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Unsafe Schools Mean Failed State

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Unsafe Schools Mean Failed State

By
Emmanuel Onwubiko

I read somewhere in the print media a story attributed to the Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) whereby he blamed the pervasive public sector corruption for the unprecedented insecurity in Nigeria.
I think he said the correct thing except he never thoroughly weighed in on the larger picture of the consequential effects of corruption on societal well-being.

Perhaps, the only person who actually saw the future of Nigeria and captured it in one of the tiniest books to have been authored by such an iconic globally ranked author was professor Chinua Achebe in his “The Trouble with Nigeria” written in the eighties. What Achebe wrote as the fundamental societal issues that may trigger the collapse of national security as far back as the 1980s are the exact problems that have threatened the continuous existence of Nigeria as a sovereign entity one amongst which is the pervasive state of insecurity.

The nature of the failure of security in Nigeria has evolved catastrophically to such a dangerous dimension that school children no longer feel safe to go to school to learn because of the terrorism that has escalated especially in Northern Nigeria whereby school children in their hundreds are kidnapped by terrorists and detained in the thick, lawless and unsafe forests in Zamfara, Katsina, Kaduna, Niger States for months and the central government has shown non-challant attitude to rescue these children and to bring the terrorists to trial.

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Worse still the federal government is working around the insane policy of releasing and reintegrating the terrorists who have destroyed schools and kidnapped school children. This can only happen in a country whereby governance has collapsed. This was what Achebe projected in his prophetic book tilled “The Trouble with Nigeria.”

I have decided to use few citations from that book to demonstrate my conviction that the failure of government to protect Nigerian school children is emblematic of a failed nation state.

Achebe wrote thus: “Social injustice and the cult of mediocrity: The major objection to the practice of tribalism is that it exposes the citizen to unfair treatment and social injustice. Less advertized but no less damaging to social morality is the advantage which tribalism may confer on mediocrity. But that is not all. Let us take a hypothetical case where two candidates A and B apply to fill a very important and strategic position. A has the right qualification of competence and character but is of the ‘wrong ‘tribe, while B, less qualified, belongs to the ‘right’ tribe, and so gets the job. A goes away embittered. B throws a party and then messes up the job. The greatest sufferer is the nation itself which has to contain the legitimate grievance of a wronged citizen; accommodate the incompetence of a favoured citizen and, more important and of greater scope, endure a general decline of morale and subversion of efficiency caused by an erratic system of performance and reward.”

Achebe wrote also that: “Social injustice is therefore not only a matter of morality but also of sheer efficiency and effectiveness. ‘We will buy, hire or steal technology,’ said one of our ministers. He did not seem to realize that technology was not an assemblage of artefacts stacked conveniently for ease of lifting, but a particular attitude of mind. And it probably never occurred to him that the people from whom he proposed to steal got where they are because they will never hire a man to perform an important task unless he is the best they can find. Nigeria, on the other hand, is a country where it would be difficult to point to one important job held by the most competent person we have. I stand to be corrected!”

Achebe proceeded to assert that: “We have displayed a consistent inclination since we assumed management of our own affairs to opt for mediocrity and compromise, to pick a third and fourth eleven to play for us. And the result: we have always failed and will always fail to make it to the world league. Until, that is, we put merit back on the national agenda.”

He then pointed out that in recent years (as it then was) an editorial in New Nigerian could write mockingly about “God-knows-what-merit.” Ironically it is our new “intellectual” elite who today debunk merit for immediate sectional advantage, just as some “nationalist” leaders in the 1950s forsook nationalism in favour of the quick returns of tribalism. But whereas tribalism might win enough votes to install a reactionary jingoist in a tribal ghetto, the cult of mediocrity will bring the wheels of modernization grinding to a halt throughout the land, he stressed.

