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Engennis: In Search Of Economic, Political Emancipation

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If the works of historians like Professor E.J Alagoa and others are anything to go by, Engenni is one of the ancient kingdoms not just in Rivers State, but the entire Niger Delta.
The Engennis who are remnants of the ancient Benin Kingdom are scattered across the Niger Delta.
In Rivers State, they are largely found in Ahoada West Local Government Area, Udekema in Degema Local Government Area and, to some extent, Obonnoma in Akuku-Toru Local Government Area.
Engenni descendants can also be found in Epie/Attisa and the Zarama communities, both in Bayelsa State.
However, in Rivers State, the location of the four kingdoms of Engenni in Ahoada West LGA has placed the ethnic nationality in a position of obscurity, thereby diminishing their contributions to the socio- political and economic development of Rivers State.
Engenni Kingdom is host to the Nigerian Agip Oil Company(NAOC), the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) and the Nigeria Liquified Natural Gas (NLNG).
However, to chart a course for the political and economic liberation of their kingdom, the Engennis from the length and breadth of the Niger Delta converged at Akinima, the Ahoada West council headquarters, for a summit.
The one-day summit which was organised by Engenni eminent persons group in conjunction with Engenni Council of Traditional Rulers and Chiefs has as its theme “Rebranding Engenni Kingdom for the 21st Century Global Economy”.
Among those at the event were traditional rulers from the five clans which include Joinkrama, Ogua, Ediro Ekunu, Ediro Ede and Ogbogolo.
Also at the event were the Okilomu Ibe III of Engenni Kingdom, HRM King Moore Maclean Ubuo, as well as monarchs from sister Ekpeye Kingdoms including the Eze Igbu Upata, HRM Eze Dr Felix Otuwarikpo, HRM Eze Augustin Okpokiri of Igbu Ubie and Chairman of Ahoada West Local Government area, Evangelist Hope Ikiriko.
Other eminent persons at the event were, the chairman of Engenni Eminent Persons Group, Dr Harvey Warman, Dr Uriah S. Etawo, former Chief Medical Director University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital (UPTH), Princess (Mrs) S.C. Youdeowei, Dr A. Showers and Evangelist Mark Romans.
Also at the summit were: Engr George Apapa, Chief Ibim Harry, Deacon Anthony Luke, Surveyor Ovieral Zudonu, Deaconess Esther Showers, Deacon Apapa D. Apapa, Mrs Iniefieni J.J. Jumbo, Mrs Edovi A. Carson and Engr Andrew Akeneh.
The rest are Engr Samuel Okuwa, Mr Odinaka Osundu, Dr Buntly G. Akuru, Professor Amalo Ndu Dibofori-Orji, Mr Amivoh Showers, Engr Olovie Emem and Mrs Ann Awari.
The Okilomu Ibe III of Engenni Kingdom, HRM King Moor Maclean Ubuo, who declared the summit open said it was to x-ray the state of economic/social development of the kingdom.
According to the king, Engenni has for too long been in a state of obscurity among its peers in Rivers State, adding that the summit was to reflect on the past and examine the opportunities available to children of today and years to come.
Chairman of Engenni Eminent Persons Group, Dr Harvey Warman, said the summit will x-ray the gross insensitivity of the multinational companies operating in Engenni in responding to the peculiar developmental challenges of the people, especially the dire absence of basic infrastructures as against their corporate social responsibilities in other climes.
