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Wild reactions across continent will force South Africa to its senses, says Keshi

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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.

 

 

 

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Sunday Extra

Solving Apapa gridlock through in land waterways

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Solving Apapa gridlock through in land waterways

Stakeholders gathered in Onitsha recently to deliberate on how the inland water ways which dot the country could be put to use and reduce the pressure on highways and the carnage occasioned by dilapidated roads. OKEY MADUFORO captured all that transpired when the new Managing Director Nigeria Inland Water ways (NIWA) Chief George Moghalu visited Onitsha Port on facility tour

 

 

Importers and business men in Nigeria have continued to tell tales of woe following the challenges they face in transporting goods to its respective destinations. Goods that berth at the Apapa and other international ports in the country most of the time do not reach the end users due to the deplorable state of the Nigeria’s Federal High Ways.

 

Mr. Pius Nwokoye is an importer who deals in building materials and his colleague Mr. Kaodilinye Festus is a motor Spare Parts dealer. In the last two years they have been facing litigations as a result of loan facilities they took from commercial banks and are yet to liquidate.

 

“I took the loan to import and deliver to three of my customers last year but the goods had problems along the Lagos – Shagamu Express way. “One of the trucks carrying my forty feet   container fell down and crashed into a ditch and I lost half of the contents.”

 

“The banks took me to court for not paying back the loan and my customers could not get the full consignment they requested for. I had to sell one of my lands at 33 Road Onitsha to at least service the loan and the court granted me my prayers that I should be given some time to pay off the debt”, Nwokoye lamented. Kaodilinye Festus had a more bitter experience when his container got stuck along Benin 0 Ore highway as the truck spent one week before it was dragged out of the deep gully. But before then, some miscreants had stormed the area at night and made away with some of the goods as the location had no presence of security operatives. “I could not believe what I saw on that day. The driver claimed that he was attacked by the thieves with a machete and he ran for his life, hence giving the urchins enough space and time to operate and I lost over N7 million as a result of that”, he said.

 

The duo of Festus and Nwokoye are just a few of the countless business men and women who have continued to experience the horror which Nigerian highways have become. Apparently government’s efforts at reconstructing the country’s high ways is yielding positive results though the predicament of Nigeria’s business community deepens. In the last one month, there have been incidents of petrol tanker fire in Lagos and in the South East; especially Anambra State and they left on their trail, pathetic and horrifying experience of tears, sorrow and death. The fall of those tankers have been traced to the pitiable state of the Nigerian Highways and incidentally commuters do not have any other alternative but the dilapidated roads.

 

 

The lamentations of the South East and South-south businessmen were well captured when the new Managing Director of National Inland Water Ways Authority (NIWA) Chief George Moghalu came on a facility and fact finding tour of the Onitsha River Port, Anambra State,. Ven Chris Orajekwe who spoke at the stakeholders meeting with Moghalu said: “We wonder what has happened to the water transportation sector. In other countries of the world their water ways are busy with commercial activities. But here in Nigeria it is a different ball game. All these cases of trucks and other vehicles getting stuck on their way, is not helping our economy and people lose millions of Naira and even precious lives due to the absence of an alternative means of transportation.

 

“With a good water transport system one can go to Abuja through our water ways and get to Lokoja and the complete   the rest of the journey to Abuja on road”. Anambra State chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Chief Basil Ejidike noted that the economy of the country is not getting the required boost do to what he called the dormancy of the country’s water ways and its inland ports. “When you understudy commercial towns that house the inland ports, you will discover that they are not growing. You can imagine the multiplier effect on the micro and macro economics of these towns if our water ways are working optimally”.

 

The Obi of Onitsha during Moghalu’s courtesy’s visit to his palace could not hide his displeasure over the fate of Onitsha the commercial hub of sub Saharan Africa. “Most people who do business in Onitsha are not resident in Onitsha because of poor basic amenities that encourage trade and commerce.

 

 

Should we have a working water ways with functional inland ports Onitsha will not be like this. It would also create jobs for our youths and expand economic opportunities in the South East. It is my hope and strong belief that with your appointment as the Managing Director of NIWA things would get a lot better” he said. For Chief Moghalu it is a call of duty in salvaging the fate of our water ways.

 

According to him; “I share the same sentiment with you, for  example our Inland Waterways is about 10,000 kilometers as we speak and slightly over three thousand is navigable all year round and our waterways is accessible across twenty eight states which means we have water access to about 28 states.

 

So what we need to do is to develop the water transportation routes, once we do that, there is a lot of advantage that come with it, it is not only the cheapest but also one of the safest and again if I may say, it will reduce pressure on our roads because most of our roads you will agree with me are not designed to carry the weight they are carrying and unless we reduce this weight, we will continue having this problem.

 

You and I know today that the Apapa gridlock that we have been suffering over the years is like a recurrent decimal and the only way to address it is through water transportation. If the waterways are open today, I can assure you that over 50% of the cargo that goes to Apapa wharf can as well go to the hinterland because we have a River Port in Baro, Onitsha, and we have jetties across the country up to Yauri and up to Lake Chad.

 

So if we open our waterways for all year navigation, I can assure you that the gridlock in Apapa will become history.

 

“Naturally like any other serious business, it is capital intensive, because it is not only capital dredging but we also have to do maintenance dredging to make sure that the channels are all year round navigable, we clear it and make sure there are no wrecks and any blockages and also clear water hyacinth and dredge them so that we can achieve the needed depth for barges and small vessels to move all year round.

 

So what we need actually first of all, is governmental support, then the will, before we talk about the funds if there is the will to make this work, it will generate commitment. “We have room for Public Private Partnership (PPP) what you must understand also is that we have to show the way and the private sector will key in.

 

 

Government has to initiate the process, government has to create the enabling environment and Government has to show that it works. “I am confident the moment we do the basic things, the needful and what we are supposed to do, the private sector will be asking us to be part of what we are doing.”

 

The Coordinator Children of Farmers Club, Prince Chris Okwuosa added a new impetus to the need to improve on the country’s water ways. “We have a creek at Ogbaru-Uli-Ihiala- Ndoni water ways that cuts across Imo, Anambra and Rivers States. It passes through Idemili-Akwu – Ukwu Ozubulu to Ose akwa down to Oguta and Nnodni in Rivers States. “The Agro- technocrat village is being developed along that creek and if the water ways are well developed it would improve the ecotourism in the area both in transportation and one can travel through seven states in the federation comfortably”. Similarly former Imo State Governor, Chief Ikedi Ohakim noted that the South East is not land locked.

 

“Igbo land is not land locked at all and the coastal lines of Oguta and Ogbaru are sure link to the world and that was what I tried to develop before I left office and I urge the respective governors of the South East to cue into this idea for posterity” he said.

 

It is expected that Chief George Moghalu is at home with the challenges of the waterways and the inland ports in the country and should the powers that be create the necessary enablers for NIWA to be turned around.

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Sunday Extra

Onyejeocha putting smiles on faces of Isuikwuato, Umunneochi constituents

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Onyejeocha putting smiles on faces of Isuikwuato, Umunneochi constituents

It is often said that health is wealth. The significance of good health as a decider of the other indices of development and wellbeing cannot be overlooked. Little wonder it tops the priority of most government programmes. Obviously, the development and progress of any community or family depend on it.

 

It is therefore not surprising that House of Representatives member, Nkiruka Onyejeocha brought a free medical programme to her constituents. The ill health of citizens is compounded by the pervasive excruciating poverty so any leader who provides free medical service to the people would have endeared himself indelibly in their hearts. Lawmaker Onyejeocha (APC) is the Deputy Chief Whip of the Green Chambers and member representing Isuikwuato/Umunneochi Federal Constituency, Abia State.

