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Civil Servants And Thanksgiving

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It is commonly said that the things that make for increase may look inconsequential, but yield great results. They may look small, but are potentially capable of producing great outcome beyond the imaginations of many. Such is the case with the adoption of thanksgiving as a strategy in promoting professionalism in both private and public sectors. The practice of thanksgiving in churches by professional associations and groups in Nigeria as part of celebrations of their weeks might not be that new, but it is not certain if the external force behind such thanksgivings are fully recognized. The importance of thanksgiving is to acknowledge what God has done before in order to get the present needs met. Recently, Rivers State Civil Servants joined their counterparts in other African countries to celebrate 2009 civil service week.As the Secretariat of Government, the civil service has been supporting the operations of government since its creation 100 years ago, as well as ensuring the stability of the society. And as the engine room of government, people oriented policies and programmes with great impact have been crafted by men of proven integrity. Thus, today, the civil service in Rivers State could boast of great repository of technocrats of high repute that could serve in any capacity anywhere in the world. We should indeed be proud of this and give thanks despite the imagined and real stains associated with the system. Most importantly, as we seek greater partnership and collaboration for sustainable development and improved service delivery in Africa, it is imperative that this next phase of the operations of the system is committed into the hands of God, the omnipotent who knows the end from the beginning. There is no doubt that from the humble beginning in the colonial era to independence and later to the creation of Rivers State in 1967, civil service in Rivers State has grown in leaps and bounds? Of course, we may have momentary failures, but it is also true that technocrats of international repute have been developed and have supported governance and the political class in the state. It is therefore expected that as civil servants in Rives State joined their colleagues around the African continent to celebrate the humble contributions of civil servants, the state government would see the need to improve the welfare of for civil servants in the state. This is because such acts of devotion by civil servants should not be seen as a ritual, but as a potential force to bring about good governance and greater productivity in the system. In other words, thanksgiving is a basic ingredient in ensuring good governance. As the public sector strives for the attainment of the six principles of good governance, which include, performing effectively in clearly defined function and sales; promoting values for the whole organization and demonstrating good governance behaviour; taking informed transparent decisions and managing risk; developing the capacity and capability of the government officials to be effective; focusing on the organizational purpose for the welfare of the citizenry and service users, as well as engaging stakeholders and making accountability real, the civil servants deserve better welfare package from government as incentives. A close look at the above six principles would reveal that they center on human behaviour and attitude in relationship to others and to their work. And thanksgiving not only refreshes and positions ones mind, but also receives divine ideas for better performances. It is on record that corporate professionals and individuals who have employed the strategy of thanksgiving have always come out greater and better. It is against this background one will want to salute the wisdom and courage of the organizing committee of 2009 Rivers State civil service week celebration for the decision to commence the celebration with a church thanksgiving. This is indeed a welcome development. We only hope that the fruits of thanksgiving will drop on the table of every civil servant in Rivers State. Viva Africa, viva civil servants. Kaldick-Jamabo is a civil servant in Rivers State.

