Insurance Cover For Nigerian Journalists
The age-long demand by right-meaning Nigerians for all journalists in the country to be provided with insurance cover to protect and bolster them to discharge their responsibilities effectively was reiterated by the President, Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE), Mr Mustapha Isah, during an interview with reporters in Abuja.
Isah indicated that such an insurance policy would motivate journalists to go the extra mile to pick up credible stories and disseminate reliable information. According to him, “insurance cover for journalists in the country was an urgency and would promote their resolve, increase performance and productivity in the media enterprise. Journalists in Nigeria are practising in a complicated and occasionally dangerous atmosphere, putting their lives on the line.”
“Some of us were infected in the process. Also, some journalists lost their lives in Kano and Abuja during the Shi’a protest. As we speak now, a reporter from Vanguard Newspaper is missing and has not been found. Journalists should have insurance cover. CNN would not take you without getting an insurance cover for you. That is why their journalists would be audacious to report even from the war front,” the NGE president declared.
Last year, the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) made an identical proposal to the Federal Government and diverse stakeholders to procure life assurance for journalists, who are on the frontline in the coverage of the Covid-19 pandemic. The union also called for the provision of sufficient and effective Personal Protection Equipment (PPEs) and palliatives to mitigate the suffering these journalists encounter daily while on their various duties.
The National President of the NUJ, Chris Isiguzo, stated: “We call on the federal and state governments to take note of the fact that journalists, like in conflict situations, are daily exposed to grave danger as a result of their professional calling. Accordingly, we call for life insurance for journalists, who are on the frontline in the coverage of the Covid-19 pandemic, provision of adequate and effective Personal Protection Equipment (PPEs) and palliatives to ease hardships they daily encounter while on their respective assignments.”
Many vocations are acknowledged to pose no actual danger to the wellbeing and contentment of their practitioners. However, the same cannot be said about journalism. Being a practising journalist is among the most precarious tasks that anybody could undertake in, not in the least because of the environment in which journalists labour.
Because journalists traverse any height to investigate and uncover facts and publish the same, some of which may be delicate and at variance with certain vested interests, they usually discover themselves in conditions that pose considerable risk and peril to their wellbeing, and indeed lives. This is besides the impediment of meeting deadlines to enter reports and stories to their media organisations.
A UNESCO report of the International Programme for Development of Communication (IPDC) titled, “Journalists’ Safety Indicators (JSI) — Related Project in Nigeria 2014 — 2015″, initiated a survey known as “Baseline Audit on State of Safety of Journalists in Nigeria” showing that “a total of 47 attacks against journalists were documented during the time; the attacks affected journalists from 22 national and foreign media channels; four of the 47 attacks were directed against female journalists”.
Reporters Without Borders in a 2012 report entitled “Daily Abuses Suffered by Nigerian Journalists” chronicled various designs and proportions of challenges encountered by journalists in the practice of their occupation, either functioning as freelancers or as employees of their media organisations. These stretch from harassment, threats, arrests, incursions, confinements, confiscation, and destruction to equipment and other assets, consisting of premises, to homicides, and civil suits for defamation and slander.
Recent developments in the national, cross-border and global polity have placed a lot of attention on the safety, sustainability, value, rights and moral status of the average journalist. Nigerian journalists put themselves through arduous, often uncharted channels to ensure that democracy has its loftiest expression. That is why we identify with the request for members of the profession to be granted insurance cover by their employers, whether government or private.
During the nationwide anti-SARS protests in October last year, journalists took notable risks to report the incident. Many of them would have been assailed or shot at while covering the riots. Such journalists could have become martyrs. What would have been the fate of their families with no insurance coverage? Members of the Fourth Estate of the Realm have the right to better treatment given that they toil very hard to keep the nation informed and endanger their lives in the process. Their ideas have boosted democracy in the country and held us united.
We request the National Assembly to pass a law that would make it imperative for all Nigerian journalists to have insurance cover. The NUJ must equally make it mandatory for all journalists to be insured. This is crucial because of the hazards linked with the occupation. Nigerian journalists are repeatedly at the fore, and it is the duty of the nation to safeguard them and their households. Therefore, insurance coverage would guarantee the future of the family of every journalist, if anything goes awry.
It is not about eulogising members of the press in the land, but if they must perform in the manner they should, there is a need to cater for them and the initial step is to provide them with insurance cover. The Fourth Estate of the Realm is profoundly significant to the socio-economic development of Nigeria. So, it is time the nation stopped fiddling with the lives of journalists.
Rivers @ 56, Still A Tough Journey
Tomorrow, the 27th of May, marks the 56th anniversary of the creation of Rivers State by the former Head of
State, General Yakubu Gowon (rtd). The creation of the state on the aforementioned date in 1967, underlined a significant and successful effort to protect and secure the interests of minorities in Nigeria. Additionally, it represented a vital challenge to the political power structures of the four regions at that time, namely the Northern, Western, Eastern, and Mid-Western regions.
