.by francis okoye
As the 2016 Federal Government of Nigeria budget has been passed this March, 2016, after a long delay, the suggestions in this article may be coming too late, but hope is not lost, as they can still be incorporated into the budget now or through an appropriation budget later in the year
Here are the 15 most important things the president Mahamadu Buhari led government should do to change Nigeria and become more loved by the people, who have been waiting for long, for the expected change promised by the All Progressive Congress.
1. NIGER BRIDE: Many past civilian administration, starting from president Shehu Shagari to president Goodluck Jonathan have promised to build the second Niger bridge, but failed to keep their promise.To understand the pains of people of the South East and South South, who sometimes spend 4 hours on the existing bridge or more depending on what caused the obstruction, sometimes on a daily basis, while coming from Asaba, one needs to experience it. In peak periods, pregnant women among others have been known to suffocate and die inside vehicles they were travelling in, due to hold up. Also the bridge is the only gate way from South South to South East. The President Buhari administration would win the heart of Igbo’s if he builds and completes the second Niger bridge before his first tenure in office expires.
2. SOUTH EAST ROADS: The dilapidated and bad condition of almost all Federal Roads in the South East is a glaring reminder of the neglect and marginalization of the Igbo’s of the South East. It reminds them that they have been abandoned in the Nigeria project-That is how most South Easterners see it. No matter what progammes the Federal Government is carrying out, as long as South Easterners ply these federal roads in deplorable condition-such programmes have no value.
The South East Roads and condition of such roads also not only fuel high cost of transportation of goods / price of goods in the market, but also drive many young people right into the arm of Biafra agitators like IPOB, MASSOB, BIM etc.
The agitators point to the abandoned federal roads as a sign that Igbo’s are no longer part of the Federal Agenda, and that in Biafra, such roads would be built immediately.
The government should not play into the hands of its detractors by not embarking on constructing South East Roads immediately. If they don’t have the funds, they can as well borrow money from international agencies, because roads are one of the basic and direct benefits the masses have in any government.
3. FUEL: The Federal Government should do anything possible to bring down the high price of fuel and the issue of fuel scarcity-which should never have occurred in a government that prides itself as being for change.
Three approaches should be used,first soilders should be posted to guard pipelines and CCTV camera’s should be mounted all along the pipelines routes or sensors that alert the authorities once any hard object or cutting materials touch the oil pipelines, giving them exact location of such events. A 30 year jail term including forfeiture of all assets of those involved and caught carrying out pipeline vandalisation would also serve as a deterrent to all.
Secondly, a special probe of corruption in the distribution/purchase of fuel from source to depots and finally to filling stations. A task force headed by retired Army officers should be set up to monitor these and implement change. It should be established in all 36 states of the federation.
Thirdly, instead of giving license to new investors to establish western styled refineries which need foreign equipment and dollars to run and maintain, and which may never take off, as was the case with those President Goodluck licensed, we should embrace local technology. During the Biafran war, Igbos were refining oil into fuel, gas, kerosene even till today, oil bunkers also refine oil in their hideout. Let the government also give license to these local private indigenous micro refineries to flourish legally and the need to refine oil abroad would end and we could have as many as 50 such micro refinery per state and government can give them a little start up grant.
4. FARMING: A law should be passed making it mandatory for every Local Government Area in Nigeria to establish a minimum of one farm, apart from creating employment, this would reduce dependence on imported foods and they could even export to earn foreign exchange. The farm could comprise of Animals breeding and crops.
Secondly, the Federal Government Should introduce farming loans of about N300,000 per participant and give such loans to civil servants, members of the armed forces and unemployed graduates. The loans should be disbursed through micro finance without collateral. In this way government would show that it is serious about making Agriculture the main stay of the Economy.
5. SUPER HEALTH CENTERS: The Buhari administration should up grade 6 Teaching Hospitals into super Health centers, and make sure they are equipped with facilities and staff to meet all the health care needs of Nigerians, which most Nigerians travel abroad to access.
The super Health Centers should be located one in each zone of the country.
6. HEALTHCARE FUND: A fund known as Healthcare fund should be set aside for Healthcare professionals who want to set up world class health facilities in Nigeria, especially Nigeria professionals in Diaspora. The FG could own 40% share in the enterprise and a minimum of One Billion Naira could be accessed. Collateral should not be part of it as FG would be involved in ownership, and monitoring of such several professionals could team up in some instances.