 

She recognizes the peculiar challenges of her constituency as rural local government areas and embarks on projects and programmes that have direct impact on them. Little wonder she has consistently won the election to represent them since 2007. Since she became a federal lawmaker, Onyejeocha has organized yearly free medical outreach for her people every June. This is in addition to the scholarship scheme to indigent students and employment for her people. She was at home to personally supervise the free medical outreach.

 

 

The outreach cut across all ages. The old and the young benefited and both sexes. During an interaction with journalists in her country home, Isuochi, during this year’s medical outreach, Onyejeocha said: “I organise free medical every June. But we discover that there are many diagnosed with one sickness or the other who could not complete treatment until October. That is why we continue until they are all attended to.” The fourth term House of Representatives member said she was impressed with the turn out for the programme.

 

She said about 50 patients had surgeries on the first day, while 48 had their s the following day. In order to preserve the items and equip- ment for the medical outreach, which she lamented, were either damaged or vandalized by the next medical session, Onyejeocha built a facility named after her grandmother, Madam Suzana Mba Health Center, at Isuochi, her home town. She said the challenge the programme had was, among others, convenient and secure venue as a result of which she had to provide fresh facilities and equipment every year.

 

“Each time we had the outreach, the facilities and equipment are vandalized. The result is that every year we will need to provide everything again from the scratch. That is why I decided that the best thing will be to build a permanent medical facility, that’s why I built this.”

 

The outreach, this year, was a huge success. Hundreds benefited from the surgery and treatment of other ailments. At the Madam Suzan Mba Health Center on the Amuda-Umuaku Road, beneficiaries lined up for medical attention for the number days the outreach lasted. One of the beneficiaries who identified himself simply as Mr. Eke said he underwent surgery in the eye the previous day for what doctors described as tenebrous. Eke said: “The surgery on my eye yesterday, was a success.

 

It’s free indeed with drugs. I’m grateful to her.” Also, Okereke Chukwudike Bennett, a medical laboratory scientist and one of the over 30 medical personnel attending to the patients, said that by the second day 50 patients had been attended to while 48 others benefited the previous day, while many were still seated waiting to be attended to.

 

“In all, it has been a successful outreach, no casualty, no death,” Okereke said. Okereke further disclosed that over 30 medical personnel including doctors, nurses and medical laboratory scientists handled different ailments. With the modern facility built and equipped with state of the art equipment and quality drugs, the health needs of the people of Isuochi would have been permanently solved through the magnanimity of their representative, Lady Nkiruka Onyejeocha.

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Sunday Extra

Amosun: Any restructuring must guarantee indivisibility of Nigeria

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Amosun: Any restructuring must guarantee indivisibility of Nigeria

Senator Ibikunle Amosun is a former Governor of Ogun State. He is now representing Ogun Central Senatorial District in the Senate. He recently addressed the media in Abuja on his motion, calling for diversification of the economy through Agric and Solid Minerals sectors. He also speaks on his bill seeking to establish South West Development Commission, among others. CHUKWU DAVID was there and reports

 

 

You sponsored a motion on the floor of the Senate on Thursday, which you titled: “The need for continuous implementation of policy reforms for the diversification of the Nigerian economy through the Agricultural and Solid Minerals Sectors”. What is the background and motive of this proposal?

 

 

We believe that it’s better late than never because as a country, we are not where we should be, but truly we are on the right path. And in order to complement the effort of the executive arm, we believe that we in the legislative arm should provide enabling environment by way of legislation to back all the policies that the executive is initiating. That’s why I came up with this motion on the need for us to strengthen the agricultural, mining and solid minerals sectors. You all know that in the 50s, 60s, 70s and probably early 80s, this was not the way Nigerian economy was. Indeed, many things that you see, infrastructural development, education, health system, name it, were all funded with the proceeds of agriculture and probably some of our solid minerals, but today, lo and behold those critical sectors that will ordinarily employ our people are being neglected. But thankfully, and I am not just saying it because we are all part of this administration, if you look at the statistics, you will know that things are improving. If you know where we are, the contribution of agriculture to GDP between 2015 and now is different.

 

 

In the area of solid minerals, we are not yet there at all, but I think that we are putting the right policies in place, and we think we should complement the efforts of the executive. In those days, you know there was groundnut pyramid and cotton in the North, Cocoa in the South. Look at what happened with our palm oil; look at what Malaysia did with it and look at where we are now. That’s why we believe that we must put the necessary legal framework or law in place to ginger and encourage more our executive arm.

 

 

Why do you think that Nigeria abandoned these former viable means of income and got to a point where it’s difficult for her to fund her annual budgets?

 

 

It’s good that we discovered oil but it has made us so lazy; we are just looking for the easy way out. There are so many nations that all they have is all these minerals and look at what they are doing. Look at Australia, look at South Africa and even United Kingdom, look at their miners. They are using the God-given resources to improve their economy and the lots of their people. Look at agriculture, how many people does the oil sector employ? Very insignificant. And look at millions of our youths who don’t have anything doing. Clearly, the middle class is collapsing, and if you look at our budget, people will think that ten point something trillion a big amount. But just covert it to dollar; you will be shocked that there are some companies, some conglomerates that make far more than that, and look at our budget as a nation. But we are not magicians and we cannot give what we don’t have. If you don’t have the necessary revenue, where will the money come from.

 

 

Today, we are talking about our infrastructures – roads, power sector, education sector, health sector- we need money for all of them. These are the critical areas that will give us the funds that we require. And beyond giving us the funds, they will employ our youths; it will create wealth. Look at the small and medium scale enterprises, how many of them can play in the petroleum sector but imagine the number of people that will be actively engaged in those two critical sectors of agriculture and solid minerals.

It think it is an idea that its time is long overdue, and I am happy that the President of the Senate mentioned that we are going to have a round table, am sure they will brief you on this. I think it will happen sometime in December and the Senate will officially brief you. I have to thank my colleagues, everybody supported the motion because they are all passionate to diversify our economy.

 

 

The long and short of this motion is the need to diversify our economy and move away from this monolithic economy that have been running, where everybody is depending on what the oil will give to us. So, am sure that by the time we look into those two critical sectors, agriculture and solid minerals Nigeria will have positive story to tell. And I want to envisage that in the next two to three years down the line, you will see our budget, may be it may be running to thirty to fifty trillion, once we have the necessary income to back it up.

 

 

You also introduced a bill seeking to   establish South West Development Commission (SWDC). What is the motive behind it and don’t you think that it’s now like a competition among lawmakers from different geopolitical zones because there is NDDC for the South -South and the North-East Development Commission (NEDC); and the South-East is also demanding for their own commission?

 

 

The objective of the bill is obvious and very clear. In fact, you know the answer. it’s for the development of our people and our area. If a part of a whole is not well, automatically, that whole will not be well. So, every part of Nigeria needs to be developed. And if all of us develop, of course we will have a beautiful country that we will all be proud of. To that extent, this is not just my bill; it is for all of us. The bill is being co-sponsored by all of us from the South West. If you even look at the demography of Nigeria, if you look at the population of Nigeria, just look at how many are we from the South West, and I am saying this with all sense of responsibility, there is no part of Nigeria that is not important. All of us are important; everybody has something they are bringing on the table but you notice that there is no way the Nigeria nation can be described without prominent mention of those from the South West and what we contribute to Nigeria as a nation.