According to him, “the summit is about investing in people, infrastructures and innovation in creative ways to prepare our sons and daughters to compete in the 21st Century global economy.
He also urged that “to understand the essence we need to know where we are coming from our identity as a people , our culture and how these can be sustained over time,” he said.
Chairman of the occasion Professor Ezekiel Dikio of Niger Delta University called for the renaming of Ahoada West Local Government Area to Ekpeye/Engenni to reflect the geo-ethnic diversity of the local government area.
Dikio also stressed the need for the people to sustain their culture identity as the engennis are scattered across the Niger Delta.
The event also featured several lectures by distinguished sons and daughters of Engenni among who are; Chief Brantly G. Akuru who spoke on sustainability of Engenni culture and identity, Dr Uriah .S. Etawo spoke on Engenni Kingdom: Yesterday Today and Tomorrow while Professor (Mrs) Amalo Ndu Dibofor-Orji of Ignatius Ajuru University spoke on human capacity building and economic development of Engenni Kingdom.
Meanwhile, the Engennis have designated every second to third week of every December ending on Sunday as thanksgiving day.
This was contained in a draft communiqué made available to newsmen.
The communiqué also acknowledged that Engenni has for too long lived in obscurity amongst her peers within Rivers State, in the Niger Delta of Nigeria and elsewhere.
“We, therefore, resolved here and now to call on all sons and daughters of the kingdom, our neighbours, friends and well wishers at home and abroad to come and partner with us in the onerous but worthy task of rebuilding the Engenni Nationality.
The communiqué also lamented the unusual neglect of Engenni land by multinational oil and gas companies whose exploration and production activities have subjected the people to untold hardship.
The communiqué also reechoed the need for the name of Ahoada West Local Government Area to be changed to reflect the ethnic configuration which made up the local government area.
According to the people, “we resolve therefore to demand here and now as a palliative measure that the name of our local government area Ahoada West be changed to Engenni/Western Ekpeye local government area (EWELGA) adding that for justice and equity, the same political yardstick which ceded sister ethnic groups like Ogba/Egbema/ Ndoni and Abua/Odual from the old Ahoada Division be applied to the old Ekpeye/Engenni county council during the 1996 local government creation exercise.
The people also resolved to develop a blueprint that will articulate the transformation of the five clans of Engenni Kingdom viz: Joinkram (ENEDUA), Ogua, Ediro-Ekumu, Ediro Ede and Ogbogolo, adding that this will constitute the practical action plan for the sustainable development of the area and serve as a guide to the implementation of the stated objectives.
The communiqué also thanked Governor Wike for the recognition and elevation of the Engenni stool to first a class status.
The Chairman of Ahoada West Local Government Area, Evangelist Hope Ikiriko, said the summit was timely, adding that the council will replicate decisions of the summit in the forth-coming summit to be organised later this year by the council.
Similarly, the Eze Igbu Upata, King Felix Otuwarikpo, said the summit will enhance unity among the two ethnic groups in the local government area.
A cross section of participants also described the summit as timely as it will help the people to fully harness the abundant oil and gas resources in the kingdom for its development.

