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Opinion

Reduction Of Electricity Tariff: How Desirable?

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The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission last Wednesday announced the immediate reduction of electricity tariff by 50 per cent.
How did Nigerians welcome the news? Of what use will the tariff review be to the citizens? Our Chief Corresponent, Calista Ezeaku sought answers to these questions from some members of the public. Egberi Sampson was the photographer.
Mrs Ilanye Jumbo-
Journalist. Well, the reduction of that tariff, as good as it sounds, how many Nigerians will actually enjoy it. There is one thing in announcing something, but it is another ball game entirely to implement what has been announced.
Take for example the reduction of the fuel pump price. It was reduced to N87.00 per a litre, but as I speak to you now, people still buy fuel at N100,00, N110.00 per a litreand that is if you see it.
So, as good as it sounds, as good as it seems, as good as it is going to help Nigerians, the major thing should be that there should be an implementation body, the people that will ensure that the reduction is actually implemented because it may have been reduced but when you go to pay now, you begin to hear stories, they will begin to tell you one thing or the other.
Now, there are people who use the pay as you go meter, for them it will be easier to know their bills. But for those who don’t have it, what happens? How will the calculation be done? Some people are given estimated bill, how will they generate their bills? Ordinarily, when electricity tariff is reduced a lot of things ought to spring up, a lot business opportunities ought to spring up but my dear, in the case of Nigeria, it is not always the same, it is not as it ought to be. Under normal circumstance, a lot industries ought to spring up, to enjoy from that reduction but I tell you, it may not be the case. We may not even start enjoying it may be in the next one year. It may begin to have effect after one year if every thing works the way it ought to work. to enjoy from it.
So, I will advise the electricity regulatory agency, if they are there, to sit up. They should sit up and ensure that every of that statement is follow up to the later, because at the end of the day, it is the masses that suffer. Under normal circumstance the reduction should help the people save a little money and use it for other purposes. For instance if I was paying N5000,00 before and it is reduced to N2,500.00 that means I am saving N2,500.00, but how constant is the light? If there is no constant power supply, it means I am going to keep buying N1,000.00 worth of fuel everyday as I have been doing for many months now to power my generator.
So, I don’t want to  be a pessimist, but I want to pray and believe that having reduced the tariff, we want to appeal to them to please give us power, but if they will not give us power, they should go back to the old tariff if that will make us have constant power.

Mr Iyaragba Ebinay Media Personnel. I heard the announcement over the radio yesterday and I was happy. If they will implement it I think it will help the poor to be able to pay their electricity bill, I just hope that with the reduction, the power situation in the country will not get worse. I don’t want to believe as some people insinuate that the reduction was done for political reasons. For the federal government to have announced the reduction, that means they have their own inner plan, which I believe will bring about improvement in power supply in the country.

Comrade Dan Otukpo-Civil Servant. Well the cut is quite okay in the sense that the bills that were coming before now were becoming too crazy and without a direction. No direction in the sense that today will get a bill, tomorrow you get something higher than what you expected. The cut also reflects government’s sensitivity to the current hardship being experienced in the country provided it does not have political undertone, provided that not after the elections we begin to see even more increase in the electricity tariff.
If you go by the pay as you go meter, you can actually see that you will save a lot by means of the 50 per cent cut. But if you go by the analog meter where in most cases they bring whatever they feel like by a way of estimation, you may not necessarily see much impact. The cut will tell more on the industries depending on availability of power. It will improve their economy because by giving 50 per cent I think they will be able to have large scale production not minding the price per a unit. It will help our producers, our companies to produce more. The economics of large scale will come into play-power reduction, more scale. It can also give room to the employment of more hands.
For me, the reduction is good. I don’t see it leading to any cut in power because before the reduction I believe there must have been a sort of consultative meeting with the stakeholders.
However, I will advise that government through its institutions and agencies should monitor the reduction to ensure strict compliance otherwise we will still be in Egypt.

