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Editorial

That N729bn For Poor Nigerians

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Against the backdrop of the Federal Government’s plan to pay N729 billion to 24.3 million poor Nigerians for
six months, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has given a seven-day ultimatum to the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadia Umar-Farouk, to publish details of the proposed payment.
Also demanded by SERAP to be incorporated in the publication are the mechanisms and logistics for the payments, list of beneficiaries, and how they have been nominated, projected payments per state, and whether the payments would be made in cash or through Bank Verification Numbers (BVN) or other means.
The minister was also asked to elucidate the rationale for paying N5,000 to 24.3 million poor Nigerians, which translates to five per cent of the country’s budget of N13.6 trillion for 2021 and to clarify if this projected spending is part of the N5.6 trillion budget deficit. Recall that Umar-Farouk recently disclosed Federal Government’s proposal to pay about N24.3 million vulnerable Nigerians N5,000 each for six months to cushion the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
SERAP deserves commendation for the extraordinary bravery in constantly soliciting accountability from the government, therefore, putting them on their toes. Given the general lack of transparency in government businesses, it is expedient, as SERAP requested, for the details of how the N729 billion for indigent Nigerians will be expended. That way, the risks of misuse and diversion of the funds will be extricated.
As the nation’s foremost anti-graft agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) must show inclination to be involved in the undiminished transaction by jointly tracking and monitoring the payments to ensure that only listed persons benefit from the process. The EFCC can moreover certify the disbursement procedure and guarantee that it is corruption-free. Corruption is so pervasive that it has turned public service for many into a kind of criminal enterprise.
Similarly, since the funds in question must have been appropriated for, the National Assembly (NASS) has a countervailing duty to perform. As part of its oversight function, the federal lawmakers can compel the minister to disclose the logistics and mechanism for the payments. Also, the NASS should ascertain the list of payment and how the beneficiaries have been selected, especially to determine whether the federal character principle is reflected.
It must be pointed out that the Nigerian government has a major responsibility to monitor and fully implement the requirements set by the socio-economic rights group and other anti-corruption controls. There must be a guarantee that the payments are justified in light of the huge budget deficit and borrowings. It has to be ascertained whether there are better ways to use up the N729 billion to support impoverished Nigerians.
It is most distressing that corrupt Nigerians are munching very fat on various well-intended government’s programmes. Endemic corruption has enriched a small elite but left many Nigerians mired in poverty despite the country being Africa’s top oil producer and having the continent’s biggest economy. In the past, mind-boggling sums of money had been malversated from social programmes designed to empower disadvantaged Nigerians. How then can we tell whether this will not go similarly?
The question is, when payment eventually commences, what kind of yardstick will be employed for measuring and confirming that the monies have been disbursed, particularly to the targeted persons to validate anticipated claims by government officials that requitals have been effected? The query is expedient given that Nigerians are often confronted with circumstances in which monies are approved and spent with no way of substantiating the recipients.
A case in point was the directive by President Muhammadu Buhari that some palliatives be distributed to cushion the effects of the pandemic during the COVID-19 lockdown last year, and that included the sustenance of the school feeding programme even though the schools remained closed. The directive raised more doubts as to the continuation of the School Feeding Programme while the schools were shut. Many Nigerians did not understand how it worked.
How was the policy made to work during the lockdown and schools’ closure? Were the children fed at home when under the care of their parents and guardians? How did the vendors move about in most parts of the country during the lockdown? Who assessed the supposed food quality? And who monitored the distributions? No answers have been provided till date. This is a clear proof that there is unrestrained corruption in the execution of welfare-oriented programmes of the government.
Meanwhile, as an addendum, SERAP is also questioning the recent approval of $500 million by the World Bank Board of Directors to boost access to electricity in Nigeria and improve the performance of the electricity distribution companies in the country. The $500 million is part of the over $1billion available to Nigeria under the project titled: Nigeria Distribution Sector Recovery Programme.
The group has prodded the World Bank to release archival records and documents relating to spending on all approved funds on electricity in Nigeria between 1999 and 2020 and demanded the bank’s role in the execution of any funded electricity projects, identify Nigerian officials, ministries, departments and agencies involved in any executed projects.
There is a need for the World Bank to heed SERAP’s request. We are seriously concerned that the funds approved by the bank are vulnerable to corruption and mismanagement. The global bank must ensure that the Nigerian authorities and their agencies are transparent and accountable to Nigerians on how they spend the approved funds for electricity projects in the country, and to reduce vulnerability to corruption and abuse.
The World Bank necessarily has to see how Nigerians are paying the price for widespread and systemic corruption in the electricity sector, and how more than N11 trillion funds designed to enhance performance of the power sector have been squandered by successive administrations in Nigeria since the return of democracy in 1999.
Nigeria can no longer run away from the challenges posed by the accountability group. SERAP’s requests in both the N729bn for vulnerable Nigerians and the World Bank intervention in the nation’s power predicament raise specific issues of public interests. And Nigerians should be deeply concerned about how the authorities address these obvious reports of sweeping and systemic corruption in the affected sectors and demand answers from them on the vexed questions.

