Being a survey conducted by the New Agency of Nigeria.
The provision of critical infrastructure, particularly in the area of intra-state and inter-state roads, is a major challenge the state governments are grappling with as they settle down to prioritise their transformation programmes.
For many years now, there have been strident public criticisms of the deplorable state of the road network in most states of the federation.
More worrisome to the public, particularly major stakeholders, is the fact that in spite of the huge budgetary allocations made to the sector in recent years by the various state governments, there has been no appreciable improvement in the condition of the roads.
A recent survey shows that the development has impacted negatively on commerce and the socio-economic lives of the people, resulting in high cost of transportation and food stuffs, thereby leaving the tax-paying masses to bear the brunt.
For instance in Edo State, some of the roads constructed by Dr Samuel Ogbemudia’s administration in the defunct Bendel, have not received any face-lift for many years.
Officials told newsmen that this was why Governor Adams Oshiomhole had made road construction and rehabilitation one of his key priority areas.
He has consequently devoted 65 per cent of the capital vote in the 2011 budget to the road and education sectors.
Of the N105.63 billion budget outlay, N61.772 billion was set aside for capital projects.
The first major road projects executed during his first tenure were in Benin, the state capital.
Some of them are Oba Market Road, the Gani Fawehinmi Layout Roads and Stadium Road.
Construction work is currently at different stages on nine major road projects within Benin, while work is in progress on 18 inter-city roads, covering more than 334 kilometers and 350 communities.
Some of the inter-city roads are those of Iguobazuwa-Umaza-Siluko, Jattu-Afowa-Iyora-Apana, Uhen-Olumoye, Ekperi-Anegbette, Igueben-Ido and Iyamho-Iyora, among others.
Mr Edwin Osagie, who lives in Upper Sakpoba area, where the reconstruction work is in progress, said the people are ready to endure the pains occasioned by the projects.
However, while efforts are being made by the state government to upgrade its roads, the same cannot be said of federal roads in the area.
According to a resident, it is a nightmare travelling on the Uselu-Lagos Federal Road within Benin City as a result of its deplorable condition.
There are two notorious spots at the “Five Junction’’ and “Adolor Junction,’’ which usually result in heavy traffic jam, especially anytime it rains.
Commuters moving from King Square to University of Benin main gate, and from New Benin to University of Benin, usually pay higher fares whenever it rains.
Residents of Auchi, in Etsako West Local Government Area, said the deplorable state of roads in the area was impacting negatively on their means of livelihood. Some of them who spoke with NAN noted with regret that the market for their farm produce had been greatly affected, as customers who travelled from other places to patronise them were no longer doing so, owing to the poor state of the roads.
Investigation shows that while the state government can be said to be doing well in road construction to link communities in the area, the same cannot be said of the federal roads that connect cities.
One of them is the Auchi-Igarra Road, which does not only link several communities in Akoko-Edo and Etsako West Local Government Area, but also serves as a link road between Edo and Ondo State.
As the rains set in, the road is becoming inaccessible as a result of the abandonment of one of the bridges which collapsed in July 2010. Contract for its reconstruction was awarded to Setraco Construction Company.
A resident, Mr Bartholomew Edigan, said the development had not only affected commerce, but had created nightmares to parents whose children school at Igarra.
“It has really been a horrifying experience travelling through the road from Auchi to Igarra daily.
“Commerce is worst hit, as the number of traders who travel to the popular Ibillo and Igarra markets has declined as a result of the poor condition of the road.’’
An employee of the construction company told NAN that the project was abandoned due to the inability of government to release funds for its completion.
Another federal road that calls for urgent attention is the Okene-Auchi-Benin Road, where a portion has collapsed, resulting in traffic diversion through Jattu town.
The collapsed portion serves as a link road between the northern and eastern parts of the country.
Another resident painted a gory picture of what commuters and motorists have been made to go through at the failed portion of the Ifon-Sabongida-Ora-Iruekpen Road, noting with regret that several lives had been lost, due to the terrible state of the road, especially at the failed portion, near Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria (CRIN).
“There is no bank in the whole of Owan West Local Government Area, and for that reason, the people of the area have to travel to Ekpoma for any bank transactions, and we must pass through the spot that has killed many people or caused permanent disabilities.’’
In Borno State, Government says it has constructed more than 40 roads covering about 260 kilometers and 480 drains across the 27 local government areas at the cost of N17 billion.
The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Works and Transport, Alhaji Mohammed Chellube, told NAN that the township roads and drains included Bolori ward network,Umarari Jajari ward Road, Gwange road, London Cikin Road and Bulumkutu Ngomari ward roads.
He said that following the purchase of construction equipment and establishment of the State Roads Management Agency (SRMA), Gwoza-Izge,Yimirshika-Sakwa-Marama feeder roads had also been constructed.
Chellube said contract for the rehabilitation of Bama and Uba-Gwoza roads had been awarded and contractors would soon commence work on the projects.
The state Chairman of National Association of Truck Owners (NATO), Alhaji Mohammed Alkali, in an interview with NAN, appealed to government to expedite action on the repair of Bama Road.
He said that truck drivers often found it difficult to ply the highway which connects Borno with the Republic Cameroun.
Alkali said the numerous potholes on the road were responsible for frequent accidents, which had claimed many lives and destroyed several trucks.
Mr David Bawa, a farmer in Pulka village, Gwoza, also appealed to government to rehabilitate all the feeder roads in the area to enable farmers to transport their produce easily to the market.
“As a result of the terrible state of our rural roads,we usually find it difficult to convey our farm produce home and to nearby market, leading to the destruction of some perishable produce before being conveyed to their destinations.’’
