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Local Challenges And Global Economic Trend

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We live in an era of extra

            ordinary challenges and changes. Individuals and organisations need to undergo extra ordinary metamorphosis in order to sustain their relevance in the new paradigm. Surely, complacency remains the biggest risk in our world of uncertainties and wrenching changes.

If you are asked: what’s the greatest challenge facing you as an individual, your organisation, your community or your country? Most persons cannot provide an answer in a sentence showing that they are not concerned with developments and changes around them. They are content living on a day to day basis.

What’s the consequence of failing to understand these macro issues? They simply submit to the directions of the media and their interests, and what’s the interest of the media? They market bad news, because in the media ‘bad news is good business.’

A cursory glanc’e around us shows that myriads of negative traits are struggling for attention. These are evident from news headlines: stock market collapse, Niger Delta. crisis, widespread terrorism, exploding inflation eroding your savings, the gyrating price of crude oil, monstrous

corruption, bank failures, falling standard of education, ozone depletion, business closures and the attendant layoffs, skyrocketing crime rate and on a general note what appears to be a system breakdown.

What happens when an individual feeds himself with these mega doses of negative information without the ability to dig deeper, analyse and sift these information? Chances are that person might start thinking negatively, might make decisions based on fear, and that could dampen the persons spirit, and sometimes the spirit of the entire nation might start sinking., just as is happening now.

We will quickly take a cursory look at some of the news that has been making waves in recent times:

*Global Economic Meltdown

*Outbreak of Swine Flu

*Global Economic Meltdown

*Banks Averted Crisis

*Proposed Deregulation of Petroleum Product Pricing

*Ongoing Strike in the Nations Tertiary Institutions

*Niger Delta Crises

The purpose of this address is not to frighten the listener with cold statistics of failures, but to prove that it is no longer business as usual, that the current economic downturn has a cause, and not a mere historical cycle. Again, you do not need to be terribly smart to understand the trend and reposition. I also believe that the current trend does not portend massive business failure or total collapse of the economy, rather demands conscious effort to make visible difference in our lives and the organisations we manage.

It is within our powers to make positive changes because we have a duty to ensure that the mistakes of the past is not repeated. To do this, an insight into the root of the problem is a necessity.

The global economic meltdown

The United States of America, the Great Britain. Germany, France, Japan, the Asian Tigers and Africa are all experiencing economic crisis of varying degrees. The current crisis tagged ‘Global Economic Meltdown’ is native to America, and like a gangrene speedily spread to the rest of the world.

Beyond doubt, America steers the world, and somehow we have all consciously consented to the belief that ‘when America sneezes, the rest of the world must have pneumonia.’ This understanding unfortunately is behind our submitting to what is fundamentally American.

The current global crisis has an identifiable cause. It is not just a mere historical cycle. It is a product of financial recklessness on the part of the business people in a hurry to make profits, the weak regulators on the side of government and the consumers with unbridled taste fuelling a culture of ‘buy now pay later.’

The average America is guilty of false lifestyle. Their homes, automobiles, electronics, furniture, cooking utensils, wardrobes, marriages, funerals, even their own education and that of their children are all on credit. It has even extended to tourism and leisure activities . You can posses virtually anything .if you can make a little deposit.

All these are going on blissfully, while the productivity of the American worker was at its lowest. The factories cannot compete due to outdated technology and they have been heading to Washington for bailout one after another. Their serv.ice sector is accused of poor quality service delivery and unresponsiveness, rather than improve, they have been perfecting their cost-cutting strategies. Again America has always had the lowest individual savings average in the developed world, currently at zero minus. The Fortune 500 Companies have been silently shedding millions of job on the guise of restructuring. When suddenly the pyramid got inverted, they tagged it ‘Global Economic Meltdown, , to make us believe that they are not alone.

Amidst all these downward spiral, the Bush administration was focused on fighting unnecessary wars in Iran, Afghanistan and other parts of the world on the guise of fighting terrorism. An estimated $16 trillion U.S dollars went down the drain with lots of life gone.

We must however not forget that America has gone beyond seeing themselves as the police man of the world. They see themselves as the world, thus, a Boxing or Wrestling context between two states in America is tagged World Championship. It is not therefore not surprising that when they pulled down their economy, it was tagged Global Economic Meltdown.

The good news now is that America is no longer talking about economic meltdown, they are talking about recovery, and they are really recovering fast courtesy of Presidents Obama’s recovery package.

But why are we affected? The twin factors of Globalization and Information Technology is behind this. First, Information travels today at the speed of light owed to the explosive developments and technical convergence in the sector. Second, globalisation has meant the free movement of capital, people, finance around the world. This, in effect creates a common tie. It was in the late 1990s that we got the first taste of financial globalisation downside:

Thailand’s 1997 financial crisis set off another in Korea the same year, and in early 1999, Brazil was forced to abandon its fixed exchange rate policy. These countries has little in common, yet the financial crises propagated from one to the next like a virus because of the links created by the new global economy.

