Danger signals emerged yesterday as the House of Representatives was thrown into a rowdy session following a sharp disagreed between members over a motion urging the Presidency to obey court orders to release the leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) Ibraheem El-Zakzaky and his wife, Zinat from detention.
The development in the lower chamber followed another confrontation between armed policemen and members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, IMN, during fresh rounds of protest yesterday against government’s continued detention of their leader Sheikh Ibraheem El-Zakzaky. The incident left no fewer than two persons injured.
The Islamic sect had on Monday clashed with the police during a similar protest which resulted in the death of about eight persons, including a Deputy Commissioner of Police Usman Umar, and a National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) member with Channels TV, Mr. Precious Owolabi.
However, the renewed hostilities between IMN and the police, which played out around the popular Banex Junction in Wuse II district, left no death on its trail.
An eyewitness told newsmen that the police were proactive in dispersing the Shia protesters before they actually took over the streets for their planned demonstration.
“The Shi’ites had barely commenced their activities this afternoon when policemen stormed the gathering and released tear gas in the air. Gunshots were also fired into the air to disperse the crowd,” the source said.
When reporters spoke with Abdullahi Musa, the Secretary of IMN’s Academic Forum, the organ responsible for organising the protests, he claimed two members of Islamic sect were injured as the people scampered for safety.
“The police injured two of our members at Banex junction. The two injured have been taken to the hospital,” he said.
Asked to mention the hospital the injured were rushed for medical attention, he declined; saying “I can’t reveal the hospital for obvious reasons.”
But after a heated debate yesterday, the House of Representative asked President Muhammadu Buhari to shun the court orders on the release of the detained leader of Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky.
This followed an amendment to a motion on the need to stem the rising incidence of attacks and insecurity occasioned by the violent protests of the movement sponsored by Hon. Ahmed Shamdudeen from Kano State.
Hon. Herman Hembe from Benue State had suggested that the motion be amended to accommodate urging the President to obey the court orders and release El-Zakzaky.
But the naysayers shut down the motion when subjected to a voice vote by Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila.
The same fate almost befell another amendment by Hon. Lynda Ikpeazu from Anambra who forwarded an amendment specifically calling on the Kaduna State government to also release El-Zakzaky.
When put to vote, the naysayers almost had their way again. But sensing a tie in the respective responses of “yea”, and “nay” sayers, the speaker called for a division.
“I am going to do the division right here and now”, Gbajabiamila said.
At this juncture, the House became rowdy and swiftly dissolved into an executive session. At the moment, members are still in the closed meeting.
However, President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, reiterated his commitment in fighting insecurity that is threatening the unity of the country.
While commiserating with the families of Channels TV reporter, Precious Owolabi; Deputy Commissioner for Police, Usman Umar, and others that died, last Monday, in Abuja during a clash between Shiites and police operatives, Buhari in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media & Publicity, Femi Adesina, told Nigerians not to doubt or test his administrations will to act in the higher interest of majority of Nigerians.
The President also condoles with the management and staff of the television station and police leadership over the loss, urging them to remain steadfast and committed to their professional callings.
Describing Owolabi and Umar as “law-abiding, hardworking and vibrant Nigerians with a promising future,” Buhari called their untimely fate, “sad, regrettable and worrisome.”
“Sequel to his directive to the leadership of security and law enforcement agencies to safeguard the nation against such mindless attacks, the President reassures residents of Abuja in particular and the country in general to go about their lawful activities without fear.
“Buhari adds that perpetrators of the mayhem will not go unpunished, stressing that no government can tolerate unceasing affront to constituted authority”.
According to the President, “Let nobody or group doubt or test our will to act in the higher interest of majority of our citizens.
“He prays God Almighty to grant rest to the souls of the departed and speedy recovery to the injured.
“The unaltered desire of President Buhari today about Nigeria is to leave a legacy of total reformation of Nigeria, a country all Nigerians would see reasons to proudly boast even in foreign climes as the land of their birth”.
However, the President of the Senate, Dr Ahmad Lawan, yesterday, expressed sadness over the loss of lives in the violent clash between members of Islamic Movement in Nigeria and security agents in Abuja, last Monday.
Lawan, in a statement issued by his Special Adviser on Media, Ola Awoniyi, described the death of Channels TV reporter, Precious Owolabi, in the incident as tragic.
“It is tragic that a brilliant life and professional prospect was abruptly cut short in a manner that diminishes us as citizens of a democratic nation,” he said.
Lawan also extended his condolences to the family of Owolabi, the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) and Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ).
He also commiserated with the family of Mr Usman Umar and the Nigeria Police over the death of their son and Deputy Commissioner of Police (Operations) during the incident.
He condemned the habitual resort to violence by members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria under the guise of the exercise of their rights to freedom of association and expression.
