The United Nations Children Education Fund (UNICEF) has said that about eight million children are currently out of school in 10 Nigerian states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
According to the Fund, these children are unable to access safe and quality education in Nigeria mainly because of the ongoing insurgency and banditry in Adamawa, Bauchi, Gombe, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Niger, Sokoto and Taraba States.
Speaking at an event to mark this year’s Day of the African Child in Abuja, recently, UNICEF communications specialist, Mr. Geoffery Njoku, said that about 2,000 youths drawn from the 10 states and the FCT presented petitions to their Governors, legislators, policy makers and other influential persons aimed at drawing attention to the need to commit to ensuring safe and quality education for all children, especially girls.
He noted that the mass action called for improvement in school infrastructure, a massive enrolment campaign to bring all children, and targeted investments to ensure an uninterrupted 12 years of schooling for girls. It also sought for the deployment of more qualified teachers to the rural areas and incentives to female teachers.
Day of the African Child is observed globally to remember the day in 1976 when hundreds of students were shot in the Soweto suburb of Johannesburg, South Africa, while demonstrating for their right to quality education.
This year’s remembrance coincided with the celebration of the 30th Anniversary of the Convention on the Right of the Child (CRC) which Nigeria ratified in 1991 and is regarded as the most widely ratified human rights treaty in history, stipulating that every child has a right to education.
Erstwhile Minister of Education, Mr. Adamu Adamu, recently disclosed that there were about 10.5 million children, aged between six and 14, who were out of school in Nigeria. He claimed that the figure had reduced from 13.2 million following interventionist strategies adopted by the government in conjunction with non-governmental organizations and international donor agencies.
Adamu had enumerated the challenges of reducing the number of out-of-school children to include: insecurity due to insurgency and banditry, misconceptions about value of education, slow implementation of UBEC programmes by state UBE boards, inadequate needs assessment before project execution, inadequate funds for special education, and lack of reliable data for planning, among others.
What the minister failed to point out is that the country’s governments at all levels have consistently failed to make adequate budgetary provisions for the school system.
Experts have often pointed out that the Federal Government’s budgetary allocation to the education sector staggers between five and seven per cent against the 26 per cent that is universally recommended by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). For instance, in this year’s budget, only N620.5 billion (about 7.05 per cent) was allocated to education from the N8.92 trillion total expenditure estimate. This amounts to a marginal raise when compared to the N605.8 billion in 2018. What’s more, only a quarter of the earmarked amount is usually released before the budget year rolls by.
We think that the high cost of accessing education is also to blame for the current out-of-school children menace. With the poor state of the Nigerian economy which led to massive job layoffs, many affected families, now unable to fend for their children, have been compelled to downgrade or outrightly withdraw such from school.
This is where we commend the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, for his administration’s latest decision to cancel the payment of tuition fees in all public primary and secondary schools in the state. Given the relatively stable security situation in the state, it will surely serve to ensure that more children access safe and quality education.
Government should intensify effort at significantly reducing unemployment in the country. The current situation where university graduates spend much of their youthful years roaming the streets in search of jobs can hardly encourage any parent or guardian.
It did not require the application of rocket science for other African countries such as South Africa, Ghana and Rwanda to stabilise their school systems. Essentially, we believe that peace, security, adequate funding, enhanced teachers’ welfare and good planning and supervision are key to making Nigeria’s education system attractive to her children.
While jobless graduates are increasingly turning to kidnapping, armed robbery, cybercrimes, drug pushing, prostitution, militancy and pipeline vandalism for survival, out-of-school kids have continued to swell the ranks of child labourers, cultists, gangsters, rapists and pickpockets, among others.
We fear that if today’s political leaders do nothing serious to effectively stem or totally reverse this ugly trend, they will be deemed to have simply ignored a festering ailment on the nation’s soul.
Still On Leah Sharibu
A 26-year old medical aid worker, Jennifer Ukambong Samuel, who was recently freed by Boko Haram obviously amazed the nation when she reportedly said that another captive, Alice, who had stayed longer in the camp of the dreaded terrorist group, told her that Leah Sharibu was alive and in good health.
