The police have committed so many atrocities that their appearance evokes terror in Nigerians. Today, Nigerians fear policemen more than criminals, writes STEVE UZOECHI
It was a horrible night in June 2005, when five young men and a lady were brutally gunned down in cold blood by an unfeeling police team.
The ugly episode is today known across Nigeria as the Apo-Six killing.
The five young men – Ifeanyi Ozor, Chinedu Meniru, Anthony Nwokike, Paulinus Ogbonna and Ekene Isaac Mgbe – were auto-spare parts’ dealers at Apo, a satellite town in Abuja and the lady, Augustina Arebu, was the fiancée of one of the young men, Ifeanyi.
Down the road, off Gimbiya Street was Grand Mirage Hotel, a major relaxation spot in the neighbourhood and the five young men had chosen that night of June 7 to have a good time and perhaps give their friend’s fiancée, Arebu, a memorable treat.
But it was not to be. How could they have known that at the end of Gimbiya Street lurked ruthless death?
Their only offence till date has remained the fact that Augustina Arebu spurned the love advances of a senior police officer, then Deputy Commissioner of Police, Danjuma Ibrahim, who apparently didn’t take kindly to being turned down in public.
Unknown to the six, Danjuma and his team had thereafter mounted a checkpoint at the end of the street after the senior police officer told his men that ‘he sighted a group of armed robbers in the area’.
On their way home in their Peugeot 406 car, the unsuspecting victims were stopped at the Gimbiya checkpoint at the end of the street and Danjuma, after a brief argument, allegedly ordered his men to shoot four of the six. It was instant death for the innocent traders.
Nwokike and Arebu, who had survived the night, were ‘finished off’ in the small hours of June 8, by two police officers who claimed the two had ‘attempted to escape from custody’.
It was later discovered that Arebu was strangled.
Two officers who committed the last killings were later sentenced to death while Danjuma was set free.
The police had claimed the victims were armed robbers “who had shot at officers at a checkpoint.”
But a Judicial Panel of Inquiry set up by former President Olusegun Obasanjo dismissed the police claims as false and recommended Danjuma and his men for trial.
The five accused officers and eight other police witnesses testified that Danjuma allegedly ordered the killings.
But after more than a decade of protracted court hearings, the “Apo Six” are yet to get justice.
The presiding judge, Ishaq Bello, said there was insufficient evidence to convict Danjuma, who allegedly ordered the shootings. With that, the Police Service Commission reinstated Danjuma and gave him double promotion, leaving the families of the victims, distraught at the perceived injustice.
More than a decade, the families of the deceased are yet to get justice.
Regrettably, many of such tragic stories abound today in Nigeria with no visible sign that impunity in the Nigeria Police Force will abate any time soon.
“The police shall be employed for the prevention and detection of crime, the apprehension of offenders, the preservation of law and order, the protection of life and property and the due enforcement of all laws and regulations with which they are directly charged, and shall perform such military duties within or outside Nigeria as may be required of them by, or under the authority of this or any other Act”, so says the Police Act, but Nigerians know better.
Today, Nigerians from all walks of life are beginning to embrace the sad reality of living on edge in a country they call their own; depending upon the police they dread for their safety and living through each day being far too careful, not to cross operatives of the Nigeria Police Force, for fear of extra-judicial death.
The agency that should protect citizens; the tax-funded security outfit that should ordinarily be the first responder to citizens’ distress calls, has over the years, gradually yet steadily, built a predator status for itself.
This is the perception of most Nigerians.
With the rising penchant for impunity among personnel of the Nigeria Police Force; stakeholders, security pundits, human rights advocates and agitated citizens have continued the push for a lasting solution to the growing culture of arbitrariness and lawlessness in Nigeria’s police hierarchy.
Mexico is known to have disarmed and disbanded police formations in some of its states for complicity in criminal activities that had heightened the spate of violent killings in the country; but some analysts have adjudged the move as being extreme.
In December 2011, the Veracruz Police formation in Mexico was disbanded, with more than 900 officers in Veracruz losing their jobs. The officers were, however, given opportunity to re-join the police only if they pass the trust and credibility test by the state.
In September 2018 also, the entire police structure in the Mexican city of Acapulco was disbanded after being disarmed by the military.
Mexican authorities maintain that the clampdown was a necessary step in the effort to tackle corruption and infiltration of the police by criminal elements in the wake of growing drug-related violence in the country.
Nigerians in recent times have witnessed a wave of brutality and inexcusable extrajudicial killings of innocent citizens across the country, not by drug lords but by the police.
Most Nigerians are already exasperated with the growing culture of impunity in the police and would not shy away from recommending a total disbandment if that is what it would take to fix the rot in the Force, and effectively stem the tide of armed brutality by the police against the citizenry.
Alarming also is the thought that most agencies with the capacity to wield regulatory or supervisory authority over the police are at a loss on how best to curtail the wave of police brutality and impunity in Nigeria.
Mr. Rommy Mum, a member of the Police Service Commission, the agency empowered to discipline erring policemen; while conceding that there appears to be a seeming upsurge in incidents of police highhandedness, says that in his six months in the Commission, he was yet to see a single petition to the Commission on police brutality.
He said: “Besides what we read in the newspapers, the Police Service Commission (PSC) is like a court, if you do not bring an incident of abuse to its attention through a petition, it cannot take action. We need to publicise what the PSC can do for Nigerians and Nigerians should begin to come forward with specific complaints so we all can address these issues.”
Mum added that incidents of police brutality had always been around but only gained prominence because of what he called ‘on-the-spot reporting’ aided by the social media.
He said: “This, however, does not excuse the issues of police high-handedness. But again the new Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, is just a few months old in office and I believe he is making the right moves to tackle the incidents of impunity in the force. He is making the right reactions and interventions in words and he will need to be given a little more time to translate his words to results.”
In its part, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) maintains that impunity and brutality will continue to thrive in the police until authorities commit to holding erring officers and their accomplices accountable for their actions.
The South-East Coordinator of NHRC, Mrs. Uche Nwokocha, said all efforts so far made by the commission in collaboration with Amnesty International and other agencies in recent times, to get the police high command to account for incidents of extra-judicial killings by the police had yielded no result – not one incident of extrajudicial killing by the police had been fully accounted for.
She said: “In most cases, they will simply tell you that they have dismissed the erring officer, but on further investigation, we often find that some of such offending officers were merely transferred and not dismissed.”
Nwokocha observed that impunity and brutality in the police were largely driven by corruption. She named bribery and extortion as the triggers for highhandedness.
The National Coordinator for the Network on Police Reform in Nigeria (NOPRIN), Mr. Okey Nwanguma, warned that police brutality and extrajudicial killings in Nigeria had risen to epidemic proportion and needed urgent and decisive intervention from relevant authorities.
He said: “Across Nigeria, public outrage has reached a crescendo over the escalating spate of police extrajudicial killings and abuse of police power. To say the least, police extrajudicial killing in Nigeria has assumed epidemic proportion. Between November 2018 and April 2019, there have been no fewer than 15 documented cases of police killings across the country from reckless abuse of firearms.
“Nigerians woke up on Sunday April 14, 2019 to the tragic news of two more casualties of police brutality in Lagos in one day. That brought to no less than six, in less than one month alone, the number of cases of citizens killed in Lagos by trigger-happy police officers through reckless and inexplicable misuse of firearms.
“Earlier this year, two young women were killed in Abuja; one, just a day to her passing out from the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC). This was within two weeks after the tragic killing of Kolade Johnson on March 31 by a member of a police team from the notorious Anti-Cultism Unit of the Lagos State Police Command.
“And while the outrage that greeted that killing was yet to subside, another policeman under the same Lagos State Police Command again shot a young man and his young female partner, Adaobi Ojide, instantly killing the young woman. The police authorities in Lagos said the policeman who committed the crime escaped and has been declared wanted by the command while his colleagues were arrested and subjected to internal disciplinary procedure, dismissed and handed over for prosecution for murder.”
Police brutality has been a recurring incident in Nigeria apparently because of the seeming lack of commitment to decisively redress the growing culture of impunity in the police.
Also, on Saturday December 26, 2015, an allegedly drunk police sergeant, Stephen James, with Force No. 217884, attached to Police Mobile Force (PMF 22) shot and killed twin brothers – Taiwo and Kehinde Oyesunde, the only children of their parents – and their friend, Jeje, outside the premises of Paulson Hotel at Ketu, Lagos State, Nigeria, where Jeje’s birthday took place. The policeman later shot himself dead when the weight of the crime he committed dawned on him.
On June 27, 2015, Corporal Chris Ali shot into a burial ceremony at Fugar, Edo State, with an assault rifle, killing two nursing mothers who were seated under a canopy. He was found guilty of murder in the police orderly room trial. According to police authorities, he was consequently dismissed from the force and charged to court.
Most recently also, on June 3, 2019, a police sergeant, Collins Akpugo, shot and killed Chukwubuike Onuoha (21), an undergraduate of the Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike (MOUAU), at Okwulagha Afara-Ukwu, within Umuahia metropolis, Abia State. The deceased was an indigene of the community.
A woman leader from the community, Mrs. Ngozi Ogbonna, who led dozens of women in protest over the killing, noted that Onuoha was shot right in front of his father’s house.
Recounting how the man was killed, Ogbonna said: “Onuoha was in company with other youths when the policemen drove towards them in a Toyota Hilux van. The policemen flashed the van’s headlight in the direction of the youth, temporarily blinding them. Onuoha walked up to the van, pleading with the policemen to dim the light. Rather than comply, a policeman alighted and shot him on the shoulder.”
Before fleeing the scene and abandoning the van, the policeman shot Onuoha again on the chest, killing him.
The Abia State Police Commissioner, Mr. Okon Ene, also confirmed the killing, with a pledge to bring the fleeing suspect to justice.
It is widely believed in Nigeria that cases of police brutality and extrajudicial killings that are covered up by the system without redress are legion. They, by far, out-number the cases that come to court.
Consequently, victims of police brutality and highhandedness are most times denied justice and left without remedy.
It was expected however that the return to democratic processes in 1999 and the reform measures undertaken so far would curb police brutality, but police killings remain prevalent. This calls for urgent and far-reaching measures to end this disturbing trend.
NOPRIN’s Programme Coordinator, Nwanguma, observed that extrajudicial killings, particularly by Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), assumed a disturbing frequency under the immediate past IG, Ibrahim Idris, who did nothing to address the concerns raised, prompting the emergence of the #EndSARS Movement led by Segun Awosanya.
A police source close to the former IG noted that only the person that had been in Idris’ shoes would understand what the former police chief had to deal with. He said: “The former IG was caught in between the crossfire of powerful political forces that didn’t seem to help his focus on the job. The most I can say now is that Idris set out to do a good job but Nigeria is what it is.”
Dismissing the excuses, Nwanguma recalled that “instead of addressing widespread police abuses which prompted the popular campaign to disband the notorious Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), the police under Idris justified the excesses of the police accusing those campaigning for the disbanding of SARS as people harbouring criminal intents. The Presidency responded to the #EndSARS agitation by ordering the then IG to reform SARS and the NHRC to conduct public hearings on SARS atrocities.”
Despite these official responses and the huge investments of resources, time and energy by civil society, government and international development partners and foreign governments, police reform efforts have yielded no significant improvement.
Nwanguma regretted that, “on the part of government, there seems to be more rhetoric than concrete action. Even when government sets up police reform committees, the reports and the far-reaching recommendations of the committees are never wholeheartedly implemented.”
Though the police have always agreed to the prevalence of impunity in the Force and had always promised to redress same, the current IG, Adamu, has, however, shown signs of commitment to tackling the wanton brutality and high-handedness deployed by police personnel in the course of discharging their duties.
Unlike previous times, the IG was recently reported to have warned that Divisional Police Officers and Area Commanders would henceforth be held responsible for acts of impunity by men under their command and has vowed to restore sanity to policing in the country. And it is expected he would speedily act on his words.
As reassuring as his responses and recent actions may seem, Adamu would not be the first IG to accept that there is a pervasive rot in the Force that needs urgent decisive action.
One of the most indicting commentaries on the state of the police was rendered seven years ago by former IG, Mohammed Abubakar, while addressing Assistant Police Commissioners in charge of command operations and criminal investigation departments, at a conference in Abuja on February 13, 2012.
He said: “The Police Force has fallen to its lowest level. Police duties have become commercialised and provided at the whims and caprices of the highest bidder.
“Our police stations, State Criminal Investigations Departments (SCID) and operations offices have become business centres and collection points for rendering ‘returns’ from all kinds of squads and teams set up for the benefit of superior officers.
“Our Special Anti-Robbery Squads (SARS) have become killer teams engaging in deals for land speculators and debt collection. Toll stations in the name of check-points adorn our highways with policemen shamefully collecting money from motorists in full glare of the public.
“Justice has been perverted, people’s rights denied, innocent souls committed to prisons, torture and extrajudicial killings perpetrated and so many people arbitrarily detained in our cells because they cannot afford the illegal bail monies we demand.
“Illegalities thrive under your watchful eyes because you have compromised the very soul of our profession. Our respect is gone and the Nigerian public has lost even the slightest confidence in the ability of the police to do any good thing.
“That is how bad it has become and that is why we shall be adopting a very radical approach in the course of running this administration.
“We must purge the system of corruption which cripples and frustrates every honest effort at reforming the police as exemplified in the total failure of the multiple efforts of government at reforming the Nigeria Police Force.”
Abubakar had ordered the immediate disbandment of all squads, teams or any other operational or investigative outfit operating under whatever name and collapsing such under the original structures recognised by police standards.
While acknowledging the logistics and welfare problems facing the police, he, however, stated that, “these problems cannot justify nor serve as excuses for the myriad of uncouth and unprofessional conduct of police officers and men across the country.”
Speaking at the Public Tribunal on Police Brutality, Corruption and Abuse held in Owerri, Imo State for Southern Nigeria, by the NOPRIN Foundation, in collaboration with TrustAfrica, Nwanguma observed that the stance of the former IG Abubakar was a familiar pattern among newly appointed police chiefs in the country.
He said: “It appears almost every former Inspector General of Police, upon assuming office, adopts such no-nonsense posture, talking tough and promising reforms. But down the line, as they settle in, things return to business as usual. Recall that the current IG also made similar tough statements in his inaugural speech and announced measures.
“I must, however, admit that the response by the current IG Mohammed Adamu to the spate of extrajudicial killings by the police is a departure from what was witnessed under his predecessor, IG Ibrahim Idris.
“The directive to hold the commanding officers at the Police Divisions and Area Commands responsible for any further infractions will awaken them to their responsibility; to monitor and supervise officers under them to ensure that they are professional in the discharge of their duties. They will now take responsibility for failure to supervise and enforce discipline among the junior ranks.”
Furthermore, the South-East Coordinator of NHRC, Nwokocha, is also concerned that there may be a pattern to the incidents of police brutality and impunity.
She noted that the southern part of the country was worst hit by the rampant incidents of police high-handedness.
“The South-Eastern part of the country in particular, is a place where police are rarely held accountable for their acts of impunity and unprofessionalism.
“The complaints of incidents of police brutality that stream in to our office from southern Nigeria is enormous and by far more than the complaints we get from other regions of the country and the major causes of these incidents of brutality is extortion. Scattered across the South-East are all manner of police, military and paramilitary security teams piling undue pressures on the people,” Nwokocha said.
In May, 2019, the NOIPolls, a polling service founded by the former Vice President of the World Bank, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, ran a poll for 1,000 randomly selected Nigerians on the conduct of the Nigeria Police Force.
While 85 per cent of participants in the poll affirmed that illegal activities by the police were very prevalent across the country, the poll also found that the South-South and South-West zones have the largest proportion of Nigerians (89 per cent each) who attested to the high rate of illegal activities by the police. And this tends to support the claims of the NHRC. Some of the parameters evaluated include: killing the unarmed; intimidating the innocent; collecting bribes; arresting the innocent; illegal checkpoints (extortion); hiring out guns to criminals, sex-for-bail and arresting commercial sex workers.
“Get to some of these police stations for instance; it is shocking the level of impunity and brazenness with which they collect ‘ransoms’ from fellow citizens in the name of bail. And for that matter, bail is supposed to be free and this impunity goes on right under the noses of top police officers,” the NHRC zonal coordinator added.
With the increasing spate of crime and insecurity in the country, Nigerians are further burdened with ‘being careful’ in dealing with their own police operatives who should look out for their safety, to the extent that in some areas, the sight of a policeman evokes fear instead of an assurance of safety.
Only recently, in the heat of the extrajudicial killings by policemen in the country, the Head of Police Public Complaint Unit, Abayomi Shogunle, in a Twitter update that provoked public outrage, counselled citizens on how to relate with policemen, to avoid being killed. And one of such tips was that citizens should desist from speaking Queen’s English to police operatives as it may trigger conflict. He recommended Pidgin English instead.
His twit reads: “For now, don’t go and be speaking Queen’s English with them on the road. For proper understanding, talk to them in Pidgin.”
Ben Jack Egwuatu, a public commentator in Imo State had reacted by saying: “The counsel by Shogunle will not reassure any Nigerian and that is for sure. At best, it would instil fear in the citizenry by conveying the impression, that to be safe around the Nigerian Police, one must be able to walk on eggshell. This is the same Police Force that is funded by tax-payers money and the fact that Shogunle who is supposed to handle public complaints is saying this, is alarming, to say the least. All things considered, the Nigeria Police Force urgently needs a radical shakeup.”
In a 2014 report by Amnesty International entitled: “Welcome To Hell Fire: Torture and Other Ill-Treatments in Nigeria,” the authors wrote: “Amnesty International’s research into cases of torture, enforced disappearances and deaths in military and police custody, reveals a pattern of inadequate criminal investigation by police and military and a disregard for due process. This facilitates human rights violations in custody, including torture and other ill-treatment; denies people suspected of a crime a fair trial; and ultimately hinders successful prosecution of suspects. Security officials are rarely held accountable for failures to follow due process or for perpetrating human rights violations such as torture.
“The absence of acknowledgement and public condemnation of such violations by senior government officials further assists in creating a climate for impunity and raises serious concern about the political will to end such human rights violations.”
While many special government committees and reports have highlighted various causes of police impunity and brutality, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) is convinced that the prime cause of impunity and brutality in the police is corruption.
In one of its landmark reports on the police entitled: “Everyone’s in on the game, HRW submitted that: “Countless ordinary Nigerians attempting to make precarious ends meet as taxi drivers, market traders, and shopkeepers are accosted on a daily basis by armed police officers who demand bribes and commit human rights abuses against them as a means of extorting money.
“Those who fail to pay are frequently threatened with arrest and physical harm. Far too often these threats are carried out.
“Meanwhile, victims of crime are obliged to pay the police from the moment they enter a police station to file a complaint until the day their case is brought before a court. In the shadows, high-level police officials embezzle staggering sums of public funds meant to cover basic police operations. Senior police officers also enforce a perverse system of ‘returns’ in which rank-and-file officers are compelled to pay up the chain of command a share of the money they extort from the public. Those charged with police oversight, discipline, and reform, have for years failed to take effective action, thereby reinforcing impunity for police officers of all ranks who regularly perpetrate crimes against the citizens they are mandated to protect.”
A senior academic in the Faculty of Law at the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Binzak Azeez, in a recent article differed however, insisting that only a well-democratised polity and economy could abate the wave of brutality in the police.
According to him, the police are privy to the fundamental human rights’ provisions under Chapter 4 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.
