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Restoring Peace In the N’Delta

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For several years, the Niger Delta region of Nigeria has been a hot bed for Federal Government’s presence especially in its joint venture business activities with the operating multi-nationals in the oil industry. The armed resistance against the oil, gas and marine companies exploring, exploiting and navigating the region by various militant groups notably among them, the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta People (MEND) was the height of organised punishment to destroy the economy as a demonstration of Federal Government’s many years of neglect of the region.

However, all these and many more restive acts by MEND and other militant groups have become history as the region now enjoys some quiet for free movement of goods and services. There is no gainsaying that the recent amnesty, several discussions and agreements reached between the Federal Government and leaders of MEND have made the present atmosphere possible.

In a desperate move to bring succour to the people of the Niger Delta, the Federal Government recently demonstrated its sincerity by divesting 10% of its shareholding in the joint venture with the oil giants to Niger Delta communities. The ultimate aim of this is to give the oil producing communities in the region the opportunity to develop themselves. However, if thorough analysis is carried out in the Niger Delta communities, one will find many interest groups agitating for a common demand; they sometimes often speak with discordant tunes on issues affecting the people of the region. The idea as good as it may be, which is partial or indirect resource control, could generate more problems in the oil producing communities. Having highlighted this, I urge the Federal Government to set up an operative framework through which the proposed 10% shareholding in oil companies can be peacefully and satisfactorily ploughed back into the communities for developmental purposes especially in the areas of infrastructure and economic empowerment of the people.

Frankly speaking, the problems of the people of the Niger Delta have always been underdevelopment, disease, illiteracy and poverty. The proposal of government to extend to Niger Delta people the opportunity to take their own destiny by their hands is a genuine commitment with utmost sincerity to develop the region.

This gesture is undoubtedly coming at a time when one of the interventionist agencies, NDDC has done little or nothing to rewrite the history of underdevelopment in the region.

At this point, it will be pertinent to carry the information to the entire region that whatever amount of money realised from the 10% shareholding is not for  traditional rulers’ personal ego massaging but for the development and wellbeing of the people of the Niger Delta. Furthermore, let the Federal Government without much delay begin to work out modalities with which to work with this money because “delay they say is dangerous”.

Perhaps if this 10% were to have been signed off into the communities this Aluu community show of shame by ex-militants would not have occurred as these repentant young men could have been engaged into different numerous projects that will be executed. The early implementation of the 10% shareholding in the oil producing communities of the Delta region will truly go a long way to take care of the alleged non payment of ex-militants’ monthly allowances by the federal government, because they will be provided with learn-as-you-work-job opportunities in various areas like wielding, fitting, carpentry, manson, electrical installation, painting and design, driving and mechanic. By the time these young militants will be on these job placements for 2-3 years, Nigerians will observe a remarkable difference in the society. In no distant time they will integrate fast and set up their own small scale business outfits.

The 10 per cent shareholding oil communities is to an extent fiscal federalism. This will enable the communities protect the steady source through which the revenue for their development comes whenever it is threatened by militants or group of organised criminals. Federal Government and the operating oil multi-nationals under joint venture, in the region will be good for it as billions of dollars lost to oil; thieves through illegal bunkering would be stopped and other porous sources of loss plugged. The proposed 10 per cent share holding is indeed a catalyst to the problems of underdevelopment in the Niger Delta region, if properly, carefully handled with great political will by government . political pundits on Niger Delta affairs are quite amazed that up till now, the federal government has not rolled out or put finishing touches on the legal framework to implement this chart buster for the  region. This is the time to flood the region with roads and bridges, drainages and canals, modern rail lines, schools and hospitals, industries and factories and general economic empowerment of the people to boost their local economy. Through implementation of the 10 per cent shareholding, it will put a check on further pressure of the national economy at least for now.

