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Editorial

Minimum wage Saga: FG, let the people go…

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For years, the narrative has been the same — the economy withers and the common man cries out for reprieve, only to be met with an endless array of impediments. When it is time to intercede for the poor, Nigerians are met with pointless bureaucracy and palliatives. Foreign aid is rendered ineffectual thanks to the gauze-hand of leaders, through which it all slips through into an oblivion of their own invention.

In April 2024, the headline inflation rate rose to 33.69 percent, up from 33.20 percent in March 2024, marking an increase of 0.49 percent points according to the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics (NBS). Yet, to raise the minimum wage to a level that will help beat back hunger in the poorest families has become a problem for the government.

Per the International Monetary Fund, IMF, a determined and well-sequenced implementation of government’s policy intentions would pave the way for faster, more inclusive, resilient growth in Nigeria. Without reforms — such as raising the minimum wage — to enhance the business environment, improve security, implement key governance measures, develop human capital, boost agricultural productivity, Nigeria’s growth potential will never leave the realm of imagination.

“These reforms are crucial to boost investor confidence, unlock Nigeria’s growth potential and diversify the economy, and address food insecurity, and underpin sustainable job creation,” IMF noted in its recent report, adding that over the last decade, limited reforms, security challenges, weak growth and now high inflation had worsened poverty and food insecurity in Nigeria.

“While Nigeria swiftly exited the COVID-19 recession, per-capita income has stagnated. Real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth slowed to 2.9 percent in 2023, with weak agriculture and trade, and in spite of the improvement in oil production and financial services.

“Growth is projected at 3.3 per cent for 2024 as both oil and agriculture outputs are expected to improve with better security. The financial sector has remained stable, in spite of heightened risks. Food insecurity could worsen with further adverse shocks to agriculture or global food prices. Adverse shocks to oil production or prices would hit growth, the fiscal and external position, and exacerbate inflationary and exchange rate pressures,” the IMF said.

Yet, on Wednesday the pattern continued. Negotiations reached a deadlock due to the government’s perceived unwillingness to engage in fair discussions with Nigerian workers. The NLC National President, Joe Ajaero, in a sense is right to say that the government’s proposal of N48,000 as the new minimum wage is an insult to Nigerian workers.

It is no surprise that the labour unions are demanding a higher minimum wage to reflect the current economic realities and alleviate the suffering of Nigerian workers. The stalemate in negotiations may lead to industrial action, which could have far-reaching consequences for the economy.

Many labour in vain for decades for peanuts, only to be denied their pensions in old age. Of course, the Nigerian worker will down his tools in the face of great poverty, and seeming apathy from the government. The relationship between wage rate and employment is well established. Most revolutions throughout the world are dependent on the satiation of the labour force. The Federal Government should maintain an atmosphere of charity and responsibility. Like the Israelite Moses said millennial ago, let our people go.

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Editorial

The unending insecurity nightmare: A call to action

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The recent spate of attacks and kidnappings across the country, particularly in the South-West, has once again brought to the fore the precarious state of security in Nigeria.

The gruesome account of Nurudeen Olaitan Salami, a survivor of a deadly herdsmen attack on April 17, is a chilling reminder of the horrors that many Nigerians face daily.

The fact that the attackers, armed with satellite phones and solar panels, could so brazenly carry out their nefarious activities, speaks volumes about the level of impunity that exists in our society.

The deliberate targeting of innocent citizens, including women and children, is a reminder of the depths of depravity to which these criminals have sunk.

Furthermore, the apparent complicity of some Fulani passengers and the bus driver, who were allowed to go scot-free, raises questions about the role of ethnicity and collusion in these crimes.

The fact that the security forces were unable to rescue the captives, despite engaging the attackers in a gun battle, is also a cause for concern.

This incident is not an isolated one. The renewed banditry in the South-West, the Enugu masquerades’ vicious attack, and the numerous other cases of kidnapping, terrorism, and bloodshed across the country, all point to a systemic failure of security and governance.

