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High fever in infancy cooks brain, kills optimal potential –Investigation

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High fever in infancy cooks brain, kills optimal potential –Investigation

•52 million children under 5 years are wasted – WHO

 

•17 million severely wasted, says Prof. Ojengbede

 

•155 million are stunted – Dr. Tosin Ajayi

 

•‘Child’s nutrition increases world’s intelligence quotient by 10 points’

 

 

•200 million children in developing countries fail to meet their

 

developmental potential –CDC

 

 

A total of 200 million children in developing countries, Sunday Telegraph learnt, fail to meet their developmental potential. CHIJIOKE IREMEKA writes that while all nutrients are important for brain development and function, optimal overall brain development depends on providing sufficient quantities of key nutrients during the first 1,000 days of life from conception till the child’s second birthday

 

 

“Lion gives birth to lion, scorpion gives birth to a scorpion, and snake gives birth to a snake. Young lion cannot beg for food and scorpion must sting but only human being that gives birth to nonhuman beings due to micronutrients deficiency in the child’s first 1, 000 days. We do not want twuale children; we need children with the right behaviours…” says Dr. Tosin Ajayi, the Chief Executive Officer, Africa Future.

 

Dr. Ajayi spoke at the 2019 African Discourse Series, organised by Africa Future in Lagos, where the cream of other experts and policymakers fingered the urgent need to reconstruct the country’s future and prosperity by investing in the micronutrients to support pregnant women and children under 5 years, especially in the first 1000 days of a child’s life to its second birthday.

 

 

According to him, lack of desired micronutrients in a woman before pregnancy, during pregnancy and 2 years after birth turns a human into another being which doesn’t have the right potential as a normal human being to actualise his life aspiration, hence cannot function optimally as a human being.

 

He revealed that the first 1, 000 days in the life of a child from the first day of conception until the child’s second birthday is critical to the child; whether it will be a normal human being with the abilities to fulfill life’s aspiration or not, is determined in these first 1000 days. Ajayi was reacting to the release by American Center for Disease Control (CDC), which said that micronutrients deficiency in a pregnant woman affects the future fortune of the baby in her womb adversely unless the issue of micronutrient deficiency is addressed within the first 1000 days in a child’s life.

 

He insisted that the quality and quantity of micronutrients intake by a pregnant woman and the baby in her womb in the child first 1000 days has a lot statement to make whether the child will be a wasted child, severely wasted, stunted in life or has the ability to develop optimally. He, therefore, called for investment in the micronutrients by all even as he called on the government to partner with the private sector on this.

 

He noted that by investment in one generation, the prosperity of the whole country is guaranteed, saying that one generation is what is needed to correct this trend to ensure that Nigeria produces well rounded children with the right potential to lead and reconstruct the country. He said: “If a child’s body and brain develop well, then their life chances are improved. The first 1,000 days are a time of tremendous potential and enormous vulnerability. How well or how poorly mothers and children are nourished and cared for during this time has a profound impact on a child’s ability to grow, learn and thrive.

 

“This is because the first 1,000 days are when a child’s brain begins to grow and develop and when the foundations for their lifelong health are built. Nutrition, in particular, plays a foundational role in a child’s development and her country’s ability to prosper.

 

“Poor nutrition in the first 1,000 days can cause irreversible damage to a child’s growing brain, affecting his ability to do well in school and earn a good living — and making it harder for a child and his family to rise out of poverty.

“It can also set the stage for later obesity, diabetes, and other chronic diseases which can lead to a lifetime of health problems. Studies show that countries that fail to invest in the well-being of women and children in the first 1,000 days lose billions of dollars to lower economic productivity and higher health costs.”

 

He noted that such is the reason several of the world’s leading economists have called for greater investments in the nutrition and well-being of mothers, babies, and toddlers as a way to create a brighter and more prosperous future for us all.

 

According to him, exposure to stress or adversity during this period can result in a child’s development falling behind his peers, saying when not addressed, experiences, such as abuse or conflict between parents, can stay with children throughout their lives, cause harm to them and to others, and might be passed on to the next generation. He continued: “If we can correct it now, we would have saved a whole next generation. Individuals with four or more adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are at a much greater risk of poor health outcomes compared to individuals with no ACEs.

 

“Intervening more actively in the first 1000 days of a child’s life can improve children’s health, development and life chances and make society fairer and more prosperous. Enhancing the ability of services to support and empower parents and families to take care of themselves and their children is vital, but not sufficient.”

 

He noted that high temperature in a child’s early life due to high fever cooks or bakes his brain which kills the child’s potential and self actualisation. “High temperature in a child due to high fever cooks or bakes the brain of the child. And when the brain is baked, the heat will burn his gasket. Just like a car with over heating will lose its gasket, so is the brain of a child within this period that experiences high temperature,” he quipped. In June, 2019, American CDC said any serious sickness; especially high fever in a child within this period of 1000 days till the child’s second birthday will impact on the neurodevelopment of the child. Also, the World Health Oragnisation (WHO) had said about 45 percent of deaths among children under five years of age, are  linked to under-nutrition.

 

These mostly occur in low and middle-income countries. At the same time, in these same countries, the rates of childhood overweight and obesity are rising. Sunday Telegraph learnt that the developmental, economic, social, and medical impacts of the global burden of malnutrition are serious and lasting for individuals and their families as well as the communities and for countries.

