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My Dressing, My Faith

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It will be reprehensible for a female corps member to embark on obstacle-crossing and other physical training activities on camp, including parade, in skirt or gown. Those will expose her indecently, thus, leaving little or nothing to imagination”
That was part of the explanations given by the Director-General of National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), Brig-Gen. Shuaibu Ibrahim, following the expulsion of two female corps members, – Okafor Love Obianuju, and Odji Oritsetsolaye, from orientation camp in Ebonyi State last weekend for refusing to wear trousers or shorts for religious reasons.
Speaking through the Corps’ Director of Press and Public Relations, Mrs Adenike Adeyemi,    Ibrahim noted that the NYSC camp, predicated on discipline and decency, is a training ground for corps members and ”any other dress code contrary to the officially-sanctioned one will not promote the course of decency.”
I think the DG just nailed it. The primary reason for insisting on corps members wearing trousers and shots is for their protection and decency. Many of us participated in the scheme and know how rigorous and tasking the Man O’ War drills and exercises were and can testify that there is no way someone can do most of them comfortably and effectively on skirts or gowns. Is it the jumping of fence, rope climbing, crawling under barb wires or karate fighting? You can imagine a female climbing rope on skirt in the presence of soldiers and other colleagues, both male and female.
Yes, the issue of religion is a personal thing and our constitution grants freedom of worship, so one will not be in a hurry to condemn the two corps members for insisting on not dressing in a way they said is against their faith, but shouldn’t we be sensible even in our religious practices? Shouldn’t we weigh the pros and cons of a policy before rejecting it or protesting against it in whatever form?
And then comes the issue of obedience.  Every establishment has rules and regulations guiding it which are expected to be obeyed by anyone that has dealings with it for efficiency and orderliness. If everybody decides to flout these rules and regulations, what will our society become? One will want to believe that Obianuju and Odji were aware of the orientation and NYSC rules and regulations yet they decided to participate in it. It then behoves them to obey those rules. Or since they are not comfortable with some of the guidelines, they would have probably tabled their objections before the NYSC director or other appropriate quarters before going to camp. But as some analysts have said, obedience to the rules should be for all and sundry and not for some people. The moment the leadership of any organization compromises in the enforcement of the rules and regulations or in punishing offenders, there will no longer be total compliance by the people.
In Nigeria, we have two major religions, Christianity and Islam, and it is expected that the same consideration should be given to these two groups in formulating any policy that concerns them. If members of one of them are allowed to dress in certain way, contrary to the rules of an organization, it will be just and fair to consider members of the other group when they make certain demands in that direction as well.
Let us look at further explanations of the NYSC director-general on the scheme’s dressing code. He said that the organisation did not issue hijab, worn by Muslim women, as part of its dress code,
“Rather, the scheme permits the use of white hijab, which must not be more than shoulder length and must be tucked into the uniform.
“The policy of allowing hijab, which does not deface the NYSC uniform, is not new, as it has been there.”
Will it then be out of place to suggest that the leadership of the scheme should consider the position of some Christians who feel that putting on trousers and shots is against their faith and address the matter amicably instead of expulsion as was the case in Ebonyi State?
As I stated earlier, Section 38 of the 1999 Constitution grants freedom of religion to the citizens which must be respected. Yes, we can appeal to the corps members to see reasons why they should dress in accordance with the NYSC code, but it is their right to practice their religion the way they deem fit. Recall the case of Firdausa Al Jannah Amasa versus the Nigerian Law School. The law graduate was denied entry into the International Conference Center, Abuja, venue of the call to bar in 2017 because she refused to remove her hijab. She took the matter to court, won and the institution is said to have since retraced its steps.
So, as the Special Assistant on Media and Communications to the President of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Rev. Adebayo Oladeji, appealed, the NYSC leadership should be more tolerant and revisit the matter with a view to addressing it better. It will amount to double standard to dismiss Christian corps members for dressing inappropriately while their Muslim counterparts in the same shoes are allowed to wear hijad, going by the position of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) and other concerned individuals and groups, who also noted that wearing hijab on NYSC uniform cannot be said to be promoting the course of decency as posited by Mrs Adeyemi.
It will, therefore, be wise if the two rusticated corps members can heed Oladeji’s advice and head to court to challenge their expulsion. Who knows, they might get a similar judgment like Firdausa and then the matter will be permanently settled.