The founding of 12 States was one of the most audacious and remarkable initiatives of the military regime. This resolution was indicative of Nigerians’ desire to gain enhanced autonomy and self-determination. The development reflects one of Gowon’s most deeply held intentions for his initiative. This was to ameliorate the often-expressed fear of regional hegemony of the South by the North in the nation’s political affairs. As a result, the introduction of balance in the regional order through the creation of six Northern states and six Southern states was carefully considered.
The 12 states were North-Western State, North-Eastern State, Kano State, North-Central State, Benue-Plateau State, Kwara State, Western State, Lagos State, Mid-Western State, Rivers State, South-Eastern State, and East-Central State. However, the 12 states have since metamorphosed into 36 federated units, giving new and more fundamental relevance to Gowon’s definitive action.
Gowon’s desire to strengthen national unity and prevent more instability led him to seek support for the states’ creation exercise from an extensive cross-section of regional leaders before declaring the enacted order. In the Eastern Region, the whimper for the creation of the Calabar – Ogoja – Rivers (COR) State had risen increasingly vocal. In the North, the Middle Belt movement became a major source of dissatisfaction in the region.
The battle, agitations, and creation of Old Rivers State, now Bayelsa and Rivers, commenced in 1939 and climaxed in 1967. The state as constituted then was under the Eastern group of provinces in 1939 with administrative headquarters in Enugu. The group of provinces later became the Eastern Region of Nigeria, made up of Igbos, as the dominant ethnic nationality with other minorities comprising the region. The minorities included the Ijaw, Ibibio, Efik, Anang, Ogoja, Ikwerre, Ibani, Ekpeye, Engenni, Ogba, Kalabari, Nembe, and Ogoni, among others.
Rivers State in the Niger Delta region is unique. Popularly known as the Treasure Base of the Nation, the state’s uniqueness is not random. The abundance of human and natural resources coupled with its people’s hospitality, makes the state stand shoulder-high among its contemporaries. Gowon’s proclamation of a distinct state was, indeed, a realisation of the vision of the founding fathers. These fathers over several decades, bemoaned the marginalisation by prominent ethnic groups in the Nigerian project. This was particularly the Igbos, who cohabited the then Eastern Region with its capital in Enugu.
Starting with its first Military Governor, Navy Commander Alfred Papapriye Diete-Spiff in 1967 to the present administration of Governor Nyesom Wike, successive administrations, both military and civilian alike, have made significant contributions to making the State the enviable one it is today. From the creation of Bayelsa State in 1996 to the exponential growth in the education sector, human capital development, infrastructural revolution, health sector development, national political relevance, active participation in the global economic renaissance and bold presence on the world entertainment stage, Rivers State can indeed be said to have come of age.
Perhaps, except for the epoch of the pioneer administration, at no other time in history has the State experienced such a level of transformation of its landscape as is being realised under the present administration. From an extensive urban regeneration effort that has seen the rebuilding of state-owned assets and city roads to meet present-day needs and the building of 12 new flyovers to the vast road infrastructure being built in all parts of the State, the exiting Wike’s administration is truly working hard to realise the objectives of the State’s founding fathers.
By the efforts of the state government, Opobo and some adjoining communities have been made accessible to the state capital by road. The same fortune is being enjoyed by erstwhile disconnected people of the Kalabari Kingdom through the completion of the first phase of the Trans-Kalabari Road. By the same token, a courageous move has been initiated to create more urban centres in Rivers State. This is done through the siting of Rivers State University campuses in Etche, Ahoada and Emohua.
The political class in the State, in particular, must utilise this event of the 56th anniversary of the state’s creation to evaluate and determine to eschew bitterness, rancour and acrimony and work with the in coming administration. The struggle for Rivers State achieved the desired results because the Rivers political elite, traditional rulers and the youth of the time shared a rare and uncommon sense of oneness, purpose, selflessness and indeed drive for service to the fatherland.
That widely acclaimed Rivers’ spirit of love and commitment to selfless service has waned significantly, leaving in its stead, a threat to public peace activated by political greed, selfishness and an unguided quest for personal and sectional aggrandisement far and above love for the State. The clarion call is, therefore, for leaders at all strata to introspect and purge themselves of all tendencies that are inimical to the overall development and prosperity of the State.
We must remind ourselves, especially the political class, that it took selfless sacrifices, personal denials and unrelenting activism from foundational leaders for the State to be created. This was achieved for us in the state we now call home. All must, therefore, embrace peace, tolerance, and true brotherliness and seek civil and lawful means to address all grievances and disagreements. This is because strife, violent confrontations and aggressive engagements will only destroy the time-enduring bonds of togetherness that have bound our people for years.
