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Editorial

Fix Aleto-Akpajo Bridge, Now

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It is no longer news that the ageing Aleto-Akpajo Bridge that carries an average of 250,000 vehicles over the Okulo River between Akpajo and Eleme leading to the Ogoni axis of the East-West Road in Rivers State, is currently one of Nigeria’s most endangered landmarks.
Experts have raised alarm several times that the bridge which leads to Eleme – the location of two NNPC refineries, the Indorama Eleme Petrochemicals Limited (IEPL), the Onne Sea Port and the Nigerian Naval Training School, is in danger of caving in due to the stationary vehicular weight caused by traffic gridlocks along that axis of the East-West Road and needs immediate repairs.
Piqued by the dangers posed by the worsening condition of the bridge, members of the National Assembly from Rivers State, recently, staged a public protest to draw the attention of the Federal Government to the deteriorating state of the bridge, demanding urgent rehabilitation work on the facility.
The lawmakers, who marched on the bridge serving as the only link between Eleme, Tai, Gokana, Khana, Andoni and Opobo/Nkoro Local Government Areas of Rivers State to Akwa Ibom and Cross River States from the Ogoni axis, displayed banners with several inscriptions, describing the bridge as a death trap.
Putting the condition of the bridge in proper perspective, the member representing Khana/Gokana Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon Dumnamene Dekor, said during the protest: “I am the immediate past Commissioner for Works in Rivers State here and I have a very good knowledge of this project. The truth is that this bridge we stand on will not survive more than the next three months”.
Said he: “I am aware that the Rivers State Ministry of Works and the Rivers State Government had approved the reconstruction of this particular bridge. As you can see, these two bridges are not properly aligned and that is why the bottom part is washed away and everything about the bridge is gone.”
It is against this backdrop that, The Tide endorses the lawmakers’ call on the Federal Government to declare an emergency on the bridge to save the nation from looming economic misfortunes and possible loss of lives and property. We consider it extremely expedient that the Federal Ministry of Works responds swiftly to arrest the looming national calamity if the Aleto-Akpajo Bridge is allowed to collapse.
Considering the strategic role the bridge constructed about 30 years ago plays in the socio-economic life of the country, we think the Federal Government does not require this much pressure to live up to its responsibility of reconstructing the bridge.
We are worried by the Federal Government’s neglect of experts’ observation that the bridge could collapse with a little more force on those rods holding it. That could indicate that we do not need an earthquake for urgent action to be taken and to drive home the point that the bridge in its present condition portends grave danger and catastrophe.
Also disturbing is the revelation made during the protest by the member representing Obio/Akpor Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, Hon. Kingsley Chinda, that a motion moved and supported on the floor of the House regarding the poor condition of federal infrastructure in Rivers State was not being honoured by the Executive arm.
While we agree no less with the Rivers State Government’s repeated emphasis on the urgent need for the Federal Government to include roads in Rivers State in the N148 billion recently released for roads, we hold that the endangered Aleto-Akpajo Bridge and other parts of the East-West Road deserve priority attention.These kinds of assets are difficult to rebuild and our preoccupation now should be to keep them in full and useful repair, and maintenance for them to really serve their useful purposes.
We equally call on Rivers indigenes who hold strategic appointments at the federal level to show more commitment to the development of Rivers State by attracting federal presence to the state in terms of projects execution. We insist that the development of basic infrastructure such as roads and bridges in the State which is the hub of the oil and gas industry in the country, and, by extension, has attracted huge commercial activities, should not be politicised.
We also fear that posterity may not forgive such sons and daughters of Rivers State if the second term of the APC-led Federal Government in which they play prominent roles, terminates without committing a reasonable fund into the rehabilitation of federal projects, particularly the East-West Road. It is on this note that we call for the immediate commencement of reconstruction work on the Aleto Bridge now. Beyond the needed repairs, keeping the bridge’s maintenance books above water also is a challenge.

