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New Cassava Variety Raises Hope For Farmers

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The National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI), Umudike, near Umuahia in Abia, recently announced that it has developed a new cassava variety it calls Bio-Cassava Plus.

As Dr. Kenneth Nwosu, the institute’s executive director gave the cheery news at the 2010 Annual Research Review and Planning Workshop of NRCRI, hopes were immediately raised for farmers, consumers and other end users of the crop, who expect quantum leap in volume of annual cassava production.

According to Nwosu, the new cassava variety, developed through bio-technique is rich in starch, protein, vitamin ‘A’ and iron.

Though it took the research institute about three years to develop, Nwosu explains that but for the use of bio-technique, which sped up the project, the feat would have taken up to 10 years.

NRCRI achieved the feat through a collaborative effort with researchers in Africa, Europe and the U.S. and through a funding by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Notwithstanding that the find holds great potential for increased yield in cassava cultivation, a snag still exists: the absence of a bio-safety law in Nigeria.

Presently, a bill on bio-safety is pending at the National Assembly.

The absence of such a law, agricultural experts say, will limit the wide-scale application of the new variety by cassava farmers.

However, the institute has gone on to the next stage of field-testing the variety through a very limited distribution of the specie to farmers.

Nigeria, undoubtedly, is one of the world’s largest producers of cassava, with an annual production of 45 million metric tons but much of this is consumed locally.

It is reasoned by agricultural economists that utilisation of the improved variety could lead to a quantum leap in export volume, with the resultant potential for foreign exchange earning for the nation. 

“Cassava is a major food crop for over 100 million Nigerians but 98 per cent of the volume produced are consumed locally, leaving an insignificant proportion for export,” Nwosu laments.

The institute’s latest effort is one in series of others, which have significantly helped the higher yield of cassava in the country through joint efforts with the Ibadan-based International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA).

Jointly, they have developed and released 29 improved pest resistant cassava varieties to farmers over the years and these have been salutary.

The optimism of researchers is that in three to five years’ time, when the latest variety would have come fully on stream, if you consume cassava, you will be taking in a good amount of starch, vitamin ‘A’, protein and iron.

“This is good news for Nigerians” Nwosu says.

Prof. Baba Abubakar, the Executive Secretary of Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria (ARCN) as well as Governor Theodore Orji of Abia, have both lauded the feats by the NRCRI.

Abubakar stresses that the institute’s efforts have boosted cassava production in many states of the federation.

 Orji on the other hand, says that the research findings are good for the nation’s agriculture sector since “food insecurity precipitates hunger, high mortality rate, human under-development, and social crises.”

In spite of its achievements, the NRCRI faces a number of challenges, mainly under funding, which Nwosu says is not healthy for the research institute.

Rep. Gbenga Makonjuola, the Chairman of House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture, agrees with Nwosu and joins in the call on the federal government to establish a biotechnology centre for agricultural activities in the country.

The federal lawmaker stresses that such creation is imperative, especially for cassava production. He describes development of the newest variety of cassava as “heart warming”.

“Now that Nigeria has come to terms with bio-technology in agriculture; and with the modest achievement of NRCRI in this area, such a centre should be established in Umudike.

“We cannot conduct research into modern agriculture in poorly equipped laboratories.   

 ”This is the only way to achieve a quantum leap in cassava production in Nigeria to satisfy local needs and have excess for export,” he notes.

Anxious to put the research institute on a better footing, Nwosu desires a modern research laboratory in the country, which will enhance the activities of his institute.

“In spite of leading the world in cassava production, we are still backward,” he laments, while calling for an intervention fund, to enable the institute to transform into a centre of excellence in roots and tuber crops research in Africa.

Abubakar shares similar sentiments, and adds that the ARCN has solicited an intervention fund, with which to upgrade infrastructure and equipment in the nation’s research institutes.

“We still want you to do more, but for you to do more, more has to come from us,” he told NRCRI.

He says that the council had negotiated funds for competitive research grants, under which priority projects not funded through the normal subvention would receive succour.

He discloses further that the ARCN, in conjunction with West and Central African Research Development has secured a World Bank grant for the West African Agricultural Productivity Project (WAAPP).

The WAAPP project, according to him, will bring additional funds to national research institutes and thus improve their sectoral allocations.

Oh his part, Makanjuola assures that the National Assembly will work hard to pass the Bio-Safety bill in order to enhance the application of biotechnology in agriculture.

According to him, public hearing on the bill has been concluded.

No doubt, stakeholders who converged at Umudike, during the workshop to appraise NRCRI ‘s activities in 2009 as well as chat a road map for its future research programmes were pleased that the institute has held its own in the discharge of its mandate.