 

 

Look at Lagos for instance. Look at the contribution of Lagos to Nigeria as a nation. So, I think that they should be some kind of special status to Lagos but not to Lagos alone. Of course it happens in Ogun State. I also say this with all sense of responsibility. As at today, Ogun State is the industrial hub of Nigeria. There are some parts of Nigeria like the North-East, we know it very well. There is no sane person that will not want to support them particularly with the destruction that has happened there. We don’t want any place to be left behind. But in doing that, we should not be oblivious of the fact that we need to develop too. And that is why all of us from the South-West are bringing this bill. It was read for the first time on Thursday. It is not just because a similar commission is in the North-East, South-South or being proposed in the South -East, everybody should look out for how we can improve the wellbeing of our people.

 

 

From the way we are going, we may end up having six development commissions. Is it not better we go for restructuring rather than creating commissions, so that each region can have enough to address its developmental needs?

Well, these are questions that I know that at the appropriate time they will come to this place, and when they come, you will all know my position. But let me say this, yes am for restructuring but there is a caveat: I am speaking for myself now, any restructuring that we are going to do should be such that the indivisibility of Nigeria must be guaranteed. Once that is there, we can look at how we can do things better. I always say that there is no way a part can be bigger than a whole, if the whole is well put together. Yes, we can agree to look at the various areas of our country, with a viewing to improving on them but the indivisibility of Nigeria must be sacrosanct.

 

 

In your motion, one of your prayers talked about formalising the operations of illegal miners but a senator amended it to remove the word “illegal.” Does it mean that any private person engaged in mining is doing it illegally?

What my distinguished colleague you are referring to was saying is that we should encourage those people that want to mine and that we should simplify the process because he spoke with me. But this is admission of failure. Ordinarily, it’s good to say this is what I want to do but doing it illegally is not good. What we are trying to do is to stop or reduce to the barest minimum the activities of the illegal miners. I believe that once the process and procedures of mining is simplified, we will no longer have illegal miners.

You said earlier that one of the reasons why you are sponsoring the South-West Development Commission Bill is that if part of a whole is not well, then the whole is not well. You have been a governor, what do you think has made several parts of this country not to be well, of which you are now seeking remedy through legislation?

 

 

Of course, you know that the world itself is very dynamic just as human beings are very dynamic. I was here in 2003, and it wasn’t like this. The era of even before you are campaigning everybody is hearing what you are saying; it wasn’t like that. In 1999 when I joined politics, indeed when you leave one place for another place, the people there will not know whether you are coming or not, until when you get there. But it’s different now. Even before you leave for where you are going, everybody is posting it. So, to that extent, as we soldier on in our development as a nation, we will see need for us to improve on the way we do things; the way we put ourselves together, and the way we are as a nation. So, I don’t want to see it that this one is not good, that one is not good. Just see it that you want to improve from where we are at the moment.

 

 

Those who will come after us will probably look back and say what are they doing? This is the way we should do it. Look at what I observed while we were in chamber, I looked up to the gallery and saw that people were coming from Keffi and other places. I just asked myself, why can’t people just hop into the train from Abeokuta or Ijebu Ode or Illaro, where I come from and drop in Abuja and come to the National Assembly to come and observe what we are doing?

 

 

You notice that it is not that rampant for you to hear that these are people coming from Port Harcourt, Enugu and other far places. Do you know why? It’s because of infrastructural deficit. We have to agree with ourselves now. We have very huge infrastructural deficit. But it has been improving empirically and otherwise because you cannot develop without infrastructure. As we are here, if the AC is not working, everything will collapse immediately. So, we need infrastructure for any development to happen. And what are infrastructures, it’s not just the road; power, conducive environment, water and many others are the infrastructure are there. If they are not there, we will just be chasing shadow. The roads are not good. So, until we develop those things, whatever anybody wants to say, this was not how our infrastructure used to be. It’s now being improved upon; we are not there yet.

 

 

I admit there are very bad roads. Lagos-Abeokuta road is impassible but the same thing we are saying is impassible, now look at the Lagos-Ibadan expressway, it’s almost being fixed. Am sure by March 2020, to move from Lagos to Abeokuta may take just 50 minutes when it is finally finished. I was governor then and I know what happened. If you are going to Abuja Airport now for the first time, you can ride in your train and get to the airport. It has never happened. Now, it may be as if I am in London. So, when we are seeing some positive improvement, we should commend it.

 

 

Also, when we see areas where there is deficiency, we should be bold to say it too. I am here to tell you that we are not where we should be but we are creating the path to show that this is the way we should go. When I was here in 2003, immediately after the opening prayers in plenary, the media will be asked to go out. Today, the media men are there throughout. There is even a dedicated channel that relays what we are doing. So, there is an improvement in our system, and we are working towards having more improvement.

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Four out of five cancer patients in Nigeria die –Dr. Okoye

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Four out of five cancer patients in Nigeria die  –Dr. Okoye

Dr. Ifeoma Okoye is a Professor of Radiology at the University of Nigeria Nsukka; and the University’s current Director of Center For Clinical Trials (UNNCECT), with main interest in Non Communicable Diseases (NCD) Research. She explains that four out of every five cancer patients in Nigeria die even when the deaths are practically avoidable, in this interview with TAI ANYANWU

 

 

How much threat does breast cancer and other malignant tumors pose to Nigerians?

Cancer is a very deadly disease though preventable, if proper information about the causes of the disease, management relevance of early detection is communicated to the people.

 

 

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO’s) findings, Nigeria has the highest mortality rate in Africa. Four out of five cases of cancer in Nigeria result to death.  In fact, some authorities say that the mortality in Nigeria is highest in the world.

What factors drive the scourge of breast cancer (cancers) in our environment?

Ignorance is number one. People don’t go for screening, for early detection. Of course where there is a history of cancer in one’s linage, there is little or nothing such people can do about it.

 

 

However, life style has a lot to do to keep one away from cancer affliction. Unfortunately, Nigerians have imbibed what one can described as westernization of diet, which makes our people load themselves with sugar, alcohol and smoking which creates fertile ground for cancer. Many just sit down without carving out time to exercise themselves enough. Of course, very important contributor to the risk factor is environment. There is little or nothing individuals can do about environmental factor, but government can be held accountable. Some of the factors contributing to cancer risk are vehicle fume, air conditioner, generator fume, indiscriminate habit of refuse disposal and the putrefied fumes they exude.

 

 

Do the risk factors have other unique consequences to human health other than causing cancer?

Most unique thing about the risk factors is that they are also the one that drive none communicable diseases such as stroke, heart attack, premature aging, diabetes, dementia and other chronic diseases.  The risk factors actually contribute 60% more deaths than Hiv/Aids, malaria, tuberculosis and other communicable disease where focus are on.

 

If we just get the education aspect of Cancer to the people make them understand it, it will be a win-win situation.

There is need to eradicate the low level of ignorance among our people; demystify the fear and denial that this mysterious disease is due to some diabolical reasons, witchcraft, family enemy, poison and the “it is not my portion syndrome or accepting on clinical symptoms and signs from unqualified persons. All these are underscoring late presentation of cancer.

 

How true is the general belief that once one comes down with cancer there is no remedy?

 

In the medical circle, we say that cancer whether breast cancer, cervical cancer or other cancers, is not a death sentence. Most of the cancer related deaths are preventable; and by preventing the incidence of cancer-causing HPV infection, incidence of cervical cancer can be significantly reduced. Two companies have also produced Vaccines against HPV (Cervarix and Gardasil and a Quadrivalent Vaccine). For optimal prevention HPV infection, any of these three Vaccines should be given prior to sexual debut.  Women are at risk throughout their lives and infection can occur at any age, vaccines will also be beneficial for young girls and women.