 

Okwein Parker

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Averting More Hardship On Nigerians

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Barring any last minute intervention, Nigerian workers under the aegis of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC), will on Tuesday, October 3, down tools over the federal government’s failure to address excruciating suffering and socioeconomic hardships across the country, occasioned by the removal of subsidy on Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), commonly known as petrol. Concerns have been raised over the frequency of labour strikes in the country and the fact that the previous strikes and protests hardly yield any positive results. Some people have observed that strike has become an easy way for the labour leaders to enrich themselves as they would suspend the strike as soon as the government greased their palms and left the workers, their followers to their fate.
Despite these, one would want to believe that the labour leaders cannot afford to dash the hope of millions of the citizens who look up to the labour unions to compel the authorities to sit up and take the necessary measures to bring the country and the citizens out of the current economic quagmire. A public analyst described Nigerians as “very nice and understanding people”. Perhaps that explains the quietness in the land, that despite the excruciating hardship, exacerbated by the floating of the Naira, removal of fuel subsidy and other economic policy so far put in place by the current government Nigerians – the poor, the middle class, the elite have remained cold. The youths are busy watching “Big Brother Naija” and seem to care little if the country is sinking or not.
So, Joe Ajero of the NLC and Alex Osifo of the TUC must restore the peoples’ trust and confidence in the unions, stand with the people and ensure that the strike yields positive results before it is called off. It has been four months since the unwanted pronouncement “fuel subsidy is gone” which has thrown the country into a severe energy crisis, ruptured the economy and made life hellish for the masses. Yet all the palliative measures promised by the federal government to cushion the effect of the removal are hardly seen. The buses to facilitate movement of government workers and other citizens are not there. The food items said to have been given to states to be distributed to the citizens are not within the reach of non-members of the ruling political parties in the states.
The free fall of Naira is unimaginable. It has passed the N1,000 rate against a dollar and there is no assurance that it will not get N1500 per dollar before the end of the year. Zimbabwe here we come. What about the scarcity of forex? People now pass through trauma getting foreign currencies to do their business, pay school fees, hospital bills and all that. One logical argument is that Nigeria’s woes predate Tinubu’s administration. That is a fact. But another undisputed fact is that Tinubu’s policies have worsened the situation. It is also true that the reason for having people in charge of institutions or entities is for them to direct the affairs of such bodies unto greatness and solve the problems that may arise.
Right from the time the debate on fuel subsidy removal was raging, some experts had warned that any policies that will throw the country into an energy crisis would have a devastating effect on the nation since everything in the country revolves around crude oil/ energy but little attention was paid to them. Nigerians rather believed the side of the story that stated that the cost of maintaining the subsidy was putting a serious strain on the country’s budget, and that removing the subsidy could free up funds for other critical sectors, such as healthcare, education, and infrastructure. Today, the country knows better. Has it not dawn on all and sundry that reliable and affordable energy is essential for the development of the country and well-being of citizens; that  stable and secure energy supply is essential for economic activities, industrial production, and the functioning of critical infrastructure in the country;  that fluctuations in energy availability or price volatility can directly impact Nigeria’s economic stability and that energy disruptions can lead to production slowdowns, increased costs, and economic downturns?
