President Bola Tinubu has asked the senate to approve a borrowing request of $800 million.
The president’s request was in a letter read by Godswill Akpabio, senate president, during plenary on Thursday.
Tinubu, in the letter, explained that the loan will be used to scale up the national social safety net programme.
He said the new borrowing will be sourced from the World Bank.
He assured that the federal government will transfer N8,000 monthly to 12 million poor and low-income households for six months.
He said the money would be transferred directly to identified beneficiaries’ accounts.
“Please note that the federal executive council led by President Muhammadu Buhari approved an additional loan facility to the tune of $800 million to be secured from the World Bank for the National Social Safety Net programme. Copy of FEC’s extract attached,” the letter reads.
“You may also wish to note that the purpose of the facility is to expand coverage of shock responsive safety net support among the poor and vulnerable Nigerians. This will assist them in coping with basic needs.
“You may further wish to note that under the conditional cash transfer window of the programme, the federal government of Nigeria will transfer N8,000 per month to 12 million poor and low income households for a period of six months, with a multiplier effect on about 60 million individuals.
“In order to guarantee the credibility of the process, digital transfers will be made directly to beneficiaries’ accounts and mobile wallets.
“It is expected that the programme will stimulate economic activities in the informal sector and improve nutrition, health, education, and human capital development of beneficiaries’ households.”
Members of the House of Representatives are demanding an upward review of their salaries and allowances, following the removal of fuel subsidy and the current economic situation in the country.
The demand was the outcome of a meeting the lawmakers had on 11 July after going into an executive session during plenary.
The complaints from members arising from salaries and allowances forced the House to go into executive session in order to douse tension.
The lawmakers had also demanded from the Speaker, Tajudeen Abass, the reason for the delay in the payment of their salaries and allowances, causing some of them to resort to loans.
However, one of the lawmakers who was at the meeting but craved anonymity because he was not permitted to speak on the outcome of the executive session, said they only spoke about salary increase and not delayed payment.
The lawmaker said they only told the speaker that their salaries and allowances could no longer meet the demand of their job, hence a review was necessary.
“So nobody talked about any money or whether we have been paid or not,” the lawmaker explained.
The source said their request was a sequel to the current economic reality following the subsidy removal which had caused hardship, making goods and services skyrocket in the country.
The lawmaker said the speaker did not promise them anything on the review of their salaries and allowances, because such demand could only be accommodated in the budget after due process.
According to the legislator, the speaker however told his colleagues that their demand for a review of their salaries and allowances was not in the 2023 budget.
According to the source, the speaker could not have promised anything, and “we all know the situation in the country, we are all facing the same problem.”
The agency that decides the salaries and allowances of public officials, RMAFC, had proposed a 100 per cent increase in the salaries of public officials but that is yet to be approved by the president or reflected in the budget.
Meanwhile, to cushion the effect of fuel subsidy removal, the House of Representatives received a communication from President Bola Tinubu on 12 July, seeking an amendment to the 2022 Supplementary Appropriation Act.
The amendment is to accommodate N500 billion for the provision of palliatives for Nigerians.
in the letter, Tinubu said the request was necessary to enable the government to provide palliatives for Nigerians to cushion the effects of the removal of fuel subsidy.
Following the removal of subsidy on petrol that saw the price rise by almost 200 per cent, one of the demands of workers’ unions such as the NLC is an increase in workers’ salaries by at least 100 per cent. However, negotiations are still ongoing for that.
However, unlike civil servants who are poorly paid with a minimum wage of N30,000, Nigerian lawmakers are among the highest paid in the world with the lowest-paid lawmaker earning over 10 times the civil servant’s minimum wage. Apart from salaries, the allowances each lawmaker gets also run into millions of naira monthly.
The proposal by RMAFC of a 100 per cent increase in salaries of lawmakers had been condemned by many Nigerians forcing Tinubu to announce that he had yet to approve such an increase.
Peter Obi, the 2023 presidential candidate of the Labour Party in Nigeria, has condemned the insecurity in the country’s Southeast, saying the frequent sit-at-home order in the region is criminal.
“What is going on in the Southeast is essentially a criminal activity that must be nipped in the bud, with all hands being on deck, security agencies, and the people alike,” Obi tweeted on Thursday via his Twitter handle.
Obi, who was making a general comment on the rising insecurity in Nigeria said it was “disturbing” that gunmen enforcing the sit-at-home order in the Southeast have continued to disrupt businesses and social activities in the region.
“The Southeast Governors are to be commended for their renewed efforts at curbing this menace but there is a need to be more strategic and intelligence-driven in our approach to reducing the suffering of innocent people,” he said.