 

Pre-cancerous lesions, which are not cancer, but have the potential to progress to cervical cancer, can be detected through different types of screening, conducted early from age 20. Available screening methods are pap smear test or visual inspection with Acetic Acid or Lugols Iodine (VIA or VILI). These can find changes in the cervix that can be treated before they become cancer. VIA or VILI are currently recommended for use in developing nations, because the woman can have cervix looked at, painted, an abnormality found and treated at the same time.

 

 

 

In the case of breast cancer, what is the hope for survival?

The key is to detect changes in the breast such as lump, scaling breast, dimpling, nipple that is pulling in, redness of the nipple and other abnormal changes in the breast early enough. Then commence early treatment or management. Let me make it clear that men also not exempted from breast cancer and this is not noticed because men have small breast size. In fact, 7% of Nigerian men have breast cancer, especially in Northern Nigeria.

It is important to detect breast cancer through a combination of self-examination, by health care provider examination and by mammography.

Monthly self breast examination is recommended from age 20 and as soon as breast buds appear in a girl child.

Clinic breast examination by health care providers should be conducted for people between ages 20-23, every three years. For those above 40 years of age, it should be done annually; mammography for 20-23 years old, yearly test is recommended, one to two years for ages 40-49 while for people 0f 50-65 yearly test is recommended.

In summary, the key to survival is early detection and management. For effective management of cancer cases, tertiary health institutions like teaching hospitals are the best place to seek help.

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Breast cancer: Early detection hope for survival

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Breast cancer: Early detection hope for survival

World Health Organisation (WHO)’ s report has it that Nigeria has the highest rate of Cancer deaths in Africa as four out of every case results in death. It is against this background that corporate organizations are doing their best in ensuring that they pass the message around that early detection and tests can prevent deaths resulting from cancer. TAI ANYAWU reports one of such organizations which embarked on Breast Cancer Walk in Lekki axis of Lagos, to fight against the deadly disease

 

 

U

ntil recently when Annabel Akpos, carved a niche for herself in the bourgeoning real estate market, she was just one of the numerous and hardly appreciated jobless graduates roaming the streets of Lagos.

 

Soon as she gained an insight in the property market on the sprawling Lekki axis of Lagos, Annabel began to have a feel of good life. She was smiling to the bank with millions of naira earned from just selling landed property.

 

But just then, Breast Cancer struck, and Annabel’s promising life and career came to an abrupt end. “She did not detect early enough, a lump in her breast which later became her nightmare,” a close friend of hers,” Stella Amayo narrated.

 

 

Like Annabel, many Nigerians, Africans and indeed humanity are at high risk of breast cancer devastation and other variations of malignant tumors. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) report, Nigeria has the highest rate of Cancer deaths in Africa. “But given requisite education and management, most of these cancer related deaths are avoidable, a Professor of Radiology and Director of Clinical Trials (UNNCECT) with special interest in NCD Research), University of Nigeria Nsukka, Professor Ifoma Okoye, said.

 

 

In a recent lecture delivered to a concerned group in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, Professor Okoye stressed that low level of awareness regarding the disease, its cause and prevention among women/men , coupled with the fact that health workers are not passionate about leaving their comfort zones and take the life-saving message/screening to the people as a major reason for poor prognosis of cancers in our environment.

 

It is against this background that Chairman, Property World Africa Network (PWAN HOMES), Dr. Augustine Onwumere, over-flowed with emotions when he led the management, partners, consultants and entire staff of the world’s first real estate network marketing company to spread awareness about breast cancer scourge, in Lagos recently.

 

 

During the event tagged PWAN Walk for Life Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign, Dr. Onwumere and his wife Dr. Jayne were at the vanguard of the entire PWAN family which participated in a session of aerobics and vigorous breast Cancer enlightenment campaign. The procession took off from the Puri Mall headquarters of PWAN, Okun-Ado, through Ajah, Victoria Garden City (VGC), Ilasan Estate, Ikate to Lekki Phase 1 Estate.

 

 

Throughout the six hours exercise, the PWAN boss cried out in an emotion-laden voice “PWAN supports breast Cancer eradication.  We say no to Breast Cancer devastating our women. That is why we are bringing this life- saving message, to all people in our community that early detection, proper management and right habit is the hope of surviving breast Cancer scourge.”

 

 

He continued: “That unusual difference between the two breasts, that visible lump, dimpling or indentation in the breast tissue, that redness, scaling or other changes to the skin or nipple that appear abnormal, that changes to your nipple that is newly inverted or pulling in, should be the first signals to get you discussing with health experts and then follow with up treatments.”

 

 

In what turned out to be one of PWAN’s numerous Community Social Responsibility (CSR) events, the streets of Lekki became aglow as passersby were caught in rapt attention as various categories of PWAN staff members unleashed the awareness message on the residents of Lekki and environs.

 

 

The Managing Director of PWAN Group, Dr. Afam Okonkwo, also participated in the awareness campaign. He said: “As we march out we want everybody to join us, encourage our women to go for early detection test so that they can be healthy.”

Another Director of the company, Michael Akhuetie, lamented that Cancer is a deadly disease that affects a lot of people.

 

 

“When the good cell of the body stops producing and the body starts producing bad cell resulting to a multitude of bad cells, that health situation can cause cancer.

 

 

“It is important for both men and women to get regular checkup so that one can remain health,” he said.

“It is not enough to just keep to yourself, be sure that everyth ing is intact and if for any reason everything is not alright with you start treatment as soon as possible,” added Mrs. Tosin Adewole.

Coach Victor Ilori, who took the group through a session aerobics, explained that the health walk is relevant to the effort to keep people from cancer infestation. To keep fit, one need to partake in athletic such as skipping, running, walking, jogging and other physical exercises.

 

On her part, Mrs. Akhuetie added: Exercise is good for the body so always make out time exercise; it can also help you to prevent a lot of sicknesses and diseases.

 

“This is all about PWAN group; and all about impacting people in our community and beyond health wise. We don’t just make money, sell land and create millionaires; we care about the wellbeing of people around us, Mrs. Egwunagu affirmed.

The walk for life event provided rare kind of fun for participants.

 

 

“We are having fun, keeping fit and making people especially women to be aware of breast cancer, that they need go for early and regular checkups, check their breasts for any lump,” Mrs Adewole added.

“I am so happy to be part of this; it is a step in the right direction. We are actually walking from our Puri Mall head office to VGC and it is a fantastic exercise,” Ibitoye Subaire remarked.

 

 

“Please, let’s tell our women and young girls to check their breast, massage it to make sure they have no lump. Early dictation is the solution to the menace if breast cancer,” PWAN’s Group Managing Director, Dr. Jayne Onwumere stressed. 

Coach Ilori drew attention to the need for all to get rid of habits and practices considered to give impetus to cancer afflictions.

 

“Our diet is very important. When you are 40 years and above, you should eat a lot of fruits and vegetables so as to avoid have large fat deposits in the organs which can cause Care, Smoking, alcohol can cause cancer; bad food can cause cancer, lot of fried food too,” Ilori enumerated.