Therefore, the sooner the subsidy removal policy and the likes are reviewed with the aim of reversing the unworkable ones or introducing policies to stabilise things in the country, the better. The leadership of the country just has to find a way around these issues. It is a quality of good leadership not weakness to backtrack when a policy is not working or is causing more harm than good. And what better solution is needed at this precarious time than making the nation’s refineries functional. This has become the song of many concerned Nigerians including the labour unions.  The refineries should be made to work as quickly as possible and new ones built so that the exportation of crude only to bring it back as a refined product must stop. In the international market crude oil is getting to $100 per barrel. Nigeria should be happy about it just like other oil producing countries instead of facing increasing hardship internally.
The current administration must do everything possible to meet the demands of the workers so that the proposed indefinite strike does not shut down the system. President Tinubu should personally meet with labour leaders and tell them the truth about the state of the nation and the measures he intends to take to pull the country out of the woods. In the past few days, the presidency has fed Nigerians with many lies – Tinubu is the first African leader to ring the National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotations (NASDAQ) bell, the United Arab Emirate (UAE) has lifted the visa ban on Nigeria and all that. Only for them to retract the information and say they were not true. Too bad. Government for once, should be open to the citizens. As noted earlier, Nigerians have the reputation of being good and understanding citizens. If they know the truth and see the sincerity of the leaders to make things right, they will be willing to tighten their belts for the betterment of the country.
But let the leaders both the president, the vice president, governors and their deputies, federal and state lawmakers, ministers and all those in government lead by example. You cannot tell the people to tighten their belts when they see you every time you loosen yours. The cost of governance and the cost of opulence in government must be reduced. As a matter of fact, many people had expected Tinubu to pick up Steve Orosanya’s report and merge some ministries, agencies and departments and have a lean and workable government. But the contrary is what we see. He has exceeded the constitutional requirement of 36 ministers. We now have 48 ministers and still counting with numerous Special Assistants, advisers and the likes. Must everybody be in government at the same time? If the system is working, political appointments and politics will not be seen as the ultimate because people will profit from any other thing they do.
To whom much is given, much is expected. The position of Tinubu as the president has just been further solidified by the presidential election petition  tribunal. He has gone to the United Nations General Assembly and other countries to woo investors to Nigeria. It is time for him to sit down and draw a clear, workable roadmap on how to deal with the numerous challenges in the country so that investors will find the country attractive. The issue of corruption and insecurity across the country, economic hardship must top the list. All the states in the country have their unique endowments. It is time for the state governors to maximise these potentials so as to raise the economy of their domain instead of some of them folding their hands and waiting for monthly federal allocations. The states must be the drivers of Nigeria’s economy as it is seen in many countries of the world. It is said that he that seeks equity must come to equity with clean hands. Nigeria cannot be good as desired if all Nigerians at our various spheres of influence do not shun corruption and imbibe integrity. Patience and understanding are also required from the citizens knowing that what has taken a long time to destroy cannot be restored in a day.

