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Editorial

Sustaining Focus On AIDS

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Last Wednesday, December 1, 2021, was World AIDS Day (WAD). It is a day reserved each year to draw attention to the impact of the dreaded disease and the efforts made to contain it. The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a virus that breaks down the immune system that helps the body fight infections.
Without treatment, an HIV-infected person is likely to develop a serious illness known as Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). At this point, the immune system is too weak to combat further diseases and infections. If not treated, life expectancy with AIDS is approximately three years. However, with antiretroviral treatment, HIV can be well controlled and life expectancy almost equal to that of a person who has not contracted it.
On WAD, everyone unites to show support for people living with the virus, remember those who have died from AIDS-related illnesses, and inform people that HIV is still very much living among us. The theme of the WAD 2021 is “End Inequalities, End AIDS” which aims to confront the inequalities that drive AIDS and to reach people who are currently not receiving essential HIV services.
Inequalities that stand in the way of progress in the AIDS response arise when HIV interacts with complex fault lines between social, economic, legal and health systems. They are often compounded by laws and policies and result in unequal results for HIV, discriminatory and oppressive practices, and violence. There is a pressing need to end economic, social, cultural and legal inequalities if we are to end AIDS by 2030.
Many inequalities that have facilitated the AIDS pandemic are worsening and continue to promote the spread of HIV in many parts of the world, without excluding Nigeria. Sexual and gender-based violence which many nations are unable to end, continue to be major drivers of the AIDS epidemic, with immediate and long-term consequences for individuals, families, communities and societies.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), since the first case of HIV was recorded in Congo in the 1920s, it has claimed over 36.3 million lives across the world while about 37.7 million are still living with the disease as it continues to be a major global public health challenge.
A recent report from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) found that a child became infected with HIV every two minutes in 2020. The report also indicates that at least 300,000 children were newly infected with HIV in 2020, while an additional 120,000 died of AIDS-related causes over the same period.
Sadly, in 2019, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) ranked Nigeria as the third most burdened country in the world for HIV infection. More than 1.9 million Nigerians are currently infected with the virus in all parts of the country. The UN agency has also revealed that HIV and AIDS are far more prevalent among prisoners and high-risk drug users, particularly people who inject drugs (PWIDs).
Lack of access to antiretroviral therapy, in addition to limited prevention efforts, is one of the leading causes of death for HIV-positive patients. It is gratifying to note that the director-general, National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA) in Nigeria,  Aliyu Gambo, said the agency had recorded more success in the last three years than it had ever achieved in nearly two decades and was optimistic that the virus would be controlled in the next 18 months.
Unfortunately, stigmatisation remains a challenge in the fight against the disease. Nigerians must be aware that this disease is not a death sentence. In light of the above, we call on governments at all levels to step up information and public education on the dangers of HIV/AIDS. State and rural health centres should be given free HIV drugs.
NACA should be adequately funded to carry out its mandate to enable it to fund research efforts on HIV/AIDS. We reiterate that the Covid-19 pandemic has also affected the global response and collaborative effort to stem the spread of HIV. Religious leaders have a major role to play in stopping the disease because abstinence is a major factor in reducing the prevalence of the disease in the country.
Along with federal authorities, the River State Government has made significant progress in addressing the pandemic. This has greatly helped to reduce the prevalence rate of the disease in the state. The state Deputy Governor,  Dr Ipalibo Harry-Banigo, corroborated this in a goodwill message to mark the WAD.
Banigo urged HIV/AIDS victims to avail themselves of the free services in all 23 LGAs of the state and revealed that the AIDS control programme had achieved 96% viral suppression for people currently on treatment. She also said the decision by Governor Nyesom Wike to abolish user fees for PLWAs had provided relief to those infected and affected.
States need to pay greater attention to contributing to the HIV response. The Federal Government should make funds available to state agencies for the coordination and monitoring of the HIV/AIDS response. We have not made significant progress in this regard, and it is an issue that the country must focus on over the next year, as states are important to ending the threat.
To curb the disease in Nigeria, every Nigerian should know their HIV status. While those who have tested and proved negative should be thought how to maintain that position for the rest of their lives, Nigerians with the virus have to prevent it from multiplying in order not to put others at risk. Periodic testing is key as it will progressively eliminate the virus.
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Editorial