He wrote: “They are not ignorant of the Part 2 of the Police Act which posited their primary duties as ‘maintenance of law and order, prevention and detection of crime and the protection of lives and property.’ They understand that the application of firearms against persons ‘except in self-defence or defence of others against threat of death or severe injury or to prevent the escape of a person who has committed a serious or deadly crime while resisting their authority’ is unprofessional and barbaric. No amount of extant laws, bills and reforms can effectively curb police brutality in Nigeria.”
It is the hope of every resident of Nigeria that the police force will progressively evolve in the right direction; advancing steadily in the quality of training, techniques, and character of its personnel, in line with global best practices; and as such, rebuilding public confidence in the possibility that the Nigeria Police Force will someday render service with integrity.
Detained, abandoned, languishing for debt (1)
In Ebonyi State, hospitals have resorted to detaining patients for their inability to clear bills. Twins, triplets, quadruplets’ mothers and other patients are presently languishing at Awaiting Bill Settlement (ABS) detention camps of the hospitals with pathetic conditions, reports UCHENNA INYA
Fourteen years ago, Mrs. Martina Nwofoke of Ogbala Ishieke in Ebonyi Local Government Area of Ebonyi State gave birth to sextuplets in her first pregnancy, four males and two females. All of them are alive.
On May 18, 2019, she gave birth to quadruplets; two males and two females bringing the total number of her children to 10 from two pregnancies. Nwofoke gave birth to the quadruplets at home.
She started bleeding after the delivery and was immediately rushed to the Federal Teaching Hospital Abakaliki (FETHA 1) where she was treated, discharged but could not pay the hospital bills.
She was transferred from her hospital bed to the ABS unit where she slept on bare floor with her quadruplets and other mothers who were in her similar situation.
The conditions of the detainees in the ABS camp have continued to generate public outcry and the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) had to donate a few mattresses and mosquito insecticide treated nets to them. Some of the detainees who couldn’t get the mattresses are still sleeping on bare floor.
Nwofoke was among the over 30 women dumped in the ABS camp. Life in the camp is extremely difficult. It is a very dirty environment and the detainees are packed like iced fish in a large hall and small rooms that are inside a building housing the camp. There is no electricity, no kitchen to prepare edibles. In the night, mosquitoes feast on the mothers and their babies.
Nwofoke said an odour emanating from a decomposing body, made them uncomfortable until it was evacuated.
The hospital gave the woman a bill of N200,000 for the medical treatment but she not could clear the bill as her husband paid only N80,000, leaving a debt of N120,000. The hospital had to take her to ABS, a camp where those who can’t afford their hospital bills after treatment and discharged are dumped, pending when they pay up.
Nwofoke said: “We are suffering a lot in this ABS; no food to eat, no assistance, no good amenities to make life better. As you can see, this environment exposes our babies to health problems because it is not conducive. We experience a lot of heat, mosquitoes bite and other things we are passing through here. Our babies no longer sleep in the night because of mosquitos. It was just a few days ago that a dead body here whose odour was disturbing was evacuated.”
The woman explained that she was in the ABS as her husband, a farmer, had tried all he could to clear the hospital bill and called for assistance from all quarters to enable her go home.
She added: “I have given birth to six children before; four girls and two boys before I gave birth to these quadruplets, two boys and two girls.
“The hospital management gave us high bill to clear –N200,000 and my husband has paid N80,000. We can’t afford the remaining N120,000 and that is why we were brought to this unit of the hospital by the management. I am not comfortable here and that is why I want to go home but money is not coming to clear the bills so that we can go home.
“I am a farmer and my husband is also a farmer; we have no money to clear the hospital bill. We don’t know when we will get money; we are therefore calling for assistance from all quarters; government, public-spirited individuals, Non-Governmental organisations (NGOs), corporate bodies to come to our aid. Life is very difficult in this ABS unit; we are no longer being taken care of because they said they have finished with us, that we have to clear our bills and go home. We were sleeping on bare floor until when government brought some mattresses and mosquito treated nets.”
Shortly after Nwofoke spoke with our correspondent and the public outcry, she and her children were freed by the Chief Medical Director (CMD) of FETHA 1, Dr. Emeka Onwe Ogah.
But while she was still in the hospital, behind Nwofoke was Mrs. Patience Ogonnaya from Amanator Umueze, Onicha Igboeze in Onicha Local Government Area of the state.
She did not also give birth in FETHA but in another hospital in the state. She was referred to FETHA 1 for proper medical attention. She gave birth to twins – girls – on May 24, 2019 through caesarean section.
Ogonnaya was sent to the ABS for inability to clear her hospital bill amounting to N102,210. She was billed the amount for her twins while her own bill is N40,000 which she has cleared remaining that of her twins.
She said: “I was brought to this ABS because of the debt I owe to the hospital; it is N102,210. This amount is for my twins while I have cleared my own bill. I paid over N40,000 for my own. I gave birth in a different hospital and was brought to this hospital because I was having issues after delivery, so I was rushed to this hospital where I was treated. I gave birth to a single child before these twins. I want help to enable me to go home.”
Susana Igwe, a native of Onunweke Isioffia in Ezza North Local Government Area of the state also gave birth to twins at seven months. She was bleeding seriously at Mile 4 Hospital, Abakaliki, where she was delivered of the babies. The bleeding persisted and she was referred to FETHA where her twins were put in an incubator for some weeks where they stayed and matured.
The hospital gave her two bills; one for the twins and the other for her own. The twins’ bill of N68,750 has not been cleared while her own has been cleared. She was remanded in the ABS. her husband is dead; he died before she was delivered of the babies.
The mother of six said life had not been easy for her as she depended on donations from public-spirited individuals to feed.
She said: “No one cares about me here. I find it difficult to feed. I am seeking assistance from everywhere so that I can go home. My husband is no more alive. I am the one carrying every responsibility in my family; no one is feeding my children. I took them to my father and I don’t have any money with me to continue feeding them. I am still in ABS because I have not cleared the bill the hospital gave me.”
On her part, Mrs. Onyinyechi Nweke, a native of Agubia in Ikwo Local Government Area of the state who also gave birth to twins at seven months – two females – said the hospital gave her a bill of N95,000 out of which she had paid N20,000. She was taken to ABS for her inability to complete the payment.
She said her husband, a motorcycle operator, had been hustling to clear the bill and has not succeeded. Nweke called on government, corporate bodies and public-spirited individuals to come to her aid.
About 16 women from Ezza North/Ishielu federal constituency in the state were remanded in the ABS by the hospital management for their inability to pay their bills.
Succour, however, came their way when their representative in the National Assembly, Hon. Anayo Edwin Nwonu, cleared their bills amounting to over N1.5 million.
The women and their bills are Mrs. Peace Chukwuma (N98,520), Mrs. Chinyere Aleke (N150,000), Mrs. Princess Nwosu (N170,380), Mrs. Salome Orji (N58,040), Mrs. Rachel Ugochukwu (N156,730), Mrs. Onyekachi Onyeazi (N107,490), Mrs. Nneka Uche (N95,91), Mrs. Udochukwu Eze (N119,280), Mrs. Annastecia Okwor (N135,040) and Mrs. Chineme Izzi (N168,660).
Others are Mrs. Miracle Elom (N26,650), Mrs. Maria Ogodo (N90,590), Mrs. Grace Nweke (N64,370), Mrs. Ugochukwu Igwe (N97,905) and Mrs. Ugoeze Adaeze (N43,690). The money was N1.583 million.
One of them, Aleke, from Okposi Umuoghara in Ezza North Local Government Area, said they resorted to prayers as their condition in the hospital was getting worse.
She said: “The hospital management chased us out of the hospital beds and took us to where they call ABS where we are staying without light and other amenities because of our inability to pay our hospital bills. We sleep there on bare floor with our belongings.
“We stayed in the ABS for months and we decided to examine our condition and discovered that it is getting worse. We then went into serious prayer asking God to come to our rescue.
“I led the prayer session and I told them that it is not only our governor and Rev. Fr. Abraham Nwali, Senior Special Adviser (SSA), to the governor on Religion and Welfare, that we have who always assist the needy, that we have some other public-spirited individuals that can assist us and we must pray God to touch their hearts to come and rescue us.
“About 4p.m. on that day, Hon. Anayo Edwin Nwonu sent his brother and one of his aides to come and ascertain patients from Ezza North/Ishielu federal constituency. They compiled our names and left.
“Today, he has visited us himself to clear our bills and we are grateful to him and pray God to replenish him. I have stayed in this hospital for two months and my bill is N150,000.”
On her part, Nwosu, who hails from Ikwuato Idembia in Ezza South Local Government Area, said they had been discharged by the hospital management but they could not afford the hospital bills.
She said: “We were removed from our hospital beds because we cannot pay the bills and the hospital management said we must pay the bills before they will release us.
“We sleep on bare floors and we are not properly taken care of after we were taken out of post-natal ward to the ABS ward. We have suffered in the hospital.”
The CMD , Ogah, who addressed the women during the payment of their bills by Nwonu, said “it pains a woman to come out of labour having the child and sleeping outside the comfort of her home”.
He said: “The best is what we do for the patients. Rather than sending them home because they don’t have money, we give them treatment to save their lives first. It is when they are alive that we talk of who will come and pay but if you push them out to go and die because they don’t have money for treatment, I think it is the greatest undoing, it is heartless and that is what we try not to encourage.
“We have not lost somebody because such a person does not have money.
“After treating them, some of them run away which is not good. But we don’t stop, we give them treatment.
“In 2017, victims of gas explosion from Ogoja were brought here for treatment and none of them came with one naira but we managed to treat them. At the end, they had a total bill of close to N20 million and up till today, that bill has not been paid. We are lucky that up to five of them survived and you know what it means for a burnt patient to survive, especially gas burns. We are employed to save lives, not to kill. So, people should come and clear the bills of these indigent patients so that they can go home.”
On her part, the Head of Department (HOD), Medical Social Work of the hospital, Dr. Felicia Otu, said the hospital management took proper care of all patients.
Otu explained that some patients were taken to the ABS ward to avoid occupying spaces of patients whose cases were very critical.
She said: “We see these women as their own cases settled and we see the ones in emergency – the ones we call the ‘unbooked’ from the rural villages who do not go to the hospitals but to the Traditional Birth Attendants (TBAs). When their cases are critical, that is the time they are rushed to the hospital and you cannot tell such people to be on the floor. Thank God we have a place we can say okay these ones that have been resuscitated, you have to be here.”
In Mile 4 Hospital, Abakaliki, some mothers were also waiting for their bills to be settled to enable them to unite with their families.
One of them, Eze Grace Ogala of Okpshi Ngbo in Ohaukwu Local Government Area who was delivered of twins, said she had been in pains since the delivery because of her inability to meet the financial requirements by the hospital for drugs which supposed to stop the pains and make her strong.
The 39-year-old women, who had two children before the twins, said she was a farmer.
She said: “I gave birth to two children before these twins. One of the twins has eye problem. Since I gave birth to the twins, I have not been taking drugs. I don’t have money to buy drugs prescribed for me and I have been having pains in my stomach since I gave birth. I want assistance to enable me to buy the drugs and pay my hospital bills. I want to go home.”
Another woman, Mrs. Franca Ogechi Achulike, said she was delivered of a baby through caesarean section.
She said: “I gave birth to twins – a boy and a girl. It has not been easy for me since I put to bed because you will buy this one, they will demand this one, they will request this one, and all these things involve money. So, it has not been easy at all. I feed them through breastfeeding and artificial milk. One of them, the baby girl, is not feeling fine. But I feel so happy to have these babies, they are blessings from God.
“I am still in the hospital because of the bill they gave us, which is not affordable. The bill is over N120,000 and I don’t know the amount they will charge for the baby girl of the twins who is not feeling fine. I want the governor and other public spirited-individuals to come to our aid.
“We have been running around to get money but we have not succeeded. My husband is not doing anything, he is just working in rice mill and he has been running around to see if he can raise the money but he is not succeeding, nobody agrees to give him money. I finished at Akanu Ibiam Federal Polytechnic, Unwanna. I have not got any job. I have ND there.”
On her part, Mrs. Ngozi Una, said she ran to the hospital to save her life.
She said: “I gave birth to two children before these twins. I am still in the hospital because I have not paid my hospital bills. I am suffering, I am not being taken care of and I want to go home. But the hospital management is insisting I must pay the bills before going. I am stranded here and I don’t know what to do.”
One of the nurses in the hospital, Patience Njoku, who is in charge of post-natal ward, admitted that some of the women were still undergoing pains after delivery because of their inability to procure drugs that would stop the pains, owing to lack of money.
She disclosed that eight of the women, who supposed to have gone home, were still in the hospital because of their inability to pay the hospital bills.
Njoku called on government at all levels, NGOs and public-spirited individuals to come to their aid.
She said: “Actually, some of the women are complaining of pains because they are unable to procure their drugs. We have done what we can and we have been given them drugs for sometimes. There are some drugs they supposed to be on but they didn’t buy it and that is why they are still having pains till now after the delivery.
“Most of the women cannot pay for their drugs and once you didn’t pay for your drugs especially within 48 hours of operation, you will keep on having the pains. But if you get your drugs, the way you supposed, within 72 hours, you see the woman being stronger.
“Most women, when they are being operated on, they may not procure their drugs due to financial constraints and some of them, their husbands will leave them, abandon them and go.
“We have up to eight of them who are unable to pay for their drugs and hospital bills and they are under Awaiting Bill Settlements (ABS). In these postnatal wards 1 and 2, we have two women unable to pay their bills making a total number of them to 10. We always try our best possible to make sure they are healthy and give them the drugs that we have around. We always wait for NGOs to come and offset their bills, sometime government officials do come.”
Meanwhile, an NGO, Twins and Multiple Births Care Initiative, has called for establishment of trust fund for twins and multiple births to reduce their suffering.
The group’s Secretary, Comrade Godwin Ezaka, told our correspondent that a combination of advocacy and direct interventions would tackle the phenomenon to a standstill.
Ezaka explained that the group had begun collection of signatures for submission of a petition to the state House of Assembly for a bill seeking establishment of trust fund for families of twins and multiple births in the country.
He said: “We have begun collecting signatures for the process of submitting a petition to the Ebonyi State House of Assembly for a bill, which when passed into law, will be known as Twins and Multiple Births Care Act. This bill is seeking for the establishment of a trust fund for families of twins and multiple births in Ebonyi State, nay Nigeria.
“When passed into law, it will help alleviate the suffering of parents and families blessed with twins and births. The family remains the bedrock of the society.
“We are out to ameliorate the human condition of twins and multiple births through the provision of financial support to enhance their daily upkeep. Your intervention for multiple births and their parents/families apart from cash and medical assistance is a panacea.
“It should be complemented with a forum for public awareness on multiple births, nutrition, health and child care.
“A trust fund for twins and multiple births will reduce the suffering of these folks. A combination of advocacy and direct interventions will tackle this phenomenon to a standstill. Social empowerment programme will safeguard the individual destiny of unborn generations.
“Let us collectively rewrite the sad stories of unprotected and homeless twins and multiples into success stories of living in abundance/freedom.
“We can recreate in them the happiness of life with compassion, humanitarian love and unparalled generosity for the less-privileged and the needy in our society. On the part of Twins and Multiple Births Care Foundation, we will continue to raise public awareness of the unique challenges that come with twins and multiple births.”
The state Coordinator of Legal Aid Council, Okwuegbu Egenti, told our correspondent that the Council would enforce the right of any patient whose right to free movement was restricted.
Egenti, however, called on government, corporate bodies, NGOs and public-spirited individuals to intervene in conditions of indigent patients by assisting them.
He said: “The Council can only come in when their rights are being infringed upon. Like in the issue you just presented, it is mainly financial but on the issue of restraining them that they can’t move out, that will amount to enforcement of their fundamental human rights on their right to free movement.
“When we enforce that right, the hospital will raise issue and say that it is because they are owing them and that is why they are detaining them but it amounts to unlawful detention if you say this type of person shouldn’t move out because he is still owing some money. On the other way round, the NGOs, government, individuals and general public should intervene in assisting the general patients.”
Oyo LGs’ dissolution: A fight of gladiators
Local government administration has always been a pawn in the nation’s political chess board. But in Oyo State, the fight to control the third tier of government has been a judicial macabre dance, writes SOLA ADEYEMO
Democratic experience in Nigeria is ridiculously unique in many ways. Since 1999 when the uninterrupted democratic dispensation commenced, Nigeria is believed to be practicing federalism, yet the federating units (states) are tied to the apron strings of the Federal Government, just as the states have also refused to allow autonomous existence for the 774 local governments across the country.
Politics of bitterness among the ruling and opposition parties has been a major bane of development, especially at the grassroots (local governments), where chairmen and their supervisory officials are hand-picked by governors instead of conducting elections where the electorate will elect their substantive officials to run the third tier of the government.
History of the Pace Setter, Oyo State, has since been riddled with warped transition wherein the three-year tenure of every outgoing local government official had always been cut short by the succeeding one that holds no trust in the other. Litigation had hitherto been the way out for the entitlements of the out-gone council to be collected.
The same scenario has repeated itself with the current Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which on March 9, 2010 ousted the immediate past government of the All Progressives Congress (APC) under the administration of the Governor Abiola Ajimobi. For the complete seven years of his eight-year, two terms, in the saddle, Ajimobi never conducted elections into the local governments. He was merely appointing caretaker chairmen for periods of three and six months, at will, depending on loyalty of the appointees.
Much as the opposition parties cried out against the use of caretaker chairmen, who were mere stooges that were not empowered to carry out substantial developmental projects throughout their tenure, Ajimobi hid under the guise of a subsisting court case that disallowed him from conducting the election.
Poised to ensure he planted his foot soldiers to facilitate his party winning the last March gubernatorial election and perpetuate his political relevance after the eight-year tenure, Ajimobi conducted the belated local government elections on February 12, 2018. Considered as a sham and a process intended to shut other political parties out, the elections were a one-party affair as all the 33 local governments and the 35 local council development areas (LCDAs) were won by the then ruling APC.
The council chairmen were sworn in despite the criticism by the opposition parties that the LCDAs were not legally delineated, prompting their shunning the elections. A group of traditional rulers (Baales) from the Oyo zone area of the state, during the period, filed a suit in an Abuja High Court challenging the creation of the LCDAs, but the polls were conducted despite the pendency of the case and an injunction granted.
Upon the incumbent PDP administration being inaugurated on May 29, Governor Seyi Makinde announced the dissolution of the elected councils, while ordering all the chairmen to hand over to the Head of Local Government Administration in their respective areas.
In a statement issued by his Chief of Staff (CoS), Chief Bisi Ilaka, the governor said the election that produced the council chairmen was conducted in defiance to a court order stopping the process which held on May 12, 2018. Ilaka described the election as “an arrangee type”.
The council chairmen led by Prince Ayodeji Abass-Aleshinloye, however, kicked, saying that the order by Makinde was ridiculous and “an act of illegality given the fact that they were democratically elected and that a May 6, 2019 Oyo State High Court judgement had restrained the state government and its representatives or agencies from dissolving the councils or freezing the bank accounts of the councils, among others”.
Abass-Aleshinloye, the state chairman of the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON), further said that the court had held that “dissolution of elected council chairmen and other officers by the state government or the House of Assembly is contrary to Section 7(1) of the 1999 Constitution as amended”.
Abass-Aleshinloye insisted that he and his counterparts would not leave office, asking the incumbent government to go to court which would decide the position of the law on the issue.
“We were democratically elected and sworn in to be in office for three years. We have just spent a year and few months. The governor has no right to terminate us.
