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Infectious Diseases Bill: Paradox of Optimism and Fear

The two Chambers of the National Assembly are currently working on a new legislation that would provide legal backing to the management of infectious diseases and pandemics in the country. But a welter of criticism is swelling around some of the provisions in the bill that observers say infringe on the rights of citizens.

The Bill, which has already passed second reading in the House of Representatives, is titled:”Infectious Diseases Control Bill 2020″, while the one which passed first reading in the Senate is titled: “National Health Emergency Bill 2020”.

The one at the lower house was sponsored by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, Chairman, House Committee on Health Institutions Pascal Obi and Chairman of the Committee on Health Services Tanko Sununu. The Bill seeks to repeal the Quarantine Act and enact the Control of Infectious Diseases Bill, make provisions relating to quarantine and make regulations for preventing the introduction into and spread in Nigeria of dangerous infectious diseases, and for other related matters.

The Bill is criticised for giving too much powers to the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) in the management of infectious diseases and pandemic in the country in ways that could infringe on the fundamental human rights of Nigerians.

The Bill amongst others, empowers the Director-General of the NCDC to be in charge of the administration of the new Act, notification of prescribed infectious diseases, surveillance, medical examination and treatment, vaccination post-mortem examination, destruction and disposal of infected animals, food and water, isolation of certain persons, prohibition or restriction of meetings, gatherings and public entertainments as well as control of occupation, trade or business.

Some provisions of the Bill stipulates that; “Except as otherwise provided by this Act, the Director-General of Nigerian Centre for Disease Control shall, subject to any general or special directions of the minister, be responsible for the administration of this Act.

“The Director-General may, subject to such conditions or restrictions as he thinks fit, appoint any public officer, officer of any statutory body; or employee of a prescribed institution, to be a Health Officer for the purposes of this Act or any particular provision of this Act.

“The Director-General may, subject to such conditions or restrictions as he thinks fit, delegate to any Health Officer all or any of the powers conferred on him by this Act. Every medical practitioner who has reason to believe or suspect that any person attended or treated by him is suffering from a prescribed infectious disease or is a carrier of that disease shall notify the Director-General within the prescribed time and in such form or manner as the Director-General may require.”

It also states that “The Director General may require any person who is, or is suspected to be, a case or carrier or contact of an infectious disease to submit to medical examination or medical treatment within or at such time, and at such place, as the Director-General may determine.

“The Director-General may order any person who is, or is suspected to be, a case or carrier or contact of an infectious disease to be detained and isolated in a hospital or other place for such period of time and subject to such conditions as the Director General may determine”.

Another provision of the Bill that particularly generated serious condemnation is the power to order certain persons to undergo vaccination or other prophylaxis. It stated that: “In an outbreak or a suspected outbreak of any infectious disease in any area in Nigeria, the Director General may by order direct any person or class of persons not protected or vaccinated against the disease to undergo vaccination or other prophylaxis within such period as may be specified in the order.

“In addition to the power conferred by subsection (1), where it appears to the Director that — an outbreak of an infectious disease in any area in Nigeria is imminent; and it is necessary or expedient to do so for the securing of public safety, the Director may by order direct any person or class of persons not protected or vaccinated against that infectious disease to undergo vaccination or other prophylaxis within such period as may be specified in the order.”

Opposing the Bill, a veteran Columnist Tola Adeniyi called on the Nigerian Media, Civil Societies, Traditional Institutions, Labour Unions and the Intelligentsia to condemn the insidious Bill that will force vaccination on all Nigerians.

He said, “There is nowhere in the world where across-the-board vaccination is made mandatory. We must save Nigerians from Death Sentence being orchestrated by the Western World and their racist agencies. Whoever has taken bribes and inducements from the financiers from outside, should limit the curse to their families”.

Also, the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) alleged that lawmakers in the House of Representatives were offered monetary inducements for the speedy passage of the Vaccination Bill.

CUPP in a statement signed by its Spokesman, Ikenga Ugochinyere, said it was in possession of intelligence report that the leadership of House is determined to pass the compulsory vaccine bill without subjecting it to the traditions of legislative proceedings.

“Opposition Coalition (CUPP) has intercepted very credible intelligence and hereby alerts Nigerians of plans by the leadership of the House of Representatives led by Femi Gbajabiamila to forcefully and without adherence to the rules of lawmaking to pass the Control of Infectious Diseases Bill 2020 otherwise known as the Compulsory Vaccination Bill which is proposing a compulsory vaccination of all Nigerians even when the vaccines have not been discovered”, CUPP said.

Opposing the Bill after presentation by Gbajabiamila, Sergius Ogun (PDP, Edo) urged the House to think twice and avoid giving too much power to the NCDC to solely manage infectious diseases in the country.

“Be careful with trusting omnibus powers on an agency whose responsibility it will be to determine whether or not, a vaccine is necessary for combating a given outbreak. Such could give rise to conspiracy,” he argued.

On his part, Nkem Abonta (PDP, Abia) argued that the Bill was coming at a wrong time and called on the lawmakers to apply restraint on the speed and subject the new legislation to public hearing for public input.

Abonta said; “We are all aware of what is awash in the social media. We need a Bill for control or prevention of disease. What I am trying to say is we should not because of what we are trying to do make big error. If we are going to do away with public hearing, then we must seek for direction and not speed.”

Despite these criticisms, the Senate also initiated the same Bill with a name, ‘National Health Emergency Bill, 2020’, sponsored by the Chairman, Senate Committee on Primary Healthcare and Communicable Diseases, Chukwuka Utazi (PDP, Enugu).

But soon after the Bill was read for the first time, the former Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu led opposition against it.

Ekweremadu, who under Order 14(1) of the Senate Standing Orders as Amended, demanded for the draft copy of the Bill or in gazetted form, insisted that the content of the bill must be made open before subjecting it to any consideration.

He argued that his privileges and those of other senators would be breached if details of the contents were not made available to them before it is given further legislative consideration.

“In line with Order 14(1), which has to deal with privileges, as one of the serving senators, I move that draft copies of the bill should be made available before any other legislative action is taken on it. This is very important because it would not augur well for the Senate to follow the same route with the House of Representatives where a controversial Bill on Control of Infectious Diseases was passed for first and second reading last week,” Ekweremadu maintained.

The opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had in a statement by the National Publicity Secretary Kola Ologbondiyan said; “It was imperative to allow for popular participation, especially as the bill seeks to prescribe clauses on critical issues, particularly that of vaccination, which has become globally controversial in the face of raging conspiracy theories on the COVID-19 pandemic. Such an approach is already worsening public mistrust as well as heightening apprehension over the intentions of presiding officers of the House of Representatives and the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led administration at this critical time.”

The party insisted that Nigerians should be “Carried along in the decision-making process of such a critical legislation, which seeks to make provisions that will directly affect their health, as well as overall individual and collective safety and well-being. Anything short of that would be counter-productive and capable of breeding an avoidable public resistance, especially given the deepening fear and anxiety in the polity over the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Unperturbed by the hues and cries against the Bill, Speaker Gbajabiamila who is the lead sponsor said allegations that the Bill is a sinister attempt to turn Nigerians into guinea pigs for medical research while taking away their fundamental human rights was far from the truth.

The Speaker however, said the House will subject the Bill to a public hearing where Nigerians from all walks of life would be given the opportunity to contribute to the draft law.

“Suffice it to say that none of these allegations are true. Unfortunately, we now live in a time when conspiracy theories have gained such currency that genuine endeavours in the public interest can quickly become mischaracterised and misconstrued to raise the spectre of sinister intent and ominous possibility. The Control of Infectious Diseases Bill will be put forward to a public hearing where stakeholder contributions will be sought to make improvements to the Bill before it is reviewed and debated by the Committee of the whole,” Gbajabiamila added.

In apparent demonstration of intolerance to opposition against the Bill, the House of Representatives at its plenary resolved to take legal action against an online media organisation for allegedly reporting that the House has collected $10 billion from Bill Gates to pass the Infectious Disease Control Bill.

Speaker, Gbajabiamila mandated the Clerk of the House, Patrick Giwa to liaise with the Majority Leader of the House and the Legal Adviser to the National Assembly to commence legal action against the media outfit.

The House reached this resolution at plenary, following the unanimous adoption of a motion of Personal Explanation by the Deputy Speaker of the House, Ahmed Wase.

On the other hand, the controversial Bill has received the support of the NCDC Director-General, Chikwe Ihekwazu as he pledged support for the new quarantine and public health Bill while responding to questions by Members of the House.

Ihekwazu said there was need for an updated legislation to the infectious diseases control law, stressing that the NCDC is the most affected by the provisions of the current Act.

He however, maintained that the House did not consult him before commencing work on the new Bill but did not said whether the legislature must consult him before bringing up the law that would enhance the fight against infectious diseases.

Meanwhile, the Nigeria Civil Society community, comprising 69 members commended the decision of the House of Representatives to subject the Control of Infectious Diseases Bill to a public hearing in furtherance of the right of citizens to contribute to law making.

The Civil Societies, in a statement recommended that the House should provide information on the committee responsible for the coordination of public hearing and communicate a practical schedule for public engagement on the Bill.

Other recommendations demanded the House to host a virtual and physical public hearing, carry out multi-layered stakeholder consultations and intensify publicity on the Bill to enlighten Nigerians on the provisions of the Bill.

Any attempt to hurriedly act on this proposed bill could lend credence to rising public concerns and conspiracy theories on social media locally and internationally that the House of Reps is acting insensitively under the “dark influence” of some global vaccine players with undeclared interest.

Consequently, the suspicions already generated by the poor handling of this process are bound to trigger a new wave of resistance and rejection when a COVID-19 vaccine is eventually discovered and brought to the country.

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Issues

Illegal Demolition of Hotels And Human Rights Abuses By Gov Wike- Tam-George

Yesterday afternoon, two hotel in the Eleme community of Rivers State were demolished by a team led by the Governor of the State, Mr Nyesom Wike.

According to a statement by the State Government, the hotels had violated an Executive Order, banning the operation of hotels in the State until further notice.

No formal charges were brought against the affected hotels before a court of law, by the Rivers State Government. The owners of the hotels had no opportunity to defend themselves before a Judge. And the so-called Executive Order itself is spurious, draconian and ill-defined.

But the illegal demolition of the hotels yesterday fits into a long and sickening pattern of lawlessness and impunity by Governor Wike in Rivers State.

In July 2017, Governor Wike had shut down and revoked the Certificate of Occupancy of Novotel Hotel in Port Harcourt, simply because critics of his lawless regime had lodged overnight at the hotel.

In the past three years, Mr Wike has deployed his private army of thugs, disguised as State “task forces”, to kill innocent citizens, loot markets and shops, terrorize young women in Port Harcourt, and extort money from drivers and traders in Rivers State.

Three weeks ago, on the 24th April, Sergeant Lovender Elekwachi, a traffic warden on duty in the Eneka area of the State, was murdered in cold blood, by Governor Wike’s marauding task force. The tragic incident was widely reported by the media, including the BBC.

The COVID-19 pandemic has only served as a perfect smokescreen for Governor Wike to escalate his reign of criminality and terror in Rivers State.

On the 27th of April, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michele Bachelet warned governments to refrain from violating fundamental human rights, “under the guise of exceptional and emergency measures” during the COVID-19 crisis.

But in the past six weeks of the pandemic, Governor Wike has caused the death of a law enforcement agent, confiscated private properties, demolished hotels, brutalized market women in Port Harcourt, and held pilots and oil workers on essential duties in illegal detention.

The alarming acts of lawlessness by Mr Wike mean that Rivers State has descended into a state of anarchy. State institutions have been hijacked by a lawless government, and the people themselves have been ‘kidnapped’ by a moral hoodlum in power.

Governor Wike is an extremely powerful politician in Nigeria, who is widely deemed to be above the law.

  1. We therefore call on the UN Human Rights Commission to urgently investigate and initiate criminal proceedings against Mr Nyesom Wike in Rivers State.
  2. We strongly appeal to the United States Congress and the State Department to urgently initiate and maintain consequential pressure, including visa restrictions and asset freezes against Mr Wike, for his reign of impunity in Rivers State.
  3. Governor Wike is well-known for his expensive vacation junkets to European cities, even as children die from preventable water-borne diseases in Rivers State.

We therefore strongly appeal to the European Union to initiate and maintain consequencial diplomatic actions, including money laundry investigations, visa restrictions and asset freezes against Governor Wike, who constantly proclaims that “nothing will happen” to him, despite his reign of terror.

We believe that those who hold public office should never be above the law.”

