By Jerome-Mario Utomi
Among other efforts in the past to create a liveable world that both protect the rights and opportunities of coming generations and contributes to compatible approaches on environment, world leaders on Friday 5th June 2020, during the World Environment Day celebration co-hosted by Colombia and Germany and streamed live online from Bogotá, agreed to create a liveable world through the promotion of actions that combat the accelerating species loss and degradation of the natural world.
Essentially, they called “on all governments around the world to retain our precious intact ecosystems and wilderness, to preserve and effectively manage at least 30% of our planet’s lands and oceans by 2030, and to restore and conserve biodiversity, as a crucial step to help prevent future pandemics and public health emergencies, and lay the foundations for a sustainable, global economy.
Admittedly, their resolve has a great message of hope for our environment. However, about the same time, it invites some maze of high voltage confusion. For such call to make meaning here in Nigeria, there are several leadership, environmental, technological and political obstacles that we collectively, as a nation, will have to determine how to overcome.
Specifically, the shoddy management by Lagos state government of the Video clip case entitled: Snow-like Chemical Surge Causes Panic in Lagos, shared on July 8 by Sahara Reporters which went viral on social media showing snow-like foam that purportedly prevented Lagosians from accessing their homes is one event in recent days that probably did more than anything else to convince Nigerians with critical interest that formulating a sound strategy is more basic to a nation than designing control systems; that a nation based on a good strategy can survive confusion and poor leadership, but sophisticated control systems and organisational structures cannot compensate for an unsound strategy.
Adding context to the discourse, the video footage going by fact check conducted by a media organization, revealed that there were two separate videos merged as one. The first part of the footage showed the snow-like foamy substance truly blocking the entrance to people’s homes with background female voices calling for help in panic. The second part of the video the report revealed was a typical snow-like foam covering the major highway.
Expectedly, before the dust raised by the out of event ordered could settle, Gbenga Omotoso, the Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, clarified the viral footage, saying that the incident was an outcome of a chemical reaction resulting from actions that were deliberately undertaken to avert a fire incident. While adding that a truck approaching from the Lagos Sea Port fell due to an accident along the Anthony Village axis of Ikorodu Road, he explained that the truck was conveying an inflammable material, so the Lagos State Fire Service was deployed to intervene. The firefighters reportedly sprayed the AFFF on the spilled content to avoid fire incident.
But before you analyze the above effort and get the impression that this was created and developed by proactive leadership and marvel at the quality of their decision, wait till you cast a glance at the next paragraph as the content not only has a distinction to make but says something else.
From what safety and environmental experts are saying, the snow-like material is often used by firefighters to suppress fire incidents. It is mainly recognised as Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF) solutions which could also cause health hazards if wrongly managed. ‘The United States Fire Administration, an institution of government that works to prevent fire outbreaks says AFFF could be a combination of per and polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) – the Perfluorooctane Acid (PFOA) and Perfluorooctanesulfonic Acid (PFOS) but warned against long term exposure to the chemicals’.
These were part of the issues raised by two environmental rights and justice advocate groups; the Centre for Research in Environmental Resource Management (CREMA), and the Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), during a fact finding mission to the site. They were unhappy about potential effects of long term exposure to the chemicals which were still visibly flowing along Ikorodu Road towards Harbour Works/Maryland Bus-stop well over 24 hours after the accident. The present fears expressed by the finders which cannot be described as unfounded is not only based on the health hazard of the chemical. It also grows from several serious problems such as the dramatic and fundamental gaps in the way/manner the state government communicated the situation. Infact, the greatest challenge is to understand the problems for what they are.
The underlying argument is this; if the truck was conveying inflammable material as claimed by Mr. Commissioner, what are the name and the grade of such inflammable? Were the inflammables in bags or were they liquids in barrels? What precisely are the chemical constituents of the inflammable material that was discharged?
