Plateau is not ceding market to Jaiz Bank
It is common knowledge that the Jos Main Market is one of the iconic landmarks of Plateau State and a source of pride to the citizens who hold it dear to their hearts. The destruction of the market in 2002 has therefore remained one of the most tragic incidents to ever befall the State which caused unquantifiable economic loses, emotional trauma and denied the State tourist and business opportunities which prevailed before its destruction. DAN MANJANG writes.
DURING the campaign for the Governorship of Plateau State in 2015, Rt. Hon. Simon Bako Lalong (then candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC) promised to rebuild the market if elected. Those who watched the gubernatorial election debate would recall that whereas Lalong promised to rebuild the market, his major opponent said otherwise. At the end of the day, the electorate made their choice based upon this promise and many others that the APC candidate offered.
Therefore, upon coming into office in 2015, the Governor began the process of rebuilding the Jos Main Market as one of his key priorities. His Rescue Administration contacted major financial institutions and investors within and outside the country for the project. Many came with huge enthusiasm and promises which appeared promising and prompted the Government to demolish the existing parts of the structure on May 17 2019 in preparation for the reconstruction. It is important to note that at this point that a lot of politically motivated propaganda had started being circulated against the efforts of the Governor where it was alleged that billions were spent to demolish the structure. This was false.
Nevertheless, the Government was not deterred and continued detailed discussions with the investors that indicated interest in rebuilding the market. These discussions got deeper but became stuck upon requests from the intending investors and financial institutions which in summary required that Plateau State:
Gives them a Bank Guarantee, letter of comfort to own and manage the market for as long as it takes them to recoup their investment.
Guarantee to off-take 70% of the shops (in other words buy them), Bring 20% of the cost of reconstruction aside the land being its equity etc.
These negotiations which involved many experts and key Government officials continued and the offers did not favour the State but put it at a disadvantage. Moreover, the Government was not in a position to give Bank Guarantee of almost 20 billion naira that some investors submitted. It could not also pledge to off-take the shops when built instead of buyers doing so. Many would remember that the Government was committed to settling backlog of inherited salaries from the previous PDP administration and ensuring paying regularly; completing abandoned projects inherited from the PDP; working to improve IGR among others which meant it could not guarantee such demands made by the prospective investors. The Governor further met with foreign and local investors who did not also provide any better deal for the State in the rebuilding of the Jos Main Market. Looking at other commitments of the Government already tied to its monthly income, it was not possible to enter into another funding that will be a huge burden for the State and nearly impossible to handle.
THE JAIZ BANK OFFER
Despite the setbacks, Governor Lalong kept hope alive and promised to do his best to fulfill his promise to the people of Plateau State who gave him their mandate in 2015 and 2019. This determination yielded positive results when the Governor upon learning of other huge market projects in various Northern, Eastern and South South States funded by Jaiz Bank Plc, decided to engage them on the idea of rebuilding the burnt Jos Main Market. Talks started in 2021 between the State Government and Jaiz Bank. Series of deliberations were held which brought up the following offer by the investing bank.
The Bank will finance the reconstruction of the market 100% with the Plateau State Government not required to pay a kobo.
The Land (over 7.4 hectares) is the equity of the Plateau State Government which it is contributing to the project.
The project will be done in three phases yielding a total of 4.321 shops which will be shared in the ratio of 60% (Jaiz Bank) 40% (Plateau Government).
The 60-40% ratio is for the purpose of leasing out the shops only. The entire market still belongs to the Plateau State Government.
Those who lease the shops from either Plateau State Government or Jaiz bank will own it for a period of 40 years after which ownership returns to the Government. At this point, new investors can purchase from the State Government or the existing buyers renew their leases.
As soon as Jaiz Bank finishes selling its 60%, it will cease to have any interest in the market as those holding the lease will deal only with the Plateau State Government through the management of the Market (Jos Main Market Authority) and the Ministry of Commerce which is a parastatal of the Government.
The entire shops will be sold to interested buyers without prejudice to faith, ethnicity or political affiliations. It is open for the public to invest in.
The first phase will be delivered and commissioned before the end of the tenure of Governor Lalong.
