Recently the Comptroller-General of Nigeria Customs, Col Hameed Ali (rtd), raised an alarm over the state of rice imported into the country. Speaking during a news conference, Ali said the Federal Government had not issued licence for importation of rice and that any rice seen on the streets that was not produced in Nigeria was smuggled.
He stated that imported rice was poisonous because before coming into the country, it must have spent a minimum of five years in the silos and harmful chemicals must have been added to sustain its freshness even as it is often re-bagged with a new date, thereby altering the production and expiry dates.
Much as one appreciates the concern of the Comptroller-General that his fellow citizens are consuming “poisonous rice”, it will be important to know what he meant by all foreign rice in the country being smuggled product. Following the revolution of rice production in the country which was triggered by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN’s) Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP), the volume of rice importation into Nigeria may have declined drastically, but that does not mean we are now sufficient in rice production. Reports show that Nigeria is still an importer of rice. According to the 2018 United States Department of Agriculture World Markets and Trade Report, Nigeria imported three million metric tonnes of rice in 2018. Similar export figure obtained from India and Thailand, which are dominant rice exporters to Nigeria, indicate that the latter exported some reasonable tonnes of rice to Nigeria last year.
So it couldn’t have been proper for the Comptroller-General to term all foreign rice consumed by many Nigerians both the ordinary people and those in authorities, smuggled. Neither was he the appropriate authority to label such food as poisonous even when no death had been reported of anyone who ate imported rice.
Besides, even if these were to be smuggled rice, whose duty is it to ensure that the so-called unhealthy food does not enter into the country. Or is he telling us that the Customs which he heads is not competent enough to man our borders? What is the National Agency for Food Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) doing about this worrisome development? What about Immigration and other agencies responsible for manning our borders, what are they doing? How can we have all these bodies, yet Nigeria remains a dumping ground for all kinds of, unhealthy, fake and substandard products? Not too long ago we heard about the existence of poisonous animal skin popularly called ponmo in Lagos State said to have been smuggled into the country from neighbouring African countries.
We all know that our borders are very porous but if Ali and his men should do what is expected of them, the massive smuggling of all manner of unwholesome items into the country will be curtailed.
Incidentally, they are also caught up in the web of bribery and corruption that has engulfed the nation. The smugglers know that there are corrupt men and women in the Customs and among other agencies at the borders, so what they do is to “settle” them and have a thorough fare.
So while Nigerians will assist with vital information on how to apprehend rice smugglers, as requested by the Comptroler-General, he and his men should begin to consider the interest of the nation over and above their selfish gains and do the right thing. Federal Government should also heed the age-long calls to fortify our borders and make them security tight. A visit to the borders and you will wonder what a country would expose all her entry points the way we do.
Again, Col Ali’s call for more Nigerians to eat locally produced rice is in order and very patriotic. Anyone who has consumed Nigerian rice will testify that there is no comparison between it and the foreign ones in terms of taste. It is also said to be more nutritious than the imported ones whose nutrients have been washed off during processing.
But the questions are, can the local rice we produce sustain the about 200million population of the country? Wouldn’t you be giving room to smuggling if you ban rice importation when the quantity produced in the country cannot feed the people, coupled with the low quality of some of them? Some of them are full of pebbles, dirty, smells awful and are poorly packaged, which is why some people prefer imported rice.
So for rice importation and smuggling to stop, effort must be made to increase rice production in the country. To achieve this, some challenges that impede rice production within the country must be tackled. These include: lack of good roads in the rural areas; obsolete and inefficient processing technology; weed, pest and disease problem; non availability/inadequate credit facilities to farmers; high level of productive inputs such as seeds, fertilizers and other agrochemicals; climatic factors like flood, soil salinity, erosion, drought and global warming; land tenure and development; low level of income for farmers; inconsistent government policies and many more.
