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Govs, FG And Niger Delta Development

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The creeks and streets in the Niger Delta region have been relatively calm and safe in recent times. The isolated case of five youth corps members, who were kidnapped and released a few weeks ago, does not substantially subtract from this fact. Of course, the new found peace is attributable to the amnesty programme, which has so far, reined in the hitherto restive youths of the region. How long this tenuous peace will hold is a matter of conjecture. However, it would help if the post-amnesty programme is pursued with greater vigor and urgency. In this wise, development projects meant to create jobs and fully engage the youths must be executed with dispatch to prevent any resurgence of violence.

The political leaders of the region seem to have read the ominous signs and are frantically raising the red flag. The apparent unease among the elite stems from the sluggish way the development challenges of the region are being confronted. This tardiness manifests in one of the star projects, the East-West road, which traverses most states in the South-South zone. At the rate the construction is going, it may take another ten years for it to be completed.

This fear is confirmed by Mr. Michael Hachenberg, the Managing Director of Setraco, one of the contractors working on the East/West Road. He told the South-South caucus of the House of Representatives last year that it would take 10 years to complete this very important road link. Reason? The Federal Government is not releasing funds as and when due. This nonchalant attitude of the government if not seriously addressed will have dire consequences for the region.

Perhaps, determined to ensure that the gains of the amnesty programme were not eroded, governors of the six states of the South-South zone, converged in Port Harcourt recently to chart a new way forward. They met under the aegis of BRACED, an acronym for the states; Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa-Ibom, Cross River, Edo and Delta tates, and signed an agreement for the take-off of a Regional Economic Cooperation Commission. According to the Governor of Cross Rivers State, Senator Liyel Imoke, who is the chairman of the group, they also agreed to conduct feasibility studies on regional economic projects.

However, the immediate concern of the governors was the execution of projects that would hasten the development of the Niger Delta. Apparently, the people they represent must have been putting pressure on them to rev up action on tangible projects that would impact positively on their lives. So, the governors turned the heat on the Federal Government, asking it to quicken the pace of work on the East-West road as well as kick-start, the actual construction of the coastal road and the East-West railway.

Now that the rains have started, the road between Port Harcourt and Warri, two main cities in the Niger Delta, is almost impassable. There are several gullies that make life unbearable for commuters. Serious accidents and avoidable deaths are common occurrences. Though Setraco is on site, the withdrawal of Julius Berger from participation has adversely affected the speed. What now calls for urgent attention is to fill the gullies and pot holes while the main work continues. The Federal Government should give strong directives to Setraco to immediately fix these death traps. Niger Deltans cannot wait for the East-West road to be completed before they can move from one part of the region to the other.

Last year, it took the intervention of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, to save the road from total collapse. All the while, neither the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA) nor the Federal Ministry of Works lifted a finger to help. Isn’t that the height of negligence? Today, we are back to square one and those using the road in this horrible condition are cursing and swearing.

As if to douse the rising tension, the nation’s number two citizen, Architect Namadi Sambo, quickly put in a word for the President when he attended the convocation ceremony of the University of Port Harcourt just five days after the governors gave their warning signal. He re-assured the governors and leaders of the region that extensive work (the designs) had already been done on both the coastal road and the East-West railway.

The leaders of the region have continued to advise that there should be more action and less talk. Thank God that during his inaugural speech President Goodluck Jonathan acknowledged the dangers of further delay. He said: “The time for lamentation is over. This is the era of transformation. This is the time for action.” The president had in the course of his campaigns said that the lofty plans captured in the Regional Development Master Plan, facilitated by the NDDC would be pursued with renewed vigour.

“Let me assure you that I am irrevocably committed to the development of the Niger-Delta. We must develop the region to restore confidence and hope among our people and children. To this end, let me assure you that the Niger-Delta Master Plan for development is on course and we will assist the NDDC and all the state governments to faithfully implement it,” the President said.

The NDDC on its part is working through its Partners for Sustainable Development [PSD] Forum to get all the stakeholders fully involved in the development process and also use the body to harmonize projects in the region as enunciated in the plan.

Indeed, the first official assignment of the present NDDC Managing Director, Mr. Chibuzor Ugwuoha was the attendance of a workshop by the PSD Forum in Port Harcourt. His remarks at that occasion underscored the importance he attached to partnership. He said: “We know that the task of developing the Niger Delta is enormous. We cannot do it individually but together we can do it.” Ugwoha’s emphasis on the PSD Forum as a platform for collaboration is in line with his desire to engender further buy-in and commitment of all stakeholders to the Master Plan.