These are relevant questions because a large proportion of Lagos residents rely on water supplies from wells and boreholes that obtain water from shallow aquifers that are vulnerable and susceptible to pollution. That is to say some of this material could end up in people’s wells through infiltration. Also ringing apprehension is the inability of the state government agencies to remove the containers after well over 24 hours of the said accident and left in such a way that could lead to further accident. Could such action be characterized as an attribute of a responsive and responsible government?
Furthermore, the official statement is devoid of follow up procedures for clean up and associated investigations. Finally, storage and the transportation of hazardous material is statute controlled at federal and state level. Indeed, because Ikorodu Road is a federal Highway, there are specific federal regulations and guidance for permitting the transportation of hazardous material on public roads. In this regard, the Harmful Waste Special Criminal Provisions Act of 1988 comes to mind. Perhaps, Lagos State also has such regulations and guidance?
While this piece leave these questions for the state to ponder, it must be underlined also that even if answer(s) is/are provided to the above questions, it will however, not in any appreciable way erase the belief among vast majority of Lagosians that the Anthony Village accident remains an incident that its pain is deepened by the fact that it was avoidable.
This situation becomes even more painful when one remembers that the list of actions not taken by this administration to confront environmental challenges in the state which has made Lagosians face actual and potential difficulties remains lengthy and worrisome.
In facts, few days ago, there was a newspaper report that Lagos residents, motorists as well as commuters have continued to lament and groan under deplorable conditions of (the ?) environment particularly roads across the metropolis. The report submitted that there is hardly any stretch of road across the commercial nerve centre of the nation that is totally free of potholes, including sections of the ever busy Apapa-Oshodi Express-way. Ikorodu Road, Funsho Williams Avenue and those in parts of Ikoyi, Lekki and Victoria Island.
And unfortunately, this accident that is threatening the environment with pollution occurred along one of these aforementioned roads.
The major point here is that the significant stride in environmental, roads other infrastructural development made by previous administrations in the state appears to have lost momentum. Hue and cry of bad experiences by regular road users appear to be the order of the day.
Without going into specifics, concepts, provisions and definitions, I hold the opinion that for the state to move forward in the area of environmental protection, government must do something to help address pollution and other environmental challenges particularly because of its industrial nature.
To achieve this goal of environmental protection, strengthening environmental laws to make them both efficient, effective and enforceable is a major area of ‘interest’ to watch and this may require collaboration with communities, civil society and the Federal Government.
Indeed, Lagos state and the Federal Government must find solution not merely for political consideration but because there is a call for all to adjust in psychological, social, or economic systems in response to actual or expected climatic stimuli and their effects or impacts. While we wait, Lagosians will appreciate a more detailed explanation to what happened at Anthony axis of Lagos state recently.
~ Utomi is a Lagos-Based media Consultant
Suffering Citizens And Buhari’s Phantom Regrets
By Jerome-Mario Utomi
If there is any statement in recent times that portrayed President Muhammadu Buhari as a leader with understanding that ‘public order, personal and national security, economic and social programmes, and prosperity is not the natural order of things but depends on the ceaseless efforts and attentions from an honest and effective government that the people elect’, it is his declaration during an interview with The Signature 50 magazine, that he would only feel better as a president when lives of citizens improve.
Buhari in that interview among other things noted that looking back at his five years in office as President, his greatest regret is that despite international ratings, lives of Nigerians are yet to improve as he had expected.While Buhari as part of his achievements expressed happiness that the economy is no longer in the forlorn state that it used to be, he, however, regretted that the progress being made has only reflected on the international rating of the nation’s economy not on the lives of Nigerians.
This is no doubt a constructive declaration that peripherally earned the president a height of respect. Mr. President’s worry becomes particularly more appreciated when one remembers that the challenge of development is one of the greatest problems that have dominated world history. As human beings have always been concerned about how to improve their condition of living and better confront the forces of nature and the environment.
