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Task Before UNN Governing Council

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Like the task of Tantalus
whose  target keeps receding, the challenge of reversing the fortunes of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka – UNN, the country’s premier University, to its past glory, has, for too long, daunted its successive management teams.
Established in 1955 but formally opened on October 7, 1960, UNN became Nigeria’s first indigenous University and maiden project after independence. The opening ceremony of the University, which became part of Nigeria’s independent celebration, was performed by Her Royal Highness, Princess Alexandra of Kent, the representative of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II at the occasion.
The opening ceremony and laying of the foundation stone of one of the University’s early buildings by Princess Alexandra was a historic event, marked with fanfare across the country, especially in the then Eastern Region.
With its philosophy of seeking, teaching, and preserving truth, and motto: to restore the dignity of man, UNN was in a short time, propelled to the class of great Universities in Africa – a tribute to its founding father, Rt. Hon. Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, and other well meaning Nigerians who worked assiduously to keep the flag of the University flying very high.
In 1972, the famous Astrophysicist, Sam Okoye of the University, founded the Space Research Centre (SRC), an outstanding research centre that offered courses in Astronomy up to the post graduate level.
In 1974, Professor Yacoub from the United Kingdom led a team of Medical doctors including Prof. F.A. Udekwu in an open heart surgical operation at the university’s teaching hospital, the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital (UNTH), Enugu. The feat was the first of its kind in Nigeria and Sub-Sahara Africa.
It was common knowledge in the 1970s that UNN was outstanding in several areas of academic pursuit, especially Law, Literary Studies, Veterinary Medicine, et al. The practical orientation of the university’s academic activities modeled after the American system, distinguished this citadel of learning from the other tertiary institutions in the country.
In the language of one of the most renowned economists of this world, and a former lecturer at the University of Ibadan, Professor Arthur Lewis while delivering, a lecture in 1968: “The United States is absorbing bachelor’s degree to the extent of 30% of the age group. The British are absorbing now about 8% of the age group. Nigeria is producing less than 1% of the age group with Bachelor’s degree. Yet my students at Ibadan were already very worried that they would not find jobs. How come?… whereas the British come up with new fundamental ideas as often as the Americans (per thousand of population), the Americans are much better at developing and applying new ideas.”
So the founders of the UNN were driven by the consciousness of raising young Nigerians who would generate and apply new, dynamic, and aggressive ideas – the big ideas, the boom dimension – that will take into cognizance  the peoples history, cultural and traditional beliefs, geographical, religious,  and ethnic diversity, dreams and aspiration, capacity, social and political institutions, and economic conditions.
Thus, in his address at the inaugural convocation of the University on October 13, 1960 entitled “Heroes and Heroines of a New Nigeria”, the first chancellor of the institution, Rt. Hon. Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe said: “The founders of the University of Nigeria aimed at relating its activities to the social and economic needs and the day-to-day life of the people of Nigeria.” But what has become of these lofty dreams of the founding fathers of the University over the years? To all intents and purposes, the story of UNN in recent times, has been anti-thetical to the vision of its founders. As stated by the immediate past Vice-Chancellor of the University – Prof. Bartho Okolo, at the valedictory meeting of Senate in his honour on June 6, 2014: “I recall that one of my first trips abroad was on the invitation of the Nigerian Higher Education Foundation (NHEF) based in New York. During the visit, I learnt that UNN had at some point been blacklisted as a dysfunctional University, while her peers like the University of Ibadan and Lagos, and even younger Universities like University of Port-Harcourt had taken advantage of opportunities created by NHER to raise their visibility and profiles. In return, they had received millions of dollars in grant from American Foundation, such as MacArthur Foundation and Ford Foundation. You would also recall that in the Webometrics Rankings of January 2010, UNN was ranked 19th in Nigeria and outside the first 100 in Africa and the first 6,000 in the world”. A former Vice-Chancellor of the university and current Minister of Power, Professor Chinedu Nebo, was once quoted as saying that the Medical School of this institution was publishing the least number of academic articles among the first generation universities when he assumed office in 2004.