 

According to Prof. Dosu Ojengbede, malnutrition, in all its forms, including undernutrition (wasting, stunting, underweight), inadequate vitamins or minerals, overweight, obesity, and resulting in diet-related noncommunicable diseases.

 

He said about 52 million children under 5 years of age are wasted, 17 million are severely wasted and 155 million are stunted, while 41 million are overweight or obese; 1.9 billion adults are overweight or obese, while 462 million are underweight. “Underweight prevalence has increased from 24.2 per cent to 31.5 percent, stunting prevalence increased from 34.8 per cent to 43.6 percent while wasting prevalence increased marginally from 10.2 percent to10.8 per cent,” he said.

For him, malnutrition refers to deficiencies, excesses, or imbalances in a person’s intake of energy and/or nutrients. It addresses 3 broad groups of conditions including undernutrition, which includes wasting (low weight-for-height), stunting (low height-forage) and underweight (low weight-for-age). Low weight-for-height, Sunday Telegraph is known as wasting. It usually indicates recent and severe weight loss, because a person has not had enough food to eat and/or they have had an infectious disease, such as diarrhoea, which has caused them to lose weight. A young child who is moderately or severely wasted has an increased risk of death, but treatment is possible. More so, Prof. Ojengbede insisted that low height-for-age is known as stunting. It is the result of chronic or recurrent undernutrition, usually associated with poor socioeconomic conditions, poor maternal health and nutrition, frequent illness, and/or inappropriate infant and young child feeding and care in early life. “Stunting holds children back from reaching their physical and cognitive potential.

 

Children with low weight-for-age are known as underweight. A child who is underweight may be stunted, wasted, or both,” he added. Dr. (Mrs.) Cynthia Obiora with Havannah Hospital, Lagos said intake of right micro nutrients and vitamins by pregnant women and their babies before conception, during pregnancy and after delivery ensures the bright future of the child and the country, saying lack of which will affect the mother and child, especially the child adversely. She said the causes of malnutrition are directly related to inadequate dietary intake as well as disease, but indirectly to many factors, among others household food security, maternal and child care, health services and the environment. She said: “The first 1,000 days of life is a unique period of opportunity when the foundations of optimum health, growth, and neurodevelopment across the lifespan are established.

 

Yet too frequently in developing countries, poverty and its attendant condition, malnutrition, weaken this foundation, leading to earlier mortality and significant morbidities such as poor health, and more insidiously, substantial loss of neurodevelopmental potential. “In the modern era, while undernutrition remains the major challenge worldwide, we humans are now faced with the negative effects of overnutrition in the form of obesity and risky nutrition in the form of unbalanced diets or diets contaminated with potential toxins. “Each of these conditions can be considered malnutrition in the true sense of the world’s roots (bad nutrition) and each has been shown to potentially reduce brain development. “At least, 200 million children living in developing countries fail to meet their de

velopmental potential. Along with undernutrition, concomitant influences of infectious disease, environmental hazards, societal and household violence, all contribute to this loss of potential.”

 

Hence, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) specialist on monitoring and evaluation, Ms. Maureen Zubie-Okolo, said health issues related to malnutrition can do lifelong harm, saying that the spate of malnutrition cuts across children who are too thin for their age, children who are too short for their age and children who are too thin for their height.

 

The UNICEF’s research in collaboration with the National Bureau of Statistics in the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) in 2017, in which 33,901 households and 2,239 enumeration areas across the 36 states of the federation and the FCT were used, revealed that malnutrition among children under five years has worsened generally.

 

She said: “Unlike many other influences that are immutable or tremendously difficult to change, nutrition is something we can control. The critical or sensitive periods of brain development susceptible to specific nutritional deficiencies are increasingly well defined, making prevention of long-term deficits with well-timed nutritional interventions during the fetal period and first years of life a true possibility.

 

“Interventions based on the knowledge of these critical windows have the potential to exert a profound global impact, as correction of nutritional deficits alone has been estimated to have the power to increase the world’s intelligence quotient by 10 points.” Based on what is now known about the magnitude of brain development in the first 1,000 days, Sunday Telegraph learnt that the roots of some of the human’s most complex behaviours are laid down very early in life; well before there is obvious behavioral expression of those areas.

 

It was learnt that one of the most striking aspects of developmental nutritional neuroscience is the finding that early life deviation from expected trajectory due to a nutrient deficiency can affect brain function in adulthood, long after repletion of the nutrient. It was asserted that while the young brain is enormously plastic in its ability to recover from early insults and, hopefully, it is never too late to, at least, partially correct a deficit, the window of opportunity is narrow with advancing age.

 

 

The science suggests that it is far better policy to build the brain right in the first place through nutritional deficit prevention programs than to depend on replacement therapy once a deficit has occurred. Feeding the fetal, newborn, and young child brain is one of the best ways we can achieve this goal. Sunday Telegraph learnt that every country in the world is affected by one or more forms of malnutrition.

 

Combating malnutrition in all its forms is one of the greatest  global health challenges. Women, infants, children and adolescents are at particular risk of malnutrition. It was gathered that optimising nutrition early in life—including the 1000 days from conception to a child’s second birthday— ensures the best possible start in life, with long-term benefits.

 

Poverty amplifies the risk of, and risks from, malnutrition. Sequel to this, on April 1, 2016, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly proclaimed 2016–2025, the United Nations Decade of Action on Nutrition.

