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What Hope For Nigeria’s Poor

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According to the latest data from Nigeria’s Bureau
of Statistics, NBS, 100 million Nigerians live below a dollar a day, and 112 million of an estimated 168 million Nigerians are poor. The poor are in overwhelming majority and should matter most in a democratic regime; after all, these numbers hold the electoral power. So the important question we must ask today of Nigeria 2014, the ‘Transformed Nigeria,’ is; what is in it for the poor?
This week, the president of Nigeria celebrated the release of the first assembled in Nigeria cars. Assembling cars in Nigeria is touted as one of President Jonathan’s chief accomplishments; we are developing, or is this not so? But what is in it for the poor? Nigerians have been succeeding in begging and protesting for the postponement of the Tokunbo (used) car importation pseudo- ban.
Very surprisingly, there have not yet been any serious riots. With this ‘ban,’ the increased tariff on importation will as much as double the cost to import cars. This regulation was a deal Nigeria’s government via its transportation ministry struck with the car assembly plants to entice them to assemble in Nigeria. Goodluck Jonathan is peculiarly advertising the production as an export initiative.
‘We will soon be exporting cars,’ the President says. But this is definitely not the main expected source of customers for the Nigeria assembled cars. The big companies want to force the sale on Nigerians. While forcing new cars on Nigerians cannot be outrightly condemned as exclusive oligopolistic extortion; the issue here again is, what is in this for the poor? How will the poor who purchase and share vehicles bought at about 1 million naira get vehicles tomorrow?
For the rich, they will still import fancy vehicles, not flustered about pay the new hiked import tariffs. The rich after all import cars often by air freight, willing to pay as much as $30,000 to get their cars to Nigeria a week or two faster than by 19 day express container shipping that’s one twentieth the cost; so the rich will not be adversely affected being able to afford the brand new assembled-in-Nigeria vehicles and still importing their fancy rides; but the poor? Will we be condemned to walking?
Are the assembly plants making cars like the Indian TATA, cheap, yet reliable cars that will sell for under a million naira? Is a state- and city- wide metro rail transport system available to ferry the Nigerians who will no longer be able to afford cars? It will be interesting to watch the coming weeks and months to see how Nigeria’s masses will react to any possible actualization of the ban on their only source of affordable vehicles and transportation.
Indeed we do see housing initiatives in most states; low cost housing estates being constructed to allegedly make housing affordable for the middle class Nigerian. This is commendable, but again, the question is- what is in it for the poor? Can Nigeria’s poor afford loans to instalmentally pay toward owning these ‘affordable homes?’ In ‘developed’ societies like America, we have what is called ‘Projects accommodation.’
In America, Great Britain, Europe, we have rent stabilized housing welfare programs that enable the poor obtain and retain affordable rented apartments in the heart of big cities. They do not have to live in huts on the outskirts and commute for hours a day to the cities where they earn meager living. Are there  ‘project buildings’ in Lagos or Abuja? Projects are not homes to own, the poor are not set up to own homes, remember over a million Nigerians make less than a dollar a day; they will never own homes. Projects and rent stabilised city housing plans are designed to work based on the assessed income of any and all disadvantaged citizen to make sure that as long as he has no work or earns peanuts, he is accorded the ability to rent decent accommodation in the heart or near enough to the centers of city activity.
This welfare and ‘projects’ housing is essential in any progressive society to reduce the effects of social inequality and dampen crime. Is there any such agenda in the current ‘transformation’ Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy is embarking on? Will the poor continue to be ostracized and relegated to the fringes of society?
Boko Haram in the north; MEND, oil vandalism, armed robbery, high sea piracy and what have we, all over Nigeria, are globally recognized crippling insecurity challenges that continue to make life meaningless in Nigeria. Billions are being committed to allegedly battling insecurity. But what is here for the poor? Nigeria’s wealthy are huddling closer together, living in fenced, protected communities in Abuja and Lagos. Today there are two Nigeria’s, far apart in every ramification.
The wealthy of Nigeria are insulated from crime and terror. They drive in bomb proof vehicles and never use public bus stops; hence seriously tackling and curbing the terror menaces plaguing the nation are really not crises they can relate to. It is the poor who are at risk of getting robbed and killed every day they go to bus stops, public markets or sleep at home.
So, the question again in Nigeria of today and tomorrow is – in terms of security, and the political maneuvers in Nigeria’s States and being processed from the capital, Abuja, what is in it for the poor?
This conversation can unfortunately be extended to almost all social construction including employment, health, credit and even sublime social, government governed opportunities like hope and happiness. As we analyze our existence as the powerful majority subjects of the current political disposition and decide what to do politically, if politically, and how to poise ourselves in our best interests, it is important we are hyperopic (far-sighted) and ruminate over the pressing question: Nigeria of today and tomorrow, what is in it for the poor?
Dr Brimah is a commentator on contemporary
issues.

