol.
So, why does the Customs boss want to carry out the duties of a different service; duties the NCS is neither trained nor equipped to carry out?
All these appear to me to be beautiful nonsense.