The Senate president also decried the use of excess force by the security agencies.
He called on the security agencies to evolve new approach for peaceful enforcement of law and order, even in the face of provocation.
Lawan urged the Federal Government to find a speedy resolution to the agitation by members of the movement, within the context of the rule of law, national peace and security.
“All lawful options need to be considered towards avoiding carnage from needless confrontations of citizens with the security forces,” he stated.
Similarly, the Nigeria Union of Journalists has expressed grave sadness over the killing of a Reporter with the Channels Television in Abuja while covering a protest by members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN).
A statement by the National Secretary of the union, Shuaibu Usman Leman, read: “We regret the sudden violent turn of events during what was supposed to be a peaceful protest by the IMN members who were demanding the release of their leader, Sheik Ibrahim El-Zakzaky.
“The Reporter, Precious Owolabi, who was on national service died of bullet wounds sustained during the coverage of the protest.
“It was not clear who actually fired the fatal shots.
“A Deputy Commissioner of Police, in charge of Operations at the FCT Police Command, Umar Usman equally died from gun shots sustained during the violent protest.
“The Nigeria Union of Journalists demands for a thorough investigation to ascertain those responsible for the death of 23-year old Precious and bring such persons to account for their crime.
“We regret the death of this young professional occasioned by the rising threats being faced by Journalists on daily basis while performing their duties.
“Until recently, outside war zones and other conflict areas, journalists usually didn’t have to be too much concerned about safety issues, but unfortunately today, media professionals are facing a whole new set of occupational hazards.
“We are worried by these dangerous trends and note with disgust that Nigeria is shifting down in the overall press freedom rankings.
“While we grieve with the family of the deceased journalist, we caution media organizations against sending young and inexperienced journalists to cover dangerous assignments that ideally should be given to experienced professionals who are better prepared and equipped to carry out such duties.
“The Federal Government of Nigeria should as a matter of urgent concern address the lingering protest by IMN members calling for the release of their leader, Sheik Ibrahim El-Zakzaky.
“This is the right time to take a second look at the continued detention of not only Sheik El-Zakzaky and his wife but also of Col Sambo Dasuki (rtd), before it gets too late”.
But the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (aka Shiites) has absolved itself of the murder of the Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of Operations in the FCT, DCP Usman Musa, saying that he may have been a victim of “friendly fire”.
Umar, a Channels TV reporter and several other members of the IMN died during a protest by the IMN on Monday that turned violent.
In an interview with newsmen, the spokesman of the IMN, Ibrahim Musa reiterated that members of the movement do not carry weapons so they could not have been responsible for the senior policeman’s death.
According to him, several members of the movement died during the protest as a result of the violence unleashed on them by security agents.
He said “a quick analysis of images and video clips showed that the Free El-Zakzaky procession was peacefully progressing prior to the brutal crackdown.
“It also clearly showed that the protesters weren’t bearing arms and traffic was moving smoothly without hindrance.
“The images also showed the police, armed to the teeth, intent in stopping the movement of the protesters. Few other policemen and plain cloth security agents were seen piling used tyres for use to set bonfires.
“By the time the police struck, about a dozen members of the Islamic Movement had been killed. The police were seen picking the corpses to an undisclosed location, perhaps for mass burial.
“Also shot were a journalist with the Channels TV and their colleague, an Deputy Commissioner of Police, whom photographs showed was struck from the back of his head with the bullet exit in front, an indication that he was a victim of “friendly fire.
“As if to hide this fact, the late policeman was hurriedly buried without any form of post-mortem examination, which would have revealed the source of the bullet”, he said.
Meanwhile, the Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of Operations, Federal Capital Territory Command, DCP Usman Umar, who was shot dead during the violent clash between the Police and protesting Shi’ite members in Abuja on Monday, has been buried.
He was reportedly buried at the national cemetery on Monday evening after a short prayer at the National Mosque.
The FCT Police spokesman, Anjuguri Manzah, confirmed, yesterday, that the deceased officer had been buried.
Umar, described as a kind man, was pacifying the Shi’ite members when he was felled by a bullet. He died before he could be taken to the hospital for treatment.
In anticipation of another round of protest by the members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, the police, yesterday, beefed up security around the Federal Secretariat, Abuja, scene of Monday clash.
Armed and battle-ready policemen could be seen in front of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, inside the Eagle Square and generally within the three arms zone.
The area was, however, calm as commuters and workers went about their businesses.
Our correspondent also observed riot police officers in trucks being deployed in parts of the Federal Capital Territory to forestall a breakdown of law and order.
The carcasses of the ambulance and fire truck belonging to the National Emergency Management Agency, set ablaze by the rioters are yet to be evacuated.