“I didn’t see Leah Sharibu but Alice said Leah and Grace were doing fine, that is what she told me. That if I had known her before she was abducted, I would have agreed that she is doing fine; she is very fat but she wasn’t fat before her abduction.”
Jennifer’s admission that the insurgents gave them food and encouraged them to request whatever they wanted for their comfort was equally good to hear.
Even as her revelation could pass for a mere hearsay, it nevertheless came at a time when the people’s anxiety was beginning to turn to real fear, especially with social media reports suggesting that Leah had been killed by her captors following the Federal Government’s failure to meet the conditions for her return.
The public’s fear was also informed by the Sharibu family’s recent complaints that President Muhammadu Buhari’s communications and assurances on their daughter’s release from captivity had waned of late.
Leah Sharibu was among the 110 schoolgirls abducted from Government Girls Science and Technical College (GGSTC), Dapchi in Yobe State at about 5.30 pm on February 19, 2018. Their abduction came four years after about 276 girls were whisked away in similar circumstances during an early morning raid at another school in Chibok in neighbouring Borno State. Although, more than half of them are said to have been released so far.
While 104 of the Dapchi girls regained their freedom after a series of indirect negotiations between the Federal Government and the insurgents, Leah was said to have been held back based on her refusal to renounce her Christian faith and convert to Islam. The remaining five girls reportedly died in captivity, apparently while trying to escape. Recall that even Leah attempted to escape but was caught and returned by a migrant Fulani household.
Like many Nigerians, The Tide is bothered by the inability of the Federal Government to secure a successful release of Leah and the remaining Chibok schoolgirls. In fact, in the case of Leah, there are those who suspect that Mr. President, being a devout Muslim, may not be impressed with the teenage girl’s uncommon courage to hold onto her Christian faith rather than accept an ‘easy and harmless’ condition for her freedom.
Proponents of this theory have consistently pointed to the speed and tenacity with which the Presidency intervened last year to save a Muslim girl, Zainab Aliyu, from the hang man’s noose in Saudi Arabia where she was arrested and detained on a drug trafficking charge.
Again, if Leah were to be the daughter of a prominent Nigerian politician, wouldn’t the government have done every thing possible to ensure her release?
Leah’s case became even more pathetic when her voice was clearly heard in an audio clip in August, 2018 pleading with President Buhari to quickly accede to Boko Haram’s prisoner-swap demand so as to ensure her release. But rather than respond to the distress call of a hapless Nigerian girl, the Federal Government said it doubted the authenticity of the audio, claiming that such could as well have been the handiwork of political mischief makers, especially in the lead up to the 2019 general elections. It promised to verify the audio clip but has remained mute ever since.
The Federal Government had consistently reassured Nigerians on Leah’s life and health even in captivity. But in the event that those were mere political posturing while it secretly nursed the fear that she may have been killed and therefore doubted Boko Haram’s sincerity, we believe that the latest revelation should serve as a clarion call to galvanise the government into a more determined action to bring the girl back.
Considering the manner in which these kids were whisked away, the agonies of their loved ones and the international embarrassment that attended the raids, we think that nothing is too much to sacrifice for the return of Leah and the rest of the Chibok girls, especially where it requires prisoner swap.
In Support Of Amotekun
The raging controversy over the establishment of the Western Nigeria Security Network codenamed Operation Amotekun has again brought to the fore the ills of Nigerian society and the fault lines of the nation’s existence.
The security network launched on January 9 in Ibadan, Oyo State capital, was conceived by the South-West governors to complement the efforts of the conventional police and other security agencies in taming the scourge of banditry, armed robbery, kidnapping, murder and other sundry security challenges in that region.
According to its proponents, Amotekun is not an army of the region or usurper of the functions of the conventional security agencies but an initiative meant to fill the obvious huge gap left by the police in the area of neighborhood watch, intelligence gathering and early detection of crimes in the South West.
