Tackle insecurity, infrastructure, poverty, corruption in Nigeria, PENGASSAN tells FG

By Alison Godswill

The Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, PENGASSAN, has urged the Federal Government to tackle insecurity, infrastructure, poverty, and corruption in Nigeria.

Speaking at the just concluded at the just-concluded National Executive Council of the association in Owerri, Imo State, February 17-18, 2021, Festus Osifo, PENGASSAN President, said: “We are currently at a precipice and if nothing drastic is done, we may be heading to a total breakdown of law and order. In Nigeria today, no one is safe anymore as the surge in ethnic militias who are brazenly issuing threats and quit notices as well as the activities of criminals masquerading in various alias like Bandits and Kidnappers, Armed Herdsmen, Boko Haram is very worrisome.

“It was with great relief that we received the retirement of the service chiefs as we have clamoured for that and we hope that the new ones would bring fresh ideas to the security challenges in Nigeria. Beyond the change in the service chiefs, we want to see the government paying more attention to intelligence gathering, personnel capacity building improved motivation, etc. There is also an urgent need for collaboration and synergy among all security agencies.

“The welfare of our security personnel should be improved in terms of insurance coverage, medical allowance and other necessary allowances for them and their families as this will boost their morale. We call on the President to go a step further in overhauling the entire security apparatus while ensuring that our security men are constantly trained and re-trained in the modern security trend in the world, to help in preparing them for the current and future security challenges. And as a forward-thinking nation, it is time we consider having state police which will go a long way in tackling most of our security challenges. It is our belief that locals who would be recruited have a better understanding of their terrain and the criminal elements within their communities.”

On infrastructure, he said: “We are seriously worried about the high level of decay in infrastructural facilities, especially road, healthcare, and education in our country as we are yet to see any well thought out plan to improve them. Most of our roads are in terrible shape and can best be described as death traps. We are not unmindful of the achievement in rail development and we commend Government’s efforts in that direction and hope that we connect all major cities in Nigeria to a rail track for ease of transportation.

“The Nigerian budgetary allocation to the educational and health sectors are just a drop in the ocean and we appeal for at least 25% of the total budget to each of the aforementioned sectors. The current pandemic has exposed the rot in our health sector, and we must be intentional in our approach. Take, for instance, we can decide to build a world-class hospital in each geo-political zone within the next five years and when achieved, we would have started a revolution in the health sector. Similarly, all Federal and State-owned educational institutions should be well funded and provided with adequate infrastructures that will aid the adaptation of e-learning and development in line with current realities.”

Also, commenting on the nation’s economy, the PENGASSAN boss, said: “Nigeria with a population of over 200 million people and with the largest population of the young people in the world; is in a dire economic problem that is threatening the existence of over 80 million Nigerians who live below the poverty line (40% of the population). With huge natural and human resources at our disposal (also largest gas reserve in Africa), it is saddening looking at the current indices that have placed us as the poverty capital of the world.

“The Covid 19 pandemic, unfortunately, has worsened our situation and with the drop in oil price, the picture is looking bleaker as an additional 25% of the population may join those in the extreme poverty line if nothing is done drastically. Many have lost their jobs while others have seen their salaries slashed to up to 60%, we certainly do not need a soothsayer to tell us that we are on a journey that may be catastrophic. However, it is not all bleak and gloom as we can still salvage the situation by cutting the cost of governance, plugging the leakages in Government, comprehensive fight against corruption, and making a sweeping change to the current economic management team by bringing on board more competent hands and experts with required exposure to navigate us out of the woods.

“Efforts should be made to stimulate the economy as some of the recent policies of Government will not boost the confidence of prospective investors. The insecurity in the land may discourage Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), as every investor would want a stable and secured place to invest, hence the need to tackle our security challenges as economic growth and security are intertwined.

“We recognize some of the Government interventions like Trader Moni, Conditional Cash Transfer, Survival Fund Program, N-Power, etc as laudable but the absence of credible data to show how each of the program has impacted on Nigerians leaves much to be desired. Billions of taxes payer’s money have been spent on these programs, yet we are still ranked as the poverty capital of the world. As a responsible Association, we demand an independent audit of all the programs with a view to ascertaining their impacts and more importantly, how the funds allocated to them have been utilized.  Again, we re-state our previous call on the need for the Economic Advisory Council to come up with an economic recovery and growth roadmap that will prevent a total collapse of the economy in the face of the looming challenges.

On Corruption, he added: “Since it has been proven that there is a correlation between corruption and poverty, we wish to state that the efforts of this Government in tackling corruption have drastically waned and we are disturbed knowing that anti-corruption, security, and economy were the cardinal points for this Administration. Just recently, the world anti-corruption watchdog, Transparency International released Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) report where Nigeria had its worst ranking in recent years; this gives credence that we are losing the fight against corruption.

“Hence, we call for the hastening of the moves on the appointment of a substantive Chairman for EFCC since the previous occupant of that position has been suspended over alleged corrupt practices. In making that decision, it is important that we go for an individual with character, integrity, capacity, and the right attitude for the job. We also call for the separation of the office of Attorney General of the federation from that of Minister of Justice as this has been the case in advanced democracies to allow for an Attorney General who will be insulated from politics and focus on the real job (a classical example was what happened between the current AGF and the suspended EFCC Chairman).”

.Read the full speech below.

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