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In Nigeria’s Interest

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In a children’s fiction, One Week One Trouble, Anezi Okoro told the story of a boy, Wilson Tagbo, who begins secondary school but had more flaws than virtues because he got into trouble almost every week – from riding the school’s bull and interrupting a sports event to tampering with laughing gas at the Chemistry laboratory.
Looking at the current state of the country, wouldn’t it be apt to liken Nigeria toTagbo as her trouble seems endless? For a while now, there is hardly a week that passes without the citizens having to battle with one problem or another – herders/farmers clashes, banditry, kidnappings, fire outbreaks, National Identity Number (NIN) registration issues, food shortage, fuel scarcity and many more.
For some ambiguous reasons, motorists are back to the era of queuing for hours or even passing nights at fuel stations in order to get petrol to move around. Expectedly, transportation fare has doubled and prices of food and other items in the market have increasedastronomically. In some parts of the South, there is scarcity of meat and some other food items because a group that calls itself Amalgamated Union of Food Stuff and Cattle Dealers of Nigeria, had the audacity to order the stoppage of food and meat supply from the north to the south.
Initially, it sounded like a joke. But behold, last week Thursday, the association commenced a strike action asking for N4.75 billion in compensation from the federal government for the destruction of their businesses and property during the #EndSARS protest and Shasha, Oyo State market chaos in February.
Although the six days strike was reportedly called off on Wednesday following the intervention of Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello, it goes to show how selfish and unreasonable some people can be. This set of people has deliberately been sowing seeds of discord among the northerners. They portray the #EndSARS protest as being an anti-north protest which is far from the truth.
In the first two weeks of the protest which was carried out by Nigerian youths across the country who were demanding an end to police brutality, good governance, among others, we saw youths of the country from different tribes and religions united in one voice for a common purpose. They were forging ahead in this unity when some of our leaders became jittery and decided to destabilise them, leading to the huge destruction. And anyone who followed the reported accounts of the incident can testify that the destruction was done randomly across the country.
So, it couldn’t have been targeted at any ethnic group or region. Igbos, Hausas, Yorubas, Ijaws, Ibibios and people from other ethnic groups were victims of the mayhem. Now, should all these peoples withdraw their services to one another and, by implication, to the nation because some of them were adversely affected by the protest? What kind of country will that be?
Yes, there was an attack on food stuff sellers in Shasha, Ibadan, Oyo State. Was it not condemned by almost everyone, including governors, traditional and political leaders of the South West and other parts of the country? I remember the state governor, Seyi Makinde, and his Ondo State counterpart, Rotimi Akeredolu, promptly visiting the community, suing for peace and promising to give palliatives to those whose goods and property were affected by the mayhem.
So, there is no justification for the action of the northern food dealers who failed to realise that no section of the country has a monopoly of everything. What you have, others may not have. What others have, you may not have, hence the need for a balance. In any case, there are millions of northerners living in the south and vice versa. A lot of inter-marriages have taken place. So, by blocking transportation of food items to the south, you are also punishing your fellow northerners in that section of the country.
What about the huge loss to northern farmers who have invested millions of naira in their business, only to watch their goods perish or be compelled to sell them at giveaway prices because they are prevented from taking them to the south?  How will they be compensated?
I think we have come a long way as a country. And as long as we remain one nation, we should work towards peace and unity of the country instead of everyone clinging to their ethnic nationality as is being seen everywhere lately. There is no part of the country that is not feeling the heat of growing insecurity in the country. We should join hands to deal with the challenge instead of allowing it to tear us apart. There are various trades being carried out in the country – cattle rearing, farming, trading and many others. If those engaged in these businesses learn to abide by the rules of engagement and imbibe the principle of live-and-let live, our communities and the country at large will be a better, peaceful place to live.
Meanwhile, there is still a lot of work to be done about our national unity. It is not enough to erect the unity fountain or continue claiming that the country is united when through actions and inactions our political, opinion and religious leaders are constantly dividing the country. Some of our leaders, both at the federal and state levels, have placed their ethnic interests far above that of other ethnic groups in the country and are ready to dance to their tune no matter whose ox is gored. We have heard the Governor of Zamfara State, Bello Matawalle, and some other prominent people of Fulani origin constantly canvassing for amnesty for bandits who have killed, raped and plundered the North West and other parts of the country.  I believe you know the reason.
If we have leadership in the country, we need to see them take decisive measures to deal with the enormous problems in the country. The current issue of blockage of food supply particularly, should be swiftly and unbiasedly handled before it escalates.
For the leaders and peoples of the South, it is hoped that the events of the past six days have opened their eyes so that they can begin to prioritise investment in agriculture.

