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Of Ogogoro Consumption And Public Health

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No doubt, the Rivers State House of Assembly did the needfu
when, in performing its oversight function recently invited officials of the Rivers State Ministry of Health to brief it on the death toll and other challenges arising from the consumption of unlicenced locally manufactured gin called variously Kaikai and Ogogoro.
Theinvitation followed an earlier report of the Ad-Hoc Committee of the State Legislature on the deaths resulting from the consumption of the said unlicenced locally manufactured gin in parts of the state.
For instance, Woji Town in Obio/Akpor, Bodo in Gokana and Ahoada West Local Government Areas are worst affected.
Available records at the Department of Public Health Services of the State Ministry of Health show that of 80 cases involving the consumption of the said killer gin, 70 deaths were recorded.
In other words, 70 persons died after consumption of the gin. Recent report however said the tally has increased to 71.
Analysis from the specimens of the unlicenced gin consumption shows that the illicit liquor contains high content of methanol poisoning instead of the use of ethanol.
The results of investigation conducted by National Agnecy of Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) in Port Har urt shows that the quantity of methanol in specimens collected range from 100 to 112 grams per litre over and above only five grams allowable quantity for human consumption in beverage and spirits.
Scientifically, methanol poisoning affects the Central Nervous System (CNS) particularly the sensory organs and nerves connected to the retina of human eyes; resulting in total blindness of victims.
Little wonder victims of the killer gin exhibit symptom such as the loss of sight before death.
It is no exaggeration, therefore, that only impatience, love of money, profiteering and avarice could drive local brewers to adopt methanol poisoning even above allowable grams per litre in the manufacturing of age-long local spirit such as Kaikai, Ogogoro or any other product for that matter.
However, that invitation by the Ad-Hoc Committee of the State Legislature on the deaths resulting from the consumption of the killer gin has brought some shocking and embarrassing revelations to the fore.
For instance, what would have taken probably few hours or days to discover about the properties of the deadly gin took weeks.
Worse still, the State Ministry of Health had to depend on the services of  National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) instead of experts in a key unit of the Ministry called the Rivers State Public Health Laboratory.
Interestingly, the Rivers State Public Health Laboratory has been in existence since 1977 under distinguished medical doctors who had served as directors of  Public Health Services in the Ministry of Health, the parent body.
It is on record that late Dr Simon Hart, Dr late Frank Eke, Dr Faye Kurobo, the present Deputy Governor, Dr Ipaliboy Harry Banigo, Dr Godwin Mpi, Dr Claribel Abam, Dr Akuro Okujagu had served as directors of Public Health Services while Dr Nnanna Victor Onyekwere is the current Director.
The Rivers State Public Health Laboratory unit itself as has always been headed by erudite scholars and distinguished laboratory scientists such as late Professor Appolos Nna Bulo of the University of Michigan, USA, Mr Justus Jaja, Dr Promise Karibo, Mr Innocent Ikpoku, Tonye Fiberesima and the present Director of the Laboratory Unit, Mrs Token Lawson-Jack.
Besides, the present Head of Department of Medical Laboratory Science of Rivers State University of Science and Technology (RSUST), Professor Confidence Wachukwu, Smart Amala, former Director, Medical Laboratory Department BMSH, Alaso Jack and Dr Ngozi Odu have worked in the Laboratory Unit of the Ministry at one time or the other,.
Today, the public health laboratory unit of the Ministry of Health still parades qualified laboratory sciecentist such as Dr Margaret Robinson, Dr. Ngozi Igbo, Sam Eke and Chika Okwakpam among others, while Mrs Token Lawson-Jack is the head.
It is worthy of note that a functional public health laboratory performs such roles as disease control otherwise called epidemiological surveillance, ascertain specific gravity of properties in specimen such as the level of methanol poisoning in the killer ogogoro, conduct water quality analysis as well as undertakes thorough laboratory investigations to check possible outbreak of diseases.
It is common knowledge that the laboratory had investigated the cholera outbreak in Amakalakala called the Amakalakala outbreak during the Melford Okilo regime, conducted Finima Water Project analysis during NLNG Construction under the Godwin Abe regim as Military Administrator as well as guinea worm and ‘paapa’ outbreak in early and middle nineties among others.
The tradition laid by the founding fathers of the State was that the Rivers State Public Health Laboratory would help to conduct investigations that would lead to prevention of possible outbreak of diseases in view of the fact that the state has airport, two sea ports in Port Harcourt and Onne as well rail terminal that could encourage the influx of people into the state and trigger off sporadic outbreak of an epidemic.
Unfortunately, the administration of Dr Peter Odili which Dr Emi Membre Otaji served as Commissioner for Health gave out the Public Health Laboratory building at Ndoki Street near Daba Clinic along Harold Wilson Drive by Orubolo Nite Club to National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC).
As if that was not enough, the government of the time relocated the Staff of  the Laboratory to the Central Medical Store opposite NPA, Port Harcourt  where there is no laboratory equipment.
That was how the Laboratory was rendered inefficient and has remained so till date.
Even though there was a promise to build a new Rivers State Public Health Laboratory, since the relocation, the laboratory has suffered neglect.
In fact, there is no basic laboratory equipment at the Central Medical Store thereby, subjecting the Ministry to seek support from outside Rivers State Government.
Since the main task of government is to protect lives and property, government should see security of live beyond purchase of arms and ammunition but funding and equipping public health laboratories to prevent diseases and killer gin.
To this end, the Rivers State Government should as a matter of urgency resuscitate the Rivers State Public Health Laboratory already in a state of comatose at the Central Medical Store, Port Harcourt.
Leaders in position of trust should attach premium to building on the legacy and good vision of the founding fathers rather than sacrificing them for selfish interest.
It was penny wise pound foolish to give out the structure of the state public health laboratory to NAFDAC.
Similarly, the state government should consider it pertinent to revive the veterinary clinic and agricultural laboratory hitherto sited at No 23 Aba which is the PDP took over as secretariat.

