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All Hail Tokunbo Wahab The Lagos State Environment Commissioner — Dr.Muiz Banire 

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Within a month prior to the composition and inauguration of the Lagos State government cabinet, I had cause to proactively intervene twice in this column on the affairs of the State. The interventions, misconstrued in some quarters to be a criticism of the leadership of the State, was essentially to draw the attention of the government to some aberrations that needed to be addressed urgently, and suggesting the caliber of persons required for the interventions. For the mischievous people, particularly the scavengers in the corridors of power, and as often misconstrued by them, that was a collision course with the leadership of the state. Muiz is at it again deriding the leadership of the State! Undoubtedly, that was not, and never my intention for scooping out the thoughts. As remarked above, it was just a proactive diagnosis and prognosis of the afflictions I observed in the course of my daily sojourn across the State.

The good news was that the leadership of the State, as typified by the Governor, never condones the suggestions of these evil set of people, and honorably and maturely chose to ignore their antics. Rather than fall for it, the Governor triggered an engagement with me and which ultimately led to a privileged invitation extended to me to address the new cabinet members at a retreat organized by the State. May I, therefore, appreciate this statesmanship of the Governor in rightly construing the alleged criticism as a positive assessment, feedback and genuinely yielding a platform to interrogate the issues. This is the hallmark of leadership that must not only be embraced and encouraged but must be promoted. Kudos to Mr. Governor in this regard. I pray and hope that more leaders in the country toe this part of leadership. Criticism, particularly where constructive, must be adored and given the desired space in our polity. Critics must not be condemned and crushed but actively promoted. Gbogbo wa o le sun, ki a ko ori si ibi kan naa, meaning that we cannot all be thinking at all times in the same direction or having the same perspective of issues always. Amongst the issues alluded to in the piece was the deteriorating level of the environment in the State. The essence of the intervention was essentially to challenge the Governor in the choice of a competent hand to undertake the execution of the redemption assignment. As I remarked at the retreat, the Governor was not only my colleague but my friend, and as a Yoruba adage says, b’oju ba ti ore re, ti o so pe oju ko ti e, ailoju ti lo n se e which literally means when your friend is put to shame and you are happy, it only proves how shameless you are. My intervention might not have ultimately influenced his choice of the cabinet but the truth is that the choice of the Commissioner for the Environment perfectly fits my bill. The Ministry is now fortunate to have a young, vibrant, hardworking, committed and dynamic person as the chief executive. Leadership in any community dictates the mood of the followership. Where the leadership is weak, inept, incompetent and corrupt, no miracle should be expected from the followers. At the barest minimum, the followers mimic the leader. The environment of a State creates the first impression to a visitor about not only the quality of the leadership in the state, but signposts the seriousness and commitment of the administration.

