Connect with us


Mr President, salary hike won’t resolve the present hunger, by Hassan Gimba



Hassan Gimba

These days, the words dominating the air are “hunger” and “protest”. And that, we are told, is because of two others – “dollar” and “salary”. Unfortunately, those capitalising on the latter two words to push for the first two words hardly mention the words “production” and “security” which are fuelled by justice and fairness. And there can be no justice without the rule of law.

I suspect some behind-the-scenes push regarding cries of hunger and a subtle mobilisation for protests that would engulf the entire country. While not discounting the fact that there is massive hunger in town, it is not entirely true that this government caused it.

We grew up regaled with stories of hunger or famine hitting the lands that some people dug into the underground storage of ants to salvage grains. Or people eating wild leaves or even raw calabash plants. Yet there were no protests.

Under the Shehu Shagari administration, the powerful Umaru Dikko, minister of transport, and chairman of the Committee on Rice Importation, once told us when confronted by “cries” of hunger that there was no hunger in Nigeria “because no one was yet eating from the dustbin”, and that Nigerians ought to be grateful as the government was paying salaries without borrowing. There was no protest, either.

I still recall a viral audio of a renowned Sheikh, Malam Qalarawi, complaining in the 80s that the dead were better than the living because the cost of petrol was ₦3 (yes, three naira) and torchlight battery formerly 80 kobo was somewhere around ₦1. And he threw in a puncher: “Ga basir”, meaning people suffering from haemorrhoids. Who does not have it now? Yet, there were no protests.

SEE ALSO:  Needed: One standard hospital per state (1) - By HASSAN GIMBA

We have had periods when even essential commodities were proportioned and rationed and people flogged while struggling for their share, yet there were no protests.

To be honest, there has never been a time in our history when there was no hunger. Perhaps the exceptions were that there were some positive factors in the society that made the hunger and deprivation of yesteryears more tolerable.

In the first place, no hope was misplaced because hard work paid off. People were educated almost free and health care delivery was functional and affordable. Crime was something read about and people felt secure while the judiciary was a sanctuary for the justice seeker.


Everyone was hopeful that their tomorrow would be better because they had seen those before them getting fair treatment and getting their just rewards.

But even then, Nigeria was a prosperous nation that was on the march to self-dependency. There were hydro basins scattered around that encouraged dry season farming while our farmers, even though predominantly subsistence farmers, were not short of fertiliser supply and other related Agro-allied inputs. Because of the robust and unhindered agricultural activities in the north, there was an abundance of groundnut, grains, cotton, livestock, etc. and these fed many industries in the food, cosmetics and textile industries.

We had rubber and cocoa plantations that served a lot of local and international manufacturers in the automobile and confectionery industry. There was coal and many others as well.

Now, most of the basins in the north are relics, the livestock are still being walked hundreds of kilometres for pasture, while insecurity has driven our farmers away from tilling the soil.

SEE ALSO:  Needed: One standard hospital per state (1) - By HASSAN GIMBA

When Nigeria was facing some economic hiccups, the government of General Olusegun Obasanjo cut down the cost of governance drastically. A leader cannot be talking about improving the economy of his country while taking billions outside its shores to shore up foreign businesses to the detriment of hungry, jobless citizens back home. Among the measures Obasanjo took was the state policy of adopting assembled in Nigeria vehicles, the Peugeot.

In 1972, when the Udoji Commission recommended, among others, a Unified Grading and Salary Structure (UGSS) which embraced all posts in the Civil Service from the lowest to the highest, the naira was stronger than the dollar at about ₦60/$100. The commission increased the annual minimum wage from ₦312 to ₦720 (from ₦26 to ₦60). ₦720 was the equivalent of $1200.

As of the time of writing this, $100 was over ₦150,000! $1200 will be about ₦1,800,000. What this means is that the Udoji Commission’s minimum wage of ₦60 ($100 then) had more purchasing power than today’s minimum wage of ₦30,000 ($20 now). Then, just imagine $100 as a basic monthly salary today! That’s ₦150,000.

I have said it before and I will repeat it now: ₦1 million as minimum wage will help no one as long as the naira is weak. Period.


What we need now is not a salary increase, but the strengthening of our currency. Take the case of China. As of January 17, 2024, Shanghai had the highest monthly minimum wage among 31 provinces, with $370 per month. Germany had €1,584.00 per month as of June 2020. Spain, as of June 2019, had €1,050, Poland €523.09 and Belgium €1,593.81.

SEE ALSO:  Needed: One standard hospital per state (1) - By HASSAN GIMBA

And these are countries that are richer than us and have higher GDP.