Mr Innocent Eze-Businessman. Well, the reduction is what we have been yearning for all these while. We had wanted a situation where government will create enabling environment for business entrepreneurs because the power issue is a serious matter to us. Without power, we cannot actually deliver our services to the public. Without power, we cannot do what we are supposed to do. Also with the high rate of electricity tariff we are constantly struggling to see how we can meet up.
We find it very difficult to meet up because whatever profit we make goes back to paying electricity bills and most of the time they don’t give us power. We buy fuel, we buy diesel to run generators and all these are at a very high rate. And so, it looks as if we are just rigmarolling in what we are doing because what ever little profit we make is used in paying for power, buying diesel and that. If government has seen the need and has come to alleviate our plights by reducing the tariff of electricity, that will be a welcome development.
Let me mention that the problem of the Power Holding Company is corruption. If things are done the way it is supposed to be done, if they receive the genuine electricity bill that people pay and keep the money for government, it will be enough to improve the power situation in the country. But I want to believe that most of those monies they collect are not remitted into government purse.
If you observe, many a times they don’t read meters. They only come and do what they call estimation. If what you are supposed to pay in a month is may be N10,000.00 because they are doing estimation before you know it, it has gone up to about N50,000.00. And I want to believe that they will pay the amount they know you are supposed to pay into government’s account and the rest goes into their pockets.
So the only option to solve this problem and ensure that everybody benefits from the tarriff reduction is through the use of pre-paid meters. Everybody should have it.

Mr Idawari Cookey-Gam- Businessman. The problem is that there is no light already. If there is light they can say they are reducing tariff and people will enjoy it. What you have not seen, how can you enjoy the cut off. So let the light come first and then we can appreciate what the federal government is doing. The issue is that PHCN is not even better for us. Since they took over from NEPA there is no difference. They are worse than NEPA. So for me, the tariff cut makes no sense. It is not what we need now in the country.
Government should try and bring the dollar price down and reduce inflation, that is what we are looking for now.
Loot at what happened to the petroleum sector, government said the pump priced has been reduced to N87.00 but we still buy at N110.00. But people do not mind as long as the product is available, you buy it and go your way. So even if the tariff is raised provided we see light and enjoy it is better than reducing the tariff but nobody sees the light.

Mrs Lucy Bello-Osagie-Businesswoman. There is a particular amount that government say people that are using cut out should be paying every month. By cut out I mean without a meter, people that consume power without meter. They are supposed to pay N3,000.00 every month but now they pay N15,000.00, N20,000.00 every month. Even those of us that use meter are not better. Sometimes the bill you are given if different from the actual amount you are supposed to pay. If you are paying N7,000.00 and next month, you are asked to pay N25,000.00 for the same points will you like it? They just give us bills arbitrarily and it is not good. So government should really look into the Power Holding Company and those working there. A lot of corrupt practices are going on there. You will see that some NEPA officials will come to record the bill, somebody’s meter is reading something and what they are recording is different. If the person’s meter is reading N8,000 they will record N15,000 and when you go to their office they will post you from one table to another.
I don’t even have power in my house now. Look at my cooler, I have been using ice-block for my business for over a year. I don’t have light for over a year and they are billing me over N200.00, from where? So the tariff reduction is a good thing but it cannot impact on the lives of the masses unless corruption in PHCN is tackled.