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Opinion

 Building Collapse: One Too Many

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The recent collapse  of Saint Academy Secondary School building in Jos, Plateau State, which claimed the lives of 22 persons among whom were innocent pupils and their teachers, has again brought to the fore, the menace of continuous building collapses in Nigeria. Sadly, that same Friday, a three-storey building still under construction in the students’ hostel area of the Nnamdi Azikiwe University at Ifite Awka, Anambra State, also crashed. Yet, following closely on the next morning, a two-storey building collapsed at Phase two, Site Two of the Kubwa area of Abuja, a former Al-Hilal Hotel that recently got reconstructed into residential quarters. Building collapse is becoming a daily phenomenon in Nigeria. If you live in a high-rise building, beware!
According to preliminary reports, the Saint Academy School tragedy is a sad out-come of a former bungalow which got converted into a two-storey building. The tragedy came at the ten-year anniversary of an earlier one in the same city of Jos when in September 2014, Abu Naima Primary and Secondary School, Bukuru, in Jos North LGA, had collapsed killing 30 pupils. As jarring and condemnable, the reccurrence of building collapses become, the regrettable losses have not elicited appropriate actions that would make them avoidable. Rather, after every incident, stakeholders react in routine knee-jerk rescue efforts, count human and material losses, wail and pour outward expressions of sympathy for victims, while some officials harp on the need to maintain guidelines on building standards, or even issue some mere threats that amount to no tangible solutions.
Though the history of building collapses is as old as Nigeria, its propensity has jumped in the last ten years, involving  especially new or on-going projects in Nigeria’s growimg mega cities, as developers in the face of poor building regulations try to reap inordinate profits from property boom. There has been virtually no one held culpable to deter perpetrators of unsafe building practices.On September 12, 2014, a six storey guest house within the Synagogue Church of All Nations at the Ikotun area of Lagos State, collapsed upon 300 victims leading to 116 deaths, among whom were 85 South Africans. The accident occurred despite forewarnings to church founder, Pastor TB Joshua, of observed structural defects. However, despite the Coroner’s Inquest inditing Pastor Joshua in the incident, he was never prosecuted.
On March 8, 2016 at Lekki, an on-going storey building being erected by the Lekki Worldwide Gardens collapsed killing 34 construction workers. This was despite allegations that Lagos State officials had issued a Stop Work Order on the construction site for contravening building approval terms. The developers were alleged to have recalcitrantly raised the building beyond the approved number of floors to the point of crashing. The crash on November 1, 2021, of another on-going construction of 21-storey Ikoyi Towers, which killed 44 persons, including the owner, Mr Femi Osibona, his personal assistant, Oyinye Enekwe and a US-based Nigerian business mogul and Managing Director of Foursquare Heights Ltd, Mr Wale Bob-Oseni, was also a consequence of adding more floors above the approved design levels. Disappointingly, these incidents and that at Banana Island, Lagos, of April 2023, ocurred despite projects being handled by supposed experts.
In recent times, Anambra State has been in the news more for building collapses than for anything else, though with lesser fatalities, but the crash on June 12, 2024, of an on-going five-storey Centenary Building in Onitsha, a building being erected by the Old Boys’ Association of Dennis Memorial Grammar School (DMGS) for its centenary anniversary, is worrisome given the calibre of professionals involved in the project. However, the collapse of Ochanja Market stalls in Onitsha, being constructed by Anambra State Government was the most disappointing of all, being handled by a regulator that should set the pace. Within weeks, another on-going construction of a two-storey market stalls collapsed on about 200 traders just last week, killing four at Eke Oyibo Market of Amawbia in the Awka metropolis, in close proximity of city planning officials.
