The activities of some commercial banks
in Nigeria, especially with regard to
charges on workers’ salaries and deductions on soft loans, have become rather unacceptable. In some cases, it has led to illegal reduction of salaries through double taxation.
While public servants are still contesting the prevailing taxation of their salaries, the banks further deplete the miserable pay packet by deducting value added tax and a list of other charges that serve only to raise the blood pressure of the average worker.
Consequently, a greater percentage of public servants have gone back to the banks to obtain soft loans just to meet up. With loans called “Sharp-Sharp”, “No Wahala loan” among others, are accompanied by high interest rate and another regime of deductions that give the impression that nobody monitors the banks.
While the banks apply different sharp practices in a bid to meet their usually bogus annual revenue projections, the victims (their customers) count their losses and come to the painful conclusion that banking is detrimental to their interest.
Banks, at will, deduct account management fees, Cost of Transaction (COT) and Value-Added Tax (VAT) on COT, among other charges at rates solely determined by them and sometimes do this more than once in a month.
Public servants appear to be the worst hit as they often obtain soft loans to enable them pay house rents, school fees, purchase vehicle, or meet other domestic obligations like burials only to realise that they had unwittingly cut a deal with the ‘devil’.
With the progressive drop in the salaries of government workers lately, the many phantom charges by banks have made the average worker even more desperate and disillusioned. This cannot continue to define the fate of the people even if the labour unions fail to respond to the groaning of the workers.
Also disturbing is the purported drop in the nation’s inflation rate to eight per cent and the report that the economy is improving without a corresponding impact on the living condition of the average citizen. It is sad to notice that the banks still charge more than 20 per cent interest on soft loans even as they pay less than two per cent interest on deposits.
Whereas the banks lure civil servants with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN’s) approved prime lending rate of 18 per cent, they have been discovered to base their monthly interest deductions on a 23.9 per cent maximum lending rate.
Again, the CBN recently directed banks to stop the N100 per transaction charge on customers for the use of Automated Teller Machines (ATMs), some customers still allege receiving notifications on ATM charges, sometimes even when there were no such purported transactions; some banks now call it ATM maintenance fee.
Some banks now take advantage of the fact that many account holders hardly study the details of their monthly bank statements, or even bother to question the legitimacy of strange deductions. Even those who dare to ask often get frustrated after several calls or visits to the banks without convincing explanations.
The Tide believes that it is high time government took up the matter with the banks to ensure that salaries are not reduced in ways that leave the worker underpaid. In fact, the workers’ union ought to take the first interest in this matter and check the impunity of the banks.
We think that this also calls for more inclusive and robust housing/vehicle loans for public servants, especially as their living standards have been seriously altered by the unexpected deductions in their salaries.
The CBN should do more than merely encouraging short-changed bank customers to channel their complaints to its Consumer Protection Department. In fact, it should act in concert with the National Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC), Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the National Assembly Committees on Banking and Finance to bring to an end this fraudulent banking system that discounts the interest of the customer.
De-Escalating Tensions In The Gulf
Tensions between the United States and Iran have spiked over the last one year following President Donald Trump’s unilateral decision to pull out of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA) otherwise called the Iran nuclear deal, and announcement of crushing economic sanctions effective November 4, 2018, in veiled implementation of the July, 2017 US Congress vote on Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) against Iran, Russia and North Korea.
Trump’s harsh Iran policy immediately sparked international condemnation, with a caution that Iran was complying fully with letters of the deal, and warning that the US policy could trigger a reversal to the old order which encouraged Iran’s nuclear enrichment policy and confrontation with the West.
Indeed, recent US sanctions on Iran began with the US Executive Order 12170 following the 1979 seizure of US Embassy in Tehran as an outcome of the Iranian Revolution, and have been renewed since then with the Iran and Libya Sanctions Act 1996, extended by five years in 2001, and extended again for 10 years with the Iran Sanctions Act 2006. These sanctions, targeting Iran’s financial services, oil and gas sector, property, gold, food, spare parts, medical products, regime leaderships and Iran Revolutionary Guard (IRG) officials, have had crippling effects on the economy and the people. To worsen issues, till date, no diplomatic relations exist between the US and Iran; two nations that have had close ties since 1834 when it was Persia.