In the mean time, the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, says the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government refused to obey Justice Gabriel Kolawole’s order on the release of the leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, Sheikh Ibraheem El-Zakzakky, because it appealed the ruling.
Adesina said this during an interview on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily, yesterday.
The President’s spokesman said the Attorney-General of the Federation at the time, Abubakar Malami (SAN), may have had his reasons for doing so since the government had the right to appeal the bail.
He said, “I know that the immediate past AGF in whose purview it was to make pronouncements on that, address the issue. If bail is granted and another case subsists and there is an immediate filing of appeal, you have to wait till it is dispensed with. So, that is a legal matter which is outside my purview but as a layman, an unlearned man as lawyers would call us, we know that until all cases are dispensed with, you don’t say that it has been concluded.”
Adesina said the matter had since been taken before a court in Kaduna State and the bail hearing would come up next Monday.
He, therefore, called on the Shiites to wait for the court to make its ruling.
Responding to allegations that the police ought not to have fired live bullets into the protesters on Monday, the President’s spokesman said the police deserve to be commended, adding that the death toll would have been much higher if the police did not show some restraint.
Adesina argued, “I tell you despite what happened yesterday, if the police had responded with greater force, you know we would not be talking about what we are talking now.
“A deputy commissioner of police was killed. Yes, very sad, that is one life just like any other life. He did not deserve to die in service to the country but if the police had responded in similar fashion, you would have been talking of rivers of blood in Abuja now.
“I still believe there was some restraint yesterday despite what happened and personally I still commend the police for showing that restraint.”
In his reaction, a political activist and former Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Timi Frank, said that the numbers of death recorded at Monday’s violent clash between the police and the protesting Shiites members are avoidable, calling on the International Criminal Court (ICC) to hold President Muhammadu Buhari responsible.
The Shiites are demanding the release of their leader, Ibraheem El-Zakzaky, who has been in detention for alleged murder since December 2015.
Reacting to the clash which led to the death of many Shi’ite members, a Deputy Commissioner of Police and a staff of Channels Television, in a statement made available to newsmen, yesterday, in Abuja, Frank demanded for unconstitutional release of the Shia leader, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky to prevent the crisis from degenerating into more dangerous dimensions.
While commiserating with the families of a Deputy Commissioner of Police, Channels TV staff and others who died during the violent fracas, Frank accused the Buhari administration of abuse of court process, saying the President has taken dictatorship to the Next Level.
The Bayelsa-born political activist said security strategy in a crisis situation must be targeted to calm the situation and not shooting at protesters.
He reminded Buhari that when he personally led a protest against the police in 2014 no single shot was fired at his group.
According to him, no past government has supervised the killing of her citizens directly or indirectly like the current administration.
He warned against creating another terrorist group by deliberately disobeying court orders and refusing to release the leader of the Shiite by the APC government.
Frank, who said it was the right of the Muslim group to demand the release of their leader from illegal and unjustified detention, added that “whether we like it or not, Shiites members are Nigerians, therefore Nigerians must condemn the clamp down on the group.
“The Buhari government has refused to obey all the court orders granting the Shiite leader bail before now.
“Why is Buhari’s government finding it difficult to obey the numerous court orders? It is also on record that the leaders of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and their Muslim counterparts had visited Buhari concerning this illegal detention and that of Col. Sambo Dasuki but the APC’s government has consistently paid deaf ears to all their concerns.
“The demand for his release has now gone international. In London recently, a group of protesters were seen calling for the release of El-Zakzaky and the UK Government did not send police to shoot the protesters even when the Shia leader is from another country.
“Nigerians must speak up now and channel the blame to the right direction, which is Buhari and not the protesting Shiites members who were demanding for the release of their leader.
“If Buhari’s government could negotiate with Boko Haram, bandits and other dreaded groups, why is it difficult for him to find solution to the Shi’ites’ agitation?”
Frank called on all Nigerians including religious leaders and Civil Society Organisations to boldly speak out now and prevail on the President to release the detained El-Zakzaky and Dasuki.
He warned the government which he accused of attempting to kill El-Zakzaky to release him unconditionally.
He also appealed to the international community to mount pressure for the release of the Shiite leader.
He called on the International Criminal Court (ICC) to indict the IGP, the Chief of Army Staff and the President for consistently killings the protesting group.
Another group, a coalition of Igbo youths, yesterday, given the Federal Government a 7-day ultimatum to proscribe the activities of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), nationwide.
It was reacting to the Monday’s attack by the Shiite militants on emergency point of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).
Several persons were injured while many vehicles belonging to the agency were set ablaze in the bloody attack.
There has been constant violent clash between the sect and security operatives, which has claimed many lives and government properties.
Reacting to the saga, the coalition affirmed that the Islamic group must be outlawed within seven days.
