The report by the Federal Ministry of Education recently, that 16 million Nigerian children are not enrolled in primary and junior secondary schools across the country is not a cheering news.
Of that figure, 11 million should be in primary schools while the other five million ought to be in secondary schools.
According to the report, only 500,000, out of the 40 million non-literate adults are currently enrolled in mass literacy programmes in the country, but the figure could even be higher considering the number of Almajiris in the North and children of fishermen in the Niger Delta region that are not yet exposed to formal education.
The low level of children enrolment in schools has, for sometime now, remained a big challenge to the education sector and amounts to an indictment on government’s inability to do all the right things, needed to lay a solid foundation for future growth of the country.
Regrettably, public schools in most states of the federation are either in poor states of disrepairs and overcrowded or lack basic infrastructural facilities necessary to aid learning. The Tide regrets a situation where children sit on bare floor for learning or study under the trees. It is unthinkable to imagine how such a scenario can encourage school enrolment.
Added to this is the fact that most parents can ill- afford the outrageous educational demands made of children in many states largely because of their meagre earnings.
To reverse the situation, the federal, state and local governments must address the root causes and improve access to education. Specifically, the governments must work in synergy to actualise the objective of the Universal Basic Education UBE) Act, in order to increase enrolment in public, primary schools, which is programmed to ensure nine years of continuous education for every Nigerian child as a bold step towards achieving the Education For All by 2015, target.
By the UBE Act, every Nigerian child of primary and junior secondary school age is entitled to enjoy free and compulsory education, and prescribes penalties for parents that fail to comply with the demands of the Act. Unfortunately, government’s efforts to increase enrolment in schools have not achieved much result partly because parents whose children are not in school are never punished as prescribed by the law.
Another disturbing fact is that most states have failed woefully to access the UBE Implementation Fund made available to them by the federal government because of their inability to meet basic milestones of performance instituted as checks against abuse of the UBEC matching fund. For instance, to access such funds a state is expected to contribute not less than 50 per cent of the total cost of projects to be expected. By last year, more than N40 billion belonging to various state governments was known to be lying idle at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) because the state reneged on their counterpart funding requirement to access the funds.
But the states alone are not to blame. Parents must complement government efforts by showing deep interest in their children and wards, their over blown indigent status notwithstanding.
We say so because every child deserves popular education to prepare him or her for future challenges. It is so important that many educationists have at various times said that it is next in importance to freedom and justice without which neither freedom nor justice can be permanently entertained.
That being so, government should intensify its enlightenment of parents on the numerous ‘advantages and penalties for denying their children basic education. In fact, the revelation should propel all other stakeholders towards positive attitudinal change while, State governments, in particular should urgently contribute their counterpart funding necessary to access the UBE funds.
Even so, The Tide considers it instructive to advise UBEC to consider more meaningful collaboration with the Governors’ Forum, with a view to encouraging states still lagging behind to step up compliance and work more assiduously towards boosting enrolment in primary and junior secondary schools.
However, integrating non-formal education centres into the formal sector, we think, should be seriously considered as a means of complementing other efforts. Afterall, education for all should be a responsibility of all.
And unless concerted efforts are made by all stakeholders and governments at all levels, to arrest the downturn in school enrolment, the country will mortgage her future and the attainment of national and international goals of Education for All, the Millennium Development Goals, and Vision 20:2020 will remain elusive.
Unnecessary Furore Over #EndSARS Report
States across the federation have continued to churn out their reports on what transpired during the protest to end police brutality in Nigeria, popularly called the EndSARS protest. The EndSARS protest which was championed by Nigerian youths, including celebrities, climaxed on October 20, 2020, with the killing of more than 12 peaceful protesters at the Lekki toll gate in Lagos.
The alleged killing of the protesters brought in its wake global condemnation. The barbarity of the action by federal forces caused the international community to ask Nigeria to investigate the Lekki incident. The Federal Government had denied in 2020 the involvement of its military in the dastardly act despite video footages of the gruesome incident.