Achebe then summed up the consequences of corruption and mediocrity as follows: “Look at our collapsing public utilities, our inefficient and wasteful parastatals and state-owned companies. If you want electricity, you buy your own generator; if you want water, you sink your own bore-hole; if you want to travel, you set up your own airline. One day soon, said a friend of
mine, you will have to build your own post office to send your letters.” (The Trouble With Nigeria, By Chinua Achebe ).

As I alluded at the beginning, the Chairman, ICPC, Professor Bolaji Owasanoye, identified corruption as the most potent factor responsible for national security challenges in the country today.

Owasanoye stated this while delivering a goodwill message at the opening ceremony of a capacity building workshop for the House of Representatives Committee on Anti-Corruption, which has as its theme, “The role of the legislature in the fight against corruption,” organized by a German foundation, Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung in partnership with the House Committee on Anti-Corruption.

He noted that proper legislature, appropriation, oversight, and scrutiny of public accounts would have prevented the drift into the kind of insecurity that presently engulfs the nation.

Hear him: “Through legislation, appropriation, investigation, oversight, and the scrutiny of public accounts, the legislature implements a very crucial fundamental objective in fighting corruption of power and also by doing so, it prevents the drift into the kind of insecurity that we have found ourselves in.

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“Corruption is Nigeria’s greatest challenge and a singular push factor of national security challenges, the expansion of poverty, the reduction of life expectancy, the high mortality rate we suffer, and the deteriorated livelihood experienced by our citizens.” He added that graft has also diminished the promotion and standing of democratic institutions and national accountability which has promoted the creation of unnecessary projects, and the funding of such, thus diminishing the funding of the necessary projects and to see them to completion.

Owasanoye emphasized that the role of the legislature ultimately is to ensure that “we do not go in that direction but to keep us on the path of restitution by promotion of good governance through their legislative process.

“Now the big question and the elephant in the room is how well has the legislature played this role over the years? There is a perception out there that the legislature is rather reactive, trying to put out fires rather than preventing the fires from going out and sometimes dramatic in its approach to oversight functions.”

According to him, “the legislature is increasingly stepping up approach in recent times. This is a good thing even though some people say it is disruptive of work and uncomfortable but it is important to the value of the money that has been appropriated by the National Assembly.

“The legislation has the power to investigate, expose and prevent corruption at all levels of government. The authority to determine the spending of public funds is the most fundamental power of the legislature. However, this power does not extend to fixing their salaries and allowances.”

Reading through the well thought-out submissions of both professors aforementioned, it is evidently indubitable that the unprecedented collapse of security and the rampant violent attacks targeting school children by a range of armed non- state actors identified as Fulani militia, is caused by nepotism, corruption and a disregard for merit.

Most of the above causative agents are birthed by lack of patriotism on the part of the political elites.it would even seem that the Nigerian citizens abroad are as worried as we are locally regarding the deficit of patriotism amongst the ruling elites in Nigeria.

Onwubiko Emeka Cyprian, a Nigerian scholar who did post- graduate studies at the University of Putra, Malaysia penned down a very lovely work titled “Understanding the meaning of patriotism amongst post-graduate students in Malaysia.”

His scholarly submissions are of substantial helpful in understanding why President Muhammadu Buhari jetted out to the United Kingdom on personal medical tourism even when hundreds of Nigerian school children are languishing in the dens of terrorists whom the president only recognized as mere bandits.

A patriotic leader will ensure that the security of schools is not frequently breached and he won’t travel abroad when there are pending terror-related incidents in which children were plucked off violently from their schools and driven off deep into the lawless forests by terrorists and kept for months thereby putting the nation at the risk of being termed a failed state. Mind you, parents of these students are forced to pay huge ransoms, yet their kids are in the forests with terrorists.

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Emaka Onwubiko Cyprian wrote thus: “In light of the above looking at the sense of belonging as an emergent theme, it was built on the issues of connecting to homeland, feeling of identity with the homeland. It was interpreted that there was a connection between some of the informants who felt they have sense of belonging to their homeland and those who reported “feeling of lost and disconnection”. Majority (6 of 7) of the information addressed the importance of the sense of belonging. One of the informants expressed: “I am a Nigerian by heart, I was born in Nigeria and to me Nigeria is always going to be a home and nowhere else. After I finished my studies, I will go back and join hands in developing my homeland (…)” (Ekaete).

