As Nigeria marks its Diamond Jubilee Independence Anniversary, The Tide takes a look at various sectors of the nation’s economy. Since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, the nation’s economy has nose-dived more than ever before and masses subjected to abject poverty, hunger, deprivation and hyperinflation. The manufacturing sector seems to be the worst hit as stakeholders say they have been set back 60 years to pre-Independence level. Excerpts.
The Chairman, Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Rivers State, Senator Adawari Michael Pepple, noted that in the past there were manufacturing concerns in almost all the major cities in their multiple numbers in the country.
Pepple lamented that those manufacturing concerns have either gone moribund or no longer in existence.
According to him, ’’Trans-Amadi used to be a bubbling hub for manufacturing, there were so many companies doing one thing or the other, but at the moment, we really do not have such a presence, all the companies have folded up, so effectively we have set ourselves back to pre-Independence level, it is unfortunate”.
He attributed the development to the lack of will on the part of government to place priority on manufacturing as a major source of employment.
The senator observed that the cost of power, which is 75 per cent of the cost of manufacturing has never been made available, saying that the situation had placed the manufacturing sector at a disadvantage.
He regretted that the future is bleak stating that Nigeria is at a loss as to what to do in post Covid-19 era, since government was still coming up with policies that were taking a way the capacity of local buyers to buy what little that was being manufactured through the increase of petrol pump price and electricity tariff.
On her part, a financial expert, Mrs Ekimini Gbole-Nwikina, said the aspiration of Nigeria using the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), was for Nigeria to attain financial independence.
Gbole-Nwikina recalled that prior to this time, the financial sector suffered so much as a result of failed banks due to poor governance, management style and cash based transactions.
She said these structures became the rallying point of the nation’s economy, “and the outcome was a strong and stable banking system where we now raised 25 solid banks from existing 89 banks, single digit inflation rate, debt reduction and exit from Paris Club, capital market explosion, liberation of foreign exchange market, among others”.
Gbole-Nwikina, lamented, however, that the country was yet to attain financial independence due to the many challenges that still plague the sector.
According to her, “poor governance, poor state of infrastructure, poor human capital development, low interest rate on savings and difficulty in accessing credit facility for SMEs remain the bane of Nigeria’s quest for financial independence”.
On the security architecture of the nation since 1960 when Nigeria gained independence, a peace building practitioner in Rivers State, Mr Cosmas Ndinee, noted that Nigeria has been challenged security wise, saying that a child born at independence would already be a grandparent by now and that in it is self goes with a lot of responsibility.
Ndinee, who is also the coordinator, Search for Common Ground, a non-governmental organisation in Rivers State, stated that Nigeria had not taken on much of this responsibility, particularly as it concerns corruption, pointing out that, “whenever corruption is so strong in a nation, you never can expect anything fine because the players would not handle things in the desired manner”.
He maintained that corruption remain the bane of peace, security and development in the nation stressing, “it is this corruption that has arisen to series of insurgencies, militancy, affecting the security architecture of the country”.
Sadly, he said, this development has resulted in the exit of investors and liquidation of some businesses, thereby creating unemployment, loss of jobs with an increased level of hardship and poverty in the country.
On the way forward, he said security was pivotal in the development of any nation, which he stated must be addressed by calling to the drawing table all the players especially those who feel excluded from the scheme of things and bring the nation to a peaceful position free from violence.
The Chairman of Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC), Nsirim Emmanuel Chima said Nigeria is yet to have true Independence and Democratic system that will work in accordance with our cultures.
According to him, Nigeria is still under neo- colonialism of the Western countries, where the nation system is being detected and determined by the influence of the Western countries.
“This Nigeria as country is yet to be a true independence nation, as Independence country, we are still going to abroad for Medical trip, we are also going to abroad for quality education, we are blessed with natural resources and human resources yet we still importing fuels, we supply electricity to other countries, yet Nigeria always have black out every moment, at 60th since Independence our refineries are not in perfect order.
