Flooding And Environmental Sustainability
Last week, on the 27th of May, 2021, the people of Rivers State celebrated the 54th anniversary of the creation of Rivers State. The state has achieved so much in terms of infrastructure and human capital development. It has achieved good governance and not so much good governance in some dispensations. The present dispensation has given the people more hope to celebrate the dividends of statehood.
However, the common failure of many societies across the globe is the failure to conquer their environment as God commanded. What we see is the ravaging of the environment which has made it more vulnerable to environmental disasters, which include flooding and desertification. Rivers State has 60 percent of its 10,500 square miles and beyond covered by water, and large areas of mangrove and rainforest. Its flora and fauna are of enormous natural resources. The struggle to sustain this God-given environment has been a great task.
The Niger Delta environment has endemic challenges which require scientific and deliberate consciousness of the inhabitants to mitigate. It also requires immediate solutions as the people in the region who are ravaged by flooding cannot wait for medium and long term plans to mature. There is the need to start from what can be dealt with immediately to provide shelter to the people, what can give the people safe home, on dry lands in the face of drowning floods. Enough consciousness has been created to the world at large by the United Nations.
On the 5th day of December, 1972, the United Nations General Assembly through Resolution 2997 in Stockholm, Sweden created the World Environment Day celebration to sensitise all member-nations on the need to ensure environmental safety and sustainability. The environment is the only human habitation known to man. This will remain the case until the superpowers find another solar system habitable.
The UN also has an agency set aside for the monitoring and control of the global environment. The Agency has its full presence in Rivers State. We are aware of the advocacies and direct involvement in Ogoni clean-up.
The problem with environmental sustainability has been the refusal of man to act and act wisely. The people have refused to learn that natural disasters do not consider such ineptitudes as bad environmental habits and lack of conscious disposition to the right relationship between man and his environment which should be that of mutual respect. God in the book of Genesis is reported to have given a Garden to man.
Man unfortunately has turned the Garden into deserts and flood plains. Every nation, including Nigeria, has domesticated all UN regulations by setting up their own agencies to manage and control the environment to make it safe. In Nigeria, all the relevant statutory Agencies on Environment have not been able to provide solutions to natural disasters and environmental degradation. NIMET, an Agency of the Federal Government, has been giving flood alerts since its inception. One thing is to make scientific and precise predictions, another thing is for the relevant institutions, the people concerned and governments at different levels to take the necessary precautions and provide mitigating measures.
In 2012, Nigeria witnessed the worst flood disaster in recent memory. There was a NIMET flood alert, but thousands of people lost lives and homes and property were swept away into Rivers Niger and Benue, in impacted parts of the country. The Niger Delta and Rivers State in particular had its ugly share of the disaster that is better forgotten. But how can one forget such a bitter experience that drowned and swept away the homes and hopes of many in the Orashi region of Ahoada East, Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni and Abua /Odual Local Government Areas of Rivers State, as well as Asari-Toru, Degema, Obio/Akpor and Port Harcourt Local Government Areas. These LGAs are still vulnerable. About 16 LGAs are exposed to this danger in 2021. The 2021 Nigeria Meteorological Agency (NIMET) prediction for 2021 is no less frightening
Like the previous ones, the predictions with the basic highlight of flood and dry spell, fingered states like Benue, Bauchi, Anambra, Adamawa, Bayelsa, Rivers as areas that will experience flash flood. Many states in the North East and North West, according to the prediction, will suffer from Dry Spell which will last up to three weeks or more. The Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, made these declarations while releasing the 2021 Seasonal Climate Prediction at the instance of NIMET in February.
Indeed, February is very early enough to remind all states affected and the Federal Government as well as Local Government Councils to take necessary mitigation measures to reduce effect of the disaster. One interesting thing about meteorological predictions is that they can come early, yet everyone including the impacted communities behave as if all is well. They refuse to heed the call to proceed to higher and safe lands, hoping that the “joke” won’t last forever. The immediate impacted communities are usually adamant to move away from their ancestral homes to safe places. Local Government councils have failed to provide proactive measures to move their people to safety. Flooding is a serious natural disaster that requires a synergy of all stakeholders and government to address, from C.D.C to Federal Government.
Now that we are yet to enter the rainy season, this is the time to begin to work with the relevant agencies to ensure that the damage caused by the previous flood will not repeat itself. Those who are directly impacted must begin to take measures that will reduce their sufferings by moving away from the flash points, no matter what it will cost them. The usual drama of fish and crocodiles swimming in the homes of victims and competing with families and furniture must be avoided. It is advised that previous measures that failed in the past to mitigate flooding should not be repeated. Those concerned must seek new ways of protecting their environments. Land speculators and those seeking accommodation must look for warning signs and avoid flood plains.