It is encouraging that the state governors in the region are beginning to take keen interest in the affairs of the commission which drives the master plan process. Recently, the hitherto dormant Advisory Committee of the NDDC, which comprises the governors and the principal officers of the commission, sprang into life after many years of in-action. The advisory committee intervened in the internal challenges that have confronted the interventionist agency of late. The long expected meeting of that moderating body also deliberated on how to aggressively implement the master Plan.

It is good to have the governors on the same page with the NDDC in the onerous task of bringing rapid development to the long-neglected people of the Niger delta. They should also work in synergy with the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs. Such cooperation of all main stakeholders is imperative for the rapid socio-economic transformation of the oil-rich region.

The governors of the region should show more commitment to the development of their various states. With prudent management of their resources, they would make by far more impact on the lives of their people. True, a few of them have done creditably well. Others are, however, laggards because there is no comparison whatsoever between the revenue they have received and the development on ground. None of them should use the implementation of the N18,000 minimum wage as an alibi for dissatisfactory performance.

There is no doubt that there is a justification in the governors’ demand for an adjustment in the revenue allocation formula to put more money in the coffers of the states to enable them pay living wages and provide more basic infrastructure which would spur development in their states.

The Federal Government currently takes 52.68 per cent of the centrally collected revenues, leaving the states and local governments with 26.72 and 20.60 per cent respectively. Meanwhile, the states and the local governments are saddled with more responsibilities like paying teachers and funding health care services. Redressing the badly skewed allocation formula should engage the attention of the National Assembly as it settles down to business. In the meantime, the Federal Government, which takes the lion share of our collective wealth must rise to the occasion and respond immediately to the infrastructural deficit in the Niger Delta.

Ifeatu Agbu

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Opinion

Job Creation Can Reduce Crime

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Crime is on the increase in Nigeria. And some public affairs analysts have attributed the upsurge in crime in the country to the high level of unemployment. Breaking down of law and order is becoming a trend that is growing fast in the land. Illegality is fast becoming legality in the country. Criminal-minded citizens are using lack of employment opportunities witnessed in Nigeria to swindle some innocent Nigerians.
This is because some people are desperate to get rich through all means and cost available to them. And so, some fall prey to the cheats and fraudsters in the society. Some jobless people have been defrauded and killed by their perceived employers. Few weeks ago, the social and mainstream media were filled with news of a young lady who was killed in cause of searching for employment from wrong person in Akwa Ibom State.
So many networking and Ponzi businesses have sprung up in the guise of making people rich with ease. And some people are being swindled of their money on daily basis. The trend of creating platforms to dupe people is at alarming stage in Nigeria.
Today, betting is a lucrative venture that almost everyone wants to invest in. And in some cases, one would always act to cause someone to miss his long-awaited expectations.
Kidnapping is carried out on daily basis for ransom to be paid by the victims or the victims’ families. This is dangerous to national development. A lazy man and a hardworking man need food to eat when hunger comes. The quest to make money without labour is a dangerous approach in the country. Yahoo boys and girls are everywhere making innovation to defraud people of their hard-earned money saved in the banks. And everything is blamed on poverty and lack of employment opportunities. The security agencies in the country have not been able to bring the high crime rate under control.
The government is not seen to be working because of high magnitude of crime rate in the land. Every complaint of crime hinges on unemployment. That may seem as a fact but is not total. Some who indulge in crime are working class and some come from well-to-do families. The crime rate is unassuming, especially financial crimes.
Observationally, it is like stealing is fast becoming a norm. This is worrisome. The state of insecurity is not helping matters in Nigeria. And it is time for the Federal Government to use full force to restore relative peace in the country. Insecurity does not support job creation in any country of the world.
It is high time the government came down and look at the plight of the people. Some of the major manufacturing companies in the country had folded up or relocated to another country because of the unfriendly and harsh environment for businesses.
In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), government creates policies and laws that drive the economy and businesses in that country. Today, almost every Nigerian knows and talks about the city of Dubai in the UAE. The city is a business destination to most of the business moguls in the world.
Therefore, the governments in Nigeria should formulate policies and laws that will convince investors to establish their businesses in the country and that will, in turn, create job opportunities for the teeming population that are jobless. It is said that a lazy mind is the devil’s workshop. Therefore, Nigerian government should not allow the minds of young Nigerians to be devil’s workshop; where crime is formulated and executed to the detriment of all.
Some of the loans collected by the Federal Government from nations and international financial bodies, should be used for job creation for the youths who are using their energy the wrong way. Nigerian government can reduce crime rate in the country through aggressive and holistic approach towards job creation.
Joblessness has created high rate of drug use in Nigeria. Some ignorant citizens think that taking of some hard drugs can relieve them of their state of hopelessness. Nigerians want a society where hope can be restored and peace will reign. Drug abuse is common and it is inimical to progress and peace in the society.
If some who indulge in crime are engaged by government to earn a living somewhere, it can help to reduce the crime rate witnessed in the country now. Indeed, all the level of governments in the country should move their tentacle towards job creation. And this should be done with a clear-cut policy and programme backed by enabling laws.
Hunger does not know political party and ethnic group. Therefore, it is time for the government to rethink and adopt workable template towards job creation in Nigeria. Crime is evil. The diversification of the economy towards agriculture, if properly followed, will create jobs for the people.
Ogwuonuonu wrote from Port Harcourt.

