The collapse and poor state of Nigerian roads from federal, state to local level is no longer a new thing even to small children in the country. In this interview, Bishop Taiwo Akinola, the Presiding Bishop of Rhema Christian Church and Towers, Sango Otta in Ogun State said the political leaders could be made responsible if they drive on the roads as Nigerians do. He spoke on various issues.
How do you feel about the state of Nigeria’s economy today?
The economy is still distorted and sluggish, recording 1.9 per cent growth last quarter, lower than the initial World Bank projection of 2.2 per cent. In short, the economy is bleeding, with the attendant effects of gross falling living standard at homes, almost across board.
Unfortunately, as if to add salt to injury, the government is piling up taxes and charges on the people without considering the negative impacts such trends are having on the people governed. We are of the opinion that it’s rather better to cut down on the huge cost of governance than passing the burdens onto the ordinary citizens who are just struggling to hold up their heads above the murky economic waters.
However, to our greatest chagrin, what we see is that government is rather increasing the number of cabinet ministers and advisers. We strongly feel that this development is not in the interests of our nation’s economic development, and should be looked into both critically and urgently by government, and re-addressed without further delay.
What is your take on the insecurity situation in the country?
Insecurity has certainly laid the country low on her back, somehow. Some major highways are now being avoided by travelers for fear of being kidnapped. Interestingly, albeit weird, kidnapping is fast becoming the country’s most lucrative business.
Nigerians everyday in the present time are being inundated with reports of killings, robbery, banditry, kidnapping, with resultant disasters and economic depression. A government panel found that bandits collected over N3 billion in ransom from 2011 to May 2019, widowed 4,983 women, orphaned 25,050 children and displaced 190,340 persons in Zamfara State alone. In the first four months of 2019, said the police, 1,071 persons were killed. Kidnapping, banditry and communal strife have emptied farms and destroyed the livelihoods of many citizens in many parts of the country.
Starkly, the Global Terrorism Index estimates that Fulani militants killed about 1,700 persons from January to September 2018, six times more than the number killed by the bloodthirsty Boko Haram Islamist sect throughout that year.
The incumbent administration has always promised to deliver on good governance but though we can see some measure of intervention on some roads, like Ibadan-Ife Road, yet we still urge government to please do more in the area of security. And, there can be no more urgent time than now. I recommend community policing and inclusion of men of goodwill in our neighborhoods in these security enhancement projects.
Do you think the government is doing enough to reduce Unemployment in Nigeria?
According to statistics, youth unemployment is presently put at 55.4 percent. As a Church committed to the progress of our dear country and the citizens, we are concerned that the rising spate of unemployment in Nigeria has remained unabated over the years. We observed that this critical situation has needlessly resulted in some youths taking to crimes such as kidnapping, armed robbery, internet fraud as well as being ready tools in the hands of insurgents, politicians and sponsors of communal crisis.
Meanwhile, we view this development, not only as a by-product of lack of fear of God, but also of gross disparity inherent in the nation’s planning and haphazard execution of projects aimed at generating employment opportunities that should absorb the numerous youths and young graduates being turned out annually by our tertiary institutions.
We are, therefore, urging this administration to please rise to the necessary duty of fulfilling its promise of generating jobs as one of its cardinal projects to empower the youths and make them productive for the advancement of the country.
What is your opinion on the present administration’s fight against corruption?
It is no longer discussed in hushed tones that the government is struggling with liquidity. As we know, this crisis is rooted in poor governmental planning, occasioned by institutionalized corruption in public expenditure and weaknesses cum sabotage in internal revenues accruable to government. On corruption in public expenditure, the issue of humongous salaries and allowances paid to elected public officials and contract inflation top the list.
In line with this, in my well considered opinion, the humongous remunerations are some of the reasons why many politicians become enmeshed in violence and other such vices while jostling for political office. If the monetary gains are made less attractive, only people who have genuine mind to serve will arise to occupy various positions of leadership in the country. Besides, such measure will equally reduce the inflationary tendencies in our national economy by reducing the glaring disparities between the emoluments accruable to civil servants and political office holders.
