Major – General Isola Williams (rtd) is a one – time Head, Training and Doctoring Command (TRADOC), Nigerian Army. In this interview with JOHNSON AYANTUNJI, he speaks on President Muhammadu Buhari’s second term, who succeeds the Daura- born retired general in 2023 among others. Excerpts
President Muhammadu Buhari has just inaugurated his cabinet for the second term, which he dubbed the Next Level Agenda executors. What do you make of the composition of the cabinet?
First of all, I do not understand which level we are now, not to talk of what the next level is. I do not understand the next level APC (All Progressives Congress) wants to move us to. That makes it difficult to sincerely assess the people he has chosen as ministers or ministers of state or even people for other public sector appointments.
The second thing is that in every country, there are some well known technocrats, whether they have political affiliations or not. Therefore one would expect that in the second term of the president, like he himself said, ‘This my second term, I do not want politicians as much as possible. I want to look for technocrats to be in my cabinet and who can also perform, as long as they are citizens of Nigeria. ‘In addition to that, we thought it was going to be less of political interests of the God Fathers, choosing their own candidates and giving him the free hands to choose the people who can work with him. Then suddenly, he turned around and said ‘I am going to work with people that I know, in the first cabinet, we did not see any spectacular choices or the people that he knows from the first term and pushing them to the second term. If you look at, for example, the choice of the Minister of Finance in the first term, it was not at the level of the type of Minister of Finance that we had, that everybody knows and are respected internationally, known in the financial world or in the accounting world. The person that we got was completely unknown, even in West Africa or even within Nigeria. What did we benefit from that choice? For me, the choices of people for the second term and bringing back the old people, which is weak in itself, whether in Nigeria or any part of the world, barely to bring back the same old people. He needs people with fresh ideas and new approach of doing things
For three months Nigeria was on standstill because there was no cabinet in place. As we are talking, the 2019 Budget, though passed by the Eighth Senate, is not functional yet because of the time it took President Buhari to send the list of his nominees to the Senate for screening and confirmation, after which a committee was set up to attach portfolio to ministers, What does this portend for the country?
People have spoken about governance in Nigeria, right from the first term, it appears we are being governed by people who have passed their level of competence. That has continued into the second term. When you have people who have passed their level of competence, you have problems with the institutions of governance, especially with the situation in Nigeria, where our institutions are not strong and personalities dominate more than institutionalized practices. But people coming into position of leadership in the world today, they are lowering both in ethical, competence and other standards that are associated with political leadership of the party, whether in Africa or in the UK. What that boils down to is that the followership are becoming more and more irresponsible in their choices of leadership, either through ethnicity, religion or both or they just do not care. Like a corrupt society like our own, the impact is most felt.
Would that also have accounted for the insecurity that pervades and permeates every part of the country?
That is obvious. In every normal country where there is strategic thinking and you have a serious issue with your policing and your crime fighting, you don’t post the military to do what the police can do. Whereas the military is facing insurgency within the country and they are finding it difficult to cope. The same old story: “Technical defeat”. What is technical defeat? Do we want to be like Pakistan in which you continue to fight insurgency forever? It creates instability in itself, not only insecurity and not insurgency alone. To some certain extent, the governors themselves are responsible.
However, one is seeing some signs of respite like in the North. Some governors are taking responsibilities. Look at the causes of insecurity and try to find what the root cause is. What has happened in Zamfara is a good example. See what the new governor is doing and bringing in some level of stability into the atmosphere. The Kano State Governor just announced that he is going to convert some forest areas into RUGA settlement. He has even said that there is no need for herdsmen to cross the Niger with their cattle. Most of the problems we create; we tend to put everything on the Federal Government. With this sort of thing, it will lessen the conflict between the herdsmen and the farmers.
In case of security, the South West governors have just woken up, especially now that the committee that was formed to look into how to solve the problem has recommended Community Policing and the President has said go ahead and do so. Already, some of them have a little of it. Neighbourhood Community Watch in Lagos, the same thing in Rivers State and there are state laws to back them up. What is the difference between Neighborhood Watch and Community Policing? All that is needed to do is to have standard of uniform training, Federal Government evaluating and monitoring constantly by head of policing all over the country. The governors should discipline themselves not to use what they have created for their own selfish ends. If not, those States where you have Community Policing will fall into the same trap like the Nigerian Police.
If you create Community Policing, do not create barracks. They should live within the people. If I am living in a house with a Community Policeman as a neighbour, if we are going on the street and he collects N100 bribe from me, I will say Baba Arinola, you are collecting bribe, I will tell your wife when I get home. I will tell my wife: ‘See what Baba Arinola has done o.’ Let them live with the people. That is what community policing is all about.
Recently, the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, was in Aso Rock and he said that President Buhari has approved the deployment of Drones and CCTV across the South West to tackle crime and criminality. Is this the solution?
He is just speaking off the curve. He has not talked about how to develop Ife. I think somebody just brought a paper to him just for him to say something.
He was in Abuja and spoke after the meeting with the President, following the murder of the daughter of the Afenifere leader, Reuben Fasoranti.
They are just joking. What happened to all the CCTV they bought in the past? What happened to them? When they paid for them and they wanted to install them, they asked the Chinese contractor to let them share the money. Till today, the CCTVs are in the store in Abuja. Do a pilot project to know how it works before recommending it.
You mean the CCTV mounted along the highways cannot be used in the fight against crime?
Who pays for the CCTV?
The governors said they were ready to foot the bill.
It does not work that way. If the state governors said they would pay, these kidnappers, where did they stay, in the caves or where?
They take their victims into the forests where….
(Cuts in) Most of the forests they are talking about, some people stay there. If you have community policing like I have said, can’t they organize a patrol into the forest? Where are the dense forest is in the South West that people have not penetrated? So people who go into the forest to do illegal logging have not seen strange people there? What is the job of Home affairs and Chieftaincy ministry in each of the states? What are the home affairs for? It is the State ministry of interior for intelligence and the like. What are they doing? People talk a lot of none sense. It annoys me, as if we do not think. He just came from Abuja, he said this he said drone and…
That was shortly after the Akure – Ilesha Road became a no go area as travelers abandoned the road as a result of the rampant cases of kidnap for ransom?
People live along that road. If you travel from Lagos to any part of South West, you see people living by the side of the road, you see market and so on and so forth. If people are operating there and you have the Community Policing system there, if you have this sort of situation, it means the people are not supporting the security agency. But like you reported recently, the people who become the enemy of the state suffer. Therefore, they have to help the state for it to be safe. The State becomes secure.
The recent IPOB attack and assault on former deputy president of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, in far away Germany. What does it portend for us as a nation and for our politicians?
The way I look at it is in the first place who invited him?
The Igbos in the Diaspora did.
If they did invite him, they are responsible for his protection. The Igbos in the Diaspora, some of them are supporting IPOB, so they are the set of people contributing money to fund the activities of IPOB. They cannot deny that. Who are those responsible for propaganda on behalf of IPOB in response to what IPOB is all about, which means that in a country like Germany IPOB’s propaganda is stronger than the Nigerian government information system.
Secondly, his going there on the invitation of Igbos in the Diaspora should know the support of the Igbos for IPOB. He should have found out what the reactions of those people who are in support of IPOB would be to his visit. He played a prominent role in negotiation for the release of IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu, when he was arrested and was being tried by the Federal Government. I think that has not been explained properly to the IPOB members.
Above all, since IPOB is a secessionist movement, anybody that is against the secessionist move and supports the government of the day, is an enemy to IPOB. Before IPOB, MASSOB exists. It is still within Nigeria, going about its activities in a non violent way and trying to convince people in their own way and I think, it is conditional. If they get what they need in the federal structure, there is no need to secede. IPOB has gone beyond that level.
Even though they believe that there are some requirements they need to fulfill and if satisfied that it meet their need, of course they will not secede. Going beyond that, I am sure that neither the Deputy Senate President nor the people who invited him expected that sort of reaction from the IPOB. The IPOB boys in Germany went too far. Not only did it show lack of solidarity between the Igbos, it also shows that they carried the problem of Nigeria abroad. Already, we did not have a good image, and know they are aiding the shame the more. It is very, very sad.
But then, it is also good too. It is a warning to the Igbo leaders that IPOB issue has gone to the people, they must find a way just like the people in Borno State, and they must find a way to solve the problem of Boko Haram.
Some say that the attack is a dent or hurting the ambition of the Ndigbo for 2023. Do you believe in this?
He was not seriously assaulted to send him to the hospital. Most of them should be careful when they go abroad. The IPOB went too far. That is not the best way to defend their interest.
The war against Boko Haram is 10 years old and Nigeria is yet to overcome it, rather it is mounting and the insurgents becoming more daring…
Obasanjo has said that we will fight them for another 15 years. Again that bothers on security architecture. Like I said, in every situation where you have security problems, you review and ask yourself, have I got the right institution and the right organisational approach to solve the problem? And if it continues for that long, then it tells you that you are doing it wrong. I think some people are deceiving the president by using the word ‘technical’.. The President himself does not understand what technical is. What is the meaning of technical defeat? People are dying every day and you are talking about technical defeat. Until people stop dying or being killed, there is nothing technical about that. There are soldiers’ graves all over the place.
There is the allegation that the war commanders do not want the war to end because they are making money from it…
(Cuts in) In every war, there is corruption. The only difference is that in our own here, there is continuity to the point that the other day, somebody was moving N400 million by road and the human beings and the money disappeared. That is why we need drones. We do things that make people abroad laugh at us. How can a general whose soldiers are in the war front, tell his soldiers to carry N400 million by road. It makes us a joke of the century all over the world. What they are saying is all crap.
The military has been compromised and the standard is being lowered. How would you compare the military in your days with what we have today?
When you compare the past to the present, there are socio economical conditions that have changed. What you consider to be bad then, today you consider it as normal. The way the younger ones greet their elders, it has changed. Obviously, there is something wrong with ethics in the military today. To some certain extent, you cannot blame the military. There is political authority over them. When the political authority says something wrong, it calls for change. That is why you re- jig your security architecture, security sector reform, everything. Where there are no changes, what do you see? Rot. While the Commander in Chief says I have told them to do new security architecture, put it down on paper. Give a directive on paper, executive order. You did that for local government sector, why can’t you do that for the military as a whole. It is not only the military, the whole public sector. See the case of the Head of the Civil Service. But is it true? She has resigned and maybe she believes that if she resigns, the whole thing will die down. What she did… Many would tell you that many houses you see in Abuja belong to Civil Servants. Haven’t we seen many people in whose account money were paid into? Is it from their normal pay? The answer is No!
There is this apprehension that the release of the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) may lead to more trouble.
I do not think El-Zakzaky will be crazy enough to become like the Boko Haram. The only thing that can happen is that if he dies in detention, then he loses control over his own people. What I am afraid may happen in their own case will be urban guerilla warfare. It is worse than Boko Haram because they strike and go back into the bush. Their own, they will be in the city and be attacking anyone all over Nigeria.
The way out of it is that the Islamic Community in Nigeria must find a way out of it. Nigeria is not the only country where you have the Shiite people. The Shiite is like the Pentecostal. The Sunni and the Shiite must find a way to solve the problem. The government cannot do it.
The Buhari government, two months back, honoured The Late Chief M. K. O Abiola national symbol of the current democratic dispensation by naming the National Stadium, Abuja, after him. What do you make of this?
There is a difference between legitimacy and morality and to be honoured by the people is more honourable than government. I am very, very sad that Abiola’s children did not honour their own father. You heard of Ford Foundation, Bill Gates Foundation and so on and so forth. They were dead and long gone before they were set up. Their children are not even associated with it, but they carry his name. It was not set up by the American government but from the riches of the Ford family. What stopped the Abiola children from doing that immediately the man died? He was good to many people in this country. When I was in sports, he was very generous. If they ask me to contribute to an Abiola Foundation today, I will gladly do that. Not for helping me personally but for what he did for sports in this country. I will pay a monthly subscription. That is how I feel about it. I do not care about whether they recognize June 12 or not.
There are speculations that Bola Tunubu, even though he has not made it public, wants to succeed Buhari in 2023. How feasible is this?
Yes, he has the right to aspire to succeed Buhari. It is his constitutional right. But I have a different view about it. The next leader in 2023 should come from the South East. Obasanjo has gone for two terms, Yar’ Adua who did not complete his two terms had Jonathan who did it for him. In addition, he had one term, Buhari making two terms now. We have been rotating it. How can the South have two? Secondly, Yoruba man as Vice President, two terms. Why don’t we have an Igbo president and somebody from the middle belt as Vice President? Within Middle Belt, Plateau, Kogi, Benue, as vice President. That is what I am looking for. Any ethnic group in this country can produce one very good leader.
High fever in infancy cooks brain, kills optimal potential –Investigation
•52 million children under 5 years are wasted – WHO
•17 million severely wasted, says Prof. Ojengbede
•155 million are stunted – Dr. Tosin Ajayi
•‘Child’s nutrition increases world’s intelligence quotient by 10 points’
•200 million children in developing countries fail to meet their
developmental potential –CDC
A total of 200 million children in developing countries, Sunday Telegraph learnt, fail to meet their developmental potential. CHIJIOKE IREMEKA writes that while all nutrients are important for brain development and function, optimal overall brain development depends on providing sufficient quantities of key nutrients during the first 1,000 days of life from conception till the child’s second birthday
“Lion gives birth to lion, scorpion gives birth to a scorpion, and snake gives birth to a snake. Young lion cannot beg for food and scorpion must sting but only human being that gives birth to nonhuman beings due to micronutrients deficiency in the child’s first 1, 000 days. We do not want twuale children; we need children with the right behaviours…” says Dr. Tosin Ajayi, the Chief Executive Officer, Africa Future.
Dr. Ajayi spoke at the 2019 African Discourse Series, organised by Africa Future in Lagos, where the cream of other experts and policymakers fingered the urgent need to reconstruct the country’s future and prosperity by investing in the micronutrients to support pregnant women and children under 5 years, especially in the first 1000 days of a child’s life to its second birthday.