 

Baridorn Sika

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Opinion

The Enemy Within

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Political scientists would talk about an Iron Law of Oligarchy whose custodians and protectors are the barons of the wit cult. The wit cult members are patrons of the cult of weeds, whose protectors are usually drawn from the security circles. A former president of this country once said that “some desperate politicians and people in power are known to protect notorious outlaws often linked to violent crimes”. Curious readers can check The Tide newspaper of 26/7/2019, Page 2. The credo of the Law of Oligarchy is that “whoever has the most power makes the rule and takes the gold”. Gangsterist Law?
What is oligarchy? It is defined as government or control by a small group of people, using democracy as a camouflage. Do we have a cabal in Nigeria? Yes! Who controls that cabal? A Presidency! Who is Presidency? A camouflage! Who are the small groups of people controlling power in Nigeria? Ask General Jibril Musa Sarki (Born to Rule) and Badu Salisu Ahmadu who told Nigerians that there is a standing Fulani Strike Force ready to claim the lands which they inherited from the British.
What does it take to make the rule and take the gold? Power, in its raw form! How do you get power? Ruthless exploitation of weaknesses and loop-holes! Are there weaknesses and loop-holes in the Nigerian environment? Yes! They include ignorance, timidity, cowardice, myopia and the desire to attend to stomach infrastructure, via hustling and scrambling for the crumbs from the table of the champions. Hungry dogs! Kept poor!
Who are the champions of the Nigerian political economy? Someone provided an answer, saying: “the wealth buried in the bowels of Oloibiri and in other oil-bearing communities in the Niger Delta region is being cornered by a few Nigerians and foreigners”. The culture of parasitism had been a long issue in human history, but its modernised version takes the form of national and international politics. At the international level, the culture of parasitism operates through big corporations and conglomerates, via monopolies.
Any intelligent Nigerian would figure out easily that there are spirited efforts from various nebulous quarters to divert attention from what is actually going on in the country. For example, international borders in Southern Nigeria are not only blocked but manned with strictness, while similar borders in the Northern parts are left open. The heightened state of insecurity in Southern Nigeria in recent times cannot be for nothing, but indicative of an effort to divert attention from some ulterior motives. What are the motives?
Rivers State is of a particular importance in the current political drama, because of its status as a major pillar in Nigeria’s political economy. What unsuspecting Nigerian masses must know is that a number of the people are paid agents in the service of some vested interests. Many of such paid agents are not usually aware of whose interests or what purposes that they serve with zeal and commitment. Sponsors of acts of brigandage and banditry are members of an organized cabal, in whose clutches Nigerians are now helpless.
Apart from political parties and their propaganda machines, power holders and power mongers do use security agencies as tools and hirelings in their services. Apart from fueling crisis and animosities where there are stakes for such purposes, security agencies, via security votes, are handy tools in the service of power mongers. We find such tools and errand boys as regular participants in phone-in radio programmes, whose utterances and opinions are usually coloured by ideological leanings and sympathies.
It is particularly pathetic that indigenes of Southern Nigeria can become so myopic and blind that they become willing stooges in the current political shenanigans. “Fall guys” in this on-going power game are not usually insignificant persons but highly-placed members of the political elites. A common strategy of roping in such Southern elite is to lure them into some financial sleaze and scandal, which in the end would allow them the option of joining the party in power. We have seen many of such strategies in the past few years, resulting in political decampment and joining the party in power.
The time has come to alert Southern Nigerians that many of them are being used and co-opted into serving some sectional interests and hidden agenda, to the detriment of such stooges and hirelings. This has been going on for quite a long time, aimed not only at advancing some agenda, but also winning sympathies, via patronage and sinecure. A hate speech law was also crafted for the purpose of intimidating those who discern the game plan.
During the General Sani Abacha regime discerning Nigerians saw how operatives of the security and intelligence agencies served the sinister agenda of a section of the country. Acts of brigandage and criminality purportedly committed by armed or unknown persons were placed at the door-steps of NADECO or groups hostile to military rule. Now even in a democratic regime “armed and unknown gunmen” are still engaged in their trade. Soon after military rule came the clamour for Sharia Law, followed by the menace of Boko Haram.
Even though a large number of Nigerians are ignorant and capable of being led by the nose like assess, there are a few discerning ones who can perceive the shape of things to come. Behind all the shenanigans lies the truth that a few Nigerians, with the collaboration of some foreigners, cornered the wealth of the nation, represented by mineral oil and gas. Despite the use of intimidation, divide-and-rule strategies and other cover-ups, the game is up and the disenfranchised groups are wiser now. Agitations will rise further.
Let it be added, as an aside, that Scotland-Yard trained private eyes rarely write or speak carelessly. In this case, those who take interest in this article should heed the message, rather than ask that supportive evidence be brought, in chapters and verses, for the message to be considered valid. An enemy within usually operates like a chameleon, whose antics include vengeful attacks when short of further camouflage. The game is up! We have taken too much for the owner to know!
Dr Amirize is a retired lecturer from the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.

