Taraba state is fortunate to be the only tea growing region in the whole of West Africa with a land area coverage of far less than 1500 hectares. Since the commencement of the establishment of the tea estate on the Mambilla plateau in the 1970s into the 1980s, there has been little or no effort made to expand the production of tea plantations on the Mambilla beyond the current 1200 hectares.
As national revenues continue to dwindle, it is now time to begin to explore other sources of revenue generations and jobs creation. Being the only region in Nigeria that grows tea, Taraba state has not maximized the opportunity to increase production, break the Highland Tea Company monopoly and attract further investments into plantation establishments and tea processing.
Having one tea company alone is not enough to generate the needed revenue and drive growth that will increase jobs.
It is time that the Taraba state government takes a bold step to liberalise Tea production and processing. This will see to more investment and an increased competition that will further make the Highland Tea do better.
It will also increase the revenue base of the state in terms of additional taxes to be collected, increase job opportunities and bring more developments to the rural areas.
According to the World Top Export website, total Tea import is $6.5 billion with Asia importing $2.3 billion worth, equivalent to 35% of the global tea import. Nigeria on the other hand imported $19.2 million (N58.7B at N305/$).
This means that, despite the presence of the Mambilla tea, we are spending more money on tea import. If Taraba works hard to supply 10% of that amount, that will be a share of N5.87B.
This can only be possible if the Taraba state government can begin to take steps to develop the Taraba Tea Development Policy to liberalise the sector, open it up for investment in both processing and cultivation.
Secondly, there is a great need to develop Agricultural extension and promote the teaching of tea cultivation in the state agricultural institutions like the College of agriculture and the Faculty of agriculture of the Taraba State University. These will create the needed manpower for the sector’s growth and development.
As we await for the commencement of the operation of the Kashimbila hydro power distribution, it will be strategic for the state government to woo investors and assure them of a guaranteed source of power on one hand and the supply of Tea raw material on the other.
In a time like this when Central Bank of Nigeria is looking to reduce import dependency and promote local production, it offers the Taraba state government and opportunity to approach the CBN with a convincing proposal to set aside funds for investors willing to invest in the Tea sector.
Zanau Hassan Maikasuwa is an Agricultural consultant, he writes from Abuja.
OBJ, GEJ as Villains of Nigeria’s Democracy – By Anthony Kolawole
Nigeria recently celebrated 20 years of uninterrupted democracy. As usual, it was a time for sober reflections on the journey that started in 1999. Even as we celebrated, we forgot that there were events that led to what we are now celebrating. Some individuals made sacrifices, and some also paid the supreme price with their lives.
One of such individuals is the late M.K.O Abiola on whose mandate some persons rose to limelight in the democratic dispensation in Nigeria. But guess what? They would never admit this fact because they see themselves as gods who must be worshiped at all times, not minding that the bulk of the challenges we encountered in the past twenty years were caused by the ignorable role they played and have continued to play in the democratic governance in Nigeria.
I stand to be corrected. Olusegun Obasanjo remains one of Nigeria’ undoing since the advent of democracy in Nigeria. He has constituted the bulk of the anomalies that Nigeria witnessed since we began the journey in 1999. From the fact that he wanted a third term in office after eight years in power to bequeath to the country an arrangement he knew would do the country no progress.
One thing suffices. Olusegun Obasanjo still hasn’t gotten over the fact he is no longer president and courtesy demands that he conducts himself in public with decorum. But his posturing in recent times negates all that is expected of a supposed former president of the federal republic of Nigeria.
Olusegun Obasanjo has not carried on well since he left power. He has attempted to constitute himself as the messiah Nigeria needs. All others after him are deficient according to his standards as Olusegun Obasanjo, the almighty messiah.
This brings me to the recent utterances by Olusegun Obasanjo on the democratic experience in Nigeria. He has done what the rational mind would term unbecoming of a former president. He has constituted himself as the villain of democracy in Nigeria. In truth, the annals of Nigeria’s democratic history would have it that Olusegun Obasanjo is indeed a villain of Nigeria’s democracy.