The ultimatum was given by the National Publicity Secretary of the Coalition, an amalgamation of Igbo Youth Groups in Nigeria, Comrade Ogbonna Ogbonna, at a press conference on Monday in Abuja.
Ogbonna stated that Federal Government must act now in the interest of Nigerians before it gets too late.
According to Ogbonna: “It is instructive to note that the IMN as an organization has displayed violent tendencies in Nigeria as far back as the early ’80s which culminated in the incarceration of its spiritual leader Sheik Ibrahim El-Zakzaky by successive governments for crimes against the state, disregard for constituted authorities and the disruption of public peace.
“The IMN carried on with this trend unabated with the active support from the government of Iran and some other extremist organizations that have continually funded their operations in Nigeria since the early ’80s.
“The Coalition of Igbo Youth Groups having viewed the current situation in Nigeria with regards to the resurgence of the violent activities of the IMN that has led to the death of innocent Nigerians as well as security operatives calls for concern and urgent action from the federal government in the interest of peace and tranquillity.
“The IMN cannot continue to insult the sensibilities of Nigerians by arrogating the propensity for violence to itself alone, forgetting that the heterogeneous nature of Nigeria and experiences of the past makes each ethic group mutually suspicious and ready to take laws into their hands if the situation arises.
“The coalition consequently wishes to state that our silence should not be taken for humility, and our respect for the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria should equally not be misconstrued as foolishness.
“The activities of the IMN has indeed caused countless tears and sorrow to a large population of Nigeria that are law-abiding and steadfast in the belief that Nigeria shall make progress and reclaim its spot in the comity of nations in the world.
“The IMN cannot continue to constitute themselves as an executive terror group terrorizing Nigerians and the Federal Government, and by extension, the Nigerian Police Force would not act proactively towards containing their nefarious activities in the interest of peace and tranquillity in Nigeria.
“This is unacceptable and insults to the sensibilities of the millions of Ohanaeze youths in Nigeria who would not hesitate to take up arms and protect the interest of Ohanaeze youths in Nigeria.
“This is on the heels that during the period the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) Nnamdi Kanu was incarcerated, the Igbo Youths did not take laws into their hands by not constituting themselves to nuisance to public peace in the country.
“The actions of the Ohanaeze youths should not be taken for granted by the relevant authorities in Nigeria in the light of the prevailing circumstances that has clearly shown that the IMN group has an agenda to destabilize Nigeria with the active support of the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran and other terrorist networks around the world.
“The coalition states in unequivocal terms that the lackadaisical attitude of the federal government in dealing decisively with the IMN terrorist group sends a dangerous signal and if care is not taken might eventually lead to the disintegration of Nigeria.
“The IMN has consistently violated all known international laws as regards the protection of human rights and the right to freedom of association of Nigerians regardless of their ethnic and religious affiliations.
“The more curious is the fact that the Nigerian government has refused to sever ties with countries that have supported and funded the nefarious activities of IMN. This is suspect and highly unacceptable to the Coalition of Igbo Youth Groups.
“The coalition at this moment states that it would no longer seat and watch as the IMN continues to constitute a threat to the sovereignty of the Federal Republic of Nigeria under whatever guise.
“It, therefore, advises the leadership of the IMN to seek legal methods in advancing the case of their leader in line with existing laws in Nigeria, instead of taking the laws into their hands by embarking of violent street protests and other activities that do not augur well for Nigeria and Nigerians.
“The coalition consequently gives the Federal Government and the Nigerian Police Force a 7-day ultimatum to proscribe the IMN as a terrorist group in line with the avalanche of evidence before the general public.
“It wishes to state in unequivocal terms that failure to proscribe the IMN as a terrorist group would leave the coalition with no option than to take laws into our hands.
“The exigencies of time require that the Federal Government should act proactively if it is desirous of keeping the country united and safe for all concerned. The federal government must act now in the interest of Nigerians before it gets too late.
“A word is enough for the wise because the coalition would not continue to watch in silence as innocent Nigerians fall victim to the nefarious activities of the IMN and their sponsors.
“The 7-day ultimatum given to the Federal Government to proscribe the IMN as a terrorist group stands sacrosanct and must be treated with all seriousness that it truly deserves.”
In faraway the United Kingdom, Iranians, whose country backs the Shia Islam which the El-Zakzaky-led Islamic Movement of Nigeria a.k.a Shi’ites practices, yesterday, took their protest down to the Nigerian High Commission in London.
The Iranian protesters were heard chanting ‘Buhari’s government, shame on you’, as they called on the Nigerian government to release El-Zakzaky and his wife, Zeenat.
We reported earlier that court document filed on behalf of El-Zakzaky and his wife, Zeenat at the Kaduna State High Court, revealed that they are suffering metal poisoning.