Now cast your mind back to when the naira was at par with the dollar and assume our minimum wage of ₦30,000 is $30,000 taking ₦100 to be equal to $100. Don’t you think that is more than enough?

To print more money just to pay civil servants will no doubt cause inflation, or even hyperinflation, as with Germany after World War II or what we saw in Venezuela and Zimbabwe. The salary gain would be so rubbished that the entire country would regret the increase for less than one per cent of the population.

The best way out is for public service salaries to be uniform, cost governance to be drastically reduced, and for Nigeria to start producing what it eats, wears and drives. And there is no better time to start than now and no better people to start than those running the country.

Then there must be fairness and justice. And security of life, property and investments.

With these in place, Nigeria will leapfrog many countries it is now looking up to.

• Hassan Gimba is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Neptune Prime.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Needed: One standard hospital per state (1) – By HASSAN GIMBA



Hassan Gimba is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Neptune Prime

I never thought I could attend the Eid prayer held on 10th April, a day after I clocked the definitive age of 60: I have now joined the senior citizens’ rank. Not being confident I could attend the Eid prayer seems an understatement; for actually, in February, the way I was feeling within me, it was looking to me that I would not witness Ramadan, not to talk of participating in the Eid marking its end.

I easily get exhausted from the littlest of tasks, making me always gasping for air to fill my lungs. It reached a stage where I could not walk ten metres without bending down, holding my knees and inhaling from both my mouth and nose.

It all came to a head when the news of the death of my mother reached me in the early hours of January, 8. I could not walk at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja which made the flight authorities move me in a wheelchair to the base of the plane, where I climbed the stairs with great effort, stopping at the plane’s entrance to gather myself.

The same routine was enacted when our plane landed at the Malam (don’t know why they spelt it MALLAM with a double l) Aminu Kano International Airport, where I had to be wheeled to the vehicle that conveyed me to Potiskum. To ease my difficulty, I had to be injected intravenously with bronchodilators on the three-hour journey.

Throughout the week I was at Potiskum for her seven-day prayers, I was ensconced in my room and couldn’t be at the family house where the main gathering took place. And I became dependent on my wives for many things a healthy person would do for himself.

SEE ALSO:  Needed: One standard hospital per state (1) - By HASSAN GIMBA

And it is not as if I had not sought medical attention. God knows I had always advocated for our leaders to attend hospitals at home. I did the same. Some seven years ago I went to the Asokoro General Hospital where an x-ray was done for me. They said there was nothing wrong, but I knew something was wrong with me. Even then, I started feeling exhausted because I could not do what I normally did easily. And it had nothing to do with ageing.

I did some tests in some private laboratories, and the results were normal. Then I went to NISA Hospital in Abuja where I was looked after by a pulmonologist, Dr James Agada. It is not a run-of-the-mill hospital and not cheap, moreover, I paid for VIP treatment. Yet, my case kept deteriorating till I became almost an invalid.

Then I had an opportunity to visit my governor, Honourable Mai Mala Buni, over an issue that needed some clarifications and he saw my condition. He became alarmed and sought to know what happened. I explained what I could to him, including my voyage to hospitals here that were quick to give me a clean bill of health that I knew was not true.


He undertook the process to reverse the ailment and give me back some lost health. He got in touch with an agent, Shettima Alkali, a kind-hearted professional, who got me a visa to Saudi Arabia. Buni, a man of faith, said: “To be there, drinking the holy Zamzam water and praying at the Ka’aba itself would do you wonders.”

And so began my journey in search of health.

SEE ALSO:  Needed: One standard hospital per state (1) - By HASSAN GIMBA

I left Nigeria on 12th February from the Malam Aminu Kano International Airport via Peace Air. I will talk about Air Peace and its wonderful, friendly crew another day.

As had become the norm, I was wheeled into the plane from Abuja to Kano to board the Saudi flight and at the Kano airport too I was wheeled into the plane. It was the same procedure at Jeddah Airport until I reached the apartment where I was to stay. Once there I found it easier and more convenient since I had my son, Abubakar Sadik, a big, strong fella to do the wheeling.

In Saudi Arabia, one goes through the healthcare system from the Primary Health Care Centres except if one wants to go straight to a private hospital. To conserve funds and also see how their system works, I started from the former despite my almost desperate condition.

However, if you are an Umrite (my coinage for one undergoing the Umrah), you have an inalienable right to be accepted and diagnosed in government hospitals free of charge, even though there are fee-paying options.

Relying on that right, I started by going to the Jeddah East General Hospital where various tests were carried out on me: blood tests, electrocardiogram (ECG), x-rays, computerised tomography (CT) scans, etc., and the results were good. With all health issues eliminated, everything pointed to problems to do with pulmonology.