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Editorial

Easter In Times Like This 

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Christians in Nigeria and their likes in Christendom are celebrating Easter in observance of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Easter is a big annual event for Christians worldwide, marking the end of 40 days of fasting, sacrifice, self-discipline, repentance, the forgiveness of sins and salvation known as the Lenten Season.
Indeed, this year’s observance offers Nigerian Christians yet another opportunity to reflect on the nitty-gritty of these far-famed events upon which the Christian religion and practice are hitched and how those episodes can renew their faith in Jesus Christ.
Amidst a season of anxiety and widespread misery as well as the decomposition of social morality in addition to the exacerbating economic fortunes of the overwhelming majority of the people, Nigerian Christians are today affirming the miracle of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Nigerians have really been subjected to substantial socio-economic strain largely on account of enormous corruption of the political elite. It is regrettable that many of the players in the profligate system are professed Christians who fail to demonstrate Christian mores; rather, they promote the frantic looting of the national treasury.
In the face of the Easter celebrations, it is believed that Christians in Nigeria would reminisce the agonising pains Jesus put up with on the Cross on Good Friday and abstain from avoidable evil inimical to the promotion of mutual co-existence, unity, peace and stability of the country.
This season, it is expedient that Christians imbibe the spirit of tolerance, forgiveness, good neighbourliness, love, mutual understanding, co-operation, and sacrifice for the helpless and hapless as demonstrated by Jesus Christ during his brief stay on earth.
In reality, in this moment of terrorism, banditry, kidnapping, armed robbery, gangsterism, cultism, economic and financial crimes and the current Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, which have haunted Nigeria lately, Easter provides significant opportunities for Nigerians to reconcile themselves with God and man.
Easter festivals commence on Good Friday when Christ, according to the Scriptures, was crucified and ends on Sunday when He rose from the dead in fulfilment of biblical injunctions. As Christians observe this fiesta, church leadership and followership are required to know and learn the lessons of Easter which fundamentally pivot on humility and service to humanity, among others.
Though the quintessence of Easter may be withering and wilting in many climes, even within Christendom, the virtues of patience, endurance, tolerance and sacrifice are still germane, especially in our national life. These values should always manifest in us if Nigeria must move to the next level and be held in awe in the comity of nations.
In this country, for instance, tribes, ethnic groups, religious organisations, communities, families and the Nigerian project are wrecking and crashing because Nigerians have failed to ingest the lessons of Easter by treating their compatriots with honour, respect, love and dignity which they rightly deserve.
Sadly, the world today is ravaged by COVID-19, a disease that poses a huge danger to humanity and the Easter festivities. Hence, religious practices of millions of people are undergoing profound reversals in response to the ailment. In these trying times, Christians need to take safety precautions and clutch their spirituality more than ever to engage the challenges ahead. They should see God as the ultimate solution to the Coronavirus pandemic.
This year’s Easter celebrations might face major disruptions due to social-distancing policies. Since religious gatherings have proven to be hotbeds for outbreaks of COVID-19, many countries are shutting down worship centres and limiting public gatherings. Therefore, Nigerian Christians should embrace restrictions on religious activities and employ technological means such as live streaming as optional worship services.
Religious leaders need to offer regular prayers and words of support to their members to ease worries over the virus.  Similarly, Nigerians should pray for health workers as well as caregivers and cooperate with them while they put their lives at risk for us. Churches should advise their members to observe social distancing and urge them not to panic.
The times likewise demand that faith-based organisations and faithful Christians provide charity services to vulnerable people, including donating food and medical equipment to impoverished or poor communities. This should be done with utmost caution to prevent the virus’ spread.
On this Easter occasion, The Tide challenges all Christians to go beyond the popular crusades, prayer vigils, dry fast and miracle explosions and cultivate those higher values for which Jesus Christ died and rose from the dead. We wish all Nigerians, particularly Christians, who make merry this time, a very Happy Easter.

