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Editorial

Referendum: The Next Best Option

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Following widespread discontent in Nigeria, different interest groups have made demands and suggestions all of which seem plausible only to sections of the country. Though conflicting, the demands are persistent and should attract the attention of the leadership .
While the government may not have answers to all the demands, silence on the demands of the people has served only to anger some persons and fueled or rather justified their lawless activities. Many believe that were it to be a clime where leaders have any regard for the people that hold the sovereignty, the situation would be different.
In the civilised world, especially, those that practise democracy, even issues that are not as complicated as the multifaceted crises in Nigeria are subjected to referendum. Indeed, many governments have absolved themselves of baggage when the people vote directly to determine the way certain issues should be handled.
Only recently, the United Kingdom celebrated the beauty of democracy when the people were given the opportunity to vote for or against Britain’s membership of the European Union. In fact, that singular vote ignited the desire for referendum on the many knotty issues in Nigeria.
The European Union had earlier urged Nigeria to take a referendum on the demand for the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). It was also at that briefing that the Nigerian government was advised to release all political prisoners and give due respect to human rights in Nigeria.
As the state of affairs gets worse by the day, the call for change grows louder and diverse. Some are calling for the restructuring of the country, others are agitating for secession, while yet others are calling for change in the architecture of security, political system and the economy. So far, no answer for any.
Why referendum appears to be the next best option is the complex nature of the demands. For instance, groups in the Niger Delta alone present long list of demands that cannot serve the collective interest of the country, but the issues must be addressed and convincingly too. Issues like this cannot be left in the hands of politicians. It is time the people of Nigeria are allowed to speak on their own wellbeing.
In the first place, it is a shame that twice Nigeria organised a national conference and till date the leadership has yet to act on any. This perhaps is one of the first issues the referendum should address. Nigerians should be allowed to decide whether or not outcomes of those conferences should be activated, sifted and or applied.
For some other persons, security is the most important. Nigerians will need to decide on whether they need State, City and Municipal police or the central police alone. Indeed, the situation of referring to a governor as the Chief Security Officer of his state without one security officer under his command is a huge delusion.
Some persons want change in the electoral law, especially on the need to peg the number of political parties and the provision of a one term tenure for the executive at all the tiers of government. In fact, the seven year single term attracted so much interest because of the cost of electioneering every four years and the perpetual rivalry it creates in the polity.
Interest is also very high with a lot of persons thinking that the States alone, not the Local Governments (LGAs) should be federating units. Hence, the LGAs should be scrapped. On the other hand, many persons would prefer a unicameral federal legislature. The maintenance of two Houses to such Nigerians has become too expensive and undesirable.
But most of the demands of Nigerians are encapsulated in the new irresistible clamour for the restructuring of the country. In it are most of the issues earlier canvassed and more. One issue that challenges the courage of Nigerians to face the reality is the call for the return to regionalism, this time, to six regions.
These are the issues that Nigeria must address consciously or gravitate into them through avoidable clashes. Perhaps, another issue that must be put to referendum is the proposed National Grazing Law and Nigeria’s membership of religious organisations.
Since Nigeria is not clear as to what to take, government must ask the people through a referendum. Perhaps, what everybody should be asking for now is REFERENDUM.

