The recent Sky news investigative report on how some Nigerians who travelled to the United Kingdom with a promise of skilled jobs have become destitute having been deceived by their agents, once again brings to the fore the prevalence of visa scam in Nigeria and the damage they cause, not only to their victims but the nation as a whole. In the report, a particular Nigerian woman narrated how she paid £10,000 to an “agent” for a skilled worker visa on the promise of work in Britain, only to find out upon her arrival in the country about three months ago that the care job promised her did not exist. In a bid to survive, she had become destitute, relying on food from food banks and even sleeping rough. “I’ve always provided for myself. I’m a very hard-working, diligent person. So, for me to be here depending on people to eat, coming to the food bank to get food isn’t ok with me. I do not feel happy about it. “It makes me feel like I’m less of a person. I should be in a position of helping not receiving aid because this is not who I was back in my country.” ‘It makes me feel as though I’m a fool”, she regretted.
Another woman was also deceived by an agent. There in the UK, she has no job, no place to lay her head and now sleeps in a bus and depends on handouts from the food bank to survive. A family in the story; a husband, wife and child, was also in the same precarious situation. “It’s not been easy. I had to sell my car; sell my property, got a loan and took a lot of risk to raise money”, lamented the man.These are familiar stories, right? People quit their jobs, sell their property – houses, cars and others, fold their businesses in order to relocate abroad in search of greener pastures. I recently met a woman in her fifties, who travelled to Abuja from Lagos to undergo a six-month course in an organisation, which she claims will equip her for a care job overseas. At the end of the training, the organisation will help her secure a visa and a care job abroad and off she goes, she boasted.
All efforts to make her realise that at her age she should be needing help instead of the other way round and that if she should invest the money she would spend on “school” fees and other expenses she will incur in the course of the training into a business in Nigeria, it will pay her more, fell on deaf ears. From time immemorial, Nigerians have been relocating to other countries, either in search of greener pastures or for other reasons. And it is within anybody’s right to live in whatever part of the world he chooses to. In present day Nigeria, there are various reasons why people should desire to japa. From the harsh economic realities to unending insecurity and high level of criminalities, to lack of basic amenities and poor infrastructure, to unstable politics and corruption, to unemployment, underemployment and many more. As the schools are about reopening, many parents are having sleepless nights because many schools have increased their school fees.
So, it makes a lot of sense for someone to consider migrating to countries where they are assured of free education, free health care system, good roads, uninterrupted power supply, government’s support after having a baby and better living conditions that will enhance one’s longevity. But must it be at such a high risk? How many Nigerians that want to japa take their time to consider the challenges involved with migration, including legal and logistical obstacles, cultural adjustments, potential language barriers, and even exploitation in some cases? Or you just want to travel because others are doing so and you have been fed with the information that life outside Nigeria is so rosy and that you start plucking money as soon as you step into Europe, America and what have you? And out of desperation, you fall prey to some greedy visa scammers?
But seriously, it is high time the government did something about the issue of visa scamming in Nigeria. Not a few Nigerians have ugly tales to tell about their encounter with these scammers in the process of seeking visas to one country or the other. Some people were made to pay for a primetime appointment, premium lounge or flexi appointment for UK visa booking when in essence, the agent booked a standard appointment which costs less and takes a longer time. Some of these fraudsters pose as scholarship agents promising to guarantee a scholarship to study overseas. They urge potential applicants to pay money in return for support and guidance in filling a form and submitting a successful application and in the end the applicants find out that they have been scammed, no visa, no money. In some cases, the visa that will be issued is fake.
There must be a committed effort to address this challenge. This includes: launching of educational campaigns to inform the public about common visa scams, warning signs, and red flags. Providing information on legitimate visa application processes and requirements through official channels. Promoting official Information Sources. Ensuring that official government websites and embassies provide accurate and up-to-date information on visa processes, requirements, and fees. If a list of authorised visa agencies and consultants that individuals can refer to is maintained and made available to the public, it will go a long way in solving the problem. To achieve this, the government should partner with media outlets to raise awareness about visa scams and educate the public about avoiding such scams. The law enforcement agencies like the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and the Special Fraud Unit of the Nigeria Police must up their game in dealing with these fraudsters. More efforts should be made in the area of establishing easy-to-access channels for reporting suspected visa scams, encouraging victims to come forward and report incidents to aid in investigations and protecting people who would volunteer information about the scammers.