The founding fathers’ relentless struggle to question the imbalance and injustice of the Nigerian Federation remains the philosophy behind the state’s creation. Their mission and vision was to ensure Rivers State’s pride of place in Nigeria. The question remains, however, whether that vision has been achieved or not. More than any other time in our history, the need to re-enact and revive the values, sentiments, philosophies, and spirit that formed the driving force of the founding fathers to victory is now.
The Tide extends its heartfelt congratulations to the esteemed government and people of Rivers State on the auspicious occasion of the 56th anniversary of the state’s creation. It is imperative that all stakeholders rally together to pursue the common goal of ensuring that the state remains a safe haven, where security, peace, prosperity, and unimpeded opportunities for happiness reign supreme for all its inhabitants and the business community.
NYSC Is 50 Today
The National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) was established in May, 1973 by General Yakubu Gowon (rtd) to promote national integration after the civil war. Today marks its 50-year anniversary, and we congratulate its administration, staff, and all Nigerians who have participated in the one-year mandatory programme for graduates of tertiary institutions. Over the past five decades, the scheme has remained committed and become a vital agency of national integration among our institutions.
The NYSC has played a crucial role in our country’s development by providing quality manpower to less privileged states. This has been achieved through various partnerships with other organisations. These partnerships include using corps members for enumeration work during the national population census. They also include presiding officers during national elections, and deployment for routine immunisation. These contributions have positively impacted the country’s development.
Also, the health sector has benefited greatly from the scheme. This has successfully reversed the spread of HIV/AIDS, Ebola, and COVID-19 through awareness campaigns and public education on prevention and care. The service has also made vital impacts in other areas such as education, legal aid services, anti-corruption efforts, road safety awareness, and campaigns against drug abuse and human trafficking.
Gowon’s administration established a quasi-military plan for Nigerian university graduates to learn about their country’s people, history, culture, and geography. The scheme was initially opened to graduates under 30 with degrees from universities, polytechnics, and colleges of education. Specifically, those with BA/BSc, HND, and NCE were mobilised. Prospective corps members were assigned to states other than their origin.
The orientation included military and citizenship training, as well as lectures on Nigerian culture. Entrepreneurship training was added later. Following the one-month orientation, participants were assigned to their primary postings based on their qualifications. Medical doctors assigned to hospitals and other health facilities, engineers to construction firms and the Ministry of Works, and teachers to schools.
Corps members were assigned to universities, polytechnics, and education colleges. University and polytechnic graduates received N200 monthly allowance, while college of education graduates received N160. However, after NCE holders expressed their grievances over the discrimination, they were no longer eligible for the scheme after the 1984/85 service year. Hence, only HND and university graduates were recruited for the mandatory one-year service.
The programme facilitated the cohabitation of Nigerian youths from varying tribes and ethnicities, effectively eradicating prejudices and stereotypes towards different regions of the country. The NYSC initiative played a part in mitigating the war aftermath and fostering national unity among Nigerians. In addition to intertwining inter-ethnic relationships, it also brought about several inter-ethnic marriages and novel friendships.
It facilitates a sense of national identity among Nigerian citizens, transcending their ethnic and religious backgrounds. Prospective corps members expressed satisfaction at being appointed to serve in any given state. They similarly demonstrated patriotism by embracing their designated primary assignment place.
However, since the NYSC has been around for 50 years, it is essential to evaluate its implementation to determine its future. As with any intervention initiative, scheme or programme, the agency’s continued existence, modification, or outright scrapping should be considered. A thorough appraisal of the NYSC’s impact, benefits, and challenges will provide insight into its effectiveness and relevance in today’s society.
It is pertinent to recognise recent obstacles that have hindered the service, diminished its attractiveness, and undermined its purpose. Only 5.7 million Nigerians have participated so far, which highlights individuals evading responsibilities in a country where many graduate from tertiary institutions yearly. Some continue to question the programme’s value, and a bill proposed two years ago to terminate the initiative passed its second reading in the House of Representatives.
While we support the NYSC ideals, we believe reform is necessary to align with current requirements. Our proposed reform focuses on security, funding, branding, content, and structure. It also focuses on major milestones in corps members’ lives such as mobilisation, orientation, primary assignments, community development, and passing out.
Management should prioritise sorting out deployment issues to assist urgent national needs. This will lead to better manpower deployment, enhanced contribution to national development, improved self-esteem of corps members, no rejecting or underutilisation, and ultimately restore the spirit of public service.
It is a fact that corps members are sometimes discriminated against in postings to states and places of primary assignment. This discrimination is often based on their tribe and religion. That must be checked. Furthermore, the remuneration of N33,000 provided to a corpes member is inadequate when converted into its US dollar equivalent. This is therefore insufficient to meet the monthly expenses of a ‘corper’. It is recommended that President Muhammadu Buhari endorse the reviewed allowance awaiting his approval before leaving office.
