Not a few can relate with the recent outburst of Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, over the lack of federal projects and the pitiable condition of seaports in the state.
Speaking during the maiden delivery of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) to downstream investor, Stockgap, by the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) Bonny, Tuesday, he reportedly asked why the state should undertake the dredging of Bonny channels while the Federal Government collects all the revenues and levies from marine operators, lamenting that “you (FG) are building a new port in Lagos, but those in Rivers you rendered idle, grounded with no development attention.”
Wike no doubt spoke the mind of many Nigerians who constantly wonder why many seaports in the country have been allowed to die. From Calabar, Port Harcourt, Warri to Burutu the story is the same – collapsed infrastructure, unutilized ports. The resultant effect is little or no economic activities in the once busy areas that were sources of income for many. Many people who had business ventures around these ports have long closed shops as nothing was happening there.
One can recall the immediate past Governor of Lagos State, Akinwunmi Amode, at the twilight of his administration, appealing to the Federal Government to ensure that seaports in other parts of the country become functional as a way of decongesting Apapa Ports. He argued that besides helping government to save funds spent on managing the traffic and regular repair of roads damaged by articulated vehicles, this will end the gridlock caused by trucks and trailers on the Apapa-Oshodi route. Similarly, while leading a delegation of members of his kingdom to Abuja for a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari, recently the Olu of Warri, His Majesty, Ogiame Ikenwole, appealed to the federal government to hasten action on the rehabilitation of Warri and Koko ports in Delta State so as to minimize the incidence of restiveness and also rejuvenate economic activities in the area. He decried the deplorable state of the ports which he said had been abandoned by the government, noting that the ports were very good and solid ports left unused.
With the death of these ports, millions of Nigerians are left with only Apapa and Tin Can ports in Lagos State for their port related businesses. We all know the daunting problems associated with these ports said to be currently handling about 80 percent of all shipping traffic in the country. These ever busy ports are reputed for congestion which seems they have defied all solutions. Almost daily, heavy duty trailers and other vehicles are stuck on the highway for several hours, thereby impeding free flow of traffic. The deplorable state of the roads does not help the situation at all. Recently, I was in a group going to Badagry for a conference. On getting to Oshodi/Apapa Road, we met a traffic jam that kept us on the road for almost ten hours. A sick man in an ambulance on emergency was reported to have died in the traffic not too long ago. Other road users, motorists and people who leave and do business in the ports axis have similar ugly stories to tell. These and other unfavorable conditions, some believe, have forced many importers and exporters to abandon Lagos ports for Cotonou in Benin Republic. Nigeria, therefore, losing billions in revenue while Benin Republic gains from our loss.
In view of all these embarrassing challenges, it is difficult to phantom why the government has not considered rejuvenation of other existing ports and probably opening up new ones as a permanent solution to the problem. Why can’t Port Harcourt, Calabar, Warri and other seaports in the Niger Delta be made functional so as to reduce the pressure on Lagos ports and also help the economy of these areas to grow? Is it too much to make these ports functional and mop up a lot of idle youths from the streets and thereby minimize restiveness in the area as the Warri monarch suggested? If these ports are not so deep to accommodate big ships, why not dredge them, divert ships to them, reduce congestion in Lagos and stimulate the economy of these cities and the country in general?
You know it’s so worrisome that, oftentimes, our leaders and policy makers know the right things to do to move the nation forward but they will fail to do them due to some selfish, ethnic and greedy politics. Who among our leaders, both past and present, does not know that it is most unreasonable concentrating all imports and exports in one port and in one part of the country? What have they done about it? Sometime ago, we were told of plans to dredge waterways and reinforce riverbanks to increase the capacity of inland waterways in places like Onitsha and others. What has happened to such lofty plans? The fact still remains that we cannot continue to do things wrongly and expect a better result. We cannot continue to concentrate all imports in Lagos and expect less congestion and free roads. How can the roads be free as both the Federal and Lagos State Governments had severally “ordered”, if people from all parts of the country continue to throng to Apapa port to clear their goods?
It’s high time the right thing was done. Make the idle ports in the Niger Delta fully functional and save the situation. I once read about Ibaka deep sea port in Akwa Ibom State. This seaport if approved and completed it is said, can receive super-heavy vessels. It requires no dredging as it opens straight into the ocean and could double as Navy and commercial hub. Why can’t government consider the approval and opening of this and other ports in the South South and South East and save importers in these areas the trouble of constantly travelling to Lagos to transact their businesses?
