On Wednesday, May
22, 2013, I checked in for a Port Harcourt-Abuja flight and waited for four grueling hours before boarding was announced. As I was about to step on the staircase of the aircraft, my peripheral vision caught the unmistakable, towering frame of a man my generation of old Rivers State (Rivers and Bayelsa) owe so much for whatever we have today; a man whose record as governor of Rivers State in terms of infrastructural development, detribalized governance, human capacity building, with special reference to education etc, is yet to be threatened after almost four decades of leaving office. With my forehead almost abrading the tarmac, I said, “Your Eminence” and the distinctive baritone voice of His Eminence, King Alfred Papapriye Diete-Spiff, Amanyanabo of Twon Brass, boomed “Jason, how are you?” I felt exceedingly proud that he knows me personally as I stepped aside immediately; he stepped on the first rung of the staircase of the aircraft and I followed.
Ascending the staircase, I maintained the close distance of a step behind His Eminence and, in the bowel of the metal bird, what I saw humbled but did not surprise me. I saw a stenciled and glowing ear-to-ear smile on the faces of many of the passengers and a glimmering sparkle in their eyes. I knew that those passengers recognized Diete-Spiff and remembered his works as Governor of Rivers State. It is not unlikely that they were beneficiaries of his good governance. I surmised this from the specks and patches of grey hair on their heads and the faint lines on their faces, which are tell-tails of years on earth; tell-tails that placed them within the brackets of my generation. Spiff took his seat in the business class and, naturally, I proceeded to where I belong as a classroom teacher.
Seatbelt fastened and in a soliloquy, I asked: what value or price can be placed on those smiles and twinkles of the passengers? Venturing an answer, I said in silence that they were unquantifiable in monetary terms; in other words, no amount of money can purchase those kinetic expressions that welled from the bottom of the hearts of those people in the airplane. Spiritually speaking, those smiles and twinkles generate positive vibrations that reverberate beyond the energy fields of planet earth, across the universe and blend into the peculiar environment of the abode of the Divine part of which the earth is only an infinitesimal component; they are vibrations that are spiritually more efficacious than the boisterous prayers in modern day Christian worship. In my opinion, being responsible for generating such positive vibrations in individuals is what seeking and finding the face of the Divine is all about. It is not found in the temple, synagogue, church, mosque or “chursque” if you care; rather, it dwells in the temple of God, which is the hearts of every individual in creation irrespective of color, creed, location and station; Christ told us so. It is found in our thoughts, utterances, actions and inactions with special reference to our attitudinal disposition in our relationship with our fellow human beings, including our performance in positions of trust.
In the immediate post civil war years, hundreds of Rivers people of my generation and more had access to university education across the world, based on the liberal educational policy of Governor Diete-Spiff, who was, incredibly, in his twenties. At the time, there were only five universities in Nigeria with one in the totality of what we now know as southeast and south-south zones, which means none was in old Rivers State, so admission for those of us from the minorities was Herculean. Based on Diete-Spiff’s education policy, all you required as an indigene of the State, were the basic qualification and admission into a university anywhere on earth and “wham” you were on your way there. Personally, I had the good fortune of making the transition from rock’n’roll musicianship to broadcasting and disc jockeying in Nigeria Broadcasting Corporation (NBC), Port Harcourt. One day in between 1972 and 1973, a colleague, Stella Amachree, and I left the NBC studios on William Jumbo Street in the hands of a rookie called Chima Okor and headed for the Catering Rest House on Harley Street. On our way back through what is now known as Cookey-Gam Drive, we caught sight of the unmistakable and imposing frame of Governor Diete-Spiff, strolling towards us with some Naval personnel following at a close distance. No one else, but Stella and I were on the street; so, we stood still as a mark of respect.
With his superior height and ramrod frame, the governor seemed oblivious of our presence as he continued in our direction. Stella led in the greeting and Diete-Spiff responded with that peculiar jazzy voice, stopped and asked for our names. (I learned quite early in life that when you are with a ravishing beauty in the presence of a “big man,” you watch your tongue) so again, Stella led the way in giving out our names. With a poker smile, the governor commended Ship Ahoy and Shaft Corner, which were two of our radio shows; then he said, “We should build a Rivers State Radio” and walked on. Wow! Good God!! Goodness gracious!!! Stella and I were in total shock at the fact that not only was he familiar with our names, but he also appreciated our programs.