The reason was simple: although the destinations of foreign direct investment were far flung and diverse, the source of the capital was not The Western bank that held Thai baht also held Brazil real. The fund that owned Korean bonds also held Russian bills. In the belief that the IMF, with the United States behind it, was willing to bail out economies that ran into short-term trouble, many of these institutions has loaded up on these assets. Once a crisis started, however, these institutions has to reassess the risk of their entire emerging market portfolios. Such a reassessment would precipitate a progressive sell-off, with assets in the weaker countries going first.

This accounts for why in the face of the meltdown of the US economy, they had to dump their investments in the Nigerian Stock Market. Further, the factory and business closures that greeted America meant less demand for Nigeria’s crude oil, thereby reducing our crude export amounting to less revenue for our country.

The global economic order

Its commonplace to say that we live in a period of unprecedented change. Today, sweeping economic change threatens older industries, traditional ways of living, and social and national cohesion by exposing economies and societies to new and powerful competitive forces.

Emerging nations and former communist countries, once only loosely connected to the global commercial and financial system, feel the shock waves of periodic economic crisis resulting from the rapid exodus of foreign capital and sudden adverse shifts in international trade flows, which lead to large numbers of lost jobs and bankruptcies. Some individuals, groups, and regions initially benefit greatly from expanded opportunities like the ability to sell more abroad, work for foreign companies in their own countries and overseas, or obtain foreign capital [or their business. Others, however the least educated and least skilled, feel left behind, and disenfranchised.

The global trend today appears to have headed for a disorder which is opposed to first President Bush idea of a ‘new world order.’ That order was largely based on two assumptions: first, that a healthy economy and sound financial system make for political stability, and second, that countries in business together do not fight each other.

U.S. foreign policy number one priority was clear: to encourage the former communist countries of Europe and the developing nations in Latin America, Asia, and Africa to adopt business friendly policies. Private capital will then flow from the developed world into these countries, creating economic growth and jobs. The argument is that when free enterprise takes hold, traditional grievances, resentments, and hostilities would fade.

This policy was backed with lots of money, in the form of direct aid, loans and multilateral lending institutions such as the IMF, and a liquid market for governments to issue bonds to international private-sector investors. The message from the D.S to the developing nations was adopt economic reforms, and we will be there to bail you out if your economy gets into trouble.

This reform path, often called the ‘Washington Consensus, involved fiscal discipline, trade liberalisation, privatisation, deregulation, and expanded property rights through legal reforms. Promoters of these reforms hoped the changes would make developing countries more attractive to foreign investment and would integrate these countries even further into a competitive, but peaceful, global economic network. In its most extreme form, the vision became one in which these developing countries become part of a liberal, open world economy that promoted western values such a democracy.

Amidst protests from our elite class, Nigeria keyed in like most of the developing countries, hence the several reforms in terms of deregulation, privatisation, liberalisation etc. It seemed more dangerous to stay out of the trend than to plunge in. By August 2000 the member nations of the WTO has risen to 139.

No sooner did economic watchers and analysts discover that the package and promises sounded too good to be true and so it proved. The new world order of Bush which Clinton sustained were soon replaced by the ‘new world disorder’ of the second Bush.

From order to disorder

It was in 1990 that we got the first taste of financial globalisation downside: Thailand’s 1997 financial crisis sent off another in Korea the same year. The economic virus spread to Russia the following year, and in early 1999, Brazil was forced to abandon its fixed exchange rate policy. These countries had little in common, yet the financial crisis propagated from one to the next like a virus because of the links created by the new global economy.

The reason was simple. Although the destinations of foreign direct investment were far flung and diverse, the source of that capital was not. The Western bank that held Thailand also held Brazil. The fund that owned Korean bonds also held Russia. The belief is that the IMF supported by the US was willing to bail out economies that ran into short-term trouble.

At first, the IMF stepped in to help, but the costs of repeated multilateral bailouts became less and less affordable. Eventually the Russian government defaulted, rendering worthless the almost $40 billion in domestic government debt held by financial institutions and more than having the $100 billion value of Russian equities. The bailout to Russia by the IMF managed to provide just a month solvency, and people began to question the ability of developed world to supply economic support to the developing nations. The developed world on their part began turning off the tap.

The second President Bush put the final nail on the coffin of the new world order. Even before September 11, the administration was signalling that it has a very different vision of international engagement from its predecessor’s, one based on security, not economic concerns. And security was now defined not just in the narrow Cold War terms of  safety from attack from a hostile, though stable, superpower, but very broadly to include safety from terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, as well as vital economic inputs such as oil.’

In May 2001, President Bush and Vice President Cheney’s national energy policy stated, ‘Energy security must be a priority of the U.S. trade and foreign policy. We must look beyond our borders and restore America’s credibility with overseas suppliers. In addition we must build strong relationships with energy-producing nations in our own hemisphere, improving the outlook for trade, investment, and reliable supplies.

The implication was clear: security in this case, energy security, was now the foremost consideration in US trade and foreign policy. The National Security Strategy of the United States of America published in September 2002 shows that the thinking developed from there. It then became clear that the Bush administration defines international engagement in terms of bilateral relationships with strategically important allies  and unilateral confrontation with almost anyone else.