It is, therefore, cynical that an ingenious initiative like Amotekun will attract vehement opposition from some vested interests, including the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami. Rather than supporting the genuine innovation and patting its proponents on the back, Malami and his co-travellers, mostly from the North, are scheming to throw spanners in the wheels of the security outfit.
Malami did not only declare Operation Amotekun as illegal, he also went further to threaten severe actions against its promoters. A more disingenuous dimension was the rantings of the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, the umbrella body of Fulani herdsmen, who warned South-West governors to back down on the security network or risk their region’s chances of producing the President in 2023. How uncanny and puerile can this be?
The Tide wishes Malami and his co-travellers good luck in their infamous attempt at demonising a well conceived initiative.
However, we commend the South West governors for rising up to the security challenges in their region a’la Operation Amotekun and we recommend similar security networks in other regions. We also commend the unanimous resistance of the people of the South-West to hold on to the security network in the face of opposition by some vested interests.
We believe that the establishment of Operation Amotekun by the South-West governors is a frontal response to the helplessness of the federal police to combat crimes in the region and the failure of the Federal Government to protect its citizens.
We recall that not long ago, the South-West was a flashpoint of security breaches where banditry, kidnapping and despoilation of people’s farmlands held sway. The July 2019 murder of Funke Olakunrin, daughter of an octogenarian leader of Afenifere, Pa Reuben Fasoranti, by armed bandits along Ondo road, is still fresh in mind. Many other innocent citizens across the country had been hacked down in similar circumstances. It is, therefore, natural that the South West governors, who are chief security officers of their respective states, take the bull by the horns and rescue their people from unwanted onslaught and brigandage.
There is no gainsaying the fact that security challenges in the country have become increasingly daunting for the security agencies to combat and have, in fact, boxed the country into the Hobbesian state where life has become nasty, short and brutish. Needless to say that the security situation has stretched the security agencies beyond their capacity, such that there is a thunderous clamour for state policing.
Already, we are aware of the existence of some unconventional security networks across the country such as Hisbah police in Kano, Civilian Joint Task Force and various community vigilantees.
Amotekun is, therefore, not different except that it is regional in outlook and modus operandi.
While we agree that there may be constitutional limitations to the purview of Operation Amotekun, there is no evidence that suggests that the security network is an effort to hijack the role of the police or in confrontation with the Federal Government. Malami’s fears are, therefore, needless and misplaced.
His postulation that Article 45, second schedule of the Constitution as (amended) gives the Federal Government the exclusive power to manage the police is akin to playing to the gallery. It is a mischievous attempt at clothing Operation Amotekun and any other similar security outfits that may spring up thereafter with the garb of a regional army ready to usurp the functions of the police. Malami’s outburst is also a futile attempt at throwing the law at community vigilantee or personal maiguard hired by individuals to protect lives and property.
It would have been more honourable and dignified for the AGF and others who oppose the establishment of Operation Amotekun to concede to the simple fact that the people of the South West have been pushed to the point where they can no longer afford to standby while anarchy and lawlessness reign in that region. They have seemingly taken their security away from the almighty Federal Government that has failed to protect them and their property.
That is the kind of result a nation gets when genuine innovations such as state police and security outfits like the Rivers State Neighborhood Safety Corps are not allowed to see the light of day due largely to some inexplicable and self-serving considerations.
Checking Medical Tourism Abroad
After spending 217 days mostly on health grounds abroad in three years, 10 months, he has been in office, President Muhammadu Buhari has also been the one recently lamenting the country’s loss of over N400 billion yearly to medical tourism is curious and worrisome.
Unfortunately, President Buhari who attributed the precarious healthcare situation attributed to government’s inability to address various health challenges at the inauguration and handover of a completed project to the management of the Alex Ekwueme Federal University Teaching Hospital in Abakaliki , has since coming to office, embarked on several medical trips abroad including seeking medical attention for ear infection outside the country.
Represented at the event by the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, the President said, “Government has shown strong commitment in the revitalisation of the health sector. These efforts notwithstanding, our health sector is still characterised by low response to public health emergencies, inability to combat outbreak of deadly diseases and mass migration of medical personnel out of the country. This has resulted in increasing medical tourism by Nigerians in which Nigeria loses $1 billion on annual basis.”