Another informant maintained that it is a burning desire and interest for her to always strive to show a sense of belonging to her homeland. Furthermore, she held the view that every patriotic citizen should be an ardent follower to her country, in terms of showing a sense of belonging. She said : “I love my country and that is where I belong. For me as a teacher in the school home, I am passionately eager to go home after my studies, that is Where I belong” (Fulani).

The warm affection from this other information could be captured when he said. “My blood has ‘nigerianess’ in it and it is what I am, I will never be a Nigerian because that is what I am and belong (….) (Bakassi).

Therefore, the majority of the informants reserved no doubts to insinuate that Nigeria will forever be home to them and that they always long to express their sense of belonging through loyalty to the country forever, as it has become an integral part of them.

On symbols of patriotism, the researcher wrote that: ” This sub-theme points to the national flag and anthem consciousness among the informants, these two symbols were deducted from the informants’ views that the feelings of awe and honour they have for these two symbols signify patriotism and to them both have crucial roles to play in shaping the attitude of the citizens in showing ardent patriotism to their homeland. It can be inferred according to the informant’s views that the national flag and the Nigerian national anthem do awake fervour and sentiments as a show of patriotism as they narrated in the interviews. And above all, the significance of these two symbols for the informants is tied to the fact that it unites all Nigerians into one chord, arousing a sense of loyalty even if they reside in far off lands.

READ ALSO: Is Nigeria A Failing State?

The informants’ responses implied that the national flag and the country’s national anthem have been part and parcel of them especially when they were younger. Virtually all the informants affirmed the idea of reverencing these two symbols, when they were back home and younger with the highest regard, loyal, love honour and patriotism to the country. In one of the informants’ words, she narrated her childhood experience and she felt that such experience has oriented her to respect these symbols of patriotism any day.

Another informant follows suits when he voiced the importance of these two symbols as illustrated below: “Well, we are taught that national anthem and flag are two important symbols that we must uphold, respect and be loyal, because both symbolize Nigeria as one and to show our patriotism to my country. We did sing the national anthem but back then in the nursery. primary and secondary schools, it was fun even when most of us can’t sing it correctly, the stanza was too nice, and we did use a flag to represent my school during Independence parade. As an adult that has left Nigeria for some time now, I don’t know if it is still the practice now, but l do feel these symbols are great, they instill in me thirst to be patriotic!” (Fulani).

The national flag is one thing that aroused my spirit when I was at home, even here when I watch football tournaments when my country participates. It reminds me of my strong bond and patriotism to my homeland just as the national
anthem does” (Abamade).

“I do feel that the flag and the national anthem have really impacted greatly in our consciousness, when I see the flag and sing the anthem they all remind me that I need to be patriotic” (Bakassi).

“It is interesting to note that hese symbols are reverence by Nigerians as expressed by the informants above. It was vividly clear that virtually all the informants’ strongly believe that these two symbols represent their country ideals and they all agreed they play a significant role in propagating patriotism message to all as they were taught when they were younger to respect it as part of patriotism.”

That much tells the story that even Nigerians schooling in foreign nations do have a nostalgic sense of patriotism. The same can’t be said of the political leaders who have deliberately misgoverned Nigeria and allowed school children to pass through the trauma of being kidnapped by armed non-state actors and these kids will be abandoned to their cruel fate.

Some measures can still be adopted to stave off these attacks on our schools. Below is a list of ideas that schools in America have implemented successfully to improve their safety and security measures:

1. Limit entryways to school buildings. Clearly mark the main entry to the school and post signs on other entries redirecting visitors to the main entry. Lock outside access doors. Check periodically to make sure the doors haven’t been tampered with or propped open. The periodic inspections should include windows too.