Despite the concerns expressed above, a more constructive understudy of Mr. President’s policies, politics and speed in strategic decision making process in the past five years reveals that impeded improvement of lives in Nigerians was as a result of government’s poor leadership judgements and failure to perform the great roles of planning and acceleration of development processes.
This assertion comes in different forms and shapes.
Fundamentally, aside the ‘ignorance hypothesis theory’ which among other provisions ‘maintains that poor countries are poor because they have a lot of markets failures and because policymakers do not know how to get rid of them and have heeded the wrong advice in the past, Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson in their book; Why Nations Fail, provides a compelling understanding of what set the groundwork for Nigerian’s poverty.
The duo classified political and economic institutions as either inclusive or extractive; they argue that countries with extractive institutions tend to be poor, while those with inclusive institutions tend to be rich. While submitting that sustained growth occurs when countries move away from extractive political institutions and towards inclusive ones, they concluded that inclusive political institutions give rise to inclusive economic institutions, which then generate economic growth.
To further demonstrate this belief is the words of Professor Ndubuisi Ekekwe who recently wrote; today, our Vice President, Prof Osinbajo, gave a speech on improving the ease of doing business through reforms. A friend in New York sent me the link with this comment: “…your country does not know that the only reform Nigeria needs for foreign investment now is a stable currency. Your problem has gone beyond bureaucracy”.
Similarly, bearing in mind that good governance entails the diligent exercising of the economic, political and administrative authorities to manage a country’s affair at all levels within the rule of law in such a manner that delivers maximum dividends to citizens’, Mr. President need not ask question or regret why the nation’s economy is not impacting in the lives of the people. The reason is simple. By his continued refusal to heed the call by Nigerians that his security votes and other avoidable expenditures need to be slashed, President Buhari has not demonstrated good leadership example.
Going by reports, the 2020 financial estimate shows that Mr. President and His Vice will spend N4.2Billion. Out of this amount, travel will gulp N3.3 Billion, while catering will take N149.1 Billion. This high cost of governance has not only led to poor delivery of democracy dividends but its happening in a country where over 112 million Nigerians now live below the UN poverty line.
Even if Mr. President provides answers to the above source of worries, his inability to stamp out corruption in the country is another obvious reason why Nigerian masses could neither breathe nor their lives improve.
To explain this fact, graft according to Rudy Giuliani is nothing new; it may be the second-oldest profession. Powerful people and those with access to them have always used kickbacks, pay-to-play schemes, and other corrupt practices to feather their nests and gain unfair advantages. And such corruption has always posed a threat to the rule of law and stood in the way of protecting basic civil and economic rights
Corruption is, but a human problem that has existed in some forms. Its fights in Nigeria also dates back to Colonial governments as they (Colonial Overlords) sufficiently legislated against it in the first criminal code ordinance of 1916(No15 of 1916) which elaborately made provisions prohibiting official bribery and corruption by persons in the public service and in the judiciary. Also at independence on October 1, 1960, the criminal code against corruption and abuse of office in Nigeria were in section 98 to 116 and 404 of the code.
What is, however, new is that corruption has recently transformed into an instrument of national strategy. The development has gotten so bad to the extent that if what happened in the time past was a challenge, that of the present is a crisis.
Separate from the corruption crisis rocking the country, there are other legions of reasons why socioeconomic lives of citizens may not improve easily except the Federal Government takes theatrical steps to address the current situation in the country.
More particularly, the present state of poverty, insecurity, infrastructural decay, terrorism, a high rate of out of school children and youths unemployment, unchecked population explosion, technological backwardness, corruption, poor planning and implementation of policies, are but testaments that this administration like its predecessors neither understand nor possess the needed expertise to perform modern jobs of leadership.
To explain, regardless of the field, for one to do any job creditably well, certain steps must be followed. This step in the words of Lance Bettencourt includes; defining what the job requires; identifying and locating the needed inputs; preparing the components and the physical environment; confirming that everything is ready; executing the task; monitoring the results and the environment; making modifications and concluding the job. Because problems can occur at many points in the process, nearly all jobs require problem resolution steps. Some steps are more critical than others, depending on the job, but each is necessary to get the job done successfully.