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Border closure ‘ll rescue economy, promote security, says Hon Atigwe

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Border closure ‘ll rescue economy, promote security, says Hon Atigwe

Hon Simon Chukwuemeka Atigwe represents Igbo-Eze North/ Udenu Federal Constituency of Enugu State in the House of Representatives. In this interview with CHUKWU DAVID, he says that the border closure by the Federal Government is the best action so far taken by President Muhammadu Buhari. He also expresses optimism that the South-East will produce the next President of Nigeria in 2023, among other national issues

 

 

The Federal Government under President Muhammadu Buhari decided to close the nation’s borders for some reasons that are in public domain. As a lawmaker and people’s representative, what is your take on this action because Nigerians are groaning that the effects are biting hard on them?

 

 

Well, personally, I think that is the best decision so far taken by the President as far as the economy of Nigeria is concerned you don’t just allow your country to be flooded with goods from other countries, making your own citizens very lazy; making them consumers only and not producers. I think it doesn’t help for anybody to say that borders should be opened to importers anyhow, while smuggling goes on unchecked. Apart from making us lazy, we are still losing income; we are losing revenue because all these people smuggling goods through land borders are not paying anything. But if things should be coming in through the ports like the airports and the seaports, then there will be scrutiny of all the things coming in.

 

 

Apart from the revenue, by doing so you also safeguard your people because these smugglers bring in arms and ammunitions and all sorts of dangerous weapons that this bandits are using, and you can’t track it because they come in through all corners of the border. So, I support the border closure one hundred percent.

 

 

China is doing well today because of what they did. China at a time closed all their borders, I think for 50 years or so. They had no contact with anybody. They stayed within and started producing all the things they needed. Today, China is one of the leading economies of the world. So, if we can allow this border closure to go beyond two years, I assure you, we will produce everything we need in Nigeria, and save our economy, save our forex and all that. You will see our economy booming again even though it might be biting for now as you said. By the time we get it right, everybody will be happy. So, I support the border closure.

 

 

Bearing in mind that the fundamental purpose of governance is to promote and sustain the wellbeing of the citizenry, don’t you think that when the government wants to introduce a stringent economic policy such as this, it should first put measures in place to cushion the effects?

 

 

You see, our problem is that we are not honest. When you hear border closure, it is only land borders. Government didn’t say you should not bring in this or that but government is saying that you should bring in those things properly. If you want to import rice and other things, go through seaports and airports so that you pay the normal import duties. And what you are importing will be inspected to know for instance if it is rice whether it is fit for consumption in your country. I learnt that some of the rice we import from the neighboring countries is expired, but nobody inspects it. You are thinking that you are doing yourself good but you are doing yourself harm. Before you know it, you see our people dying carelessly. So, I think if we are honest enough, we shouldn’t be crying about this border closure. The border has been there but the people happy doing illegal business through the borders. The policy is just trying to stop that illegality. Why are we crying now that we are stopping illegality?

 

 

Look at the issue of subsidy; how much was government paying for fuel subsidy? Before the closure of borders, did you know how much the government was paying as subsidy? Before now, it was about six million litres of fuel per day. Then after the closure, within two months of closing the borders, it came down to about four point something million litres of fuel per day. This shows that the surplus has been going to the other side, and government was paying for all these things. See what government is saying: people should evaluate the pros and cons of the border closure before criticising it. I think the benefits outweigh the disadvantages.

 

 

What should the government do?

 

 

Government has been doing a lot. For instance, in Agriculture government has been encouraging farmers through provision of soft loans and agricultural equipment. Government has done a lot using extension managers but the problem is that we just want easy things, cheap things and quick things; we want things today and not tomorrow. That’s the problem. There was a time government cared about hunger and many people went to the farm and food prices came down. Immediately the food prices came down people abandoned agriculture.

 

 

You will see that with the impact of this closure, personally, I will go back and embark on production of crops I was not doing before because I know that agriculture is going to be serious business in Nigeria. And once agriculture is recognised as a serious business in Nigeria, unemployment will reduce; food prices will come down and stabilize and the farmers will get good pay for their labour. Do you know that in countries where agriculture is well developed, farmers are one of the richest people. But because we don’t protect them here, and without protection, we don’t have the interest. 

 

 

If, for instance, by the time you harvest your crops and take them to   the market and see somebody who is doing ordinary trading making more money than you, will you go back to the farm next year. You will join the petty trading and make easy and more money. But if the petty trader sees what you have done and how profitable it is, he will leave the petty trading and go for farming. What we should do is to ask this government to help us do more in agriculture; and not saying that we should leave the borders open so that food will start coming in. Who doesn’t want to be a consumer but they cost of being a consumer is what we are afraid of. How long are we going to remain as a consumer nation; what will be the future of our children? So, I seriously support this border closure.

 

 

One of government’s arguments for closing the land borders is to checkmate inflow of arms into the country, but it’s obvious that the country is already flooded with illegal arms. How can these  illegal arms be rid of the country and make it safe for living because the current level of insecurity in the land is alarming?

 

 

You see, there are so many strategies put in place by government to recover these arms. You have the law to protect Whistle blowers so that if you have information about anybody in possession of illegal arms you can leak it to the police or the Department of State Services (DSS) and such arms could be recovered. The military is also currently doing operation identify yourself. You also see how government is dealing with bandits, entering agreement with them and they return the arms. So, government is doing a lot to recover these arms. Therefore, I am appealing to our people, if you have information about where these arms are, come up to the government, let’s recover them and get rid of these illegal arms. It will help everybody.

 

 

This government has been talking about diversifying the economy but it is not investing in developing some areas of the economy with high revenue potentials such as the solid minerals sector. How do you react to this?

 

 

That’s what I was telling some people. We have problem in this country. I talked about institutional failure. The way the country is structured now might not help us to bring out our best. It does not encourage competition. And once you don’t have competition, you don’t have serious initiatives. At the beginning, we had regions, and the regions depended solely on agriculture. The West had their cocoa; the East had their palm oil and the North had their groundnut. And they were using all these things to build universities, roads and other infrastructural facilities.

 

 

There was no oil then. Now, what we have not seen in this country are more than what we have seen. The resources we have not actually tapped in this country are more than what we are tapping. So, if we can look inwards; if competition can come in, for instance, if we can restructure, you will see the component parts competing among themselves, trying to explore whatever is around their territory.

 

 

The resources in Kogi State alone are enough to take care of Nigeria and other small countries around us. You hear of gold in Zamfara and other resources there. If they had considered these things as valuable, they will develop the mining sector to the point of export level and they can use it to get enough forex to take care of their administration and other things but because they come to the centre and collect money, they neglect those things. The West will come to the centre and collect money, so cocoa is no longer anything; the East will come to the centre and collect money, so palm oil is no longer anything.

 

 

Malaysia came to Nigeria and took palm kennel. Today, they are exporting palm oil to us. What is happening? Are we not supposed to be serious exporter of palm oil by now? So, if we restructure, you see everybody making use of their resources. But as it is now, with this amorphous nature, nothing serious can be done because everybody will just be calculating how many barrels of oil per day are being produced and how much is the cost of crude in the international market and how much is realised and what will be the allocation. That is what is happening in Nigeria.

 

 

Now that you are supporting restructuring, what aspect of restructuring are you canvassing because many people have different ideas for restructuring?

 

What I actually mean is that we should revert to regional government. For instance, make the geopolitical zones regions and they should be semi-autonomous on a special arrangement. The special arrangement here is to say to each region, take care of your place and this is what you will be bringing to us at the centre. Then we have people supervising what you are doing in the centre. This is the percentage return.

 

Restructuring cannot happen in Nigeria without amending the Constitution. Do you think that this is feasible within the context of what we have seen so far?