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Opinion

Checking High Bride Price

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Marriage is a sacrament which every couple is expected to obey as instituted by God. But today the reverse is the case, especially in African societies where most people violate this sacrament due to their selfish desires and sometimes, pressure from parents.
It is no longer news that in most African societies today, bride prices have gone so high that marriage ceremonies have become an economically viable venture. As such, most poor young men have remained unmarried  until they get so old. Yet, the rich young ones easily get wives to marry because they are buoyant enough to lavish money.
Although many leaders recognise this in Nigeria, especially in the southern part of the country, they are afraid to talk about it. This is mainly because they fear how the society would react. The fact is that whether high dowries are paid on brides or not, there is no marriage all over the world that would enjoy stability if Christ is not its pillar, and the anchor that those who make the contract rely on. Those who have accepted Jesus as their personal saviour also enjoy His spirit of love in their marriages. And there are a lot of testimonies to this effect. This is why most couples are able to stay till death do them part.
Talking about high bride prices in this society, the ability to haggle and bargain has an unhappy angle associated with the process itself. You can agree with me that in every marriage, there is some selfish human heart that comes into play. If not, how can a man pay well over N100,000 for a lady, and another pays as little as N200 and sometimes, no cash deposit to bring a wife under his roof?
However, because the game has become an expensive and dicey one, many young men have been frustrated and defeated, and most end up eloping with their heartthrobs as wives. But as long as the customs of the land remain, eloping with a lady boils down to  immorality, which may not be the direct sin of the man  in question.
In fact, numerous cases abound where men eloped  with their girlfriends, and began to live together as  husband and wife. They are, in most cases, blessed  with children, even in the midst of illegality. They ignore the parents of the woman or man, and go into their  own procreation process.
But the unfortunate thing is that sometimes the  problem associated with that strategy is that if the woman dies in the man’s house, the parents of the  deceased are likely to demand that the man marries the woman even in death, sometimes at very exorbitant prices. In fact, a lot of things may be lined up as  requirements for the marriage of the dead woman. In  some other cases, the children produced in that marriage are classified as bastards or children of the woman’s father until the man does the right thing, that is to pay her bride price.
I think as long as mankind lives on earth,  high bride prices never make husbands price their wives (like property) better. Instead, there are reported cases of men who have treated their wives as slaves because  of the huge sum of money spent as bride price. Methinks that if young men are able to prove to their supposed parents in-law that they can love and hold their daughters, this should be enough dowry than paying fabulous amounts of money that do not equate true love.
The high dowry on women has disadvantages on the bride too. Many women have confessed openly that high bride prices have compelled their real husbands out of the work contest, leaving unlovable wealthy men available in the market. The result is an unnecessary joining of  incompatible couples because money has become the  name of the game.
High dowries make women slaves as most of them  remain unhappy in their marriages. Perhaps, they just stay to satisfy the man who has spent so much on  them. The consequence of this is that a wide gap exists for infidelity, and a display of fake and smokescreen love, which is far from being genuine.
This is not to say that those with low income have not  married wives. No! On the contrary, some have actually found themselves wives, and they lived as happy couples  for decades. But we have also heard stories where men  go on to borrow huge amounts of money just to get  married. In a situation like this, such couples are forced  to go through terrible and agonising marriages.
In perspective, it has been imperative that high bride prices are no guarantees to long, stable and well-enjoyed   marriages. High bride prices only help to force men who are not rich into borrowing, thereby putting men with such financial crisis into slavery while the women are boxed into a corner, with little or no choice than to settle for men with the money. In the end, such women  look more like the men’s personal properties.
It is high time the state government or better still, local  government councils fixed equal amount to be paid as dowry for all women. Although this suggestion may sound primitive, I think it is workable and the right path to toe. This can be done by encouraging would-be husbands to go to their local governments to pay for their wives. This action should attract receipts, and such monies should later be handed over to parents of the  brides.
If all Nigerians go to the same markets, schools, workplaces, among others, then I do not see any reason why bride prices should vary. And until this is done,  women will ever suffer, and men without money will remain unmarried.
Etim writes from Port Harcourt.

