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Compromising Laws Against Public Safety

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Nigeria is a nation where laws are enforced when the common man is involved or where a government has a score to settle with the privileged in society. This is why it is often argued that the Rule of Law which is a function of  Democratic governance is a mirage in Nigeria  Equality before the Law is only in principle. It is not applicable to the rich. Looking at the trend of governance, it is not out of place to say that Nigeria operates a “Pluto-Democratic” system  which is the Government of a few rich people who influence the processes of governance, thus becoming de facto emperors. That is why it is difficult for the law to catch up with the rich culprit, even when there is substantial evidence that there is an infraction on the law.
Otherwise how can one explain the sordid situation that even amid extant laws, petrol, diesel and gas stations which are highly inflammable, are daily sited in residential and close to each other. It is difficult to consign to history the loss of property and lives occasioned by outbreak of fire from petrol tankers and filling stations across the country. On a Sunday morning in February, 2023, a petrol tanker waiting to discharge petrol in a petrol station in Aluu area of Obio/Allot Local Government Area of Rivers State burst into flames following what was said to be a spark. The petrol station and neighbouring houses were burnt while property worth millions of naira were lost. Only last year, two cases of explosion of gas facilities were recorded in Port Harcourt. One of the incidents was recorded at Rumuodomanya area of Obio/Local Government Area. Unspecified number of people lost their lives in that avoidable incident which can best be described as man’s inhumanity to man.
In 1999, along the Mile 3 area of Port Harcourt, a filling station was also gutted by fire and some surrounding buildings were not spared . All those disasters were not natural. They were human coinage. The unfortunate incidents would have been averted if those saddled with the responsibility of regulating the siting of filling station, had not compromised the existing unambiguous relevant laws. Recall the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) Procedure Guideline (2010), under the Petroleum Act, CAP 150 of 1967, states: “The implications for flouting the DPR guidelines by petrol stations range from classifying that the petrol station as illegal to revocation of licence, depending on the gravity of the offence.” Is this guideline no longer effective? Is the rule about distances that should be observed between fuel stations and residential houses no longer necessary too? Can we say that the owners of these stations manipulated and influenced the processes so much so that the officers of the relevant agencies gave a blind eye to these exceedingly ugly incidents that have caused colossal loss of lives and property? The compromise is done with impunity by culprits., even without fear of being sanctioned. Are those standard hackers and zero-integrity staff of Government agencies, ministry and parastatals’ responsible for regulating and enforcing existing laws above the law? It seems the regulatory authorities are lackadaisical about this issue and are not bothered about the loss of lives and property as a result of the blazing fire  from a burning fuel station. If they are, we should have stopped seeing them spring from almost everywhere and we should have read about two or three that were sanctioned due to the constructions of these stations illegally.
And why is the government looking the other way? Does it mean the government is more concerned about the economic importance than the lives of the people? It should not be a subject of debate that the health of the people and their lives are at stake if the siting of filling stations and gas stations are not monitored. The government should make sure the guidelines and rules are strictly adhered to, not minding who is involved. With the way filling stations are being built within residential areas and close to each other,  one cannot but wonder if it is the only business in town. It is very wrong to approve a filling station or a gas station within residential areas.
Before the late 1990s, it was hard to see filling or gas stations within residential areas. You could only find filling stations on major roads. There is no gainsaying that petroleum products ranging from premium motor spirit (PMS), popularly called petrol, to gas or diesel are highly inflammable. This explains why their locations should be taken into consideration so they would not pose any threat to people around.The trucks that carry these products are usually long and very heavy when loaded or when not. When discharging the product, the trucks need enough space. Most roads within the residential vicinities are not wide enough to accommodate the sizes of these trucks and that explains why there are incessant cases of tankers falling and the products wasted.
In 2020 on the East-West Road of Eleme axis, a product laden tanker fell and emptied its contents. Several people reportedly lost their lives in another incident, while trying to scoop the spilled product which caught fire following a spark. It is not out of place to see drainages destroyed from time to time while the petrol trucks are trying to discharge or leave the stations. This shows that the transportation, discharging and how these products are stored should also be a source of worry as these are highly inflammable products.The strange aspect is the nonchalant attitude of those saddled with issuing permit before  a filling station is put in place.  There is no way work can start without getting approval from necessary authorities. This makes one to wonder if lives are important to those involved in this regard before allowing such. At least, the rule is that fuel stations must be at least 400 metres away from one another. But we can see how filling stations are closely sited all over the country. One then  wonders who approved the building of these filling stations, especially in residential areas within highly populated areas.
It is high time the government and those in the authorities began to revoke the licences of the guilty.. Any government official who gave out such licence should be brought to book and charged to court.  The 400-metre interval rule should be enforced to curb the building of filling stations too closely to one another even on major roads.All illegal structures should be demolished. The locations of these stations should be checked properly to avoid disaster. The government should be fully involved in this to avert further loss of lives and property that this unwholesome trend has caused. Money should not be placed above the lives and property of the Nigerian people.

