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Ibadan Explosion: The need for collaboration between govt, industry, civil society in regulating mining sector

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The recent explosion in Ibadan, caused by illegal mining activities, has once again highlighted the urgent need for the Nigerian government to regulate the mining sector.

It is disheartening to see how many lives must be lost before the authorities take action to protect the people and the environment from this ongoing menace.

Recall that the devastating explosion occurred on Tuesday, January 16, 2024, in the Bodija area of Ibadan, the historic capital of Oyo State. Its impact was so powerful that it reverberated throughout the entire city, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake.

Four houses were completely destroyed, while 10 others suffered severe damage. Numerous private and public buildings were also shattered by the force of the blast. Reports indicate that all houses within a 500-meter radius were affected to varying degrees, with over 100 others within a 2,000-meter radius experiencing minor damage.

Even buildings located at a considerable distance, such as the state secretariat and the University College Hospital (UCH), were not spared from the destruction. The explosion originated from a fire that broke out in one of the residential houses, which was later discovered to be a hideout for illegal miners who had stored a significant amount of explosives there.

The Oyo State Government has confirmed that five people lost their lives in the incident, while 77 others sustained injuries. Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State has also revealed that the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) estimated that 58 buildings were damaged by the blast.

It is alarming to note that the illegal miners claimed to have approvals from the federal government, further emphasising the urgent need for a thorough investigation and the prosecution of those responsible.

It is high time that the Nigerian government takes decisive action to regulate the mining sector and prevent further tragedies like this from occurring.

The lives of Nigerian citizens should not be put at risk due to the negligence and illegal activities of a few individuals. Stricter regulations, enforcement, and oversight are essential to ensure the safety of both the people and the environment.

The government must work towards creating a comprehensive framework that includes licensing, monitoring, and regular inspections of mining operations.

Additionally, there should be strict penalties for those found engaging in illegal mining activities or storing explosives without proper authorisation.

It is crucial to prioritise the safety and well-being of the Nigerian people and protect the environment from the harmful effects of unregulated mining practices.

The recent explosion in Ibadan should serve as a wake-up call for the authorities to take immediate action. Nigerian lives should not be sacrificed in the pursuit of profit.

It is time to put an end to this menace and ensure that the mining sector operates within the confines of the law, with the safety of the people and the environment as top priorities.

Former Deputy Governor Chief Iyiola Oladokun, who was affected by the blast, shared his harrowing experience of being rendered homeless. He described how the explosion destroyed their home, forcing them to evacuate immediately. Thankfully, he and his wife were unharmed, but the incident has left them traumatised.

Tragically, another victim of the explosion was a returnee from the United Kingdom who had planned to start a new life in his hometown.

His untimely death serves as a reminder of the need for improved intelligence and surveillance in the country. The fact that such a large quantity of explosives could be stored in a residential area without detection raises serious concerns about the effectiveness of security agencies.

The responsible agencies must be held accountable for their failure to prevent this tragedy. It is crucial that they enhance their performance and take proactive measures to prevent similar incidents in the future.

Also, citizens should play an active role in intelligence gathering by reporting any suspicious activities or individuals to the authorities.

Illegal mining is a pressing issue in Nigeria, posing significant threats to the environment, public health, security, and the economy. It is imperative that the government takes decisive action to address this problem and protect its citizens.

Nigeria, a land rich in resources, has suffered a staggering loss of N16.25 trillion due to the scourge of illegal mining.

This illicit activity has not only drained the nation’s coffers but has also fueled a dark web of criminality, including the proliferation of explosives, banditry, and human trafficking.

While we commend the Federal Executive Council for taking action by establishing a committee to review the laws governing the control of explosives, it begs the question of why such a crucial measure was not implemented earlier.

The damage caused by illegal mining could have been mitigated if proactive steps had been taken.In addition to the committee’s objectives, it is imperative that the government strengthens the capacity and coordination of relevant agencies.

The Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, the Nigeria Police Force, the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, and the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency must be empowered to enforce mining laws and regulations effectively.

Furthermore, stringent measures should be put in place to monitor and control the use of explosives across the country.

To address this multifaceted issue, the legal and institutional framework for the intelligence and security sector must be bolstered. Collaboration and cooperation among various intelligence and security agencies are crucial to avoid duplication, conflict, or gaps in their operations and responsibilities.