According to him, lack of desired micronutrients in a woman before pregnancy, during pregnancy and 2 years after birth turns a human into another being which doesn’t have the right potential as a normal human being to actualise his life aspiration, hence cannot function optimally as a human being.
He revealed that the first 1, 000 days in the life of a child from the first day of conception until the child’s second birthday is critical to the child; whether it will be a normal human being with the abilities to fulfill life’s aspiration or not, is determined in these first 1000 days. Ajayi was reacting to the release by American Center for Disease Control (CDC), which said that micronutrients deficiency in a pregnant woman affects the future fortune of the baby in her womb adversely unless the issue of micronutrient deficiency is addressed within the first 1000 days in a child’s life.
He insisted that the quality and quantity of micronutrients intake by a pregnant woman and the baby in her womb in the child first 1000 days has a lot statement to make whether the child will be a wasted child, severely wasted, stunted in life or has the ability to develop optimally. He, therefore, called for investment in the micronutrients by all even as he called on the government to partner with the private sector on this.
He noted that by investment in one generation, the prosperity of the whole country is guaranteed, saying that one generation is what is needed to correct this trend to ensure that Nigeria produces well rounded children with the right potential to lead and reconstruct the country. He said: “If a child’s body and brain develop well, then their life chances are improved. The first 1,000 days are a time of tremendous potential and enormous vulnerability. How well or how poorly mothers and children are nourished and cared for during this time has a profound impact on a child’s ability to grow, learn and thrive.
“This is because the first 1,000 days are when a child’s brain begins to grow and develop and when the foundations for their lifelong health are built. Nutrition, in particular, plays a foundational role in a child’s development and her country’s ability to prosper.
“Poor nutrition in the first 1,000 days can cause irreversible damage to a child’s growing brain, affecting his ability to do well in school and earn a good living — and making it harder for a child and his family to rise out of poverty.
“It can also set the stage for later obesity, diabetes, and other chronic diseases which can lead to a lifetime of health problems. Studies show that countries that fail to invest in the well-being of women and children in the first 1,000 days lose billions of dollars to lower economic productivity and higher health costs.”
He noted that such is the reason several of the world’s leading economists have called for greater investments in the nutrition and well-being of mothers, babies, and toddlers as a way to create a brighter and more prosperous future for us all.
According to him, exposure to stress or adversity during this period can result in a child’s development falling behind his peers, saying when not addressed, experiences, such as abuse or conflict between parents, can stay with children throughout their lives, cause harm to them and to others, and might be passed on to the next generation. He continued: “If we can correct it now, we would have saved a whole next generation. Individuals with four or more adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are at a much greater risk of poor health outcomes compared to individuals with no ACEs.
“Intervening more actively in the first 1000 days of a child’s life can improve children’s health, development and life chances and make society fairer and more prosperous. Enhancing the ability of services to support and empower parents and families to take care of themselves and their children is vital, but not sufficient.”
He noted that high temperature in a child’s early life due to high fever cooks or bakes his brain which kills the child’s potential and self actualisation. “High temperature in a child due to high fever cooks or bakes the brain of the child. And when the brain is baked, the heat will burn his gasket. Just like a car with over heating will lose its gasket, so is the brain of a child within this period that experiences high temperature,” he quipped. In June, 2019, American CDC said any serious sickness; especially high fever in a child within this period of 1000 days till the child’s second birthday will impact on the neurodevelopment of the child. Also, the World Health Oragnisation (WHO) had said about 45 percent of deaths among children under five years of age, are linked to under-nutrition.
These mostly occur in low and middle-income countries. At the same time, in these same countries, the rates of childhood overweight and obesity are rising. Sunday Telegraph learnt that the developmental, economic, social, and medical impacts of the global burden of malnutrition are serious and lasting for individuals and their families as well as the communities and for countries.
According to Prof. Dosu Ojengbede, malnutrition, in all its forms, including undernutrition (wasting, stunting, underweight), inadequate vitamins or minerals, overweight, obesity, and resulting in diet-related noncommunicable diseases.
He said about 52 million children under 5 years of age are wasted, 17 million are severely wasted and 155 million are stunted, while 41 million are overweight or obese; 1.9 billion adults are overweight or obese, while 462 million are underweight. “Underweight prevalence has increased from 24.2 per cent to 31.5 percent, stunting prevalence increased from 34.8 per cent to 43.6 percent while wasting prevalence increased marginally from 10.2 percent to10.8 per cent,” he said.
For him, malnutrition refers to deficiencies, excesses, or imbalances in a person’s intake of energy and/or nutrients. It addresses 3 broad groups of conditions including undernutrition, which includes wasting (low weight-for-height), stunting (low height-forage) and underweight (low weight-for-age). Low weight-for-height, Sunday Telegraph is known as wasting. It usually indicates recent and severe weight loss, because a person has not had enough food to eat and/or they have had an infectious disease, such as diarrhoea, which has caused them to lose weight. A young child who is moderately or severely wasted has an increased risk of death, but treatment is possible. More so, Prof. Ojengbede insisted that low height-for-age is known as stunting. It is the result of chronic or recurrent undernutrition, usually associated with poor socioeconomic conditions, poor maternal health and nutrition, frequent illness, and/or inappropriate infant and young child feeding and care in early life. “Stunting holds children back from reaching their physical and cognitive potential.
Children with low weight-for-age are known as underweight. A child who is underweight may be stunted, wasted, or both,” he added. Dr. (Mrs.) Cynthia Obiora with Havannah Hospital, Lagos said intake of right micro nutrients and vitamins by pregnant women and their babies before conception, during pregnancy and after delivery ensures the bright future of the child and the country, saying lack of which will affect the mother and child, especially the child adversely. She said the causes of malnutrition are directly related to inadequate dietary intake as well as disease, but indirectly to many factors, among others household food security, maternal and child care, health services and the environment. She said: “The first 1,000 days of life is a unique period of opportunity when the foundations of optimum health, growth, and neurodevelopment across the lifespan are established.
Yet too frequently in developing countries, poverty and its attendant condition, malnutrition, weaken this foundation, leading to earlier mortality and significant morbidities such as poor health, and more insidiously, substantial loss of neurodevelopmental potential. “In the modern era, while undernutrition remains the major challenge worldwide, we humans are now faced with the negative effects of overnutrition in the form of obesity and risky nutrition in the form of unbalanced diets or diets contaminated with potential toxins. “Each of these conditions can be considered malnutrition in the true sense of the world’s roots (bad nutrition) and each has been shown to potentially reduce brain development. “At least, 200 million children living in developing countries fail to meet their de
velopmental potential. Along with undernutrition, concomitant influences of infectious disease, environmental hazards, societal and household violence, all contribute to this loss of potential.”
Hence, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) specialist on monitoring and evaluation, Ms. Maureen Zubie-Okolo, said health issues related to malnutrition can do lifelong harm, saying that the spate of malnutrition cuts across children who are too thin for their age, children who are too short for their age and children who are too thin for their height.
The UNICEF’s research in collaboration with the National Bureau of Statistics in the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) in 2017, in which 33,901 households and 2,239 enumeration areas across the 36 states of the federation and the FCT were used, revealed that malnutrition among children under five years has worsened generally.
She said: “Unlike many other influences that are immutable or tremendously difficult to change, nutrition is something we can control. The critical or sensitive periods of brain development susceptible to specific nutritional deficiencies are increasingly well defined, making prevention of long-term deficits with well-timed nutritional interventions during the fetal period and first years of life a true possibility.
“Interventions based on the knowledge of these critical windows have the potential to exert a profound global impact, as correction of nutritional deficits alone has been estimated to have the power to increase the world’s intelligence quotient by 10 points.” Based on what is now known about the magnitude of brain development in the first 1,000 days, Sunday Telegraph learnt that the roots of some of the human’s most complex behaviours are laid down very early in life; well before there is obvious behavioral expression of those areas.
It was learnt that one of the most striking aspects of developmental nutritional neuroscience is the finding that early life deviation from expected trajectory due to a nutrient deficiency can affect brain function in adulthood, long after repletion of the nutrient. It was asserted that while the young brain is enormously plastic in its ability to recover from early insults and, hopefully, it is never too late to, at least, partially correct a deficit, the window of opportunity is narrow with advancing age.
The science suggests that it is far better policy to build the brain right in the first place through nutritional deficit prevention programs than to depend on replacement therapy once a deficit has occurred. Feeding the fetal, newborn, and young child brain is one of the best ways we can achieve this goal. Sunday Telegraph learnt that every country in the world is affected by one or more forms of malnutrition.
Combating malnutrition in all its forms is one of the greatest global health challenges. Women, infants, children and adolescents are at particular risk of malnutrition. It was gathered that optimising nutrition early in life—including the 1000 days from conception to a child’s second birthday— ensures the best possible start in life, with long-term benefits.
Poverty amplifies the risk of, and risks from, malnutrition. Sequel to this, on April 1, 2016, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly proclaimed 2016–2025, the United Nations Decade of Action on Nutrition.
The Decade is an unprecedented opportunity for addressing all forms of malnutrition. It sets a concrete timeline for implementation of the commitments made at the Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2) to meet a set of global nutrition targets and diet-related NCD targets by 2025, as well as relevant targets in the Agenda for Sustainable Development by 2030.
Led by the WHO and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), the UN Decade of Action on Nutrition calls for policy action across six key areas, including creating sustainable, resilient food systems for healthy diets; providing social protection and nutrition-related education for all.
Others are aligning health systems to nutrition needs, and providing universal coverage of essential nutrition interventions; ensuring that trade and investment policies improve nutrition; building safe and supportive environments for nutrition at all ages; and strengthening and promoting nutrition governance and accountability, everywhere.
Responding to this situation, Nigeria’s Food and Nutrition Policy is to improve the nutritional status of all Nigerians, with particular emphasis on the most vulnerable groups – children, women, and the elderly.
According to the Health Minister, Prof. Adewole Isaac, the Food and Nutrition Policy aims to establish a viable system for guiding and coordinating food and nutrition activities undertaken in the various sectors and at various levels of society, from the community to the national level.
He said: “Incorporating of food and nutrition considerations into development plans and allocation of adequate resources towards solving the problems pertaining to food and nutrition at all levels would help.
“Identifying of sectoral roles and assignment of responsibilities for the alleviation of malnutrition, ensuring that nutrition is recognised and used as an important indicator to monitor and evaluate development policies and programmes and promoting good, indigenous food cultures and dietary habits among Nigerian people for healthy living and development, will all help to achieve this.”
ASOPADEC: Bringing developments to Abia oil producing communities
bia State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (ASOPADEC) has to a large extent assuaged the pervading feeling of discontent and marginalization among the oil producing communities of Abia State, namely Ukwa East and Ukwa West. The communities are relatively peaceful, devoid of restiveness common in other oil producing states.
The years of neglect and degradation of the environment has left many oil producing communities with tales of anguish and frustration which ultimately led in many instances to altercations which disrupted the activities of the oil companies. Abia State has been spared the agony. Now that the commission has completed its modern office complex in Umuahia, the state capital, it is expected that more community and people oriented projects would be embarked upon.
Speaking at the inauguration of the magnificent office complex last Saturday at the serene Winners Way, Ndume in Umuahia North Council area, the elated chairman of the Commission, Chief Samuel Okezie Nwogu, described the feat as a dream come true.
Since its inauguration a few years back, ASOPADEC has operated from a temporary accommodation. Chief Sam Nwogu was the pioneer chairman of the Commission. It therefore appears the fulfillment of the lofty dream of the Commission is inextricably tied to Nwogu’s ingenious prudence and management knows – how.
The edifice which combined magnificence and space is an architectural marvel. Interestingly, the complex was conceived by Nwogu in his first outing as Chairman of the Commission but could not be fully executed before he was appointed Abia State representative on the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) Board. While he was away, the project crawled.
His successors either did not share the vision of prompt completion of the office complex or lacked the drive or resources to execute it. It therefore fell on Nwogu on his return to throw in all the energy and resources at his disposal to realise the dream.
Unlike other government projects that can linger interminably in spite of regular allocation of funds, the ASOPADEC office complex was completed in record time. It took resilience, determination, passion, drive and perseverance on the part the commission’s leadership to achieve the feat.
The imposing two storey complex is a model architectural edifice with 77 rooms and suites.
It has a boardroom and an expansive conference hall.
The aim is to provide staff and visitors to the complex a conducive work environment that will motivate them for effective and efficient discharge of their duties to the oil producing communities and Abia State in general.
The multi-million Naira complex, according to Nwogu, at a point had to be continued through direct labour.
Nwogu however acknowledged that the building would not have been possible without the support of Governor Okezie Ikpeazu. “Our dear Governor, this building is one of the projects mapped out for the celebration of your first one hundred days in office. It is a signature project of your administration. We rejoice with you over the realization of this project under your directive.”
With the completion of the office complex ASOPADEC is expected raise the bar of service to the State. From the present over 50 completed projects and others at various stages of completion the Commission will have no reason not to go beyond the expectations of the government and people of Abia State.
Before now the commission had embarked on construction and reconstruction of roads, civic centers, health centers, school blocks and market stalls. The Commission had also provided electricity transformers and electrification of rural communities, drilling of boreholes and water reticulation, drainages and waste disposal.
In skills acquisition, the chairman revealed that youths from the oil producing communities were beneficiaries of the Commission’s skills programmes. The commission, as a matter of policy, gives 70 percent of the slots to the oil producing communities and the remaining 30 percent to other parts of the state in all projects and programmes.
“Training on various skills acquisition is on -going at Kiara De-Luke Academy, Obingwa for 200 youths across the state. We received with joy the cheering news of outstanding performance of 124 students in the 2018/2019 batch of Interim Joint Matriculation Board from Ukwa West Local Government at Rhema University. The Commission in partnership with the Abia State University (ABSU), Uturu has secured admissions for 64 of the successful students to study and attain high academic standards in their chosen areas of studies. The second batch of 64 (IJMB) has started studies at the same Rhema University, Aba.”