By: Igbiki Benibo

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Opinion

Still On Corruption In Nigeria

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The recent report by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) which revealed that about N721billion was received as bribe by public officials in Nigeria in 2023 has once again drawn attention to the level of corruption in the country. The report titled “Corruption in Nigeria: Patterns and Trends”, stated, “Overall, it is estimated that a total of roughly NGN 721 billion (US$1.26 billion) was paid in cash bribes to public officials in Nigeria in 2023, corresponding to 0.35 per cent of the entire Gross Domestic Product of Nigeria.”
As usual, all accusing fingers are now on those in government. Some have told the familiar tale of how Nigeria is in quagmire presently because of the corrupt acts of present and past leaders across the three tiers and three arms of government.
There is no disputing the fact that corruption is the greatest problem of Nigeria. Every challenge in every sector of the society, law enforcement – education, health, agriculture, manufacturing and others, can be traced to corruption.
The level of nepotism and favouritism seen in government in recent years is unprecedented. The norm now seems to be that the people from the same ethnic group with the head of some ministries, agencies and parastatals should “own” such organs. That is why you go to some offices and virtually everybody is from one tribe or ethnic group. There has been this continuous outcry that the majority of the federal agencies and parastatals are headed by people from a particular part of the country despite the federal character principle.  Yet, nothing has changed.
The issue of the recruitment process is another thing. Merit has been thrown to the winds and favouritism and nepotism are now the order of the day. A very brilliant applicant may not secure a job despite his excellent performance at both written and oral interviews. But the job will be given to another person who may not have attended the interviews or may have performed poorly during the exercise, just because he has a note from one senator or any other influential person in government. The issue of job racketeering is also there, staring us at the face.
However, corruption is not restricted to only politicians or those in authority.  It has permeated all facets of the society including the police, the judiciary, the business sector, the education and health sector, the civil service, the military and so on. Traders, artisans, housewives and many others cannot be exonerated.
Imagine where our markets and shops are now filled up with adulterated edible products. A greater percentage of “palm oil” we have in our markets and shops today is highly adulterated. You add oil to your food and instead of the irresistible taste and aroma that the original palm oil is known for; it gives the food an offensive smell and awful taste.
A plumber tells you that a part of your water pumping machine that went bad will cost N30,000 for the original one and N15,000 for the “Taiwan”. You give him money for the original one and he buys the part and couples the machine. After a short while, the pumping machine parks up again, you call another plumber who finds out the first plumber bought neither the origin part you paid for nor the “Taiwan”. What he bought was a refurbished engine part which did not cost more than N5000, 00.
Your house help cries to you that she just got a call that her grandmother has kicked the bucket, and that she needs to travel to her village for the burial. You take pity on her and give her money for transportation and some burial expenses. Later you find out that she was not bereaved and that she instead spent the time and money with her boyfriend in another part of the town.
Is the government to blame when workers take bribes to perform their statutory duties? People take bribes for issuing passports or visas, for providing permits and licences. For a file to move from one table or office to another, the owner of the file must “settle” the messenger. How does the government come in all these?