The metal poisoning is reportedly caused by the gunshot pellets in their body system, and the couple are seeking the court’s permission to travel to India for medical attention.
On Housing For Rivers Public Servants
The significance of providing accommodation for public servants in government establishments in this part of the world has been neglected over the years and regressively underestimated. It is a typical fact that a well relaxed mind is the head that wears the thinking cap. A mind can be relaxed only if it is less burdened with the responsibility of providing basic physiological needs; for instance, decent and affordable accommodation which, in turn, bolsters effective comprehension, enhances productivity, profitability and professionalism at the work place.
Over the years, successive government administrations in Nigeria had, at one time or another, adopted one housing policy or the other. The first known housing policy in the country can be traced to the days of colonial administration in 1928 when the outbreak of an ill-fated bubonic plague prompted the establishment of the Lagos Executive Development Board (LEDB), which was saddled with the responsibility of managing public housing schemes and interventions. This, of course, was the experimental version at the time. This pilot scheme was aimed at addressing problems of housing at the national level. The center of attention then was predicated on the need to provide accommodation for expatriate workers and selected Nigerian staff in establishments such as Armed Forces, Police, Marine and the Railways. This included the construction of senior civil servants quarters in Lagos and regional headquarters like Enugu, Kaduna and Ibadan. The scheme also made provision for rent subsidies and housing loans to deserving public servants.
Over the years, the national housing policy has been severally overhauled to perform better compared to the era of its inception. The modern era began with the promulgation of Decree No. 40 of 1973, establishing the Federal Housing Authority but the actual take-off was in the year 1976.
Right from then, the authority had been saddled with the responsibility of providing affordable and livable houses for the masses until 1977 when its functions were complemented with those of the Nigerian Building Society; a brain-child of the colonial administration which later metamorphosed into the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria. This served as the main engine room for public housing delivery with a dual function of primary and secondary mortgage institution in the country.
From 1976 till date, decrees emanating from defunct Supreme Military Councils and laws from the National and State Assemblies have been used in drafting legal frameworks for housing policies for the people at different levels. But the fact remains that decrees and laws on their own cannot provide accommodation for the masses, only the political will of the executive arm of government accounts for the overall success of government programmes.
The United Nations General Assembly in 1948 adopted and proclaimed the Rights to Adequate Housing as enshrined under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Thus, the human right to adequate housing is the right of every individual, male, female, young, old, child, rich or poor. This proclamation has been domesticated by the Federal Government of Nigeria but not much success has been domesticated by the Federal Government of Nigeria but not much success has been recorded.
Here in Rivers State, successive administrations had tried their hands on one housing policy or another to provide livable houses for the citizenry. Today, the present administration led by His Excellency, Chief Nyesom Wike, in 2016 called for collaboration with the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) on the way forward toward providing affordable houses for the people of the state. The Governor made the call during a courtesy visit on him by the Managing Director, Federal Housing Authority, Professor Mohammed Al-Amin, at Government House, Port Harcourt.
Governor Wike then directed the Management of the Greater Port Harcourt City Development Authority (GPHCDA) and the State’s Ministry of Housing to liaise with the FHA to fashion out a development framework for affordable housing for public servants in the state.
Since then, Governor Wike, being a man with the magic wand, in his magnanimity has demonstrated his love for public servants in the state by providing affordable and livable homes for them. So far, the overachieving governor kept his promise by providing 24 units of three-bedroom flats at Lagos Street, in the old Port Harcourt Township.
There are also 14 units of six two-bedroom flats and eight three-bedroom flats all attached with one-room service quarter at Amassoma Street, Amadi Flats, Port Harcourt. The Judiciary in the state is not left out as 20 units of five-bedroom duplex with two-room service quarter have been duly completed at Elelenwo Street in new GRA axis of Port Harcourt for judges in the state. The Governor in his first tenure had provided 50 units of two-bedroom flats at Iriebe in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area.
A vox pop of some public servant who are currently savouring the benefits of living in government quarters accorded the governor accolades for overhauling the sector. Mr. Francis Igwe a beneficiary in one of the estates said: “I am happy with the governor for the work he is doing to provide accommodation for civil servants in the state. He has done well for us and I believe he can do more by building more houses to accommodate more civil servants”. Another beneficiary, Mr Austin Ezekiel-Hart, a management staff in the civil service and an occupant of one of the newly constructed housing units expressed his mixed feelings thus: “The government has done very well in building new housing units and I am a happy and proud occupant. The problem I have is that some occupants of these housing units are very insensitive to maintaining the structures. The government in its wisdom has provided these facilities but some occupants are not just interested in maintaining them. They erroneously believe that government should come and sweep their environment, evacuate their sewage, fix broken windows and even paint their buildings. These are things that the occupants can easily do if they come together. I think it is time the occupants of these facilities complement government’s effort”.