Environmental sustainability requires every step to be taken, from the way we generate and dispose our refuse, to policy thrusts. Things must be done in a manner that will not pose any form of danger to human habitation. All forms of disilting of drains and dredging of water channels should be done now before the heavens begin to open for floods. Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpo have many water channels and creeks but many of them have been taken over by land speculators and land lords for cash nexus.
This has been a major source of flooding in the city and other parts of the state where we have perennial flooding. It has therefore become expedient for the authorities to go into action by bulldozing these water rights of way. It takes a strong political will found in the present administration to achieve this. Greed must not be allowed to take prominence over the people’s safety. Flooding in the 16 local government areas listed should not be allowed to become an intractable phenomenon.
By: Bon Woke
Skill Gap And Nation Building
A recent exposition by the Executive Director of National Board of Technical Education in Nigeria Professor Bitrus Bagagi on skill Gap in all se3ctors of the economy is revealing.
The issue of skill gap is traceable to the yawning gap in our educational system between paper qualification and capacity development in skills that are relevant to industry and general services in Nigeria.
According to professor Bitrus Bagegi in every five university graduates, there should be five technologists and in every five technologist there should be five technicians.
However, this reality has eluded Nigeria because of poor educational planning and implementation.
Nigerian educational system is still suffering from the hangover of British colonial Educational system which emphasised two basic skills of Literacy and Numeracy.
The colonial masters brought this skill regime to provide the needed manpower for their colonial administration. They wanted interpreters, court clerks, Clergy and security personnel to run their administration. These skills served their purpose of that time and the early days of our independence. However it does appear as if curriculum developers in the Nigeria Educational System are still struggling to get away with this philosophy of immediate and non- sustainable manpower needs.
When the six-three-three-four system of education in Nigeria was introduced, there was a strong vocational component to remove the system from this colonial need.
Old habits they say are difficult to die. Efforts at building vocational education centres to remove the skill gap at the lower rungs of technological development did not seem to make deep and sustainable impact in bridging skill gaps. Polytechnic Education also was created to grow middle level manpower to groom technologists that will provide industrial revolution. Sadly, polytechnics created none technological
Departments to satisfy other needs which universities and Colleges of Education should address. The Universities of Technology became the vogue in the nineteen . eighties with the establishment of Rivers State University of Science Technology in Port Harcourt. The Federal Government of Nigeria glorified it by establishing several Universities of Technology to enthrone a technological revolution. The idea in all these is to have a large army of Artisans, Technicians, Technologists and Certified Engineers.
Education Departments created vocational Department to produce teachers of these skills in technical colleges and vocational centers. Have these efforts made any sustainable and effective impact in addressing skills gap at all levels of technological enterprises.
It is sad to note that the current railway development project in Nigeria has exposed serious skill gap among the I Nigerian work force. Records indicate that five thousand welders are needed in the current construction of Rail tracks and maintenance in Nigeria but the numbers that were documented were only in their hundreds.
This is just a tip of the ice bag in the gap that exists in skill acquisition in the Nigeria conomy. Citizens of Togo and other West African Countries cross the border to Nigeria to do simple jobs of pipe fitters, plumbers and other building craftsmen.
In a country of over 180 million people, it is difficult to find good craftsmen to do simple electrical wiring in a house and good automobile craftsmen are hard to find.
Most times we find half baked technicians who end up creating more problems. Poor electrical wiring installations have often led to fire out breaks and electrocution. Car engines are easily damaged these days because of Incompetent Auto mechanics.
The problem emanates from poor training culture and get rich quick mentality. Some of these skills which are picked on the road sides can be better managed in well structured vocational training centers with the right curriculum and philosophy.
According to C. S. Lewis “Education without value is useful only to make man a more clever devil”.
Have we asked ourselves why buildings are collapsing? Lack of adequate skill is responsible. The Nigeria Polytechnics and Engineering as well as Environmental science Departments have produced more quacks than men and women with requisite skills, the rest are paper tigers. This is why there is serious reliance on
foreign skill holders in almost all the high tech enterprises in Nigeria.
Competent and well groomed craftsmen, technicians, technologies are very few.
Many quacks roam the streets with their tools of incompetence. Sadly, it is not their fault; it is a problem that starts from a flawed educational Environment. Nigeria is a
; mono cultural economy that relies so much on oil but possesses little skill value in the industry.
Foreign investors still control the bulk of man power needs. The hope lies in restructuring our educational system to produce balanced skill driven system. We must get rid of producing graduates with skills and craftsmen who are empty in capacity.