Still, I went to a Primary Health Centre this time around. Their primary health centres are as equipped as our general hospitals, if not better. Being the entry point to the health system, every General Hospital has a PHC that refers patients to it. And so this one referred me to King Abdul Aziz General Hospital, Jeddah, where the same tests conducted at Jeddah East were repeated with the same conclusion.


With the certainty of what my ailment was, I left Jeddah for Madinah, arriving at Makkah the next day. I searched online for a good pulmonologist and each search result had one Egyptian, Dr Hebatullah Kamal Taha of Saudi-German Hospital, Makkah, coming up tops. She also comes a bit more expensive than the others. I then booked and paid for an appointment with her for the next day.

SEE ALSO:  Needed: One standard hospital per state (1) - By HASSAN GIMBA

At exactly 10 am the next day, accompanied by my wife, Dr Aminat Zakari, and son wheeling me, I was ushered into Dr Heba’s office. A petite, friendly, middle-aged woman. After analysing the results from the two General Hospitals we went to in Jeddah, she made us do a test to ascertain the level of oxygen in my blood and then prescribed some drugs, telling us to return after five days.

Hassan Gimba is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Neptune Prime.

Continue Reading


Understanding Archbishop Chukwuma’s statement, By Osita Chidoka



Banditry is God’s punishment for the North — Archbishop Chukwuma
Emeritus Archbishop Emmanuel Chukwuma

In many fora, I had called for a definitive and official account of the First Republic, the 1966 coup, and the civil war. The issues will keep rearing their heads and causing, sometimes unintended, deeper division and backlash.

I read ArchBishop Chukwuma’s statement and my friend @renoomokri
tweet about the statement. Both statements could be termed inciteful and unnecessary but I am of the view that they represent the rich tapestry of our uninterrogated past.

My mission today is to contextualise ArchBishop Chukwuma’s statement and correct a historical fallacy.

First, Arch Bishop Chukwuma is from Asaba, in Delta state, and the people of Asaba are still bitter about the Asaba massacre reportedly carried out by Gen Murtala Mohammed. To date, no official account exists about the story that civilian men of 18 and above were rounded up and executed in cold blood in Asaba.

Gen Mohammed tried unsuccessfully three times to cross the River Niger from Asaba to Onitsha. While in Asaba, he was alleged to have killed over 2000 men. Again, reports of the number of those killed range from 500 to 900, and some say from 800 to 2000.

We need an official unbiased historical account that can at least agree on the sequence of events and what really happened.

Osita Chidoka

Arch Bishop Chukwuma’s statement, as insensitive as it may sound, represents the general and strong feelings of the Asaba people. They even feel that the Igbos of the current Southeast do not acknowledge their pain sufficiently. His statement is contextual as many of his people believe that Gen Mohammed and his officers should be held accountable for war crimes.

SEE ALSO:  Needed: One standard hospital per state (1) - By HASSAN GIMBA

The issue he raised is not about the Civil War, it is about a perceived war crime committed against his people amongst whom, many opposed the idea of Biafra and elected to stay in the Mid West and with Nigeria only to be lined up and shot because they spoke Igbo.

Going by historical accounts Gen. Adekunle and Gen. Obasanjo did not shoot civilians in the Igbo-speaking parts of Rivers State after the fall of Port Harcourt. Neither did Gen TY Danjuma shoot the civilian men who elected to remain behind when he captured Enugu. The Asaba people to date wonder what they did wrong that unarmed civilian men were lined up and shot in violation of the 1949 Geneva Convention on the protection of civilians.


So, there is a need to verify the story of the Asaba massacre, apportion blame appropriately, and bring it to a closure through a conflict resolution mechanism. A truth and reconciliation committee or commission may be a way to go.

In his response on X Reno repeats a historical fallacy that Celestine Ukwu released a song Ewu na ebe akwa rough translation ( a goat is bleating) to mock the Northern leaders killed in the coup. It is not true.

The truth is Cardinal Jim Rex Lawson, a Kalabari man from present-day Rivers State, released that song in 1964. It was not Celestine Ukwu, whose career took off after the war. He lived in the same apartment building 13 Peter Okoye Street, Uwani Enugu, where my parents lived. I was born there in 1971. He died tragically in 1977 in a car crash. I vaguely remember the sound of his instruments rehearsing in the evenings. After his death, Barr Jacob Ugwu moved into the flat he vacated. Barr Ugwu later became Chief Judge of Enugu State.

