The Rivers State Commissioner for Information and Communications, Mrs Ibim Semenitari recently expressed the optimism that the current political crisis rocking the state would be over in a matter of weeks.
As reassuring as that proclamation was, some actors in the crisis appear to think otherwise. Even when eminent persons have tended to intervene, it seems the crisis is nowhere close to being resolved. This is neither good for the state nor for the fledging economy being built in the state.
It is against this backdrop that The Tide feels worried that the actions and comments of some highly-placed persons still appear to be inflammatory, divisive and utterly undemocratic. That is not the best way to deal with the issue as what is at stake now is not who wins, but how much the State may lose.
The Tide therefore, appeals to all sides of the dispute to drop their swords and tow the path of reason and caution for the well-being of the state and its people.
We say this because of the far-reaching implication the situation can have on the economy, the polity and the safety of the people on the long run. It is, indeed, worrisome that the economic community in the state has started expressing disdain over the crisis.
Reports indicate that the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG), NUPENG, and PENGASSAN have expressed one threat or the other to the effect that they would do something if their safety and the security of their businesses may no longer be guaranteed as a result of the impasse. One of them actually threatened to relocate from Port Harcourt if the crisis and its attendant fears persist.
These organisations may not be alone in this fear as even the police who, ordinarily, should tread the path of neutrality as unbiased umpires have been alleged to compromise the protection of lives and property in the State.
The apparent rise in security concerns has adversely affected the polity and can impact on the effective governance of the state as the ugly development had continuously polarised the people of the state along factional lines.
We, therefore, remind all Rivers people and those who live and do business in the state to remember how disadvantaged the state was before the advent of the president Rivers administration and how monumental efforts were being made to realise the dreams and aspirations of the people.
We are not unaware that politics all over the world is intended to serve the best interest of the people and the present crop of politicians in Rivers State should appreciate this. They should know that in spite of who is right or wrong, the political class of the day cannot afford to fail the state and discount on the dreams of the founding fathers.
Those who take sides and even cry more than the bereaved because of the little patronage they expect from the parties, should stop and put the interest of Rivers State first. The way the crisis had degenerated and the negative image it had given the State is something that should worry everyone.
The Tide therefore, wishes to call on the courts, panels and even the on-going probe of the State Commissioner of Police, Mr Mbu Joseph Mbu, to expedite action and bring the crisis to a quick end.
We must note, however, that conflict is a normal phenomenon in human life, particularly in young democracies such as ours. What is happening in Rivers State is not entirely new and should not be blown out of proportion to shortchange Rivers State and its people for whatever personal or factional interest.
It is, therefore, expected that people would stop taking sides or making unguarded and inflammatory utterances capable of escalating the crisis. Rather, we expect people to encourage the spirit of reconciliation and forgiveness, as well as appeal to the conscience of all the parties involved with a view to coming to a quick understanding and reconciliation in the interest and well-being of the Rivers Project.
Still On PIB
The House of Representatives has once again pushed to the front burner for passage, the controversial Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), which has been on the floor of the National Assembly since December, 2008, when it was originally introduced. This piece of legislation has since then undergone several revisions and has been the subject of controversy and debate. Right now, the Bill has been split into four documents.
Interestingly, former President Goodluck Jonathan had on July 18, 2012, presented a new version of the Bill to the Seventh National Assembly for reconsideration and re-enactment. The National Assembly graciously did that but the Bill was not signed into law until that regime fizzled out in 2015.
Inadvertently, another component of the Bill, the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB), was passed by the Senate in May, 2017, while the House of Representatives followed suit in January, 2018, as part of a package of legislative reform for the oil and gas sector. However, President Muhammadu Buhari withheld his assent, and the document has remained in the cooler since then.
There is no doubt that the Nigerian oil industry is the mainstay of the country’s economy. Keen observers, however, believe that the oil industry is opaque in its dealings, as it is widely seen as a source of corruption in government circles.
Incidentally, various stakeholders within government, oil companies and even civil society organisations equally agree that the oil and gas sector in Nigeria needs urgent reforms. This arises from the fact that the current structures are convoluted and impede effective regulation. This is mainly because of overlapping regulatory functions exercised by multiple agencies which in themselves breed dysfunction.
As it were, the long term consequence of this persisting scenario has been a significant deterioration in the environment of the Niger Delta region as a result of oil spills and gas flaring, which ultimately has impacted negatively on the health of the local people, the loss of agricultural land, and the pollution of its creeks and surrounding seas.
Essentially, these are lapses among others the PIB intends to address. It also aspires to promote transparency and accountability in the oil and gas sector. While transparency encourages competition, accountable institutions reassure investors, improve regulation and revenue collection, and these result in higher production and earnings.
Besides, the PIB would also enhance and increase access to information within the sector by opening more kinds of documents and data to public scrutiny, and by so doing, improve incentives for performance and check corruption and other sharp practices within the sector.
It is in cognizance of this fact that the House of Representatives recently set in motion modalities to pass the long-awaited PIB into law in September, by setting up a 30-member committee with five members drawn from each of the six geo-political zones of the country. The Minority Leader of the House, Rep Ndudi Elumelu, told newsmen that the House would go ahead with the process of amending and passing the Bill even without the input of the Executive.
