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Editorial

Strengthening COOPs And MSMEs

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Realising the essence of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) to local, national, regional and global economic development, the United Nations specially proclaimed June 27 annually as the International Day for Micro, Small and Medium Scale Enterprises to raise public awareness and sensitise the global community on the need to encourage and sufficiently fund MSMEs to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Still harping on the roles and capacity of MSMEs as well as Co-operative Societies, the UN similarly declared July 6 yearly as the International Day of Cooperatives in recognition of COOPs’ contributions to societal development at various strata of governance. UN’s General Assembly on December 16, 1992, unanimously passed a resolution declaring the aforementioned date (July 6), as the centenary commemoration of the establishment of the International Cooperatives Alliance in 1995. It, indeed, coincided with the 25th United Nations Day of Cooperatives.
With the theme: “Big Money For Small Business Financing For SDGs”, the UN tasks government at all levels and stakeholders, especially the Organised Private Sector (OPS), to muster sufficient willpower and finance MSMEs and COOPs as they provide employment for over 279 million people representing 10 percent of world’s total working population.
According to Ariel Guarco, President of the International Alliance of Cooperatives (ICA),” COOPs help to preserve employment and provide work in all sectors of the economy, which enhances living standard of communities and societies”. Well said Guarco!
No doubt, MSMEs and COOPs, indeed, improve the socio-economic empowerment and inclusive sustainable growth, as these enterprises are usually people-centred with less tendencies for corruption as evidenced in public or governmental organs, particularly in developing economies such as Nigeria and other African countries where mismanagement and corruption hold sway.
Statistics from the National Bureau of Statistics and the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) indicate that MSMEs operators in the country grew from 39 million in 2013 to 41.5 million in 2017, implying that in 2019, the figure must have risen to over 50 million, especially against the backdrop of dwindling economic fortunes, where job cuts and unemployment rate have risen to over 38 per cent with 28 million youths unemployed.
Obviously, the right way to go is the emergence and funding of MSMEs and COOPs which will play critical roles in re-shaping the economic well-being of the teeming unemployed, but productive Nigerians who, by no fault of theirs, are idling and roosting for lack of white-collar jobs.
Though the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), in collaboration with some commercial banks as well as other governmental bodies, have made efforts in encouraging COOPs and MSMEs, we think that so far, it is not enough. Deliberate and proactive measures must be put in place to further encourage and boost these micro-businesses. Minimal lending rate remains the key.
The establishment of micro-finance agencies and banks, to say the least, has not really made the desired impact. It is our candid position that soft loans, grants and other incentives as well as adequate budgetary and extra-budgetary measures are the right path to follow, if Nigeria must be reckoned with as a global economic power.
In Asia, Europe and North America, MSMEs and COOPs play significant roles in the economic development of their countries. China, Japan, Brazil, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, just to mention a few, owe their strong economies to these micro-businesses. Nigeria, therefore, must strive to be on the same page.
The Tide endorses in its entity the report of the Federal Ministry of Trade and Commerce, urging the National Economic Council (NEC) to mobilise funds to over 37.07 million MSMEs, representing 84 percent of manufacturing and productive sectors and 45 percent of the nation’s GDP.
As the UN’s Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, unequivocally stated while marking this year’s celebration of MSMEs, “these micro-businesses are key and critical to any country’s economic emancipation and, of course, remain road maps to creating 600 million new jobs needed by 2030 to keep pace with the world’s working age population.”
Funding and financing them surely means taking bold steps to achieving set out goals towards 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Nigeria must, therefore, key into this global model for economic stability and prosperity.
We must also support our MSMEs and COOPs to flourish as a deliberate policy of unlocking Nigeria’s economic potentials and diversification of the nation’s monolithic economy. In this era of limited white-collar employment, MSMEs and COOPs remain the right path to follow.

