Following the sustained illegal mining activities by individuals in the Northern part of Nigeria, the Ijaw Youth Congress (IYC) Worldwide recently called for an amendment of the country’s Constitution to allow states harness and control the resources in their areas.
According to the President of the body, Barrister Roland Oweilaemi, “With the rather surprising news of illegal mining activities in the Northern part of the country where powerful individuals are allowed to tap the natural resources in their domains, IYC is calling on the Federal Government to commence the amendment of the Constitution by allowing states to harness and control the resources in their domains…”
The IYC accused the Federal Government of being unfair by choosing to protect oil and gas facilities at the expense of the crude oil-bearing communities of the Niger Delta because oil is seen as a national property while solid minerals in the North belong to powerful feudal lords.
Even though illegal mining activities have endured in the North without any official hindrance, it is the resultant widespread banditry that ostensibly propelled the government to recently pronounce a ban on all solid mineral exploitations in the region.
This is not the first time the umbrella body of Ijaw youth organisations has spoken on illegal mining in the North. Earlier in the year, when the Minister of Solid Minerals and Steel Development, Alhaji Bawa Bwari, confirmed to the world that Nigeria lost over N350 billion to illegal gold mining within the three years between 2016 and 2018, the IYC was among the first groups to flay the Federal Government over the issue.
The IYC was also obviously unimpressed by the minister’s quick reassurance that the government planned to reverse the trend as it had since evolved a new draft policy intended to reorganise the gold value chain and generate revenue for the nation.
Speaking through one of its leaders, Eric Omare, the youth group accused the Federal Government of lacking the political will to implement the country’s mining laws because of vested interests.
“Firstly, there is a law which generally regulates mining in Nigeria, including gold, which is the Minerals and Mining Law of Nigeria Cap M12 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria…
“I think that the reason the Federal Government is unable to implement the law on mining may be because the individuals involved are politically and economically connected people,” Omare said.
The Tide shares the concern of the IYC on this issue. Not only has the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) been devoid of any contributions from unlicensed mining activities in the North, the states from which these precious metals are brazenly exploited, with so much environmental despoliation, belong among the poorest in Nigeria. Yet, they would rather congregate in Abuja every month to share from the revenue that derives almost entirely from the nation’s crude oil and gas exports.
While the Nigerian military combed the creeks of the oil-rich Niger Delta region under “Operation Crocodile Smile” and other bizarre code names to protect oil facilities and also ensure that the nation lost no revenue to oil thieves, the North remains a free-for-all solid minerals mining haven for indigenous and foreign plunderers.
We recall that agitations for restructuring of the country so as to ensure fiscal federalism have been ignored by successive military and civilian administrations.
At the inception of the present administration, Nigerians were told that states would be encouraged to partner the Federal Government in harnessing solid mineral resources for the benefit of the country. It is, therefore, disappointing to note that, four years down the line, efforts are still stagnated at the planning stage.
To think that Nigeria could afford to lose over N350 billion to illegal gold miners within the very period she suffered her swiftest and most excruciating recession ever, is rather disturbing.
Equally stunning is the fact that the nation was, at that point, in dire need of revenue from diverse resources to shore up its dwindling inflow from petroleum whose international price had gravely plummeted and output quota cut low.
If this figure is for gold alone, we then wonder what the nation’s loss would have amounted to if the sums for the other rare gems found in the country had been included in the ministerial arithmetic.
The Federal Government should endeavour to hasten the process of ensuring that the solid minerals sector is well regulated across the country and that all the revenue accruing therefrom is received and fully accounted for. This will, hopefully, serve to calm frayed nerves.
Still On Call For National Unity
Fifty years after the Nigerian Civil War, which claimed well over 2.5 million lives, destroyed hundreds of thousands of properties, and rendered millions permanently maimed and traumatised in just about three years, principal actors, survivors, political leaders, historians, activists and other players in the Nigerian Project, not too long ago, converged to provoke a sombre reflection, and warned against utterances and actions capable of triggering the disintegration of the country while advising that the catastrophe of the war years should serve as pivotal driving force for the promotion of peace, national reconciliation, cohesion and unity.
The warning was accentuated by diverse leaders across the nation from different professions, religious and ethnic orientations at the ‘Never Again Conference 2020’ organised by the Igbo think-tank, Nzuko Umunna and Ndigbo Lagos, in collaboration with civil society organisations. At the core of the conference was an x-ray of the major causes and consequences of the ill-fated Civil War and a critical appraisal of the present state of the nation which shows a seemingly dangerous replay of events in virtually all spheres of the Nigerian state.