 

The Decade is an unprecedented opportunity for addressing all forms of malnutrition. It sets a concrete timeline for implementation of the commitments made at the Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2) to meet a set of global nutrition targets and diet-related NCD targets by 2025, as well as relevant targets in the Agenda for Sustainable Development by 2030.

 

Led by the WHO and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), the UN Decade of Action on Nutrition calls for policy action across six key areas, including creating sustainable, resilient food systems for healthy diets; providing social protection and nutrition-related education for all.

 

Others are aligning health systems to nutrition needs, and providing universal coverage of essential nutrition interventions; ensuring that trade and investment policies improve nutrition; building safe and supportive environments for nutrition at all ages; and strengthening and promoting nutrition governance and accountability, everywhere.

 

Responding to this situation, Nigeria’s Food and Nutrition Policy is to improve the nutritional status of all Nigerians, with particular emphasis on the most vulnerable groups – children, women, and the elderly.

 

According to the Health Minister, Prof. Adewole Isaac, the Food and Nutrition Policy aims to establish a viable system for guiding and coordinating food and nutrition activities undertaken in the various sectors and at various levels of society, from the community to the national level.

 

He said: “Incorporating of food and nutrition considerations into development plans and allocation of adequate resources towards solving the problems pertaining to food and nutrition at all levels would help.

 

“Identifying of sectoral roles and assignment of responsibilities for the alleviation of malnutrition, ensuring that nutrition is recognised and used as an important indicator to monitor and evaluate development policies and programmes and promoting good, indigenous food cultures and dietary habits among Nigerian people for healthy living and development, will all help to achieve this.”

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Marion Downy

    November 12, 2019 at 3:23 am

    very cool

  2. Takisha Blankenburg

    November 12, 2019 at 2:58 am

    very cool

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Sunday Extra

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

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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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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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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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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Tanker fire: Adequate fire service a must in Onitsha, other cities –Stakeholders

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Tanker fire: Adequate fire service a must in Onitsha, other cities  –Stakeholders

The strides recorded by Anambra State in the area of infrastructural development may have been rubbished by the recent fire outbreaks, where no single fire machine from the state came to the rescue of the people and their property. Sequel to this, many stakeholders are currently blaming the State Governor, Chief Willie Obiano for his inability to provide efficient fire service in the state. CHIJIOKE IREMEKA reports

 

 

•We’ve lost lives, businesses, goods, jobs yet we pay taxes for basic amenities –Angry traders

 

•Recurring incident should worry everyone, govt –Dr. Tony Nwoye

 

 

•Nearest fire station to the scene is Asaba –Controller-General of Federal Fire Service

 

•Adequate fire service sine qua non for bustling Onitsha –Monarch

 

 

R

esidents of Anambra State, especially Onitsha, which had witnessed three mega fire outbreaks in the state since 2015, will be praying hard not to witness anymore fire as the state does not have functional fire service or capacity to handle such disaster, rather depends on Delta State’s which the Controller-General of the Federal Fire Service, Liman Ibrahim, said is the nearest to Onitsha.

 

 

Anambra has had the tradition of being at the mercy of Asaba Fire Service in the event of fire outbreak in the state, especially the neighbouring Onitsha metropolitan city and thus, appeared that the strides recorded by Anambra State in the area of infrastructural development has been washed.

 

 

The recurring tanker fire in Onitsha and the inability of the government to provide this commercial city with a vibrant fire fighting equipment appeared to have made nonsense of these achievements as there is currently no single active state-owned firefighter yet government pays monthly salaries to fire men.

 

 

Again, in spite of Onitsha being the host of Africa’s biggest Open Market, and a host of many other powerful markets in the country, it is grossly deficient in the area of protection of lives and property of the masses against fire disaster.

 

The state has one of the poorest fire service departments in the country yet refused to invest in functional fire fighting department. The emergency response time in the state is close to zero and one wonders the safety of Anabrarians in case of national disasters like this.

 

 

If any state must default in putting in place, a functional fire service, it shouldn’t be Anambra, which depends on the taxes and levies collected from numerous markets in the state. The state has not put a premium on such life-serving and fortune-saving service in the state in spite of these.

 

 

Successive governments of the state at all levels had failed grossly in this common assignment of protection of lives and property. Not even Dr Chris Ngege’s administration nor Mr. Peter Obi did touch this department with a long pronge.

 

The current government of Chief Willie Obiono had also done nothing regarding this, even when the state had recorded three major fire disasters in his time, which snuffed out lives from not less than 70 innocent and powerless citizens who had done their part of the social contract and expect the government to protect them in return.

 

According to the state official documents, Onitsha markets including fire gutted Ochanja, are major sources of IGR for the state and stakeholders wonder why it will not be protected to save the government from spending its IGR on paper compensation to victims of fire disaster in the state.

 

Dr. Chudi Igbanugo said the Wednesday and Thursday tanker fire in the city of Onitsha, the commercial heart beat of the state, last week were 100 percent preventable if the state had active firefighters like Lagos State, saying if such fire had occured in Lagos, there will not be casualties or any form of property loss.

 

He noted that Anambra as the model state in the South East Zone of the country, should take a clue from the way and manner Lagos State had invested and operated its fire engines and department in the state with a view to improving Anambra state- owned fire service.