Throwing more light on these problems, particularly lack of modern equipment, President of Badagry Rice Farmers Association, Ibrahim Iroko said, “With mechanisation, farming would become more attractive to youths as opposed to this growing trend of ‘okada’ business. “Rice farming without mechanisation is tedious and not so profitable. For instance, when rice is planted today, the following day, the boom sprayer has to be used to spray herbicides to prevent weeds. If done, weeds would not come up until about two months later by which time the rice would have fully grown.” He pleaded with the Federal Government to help rice farmers so they can plant larger quantities by making available tractors, harvesters, boom sprayers and other modern equipment, low interest loans available to rice farmers.
Of a great importance is speedily finding lasting solution to farmers/herdsmen clashes in various parts of the country which has made many farmers to abandon their farms. More so, our political leaders should patronize our local rice as well as other made-in-Nigeria products. A situation where the “poisonous” imported rice is seen at every government function and used as gifts during Christmas, Salah and other festive periods by those in power does not show that we are serious about ending the consumption of imported rice in the country.
Open Letter To Nigerian Politicians
Dear Honorable Politicians of Nigeria, events taking place in the country in the recent times demand that you hear how those that you represent feel about you hear how those that you represent feel about you and your activities. In the first place, Nigeria is larger and greater than a few powerful individuals who represent the masses. Secondly the task of political leadership is a serious responsibility meant to be undertaken with patriotism and a volition to serve.
Money and power rarely on their own make a good and responsible leader, but personal integrity comes in as a strong factor. Politics as a calling is obviously being debased and distorted considering the way it is being practised in Nigeria. If you would be perceptive enough to look into the souls of those that you lead, you would see disillusionment, disappointment and hunger. There is a longing for a change for the better. There is a need to bring down the level of anxiety and frustration in the land.
One of the key responsibilities of national leadership is to manage the economy in such a way that the masses can be motivated to strive diligently and honestly to earn a living and contribute positively towards an up-building of the nation. To beg or steal in order to live would not be an ideal situation in a well-managed economy, for any citizen.
Unfortunately, Nigerian citizens have the impression that politics is a means of personal and sectional aggrandizement rather than opportunity to serve and make personal sacrifices for the sake of the well-being of the masses. Ordinary Nigerians feel that politicians constitute a part of the problems which they have. Money and power cannot be the key issues of life, but those who possess them can utilize them, with maturity, for the well-being of the struggling masses.
There is the story of Timon of Athens whose misapplication of his wealth through over-generosity resulted in his fall and banishment. In his dying statement he wondered: “What a god is gold, that he is worshipped in a baser temple than where swine feed!” There is also the story of Macbeth whose ambition for power led to a personal and national disaster. One of his dying statements was that “There’s nothing serious in mortality, all is but toys: renown and grace is dead …”
The purpose of the two examples cited above is to remind those who possess wealth and power that material possessions and positions are transcient. One great man who had tasted wealth and power left or will which contained the following statement: “There are two things to aim at in life; first, to get what you want, and after that, to enjoy it. Only the wisest of mankind achieve the second.”
The nature of Nigerian politics was portrayed in an unguarded statement as a “do-or-die affair,” by an ex-president. Majority of Nigerians would have wished that politics should be about service to the nation rather than a gangsterist affair or “dirty game”. Through monetization it has become a “cut-throat business” whereby huge financial investments must be recouped in a gansterist manner. There must be some good politicians who have the interest of the masses at heart.
There is a general impression that politicians are oppressors rather than friends of the masses. This perception should be altered through patriotic and exemplary service which would not be difficult for the people to observe and appreciate. It is obvious that the task of nation-building is enormous and demanding, but there would be a focus on providing an enabling environment wherein the masses can put in their best willingly.
Perhaps, unknown to many people, there is a global cleansing process, meant to correct past imbalances brought about by human greed and ignorance, largely. A few people who are permitted to perceive the trend of this global phenomenon, see that Nigeria is a flash point where there must be diligent care with regard to the practice of politics. Politics should not degenerate into conspiracies and gangsterism.
