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Editorial

Christmas And Flickers Of Hope

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Sunday, December 25, 2022, is Christmas. It is the day set aside by Christians all over the world to celebrate the remarkable event of the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the Saviour of mankind. His notable life of virtue, teaching and sacrificial death on the Cross of Calvary form the very foundation of the Christian faith.
The essence of celebrating Christmas is that Christianity wants people to know that the world can be a peaceful and tranquil place to live and grow. Christmas is celebrated to teach people that by instilling faith and following the teachings of their Creator, they can become righteous. It is also a time to heal wounds with neighbours and those we have wronged to rekindle a new life.
There are concerns that love, the solemn meaning of Christmas, is getting lost in the consumerism and greed that have come to define the season. So, Nigerians should imbibe the spirit of love anew. This should be a time for charitable work, for the pursuit of the common good; time to pursue peace among one another – between colleagues, neighbours and fellow citizens, of eschewing evil thoughts and deeds.
Christians should, therefore, think about the compassionate way of life and the instructions of Jesus Christ and apply His teachings to their ways of life. Through His love, Jesus manifested God’s forgiveness and mercy to mankind. In this way, Christians should constantly show compassion to all in their communities with works of gift and charity that touch the lives of those around them.
In a larger world that advocates for models, Nigeria plays a special role in this deficiency. The soul of the country seems misplaced and put under the yoke of leadership at every level, far from being exemplary and definitive. Consequently, a blessed country looks cursed and rudderless in the ocean of life.
This year has become significant for the overwhelming presence of poverty and deprivation, the mindless annihilation of lives, the unparalleled height of insecurity because of the unrelenting insurgency and the continually more audacious criminal exploits of kidnappers and those referred to as bandits across the country.
Particularly frightening is the appalling state of life in much of Northern Nigeria, where dare-devil terrorists and bandits control vast territories, massacring, hacking and abducting citizens virtually on an everyday basis, and where state authorities are, now and again, having to pay considerable ransoms to criminal gangs to secure the release of their abducted citizens.
Yet, we enjoin Christians in Nigeria to put up a heroic front in observing the festival because the event itself is the herald of glad tidings, for the Prophet Isaiah says regarding the Messianic age which the birth of Christ inaugurates: “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined” (Isaiah 9:2, KJV).
Christmas commemorates the birth of the Messiah, the anointed one whom Prophet Isaiah declares will announce the good news to the poor, will bind up the broken-hearted, will comfort the sorrowful and declare freedom to captives and release to prisoners, and will declare the Lord’s year of favour.
As we celebrate, the precarious state of our nation remains deeply entrenched in the unconscious minds of Nigerians. The level of hardship hardly needs to be reiterated. A few have lost close relations to the pandemic. Some have been traumatised by criminal gangs, operating freely throughout the country. The worsening economic situation has humbled others. But an imminent intervention from God is the good news about Christmas.
Nigerian Christians must rise during this festive season and be animated by the hope for transformation that the incarnation represents. At the end of a trying year, Nigerians do not need to mourn forever over the misfortunes of their country. It is worthwhile to take a reassuring look at the future rooted in the good news that Christmas celebrations represent for us and humanity.
If we must dwell continually on the miseries of the day and not take time to reflect on the prospect of emancipation, it would always weigh us down with a depressed spirit. Truly, we may be weighed down with a myriad of daunting challenges, competing for survival amid a menacing fourth wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, and struggling to discover our stability in the face of starvation, joblessness and life-threatening insecurity.
Although our beloved country may be afloat with monumental corruption and administered by a clueless, incompetent leadership, Nigerian Christians can stride forward in faith and hope and work towards developing a juster, more secure, more tranquil and more robust society, using sacrificial love, mercy and kindness, such as are illustrated in Jesus Christ.
The Christmas season should challenge every Christian to progress beyond pious wishes and empty sloganeering and to make their Christian commitments with more passion. It is time for Christians to live out their vocation as “salt of the earth and light of the world.” Every Christian should take up the challenge of illuminating the light of hope for a country that is tormented by multiple forces of darkness.
This is the moment for all Christians to express their gratitude for the many blessings they and their families have experienced throughout the year, despite the challenges of the day. Christmas is a time to guard against negativity with positive thoughts and narratives of personal transformation and national renewal. Is this not what the splendid Christmas Carol is all about?
We challenge Christians to once again live up to the core values of their religion and to have a positive impact on their socio-cultural and political environment. We equally admonish them to repudiate the prevalent cult of greed, eschew the widespread cult of pleasure, turn down the predominant cult of money and go all out to lead wholesome and purposeful lives dedicated to the improvement of the common good. This is another season of eternal hope for a better Nigeria.
Merry Christmas!