 

Calista Ezeaku

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Abia’s Burden Of Prejudice

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Prejudice, defined as preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual evidence, like cynicism and pessimism, is weighty and burdensome. Prejudice is cancerous. It breeds discontentment and leaves one disconcerted. It also negates sound judgment and makes the victim forlorn.
Cyril, a real friend (though in pseudonym), has gone mad again!
Cyril reminds me of David’s outcry in Psalms 135:16-18: “They have mouths, but they speak not; eyes have they, but they see not; they have ears, but they hear not; neither is there any breath in their mouths. They that make them are like unto them: so is every one that trusted in them.”
Prior to the 2015 and 2019 General Elections, respectively, Cyril would not hear anything good about the candidature of Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State. He loathed him with passion and wouldn’t give him a chance. When I engaged Cyril, then, he had his prejudiced views though laced with “they say…”
Cyril, like his kinds, has never met Ikpeazu and knows little or nothing about him. They read no positive news about Abia State; even when they do, they mock the success stories and hype the failures! Like the Man Friday that they are, they take in hook, line and sinker, every negative media propaganda in disfavour of Abia State.
On the expiration of Gov. Ikpeazu’s first term, I met Cyril to seek his appraisal of the four-year term… True to his type, Cyril was still bitter!  Why? I asked him…even with the landmark road infrastructure…over 70 finished roads? Over 300 renovated schools? Manpower development? Cyril wouldn’t hear any of these achievements. He was adamant. “Ikpeazu has done nothing…” he thundered! He is not good enough to rule Abia State… I knew he will fail and he has failed…” He enthused, rather comically. Hmm! I pressed on to know his reasons for such hatred but my friend couldn’t explain to me. I concluded he had no reason other than sheer prejudice and an unmitigated urge for malfeasance!
I fast forward to last month…I called on my friend Cyril, once again, to know if his impressions about Gov. Ikpeazu has changed. I drew his attention to the Osikapa (Rice Mill) revolutions and the fact that we have our brand of rice everywhere in Abia State. I told him of the Poultry Clusters in Umuosu and the cheering 1000 CBN trainees already engaged. I informed him of the state -of – the -art, ongoing machinery installations at the Automated Shoe factory…and what I thought was a piece of good news …that the 30 China trainees will have a place to practise their skill. Even the fact that they are already involved in the installation activities, did not mean anything to Cyril!
I reminded Cyril of the attendant benefits of these low cost, pro-poor but landmark infrastructural provisions of the Ikpeazu government. I did tell him of the value chain benefits of these poultry clusters and the automated shoe factory, but Cyril wouldn’t budge. His reasons… Ikpeazu is a failure! Ikpeazu must fail …Ikpeazu is bound to fail!