 

By: Calista Ezeaku

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Ensuring Food Safety In Nigeria

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When we talk about food safety, we are talking about safeguarding our food in order to avoid risks of being infected whenever we consume them. The way we prepare and handle our food goes a long way in affecting our lives.
Safety of our food lies in our hands. As some persons are careless in life, that is how careless they are when preparing and handling food.  Like drugs, we should not toy with food.We have to take precautions when storing our food so as to avoid food-borne diseases.
As a trader, the way you handle food stuff is very important because if the food were mishandled, you wouldn’t have met it in good condition to purchase. It will be unfortunate if after a particular food item has undergone several processes, it is on your table or custody that such will be declared poisonous.
From time to time, we may have either ignorantly or with negligence purchased and consumed spoilt food. The case of kpomo or kanda meat, that is cow skin, is the one that has given many persons concern in recent time. Many people have testified the experiences gotten from the use of kanda. Some say it looks as if vegetable oil is applied on it so that as you wash the meat, oil will surface on top of the water.
Although there are good ones but there is one particular type that appears thick but no matter the number of times you wash, there must be soapy substance in whitish form. If you don’t wash it well, it will change the colour and taste of the soup.
Severally, I had asked the sellers why that type is always foaming during washing. But they don’t seem to know. This problem may not be from the sellers but from the butchers who roasted and prepared the kpomo. Even if they used soap to wash it after roasting, it should be properly washed. A situation where you are washing kanda and the water used is soapy is worrisome.
There was a time when meat butchers were warned not to use tyres in roasting kanda meat.It was reported that Rivers State Government intercepted a truckload of kpomo meat in Onne Local Government Area.The suspected truck conveying the kpomo, according to report, was accompanied by two men who had been allegedly apprehended.
The Rivers State Commissioner for Agriculture, Dr Fred Kpakol, who confirmed the incident to journalists in Port Harcourt, said that the import paper showed that the product came into the country from Madagascar. He said the containerised truck which conveyed the product came through the Onne Port and added that it was seized and taken to the Police Area Command in Eleme for investigation.
Kpakol explained that the arrest followed a tip-off and the ministry swung into action quickly with the help of the police and assured that the police command would conduct a full-scale investigation into the matter.
According to him, the ministry got a tip-off that the kanda meat was imported into the state and we went in and found out that it was coming from Onne port.His words: “It was a container full of kanda, we were able to intercept it, took it to the Area Command, when it was opened, it was discovered that it was adulterated and stinking. From the import paper, we found out that it came from Madagascar”.
The Area Command said it had begun investigation into the matter. The Police Area Command made clear that those arrested with the truck claimed that the consignment was owned by a man called Alhaji and contained raw materials for making shoes.
Look at the way such thing is brought in. The Police and other security agents who raised alarm about this must be commended as investigation is being carried out. The distance from where the adulterated kanda was coming is something else.
We need food but it should not be poisonous. The importance of good food to the human body can never be over-emphasised but a situation where evil-minded persons will distribute rotten food to be consumed by fellow humans should be condemned.
Who knows the market where it would have been taken to and the victims who would have consumed the meat? Think of a situation where a household prepares meal with such or even in an eatery where it is used in cooking for customers. Does it mean that the kanda meat we have been consuming is imported? And it has come to the extent of bringing in spoilt type?
With all the cows in Nigeria, can’t we have enough supply of kpomo? I may not be able to explain the nutritional value of kpomo but good ones are useful in preparing different delicacies.I don’t want to believe that the kanda meat produced in Nigeria is not enough, the persons involved in that business just want to make their money without minding the implications on humans. If you want to do business, should it be spoilt food? Alarm was raised sometime by meat vendors that unscrupulous elements were bringing in meat from outside. I don’t know how true that was and if relevant authorities did a follow-up.
The food we eat must be properly cooked because we don’t know where it is coming from and how it was preserved. Relevant authorities should ensure that Nigeria is not a dumping ground for food that cannot be consumed in other countries. If we have to import, they should ensure proper check before importation because anything consumed goes a long way to affect the body negatively or positively. At least, the ones prepared here can be consumed if they are declared safe for consumption. For the ones from outside the country, the preparation and chemical used are unknown.
I think the Ministries of Agriculture and Environment should use relevant personnel to carry out more findings on how kpomo meat is roasted and prepared locally. This will help to differentiate between locally produced ones and the allegedly imported ones.Who knows what would have happened had security agents not been given a tip-off to intercept such consignment which would have been deposited into the local markets?
Those who are concerned with preparation of food for households should devote extra time in ensuring that families are served well prepared meals. It is worrisome how kandameat can be imported from such far distance without getting bad. They should not be allowed to kill innocent people because they want to make money.
Those involved in this unwholesome act should be dealt with according to the law so as to serve as deterrent to others. This is food adulteration and the National Agency for Food And Drug Administration And Control (NAFDAC) should do their work in this regard. The Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) saddled with importation duties should intensify surveillance to ensure that adulterated food can never find its way into the country.

