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Prostate Cancer: How Preventable?

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That prostate cancer kills 26
men in Nigeria daily, is a dramatic increase from the daily figure of 14 men recorded six years ago.
Its equally deadly sister — breast cancer — kills 40 women in Nigerian daily, up from the daily figure of 30 women in 2008.
Many women are having mastectomy — surgery to remove all breast tissue from a breast as a way of treating or preventing breast cancer.
The media were recently awash with the news of a Hollywood actress, Angelina Jolie, who had preventive mastectomies when tests showed that she “has increased risk of breast cancer due to genetic alteration”.
Observers often ask certain questions: Should men also start having prophylactic prostatectomy – the removal of the prostate tissues? Should they first worry about death or their sex life in considering treatment for prostate cancer?
Is prostatectomy the simplest way of lowering the chances of contracting prostate cancer, whether there are signs or no signs?
For most men, when asked such questions, their answer was an emphatic “No”: they would never contemplate having prostatectomy under any circumstances.
The prostate is a gland found only in males; it is located below the urinary bladder and in front of the rectum.
Prostate cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the prostate.
The National Cancer Institute says that prostate cancer is found mainly in older men with symptomatic signs, including weak flow of urine or frequent urination and trouble starting the flow of urine.
Other signs include trouble emptying the bladder completely; pain or burning sensation while urinating and blood in the urine or semen.
A 40-year-old medical doctor, Dr Israel Adelaja, vowed that he would never have a prostatectomy and he would not recommend it to anyone.
“As an African man, your manhood is your pride. So, why would I want to risk impotency and infertility just to limit the risk of contracting prostate cancer?
“The prostatectomy does not completely eliminate the risk and so, I won’t recommend it,” Adelaja said.
Also, Mr Johnson Iyiola, a 38-year-old journalist, said: “I would rather have prostate cancer, which I know can be cured if detected early, than choosing to become impotent. Otherwise, let the cancer kill me.”
An artisan, Ojo Ishola, 24, said that his manhood was all he had going for him.
“If all else fails, even if I don’t have money, my manhood must never fail me. It is my confidence.
“Besides, I am an African and I take pride in my manhood, which is necessary to procreate,” he said.
However, 36-year-old Dayo Olaoye, an IT consultant, has a different opinion.
His words: “If prostatectomy would mean prolonging my life, why not? Besides, I already have children and I want to live to see them succeed.”
Funny enough, women are not left out of the debate. When asked if she would want her husband to have a prostatectomy, Mrs Biola Aribigbe, a 34-year-old banker, categorically said that she would never endorse it.
“First of all, why use a fire extinguisher when there is no fire.
“Anything can kill him; an accident, more likely than prostate cancer, can kill one,” she said.
A 25-year-old student, Miss Victoria Reuben, said that prostatectomy “can affect a man’s ability to perform in bed and that will take out the fun from the marriage.
“Sex is an essential part of marriage, like money and communication, and I would not want to cheat on my husband.
“No! I would not like him to have prostatectomy; we will consequently seek alternative treatment.”
However, a cancer expert, Prof. Aderemi Ajekigbe, said that having one’s prostrate removed did not necessarily mean that the prostate cancer had been eliminated completely.
Ajekigbe, who is the Head of the Department of Radiotherapy and Oncology, College of Medicine, University of Lagos, said:
“Prophylactic prostatectomy doesn’t mean you are safe from prostate cancer.
“Even if we do take the prostate out, there is still a chance that you have already developed the cancer,’’ he added.
He said that prostatectomy might cause complications like impotency and erectile dysfunction.
Ajekigbe said that while castration was a sure way of not developing prostate cancer, it also meant robbing a man of his ability to procreate.
“Although prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in men, its incidence is still not as high as breast cancer.
“Studies reveal that cancer of the prostate never occurs in eunuchs. The mere fact that you are a man predisposes you to having prostate cancer,” he said.
“Besides, the management of cancer is multidisciplinary, not only one. Besides, if the cancer has spread, it may need chemotherapy, radiotherapy hormonal therapy,” he added.
Ajekigbe stressed that prostate cancer was a hormonal dependent cancer like breast cancer and ovarian cancer.
He said that age was another risk factor in prostate cancer, as the disease was common among men who were over 50 years of age.
He advised that men that were over 40 years of age should have their Prostate Specific Antigens (PSA) done yearly so as to ensure early detection of the disease.
“The normal value of PSA should be between 0-4 and if a rising value is noticed through screening, it might indicate a problem. Then, further tests can be done and prostate cancer can be detected early.
“Most cancers, if detected early, are treatable but late presentation can be disastrous. Early detection is very important for successful treatment outcomes and also for survival,” he said.
Prostate Specific Antigens (PSA), according to the National Cancer Institute, is a protein produced by cells of the prostate gland. The PSA test measures the level of PSA in a man’s blood.
However, Ajekigbe said that there were a lot of things within the people’s control that could be done to minimise the risks of developing prostate cancer.
“A healthy diet and plenty of physical activity and a healthy weight will help.
“You should incorporate eating vegetables and fruits into your daily diet and you should consume a little of everything,” he said.
