Let’s Go Back To Agriculture
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), while
profiling the human development status of Nigeria in its 2000/2001 report, drew
the attention of the nation to its diminished performance in agricultural
production. The agency, revealed that 70 out of every 120 Nigerians are very
poor, indicating that they lack “access to the resources needed for a decent
standard of living” as well as the capabilities “to live a long and healthy
Alongside that grim statistic was another that Nigeria’s
contribution to Global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was “rather
in-finitestesimal – 022 per cent”.
There is no
gainsaying in this statistic. Even though the UNDP report was released 12 years
ago, the same statistics, if not worse, still subsist today.
For instance the country’s share in the world commodities
market in respect of its main export produce has gradually plummeted. Cocoa
which contributed about 82 per cent to the GDP in the 60s went down to 59 per
cent in the 90s, coffee went down from 20 per cent to 13 per cent, palm oil
from 60 per cent to 1.5 per cent, palm kernel from 93 per cent to 17 per cent
and groundnuts from 61 per cent to 33 per cent.
The situation today is even worse. By the reckoning of the
UNDP, premature exposure to trade liberalization in the 1980s was a key factor
to this decline.
There is no doubt that the discovery of crude oil was and
remains the nemesis of the agricultural sub-sector. The country’s complacency
and recklessness, as in the unconscious embrace of trade liberalisation during
the ill-directed Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) of Ibrahim Babagida’s
era, which was fuelled by the dollar-spinning potential of the new export
commodity was Nigeria’s nemesis in the 1990s.
This attention-shift from agriculture to oil has continued
to manifest itself till today. The result can be clearly seen in the paltry
allocation to agriculture in the yearly budgets; the non-availability of
subsidies to farmers, limited credit facilities, import duties on vital
agricultural equipments, short and high rate of fertilizer, the abolition of
commodity marketing boards, among others. By effect, the nation’s export
profile has continued to shrink while at the same time, the food situation in
the country grows more precarious.
In fact, recent reports indicate that major indigenous cocoa
exporters, palm oil farmers, coffee producers, cassava and yam farmers and
fishermen have abandoned the trades for politics, while others converted their
facilities into warehouses for imported goods.
The authorities of the various tiers of government are not
unaware of the problems confronting the agricultural sub-sector and the
imperative of decisive actions. Of course, the Appropriation Acts have repeatedly acknowledged the need to
diversify the nation’s revenue base through efficient exploitation of its
agricultural potentials, even though the allocations to that effect betray a
lack of commitment.
Perhaps, the Federal Government’s imposition of a 2.3 per cent duty on
agro-chemical inputs and its continued inability to effectively fund vital
institutions like the Nigerian Stoned Products Research Institute (NSPRI) and
the Nigerian Institute for Agricultural Research (NIFAR) gives the same
impression that a definitive policy thrust to make Nigeria’s agriculture bounce
back is lacking.
This half-heartedness by successive governments clearly
demonstrates Nigeria’s total dependence on crude oil production to the
detriment of a vital sector like agriculture. This has resulted in poor
standard of living, especially in the Niger Delta region.
It is against this backdrop I want to urge the Federal
Government to dust off available blueprints for sustainable agricultural
development and mobilise all resources at its disposal for the tasks ahead.
The 14-point policy proposal submitted by the Nigerian
Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA)
to the National Assembly, last year should be looked into once again. Through
reasonable collaboration, government and the organised private sector could
lift the nation from the present economic distress if the Nigerian Vision 2020 is to be realised.
Meanwhile, I want to commend Rivers State Governor, Chibuike
Amaechi for his lofty ideas and support in boosting rural agricultural
production in the State.
His vision to boost agriculture through Songhai Farm and
other agricultural policies is a welcome development. We only hope the governor
will not renege on his promise to make Rivers State the basket food of the
Elder Agomuo is a public policy analyst in Port Harcourt.
Godspower Ibe Agomuo
Nigeria And Tuberculosis Burden
The recent disclosure that the Africa region has achieved a 26 percent reduction in Tuberculosis mortality rate in six years is cheery.
With this development, the region is on the verge of reaching a 35 percent Tuberculosis death reduction rate.
However, despite this landmark achievement, one million people are still living with tuberculosis in the region and have not been detected.
According to the Regional Director of World Health Organisation in Africa, Matshdiso Moeti, because of delay in diagnosis and testing there is a notable gap between the estimated number of new infections and case notifications.