There is no doubt that the investigation into police brutality and the disbandment of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad had initially restored confidence in the government of the day by some Nigerians but what is benumbing is the blatant denial by the Federal Government of the involvement of its military in the Lekki carnage.
However, the most ignoble attempt by the authorities to cover up October 20, 2020, slaughtering of unarmed #EndSARS protesters at the Lekki toll plaza in Lagos was recently exposed in the report of the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry on Restitution for Victims of SARS Related Abuses submitted to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu.
Headed by Doris Okuwobi, a retired judge, the nine-member panel found that there were 48 casualties of which nine were confirmed dead on the night soldiers stormed the toll gate and the world watched in horror the dispersal of peaceful protesters who were waving the national flag and singing the national anthem to protest police brutality and extrajudicial killings. The panel described the incident as a “massacre in context.”
The 309-page report provided graphic details of how after soldiers exited the scene, the Nigeria Police Force followed up with the killing of the protesters, shooting directly at fleeing demonstrators, who were running into shanties and the lagoon.
Officials of the Lagos State Environmental Health Monitoring Unit reportedly evacuated dead bodies and deposited them at various hospital mortuaries in the state. The report shockingly averred that some trucks with brushes underneath were brought to the Lekki toll gate in the morning of October 21, to clean up the scene and conceal evidence. This is nothing short of evil.
However, in the white paper released on the report, the Lagos State Government accepted 11 out of 32 recommendations made by the panel, rejected one outrightly, agreed on six with modifications, while 14, which it said fell outside its powers, would be forwarded to the Federal Government for consideration. It also rejected claims that nine people died at the Lekki toll plaza.
The whitepaper report is not only disappointing but also exposes how far the Lagos government and its federal collaborators can deny a known truth. But Nigerians are not deceived. Like the blood of Abel, which continued to cry to heaven until Cain’s sin was discovered, the blood of the innocent youths murdered in their prime by the Nigerian police and army for standing against oppression and intimidation, will not rest.
Shockingly, Sanwo-Olu turned a golden moment into a joke by proposing a Peace Walk to mark his commemoration of the shameful events of last year. We refuse such a march. The real date Nigerians mark the fallen victims of the state’s mishandling of a peaceful protest is October 20, 2020.
We align with the recommendations of the panel and reiterate our demands that criminal prosecution should be instituted against individuals found to have committed the massacre that happened on October 20, 2020, at the Lekki toll gate in Lagos. Until the federal and Lagos State find the courage to own up to their failures and the murders during the EndSARS protests, genuine peace and justice will be elusive.
After all, why set up a panel of inquiry in the first place if its findings would be rejected? Apparently, the state and Federal Governments were hoping for a favourable outcome but only to be startled by the courage of the panel members in insisting on the truth.
The recent arguments by legal luminaries on the legality of the EndSARS panel nationwide notwithstanding, we demand the immediate prosecution of security personnel and all those found to have been responsible for maiming and killings of unarmed protesters both on 20 October 2020 and during the entire #EndSARS protest.
While we also request the immediate release of the protesters still unjustly detained across the country, Buhari, who claims to be a democrat, must prove to the world how reformed he truly is. Justice is the basis of any democratic government. To avert another round of #EndSARS protests in the country, justice and equity must be seen to be done.
Congratulations, The Tide Is 50!
The founding fathers of Rivers State developed and nurtured a vision of the necessity of a newspaper. Being a people from a minority area of the country, these stakeholders were in desperate need of a voice for the people of the state and indeed a viable channel to educate, inform and socially engineer the people towards properly appreciating the government’s plans, projects, and actions. The challenges which occasioned the founding of The Tide 50 years ago persist to this day.
For The Tide to adequately execute its task of being the voice and caring for the interest of the people and government of Rivers State, the corporation was bolstered with a well-equipped commercial printing press to ensure that lack of finance did not prohibit it. The department continues to operate to date.
Known as the “Authoritative Voice of the Niger Delta”, The Tide, in its 50 years of existence, has progressed through rosy and challenging moments, without jeopardising its core mandate of operating as the voice of Rivers people. Being one of the earliest public newspapers in Nigeria, The Tide remains afloat despite the difficulties. However, the paper had experienced a few closures following a variety of problems. The most recent was in April 2020, when most establishments, both public and privite, were shut down to contain the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic which ravaged the world.