These anti-crime agencies must ensure that cases of visa fraud were thoroughly investigated and prosecuted and that individuals and groups found guilty of perpetrating visa scams were severely punished in accordance with the law. Online and social media monitoring is a must. The authorities should consider imposing stricter regulations and strict enforcement of licensing requirements for visa consultants, agents, and agencies so as to ensure transparency and ethical conduct. It is also imperative that the government should step up actions aimed at dissuading the citizens from leaving the country in droves. Let the leaders across the three tiers of government play down on amassing public funds for themselves and generations yet unborn and rather use these monies to rebuild the various sectors of our economy so that Nigeria will be a better place to live in. Other countries like India once faced a similar issue of brain drain but were able to conquer it by putting the nation and the people first. The Indian government offered an interest free loan to all medical professors in the diaspora to establish medical facilities in India. Incentives and a conducive working environment were also provided by the government. Today, India is a force to reckon with in the field of medicine.
Who says Nigeria cannot do better if corruption, embezzlement of public funds, crude oil theft are dealt with sincerely? Who says Nigeria, despite the global economic crisis, cannot be better if our leaders can reduce the cost of governance, deny themselves some unnecessary luxuries for the sake of a better future for the nation? Who says Nigeria will not be better if the issues of insecurity, poor government policies, poor power supply which are driving investors away from Nigeria are sincerely addressed. It is also important that Nigerians desiring to travel abroad should make extra efforts to verify the authenticity of visa consultants and agencies before engaging their services so as to avoid stories that touch the heart.
By: Calista Ezeaku
Saving Our Marine Ecosystem
With a coastline of approximately 853km and an exclusive economic ocean zone that stretches 200 nautical miles from her shorelines deep into the Atlantic Ocean: and with a vast area of fresh water and mangrove forest resources, Nigeria has enormous marine resource potentials. These potentials hold much more when Nigeria finally succeeds in extending its reach to 350 nautical miles deeper into the Gulf of Guinea area dubbed as ‘the Golden Triangle’, which contains unquantifiable resources. This zone is the richest in terms of fishing and sub-sea mineral deposits. Nigeria is pursuing this advantage through a window of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) which, according to reports, “allows a coastal nation to make claims beyond 200 nautical miles of its coastlines up to 350 nautical miles, if the coastal nation is able to prove through scientific data and information that the seabed and the subsoil of the marine area of its territorial sea is a natural prolongation of its land territory to the outer edge of the continental margin.”
The magnitude of benefits of Nigeria’s marine sector notwithstanding, some harmful activities at home, which without concerted effort to curb the menace, may continue to frustrate the realisation of full benefits from these potentials..Notable among these harmful activities are the perennial problems of pollution on our waterways, especially of oil spills, industrial effluents, gas flares, and uncontrolled release of plastics into waterways, in combination with maritime insecurity. While pollution destroys water quality, the mangrove forests as well as the fishing industry that depends directly on them, insecurity on the other hand has become a threat to genuine waterway navigations occasioned by sea piracy, kidnap and illegal trafficks on the waterways. With oil thefts now rampant, there appears to be a free for all movements on the waterways to the extent that sub-standard oil tankers and berges, that leak crude oil and petroleum products directly into the water channels, now parade. Oil thefts, apart from denying governments of resources needed for developments, like illegal minings in Africa, also breed arms traffic, impunity, injustice and insecurity.
It appears also that, as multinational oil and gas big weights divest from onshore assets in the face of raising oil thefts, oil and gas industry standards have ebbed to an all-time low, with illegal refining activities, sooth and pipeline failures becoming very common, a condition that has come at a huge cost to the environment. Unprecedented spills have damaged the formerly rich mangroves and waterways of the Niger Delta. The perennial gas flares, as old as the discovery of oil in Nigeria since 1957, continue to heat-up the Niger Delta atmosphere and create acid rains that impact negatively on nearby soils, the mangroves and rivers. This is despite the possibility of gathering these waste gases into gas processing plants to supply much-needed fuel to the gas-starved power sector of Nigeria. To stop all these menace and safegaurd our marine ecosystems, decisive goodwill backed by effective action, is expected from the navigation authorities and politicians, away from previously failed promises of combating the menace.
Government should formulate and implement frameworks that discourage degradation to the marine systems, and environment as a whole. The navy and other agents of government should be made to up their games in this regard. The navy and other state actors should also not contribute to the assault on the environment by refraining from destroying impounded products on the open waters. Whereas the mangrove forest provides protection as well as breeding grounds for the various species of marine organisms that rely on it as habitat, and therefore is a rich source of supplies of oysters, clams, crabs, periwinkles and an assortment of fishes, it has unfortunately been degraded for too long that these natural supplies are in decline, in addition to the disappearance of so many other biodiverse species.
