Monday, 29 September 2008
Universities turns post UME screening into a money making exercise
By Anita Ochoga
By Anita Ochoga
After paying the fee of N5,600 for post-University Matriculation Examination, Post-UME, form and scratch card, 22-year old Farida Bello was sure of securing admission at the Benue State University, Makurdi, moreso since she was sure of what she wrote in the examination. Surprisingly, Farida was not among those offered admission by the university. She told Newsworld that she borrowed money to buy both the JAMB form, post-UME form and scratch card all in a bid to gain admission into one of the nation's universities. Another candidate, Nawaorisa Ameachi, said he spent N3,000 for the post-UME form of the University of Jos and N2,000 for a scratch card but was also left in the lurch.
Since the introduction of post-UME screening exercise into universities' admission policy prospective, university candidates have been passing through difficulties in gaining admission into any of the nation's universities. No matter the scores of the candidate at UME, his chances of securing admission depends not on his performance at post-UME examination conducted by respective universities but rather at the mercy of the university. The problem is further compounded with the introduction of an electronic method both in filling the forms and checking the results. As usual, the brunt is borne by parents and guardians.
Mr. Attah Mark, who has four children said he paid through the nose to secure admission for them into one of the nation's universities. He told Newsworld that the universities use post-UME to rip-off Nigerians. Most universities have resorted to post-UME to generate revenue.
Fees charged depend on individual universities. This however, is not a guarantee for admission. Some universities give preference to indigenes during admission. For instance, though Nassarawa State University, Keffi sells its post UME form for N2,500, indigenes of the state are given 90 per cent as against non-indigenes 10 per cent ration.
Peter Zuma, who applies to Kogi State University, Ayingba, told Newsworld that he scored 72 marks at post-UME last year while the school cut-off mark was 45 marks. Zuma was however, denied admission because he is not an indigene of Kogi State. He notes that only children of highly connected people gain admission no matter the candidate's performance at JAMB and post-UME examinations.
When post UME examination was introduced, university vice chancellors said the aim was to checkmate unqualified persons from entering the university system. Then, the whole idea was a welcome development, but little did Nigerians know it was going to be a money-making business by universities.
Newsworld gathered that some universities sell post-UME forms till the day of the examination because of the large profit the school makes from the exercise. While the initiative is good on paper and expected to help screen candidates for a better university system, the same authority have been indicted in the fraudulent act.
Despite shoddy preparations, the Nigerian Paralympics team put impressive performance at this year's paralympic games in China
By Chris Onokpegu
The saying that there is “ability in disability” once again was proved right when the Nigerian disabled athletes to the Paralympics in Beijing, China surpassed the achievement of the able-bodied athletes with gold medals.
Nigeria finished 30th on the overall medals table but third in Africa with 4 gold, 4 silver and I bronze medals, a feat that could not be achieved by their able-bodied counterparts in the Olympics who only managed to win a silver medal in men's football event with 3 bronze medals in 4x100m women relay, Judo and long jump.
25 athletes competed in power-lifting, athletics and wheel-chair tennis. Ruel Ishaku and Lucy Ejike won gold medals in the men and women 48kg power-lifting while Eucharia Njideka Iyiazi won 2 gold medals in shot put and discuss.
Though their performance was a far cry from what was achieved four years ago in Athens, Greece, it was still a remarkable achievement.
'Team Nigeria” as the Nigerian contingents are referred to, had a shoddy preparation towards the competition. The Paralympics had the worst treatment as they were abandoned at their various camps with little or no funds. They were left to fend for themselves while their Olympics counterparts had everything going for them including a training tour of South-Korea.
The disabled athletes neither had pre-Games competitions nor attended any championship to either keep them in shape or test their level of preparedness.
Sports analysts condemned the officials of the National Sports Commission (NSC) for the treatment meted out to the disabled athletes who had made the country proud. They said the Olympics team was over-pampered while the Paralympics team struggled to make ends meet hence their determination to win laurels.
At the National Stadium, Lagos and other venues, the disabled athletes train with dilapidated and obsolete facilities. They were also not well fed as many of them eat fast and “junk” food and without a proper dieting programme.
Power-lifting coach of the Paralympics, Are Feyisetan confirmed that they had little or no training before the Games. However, Adekunle, an athlete said it was sheer determination with support from family members that fetched them the medals. He attributed lack of modern technology for the reasons why they couldn't achieve more than what they got.
He said most countries have embraced modern technology that helps in making athletes run faster and better, a technology Nigeria is yet to embrace.
If information reaching our sports desk is anything to go by, then the contingent will not be rewarded or hosted to a reception by the President. This might not be unconnected with the eight gold medals the National Sports Commission promised the President while being able to win only four in both the Olympics and Paralympics. The Paralympics team has always had this type of treatment meted out on them.
Apart from what they usually experience before competitions, they are hardly rewarded hence their call for government to give them recognition on their arrival. The team which was received by the governor of Lagos state, Babatunde Fashola on behalf of President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua is yet to be hosted or rewarded but the case was not the same when the conquering team tutored by late Yemi Tella won the U-17 world cup in South Korea last year and were immediately rewarded by the federal government both in Lagos and Abuja.
It was not the case in other lands as barely 24 hours after the Paralympics, Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper hosted the Canadian Paralympics team despite their not-too-impressive performance.
Another instance is the United States of America that spent a lot of money on Michael Phelps, the world's best swimmer who won eight gold medals in the Olympics hence the US President, George Bush's presence at the event.
The United States assigned a coach to an athlete especially if the athlete is a medal prospect but in Africa and Nigeria in particular, a minimum of ten athletes are assigned to a coach.
Apart from rewarding them, they place them on monthly subvention and in most cases, they are gainfully engaged or employed depending on the country and its policy.
In Nigeria, athletes are not rewarded and where they are so rewarded, officials sit on their files. Some trade with funds approved for athletes as was the case before the Olympics where the money approved was kept in a fixed account to yield interest. In most cases, the approval ends verbally, hence the reason why athletes protest before and after competitions.
Newsworld investigation shows that officials and their friends get their estacodes and other allowances even before embarking on the trips. Some of them end up not embarking on the trips while some board the next available flight after showing their faces. Officials mostly go on trips to enjoy themselves while the welfare of athletes is left to their own fate.
Football followers wondered why all the board members of Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) went to the Olympics leaving behind the goalkeeper trainer, Best Ogedegbe.
The national female team, the Super Falcons once protested in South Africa for unpaid allowances. Their action was carried out because according to them, they are always being dribbled when they get back to the country.
Report also has it that the Tunisia/US 94' team led by “Dutchgeria” Clemence Westerhof is yet to get the house and other rewards promised them by the Babangida government. It is also said that the late coach Yemi Tella-led U-17 World Cup conquering team's reward is also hanging in the balance.
Analysts say if others who are able cannot get their rewards from government, how much more the disabled who are not given a sense of belonging in a society like ours. They foresee a situation whereby a good number of athletes will dump the country to adorn the colours of other countries where they will be appreciated like their compatriots because of the shabby treatment that becomes their lot after competitions.
This is not the first time they are bringing honour to the country. They won 30 out of the 85 gold medals during the 2003 All Africa Games hosted by Nigeria to put the country on top of the overall medals table. They also did the country proud in Athens, Greece, where the able athletes couldn't win a gold medal.
The next Olympics and Paralympics will take place in London. what will happen then remains to be seen.
The registry is still a popular place for many marriages even as some use the opportunity for other motives
By Okechukwu Jombo
To a first time visitor to the secretariat of the Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC), Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, the cluster of persons milling every day around the premises might well be contract seekers. But not all of them are there for that purpose.
Activities at the secretariat pick up seriously every morning and reach a feverish crescendo in the afternoon of all the five working days of the week. During this period, visitors are allowed to troop into the premises of the council for various reasons including to get married in the marriage registry which is also located inside the compound of the area council. Some others go there to cement marital relationship. But on a closer look, one would notice that various mini marriage ceremonies are going on.
Newsworld discovered that all one needs to get married is to walk into the registry and ask to be wedded upon which a form is given to both intending couples who fill same and submit it with a N4,500 fee. The form which also goes with the passport photographs of intending couples.
The commissioner of Oath collects the forms and advises couples to come back after twenty-one days being the period of waiting for public objection to the marriage or not. The passport photographs are pasted on the notice board of the registry throughout the waiting period.
After this time, the couple come forward and are joined in a simple ceremony and a marriage is made.
However, this is not news. What is news is that instead of going through this simple procedure, many persons are now getting marriage certificates without actually getting married in the registry.
One of such cases is that of Onyekwere John who needed a visa to travel to England and was told that one of the criteria to getting the visa is by getting married first. Onyekwere walks into the registry and with the help of a friend gets a marriage certificate for a fee outside the official one.
Newsworld investigations reveal that Onyekwere’s case is very familiar because according to an insider, only fools wait for the statutory 21 days before getting marriage certificates.
The source said it is an age-long racket which cuts across the entire marriage registry nationwide. He explained that fees are negotiated with the racketeer whenever one needs it.