This understanding is behind the war in Iraq, the removal of Afghanistan’s Taliban, and urder of Saddam Hussein, hoping that this will murder to a stable Middle East which will in turn ensure a steady supply of oil especially if Iraq’s reconstruction goes well. This is also responsible for Russian government under Putin aligning with America for economic and diplomatic interests.

With this new stand of the United States, there is no more encouragement for developing countries to pursue reforms.

The nigerian experience

The major challenge before our political and business leaders is to identify where our competitive advantages lie and create an enabling environment for us· all to build on it. This is exactly what other developing countries have been doing.

What we have witnessed in Nigeria in the past few years is an addening misallocation of scarce economic resources to the financial sector. It all started with 9/11 which prodded the US Congress to enact the Patriot Art with its panoply of anti-money laundering structures. Suddenly, the Bin Laden dividend reached Nigeria’s shores. Thieves who stole from both the public and private sectors could not easily wire their stolen funds outside, meanwhile, the EFCC was watching over their shoulders. As a result, they have no place to easily hide their stolen loots except in the Nigerian Stock Exchange and Real Estate. That explains the meteoric quantum rise in stock and property values in Nigeria in recent times. Those who followed the case of the disgraced former boss under Obasanjo’s Administration may recall that he invested his stolen loot in the Nigerian Stock Market and Real Estate.

Meanwhile, oil revenue flooded Nigeria, and banks conducted several rounds of public offerings and raise huge sums, first to satisfy the new mandatory recapitalisation requirement by the Central Bank of Nigeria, and went again and again to raise huge sums for the balance sheets. And while all these were going on, weak stock market regulation added to the speculative frenzy as bankers who also doubled as investment bankers engaged in self dealing and hyped up stock market investing. The fix was on and our stock market was blasting in full throttle. Everyone was investing in the stock market.

Suddenly the stock market capitalisation that was in excess of 15 trillion naira fell to a little over four trillion, and because no condition is permanent, the market is gradually bouncing back, and our enthusiasm is gradually being rekindled, then the news of the averted bank crisis.

The bank crisis

The recent revelations by the Central Bank of Nigeria on the debt portfolio of 5 major commercial banks in Nigeria is a pointer to the irregularities in the system as it affects the private sector. The almost one trillion naira non-performing loans by these banks within a few years of recapitalisation and repeated rounds to the stock market for fresh IPOs has exposed their inefficiency in managing large sums. Their response has been attempts at raising fresh deposits through aggressive marketing, road shows and many innovative packages.

Thanks to the discerning leadership of President Yar Adua that quickly responded with a bail out of N420 billion. While the EFCC stepped in to assist with the recovery of the bad loans.

It is also worthy of note that Nigeria is not alone in the issue of failed banks. In the past one year, the United States has lost about 89 banks to bad loans, and some more are joining the cue.

The Niger Delta Crisis

The militancy in the Niger Delta, and the failure of successive administrations to manage the situation successfully has added them conspicuously in the list of the nations problems, especially with the effect on the revenue generation capacity of the country. Interestingly, the amnesty which is currently in force has made it possible for our crude oil quota to increase from 1,200 bpd to 1, 700bpd .

All stakeholders must make frantic and sincere effort to stem the tide and find lasting solution to the crisis.

The striking Nigerian Tertiary Institutions

Ideas have been described as the currency of the 21 st century economy. This is because business has moved from the hierarchical Ford Motor Corporation of the 1920s which employed a large number of people to perform repetitive tasks in precise rapid ways to achieve a consistent objectives. This was the operational style of all organisations in the industrial age. Sad to say, decades into the information age many organizations including our tertiary institutions still carry on with the operational styles of earlier glorious but no longer relevant generation.

The essence of authority of ideas can be best appreciated if we understand the role of learning institutions. If we take Harvard University for example. At Harvard, we consider it an extremely important accomplishment when a 25 year old student who has been there for just 18 months makes a discovery that disproves the pet theory of a 55 year old professor who has been there for 30 years. Indeed, the professor whose theory has been disproved might be the first to congratulate that graduate student.

The notion that of the community’s most junior members would be applauded for upending the life work of one of its most senior would seem exceedingly strange in many organisations and countries. Yet it is fundamental to what Harvard and other American universities are about. And if you look at the organisations in the economy where the greatest value is being added, they are increasingly the organisations that share the values and character of universities.

Organisations that foster an environment where creativity is rewarded, that prepare themselves to respond to challenges and execute their strategy in a nimble way, and that discourage rigid adherence to hierarchy will best be able to meet with the challenges.