The active involvement of citizens and civil society is equally vital. Awareness and sensitisation programs should be established, along with feedback and reporting mechanisms. Whistleblowers and informants must be protected, ensuring their rights and interests are safeguarded.

Let us make a solemn vow that this devastating blast will be the last. Together, we can reclaim our nation’s resources, protect our people, and build a future where illegal mining is nothing but a distant memory.

Editorial

Nigeria’s National Identity Card initiative: A misguided venture

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The recent announcement by the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) regarding the launch of a new national identity card with payment functionality epitomises folly.

While touted as a solution to streamline identification and financial services, the collaboration between NIMC, the Central Bank of Nigeria, and the Nigeria Inter-bank Settlement System appears to be a misaligned endeavour.

In a nation burdened by limited resources and an array of urgent challenges, Nigeria’s pursuit of grandiose projects with questionable benefits is a luxury it cannot afford.

Despite its surface appeal, closer scrutiny reveals a troubling trend of duplication, bureaucratic inefficiency, and a glaring gap between governmental aspirations and citizens’ realities.

This venture echoes previous attempts to overhaul the national identification system, notably the ill-fated 2006 concession awarded to Chams.

That endeavour, marred by allegations of collusion and technical sabotage, squandered over $100 million, leaving a bitter legacy of failure. In light of this history, skepticism abounds regarding the prospects of the current initiative.

As Nigeria grapples with pressing socio-economic issues, including poverty, insecurity, and inadequate infrastructure, it is imperative that resources be directed towards initiatives with tangible benefits for the populace.

The proposed national identity card, with its payment functionality, appears to be a misplaced priority in this context.

Rather than embarking on ventures with dubious returns, Nigerian authorities must prioritise accountability, transparency, and citizen-centric policies. The nation cannot afford to repeat past mistakes at the expense of its long-suffering populace.

Furthermore, the purported justification for the new card – facilitating access to “multiple government intervention programs” for the financially marginalised – falls short when juxtaposed with the formidable hurdles Nigerians encounter in simply linking their National Identification Number (NIN) to vital services like mobile phone accounts or bank facilities.

The pandemonium and exasperation prevalent in these endeavours, resulting in citizens squandering valuable time and resources, should stand as a stark warning regarding the government’s competence in executing such extensive identity management schemes.

Moreover, if the concern is the proliferation of identification documents in Nigeria – from international passports and driver’s licenses to voter cards and the existing national ID card – this newspaper holds that this mosaic of identification systems not only spawns unnecessary confusion and bureaucratic headaches for citizens but also casts doubt on the government’s capacity to efficiently orchestrate and amalgamate these diverse platforms.

Instead of tackling these persistent issues head-on, the introduction of yet another identity card appears to be an ill-conceived effort to reinvent the wheel, with scant consideration for the practical challenges confronting Nigerians in their daily lives.

In a nation grappling with limited resources and a plethora of pressing needs, the decision to allocate billions of naira to this new card project is both confounding and deeply concerning. Many would argue that the government’s time and financial resources could be more effectively directed towards enhancing existing infrastructure, fortifying public services, and confronting the numerous socioeconomic challenges plaguing the country.

From the dire state of the healthcare system to the ongoing insecurity that has resulted in significant loss of life, there exist far more urgent issues warranting the government’s attention and, critically, its constrained financial resources.

Moreover, the assertion that the new card will facilitate access to “government intervention programs” for the financially marginalised raises concerns about introducing yet another bureaucratic barrier for vulnerable Nigerians.

Instead of introducing a new identification system, the government’s focus should be on refining and strengthening existing social welfare programs, ensuring they are accessible, efficient, and tailored to meet the needs of the populace.

The government’s ambition to distribute the new card to approximately 104 million citizens is cause for concern. Undertaking such a monumental task without a clear and comprehensive plan is likely to result in further delays, logistical complexities, and a considerable squandering of public funds – resources that could have been channeled towards making tangible improvements in the lives of Nigerians.

In essence, the rollout of the new national identity card with payment functionality reflects a recurring pattern in Nigerian governance: the inclination towards grand, top-down initiatives that often fall short of addressing the underlying issues fueling the country’s challenges.

Instead of pursuing this dubious venture, the government’s focus should shift towards strengthening existing identification systems, fostering better coordination among government agencies, and prioritising investments in areas directly impacting the lives of Nigerians.

As a nation, we must resist the temptation of embracing flashy new projects that promise quick fixes to complex problems.