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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

Hurray, Rivers Is 57!

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Continued from Page 1

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, these twelve states have since metamorphosed into thirty-six 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 Siminalayi Fubara, 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 vast road infrastructure in all parts of the state, the current administration is truly working hard to realise the objectives of the state’s founding fathers.
By the efforts of the state government, Andoni and some adjoining communities have been made accessible to the state capital by road. The same fortune is soon to be enjoyed by erstwhile disconnected people of the Kalabari Kingdom through the commencement of the second phase of the Trans-Kalabari Road. By the same token, a courageous move has been initiated to create more urban centres in the state. This is done through the siting of essential projects.
The political class in the state, in particular, must utilise this event of the 57th Anniversary of the state’s creation to evaluate and determine to eschew bitterness, rancour and acrimony  and work with the Fubara-led administration. The struggle for Rivers State achieved the desired results because the 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 have waned greatly, leaving in their stead, a threat to public peace activated by political greed, selfishness and an unguided quest for personal 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. This was achieved for us in the state we now call home. All must 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 57th Anniversary of the state’s creation. All stakeholders must 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.
Today also holds a special importance not only as the day we celebrate the birth of our dear state, but also the day we honour our precious children, known as Children’s Day. This occasion is dedicated to celebrating the innocence, joy, and dreams of our little ones. It is a time to reflect on the necessity of nurturing, protecting, and investing in their future well-being.
Children are the future of our society, and on this special day, we acknowledge their unique contributions and remind ourselves of their inherent rights and needs. It is an opportunity to recommit to creating a world where every child has access to quality education, healthcare, and a safe and loving environment. By celebrating Children’s Day, we not only honour our children but also invest in the future of our nation and the world.
The event serves as a reminder that children are not just miniature adults but individuals with their own thoughts, feelings and perspectives. It is essential to listen to their voices, respect their opinions, and provide them with the support and guidance they need to thrive. When we empower our children, we equip the future generation to become responsible, compassionate, and active citizens who will shape the country for the better.