Nwogu also announced the disbursement of N5million as bursary for Ukwa West students “and we have started a scholarship scheme for indigent students of the area in partnership with Asa Development Union.”
“This is beside the 30 Lexus 470 Sports Utility Vehicles acquired for the chairman and board members of the commission 18 of which are for traditional rulers of the oil producing communities of Ukwa West Local Government Area in addition to a monthly stipend.”
For the first time in a long while, let Abia State have a feel of the positive activities of an interventionist agency like ASOPADEC. With pragmatic leadership what happens in other states can happen also in Abia.
Nigeria now like Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen, says AVM Ararile, (rtd)
His Royal Majesty, Lucky Ararile, the Ovie of Umiaghwa in Abraka Kingdom, is a retired Air Vice Marshal and a first class royal father in Delta State. In this interview with OLA JAMES, the monarch takes a critical look at the state of the Nigerian nation, especially the Fulani herdsmen menace and other issues
Your Majesty, what is your assessment of the state of the nation, Nigeria, today?
Let me give you the opinion of some international organisations first before mine. We are now ranked number 14 out of the 178 countries of the world in the order of what they called tendency to become a failed state or fragile state index. Our position in the world in the other global indexes is equally bad. So, if you look at those states that are below us, you could easily observe that most of them are either at war or near so. So, we are in the company of such countries like Yemen, Afghanistan, Somalia, South Sudan, you name it. Those are the companies we now keep. Some may argue that we are a failed state; some say we are a failing state. We all feel the pain. As Nigerians, there is not much difference to us between a failed state and a failing state.
So, if you agree with the opinions of international organisations as you have enumerated, what then what would you consider as the elements of a failing state?
According to the United Nations rapporteur on extra-judicial killings and other matters, she summarised it basically to be injustice, injustice and the compounding of injustice. So, when you grumble or complain that the system is unjust to you, instead of the system addressing the injustice, it compounds it.
So, whether we are talking about the injustice of the Niger Delta, or we are talking about the mishandling of the injustice that was meted out to the original founder of Boko Haram that snowballed into what they have now; or the injustice of land grabbing by people who are not Nigerians to the extent that as we speak, almost every square kilometer of Nigerian land is under contest between the indigenes and some foreigners, injustice underlines the character of a failing state.
So, whether you want to talk about Delta State, with the influx of the so-called Fulani herdsmen; whether it is in the South-East, whether it is in the South-West, whether it is in the Middle Belt or in the North-West, the invading Fulani are there. You do not hear so much of the problem of the Fulani herdsmen in the North-East because that is already a battle zone. But you now have it in the North-West.
The entry of the foreign Fulani has been justified by the provision of the ECOWAS Protocol on Free Movement. The question to ask is what is the stake of these foreign Fulani in Nigeria? How did Nigeria become a party to a Protocol that allows foreigners to invade our country?
The categorisation was made by the Governor of Kano State. He categorised Fulani herdsmen into three – the foreign Fulani, the local Fulani and Fulani that are now indigenes in other states. In other words, they were born and bred in those states and they have been living their lives unmolested. Now, those that are settlers in places other than their own, we have no problems with them.
We have not had problem with the local Fulani that have been herding their cattle through these centuries. Even in my kingdom here, I can tell you where their camp is, and they have been there since time immemorial. They come and go.
Now, enters the third category of Fulani – those that are from other African countries, mainly from Guinea, Mali and some that have been dislodged from Central African Republic. And given the availability of illicit weapons, they come into the country armed. Before they leave Mali, Guinea to Nigeria, they would have passed through Senegal, Cote d’Voire, Ghana, Togo, Benin Republic before Nigeria; then from the North, through Niger Republic. How come everybody is heading to Nigeria? Why don’t these countries have the same problems? They tried it in Ghana but the Ghanaian President decisively solved the issue. Here, definitely they are succeeding to the extent that almost every square kilometer of land in Nigeria is under contention between the indigenes and foreign Fulani herdsmen.
Now, let me make a distinction. Although we say foreign Fulani herdsmen, the truth is that those people have certain physical similarities with the local Fulani but they do not speak Fufude. And they have sympathy too from the local Fulani. So, it is the sympathy of the local Fulani that has emboldened the foreign Fulani. And these foreign Fulani have no sympathy; they have no value for life; they have no attachment to anybody or any land. They are just there to maim, to kill and to take possession of the land they are able to grab. So, this essentially is a land-grabbing issue. And we must look at it from that perspective and isolate the indigenous/local Fulani from those foreign Fulani.
With or without ECOWAS, we have our own local laws that govern our interactions. You cannot say because the ECOWAS protocol guarantees free movement then you bring your cattle and because you have an AK47 rifle, you will go and take over somebody’s house. They even invaded the National Assembly at one point in time; they attempted incursions to some Nigerian universities at a time. Schools in Edo State at a time were almost closed down because of Fulani. If they are actually grazing, do they have grasses in classrooms?
So, the whole idea is another form of terrorism, and this time, it is to terrorise the indigenes so that they can run away from their land and they will settle there. This is the issue. And they have their sympathisers in Nigeria, otherwise it wouldn’t have been possible. There are the sponsors and people who are sympathising with them. And this sympathy may be by bending local rules and laws and by supplying them with comfort, one way or the other, or financial support.
If you juxtapose this analysis of yours on land grabbing tendency by the foreign Fulani with the Federal Government’s recent RUGA settlement policy, though now suspended?
The issue to consider is that this phenomenon has been in ascendancy only recently. So, why is it that all of a sudden Fulani are everywhere and are fighting everyone? The economy is collapsing, insecurity everywhere; people are being kidnapped everywhere, but the only policy which the Federal Government can sit down and think about was RUGA.
Why the immediacy, why the urgency, with all the plethora of problems that we have that the government doesn’t seem to care about or address? Why the urgency with RUGA? And in any case, RUGA is a private business. With all the number of cows we claim to have, we are not a major producer or exporter of cattle. If this is how other countries grow their cattle, then in New Zealand, Australia, Botswana, etc, cows will be attending classes with students. But seriously, the issue of cattle rearing is a private matter.
And I take it beyond the general analysis that is being done in Nigeria. For me, cattle rearing in Nigeria should be declared as equal to slavery. Any elite that has a few cattle gives them to the son of the poor to who is expected to take them hundred and thousands of kilometers to rear those cattle for him for his own benefit, while his own children are in Dubai. It is a wicked system; it is an unfair system. So, for me, the issue is beyond cattle rearing, it is a question of humanity. It is immoral, it is unfair, it is unjustifiable that somebody, because he is materially better off at a point in time, wants to increase his wealth, buys cattle for another human being that is less privileged to rear for him. For me, it is the height of human exploitation akin to or even beyond slavery. So, this is an issue we have to promote with the United Nations to declare the type of cattle rearing as is being practiced in Nigeria as inhuman.
Prior to President Muhammadu Buhari’s emergence in 2015, you granted an interview where you expressed optimism about his ability to offer good leadership that will lift the country out of the woods. From what is happening in the country today, how would you assess his leadership?
Let me tell you this, the security issues in Nigeria are so many and they are mutating. So, we have security issues in the Niger Delta caused by injustice; you have security issues in the middle belt caused by injustice; you have security issues in the North-East, Boko Haram.
I remember in that interview I granted, I asked a rhetorical question: the way we are going after Boko Haram, is it actually a religious uprising or an attempt at land grabbing? At the time I asked that question, the Fulani herdsmen were not in the equation. So, you can see how the security issues are mutating. The strategy in the North-East, I equally said then, was basically to contain the crisis within the North-East states of Yobe, Gombe and Borno. Those were the areas they were concentrating on. But I asked the question: even if we are successful in containing the uprising in the North-East, what about the areas bordering the North East that we are not focusing on? Are you going to build a wall to contain them? They are from the North and they claim they are all Muslims, so they can migrate elsewhere; they can go beyond the boundaries of the area where there was crisis already, into those other states outside the North-East. And that exactly was what happened.
They have gone beyond that area now because if you are successful in the North-East and you left the other places unattended to, you can be sure that they will relocate there; if not all of them, then some elements of them. So, we are faced with security variables that are mutating. And the sad point to note is that we have always been reactive. So, when you say you have degraded them in the North-East, another variant or version of it appears in Zamfara. You now call the army, you call the Navy, you call the Air Force and the police to go there.
Before you know it, another element of it has migrated to the South-West. This is because, in the North-East they were able to mobilise and they came out of their hiding. Initially, they were doing suicide bombings and things like that, but by the time they got sufficient funding and capacity, they moved out of their bases in the Sambisa Forest to come and capture local governments and even set up some quasi governance. That is the point that I was happy about, that the army now have people they can deal with once and for all because they are now out of hiding. They are now holding ground; you know where they are. So, you can then take them at once. But what did we do? We were able to harass them, as it were, out of those local governments and we said we have decimated them, but they were not conquered. So they are back. Now, in the success of that decimation, from my own readings, we have been able to actually destroy some of their logistics in terms of weapons and even in terms of sustenance on the field and also in terms of funding. I think we have been able to dislocate that. But when you have done that, the elements of those whom you said you have degraded will be heating up the land.
So, if they cannot get funding from abroad, from their usual source, they must get it internally. And how do they get it? They have to kidnap people of means. So, they live off the land. I have said it before that Nigeria is a copycat environment. When they now see that elements of decimated Boko Haram are now kidnapping people, even kidnapping girls and government is now negotiating with them and giving them money, it became a business. So, everybody is now affected. It is either you are kidnapping or you are kidnapped.
Are you in support of government dialoguing with Boko Haram?
You see, in any conflict situation, you don’t use one approach. You use all the options available to you, as a country, to solve that conflict. You can dialogue with them, you can use military power, you can use your political power and you can use your diplomatic power. All these elements of power of the state must be brought to bear. So, if you think that you are going to solve this problem with the military option alone, you have a long thing coming.
It is being peddled in some quarters that the inability of the military to actually contain and deal decisively with the Boko Haram is due to poor funding and ill-equipping of the military. It is even claimed by some that Boko Haram has more sophisticated equipment more than the Nigerian military. What is your take on that?
Well, I’m one of the people who believe that, given the resources available to Nigeria, the military gets more than a fair share. You cannot fund the military with more than what you have. And their share of the national budget is significant. Now, it is the use to which these monies are put that is the issue. If, as in the case of the former National Security Adviser that is under incarceration, Col. Sambo Dasuki, (rtd) who could have a discretionary right over $2.1 billion that was voted for arms and disbursing same the way he wants, then it is incredible.
So, it is not the quantum of the money allocated to the military that is the issue, it is the use to which it is put to. And once it is not effectively used, then of course, your military can only perform as much. That is why at a time, Nigerian soldiers were running on foot across to Cameroun. They have stopped running to Cameroun now not because of anything but because Boko Haram are now in Cameroun and therefore they cannot be running away from Boko Haram in Nigeria only to run into them in Cameroun. So, Boko Haram is actually helping to prevent our soldiers from running away.
They have been saying so. If they are provided with adequate equipment would they be saying that they are ill-equipped? If they are provided with adequate equipment and they are not performing, then we can say it was due to poor morale, poor welfare and poor motivation. But when they themselves are telling you that they don’t have adequate equipment, you have to believe them. But let me tell you. The overall problem I see with the Nigerian security architecture, I can disintegrate each component and deal with it. But let me start with the overall. When you set up a defence system, the Army, the Navy and the Air Force – you can task each of these services directly to a specific job that is part of their own.
For example, during the administration of Ronald Regan of the US, you heard of the Airforce going to Libya to bomb some targets. Those operations were not for all the services. It is mission specific operation. You can give it to the Air Force, you can give it to the Navy and you can even give it to the Army. There are those which even though they are mission specific, you still need the support of other services. So, you have what we called the leading and the supportive services. If the Airforce is the leader as has been tasked in a particular assignment, the other services are to provide support. Then of course, we have the joint operation.
But what do we have in Nigeria? We have militarised the police and civilianised the military. In a situation where you see at the lowest level, a pick-up truck with soldiers, the police and the National Security and Civil Defence Corps – all of them in one pick-up going for an operation, that speaks volumes of the confusion and lack of professionalism.
What is impression about the composition of President Buhari’s cabinet and your suggestions on how to lift Nigeria from the woods?
Well, as to the appointment of the ministers, first of all I congratulate them. Most of them, I would say, have some precedents that are enviable and some not so enviable. But I would have to wait for their performance. My comment would have to be ex-post facto, that is, after the fact; this one performed, that one didn’t perform. I don’t know the basis on which they were appointed. As for the president, I have been praying for him as a Nigerian. I will continue to pray for him. I also enjoin Nigerians to pray for him.
Certainly, he is not the President we thought he would be; maybe on account of his ill-health. But be that as it may, I would say what I had said before, I think we are now on auto-pilot. We are supposed to be running, not walking. We are going back now in the economy. From 2.3 per cent of GDP, and by this last release by the National Bureau of Statistics, we are now 1.94 per cent of GDP; which is slower. Take note that 2.3 per cent GDP was poor in any case. Anything less than five per cent GDP, then we are creating more poverty. Today, it is being said that Nigeria is the leading capital of poor people in the world, that is 46 per cent of the total population of 200 million people. In the next 10 years, probably 99 per cent of the population of Nigeria will be poor if we continue in this trajectory.
Only recently, Nigerians were taken aback by a British court judgment that awarded a fine of $9.6 billion against Nigeria following a purported breach of contract between the Federal Government and an Irish company, P&ID which, by the terms of the contract, was supposed to build and operate a gas facility in Calabar to energise our power sector. Analysts are of the view that if that fine comes to stay without appeal, then the economy of the country will nose-dive. What are your thoughts on this issue?