 

John Bibor, Amina Ngoma & Josephine Nsirim

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Using Weather Forecast To Boost Agric

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The Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet) predicts a below-normal rainfall, dwindling amount and duration in many parts of the country.
Observers, therefore, posit that the pattern of rainfall can affect food production except there is sensitisation to climate-smart agricultural practices and proper weather information dissemination to the farmers.
Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA) is an approach for transforming and reorienting agricultural systems to support food security under the new realities of climate change.
Researchers believe that widespread changes in rainfall and temperature patterns threaten agricultural production and increase the vulnerability of people who are dependent on agriculture for their livelihoods.
According to them, the threats can be reduced by increasing the adaptive capacity of farmers as well as increasing resilience and resource use efficiency in agricultural production systems.
They note that CSA promotes coordinated actions by farmers, researchers, private sector, civil society and policymakers towards climate-resilient pathways.
Minister of State for Aviation, Sen. Hadi Sirika, while reviewing NiMet’s report admits that the country is expected to experience a below-normal rainfall season.
He observes that rains are expected to start late, especially in the northern part of the country while the south eastern zone as well as the coastal areas will experience a normal onset of the rains.
He notes that most of the northern states will experience earlier-than-normal end growing season while shorter length of the growing season is predicted for most parts of the country.
He also says that there will be frequent and severe dry spell over the northern region during the rainy season.
“Dry spell will be more frequent and severe, ranging from 10 to 18 days in some parts of the extreme north around June and July, while the little dry season or (August break) in parts of the south is expected to be pronounced.
“The expected below normal rainfall in parts of the country does not rule out the possibility of isolated flash floods due to high intensity rainfall at the peak of the season, especially in places that are naturally prone to flooding.
“In every season, dry spells occur and in certain cases, lead to crop losses; farmers and other stakeholders are advised to get in touch with NiMet to access meteorological updates within the growing season.
“This is because these are risk factors for farmers in the affected areas and have to be carefully and scientifically managed.
According to Sirika, early release of the SRP before the beginning of the rainy season is to ensure effective harnessing of the climate resource.
He agrees that such information will further guarantee minimal losses from associated hazards, which are becoming quite devastating in this era of climate change.
He says that an increase of at least 30 per cent agricultural yields can be achieved if relevant meteorological information is utilised.
Similarly, Prof. Sani Mashi, the director-general of NiMet, says that farmers in the northern part of the country, mostly the Sahel zones are advised not to plant early as the country is likely to experience late onset of rains.
Mashi explains that early cessation of rains in the northern part will lead to shorter length of growing season and recommends  early provision and access to improved and drought resistant variety seeds.
“Normal onset is expected over coastal and some south-east states while the earliest onset date is predicted to be from March 7 around the coastal region of the south-south region.
“The onset dates are expected to change northwards with areas around Maiduguri, Sokoto, Katsina, Dutse, Potiskum, Kano and Nguru having onset of rains from June 16.
“The earliest cessation dates are expected to be from September 29 around the north-western parts of the country while most of the north is expected to witness cessation dates within October,’’ he explains.
He explains further that while the growing season is expected to end between late October and mid-November, parts of the central and southern states are expected to experience end of the season by mid-November to early December while the season is expected to end by late December along the coast.
According to him, governments at all levels are advised to embark on awareness and sensitisation of farmers and other stakeholders on CSA practices such as on-farm water harvesting structures, soil and water conservation practices and land preservation.
“Farmers are also encouraged to make provision for irrigation water during the predicted periods of dry spell.
“The warmer-than-normal temperatures predicted in February and April are expected to affect livestock in some parts of the country, particularly the northern states where rainfall has not yet established.
“Decrease in fodder production from dry land, increase in vector-borne diseases, internal parasite infestation and mortality rate is likely to increase during these months due to temperature fluctuations, shell quality and egg weight in layers may also be affected.
“The colder-than-normal daytime temperatures in March may affect day old chicks and increase feed conversion ratio in layers and broilers while the spread of heat-related diseases is likely to increase as a result of the predicted warmer conditions in most parts of the country.
“Good veterinary practices for livestock vaccination, fisheries and aquaculture management should be adhered to because fish production is likely to be adversely affected as a result of warmer-than- normal conditions especially in the northern part of the country,’’ he warns.
Ogbaje writes for the News Agency of Nigeria.