With the proper will and drive this can be achieved and that will definitely benefit the nation more.
Need To Maintain Our Institutions
Nigeria is a sovereign nation and all hands must be on deck to maintain its sovereignty. To achieve this, a number of infrastructural developement must be put in place. The ideology of sovereignty of any nation is to make things possible for the citizens. Since Independence till date there has been slow pace of development in the country. This is as a result of nonchalant attitude of the leaders in government and some citizens when projects are awarded for execution. Often times, when it comes to solving problems for the masses what you hear is that there is no political will to enforce the policy. One wonders the kind of political will our leaders need before things are put in place. The deposit of mineral resources in the land of Nigeria is a good omen for national development.
The education sector has been drifting from its original aims and objectives. This is because the system is no longer meeting the expectations of the nation. In any sovereign nation, education is the door way of achieving purposeful development. Through research works in education, other sectors are managed effectively and efficiently. The falling standard of education caused by neglect of the sector has caused emigration of Nigerian students to neighbouring nations, thereby, denying our educational institutions funds to upgrade their facilities. Today, most of the leaders and well-to-do in Nigeria send their children and wards to Ghana, the US and the UK for university education.
It is true that no nation is an island. But that does not mean we should abandon our country for foreign facilities.
Indeed, the power or energy sector is one of the sectors begging for massive improvement and upgrading of facilities. The federal government has said so much about improvement of power in the country. Yet no meaningful achievement has been recorded. And if the government is ready to improve power in Nigeria, there is no need for the federal government to budget for generators for Aso Rock or government buildings. That is suspicious! In Nigeria, generators have taken over the power sector. And so each time generators are mentioned in the budget there is need for doubt. Over the years, Nigerians have been complaining of poor power supply in the country. And to many the cry against epileptic electricity supply is waste of time. All the processing and manufacturing industries use electricity from generators to power their machines. But in some countries of the world there is constant supply for decades. No wonder some companies are relocating to neighboring countries where electricity supply is relatively constant. Recently, there was bidding for electricity facilities in the country. There is no need for further delay in ensuring efficiency in the power sector. Therefore, power should not be toyed with, if Nigeria wants to be one of the biggest economies in the world. Everyone needs electricity in Nigeria.
Nigeria has been known as a developing nation for many years now and has not achieved tangible development, due to some nefarious activities of some persons in government and outside government. Nigeria has a wide road network but yet the roads in the country are in deplorable state, which gives room for questions. Nigerians enjoy pot holes-free roads in UK, the US and other nations of the world. But when road projects are awarded to some of them to construct as it is done in foreign nations, some siphon the funds or use poor quality materials to construct roads in the country. Today our federal roads are begging for reconstruction and rehabilitation, because they are very bad. And those who do the shoddy jobs are applauded and more multimillion projects are awarded to them to continue the bad jobs. Something has to be done to stop the ugly trend of events in the country. Because the roads are bad, motorists take the opportunity to charge commuters heavily. This also has led to high cost of commodities and has weakened the purchasing power of many Nigerians . Indeed, most of the staple foods we eat in the country are imported from foreign nations. For instance, Nigeria depends on imported rice till date when there are arable lands for rice farming in the country. Abakaliki rice is still under peasant farming system till today because government has not taken any proactive measure to improve rice farming in the country. There is need for concerted effort by all to change the state of things in the country.
Health for all has been a long time slogan which no one wants to sing or recite again because of the inability of the government to deliver health services to the people. It is still very sad to hear that Nigerians can only get better medical treatment abroad. Why? Nigeria has the resources that could make her health system the best in the world. Today, cancer screening machine is rare to come by in the country. Few months ago there was outbreak of Lassa fever in some states of the nation. And it was a difficult task to get treatment, because the machine to screen a victim’s blood sample is only in Benin. And it was reported that Lassa fever was first noticed before independence of our dear nation.
Indeed, today we fund foreign health system and they keep on growing faster than ours. Almost every government functionary receives his or her medical check up abroad. That is why our health sector is dying even when we have professionals to make it work. It is high time our leaders pondered anew to change some things. The national and state assemblies should enact laws that should make the government to improve its facilities. Over dependence on foreign institutions when we need to improve and develop the ones we have is a serious threat to democracy. Therefore, there is need for government at all levels to embark on an aggressive campaign on infrastructural development in the nation. Nigerians can enjoy the best if there is honesty and selfless service to humanity.