He said government should continue to give priority to construction and rehabilitation of roads across the state to facilitate movement of rural dwellers from their various localities to the state capital.
In Lagos, 30-year-old Lagos-Ibadan Expressway remains largely a death trap, as its many lanes have now become inadequate for its increased volume of daily vehicular traffic.
Drivers of articulated vehicles (trailers and petrol tankers) have turned sections of it into parking lots, causing not just traffic snarls, but several accidents that have claimed many lives.
The Expressway has been on concession to Bi-Courtney for N90 billion since 2009. The company is expected to build, operate and then transfer to the Federal Government after 30 years. It will also install toll gates to recoup its investment.
The company is, however, considered very slow by road users in its effort to expand the 120-kilometer highway that is expected to have eight lanes from Lagos to Sagamu interchange, and six lanes from Sagamu to Ibadan. Sagamu is about equidistant from Lagos and Ibadan.
The first phase is expected to be completed in two years. Enumeration of houses and other landed property to be affected by the project is currently being carried out.
The 57-kilometer Lagos-Badagry-Seme Border Town highway is also pothole-riddled, in spite of being a strategic route to neighbouring ECOWAS nations.
The Lagos-Badagry section of the road is being upgraded by the state government into a 10-lane autobahn that will be complemented with a light rail line.
Work on the first slot of the project, between Costain and Festac First Gate (10-km), is in progress and being jointly handled by Julius Berger Nigeria Plc and China Civil Engineering and Construction Company (CCECC).
The Lagos-Lekki-Epe Road is about the best inter-city road in Lagos State. It is, however, engulfed in a controversy, as its concessionaire, Hi-Tech Construction, is facing opposition from road users over its decision to install toll gates to recoup its money.
The 20-km road between Lagos and Ikorodu, which was dualised by the Brig-Gen. Buba Marwa military administration in 1999, has lost its shine, because many portions have failed.
Crisscrossed by rivers and lagoons, many portions of the Lagos-Ikorodu Road are often flooded during the rainy season, leading to motorists spending an entire day on the short distance.
The Abeokuta-Lagos road, via Sango and Ota is dualised but has become too narrow for its heavy traffic. Besides, the road is in a deplorable situation as craters, not just mere potholes, create traffic bottlenecks on many parts of it.
Although the Oshodi-Apapa Port highway is busy 24-hours a day with mostly heavy-duty trucks plying it, with all manner of imported goods from the twin ports of Apapa and Tin Can Island, and local products for export, it is in a terribly shape.
Portions of the road 35-year-old road are flooded at Ilasamaja, Cele Fatgbems/Mile Two and Berger spots.
The West Minister-Tin Can Island-Apapa Wharf axis of the road is full of large potholes and remains heavily flooded during the rainy season.
Operators at the Lagos ports have complained about the deteriorating condition of the port access roads and the Apapa/Oshodi Expressway.
Right from the petroleum tank farms operational areas at Trinity Bus Stop to PTML Terminal, to the Tin-Can Island Port second gate on Apapa/Oshodi Expressway, there has been recurring standstill by container-laden trucks, private vehicles and petroleum tankers.
NAN investigation shows that the traffic snarl on the port roads is gradually giving way to port congestion, as consignments that had been duly cleared from various ports and terminals have not been moved out of the complex, while incoming trucks cannot also move in.
The President, Institute of Freight Forwarders of Nigeria (IFFN), Mr Zebulon Ikokide, said the Lagos State Government should repair the roads leading to the two major ports, because it had been benefitting from the seaports by collecting wharf landing fees on all cargoes leaving the seaports.
He said the poor state of the roads had reduced the number of goods leaving the seaports, delayed ship berths and wasted importers’ time.
Ikokide noted with regret that on many occasions, container-laden trucks fell on the highway, with investors losing all they had worked for, adding that most often, such accidents had claimed lives.
Mr Ejike Mgbemena, Controller, Federal Ministry of Works, says contracts for the repair of federal roads in the state have just been awarded.
He said the Lagos-Abeokuta Express road had been re-awarded to Julius Berger Plc for complete refurbishment, and promised that work would soon commence on the project.
Mgbemena said contract for the second section of Apapa-Oshodi Expressway had also been awarded to Julius Berger Plc and work was ongoing.
He said contract for the Muritala Muhammed International Airport Road would soon be awarded, while contractors were already on site on the Lagos-Ikorodu Road.
NAN reports that most state and local government roads in Lagos are not faring better. The popular Ikorodu Road, from Ketu to Yaba, is, however, in a fairly good condition.
Mr Sunday Gabriel, a businessman who lives on Alagbado Road, near the border with Ogun, said roads in the area had been long overdue for repair.
He said the poor condition of the roads had contributed to so many accidents in the area.
The lack of fund has been blamed for the slow pace of construction on the Isheri Oshun-Ijegun Road by the HITECH Construction Company Ltd. A reliable source at the company told NAN that it could not help but slow down, because the fund needed for the rehabilitation had not been released by government.
Mr Gbenga Akintoba, the Executive Chairman, Lagos State Public Works Corporation, told NAN that the state had fixed 450 roads in the last 10 months.
He promised to make Lagos roads pothole-free by 2012. He said the focus of the corporation, for now, were the densely populated areas, such as Alimosho and Ikorodu that had the worst road network in the state.
Akintoba, however, admitted that as hard as the state and its agencies had worked in fixing the roads, many of them were still in poor condition.
He explained that the corporation had the largest asphalt plant in West Africa, with the capacity to produce 300 million tonnes annually.
This, he noted, would help the corporation with a 500-man workforce to achieve a pothole free Lagos by 2012.
The Osun State Government has voted N14.5 billion, representing 26.40
per cent of its 2011 capital budget to road rehabilitation.
