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EDITORIAL

Boko Haram and Our Weak Security System

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The abduction of the Chibok schoolgirls from Borno State, four weeks ago, has exposed our weak security structure and brought global attention to our ineptitude as a nation. It has also brought to daylight the breakdown of command control structure in our government. It seemed as if there was no government and no real presence of an authority to take control of situations with requisite urgency. It took nearly three week before a clear response and statement by government, thanks to an unprecedented international pressure.

Despite the “giant of Africa” tag we have worn for years, current events have shown that we are the only ‘giant’ who can be knocked down without the dexterity of a Biblical David.

How else do we explain that continuous onslaught of Boko Haram – a “phantom,” according to Vice Admiral Nyako (rtd.) on our land? How can we explain that the faceless monster, killing, burning and maiming thousands of Nigerians since 2009, has not been unmasked?

How do we explain that despite the “state of emergency” on Borno, Yoba and Adamawa, Boko Haram hot beds and the “soft approach” which the current defence chief said he would adopt to defeat the insurgency, nothing has worked?

Instead, the terrorists have wrestled us down and embarrassed us before the world by kidnapping 200 schoolgirls under our noses. The country is now on its knees begging for the help it should have sought earlier with dignity.

When the Chibok girls were abducted on April 14th, the event was treated with the same levity with which we treat plane crashes, bomb blast, building collapse, road carnage and many of our other man-made and natural disasters.

It is known to the world that Nigeria does not respond promptly to events, however severe. Our response mechanisms are just as our institutions – weak. But with the Chibok event, the world now has a strong confirmation of our frailty.

News of the abduction circulated as a rumour. There was no official confirmation and then the army stated that the majority of the girls had been rescued. It took the protest of some parents demanding to see their girls that the nation got a rude awakening that the kidnap was, indeed, real.

The country was in denial and did nothing tangible for nearly two weeks to mount a counter attack for the girls rescue. Then, President Jonathan shocked us with the information that the army lacked the might and muscle to act. The capacity to fight or even trace the girls was not there. In other words, Boko Haram had the upper hand, a claim denied severally by the Government.

The president said the nation had not invested in military equipment for years and that’s despite our burgeoning defence budgets and a military that has ruled the country for most of its independent life.

Why would a country that has fought a civil war, had many coups and spearheaded several peace keeping missions in other countries pay lip service to its own internal security?

Is it that our leaders did not see the need to invest in security or just that the corruption bug did not allowed them to think of the future? The present administration has budgeted N2.7 trillion for security since 2012, covering the armed forces, police, the office of the national security adviser, and other operational costs. Where did the money go? We are aware that some police officers changed uniforms but what else they achieved with the budget is unknown.

It is heartening, though, that the world has heard our cries, and come to help rescue the girls. America, Britian, France, China and Israel have come with the surveillance, intelligence and military expertise we badly need. It’s now left to us to decide if we will learn from our mistake or repeat it.

Now that it is clear that all of us are targets of Boko Haram, we hope that the Federal Government will put our money where our mouth is and secure the country – not just against Boko Haram but also against the different forms of insecurity bred by corruption and mismanagement.

We urge Nigerians, especially APC and PDP to stop politicizing Boko Haram. It is important that the country unites around a now-awakened president to fight terrorism, which has placed Nigeria on the infamous axis of evil.

We commend the once uncooperative and aggressive northern elders for seemingly eating humble pie and supporting the Federal Government. We hope they would also retract their statement that they would take General Ihejirika, former defence chief, to the world court for fighting the insurgency. Such statements are un-nationalistic and inflammatory.

Never before have Nigerians united around a single course as they have done with the Chibok kidnap. Even if it took the world and the social media to teach us that bit about patriotism, we hope that sense of unity in adversity will remain, while the Federal Government takes time to overhaul our security system.

 

EDITORIAL

Increasing Fuel and Electricity Prices

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Increasing Fuel and Electricity Prices

Once again, Nigerians are digging deeper into their pockets to buy fuel. They are paying N162 per litre from N142 last month. While the five per cent or so Nigerians with deep pockets will not be bothered by the increase, the majority with shallow pockets will have to empty them to buy petrol to run their businesses or shut them down, fuel their vehicles, light their homes and pump water, among other things. Electricity bill has also gone up although the average Nigerian is still in darkness most of the time.