Obi is from Anambra, one of the five states in the region. He is a former governor of the state.
Obi also commented on the security challenges in the Northcentral region.
“The violent attacks in the Northcentral states of Benue and Plateau lately took a new twist with high records of kidnapping, arson, and loss of human lives. According to the 1st Quarter Mass Atrocities Casualty Tracking Report, over 1230 Nigerians were killed.
“79 of them security operatives, with over 600 abductions in the first quarter of this year alone. With what has been happening in the Northcentral and Zamfara state lately the figure as of today will be mind-boggling even far more than the deaths recorded in Russia/Ukraine ongoing carnage.
“It’s unacceptable that hundreds of innocent lives will continue to be wasted in Nigeria needlessly through communal clashes, bandits, and kidnapping activities.
“The situation in the Mangu Local Government Area of Plateau States has raised a lot of anxiety because of the number of lives and properties lost with very little resistance from security operatives,” Obi said.
Obi said the killings in the different parts of Nigeria must not be allowed to continue, and that Nigerians, through their various governments, “should up our value for human lives in the way and manner we respond to issues that touch lives”.
“I will like to urge critical stakeholders in these areas, traditional, Christian, and Muslim leaders to continue pushing for peace among their people in the way and manner they conduct themselves.
“The various governments at all levels should also take deliberate steps to address the issue of poverty and youth unemployment because the provision of stomach infrastructure is the surer way to tackle insecurity.
“Also, urgent steps should be taken consciously and intentionally to ameliorate the hardship of the people.”
Department of Security Services (DSS) says it has charged Godwin Emefiele, the suspended governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), to court.
A federal capital territory high court had ordered the DSS to charge Emefiele to court if they have criminal allegations against him.
Hamza Muazu, the presiding judge, had asked the service to release the former CBN governor on bail if he is not taken to a competent court within one week.
In a statement on Thursday, Peter Afunanya, spokesperson of the DSS, said the decision to charge Emefiele was in compliance with the court order.
“Sequel to an Abuja high court order of today, 13th July 2023, the Department of State Services (DSS) hereby confirms that Godwin Emefiele has been charged to court in compliance with the Order,” the statement reads.
“The public may recall that the service had, in 2022, applied for a court order to detain him in respect of a criminal investigation.
“Though he obtained a restraining order from an FCT High Court, the Service, however, arrested him in June 2023, on the strength of suspected fresh criminal infractions/information, one of which forms the basis for his current prosecution.”
The DSS assured the public of “professionalism, justice and fairness” in handling the matter and in the discharge of its duties.
The secret police however failed to state the charges filed against Emefiele.
On June 9, President Bola Tinubu suspended Emefiele and asked him to transfer his responsibilities to Folashodun Shonubi, deputy governor, operations directorate.
The day after, the DSS announced that Emefiele was in its custody for “some investigative reasons”.
Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority has commenced an investigation into the activities of marketers of aviation fuel, popularly called JetA1.
This comes after the operations of all Boeing 737 aircraft in the fleet of Max Air were suspended over safety concerns.
The suspension was enforced after some of the airline’s aircraft were involved in series of incidents, one of which showed the moment water was being drained from one of the airline’s planes while on ground in Yola.
Speaking in a zoom meeting, Director-General, NCAA, Musa Nuhu, said the agency was investigating fuel marketers as well as the airline.
He said, “We are investigating the whole thing and we learnt that that particular aircraft took fuel from Lagos, Kano and Abuja. I expect to get a report as regards the fuelling stations. Any station found wanting will be suspended till all these iasues are resolved.
“We are going to be releasing, hopefully tomorrow, another AOL to the industry to remind them of their responsibility. Flight crew should test fuel before their flight operations. If it is Max Air or the fueling companies that are responsible for this, we’d take appropriate actions. We are also investigating the fuel suppliers to make sure that the problem is not with them, Max Air might be a victim of fuel suppliers.”
The suspension was conveyed in a letter with reference number, NCAA/DG/AIR/11/16/363, dated July 12, 2023 and titled, ‘Suspension of Parts A3 and D43 of the Operations Specifications Issued to Max Air with Immediate Effect.’
Signed by the agency’s Director of Operations, Training and Licensing, Ibrahim Dambazau, on behalf of the NCAA DG, it stated that the authority had constituted a team of inspectors to conduct an audit on all Boeing 737 in the airline’s fleet.
The letter read in part, “The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority hereby suspends Parts A3 (Aircraft Authorization) and D43 (Aircraft Listing) of the Operations Specifications issued to Max Air Ltd. with regards to the operations of the Boeing B737 aircraft type in your fleet.