Chief Abiodun Akintaro, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Finance, told NAN that government had made budget provision for the rehabilitation of some 30 road projects.
Some of the roads listed for rehabilitation include Ada-Igbajo-Oke Irun-Iresi network, linking Okuku, Inisa, Okua, Ekosin, Ekusa, Igbaye and Ira.
Others are the various zonal township roads, such as Ajaba-Ikoro, Osogbo, Ilesa, Iwo, Ede, Ife and Ikirun, among others.
Those to be constructed afresh are Ede-Kuta, Ilesa-Eisun-Ido Oko-Ibala-Ijana-Idoka, and the Ijjebu-Jesa-Ere-Ibokun Road.
Akintaro said Gov. Rauf Aregbesola had expressed his determination to fix most of the affected roads in order to ease transportation and boost the economy.
He said efforts would be made to execute some of the uncompleted road projects embarked upon by the immediate past administration in the current fiscal year.
NAN reports that although, the state has no road rehabilitation agency, the Ministry of Works collaborates with the Ministry of Finance to award and monitor road contracts.
Retired Col. Enibukun Oyewole, the Commandant, Osun youth Empowerment Scheme (OYES), told NAN that the adverse condition of the roads on the people’s socio-economic life called for immediate action.
He said this was why Aregbesola came up with a comprehensive list of bad roads that were earmarked for rehabilitation to ease transportation of farm produce from rural to urban centres.
Besides the conventional use of contractors, Oyewole said volunteers of the scheme were also involved in road rehabilitation projects, especially in the area of maintenance.
He said some of the volunteers were currently working on the Asejire Expressway, clearing gutters and road edges.
Mr Aina Babatunde, an engineer with FERMA, said there was enough proof of the agency’s presence in the state.
He listed road projects which he said the agency had carried out in the state to include the Ibadan-Ife dual carriage road, where line drain and bus culvert were constructed.
Others are Ife-Ilesa, Ilesa-Owena-Akure, Gbongan-Iwo and Gbongan Osogbo roads, where he said the agency had awarded and supervised drainage projects, construction of culverts and laying of asphalt.
Mr Tope Akadir, Assistant Controller, Federal Ministry of Works, said the ministry was doing its best to make the people have a feel of federal presence.
Mr Jadesola Adeoti, a peasant farmer at Owode area of Osogbo, scored the immediate past government low in the area of road projects, and urged the current administration to improve on the sector.
He noted that the lack of good roads, especially in some rural areas linking Osogbo, had hindered transportation of farm produce.
Motorists and road users in Zamfara have decried the pathetic state of dilapidation of major intra-state road network linking local government headquarters with other parts of the state.
NAN reports that apart from Tsafe, Maru and Mafara Local Government Headquarters that enjoy Federal Government’s rehabilitation of the Funtua-Gusau-Sokoto highway, accessing other local government headquarters by road has remained a herculean task.
Abdullahi Yusuf, a commercial bus driver, told NAN that the entire road network in Zamfara had collapsed, noting that the immediate past administration in the state did not do much to improve the situation during its four year tenure.
“Just try to reach Kauran Namoda, Zurmi and Birnin Magaji, by road, or attempt to go to Gummi, through Anka-Bukkuyyum Road, you will ever regret going to those places because of bad roads.’’
Abubakar Sani, a resident of Gusau, the state capital,said that most roads within Gusau metropolis were begging for rehabilitation, while more roads needed to be constructed.
He cited as an example, the Lalan to Lalan Road on Sokoto Bye Pass in Gusau, which contract for dualisation was awarded to Habib Engineering Nigeria Ltd four years ago by the last administration in the state, but was abandoned at less than 50 per cent completion stage.
He said the road would have addressed traffic congestion in the state capital if government was interested in completing it.
The state government recently reviewed the road contract from N1.2 billion to N750 million, and reawarded it to the same firm with a marching order that it should complete the project on schedule.
An official of the state ministry of works told NAN that new administration in the state was aware of the challenging state of road network across the state and was addressing the issue.
“The new administration knows the challenge poor road network poses to the economy and social well being of the people, and is tackling it head-on as a matter of priority.’’.
NAN reports that between four and five hours are spent by motorists on the 200 kilometer Anka-Bukkuyyum-Gummi Road, which links the three local government headquarters with other parts of the state.
Residents of Ogun have lamented the deplorable condition of most of the inter-city roads in the state, calling on Gov. Ibikunle Amosun to carry out massive rehabilitation of the roads.
Some of the people who spoke with NAN, expressed regret that the situation had adversely affected the socio-economic life of the state.
They said that except concerted efforts were made by government to carry out a wholesale rehabilitation of the roads, the socio-economic life of the state might continue to be affected.
Mr Haruna Adekunjo, the NURTW Chairman, Kuto Motor Park, said members were recording huge cost of maintenance on their vehicles as a result of the poor condition of the roads.
He attributed the high cost of transportation to the huge amount being spent on maintenance of vehicles.
Mr Rafiu Ayinla, a commercial vehicle driver, lamented the several accidents that the bad roads had caused, particularly at night.
Mrs Yewande Bello, a teacher, said that a lot of man-hour was being wasted before getting to their respective places of work, owing to traffic congestion caused by bad roads.
“Government should focus on massive road rehabilitation and reconstruction. This is the only way to put an end to the hardship being experienced by commuters.’’
NAN reports that Gov. Ibikunle Amosun had on June 29 while marking his 30 days in office, expressed concern over the state of the roads across Ogun.
This, he said, had spurred him into ordering that filling of potholes be commenced immediately on major roads within Abeokuta, the state capital.
NAN also reports that most of the rehabilitation work during the immediate past administration of Chief Gbenga Daniel were being carried out by the state Road Maintenance Agency (OGROMA).