Consequently, speaker after speaker noted that the complex dynamics, including heavily diverse cultures, tradition, religious affiliations and social backgrounds which have made it difficult for Nigerians to forge a strong, virile, progressive, peaceful and united nation, should be quickly harnessed, coalesced and woven together in harmony to shut out any tendency to plunge the country into another Civil War. They regretted that the failure of Nigeria to move forward in peace and sustainable progress was because of the brazen disrespect of the majority and crass insistence of a minority group to foist its interests in the workings of the executive, legislative, judicial and even military and security superstructures without regard to the consequential violent implosion which such could unleash on the nation.
The leaders pointed at the various unfolding events of the last few years, including rising cases of abuse of power, outright impunity, looting of national treasury and assets, disregard for the rule of law and constitutionality, nepotism, tribalism, lack of compliance with the federal character principle, and targeted systemic violent attacks, killings and acts of war against people of other ethnic groups, and warned that the situation was capable of forcing the majority to fight back, thereby pushing the country into the brink of another Civil War.
The Tide completely agrees that the songs of war, inciting, toxic and inflammatory attacks on people of other ethnic groups are heightening tension. We worry that violent attacks, killings, and kidnapping of people of certain tribes, religion and/or perceived to be of a given social status are taking a dangerous crescendo too. Even the deliberate government strategy to recruit and appoint people from a section of the country into virtually all critical sectors, agencies or departments at the federal level calls for concern.
We, therefore, caution harbingers of discord and war to remember the atrocities of the Civil War and realise that so many things have changed and that the result of another potential war may never be the same. We say so because history tells us that no nation has ever survived two civil wars intact.
While we insist that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Nigeria is non-negotiable, we appeal to all players to respect the expressed interests of others, and allow the divergent views to co-exist for the peace and unity of the nation. Indeed, the best way to bring this to life is to key into the urgency to restructure the country with the objective of giving the people a true and acceptable federal structure under which each federating unit would deploy its resources to conquer poverty amongst the people while the rich and the poor cohabit in harmony.
We believe that only a patriotic commitment to peaceful and united Nigeria would lead the present and future generations to a country with tolerant and inclusive political, economic, social and security systems for all. To achieve these, our leaders must entrench the core values of democratic principles and eschew ethnic, religious differences so that the country’s driving force can revert to the ideal: merit, hardwork, creativity and innovation.
For us, there is no better time to raise the alarm than now because the fabric of the Nigerian state has been threatened and weakened by years of degenerate government tactics aimed at marginalising and alienating the majority in governance, repression and deployment of brute force to crush opposition, glorification of injustice and inequality, and other antics that enhance division and incite people to hate.
This is why we urge leaders in various sectors to heed the lesson of the Civil War and the clarion call to do everything within their powers to promote peaceful coexistence and national unity. This is a call to duty and a task for all Nigerians.
Towards Peaceful Poll In Edo
Last Saturday’s attack on the entourage of Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State by persons suspected to be members of the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) in the State, has again brought to the fore the possibility or otherwise of conducting a peaceful and violence-free governorship election in the State come September 19, 2020.
Members of Governor Obaseki’s entourage, including bigwigs of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) were reportedly attacked by some faceless hoodlums near the palace of no mean a personality than the revered Oba of Benin, HRM Omo N’ Oba N’ Edo Uku Akpolopolo, Oba Ewuare II in Benin City last Saturday.
It would be recalled that the Chairman of the PDP National Campaign Council for Edo State Governorship Election and Governor of Rivers State, Chief Nyesom Wike, had last Saturday led other party bigwigs to Benin City and successfully flagged off the electioneering campaign of the party in the state, thus, setting the stage for a fierce political contest in the state.
The PDP campaign train had, as tradition demands, paid a courtesy visit to the Oba of Benin before proceeding to the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium for the flag-off of the party’s campaign rally that day.
But according to media reports, “whilst at the palace, some youths gathered at the palace entrance gate, chanting pro and anti-PDP songs. Those wearing PDP-sponsored caps and emblems were attacked”.
It was further gathered that gunshots were fired and cars smashed during the mayhem, while scores of persons sustained varying degrees of injuries.
It, however, did not take time before the PDP in the State rose stoutly to condemn the unfortunate incident and called on security agents to ensure that those connected with the attack are arrested and prosecuted.