 

Peregrino Brimah

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Opinion

Jumping The Gun

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It is a cheering news, to wit: “Nigeria Set To Begin Export Of Vehicle Parts, Heavy-Duty Metals” – ref. The Tide: Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021. Zeetin, a Nigerian precision engineering company, whose Managing Director is Azibaola Robert, told Nigerians that his company signed an export Memorandum of Understanding with a Turkish-American Company, JMT Ltd, to export Zeetin’s products to other countries. Robert told us that: “this is the first time a Nigerian engineering and manufacturing company will start exporting heavy-duty metal products, spares to the international market”.
Any patriotic Nigerian would be glad to hear such news, rather than something saddening such as acts of banditry and brigandage. With the export of Zeetin vehicle parts and heavy-duty metals, “overall, Nigeria will be the ultimate beneficiary”. Hopefully, JMT Limited, while taking the responsibility of exporting and marketing Zeetin products, would have satisfied itself that the products are of international standards. It would not be enough for a precision engineering company to manufacture products, but there is also an additional responsibility of quality assurance.
Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) would obviously have satisfied itself that Zeetin products are of international standards. Therefore, credit must go to an indigenous Zeetin precision engineering company for being the first to export heavy-duty metal products and we hope that it would be a proud beginning; not Ajaokuta Steel!
Common stages involved in every project, including precision engineering works, would cover risk analysis, project design, implementation and then monitoring and evaluation. Purposes of monitoring and evaluation include getting factual and comprehensive feedback with regards to the performance of products sent out into the market. For manufacturing companies, lots of resources are spent on the feedback process, to ensure customer satisfaction and product sustainability. Complaints from customers and users are taken seriously so that corrections and improvements can be made.
At a seminar in the School of Oriental and African Studies, London, a long time ago, some useful facts emerged with regards to the common reactions of developing countries, to criticisms. Monitoring and evaluation process would obviously involve pointing out lapses calling for correction and improved strengthening. The emphasis was that criticism should not be seen as acts of aggression or hostility, but as opportunity for corrections and improvements. It takes maturity and a big heart to learn from scathing criticism.
With regards to product quality, developing countries, including Nigeria, have been known to have some lingering lapses, despite improved diligence. When there were talks in the recent times about Nigeria going to manufacture cars and aircraft, a former Nigerian diplomat swore that he, nor any of his grand children, would travel by such vehicle. Be it a joke or reality, his remark represents the attitude of many Nigerians towards local products. It is not always a question of ability or absence of it, but something else, quality included.
At the aforementioned seminar in the London school, there was a comment about “jumping the gun”, being a reference to an attitude of setting out long before the dawn. There is usually a difference between having an ability, and having the readiness to apply it, at the most appropriate time. Jumping the gun would mean embarking on a mission before one is ready enough to do so. Such haste may arise from vanity or some other weakness. It may not be wrong to take some risks or announce some breakthrough, but let it not be for “show” purposes.
In the management of development process, what is known as felt-need theory includes the practice of addressing needs and necessities according to the order of priority. Priority rating of a need would include the level of threat posed and the number of people involved. Commonsense understanding and assessment of a priority would mean “doing first thing first”. As First-Aid instructors would say. If threat to life is involved, then life-saving measures would be more appropriate priority than spending time in arguments while situation gets worse. You don’t go after rats while a house is on fire!
There was a time, a few years ago, when products packaged and exported from Nigeria were rejected abroad on the ground of not meeting international standards. Such products were not vehicle parts or heavy-duty metals. A major complaint about Nigerian-made products has always pointed towards “finishing and packaging”, which carry the tag of “poorly done”. There have been complaints that Nigerians rarely take serious pains to give a “good finishing” to what they produce. Products carry signatures of their origins and producers!
The endeavours and exploits of Zeetin have been used in this article as a means to examine what real progress means. That there are differences among individuals, nations, cultures and races, count as blessings and assets, rather than liabilities. Real progress shows in the development and advancement of what is indigenous to a people, rather than in copying and adopting foreign things, including engineering technology. Such progress begins with development of a right sense of beauty, not as a caricature but as an infallible signpost for knowing what exhibits harmony and creates joy. Beauty, Harmony, Joy!
People often strive in vain, and motivated by vanity, to copy and adopt what is not indigenous to their culture. Much time and resources are spent on wanting to follow the train of fashion, while efforts are rarely made to identify and develop indigenous talents. Obviously, every distinct group of people have unique endowments, peculiar to them, serving as their contribution to collective humanity. Harmony arises where differences in kind give their best to build up the whole through complementarily. Wherever one endeavour complements another, harmony arises.
Rather than be rooted in our native soil, culture and peculiar endowments, we copy and reproduce what is alien and borrowed from those we consider better. Such lifestyle of imitation is a major drawback for Nigeria. We progress better by being rooted in what we truly are and then build up from the grassroots; not by borrowing, copying or imitating what others had developed. From engineering works, to governance and health issues, there are indigenous and local content components that can give added values, if we Don’t Jump the Gun.