Without being specific, it is necessary to advise Nigerian politicians generally to bridle personal ego, vanity and vaulting ambitions. To plunge a community into anxiety and instability cannot be described as good politics. There is an old prophecy that those that the gods would destroy, they first make mad. A “do-or-die” system of politics can be described as politics of madness. May be time will unfold what cunning intrigues hide away now. The military and police should stay away from the growing madness.
Dr. Amirize is a retired lecturer from the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.
Combating Human Trafficking In Nigeria
Nigeria is a source, transit point and destination country for women and children subjected to trafficking in persons in which they are subjected to forced labour and prostitution. Trafficked Nigerian women and children are recruited from rural areas within the country’s borders.
Women and girls are for voluntary domestic servitude and sexual exploitation while boys are for forced labour in street vending, domestic servitude, mining and begging. Nigerian women and children are taken from Nigeria to other West and Central African countries like Ghana, Benin, Niger, Burkina Faso, Cameroon and Gambia for the same purposes.
According to the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Nigeria is one of the leading African countries in human trafficking with cross-border and internal trafficking. Human trafficking is a way to exploit women and children for cheap labour and prostitution to help themselves out of poverty.
Human trafficking always occurs within Nigerian borders, in neighbouring countries and many European countries as well because they are able to ship women and children for human trafficking to expand the market or the industry. Human trafficking gangs Nigerian have sent thousands of women into the sex market within Italy, Spain and the Netherlands. Research shows that about 10,000 Nigerian prostitutes in Italy are subjected to human trafficking.
Human trafficking of Nigerian women to Italy began in the 1980s because of the demand for low skilled labour in agriculture and services. Nigeria has a history of hearing financial issues causing significant unemployment and poverty. Given the underground nature of trafficking, its consequences are hidden and difficult to see.
Trafficked persons often do not have unlimited access to basic necessities such as safety, food, sleep, hygiene and medical care. The effects of trafficking vary depending on the type of trafficking and specific situation. Given that trafficking is based on the exploitation of individuals, all victims of trafficking may be subject to physical, psychological and social impacts.
Victims of trafficking often experience harsh physical impact due to excessive work or the use of force by traffickers. Victims may be exposed to health risks like HIV/AIDS as well as a serious mental health risk. Anxiety, insecurity, fear and trauma are all products of trafficking. Research indicates a high level of Post -Traumatic Stress Disorder (PSTD) in formerly trafficked persons which can also lead to cognitive impairment, memory loss, depression and even suicide.
Trafficked minors are all the more vulnerable due to their age. It may greatly impact children’s emotional, physical and overall psychological development. Trafficked persons may also experience social ostracism and often isolated from their social circles, leaving individuals unable to engage socially or reach out for help. Victims may also be trafficked internationally and, therefore, may not be able to engage due to a lack of linguistic capability or geographic and cultural familiarity.
Sex trafficking has some consequences for victims and society. It affects women and girls in reported cases. Despite law protecting them, victims of trafficking are often criminalized; this exacerbates the physical and psychological trauma they experience and causes economic harm that limits their ability to break free from their traffickers and rebuild their lives.
Human Trafficking is seen as an endless cycle with a global economic crisis on the horizon as the demand for cheap labour is on the rise. People looking for jobs far away from home are often deceived. This places the poor at a higher risk of being trafficked, as victims of human trafficking are often poor and illiterate.
Sex and human trafficking could be curbed through learning the indicators of human trafficking to help identify a potential trafficking victim. Human trafficking awareness training should be made available to individuals, businesses, law employees, among others.
One should be able to report suspected traffickers to law enforcement agents. Volunteer and support anti-trafficking efforts in your community. The government should endeavour to create employment for Nigerian citizens several of whom are unemployed and have no livelihood.
Skills acquisition should be organized in every State to enable youths to learn at least a trade. Nigerian borders should be properly guarded while other agencies should be set up to arrest human traffickers in order to reduce the rate of trafficking in the country. The media have a role to play in shaping perceptions and guiding the public conversation about human trafficking.
Harry, a freelance journalist, is based in Port Harcourt.