Citizens are supposed to be honoured based on their industry, intellect and integrity. But in our communities, men are recognised based on their movable and immovable assets. A man who embezzles public funds is given chieftaincy title, while the one who serves government diligently without amassing illegal wealth is regarded as a dullard or a good-for-nothing fellow.
Wealthy people who are alleged to be corrupt are regularly courted and honoured by communities, religious bodies, social clubs and private organisations. The visible riches of the corrupt and greedy, spur the poor to imitate their lifestyle and mode of acquisition of wealth.
It used to be said that a good name is better than gold. Today, the reverse seems to be the case in Nigeria. People now prefer to acquire gold through any means than maintain a good name
Recently, the former prime minister of Fiji, Frank Bainimarama was jailed for one year by the country’s High Court for obstructing a police investigation into corruption. Not a few Nigerians applauded the high court judgment describing it as the beauty of democracy. But the same Nigerians will condemn and protest against the efforts of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) towards the fight against corruption especially when they have any affiliation with the alleged corrupt person.
Therefore, the sooner we begin to look inward and think of how we can fight this cankerworm starting from ourselves, the better. In 2016, the former president, Mohammadu Buhari launched the national reorientation campaign tagged, “Change Begins with Me” which was geared towards reorienting Nigerians on whose responsibility it is to bring on the positive changes they crave for, pointing out that if Nigerians want “change”, they should be the change themselves. Is it not time this campaign was revived?
No doubt, the government has a huge role to play by being deliberate about the fight, showing more commitment and particularly through exemplary leadership. But without the citizens saying no to corruption and living corrupt free lives, the government’s efforts might yield little or no fruit
Perpetrators of the fraudulent acts earlier cited were all ordinary citizens engaging in dishonest acts, which they feel will benefit them, not minding the consequences of such actions on their fellow human beings and the nation. In the case of the adulterated palm oil for instance, the substance(s) or chemical used in the adulteration at various levels of the value chain until it finally gets to the consumer, might be more harmful to human life than the effect of the sum amount stolen by a politician.
Painfully, these sociological and cultural causes of corruption are likely to continue for a long time in this country, unless some practical actions are taken to encourage sound moral values in the society. The rulers, politicians, students, academics, civil servants, traders and the entire society should be re-orientated
The civil society organisations, the media, the religious organisations, schools and most importantly, families have crucial roles in fighting corruption through re-orientation of Nigerians, exposing corruption and advocating for accountability and transparency. The value system of many Nigerians that places the acquisition of wealth at all cost above integrity self-dignity and other vital values must change.,
Fostering a culture of accountability among leaders and citizens alike is essential for sustainable progress in combating corruption in Nigeria. This includes promoting ethical leadership, ensuring fair and transparent electoral processes, and empowering citizens to hold their leaders accountable for their actions.
To eradicate or minimise corruption in Nigeria, there is a need for credible and legal enforcement measures to be put in place. The need to strengthen and further empower the EFCC and other anti-corruption agencies, to carry out their job effectively, without interference from any quarter or undue judicial setbacks cannot be over-emphasised. Offenders should be punished, no matter who they are. Most importantly, everybody must get involved.