A professor of pathology, Prof. Maarten Bosland, also conceded that prostatectomy could induce several complications, adding that the operation was long and hazardous, unlike that of mastectomy.
He said that while BRACA Gene 1 or 2 gene mutations increased cancer risks, prophylactic prostatectomy appeared to be the best option for those with genetic alterations.
He, nonetheless, added that he would not recommend prostatectomy.
Bosland of the Department of Pathology, College of Medicine, University of Illinois, in the U.S., was recently in Nigeria for an inaugural lecture organised by the Faculty of Basic Medical Sciences, College of Medicine, University of Lagos, on prostate cancer.
He underscored the need to be mindful of the fact that pre-emptive surgeries could not eliminate the risk of prostate cancer completely, adding, however, that certain lifestyle choices might guard against the development of the disease.
“I would never recommend prophylactic prostatectomy, as I have seen many people who had complications after the surgery.
“It is a hazardous operation and different from mastectomy which is a less hazardous operation.
“It may cause urinary incontinence (not being able to control urination); damage to the urethra and the rectum, urinary flow difficulties and other surgical complications,” he said.
Bosland said that prostatectomy could also cause erectile problems.
“Erectile problem is a serious side-effect of prostatectomy, as the nerves that control a man’s ability to have an erection lay next to the prostate gland. The nerves are often damaged or removed during surgery,” he said.
While conceding that there were no known specific causes of prostate cancer, Bosland said that certain factors like family history; genetics and high fat diet, increased the chances of developing prostate cancer.
“Age, as a determining factor, isn’t really specific because the problem is that even in a man that is 25 or 30 years old, there is a 30-per-cent chance that he has a small cancer in his prostate.
“Whether the cancer becomes aggressive early on or not is unknown,” he added.
Bosland said that the management of prostate cancer in black men and white men might not be so different if they had equal access to health care.
He said that early detection and treatment could, therefore, reduce the mortality rate of prostate cancer in black men.
“In the US, there is a notion that prostate cancer in black men is higher and more advanced than in white men; this may be because of the late presentation of the condition at hospitals.
“However, when black men and white men have equal access to health care, they tend to have similar mortality rates. That suggests that, may be, the difference is not so big.
“But if access to healthcare is different, it may be three times higher in black men,” he added.
Sharing similar sentiments, the National Coordinator, Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy (CECP), Dr Abia Nzelu, attributed the high mortality rate of prostate cancer to its late presentation at appropriate hospitals.
She said that lack of awareness and weak health system also contributed to the high mortality rate.
“We are not doing enough to counter this situation. Most men report the cancer late, particularly when the symptoms have reached an advanced stage; this is largely due to their ignorance and they die unnecessarily.
“Death from prostate cancer is preventable but we are not seeing more survivors because of the dearth of facilities like comprehensive cancer centres,” she said.
Nzelu, nonetheless, said that the people’s adoption of healthy lifestyles, regular physical exercises and right eating habits could limit the risk of contracting cancer..
She also said that routine screenings would ensure early detection of the disease and “early detection ensures greater survival chances”.
She, nonetheless, conceded that even some affluent Nigerians failed to survive prostate cancer in spite of the fact that they had access to quality treatment abroad, attributing the development to the late presentation of the condition at hospitals.
“Recently, the media were awash with news of several cancer-related deaths, especially of very important and well-known personalities.
“However, when the late Nelson Mandela had prostate cancer at the age of 83, all aspects of his diagnosis and treatment took place in South Africa,’’ he added.
Nzelu called for the collaborative efforts of corporate bodies and well-meaning Nigerians to bridge the perceptible funding gaps in the establishment and management of comprehensive cancer centres to reduce the mortality rate.
“Many Nigerians have no access to basic cancer screening, much less optimal cancer treatment.
“We have no single Comprehensive Cancer Centre (CCC), which costs about 63 million dollars to establish, and a Mobile Cancer Centre that costs about 600,000 dollars to set up.
“Radiotherapy, which is one of the essential equipment needed to manage cancer cases, is not available in most tertiary hospitals in Nigeria.
“Many of the cancer centres in other countries are funded through donations and charity; we can do the same in Nigeria, it is not beyond us,” she said.
However, Prof. Oluyemi Akinloye of the Department of Clinical Chemistry, College of Medicine, University of Lagos, said that the lack of a national database had affected prostate cancer care in the country.
“Specifically with prostate cancer, even though the same thing applies to most of the other cancers, there is a lot of genetic diversity. Our genetic makeup is completely different from that of the Caucasians.
“Most of the information we have currently are from the developed world; from the Caucasians.
“For us to have a complete understanding of the pathogenesis of the problem and be able to address it, we need to look at it globally because it is a global problem really,” Akinloye said.
All said and done, the provision of adequate screening and management facilities for prostate cancer and others will not force people to resort to adopting such extreme measures as voluntary castration and prostatectomy.