Dr. Austin Tam-George, Former Commissioner for Information and Communications, Rivers State

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Issues

Tam-George: An Intellectual Prostitute Let Loose- Nsirim

Austin Tam-George has consistently been biting the finger that fed him because he is an intellectual prostitute. He looks for every available opportunity to lampoon Governor Nyesom Wike in order to impress his paymasters as a paid hack without conscience.

Someone like Austin Tam-George does not have the moral standing to discuss governance because his tenure as Commissioner for Information in Rivers State was a monumental failure.

A man who used his first month in office as Commissioner to throw 2O Rivers indigenes who were earning a living in the Ministry as casual workers into the unemployment market surely loves Rivers State.

Perhaps Austin Tam-George’s patriotism also led him to seize the monthly imprests meant for Departments in the Ministry.  Maybe he should explain to Rivers people and the those he is serving why a Commissioner should arm twist Heads of Parastatals under him to make monthly returns to quench his voracious appetite for money.

Was it not his kinsman in one of the parastatals that engaged him in a verbal warfare along William Jumbo Street in Port Harcourt that helped to tame his unquenchable taste for money?

His grouse with Governor Wike is because the over inflated and bogus proposals he made under the guise of upgrading the State Media Houses without recourse to the Bureau for Public Procurement were turned down by the governor who insisted on due process.

Austin Tam-George was quoted as saying that he will never forgive Governor Wike for not allowing him dupe the government. The likes of Austin Tam-George are always available for the highest bidder that is why his recent outburst should not be taken seriously.

When he was looting the money generated by parastatals under him he never remembered United Nations and European Union. As the proverbial dog that eats the bone hung on his neck, he milked the media houses dry before he was sacked from the State Executive Council.

He should know that the record of monies siphoned from the Media houses are still in the archives and will be released if he dares to make any more noise. If Governor Wike did not retain him in his cabinet because he lacked character is it enough to look for any slightest opportunity to impugn his integrity?

Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones. A word is enough for the wise.

Paulinus Nsirim Commissioner for Information and Communications, Rivers State May 11, 2020 

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Issues

Giant Nigeria Held Hostage By Naira Exchange Rate. A critique of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar’s policy perspective on “What Africa Must Do…”

The recent statement by Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, appears to
announce that he has come out from a post- election “fattening room”.
His silence on government policies and 
national trends must have served him as a welcome companion. And why
not?  Any normal citizen who survived the
locally fabricated tornado of our 2019 elections in Nigeria, would have done no
less.

By the way, our elections are not for normal citizens.  Since 1999 have they have been infected from
design by a mischievous “establishment virus”. It is inclined to turn
each election into a social tornado that fits a simple pattern: we tend to
spend more money on elections ( perhaps more than any other country in the
world). We tend to sponsor the most expensive gadgets backed by laughable
supervision gaffes, even before the elections.

Our elections tend to lead to threats of more injuries or
deaths during each cycle. Then, largely more election litigations follow each
cycle, as data from 1999-2019 show.In the end what do we get? A predictable
outcome: the nation is saddled with a mediocre performance that gives us less
value- for- money spent. In effect, we spend all that money to devalue our
democracy by taking it at least one step down the ladder of public service
efficiency.

But we all know that facts from past exercises point to both
those who hold political positions and their leading opponents. They do not
want free and fair elections. Simple! Not at LG, State or Federal level. They
only want to win by other means! Most INEC people know that fact. All the
political parties know that. The security agencies know it . And the courts are
no less part of this conspiracy of mediocrity.

Yet isn’t it ridiculous that they all seem to pitch in with
feverish grand-standing? No it is not ridiculous. It is because each election
allows some people in relevant establishments to go for the kill. Seems each
establishment does the best it could to get its fair share at what has become a
painful and expensive national circus.This virus affects Nigeria’s institutions
and establishments, not only those connected with elections. Increasingly their
performance tends to show that competence and the will to be seen as positively
competitive, no longer matter to Nigeria as a country.

 Everything else we
are going through, seems to be a fall-out of this social reality. That is why
only a few among Nigeria’s top political elite, bother to show by their
behaviour that they are still “normal” like the rest of us. They sit
back to care about competence or performance, worth the title.  Others of their tribe, are sadly not like us
anymore. So Alhaji Atiku’s statement pointing the way for government
performance to achieve efficiency, is positively pregnant. It talks about how
government must  make the Nigerian
economy and Africa’s market potential, a priority to be rescued from Covid -19.
Or the pandemic would snatch the opportunities from our citizens, while other
countries will be set to launch their citizens to higher progress.

But I suspect you know how this will end. Alhaji Atiku will
likely find himself accused as a “sore loser” or worse. Some zealous
Federal Government  agencies or President
Buhari’s party officials will be blinking with rage to charge at Alhaji Atiku.
Please don’t blame them. It is one area where pretension of efficiency by those
involved, leads to steady bank alert for fighting perceived critics of
government.

No action of value to our nation, is likely to come from
such a timely wake- up call. It is because it is part of a trend that shows
what kind of system our country is running since 1999. A feudal political system
does not want performance efficiency to make it competitive, because that
requires competence -based allocation of opportunities. Nigeria left the lane
of competence based decision making in the public sector  20 years ago. It tends to get worse with each
passing adminstration.

Problem is that there is no Private Sector in the real sense
to cover up the establishment policy failure and widening performance gaps. As
I shall show, Alhaji Atiku’s call only scratched the surface of a deeper
national problem. To be sure in a system where a country wants to be seen by
it’s citizens as caring for their interest, the response would be different.

According to Ms Blank the woman who is a co-leader of what
is becoming known as “Verbatim theatre” culture, which is a new form
of drama to express crucial underlying national issues,  we should all join hands to make Nigeria
react differently. Our nation’s growing disregard for a culture that promotes
performance value, should be at the “heart of what we should be grappling
with as a country”, as Ms Blank was quoted on a different issue by *The
Economist* of March 7-13 2020 (page 73) . 

But many of our politicians no longer connect with the dream
that keeps majority of our people awake every night at the LG, state and
federal levels.  It is not a fantasy. No!
Once upon a time our nation was the centre of Africa’s ambition and the point
on any map of Africa, which Black professionals such as Dr Patrick Wilmot,
Lindsay Esoghene Barret and many others wanted to belong to or identify with.