Well, as at now our reserve is about $44 billion. If we pay $9.6 billion out of that, it will come down to about $34.4 billion. And you know at a time when we were at $33 billion, panic was all over the place because we didn’t have sufficient foreign exchange. The immediate consequence of that is that we will have the naira devalued whether we like it or not. You remember that the President was against the devaluation but the naira was devalued in spite of him. That devaluation occurred as a result of market forces. You don’t have dollars, you don’t have it. It is not wishful thinking. So, that will be the immediate consequence. But I want to take it on the general level. When I sit and think about Nigeria, I think that there is a conspiracy for Nigeria to go backward to 14th century. There is a conspiracy among the elites because of the choices we make. The elites who control the levers of power do not want Nigeria to develop. So, the issue of development you are hearing is nothing but lip-service. Some people really want Nigeria to go backward to the 14th century. Else, the simplest thing to do if you want Nigeria to develop even without government commitment, is to make power available.
The question is why have all our efforts to develop power so far failed? Olusegun Obasanjo spent $16 billion on power. For some reasons, he actually built some plants, like the Niger Delta Power Holding Company built about 10 power plants that are gas-based. Do you know that it takes about four years to build an average 200 or 300 MW plant? Obasanjo was there for eight years. Do you know that it was when Obasanjo left that we now realised that all those power plants had no gas, and that we needed gas to power them? It was Buhari that started the infrastructure to provide gas supply to the plants. By doing that, do you think Obasanjo actually meant to solve the power problem? Now, this gas company, P&ID, would have solved our gas problem to the tune of about 2000 megawatts that it would have supplied us. That would have made a lot of difference. Okay, there were issues as to the character of the persons and as to the agreement in the contract. But the contract was entered into since 2010. What are the alternatives since the project was a good one? The fact remains that we still need the project.
So, what have they done since 2010? They didn’t do anything. The man goes to court. It is not the first court case he was having with Nigeria, if you can access Bloomberg and find out. That is even just one court case. There are more court cases that will come up as a result of this. Even Shell and one other company went to the United States court to want to reactivate an existing judgment debt of $1.8 billion that Nigeria refused to pay. Just recently a judge in the United States threw it out. More of that are going to come because of our disdain for rule of law and impunity, for not following procedures.
Even locally here, the amount of judgment debt that the Federal Government is sitting on is enough to kill the economy. Local contractors that were given legitimate contracts used their money from the banks to execute the contracts but the government refused to pay them, and they cannot do anything. That is at the local level. So, they extend this impunity to the international arena. For me, this is just a tip of the iceberg.
How successful has the war against corruption been your own estimation?
As for corruption, let me use that word again, ex-post facto. When they hear that you have stolen, they will arrest you. But corruption is endemic in Nigeria – from top to bottom, to the last person. It must be a holistic approach; it must be systematic. There must be strategy in place to prevent it from happening. I know they introduced this thing they called whistleblower, that one is dead now. So, it must be a holistic approach where we can stop people before they become corrupt.
Xenophobia, testimony to leadership failure in Africa –Gen IBM Haruna
There was outrage across Africa and the global community recently when xenophobic attacks were unleashed on Nigerians and other foreign nationals in South Africa. In this interview, a former Federal Commissioner for Information, Adjutant General of the Nigeria Army and later General Officer Commanding (GOC) of One Mechanised Infantry Division, Kaduna, Major General Ibrahim Bata Malgwi (IBM) Haruna (rtd) tells ONWUKA NZESHI that the attacks were indications of leadership challenges in Africa
What’s your opinion to the xenophobic attacks on Nigerians and other African migrants in South Africa?
Well, these recent attacks are said to be xenophobic but some people have also suggested that it might not be exactly so. Xenophobia is a fear for something foreign, but what is being demonstrated in South Africa is not apprehension for something foreign. It is more of fear for black African brothers. It is more of an attack against fellow black African which is contrary to all our aspirations towards the liberation and unity of the African people. This is a reverse of all we had hoped for as Africans . It is condemnable because it is retarding our progress as Africans in our bid to build a united continent committed to the ideals of freedom, human rights and justice for everyone.
Why do you think South Africans are targeting Nigerians and other Africans?
They may have various reasons but South Africa should understand that it cannot go back to apartheid. Africans are working hard intellectually, politically and economically to evolve a common concert of development on the continent. This informed the formation of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), now the African Union (AU) and a number of other regional economic unions including ECOWAS and the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (ACFTA). These are structures deliberately created to foster more integration, cooperation and brotherhood among Africans. Over the years, many nations have out-grown their internal conflicts and emerged as stronger nations. Why must Africa and its people remain behind particularly at this age of scientific and technological revolution? I think we Africans, particularly South Africans, should sit back and think again.
Do you think the South African government has handled this crisis well?
I don’t think the government of South Africa has handled the crisis well. It has not only failed in reorienting the generality of South Africans about the challenges of the post-Apartheid era, but has also failed to give hope to the poor black population who feel marginalised by the current system. The government should provide good education and entrepreneurial skills to these poor black South Africans. They should be taught how to create friendship and social cooperation particularly with their other African brothers and sisters.
The South African government must show commitment and courage in challenging the subterranean influences that are working against the black race in South Africa.
In so far as we have defeated apartheid, we have not annihilated it completely.
It is evident that in the inner workings of the economy of South Africa, there is still the dominance of the White Supremacists while the black natives and other African migrants are being made to bear the brunt of this discriminatory system. It is the blacks that are confronted with the sharp edge of unemployment and landlessness. I think that it is unjustifiable because there are laws, treaties and agreement which South Africa is a signatory to and should be bold enough to enforce. If some people are involved in criminality, treat it as such, but don’t racialise it. If economic opportunities are stunted or there is a regression, it must be due to a number of factors. It cannot just be because your fellow Africans are sharing from the available opportunities.
In any economy, there is competition, but there are also rules guiding the game. You cannot really blame anybody who is doing better or who appears to be better than you if you are reluctant to compete with them and overcome your own challenges. The South Africans are giving us the impression that they are afraid to fight the real battle. The cause of their backwardness and poverty cannot be attributed to strangers who have migrated to South Africa legally and are operating legal businesses. If there are criminals among the strangers, they are there for the law to take its course. It is wrong to criminalise all citizens of other countries.
Some critics have said the Federal Government did not respond swiftly to these ugly developments in South Africa. Do you agree?
That impression may have been brought about by the role of the media because the media enlarges the information available and dishes them out to the general public. I think that our local media tried to explain and mobilise the people based on the information available to them through whatsapp, Facebook or the international media. However, not all Nigerians have access to all these channels and those who have also have their personal biases unless if they are enlightened on the issue.
This brings to the focus, the need for the leadership of our country to be up and doing in informing the general populace about the situation and how to react. It was very disappointing that Nigerians were being killed in South Africa and for some time, government appeared indecisive until the reprisals at home. We now saw a situation where angry Nigerians were attacking fellow Nigerians working in some companies linked to South Africa and dislodging them from their places of employment. It does not show proper understanding of the issues.
One had expected that Nigeria being the most populous African nation parading prominent scholars, writers and scientists should not have allowed the reprisal attacks to take place at all. It was as if we were going back into barbarism. It was a faulty move based on poor enlightenment.
The leadership should take responsibility for it because it showed a clear breakdown of communication between the government and the people.
However, the fire brigade approach which we normally get was activated and both the government and the people were able to come to terms with the situation. But we should not always wait for the horse to bolt out of the stable before we start chasing it. I think there is need for our government to improve on communication with the people on issues like this. Things don’t happen in one day. Even an earthquake does not erupt in one day. The signs are always there and you should nip it in the bud as soon as you realise what is going to happen. Our government needs to be proactive to ensure that crisis do not erupt unnecessarily but are prevented to ensure the protection of lives and property of the citizenry.
Do you think that Nigeria has handled this matter well in terms of our diplomatic engagement with South Africa since this crisis began?
Well the diplomatic engagements and actions taken are not all in the open. Whether they are far reaching or enough, we may not know but generally we know what the media and the government communication system told us. President Muhammadu Buhari dispatched a Special Envoy to South Africa while our High Commissioner to South Africa was also invited to brief the government on what was going on in that country.
These are normal diplomatic engagements which we see depending on how intense the matter is but whether we know enough of what might have happened behind the scene, I don’t think so.
Perhaps it was that gap that made some Nigerians to suggest that more intense actions be taken against South Africa if the normal diplomatic engagements failed to bring the crisis to an end.
I must say that those immediate reactions taken out of anger were barbaric. If there were right and appropriate communications, people would have been restrained from taking such actions. The government should have taken proactive steps by calming down the people and reassuring them that Nigeria was doing something about the issue. The South Africans are our brothers; we salvaged them from Apartheid and repression. It’s unthinkable that we could come to a stage where we would be destroying a relationship built over the years. The leaderships of both South Africa and Nigeria should have taken some initiatives through the issuance of early warnings to avoid the crisis.
Even after our envoy had visited South Africa, there were still open threats by the South African mob to chase away foreigners from their country. What do you suggest Nigeria should do if current diplomatic moves do not work?
First and foremost, I don’t think we should give credence to all that we hear or see on television and social media. We should follow what the leadership of our country has told us. They have assured us that they are taking the necessary diplomatic steps to resolve the matter. I think it is a matter of how much faith and trust we have in our own leadership. But between the general populace and the government, there are suggestions of various procedural steps that should be taken. For example, even if you’re asking for compensation, you have to evaluate the damages and ascertain the claims of individual losses.
It is heartwarming that in the face of the threats, Nigeria has undertaken to evacuate our citizens who are in distress and are ready to return home. I understand that a private airline, Air Peace, has offered to evacuate Nigerians who are stranded in South Africa but all these will follow some procedures.
In essence, our government is taking all the necessary diplomatic procedures but if at the end negotiations fail and South Africa doesn’t pay the compensation, Nigeria can stop the repatriation of dividends meant for South Africans from their business interests in Nigeria. We can look at our business agreements with them and see areas where we could impose penalties.
But these options are in the realms of continuous warfare and more or less extreme measures.
It is not on the path of African brotherhood and the fact that we have been our brother’s keeper. In the traditional African society, we share our meals with our brothers; sometimes not equitably because we have respect for elders and empathy for young people. In the philosophy of live and let live, peace is the most important element in the resolution of this crisis.
These attacks on Nigerians are not just happening in South Africa but also in Ghana, Angola, Kenya and other African countries. What could be wrong with us and our relationship with other African countries?
Yes, you’re correct, something is definitely wrong somewhere because you will remember that we too at one time had resorted to expelling the Ghanaians who were in Nigeria. I think what is wrong with Africa is our political orientation and leadership. When we were all together as Africans fighting for independence, the leadership across the continent were getting their acts together. But now that we are supposed to harness our resources for our economic and social development, our unity has crumbled and we all seem to have fallen into the act of corruption and helping the colonialists in furthering their original agenda of exploiting our resources while we are fighting ourselves. We are still preoccupied with helping them to extract our resources and taking them to their countries.
So I think that what is going wrong is that the ideology, philosophy and the vision of Pan-Africanism which compelled us to unite as brothers have dwindled so much over the years. There is no longer that concerted effort and focus that leadership of African nations showed in the days when we were collectively fighting against racism, colonial domination, and we all wanted political independence.
This is another phase in the political evolution of Africa and it is a phase that has come upon our leadership at the same time as the digital communication revolution. This is no longer the old era. We have to put our acts together to face the challenges of contemporary times. If we don’t take the right strides, we will remain ever backward in the global community. The leadership of African nations must get together to tackle the challenges we face as Africans today.
We need to reform the curriculum in our schools and the mentality of our people. Our moral character and spiritual commitment to Africa are far from what we advertise. Today, we have so many prayer houses, so many Sheiks and Bishops, so many mosques and churches and yet we have so many corrupt and thieving people.
We are no longer committed to the cause of our independence and the visions of the founding fathers of the African Union. There is a very wide gap between our freedom fighters who fought for our independence and today’s chop-chop politicians..
Unfortunately for us in Nigeria, I think that the oil wealth that came to us has made us like drunken people who have won a lottery or pools betting worth millions of dollars overnight. It’s like easy come, easy go. I think that we need to be mindful of what we do to ourselves and others. We need to sensitise our people that our resources including taxes are being frittered away as if it is just a windfall. We should hold to account those mismanaging our resources. If we leave things as they are, the looting will continue and real socio- economic development will continue to suffer.
Why is this phenomenon that wherever we go as Nigerians, the host tends to be uncomfortable with us? Are other African countries retaliating because we once sent Ghanaians packing from here?
No. I don’t think the phenomenon belongs to us as Nigerians. It is a phenomenon that is displayed by humans in all social organisations. The sociology of the human being is to work and benefit. If you work and you seem to be more prosperous than those in your host community and your host nation is not having the necessary policies to keep the disparity under control, then sooner or later the impoverished indigenous people will be aggrieved and rise up against you.
These natives, like the black South Africans, rightfully feel that the land is theirs, the resources including the job opportunities have been there with them and yet some strangers who came to join them appear to be benefitting more from the system.
What they failed to realise is that strangers know they have to work hard because they have left their homes to another country in pursuit of a better life. They work so hard to justify the cause of migrating to a far away land but oftentimes, the natives are indolent and can be sleeping on the resources without doing anything meaningful. When they are surpassed by the strangers in their midst, it’s natural that they will get envious and want to use force to snatch part of the goodies acquired by the stranger. It happens everywhere.
But again, I think that when we have governments and good governance, they ought to regulate these natural feelings of human beings. The government should be able to make relevant laws and implement them in a manner that is just and equitable. Where there is criminality, you deal with those involved whether they are foreigners or natives of the country.
I think that naturally, the human psychology doesn’t take kindly to a stranger coming to enrich himself over the natives.
This also explains why as Africans we were not happy when the colonial masters came here and carted away our natural resources just by merely giving out mirrors or bottles of liquor to our kings. We were angry because they also carted away our brothers to foreign lands to work in sugar cane, cotton and coffee plantations and became wealthy as a result of the slave trade.