By: Calista Ezeaku

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Opinion

Revisiting Animosities In Universities

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That a criminal charge of sexual harassment against a Professor of Microbiology, ended in an acquittal, should not be a surprise to anyone. Section 353 of the Criminal Code Act would classify sexual harassment of a female student as indecent assault, while Section 367 deals with rape, defined as forcing a female of any age into the sex act without her consent, or inducing such consent by threat. In 1963, a female witness for a defendant told late magistrate Herbert Nwazota, that an unwilling woman would hardly be raped, because “her shouts and aggression would be such that the rapist cannot continue”. Similarly, such case of rape or harassment would be reported immediately, which is a vital point in the evidence concerning such matter. But when complaint about such assault comes a long time after, there is the possibility of an after-thought, or someone instigating the report, with a possible malicious intention to get even with someone. An alleged act done in a secret place, with no third party as an independent witness, would hardly hold water in a court.
Considering the level of animosities prevalent in Nigerian universities, it is possible that the Microbiology Professor acquitted by a court recently, may be a victim of a toxic academic environment. When a professor’s monthly salary was about N10,000, the academic environment was not what it became with current salary structure. Rot in the university system came in tandem with the gross devaluation of the Naira. Many lecturers moved out of the country as job satisfaction, productivity and integrity became rare values in Nigeria. As PhD became an acronym for “pull him down” syndrome, Nigerian universities became a toxic environment. In world-class universities, highly experienced and dedicated lecturers could become professors even with first degree certificates, but in Nigeria no one becomes a professor without a PhD degree. The result of this policy was that becoming a professor was characterised by fraud, chicanery, duplicity and malpractices, especially since one would retire with professorial salary as pension. It is quite human that nobody would want to slave himself to death for a system which does not reward diligence, hard work and dedication to duty. In the words of late Captain Elechi Amadi, Nigeria does not place value on naked honesty, hard work and personal sacrifices. But flattery pays!
Animosities in Nigerian universities started building up between 1974 and 1995, when strikes, “sorting” and other malpractices became more common. Military politics had a share in much of the rot in universities, as some female students with strong relationships with military officers could elevate or destroy lecturers. Through connections or calumnies, the process of elevation or destruction could make or mar any lecturer. The result of this trend was the use of female students to make connections and get contracts and appointments. Some lecturers became millionaires! The process of acquisition of university certificates is like anything else in Nigeria, characterised by malpractices and the ability to get away with serious pranks, so long as one has some connections in appropriate quarters. There were also situations where highly-placed moneybags and men of timbre and calibre would register in universities, attend lectures at their own convenience and let money and good relationship provide certificates that they have no need for, except for adornment purposes. Thus ego, meanness, envy and pettiness flourished among lecturers.
Sadly, the relationships between rich and high calibre students and lecturers resulted in using students to rubbish the reputation of some lecturers, especially those considered to be “too strict and rigid”. Also, between 1974 and 1985, cult phenomenon became more prevalent in universities as well as increasing cases of examination malpractices. Decree No. 20 of 1984 had to be promulgated to deal with examination offences in universities. Similarly, Decree No. 47 of 1989, was made to address campus cultism, as different from offences against public order and unlawful assembly. Statistics of campus cultism indicated that a large number of those who faced student disciplinary committee were children of highly-placed parents in society, especially children who grew up in barracks. Similarly, female students who reported high cases of sexual harassment against lecturers, were those who were most irregular in class attendance. Thus, cases of “sorting”, sexual harassment and other allegations about malpractices, were linked with poor examination performances and irregularity in class.
Cases of plagiarism and book piracy were also found to be linked with scramble to become professors, of which soured relationships between some students and lecturers, were traced to malpractices in publications. There were particular cases where female students who had little respect for lecturers they knew to be fraudulent coined such appellations like “Professors of Otularingology” spelling of medical specialists in ear-nose-and-throat discipline was deliberately altered for the purpose of this sly prank. There were also other derogatory names for various category of lecturers. Hypocrisy flourished! What is really disturbing about animosities in the universities, is the role of some Vice Chancellors in some campuses. There are some vice chancellors who adopt divisive strategies as ready tools of administering the campus environment. Either they surround themselves with boot-lickers and tale-bearers, some factions of student-cultists, or members of their religion or ethnicity. Thus, formation of cliques in universities is one major cause of division and animosities in the universities. This also goes along with listening to gossips, especially coming from female students against some lecturers who are not in the good book of vice chancellors.
Thus, the culture of collegiality gives way to paternalism and possible witch-hunt of perceived suspected rivals of vice chancellors or ill-disposed staff. The level of fascism in some Nigerian universities is unbelievable but real, and sometimes religion is used for divisive and surveillance purposes. In situations of divisiveness, prejudice and animosities, promotions can be selective and unfair, in spite of the fact that assessments for staff promotion is handled by a committee. There are also many interest groups whose purposes range from playing some advocacy roles, to serving as lobbyists and informants. There are lecturers who are more of politicians and would hardly be there to teach and supervise their students, but would spend lots of times with power-holders. Also, there has been some strained relationship between academic and non-academic staff in the university system, arising from many factors. While this is no attempt to condemn one’s constituency, the vital issue is that there is professional envy and animosities in universities. Sexual harassment is a ready tool to get even with rivals.

Dr Amirize is a retired lecturer from the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.