Haba, Cyril! You mean there is nothing cheering in all that the Governor has achieved in less than one year of his second term?
Maybe I can heal Cyril’s maniacal disorders, I thought. I took Cyril to Osusu Road in Aba that was fixed recently and told him also that the government has asked Setraco to return to Faulks Road and complete the work for commissioning. I reminded him of the Umuene-Umuoba Road. I also informed him that Golden Guinea Breweries has begun full-scale production just as Arab Contractors is speedily working on the Umuahia-Ubakala-Aba Road.
Still, Cyril remained cynical!
Since Cyril is worried for health/social infrastructural deficit. I informed Cyril about the Telehealth Initiative…an amazing, ingenious innovation of Gov. Ikpeazu’s.
I lectured Cyril on the imports of the scheme: just dial a number and a doctor will attend to you! No need to take a bed in the hospital. No need struggling with the logistics of transportation and all that. Above all, it is powered by the renowned Globacom and the scheme has already kicked off!
I reminded Cyril that the social investment thrust of Gov Ikpeazu entails an equitable distribution of resources bottom up, through needful empowerment and skills acquisition programmes, and the consolidation of wealth through the provision of infrastructure and other enablers like security, etc.
I took Cyril to my village in Umunkwo Ikem Nvosi in Isiala Ngwa South Local Government Area and showed him our Village Hall built through the CSDP/World Bank intervention grants. I informed him that, for laudable feats as this, the World Bank just recently gave kudos to Abia State for their diligence in managing the World Bank-assisted projects in the state. I thought Cyril will change his mind but all he could do was to sigh, hiss and in acquisance murmured …and so what?
Thereafter, Cyril walked away!
Inukwa…! Is Cyril under a spell?
Although my list is longer, I couldn’t stand the inanity of Cyril’s cynicism.
Cyril is, therefore, a metaphor of Abians who see nothing good in the achievements made by Ikpeazu with the little resources at his disposal. Cyril captures the picture of the few Abians who are quick to celebrate mediocre projects in other states but lampoon excellence in their state.
Cyril is “Everyman” that is in enmity with everything progressive. Cyril represents “Everyman” whose actions or inactions are antithetical to the systematic, impactful, pro-poor projects of the Ikpeazu administration.
Cyril is you …ndi Abia cynics …ndi ekweghi ekwe Abia that see nothing good in Ikpeazu’s spirited efforts to transform Abia State.
Maybe I should reiterate it, once more; Abia State is work-in-progress. We are not near our destination but we have covered some milestones!
Given your encouragements, co-operation, albeit responsible criticisms, the trajectory will be nothing but progressive progressions; Onward ever, backward never!
Would you rather let go of that impedance called prejudice and embrace objectivity? Would you rather shift from that paradigm of darkness unto the sunny side of life?
If you can’t see, can’t you feel it?
The sign is everywhere… that Ikpeazu won’t leave us the way he met us!
Onyenma is Special Assistant to Abia State Governor on Strategic Development