Sure, they expect that these strides in researches should transform into increased production of agricultural products, so as to satisfy local and export demands and thus guarantee food security.

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Regulating Social Media Towards Peace-Building

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Can the social media space be regulated in a manner that it will give young people the opportunity to unleash positive energy on the society without stifling their voices? Experts say it is possible. Youths constitute the bulk of those who use the social media space for interactions, empower-ment and self-actualisation. They have leveraged advancements in Information and Commu-nication Technology as a medium of commu-nication. Among the leading social media in Nigeria are Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. While youths may have limited political power to champion their views they can harness the potential in the social media to promote peace in Nigeria. Although the social media has its own negative sides, it also comes with numerous advantages, such as facilitating access to mentorship, socia-lisation and creativity.

Through its networking mechanisms, social media spreads news faster and has wider reach than the conventional media. It encourages group participation in discussions and activities thereby providing a platform to push critical information and nurture ideas. Youths can take advantage of this uniqueness to propagate positive atmospheres such as peace and nation building. While many young people have used social media to create wealth, education and sourcing information and entertainment, many have used it to propagate violent conducts and other social vices. Experts say the Federal Government has a role to play in re-channeling youths’ social media culture and orientation from the negative to the positive through proper regulation. The federal government is cognisant of this as demonstrated by the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed.

In June 2021 while appearing before a public hearing organised by the House of Representatives, Mohammed asked the lawmakers to amend the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) Act to empower the agency to regulate social and online media. The minister said: “Internet broadcasting and all online media should be included in this because we have a responsibility to monitor contents, including Twitter.” Similarly, in June the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) also announced a draft document for the Code of Practice for Interactive Computer Service Platforms/Internet Intermediaries and Conditions for Operating in Nigeria.

The code seeks to, among many others, compel online platforms to provide any backend information to assist government agencies for the purpose of investigating and prosecuting users who breach the provisions of the code.
Reinforcing these thoughts, Dr Bakut Bakut, Director-General, Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution, IPCR, said: “Preventing the conflict of tomorrow means changing the mindset of the youth today.” Bakut, who said this while delivering an address of welcome at a conference in Abuja recently, said the youth could be redirected to use the social media as a tool for peace-building. According to him, youths use social media more frequently and are more likely to become victims of violence and can also be recruited by extremists.

The two-day conference, which was organised by IPCR in collaboration with the University of Ilorin Centre for Peace and Strategic Studies, CPSS, had as its theme, “Youth, Social Media and Community Peace-Building.”
“This is a significant issue because technology can either be a medium through which terrorists recruit young people or a means through which young men and women can help in building peace.
Although young people are crucial players in peace building, they have been excluded from the process and are instead thought of as `manipulable` tools for violent conflicts and social unrest,” he said.

Bakut recalled the #EndSARS protest of October, 2020, which was organised by Nigerian Twitter users largely made up of youths against police brutality. He said it demonstrated that social media was dangerously spiraling out of control and a breeding ground for fake news, hate speech, misinformation and online incitement of unrest, hence the need to regulate it. He said the conference offered opportunities for fresh ideas to gain the youth’s support for community peace building initiatives and incorporating social media, especially given the current insecurity concerns in Nigeria. Prof. Sulyman Abdulkareem, the immediate past Vice-Chancellor, University of Ilorin, while corroborating Bakut’s view said regulating social media would curb online abuses and engage youths to promote peace.

Speaking on the topic, “Social Media Use and its Implications on Community Peace-Building Among Nigerian Youths,” he said that social media regulation was the best way to ensure that youths used social media positively. Represented by Prof. A.L. Azeez, Dean, Faculty of Mass Communication, University of Ilorin, Sulyman said the social media must be regulated if the youth’s recklessness in using social media space would be drastically curtailed. “How can we make the youth to use the media positively; to empower themselves while at the same time deploying it for peace building? The best way is by controlling and regulating the social media space. The regulation and control of social media space on grounds of humanity, peace and security are ostensibly plausible as such justifications have been invoked in Pakistan, Malaysia and India. This is why many scholars of communication and peace have intensified their support and agitation for a legal framework for regulating Nigeria’s social media space through the social media bill,” he said.

The former vice-chancellor said that social media platforms should be used to facilitate virtual dialogues among stakeholders towards achieving peace and security. “The youth’s use and adoption of social media should be aimed at promoting peaceful coexistence among various ethnic groups. “Through social media, the Nigerian youth should build strong consensus on issues that affect their lives and wellbeing. No meaningful socioeconomic and human development can take place in a nation where its youth are preoccupied with sharing divisive and inciting rhetoric on social media,” the don said. Prof. Eghosa Osaghae, the Director-General, Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA), underscored the need to directly engage the youth on peace building. “One of the ways that we can push these kinds of conversations concretely, going forward, would be to invite the youth to be part of this kind of debate,” he said.