Having gone through the offer by Jaiz Bank, the State Executive Council further subjected the proposal to extensive deliberations and scrutiny and came to the conclusion that the deal was good for the State and the investor, hence its approval. Besides, the Government carried out its due diligence to study the track record of Jaiz Bank in delivering such projects. It found that the bank in partnership with Kano State government and private investors, is constructing a multi-million world-class drug-only wholesale market, the first of its type in Nigeria, at the Kano Economic City. In a similar arrangement, the bank in partnership with the Niger State Government, is developing three hectares in the Minna City Centre to provide for a shopping complex, modern underground parks, modern filling station, warehouses, corner shops, restaurants and a recreational centre. It is also doing so in Kaduna and Enugu States among others. Based on above examples of performance profile and experience the Plateau State Government is optimistic of the bank’s capacity to handle the Jos market project and deliver.
Therefore, the Government has also engaged the leadership of the Plateau State House of Assembly and its relevant Committees on the benefits of the project to the State.
SENSITIZATION AND AWARENESS
Thereafter, the State EXCO mandated its relevant MDAs to carry out sensitization and awareness by engaging various stakeholders ahead of the signing of the MOU for Rebuilding the Jos Main Market. The Governor also personally engaged top religious, traditional, elders and other leaders of thought on the project knowing fully the passion that they have on the market which is a great heritage of the State. As part of the engagement and sensitization, the Hon. Commissioners for Commerce, Information and Communication and other Government officials met with stakeholders representing various groups in the State to breakdown the content of the proposed MOU between Plateau State Government and Jaiz Bank. This was successfully done with questions being raised by those in attendance and answers provided.
Regrettably, the outcome of this engagement has been twisted, politicised and reported under the caption “Governor Lalong cedes Jos Main Market to Islamic Bank”. This has unnecessarily invoked passions and emotions portraying a false narrative that the State was parting with its cherished heritage to an “Islamic Bank”. While the Government respects the rights of its citizens to raise questions on every decision and make their observations and displeasure known, the Rescue Administration wishes to allay the fears being raised as the deal will not work against the State. Rather, it is an opportunity to once again raise the sleeping giant heritage of the famous Jos Main Market which has not added any value to the Government and its people since it was burnt down 21 years ago.
Government assures the citizens of Plateau State that sensitization and enlightenment will continue before, during and after the reconstruction in order to address genuine concerns which require answers and clarifications.
BENEFITS OF THE DEAL TO PLATEAU STATE AND ITS CITIZENS
While Jaiz Bank hopes to make profit from the partnership for its shareholders, the Government and people of Plateau State also stand to gain a lot from the reconstruction of the Jos Main Market. Here are some expected benefits for the State and its citizens.
The State will generate more revenue from the operations of the market and be able to carry out other projects and programmes for the good of the people.
The moribund Jos Main Market Authority (JMMA) will be brought back to life as it is saddled with the responsibility of managing the market.
All willing and able Plateau citizens will be given an opportunity to buy and own shops in the market either from the State Government (40%) or Jaiz Bank (60%).
Priority will be given to those who lost shops in the burnt market in the sales of the new shops.
Government will monitor the sales of the market to ensure that no individuals or groups are given unfair treatment over others in the sale of the market on basis of faith, ethnicity, political affiliation or other considerations. There will be equity, fairness and justice to all.
Property around the Jos Main Market area will appreciate in value
More jobs will be created during and after the construction.
More people will visit Plateau State for trading activities and tourism thereby generating more economic activities and revenue.
The market will further promote the efforts of the Rescue Administration in restoring the peace and harmony of the past since the market embraces people with different faiths, ethnicity and origins.
The success of this partnership will boost the confidence of other investors to come into the State and establish their presence and partner with the Government in other projects and programmes.
