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Ibadan Explosion: Govt must address regulatory measures beyond mere probe

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A recent explosion which occurred in Ibadan, Oyo State Capital,  as a result of explosions in stores by illegal miners had raised noise and wide reactions. No fewer than five persons reportedly died, 77 injured and 58 buildings damaged by the explosion.

The demand for sanctions and investigations were part of the calls that trailed the incident. In reaction, Minister of Solid Minerals Development, Dr Dele Alake, stated that the Federal Government is awaiting the outcome of the forensic investigation into the Ibadan explosion, which occurred on Jan.16, to determine its next action.

Alake had said that the investigation would help in revealing the remote cause of the explosion, and guide the Federal Government on its next line of action.

“The Federal Government is now waiting for the outcome of forensic investigations that will determine the real cause of the blast, the explosives type that triggered it and the circumstances leading to the unfortunate incident that led to loss of lives and property,” the Minister had said in a statement issued by his Special Assistant on Media, Segun Tomori.

The minister had announced on Jan. 17, that he had directed Mine Inspectorate Officers on the site of the explosion to collaborate with Oyo State Government and join ongoing investigations to find out its remote causes.

“We have ordered a detailed investigation and our officers will work and collaborate with the Oyo State to know the actual cause. If the explosion was caused by mining explosive devices as earlier reported, the ministry will double efforts to tighten the noose around those acquiring explosives and storing them illegally,” he had said.

He had assured Nigerians of government‘s determination to take appropriate actions regarding the situation, hence its resolve to await the outcome before making a definite pronouncement. Also, according to him, the investigation was aimed at preventing recurrence, adding that it would help in bringing the culprits to book.

President Bola Tinubu had, on Jan.17, set up an inter-ministerial committee on  insecurity hampering the growth of Nigeria’s natural resources. The committee was given a term of reference  to deliberate on modalities in producing a blueprint to secure Nigeria‘s natural resources.

However, the Oyo State Government had stated that operators of the illegal mining and gemstone markets discovered in Ibadan claimed to have approvals from the Federal Government. Special Adviser to Oyo State Governor’s on Security, Fatai Owoseni, had in an interview with Arise Television noted that the security agencies and the government could not know of all the happenings in the State if the citizens within the State did not provide credible information to the agencies.

“For the past two years, the Oyo State governor has been engaging the Federal Government with regards to mining. We’ve discovered that there is an illegal mining market, a gemstone market in Ibadan around Ojoo and populated by foreigners.

“And when you go there that you want to do any operation, either as police or state apparatus, they will show you approval which they have gotten from the Federal Government,” he had said.

Owoseni had said that there is a lot of decadence in mining industry from those who are supposed to be in charge of monitoring miners by conducting checks. He had said, “The conditions are that you must have a magazine, that’s like a storage where you should keep these things,” going on to say that “along the line of maybe lackadaisical attitude, the fellows that will be asked to escort the buyers, the users, they may not do the right thing.”

“Some of the people that apply for those things, the address they indicate is not the address where they’ve taken the things to. Rather than taking them to the magazines or the storage close to the area where they will use it, they will divert these things,” he had added.

Nigeria houses a depth of solid minerals. The depth of mineral resources have been said to have the capacity to provide Nigeria with a promising sector with potentials to significantly boost the nation’s economy. However, the deficiencies of the sector have been linked to the pervasive disorder that reigns in the sector.  

Mining activities in the Country have been known to be entangled with illegal operations. The regulatory mechanisms of the government over time seem to be deficient, and the weakness of policies have left the sector underdeveloped to profit the nation. Hence, rather than yielding accruals to the nation’s purse for national development, the illegal activities of the sector have rather left a system of enriching a few dubious individuals to the detriment of the masses. The recent explosion is a reflection of this defect.  

Illegal mining is known to have left devastating impacts on Nigerians in various communities where the activities have been pervasive.

The need for the government to rise to the necessity of sound regulations to set the sector in order remains important. It is therefore sacrosanct that the reaction of the government to the recent explosion in Ibadan should not end at mere probing into the cause of the explosion, but rather a broader outlook to creating structures to set the sector in order.

This is essential to position the sector rightly for national development against the enrichment of a few opportunists who have been linked to driving illegal cartels against the good of the greatest number. 

Editorial

New minimum wage and the informal sector

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The Minimum Wage Act of 2019 signed by former President Muhammadu Buhari set the amount at N30,000. Five years later, not all governors are paying the current wage award which expired in April. The Act is to be reviewed every five years to meet up with contemporary economic demands of workers.

The informal sector has the dominant population of citizens, what provision is the government making to cater for them other than palliatives. The Muhammadu Buhari leg of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Federal Government failed to wave the magic wand they had promised during the campaigns towards the 2015 presidential election. Instead, the economy was left in utter ruin as Buhari handed over to Bola Ahmed Tinubu on May 29, 2023.

From day one, the current government deftly transferred the burden of petrol subsidy removal to Nigerians one month ahead of the supposed take-off time, skyrocketing pump price above 300 percent. The Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, floated the Naira against its foreign counterparts, thus eliminating the differential between the official and black market rates. Within weeks, the Naira tumbled to almost N2,000 to the Dollar.