Apart from its nutrient resources, the arching prop roots, which anchor the mangrove forests into the soils trap inland sediments and soils from being washed off to the oceans by floods, and also stand as breaks against the repeated surge of ocean waves, thereby serving as protection for the shorelines and for organisms that depend on the forest as home. However, in the face of oil spills and other pollutions, the mangrove forests, as well as aquatic larvae that breed under their protections, are destroyed when waves push oil spills deep into the creaks, with oil spills settling in tidal pools at low tides. On the other hand, unchecked industrial wastes from companies operating within the region aid these processes. For instance, unregulated waste water and other components discharged into nearby rivers alter the balance of water temperatures, salinity, pH and composition of vital dissolved gases, in ways that are harmful to the mangroves and aquatic life, with negative effects on the fishing industry, and other fresh water resources. When these effluents flow downstream from the rivers into the estuaries and down into the wider oceans, they kill in their trail, vital algae and planktons that form the base of aquatic life food web. The resultant effect is the continuous decline in the number and numerous species of sea food that formerly flourished in these water bodies.
This fact might not be far from the mystery behind floating, dead fishes, witnessed sometime, at Bonny River and in some other places.There is also a need for us to reflect on the final destinations of every piece of package wraps we discard on daily basis. Apart from the poorly regulated toxic chemicals being used in the manufacture of these plastic materials, from various thicknesses of cellophanes, satchet water wraps, to pet bottles and plastic vessels of various kinds, majority end up at dumpsites that leach toxic chemicals into aquifers, while the remaining undegradable plastics filt the soil or are eventually washed into nearby rivers by floods. It has become familiar to hear reports of the challenges faced by boat operators whose propellers daily get entangled with plastics, to the extent it no longer draws attention. Marine vessel operators that feed their process water from the rivers and oceans while operating in our waters daily combat with process pipes being clogged with plastic debris. Disposed nets and other plastics most times entangle and kill some species of marine organisms. It has become such a challenge to operate in our waterways.
There is therefore need to assess the impacts of these factors on the environment and on the livelihoods of local communities and the national economy, especially in the face of the current economic challenges in the nation, and implement solutions. The protection of the maritime ecosystem is one major area that is sure to contribute to the revitalisation of the economy, if taken seriously. Given that pollution remediation activities are costly, slow to yield results, and often times ineffective, the best option to solving environmental damage is prevention. There is need for governments at all levels to strengthen laws that regulate activities of all actors that impact on the environment. Companies and citizens should be made to be more responsible in their actions. Waste disposal should be controlled and sorted in ways that enable recycling.
Government should discourage the production and use of one-time usage, disposable plastics while encouraging the production of multiple-usage plastics. Firms should also be encouraged to find alternatives to plastic packaging by employing biodegradable materials in the production of disposable wraps. Those who clear mangroves for fire woods or other purposes should be made to understand the inter-dependence of their livelihoods and wellness with these natural ecosystems, and should be made to desist from destroying our common environment.
By; Joseph Nwankwo
Unemployment In Nigeria And Terminal Programmes
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 issue 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. Instead of facing industrialisation and promoting the empowerment through the rejuvenation of Small and medium Scale Enterprises, SMEs, the system of unemployment is treated as a system. It is for this reason that the Buhari administration embarked on some phoney social investment programmes. Investment in N-power, start-up loans and school feeding programmes were just scratching the problem on the surface, if the National Bureau of statistics put the unemployment figure at 33.3 per cent, then the real figure could be much higher than 37 per cent.The statistics are really bad. The National Bureau of statistics shows that 2014, 2015 to 2016, unemployment rate was 4.56 per cent, 4.31 per cent and 7.06 per cent respectively. It was projected that in 2021, unemployment rate would hit 40 per 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 skilled, 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 Programme. Even prior to that, theObasanjo military junta initiated the Operation Feed the Nation (OFN) 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 Nigerian 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 leads to despair and triggers deviance, crimes and insecurity.
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. Also adequate investment in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and strategically train and employ 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 clear 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 sectors and the mainstream of the bureaucracy.
By: John Idumange
Idumange is a public intellectual.
Southeast: Epicentre Of Insecurity?
If there is any issue in the country that needs urgent attention, it is the terrible insecurity situation in the Southeast. The problem has reached an alarming rate and it is high time politics, ethnicity and other unhealthy considerations were set aside so as to address the challenge squarely. It does not give joy that for the past years, the once peaceful zone has remained the epicentre of insecurity in the country. No day passes without a report of one kidnapping or the other in the region, particularly, in Enugu State. The Enugu-Ugwuogo-Opi Nsukka Road; 4-Corner-Udi Road; Old Udi-Oji River Road, and virtually all the express roads in the state have become kidnapping zones. People that go to work in Enugu from Nsukka and other towns in the state now do so at a high risk as the possibility of their safe arrival at their workplaces and return is not guaranteed.