Regrettably, such logic doesn’t hold-up here.
For example, if the present Government is in the habit of identifying and locating the needed inputs, preparing the components as well as confirming that everything is ready before introducing new policies as specified above, the FG would not have come up with recent order directing all property owners and their agents to charge 6% Stamp Duty on all tenancy and lease agreements they enter into with all leases and remit promptly to the Service
What is more, if Mr President had expressed a little interest in monitoring the outcome of his past actions with the hope of making modifications, maybe, he would have considered as misguided priority the 1.6 billion dollars taken to fix Lagos to Ibadan, the request for 5.3 billion dollars to fix from Ibadan to Kano, 3.2 billion dollars to fix Port Harcourt to Maiduguri, and Lagos to Calabar which is about 11.1billion dollars, If Mr. President had had the interest of Niger Deltans at heart, he would not have declined assent to the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) as recently passed by the 8th Assembly nor ignored the deafening call by well-meaning Nigerians to have the future of this country discussed. Or better still, have the 2014 national confab report implemented; as the content of that report has the capacity to make this political entity and its integral parts, more efficient, more acceptable, more productive, more functional and above all, more equitable.
Most importantly is the revelation that the solution to our national poverty goes beyond showing mere regrets, to include tackling tragic leadership gaps.
Utomi, a Lagos-Based Media Consultant could be reached on: email@example.com.
Social Housing And The Spirit Of Jakande In Cross River
By Jerome-Mario Utomi
Justice according to Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy is centrally a matter of how individuals are treated, it is also possible to speak of justice for groups – for example when the state is allocating resources between different categories of citizens. Here each group is being treated as though it were a separate individual for purposes of the allocation.
Here there is a contrast with other virtues: we demand justice, but we beg for charity or forgiveness. This also means that justice is a matter of obligation for the agent dispensing it, and that the agent wrongs the recipient if the latter is denied what is due to her.
Definitely not a false argument but there is an important distinction to make.
In a country like Nigeria, the position of justice when allocating resources, in absolute terms, is not a substance of obligation, but largely a function of behaviour, character, habits, of the personality in public office (the agent dispensing justice).
Using as focal points the right to adequate housing which is both a human right and one of the basic needs of man borne out of desire for security, privacy and protection from negative impacts of the environment, it was Alhaji Lateef Jakande as executive governor of Lagos State in 1979, that his administration was sincerely effective, open and implemented the four cardinal policies of; housing, education, transportation and infrastructure.
It is factually documented that he introduced housing and educational programs targeting the poor, building new neighbourhood primary and secondary schools and providing free primary and secondary education. He established the Lagos state University. Jakande’s government constructed over 30,000 housing units. The schools and housing units were built cheaply, but were of great value. Some of the housing units include low cost estates in Amuwo-Odofin, Ijaiye, Dolphin, Oke-Afa, Ije, Abesan, Iponri, Ipaja, Abule Nla, Epe, Anikantamo, Surulere, Iba, Ikorodu and Badagry.
To fund some of the projects, Jakande increased the tenement rates and price of plots of land in affluent areas of Victoria Island and Lekki Peninsula and the processing fees for lottery, pools and gaming licenses. He also completed the construction of the General Hospital in Gbagada and Ikorodu and built about 20 health centres within the state. As a governor, he established 23 local government councils which were later disbanded by the military. He also started a metroline project to facilitate mass transit. The project was halted and his tenure as Governor ended when the military seized power on 31 December 1983.
Since that date, the spirit of social housing-an umbrella term used to refer to rental housing which may be owned and managed by the state, by non-profit organisations, or by a combination of the two, usually with the aim of making it affordable, departed the country.
But however resurfaced recently after about three decade’s this time around in Cross River state, Nigeria.