Businesses – the big, small and multinationals – started closing down or leaving the economy because of the astronomical cost of production. Unemployment and hunger worsened. Inflation hit the highest point in our living memory.

Not done yet, the Federal Government announced the hike of electricity tariff from 68kwH to 225kwH as from April 1, 2024. The CBN had also instructed the banks to collect 0.5 percent levies on transactions, until public outcry led to a paise of the instruction. As a result of these and other government-induced price increases, other service providers, notably Multichoice, have announced their own price increases.

Government policies, rather than fix the economy,  keep eating away the real income of the populace. The struggling middle class, meant to be the social safety buffer between the rich and poor, is near extinction.

All palliative measures announced by the Federal Government – salary awards, cash transfers, introduction of gas-powered public transport vehicles and release of food from the strategic reserves – are yet to produce meaningful economic impact. Yet, this government is responsible for the appointment of the highest number of ministers ever in Nigeria’s history.

Judging from the foreign economic trips and elements of the controversial Lagos-Calabar Coastal Highway contract, the controllers of governance live in a different world of their own. There exists a gulf between the leaders and the populace.

This disparity has not gone unnoticed. If we must tighten our belts to rebuild the economy, the leaders ought to set the example. Without being a part of the travail, how will the leaders be inspired or motivated to lead well and get us out of this mess?

Nigeria’s progress is dependent on the accountability of its leaders, and more importantly, their sense of humanity. History books are replete with demagogues in the guise of political leaders. The renewed hope agenda should prove its antagonists wrong. Nigeria can be fixed, its people are not hopeless. The ball is in the court of the elected leaders.

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Editorial

The need for prudence and foresight in managing natural resources

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Nigeria’s recent achievement in extending its continental shelf by 16,300 square kilometers is a landmark victory that solidifies its position as a major maritime nation.

This feat, announced by President Bola Tinubu, is a testament to the country’s unwavering commitment and scientific prowess.

The journey to this triumph was long and arduous, spanning over a decade of meticulous research, diplomatic negotiations, and persistent lobbying efforts.

The significance of this achievement cannot be overstated. By expanding its maritime boundaries, Nigeria has not only secured a valuable asset for future generations but also demonstrated the importance of diplomacy and international cooperation in resolving disputes and advancing shared interests.

The responsible exploitation of these newfound resources could catalyse economic growth, create employment opportunities, and generate revenue streams that could be channeled into critical areas such as infrastructure development, education, and healthcare.

As Nigeria prepares to capitalise on this newfound bounty, it is imperative that the government exercise prudence and foresight in its management of these resources.

Lessons must be learned from the mismanagement and environmental degradation that have plagued the oil-rich Niger Delta region. A comprehensive and sustainable development plan, centered on transparency, environmental stewardship, and equitable distribution of wealth, must be formulated.

This plan should prioritise the diversification of the economy, investing in renewable energy sources, and promoting sustainable fishing and maritime industries.

A portion of the revenue generated from these resources should be allocated towards addressing the pressing challenges faced by coastal communities, such as sea-level rise, coastal erosion, and marine pollution. By investing in resilient infrastructure, climate adaptation measures, and environmental conservation efforts, Nigeria can ensure that the benefits of its maritime resources are enjoyed by present and future generations alike.

As the world grapples with the existential threat of climate change and the growing importance of the blue economy, Nigeria’s achievement serves as a beacon of hope and a reminder of the immense potential that lies beneath the waves.

With judicious stewardship, international cooperation, and a commitment to sustainable development, Nigeria can harness the power of its maritime domain to forge a prosperous and resilient future for its people.

This victory belongs not only to the dedicated team of experts who tirelessly pursued this endeavour but to every Nigerian. As the country embarks on this new chapter, it is incumbent upon all stakeholders to work in unison, ensuring that the fruits of this achievement are equitably shared and that the foundations are laid for a thriving, sustainable blue economy that will benefit generations to come.

Experts have pointed to the potential for hydrocarbons, gas, solid minerals, and a variety of sedentary species within Nigeria’s expanded maritime boundaries, enhancing the country’s significant energy and maritime resources.

However, Professor Larry Awosika, a member of the Hydrocarbon Pollution and Remediation Project (HPPC), has emphasised the need to safeguard sensitive data acquired during surveys to protect Nigeria’s interests and possibly monetise the information to recoup project costs.

This newspaper underscores the immense significance of this achievement. By extending its maritime boundaries, Nigeria has bolstered its status as a major player in the global blue economy and secured a valuable asset for future generations.

Responsible exploitation of these newfound resources could drive economic growth, create jobs, and generate revenue that could be invested in critical sectors such as infrastructure, education, and healthcare.

Moreover, this success underscores the importance of diplomacy and international cooperation in resolving disputes and advancing common interests.

Nigeria’s achievement was realised through adherence to international law and constructive engagement with the United Nations and its member states, contrasting sharply with the frequent resort to armed conflict over territorial disputes.