As a flashback, when he failed to get his infamous third term bid, he vowed to ensure that Nigeria experiences no meaningful leadership. With great regards to late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, Olusegun Obasanjo knew quite well that Nigeria was at some point going to be faced with a crisis of immeasurable proportion. And he had his way with the unfortunate death of Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. That period saw the emergence of a Goodluck Jonathan whose tenure as president of Nigeria was nothing to write home about.
The irony of it all of that Goodluck Jonathan, who by all indications was not prepared for governance saw himself as president, and as they say, the rest is history. The same Goodluck Jonathan that superintended over a corrupt and indolent administration has joined forces with his benefactor to constitute a wheel in the of progress in Nigeria.
The eight years of Olusegun Obasanjo and the five years of Goodluck Jonathan were some of the darkest ages in the history of Nigeria. Under Obasanjo, political killings were rife; corruption reigned supreme and political persecution was the order of the day. Under his protégée, Goodluck Jonathan, good governance eluded us. It was a rudderless journey Nigerian embarked on in five years. But today, these two individuals are busy making irresponsible statements on the state of affairs in Nigeria. Utterances that are devoid of logical reasoning and a well thought out process.
In the case of Olusegun Obasanjo, I am most disappointed. For the eight years he held sway as president, he refused to acknowledge the fact that the death of his kinsman M.K.O Abiola indeed paved the way for him to emerge as president. He also refused to give credit to the sacrifices of M.K.O Abiola in the journey to democracy in Nigeria. The rational mind would have thought that he would have acknowledged M.K.O Abiola. But he didn’t. Goodluck Jonathan, in his wisdom, toed the line of his benefactor and was also consumed by his misdemeanour.
Nigerians must realize that these two individuals must never be taken seriously in Nigeria. They have carried on like drowning individuals forgetting the fact that their administrations indeed set Nigeria back donkey years. And to think that they have the moral right to make uncomplimentary remarks in recent times is most despicable and a shame indeed.
For Olusegun Obasanjo, it has been a way of life right from the Shehu Shagari era. Wanting to dominate public discourse by peddling negative narratives and inciting the public against the administration of Muhammadu Buhari. But this time around, he has been demystified, and Nigerians know better.
The recent actions by the administration of Muhammadu Buhari towards setting Nigeria of the path of progress are what they cannot come to terms with. And in the attempt to stay relevant in the scheme of affairs in the country, they have taken to irrational behaviours.
But the good news is that Nigerians have realized that the intentions of these individuals are not in the national interest but selfish interest borne out of an insatiable desire to see that Nigeria does not experience sustainable growth and development. I won’t mince words. These individuals are rejected souls that are not rational in their thinking and their actions and inactions.
It is therefore my considered opinion that Nigerians should continue to disregard the duo and concentrate on the journey ahead of us. Nigeria is bigger than individuals, and that is sacrosanct. I could go on nonstop because I am happy with the giant strides of Muhammadu Buhari since he assumed leadership of this country. The 15 years of Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan cannot be equated with the four years of Muhammadu Buhari.
Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan do not have the moral right to stand up to be counted as one of those that stood in the interest of Nigeria when it mattered. They are villains of Nigeria’s democracy, and so shall it remain. They can cry wolf where none exists. They can write open letters. They can make inciting and delirious statements about the state of affairs in Nigeria. But for all we care is that Nigeria is on the path of greatness. The indices are there for all to peruse. Nigerians are wiser. And Nigerians know better than what Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan want the world to believe. A word is enough for the wise and the discerning.
Kolawole PhD a University teacher wrote from Keffi.
Mr. Usman Gur Mohammed; The Man of Efficiency
“The appointment of the interim MD for TCN was designed to ensure responsiveness to the needs of DISCOs and GENCOs, and to improve their efficiency.” These were the words of the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola, who at a Senate hearing, defended his decision of appointing Mr. Usman Gur Mohammed as the new interim head of Transmission Company of Nigeria. The Senate acted in response to a signed petition from an in-house union of the company against Mr. Mohammed’s appointment. Since then, President Muhammadu Buhari has extended Mr. Usman Gur Mohammed’s tenure to four years and he has stayed true to Mr. Fashola’s characterization of him– the person to improve the efficiency of TCN, as the company has witnessed many significant changes under his management.