For instance in the 1970s just a few years after the Civil
War, ordinary Nigerians were respected and our nation too became respected. Up
to the mid 1980s, we were in the centre of most markets: from West Africa to
many parts of Africa, Europe and the Americas. Even in far away South East Asia
Nigerians moved on the street with a swagger like descendants of local Princes.
One indicator was the power of the Naira. 
At every airport around the globe, the Naira was treated like a King and
those who carried it, felt regal confidence in their wallets and steps.

Between 1970-1979 the US dollar ($) exchanged for less than
one Naira ( N)!

By 1998 it took about N23 to get $1. But by 1999 -2007, the
exchange rate had brought Naira to a sustained downward slide: thus from N89 to
$1 in 1999, it moved to N142 to $1 in 2007. Between 2010-2015 it made a peak
of  N170 to $1. In March 2020 the Google
report on the Naira is N386 to $1! It explained why from 1999, only people in
power as government and their cronies, can claim any dignity as Nigerians.

 A study of the
exchange rate slide from 1983-2019 shows that things have gotten worse with
each passing year. The problem is that the exchange rate is not mere numbers.
It talks about the purchasing power of a people and the quality of life they
have. What the exchange rate of the Naira says is that for 20 years ordinary
Nigerians need their governments at state and federal levels to look at how
much Naira a dollar commands, and resolve to push up productivity of our
economy. As Ms Blank said in a related insight, it is the only way to empathize
with  stories of ordinary citizens and to
show that government feels the pain behind their nostalgia for past years. 

But sadly enough Alhaji Atiku’s statement didn’t address the
exchange rate. And that is curious. From 1983 the Naira has been held hostage
as a national currency with diminishing exchange rate, when compared to the US
dollar or any other foreign currency. That is about 37 years of downward slide
of our national currency. In a sense it also shows how our national economy has
fared. Something significant is that it has taken the Chinese  about 30 years to move their national economy
in the opposite direction.

In 2020 the world economy is waiting for China to trigger a
recovery in it’s capacity as the second largest economy in the global
market.  Donald Trump is pulling his hair
out of the way to trumpet a Marshall Plan for the US economy to regain
leadership of the global markets. The government is putting about $350 billion
at the disposal of Small Business enterprises to get them back into production
of goods and services. In the age of globalization which Trump has redefined to
seek optimum advantage for the US, sympathy is not on the table in market relations
between nations .

To be continued…

Brown, a veteran journaluist is emeritus national president of NIPR and Managing consultant/CEO of GRAIN Consulting, PH.

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Issues

The Proprietary Of Rehabilitating Repentant Insurgents

The bill seeking for the rehabilitation of repentant
insurgents appears ill-advised.  In the midst
of the ongoing serial brutalities against Nigerians in the North-east,

a bewildering bill was tabled before the Senate aimed at
mainstreaming “repentant” Boko Haram insurgents into the Nigerian society,
leaves so much to question.

Sponsored by former Yobe State Governor, Alhaji Ibrahim
Gaidam, representing Yobe South Senatorial district, the bill seeks the
establishment of an agency for the rehabilitation and integration of insurgents
and “help to counter the violent and poisonous ideology that the Boko Haram
spreads”.

This legislation comes amidst incessant attacks in the
North-east by bandits and suspected Boko Haram members with the most recent
being the killing of over 50 people in Kaduna.

Despite the backlash, Gaidam has attempted to justify his why
a commission is the best bet to address the unending insurgency. Among other
reasons, he said, “the agency when established will help rehabilitate and
reintegrate the defectors, repentant and forcefully conscripted members of the
Boko Haram to make them useful members of the society and provide an avenue for
reconciliation and promote national security.”

The bill has ignited criticisms from many quarters. While
some describe it as needless waste of resources and a misplaced priority,
others have likened it to a deliberate effort to prolong the decade-long
insurgency. Indeed, the proposal raises many pertinent questions: Why the
urgency to free Boko Haram suspects when the war

is still in full force? Why should anyone talk of
rehabilitating terrorists while the innocent victims of their brutalities are
reeling in pains, many of them unattended to? And why should resources be
poured into an agency that will make criminals comfortable when our Armed
forces in the frontline are still ill-equipped and ill-motivated? Why do we
need to indulge some misguided individuals who have proven that they are not
ready for negotiation? Only recently, the Chief of Army Staff, Gen Tukur
Buratai said 10 years was insufficient to deradicalise an indoctrinated person.
So, what exactly is driving this “repentant” idea and to serve what end?

Chief of Defense staff, Gen Abayomi Olonisakan, had in 2017
pledged to ensure the “total re-radicalization and rehabilitation of all
ex-Boko Haram members before re-integrating them into the society in line with
international best practices.”

President Muhammadu Buhari also said the Nigerian government
is “ready to accept the unconditional laying down of arms by any member of the
Boko Haram group who shows strong commitment in that regard.”

His words were followed by the handing over of 244 Boko
Haram suspects, by the Nigerian Army whom it said had given up membership of
the terrorist group, to the Borno state government. This is even as the army
said another 154 ex-Boko Haram fighters had been rehabilitated under the
De-radicalization, Rehabilitation and Reintegration (DRR) programme and were
set to be reintegrated into the society.

The timing of the bill could not be worse. For many
Nigerians, particularly those in the North-east, life has never been so brutal.
With the maimed, the orphans, the widows, widowers and the tide of refugees in
IDP camps practically left to their own devices, the

preoccupation with making some killers happy can hardly make
sense.

Former Senate Majority Leader, Senator Ali Ndume, whose
senatorial district is adversely affected by the Boko Haram insurgents’
attacks, said recently that around 1.7 million people have been displaced in
Borno State alone. He put the value of the damage at around $9.6 billion.
“Around 60,000 children are orphaned. Only God knows how many children are out
of school, have no access to water, food and means of livelihood. The
humanitarian crisis that is coming after the war may be more dangerous than the
war itself,” he said.

Indeed, two international humanitarian groups said over 14
million Nigerians have been directly affected by the humanitarian crisis in the
North east region while some 1500 schools, around one million houses were
destroyed as at 2017. According to the United Nations, some 27,000 people have
been killed in the hostilities, aggravated by the vicious Boko Haram breakaway
faction called Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP).

If Gaidam’s bill is allowed to fly it will simply legitimize
long-standing official willingness to overlook the blood in the hands of the
killers and reintegrate into the society. But the real incentive for this
proposition might be the idea of creating another bureaucracy similar to the
Niger Delta amnesty programme with money from the public treasury.