The environment encompasses virtually all strata of society. That explains why preeminence is accorded it globally. The actualizer and enabler that the Governor, in his wisdom, has chosen to appoint to midwife the affairs of the Ministry is Honourable Tokunbo Wahab. I have chosen to prefix his name consciously with the appellation “Honourable” for the reason that shall be unveiled in the course of this engagement. The Honourable Commissioner has hit the ground running since assumption of office, accomplishing what seemed impossible in recent times. No doubt, within the short time of his ascendancy to the office, he has proven that he is not a wrong choice. Few days ago, the social media via the X platform was on fire for the impacts the Commissioner is already making. Except for the consciously blindfolded Lagosian, even the naturally blind and the deaf in Lagos State are already feeling the impact of the helmsman in the Ministry. You cannot but notice that something is happening currently in terms of the environmental rejuvenation of the State. The story of every nook and corner of the State being converted into street market is beginning to change. In as much as one might want to appreciate the economic hardship in the land, it is no sufficient reason for the State to promote suicide on the other hand. There is no doubt that apart from the menace constituted by street traders to society, either in terms of security and environmental nuisance, their presence on the street naturally endangers them. Should there be any mishap and lives are lost or injuries suffered, it is to the State government that the society apportions blame. Hence, no responsible administration will fold its hands and collaborate in endangering her citizens. There is certainly no alternative to clearing and displacing the street traders from the road. It is to this end that the ongoing clearance of the traders by the Ministry of the Environment must be commended, and the activity rightly situated. I am glad that even the media appreciates the significance of this exercise. I am aware, contrary to the suggestion in a particular Arise TV conversation, that the confiscated items are not only usually recorded at the point of carting them away but delivered ultimately to orphanage homes before they start deteriorating, particularly where the items are perishable. Beyond this visible area of street trading, I have seen the Commissioner traverse the nooks and crannies of the State in the bid to tame potential flooding. It must be noted that Lagos is below the sea level and naturally prone to flooding. We have suffered flooding in the past affecting not only property but recording human casualties as well. A society that values human life will definitely address this danger and that is what the new Commissioner for the Environment is currently doing. In the course of the tour, I have seen him identify illegal developments on the banks and setbacks of the canals and drains. This inimical act is equally unpardonable and must be penalized in whatever form. Therefore, I commend him again for taking those hard and bold decisions to separate the illegal developments from the canals and drains. It takes a focused and firm leader to execute this. This is a bold and decisive step which takes the interest of the society as prime and most important. Governance, as I usually say, is not a popularity contest particularly after the elections. Taming the flood is a herculean task to be accomplished and the option is always to be aggressive and frontal about it. This is the mode I believe the Honourable Commissioner is and must be encouraged to continue to be. To keep the environment clean and decent requires a no-nonsense individual who is conscious of the importance of cleanliness.

Our society cannot be cleaner than our sense of cleanliness and this attributes, they say, is next to Godliness. The essence of this conversation, therefore, is not just to highlight the remarkable steps of the Hounourable Commissioner but spur him further. The Yorubas will say, yin ni, yin ni, ki eni le se omiran which means deserved praises spur further accomplishments. I personally appreciate the immediate contribution of the Commissioner to the upliftment of our environment in the State and I plead that he should not rest on his oars. He must remain focused, dedicated and continuously set his eyes on the ball. Lagos, and Nigeria by extension, is one place that a public official can get easily distracted if not careful. The visibility of the Commissioner is equally noticeable in the other areas but suffice to use the above two areas as reference points. I am aware, for instance, that the dilapidating state of the parks is being addressed along some other initiatives. The environment ministry is a vast terrain. The ecological issues are still lingering and to be addressed; the sewage challenge remains alive while the climate change issue is still on. The need for Industrial and noise pollution abatement is still extant. Environment depicts what the state stands for. There is certainly so much for the man to do. Now back to why Tokunbo Wahab deserves to be referred to as “Honourable”. In political parlance, that is one word or title that has been abused. The moment you aspire for a political office, particularly legislative, you immediately earned the appellation. It is however sad that the title is now used by every Tom, Dick and Harry, whether successful at the poll or otherwise. The sad aspect is that most of those elected, by the grace of their nefarious activities, are mostly undeserving of the title. More often than not, I will prefer to describe them as ‘dishonourable honourable’ or simply, dishonourable’. For me, it is only when the activities of a public official impacts on the citizenry that he is meant to serve that he earns such an appellation. It is in this regard that I chose to confer the title on this achiever. Not all those who are commissioned by the Legislature as commissioners deserves to be so described until they impact society. As at date, Lagos and Lagosians know that there is a new Sherriff in town. Well done, Mr. Commissioner and more grease to your elbow. A round peg in a round hole!

BIG STORY

President Tinubu Directs Full Implementation Of Oronsanye Report To Cut Size Of Government

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Nigeria’s President, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, has directed the full implementation of the Oronsaye report.⁣

The Oronsaye report on public sector reforms, submitted in 2012, revealed that there are 541 statutory and non-statutory, federal government parastatals, commissions and agencies.⁣

Speaking with journalists at the end of the federal executive council (FEC) on Monday, Mohammed Idris, minister of information, said Tinubu has approved some reforms based on the Oronsaye report.