Questions were, however, raised over the quality of work done by the agency, as most of the roads and bridges were swept away during the rainy season of 2010.
A top government official told NAN that funding had been the bane of road rehabilitation by the past government.
“There are so many ongoing projects, but the lack of funds has been hindering their completion.
“Most of the contractors were either not paid the mobilisation fee, or short-paid, a situation that always resulted in non-completion of some of the projects.’’
He said that some of the roads which rehabilitation commenced in 2009, had yet to be completed, owing to non-availability of funds.
“Some roads were actually designed to ease traffic congestion, but because they were not completed, the problem still persists on major roads in the state.
“The situation is not only restricted to Abeokuta alone, other roads in Otta, Sagamu, Ijebu-Ode and Ilaro are equally affected.’’
The official cited the case of the road linking Ijeun-Titun to the State Secretariat, Oke-Mosan, saying it was designed to ease traffic at the NNPC Junction in Abeokuta, but had been abandoned.
Mr Sunday Olaogun, the state Project Officer, FERMA, also said that the agency had embarked on the rehabilitation of some roads in the state.
He listed the roads to include Iporo-Ake, Ijaiye, Adatan, Randa and Lafenwa.
The Chairman, NURTW, Kwara chapter, Alhaji Aliyu Bashir, has blamed the increase in road accidents in recent time on poor conditions of federal roads
He told NAN that the rainy season had also worsened the condition of the poor roads and made driving very difficult.
According to him, most of the federal roads in the state, except Ilorin to Ajase-Ipo, are not in good condition.
Bashir appealed to the Federal Government to give top priority to the issue of road construction, rehabilitation and maintenance in the interest of the suffering poor masses who could not afford to travel by air.
“The current deplorable condition of roads nationwide calls for urgent attention. Our members are more at the receiving end, because our vehicles are being damaged.’’
He advised government to curb heavy duty vehicles from carrying load beyond their capacities, noting that articulated vehicles were responsible for the damage done to most of the roads.
A senior official in the Federal Ministry of Works in Ilorin told NAN that all federal roads in the state were averagely in good shape, compared to some in other states.
He said the ministry was doing everything possible to ensure that the roads were pothole-free and motorable at all times.
“The Ilorin-Ogbomosho axis of Ilorin-Ibadan Expressway is almost 100 per cent completed, with a little job to be done on Oyo-Ibadan section, while work is ongoing on the Ogbomoso-Oyo route”.
No fewer than six lives and goods worth millions of naira may have been lost to the collapse of Ohan and Moro bridges in Asa Local Government Area of Kwara in the last one month.
NAN reports that the two bridges are now regular spots where men of the underworld have been operating, unleashing terror on unsuspecting commuters plying the road.
A community leader in Alapa Village, Alhaji Saka Anafi, said the two bridges had become death traps for vehicles and motorcycles plying the road.
He appealed to the federal and state governments to come to the assistance of the communities by reconstructing the bridges so that they would not be cut off from the rest of the world.
A member of the House of Representatives, Hon Mashood Mustapha, who paid an assessment visit to the area, assured them that government would look into their plight.
He also inspected the collapsed Moro bridge in company of some expatriates, and
Urged the Federal Government to intervene to prevent further carnage on the two bridges.
The lawmaker promised to move a motion on the floor of the House on the urgent need for the Federal Government to direct relevant agencies to expedite action on the reconstruction of the two bridges to prevent loss of lives.
Mr Adedoyin Aina, Assitant Director, FERMA, told NAN that about 1,028 kilometres of road in Kwara belonged to the Federal Government, with 248 kilometres yet to be tarred.
He said the agency had just concluded general repair and pavement strengthening of Share-Lafiagi Road.
“We just concluded what we call general repair and pavement strengthening of Share-Lafiagi Road, and we have four major general maintenance repair on the Ilorin-Igbeti-Ighoho-Saki Road, Akure-Ado Ekiti-Omu Aran Road, Ilorin-Omu Aran-Egbe Road and special maintenance of Ajase-Offa-Osun state boarder Road.’’
Katsina State is said to be blessed with good motorable roads constructed by both the state and federal governments.
All the 27 tarred roads totaling 520 kilometers constructed by the state government in the last four years, are in good condition, while the 10 federal roads across the state are also in good shape.
The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Works and Housing, Alhaji Danjuma Alti, said all the roads constructed by the state government were of high quality.
According to him, this year, the state government has voted N18. 5 billion for the construction of more roads across the state, while 32-kilometer feeder roads will be constructed in each of the 34 local government areas of the state.
The state government also established a road maintenance agency (KSROMA) last year for the maintenance and rehabilitation of state roads, Alti added.
He said that equipment worth N84 million were purchased for the agency, while N5 million was being given to it monthly to facilitate its operations.
Alhaji Mohammed Aliyu Chomalwa, the Controller, Federal Ministry of Works in the state, said “all federal highways in the state are in good condition, including the Funtua-Malumfashi-Dayi-Yashe Road, which is under rehabilitation’’.
“We are lucky in Katsina as all our roads are in good condition, and there are no abandoned road projects in the state.’’
A member of NURTW, Malam Ibrahim Sanusi, who expressed satisfaction on the state of roads in the state, said they had played a very important role in the improvement of socio-economic activities of the populace.
“Infact, there is no state that has good roads like Katsina in the federation.’’
Source: NAN Nationwide survey.
Soot: Can N’Delta Escape Doomsday?
A popular saying in Nigeria’s ‘Pidgin’ English states: ‘Monkey dey work, baboon dey chop’. It simply means that while the monkey (which is usually smaller in size than the baboon) is working very hard to eke out a living for itself, the baboon uses its larger figure to intimidate the monkey and survive from the proceeds of the monkey’s efforts. This, in a nutshell, explains the plight of the oil-rich Niger Delta region of Nigeria.