“Nigeria at 60 is a failure and major factors responsible are corruption and bad leadership, if only we will be honest to ourselves and shunned corruption in our system we will move the nation to an enviable height”, Chima said.
Also speaking, former Auditor General in Rivers State and former State House of Assembly member, Chief Bob Frederick, said the only way Nigeria will achieved it desire development is to erased corruption from the governing system.
He said though Nigeria is a negotiated country that needs restructuring but that restructuring with corruption ravaging almost every sector, cannot move Nigeria to any level.
Those who also blamed corruption and bad leadership for the woes of the country were the Special Adviser to Rivers State Governor on NDDC, Barrister Erastus Awortu, and a Medical Doctor and National Chairman of Medical and Health Workers Association of Nigeria, Dr Biobelemoye J. Josiah.
Awortu said Nigeria need practical rule of law and not academic one.
Awortu, who is also a lawyer, said Nigeria must move higher, if the government at the centre would shun party politics and tackle corruption irrespective of party affiliation.
On his part, Josiah said the entire nation system needs to be restructuring, arguing that true democracy is the solution to the nation’s problems.
An Electrical Engineer, Mr Godwin Ekanem said, “Nigeria is a blessed country, and nobody in Nigeria should be suffering because everyone is in a good position to make wealth. Tourists should be happy to come and invest in the country and not the reverse. Those countries our big men and leaders travel to for pleasures and medical treatments are not as rich as our country Nigeria.
He said this Africans are not coming to invest, rather to tie the embezzled fund and keep in the bank there: Too bad for our leaders and for our dear country.”
A retired public servant, Mr Olali Seigha said, “This country can never be better so long as there is nepotism, tribalism, among others.
“This country is so divided in a way that there is no way that we can improve, except there is a division.
“If we can divide without a war, then its better, so the northerners and Southerners go their separate ways that is the only thing that can improve this country, otherwise there is no way somebody is 60 years like our country, Nigeria and is still very backward”.
Lecturer and author, Dr. Priye Elechi Amadi said, Nigeria needs to create new values.
“We are always learning and where we are now is a total conglomeration of what we have been” she said.
She challenged leaders to begin to set right priorities and such could make the country come out from the rot it’s now.
“So, we should be growing at this point with technology wise by improving our digital skills and move with the world”, she added.
Amadi, who is also the chairperson of the Reading Association of Nigeria, expressed optimism about Nigeria’s future, “Yes, we are 60 good and fine, and life can begin at 60. I am not losing hope in this country.”
For former Caretaker Committee Chairman of Opobo/Nkoro Local Government Area, Sir Boma Brown, the creation of Nigeria was the beginning of the woes for the people.
He submitted that Nigeria was a creation of British commercial and Colonial interest, recalling that even Sir James Roberston, the last Governor General of Nigeria admitted that the South and North had no similarities.
In the light of this, Brown called for deconstruction and restructuring, “If we restructure then we can move ahead.”
The Opobo-born politician maintained that unless there is a total reorganisation of the polity, Nigeria will remain stagnant.
“Our current political ideology is defective because it’s driven by ethnic and religious bias making it difficult to grow.”
Brown also recommended the need to see all groups as equal, “a system that views other ethnic group as superior to others cannot move forward.”
An activist and social critic, Mr. Ethelbert Agam, has stated that at 60, Nigeria is no longer a child, because a man at that age would have done who is expected of him or be regarded as a failure.
Agam averred that the county has come a long way and could have performed better than she does at the moment.
He observed that the country has fared too badly though, but blamed our snail-pace progress on most of nation’s greedy leaders (past and present) who cornered the wealth of the county to themselves.
According to him, “We need a social analysis to ascertain how we manage to fine ourselves in this unjustifiable socio-economic malady. We need to ask ourselves some questions.”
Also speaking, a trader at Watt market, Calabar, Mrs. Jennet Azu, said that Nigeria has come of age, but quickly note our politician dampened the spirit of Nigerians with their failed promises.