“With the above suspension, you are to immediately suspend the operations of all Boeing B737 aircraft in your fleet. The authority’s action is due to the several occurrences that involved your Boeing B737 aircraft as listed hereunder:
“Loss of Number 1 Main Landing Gear wheel during the serious incident involving a Boeing 737-400 aircraft, registration marks 5N-MBD which occurred between Take-off at Yola Airport Adamawa State and onlanding at Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja Nigeria on May 7, 2023.
“Fuel contamination of the main fuel tanks of aircraft B737-300, registration marks; 5N-MHM, leading to the Auxiliary Power Unit shutdown on ground Yola Airport on the July 7, 2023.”
Western tanks burn more fiercely than Soviet ones – Putin
Ukrainian troops are reluctant to make use of the heavy equipment supplied by Western backers, as it has become a liability, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday.
Western tanks are a priority target for Russian forces, and burn more fiercely than Soviet-made equivalents when hit, the president told the Rossiya 24 TV channel.
Russian troops have destroyed a total of 311 Ukrainian tanks since June 4, Putin said, adding that “at least a third of them, I believe, were Western-made tanks, including Leopards.”
“I can say that Ukrainian servicemen often refuse to get into those [Western] tanks because they are a top priority target for our guys and are being destroyed first on the battlefield. And they burn like the rest – probably even better than… the Soviet-made ones like T-72,” the Russian leader stated.
Further Western arms deliveries will not significantly help Kiev on the battlefield, Putin warned, adding that it “will only make the situation worse… for the Ukrainian side,” inflaming the conflict further. He added that some parties are deliberately trying to prolong the hostilities.
Russia has repeatedly stated that the Western-made tanks, which Kiev had largely reserved for its much-touted counteroffensive, would not be a game changer. As early as January, the Kremlin predicted that they would burn like the other weapons sent to Ukraine by the US and its allies.
The Ukrainian campaign, which was launched in early June, has so far failed to produce any tangible results. Kiev’s forces have suffered heavy losses while seeking to penetrate the Russian defences, while gaining little ground. In early July, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said Ukraine’s fleet of German-made Leopard tanks was dwindling.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Ukrainian commanders have been holding back their Western tanks after an initial failure to achieve significant battlefield successes.
** Wagner PMC formally non-existent, Putin says — media
Legalizing private military companies is a complicated issue that should be handled by the government and the parliament, because formally companies such as Wagner PMC are non-existent in Russia at this point, Russian President Vladimir Putin was quoted as saying.
Kommersant’s special correspondent Andrey Kolesnikov quoted the Russian president as saying in response to a question about the organization’s future that, from the point of view of the Russian legislation, "Wagner PMC does not exist."
The president explained that Russia has no law on private military companies and, therefore, "there is no such legal entity."
"The [Wagner] Group exists, but it is judicially non-existent," the report quotes Putin as saying. "The formal legalization is a separate issue that should be addressed by the State Duma [the lower chamber of the Russian parliament] and the government. It’s a complicated issue."
The president believes that the Wagner Group controversy "is very simple and clear for [members of] the Russian society."
"Wagner’s ordinary members were fighting with dignity… so it is very regrettable that they became embroiled into these events," Putin added.
On Thursday, the Russian president took part in the plenary session of the Future Technologies Forum. After the event was over, he had a conversation with Russian journalists. Excerpts of the talk, where the issue of Ukraine, NATO and the grain deal were raised, were published by the Kremlin website and aired by the Rosssiya-24 television channel.
Ukraine receives cluster munitions, pledges limited use
Ukraine has received cluster bombs from the United States, munitions banned in more than 100 countries, but has pledged to only use them to dislodge concentrations of enemy soldiers.
Valeryi Shershen, a spokesman for the Tavria, or southern, military district on Thursday confirmed an announcement by his commander that the weapons had arrived a week after the United States said it would send them as part of an $800-million security package.
The Pentagon also announced their arrival.
Moscow has denounced their shipment. Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu warned on Thursday that Russia could resort to deploying similar weaponry if faced with their use.
Ukrainian officials say their deployment is justified in view of Russia's mining of vast tracts of land it has seized.
Ukraine has launched a counter offensive more than 500 days into the war, focusing on capturing groups of villages in the southeast and retaking areas around the eastern city of Bakhmut, seized by Russian forces in May after months of fighting.
"This will further demotivate Russian occupying forces and fundamentally change things in favour of the Ukrainian armed forces," Shershen told U.S.-funded Radio Liberty.
The munitions, he said, would be used strictly within the legal framework, "only for the deoccupation of our territories.