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On Housing For Rivers Public Servants

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The significance of providing accommodation for public servants in government establishments in this part of the world has been neglected over the years and regressively underestimated. It is a typical fact that a well relaxed mind is the head that wears the thinking cap. A mind can be relaxed only if it is less burdened with the responsibility of providing basic physiological needs; for instance, decent and affordable accommodation which, in turn, bolsters effective comprehension, enhances productivity, profitability and professionalism at the work place.
Over the years, successive government administrations in Nigeria had, at one time or another, adopted one housing policy or the other. The first known housing policy in the country can be traced to the days of colonial administration in 1928 when the outbreak of an ill-fated bubonic plague prompted the establishment of the Lagos Executive Development Board (LEDB), which was saddled with the responsibility of managing public housing schemes and interventions. This, of course, was the experimental version at the time. This pilot scheme was aimed at addressing problems of housing at the national level. The center of attention then was predicated on the need to provide accommodation for expatriate workers and selected Nigerian staff in establishments such as Armed Forces, Police, Marine and the Railways. This included the construction of senior civil servants quarters in Lagos and regional headquarters like Enugu, Kaduna and Ibadan. The scheme also made provision for rent subsidies and housing loans to deserving public servants.
Over the years, the national housing policy has been severally overhauled to perform better compared to the era of its inception. The modern era began with the promulgation of Decree No. 40 of 1973, establishing the Federal Housing Authority but the actual take-off was in the year 1976.
Right from then, the authority had been saddled with the responsibility of providing affordable and livable houses for the masses until 1977 when its functions were complemented with those of the Nigerian Building Society; a brain-child of the colonial administration which later metamorphosed into the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria. This served as the main engine room for public housing delivery with a dual function of primary and secondary mortgage institution in the country.
From 1976 till date, decrees emanating from defunct Supreme Military Councils and laws from the National and State Assemblies have been used in drafting legal frameworks for housing policies for the people at different levels. But the fact remains that decrees and laws on their own cannot provide accommodation for the masses, only the political will of the executive arm of government accounts for the overall success of government programmes.
The United Nations General Assembly in 1948 adopted and proclaimed the Rights to Adequate Housing as enshrined under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Thus, the human right to adequate housing is the right of every individual, male, female, young, old, child, rich or poor. This proclamation has been domesticated by the Federal Government of Nigeria but not much success has been domesticated by the Federal Government of Nigeria but not much success has been recorded.
Here in Rivers State, successive administrations had tried their hands on one housing policy or another to provide livable houses for the citizenry. Today, the present administration led by His Excellency, Chief Nyesom Wike, in 2016 called for collaboration with the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) on the way forward toward providing affordable houses for the people of the state. The Governor made the call during a courtesy visit on him by the Managing Director, Federal Housing Authority, Professor Mohammed Al-Amin, at Government House, Port Harcourt.
Governor Wike then directed the Management of the Greater Port Harcourt City Development Authority (GPHCDA) and the State’s Ministry of Housing to liaise with the FHA to fashion out a development framework for affordable housing for public servants in the state.
Since then, Governor Wike, being a man with the magic wand, in his magnanimity has demonstrated his love for public servants in the state by providing affordable and livable homes for them. So far, the overachieving governor kept his promise by providing 24 units of three-bedroom flats at Lagos Street, in the old Port Harcourt Township.
There are also 14 units of six two-bedroom flats and eight three-bedroom flats all attached with one-room service quarter at Amassoma Street, Amadi Flats, Port Harcourt. The Judiciary in the state is not left out as 20 units of five-bedroom duplex with two-room service quarter have been duly completed at Elelenwo Street in new GRA axis of Port Harcourt for judges in the state. The Governor in his first tenure had provided 50 units of two-bedroom flats at Iriebe in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area.
A vox pop of some public servant who are currently savouring the benefits of living in government quarters accorded the governor accolades for overhauling the sector. Mr. Francis Igwe a beneficiary in one of the estates said: “I am happy with the governor for the work he is doing to provide accommodation for civil servants in the state. He has done well for us and I believe he can do more by building more houses to accommodate more civil servants”. Another beneficiary, Mr Austin Ezekiel-Hart, a management staff in the civil service and an occupant of one of the newly constructed housing units expressed his mixed feelings thus: “The government has done very well in building new housing units and I am a happy and proud occupant. The problem I have is that some occupants of these housing units are very insensitive to maintaining the structures. The government in its wisdom has provided these facilities but some occupants are not just interested in maintaining them. They erroneously believe that government should come and sweep their environment, evacuate their sewage, fix broken windows and even paint their buildings. These are things that the occupants can easily do if they come together. I think it is time the occupants of these facilities complement government’s effort”.
Another proud occupant, Mrs. Akiyata Anyanwu, shared her experience as follows: “I have been enjoying this facility for over five years now and I’ve not had any reason to regret. The environment is calm; neighbours are co-operative and the security of the area has been optimal. In my opinion, the government has done well, but I still think that more housing units should be built to accommodate more civil servants in the scheme.”
A judge in the state judiciary who pleaded anonymity due to the sensitive nature of his job said: “Though I am not currently an occupant of the facility, but I am very happy with what the governor is doing in the housing sector. It is obvious that the gesture will go a long way in improving the psyche of workers, especially the judicial officers”.
In her view, Mrs Ominini Cheetam-West, a beneficiary, applauded the efforts of Governor Wike for fulfilling his promise of providing accommodation for civil servants in the state but pleaded that the government should endeavour to build more housing units in different parts of the state to accommodate more civil servants and added that a well relaxed civil servant will be more productive in the work place.
With these achievements, Governor Wike has truly shamed his critics who go about insinuating that he does not love or consider the plight of workers in the state. Workers are grateful to him for his magnanimity in the housing sector. He has demonstrated that he is a man of his words but there is still room for improvement. Some stakeholders in the housing sector have opined that Governor Wike’s achievement in the sector speaks volumes and is worthy of emulation for other state governors. We, therefore, solicit that more housing units be constructed to accommodate more workers in the state. Frankly speaking, if workers in Rivers State are provided with the right environment to retire to after the day’s work, it is certain that such workers would have enough time and space to rest and prepare for the next day’s challenge with much ease. Once again,it is said that a relaxed mind is the head that wears the thinking cap. Godam is of the Rivers State Ministry of Information and Communications.