Despite the peace accord signed by farmers and herders, the violence has continued unabated, with Ogun, Ekiti, and Oyo states bearing the brunt of the attacks.

The payment of N31 million in ransom for three kidnapped individuals in Oyo State and the kidnapping of Alhaja Seliat Adeniji in Iseyin, Oyo State, are stark reminders of the escalating insecurity in the region.

The affected areas, including Otu, Igbeti, and Alaga in Oyo State, are witnessing a rise in banditry, armed robbery, and kidnapping, with major highways such as the Lagos-Ibadan, Ibadan-Ijebu-Ode, and Ore-Ijebu Ode-Lagos roads becoming hotspots for criminal activity.

The situation is further compounded by the kidnapping of eight cocoa farmers in Edo State and three students in Ovia South-West local government area.

The disregard for the peace accord signed by farmers and herders is a clear indication of the disdain for human life and the rule of law.

The crisis has not only worsened food insecurity in the region but also perpetuated violence against women farmers, who are easy targets for kidnappers, robbers, rapists, and killers.

It is imperative that security organisations take decisive action to address this crisis. Folding their arms while terrorists wreak havoc is unacceptable.

The government must work with stakeholders to implement effective security measures, prosecute perpetrators, and address the root causes of these crimes. The people of the South-West, and indeed Nigeria, deserve better. We demand action now!

 We deplore the upsurge in banditry, kidnapping and other criminal activities.

Given that some of the governors in the zone have demonstrated above average security interventions in their states, it is apposite to ask what the worsening security situation really signposts. First, it is sufficiently clear that the security agencies must shake off their seeming slumber.

The spate of banditry has been occasioned largely by failure of intelligence gathering on their part, and this suggests that the kind of synergy that should obtain between them and the people in the affected communities is not yet in place.

The security agencies should actively seek to build trust among the people in such a way that they would readily approach them with timely and relevant information.

That would go a long way in stemming bloodshed and creating a peaceful atmosphere in which democracy can thrive.

Besides, the South-West Nigeria Security Network, otherwise known as Amotekun, should ensure proper coordination of its activities across the zone.

It should, in addition, be equipped with the requisite arms. Confronting terrorists wielding sophisticated weapons with dane guns is fraught with dangers.

Then there is, of course, the overarching issue of the institutionalisation of state policing. We urge the South-West governors to seize the momentum in favour of state policing in the country, collaborate with the state assemblies, the National Assembly and the Presidency, and ensure that state policing takes off this year.

That way, they would be equipped with the wherewithal to tackle insecurity head on. In the meantime, the governors can show more affinity towards engaging local hunters and vigilance groups, and heads of communities, bringing them more frontally into the security loop and establishing lines of communication between them and the security agencies.

The murderous onslaughts of terrorists masquerading as herders pose grave danger to a people already famished by the effects of government policies and the pangs of inflation. The time to act is now.

It is time for the government to take decisive action to address this insecurity crisis.

The continued promises and rhetoric are no longer enough. We need concrete actions, including the deployment of effective security measures, the prosecution of perpetrators, and the addressing of the root causes of these crimes.

The Nigerian people deserve better. We deserve to live in a country where we can travel, work, and live without fear of being kidnapped, killed, or maimed.

It is time for our leaders to take responsibility and ensure that this basic right is guaranteed for all citizens. Enough is enough!

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Editorial

The NYSC paradox: A scheme in need of urgent reform

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The recent suggestion by the Minister of Youth Development, Jamila Ibrahim, to restructure the NYSC into a revenue-generating agency, while well-intentioned, may not be the most effective solution.

Instead, we argue that a radical review of the scheme is necessary to address its inherent challenges and ensure it remains a vital tool for national development.

The National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme, introduced over 50 years ago, was designed to promote national unity, foster social cohesion, and provide young Nigerians with valuable skills and experiences.