“All discerning minds expected Oyo State government to defend its act of lawlessness and contempt of a subsisting court judgement on point of law and on absolute truth. But unfortunately, Governor Seyi Makinde’s administration opted for the path of ‘white lies’, arrogance and executive lawlessness.
“We advise Oyo State government to always toe the part of civility and rule of law. It has no power to dissolve a democratically elected local government, more so when there is a subsisting perpetual injunction/judgement by a competent court of law,” Abass-Aleshinloye told New Telegraph.
To many ordinary right thinkers in the state, the argument has been that Makinde’s action was apposite, arguing that the governor could by no way allow council chairmen unilaterally elected by the ousted political party to continue to co-administer the state with him. Where will he put his own followers and party loyalists who worked assiduously to ensure the party won? What kind of friendship or loyalty will anyone think the APC-elected council bosses have with or for the incumbent opposition party? These were some of the questions on the lips of some political actors in the state.
Justifying the government’s position, the Chief Press Secretary (CPS) to the governor, Mr. Taiwo Adisa, rubbished claims by the council bosses, saying that “there are strong suspicions that all the orchestrated campaigns are meant to distract the smooth take-off of the new administration but we will not be distracted.”
Adisa also adduced legal reasons for the government’s action.
He said: “Let me state that the government of Oyo State committed no illegality in dissolving the councils. Rather, the government took the step in defence of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The laws say that you cannot create local governments by whatever name called, without recourse to constitutional procedures.
“The immediate past state government went ahead to create LCDAs in total disregard for the constitution. They also jointly conducted elections into the recognised councils and the LCDAs the same day. By that singular act, they have tainted the elections conducted into the 33 local governments with illegality. You cannot mix apples and oranges together and call it a basket of apples or a basket of oranges. So the state is out to stop the illegality.
“Also, remember that the council chairmen were guilty of what lawyers call ‘forum shopping’ in trying to vacate the injunction that was issued to stop the conduct of the elections by rushing to a different court to get an order.
“A court of coordinate jurisdiction cannot vacate an injunction issued by its peer. It is an aberration in law and a violation of the law of natural justice. The state government cannot close its eyes and allow the perpetuation of judicial karate in the name of politics. So the Governor of Oyo State, Engineer Seyi Makinde, had to announce the dissolution of the councils to ensure sanity and to bring everyone to the part of constitutionality.
“Let me, however, state that the government will not condone any form of brigandage on this issue. The constitution states that you cannot create local government areas without recourse to the National Assembly. If you do that, it is inchoate like the Supreme Court said in the case of Lagos State. So when you do something like that and conduct elections into the councils, you have violated the constitution ab initio.”
Despite the avowed stance that they would not heed Makinde’s order to vacate their offices, New Telegraph’s checks at many of the local government councils revealed that the chairmen were no longer resuming at their offices. Career officers and other council civil servants were seen carrying on their statutory duties unhindered.
Just as the imbroglio was ongoing, the ALGON Chairman, Abass-Aleshinloye, cried out that his life was being threatened by some unnamed people. He particularly fingered the PDP and Makinde’s government.
In a letter he wrote to the police by his legal team, the Chairman of Oluyole Local Government Area before the dissolution, said that his life had come under threats beginning from May 30, 2019, after he addressed a press conference where he insisted that he and his colleagues would remain in office until the courts say otherwise.
According to him, after the conference, strange persons suspected to be supporters of the governor and his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), came to attack him in his office, forcing him to escape through a different route.
He said strange men also trailed him on two different occasions after speaking on radio programmes.
The letter reads in part: “Ever since the press conference, our client is being trailed and is worried because of the persistent threat to his life and safety. In view of the above, we most humbly implore you to investigate our client’s complaint and take all necessary lawful steps to avert the threats to our client’s safety and life.
“We also wish to state that nothing untoward should happen to our client as we will hold the governor of Oyo State liable for any harm occasioned by any attacks on our client by the supporters of the governor of Oyo State.
“We also hereby request you to provide adequate security for our client in order to protect him from all the threats issued by the supporters and members of Peoples Democratic Party in Oyo State.”
The imbroglio, however, continues as the legal tussle before Justice Ladiran Akintola of an Ibadan High Court has again been adjourned till May 30, 2019 for further hearing.
Exactly a month after his inauguration, Makinde, during a media parley, said that the local government executives put in place by Ajimobi, which he had pronounced dissolved, remained so.
He added that he would conduct fresh elections into the councils latest by the first quarter of next year. Though the council bosses had been kicking, declaring that Makinde’s decision was autocratic and illegal, the PDP government insisted the dissolved local government executives were ab initio illegally put in place.
But Abass-Aleshinloye said “the governor carefully forgot to tell the public that there is a subsisting judgement of a court of record, as well as, a pending appeal he claims to have filed at the Court of Appeal.
“Again the trial court has further issued an order to maintain the status quo ante, the order which his government has been flouting with impunity and his spokesmen are deriding as ‘arrangee’, and for which committal proceedings have been issued against the errant officers of state. Yet his Excellency seeks to assure the public that he would respect the judiciary while deriding the institution and its pronouncements”.
Meanwhile, the councils are presently being run by career officers as the chairmen who relied on the court proceedings, have been shut out of their offices.
Feeding fat on ethnic violence
Some ethnic leaders have transformed their lives from being wretched to millionaires while donning the garbs of human rights activists, writes TEMITOPE OGUNBANKE
On May 29, 2019, Nigeria celebrated 20 years of uninterrupted civilian administration in the country. Without any iota of doubt, the day was worth celebrating considering that this is the first time, the country is having long years of uninterrupted civilian administration since it gained independence on October 1, 1960.
The struggle for return of democracy on May 29, 1999 was not a smooth one considering the huge sacrifice made by many patriots, heroes and heroines. While many of them were lucky to be alive to see the dividends of their struggle, some died in the cause of the struggle and some till date are still counting their loses.
The struggle for democracy in Nigeria gave boldness to many ethnic nationality leaders and activists coming out courageously to defend the cause of their people and demanded better living conditions for their people. It was the struggle for democracy, good governance, restructuring and justice for all ethnic groups Nigeria that gave birth to many ethnic and militant groups in different parts of the country.
While some groups carried out their agitation in a peaceful manner, some use violence to get attention of the government to plight of their ethnic groups.
There was no doubt that some of the ethnic groups’ leaders paid the supreme price in the course of the struggle considering how many people were killed, maimed, and properties worth billions of naira destroyed during the struggle by agents of government. But today, people believe that some people have been able to feed fat on the ethnic violence, considering their status then and who they are today.
During the struggle, some of the ethnic leaders could hardly afford three square meals daily or comfortable to provide basic needs for themselves and families, but today, they are millionaires and billionaires, while some are business gurus, politicians or traditional rulers.
Among those people who many people believed feed fat on ethnic violence were the late founder and leader of the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC), Dr. Fredericks Fasehun; National Coordinator of OPC now Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland, Iba Gani Adams; Asari Dokubo; Ralph Uwazurike; Government Tompolo; Ebikabowei Boyloaf; Nnamdi Kanu and Atom Ateke, among several others.
Gani Adams: From OPC factional leader to Yoruba generalissimo
Iba Gani Adams, the Aare Onakankafo of Yorubaland was among the eminent Yoruba sons who stood firmly in the defence of their fatherland in times of trouble. He was actively involved in the struggle for the revalidation of annulled June 12, 1993 presidential election as well as enthronement of democracy and return of Nigeria to democratic rule on May 29, 1999.
Adams was born on April 30, 1970 at Arigidi-Akoko in Akoko North-West Local Government Area of Ondo State. He started his education at the Army Children’s School, Otukpo, Benue State, before his father moved to Lagos, where he completed his primary education at Municipal Primary School, Surulere, in 1980. He proceeded to Ansar-Ud-deen Secondary School, Randle Avenue, Surulere and later trained in furniture-making and interior decoration, which he completed in 1987. Upon completion, he was employed by an Italian construction company, Visinoni Stabilini at Apapa, Lagos and later resigned from the organisation to start his own business. In addition to his vocational training, Adams also obtained diplomas at the International Aviation School, Ghana, and Lagos State University.
His quest for a better society and defence of the rights of the oppressed made him joined pro-democracy movement in the 1990s and served as the Public Relations Officer of the Mushin Local Government chapter of the Campaign for Democracy (CD) in 1993. He is a founding member of the OPC and was the first deputy national coordinator of the group led then by Dr. Fredericks Fasehun.
The internal wrangling in OPC led to division in the group. The two factions, which emerged, were led by Fasehun and Adams respectively. Based on several violent activities traced to OPC members and their incessant clashes with the police in some parts of Lagos, Adams was declared wanted in 2000 by the police authorities for the alleged murder of Afolabi Amao, a divisional police officer at the Bariga Police Station in Lagos.
Adams was arrested a year after he was declared wanted. He detained in prison for several months. Adams went through a lot of travail during former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration until he was released after several protects and appeals by groups and individuals. The groups included the Ayodele Akele’s Free Gani Adams Group, which led the campaign for the release of the OPC National Coordinator.
After his release, Adams did not relent in his efforts in defending the cause of the Yoruba and his campaign for the growth and development of Yoruba sons and daughters as well as the Yoruba nation made him win the hearts of many people. He later founded Oodua Progressives Union (OPU), which is presently in over 50 nations in the world, to cater for the interest of Yoruba in the Diaspora. Adams is also the chief promoter of Olokun Festival, a group, which is promoting major festivals and traditions in Yorubaland.
Having given all he has to the emancipation of the Yoruba race and promotion of Yoruba culture and tradition, Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi, conferred the title of Aare Ona Kakanfo on Adams in 2018.
Explaining the rationale behind his decision, Oba Adeyemi said Adams was selected for his contributions to the promotion of the Yoruba culture. According to him, the new generalissimo of Yorubaland possesses “three virtues” important to the Yoruba. “Manliness, courage, and patriotic zeal (not political ambition or opportunism), were three virtues respected in Yorubaland, even during the Yoruba warfare in the 19th Century,” he said.
Faith seems to reward Adams for his effort in the struggle for the revalidation of the annulled June 12 presidential election because his predecessor was Chief MKO Abiola, the winner of that election. Adams became Aare 19 years after Abiola’s death.
Without any iota of doubt, Adams has benefitted immensely from his struggle for his ethnic group. The struggle has thrown him up to be one of the most respected and prominent Yoruba, not only in Nigeria but globally, considering his exploits in the last few years. Today, he commands and leads millions of Yoruba in different parts of the world.
Mujahid Dokubo-Asari: Militant turns businessman
Mujahid Dokubo-Asari’s name rings bell in Niger Delta region as one of the defenders of the interest of the people of the region. He is a major political figure of the Ijaw ethnic group and served as president of the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) and later founded the Niger Delta Peoples Volunteer Force (NDPVF), which was one of the most prominent armed groups operating in the Niger Delta region.
Dokubo-Asari was born as Dokubo Melford Goodhead (Jr), to a high court judge on June 1, 1964 but later converted to Islam and changed his name to Mujahid Dokubo-Asari. He is the first of six children and had a middle-class upbringing in a Christian home. Dokubo-Asari, who had his primary and secondary education in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, gained admission to study Law in the University of Calabar, Cross River State but dropped out in his third year in 1990 after repeated clashes with university authorities. He made another attempts to complete his education but his activism caused him to quit his studies at the Rivers State University of Science and Technology.
In 1992, because of his quest to serve his people in public office, Dokubo-Asari attempted to contest for a seat in the Rivers State House of Assembly but the ambition failed. His ambition of becoming chairman of Asari-Toru Local Government Area in 1998 also didn’t see the light of the day. Prior to Nigeria’s return to democratic rule in 1998, Dokubo-Asari and other Ijaw sons founded Ijaw Youths Council (IYC), and emerged as the first vice-president of the group. In November 1998, the IYC issued the “Kiama Declaration”, demanding control of the oil resources from the Niger Delta by the people of the Niger Delta.
In the “Kaiama Declaration,” IYC expressed long-held Ijaw concerns about the loss of control of their homeland and their own lives to the Nigerian state and oil companies operating in the region. The group, through the “Kiama Declaration” and a letter addressed in respect of that to oil companies, called on them to suspend operations and withdraw from Ijaw territory. The IYC pledged “to struggle peacefully for freedom, self-determination and ecological justice,” and prepared a campaign of celebration, prayer, and direct action – ‘Operation Climate Change’ beginning December 28 of that year.
Following the declaration, there was an immediate crackdown on the body by the government. Dokubo-Asari later became president of the IYC in 2001 and immediately changed the slogan of council to “Resource Control and Self-Determination By Every Means Necessary.” As IYC president, he was very vocal in defending the Ijaw people and Niger Delta citizens in general.
In continuation of his determination of better life for people of Niger Delta, which is laying the golden eggs, which Nigeria depends on for economic survival, in 2004, Dokubo-Asari founded the NDPVF. And through the group, he continued pressing the demands for resource control as well as joining other eminent voices in Nigeria to call for the convocation of a Sovereign National Conference to discuss the place of the Ijaw people in the country.
Due to the pressure from NDPVF, which resulted in a massive drop in oil production of 30,000 barrels per day and pushing up the price of petroleum worldwide significantly, former President Obasanjo, who was at the helms of affairs then called Asari and the leader of the Niger Delta Vigilante (NDV), Ateke Tom, to Abuja for peace talks which were in large part a failure. Base on his public support for self-determination of his native Ijaw people and independence for the Niger Delta, Dokubo-Asari was later arrested and charged with treason by the Federal Government. But despite his incarceration, he never changed his commitment to the Niger Delta struggle and while in detention, he associated himself with other nationalists and Civil Society Organisations to take part in the Sovereign National Conference convened in Lagos by Pro-National Conference Organisation (PRONACO). On June 14, 2007, Asari was released on bail as part of new President Umaru Yar’Adua’s pledge to try and bring peace to the Niger Delta region.
As part of Yar’Adua amnesty incentives to eliminate terrorist activities in the Niger Delta, the Federal Government awarded massive cash rewards to Dokubo-Asari and other militant leaders of the Niger Delta. Asari later received an annual cash payment of $10 million from Abuja as part of the federal “pipeline security protection fee” to protect the Rivers State pipelines and creeks that the terrorists bombed, kidnapped and killed the workers and guards in the areas.
In 2013, Dokubo-Asari became a citizen of Benin Republic. He then moved his wealth and assets out of the Niger Delta, Nigeria and relocated to Cotonou, Benin Republic where he built several schools, colleges and a university in Cotonou.
Ateke Tom: Militant turns traditional ruler
Ateke Tom was former leader of the Niger Delta Vigilante (NDV), an Ijaw militia group. He was actively involved in the campaign for resource control and fought tirelessly in ensuring that government presence is felt in the Niger Delta region. Having being able to get attention of government to the plight of the Niger Delta people through different activities, Tom in August 2007, after several days of gun fights between various militia groups and security forces in Port Harcourt, wrote to then Governor Celestine Omehia of Rivers State, requesting for amnesty in response to an offer of clemency and rehabilitation government had offered to militia who surrendered.
On October 1, 2009 during the 49th anniversary of the Nigerian Independence and three days before the closing of Federal Government amnesty programme, Tom willingly surrendered to President Musa Yar’Adua at the Government House, Abuja. The presidential jet was sent to fly him to Abuja, and his decision was commended by the President.
“Today, Chief Ateke Tom you have given me my 49th Independence anniversary gift and I cherish it so much,” President Yar’Adua stated the day Tom surrendered and embraced the amnesty programme.
He later became a leader in the Niger Delta region and was later crowned as the paramount ruler of Okochiri Kingdom in Okrika Local Government Area of Rivers State.
Ralph Uwazuruike: Championed Biafra
Ralph Uwazuruike, who hails from Okwe in Imo State, is the leader of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), a group which canvassed for the secession and sovereignty of Igbo. He founded MASSOB in 1999, a few months after the elections that produced President Olusegun Obasanjo. The group kicked off at Uwazuruike’s Temple of Peace residence in Lagos State and recorded a jump in membership in its first few weeks.
Uwazuruike was particularly enthralled, in his school days, by books on Mahatma Gandhi which influenced his decision to study in India. He studied Political Science at Panjab University, and then Law at Bombay University, India, after which he enrolled at the Nigerian Law School and was called to the Nigerian Bar in 1991.
Based on his several agitations and activities of MASSOB, which at a point became unbearable for the Federal Government, there were clampdowns on the group and Uwazuruike was arrested and detained on several occasions on charges of unlawful gathering and disturbance of public peace.
Uwazuruike’s longest spell in detention was to come in 2005 when he was arrested in his Okwe hometown by policemen. He was charged with treason and remained in prison detention for two years after a protracted bail hearing at the Federal High Court, Abuja, before Justice Binta Nyako. The then Attorney-General of the Federation, Bayo Ojo, SAN, appeared in person for the government while Mike Ahamba, SAN, represented the defendant before being replaced by Festus Keyamo.
The case did not proceed to the trial stage as the first two years were spent hearing Uwazuruike’s bail application. Nyako eventually granted him three-month bail to enable him to bury his mother who had died during his incarceration. In 2011, Uwazuruike and 280 MASSOB members were arrested in Enugu at an event in honour of Ojukwu. He was released on the orders of then President Goodluck Jonathan.
Nnamdi Kanu: Championed secession of Igbo
Nnamdi Kanu, a British-Nigerian political activist, who was born on September 25, 1967, is the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), which advocates a sovereign state for the Igbo speaking people of Nigeria as well as those from the South-South region, who fall within Biafra. Kanu, as part of the strategy put in place by him to propagate his group campaign, served as the director of a London-based radio station named Radio Biafra.
Following the manner at which he was embarking on his campaign, attacking government and making some inflammatory statement, Kanu was arrested on treason charges in Lagos on October 14, 2015 and was detained without trial for more than a year-and-a-half, despite various court orders that ruled for his release. The news of the arrest of Kanu generated protests across parts of Delta, Enugu, Rivers, Cross River, Abia, Imo and Anambra states.
When in court, he appeared regularly wearing a Jewish prayer shawl and head covering. He said in court that he “believes in Judaism” and considers himself a Jew. He was released from prison on bail on April 28, 2017.
Kanu was born in Isiama Afara, Umuahia, Abia State, Nigeria. His father is His Royal Majesty, Eze Israel Okwu Kanu (JP), and his mother is Ugoeze Nnenne Kanu. He attended Library Avenue Primary School (now part of Government House, Umuahia) and went to Government College, Umuahia for his secondary education. He later gained admission to the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) but left after two years. He moved to London and studied Political Economics at London Guildhall University now called London Metropolitan University (LMU).
Kanu disappeared from public after his home was raided by the Nigerian military in September 2017. He later resurfaced in Israel and following his reappearance, the court revoked his bail. But till date he is yet to appear in court.
Government Ekpemupolo Tompolo: battling with EFCC
Government Ekpemupolo, popularly known as Tompolo was born on April 12, 1971 to a royal family in Okerenkoko, the traditional Gbaramatu Kingdom in Warri South Local Government Area of Delta State. He served as the Commander of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND). For years, Tompolo was a commander in various guerrilla groups in the Niger Delta which were all agitating against the insensitivity of the Federal Government and the international oil companies to exploitation and degradation of the Niger Delta. Tompolo’s wealth was derived mainly from oil bunkering. He played a major role in founding both MEND and also his own fighters. Tompolo embraced amnesty on October 4, 2009, in order to allow for peace in Niger Delta and for government and oil companies to carry out development projects, and provide jobs and training.