 

By: Eunice Choko-Kayode

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Opinion

Significance Of Trump’s Exit

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There was a news report that two serving police officers in the United States of America (USA), sued the former President, Donald Trump, to court for damages which had to do with the upheaval that arose from Trump’s protest over the presidential election result. Without going into the nitty-gritty of that show of shame in America, it would be necessary to examine the significance of Trump’s exit from power, despite his protest and allegation of election fraud. At the end of the day, the result of that election was upheld, in spite of protest and allegation.
It would be recalled that Trump’s protest or doubt about the integrity of the result of the election which resulted in his exit from power, caused his supporters to engage in actions which demanded calling out the riot unit of the police. It was also reported that deaths occurred in the process, including a police officer. An eye witness sent out a text message describing the incident in USA as a show of shame. Many people across the globe also saw that sad incident on the television. One would have thought that thuggery was an exclusive Nigerian affair.
Thus, the end of Donald Trump’s presidency was characterised by unfortunate acts of thuggery, rarely associated with election results. Although Trump did not face any impeachment after he left office, two police officers involved in the anti-riot operation sued the ex-President to court for damages which they suffered. There is a Shakespearean play titled: “All’s Well That Ends Well”, which in the form of idioms, provides lasting lessons.
USA is looked upon by the rest of humanity as the beacon of hope for freedom which democracy promises. While no individual or nation would make any claim of being perfect, it is necessary that there should be a model which would inspire hope, confidence and impetus. Through its strong institutions, USA is one such nation which is a pillar for human freedom and rights. Political shenanigans notwithstanding, American electoral process is not the same as the acts of brigandage which characterise elections in Third World countries.
Some religious groups used to tell those who cared to listen that World War I and II marked a turning point in human history, when the Devil was thrown down to the earth, from wherever. He is said to be roaming about, looking for who he would destroy and devour. Fictional as the tale may appear, there is a probability that humans are passing through an accelerated pace of experiencing, characterised by a possible pay-back time. What that means is that long accumulated dark clouds would fall back as heavy rains, with some windstorms and thunders.
If a presidential election result in USA could lead to protests, deaths and the ex-president being sued by two police officers for damages, then what would the situation be in countries where politics is declared a do-or-die affair? Are humans learning lessons and improving through past experiences, or getting more aggressive and bestial as a result of recalcitrant postures? So-called dividends of democracy should not translate to mean wealth and freedom for a few, and then agonies and bondage for the majority.
Reactions of the international community towards the last US Presidential Election and Trump’s personal attitude and utterances, did not portend that there was any fraud or foul play. Rather, there was an indication that conservativism in USA needed some revamping, to become more accommodative. The issues of global terrorism and hostilities are probably reactions arising from past imbalances and other malfeasance, of which all nations have some guilts to bear. The situation does not call for belligerence and recalcitrance, but realistic changes which would emphasise the unity of humanity.
Trump’s reluctance to accept defeat was seen as the inability of conservative humanity to see the need to build bridges and accommodate a diversified humanity. Human inequalities and diversities are real, but rather than increase and widen the differences, a new world order demands better understanding rather than bitter confrontations. Therefore, his eventual exit from power despite protest, carries some significance worth examining.
It can hardly be denied that there are structure, power politics and long-standing racial prejudices in the USA and efforts to undermine the rights of minority groups and those who have sympathy for them. Right from the era of Ku-Klux-Klan (KKK) racist terrorists, the American society is full of contradictions, despite every positive achievement. For example, scientific election rigging in the USA style, is done through racial disenfranchisement, with the case of Florida’s Black community serving as a reference point. Almost in every election racial disenfranchisement features.
Ex-President Bill Clinton, in his election success speech said: “We must do what America does best: offer more opportunity to all and demand responsibility from all”. From the challenges of drug and youth violence, American politics is not free from partisanship, pettiness and pride. What accounted for Joe Biden’s success as a president was the willingness to reach across racial lines to work with all people who shared the value of racial unity. The Republican Party, with conservative ideals, needs to embrace the doctrine of liberalism.
In his 957-page book: My Life, Clinton, among other narratives, told of how he witnessed Voodoo proceedings and festival in Haiti, and then came out with an enlarged worldview. He did not condemn, pass judgment or disparage a religion he knew nothing about; rather he said: “God moves in mysterious ways that men rarely understand”. A new world order demands open-mindedness and mutual empathy and outreach.
A vital significance in Trump’s exit is that various forces which had hitherto held humanity down are being denied opportunity to triumph and continue to hold sway. From the political and economic arena, to the domains of faith, an irresistable wind of change is blowing across the globe. Arbitrary rule of men’s will would give way to such system that would disallow arbitrariness, impunity, lawlessness and chicanery. Like Oxymandias of Egypt, King of Kings, Mighty ones would expire quite soon!
Dr. Amirize is a retired lecturer from the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.

