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Editorial

That Bailout Call By Rice Farmers

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Self-sufficiency in food production in Nigeria has for years, remained an elusive national aspiration in spite of the fact that successive federal governments have made it, or so claimed, to have it as key priority. Yes, the country had at various times embarked on projects such as Operation Feed The Nation (OFN) and Green Revolution (GR), yet, scarcity of food still persists in the country to the extent that most families are badly hit.

Obviously, such food crops such as rice, vegetable, yam and cassava have become the staple needs. Indeed, a number of indigenous corporate organisations have invested their resources into rice farming as a means of increasing the availability of the staple in Nigerian markets, but such efforts have failed to bridge the yawning gap between demand and supply of the essential staple.

The reasons for poor rice production in the country are not far-fetched. They include the non-availability of improved seedlings, lack of capacity utilization, poor funding, lack of encouragement, dearth of modern farming implements, crass lack of commitment by government, too much focus on the oil and gas industry, and inability to change from primitive to modern method of farming, especially mechanised farming, among others. All these factors have collectively hindered the ability of local rice farmers to produce sufficient quantity and high quality rice to feed Nigerians, and sustain the economy.

It is against this backdrop that we see the recent call by Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN) for a freeze in rice importation as a paradox of sorts. On the one hand, it should evoke the support of well-meaning Nigerians, who believe that increased local production would create more job opportunities for our youths, ensure food security and promote an alternative revenue source for the economy. On the other, the call deserves to be treated with caution in view of the fact that ban on importation of rice could subject the citizenry to a season of hunger and starvation, particularly as the potentials of the agricultural sector have not been fully tapped.

No doubt, self-sufficiency in local production of rice would provide the catalyst for the nation’s socio-economic development. However, every effort to encourage individuals and groups in the agricultural sector to improve their productivity, over the years, has not yielded the desired result for very obvious reasons.

We recall that a few years ago, same arguments being made now by RIFAN were made, which resulted in a provisional ban on rice importation. But shortly thereafter, government’s patriotic response had to be relaxed because the rice farmers could hardly fill the gap created by the ban, without the much anticipated increased production. Given the prevailing circumstances, it is difficult to see how RIFAN hopes to fill that gap now.

The Tide, therefore, urges the government to encourage not only rice farmers but others with a view to increasing their productivity by availing them improved crop varieties, and tax waivers as well as modern agricultural machines, to help boost commercial production. We also reckon that rice farmers, just like textile sector movers, need government bail-out to enable them meet the consumption needs of Nigerians, and if possible, for export. A mechanism should be put in place to ensure that only qualified and accredited farmers benefit from the government’s intervention measure.

Even so, we call on the three tiers of government to join hands with RIFAN to implement strategic policies that would add value to rice production, processing, distribution and marketing, and check the intermittent resort to the strategic reserves for the supply of grains in Nigeria. This way, we believe that the N23million contract awarded in 2009 by the Federal Government for the construction of small-scale rice processing centres in the country would make meaningful impact in the economy.

 While The Tide believes that rice farmers can close the gap between demand and supply of the staple, if given the necessary encouragement, we also note that the farmers need to rededicate themselves to their calling by being productive, and avoid the pit-falls of the past. It is on this basis that we support the bail-out call by rice farmers. But not the canvassed ban on importation of rice, which in our view, shall be hasty.