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Opinion

Consequences Of High Bride Price

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Bride price is payment made by a groom or his kin to the family of the bride in order to ratify a marriage.  It is paid by the family of the groom to their future in-laws at the start of the marriage usually in cash and materials.
Bride price in Nigeria varies from one ethnic group to another.  What obtains as bride price in Rivers State may be different from Kogi State in terms of cash and materials required by the bride’s family. Although there are a few similarities in the list of items to be provided by the groom in Nigeria. 
It also varies from family to family. Some families collect as low as N5,000 while others collect as high as N1,000,000.
There are criticisms that this African tradition of paying bride price to the bride’s family before marriage degrades a woman by putting a required monetary value on a wife.But those who support the tradition uphold it as a cherished cultural and religious symbol of marriage.
Some families see bride price as symbolic, hence they ask for less. I have seen a situation where the mother of the bride collected N30,000 and later gave it back to the couple, asking them to put it in their bank account so that it will serve as a “starter pack”. This shows that she wasn’t really giving her out for money.
In our local setting, a marriage is recognised only when bride price and gift items have been presented to the bride’s family.  It is important because it validates marriage to give a woman respectable status in the society as a wife.
The importance of bride price can never be over-emphasised. It is one of the highest honours confirming a bride’s value and womanhood, giving a husband the full rights to the economic and reproductive powers of his wife. It is an honour bestowed on the parents that their daughter is getting married.
I see nothing wrong in payment of bride price but in recent time, the issue of high bride price seems to be competitive among families whose daughters are ripe for marriage.It is alarming and heart-breaking how newly-wedded couples end up paying debts years after marriage. When demanding for high bride price, some parents do not realise the fact that the yet-to-be couple will plan for church and court (Registry). The Registry requires little token. Although, the clergy will not ask, but the couple need to settle one or two things in church. 
More worrisome is the fact that some parents demand a live cow from an in-law as if the lady is to be exchanged. I know of a culture where cow must be provided to her kinsmen by the surviving husband or children before a late woman must be buried. The claim is that the man didn’t complete the marriage rites before the death if the woman. This is just to extort money from the late woman’s children.
A young man was mandated to pay about N2million to the wife’s kins after losing her during child birth, simply because he never completed marriage rites. What about the welfare of the surviving child?
A situation where a basin of fish that costs over N200,000 must be presented in the name of bride price for a traditional marriage to be contracted gave me concern. 
A father also demanded about N1million as dowry for his daughter. For Christ’s sake, no amount of money collected as bride price can pay all the expenses from birth to University level of a lady as this is the dream of greater percentage of our parents nowadays. No amount of money can buy a woman. “Her value is inestimable”.
High bride price can cause disharmony between husband and his in-laws. A young man was lamenting that after his marriage, his in-laws can never be allowed into his family. This is as a result of whatever high bride price they would have charged.
High bride price can cause a man to exhibit violent behaviours when he remembers how much he paid. He gets angry at every little thing the wife does which can lead to domestic violence. The implication is that the woman will suffer in silence with the fear that the man may demand for the high bride price if she leaves the marriage.
Income from her job or personal business is seen by the man as his. She is being denied freedom on using her income and often leads to a situation where the husband must be consulted before any monetary transaction in the family. This leads to hostile marital environment and can destabilise the marriage.
Man dominates the woman in terms of decision-making. The woman has little say or nothing when issues come up in the home. He can say: “Don’t talk, I paid heavily”.
One of the consequences of high bride price is that if perhaps divorce occurs, the bride and the family, according to customary norms, have to return the dowry. If the dowry were very expensive to the tune of N1million, they may not be able to pay back.
High bride price encourages gender inequality. It reduces the power and prestige of the woman with the perception that she was paid for.
High bride price leads to poverty. A couple may have been forced to incur debts in the course of marriage. These are young men and women who are starting life perhaps after graduation and have not made enough savings. Paying back debts incurred during weddings for two to three years should be discouraged.
For many young men, withdrawal syndrome sets in when they remember that they have to provide as much as N1million to marry a wife. You see someone going to marry at the age 50 because he didn’t have enough.  Even the ladies are also affected here. Some men get scared of going into such families or ethnic groups for marriage.  When will they train their children? 
No matter the status of the groom, minimal amount should be fixed for dowry to avoid certain consequences in future. Family of the bride should take cognizance of the fact that their daughter deserves some comfort in her new home.
It is high time the traditional institutions worked through their subjects in the various communities to create awareness on the dangers of high bride price in our society. 
Community heads who are saddled with the responsibility of marriage functions and rites should be advised to cut down some of the items and reduce the costs of available ones.
I call on local government councils to work with traditional rulers, community and family heads as well as women leaders to come out with minimum and maximum amount of money and other items needed as bride price and dowry. 
It should be domesticated in the by-laws of the local councils across Nigeria.

