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Protecting Nigerian Children

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Parents of past generations would always tell you that parenting is very difficult and challenging, but there is certainly no harder time to be a parent than in this digital age.
With the entire internet at our disposal, it becomes a Herculean task for parents to raise their children the way they desire without negative influence from several quarters.
Many so-called tech experts and writers claim that children need freedom with gadgets, that devices are key to children’s success and that in this digital age, kids learn best through exposure to the latest gadgets. Parents then provide tablets, smartphones and other gadgets for their kids and that becomes a very big problem both in families and the larger society. These kids, through the internet learn all manner of unimaginable things. While some of the male children are addicted to video games, the females are crazy about increasing the number of their social media friends and are ready to do even immoral things to achieve that. The painful thing is that most parents may not have an idea about what their children do on social media.
Watching the mother of the 10-year-old girl of Chrisland School, Lagos, allegedly raped by her school mates agonisingly pleading with Nigerians to help seek justice for her daughter, I could not help but imagine the pains of the family at the present time. For a child to be involved in such a negative story is the last wish of any parent.
But much as one sympathises with the family, after listening and reading the narratives of those who watched the sex tape and many comments, the family’s side of the story seem less convincing. Some say that from the atmosphere in the room, the girl’s expressions and body movement, the act did not appear like a rape and that the girl seemed to be a guru in the act.
It will not be surprising if her parents, especially her mother, had no idea about how wild their kid may have become. Just as they may not be aware that their little daughter is said to have a prominent online presence on the Likee microblogging platform, where she posts all kinds of indecent things and has an encouraging number of followers and viewers.  One wonders if at the tender age of ten, this child knows the implication of what she is doing. Upon interrogation, it may just be found out that she probably must have seen people doing it either on the internet or at home and engages in those acts innocently.
Recently a story was told in a women’s group about how a member’s 11-year-old daughter made a pornographic video of herself and was about posting it on the internet when her mother intercepted it.  The shocked mother wanted to know what led her to such an act and she said she stumbled upon a porn site when she was using her mother’s phone to do her on-line classes during the peak of Covid-19, and had been watching it whenever she had an opportunity to grab an internet enabled gadget. She apparently did not know the implication of what she was doing. She just wanted to film herself and send online just as the ones she had been watching.
However, parents need to do more. There is a need to teach the kids self-control and how to use technology responsibly. I was impressed to watch an online speaker advising that parents should not buy phones for their children until after their secondary school. That has always been my position. Definitely, they will kick against it and tell you how all their friends and even juniors in school own android phones. But maintain your ground. Make them understand that your decision is in their best interest.
According to a child and adolescent psychologist, Richard Freed, parents can raise more responsible children despite the tech-obsessed culture of this age by applying authoritative parenting, the most effective parenting style, to your kids’ tech use. Authoritative parents, in his view, are loving and highly engaged in children’s lives, and they provide high expectations and limits to support those expectations.
He further admonished, “to be loving and engaged with our children, it is best if parents and kids have lots of time away from devices to be fully present with one another. And to provide kids high expectations and limits, parents should not try to be their children’s friend, but rather understand that they have the responsibility to set tech limits (even when kids push back) to foster distraction-free family moments, reading, and study time.
“Consider employing the rule used by many leading tech executives that children and teens do not use screens and phones in their bedrooms. This encourages kids to spend time in shared family spaces and also increases the odds that they will use computers and other devices productively.”
Indeed, parents need to create more time for their children, try as much as possible to monitor their activities, set limits and most importantly, be a good role model. A lot of parents, by their lifestyle, are leading their children astray. A lot of parents know that their children have behavioural problems, they protect them from such deviant problems and do not want schools to sanction them.
Some schools on the other hand, particularly private schools are not willing to punish some badly behaved students because they are children or relations of some highly influencial people in the country or they are afraid of losing their parents’ or guardians’ patronage.  So, they go on covering their ills and these children go on being terrors unto their fellow students.
The same attitude of covering up wrong doings could be seen in the Chrisland Schools management’s handling of the sex scandal. According to the mother of the girl involved in the scandal, the school authorities concealed the matter for over one month, did not tell either her or her husband what happened, conducted pregnancy tests on her daughter without their consent and even warned her never to tell her mum what had happened in Dubai.
The school on the other hand claimed that futile efforts were made to inform the parents about the incident. They eventually expelled the girl indefinitely while the  male students that took part in the improper behaviour were suspended. But for social media, the school might have succeeded in hushing up the case.
What many people still find difficult to understand is how a school could take these little children to a foreign land and leave them unpoliced. Where were the adults that travelled with these kids the whole period the “Truth or Dare” game that culminated in the improper behaviour took place? Were the boys and girls meant to be together? If not, how did the girl find her way into the room where the act took place?
One just hopes the Lagos Police Command, the Lagos State Government and other authorities involved in investigating the matter will do a thorough job, get to the root of it and whoever displayed any act of negligence in the case, duly punished.
We must begin to enforce the available laws and punish people who are negligent in the duty of taking care of our children – the minders, administrators, teachers, caregivers and others. Our children need to be adequately protected.
These incidents are becoming one too many – the Sylvester Oromoni of Dowen College, Lekki, Lagos State, Karen-Happuch Akpagher of Premiere Academy, Lugbe, Abuja, etc.- and they keep happening because the culprits are hardly punished. Each time these cases happened, a panel would be set up to investigate it and hardly do governments implement the recommendations of those panels. This Chrisland’s case should be different.