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Editorial

As Nigeria Turns 60 Today…

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“This is a wonderful day, and it is all the more wonderful because we have awaited it with increasing impatience, compelled to watch one country after another overtaking us on the road when we had so nearly reached our goal. But now, we have acquired our rightful status, and I feel sure that history will show that the building of our nation proceeded at the wisest pace: it has been thorough, and Nigeria now stands well-built upon firm foundations”.
There is no doubt that at independence, the world looked up to Nigeria as a potential player in the world economy given her enormous natural endowments and huge population. And indeed, the independence era turned out to be the Golden Age of the country as there was competitive development among the then three regional governments leading to rapid development of the regions.
Agriculture was the mainstay of the country ’s economy and the major foreign exchange earner. While the Western region achieved phenomenal economic and infrastructural breakthrough through cocoa, the Eastern and Northern regions built their robust economy around the proceeds derived from palm oil and groundnut sales, respectively. That was the era when Nigeria practised true and functional federalism, with the central government at the then Federal Capital Territory in Lagos as the coordinator.
At that time, Nigeria was regarded as the world’s largest exporter of groundnuts, cocoa and palm oil, and a significant producer of coconuts, citrus fruits, maize, pearl millet, cassava, yams and sugar cane, with about 60 per cent of its 45.1million population directly or indirectly in the agricultural sector.
It is sad, however, that 60 years down the golden era, the same could not be said of Nigeria of today. The ecstasy of independence has since fizzled out. Majority of the citizens who, yesterday, celebrated their country’s independence are now daily contend with the harsh realities of life and living in the country. To many a Nigerian , the question remains: What again is there to celebrate?
If anything, Nigeria’s journey, since independence, has been a long tortuous one, from the First Republic through a long period of military interregnum to the present civilian regime. The journey, truth be told, has been marked by poor leadership, bad governance and corruption, all combined to stymy socio-economic development in the country.
As the country marks its 60th anniversary as a sovereign nation, today, we note with mixed feelings that its economic indicators are too disheartening to contemplate. This can be attested to by last year’s classification of Nigeria as the poverty capital of the world, with 91.1 million Nigerians living in extreme poverty. This, to us, is not a good testimonial for a country that prides itself as the giant of Africa.
Indicators in other sectors of our national lives are not encouraging either. Beside decay in critical infrastructure such as roads, railway and electricity, the nation’s health and educational institutions have also witnessed serious regression.  Therefore, while The Tide joins millions of Nigerians to celebrate Nigeria’s Diamond Jubilee anniversary, we call on the Nigerian government to adopt workable action plans to stop this progressive march towards socio-economic abyss.
It is high time Nigeria retraced its steps back to the golden era of post-independence when we had functional federating units that can feed, protect and cater for the needs of their citizenry.
Also key to nation building is the total restructuring of the country’s political structure in such a way that no section of the country will dominate or have overbearing influence on others.
We believe that the agitation for succession by certain part of the country is not unconnected with the perceived imbalance in the nation’s political structure.
While The Tide does not support any break up of the country, we urge Nigerians to adhere to the admonition of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo at the 60th Independence Anniversary interdenominational church service held at the National Ecumenical Centre in Abuja on Sunday. The Vice President had warned that Nigeria may be heading towards disintegration if urgent steps are not taken to identify and mend the cracks that could fasten a break up. The nation can only ignore this warning at its own peril.
We are optimistic that Nigeria will be a better place to live if every Nigerian is given the right of place in the country.
While we congratulate Nigerians on this historic occasion of Nigeria’s 60th anniversary, we salute the courage of our founding fathers and the sacrifice made in bequeathing a viable nation to us. We urge Nigerians to reflect on this sacrifice and work towards keeping Nigeria an indivisible entity.
Once again, we wish Nigeria happy Diamond Jubilee anniversary.

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Editorial

Lessons From Edo Poll

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The recent Edo State governorship election has proved to be a turning point in the manage
ment of election in Nigeria, notwithstanding the few skirmishes and whirlwind it generated. For one, the outcome of the poll proved pundits wrong, that there is high possibility of having free, fair and violence-free election in the country.
There is no gainsaying the fact that before the curtain closed on the democratic soap opera that was the 2020 governorship election in Edo State on September 19, there were palpable fears of the election turning into war, going by dizzying and febrile campaigns, hate speeches and frightful political mudslinging that rent the political air.
Although the election was not without the usual voter apathy, alleged vote buying and inducement, physical assault and even death, it was adjudged to be better and fairer than most previous elections in the country, thus, raising the hope of a better electoral contest in the future.
Besides an improved management and conduct of the poll by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), there was also an obvious improvement in the activities of the security agencies compared to past elections, as the electorate were allowed to exercise their civic rights without fear of harassment or molestation.
The Tide commends both the electoral body and the security agencies for this feat and hopes that what we have witnessed in Edo State will not be an off-season procedure, but a new culture that will be imbibed and replicated in the Ondo State governorship election coming up next month, and indeed in future general elections.
We particularly applaud the use of virtual portal by INEC to upload results directly from the polling unit which made it impossible for electoral violators to hijack the electoral process. It is our hope that this innovation by INEC will gather more thresholds in future elections, including the October 10, 2020 Ondo governorship election.
However, we call on INEC to strengthen its processes for future elections, particularly in the area of card readers, to forestall the type of delays witnessed in accreditation of voters during the Edo election. The commission also has the onerous duty of addressing the worrying issues of vote-buying, multiple voting, election violence, among others.
Worthy of note is President Muhammadu Buhari’s impartial posture throughout the election. The President’s non-interference in the electoral process and his non-alignment to any contestant despite his political affiliation, are signs of political maturity and progress for the nation’s democracy. His pre-election charges to the political parties, their candidates and security agents to behave responsibly is as commendable as his advice to the winner of the contest, Governor Godwin Obaseki, to show grace and humility in victory. We urge the President to maintain this unbiased stance in future elections.
The quick intervention of the Oba of Benin, Eheneden Erediauwa II, prior to the election, most especially his fatherly role in moderating the conduct of actors, is also highly commendable. We recommend this royal gesture to other traditional rulers in the country.
We also commend the Abdulsalami Abubakar-led National Peace Initiative for facilitating the peace accord that eventually led to the peaceful conducts exhibited by all actors, including candidates and their supporters.
Meanwhile, The Tide notes the roles played by the international community towards ensuring free, fair and violence-free election in Edo State. Notable among them was the step taken by the United States and United Kingdom in banning electoral violators from visiting their countries. We restate our support for this restriction and urge these advanced democracies not to restrain on further sanctions against individuals who are bent on undermining our fledgling democracy.
We expect the Edo election to serve a loud, useful lesson to the “political godfathers” that power belongs only to God, which He confers through the people. This is because the outcome of the Edo election clearly shows that no matter how an individual strives to lord it over others, the will of God, through the people, will always prevail.
It is obvious that the uncertainty that preceded the Edo election was unnecessary and could have been averted if the political gladiators had not taken the election as a matter of life and death. It is imperative therefore, for politicians to regard every election as a mere window that provides opportunity to serve the people and not a do-or-die affair.
That the Edo election was finally concluded without rancour is a great relief and a big testimony that credible elections are possible in our country if all stakeholders play by the rules. We, therefore, urge INEC, the security agencies, politicians and other stakeholders in the nation’s electoral system to replicate the Edo example in Ondo State on October 10 in order to consolidate on the gains of the nation’s democracy.
We congratulate and commend the people of Edo State for their peaceful conduct while the election lasted. We also salute their resilience and resoluteness in ensuring that their votes counted. We advise the people of Ondo State to emulate this example by playing by the rules and ensuring that their wish prevails in the forthcoming election.
Also commendable is the spirit of sportsmanship displayed by the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the first runner-up in the election, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu. We, however, admonish him to go beyond conceding defeat and congratulating his opponent. He should join hands with the governor in providing good governance for the people of Edo State. Such conduct will surely deepen the nation’s democracy.
Meanwhile, we congratulate Governor Obaseki and his new party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on this electoral triumph and urge him to be magnanimous in victory. His victory shows, without doubt, that he maintains a reasonable level of popularity among the people of Edo State and should strive to improve upon his first-term performance, in the next four years. He has a chance to prove that governors can do better in their second term.