 

You see the people are afraid of restructuring because we are always afraid of losing out; and we are afraid of losing out because we don’t think well. We don’t have the initiatives. Let me tell you this, at the end of the Nigeria Civil War, the Easterners were brought to the highest level of £20; whatever you have in the bank, you are just collecting £20. With the £20, they used their initiatives and many of them are billionaires now. So, those who think that they don’t have enough resources for now, by the time they get back to their own, you see that when they look inward, they have enough resources.

 

 

 

So, the fear of going their own way and leaving the resources they have seen in the hands of the other people doesn’t come in. The moment you get to your own area now and start looking inwards, you start getting what you want. So, the only thing is for us to sensitise the society, and then the society will know that if am given the opportunity to explore my area, I will be able to survive.

 

 

I think they have discovered oil now in the North. If this is borne out of general effort, how much more when it is special effort of the people concerned; you will see more things that will be discovered there. What they think they are getting from the South-South, they get it from their place. They say that what you are looking for in Sokoto is inapo Sokoto (pocket). Go to Dubai, a complete desert; and somebody used his initiative, and now it is a very rich country without anything. So, it is initiative that we are lacking and we are afraid of using our initiative because we have remedy; we have alternative. By the time we don’t have alternative now, you will see everybody using their initiative.

 

 

 

You are from the South-East, and the region has been clamouring to take a shot at the Presidency come 2023, how feasible is this ambition and how ready are you the political leaders from the area, to ensure that this happens?

 

 

It’s a very good question because as I said earlier, we have six geopolitical zones. I believe we are one Nigeria. If we are one Nigeria indeed, things should be going round. There should be this rotational arrangement even though it’s not written but it’s like a law in Nigeria. We have a system that dictates things that people should do, and as it is now, this system is dictating that the next President after President Muhammadu Buhari should come from the South-East. You know that the South -West had it; North-East had it, North-Central and North-East had it before 1999. We have had the Presidency going round; it is just the South-East that it hasn’t come to.

 

 

If it should be alternating between the North and the South, it will be coming to the South in 2023. And if it comes to the South, there are three geopolitical zones namely: the South-South, the South-East and the South-West. If equity should come to play, it is not disputable, it is South -East. If it comes to the South and it doesn’t go to the South-East, then there must be a very serious reason, and I don’t think that anybody can proffer such reason to convince people easily. And I don’t think anybody has that reason that it should not go to the South-East. One, it is their turn, if you are talking about turn; two, they have capable people, three, they have contributed immensely to the development of this country: academically, politically, financially and even during the fight for independence, they led by the fight. So, it is purely their turn if it comes to the Southern zone and I think that we should respect ourselves and allow it be so.

 

 

There is this general impression that the South-East belongs only to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and there is fear that the party may not want to zone it to them because they might lose the Presidency to another zone from the APC. What’s your take on this?

 

That’s what I said, if equity should prevail, all these permutations will not come in. PDP zoned the Presidency to the South -West in 1999, and there was no PDP state in South- West then; even Obasanjo’s Ward was won by a different party. Then, if you come to the South-East today, it’s wrong for anybody to say that the South-East is PDP only. You have APGA, APC and YPP in the South-East. It’s just now that the APC lost its position in Imo, otherwise it was APC. Till today, Anambra is APGA. So, it’s not only PDP that is in the South-East. And if you come to the National Assembly here, you have representatives from all the parties. You have from APC, PDP, APGA and YPP. So, we are multi-party zone, not single-party zone at all. So, if PDP wants to maintain equity, they should zone the Presidency to the South-East; if APC wants to maintain equity, they should zone the Presidency to the South East. This is the way I see it.

 

 

Igbos are known to be highly independent minded and they also have this sense and attitude of individualism in politics to the detriment of their collective good. Is there any likelihood that they will change and work together in order to produce the next President in 2023?

 

 

If you understand the Igbos very well, you will know that they are republicans. They believe in self survival, and it’s not their undoing. It’s only when you don’t know them. You hear of all these crises everywhere; people burning their houses but you don’t hear it in Igboland. They love themselves more than any other tribe but outside you think they are killing themselves. Do elections ten times, you won’t hear of serious destructions in Igboland because of politics but you hear this in some other areas. So, the impression people have that they are not united does not hold water. We are united but we feel threatened that people will descend on us. They will start thinking is this the correct road, and by the time they start questioning what they are doing, people think that they are not organised. They are not disorganized but it’s because of their precarious nature you think they are not united. People who have joined hands to fight the whole country, and you say that they are not united.

 

 

You know that power is beyond certain sentiments. Ultimately, power is taken and not given. So, the question is is the South-East ready to take power in 2023; do you have what it takes to grab it?

 

 

The South-East has always been ready. Igbos have always been agitating for their own share at the Presidency, and if you taste them, you will never leave them again because they are very egalitarian; they know their onions. And when they bring their ingenuity to bear on the governance of this country, you see a different country. If an Anambra man comes around your place, what you think is nothing will become something immediately in your place. You see him making millions from what you have been neglecting in your area. So, that ingenuity is there, and I assure you, once it’s given to them, they will do very well. And I think they have learnt their lessons, even if they have not been together before, this time around they are ready.

 

 

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Politics

Four out of five cancer patients in Nigeria die –Dr. Okoye

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Four out of five cancer patients in Nigeria die  –Dr. Okoye

Dr. Ifeoma Okoye is a Professor of Radiology at the University of Nigeria Nsukka; and the University’s current Director of Center For Clinical Trials (UNNCECT), with main interest in Non Communicable Diseases (NCD) Research. She explains that four out of every five cancer patients in Nigeria die even when the deaths are practically avoidable, in this interview with TAI ANYANWU

 

 

How much threat does breast cancer and other malignant tumors pose to Nigerians?

Cancer is a very deadly disease though preventable, if proper information about the causes of the disease, management relevance of early detection is communicated to the people.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO’s) findings, Nigeria has the highest mortality rate in Africa. Four out of five cases of cancer in Nigeria result to death.  In fact, some authorities say that the mortality in Nigeria is highest in the world.

What factors drive the scourge of breast cancer (cancers) in our environment?

 

 

Ignorance is number one. People don’t go for screening, for early detection. Of course where there is a history of cancer in one’s linage, there is little or nothing such people can do about it.

 

However, life style has a lot to do to keep one away from cancer affliction. Unfortunately, Nigerians have imbibed what one can described as westernization of diet, which makes our people load themselves with sugar, alcohol and smoking which creates fertile ground for cancer. Many just sit down without carving out time to exercise themselves enough. Of course, very important contributor to the risk factor is environment. There is little or nothing individuals can do about environmental factor, but government can be held accountable. Some of the factors contributing to cancer risk are vehicle fume, air conditioner, generator fume, indiscriminate habit of refuse disposal and the putrefied fumes they exude.

 

Do the risk factors have other unique consequences to human health other than causing cancer?

 

Most unique thing about the risk factors is that they are also the one that drive none communicable diseases such as stroke, heart attack, premature aging, diabetes, dementia and other chronic diseases.  The risk factors actually contribute 60% more deaths than Hiv/Aids, malaria, tuberculosis and other communicable disease where focus are on.

If we just get the education aspect of Cancer to the people make them understand it, it will be a win-win situation.

 

There is need to eradicate the low level of ignorance among our people; demystify the fear and denial that this mysterious disease is due to some diabolical reasons, witchcraft, family enemy, poison and the “it is not my portion syndrome or accepting on clinical symptoms and signs from unqualified persons. All these are underscoring late presentation of cancer.