By: Bon Woke
Checking Illegal Oil Refining
Lately, the rate at which fire incidents resulting from illegal oil refining, popularly known “kpo fire” refining, are being reported is alarming. The fire incidents have led to several deaths and destruction of properties worth millions of naira.
It is worrisome that the sad event occurs almost on a daily basis. No week passes without a case of kpo fire explosion being mentioned in the society. These days, it is not only in the rural areas of the creeks, it is also happening in the urban areas that are heavily populated, due to storage of either kpo fire kerosene or petrol.
Despite heavy security checks and monitoring of those involved in the act of producing adulterated petroleum products, the menace has continued unabated. The rate of loss of lives and properties due to activities of illegal refineries has continued to increase despite all the surveillance mounted in various communities by community heads, community development committees (CDCs) and local vigilante groups whose responsibility is to safeguard oil installations in their domain.
Kpo fire or illegal refining does not just occur but is carried out by humans through illegal tampering of the oil pipelines by fraudsters. It is high time we looked into it by getting the relevant authorities to create more awareness. Government at all levels and all relevant agencies involved in crude oil production and refining should, as a matter of urgency, do something as it has caused a lot of harm in most communities.
About two months ago, it was reported that residents were concerned about the activities of illegal oil refineries which led to three separate fire outbreaks in different communities in a local government area. After a fire incident that occurred in Elele community, they were worried about the activities of artisanal crude oil refinery.
As the dry season approaches, it calls for concern because a little spark can lead to serious fire outbreak. Any lives lost can never be recovered. It was alleged that a case of fire outbreak that occurred at Omerelu and led to the death of a man was as a result of kpo fire. Residents of that area also alleged that those involved in the act convey the products in the open without fear of apprehension.
Those involved should be fished out because they are humans and are visible. A situation where such illegal business will be going on within a neighbourhood, while residents keep quiet calls for concern. Even when some of the residents are aware of the activities, they are afraid of victimisation at the end of the day.
Recently, it was also reported that a motorcycle carrying illegally refined products fell and spilled its content in Ubima community. That led to the razing of some buildings and properties worth millions of naira were lost to the inferno.
Eyewitness account revealed how in Omerelu community, a fire incident was recorded when a bus carrying adulterated petroleum products ran into a truck while trying to avoid security checks. It was also gathered that three occupants of the bus lost their lives to the fire and properties were also destroyed.
One problem associated with fire incidents in the rural areas is that of contacting Fire Service operators who are usually stationed in the city. One thing is to put a call across and another is the distance which may take a long time before arrival.
About a month ago, there was fire incident around Chokocho village in Etche Local Government Area. Although Fire Service from Mile 1 in Port Harcourt was contacted and they responded but properties worth millions of naira were already destroyed before their arrival. Their effort deserves commendation, though.
We are aware of the far distance between Isaac Boro Park Flyover in Port Harcourt and Chokocho. One amazing thing about that incident was that so many people in that neighborhood never knew what happened and even those who knew could not speak out.
It was also gathered that the fire outbreak was traceable to the activities of illegal oil refinery. The artisanal refinery was said to be owned and operated by a yet-to-be identified man who fled the area before the surveillance group got information about him. In fact, the man was accused of being behind the Chokocho incident. The head of task force on illegal bunkering activities who made inquiries about it discovered that the suspect left the area with his family before their arrival.
The issue of artisanal refinery has been on the increase in this part of the country and it is important that people are aware of the activities going on in their neighborhood as that will check the excesses of those who indulge in it. People should be able to identify their neighbours with their occupations.
Imagine a situation where security agents were not aware of such incidents until the members of the illegal bunkering taskforce got informed. There are speculations that law enforcement agents are involved and assisting perpetrators in indulging. It is high time the police defended themselves so that all eyes will not be on them. Lately, the Police had been doing great jobs. In fact, their relationship with the citizenry has been very cordial and anything that will tarnish the image of the Force should be avoided.
At the end of investigation, anyone found guilty of the offence should be arrested and prosecuted to serve as deterrent to others. This is because the harm resulting from illegal oil refinery and kpo fire is alarming. Sometimes, it is either adulterated petrol or kerosene stored in the houses that go up in flames when it comes in contact with fire. Petrol as inflammatory substance is supposed to be deposited at the petrol filling stations and not in the houses.
It is common these days to see heavy and thick smoke resulting from kpo fire around creeks in the environment. The smoke, experts say is dangerous to human health. How long will ‘yet-to-be-identified persons’ continue to perpetrate evil in the society?