 

By: Kennedy Onyenma

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Opinion

Buhari’s Foreign Loans: Matters Arising

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President Muhammadu Buhari sought for legislative approval for external loans during the 8th Senate but was turned down. Amongst them was US$29.96 billion loan which, according to the object, was to fund critical infrastructure in the country. The Senate bawled that loans cannot be an option at all. Superficially, the Senate was right in a part on account of daily mega inflows to the economy. Inarguably, the country is sufficiently rich to be self-reliant for most capital projects, all things being equal.
On the other hand, the Senate stumbled knowing that the major drain pipe in the country is the Senate and its counterpart, the House of Representatives. The funds allocated to these two chambers are sufficient to fund robust infrastructure across the nation with ease. From record, Nigeria’s lawmakers are the highest paid in the world and with outrageous allowances. To review these anomalies and possibly scrap one of the chambers; either Senate or lower chamber remain a way forward.
On the foreign loans, first and foremost, it is imperative to distinguish between loans for recurrent expenditure or sustenance and that of infrastructure development. The former is an index of economic recession. On the other hand, most developed countries didn’t fund capital projects from money in the treasury but long-term infrastructure loans. To put the burden on funds in the treasury can slow down developments and negatively affect other operations.
Noticeably, President Buhari’s government has created secure revenue for the nation. Amongst them are the Treasury Single Account (TSA), Value Added Tax (VAT), other internally-generated revenues that are active. Above all, leakages in the economy have been substantially blocked which makes government to get more incomes unlike before.
Beyond doubt, Nigeria has low tax morale – apathy on payment of taxes due to high level of corruption among the ruling class. For example, it was revealed by the Research Director of the Fiscal Policy Roundtable of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG), Tayo Oyedele at the Nigeria Governors’ Forum Secretariat, Abuja recently that more than 81% of taxable adults and businesses in Nigeria do not pay their income tax. According to him, only 20 million out of nearly 200 million people do.
Suffice it to say that the ruling class must vitally restore peoples’ confidence by good leadership. For instance, during the tenure of Babatunde Fashola (SAN) as Lagos state governor, many residents enthusiastically paid taxes on account of visible transformations in the state. After his exit, perceptively, the narratives changed.
Hence, adequate revenue through taxes may not be a realistic option at the moment. The second option is concessionary technique whereby companies bid and execute projects with trade agreement; to manage infrastructure for a specified period for the purpose of recouping invested capital. Incidentally, concession of sensitive infrastructure may not augur well for the masses presently due to poverty level albeit a unique conventional template.
Back to the discourse, any government that has a secure revenue system; capacity to repay can comfortably opt for loans for infrastructural development. This is because the loans can be prudently tied to the secure inflows for settlements. There would be issues where a government has no secure means of reimbursement but liberally securing loans, which is indicative of bad governance as witnessed in the past when government relied only on crude oil.
From the record, the 2016-2018 External Borrowing Plan targeted 39 projects spread across the country which includes the East-West Road; Mambilla Hydro Power Station; Standard gauge Ibadan-Kano Rail line; Calabar-PH-Aba-Makurdi-Bauchi-Maiduguri Rail Line; 2,500 Km Power Transmission Lines and Power Transformers across Nigeria; total overhauling of Ajaokuta Steel Company and Dualization of Lokoja-Okene-Auchi-Benin Road. Thus, the loan apart from being secured is tied to infrastructure unlike the previous loan regimen.
President Buhari has presented the $29.96billion loan request to the 9th Senate for approval. Instructively, lawmakers must, above all, be guided by objectivity and public interests rather than unnecessary show of power. The sensible action is to evaluate the capacity of the government vis-à-vis repayment by its protected revenue machinery in place and not fear of being labelled rubberstamped legislature.
Economically, it is naïve to scream over loans without first considering the object and capacity of the borrower. Without making use of loan facility, the country will spend much time in planning without executions. Democracy is a time-frame system; therefore, if an administration must rely solely on available funds in the treasury, nothing substantial may be achieved in the four years an administration is billed to last.
In other words, it is immaterial the volume of loans as long as there is a secure repayment mechanism and the objects are germane. Such arrangement will equally reduce corruption as inflows will be directed to repayment schedules. Interestingly, the Constitution clothed the lawmakers with oversight functions which empowers them to supervise executive’s activities. Hence, there’s no cause for alarm. To decline loan request for infrastructural development simply for apprehension of misappropriation is gullible.
The grumble is comparable to a woman scared of pregnancy to avoid giving birth to a bad child when it is her duty as a mother to mould the child to become useful. An executive arm cannot misappropriate funds where the lawmakers that exercise oversight functions are active, awake and responsible. Besides, President Buhari, as the team leader, is arguably not characterized by such character of dishonesty, greed and imprudence.
Umegboro is a public affairs analyst.

 

By: Carl Umegboro

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Toeing The Path Of Welfarism