So what is the task before the Governing Council of the University, composed of the Pro-Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Representative of the Federal Ministry of Education, and other prominent personalities who have proved their mettle in their various areas of human endeavour? After the hullabaloo that greeted the removal of the former Pro-Chancellor of the university, Dr. Emeka Enejere on December 13, 2013, it behoves  the Emmanuel C. Ukala (SAN) led Governing Council to, as a necessary condition for effective teaching, learning and  research  works, engender peace, harmony and  co-operation in the university community. This is the time for all and sundry to eschew rancour and share their experiences, knowledge, and talents for the good and upliftment of the university. Walking the golden path of partnership, consensus, peace, and harmony, will certainly open new vistas of greater heights for the ivory tower.
In fact, to know whether a university is fulfilling its basic functions, one must ask these fundamental questions: What is happening to learning and research in the institution?
What is happening to application of theoretical knowledge to practical problems? What is happening to professional training for high level jobs? What is happening to cultivation of real talents in all areas of human life? And what is happening to the relationship between the university and the society?
The Governing Council must, as a matter of urgency, address these questions and more.
In the final analysis, the success of a university is measured by its contribution to the well being of the people it serves and the overall development of humanity. It is not too late for the university to actualize the Plan of Action for the Second Decade for Education for Africa (2006-2015) which calls for generating ideas and programmes that will promote access to science and technology by all and strengthening research capacities and enhancing the teaching and learning of mathematics.
So much is expected of Emmanuel C. Ukala (SAN), the new Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of the Governing Council of the University. A graduate of the University of Lagos and a legal luminary, Ukala has, for over 30 years, traversed the legal firmament like a colossus. He is known to be a gentleman of impeccable character, a very strict disciplinarian and a stickler for merit and due process. He is therefore coming to the saddle with a formidable background of pro-active administration and a great passion to serve his fatherland.
The new Vice-Chancellor, Professor Benjamin Chukwuma Ozumba, a one time Provost of the UNN College of Medicine, is a renowned Professor of gynaecology. It is believed that Professor Ozumba will bring his wealth of knowledge and experience in university administration to bear on his new job.
It goes without saying that the entire nation are watching and expecting Ukala, Ozumba, and indeed, the Governing Council to transform UNN into a paradise of learning, teaching, and research – TO RESTORE THE DIGNITY OF MAN. Well, if the speed with which peace was restored to the university upon the assumption of office of Ukala as Chairman of Council and the resounding ovation with which the transparent process of selection of the new vice chancellor was received are indicators of the focus and capacity of this Governing Council, then there is much hope for the restoration of the dignity of the University.
Wilson is a public affairs analyst.

 

Chukwudi Wilson

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2020 World AIDS Day And The Covid-19 Challenge

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Since December 1, 1988, when the first World AIDS Day (WAD) was commemorated, the day has been one in which global attention has been on how to identify with people living with the virus, and creating awareness on how they could live healthily with it.
It has been a day in which governments, organisations and individuals across the world bring attention to the HIV epidemic, endeavor to increase HIV awareness and knowledge, speak out against HIV stigma, and call for an increased response to move toward ending the HIV epidemic.
For the first time since its emergence, this year has turned out to be when HIV/AIDS got the least attention globally, no thanks to the COVID-19 epidemic, which took the world by storm, affecting not just the health of the world’s population, but also the social, economic, and environmental well being of countries.
Although COVID-19 came to the fore in the last quarter of 2019, from February 2020 when it was declared a pandemic, virtually every other health concern took the back bench, including HIV/AIDS.
Consequently, as the world commemorates the 2020 WAD tomorrow there seems to be barely little to say about the pandemic in terms of spirited efforts made to check its trend in the world, including Nigeria, and, by extension, Rivers State. Attention has thus shifted more to the extent to which the emergence of COVID-19 may have affected the spread of HIV, and its implication to the lives of people living with AIDS.
Usually, WAD brings together people from around the world to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS and to demonstrate international solidarity in the face of the pandemic. It accords the opportunity to show solidarity with the millions of people living with HIV worldwide.
This takes various forms through which awareness is created on identified areas of the pandemic considered to be detrimental to people living with the virus, how to live the best way with it, and how to prevent it, especially in the face of a considerable number of people still living in denial.