He said, “When the tanker fell and spilled it content in the canal, which transported the PMS down Ochanja market, an active firefighter would have nipped the impending disaster in the bud, but they were not in sight for hours and the fire had a field day.”

 

Before Sunday Telegraph, which was at the scene left, at least, an hour and a half into the fire, not one of the emergency or disaster management team was in sight except for the staff of Federal Road Safety Corps and staff of a construction company fixing the faulty MCC pedestrian bridge.

 

People were seen running helter skelter without hope in sight. Many were buying and throwing sachet water in the fire to quench it to no avail. The frustrated traders and masses who saw the movement of the fire towards Ochanja market resorted to calling radio stations in the state to call non existent fire service in the state.

The anchor man was calling firefighters from Asaba, and Awka, the state capital on air to put out the fire. The people saw fire ravaged their goods and burnt their colleagues to death while they watched helplessly.

 

This necessitated calls across the state on the need for governor Obiano to invest in a functional firefighters as the lasting legacy in the state before he leaves the office next year. Many also give great knocks on his administration and fire department.    

They blamed the Anambra State Government for the disaster by not providing fire-fighting equipment to the area. The fire fighting vehicle, which arrived there late, soon ran out of hydrant and the fire raged on till night.

 

His Majesty, Nnaemeka Achebe, Obi of Onitsha, is among the notable Ananbra indigenes who decided to speak up, perhaps, for the government to do the needful.

He said that an adequate fire service is a sine qua non for a bustling metropolitan city of Onitsha as well as other major towns in Anambra State.

His Majesty, who spoke in a statement signed by Nn’emeka Maduegbuna, was reacting to the petrol tanker fire that occurred in Onitsha on Wednesday, October 16, 2019 which he said has become a recurring decimal.

According to him, this is the third major petrol tanker fire in Onitsha since 2015 that resulted in loss of lives and property.

He said: “The entire Onitsha community was thrown into deep grief on Wednesday, 16 October, when the driver of a tanker laden with petrol, lost control and crashed at the commercially busy interchange of Iweka Road and the Expressway, leading to the River Niger Bridge to Asaba, and resulting in the loss of lives and properties.

 

“In May 2015, a tanker laden with petrol lost control and exploded in the same vicinity of the latest accident, killing about 60 persons. In February 2017, another tanker laden with petrol crashed into the Mobil Petrol Station on the DMGS Roundabout and the consequent fire destroyed numerous homes and offices though, thankfully, no lives were lost.”

 

Going down memory lane, he said there have been other major fires in the markets that dot the city, which has necessitated his call for adequate fire service in the Onitsha metropolis and other cities in Anambra State.

He continued: “Exactly a week ago, during my annual Ofala address to the community, I spoke about the pressures of urbanisation and unbridled commercialisation in the city, the need to debottleneck the road traffic conundrum in the city, and the enforcement of planning regulations to curb illegal roadside trading that impede both vehicular and human movement.

 

“I also spoke about the related issue of poor environmental sanitation that is choking the metropolitan city with garbage.

We thank Governor Obiano, for acting immediately to set up a panel of enquiry into the fire incident and pray that the remit of the panel should go beyond this specific event to address the fundamental causes of these disasters, and a holistic plan for a broad-based tackling of the challenges of urbanisation and commercialisation which contribute to environmental pollution and degradation.

 

“We call on the state and Federal Governments to save Onitsha from collapse as a homeland and leading centre for commerce and industry.”

Former member of the House of Representatives, Dr. Tony Nwoye said it was a sad day for Anambra State, regretting the enormous loss of lives and property.

He said: “This accident has become too recurring in Anambra and should worry everyone. The collaboration of the government, relevant stakeholders and the citizens, is needed to develop a proactive strategy that will forestall any further occurrence of this nature. Never again shall we witness anything such as this.

 

“This is a time for us to show faith in our state and rally around the victims of the carnage. I call on Anambra people to come to the aid of the victims and collectively give them support to rebuild their businesses and overcome their grief. It is indeed a troubling time and we must have to show that brotherly spirit and love that make us Ndi Anambra at this time.”

 

Also, the Director General of Nigeria Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), and a chieftain of All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief George Moghalu, called on the state government and other influential people in the state to come to the aid of the victims.

He added: “I am saddened at the loss of lives and we never wish for incidents like these in our dear state. I urge the Anambra State government to do what it is supposed to do to ensure that the traders continue to earn a living.”

 

Chairman of Ochanja Central Market, Mr. Nelson Ojukwu called on the Anambra State government to provide the markets with fire-fighting trucks to alleviate the sufferings and losses the traders and individual house owners incur during fire incidents.

 

Former Chief Security Officer at Ochanja, Chief Godswill Anyanwu, said everything in his shop valued over N12 million got burnt, saying that it was painful that in spite of the huge revenue government collects from the markets in Onitsha, it couldn’t provide the market with fire equipment.

He added that it was the combined efforts of residents and fire fighters from Asaba that ended the fire.

Chief Ikechukwu Ekwegbalu, President-General of the Anambra State Amalgamated Traders Association (ASMATA), described the incident as unfortunate.

 

Executive Assistant to Willie Obiano in Anambra State Emergency Management Agency (SEEMA) media, said: “The second fire outbreak in Onitsha within the week was equally severe, property worth several billions of naira including buildings, vehicles, and other valuable property were affected at Omaba Phase two.”