“We do not want anything from them rather than good road network to enable us carry our products from rural area to urban cities, may be water and electricity.
“They will come with their sweet talk during campaigns, as soon as they get into office, they forget the masses,” she lamented.
On his part, a road side mechanic, Mr. Dominic Etim, noted that Nigeria could have been better than it is now if some of our leaders have human feelings and stop the capital flight, but rather use our God given wealth to develop the country for the overall benefit of all.
The Coordinator, Western Zone, National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Dr Fred Ajuzie: “Government need to support customs to drive the revenue profile. We want to see a situation whereby scanners are available to boost trade facilitation and encourage import and export.
“Lack of scanners has affected their operations. The maritime sector since the nation’s Independence. Firstly, port concession has failed because when Nigerian ports Authority was in charge of the ports, you will agree with me that things were a bit okay.
“However, since the ports were concessions to private investors things have been static”.
Market woman, Rose Afolabi said, “The government should show us human face. We are suffering so much in this country. The cost of living is high. Our government should provide us with good roads, electricity, and drinking water, nothing we need than that. If they like, let them pocket our money”.
By: Tonye Nria-Dappa, Enoch Epelle, John Bibor, Susan Serekara-Nwikhana, Kevin Nengia (Port Harcourt), Friday Nwagbara (Calabar), Canice Amadi (Enugu), Nkpemenyie Mcdominic (Lagos) & Nneka Amaechi-Nnadi (Abuja).
31 States Lack Insurance Cover For Workers
Thirty-one states in the federation have no insurance cover in place for workers as of March, despite the provision of the requirement in the Pension Reform Act 2014.
Figures obtained from PenCom on ‘Status of implementation of the CPS in states as at March 2021’, last Saturday, showed that only five states, including the Federal Capital Territory, have insurance in place for their workers.
Other compliant states are Lagos, Osun, Ondo and Edo, which also have pension schemes for their workers, according to PenCom.
A former President, Trade Union Congress (TUC), Comrade Peter Esele, said it was not appropriate that most states lacked insurance cover for their workers.
Esele stated, “It speaks volumes to the fact that when the private sector has not shown respect for group life insurance, they are actually borrowing a leaf from the state governments.
“Ordinarily, what you should expect is that respect for our laws should be what state governments should be all about, but what they have done now is to show lack of respect for the law and their citizens because, ordinarily, it is in the best interest of not only the workers but also the management, that is, the government.
“It is so that whatever happens, the families of the people working with them are safe. For them not to have done that is sad and discomforting.”
The Director, Centre for Pension Rights Advocacy, Ivor Takor, urged state and local governments to comply fully with the regulations in the CPS.
He expressed worry that most states had yet to comply with the law.
The Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Insurance and Actuarial Matters, Hon Darlington Nwokocha, said the lawmakers were reviewing the insurance laws which would enhance the sector’s performance and assist the implementation of the compulsory insurance laws.
The Director-General, National Pension Commission, Aisha Dahir-Umar, said the commission was engaging states to ensure full compliance with the PRA.
She noted that it had continued to review the implementation of the scheme in the states.
Also, the Commissioner for Insurance, Mr Sunday Thomas, said the National Insurance Commission was seeking compliance on the compulsory insurance schemes.
Thomas stated that NAICOM had visited some of the state governors to solicit the support for compliance with insurance laws.
Also, PenCom, in a recent circular, ordered employers of labour to comply with the Group Life Insurance Policy as stipulated in the Pension Reform Act 2014.
PenCom also ordered employers to display a copy of the GLIP certificate in a conspicuous place within the premises before the end of July 31, 2021.
It stated this in a circular to all employers and employees titled ‘Re: Compliance with PRA 2014 on Group Life Insurance Policy for employees and display of insurance certificate for 2021’.
The commission said, “In accordance with the provisions of Section 4(5) of the Pension Reform Act 2014, every employer shall maintain a Group Life Insurance Policy in favour of all employees.