But this year is unique, in that it has two matching themes, all geared towards eradicating the impact of the virus while at the same time sharing the responsibility of eradicating the epidemic.
The themes are “Ending the HIV/AIDS Epidemic: Resilience and Impact”, and “Global Solidarity, Shared Responsibility”. The implication is that there should be deliberate determination to continue in spelt out measures to prevent infection, and also check its spread among the populace, while also noting its effect on the people.
Expectedly, the focus on COVID-19 since it was declared a pandemic, which saw virtually all health facilities converted into care and support centres for COVID-19 patients across the world, several questions have been thrown up. Such questions include whether COVID-19 is worse with people living with HIV.
In response, researchers have stated that there is currently no evidence that people living with HIV are at a higher risk of being infected with Coronavirus, which causes COVID-19 illness.
In its presentation on “Global Information and Education on HIV and AIDS”, “avert.org” stated this in more explanatory manner:
“Our understanding of the risk of developing severe COVID-19 in people living with HIV is evolving. Current evidence suggests that HIV is less of a risk factor for severe COVID-19 than other health conditions, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, lung disease, cancer, diabetes, or being over a certain age. The best way to stay healthy is by taking your anti-retroviral treatment”, it stated.
Another question commonly asked is: if people living with HIV are more at risk of getting ill. Here, researchers advise that people with compromised immune system should take extra precautions to prevent Coronavirus infection.
They identified such persons to include those with low CD4 count, high viral load, and those who experience a recent opportunistic infection, such as tuberculosis. The reason is that their immune system may not be prepared to deal with the virus.
This is also in cognisance of the fact that people living with HIV are more vulnerable to respiratory infections when their HIV is not well managed. The implication is that they need to be taking their anti-retroviral treatment as prescribed, especially during this COVID-19 times.
Meanwhile, in addition to adhering strictly to the established COVID-19 prevention protocols, people living with HIV are advised to ensure that they take their anti-retroviral treatment regularly and as prescribed. They are also to try and stock-up on their anti-retroviral treatment in order to have enough for at least 30 days, or more.
In Rivers State, in spite of the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic, statistics from the State Ministry of Health reveal that between January and July 2020, estimated number of pregnant women stood at 193, 000, while number of pregnant women who attended Antenatal Care (ANC) was 12,809.
Number of women who were counselled, tested, and received results are 12,687, number of pregnant women who tested positive to HIV was 302, while number of pregnant women who newly started anti-retroviral therapy during ANC under 36 weeks of pregnancy is 257.
Also, number of live births by HIV positive women who delivered at health care facilities are 591, while number of HIV exposed infants born to HIV positive women who receive ARV prophylaxis within 72 hours of delivery is 499.
This implies that 92 of the HIV positive women who had their births in healthcare facilities were not placed on ARV prophylaxis. In essence, these women are most likely to infect their children with HIV.
The question, therefore, is why 92 women did not receive ARV prophylaxis: is it because the prophylaxis was not readily available, or that the women absconded, or decided to opt for Community Reproductive Health Influencers (formerly known as Traditional Birth Attendants – TBAs?).
The point here is, considering that within the period COVID-19 took the centre stage over all other health concerns in the State, as it has been in the globe, this may well be only one of numerous gaps the fight against HIV/AIDS may have experienced, thus emphasising the need for more concern for HIV/AIDS.
As the world marks this year’s WAD, therefore, there is the need for key stakeholders to genuinely appraise the extent to which the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the fight against the HIV/AIDS pandemic, in order to be able to ascertain the next step to be taken.

 

By: Sogbeba Dokubo

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Oyigbo Saga: Premium Times And The Burden Of Objective Journalism

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Our attention has been drawn to a viral social media post ostensibly put up by Premium Times on several of its verified social media handles including Twitter titled: Cooking, Oyigbo Investigations: Like Sanwo-Olu, like Wike https://twitter.com/PremiumTimesng/status/1330578311823626243?s=08
The post reads thus: “5ØÜ5ØÜ5ØÜ5ØÜ5Ø–Ü: PREMIUM TIMES will publish an investigative report on Oyigbo, revealing evidence of war-grade violence on defenceless and innocent people, extrajudicial killings, destructions and human rights abuses.