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Editorial

Ridding The World Of Nuclear Weapons

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After a high-level meeting on nuclear disarmament on September 26, 2013, the United Nations General
Assembly (UNGA) designated September 26 as the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons. This Day provides an opportunity to highlight the need to eliminate nuclear weapons and the social and economic costs of perpetuating them.
The United Nations has commemorated the Day each year since 2014, providing an opportunity for governments and some civil society groups to discuss progress and priorities for nuclear disarmament. One of the oldest goals of the United Nations is achieving global nuclear disarmament. But today, around 13,080 nuclear weapons remain. Countries possessing such weapons have well-funded, long-term plans to modernise their nuclear arsenals.
In 1946, the General Assembly’s first resolution established that the Atomic Energy Commission had the mandate to make specific proposals for the control of nuclear energy and the elimination of not only atomic weapons but also all other major weapons adaptable to mass destruction. UNGA endorsed the objective of general and complete disarmament in 1959. The first Special Session of the General Assembly Devoted to Disarmament, held in 1978, further recognised that nuclear disarmament should be the priority objective.
The United States, the former Soviet Union and the United Kingdom signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which limits the spread of military nuclear technology by the recognised nuclear-weapon States to non-nuclear nations wishing to build or acquire atomic weapons. The NPT is uniquely unequal and ineffective, as it obliges non-nuclear States to forgo the development of nuclear weapons while allowing the established nuclear States to keep theirs.
On July 7, 2017, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) was adopted. This Treaty is significant because it is the first multilateral legally-binding instrument for nuclear disarmament and elimination to have been negotiated in 20 years. The treaty was subsequently adopted by a vote with 122 States in favour. While this is commendable on its own, the efficacy of the treaty is questionable because none of the current nuclear-armed States supports the treaty or has signed it.
As the world grapples with new security challenges, it is pertinent now more than ever for global leaders to uphold the rules and principles of international humanitarian law in ensuring that weapons with catastrophic humanitarian outcomes, such as nuclear weapons, are eliminated from the earth. The 2017 TPNW presents an opportunity to achieve that goal. Accordingly, we call on all States to fulfil their commitment to nuclear disarmament by becoming parties to the treaty.
The beginning point in any discussion about nuclear weapons should be their terrifying explosive yield. Historical records of the disastrous impacts of the detonation of atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August and September 1945 reveal horrid facts about the devastation caused by weapons of much lesser effects than the ones harboured in the military arsenals of some nuclear weapons’ possessors today.
The devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki raised the consciousness of the international community about the dangers of nuclear weapons. The ensuing clamour to regulate nuclear weapons jump-started the development of an international legal framework to prevent the proliferation of deadly weapons. Regrettably, the nuclear weapons question is embroiled in the politics of power and dominance, causing nuclear-possessing States to drive deliberations on nuclear weapons with a focus on the control of proliferation rather than on total elimination.
The real focus of the major treaties on nuclear weapons is either to prevent proliferation or elimination of nuclear ammunition. However, it is sad that the nuclear-possessing States have wavered in their commitment to complete disarmament. The International Campaign for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) has engaged to name and shame States that are not a party to TPNW, but how effective that effort will be remains to be seen. Their refusal to adhere to the treaty undermines its effectiveness, and there has been little pressure on these States to change their minds.
It seems superfluous to point out that for the treaty to be successfully and comprehensively implemented, Nuclear Weapons States have to cooperate, be parties to it and proactively implement it, as a large part of it addresses them. The treaty has an embedded acknowledgement that it would have opposition, hence Article 12 enjoins each State party to encourage others to sign, ratify, approve or accede to it, with the motive of universal adherence of all nations, eventually.
Undoubtedly, any use of nuclear weapons in the war between States or indiscriminate attacks by non-State actors would create catastrophic situations for humankind and the natural environment. The possibilities of nuclear accidents also remain, and every day that nuclear weapons remain on earth, someone is suffering from health degradation as a result. As long as some countries continue to have nuclear weapons, others will feel entitled to them as well.
The Russia–Ukraine war has raised the spectre of a nuclear disaster. The recent Russia’s missile attack on Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia atomic plant points to that. This should attract more severe global sanctions on Russia, as the act represents a dire threat to the world. It was the first time that a nation has attacked a fuelled and functioning nuclear power plant. The unprovoked attack could endanger the safety of entire Europe. Russia must be stopped from carrying out military activities around the site.
Every drop of energy exerted in fighting for a world free of nuclear weapons is crucial. World leaders and policy-makers, non-governmental activists; all have a role to play in their circle of influence, from the diligent ratification of the relevant treaties to a march to raise awareness and spread the word. The Chernobyl disaster in former Soviet Ukraine in 1986 stands as a lasting example of why it is vital to ensure all nuclear power plants are dismantled or at worst have the highest standards of safety and security.
With the looming threat of a new Cold War, it is expedient for all nations, particularly countries in possession of nuclear weapons, to consider the tragic humanitarian consequences of the use of these weapons on human health, the environment, and vital economic resources, among others. Everyone has a role to play in building a future without nuclear weapons. There is no alternative to eliminating these horrible projectiles and creating a sustainable global peace based on common security.