 

A microbiology graduate, Echezona Offor, is wondering why should a big city like Onitsha, which experiences fire outbreaks every now and then not have a Vibrant fire fighting department.

“This is very terrible. Who will be held accountable for this? Who will pay for the properties destroyed? I’m feeling so bad,” he said.

 

“Fire incident is a security and safety issue but the Executive Governor of the state did not remember to include the Federal Fire Service when he was also sharing vehicles to other security agencies, of which I believe, would have helped in curbing fire incidents in the state,” he added.

 

Oja Okere said, “Tomorrow the Governor will pay a sympathy visit, make promises, some people will clap then he goes home and move on like nothing happened. A city like Onitsha doesn’t have a standby efficient fire fighting team! Shame! Shame! Shame on Obiano! Shame on all of us!”

 

According to David Martins, the only people that can change Nigeria are Nigerians, saying, “Tell me why a whole commercial city like Onitsha can’t boast of fire service. This is a joke. This is so sad, the feeling of losing properties and cash in the shops and warehouses to Fire.

“My prayers are with everyone affected by this because some people might not recover from the loss. Very unfortunate, my heart goes to all those involved in this terrible incident. This is the kind of government we have which cannot provide basic social amenities for us. As a way forward, there should be a stand by fire fighter service for every market.”

 

Another sympathiser, Osinachi Joe said: “Sorry to say this, my Igbo brothers are all for money not even putting measures to save the source of their income like this situation. The state government also failed to have a working fire service in a commercial city like Onitsha.

“Completely failed system, people have lost their lives, business, goods and jobs. And these people pay taxes to the government to get basic amenities like fire fighters who can save them in times like this but behold they are nowhere to be found.”

 

Six months ago, in May 8, 2019, Anambra State joined their counterparts across the nation to celebrate the International FireFighters Day with the theme: “Geared Up For Fire: The Role of A FireFighter In Today’s Society.’

 

Anambra State Director, Fire Service, Mr Martin Agbili said: “International Firefighters Day is a time the world commemorates the sacrifices made by firefighters to ensure that communities and environments are safe.”

The Director noted that firefighting was a difficult job, saying that firefighters dedicated their lives to the protection of life, property and environment.

 

“It is a day in which current and past firefighters can be thanked for their contributions and humanitarian services,’’ he said.

 

Mr Agbili used the occasion to call government’s attention to the welfare of officers of the fire service, especially in staff training, and procurement of equipment.

However, a panel headed by the Deputy Governor, Dr Nkem Okeke has been set up by the Governor to immediately determine the cause of the accident, why the firemen could not put out the fire and how the condition of the victims can be ameliorated.

 

 

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Sunday Extra

Nigeria can become Africa’s auto hub, says Innocent Chukwuma

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Nigeria can become Africa’s auto hub, says Innocent Chukwuma

While the dust raised by the supply of over N1billion Prado Jeeps to Anambra lawmakers rages, the Chief Executive Officer of INNOSON MOTOR Limited, Mr. Innocent Chukwuma, took time out to explain his own side, he also tells of the importance of local patronage, how former governor Peter Obi keyed into that arrangement and his relationship with Governor Willie Obiano. MADUFORO OKECHUKWU reports

 

Your company has been in the news in last few days over the alleged demand by Anambra lawmakers for your product instead of Prado. What is your take on that?

To start with some people feel that I may have instigated the problem. Even the Speaker of the Assembly called me to ask me about it. But the fact still remains that I never spoke to any lawmaker or instigated any of them to ask for my product. I do not beg anybody any establishment to buy my vehicles. I produce and supply on demand. If you like any of my products, you come to the company and make your orders and we deliver.

So the allegation that I talked to the lawmakers is not true. Besides, I do not have any problem with my governor, Willie Obiano. I enjoy a good relationship with him and his government. I have many of my friends in his administration. It is important to note that currently His Excellency Willie Obiano has placed an order for the supply of 40 of my vehicles and he has already paid for the products and very soon we shall supply them.

I want to use this opportunity to make it clear that none of my staff or even myself asked the lawmakers to demand for my products. I do not have to do that because my products speak for themselves. If you like them you buy and I can assure you that you will not be disappointed. I understand the demands of our people and we try as much as possible to salvage their situation. This is a made in Nigeria product and we in the Innoson Group will continue to assist our people.

So far what is the spread of your vehicles and the level of patronage?

 

I supply my vehicles to many African countries as much as they place their orders. I supply to countries like Mali, Ghana, Sierra Leone among others. If you go to those countries, you will see them and my products have never failed them and they keep coming back. Here in Nigeria, the past government at the centre was my highest customer. I produce a lot for them like the military heavy duty vehicles. Also states like Enugu, Ebonyi also buy my vehicles as well as Imo, Ekiti, Gombe and Bauchi states. At the moment our capacity has increased but it has not been easy meeting up with the demands. Like I said before, it depends on the orders they place. The last regime of Mr. Peter Obi gave me so much support. He placed so many orders and we delivered and through his regime, he kept the factory busy. The former governor brought about 3,000 vehicles for the then state government and I am grateful for his support to my company.

What informed your decision to go into motor manufacturing business?