“The GLIP should be a minimum of three times the annual total emolument of the employees. Similarly, Section 5.5 of the revised guidelines on GLIP for employees provides that the employer shall display a copy of the GLIP certificate in a conspicuous place within its premises, for the information of the employees and as evidence of having taken such policy.
“Employers that have not displayed a copy of the GLIP certificate within their premises are advised to do so on or before 31 July, 2021. Failure to provide GLIP is a violation of Section 4(5) of the Pension Reform Act (PRA) 2014.”
PenCom disclosed that only 15,418 organisations got its clearance to do the business of Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government between January 4 and May 10.
It said the clearance was given to them for having pension accounts and life insurance cover for their employees.
According to the commission, the clearance enables them to do the business of the Federal Government for the 2021 financial year.
PenCom said companies that had no insurance cover for their workers would no longer be allowed to do any government business.
One In 100 Die By Suicide, WHO Alerts
The World Health Organisation (WHO), has said, suicide remains one of the leading causes of death worldwide and responsible for one in 100 deaths globally.
In its latest estimates entitled, “Suicide worldwide in 2019”, WHO noted that every year, more people die as a result of suicide than HIV, malaria or breast cancer or war and homicide.
The latest estimates noted that in 2019, more than 700 000 people died by suicide: one in every 100 deaths, prompting the WHO to produce new guidance to help countries improve suicide prevention and care.
The WHO guidance is to help the world reach the target of reducing the suicide rate by 1/3 by 2030.
Speaking on the new estimates, Director-General of the WHO, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said the world cannot and must not ignore suicide.
“Each one is a tragedy. Our attention to suicide prevention is even more important now, after many months of living with the Covid-19 pandemic, with many of the risk factors for suicide 6 job loss, financial stress and social isolation still very much present.”
He said the new guidance would provide a clear path for stepping up suicide prevention efforts.
“Among young people aged 15-29, suicide was the fourth leading cause of death after road injury, tuberculosis and interpersonal violence. The rates vary, between countries, regions, and between males and females.”
The report also explained that more than twice as many males die due to suicide as females (12.6 per 100 000 males compared with 5.4 per 100 000 females).
“Suicide rates among men are generally higher in high-income countries (16.5 per 100 000). For females, the highest suicide rates are found in lower-middle-income countries (7.1 per 100 000).
Suicide rates in the WHO African (11.2 per 100 000), European (10.5 per 100 000) and South-East Asia (10.2 per 100 000) regions were higher than the global average (9.0 per 100 000) in 2019. The lowest suicide rate was in the Eastern Mediterranean region (6.4 per 100 000).
Globally, the suicide rate is decreasing; in the Americas, it is going up. Suicide rates fell in the 20 years between 2000 and 2019, with the global rate decreasing by 36 per cent, with decreases ranging from 17 per cent in the Eastern Mediterranean Region to 47 per cent in the European Region and 49 per cent in the Western Pacific.
“But in the Americas Region, rates increased by 17 per cent in the same time period. Although some countries have placed suicide prevention high on their agendas, too many countries remain uncommitted.
“Currently only 38 countries are known to have a national suicide prevention strategy.
“A significant acceleration in the reduction of suicides is needed to meet the SDG target of a one-third reduction in the global suicide rate by 2030.”
However, WHO has released comprehensive guidance for implementing its LIVE LIFE approach to suicide prevention. The four strategies of this approach are: limiting access to the means of suicide, such as highly hazardous pesticides and firearms; educating the media on responsible reporting of suicide; fostering socio-emotional life skills in adolescents; and early identification, assessment, management and follow-up of anyone affected by suicidal thoughts and behaviour.
WHO further recommended the banning of the most dangerous pesticides given that pesticide poisoning is estimated to cause 20 per cent of all suicides while national bans of acutely toxic, highly hazardous pesticides have shown to be cost-effective.
Other measures recommended by WHO include restricting access to firearms, reducing the size of medication packages and installing barriers at jump sites.