Two years ago while receiving the 107 school girls abducted
in Dapchi, Yobe State by Boko Haram, President Buhari hinted of an amnesty to
repentant criminals. Shortly after, the military established a camp to
“rehabilitate and reintegrate surrendered and repentant Boko Haram terrorist
members” via an exercise known as Operation Safe Corridor (OPSC), an
intergovernmental programme aimed at rehabilitating “low risk repentant” Boko
Haram fighters. But so many Nigerians, including retired and serving military personnel,
have

expressed concerns about this dangerous gambit.

Proponents of the bill refer to the rehabilitation of
repentant Boko Haram terrorists to the Federal Government’s amnesty programme
for militants in the Niger Delta. They believe the rehabilitation of repentant
Boko Haram terrorists like the Niger Delta amnesty program would offer ex Boko
Haram fighters a “refined” life and position them for skills acquisition
including educational opportunities that prepare them for integration into the
society.

As laudable as this appears, it is pertinent to note that
there is a very remarkable between the amnesty programme and the proposed
rehabilitation of repentant Boko Haram insurgents. The fight by Niger Delta
militants was a struggle against perceived marginalization of the region and a
move for even development. But in the case of Boko Haram, there is no clear
reason for the incessant attacks witnessed over the years other than a perverse
hatred for Western Education and non-Muslims as defined by the insurgents.

In the heat of militant activities in the Niger Delta, the
federal government sent a delegation and struck an agreement with visible and
aggrieved militant leaders which gave birth to the amnesty programme. But calls
for negotiations with the Boko Haram terrorist have experienced fallouts on
each occasion as no serious nation negotiates with terrorists.

De-radicalization of repentant Boko Haram terrorists should
be considered when the fight against the insurgents is over with the insurgents
loosening their grip on North-east Nigeria just as the militants action gave
birth to the amnesty programme.

But in the heat of the war against the murderous insurgents
bent on over-running the Nations security and armed forces, calls for
de-radicalization, rehabilitation and reintegration of ‘repentant” Boko Haram
terrorists will leave fear and uncertainties in the minds of Nigerians.

Because, there is no assurance that the “repentant” fighters
will not return to the communities and perfect strategies to reenact their orgy
of killings.

The Boko Haram insurgents are clearly a terrorist group that
should not be cast in the pattern of the Niger Delta Amnesty deal.

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Expectations Of Bayelsans As New Dawn Beckons

On Friday, 14 February 2020, history was made in the
oil-rich Bayelsa State, when Senator Douye Diri was sworn in as the fifth
democratically elected governor of the state.

While the outgoing Governor Henry Seriake Dickson will enjoy
the tag of being the longest serving governor under the People’s Democratic
Party (PDP), who served eight years of two terms and handed over to his
preferred candidate.

Diri’s emergence as governor, although shrouded in a
controversial Supreme Court judgment, has opened a new vista for the state. The
Supreme Court’s decision left many Bayelsans deflated and such that violent
protests almost brought Yenagoa, the state capital, to a standstill.

A young state with enormous potential yet challenges due to
maladministration and corruption, Diri has his task cut out for him on how to
change the narrative of failure of past administrations. There are huge
expectations from Bayelsans and other stakeholders given Diri’s antecedents as
one of the founding fathers of one of the most vibrant youth organizations in
Nigeria, Ijaw Youth Congress (IYC).

Bayelsa State has one of the lowest populations in the
country. But in terms of revenue accruals from the Federation Account, it
receives relatively large chunk of funds, including the 13 per cent due to its
oil producing status. The state is richly endowed with the black gold. So, Diri
will have no excuse if he failed to develop Bayelsa State.

One of the major challenges Diri would face and which he
would need to tackle fast may come from his party, the Peoples Democratic Party
(PDP) in the state and the expected overbearing influence his predecessor, Mr.
Henry Seriake Dickson, who foisted him on the people.

There is also the issue of settling the party’s faithful.
Many will soon start jostling for the different positions and opportunities.

Bayelsa with eight local government areas, is perhaps the
least developed among states created same year, economically and
infrastructurally despite the huge accruals from the federal allocation. With
high level of insecurity, epileptic power supply (even in the state capital in the
last six years), hunger, poverty, cultism and other problems, Bayelsans first
expectation from Diri, will be power supply. The lack of power supply has
crippled the state’s economy as many businesses left the state in the last four
years.

According to a human rights activist, Comrade Tabowei
Oyintarila, the expectations from the incoming administration of Diri by
Bayelsans are very high, “considering the huge gap between the needs of the
people and what has been given to them so far”.

“There is no need crying over spilt milk, Diri should learn
from the reactions of Bayelsans in the latter days of Dickson as governor. I
have just gone to the Garrison Area of Port Harcourt to take a look at the
flyover project ongoing there. Yesterday as I got into Port Harcourt, l saw
same thing at Rumuokoro – a flyover. This is a testament to the fact that
development is a continuum. In as much as Dickson has done his best, it isn’t
good enough as the basic amenities such as light (power), water, functional
health and educational facilities are still a far cry for Bayelsans”,
Oyintarila said.

Re-echoing the advice of Oyintarila, a social commentator,
Mr. Ernest Uzevie, said, “the expectations of Bayelsans from the incoming
administration are very high. Let him fix electricity because light is life;
let him tackle insecurity that has become a monster and a great source of worry
to all. We want industrialization. Our great state needs to move away from her
present civil service status”.

“Let him complete the 5-star hotel, which has become an
embarrassment to the state. He should complete the Glory Drive from Igbogene
down to Yenagoa, complete Bayelsa Palm Road, Isaac Boro Expressway,
Opolo-Elebele Road, Yenagoa-Oporoma Road, and Sagbama-Ekeremor Road. Building
of Agge Seaport, payment of student bursary, prompt payment of gratuity,
development of the Bayelsa Palm that will generate billions of naira for the
state, and provision of water and canalization of Epie Creek. These should also
be some of his priorities if he must succeed and gain the people’s trust.”

Despite the huge investment in education by Dickson’s
administration, the new governor still needs to do a lot more in this sector,
especially as regards school enrollment in the rural communities. In most of
the rural communities, school attendance in both primary and secondary schools
ranks among the lowest in country as the previous government failed to do the
needful.