The import of this popular saying in the context of this discourse is that while the Niger Delta Region produces the crude oil, which has been the mainstay of the country for over sixty years, and also bears the brunt of oil exploration and exploitation activities, the northern part of the country, which views leadership of the country as its birthright, enjoys more from the proceeds of crude oil.
Much have been said and written by different people, including scholars, about the plight of the people of the Niger Delta in Nigeria, such that at some point, one may easily feel saturated, and possibly irritated, out of a feeling of over-information that now sounds hackneyed.
But the truth is that, from the point at which crude oil was first found in commercial quantity at Oloibiri, in present-day Bayelsa State, in Nigeria, till today, the life of the people in the Niger Delta region has never been the same. Rather than be a source of development to the people in all spheres as it is with the advanced climes, some of which do not have the quality of crude oil the region has, it has been a source of clear dehumanisation of the people.
The apparent euphoria that greeted the discovery of crude oil in the Niger Delta region of the country in anticipation of its implication in terms of what the people stand to benefit as host communities, at inception, soon gave way to nostalgic chronic acrimonious feelings as the days turned to weeks, months, years and now decades.
Perhaps what would amount to an inkling of what is now the fate of the people of the region today was the February 23, 1966 declaration of the Niger Delta Republic in what has become known as The Twelve-Day Revolution’ by the late Major Isaac Jasper Adaka Boro, nicknamed Boro.
Boro’s grouse was the exploitation of oil and gas resources in the Niger Delta areas which benefited mainly the Federal Government of Nigeria and, at the time, the Eastern Region with capital in Enugu, while nothing was given to the Niger Delta people. He believed that the people of the Niger Delta deserved a larger share of proceeds from the oil wealth.
Consequently, he formed the Niger Delta Volunteer Force (NDVF), an armed militia with members consisting mainly of his fellow Ijaw ethnic group. They declared the Niger Delta Republic on that day and fought with Federal forces for twelve days before being defeated. Boro and his comrades were jailed for treason.
They were, however, granted amnesty by the Federal regime of General Yakubu Gowon on the eve of the Nigerian Civil War in May 1967 on the condition that they fight for the Federal Government against the Biafrans. Boro, and some of his comrades, most prominently Owunaro, his second in command in the NDVF, subsequently enlisted in the Nigerian Army.
Boro was commissioned as a Major in the Nigerian Army. He fought on the side of the Federal Government, but was killed under mysterious circumstances in active service in 1968 at Ogu (Okrika) in Rivers State.
But the struggle Boro started has taken different dimensions in the Niger Delta ever since, with seemingly less impact as far as the Federal Government’s response to the demands of the region is concerned. It’s such that after over sixty years of oil exploration and exploitation in the region, all the people have to show is what amounts to deliberate and planned, but gradual destruction of their sources of livelihood, leading to a life of penury, underdevelopment, and currently a possible end to their lives through endemic illnesses such as cancer and like ailments warranted by their exposure to the ravaging soot in the region.
Soot is a mixture of very fine black or brown particles created by the product of incomplete combustion. It is primarily made up of carbon, but it can also contain trace amounts of metals, dust, and chemicals. It is different from charcoal and other by-products of combustion because it is so fine. These tiny particles may be under 2.5 micrometers in diameter which is smaller than dust, mold, and dirt particles.
Beyond artisanal refining, possible causes of the soot also include emissions from asphalt factories, indiscriminate burning of mixed waste, burning of tyres and vehicular emissions, according to a Report by a technical team set up by the Rivers State Government in 2019, to generate preliminary air quality data in Port Harcourt. However, none of these has so infested the region’s cloud with soot as illegal oil bunkering.
Experts say that the small size of soot is what makes it so dangerous for humans and pets, because it can easily be breathed deep into the small passageways of the lungs, which is why repeated exposure to soot is linked to respiratory illnesses, heart disease, and cancer. Soot is, therefore, more than just an unsightly nuisance. It is a danger that cannot be left in the home or environment.
In 2017, a reporter, Yomi Kazeem, wrote, “Across Nigeria’s oil-producing Niger-Delta region, environmental pollution has long been a part of daily lives. But while residents have become used to multiple oil spills which have damaged livelihoods and farmlands, they currently face a new kind of danger: rising black soot particles in the air. Since November, residents of oil industry hub city, Port Harcourt, are complaining about increased soot residue on surfaces in and out of their homes”.
Back then, Nigeria’s Ministry of Environment declared an air pollution emergency in the affected areas. The Ministry claimed that preliminary test samples of the soot indicated it was caused by incomplete combustion of hydrocarbons as well as asphalt processing and illegal artisanal refinery operations.
In a bid to curb the pollution, Kazeem stated, the Ministry shut down an asphalt processing plant operating in the area. The State Government has also sealed off a Chinese company in the city for what it tagged ‘aggravated air pollution, and breach of environmental laws’.
On their part, residents petitioned the United Nations Environment Programme to intervene by investigating the problem while they subtly protested the increased pollution on social media, through the “#StopTheSoothashtag”.
Since then, the best that has been heard about addressing the issue of soot in the Niger Delta had been what can be easily dismissed as subtle complaints on social media by few concerned individuals and organisations involved in environmental health pursuits. Thus, the quantity of particles forming soot that is emitted into the air on a daily basis has increased almost unabated.
For the Federal and State Governments, their efforts so far had been at best mere media hypes in a make-belief establishment of modular refineries in the Niger Delta, which the Federal Government also wants established in the north that does not produce oil, like it did in building refinery in Kaduna State, an act widely viewed as misplacement of priority as far as establishment of modular refineries as a solution to soot is concerned.