Its first manifestation in the state was on Friday, May 29, 2020; at Ifiang Ayong- a sleepy riverine community in Bakassi Local Government Area which came alive as dignitaries from all walks of life gathered to witness an epochal and life- changing event. The commissioning of an ultra-modern Estate comprising 52 units of 2- bedroom bungalows built by Governor Ben Ayade. ‘He did not build it for commercial purposes; the sprawling Estate, fully furnished and complete with essential amenities, is the new home to the displaced Bakassi people who lost their ancestral land, homes and livelihoods to the Republic of Cameroon in 2002 following the ceding of the Peninsula to the Central Africa country’.
Looking at commentaries, one major reason that triggered plaudits and encomium for the state government from various quarters across the nation is that in the early 2000s, the Federal Government inaugurated a Special Committee on National Social Housing Scheme (NSHS) with a presidential mandate to provide housing for its less privileged citizens. In the pilot phase of the scheme, the committee was to build 18,000 units of houses across the country before the end of 2006. However, the Committee could not deliver because the principles of social housing and values were yet to permeate the “development and management” of government’s housing plan and delivery systems. And since then, little has been done to translate such objectives into actionable plans. Or clarify processes and opportunities for citizen’s participation in the development and management of social housing in Nigeria.
But before the happiness elicited by the development at Ifiang Ayong could settle, another was up this time around at Obudu Ranch Resort in Obanliku Local Government Area.
Worried by the squalid and deplorable living conditions and abject condition, highlighted by shanties and dilapidations of the host communities of the Obudu Ranch Resort in Obanliku Local Government Area, Cross River State governor, Sir Ben Ayade who was on a one-week working visit to the Obudu Ranch Resort, promised to change their situation with the provision of social housing.
“We are here at the Ranch and when you look to the left and right, what you see in the entire place are the aborigines, the original owners of Obudu Cattle Ranch. “They are relegated to the worst form of human existence; reduced to want, in body, in spirit, in soul and in the most sub-human living conditions with collapsing roofs and huge massive temperatures that run your blood chill and your bones cold.”
And so my government is committed to constructing social housing to change their course and prove to them that God uses humans as a vessel; to make your town and your place look beautiful as well. So, for us as a state, we are committed to exterminating this kind of extreme poverty.
On his one week visit to the Ranch, he disclosed that the visit was meant to give him the opportunity to see things for himself as his administration gets ready to revamp the prime jewel of hospitality in the state.
“I decided to take a guided tour to spend one week with the people to feel their pulse as we prepare to make the Ranch the most attractive centre for visits in Nigeria. I want to see how the citizens, the aborigines have been living side by side with the glaring reality of the luxury of the ranch resort.
In what could be likened to a tale of two cities, Governor Ayade lamented: “It is a shame that where I live which is the presidential Villa is as if am in Europe and just a few minutes walk from there, this is what you find. The contrast is unacceptable to my conscience because I have a background akin to this people and so I understand the feeling. I understand the pain.”
“My performance efficiency should be measured by how much I have lifted people from extreme poverty to comfort not by how many culverts, how many bridges, how many superhighways, how many deep seaports I have built. The real growth is human growth and that is why I do not believe in Gross Domestic Products (GDP).
“I believe in human happiness index. I want to be assessed on the basis of how happy these people are with the onset of me being governor. When I leave office, what will be the difference I have in their lives? Until I make such a difference, I would have failed as governor.”
On his determination to reposition the ranch, Ayade hinted: “Very soon the ranch will be the biggest attraction in this country because we are building an international airport to support the ranch for export of potatoes and export of ornamental flowers.
“So, if we are going to do that, and go into commercial farming in Obudu cattle ranch and industrial tourism, where does that leave the host communities? That is why we are here today to assure them that they have a critical role to play. We had a meeting with the leaders of the community and have assured them that the squalor and the sub-human conditions will be exterminated in the next six months. We will be here and you will see the difference.