Calista Ezeaku

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Opinion

Checking Diabetes Burden In Nigeria 

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Diabetes, a “group of diseases that result in sugar in the blood”, has posed a great challenge to humans over the years. The disease which is classified in “types” thrives on ignorance, superstition and myths in traditional societies, especially the Sub-Saharan Africa, including Nigeria.
While modern medical and health sciences have demystified the uncertainties that shroud the disease, many stigmatise victims because they see the disease as a bad omen, so people who die from the disease are not given befitting burial in many traditional societies. This is very unfortunate and should be unheard of, at a time knowledge is increasing like a phoenix.
The crux of the problem is that even in the advent of Orthodox medicine practitioning, the disease seems not  to be given the maximum attention it deserves to nip it in the bud. That is why it seems that the disease is defying medication. Federal, State, Local Government Areas operating tertiary, secondary and primary health services may not have done enough to curb the rising cases of the disease in Nigeria.
The prevalence of the disease not just in Nigeria and Africa but also in Second World countries with growing economies and promising democratic governments is a concern to medical professionals and experts.
Former Chief Medical Director of University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital, a Professor of Chemical Pathology, Aaron Ojule, has warned against complacency in handling of diabetic situation in Nigeria.
Prof Ojule is also a member of the board of trustees of the Diabetes Association of Nigeria (DAN), Rivers State.
Prof. Ojule raised alarm last weekend at the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital (UPTH) grounds where Diabetes Association of Nigeria members met as part of their monthly activities.
According to him, diabetes is now an epidemic of global proportion and  that it has attacked the economies of many  families.
“The whole idea of the Association is to give diabetes education to people living with diabetes (PLWD) and members of their families so at the end of the day, we would have better diabetes management.
Diabetes has become a global epidemic, he said. “It is not just Nigeria, it is an international problem and that is why we have organisations such as the International Diabetes Federation (IDF). The World Health Organisation (WHO) is involving itself in tracking this menace, the nations are involved, and everybody is involved.”
This, he said, is because diabetes is such an illness that when once it sets in, it affects every organ in the body and causes a lot of complications. “The economic cost has become unbearable for all economies, worse for families.
“That is why organisations like DAN are there to educate patients and families on how best to manage it and harvest latest research findings on how best to manage it. There is a lot of misinformation and complicated myths about diabetes and we are here to untangle these misinformation networks to bring out clarity for better management of the disease. We need to work with the media and more people to work with us.:
Many people that have come down with diabetes do not have sufficient resources to manage it. The tests, drugs, and proper food are expensive. Average balanced diet now is over N1,000. So, diabetic patients need support.”
He queried: “If people living with HIV get free drugs, what offence have those living with diabetes committed that they can’t get help? We need a lot of support from the government, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and individuals to fight to restore the health of patients and stop others from going down with it. Diabetes has destroyed the health of many sufferers without adequate care. Many die young because of diabetes.”
His view was supported by the chairman of DAN, Rivers State, Dr Hamilton Opurum, who said major challenge was lack of adequate advocacy to create enough awareness and education. “Most persons need information about diabetic condition; they need to know whether they are at risk, and if they are not, how to keep a healthy lifestyle. If they are, they need to know how to delay the onset of its worst effects. If they are already diabetic, we encourage them to manage themselves properly. This is so because besides going to hospital to get treatment, they need to manage their nutrition properly and keep fit. So, nutrition, exercise, and medical attention are all very important in the management of diabetes.”
The Federal, State and Local Government Areas should deploy resources to address the diabetic menace. Enlightenment and public education is critical to overcome the ravaging trend. People need to be enlightened on dietary culture.
Medical and health care providers should up the purchase of facilities and diabetes-related equipment to check the burden. “Prevention”, they say “is better than cure”. For prevention to be effective, information and education are key. The Government at all levels and other medical and health care providers should use all available media: Social, Electronic  and Print, to drive home the danger inherent in contracting the disease.

