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Editorial

Task Before Amaewhule’s Committee

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Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, experienced a major shaking on Monday, August 26, 2019 as the Bright Amaewhule-led Task Force on Street Trading, Illegal Markets and Motor Parks commenced its operations.
Reports on day one of the task to rid one of Nigeria’s most popular cosmopolitan towns of the nuisance constituted by some recalcitrant residents indicate that the exercise was hugely successful around the Mile I, Ikoku and Mile III axis while it was expectedly resisted in some other parts.
While the mixed fortunes recorded by the committee are not unexpected, The Tide wishes to sound it clear, very early in the day, that it must not be discouraged nor dissuaded by any circumstances, situations or considerations thrown up by any persons or groups from achieving set objectives. The fact needs to be appreciated that consistency is a key ingredient in attitudinal change and behavioural adjustment. Therefore, the committee must be fully prepared for a long haul in the task of cleaning up not only Port Harcourt, but the state at large.
Governor Nyesom Wike has so far left no stone unturned in his determination to restore order and give the residents of the Rivers State capital especially, and the rest of the state in general, a fresh lease of life economically, socially and environmentally through the delivery of strategic projects, programmes and policies. To this end, the state chief executive has demonstrated sufficient political will in his avowed commitment to restore the lost glory of Port Harcourt as the Garden City of Nigeria, and possibly move it to a higher level of cleanliness, orderliness and aesthetic pleasantness.
The painstaking mythological approach, vis the legal framework, selection of personnel, and provision of adequate required logistics for the work, adopted by the governor in arriving at the eventual take-off of the committee’s work, and the personal monitoring of the exercise on the kick-off date, clearly show that he expects nothing short of success in this endeavour this time around in contradistinction to previous attempts.
The committee, therefore, must match His Excellency’s zeal and commitment and reciprocate his confidence by achieving desired result not only to justify the members’ engagement but also take fulfilment as those who rose up to the occasion of rendering quality service in the state’s quest to be counted among cities that are raising their profile in orderliness such as Lagos and Abuja in Nigeria and their contemporaries across the world.
To achieve this laudable objective, the committee must take Governor Wike’s warning against accepting bribes in order to compromise their assignment to heart. The resolve to adhere strictly to the terms of reference and the commitment to achieving the set target must be total. Deliberate care must be taken to avoid the ignominy that befell such agencies as the defunct TIMARIV which got proscribed for constituting itself into a scourge rather than the agent of an easier socio-economic life for the people that it was conceived and launched to deliver.
In applying the law, the committee must be fair to all and treat everyone equally, taking into cognizance the imperative to treat the human person with dignity and respect at all times and in all situations and circumstances. The era of rough handling and subjecting offenders to dehumanising treatments by persons acting on behalf of the state and local governments, should be gone for good. Such practices have proven to be counter-productive as they send negative signals to investors and ultimately hurt economic and social development efforts of the government.
In appreciating, commending and encouraging the Rivers State Government for the spirited efforts made so far, it will not be out of place to impress on it not to relent but to maintain the tempo needed for success in this venture. Constant monitoring and evaluation of the job of the committee with a view to ensuring strict compliance with its mandate and smooth operation is strongly advised.
The Tide reiterates the submission of Governor Wike when he said “All of us love the state and we must love it fully; not in half measures”. One cardinal way of expressing love for Rivers State, and Port Harcourt in particular, is for one and all residents of the city to wholeheartedly support the work of this all-important committee and to make its job easier by giving it full cooperation.
There is no gainsaying the fact that residents cannot complain in one breadth about government’s slow or sometimes inadequate response to challenges such as flooding, dirty environment and traffic gridlock in the city while in the other breadth disposing waste indiscriminately, stuffing drains recklessly, disregarding and violating traffic rules and regulations, and such other extant laws intended to provide conductive environment and atmosphere for comfortable and convenient living.
Residents of Port Harcourt and Rivers State in general must, therefore, have a change of attitude towards the environment and take responsibility for the desired serene, clean, spacious and free flowing, beautiful and well-organised city they wish to see. In concert with the government, individual residents must see themselves as officers of the law of environmental safety and appropriate sanitary regulations.
Finally, The Tide notes that the Rivers State Task Force on Street Trading, Illegal Markets and Motor Parks would be on a wild goose chase without a corresponding and complementary effort from the Rivers State Waste Management Agency (RIWAMA) – which needs to be made to see the need to rise up to its duties, efficiently and effectively.
Port Harcourt must be restored to its Garden City status now or never.