“This investigation by @Hazzanjustice (Taiwo Hassan Adebayo) is based on on-the-ground reporting, interviews with multiple sources, including witnesses, families of victims, military, mortuary and hospital sources and review of verified pictures.”
Without meaning to cast aspersions on  the Premium Times brand, we are a bit surprised that they would first proceed to advertise this investigative report in a sensational manner that sends disturbing professional and ethical signals about its intent and purpose.
This is quite uncharacteristic of the identified style of Premium Times but then we recognise that sometimes, there could be exceptions to the rule.
The case of exception with this purported investigative report therefore further reinforces  our suspicion that there could be more to it that goes beyond ethical and professional Journalistic service.
Again, the promotional blurb unambiguously presumes that the investigation has already been done and dusted with a judgemental conclusion.
This blurb reeks of highly opinionated, subjective and biased partiality against a particular party. Otherwise, how does one explain the meaning contained in this statement: “5ØÜ5ØÜ5ØÜ5ØÜ5Ø–Ü: PREMIUM TIMES will publish an investigative report on Oyigbo, revealing evidence of war-grade violence on defenceless and innocent people, extrajudicial killings, destructions and human rights abuses.”
Again, we find the obviously robust attempt to promote this investigation rather curious, especially coming in the wake of the expose by the Cable News Network, CNN on the #EndSARS peaceful protests and attendant events of October 20, 2020 at Lekki Tollgate.
This purported investigation by Premium Times, couched in the promotional phrase: “Cooking, Oyigbo Investigations: Like Sanwo-Olu, like Wike”, when placed pari-pasu with the trending CNN report, betrays the intention of the investigation and lends strong credence to the suspicion that Premium Times may have been contracted by some interests, to create a diversion from Lagos State and Lekki Tollgate to Rivers and Oyigbo.
Of course, we are not unaware of the reports of some shadowy organizations masquerading as civil society groups, which have been throwing out humongous figures of casualties in Oyigbo and painting gory pictures or unsubstantiated massacres and unproven extrajudicial killings.
This is no doubt a concerted effort to redirect national attention from Lagos to Rivers State and inserting Governor Wike’s name in their stories  to give them some dubious relevance.
While this observatory article is definitely not an attempt in anyway to preempt whatever Premium Times is ‘cooking’ or has ‘cooked’, it is important to state the facts clearly as they relate to Governor  Wike, Rivers State and Oyigbo Local Government Area.
First of all, Governor  Wike is the duly elected Governor of Rivers State and Oyigbo Local Government Area is one of the local government councils in the State, which gives him the sole constitutional authority to ensure that peace, security and harmonious coexistence of indigenes and residents are  maintained at all times.
The importance of this point is premised on Premium Times own admission that: “This investigation by @Hazzanjustice (Taiwo Hassan Adebayo) is based on on-the-ground reporting, interviews with multiple sources, including witnesses, families of victims, military, mortuary and hospital sources and review of verified pictures.”
We are therefore eager to know if in the course of its investigation, it also interviewed and interacted with the Chief Security officer of the State or any of his delegated officials to also get a first hand report of their side of the story. Any investigation that does not include this is completely null and void, misleading and made up of contrived falsehoods.
Let us state clearly too that in the aftermath of the gruesome events of arson and destruction that tainted what had been a very peaceful and nationally endorsed #EndSARS protests by Nigerian youths, all the states of the federation had been mandated by President Muhammadu Buhari to set up their independent Judicial Panels of Inquiry which had been one of the key demands of the protesters.
We are glad to note that not only did Rivers State set up its own Judicial Panel of Inquiry, but that Premium Times itself reported it copiously in its story by Cletus Ukpong, published on October 23, 2020, titled: “Wike tasks panel to probe if govt officials sponsor police brutality” and also in its November 9, 2020 report titled: #EndSARS: See the states that have set up panels of inquiry so far (in which Rivers State is number 26).
It would therefore be quite interesting to see if the Premium Times investigation also contains comprehensive reports and interviews from the Rivers State #EndSARS Judicial Panel of Inquiry, as Nigerians have already seen from what is transpiring with the Lagos Judicial panel.