To be contd

 

Godswill C. Onyekwere

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Strategic Positioning Of The Teaching Profession And Nation-Building

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The making of a nation is in the making of man. Where people are not developed; nations are not defined and are left underdeveloped.
Whereas, all men are created equal, not all human beings live in the same economy or the same level of development. There are superior economies and inferior economies. Whereas every human being has the right to live on the Earth, nations go through historical circles of rising and falling. Whereas God guarantees nations territorial integrity of having a defined place and space, every nation strives to reach the best, achieve the best and live in the best possible circumstances, by developing its human and natural resources within its territorial boundary.
It is stated that nations are products of a national call of shared history, shared culture, shared vision and shared identity. It is a deep-seated call in the hearts and souls of a people that creates a nation, backed with a strong determination to face the consequences, compelling a people to fight to determine their own identity.
Corroborating on this, Mahatma Gandhi stated that a nation’s culture resides in the hearts and souls of its people. Thus, according to the 19th Century Indian Philosopher, Swami Vivekananda, ‘Every nation has a message to deliver, a mission to fulfill and a destiny to reach’.
Reaching the destiny of a nation is a function of connecting with God whose presence and best is available for all to access to develop, nurture, and harness the human resources available in that territory guided by the established laws of the land.
It is imperative to state that the segment of the society upon which this solemn responsibility rests is the teaching profession.
Educationists have the eternal responsibility of building the capacities of the spirit of inquiry, creativity, entrepreneurship and moral leadership among the adult and younger generations.
Thus, Dr Myles Munroe stated clearly that the first and most important component in nation-building is the enthronement of national cohesion, by the establishment of godly Law, and the pursuit of divine principles as entrenched on earth before the creation of man. The earth is Lord’s and the fullness therein.
Thus, teachers build the future of a nation by building the youths, for the future.
In other words, the teaching component of nation building is empowered to bring out the full dignity of the human being as given and as created by God.
This philosophy is further enhanced by the National Policy on Education which is based on the general aspirations of Nigerians as contained in Section1, paragraph 3 of the policy. Going by the provisions of this policy; Nigeria is determined to build: A free and democratic society; a just and egalitarian society; a united, strong and self-reliant nation; a great and dynamic economy; a land full of bright opportunities for all citizens.
The National Policy on Education, Sections 5 & 9 further provides for the acquisition, development and inculcation of proper value-orientation for the survival of the individual and society; the development of the intellectual capacities of individuals to understand and appreciate their local and external environment ; the acquisition of both physical and intellectual skills which will enable individuals to be self-reliant and useful members of the society; the acquisition of an objective view of the local and external environments. promoting and encouraging scholarship and community service; forging and cementing national unity; promoting national and international understanding and interaction; and contributing to national development through high-level relevant manpower training.
What this means is that teaching is the process of bringing out the human potential and channelling the same to establish and enhance the human dignity in each generation.
In other words, teaching is not just a job; it is a way of life. It is not just a service and profession, it is a pillar of human society. It is a very noble profession that shapes the character, calibre and future of an individual. This is the reason, most scholars ascribe to the teaching profession as the profession that contributes more to the future of society than any other single profession.
The British Philosopher, Helen Caddies stressed that teachers are the most responsible and most important members of any society because their professional efforts affect the fate of the earth in all ways. Therefore, as Calvin Coolidge, the 19th Century Philosopher puts it, ‘the teaching profession requires adequate preparation and training, patience, devotion and a deep sense of responsibility. Those that mould the human mind influence, not for a time but eternity.
Teachers labour together with God in the making of the leaders, who in turn make the nation. Thus, teachers are expected to be wise master builders, who should receive their reward according to their labour.
It is on this background, that one examines the critical steps that have been taken in recent times to strategically position the teaching profession for the greater good of Nigeria.
Interestingly, after several years of agitations by professional teachers and other stakeholders for the establishment of a regulatory agency, the Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria, which is an agency of the Federal Ministry of Education, was established by Decree (31 of 1993, now TRCN Act CAP T3 of 2004).
TRCN is empowered by law to control and regulate teacher education, teacher training, and teacher practice at all levels in public and private sectors of the Nigeria Educational System, guided by international best practices. It is on record, that since its inception, TRCN has registered over 2.2 million qualified teachers as of last year and has identified from available statistics over 4 million persons in the teaching profession in Nigeria.
