Simon Ateba covers the White House, the U.S. government, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial and international institutions for Today News Africa in Washington D.C. Simon can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org
Nigerians were outraged for months this year when South Africans asked them to leave, falsely accusing all of them of prostitution, internet scams and drug trafficking.
But on the border closures with Cameroon, Benin and Chad, Nigerians are silent, bragging that Africa’s most populous country, with oil and gas, but also with no electricity, water, food or security and with more than a 100 million people living below poverty line, was too good to neighbors who were bringing in crimes, smuggled goods and all other vices.
On Sunday, the Speaker of the Nigerian House of Representatives Femi Gbajabiamila even said it was a very good thing, explaining that Nigerians were now consuming locally rather than trade with neighbors.
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He said the current border closure by the Federal Government was yielding good results as Nigerian farmers were “smiling to the bank.”
Gbajabiamila said the action by the Federal Government has forced Nigerians to now consume locally farmed products, especially Nigerian rice.
Gbajabiamila spoke in Surulere, Lagos State, on Sunday at his annual End of the Year Grassroots Empowerment Program, his office said in a statement received by TODAY NEWS AFRICA in Washington D.C.
“I must say the impact of closing Nigeria’s borders to foreign rice is yielding results. I am sure so many farmers are now smiling to the bank. The volume of Christmas rice sales made by Nigerian farmers speaks to the emerging culture of eating what we grow,” he said.
He proceeded to provide cash grants to some 500 beneficiaries in his Surulere 1 Federal Constituency to help boost their businesses, which is part of his annual End of the Year Grassroots Empowerment Programme.
23 people also received cars as part of the Empowerment program, computer business owners received Power generating sets and photocopying machines while students received laptops.
“My vision and mission is that by the time we are done in four years, Surulere will never be the same again. That is an assurance. At least as of now, no fewer than 70 to 80 people in Surulere have become proud car owners in my time, and we will continue to do more.
“This year’s edition of our grassroots programme focuses on small businesses in our constituency and to better the income of constituents in the year 2020. It focuses on ease of transportation, and it breaks the cycle of poverty. There will be a minimum of over 500 people going away with N100,000 to N200,000 each to enhance their businesses.
“But I have put a caveat: there will be no disbursement until after Christmas and New Year. If you give somebody N200,000 now, he might spend it on Yuletide activities. So, the grant is for you to develop your businesses so that N200,000 will become N2m and then N20m if properly invested.
“We are currently reconstructing Ibezim Obiajulu Street, Esther Dada-Adeniji Link road to Ishaga, Mery Eneli Street, Chief Bereola Street and the wholesome renovation of Elizabeth Fowler Primary School, Surulere,” the Speaker said
While thanking his constituents for their support and the mandate they have been giving to him since 2003, Gbajabiamila said he would continue to work with the Executive arm to bring more developmental projects to them.
He said the notion among some Nigerians that the current National Assembly is a rubber stamp of the Executive arm was wrong, noting that good collaboration between the two arms is always in the best interest of Nigerians.
Gbajabiamila said it was for that reason that the 9th National Assembly ensured that the 2020 budget was passed in record time to return the country to the January to December budget cycle.
“In the interest of the 360 federal constituencies across Nigeria, the National Assembly has returned the budget cycle to January to December.
“This new discipline will increase economic activities and afford the executive to implement the budget containing nationwide projects within the full financial year as against limited implementation scope in the past.
“People, critics and people of other parties have said the 9th Assembly is a rubber stamp to the Executive. They may have told you that too.
“The fact is that the National Assembly is not a rubber stamp. This is a National Assembly that represents the interests of the people. The people of Surulere did not elect me to fight the Executive but to engage and collaborate with stakeholders to bring dividends of democracy.
“This is a new dispensation. There will be checks and balances. There will be separation of powers. We will agree with the executive if we have to, and we will disagree if we have to. Our watchword is to protect the interests of the Nigerian people. That is the oath I and my colleagues swore to.”