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Insecurity: FG should avoid isolating rising scourge with sectional twists

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Insecurity in Nigeria has given to the Country discolored representations. Recently, the myriad dimensions which the wings of insecurity have assumed have set in confusion which largely began to put before citizens questions of whether the government itself understands to categorise threats manifesting in different dimensions from different quarters as they are. The clusters of coordinated attacks, increasingly, have become too expansive in different faces such that linking attacks and threats in proper categories,  now pose confusion that would only leave many dismayed.

The most recent killings in Imo, South East, rose issues of arguments, counter arguments, allegations, counter allegations and knocks. Controversies over who or what is responsible for the attack became an issue of contest as what the government ascribed the killings to and who it was attached to, became a reaction that attracted wild contradictions.  In his reaction to the killings, President  Muhammadu Buhari through his Special Assistant on Media, Mallam Garba Shehu, had on Sunday, August 07, 2022  said, “President Muhammadu Buhari condemned in strong terms the recent attacks against non-indigenes and law enforcement officials by terrorists in the South East,” calling on the “community and religious leaders to speak more forcefully against the killings and to stand up and defend the ethos of the nation’s cultural and religious heritage.”

Counteracting slams, however, trailed the  position of the President on the killings. The apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, had on Monday, 08, 2022, slammed the President for the position he took on the killings in the South East, arguing that the utterances of the President as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria were not only very uncharitable but mischievous and undiscerning in  Its insinuations.

In a statement titled, ‘Insecurity in the South East: Buhari is blaming the victim,’ the President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo worldwide, Ambassador Professor George Obiozor, said Ohanaeze Ndigbo condemned the killings and violence, but held that victims cannot be blamed for the insecurity imposed on the South East by President Buhari’s administration.

In the statement issued through Ohanaeze National Publicity Secretary, Dr. Alex Ogbonnia, the group said that to appropriate national problems to the South East of Nigeria was an ethnic prejudice taken too far. The statement had read, “Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide joins the Presidency and indeed the good people of Nigeria in condemning this dastardly act that occurred at Imo State, South East of Nigeria. Ohanaeze has repeatedly explained that amongst the Igbo, human life is very sacred. The sanctity of life is so elevated that killing a human being in whatever circumstance is considered an abomination. In fact, it is not in the character of the Igbo to kill in whatever disguise. These recent developments are indeed very much alien to the reflexes, culture, and norms of the South East. And we have often called on the Nigerian security operatives to ensure that the perpetrators of such acts are brought to book as a deterrent to others.

“The apex Igbo body, however, noted that the failure of the Nigerian security agents to fish out the criminals cannot be blamed on the Igbo. Ohaneaeze Ndigbo, however, frowns at the statement by the Presidency, which is nuanced against the South East as a haven for terrorists that attack non-indigenes and law enforcement officials, implying that the insecurity persists because the leaders have not forcefully spoken. This is very unfair to the Igbo, especially when the presidency knows the root cause and the nature of the insecurity in the South East. It needs to be added that the solution to the insecurity in the South East lies in the enormous powers of the presidency.

“The above remarks by the presidency appear to have ignored the prolonged open war with the Boko Haram in the North East; the Banditry in the North West, especially in Katsina State; the Fulani Herdsmen invasion of several communities in the Middle Belt region; the Church massacre at Owo; the daily kidnappings on our highways; the Kaduna-Abuja train abduction, etc,.Paradoxically, when the district head of Daura, the hometown of Mr President, was kidnapped and was freed after two months, Mallam Garba Shehu was quoted as saying that the “Incident was evidence that Duara was not receiving preferential treatment and that insecurity was a national problem. In other words, when insecurity manifests in the North West, it is a national problem; but when, on the other hand, it occurs in the South East, it is blamed on the inability of the ‘community and religious leaders to speak more forcefully against the killings and to stand up and defend the ethos of the nation’s cultural and religious heritage’.