According to him, the Nigerian policy paper defines the youth as someone who is between the age of 15-30, which means he or she is under custody and not yet autonomous. “I will however extend that definition to mean that the youth is a social category, so a youth is he or she that a particular person says he or she is, notwithstanding age. “So if you have a consciousness of being young or old, that’s who you are. There are people who are 40 but they already feel they are old, so let it be with them that they are old”, he said. Prof. Oyeronke Olademo, Director, Centre for Peace and Strategic Studies. University of Ilorin, urged adults to use social media platforms to counter the negative narratives about youths and the country.

“For me, curbing the excesses of the youth on social media and redirecting them to peace building, requires that older persons should flood the cyber space with positive narratives. “This will overwhelm any negative narratives or fake news, which the youth may spread on these platforms,” she said.
Experts say while it is important to regulate the social media space, caution should be applied in doing so to avoid gagging the media, infringing on free speech and fundamental human rights.

By: Raphael Pepple

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Regulating Social Media Towards Peace Building

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Can the social media space be regulated in a manner that it will give young people the opportunity to unleash positive energy on the society without stifling their voices? Experts say it is possible. Youths constitute the bulk of those who use the social media space for interactions, empowerment and self-actualization. They have leveraged advancements in information and communication technology as a medium of communication. Among the leading social media in Nigeria are Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. While youths may have limited political power to champion their views they can harness the potential in the social media to promote peace in Nigeria. Although the social media has its own negative sides, it also comes with numerous advantages, such as facilitating access to mentorship, socialization and creativity.

Through its networking mechanisms, social media spreads news faster and has wider reach than the conventional media. It encourages group participation in discussions and activities thereby providing a platform to push critical information and nurture ideas. Youths can take advantage of this uniqueness to propagate positive atmospheres such as peace and nation building. While many young people have used social media to create wealth, education and sourcing information and entertainment, many have used it to propagate violence conducts and other social vices. Experts say the Federal Government has a role to play in re-channeling youths’ social media culture and orientation from the negative to the positive through proper regulation. The federal government is cognisant of this as demonstrated by the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed.

In June 2021 while appearing before a public hearing organised by the House of Representatives, Mohammed asked the lawmakers to amend the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) act to empower the agency to regulate social and online media. The minister said: “Internet broadcasting and all online media should be included in this because we have a responsibility to monitor contents, including Twitter.” Similarly, in June the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) also announced a draft document for the Code of Practice for Interactive Computer Service Platforms/Internet Intermediaries and Conditions for Operating in Nigeria.

The code seeks to, among many others, compel online platforms to provide any backend information to assist government agencies for the purpose of investigating and prosecuting users who breach the provisions of the code.
Reinforcing these thoughts, Dr Bakut Bakut, Director-General, Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution, IPCR, said: “Preventing the conflict of tomorrow means changing the mindset of the youth today.” Bakut, who said this while delivering an address of welcome at a conference in Abuja recently, said the youth could be redirected to use the social media as a tool for peace building. According to him, youths use social media more frequently and are more likely to become victims of violence and can also be recruited by extremists.

The two-day conference, which was organised by IPCR in collaboration with the University of Ilorin Centre for Peace and Strategic Studies, CPSS, had as its theme, “Youth, Social Media and Community Peace building.” “This is a significant issue because technology can either be a medium through which terrorists recruit young people or a means through which young men and women can help in building peace. “Although young people are crucial players in peace building, they have been excluded from the process and are instead thought of as `manipulable` tools for violent conflicts and social unrest,” he said.

Bakut recalled the #EndSARS protest of October, 2020, which was organised by Nigerian Twitter users largely made up of youths against police brutality. He said it demonstrated that social media was dangerously spiraling out of control and a breeding ground for fake news, hate speech, misinformation and online incitement of unrest, hence the need to regulate it. He said the conference offered opportunities for fresh ideas to gain the youth’s support for community peace building initiatives and incorporating social media, especially given the current insecurity concerns in Nigeria. Prof. Sulyman Abdulkareem, the immediate past Vice-Chancellor, University of Ilorin, while corroborating Bakut’s view said regulating social media would curb online abuses and engage youths to promote peace.