Ogwuonuonu wrote in from Port Harcourt.
By: Frank Ogwuonuonu
EFCC And Abia’s Rot
Is Abia State on the verge of having two of its former governors cool off in prison? With the ongoing investigation of Senator Theodore Orji, who governed the state from 2007 to 2015 over an allegation that he diverted N521 billion from the state to his personal use by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), it seems that may probably be the case.
According to the anti-graft agency, on March 17, 2017, a group, Fight Corruption: Save Nigeria Group, filed a petition accusing the former governor of withdrawing N500 million monthly as security vote from the state’s treasury during his eight years in office; diverting N383 billion revenue from the Federation Account, N55 billion Excess Crude revenue, N2.3 billion Sure-P revenue, N1.8 billion ecological funds, N10.5 billion loan, N12 billion Paris Club refund, N2 billion agricultural loan, and N55 billion ASOPADEC money while in office.
According to the petition, the N500 million the former governor allegedly withdrew monthly was “not part of the security funds expended on the Nigerian Police, the Nigerian Army, DSS, Navy, anti-kidnapping squad, anti-robbery squad, purchase of security equipment and vehicles for the security agencies.”
Also accused is the son of the former governor and current Speaker of Abia State House of Assembly, Chinedum Orji, who is said to own about 100 accounts in different banks, accounts that received “so much deposit in cash without evidence of job or services rendered”.
Add this mind-blowing amount of money to the N7.65 billion stolen by his former boss and predecessor, Dr Orji Kalu, which had earned him 12 years imprisonment and you will understand why Abia State is in its present pitiable situation.
Arguably, the most popular city in Abia State is Aba. Residents of the city are renowned for their enterprising spirit and commercial endeavours, making it one of Nigeria’s foremost commercial hubs. Some call it Nigeria’s China. Yet, most of the roads in the city are in deplorable condition. Some of the roads, like Port Harcourt Road, had been abandoned for many years. People living around this area continue to tell pitiable stories of how difficult it is for them to move in and out of their homes for their business and other daily activities, especially during the rainy season. The situation is the same in many other parts of the city. In many areas, the drainage systems are blocked by waste which litters almost all the city.
With the heavy commercial activities going on daily in Aba comes heavy waste. Incidentally, over the years, improper management of these wastes has posed a great challenge for the government. Anybody that goes to Aba or passes through there to other places in the country will agree that waste has become a permanent feature of the city, especially at the various markets. Roads and streets are littered with all manner of waste and the entire environment is polluted with stench from the gutters and the rubbish. During the administration of the immediate-past governor, Theodore Orji, Aba became the dirtiest city in Nigeria and even found a place among the list of worst places to live in the world.
Yet, billions of Naira meant for development of the state was allegedly pocketed by a few individuals. If a small fraction of the loot was used to provide incinerators in Aba to cater for the huge volume of waste, would the city not have been better than the pigsty it is today? What if a percentage of the money was used to tackle erosion, flooding and other hazards that occur annually in the state which has led to the loss of valuable properties? What if a little sum of the money was channeled to road construction, repair and maintenance of the numerous bad roads across the state? Indeed, there are plenty of things that would have been done with the massive loot which would have impacted so much on the people.
It is, therefore, hoped that the EFCC will expedite action on this particular case and bring father and son to book if found guilty. In addition to serving the constitutional punishment for the offences, they should also be made to return the looted funds which should be used to address the infrastructural deficit in the state.
The anti-graft agency should also beam its searchlight on other states of the country so as to fish out all the “Kalus and Orjis” that may have milked or are still milking their states dry to the detriment of the citizens. The rate of looting and embezzlement, not only among the state chief executives, but at different sectors of our economy, is so scary and disturbing that one wonders what becomes of the future of our states and the country in general if nothing is done to check it now.
Some have said that one big issue we have in the country today is the security votes that are not accounted for. There can be no better truth thant that. Some greedy, selfish governors are using it as an excuse to siphon the treasury and impoverish the people. It is difficult to understand why you should take tax payers’ money as the person in charge of the state’s affairs and don’t deem it necessary to give account to the people who own the money.
For donkey years we have claimed to be fighting corruption in this country, yet there is nothing to show for it. Rather, the situation seems to be worsening by the day. People no longer see corruption as a wrong doing but as a way of life. That’s why some people are castigating EFCC for investigating Orji and his son, labeling the action as a witch hunt, politically-motivated act and all manner of sentiments.