At the registry, it was learnt that not less than ten of such matrimony takes place daily and is mostly between middle aged people who may not want to go through the stress of Church wedding and other appendages like marriage course. However, it was gathered that still, some after doing the registry marriage, go ahead to do the traditional and Church wedding put together.
But while some troop the registry to get the marriage certificate for negative purposes, others what to be re-assured by their spouses.
However, a staff of the registry who pleaded anonymity said that it is not normal for intending couples who go through the ‘back door’ to get their certificates. He said those who do so are dubious people who entice their staff with money.
She went forward to say that it is illegal and should not be encouraged at all.
Nigerian Newsworld discovered that although the act is rampant, it is an offence and can cause a worker his job if caught, thereby making it a syndicated act in the registry.
Cancer remains a major global health problem in developing countries like Nigeria. The need to urgently address the burden in our nation cannot be understated
By Juliana Uzoka
The menace of cancer scourge on the teeming populace is increasing astronomically. Recently, some prominent Nigerians have fallen victim to this malignant ailment in quick succession. Ace Broadcaster, Yinka Craig and Ozzidi King Sonny Okusons both died of cancer.
However, epidemiological evidence shows that cancer neither spares the rich nor the poor. It respects no age group; even neonates have their own share of cancer. Cancer has its peculiarity. Cancer of the prostrate and liver cancer is mostly suffered by men, cervical and breast cancer is suffered by women while the lymphomas are in children coupled with the HIV related malignancy in the society.
Acting minister of health, Dr Mohammed Hassan Lawal stated that; “Cancer is a growing global health concern and Nigeria is not left out because it is a major contributor of morbidity and mortality in our Nation.” According to him, “the dearth of skilled health professionals such as medical physicists, docimetrists, oncology nurses, has posed a major challenge to this effort, because even in tertiary hospitals where much is invested, the lack of appropriate skilled personnel has made it difficult to provide effective services.”
The minister commended the First Lady, Hajia Turai Yar'adua for her commitment to the project and for leading a delegation of health officials from Nigeria to M.D Anderson Cancer Center in the USA reputed to be one of the best in the world. Hajia Yar'Adua set in motion plans to give every Nigerian Cancer patient the opportunity of expert care through the establishment of well equipped National Cancer Center.
Newsworld learnt that the World Health Organization, WHO, has expressed anxiety about the looming global epidemic by estimating an annual incidence of 500,000 new cases by 2010. The WHO statistics stated that if the world is not careful, one in every four person above 50 years will develop cancer.
The Federal Government in its renewed effort to reduce significantly the cancer scourge has through the Federal Ministry of Health launched an awareness campaign to sensitize the public on the need to report early detection and treatment as well as prevention mechanism and effective immunization of adolescents.
A staff of the Federal Ministry of Health said that the high rate of casualty from cancer is because people report late. And then, environmental factors, lack of awareness as well as stigmatization. While health index attributes the affliction to chronic exposure to carcinogenic bacteria, and self made pandemics of tobacco smoking, excessive consumption of alcohol and foods containing a lot of saturated fats.
On the five years National Cancer Control Plan between 2008 and 2013 it will be a collaborative effort between the Federal Ministry of Health and the National Consultative Committee for cancer control.
However, Dr Hassan Lawal enjoins other stakeholders to partner with the Ministry of Health in the fight against cancer. He also warns that duplication of stakeholders' effort is retrogressive pointing out that, “there are more than enough areas of intervention in cancer management to enable us synergize our activities.”
The National Cancer Center is to be established in the six geo-political zones. The first will be sited in the Federal Capital Territory.
According to WHO, the establishment of a National Cancer Control Programme is necessary to coordinate activities in five major areas which include public education, cancer prevention, early diagnosis and referral, effective therapy and palliative care.
With the inglorious ouster of Thabo Mbeki from the presidency of South Africa on allegations of judicial interference, a new chapter have opened in the politics of the former apartheid enclave
By Emma Alozie
It is no longer news that a political tsunami has swept across the political landscape of South Africa, sweeping away their president, Thabo Mbeki. It is also no longer news that Kgalema Motlanthe, the deputy president of the African National Congress, ANC has been sworn in as the interim president of South Africa. However, what has kept many observers guessing is what happens to the political future of Mbeki, a man who has in the last 14 years bestrode South Africa's political landscape like a colossus. Many commentators are saying that Mbeki may take the Nelson Mandela option by retiring quietly to his Transkei clan and be satisfied with being a statesman of repute; others are saying that Mbeki, a natural politician is still in his political prime to contemplate retirement.
To this end, suggestions are rife in the political circles that he may be contemplating breaking away from the ANC, a party he has been following since he was fourteen. According to Standard Chartered Bank's analysts, "the threat of a breakaway party is now significant. The ANC remains the dominant party in South Africa, but any exodus by a large number of centrists, would leave party policy even more at the mercy of more radical influences.”
While Mbeki's mortal political enemy and heir to the 2009 presidency, Jacob Zuma trivialises the current political situations in South Africa, leaders of opposition parties in South Africa are somewhat revelling in the political misfortunes of the oldest political party in Africa, the ANC. "Let me emphasise the current political changes taking place in the country are nothing extraordinary," boasted Zuma, claiming that, “The situation will soon return to normal as we know exactly what we should do, and are doing it with speed, precision and sensitivity."
On her own part, Helen Zille, the leader of the biggest opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, says the current political crisis has highlighted the deep divisions within the ANC. "President Mbeki's ousting may prove to be the undoing of the ANC's electoral dominance," she said. No doubt, the ouster of Mbeki that has seen 11 loyal members of his cabinet voluntarily towing his line, could be a big test to ANC's electoral fortunes, Mbeki's reassurances of loyalty to the party, which has spanned for a period of 52 years notwithstanding.
Many analysts and observers have said that Mbeki as a shrewd politician should have seen this long knife coming before it was used to lacerate his political empire. His descent into political feather weight has been traced to the ANC convention in Polokwane in December of 2007, where despite his enormous presidential powers, his former deputy and main political foe trounced him to the leadership of ANC. Mbeki's greatest undoing was tactically ousting Zuma in 2005 as his deputy levelling arms deal wrong doing against the Zulu political heavyweight. Zuma is widely regarded in the Rainbow nation as a grassroots man and a populist who would be easier to play ball with against the Breton Woods economic disposal of Mbeki. When South Africa embraced popular democracy in 1994, the hitherto maltreated black population thought their fortunes would automatically change for the better, but 14 years down the line, they claim it is only promises and promises from Mbeki, who has held the reigns of power for close to a decade now. "He was a bad president. He divided our country", many Zuma supporters chorused at the fall of Mbeki. Therefore in Zuma, majority of peasant South Africans see hope, especially as Zuma is viewed as one of their own because he possesses no Ivy League education.
The former president did not envisage that in no too distant a future, his witch hunting political tactics would catch up with him. In 2001, he used his minister of safety and security to accuse three leading members of the party of plotting to oust him. The accused - former ANC secretary-general, Cyril Ramaphosa and two former provincial premiers, Tokyo Sexwale and Mathews Phosa - were among the party's most respected figures. Even Nelson Mandela himself emerged from retirement to say that he held all three in "high esteem," which to a large extent undermined Mbeki's motive. But today in the Zuma leadership of the party, Mathew Phosa is the ANC Treasurer General, one of the top party posts. Cyril Ramaphosa and Tokyo Sexwale are among the 86 members of the National Executives of the party who sealed the hopes of Mbeki. What a way to take the proverbial pound of flesh.
What may not have to come to fore on the overwhelming influence of Zuma on the current political dispensation of the former apartheid enclave is the issue of tribe. Given the struggle against apartheid by black South Africans, it seems to any undiscerning eye that the country might be inured against playing politics along ethnic and tribal politics. But in the build up to the December 2007 Polokwane convention, the murmur of the Zulus became louder and louder. To them, Zuma, one of their own should be given a chance for the house in Pretoria as both Mandela and Mbeki are from the Xhosa ethnic group. Zuma, the populist might have after all played the ethnic card to ascent the ANC leadership throne and deal Mbeki an unforgettable blow.
Maybe after this time out, Mbeki may learn to give Zuma his respect as a master political strategist who takes his time to strike when the pain would be felt so much. Followers of South African politics say that Zuma had since the Polokwane convention perfected the plan to ease Mbeki out of power. He started by easing out Mbeki's loyalists from sensitive positions in the party and filling same with his own loyalists. He foresaw a situation like this and this explains why he chose Kgalema Motlanthe as his deputy and made sure that he would be elected into the parliament soon after. Analysts say Motlanthe's low public profile and lack of a personal support base means he is regarded as a safe interim president - there is no way he could possibly hold on to the presidency once Zuma decides his time has come. That is Zuma and his political sagacity.
Motlanthe, born 59 years ago, was an apostle of Steve Biko the famous anti-apartheid campaigner. He cut his teeth into the struggle at a very tender age when he joined the Black Consciousness Movement. He got his fair share of the apartheid regime's high handedness as he spent 10 years in the notorious Robben Island prison for his activism a year after the 1976 Soweto uprising, when black students fought against the policy forcing them to learn in Afrikaans.