Akanni is of  News Agency of Nigeria .

 

Bukola Akanni

President Goodluck Jonathan

President Goodluck Jonathan

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Should Daughters Inherit Father’s Property?

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Recently, a court in one of the southern states nullified the practice of denying female children the right to inherit their father’s property. The ruling confirms that the female child can inherit her father’s property. It is good but how the message is going to be sent to the villages at the grassroots calls for concern.
This issue of women inheriting directly from their lineage is supposed to be translated to the rural areas. This will give them a sense of belonging.
One thing is for the government or a competent court to make and interpret such law, another is for kinsmen to obey and allow the female children inherit their father’s wealth.
There are those who hold tightly to the cultural practice that females should not inherit their father’s property because, according to them, women get married out. Some people have vowed not to, feeling that if a daughter partakes in the share of her father’s property, she will take the proceeds to her husband’s house. Even as educated as some persons are, and having attained certain levels in the society, they still hold to the opinion.They claim that it is African culture. In some rural areas they don’t bother whether such laws are in existence and view it as imported.
Another group say there is nothing wrong in that since the woman came from such lineage. For them, such idea is primitive and archaic in this 21st century.
A legal practitioner, Chidi Enyie explained that every female child has a right of inheritance.
Citing Section 42 Sub 1&2 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended, he said that every person has a right to freedom from discrimination.
He said that was invoked in Ukoje Vs Ukoje (2020) where the Supreme Court came to a judgement that no person by reason of sex shall be discriminated against by reason of sex from inheriting the property of the parents.  The same way the males are entitled to inheritance, that’s the same females are entitled.
According to Barr. Enyie, the issue of sharing inheritance comes into play when a deceased parent dies intestate, that is dying without a Will, but if it is when there is a Will, it means the deceased person has done the sharing of the property in the Will.
“In most cases, it happens when there is a Will.  In our custom in Nigeria, they tend to favour the male child, but the Supreme Court judgement remains the name unless it is reversed in later decisions”, he said.
His words: “As it is, the barrier of discrimination has been nullified. Both male and female can inherit.  Even if she dies, her children are supposed to continue the ownership of the property, they are supposed to inherit their mum.  It can continue to run from generation to generation in that lineage”.
He pointed out that it depends largely on the type of marriage as sometimes in a customary marriage, the custom of the people will apply so long as the custom is not repugnant to national justice, equity and God conscience, then the custom will apply.
But in a Statutory marriage, Esien vs Esien (1934), he said that the Supreme Court came out with a decision that if it is the biological father of the child and not the customary father of the child.
“But ignorance on the part of the society tries to hamper the execution of the judgement of the Supreme Court”, he insisted.
He maintained that the judgement of Ukeje vs Ukeje is being criticised by the Ibo tribe that it wants to nullify their customs stressing that it should not prescribe what their custom should be.
He advocated that women should remain vibrant and contend for their right until awareness is created about the equality of both sex.
A pharmacist, Mr. Edet Okong, said such issue is prevalent in Nigeria because of poverty and illiteracy while it is not practised in other countries.
He noted that women have a share in his family whenever they are sharing things.  
He asked: “Is it not somebody from that family that gave birth to the woman?”
A legal practitioner, Mr. Ejike Uboh, noted that the issue of inheritance has to be handled by the court.
He said that NGOs need to carry out a lot of campaigns to the rural areas to be able to change the mindset of people who still hold into such cultural practice.