“We don’t need the Executive to tutor us. We are going ahead with considering the Bill,” Elumelu enthused, while another lawmaker, Rep. Nicholas Ossai, advised the President to cooperate with the National Assembly on this piece of legislation, so as to attract more investments to the oil and gas industry. The House and the Senate are expected to resume full business in the second week of September.
The Tide is elated that the House of Representatives has taken a bold step to revisit this nagging issue, and promised to do the needful in ensuring that the Bill is passed into law. We are not unmindful that this is the fourth time the Bill is being introduced and re-introduced without having a smooth sail in the National Assembly.
In fact, the passage of this Bill is long overdue as it has been unnecessarily over-delayed, and we believe that the assurances given by the members of the House of Representatives this time around would be good enough to see this all-important Bill see the light of day once and for all.
The first step, we think, is for the lawmakers to try as much as possible to harmonise the PIB, which has been split into four documents. This will enable the National Assembly to do a more thorough work on the Bill with a view to addressing all grey areas that may stand against it from securing the President’s assent, after it must have been passed into law.
There is no gainsaying the fact that the Bill, when passed into law and assented to by the President, would go a long way to bolster the interest and welfare of those who suffer the negative impact of oil exploration in the country. This is particularly so because the Bill is not only for the interest of the Niger Delta alone but also for the entire country, as it would help bring the much-needed peace in the region and facilitate development across the country.
We also lend our voice to the call by the lawmakers and other stakeholders on the Executive to cooperate with the National Assembly in the current move to make the PIB a reality. In fact, this time around, we should never allow primordial sentiments and other considerations for that matter to becloud and override the collective interest and zeal of bringing more investments to the country.
Indeed, in this matter, it behoves the current Federal Government to treat with the same passion the way it has treated Bills like the North East Development Commission, among others. Again, all that is required for us to move forward is for all hands to be on deck to give the PIB the expected push in order to give the country’s ailing economy a boost.
End The Carnage In Southern Kaduna, Now
It is obvious Kaduna State is gradually becoming the cynosure of banditry in Nigeria. Southern Kaduna specifically is fast whirling into a killing field. Recently, bandits alleged to be Fulani herdsmen struck in the southern part of the State, cutting down people by the score.
There was likewise a reported killing of 11 people by gunmen in an offensive against Gora Gan village of Zango Kataf Local Government Area. The onslaught came only 24 hours after about 21 people were murdered by supposed bandits at Kukum Daji village in neighbouring Kaura Local Government Area.
In addition, 24 people were purportedly massacred by gunmen in seeming collaborative attacks in three communities of Zango Kataf Local Government Area. Within the period, gory images of slain persons in Southern Kaduna crammed the media space. Again, in March this year, 11 people were reportedly slaughtered despite the curfew imposed on the State to stave off the spread of COVID-19.
Similarly, over 30 people were killed on May 12, 2020, by presumed herdsmen in Kajuru Local Government Area of the State. In the past few weeks, there had been several other reports of killings, especially in the southern part of the State, with several people in hospitals receiving treatment from injuries caused by gunshots.
Regrettably, these assaults and many others occur amid available information that southern Kaduna basks in extensive security deployments, including the Army, Special Forces of both the Army and the Air Force, surveillance aircraft by the Air Force and a squadron of the mobile police force that are on the ground on a 24-hour basis to obviate criminality and keep the peace.
The Presidency had earlier asserted that the problem of insecurity in the area was more sophisticated than many people were inclined to admit. According to Presidency sources, the situation in Southern Kaduna is a combination of politically-motivated banditry, retributive killings and reciprocal violence by criminal gangs acting on ethnic and religious bases.
That explanation by the Presidency is provocative and unacceptable. Such a statement amounts to defence for the continual violence. It is immaterial whether the killings were inspired by vengeance, religio-ethnic factors or politics. Is this why no one is charged for the crimes? The government must realise that it is obligated to the citizens for the protection of their lives and property and hence, must stop the outrageous acts.
We are indeed horrified by the ostentatious show of violence, bloodshed and devastation in Southern Kaduna. Consequently, we advise the government at all levels to halt the horrendous trend immediately more so as the military has been strained beyond their threshold with security operations all over the country.
It is common knowledge that our armed forces have been engaged in the war against insurgency in the North East, and banditry in the North West and parts of the North Central respectively. These are in addition to the kidnappings and other criminality being perpetrated on a high scale all over the country.
The relentless killings in Southern Kaduna should be of a considerable burden to the government since they have failed abysmally to secure the citizenry, mainly the people of Southern Kaduna. The Presidency’s insistence that troop deployments in the area can encompass the bloodshed going on is most unfortunate, the reaction by the State government is no better.
In the build-up to the 2019 polls, Governor Nasir El-Rufai admitted that the State he governed was ravaged by internal contretemps. Hear him: “No matter who I choose as my running mate, even if I choose the Pope, 67 per cent of the Christians in Southern Kaduna have made up their minds that they will never vote for me. This is what the polls show. So, for me, that is not the issue.