At the radio station, it sounded like a fairytale when we narrated the experience to our colleagues. The prospect of a Rivers State radio? Wow!!! From Cornelia Omoniabipi and Peter Brown, who, along with Stella and I, were the microphone crew of Shaft Corner, through Bob Bikefe, Mike Oku, Bernard Graham-Douglas, Ifiemi Ombu, Pat Ketebu, Lolo Berepiki, Emmanuel Dokubo, Sunny Meshach-Hart, Steve Bubagha, Monima Briggs, Matthew Mieyeseigha, Boma Erekosima, Tony Alabraba, Chima Okor to Seniboye Itiye, our very affable producer and boss, everyone was elated-we were practically walking on cloud nine.
Behold, that casual statement by Governor Diete-Spiff turned into a public policy; so, it came to pass that I traveled to the United States where Bernard, Ifiemi, Emmanuel and Tony joined me in studying Broadcasting; Stella studied law at Oxford University, Peter went for metallurgy at University of Manchester, Mike and Pat went to Scotland and studied Broadcasting and Accountancy, respectively. In other words, most of us flew overseas on the wings of the dreams and developmental drive of Diete-Spiff; that exodus created entry space for Siene Allwell-Brown, Maudlin Park and other Rivers people in the “talk industry.” Today, I have the special privilege of holding the oldest BSc (Broadcasting) in old Rivers State-a tiny little place in history. That scenario at NBC was replicated at various subsections of the Rivers State community during that epoch-one man’s selfless dream lifted a generation of his people; the developmental multiplier effect of that achievement is a topic for another day.
My take on the essence of man’s quest for the face of the Divine is that, in our sojourn in this corporeality within the context of the eternal pursuit, what we keep is what we give, not what we take. The Time Traveler of Ecclesiastes sums it up in his extensive but concise treatise on materialism and vanity. Diete-Spiff gave his heart to the Rivers community; and today, Rivers people, especially my generation, hold him at the highest esteem and virtually worship him. No one can take that from him-not natural disaster, ill health or even the grave can take that from him. Even if he has never seen the inner walls of any house of God, he will eternally keep the essence of that which he gave.
The spiritual nucleus of those positive vibrations generated by those smiles and twinkles aboard that flight in 2013 sang and still sing Diete-Spiff’s song and dutifully delivers the quintessence of the his being to the Divine as part of the testimony of his life here on earth-a veritable testimony of service to humanity. According to Jane Fraser, a globally acclaimed female banker, “if you don’t have humanity, you have nothing.” Financially speaking, Diete-Spiff may not be classified as one of the rich people in old Rivers State but he is certainly exceedingly wealthy, spiritually. Because he did not want, the Lord became his shepherd; so, he shall never lack; and this is the difference between those who seek office to serve humanity and those who starve humanity by selfishly feathering their nest. This is an eternal lesson our leaders of today should learn; lessons, which, if learned and the essence of Psalm 23 embraced by all, the ever-expanding frontiers of corruption will be reined in and human society will achieve the intendment of God-“[His] kingdom come on earth.” Unfortunately, with the preposterous permissive philosophy of vicarious remission of sins, Christendom has lost sight of the essence of the admonition of the Man from Galilee thus: “do not be deceived; God is not mocked; what a man soweth so shall he reap.”
Today, Diete-Spiff lives in blissful serenity with his social environment and will live positively forever in the everlasting memories of my generation and our posterity. And I ask: How many of our past leaders live in the tranquility Diete-Spiff enjoys? And how many of the present leaders covet it? Keep your answer close to your heart. “He that has ears let him hear.”
Osai is of the Institute of Foundation Studies (IFS), Rivers State University of Science & Technology.
O. Jason Osai
The Effect Of Gas Flaring On Climate Change
Climate in simplicity of terms is the average whether at a particular place, incorporating the features such as temperature, precipitation, humidity and windiness.
The phenomenon Climate Change is a cyclic modification that occurs in the Earth’s climate due to the changes in the atmosphere and also the interactions between the atmosphere and other chemical, biological, geologic and geographical structure within the earth planet.Scientists have been able to study climate change by looking at tree cores, atmospheric composition, sediment cores, ice cores and through observation.