Corruption is now a systematic issue and the sooner we devised a more effective way of dealing with it systematically, the better for us. We need to build the integrity of the citizens. Integrity is what will make a governor, lawmaker, president or anybody for that matter, to always ask himself two important questions before taking any action: am l doing the right thing? am l doing it right? Once we can get many Nigerians reason this way, corruption will be stemmed.
By: Calista Ezeaku
Corruption As Police Albatross
For sometime now, the clamour for the establishment of a state – owned police or community police has continued to ring like a bell. So much debates and arguements about this in the media have attracted reasonable public attention which inversely, necessitated this humble reaction.
We can no longer sit on the fence watching our government or policy makers fabricating policies or legislations that are detrimental to our interest and development.
It is very interesting to note that so much fascinating and constructive arguments have been bandied since the debate about state police came up. Most schools of thought, especially the right-wingers, see it as a welcome development. They see it as a way of increasing the strength of the traditional federal police to stem the menace of social vices and insecurity that is plaguing and holding the nation to ransom in recent time, especially the Boko Haram insurgence.
Even as the creation of state police is being seen as a way of creating job opportunities for our youth, it is also being favoured for its potentials to bring efficiency and service delivery as a result of its closeness and familiarity with the terrain of the state or area of jurisdictions.
Fundamentally, we acknowledge that every criminal comes from a state, local government, community and village and we also believe holistically that only the fellow kinsmen that can do proper identification and make arrest of such persons or group of persons that perpetrate crimes.
However, in the eyes of many other people, especially the left wingers, the idea is viewed with skeptism and stiff criticism. Arguably, the idea, according to this school of thought, is believed to be politically-motivated.
In another development, mostly in the cause of this debate, several resolutions and opinions came up on this all important institution. Due to reasons that bother on incompetence, misbehaviour, recklessness etc, some reasonable per centage voted for a complete or total scraping of the system. Others advocated for a change of name from the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) to Nigeria Police (NP) with the “Force” completely removed. Meanwhile, an in-depth overhauling of the entire system is also opined by a good number of people.
As far as I am concerned, the antidote to security problems in Nigeria is not about nomenclature or change of police uniform or establishing community or state police as many have argued. The act that brought about the formation of the police force was carefully designed for the purpose of enforcing the law and to prevent crimes in the society.
In view of the prevailing security situation in the country, it is absolutely and necessarily paramount to turn the nation’s satellite on the police institution and other security agencies by way of identifying their challenges and rectifying them through a proactive approach.
The biggest problem of every facet of the Nigerian institution is the big monster called corruption! This is what is responsible for our failing economy, education, judiciary, agriculture, the police, the Army and virtually every area of our life as a nation.
Corruption has now taken the place of our National Anthem that could be sung in every office without shame. Greed breeds corruption and corruption brings about failing economy while failing economy breeds under –development. It is a chain reaction. This is the problem of our police force and not by establishing community or state police.
The trend of corruption in the police force is mostly from the top to the lowest rank. Imagine where it is boldly written at the respective police stations that “bail is free” only to discover that it is absolutely not free in practical term. Who is fooling who? If distress or emergency call to the police could not be responded to promptly, then what are we talking about? Every corrupt practice must always find a way to defend and justify its act. This is what goes on in Nigeria.
In another way, who will control the said state police if established? Is it not the governors or State governments that will cater for their welfare? He who pays the piper dictates the tune. It will be more disastrous than what is happening now, especially in this political era where winning an election is a do-or-die affair.
Before now, the Nigeria Police were reckoned with and rated very high with dignifying honour as a result of their efficiency, hard work and straight-forwardness. This image had earned us global recognition and accolade such that Nigeria Police had played leadership role in international community and organizations. How, and when did things go wrong?
It is a clear fact that we still have gallant policemen in service. They are just unfortunate to be corrupted by the system.
The solution, therefore, is by waging a total war on corruption in all ramifications and not engage in any superfluous transformation of the force. The war should start from the top police hierarchy (Police Service Commission) down to the lowest rank.
Good legislation that can make the police independent and also redefine its operations are required to strengthen and protect it from incessant hijack by the power brokers. In fact, what we need is a complete rebranding with the golden aim of fighting corruption in the police.
Hon. Tordee (JP), a Public Affairs Analyst, lives in Port Harcourt
By: Manson Tordee
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