“The issue is this: Kaduna State is divided, it needs to be united. The way to begin to unite it is to take religion or ethnicity off the table. Since 1992, every deputy governor of Kaduna has been a Christian. What has it done for the state? Has it united the state? Has it assuaged the feelings of the Christian minority?”
Since the governor knew that there was no love lost between him and the people of Southern Kaduna, he should have resolved his brawls with them, win their trust and take the battle to the criminals. This has not been done. Rather, the relationship between him and the people of Southern Kaduna has deteriorated in recent times, with many of them denouncing his response to the homicides.
On its part, the Federal Government must utilise resources at its disposal to assist the Kaduna State government to end the bloodshed. Many residents of Southern Kaduna claim that the killers are Fulani bandits. That is why President Muhammadu Buhari and El-Rufai need to dispel the impression that they have failed to halt the killings because they are of the same ethnic stock as the culprits.
We maintain that the reason for the recurring crises in parts of Kaduna State is the inability of the authorities to deal decisively with felons and perpetrators of the killings. Nevertheless, in this onerous task of finding a peaceful solution to the crises in the troubled State, the government needs the backing of political, religious and traditional rulers. Everyone must be orientated towards one direction – peace and religious tolerance.
Still On Call For National Unity
Fifty years after the Nigerian Civil War, which claimed well over 2.5 million lives, destroyed hundreds of thousands of properties, and rendered millions permanently maimed and traumatised in just about three years, principal actors, survivors, political leaders, historians, activists and other players in the Nigerian Project, not too long ago, converged to provoke a sombre reflection, and warned against utterances and actions capable of triggering the disintegration of the country while advising that the catastrophe of the war years should serve as pivotal driving force for the promotion of peace, national reconciliation, cohesion and unity.
The warning was accentuated by diverse leaders across the nation from different professions, religious and ethnic orientations at the ‘Never Again Conference 2020’ organised by the Igbo think-tank, Nzuko Umunna and Ndigbo Lagos, in collaboration with civil society organisations. At the core of the conference was an x-ray of the major causes and consequences of the ill-fated Civil War and a critical appraisal of the present state of the nation which shows a seemingly dangerous replay of events in virtually all spheres of the Nigerian state.
Consequently, speaker after speaker noted that the complex dynamics, including heavily diverse cultures, tradition, religious affiliations and social backgrounds which have made it difficult for Nigerians to forge a strong, virile, progressive, peaceful and united nation, should be quickly harnessed, coalesced and woven together in harmony to shut out any tendency to plunge the country into another Civil War. They regretted that the failure of Nigeria to move forward in peace and sustainable progress was because of the brazen disrespect of the majority and crass insistence of a minority group to foist its interests in the workings of the executive, legislative, judicial and even military and security superstructures without regard to the consequential violent implosion which such could unleash on the nation.
The leaders pointed at the various unfolding events of the last few years, including rising cases of abuse of power, outright impunity, looting of national treasury and assets, disregard for the rule of law and constitutionality, nepotism, tribalism, lack of compliance with the federal character principle, and targeted systemic violent attacks, killings and acts of war against people of other ethnic groups, and warned that the situation was capable of forcing the majority to fight back, thereby pushing the country into the brink of another Civil War.
The Tide completely agrees that the songs of war, inciting, toxic and inflammatory attacks on people of other ethnic groups are heightening tension. We worry that violent attacks, killings, and kidnapping of people of certain tribes, religion and/or perceived to be of a given social status are taking a dangerous crescendo too. Even the deliberate government strategy to recruit and appoint people from a section of the country into virtually all critical sectors, agencies or departments at the federal level calls for concern.
We, therefore, caution harbingers of discord and war to remember the atrocities of the Civil War and realise that so many things have changed and that the result of another potential war may never be the same. We say so because history tells us that no nation has ever survived two civil wars intact.
While we insist that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Nigeria is non-negotiable, we appeal to all players to respect the expressed interests of others, and allow the divergent views to co-exist for the peace and unity of the nation. Indeed, the best way to bring this to life is to key into the urgency to restructure the country with the objective of giving the people a true and acceptable federal structure under which each federating unit would deploy its resources to conquer poverty amongst the people while the rich and the poor cohabit in harmony.
We believe that only a patriotic commitment to peaceful and united Nigeria would lead the present and future generations to a country with tolerant and inclusive political, economic, social and security systems for all. To achieve these, our leaders must entrench the core values of democratic principles and eschew ethnic, religious differences so that the country’s driving force can revert to the ideal: merit, hardwork, creativity and innovation.
For us, there is no better time to raise the alarm than now because the fabric of the Nigerian state has been threatened and weakened by years of degenerate government tactics aimed at marginalising and alienating the majority in governance, repression and deployment of brute force to crush opposition, glorification of injustice and inequality, and other antics that enhance division and incite people to hate.
This is why we urge leaders in various sectors to heed the lesson of the Civil War and the clarion call to do everything within their powers to promote peaceful coexistence and national unity. This is a call to duty and a task for all Nigerians.
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