In the same vein, there are many more of revenue leakages in many sectors of our economy, especially in relation to corporate taxation. How can we be complaining of lack of funds to invest in public infrastructure cum social services when there are a lot of public funds allegedly going into private pockets. We also believe that instead of increasing VAT from 5 per cent to 7.5 per cent, government should rather capture many businesses and rich people in the tax net. Instead of taxing the poor to near extinction, rich people and businesses must be compelled by government to pay more taxes commensurate to their income.
On this note, we highly recommend that those on top of these issues raised above should, as a matter of urgency, handle them as topmost priorities. Moreover, Nigerians should be allowed free reins to constantly hold leaders at all levels more accountable. This is the basis of civic political culture without which democracy can hardly thrive.
Many Nigerians are worried, if not frustrated with the state of our roads and other Infrastructural facilities in the country. How do you feel about the deplorable state of infrastructure in Nigeria?
Last year, we drew our attention to the appalling state of our roads. But rather than improving, what we have seen from then till now is a total collapse of some of our roads all over the federation. Both at the federal and state, including the local government, our roads are at abysmal states. I believe, this state of disrepair and the resultant high rate of carnage on the roads call for serious concern.
The church hereby urges all the three tiers of government to generate synergies and to intensify efforts in the rehabilitation and construction of new roads. The Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA) should also accentuate actions aimed at continuously maintaining all the federal roads across the country to make them more motorable so as to reduce the man-hours being wasted on the highways, and the perennial and avoidable loss of lives and properties.
We urge the President, governors and other political leaders in the country to make it a habit to drive on the roads the people drive every day, so that they can see the messy ground-level reality and feel the pains of the people they govern. Certainly, we believe that genuine and true leadership will not call for less.
Furthermore, the Federal Government, as a matter of urgency, likewise should intensify efforts towards making other means of transportation like rail, water and air transportation available to reduce pressure on the roads.
In the same vein, electricity supply has gone from worse to worst. It has increased the cost of doing business as well as eating deep into individual purse of ordinary Nigerians, and all these call for concern.
Everyone knows that poor or inadequate electricity supply has caused a lot of our manufacturing companies to either cut down on productions, downsize their workers or totally shut down or relocate to neighboring countries, thereby throwing some Nigerians into the already saturated labour market.
The sorry state is such that prevailing poverty, collapsing infrastructure and mass despair prevail across the length and breadth of our dear blessed nation, Nigeria. Howbeit, Nigerians deserve the best and not a country where the basic essentials of life such as electricity, water, good healthcare facilities, good roads and schools are in depraved deficits.
At this stage, I kindly urge that our leaders should start putting the people they govern ahead of themselves. And, in particular, I urge our dear President Muhammadu Buhari to please declare an emergency on the state of some of our nation’s infrastructure, particularly to increase the Nigeria’s daily electricity power generation, which is presently put at a miserable 4,000 MW. We equally advise the Federal Government to further review the privatisation process of the electricity sector with a view to solving the problem.
Meanwhile, I must commend government for some of her recent efforts at ameliorating the pains of infrastructural deficiencies on our national psychics. However, we equally feel we should advise government to excise some calibrated cautions in view of her recent alliances with some nations, namely, China and Russia. While we cannot totally blame government for deferring to these nations as against our traditional Western allies, who are not seen to be cooperating well enough with our national developmental and security plans. Albeit, government must put in mind the reality that these our newfound lovers are also shrewd business and national interests apologetics, just like our old friends. In other words, whatever we see these new friend-nations doing, either in offering loans or technical support, their motives are guided by their overall national/personal interests. So, “buyers beware”, so as not to jump from diplomatic frying pans to fire.
What are your reflections on “Rhema World Convention 2019”?
Since the beginning of creation, God gave man the power to dominate his environment, to subdue and to triumph over all circumstances of life (Genesis 1:26-28). And, as we know, even after the fall of Man in the Garden of Eden, this divine passion to have man dominate has ever remained with God. Hence, man became restored to the platform of dominion through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. No wonder then that God gave us as a theme for this year’s Convention, “Total Victory In Christ Jesus”. And, without any doubt, we believe that the Convention provides us another opportunity to seek the face of God for Divine intervention to problems confronting us as a nation, individuals and families.