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Editorial

Providing Succour To Terror Victims

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To apparently cushion the debilitating effects of violence and terrorism on victims across the world, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed August 21 every year as the International Day for Remembrance of Victims of Terrorism. It equally adopted another resolution, proclaiming August 22 every year, as International Day commemorating Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief, among other matters, and directed member countries to religiously observe the two days as befitting tributes to all victims of terror attacks and violence based on their faith, all over the world.
The commemoration of the two days on Wednesday and Thursday, this week, in Nigeria and other countries, brings to the fore the plight of victims of the twin evils of terrorism and violence based on religion or belief in these countries.
There is no gainsaying that several persons have become victims of both terrorism and violence based on their faith or belief in several parts of the world.
While welcoming the decisions of the General Assembly to take these practical steps in honouring victims across the globe, the Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, said the day to commemorate victims of terrorism is intended to lift up the voices of victims and survivors of terrorist attacks, who consistently call for accountability and results.
He said, “When we respect the human rights of victims and provide them with support and information, we reduce the lasting damage done by terrorists to individuals, communities and societies”.
Unfortunately, while more countries are affected by terrorism today, the number of victims has largely been concentrated in a small number of countries of the world. According to statistics, in 2017 alone, nearly three-quarters of all deaths caused by terrorism were in just five countries: Nigeria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia and Syria.
Paradoxically, in all countries of the world, victims of terrorism continue to struggle to have their voices heard, have their needs supported and their rights upheld. Victims often feel forgotten and neglected once the immediate aftermath of a terrorist attack and other violent attacks fades, a situation which can have profound consequences for them.
More worrisome is the fact that only few countries have the resources and the requisite capacity to meet the medium and long-term needs required by victims to fully recover, rehabilitate and integrate back into the society. Infact, victims can only recover and cope with their trauma through long-term multi-dimensional support, including physical, psychological, social and financial, in order to heal and live with dignity. Again, the primary responsibility to support victims of terrorism and uphold their rights rests squarely with the various governments of the world. On this score, synergy and collaboration are needed.
Similarly, following unprecedented rise of violence against religious communities and people belonging to religious communities across the world, in tandem with the United Nations’ bold initiative, there is no better time to begin addressing the challenges facing victims than now. Like victims of terrorism, victims and survivors of violence based on religion or belief, are often forgotten.
It is no longer a hidden fact that hatred towards religious groups may lead to killing of innocent people, particularly against the backdrop of one-third of the world’s population suffering from some form of religious persecution.
Also, acts of terrorism are intended to cajole and intimidate members of religious communities and, as a result, hold them back from practising their faith. In some countries, religious practice is forbidden even at home and, sometimes, the representatives of religious minorities are refused religious funerals.
More often than not, acts of terrorism in several countries of the world have their roots in religious extremism and fanatism. Islamic bigots and fanatics were suspected to be the brains behind the bombing of the World Trade Centre in the United States of America in September, 2001. Boko Haram insurgents in Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger, Chad and other countries in Africa are propelled by religious extremism and have continued to inflict incalculable damage to citizens of these countries for over 10 years now.
In Nigeria, for example, the terrorists have ravaged the North-East States of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe, leaving in their wake tears and blood, with many citizens displaced. Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps are scattered here and there. This is coupled with the number of persons killed, maimed and displaced by suspected herdsmen and bandits in places like Benue, Plateau, Zamfara and Taraba States. In all these, victims and survivors have sordid tales to tell. In other cases, IDPs are raped, dehumanised and short-changed by persons entrusted with the responsibility of caring for them.
Again, the beheading of a female Christian preacher by religious bigots in Abuja recently, is still very fresh in the consciousness of most Nigerians. The cases of abduction and murder of priests, the disappearance and resettlement of religious leaders, torture and beating based on religion or belief by the police in some countries are only examples of the persecution and discriminatory behaviour towards religious minorities.
It is, however, heart-warming that the United Nations’ resolutions do not relate to any specific religion or belief but to all victims of violence and terrorism, and seek to raise awareness of the importance of respect for religious diversity, peace and tolerance in the world.
While The Tide commends the countries of the world for successfully commemorating the two international days, we call on their governments to take more practical steps to support victims of terrorism and violence based on religion and other beliefs. They should synergise and collaborate to help the victims.
Apart from providing a regional taskforce to counter insurgency and terrorism, African countries like Cameroon, Chad, Niger, Nigeria, among others, can work together to provide succour to victims. It is never in doubt that governments of these countries have not done enough to cushion the devastating effects of terrorism and violence on the victims.
Again, most IDPs camps are nothing to write home about. The inmates of these camps are still left at the mercy of the elements and are buffeted on every side by the lack of funds, drugs, water, food and shelter. Also, providing them with basic education and other skills would go a long way to ameliorate their plight. The time for action is now.