 

In the time past people are of the view that Nigeria or Africa cannot produce cars, trucks and other vehicles. So to me it was a challenge. Nothing is impossible in Nigeria if we choose to be more focused than ever. It is all about taking the right step and getting our priorities right. It is my vision that in no distant time Nigeria would be the hub of auto business in Africa. This was how other countries in Europe and America started and today they are the world best. If we continue to patronise Nigeria-made goods it has a multiplier effect on our country’s economy in terms of foreign exchange. It will also expand our market and encourage other forms of allied based industries. It also carries along the growth of small and medium scale industries in Nigeria.

 

 

There is no doubt that you are an employer of labour. How many people are in your employment?

Auto business in key to the growth of employment in any part of the world, each vehicle has more than 1,000 parts and they can be produced locally, here in Nigeria. This is because every professional has something to do in the production of a single car. That means employment for a lot of people across the line. In terms of employment, INNOSON Group has between 7,300 to 7,500 workers. We have the manufacturing section and other parts of the vehicle, we have mill and mill factory that is the plastic products. In-fact we have the largest plate factory in Africa and it is based in Enugu. So the level of employment is high and people are fully engaged.

Some time ago, some Niger Delta Youths were sent to your factory for training, how have they been performing?

Interestingly they are doing just very well and this is encouraging. Some of them are now working in the factories because we have to retain some of them while others chose to go into private practice. You can agree with me that there is no youth that do not have potentials, all that we need is to expose them and direct them well and they will make the best out of it. It is only idleness and lack of mentorship that is the cause of youth restiveness.

It is not only the Niger Delta Youths, but other youths from other parts of the country can also take advantage of this to improve themselves and make the best out of it. Our brothers here are also be ing trained and empowered with skills that would guide them in future. So auto business is key to employment in Nigeria.

 

Practically most people are going into auto business and some do not venture into other areas. Do you not have this fear of saturation?

It is not fair to say that because some others are into other products. I have colleagues who are not into motor business, but into drinks and foods. All of us cannot be in the same business. It is a question of where you are good at and you invest in it.

For instance, INNOSON Group has gone into agriculture and that is what we are doing in Nsukka in Enugu State. We have established a tractor plant in Nsukka to encourage mechanised agriculture and this would go a long way in encouraging our youths to go into agriculture. We have gone into partnership with the University of Nigeria. Nsukka (UNN); that is their agriculture department and in no distant time you will see the success and its positive effects on the agricultural sector. We are bringing in the expertise while the university comes in with the administrative and academic input and that is good for Nigeria’s economy.

A lot of people are already interested in this venture and even those that are into private or co-operative farm settlements; you know that Ebonyi and Enugu states have something to share in terms of agriculture, so it would improve food production in both the South East, South-south and even the North East, such as Benue and Kogi states. You can see that we are not only into motor manufacturing but agriculture and that is full scale mechanized agriculture. Nigeria as a country has gone far beyond the normal farming because of our population and the modern trend now is mechanized agriculture and our younger generation needs this new development.

But power supply has remained the bane of the manufacturing sector and indeed Nigeria’s economy, how have you been managing?

You indeed have a point there but until the power sector gets better than before we rely on power generating plants. We know that power is the problem and I am happy with the efforts being made by government in improving the power supply in the country. It has not been easy for us here and even the Federal Government, but we are optimistic that things would get better in no distant time.

Most companies maybe producing below the optimal expectation but if we improve more on the power sector, most companies, that is small and medium scale industries would do well and improve on their respective capacities. You also know that it affects employment because some establishments may choose to down size their work force because of the cost of production.

It is my firm belief that something is going on in the turn-around of our power sector and I urge President Muhammadu Buhari not to relent in what his administration is doing in the area of power generation and distribution, because Nigerians would certainly gain from it.

What is your position on the Ajeokuta Steel project that has been abandoned?

Well it is unfortunate that the project is still the way it is and a lot of money have so far been spent on that project. I do not know what the government position is on that project but it is my opinion that, had it been the project had come on stream, it would help us in the motor manufacturing business and other related companies.

It should not be allowed to remain like that something needs to be done in that area. For example, this has led to the buying of used vehicles by Nigerians because the new brand vehicles are on the high side and the average Nigerian cannot afford it. It is because of that, that we in INNOSON have ventured into producing new brand cars that Nigerians can afford; cars that do not run into millions of naira but something within the reach of the average Nigerian.

Some of these used vehicles may not last up to five to six years and you will begin to experience problems here and there. Some of them do not have spare parts available in commercial quantity. But if it is INNOSON the parts are affordable and you can be rest assured that the cars would be maintained.

 

Nigeria recently turned 59 what are your expectations?

We need improvement in power supply which government is already tackling. We need to improve on our agricultural sector so that our economy will diversity and this over dependency on petroleum would reduce. It has not been that bad for Nigeria since independence but we must set our standard and be more focused in creating enabling environment for our economy to grow and fight unemployment which would in turn fight corruption in our society.

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Sunday Extra

‘Night journey, a life style which has come to stay in Nigeria’

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‘Night journey, a life style which has come to stay in Nigeria’

Many years ago, Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) made frantic efforts to discourage travelling by road at night due to risks associated with it, yet its usefulness appeared stronger than the reasons given for its discontinuation. CHIJIOKE IREMEKA reports that Nigerian commuters’ high demand for night journeys has turned these moves to chasing shadows

 

•We can’t do without night journey –Passengers

 

 

•Night journey not safe –FRSC

 

 

R

evd.  Charles Okoro may have never seen a situation as terrifying and horrifying as his last encounter in one night journey, where his dreams and aspirations were almost shattered.