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Import Of Obaseki’s Speech

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The world has changed. Nigeria has changed. The economy of Nigeria is not the same again whether we like it or not. We have been managing since the civil war. We say money is not our problem. As long as we are pumping crude oil every day there will always be money. So, we have run a strange economy, a strange presidential system. Everywhere else, the government relies on the people to produce taxes, they collect taxes and it is the taxes they use to run the local, state and federal government.
But the way we run Nigeria and subsequently the political parties up till now is that it does not matter. The country can go on holiday; the country can go and sleep. At the end of the month, we all just go to Abuja and we collect money and we come back and we spend. We are in huge financial trouble. First, what we used to rely on, crude oil, forget what you are seeing now as 60, 70 dollars per a barrel. It is only a mirage. It’s only a question of time because the major oil companies – Shell, Chevron are no longer investing as much in oil. Chevron is now one of the world’s largest investors in alternative fuel. Shell is pulling out of Nigeria.
So, in another year or so, where will we find this money that we go to Abuja to share? Last month, the Federal Government printed an additional N50 to N60 billion to top up for us to share. This April again, we will go to Abuja, we will share. By the end of this year, our total borrowings is going to be within N15 to N16 trillion. You can imagine a family, you don’t have money coming in, you’re just borrowing and borrowing and borrowing without any means or idea on how to pay back and nobody is looking at that. Everybody is looking at 2023.” – Godwin Obaseki, Edo State Governor
Yes, it is a long quote but I had to insert it because within these few lines lies the major economic problem of the nation. Of course, Obaseki having been in power for over four years cannot be exonerated from the quantum mess in the country. The economy of Edo State may have nosedived during his administration as claimed by the leadership of APC in the state, but did he hit the nail on the head? Yes, he did. Is the speech a wake-up call? Definitely!
I think it’s high time Nigerians, both in low and high places began to tell ourselves the stack naked truth and stop all the lies and cover ups that are doing the country no good. We all are in this sinking ship and if we fail to realize it or continue to pretend that all is well, when the ship sinks, we will all go down. We cannot continue on the unprogressive lane we have been for decades and expect the country to grow.
Several economic experts have warned time without number about the nation’s over dependence on oil and the danger it portends to the economic growth of the country yet no concrete measure is seen to have been taken to change the narrative by successive administrations. The manufacturing sector is almost dead. The agricultural sector is in bad shape. Even those that have been keeping the sector alive and some other persons that try to go into agriculture are discouraged by the unending insecurity in the country.
The most worrisome issue raised by Obaseki is the revenue sharing method. Our federation is such that monthly revenue accruing from oil, corporate taxes, VAT, customs, and other levies are shared across the three tiers of government- federal, state and the local governments after 13% of any revenue made from natural resources is paid to the origin states of those resources and other deductions associated with collecting revenues is made. In line with the sharing formula, the federal government takes 52.68%, the states share 26.72% while the local governments get 20.60%. Each state gets its own share of the revenue based on a “Horizontal Allocation Formula” with a few factors put into consideration.
With the assurance of the monthly income, many states hardly look inward for other sources of income. Reports have it that up to 14 states fund at least 90% of their budget with their FAAC allocations. With the dwindling oil revenue, the FG may resort to printing more money to be shared as revealed by Obaseki or continue borrowing from countries across the globe and from within. A recent report of the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) reveals that the country’s total public debt stock, constituting of external and domestic debts stood at N32.22 trillion ($84.57 billion) as at September 30, 2020, indicating an increase of N6.01 trillion within a year. The worst is that there is little or nothing to show for these huge borrowings both at the federal and state levels.
These should be of great concern to any well-meaning Nigerian especially the policy makers who by now ought to be working on policies that will result in a paradigm shift in the country. Gov. Obaseki’s suggestion of raising internally generated revenue through taxes is not a bad idea provided those saddled with that responsibility will be sincere and the money will be judiciously used.
Some analysts have also posited that the current system of government in Nigeria is very expensive and wasteful saying that instead of the presidential system, the country should go back to regional system of government which allows various regions to grow at their pace and engenders competition among the regions. Certainly, that is the way to go. Let the geo-political zones think outside the box, using their abundant natural resources and other endowments to develop themselves. They should be paying stipulated percentage of their income to the federal government instead of the other way round.
It is also imperative that urgent and due attention be paid to the development of the agricultural, manufacturing and other sectors of the economy as well as the revitalisation of all the dead industries across the country. Adequate measures should be taken to tackle the heightened insecurity challenge in various parts of the country because, without security, all plans towards having a better country will be futile efforts.

 

By: Calista Ezeaku

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