Dr Amirize is a retired lecturer from the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.

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Cursory Look At Nigeria’s Challenges

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Insecurity and bad economy in Nigeria have reached alarming proportions rearing their ugly heads in various facets of our national life. Lives are lost on daily basis, population depleted, businesses in comatose, investment are nose-diving, multinationals closing shop and vacating the country, unemployment soaring and the populace in fear.
On May 29, 2015, General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) was sworn in as President of Nigeria. The administration promised to urgently tackle several challenges that have hindered economic prosperity, sustainable security and overall national development in Nigeria. In terms of human resources, Nigeria is among the first 20 developed countries of the world. It is Africa’s largest oil-producing country. With a population of over 200 million, it is, no doubt, the largest market in Africa.
But the security and economic fortunes have been dwindling due to vagaries in the global price of crude oil. The country has been caught in-between affluence and affliction. Nigeria’s political leadership is a major factor why she has been reduced to a giant with clay feet. Buhari came to national limelight in 1983 when he became military Head of State after a successful coup d’état that overthrew civilian President Shehu Shagari on December 31, 1983. He ruled Nigeria from January 1984 until August 1985, before his regime was also toppled by another coup. His reign is ever remembered for a vigorous anti-corruption war, but tainted by human rights abuses.
Buhari contested in the presidential elections of 2003, 2007 and 2011, but lost to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidates. In the 2003, he was the presidential candidate of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and lost to incumbent President Olusegun Obasanjo. In 2007, he contested again on the ticket of the same party, but was beaten by PDP’s Umaru Yar’Adua who scored 26,638,063 against Buhari’s 6,605,299. In March 2010, the retired General left ANPP and formed the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) contesting as its presidential candidate during the 2011 presidential poll, which he lost to President Goodluck Jonathan of PDP.
In that election, Buhari secured 12,214,853 votes against the President Goodluck Jonathan’s who secured 22,495,187. In 2014, the All Progressives Congress (APC) nominated Buhari to stand as its presidential candidate in the 2015 presidential election. The APC was merger of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), ANPP and CPC.
Buhari subsequently emerged victorious in the March 28, 2015 poll, defeating incumbent President Jonathan of PDP. He polled 15,416,221 votes against Jonathan’s 12,853,162 votes in an election that was keenly contested. On May 29, 2015, General Muhammadu Buhari was sworn in as president. Having ascended to the office he once occupied as a military officer, his administration was expected to urgently tackle several challenges that have bedeviled Nigeria over the last three decades. Insecurity, bad economy and corruption were the greatest challenges facing the new administrations since the return to democracy in 1999.