 

By: Eric Godam

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On Lagos Okada, Keke Ban

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Recently, Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, outlawed commercial motorcycles (Okada) and tricycles (Keke Marwa) in the state, leading to pandemonium and criticisms from every nook and cranny of the state. From government’s side, the action was targeted at reducing the crime rate in the society.
Admitted, most of the heinous crimes are perpetrated in collusion with Okada operators which clearly manifested recently with the arrest of Okada riders with handguns and other arms concealed inside parts of their motorcycles, which could only be detected with eagle’s eyes. Kudos to the Police Intelligence Response Team (IRT) led by DCP Abba Kyari. The group has continued to show expertise in the career and, therefore, deserve encomiums.
However, as the society is tensed up over the unemployment ratio, it must be noted that tricycle and motorcycle transportation have been bridging the gap in unemployment, and thereby contributing positively in a measure to security of lives and properties. The question is; if with the engagement of such a great population of operators, security challenges are pronounced in the society, what will happen when they do not have means of livelihood. Sensibly, there will be fire on the mountain.
To ban the masses’ major means of livelihood without first providing alternatives is not ideal. Many of the operators opted for the vocation as a last resort after some ugly incidents knocked them out of the ring. Presently, there are no welfare packages for the masses and the microfinance banks that are supposed to support Small and Medium-Scale Enterprises (SMEs) do not help matters. Clearly, there are no sufficient job opportunities even for the employable class as are available in other countries. Many that are willing to work are roaming around.
Suffice it to say that Lagos State Government should responsibly plan it well; instead, it could put stringent measures in place towards organizing and monitoring it adequately for security reasons. Particularly, there should be compulsory registration of the operators and essentially, restricted in some designated routes. For operation in the highway, certainly, that’s a no-go area.
However, what then becomes the fate of residents in the remote area that, due to bad roads, can with less difficulty move around through motorcycles. Suffice it to say that it goes beyond banning but putting necessary infrastructures in place. If there are good roads for vehicles to ply especially mini-buses, certainly, many commuters will not go for motorcycles or tricycles.
The ban similarly occurred in the federal capital territory leaving commuters to suffer in moving around since the long buses in the fleet of Abuja Urban Mass Transit Company are insufficient and, therefore, rarely available at needed times. Commuters are getting excessively stressed up in the Federal Capital Territory unlike before while going to work and other places. So, governments must always ensure that palliative measures are put in place before adopting radical policies so as not to imperil the same lives they intend to protect. Government is essentially about service to the people.
Without doubt, the operators will find themselves in extreme tight corner without any means of survival. If government had designated mini-buses with a hire-purchase scheme as a model, the motorcycle and tricycle operators could key in, and the idea would be unique but to chase out poor masses that are struggling to survive without any provision for them is unconsciously endorsing insecurity.
Absurdly, this is a society where a minister, or lawmaker goes around in official fleets worth over N100 million, yet, ordinary social facilities to the masses are unavailable. The outrageous allowances in the legislative arm is a no-go area. Government must ensure that its policies, no matter how good they may become in the long run, do not first drain the masses.
To expect every business to operate in a modern plaza is a positive plan, however, not realistic vis-à-vis different financial capacities. Rome, they say, was not built in a day. As a coin has two sides, so is any society. Hence, there is need for equilibrium to be able carry both sides along. Otherwise, democracy may shift to become a government of the affluent and for the affluent. So far, the masses are not participants in reality, but reserved valuable assets for campaigns just to get into power. After this phase, everyone is on his own.
Recently, a former ‘distinguished senator’, on Twitter, brashly justified his passion for insatiably acquiring luxury automobiles when the people in his locality are living in abject poverty. Not even a factory or serious business of his anywhere to create jobs for his people, but displaying customized posh cars with special numbers in the garage. Yet, during electioneering campaigns, the masses put their lives into it for little or nothing.
Recently, about 40 stout bank accounts in foreign and local currencies were allegedly traced to former Abia governor and serving senator, Theodore Orji, and his son, Chinedu (Speaker of Abia State House of Assembly) by the anti-graft agency which buttressed the point well. Imagine the ones yet to be traced!
No wonder many unoccupied estates littered in many places particularly in the FCT with no identifiable owners, possibly for fear of investigation. Nigeria’s democracy presently reflects ‘lootocracy’ than democracy. Apparently, the military sold a looting template to the people, and not democracy as practiced around the world.
To sum, a society that neglects the masses in its plan cannot wake up with radical changes overnight, otherwise, the good policy may end up doing more harm than good. There are millions of adults willing to engage in one lawful endeavour or the other, but find themselves handicapped due to unavailability of jobs and capital. Ideally, any responsible and committed government must take cognizance of this, and put them in the blueprints prior to bans.
Umegboro, a public affairs analyst, wrote from Abuja.

 

Carl Umegboro

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