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Editorial

Against Immunity For Lawmakers

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Barely four years after Nigerian lawmakers, precisely members of the 8th National Assembly backtracked on efforts to secure immunity for presiding officers of the National Assembly and their state counterparts, as a result of public outcry, the 9th National Assembly is back with a move of same purpose.
This time, via a bill sponsored by the lawmaker representing Ogo-Oluwa/Surulere Federal Constituency of Oyo State in the Federal House of Representatives, Olusegun Odebunmi, titled, “Bill for an Act to Alter Section 308 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 to Extend Immunity to Cover Presiding Officers of Legislative Institutions’, seeks to extend immunity to the four presiding officers of the National Assembly and those of the State Houses of Assembly.
Section 308 of the Constitution provides that, “notwithstanding anything to the contrary in this Constitution but subject to Sub-Section 2 of this Section (a) No Civil or Criminal proceedings shall be instituted or continued against a person to whom this section applies during his period of office; (b) A person to whom this section applies shall not be arrested or imprisoned during that period either in pursuance of the process of any court or otherwise and (c) No process of any court requiring or compelling the appearance of a person to whom this section applies shall be applied for or issued. Subsection 3 of the section spells out specifically the persons to whom the privilege of immunity from prosecution applies as the President, the Vice President, governors and deputy governors.
Already, the bill has passed for second reading on the floor of the House of Representatives. Interestingly, however, many lawmakers have voiced their opposition to the bill. Also, majority of Nigerians including civil rights groups have rejected the bill with many describing it as an attempt to indulge the lawmakers and shield them from answering any question generated by their actions, particularly that of corruption.
The Tide, therefore, joins other well-meaning opponents to the bill to say that such is not what Nigeria needs at this time of her national and democratic development. We say so because we are convinced that lawmakers in the country have all they need to legislate effectively for the general good of the people.
We recall that on January 27, 2018, President Muhammadu Buhari assented to the Legislative House Power and Privileges Act, which provides protection for decisions taken by members of parliament in the country. The law grants the Legislative Houses in the National Assembly and State Houses of Assembly immunity from litigation for actions taken in plenary or committee proceedings of the House or Committee.
Thus, we wonder what further immunity the lawmakers are looking for or what contributions additional immunity clauses would serve or add to the promotion of our democracy. Indeed, using the law to provide cover for official indiscretions, recklessness, abuse of power or office, impunity and outright criminality at any level is no longer fashionable.
We are not unaware of the real intentions of immunity privileges, especially, in a political climate fraught with political mischief makers and those with the penchant for ‘pull-him-down’ syndrome. But the privilege is open to abuses. Some of those currently enjoying it are not free from abusing it even to the extent of hiding behind it to escape repercussions for infringements on extent laws of the land. They often arrogate to themselves supernatural powers and see their opinions and wishes as superior, knowing that the law safeguards them.
We think that at a time other countries are trying to whittle down immunity provisions for political office holders so that they should be answerable to law and the people, Nigerian lawmakers should not try to expand the field. The fact that in spite of the amount of opposition that has greeted the bill at inception, the lawmakers still want to take it to public hearing where the outcome could be manipulated, shows that they are desperate to foist it on Nigerians.
This, we believe, is another attempt to ridicule the country and her democracy. It is a huge setback for the rule of law that the same privileged and powerful leaders of parliament that regularly make laws that consign ordinary, powerless Nigerians to prison for even trivial offences want to establish elite immunity to protect themselves from consequences for serious crimes of corruption and money laundering.
In fact, if allowed to stand, the much-vaunted fight against corruption by President Buhari’s administration would further lose credibility and moral ground to prosecute other Nigerians. This is because the bill would not only protect lawmakers from legal consequences for corruption and other foibles, it would exacerbate the immunity that prevails in Nigerian political circles and worsen the country’s ranking in world’s corruption perception index.
We think that the leadership of the House of Representatives should, without further delay, withdraw this obnoxious bill. Any contrary action would only go to prove the belief by many that Nigerian politicians, particularly lawmakers, are insensitive to the feelings of the people and mostly engage in self-serving trips rather than true and effective representation.
If it is difficult to strip those currently enjoying immunity of the privilege, attempts should not be made, at any quarters, to enlarge the field of immunity beneficiaries.