His political rise has been slow but sure. In 1997, he became ANC secretary-general and 10 years later he was elected as the ruling party's deputy president. Affectionately known as "Mkhulu" (grandfather in Zulu), he is well respected by both the core supporters of bitter rivals - outgoing President Thabo Mbeki and Mr Zuma. According to South Africa's Business Day paper, he is regarded by many "as the glue that holds the tripartite alliance (ANC, South African Communist Party and trade union federation Cosatu) together.”
National Assembly moves to re-organize the public procurement sector with planned legislation on procedure for the award of contract
By Tosin Omoniyi
The wave of anti-corruption awareness and campaign appears to have been elevated to a much higher level by the Yar'Adua-led administration. The public procurement system that has hitherto been utilised for corruption is being overhauled by the federal government. The finding of the Godwin Elumelu committee of the House of Representatives about the corrupt activities that characterised the Power sector from 1999 to 2007, in which the nation had allegedly lost a whopping $16 billion due to financial misappropriation and massive public looting, has been linked to the faulty mechanism on which procurement is being managed by successive Nigerian administrations.
Procurement experts posit that unless the government sanitizes public procurement and the day-to-day administration of government activities, public procurement crimes like collusive agreement, procurement fraud, bid rigging, unfair advantage in bidding processes or even outright stealing of public funds may be a constant occurrence in the already overheated polity.
Perhaps to underlay his administration's readiness to combat this hydra-headed scourge militating against the nation's rapid economic growth, President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua recently approached the National Assembly, announcing the federal government's desire to effect some amendments in the recently passed Public Procurement Act and the Revenue Allocation Formula of the Federation, a twin-legislation that has grabbed a major portion of the lawmakers' attention for several weeks.
The amendments proposed by the government has not yet been put down on paper by the presidency, but analysts opine that measures aimed at cutting down on government expenditure and also streamlining the processes of public procurement, which has been shrouded in secrecy for many years, may be part of the president's intentions.
The presidency came under the fire of the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply Management of Nigeria, CIPSM, for appointing the former President of the Nigerian Society of Engineers, NSE, Emeka Eze as the substantive Director-General of the Procurement Bureau. In a petition signed by the president of CIPSM, Alhaji M.J. Aliyu, he noted that the appointment was a direct usurpation of the role of the CIPSM as enshrined in the Public Procurement Act 2007 and the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply Management Act 2007 (part 4 section 11(9), which states in part that, “A person shall not be entitled to be appointed or engaged to head any purchase/supply chain management, unless he or she is duly registered by the institute and qualified by examination. Furthermore, the law states clearly that such a person, having qualified academically should in addition have at least 15 years of professional experience.” Aliyu told newsmen in Abuja that the appointment was “lacking professional etiquette and was a disregard to the Act establishing the institute.”
Despite the face-off, there are moves to overhaul the procurement process. According to sources in the National Assembly, major changes that would define the process for many years to come are being worked into the procedure for contract awards and government spending. Issues like the roles of specified governmental agencies, parastatals, corporations and parastatals tenders' board would be clearly defined in the final amended copy of the Act. Also, different thresholds in the contract sums for the award processes have been realigned to meet internationally accepted standards. For ministers, the limit of award grant permitted may not exceed N250 million while N10 million is being projected for parastatals boards across the country.
According to Mazi Emmanuel, an Abuja-based procurement consultant, the nation had to move into the global trend of efficient and corruption free public procurement procedure which is the only viable panacea for its numerous unending economic woes. He notes: 'The public procurement corruption in Nigeria will be curbed if the legislature performs its expected role in the public procurement system in Nigeria. To this effect, the constitution of Nigeria has authorized the National Assembly, through their oversights functions to be informed, monitored, questioned and evaluate the activities of our public procurement, procuring entities and its managers.”
The Country Procurement Assessment Report, CPAR, was commissioned between July and December 1999 by the erstwhile Obasanjo administration to fine-tune the process of pubic expenditure. Among its multifaceted achievements are the initiation of the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply Management Act (2007) and the Bureau of Public Procurement (Due Process Office). Notwistanding this, the nation has lost billions of naira to unhealthy and corrupt practices in the public procurement sector, a situation Nigerians have continued to decry.
The stand of the federal government on the three-day warning strike by members of Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities, SSANU, may likely aggravate the situation rather than ameliorate it
By Increase Abasi-Ubong & Tosin Omoniyi
It was meant to be a peaceful protest over government's insensitivity and insincerity in meeting its constitutional responsibilities. The demonstrators, mainly members of the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities, SSANU, University of Calabar, UNICAL, branch, marched round the campus and terminated it at the university's main gate where the union officials were billed to address them. But it turned out to be a different address all together. Mr. Dominic Aja, a staff of the Graduate School of the university, who had joined his colleagues in the protest march from Chinua Achebe Arts Theatre to the university's main gate, suddenly slumped and was immediately rushed to the hospital where he died later despite spirited attempts by medical personnel to revive him.
This was perhaps, the height of the three-day warning strike last week ordered by SSANU national leadership over government's non-adherence to past agreements between it and the academic body. Among the demands of the union were the payment of the monetization arrears to its members; the controversial baseline retirement, which pegged the retirement age for non-academic staff at 65 years as well as the unresolved new salary scale initiated by the previous administration.
SSANU national president, Promise Adewusi said the union members would embark on an indefinite strike if government fails to meet their demands within two weeks. He told newsmen that the three-day warning strike was, “to draw the attention of the appropriate government officials and well meaning members of the public to our plight so that if issues are allowed to worsen, nobody claims ignorance,” and described the government insensitivity to workers' plight as appalling, which negates universal democratic norms.
Citizen Ini Ekpo, national public relations officer, PRO, of SSANU, who also spoke to Newsworld said the association has done all within its powers to resolve the disputed issues with the federal government but to no avail. “We took our time hoping government would behave maturely and responsibly. It is however obvious that the federal government is insensitive to the plight of workers, especially those in the university sector, and it appears the only language government understands better is strike,” Ekpo stated. He said SSANU members would have embarked on a full blown strike but for recent developments in the country. “The president has just returned from Lesser Hajj and the new Secretary to Government of the Federation had just assumed office.
“Alhaji Babagana Kingibe was very much versed with what was going on, in fact he intervened when we first gave the ultimatum and now he is not in office. So we need to give the new secretary to government the opportunity to address the problem. That is why we embarked on the three-day warning strike; and if nothing is done then the strike will be total.”
But the case of SSANU UNICAL chapter appears to be different. Godwin Mbeke, chapter chairman apart from the unpaid monetized benefit, members of the union in the university want the Cross River State government to refund the three months arbitrary deduction from the salaries of members between April and June 2007 as well as the payment of honorarium to staff of Centre for Educational Studies. They also want and the release of 2007 promotion and the implementation of circulars on retirement as well as upgrading of staff with additional qualifications and the employment of immediate family members of deceased staff. “We have made our grievances known to the relevant authority with nothing being done to address the issues in contention,” Mbeke told this magazine.
Their other demands included payment of hazards and high risk allowances to deserving staff, pension refunds to staff who were either underpaid or whose names were omitted and the immediate recall of the 19 suspended members of the union who were suspended from duty by the university management.
But federal government seems not bothered about the union's demands. Instead, it threatened to invoke the 'no-work-no-pay' rule against members of any striking union. And to make good its threat, vice chancellors of federal universities were directed to sanction the striking SSANU members. In a letter signed by the executive secretary of the National Universities Commission, NUC, Professor Julius Okojie, the vice chancellors were ordered to deduct three days pay from the September salaries of the workers that participated in the industrial action.
SSANU leadership however, said the action will only ill-advised but succeeds in aggravating the situation. Adewusi noted that past governments that toed the same path had had their hands burnt in the process and urged the federal government to immediately rescind its decision as the association would not be brow-beaten into submission by the authoritarian action.
The Security Exchange Commission, SEC, plans the introduction of electronic system in the nation's capital market for faster transaction of stocks.
By Onu Okorie
To say that the rush by the banks in Nigeria to raise public fund in the capital market at the wake of recapitalization policy has brought boom in the industry is to state the obvious. With the publicity blitz that went with the efforts, every part of the country was reached, thereby creating an awareness on the opportunities available in capital market.
The result of this situation was that doors in the market were opened for everybody who wanted to be part of opportunities that were created in that sector.
But opportunities do not come without a price. Part of the challenges that trailed the new bullish capital market order was that it became so enlarged that regulators and operators could not cope with transacting business manually. For instance, as a result of certain intricacies involved many investors were not getting their share of certificates. Some times the complaints may be late arrival of certificates or even non-receipt of dividends. Unclaimed dividends were put at a region of N19 billion.
Public quoted companies were equally not helping matters, as investors claim that months after investing in the offer of such companies their monies would be returned as un-accommodated subscription without interest. Unclaimed dividends used to be the only major cases in stocks investment, but the volume of unclaimed certificates and the complaints by the investors about the treatment meted to them by firms are creating new round of fears.