Uboh said that females inheriting their father’s property is good and traceable to the Holy scripture and called on FIDA and traditional rulers who are the embodiment of customs to sensitise people, giving reasons why such practice should stop.
A mechanic, Nude Ikegwuru, insisted that it is impossible for a daughter to inherit her father’s property and argued that women are exempted from paying levies in some communities and so should not.  
He made reference to the Aba women riot of 1929 which prevents women from paying tax in Nigeria.
A businessman, Gold Ibokwe, said that such laws and decision by the government should be taken seriously as time goes on.
According to a medical laboratory scientist, Ebere Nduidi, “when a woman is not married, she should have right to any property in her father’s home but when she gets married, I don’t think that is necessary.”
He emphasised that when a woman gets married, she changes her name and start answering her husband’s name, becomes somebody’s wife and so should not as she has been legally married.
Although he argued that the daughter can if it is her biological father’s property and not a general family case and insisted that if she gets the property before the death of the father, she should not return it.
“Fathers have the right to Will properties to their daughters if they want. They have equal opportunity as the male children”, he opined.
An entrepreneur, Davies Peter, said a woman can inherit her father’s property while she is alive and after her lifetime, the property should be released to the family.
According to him, since she bears the name of another family, the children shouldn’t continue the inheritance.
He advised that natural justice has to take its course instead of imported law while the laws be properly looked into and maintained that there should be some exception to the interpretation of some of the law as regards Nigeria and Africa generally.
He said although some of the laws are treated based on the fact that women are referred to as the weaker sex and they try to wave certain things.
He cautioned that people should not bring what is impracticable into existence and argued that male and female are not equal.
Mr. Kayode Ojo, an Architect asked: “Don’t you think that when you give a woman land in her father’s house, another one in her husband’s house, it will be too much? 
“ A man and a woman is a family, the husband and the children, so she should inherit in her husband’s house”, he noted.
Although the law supersedes tradition, he said, but that is if he wants to give the land to his daughter, at the end of the day, it is her own and insisted that tradition cannot prove the law wrong.
A pharmacist, Mary Udoh, said that fathers should be sensitised about writing Wills before death, so that if a property is bequeathed to whether a female or male, nobody under the law can take it away from such child.
An engineer, Emeka Obi, said what one may call cultural barriers and taboos is a common problem in Nigeria.
As he puts it: “People’s customs and traditions are peculiar to those who practice them. If according to the way of life of a given people, their daughters don’t have a place in the family inheritance, so be it, but if out of love or goodluck, a father Wills a property to any of his daughters, I have no problem with that”.
A nurse, Mary Uche, in her own view said: “ This is a welcome development. We are more of girls in my house than boys. “Could you believe that we lost our Dad, we the girls buried him but the boys took all the properties. And even if a woman dies, all her properties will be given to the sons’ wives. The only things given to the girls are clothes, if you demand more, they will tell you to go and inherit your husband’s house. If you are single, they will tell you to go and marry”.
The consequence of denying the female child the right of inheritance of father’s property is that if it comes to a situation where she is expected to contribute to family pressures, definitely she will withdraw. 
I’m not sure that any property can be too much to be owned by a woman.  If she has properties both in her father’s house and husband’s home, better for the children; after all, they were not stolen but inherited from grandparents. 
Religious leaders should preach more to the populace on improving the lives of people in the society.
Traditional rulers, NGOs should continually have dialogue and pass the messages down to the grassroots and perhaps to those in the urban centers no matter how learned and their level of exposure.