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Editorial

Making COVID-19 Palliatives Inclusive

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Evidently miffed by the shoddy handling of the distribution of palliatives to Nigerians who have been badly hit by the averse consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic by the Federal Government, the leadership of the National Assembly led by the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan and other principal officers held a crucial meeting with the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Ms Sadiya Farouq, and top functionaries of the ministry, last Tuesday.
Reports from the meeting indicated that the National Assembly did not conceal its disappointment and utter displeasure with the way the Presidency had generally prosecuted the efforts aimed at getting succour to the mass of suffering Nigerians in quality, in scope and in spread.
According to the report, the National Assembly unequivocally rejected the list of the vulnerable compiled by the Federal Government as beneficiaries of the COVID-19 special fund, describing it as fraudulent.
At the meeting which also had in attendance the Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, and Deputy Speaker, Idris Wase, Senator Lawan was quoted to have expressed regret that the Social Investment Programme (SIP) of the Federal Government had not delivered on its promise to Nigerians who need the intervention the most, adding that “now with COVID-19, they need our attention more than ever before. The time has come that we review the ways and manner we use to deliver the services under the SIP to Nigerians.
“We need to be better in terms of strategy for delivery and definitely, what we have been doing in the past cannot deliver exactly what will solve the challenges of the most ordinary and most vulnerable Nigerians.”
In his own contribution, Rep Gbajabiamila was reported to have underscored the indefensibility of the operation of the programme, so far, when he pointedly told the minister that: “The questions are going to be asked, how do you come about your list? How comprehensive is your distribution list? What are the parameters? What is the geographical spread? So these are tough questions that are going to be asked but I want you to look at them as frank questions that we need to ask.”
One of such critical questions was asked on Sunday, April 5, 2020 during a statewide broadcast by the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, when he raised the issue of the Federal Government’s apparent bias in the disbursement of intervention funds to Lagos State without due consideration for other states, particularly Rivers State.
Decrying the clear preferential treatment already dispensed by the central government, the Rivers State chief executive questioned the rationale for the N10 billion support given to Lagos without a corresponding measure extended to his state which shares equal vulnerability.
“While Lagos State received a grant of N10 billion as a commercial hub, Rivers State as the nation’s oil and gas hub that produces a greater percentage of the nation’s wealth has not received any support from the Federal Government,” he complained and wondered “why the Federal Government should single out a state out of 36 states to give support. Does it mean that support will come when a state has a record of over 50 infected persons before it gets support?”
Governor Wike urged the Federal Government not to fall into the error of placing more premium on any state over and above others but to always demonstrate a high degree of equity, fairness and justice in overseeing the affairs of the federation.
While The Tide appreciates the pressure on the Federal Government to respond to the burden of Lagos as the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in Nigeria, we strongly agree with the Rivers State Governor that the gesture shouldn’t have been dispensed in isolation when the same existential threat posed by the pandemic faces all other states as well – even though in varying degrees
The point is that the central administration should have been sensitive to the needs of all the states as touching the ravaging Coronavirus and addressed them together, especially when the resources are taken from a jointly shared pool.
Going forward, we are constrained to advise the Federal Government not to give any state, least of all Rivers, any reason to complain of neglect or less than adequate attention in the distribution of palliatives and other incidentals deployed to contain the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.
As the father of all, the government of the federation must adopt a wholistic and all-inclusive approach that reckons with and accommodates the varying needs of the various sectors and sections of the country in dealing with the situation at hand such that political, ethno-religious and sundry sentiments do not colour the texture of the intervention efforts.
The fight against COVID-19 is a battle of life and death literarily and, therefore, must not be prosecuted in the way and manner of the Social Investment Programme (SIP). Every kobo of the N500 billion or N1.5 trillion war chest being considered must be accounted for and deployed to save and protect lives of Nigerians, whoever they are and wherever they may be.
The primary purpose of government, which is the protection of lives and property and the welfare of Nigerians, must be executed with integrity, fairness and equity. Now is the time to demonstrate this.