Also, the quality of education needs improvement while
school fees for higher education is beyond the reach of common Bayelsans. Diri
needs to provide bursary for students in tertiary institutions and not the loan
scheme Dickson introduced at the end of his tenure. Bayelsans are canvassing
that this should be one of Diri’s priorities so as to help students who are not
from rich homes acquire decent education.

Perhaps, one of the many “sins” of Dickson is his
unfulfilled promise. He would be remembered as the governor with the highest
number of initiated but unfinished infrastructural projects, including roads
and many others.

Many businesses closed down in the state capital. As
businesses closed for lack of patronage, families left the city with their
businesses. Suddenly, houses became vacant leading to general inactivity in the
economic sector.

In his second term, Dickson travelled around the world
looking for foreign investors after shutting out local investors. Ironically,
these investors came to a state capital that has no power supply with a high
level of insecurity.

These investors simply left and never came back.

Dickson was a passionate governor who was desirous to work
and provide basic infrastructure for the state. But he was consumed by his
ambition, to be the ‘generalissimo’ of Bayelsa politics. Dickson and PDP nearly
paid for this ambition but for the intervention of the Supreme Court.

Just like Oyintarila said, Diri should learn from the
mistakes of Dickson and listen to the voice of the people and critical
stakeholders and provide amenities for the state.

Notwithstanding the herculean task before him, Diri, the 60
years old Senator has rich credentials that put him in great stead to excel if
political gladiators in the state allow him to work.

Before joining active politics, he taught in several
government schools in the rural areas of old Rivers State and was the first
National Organizing Secretary of Ijaw National Congress (INC). He was also the
Executive Secretary, Centre for Youth Development in Bayelsa State between 2000
to 2002 and later Commissioner for Youth and Sports (2005-2006) before his
appointment as Council member, University of Maiduguri (2008-2012). 

He was also the Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party’s
(PDP) Disciplinary Council, Bayelsa State (2012). In 2012, when Dickson emerged
as the governor of the state, he was appointed Deputy Chief of Staff,
Government House in 2012, and then Principal Executive Secretary (2013-2014).

Diri won election to the House of Representatives to
represent Kolokuma/Opokuma and Yenagoa Federal Constituency in 2015, and later
a Senator representing Bayelsa West Senatorial District before he won the
primaries of PDP, albeit in controversial circumstances. Besides all these,
Diri has a good track record to his credit in terms administrative performance.

At his swearing-in ceremony, Diri was emphatic on the need
for reconciliation and uniting all Bayelsans across political divides and
called for calm and peace.

In an inauguration address, Diri declared that he would
always work to achieve peace, love and prosperity for the people.

He described the swearing in day as “a day made by God and
marvelous in the eye of the people of Bayelsa.

“I have been sworn in today as your new governor; my advice
is that we have to be magnanimous in victory. We have to forget the bitterness,
and the acrimony, because if we kill ourselves, who are we going to lead? Of
course, we are not going to lead animals. I, therefore, bring to you message of
love, hope and prosperity for Bayelsa. Let us eschew all the bitterness and
acrimony and learn to love ourselves irrespective of political parties.”

Diri also declared that he would run an all-inclusive
government, hence the need for the cooperation and support of all leaders of
the state, including former President Goodluck Jonathan.

The new governor, urged the Minister of Petroleum Resources,
Chief Timipre Sylva, APC governorship candidate in the last election, Chief
David Lyon, and other opposition parties to join hands with him in building the
state.

He also reemphasized the need for peace and reconciliation.

With the Supreme Court finally bringing the anxious moments
of the judicial review to an end, the time is now for Governor Douye Diri to
hit the ground running for Bayelsa to see fruitful actions.

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Issues

Coronavirus: Origin, Spread, Protection

According to the WHO, coronaviruses are a family of viruses
that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as
severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome
(MERS).

These viruses were originally transmitted between animals
and people. SARS, for instance, was transmitted from civet cats to humans while
MERS moved to humans from a type of camel.Several known coronaviruses are
circulating in animals that have not yet infected humans.

The name coronavirus comes from the Latin word corona,
meaning crown or halo. Under an electron microscope, the image of the virus
looks like a solar corona.

The novel coronavirus, identified by Chinese authorities on
January 7 and since named COVID-19, is a new strain that had not been
previously identified in humans. Little is known about it, although
human-to-human transmission has been confirmed.

  Symptoms and spread

According to the WHO, signs of infection include fever,
cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, it
can lead to pneumonia, multiple organ failure and even death.

WHO analysis of currently available data showed 82 percent
of cases appear to be mild, about 15 percent progress to severe and 3 percent
are critical. Most of the fatal cases were in older people and people with
underlying conditions such as diabetes and hypertension.

Current estimates of the incubation period – the amount of
time between infection and the onset of symptoms – range from 1-12 days. Most
infected people show symptoms within five to six days.

More than 67,000 people worldwide, vast majority of them in
China, have been infected by the new coronavirus, which continues to spread to
more countries since it was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan in
December.

At least 1,500 people have died so far in mainland China, as
well as one person in Hong Kong, one in Philippines and another one in Japan.
Almost all the fatalities in China have been in Hubei province, the capital of
which – Wuhan – is where the virus first originated.

The coronavirus – known as COVID-19 – spreads from person to
person in close proximity, similar to other respiratory illnesses, such as the
flu.

Droplets of bodily fluids – such as saliva or mucus – from
an infected person are dispersed in the air or on surfaces by coughing or
sneezing.

These droplets can come into direct contact with other
people or can infect those who pick them up by touching infected surfaces and
then their face.

According to scientists, coughs and sneezes can travel
several feet and stay suspended in the air for up to 10 minutes.

It is not yet known how long the virus can survive outside a
host but, in other viruses, it ranges from a few hours to months.

Transmission is of particular concern on transport, where
droplets containing the coronavirus could pass between passengers or via
surfaces like aeroplane seats and armrests.

The incubation period of the coronavirus, the length of time
before symptoms appear, is between one and 14 days.

Although not yet confirmed, Chinese health authorities
believe the virus can be transmitted before symptoms appear.

Viruses that spread quickly usually come with lower
mortality rates and vice versa. As the virus is an entirely new strain, it is
believed that there is no existing immunity in anyone it will encounter.

Some level of immunity will naturally develop over time, but
this means that those with compromised immune systems, such as the elderly or
sick, are most at risk of becoming severely ill or dying from the coronavirus.