By: Eunice Choko-Kayode

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Opinion

Away With Open Grazing

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It was reported recently that the Federal Government had mapped out 30 grazing reserves for the implementation of a National Livestock Transformation Plan (NLTP) under its Green Initiative project.
According to the report, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Agriculture, Dr Andrew Kwasari, disclosed this while addressing journalists on the move by the government to resolve the persistent conflict between herders and farmers over land, water and pastures.
“The 19 Northern States have grazing reserves. So far, we have mapped out over 30 grazing reserves and on paper, we have over 400 grazing reserves.
“So, the northern governors have to be committed to working with the Federal Government, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, supervision of the NEC, to make sure that wherever those grazing reserves are found that we are able to convert them into lush green models specifically for pastoralists, and pastoralists will not migrate anymore…” Kwasari said.
He further disclosed that traditional rulers like the Gbom-Gbom Jos had been consulted and they suggested that the low hanging fruit for federal and state governments was to ensure that pastoralists were settled in gazette grazing reserves.
The presidential aide also said that this would take away any notion of land grabbing or taking of land from communities and giving to herders as was feared with the government’s stillborn Rural Grazing Areas (RUGA) programme.
It would be recalled that the NLTP was launched by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo in the Gongoshi Grazing Reserve, Mayo-Belwa LGA of Adamawa State, in September 2019. The plan was to run from 2019 to 2028 as part of the federal government’s Green Initiative in collaboration with states, farmers, pastoralists and private sector investors under the auspices of the National Economic Council (NEC).
NLTP has a budget of N100 billion for the breeding of cattle and other types of livestock. Of this amount, the federal government would contribute 80% as grant only, while the participating states were expected to raise the remaining 20%, donate land, draw up the project implementation structure, and provide workers.
Besides Adamawa, the programme has also taken off in six other pilot states; namely Benue, Kaduna, Nasarawa, Plateau, Taraba and Zamfara. Others which were reported to have voluntarily joined the initiative include Anambra, Ebonyi, Edo, Ekiti and Ondo States.
Given the foregoing, any peace-loving Nigerian would be tempted to assume that a viable solution has finally been figured out for the perennial herders-farmers crisis in the country. But President Muhammadu Buhari’s recent charge to his Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), to identify the country’s gazetted grazing routes leaves one wondering if, indeed, he was acting from the same script as Osinbajo and Kwasari.
If there ever was any doubt as to the Presidency’s rejection of the collective decision of the southern governors to outlaw open grazing in their respective states, such was cleared by the President himself in his recent exclusive interview on Arise TV.
“What I did was ask him (Malami) to go and dig the gazette of the First Republic when people were obeying laws. There were cattle routes and grazing areas…
“I asked for the gazette to make sure that those who encroached on these cattle routes and grazing areas will be dispossessed in law and try to bring some order back into cattle grazing,” Buhari emphasised.
Honestly, I had wished that the President’s directive to the nation’s chief law officer was aimed at recovering only grazing reserves for the NLTP scheme as Kwasari did announce. But his inclusion of cattle routes suggests that Buhari is still not considering letting go of the now outdated nomadic grazing practice in Nigeria.
And just as the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) wasted no time in rallying behind the man, so also was his position quick in drawing flaks from socio-cultural bodies like Afenifere, Ohaneze Ndigbo and the Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) all of which insisted that the power to allocate land rested with the state governors and not the President.
Of particular interest was the reaction of Afenifere’s publicity secretary, Jare Ajayi: “Who designated specific routes as exclusively belonging to those who would be grazing cows? If you are doing this kind of thing in their own area, it is understandable (because) that is in their own area.
“I have not read anywhere that our forefathers sat down and agreed that these particular routes, maybe from Ogbomosho to Saki or Badagry, are for grazing…”
Again, some analysts have expressed the fear that if Buhari insisted on pursuing the recovery of grazing routes, prominent buildings in many parts of the country, including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), would be pulled down.
I still don’t get why Mr. President is seriously reaching for the list of cattle routes in First Republic Nigeria even when the 1979 Land Use Act entrusted governors with the control of their states’ lands years after the now sought-after gazette was published. With such power, can’t a state chief executive reapportion any previously gazetted grazing route or reserve located in his domain?
Buhari should please focus on promoting sedentary animal husbandry through the NLTP scheme in order to reduce the existing tension in the land. A good leader should be able to ensure peace in his domain even if he has to bend over backward to achieve it.