Once again, while the penchant for mischief makers and truth twisters to whip up overblown sentiments and propaganda is very much at play, the clear facts of the #EndSARS protests in Oyigbo must continue to be stated clearly and unequivocally for the records and for posterity.
They are as follows:
On Tuesday 21st October 2020, an orgy of violence and destruction was inflicted on Oyigbo Local Government Area and some parts of Port Harcourt City Local Government Area under the guise of the #EndSARS protests. This evil, wicked and audacious action resulted in the unnecessary loss of scores of lives, including soldiers and police officers, and the destruction of police stations, court buildings and business premises.
Comprehensive security reports, corroborated by live radio broadcasts by their fugitive leader, applauding the mayhem and urging more destruction, revealed that it was the proscribed separatist group, the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra(IPOB) that carried out these attacks
Not done with Oyigbo, they also visited physical violence on members of some targeted communities which, but, for the quick intervention of the State Government and the security agencies, would have resulted in some form of internecine bloodbath.
The State Government, in a statewide broadcast by Governor Wike, promptly imposed a 24 hours curfew in Oyigbo and the other affected areas.
If the curfew had not been imposed comprehensively and in the nick of time, it would have exploded into a full blown ethnic war in the community and across Rivers State.
As a matter of fact, all over Rivers State, Oyigbo town has practically become known as IPOB’s main operational base in which they have attempted to rename and from where they have become notorious for launching premeditated violence and terror.
The fact also  remains that as a stranger element with strange political ideology, IPOB, which had already been proscribed and declared a terrorist organization by the Federal Government has no legal or moral right to invade Rivers State or any part therefore at its behest and hoist its sepratist flag; disturb public peace; and subject lives and property to violence or threat of destruction under any guise.
It is also germane to place on record, for the avoidance of doubt, that the IPOB attack was against the Police and the Nigerian Army.
Governor  Wike responded by reinforcing the proscription of IPOB and its activities in the State through a legitimate Executive order and imposing a curfew on the community to save lives and secure more state property from being destroyed by IPOB.
Unfortunately for IPOB however, its attack was against the Nigerian Army, which constitutionally reports only to the Chief of Army Staff and the President of Nigeria who is the Commander in Chef of the Armed Forces and head of the Federal Government that proscribed it.
Not only was it confirmed that the IPOB hoodlums who hijacked the #EndSARS protest, killed some soldiers, it was also reported that they stole some military rifles too and the leadership of the Nigerian Army, acting independently, instructed and directed the response and recovery operation of its stolen arms on its own mandate and authority.
Let us also state that Rivers State was the most peaceful State, amongst all the States and in spite of the various social media provocation, during the #EndSARS protests. Governor Wike in collaboration with security agencies ensured that the protesters peaceful until IPOB and its hoodlums hijacked the peacefulness of the process.
We would therefore expect and even demand that the Premium Times investigation, whose promotional intro does not even reflect the primary agent, instigator and perpetrator of the shedding of the innocent blood of 10 soldiers and policemen and the burning of courts and police stations, should squarely apportion blame to the necessary culprit in this matter, for a balanced and impartial representation of the real situation.
Any report which deliberately refuses to call out and chastise the real troublemakers in our society, will be totally unprofessional and an unfortunate disservice to the noble ethics of investigative Journalism.
It is thus in recognition of this professional demand that we recall the highly competent and comprehensive work done by the doyen of modern Nigerian Journalism, Chief Dele Momodu on the Oyigbo situation. He not only robustly interviewed the key figures in the story, including Governor  Wike, for which he received great praise and commendation from all quarters, he also bravely undertook an on the spot, fact finding mission to Oyigbo.
Like the seasoned veteran investigative journalist he is, he even broadcast his fact finding tour to Oyigbo live, for the avoidance of doubt and the findings of that mission, which may not be agreeable to some sepratist refuseniks, speaks volumes to counter the misinformation about Oyigbo and Governor  Wike, which has been making the rounds.
Lastly and very critical to whatever investigation or report that may come out from Oyigbo is the fact that several key figures who are central to the matter, have already spoken and given their verdict on the situation.