SEE ALSO:  Needed: One standard hospital per state (1) - By HASSAN GIMBA

These kinds of fallacies, maybe unconsciously, promote hate. The almost conscious reproduction of falsehood will continue to plague us as a nation if we do not confront our past and document an accurate version of history to help dispel false narratives.

The families of those murdered in the coup of 1966 and all those killed in coups in Nigeria deserve justice. We must collectively confront our past to free our present.

• Chidoka, former Corps Marshal of the Federal Road Safety Corps, was former Minister of Aviation during Jonathan era

Continue Reading


Prof Chidiebere Onyia: Celebrating the Unrepetant Technocrat with a Difference



By Prince Ejeh Josh

Writing in the popular British Financial Times on March 17, 2017, Tim Harford, in a piece he titled, “Somethings are best left to the technocrats”, drew a remarkable contrast between democracy and technocracy in considering how decisions that affect the general well-being of the society are made. These are broad questions affecting the economy, healthcare delivery, infrastructure, development, security, digital skills, education among other critical spectrums.

Harford had argued that while voters are more interested in the politics of who lead them in the name of democracy and freedom of choice, they eventually fail to look beyond the colouration and aura of going to the polls to the aftermath of their decisions. Behind the fanfare of politics is the biggest elephant that must be contended with—policies—that will shape the wellness of the people. Policies are often an intentional course of action set out by the leadership of a country, state or organisation. Getting it right entails that any policy output must be validated by conscious, sound and critical reasoning among the competing alternatives. On this note, Harford shrugged that for any piece of policy, the typical voter does not understand what is at stake.

He quite submitted that many democratically elected politicians and even voters themselves were not placed at a vintage point to attend to technical issues and where politics appears to falter, we turn our searchlight of redemption to technocracy, albeit, indirectly. Employability of technocracy is not the herd mentality of the general public but the elected leader who had recognised either himself being a technocrat, or the need for technocrats. In spite of the lengthy argument, the defeatist approach of the FT editor capped his submission: “Ultimately, democracy must trump technocracy, and it does”.

This sheds light on the intrigues that played out during the election of Dr. Peter Mbah as governor of Enugu State. Events that accompanied the electioneering period are important to make inference to. Among the top contending issues being considered by the electorate and analysts deduced from opinion sampling or vox populi were the issues of professionalism, technocracy, sphere of influence, and sadly, clannishness. While it was also a consensus ad idem that Governor Mbah had the first three qualities against others that were feeding basically on politics, the issue of clannish interest crept in. This beclouded sound judgement and almost knocked out rationality on its face value. That’s democracy and freedom. However, it’s the weakest link of democracy or politics where the decay is noticeable.

Raced up, technocracy knitted in democracy, like an enigma, triumphed. Governor Mbah, it would be recalled, had campaigned vigorously and unrepentantly about his disposition to disrupt the convention of political considerations in governance and administration. That should be the last forethought on the pyramid of decisions. People did not appreciate or were slow to understand what the message signposted until the complexity of his decision began to rip off the norm—the old order that had sunk the state into comatose.

SEE ALSO:  Needed: One standard hospital per state (1) - By HASSAN GIMBA

The governor started with the appointment of the Secretary to the State Government (SSG)—Professor Chidiebere Onyia. His announcement was a chill pill. “From where?,” was the question blistering the political atmosphere. For some of us with a quick tap on the google button, we simply gave a terse reply: “Onyia is from the development space working with different world bodies, and consulting with the most civilized or developed nations”. That was the genesis of technocrats dominating the administration of Governor Mbah. It takes not just a technocrat but a complex, versatile, multi-talented and distinctive technocrat to discover and reach out to other technocrats.

The governor often tagged a quote on his mission to making the state the best or the most outstanding in terms of security, investment, tourism, standard of living and eradication of poverty as being a leader who should take the people to where they ought to be rather than where they wanted to be. To achieve the above, there are far-arching implications. Taking the economy from a wobbling $4 billion to $30 billion; constructing a 10 thousand kilometers of road; eradicating poverty; training and upskilling thousands of youths on a yearly basis; making the state attractive to investors; getting the world to see Enugu as the next tourist attraction; digitisating the state’s services, etc, are not just a thing for political settlement, or as Harford called it, for democracy to determine, instead, they are core technocratic decisions. That informed the rational behind the governor assembling a world-class team to drive the mission. On the operational level, the SSG is now piloting it. A quick glance from the SSG’s quote: “Gentlemen, do not allow the His Excellency to descend from the Executive Level of decision-making to Operational Level. We must drive this together”. Indeed, the executive level is no cruise; it’s no envy; it’s no smile. Every day at that level entails making hard, demanding decisions just to advance towards the goals.