40 percent of people living with TB did not know their diagnosis or not reported in 2021.
Another challenge is that TB has a link with HIV, as approximately 20 percent of people newly diagnosed with HIV are also living with TB. In Africa only 26 percent of all people living with multi-doing resistance are receiving appropriate treatment.
Nigeria however, managed to significantly increase national TB case funding by 50 percent in 2021 using innovative approaches such as the expansion of the daily observed transparent protocols, use of digital technologies, Community Active Case, Finding and Enlisting Public Private Mix Initiatives.
But it is disheartening that Nigeria does not make the list of countries with reduced death rate caused by preventable and curable disease, while South Africa and East African countries like Eswatini, Kenya Mozambique, South Sudan, Toga, Uganda and Zambia have pulled resources to free their countries from stranglehold of TB.
Tuberculosis is fast becoming one of the leading causes of death in the sub-Sahara Africa, including Nigeria.
Tuberculosis is airborne disease and is transmittable through ways that are air-related. The disease which was superstitiously associated with evil spirits was viewed as a bad omen by traditionalists and some locals. But modern science has revealed that it is preventable, treatable and curable when patients follow the prescribed drug administration or usage directions.
In recent times, the rate of Tuberculosis inflections and related deaths pose great concern to many people. This is despite the advancement in medical research that has led to the manufacturing of drugs for the treatment of the disease.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recently reeled out estimates and statistics on tuberculosis infection rate in Nigeria and Africa.
According to the statistics volunteered to Journalists, tuberculosis claimed 156,000 lives in Nigeria and afflicted about 452,000 in 2020.
The World Health Organisation further said the global target of ending the disease by 2030 is being hampered by inadequate funding and investment in the control of tuberculosis which is an airborne disease.
Executive Director of Stop TB Partnership, Dr. Lucica Ditiu posited that more than 450,000 people in Nigeria are infected with TB yearly. According to him, the number of people infected increase every year. Besides, 28,000 of the tuberculosis fatalities are people living with Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV). The Africa region is home to 17 of the 30 high burden Tuberculosis countries in the world. The estimated 2.5 million cases in Africa in 2020 accounted for a quarter of the global burden with more than half a million African lives lost to the curable and preventable disease. These, no doubt, are terrifying, startling and spine-chilling revelations.
To say the least, the disclosure is a dangerous phenomenon and a threat to public health, taking into cognisance the fact that tuberculosis is not just transmittable but can be contracted by air. Airborne diseases are potentially dangerous because air is free, always in public domain, thus is available to every body within an environment. So it is easy for an infected person to transmit the disease to others. It is a belief of most people that when air is infested a greater number of people are affected than when water is polluted.
This is why the Federal Government must brace up to address this grave challenge at a time when Nigerians are going through the excruciating pains of unpopular economic policies of All Progressives Congress- led Federal Government.
The colossal amount of 1.3 billion dollars required to effectively detect and control the disease according to WHO African Regional Director, further heightens the fear of Nigerians on an avoidable spread. Though Tuberculosis is preventable and treatable its prevention and treatability depend largely on the availability of funds.
Remove funding, all effort to curb spread and end the disease will, no doubt, translate to exercise in futility.
I am tempted to believe that the Federal Government is not being proactive enough in curbing the spread of the disease because of a funding that is disproportionate to the burden of the disease in Nigeria.
When will Nigeria, the Giant of Africa in population rank high in what is good even amid her abundant human and financial resources.
The Transparency International Corruption index on countries in the world, ranked Nigeria 150 out of 180 countries on the 2022 Corruption Perception index.
The Corruption Perception Index I learnt is the Transparency International’s tool for measuring the level of corruption in the system of the 180 countries of the world based on prevalent indices.
In 2021 Nigeria, obtained 154th position with a growing population of about 200 million people. Nigeria is one of the countries in the world where its citizens live below one dollar per day.
It is one nation that is yet to break the jinx of failed electoral systems since independence, despite a whopping amount of taxpayers’ money injected into the processes.
Power supply is near-zero. From the Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration who promised to end the problem in one year, to the present administration of General Muhammadu Buhari, power supply is epileptic.
For any government that has the welfare of the people at heart, making her counterpart contributions to meet the World Health Organisation 2030 target of ending the Tuberculosis scourge is not too difficult a commitment to make.