Another proud occupant, Mrs. Akiyata Anyanwu, shared her experience as follows: “I have been enjoying this facility for over five years now and I’ve not had any reason to regret. The environment is calm; neighbours are co-operative and the security of the area has been optimal. In my opinion, the government has done well, but I still think that more housing units should be built to accommodate more civil servants in the scheme.”
A judge in the state judiciary who pleaded anonymity due to the sensitive nature of his job said: “Though I am not currently an occupant of the facility, but I am very happy with what the governor is doing in the housing sector. It is obvious that the gesture will go a long way in improving the psyche of workers, especially the judicial officers”.
In her view, Mrs Ominini Cheetam-West, a beneficiary, applauded the efforts of Governor Wike for fulfilling his promise of providing accommodation for civil servants in the state but pleaded that the government should endeavour to build more housing units in different parts of the state to accommodate more civil servants and added that a well relaxed civil servant will be more productive in the work place.
With these achievements, Governor Wike has truly shamed his critics who go about insinuating that he does not love or consider the plight of workers in the state. Workers are grateful to him for his magnanimity in the housing sector. He has demonstrated that he is a man of his words but there is still room for improvement. Some stakeholders in the housing sector have opined that Governor Wike’s achievement in the sector speaks volumes and is worthy of emulation for other state governors. We, therefore, solicit that more housing units be constructed to accommodate more workers in the state. Frankly speaking, if workers in Rivers State are provided with the right environment to retire to after the day’s work, it is certain that such workers would have enough time and space to rest and prepare for the next day’s challenge with much ease. Once again,it is said that a relaxed mind is the head that wears the thinking cap. Godam is of the Rivers State Ministry of Information and Communications.
By: Eric Godam
On Lagos Okada, Keke Ban
Recently, Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, outlawed commercial motorcycles (Okada) and tricycles (Keke Marwa) in the state, leading to pandemonium and criticisms from every nook and cranny of the state. From government’s side, the action was targeted at reducing the crime rate in the society.
Admitted, most of the heinous crimes are perpetrated in collusion with Okada operators which clearly manifested recently with the arrest of Okada riders with handguns and other arms concealed inside parts of their motorcycles, which could only be detected with eagle’s eyes. Kudos to the Police Intelligence Response Team (IRT) led by DCP Abba Kyari. The group has continued to show expertise in the career and, therefore, deserve encomiums.
However, as the society is tensed up over the unemployment ratio, it must be noted that tricycle and motorcycle transportation have been bridging the gap in unemployment, and thereby contributing positively in a measure to security of lives and properties. The question is; if with the engagement of such a great population of operators, security challenges are pronounced in the society, what will happen when they do not have means of livelihood. Sensibly, there will be fire on the mountain.
To ban the masses’ major means of livelihood without first providing alternatives is not ideal. Many of the operators opted for the vocation as a last resort after some ugly incidents knocked them out of the ring. Presently, there are no welfare packages for the masses and the microfinance banks that are supposed to support Small and Medium-Scale Enterprises (SMEs) do not help matters. Clearly, there are no sufficient job opportunities even for the employable class as are available in other countries. Many that are willing to work are roaming around.
Suffice it to say that Lagos State Government should responsibly plan it well; instead, it could put stringent measures in place towards organizing and monitoring it adequately for security reasons. Particularly, there should be compulsory registration of the operators and essentially, restricted in some designated routes. For operation in the highway, certainly, that’s a no-go area.
However, what then becomes the fate of residents in the remote area that, due to bad roads, can with less difficulty move around through motorcycles. Suffice it to say that it goes beyond banning but putting necessary infrastructures in place. If there are good roads for vehicles to ply especially mini-buses, certainly, many commuters will not go for motorcycles or tricycles.
The ban similarly occurred in the federal capital territory leaving commuters to suffer in moving around since the long buses in the fleet of Abuja Urban Mass Transit Company are insufficient and, therefore, rarely available at needed times. Commuters are getting excessively stressed up in the Federal Capital Territory unlike before while going to work and other places. So, governments must always ensure that palliative measures are put in place before adopting radical policies so as not to imperil the same lives they intend to protect. Government is essentially about service to the people.
Without doubt, the operators will find themselves in extreme tight corner without any means of survival. If government had designated mini-buses with a hire-purchase scheme as a model, the motorcycle and tricycle operators could key in, and the idea would be unique but to chase out poor masses that are struggling to survive without any provision for them is unconsciously endorsing insecurity.