Like many other night travelers in the country, he was at a point, addicted to travelling at night until he had an encounter that which put paid to his addiction for nocturnal traveling, which he said, was the best for him, especially when he had no money for air travel.

In the last voyage that ended his night journey disposition and preference, almost made his pretty wife a widow and rendered his four children, fatherless.

 

His wife had warned him severally, but he wouldn’t heed to such advice to quit night trip until his neighbour’s blood, whom he was discussing with flowed on the floor of the luxury bus and soaked his suit.

 

“I know that Satan, the waster, was out to waste me but God was there for me. Ordinarily, I don’t know how I would have escaped such projected allegation from the woman, who said I was with her money,” he said, thanking God Who preserved his life.

While he was traveling from Abuja to Lagos, he had exhausted the money on him and decided to board a night bus to Lagos. The journey which started well from Abuja turned sour several hours after taken off.

At Ore, Ondo State, they encountered a dare-devil robbery gang, which terrorised, maimed, killed and traumatised the survivours of their cruelty, an experience which reverberates within them.

 

The robbers forced the driver to stop after several gunshots that left a number of them dead, and got on board the 54-seater passenger bus and robbed the occupants one after the other.

He narrated: “Before they came in, they shot some harassing shots which made the driver to stop. After that, they came on board. They asked everyone to bring out his money, jewelry and other valuables.

 

“Out of fear, they came to a woman and she pointed at me and told the robbers that I was with her money. I shouted that I wasn’t with her money ooo. I said to the woman when did you give me your money? Do I know you?

“Oh my goodness, one of the robbers that shot somebody in my presence turned to me, pointing a gun at me and asked where the money is? I said ‘I don’t have her money; I don’t even know her and we are not together but the woman insisted.

“I have never seen anything as horrifying and terrifying as this.  Suddenly, like a miracle, another robber said let’s go, the police are on their way and he turned his gun away from me. I was terrified and traumatised, the chair became so hot for me. It was a very bad trip for all of us.

 

“It was yelling and wailing for the rest of the trip. When I evetually found my voice, I said to the woman do you want to kill me but she started apologizing saying that she didn’t know what she was doing. I know it was an evil projection.

“I knew Satan was out to waste me but God saved me for a purpose. That was the last time I boarded the night bus. I saw a pronged robbery, I saw guns, I saw the blood of innocent Nigerians, I saw deaths. By the time their operation was done, seven persons laid dead including my neigbhour whose blood stained my blue suit.”

 

In another development, a night traveler, Chioma Ezeh said she once spent three days on the road and boarded three different buses on one journey.

“We left Onitsha at 7p.m and our bus first broke down in Asaba at 8p.m. They said it was overheating. It however, started working after some hours only to break down again in Auchi around after 11p.m.

“We slept there and continued our journey the following day in another bus as the first bus could no longer move. When we got to Okene, we were alerted of an ongoing armed robbery attack on that road so we ran into the bush.

“We later continued the journey till we got to Airport Road, Abuja, and the bus broke down around 12:30 a.m. We waited till daybreak before we were able to board another bus that brought us inside town,” Miss Ezeh narrated.

 

Edozie Onyema, an auto parts dealer in Nyanya Abuja, who frequents Onitsha for his supplies, said he prefers night trips because of its convenience, but started weighing options following his recent ordeal in the hands of armed robbers.

He said: “On our way to Onitsha, our bus broke down twice that night before it finally stopped at Okene. I had a feeling that the luxury bus was not in good shape due to its ‘break and quench movement’ and also because the conductor of the bus was a mechanic.

“While we were waiting for several hours on the road for them to sort out the issue with the bus, all of a sudden, men with guns and machetes surrounded us and told us to lie down. Luckily no one was killed but our money and personal belongings were taken away. My money meant for my business transaction was taken.”

 

The experience of Rev Okolo and that of many others may be the major factors that many people kicked against this adventurous experience, yet those who patronise them said ‘No night bus, no travelling.’ Night journey is like to them, what water is to fish.

Many years ago, Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) made frantic efforts to discourage night journey in the country but the usefulness of the travel at night appeared to be outweighing the reasons given for its discouragement.

Sunday Telegraph learnt that one of the reasons given when the journey was to be made illegal was the high risk of robbery and accident involved.

The Nigerian Senate, had in 2011, rejected a motion to ban night travels in the country.

 

The motion, sponsored by Chris Anyanwu, a senator from Imo State, had urged her colleagues to ban night travels due to the bad state of roads and security implications.

 

Rejecting the plea, however, the lawmakers argued that such a ban would infringe on the people’s right to free movement. The Senate stressed that night travels should rather be made safer and urged the Federal Government to properly equip the FRSC, to help it ensure safety on the roads at night.

 

The FRSC wants luxury bus owners to keep their vehicles in good condition and not to be used at night, but the high demand by Nigerian commuters for night journeys has left officials of the agency chasing shadows..

The spokesperson of FRSC, Bisi Kazeem, recently said that traveling at night is not safe and the commission had repeatedly warned Nigerians against it.

He said: “FRSC does not encourage night travels in as much as we do not have the legal backing to ban it. We have been advising and enlightening people that night travel in Nigeria is not safe because when you travel at night and the bus breaks down, help is not readily available.