“The Igbo possess the greatest wanderlust as well as the most hospitable dispositions amongst the various ethnicities in the world. The non-indigenes in the South East enjoy untrammeled friendliness, inter-ethnic assimilation and a conducive business environment; what happened to the non-indigenes in the South East is most regrettable as part of the current national calamity. One would think that the inevitable consequences of the orchestrated mendacious propaganda, dubiety, subterfuge, sabotage, and serial alienation against the South East of Nigeria are already staring us in the face. How do we fight insecurity by appointment of service chiefs based on ethnocentric and religious considerations as against the best global practices of military competence?

“Put differently, how can the South East be excluded among the over 16 service chiefs in the Nigerian armed and paramilitary forces and expect insecurity not to fester? And how; and how; and how…..? And when the chickens have come home to roost, we resort to blaming the victim. The famous psychologist, William Ryan, espoused that blaming the victim is an atrocious ideology that tries to justify social injustice against a group. The oppressor deliberately creates an unjust chaotic environment for the oppressed; and blames the victims for the inevitable crises that flow therefrom.

“In conclusion, it is very uncharitable, if not mischievous, to poison undiscerning minds by insinuating that non-indigenes and security officials are killed by the terrorists in the South East. On the other hand, to appropriate national problem to the South East of Nigeria is an ethnic prejudice taken too far. Invariably, banditry in the North Central persists because their leaders have not forcefully spoken. Rather, they are publicly celebrated and turbaned or still offered the Sheik Gumi option. Both history and current events in the country must have shown that unjust policy against the just shall ultimately vindicate the just.”

It is noteworthy that insecurity situations in the Country have gone beyond isolating or reducing same to ethnic or regional expression. It is indisputable that terror and insecurity challenges have grown beyond bound across the entire Federation. Although the intensity might be by degree across parts of the Country, yet no part of the Federation can be isolated from the scourge. Hence, giving ethic coloration to the subject is in no wise a thoughtful, nor a rational resort as response to the worsening scourge of insecurity in the Country, and may be perceived inconsistent for reaction to any particular case. Rather, the posture to insecurity in the Country should be such demanding nothing but an inclusive and far reaching concerted efforts, with firm measures to develop an overarching coordination of systemic formations to address the scourge of insecurity, demystifying its various forms of networks and clusters.

The profile of insecurity in the Country has assumed a height where only concerted efforts with inclusive approaches, demanding mutual efforts from all  stakeholders is pertinent to tackle the scourge.  Any posture capable of rousing ethnic coloration or brewing divisive stance is by all means counterproductive to the kind of harmony of efforts required to address the deepening scourge of insecurity in the Country.

While the fight demands concerted efforts from all sides, the role of the government remains pertinent. The Federal Government on whose shoulders lie the preserve of security responsibility in the federation is central to the duty call. Since it has maintained and hold-on to the preserve of the control over security forces in the Federation, it is pertinent for the Federal Government to rise to the responsibility it has held grip to, and steer clear from resorting to apportioning blames or giving sectional coloration to insecurity threats in any part of the Country. The entire Federation has every zone ridden with insecurity challenges of various forms; the Federal Government must rise to its duties and avoid been tempted to resort to sectional coloration or blame trade. Such would bear no positive significance to the fight against insecurity, but would rather generate controversies without headway.

Editorial

EFCC and the war against Naira abuse

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The war against Naira abuse by the Economic and Financial Crime commission (EFCC) seems selective but it is a good omen and stakeholders must rise to support the anti-corruption agency in its task. A few weeks ago two popular celebrities Bobrisky and the Chief Priest of Cubana were brought to book for spraying money in public events against the laws regarding it.

The six months sentence slammed on controversial cross-dresser, Idris Okuneye popularly known as Bobrisky, and the ongoing prosecution of socialite, Pascal Okechukwu, also known as Obi Cubana, clearly demonstrates the seriousness with which the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is willing to prosecute the war on naira abuse.

A Federal High Court sentenced Bobrisky to six months jail without an option of fine. Also, a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos granted Obi Cubana N10 million bail after he pleaded not guilty to charges of naira abuse. EFCC’s decision to begin the war with these socialites is plausible and that will send a strong signal to their ilk.

Arguably, the naira is one of the most abused currencies in the world as it is very common to see Nigerians, especially the well-to-do, spraying this legal tender with reckless abandon at social events. This is a clear contravention of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN’s) Act which frowns at the abuse of the country’s legal tender.