The Federal Government explained that the removal of fuel subsidy, froth with duplicity and corruption, was responsible for the increase. For electricity, it said only consumers who get 12 hours or more of electricity per day should pay the new rate. Electricity Distributing Companies (DISCOS) may not agree.

Vice President Osinbajo has advised Nigerians to bear the pain and not go back to the fuel subsidy regime. He said the Federal Government is aware of the suffering and working out ways to alleviate poverty. This sounds familiar. Poverty alleviation doesn’t mean much in Nigeria anymore.

Petrol is at the heart of Nigeria’s economy. It drives everything. Whenever there is an upward review, the cost of living skyrockets. For the poor masses, the present situation spells doom. Fuel subsidy was introduced to alleviate poverty but instead it became a curse, benefiting only a few.

The Buhari Government announced early in the year that it will stop the subsidy payment. It said the downstream sector of the oil industry will be fully deregulated so that prices of petroleum products will fully be determined by market forces.

We have nothing against deregulation or removal of the ‘dubious subsidy’. The question is why now? Another is, if not now when, as things seem to go from bad to worse?
By failing to flush out the criminals benefiting unduly from the fuel subsidy, the Federal Government has proven that some people are, indeed, untouchable.

What will the Federal Government do now to cushion the effect of the hike on the poor, that it has not done before and it didn’t work? Poverty alleviation without improvement in quality of life means nothing. If for example, a commercial vehicle driver buys fuel at N162 per litre but drives on good roads and has access to portable water, he would charge commuters less. It has a ripple effect and vice versa.

When the Federal Government compares the price of petrol in Nigeria with those in neighboring countries, one wonders what indices it uses? Does it consider the minimum wage and the fact that Nigeria is the seventh world oil producer?

Nigeria produces crude oil but imports petrol. If the refineries are broken down, why can’t they be repaired? It is unfortunate that from time to time billions of Naira is gulped by so-called Turn-Around Maintenance of our refineries without anything to show for it in the end.

President Buhari promised to support the creation of modular refineries. Yet those in the riverine areas are being shut down and labeled illegal. What a contradiction! Why can’t the technology used in those refineries be harnessed?

Nigeria prefers to import what it can produce locally. By that, what Government is telling people is endure poverty. Don’t try to get out of it.

Removing subsidy in the midst of poverty is bad. But policy inconsistency and double standards will do Nigeria no good.

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EDITORIAL

Security operatives, IPOB and Emene massacre

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Security operatives, IPOB and Emene massacre

The high-handedness of security operatives towards members of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, is truly a concern. The ruthlessness with which they deal with the unarmed youths whenever there is a clash, is worrying and unacceptable.

What happened at Emene Enugu State, last Sunday, is not an isolated case. It stirs up memories of “Operation Python Dance” Egwu Eke, and others which saw the cold-blooded murder of many Igbo youths. When Ndigbo are trying to put one incident behind them, another occurs as a reminder, making it hard to forget.

Ironically, what police insensitivity, hatred, and the proscription of IPOB, have done is win sympathy for the unarmed youths, agitating for a cause. Police brutality on IPOB increases the nostalgia for Biafra, even among those who through fear or faith oppose it. It also gives credence to those comparing Nigeria with George Orwell’s “Animal Farm,” a euphemism for discrimination and corruption. This is glaring when one compares how police treat unarmed IPOB members, and the real terrorists such as armed Fulani herdsmen, the so-called bandits, Boko Haram and other hoodlums operating across the country.

Although there are conflicting reports about what took place at Emene. what is most regrettable is that lives were lost. It is also clear that the conflict started when security operatives stormed the venue of an IPOB meeting. There is no report that the youths were carrying weapons or marching somewhere to attack the police or anybody else. What happened to the tear-gas which police use to disperse unarmed group? Perhaps, life has become so cheap in Nigeria that police do not care who dies anymore.