Speaking on the topic, “Social Media Use and its implications on Community Peace building Among Nigerian Youths,” he said that social media regulation was the best way to ensure that youths used social media positively. Represented by Prof. A.L. Azeez, Dean, Faculty of Mass Communication, University of Ilorin, Sulyman said the social media must be regulated if the youth’s recklessness in using social media space would be drastically curtailed. “How can we make the youth to use the media positively; to empower themselves while at the same time deploying it for peace building? The best way is by controlling and regulating the social media space. “The regulation and control of social media space on grounds of humanity, peace and security are ostensibly plausible as such justifications have been invoked in Pakistan, Malaysia and India. “This is why many scholars of communication and peace have intensified their support and agitation for a legal framework for regulating Nigeria’s social media space through the social media bill,” he said.

The former vice-chancellor said that social media platforms should be used to facilitate virtual dialogues among stakeholders towards achieving peace and security. “The youth’s use and adoption of social media should be aimed at promoting peaceful coexistence among various ethnic groups. “Through social media, the Nigerian youth should build strong consensus on issues that affect their lives and wellbeing. “No meaningful socioeconomic and human development can take place in a nation where its youth are preoccupied with sharing divisive and inciting rhetoric on social media,” the don said. Prof. Eghosa Osaghae, the Director-General, Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA), underscored the need to directly engage the youth on peace building. “One of the ways that we can push these kinds of conversations concretely, going forward, would be to invite the youth to be part of this kind of debate,” he said.
According to him, the Nigerian policy paper defines the youth as someone who is between the age of 15-30, which means he or she is under custody and not yet autonomous. “I will however extend that definition to mean that the youth is a social category, so a youth is he or she that a particular person says he or she is, notwithstanding age. “So if you have a consciousness of being young or old, that’s who you are. There are people who are 40 but they already feel they are old, so let it be with them that they are old”, he said. Prof. Oyeronke Olademo, Director, Centre for Peace and Strategic Studies. University of Ilorin, urged adults to use social media platforms to counter the negative narratives about youths and the country.

“For me, curbing the excesses of the youth on social media and redirecting them to peace building, requires that older persons should flood the cyber space with positive narratives. “This will overwhelm any negative narratives or fake news, which the youth may spread on these platforms,” she said.
Experts say while it is important to regulate the social media space caution should be applied in doing so to avoid gagging the media, infringing on free speech and fundamental human rights.

By: Raphael Pepple

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NDEP Gives Rivers Flood Victims Succour