On Sunday, November 8, 2020, Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike held a historic meeting with South-East Governors, the leadership of Ohanaeze Ndi-Igbo and the Igbo Community in the State at Government House, Port Harcourt.
The backdrop of the meeting was the rife propaganda proclaiming an unsubstantiated massive extra-judicial response to the recent carnage, destruction and killings unleashed on Oyigbo by IPOB.
Chairman of South East Governors Forum, Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State, who led the delegation said that the visit was not at the instance of Governor Wike but was initiated by the South East leaders to find out the truth of what transpired in Oyigbo.
He said: “We are here to interact with you. We saw a number of things in the social media about Igbos in Oyigbo and as leaders, we put heads together and requested to meet with Governor Wike. We can claim here from your own accounts and as your leaders back home, that all what we read in the social media are all lies.
“I find it nauseating that IPOB could go to Benue and Rivers States to hoist its flag and claim the territories belong to the Igbo people. Igbo leadership are opposed to this stance by IPOB.
“I have lived in Rivers State for quite sometime. My children were born in Rivers State and I can tell you that in all these years there has never been any form of discrimination against us in Rivers State.
“Let us call a spade a spade. Ndi-Igbo have massive investment and infrastructure all over the country and somebody wants to start a war for us so that Igbos will be slaughtered again. Who brings war upon himself?
“Let me tell you something. We Ndi-Igbos do not support any form of criminality so I urge you not to buy into anyone who is a criminal from our side. We feel so free with our host Communities and have lived happily with them without any form of discrimination”
Umahi who also recalled an incident in his Community a few years ago sounded a note of warning: “Soldiers do not tolerate seeing a civilian handling a gun not to talk of stealing their rifle.”
In his own comments, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia state, whose boundary with Rivers State is Oyigbo Local Government Area  stated that it will be unfortunate if the Igbos wage war in Rivers, because that will be like waging war on itself.
Ikpeazu also warned Igbos to be wary of the Information they get from the social media and recalled how Aba would have been set ablaze a few years ago when some miscreants posted in the social media that people from a particular ethnic group had invaded the State and if not for Divine intervention, the fake information would have resulted into an ethnic war.
Spokesperson and Eze Ndigbo in Rivers and Bayelsa, Eze Maduagu Ajaele and Lady Regina Uwakwe, in their reactions,  commended  Governor Wike for his wide spread  infrastructural development in the State, noting that he had created an enabling environment for Igbo businesses and families to thrive.
Also speaking, the President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief John Nnia Nwodo, showered encomiums on Governor Nyesom Wike, describing him as a champion of restructuring of Nigeria and a man who loves justice.
He also warned that the leadership of Igbos cannot remain aloof while some misguided few who did not experience the brutal reality of the last civil war continue to fan the ember of disunity.
Indeed, any investigation on Oyigbo that does not capture the views of the traditional rulers, who are the custodians of the communities, will be erroneous and incomplete. This is because the Chiefs themselves, contrary to the misleading propaganda in the public space, have begged the Defence Headquarters not to withdraw soldiers deployed to Oyigbo   in order to prevent remnants of the Indigenous Peoples  of Biafra (IPOB), from regrouping.
The chiefs under the aegis of Ogbakor Oyigbo, made the appeal to the military when the Publisher of the Ovation International Magazine, Chief Dele Momodu, visited Oyigbo, to assess the situation in the area, and also urged all those who deserted Oyigbo to return as normalcy has been restored.
A high chief, Eze Ukwu III, Louis Okorie said that the community chiefs  do not approve the withdrawal of soldiers from Oyigbo and expressed serious concern that if soldiers are withdrawn from Oyigbo, IPOB anarchists would unleash violence in the area.
“The Ogbakor Oyigbo General held a meeting and said they will not allow the removal of soldiers from Oyigbo.  We thank  Governor  Wike for imposing the curfew which has calmed down the situation in Oyigbo.”
Another Chief, High Chief, Lisbery Onyegorom said: “We were surprised by the level of destruction by the IPOB. We are Rivers State and Niger Delta people. Our people are not members of IPOB. I am not aware of any Oyigbo indigene who is a member. We don’t allow that.