Tompolo had his basic education at Okepopo Primary School in Warri. In 1993, he dropped out of college and joined a resistance group in the Niger Delta. In 1998, he became a member of Ijaw Youth Council. He later joined MEND. Tompolo’s invitation to the leader of NDPVF, Dokubo-Asari, to take refuge in Delta State in 2005 helped precipitate the formation of MEND soon afterwards. Tompolo quickly rose to become a high commander in MEND and with his vast wealth he was able to provide a lot of support for the group. Under the auspices of MEND, he was able to drive the Nigerian government to grant amnesty to MEND members who decided to surrender.
Tompolo was granted full amnesty as well as all of his men when he embraced the Federal Government amnesty offer under President Yar’Adua on June 27, 2009.
He was very active during the administration of President Jonathan. In January 2016 an arrest warrant for him was issued on charges of theft and money laundering. He is presently at large but battling with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) case.
Ebikabowei Victor-Ben Boyloaf: Leaving large
Ebikabowei Victor-Ben, popularly known as “Boyloaf” was born in 1971. He was a former commander of the MEND at a point he was one of the highest-ranked commanders in MEND. He joined MEND in 2006 and soon rose to prominence in the ranks of MEND due to his expert commanding skills and was ranked 3rd highest in the ranks of MEND after Dokubo-Asari and Henry Okah. The name Boyloaf became well known throughout the Niger Delta. Boyloaf recruited hundreds of men and turned them into well-trained soldiers. By 2008 Boyloaf had influence over many soldiers and people throughout the Niger Delta region.
Boyloaf was arrested but soon released. He was arrested again on January 13, 2012 after a car bomb had exploded in a town he had been in the previous day. Again he was released soon after. In late 2012 Boyloaf began promoting the President Goodluck Jonathan for the 2015 election. Due to the spike in MEND’s activities in early 2013 Boyloaf was yet again arrested on February 4, 2013 and again released soon after. Even though Boyloaf’s days of militancy are far behind him he says that if there is no progress in the Niger Delta and the people of the delta continue to suffer he will return to fighting.
He officially wedded his long-time girlfriend, Onyi Maris (with whom he has a daughter), in Houston Texas on Wednesday, May 3, 2017.
Frederick Fasehun: Abandoned stereoscope for activism
The late Frederick Fasehun, who was born on September 21, 1935 and died on December 1, 2018, was the founder and leader of the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC).
The Ondo-born medical doctor turned activist, studied science at Blackburn College and furthered his education at Aberdeen University College of Medicine. He also studied at the Liverpool Postgraduate School after which he had a Fellowship at the Royal College of Surgeons. In 1976, he studied Acupuncture in China under a joint World Health Organisation (WHO) and United Nations Development Scholarship Programme.
In 1977, he set up an Acupuncture Unit at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital. He resigned in 1978 and immediately set up the Besthope Hospital and Acupuncture Centre in Lagos. The Acupuncture Centre once earned a reputation as Africa’s first for the Chinese medical practice.
During the June 12 annulment struggle, he was an executive member of the Campaign for Democracy (CD). In the thick of CD’s crisis in early 1994, several factions put pressures on Fasehun to assume chairmanship. He declined, asserting in characteristic humility that “one can work effectively and successfully for the uplift of any organisation by being in the background”. He then campaigned for Dr. Beko Ransome-Kuti to be returned.
Fasehun, in 1993, founded the Movement for Social and Economic Justice (MOSEJ), emerging as its national chairman. He is the founder of OPC whose agitation against injustice and extrajudicial killing as well as resistance to perceive ploy to waste the Yoruba nation has become legendary. A noiseless but adroit negotiator, Fasehun pointedly rejected Head of State Sani Abacha’s request to have him serve in his military dictatorship.
He was one of the three leaders of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) who staged the rally for Abiola after the latter claimed his mandate as President of Nigeria. Fasehun was imprisoned for 19 months from December 1996 to June 1998 during the military rule of Abacha, only ending 18 days after Abacha’s death.
Base on his agitation and tireless effort in OPC, especially on the issue of security and defending the Yoruba, Fasehun won the heart of President Goodluck Jonathan and was given a pipeline protection contract to provide security for pipelines in the South-West. The contract was subjected to a lot of controversies and politicking, which didn’t make the contract to be effective.
Prior to the 2015 general elections, Fasehun went fully into politics and later served as the National Chairman of the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN). He died in the intensive care unit of Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Ikeja on December 1, 2018.
Speaking with New Telegraph, Adams said he was still paying his dues in the democratic struggle.
He said: “When you are in struggle, there would always be a rough road. There is no way that you fight a struggle that it will not get rough and when you fight a struggle and you don’t compromise, God will now reward you; not reaping, it is the reward from God. Even though when you fight for a village or community, God will reward you, not talk of fighting for a nation. God will think about the risk you took during the process of the struggle and you don’t compromise.
“Why can’t you say (Bola) Tinubu feed fat? Why can’t you say (Kayode) Fayemi feed fat? They are products of the struggle. We have not even got our own bargain of the fat. Those are the people we feed fat from the struggle. I have never been a governor. Even been Aare Ona Kakanfo, I couldn’t collect salary from the government. I am still in the struggle because I don’t collect salary from government.
“For the first time, because most of the oil that is coming in Atlas Cove is being taken away by bandits and the bunkering, the government decided that let us give it to all ethnic nationality groups. The worth of the contract was N1,960,000,000. We did that contract for a period of three months and we handed over to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). When the All Progressives Congress (APC) government came, they said they won’t pay that money. It was even the Vice President that allowed part of the money to be paid. They paid only 30 per cent of the money; just N600 million, which was not even up to the amount of salary of the people that worked; 5,000 each for three months. And NNPC said we should pay them N70,000, which is their standard.
“We lost one person and about 20 people seriously wounded during the three months because the job of securing pipeline is a job of mafia. They paid us just 30 per cent. I didn’t do anything that is illegal. So, I am still paying dues, I haven’t got my gain.”
Also speaking, the President of Arewa Youth Consultative Forum, Alhaji Yerima Shettima, said the likes of Dokubo-Asari, Fasehun, Adams and Uwazurike deserved whatever status they had achieved in their ethnic groups and Nigeria at large because they sacrificed a lot for the betterment of the people in their respective ethnic groups.
But he said that why those he mentioned deserved whatever they got, that could not be said of Tompolo, Kanu and others, who according to him didn’t do much to deserve the accolades and wealth they enjoyed today.
He said: “It is not what you think. Dokubo-Asari does sleep in my room and up till today whenever he comes to Lagos, he does sleep in my room. We were together in the struggle; the same thing with Gani Adams. They are my comrades and we were together in the struggles. Nnamdi Kanu was even very small among us. I knew when he used to meet Uwazuruike. Ralph was our contemporary at that time. Gani, Dokubo-Asari, Ralph Uwazuruike and I were together at that time though I am the youngest among them. Those are the people we grew up together.
“Nnamdi Kanu was not even in our class. He was never part of any struggle. It is media that created him to be a monster. If all these guys are millionaires today, what is wrong in that? Dokubo-Asari benefitted from his brother, former President Goodluck Jonathan, when he was in government and he enjoyed his patronage. It is their right. What is wrong in President Buhari making me like Dokubo-Asari?”
In his response to the issues of some human rights activists and ethnic nationality leaders feeding fat on ethnic violence, a human rights lawyer, who was the founding National Secretary of the National Conscience Party (NCP), Comrade Femi Aborisade, said: “Our concentration should be more at government. Should we for example also choose to focus on human rights activists who have turned it into ‘human rice’ affair and enriching themselves? In spite of the shortcomings, I will prefer we look for issues to attack government not shortcomings in the non-governmental organisations.”
Huge spending, more trouble on Nigerian waters
Nigeria, currently regarded as a hotspot for piracy, has spent a lot of money to curb theft and robbery on the country’s waters, but the expenses have sparked more crimes in the country’s maritime domain, reports BAYO AKOMOLAFE
Despite the acquisition of 179 high-speed boats by the Federal Government and the signing of $198 million (N72.27 billion) security contract with an Israeli firm by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Nigeria is losing $1.98 billion monthly to piracy.
The reason is that the country’s maritime domain is under constant attacks by criminals.
Apart from the acquisition of patrol boats, NIMASA had invested huge amount of money on the satellite surveillance system, which has the capacity to view all vessels on the country’s waterways.
The system, it was learnt, could detect vessels even if the Automatic Identification System (AIS) transponders were switched off.
Besides, the agency has supported other security agencies to acquire assets which would enable them to fight piracy and other maritime crimes.
Also, the agency’s Executive Director, Finance and Administration, Bashir Jamoh, said that NIMASA had just got approval for the importation of special gadgets which, according to him, are security specialised.
He said: “Those are the things we have to deploy to the communities that can easily have access to us such as walkie-talkie, cellular system that can be used under water.”
The executive director noted that the agency, in collaboration with HLSI Security Systems and Technology, an Israeli firm, had commenced the training of Nigerian security personnel.
Jamoh said that NIMASA had six fast intervention vessels approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) as well as other technology to patrol the waterways on a daily basis.
Worried by the huge amount of money spent to halt incessant sea robbery in the country, the former Speaker of House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, who traced revenue leakages in the country to insecurity and unabated maritime crimes, noted that several attacks had been reported off Nigeria’s coast which involved pirates stealing cargoes of crude oil and petroleum products.
He said: “It is even more worrisome to note that Nigeria is said to be losing about N7 trillion annually in the maritime sector due to leakages in revenue generation and insecurity in the waterways. Between January and March 2016, several attacks were reported off Nigeria’s coast. This was said to involve pirates stealing cargoes of crude oil and petroleum products.
“The increasing attacks and violence in the Gulf of Guinea have given Nigeria and other countries in the sub-region very damaging and negative image in addition to an estimated monthly loss of $1.5 billion. The onus is on the Nigerian Navy and NIMASA to stem the tide and secure the nation’s territorial waters, in cooperation with other agencies of government.”
Regardless of the spending, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) disclosed that Nigeria has paid $2.74 billion as insurance surcharge or war risk surcharge on vessels and cargoes to shipping line because of pirate attacks.
A war risk surcharge is a supplementary carrier charge that is only applied when insurance underwriters designate specific zones as war risks.
Furthermore, the surcharge is levied to recover potential extra-costs, such as re-routing or additional security where hijacking (piracy) is prevalent.
However, the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) has criticised Nigeria’s categorisation as a war risk nation; a development it said had led to a spike in insurance premiums slammed on vessels and cargoes destined for Nigeria by offshore insurers.
The NSC Executive Secretary/Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Mr. Hassan Bello, explained that the few attacks recorded on Nigerian waters were not sufficient to warrant tagging the country a war-risk nation.
He said: “We do not deserve the war-risk clause tagged on us. Our waters are safe. Again, this is where I have to commend the Marine Police for greatly streamlining procedures for cargo clearance at the ports. We’re also ensuring lesser vessel dwell time at ports. The responsiveness of the new IGP has been remarkable in this direction.”
With the huge resources committed to curb sea robbery and piracy on the nation’s waters, the President of the Association of Chandlers and Ship Suppliers of Nigeria (ACSSN), Mr. Aghanenu Ossai Vickson, said that the collusion among seamen, locals, sea robbers and security agencies as well as international organised criminal networks had made it difficult to tackle illegal activities on the nation’s waters effectively as conceived by government.
Vickson said that the unlawful activities had continued to thrive daily on Nigerian waters despite the surveillance.
He explained that Nigerian waterways ranked as one of the most dangerous in the world.
The president told New Telegraph that all waters in and off Nigeria remained risky as stated by the IMB.
He explained that this was the reason the bureau had advised all vessels calling at the nation’s seaports to be vigilant and take extra anti-piracy precautions due to various attacks and incidents that had occurred.
According to him, the heavily armed robbers with sophisticated weapons and the mere robbers with limited arms and ammunition had oftentimes encountered by ship chandlers while on course to supply goods to vessels offshore.
He said: “As result of the unsafe waterways, ship owners and managers have become apprehensive and extremely found it risky to purchase ship needs while on Nigerian waters. In some cases, some robbers pose as ship chandlers to gain access on board a vessel before attacking the crew members.
“We have had occasions where our members are attacked, ransacked and completely cart away their goods. In likewise, situations steal their supply boats. The economic implications of sea robbery activities on ship chandelling function on our waterways are enormous; it kills business and hampers the growth of our legitimate trade function, leading to huge loss of revenue, lives and property.”
Vickson said that his association had called for regulation of chandlers in the country to curb illegal chandlers operating on Nigerian waters, saying that no action had been taken by the appropriate authority.
Also, the Chairman, Ship Owners Forum, Mrs. Margaret Orakwusi, explained that the maritime industry was facing the problem of poor enforcement of Nigerian and global regulations.
Orakwusi, also a former president of the Nigerian Trawler Owners Association (NITOA), said in Lagos that the trawler operators had been battling with sea robbery on Nigerian waters.
She said: “We are still battling with sea piracy. It is still the way it has always been. Of course, you know that most operators have relocated to neighbouring countries, because of the sea piracy and operational cost.”
She said Nigeria’s loss was gain for other African countries.
Owing to the relocation of some firms to neighbouring countries,Orakwusi explained that the “fisheries sector in Ghana generates $1 billion in revenue annually”.
A maritime expert, Mr. Emmanuel Ilori (an engineer), said that maritime security contract to curb sea robbery was an exercise in futility.
He said: “There is armed robbery and sea robbery within our territorial waters but piracy did not take place within Nigerian territorial water, piracy only takes place within the international water.
“There might be sea robbery within the Nigerian territorial waters; it is Nigeria’s responsibility to respond to armed robbery and sea robbery within Nigeria territorial waters.”
Ilori explained that it was the responsibility of NIMASA and Nigerian Navy to secure the nation’s territorial waters.
The Managing Director of Sceptre Consult, Mr. Jayeola Olatunde, also said that government would continue to spend more on sea robbery, if anti-piracy bill at the National Assembly, which was gathering dust, was not enacted.
According to him, Nigeria had no effective laws to fight sea robbery and piracy, saying this was why impunity was so much everywhere on the sea.
Olatunde said that when robbers were caught in Nigerian waters they were confronted with laws that were not piracy related.
He said: “Piracy is an international crime. When the law against it is not there, then, you are not ready to fight them. This is why it is difficult for government to punish offenders in the maritime related crimes in the country.’’
The managing director noted that in Bonny, Rivers State, this year, the country had witnessed some attacks, while arrests had been made.
However, Olatunde said that the major challenge was lack of prosecution.
The former President of Ship Owners Association of Nigeria (SOAN), Mr. Greg Ogbeifun (an engineer), also called on government to urgently look into the issues of piracy.
Ogbeifun noted that kidnapping and armed robbery at sea had led to the situations where Nigerian waters were listed as first-rate zones harmful to maritime trade by the IMB.
He said: “Something is fundamentally wrong. If you are funding the fight against insurgency in the North, so aggressively, using the military forces; government should also fight piracy aggressively by equipping the Navy, and the water-borne amphibious units.
“Equip them effectively; equip them in the area of intelligence, equip them in hardware, have their personnel well trained, and setup operational basis in all places, multiplicity of them; and that is when pirates will run away.”
A breakdown of crimes in the country in the recent time shows that sea robbery first gained prominence in Nigeria when smaller ships shuttling employees and materials belonging to the oil companies in oil exploration were attacked through organised crimes.
Later, they became more aggressive and extended the nefarious activities to territorial waters, terminals and harbours rather than in the high seas.
Although the IMB in April 2019 gave a pass mark to Nigeria for low piracy in the first three months of the year, the bureau said that no vessel was reported hijacked in the period, marking the first time Nigeria had such record since the first quarter of 1994.
For instance, the report explained that in the first quarter of 2019, Nigeria experienced a decrease in reported piracy incidents, compared to the same period in 2018.
It further stated that there was a great improvement in the efforts to actively respond to incidents in the Nigerian maritime domain.
But despite the rating, within the last one and half months, the country’s water channels and anchorage have become the hotbed for foreign criminals and their local counterparts.
It was learnt that crude oil theft within the nation maritime domain was on the increase with impunity.
Already, the Nigerian Navy said that despite a series of arrests, the activities of the criminals had continued unabated.
In April 2019, the Navy handed over four foreigners and five Nigerians to the Nigeria Police for alleged possession of firearms and suspected crude oil theft within the maritime domain.
The Officer in Tactical Command (OTC), Commodore Dickson Olisemenogor, said that the nine suspects were arrested aboard Sea Angels 3, during operation “Junction Rain.’’
Olisemenogor explained that the nine suspects comprised three Greeks, an American and five Nigerians.
He said: “Before now, we go out there to make arrest and we hand over to relevant agencies, but the activities of the criminals have continued unabated. This time around, we made a detailed search and interrogation of ships at sea.
“Within the period of the operation, we interrogated over 100 ships, we boarded over 40 of them and in the process of boarding these vessels, one was suspected to be carrying illegal activities on our waters.”
During the operation, Olisemenogor stressed that the criminals were not shining their electronic gadget at sea, which would have indicated their position as stipulated by the International Maritime Organisation IMO).
He said: “Further search on the boat reviewed that they had four MI rifles that can do anything at sea and over 1,000 rounds of ammunition with them and various military kits. What they are doing on our waters, we do not know. We are handing over the suspects, exhibits and the boats to the Nigeria Police.”
Also, IMB explained that a product tanker, San Padre Pio, was attacked by four armed pirates in speedboat at Bonny River Inner Anchorage in off Nigeria within the last one month.
According to the bureau, two pirates managed to board the tanker and opened fire, aimed at superstructure.
This is even as a Spanish warship came to the rescue of the crew members of another merchant ship, which had been held hostage by Nigerian pirates for four days.
The bureau said that four persons armed with automatic weapons in a speedboat approached an unnamed vessel at Bonny River Inner Anchorage with two of the perpetrators managing to board the tanker and opening fire towards the accommodation.
“One guard was injured during the shooting and was given first aid by the crew. Two security boats responded and approached the tanker. The injured person was transferred to a security boat and taken ashore for medical assistance,” the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre said.
Similarly, unnamed vessel was said to have displayed unusual behaviour and did not respond to radio contacts, prompting the Spanish Navy ship Serviola to carry out an inspection.
Last year’s first quarter report, IMB disclosed that its piracy reporting centre] recorded 66 incidents, up from the 43 recorded in the corresponding period in 2017, and 37 incidents in the first quarter of 2016.
The reports further explained that Nigeria alone recorded 22 incidents between January and March 2018. Of the 11 vessels fired upon worldwide, eight were off Nigeria
The United States Department of State Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs blamed the increase in sea robbery on the failure of the law enforcement agencies to address the maritime crimes in the Nigerian waters.
It was learnt that the waters off the Nigerian coast experienced the highest number of piracy attacks and crew kidnap for ransom globally in 2018.
The bureau noted that most piracy occurred in two locations on Nigeria’s coastline, one is just off the coast of Lagos, the other near the Delta of the Niger River and the maritime safety agency has always been caught napping during every attack.
Worldwide, the bureau said that in the first three months of 2018, 100 crew were taken hostage and 14 kidnapped from their vessels. A total of 39 vessels were boarded, 11 fired upon and four vessels hijacked. IMB received a further 12 reports of attempted attacks.
Towards the end of March, it noted that two fishing vessels were hijacked 30 nautical miles off Nigeria and 27nm off Ghana in 2018.
Also, it stressed that Nigeria alone recorded 22 incidents. Of the 11 vessels fired upon worldwide, eight were off Nigeria – including 300,000 tons deadweight Very Large Crude Carrier (VLCC) tanker more than 40nm off Brass.