Not only that unscrupulous elements were having a field day as unethical practices were gaining movement into the market making report of loss of certificate and dividends the order of the day.
To stem the tide and restore confidence in the system, the apex regulatory body of capital market, Security Exchange Commission, SEC, introduced a number of electronic transaction method, such as e-dividend payment, e-allotment and e-certificate. With this development, transactions in the capital market are now shifting to become electronic-driven and dematerialised.
Director General, SEC, Alhaji Musa Al-Faki said that the introduction of electronic transactions would provide leverage for the operators and investors. For instance, it would eliminate issue of wrong name or address supplied by investor on the subscription form; it would take care of postal delay and establish a level playing field for all investors as they would have access to the stock exchange at the same time through the electronic transaction system. It will also eliminate unclaimed share certificates and reduce cost of transaction.
At the centre of this electronic transaction in security is the Central Security Clearing System, CSCS.
According to Managing Director, CSCS, Mr. Onyewuchi Asinobi, CSCS operates as computerised securities clearing settlements and delivery systems for all eligible and listed shares on the Nigeria Stock Exchange, NSE. It equally operates a central security depository for the capital market. This is a system that provides facility for holding securities which enables securities transactions to be processed by book entry. The implication is that physical securities may be immobilized by the depository while securities may be dematerialised so that they exist only as electronic records.
For an investor to qualify to engage in electronic transactions in securities, he is expected to create CSCS and investor Account Numbers. This is done through any authorised stock broking firm, registered by SEC and licensed by the NSE. Such investor must also disclose their CSCS clearing house numbers to new stock broking firm they engage, to avoid multiple clearing house numbers. The brokerage firms are to ensure that clients' names are forwarded to the CSCS.
A stock broker and financial analyst, Dr. Obinna Enema told Newsworld that, the Automated Trading System, along side the CSCS trading engine reduced transactions period to T +3 that is transaction day plus three days from an average transaction period of three months. This implies crediting a buyers' account within three days after the transaction, while the seller collect his cheque within the same period.
These developments were introduced to redress delays associated with concluding securities market transactions and to align the market with contemporary global practices where very significant information technology transformations in securities transactions have already taken place.
SEC also explained to Newsworld that with CSCS, the risk of loss of share certificate in transit is now history. Also transacting on share becomes more transparent and dynamic.
The clumsiness of gathering share certificates over years and stock reconciliation becomes a thing of the past with the CSCS in place. It also drastically reduced paper work and unnecessary processing bottlenecks involved in share certificate verification. It also standardizes allotment, thereby placing the Nigeria Capital Market on the same pedestal with international market.
The issue of race, which hitherto, was muted, an aspect considered by many as the third-rail of American politics, has now surfaced front and center in Obama's presidential campaign. Obama has deftly run his campaign as a transcendental candidate who is summoning Americans to a higher purpose, one where race, creed, cultural and religious definitions would be de-emphasized and a new American purpose - one anchored on bipartisanship would be emphasized.
Republicans and their affiliates appeared to have largely kept the issue of race out of the campaign until now. In the past two weeks, fringe groups and other right wing organizations have flooded people's homes and airwaves at mostly white suburbs in the battle ground states like Michigan and Ohio with some of the most vile and despicable racially insensitive pamphlets and TV, ads.
In one of such pamphlets as reported by a New York based Metro News of September 24, 2008, the flier entitled “Do you Want a Black President?” and distributed in the affluent white suburb of Roxbury-New Jersey, the authors of the wicked materials depicted Obama as Osama Bin Laden, in a doctored picture, and went ahead to cite the poverty that has ravaged black run countries like Haiti and the AIDS epidemics in the Southern African hemisphere, and warned darkly “The United States of America will be next.” They went on to stoke the embers of race by asking: “Why should we seal our fate by allowing a black ruler to destroy us?”
According to a recent AP Poll, many blue collar democrats, those popularly called “Reagan Democrats” have said flat-out that though registered Democrats, they won't vote for Obama because of his race. There is also the widespread belief that many of the polls showing Obama to be leading John McCain, may be misleading, because many of the white respondents for fear of being seen as racist have said they would vote for Obama, while in their hearts, they intend to vote for McCain, purely on racial grounds. This development has generated fear in the Obama Campaign and among Democrats that if come Election Day, polls still have a sizeable number of undecided voters in the battle ground states, that those people would break for McCain, thus handing him victory in those crucial states.
The role of talk radio has been mostly vile. Talk radio hosts such as Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, Michael Savage and others; have been lobbing racial grenades at Obama. They have all chorused the same line that if voters want America destroyed and reduced to a Third World status, they should vote for Obama. Rush Limbaugh even went ahead to say that Obama would redistribute the wealth of America to Third World countries and in the process, impoverish the wealthy.
The question is: why have these Republican surrogates and hacks resorted to this vile tactics? The answer is simple. Obama has seized the economic crises now affecting the markets and steered the conversation and discourse to the serious issue as to who is seen as the better steward of the economy. Americans overwhelmingly by a ratio of 2-1 favor the Democrats. Now that substantial issues are discussed, as opposed to “Pigs on a Lipstick” and Reverend Jeremiah Wright, the momentum is on Obama's side. According to all the polls that came out this week, Obama was leading McCain outside of the margin of error. The ABC-Washington Post Poll had him leading McCain by 10 percentage points. The excitement of Sarah Palin's pick appeared to have worn out, and Americans are now more concerned with kitchen table issues, which the Republicans are in deficit.
In order to turn the debate back to the crass, inane and asinine level, these groups allied with the Republicans, have now brought the issue of race into the elections. Will they succeed? Or will they face a huge backlash from the public who do not sign on to those kinds of mean and vile tactics? We keep our fingers crossed.
A leading urogynaecologist has spoken out against the growing popularity of cosmetic vaginal surgery. Professor Linda Cardozo of King's College Hospital, London, says little evidence exists to advise women on the safety or effectiveness of procedures. These include operations to make the external appearance more "attractive" and reshaping the vagina to counter laxity after childbirth, for example.
A Google search showed over 45,000 references to cosmetic vaginal surgery, yet on medical databases such as PubMed or Medline there were fewer than 100.
Professor Cardozo said the most established vaginal cosmetic procedure was reduction labioplasty - a procedure to make the labia smaller - which is requested by women either for aesthetic reasons or to alleviate physical discomfort.
"Women want to emulate the supermodel. It's part of a trend. But they should know that all surgery can be risky. "Most of the procedures are done in the private sector and it's totally unregulated." The exact numbers of procedures carried out are unknown. In the past five years there has been a doubling of the number of labial reductions carried out on the NHS from 400 in 2000/1 to 800 in 2004/5. The evidence from existing case studies shows that the procedure, which costs about £2,000 at a private clinic, does have positive aesthetic results but it is unclear whether it resolves feelings of psychological distress or improves sexual functioning, she said. And there was little evidence that "vaginal rejuvenation" - the surgical repair of vaginal laxity, with a price tag of about £3,000 - improved symptoms and was any better than doing simple pelvic floor muscle exercises. She said robust research was needed so that doctors could properly advise their patients. In the meantime, she urged surgeons to remain cautious and operate only as a last resort.
In her presentation at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists 7th International Scientific Meeting, Professor Cardozo said: "Cosmetic vaginal procedures raise a number of serious ethical questions. "Women are paying large sums of money for this type of surgery which may improve the appearance of their genitalia but there is no evidence that it improves function.”
Superstitious belief and poor attitude of work by nurses lead to patronage of traditional birth attendants by pregnant women resulting to high maternal death in the country
By Nathaniel Jonah
The death of Toyin Adesope and Aminat Abdullah are both cases of maternal mortality in Nigeria. Adesope an 18-year old SS3 student of Commercial Science Secondary School, Alagbado, Lagos was confirmed pregnant surprisingly because she was using contraceptives. She attempted to get rid of the unwanted baby but this could not work out. Barely seven months after, she began to feel some uncomfortable cramps in her lower abdominal region and was immediately rushed to the hospital by her cousin. Four days later, Toyin gave up the ghost after three days of excruciating labour pains. Neither Toyin nor the unfortunate baby survived the raw deal. “I am sure if there had been more sophisticated equipments, and better trained medical personnel, she would have made it,” lamented her cousin.
If Toyin's ordeal was sad, then, Aminat Abdullah, a middle aged pregnant house wife who resides in Nyanyan Gwandara, a sleepy suburb of Nasarawa state is even more pathetic. Aminat did not discover that she was pregnant until she was in the early stage of the second trimester. This she attributed to the irregular flow of her menstrual cycle. “When we eventually realized that I was pregnant, my husband ruled out any possibilities of visiting the hospital because according to him, no member of his family ever gave birth in the hospital; they all deliver at home through the help of local midwives,” she told this magazine.
Despite the state of her pregnancy, she continued to assist her husband on the farm until she felt severe pains in her bowels and the local midwife was summoned to assist as usual but Aminat's critical conditions defiled her local dexterity. By the time Aminat was taken to the hospital after five days of profuse bleeding and sever pains, the doctors said the baby's life was in danger. Eventually, she lost the baby and in the process Aminat had her womb removed as a result of complications.