By: Eunice Choko-Kayode

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Should Daughters Inherit Father’s Property?

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on

Recently a court in one of the southern states nullified the practice of denying female children the right to inherit their father’s property. The ruling confirms that the female child can inherit her father’s property. It is good but how the message is going to be sent to the villages at the grassroots calls for concern.
This issue of women inheriting directly from their lineage is supposed to be translated to the rural areas. This will give them a sense of belonging.
One thing is for the government or a competent court to make and interpret such law, another is for kinsmen to obey and allow the female children inherit their father’s wealth.
There are those who hold tightly to the cultural practice that females should not inherit their father’s property because, according to them, women get married out. Some people have vowed not to, feeling that if a daughter partakes in the share of her father’s property, she will take the proceeds to her husband’s house. Even as educated as some persons are, and having attained certain levels in the society, they still hold to the opinion.They claim that it is African culture. In some rural areas they don’t bother whether such laws are in existence and view it as imported.
Another group say there is nothing wrong in that since the woman came from such lineage. For them, such idea is primitive and archaic in this 21st century.
A legal practitioner, Chidi Enyie explained that every female child has a right of inheritance.
Citing Section 42 Sub 1&2 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended, he said that every person has a right to freedom from discrimination.
He said that was invoked in Ukoje Vs Ukoje (2020) where the Supreme Court came to a judgement that no person by reason of sex shall be discriminated against by reason of sex from inheriting the property of the parents.  The same way the males are entitled to inheritance, that’s the same females are entitled.
According to Barr. Enyie, the issue of sharing inheritance comes into play when a deceased parent dies intestate, that is dying without a Will, but if it is when there is a Will, it means the deceased person has done the sharing of the property in the Will.
“In most cases, it happens when there is a Will.  In our custom in Nigeria, they tend to favour the male child, but the Supreme Court judgement remains the name unless it is reversed in later decisions”, he said.
His words: “As it is, the barrier of discrimination has been nullified. Both male and female can inherit.  Even if she dies, her children are supposed to continue the ownership of the property, they are supposed to inherit their mum.  It can continue to run from generation to generation in that lineage”.
He pointed out that it depends largely on the type of marriage as sometimes in a customary marriage, the custom of the people will apply so long as the custom is not repugnant to national justice, equity and God conscience, then the custom will apply.
But in a Statutory marriage, Esien vs Esien (1934), he said that the Supreme Court came out with a decision that if it is the biological father of the child and not the customary father of the child.
“But ignorance on the part of the society tries to hamper the execution of the judgement of the Supreme Court”, he insisted.
He maintained that the judgement of Ukeje vs Ukeje is being criticised by the Ibo tribe that it wants to nullify their customs stressing that it should not prescribe what their custom should be.
He advocated that women should remain vibrant and contend for their right until awareness is created about the equality of both sex.
A pharmacist, Mr. Edet Okong, said such issue is prevalent in Nigeria because of poverty and illiteracy while it is not practised in other countries.
He noted that women have a share in his family whenever they are sharing things.  
He asked: “Is it not somebody from that family that gave birth to the woman?”
A legal practitioner, Mr. Ejike Uboh, noted that the issue of inheritance has to be handled by the court.
He said that NGOs need to carry out a lot of campaigns to the rural areas to be able to change the mindset of people who still hold into such cultural practice.