However, over the years, the scheme has undergone significant transformations, and current realities have raised questions about its relevance, funding, and effectiveness.

But, it is very important to revisit its founding principles and re-evaluate its purpose. Established in 1973 by Yakubu Gowon, the NYSC was designed to promote national unity, reconciliation, and reconstruction in the aftermath of the Nigerian Civil War.

The scheme aimed to instill a culture of national service among youth, fostering integration and understanding through a year-long service period.

Over the years, the NYSC has made significant contributions to national development, providing essential services in areas such as healthcare, education, and social work.

Corps members have also had the opportunity to interact with diverse ethnic nationalities and communities, fostering national integration.

Some have even chosen to remain in their assigned communities after their service year, leading to inter-ethnic marriages and further solidifying national unity.

However, recent discussions have raised questions about the scheme’s relevance, with some calling for reform or abolition.

A former chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Attahiru Jega, has proposed a sensible solution: drastically reducing the number of participants and making participation voluntary.

This approach acknowledges the challenges facing the program, including the large number of qualified participants, security concerns, and the reluctance of states and private sector employers to utilise corps members’ services during the service year.

Rather than abandoning the NYSC or transforming it into a revenue-generating agency, we must refocus on its founding principles and reform the scheme to meet the needs of modern Nigeria.

Meanwhile, by streamlining the program and making participation voluntary, we can ensure that the NYSC remains a vital tool for national development, promoting national unity and social cohesion.

We must not lose sight of the NYSC’s original objectives, which were never about generating revenue but about fostering national unity and promoting social integration.

Let us reinvigorate the NYSC to meet the challenges of our time and ensure that it continues to serve as a beacon of national unity and progress for generations to come.

Regrettably, NYSC, once a beacon of national unity and progress, has lost its lustre. Corruption and nepotism have eroded its foundation, with many participants resorting to bribery or influence to secure preferred postings.

The scheme’s expansion, from 700 participants in 1973 to thousands today, has become unsustainable. With 170 universities producing 600,000 graduates annually, the NYSC’s original purpose is no longer viable.

The Nigerian state has evolved, and new priorities have emerged. Advances in communication, social mobility, and education have rendered the “national unity” mantra obsolete.

The Federal Government struggles to fund the scheme, while youth and their families bear the burden. Many have lost their lives on treacherous roads while commuting to service locations, while others have fallen victim to brutality, abuse, and killings.

The recent election cycle saw 21 reported cases of corps members being attacked.

It is time to re-evaluate the NYSC’s relevance and reform it to address modern challenges. We must acknowledge the scheme’s limitations and explore innovative solutions to harness the energy and potential of our youth.

The status quo is no longer tenable; we owe it to ourselves and future generations to revitalize the NYSC and make it a truly transformative experience for all participants.

In the riots that accompanied the 2011 presidential elections, corps members were deliberately targeted because they were non-indigenes.

As we navigate the complexities of national development, it is essential to ground our policies in realism and periodically reassess their effectiveness. The National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) is a case in point.

Given the current realities, it is prudent to transition the NYSC to a strictly voluntary program, with a limited annual intake of 25,000-30,000 participants in a single batch.

This approach draws inspiration from successful models like Nigeria’s Technical Aid Corps and the United States Peace Corps, which have made significant contributions to global development over the past 62 years.

Also targeting participants with specialised skills and aligning them with the specific needs of federal and state governments, we can maximise the NYSC’s impact.

Voluntarism will not only ensure a more motivated and dedicated corps but also reduce the financial burden on the government.

Moreover, it will allow for a more focused and efficient deployment of resources, yielding greater benefits for the nation.

In a rapidly changing world, adapting and refining our policies to address emerging challenges is crucial.

Making the NYSC voluntary and more targeted can revitalise this iconic program, unlocking the full potential of our youth to drive national progress.