From the foregoing, it is very clear that the intentions of the Plateau State Government is pure and well thought out as they are for the benefit of the State and its citizens. The terms of the MOU between the Government and Jaiz Bank are clear and be scrutinised and can be verified. The Rescue Administration under the leadership of Rt. Hon. (Dr) Simon Bako Lalong will never do anything to mortgage the heritage, rights and privileges of its people. On the contrary, the Lalong administration is buying back sold assets such as the BARC Farms which has been acquired. In the reconstruction of the Jos Main Market, Government has weighed all the options and found that this deal is the most favourable considering the lack of funds for the Government to carry out direct intervention or take a loan with astronomical interest rates. Leaving the market at its current state does not do anyone good because it is not generating anything for the State and its citizens. Rather, the land remains wasted and a hideout for criminals.
The Government wishes to assure the citizens that everything is being done to ensure that interested Plateau people benefit from the shops and also participate in the economic activities that will come up once the market is delivered.
Therefore, the Government appeals to all citizens to carefully peruse the project and avoid being deceived by politicians who are bent on ensuring that the market is not reconstructed so as to score cheap political point against Governor Lalong and the APC particularly at the eve of the general elections.
Bottom line is that Jos Main Market is the property of Plateau State and shall remain so for ever. However, it makes no economic sense for the property to remain at its current state of decomposition when it can be revived and put to use in a win- win situation for the benefit of the citizens. If any citizen has a better and genuine offer for the reconstruction of the market than the one on the table right now, the Lalong Government is a listening one and would pay attention. As at today, there has not been such offer. What is needed is the unity of purpose and the will to make this project a reality for posterity and the good of the people of Plateau State. Not everything needs to be politicised.
There is no need for anxiety, sentiments, misgivings, misconceptions and misrepresentation which is being pushed out by political forces that has resulted in name-calling, insults and hatred of both Government and individuals in the social media and otherwise. As a matter of fact as Government is aware of planned demonstrations being sponsored by the opposition against this noble gesture initiative between Plateau State Government and Jaiz Bank.
Let us always THINK and ACT Plateau.
Hon. Dan Manjang, anipr is the Commissioner for Information and Communication, Plateau State.
FG, ASUU strike: Need for truce
If is no longer news that with the continuous disagreement between the Federal Government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities ,(ASUU) particularly, government owned, students of such tertiary institutions have been home for upward of about six months. This is definitely not good for the students, parents/guardians and the educational system generally. VICTOR ALI writes.
IT is not in doubt that education is key to development, science and technology. Hence, its importance need not be overemphase. From primary to tertiary level, education plays a crucial role in shaping the entire society. According to the World Bank, “Tertiary education is instrumental to fostering growth, reducing poverty and boosting shared prosperity. A highly skilled workforce with lifelong access to a solid post-secondary education, is a prerequisite for innovation and growth.
As important and vital as education is in the modern world, it ought to be given the necessary and desired attention. Right from the nursery, primary and secondary, culminating in the tertiary institutions, any government that is desirous of impacting on its people which inturn will propell development in the society for the betterment of the generality of everyone, must prioritize educational development in all its ramifications. Anything short of this is an invitation to disaster.
The founding fathers of the Nigeria could be said to have tried in providing education infrastructures, personnel and mass mobilisation of students for admissions into these institutions. Indeed, it would go down in history that the first generation universities in Nigeria, some of which were renamed after the demise of their founders-Ahmadu Bello university (ABU), Zaria; University of Nigria (UNN), Nsukka, University of Ibadan (UL), Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) Ile-Ife, amongsts others that came much more later were symbols of organizational skills and subsequently, centre of excellence.
But in the past four or so decades and with proliferation of higher education institutions everywhere to cater for the people (students), the fortunes of that citadal of learning has since nose-dived. Nigerian universities which used to be ranked amongst the best in Africa, if not in the world, have become a shadow of themselves. Infrastructural structures decay is an eyesore, quality of academic output is abysmal, remuneration of lecturers and their affiliates tertiary institution workers, have constantly become subject of intense debate, controversy and disagreement.
Funding of public tertiary institutions, particularly public universities have been a major bone of contention between the Academic Staff Union of Universities, (ASUU) and the government. From the complain of lack of funding, under-funding and or outright fraud in the entire system, these public universities and other tertiary institutions; seem to be on the path to extinction. Of course, with the advent of privately-owned universities and other tertiary institutions the rich but mighty can afford the exorbitant fees paid and what about the poor folks?