Traditional security threats such as violent conflicts, militancy, armed robbery and kidnapping have assumed worrisome dimensions in Nigeria. Evolving threats such as insurgency and terrorism have further complicated the situation. Outbreak of violent conflicts has become a major characteristic of insecurity in Nigeria. It is estimated that Nigeria has witnessed over 3,000 violent ethno-religious, communal and political conflicts of varying intensity and magnitude. Clashes between farmers and pastoralists have resulted in the death of about 4,732 persons between 1998 and 2014. The spate of violent crimes has become alarming.
In all of this the Presidency appears not to be doing enough, raising suspicions that Buhari is reluctant to take action since the herdsmen are mainly of his Fulani tribe. Even the swiftness with which Aso Rock Villa reacts to any condemnation of destructions caused by herders in the Middle Belt and southern parts of the country helps to fuel this suspicion.
Of course, the President’s insistence to recover gazetted grazing routes in the country lends further credence to the arguments of those who have maintained that he is deliberately keeping quiet and allowing his herder kinsmen to ride roughshod over every other section of the country. At best, all Buhari had ever ventured was that those who had complained about the destructions caused by open grazing should learn to tolerate the migrant herders and their cattle.
And on the economic front, the Buhari administration has a myriad of challenges to tackle which include but not limited to pervasive poverty, rising unemployment, epileptic power supply, fuel crisis and declining economy. Pervasive poverty and massive unemployment are serious economic challenges facing Nigeria. Both have maintained a rising trend over the years. Poverty rates remain high in Nigeria, particularly in rural areas. It is estimated that 101million out of Nigeria’s population of about 200 million live in extreme poverty.
And of the 99 million Nigerians suffering from extreme poverty, most are young people denied employment opportunities. However, as of 2015, the unemployment rate in Nigeria reached an all-time high of 20 percent with a youth unemployment rate as high as 50 per cent. These young Nigerians fell prey to recruitment by such groups as Boko Haram.
The problem of poverty and unemployment in Nigeria results from inconsistent policies, misappropriation of funds meant for empowerment schemes and increasing de-industrialisation and collapse of small businesses due to lack of venture capital and poor power supply.
Foreign industrial firms that once operated in this country have since relocated to other African countries like Ghana and South Africa which can boast of better operating environments. The oil multinationals that not only employed Nigerians and paid them very well have also relocated their key operations to offshore platforms in order to escape the increasingly restive Nigerian youth. This has led to staff downsizing across companies.
Achugo wrote from Eastern Polytechnic, Port Harcourt.