2. Monitor the school parking lot. If possible, have a parking lot monitor who oversees people entering and leaving the campus.

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3. Monitor and supervise student common areas such as hallways, cafeterias, and playgrounds. If possible, add video surveillance in these areas to record anything a monitoring person may miss.

4. Promote school-community partnerships to enhance safety measures for students beyond school property (police surveillance, Neighborhood Watch programmes). There are willing community organizations that can help.

5. Consider the presence of school resource officers, local police, and/or security guards.

6. Monitor school visitors. Require that visitors report to the main office, sign in, and wear visitor badges. All staff should be trained to report strangers not wearing a visitor badge to the school office. (www.thresholdsecurity.com).

Nigeria must either safeguard the schools and our school children or the nation state would be assumed to have FAILED.

Onwubiko is the head of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) and was a federal commissioner at the National Human Rights Commission of Nigeria.

 

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Opinion

The Menace Of Bullying In Hostels – The Sylvester Oromoni Tragedy

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The Menace Of Bullying In Hostels – The Sylvester Oromoni Tragedy

By

Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha

Anyone who went through secondary school hostel/boarding house life knows that often, some seniors or some of the bigger boys or girls often bully the juniors. Yes, girls bully the junior girls too. Bullying comes in the different forms- in form of depriving the junior ones of their own ‘provision’, extortion, psychological torture, and/or physical beating. There  used to be the formal bullying, where all Form One students in the hostel went through what was dubiously called ‘fagging. On that day, often at night, all the kids in Form One would be assembled in a hall and subjected to all forms of indignities, from bathing them with cold water in a cold weather, pouring food remnants on them, and beating them. After that ritual, they would now say ‘Your tail has been cut off.  Sometimes, the young and the vulnerable ones continue to be bullied till they get to a senior class or till their tormentors leave the school. I don’t remember now whether that was how the notion of school father started, a senior student who would be one’s protector.

Bullying does not always cause death. But death sometimes occurs. And covered up by the school authorities. The trauma of bullying often lasts forever. Sadly, bullying continues every year even when the hostel authorities try to put a stop to it. Bullies thrive on fear, the fear of their victim. Often the victims tragically believe that silence and cooperation would save them from the evil hands of their predators or oppressors or extortioners. Sadly, some bullies are also victims of previous trauma or bullying.

READ ALSO: Nembe Oil Spill: Let’s End This Affliction Now

The sad and tragic death of Sylvester Oromoni (Jnr) last week, a student of Dowen College Lekki Lagos has once again brought the menace of bullying to the fore. Dowen College is a ‘co-educational and boarding school with over twenty years record of excellence’, according to a statement on its website. But with the death and the spilled blood of Sylvester, I have no doubt that that claim to excellence is gone forever. When I watched the video of the poor boy moaning in what turned out to be the throes of death, I could not stop the tears in my eyes. I wept for the boy. I wept for his parents. No parent should lose a child; no parent should watch their child go through the circumstances that led to Sylvester’s death.

The father of the deceased Mr. Sylvester Oromoni’s narrative is a serious indictment of the management style of Dowen College. I will produce a summary of Mr. Oromoni’s narrative. According to him, the events which culminated in the painful death of Sylvester started in October when it came to light through the 12year old’s elder sister that some bullies wanted to know if he had seen the nakedness of his elder sister. The same boy who had bullied Sylvester into admitting that he had seen his sister’s nakedness reported to her that the latter claimed to have seen her nakedness. This ought to have been a strong alarm bell for all involved. Then a week before the calamity, a call from the school summoned the father to Lagos from his Warri home because, according to the school, his son fell while playing football and was sick. Mr. Oromoni took his son home for special care. At death point Sylvester revealed that he did not play football and could not have sustained any injury while playing football. He then narrated how he was tortured and beaten up by five senior boys because he refused to join their cult. He named the murderers as Benjamin Favour, Anselm Temile, and Michael Kasamu. Tragic. Wicked.