By: Calista Ezeaku

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Opinion

 Unemployment: Have We Lost It In Nigeria?

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Since the advent of democratic rule in 1999, one challenge that does not seem to go away in a hurry is the cross-cutting and often depressing issues of unemployment. The solar plexus of every macro economy is job creation as an instrument of poverty reduction and wealth creation. Year after year, budgets are passed and monies are appropriated, yet not much is seen in the aspect of industrialisation and employment generation. So many university graduates search for jobs eight years after they are done with national service. The rate of unemployment in Nigeria is so high that even the social cost of the menace is crippling. The lack of industrialisation and promotion of empowerment through  rejuvenation of small and medium scale enterprises, SMEs, is the reason the Buhari administration has embarked on some phoney social investment programmes such as N-power, start-up loans and school feeding programmes , which to say the least, are merely scratching the problem on the surface.
If the National Bureau of statistics put the unemployment figure at 33.3per cent, then the real figure could be much higher than 37per cent.The statistics are really bad. The National Bureau of statistics shows that 2014, 2015 to 2016, unemployment rate was 4.56per cent, 4.31per cent and 7.06per cent respectively. It was projected that in 2021, unemployment rate would hit 40per cent. For a nation eager to develop key sectors of the economy, the scourge of unemployment not only poses a serious economic threat; it also triggers security threat to the stability of the nation. Unemployment is characterised by financial hardship, poverty, reduction of family income and increase in dependency ratio.
The causes of unemployment in Nigeria are not far-fetched. Nigeria is blessed with abundant human and material resources, but successive administrations have crippled the economy by mismanaging the resources. Apart from being the poverty capital of the world, Nigeria is one of the most corrupt nations in the world. Besides, our policy makers have always adopted the wrong approach to job creation. Added to the aforementioned is the poor investment climate in the country. There is dearth of physical infrastructure, power supply,  good roads and adequate security infrastructure. Rural unemployment is mainly caused by frictional and residual factors. Most rural dwellers do not have the requisite skills and competence to manipulate economic processes.
In a country where so much of the educated population is killed, the rural folks who have no skills remain unemployed. Some people also decide to engage in occupations that can enable them sustain their households. Even when such people secure paid employments, they can voluntarily choose not to work. Seasonal unemployment occurs when people get employed during a period when certain economic activities heighten. Such people are laid off as soon as the season is over. Recently, the main cause of unemployment is the global economic crisis. This is also caused by neglect of technical and vocational education. Worse still is the neglect of agriculture which was the mainstay of Nigeria’s economy in the first two decades after independence.
During the Second Republic,  President Shehu Shagari introduced the Green Revolution Programme. Prior to that, the Obasanjo military junta initiated the Operation Feed the Nation programme in 1978. Instead of making Nigeria to move towards self-sufficiency, the country imported more food. The bane of these programmes was corruption in the executive organ of government. The programmes died without changing the narrative.Unemployment has had debilitating impact on people and the economy of the Nigeria nation. So many people who have been trained to acquire high caliber manpower are wasted.
Today, so many trained pharmacists, nurses, engineers and other para-professionals are wasted or under-employed because of lack of vacancies. No economy can grow with huge aspect of its manpower being wasted. Qualified manpower is brain-drained out of the country in search for greener pastures. The feeling of hopelessness among the unemployed youths lead to despair and triggers deviance, crimes and insecurity in most urban areas in Nigeria are yet to contend with the rising spate of urban crime and its attendant negative effects. In Nigeria today because of social insecurity, the rank and file of terrorism and insurgency is populated by youths, some of them, highly educated.
There is also the challenge of low standard of living and rural- urban migration.When a huge number of youths are unemployed, the country loses a lot of tax revenue and this hinders the development of infrastructure.In the Niger Delta Region of Nigeria, unemployment heightens militancy, oil bunkering and violence associated with those activities. Similarly, in the Sahel region, it triggers farmer/herders clashes and banditry. Nigeria must use labour-intensive technology. There is need to accelerate investment in agriculture as the sector is a major source of employment and food security. No sector of the economy can provide jobs like the agriculture sector and its value chain.
Agro-allied industries are the major employers of labour in Australia, India and Canada. Nigeria provides a good climate for agro-industrialisation and diversification. The same goes to adequate investment in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and strategically training and employing graduates in the sector. ICT is second to oil in terms of foreign exchange. Nigeria has the advantage of population to provide market for any ICT product. It has become dear that ephemeral programmes such as N-Power, school feeding programme and other social investment ventures cannot endure because they have low penetration to affect the critical mass of those who have skills but are unemployed.
Government must evolve a policy regime through the intensification of techno- vocational education to increase the capacity of the economy to absorb millions of unemployed Nigerians in the banking, ICT, agriculture, housing and construction sector and the mainstream of the bureaucracy.