The Chairman of the PDP Campaign Council in the State, Chief Dan Orbih, who addressed journalists in the wake of the attack in Benin City said, “the attack was a plot to eliminate Governor Obaseki, national officials of PDP and some PDP governors”.
Describing the attack as a political mutiny, Orbih indicated that it was aimed at driving fear into Governor Obaseki and the people, so that they would not come out on election day. He accused the opposition APC leadership of sponsoring and masterminding the mayhem.
However, it is heart-warming to note that the Oba of Benin himself has stressed the need for a peaceful governorship election in the State.
Oba Ewuare II had during the visit of Governor Obaseki and other PDP top guns to his palace assured that plans were underway to summon the Edo State Council of Traditional Rulers and Chiefs to pray for a peaceful election in the state.
The Oba said God and his ancestors had been answering his prayers whenever he prayed, adding that the forthcoming governorship election would not be an exception.
Indeed, The Tide joins well-meaning Nigerians to condemn the attack on Governor Obaseki and other PDP leaders, as it clearly shows what to expect during the governorship election in the state as political tension continues to build up in the state as the election fast approaches.
We are not unwindful of the political dark clouds hovering over Edo State, in recent times, with the countdown to the September 19, 2020 governorship election in the State, and to all intents and purposes, the signs are potently ominous and grave, even as political activities gather momentum with each passing day in the state.
Again, political observers in the country cannot forget in a hurry the intrigues and subterfuge that played out in the state within the APC in particular, where Governor Obaseki once held forte as the party’ leader before dumping it for the PDP. The dust raised by his exiting the party is yet to settle. The bad blood and ill-feelings are still very palpable across the various political divides in the state.
More worrisome is the fact that the political gladiators in the state are not leaving anything to chance to undo one another. They are still talking tough; threatening fire and brimstone. These ominous signs, to say the least, portend grave danger to the country’s nascent democracy, and clearly put Edo State on the political spotlight.
There is no gainsaying the fact that all over the world, people of goodwill cherish peace. Without peace, there can never be development. We, therefore, subscribe to peaceful and violence-free elections not only in Edo State but also in all other states in the country for that matter. We say so because it is only through peaceful, transparent and credible elections that the people can choose true leaders capable of meeting their yearnings and aspirations. Afterall, what is democracy if it is not anchored on the fundamental principles of development and good governance.
Thus, this time around, Edo people cannot afford to fritter away another opportunity of the state to be counted among the most formidable states in the comity of states.
To achieve this, the political gladiators in the state must first and foremost sink their political differences and subsume their selfish political interests into the collective interest of state. They must not set the state on fire.
In this way, the electorate would have a clearer picture of the candidates that would best meet their yearnings and aspirations, and better develop the state in the next four years.
We hold fast to the political dictum that the ambition of no politician is worth the blood of any Nigerian citizen. After all, politics is a game. It is not a do or die affair. There must be no bloodshed. Thus, with the countdown to the September 19, 2020 governorship election, all Edo people, irrespective of party affiliation should give peace a chance.
We are indeed happy that the Oba of Benin has already set the ball rolling by promising to mobilise traditional rulers to pray for a peaceful governorship election in the state. All Edo people must toe this path.
We also believe that security agencies in the state have a crucial role to play to ensure that the forthcoming election is not only peaceful but also credible, free and fair. This, they can do by ensuring that no candidate is unduly harassed, intimidated or even favoured.
This is why we lend our voice to the call by the PDP to security agents to ensure that those behind the attack on Governor Obaseki’s entourage are arrested and prosecuted.
Everything said and done, there is no alternative to peace.
Heeding UN’s Warning On Famine
The United Nations recently warned that more than 10 countries around the world were at risk of wide spread famines “of biblical proportions” if Coronavirus continues the rampage unabated, alerting that the situation could push the number of people suffering from hunger from 135 million to well over 250 million in coming months. Raising the alarm, Head of World Food Programme (WFP), David Beasley, said that nations in the danger zone included those affected by conflicts, economic crisis and climate change, specifically listing Yemen, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Afghanistan, Venezuela, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Nigeria and Haiti.
The world has to “act wisely and act fast. We could be facing multiple famines of biblical proportions within a short few months. The truth is: we do not have time on our side. I do believe that with our expertise and partnerships, we can bring together the teams and programmes necessary to make certain the Covid-19 pandemic does not become a human and food crisis catastrophe”, Beasley said.