The atmosphere is a fluid that is constantly in motion. Both its physical properties, rate and direction are influenced by the variety of factors such as, solar radiation, ocean currents, geographic position of the continent and atmospheric chemistry. All these factors change through time. Some factors change in short periods of time while others change over very long timescale. As stated earlier, many factors can be responsible for climate change, one of such factors is the focal point of this article.
This article addresses the concept of climate change within the set of Gas Flaring, how this human activity constitutes to the trend in the earth system as well as possible solutions in view.
Gas flaring is an activity of man which has become an enormous contributor to climate change. It is loosely defined as the burning of natural gas.
When natural gas is produced as a byproduct of oil extraction, two options are available which are flaring or venting. Venting is a controlled release of unburned natural gasses into the atmosphere. During venting operations, methane, carbon dioxide, volatile organic compounds and gas impurities are released. Conversely, flaring is the controlled burning of natural gasses into the atmosphere during production process.
Gas flaring is a major operation carried out by oil and gas production companies and has become a major contributor to the mayhem of global warming.
Gas flaring is a high-temperature oxidant process used to burn combustible components, mostly hydrocarbons of waste gases from industrial operations. Emission data shows that Natural gas, propane, ethylene, propylene, butadiene and butane constitute 95% of the waste gases flared.
During combustion reaction, several intermediate products are formed and eventually, most of them are converted to CO2and water. Some quantities of stable intermediate products such as carbon monoxide, hydrogen and hydrocarbons then escape as emission.
Gases flared in refineries, petroleum production, and chemical industries, are composed of low molecular weight with High Heating Value.
Flaring contributes significantly to the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions with negative impacts on the climate. These greenhouse gases prevents a significant amount of heat from the sun to escape into space rather these gases absorb some of the heat and cause a re-radiation. This radiation eventually increases the atmospheric temperature that causes a warming in the Earth’s surface. It is recorded that 1 ton of flare released into the atmosphere is equivalent to 3 tons of greenhouse gas emission. This warming, ‘Global Warming’ then results in a variation in the climate, otherwise known as Climate Change.
According to Engr. OsonduOpara, a Front-end Engineer at the National Liquefied Natural Gas Nigeria (NLNG), gas flaring cannot be completely eradicated or eliminated because combustion must take place when pressure builds else the result will be an explosion. It is rather feasible to mitigate the emission of the hydrocarbons released into the atmosphere. In the same vein, Engr. Dr. EmekaOkafor, a lecturer from the Department of Petroleum and Gas Engineering in the University of Port Harcourt, also asserts that ‘gas must be flared’.
Apparently, gas flaring is an unavoidable human activity carried out by Petroleum and Gas Production Companies. If this is the case, it is a phenomenon that has come to stay until technological measures which creates an alternative to flaring emerge. Of course, venting is still not a preferable option because it still does emit greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and environment.
We hope that the COP26, will come up with better measures to curb this menace of Gas Flaring and its impact on to global warming resulting to Climate Change.
Engr. OSonduOpara; Osondu.Opara @nlng.com
Engr. Dr. Emeka Okafor: emeka.okafor @uniport.com
Aberetogha is an Editor with Zenger. news and resides in Bonny, Rivers State.
By: Augusta Lolo Aberetogha
HIV/AIDS: As 2030 Draws Near…
Years ago, the immediate past National Coordinator of the Network of People Living With HIV/AIDS In Nigeria (NEPWHAN), Victor Omoshehin, expressed fear over the ability of Nigeria to meet the United Nations’ “Vision 2030” of eliminating HIV in the country.
His fear stemmed first from the fact that Nigeria relies more on international donor agencies in terms of finance for HIV/AIDS-related programmes, and also the seeming inability of the Federal and State Governments to take up the responsibility of fully financing HIV/AIDS programmes.
There was also the gradual withdrawal of their finances by such international donor agencies that were of the belief that, given the length of period they had spearheaded HIV/AIDS preventive programmes in the country, government at various levels should have been in position to own-up the processes.