Fifty years after its inception, Nigerian unity has diminished. The country is now more divided than when the scheme was launched. In the 2023 general election, individuals were openly disenfranchised in some states because of their ethnic identities. Without immediate action to prevent further division, Nigeria’s political landscape will only become more divisive.
As the NYSC celebrates its 50th anniversary, it is necessary to remember corps members who have lost their lives or suffered permanent injuries during their service. Despite challenges, the programme has been a huge success in Nigeria. To address financial hurdles, the trust fund bill has been approved by both the Senate and House of Representatives. Swift endorsement of the bill will promote youth empowerment and bridge the deficit.
Upscaling National Asset Protection
The Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) convened a meeting to reinforce the policy for safeguarding Critical National Assets and Infrastructure (CNAI) within Nigeria.
The validation exercise involved key collaborators who examined the draft Critical National Assets and Infrastructure National Protection Policy and Strategy (CNAI-NPPS 2023). Speaking after the meeting, the chief host and Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, maintained that security stakeholders must ensure appropriate safeguard of Nigeria’s critical assets and infrastructure.
According to the Minister, the terminology, CNAI was vast and varied, and as such, stakeholders should deliberate on its policies. He affirmed that it was judicious to enhance the roles security agencies and collaborators played in securing the CNAI hence, the need to know how to implement strategies regulating CNAI safety.
Similarly, the National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno, lamented about the torrent of attacks on critical governmental assets across the six geopolitical zones of the country. This is even as the Commandant-General of the NSCDC, Ahmed Audi, acknowledged that the country had lost an estimated $200 billion to threats to strategic assets since 1999.
Indeed, the discoveries emitting from the CNAI meeting should be of immeasurable concern to the authorities and all Nigerians. Given the situation, there is a need to explore the role security agencies and stakeholders can play in securing the CNAI. It is essential to know what plans security operatives have in their effort to implement strategies guiding the CNAI security.
This is because the economic losses engendered by CNAI vulnerabilities are unquantifiable in monetary terms. The loss is attributed to terrorism, insurgency, banditry, militancy, vandalism, the End-SARS protest, the COVID-19 pandemic, among others. This is happening in a country with an appraised infrastructure shortfall of over $3 trillion. While Nigeria strives to traverse this gap, threats to CNAI take the nation one step forward and several steps backwards.
Nigeria’s crucial assets have come under sustained attacks in virtually every part of the country. In the North West, bandits and terrorist groups target transport infrastructure and educational institutions. They replicate this in the North East and North Central. The presence of these groups, specifically near the Kainji and Shiroro dams, somewhat imperils the region.
In the South East, attacks on infrastructure such as police stations, and security checkpoints are presumed to be carried out by members of the Eastern Security Network. In the South West, spectacular threats to critical national assets and infrastructure have emerged from armed robberies targeted at banks and financial institutions. In addition, there has been wanton annihilation of national infrastructure following public turbulence.
Militant activities stimulate attacks on resources and infrastructure in the South-South, including pipeline vandalism and oil fraud. Piracy poses yet another challenge in the Nigerian coastal territory, which straddles the zone. The menace virtually undermined the aquatic transport supply line as shipping premium insurance increased in response to piracy considerations. It is rather bolstering that the Nigerian Navy and other maritime partners have considerably hampered the hazard.
National assets are precious because, as we know, the survival and preservation of every nation and the quality of life of its citizens depend on the functionality of its critical national assets and infrastructure. Accordingly, any attack on these assets and base will alter national security. The Federal Government must supply funds for intelligence gathering equipment and gunboats for the Civil Defence Corps and other security agencies.
Contemporary concerns for public assets’ security became more prominent in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attack on the United States of America. Since that appalling assault, the United States and many other countries have taken the necessary steps to identify critical national assets and infrastructure. They have designed appropriate policies and strategies to protect them. Nigeria cannot be an exception.
United Nations Security Council Resolution 2341 places a premium on countries to prioritise strategic national assets and infrastructure. The Federal Government has to live up to this task by equipping the Nigeria Civil Defence Corps for efficient and limited physical security operations. The citizenry’s cooperation in assisting the formation in the fight against these atrocities is fundamental.
The government must take measures towards promoting the skills and competency of the NSCDC personnel by collaborating with relevant stakeholders, sister agencies, and pertinent government establishments. They must partner with international organisations to assist in training and efficiency development of the personnel, particularly in surveillance and intelligence gathering to upscale their competence and proactiveness.
Civil Defence and security personnel should implement a sequence of prompt measures to curtail the impudence and boldness exhibited by criminal elements in their illegal activities. It is imperative that they meticulously assess the nation’s public infrastructure and take action where deemed necessary to combat such abhorrent acts.
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