In 2013, scientists found out that dirty air caused more premature deaths than unsafe water, unsafe sanitation, and malnutrition in Africa. The obvious implication is that if the Niger Delta is increasingly infested with soot and genuine necessary steps are not taken to check it, the region will most likely go extinct in years to come. The form this will take, and how soon it will manifest are the questions that currently prop up in critical analyses.
During one of such analyses, an environmental toxicologist with the Department of Animal and Environmental Biology, University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria, Dr. Emmanuel Oriakpona, hinted that the most likely consequence of unchecked increase in soot infestation in the Niger Delta is loss of the region’s ecosystem and human health.
“We shall experience loss of our ecosystem and loss of our health. This is the summary of what will happen to us: major loss in our ecosystem. If you go to the mangroves and see the devastation by crude oil, and you also go and see what the people actually carrying out the refining process are going through, you’ll appreciate this better,” he said.
According to Dr. Oriakpona, the situation is worsened by the fact that there is an obvious collaboration between those involved in artisanal refining of crude oil and authorities vested with the responsibility of stopping it. The reason is that such authorities are rewarded with huge financial benefits accruable from the business. This is further buttressed by some key players in the illegal oil refining business whose locally made boats and products were at some points burnt by security agents who felt that their exploitation of the people involved in the illegal trade was challenged.
By: Soibi Max-Alalibo
News Reporting In Covid-19 Era
The request to give a talk on Reporting in Covid-19 Era serves as a form of uniting with my friends and colleagues after a long absence from the scene, to reminisce about newsroom experience and fun. Newsroom is a mad place that used to be stuffy with the acrid stench of tobacco, with no permanent seat for reporters. Sit wherever there is space and knock out your story.
Personally, I love being called a Reporter than an Editor. It is more dignifying to be addressed as Reporter because it is the foundation of journalism. Reporting is a craft; it is an art not easily acquired by many journalists. It is easier to write essays than reporting, where one uses the: who, when, where, what, and how to form an inverted pyramid.
There are other types of reporting that are different from newspapering. Formal and informal reports which are familiar with bureaucratic red tapism. Formal reports are schematic in layout: terms of reference, findings, conclusion, and recommendation.
Formal report takes the form of memo. News reporting is segmented, in other words, there are beats such as crime, court, assembly, sports, entertainment, airport, labour, seaport, and such like. They are specialized. These beats have their own languages, which the reporter is expected to master and speak effectively. Specialization leads to efficiency and greater output, but it also leads to boredom. Therefore, a good reporter is one who is versatile. He is a factotum because he can function in any beat. As a result, the chances of being bored in repeating one particular thing is minimal. There will be job enlargement and enrichment.
After having a cursory glance at reporting, let me also look at Covid-19. It is a family of viruses that can cause respiratory illness in human. On December 31, 2019, World Health Organization (WHO) was informed of cases of pneumonia of unknown cause in Wuhan City, China. A novel Coronavirus was identified as the cause by Chinese authorities on January 7, 2020 and was temporarily named “2019-ncov”.
We are all living witnesses to the devastating effects of the pandemic. It swept like wild -fire across the globe, and decimated the population. Economic activities were paralyzed. No sector was spared. Movements were halted, and people were forced into self-imprisonment. It was a period of improvised fasting without sufficient prayers due to scarcity of food. Covid-19 was a plague that defiled all known orthodox medications.
In order to check further ravages of the pandemic, certain measures were put in place such as social distancing, wearing of face mask, washing of hands regularly with soap, application of sanitizer, maintaining good hygiene, subjecting people to tests, isolating those who tested positive in camps, and quarantining travellers from other countries for a number of days.
There was hue and cry about the claim of China that the cause of the menacing pneumonia was not known. Donald Trump believed that it was a mischievous act for economic reason. The rivalry between U.S and China to dominate the economy of the world is awful. Fingers are pointing at Bill Gates for having conspirational relationship with China to cause the disaster so that he could come up with his antivirus to enrich himself. When eventually China manufactured drugs to combat the dreaded Covid-19, America cried foul!
Something is fishy. Coronavirus started in Wuhan yet there is no adverse effect in nearby Beijing and Shanghai, while countries in Europe and America are seriously affected.
The United States is not blaming China for fun, because not a single leader in China has tested positive. Shanghai, the city that runs China’s economy did not experience lockdown. While the world’s major economic and political centres are closed, Beijing and Shanghai are open. This gives the picture that the Coronavirus is a biochemical weapon.
I have laboured to say what reporting is all about, as well as Covid-19. Let me now look at reporting in Covid-19 Era. How can reporters stay safe while reporting about the plague? They have to obey the rules spelt out by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), coupled with the grace of God. It became imperative for newsrooms to make pandemic coverage a priority to inform and educate the public during these uncertain times.
The Covid-19 pandemic strongly impacted the journalism industry and affected the work of journalists. Many local newspapers have been severely affected by losses in advertising revenues. You know that if a paper is doing well, it is not only the rich editorial contents. It is mostly the number of pages sold, that makes the paper solvent. The editorial contents can sell all the copies printed, yet it is not enough to settle the bills. The cost of production per copy is more than the cost at the news stand. It is adverts that yield the revenue for its sustenance. Apart from the loss of revenues, journalists have been laid off, and some publications have folded.
Journalists across the globe faced unpredicted challenges to report the Coronavirus outbreak accurately and safely. These challenges led to the spread of misinformation, having cognizance of the physical and mental health of reporters fomented by social distancing. There was a revolution in online reporting.