Idris said numerous agencies would be eliminated, others combined or restructured to cut governance costs.

The minister assured workers that the move would not initially affect jobs.

“In a very bold move today, this administration, under the leadership of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, consistent with his courage to take very far-reaching decisions in the interest of Nigeria, has taken a decision to implement the so-called Oronsaye report,” the minister said.

“Now, what that means that a number of agencies, commissions and some departments have actually been scrapped.

“Some have been modified, marked while others have been subsumed. Others, of course, have also been moved from some ministries to others where government feels they will operate better.”

On her part, Hadiza Bala-Usman, special adviser to the president on policy coordination, said Tinubu has constituted a committee to implement the report within 12 weeks.

The committee will be headed by George Akume, secretary to the government of the federation (SGF).

  • Background

In 2011, former President Goodluck Jonathan constituted the Stephen Oronsaye-led panel to identify inadequacies in the country’s civil service.

In 2012, the committee submitted an 800-page report and recommended the abolishment and merging of 102 government agencies and parastatals.

The committee on the white paper for the report submitted its report in 2014.

Since the submission of the report, the recommendations have not been implemented.

However, several committees and sub-committees were established to implement the report’s recommendations.

In November 2021, the federal government inaugurated two sub-committees chaired by former heads of service of the federation, Bukar Aji, Amal Pepple and Oladapo Afolabi, on the implementation of the report.

The two sub-committees were tasked with the implementation of a white paper on the restructuring of ministries, departments and agencies to reduce the cost of governance.

In July 2022, the federal government inaugurated a white paper committee to review ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) created since 2014.

 

Credit: The Cable

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BIG STORY

Lagos Government In Partnership With Jospong To Revolutionize Waste Management — Tokunbo Wahab

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In an effort to transform waste management in Lagos State, the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources and the Jospong Group of Companies from Ghana have inked a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).

The state secretariat hosted the ceremony to officially launch a collaboration that would solve the problems associated with managing liquid and solid waste in the busy megacity.

During his inaugural speech, the Honourable Commissioner for Environment and Water Resources, Barrister Tokunbo Wahab, emphasised the significance of the collaboration. He underlined that the partnership with the Jospong Group represents a common goal for a healthier, cleaner, and more sustainable Lagos.

“The challenges of solid and liquid waste management in our rapidly growing megacity are well documented,” said Barrister Wahab. “It is our responsibility, as stewards of this city’s future, to address these challenges head-on.”

The partnership with the Jospong Group, renowned for its expertise in environmental and waste management services across Africa, marks a significant step towards enhancing the quality of life for Lagosians. Together, the entities will develop integrated solid and liquid waste management facilities tailored to meet the city’s current and future needs.

The collaboration will focus on leveraging technology, advocacy, enforcement, and the promotion of circular economy innovations such as recycling, composting, reuse, and waste-to-energy projects. These initiatives aim to reduce the environmental impact of waste while creating employment opportunities and fostering sustainable development in Lagos.

Barrister Wahab concluded his speech by calling for dedication, innovation, and collaboration in the journey ahead.

He urged stakeholders to embrace a paradigm shift in waste management, viewing waste not as a burden but as a valuable resource with the potential to contribute to the economic and environmental prosperity of Lagos.

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BIG STORY

Presidency, Police Issue Fresh Warnings As 65 Groups Pull Out Of NLC Protest

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The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) was once again forewarned by the Presidency on Sunday not to go forward with its planned two-day statewide demonstration against the country’s rising cost of living.

The police issued a warning against interfering with business operations while the demonstration was going on.

The warnings were delivered by the police and Mr. Bayo Onanuga, the Special Advisor to the President on Information and Strategy, as 65 civil society organisations withdrew from the scheduled rally on Sunday, citing concerns about its potential hijack and the potential for worsening the already dire circumstances.

The NLC President, Joe Ajaero, had insisted in a statement on Sunday that the protest would be held on Tuesday and Wednesday as planned.