In the last decade, one can conveniently and comfortably say that, Nigerian students in public tertiary institutions have comfortably lost, in cumulative terms, at least three sessions. The obvious questions to be asked by discerning minds are: What worth is the student who has stayed that long at home without seeing the four walls of the classrooms? Can such a student really defend his or her certificate if such a student eventually graduate? What value will such a student add to the society?
Because of the important nature of tertiary institutions, indeed, education generally should be accorded the outmost priority. Writing recently under the topic: “Road to Anarchy: ASUU, Labour and Solidarity Protest”, a policy and leadership expert, Dakuku Peterside, succinctly, captured the worrisome situation thus: “ASUU has been on strike for over six months and there seems to be no end in sight of the action.
“ASUU is demanding that the government fulfil’s the agreement it entered into in the past, increase lecturers, salaries and provide funding for higher education in Nigeria. These demands aim to improve the quality of education and quality of living of University, lecturers”. He went further to state that, “historically ASUU is synonymous with strike action in Nigeria, and for decades they have been making demands entering into agreement with government which the government reneges in frequently leading to industrial actions”.
“This has been a recurring decimal in our higher institutions for over four decades, and it has defied all government’s solution and does not seem to be exacerbating soon. ASUU-government brouhaha is endangering the future of our youths whose education is truncated with the concomitant effect of producing half-baked graduates or the students spending more time than necessary to complete their degrees”.
To say that the present scenario is pathetic, is stating the obvious. While ASUU’s demands are legitimate, however, one looks at it, government action’s, inactions or outright reneging of agreements reached calls to question its sincerity of purpose. For crying out loud, how can a government enter an agreement with a very critical sector of the society since 2009 and refuse to implement same? At this moment; both the students, parents or guardians are stretched and stressed to the limit with all the socio-economic repercussion inherent in it.
It will not be out of place to hypothetically assert that, while some of the students might have joined criminal gangs for want of something to do, the girls equally too, might have joined the league of women of easy virtue. It is also a known fact too that, the ordinary (poor) Nigerian can ill-afford to pay the tuition fees of his children in private higher institutions. Hitherto, his saving grace remains, higher public tertiary institutions. And now, the death knell seems to be sounding. Come to think of it, it takes an extra-ordinary student to stay at home for almost one academic session and yet the society expects a tangible academic output from such a student. Nigerians don’t seem to know to the fullest, the Federal Government-ASUU imbroglio that has become protracted. It reminds one of the old saying, “when two elephants fight, the grass suffers”.
“Even at this,” according to Paul Jatau, in his Random Musing column (THE NIGERIA STANDARD, Wednesday, May 11, 2022) “ASUU and the Federal Government have not seen the need to sheath swords, come to a round table and sincerely find a way forward for our education and the future of the children who have already been branded “lazy youths”. Both parties to all intent and purposes, fail to grasps the implications of their recalcitrance on the future of our country.
“They are so engrossed in fighting for the immediate that the dangers posed by their actions seem to escape them. Indeed, both parties are oblivious of the lessons of history which would definitely haunt them tomorrow. On the other hand, the arrogance exhibited by those who represent government must be checked. We cannot expect thugs whose values are questionable to lead a process that is meant to grow our society”.
Indeed, in this unending disagreement between the Federal Government and ASUU, everyone becomes a loser and the nation suffers for it. Dakuku Peterside also noted that, “in this disagreement, it is crucial that ASUU comes to the table with an open mind ready to take any cause of actions that will make all parties winners in the pursuit of quality education”.
Hear him: “ASUU must see the reality of our economic circumstances-the government is struggling to pay salaries and we literally borrow to finance government activities. Our revenue to debt service ratio has moved from 95 per cent to 116 per cent. The implication is that all our income is not enough to service our debts. Crude oil theft have reached an embarrassing crescendo, and the government is spending billions of dollars yearly to fight insurgency, bandits, terrorists and secessionists all over the country. The global crisis of post-COVID-19 pandemic and the debilitating effects of the Russian-Ukraine war have created energy and food crisis world-wide”.