Among those significant changes, starting with the most notable is TCN’s consistent achievement of higher grid energy peaks. With contrived plans set up by President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration and the Minister of Power, Works, and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, guiding the activities of TCN, in March 2019, the maximum daily grid energy reached a record of 110,734.93MWH from 109,372,01MWH in February 2016. And the peak grid generation power of 5,375.0MW in February 2019 from about 3500MW in 2015. This illustrates TCNs ability to enhance the capacity of wheeling more power into the grid. However, in order not to get confused by the figures, the maximum daily grid energy refers to the energy wheeled from generators to all distribution load centres across the country in 24 hours, while the peak generation grid power is a high point in grid generation.
Also worthy of praise is the full implementation of President Muhammadu Buhari’s Transmission Rehabilitation and Expansion Programme (TREP), which aside from constructing many 330/132/33Kv substations in key areas like Sokoto, Daura, Jogana, Ilashe Island, Birnin Gwari, Argungu, and Lambata, installing a 300MVA power transformer in Aloji, and 60MVA transformers in Onitsha, Edo, Ogun, and Akure, as well as rehabilitation of Jebba and Kainji, has also drawn wide support and sponsorship from the French Development Agency, The African Development Bank, and The Japan International Corporation. Rehabilitation of the substations and transmission lines is a major part of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration’s objective to achieve transmission capacity of 7GW. The increase in maximum power transfer capacity from about 5GW to 7GW has enabled DISCOs to supply consumers with additional power and has ushered in private participation in the transmission sector.
Furthermore, lost in the debate of generating more power is the discussion on the quality of that power. Under Mr. Mohammed’s leadership, TCN has implemented unprecedented steps in enforcement of frequency control measures of the nation’s grid system with a strategy of reaching 49.8 and 50.2HZ, the West African Power Pool standard for member countries. This translates to Nigerians being provided with stronger electric energy capable of powering the most intensive of appliances.
And many of these efforts are seen at the grassroots. A recent survey by Channels TV asked Nigerians about improvement in the quantity of power and 73% said it was positive. Also corroborating this claim is the NBS report that recorded an 18% improvement in power. Anecdotal evidence suggests that many are satisfied with President Muhammadu Buhari’s efforts in improving in electricity in Nigeria, and those who are not satisfied believe that it is “at least better than before”.
In terms of transparency and openness, the management has taken steps that are a complete departure from the previous mode of operations in TCN. The company now provides instant access to information on their website regarding all ongoing projects and their completion rate. This is alongside having many social media accounts to disseminate information, make public service announcements, especially regarding planned maintenance that could result in power outages, and inculcate a culture transparency in their operation that wins public support.
Most of Mr. Mohammed’s efforts have been commended by even his predecessors. At an honorary dinner, the former MD of the defunct NEPA, Engr. Hamza Ibrahim gave many words of praises to his efforts. As for the in-house union that protested his appointment, they similarly issued an apology and lauded his achievements shortly after his one-year contract.
It is quite evident that President Muhammadu Buhari and Mr. Babatunde Fashola’s plans for improving power in Nigeria are being implemented effectively through Mr. Mohammed’s painstaking efforts. He has indeed increased the efficiency of the very complex bureaucracy whose management was once outsourced to a Canadian Company. He is the man who keeps himself attuned to the everyday activities that happen on the grid with his very own meter set up in his office, tracking any changes and taking swift action.
Buratai And A New Narrative For Nigerian Army – By Okanga Agila
Often times, I hear Nigerians refer to the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) and leader of the counter insurgency operations in Nigeria, Lt. Gen. Tukur Yusufu Buratai as the digital Army Chief. This epaulet on the COAS is not fancy, but a true reflection of the leadership qualities and competence of a soldier who is transformative and visionary.
Since his appointment in July 2015, Gen. Buratai has never relented on his oars to restructure, reorganize and reposition the Nigeria Army (NA) which will be a pride to the military and the nation. He has never concealed his contempt and disdain for the poor shape and status of the Army he met, which was peopled by unprofessional, undisciplined, disloyal and unpatriotic personnel. Nigeria had soldiers who were uncommitted and irresponsible. They flinched at the battlefield regrettably.
Gen. Buratai instantly promised to change the narrative. His mission in leading the NA has been to re-organize and restructure the Army institution in a manner that would make it responsible and responsive to the national security challenges confronting the nation. And rewinding yesterday, it is easy to see clearly the impact of Gen. Buratai’s leadership of the NA as manifest in reforms and innovations as confirmed by the performance of Army personnel on national assignments.