On February 16, the NLC announced the nationwide protest scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday over the alleged government’s failure to implement agreements reached between both parties on October 2, 2023, following the removal of the fuel subsidy.

The decision followed the conclusion of a 14-day ultimatum issued to the Federal Government to implement measures against the widespread hardship.

But addressing NLCS’s decision to proceed with the protest despite entreaties from various agencies and groups, Onanuga (in an interview with The Punch), described it as a “breach of the law” and an “illegal undertaking.’’

He said, “The attorney-general has written the NLC’s lawyer that the protest is illegal. So, they are breaching a court order if they want to go on with the protest.

“We are not aware of any plans to disrupt the protest, but what we can confirm is that they (NLC) are breaching an extant rule by a competent court that they should not go on protest. The protest itself is illegal. So, the NLC should bear that in mind.”

Warning the NLC on its course of action, the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Adegoke Fayoade, said the command would not condone any form of violence during the planned protest.

Adegoke in a statement cautioned the protesters against disrupting commercial activities, and vehicular movements in the state, adding that anyone found violating the rights of others during the rally would face legal repercussions.

The statement read, “The Lagos State Commissioner of Police, CP Adegoke Fayoade, has assured Lagosians that the command has put necessary measures in place to ensure the safety of lives and property, the free flow of traffic, and a peaceful environment for carrying out their respective lawful duties.

He advised protesters against, “an action capable of grounding commercial activities and obstructing the free flow of traffic.

“The command will live up to its mandate of ensuring that no person or group of persons is allowed to infringe on the fundamental human rights of others, especially the rights to freedom of movement and the right to dignity of human persons.

“CP Adegoke, therefore, warns all intending protesters that anyone found infringing on the rights of other Nigerians will be dealt with in accordance with the law.’’

  • Ekiti Police

Similarly, the Police Commissioner in Ekiti State, Adeniran Akinwale, said the force would not allow a breakdown of the rule of law in the state during the protest.

Akinwale, who harped on the need for peace in Ekiti State and Nigeria, said, “I have a role to play, my own is to ensure that there is peace and tranquillity in Ekiti State. In any situation that comes, we monitor and if there is anything, we respond accordingly. But our own job is to monitor to ensure that there is no problem.

“We appeal to people not to truncate the peace Ekiti people are witnessing because the present economic situation is not palatable, however, it is not peculiar to Nigeria or Ekiti alone, so we will just continue to pray for improvement in the economic situation in Nigeria.’’

The Delta State Police Command disclosed its plan to deploy personnel to maintain law and order during the protest.

Revealing this in an interview with one of our correspondents on Sunday, the Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Bright Edafe, said, “We will do our normal deployment of officers to maintain law and order. The command will issue a statement tomorrow to that effect.”

On its part, the Kaduna State police command asked the NLC to shelve the protest in the state.

The Command’s Public Relations Officer, Mansir Hassan, hinged his plea on the precarious situation in the state.

He, however, noted that should the NLC t protest, the command would provide the necessary cover for them, warning the protesters to be law-abiding.

Hassan said, “The command is appealing that the protest should not even hold. They should understand the nature of Kaduna and that it is not everywhere they should come and protest.

“We have enjoyed relative peace in the state. We will provide adequate security for them and we are appealing to be law abiding. Although we have had a cordial relationship with the NLC for a long but if they insist, we will give them the necessary cover.

“They should know that where their rights stop, that is where other people’s rights start. In fact, we are evening appealing that the protest should not hold. We are calling on the hoodlums to desist from infiltrating into the NLC protest.”

Concerned by the possible hijacking of the rally, 65 civil society groups under the aegis of Coalition of Civil Society Organisations Forum, said it would no longer participate in the demonstration.

The group said this a few days after the Department of State Services appealed to the labour to shelve the protest on the grounds it could be hijacked by fifth columnist to cause chaos in the country.

The group in a joint statement by its Coordinator, Buba Mohammed and Secretary, George Phillips, on Sunday, also said it was making “frantic efforts” to meet with the government and amicably resolve the issues at stake.