Section 21(3) of the Central Bank of Nigeria Act 2007 (as amended) explicitly provides for penalties for those caught abusing the naira. Specifically, the law stipulates that “spraying of, dancing or matching on the Naira or any note issued by the Bank during social occasions or otherwise howsoever shall constitute an abuse and defacing of the Naira or such note and shall be punishable under the law by fines or imprisonment or both.”

The law also prohibits hawking of the country’s legal tender when it provides in Section 21(4) that, “It shall also be an offence punishable under Sub-section (1) of this section for any person to hawk, sell or otherwise trade in the Naira notes, coins or any other note issued by the Bank.”

However, in spite of this copious provisions, Nigerians still indulge in outright abuse of the naira by spraying the banknotes at events, tearing and writing on the banknotes, and selling the banknotes among other clear instances of abuse including selling and mutilation.

As should be expected, these practices have continued to make a mess of the CBNs Clean Notes Policy which was implemented with the aim of enhancing the visual appeal and durability of the banknotes in circulation.

From 2007 when the Act was enacted to date, there have been no deliberate efforts to punish those who indulge in sheer abuse of the naira in contravention of the law. As a matter of fact, until recently, most Nigerians were unaware of the law.

It is clear that the respective authorities have finally woken from their slumber and are set to go after unpatriotic Nigerians who have turned naira abuse into a hobby. Beginning with the so-called socialites who are the worst culprits as far as abusing the naira is concerned, the government appears bent on ending this menace.

We applaud the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and other relevant agencies of the government for this all-out war and urge them to sustain the tempo. Nigerians who have made it a habit to disrespect the naira by either spraying it with reckless abandon at social functions such as birthdays, weddings and funerals, or selling it at the roadside, must be made to face the full wrath of the law.

While the EFCC’s prosecution of Bobrisky is commendable, the agency must ensure that it sees to its logical end the ongoing prosecution of Obi Cubana. For this renewed war to make a meaningful impact, there must be no sacred cow. All those guilty of this abuse, regardless of their social standing, should be brought to book.

The EFCC and other agencies must resist the temptation to indulge in preferential treatment especially as one class of persons who are guilty of naira abuse is the political class. The political elites see spraying the naira at social gatherings as a status symbol. Even though it is a long held one, the culture of spraying money during celebrations is a national embarrassment that must be confronted using all the available legal instruments. There has to be an end to this sheer act of flamboyance and extravagance which is counterproductive.

In addition, while we commend the EFCC for its effort to protect the integrity of the national currency, we are persuaded to appeal to the government to apply the same zeal in ensuring that Nigerians, so hard pressed, have the Naira in their pockets in the first place.

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Editorial

Addressing the socioeconomic factors contributing to suicide rates in Nigeria

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The tragic incident that unfolded in the Magboro area of Ogun State, where Victoria Idowu, a 49-year-old woman, took her own life by hanging herself on a ceiling fan, is a poignant reminder of the deep-rooted issues surrounding mental health in our society.

The discovery of her lifeless body by her son upon his return from a church service emphasises the devastating impact of such actions on loved ones and communities at large.

This unfortunate event, coupled with the recent case of Deputy Commissioner of Police Gbolaha Oyedemi, who also tragically ended his own life, sends shockwaves across the nation. Oyedemi’s untimely demise, particularly given his position within the Force Criminal and Investigation Department in Lagos State, raises questions about the unseen burdens individuals may carry, even in seemingly successful and accomplished lives.

These incidents compel us to confront the pressing need for enhanced mental health awareness, support systems, and destigmatisation efforts within our society.

While the reasons behind such tragic decisions may remain elusive, it is imperative that we foster an environment where individuals feel empowered to seek help without fear of judgment or ostracisation.

As a nation, we must prioritise mental health initiatives, invest in accessible counseling services, and promote open dialogue about mental well-being in homes, workplaces, and communities. Only through collective action and compassion can we hope to prevent further loss and support those struggling with mental health challenges.

The intertwined tales of Victoria Idowu and Deputy Commissioner Gbolaha Oyedemi paint a harrowing portrait of despair echoing across Nigeria’s landscape.