By: John Idumange

Idumange is a public intellectual.

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Opinion

Jonathan Caught The Joke

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When it was speculated in some quarter that former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan would vie for presidency on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC), I considered such sentiment a mere figment of imagination. While everyone has a latitude and liberty to speculate, some of which may translate to reality, I did not need a prophet or a superior argument to convince me that former President Jonathan will never accept  any political overture or a presidential ticket, even if offered to him on a platter of gold, seamlessly and unconditionally from President Muhammadu Buhari’s All Progressives Congress (APC).
The reasons are not far-fetched: Never had any Nigerian president or head of state, living or dead, suffered sarcastic and ignoble criticism from the opposition as the ebullient and peacemaker, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. The criticism was so disparaging that even kinsmen and those who meant well for him preferred he should relinquish power to the blood thirsty and desperate “monkeys and bamboons” who were poised to wrest power inordinately. Unprintable comments were made about him and cartoons depicting a “dead” and ineffective government littered most western print media.
By his political antecedents, it is pertinent to state without fear of contradiction, that Dr. Jonathan could not be so desperate to forget in a hurry, the sordid spectacle of the recent past, an orgy that whoopped up sentiment capable of breaking this country. Strong advocates for Jonathan and his administration were ready for a show down.
Taking into cognisance the ugly scenario that played out about seven years ago, it is only the undiscerning mind that will eat with the devil with a long spoon. Nobody starts to use the left hand in old age, therefore even a consensual offer of the presidential candidacy by the All Progressives Congress smacks something sinister and unhealthy to Dr.  Goodluck Jonathan and the entire South-South region and Southern States. No gift from the enemy is actually free. Gifts make a way for the giver, Jonathan I believe is aware of this maxim, so did the needful by declining acceptance of the offer from the unfriendly “friend” from the Northern region.
Dr. Jonathan has an image to protect and should not allow the desperation of those in power to perpetuate party in presidency and shortchange the South in rotation equation, to rubbish his globally recognised reputation and integrity, built over the years. The scheme of the political marauders was a big joke and an “April Fool”. But Jonathan caught the Joke.
It will be recalled that until Monday the 30th March, 2015, when the former President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the then Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) flagbearer for the March 28 Presidential Election, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan in a  broadcast, conceded defeat to his closest rival, the All Progressives Congress Presidential candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, I have viewed the polity as a self-serving, self-aggrandising game,  a game where moral values are subsumed under politicians’ whims and caprices.
In President Jonathan I found a leader whose love for his fatherland and regard for the sanctity of human life transcend the pecuniary gains associated with power. No doubt, Jonathan is not only the best democrat Nigeria had ever had and the second best in Africa after South Africa’s Nelson Mandela, He lived true and exemplified his avowed commitment to ensure a level-playing field, free and fair elections for all parties and their contestants, broaden the political space and commit to a ‘non fiction’  Independent National Electoral Commission.