“Most law enforcement agencies, especially traffic agencies, do not work at night so most of the drivers do as they like. And again, since we don’t enforce the law, we cannot do any of the four-approach system we operate – Education, Persuasion, Subtle force and Enforcement.

“It is not even safe for us to operate at night because we are not armed. There is no street light on the rural highways; there are also issues of bad roads and armed robbers. We only carry out skeletal night patrol around the metropolis where we know there is presence of other law enforcement agencies.

“All these complaints from night travelers cannot be readily addressed because we are not there at night. We are going to continue to say that night journey should be discouraged.

“And we are doing a lot of public enlightenment to make sure we talk to luxury bus owners. We talk to them on maintenance and any luxury bus we catch during the day or towards evening that breaks down, we impound and take them to mobile courts and if they are found guilty, they will be asked to pay a fine.

“We also appeal to luxury bus owners to operate only during the day so if there is any situation, it can be addressed. Life has no duplicate. We are in an era of technology; any business can be transacted through money transfer and other means.”

Recently, a High Court in Kenya dismissed an application to quash the ban on night travel by buses. Judge Isaac Lenaola said the bus owners should rather have applied to have the new regulations implemented over a period of time.

The Transport ministry made it clear that there is no ban on night travel, saying that PSV operators can apply for a night licence but they have to show that their vehicles will have two drivers if the journey is over eight hours, to have the night vision of their drivers tested, and to subscribe to an ambulance service in case of an accident.

Sunday Telegraph observes that these regulations are actually very reasonable, conforms with international best practices, and will definitely reduce the number of accidents on the roads at night.

It’s also expected that Nigerian government would emulate this and perhaps, perfect its night transportation rules to ensure that no life is lost in a preventable road misfortunes.

Nigerians who regularly travel at night said in spite of these concerns, they prefer night journey to day for different reasons.

According to Jideofor James, night journey is the best for him, saying that it saves time and cost.

He said: “My best time for travel is at night. Night journey to any part of the country is very helpful. One thing is that it saves time. You may have one thing or the other doing during the day and needed to finish it before travelling the same day instead of spending the whole day on road.

“You can go to work on Friday in Lagos, traveled that same night while you are sleeping and wake up in another location. Day travel will waste the whole day for you. It’s only night journey that can give you this leverage.”

Another graduate traveler, Chidimma Ofodile said, “As a fresh graduate, I was supposed to write and aptitude test for a job in Port-Harcourt, Rivers State. I wasn’t informed on time.

“The test was to be taken around 10:00 am the next and I got the information on the eve of that day. From Lagos, if I had to travel during the day, the next day, I will not get to Port Harcourt before 10: 00 am. And of course, as a job seeker, I do not have money to travel by air.

“The only option staring at my face if I must write the test was to travel by night. And to worsen the situation, I do not know anybody in Port Harcourt. So, my sister gave me some money with which I traveled that night.

“After the test, being that I didn’t have anybody there, I had to go back to the park and waited till the time for the night trip came. So, I took a night bus again back to Lagos. The test was for the then Intercontinental Bank recruitment. You can see what I was able to achieve in one day.

“I spent only a day in Port Harcourt. But if I had followed day bus, I would have spent two nights in a hotel and two days out of my house. Apart from the risk of robberies and accidents, not only associated with night journey, it’s very helpful.

“You can see why night journey by road is impossible to be discouraged among Nigerians. They tried it earlier and it failed.”

Alexander Agiri, is another night travelers who speaks on the impossibility of jettisoning night traveling among Nigerians. To him, night journey is a lifestyle that cannot be broken.

He said:  “People, especially the traders have developed this style over the years and will be hard to stop. Many of us do our business in the morning and travel at night to buy goods the next morning and come back at night.

“It’s the easiest way to do this business. By doing this, you will not be staying away for too long. And if you do not want to spend money in a hotel, this is what you have to do.

“There is no businessman who is pressed for time that doesn’t do this. It’s time-saving and it’s the most convenient. So, it’s hard to see that people stop boarding the night bus. Look at the people in the bus, more than half of them are traders.

“The only way this will be possible is when there is no business transaction in the country and when the nature removes all forms of emergencies that would make one to travel from one location to another at short notice.”

Nonso Okafor, a trader said he prefers night trip due to its low cost and free movement on the road. “The cost is low compared to day travel. I normally pay N3, 700 from Abuja to Onitsha or vice versa, though it is higher during Christmas or Easter. But it is twice cheaper compared to plying the road by day.

“Again, the roads are often free during the night and I normally sleep throughout. This makes the journey easier for me. But the deplorable state of some buses is making it difficult for us. These buses are poorly managed.

“When they are broken, they patch them up a little and bring them out on the road and keep managing and dragging them till they completely break down.

“These buses are very old and outdated. They repaint to make them look new. I think the government should look into these buses to know the ones that are good to be on the road and the ones that are not, at least for the safety of lives and property,” Mr. Okafor said.

Night travel is a critical mode for many Nigerians, especially businessmen and women moving long distances between cities across the country.

Maza-maza Park in Lagos is a major take off point for night travelers in Lagos. There, luxury buses belonging to different transport companies would line up as early as 5p.m. while conductors and motor park workers, known as Agberos, brawl over passengers.

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