 

How true is the general belief that once one comes down with cancer there is no remedy?

 

In the medical circle, we say that cancer whether breast cancer, cervical cancer or other cancers, is not a death sentence. Most of the cancer related deaths are preventable; and by preventing the incidence of cancer-causing HPV infection, incidence of cervical cancer can be significantly reduced. Two companies have also produced Vaccines against HPV (Cervarix and Gardasil and a Quadrivalent Vaccine). For optimal prevention HPV infection, any of these three Vaccines should be given prior to sexual debut.  Women are at risk throughout their lives and infection can occur at any age, vaccines will also be beneficial for young girls and women.

 

Pre-cancerous lesions, which are not cancer, but have the potential to progress to cervical cancer, can be detected through different types of screening, conducted early from age 20. Available screening methods are pap smear test or visual inspection with Acetic Acid or Lugols Iodine (VIA or VILI). These can find changes in the cervix that can be treated before they become cancer. VIA or VILI are currently recommended for use in developing nations, because the woman can have cervix looked at, painted, an abnormality found and treated at the same time.

 

In the case of breast cancer, what is the hope for survival?

 

The key is to detect changes in the breast such as lump, scaling breast, dimpling, nipple that is pulling in, redness of the nipple and other abnormal changes in the breast early enough. Then commence early treatment or management. Let me make it clear that men also not exempted from breast cancer and this is not noticed because men have small breast size. In fact, 7% of Nigerian men have breast cancer, especially in Northern Nigeria.

It is important to detect breast cancer through a combination of self-examination, by health care provider examination and by mammography.

Monthly self breast examination is recommended from age 20 and as soon as breast buds appear in a girl child.

 

Clinic breast examination by health care providers should be conducted for people between ages 20-23, every three years. For those above 40 years of age, it should be done annually; mammography for 20-23 years old, yearly test is recommended, one to two years for ages 40-49 while for people 0f 50-65 yearly test is recommended.

In summary, the key to survival is early detection and management. For effective management of cancer cases, tertiary health institutions like teaching hospitals are the best place to seek help.

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Sunday Extra

Kehinde Lijadu of Lijadu Sisters dies at 71

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Kehinde Lijadu of Lijadu Sisters dies at 71

T

he news of the death of Kehinde Lijadu in London has sent the Nigerian community into a mixture of shock and grief. She was born on October 22, 1948.

Details of the cause of death could not be ascertained as at the time of this report.

A family friend, Princess Pamela Toyin Ogunwusi, wrote on Taiwo Lijadu’s Facebook Wall: “The famous LIJADU SISTERS. For over thirty years that you both left Nigeria you’ve been separated from your children… I was meant to visit you on your 72nd birthday last month but everything prevented that trip…

 

“Mummy K Lijadu you and your twin sister poured out your heart to me crying several times… I was worried and made frantic efforts to help… you fought hard but passed on. Adieu KEHINDE LIJADU…. May you awaken to joyful experiencing as you make your way back home”.

 

Earlier in January 2019, Tee Mac Iseli, renowned musician, wrote this tribute:

 

“The twins Taiwo and Kehinde were born in the northern Nigeria town of Jos on October 22, 1948. Second cousins of Fela Kuti, the two girls were drawn to music at a very early age, listening to records, singing, and writing songs together from their early childhood into their teenage years.

 

 

Beginning as backing vocalists for studio sessions, the sisters eventually released a single under their own name, 1968’s Iya Mi Jowo. In 1971, still working as session singers, joined the Tee Mac an Afro Collection band at the small but fabulous BATAKOTO on Broad Street Lagos, where the sisters met ”Cream” drummer Ginger Baker (then rated as the number one drumer in the world), and Taiwo and Baker soon started dating.

 

The twins performed with Baker’s band Salt at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games before the relationship fizzled out. With the assistance of multi-instrumentalist and producer Biddy Wright, the Lijadu Sisters would make four albums for Decca’s Afrodisia imprint: 1976’s Danger, 1977’s Mother Africa, 1978’s Sunshine, and 1979’s Horizon Unlimited.

 

These vibrant collisions of pop, reggae, and Afro-beat influences defined the sisters’ unique hybrid sound and rocketed them to immense popularity in Nigeria, as well as gaining them the attention of a broader audience internationally. It is in my agenda to bring my dear sisters to Nigeria this year, to meet their old friends and fans and to show Nigeria that age is no factor in music. They will be reading this FB post so help me to send nice messages to them. Thank you very much! Tee Mac”.

 

In 1969, twin sisters Taiwo and Kehinde Lijadu released their first studio album ya Mi Jowo (“Mother, Please) through Decca records.

 

Known professionally as the Lijadu Sisters, the duo would go on to release a series of unique and influential LPs throughout the next two decades before retiring from the commercial music industry in 1984

 

The sisters sing in perfect harmony over a fusion of afrobeat, soul, and psychedelic rock instrumentation, exploring a variety of social, political and emotional themes. Tracks like “Cashing In” (from Danger, 1976) feature feminist calls to action, while love songs like “Promise” lament the pain of a broken heart.

 

 

The sisters’ music continues to permeate contemporary pop culture through sampling, notably Nas’ unreleased “Life’s Gone Low” which samples the Lijadu Sisters track of a similar name (Life’s Gone Down Low from Danger).

In these archival documentary excerpts, the Lijadu sisters rehearse, record and discuss album material and their experiences as women in the emergent pop music industry.

 

The two agree that female representation in the music industry specifically is limited, but that overall female representation in the professional sphere will continue to increase.

Taiwo said of the label: “As far as they are concerned, you can keep owing them and paying them back until the day you die”. Taiwo and Kehinde left Decca in 1984.

•Courtesy: The Podium

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Sunday Extra

Scores escape death as 33,000 liters fuel tankers falls on Airport Road

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•Container falls at Ketu Alapere

 

 

S

cores of commuters, pedestrians and motorists escaped death as tanker loaded with 33,000 liters of PMS fell, spilling its contents on the road.

 

Although no life was lost nor injured in the incident as LASEMA heavy-duty equipment and fire already deployed for quick recovery to prevent secondary incidents.

 

 

According to the Director-General of the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, LASEMA, part of the deployment is an empty tanker and pumping machine for transloading with super metro in waiting for recovery of the vehicle after transloading is completed.

 

 

LASEMA,  Lagos State Fire Service Officers available and involved in ongoing blanketing of the entire Area.

 

 

He said: “Also on ground with LASEMA are Officers of the Nigeria Police Force and LASTMA Officials providing security, crowd and traffic control. In a similar development, as the Airport Road recovery operation,  LASEMA is recovering another fallen oil tanker along the Old Abeokuta motor road Agege

 

 

The Agege fallen tanker is laden with 33,000 litter of Automatic Gas Oil, AGO, (Diesel) which fell off its truck head sideways while driving along the Nigeria Postal Service Agege.

 

 

The impact of the fallen tanker resulted in the spillage of its contents with the resultant Blanketing at incident scene ongoing while trans loading process is also ongoing.

 

 

Th transloading was commenced after carefully identifying the risks involved in order to ensure there’s no loss of lives and valuables in the ongoing operation.

 

 

However, to ensure safety and adequate operational space in compliance with international best practices, the entire incident area has been cordoned off.

 

In a related incident, a truck conveying a 40ft fully loaded container involved in an accident at Alapere inwards Ketu is also being recovered by LASEMA.