At the inception of office on the 29th May, 2011, Jonathan promised  that the indivisibility of Nigeria remained sacrosanct. He said upholding the honour and glory of Nigeria was his mantra.
By congratulating Muhammadu Buhari on his purported victory at the 2015 Presidential Elections even in controversial circumstances sufficient to truncate the process and anul result, President Jonathan has kept faith with lyrics of the  National Anthem and National Pledge and proved beyond reasonable doubt that he is a statesman par excellence, a man of integrity. No doubt, Jonathan commands sterling leadership qualities worthy of emulation. A man of integrity who can find in the political space. In Dr. Jonathan is the answer,  marking him out as an exceptional leader in democratic governance in Nigeria.
Nigerians cannot forget in a hurry the wanton destruction of lives and properties in the Northern  Nigeria following the declaration of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan as winner of the April 2011 Presidential election by the Independent National Electoral Commission. The then Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), whose presidential flag-bearer at the time was Muhammadu Buhari, had alleged wide scale malpractice and had contested the credibility and transparency of the election and validity of Dr. Jonathan’s emergence as winner.
And by his unguided utterances, part of which was, “the baboons and monkeys will be soaked in blood” Buhari instigated  unwarranted and unprovoked killing of innocent Nigerians in the North including National Youth Service Corp members.
I had expected President Buhari who by his actions called for the conflagration of Nigeria because he lost election, to show a sense of remorse and apologise to Nigerians and families of those who lost their loved ones in politically motivated killings.. I am still waiting for Buhari to apologise for sabotaging the administration of Dr. Jonathan through complicity in security breaches and the attendant colossal financial and manpower losses which is haunting his administration today.
But President Jonathan has at several fora unequivocally stated that no blood of any Nigerian is worth his political ambition. What a humane, God-fearing, selfless and conscientious leader!
By the prompt and timely acceptance of the 2015 Presidential elections,’ result as announced by INEC,   President Jonathan doused the premonition of crisis and unpleasant euphoria  that characterised  release of results and declaration of Buhari as winner especially when some electronic media organisations captured under-aged voting scenario in the North.
The political scenario in Africa shows  it is  difficult to unseat a serving president. For the first time in Nigeria, Jonathan proved that saying wrong . Consequently, he made the electorate to have a flicker of hope on INEC.
Recall that it was  for the reason of self-perpetuation that Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida annulled the june 12, 1993 presidential election of Moshood Kashimawo Abiola of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), who was the acclaimed winner of that election hence the change of democracy day from May 29 to June 12.  It was also for the same reason that Chief Olusegun Obasanjo instituted a process to review the constitution to accommodate a third term.
It is easier to assume power than to abdicate it because “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. For the petty and mean, leaving power is as painful as a leap into the dark or worse still, tottering on the brink of death when life is at its best.
I see the God element in Jonathan, that though he has the power to truncate the process and damn the consequences, decided to decrease for Nigeria to continue to survive as a nation.
It takes only the likes of Jonathan with a nationalistic and patriotic spirit to accept the outcome of highly flawed presidential election with a sense of decorum, rather than making inciting and inflammatory statements like Buhari did when he lost the 2011 presidential election.