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Editorial

Making UTME Registration Seamless

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The Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board, JAMB’s insistence on linking the 2021 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) to National Identity Number (NIN) is not going down well with parents and some Nigerians. Many prospective candidates are still bemoaning their inability to register and be part of the ongoing examination.
Sadly, Nigerians’ penchant for procrastination is partly to blame for their predicament. JAMB introduced this policy in 2019 but jettisoned it afterwards following an outcry by Nigerians including members of the National Assembly. Implementation of the policy was put off to 2021. But Nigerians, in their characteristic manner, failed to utilise the grace period. Two years would have been enough for anyone to obtain NIN, the difficulties regardless.
With NIN requirement for the UTME this year, most applicants were compelled to go through difficulties like extortion, long queues in scorching weather, non-adherence to Covid-19 protocols and other unwholesome practices devoid of ethics to enable them register. Others lamented that even with NIN, they could not complete the first stage of application process.
This policy has come with different challenges such as inadequate enrollment centres for the National Identity Card, which some prospective candidates of JAMB have to struggle for weeks or even months, to get to register and generate their NIN for UTME or Direct Entry registration as prescribed by the board. There is also the issue of telecommunications and Digital Service Providers’ poor service delivery and connectivity failure.
JAMB’s Registrar, Prof. Ishaq Oloyede, had clarified that it introduced the use of NIN for registration of the 2021 UTME to checkmate examination malpractice and double registration. He further disclosed that the usage of NIN as a prerequisite for registration was the brainchild of the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu.
This regulation has come with a mixed grill. While we, indeed, support any possible and legitimate measure entrenched by JAMB to check examination malpractice, in our well considered opinion, such move is counter-productive at this time, especially when juxtaposed with the challenges directly associated with NIN registration.
Moreover, with the wide reports of hardship Nigerians are encountering to procure NIN on a daily basis, it is rather unnecessary to make it compulsory for candidates, even though it is significant for every Nigerian to have it. Added to this is the fact that not many activities were carried out last year following the lockdown occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Unfortunately, the arduous task of obtaining the NIN might have compelled JAMB to postpone the exams. The examination body had extended the registration date in a statement by its Head of Information and Public Affairs, Dr. Fabian Benjamin. The spokesman apologised for their inability to complete the process of smooth pin vending and candidates’ access to the registration app.
In all fairness to JAMB, it was observed that some prospective candidates failed to have successful registrations because they infringed the use of double space in sending messages for profile code generation, unmatched name with the one in NIMC, phone number already used by another candidate, insufficient balance to generate profile code that cost N50, among others.
Given those reasons, we think that the examination body cannot be denounced for those self created reversals; but, prospective candidates who were able to reproduce their profile codes, having being charged N4,000 payable in certified bank draft, should be refunded immediately or be allowed to take the examination in whatever way that can be done. This has to include all persons impacted by poor network or a delayed response from telecommunications service providers.
Most worrisome, however, is the sheer fact that JAMB still went ahead and provided profile codes to the candidates it felt infringed on its rules and also directed them to pay the mandatory N4,000 at the bank before proceeding to its various offices across the nation with bank drafts, with a view to registering them for the examination. This is fraudulent. We say so because despite being armed with their profile codes and parting with the required fee, they could not participate in the examination at the end of the day.
Again, since no UTME was conducted in 2020 following the Covid-19 pandemic, JAMB ought to have considered the fact that admission into higher institutions would double. The logical thing to do in the circumstances was for the board to make the NIN requirement optional and prioritise candidates’ enrolment by utilising a longer period for registration. This way, the challenge would have been sorted with ample time.
JAMB would need to do more in subsequent enrollment exercises to make the process easier as these challenges could dampen morale and affect overall performance in the examination. Specifically, we urge the Federal Ministry of Education to suspend the policy till when there is a seamless and well-organised process for obtaining the NIN. Students should be able to obtain their NIN in their accredited schools.
Policies that give priority to students at NIN registration centres and the provision of alternative avenues to generate the all-important profile code are some of the things the examination body can immediately do to ease the process for candidates going forward.