“Any attempt to embark on a nationwide strike during these critical period of hunger and harsh economy could be hijacked by hoodlums and criminal elements, who have been waiting for the slightest opportunity to unleash terror; disrupt public peace, loot business premises and markets,’’ it said.

  • NLC Allegation

Reacting to the development, the NLC President, Ajaero, claimed that the forum was “one of the emergency groups put together, funded, promoted and remote-controlled by the government to cause violence against our members for electing to peacefully protest against the hunger in the land.”

The president insisted that the protest would hold in line with the decision of the NLC national executive council, adding that “the pangs of hunger cannot be vowed by bullets or tear gas.”

In a statement on Sunday, the labour leader alleged a plot to attack the protest, warning that there would be a total shutdown if attacks or violence were unleashed on peaceful protesters.

He admonished the government to find solutions to the challenges plaguing the country.

He noted, “In light of this, we advise the state to put on its thinking cap and find solutions to the pains it continues to cause the people instead of further dehumanising them.”

“However, if it is irrevocably set on the path of violence against us and other peace-loving Nigerians, it will be making a costly mistake because if we are attacked there will be a total shutdown via withdrawal of services by workers. Let no one be deceived, we and other deprived Nigerians cannot easily be intimidated.’’

The congress told the African Union and the United Nations that the right of the people to ‘’peacefully protest and demand for freedom from economic slavery and hardship is being threatened by the Nigerian state.”

Speaking on Ajaero’s allegation, the Federal Government said it had no intention to disrupt the protest.

The Minister of Information and National Orientation, Idris Mohammed, said this in an interview with one of our correspondents on Sunday night.

The Attorney-General and Minister of Justice Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, had earlier reminded the unionists that there was an existing court injunction restraining them from embarking on any protest or rally.

But Idris assured that the government would not use force or recruit hoodlums to attack the protesters just as he faulted the planned rally, describing it as unpatriotic.

He said, “Let me first say the Federal Government has no intention whatsoever to use force against anybody. What we are saying is that they must maintain law and order.

‘’The question is why will the NLC want to go on protest at this crucial time when the nation is trying to find a solution to economic challenges that we have?

“If Labour is patriotic enough, this is not the time for them to go on strike. Their decision to embark on this needless strike now is quite unpatriotic.

“The Federal Government is not interested in using force against labour or anybody at that. We are only appealing to them to see reason and underscore the importance of dialogue all the time.

“After all, most of the agreements we have with labour have been implemented. So what is the point? I can’t see any reason for them to go on strike at this moment. What do they intend to achieve with it? What we should be looking for is the solution to our challenges.’’

Shedding light on what the government has done so far post-subsidy regime, the minister stated, “Look at the gains we have made from the removal of fuel subsidy. More money is being pumped into the economy. There is a committee on wage that has also been agreed upon.’’

  • FG Faults Labour

Continuing, the minister explained that the Federal Government was doing everything possible to ease the economic crunch and arrest the free fall of the naira.

He also confirmed that the government met with state governors and private sector players, including business mogul, Aliko Dangote; Group Chief Executive Officer at Oando Plc, Wale Tinubu; Chairman of Heirs Holding and Transcorp Plc, Tony Elumelu and Chairman of BUA Group, Abdulsamad Rabiu at a crucial stakeholders’ meeting at the State House in Abuja on Sunday evening.

“The Federal Government today met with all the state governors and organised private sectors with Aliko Dangote, BUA, Elumelu and others. That is to tell you that this administration is doing everything humanly possible to resolve the current challenges,” he stated.

Also speaking on the alleged plot to disrupt the protest, the spokesperson for the Ministry of Labour and Employment, Olajide Oshundun, said plots to attack protesters should not be linked to government agencies, adding that it is the fundamental right of every Nigerian to protest.

Oshundun stated, “Government do not disrupt protests because it is the fundamental human right of any individual or groups to organise protests.