Rivers state also is not left out in this ugly tally considering the sad crash of then on-going seven-storey building on November 23, 2018, at Woji Road, GRA Phase 2 of Port Harcourt, followed by the recent spike in on-going building collapses which include the February, 2023 crash of on-going two-storey building at Mbodo-Aluu, two separate callapses in June, 2023 of two-storey buildings at Okilton Drive and Ada-George areas of Port Harcourt, and the collapse weeks ago of a two-storey building at Okporo area of Rumuodara in Port Harcourt. While it is difficult to enumerate all incidents across the country, it is remarkable that the menace became worse within the last ten years. What may cause a building to collapse? Experts say, structural failures as a result of flaws in building design process, or improper project implementation, lead to collapse, but there is more to it from prevailing conditions in the country.
Though, present day developers use software tools to model building designs, the inability to interpret results with respect to erecting high rise buildings with currently available construction materials in the Nigerian market, raises questions of expertise. While many practitioners still resort to using structural formulation templates established from colonial days, when construction materials found in the Nigerian open markets were of standards specified in structural design handbooks, the use of prevailing poor materials for such designs creates vulnerability. Today, due to standards enforcement failures, the construction materials market is chaotic with regard to getting actual nominal dimensions of specific material quality, in view particularly of reinforcement rods.
For instance, what is nominally a 12mm rod in the market today, could range in real rod diameters from 10mm, 11mm to 11.5mm if one insists on taking actual measurements with a calliper, but a dealer would rate them small guage, medium gauge or full gauge 12mm rods, saying that size depends on manufacturer. But gauge should be gauge without intermediates because any reduction in diameter of rods leads to exponential reduction in cross-sectional area and shear strength. Also more unascertain is the alloy make-up which determines important metallurgical properties of rods, and one may seem out from the moon to ask a trader. The confusion cuts across all rod sizes, and buying materials has become an art in itself. For sawn woods, it is difficult to get any nominal dimension except one undertakes to saw customised dimensions, which is unusual. Also, some experts say current cement qualities are incomparable to former ones.
The consequence is that rebars configured according to specifications from handbook templates, but done with ‘Nigerian materials,’ may not bear the intended loads, or do so with very marginal factor of safety. In a country where budget has become a major decisive factor in construction, these considerations may be secondary in the absence of strict regulations even to ‘professional’ practitioners, let alone expecting some to employ qualified on-site supervisors. The solution to building collapses is that Nigeria should, no matter how difficult it is, revert to upholding general standards. The strict enforcement of the National Building Code of 2006 should be a good starting point. A regime in which concrete tests and certifications at every critical stage of construction are mandatorily required as pre-conditions for project continuation, should be strictly introduced, while the Standards Organisation of Nigeria should deploy materials test laboratories to certify and provide technical data of prevailing building materials to help operators make informed decisions.
Moreso, a situation where regulatory officials, city planners, supervisors and approval officers, allow themselves to be compromised should be discouraged by ensuring that prosecutions were conclusively pursued in every collapse to involve developers and culpable regulatory officials.