The Army Chief knew that the excellence of soldiers is only determined by constant training, knowledge update and exposure to latest technology in warfare. I saw his interest in establishing special schools for the NA and upgrading facilities in existing ones as the pursuit of this agenda. The Nigerian Army Aviation School and the Nigeria Army University, Biu (NAUB) are some of the practical statements the Army boss has made on his passion for the country to have a properly trained Army personnel.
With the manner Nigeria was pleasurably celebrated in degeneration before the Buhari Presidency, it never struck me that the narrative will change this soon to have the Nigerian Army School of Artillery revived to now manufacture weapons. The school functioned only in name, but I was amazed to understand, the school now source materials locally to manufacture some of the weapons troops use in the ongoing counter-insurgency operations in the Northeast and elsewhere in Nigeria.
This is the expectation of President Muhammadu Buhari when he opted for the choice of Gen. Buratai as COAS. The Army boss has also changed the tradition of de-prioritizing the welfare of troops. Salaries and allowances are paid promptly. Army barracks or formations around the country have gone renovations as part of Buratai’s bargain for decent accommodation for Army personnel.
And I noticed that among the three arms of the Nigerian military, the Nigerian Army was first to get its Account Department to key into the Federal Government’s policy of Treasury Single Account (TSA) and the Integrated Personnel Payment System (IPPS) to enhance quick and easy computation of salaries, ensure transparency and eliminate any possible fraud in the preparation of emoluments of NA personnel.
Gen. Buratai has impresses me as a leader. At no point that he feels satisfied with his performance. His crave to improve on the existing standards he has attained is infectious. He appraises the NA constantly and sets targets for himself. At the 2017 Chief of Army Staff Conference, Gen. Buratai explained his mindset;
“The Conference provides an opportunity for the Nigerian Army to appraise training and operations activities as well as logistics and administrative matters. The Nigerian Army also wishes to use the conference to reflect on its performances in 2017 in order to make projections for 2018. This is with a view to consolidating on the successes so far achieved in repositioning the NA for better performance in the discharge of its constitutional roles. These would be based on the lessons drawn from the activities of the year ending in pursuance of the NA’s responsibilities of maintaining and defending the territorial integrity of Nigeria.”
That the Islamic State West Africa Province (Boko Haram) has been unable to retake the territories the Army under Buratai’s leadership reclaimed in the Northeast is indication that the NA reviews its strategies and tactics in the battle against insurgents frequently. Insurgents have tried hard to break new grounds, but they are checkmated by Nigerian troops.
It is easy for a leader to have a vision, but to surmount all encumbrances to transform the vision into reality is the biggest challenge for most leaders. It is what makes the difference and Gen. Buratai is gifted in both ways. His initiative of deploying technological innovations like the use of drones and the Unmanned Ariel Vehicles (UAV) in the battle against Boko Haram terrorists exposes the extent he has improved on Nigeria’s technology-based warfare.
The Army Chief understands and appreciates the importance of technology in crime prevention and he has exposed the Nigeria Army to its multiple benefits. So, months back, Gen. Buratai launched digitized uniforms in the Army. It is capable of transmitting signals if the user in distress or danger.
The Army boss explained that the uniform is technology-based, it is tagged with sensors anywhere a troop has found himself and it sends a signal when he or she is in danger. It is very significant in ensuring the safety of troops in warfare. We can only appreciate the Army leadership for the uniforms, which is an expression of the desire to protect troops fighting insurgency in the rough and complex terrains of the Northeast.
The foresight of the COAS to understand that terrorism war is fought on the battlefields, much as it is tackled in the media points to his ingenuity. When he initially led the war assaults against terrorists, their sympathizers’ and agents stepped up propaganda about fake supremacy in the battle against Nigerian forces. They churned out fake and crafted news reports to embolden Boko Haram commanders and their foot soldiers.
I know, cyberspace terrorism became pronounced in the war on terror in 2016 and it was clear insurgents’ were suffering unimaginable defeat in the battle due to the superiority and might of Nigerian troops. That was the time Boko Haram’s seized territories in the Northeast were being gradually reclaimed and hundreds of Nigerians, mostly women and children held in the captivity of insurgents in different locations had their freedom secured by soldiers.