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Editorial

Endless wait for Port Harcourt Refinery’s production commencement

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It is no longer news that Nigeria and indeed Nigerians have waited patiently and endlessly for the commencement of production of the four refineries in the country, especially Port Harcourt Refinery, but lo and behold, it has been continuous shifting of the goalpost.

This hide and seek game has continued since May 29, 2023, which officially marked the inception of the current Federal Government led by Sen Ahmed Bola Tinubu.

The promises actually pre-date the present leadership of the Federal Government. The endless turnaround maintenance started many administrations ago and has outlived several Petroleum Ministers.

The last Minister of Petroleum that promised heaven on earth regarding the commencement of production of the Port Harcourt Refinery was the former Governor of Bayelsa State, Chief Timipre Sylva, who suddenly jumped boat, to recontest the last gubernatorial election in Bayelsa State and failed.

One now begins to ask what is still holding the kernel from falling? The situation is becoming embarrassing to hapless Nigerians who can no longer afford three square meals a day because of the hike in prices of food items, induced by fuel subsidy removal.

Public watchers and indeed concerned citizens have started suspecting foul play in the entire process.

Perhaps the current Federal Government is only doing the bidding of the IMF and possibly the World Bank, who are supposedly responsible for the removal of fuel subsidy without adequate plans to mitigate the sudden economic shock from such anti-people policy.

Even in the most industrialised countries of the world, certain essential items are still being subsidised. So why pick on Nigeria, celebrated as a third world country, that is, if we have not fallen far below that rating.

A nation that is not bringing anything on the table of the comity of nations, apart from crude oil, suddenly wakes up and announces subsidy removal. And worse, the President announced the policy from the swearing-in parade ground, without proper assessment. True to it, the abrupt subsidy removal announcement ignited a simultaneous economic crisis that we are still finding a way to tackle.

Thereafter, it became a promise galore. Over and over promises of commencement of production by Port Harcourt Refinery kept rolling in. Natural skeptic, because of the pattern of failed promises, have concluded that it is a complete mirage. Governments all over the world are rated for what they verge on with their citizens. In short, a credible government’s word should be its bond.

Therefore, the law of safety says that if you cannot work safely, it is better not to work at all. The reason is that such ‘try-your-luck’ can plunge such entity into some level of irreparable losses, amounting to economic woes and in most cases, lives are involved in addition to equipment or property loss.

No Nigerian or friend of Nigeria is happy or comfortable with what is happening to citizens of the country. The situation is more worrisome that Nigerians are suffering in the midst of plenty. How does one envisage that a major producer of crude oil in the world is being subjected to such inhuman treatment all in the name of subsidy removal?

Several government officials under this administration have proposed dates and times for the commencement of production by the refineries, especially Port Harcourt Refinery to no avail. So why must a government official come out to the public to make untenable promises, without due diligence or proper survey?

It is only in Nigeria possibly that such thing is practicable. And such public officers make such statements with impunity and still walk around the streets unmolested. Such practice is taboo in some climes. t is even safer and more honourable to keep mute, instead of misleading people (over 100 million people).

The question still echoing in the lips of Nigerians is when will it be? And by that they mean when will the cost of living reduce?  When will petroleum products be available and affordable? And until these questions are answered, the struggle continues.

The latest promise came from the Independent Petroleum Marketers of Nigeria (IPMAN) stipulating June 2024.  Majority of Nigerians tend to believe IPMAN as a major player in the petroleum distribution industry than the government and her privies. May this promise materialise.

Nigerians will roll out their drums to the streets in celebration of the development. It is our prayer that the pledge works this time around.  Economic watchers have said repeatedly that even if Dangote Refinery releases its PMS, it will still not be affordable. Their reason is that it is only competition that can force prices down, not the benevolence of capitalism. Though one must commend Dangote’s efforts in crashing the price of diesel.

Alongside millions of Nigerians, we continue to clamour for the federal government to live up to its responsibility by providing petroleum products for its citizens, which we strongly believe will force down prices of other products, including foodstuff. Until this is achieved, it is not going to be uhuru.

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