On responsible reporting by the media, the guide highlighted the role the media plays in relation to suicide.
“Media reports of suicide can lead to a rise in suicide due to imitation (or copycat suicides) – especially if the report is about a celebrity or describes the method of suicide.
“The new guide advises monitoring of the reporting of suicide and suggests that media counteract reports of suicide with stories of successful recovery from mental health challenges or suicidal thoughts. It also recommends working with social media companies to increase their awareness and improve their protocols for identifying and removing harmful content.”
WHO also noted that support for adolescence (10-19 years of age) was a critical period for acquiring socio-emotional skills, particularly since half of the mental health conditions appear before 14 years of age.
“The LIVE LIFE guidance encourages actions including mental health promotion and anti-bullying programmes, links to support services and clear protocols for people working in schools and universities when a suicide risk is identified.
“Early identification, assessment, management and follow-up apply to people who have attempted suicide or are perceived to be at risk. A previous suicide attempt is one of the most important risk factors for future suicide.
“Health-care workers should be trained in early identification, assessment, management and follow-up.
“Survivors’ groups of people bereaved by suicide can complement the support provided by health services. Crisis services should also be available to provide immediate support to individuals in acute distress.
The new guidance, which includes examples of suicide prevention interventions that have been implemented across the world, in countries such as Australia, Ghana, Guyana, India, Iraq, the Republic of Korea, Sweden and the USA can be used by anyone who is interested in implementing suicide prevention activities, whether at the national or local level and in the governmental and non-governmental sectors alike.
On his part, suicide prevention expert at the World Health Organisation, Alexandra Fleischmann said, “While a comprehensive national suicide prevention strategy should be the ultimate goal for all governments, starting suicide prevention with LIVE LIFE interventions can save lives and prevent the heartbreak that follows for those left behind.”
Wike, Others Grace Prof Antonia Omehia’s Thanksgiving
Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike and other eminent personalities were among personalities that graced the thanksgiving ceremony in honour of Professor Antonia Celestine Omehia, yesterday.
The thanksgiving organised by former Governor of Rivers State, Sir Celestine Omehia was to mark the conferment of his wife, Professor Antonia with the rank of Professor of Library and Information Science by Ignatius Ajuru University of Education, Rumuolumeni.
Professor Antonia Omehia is a lecturer in the Library and Information Science Department of Ignatius Ajuru University of Education, Rivers State.
Governor Wike, his deputy, Dr. Ipalibo Harry Banigo, former Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, Rt Hon. Austin Opara, former Presidents, Nigeria Bar Association ( NBA) Onueze C.J Okocha (SAN), and Okey Wali (SAN) were among other dignitaries who attended the thanksgiving ceremony at Omehia’s residence in Port Harcourt, yesterday.
Former Governor, Sir Celestine Omehia said his family decided to organise the thanksgiving to honour God for his wife’s unparalleled academic excellence and passion for scholarly research.
He acknowledged that it is not an easy feat to attain the rank of an academic professor. According to him, his family will remain eternally grateful to God for granting his wife the grace of academic excellence.
Former NBA President, Okocha, who spoke on behalf of Rivers’ elders, said Professor Antonia Omehia has indisputably distinguished herself in academics, because professors are scholars that are experts in their fields and teachers of the highest rank in the university.
He heaped praises on Sir Omehia for allowing his wife to soar in her academic pursuit, because most men often feel intimidated when their wives excel in life.
The legal luminary said when women excel in academics, they should be celebrated.
He commended Professor Antonia Omehia for making her husband and children proud by virtue of her unquestionable commitment to academic excellence.
”We are proud of you for honouring our brother.”
Eminent personalities that also attended the thanksgiving included: Chairman of Greater Port Harcourt Development Authority, Chief Ferdinand Anabraba, former Minister of Transportation, Dr. Abiye Sekibo, Senator Mao Ohuabunwa, Senator (Dr) Bennett Birabi, Davies Ikanya among several others.
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