Absurdly, this is a society where a minister, or lawmaker goes around in official fleets worth over N100 million, yet, ordinary social facilities to the masses are unavailable. The outrageous allowances in the legislative arm is a no-go area. Government must ensure that its policies, no matter how good they may become in the long run, do not first drain the masses.
To expect every business to operate in a modern plaza is a positive plan, however, not realistic vis-à-vis different financial capacities. Rome, they say, was not built in a day. As a coin has two sides, so is any society. Hence, there is need for equilibrium to be able carry both sides along. Otherwise, democracy may shift to become a government of the affluent and for the affluent. So far, the masses are not participants in reality, but reserved valuable assets for campaigns just to get into power. After this phase, everyone is on his own.
Recently, a former ‘distinguished senator’, on Twitter, brashly justified his passion for insatiably acquiring luxury automobiles when the people in his locality are living in abject poverty. Not even a factory or serious business of his anywhere to create jobs for his people, but displaying customized posh cars with special numbers in the garage. Yet, during electioneering campaigns, the masses put their lives into it for little or nothing.
Recently, about 40 stout bank accounts in foreign and local currencies were allegedly traced to former Abia governor and serving senator, Theodore Orji, and his son, Chinedu (Speaker of Abia State House of Assembly) by the anti-graft agency which buttressed the point well. Imagine the ones yet to be traced!
No wonder many unoccupied estates littered in many places particularly in the FCT with no identifiable owners, possibly for fear of investigation. Nigeria’s democracy presently reflects ‘lootocracy’ than democracy. Apparently, the military sold a looting template to the people, and not democracy as practiced around the world.
To sum, a society that neglects the masses in its plan cannot wake up with radical changes overnight, otherwise, the good policy may end up doing more harm than good. There are millions of adults willing to engage in one lawful endeavour or the other, but find themselves handicapped due to unavailability of jobs and capital. Ideally, any responsible and committed government must take cognizance of this, and put them in the blueprints prior to bans.
Umegboro, a public affairs analyst, wrote from Abuja.
Coronavirus: Reality And Way Forward
So much has been said about what has simply become popularly known as Coronavirus. For an ailment as old as less than three months, the kind of desperate attention it has attracted has been quite overwhelming. In fact, it is comparable only to what was experienced when HIV/AIDS first came to the fore in Nigeria in the early 1980s, particularly in terms of the mystery surrounding what it really is, and its fatality.
This mystery surrounding the virus, like it was in the days of HIV/AIDS, has resulted in different people giving their own version of how the virus originated, what its symptoms are, how it can be contracted, and how deadly it is, based especially on what information is at their disposal. Some of this information is actually based on hearsay.
The most popular one of how the Coronavirus originated is that it was got from a bat soup, or soup made from snake. In what could be seen as a flip side to this, the impression widely given is also that the Coronavirus was got from the Chinese habit of eating raw things: rat, frog, fish, cockroach, etc.
Coronaviruses according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) were identified in the mid-1960s and are known to infect humans and a variety of animals (including birds and mammals). Since 2002, two Coronaviruses-infecting animals have evolved and caused outbreaks in humans: they are SARS-CoV (2002, Betacoronavirus, subgenus Sarbecovirus), and MERS-CoV (2012, Betacoronavirus, subgenus Merbecovirus).
In 2002–2003, SARS-CoV affected 8,096 people, causing severe pulmonary infections and 774 deaths, with case fatality ratio of 10%. Bats were said to be the likely origin of the virus, which spread further to Himalayan palm civets, Chinese ferret badgers and raccoon dogs sold for food at the wet markets of Guangdong, China.
MERS-CoV was identified in 2012 in Saudi Arabia and since then the majority of human cases have been reported from the Arabian Peninsula. Human-to-human- transmission, particularly in healthcare settings, has been the main route of transmission. However, dromedary camels are important animal reservoirs of the virus. The case fatality ratio of MERS-CoV infections is estimated at 35%.
In December 2019, a novel coronavirus, christened “2019-nCoV”, was first isolated from three patients with pneumonia, and was connected to the cluster of acute respiratory illness cases from Wuhan, China. Genetic analysis revealed that it is closely related to SARS-CoV and genetically clusters within the genus Betacoronavirus, forming a distinct clade in lineage B of the subgenus Sarbecovirus together with two bat-derived SARS-like strains.
Contrary to what is widely said about how the present Coronavirus originated, and given the fact that no clear origin has been given, a somewhat plausible explanation was given by a senior Chinese military intelligence officer who went on Absence Without Leave (AWOL) after his wife and child were allowed to contract the virus, thus compelling him to break his silence on the truth about the virus.
Expectedly, for security reasons, he excluded his identity. But his explanation turns out to be too good to ignore as it lays bare facts that only an insider can have.