But the killings have been widely condemned by Nigerians at home and abroad. Here in the South-East, Ohanaeze, MASSOB, Nzuko Umunna, town unions and others have called for a judicial inquiry into the incident.

The panel is expected to unravel the truth about what happened, as there are suspicions of a sinister motive. South-East governors should speak out also before things get out of hand.
Clearly, Nigeria is engulfed in countless security challenges. People are wondering why the same security agencies who have guts to murder unarmed Igbo youth have displayed helplessness in containing more vociferous security challenges, elsewhere?
Nigerians have enough experience to know that if one ethnic group keeps quiet while another unjustly suffers, soon the others will also be at the receiving end because, as they say, what goes round, comes around.

Furthermore, it beats one’s imagination that the IPOB should be labeled ‘terrorist’ while the real terrorists continue to massacre and kill and maim across the country.

We agree with many Nigerians that unarmed IPOB youths, who have not shown the cruelty and callousness of Boko Haram, Fulani herdsmen and even bandits in South Kaduna do not deserve, proscription, constant harassment and killings.

We condemn violent agitations in all forms. But when armed law enforcement agents descend on unarmed youths at their peaceful meeting, we wonder who sent them and what the motive is.

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ARTICLES

Imo as Unemployment Capital

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Imo as Unemployment Capital

Former Governor Rochas Okorocha understood clearly that Imo State needed jobs and factories. The question is what did he do about it?

Imolites are familiar with the mantra “Job, Job, Job, factory, factory, factory,” which he orchestrated in his second term. That was his way of telling Imolites what was lacking in the state. He gave the impression that his government was about to tackle unemployment, by rehabilitating moribund factories and, building new ones. Many people believed him.

Now, the National Bureau of Statistics NBS has come out with the figures stating that 23 million Nigerians are unemployed and that Imo has the lion’s share of 48.7 per cent. One wonders if the NBS report would have been released had Governor Okorocha still been in charge. The NBS report showing Imo State as Nigeria’s new unemployment capital can only be annoying to Imolites when viewed in the prism of Okorocha’s factory, factory factory, jobs, jobs, jobs.

Imolites cannot even point to one “hot” industry or employment generating project created during Okorocha’s eight years. But that is typical of our politicians. Yet, one can still ask where the factories and jobs promised by Okorocha are? Knowing Governor Okorocha, he would not deny that he promised “factories” but the problem will be telling people where they are located.

If Governor Okorocha was honest with his “factory, factory and job, job” utterance, he would have done something to stir up activities in the so-called Owerri Industrial Layout along Onitsha road Irete, which is almost a forgotten area. The industrial hub is now more of a hide out for miscreants, with all its roads in deplorable condition.

Several of the factories are overtaken by grass, as they have either been shut down in frustration or relocated. Individuals and private businesses use some of the large expanse of land to dump solid waste, including faeces.

We are not holding former Governor Rochas Okorocha solely responsible for this abysmal neglect of the Industrial Layout. Apart from the first civilian Governor of the state, Chief Sam Mbakwe, who saw wisdom in setting up several industries across the old Imo State, that extended to present day Abia and Ebonyi States, none of his successors either military or civilian did anything in that direction. The successive administrations paid mere lip service, to job creation.

It is also important to point out that previous governors remembered their promises to create jobs just when they were about to leave office.

It was only then that they created dubious and questionable jobs that run into thousands but which are practically impossible for their successors to fund.

Charity must begin at home. Any Government desiring to create jobs and kick-start manufacturing in Imo State must uplift the Industrial layout and not neglect it. No entrepreneur, investor, local or expatriates, would set up business in a place with virtually no roads, to begin with.

We only hope and pray that the present Government would be grieved by the unflattering NBS report, which ridicules Imo State and decide to take some positive steps towards developing the Industrial Layout.

We know Government cannot employ everyone. But we know also that it can create the enabling environment where virtually every eligible person can get employed.

If Governor Hope Uzodinma is touched by the ugly NBS report, he can do something about it. He can put politics and his personal interest aside and rehabilitate old factories as well as revive the Industrial Layout. Anything short of this will be another exercise in deception.

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