Therefore, Gen. Buratai deployed his talents on cyberspace terrorism to subdue the enemies of state or terrorists. First, he reorganized the Directorate of Army Public Relations (DAPR) and equipped it with modern communication gadgets. And he appointed capable hands to manage information dissemination especially on the Boko Haram combat wars. Proactive steps were adopted in countering terrorists’ propaganda and official confirmation of news on the counter-insurgency operations was consistent.
The Army’s increased presence in the media with information on terrorism combat operations to Nigerians and the world clipped the wings of terrorists and the veiled agents. The impact was so tremendous that former American Secretary of States, Mr. Rex Tillerson commended Gen. Buratai over his cyberspace terrorism affront. He pleaded with other nations under the menace of terrorism to emulate the Nigerian example, elucidating that cyberspace terrorism is also a very potent aspect of the war on terror and has dire consequences.
And for the first time, the NA operated an Army Situation Room when they were directed by the President to embark on election duty in providing additional security for a peaceful general election in 2019. Gen. Buratai explained that the essence of the Army Situation Room was to monitor flashpoints of violence, easily detect them and rapidly respond to the emergency.
Under Gen. Buratai, the NA has romanced Military/Civil relations on a different mutual plane. The Army has launched its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) by devoting part of its approved budgets to execute community-based projects in water, electricity, healthcare, and roads construction among others. The natives of Abakpa community in Enugu state, whom the Army supplied portable and hygienic drinking water can attest to Nigerian soldiers’ new orientation and thinking.
Similarly, the NA has been almost the sole factor in opening up Sambisa forest and its environs after the demystification of the hitherto much dreaded forest which was terrorists most secured haven. NA has either rehabilitated or constructed new roads and provided other social amenities in the area. These are the various ways the NA under Gen. Buratai is proving that it is a responsible institution to its country and the people in the 21st century.
As part of the reorganization effort, the Nigerian Army under Gen. Buratai has established two focal departments I consider necessary in projecting and propelling its competence and also, renew its inclination to respect the human rights and dignity of Nigerians. So, Buratai deemed it necessary to establish the transformation and innovation department to drive the new initiatives.
It is designed to serve as the springboard for research and developments on army equipment, scientific and technological innovations that could be harnessed to support the Army in the arduous task of combating insurgencies and insurrections in the country.
The Human Rights Desk (HRD) at the Nigerian Army Headquarters’ (AHQs) and Army Divisions are conceptualize to provide answers and solace to occasional cases of professional misconduct arising from abuse of the human rights of Nigerians in the course of military operations.
And in further pursuit of this agenda, NA personnel have been conditioned or orientated to know that where they infringe on the rights and dignity of Nigerians, they will respond to court summons against them and answer to the allegations in a court of law. It is a remarkable departure from the tradition of the past where it was impossible to approach any Army formation to serve them court summons.
In spite of these lofty heights, Gen. Buratai thinks, its not time to relax. He recently assured Nigerians that “Let me at this point state that the NA will continue to uphold its core values of loyalty, courage, professionalism, discipline, respect and sacrifice. Our loyalty to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria remains sacrosanct in the interest of a united and prosperous Nigeria.”
I believe the narrative has changed for the good since Gen. Buratai stepped on the podium. And this is affirmed by the improvements we can see and feel on security around the country, despite the deliberately orchestrated drums of war. But whatever has been done to sabotage the efforts on security, it has not blurred the positive differences and winning streaks of the COAS, Gen. Buratai.
President Buhari confirmed it in his June 12 2019 Democracy Day speech. He reminds Nigerians that “When I took the oath of office on 29 May 2015, insecurity reigned. Apart from occupying 18 local governments in the North East, Boko Haram could at will attack any city including the Federal Capital, could threaten any institution including bombing the United Nations building and Police Headquarters in Abuja.”
“Admittedly, some of the challenges still remain in kidnappings and banditry in some rural areas. The great difference between 2015 and today is that we are meeting these challenges with much greater support to the security forces in terms of money, equipment and improved local intelligence. We are meeting these challenges with superior strategy, firepower and resolve.”
Okanga wrote from Agila, Benue State.
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