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Editorial

Beyond Drop In HIV/AIDS Cases

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President Muhammadu Buhari on March 14, 2019, unveiled the 2018 Nigeria HIV/AIDS Indicator and Impact Survey, which indicated that the number of persons living with HIV/AIDS in the country has dropped from 3.2 million to 1.9 million, thereby sliding lower to the fourth position globally from its second position in previous years.
The survey, launched by the Federal Government in June, 2018, and co-funded by the United States Government, The Global Fund and other critical stakeholders in the fight against the scourge, also indicated that the number of women is double the number of men living with the virus, just as it regrettably revealed that while Akwa Ibom beat Rivers as the state with the highest prevalence rate, the North has lower HIV/AIDS burden than the South.
Figures from the 2018 survey show that the states with the highest prevalence rate are Akwa Ibom 5.5%, Benue 5.3%, Rivers 3.8%, Taraba 2.9%, Anambra 2.4% and Abia 2.1% while the states with the lowest prevalence rate include Bauchi 0.5%, Zamfara 0.5%, Sokoto 0.4%, Yobe 0.4%, Jigawa 0.3% and Katsina 0.3%. This is a significant drop from the 2015 figure, where Rivers topped the chart of HIV//AIDS prevalence states with 15.5%, followed by Taraba 10.5%, Kaduna 9.2%, Nasarawa 8.1%, FCT 7.5%, Akwa Ibom 6.5%, Sokoto 6.4%, Oyo 5.6%, Benue 5.6%, Yobe 5.3%, Cross River 4.4%, Ondo 4.3% and Gombe 3.4% in that order.
While urging stakeholders not to relent in the fight against HIV/AIDS, but to increase the momentum in efforts to end the pandemic ahead of 2030, Buhari said the people should not celebrate yet, as almost a million Nigerians living with HIV are currently not on treatment. The president said that, going forward, a more coordinated and funded national response was needed to achieve epidemic control and end HIV in Nigeria, while directing the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA) and the Federal Ministry of Health to undertake detailed consultations and consensus-building with key sectoral ministries, the legislature, governors of high-prevalence states, development partners and civil society organisations to chart a new path and build on the results of the survey.
In 2017, 3.2 million people were living with HIV/AIDS, with 2.8% adult HIV prevalence rate, 210,000 new HIV infections, 150,000 AIDS-related deaths, 34% adults on antiretroviral treatment, and 26% children on antiretroviral treatment. However, in 2014, almost 3.4 million Nigerians were living with HIV/AIDS, with recorded AIDS-related deaths of 174,300 and a national prevalence rate of 3.0%.
The Tide is particularly aware that sentinel survey since 1991 has shown a mixed bag in the prevalence rates in Nigeria. For instance, the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research and NACA published a report indicating that in 1991, the prevalence rate was 1.8%, with 3.8% in 1993, 4.5% in 1996, 5.4% in 1999, and a peak of 5.8% in 2001.
We are also aware that the number of AIDS-related deaths has been of concern to many, with 20,000 recorded cases in 1990, 61,000 in 1995, 130,000 in 2000, 180,000 in 2005 and 2010, and stagnated at 150,000 from 2015 through 2017.
While The Tide acknowledges the decrease in the HIV-prevalence rate in the country as a result of the good progress in scaling up HIV treatment and prevention services in recent years, we are concerned that previous records show high death rates over the last 23 years, with no sign of ebbing to, at least, the 1990 figure. We are worried that figures of prevalence rate, number of persons living with the virus and HIV-related deaths in recent years do not add up when compared with the rising population of the country, especially given that there is a wide gap between the number of people living with the virus and those accessing antiretroviral treatment. We also demand a drastic reduction in the number of Nigerians susceptible to tuberculosis (TB) and hepatitis B, both of which have direct links to HIV/AIDS to reassure the people that investments made by governments in this regard are yielding desired results.
This is why we agree with Mr. President that it is not yet ‘Uhuru’ for Nigeria in its quest to end the HIV pandemic among its huge population of more than 180 million. We challenge all stakeholders, particularly the management of NACA and SACA in the various states as well as the federal and state ministries of health and their partners, to rejig strategies to further reduce the impact and prevalence of the scourge through adequate provision of antiretroviral drugs, making the drugs available and ensuring that those living and or infected with the virus have unfettered access to treatment centres. The Tide tasks governments at all levels to increase budgetary allocation to the health sector by not less than 25% to scale up funding of accelerated, coordinated efforts to end the HIV/AIDS pandemic in the country.
We insist that the more than one million people living with HIV/AIDS, who are yet to be captured in the treatment nexus should be reached and dragged into the net to further draw down the national prevalence rate. We think that while the world awaits a verifiable and sustainable cure for HIV/AIDS, Nigerians still trapped in the conundrum should be given the necessary opportunity to exit the trauma and stigma associated with the virus, through cascading sensitisation, testing, treatment and counselling in both urban and rural areas, so that no one infected with the virus is left behind.