Idowu’s final act, discovered by her son amidst the echoes of church hymns, and Oyedemi’s perplexing departure, once the trusted aide to a former governor, unveil a somber truth: suicide’s haunting grip knows no bounds.

Their stories, etched with the weight of societal expectations and personal demons, illuminate a troubling trend veiling Nigeria in sorrow.

From the seasoned to the youthful, lives are lost to the silent whispers of despair, leaving behind unanswered questions and shattered hearts.

In the shadows of these tragedies, Nigeria grapples with a growing epidemic, where the specter of suicide looms larger with each passing day. The reasons, as diverse as the nation itself, intertwine threads of societal strain, economic woes, mental anguish, and a dearth of solace in the face of adversity.

Yet, amid this darkness, one truth shines unwaveringly: suicide, however tempting, is not an adequate solution. It is a plea for help lost in the silence, a cry for understanding drowned in the noise. In the face of despair, let us extend hands of compassion, build bridges of support, and shatter the silence with voices of hope. For in unity, in empathy, lies the beacon of light guiding us through the darkest of nights.

In 2019, the tragic loss of a university student in Lagos to suicide, amid the weight of academic pressures and depression, stirred conversations about mental health awareness within educational institutions.

The following year, the untimely demise of a renowned Nigerian musician, who was discovered dead by suicide in his Lagos home, cast a spotlight on the silent struggles faced by celebrities and public figures battling mental health issues.

Similarly, in 2020, the distressing case of a young woman in Abuja, who took her own life after sharing troubling messages on social media, underscored the crucial need for accessible support systems for individuals grappling with mental health crises.

Then, in 2021, the heartbreaking loss of a teenager in Kano, driven to suicide by the torment of bullying and harassment at school, sparked urgent calls for concerted action to address both bullying and mental health concerns among students.

These poignant examples serve as reminders of the pressing imperative for heightened awareness, robust support networks, and adequate resources to combat mental health challenges and stem the tide of suicide across Nigeria.

Nigeria faces a sobering reality according to the World Health Organization, grappling with one of Africa’s highest suicide rates, with a notable portion of victims being young people. Worse, the ratio of psychiatrists to population is 1:800,000.

However, there’s a beacon of hope: fostering mental health awareness and education emerges as one of the most potent tools in combating this crisis. Despite prevailing stigmas branding mental health issues as taboo or indicative of weakness, dispelling these misconceptions can pave the way for a more compassionate and supportive society. By shedding light on mental health challenges, we can dismantle barriers to seeking help and foster understanding for those battling depression and suicidal thoughts.

Moreover, addressing the recurring tide of suicides demands an overhaul of mental health services accessibility nationwide. Presently, many Nigerians, particularly in rural areas, face insurmountable hurdles in accessing vital care and support. By bridging this gap and ensuring equitable access to mental health services, we can extend a lifeline to those in dire need, fostering a nation where every individual’s well-being is prioritized and safeguarded.

Governments, healthcare providers, and non-governmental organisations could work together to expand mental health services, train healthcare professionals, and integrate mental health into primary healthcare systems.

To effectively combat the pervasive issue of suicide in Nigeria, collaboration between governments, healthcare providers, and non-governmental organisations is paramount. Together, they can expand mental health services, equip healthcare professionals with necessary training, and integrate mental health into primary healthcare systems.

Establishing robust support networks is crucial for individuals grappling with mental health challenges and suicidal ideation. This entails offering accessible avenues for seeking help, such as helplines, support groups, and online forums. Education initiatives should empower friends, family, and communities to recognize signs of depression and suicidal behavior, fostering environments of support and understanding.

Furthermore, advocating self-care practices like exercise, mindfulness, and relaxation techniques equips individuals with tools to manage their mental well-being and mitigate the risk of suicidal tendencies.

Addressing the persistent scourge of suicide demands a holistic approach that delves into its root causes while providing effective interventions and support for those in crisis. Through concerted efforts to promote mental health awareness, improve access to services, foster support networks, and empower individuals, Nigeria can forge a path towards suicide prevention and cultivate a healthier society for all.

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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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