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Opinion

 AI Culture

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A. I. are abbreviations for Artificial Intelligence, but it would not be enough to define artificial intelligence as the study of how to make computers do things which human beings can do; there is a need to describe A.1. Culture as a creeping darkness. A. I. Culture has advanced to such a sophistical level that humans, rather than computers, are becoming puppets, subservient to artificiality. Perhaps, unwittingly humans may surrender their personal volition and independence to artificially created intellectual monsters. The concepts of mastermind, artificial intelligence, robotics, altered state of consciousness, etc, have been fields of research activities, whose consequences do not begin and end with those engaged in them alone. In the recent times, fall-outs from such research activities have caused some panic here and there, without the full details of such projects being known to unsuspecting public. So far, speculations and opinions about Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) and COVID-19 Pandemic, have died always, without the details all known to the public.
Obviously there have been various research projects of very sensitive nature and involving studies in virological and brain substances. At the end of the day, whether the results of such activities are published or not, there are often some aspects of high-stake research works that have far-reaching consequences. No matter the level of supervision and security provisions, a number of research projects have resulted in widespread poisoning of human environments and injuries which are not physically verifiable. Thus are a large number of unsuspecting people exposed to various chemicals and radiations dangerous to humans. With particular respect to research projects in artificial intelligence, there is little need to warn that there are lots of implications, ranging from security to sanity. Human brain has been abused grossly in the process of ascertaining what it is capable of doing, so that computers can be programmed to do those things the brain is capable of.  Strategies used by various authorities and agencies to subject humans to such experiments are as unbelievable as they are shrouded in secrecy. Purposes of such research experiments range from economic to military power, of which less than ten percent of the realities are known to the public.
Be it for monetary, military or ego purposes, few of the available information on artificial intelligence create the impression that AI culture has become a cult. It is described as a cult in the sense that there is a definite tendency towards modifying human genetic structure, albeit surreptitiously. Under the commercial services of artificial intelligence, promoters of e-trading and wealth-creation entrepreneur organise training programmes on how participants can become millionaires by the magic of AI. There may be nothing wrong with wealth creation. The cleverness and ruthlessness of artificial intelligence include the fact that it serves without compunction, feeling or conscience, like a human being would exhibit. Thus while one man smiles to the bank as a millionaire; thousands of unsuspecting participants in the cult system grow poor, with expectation to win in the next round of gambling. Like a gambling system, those trapped in the wheel of the artificial intelligence culture, would have to choose between enlarging the network of customers, or forfeiting their investment. The system is so programmed that a vicious circle is created, leaving no option for those trapped therein.
Another aspect of the viciousness of the artificial intelligence culture is the gross diminution of the humanity of the individual participants, whereby they become subservient to an impersonal cult system. The difference between a human being and animals or artificial mechanism, is the personal volition that man is endowed with, which also gives him the freedom to make personal choices and decisions. But a situation where an individual subjects himself to the control of an artificial intelligence, under whatever guise or reason, then he deprives himself of that humanity which makes him a human being. Artificial intelligence and those held captive therein, are described as an impersonal cult system, because, the individual surrenders his personal volition to an impersonal entity, under the guise of being served by the wonders of intellectual science. Advocates and votaries of artificial intelligence would boast that humanity has arrived at the apex of development, where robots replace humans in every service. We are told that cars can be driven by robots in such a way that no accident can occur, and that men can have such partners that would do everything for them, without any refusal or nagging that can cause hypertension.
There is even the claim that governance can be delegated to robots that would not steal or loot public funds or engage in corrupt practices. Thus, there is the admission of gross failures by humans which the artificial intelligence culture would eliminate, by taking over the functions and services of imperfect human beings. What a wonderful level of technological development where the artificial products of human brain would become perfect and better performers than humans! While spirited competitions rage among developed nations in research projects towards creating maximum comfort and security for humans, developing countries usually serve as ready markets and poaching territories for raw materials and cheap collaborators. Once upon a time it was suspected that African children were good enough to serve as guinea-pigs for the testing of various drugs manufactured in developed countries. There had also been some allegations about secret population-reduction moves, aimed at checking production of babies like rabbits. Perhaps proliferation of arms and light weapons in developing countries may be an alternative strategy.
“Trovan” controversy may have come and gone, and drug producers would not want to face any litigations or allegations of testing their drugs on African children. But, the artificial intelligence culture is not being propagated by developing countries, rather, like “Smart phones”, developing countries provide large markets. The process of marketing of wonder-products manufactured in developed countries, usually aim at developing nations for consumers. So also is the wealth creation campaign whereby artificial brains are deployed for quick services.All said and done, the body-language of the artificial intelligence culture is a message that humanity is drifting towards a state of languor. The trappings and glamour of AI culture are a part of the tentacles of a global virus which seeks to narcotise humanity. The trend is to install an artificial monster that humans would bow to. There is a need for Nigerian Intelligence Services to pry into the circulation of robotics in Nigeria.

By: Bright Amirize
Dr Amirize is a retired lecturer from the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.

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