By: Igbiki Benibo

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Opinion

Nigeria: The Need To Address Debt Overhang

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It does not need any rigorous analysis for the world to know that Nigeria has been caught in a labyrinth of debt for the past one and a half decades and still counting. Economists in Nigeria have dispassionately diagnosed the reasons states get involved in a debt peonage.
Most of the factors leading to heavy borrowing bother on the massive expansion of public bureaucracy and the uncontrollable rise in recurrent expenditure. The earlier argument that a decline in oil revenue led to the procurement of foreign loans is no longer tenable .What is perhaps indisputable is that Nigeria depends so much on imports for her economic survival. The over- dependence on imports is a direct result of the nations inability to leverage on the economic potentials that abound in agricultural, solid mineral resources, technology and divestment in the real sectors of the economy. In the past fifteen years, so many multinational corporations also dumped Nigeria in favour of Angola, South Africa and Ghana as preferred investment destinations. The neoliberal explanation is clear.
Nigeria suffers acute infrastructural deficit in terms of power supply, good roads, transportation and more importantly, the recurring security challenge accentuated by insurgency and banditry, has conspired to render the investment climate very unfriendly. There is also the problem of rising unemployment leading to a high dependency ratio, dwindling incomes, a decline in earnings and spiraling inflation. Today, the Naira has been devalued to the point of overkill.
In 2005, Nigeria’s external debt stood at $20.8 billion. By June 2021, Nigeria’s debt had reached $33.5 billion. When the internal debt of N21 trillion is added to the external debt, the total debt stands at N35.5 trillion. Whereas external debt is owed to the IMF, China, the Paris Club and other international financial institutions, domestic debt is sourced from the commercial banks and other financial institutions.
In 2005, under the Obasanjo administration, the Paris Club granted Nigeria a debt relief and the citizenry thought the relief would free-up resources for investment, this was not really the case. Now, Nigeria’s economy has been over-burdened by a huge debt and debt servicing. Recently, most Nigeria’s even past presidents have expressed grave concern that Nigeria’s debt is unsustainable.
As a nation, Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) indicates that the country is in a deep financial problem. The 2022 budget which has been passed by the National Assembly is predicated on borrowing. The Minister of Finance, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, has projected that the N16.39trillion budget was based on borrowing, as revenue could barely accommodate services. Obviously, revenue from non-oil sector have not increased as expected.
The projections of 2022 budget would have a deficit of N6.258 trillion and this could be financed by new borrowings of N5.012 trillion draw down on projects-tied Multilateral/Bilateral loans. Verily, Nigeria has been burdened by debt and unless the debt crisis is addressed, it would snowball into a full-scale financial crisis.More than ever, it has become necessary for government to make concerted efforts to invest in agriculture to create employment and maximise its value chain.
Rejuvenating moribund industries like the Ajaokuta and Aladja Steel Rolling Mills will help boost the productive capacity of the economy. In addition, government should take investment in physical infrastructure seriously. This will create a conducive atmosphere for investment. The development of infrastructure such as roads, the rail system, power supply will also attract foreign direct investment with their attendant spillover.
Over the years, there were efforts to reduce the cost of governance by pruning down layers of inefficiency. However, this has not been achieved. Government must as a matter of policy reduce recurrent expenditure by way of consciously reducing the number of ministries, agencies and departments to cut the cost of governance. This can be achieved by merging government MDAs especially agencies that perform similar responsibilities to avoid administrative overlap.
Public procurement rules and principles must be adhered to in order to reduce waste and inefficiency. Government can reduce interest rates to stimulate the economy by generating more tax revenues. Reducing interest rate will make it easier for small scale businessmen to borrow money and invest. The Central Bank of Nigeria can adjust the fiscal and monetary policies to strengthen the exchange rate of the naira in pursuance of job creation and poverty reduction.
Nigeria is undergoing a harrowing experience like a woman undergoing labour pains. There must be a drastic reduction on spending, especially on recurrent expenditure and to increase the capital component of the budget.
As it was under the Obasanjo administration, Nigeria may plead for debt forgiveness but this is also tricky. So much depends on the attitude and character of those running the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, which does remittances of our oil revenues. For politicians, the idea of reducing the cost of governance can be polarising. With our crude oil selling at above $80 per barrel, Nigeria can negotiate a debt buyback with bilateral creditors and allow our recent oil windfall to settle some of the nation’s external debts.
The nation’s debt has reduced both public and private investment. More than ever, there are fewer economic opportunities for Nigerians. Unemployment has increased astronomically and this is a threat to national security. A more enduring strategy for addressing the impending debt crisis is to increase revenues in agriculture, mining of solid mineral resources and other non-oil sectors of the economy.
Nigeria must follow the rugged path of import substitution to promote homegrown products and services to realise sustainable economic growth. The future of the Nigerian nation is mindlessly tied to dead-weight debts, and of course, a borrower is a servant to the lender. In fact a nation in debt is like a real slave, doing the bidding of the creditor.
The political class should not contemplate development without making sincere efforts at reducing the huge debt index of the nation. A nation that is eager to develop must address the challenges of debt crisis, which is capable of undermining policies designed to accelerate economic growth and social progress.
Nigeria must take budget implementation seriously to avoid waste. It is now imperative to cut the cost of governance, exploit the non-oil sector and evolve well thought-out policies to revamp the ailing economy.
We must get out of the debt trap before we trap future generations of Nigerians. However, as more and more loans are being taken by the Federal Government it remains to be seen if Nigeria will wriggle free from this burden.
John is the Executive Director, Human & Environmental Right Dynamic Advocacy Dev. Initiative.

By: Idumange John

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