“Now, that the IPOB have killed some soldiers, all of them have ran away. The Army is investigating  and fishing them out. Most of the IPOB members arrested have given vital information about the remnants.  We are in support of the Governor’s ban on IPOB activities.”
Chief Onyegorom also frowned at the allegation of extrajudicial killings levelled against Nigerian Army by some persons working for some extraneous forces playing petty politics with the Oyigbo issue.
“We are solidly behind our Governor’s effort to maintain peace in Oyigbo. The Governor did not say, go and kill people. The Army came on a rescue mission . That’s what they came for. It is the deployment of the Army that gives us comfort to remain here. Let the Army stay until we are sure of peace in Oyigbo.
On his part, the Chairman of Oyigbo Local Government Area, Prince Gerald Oforji said most of the negative information peddled in the media on the situation in the area are unfounded.
“Today, I am very happy for the visit by the Ovation family to assess the wanton destruction carried out by the IPOB. Today, they have come to assess and see things for themselves based on lopsided information they have been getting concerning Oyigbo. I believe with what they have seen today, the world, can confirm that most of those negative information posted against Oyigbo, against Rivers State, are unfounded
No doubt, the last word on any investigation on Oyigbo must go to the indefatigable Chief Dele Momodu, who has contributed so much to expand the frontiers of  journalism in Nigeria, while maintaining the noble ethics of the profession in its finest investigative and reportorial tradition.
He said: “The way they describe Oyigbo as if there is massacre, there is no massacre going on.  I believe, we have moved round extensively, nobody has told me not to move to anywhere. A lot of people have challenged me that I can not come to Rivers and visit Oyigbo.
“So, I am here. For me, it is a mixture of sadness and joy. Joy, that I’m able to come here in peace, because the impression I got was that nobody could come here at all; that everywhere has been taken over by  the military and people are been massacred. I have gone round. I went to the market, I have gone to the police headquarters that was allegedly burnt down.”
Indeed, we magnanimously refer Premium Times and @Hazzanjustice (Taiwo Hassan Adebayo), to his seminal article titled: “As Peace Returns to Oyigbo, My Candid Observations” published in his PENDULUM BY DELE MOMODU, column on November 21, 2020 edition, of This day Newspaper.
This is highly recommended before concluding any ‘cooking’ investigation on Oyigbo.
As an international brand, Premium Times has the social responsibility to be factual, honest and dispassionate instead of allowing itself to be sucked into cheap propaganda and  misleading falsehoods.
Nsirim is Commissioner for Information and Communications, Rivers State.

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Synod: How N’Delta Anglicans Braved COVID-19

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The Diocese of Niger Delta Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) finally held its much awaited 2020 Synod, last week.
The Synod which had as its theme: “The Lord is my Helper” took place at the St. Albans Anglican Church in Obuama, Kalabari West Archdeaconry.
It would be recalled that the Synod was twice postponed because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
However, the Synod which had over 800 parishioners from 19 Archdeaconries in attendance with strict COVID-19 protocols observance was graced by the Rivers State Deputy Governor, Dr Ipalibo Harry Banigo, the Bishop of the Diocese, Rt. Rev. Ralph Ebirien and the Bishop of the Diocese of Etche, Rt. Rev. Okechukwu Precious Nwala, who was also the guest preacher.
Also in attendance were the Bishop Diocese of Okrika, Rt. Rev. Atuboyedia, Bishop of Ikwerre Diocese, Rt. Rev. Blessing Enyindah, while the Bishop of the Diocese of Niger Delta North was represented.
Bishop Ebirien who declared the Synod open, said the theme of the Synod was chosen in view of the crisis across the globe.
He said the coronavirus pandemic and the EndSARS protest both presented big challenges to the Diocese this year, adding that since the coronavirus pandemic seems to have defied all human intelligence, parishioners and the entire society must look up to God Almighty as their only source of help.
The cleric also used the occasion to draw the attention of both the state and federal governments to the rising level of insecurity in the country.
In his words, “the security challenges are still on.
The Boko Haram is still destroying communities in the North East region of the nation.
“The Fulani Herdsmen are still killing and destroying farmlands, kidnapping is going on in the nation.”