Over there too, when the slaves realised that though they were strangers, they were the ones producing all the wealth for these White men, they revolted and started their own liberation struggle. It has been a cycle of revolt, change and the creation of new civilisations. Today, those who were foremost in enslaving people are now at the forefront of preaching human rights and civilisation.
In the midst of all these, what can Nigeria do stop these attacks and apparent hatred of Nigerians abroad?
As Africa’s most populous country, Nigeria should lead by example. We should seek fidelity in our leadership and conduct of our governance, ensuring that there is capacity, meritocracy, rule of law, equity, fairness and justice in our systems. We must ensure that there is credibility in our elections and transparency when we enthrone our leaders. We must earn the respect of other countries by ensuring that we have leaders who emerge from the true hearts and souls of the people; not leaders who have bought and paid for our conscience with the aim of reaping the returns on their investments.
The type of leadership we have which other African countries are concerned about is that which is defective and you cannot give people what you don’t have. If you want to give a continent peace and tranquility, friendship and leadership, then start from your own country.
You cannot be suffering such high level of insecurity, inequality and discrimination that are subtle because there is no clear division in terms of race and expect others to respect you. Although, you are of the same race, you have diverse languages and cultures and you take advantage of one another. You cannot sell that to the outside world.
Our constitution has tried to pave the way by including certain principles of equity and fairness. But if you preach federal character, equity and rule of law, you should walk the talk. But if you preach all the good things and indulge in all kinds of underground combat; you deal with people without sincerity , it will not work. You can’t go to church on Sunday and on Monday you do something else or you go to Mosque on Friday and on Saturday, you’re doing something contrary to what you preach and you expect others to take you seriously. There is so much double standards in our system but for Nigeria to be respected in the comity of nations, she must show quality leadership.
The government must ensure that citizens are happy and are not leaving this country because they are dissatisfied with the system. They should leave this country in spite of their happiness, in spite of their well being, in spite of the good education they have and in spite of the employment opportunities available to them here. It is only on these conditions that Nigerians can go somewhere else to live and work with respect.
Nigerians must not be compelled to leave their own country because situations here are made unbearable for them. In a nutshell, I am saying that we need to fix our country so that Nigerians can have opportunities for a good life here instead of running away to other countries where they will be confronted with hostile hosts.
They say charity should begin at home. But what do we have here in our communities? Hunger, unemployment, dilapidated schools, no Primary Health Care. Even when people migrate to the cities, there are no opportunities to survive and they become beggars and turn to criminality.
The government must look back and reverse some of these trends that breeds the ills that results from lack of opportunities.
If we had used our oil wealth judiciously, perhaps these things would not have gone this bad. There would have been job opportunities, access to good education and health and people would have been working, earning the income and promotions to higher levels.
Nigeria was once on top but we are no longer there.
In our youthful days we had done our best even though we missed the cross sections here and there, but I think the younger generation of leaders can learn a lot. You don’t sit down and be given the opportunity. They have to seize the opportunity, not necessarily by force but by advocacy and joining convincing associations and community groups to demand their rights.
What are your thoughts about the state of insecurity in our country?
Basically, my thoughts about the insecurity is that the failure of leadership is haunting our country. Again, this is because the opportunities that we have had from our oil wealth, if it was invested in the right undertakings, we wouldn’t have arrived at this environment of unemployment, poverty, corruption, discrimination, social oppression, bigotry and lack of faith in our country.
You make one policy today and you abandon it the following day. For example you roll out a policy on rural development today and tomorrow, it is green revolution and upon all that, nothing positive happens in the lives of citizens. You promised to increase power generation from 3,000 megawatts to 10,000megawatts but you end up with 2,000megawatts after investing more than $40million. So in essence, you are not dancing to the music and drums that you’re playing. There is no harmony in the music you’re playing and if there is no harmony between the political and economic music of a government, people are likely to overstep their bounds.
Are you saying that it is the disharmony in the political and economic environment that is responsible for insecurity?
These are the causes and the results, all wrapped together. If you say one thing and do another, you can’t get the result of what you conceived and you can neither achieve your vision nor mission. Imagine a country that had a booming textile industry, petroleum refineries, steel industry and sprawling manufacturing sector. Midstream, everything collapsed and all the investors packed and left the country. The economy was thriving and the standard of living was good but now where is all the money? The resources of our country is not generating investments here, it is out there in other countries. We are now the ones importing everything we ought to be producing here. These are the things fuelling insecurity and I think It is the product of a leadership failure. The leadership must have commitment and dedication on rebuilding the Nigerian state. So there are a lot of challenges due to the mistakes that we have made and this is the time to put our home in order.
What should Nigeria do to reverse this trend of leadership failure and all its accompanying challenges?
Some people have suggested restructuring; others have suggested a return to the parliamentary system. But whichever option we adopt, it must be a system that works in terms of its design and engineering. You can change from combustion engine to electrical system, the bottom line is that the motor must work. There must be mobility and efficiency of the vehicle not that after changing the system remains in stagnation. I think that in an environment of democratic leadership, until you make the electoral process credible, free and fair, you will not get true legitimacy of governance.
You can take advantage of new scientific and technological developments to make our elections truly credible and transparent. The electoral system should be auditable so that we can cross – check the process to verify its outcomes. But as long as the system is left opaque – you don’t know who has voted, where he voted from and which party he voted for, we will keep running around this cycle of failure. We know the faults because as Nigerians, we are one of the greatest analytical brains you can find anywhere in the world.
If we know the problems and their solutions, why are we not taking the right actions that will get us out of the woods?
Nowadays, the fabric of the society is not founded on the morals and ethics which a half dear in past years. The family, community, social unit had values and those values evolved into a decent society. Remember that even during the colonial times, if the treasurer of the Native Authority loses one logo, he and the Administrator would go to jail.
Even the most renowned leader of the Northern Region, the Sardauna of Sokoto was threatened with imprisonment for little malfeasance committed by his lieutenants in the local treasury. So there was strict accountability, transparency and respect for human values and dignity.
In those days you cannot lead a community if you have been indicted for wrong doing. It is not so today. In fact, when you are indicted for corruption, you are celebrated and honoured because we now have an exclusive club of rogue elite who operate as a cabal. to control whatever happens in the country. Their focus is to acqure whatever wealth there is and go choose who and who gets what based on patronage and influence earned on the fringes of corruption.
Why is Nigeria finding it so difficult to end the insurgency, bandits and widespread insecurity in the country?
My thinking is that the insurgency is not really a military specific issue. It is not an insecurity that can be addressed by combat military action. Firstly, you know that the in security is not inherently domestic and because of that, it is not like Biafra fighting with the rest of Nigeria during the civil war. In the civil war, you fight over the territories, you decimate the rebels and after a while, you reconcile as brothers. The kind of insecurity we have on our hands today is more political and economic. The political dimension transcends our internal politics while the economic dimension transcends military strategy.
So, my thinking is that the military has its limitations and they are not given the only charge to restore security. They can restore security for the displaced persons but what about the security of employment, security of farming and security of investments?
International cooperation also impacts on our internal security. It is a challenge beyond buying weapons for the Nigeria Army, Air Force and Navy to restore the territorial integrity of the North Eastern Zone, North West or the rest of the country. There are other internal factors that are impacting on this state of insecurity. The nation is challenged and all our institutions need to come together to have a concerted policy that would bring about security, stability, socio-economic and political development in the country.
There must be synergy among all levels of government and the security apparatus. The insecurity requires a broad-based collaboration beyond just having a war office. If the politicians are thinking on their own, the economic managers are on their own and the military is on its own, we are not likely going to have a national concerted effort to win the war against insurgency and banditry. The fight against insurgency is more than just military operations and mounting checkpoints and road blocks along the highways.
Police on vigilance against illegal blood donors, thieves in Lagos hospitals
Issue of overcrowding medical facilities in Nigeria can be one of the reasons for poor health care delivery in the country, which consequently upon leads to avoidable deaths. JOSEPH ENYIM writes that patients will receive better services if the country’s medical facilities are decongested
rs. Aighbedion Janet had gone to the Mother and Child Hospital, Festac Town, in Amuwo Odofin Local Government Area of Lagos State, where she registered for antenatal to be delivered of a baby which has been sought for many years, but was turned back without examination on the grounds that her pregnancy was not due.
Janet, who was convinced about her feeling insisted that she was done, saying that her baby was getting close, yet they turned her back still working on the overwhelming population that they had at hand, which resulted in no bed space.
She left graudingly with her husband, who encouraged her to heed the medics advice. Shortly after they got home, the situation continued unabated and the labour pain became stronger and at home, she was left at the mercy of an auxiliary nurse.
This was a woman who was told that her delivering wasn’t in sight. Luckily for her, her husband ran to their pastor’s wife who is a medical doctor and a surgeon. He informed her of the situation at home, and both the pastor and doctor ran there with her husband.
While the doctor was trying to set up her apparatus for child’s delivering seeing that the water had broken, the pastor said that his grandson cannot be delivered at home after many years of praying and fasting for the pregnancy, but the doctor insisted that there was no time else the baby will die.
At this point the pastor gave in and delivering started. Both the doctor and the axillary nurse delivered her of her baby while her husband became a mid-father who combined with an errand nurse.
Janet who registered at the hospital now was delivered in her sitting room. All thanks to God who kept the doctor and other people that ensured the success of the delivery at home after the hospital had sent her away.
This boils down to the issue of overcrowding hospitals in the country, especially that of the federal and state-owned facilities in Lagos State and the need for more facilities to decongest already congested ones.
If not for the nurse and the doctor, may be, Janet and her unborn baby would add to the incident of mother and child mortality in the country even when the whole world is saying that a woman should no longer die while giving birth.
Thus, despite positive and great changes in the country’s health sector, especially the two major teaching hospitals in Lagos State, Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Idi-Araba, and Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), Ikeja there are yet, more rooms for improvement.
These and few other observations were made by Sunday Telegraph during it of these facilities in the state to determine how they are fired.
At LUTH, which is located at Idiaraba, Mushin, this full-fledged medical school, a tertiary hospital, has seen millions of patients in its 57 years of existence, established in July 1962.
Sunday Telegraph’s visits to the hospital to determine also how the inpatients in the said facility are being taken care of, revealed that the general change for which we are yearning for is really not the key to the change we are seeking rather our individual change is the key to the general changes we are looking forward to.
No wonder our president will say “change begins with me”. Moving around the hospital, our trainee reporter met a group of people, who he suspected had one patient or the other in the hospital.
Though he couldn’t understand the Yoruba language with which they were discussing but certainly he could sense that the discussion was not unconnected to man inhumanity to man and with small English they interject while speaking attracted him.
Upon questioning, one of the discussants, revealed to him, something he thought would never happen in such a place. It was a case of ill treatment against relatives of sick in-patients. They alleged that some nurses and few other staff treat their patients with scorn.
The man, who pleaded anonymous alleged that some of them refused patients’ relatives entrance to the ward to take care of their sick relative except they are willing to path with some money.
A victim of such ill-treatment, who also wouldn’t want to put her name in the print for the fear that it might worsen her mother’s situation who consequently gave her name as Bunmi, alleged that she was denied access to the ward to take care of her mother.
She said her mother cannot stand on her own without the help of an assistant to ease herself yet they stopped her from entering, saying that they were allegedly looking for money from her, which she didn’t have.
Meanwhile, our reporter had no idea that trending in the hospital was that of people from outside, most especially from Mushin side of the hospital gate, are into illegal sale of blood selling.
There is a particular culprit, Baba Taju, who according to the police, had lived from that business over the years, selling blood.
Sunday Telegraph learnt that he organises people to donate blood for patients who need it at a fee. Owing to this, one person donates more than what it supposed to thereby leading to poor quality of blood.
Medically, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), blood donation should be done only twice a year and therefore, it’s expected that one donates blood free without any financial inducement.
This has been flagrantly violated by these people and that name Baba Taju still reverberates at LUTH for the past 20 years.
If police had apprehended him before and he escaped, one can’t say for sure but he’s still there doing that business till tomorrow.
These people, according to the police post, operating within the administrative block of this great health facility, take advantage of people’s predicament to enrich themselves and do harm to their bodies.
It was also learnt that some touts before now, freely enter the hospital to steal unsuspecting people’s valuables. According to the police, a doctor’s bag was stolen that money, under their watch.
These were the things our Trainee reporter discovered when he was mistaken to be one of the agents for blood donation and other crimes in the hospital. He was arrested and detained for hours before Sunday Telegraph’s features’ head, visited the police post to secure his release.
He was equally beaten by the police, especially the Chief Security Officer (CSO), LUTH police post, who asked him to undress even as he was shivering due to the cold from the air conditioners in the office.
He was only given his clothes, shoes, writch watch and bag when the police heard that a senior correspondent was coming to secure his release, though he didn’t reveal his real identity as a trainee reporter to him.
He was, after much interrogation from the police and beating, asked to confess his mission to the facility and was forced to write a statement.
In spite of these, the trainee who was arrested and taken custody of around 12:31pm, secured his freedom about 4pm. He was wondering what the police are doing since they know those who perpetuate these crimes.
Responding to the security situation at the hospital, the CSO said they are vigilant because of people who come in to steal people’s valuables and to ensure that those who move in freely to donate blood are stopped.
“Just this morning, a doctor’s bag was stolen in the hospital. So there are people who stay here without any business and they are looking for a way to commit one crime or the other.
“Again, at the Mushin gate of the hospital, there is a man called Baba Taju. he has been there with his boys who used to organise people to donate blood for money.
“So, a number of things are happening in the country and that was why we arrested this young man when we were busy asking for male and female wards.
“We do not entertain any of such here. LUTH is a peaceful place to be and you can see that yourself.”