While justifying his decision, Trump said the US was not satisfied with the content of the Iran nuclear deal signed on July 14, 2015 by Iran and the United Nations Security Council’s permanent members – USA, United Kingdom, Russia, France and China plus Germany and the European Union; designed to help smoothen relations and facilitate lifting of US economic sanctions, just as Iran gives up its nuclear capabilities and allows Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) workers to do facility checks on its nuclear sites unhindered. As a result of this success of diplomacy under the Barack Obama administration, the US supported the UNSC Resolution 2231 of July 20, 2015 which welcomed “Iran’s reaffirmation in the JCPoP that it will under no circumstances ever seek, develop or acquire any nuclear weapons”.
Unfortunately, since May this year, tensions have escalated in the Gulf, following Trump’s deployment of significant strategic military assets to the Persian Gulf as part of measures to check any untoward activities of alleged Iranian renegade mercenaries and proxies against US allies in the region, which Trump and his hawkish advisers have explained, were increasing their nefarious actions in the Middle East at the behest of IRG commanders.
But since the massive military deployments began, a number of dangerous incidents threatening world peace and economic stability have occurred, including the seizure of oil tankers, attacks on oil and cargo vessels, and the downing of US drone in the Persian Gulf, Gulf of Oman and the Strait of Hormuz, belonging to some Middle East and European countries.
With the rising tensions, the complex situation in the Strait of Hormuz poses serious concern because the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea technically grants Iran control rights over territorial sea or coastal waters extending 12 nautical miles or 22.2km or 13.8miles from the baseline of its coastline, including airspace, seabed, suboil beneath; contiguous zone adjacent to and extending seaward up to 24 nautical miles from its baseline; and exclusive economic zone adjacent and extending seaward up to 200 nautical miles, but not beyond the continental shelf above 200 nautical miles. It also gives Iran rights to defend any violation of recognised maritime laws and regulations.
The Tide recalls that the aftermath of the two Gulf Wars: – Iran/Iraq and US-led allies vs Iraq wars – had devastating disruptions in world economies, resulting in the great depression and contraction in major countries. We also note that the several conflicts in North Africa, especially Libya and the Middle East, particularly Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon, and intermittently between Israel and Palestinian militias, have collectively inflicted severe consequences on world economic stability, growth and progress.
This is why we think that the current tensions in the Gulf should have been avoided by the Trump administration by respecting the agreed terms of the 2015 JCPoA. Besides, we also believe that the strings of economic sanctions and others slammed on Iranian regime leaders and IRG commanders actually undermine the course of global peace and economic prosperity. This is because before the new sanctions, Iran was complying with the terms of the deal, as attested to by EU nations, China and Russia, prompting their initial refusal to align with Trump in his aggressive policy against Iran.
While The Tide agrees that the JCPoA, just like many agreements and constitutions may not have captured all provisions required to tame Iran’s intransigence and mercenary activities across the Middle East, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Africa, Europe, South East Asia, and elsewhere, we think that all parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), particularly the US Government should have given the Iran nuclear deal a chance to achieve its mandate. Of course, Iran reserves the right to protect and defend its territorial waters, contiguous and exclusive economic zones, exercise control necessary to prevent infringement of its customs, fiscal, immigration laws and regulations, and punish any violations within the law. And given the proximity of the Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf to Iran’s territorial waters and airspace, we feel that US many adversary actions amount to clear provocation of its sovereignty. Even the convergence of warships from US, UK, and others to escort vessels out of the Gulf to the ocean is only an invitation to chaos.
We believe that only diplomacy can bring about peaceful resolution of the impasse in the Gulf. Intimidating military and aggressive economic pressures to force Iran to do America’s bidding is nothing but bullying, and should not be accepted in international politics. We feel that Iran’s current actions are borne out of frustration from US unfriendly tactics. We have seen the failure of this strategy in North Korea, where Kim Jong-Un is still busy testing short and medium range ballistic missiles, without Trump raising an eyebrow. Therefore, we urge Trump to withdraw the sanctions forced on Iran, and seek dialogue based on mutual respect, justice and equity.