"They will not be used on Russian territory...They will be used only in areas where Russian military forces are concentrated in order to break through enemy defences."
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy restated Ukraine's assurances during a NATO summit on Wednesday.
Cluster munitions typically release large numbers of smaller bomblets that can kill indiscriminately over a wide area. Those that fail to explode pose a danger for decades.
Each side has accused the other of using cluster bombs in the conflict launched by Russia's invasion in February 2022.
Human Rights Watch says both Moscow and Kyiv have used cluster munitions. Russia, Ukraine and the U.S. have not signed up to the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which bans production, stockpiling, use and transfer of the weapons.
The decision to send the munitions to Ukraine has been opposed by Spain and Canada, while Britain said it was part of a convention that discourages use of the weapons. Some U.S. Democratic lawmakers also raised their concerns.
Ukrainian military analyst Oleskander Musiyenko said he assumed the weapons would be used in the south as that area's commander had announced their arrival.
"We can say that it is in the south where it is planned to pierce and destroy the fortifications of the enemy's defence line," Musiyenko told Ukrainian television. "I think cluster munitions will expand the capabilities of our troops."
Deputy Ukrainian Defence Minister Hanna Maliar said Ukrainian troops were making headway in the south, forcing enemy forces to redeploy. Near Bakhmut, Ukrainian troops made gains south of the city, but faced more difficulties to the north.
Russian accounts of the fighting said its forces had repelled 16 Ukrainian attacks in eastern Donetsk region alone.
** Ground vehicles are the new frontier in Ukraine's drone war
After the role of unmanned aerial vehicles in the Ukraine war expanded dramatically since Russia invaded 16 months ago, attention is turning to ground drones that developers say could be the next frontier in military innovation.
Among the Ukrainian engineers working in the sector is 22-year-old Yevhen Hnatok, who said he had already supplied several dozen remote-controlled ground vehicles for the armed forces.
In a recent demonstration, a small green machine with chunky wheels and a landmine strapped to its back moved through long grass almost undetected.
"If they see it at this distance, they won't even have time to pray," he told Reuters, referring to Russian forces.
As more experimental technologies are introduced onto the battlefield, small-scale engineers like Hnatok are hoping to influence the war's outcome with Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGVs) that carry weapons and explosives or conduct reconnaissance.
Russia, too, has invested in UGVs including combat robots, and Ukraine wants to counter that, as it has done in the aerial drone sphere, by encouraging innovation among small enterprises.
Hnatok's machines vary in size and capability: the smaller ones can carry an anti-tank mine or a remotely operated machine gun up to 10 km (6 miles) away from their operator, and he is working on a larger vehicle capable of carrying a 20mm cannon.
Other machines can transport artillery shells to gunners.
The young engineer said the goal was to replace as many troops as possible with machines on the frontlines in order to save lives.
One of the main challenges to Ukraine's ambitious summer counteroffensive has been the dense networks of anti-infantry and anti-tank mines laid by Russian troops. Losing an expendable UGV to a landmine is preferable to losing a soldier.
One advantage of UGVs is their low cost - the parts for Hnatok's smaller machines cost less than 30,000 hryvnias ($812).
The impact of combat UGVs from both sides has been extremely limited so far, according to Samuel Bendett, senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security.
However, he said the UGV sector was one to watch, with well-educated and technologically adept volunteers, especially in Ukraine, scrambling to create new vehicles that would give their armies an advantage.
"It's this type of battlefield innovation at the tactical edge in Ukraine that's going to (bring about) eventual emerging solutions that can lend themselves to long-term survival in combat."
Ukraine's community of grassroots defence innovators is a smorgasbord of young IT professionals and older Soviet-educated aerospace and tank engineers. Hnatok, dressed in scruffy black clothes and punk rocker boots, is neither.
The engineer, who only completed nine years of school, said he learnt most of his skills in building remote-controlled vehicles from his stepfather.
"We would build little rockets together, things like that," he recalled.
Having taken part in combat near Kyiv and in eastern Ukraine in the first months of the invasion, Hnatok decided to start making UGVs in February, after he saw an online post showing off a Russian vehicle.
"I thought: 'why don't we start making them?'"
Hnatok said he does not profit from his vehicles, but asks his military buyers to cover production costs.
Combat footage posted online shows how Moscow has already deployed remotely operated versions of old tanks packed with explosives that are sent towards Ukrainian positions.
It is also working on higher-tech, self-driving options such as the Marker UGV, which has demonstrated AI and machine learning capabilities and has been able to traverse through controlled environments without an operator, said Bendett.