Also, at the LASUTH, the state-owned teaching hospital, Ikeja, strategically located in – the state’s capital, apart from the beggars who lined themselves within the hospital radius begging for alms, the facility has some commendation even when there is a need for more improvement.
The facility, which shares structures with the College of Medicine, Lagos State University, was established in 1955 from a small cottage health Centre by the Old western region. It was converted to a teaching hospital in July 2001.
The need to know how patients are being catered for in the state government owned hospital referred to as general hospital, a cursory look at the LASUTH showed that some nurses, doctors and other staff, are friendly with their patients by responding to them in terms of treatment administration.
In an interaction with one of the patients in the emergency block, male ward, who identified himself as Mr. Sarafudeen Oyewusi, who also had spent one week in the hospital, he said doctors are actually carrying out their duties.
He was grateful how doctors and nurses carry out their responsibility in ensuring that their treatment is being administered at the right time.
The patient thanked God, saying his coming to the hospital, though sick, has actually taught him something which has erased his early impression that ‘we no longer have good people in Nigeria,’ most especially in hospital but what he had seen so far seemed to have proved him wrong.
He said: “I should always pray for the hospital staff from today henceforth.”
Outside the male ward, was a patient, Feyintola Ogundipe (Not real name), whose two legs were swollen, lying on the patient couch, speaking with her relative, who was discovered to be the one looking after her.
She was rushed to the hospital some few minutes earlier for an undisclosed illness before our reporter met them.
In a bid to know whether she had been attended to, her relatives said doctors have actually seen them and promised to come back shortly to administer treatment on her after which she will be taken to the ward.
Sunday Telegraph learnt that depending on the size of the ward of the hospital, one can find four patients and some are more than that.
Our reporter went around the hospital, looking at the people’s mood which may suggest dissatisfaction with their services, but didn’t see anybody to speak to on this note.
Getting these pieces of information was quite challenging. At first, the reporter was denied access to the wards by a security.
Haven been told that such visitation was not allowed by a female security, the reporter stayed back for a while only to see another security who asked him what he had come to do in the hospital and immediately asked him to leave even as he accompanied him to the door where he dashed out to other side of the emergency unit.
At Mother and Child Hospital, Festac Town, Lagos a few cases of ward over crowding were observed, especially for maternity ward.
It was that the facility takes care of overwhelming patients from Amuwo-Odofin area, Apapa area, Ojo area and Satellite area as this is the only Mother and Child hospital around these areas.
National Ordinance Day: Promoting the symbols that unite us
o doubt Nigeria is going through one of the most trying moments in its history.
The nation is experiencing unprecedented security challenges, unemployment, infrastructure decay, among others. The country which was once the destination of choice has become, especially in the last few years, a despised desert of dejection, of ethnic agitations and separatist movements.
At no time in the history of Nigeria has the divisive issues been more highlighted. Nigeria appears to be sitting precariously on the edge.
Nigeria can ill afford to march blindly, stubbornly to the precipice. It is therefore time to emphasize and promote the national symbols that unites the nation more.
No matter how diverse we are as a nation we are still bonded by the national flag, pledge, coat of arms, currency, passport and the constitution. These are the symbols whose significance to national unity cannot be overlooked. They hold the seemingly tenuous unity in place in spite of the pressure to snap it. Obviously, it is the spirit of patriotism and nationalism that have moved Nigerians to condemn the xenophobic attacks on their compatriots in South Africa their ethnic background notwithstanding.
It is against this backdrop that the National Orientation Agency, (NOA), undertook to enlighten Nigerians on the significance of these symbols on the National Ordinance Day last week.
The event was held at the popular Ibeku High School in the Abia State capital, Umuahia.
The choice of the school is instructive; it aimed at educating especially the young Nigerians to have respect for the national symbols.
The address of the State Director of NOA, Lady Ngozi Okechukwu, was concise. She charged the students to respect national symbols even as she expressed worry over the unpatriotic disposition of Nigerians who abuse the symbols. According to her: “Understanding national symbols allows citizens inculcate the value and respect for the symbols to become patriotic citizens.”
She added that the Ordinance Day afforded Nigerians the opportunity to understand what the national symbols stood for, the display, treatment and their correct usage.
Okechukwu said: “Thus, judging from the state of lack of peaceful coexistence and religious intolerance, the continuous promotion of National symbols is paramount to instil the spirit of patriotism, love and respect for our fatherland. The National Symbols are expected to unite Nigerians by creating visual, verbal, or iconic representations of the national peoples, values, goals or history.”
She observed that though the country has about 250 ethnic groups, the national flag represented the country’s unity especially in international tournaments regardless of the ethnic background of each participant.
The national symbols convey essential meanings on the history, tradition, values, morals, culture and ideals of the nation. The NOA Director also said the eight unique symbols represent Nigeria and symbolize its unity.
They give clear idea of the various aspects of Nigerian life.
As officials of the Abia State office of the NOA took turns to educate the students and their teachers, they were reminded that the National Flag, for instance does not fly outside overnight. It is raised every morning on week days at 8am and lowered at 6pm. The flag is the dignity of the nation and anywhere it is flown even outside the country, Nigeria’s image is at stake.
The National Anthem and Pledge, just like the Coat of Arms, as symbols of unity, depict the collective heritage of the people. They engender the spirit of nationalism and patriotism and allegiance to Nigeria alone.
The Nigerian passport was presented as the only legal document that Nigerians require to travel outside the shores of the country. Without it the journey is illegal and can put the individual in trouble.
It is pertinent to note that many young Nigerians have been lured outside the country with promises of job and greener pastures, but without the passport some of them end up dead with journeying along illegal sea and desert routes.
Yet the passport is the right of every Nigerian and can be obtained by proper application to the Nigeria Immigration Service.
The students were also taken on the importance of the Nigerian currency as a means of exchange and warned not to deface, mutilate or write on the naira notes.
Unknown too many, squeezing or tearing of the currency attracts 21 years imprisonment. Besides, Nigerians must not spray the naira at social events.
The Constitution is the statute book bearing the rules guiding the existence of the entity called Nigeria. It guarantees the rights and responsibilities of citizens. It guides the conduct of citizens and rulers.
Every Nigerian is also expected to have the National Identity Card, a portable document that bears the personal information of the citizen. It is for easy identification of the individual in and outside the country.
Toothpaste reagents, household chemicals fueling infertility among Nigerians –Experts
•‘Nigeria ranks 8 in global fertility rate with 5.4 children per woman’
•A reduction from previous 6.35 –UN report
•Male responsible for over 50% couples’ infertility –Nordica Lagos
It’s expected that 50. per cent of women would conceive within three months of regular unprotected intercourse, 75 per cent in six months, and 80.0 to 85.0 per cent within a year, but this is no longer happening in the country due to continuous nose diving of ‘Total Fertility Rate’ which has been put to at 5.4 per woman in 2019 from 6.35 previous years. CHIJIOKE IREMEKA reports
n the recent time, there has been an observable but continuous reduction in both male and female fertility rates in the country, which have spurred a number of interventions to ensure that Nigeria’s fertility rates remain attractive and discourage other factors that intend to repudiate this desired achievement.
Thus, early detection of those factors that would lead to diminution in the fertility rates among Nigerian men and women; and addressing them accordingly, become the most attractive exercises to save a total of 48.5 million couples of reproductive age, who are currently facing fertility problem.
Experts, therefore, identify public awareness as a key to improving fertility rate in the country which had fallen to 5.4 rates per woman in Nigeria from 6.35 in the previous years. This, according to them, is the first point of call in addressing fertility problems in Nigeria.
The experts held that a simple and neglected issue or untreated disease can cause a woman or a man many years of fertility trauma in the future; hence, awareness creation and early diagnosis of these conditions would do the country a lot of good.
The 2019 edition of Endometriosis Walk and Carnival held at Muri Okunola Park, Victoria Island, Lagos was aimed at creating awareness against this condition, which is responsible for 40 per cent of female infertility in the country.
According to the organiser, the group that speaks up against Endometriosis in Nigeria, the Endometriosis Support Group Nigeria (ESGN), an initiate of Nordica Fertility Centre, Ikoyi, Lagos, the ailment occurs when the lining of the uterus called the endometrium grows in other places, than where it should be.
Sunday Telegraph learnt that the women affected by this disorder begin to experience severe pain, especially during her monthly menstrual period, which accounts for an estimated over 10 per cent of women all over the world.
A consultant obstetrics and gynaecologist, who is also the Managing Director, Nordica Fertility Centre, Dr. Abayomi Ajayi, said the condition is equally responsible for 40 per cent of infertility-related issues in women and for the benefit of those who may not be aware, March is the month for Endometriosis.
He said: “This is why over the last 12 years, we, at the Endometriosis Support Group Nigeria, have tried to raise awareness along the condition from a time, when a lot of people could not even pronounce the word Endometriosis.
“We have raised the level of awareness, but we know that a lot still needs to be done. This year, the global theme for Endometriosis, is ‘Time to End the Silence.’ This is very apt, when you consider that most sufferers are misunderstood, misrepresented and mismanaged.
“They live their lives in pain and may never be able to share the feeling with anybody. Growing up as a child, she likely will be labeled a ‘truant.’ You don’t want to work, so you skip classes. At work, she will be termed the ‘Lazy woman’ – Are you the only one who does monthly menstruation?
“In her relationship, her partner may think she is not cooperating ‘when it’s time for Za Orza rom and you can imagine how much pain she will be going through all by herself. She is alone. No one understands her. No one can feel what she feels. It’s a really lonely place to be.”
According to the consultant obstetrics and gynaecologist, the group decided to host a carnival which is focused on getting youths to understand this condition better to mark the 2019 edition, saying that the condition usually starts when a girl begins to menstruate and this happens usually when she in secondary school.
He continued: “So, we all have a sister, daughter, a niece, a cousin, or a grand daughter who may be suffering in silence, living with Endometriosis. Let’s encourage them to speak out, and seek help early before it gets late.
“In furtherance of our desire to raise awareness, we have instituted an annual essay competition for secondary schools. This year we have had entries from schools outside Lagos, which is a pointer to the fact that more and more people are getting to know about Endometriosis.
“This competition has, since its inception, last year, raised awareness among the young digital natives on social media about Endometriosis.
“We have embarked on a secondary schools advocacy campaign to raise awareness among teachers and students, so that they all have a better understanding of the condition as such that when they see their colleagues with symptoms of Endometriosis, they will empathise with them and not disparage them.”
He noted that the major concerns about living with Endometriosis is the fact that many of the sufferers are mismanaged because the symptoms may present themselves as other medical ailments, hence medical diagnosis is an area that requires urgent attention.
The fertility expert said ESGN has consistently provided training for medical practitioners to help them focus on getting the diagnosis right to aid the management on the condition.
“We have had top international doctors come and share their experiences with Nigerian doctors at our Physicians Roundtable. We are lending our voice to the clarion call for everyone to end the silence, to win the battle over the silent, yet reverberating source of unfulfilled dreams, shattered dreams, emotional and physical challenge…Endometriosis,” he added.
Meanwhile, while this is one serious and neglected condition that affects female fertility in the country, there are numerous others, including untreated infections, consumption of heavy metals and other conditions.
According to the United Nations Total Fertility Rate 2019, Nigeria ranks number 8 in the world, with a fertility rate of 5.4 children per woman. The relatively high fertility rate in Nigeria, according to the UN, can be attributed to a low use of contraception, early and universal marriage, the high child mortality rate, early child bearing and child bearing within much of the reproductive life span, and high social values placed on child bearing.
The world body noted that Nigeria’s fertility rate is on the nose dive from 6.35 in 1960 to 5.4 in 2019.
Also, for the Tropical Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, an official publication of Society of Gynaecology and Obstetrics of Nigeria, infertility is defined as the inability of a couple to conceive following 12 to 24 months of exposure to pregnancy or the inability to carry a pregnancy to term.
This definition is reduced to six months for women over 35, women with a history of painful periods, irregular cycles, pelvic inflammatory disease and miscarriages.
“It is expected that 50.0% of women could conceive within 3 months of regular unprotected intercourse, 75.0% in 6 months, and 80.0%–85.0% within a year,” it said.
Sunday Telegraph learnt that infertility is a worldwide problem, affecting 8.0%–15.0% of couples in their reproductive age. There is a wide variation in the incidence of infertility in different parts of the world.
Institutional-based studies in some part of Nigeria within the last decades reveal an incidence rate of 4.0% 11.2%, and 48.1%, respectively, from Ilorin (North Central), Abakaliki (South East), and Oshogbo (South West).
According to the World Bank Data 2017, the fertility rate of a country is a figure that reflects the number of children a woman would give birth to under two conditions: if the woman were to experience age-specific fertility rates and if the woman were to survive through her reproductive child-bearing years.
Statistically, Sunday Telegraph learnt that this represents ages 15 to 44, or in some cases, ages 15 to 49.
It says: “The fertility rate isn’t a measure of how many children each woman in a specific area has. Instead, it’s interpreted as the expected number of children, a woman who survives to the end of the reproductive age span (49) will have during her lifetime if she experiences the given age-specific rates.
“This is also known as ‘Total Fertility Rate.’ The highest fertility rates are found in countries located in Africa.”
Based on World Bank data from 2017, the highest fertility rate can be found in Niger, where the rate is 7.2. Somalia has the next highest fertility rate of 6.2. The Democratic Republic of Congo comes in third place with a fertility rate of 6.0.
Causes and treatment infertility – Nordica
Addressing the causes and way out of female and male infertility, Nordica Lagos said infertility can result from a range of factors, saying that the problems with fertility may arise if a woman’s fallopian tubes have been damaged by pelvic infection, previous tubal pregnancy, or ruptured appendix.
It noted that many women with tubal problems benefit from in vitro fertilization (IVF).
It says: “Most women ovulate every 21 to 35 days. Women with cycles greater than 35 days are considered to have oligo-ovulation. Those who do not ovulate at all have anovulation. Medical therapy is often successful in these cases.”