Categorically, it is a newspaper with a pervasive reach in the Niger Delta, complemented by the most sophisticated international readership through the website — www.thetidenewsonline.com and an operational email — email@example.com.
The management and staff of the corporation must take advantage of this rare opportunity to relish the livelihood of the newspaper and recognise God for His grace through the years. The corporation and specifically the Rivers State Government must seize this time to re-equip and turn around the newspaper for the future and betterment of the state.
Although quite some persons and organisations have been collaborating with the tabloid from its inception, The Tide would need to draw courage and inspiration from the solidarity of a fore-sighted state government which has sustained it all this while.
There are several reasons why the government and the people of the state should celebrate this state-owned stable. It is reassuring that, so far, the state newspaper is the most decisive voice in the South-South region and one of the main African newspapers on the Internet. As well, it may be the first Nigerian press to provide a strong Internet archiving capability.
Bearing a motto: “A Commitment To Truth”, The Tide has, besides keeping faith with its mandate, facilitated the training of high-level manpower in the media industry, including students of higher institutions on industrial attachment. This is the first government newspaper to be colour-coded daily. The paper excels despite clear inhibitions and has operated for many years without a rotary machine.
Perhaps, one area the stable desires to be always appreciated is it serves as the link between the government and the governed, on the one hand, the people and the rest of the world. This tabloid has made a significant contribution to good governance by providing advice, promoting government programmes and policies, advancing the interest of the state, and holding the authorities to account.
It is again indulging that very many institutions, corporate bodies and individuals mostly patronise the paper and consider it as their first preference. The spread of information through appropriate and factual news, opinion articles, business, sports, press interviews, commercials, editorials, among others, has invariably kept the newspaper’s doors open. We dare assert that we serve the menu hot and fresh in these areas.
That The Tide still flows and keeps afloat is a testimonial to the flexibility, hard work, focus, never-say-die spirit and industry of the staff and management on one hand, and the support of successive governments on the other. It, therefore, requires all the support it can get to carry on.
On this 50th Anniversary of the Rivers State newspaper, the questions are: what is the plan of the government for the tabloid? What does the government think of this newspaper, which has been promoting its programmes and policies diligently over the past 50 years? The universal truth is for any newspaper, private or public, to get through, it must be well-capitalised and professionalised.
That is why there is every reason to reposition The Tide that has demonstrated a valuable resource to the state by furnishing the corporation with functional machines, computers, generating plants, printing machines, additional staff, circulation vans, and replace all decaying infrastructure to enable it function better and be able to withstand future challenges. The profitable business of exercise book production needs to be brought back as well.
Fortunately, early last year, the Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, graciously announced plans for an extensive renovation of The Tide Newspaper premises to give it a more modern outlook and provide state-of-the-art printing machines. We dare say that with the pragmatic and paternal disposition of our governor, this will inevitably come about soon.
At 50, The Tide is a full-fledged grown-up and no longer a youngster; its network, experience and even service have multiplied by a thousand. Its plan for the future has become indeed more tasking. This is one issue the anniversary will shape and colour in the real interest of the least Rivers’ person.
As we have seen, The Tide family needs to adulate obsequiously the Almighty God and thank the government and people of Rivers State for keeping the publication alive. This is a prospect for the stable to commemorate itself. Thus, all staff of the corporation (past and present) and those who have sprinted on the pages of this eminent newspaper, must be grateful to God and remain more positive than ever.
To The Tide newspaper, it is bravo and bon voyage!
Yes, at 50, The Tide still flows…even stronger.
Lessons From PDP Convention
After weeks of uncertainty and apprehension, the coast became clear for Nigeria’s leading opposition, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), to hold its national convention on October 30 and 31. The Court of Appeal had a day before the event dismissed a suit filed by the embattled National Chairman of the party, Uche Secondus, challenging his suspension months ago. The court likewise declined to halt the conduct of the convention.