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Editorial

Towards Minimum Wage Implementation 

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It is not surprising that organised labour is pushing for a wage review, as President Bola Tinubu’s economic re-
form has negatively impacted Nigerian workers. Since taking office last May, the economy has been in turmoil, leading to hardships for many employees. The need for a wage increase is vital as workers continue to bear the brunt of the economic downturn.
The implementation of minimum wages in Nigeria has historically faced several obstacles. Despite the government’s mandate to set and enforce a minimum wage for all workers, many employers, particularly state governors and in the informal sector, fail to comply. This widespread non-compliance undermines the objective of protecting workers from exploitation and ensuring a basic standard of living.
Numerous factors contribute to the challenge of implementing minimum wages in Nigeria. One major issue is the lack of effective enforcement mechanisms. The National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission (NSIWC) is responsible for enforcing the minimum wage, but its powers are often limited. Employers who violate the law often go unpunished due to weak enforcement and the high cost of legal proceedings for workers.
In the negotiations between the federal and state governments, a critical factor that must be considered is finding the right balance amidst the challenges posed by the country’s double-digit inflation rate, the growing national debt profile, and the pressing issue of ensuring timely payments from both state and federal authorities. Both levels of government must collaborate to address these economic concerns and come to a mutually beneficial agreement that prioritises the financial stability of the nation.
Things are not looking good. The organised labour, represented by the Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress, has proposed an astronomical jump from the current N30,000 per month to N650,000. While it is undeniable that the current rate of N30,000 is insufficient, the drastic increase to N650,000 is simply not realistic and may not be feasible for the government to implement. Both parties should find a middle ground that is fair and sustainable for all stakeholders involved.
The challenge before the minimum wage committee, which Tinubu inaugurated recently, is to find a realistic rate for all the parties concerned, including the private sector. This task is not an easy one, as there are various factors to consider when determining a fair minimum wage that benefits both workers and employers. The committee will need to take into account the cost of living, the current economic situation, as well as the financial capabilities of businesses, especially small and medium-sized enterprises.
Incidentally, the Nigerian economy is facing multiple challenges at the moment. With inflation at a staggering 29.90 per cent, a debt stock of N87.9 trillion, a high lending rate of 18.75 per cent, and a grossly devalued naira at N1,300 per $1, the cost-of-living crisis has worsened. The recent surge in food inflation, jumping to 35.41 per cent in January from 23.75 per cent the previous month has added to the economic woes. Moreover, the rapid price increases in petrol and diesel, essential for the economy, have further burdened the already distressed population.
Hence, the demand by labour for an upward wage review is justified given the rising cost of living and inflation. However, the government faces a dilemma in determining the appropriate rate of increment. Nigeria’s economic situation is dire, with debt servicing consuming a staggering 99 per cent of its revenue in the first quarter of 2023. Balancing the need to improve workers’ welfare with the constraints of the economy is a delicate task. The government must engage in constructive dialogue with labour to find a compromise that addresses their legitimate demands while ensuring the long-term sustainability of the economy.
Incidentally, the meeting between the Federal Government and the organised labour was deadlocked on Wednesday, as the government was reported to have offered a paltry N48,000 as the new minimum wage, which is a far cry from the N615,000 being demanded by labour.
Apparently irked by the Federal Government’s offer, representatives of labour were said to have stormed out of the meeting in protest. However, both parties still need to find a common ground to resolve this knotty issue. Constructive dialogue is key.
If the government succumbs to labour’s demands and borrows more to fund the wage increase, its financial stability will be further compromised. This could lead to a debt crisis, with severe consequences for the economy. The governing authorities must explore alternative revenue sources and implement prudent fiscal measures to address labour’s concerns without jeopardising the nation’s financial health.
Retrospectively, an excessively high minimum wage can pose challenges for States. When the wage was raised to N18,000 during the Goodluck Jonathan era, many States struggled to meet their salary obligations. As of October 2023, BudgIT reported that 15 states were still failing to pay the N30,000 minimum wage set by the Muhammadu Buhari administration in 2019. This situation has dire consequences for workers, who rely on their wages for sustenance.
The inability of States to pay the minimum wage is often attributed to their limited economic viability. Data from Economic Confidential indicates that only seven States are economically viable without federal allocations. This means that the majority of States rely heavily on federal support to meet their financial obligations. When the minimum wage is raised too high, States with weak economies may find it difficult to balance their budgets and fulfill their responsibilities to both workers and other sectors.
Any minimum wage that will be agreed upon should be sufficient to meet the needs of Nigerians. Unfortunately, many state governors have failed to implement the wage award approved by the Federal Government for civil servants, despite the high cost of living. This lack of action is unacceptable and shows a lack of appreciation for the struggles that public sector workers face. State governors should prioritise the well-being of their employees and ensure that they are able to make ends meet with the wages they receive.
We firmly advocate for the autonomy of state governments to streamline their workforce by retaining only those workers who demonstrate productivity. An example of this would be questioning the necessity of hiring typists in the era of advanced technology. Additionally, the rationale behind employing 20 drivers within a government agency deprived of operational vehicles may also be subject to scrutiny.
Many governors overlook the importance of paying their workers properly, which can have a positive impact on the overall productivity and economic growth of their States. States should have thriving industries that can create employment opportunities. Governors need to understand that low consumer demand can hinder the growth of businesses in their domains. They have to consider implementing efficient wage systems to ensure fair compensation for workers and foster economic development.

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