“Cross River does not have enough but I care enough to make a difference for them and we surely will as a state.This is my commitment.”
Indeed, this is true justice coming from a man who similar to Pa.Lateef Jakande, loves his people and is passionate about their development. Interestingly also, Ayade in my estimation stands out at the forefront of the crop of patriots wanting the best for his community, state and country, Nigeria.
Utomi is a Lagos-Based Media Consultant. He can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org.
‘Mr. Thomas Osuji Tells The Greatest Lie About The Igbo’
By Benjamin Obiajulu Aduba
I am from Owerri; I think that Igbos behavior has to do with our specific psychology. The Igbo is very competitive. He works for his self, not for the collectivity. He wants to succeed at all costs and does not care about other people. In Igbo society you are rewarded if you work hard and compete and succeed. If you fail you are considered a bush animal (anuohia), a no-body, so every person works hard to succeed and not pay attention to the rest of the people.
Mr. Osuji was born in Lagos, grew up in Lagos except for a few months spent in Owerri during the war. He went back to Lagos immediately after the war and went Lagos primary and high schools and from thence to USA. He probably lived in Igboland for a maximum of four years. And did not get any schooling (primary or secondary) in a school with majority Igbo pupils. And therefore very little street education. His further studies has been mostly science with occasional dabbling is philosophy and religion. But no Igbo studies not even as a hobby.
Having not studied Igbo formally or indirectly by living and going to school with his peers, Mr. Osuji often uses his “common sense” to tell incredible stories about the Igbo. Common Sense can be very much misleading. There are many real things that do not conform to Common Sense. The concept of “Evil Forest” is one example, but more on this at a later paper.
The great lie in the Osuji’s thesis (extract above) is this:
In Igbo society you are rewarded if you work hard and compete and succeed. If you fail you are considered a bush animal (anuohia), a no-body, so every person works hard to succeed and not pay attention to the rest of the people.
It is true that the Igbo society encourages hard work and success and rewards people accordingly. But it is absolutely false that Igbo people do not pay attention to the rest of the people.
The truth is that part of the measure of one’s success in Igbo land is “how much one contributes to the welfare of others”. Here are some proofs:
1. The first young people that went to secondary schools from my town and almost all other towns were sponsored by the Town Improvement Union.
2. Nationwide there was Igbo Improvement Union to take care of those living in faraway places like Kano and Lagos. Igbo Improvement Union (IMU) built and managed schools for every town resident in those faraway places for all Igbo or non-Igbo.
3. Most of the first Igbo university students were sponsored by the town unions or by a wealthy brother, uncle, or cousin of nth degree separation.
4. A successful Igbo merchant in Kano would be expected to take with him many from the village to teach them how to succeed and after several years of apprenticeship will “settle” them. To settle here means give them capital to start on their own.
5. Everywhere you go to in Nigeria one would see clusters of Igbo from one SE town. If you probe further one would see the “Big Brother” that brought them there. This applies to all major cities around the world.
6. A common Igbo title name is “O chili O zua” one who gathers (people) and trains them.
7. Many of the pre-war secondary schools in Igboland were founded by town union. There were levies (taxes) imposed on all able residents (at home and abroad) to fund such projects. Not just schools but also hospitals and Town Halls. In some towns there are age grade projects. It is still going on even in USA and EU.
8. There is a negative side to this. The Igbo is likely to support another Igbo even when the support is not merited. Most corrupt politicians are supported because of their contributions to town projects even when the money comes from the constituent budgets and not from the politician’s pockets.
I suggest that Mr. Osuji should do a little research on Igbo people before accusing them of selfishness. It will help if he would join the prominent Imo Organizations that abound in most US cities or even Owerri town union. He will see the serious competition that goes on as towns try to fund development projects. Of course sometimes a crook gets hold of the fund and the project will not be completed.
The Igbo is one of the most patriotic nations in Nigeria. I can attest to that.
~ Aduba writes from Boston, Massachusetts.
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