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Editorial

Lessons From UK Polls

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The United Kingdom’s general election of July 4 marks a turning point in the nation’s political land-
scape. It highlights the resilience of its democratic traditions. The peaceful transition of power from Rishi Sunak to Keir Starmer reflects the strength of Britain’s political institutions and the electorate’s ability to effect change.
Moreover, the landslide victory of the Labour Party signifies a potential shift in the country’s ideological trajectory, prompting a reevaluation of its political, economic, and social future. As the nation navigates this pivotal moment, the smoothness of this transition serves as a testament to the stability and adaptability of Britain’s democratic infrastructure.
One of the most striking aspects of the new cabinet is the representation of women, with 11 out of 19 cabinet members being female. This stands in contrast to the situation in Nigeria, where women are severely underrepresented in government, particularly in the Northern states where female participation in politics is almost non-existent. The success of these women in the British political arena serves as a quintessential example for Nigeria, where patriarchy still holds sway and gender equality in politics remains a distant dream.
Eight Nigerian-Britons emerged victorious in the parliamentary elections, garnering adulation from Nigerians both at home and abroad. Their success highlights the importance of merit-based selection in politics, as each Member of Parliament (MP) won their seat on the basis of their personal qualifications and achievements. Unlike in Nigeria, where political appointments are often influenced by money, party leaders, and other extraneous factors, the British system values the power of the voter and respects the rights of every citizen to participate in the democratic process.
The diverse backgrounds and professional expertise of the Nigerian-British MPs further underscore the importance of competence and performance in politics. These individuals, ranging from engineers to lawyers, have earned their seats through hard work and dedication, rather than through political connections or nepotism. Their success should serve as a wake-up call to the Nigerian political system, where the average age of politicians is over 60 and where professional qualifications are often overshadowed by tribal and religious affiliations.
A veteran politician and one of the leading Nigerian-British MPs, Kemi Badenoch, exemplifies the success that can be achieved through hard work and dedication. Despite the challenges faced by her party in the recent election, Badenoch was re-elected on the basis of her qualifications and track record in office. Her appointment as Secretary of State for the Department for Business and Trade is a testament to her capabilities and leadership skills.
The current political climate in Nigeria stands in sharp contrast to the achievements of Nigerian-British professionals in the political sphere. Through their perseverance, commitment, and professional knowledge, Taiwo Owatemi, Chi Onwurah, Kate Osamor, Bayo Alaba, Josh Babarinde, Florence Eshalomi, Helen Grant, and Kemi Badenoch have all been elected to the legislature. This is in contradistinction to the state of affairs in Nigeria, where many politicians are viewed as “professional politicians” who lack distinguishable credentials or sources of income.
Nigeria’s electoral system is radically different from that of Britain, where candidates accept the results of the poll without filing lawsuits. Britain’s electoral procedure is also transparent and effective. But in Nigeria, courts are routinely called upon to resolve electoral disputes since elections are frequently tainted by violence, corruption, and legal problems. Nigeria’s electoral process is not credible due to the absence of intra-party democracy and the involvement of cronies and godfathers.
While the political achievements of the elected Nigerians are commendable, they also serve as a sobering reminder of the weaknesses in our democratic system. After all, competence and performance ought to be the main determinants of electoral success, not religious and tribal affinities as they frequently are in Nigeria. The achievements of these Nigerian-Britons should compel a reassessment of Nigeria’s political environment, highlighting the necessity of a more efficient and responsible democratic system.
Unfortunately, the high rate of litigation in Nigeria’s elections threatens the country’s democratic process, creating tension and uncertainty from pre-election disputes to post-election challenges. This undermines voter choices and trust in the electoral system, raising concerns about the judiciary’s independence. Electoral reforms promoting transparency, accountability, and timely dispute resolution outside the courts are needed to strengthen democracy in Nigeria.
Our nation’s democracy is at a critical point and must evolve to survive. We need to shift away from costly campaigns and prioritise electoral integrity by safeguarding voter rights and promoting transparency. By addressing key national issues, Nigerian politics can become more sustainable and effective. These reforms are essential for our nation to progress towards a more inclusive and representative government.
Nigeria and other countries grappling with democratic government ought to take note of the Nigerian-British MPs’ accomplishments. Political leaders must be held responsible for their acts, and citizenship entails both rights and obligations. To be a really democratic society, where the power of the vote is honoured and protected, a society should be based on competence, performance, and transparency. Then and only then, regardless of origin or background, can we aspire to create a brighter future for every citizen.