Accessing healthcare in pains, anguish
The exodus of Nigerian doctors abroad has led to acute shortage of medical professionals required to tackle numerous health conditions facing Nigerians. Based on this, the ordeal patients experience while seeking care in the country is unprecedented, reports APPOLONIA ADEYEMI
At the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital (UPTH), the story of a pregnant woman captures what majority of consumers of health care services, especially in public health facilities, experience on a daily basis in the country.
Shifting her bulk, wearily, Madam Onyinye Ogu leaves her home at 5.30a.m., and arrives the hospital at 6.30a.m. anxious to be among the first 30 on the queue. The effort notwithstanding, she sometimes waits till 3p.m. to see a doctor. Although this occurred in Port Harcourt, a high-brow city attracting many oil industry and financial institution workers, the ordeal of patients in Lagos, Ibadan, Lokoja, Makurdi, Kaduna, Kano, Borno and Gombe, is not different.
Arriving the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) in Lagos as early as 6a.m. is very common among patients seeking doctors’ attention for medical care in that tertiary health facility. Having lost confidence in several primary health centres (PHCs) close to their homes, many patients bypass one PHC or the other, travelling from as far as Sango-Ota in Ogun State, Badagry, Aja, Lekki, Okokomaiko, all in Lagos State and other environs to get to LASUTH, but arriving that hospital before 7a.m. does not guarantee being seen by medical doctors on duty early. It is therefore normal for patients who have arrived at the hospital at 7a.m. to still be on the long queue to see the doctor at 3.30p.m.
When the New Telegraph interacted with patients during a recent visit to LASUTH, some who volunteered to speak, expressed frustration for spending almost the whole day in their efforts to seek needed treatment for various ailments.
One of the patients, Tope Ajala, said it was easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a patient, whether on a casual or routine appointment, to walk into LASUTH, see the doctor promptly and depart. On the average, it could take six hours for an out-patient to wait in LASUTH before getting into the doctor’s consulting room. Before then, such patients would have been on the queue for hours, waiting for his or her turn to be seen by the doctors.
Another patient, who gave his name as Adunola, said based on an excruciating headache she had suffered for one week, relations and neighbours advised that she should seek care in LASUTH. However, after the initial registration at the Out-Patient Department, record staff referred her to the waiting area behind the Family Clinic. “That was where the waiting game started,” she said.
“I sat down with hundreds of other patients who were equally waiting for their turn to see the doctor. After sometime, a nurse would emerge from the doctors’ consulting rooms to call out the patients that it was their turn to move into doctors’ consulting rooms.
“Although, the nurse calling out names would have been out more than 10 times, surprisingly, my name has not been called,’’ she lamented.
“Becoming very impatient, I checked the time and only then did I realise that I had been sitting down, waiting for my turn to be called into the consulting room for over six hours, having arrived the hospital at 7a.m.
“My initial reaction was that most probably, my case note may have been misplaced.
“I approached one of the nurses to find out if my file had been mistakenly skipped. ‘Madam, go and sit down in the waiting area. When it’s your turn, I will call you in,’ the nurse shouted at me, rudely. With that cold reaction, I had no choice than to return to the waiting area, but I became very frustrated,” she added.
Adunola said she was eventually called into the consulting room at 3p.m. and by 3.30p.m., a doctor attended to her, prescribed some medications and directed that some medical tests be conducted, the results of which should be presented at future appointment within two weeks. Based on that bitter experience, Aduonla said, “I couldn’t be persuaded to keep that follow up appointment.”
These experiences may seem far-fetched, but a visit to any secondary and tertiary care hospital would reveal that the highlighted experiences are true-life accounts of the ordeal many Nigerians accessing health care face.
An example was the experience of an 80-year-old grandmother who resides in Lagos. After suffering severe stomach discomfort and passing watery, liquid stools for three days in her Ijesha home; she was rushed on emergency to LASUTH, but the facility staff couldn’t take her in based on a strike that had been declared over the non-employment of resident doctors.
Based on their advice to seek care at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) at Idi-Araba, Lagos, she was promptly taken to LUTH where her son was bluntly told that there was no bed space to admit her in. The fear of losing his mother to the ailment prompted her son to seek help from the top echelon of LUTH management, some of whom intervened and ensured a bed space was made available for the patient. The grandmother was lucky to have been treated and discharged after two weeks. While this grandmother was lucky to have been saved, another male patient who had slipped into coma at a private facility from where he was referred to LUTH about six months ago missed out on being treated and died, sadly.
Immediately on arriving LUTH in a taxi, there was no bed space to take him in; hence the patient who was unconscious remained in the cab for over six hours without any hope of getting a bed space for admission. Pressure from the taxi driver, who insisted that the patient be taken off the taxi prompted the relation to request that they (the patient and his relation) be driven back home. The patient passed on subsequently.
Another case that needs to be highlighted is that of the father of a Lagos-based journalist, Pa Ejiogu, who experienced a relapse from a surgical operation he did two years ago. Although he was rushed on emergency to the Federal Medical Centre (FMC) in Owerri sometime in September, the ‘no bed space’ drama played up again. With the intervention of some top officials from the Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH), who put telephone calls through to some top management staff of the FMC, Ejiogu, who was already being driven back home, was recalled to the facility where a bed space was created for him.
The experiences of Nigerians seeking medical care as demonstrated above have not only been frustrating, many Nigerians have lost confidence in the nation’s health care system. While some have resorted to seeking care from traditional medicine practitioners and quarks whose unwholesome businesses thrive against this background, out of the sheer frustrations from seeking medical care in the system, a few have ditched hospital care completely and chose to resort to self-medication as a way out. It has got to that stage where when some become ill they don’t want to hear about seeking care in hospitals. What many do is simply walk into some patent medicine stores where attendants without pharmaceutical training hand out medications to sick persons. Experience has also shown that even those persistently getting prescriptions from pharmacies are doing so as a stop gap, considering the huge burden of seeking care in the country.
Some of the patients, who spoke with the New Telegraph, said that it was not unusual to receive up to four-month appointments for treatments involving surgery from doctors at LASUTH, Ikeja. Some of them said it was almost impossible to obtain a short-term appointment to see a doctor at the hospital.
However, there is no doubt that these issues have contributed significantly to the high morbidity and mortality as well as the poor health indices being recorded in the country. Consequently, the questions being persistently asked are why is accessing care without excessive stress and discomfort from Nigerian hospitals not possible? From the situation that is playing out daily in many public and private hospitals, could there be a reversal of this trend?
Providing some of the background to the current situation, the National President of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Dr. Francis Faduyile, described the overcrowding of patients in tertiary hospitals across the nation as a fall out of medical doctors almost deserting primary health centres (PHCs).
Out of the 80,000 Nigerian medical doctors registered by the Medical Dental and Medical Council of Nigeria (MDCN, 40,000 doctors only practice in Nigeria, taking care of 200 million people.)
Bemoaning the exodus of Nigerian doctors seeking greener pastures in developed countries, Faduyile, at the opening of NMA’s annual general conference/delegates meeting on May 3, 2019, held in Abakaliki, estimated that “over 2,000 doctors migrate from Nigeria annually”.
The Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, who was represented at the event by the Chief Medical Director (CMD) of the Alex Ekwueme Federal Teaching Hospital, Abakaliki, Dr. Emeka Ogah, said that the Federal Government was striving to halt the doctors’ exodus.
He said: “We are not happy with the latest incidents of doctors seeking greener pastures outside the country and we will continue improving the welfare of the health workforce.’
“The Federal Executive Council (FEC) has supported our efforts to centralise internship posting and this will be unveiled within a year.”
Speaking further on the trend at another occasion, Faduyile, noted that the country was highest in the number of preventable deaths due to inadequate and poor healthcare services arising from shortage of medical personnel.
According to him, the foreign countries where doctors are relocating have more doctors than Nigeria.
He added: “Any well-meaning Nigerian should therefore be bothered because Nigeria has a low patient-to-doctor ratio and for us to get our acts right, we actually need more doctors. Although the World Health Organisation (WHO) stated that for optimal healthcare to be achieved, countries need doctor/patient ratio of one to 600, we have 0.2 per 1,000. You can see the disparity. What we have is not enough.
“In the United States (U.S.) or United Kingdom (UK) where our doctors are also going, they have an average of 2.8 doctors per 1,000 people.
“In U.S., that is about 14 times the number that they have in UK, whereas WHO states that we need an average of one doctor to 500 or 600 people. Nigeria, currently with our 40,000 to 200 million, has about one doctor to 5,000 people. In some parts of the country, it can be 10,000 people to one doctor and what that means is that for every 1,000 people, we are short of about 10 doctors and it is unfortunate.
“Nigeria has one of the highest perinatal mortality rates, maternal mortality rates and infant mortality rates. Our average lifespan is very low and these are results of poor health management of our people.”
Faduyile stressed the need for the Federal Government to honour the Abuja declaration by raising the bar on health budget from below six per cent to 15 per cent that was agreed by all African Heads of States in 2001.
“Sincerely, we have been advocating for government to put in place things that will retain doctors in this country. They are just shying away from doing that. We have advocated for them to honour the agreement they willingly entered into when, in 2001 at Abuja, all the African Heads of States came and had an agreement that 15 per cent of the budget should be devoted to health every year.”
According to Faduyile, to bridge the gap, the health sector needs a lot from government because government needs to improve primary health care (PHC) facilities.
“At the rural areas it is the PHCs that will take care of that and what we need is for government to strengthen the PHCs and in strengthening the PHCs we need the states and the Federal Government to work in tandem,” he added.
For example, Faduyile noted that most states were not paying medical staff good remuneration compared to the salary package from the federal facilities and “what happens is that if you take five doctors or medical personnel in a state employment, within five years, all of them would have resigned and taken new employments at federal health facilities”.
He said: “The retention of doctors at those PHCs is very poor. We have some states that are owing their medical staff upward of four to five months’ salaries and there is no way they can expect those staff to remain there.
“So, we have to do a lot at those PHCs. This is why the nation’s indicators of health are abysmally poor. It is at that places that we have high maternal mortality rates; it is at those places that we have high perinatal mortality rates; and it is in those places that we have high deaths as a result of illnesses such as diarrhoea, vomiting, malaria; and it is at those PHCs, too that we can take a lot of preventive management to guide against all these diseases.’’
However, retaining doctors at the primary level of care will also involve the upward review of doctors’ salaries. Usually, after graduation in Nigeria, the doctor, who is called a house officer or intern, earns between N150,000 and N200,000. This could be more or less depending on the hospital. Doctors working in Federal Government hospitals typically earn more than their counterparts in the state hospitals.
Usually after the doctor’s tenure as a house officer, the next step is the one year mandatory National Youth Service. In this case, the salary often drops below the earning as a house officer. Some doctors earn as low as N50,000 while others may have to work for free while relying solely on their National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) allowance.
Often times, the best option for the NYSC doctor is to work in any of the major private hospitals in the country. In this case the doctor could earn as close to his salary during his/her horsemanship year. Personalised medicine
Once a doctor is done with NYSC, the next step is to identify a specialisation where he/she intends to do residency. However, it’s not compulsory for the doctor to go on to specialise. There are other career paths for doctors, but the typical path is the residency programme.
Prior to applying for a residency position, it is expected that the doctor pass his/her primaries exam.
Once this hurdle is cleared, the next step is getting placement in any of the government or specialist hospitals that provide residency programmes.
However, getting admitted into a residency programme has become really tough these days due to the increased number of doctors in the country.
This probably explains why many doctors are going out of the country. On the other hand, a doctor can choose to work in a private hospital where he will be paid between N120,000 and N250,000, depending on the hospital.
A residency position offers much better because you earn more as you climb up the professional ladder. Usually, junior resident doctors earn between N190,000 and N220,000. As stated earlier, Federal Government hospitals often pay more than their counterparts.
Consultants in Federal Government hospitals are paid an estimated salary of N800,000 monthly while their state counterparts are paid around N700,000.
Overall, based on the Consolidated Medical Salary Scale (CONMESS), those employed by the Federal Government-owned health facilities, earn between N195,000 and N220,000 excluding tax and other deductions. However, state hospitals may pay as low as N150,000 but the highest paying states may offer up to N240,000 as monthly salary.
Apart from their basic salaries, doctors have access to other allowances and bonuses, which have been highlighted to include specialist allowance, call duty allowance, non-clinical duty allowance and clinical duty allowance.
Others are teaching allowance, hazard allowance and rural posting allowance.
Often, many of these allowances are not paid, hence doctors have learned how to manoeuvre and progress in the area of sourcing finance through multiple job earnings, consultancy services in both public and private hospitals.
Overall, the salaries of Nigerian doctors are not anywhere close to what is obtained in countries in developed countries of the United States (US) and United Kingdom (UK).
Reacting to the situation, the Chairman, Medical Guild, Dr. Babajide Saheed, said it was pathetic that people were going through this lot to access healthcare in the country in pains and in depression.
He said: “It is unacceptable, uncalled for and unjustifiable for the populace because people voted for those in government in order to provide accessible, affordable, equitable and qualitative health care delivery for the populace.
“Unfortunately, they are getting this health delivery through stress, frustration. Some even die in the process.’’
The Medical Guild is the association of medical doctors employed under the Lagos State government.
Giving the background to this trend, Saheed, who is a consultant orthopaedic, said the first cause of this was the shortage of manpower in the health sector.
He said: “If a doctor who is supposed to see three patients, sees six or 10 patients, there will be effect on the person that is accessing healthcare.
“Similarly, if there are 10 patients to be surgically operated and there are two doctors only to carry out the operation, that will also increase the duration of the operating time for those patients because the manpower is not there.
“Thirdly, the needed equipment and infrastructure are not there.’’
According Saheed, if there is not enough theatre and doctors have to share theatre and instead of carrying out operations two to three times weekly it is done once because that is the only allocation that is the patient can get, it increases the waiting hour for patients.
“For instance, if there are two to three doctors that are supposed to see 150 patients, it increases waiting time for the patients because the doctors are not machines. Besides, access to care will be difficult; some patients can arrive the hospital at 9a.m. and before they can see a doctor, it will be up to 3p.m.,” he added.
Based on this, the chairman of Medical Guild said there must be employment of more doctors; there should be incentives; there should be infrastructural development while budgetary allocations to health should be increased to from 5.6 to 15 per cent.
In April 2001, African Union countries met and pledged to set a target of allocating at least 15 per cent of their annual budget to improve the health and education.
Sadly, he noted that the government abandoned this laudable plan, resulting in these crises.
Saheed reasoned that if people had access to quality health care and education, “all these problems will reduce”.’
He listed the way out to include the employment of more health workers, increment of incentives for health workers, improved remuneration, improved welfare package which must include the provision of improved house rent and car loans for health workers.
Similarly, Saheed called for the provision of improved infrastructural facilities: more hospitals and health centres should be built and the tools that the health workers would use to provide the needed services should equally be provided.
On how to address the recurrent problem of lack of bed space facing clients, especially critically-ill patients, Saheed said the problem would not change if the number of health facilities were not increased.
He added: “We can’t have adequate bed space because there is limit to the number of beds in LASUTH. Whereas, he noted that the number of people in Lagos, which is up to 20 million presently, increases by the day.
“If the population is increasing and there is no increase in infrastructure and the health providers, the population will suffer. Until they bring healthcare to limelight and make it a priority before we can move forward.’’
Giving his perspective of the current situation facing patients, a family physician, Dr. Oluwajimi Sodipo, said the challenge had to do with a mismatch in the number of people trying to access care, “which is growing at an astronomical rate and the number of people providing the care”.
However, across all levels of clients accessing care either to address chronic medical conditions or for preventive strategy, “there is a great reduction in the number of health care practitioners and when you juxtapose this with the number of population seeking care, what you get is a mismatch.
“The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that one doctor should be in place to cater for 600 people, not to see 600 sick people. But for every 600 people, there should be one doctor,’’ he said.
Sodipo reasoned that out of the 600 people, some might never go to the hospital; some might go for check-up while some would go to hospital because they had acute problem.
“The situation we have in Nigeria is one doctor catering for upward of 3,000 to 4,000 of the population and because of that it has affected how people access care.
“Across all the cadre of clients seeking care, there is a shortage of care providers, resulting in increase in the waiting time for patients making it difficult for them to access care in the hospital.
“This gets worse when patients with special needs. For example, some patients want to access care provided by specialist doctors. In the whole of Nigeria, we have just about 50 neurosurgeons. In some states, many patients can’t even access such care because in some zones, there is only one such specialist doctor.
“We have a problem of increasing population and a decrease in the number of people that can provide that care; again, that is why the government has come up with some strategies: task shifting and trying to promote more of preventive health care so that we don’t have people that are critically ill.
“When people live preventive lifestyles, take certain precautions, they don’t fall ill and the likelihood of them accessing care reduces,” he said.
Sodipo also called for the institution of health insurance by state governments while expanding access for the coverage of more Nigerians into the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS).
He added that health insurance would pave the way for generating more funding for treatment. Most importantly, halting doctors’ brain drain would help to stem the tide of long-waiting hours in health facilities as well as in reducing the burden and frustration patients face while seeking health care.
Gridlock: Pains, agonies of living in Apapa
Going in and out of Apapa GRA, Nigeria’s foremost maritime city, from any part of Lagos is a torturous journey; not because of long distance, but the daily pains of navigating through the sea of trailers parked on both expressways (Apapa-Wharf and Oshodi-Apapa roads) have weighed down heavily on the health and finances of residents, business owners, property owners and government’s infrastructure, reports DAYO AYEYEMI
Apart from being a maritime hub, the residential aspect of the enclave is right inside the foremost Apapa Government Reservation Area (GRA), which at a time paraded the best of infrastructural facilities, tight security, easy access and beauty coupled with lush vegetation that adorned most streets and houses.
Being a port city, Apapa was choice location to live for the rich, high-net worth businessmen and sailors.
It is also on record that the first Premier of the defunct Western Region of Nigeria, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, once lived in Apapa.
Other individuals such as former Minister of Commerce, the late Bola Kuforiji-Olubi, former Vice President, Admiral Augustus Aikhomu (now late), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship candidate in Lagos State, Jimi Agbaje, Chief Edwin Clark, and host of others also lived in Apapa.
Apapa was hub of offices for international businesses and real estate, with the rich jostling to own property for residential or and commercial purpose in the enclave.
The affluence paraded by Apapa GRA also trickled down to its neighbours in downtown Ajegunle, Ijora, Satellite and Olodi Apapa areas.
However, all these glittering facilities and serene environment suddenly disappeared by the furnace of pains inflicted on residents, business owners and motorists by gridlock triggered by trucks/tankers’ drivers on Apapa roads.
The location, which was a once sought-out place, has been deserted by tenants and some landlords, while many blue chip companies have relocated.
New Telegraph’s findings show that from Liverpool to Ibadan Street, Olorogun Ibru Way, Ladipo Oluwole Street, Oduduwa Road, Sola Ayo-Vaughan Street and Marine Road, many of the houses have become emptied and streets in bad shape.
It was learnt that their residents ran away from the threat that ports reform of 2006 has unleashed on them.
Although Nigerian economy benefited from the reform, Apapa residents have been left with pains as perennial traffic on all routes leading to the enclave has led to continuous dwindling of property values despite several warnings and ultimatum issued to truck drivers/owners by government both at the Federal and state levels to move trucks off Apapa roads.
House rents in Apapa GRA have also dropped significantly, and vacancy rate in the neighbourhood has risen by almost 50 per cent.