No doubt, this singular stroke of the pen has strategically positioned the teaching profession in the making of the nation. In other words, it is now mandatory and indeed required besides the mandatory certification of all teachers to acquire regular additional skills, particularly in teaching assisted learning to keep them in tune with world standards. This explains the introduction of the Professional Qualifying Examination and the Professional Standards for the teaching professionals in Nigeria.
It is therefore expected that with the establishment of TRCN, and as Prof. Agiboye the Registrar and Chief Executive of TRCN put it, ‘the hydra-headed crisis of quality and quantity of teachers which demands a strong Policy response would have been adequately addressed and the rebuilding of the once cherished and mother of all Professions opened up to attract and retain the best brains.
The point is that TRCN Policy innovative will in the long run galvanize and deepen the practice of teacher recruitment and teacher Professional enhancement in Nigeria if managed effectively.
Another strategic policy innovation that has the potential of promoting nation-building, in the long run, is the introduction of the Nigeria Learning Passport. With the launch of Nigeria’s first indigenous online school, every part of the Country now has direct access to over 52,000 online instructional videos of all topics in all subjects. What this means is that access to quality instruction is made open and permanent.
Teachers, Parents and students can educate themselves, taught by qualified teachers in case one is not opportuned to have one around. In a country with a complex religious and cultural diversity with deepened geographical, socio-political and economic limitations, one right and strategic step is to qualitatively open Nigeria’s learning space to all and sundry guided by TRCN certified specialist teachers, if the country is truly committed to nation-building.
An educated citizen is easy to govern, and indeed the key to sustainable development. Educated citizenship is a bedrock for sustainable infrastructural, socio-political and economic development guided by moral, sound and robust laws.
Indeed, with the strategic introduction of the Nigeria Learning Passport, the prevailing learning poverty gap in Nigeria will be a thing of the past in the nearest future. No matter how long, what is most important is that Nigeria has taken one right step going forward with a multiplying positive effect.
Truly, with the Nigeria Learning Passport on board, the teaching profession is elevated and digital literacy capacity enhanced tremendously in the years to come.
Another milestone with great impact recorded in recent times to strategically position the teaching profession is the establishment of the Harmonised Retirement Age of teachers Act in the country.
The Harmonised Retirement Age of Teachers in Nigeria Act 2022, clearly states that teachers in Nigeria shall now compulsorily retire only on the attainment of 65years of age or after 40years of pensionable service.
Specifically, the Act among other provisions provides that the Public Service Rule or any Legislation ration that requires a person to retire from the public at 60years or after 35years of service shall not apply to teachers in Nigeria.
Clearly, the Harmonised Retirement Age Teachers Act is a strong motivating strategy to support the Nigerian teacher executing the burden of nation building by passionately taking the lead in educating the future along the paths of the Nigerians’ dream-to live in a land of prosperity where peace and justice reign.
According to the Gates Foundation, the key to quality education is a good teacher in every classroom. And as a one-time American Secretary of Education said, ‘the Centre of a classroom is not a test, a textbook, or the posters on the wall. It is not a state or district policy, and it is most certainly not a Federal Law. If the heart of the classroom is found in the unique relationships between students, pupils/ students and teachers, then, the unique teacher deserves, the collective support of all.
The Harmonised Retirement Age for Teachers in Nigeria Act 2022, is certainly a strategic way to motivate the teachers in pre-primary, primary and secondary schools in Nigeria with multiplying productivity effect. The impact of this well-intended Act will raise the bar on primary and secondary school education through the additional five years of mentorship and guidance.
Indeed, as the Nigeria Union of Teachers noted, it is expected that this Law translates to more efficient service delivery, and higher commitment and productivity, which force, leaders to achieve sustainable development on the wheels of character and deepened learning.
For instance, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development Studies, over 90 per cent of teachers in primary, upper primary and vocational schools in Finland like their job. Only 2 per cent of teachers in secondary education regret having become a teacher.
Obviously, this study represents a higher, remarkable teacher- satisfaction rate and motivation. This is what is expected in Nigeria.
It is therefore expected that these newly introduced strategic support systems, policies and programmes, in the teaching profession will make for an enormous turnaround in Nigeria’s educational system soonest.
It should be noted that nation-building is largely dependent on robust enforcement of Law and efficient implementation of policies and programmes. Robust enforcement of Law and effective implementation may sometimes be inconveniencing and uncomfortable. A nation that is not built on proper and robust enforcement of Law and policies is a nation that is not going anywhere.
As strategic as these laudable Laws and policies are, if they are not strategically and robustly enforced, and effectively implemented, productivity would be far-fetched and nation-building would be greatly inhibited.