Of UGVs more broadly, he added: "The ultimate goal is to have these systems function autonomously in battle ... with human operators, UAVs, aerial and manned assets in a networked environment ... but we are far from that."
Hnatok said he was happy to make lots of cheap smaller UGVs, including single-use kamikaze vehicles, but that he would need more staff to fulfil existing orders.
The engineer said he also faced problems with parts supply, with components such as caterpillar tracks now retailing at inflated prices due to a global demand spike caused by the war.
"If before the war a transmitter cost 2,000 hryvnias, it now costs up to 12,000."
($1 = 36.9290 hryvnias)
Egypt launches new Sudan mediation bid at neighbours' summit
Egypt on Thursday embarked on a fresh bid to halt fighting between Sudan's warring factions and contain the humanitarian crisis it has unleashed, using a summit of neighbouring states to try to revive international efforts to contain the war.
The leaders of Sudan's seven neighbours in a joint statement called on the warring parties to commit to a ceasefire, appealed to regional states not to interfere in the conflict, and agreed to facilitate delivery of aid.
They also warned of the possibility of Sudan's fragmentation or "descent into chaos that could lead to the spread of terrorism and organised crime" and called on the international community to meet aid pledges made last month.
Conflict between Sudan's army and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) broke out in the capital Khartoum in April and has triggered a sharp surge of violence in the troubled Darfur region as well as fighting in North and South Kordofan and Blue Nile states.
More than 3 million people have been displaced, including 700,000 to neighbouring countries, most of which have been struggling with poverty and conflict. The United Nations has warned of a growing hunger crisis.
Using air strikes and artillery, the army has struggled to dislodge the RSF from positions across Khartoum.
The United States and Saudi Arabia had negotiated a series of ceasefires, but suspended talks in Jeddah after violations. Earlier this week, Ethiopia hosted a regional East African summit, but Sudan's army boycotted it, claiming lead sponsor Kenya was biased.
Priorities for Egypt, which has maintained close ties to Sudan's army, include reasserting itself on a file it feels excluded from by other regional efforts, and preventing cross-border support for the RSF, diplomats said.
Its plan aims to achieve a three-month ceasefire and open aid pathways by convening meetings with military and tribal leaders, taking advantage of long-term ties, two Egyptian security sources said.
"All of our brothers in Sudan must uphold the supreme interest and keep Sudan's politics and unity away from external interference that seeks to achieve narrow interests," Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi told the summit.
Representatives of the RSF and Sudan's army did not appear at the summit. But Sudan's ruling council, headed by army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, said it welcomed the outcomes and that the army was ready to stop fighting if the RSF halted attacks on civilian and government sites, and stopped blocking roads and looting.
Some of the leaders attending also said they welcomed the Egyptian initiative but hoped it could be coordinated with other diplomatic efforts.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed called for the Cairo and Jeddah processes to align with the regional IGAD initiative announced earlier this week.
"I would like to underline that such processes, including today's summit, need to align with the IGAD-laid, and African Union-supported, existing initiative," Abiy said.
Abiy could be seen in animated conversation with Sisi and other top Egyptian officials as a closed session of the summit began.
Speaking on Wednesday, U.N. special envoy Volker Perthes described mediation attempts as "emergency diplomacy", and said factions had used previous ceasefires to re-position.
"The two warring parties still think they can win the war so they accept diplomatic initiatives when they think it can help their aims," he said.
Relations between Egypt and Ethiopia, Sudan's two biggest neighbours, have been strained in recent years by a dispute over the giant dam Ethiopia has constructed on the Blue Nile.
But the two leaders met on Wednesday ahead of the summit, after Abiy last week said he would slow the fourth filling of the dam and ensure Sudan and Egypt received enough water, a conciliatory move.
After the summit, Egypt and Ethiopia issued a statement saying they would launch urgent negotiations to finalise an agreement on the dam within four months.
** At least 87 buried in Sudan mass grave, including women, children, UN says
The U.N. human rights office said on Thursday at least 87 people including women and children had been buried in a mass grave in Sudan's West Darfur, saying it had credible information they were killed by the country's Rapid Support Forces (RSF).
RSF officials denied any involvement, saying the paramilitary group was not a party to the conflict in West Darfur.
Ethnically motivated bloodshed has escalated in recent weeks in step with fighting between rival military factions that erupted in April and has brought the country to the brink of civil war. In El Geneina, witnesses and rights groups have reported waves of attacks by the RSF and Arab militias against the non-Arab Masalit people, including shootings at close range.
"According to credible information gathered by the Office, those buried in the mass grave were killed by RSF and their allied militia around 13-21 June...," the U.N. statement said.