“I have never heard of my ministry or any government agencies being employed to frustrate protests.

“On the part of the ministry, we have appealed to Labour to shelve the protests because what they centred their protests on is that the ministry is not keeping to the 15-point agreement reached on October 2 2023 but within the last week, the Minister of Labour and Employment in a release addressed each of the 15 points agreements. There is none of the 15-point agreement that the government has not done one thing or the other.

“However, we will keep appealing to the labour union but if they still want to go with the protests, the ministry should be left out of the attacks on protesters. We are civilised and we know the rules.”

Despite the pleas from the Federal Government, the Lagos State NLC Chairman, Agnes Sessi, has insisted that there is no going back on the nationwide protest.

Reacting to the warning from the AGF that the protest could be in contempt of court, Sessi said it was within the fundamental human rights of its members to hold a peaceful protest.

In a letter dated February 23 and addressed to the counsel for the labour unions, Femi Falana, the AGF said, “You may wish to note that the foregoing issues or objectives are at the core of the pending case before the National Industrial Court.

“Upon the submission of grievances to the court, parties in the suit cannot resort to public protests over the same issues, as such conduct amounts to gross contempt and an affront to the institution of our courts of law.

“Therefore, the proposed nationwide protest action in all its ramifications is in clear violation of the pending interim injunctive order granted in suit no. NICN/ABJ/158/2023 Federal Government of Nigeria & Anor v. Nigeria Labour Congress & Anor on June 5, 2023, restraining both NLC and TUC from embarking on any industrial action or strike of any nature.”

But Sessi insisted that the AGF or any other government officials or agencies could not truncate the union’s planned peaceful protest.

Sessi stated, “The AGF cannot say the court has ruled against the protest. There is a law. And this law supports our fundamental human rights. This law allows for peaceful protest. You can stage a peaceful protest anywhere around the world.

“It is our right; nobody can tell us not to assemble. It is going to be a peaceful protest against the bad policies of the government. They cannot tell us not to come out. We will come out.

“We will be civil in our protest, and we will show our displeasure about the hardship through our convergence. We have the backing of those who know the law. Peaceful protest is allowed all over the world.”

Also commenting on the AGF’s warning, the Kano State NLC Chairman, Abdullahi Jungle, said, “We only take directives from our national body and not any other organizations.’’

“I can assure you that by Tuesday, we are fully set for the protest and you can also come to witness the process,” he added.

Meanwhile, the National Leader of the pan-Yoruba socio-political organization, Afenifere, Pa Reuben Fasoranti has appealed to Nigerians to be patient with the administration of President Bola Tinubu.

Fasoranti acknowledged that the economic measures being implemented by the government were difficult, it was aimed at restoring economic prosperity and stability of the country.

This was contained in a statement issued by the Afenifere leader on Sunday titled, ‘A special appeal to Yoruba/ Nigerians not to participate in any protest or rallies as we go through the painful surgical solution to rescue our country from avoidable death and to restore it to the path of glory.’

According to the nonagenarian, the government’s commitment to implementing the economic measures was “a testament to its dedication to addressing the root causes of our economic challenges, inherited from the ills of the previous years.”

The Afenifere leader noted that the removal of fuel subsidy and the floating of the naira was not undertaken lightly, ‘’because great damage had been done to the country’s prosperity through the nefarious activities of the agents of darkness within the oil and financial sectors.”

He said, “These measures by the Federal Government, though painful in the short term, are designed to create a more sustainable economic environment that will benefit us all in the long run. It requires collective understanding and resilience from every citizen as we navigate through these challenging times.’’

While imploring the people to trust in the government’s commitment to the welfare of the nation, Fasoranti said there was a need for the people to engage in constructive dialogue and contribute positively to the ongoing economic reforms.

As the leader of Afenifere, we are actively engaging with the government at different levels to address the concerns of our people. Let us remain steadfast, patient, and united in the face of these challenges, confident that our collective resilience will pave the way for a more prosperous future,” he submitted.

 

Credit: The Punch

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