Doubtless, this is a national embarrassment because if the President who has a responsibility to address the anomaly is lamenting, who will address the challenges? If the President is helpless on the issue of access to health care, who has more powers to help him? Lamentation is not a strategy anywhere.
The Tide holds that the poor access to health care in Nigeria may not also be unconnected with the disturbing degree of deterioration that has characterised the health sector. The deterioration, we believe, has been due to neglect by successive administrations. In fact, the nation’s health sector is groaning and now in a near total collapse and there is no glimmer of hope.
Worrisome is the fact that the dismal situation is in spite of the billions of naira expended on some tertiary hospitals by successive administrations including Buhari’s to equip some strategic departments in some tertiary and teaching hospitals as ‘centres of medical excellence.’
Worse still, even the State House Clinic established to take care of the President, Vice President, their families as well as members of Staff of the Presidential Villa, Abuja joined the league of hospitals that cannot deliver quality healthcare services. This came to the public glare when Mrs. Aisha Buhari took ill in 2017 and was advised to travel abroad because of the poor state of the clinic.
So, some of the factors hampering access to quality health care in Nigeria include obsolete equipment and the brain drain that began since 1985; not discounting the not-so-conducive operating environment. Again, inadequacy of medical facilities, high cost of drugs, sub-standard drugs, wrong diagnosis, poor attitude of health workers occasioned by poor remuneration and resulting in the neglect of patients by medical personnel, long waiting time for patients, etc. are all responsible for the unhealthy situation in Nigeria.
On brain drain, reports have been consistent that even as the nation grapples with shortage of medics, more are fleeing the country. Besides, most of those highly educated and talented medical professionals, who are out in foreign countries are excelling, where the conditions and atmosphere are relatively better.
So, it is obvious that Nigerian doctors are competent to manage a healthcare delivery system in Nigeria if the right environment is put in place.
Therefore, The Tide thinks that the continuing exodus of doctors should be a concern to people in authority. Against this backdrop, duty bearers must address the rising deficit in medical personnel occasioned by migration. Specifically, conscious policy must be formulated to attract health technologies and experts in the diaspora back to Nigeria for a more effective and efficient health service delivery. Hence, government ought to recognise that the country is in trouble if there are no adequate healthcare personnel for its teeming population.
So, as a country in need of more medics, the leadership must develop plans on how to retain trained medics. Against this backdrop, we suggest that the situation can be reversed by making the National Insurance Scheme (NHIS) compulsory for all citizens, which we hope will provide enough funds to improve the conditions of service and working environment for health professionals.
Also, we urge government to provide adequate remuneration and make conditions of service attractive for medics to live decently. Authorities at all levels should also provide the infrastructure and cutting-edge technologies needed for quality service delivery by medical professionals. Furthermore, we appeal to Nigerian medics in the diaspora to return and set up world-class medical facilities in the country. Their regular medical outreach programmes in Nigeria can’t be enough.
What is more, the President has to build on his positive experience in the health systems of other climes while receiving treatment, to impact on the Nigerian healthcare system by replicating what he saw and experienced in London at least to take care of the masses who do not have the resources to fly abroad for medical care. He should encourage health authorities in the country to replicate the medical equipment he saw abroad during his treatment.
Specifically, Buhari should make healthcare his personal agenda, and contribution to the growth of the Nigerian health sector. He should see his health challenge and experience in a London hospital as a wake-up call by revamping the health sector. This should be pursued so that Nigerians would stop going through this embarrassment for the good of the people and the protection of our national image.
Similarly, we demand that the ninth National Assembly should demonstrate good leadership, which is a critical variable in dealing with the current crisis in the health sector. The legislators should show good representation in the area of health sector reform. Hopefully, by amending the National Health Act, 2014 and with more investment in the health sector, many citizens will have access to quality and affordable health care, while the capital flight occasioned by medical tourism will be a thing of the past.
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