Local people were forced to dispose of the bodies including those of women and children in the shallow grave in an open area near the city between June 20-21, it added. Some of the people had died from untreated injuries, it said.
"I condemn in the strongest terms the killing of civilians and hors de combat individuals, and I am further appalled by the callous and disrespectful way the dead, along with their families and communities, were treated," said U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk in the same statement, calling for an investigation.
An RSF senior official who declined to be identified said it "completely denies any connection to the events in West Darfur as we are not party to it, and we did not get involved in a conflict as the conflict is a tribal one."
Another RSF source said it was being accused due to political motivations from the Masalit and others. He reiterated that the group was ready to participate in an investigation and to hand over any of its forces found to have broken the law.
It was not possible to determine exactly what portion of the dead were Masalits, a U.N. spokesperson added.
The ethnic killings have raised fears of a repeat of the atrocities perpetuated in Darfur after 2003, when "Janjaweed" militias from which the RSF was formed helped the government crush a rebellion by mainly non-Arab groups in Darfur, killing some 300,000 people. Sudanese civilians have fled the area on foot, some having been killed or shot as they escaped.
"This report is a good first step, but more efforts are needed to uncover more violations," said Ibrahim, a refugee in neighbouring Chad, who asked to withhold his last name for fear of retribution.
Army spokesperson Brigadier General Nabil Abdullah told Reuters the incident "rises to the level of war crimes and these kinds of crimes should not pass without accountability."
"This rebel militia is not against the army but against the Sudanese citizen, and its project is a racist project and a project of ethnic cleansing," he said.
A sea of humanity bid Michael Olasubomi Balogun, founder of First City Monument Bank (FCMB), farewell last week in Ijebu-Ode, Ogun State. It was grand, the kind of occasion that befitted his sense of grandeur and his love of drama.
The high priests of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) were there in large numbers, for Balogun was an influential and much valued member. He was also the leader of Ijebu Christians and he cherished his church title, Asiwaju Onigbagbo greatly.
Balogun made money - tons of it - but his focus was humanity. When he had made money, he built and equipped the paediatric ward for the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan. He built another one for the General Hospital, Ijebu-Ode.
In later years, he built the National Paediatric Hospital in Ijebu Ode, on several acres of land with modern equipment and well-trained personnel. He donated the hospital to the UCH.
Central to Balogun’s relentless philanthropy was his Christian belief. He was born into a staunch Muslim family and both his parents were well-known Muslim leaders.
His father, Ashiru Odutola Balogun, was a man of modest Western education and he, like many Ijebu of that generation, had sought education for their children.
He sent the young Subomi to Igbobi College, Lagos. It was there that Subomi encountered a charismatic teacher, Festus Segun, who later rose to become the Bishop of Lagos. It was Segun who led him to his new Christian faith and he never looked back.
In his younger days, he was a member of the Guild of Stewards at the Cathedral Church of Christ, Marina, Lagos, once the Episcopal seat of the legendary Bishop Ajayi Crowther, the man who translated the Bible into Yoruba, Igbo and several other African languages.
As a young lawyer and accountant in the 1960s he had made good money and good friends. He built his house in Apapa where he was living with his young family.
One of his neighbours was a prosperous Igbo architect who was also raising his family. When the Nigerian crisis broke out and the Civil War eventually came in 1967, the young Igbo man fled. When he returned after the war in 1970, he was surprised to see that his house was intact and well-kept. A tenant was living there. Like other parts of Yorubaland, the Igboman was able to repossess his house without any hassle.
Balogun had put a tenant there and he returned the full rent paid by the tenant to the Igbo architect. That was the genesis of the life-long friendship between Balogun and Alex Ekwueme, the first elected Vice-President of Nigeria.
Balogun’s career had been truly colourful and rewarding. After his return from the United Kingdom in 1960, he was employed by the government of the defunct Western Region as a legal draftsman in the Ministry of Justice, Ibadan.
Balogun moved from Ibadan to Lagos and got employed by the Nigerian Industrial Development Bank, NIDB where he rose to become the Company Secretary.
When NIDB brokered the establishment of ICON Merchant Bank, Balogun thought he should be the Managing Director of the new outfit. He approached his friend, Michael Ibru, an industrialist who owned a brewery.
Balogun wanted to be a beer distributor, however, his friend had a different idea.
“Anyone can sell beer,” Ibru told him. “You are a trained lawyer and accountant, why don’t you start something along the line of your expertise?”
It was a challenge that Balogun took up seriously. He started an issuing house, City Securities and plunged into stockbrokerage and other financial services.