That Sowore’s Call For Revolution
An attempt to set the nation on fire was averted by the Department of State Services recently, when it arrested Mr. Omoyele Sowore,the presidential candidate of the African Action Congress (AAC) in the 2019 general elections and founder of an online leaks newspaper, Sahara Reporters from his home in Lagos for alleged acts of treason and terrorism.
Sowore had burnt his fingers by giving an hashtag #RevolutionNow to a planned protest by the Coalition for Revolution (CORE).
The CORE claimed to have planned a three-phase protest. The first stage tagged “end anti-people economic policies,” calls for redress in contemporary social issues, like immediate payment of N30,000 minimum wage, putting a stop to the devaluation of the Naira; stop estimated electricity billing; immediate release of Sheik Ibrahim El-Zakzaky; payment of outstanding salaries and pensions, etc.
The second phase is tagged, “end special privileges for the ruling class,” and it calls for a ban on all government officials from using policemen as security guards and sending children to private schools or foreign universities, etc. The third phase is “returning political power and national wealth to the working people.”
One of the aims of this phase is: “to reduce the cost of governance by abolishing the Senate, thus, establishing a uni-cameral legislature with only the House of Representatives.”
Riding on the crest of the degree of violence such revolution evokes, the DSS justified Sowore’s incarceration by saying, “These threats include threats of subversion, threat of terrorism and, of course, ethnic agitations, separatist, economic sabotage and others. We must understand the meaning of revolution. Primarily, it means a revolt, it means insurrection, it means insurgency, it means forceful takeover of government and we are operating a democratic system in Nigeria.”
Within 48 hours, the DSS dragged Sowore to court and obtained an order to keep him for 45 days. The order is to give security operatives the opportunity for unfettered investigation into CORE’s alleged unconstitutional acts.
According to Wikipedia, in Political Science, a revolution (Latin: revolution, “a turnaround”) is a fundamental and relatively sudden change in political power and political organisation which occurs when the population revolts against the government, typically due to perceived oppression (political, social, economic) or political incompetence. Sowore’s call, we believe, is in tandem with this definition, therefore, asinine and irresponsible.
Though there have been preponderance of opinions on the call for revolution, The Tide is of the view that in essence, Sowore was calling for a forceful change of government and therefore condemns the call.
Granted, the Constitution gives any citizen right to a peaceful protest but a revolution is a different ball game. Revolution could be emotive. Its use in a civil protest could spur participants to engage in acts of violence or sabotage. It may be on this account that the DSS decided to incapacitate Sowore and cripple the attempts to actualise the protest in several cities in the South.
No doubt, the issues they raised are germane, the insecurity situation in the country is at an all-time high and the economy is in very bad shape at the moment. However, we believe that every civil disagreement can be resolved through honest, sincere and open discussions without unnecessary recourse to actions liable to further inflame tensions, endanger lives and property of Nigerians without achieving lasting results.
We cannot be oblivious of the far-reaching negative consequences of revolution. You can start a revolution but definitely the end cannot be predicted. It is on this premise that we reject the call for revolution in Nigeria which at this time of our democratic experience can hardly mean well for the wellbeing of the people.
While we condemn the use of the word revolution, we call on the Buhari administration to consider Sowore’s ‘Revolution’ as a wake-up call to the fact that the masses are trapped in the floodgates of difficulties – kidnapping, armed banditry, poverty, unemployment, and general economic downturn.
Suffice it to say that apart from those who live in ivory tower and access cheap funds from government treasury, millions of other Nigerians are languishing in socio-economic quagmire. Against this backdrop, we advocate that the Buhari led All Progressives Congress (APC) Federal Government must come to terms with realities and evolve practical and sensible measures that could tackle the myriad of problems of the nation. With a good and determined leadership, Nigeria will be on its way to utopia.