 

 

The truck with an unknown registration number lost control on motion as a result of mechanical failure, crossed the other lane due to momentum which made it attempt crossing to other side of the road and getting stuck on the culvert a process resulting in obstruction of free vehicular movement.

 

 

However, no loss of life nor injury sustained at the scene of incident where LASEMA and LASTMA are responders with early arrival of deployed heavy-duty equipment for quick recovery to prevent secondary incidents in the ongoing recovery operation.

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We’ve 12,000 abandoned projects in N/Delta –Akpabio

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We’ve 12,000 abandoned projects in N/Delta –Akpabio

The ongoing defence of the 2020 Appropriation Bill by Ministries Departments and Agencies has thrown up a lot of issues. In this brief chat with the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Chief Godswill  Akpabio, he tells ONWUKA NZESHI that there is not enough money to execute all the projects earmarked for the Niger Delta region

 

 

What’s your reaction to the rejection of your budget?

 

 

The budget was not rejected.  The senators feel that there ought to be completion of major projects that are ongoing across the states of the Niger Delta.  I agree with them but unfortunately, we are working under a very tight envelope. The ministry was allocated about N23billion and 60 per cent of that sum would go to already existing projects in the region and forty percent will probably go to new projects.

 

 

So if you look at it very well, it’s not possible for you to capture all the projects with that amount and it is not possible to even complete one kilometre of road in the region.  So, I think that instead of saying that the budget was rejected, I think that the distinguished Senators should collectively make an appeal to the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning to expand the envelope and improve upon our budget a little so that it can capture substantially most of the yearnings and aspirations of the good people of the Niger Delta.

 

 

They should take into cognisance of the outstanding projects that we have already conceptualised since 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 which are yet to be paid for up till now. Again there is nothing we could have done about the 2019 because we are yet to receive even one naira for the capital projects.

 

 

The fund is still being processed at the Ministry of Finance Budget and National Planning and like we explained to them (lawmakers), once the fund is released we will fund part of the budget for the current year.  Until then, we have no option than to roll them over into the 2020 budget.  They’ve given us till Monday and we will go and work with the Ministry of Finance Budget and National Planning to see whether we can get capital releases for this year.

 

 

Minister but you’ve told them there is nothing you can do, are you not going to return with the same document on Monday?

 

We should also note that if we are to capture all the projects that our colleagues have asked us to capture we will be allocating a very paltry amount of money to all the projects and it will neither make sense nor favour anybody at the end of the day.  It will then be a budget designed to fail like one of the Senators said.  If we have 300 projects and we have money that can capture only 150, why should we allocate all the projects and allocate amounts of money that will not make any difference at the end of the day?

 

 

So, we have chosen very carefully some projects based on need, based on spread and so on and so forth.  We have included 60 per cent of old projects to be rolled over and forty percent for new projects based on the demands of the people.

 

 

Having seen the enormity of the problems in the Niger Delta, what are you going to do differently to tackle them?

 

Well, I don’t think that the Federal Government alone can handle the entire problems of the Niger Delta. That is why there is the Ogoni Clean Up which is being funded outside the federal budget.  Outside the multinational oil companies making contributions other international partners are going to come in with fund to assist in driving the process. Then we are going to handle a lot of the mediation as a result of the exploitation and pollution that have taken place over a long period. These oil exploration and exploitation activities have destroyed the ecosystem and the land mass over the years.

 

But it is not going to be possible for the Federal Government to channel all its resources to the Niger Delta alone. The terrain is difficult and the region needs a lot of infrastructural development. Maybe the Sukuk Fund and other international finding instruments that are coming into Nigeria may need to be channeled into the Niger Delta region?

 

 

What about the NDDC and its mandate of developing the region?

 

 

We also need to reposition the NDDC which is supposed to be the major intervention agency in the Niger Delta region.  We have to distinguish between the Ministry of Niger Delta and the NDDC.  What we are discussing now is the Ministry of Niger Delta and not the NDDC.  On its own, the NDDC has almost 12,000 abandoned projects, hence   we have advertised for capable firms to conduct a forensic audit not just on these projects but also on the finances of the organisation right from 2001 when it commenced operations to 2019.

 

 

The intention is that we will now be looking at those that could be completed, those that could be merged, those contracts that could be terminated and those that could be suspended. It is not just a question of carrying all these projects on paper and at the end nothing is actually achieved. The intention of Mr. President is to ensure that we have projects completed in the Niger Delta  and commissioned for the benefit of the people.

 

 

People are talking about the challenge posed by water hyacinth and if you go to the waters of the Ni ger Delta, the aquatic life is almost destroyed because some of them have witnessed a total invasion of these weeds.  In some places you wouldn’t even know it is part of the river or sea, you’ll think it is a forest.  The result of it is that in many places,  oxygen is not going down the water bodies and the fishes are dying.  Even the movement of children going to schools in boats and  canoes has become almost impossible  in some of these riverine communities.

 

 

Clearing these weeds is going to cost a lot of money and it is not something that can be handled by the NDDC alone.  We need international partners to support us in that direction. Of course the flooding that has occurred shows that the embankments  and chanelisation programmes have failed. These are things that have become key issues in the region.

 

 

In some places,  bridges have collapsed  like the one at Elebele in Bayelsa State where a trailer that was about to cross a bridge went down with the bridge.  The problems of the region are many but I assure you that now that we are not just over-sighting but supervising the NDDC, our job is to ensure that we leave legacy projects behind at the end of the day.  We need to refocus the agency to enable it meet the aspirations of the people.

 

 

If it is in the area of healthcare, we need to have major health facilities in the region.  Both the Ministry of Niger Delta and NDDC must begin to plan for the post-amnesty era.  In other words, we must have a post-amnesty initiative since amnesty cannot last forever.  It cannot be in perpetuity. It is Mr. Presidents intention that this forensic audit will throw up a whole lot of issues that may even result in recoveries. Those who are genuinely being owed would also have opportunity to receive by getting back their funds. Whatever we recover from the process would be re-injected into the system to make sure that the existing projects are completed and even new ones initiated for the benefit of the people.

 

 

However,  one  thing you can be certain is that things can no longer be the same. Things must change for the better.  I share the sentiments of the senators that we should go and put all the projects ever initiated in the Ministry of Niger Delta from inception but they have not also asked us where we are going to get  all the funds to do it.  So they’ve said, go back and rework it and put all the projects.

 

 

One of the Senators said 10 projects from his constituency are missing from the budget and wants all back but he has not taking into cognisance the funding implication.  Will they also give us 10 bags of money to add to what we have?  It is a Catch 22 situation. Yes indeed, we will come back on Monday to meet the distinguished senators but first we would go back to the Ministry of Finance Budget and National Planning to appeal that because the Senators want a lot of projects, from their states inside the Ministry of Niger Delta,  we also need more money to be able to match up their demands.

 

 

But as at today, somebody is asking what would you  do differently?  There is nothing we can do differently. If you see where we have N12 million that means there is an outstanding job of N12 million. It’s not as if we are going to spend N12 million to do a project of N1 billion. The reality is that we must settle the person who is being owed N12 million. It’s a difficult budget and very tight.

 

 

As  it is, the Federal Government must take cognisance of the 36 states and the FCT as well as the security issues of Boko Haram, militancy,  amnesty program , IPOB and other challenges.  So it is not easy.  As for me, I was amused  but impressed that the senators want development in their areas and they will like me to go and work out something in an uncommon way.

 

 

I don’t know whether you can assist me to get uncommon funds to meet the uncommon demands but we would try our best.  If there is any change you will see it.  If there is no change then it means there is really nothing we can do differently.

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