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Editorial

Enough Of Explosions

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In early February, this year, an explosion rocked Ekiti State with preliminary investigation blaming it on
human error. No sooner had the dust raised by the incident settled, than another massive explosion tore through the peace and serenity of Abule Ado Community in Lagos State, in the morning of Sunday, March 15, 2020.
To say that the Ekiti blast was a child’s play, compared to the Abule Ado incident, was an under-statement. This was because the explosion in Lagos State claimed the lives of over 23 persons, including a family of four; and destroyed over 50 cars and buildings; while scores of other persons sustained injuries of varying degrees. The victims of the explosion up till this day, are still counting their losses.
The worst hit was a Catholic School in Abule Ado, Bethlehem Girls College, which lost its headmistress, Rev. Sister Henrietta Alohka; a Chaplain; an administrator; and also one of the kitchen hands to the explosion. This is besides 16 students of the school who were alleged to be among those that died.
Again, Nigerians were yet to recover from the shock caused by the Abule Ado blast when yet another explosion rocked two communities in Akure, the capital of Ondo State in less than two weeks, specifically on Saturday, March 28, 2020.
According to reports, the Akure blast had destroyed a church, a school, some houses and cut into two the busy Akure-Owo highway. Several persons were also said to have been injured.
Indeed, the frequency of these explosions, particularly in Yorubaland in recent times has raised fundamental questions begging for answers, even as keen observers of developments in the country have kept on pondering over what must have been the possible causes of these explosions which have occurred in the South-West States of the country in less than two months.
This is more accentuated by the sheer fact that the actual causes of these unfortunate incidents are still shrouded in mysteries, up till this day. At best, the causes of the explosions are still situated within the realms of conjectures and speculations.
Take the Abule Ado incident as an example. The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) reportedly said that the explosion occurred after a truck hit some gas cylinders stacked in a gas processing plant located near its System 2B Pipeline Right of Way (RoW).
Some persons believe that the explosion was caused by gas leakages that formed gas clouds in the sky and upon contact with naked fire, spiraled into flames, and that before emergency responders could get to the scene, the explosion had already ruptured the NNPC pipeline that runs through the suburb, thus, aggravating the damage.
According to them, it was the contact of fire with the petroleum products in the ruptured pipeline that exacerbated the explosion and spread to residential buildings, schools and churches in the area.
Yet, some residents of the area said their initial fear was that an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) had been set off given the shocking way the explosion shook their houses, broke windows and even blew off roofs.
On its part, the Lagos State Government, said it could not make any policy statement over the incident until “we know what happened. Security agencies are investigating what happened”.
Unfortunately, the outcome of such investigations was still being awaited when the Ondo State explosion occurred. Also, the Akure blast did not offer much clues as to the actual cause of the explosion except that it was caused by those transporting explosives through the area.
Thus, it was against this backdrop that the Pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, recently issued a statement, demanding for a probe of the incident.
In the statement signed by the National Publicity Secretary of the body, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, Afenifere said an inquiry must be launched into the matter to unravel the cause of the explosion as well as those involved in the movement of explosives through the state.
According to the organisation, inquiries into several explosions recorded within South-West States were yet to see the light of the day, hence, the need to investigate the Ondo explosion.
“While we have nothing to contradict the stated accounts yet, we demand an inquiry into this disaster in accordance with the Ordinance and Firearm Acts, to determine the type of ordinances that exploded,” the group said.
The body said the inquiry should ascertain the identities of those transporting the ordinances; the origin of the ordinances; those who assigned the escorting policemen; under what circumstances; and where was the destination of the Improvised Explosive Decries (IEDs).
The Tide joins Afenifere and other well-meaning Nigerians and organisations to condemn in strong terms the spate of explosions in South-West States of the country in recent times. This recurring trend of devastation of human lives and property in these perilous times, we think, is an ill-wind that does no one any good.
While we commend the Lagos State Governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, his team for visiting the scene of the explosion and other Governors of the affected states for their prompt response, we align ourselves with those calling for investigation of the incidents.
It is quite unfortunate that up till date, no form of probe has been instituted by the Federal Government to unravel the immediate and remote causes of these explosions. That the explosions occurred between February and March is quite disturbing. Infact, the frequency of this ugly development alone, is enough to spur government to action.
We also think that the way and manner the explosions have occurred in a particular section of the country may not be ordinary. It raises a lot of eye brow. This is why the government should without further waste of time be able to act fast and establish the causes of these explosions. This is the only way of nipping in the bud these ugly occurrences in other parts of the country.
We are not also unmindful of the fact that a lot of people in the country today are crying for help, particularly victims of the blasts. Again, government cannot pretend to be insensitive to the plight of this category of persons. It can do a lot to assuage their feelings of pain. The truth remains that Nigerians today need explanation for this spate of explosions in the land. They want an end to these explosions. The Federal Government must act now.