Igbiki Benibo

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Opinion

 Learning From China’s Educational System

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As the world grapples with the complexities of the 21st century, it is essential to recognise the distinction between education and learning. While often used interchangeably, these terms have distinct meanings that impact our approach to personal and professional development. Education refers to the formal instruction and certification process, typically within a school or university setting. It provides a foundation in various subjects and disciplines, preparing students for future careers. Learning, on the other hand, encompasses the broader process of acquiring knowledge, skills, and values throughout one’s life. It extends far beyond the classroom, incorporating experiences, challenges, and opportunities that shape our perspectives and abilities.
The primary goal of education is to equip students with the necessary credentials and knowledge to enter the workforce. In contrast, learning focuses on personal growth, self-improvement, and adaptability in an ever-changing world. Education provides a solid foundation, but learning is what truly empowers individuals to thrive. It enables us to develop new skills, explore innovative ideas, and navigate complex challenges. Unfortunately, many individuals confuse education with learning, assuming that a degree or certification guarantees success. However, the reality is that learning is a lifelong journey, requiring continuous effort and dedication.
To truly succeed, we must embrace a culture of learning, fostering curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking. This involves seeking out new experiences, asking questions, and embracing challenges as opportunities for growth.In today’s fast-paced, technology-driven world, learning is more essential than ever. It enables us to stay adaptable, innovative, and relevant, unlocking our full potential and driving progress.As we move forward, it is crucial to recognise the difference between education and learning. By prioritising learning as a lifelong pursuit, we can unlock our true potential and create a brighter future for ourselves and generations to come.While education provides a foundation, learning is the key to unlocking our full potential. China’s remarkable rise to global prominence offers a compelling case study. Her unimaginable economic growth and technological advancements are often attributed to its emphasis on education. However, a closer examination reveals that the country’s true strength lies in its culture of learning.
It is no gainsaying the fact that  education is highly valued in China, and the gaokao (national college entrance examination) is a high-stakes test that determines one’s academic and professional trajectory, yet, it is the informal learning processes that occur outside the classroom that have driven China’s innovation and progress. From a young age, Chinese students are encouraged to engage in extracurricular activities, such as music, art, and sports, which foster creativity, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills. These skills are essential for success in a rapidly changing world. Moreover, China’s cultural heritage places a strong emphasis on self-cultivation and lifelong learning. The concept of “xuéxí” (learning) is deeply ingrained in Chinese philosophy, emphasising personal growth and development throughout one’s life.The Chinese government has also invested heavily in vocational training and adult education programmes, recognising that learning is a continuous process that extends far beyond formal education
. In contrast, Nigeria’s education system is such that  focuses  on rote memorisation over critical thinking. Nigeria’s curriculum prioritizes core subjects like mathematics, English, and science, but often neglects essential skills like creativity, problem-solving, and emotional intelligence even as it  faces  numerous challenges, including inadequate funding and outdated curricula.One major bane of  Nigeria’s education system has been the  placement of a high premium on certification and paper qualifications, often at the expense of genuine learning and skill acquisition, instead of a  curriculum designed to foster innovation, creativity, and adaptability, with a strong emphasis on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education where students are encouraged to explore, experiment, and learn from failure. Nigerian students are rather discouraged from taking risks or challenging authority.
Moreover, China’s education system is constantly evolving, with a focus on lifelong learning and continuous skill acquisition, whereas Nigeria’s education system has remained largely static, with few opportunities for professional development or skill upgrading. While both China and Nigeria face unique challenges in their education systems, China’s emphasis on learning, innovation, and skill acquisition has positioned it for success in the 21st century. Nigeria, on the other hand, must urgently reform its education system to prioritise learning over certification, creativity over memorisation, and skills acquisition over mere paper qualifications. Like China, Nigeria’s education system needs to prioritise social-emotional learning, including skills like empathy, self-awareness, and conflict resolution, which are essential for success in the modern world. Truth be said, while education provides a solid foundation, it is learning that truly empowers individuals and societies to thrive.
Navigating  the complexities of the 21st century, truly requires learning from China’s example to  prioritise learning as a lifelong pursuit. By learning from China’s example, Nigeria can unlock the potential of its youth and leapfrog its way to economic prosperity and global relevance.The future belongs to those who learn, adapt, and innovate – let us choose the path of wisdom.

By: Sylvia ThankGod-Amadi

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