By: Godstime Achugo

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Opinion

Avoiding Brain-Drain In Medicare

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The industrial action embarked upon by resident doctors in Nigeria has lasted for several weeks. A few months ago, the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) was alleged to be demanding certain allowances, including that of COVID-19 inducement allowance.
The Federal Minister of Labour and Productivity, Dr Chris Ngige, the NMA and other stakeholders shifted grounds on the issues and came to a resolution which made them go back to work. This time around, the authorities concerned should also come together, sort out the problems concerning the medical practitioners so that the nation’s healthcare system is taken care of.
There is the fear that if they are not treated well, some of them may travel abroad for greener pastures. A situation where well-trained medical doctors will be leaving for other countries because the Nigerian system does not bother about them, should be avoided.  Not just the doctors, nurses too should be taken care of as more of their services are needed in our public hospitals.
Although other professions are affected but that of medicare is more important as it deals with health. Health, they say, is wealth. A situation where a senior doctor may want to leave the country with his former students who have grown on the job for several years, to other countries because of the system in Nigeria calls for concern.
Those who may be wishing to leave should be patriotic. We are aware that many countries of the world like Canada, Australia, Germany, South Africa, to mention but a few, are seeking the services of Nigerian trained medical personnel. But it should be noted that their services are also needed in their country. As Nigerians, they need to be trusted to make some sacrifices as far as their services are concerned.
Some years back, when resident doctors embarked on strike in some of the states, there were threats of “No work, no pay”, their colleagues in other states voluntarily contributed and made funds available to them. 
They should not be poor, but such calibre of persons should not be as it will be degrading. If they lack money as a result of non-payment of salaries and allowances, as punishment for industrial action, they have families and loved ones to cater for. Those who are leaving Nigeria for other climes may not be unpatriotic but need the kind of wages that are commensurate with the jobs they perform.
Researches have shown that brain-drain in Nigeria started in the early ’90s. One worrisome issue is that there are persons who at one time or the other have belonged to these associations before being at the helm of affairs. You discover that there will still be series of industrial action under their watch. So you begin to wonder whether these anomalies cannot be corrected as they are in charge.
Some persons have argued that Nigeria’s education system is poor. How come the nation’s medical graduates are good to the extent that other countries seek their services? I know that Nigeria has well-trained medical personnel who studied at home and can compete favourably at the international level.
Recently, I had an experience with some of our medical doctors, specifically in a female ward in one of our public hospitals; I was amazed at the way they were analysing health issues about women and prescribing the right drugs for the various ailments.
I began to wonder why anybody will say that we are nowhere. The truth is that we have qualified medical doctors. I think the problem is how to attend to their needs. If medical practitioners are asking for, let’s say, COVID-19 hazard allowance, they should be given so they don’t contract the virus.
The stress of a medical personnel attending to so many patients may not be easy, even at nights. When you visit the hospitals, one will not be in doubt that those groups of people deserve better working condition.
Nigerian medical doctors should be patriotic no matter their grievances, bearing in mind that “home is home”. The understanding between the indigenous medical personnel may not be the same as that of foreign medical team. Although there are some whose expertise are higher and left their countries of origin to render one assistance or the other in Nigeria.
There are also Nigerian trained medical doctors based overseas who, after taking a look at the situation in Nigeria, once in a while come home to render healthcare services. That’s a show of patriotism. 
Education of a medical doctor in Nigeria is very expensive. In fact, securing admission to study medicine in the university does not come easy. So it’s like, “handle with care”.  
While the Federal Government may need to look into the demands of resident doctors, NMA as a way of being patriotic, should shift ground during negotiation.  
Brain-drain may not serve Nigeria well so they should not allow some of the best hands to leave.  More so, you cannot tell whether they will return or not.  All hands must be on deck because this is a period of pandemic.  
Here in Rivers State, hospitals have been equipped with facilities of international standard which our medical personnel are competent to handle. The University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital (UPTH) and Rivers State University Teaching Hospital (RSUTH) have been equipped by both the federal and state governments. Spirited individuals and organisations have also donated facilities to those hospitals. The Military Hospital in Port Harcourt has also been equipped for anybody’s comfort.  
In fact, the gigantic Mother and Child Hospital built by the Nyesom Wike administration is a testimony that healthcare system has been boosted. I think it is for the right medical personnel to man those facilities.  
If our medical doctors are adequately taken care of, they will not leave the country for any reason. If you think any country is better than Nigeria, such place was not developed in a day. Whatever infrastructure you have overseas was developed over the years.

By: Eunice Choko-Kayode

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