Omoshehin summed up his fear thus: “If the Government of Change will not increase the domestic funding for HIV, then Nigeria cannot own up to the responsibility of achieving the Vision 90:90:90 by 2030 and we cannot end AIDS by 2030”.
During a visit to Nigeria from 7th to 10th of February, 2016, the then Executive Director of the United Nations Programme on AIDS (UNAIDS), Michel Sidibé, met with Nigeria’s Vice-President, Yemi Osinbajo, and urged the Federal Government to increase its support for the Maternal, Neonatal and Child Health Week, with the aim that all pregnant women are tested for HIV by the end of 2016, and all women who test HIV-positive have immediate access to antiretroviral therapy.
The Vice President told Sidibé, during the meeting, that Nigeria was making huge budget allocations for social investment programmes, in part, to increase access to health care and help end the AIDS epidemic.
How much this amounts to, and to what extent such budget was truly executed on the purpose it is meant for was not clearly stated. This was in the face of widespread allegations of non-accountability of funds allocated to the fight against the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
One question that readily comes to mind at this juncture is if anything else has been done towards changing the narrative for the better, especially in the light of the emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic which many believe has distracted attention from HIV.
In a recent interview with newsmen, the Director-general of the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), Mr. Gambo Gumel Aliyu, stated that the focus on Covid-19 has not affected the mandate of NACA in its quest to check the HIV/AIDS trend in Nigeria.
According to him, “NACA has been up and doing in the fight against HIV/AIDS by implementing our mandate. We have done extremely well during the pandemic and have recorded huge results we had never recorded before. We are passionate and optimistic to achieve our mission to the letter”.
While noting that HIV/AIDS in Nigeria is largely funded by international donor agencies, Aliyu explained that “Nigeria is contributing less than 10 per cent at the moment, and this contribution is what we are increasing on an incremental basis every year.
“We have this agreement with them (donor agencies) that, every year, we shall take an additional 50,000 people living with HIV/AIDS from the total number they are treating to add to our number,” he said.
On June 8, 2021, the United Nations’ General Assembly held a high-level meeting on AIDS in which United Nations member-states adopted a set of new and ambitious targets with a pledge to end all inequalities faced by communities and people affected by HIV towards ending AIDS.
Towards this end, they agreed to reduce the annual number of new HIV infections to under 370, 000 and AIDS-related deaths to 250, 000, eliminate new HIV infections among children, end paediatric AIDS and eliminate all forms of HIV-related discrimination by 2025. They also committed to providing life-saving HIV treatment to 34 million people by 2025.
It is believed that if the international community reaches the targets, 3.6 million new HIV-infections and 1.7 million AIDS-related deaths will be prevented by 2030. To achieve this, the political declaration calls on countries to provide 95% of all people at risk of acquiring HIV within all epidemiologically relevant groups, age groups and geographic settings with access to people-centered and effective HIV combination prevention options.
It also calls on countries to ensure that 95% of people living with HIV know their HIV status, 95% of people who know their status to be on HIV treatment, and 95% of people on HIV treatment to be virally suppressed.
This target, 95:95:95, is an improvement from the previous ambitious target of 90:90:90, but has the same goal of either eliminating HIV, or reducing its spread to the barest minimum.
The question is what does this mean for Nigeria, knowing that towards the previous target of 90:90:90 the country’s efforts at meeting the target took a nosedive at some point in terms of funding, especially after international donor agencies started reducing their funding, leading to gradual pulling out.
Already, several HIV/AIDS programmes aimed at checking its trend have either gone moribund, or ignored because donor agencies no longer sponsor them. This is in the face of rampant allegations of deep-rooted fraud by way of diversion of monies meant for HIV/AIDS interventionist activities amounting to billions of Naira.
Meanwhile, the NACA DG last October stated that Nigeria needed the sum of $2.4 billion to control the spread of HIV in the country for the next three years. He explained that the amount is an estimation needed “to reach where we have targeted to be”.
According to him, the amount will enable Nigeria “to achieve the 95-95-95 initiative of the United Nations, where 95 per cent of people living with HIV know their HIV status; 95 per cent of people who know their status are on treatment; while 95 per cent of people are on treatment with suppressed viral loads, and we are on track”.
He noted that “United States Government alone is investing, this year, over $400,000,000, global fund is investing over a $100,000,000 this year and the government of Nigeria is contributing its part”.