In 1979, his friend, Ekwueme, became the Vice-President. Balogun too was thinking of starting his own bank. It was a tall dream. Only few Nigerians had dared to think that way; notably Adekoya Okupe, who started the Agbonmagbe Bank, which eventually morphed into Wema Bank when the government of the defunct Western Region bought controlling shares of Agbomagbe Bank.
Wema Bank, after so many transformations and plastic surgeries, has survived till today.
Now it was the Second Republic and Balogun wanted to set up a financial institution and needed licence from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). He had submitted all necessary documents to the Apex Bank.
One Sunday, he was at the Christ Church Cathedral, Marina, when Vice-President Ekwueme also came to worship.
He accosted the powerful man after the service and the latter gave him an appointment for the next day.
That was the beginning of the First City Group, including the phenomenal First City Merchant Bank, which later became First City Monument Bank (FCMB).
I got to know Balogun through Bola Ige, the first elected Governor of old Oyo State (including the present Osun State).
Ige had special regards for both Balogun and his life-long friend, Kola Daisi, both of whom were successful lawyers and money-makers.
We became closer during the crisis that rocked the FCMB over the accusation that the bank was involved in round-tripping with foreign currencies.
The CBN stepped in and it almost led to a run on the bank. Balogun rode the storm and when the Tsunami came during the Charles Soludo era at the CBN, the FCMB was fully prepared.
Despite his stupendous wealth and vast influence, Balogun was an engaging and accessible fellow. He was at my 50th birthday thanksgiving service, which was held on a Monday morning at the Archbishop Vining Memorial Church Cathedral, Ikeja.
This brought me closer to him. I visited him in his office on Lagos Island, where I was always well received by Mrs. Busola Adekusibe, Balogun’s long time office manager.
I also visited him in his Victoria Island home (which is now a branch of the FCMB called the Founder’s Place) and his new palace in Ikoyi.
But it was in Ijebu-Ode, his country home that Balogun truly love to hold court. There he lived like a real royal with his personal chef, Kofi, always at his beck and call. There, his beloved wife, Abimbola Adetutu, has turned into a real haven.
It was in this sprawling palace that Balogun use to hold his New Year thanksgiving service every January. This year was no exception.
Resplendent in a white agbada, with an embroidered walking stick to match, he danced before his creator during the Thanksgiving service this January. Someone recorded this happy moment and posted it on the social media. It soon went viral with different captions and narrations. I called to congratulate him.
“It was not my birthday,” he said. “I was dancing and giving thanks to almighty God for his benevolence towards me.”
He said his 90th birthday would be coming up next year and it would be good if we update the book Gaskia Media Ltd did to celebrate his 80th birthday. He said we have to work on it, but he would have to travel first. He had been having problems with his health lately. He knew the darkness of mortality was beckoning to him when he would be admitted into the marvelous and eternal light of Christ. He has led a good life.
When you enter his palace at Milverton Street, Ikoyi, you will see a giant picture on the wall. I think it was taken when Baba celebrated his 80th birthday.
In that picture, you will see Balogun, his wife, their four boys and their wives and the grandchildren. That picture summarises the life and times of Balogun, the great patriarch.
My condolences to Mama, Abimbola Balogun and the family, especially Balogun’s only surviving sister, Olaronke. In truth, he lived a good and fruitful life. He started as a bicycle-riding school-boy and ended up as an empire builder. He was larger than life.
You may have seen it. The list, of course. Those who think that President Bola Tinubu is not moving fast enough to appoint ministers have offered to help. They have composed their own ministerial list for him and shared it on social media. It’s trending now.
Just one look at it, however, and you would know that it’s an improbable list, even for a Banana republic. It didn’t make sense. Going by the list, not a few commentators are already relishing the prospects of Adams Oshiomhole as Minister of Works; Nasir El-Rufai as Minister of Interior; and Nyesom Wike as Police Affairs Minister, among other fabrications.
It might appear silly to ask, but why the desperation? It’s partly because in many respects, we don’t want anything that resembles a return to the Muhammadu Buhari era. It took Buhari one-eight of his first term of four years or roughly the time General Murtala Mohammed spent in office to compose his cabinet. While Buhari was scratching his head, trying to find his footing, the country ran on voodoo, psychedelically called body language, which really meant nothing.
When Buhari finally came round to it, especially in his second term, he appointed a number of ministers – and some non-ministers, in fact – that made people regret that he made any appointments at all.
I stopped obsessing about ministerial lists long before Buhari appointed ministers. A number of his ministers and appointees made the office a joke to see. Yet, never lacking in the ingenuity of self-help, they managed to make it serious business for themselves.