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Editorial

Enough Of Killings In Anambra

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Tragedy struck again in Anambra State just at a time the people of the state were hilariously heaving a sigh of relief that normalcy was gradually returning after over one year of living in deep-seated fear, following the activities of “unknown gunmen” that killed and maimed several people.
This time around, the victims were Senator Ifeanyi Ubah representing Anambra South Senatorial Zone in the country’s upper legislative chambers and his aides, who were returning to the Senator’s hometown, Nnewi, from a function. The September 11 assault on the convoy of Senator Ubah in Enugu-Ukwu, Anambra State, draws attention to the dire security situation in the South East.
Two police officers, two Ubah’s aides and a Department of State Services (DSS) operative were among the dead. Also among the dead was a businessman from Nri, Anaocha Local Government Area. It was reported that the businessman was based in Lagos but relocated to his hometown, following alleged attempts on his life after a failed business deal. The attackers were after him, only for the Senator’s convoy to arrive at the scene when the gunmen had ambushed their target.
Another version indicated that it was a targeted assassination attempt on Ubah. According to reports, the foray on the Senator had a link with the sacked Chairman of Nnewi North Local Government Council, whose wife died mysteriously. It was gathered that the man was Ubah’s boy, whom the Senator brought to political limelight. The source added that another businessman allegedly having issues with Ubah influenced the man’s political predicament.
Recall that some parts of the South-East, especially Imo State and Anambra State, have been reeling from incessant attacks by “unknown gunmen”. The situation worsened following the April 5, 2021 blitzkrieg on the Imo police headquarters and the correctional centre. About 1,844 inmates were freed, some of them hardened criminals. Since then, police stations have been assailed and arms carted away.
Ahead of the attack on Ubah and his convoy, prominent South Easterners had been gruesomely murdered in the region. Dr Chike Akunyili, husband of the late Minister of Information, Prof Dora Akunyili, was killed along with eight others at Nkpor in the Idemili North Local Government Area of Anambra. Director-General, Scientific Equipment Development Institute (SEDI), Enugu, Prof Samuel Ndubuisi, and a police officer attached to him were shot dead in Enugu.
Also, the member representing Aguata State Constituency in the Anambra State House of Assembly, Okechukwu Okoye, and a former member of the State House of Assembly, Nelson Achukwu, were beheaded by unknown persons. Traditional rulers and religious leaders were equally not left out. Some were kidnapped and never seen again. Many security operatives, remarkably policemen at checkpoints, have been brutally murdered in the region.
Most villagers have fled their homes, while those living in cities have ceased from travelling home. Many who journey home hardly use their vehicles for fear of being identified, abducted or even killed. Although security agents may be doing their best to bring the violence to a halt, they have also been accused of engaging in extrajudicial activities. Some, especially young men, have had to flee for fear of arrest and detention.
The recent bloody incident in Anambra is deeply regrettable. It is wicked, barbaric, senseless and knavish. We condemn the savage attacks on Ubah and his aides and call for the strengthening and overhauling of the security architecture of the state in particular and the nation at large. Law enforcement agents should work harder to fish out the perpetrators and prosecute them. It should matter less what organisation such criminals are representing.
One worrisome development for us is the continuous attacks despite repeated government assurances to address the ubiquitous security crisis. But even more discommoding is the fact that the perpetrators remain unknown, while their grouse and motive are unspecified. The Federal Government should intervene urgently, failure of which the heinous and barbaric killings may continue unabated, subjecting Anambra people to untold apprehension and suffering.
We think that the failed assassination attempt on Ubah and the killing of others, just like many other attacks across the South-East geopolitical zone, are perpetrated by implacable enemies of Ndigbo. We maintain that the provocative action signposts the collapse of the country’s security architecture, which, in turn, has rubbed off on the capacity of security operatives to tackle crime and criminality frontally.
The apparent dilemma in the South-East is an obvious pointer that the elite and political leaders have completely lost touch with the people. The widening gap between the rich and the aggrieved poor in the country is rearing its ugly head in the type of violence that society is exposed to in recent times. Therefore, political leaders have to rise above mischief and find a way to calm down the youths.
Leadership in the embattled zone has taken a nosedive and the people are more divided than ever. The governors, including Soludo, need immediate assistance and full support from traditional rulers and other stakeholders to stop the violence in the region. It is not enough for both the state and central governments to express alarms about the killings or offer a huge amount of money to unravel the killers. They must find a lasting solution and end the appalling massacres.
The Anambra people want to see what the government is doing to arrest the lingering insecurity before the situation gets out of hand. It is all about the safety and welfare of the people, which is the primary purpose of government. The “unknown gunmen” should not be more powerful than the state apparatus.