By: Emmanuel Kaldick-Jamabo

Dr. Kaidich-Jamabo is an educadtion leadershp expert and public affairs analyst.

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Nigeria’s Conduct Of National Population, Housing Census: How Feasible?

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The Oxford Advanced Dictionary has defined census as the process of officially counting of something, especially a country’s population and recording of various facts. When a series of census has been undertaken properly it becomes easier, using the rate of growth, to estimate the population between the periods of counts. The data that emanate from the census help countries in a fair distribution of national wealth and for planning; in formulation of policies towards population growth as well as in delineation of constituencies.
Researchers make constant use of the information made available through census, just as the data is helpful in revenue allocation to the various tiers of government.The Nigeria Population Commission (NPC) has identified a nationwide census as crucial for national development.  No doubt, since 2006 when the nation held her last census exercise, a lot has happened in terms of human population growth.
According to the Director-General of NPC, Nasir Isa-Kwarra, census generates data used by the government and the private sector for policy making, planning and development.  He added that demographic data is important for national development due to its influence on sectoral planning and direction of government priorities.
However, while the result of the census conducted in 2006 put the population of the country at 140.43 million comprising 71.3 million male and 69.0 million females, analysts are contending the propriety of conducting a new census in 2023 or otherwise.  They questioned the timing of the exercise and said that it may put a strain on the economy and political activities.
Despite the fact that the planned census is coming 16 years after the last headcount, it has constituted a major concern and challenge for the Federal Government, considering the economic and security challenges that have bedevilled the country in recent times.  Presently, Nigeria could be termed as an environment fraught with resource-demanding challenges ranging from educational instability, fuel scarcity and insecurity, among others.
Based on the above considerations,  some concerned Nigerians hold the view that the pilot census which is targeted in June 2022, after political parties must have held their primary elections, would create an avenue for the manipulation of population size for political gains. Others posit that it would create competition within states to inflate their population so as to get more government resources. The long list of problems plaguing the timing of the 2023 census and fear of an inaccurate census which might result in inappropriate planning and distribution of resources, have led many to call for its suspension.
The financial expenditure cost of the Enumeration Area Demarcation (EAD) in  772  local government areas of the federation, as well as the first and second census pretest in selected enumerations was pegged at N10 billion naira (about $US26million) , from the cost of the main census budgeted for the sum of 178.09 billion naira. “Conducting a census when Nigeria is deep in debt with visible challenges is a destructive oversight bearing consequences that would draw the country closer to extinction,’’ a financial expert, Mr Joe Gawo said.
According to Joe, in every economy there are needs and wants, as a nation, it is meaningless placing our wants over needs.  Highlighting the state of the nation at the moment, he said “ we can’t conduct a credible and meaningful census without adequate security, university brains are on strike, and the community is experiencing financial difficulties. He noted that though census could be  necessary, it is  not a daunting need at the moment. Thus, we can temporarily substitute the census data with information acquired through the national identification number.
“It is no secret that our national resources are scarce, therefore any mismanagement will eventually spell doom for the country,” Gawo cautioned.
Mr. Joseph Omeje, an economist and university lecturer, shared a similar view with Gawo. He said, “putting economic, political, religious and security factors into consideration, it will be very difficult for the country to conduct and obtain generally acceptable census results. The inflationary rate as at last week is about 16.8 percent which is an indicator that our economy is in a very precarious situation and as such, no reasonable government will be talking of  census while there is fire on the mountain”.
Meanwhile,  a public affairs analyst, Mr Gboyega Onadiran,  has said that population is the greatest asset in the development process. According to him, leaving our people uncounted for 17 years is not a good testimony to our commitment to planned and sustainable development of our country.
Nigeria has an estimated population of about 206 million, making it the seventh most populous country in the world. According to the United Nations, the country’s population is projected to increase to 263 million in 2030 and 401 million in 2050 when it will become the third most populous country in the world.
The report published in 2017 by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, which provides a comprehensive review of global demographic trends and prospects for the future, projected shifts in country population rankings. The new projections include some notable findings at the country level. China with 1.4 billion inhabitants and India 1.3 billion inhabitants remain the two most populous countries, comprising 19 and 18 per cent of the total global population. In roughly seven years, or around 2024, the population of India is expected to surpass that of China.