The school Principal Mrs. Adebisi Layiwola issued a statement and stated among other things that ‘we immediately commenced investigations and invited the students allegedly mentioned for an interview. His guardian was also present during the interviews, which revealed that nothing of such happened’. The State government through the Ministry of Education has responded by shutting down Dowen College till further notice. Obviously, the school did not do a thorough investigation and the State Ministry of Education headed by a former school Principal, Mrs. Folasade Adefisayo must have smelt a rat. Sylvester Oromoni was killed while pursuing the harmless dream of educating himself in an expensive private school in Lagos. WHO KILLED SYLVESTER OROMONI JUNIOR? The public demands an answer. The family demands an answer. Every parent who watched the video or who has heard the story demands an answer to all the questions. What transpired in the hostel that night that made Sylvester ill? Have the boys whose names were mentioned been invited by the police? Would there by high-powered connections to try and kill the case? The blood of Sylvester demands justice. May Heaven visit anyone who tries to kill the case with raging fury!

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I have shed tears for Sylvester. I didn’t know him. I don’t know his father. I have connected with the story as a father, grandfather, and a human being. He could have been anybody’s child, anybody’s nephew or cousin or grandson. A grieving mother told me after reading the story that she would not allow her only daughter go to the boarding house!

Schools need to do more on stopping bullying and molestation. As we write, bullying is ongoing in some schools. It is not only students in the hostel that are bullied. Day students are also exposed to bullying. Does your child look sad every time he returns from school? Does he look thin? Does he refuse to eat? Have nightmares? Listen to your child. Insist. If a child as much as suggests that they should be taken to another school, TAKE IT SERIOUSLY UNTIL YOU FIND THE TRUTH EVEN IF THE CHILD SAYS NEVER MIND DADDY!

Schools need to do more to protect kids in their custody. There is need for intelligence gathering in schools, both at night and in the day. As Senior Prefect of Baptist High School Port Harcourt in the late 70s, I had some junior students who fed me information routinely. I protected their identity. Let there be a specially selected teacher or teachers who all exploited students can confide in. My mental health NGO Mind and Soul Helpers Initiative (MASHI) once visited some schools to educate them on mental health. When it was question time, we received a few innocuous questions. But from the notes they sent anonymously, a postgraduate student could do a project on the trauma which some of our children go through while going through secondary education.

All reports/complaints by our children, wards must be taken seriously by parents, guardians, and school management. Managers of schools should realise that the life of one student is more important than the reputation of the school. As parents in loco, Heaven will ask them to account for the death of any child who dies in their care!

Finally, I commiserate with the Oromonis. Sylvester was a hero, a strong character for refusing to join a cult despite threats and intimidation. His death must not be in vain. There must be justice to reassure victims of bullying that all bullies will ultimately face the law. If it is true that the culprits have been flown abroad by their parents, such parents must be compelled with the force of law to produce them for proper interrogation and punishment if found culpable. Shutting down the school should be temporary because the careers of innocent children in the school are in jeopardy. Open the school and punish the guilty.

READ ALSO: NADECO’S Under-ground And Open-ground Patriots (1)

What words can one tell the Oromonis that could reduce the trauma of a painful but avoidable death? No words! No words! No words!  Yet, condolences we have, and condolences we must give. I hope to meet the parents personally and let them know that we all stand by them in their moment of grief.

Professor Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha can be reached on 08023220393

 

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NADECO’S Under-ground And Open-ground Patriots (1)

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NADECO’S Under-ground And Open-ground Patriots (1)

By

Tony Afejuku

As I write this, I look forward to the day, the beautiful day, the historic day and historic time and historic prospect which we shall hail with fitness and firm firmness of joyful coo of patriotic liberty of NADECO and of poetry as conceived by the originators and all sincere joiners of the movement. Now why am I still dwelling on the subject I sincerely meant not to hurl furthermore into the magnificent river of our public opinion after the hint I gave last Friday? Several communications, verbal and written, I got have compelled me to say one or two or three or four things I deliberately allowed my reticence to keep in check. But rather than the full consciousness of my pen to do so, I am yielding for now the column to two readers from across the Atlantic.