Every project on human health and welfare is a priority. No amount of money is worth the value of human soul. In fact if roads, schools, are built for humans, then the people should be helped to remain healthy to enjoy those infrastructure and facilities.
Russian philosopher and educationist, Lao Russell once wrote, “In vain you build the city if you don’t first built the man”.
Every project should have the face of human because the ultimate beneficiary of any project are (or ought to be) the people. If human welfare is not factored into the policy and programme of government, then it is anti-people. Government derives its legitimacy from the people. And those in government are stewards who by reason of the people’s mandate, should hold the resources of the people in trust.
The Federal Government and State Governments across the country should rise to the brazen challenge of the tuberculosis burden on Nigerians before we experience another wave of avoidable epidemic.
Already, the country and other African countries are not free from greater infection if there is no sustainable plans.
According to Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organisation’s Regional Director for Africa, South Africa has steadily increased her domestic funding to fight the disease by allocating 81 per cent of her financial resources while Zambia has increased her funding seven-fold since 2015.
However, the commitment of South Africa and less economic viable Zambia to end the threat of the disease gives a flicker of hope that the problem is surmountable if other African countries, including Nigeria will borrow a leaf from South Africa and Zambia.
This is necessary so that World Health Organisation End TB Strategy which aims to reduce TB cases by 80 per cent and cut deaths by 90 per cent by 2030 is achieved.
It is pertinent to state that though the 2025 milestone seeks a 50 per cent reduction in cases and a 75 per cent reduction in death and that TB cases should drop by ten per cent every year, to meet the 2025 target, yet the current rate of decline in cases stands at only two percent. This statistics which reveal a snail growth in hitting the 2025 target is not good enough for the health of Nigeria’s citizens.
By: Igbiki Benibo
Making Girl-Child Education Compulsory
Education is a fundamental human right. It is key to development of both individuals and the nation. It is therefore, a right that should be given to all human beings, especially the girl-child. Girl-child education is particularly important and recognised by all charters. It is a form of education that aims at improving the knowledge and skills of girls. It includes general education in schools and colleges, vocational and technical education, professional education, health education etc. Girl-child education encompasses both literary and non-literary education.
Nigeria is signatory to the major conventions for the protection of the rights of children and women, especially the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).
Girl-child education falls under goals two and three of the Millennium Development Goals enshrined under UN’s resolution in 1996, and which Nigeria is a member nation. Unfortunately, it has received worst treatment as a result of the lackadaisical/ nonchalant attitude of Nigerian leaders.
According to UNESCO report, about 90 million children are not in school and majority of them are girls who do not have access to education despite the fact that it is their rights.
Research has shown that millions of girls do not have access to schools despite the concerted efforts by some global bodies to promote girl-child education. It has, however, been established by researchers that improving female education is crucial for national development.
Illiteracy on the other hand, is one of the strongest contributing factors to poverty. Investment in girl-child education is therefore an investment in the future of an individual and the society at large. This is because both the individual and the society stand to benefit from it. Across the globe, women are under represented in government and are discriminated against in electoral contest. This is because of the belief that there are more qualified and more educated men than women.
A girl-child who is educated is less likely to contract HIV. This is because education has a direct and proven impact on the sexual and reproductive health of a child.
Women with formal education are also likely to use reliable family planning methods, and have healthier babies than women with no formal education. Girl’s education ranks among the most powerful tools for reducing girls vulnerability to diseases and other dangers. It empowers a woman’s wallet, boosting her earning capabilities through good job and creativity.
Women with some formal education are more likely to seek medical care, ensure their children are immunised, better informed about their children’s nutritional requirements and adopt improved sanitation practices. As a result, their infants and children have higher survival rates and tend to be healthier and better nourished. Also, when a girl-child is educated, she tends to know better about reproductive issues and also seek pre-and post natal care.
The education of a mother is a significant variable that can affect children’s educational attainment and opportunities. Research has also shown that an educated mother would want to send her children to school. Whereas, an illiterate mother sees her daughters as tools for generating income to sustain the family. She engages them in hawkings and other undignified jobs instead of sending them to school at their tender age. In Nigeria, many girls are often seen moving around in towns and villages hawking items of little value that hardly justify the hours spent under rain and sun. They usually become vulnerable to harassment from men. But an educated woman has self-confidence, skills as well as intelligence to understand the need to be a better daughter, sister, wife and mother and make a progressive family.