By: Frank Ogwuonuon

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Opinion

That Vaccine Mandate

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Currently, many countries, including the United States of America, would demand for vaccine mandate as a condition for granting travel visa to anyone. Such policy is justifiable because self-preservation is a vital law for all living entities. COVID-19 pandemic has been quite a disturbing global phenomenon that no country can afford to expose its citizens to avoidable dangers, even if it requires placing restrictions on movements and travels. People carry various things as they move about.
News headline: “N194bn COVID-19 Allocation to Three States Missing, BudgIT Alleges” – The Tide newspaper, Monday, September 13, 2021 (front page). Without going into details of that report, or mentioning the three states involved, one recalls an alarm from a senior Nigerian in 2020, describing COVID-19 as a global scam or smoke screen. The vital issue here is that since its outbreak, COVID-19 pandemic is a controversy (like HIV/AIDS), with various interpretations and opinions. The variations are many and instructive.
Another issue relating to the global pandemic is the controversy concerning the effect of human volition or the mind, over matter. Researchers call this controversy the Placebo Effect. Placebo is defined as a substance given to a patient instead of medicine, without telling them it is not real, so that they get better because they think they are taking medicine. This has to do with the effect of belief, faith, confidence and morale booster on increased human capacity, energy and well-being. Some would say love is medicine.
Without going into details of extensive research works done with regards to the transforming effects of positive attitude, it would suffice to say that human volition, operating through the mind, is a vital, ready weapon which we cannot ignore. Dr E. G. White would tell us that: “It is the duty of every person, for his own sake, and for the sake of humanity, to inform himself in regard to the laws of life and conscientiously to obey them. All need to become acquainted with that most wonderful of all organism, the human body. They should study the influence of the mind upon the body and of the body upon the mind, and the laws by which they are governed”.
Much had been said and written by well-meaning individuals about the need to guard our thought and the mind with all diligence, because of their vital role in human well-being. Even the things which we dread and fear most, would lose their power over us, if we know the truth about them. Surely, there is no blemish but the mind, and no darkness but ignorance. Psychologists would talk about the law of Reversed Effort, which causes fears and doubts to sap vital energy in us, thus exposing us to dangers and depriving us of natural immune system.
So, the COVID-19 global pandemic, like the HIV/AIDS controversy, has the possibility of opening our eyes and expanding our consciousness, to be able to know better the effects of our thoughts and deeds. The alleged missing of money allocated to combat the COVID-19 scourge must have some underlying factors, whether or not any fraud is involved. The truth is that the news story reflects a peculiar human weakness.
Destructive human weaknesses include the propensity to cheat, defraud, call white black and black white, according as we are paid. Thus, avarice, greed and myopia, blind and deaden human conscience which is meant to serve as an effective in-built guide through the wilderness of life. Man can destroy himself and also corrupt others through personal weaknesses which become too hard to curb. From little beginnings and continual indulgence, weaknesses grow into propensities which then become weapons of self-destruction. COVID-19 is an idiom.
So much had been said, off-records and from the grapevine, concerning the beginning or origin of COVID-19 pandemic in the past two years. Some people, including religious leaders, have associated it with “Judgement, Millennium and Rapture”, such that the Vaccine Mandate is interpreted as “Mark of the Beast. Those who refuse to bear mark of the beast would be denied many things, including travel visa, etc. The speculations, controversies and gossips go on and on, behind which lies impenetrable dark clouds. COVID-19 and the Beast!
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has not been able to tell us the origin or politics of the COVID-19 pandemic, despite the fact that it is a present threat which those who doubted its reality are not spared. Its controversies cover the origin, management, dispensing of palliative measures, deaths associated with COVID-19, drugs or vaccines for the pandemic, and now the disappearance of money allocated to combat the scourge. No one is sure who is speaking from what angle of interest or what political, economic and ethical cover-ups may be involved. We keep wondering!
Beyond the sound, fury and shenanigans associated with COVID-19 and Vaccine Mandate, there are certain issues vital for the Nigerian audience. One of such issues has to do with global commercialism and the possibility of scam, whereby the pandemic and the attendant vaccine mandate, provide opportunities for smart interest groups to play some games. Since COVID-19 could not be associated with originating from Africa, like HIV/AIDS, African nations cannot claim any immunity on the ground of being used to malaria fever. COVID-19 is different from malaria.
If COVID-19 and malaria share similarities, then vaccine mandate would not be compulsory for Blacks, even though malaria drugs feature in the other. An opportunity comes for some vested interest groups to use vaccine mandate as a political, economic or religious weapon. Already some religious groups are out with opinions and interpretations which would run counter to state policies and mandates. When faith and belief system become political issues or weapons, then Boko Haram phenomenon comes in.
Security challenges facing humanity currently come largely from secret dealings, pacts, gang-ups and cover-ups, whereby some interest groups want to take advantage of others. Issue of power comes in, whereby the gangsterist policy of “who wields power, makes the rule and takes the gold”, applies. Global economy and commercialism rule in modern politics whereby power is sought and held for the purpose of control. Power blocks, local and global, have long-term agenda whereby every social institution serves as an accomplice in the project, including science.
Dr Amirize is a retired lecturer from the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.