Toyin and Aminat are just instances of Nigerian women who suffer complications as a result of poor primary healthcare and emergency obstetrics care associated with still birth, ill-equipped and badly-managed hospitals, and carelessness on the part of medical and health personnel.
A recent United Nations report said Nigeria has the second highest number of maternal mortality ratio, MMR in the world after India. The MMR is the number of maternal deaths during a given period per 100,000 live births. Available statistics also show that out of five million pregnancies that occur every year, 54,000 women die of pregnancy complications and child birth.
Mustapha Kolo is the chairman, Nigerian partnership for safe motherhood, NPSM. He is of the view that about 750,000 pregnancies which constitute 15 per cent of the total figure lead to complication requiring obstetric care which are largely unavailable in Nigeria. In a similar development, The Society of Gynaecology and Obstetrics of Nigeria, SOGON, equally brought to the fore the shocking high rate of maternal death in the country and the generally poor conditions of the nation's health institutions. According to SOGON, no fewer than 54,000 Nigerian women die yearly from pregnancy-related complications while about one million children die each year at birth.
Professor Friday Okonnofura, the immediate past provost of college of medicine, University of Benin, said women in Nigeria faced various challenges among which is poor access to family planning. It is estimated that only about 10 per cent of women who require family planning have access to it and that only about 30 per cent of the 64 per cent pregnant women who have access to antenatal care actually utilize it, thus placing Nigeria among countries with poor antenatal care practice. Investigation by this magazine however reveals that majority of the expectant mothers are plagued by insufficient information on the need to keep their health in top shape prior to their delivery. According to Dr. Chinedu Obinna of Mount Zion Hospital and Maternity home, Mararaba, Nasarawa state, “most women when they discover that they are pregnant are not aware of the need for them to pay regular visits to the hospitals for antenatal check ups where their health and that of the unborn child would be closely monitored. They prefer going to local and unskilled birth attendants and by the time they are rushed to the hospitals, chances are that the woman is in a life threatening situation.” However, Nonye Chukwuani, a six-month pregnant woman who spoke to this medium cited reasons why she prefers the services of local midwives to the ones in the hospital. “I have given birth to four children and all of them were through the assistance of local midwives; this is my fifth pregnancy, and you can be sure that I will not give birth in the hospital.” When asked why she prefers the local midwives, she was quick to retort that “most nurses in the hospitals are very cruel; the way they handle women during labour leaves much to be desired. They go as far as beating and screaming at women during labour, an action which further aggravates the woman' s situation.”
Dr. Kingsley Akinfenwa of the Defense Headquarters Medical Centre, Abuja however, disagrees with Nonye on the cruelty of the nurses as reasons for her patronage of local midwives. “While I don't doubt that fact that there are good local midwives, I still recommend that every pregnant woman visits a reputable hospital for antenatal services. That way, she would be sure of safe delivery. Besides, I strongly believe that if the government could give as much attention to women's reproductive health as it
appears to give to pregnancy prevention, maternal mortality will significantly reduce.”
An official of the Nigerian Medical Association who spoke to this magazine on the condition of anonymity opines that the earlier Nigerian women disabuse their minds from superstitious beliefs concerning pregnancies and childbirth, the better for the country. He said the government needs to do more than policy formulations and mere paper work and start taking holistic approaches to improve healthcare delivery in Nigeria.
An official of the Nigerian Medical Association who spoke to this magazine on the condition of anonymity opines that the earlier Nigerian women disabuse their minds from superstitious beliefs concerning pregnancies and childbirth, the better for the country. He said the government needs to do more than policy formulations and mere paper work and start taking holistic approaches to improve healthcare delivery in Nigeria.
The All Nigerian Peoples Party, ANPP, and its former presidential candidate, General Mohammadu Buhari continue to trade worlds on grounds of principles
By Onu Okorie
To have emerged the flag bearer of a party as big as the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, should ordinarily elicit a sense of pride. But for the former head of state, General Muhammadu Buhari, who flew the banner of that party at the 2007 presidential elections on two occasions, it has been a time of travails.
The recent revelations and intra party squabble in ANPP did not only portray it as a party in disarray but it also indicates that there is no love lost between the chairman, Chief Edwin Ume-Ezeoke and the presidential candidate, General Buhari.
Trouble started when the President Musa Yar'Adua dangled a carrot before ANPP to participate in the Government of National Unity, GNU, which the PDP used to douse the tension generated by the allegation that it rigged itself into power. The ANPP leadership grabbed the offer with two hands, but Buhari condemned it.
Buhari was quoted as saying that the mainstream of the party, which is the National Working Committee was not carried along in the process of engaging in the GNU. “When Yerima of Bakura, the former governor of Zamfara state went and signed that understanding to enter the GNU with the PDP, the party process was not taken into consideration. The national working committee, which is supposed to run the party on a day-to-day basis was supposed to have developed an agenda to discuss it, the minutes of the caucus should deliberate on the issue because this is a very serious issue” Buhari had stated.
He also contended that his party did not get its worth in the deal that relinquished their right as the main opposition party to Action Congress, AC despite the credible performance of ANPP in the polls.
According to Buhari, “As the main opposition party, with five governors, senators, house of representative members, council chairmen, you just walk across and submit yourself to the opposition party that rigged itself into power and withdraw your case against presidential and other elections, leaving your candidates that participated from chairmen of local governments, house of assembly to representatives to the Governors, Senators on their own. “This is what Yerima and Ume-Ezeoke and the secretary of the party did on their own and they accepted a one-and-a half ministerial post; that is why you can't hear anything from ANPP”.
Other issues that has formed the bone of contention between Buhari and the other leaders of ANPP is the way the party had handled the case instituted against the PDP on the irregularities that trailed the presidential election. Buhari’s position suggest that he was hoodwinked into going to court by the ANPP leaders only for them to withdraw the case without Buhari's consent and neither did they adhere to the laid down party process needed to withdraw the case. That no doubt smacked off betrayal of trust in the party.
“My case survived only because I raised a parallel legal team. Now, these are the same type of people, who did not go through the process, I mentioned already to withdraw from the court and go into the government for one and a half ministerial positions, though we don't know the number of contracts or what extra immunity vis-à-vis what they have done in their states so that they would not be prosecuted. So when you are dealing with such corrupt people, there is hardly anything you can do. That is why I am ready to be a lone ranger if the need arises,” Buhari reasserted.
But Chief Ume-Ezeoke, who was Buhari's running mate at the polls believes that Buhari is merely being “high-headed” and not toeing the party's line of thought. He posited that though there were areas of disagreement, the recent move to reconcile aggrieved members provided a good opportunity to hear the side of Buhari but it is unfortunate that he rebuffed the reconciliation committee. Although, he admitted that the major quarrel between them is on the decision by the party to participate in the GNU but to him it was done in the best interest of the country.
But since the issue had created a wound that has refused to be healed, the party had no option than to raise a reconciliatory team headed by Alhaji Bashir Tofa. The team had on several occasions approached Buhari but he had consistently refused to give them audience, “Buhari is a great member of our party, we love him, but he must be a loyal party member. We will never expel anybody, if he does not like what we are doing, let him walk away. No man is greater than his party, no matter how great he or she is,” noted Ume-Ezeoke.
Political pundits, who spoke with this magazine said the development in ANPP may have a far-reaching negative consequence. The National Publicity Secretary, Conference of Nigeria Political Parties, CNPP, Mr. Osita Okechukwu told Newsworld that the action of the leadership of ANPP is a betrayal of the trust Nigerians place on them. And that it is the beginning of the end of democracy because what it shows is that there is no democracy yet in Nigeria. He disclosed that as a result of the crises, many strong members of ANPP had left the party. For instance, Chief Nicholas Ukachukwu has left the party with his massive number of followers. According to Osita, “In a nutshell, Ume-Ezeoke and his cohort betrayed Gen. Buhari, ANPP as a party and the Nigerian democracy because anybody, who is working towards what PDP wants, that is a one party state is not a friend to the Nigerian people because a one-party state cannot be approximated in any term to be called a democracy”.
By Dr. Chuma Wilson
There may be many key lessons to learn in a country like Nigeria, about the recent collapse of Ukraine's complicated nine-month old coalition government. Ukraine is one of the countries that emerged after the collapse of the former USSR. Especially, Ukraine like their giant neighbour Russian are people of Slavonic or serf race. Their languages are similar. Their cultures and behaviors and life pattern are also identical. Ukraine has a common border with the north European country of Finland or as the people of Finland call themselves Suom.
The two actors, who have been tormenting their country with high levels of political intrigues are the Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshnko and President Victor Yushchenko, and his pro western 2004 orange revolution. Instead of concentrating on serious national social and economic, they were very busy with social economic dogmatism in an attempt to please the west. Ukraine, like other parts of former USSR suffered very much during the Second World War. The collapsed coalition government even entered into negotiation with NATO for membership despite the fact that the vast majority of the population were totally against such a move. Ukraine has a developed economy. Its industry is developed, social institutions developed and agriculture developed.