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Editorial

COVID-19: Commending RSG’s Efforts

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This is not the best of time for humanity. Certainly not for Nigeria whose health sector is in near comatose.
The current situation in the world as regards the outbreak of Coronavirus pandemic can only be compared to the wartime when man survives by chance. Even in the brutal Second World War, superpowers like the United States and Europe were not as mortally frenzied as they are now.
The viral pandemic has spread to more than 183 countries, including the developed world like the United States, United Kingdom and Germany. At the last count, over 950,000 cases have been recorded worldwide with over 35,000 fatalities. Italy is leading the number of casualties, followed by Spain and United States. The figure increases per hour.
In Nigeria, 174 persons, according to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), have reportedly tested positive to COVID-19 with two fatalities recorded and six discharged. The number of cases may have even increased by the time this editorial comes out.
At least, more than eight states in the country have been hit by the deadly virus. Worst hit is Lagos State, followed by Abuja (Federal Capital Territory) and Ogun State.
There is no doubt that the situation is disturbing and scary, requiring health emergency system. It is reassuring, however, that the Federal Government, though late in response, has set up a Presidential Task Force (PTF) on Control of COVID-19 pandemic in the country. The 36 states of the federation have also stepped up measures on how to contain the pandemic.
Although Rivers State has recorded one case, the state government has taken proactive measures to nip its spread in the bud. Within the last one week, the state Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, has made several broadcasts to the state reeling out measures against the spread of the virus.
Aside from banning social functions, religious gatherings and shutting down schools in the state, the government has ordered the closure of public parks, night clubs, cinemas and the popular Oil Mill Market in Port Harcourt, and other markets across the state. It has also ordered transporters to reduce the number of their passengers to avoid body contact.
Another commendable measure announced by the state government was to seal up and air-tight the entry point access by closing all land borders leading to the state. In addition to this, the Governor has inaugurated a 12-man special task force to monitor and enforce compliance with the government’s directives on COVID-19.
To underscore the importance of the emergency situation at hand, the state chief executive decided to head the task force himself with all service chiefs and heads of para-military outfits in the state, Secretary to the State Government, Chief of Staff to the Governor, and the State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice as members, while the State Commissioner for Health serves as secretary.
The Tide observes that, these commendable efforts by the state government, have encouraged high level of compliance with restrictions in the state. There appears to be awareness and consciousness on the part of the ordinary citizenry to the government’s directives as reports indicate that the deadly virus has continued to claim lives worldwide.
Prior to this, the sheer ignorance and total disbelief to the existence of the virus among the low literate citizenry that constitutes the bulk of the population in the state had been a source of worry. To most of the artisans, traders and transporters, nothing seems to be at stake. Transporters still overloaded their vehicles, while many people still transacted their businesses in crowded places with reckless indifference. The few who believed in the existence of the disease premised their resistance to the government’s directives on the adverse economic effects such order would have on them.
This high level of ignorance and sheer resistance trivialises and waters down the gravity of the Coronavirus crisis and the efforts of the government. It is against this backdrop that The Tide commends the State government for imposing 24-hour curfew on parts of the state capital.
We, therefore, urge for more sensitisation and public awareness on the dangers of the pandemic. There is no doubt that the five-man Inter-Ministerial Committee on Enlightenment and Awareness Creation on COVID-19 headed by the state Commissioner for Information and Communications has been up and doing in creating awareness, the situation still requires more vigorous sensitisation among the citizenry, especially those in the rural areas.
In addition to using the media, both social and conventional, to create awareness, there is a need for traditional rulers, religious and political leaders at the local government level, to lend their support and voices to the lofty efforts of the State government.
Meanwhile, we appreciate the fact that the state economy may not support the kind of buffers governments offer their citizenry in places like Europe, US and Asia in times of emergency like this, but we want to appreciate the government’s move to provide palliatives.
We also consider it that the state government continues to make sanitisers available to the public free or, at worst, provide them at a subsidised and affordable rate.
However, while the state government rallies its personnel and resources to check the spread of COVID-19 in the state, we believe the real handle to overawe this viral pestilence lies with individual citizenry. In addition to complying with the directives of the government, the public must maintain a republic of personal hygiene by washing their hands regularly with soaps and running water, as well as maintain social distancing to avoid body contact with the infected person.
The public should understand that the far-reaching precautionary measures taken by the government to check the spread of Coronavirus in the state, though may have fatal consequences on individual livelihoods, are imperatively inevitable. Like Governor Wike said in one of his broadcasts, the current measures put in place by the government to contain the virus may be painful, but no sacrifice is too much to make for us to stay alive.
We must understand that the world, nay Nigeria, is in an emergency situation. This is not an ordinary pandemic that will just pan out without discomfort. It, therefore, requires emergency measures with huge sacrifice from both the government and the citizenry.
Again, the social distancing policy of the government must be strictly obeyed and enforced among other directives issued by the state government to actually contain the spread of COVID-19.

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