7. TERRORISM: Government in the past has made the valve of life if its citizens cheap – this in its own way does not help the fight against Boko Haram Terrorist. The sum of N2 million should be paid to family of every person killed by Boko Haram, while a lesser money is paid to injured.
The war has been fight mostly with guns, while Boko Haram fights with words (indoctrination), and they have succeeded in attracting more foot soldiers through this means – the Federal Government should concentrate more on preventing indoctrination – so that Boko Haram has lesser foot soldiers, and make joining the Terror group as less attractive as possible.
The setting up of an international counter terrorism center should be considered a priority, this center would be used to study, access, disseminate information on tactics, way of life of the terror group, and likely ways of bringing the war to an end .What bullets cannot do, words and intelligence gathering can achieve.
The long drawn out battle of Nigeria with Boko Haram has shown that the method of engaging the war is all wrong or not bearing fruit-let the Buhari administrations try something else.
8. PRISON: The Nations prisons are in a poor state due to neglect by almost all past presidents administrations.
To begin with the draconic law which sees to it that people are thrown into prison for many years without trial has led to the congestion of our prison-over 1000 person’s stay in a prison meant for 200 persons.
Secondly, infrastructure in the prison is not what it should be, the prison cells were mostly built before Nigerians independence in 1960 and since then, few blocks have been added, while the population of the prisoners grows.
Thirdly, thousands of prisoners are not the death row for over 10 years, because the Governors have refused to sign their death warrant. What to do? Death sentence should be abolished, since it’s not working in Nigeria.
Lastly, Nigerian suffering much abuse in oversea prisons should be brought home to serve out their terms like many other countries do.
9. EDUCATION FUND: Education is another area that is lacking in funding infrastructure and qualitative output.The Buhari government should select 6 Universities, one each from the zones of the Federation and equip and fund them properly. Each of these universities should have an endowment fund set apart for it. The money should be paid into banks and the interest from it used to manage the university. No other fund would come from the government for such a university. This arrangement with time would also apply to all other universities (Federal) in the country.
Another area is the promised student loan scheme for Nigerians to use to study in the universities, to ensure this works-it should be first made available to employed persons, so that payment for the loans can be guaranteed and it should be for part time studies and full time masters, post graduate and doctorate degrees, which those working can still do.
10. PENSION: My mother, who retired from service in 2003, is yet to get her pension and gratuity (Federal Government Share). This is very sad indeed, and encourages corruption in the civil service-workers become corrupt in other to accumulate funds for their retirement.
The Federal Government should pay all back log of pension arrears and gratuity it owns as soon as possible, to really show that we are in the change arena.
11. NOLLYWOOD: Most successful Nigeria companies, organizations, movements etc are often self made, with no input from government. One of such is the Booming Nollywood film business that has created employment for millions of Nigerians, earned foreign exchange, and projected Nigeria to the entire world.Yet government has not done anything meaningful to sustain this growth. Piracy is eating deep into the Nollywood industry and lip service is paid to fighting piracy.
They are no film studios and the government is not working towards making available funds for film making and when such are available as in the previous’ government of President Goodluck Jonathan-access to the funds is rather complicated and difficult.
12. POWER: Epileptic power supply is the bane of Nigeria, and in most cases, whole areas go without light for months, yet large bills must be paid monthly, which are called estimated bills. The pre-paid meters introduced are not available to the public, and recently with all its poor services, electricity tariff has been increased. A law should be passed by the lawmakers that if your meter is not read (for those with old meter who are in the majority) you would not be forced to pay estimated bills. This would force the electricity companies to sit up.
13. HOUSING: Government countinues to pay lip service to Housing delivery, most states and the central government have not built up to 20 Housing units in the last 20 years, neither do they have a National Housing Policy or programmes that encourage Housing industry in place in the country. It is time for change and everyone should embrace it.
14. JUDICIARY: The simple fact is that we need more judges, more courts and better condition of judges and judiciary staff. If these are done, the judiciary would truly become independent and able to deliver and join fully in the war against corruption of the present government.
15. MARGINALIZATION: The South East, since after their Nigeria-Biafra civil war has been marginalized and expect if these injustice and marginalization is addressed, by setting up a National Summit to address the issues, Nigeria may have problems in its hands and a likely increase in agitation for a Separate country know as Biafra by South East.
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