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Editorial

Recovered Assets’ Agency

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Last week, the Attorney General of the Federation, AGF, and Minister of Justice, Malam Abubakar Malami (SAN) disclosed that the Federal Government has approved a new bill, the Proceeds of Crime Recovery and Management Agency Bill, for onward transmission to the National Assembly.
According to the AGF, the bill, which was first conceived in 2007, and rejected by the Federal Executive Council, FEC, of successive administrations, including the current cabinet before it was eventually approved, is geared towards securing a legal and institutional framework that will assist in harnessing proceeds of crimes that are currently scattered across several government agencies and bring them into one agency.
The Tide views this development as a pragmatic strategy in the Federal Government’s fight against corruption and commends the move as a positive one in the right direction. The initiative, we believe, will breathe a measure of air of people’s confidence in the crusade against corruption, which has been the fulcrum of the present administration’s agenda.
We are also happy to note the recent launch of the Central Database on recovered asset and the Central Criminal Justice Information System by the government. The database and information system will, no doubt, ensure transparency and accountability in the management of recoveries from proceed of crimes.
That these initiatives would help promote transparency, better information flow and management is not in doubt, or the impact it would have regarding accountability and trust, as far as recovered assets are concerned.
It is an open secret that public distrust and suspicion have trailed the fight against corruption and the subsequent announcements of recovered or seized assets. Indeed, Nigerians could not whole-heartedly vouch for the sincerity of government and safety of such assets and the situation went a long way to raise more questions than answers over the operations and candour of the anti-graft agencies and their personnel.
There have been numerous questions and calls by Nigerians regarding the exact figure and status of recovered loot by the anti-graft agencies, especially, under the present administration.
That is why we think that the National Assembly should as a matter of national importance consider the Recovered Assets’ Agency Bill and ensure its speedy passage. Passage of the bill and coming into effect of the agency, we believe, will not only ensure uniformity of process and real time access and information feeding, it will put Nigeria on safe pedestal with her membership of international organisations, inclusive of financial action task force, and openness targeted at deepening transparency within the context of United Nations Convention Against Corruption.
In addition, we are convinced that such agency would help block leakages and promote transparency in government. Importantly, also, effective tabs would be in place to secure recovered assets without any room for happenstance, while information on such assets would easily be accessed by Civil Society Organisations, CSOs, Non-Governmental Organisations, NGOs, the media, researchers and ordinary Nigerians. This will, at all times enable the people, particularly, the CSOs to be on the same page with government as far as the status and management of recovered assets are concerned, thereby engendering mutual trust and confidence.
With the agency on board, Nigeria can be in more productive synergy with other developed and transparent countries based on the existence of world accepted best practices.
However, in establishing the agency and choosing the personnel, especially, the management cadre, it is pertinent to ensure that due diligence is observed. It must not be a job for the boys or an opportunity for political, selfish and sentimental considerations. The task should be for not only the eminently qualified and capable individuals, but persons with impeccable antecedents to be able to live up to the demands of the office.
We expect that the agency should be set up and empowered in such a way that it would have internal-check mechanisms, be professional, independent and strong enough to keep a leash on other anti-graft agencies like the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC); Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC); and others.
This, we believe, will make the agency effective, accountable and ensure that recovered funds and assets are not relooted one way or another. The Federal Government and the National Assembly must ensure that no effort is spared to put the agency in place within the shortest possible time with all recovered assets put under its custody.
It is indeed time to put the fight against corruption on the table and make sure that it passes through and survives integrity and transparency test in Nigeria.

 

 

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