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Editorial

De-Escalating Tensions In The Gulf

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Tensions between the United States and Iran have spiked over the last one year following President Donald Trump’s unilateral decision to pull out of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA) otherwise called the Iran nuclear deal, and announcement of crushing economic sanctions effective November 4, 2018, in veiled implementation of the July, 2017 US Congress vote on Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) against Iran, Russia and North Korea.
Trump’s harsh Iran policy immediately sparked international condemnation, with a caution that Iran was complying fully with letters of the deal, and warning that the US policy could trigger a reversal to the old order which encouraged Iran’s nuclear enrichment policy and confrontation with the West.
Indeed, recent US sanctions on Iran began with the US Executive Order 12170 following the 1979 seizure of US Embassy in Tehran as an outcome of the Iranian Revolution, and have been renewed since then with the Iran and Libya Sanctions Act 1996, extended by five years in 2001, and extended again for 10 years with the Iran Sanctions Act 2006. These sanctions, targeting Iran’s financial services, oil and gas sector, property, gold, food, spare parts, medical products, regime leaderships and Iran Revolutionary Guard (IRG) officials, have had crippling effects on the economy and the people. To worsen issues, till date, no diplomatic relations exist between the US and Iran; two nations that have had close ties since 1834 when it was Persia.
While justifying his decision, Trump said the US was not satisfied with the content of the Iran nuclear deal signed on July 14, 2015 by Iran and the United Nations Security Council’s permanent members – USA, United Kingdom, Russia, France and China plus Germany and the European Union; designed to help smoothen relations and facilitate lifting of US economic sanctions, just as Iran gives up its nuclear capabilities and allows Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) workers to do facility checks on its nuclear sites unhindered. As a result of this success of diplomacy under the Barack Obama administration, the US supported the UNSC Resolution 2231 of July 20, 2015 which welcomed “Iran’s reaffirmation in the JCPoP that it will under no circumstances ever seek, develop or acquire any nuclear weapons”.
Unfortunately, since May this year, tensions have escalated in the Gulf, following Trump’s deployment of significant strategic military assets to the Persian Gulf as part of measures to check any untoward activities of alleged Iranian renegade mercenaries and proxies against US allies in the region, which Trump and his hawkish advisers have explained, were increasing their nefarious actions in the Middle East at the behest of IRG commanders.
But since the massive military deployments began, a number of dangerous incidents threatening world peace and economic stability have occurred, including the seizure of oil tankers, attacks on oil and cargo vessels, and the downing of US drone in the Persian Gulf, Gulf of Oman and the Strait of Hormuz, belonging to some Middle East and European countries.
With the rising tensions, the complex situation in the Strait of Hormuz poses serious concern because the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea technically grants Iran control rights over territorial sea or coastal waters extending 12 nautical miles or 22.2km or 13.8miles from the baseline of its coastline, including airspace, seabed, suboil beneath; contiguous zone adjacent to and extending seaward up to 24 nautical miles from its baseline; and exclusive economic zone adjacent and extending seaward up to 200 nautical miles, but not beyond the continental shelf above 200 nautical miles. It also gives Iran rights to defend any violation of recognised maritime laws and regulations.
The Tide recalls that the aftermath of the two Gulf Wars: – Iran/Iraq and US-led allies vs Iraq wars – had devastating disruptions in world economies, resulting in the great depression and contraction in major countries. We also note that the several conflicts in North Africa, especially Libya and the Middle East, particularly Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon, and intermittently between Israel and Palestinian militias, have collectively inflicted severe consequences on world economic stability, growth and progress.
This is why we think that the current tensions in the Gulf should have been avoided by the Trump administration by respecting the agreed terms of the 2015 JCPoA. Besides, we also believe that the strings of economic sanctions and others slammed on Iranian regime leaders and IRG commanders actually undermine the course of global peace and economic prosperity. This is because before the new sanctions, Iran was complying with the terms of the deal, as attested to by EU nations, China and Russia, prompting their initial refusal to align with Trump in his aggressive policy against Iran.
While The Tide agrees that the JCPoA, just like many agreements and constitutions may not have captured all provisions required to tame Iran’s intransigence and mercenary activities across the Middle East, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Africa, Europe, South East Asia, and elsewhere, we think that all parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), particularly the US Government should have given the Iran nuclear deal a chance to achieve its mandate. Of course, Iran reserves the right to protect and defend its territorial waters, contiguous and exclusive economic zones, exercise control necessary to prevent infringement of its customs, fiscal, immigration laws and regulations, and punish any violations within the law. And given the proximity of the Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf to Iran’s territorial waters and airspace, we feel that US many adversary actions amount to clear provocation of its sovereignty. Even the convergence of warships from US, UK, and others to escort vessels out of the Gulf to the ocean is only an invitation to chaos.
We believe that only diplomacy can bring about peaceful resolution of the impasse in the Gulf. Intimidating military and aggressive economic pressures to force Iran to do America’s bidding is nothing but bullying, and should not be accepted in international politics. We feel that Iran’s current actions are borne out of frustration from US unfriendly tactics. We have seen the failure of this strategy in North Korea, where Kim Jong-Un is still busy testing short and medium range ballistic missiles, without Trump raising an eyebrow. Therefore, we urge Trump to withdraw the sanctions forced on Iran, and seek dialogue based on mutual respect, justice and equity.