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Editorial

Military And Boko Haram Ambush

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No fewer than 70 Nigerian soldiers were reportedly killed late last month in an ambush on their convoy by Boko Haram insurgents in Borno State.
Some of the eye witness accounts said the terrorists fired rocket-propelled grenades at a lorry carrying troops as it travelled near Gorgi village in the restive north eastern state.
“It was a huge loss, at least, 70 soldiers have perished in the ambush,” one of the officers said.
According to a second officer; “The terrorists specifically targeted a truck loaded with soldiers with RPGs and incinerated the vehicle, killing all on board.
“So far, 70 bodies have been recovered but the toll is certainly more than that as rescue operation is still underway”.
It was also learnt that the convoy had left Maiduguri, the state capital, on its way to launch an offensive on a camp belonging to jihadists affiliated to the Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP).
ISWAP is a splinter group of Boko Haram which has focused on attacking troops, raiding command bases and laying ambush on military convoys.
Reacting to the incident, the Defence Headquarters gave the casualty figure in the ambush as 47 dead and 15 injured soldiers.
As stated by the Coordinator of the Defence Media Operations, Major General John Enenche, “We are in a fluid conflict situation; between March 23 to 24, troops who were on a clearance and consolidation operation which was successful were ambushed and we suffered some casualties.
“After the successful operation, the troops were heading to Buk when Boko Haram insurgents shot at the last vehicle conveying supplies and the bombs exploded, in the process killing some of the soldiers and all the insurgents that mounted the ambush”.
The military spokesman also added that following the surprise attack, fighter jets were quickly deployed and the fleeing insurgents that survived the explosion were neutralised.
Even so, The Tide thinks that the latest Boko Haram ambush on the Nigerian forces is rather one too many, especially in recent times.
In the night of May 13, 2014, a Nigerian military convoy was ambushed as the soldiers were searching for the missing Chibok school girls. This was said to have dampened the morale of the troops who felt that their leadership was sabotaging their efforts against the jihadists. The result was that about 12 soldiers of the Army’s 7 Division mutinied in Maiduguri and came very close to killing their commander. They were later sentenced to death after a court-martial in Abuja.
On Christmas Day in December 2018, it was reported that over 14 military and police personnel were killed by Boko Haram terrorists on escort duty just outside Damaturu, the Yobe State capital.
July 19, 2019, witnessed another ambush by the dreaded terrorist group in which an Army colonel, a captain and three other infantry men lost their lives. The victims were said to be travelling from Maiduguri to Damaturu.
Barely six days into 2020, January 6th to be precise, the Theater Commander of Operation Lafiya Dole, Major General Olusegun Adeniyi, survived a Boko Haram ambush just by the whiskers while he was returning from an engagement in the Jakana area of Maiduguri.
There had been several other instances in-between these where Boko Haram and its associate groups waylaid the Nigerian military, leaving high tolls in their wake.
While we admit that the officers and men of Lafiya Dole deserve praise for their effort so far, it however beats us as to how the insurgents are proving to be the better at intelligence gathering. Indeed, Boko Haram appears to have its informants embedded in the Nigerian security formation. The military should, therefore, investigate itself so as to fish out any sell-outs among its rank and file.
Again, why would the Army move a large contingent of its personnel and materials along a route without first carrying out a reconnaissance of enemy position to ensure safe passage?
The increasing cases of ambush attacks against Nigerian troops in the North East also call to question the Federal Government’s plan to rehabilitate and reintegrate repentant Boko Haram insurgents into society. We fear that the programme might benefit pretenders who may be sworn loyalists of the terrorist group.
Speaking in Hausa on the Voice of America (VOA), a Nigerian soldier, in 2014, claimed that he recognised some Boko Haram fighters as his former military trainers back in Kontagora, Niger State.
The soldier who craved anonymity on the programme also said that they were often ill-equipped to face the fire power of the jihadist insurgents; their commanders having pocketed the bulk of whatever monies that were allocated for equipment purchase.
The war against Boko Haram in Nigeria has lasted far longer than previously envisaged. And this should not be so given what is voted yearly for the nation’s defence and particularly for the fighting of these terrorists.
While the military are wont to downplay any major battlefield successes achieved by the enemy forces, as is almost the practice globally, it has continued to exaggerate its own feats against the insurgents. Often times, Lafiya Dole has been hailed after repelling Boko Haram attacks or miraculously escaping ambushes by the terror group.
Much as this is commendable, it sometimes suggests that it is Boko Haram that is taking the battle to the nation’s soldiers contrary to the government’s claim that the terrorist group has since been technically defeated and is now focusing mainly on soft targets like markets, schools, churches, women and children.
We are not unaware of the success recorded during the Army’s recent testing of some Mines Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles in the region. With such equipment and the Air force’s exclusive right to the airspace, we think that the ambush attacks will begin to reduce, thereby saving the nation such recurring embarrassments.

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