A news report that Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and other concerned pressure groups seek to sue Senate over plan to spend N5.5bn on cars, should be a matter of concern to every patriotic Nigerian. That concerned Nigerians have filed a lawsuit asking the Federal High Count to restrain and stop the National Assembly Service Commission from paying or releasing the sum of 5.550 billion naira budgeted for the luxury cars, can be described as an example of patriotism.
Several years ago, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) had alerted the nation that the nature of composition, structure of allowances and ulterior goal of the senate predisposed it as an instrument meant to serve power structure rather than Nigerian masses. Any honest and patriotic Nigerian would not find it difficult to know that there is a great difference between representing or serving a power structure and servicing people.
The power structure and the good of serving as a “safety value” assigned to the senate, were put in place by departing military politicians after their round of intervention in Nigerian politics. The arrangement was not only meant for self-preservation purposes, but also to put the Nigerian masses in their place. The idea is that any change that must be sought or agitated for, must pass through the senate as appreciate structure in a democracy.
Some arrogant state governors were fond of challenging those who demanded that things be done in line with due process, to “go to court if you think that I have done any wrong”. Not only is the court a safe haven, but the senate was also meant to serve similar purpose, namely: provide means of resolving agitations through due process. Apart from the courts and senate serving as provisions to resolve issues “democratically”, the shenanigans and gambits involved in the processes would not be hard for anyone to appreciate. Litigants would remind us that fools make lawyers rich. The court and senate remain as idioms.
Therefore, the effort of SERAP and other pressure groups to stop the release of N5.5bn for the purchase of luxury cars for senators may begin in mere words and also end in mere words. The senators would always have their way, no matter the level of agitation and hunger in the land. Just as the issue N30,000 minimum wage would drag on, with Federal Government and Labour meeting endlessly, approval and implementation of what concerns senators would rarely linger on and on.
There had been a story of a minister buying a bullet-proof car worth about N250m and of how federal government spent millions of Naira monthly to feed a religious leader in custody. Despite the prevalence of such profligate spending of public funds, the senate is rarely known to raise issues that would bring some discipline in fiscal matters. Rather, what we find is lavish spending.
Nigerians would like to know why the ritual of purchase of expensive luxury cars for members of the National Assembly must continue, despite the sad economic conditions of the Nigerian masses. Is the making of some small personal sacrifices by Nigerian senators and other political office holders, too much to ask or expect? Already some senators had admitted and confessed that the number of cars at the disposal of each of them should be reduced. Some had also suggested that their allowances be reduced in the interest of suffering Nigerians. But the posture of a majority of the senators is that of indifference.
The practice of high public officials leaving their positions with every perquisite at their disposal – cars, furniture, building, etc- should not continue. That malpractice has become so abused that it is telling hard on the nation’s economy and integrity. Is there any reason why official cars cannot be inherited and used by a new occupant of the office? There are some countries that are proud to preserve and show-case official vehicles used by past leaders, with every incumbent ensuring that it is in good condition for his successor to use.
Why should the Ninth Senate not inherit and use what the Eighth Senate used and left behind? Perhaps our vanity and pride forbid that “honourable member” of the Senate would use “second-hand” property left behind by others.
Not long ago the chief whip of the Senate, Dr Orji Uzor Kalu told Nigerians that some of his colleagues were already lamenting their poor pay. Another lawmaker, Oluwole Oke representing Oriade Federal Constituency of Osun State, was quoted as saying that “Our N8.5m monthly allowance is too small”.
Senators and other lawmakers who had been used to seeing and spending big money, to the extent that over N15m total monthly take-home is nothing to them, should not think that other Nigerians are like them. Such representatives of Nigerians are advised to find and read a copy of an old book titled: A Tale of Two Cities. Nations, communities and cities that are divided into two camps of extremely rich and extremely poor citizens, it is rare that stability would reign.
The posture of Nigerian senators was described by a satirist as that of a “zoo-keeper”. Like the hang-man, the zoo-keeper must be kept comfortable with food and wine so that his empathy would not awaken towards the growling animals in the zoo. A question which some mischievous Nigerian ask is: who pays the zoo keepers and why the class of two unequal citizens? What is really at stake in Nigeria’s political economy? Maybe Professor Itsay Sagay may have some opinion to offer.
Dr. Amirize is a retired lecturer from the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.
Lessons From Japan
Amidst bogus titles ranging from “The Giant of Africa, Economic Hub of Africa, etc, attributed to our nation Nigeria, many of her citizens are locked up in poverty. There’s also a conspicuous low human development despite the abundant human and natural resources the country is endowed with.
Worried by this development, a semantic scholar, Richard Eke Imade, took time to explore key initiatives taken by Japan in its quest for development. In his research article on Japan’s development experience, published in 2016, Imade had wondered why a replication of similar transformative initiatives in Nigeria remains elusive.
Like every other concerned Nigerian, Imade has refused to come to terms with what he considers an inability of Nigeria’s successive post-independence leaders to leverage on numerous learning opportunities inherent in Nigeria’s history.
Definitely, the resercher isn’t alone in his world of thought, as his work literally portrayed the worries of many who may not have had the opportunity to pen down their thought for a wider readership.