Secondus had asked the appellate court to nullify his suspension, indicating that Section 59 (3) of the PDP Constitution affirmed that the ward or the state executive committee of any state has no authority to suspend any national officer of the party. He repeatedly requested that he be obliged to conclude his tenure on December 9, 2021, having been elected for a four-year term.
He also asked the court to set aside the orders of the Rivers and Cross River High Courts, which had earlier restrained him to stop parading himself as the national chairman. But a three-member panel of justices of the Appeal Court headed by Haruna Tsammani said it found no merit in Secondus’ appeal, maintaining he renounced his position since he did not challenge his removal at ward and local government levels.
Amidst its nagging legal conundrums, the PDP headquarters, until recently, was divided, with some members calling for the outright exit of the embattled chairman while others backed him to lead the party into the convention. Undoubtedly, some party organs were split over Secondus’ fate.
With the legal hurdle cleared not fewer than 3,600 delegates of the party assembled at the Eagle Square in Abuja to elect new members into the National Working Committee (NWC). Before the beginning of the convention, the Chairman of the National Convention Organising, Governor Ahmadu Fintiri of Adamawa State, had blustered that the opposition party was bracing for the occasion and promised that it would be the best-organised convention in the country.
Indeed, the convention was hitch-free and memorable for the PDP, as all or most of the officers emerged via consensus. Consensus is part of the democratic process and we expect the opposition party to use the new officers who emerged through the process to stabilise the party. The new leadership will assume duties on December 9 to enable the outgoing NWC members to conclude their four-year tenure, which began on December 9, 2017.
The convention was a display of intrigues and power play, which saw the governors in the party growing up as an effective team against the veterans who have been calling the shots in the past. Obvious from the outcome of the convention is that governors now have unrestricted domination of the party. The event was again a pathway for the presidential aspirants to proclaim their plans, as they all displayed posters and banners to let the members know that they were coming out for the primaries of the party.
The machinery put up by the elders and presidential hopefuls, like the erstwhile Vice President Atiku Abubakar, former governor of Jigawa State, Sule Lamido, former Senate President Bukola Saraki and others, to make Oyinlola and Ciroma emerge, failed as the governors had their way. Atiku, Saraki, Lamido and others had wanted Ciroma and Oyinlola to diminish the prevailing influence of the governors.
Though the October PDP national convention has come and gone, there are many lessons it demonstrates. First, we must applaud the PDP for holding a rancour-free convention that saw 19 of the 21 available positions won by consensus. That three of the candidates persuaded to step down for a favoured candidate by the powerful governors refused to do so, helped to legitimise the consensus arrangement, as it suggested that it was arrived at through persuasions and negotiations and not through fiat. This is recommended as a standard for political parties in Nigeria.
Second, despite all the pre-convention fears and nervousness stemming from the grim effort of Secondus to scurry the exercise, the main opposition party stood united and came out of Eagle Square unscathed. This has entrenched it in a position to salvage Nigeria from the maladministration of the All Progressives Congress (APC) government. This is again illuminating.
A further lesson to pick up from the convention is the crisis management mechanism of the PDP, which turned out to be more efficient than those of other political parties. The dominant opposition party has always overcome its challenges because perhaps the party has the most sophisticated people. For crushing the leadership crisis which would have blighted the last convention, the former ruling party has confirmed to Nigerians that if trusted again, it will do even better than before.
As the PDP basks in the splendour of a magnificent exercise, it has become indeed more sanguine to put the APC on notice that it is coming for its positions in 2023. This could be a manifestation that the key opposition party is fully back on stream. With a successful convention, the PDP may have challenged the APC with 92 chairmen in 36 state chapters to accomplish a comparable performance in their elusive convention.
Given the manner the opposition party handled its recent national convention and leadership crisis, not a few watchers of the nation’s democracy believe it has the potential to put up an excellent battle in the 2023 elections. However, while the hurdle of its leadership situation may have so far been managed from imploding by its governors, the challenge of holding the centre until the next general elections and wooing back its key players lost to the APC lately remains ambiguous.
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