Explaining Nigeria’s contributions further, Aliyu said “over the last one year, the Nigerian government invested about a $100,000,000, and 50, 000,000 persons are needed to be tested annually, but now the figure has been reduced because, when we did the estimation, we never knew we would identify such a huge number over the last 20 months.
“So, with that projection, we may need to reduce the number and test below 50,000,000 persons to reach the range of 1,800,000 to 1,900,000; because, right now, we have 1,500,000.
“Remember the annual incremental number is 50,000 to 60,000 every year. In the last two years, we identified 350,000, which is more than five times the number we identified every year”, he said.
With this, the NACA boss says the Agency is on its way to attaining its target to end HIV/AIDS by 2030.
“It is very feasible”, he said, adding that “We are not mincing words. In 18 months we have identified an additional 350,000 on treatment. In another 18 months, if we identify another 350,000 persons, we are done: we have reached the control level.
“Once you reach the level, that is the first step. You have to reach the control level first, that is the condition. We have to control HIV first before we can end it. So, the control level is supposed to happen in 2025, but here in Nigeria we are very hopeful that this control level target will happen in 2022”, he said.
By: Sogbeba Dokubo
Planting Trees To Save The Earth
As an annual event, World Earth Day is celebrated to demonstrate support for environmental protection from degradation and experts say if the Earth has to be restored, humans must begin to plant as many trees as possible.
Until quite recently, it was common for people to plant trees as symbols of events; for instance, planting of orange or coconut trees in the name of a child, after its birth.
Marking the 2021 Earth Day celebration recently, the Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Port Harcourt, Professor Prince Mmom, said efforts at saving the trees is a race for the survival of the human race. With the theme: “Save The Trees, Save Humanity” organised by the Junior Chamber International (JCI), the varsity don said the Earth’s trees and forests are critical components of the world’s biodiversity as many forests are more biodiverse than others.
He pointed out that forests cover 31 per cent of the global land area and added that the total forest area is 4.06 billion hectares, which is approximately 50 x 100m per person.
Mmom explained that since 1990, it is estimated that 420 million hectares of forests have been lost through conversion to other land uses even though the rate of deforestation has decreased over the past three decades. According to him, between 2015 and 2020, the rate of deforestation was estimated at 10 million hectares per year, down from 16 million in the ‘90s and he said inhabitants on Earth risked losing basic life support systems rapidly on a daily basis.
The don maintained that the Global Tree Search database reports the existence of 60,082 tree species but that more than 1400 trees were assessed as critically endangered and in urgent need of conservation action. As at December 2019, he said, a total of 20,334 tree species had been included in the IUCN Red list of threatened species of which 8056 were assessed as globally threatened and, therefore, became vulnerable.
Emphasising the values of trees, he said from the existence of man on Earth, trees have furnished human beings with two of life’s essentials such as food and oxygen. As human beings evolved, he insisted that trees have provided additional necessities such as shelter, medicine and tools. His words: “Today, their value continues to increase and more benefits of trees are being discovered as their role expands to satisfy the needs created by our modern lifestyles”.
Mmom averred that trees are form an important part of every community as it concerns aesthetics and as he puts it: “we gather under the cool shade they provide during outdoor activities with family and friends”. He said that spiritually, they are beautiful and majestic, pleasant, relaxed, comfortable-feeling, inspirational, provide mental health and emphasised that many people plant trees as living memories of life-changing events.
The former Director, Centre for Disaster Risk Management, pointed out that trees are source of raw materials for industrial uses which generate income and eco-tourism potentials and added that they provide livelihoods that are essential for sustainable food production and medicines.
“Trees and forests are homes for the earth’s terrestrial bio-diversity”, he opined and said that the values of trees cannot be overemphasised as they contribute to their environment by providing oxygen and improving air quality.
He stated that Earth’s function of conserving water, preserving soil cannot be overlooked as shade from trees slows water evaporation and added that as trees transpire, they increase atmospheric moisture.
“They support wildlife, conserve soil and prevent erosion and nutrient loss; they are storehouses of large amounts of carbon, absorb carbon dioxide (Co2), removing and storing the carbon while releasing oxygen back into the air”, he explained.