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In this era of globalization, market economy, hyper competition and rapid changing environment, every employer of labour expects an increase in productivity, a surge in quality service delivery as well as critical thinking in workplaces. Unfortunately, not all understand the Human Resource philosophy which states that “employees are an important business resource that must be managed carefully in order to maximize return on investment and achieve business objectives”.
Instead, many employers tend to portray their employees as a folk privileged to have a paltry sum on a regular basis. Of course, the unprecedented surge in the labour market has not helped matters, as workers are forced by their economic situation to see their employers as lords, in whose grace they have found solace. This mentality has not only led the country into serious brain-drain of its workforce, it has affected the overall attitude to work and, by extension, the overall productivity.
This is not different from what is being observed as the battle for the full implementation of the New National Minimum Wage for workers, moved to the various states of the federation.
Upon the Federal Government’s conclusion of negotiations on consequential adjustments of salaries of higher income earners with the Joint National Public Service Negotiating Council (JNPSNC), as a result of the new minimum wage of N30,000, expectations were that respective state governors would see reason to implement same immediately, considering the length of time it took for the negotiations to be concluded.
Ordinarily, 182 days after President Muhammadu Buhari signed the new minimum wage bill into law, before the consequential adjustment was achieved, should have been time enough for a welfare-conscious leader to know that the concerned workers’ patience had been overstretched, and so, needed no further stretching.
No doubt, salivating Nigerian workers had been very anxious for the new salary which they hope would shore up their purchasing power, given the current economic realities. The more optimistic among them had already calculated the possible new earnings and had possibly started looking forward to when they would start enjoying the jumbo pay.
After all, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) that ratified the deal, had directed “…that the National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission and the Ministry of Labour and Employment should send the consequential adjustments table down to the state and local governments as an advisory document for their information and guidance for their National Joint Public Service status in their respective states because the national minimum wage is a national law.”,
On the contrary, most state workers are yet to know their fate, a situation that isn’t palatable at all. Not even are the state governors moved by the directive to the ministries, agencies and departments to ensure that arrears of the new wage regime from April when the Act came into effect be cleared before the end of December.
This blattant display of reluctance towards the implementation of this federal law (minimum wage), with the required urgency, by the various state governors, does not only express the height of the latter’s insensitivity to the plight of their subjects, it is an indication of a lack of love for those whose wellbeing they swore to protect.
It is on this note that the action of the Lagos State Government under the leadership of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, at not only being the first state to pay the minimum wage, but also raising the bar by paying more than the N30, 000 agreement which organized labour reached with the Federal Government, is highly commendable.
According to Jeddy Omisore, a journalist, “with this singular action, Gov Sanwo-Olu has painted his self portrait as a welfarist leader. He has proved that it is possible to be in power and still remember the downtrodden. He has, no doubt, written his name in gold as a foremost civil servants-friendly governor”.
Right now, there are reports that pensioners are also getting a review on their earnings, just as the state continues to pay them as at when due. Lagos State is generally applauded as one of the few states that do not make pensioners groan, grumble or cry before they collect their pension.
Sanwo-Olu may have been able to achieve this feat due to his belief in collectivism and his understanding of the fact that the next person also has a right to fair treatment for a harmonious co-existence, especially when productivity is expected from the latter.
Nothing can be more reinforcing than this laudable action of the governor. It is now imperative on the public servants to reciprocate with more hard work, dedication and selfless service. As they say, unto whom much is given, much is required. The onus now lies on the public servants in the state to roll up their sleeves, with their hand to the till, their back to the wall and nose to the grindstone and work smarter and harder than before.
In both private and public sectors, while every other measure may count, employees’ performances remain an essential requirement for any organization to maintain its efforts towards the realization of predetermined goals. Those who have come to terms with this principle would affirm that regular welfare packages remain a known catalyst for this expected improved performance, and so, it is not optional.
Many employers have failed because they chose to undermine their workers’ welfare; the catalyst of improved performance in the workplace. In fact, in this age and era, it is almost impossible to operate an organization without offering basic benefits for employees’ welfare. This is due to the realization that a healthy and stress-free worker is a major asset.
Thus, regular upward review of workers’ remunerations is one welfare facility known to basically keep employees’ motivation levels high. Besides, it is merely a social responsibility on organizations for those who work for them. The very logic behind providing welfare schemes, apart from being the workers’ right, is to increase a healthy employer/employee relationship as well as the productivity of the organization. It is also to create an efficient and satisfied labour force, thereby maintaining industrial peace. It should not be seen as a grant given to some undeserving elements of the society.

 

By: Sylvia ThankGod-Amadi

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