“Among the ten largest countries worldwide, Nigeria is growing the most rapidly. Consequently, the population of Nigeria, currently the world’s 7th largest, is projected to surpass that of the United States and become the third largest country in the world shortly before 2050,’’ the report said. Unfortunately, many seem not to pay attention to the implications of this, particularly on Nigeria’s economy. More attention is obviously paid to politics and electioneering activities ahead of the general elections coming up in February 2023.
No doubt, elections are critical to Nigeria’s democracy but  what is the assurance that the proposed  2022 census will not complicate the 2023 general elections?.
Apart from the perceived huge burden on the national economy and escalating insecurity, another reason being flaunted against the conduct of the 2022 population and housing census is its proximity to the 2023 general election. While some hold that census is politically relevant because of its use for delineation of constituencies and revenue allocation, others posit that the position of election which is about struggle for power does not make the two strange bedfellows. ‘This linkage does not necessarily make census and election strange bedfellows.
“It is indeed an exaggeration to place census on the same level of sensitivity with elections or to assume that census will complicate elections.
“This line of reasoning betrays a limited understanding of the complex factors that drive the level of sensitivity of census and election, which are different and definitely not mutually reinforcing as to make their conduct within a shared time frame a no-go area.
In examining the potential impact of census on the electoral process and outcome,  concerns on the need to divorce census from election have largely been raised in relation to security as a university lecturer and a political scientist,  Yusuf Dyep, believes that a joint or close implementation of the two activities might further compromise the fragile peace in the country,’’ Meanwhile, the National Population Commission (NPC) has resolved to conduct the 2023 population and housing census in accordance with the law. The Executive Chairman of NPC, Alhaji Nasir Kwarra stressed the need for a legal framework in place to enable the conduct of a digital census.
The Chairman said that the commission had spent considerable time preparing for a reliable and accurate census over the years. “The commission has successfully demarcated 772 local governments out of the 774 local governments. The commission is also proposing a preliminary census by June 2022,” he said.
Chairman, Senate Committee on National Population and Identity Management Senator Yau Sahabi, said that the National Assembly was determined to support NPC to conduct a successful digital census.
The House of Representatives was not left out. Chairman, House Committee on Legislative Compliance,   Mr Dennis Idahosah, said that the Muhammadu Buhari-led administration was committed to credible and reliable census. While commending NPC for embracing emerging technology, Idahosah said that it was critical in carrying out the exercise as was done in Ghana and South Africa. He explained that a digital census would not only guarantee speed, but drive an accurate census with lesser errors.
The Chairman, Legal Committee, NPC, Mr Audu Buratai, said  the commission would continue to take necessary steps in line with the law to ensure a successful digital census. Buratai maintained that any action taken outside the dictates of the law will amount to exercise in futility. He solicited the collaboration of the members of the legal community to drive a law-compliant digital census by 2023.
In addition to this, the Minister of Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola,  explained that the Federal Government will undertake enumeration of empty houses nationwide as part of measures to address housing deficit. According to him, the ministry has called on the NPC to help it in undertaking the task, while conducting the national population census. “Last week or two weeks ago, I called on the National Population Commission that as they are about to embark on a census in the country, they should assist us in collecting data about Nigeria’s housing needs.
“What kind of houses that they find in households whether it is owned or rented. If it is rented, do they want to buy or do they want to rent, let us build a body of data under the census exercise. Because we will be enumerating houses so that we can have a more precise need of Nigerians. I have copied that letter to collaborative ministries including planning and budget. So, I hope that they will help us in the next census exercise,’’ Fashola said.
Fashola said he was also engaging some consultants in his ministry to do sampling data on empty houses. He said this would be done to address concerns about the access to housing “we also see a lot of empty houses unoccupied, how many they are and why they are empty.” Speaking on workers benefiting from the National Housing Scheme, Fashola said an agreement had been reached with labour to allocate 10 per cent of the houses to workers.
“We have an agreement with the unions that 10 percent of the national housing project will be for them, but in order for them to do so, they still have to go to the housing portal. “Because we have created a portal on the web, people who are interested in acquiring the national housing programme in the 34 states, go to the ministry’s website. “You have the national housing portal there, download the form, you have to fill a form, show your ID card, show that you are a taxpayer and process the form online.
“We have eliminated the process where people are selling form with human interference.’’The minister said they have a lot of issues surrounding the housing sector hence the portal had helped in reducing such issues and unnecessary accusations by members of the public pertaining to sale of forms. He said that the ministry was also collaborating with the Head of Service under the FISH programme where workers contribute to the national housing fund for home renovation projects under the federal mortgage bank policy. According to him, this is also a way to ensure that workers get access to the national housing programme thereby reducing further the housing deficit.