It was gathered that advanced age is now the leading cause of infertility in the United States. For women, age-related infertility results from a decrease in the number and quality of her eggs over time. This is also the same with Nigeria’s situation.
Also, abnormalities of the cervix is said to affect fertility. One of the most common causes is prior surgery on the cervix, such as a cone biopsy, or laser therapy to treat cervical cancer, according to Dr. Abayomi Ajayi, saying that the treatment includes intrauterine insemination and IVF.
Sunday Telegraph learnt that abnormalities to the shape of the uterus can also impact fertility. Some of these include scar tissue, polyps, or fibroids. Hysteroscopy or a laparoscopy can be used to treat many uterine abnormalities.
More so, research has shown that the stress associated with fertility treatment can be at a level comparable to the stress associated with serious illness. Patients, who seek emotional support early in treatment are often better prepared for their experiences and find it significantly less stressful than patients who do not.
Centres like Nordica Fertility Centre and others, provide individuals and couples with counseling as well as group programmes where one meets other people who experience or have the same feelings.
Researches have showed that these programmes have been clinically proven to reduce the distress associated with infertility. It’s, therefore, believed that stress reduction and counseling can help one to be comfortable and confident while undergoing treatment.
On the other hand, doctors are worried about poor spermatozoa among youths with the rising cases of marriages crashing on the account of male infertility, especially low sperm count.
Experts have cleared the air that about the common misconception that infertility is only a woman’s problem, saying that almost 50% of infertile couples are related to the male partner, either alone or in addition to a female factor.
A Professor of Community Health and Consultant Public Health Physician at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Dr. Bayo Onajole, who is also a consultant obstetrics and gynaecologist said low sperm count can be as result of many things, saying that the cell phones being carried about emit radiation waves which can affect sperm count negatively.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), low sperm count is also called oligospermia. A complete absence of sperm is called azoospermia. Sperm count is considered normal when it is between 20 million to 200 million. It is lower than normal if it is fewer than 15 million sperm per milliliter of semen.
Prof. Onajole said radio waves can damage cell division in the body an impact negatively on the male fertility.
“We use a lot of things that emit radio isotopes like television sets, microwaves and others; it depends on how long and how close we stay with some of those products. How close and how long we stay with them can lead to damage of sperm cells and therefore the sperms,” he added.
The WHO noted that having a low sperm count can make it more difficult to conceive naturally, although successful pregnancies can still occur.
It noted that the problem with sperm, including a low sperm count and problem with sperm quality are quite common in modern time, saying that they are a factor in around one in three couples to five who are struggling to get pregnancy.
Corroborating these, German and Danish researchers, writing in journal ‘EMBO Reports,’ stated that chemicals in everyday products including toothpastes, soap and sunscreen could be damaging men’s fertility.
“For the first time, the study has directly linked common household chemicals with damage to human sperm,” he said.
According to the report, some of the chemicals are found in sunscreen. Also, on the list is triclosan, an antibacterial agent that is less used now than in the past but is still in some soaps and toothpastes.
“Laboratory tests, using a level of chemicals similar to what the body is generally exposed to, showed that these chemicals affect the way sperm swims. We know that obesity can reduce sperm count. We know that alcohol can reduce sperm count and coffee can also reduce sperm count,” the researchers said.
For those in childbearing ages, who still want to have children, the consultant obstetrics and gynaecologist, said it is important that they know some of the things that could prevent them from achieving conception.
Highlighting the problems of low sperm count, a Consultant Public Health Physician, Dr. (Mrs.) Omowunmi Bakare said it is not only low sperm count that constitutes problem for some men, saying that morphology of the sperm in terms of structure could similarly pose a challenge.
According to her, a lot of abnormal sperms abound and that is why sperms with abnormal structure pose fertility risk. She listed sperms with small head, short tail, double tail, among others as those that could pose a challenge to men.
Bakare noted that a sperm that is not able to move effectively may not be able to achieve its function.
She, however, said among factors that could impact the quality of sperm include some medications, including cancer drugs, diabetes drugs, psychoactive drugs, locally formulated alcoholic drink and alcohol use among others.
She urged men to be cautious about too high temperature around their testicle area, saying it is important that men adopt lifestyles that ensure proper breathing space for the location of male organ as part of strategies to achieve healthy sperm drive.
Nigeria’s prisons breeding hardened criminals –Psychologists, others
Nigerian Prisons Reforms which came alive three weeks ago, following the Presidential accent to the 2018 Prisons Bill, may have reluctantly ended the country’s capital punishment for offenders and turned the service into Nigerian Correctional Service (NCS). CHIJIOKE IREMEKA reports
…say facilities must be correctional centres
•Inmates should be better when leaving –Dr. Obioha
t is anticipatory that Nigeria will gain a lot from the latest reforms that has taken place in the country’s offenders’ management, which efficiently changed the Nigerian Prisons Service to Nigerian Correctional Service, following President Muhammadu Buhari’s signing of the 2018 Prisons Bill into law.
Sought after many decades, the new Law, also hope that Nigeria will gain handsomely if such changes are not mere expression of ‘an old wine in a new bottle’ and go beyond nomenclature change.
Of most important changes, the commutation of death sentence to life imprisonment where an inmate sentenced to death has exhausted all legal procedures for appeal and a period of 10 years has elapsed without the execution of the sentence is an inclusion to be proud of.
In this situation, the new law prescribes that the chief judge of a state, may commute the sentence of death to life imprisonment even as it re-echoes the need for prison’s routine inspection by the Prisons Comptroller to ensure that the custodian centres (prisons) are not overcrowded.
The new law signed into law by Mr. President provides that in the event that the custodial centre has exceeded its capacity, the state controller shall within a period, not exceeding one week, notify the Chief Judge of the state, the attorney-general, the prerogative of mercy committee, the state criminal justice committee and other relevant bodies.
Sequel to this, it prescribes sanctions for any state controller who fails to notify the relevant bodies when the custodial centre approaches full capacity within the stipulated time-frame.
The new law also empowers the correctional centre superintendent to reject intakes of inmates where it is apparent that the centre in question is filled to capacity.
According to the law, the relevant information about a person’s offence, biometrics, personal history, risk and needs assessment, including the person’s psychological or mental health status and his antecedents shall be kept in a centralised database management system of the correctional service.
In the area of parole and probation, the non-custodial faculty of the correctional service, as prescribed by the law, is responsible for the administration of non-custodial measures – community service, probation, parole, restorative justice measures and such other measures as a court of competent jurisdiction may order.
For the ‘restorative justice’ measure, the Act approved victim-offender mediation, family group conferencing, community mediation and other conciliatory measures as may be deemed necessary pre-trial, trial during imprisonment or even post-imprisonment stages.
Sunday Telegraph learnt that the law prohibits torture, inhuman and abusive treatment of inmates, which bring the prisons system into compliance with international human rights standards and correctional practices.
The law also creates custodial centres for treatment of long term first-offenders; farm centres for convicts with good conduct who have six months or less to serve; opens satellite custodial centres for convicts serving three months imprisonment or less, and awaiting trial persons charged for minor offences who are required to be presented in courts without major custodial facilities.
In the new law, the goal of the institution will be to correct, reform, rehabilitate, reintegrate all persons legally interned; provide safe, secure, and humane custody for inmates; identify the existence and causes of anti-social behaviours of inmates; initiate behaviour modification in inmates through provision of medical, psychological, spiritual and counseling services for all offenders, and provide support to facilitate the speedy disposal of cases of persons awaiting trial.
It will also empower inmates through the deployment of educational and vocational skills training programmes and facilitate incentives and income generation through custodial centres, farms and industries.
Sunday Telegraph notes that if these changes apply to all facets of the country’s correctional service, respite will be coming the way of many Nigerians serving different jail terms, including those on death roll and awaiting trial.
Sunday Telegraph observes that these changes may have reluctantly ended Nigeria’s capital punishment posture for offenders on the death roll as there has been always delay in execution of condemned offenders due to one reason or the others.
In this instance, in the past decades, it was only former governor of Edo State Adams Oshiohmole that had signed necessary papers required that allowed the hangman to perform his duty on a certain offender.
Sequel to this, it is hoped that Nigeria has automatically stalked into the league of other countries of the world that have thrown capital punishment off-board.
According to Emeka Obioha of Department of Safety and Security Management, Tshwane University of Technology, Pretoria, South Africa, the main reason for establishment of the prison institution in all parts of the world, Nigeria inclusive, is to provide a rehabilitation and correctional facility for those who have violated the rules and regulations of their society.
In the general issue of imprisonment as an aspect of punishment, he noted, the retributivists and the deterrent philosophers’ stress that a deviant should be punished in order to pay him back for his actions and to deter him or others from committing crime.
According to him, it’s on this basis that imprisonment is appropriately conceived as a formal perspective of inflicting pain on the individuals, which has been an aspect of the traditional criminal justice system in various societies in Nigeria.
“While imprisonment is a prescription, prisonisation is the process of living within a confinement known as a prison, a physical structure in a geographical location where a number of people live under highly specialised conditions, utilise the resources and adjust to the alternatives presented to them by a unique kind of social environment that is different from the larger society,” Obioha said.
He noted that there are obvious basic social and cultural characteristic that are present in the prison community and other total institution alike, which do not exist in the larger society.
Obioha continued: “The prison community with its distinct culture and way of life epitomises a complete design capable of changing the attitudes of individual members for good or bad depending on the personal experience and the social network action.
“The way of life in the prison provides the means and ways for the adjustment processes of inmates. Its culture is a dynamic one, which consists of all sorts of value reorientation and internalisations.
“The Nigerian prison system was established in accordance with three forms of penal legislation which operate alongside each other in the country; the Penal Code and the accompanying Criminal Procedure Code Cap 81 Laws of the Federation 1990 (CPC); the Criminal Code and the accompanying Criminal Procedure Act Cap 80 Laws of the Federation 1990 (CPA) and the Sharia penal legislation in 12 northern states, which applies to only Muslim members of these states.”
Sunday Telegraph gathered that on the basis of imprisonment policy, the prison service was established to manage criminals in prison yards.
It constitutional function empowers the Nigerian prisons now Nigerian Correctional Service to keep convicted offenders (prisoners) for safe custody, keep awaiting trial inmates in custody, until law courts ask for their production, punish offenders as instructed by the law courts, reform the convicted prisoners and rehabilitate and to reintegrate prisoners who have completed the sentences in the prison.
It was based on this premises that Obioha inferred that the main aim of establishing the prison institution in all parts of the world including Nigeria is to provide a rehabilitation and correctional facility for those who have violated the rules and regulations of their society.
According to Benjamin Okorie – Ajah Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Enugu State, a lot has been written and are available on the issue of criminal justice administration in Nigeria.
He investigated the nature and cause of criminal justice failure in Nigeria, and observes that Nigerian prisons have become breeding ground for criminals instead of being corrective homes, hence the reforms was inevitable.
He recommended that unethical practices by the criminal justice administrators should be checkmated and controlled effectively for efficient correction of inmates, adding that introduction of non-custodial sentence in the Nigerian justice system will correct imprisoned offenders as expected.
The prison system, according to Adebisi Oyewo, is the stomach of the state. This is because the institution is expected to serve as the melting point for the activities of the security agencies. The Nigerian prison system was established in accordance with three forms of penal legislation which operate alongside each other in the country.
He said, “The primary duty of the criminal justice system is to dispense justice in accordance with the due process or rule of law. In practical terms, justice system is concerned about the determination of the guilt or innocence of a suspect, and the allocation of punishment that is fair and proportional to the convict’s offence.
“The system according him it’s an embodiment of crime regulating techniques, which represents the whole range of government agencies that functions as the instrument of the state to enforce its set rules necessary for the maintenance of peace, order, and tranquility.
“Similarly, it is a system comprising of many bodies, groups, institutions or agencies that have been charged with the responsibilities of ensuring social agreement and mass compliance with the law, and deciding whether or not an individual is guilty of violating the laws of the society, and the appropriate punishment to be meted to such an individual.
“Indeed, the fundamental nature of justice is most glaring particularly in the field of criminal justice system where none of the parties should be denied of it. The person accused of having committed the crime, the victim of such crime, that is, the offended, and the society itself, all deserve justice.”
More so, the above assertion was given a judicial imprimatur by late Justice Chukwudifu Oputa while commenting about the necessity of doing justice in the administration of criminal law.
He said: “Justice is not a one way traffic. It is not justice for the appellant only. Justice is not even only a two-way traffic. It is really a three-way traffic justice for the appellant accused of a heinous crime of murder; justice for the victim, the murdered man, the deceased, whose blood is crying to heaven for vengeance and finally justice for the society at large, the society whose social norms and values has been desecrated and broken by the criminal act complained of.”
He noted that everybody deserves justice as citizens cannot survive unreasonable and unbearable social conditions, unless administration of criminal law is anchored in justice, both the person who set the machinery of justice on motion, the accused and the entire society whose law has been violated deserve justice.
“At the low rung of our national life, you have tens of thousands of persons languishing in jail on awaiting trial while at the upper echelon, you have intractable thousands of corruption and financial crime cases bogging down the judicial system as the manifestation of this failure,” Adebisi added.
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari, last month, signed into law, the Prisons Bill, 2018, which changed the Nigerian Prisons Service (NPS) to the Nigerian Correctional Service (NCS).
Wild reactions across continent will force South Africa to its senses, says Keshi
Ambassador Joe Keshi is a former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and at various times Charge d’Affaires, Embassy of Nigeria in The Hague, Netherlands and Nigeria’s Consul-General in Atlanta, Georgia in the United States. In this interview with BIYI ADEGOROYE, he weighs in on the recurrent xenophobic attacks in South Africa and the retaliatory reactions of many African countries in their disappointment by the complacency of the South African government and the people’s ignorance of history
What is your general overview of the xenophobic attacks on some foreign residents in South Africa which have reportedly claimed about 200 lives since 2016?