Even when attending events in the villages, you are not safe. On Friday, August 25, there was an attempt to kidnap a classmate of mine and a journalist, Mr. Ikem Okuhu, at Umabor, Eha Alumona, Nsukka, during a burial ceremony, by men disguised as police officers. But for the intervention of friends and other people at the event, it would have been a different story. Other Southeastern states are not any better securitywise. Kidnapping, killing and other forms of insecurity have become the order of the day. Last Tuesday, the nation received the shocking news of the killing of about eight security operatives comprising soldiers, policemen and men of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps at Umualumaku community, Ehime Mbano Local Government Area of Imo State. The Southeast definitely cannot continue like this. It is affecting the people’s source of livelihood, their health, their psychological well being and everything
You can imagine the people, having to live in fear over these years both in their homes, on the road, at public places, everywhere. It is high time the southeast governors came together, kept their political ambitions, their selfish interests behind and found a lasting solution to this insecurity problem that is destroying the region. Governance is not just about what you will gain as a leader. It should be more about what you should do to better the lots of your people. The immediate past governors of the region came up with the idea of setting up a security outfit, Ebubeagu, similar to Amotekun that exists in the Southwest but that was dead on arrival because of the selfish interests of the governors and their failure to work as a body. The current governors have shown a sign of their willingness to work together.
Rising from their meeting in Enugu some weeks ago, they made known their resolution to fight insecurity decisively in the region individually and collectively, in partnership with the Federal Government and other Stakeholders. However, it is over a month after the meeting. We expect to see the road map of how they intend to tackle the menace. The people have heard sweet talks and empty promises for a long time. What they want to see now is action. They want to see the governors truly committed to this cause through good governance and physical development of their states. Economic development of the region is key in solving this problem. By creating jobs and economic opportunities, the appeal of criminal activities for young people can be reduced. This can be achieved through investments in infrastructure, education, and entrepreneurship programmes. Sometimes when you go to a state like Enugu you wonder how they survive due to the dearth of industries
. Those involved in agriculture find it difficult to do so because their farms have been taken over by criminals. In a national television interview recently, the former Governor of Enugu State, Dr Okwesilieze Nwodo, spoke the mind of many people on the causes of youth restiveness and crime in the South East and the way forward. He listed unemployment and lack of sincere dialogue with the youth as the major things fuelling insecurity. The former PDP national chairman observed that despite the fact that there are no jobs, the young people also feel extremely marginalized in their own country. They feel that instead of the Federal Government dialoguing with them, the various governments of the South East are in close cooperation with the federal government to stifle their agitation and they react by fighting back.”The country does not give them any hope and they accuse us their leaders of having failed them so they want self-help and we work very hard to counsel them that self-help will not take them anywhere, that it can only bring federal action to eliminate those who resort to self-help”, he said.
Coupled with these is the endless, senseless, mandatory Mondays sit-at-home order. It is difficult to comprehend why the Independent People of Biafra (IPOB) or whatever group that gives such order has continued on this fruitless trajectory for many years. How can you claim to be fighting for the liberation of your people when you continue to kill them, maim them, destroy their property and cause them pain? Somebody will be sitting comfortably in a safe foreign country and issuing orders on how to make his homeland unsafe and some people are sheepishly carrying out the order? We have seen some past and current governors like Chukwuma Soludo of Anambra State and Peter Mba of Enugu State making efforts to put an end to the sit-at-home order, yet it persists. The criminals seem to have dared them by continuing the rain of mayhem on the states
So, there is no end in sight to the insecurity problem in the South East without the youths, the politicians who sometimes fuel the crisis and other stakeholders. It was good to hear the South East governors say they will partner with the federal government to tackle the high insecurity in the region because without the federal government’s commitment, the situation may not change. Ours is a system where the federal government is in charge of the police, army and other security agencies, where on paper the governors are said to be the chief security officers of their states but in practice they are not. With this, it is almost an impossible task for the governors to handle the situation effectively. They lack the capacity to face the criminals. The federal government must address the underlying grievances of the South Easterners through dialogue and negotiation. As have been severally suggested, the government must find a political solution to Nnamdi Kanu’s case.
The current insecurity problem in the South East is rooted in this case and the sooner it was addressed, the better. As Nwodo suggested, “The federal government should negotiate with our youth. Invite the young people and leaders from the zone and show the government’s sincerity and commitment to solving the problem. Find out from these young people why they are kidnapping, raping their people. The government and leaders of the zone will then make a commitment to solving this problem.” There is also a need for political and economic inclusion of the zone. Ensuring that the region is adequately represented in the political landscape and receives its fair share of economic resources can help address some of the underlying grievances that fuel insecurity. The nepotic tendencies in President Bola Tinubu’s appointments as being observed by many people is enough to aggravate the insecurity and agitation not only in the South East but also in other regions of the country.
Nigeria belongs to all the states and all the tribes and they all deserve to be involved in the administration of the country. That is what the Federal Character Principle which is enshrined in the Nigerian Constitution entails. To fight the lingering internal insurrection, those in authority must dispense equity, fairness and good governance. There must be good governance. Without these, the states and the country at large will continue to grapple with insecurity.
By: Calista Ezeaku
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