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Editorial

Addressing Nigeria’s Power Challenges

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Recent data from the System Operator indicates that the electricity power supply situation has not shown any signs of improvement as it has continued to fluctuate due to chronic multi-faceted and long standing challenges. According to the data, supply fell by 22.9% from a peak generation of 4,115 Megawatts to 3,172 Megawatts on Saturday, June 12, 2021.
The data further indicated that most power plants in the country were operating far below their functional capacities due to gas shortage with Olorunsogo Power Plant (335mw) and Sapele Power Plant (450mw) completely out, while Egbin Power Plant was generating at 746mw out of about 1,000mw capacity; Omoku Power station generating just 37.20mw; Omotosho (NIPP) generating 105mw and Afam power plant generating only 80mw from more than 700mw capacity.
Still, the data showed an unstable power generation situation within seven days: 4,120.9mw on Sunday, June 6; 4,24.9.4mw on Monday June 7; 4,000mw on Tuesday, June 8; 3,720.7mw on Wednesday, June 9; 3,517mw on Thursday, June 10; 3,765mw on Friday, June 11; and 4,115mw on Saturday, June 12.
Apart from the fluctuations, national electricity grid collapse that often throws the entire nation or parts of it into complete power blackout is as well a common occurrence in the country. On May 12, the grid collapsed for the second time this year and the 29th time in the last three years. As indicated on Nigerian Electricity System operator data, the number of times the national grid suffered a collapse was four times in 2020, 10 times in 2019; and 13 times in 2018.
From an estimated power need of about 180,000mw, Nigeria currently has only 13,000mw installed generation capacity while the distribution system has capacity to evacuate 5,500mw only. On February 28, 2021, the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) hit a record milestone on transmission of power as it recorded a national peak of 5,615.40mw. However, on most days, it is only able to dispatch around 4,000mw to Nigerians.
Currently, only 45% of Nigeria’s population is said to be connected to the national grid while power supply difficulties are experienced about 85% of the time and almost non-existent in certain regions. Power supply difficulties cripple the agricultural, industrial and mining sectors and impede the nation’s economic development efforts.
The damaging effects of insufficient power supply on businesses cannot be over-emphasized. Enjoyment of basic social amenities such as quality healthcare, adequate water supply, telecommunications services, etc. becomes limited or even impossible due to long term electrical power outage. Huge revenue loss, business disruptions, laying off of workers by affected industries, loss of very import records at data centres, wastage of perishable foods, destruction of home appliances, amongst others, are some of the consequences of unreliable and unstable electrical power supply.
Most businesses and households that can afford to do so, run one or more diesel-fuel generators to supplement the intermittent supply which comes at a huge cost to family budgets and jacks up cost of production of goods and with corresponding exorbitant prices of essential commodities. In addition, the combined large-scale burning of fossil fuel contributes to greenhouse gas emissions that in turn adds to global warming and related environmental disasters.
Admittedly, the energy crisis in Nigeria is a protracted one that dates back to several successive governments with each failing on promises to do something radical to sanitise and stabilise the sector in order to drive needed industrialisation and economic transformation. The country has been unable to meet its energy demand because of its policies, regulations and management of operations.
Continued use of aged equipment, poor maintenance culture, corruption and looting of funds meant for power sector reform have been fingered as some of the major causes of the dismal electric power supply situation in Nigeria. For instance, while the present Federal Government accuses the Olusegun Obasanjo administration of expending about 16 billion United States Dollars on the power sector without anything to show for it, it is (the present administration) alleged to have sunk in about 1.3 trillion Naira of borrowed money with the situation remaining virtually the same.
There is no doubt that the energy sector is a highly specialised, technical, complex and costly endeavour. It is, in fact, estimated that to generate 1,000mw of electricity could cost about $1.2bn. There are also a myriad of challenges to contend with, irrespective of the option chosen to generate power vis fermal, hydro, nuclear, wind, etc. Transmission and distribution also come with their peculiar impediments.
Gargantuan, complex and complicated as the challenges are, The Tide does not believe that they are insurmountable. The Federal Government only needs to muster the requisite will to do whatever it will take, including breaking the ring of corruption that has kept the sector bound. Every policy and official regulations that have been in place need to be revisited and reviewed to achieved results.
Speaking at the just-concluded Nigeria International Petroleum Summit, the Chair, Shell Companies in Nigeria/MD SPDC, Osagie Okunbor, said with 203 trillion cubic feet of gas reserves, what was needed in the country is to deliver projects that would produce gas. This is even as the International Oil Companies (IOCs) had insisted that in spite of Nigeria’s huge gas reserves, a lot still needs to be done to attract investment to the sector to develop them to boost power generation in the country. We think that government also needs to consider taking off its hands in the entire power generation, distribution and transmission chain with the privatization of the Transmission Company of Nigeria.
Rhetorics about transformation or diversification of the economy will remain mere vain promises unless aggressive and drastic measures are taken to fix the abysmal power supply situation in the country. Sufficient, stable and reliable energy supply remains a sine-qua-non to industrialization that guarantees economic prosperity and poverty elimination.
To lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years as President Muhammadu Buhari has promised, will remain an elusive good and a day dream unless the problem in the power sector is conclusively addressed. No effort should, therefore, be spared in pursuit of overcoming the energy supply challenge in Nigeria and the time to do that cannot be further deferred.