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Editorial

For Sustainable Global Peace

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In recent times, world peace has come under distinct threats of natural disaster, war, poverty and hunger, un
evenness and climate change, among others. These perils have been the norm in some parts of the world. Other areas of the world have discovered diverse ways to co-exist despite the raging challenges. To live above the global vicious realities faced by many, the United Nations in September 1981 proclaimed that September 21 every year be set aside to celebrate International Day of Peace.
The International Day of Peace aims at facilitating global peace among countries and combating hostility and all forms of threats to peace. It encircles a broad range of issues including poverty, health, education, climate change, hunger, gender equality, water, sanitation, environment, racism and social justice. Its objective is to provide globally shared date for all humanity to commit to peace above all dissimilarities and to contribute to building a culture of peace.
Each event has a different theme. For example, in 2020, the theme was ‘Shaping Peace Together’, while in 2021, it was ‘Recovering Better for an Equitable and Sustainable World’. For this year, the theme is ‘End Racism. Build Peace’. The UN has earmarked today to strengthen the ideals of peace through a non-violent permanent cease-fire. It also aims to address hate speech and violence against racial minorities through anti-racism messages and education.
The central theme is imperative as the time to end racism is now. The UN Secretary-General, António Guterrez, declares that, “Racism continues to poison institutions, social structures, and everyday life in every society. It continues to be a driver of persistent inequality. And it continues to deny people their fundamental human rights. It destabilises societies, undermines democracies, erodes the legitimacy of governments, and … the linkages between racism and gender inequality are unmistakable.”
Peace, an integral portion of human daily life, is not only germane to growth but also serves as the bedrock upon which development and other strides, tailored for humanity, are hinged. This informs why it has always been a major subject of discourse across regional, national and international bodies such as the African Union, European Union and other blocs. These coalitions have expended so much of their budgets to ensure that peace is imbibed across religious, cultural, ethnic and political divides globally.
But achieving true peace entails much more than laying down arms. It requires the building of societies where all members feel that they can flourish. It involves creating a world in which all are treated equally, regardless of their race. The 16th edition of the annual Global Peace Index (GPI) report, the world’s leading measure of peacefulness, reveals that the average level of global peacefulness eroded by 0.3 per cent in 2021. This is the 11th deterioration in peacefulness in the last 14 years, highlighting that countries degenerate much faster than they improve.
Iceland remains the most peaceful country, a position it has held since 2008. It is joined at the top of the Index by New Zealand, Ireland, Denmark, and Austria. For the fifth consecutive year, Afghanistan is the least peaceful country, followed by Yemen, Syria, Russia, and South Sudan. Two of the five countries with the largest deterioration in peacefulness were Russia and Ukraine. They were joined by Guinea, Burkina Faso and Haiti. All this deterioration was due to ongoing conflicts.