The opposition parties want closer ties with Russian and their brothers in Belorrusian. They are strongly opposed to the government's dogmatic policy of GOLODOMOR. The policy of Golodomor being propagated by the president and the prime minister, simply states that Russian Federation should pay huge compensations to Ukraine for the tragedies and mass violation of fundamental human rights under Marshall Joseph Stalin in the 1930's when many people were banished. But the fact is that the concept of Golomor vanished a very long time ago, even before the second world wars, known also in the former USSR as the great patriotic war. All the ethnic groups, including the Russian suffered from the tragedies of 1930's under Stalin. Marshall Stalin however led USSR to defeat German fascism in 1946.
The interesting lesson about Ukraine's leadership clamour of Golodomor is that power seeking politicians can dig from graves, old prejudices, hatred and bias as a means of sustaining power, especially when such ruling classes are incapable of meeting their people's pressing demands. This is a great lesson for our country Nigeria.
Many analysists believe that Ukraine’s pro-western leaders are trying by clever ways, to benefit from Russia’s huge dollar reserves, from oil and gas by raising issues very outdated and reactionary, to suit their immediate needs. They are not likely to succeed
The soviet head of state during the era of Golodomor was Marshal Joseph Stalin, a Georgian not a Russian. This may also sound very strange to many Nigerian readers that the founder of KGB then was also not a Russian. The father of KGB Felix Dshenzky was a Polish international revolutionary.
The two Ukrainean leaders have become fierce rivals ahead of the impending presidential election, which is most likely to come up much earlier than originally scheduled in 2010. A party, or parties that will come out with a clear out programmes for social economic development, will definitely carry the day in a highly politically and socially conscious society such as Ukraine. The key lesson here is that dogmatism or opportunism may pay in politics but only temporary. They, in most cases always misfire. What Ukraine needs today like Nigeria is a government that will regard people's basic needs as a cardinal agenda.
Benue State government pays over N722 million judgement settlement to 261 councillors, whose tenure was wrongly terminated in 2006
By Sunday Ogli
To Musa Umar, the chairman of the ex-councillors forum and his colleagues, a Daniel has indeed come to judgement. After nearly two years of legal battle, up to the highest court of the land, the former councillors finally obtained judgement against the Benue State government, which in 2006 abruptly terminated their tenure. However, the joy of the former councillors was not that the apex court, the Supreme Court ruled in their favour but because the Benue State government has not only accepted the decision but has gone a step further to pay the ex-councillors their entitlements.
The former councillors, who served in Benue state between 2004 and 2006 had their terms cut short by the former administration in the state. Their tenure, which ran from 2004 but terminated in 2006 was constitutionally supposed to run for a period of three years. Not comfortable with the decision of the state government, the 261 ex-councillors approached Makurdi High Court for the interpretation of the 1999 constitution as it relates to the tenure of local governments. The court, presided over by Justice Kegh ruled in their favour, and ordered that the former lawmakers be allowed to complete their three-year tenure. Not satisfied with the decision of the court, the state government filed an appeal at the Appeal Court in Jos but like the low court, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa-led court of appeal ruled in favour of the former councillors and subsequently dismissed the appeal. The state government finally took the case to the Supreme Court and again lost.
The implication of the judgement is that the Benue State government will pay the entitlement of ex-lawmakers for the one year outstanding in their tenure.
Each of the affected councilors is expected to get the sum of N2, 736,237million, amounting to N722, 178,205.89 for the 261 councillors involved.
Sam Odeh, special adviser to Governor Suswam on local government and chieftaincy affairs, who presented a cheque of N722,178,205.89 to Jibrin Okutepa, counsel to the ex-councilors, praised the ex-councilors for treading the path of peace when they had the opportunity to resort to jungle justice. “You did not take the law into your hands. You sought justice at the highest court in the land. I am happy to announce to you that in compliance with the order of the Supreme Court, the state government is making one hundred per cent payment today,” declared Odeh. Chiver Kaaver, the state attorney general and commissioner for justice thanked the Yar'Adua government for ensuring that the rule of law is observed in the country and said the state government has so far paid N800 million in respect of court judgments between 2007 to date.
Okutepa on his part thanked the government for its gesture, maintaining that he had never witnessed such since the start of his 18 years of legal practice.
The auditorium of Tarka Foundation, venue of presentation of the cheque ceremony was a campaign rally of some sort. The excited former councillors could not help but shout “Suswam for 2011” in appreciation of the prompt response of Governor Gabriel Suswam to the judgement.
The war in Ebira, Kogi State has degenerated into hostage taking but government has bared its fangs to curtail it
By Jones Ojieh
In Ebiraland, Kogi State, there is an age long custom that makes it a taboo for an average Ebiraman to attack a non-native in crisis period, no matter the severity of the provocation. That was the reason why many non-natives did not leave the town despite all the crises that happened in the area. This age long custom, however seems to have been jettisoned. Apart from the fact that non-natives are no longer safe, they have become objects of kidnap.
On September 17 this year, Joe Azikiwe, leader of Igbo community in Ebiraland led a delegation to Governor Ibrahim Idris demanding his intervention. He told the governor that four armed youths invaded their shops along Liberty Road, Okene, demanding the sum of N50,000 each from the traders, adding, “in the process, the unruly youths fired sporadic shots but nobody was injured.” But that was not all, Azikiwe said it took the intervention of Divisional Police Officer, DPO, Okene, for an Ibo trader held hostage by the youths to be released even though a ransom of N150 million was placed on his release.
The Ebiraland war has claimed many casualties. It has sent many to their early graves. Those who survived escaped from the town. The war has also created monsters in the name of armed militants. Regrettably, it introduced clannish politics.
In a bid to stop the dangerous trend the war is taking, Governor Idris told the people that he has adopted some measures to nip the problem in the bud. This magazine gathered that after a three-hour closed door meeting with traditional rulers from the area, local government chairmen from the area as well as the State Security Service, the Army and the Police, a marching order was given to the security agencies to crack down the perpetrators of these acts. Traditional rulers in the area were threatened with deposition if it is proved that any of them is providing cover for the boys. The governor who was obviously angry over the turn of events in the enclave said, “I am prepared to lay down my life in the battle to save Ebiraland and innocent people including the Ibo peoples from being molested by these miscreants,” Idris further stated.
Government has equally issued a two-week ultimatum to the warring factions to lay down their arms and submit them to the appropriate authority after which a search would commence in the area. A 7-man committee headed by the secretary to the state government, Hon. Musa Ahmodu was set up to produce a white paper on the earlier committee headed by Major- General Chris Ali, the former chief of army staff, on the issue.
Chairman of Okene local government, Hon. Yahaya Karaku who escaped death by whiskers when he was attacked by one of the warring groups called on the people to lay down their arms. “My mission in politics goes beyond clannish sentiment; my mandate in politics is to satisfy the collective yearnings of my people, but not to continue seeing blood flowing in our place,” Karaku who lost one of his close aides to the crisis, declared.
Government has however accused the opposition party of fuelling the conflict.
The planned implementation of the coroner law by the Lagos State government may pitch it against medical doctors and muslims
By Jones Ojieh
Chief Samson Adekoya who was arrested and detained by the police in Lagos on February 6th this year, was few days later declared dead by the police. His death elicited reactions from members of the public. Adekoya's family, who suspected foul play quickly petitioned some government agencies calling for a full investigation into his death. In response, the matter was referred to a coroner for inquest. The coroner court, which heard the case, ordered that the body of the deceased be deposited with the chief medical examiner at Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, LASUTH, for a post-mortem examination, while some police officers identified by the inspector general of police when testifying before the court, have been ordered to appear before it.
While Adekoya's family may feel satisfied that the questionable death of its relation is receiving government attention, other Lagosians are not comfortable with the introduction of coroner law in the state. Some religious and professional bodies have kicked against the law and accused the government of inadequate consultations before the law was passed.
The law, which was introduced by the immediate former administration in Lagos State and passed into law by the state house of assembly, seeks to find solutions to unresolved murder cases in the state, particularly killings that are linked with the security agencies.
According to the law, anybody who dies in Lagos State under a controversial circumstances, either by accident or upon a medial intervention shall not be buried until a post mortem examination is carried out on such a person to ascertain the cause of his or her death before a death certificate can be issued. Also, the law further states that any medical practitioner that issues death certificate without clearance from the state coroner shall be liable and sentenced to five years imprisonment.
The present government in the state has indicated its intention to implement the law. This has elicited the reaction of some people, notably medical doctors and muslims. While Muslims argue that the law has no regard for their belief, medical doctors say government did not take professional conduct into consideration in framing the law.
A medical practitioner, who prefers anonymity said government failed to carry stakeholders along in the passage of the law, adding, “not that those agitating against the law do not like it, but because they were not properly briefed or carried along before the passage of the law. As a professional, I can tell you that there is nothing intrinsically new with the contents of the coroner law, after all, there is an existing federal law to that effect.” He said in Saudi Arabia, post mortem examinations are carried out on dead bodies and death certificates issued on daily basis because they have facilities to perform but criticized what he described a “blind approach” to such a sensitive issue by the state attorney general and commissioner of health, whom he accused of taking Lagosians for granted.