The biggest hurdle in African society is the prejudices many people have about girls’ education. They hold the erroneous belief that a woman’s life and future begins and ends in the kitchen. So, they do not bother about the education of a girl-child. This erroneous impression must be corrected. Education still remains the only tool with which a girl or a woman can empower herself and eventually her family. Without education, the future of a woman is not guaranteed.
A girl is no less than a boy, if any thing, a girl can be more diligent, dutiful, hardworking and consistent in her effort towards achieving excellence in life.
Nigeria is still rated as a developing country in spite of her huge natural resourcers. This is so because of her inability to harness her resources towards nation building, especially in the area of girl-child education.
Education has the potentials to empower women to contribute towards the development and prosperity of their country. Economic empowerment and independence can only come through proper education and employment of women.
Education helps a woman to live a good life. Her education enables her to know her rights. Her rights can never be trampled upon unnecessarily. Her identity as an individual would never get lost. Instances of violence and injustice against women, such as forced prostitution, child-marriage, female foeticide will surely reduce, if the education of a girl-child is encouraged.
Today, the society is witnessing changes in the role-status of women. The modern day mother wants to fulfill the aspiration of her children without gender parity.
In a nutshell, girls are the pride and dignity of their families and they should not be deprived of education and rights.
According to United Nations Foundation President and CEO, Kathy Calvin, “Girls are one of the most powerful forces for change in the world. When their rights are recognised, their needs are met and their voices are heard, they drive positive change in their families, their communities and the world”.
By: Favour Harry
Harry wrote from Port Harcourt.
Ike Ekweremadu: How The Mighty Have Fallen
It was a sad day for our nation on March 23, 2023, for those of us at home, those in the diaspora, and particularly those who are residents of the United Kingdom, when former Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu and his wife, Beatrice Ekweremadu were both found guilty of organ trafficking under the Modern Slavery Act 2015 of the United Kingdom. How the mighty have fallen was David’s lamentation when he learned of the death of King Saul and his bosom friend Jonathan, in the battle with the Philistines. It was a lamentation for the mighty men who fell on the blade of war; unlike our present quandary, where our heads are bowed with shame because a mighty man, a veteran politician, and a political juggernaut who has occupied the highest legislative chamber of our nation has fallen.Because in spite of all the ills a few Nigerians have been known for across the world, the former Deputy Senate President and his wife have added another ugly layer to our sack of ignobility. We are now a nation of organ traffickers.
It never stops to amaze me how our mighty politicians, in their god-complex, will pontificate to us ordinary Nigerians how to live when actually the reverse should have been the case. These are men and women who travel the world unhindered with their diplomatic passports, and with taxpayers’ money, yet come back with no ideas to improve the plight of the masses on whose account their lifestyle is made possible. Some of them, and, or their wives virtually live in Dubai. Why? Because it is a country where things work; and a place where the ruling class took time to really think outside the box to build an oasis in the heart of the desert.As you can imagine, Ekweremadu and his gang, apart from impoverishing the nation, and cementing our ranking in the global poverty index, they are also the ones that shame us the most. His story was in every major newspaper in the UK yesterday. The headline in the Daily Mail reads, “Wealthy Nigerian senator faces jail for organ harvesting plot: Politician, his wife, and doctor are convicted of trafficking penniless market trader to the UK to provide a kidney for their daughter in a landmark case.”
In the same vein, the headline on the Daily Mirror reads: “Wealthy couple guilty of plotting to bring man to the UK to harvest kidney for daughter.”Similarly, the first and second paragraphs of a news article in the UK Guardian of the verdict read, “A senior Nigerian politician, his wife, and a doctor have been convicted of organ trafficking, in the first verdict of its kind under the Modern Slavery Act. Ike Ekweremadu, 60, a former deputy president of the Nigerian senate, his wife, Beatrice, 56, and Dr. Obinna Obeta, 51, were found guilty of facilitating the travel of a young man to Britain with a view to his exploitation after a six-week trial at the Old Bailey.”The UK Guardian article was careful to mention that the verdict was the first of its kind under the Modern Slavery Act that came into force on October 29, 2015, with the implication the name of our country will now be etched in the history of this Act, and prosecutors will now refer to the former Nigerian Senator and his wife in future cases.
But there is another side to this story, a very dark side that reveals the dastardly mindset of the average Nigerian politician. Even though we already have an idea, a closer look at a few statements from the prosecutor Hugh Davies KC, would be enough to reveal the resident evil in most of our innocent-looking politicians when he told the court that the Ekweremadus and Obeta had treated the man and other potential donors as “disposable assets – spare parts for reward”. He said they entered an “emotionally cold commercial transaction” with the man.