Uboh said that females inheriting their father’s property is good and traceable to the Holy scripture and called on FIDA and traditional rulers who are the embodiment of customs to sensitise people, giving reasons why such practice should stop.
A mechanic, Nude Ikegwuru, insisted that it is impossible for a daughter to inherit her father’s property and argued that women are exempted from paying levies in some communities and so should not.  
He made reference to the Aba women riot of 1929 which prevents women from paying tax in Nigeria.
A businessman, Gold Ibokwe, said that such laws and decision by the government should be taken seriously as time goes on.
According to a medical laboratory scientist, Ebere Nduidi, “when a woman is not married, she should have right to any property in her father’s home but when she gets married, I don’t think that is necessary.”
He emphasised that when a woman gets married, she changes her name and start answering her husband’s name, becomes somebody’s wife and so should not as she has been legally married.
Although he argued that the daughter can if it is her biological father’s property and not a general family case and insisted that if she gets the property before the death of the father, she should not return it.
“Fathers have the right to Will properties to their daughters if they want. They have equal opportunity as the male children”, he opined.
An entrepreneur, Davies Peter, said a woman can inherit her father’s property while she is alive and after her lifetime, the property should be released to the family.
According to him, since she bears the name of another family, the children shouldn’t continue the inheritance.
He advised that natural justice has to take its course instead of imported law while the laws be properly looked into and maintained that there should be some exception to the interpretation of some of the law as regards Nigeria and Africa generally.
He said although some of the laws are treated based on the fact that women are referred to as the weaker sex and they try to wave certain things.
He cautioned that people should not bring what is impracticable into existence and argued that male and female are not equal.
Mr. Kayode Ojo, an Architect asked: “Don’t you think that when you give a woman land in her father’s house, another one in her husband’s house, it will be too much? 
“ A man and a woman is a family, the husband and the children, so she should inherit in her husband’s house”, he noted.
Although the law supersedes tradition, he said, but that is if he wants to give the land to his daughter, at the end of the day, it is her own and insisted that tradition cannot prove the law wrong.
A pharmacist, Mary Udoh, said that fathers should be sensitised about writing Wills before death, so that if a property is bequeathed to whether a female or male, nobody under the law can take it away from such child.
An engineer, Emeka Obi, said what one may call cultural barriers and taboos is a common problem in Nigeria.
As he puts it: “People’s customs and traditions are peculiar to those who practice them. If according to the way of life of a given people, their daughters don’t have a place in the family inheritance, so be it, but if out of love or goodluck, a father Wills a property to any of his daughters, I have no problem with that”.
A nurse, Mary Uche, in her own view said: “ This is a welcome development. We are more of girls in my house than boys. “Could you believe that we lost our Dad, we the girls buried him but the boys took all the properties. And even if a woman dies, all her properties will be given to the sons’ wives. The only things given to the girls are clothes, if you demand more, they will tell you to go and inherit your husband’s house. If you are single, they will tell you to go and marry”.
The consequence of denying the female child the right of inheritance of father’s property is that if it comes to a situation where she is expected to contribute to family pressures, definitely she will withdraw. 
I’m not sure that any property can be too much to be owned by a woman.  If she has properties both in her father’s house and husband’s home, better for the children; after all, they were not stolen but inherited from grandparents. 
Religious leaders should preach more to the populace on improving the lives of people in the society.
Traditional rulers, NGOs should continually have dialogue and pass the messages down to the grassroots and perhaps to those in the urban centers no matter how learned and their level of exposure.