“They know that apart from the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital LASUTH, only few hospitals can carry out post-mortem checks in a state estimated to have over 15 million people,” he further noted.
In addition, the law is regarded as another avenue of revenue generation for the state government. They alleged that the state government has concluded plans to contract the mortuary service departments of LASUTH and few other general hospitals to private firms.
“You can see why there was massive public outcry against the coroner law and why the state government has to send the law back to house of assembly for a retouch,” said a senior civil servant who prefers anonymity.
The law has however, been sent to the state house of assembly for review, but Shupo Shashore, Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Lagos State was quoted as saying that the government would not succumb to undue pressure to jettison its implementation. Speaker of the House, Adeyemi Ikuforji, while assuring that the house would accommodate some criticisms, said some fundamental aspects of it may not be touched.
It is now that I appreciate the classical wisdom of Ibn Khaldum when he averred that the most permanent phenomena in human existence is change. To him, change is not only eternally permanent, but historically transient. Man, overtly or covertly must appreciate this reality if he should maintain his humanity. As a transcendal being, man should navigate his life on the ocean and horizon of this eternal and dynamic force of existence. Within the prism of Thermo-dynamic realities of human life, man is nothing but a molecular unit of value in a quantum of continuum sailing on the waves of time. And since time is an endless cyclical movement in a spaceless horizon, we must find our right places and positions in this historical vacuum of transcendality.
In the past, we were endlessly inundated with a lot of literatures as to the efficacies of the liberal theories and principles. Right from Adam (Gauntung) Smith's Book, The Wealth of Nations, where gullible and stupid men were deceived into believing the fallacies of the doctrine of the market forces to the present era of globalisation, capitalism and all the evil forces behind it never gave us a breather on the indispensability of economic liberalism. Concepts such as privatization, commercialization, reformation, market forces, lazier fair, etc were forced down our throats. But today, things are changing fast. Trials, transformations, reforms, challenges, doctrinal suicides, compromises in economic principles etc are awash on our global scene.
In America today, time and its related companion, change, is dealing a deadly blow on the structural fallacies of liberalism. Within a spade of no time, the institutional structures of this system came crashing in New York and Washington DC. As a dream, the realities of this change caught both the American government and the neo-conservatives pants down. For over a century, they lied, deceived, cajoled, misled and misinformed the world about this concept. But last week, in the middle of the empire this concept boomeranged and global financial octopuses came tumbling to the ground. They were humbled by truth, justice and common sense in scientific voyage of time and change. Fannie Mae and Freddie Marc came crashing like packs of wool in a hurricane wind. Not done yet, Lehman Brothers went AWOL (absent without leave) and is desperately seeking liberation from the clutches of liberal policies. America and American institutions in America, are now preaching the concepts that they spent over one hundred years destroying all over the world. Today, the American government, and a Republican one for that matter, is opting for a state controlled economy; a state intervention using tax payers’ money to underwrite a huge financial burden of a private enterprise. What a shame and what a pity!
What is paining me now is the fact that, since April 1985, Nigeria joined this economic religion and assumed a central position in its wholesome application of its policies, principles, conditionalities and deceptions. We mortgage our national assets and surrender our national heritage to them. Through these policies, we were enslaved, imprisoned, confined and caged in an economic hoopaloola of liberal institutions. I hope and pray people like IBB who selfishly swamp into this ocean of lies and deceptions is now alive to its staggering realities. I equally hope and pray that he still has some little degree of conscience to regret and remorse over his decisions to sell us cheap to this lot of liberal dung heads. Where is OBJ and his economic team - the Okonjos, el-Rufais, Ezekwesiles, the pretty dumb Nenadis etc. Today their spiritual economic shrines are being blown to pieces by time and change. Where is Soludo who gobble this concept in the morning and worship it in the night? Time has disgraced them and change has humiliated them in an ignominious manner. America has gone state controlled economy. Their holy scripture is on trial, and is failing and falling all over.
I hope our national leadership is watching these events keenly and seriously. What is happening in America is a trial for them if at all they are men given to right senses and wisdom. President Umar Yar'adua, the National Assembly as well as the rest of us must take these lessons with all the seriousness that it deserves. In governance, service to the citizens is sacrosanct. Government is all about the people, not profit. Welfare of citizens is measured by governmental magnanimity to them, not by private posting of profit yearly. The public should not be sacrificed on the alter of private gains. This is the wisdom time and change is teaching us in America, and I hope we are good students of change.
Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State will be one year in office this October. Although he took over at a time when the state was facing troubled times with militant attacks in Port Harcourt, the state capital, Amaechi's impressive savvy was able to stabilise this erosion into anarchy. He told the Newsworld crew of ANTHONY MALIKI (Assistant Editor) and VICTOR EDOZIE (Port Harcourt Bureau Chief) of how he was able to surmount these challenges of governance. Excerpt:
By 26th October, you would be one year in office. How has it been ruling the state with its ups and downs?
It's been quite challenging, quite challenging. There were a lot of challenges we needed to overcome. Basically, it is the fact that we are confronting infrastructural development. There are a lot of things we think we need to do. When we took over from the last government on the 26th of October, 2007, we met some challenges on ground. The roads were bad. We needed to open up some areas for the traffic to flow, even though we cannot say we have achieved that objective in full but at least, there is an improvement on traffic flow. We have to award some major road contracts like the airport road heading towards Owerri. We had to award the contract for the reconstruction of the Trans-Amadi to Rumubiakani round-about. We had to award the old Aba road contract for dualization and reconstruction. We had to award the dualization of the road beginning from Mile 3 to the airport. We had to award the dualization of the road to the University of Port-Harcourt with a fly-over at the Choba point of the University of Port-Harcourt. We also awarded a lot of rural roads. In fact, as at last count, we have at least 105 roads. We are doing that, and then we saw the challenges in education. The primary school education had collapsed completely. We want to take it over from the local governments; it is their responsibility by law to manage primary schools but by September, we should have begun paying teachers salaries. We would be building 250 new primary schools. We would demolish the old ones and reconstruct new primary schools. We are thinking we would do 50 this year and 50 next year. Then in the same manner, we are building new secondary schools. We are relocating the Rivers State University of Science and Technology and the master plan for the new city will be submitted between October and November, while the relocation of the university will start in November. The university may not close, but the transitional development will start at that time. There is quite a lot we are doing. We are building 105 health centres. We have awarded contracts for 105 and an extra 45 to make it 105 from Rivers State Government directly. We will furnish them when they finish but at present, we are constructing them already.
We suppose you have taken your indices to show that there is a problem in the educational sector?
Yes, we have done that. We got a consultant, who will work with the World Bank to do a study on what is the current situation of education in Rivers State and the person found out that as at now, the investment in education, the highest we have gotten is between 4.5 per cent to five per cent as against 26 per cent recommended by UNICEF. So in the current budget, we have about 11 per cent of the budget on education and we have gone back to the assembly to ask for an extra N50 billion. I have been told they have passed it and that would amount to N70 billion investment on education for this year.
You have been the speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly for eight years before becoming governor. What are your experiences concerning the two arms of governments?
I think one makes the law and oversees, which is supervising the executive. But it is not properly developed. You see, you have to develop the legislature in Nigeria for it to be able to assert its role and independence and to be able to supervise. But most times, many governors do not want to hear the world supervise, but whether we like it or not, there is an oversight function that the legislature does. It is the only authority in the whole country that can remove the governor and that can question a governor. Well most actions of the governor can be queried in the courts, but basically, the overseeing authority is the legislature. So, it comes with enormous powers. The difference between the two is the fact that one executes what comes out of the legislature. So, a vibrant legislature, that is equipped intellectually to deliver on policies will be one of the wheels of progress that you would need to put the state forward. If the legislature is weak, chances are that if the governor is also not focused, the administration of the state will be poor.
What then are the leadership burdens of a speaker and governor, moreso, that as speaker, you are pressurised to checkmate the governors?
Well, as a governor, the entire state looks up to you, unlike when you are a speaker, even though as a speaker they should also look up to you to get the executive to deliver on their promises. But this time, they are looking up to you to deliver on your promises and a lot of challenges you will have to face. Challenges of unemployment, the challenge of poverty. These are two key challenges that you need to deliver. People want to know where the next pot of soup will come from. They want to know that this is guaranteed. It's not a matter of not being certain. It is the uncertainty of the future in the system that brings friction in the country. So the state is looking up to you to try and improve on these uncertainties and to ensure that wealth is created. That is one responsibility the government has to discharge.
Your Excellency, though you have spoken on road construction, health and development of the rural areas, but what is the policy thrust of your administration?
Well, rural infrastructural development is key, very key. I am not saying we would not develop the cities. But also key is the security of lives and property. So, the main thrust is education, health, rural infrastructural development and even infrastructural development in the city and security.
Part of the problem in the state is security and you have said so on many occasions, that you would not negotiate with militants. So how have you taken the challenge? What are the options, what are the solutions?