When New Telegraph took the tour of entire Apapa area last Wednesday before the last 72-hour ultimatum Presidential Order issued on May 22, 2019 to trucks/tankers’ owners to move their trucks off the roads came, the entire Apapa-Oshodi and Apapa-Wharf expressways were blocked by trucks and articulated vehicles.
Also, all inner streets from Ijesha, Rainbow, Mile 2, Wilma to Ajegunle and entire Ijora were also no-go areas as truck and tanker drivers turned the roads into trailer parks, preventing residents and motorists easy access to their homes and business centres.
Our correspondent, who had boarded a public bus going to Apapa at 8a.m. on the fateful day, had to alight at Ijesha bus stop on Oshodi-Apapa Expressway to get on a commercial motorbike popularly called “Okada” about noon owing to the gridlock caused by trucks.
Two lanes on the main expressway were taken over by truck and tanker drivers, leaving just one lane for other road users.
Also, most Lagos flyovers from Oju-Elegba, Stadium, Alaka, Ijora and Marine Bridge were not spared by truck drivers.
Motorists and commercial bus drivers who got wind of the gridlock early enough took one-way, driving against traffic from Isolo to Berger Roundabout on Oshodi-Apapa Expressway.
Okada riders took advantage of the prolonged traffic jam, making brisk business for themselves by jerking up their fares.
“This is what people experienced on a daily basis on this route, and this is how we make our money too,” the okada rider, a middle-aged Hausa, who took the reporter from Ijesha bus stop, manoeuvring his way through the gridlock to Berger Roundabout, said.
“Yesterday alone, I made more than N8,000 before 6p.m.,” he announced while grinning
Officials of the police, Army, Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) and the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) on the expressway were having a hectic time clearing the traffic: it was an overwhelming task.
The entire Wilma Road from the expressway to Boundary in Ajegunle was a no-go area for motorists as truck drivers blocked the entire street.
For Emeka Ezekiel, a resident of Wilma Crescent, the nuisance of truck drivers in the neighbourhood has become residents’ headache over the years.
“This problem has been with us more than four years now. There are occasions we won’t even be able to access our homes unless we trek a long distance due to gridlock caused by these trailers,” he said.
A trader, who identified herself simply as Ifeoma, said many of her customers could no longer afford to come to Wilma due to the nuisance of truck drivers on the roads.
She added that other businesses in the area were badly affected.
Adamu, another okada rider, who took the reporter to Boundary, said he used to avoid the road during gridlock, explaining that a journey of less than 10 minutes could take over one hour during gridlock.
The trip from Boundary to Ijora was much better and took less than 30 minutes for the reporter, but became hectic from Costain to Apapa-Wharf as trucks took over the entire expressway as usual.
Another person, whose head office is located in Apapa, Mr. Chuks, said that “those who have any business coming to Apapa at all, have resorted to other measures,” aside trekking long distances from Ijora, to driving their vehicles to Marina/CMS on Lagos Island, and crossing over by ferry into Apapa, to return by the same route and method.
The reporter was still on the trip when the news of Presidential Order of 72-hour ultimatum to truck and tankers’ drivers to move away their trucks from Apapa roads broke.
While it was cheering news to new comers, other residents and stakeholders were not bothered, saying that was not the first time such an order would emanate from the Federal Government.
Reacting, Bode Olaniyan, a resident of Apapa GRA, said the issue of Apapa gridlock was beyond issuance of order.
According to him, until all factors contributing to the gridlock are identified and tackled, the problem will persist.
He said that was not the first time the President would give deadline for truck drivers to leave Apapa roads and they refused, stating that the latest order would not be an exemption.
Just as Olaniyan said, as at last Saturday when the ultimatum supposed to have expired, trucks were still blocking the expressways.
Reacting to the 72-hour ultimatum order by the Federal Government, President of Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Babatunde Runwase, said the logjam caused by trailers and trucks in Apapa was not a problem that could be resolved by fiat. “I believe the trucks will be back. The problem cannot be resolved by fiat,” he said.
Looking back, he said that the problem started with vandalism of pipelines carrying petroleum products by oil thieves. Due to this challenge, he said all tankers had to come to Lagos to load their products, adding that this also led to proliferation of tank farms in Apapa.
According to survey carried out by the Organised Private Sector (OPS), it was revealed that Nigeria was losing trillions of naira yearly to Apapa gridlock.
Runwase urged the need to look at the problems confronting Apapa holistically. “The problem is such that we must deal with it; pipeline has to be used to move petroleum products and rail must replace trucks to promote efficiency at the port. There should be a single window where all agencies will look at documents,” he said.
Three days after the expiration of the Presidential order, a Female LATSMA official, Folashade Arogundade, was reportedly crushed to death by one of the truck driver that was reversing.
Officials of the FRSC said they were making progress as measures were being put in place to ensure sustainability in accordance with the recent Presidential ultimatum to clear the gridlock in Apapa and its environs.
The Lagos State Sector Commander, FRSC, Mr. Hyginus Omeje, said they started with meeting with stakeholders, pointing out that it was discovered that 54 private parks were identified where trucks were expected to move into before going to the port with the assistance of manual call-up system that the Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA) was practicing now.
He said the Lily pond’s park had also been opened for containerised vehicles for parking before accessing the port.
The Chairman of Apapa Residents’ Association, Brigadier Sola Ayo-Vaughn (rtd.), in a report, said the major causes of the Apapa problem were the NPA, which is government’s regulatory agency, and the shipping companies.
He said that the failure of NPA to regulate activities in the environs was reason for the degeneration of Apapa below the standard of what could be called a GRA.
Vaughn said: “The problem of Apapa goes beyond the gridlock which everybody sees; a lot of us, especially the retirees, depend on income from our houses; many of these houses have been empty in the last five years.”
On April 26, 2019, the Senate Committee on Works issued a two-week ultimatum to NPA, truck owners, and shippers to find lasting solution to Apapa gridlock.
On December 14, 2018, residents and firms’ owners in Apapa gave a 21-day ultimatum to the Federal Government to remove all articulated trucks or incur their wrath.
They threatened that failure of the government to effect the removal of the trucks would result into indefinite shutdown of all entries linking the ports. They lamented that they were living in perpetual fear due to recurring attacks by hoodlums who had taken advantage of the situation in the area.
The residents added that apart from the fact that the area had become a hideout for armed robbers, some families during emergencies had lost loved ones in need of medical care to total blockade of access roads by the articulated vehicles.
Speaking on behalf residents and business owners, Vaughan hinted that they had started preparing for the possibility that the government would not yield to their demands.
According to him, the residents and business owners are prepared to block all entries both in and out of Apapa since the gridlock had already wrecked businesses and robbed residents of good lives.
Vaughan said government and its agencies in connivance with the shipping companies deliberately refused to implement policies meant to keep the trucks and containers off the road so as to force landlords, residents and business owners out of Apapa.
In September 2017, the Lagos State government also gave a 48-hour ultimatum to owners and operators of articulated vehicles/trucks and petroleum tankers to stay away from Lagos due to incessant traffic bottleneck impacting negatively on commercial activities of citizens.
The Federal Government had through the Federal Roads Committee on Surveillance and Action Against Road Abuse (FERCSARA), in conjunction with the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA), moved on the massed trailers, tankers, containers and trucks, which lined both entry routes into Apapa, Nigeria’s premier seaport.
Also, the Lagos State government under former Governor Babatunde Fashola, tried to adopt the same tough stance to curb the Apapa traffic situation.
Back then, a persistent task-force set up by Fashola harassed the errant tanker and container drivers into compliance and scores of trailers and containers were impounded and towed away, with the owners reportedly forced to pay fines ranging between N50,000 and N100,000, depending on the type of vehicle and the nature of the offence.
However, the remedial measure could not be sustained for long, as the owners of the impounded vehicles applied pressure on government at the federal level to call Lagos State to order.
Effects on houses, businesses
According to the President of Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, businesses are losing N140 billion to Apapa gridlock weekly.
Indeed, a recent study by the Organised Private Sector (OPS) showed that the Nigerian economy is currently losing about N600 billion in Customs revenue, estimated $10 billion (N3.06 trillion at N306.35/$1) on non-oil export and about N2.5 trillion corporate earnings across the sectors on a yearly basis, due to inefficiencies at the ports and access roads to the ports.
According to the study undertaken by the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), in collaboration with the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) and OPS made up of MAN, NECA, NACCIMA, NASME, NASSI, and Centre for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), the chamber noted that the port reforms undertaken by the Federal Government are being frustrated by businesses and government agencies thriving from the inefficiency of the ports.
It is estimated that 40 per cent of the entire buildings in the Apapa GRA are empty. On the average, 10 houses are empty on any given street. Average house rent (buildings) in this area is N5 million per annum, meaning that in one street alone, income loss for the five-year period is about N250 million. Many property owners are selling at ridiculously low prices.
Vaughn lamented that, in spite of this ugly situation, Lagos State government still collects tenement rates from Apapa residents and expects them to pay same as payable in Ikoyi and Ikeja GRA whereas some houses here have been empty for three to five years.
Although the Federal Government has carried out rehabilitation of bad portions of Wharf Road, Ijora Bridge and part of Commercial Road to ease traffic, the gridlock has refused to leave. The gridlock also led to degeneration of Liverpool and other major roads in the Apapa GRA.
On Wharf Road alone, it was reported that more than 10 banks and two eateries have shut down their branches due to the pains and difficulty in accessing these branches, leading to loss of substantial customers in the area.
The Managing Director of NPA, Ms Hadiza Bala Usman, in a report, said the Lagos Port had become an emergency, adding that whatever losses that stakeholders might incur would be reviewed.
Usman, while stating this after meeting with the terminal operators, also called on shipping companies, port managers and allied stakeholders to do all they could to eradicate or at best mitigate the effects of the present congestion at the nation’s seaports.
According to the NPA boss, the issue of ports congestion should be of concern to all and therefore they should look into the issue of evacuation of empty containers, increase in free days of storage, wavering of demurrage for a definite period of time, creating a window of some period to accommodate the concerns of importers.
Effect on bridges
It is not an exaggeration that some Lagos bridges are hosting over 3,000 trucks daily.
Already, structural engineers are raising the alarm to stop trucks’ drivers from using the bridges as parking space to prevent total collapse.
Investigation revealed that the expansion joints of the bridges have been weaken and would need urgent replacement because of the heavy permanent loads on them.
Some of the affected bridges under great burdens of immobile articulated vehicles laden with empty containers and other export goods include Abalti Barracks, Ojuelegba, Stadium, Iponri, Ijora, Iganmu, Coconuts, Liverpool, Eko and Carter Bridges owing to prolonged and recurring traffic jam and bad state of roads leading to Apapa ports and tank farms.
It was learnt that BUA, Standard Flour Mills, Dangote Group, Flour Mills of Nigeria, Honey Well and Crown Flour Mills, operating at the industrial areas of Lagos and Tincan Island ports owned 70 per cent of the trucks.
According to structural engineers, long staying on the bridges by stationary vehicles would have negative impacts on the facility.
The former President, Nigerian Institution of Structural Engineers, Mr. Victor Oyenuga, also warned that most of the flyovers in Lagos had heavy load already, pointing out that additional stationary loads on the bridges could lead to total collapse.
He explained that trucks were not expected to park on the bridges.
The Federal Controller of Work for Lagos, Mr. Adedamola Kuti, an engineer, confirmed that expansion joints of some of the bridges have been weakened.
New Telegraph learnt that the security operatives, who supposed to enforce the law, have been exploiting the system by making illegal money from truck drivers
“We pay huge amount of money to stay on the bridge in order to meet up empty containers surcharges by the shipping lines that own the boxes,” said a trucker, identified simply as Kabiru.
Confirming the claims, the Lagos State Vice Chairman (Dry Cargo) sector of Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO), Mohammed Inuwa Abdullahi, said that about 4,500 and 5,000 trucks used the bridges on a daily basis because of the tank farms, industries in the ports and terminals.
Abdullahi noted that truckers stayed on the road for over six weeks before getting to Apapa Port.
He said: “They eat, defecate, take their bath on the queue if they have the opportunity of getting water within and sometimes for those drivers who base in Lagos, their wives or children come with food on the queue because some of them cannot leave the trucks.
“If you don’t want to stay long you pay money to the security operatives. Payment is in different categories. Those that can afford to bribe their ways pay between N100,000 and N120,000 and within two or three days they will load and other that are on the dedicated lane will remain there for between five and six weeks or more than that before getting to Apapa Port.”
Also, Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu has pledged to end Apapa traffic jam within 60 days in office.
Sugarcane: Economic prosperity in a stick
Nigeria can resolve its energy crisis if, like some countries, tap into the potentialities embedded in sugarcane, writes CALEB ONWE
Sugarcane, known by different names across Nigeria, is said to belong to the grass family (Poaceae). In the northern part of the country where there is large scale cultivation of sugarcane, it is called “Rake,” the Yoruba know it as “Ireke” while some parts of Igbo call it “Achara.”
A research work produced by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) shows that sugarcane first originated in the New Guinea and later was distributed all over the world. It also revealed that the scientific name of sugarcane is Saccharum officinarum.
Though it is mostly grown in the northern part of Nigeria, its incredible sweetness is savoured across the country by people of all class. It is available at a very cheap price for everyone who wishes to partake in its beneficial properties.
Research also shows that sugarcane is commercially grown in many countries including South Asia, Southeast Asia, Brazil, Latin America, etc. Sugarcane juice is one of the most common drinking juices.
Sugarcane is said to contain combination of sugars like the glucose, sucrose and fructose.
Findings show that while many countries have started reaping the enormous economic benefits embedded in sugarcane, Nigeria, with vast arable land suitable for the plantation of sugarcane, is yet to realise its potential in that sector.
Sugarcane farmers are in the sub-tropical and tropical regions in the country where sugarcane is said to be most suitable. Findings also revealed that states like, Kwara, Niger, Nasarawa, Kano, Kaduna, Jigawa, Taraba, Katsina and Sokoto have comparative advantage in sugarcane production.
A sugarcane farmer, Adams Usman, a native of Kaduna State, but residing in Bwari Area Council of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), has been planting sugarcane in a small swamped area, though the plantation is sizable, he confirmed he had made great fortune from it.
Walking with him through the bushy waterlogged track leading to the plantation and looking at the yet to mature stems of sugarcane, one could see unfulfilled dreams of this farmer, who desires to become a mega sugarcane farmer, but has remained a peasant one for too long.
Usman stated that his desire to expand the farm has led him to the Bank of Agriculture, but could not realise his dreams, as the bank only approved the N100,000, which was not sufficient for what he wanted.
He revealed that from the plantation he makes an average of N50,000 annually after cost of inputs.
Usman usually hires up to five labourers to plant and also to weed the overgrown grasses.
During harvesting, he uses off-takers who are willing to cut the sugarcane directly from the farm, but must be supervised to ensure that no damage is done.
Chief Sugarcane Breeder and Director, Information and Documentation, at National Cereals Research Institute, Badeggi, Dr. Mohammed Ishaq, revealed that there were chewable and industrial types of sugarcane.
He said the chewable type had more water and easily peeled, while the industrial sugarcane was hard to peel and is better crushed with machine to extract the juice.
Some reports have it that Nigeria has the potential to generate up to N2.5 trillion annually from sugarcane, when fully developed and turned to finished products. Nigeria is said to be producing about 1.7 metric tonnes of sugar, a by-product of sugarcane.
When Ishaq said the sugarcane industry was a goldmine which Nigeria could mine, but neglected, he was undoubtedly making allusion to empirical evidence which well-articulated research findings have established.
Several researches have revealed that the growing concerns about the dwindling fortune of Nigeria’s oil and gas, especially in the global market index can actually be ameliorated with deliberate focus on the development of other sectors of the economy, including the sugarcane industry.
On the process of planting sugarcane, Ishaq said: “For the sugarcane to survive, a farmer has to split the stem into foot long pieces, dig a furrow and then dip the stem into the ground.”
He also explained that sugarcane was better planted in the northern Nigeria than in the southern part. This, he said, was due to less rainfall and more sunshine in the North.
According to him, the development of the sugarcane industry is capable of up scaling the economic growth, and this can be possible by deliberately harnessing both the health and nutritional values embedded in sugarcane.
According to USDA findings, some of the nutritional and health benefits of sugarcane include; “increases muscle power, strengthens major body organs. It assists, to a great level, in strengthening the major organs such as the eyes, stomach, heart, kidneys, mind, sex organs, etc, if used regularly.
“It helps women who are trying to conceive can indulge in having a glass of sugarcane juice daily because of its high folic acid content. It rehydrates body and quenches thirst by rehydrating the body thus known as the instant body booster and used by athletes. It treats fever. It is useful for a person suffering from fever and prevents protein loss in the body. It treats jaundice
“Sugarcane juice is very helpful in the treatment of jaundice; it provides instant recovery from jaundice by maintaining the glucose level in the body. It is a remedy for sore throat. Sugarcane juice is considered as the best home remedy for treating sore throat and flu.
“Regulates digestive system functioning. It is a very good energy drink for the well-being of the digestive system. It treats constipation. Sugarcane provides help in treating constipation due to its high potassium level. It promotes wound healing.
“It prevents heart diseases and strokes as it decreases the bad body cholesterol level and triglycerides.
“Sugarcane treats various diseases. Sugarcane juice helps in treating dysuria (burning sensation while passing urine), prostatitis, kidney stones, STDs (sexually transmitted diseases), urinary tract infections, etc, if taken with lime juice or coconut water.
“Sugarcane juice is alkaline in nature. It helps in fighting various types of cancer like prostate and breast cancer.
“It promotes bone growth. Sugarcane juice is helpful in the growth and development of the bones because of its calcium and phosphorous contents.
“It prevents anaemia. Sugar is very useful for persons suffering from anaemia as it has good amount of iron which enhances the Hb level in the body.
“It is a rich source of antioxidants. Sugarcane juice has an antioxidant property because of its flavonoid and phenolic compounds availability which works as an anti-inflammatory, antiviral, anti-allergic, anti-tumour agents and prevents body from various diseases accordingly.”
A nutritionist, Mrs. Elizabeth Okemdi, also confirmed that sugarcane cures some illnesses.
Okemdi, who works with a private healthcare organisation in Abuja, disclosed that while she had not done an extensive research to determine the whole values of sugarcane, she had the opportunity of interacting with several individuals who had attested to the medicinal values found in sugarcane juice.
According to her, sugarcane juice can be helpful in strengthening the liver and can also serve as a potentremedy for jaundice.
“Jaundice is a condition where you find yellow pigmentation of the skin and membrane due to elevated levels of a substance known as bilirubin in the bodily fluids and is triggered by poor functioning liver. What sugarcane juice does is replenish your body with proteins lost and nutrients that it needs to recover quickly,” she said.
She also confirmed a research report which suggested that another important health benefit of sugarcane juice is that: “It is rich in good kind of carbohydrates, protein, iron, potassium and other essential nutrients that make it the ideal energy drink. Especially in the summer months, a glass of cold sugarcane juice lifts both your health and your depleting levels of energy. It builds up plasma and body fluids and helps counter dryness and fatigue.”
Ishaq, like many other experts, posited that if all relevant subsectors of the economy which had something to with sugarcane are given attention, and Nigeria could diligently begin to tap into its potential, the thought of losing global relevance without the ‘oil power’, would be foregone.
Stakeholders also said that the over N200 billion which the country spends annually importing both raw and processed sugar can be deployed into infrastructural development and other facilities that would bring Nigeria at par with other developed nations of the world.
Researches have also shown that apart from manning the gold in the cane by harnessing both health and nutritional values of sugarcane for national development, Nigeria’s quest for sustainable energy could also tap into the huge potential in the sugarcane.