By: Bright Amirize

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Opinion

Nigerian Banks And Customers’ Burdens

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The banking system in Nigeria has been a burden to the banking public over the years. Some banks do not give adequate attention to their customers. They rather abandon the customers’ complaints or request without cogent reasons.
Customer complaints are inevitable, no matter how streamlined one’s business may look they must always be acknowledged and dealt with efficiently. By ignoring or dismissing the complaints or requests of customers, the bank is telling the public that their opinion and patronage don’t matter. Many business owners see complaints or demands management as time consuming and frustrating to an efficient system, whereas such complaints can be resolved quickly and easily.
When a customer first lodges a complaint, there is need for the authority to take bold step in order to tackle such problem confronting the complainant. It can be difficult to remain impassive in the face of criticisms, but an emotional response will only serve to irritate the customer further.
The authorities are expected to give their customers full attention as desired and carefully listen to the whole problem before responding. Put yourselves in their shoes, if you had a problem you would want someone to listen and solve it.
Appearing disinterested or attempting to argue to discourage the customer based on the complaint lodged will only exacerbate the situation. There is no need to jump the gun, rather one should deal with such complaints on a regular basis, of which many have handled similar cases before now. However, complaints of esteemed customers are usually unique to the bank staff because resolution of such often attract financial gratification.
Treating their cases as important individuals requires listening to their problems in full, which will go a long way to strengthen the relationship existing between banks and their customers only when attention is given to complaints or demands from customers at our various banks. It is easy to be defenseless, particularly if the management doesn’t believe they are at fault. However, they have to put themselves together and feel the pains of their customers, especially when they are at the receiving end of such experience; would they personally be satisfied? If the blame lies on a particular member of staff, it is often best to remove the customer from their presence.
Always use one’s initiative when dealing with customers’ complaints. This can defuse tension and emotion, and help customers to re-evaluate their anger.
However, never pass the customer around from person to person as each complaint or demand should ideally be handled by a particular staff. Therefore, such person should always ensure that the staff assigned to the case has the impetus to deal with the situation.
Once the customers had aired their grievances, the staff on duty should immediately give a sincere apology. Sometimes, apology is all it takes to placate an angry customer; sometimes, a complaint should be followed by a request for compensation, typically through a refund or a voucher. In this premise, the staff remains calm when dealing with a complaint or demand even if the customer becomes irate or confrontational, the ultimate aim would be to turn the\ bankers’ negative experience into a positive one, but arguing back will only make the situation worse.
Customer complaints should always be resolved as quickly as possible and allow sympathy to be the watchword once you have listened to their concern, in order to quell the heat of the matter for better result.
As a public servant, a bank staff should be able to create a bond between him and the customer, so that they know you have heard their concern and are going to work with them to resolve the impasse. The bank should offer solution to their customer’s burden, provide feedback to such problem and execute the solution, instead of creating more difficulties in the life of the complainants.
Customers are made to be treated with care, kindness, love and respect. The banking system in Nigeria should learn how to manage issues effectively, especially those that emanate from their banks, where they are expected to provide suitable machines that will accommodate the needs of the customers; example, the Automated Teller Machine (ATM), because the banks cannot function well without the customers’ patronage and contribution.
Customers are the reason for the banking system in Nigeria.

By: Kpobari Barizaa
Barizaa wrote in from Bori.

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