For those that have been following the trend in Nigeria and Enugu State in particular, Prof. Onyia has not had it so rosy. He often admits that the space where he formely played sharply contrasts with the present political space where members of the public, used to politics, defined everything from the lens of politics and politicking—this could be the murky waters of politics that has become a toga in the lexicon of our socio-political sphere. Regardless, the journey to take the people to where they ought to be must continue. That determination is no apology. Enugu State must get it right this time, and time, being the ultimate verdict of human affairs, is ticking against odds in favour of a new dawn in the State.

SEE ALSO:  Needed: One standard hospital per state (1) - By HASSAN GIMBA

One thing cannot be wished away; Governor Mbah started on a wise and, arguably, the best note. His operational team, often brandished by him, has been on the ground driving the core policies and programmes. In the past 8 months, transformation in the state has taken a new shift; a new definition most acceptable from all indicators of development. We’ve got the SSG passionate about the mission and vision, frontally and vigorously pursuing the course. It is not surprising.

When the state cancelled the illegal sit-at-home orders by some faceless non-actors which had badly hurt the economy and people of the state, it took a strong willed people, including the SSG to stand firm and weather the storm of blackmail, threats, fake news and false campaign sponsored by the enemies of the state to reassert the primary responsibility of the government—to protect life and property of the citizens. It was even baffling that most of these victims of sit-at-home orders and the accompanying consequences of diferring such orders did not appreciate that the government was fighting to protect them from the scourge of the bloodthirsty hoodlums. I guess they are now seeing reasons to appreciate the government for sticking to its gaunlets.

Although not attached or close to Prof Onyia because of the different spaces at which we play, I have had the opportunity, in recent times, of working with him. My role has increasingly tilted me to his space for directives and meetings. Having worked with him and understood his orientation, drive, passion and traits, I could submit of him that a vista of hope, reinvigoaration and narration in the state are only possible because of people like him.

Prof Onyia has never shied away about his staunch discipleship of Governor Mbah’s school of thought and governance philosophy. He preaches it and tries to make disciples of us in the system. He warns against deviation from the governance philosophy and insists every of the governor’s pronucements in terms of projects to execute or what to achieve must be accelerated by field workers. It is a standing mandate since he believes, as the governor also does, that everyone that made it into his cabinet and team was selected out of competence, competitiveness in capacity and informed technocracy. This places a burden of expectation on every member of the team to work as a family with superior intellectual and practical capabilities.

SEE ALSO:  Needed: One standard hospital per state (1) - By HASSAN GIMBA

Should I also be surprised? No. Prof. Onyia has proved, even beyond any shadow of doubt, that his technocratic prowess is tested and proven in different spheres. It was no politics that his choice of appointment was made. Heading sectoral clusters in the development space is no Pavlovian response by the critical bodies that had always engaged him. His operational excellence transcends his professorial fields in education, sciences to development and capacity building. He should as well be called a Professor of Development and Human Capacity Building!

I’ve been fascinated by the restlessness of the Professor to achieve those things set out by the governor in his Social Contract with the people. Every day counts in the calender of the government. Every day measures individual’s outputs and every day is significant in the journey to achieving a modern Enugu State. This caps the mission of Governor Mbah Administration.

Even as we were at today’s weekly Strategic Meeting, a reiteration reminding us of our Key Performance Indicators (KPI) by the SSG were the following words: “Gentlemen, His Excellency, Governor Peter Mbah, is in a hurry to deliver, and we must also be in a hurry to ensure all he promised are delivered before time”. If the principal is in a hurry delivering, keeping sleepless nights in the office, inspecting already executed and other ongoing projects, querying contractors on job specifications, what less is expected from the field workers! Courage!


I will leave with these few words; meritocracy of idea, team spirit, respect, evaluation, traceability, transparency, discipline, accountability, optimal performance and disruptive innovation, are all the governing philosophy hanging like an almanac on the wall of our office and bedroom, reminding us like Andrew Marvell’s “To His Coy Mitress”, “But at my back I always hear time’s wingèd chariot hurrying near”. Glad the administration has achieved in areas of water, security, infrastructure, education, empowerment, poverty eradication, youth training, technology, healthcare delivery, agriculture, sanitation, tourism and others. It is possible because the right people were involved.

In love and in respect, I am more than glad; superlatively glad that a day like this where some of us could celebrate an epitome of technocracy knitted with workaholism is afforded. Dear Professor Onyia, even though you’re too serious, bullish and unapologetic about delivery, you remain a good man. Your heart is full of compassion and love. More strength. Congratulations! Happy Birthday

Continue Reading