Gleaning From Akashic Record
Issues raised and discussed during World Sickle Cell Day (June 19) would not be adequate to throw open deeper knowledge into the phenomenon of Sickle Cell Anemia. It is necessary that we take some gleaning from other quarters too. There is nothing abracadabra about so-called Akashic Record, because it is all about Natural History; namely, the evolution, development, pilgrimage and the travails of the human species over a very long time. Nothing is erased or arbitrary therein.
Sickle cell anaemia is a serious genetic illness which affects mainly the black race, in which the blood cell changes shape, causing weakness and fever. The normal cell has a circular shape while the sickle one has a hook-like shape. The anaemia associated with sickle cell is the lower level of red blood, whereby a child becomes more prone to illness.
Some Ill-disposed persons took the prevalence of sickle cell anemia among the black people to say that the Blacks are an inferior or cursed race. Because Sickle Cell Anaemia is known as “Undine’s curse” and is hereditary in nature, there are lots of superstitions associated with it. However, there is a need to delve into the reason why sickle cell anaemia is associated with the “Undine”.
There is a widespread ignorance, superstition and misconceptions about this matter and a lot of people look in the wrong directions or make unfounded claims over the phenomenon. In many cases more guilts are incurred in the process of seeking solutions to personal problems, especially with individuals and organizations that take delight in exorcism.
Definitely there are hereditary diseases and other afflictions, some of which arise from curses and imprecations whose origins are decades or even centuries old. Undines which can also be called Nixies are one generic species of innumerable Nature beings. However, the Undines as Nature beings, do not place a curse upon any human being, rather, the activities of all Nature beings have to do with working and serving in various elements, such as air, water, fire, soil and all that constitute Nature.
There are other species of beings whose activities have to do with the weaving of the fate of humans, referred to in the Scriptures as “Watchers”. Therefore, there is a need to make a distinction between various Nature and Elemental Beings serving in different spheres of creation in line with the Will of the creator, and artificial entities created by human thoughts and emotions. What human beings create through their activities would continue to haunt them.
Because of human misconceptions about the mechanism, weavings and laws in creation, there is the tendency for individuals to judge events and experiences from grossly myopic perspectives. For example, the phenomenon of sickle, cell anaemia or Undines curse, has nothing to do with Nature beings. Rather, human beings may not remember the origin and starting points of what they experience in life, neither is the issue of continuity of life considered as a reality by many people.
The striving to find meaning in life is a vital motivating force in man, and the experiences and challenges which we encounter are some of the means of finding deeper meanings. Unfortunately a good number of people would dodge rather than face life’s experiences and challenges boldly and seek to learn what lessons they mean to convey. Thus, the escapist syndrome expresses inability of man to stand up to the demands and responsibilities of life. Dodgers and weaklings can hardly have a glimpse into the Akashic Record!
To run to prayer houses, occult and witch doctors for the removal of personal afflictions for a fee, would be to refuse to dig deep into the perplexities of life. Truly, there is no mystery in creation but ignorance, fear and indolence, but those who seek diligently and earnestly can always find the truth, hidden from the majority of humans. Would anyone deny the fact that we reap what we sow, in spite of our clever scheming?
All hereditary diseases and afflictions which may appear inexplicable or unjust can be explained from the light of the operations of the law which demands that those who sow singly or jointly must also reap what originated from them. The “Watchers”, not the “Undines”, weave, knot together and connect the threads and radiations of fate so that at the right time, those who are bound together by the threads of fate can experience mutually what they had set in motion long ago.
There are a number of people allegedly tormented by evil spirits, mamy-water, etc, but whose plight can be traced to some personal negligence or wrongdoing of a distant past. Nature beings cannot be held culpable for such woes, but what torments humans are artificially created thought-forms which can also be called demons, which are products of human volition and emotions. The links between such evil centres of energy and those connected with them do not take place arbitrarily; rather, the contents and blood cells of individuals serve as microchips. The storage tank or bank of all human activities is what is referred to here as Akashic Record! Blood is an identity fluid, like finger print! DNA technology is a valid science.
Dr. Amirize is a retired lecturer at the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.
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