By: Eunice Choko-Kayode

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Business

Rivers: The Wheel Propelling Nigerian Economy

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The economic importance of Rivers State to national development has never been in contention. It is easy to discern, even by the blind. It was not by happenstance that the state was christened the ‘Treasure Base of the Nation’. The state earns the sobriquet on account of its contributions to national development. What is rather in contest is the benefit accrued to the people of the state from the huge natural deposits the state is endowed with.
Generally known as the hub of oil and gas industry in the country, Rivers State accounts for 40 per cent of Nigeria’s crude oil production. It is also the largest economy in Nigeria after Lagos. It has vast crude oil reserves among other natural resources, and remains a leading supplier of the nation’s wealth with associated export revenue.
Apart from Lagos, Rivers State contributes the highest Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to the nation’s economy. It accounts for about 65 per cent of government revenue and 88 per cent of Nigeria’s foreign exchange earnings. As at 2010, Rivers State was contributing US$21,073 next only to Lagos with US$33,679 as GDP.
Despite its relatively low industrial base, the State has two of the nation’s four petroleum refineries at Eleme, two major seaports in Port Harcourt and Onne, an international airport at Omagwa, an oil and gas free zone, and a petrochemical and fertilizer plant in Onne, an industrial estate at Trans-Amadi, a gigantic liquefied natural gas plant in Bonny and tens of petrochemical related companies.
There is no gainsaying the fact that the aggregate growth of the Nigerian economy weighs heavily on the natural resources of Rivers State. For over five decades, the oil and gas sector has remained the mainstay of Nigeria’s economy till date. Little wonder that happenings in the oil and gas industry tend to have serious impact on the other sectors of the nation’s economy.
In the area of oil and gas which creates the wealth that sustains the nation, Rivers State ranks the highest contributor. Apart from playing host to two of the nation’s four petroleum refineries, the state also hosts major oil companies such as The Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC), Total Exploration & Production Nigeria Limited (TEPNL), Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and tens of petrochemical related companies. Added to these is the existence of a multi-billion naira Liquefied Natural Gas plant in Bonny which produces a million tones of gas per year.
It is, however, regrettable that in spite of Rivers State’s status as the hub of oil and gas in the country, these multinationals are reluctant to move their headquarters to the state citing insecurity and restiveness as excuses. It was even recently that NLNG relocated its head office to Port Harcourt.
Meanwhile, the new spate of development from marginal oil fields by the multinational oil giants has also created a vent for the participation of indigenous firms in the nation’s oil and gas sector. These firms include Minipulo, Nestoil, Belema Oil and Sahara Energy, among other upstream operators.
The import of this is that in spite of marginal neglect of the state by the Federal Government in terms of infrastructure and human development, Rivers remains the epicentre of Nigeria’s oil and gas activities, contributing a significant percentage of government’s revenue. That Nigeria was able to prosecute the three-year civil war successfully without borrowing a kobo was courtesy of the oil wealth. The oil boom of the 1970s also led to the mass importation of foreign manufactures, salary reviews and arrears payment, oversea scholarship and training of workers, among others.
Also given its position as a natural seaport and railway terminus, Rivers State has long established itself as an investor’s haven, with the bulk of its tenants in Trans-Amadi Industrial area of Port Harcourt.
Before now, there were several companies scattering around the state, such as Michellin, Pabod Breweries, Port Harcourt Flour Mills, Nigeria Engineering Works (NEW), West African Glass Industry (WAGI), Slumberger, Halliburton, Metalloplastica, Rivers Vegetable Oil Company (RIVOC), Riversbiscuit, Flag Aluminium, Indorama  Eleme Fertiliser &Chemicals Limited, NAFCON, now Notore, among others.
Although a good number of these companies which once contributed to the economic growth of the state and Nigeria at large had since closed shop or relocated outside the country due to a number of factors ranging from poor electricity supply, general infrastructural decay resulting in high operational cost, multiple taxation and insecurity; a handful of them that are still in existence in the state make significant contributions to the nation’s economy in terms of employment generation and wealth creation.
Not too long ago, Pabod Breweries which was once moribund was revived by South Africa’s SAB Miller through a partnership that appears to be yielding good dividends to both the state and national economy, alongside Indorama Group.
Meanwhile, Rivers State also plays host to the second busiest seaport after Lagos. It hosts two of the nation’s seaports – Nigeria Port Authority (NPA), Rivers Complex and Onne Port. This suggests that the state constitutes a major commercial centre in the country. The state’s proximity to Aba in Abia State and Onitsha in Anambra State – two notable destinations for containerised imports, adds impetus to the commercial status of Rivers State, and also contributes in no small measure to the economy of the country.