Reporters need to look into the heart of the matter without fear or favour. They have the inalienable duty to inform and educate members of the public correctly without compromising their dignity.
The reporter is the newsmaker. People treat him the way he carries himself. He does not need to be arrogant, but confident of himself. He does not need to be over ornamented, but decent and smart, to earn respect.
He should seek the truth and reflect on his own power. Are we sure that the information being fed the public by NCDC is correct? How many laboratories do they have? How many positive cases have they confirmed? How many people are dead? There is the need for reporters to verify the authenticity of claims made by government officials. Unfortunately such verification was not possible because of lockdown. The reporter had to be contented with whatever information sifted out. There were elements of fraud by some countries who inflated the figures of confirmed cases in order to get more reliefs from WHO. It is a known fact that people were recruited to stay in isolation camps, giving wrong picture to the world, while enriching themselves through reliefs from the world body.
Nigerians received a rude shocker one fine morning when a minister alleged that billions of naira had been disbursed to them within seventy-two hours as relief package for Covid-19. It was the height of thievery. Uptil now, heaven has not fallen, while the money is resting coolly in individual pockets, to the detriment of hapless and helpless Nigerians.
As if that was not enough, what of people representing us in the National Assembly who allowed consignments meant for alleviation of the burden of the common man to crawl into their warehouse? While the people who elected them into power were famishing, and growing lean, they were eating like kings and developing robust cheeks.
Such fraudulent activities were condemned, but the condemnation was transient. The tempo should be sustained. Constant repetition of a thing will make it automatic. Those crooks should be tormented with follow-up stories. Reporters should summon the courage to seek accountability from leaders of Covid-19 relief fund or package. Now that the lockdown has been relaxed and the death figures remarkably reduced, reporters should heave a sigh of relief and make a departure from the seamy side to the lofty angle of Covid-19. It gave birth to the rise of online learning. The pandemic led to the closure of schools across the globe, and children resorted to learning online instead of classroom. It checked the activities of randy husbands who were forced to be at home. For fear of the contagious pandemic both men and women kept their distance. The level of promiscuity was drastically reduced. Children enjoyed the company of their fathers who were scarcely at home prior to the advent of the epidemic. Because of the lockdown which confined people, the major recreational activity was the act of procreation. Many wives were blessed with fruit of the womb.
Reporting has gone into coma in Covid-19 Era. It has to gain consciousness. Reporters should be resourceful. What game is WHO playing by trying to monopolize the discovery of the vaccine to combat the epidemic? Is the claim made by Madagascar that it has an answer to the menace of Covid-19 authentic? Reporters cannot afford to fold their hands and allow social media to misinform them.
There is the allegation that the vaccine government is coercing or cajoling people to take is not the panacea, because some people who obeyed the plea to take died as a result of its effect. Others claimed that the portion of their body where the vaccine was administered has become magnetic to metals.
According to the 2021 World Press Freedom Index by Reporters Without Borders, at the moment journalism is totally blocked or seriously impeded in 73 nations. Some governments have punished journalists for reporting pandemic figures that are contrary to the official figures as authorities try to cover up the true situation on the ground.
In other instances, governments have totally banned media from reporting on the pandemic and jailed others for exposing scandals related to theft of Covid-19 supplies.
Yet now, more than ever, the public has the right to factual, credible and timely information, and journalism, in the words of the Press Freedom Index, is the vaccine against disinformation…
Gentlemen of the Press, I urge you to seek the truth and report the Coronavirus outbreak accurately and safely.
Albert-Briggs is a veteran journalist in Port Harcourt.
By: Fitz Albert-Briggs
Failure Of Political Leadership In Nigeria
At the end of the Cold War, African civil society movements striving for more democratic governance began to challenge authoritarian regimes on the continent. Declining living conditions within African countries and the failure of authoritarian African leaders to deliver the promises of economic prosperity they made to encourage the acceptance of development aid fueled the push for change. International donors’ insistence on democratic reform as a precondition for aid gave impetus for Nigerian civil society to push for domestic accountability. Thus, domestic pressure for political pluralism and external pressure for representative governance have both played a role in the calls for democratic reform in Nigeria.
But despite some successes, corruption and socio-economic disparities within Nigerian democracy continue to run rampant. Since 1999, the democratic space has been dominated by political elites who consistently violate fundamental principles associated with a liberal democratic system, such as competitive elections, the rule of law, political freedom, and respect for human rights. The outcome of the 2019 Presidential Election further eroded public trust in the ability of the Independent national Electoral Commission (INEC) to organise competitive elections unfettered by the authoritarian influences of the ruling class. This challenge is an indicator of the systemic failure in Nigeria’s governance system. A continuation of the current system will only accelerate the erosion of public trust and democratic institutions. In contrast with the current system in which votes are attained through empty promises, bribery, voter intimidation, and violence, Nigeria needs a governance system that will enhance the education of its voters and the capability of its leaders.
Statistically, Nigeria has consistently ranked low in the world, areas such as government’s effectiveness, political stability and the presence of violence and terrorism, rule of law, and control of corruption. Nigeria was perceived in 2020 as a highly corrupt country with a score of 25/100 while its corruption ranking increased from 146 in 2019 to 149 in 2020 out of 180 countries surveyed. While President Muhammadu Buhari won the 2015 election on his promise to fight insecurity and corruption, his promises went unfulfilled; Boko Haram continues to unleash unspeakable violence on civilians while the fight against corruption is counterproductive.
At the core of Nigeria’s systemic failure is the crisis of governance which manifests in the declining capacity of the state to cope with a range of internal political and social upheavals. There is an expectation for political leaders to recognise systemic risks such as terrorist attacks, herder-farmer conflict and police brutality and put in place the necessary infrastructure to gather relevant data for problem solving. But the insufficiency of political savvy required to navigate the challenges that Nigeria faces has unleashed unrest across the nation and exacerbated existing tensions. The #EndSARS Protests against police brutality in 2020 is one of the manifestations of bad governance.