He stressed the need for government to find solution to the unemployment problem facing the country.
“Unemployment rate is increasing as many young people are not engaged in meaningful employment”.
The cleric said the deplorable conditions of the nation’s roads has led to increased road accidents, while corruption is on the increase in all strata of the society.
He said that time has come for Nigerians to cultivate the virtue of honesty as well as support the government in its effort to stem the rising tide of insecurity in the country.
“We thank the Federal Government for her effort to provide security in the nation. We call on the citizens to rise up to the security challenges in the society”, he said.
The Deputy GOVERNOR of Rivers State Dr (Mrs) Ipalibo Harry Banigo was elated that the Synod held in her home town, Obuama, stressing that the situation will bring blessings not only to Obuama but the entire Kalabari kingdom.
While stressing that the community was built on the foundation of Christ, she expressed the hope that the Synod will save souls, heal lives and give breakthroughs.
The guest speaker, Rt. Rev. Nwala, said people must keep trusting in God in the midst of adversity.
Nwala who is the Bishop, Diocese of Etche said the coronvirus pandemic and the various crises facing the world has shown that true justice only comes from God.
He also stressed the need for the government to put in place policies and programmes that will improve the lot of Nigerians.
A cross section of parishioners who spoke on the significance of the Synod said they were happy that the Synod finally held despite several postponements.
For the St. Albans Anglican Church, Obuama, it was a dream come true, stressing that it was the first time the church would host a synod since its foundation 114 years ago.
In an address presented on behalf of the parish, to the Synod, the Archdeacon of St. Albans Church, Obuama, Ven. S.L.G. Nteile, thanked the Almighty God and the entire Diocese for the privilege to host the Synod.
“I must express my profound gratitude and appreciation to Almighty God and to the Diocesan Board for the grace and privilege to host the Diocesan Synod for the first time in the history of St. Alban’s Church, Obuama, after 114 years existence as the first Christian Church in Obuama Community in Kalabari Kingdom and as Archdeaconry for ten years of relinquishment.”
He described the theme as very apt, timely and relevant to us and the society at large in a challenging time like this when coronavirus disorganized almost every political, economic, and religious activity; when cultism, kidnapping, sexual abuse, heretical teaching resulting from proliferation of churches is the order of the day, many died, some kidnapped, some carried to unknown destinations.
“In all these, the Lord, our helper, helped us to be alive as a people and Diocese,” he said.
Also speaking, the Dean of the St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Bonny, Very Rev. Richard Hart, said the Synod met the standard required as far as hosting of Synod was concerned.
Hart said a Synod was an annual event of the Anglican Faith as it helps to examine the past as well as plan ahead.
On her part, the Registrar of the Diocese, Dame Ibierre Fobby, said the Synod has created the opportunity for the Diocese to, once again, energize its activities as far as spreading the gospel of Christ was concerned.
According to her, parishioners have been further commanded to carry the touch of the Anglican Faith to all nooks and crannies of the Diocese.
On his part, Amasenibo Vivian Brown thanked God for making it possible for the Synod to hold. He said most parishioners had feared that the Synod would be cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Brown however urged for the medical aspect of the Diocese to be improved in subsequent Synods.
Also speaking, chairman of the local organising committee, Mr. Daobu Harvest Harry, said that Obuama was happy to host the entire Niger Delta Anglican Community.
He said it was the expectation of St. Albans Church to host a Synod “for 114 years, it was our desire to host a Synod and that desire was met when the Synod was zoned to Kalabari West Archdeaconry.”
Harry expressed the readiness of the church to host more Synods if given the opportunity.
For a former Permanent Secretary in the Rivers State Civil Service, Sir Isaac harry, it was a dream come true for the church and the entire community.
Also speaking, Engr. Samuel Ned, chairman of the Synod Planning Committee, said the centre message of the Synod is putting one’s trust in God.
“The theme is very apt and the message is for all to look on to God for solutions to their problems,” he said.
Other parishioners also thanked God for His mercies on the Diocese in view of the pandemic.
Although the Synod has come and gone, the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic are still there.
That is why all the faithful must pray for the pandemic to go away before the next Synod.
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