In a report credited to the Director of Policy, Planning, Research and Strategies at National Sugar Development Council, Mr. Hezekiah Kolawole, said that sugarcane could be exploited to generate electricity.
For example in Brazil, sugarcane is being used for electricity. It is one of the alternative power-generating means of the South American country noted mostly for its citizens’ prowess in football but sugarcane has helped to raise the country’s economy to the elite class in the world.
In 2015, sugarcane mills supplied more than 20,000 GWh for Brazil’s electricity requirements. Sugarcane, in growth, converts sunlight into chemical energy which is stored inside the plant. Each of the main plant components contains approximately one-third of this stored energy
Kolawole said: “Sugarcane is not only used for the production of sugar and fuel ethanol but can also be used for the generation of electricity and in the production of a host of other derivatives including food preservatives and seasoning, as well as industrial chemicals used in the pharmaceutical, leather and other industries.
“The government should adopt sugarcane as a raw material for the generation of electricity and production of industrial goods, which would have gone a long way in solving the problem of shortage of power supply in the country.’’
Experts said that since sugarcane could be used as a raw material for electricity generation, both the private sector and government could create the required synergy that would lead to its development.
It was also said that the full potential of Small and Medium Enterprises could be further developed with an increased attention to the sugarcane industry.
Their argument is predicated on the fact that the number of farmers of sugarcane and small businesses which involve sugarcane would practically grow.
New Telegraph’s correspondent spoke with some farmers and sellers of sugarcane at various locations both within the FCT and in the nearby Nasarawa State, the findings were quite revealing and lend credence to the amazing benefits of sugarcane.
The encounter also further established the fact that the sugarcane industry is a goldmine which Nigeria has blatantly refused to explore.
Patricia James is a juice seller in one of the popular gardens at Area 8, Garki, Abuja. According to her, very important personalities come to book for the sugarcane juice in her cafeteria.
James, who said she had been in the business for just six months, noted that during the season of sugarcane, other fruit juices were usually sold on a low scale because “more people go for sugarcane juice”.
She said: “Since I started working here, people who come here to place orders for sugarcane juice don’t look like poor people. We sell 75cl for N1,000 and during the season like now, we sell more of sugarcane juice. People said it cures many sicknesses, but that I don’t know, because I am not a medical expert.”
Mrs. Gloria Umar, like many other sellers of sugarcane in Abuja, does not care to know the origin of the ‘cane’ that ironically is producing unbelievable sweetness and nutritional values and even financial empowerment.
All she cares to know about and also ready at all times to discuss is how to enhance the prospect and the sweetness from the cane that has helped to lubricate her family’s economic wheels over the years.
The middle-aged woman is not only proud to be called a sugarcane seller, but wants to tell people about the unbelievable transformation which the sugarcane business has done to her life and her family’s welfare.
This correspondent’s encounter with her and some of the sellers of sugarcane in the FCT revealed not just the secret behind the periodic boom of sugarcane business, but the hidden nutritional values in its juice.
Though they may not understand its botanical history, they are ever ready to announce that sugarcane is “good for the body and gives us good money”.
Gloria Umar, who has a depot where trucks off load bundles of sugarcane almost every week, at Kuruduma village, Guzape District, was so proud to announce that she is not just a petty seller of sugarcane, but a major off-taker.
Umar, who hails from Kaduna State but lives in Abuja, is proud to say that she buys a hectare of land in Kafanchan where sugarcane farmers have considerable large plantation. According to her, once the sugarcane matures in the farm, all she does is to get labourers who help to harvest it for her.
Even though she couldn’t give the exact size of the plantation she usually buys, she noted that she usually pays up to N400,000 to buy a large plantation which she harvests up to three times.
According to her, in each harvest, up to 200 bundles of 10 canes are realised, and when sold she gets up to N300,000 from each trip. She said that each bundle of 10 is sold for N1,500 to retailers who come to her depot to buy.
She said: “I bring the sugarcane from Kafanchan Kaduna State. I used to buy a plantation of sugarcane in hectare, and harvest it in bits.
“When I harvest 200 bundles of 10, which I sell for N1,500, I get up to N300,000. The 200 bundle is gotten from less than half of the plantation.
“When I harvest the whole hectare and sell, I make more than N200,000 profit after all the expenses which include transportation.
“This business is, however, a periodic one. I have built houses from this business within the few years I have been into it. With this business, I am helping my family and the family’s economic fortune has improved.
“They say sugarcane cures hepatitis. In the hospital, patients who have certain ailments are always advised to take sugarcane juice. I want the government to help me with funds to enable me expand the business, to help me take the sugarcane to other parts of the country.”
Baba Inua Jubril is a local sugarcane farmer in Doma community of Nasarawa State. He said he inherited the plantation from his parents and had sustained his immediate family with the proceeds of sugarcane business for over 20 years.
Jubril, with the help of an interpreter, disclosed that he makes up to N600,000 from his sugarcane plantation annually after all the necessary expenditures.
He could not give the size of his plantation, but his description suggests that he has a large expanse of land which he has all these years used in growing sugarcane.
An off-taker of sugarcane, Malam Idris Zakari, was more concerned about the loss of business which the small holder farmers and sellers of sugarcane may suffer, with the coming on board of the proposed Dangote sugar factory in the area.
Zakari said that many people like him might lose their means of livelihood once the Dangote sugarcane factory commences operations.
New Telegraph findings revealed that some of the factors frustrating efforts of sugarcane farmers include their inability to apply necessary farm input as well as the sole dependence on rain for irrigation and high cost of starting Capital.
Sugarcane farmers are also limited by lack of technology, knowledge and facilities on proper preparation techniques and methods.
Stakeholders, who agreed that sugarcane industry is a goldmine waiting to be exploited in Nigeria, have also suggested a template which, according to them, could make the dream of developing the sector a reality.
An agro merchant, Bulus Ndagi, noted that while over 800,000 hectares of land along the rivers Niger and Benue awaits investors who wish to tap into the potential of sugarcane, the government must muster enough political will to create an enabling environment for the industry to develop and thrive.
He said: “Cultivation of sugarcane was relegated to the background due to the poor performance of government-owned sugar companies which were privatised in 2002.
It has unequivocally been established that the sugarcane industry can cover so much economic gap in Nigeria, but what remains in doubt is the preparedness of both the government and the private sector to recognise it as an abandoned goldmine and take steps to explore it.
C’River-Ebonyi: Neighbours at war over boundary
For several years, peace has eluded two communities sharing affinity in both Cross River and Ebonyi States, but government in both states and the NBC have failed to unite the people, reports CLEMENT JAMES
The intractable, age-long and never-ending clashes between the Ukelle people in Yala Local Government Area of Cross River State and their neighbours at Igbeagu in Izzi Local Government Area of Ebonyi State seem to have defied realistic solution.
Since 2005 when the first crisis erupted, government, at both the federal and state levels, has not only lost control of the situation; it has found no suitable idea to help resolve the crisis. Even the National Boundary Commission (NBC), which is saddled with the responsibility of demarcating inter-state boundaries, has not been able to step in to end the crisis.
Also untenable is the excuse given by the Acting Director General of the NBC, Adaji Adamu, that lack of funds was responsible for the continued boundary crisis across the country. For a conflict situation which has taken so long, one would have thought that pragmatic solution would have long been found, given the ethnic sentiments that the conflict has generated over the years.
There are, as usual, various versions with regard to the genesis of the crisis. One version has it that the Izzi people had pleaded with the then Ogoja City Council (as it was then known), for a land to settle down after the devastating effects of the Civil War. In their magnanimity, the people of Ogoja, which included Ukelle in today’s Yala, offered some portions of land to them while the Izzi people paid royalty.
According to 75-year-old Etene Mbana, who narrated how he was almost killed during the recent crisis, the two communities have had a longstanding relationship over the years, even sharing the same land and inter-marrying.
He said: “Izzi villages, which include Ndiakpararta, Igbeagu, Okumenyi and Ndiagwu, are on Ukelle land. All the primary and secondary schools and health centres in those areas are being take care of and their teachers paid by the Cross River State government. But problem began in 2005 over boundary lines with each side accusing the other of encroaching into their side.”
Mbana added that in 2005, a woman who was coming back from her farm was shot by the people of Izzi while the people of Ukelle, mainly their youths, mobilised and retaliated.
He said: “That is how the crisis began, way back in 2005. In March 2017, yam, which were sprouting in the farm of a chief in the area, Chief Stephen Odom, were destroyed by youths of Izzi and nothing was done about it by the security agents stationed there.
“In January 2018, some farmlands were destroyed in Okpodon Ntrigom along with the house of one James Obo and another building belonging to Malachy Odom was riddled with bullets fired by Izzi youths. Again, security agencies did nothing.”
A former Secretary of Yala Local Government Area, Mr. Isaac Ikpokpo, who is from the area, explained that Ukelle people had cautioned the Izzi people several times “but the Ebonyi warlords would never listen”.
He said: “The Izzi people were living on our land and we took them as brothers until they decided to start grabbing our land and trying to lord it over us and when we tried to correct them, they engaged us in war in 2005.
“After that incident when peace returned, they went back to their area but they kept making incursions into our land. We never took their acts of provocations seriously and even then, they resorted to attacking our people and destroying our houses. Yet, we still refused to be provoked until it became too much for us to bear.”
In June, 2018 an Army officer and 12 persons were allegedly killed in the crisis between the two communities.
Last year, the crisis claimed not less than 20 lives when Izzi community reportedly attacked Ukelle community, an attack which made the Community Relations Officer to the Cross River State governor, Mr. Vincent Egbe, to raise alarm of an attempt by the Izzi warlords to eliminate Ukelle.
Egbe, who said he was giving an update on the crisis, had blamed the crisis on Izzi community which, he said, attacked the Ukelle people in Yala Local Government Area of Cross River State.
Egbe said a peace meeting had been called by both the Divisional Police Officer in Izzi, Ebonyi and that of Yala in Cross River State. According to him, while they were waiting for the arrival of the two DPOs, the Izzi youths invaded the venue of the meeting, shot and wounded many people.
He said: “We were already in the meeting venue waiting for the arrival of the DPOs from Yala and Izzi local government areas when some youths invaded the venue of the meeting and shot into the crowd and wounded many people.
“They are the aggressors and all our people have been trying to do is to find a peaceful resolution to the conflict: yet they keep launching attacks on us.”
Egbe said the crisis had defied every human solution “because of the recalcitrance of the Ebonyi people,” claiming that all efforts to broker peace by security agents have proved abortive.
Patrick Ejelo, who resides in the area, pointed out that in 2018 alone, not less than 40 people from Ukelle died as a result of the crisis.
He said: “I can tell you that many people have died and properties worth billions of naira were destroyed in the crisis between Izzi and our people, Ukelle. We have lost so much. In 2017, we lost many people but it was not as many as in 2018 when we lost more than 40 people to Izzi people.”
In an apparent reference to the incident that occurred last year,Ejelo said: “I remember when the villagers were returning from a meeting and Izzi people waylaid them in the evening, leaving many people with gunshot wounds.
“There was a serious attack on my village, Ijibolo, when the Izzi people waylaid villagers who were returning from a meeting and many people sustained gunshot wounds.”
The member representing Ogoja/Yala Federal Constituency, Hon Jarigbe Agom, claimed that he and other well-meaning people from Cross River State had made efforts to end the crisis, but regretted that their efforts have not yielded any positive results. He appealed to the Federal Government to increase security presence in the area to avert further bloodshed.
The immediate past Commissioner of Police, Mr. Mohammed Inuwa Hafiz, also regretted that the crisis between the two neighbours had taken a different dimension.
Hafiz also spoke on what security operatives were doing to nip the situation in the bud.
He said: “As far as I am concerned, I will only talk of what my men on ground told me.
“First of all, this problem started when a woman from Cross River was shot on the leg by suspected Izzi people. That was what infuriated the Cross Riverians to go for reprisal.
“When they went for reprisal, we quickly moved in because the people from Ebonyi too were ready for a show down and for war, but our prompt intervention that day saved the situation. Otherwise by now, you would have been hearing of so many casualties.”
Inuwa explained that since then, the area Commander in charge of Ogoja, the DPO of Yala and other law enforcement agencies sent to the area have been involved in talking to the traditional rulers and youths for them to leave the bushes where firing was going on, so that peace moves would start.
He added: “Only one mutilated corpse was found: no other casualty had been recorded.”
The commissioner, however, confirmed that some houses were razed down.
He said: “I learnt that some houses were burnt but as for casualties, apart from the one mutilated corpse, which the youth took to the Paramount Ruler, Eze of Izzi, he was not told of any recorded casualty.
“When the DPO and others from the military here went to meet Eze of Izzi in Ebonyi State to kick start the peace process, some of the youth brought a mutilated corpse which the DPO of Ebolo in Ebonyi as well as DPO of Yala went and took to the mortuary there.
“Anybody that went to the bush may be caught by the bullet but for the highway, we have been able to secure it. If Ebonyi State people did not secure their own, we in Cross River State have been able to secure our own side.”
Perhaps, the security threat the crisis posed to national unity was the reason why the Minister of Interior, Lt. Gen. Abdulhaman Dambazau (rtd), flew into the state last year to attempt to calm frayed nerves and see to the end of the crisis.
The minister said without both states sitting together to look for solutions, there could hardly be an end to the crisis.
He, however, assured them of the readiness of the Federal Government to put an end to the crisis.
Dambazau said the Federal Government was not happy with a situation where some citizens were denied their freedom to live in accordance with the law, promising that government at the centre would assist in resettling the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).
Dambazau said the condition of the people who were victims of the crisis was giving the Federal Government some concerns, and appealed to them not to go on reprisal as security agencies had been detailed to ensure their protection.
He said: “Every problem has a solution but we cannot get that solution unless we sit down and work for it. This is not your problem; your problem is to ensure that you remain at peace with your neighbours. But finding solution to this is our own problem – the leaders. We will sit down and
look at it. So, it is our responsibility to ensure that your security is guaranteed.
“I am not happy to see children displaced; they are not going to school. To see you outside here; you are not going to your farms when you depend on that farm to sustain your lives. So, everything we can do, we will do. If it is a matter on boundary, we will work on that day and night to make sure that we find solution to it. The solution is there but we must sit down and look for it.
“On your part, I want to urge you to leave this matter in the hands of God. Don’t revenge. Don’t do anything; obey the law. Leave the matter in the hands of security agencies; we will handle it perfectly. We will do everything possible to ensure that you return to your homes. I want
to urge you to be patient.”
However, that promise seems to have faded with time as the same communities in the two states took to the trenches again last month, spilling blood, mowing down people, destroying houses and, exchanging blames.
As at the last count, more than 40 people were killed, 1,500 houses razed, 11,000 displaced and livestock and farmlands destroyed.
Apparently this did not go down well with the deputy governors of Ebonyi, Dr. Kelechi Igwe and that of Cross River, Prof. Ivara Esu, who held a panic meeting recently, just to douse tension, but without a firm modality to put a complete end to the simmering crisis.
It is also difficult to understand what security agents, who include the Army and Police stationed around the Abakaliki-Ogoja axis, have been doing to ensure that the frequency and intensity of the crisis are curtailed.
At the meeting, Esu said: “In all circumstances, it has been established that the Ukelle man has no problem having an Izzi man living side by side with him and they have lived in peace but what I have seen in various reports is that the boundary between the two states is in dispute and the National Boundaries Commission has not done the needful by establishing the boundaries between these two communities, especially now that we have a lot of educated people who want to take advantage of the situation and cause trouble.
“Not that it matters much, but it will give clear lines of demarcation between the two states and anyone who crosses from one state to the other to live will know he is to pay taxes to the host state while the government has the responsibility of providing amenities for such a person and other benefits that accrue to people in the host state.”
Esu decried the fact that many villages were sacked during the crisis and lives lost, but said he had always cautioned his people against retaliation.
His Ebonyi State counterpart, Igwe, maintained that dialogue was the way to go instead of resorting to violence.
He said: “War is not initiated by God but by men and women who are influenced negatively; and some people who are deeply aggrieved take laws into their hands. But it takes men with courage to make peace and there is need for peace between these two communities for the sake of development in both states.
“While war prevails, no government will have the capacity and opportunity to invest in the expansion and extension of infrastructure. Therefore, we call on both sides to lay down their arms.”
But the NBC Chairman, Dr. Mohamed Ahmad, who read the resolutions at the meeting said the boundary lines established by the colonial master, has not changed.
“The two communities have given their commitment to lay down their arms, re-open markets and schools in the disputed areas, set up a joint peace committee while governments of the two states will work on providing security and other amenities needed in the area.”
Whether the truce currently being observed will last or not is left to time. But if history is anything to go by, merely signing a peace pact is not enough assurance for peace. Over the years, the various peace pact signed by the warring communities have always expired at some point, leaving them with no option that to return to the bush.
Unfortunately, the NBC, which should think out a solution to every interstate boundary crisis, has abdicated its responsibility, placing its inability to resolve boundary disputes at the doorpost of paucity of funds and “colonial boundaries”.
If most inter-state boundary disputes or indeed any boundary dispute is left to fester on the excuse that the colonial masters should be blamed, then the existence of NBC is an institutional burden on the country.
But it is important for all sane human beings to heed the advice of Mahatma Gandi, who appealed for restraint in the face of provocation. The late charismatic leader of India aptly observed that if everybody has to revenge evil done to him, the whole world would be in turmoil.
Ebonyi: In the throes of boundary wars (2)
In this concluding part of the story on the boundary wars in Ebonyi State, regarded as ‘Salt of the Nation’ because of its peaceful nature and abundance of natural resources, UCHENNA INYA reports that people spurn cultural affinity and embrace violence
The youth leader of Igbeagu, Pascal Nwenyi, also noted that the footprints of the people of Izzi were still traceable to some areas in Cross River years after their departure.
Nwenyi said the departure from the area was occasioned by the Nigerian Civil War.
He said: “Before the 60s our people were living at where they called Ellocke. If you go to Ellocke today, we still have Nwaku-Ellocke, that market was established by Izzi people and till today we still have some Izzi compounds there.
“Example is the Nworokokpo which has a compound there. Onyeowubere has a compound there and the market sells the same day Nwaikpeagu sells.
“The meaning is that we have been living together for a long time at the other side of the river and it was during the Civil War that brought back our people.
“The first man they killed in 2005 when they first attacked us was the oldest man in the village by name Aloh Nweagu.”
AIG Kelvin Opoke (rtd), who hails from the area and a member of peace initiative in the crisis, said demarcation of the boundary by the NBC “remains the only solution”.
He said: “When the crisis started in 2005, I was still in service in Abuja. So, when we heard about it, I had to move with Eze Nwenyi.
“That night we went round to sensitise our people at the National Assembly. I think that time Ucha and Nshi were there for the state. The following day, they had to move a motion in the House. And Ucha did it on behalf of Nshi.
“And until I came back, the crisis was still on until the most recent one. I was involved in advocacy to Abuja and the National Boundary Commission. I went with Eze Nwenyi and our chairman then, Dustan.
“Up till now, I think our problem is ‘show us our boundary’ as far as this zone is concerned.”
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the Igbeagu community have continued to lament the crisis.
One of them, Mrs. Nnaji Felicia, who is from Ngujiola village in Igbeagu, said “this war started in 2005 and since then, Ukele people have not allowed us to rest; they have been killing us. They have seized our farmlands and chased us away. See the crowd that is here, we have been displaced; we have no place to live again because they have burnt our houses.