The spiral of violence in northern Nigeria in which armed bandits engage in deadly planned attacks on communities, leading to widespread population displacement, has become another grave security challenge that has sharpened regional polarisation. Because some public servants are usually unaware of the insecurities faced by ordinary Nigerians, they lack the frame of reference to make laws that address the priorities of citizens. The crisis of governance is accentuated by a democratic culture that accords less importance to the knowledge and competence that political leaders can bring to public office. These systemic challenges have bred an atmosphere of cynicism and mistrust between citizens and political leaders at all levels of government.
Political elites in Nigeria also exploit poverty and illiteracy to mobilise voters with food items such as rice, seasoning and money. The rice is usually packaged strategically with the image of political candidates and the parties they represent. The assumption is that people are more likely to vote for a politician who influences them with food than one who only brings messages of hope. The practice of using food to mobilise voters is commonly described as “stomach infrastructure” politics. The term stomach infrastructure arose from the 2015 election in Ekiti State when gubernatorial candidate Ayodele Fayose mobilised voters with food items and defeated his opponent, Dr Kayode Fayemi. It is undeniable that the Nigerian political culture rewards incompetent leaders over reform-minded leaders who demonstrate the intellectualism and problem-solving capabilities needed to adequately address systemic issues of poverty and inequality.
Jason Brennan describes the practice of incentivising people to be irrational and ignorant with their votes as the unintended consequence of democracy. Brennan believes specific expertise is required to tackle socio-economic issues, so political power should be apportioned based on expert knowledge. As Brennan suggests, Nigeria lacks a system of governance in which leadership is based on capability. Rather, the political system in Nigeria is dominated by individuals who gain power through nepotism rather than competence, influence voters with food rather than vision, and consolidate power through intimidation or by incentivising constituents with material gifts which they frame as ”empowerment” to keep them subservient and loyal political followers. By implication, the failure of governance in Nigeria is arguably the result of incompetent leadership.
Nigeria needs a new model of governance in which political leadership is based on the knowledge and competence of both political leaders and the electorate. One solution is to establish what Brennan refers to as ‘epistocracy’, which is a system of governance in which the votes of politically informed citizens should count more than the less informed. For Justin Klocksiem, epistocracy represents a political system in which political power rests exclusively on highly educated citizens. This idea drew its philosophical influence from John Stuart Mill, who believed that the eligibility to vote should be accorded to individuals who satisfy certain educational criteria. The notion that educational attainment should be the prerequisite for the electorate to choose their leaders as proposed by Brennan, Klocksiem and Mill is an important proposition that should be taken seriously.
However, one cannot ignore that such thinking originates from societies where civic education is high and the electorate can make informed choices about leadership. In Nigeria, the majority of citizens are uneducated on political issues. Simultaneously, those who are highly educated are increasingly becoming indifferent to political participation; they have lost faith in the power of their votes and the integrity of the political system. For an epistocratic system to work in Nigeria there must be significant improvements in literacy levels so that citizens are educated about the issues and can use their knowledge to make informed decisions about Nigeria’s political future.
It is important to mention that Nigeria’s political elites have exploited illiteracy to reinforce ethnic, religious, and political divisions between groups that impede democratic ideals. Since the resultant effect of epistocracy is to instill knowledge, raise consciousness and self-awareness within a polity anchored on the failed system of democracy, decisions that promote the education of uninformed voters are the rationale for an epistocratic system of governance. The Constitution must ensure that only citizens who can formulate policies and make informed decisions in the public’s best interest can run for public office. When the Constitution dictates the standard of epistocratic governance, informed citizens will be better equipped to champion political leadership or determine the qualifications of their leaders. Epistocratic governance will be the alternative to Nigeria’s current dysfunctional democratic system while retaining the aspects of liberal democracy that maintain checks and balances.
We are not, however, oblivious that implementing such an epistocratic system of governance in Nigeria potentially contributes to more inequality given its highly undemocratic and exclusive nature. Our argument takes into consideration the contextual realities of poverty and illiteracy and the realisation that poor and illiterate constituents have less power to evaluate the credibility of public servants or hold them accountable. The benefits of electing epistocratic leaders are that many citizens would desire to be educated in preparation for leadership. The more educated the population the more likely it is that political leaders will be held accountable. However, the kind of education that is needed to significantly transform the governance landscape in Nigeria is civic education.
We propose three policies to promote epistocratic governance in Nigeria. First, aspiring leaders must demonstrate the intellectual pedigree to translate knowledge into effective, transparent, and accountable governance that leads to national prosperity. As Rotimi Fawole notes, the bar should be higher for those aspiring to executive or legislative office “to improve the ideas that are put forward and the intellectual rigor applied to the discussions that underpin our statehood.”
Second, the government must increase access to education through government-sponsored initiatives that integrate civic education into school curriculums. Currently, little opportunity exists for young Nigerians, particularly those in underfunded public education systems, to learn about their civic roles at the local, state, national, and international levels, including how to emerge as participating citizens through academics.
However, I think 2023 will be interesting for the future of the country, if the government should engage the support of local NGOs to promote civic education across Nigeria in culturally appropriate ways. The NGOs should be empowered to define the legal concept of citizenship and summarise specific civil rights enshrined in the Constitution into a Charter of Rights and Responsibilities modelled after the Canadian Charter. The Charter should include value positions essential to an effective democracy, such as the rights of citizens, social justice, good governance and rule of law. It can then be commissioned as a resource for civics education in Nigeria.
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