Before I do so, however, let me divulge this pertinent information. It was the late Chief Michael Imoudu our country’s universally acknowledged foremost Labour Leader, who asked MKO Abiola to go to Comrade Jonathan Ihonde to request him to plead his case and cause before Chief Tony Enahoro (and other patriots awaiting the historic opportunity we are still waiting to hail). The late Festus Iyayi also played his own dazzlingly revolutionary part as an under-ground patriot of the movement. The late Abubakar Rimi and Balarabe Musa (both of the Aminu Kano school of politics) were top guns who similarly played their parts of positive dialectical patriotism in the Nigerian project and vision as conceived by the original NADECO.

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As is well known, both of them were respective governors of Kano and Kaduna States under Aminu Kano’s People Redemption Party (PRP). Zamani Lekwot, an ex-military governor of Rivers State, Commodore Dan Suleiman, Professor Bolaji Akinyemi, the late General MusaYar’Adua, Mr. Fred Agbeyegbe and several others were lights of the movement. And I must underscore this point: M.K.O. Abiola became an authentic comrade who sacrificed his life for the NADECO cause – meaning that created situations can always alienate one from a reactionary pattern of life and turn him or her in the richest moments of his or her life to be a patriotic rebel and revolutionary. MKO Abiola’s open rejection by his former fellow reactionaries turned him into a comrade and rebel positively in the house of patriotic thunder.

Let me now open the minds of some NADECOists still on voluntarily patriotic exile.

“Good day, my dear Brother. Your piece on NADECO resuscitates memories of past opportunities and possibilities. NADECO was, as you correctly observed, a movement.  But it was a movement of a special type peopled mostly by several left-wing leaning political activists. The intent in certain constituencies was for NADECO to metamorphose into a political party housing the Awoists and the talakawas of Aminu Kano, etc., into a new progressive entity.  As is known in Political Science, a political party is a party when it survives its leader. Unfortunately, after the demise of Chief Obafemi Awolowo on May 9, 1987 (you and I stopped at Ikenne to pay our last respects to him on our way to Ibadan to watch Flash Flamingoes versus Leventis), his political party began to disintegrate systematically.

“ ‘Pro-democracy’ is an elastic conglomerate of competing ideological prisms. I recall meeting with Chief Tony Enahoro and Mr. Mike Ehimah in his hotel in Hull (now Gatineau) across the River Ottawa from the city of Ottawa. I accepted the invitation to accompany him to the Canadian House of Commons where he addressed members of Parliament on the atrocities of the Abacha regime. Several NADECO stalwarts, including Senators Cornelius Adebayo and Femi Ojudu, sought refuge in Canada during this period.

“That NADECO was conceived as a movement to restore the victory of MKO at the June 1993 Presidential Elections fostered an internal contradiction of political philosophies. Thus, NADECO was born prematurely by the need to honour the results of June 12 and not to propagate the ideals of left-wing or progressive politics epitomized by Awolowo. This, in my view, explained why Chief Tony Enahoro got involved in NADECO.

Viewed from this perspective, therefore, NADECO was a consortium of anti-military and pro-democracy activists. Chief Enahoro’s decision to establish the Movement for National Reform (MNR) was a product of the internal ideological contradictions in NADECO.”

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These are pleasant words on NADECO that any investigator or researcher on the movement will or may find intelligently and persuasively instructive. They are theoretically and critically honey words – “sweet to the taste” and good for the well-being of all who want this country to always be blessed with the odour of all genuine activists and patriots like wine that sparkles.

Professor Igho Natufe’s words as quoted at length above are those of one under-ground NADECO patriot and good weigher of the movement’s weighable divinable morning and midnight dreams. And be it known that Professor Igho Natufe is a first-rate Political Scientist and a staunch Awoist. He has been under-ground in exile for centuries. Pardon my hyperbole. We share the same outlook about your country my country our country. But I have always insisted that I will never go on exile.