President Tinubu’s praise for the team for “gaining additional territory for the country without going to war” is well-deserved.

Nigeria has shown that complex territorial issues can be resolved peacefully, setting an example for other nations facing similar challenges.

As Nigeria looks to capitalise on this new opportunity, it is crucial that the government manage these resources with prudence and foresight.

Lessons must be learned from the mismanagement and environmental damage in the oil-rich Niger Delta, where benefits have been unevenly distributed and ecological consequences severe.

We advocate for a comprehensive and sustainable development plan centered on transparency, environmental stewardship, and equitable wealth distribution.

This plan should prioritise economic diversification, investment in renewable energy, and promotion of sustainable fishing and maritime industries to ensure long-term stability and job creation.

Additionally, a portion of the revenue from these resources should address pressing coastal challenges such as sea-level rise, erosion, and pollution.

As the world faces the existential threat of climate change and the growing importance of the blue economy, Nigeria’s achievement is a beacon of hope, highlighting the potential beneath the waves. With careful stewardship, international cooperation, and a commitment to sustainable development, Nigeria can leverage its maritime domain for a prosperous and resilient future.

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Editorial

State Govts, fix our roads, stop the carnage now!

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In just three short months, 295 lives have been lost and 315 people injured in road accidents across 24 states and the Federal Capital Territory. Ogun State and Kwara State have been particularly hard hit, with 43 and 28 fatalities respectively.

The sheer scale of this tragedy calls for an urgent need for unwavering action to tackle the scourge of road accidents in Nigeria.

As we mourn the loss of precious lives, we must also ask ourselves: what can be done to prevent such carnage on our roads?

It is alarming that the causes of these accidents remain unchanged over the years, indicating a lack of meaningful progress in addressing the underlying issues. The status quo is unacceptable, and it is imperative that we take concrete steps to tackle this national crisis.

The deplorable state of our roads is a significant contributor to the alarming rate of accidents. Crumbling infrastructure forces drivers to navigate treacherous potholes, leading to avoidable tragedies.

It’s disheartening that governors prioritise building flyovers in capital cities while neglecting other critical road networks. Even when efforts are made to repair these roads, they often deteriorate rapidly due to subpar construction.

Furthermore, the roadworthiness of vehicles plying our roads is a major concern. Commercial vehicles, in particular, are often operated with worn-out tires, faulty brakes, and poor lighting, putting lives at risk. Enforcement agencies tasked with ensuring compliance frequently fail to do their job, and when they do, they prioritize revenue generation over safety.

Corruption also allows unqualified drivers to operate vehicles, further compounding the problem.

To make matters worse, some drivers operate under the influence of alcohol, posing a significant threat to themselves and others. It’s imperative that we address these systemic issues to reduce the number of accidents and ensure safer roads for all.

Nigerians’ driving habits are a significant concern, requiring extra caution on our roads due to the prevalent poor road manners. Many drivers exhibit impatience and disregard for basic traffic rules, such as stopping at traffic lights.

Commercial vehicle drivers often prioritise quick profits over safety, overloading their vehicles and even using goods vehicles to transport passengers.

To address the urgent need for improvement, our law enforcement agencies must take their responsibilities seriously.

The Federal Road Safety Corps and directorates for road traffic services must shift their focus from revenue generation to ensuring proper driver licensing, vehicle roadworthiness, and enforcing traffic regulations. By doing so, we can significantly reduce road accidents in a short time. It’s time for a change in attitude and a commitment to safety on our roads.

It is crucial for them to intensify efforts in educating the public on the importance of following basic traffic rules and ensuring that vehicles on the roads are roadworthy. This can be achieved through cooperation with various road unions to educate drivers.

Federal and state governments also have a responsibility to provide Nigerians with good road networks. The current state of many roads, which can be described as death traps, is unacceptable. We urge state governors to prioritise fixing the numerous roads in their regions over constructing flyovers in state capitals to ensure the safe movement of people and goods.

Additionally, we strongly advocate for the strict enforcement of laws against drivers whose reckless behavior results in the loss of lives. It must be made clear that such reckless actions will not be tolerated, or the situation will only worsen.

More importantly, Nigerians must learn to observe basic traffic rules and respect each other on the road. Being patriotic and law-abiding citizens is essential for ensuring a prosperous and peaceful nation. This responsibility begins with each one of us.

The persistence of these avoidable tragedies requires a multifaceted approach. We must improve road safety infrastructure, enforce traffic regulations, and promote public awareness campaigns.

It is important to address the root causes of these accidents, such as reckless driving, poor vehicle maintenance, and inadequate emergency response systems.

Also, the Governments should implement mandatory retraining programs for drivers who have been involved in accidents or have multiple traffic violations. This can help improve driving skills and awareness of traffic rules.

Meanwhile, there should be enhancement of emergency response systems to ensure timely and efficient medical assistance for accident victims. Quick response times can significantly reduce fatalities and severe injuries.

Launching community engagement programs to educate the public about road safety which may involve local communities can help create a culture of safety and responsibility among road users.

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