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In a bid to alleviate the sufferings of flood victims in Rivers State, the Niger Delta region of Nigeria, the Niger Delta Exploration and Production (NDEP), has donated relief materials worth millions of naira to the state, affected communities as well as their host communities.
Presenting the items to the communities’ representatives and governments in Port Harcourt City and Ahoada East Local Government Areas, respectively, the Company’s Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, (MD/CEO), Gbite Falade noted that the donations were made as part of the company’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), to its host state, local governments, communities and traditional institutions to help relieve the sufferings of the victims of the natural disaster.
Represented by the Manager, Security Services and Community Affairs, NDEP, Alhaji Umaru Buba Njobbo, Falade observed that the flood this year, was devasting as homes, properties, livestock, farmlands and humans were destroyed.
According to him, “in response to the impact of the flood, NDEP set up a task force to coordinate the distribution of relief materials to host community residents.The relief efforts of NDEP are aimed at cushioning the devastating effects of the flood on the residents, their properties and means of livelihood.”
He pointed out that it was important that the three tiers of government took measures to curb flood disasters to reduce the devastating effects of future occurrences of natural disasters in the state.
The NDEP number one man reaffirmed the company’s commitment to its host communities, adding that as a sustainable business, NDEP was aware that excellent peaceful co-existence with its host communities was pivotal to its vision, stressing that NDEP was empathetic its host communities and would always stand by in times of grave need.
The NDEP officials were received on arrival at the Palace of Kingdom, members of his chiefs-in-council, and the Chairman of Ahoada East Local Government Area, Hon Ben Eke.
Addressing the Eze Upata, Upata Kingdom, Dr. Felix Otuwarikpo in his palace, where the items were presented, the Manager, Security Services and Community Affairs, NDEP, Alhaji Umaru Buba Njobbo, stated, “We are here in respect of the flood that has ravaged the entire Nigeria and this side is one of the most affected areas so the company, Niger Delta Exploration and Production deem it fit that at least in its own small way should be able to sympathize with the victims and also assist the government, the traditional rulers, the local government councils which have been battling to help the people survive the period.
“The company earmarked some certain relief materials which part of it is going to be given to the Rivers State Government so that it can also reach other victims who are not within our areas of operations”.
Furthermore, he said, “our coming here, with us we have some relief materials there is one that is meant for their attire Ekpeye because it cuts across Ahoada and some other areas, we are not unaware of that, so we have made provisions for all of that. We have also made provisions for the local government council because there are areas that are not also within our areas of operation that they would want to reach.
“We have made provision for Opata Kingdom because there are other areas within Opata that are not within our host communities so those people also need to be reached. We have also made provisions for all our host communities. We have also made provisions for Abua Odual Local Government Council. We have two host communities in Abua Odual LGA, we have made provisions for them, we have also made provision for the council to reach those areas that are not our operational area”.
Receiving the items on behalf of the traditional council and the entire people, the Eze Upata, Dr Felix Otuwarikpo, thanked NDEP, for coming to the rescue of the flood victims in the Kingdom; nothing that the Upata had people had solicited assistance from a lot of companies, that the magnanimity of NDEP was unprecedented.
He said, “Today on behalf of the officer traditional council and the entire people of the Opata kingdom we thank the managing director of the Niger Delta exploration and Production Company, members of his management and the entire for coming to the aid of the flood victims in Opata Kingdom. We solicited for assistance from many companies but this is one company that has come out very bold and made this robust contribution to mitigate the suffering of our people.
He added that, “Government cannot do it alone; there is no society, no country that all responsibilities affecting the society is left to the government. The problem of flooding in Orashi Kingdom is much more than we imagined and given the quantum of water this year, assistance was sought from all over, and as usual, NDEP has not failed the people of Ekpeye.
“They have demonstrated that spirit of togetherness, they have shown that they are a responsible corporate organisation, and this should serve as a lesson for other companies; this is the way to go. When your communities are suffering, you identify with them; it is not all about reaping profits. We sincerely thank NDEP for coming to the aid of the people and we want to assure you that together, we will work to make the environment very peaceful for you to operate…you are not supporting only Upata people you are supporting the vision of Governor Nyesom Wike for a better Rivers State.
“Upata is a peaceful kingdom, and we will continue to ensure that there is peace in the Upata Kingdom,” he assured the officials.
Also speaking, the Chairman, Ahoada Local Government Area, Hon Ben Eke, expressed appreciation to the management of NDEP for their show of love, pointing out that they have not only demonstrated responsibility, but have also indicated that they are a responsive corporate organisation.
He promised a conducive environment for the company to ply their trade, while thanking the company for their kind gesture, saying, “We will on our part ensure that they do their business here without any form of molestation or harassment from anybody. So, may I once more thank you for what you have done I pray for you that you continue to go forward from strength to strength” and assured that “these items first will go to the Eze Ekpeye, Logbo-in-Council. Let me tell you the materials will get to the affected victims”.
On his part, the representative of Abua/Odual Local Government Area, Dr. Kikpoye Gogo thanked the firm for being the first company to identify with the people of Abual/Odua in their trying period, noting that their local government area hosts other oil firms, but NDEP was the only firm that had given them a helping hand to ensure that “you ameliorate our pain in respect of the flood.
He assured the company that the materials would properly distributed to the real victims in their domain and promised to ensure a conducive environment for the company to continue to do their business.
Responding to questions from pressmen, the Eze Upata, noted that 97 per cent of mud houses in the area had been swept away by the great waters, stating that as part of their post flood measures, the displaced persons would be allowed to stay at the camps longer than expected, while the household items would also be given to them as part of rehabilitation measures.
Also responding to journalists, the council Chairman, Hon Ben Eke, said there were plans to resettle the farmers especially the women through a post flood scheme tagged Back to Farm, where seedlings would be provided for over 200 women farmers between December 2022 and February 2023 to enable them return to their farms.
The company provided the five affected LGAs, including Ahoada East, Ahoada West, Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni, Abua/Odual and Emuoha local governments areas with 15 truck-loads of food, toiletries and sanitary items as well as sleeping materials, comprising, 600 bags of rice, 600 mattresses, 600 pillows, 600 blankets, 600 mosquito nets, 15 cows, 720 cartons of noodles, 600 cartons of drinking water, 120 cartons of soap, 120 cartons of tomato paste, 120 cartons of sugar, powder milk and cocoa beverage.
The beneficiary communities include Ogbele, Omaraka, Otari, Obumeze, Oshiugbokor, Rumuekpe, Omerelu and Rumuji.
Niger Delta Exploration and Production, is the operator of Oil Mining Licence (OML)- 53 and OML- 54 in Ahoada and Abua/Odual,operational activities spread to neighbouring local governments and communities around the area.

By: Tonye Nria-Dappa

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