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EDITORIAL

Mission Schools deserve grants-in aid

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In most countries of the world the Catholic Church has proven itself to be a competent and strong provider of quality education and moral values.

From Europe to Africa down to the Americas, including the Caribbean, Catholic schools are highly regarded and generally do well academically. They are a prime choice for many parents who want their children disciplined and educated, even in countries where education is free and public schools have a high standard.

This is because Catholic education has long been recognized for its ability to offer wholistic knowledge to children – an education that focuses on physical, moral, intellectual and spiritual development. The result is the emergence of a disciplined human being, mentally, physically and morally prepared to live and interact with others as well as contribute to society..

What is true in other countries is also true in Nigeria. Catholic Education has existed here for decades and served the people, even before the 1914 amalgamation of the Northern and Southern protectorates which became Nigeria.

The British protectorate of Southern Nigeria was established in 1900 and Lord Lugard’s Education policy favoured mission schools, which government also gave grants-in Aid for support.  In 1919, all elementary education in Southern Nigeria was entrusted to the Christian Mission.

Here in the East, the schools grew with leaps and bounds as the Catholic Church continued to prove that education is the gateway to evangelization.

In Owerri, with roots in Emekuku, schools became a spiritual power house. The growth and expansion witnessed under Rev Fr Shanahan was sustained. Many stations became parishes under Rev. Fr. Cloonan and most had separate schools for boys and girls. There were full–fledged boys primary schools and girls Holy Rosary Schools run by the religious sisters.

These schools distinguished themselves morally and academically. The rapid growth of catholic schools was conspicuous in the 50s and mid 60s. Other mission schools sprung up in competition, providing more choices for parents and a healthy environment for education to flourish.

The civil war of 1966 brought a lot of disruptions and hardship and by early 1970s, government took over all primary and post primary schools owned by voluntary agencies. The reason given was to centralize the education system, guarantee uniform standards, fair distribution of education facilities and reduce the cost of running schools – better said than done!

Government later introduced the community school system and passed over the burden of building and maintaining schools to poor local communities, who had just come out of a war. Most schools remained dilapidated with no furniture, teaching aid or money to buy chalk.

Things got progressively worse- leaving no doubt that the takeover of mission schools by the government was bad for the nation. It is noteworthy that the Catholic Church did not give up its right of ownership nor accept the compensation offered by the government during the takeover. Instead, it continued to demand its schools back, especially as it watched both standards and morals tumble.

The corruption in society permeated the education system. Indiscipline is record high, cultism and various forms of exam mal-practices are now an open secret. Myriad problems beset our nation’s education system and Government seems helpless.

The 2010 return of mission schools to their owners in Imo was a good gesture yet much like medicine after death. Owerri Archdiocese and other catholic dioceses in Imo State went to work immediately and began to renovate, reconstruct and upgrade the run-down facilities, left to rot from many years of neglect by the government.

As the physical facilities are awfully in a state of disrepair, so are the lives and morals of the children, in many cases the teachers also, since both are products of the same decaying structure.

Although the Imo State Government’s free education policy has restored the universality of our basic education, there’s yet much clean up to do. Also, since basic education is the prerogative of every child and the aim is to produce children who can contribute meaningful to the state and country, Government should ensure that its education policy embraces all children.

Free education or an adequate subvention should be extended to mission schools to enable them to regain their lost glory.  Education is capital intensive. It is not enough to argue that providing free education to all would encourage a proliferation. Legitimate schools are known and must meet the criteria for receiving Government funding. The lame argument by the Imo State government that once it begins to give subvention to mission schools, all mushroom churches will begin to build schools and start claiming the same for their school remains ridiculous.

Not only is the N10 million offered by Government to mission schools on release inadequate, only half has been paid. A lot of work awaits the Catholic schools in terms of reinventing themselves whether by way of rehabilitating the physical structures, hiring professional teachers or cleaning up the character of their students.

Good education is a big investment. It is the best gift families and the State  can give to its children. While we join Archbishop Obinna to appeal that all hands should be on deck to restore the excellence of Catholic Education, we ask the Owelle Rochas Okorocha Government to take a much bold and needed step to give adequate subvention to qualifying mission schools, or better still extend free education to every child – irrespective of school. These children are also children of the State, they have legitimate right to State funds as well. This is justice!!!!

 

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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