In continental United States, the professor pointed out that non-federal forests store an estimated 38.6 billion metric tons of carbon which makes the climate to ameliorate. He regretted that rapid decimation of trees and forests is a threat to the survival of humanity even as he advised that human beings must take bold steps to reverse the trend for the benefit of present and future generations. As he puts it: “We must reduce the rate of deforestation. We must plant more trees, cut one, plant ten and plant at least 100 trees a year”.
Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) are doing more to create awareness on the need for people to plant more trees since one of the reasons is to secure the Earth especially with the soot all over the environment as a result of illegal refining of petroleum products.
Recently in Port Harcourt, Journalists for Sustainable Development in Nigeria (JSDN) flagged- off ceremony of the 2021 Tree Planting Campaign exercise with the theme: “Tree Planting Awareness Campaign: Combating Climate Change Through Sustainable Tree Planting Exercise”.
At the event, the Executive Director of JSDN, Pastor Parry Benson, appealed to those who felled trees in the name of harvest without replacement to stop as that was responsible for the depletion of the ozone layer, which is currently causing a serious threat to the health of humans on Earth.
He appealed to the Rivers State Government and other relevant authorities to set up taskforce that will be responsible for prohibition of felling of trees in order to tackle reckless cutting down of trees.
The Chairperson, Nigeria Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ), Rivers State chapter, Susan Serekara-Nwikhana, during this year’s flag-off of the 2021 tree planting exercise, urged people to plant trees in their surroundings if they wish to live longer on Earth.
An environmental engineer, Monday Amos, said, the Earth is for man and therefore human beings have to explore and exploit the earth and its resources to survive. He said that the result of exploitation on the Earth currently is the climate change, pollution and extinction of biodiversity that are due to the activities of man.
The activities of man on Earth, he said, are affecting humanity and this has given rise to how to solve the threat posed by the activities.
“But the Earth cannot remain the way it was created. As long as man dwells on Earth, activities carried out for man’s survival cannot be ignored. When people occupy a particular space definitely there will be a change in that environment”, he maintained.
In the olden days as well as present day, man needed certain things to survive on Earth. Humans need firewood which is got from trees for cooking. Charcoal got from fire is used for ironing when used with charcoal iron. The smoke from burning firewood changes the atmosphere.
So, because of these, experts say there is the need to explore sustainably instead of getting to the point of exploitation. Exploitation may take the Earth beyond its caring capacity to the extent that cannot replenish itself. The issue of climate change is due to extreme exploitation of the Earth, changes in activities in Earth – changes in period of rainfall, a little from the exact period as well as dry season and harmattan not taking place when they should.
Carbon dioxide is produced from activities of man, such as burning of petroleum products, gas and firewood. This, in the long-run, can affect the human system. In the Niger Delta area, according to experts, refining of petroleum products by throwing a lot of Co2 into the air and gas flaring heat up the system. Economic activities by man contribute in damaging the Earth, environment and the eco-system. Yes, the activities are necessary for life to be sustained but the resources got from the Earth must be explored to achieve economic growth.
So, sustainable development advocates that humans can achieve and explore the resources of the environment to achieve the economic growth without damaging the environment. This is the reason for advocating for renewable energies by many countries of the world to put a stop to the exploitation of the Earth.
For us to restore the Earth as much as we can, humans must plant trees to stop deforestation. When trees grow, they form shade that stops Co2 in the atmosphere from eating the Earth.
Agricultural practises such as farming, hunting and fishing help man to survive in life but they have to be done sustainably. If humans have to restore the Earth, the locally operated refineries must be put to a stop because of black soot. Black soot is the implication of human activity on Earth. Since World Earth Day is an international activity; it is high time international best practices were put in place in refining.
A chemical engineer, Titus Nbah, said modular refineries must be established in the Niger Delta region since locally operated refineries part of the problems affecting the Earth. Gas can be injected into the soil using the available technologies instead of flaring.
He said Nigeria should domesticate some of the enabling laws which have been signed. Pupils should be educated from the kindergarten on laws guiding the rules on restoring the Earth. Since the essence of World Earth Day is to re-echo man’s commitment to the environment, the end product should be change of behaviour and policies that will restore the Earth.
By: Eunice Choko-Kayode
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