By: Ibelema Jumbo

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Opinion

Short, Sharp, Shock-Treatment

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There was a recent allusion from the Nigerian President, or the Presidency, about the possibility of some impending shock, meant to restore sanity in the country. It came as a warning to those who were alleged to be intent on destroying or destabilising Nigeria via insurgency, agitation and causing mayhem. Therefore, it has become needful to alert Nigerians about Nature’s Standing Order of Short, sharp, shock treatment (SSST), as a mechanism of restoring order when humans allow disorder to grow too high. In truth, there is such mechanism in the scheme of things.
Those who are familiar with Jewish cosmogony via the Kabbalah, would know that there is a flow of Divine influx, also known as Zazahot or lighting flash, which is an up-building and a restorative system. The 5th anchorage of that Divine Circuit system known as Geburah or Judgement has the duty or responsibility of restoring order and bringing about a balance, when disorder and imbalance become overwhelming in creation or a section thereof. Disorder and imbalances usually come from humans.
Being endowed with a free will and the freedom to make personal decisions and choices, which are often mis-used, humans bring about disorders and imbalances which distort the beauty and harmony of creation. Accumulation of massive impurities would necessitate a cleansing process to reduce the results of human engagements in acts of impunity, shamelessness and irresponsibility. Before catastrophies come there are usually warnings.
In the case of Nigeria, the warning signals have been persistent and loud enough even for obtuse persons to be aroused to a state of alertness. Nature has a process of educating human beings through bitter personal and collective experiences. No one can say that such warning signals and bitter experiences have not been there for quite some time. As a process of ensuring justice, there are watchers and weavers whose activities in the 100m of destiny entail monitoring the deeds of everyone with utmost accuracy. There are also provisions for deep reflections and possible redressing of imbalances.
Nigeria has been brought to its current sad state of affairs through many follies and deliberate acts of mischief. From Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s book Reforming The Unreformable, we are told that more than 5,000 board seats existed as sinecure, with political leaders having enormous patronage powers. We are told that a bad public service is certain to produce bad governance, even if the right accountability and other mechanisms are in place. Thus, there is a spiral of malfeasance.
From public service system, to tertiary education, we are told that “a systemic rot has befallen Nigeria”, apart from “inflating the budget by doubling or tripling the allocations…” Even with the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) bill which was approved in May 2007, there was no transparency or accountability in Nigeria’s oil and gas sector. In both physical and process audit there are deficiencies in management and utility.
Okonjo-Iweala advised that “special care be taken to ensure that oil revenues are spent wisely to build up durable long-term assets whose benefits can be shared with future generations”. Nigeria’s great dependence on oil and gas whose vulnerability to global volatility of commodity market are important factors in the country’s need to reshape its economic structure and growth based on diversification. With regards to corruption, Okonjo-Iweala said that “cynicism about the fight against is greatest when allegations of corrupt acts on the part of the elite are not investigated with any vigour even when investigated …”
If human verdict is reflected in the dismal and sad score card available in the public domain, then the verdict of the watchers and weavers of human destinies must also be far worse. There are indications globally that visibly gathering dark storms would surely result in some catastrophes whose true nature no one can tell accurately. For Nigeria as an individual nation in the global family, it is obvious that the shock alluded to by the President is an omen of things to come.
However, no one is in a position to predict exactly the nature and intensity of the shock the president had in mind. Reacting to the President’s statement, a number of Nigerians expressed sadness that it was a warning to agitators who allegedly are trying to destabilise and disunite Nigeria. But the situation obviously goes beyond current activities of political agitators and bandits.
Normally it takes a long time for storms to amass such power that would result in a destructive shock. Therefore, it would be myopic and wrong to judge the Nigerian situation from a one-sided perspective. Across the globe, Nigeria features as one of the delicate zones where some shocks are most likely to arise. Already harbingers of warning signals include activities of Boko Haran and other agitators for Islamic states and sharia laws, spate of kidnappings and demand for ransom, etc. The commando-rescue-style of an American farmer held hostage in Northern Nigeria placed Nigeria as a vulnerable nation.
Prelude to any coming shock usually includes complacence arising from gluttony over loots. The fact that a few highly-placed Nigerians tried to exonerate late General Sani Abacha of accusations of looting, despite exposures of such deeds, is another evidence of a nation which needs a shock to regain sanity. It takes the collaboration of humans through various activities, to serve as agents in the fulfillment of the mechanism of destiny. Such human agents rarely know that they are serving the course of Nemesis.
Unlike the Nigerian Civil War (1967-1970) with its attendant miseries and woes, SSST comes as mechanism of Divine intervention, to ensure that those who deserve to die, die the death they deserve. It is fast and thorough, with long-lasting effect. It is a weapon of sective elimination.

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

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