According to him, the “Coronavirus” outbreak is far worse than the media are telling the world, and that its origin is not directly from any animal, but from some biological tests carried out by a laboratory close to the densely populated Wuhan animal market in China, but was intended for a different purpose.
“You will have heard that it originated in Wuhan, an industrial city in China, and that it came from an animal, most likely a bat or a pangolin, that was sold in a wild animal market. You will have been told that it is an influenza-like illness that can in severe cases cause pneumonia, respiratory failure and death.
“Finally, you may have heard that although the disease is highly infectious, it is dangerous only to the elderly or to those who have a compromised immune system. The official lethality rate is approximately 2% or so.
“All of that is a bunch of lies concocted by the Chinese state with the tacit support of the U.S. deep state and its friends in the European Union, Russia and Australia, and spread by the docile media in all of those countries”, he said.
The Chinese intelligence officer stated categorically that what is now christened “coronavirus” or “COVID-19” was, in fact, a biological experimentation meant for use to make anti-government protesters in Hong Kong become docile.
Unfortunately, after testing the substance on identified human subjects, who were mostly seen as people that were one way or the other opposed to the government, they found out that beyond making the subjects docile, it later killed them slowly, but painfully.
“They developed massive internal bleeding; the walls of their arteries dissolved; they bled out of their eyes and orifices, and their tissue disintegrated. To put it in a more direct Western manner, they started to ‘melt’. Death usually occurred through multiple organ failure. This was preceded by at least five days of severe agony which could not be alleviated by painkillers.
“We decided that our Agent was unusable. It was far too destructive for our purposes. We wanted the population of Hong Kong to submit to us; we did not want to exterminate it”, he said.
By this time, however, the Americans had developed interest in it. According to him, “They hinted that they wished to use it to resolve certain difficulties in Venezuela. Normally we would have agreed, as we maintain friendly relations with the CIA, but given the extremely toxic nature of the Agent, we declined”.
This did not deter the CIA, which at this point was convinced that the Chinese had developed something very powerful and wanted to keep it to themselves. They offered a great deal of money to one of the Chinese researchers, who agreed to sell them a specimen.
“We found out just in time for the handover and tried to stop it from happening. In the ensuing shoot-out (which was never reported anywhere), several dozen people were killed”, he said.
At the end of the day, the traitor agent escaped. But in the shoot-out that took place at the Wuhan wild animal market, which was just the location where the CIA was supposed to receive the sealed vial containing the Agent, the vial shattered when it was dropped by the traitor who had agreed to sell it to the Americans.
“Of course, we could not keep such a huge undertaking secret, so we decided to order our state media to report that a ‘Coronavirus’ had broken out in Wuhan. In reality, of course, there is no coronavirus. It was all made up”, he said.
For various reasons, this explains a lot about how the Coronavirus came to be. The right or wrong of it can be scrutinized later, but right now, the fact that before now the Chinese have been eating whatever they may be eating without a sudden outbreak of coronavirus gives credence to the present situation.
As at last Friday, more than 100,000 people have been diagnosed with the infection in more than 80 countries. The virus has already shown that it has the potential to kill, particularly vulnerable groups, such as the elderly, and people with underlying health conditions.
It is also highly contagious, and a lot is not known about it since it was only discovered some weeks ago, and for which the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared COVID-19 a global public health emergency in January.
As the virus makes its way across the globe, different countries are taking different precautionary steps to prevent it, and also to check its spread should the need arise. In Nigeria, the Federal Government has taken various preliminary preventive measures. The same thing with some states, especially after the rumoured diagnosis of an Italian found to be infected, though with no other detail.
In Rivers State, the government, through the state Ministry of Health, has commenced various preventive measures. These include identification of persons with possible fever associated with the coronavirus, provision of facilities to quarantine infected persons, training of ad-hoc medical staff to attend to infected persons, etc., while also outlining preventive measures to be taken by residents, in accordance with WHO recommendations.
The recommendations include: regular washing of hands with soap, especially when soiled; washing hands with sanitizers made with alcohol, and observing sneezing or coughing etiquettes.
Meanwhile, various efforts are being made to come up with a cure, or vaccine for the Coronavirus. A notable effort is the one by Inovio Pharmaceuticals in Sorreno, San Diego, California, United States which, last week, after a three-hour marathon research, came up with a vaccine for the virus.
“It only took three hours for these smart minds to come up with what may stop the global spread of a deadly virus that has all but turned major neighbourhoods in China into ghost towns with tens of thousands in quarantine, and suffering from this virus”, a monitored statement said.
Reports in Nigeria say a group of four scientists is working to develop a vaccine for Coronavirus, for which Federal Government has earmarked the sum of N36 million.
As the world remains tensed over expectations of what Coronavirus holds, anxiety over its prevention and cure continues.
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