Some persons have argued that it is better to gather all the people doing the illegal refining since they have become local petroleum engineers. Then the government should set up refinery and sell the crude to them to refine legally without doing kpo fire that is harming the environment. At the end of the day, they distribute to their customers in a better and legal manner. I think that is a welcome development as it will save the society from the menace.
The issue of illegal refining or kpo fire should be looked into by governments and oil producing companies in Nigeria. Surveillance by both host communities where oil installations are sited and security agencies should be intensified so as to apprehend those whose stock-in-trade is to vandalise pipelines and cause loss of lives and properties.
Local Government chairmen and their councillors should ensure that those found in the act are punished according to the law. Community heads should communicate with the rural dwellers and more awareness created on the dangers of oil bunkering.
By: Eunice Choko-Kayode
Violence Against Women And Girls
It is important to recall that when God created Adam, he needed to make creation complete by creating Eve. He thus sowed the seed for procreation and for the population of human society. It became, obvious that no human society can be complete without the presence of male and female homosapien. God made all creatures male and female. This was intended to achieve harmony. Unfortunately, peace and harmony have eluded the human society because of violence. Violence has been explained as strength of emotion or of a destructive natural force.
More apt is the definition of violence as behaviour involving physical force intended to hurt, damage or kill someone. Precisely, violence is about human behaviour which relates to emotional and physical force intended to hurt. The International Day for the elimination of violence against women was celebrated on the 25th day of November, 2021.
This global celebration is a wakeup call on the world population to remind them of the danger of gender based violence. In this case, women and the girl children are the victims of this absurdity. Indeed, any harm done to women and the girl children is harm against humanity. This fragile specie of the human society deserves to be protected because of their roles as mothers. Mothers nurture the present and the future of any society. It is therefore a thing of great global interest that the U. N. Body set aside 16 days of activism as part of this celebration to dig deep into the importance of protecting women and Girl children against all forms of abuse.
Records indicate that one out of three women has been abused at one time or the other. Indeed, 35 percent of women worldwide have been abused with respect to rape. The theme of this year’s celebration is Orange The World: End Violence Against Women Now!”
Orange in this concept is explained as a colour that represents a brighter future, free of violence against women and girl children.
Women and gender activists around the globe have remained awake and vociferous to raise the awareness that women around the world are objects of rape, domestic violence and other forms of gender based violence. Rape in particular is the most prevalent violent injury inflicted on women globally in India, UK, South Africa, Nigeria and the United States. In the United States, reports indicate that one out of six Americans has been raped or has been a victim of attempted rape.
“Rape is an unlawful act which involves sexual intercourse carried out by force and under threat of injury against a person’s will”. Research evidence across the globe indicates that reporting rape cases is a herculean task because many victims choose not to report as a result of the embarrassment associated with it and most importantly because of fear of reprisals.
Victims are most often threatened with serious repercussions if they reveal the encounter and the perpetrators of the act. Parents and adults, keep mute when their girl child is raped because of prejudices and attendant stigmatisation that may trail the victims. The conspiracy of silence is the greatest bane of the unfortunate pain the girl child suffers.
Defilement of underage girl child is the most unfortunate and demonic aspect of gender abuse. There are rampant reports about the adults and aged males forcing their genitals into the sex passage of infants. This absurdity further debases the human society and brings to question the moral authority of some persons who address themselves as fathers. Innocent children are victims of their depravity that sometimes have ritualistic intentions.
According to the Minister of Women Affairs in Nigeria, Mrs. Paulen Tallen, 30 percent of women and girls have experienced one form of sexual abuse or the otherin Nigeria. Women and girls between the ages of 14 and 49 years, experience different forms of sexual abuse.
Research reveals that 28 percent of Nigerians aged between 25 and 29 years of age have experienced physical violence since the age of 15 or below. Most of these revelations come up when the victims are liberated and free to speak out. Also 44 precent of divorced, separated or widowed persons have reported experiencing violence since early teens.
The case of married women in Nigeria and domestic violence is replete with tales of horror, pain and penury. 25 percent of married women experience violence which comes in different forms of abuses. Sadly, many married women die in silence struggling to keep their marriage because of societal stigma. Some swallow the abuses and pain for the sake of their children. In all, the girl children and women suffer sexual harassment, physical violence, harmful traditional practices, emotional and psychological violence.
The girl childen and women need to be rescued from this hell. They need sustained Advocacy and empowerment. The women need to be protected by the law through consistent and purposeful prosecutions of perpetrators of violence. Let parents speak out and let the girl children be taught to speak out too.
The female gender needs to be protected and given the confidence to shield themselves against sexual violence. The society, parents, law enforcement agencies, N. G. Os and the judiciary should rally forces together to protect the mothers of today and the future.
By: Bon Woke
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