Democracy, Losing Its Relevance 

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Twenty five years of democracy in our country have unfortunately brought about a culture of insecurity due to various factors such as ethno-religious bigotry, power imbalances, institutional collapse, corruption, and economic decline. Despite the historic June 12, 1993 presidential election being hailed as the freest and fairest, the promises of hope and progress have not been fully realised. This raises the question of the necessity for Democracy Day and democracy in general.
Given the current challenging circumstances, Nigeria needs to build on its past successes and strive towards becoming a leading democratic nation. There is no time to waste, as the Human Development Index shows real room for improvement. The state of petroleum refining, which serves as the country’s main economic foundation, has declined rapidly and requires immediate action. Additionally, the unprecedented depreciation of the national currency must be addressed.
The escalation of corruption within the nation is a pressing issue that continues to worsen, especially with the blatant looting of state funds by politicians. The actions of various administrations have shown autocratic and draconian tendencies, often displaying a lack of accountability and respect for the rule of law. The authorities must address this growing problem and hold those responsible accountable for their actions.
Nepotism and cronyism have become widespread, with individuals using their influence to secure competitive political positions for their family members. This practice goes against democratic principles and undermines the merit-based system. Additionally, there has been a rise in industrial actions, such as strikes initiated by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), which further disrupt the democratic process.
It is time for Nigerians to shift their focus from lamenting to taking action towards progress. Nigeria is a country rich in potential and resources, and it is unacceptable for us to continue to be held back by the current state of affairs. Rather than dwelling on past mistakes, we must come together to reflect on our challenges and take decisive steps towards rebuilding a better future.
Furthermore, it is essential to understand the importance of June 12 in relation to leadership and utilise these lessons to accomplish our goals. One key takeaway is the role of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in ensuring fair and unbiased elections. INEC must view this responsibility as both a duty to the nation and a moral imperative.
Another valuable takeaway is that politicians must view their political positions as a service to the nation rather than a means for their advancement. It is critical for political participation to be approached with ethical and moral principles at the forefront, as it holds essential societal value.
June 12 serves as a reminder of the vital role leadership plays in making tough decisions that may not always align with personal beliefs. It highlights the need for courage and the ability to prioritise the greater good over personal interests. This lesson is particularly relevant for Nigeria’s current government and its officials, who must engage with the public and make decisions that benefit the country.
The lessons of June 12 are a reminder for all Nigerians, especially lawmakers, who have the duty to protect democracy. Unfortunately, there has been a departure from the core principles of democracy in Nigeria, with disrespect for the rule of law and judicial processes, blatant impunity, and a disregard for human rights and dignity. We must reflect on these lessons and work towards upholding democracy and the values it stands for.
Political leaders and public service managers have to provide the necessary tools for our lawmakers to rejuvenate democratic practices. Legislators need to be intellectually, emotionally, psychologically, and physically prepared to succeed. They should demonstrate a strong understanding of democratic principles and values, a willingness to engage with constituents, and an openness to different perspectives to advance democracy.
We cannot overstate the importance of June 12, as it reveals the link between Nigeria’s present social, economic, and political challenges and the corrupt ruling class, as well as the indifferent middle class. As we commemorate Democracy Day today, we must empower ourselves to not only recognise but also utilise our power to decide and mold our future.
Nigerians should ensure that political aspirants go through genuine democratic processes to exercise their freedom. Citizens must be educated on their civic responsibility and mentor youths towards social engagement. The people should also hold local government administrators accountable for the purpose of implementing result-driven policies.
All must adopt an active role in government at all levels. Community leaders and young people can collaborate to organise peaceful protests, petitions, and marches when infrastructure is not up to par. Obtaining a voter card and participating in elections is required to prevent corrupt political figures from forcing unqualified candidates into office.
Civil society played a vital role in the struggle for rights during the military dictatorship, and their achievements should inspire us today. It is essential for the current generation to take up the mantle and strive for justice and equality. The media must act as a watchdog against tyranny and protect the public interest.
Youth are often the most let down group in society, and it is time to act. The #EndSARS protests demonstrated the determination, articulateness, and composure of young activists. Quitting is not an alternative – they must step up and take charge. They should draw inspiration from the courageous youth in South Korea, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, who continued their fight despite facing harsh repression from their governments.
There is a need for Nigerians to assert their rights and sovereignty through all legal means possible. Neglecting to do so will lead to a deterioration of the current situation and the eventual downfall of the state. We must uphold the ideals of June 12 as a representation of our democratic hopes and utilise it as a unifying factor for genuine national unity.