Amplifying Beasley’s sentiments, WFP Senior Economist, Arif Husain, said “the economic impact of the pandemic is potentially catastrophic for millions who are already hanging by a thread. It is a hammer blow for millions more who can only eat if they earn a wage. Lockdowns and global economic recession have already decimated their nest eggs. It only takes one more shock – like Covid-19 – to push them over the edge. We must collectively act now to mitigate the impact of this global catastrophe”.
The Tide completely agrees with the WFP that Nigeria would likely face famine of unprecedented proportions in the months ahead, given the devastating consequences of the Coronavirus pandemic, particularly because of the restrictions associated with the social distancing guideline articulated by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to contain spread of the virus. In addition, the lockdowns, leading to the shutdown of businesses in Nigeria, have made the prediction increasingly plausible because the tough restriction of movement measures mean that those in the agricultural sector, including farmers and fishermen, players in the food supply chain, and other economic activities have had to overcome unimaginable hiccups in their efforts to ensure food sufficiency and security for millions of vulnerable people.
This is why we are not surprised with recent National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) Consumer Price Index (CPI) report which indicated that inflation rate increased by 12.26 per cent year-on-year in March, slightly higher than 12.20 per cent rate recorded in February. It is also not surprising that rise in inflation transcends all Classification of Individual Consumption by Purpose (COICOP) divisions, where the highest increase was recorded on fish, vegetables, fruits, oil and fats, bread and cereals, potatoes, yam as well as other tubers; critical food stables for all strata of the social class in Nigeria. Similar reports for the first half of 2020 in Nigeria and across the world show the same trend, even as global economies are gradually reopening.
For us, therefore, the signs are clear. The WFP does not need to sound the alarm bell for all tiers of government in Nigeria to begin to look outside the box, and not only act wisely but very fast to stave off the looming catastrophe. Indeed, the NBS report speaks for itself. The fact that the highest rise in inflation rate affects directly key indicators in the food chain should remind leaders across all governance structures that the time to prioritise investment in boosting agricultural development and production is now.
We are aware that the Federal Government has over the last couple of years emphasized its desire to reinvigorate the agriculture sector with a view to making it a strong revenue earner for the country. We are particularly not oblivious of the fact that the government has repeatedly canvassed its commitment to diversify the economy, with emphasis on key programmes to promote food sufficiency and security going forward, including the flagship Anchor Borrowers’ Programme and other intervention initiatives designed to enhance commercial agriculture production portfolio. The Tide is also aware of the various attempts by some state governments to invest in the promotion of agriculture in their states through direct funding of practical schemes to ensure that citizens can access and afford reasonable square meals on their tables every day to fight hunger and starvation, and enhance healthy living.
But the consequences of Covid-19 have triggered a new urgency in efforts to save a huge population of Nigerians from hunger and starvation as a result of the anticipated famine in the land. That urgency calls for proactive measures to boost security for farmers across the country, especially in those areas where insurgency, herdsmen menace and banditry have decimated communities. The goings on in the North-East, North-West, North-Central and other hotbeds of conflict in the country are enough indicators. Besides that, governments need to evolve innovative means of increasing funding for those in the agriculture value chain through subsidies that cut across many subsectors. The issue of flooding, which affects farmers most should be addressed by the appropriate government agencies, particularly now that rainy season has set in. Already, Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMET) and the National Hydrological Services Agency (NIHSA) flooding alert this year predicts severe devastations in vulnerable communities, and all tiers of government must work in synergy to ensure that farmers do not suffer avoidable losses as a result of failure of appropriate authorities to provide sustainable buffer and protection for them and their produce.
We are also concerned at the low level of participation of the population in agricultural activities to feed the nation and accelerate exports to boost foreign exchange earnings for the generality of Nigerians. Perhaps, this is the time to urge corporate bodies, individuals with huge capital outlay, especially politicians, and of course, civil servants, to look inwards, and seek strategic ways to drive integrated mechanized farming that brings new impetus to the way we do business in this country. This is possible in almost every state in Nigeria because there are vast fertile, arable lands across many states. A buy in would also increase economic viability of the federating states while its multiplier effects would consistently drive down the unemployment rate, lower the menace of criminality, violent crimes and other social vices, and restore peace, economic growth, political and democratic stability, while opening up potential opportunities for many to tap into confidently to fulfill their potentials. We believe that if governments heed these measures, Nigeria and Nigerians may escape the harsh consequences of the impending famine. The time to act, and wisely too, is now!