When he reconstituted federal boards in 2017, Buhari appointed three dead people into positions. I guess the anxiety about the next ministerial list is partly because the public is genuinely concerned that Tinubu must avoid these mistakes of the past.
In some ways, Abuja sets the tone for governance, regardless of many years of the bad habits it has foisted on a failing federal structure. Forming an early cabinet might help not just the rest of the country, but also partners outside, to have an idea where the country is headed and how to engage the continent’s largest and perhaps one of its most intractable enigmas.
To sustain the speed and momentum of a number of the far-reaching decisions taken by Tinubu from his first day in office, also, he needs to get his cabinet in place as quickly as possible. But surely not on the timeline of speculators who have not only named his cabinet for him on social media but have also assigned portfolios and given them a resumption date.
I have learnt, over the years, to pay some attention to what is happening in states and local governments, too. A lot going on in Abuja could be undone by governors who, for example, decide to run amok. And we’ve seen them before.
We saw how the wellbeing of the whole could be severely impaired by the sum of the parts, for example, when Ahmed Sani Yerima was governor of Zamfara State. The introduction of “political Sharia law” in that state and its distorted application watered the seed of radicalism not only there but also in many parts of the Northwest.
Apart from militancy in the Southsouth, President Olusegun Obasanjo spent a chunk of his time dealing with the serious security fallouts of Yerima’s rascality, not to mention the supercharged testosterone of the former governor that could not be restrained until it found a consort in a 15-year-old Egyptian girl. The fellow appears to be back in circulation.
It’s not funny. Once Yerima stoked religious tensions in Gusau, the flames leaped across 12 other states in the North, raising an army of angry people, especially among the young population, for whom problems common to new democracies, such as corruption and inequality, were framed as moral questions to be addressed by the religious police.
Sadly, a high court in the state gave a bizarre ruling that circumscribed the freedom of adherents of other faiths or even non-faithers resident in the state guaranteed in the Constitution. “Political Sharia” became a convenient distraction for political leaders who deflected accountability after collecting billions of naira from Abuja that they squandered on themselves.
No template of ministers by Obasanjo could have foreseen the monster that this zealotry would morph into years later. Boko Haram, ISWAP and other franchises of insurgency found recruits from this religious hotbed from which the country has still not recovered.
Of course, the North did not have a monopoly of such cautionary tales. When a junior minister in Obasanjo’s government, Nenadi Usman, decided to publish a monthly account of what state governments were getting from the federation account, for example, it turned out to be a scam-fest of who is who. There was very little to show for the billions collected. Governors up and down the country had gone rogue, helping themselves to the treasury and stashing abroad whatever was left.
A report by Matthew T. Page, entitled, Dubai Property: An Oasis for Nigeria’s Corrupt Political Elite, said, “A 2014 report, for example, claimed that Nigerian buyers accounted for 60 percent of all serviced apartment sales in Dubai. Likewise, in 2012, the sales manager of a Dubai real estate firm claimed Nigerians had invested up to $6 billion in Dubai property over the three previous years.”
Beyond the description of the buyers as “politically exposed persons”, the general descriptive classifications contained in the report showed that “security sector leaders” and “governors” were high at the top of the list of the Nigerian owners of Dubai.
While we obsess about the coming ministerial list, we need to keep an eye on what is happening in the states, too. It might be useful not only to be interested in what the governors are doing, but also in who they’re appointing to do what and how, especially with rubber-stamp assemblies.
Of course, it would be unfair to tar all states with a dirty brush. Lagos, especially since 1999, Ekiti (under Governor Kayode Fayemi), Kaduna, and Rivers have made significant strides and will do well to stay on course. I understand, too, how what happens at the centre– what ministers do or fail to do once bitten by Abuja-mylitis – can affect how states are run, especially in areas of procurement and sovereign guarantees.
But for too long, states have been on a long leash because Abuja’s poor reputation has made it the trough of every rogue. That’s why we’re obsessed with who is the next minister and who’s not.
Nobody knows more than Tinubu that even though he carries the same party flag with Buhari, he does not have the luxury of Buhari’s honeymoon period. And should he make any wrong choices – hopefully not – given the scale of the challenges facing the country, he must immediately remove such appointees, instead of indulging them like his predecessor, as if it was some complicated conjugal misery.
Perhaps by Tuesday when the official list is finally released and laid before the Senate, appointment mongers on social media would take their business elsewhere; maybe to the ethno-religious market, where the tribe and religion of the new appointees would almost certainly become the new articles of trade.
** Ishiekwene is Editor-In-Chief of LEADERSHIP
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