As 2022 drags to an exhausting end, the international strategic outlook remains bleak. Authoritarian regimes are threatening conflicts in Europe, the Middle East and Asia. The pivotal democracies look distracted, internally riven and unwilling to defend the global order they originally designed. It was not meant to be this way. The formal dissolution of the Soviet Union on 26 December 1991 was supposed to usher in an era where liberal democracies would flourish. Instead, this year faces its toughest test.
About seven months into the Russian war against Ukraine, there seems to be no end in sight and Russia’s most recent actions even point to an intensification of the fight. The world must compel President Vladimir Putin to terminate the aggression and reconsider the unacceptable path he has chosen. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a threat to global peace and a just world order. It contradicts the core principles of international coexistence as reflected in the UN Charter.
Continued fighting in some countries jeopardizes world peace. The Syrian civil war, regarded as the second-deadliest in the 21st century, is still ongoing. Since 2014, Yemen has been going through a civil war that claimed over 20,000 deaths in 2019 alone. Somalia remains at war since the 1980s while Libya has been unstable since 2011 when its leader, Muammar Gaddafi, was killed. The recent escalation of tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan has the potential to further destabilise the region. The UN has to perform its task of maintaining peace in these countries and others experiencing fighting.
It is time all nations and people lived up to the words of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which recognises the inherent dignity, equality and inalienable rights of all members of humanity. This year’s celebration inevitably presupposes that the UN frowns on all forms of racial and inhuman treatment and as such member-states should replicate and imbibe this campaign.
Today, Africa is laced with some of the most obstinate conflicts, most of them constructed from disagreements in religious and ethnic identities. Religious and ethnic nationalism has led to unnecessary conflicts about control of state power, unequal allocation of resources, citizenship issues, state collapse, economic decline and ethno-religious clashes. Nigeria is known for such intense divisions which cause major gaps along ethnic, religious and regional lines.
In defiance of the current realities in the country which include calls and agitations for secession, communal clashes, Fulani-herder crises, terrorism, perceived superiority of one ethnic group against another, banditry, kidnapping, sexual violence, among other heinous crimes against humanity, Nigerians have to unite to build a strong and inclusive nation.
We hope that the government will utilise the occasion to deal with the many salient challenges confronting the country, as peace cannot be substituted with any other variables. This is quite pertinent because for decades the nation has had a large spectrum of repulsive events, making peace an illusion. Peace is crucial, as practically no part of the country is completely free from ethnic or religious feuds, endangering and setting most of the people against themselves.
Nigerians have to shun divisive comments and embrace stability for the country’s progress. We must jettison violence and conflict for dialogue and harmony. The Peace Day is a reminder to governments at all levels to put more efforts into battling insecurity and creating enabling environments through good governance for socio-economic growth, economic opportunities and poverty alleviation. This will ensure a lasting cordiality and peaceful cohabitation among all tribes in the country.

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