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Editorial

CBN And Nigeria’s Cash Crunch

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Nigerians have, again, been thrust into desperation as they grapple with cash shortage that has cast a dark shadow over their daily lives. Months after the Supreme Court’s ruling permitting the coexistence of the old and new naira notes, the crisis persists, leaving countless individuals struggling to secure basic necessities.
The scarcity of naira notes has partially crippled commerce throughout the country, especially in the informal sector. Businesses are incapacitated, unable to complete transactions efficiently, resulting in a slowdown of economic activities. Some people are left in dire straits, desperate for cash to meet essential expenses such as food, transportation, and healthcare, among others.
The cash crisis has created a fertile ground for unscrupulous elements and businesses to engage in predatory tactics. Retailers are exploiting the despair of consumers by overcharging for goods, while others hoard cash to sell at inflated prices. This rampant profiteering has further burdened the already strained financial resources of many Nigerians.
It is deeply concerning that while the citizens are still contending with the fallout of a failed disastrous currency redesign policy last year, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has initiated another misguided scheme that has exacerbated the scarcity of the legal tender. This ill-conceived move is implemented at a time when Nigerians are already struggling with inflation, rising unemployment, and declining living standards. The CBN’s actions have only served to compound their plight.
The timing of the plan is particularly cruel and demonstrates a fundamental lack of consideration for the well-being of ordinary Nigerians. The Central Bank has failed to adequately assess the severe consequences of its policies on the lives of citizens, who are now compelled to endure an atmosphere of uncertainty and hardship.
Despite the apex bank’s assurances of sufficient naira notes in circulation, the cash dilemma continues to torment Nigerians. The situation has worsened following introduction of withdrawal limits by the nation’s financial authorities, leading to an increased reliance on Point-of-Sale (POS) terminals. However, this dependence has come at a steep cost.
POS service providers have taken undue advantage of the shortage by imposing exorbitant charges, further burdening consumers. The surge in charges has negated the convenience of POS transactions, driving up the overall cost of obtaining cash. The CBN’s claims of adequate cash supply ring hollow in light of the predatory practices of POS operators.
Currently, naira scarcity has gripped major cities across the country, with Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) running dry and commercial banks introducing withdrawal limits. Consequently, POS operators have compassed the moment to exploit the situation. Investigations have revealed that some bank officials who own POS businesses, channel cash meant for the public to these outfits. This is economic sabotage. These unpatriotic Nigerians must be identified and punished appropriately.
The Acting Director of Corporate Communications at the CBN, Mrs Hakama Sidi Ali, has acknowledged that there has been a rise in the amount of money in circulation. However, she claims that the scarcity of cash is due to individuals hoarding it. This explanation contradicts the actual situation on the ground, as numerous banks have been unable to fulfil the daily requests for cash withdrawals.
This is why it is required for the Federal Government to promptly intervene and resolve the difference between what the Central Bank asserts and the actual availability of cash. They should contemplate raising the limits for cash withdrawals, improving access to banking services in areas that lack sufficient coverage, and partnering with mobile money platforms to offer alternative payment options.
To restore confidence in the banking system and help Nigerians affected by the current liquidity crisis, it is necessary to make coordinated attempts to increase the amount of cash in circulation. This can be achieved by taking strict actions against unfair point of sale charges and implementing measures to safeguard consumers from excessive profit-making. The Central Bank can address the liquidity crisis by implementing these steps, and provide relief to the suffering population.
While we promote alternative modes of payment, including electronic channels, to reduce pressure on cash, the authorities must recognise that resolving the cash crunch is not merely an economic issue. It is a matter of social justice. Every Nigerian deserves easy access to their hard-earned money without being subjected to inordinate drudgery. The government has a moral responsibility to address this crisis swiftly and effectively to restore financial stability and ensure the well-being of all its citizens.