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Editorial

That Sowore’s Call For Revolution

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An attempt to set the nation on fire was averted by the Department of State Services recently, when it arrested Mr. Omoyele Sowore,the presidential candidate of the African Action Congress (AAC) in the 2019 general elections and founder of an online leaks newspaper, Sahara Reporters from his home in Lagos for alleged acts of treason and terrorism.
Sowore had burnt his fingers by giving an hashtag #RevolutionNow to a planned protest by the Coalition for Revolution (CORE).
The CORE claimed to have planned a three-phase protest. The first stage tagged “end anti-people economic policies,” calls for redress in contemporary social issues, like immediate payment of N30,000 minimum wage, putting a stop to the devaluation of the Naira; stop estimated electricity billing; immediate release of Sheik Ibrahim El-Zakzaky; payment of outstanding salaries and pensions, etc.
The second phase is tagged, “end special privileges for the ruling class,” and it calls for a ban on all government officials from using policemen as security guards and sending children to private schools or foreign universities, etc. The third phase is “returning political power and national wealth to the working people.”
One of the aims of this phase is: “to reduce the cost of governance by abolishing the Senate, thus, establishing a uni-cameral legislature with only the House of Representatives.”
Riding on the crest of the degree of violence such revolution evokes, the DSS justified Sowore’s incarceration by saying, “These threats include threats of subversion, threat of terrorism and, of course, ethnic agitations, separatist, economic sabotage and others. We must understand the meaning of revolution. Primarily, it means a revolt, it means insurrection, it means insurgency, it means forceful takeover of government and we are operating a democratic system in Nigeria.”
Within 48 hours, the DSS dragged Sowore to court and obtained an order to keep him for 45 days. The order is to give security operatives the opportunity for unfettered investigation into CORE’s alleged unconstitutional acts.
According to Wikipedia, in Political Science, a revolution (Latin: revolution, “a turnaround”) is a fundamental and relatively sudden change in political power and political organisation which occurs when the population revolts against the government, typically due to perceived oppression (political, social, economic) or political incompetence. Sowore’s call, we believe, is in tandem with this definition, therefore, asinine and irresponsible.
Though there have been preponderance of opinions on the call for revolution, The Tide is of the view that in essence, Sowore was calling for a forceful change of government and therefore condemns the call.
Granted, the Constitution gives any citizen right to a peaceful protest but a revolution is a different ball game. Revolution could be emotive. Its use in a civil protest could spur participants to engage in acts of violence or sabotage. It may be on this account that the DSS decided to incapacitate Sowore and cripple the attempts to actualise the protest in several cities in the South.
No doubt, the issues they raised are germane, the insecurity situation in the country is at an all-time high and the economy is in very bad shape at the moment. However, we believe that every civil disagreement can be resolved through honest, sincere and open discussions without unnecessary recourse to actions liable to further inflame tensions, endanger lives and property of Nigerians without achieving lasting results.
We cannot be oblivious of the far-reaching negative consequences of revolution. You can start a revolution but definitely the end cannot be predicted. It is on this premise that we reject the call for revolution in Nigeria which at this time of our democratic experience can hardly mean well for the wellbeing of the people.
While we condemn the use of the word revolution, we call on the Buhari administration to consider Sowore’s ‘Revolution’ as a wake-up call to the fact that the masses are trapped in the floodgates of difficulties – kidnapping, armed banditry, poverty, unemployment, and general economic downturn.
Suffice it to say that apart from those who live in ivory tower and access cheap funds from government treasury, millions of other Nigerians are languishing in socio-economic quagmire. Against this backdrop, we advocate that the Buhari led All Progressives Congress (APC) Federal Government must come to terms with realities and evolve practical and sensible measures that could tackle the myriad of problems of the nation. With a good and determined leadership, Nigeria will be on its way to utopia.
We also call on the DSS to be thorough and open-minded in this investigation to gather evidence to prove or disprove their hypothesis of terrorism and treason in the #RevolutionNow protest. Any call for revolution now is belated and should not be allowed in Nigeria.

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