Although the total number of deaths has now exceeded those
recorded during the 2002-2003 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome
(SARS), the current mortality rate is much lower than that of SARS.

The coronavirus mortality rate stands at 2.4 percent, while
SARS killed 9.6 percent of those infected.

How people can protect themselves 

In terms of self-protection and containing the virus,
experts agree that is important to wash your hands frequently and thoroughly
with soap; cover your face with a tissue or your elbow when coughing or
sneezing; visit a doctor if you have symptoms; and avoid direct contact with
live animals in affected areas.

While face masks are popular, scientists doubt their
effectiveness against airborne viruses.

Masks may provide some protection to you and others, but
because they are loose and made of permeable material, droplets can still pass
through.

Many countries have advised people travelling back from
China to self-quarantine for at least two weeks.

China has placed Wuhan and more than a dozen other cities
under lockdown, affecting more than 60 million people, although this has not
prevented the virus from spreading to all of China’s provinces.

As the number of confirmed cases continues to rise,
businesses and countries are taking increasingly drastic action.  

Given the response and effect, the new coronavirus is being
treated as a serious concern. The infection is now more widespread than the
2002-2003 SARS outbreak, which also originated in China.

The WHO has designated the outbreak with its highest warning
level, as it did for five others, including Ebola in 2014 and 2019, polio in
2014, the Zika virus in 2016 and swine flu in 2009.

On February 10, a WHO-led team of investigators arrived in
China to evaluate the situation in more detail.

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Issues

Journalists Set Agenda For N’Delta Environment

Environmental issues in the Niger Delta have over the
decades attracted global attention in view of the monumental social and
economic challenges posed by the oil exploration activities of multinationals
and criminal elements in the region. The effect has been that lives of
residents of the area have come under serious threat and many communities are
on the verse of being wiped out by the massive environmental pollution arising
from oil exploration and production.

The United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) report on
Ogoniland released in 2011 detailed the intractable situation of the people of
the area and recommended the need for an action plan by the Nigerian
authorities for immediate remediation of the environment.

The setting of the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project
(HYPREP) by the Nigerian government was seen as a laudable move towards the
clean-up of the impacted areas of the Ogoni land. But years after so much
delays and subsequent take off, the activities of HYPREP have raised many
questions as to its sincerity, seriousness and capacity to carry through and
implement the project with all the specifications and standards set out in the
UNEP report.

This was what the Correspondent chapel of the Nigerian Union
Journalist (NUJ) set out to examine during its 2019 week held in Port Harcourt,
the Rivers State Capital.

The week-long activities began on Monday, December 2nd at
the Presidential Hotel in Port Harcourt with the theme; Role of the Media in
protecting the Rivers environment. Quality resource persons that assembled to
discuss the issues at stake point to the seriousness and commitment of the
organizers of the event.

Chaired by the chairman of the Rivers State Investment
Forum, Ibifuro Bobmanuel, participant at the event which include social and
environmental activists such as Comrade Celestine Akpoborie, University dons,
traditional rulers and representatives of oil companies and the media took
turns to task media practitioners to take interest and unflinching commitments
in the crises and challenges of  the
issues emanating from of the Rivers environment.

On Day 2 of the event, the Chairman of the Correspondent
Chapel, Chief Ernest Chinwo, took the members of the organization on facilities
tour including a visit to the Indorama Fertilizer Company in Eleme local
government area of the state.

The Ogoni clean-up programme took the centre stage at a
symposium held on Wednesday, December 4 at the NUJ secretariat, where eminent
discussants including the president of the apex Ogoni socio-cultural
organization, the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People MOSOP, Mr. Legborsi
Pyiagbara, Dr. Chika Onuegbum, former Vice Chancellor of the Rivers State
University of Science and Technology, Prof. B. B. Fakae, who chaired the
symposium; titled “UNEP Report: Accessing Stakeholders compliance in Ogoni
cleanup”, subjected the operations of the Hydrocarbon Pollution and Remediation
Project (HYPREP) in Ogoni land to critical reviews.

A fundamental outcome of this discussion according to the
communiqué issued at the end of event was that the effectiveness of HYPREP in
the implementation of the UNEP Report is being hampered by bureaucratic bottlenecks
put on its way by the Federal Government.

The nine point communiqué which was endorsed by the event
organizing Chairman, Ignatius Chukwu and Chairman of the Chapel, Chief Ernest
Chinwo emphasized the need for Nigerians and the government to take issues of
the environment more committedly in the interest of national and environmental
safety.

The communiqué noted that the project to cleanup Ogoni land
has been discomfortingly slow for any notable impact. Participants were of the
view that the remediation should be followed with conformation and monitoring
as a way of preventing further degradation of the environment, as this is the
way for the UNEP Report and clean-up of the area to witness reliable results.

Another salient observation in the communiqué was fears
raised by participants that the UNEP report may not be the valid solution to
the environmental degradation of the area considering the likely influence of
oil multinationals.

Although the media was highly commended for its interest in
the challenges of the environment in the state and Nigeria generally, the
journalists need to do more to highlight the dangers to human health caused by
deliberate and inadvertent activities of individuals and groups.

Members of the Correspondents’ chapel should be commended
for the boldness in the choice of the themes of their 2019 week as the steps
they took would certainly go a long way to provoke greater action on the UNEP
report and clean-up of Ogoniland and also to protect our environment and save
the Niger Delta and humanity from possible extinction.

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Issues

Nigeria 2020: More Powers To The Taxman

As the last
month of 2019 rolls by, there are indications that whatever euphoria that may
usher in the new year of 2020, may be short-lived for many Nigerians. And this
may be due to the incoming regime of new taxes that may increase the complement
of extant ones, a widened tax-net and expanded powers of the tax authorities
across the country.

Among the
most worrisome to the Nigerian public for now is the plan by the government
that as from January 2020, no bank customer will carry out any transaction in
the country’s banks without a Tax Identification Number (TIN). The National
Assembly has just passed a Finance Bill which effectively conscripted the
country’s banks into the government’s tax drive .According to the Minister of
Finance Zainab Ahmed as soon as President Muhamadu Buhari signs the bill into
law, persons intending to open new bank accounts will have to provide a TIN,
just as older customers will also provide same before carrying out any
transactions.