The words of another NADECO exile are particularly intriguing.

To be continued.

 Afejuku can be reached via 08055213059.

 

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Nembe Oil Spill: Let’s End This Affliction Now

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Nembe Oil Spill: Let’s End This Affliction Now

BY

‘TIMI ALAIBE

Nembe, an otherwise quiet, beautiful kingdom in Bayelsa State, populated by a peaceful, enterprising people, has been in the news these past weeks, for the wrong reason. Dozens of already neglected communities and the people are soaked in crude oil—the same oil that has made such communities in Europe and America economic hotspots and development centres of the world. It begs the question: why do bad things happen to good people?

Suddenly, the oil that is supposed to help develop the communities and decorate them with skyscrapers, has become the reason for generational afflictions. Nigeria’s Minister of State for Environment, Sharon Ikeazor, captured it unquestionably well last week, when she was quoted as describing the oil spill on the communities as massive and an equivalent of the atomic bomb that wasted Hiroshima—the Japanese city, during the Second World War.

No description could have been more appropriate than when she said: “What I saw in terms of pollution… The devastation of the Niger Delta is massive. As we are cleaning up, what we are cleaning up is minute compared to the devastation going on.”

Other official reports revealed that as at Tuesday last week, over 5, 000 barrels of emulsified crude oil had been recovered from the waters and held in a recovery barge. That figure must have more than doubled by now. The people of Nembe do not deserve this avoidable environmental affliction. The question is: when will this leakage be put under control?

READ ALSO: There Is Hope For Bayelsa State

There is no doubt that this oil spill has the capacity to result in health hazards that would eventually lead to loss of lives. Let me repeat that the good people of Bayelsa State, the oil-bearing centre of Nigeria, do not in any way deserve this catastrophe.

Irrespective of numerous reasons cited by industry experts for the spill, the affected communities are dead economically and socially. The land has turned infertile. Nothing can grow there any longer. The rivers are polluted forever. Our fishermen are out of work. Our hard-working farmers have been rendered jobless. In the absence of clean, pipe-borne water for the people, a commodity that is taken for granted in other climes, today, with this oil spill, not even the river water is worth any domestic use any longer.

In other words, the peoples’ sources of livelihood have been completely destroyed; even their lives are in danger. This is no exaggeration. We have seen it happen repeatedly all over the Niger Delta. For the oil exploring and exploiting companies, it’s business as usual. Soon, the noise will end. Attention would be diverted to other pressing state matters. The people would be left to suffer and die in silence.

The director general and chief executive officer of the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), Idris Musa, has confirmed that “Government is aware that the rivers and streams where oil is flowing into will likely affect the lives of the living creatures in the rivers and streams, including the trees, and the rivers are sources of livelihood for the community.”

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Now that these rivers and streams have been polluted, the big question is: where and what would the people turn to? Again, the trees and farmlands have been destroyed and nothing can grow again eternally, so, what happens to our people? Are they going to be relocated? With certain health hazards unconsciously unleashed on these people, what are the options before them? These questions need answers, now!

However, the difference this time is that for the first time, a government minister, Ikeazor, has spoken strongly in support of the need to protect the oil-bearing communities. In her words, this goes beyond oil companies giving palliatives to the communities. It requires putting measures in place to prevent such accidents from happening at all. She has called for stiffer penalties for those responsible for these acts of sabotage.

To my fellow citizens of Nembe, words are not enough to describe your agony and hopelessness. Be assured that you are not alone. My appeal to you is that in spite of this, please stay calm as we join hands with the appropriate authorities to seek the way out of this mess.

No blame game can reverse what has happened. No act of violence can bring back what we have lost. We all share in your pain. This is no time for dirty political grandstanding. This situation needs a practical solution. The people in charge of policy must rise and act now. God bless Bayelsa people.

 

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