Joseph Nwankwor

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Opinion

Mrs Fubara: Model Of Selfless Leadership

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As part of her commitment to domesticate the Renewed Hope Initiative, Food Security Programme (RHI-FSP) of the Federal Government, the wife of the Rivers State Governor, Mrs Valerie Siminalayi Fubara, on Tuesday July 2, 2024, doled out 2,400 bags of rice and cash to the “poor, physically challenged and vulnerable residents” in the 23 Local Government Areas of Rivers State. This largesse and hospitality demonstrated by the wife of the State Governor at a time people wallow in abject poverty, is to say the least highly commendable. The seamless implementation of the hardship cushioning programme by the Governor’s wife in Rivers State remains a credit to her because in the recent past there were media reports that relief materials meant for flood victims in one of the States in Nigeria (not Rivers) were stocked in a warehouse until they expired, while in some cases they were diverted, instead of being distributed to the vulnerable groups and victims of flood. This was one of the several cases of callousness to the plight of the needy by some privileged leaders. But Mrs Fubara chose to touch lives and put smiles on the faces of the teeming poor.
The unfriendly Nigerian economy has reduced everyone, perhaps with exception of our political leaders, to a beggars. The socio-economic realities in the country pose great challenge to both civil/public servants, and those in the private sector. It is more traumatic for those who are unemployed. The Governor’s wife has shown that it is good to support the needy and less-privileged in society. What the First Lady has done is an expression of selflessness.
Selflessness is a priceless virtue. It is the act of putting others first without an ulterior motive, strings, cost or importunate demands on the beneficiary.
Selflessness, synonymous with mercy is a virtue not common in practice in a society where virtually everyone wants to grab and assert relevance even to the detriment of others in the society.
This is why the saying, “nothing goes for nothing” has been coined into the lexicon of our polity and social relationship.
One imagines how some wealthy people think they can still live happily, peacefully and stress-free seeing their neighbours live in the pains of abject poverty. Certainly, it is only a state of sadism that can dispose to such callous state.
Selflessness demands nothing in return for good deeds. It does not accept worship and unnecessary “godfather” maniac, neither does it insist that beneficiaries of favours should be under the dictatorial control or slave to the obnoxious whims and caprice of their benefactor.
Imagine how the world would look like if everyone who had at one time or the other offered help to someone, plays a god and wants to be worshipped.
As pencil in the hand of God, the Bible teaches that when used by God to favour a person, we should say, we are “unprofitable servant”. To be in a position to help others, is exclusively a function of Grace because in God, “we live and have our being”. So, when a person thinks he or she is self-made, they are not only living in delusions but tottering on the brink of self destruct, like Nebuchadnezzar.
Bible writes of the ancient king, whom God called “king of kings”, “The king spake, and said, Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my majesty? While the word was in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, saying, O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken; The kingdom is departed from thee. And they shall drive from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field: they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and seven times shall pass over thee, until thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will. The same hour was the thing fulfilled upon Nebuchadnezzar and he was driven from men and did eat grass as oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till his hairs were grown like eagles’ feathers, and his nails like birds’ claws”. (Daniel 4: 30-33).
Imagine how inferior and subservient everyone who has received help or favour from someone else would have looked like if those who gave help had insisted on controlling their beneficiaries. Those who are well-to-do in society should realise that they are also beneficiaries of God’s unmerited favour and should humbly give support to the needy.
Paul told the church at Rome, “…he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity…..he that showeth mercy, with cheerfulness (Romans. 12:8). To Timothy, he instructed, “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not high-minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17). Therefore, the concept and practice of godfatherism is alien to selfless works. If God used one to raise another instead of playing a god, he or she should be grateful to God that by him, God has raised or blessed someone.
Real joy is not living for self but for others. History is replete with men and women who immortalised their names through selfless works. John D. Rockefeller is one whose selfless services to humanity are still speaking for him years after his death.
The Rockefeller Foundation was established in 1913 by Standard Oil Magnate, John D. Rockefeller to “promote the well-being of mankind throughout the world”. His efforts were part of a new American movement of scientific philanthropy, launched by Scottish-born steel mogul, Andrew Carnegie in his 1889 essay, “The Gospel of Wealth”.
We need selfless men and women like Rockefeller in our politics. The spirit of godfatherism is selfish and unnecessary considering the emptiness of life and the uncertainty of wealth.