He (Dakuku Peterside) however, added that, “there is also the counter-narrative that a government that spends about N42billion yearly to maintain the several aircraft in the President fleet, spends 70 per cent of its budget on recurrent expenditure and allow wastage in the management of the economy cannot in good conscience say it cannot fund education, I can rightly paraphrase John F. Kennedy to put this in proper perspective “if the pursuit of learning is not defended by the educated citizens (leaders), it will not be defended by all”.
And what is to be done? With government seeming insolvency, something must give way. ASUU itself, as a body of researchers must take the lead in this direction. Though, increase in salaries of lecturers is important to the survival of the system, funding to my mind, seems to be at the centre stage. Inadvertently, ASUU is not looking at this direction.
According to Paul Jatau, “Evidently, also, ASUU has refused to explore new grounds to help fund education. If private universities can strive and succeed without subventions from government, it is thus possible to find ways and means of surviving in an era with leaders who seem to care less about the future”.
And for Dakuku Peterside, “ASUU, as a body of researchers must come to the table with bouquet of innovative ideas on university funding that will rely less on government, students fees payment models, university industry alliance, private sector driven convergence and University entrepreneurship to boost the funding of our tertiary institutions”.
ASUU can advocate for a joint government and university student loan arrangement that may give a lasting solution to Nigeria’s university funding issues. Academics are great researchers and I firmly believe that it behoves on them to come up with the best formula for solving university funding crises that will permanently eliminate ASUU strikes.
Though the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) did its bit by organizing nation-wide protest in solidary with ASUU, on Tuesday 26, July and Wednesday 27, July, 2022 more needs to be done. Men and women of goodwill, honour and valor should do the needful by adding their voice(s) for this disturbing impasse to come to an end. The educational welfare of the students is of paramount importance to the nation. Nothing is too much to put in the system so as to make it more functional, productive, dynamic and condusive. It is indeed sad that, Nigerians who can afford it, have been sending their children to neighbouring countries for studies. For a country that prides itself as “the giant of Africa” and for a nation that hitherto had some of the vibrant, pace-setter universities in the African continent, the present turn of events is worrisome, shameful and unacceptable. All hands heads must and should be on deck to salvage the ugly trend.
PLSG committed to generating more jobs
THE Plateau State government has set a machinery in motion to generate 20,000 jobs aimed at addressing the high rate of unemployment in the state.
Governor Simon Lalong disclosed this while inaugurating the State Employment Council at Government House, Rayfield, Jos, Thursday.
The Plateau State Employment Council which is to work in partnership with the Germany International Corporation, (GIZ) has Secretary to the Government of the State, Professor Danladi Atu as Chairman and the Permanent Secretary Policy and General Services, Office of the Secretary to the Government of the State, Mr Richard Tokma as its Secretary.
Represented by his Deputy, Professor Sonni Tyoden, Lalong said in line with the National Policy on Employment, the state government decided to set up the Employment Council to serve as a bridge and coordinate platform to guide, streamline and coordinate state efforts towards employment promotion and job creation in the state.
Governor Lalong stressed that to further consolidate job creation initiatives in the state, government has decided to establish an initial framework to streamline and coordinate job creation initiatives, strategies and programmes in the state.
He noted that though unemployment rate in the state might have been impacted by movement of young people from other Northern states into the state in search of opportunities which has caused a threat to security.
He pointed out that the issue of job creation was not the exclusive preserve of government alone and tasked both the private and non state actors to join government to address the problem.
While inaugurating the council, Lalong stated that their terms of refrence were among others, advice on reforms that will enable job creation in the state and review state proposals on jobs creation and suggest recommendations to government on the approach for implementation.
In a remark, the Representative of German International Corporation, Hawa Mankilik expressed readiness for a partnership that would be engaging in a robust dialogue on how to find the way forward. He commended the state government for being the first to establish the council in the country.
Responding on behave of members, Chairman of the council, Professor Danladi Atu appreciated Governor Lalong for the mandate bestowed on them to serve the state and promised to work diligently within the confine of the terms of reference. He called on stakeholders to play their partnership role.
Our correspondent reports that the membership of the Council cuts across relevant ministries and agencies as well as the private sector.