Come to think of it, the country’s access to mainstream and alternative development paradigms through decades of development cooperation, obviously had gotten the potential to build a strong, cohesive and prosperous nation.
No doubt, the extractive political and economic institutions foisted on the country by its post-independence leaders, colonial legacy and political instability, coupled with mono-economy, policy inconsistency, widespread corruption, among other factors, as outlined by the scholar, may have accounted for its inability to learn from the development milestones of other developed nations.
No need too to argue that the placement of selfish interest above the public’s by the country’s past leadership may have imensely relagated it to the supposed dark corner it has remained, howbeit, we will remain a people most miserable should we continue to dwell in our past without using it to chart a pathway for our future.
Haven realized that poor leadership, persistent instability, over-dependence on crude oil, among other factors were responsible for the current abysmal performance of Nigeria in key development indicators, translating this knowledge into a capacity for meaningful development outcomes, becomes imperative.
After all, the economic expansion of the developed world in the last two centuries has been based on an explosion of knowledge about what can be made, and how. Goods and services are made by stringing together productive capabilities – inputs, technologies, and tasks – just as words are made by putting letters together.
Suffice it to say that countries with greater variety of capabilities can make more diverse and complex goods, just as a scrabble player who has more letters can generate more and longer words.
The writer thus posits that the current Nigerian leadership must negotiate the country’s development within the currents of contemporary realities, eschewing those conducts that undermined inclusive prosperity.
Today, the entire world talks about Japan. This is so because the Japanese government played a vital role by creating an enabling economic environment which was evident in complementing the development of superior production and enterprise systems by Japanese industry.
Japan’s great and unbelievable fast technological and industrial breakthrough started when it banned the importation of articles into the country.This means that Nigeria’s resolve to ban certain import goods may well pay off someday.
Even though some econmic analysts consider the import ban strategy a good initiative by the CBN, positing that it will inspire local production and automatically impact on the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), we still may not rule out governmental attitude towards its implementation as a major determinant of the level of result to be expected.
All the same, what Japan’s experience demonstrates with great clarity is that problems arising from efforts geared at fixing cracked or dilapidated system should propel the masses to greatness instead of deterring them.
While it is hoped that President Buhari’s administration’s strategies to revive the country’s ailing economy in this dispensation, on the other hand, the role of the state has become more profound. Such roles must include charting a strategic direction for the country.
States are also expected to aggregate and align national development aspirations with private interests, removing socio-cultural impediments such as those associated with gender, ethnicity etc while strengthening others such as occupation or community-based cooperatives and other grassroots initiatives through appropriate legal and social interventions.
Way Out Of Depression
There is no doubt that depression has become a worrisome problem in our society today. To be down in the mouth is a syndrome that clouds a depressed man. Following the syndrome, one would say that depression is a dreaded illness which every human being would never want to experience. Or, to put it mildly, it is better imagined than experienced.
It is a feeling of serious loss of hope and dejection. It is a serious medical condition in which a person feels very sad, hopeless and unimportant and is often unable to live a normal life. This illness negatively affects how one feels, the way one thinks and even how one acts.
This illness can decide just to invade anyone’s life at any point in time when given the opportunity. It comes as a threat and bedevils its victim. At a point in a person’s life when self-doubt creeps in due to situations and circumstances, a door of opportunity is open for depression.
Like an African proverb says “The frog does not run at noon except it is being chased by something or it is chasing something”. So is depression. Depression doesn’t just appear in someone’s life except something attracts it in. Many factors attract depression. At the initial stage, it could be of little or no concern to the individual until it gets to a disturbing point.
One factor that causes depression is failure. This factor affects almost every human being. When an individual fails to achieve a goal, attain a certain height in life or still, could not get their dream job, could not study their desired course in school and many more, this could cause depression, leaving the individual low-spirited and dejected. Sometimes, the individual becomes anti-social.
Another cause of depression common in young ladies is body shape. More often than not, most young ladies dislike their body shape, especially those who feel that they are not as curvy or sexy as their friends. With that belief, they begin to withdraw slowly from their friends, live their lives in isolation and, before long, depression sets in.
Financial challenges and poverty may also be a cause of depression that cannot be overlooked. When people lack the finances to get what they want and live in some comfort, it becomes a cause of concern for them. This situation alone leaves the individual prone to depression.
Serious ill health, more often than not, also leaves the sufferers low-spirited and in perpetual sadness, always thinking if there would ever be a way out.
At other times, depression is triggered by maltreatment and abuse; physical abuses such as husbands battering wives and vice versa. Similarly, boys raping girls, women maltreating their maids, to mention a few. The victims of these fall into depression and would not want to associate with people or become suddenly withdrawn.
It is important to note that this illness comes in many stages and once it exceeds two weeks, it becomes clinical, needing serious medical attention, as experts have advised.
Depression comes with many symptoms. It comes with signs like feeling of sadness and dejection, isolation, behavioural changes, loss of pleasure or interest in most activities, changes in sleep, appetite, and energy level, frequent mood swings, lack of concentration and even thoughts of suicide.