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Editorial

Fubara’s Scorecard: So Far, So Good 

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One of the primary issues that the federal and state governments have been facing recently is the increasing cost of living, mainly caused by the depreciation of the naira. This has resulted in financial difficulties for many Nigerians, leading to demands for the leaders to seek out new sources of revenue apart from oil. They need to be creative and adopt tactics that can enhance their revenue sources and ease the financial strain on their people.
However, the past year in Rivers State had been a whirlwind of events, with the government working diligently to bring happiness to the people. Governor Siminalayi Joseph Fubara has addressed numerous challenges despite the ongoing political crisis that presents a huge obstacle for the administration. This situation is worrisome and has the potential to shift any leader’s focus away from their goal of serving the people, no matter how well-intentioned.
Fubara believes that development is not just a matter of chance, but a conscious effort to address the needs of the people. Over the past year, he has initiated numerous development projects with the goal of enhancing the quality of life for residents. Since taking office on May 29, 2023, he has been proactive in realising his vision for the state. He is ensuring that his plans are carried out efficiently by appointing capable individuals to key positions.
His determination to bring his vision to life was clear when he presented a bill to the Rivers State House of Assembly for approval of his legacy project – the Port Harcourt Ring Road. The 50.15 km dual carriageway project, estimated to cost N200 billion, aims to connect six local government areas in the state. It will feature six flyovers, a river crossing bridge, and 19 rotary intersections and roundabouts, with the goal of fostering the development of new cities and easing traffic congestion in Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor Local Government Areas.
To celebrate his first year in office, the Rivers State Government set aside 20 days for a series of activities. The Governor inaugurated and launched 10 projects in various local government areas as part of the festivities. The event kicked off on May 14th with the inauguration of the Ebubu-Eteo (old Bori) Road, providing an alternative route to the Eleme axis of the East-West Road.
Several projects have been officially launched in Rivers State, including the Elele–Omoku Road, Emohua–Kalabari (Tema Junction) Road, Okania–Ogbogoro Road, and Trans-Kalabari Road Phase II. Projects that have been commissioned include the Ogoni–Andoni–Opobo Unity Road (Andoni Section), Egbeda internal roads, Phase I of the Port Harcourt Electrical Village and the flag-off of its Phase II, as well as the dualised Omoku–Egbema Road. These projects are focused on enhancing infrastructure and connectivity in the state, offering improved transportation options for residents and driving economic development.
An economic summit was organised in the state to boost internal revenue, attract investors, and create employment opportunities for the youth. Beyond improving infrastructure, there is a focus on revitalising the civil service, and hiring 10,000 new employees. The government has allocated N4 billion to support businesses in the nano sector and small and medium enterprises, providing funding ranging from N400,000 to N10 million each. This initiative is being carried out through the Rivers State Micro Finance Agency and Nigeria’s Bank of Industry for technical support.
Another vital achievement that sets His Excellency Fubara apart is the astronomical increase in the monthly Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of the state since May 29, 2023. The administration has successfully raised the IGR from N12 billion to N27 billion monthly, representing an increase of over 100 per cent. This impressive growth trajectory suggests that the annual IGR is on track to reach N324 billion.
Before His Excellency, Sir Fubara, assumed office as governor in May 2023, the annual IGR of Rivers State in 2022 was N172.8 billion, with an average monthly IGR of N14.4 billion, as reported by Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). In 2021, the state’s annual IGR was N123.3 billion, averaging N10.3 billion per month. The IGR was N117.2 billion in 2020 and N169.6 billion in 2019.
Notwithstanding the numerous challenges, the Governor has made considerable progress in education by implementing innovative measures in schools and providing a new convocation arena for the University of Port Harcourt. He has also shown commitment to the welfare of the people by providing free buses to offset the effects of fuel subsidy removal.
Local government employees have received their promotions, minimum wage, and wage bonuses. Fubara’s timely visit to the state secretariat complex underscores his dedication to public service as a crucial element in government operations. The complex, currently undergoing renovations, now boasts functional elevators, lighting, and water supply. Despite the huge debts left by the last administration, the Governor has assured that he would complete all projects that benefit the people, which were initiated by previous administrations.
The accomplishments achieved by the present government in just one year of rule are unparalleled. The rapid progress in infrastructure development within such a short period is a clear indication of his capability, despite various attempts to derail his efforts. Fubara recently informed Rivers people that true governance only commenced three months ago, when he decided to confront his predecessor’s challenges head-on.
Undoubtedly, the Governor’s leadership embodies qualities such as patience, wisdom and a commitment to peace, essential for conflict resolution and unity in Rivers. Under his guidance, there is hope for a future, marked by progress and prosperity, devoid of discord and division. As we mark this critical milestone, we implore all to prioritise peace, forgiveness and inclusiveness.

