Nov 20, 2016

NIPSS is Still Focused -Dogari


Prior to 19th November, the kilometer-long stretch of road, from Vom Junction to the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Kuru, near Jos, Plateau State, became the focus of the men of the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA). FERMA men went along the road, locating and healing its sores. It was how I came to know that a parsonage was visiting NIPSS. The only such persons are usually one of two most powerful men in the country: the President of Nigeria or his sidekick. For a very long time now, it has always been the later, and so it was on the 19th November. 

NIPSS was founded in 1979 to, among other things, help in designing policies that would help in mitigating some of the challenges of the nation and, even, the West African sub-region.

Over time, a question has developed in the minds of Nigerians. It is the question of whether or not the institute is effectively performing the role behind its creation. The question comes partly from the reality that a lot of public institutions in Nigeria, after years running, often become meager relics of their glowing pasts. Secondly, if people think that NIPPS is not fully living up to the logic behind its creation, it is partly due to the long absence of the President from the event; he has always been represented by the Vice President, unlike the situation in the first decade of NIPSS’s life. This is seen by many as a dent in the glamour of the institution. It is felt that if NIPSS has such a crucial role to play in the life of the nation, it should be the reason why the institute should be foremost in the schedule of the President.

So, I went to NIPSS with the hypothesis that, “NIPSS is not living up to the objective of its birth.” My host was the spokesperson of NIPSS, Mrs. Sekyen Dogari. Mrs. Dogari explained that NIPSS has not derailed, and it is fully living up to its mandate. Furthermore, she said, there was nothing wrong with the absence of the President, as long as he was represented by his deputy. She explained that it is necessary for people to understand that NIPSS is, after all, under the supervision of the office of the Vice President.  

Regarding the criteria for choosing participants, which has also come under strong suspicion of abuse, Dogari explained that even though NIPSS is not responsible for choosing participants for the training, she believes the process has never been abused. Her conviction stems from the water-tight screening process that likely participants undergo, prior to participation. Participants for the ten months’ course are rationed to public ministries, parastatals, and the private sector, and, since participants at NIPSS should not exceed a certain number within a year, the opportunity is usually rotated within its catchments to ensure their men and women are given a fair chance of participation. These participants must be of levels not lover than Directors, should have had a number of publications in reputable journals and should be at least forty years of age, among other hurdles. These names are sent to the office of the VP, which screens them to ensure they meet the participation criteria. Where a nominee is deemed unqualified, he is rejected and the agency involved is requested to forward another name. 

I asked Dogari if the impact of NIPSS is been felt in Nigeria. I was astonished to find out that NIPSS has influenced the decisions of the Federal Government of Nigeria, continuously, ever since its establishment.  Some of the policy proposals from NIPSS’s participants are awaiting passage in the National Assembly, while others have long been passed into laws and have become operational. Some of these policy suggestions that have affected the Nigerian state include: the defunct Directorate for Food, Roads and Rural Infrastructures (DFRRI), the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), the Ministry for Women Affairs, and, most recently, the Niger Delta Amnesty program, among others.

If there are challenges at NIPSS, Dogari said, it is largely that of funding.  To take care of this, the office of the Vice President has suggested that NIPSS be creative. It is the reason the institute now has NIPSS Consult. NIPSS Consult, created in 2007, undertakes paid consultancy and short-term training on a spectrum of areas. Through this, it raises funds to prop up regular funding from Abuja.

Recently, people within and around NIPSS’s niche believe that it is high time the office of the Vice President looked into the age limit of course participants: the high age limit ensures that participants are mostly civil servants, at the sunset of their careers and barely last more than two years in the service after graduation from NIPSS. The implication is that the knowledge gained is rolled into retirement, making it a near waste. 

Nov 6, 2016

BOSAT Wrestles Lack of Transparency

On the 5th of November, the Bukuru Old Students Association, BOSAT, held its Annual National Convention at the hall of their old school in Jos-south, Plateau State. Sadly, the convention, more than anything else, threw up issues that have made it impossible for the body to fully actualize the goals for which it was founded. 

At the core of the establishment of BOSAT is fostering the unity of past students of Government Technical College Bukuru and helping the school to continue to sustain the standard that has helped it to produce some of the most influential men in the country. However, successive members of the Executive Committee (EXCO) have, over the years, abused their positions to actualize personal goals, rather than the goals of the union. 

BOSAT raises it funds through dues that members pay annually. But despite the thousands of members the association has not just in Nigeria but around the world, it often finds it herculean to raise enough money to finance its activities. This comes from the failure of the majority of members to live up to their financial obligations. However, financially successful members of the body often shoulder the financial yoke of their association.

Prior to any convention, these rich members would willingly donate, most in hundreds of thousands of naira, with others donating up to the million mark or even beyond. In the end, totals often exceed budget targets.

Over the years, it has become obvious that those who contest for positions in the EXCO of BOSAT are motivated by these monies, with the sole aim of enriching themselves. This has become evident in a number of ways: Always when a new EXCO is unveiled, there is never a dime in the coffers for them to inherit; the outgoing EXCO often clears whatever there is in the purse, believing it belongs to them.  Even though supporting the college to continue to stand is one reason why BOSAT exists, the body has had to source for takeoff grants from the school and, brazenly enough, the college is never reimbursed. 

This attitude often enrages members, leading to loss of interest in the activities of the body, with the body going into coma for years until some members decide to resuscitate it.  

Why has the floor of the body allowed this mess to go on for so long, despite knowing its danger to the continued survival of the body? It was the question I put to one member of the body who agreed to talk on grounds of anonymity. “Most members are always afraid of victimization by the powerful committees” was the explanation I got. The current EXO is, however unlucky as it happened to have a rebellious member, Mr. Raphael Anze, the Treasurer, who feels there has to be transparency. The result is an in-fighting that has led to his expulsion. This became very obvious in the program of events for the 2016 Convention, in which his name and photo was clearly missing from the list of EXCO members. 

The decision to expel Mr. Anze went against the constitution, which stipulates that a member shall only be expelled in a congress. But since he was rocking the boat of some powers within the committee, he was expelled nevertheless. 

I found Mr. Anze and pretended not to know why he was expelled. “Do you think that the funds of BOSAT are properly managed?” was the question I put to him. “They are not, I must tell you frankly,” he said, fuming. “When we took over as a new committee, there was no money in the account of the body. We had to go round sourcing for money for the convention. Some of the money came today. A member named A.A Sule announced the donation of N500, 000 and asked me, as the Treasurer, to submit to him the bank account number of the body, but the financial Secretary came out to say that he was the one to be approached on the issue. Why is that happening if they haven’t an unpopular intention? It was a violation of my right as the Treasurer, and I am going to court over this violation.”

“Do you think going to court would end the lack of transparency in the body?”“Yes, I believe so,” he insisted. 

Corruption has flourished in Nigeria for so long that it has become a way of life. When something becomes a way of life, it is considered normal, and he who goes to court over such an issue is likely to become a villain within the body he intends to cleanse. In the end, Mr. Anze may not really go to court; he later said the issue will be resolved internally, when I asked if he thinks ending this would require a body like the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC. The EFCC often uses smaller and weaker culprits like those in BOSAT EXCO to prove that it is indeed working. 

BBC Pidgin and the Beauty of Pidgin English

By next month (October, 2019), BBC English will be celebrating its second-year anniversary. As it celebrates this milestone, we c...