While speaking to the jury, Mr. Davies said the behaviour of Ekweremadu, a successful lawyer and founder of an anti-poverty charity who helped draw up Nigeria’s laws against organ trafficking, showed “entitlement, dishonesty, and hypocrisy.” In the view of the chief crown prosecutor, Joanne Jakymec, it “was a horrific plot to exploit a vulnerable victim by trafficking him to the UK for the purpose of transplanting his kidney.”The convicted defendants showed utter disregard for the victim’s welfare, health and wellbeing, and used their considerable influence to a high degree of control throughout, with the victim having a limited understanding of what was really going on here.” Unfortunately for the veteran politician, this is the United Kingdom, a jurisdiction where he has little or no room for finagling.
Regrettably, as bad as the case may sound, there is even something worse going by 2018 data from the Global Slavery Index (GSI). As a Nigerian, living in Nigeria, I could never have imagined that there are active slave owners and hundreds of thousands of slaves in Nigeria. In fact, in a global ranking of modern day slavery of 167 countries, Nigeria ranked fourth among the top ten countries in the world with the highest number of slaves, with a total of 1, 386, 000 slaves. The other countries are India, China, and North Korea, with 7, 989, 000, 3, 864, 000, and 2, 650, 00 slaves respectively according to GSI.Beyond the GSI data, about 133 million Nigerians are classified as multi-dimensionally poor, and it is obvious that their current estate in life is attributable to the actions of politicians like Ekweremadu who by spending so much time in the corridors of power have perfected every possible avenue to game the system, and by so doing enslaving millions of Nigerians in the process.
These politicians in the top echelon of the political value chain of our country loot our commonwealth, launder it, and boost the economy of other countries. It gives me no joy to write this article because it is a lament; the kind that is only heard in our traditional communities when they say, ‘the Iroko has fallen.’ It is indeed an anti-climax for a man with such a towering political career.In a November 14, 2022 article, titled “Ekweremadu’s Sand Castles,” I tried to make sense of the Senator’s appetite for property acquisition, even when it was evident to all that he was not in the real estate business. The article was written in the wake of the seizure of 40 of his properties by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), and also in reference to a 2020 report by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, interestingly titled: “Sand Castle Data.” It was revealed that Ekweremadu was connected to eight properties in Dubai, with an estimated total value of $7 million. The report also linked the Senator to two properties in the UK purchased between 2008 and 2011 with an estimated value of £4.2 million.
How do you begin to wrap your mind around the fact that if nothing else changes in the appeal, this giant of a man will be making a British prison cell his home for the foreseeable future? In fact, the ordinariness of so-called mighty men was driven home, when I saw the mug shots of the Senator, his wife, and their accomplice, Dr. Obeta in the UK Guardian. Seeing them without the visage of power, I felt heartbroken and sorry. They looked like the members of an average criminal syndicate.I wish the situation were different for the sake of the name of our country, but unfortunately, they were in contravention of section (2), and sub-section (1) & (4) of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 that deals with human trafficking. Sub-section (1)states that: “A person commits an offense if the person arranges or facilitates the travel of another person (“V”) with a view to V being exploited.” While sub-section (4) states that: “A person arranges or facilitates V’s travel with a view to V being exploited only if – (a)the person intends to exploit V (in any part of the world) during or after the travel, or (b) the person knows or ought to know that another person is likely to exploit V (in any part of the world) during or after the travel.”
The Act, in section (3) explains sections (1) & (2), and specifically in section (3) sub-section (4) gives the following explanation regarding the removal of organs, etc., “The person is encouraged, required or expected to do anything—(a)which involves the commission, by him or her or another person, of an offence under section 32 or 33 of the Human Tissue Act 2004 (prohibition of commercial dealings in organs and restrictions on the use of live donors) as it has effect in England and Wales, or (b)which would involve the commission of such an offence, by him or her or another person, if it were done in England and Wales.Having been found guilty, they now await sentencing on 5th May by Mr. Justice Jeremy Johnson; and according to the Act, they are looking at a minimum of ten years in prison. it’s a huge loss but it is also a stark reminder to the heavy and mighty in our society that there is always a day of reckoning either in the here and now, or in the hereafter.
By: Raphael Pepple
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