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Opinion

Still On Corruption In Nigeria

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The recent report by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) which revealed that about N721billion was received as bribe by public officials in Nigeria in 2023 has once again drawn attention to the level of corruption in the country. The report titled “Corruption in Nigeria: Patterns and Trends”, stated, “Overall, it is estimated that a total of roughly NGN 721 billion (US$1.26 billion) was paid in cash bribes to public officials in Nigeria in 2023, corresponding to 0.35 per cent of the entire Gross Domestic Product of Nigeria.”
As usual, all accusing fingers are now on those in government. Some have told the familiar tale of how Nigeria is in quagmire presently because of the corrupt acts of present and past leaders across the three tiers and three arms of government.
There is no disputing the fact that corruption is the greatest problem of Nigeria. Every challenge in every sector of the society, law enforcement – education, health, agriculture, manufacturing and others, can be traced to corruption.
The level of nepotism and favouritism seen in government in recent years is unprecedented. The norm now seems to be that the people from the same ethnic group with the head of some ministries, agencies and parastatals should “own” such organs. That is why you go to some offices and virtually everybody is from one tribe or ethnic group. There has been this continuous outcry that the majority of the federal agencies and parastatals are headed by people from a particular part of the country despite the federal character principle.  Yet, nothing has changed.
The issue of the recruitment process is another thing. Merit has been thrown to the winds and favouritism and nepotism are now the order of the day. A very brilliant applicant may not secure a job despite his excellent performance at both written and oral interviews. But the job will be given to another person who may not have attended the interviews or may have performed poorly during the exercise, just because he has a note from one senator or any other influential person in government. The issue of job racketeering is also there, staring us at the face.
However, corruption is not restricted to only politicians or those in authority.  It has permeated all facets of the society including the police, the judiciary, the business sector, the education and health sector, the civil service, the military and so on. Traders, artisans, housewives and many others cannot be exonerated.
Imagine where our markets and shops are now filled up with adulterated edible products. A greater percentage of “palm oil” we have in our markets and shops today is highly adulterated. You add oil to your food and instead of the irresistible taste and aroma that the original palm oil is known for; it gives the food an offensive smell and awful taste.
A plumber tells you that a part of your water pumping machine that went bad will cost N30,000 for the original one and N15,000 for the “Taiwan”. You give him money for the original one and he buys the part and couples the machine. After a short while, the pumping machine parks up again, you call another plumber who finds out the first plumber bought neither the origin part you paid for nor the “Taiwan”. What he bought was a refurbished engine part which did not cost more than N5000, 00.
Your house help cries to you that she just got a call that her grandmother has kicked the bucket, and that she needs to travel to her village for the burial. You take pity on her and give her money for transportation and some burial expenses. Later you find out that she was not bereaved and that she instead spent the time and money with her boyfriend in another part of the town.
Is the government to blame when workers take bribes to perform their statutory duties? People take bribes for issuing passports or visas, for providing permits and licences. For a file to move from one table or office to another, the owner of the file must “settle” the messenger. How does the government come in all these?
Citizens are supposed to be honoured based on their industry, intellect and integrity. But in our communities, men are recognised based on their movable and immovable assets. A man who embezzles public funds is given chieftaincy title, while the one who serves government diligently without amassing illegal wealth is regarded as a dullard or a good-for-nothing fellow.
Wealthy people who are alleged to be corrupt are regularly courted and honoured by communities, religious bodies, social clubs and private organisations. The visible riches of the corrupt and greedy, spur the poor to imitate their lifestyle and mode of acquisition of wealth.
It used to be said that a good name is better than gold. Today, the reverse seems to be the case in Nigeria. People now prefer to acquire gold through any means than maintain a good name
Recently, the former prime minister of Fiji, Frank Bainimarama was jailed for one year by the country’s High Court for obstructing a police investigation into corruption. Not a few Nigerians applauded the high court judgment describing it as the beauty of democracy. But the same Nigerians will condemn and protest against the efforts of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) towards the fight against corruption especially when they have any affiliation with the alleged corrupt person.
Therefore, the sooner we begin to look inward and think of how we can fight this cankerworm starting from ourselves, the better. In 2016, the former president, Mohammadu Buhari launched the national reorientation campaign tagged, “Change Begins with Me” which was geared towards reorienting Nigerians on whose responsibility it is to bring on the positive changes they crave for, pointing out that if Nigerians want “change”, they should be the change themselves. Is it not time this campaign was revived?
No doubt, the government has a huge role to play by being deliberate about the fight, showing more commitment and particularly through exemplary leadership. But without the citizens saying no to corruption and living corrupt free lives, the government’s efforts might yield little or no fruit
Perpetrators of the fraudulent acts earlier cited were all ordinary citizens engaging in dishonest acts, which they feel will benefit them, not minding the consequences of such actions on their fellow human beings and the nation. In the case of the adulterated palm oil for instance, the substance(s) or chemical used in the adulteration at various levels of the value chain until it finally gets to the consumer, might be more harmful to human life than the effect of the sum amount stolen by a politician.
Painfully, these sociological and cultural causes of corruption are likely to continue for a long time in this country, unless some practical actions are taken to encourage sound moral values in the society. The rulers, politicians, students, academics, civil servants, traders and the entire society should be re-orientated
The civil society organisations, the media, the religious organisations, schools and most importantly, families have crucial roles in fighting corruption through re-orientation of Nigerians, exposing corruption and advocating for accountability and transparency. The value system of many Nigerians that places the acquisition of wealth at all cost above integrity self-dignity and other vital values must change.,
Fostering a culture of accountability among leaders and citizens alike is essential for sustainable progress in combating corruption in Nigeria. This includes promoting ethical leadership, ensuring fair and transparent electoral processes, and empowering citizens to hold their leaders accountable for their actions.
To eradicate or minimise corruption in Nigeria, there is a need for credible and legal enforcement measures to be put in place. The need to strengthen and further empower the EFCC and other anti-corruption agencies, to carry out their job effectively, without interference from any quarter or undue judicial setbacks cannot be over-emphasised. Offenders should be punished, no matter who they are. Most importantly, everybody must get involved.

Calista Ezeaku

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