We also call on the DSS to be thorough and open-minded in this investigation to gather evidence to prove or disprove their hypothesis of terrorism and treason in the #RevolutionNow protest. Any call for revolution now is belated and should not be allowed in Nigeria.
Tackling Insecurity In Kenpoly
Perturbed by the activities of criminals and hoodlums in their campus and its environs, students of Kenule Beeson Saro-Wiwa Polytechnic (Kenpoly), Bori, in Rivers State, are bemoaning heightened insecurity. Many students are roundly raped while robbery attacks are on the increase.
There is no doubt that the growing level of insecurity in Bori has spilt over to the polytechnic. Robbery incidents are comfortably executed and almost on a daily basis, students are heard crying helplessly in their hostels. Female students are the worse for it as they are molested and robbed, while their male counterparts are brutally beaten.
According to reports, the attackers mainly target students living off-campus. The victims have been left to their fate as repeated entreaties and calls to the police in Bori to come to their rescue had fallen on deaf ears. However, the police had defended their non-response by claiming that they were not informed about the development.
Their defence notwithstanding, it is disappointing that there is scant security presence at the school. The only security outfit seen on the ground is the anti-cultism squad which entirely has very few men amounting to an acute shortage of manpower on their part.
The happenstance indicates that life is no longer comfortable and safe for the polytechnic community given the incessant or unabating criminal activities. Apart from the incidents of robbery and rape, cult attacks and maimings have become the order of the day. Sadly, the pathetic phenomena have been ascribed to some unscrupulous students of the school in collaboration with a few natives.
Unfortunately, the Khana Local Government Area Chairman, whose primary duty is to protect lives and property in the area has failed to demonstrate sufficient concern about the obvious threat to students of the polytechnic. According to sources at the school, several correspondences made to him on the matter had received no response.
We are worried by this impression being created by the chairman, and call for pragmatic approach by the chief security officer of the local government to combat crime and criminality in the institution, albeit, the area. We urge him to work with all relevant security agencies to bring the situation under control.
The entire scenario playing out at Kenpoly is appalling and shameful. Therefore, we call on the State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Mustapha Dandaura, to urgently do the needful. The police should be held accountable if the trend continues and more students are maimed or killed. Despite the denials by the force, the truth is that the Bori police division on its part has remained dormant in the equation of providing adequate security as they are of little or no assistance to the students’ community in their ordeal.
As the trend escalates, the school authorities have to beef up security around the school and the off-campus hostels. They can do this by taking measures such as drafting military and police officers to vulnerable points around the school to curb the menace. This is where the expertise and professionalism of operators of ‘Operation Sting’ come in handy.
Furthermore, the school authorities should provide its security unit with new security equipment such as scanners, analyzers, bomb detectors, and CCTV cameras to assist the security personnel in achieving efficient and effective operations. The authorities have to realise that not only students are at the receiving end of this menace, lecturers and non-lecturers alike had had a fair share of the heinous attacks by these criminals.
Also, we advise all students of the institution to be wary and security-conscious always and monitor the movements of their fellow students because the proliferation of these criminal and robbery incidents is perpetrated by some students within the institution. Similarly, the security situation at Kenpoly underscores the need for governing authorities of higher institutions in the State to build additional hostels to reduce the number of off-campus students.
The constant attacks on Kenule Polytechnic have left an impression of a general state of insecurity, not only in Khana LGA, but the entire State. That is why we think that the Rivers State Government should not let this matter lie low, but should, where necessary, employ similar drastic measures applied in the Rivers State University (RSU) cult clash saga to restore normalcy in the polytechnic.
To this end, The Tide welcomes the proposed meeting of the State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike with heads of all state-owned tertiary institutions, including Vice Chancellors, Rectors as well as Provosts and Chairmen of Governing Councils to be held today. We believe that such a meeting will properly convey the resolve of the governor to end the various security challenges confronting these institutions while charting a path towards achieving educational excellence in the State.
It is also important to note that not all students of the polytechnic whose lives are threatened are indigenes of the State; many of them hail from different parts of the country. Therefore, if the dangerous trend does not cease, a wrong signal may be sent out to the effect that Rivers State is unsafe.
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