Such illness causes its victims to venture into unthinkable things like indulging in hard drugs, contemplating suicide with the delusion that they may find solace there. Studies have suggested that factors responsible for depression may cause changes in brain function, including altered activity of certain nuclear circuits in the brain.
A popular saying states that, “No one climbs the ladder with his hands in his pocket’. Victims of depression need not relax thinking it would go the way it came. They should reach out to people and stay connected to them or seek help from experts such as doctors or psychologists.
Embracing positivity or becoming optimistic is also the way to go. There is the need for them to think about themselves in a fair and realistic way. Always do your best to recognize your goal when you achieve it, always turn your attention to something positive. Indeed, one can also make the best of one’s misfortune or misadventure.
However, there is no best way out of depression. And suicide is definitely not an option at all. The thought of suicide is defeatist and evil. The one and sure way out is the way that works for you. Even your thought pattern is a treatment for depression; so, find your way out by being open and make conscious efforts to seek expert help.
It is said in religious circles that a closed mouth is a destiny foreclosed. So please, if you are suffering from depression, speak out, if you know someone who knows someone that is depressed, help them know that the solution to their problems or state of health is not far to seek.
Opara wrote from Captain Elechi Amadi Polytechnic, Port Harcourt.
Sanitising Rivers Housing Estates
The beauty of any housing estate comes when there are impressive and imposing housing units clustered in an exclusive area with the control, maintenance and sustainability of the desired aesthetic ambience. Many housing estates exist in this country, from east to west and from north to south, but the question is how regulated are they or how do they conform with the best practices as stipulated by the United nations or any other regulatory body?
This is the reason why the Executive Governor of Rivers State, Chief Nyesom Wike CON, charged the newly constituted Board of Rivers State Housing and Property Development Authority (RSHPDA), hereinafter referred to as ‘the Authority,’ that the dilapidated nature of the Rivers State housing estates is of concern to him. He charged the body to move in and sort out the “mess” created in the estates. This calls for absolute regulation and sanitization of the estates.
The Board members who were well-chosen by him comprised a chairman who works in an estate firm of international repute, estate valuers, a retired well-rounded permanent secretary, a senior member of the Bar, a renowned journalist and a seasoned woman leader.
These Board members are set to put in their best in regard to repositioning the Authority to meet the desired objective of his Excellency’s target in this sector.
The Board members, after their inauguration, hit the ground running by carrying out their operational research to identify and sort out the major challenges which provided a road map to aid the anticipated operations vide the “Housing and property Development Authority Edict No. 14, 1985, Part II, A62 and A64, among other provisions and, in part, states that:-
“2 (a) to undertake the development, construction and management of housing estates and industrial estates;
(i) To plan, develop, maintain and promote beauty sports including parks and gardens in its estates or other property’
(m) to control the environment within its sphere of operation generally.”
First of all, the members zeroed in by having a conducted tour of the various housing estates owned by the Authority to ascertain their state of functionality. The estates include Elekahia, Rumuobiakani, Rumuibekwe, presidential, Ndoki, Marine Base, Aggrey, Abuloma Phase I, II, III; Diobu Mile I, II, III; Port Harcourt Township, Rumuomasi and Iriebe Housing Estates.
From the inspection of the estates, the Board found the system had been turned upside down with tenants pulling down buildings and replacing them with churches, duplexes, shopping complex, etc. It was, indeed, a threatre of the absurd – even clusters of numerous batchers nestled with the estate buildings, thus defacing the entire estate. There might have been peaks and valleys on the regulation of tenancy of these estates in the past but this time around the new team is ready to put paid to all irregularities that have pervaded the management of the estates.
Critically following its core mandate, the Authority, working at full stilt to bring the estate in line with the best practices in the world, issued notices directing owners of buildings in the estate to remove all illegal structures around their buildings within a stipulated time.
Without wasting any time, the team recently went into action and pulled down all illegal structures which were earlier marked for demolition. By these bold acts, the Authority could move the needle towards bringing sanity and security in the various estates.
Regrettably, some residents were angered by this act which made them resort to protesting. They must be aware that they cannot eat omelets without breaking eggs. However, putting a human face into whatever action that has been taken by the Authority, and considering the prevailing circumstances, the Authority directs owners to come to its office to seek permission to build security houses and fences within the estates.
In furtherance of this order, the Authority directs that all buildings, security houses, fences must be painted with the estate colour to bring uniformity in the estates.
The Authority, in pursuing the administration’s set goals with such single-minded purpose and dedication, is ready to re-invigorate the management of the housing estates in Rivers State to serve the people better and make them revel in modernity.
Furthermore, the Authority warns that there will be regular checks in all the estates to ascertain heir compliance with the rules and regulations of the Authority and that defaulters will, henceforth, be penalised. Raising the bar of performance should be the watchword of the Authority to bring out the best in the estates.
The Authority’s ultimate aim is to protect the environment, identify defaulters, prevent irregularities in Rivers estates, and eventually bring in the deserved revenue for the state. Let’s all join hands to restore the value of the estates in Rivers State in line with the Governor’s administrative thoughts in order to bring back the Garden City status of old which we are all proud of.
Thom-Manuel is on the Board of RSHPDA.
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