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Editorial

Nigeria: Need For Accurate Population Data

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This year’s World Population Day serves as a poignant reminder of the critical importance of accurate population data in Nigeria. The theme for the year, “Interwoven Lives, Threads of Hope: Ending Inequalities in Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights,” brings to light the pressing need for the nation to address the repercussions of overpopulation and safeguard the fundamental human rights of all its inhabitants. It emphasises the necessity of implementing effective strategies and initiatives to enhance sexual and reproductive health services and ensure equitable access to these vital resources.
Population experts stress that the exponential rise in global population poses substantial challenges to human well-being and the environment. As India is on track to surpass China as the most populous country, Nigeria’s population of approximately 226.2 million underscores its significant demographic influence. However, the lack of recent census data since 2006 has left the actual figures subject to speculation, hampering efficient planning and resource allocation efforts.
The disparities in population sizes between India and the United States underscore the shifting dynamics on the global stage. With India projected to exceed China’s population by 2027, its expanding demographic weight will undoubtedly influence economic, political, and social relations worldwide. As the world’s largest democracy, India’s swelling population presents both opportunities and challenges, such as driving economic growth and innovation while also straining resources and infrastructure.
Conversely, the United States, with a smaller global population share, may encounter distinct obstacles related to an ageing population and diminishing workforce. Understanding and addressing these demographic trends are essential for policymakers and leaders in both countries to navigate the intricate issues of the 21st century effectively.
The unchecked population growth in Nigeria has engendered an array of socio-economic challenges that are becoming increasingly difficult to overlook. Instances of extreme poverty, food insecurity, and environmental deterioration stand as stark indicators of the urgent need for intervention. With over 133 million Nigerians grappling with multidimensional poverty, it is evident that targeted interventions are imperative to alleviate the plight of the most vulnerable segments of society.
A study conducted by various organisations in 2022 has shed light on the harsh realities of poverty in Nigeria, with a staggering 133 million individuals affected. This comprehensive assessment not only considers income levels but also incorporates critical dimensions like education, healthcare, living standards, and economic stability. The findings underscore the pressing need for strategic interventions aimed at tackling the underlying causes of deprivation and uplifting the most marginalised populations.
The anticipated reverberations of ending petrol subsidies and merging the naira exchange rates in 2023 are expected to push an additional seven million Nigerians into poverty, underscoring the unintended adverse effects of economic policies on the most marginalised sectors of society. Given this scenario, it is obligatory for the Federal Government to collaborate with pertinent stakeholders to devise and implement a comprehensive population plan that addresses the root causes of overpopulation and poverty.
At the core of Nigeria’s population predicament lies a complex interplay of factors, including child marriages, limited educational access, misconceptions surrounding family planning, and cultural and religious norms hindering women’s reproductive health access. To counter these challenges effectively, concerted efforts must be concentrated on raising awareness about reproductive rights, advocating for girls’ education, and ensuring universal access to family planning services.
Empowering women with the necessary resources and information is high-priority in reducing unplanned pregnancies and child marriages, which are compelling obstacles to achieving a more equitable and sustainable population growth trajectory. This can be achieved through comprehensive education and accessible healthcare infrastructure, which not only alleviate poverty but also contribute to the overall well-being of the population.
Moreover, Nigeria should place a strong emphasis on environmental conservation and a shift towards renewable energy sources to counteract the adverse effects of overpopulation on the ecosystem. By embracing sustainable development practices, Nigeria can ensure a future where its population can flourish while preserving the health of the planet.
With the advent of a new era marked by the leadership of President Bola Tinubu, the accurate collection, analysis, and utilisation of population data should become central to national policymaking. Only through precise data and a robust population plan can Nigeria effectively address disparities in sexual and reproductive health, empower its people, and lay the groundwork for a prosperous future for generations to come.
Undeniably, Nigeria stands at a precarious juncture where obtaining accurate population data is imperative to tackle the multifaceted challenges associated with overpopulation. Prioritising the collection of precise demographic information, implementing targeted interventions, and fostering a culture of empowerment and sustainability, will pave the way for a more equitable and prosperous future for Nigerians.

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