By: Calista Ezeaku

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Tobacco Smoking And Threats On Public Health

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The negative consequences of tobacco smoking to public health and consumers is no news. What is worrisome is the addiction to the tobacco smoking despite  the unpleasant effects and the attendant hazards on first hand and second hand consumers.
About eight million cigarette smokers in the world die every year, while six of every 10 cigarette smokers are likely to die from heart-related diseases, with the second hand smokers being the worst hit according to medical statistics.
Who is a second hand smoker? A person who stays in an environment that is saturated by tobacco smoke.
Consequently, medical experts have warned Nigerians to desist from the intake of tobacco because about 17,500 Nigerians die yearly  as a result of smoking cigarettes.
Peter Unekwu-Ojo is a crusader against cigarette consumption and has remained committed to this cause.
At a one-day workshop organised by a non-governmental organisation,  Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) with the theme, Tobacco Tax Digital Advocacy’ for Female Journalists in Rivers State held recently in Port Harcourt, as part of the organisation’s efforts to intensify advocacy on tobacco tax increase in order to reduce the high level of death rates as well as diseases associated with the intake of cigarettes in Nigeria, Unekwu-Ojo,  who spoke on health and economic consequences of tobacco smoking, decried the increasing rate of tobacco smoking.
“Loking at the world statistics, you will discover that from Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) carried out in Ukraine in 2017 for instance, we have it that more than  eight million people die of tobacco issue. Smoking is addictive due to its natural chemical contents.
Frowning at the fact that Nigeria is one of the largest tobacco markets in Africa with many people addicted to smoking, Unekwu-Ojo advocated the upward review of tax on tobacco products.
“ECOWAS level of taxation is 59 per cent, WHO level is 79 percent, while in Nigeria it is just 16.4 per cent, this is too low as it is targeted at younger generation to easily get access to this drug and inhale  without knowing how dangerous it is to their health.
”Government at all levels should increase tax on tobacco consumption, so as to drastically reduce patronage as well as reduce the high death rates in Nigeria. Who are the replacement smokers? The Children and they have a mandate, 50, 000 smokers on daily bases mostly from the children and this tells eventually of what becomes of our children in the future? that is why from today the government must take it as a duty to increase tax on all tobacco products.”
According to him, about 4.5 trillion sticks of cigarettes are littered on the ground worldwide, which is also responsible to the climate change being experienced in the world today, as cigarette sticks do not decompose, but rather stay in the ground for over 15 years.
On women smoking, Unekwu-Ojo emphasised that there are some major risk factors associated with women smoking cigarettes such as cardiovascular diseases, ammonia, complications arising during pregnancy, cancer, ulcer.
Also some diseases associated with the intake of tobacco by adults include: nasal irritation, lung cancer, urinary, heart diseases, among others.
“It equally affects women during child birth as their reproductive system have already been impaired by some of these chemicals that are capable of triggering the chemicals produced by the body system”.
According to him, “About 7,000 dangerous chemicals constitute one stick of cigarette and these 7,000 chemicals are classified into cambium used in the production of battery, nicotine used in the production of pesticide, ammonia used in the production of toilet cleaner, such as Harpic, among others, acetone used in the production of rat poison, radon is more like a radioactive gas, steric acid used in the production of candle wax, so you can imagine what people are really taking inside their body, coal tar used in the production of road surfaces, these are contents of a typical cigarette, methanol used in production of fuel, methane is a sewage gas and part of what people consume.
“If you are looking at the danger associated with the intake of cigarettes there are so many toxic gases, these are gases that are harmful to living things that pass through the lungs into the body system, among others just as a result of being exposed to tobacco. Let us be very sincere and specific about it, tobacco smoking is completely dangerous”.
Unekwu-Ojo claimed that about seven million deaths are as a result of direct intake of tobacco, while about 1.2million died as a result of what he called “second hand” smoking.
“Going back to the demography, you will discover that about 80 per cent of the world 1.1billion smokers are in low and medium income countries which Nigeria happens to be within this range as well as most African countries”.
Speaking on cigarettes effects on children, the medical expert says:
“If you look at it from the perspective just mentioned above, you will discover that even children are not left out in second hand smoking. An average child crawls on the ground making them closer to the floor where these residues are poured. A child is exposed to it either through the hands, legs, knee. You can imagine the danger as it affects both the middle ear disease in children, causes respiratory system diseases such as collapse of the lungs, among others.?
“Apart from direct smoking, there is also what we call second hand smoking; in this case one is exposed to inhaling smoke not necessarily because he smokes directly, but because he has either entered a room that a smoker was staying in. There is always the residue of that smoke, either on the bed, seat, or television and door handle, among others. It is also a very strong indication that once a non-smoker’s body is in touch with any of these other mentioned items, ordinarily the body system will absorb it, this means invariably the person is also smoking, so that is why I get that figure that non-smokers are about 1,2million dying as a result of exposure to tobacco smoke. This is a very dangerous trend and that is why we are saying that the media should come in because they are the fourth estate of the realm and they have a very strong representation and a very strong voice in, this circumstance,” the health expert added.
There are certain chemicals that are produced by the body namely, estrogen and progesterone, particularly these affect the women. The intake of cigarettes has a way of affecting the genes. Some of the diseases that adults are exposed to as a result of the intake of cigarettes are stroke, blindness, heart disease, pneumonia among others, so it is a big challenge when those hormones are affected.
On the role of the media to  curb cigarettes smoking, he said, “as it is now, it seems  journalists do not know their responsibilities any longer, let there be more knowledge, they need to step up their game because the people are waiting for them to manifest because people form public opinion as a result of what is junked out there by the journalists.
To discourage the tobacco production and desire to indulge into it, the Federal Government initiated Tobacco Tax.
According to Onekwu-Ojo, while teaching on the Topic: ‘Understanding Framework Conversation on Tobacco Control (FCTC) Article 6 And Nigeria Tobacco Tax’, the call for increased taxes and prices on Tobacco will reduce overall tobacco consumption and prevalence of tobacco use; prevent initiation among youth; as well as promote cessation among current users.
“The guided principle of Article 6 is an important source of revenue generation, tobacco taxes should be protected from vested interests.
With the involvement of more than ten percent of global population in Tobacco addiction, many people wonder if there is a way out.
To this end Unekwu-Ojo, however, recommended for adoption and implementation of Article 6, that parties should establish coherent long-time policies on their tobacco taxation structure, stressing that taxes rate should be increased, monitored or adjusted on a regular basis, potentially annually, taking into consideration inflation and income growth development.
Tobacco kills more than half of its users and more than eight million people each year as such, the use of tobacco should be discouraged”.
Also speaking, Mr Solomon Adoga, who spoke on the interference of tobacco industry, explained that the tobacco industry has power to weaken and threaten government by stopping them from putting policies that will negatively affect their tobacco business.
“Tobacco Industry does not care about the health consequences, hence the reason  they are not really emphasising it even though in some of their adverts they say that ‘Tobacco smoking is dangerous to health’ on a lighter note, whereas push more on the patronage and use of tobacco.
On his part, Okeke Anya said “in CISLAC, we want to create more awareness fora through community engagement, so that we can know and ensure knowledge is passed around.
On the need to monitor tobacco industries, a resource person Mr. Solomon Wonah, said there was a long issue undermining public health policy that is built on deception, manipulation.
“As long as Tobacco Industry is concerned, all hands must be on deck to up their games”.
He charged media personnel  to be versatile on enabling laws and issues relating to the well being of humanity so that they will be able to  make proper use of their power to shame, and expose owners of tobacco industry and  promoters.
One of the participants, Edith Chukwu, expressed satisfaction and joy for being chosen to benefit from the training, which she described as an eye opener, noting that she never understood the high-risk that a non-smoker would have, just by staying in an atmosphere saturated with cigarettes smoke.
She assured of her determination to ensure the use of tobacco is reduced to  barest minimum.
For another participant, Dr Ngozi Anosike, “the training revealed many things to look out for on our children, especially teenagers in this digital age, “Parents should sit up to their responsibilities by knowing every detail about the type of friends their children keep as well as some sophisticated materials that look totally different from what it is intended for.
“As a journalist and a mother, I would ensure that my children stay far away from tobacco smoking, also I will not relent on writing on tobacco until the desired change we all want to see is achieved”.

By: Susan Serekara-Nwikhana

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