My general view is that we should look at both sides. We have spent the last few days dwelling on the negative and the rest of it, but what matters to me is what I consider the latest development as a result of attacks in South Africa.
For instance, for the first time we are witnessing a wild continental reaction, in the sense that quite a number of African countries, including Nigeria are reacting to the latest attacks. Interestingly enough some countries have taken some bold steps bearing in mind that this is not the first time such attack have taken place.
Nigeria, for instance has drawn the red line. So the fact that both government and citizens of various countries have reacted the way they did has escalated the matter and South Africa is beginning to feel the depth of the peoples’ feeling to the xenophobic attack on other Africans doing business in South Africa.
The other significant part of it is that this is the first time I’ve srrn some serious reaction from the government of South Africa. In the past they have been very complacent. For instance, you must have seen their Foreign Affairs Minister coming out to make a statement over the implication of this issue. The important aspect of these positive developments, either from the angle of African leaders or the people is that some concerted efforts should be taken to bring to an end these incessant killings of Africans doing business in South Africa.
In particular, how do you see some African countries’ boycott of the World Economic Forum Summit and violent reactions in Nigeria, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Congo DR?
You must have observed that Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and Malawian president too boycotted the event. The Zambian national football team too had shunned the match slated for South Africa. It is a welcome development, because it sent a very strong and unambiguous message to the South African government that enough is enough, and that we have tolerated this behavior for too long. And that that the government of South Africa should take the bull by the horn and deal with the situation because it is getting out of hand. So we praise the African leaders who carried out the boycott of the Summit and also got those who had arrived there to join the boycott such that they would not participate in the event. And then it sent a clear signal to the South African government to do something urgently about these attacks by the miscreants in their society.
It has been alleged that the attacks were precipitated by a campaign promise of President Cyril Ramaphosa. Don’t you agree the South African government is tacitly stoking the fire?
I’m not too sure that this was what the president had in mind during his campaign. Number two, I’m very skeptical about promises politicians make during elections, because during elections politicians make statements they don’t even remember after the polls. Bear in mind that the president was inaugurated not too long ago and since then, I don’t think he has done anything significant about it. The point now is that they are watching and seeing global reactions and protests against the attacks and that will definitely goad them to take some actions.
That is not to say that some politicians in South Africa might not be using the situation to promote their political interests. What we need to look at now is not those who stoke the fire or started it, but to inspire South Africa to be very firm in dealing with these miscreants that committed these attacks and looting of shops in Ekurhuleni, Tsahwane and Johannesburg Central Business Districts of African residents in their country.
You must have observed that the South African president has also convened a security meeting to address these violent attacks, even as his government had also called on its people to stop the attacks on foreigners in Gauteng and Kwazulu Natal, Pretoria and other parts of the country. The fact is that no amount of criminality and sporadic attacks can address the grievances. The Nigerian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama and the South African High Commissioner in Nigeria, Bobbie Moroe have also held joint press conferences to douse the tension and articulate actions being taken by both countries.
How do you see the trending video where South African Deputy Police Minister, Bongani Nkongi, justified the xenophobic attacks because 80 per cent of residents of South Africa cities and towns like Hillbrow were foreigners who are taking their jobs and constituting a political threat?
Apparently, this young man has no good sense of history. He did not realise that he would not be in that post today but for the assistance, or external efforts, including Africans that compelled he whites to give up power, thereby dismantling apartheid.
Also, he is also telling us that he is more interested in protecting his job than helping to address the problem. For me he is playing to the gallery and we can afford to ignore the statement. One of the countries that suffered most in the war against apartheid is Zambia. Many times, the South African defence forces of the apartheid regime raised and bombarded Zambia and Angola Why? This was because President Kenneth Kaunda was at the forefront of the battle against apartheid. That is why that minister and young people like him who have no knowledge of the apartheid struggle could make such statements. I must add that he also exhibited the fact that he has no clue of security management and protection of the people, and he should be on the side of the rule of law and order in the society not criminality.
Giving African leaders’ support for and huge investment in the dismantling of apartheid as you have observed, would you say the current treatment of Africans resident in South Afrcan reflect that of gratitude?
Many of them are still alive, though a lot of them are dead, but I can tell you that they will feel very disappointed and I’m sure the governments of these countries have said so. But I don’t know how knowledgeable the bulk of the young men in South Africa today are of the assistance of the global community especially of the African continent to their struggle. They too, and the African National Congress members should educate the people and help them to be more accommodating of the Africans than they are now in their respective communities.
Could it be said too that the level of criminality and youths restiveness were because of the failure of the ANC government to deliver, or that they went to sleep as soon as apartheid was dismantled?
Absolutely and this is because ANC went to sleep instead of rebuilding the nation after the defeat of apartheid. You have to look at the character, nature and level of these miscreants who carry out these attacks and looting of shops. These are basically uneducated or half-educated or are very lazy and lacking skills required for employment; these are people who are jobless and have no means of livelihood.
So these are people who believe that they have not benefitted from the dismantling of apartheid; these are people who feel that successive governments in South African have failed them. As part of that failure, they also believe that South African governments have allowed citizens of other African countries to ‘take over’ what belongs to them in terms of businesses and job opportunities, that these are these foreigners running their streets, their stores and the rest of them. When they see these people, they become envious and this invariably leads to these attacks.
You must also know that role poverty plays in this kind of situation. The other side of it is that we must not forget what Franz Fanon said in one of his works, the ‘Wretched of the Earth,’ that when the oppressed cannot go after the oppressor, he turns to himself. So you can see that these miscreants today have no courage to attack the white minority in South Africa who control 80 per cent of the nation’s economy.
They do not have the courage to go after the South African government that has failed to change their economic situation. And so the only people they can see who are within their community, who they perceive as their ‘oppressor’ are the blacks foreigners who are doing well. These fuel jealousy and they form part of the things that lead to these kinds of attacks. There is no doubt that the perpetrators of these acts are those who have failed, and there are millions of them who have not benefited from the black government that has been in power for so long. And you can see that in the last election the ANC lost considerable votes. If you have a very strong dynamic leader leading a pack of other people, I am sure he will beat the ANC mercilessly in the next election.
Don’t you think this may spell unimaginable problem in Africa economically too?
It is not only South Africa, but everyone. As you are conducting this interview, I got some pictures from a very good friend of mine whose auto shop was vandalised on Airport Road in Lagos during the protest. You are also aware of the number of Shoprite outlets and South African investments that have been vandalised across the country. For all you know, some of them are owed by Nigerians.
If I’m right I also read that the police killed one of the protesters in Nigeria on Wednesday and one or two others have been killed in some parts of Lagos during these protests. These people are Nigerians. That is why I want to tell you journalists to be more rational than being emotional about your reportage of issues like these because they can have far-reaching damaging consequences.
If they close MultiChoice, Shopright, PEP and MTN along with other South-African investments in this country, it is going to be a huge loss to their parent companies in South Africa and even to us here. Similarly, many Nigerian artistes and activists have canceled their various engagements and participations in some events slated for South Africa in the next few weeks to commiserate with those who lost their lives in the attacks. You can’t have this kind of situation without some economic consequences.
How do you think the current government action of recalling of Nigeria’s High Commissioner and sending of special envoy – timely or appropriate?
Government has taken three main actions. I thing the most visible was the boycott of the World Economic Summit in South Africa. I think that is welcome and the decision to send a Special Envoy to South Africa too. The idea of sending a Special Envoy was to convey a strong message and make it very clear, that the attack on Nigerians was very unacceptable, and also to gather information as to why these things re-occur. In this regard, they envoy will speak to the Nigerians, speak to the South Africans and the government and report back to the Nigerian president. That will help the president and his team take the next line of action.
I heard that we have also recalled our High Commissioner in South Africa. If I have to advise, I will say that we should have left our High Commissioner there because the Nigerian High Commission in Johannesburg at this time needs a string leadership because of the crises. I know that the Special Envoy has gone, but with the South Africa government trying to deal with the situation they will need the contributions of the ambassadors and high commissioners on ground. At this time, I can see the South African Foreign Affairs Minister calling a meeting of all the ambassadors and high commissioners there to brief them about government action over this. Even if our Charge d’Affaires attends such meetings, he is not given the same status as the High Commissioner but that be as it may, they have made our position clear to them and we leave it at that.
As it is right now, what should the AU do and who should it hold responsible?
The best the AU can do at this moment is to hold ANC and the South African government responsible for these attacks. They must also raise the issue at the next meeting of African Heads of Government because when a country signed the Free Trade Agreement, it is actually promoting free movement by persons, goods and services as well as economic co-operation and the ultimate is common market across the continent. No, a country cannot sign this agreement and begins to attack those who are trading or doing businesses and bringing these agreements into practical reality in their country. Or it begins to say ‘no, some people cannot live in my own country.’ That is unacceptable; it does not work that way. It is one agreement we have to live with and ensure Africans are free to move in different directions to promote trade and development. That is what happens in Europe that many people move around the continent in practical realisation of their trade agreements within the European Union.
What about the claims that some of the victims of the tacks are drug peddlers and perpetrators of other crimes?
The issue of criminality is no excuse for these frequent extra-judicial barbaric killings and other behavior of the miscreants. There is a saying that two wrongs don’t make a right. The fact that you have criminals in your neighborhood does not mean you should take laws into your hands. That is why you have the police; that is why you have what former governor of Oyo State, Senator Abiola Ajumobi called ‘constituted authority’ to deal with this matter. It is not just a very lame excuse but also attestation to the failure of the government to ensure security of lives and property and that is another reason the Deputy Police Minister should take responsibility for the attacks because he has failed his own people.
Policing is an executive function and it is government’s failure to rein in the criminals in those communities that made the people to take laws into their hands. The judicial system in South Africa has been lenient with the crimes even as the utterances of the young minister have contributed to this crisis. Secondly, anywhere you see illicit drug traders, you can be sure that some individuals in the police force are involved and I have no doubt in my mind that some police officers in South Africa are involved with the drug dealers and these policemen should be investigated too. It is instructive, though that over 100 of these miscreants in South Africa have been arrested for these barbaric acts.
How can we stem this tide of mass migration of Nigerians abroad?
That is what I call domestic dimension to these crises in South Africa – even though this is an area many of my colleagues are uncomfortable with me. We should not neglect our economy as a country. Indeed the earlier we develop this Nigerian economy the better for us to stem this tide of mass migration. Migration is fueled by under-development and we should stop taking back seat in this development of our industries and the entire nation to stem the tide.
On the other hand, I will advise Nigerians abroad to desist from flaunting their wealth, but keep a low profile while making their money and plying their trade. Thousands of Nigerians are doing great in the educational and health institutions in South Africa and they operate within the law. They deserve government protection even as we reciprocate that here. They should live within the laws and keep low profile and avoid raising avarice among their neighours.
JAKIN NGO distributes free school kits to 500 orphans to mark World Literacy Day
he International Literacy Day is celebrated all over the world every September 8 and to commemorate the day, JAKIN, a non-government organisation gave out free school kits to 500 orphans and vulnerable children.
The children are drawn from 86 government schools including 39 primary schools and 47 secondary schools across nine LGAs in Lagos State.
For the past 10 years, JAKIN NGO has been at the forefront to help eradicate illiteracy and promote education, especially for orphans and vulnerable children through their annual ‘Dress a Child for School Project’.
Between 2010 and 2018, JAKIN NGO has dressed 3, 750 children for school.
In her welcome address, the founder of JAKIN NGO, Mrs. Olubukola Adebiyi, recounted the laudable works of JAKIN NGO for the past 10 years since the inception of ‘Dress a Child for School Project’.
“In 2010, JAKIN NGO spotted this critical need for education and literacy and commenced our journey of joining the global community in commemorating the September 8 International Literacy Day by investing annually in education of Nigerian children with 200 orphans.
“With the help of our committed partners, this number has grown yearly from the initial 200 to 3,750 orphans and vulnerable children in this 10th edition. To further buttress our relentless dedication to improve the standard of education in Lagos State, we celebrated our 15th year anniversary in October 2018 with the renovation of a block of two dilapidated classrooms at Regan Primary School, Onike in Mainland LGA. Today we are dressing 500 orphans and vulnerable children for the next school year and we are encouraged to do much more for the education of our children,” she said.
She went ahead to present brand new school kits containing: two uniforms, a school bag, one pair of sandals, two pairs of socks, a dozen exercise books, math sets and branded pencil case containing all necessary stationaries to 500 beneficiaries comprising 255 males and 245 females out of which 234 are in primary schools, while 266 are in secondary schools.
The Chairperson of the occasion, Mrs. Folashade Adefisayo, the Commissioner for Education, Lagos State said: “What JAKIN NGO is doing is a wonderful thing. Mrs. Adebiyi obeyed the call and is making a difference. When you give, God gives you more and unbelievably, even to you and your family. Going to school is important and you cannot have a career without going to school.
“As I look at these children you clothed for the next school year calendar, I see our presidents and governors in the making one day. God bless you and your team.”
The event was hosted by veteran comedian, Koffi with songs rendition by Monique and dance by Cymbal dance group.
There were presentations from the JAKIN Children’s Club, which included drama, a fashion parade and news presentation which briefed the audience on current happenings in the organisation. Awards were also presented to the sponsors for their contributions.
News21 hours ago
Remains of Ethiopian Airlines crash victims arrive Kenya
News12 hours ago
Terrorism: Nigeria to get 3 J70 fighter aircraft from Pakistan
News7 hours ago
Minimum Wage: We’ll open budget to workers, says Ngige
News24 hours ago
Report: 14 killed as Turkey ‘bombs convoy of foreign journalists, aid workers’ in Syria
Metro and Crime7 hours ago
Teenager sodomises 10-year-old girl to death
Politics12 hours ago
Senatorial election: Ajimobi’s appeal against Balogun fixed for Thursday
News4 hours ago
Aisha Buhari attacked me in Aso Rock –Daura’s daughter
Health22 hours ago
Congo to start using Ebola vaccine November