Rivers State is not lagging behind either in the area of hospitality industry. Apart from the popular Hotel Presidential located along Aba-Port Harcourt Road, which has been in existence since the days of the Eastern Nigeria, there are several other hotels scattering around Port Harcourt and its environs. Prominent among them are Meridian Hotel at Old GRA, Port Harcourt; Landmark Hotel at Waterline area of Port Harcourt, Sasun Hotel at Trans-Amadi, and a host of others. The avalanche of these hospitality industries in the state does not only boost the economic base of the state, it also attracts and facilitates investment in the country.
Added to this impetus is the NEW vision of the present administration in the state led by Governor Nyesom Wike, which has led to a deluge of social infrastructures, thus attracting investments to both the state and the country at large.
It is, however, a painful irony that despite the avalanche of wealth tapped from crude oil sale and other economic opportunities in the state over the years, there has been a complete neglect of the state by the Federal Government in the area of basic infrastructure. For instance, the two major roads that link Rivers State with other parts of the country, namely, the Eleme section of the East West Road that leads to Onne industrial hub, and the Oyigbo section of the Port Harcourt-Aba Road have been in a state of disrepair for years without attention from the Federal Government.
Worst still, the multinationals that operate in the state and Niger Delta as a whole, and who ordinarily should be a propeller of development have only succeeded in adding to the sufferings of the people. They do not only devastate the environment with their oil activities and leave their host communities with destroyed farmlands, polluted air and deteriorating marine life, they also subject the indigenes to a second class citizens in terms of employment.
One of the most disturbing paradox is that crude oil for export is transported to Bonny and Forcados through a network of pipeline stretching across 6,000km over communities and living quarters approximately the distance between Cape Town in South Africa and Cairo in Egypt. Yet, little or no measure is taken to ensure the maintenance of the pipes which often corrode and burst, leading to oil spill, killing people and devastating environment, water and farmlands. Worst, the Federal Government that is supposed to be a regulator appears helpless and complacent as it lacks the political will to rein in on these oil conglomerates to stop the criminal environmental pollution in the state. This obviously accounts for occasional pockets of unrest and restiveness in Rivers and other Niger Delta states.
Many analysts and keen observers have decried the criminal neglect of Rivers State by the Federal Government. Piqued by the aberrant, incongruous structure of the Nigerian federation, especially the iniquitous disposition of the Federal Government in robbing Peter to pay Paul, a professor of Economics, Willie Okowa, had in a seminar presentation on Rivers State since 1967 said, “The use of oil resources derived largely from Rivers State in the creation of the infrastructure basis for development in other parts of the country while denying the same treatment for the territory in which oil is found speaks of a callousness that is numbing to the mind and an outrageousness that is a challenge to the ethics of civilised behaviour”.
The Rivers State governor, Chief Nyesom Wike himself has, at several fora, complained about the inequities and apparent lack of visible federal presence in the state despite the state’s contributions to the nation’s economy. He believes the state deserves a special status and consideration from the Federal Government given its contributions to national growth.
Presenting a paper on ‘Institutional Weakness and Challenges of Development in Rivers State in Abuja in 2016, Wike observed that, “the state has suffered sustained neglect, marginalisation and injustice from successive federal governments and its agencies”.
The governor continued: “Even as no new development project has been initiated in the state for decades, what is most distressing is the failure of the Federal Government to adequately maintain some of the critical federal infrastructure in the state.
“I am referring to the Port Harcourt Terminal building, the Port Harcourt seaport, as well as the East West Road, particularly the section that leads from Eleme junction to the Onne industrial hub that has remained broken for years without attention from the Federal Government.”
Five years after Governor Wike made this cursory observation, has anything changed? Perhaps not. Apart from the Port Harcourt International Airport Terminal building which was constructed recently, all other critical federal infrastructure listed by the governor for attention in 2016 have remained unattended to by the Federal Government. It took the intervention of the state government under Wike to fix two of the federal roads in the state: the Industry Road that leads to the NPA, Port Harcourt seaport and the Igwuruta-Chokocho Road.
Indeed, this disturbing irony of an oil state wallowing in poverty and squalor speaks of an utter insensitivity and indifference that is not only numbing to mind, but also strange to all ethical conducts.
But how long will this criminal neglect and deliberate marginalisation continue? When will the Rivers people get a fair share of the national cake? When will the Federal Government realise that Rivers State is the the wheel that propels the nation’s economy and should be accorded honour and respect? Who will rescue the Treasure Base of the Nation from the oppressive claws of national inequities?  Questions. Endless questions.

 

By: Boye Salau

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