The aim of
this measure is to expand the tax net to accommodate as many Nigerian taxable
citizens as possible. According to a recent study on Nigeria by the
international Monetary Fund (IMF), only 10 million out of a possible 77 million
Nigerians are in the tax net. And these comprise those who are easily
identified and compelled to be taxed such as public servants, and operators in
the formal sector of the economy. The rest of the possible entrants into the
tax net are mostly operators in the informal sector who are only taxed when
they have official business with government regulatory agencies or banks as the
case may be.

Government
attention on them becomes easily understandable given the potential of
humongous harvest of tax revenue derivable from them. Beyond the conscription
of the banks to cage Nigerian taxable persons, is the complement of efforts to
tax the informal sector directly. The Rivers State government for example
recently released a chart of rates for assessing and collecting taxes from all
categories of informal sector operators ranging from street hawkers to
operators of medium scale factories.

The chart
which delineates the taxable persons and entities into three categories of
micro, small and medium business sizes provides an interesting experiment on
managing the regulation, and taxation of the SMEs. Government’s interest in the
informal sector is coming against the backdrop of its apparently increasing
desperation over the mismatch between its revenue base and the budgetary
obligations.

For
instance, in the forthcoming 2020 budget which is still in the works, the sum
of N2.18 trillion or 1.52% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is
earmarked for deficit, in order that government will meet its obligations. And
this sum is to be funded through borrowings from both domestic private and
foreign sources. Based on this consideration President Buhari resubmitted a request
for a fresh foreign loan of  $29.96
Billion which many Nigerians have raised strong reservations against. The
reservations are informed by the widespread mistrust of the government’s
management of public finance, especially the regime of foreign loans.

Of
particular concern is the matter of Chinese loans the considerations of which
have shed goose pimples on many Nigerians, over what happens if this country
defaults on such facilities, given the unforgiving disposition of the Asian
giant to insolvent debtors. On a daily basis the tales fly out on how the
Chinese seize the valued assets of countries that fail to pay their debts, with
several East African countries as examples.

There is
therefore a gnawing feeling among not a few Nigerians that the new powers
granted the tax authorities are intended as a fall back dispensation just in
case the government fails to secure the loans. 
However more significant is the situation whereby government is
squeezing the citizenry into further economic straits when the economy is yet
to bounce back into a sustainable expansion to provide for increasing
prosperity for the people. Even as the government may not admit readily, its
Economic Recovery and Growth Programme (ERGP) is yet to manifest sustainable
growth.

Hence the
question of how the government will expect optimal tax returns from the
citizenry. In the final analysis while the tax authorities may have been
granted more powers, the dwindling pockets of the citizenry need to be factored
in with respect to government expectations of more tax revenue in 2020.

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Front PageIssues

Youth And The Crisis Of Unemployment

With developing countries facing acute unemployment in the
formal and informal labor markets Youth unemployment is a global concern. In
Nigeria young people account for two thirds of Nigeria’s unemployed and
underemployed. According to the 2016 Global Youth Development Index, Nigeria
ranked 158th out of 183 countries in the domain of employment and
opportunities.

One unique feature of the economic growth problem in Nigeria
is its inability to create more jobs. Considering the growing youth population,
estimated to reach 135 million by 2020, this is a significant concern. The
current growth rate of the population, which outpaces rate of employment
generation, is indeed a policy consideration in addressing youth employment and
productivity as  recent downturn of
economic activities further exacerbates the wage employment deficit amongst the
youth.

In a nutshell, in Nigeria, thousands of graduates are
produced every year but there are no jobs for majority of them. The streets are
full of youth hawkers who ordinarily would have found gainful employment in
some organizations/government parastatals/ or be self-employed with seed capital
from government or finance houses.

With insecurity and electricity, youth unemployment is the
third biggest problem confronting our nation today. It is the root cause of
poverty, youth restiveness, gangsterism, armed robbery, kidnapping, assassinations,
and all sorts of deviant behavior. Among this band of unemployed youths, over
three million young boys and girls with NYSC discharge certificates roam the
streets of the country in search of jobs that do not exist. Our tertiary
intuitions churn out over 200,000 graduates into the job market every year
thereby, exacerbating the situation.

Where do we go from here? Youth unemployment will continue
to grow unless we turn job seekers to job creators and this is why all
stakeholders should join hands to reduce the unemployment rate in the country.
Our higher institutions should endeavor to produce employable graduate and
those that can create jobs in order to compete favorably with their
counterparts around the world. We should go back to technical education and
encourage farming. There are so many arable lands across the federation readily
available for farming, government can facilitate these land for people to farm.

Nigeria’s youthful population should be an advantage to the
economy if well harnessed. In addition to constituting dynamic workforce to
produce goods and services, they should also make up the entrepreneurial class
to drive the economy. Youths are not assets to waste, and as such strategies
and measures should be put in place to ensure that the skills, strength and
ideas of our youthful population is harnessed.

Nigeria must see unemployment as a monster debilitating our
collective existence. Instead of amassing military arsenal against kidnappers
and robbers etc, it is time to fight the root cause which is unemployment.
Youths of a nation are the trustees of its posterity and the last line of
defense in times of wars and emergencies. They are indispensable human capitals
that should be nurtured and preserved for national development.

Many countries have tackled the issue of unemployment using
different strategies and methods. China has used the massive manufacturing and
export approach, while India is using the service industry to meaningfully
engage her massive population.

That youth unemployment in Nigeria is endemic is stating the
obvious. Its consequences on both the youth and the entire country cannot be
relegated to the background hence the waning of agricultural practices,
lingering poverty, hunger, social vices and insecurity

It is worrisome that youths and graduates willing and able
to work cannot find a job and as such earn nothing. Such individuals are
frustrated, vulnerable and can be used by scrupulous elements in the society to
perpetrate all sorts of crime, which they would abhor if they were productively
engaged or gainfully employed.

Youth empowerment and development are the magic wands that
can change the story, yet it has not been duly explored. It has been and
observed that corruption also increases unemployment and that government have a
role to put in place measures to salvage the unemployment situation of the
country.

Some of these measures should include an audit of the
policies and programmes of youth development and empowerment to avoid
duplication and streamline spheres of operation. Programmes should not be
sacrificed on the altar of political expediency, rather, they should be judged
by their abilities to accomplish the objectives for which they were created.
Government should get credit institutions to spread their activities beyond the
“comfort zones” in which they currently operate, such as local government and
National Youth Service Corps (NYSC). Importantly, a sustained education and
enlightenment program on job creation opportunities in the country should be
put in place.

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