Achieving genuine progress demands a nuanced, collaborative, and evidence-based approach that acknowledges the distinct needs and challenges of diverse communities.

It’s high time for the government to abandon this latest identity card scheme and redirect its efforts towards more impactful and sustainable initiatives that truly serve the citizens it is sworn to uplift.

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Editorial

Articulated vehicles and the scourge of avoidable deaths

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Nigerians across the country continue to die utterly preventable deaths thanks to a lack of political will on the part of its leaders. It is an ugly fate thrust upon its citizens to live in a country whose economy is built upon the blood of the ordinary people, not out of sacrifice, but nonchalance. Articulated vehicles wipe out families, dreams, and human capital in one fell swoop. Press statements from the leaders are not enough. We need the May 2024 immediacy of the Tinubu administration in this sector too.

Last week, a falling container killed a woman in the Ogudu area of Lagos. The woman was inside a car when the fully loaded 40ft Mack articulated truck fell on it, leading to her instant death, according to the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA).

In October 2023, a businessman identified as Akuma Kalu, was crushed to death by a 40-feet container that fell on his car along the failed portion of Etche-Ngokpala road in Etche Local Government Area of Rivers state.

In September 2023, five women died in a fatal accident that occurred in the early hours of Friday at Odumodu Junction, Nteje, Oyi Local Government Area along Awka Road, Anambra State. As usual, the container of the truck fell upon the bus carrying these people, killing them. We could go on and on. The story remains the same: tragedy upon tragedy.

Every year, the Federal Road Safety Commission, FRSC, does sensitisation with little result to show for it because the arm of the law is too short to punish offenders at the root of the problem. The constant assault on the senses has led to a desensitisation on the part of the populace. Month after month, another story of a truck that erases a family, or multiple families because its brakes fail, or its container is overturned. The combination of the death of empathy on the part of leaders and the emotional exhaustion of the citizens will lead Nigeria down the path of a dystopia.

The governors of each state have a responsibility to institute laws to protect the indigenes. This, the Federal Government must also do nationwide. The FRSC has rules and regulations for trucks. The Government needs to only enforce these rules. Enough of blaming the trucks themselves because they are not the evil entities. The lack of accountability and a weak system perpetuates the dilemma.

The political class should not wait until Nigeria happens to one of their own before acting as is usually the case. Most cases bear the mark of immediate fatality. By the time a family member experiences it, it would have already been too late. We have hope that this administration will do what it takes to restore hope to the common man. Time to act is now.

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Editorial

Renewed Hope Initiative: Beating back inequality in all spheres

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Nigeria is full of inequalities that its leaders contend with administration after administration. With every President comes a partner who shares in the vision, and does her part to alleviate the pains of the citizens. Oluremi Tinubu has etched her name in the annals of history as one of such compassionate ones.

Recently, in Abeokuta she flagged off the Renewed Hope Initiative for women in agriculture and people living with disabilities nationwide in a bid to achieve this noble goal of equity in Nigeria.

“We are supporting 20 women farmers per state with the sum of N500,000 each. To this end, a draft of N10 million per state for the South West zone will be handed over to the first ladies of Ekiti, Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, and Oyo states who are the Renewed Hope Initiative (RHI) state coordinators for onward disbursement to all beneficiaries in their respective states,” she said.

“The Renewed Hope Initiative Social Investment Programme will be empowering 100 persons with disability, small business owners in Ogun State with a sum of N100,000 each to recapitalise their existing businesses.”

In Kebbi, represented by the Wife of the Speaker, House of Representatives, Fatima Tajuddeen Abbas, in Birnin Kebbi, she said, “Agriculture plays a pivotal role in achieving sustainable development and food security. Consequently, we are introducing ‘Every Home a Garden’ competition to encourage each Nigerian woman to cultivate a garden at home to feed the family and share with neighbours, we want to see food on every table.”

We commend the forward thinking and passion for national growth required for such a herculean task. If emulated in all quarters, it will stimulate the economy at the grassroots. It is well acknowledged that the government cannot do it alone. Private individuals who are capable must rise up to contribute to national growth.

It isn’t alien to the Nigerian condition, after all. The country was able to survive the assaults of the COVID-19 pandemic thanks to the joint efforts of private individuals under the umbrella of Coalition Against COVID-19, CACOVID, a Private Sector task force in partnership with the Federal Government, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). The Renewed Hope Initiative joins the tradition of programmes committed to national improvement. History will look upon it kindly.

 

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