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Editorial

Fubara’s Scorecard: So Far, So Good 

Published

on

One of the primary issues that the federal and state governments have been facing recently is the increasing cost of living, mainly caused by the depreciation of the naira. This has resulted in financial difficulties for many Nigerians, leading to demands for the leaders to seek out new sources of revenue apart from oil. They need to be creative and adopt tactics that can enhance their revenue sources and ease the financial strain on their people.
However, the past year in Rivers State had been a whirlwind of events, with the government working diligently to bring happiness to the people. Governor Siminalayi Joseph Fubara has addressed numerous challenges despite the ongoing political crisis that presents a huge obstacle for the administration. This situation is worrisome and has the potential to shift any leader’s focus away from their goal of serving the people, no matter how well-intentioned.
Fubara believes that development is not just a matter of chance, but a conscious effort to address the needs of the people. Over the past year, he has initiated numerous development projects with the goal of enhancing the quality of life for residents. Since taking office on May 29, 2023, he has been proactive in realising his vision for the state. He is ensuring that his plans are carried out efficiently by appointing capable individuals to key positions.
His determination to bring his vision to life was clear when he presented a bill to the Rivers State House of Assembly for approval of his legacy project – the Port Harcourt Ring Road. The 50.15 km dual carriageway project, estimated to cost N200 billion, aims to connect six local government areas in the state. It will feature six flyovers, a river crossing bridge, and 19 rotary intersections and roundabouts, with the goal of fostering the development of new cities and easing traffic congestion in Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor Local Government Areas.
To celebrate his first year in office, the Rivers State Government set aside 20 days for a series of activities. The Governor inaugurated and launched 10 projects in various local government areas as part of the festivities. The event kicked off on May 14th with the inauguration of the Ebubu-Eteo (old Bori) Road, providing an alternative route to the Eleme axis of the East-West Road.
Several projects have been officially launched in Rivers State, including the Elele–Omoku Road, Emohua–Kalabari (Tema Junction) Road, Okania–Ogbogoro Road, and Trans-Kalabari Road Phase II. Projects that have been commissioned include the Ogoni–Andoni–Opobo Unity Road (Andoni Section), Egbeda internal roads, Phase I of the Port Harcourt Electrical Village and the flag-off of its Phase II, as well as the dualised Omoku–Egbema Road. These projects are focused on enhancing infrastructure and connectivity in the state, offering improved transportation options for residents and driving economic development.
An economic summit was organised in the state to boost internal revenue, attract investors, and create employment opportunities for the youth. Beyond improving infrastructure, there is a focus on revitalising the civil service, and hiring 10,000 new employees. The government has allocated N4 billion to support businesses in the nano sector and small and medium enterprises, providing funding ranging from N400,000 to N10 million each. This initiative is being carried out through the Rivers State Micro Finance Agency and Nigeria’s Bank of Industry for technical support.
Another vital achievement that sets His Excellency Fubara apart is the astronomical increase in the monthly Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of the state since May 29, 2023. The administration has successfully raised the IGR from N12 billion to N27 billion monthly, representing an increase of over 100 per cent. This impressive growth trajectory suggests that the annual IGR is on track to reach N324 billion.
Before His Excellency, Sir Fubara, assumed office as governor in May 2023, the annual IGR of Rivers State in 2022 was N172.8 billion, with an average monthly IGR of N14.4 billion, as reported by Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). In 2021, the state’s annual IGR was N123.3 billion, averaging N10.3 billion per month. The IGR was N117.2 billion in 2020 and N169.6 billion in 2019.
Notwithstanding the numerous challenges, the Governor has made considerable progress in education by implementing innovative measures in schools and providing a new convocation arena for the University of Port Harcourt. He has also shown commitment to the welfare of the people by providing free buses to offset the effects of fuel subsidy removal.
Local government employees have received their promotions, minimum wage, and wage bonuses. Fubara’s timely visit to the state secretariat complex underscores his dedication to public service as a crucial element in government operations. The complex, currently undergoing renovations, now boasts functional elevators, lighting, and water supply. Despite the huge debts left by the last administration, the Governor has assured that he would complete all projects that benefit the people, which were initiated by previous administrations.
The accomplishments achieved by the present government in just one year of rule are unparalleled. The rapid progress in infrastructure development within such a short period is a clear indication of his capability, despite various attempts to derail his efforts. Fubara recently informed Rivers people that true governance only commenced three months ago, when he decided to confront his predecessor’s challenges head-on.
Undoubtedly, the Governor’s leadership embodies qualities such as patience, wisdom and a commitment to peace, essential for conflict resolution and unity in Rivers. Under his guidance, there is hope for a future, marked by progress and prosperity, devoid of discord and division. As we mark this critical milestone, we implore all to prioritise peace, forgiveness and inclusiveness.

Continue Reading

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