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Editorial

As New Rivers LG Chairmen Assume Office…

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The 23 newly elected chairmen of local government councils in Rivers State were inaugurated last Thursday, June 17, 2021 at the Government House, Port Harcourt, by the Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike. The swearing-in ceremony was a follow-up to their victory on April 17, 2021 local government poll conducted by Justice George Omereji-led Rivers State Independent Electoral Commission (RSIEC).
The governor instructed the chairmen to cease from requesting loans from any financial institutions without approval from the state government. According to him, the warning had become necessary to curb the unbridle desire of some council chairmen to access money without a development plan.
“Don’t go and borrow money without the state government’s approval. Some of you tried it last time and started with your blackmail, saying, help us, we are finished. You have no authority to go and borrow money. Even we as state government, before we go and borrow money, we get approval from the Debt Management Office. No bank will even give us. Before you borrow money, the state must know what you want to use it for, and how you will pay it back, so that others who are coming will not suffer because of your indebtedness.”
Wike urged the council chairmen to avoid friction and conflicts with the legislative arm of the councils by working in harmony with the councillors and security agencies to create the right environment for development to occur. He advised the chairmen to pay sufficient attention to issues of security to prevent probable security infringements in their councils. He specifically urged them to establish a strong working relationship with the Divisional Police Officers (DPOs) and the traditional rulers as well as have periodic security meetings for adequate briefings.
“Stay in your council areas. Don’t stay in hotels and in Port Harcourt. If you’re not at home, how do you know about the security situation in your local government? Security is key! Relate with your DPOs. It does not cost you anything. Even if it cost you, governance is not easy. Governance is expensive. Security is expensive. Some of you cannot relate with the DPOs. It’s only when you have a problem that you relate with your DPOs and some of them are intelligent and when you call them that time, they turn their faces the other way. You must make effort to relate with your DPOs.”
Wise counsel dictates that the Governor’s admonition on the cardinal issues he raised are apt. Accordingly, there is a need for the chairmen to hit the ground running and ensure that development and dividends of democracy are brought nearer to the rural people. This can be feasible by guaranteeing that they administer the councils from their domains rather than from choice hotels in Port Harcourt even as the Governor has consistently advised. They should consider that as chairmen and councillors, they were elected by their people to provide the dividends of democracy. Hence, they are required to operate from home to fully comprehend the enormity of the challenges confronting the rural population.
There is no doubt that the era when council chairmen were perceived by their people as “visiting chairmen” must be bequeathed to the refuse heap of history. Reason is that current emerging realities require that they inhabit with the people, wine and dine with them, and where necessary, perish with them.
The council chief executives are also advised against reckless expenditure. We recommend stiff sanctions against any chairman that fails to perform and deliver what is expected of him. Regrettably, some chairmen owe workers many months of salaries. That being so, the new council bosses are urged to clear all salaries and allowances denied such workers by their predecessors.
To make this effective, the Governor has to monitor the payment of salaries and the expenditure pattern of the councils to ensure that funds are properly deployed to areas that will promote the interest of the people. This being the case, offending chairmen should be denied access to their security votes and perhaps, their imprest.
Equally significant is the need for the council chairmen to circumvent friction and conflicts with the legislative arm of the councils by working in harmony with the councillors and security agencies to create the right atmosphere for development to take place. Unnecessary impeachments, scathing criticisms and altercation or petitions have to be resisted.
As agents of transformation and machinery of development, the council coxswains must consult and liaise regularly with all stakeholders including the youth, women, traditional rulers, members of Community Development Committees (CDCs) and other pressure groups to chart the way forward in their respective areas.
Also, the council chairmen must run an all-inclusive administration and never isolate anyone or groups who may not have stood behind them. Of course, operating in any other way could be counter-productive as it has the potential to cause disaffection, division or even acrimony.
Similarly, the newly sworn in grassroots leaders have to understand that peace is priceless and necessary for any meaningful development to occur in the various communities. As they detrain for business, they must not only maintain stability, but must also shun stealing from the commonwealth for self-enrichment. Rather, they should invest such funds wisely in useful ways to attract businesses and development to their councils.
The primacy of good governance at the grassroots cannot be over-emphasised as Rivers people must feel their impact through effective governance. Just as the Governor is held accountable in the state, so must the chairmen and their councillors. We strongly advise them to replicate Wike’s performance at the local level if they must be considered for a second tenure.
While congratulating the new council bigwigs, we urge them to be circumspect of bootlickers and praise-singers who have undermined several governments in the country and key into the NEW Rivers Vision of the current administration in the state to make a substantial difference. History indeed beckons on them!

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