I believe the key to finding solutions to the crisis in the Niger Delta is the enforcement of law, because if you don't enforce the law, people would not respect the law. In the legislature, I knew that if I pass a law, for the government to be able to implement it, the government must have the force. Now, we have a situation where nobody respects the law and we think that, that is not the best. We should be able to let people know that for every action you take, you would be held responsible. I don't know who you call a militant? I may be wrong, but I have not seen one. The only person, who you can closely call a militant would be Asari Dokubo, if you check it closely. But the rest of them and I have seen of them in Rivers State, I don't know outside Rivers State, 95 per cent to 99 per cent of them are criminals. So, why do I have to negotiate with them? A key to finding solution to criminality is to enforce the law and when these criminals can carry RPGs, can carry GPNG, the only thing you need is for federal government to bring its might to bear on them so that they would become responsible. That is what I can say. That is what I feel. After that, we can think of development. How can you develop the Niger Delta when people do not bid for contracts? Take Julius Berger for instance, they have pulled out of site and the road they are constructing is in Niger Delta awarded by the federal government. Now, who do you blame? Federal government that has awarded the road contract (or) Julius Berger that was constructing the road that have now pulled out or the kidnappers? So, key to development is to enforce the law, because if there is no atmosphere of security, things don't work. We have lost quite a lot in that regard. So let's see how we can enforce the law. I have seen some responses.
So, you are of the opinion that the basic thing for development to come to the Niger Delta is for the federal government to stamp its authority for peace to reign?
Of course, that's key. If not, no contractor will come. You can advertise as many times. Now, we literarily go and beg these multi-nationals to come. For example, the contract we are trying to award on the Port-Harcourt ring road for a billion dollar. Anybody we say we have such a contract for will jump at it but as I am talking to you, the company we want to award the contract from China, is the fifth largest Construction Company in the world. They are not sure whether to come. We are trying to go to China to reassure them of the fact that we will provide security and they were to start by October, 26th, but they can't. That was our plan: to do the foundation laying ceremony that day and work will start and in two years complete their work.
But, these so-called criminals keep talking that they don't want peace. Now, we know your stand, how can you bring in the federal government?
There is no way we can do it other than the federal government to come and enforce the law. The other aspect is that we have set-up a committee, headed by Chief A.K Horsefall, whose responsibility is to look at those, who may not have crossed the borderline to try to rehabilitate them.
You have a plan for Port Harcourt, the ring road, bridge and so on. Where exactly are they to be located?
The ring road takes off from the airport through Eneka to Iriebe to Oyigbo, crosses over to Eleme unto Okrika to Borokiri through the seaport then back to Rumelumeni to Ogbakiri axis, then moves on from there to Ogbakiri then back to the airport.
Your Excellency, you talked about empowering Rivers State people, that is why you concentrated on giving contracts to indigenes. How has it been successful in this direction?
I really don't know. But the basis for that action was to get them to use the profit that they would make out of that to set up their own companies. By now, we expect that some of them will come and say we have formed a construction company, which they would use to seek for more contracts.
What are your plans for transportation especially as government plans to phase out Okada riders in the state capital?
We are already doing that. You can see some big buses plying the streets, but we don't believe the government should run transportation. We believe that private sector should do that. We will partner with Skye Bank, we will provide the infrastructure, the terminals, the bus-stops, while Skye bank will provide the buses and own the buses. But what they told me was that they are getting a team of management staff and the NURTW that will help them manage it. Now, the plan is that, whoever drives the bus may likely own the bus at the end of the day or some people would come, get the bus, run it and return the cost of the bus and would still own it. That is what we are doing and the buses are on the streets. We will launch more in the next few weeks. The taxis are on the streets already. But I think we would buy more of the taxis so that we can see more of them on the roads.
You are a strong PDP man and went through a lot of stress. At a point it was rumoured that your life was at stake and at the end of the day, you emerged as the governor of Rivers State. How would you equate your experience from the time you were stopped from becoming a governor and the time you took over?
The judiciary first must be congratulated. They were agents used by God to deliver us from the impunity in which power was used under the Obasanjo regime and the EFCC to witch hunt the people they never liked. If they like you, no matter how much anybody accuses you of stealing, they are not interested. Now, what worsened my case was the fact that even my friends, who were with me in the same team betrayed me. They were taking petitions against me to the EFCC. They were the vehicles EFCC used and they were at the National Assembly. These were people that I helped or God used me to help put in positions. These are officials of the National Assembly, who became the vehicles used to victimize me and these are people that you helped. And I felt so betrayed, the betrayal was monumental. They stabbed me in the back completely. It is the famous et tu Brute because it affected me so badly and it is an experience I can never forget so easily, because it took away my family. I am someone who loves my family; I like to stay with them. But for nearly one year, we were separated. My children were staying here; they were chased away to America, from America to Britain. They lost one year of academic studies. My first son should have been in SSS two now but he is in SSS one. My second son, who would have been in SSS one, he is in JSS three. My third son, who would have joined secondary school, he is only joining now. All these were what my friends did to me, my friends, Obasanjo and EFCC.
You were said to have escaped at nightfall. How true is this?
That is not true. I flew from here to Ghana. I stayed in Ghana all the time this was on. I was also coming to Nigeria occasionally to see my lawyers, to have a chat.
You only sneaked in?
I do not know about sneaking in. If I was sneaking in, I would not have joined a public aircraft. I was joining commercial aircraft and was seeing people I knew. I will come through the border and they will stamp my passport. When I come through the International airport, I will then take the domestic flight, meet my lawyers at Hilton (Abuja) wake up the next day and take my flight to Ghana.
Now, looking back, do you have faith in the judiciary, because the confidence with which you fought that case, even when they were telling you not to go on, you persistently persisted. Did it pay off?
It has. Two things were on my mind. First was God. I was convinced beyond reasonable doubt that God was with me and that God would deliver me. Then secondly, I had watched the judiciary in so many cases that Atiku went to court, they (courts) are always forthright. So, I said my case will not be different. I listened to the judgement of Obi (Anambra State), it was again forthright, so why should my case be different? So, the more judgements they delivered, the more my faith in the judiciary increased.
Port Harcourt was known in the past as the Garden city. We were told your government wants to go back to the old master plan. How are you going to achieve that?
I am not going for the old master plan. We are proposing a new Port Harcourt master plan because the old master plan has outlived it usefulness. It is more than 50 years since we had that master plan and a master plan should not be more than 50 years, maximum 25 years or 30 years. We are getting a new Port Harcourt master plan. It is almost ready. We will submit it between October and November this year. Then if we have money, we should start the infrastructural development. There are some roads that needed to be put in place inside the old city. Those roads I don't know how much it would cost, but we would do it. Second, we are demolishing. We are about to award a contract to an outfit to re-design the Port Harcourt landscape. It would include areas we can put inter-locking stones and trees, areas for parks. An example is the one we are doing around Bori camp barracks, and we would do more. I have asked for an initial design and it will be from the beginning to the end of Aba road, including Ikwerre and Stadium roads, among others. After that, we would do the phase two hopefully, to achieve that by 2010, but we would continue to plant trees, inter-locking stones and we will fix street lights. The mere fact is that for all roads we are re-constructing, we must have surface drainage, and all drainage must be emptied into a creek. Pipes would be underground. That is the design of the roads we have now.
Is the Kayode Eso panel achieving its aims?
I think it is, but until it is concluded, I cannot say that. I can only say that, but to the extent that people are going there to relieve themselves of their pains. If for nothing, some people go there and say “they have killed my father, they killed my mother, they killed my brother or sister, they burnt our houses, we lost everything.” For every discussion there, we would come up with a report and they would advice the government. We will take our time, study the report and implement it.
What about the issue of water supply in Port Harcourt?
Currently, they have submitted a Port Harcourt water supply master plan. It is to provide water to the whole of Rivers state in a cluster form, which is to cost the government $1 billion. We are going to do it next year. We may not have $1 Billion today, but we will just start with Port Harcourt and move to other towns. Instead of one village, you will have about three, four, five to ten villages coming together and having one supply system and then we distribute with boaster pumps in locations.
Recently, there were accusations from the southern part of the country that governors from the north are parasites because of their stand on the derivation principle. In your opinion, is it a fair comment?
I believe we are a country. I believe that the issue is not parasiting for sure. It is a wrong use of words. You may be aggrieved because you may say you are not receiving a fair share of the revenue. We produce oil and we are not getting enough of the funds. The issue is not only the funds from oil, but what is the employment population of NNPC or the industry? How many people come from the Niger Delta? What is the funding of NDDC? How is it managed and who are the beneficiaries? As for the oil, it must go round. We are one country. There is need for the man in Sokoto to benefit from that oil without which he may not be able to govern that state. So, we need to make sure that they benefit. That is not been parasitic. It happens in so many other countries, where a zone holds the national resources of the country and the other component parts benefit from that. The basic truth is that Niger Delta is not fairly treated but you cannot say governors of other states are being parasitic because we need to make the country united. We need to share resources. You can never tell what resources they would find in other parts of the country someday.