By:  Sintrials Etim

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Opinion

No To Abolition Of NYSC

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A bill to alter the 1999 Constitution to abolish the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme has been initiated by a member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Awaji-Inimbek Abiante (PDP, Rivers). The intent of this bill is to invalidate Section 315 (5a) of the 1999 Constitution and the National Youth Service Act.
The Youth Corps programme, which started on May 22, 1973, was established during the military regime of Gen Yakubu Gowon under Decree No. 24 of 1973 to reconcile and reintegrate Nigerians after the Civil War. It was also created to bridge ethnic and religious divisions across the country and promote the spirit of nationalism through understanding and appreciating others’ cultures and religions.
At the initial stage, it was compulsory for all graduates of tertiary institutions to be part of the service, but the age was later pegged at 30 years in 1984, while holders of the National Certificate in Education (NCE) were excluded perhaps to reduce the number of participants in the service to save costs.
Despite the goals of the NYSC, many Nigerians believe it is time for the scheme to be abandoned or reviewed, contending that it has lost its pertinence. Abiante’s suggestion to abolish the scheme undoubtedly strengthens this argument that the objectives of the NYSC should be reviewed or updated following the present realities of modern Nigeria.
Abiante, in his explanatory statement to the proposal, gave reasons for abandoning the NYSC. He noted the incessant killings of corpers and their frequent rejection by some public and private organisations as some of the justifications.
Furthermore, the lawmaker said public and private agencies are no longer recruiting qualified and skilled young Nigerians. Rather, they rely heavily on the availability of corps members who are not well remunerated and get discarded with impunity at the end of their service year, without any hope of being gainfully employed.
Available records show that in 2011, seven corpers were killed in the post-election violence that broke out in some parts of the country specifically after the presidential election. Regardless of these glaring problems, the question of whether NYSC has surpassed its usefulness remains controversial.
First and foremost, we must address the raison d’être of the Youth Corps programme, which aims to promote national unity and integration, among other things. Forty eight years after the scheme was established, can we say that this key objective has been achieved? Have we become more integrated than before? Certainly not. 
Another significant objective of the NYSC is to make the members self-reliant. But since employment is hardly available in Nigeria because of the current economic challenges, this goal is scarcely achievable. The majority of industries have closed and the remaining ones are operating at less than 50% capacity.
Though the scheme has in one way or the other benefited Nigerian youths such as exposing them to diverse groups, persons and cultures, promoting inter-ethnic marriages and discipline, it is inundated  with numerous problems that if nothing is done urgently and differently would contribute less to the unity of the nation, especially in these troubled times.
As could possibly be seen by many Nigerians, insecurity appears to threaten the scheme in a way that affects its sustainability. In the light of this, we question the appropriateness of posting corps members to places that are subject to serious security threats. Maybe, the government can examine this issue and allow everyone to serve in their comfort zone.
Any system that creates a disparity between the rich and the poor cannot accomplish its purpose. Even before the security problems, corps members were already influencing where they wished to be posted, especially children and wards of the elites. That alone has thwarted the objective the NYSC was established to achieve. The system itself is very skewed and grafted. Huge amounts of money are sometimes offered to influence postings.
Notwithstanding these shortcomings, we reject the view that the NYSC should be eliminated or scrapped. Rather, there may be a type of restructuring to make it more efficient. New ideas need to be injected into the scheme while the government should review its goals and focus training on self-defence, vocational skills and entrepreneurship. 
Several Nigerians are highly tribalistic and believe in ethnic supremacy, which clearly goes against the objectives of the project and has made it almost worthless today. Hence, we believe that NYSC should become zonal and each geo-political zone should be allowed to accommodate its corps members, sharing them in their areas as they deem best. This would solve a lot of problems since many Nigerians are no longer enthusiastic about serving in specific parts of the country.

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