“We are appealing to the Federal Government to demarcate the land so that we can know the place that is our own because we don’t even know whether we are in Cross River State or Ebonyi State.”
On her part, an SS1 student of Bright Destiny International Secondary School, Ndiakparata, in the area, Edegbe Josephine Chioma, said “some teachers teaching us are no longer coming to school for fear of attack because they are not residing here. More than 10 schools in this place, both public and private, have been shut down because of this crisis.
“I feel so sad. I was in school when this war resurfaced; then we hurriedly closed school. I was five years when this war started in 2005. I am sad because many innocent people are dying as a result of this war. We are not happy seeing children, parents and people killed because of this war. We want to be free from this war.”
But Cross River State people have been accusing their Ebonyi State neighbours of instigating the crisis.
A resident of the area, Patrick Ege, said the perennial land conflict between the people of Ukele and Igbeagu started following a gun attack on an Ukele villager.
Ege alleged that the shooting occurred at Ijibolo village when the villagers were returning from a meeting on Wednesday evening, leaving many people with gunshot wounds.
He said: “There was a serious attack on my village, Ijibolo, when the Izzi people waylaid villagers who were returning from a meeting and many people sustained gunshot wounds.”
Indigenes of Ebonyi and Benue states also inter-marry, they also live together as one people and do some other things in common. The two neighbours even share similar culture and speak almost the same language that one finds it difficult to differentiate between them.
But they are also threatened by a serious boundary crisis which has lasted for many decades with many lives lost and property worth billions of naira destroyed.
Ngbo community in Ohaukwu Local Government Aarea of Ebonyi State shares a common boundary with Agila in Ardo Local Government Area of Benue State and have since 1922 been fighting over the boundary.
The crisis has assumed a guerrilla war while several efforts put in place by the government of both states have proved abortive as killings and destruction of property have continued unabated.
The killings usually affect the people of Umuoguduakpu and Ekwashi Ngbo in Ohuukwu Local Government Area of Ebonyi State that share common boundary with the Agila people.
The war has assumed another dimension since last year as many people have been killed, forcing the two states to set up three committees to end the age-long crisis.
The Deputy Governor of Benue State, Chief Benson Abonu, and his Ebonyi State-counterpart, Dr. Kelechi Igwe, held meetings at Government House, Abakaliki, over the dispute.
The acting Director-General (DG), National Boundary Commission (NBC), Malam Adamu Adaji, and other government officials attended the meeting.
The three inaugurated committees were Cyril Obazi/Otse Otakpa Inter-Community Peace Committee, Ohaukwu/Ado Inter-Local Governments Peace Committee and a Technical Committee with members drawn from the NBC, Office of Surveyor General of the Federation and Surveyors-General of Ebonyi and Benue states.
Benue Deputy Governor, Abonu, noted that the aim of setting up the committees was to restore peace between the two communities and to provide the NBC with clues to establish a buffer zone and demarcate the disputed area.
Deputy Governor of Ebonyi State, Igwe, condemned a recent attack on the people of Ekwashi Ngbo and Umuogodakpu in Ohaukwu Local Government Area by people suspected to have operated from Agila and charged the committees to do thorough consultation to achieve the desired results.
The Acting NBC DG, Adaji, regretted that it took Ebonyi and Benue states four years to inaugurate the committees but emphasised that the Technical Committee would meet soon to finalise issues on the buffer zone.
On his part, the traditional ruler of Ekwashi Ngbo, Eze Michael Nwode, and his Agila-counterpart, Chief Samuel Otekpa, expressed commitment to ensuring that peace returns to the boundary areas.
Co-chairmen of one of the committees, Mr. Cyril Obazi and Otse Otakpa, promised to do everything within their reach to restore economic and social ties between their people.
The committee took off for the assignment. But members were attending a peace meeting in Benue State when they were waylaid and beheaded by warlords.
Ebonyi State Governor, Dave Umahi, who was visibly angry, summoned a stakeholders’ meeting of the area.
Briefing the governor at Exco Chambers, Government House, Abakaliki, where the meeting was held, the Chairman of Ohaukwu Local Government, Hon. Clement Odah, said the killings occurred barely one week after the deputy governor of Benue State and his contingent including the chairman of Ardo Local Government visited Ebonyi State and inaugurated three committees to find a lasting solution to the killings.
He said: “Each time we meet and agreed that peace should reign, the Agila people will always breach that peace. This one is one of the cases of breach and the effect is that it has left in our place, large number of Internally Displaced People (IDPs).”
Expressing anger over the killings, Umahi said it was not ordinary and accused the stakeholders of aiding and abetting the crisis.
He said: “I am not a fool; these things are done by you people. There is no any other person that did it; it is like you give somebody salt, you give him water. How can you say that these people killed were ambushed? I have asked them to audit all your resources from Ohaukwu Local Government.”
Umahi ordered police and the Department of State Services (DSS) to arrest 40 stakeholders from the area including the local government Chairman, Odah, and interrogate them over the crisis. He added that those arrested must be going to police and DSS everyday over the matter after their bail.
Odah and 39 other stakeholders from the area had signed undertaking before Umahi and members of the State Executive Council to be held responsible if the crisis resurfaced after the undertaking.
But shortly after signing the undertaking, four members of peace committees set up to end the lingering crisis were beheaded while two were injured. This forced the governor to order the arrest of stakeholders in the area.
“The police should arrest the 40 of them. They should bail them and they should continue to go to police on a daily basis until the killers are found.
“In the past, what has been happening in Ohukwu is in the interest of one group against the interest of the other. The killing is not ordinary and I am not a fool for you to be fooling me.
“The truth is that it is our people that are giving information to the Agila people that our people are in a place and they were ambushed. Who gave them the information that our people were coming there?
“One thing we do not know is that any time you get involved in the killing of anybody rightly or wrongly, your generation is doomed. You can never succeed in life again. There is what is called cancer; there is what is called liver problem; there is what is called kidney problem. If you are too strong, God will allow that one (to befall you) for taking the blood of his creation,” Umahi told the stakeholders.
Apart from the boundary disputes Ebonyi State is having with Benue and Cross River states and even the one between the people of Ishiagu in Ivo Local Government Area of the state and their neighbours in Lokpanta, Abia State, it is also confronted with some intra-boundary disputes including the Enyibichri Echi-Alike Ikwo/Enyigba crisis.
The people of Enyibichri Echi-Alike in Ikwo Local Government Area of the state and their neighbours in Enyigba, Abakaliki Local Government Area of the state have been at war for long over boundary matters.
The crisis has claimed many lives with property worth millions of naira destroyed while efforts by previous administrations in the state to put an end to it did not yield positive results.
Last year, the crisis took a dangerous dimension when the two communities engaged in bloodletting, brigandage and destruction of valuable property. About 15 persons were killed in the melee.
Umahi, who was embittered by the killings and maiming, declared that the land had been taken over by the state government and ordered security agents to shoot on sight anyone found trespassing the land as a way of ending the mayhem. But that was not to be. Ten children were roasted alive when the warlords blocked Alex Ekwueme Federal University on Ndufu Alike Road.
The children, six from that same family and their four neighbours, were roasted by warlords on their way home after attending the matriculation held by Ebonyi State University (EBSU) for newly admitted students. The warlords also shot and killed three people who were on motorcycle on that day.
One of those shot was a wife of a police officer servicing in the state but on secondment to Borno State to fight insurgency in the North-East.
About a week after the killings, the state Police Command arrested three hired mercenaries in the crisis, Odah told journalists last week during a press briefing.
The chairman listed the hired mercenaries as Obiajulu Emunam (40) from Anambra State, Peacemaker Nwadozie (33) from Enugu State and Lawrence Nwingbo (30) from Izzi Ishieke in Ebonyi State.
Odah said: “On 12th of April while policemen were on stop-and-search on Enugu-Abakaliki Expressway, they intercepted a bus with passengers. Upon search, three suspects were arrested. They are Obiajulu Emunama ‘M,’ 40, an indigene of Anambra State, Peacemaker Nwadozie ‘M,’ 33, an indigene of Enugu State and Lawrence Nwingbo ‘M,’ 30, of Izzi Ishieke in Ebonyi State.
“The suspects confessed to a crime and narrated how they were hired as war mercenaries to fight for Izzi and in return a cash of N2 million would be paid to them.
“The suspects stated further that a deposit of N80,000 was given to them and that the marks on their chest showed their readiness to prosecute the war.”
Ebonyi: In the throes of boundary wars
Ebonyi State is ‘Salt of the Nation’ because of its peaceful nature and abundance of natural resources. However, persistent killings in different parts of the state, arising from communal crises and boundary disputes, have raised concern on whether the salt has not lost its taste, UCHENNA INYA reports
Ebonyi State was created on October 1, 1996 by the then Federal Military Government of Nigeria under the late Gen. Sani Abacha. It is located on the south-eastern axis of the country. It occupies a landmass of approximately 5,935 kilometres with a population of just about two million people.
The state is physically bounded to the east by Cross River State, to the north by Benue State, to the west by Enugu State and to the south by Abia State. The state is also richly blessed with numerous solid mineral resources spread across all parts of the state.
The motto of Ebonyi State is “Salt of the Nation” derived from salt deposits in the area and its peaceful nature. Its vegetation is a mixture of eastern prototypes comprising of semi-savannah grassland with forests and swamps. Being in an agrarian area, the people of the state are predominantly farmers. The state is surrounded by many boundary disputes, both inter and intra.
These boundary disputes usually assume dangerous dimension during farming season with killings, maiming and destruction of properties. While some of the crises seem to have stopped, many of them are still ongoing with many killed and properties worth billions of naira destroyed.
New Telegraph highlights these boundary disputes; the origin, causes and several efforts by the state government to bring lasting peace to the troubled communities which have continued to fail. Ebonyi/Cross River crises The two closest neighbours have many things in common. They inter-marry, buy and sell goods together. And even live together as brothers and sisters.
But they have records of many crises in their boundaries including Izzi/Yala crisis, Azuofia-Edda/ Obubra crisis, Ikwo/Obubra crisis, Erei/Ekoli Edda crisis, Ochenyim/ Abi crisis and Izzi/Ukele crisis, which have threatened their peaceful co-existence. Of all the crises, Ochenyim/Abi and Izzi/Ukele crises which started in 2005, have become a major challenge facing the two states with killings, maiming and destruction of valuable properties still ongoing despite attempts by the governments to bring an end to the crises.
The National Boundary Commission (NBC) had stepped into the crises last year after over 50 persons were killed with over eight villages razed by warlords. The commission met with stakeholders of the two communities with security chiefs in attendance during the peace meeting presided over by the NBC Director-General (DG), Muhammad Ahmed.
At the end, the warring neighbours embraced each other to the admiration of all and agreed to live in peace.But the peace accord was short lived as the people returned to trenches, killing, maiming and burning houses. Schools, markets, hospitals and other vital institutions were shut following the outbreak of violence.
The Minister of Interior, Lt. Gen Abulrahman Dambazau (rtd), was forced to visit the two warring communities. He was shocked on the level of killings and destruction in the communities. The minister promised that the Federal Government would find a lasting peace to the lingering dispute.
Immediately he left, the crisis took another dimension with more killings and destruction, forcing the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt. Gen. Tukur Brutai, to donate 14 combat motorcycles to soldiers stationed in the dispute area for easy access to remote parts of communities where the killings and destruction occurred. More soldiers were deployed in the area to beef up security.
The deployment of soldiers and donation of the combat motorcycles, which were branded with Army colours, however, did not prevent the crisis as killings raged with some persons beheaded. Governor Dave Umahi and his Cross River State-counterpart, Ben Ayade, had to intensify efforts to end the disputes.
The governors met in Port Harcourt, Rivers State capital where major decisions on how to achieve lasting peace were taken. During the meeting, the two states agreed to embark on construction of bridges and roads to further cement the bond of brotherhood.While Ebonyi State government is to construct 600-metre bridge across Oferekpe River in Ikwo axis and 500-metre bridge at Ndibe Beach in Afikpo, Cross River State was to construct a 7.2km road to link up with the federal highway coming in from Ogada in Cross River State to Oferekpe in Ebonyi State as well as a 19km road linking Ndibe beach with Ugep or a 17km road linking Ndibe beach with Adim.
To achieve this, both governors directed the representatives of the disputed communities in attendance to return to their communities and sensitise them to the way forward with a view to proffering solutions to the challenges in the disputed areas.
They also resolved that both states should submit a position paper on their boundary claims, annexing relevant legal documents, maps and communiqués of previous meetings within 30 days while arbitrators, including NBC, as third arbitrator, would be appointed.
As part of the communiqué, both states must carry out a disarmament of the combatants and thereafter grant amnesty to those who willingly handover the dangerous weapons in their possession within a period of 90 days from August 7, 2018. But that decision, like every other one taken, did not yield positive result. Since the beginning of this year, there have been serious killings and destruction of properties in the communities.
On March 22, 2019, two persons were killed at Okwata and Opherekpe villages in Igbeagu community, Izzi Local Government Area of Ebonyi State. Also, last month, five persons from Igbeagu community were killed with some of the victims beheaded by warlords.
The villagers accused Ukele people of conniving with herdsmen who went to Ochafu borehole, a common water generating point of the entire villages and pretended as if they were looking for their missing cow. It was learnt that some elderly women approached them to enquire what they were looking for, as herdsmen were, earlier during the recent attacks on Igbeagu people, banned from rearing their cows in the area prior to the time government would settle their differences.
The Ochafu village head, Chief Daniel Enyi, alleged that at a point, some vigilantes set up by the village after they ceased fire late November last year, were informed that houses were on fire. According to him, when they with their neighbouring Okwata people, they engaged the arsonists in a shootout.
Enyi said during the intervention of the two villages who were trying to save their people, houses and other property, it was learnt that two men, Chinweike Jeremiah (32) and Thomas Ogbonna, a father of 15, were killed. He accused Ukele people of razing down three houses at Obegu area and 19 houses in the heart of the village.
The traditional ruler of Igbeagu community, His Royal Highness, Eze Ogbonnaya Michael Ukwa, regretted that the Federal Government, having visited the community, left them to their fate as his people were being killed almost on a weekly basis. Enyi called on Federal Government to order the proper demarcation of the boundary for the two sister states who he said had been at peace until the land issue arose. One of the major stakeholders in Igbeagu community Chief John Nnaji Nwenyi, spoke on the primary cause of the crisis and best way to put an end to it. He said: “It is no longer story that a palace called Ebonyi State and Ogoja were in Ogoja Province. Ogoja Province has five divisions – Ogoja, Obubra, Obudu, Abakaliki and Afikpo divisions – Igbeagu has boundary with Ogoja.
“Then, during the colonial masters’ time when the divisions were created Anyim River was our boundary. Both the Cross River people and our people recognised it right from the tripartite of Benue, Cross River and Ebonyi states. “According to history passed to us, the Ukele people were be killed by their neighbourhood Akajok but our people, being liberal, accepted them on oath that there would be no bloodshed and for the mutual understanding that exists within them; they crossed down the river and were staying with us while they engaged in their fishing occupation. “These people have been addressing us as brothers.
The only people we had issues with are the Awkum and that was how Ukele people grew in kith and kin and think that they have amassed wealth and weapons of war, hence, overnight asked us to go, but to where?” The elder statesman narrated that the boundary issue prompted the 1994 meeting held in Calabar, Cross River State capital, where both communities were directed by NBC to trace their supposed boundary map with back up report which he said Igbeagu people, having known their terrain with undisputable physical features, because in the olden days physical features were used to determine disputed area, they used one week to submit their report whereas it took their Ukele neighbours three months before coming up with what he termed “glaring report”. He said: “The decision reached after the meeting with National Boundary Commission was for us to report back with evidence-based documents proving true map of the boundary.
We prepared our document within that week but it took our neighbouring people three months before coming up with glaring report. If you go to Onunwakpu where military men are currently camping, that is the place they claimed to be their part. “When they felt that the area they had earlier claimed was not enough; they launched attack on our people in 2005, killing us in hundreds and we all ran away, leaving our homes in Nfuma. Eight villages were vacated till date.
They are turning us to refugees in our own land.” Nwenyi added that since the 2005 incident, Ukele people had made it an annual ritual of attacking Igbeagu people during every farming season. He said: “The recent was their frequent serial attacks which have claimed lives of many; sacked eight villages and razed down houses, destroyed property and livestock worth millions of naira while carrying sophisticated weapons, but our people confronted them with mere sticks. “However, with the intervention of past administrations of Dr. Sam Egwu, Chief Martin Elechi, and present government; they have shown trust but I must say that NBC is behind our plight because proper boundary demarcation is the only solution to end the continued crisis.
On his own part, Chief Nweze Peter, the zonal leader, Ndubia zone sub-division of Igbeagu community alleged that his village and other nearby villages had lost about 12 people in three months this year. He appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to issue an order through NBC for the proper demarcation of boundary of the two states. Peter, who claimed that the area in dispute originally belonged to his forefathers, added that the leasing of the land by Ukele people was what sparked off the fresh crisis.
He added: “They were living with our people in a place called Nfuma, the place we gave to them to settle which they are now claiming belongs to them. “When they said so, we objected to it because we had been living together until they started leasing the land to us.
Their presence in Nfuma with us started when Chief Idike was the chairman of Izzi Local Government Area. “The people of Cross River State came over to our side to catch fish, and after that our people asked them to go, Idike resisted saying they were our guests and that we are expected to be friendly to our guests and allow them to continue catching fish. “Along the line, they grew in number. Their relatives from elsewhere started joining them and they continued to increase and began to claim ownership of the land. We tried to remind them that Enyim River is the boundary we had with them. And in 2005 they succeeded in chasing our people away and killed most of them”. Peter explained that the people of Igbeagu community in the past two weeks had suffered several attacks from Ukele people.
He said: “For the past two weeks, we have suffered seven attacks from them. Just last week, they attacked Nkaliki and injured one of our relatives. “They also killed four persons at Ochafu. At Achacha, one person was killed, at Oferekpe one person was killed, at Igwedeloha, one person was killed, and at Nduozoke two persons were killed. “Also in Okwerike, half of the village was sacked and houses destroyed. The same thing happened at another village known as Nwankwu. “At Nkaliki, the same thing; there is nobody residing there again.
“Last week, they set barns ablaze and destroyed tubers of yam in it, so we are living in fear, nobody is safe here including visitors like you. “What we are saying is that the Enyim River is the natural boundary, but they are saying our own side of the river should be the boundary.”
A youth leader in Igbeagu, Pascal Nwenyi, explained that the old Abakiliki Division was in Ogoja Province which covered both Igbeagu community and Ukele. He added that since those days, Enyim River remains the authentic physical feature which demarcates the boundary between the people of Ogoja Province and Igbeagu in then Abakiliki Division. Nwenyi, who noted that the people of Igbeagu community had obeyed the designated Enyim River as the border, said Mbasara River, which is located in Cross River State, was supposed to be the actual boundary line.
He added: “But in the real sense of it, the place they called Cross River now is not supposed to be so, the place that is called Cross River now was the Mbasara River; that is the river called Cross River. That river is connected to one other bigger river that led to the Atlantic Ocean.
“The place they have links, is where they call Ofoma. Ofoma River had three units coming together in a conference of three rivers. And Okorofuna has seven conference rivers. “So the question now is what makes them the owners of the land? Another is; is the land owned by Cross River or the people residing there that are Cross River people? “If it is the people, let them quietly cross over to the other side where they have Cross River. Even the people they call their brothers are not related to them because they don’t share the same culture neither do they share the same tradition. “And since the existence of Izzi people, we have not gone to court with them over land.”
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