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Editorial

Obesity: The place of Continental-wide response system to avert  in Africa’s population crises

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Health challenges in Africa have continued to attract global concern. Nigeria in the demographic representation of the continent remain of central concern as the most populous African Country, accommodating over 220million of the continent’s 1.3billion population. Hence, any meaningful discussion of the health demography of the continent would bear strong relevance to Nigeria in the analytical representation of the weight of the Country’s population.

While the subject of health crises in the continent is one deep seated discourse, bearing wings of elaborate concerns, response to the clusters of challenges have been much more found to be resounding with cases of epidemic, while several other defects demanding keen attention only superficially attract the needed intervention to keep a healthy population. This is of particular concern to health problems which in their nature could easily be addressed by profound enlightenment, sensitisation and robust engagement with the civic end of  human population. One case of concern among several of these challenges which are preventable if managed with proper care is obesity.

While many would consider the defect as a mild tolerable challenge, it has been established how its deep seated ravages can affect a population and prevent such from been grossly productive as expected.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Obesity “is a complex health issue resulting from a combination of causes and individual factors such as behaviour and genetics. Behaviours can include physical activity, inactivity, dietary patterns, medication use, and other exposures. Additional contributing factors include the food and physical activity environment, education and skills, and food marketing and promotion. Obesity is serious because it is associated with poorer mental health outcomes and reduced quality of life. Obesity is also associated with the leading causes of death in the United States and worldwide, including diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and some types of cancer. Behaviour Healthy behaviours include regular physical activity and healthy eating. Balancing the number of calories consumed from foods and beverages with the number of calories the body uses for activity plays a role in preventing excess weight gain. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends adults do at least 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity activity such as brisk walking. In addition, adults need to do activities that strengthen muscles at least 2 days a week. A healthy diet pattern follows the Dietary Guidelines for Americans which emphasizes.”

Eating whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean protein, low-fat and fat-free dairy products, and drinking water, have been identified as some of the dietary measures to addressing the challenge. According to CDC, a pattern of healthy eating and regular physical activity is also important for long-term health benefits and prevention of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

As part of the reflections in marking this year’s World Obesity Day, themed, “Everybody Needs to Act,” the World Health Organisation (WHO) on Thursday, March 03, 2023, warned that Africa is facing a growing problem of obesity and overweight, as its analysis showed that one in five adults and one in 10 children and teenagers are projected to be obese by December 2023 in 10 high-burden African countries if no robust measures are taken to reverse the trends. The WHO analysis found that the prevalence of obesity among adults in the 10 high-burden countries will range from 13.6 percent to 31 percent, while in children and adolescents it will range from 5 percent to 16.5 percent. It found that Africa also faces a growing problem of overweight in children. “In 2019, the continent was home to 24 percent of the world’s overweight children aged under five,” the report noted. The report further warned that being obese or overweight raises the risk of suffering cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, muscle and skeletal disorders as well some types of cancer.

Overweight has been associated with severe disease and the need for hospitalization with COVID-19. While no data is available yet for Africa, a study published by the Journal of Infection and Public Health found that of the 2.5 million COVID-19 deaths reported globally by the end of February 2021, 2.2 million were in countries where more than half the population is classified as overweight.

“Among children, being overweight is associated with a higher chance of obesity, premature death and disability in adulthood. Lowering the risk of overweight and obesity includes adopting a healthy diet such as reducing the number of calories consumed in fats and sugars, undertaking regular physical activity as well as government policies that help people opt for healthier lifestyles and diets, for instance, by ensuring that healthy foods are accessible and affordable,” WHO report stated.

WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti described Africa’s case as a ticking time bomb. “If unchecked, millions of people, including children, risk living shorter lives under the burden of poor health,” she warned. According to her, the obesity crisis can be resolved because many of the causes of obesity and overweight are preventable and reversible. Moeti explained that dietary habits such as consuming energy-dense foods, sedentary lifestyles or lack of physical activity associated with rising urbanisation or changing modes of transport in many countries are significant drivers of obesity. “Lack of strong policies in key sectors including health, agriculture, urban planning and environment to support healthier lifestyles also contributes to growing obesity and overweight in many countries,” it was observed.

To combat obesity and overweight, WHO recommended a range of priority measures including government regulations such as mandatory limits on food sugar content, fiscal policies, for example, taxing sugar-sweetened beverages, food marketing regulations such as obligatory nutrient declaration by manufacturers, promoting healthier foods for older infants and young children, creating facilities for safe, active transport and recreation as well as reinforcing public health services.

Obesity has been linked to socio-economic hazards as severe as all-causes of death (mortality), and acute health challenges as High blood pressure (hypertension), High LDL cholesterol, low HDL cholesterol, or high levels of triglycerides (Dyslipidemia), Type2 diabetes, Coronary heart disease

Stroke, Gallbladder disease, Osteoarthritis (a breakdown of cartilage and bone within a joint), Sleep apnea and breathing problems. Also, studies have shown its relative cause to many types of cancers, Low quality of life, Mental illness such as clinical depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders; Body pain and difficulty with physical functioning. All the above health hazards that obesity brew are no ignorable risks. In their reflective dangers, they pose severe threats to the socio-economic fabrics of any country.

As Africa has been noted to be on a red list of obesity, it only behooves the authorities of individual nation in the continent to rise to the task of broad enlightenment and sensitisation to bring their citizens to the edge of caution, with conscious reconditioning of living habits which would foreclose the threats that such challenges have been projected to pose.

The need for governments of African nations to become proactive and lively to address seemingly appearing soft matters, but which subtly pose ravaging impacts on societal fabrics is sacrosanct. The reactive posture of addressing matters by trivialising their impacts until a blast explodes, is one bad posture which in clusters have compounded with debilitating force to hold good governance and appreciable condition of living to reason in the Continent. Nigeria is a case of topmost concern, owing to its perceived leadership role in the continent. It has become of necessity for the Country to assume the role with exemplary firmness in matters of good governance and liveliness to civic welfare.

A huge population largely challenged by deficiencies such as noted with clusters of impacts, as those associated with obesity, becomes a burden against prospects of socio-economic strength for development. Giving close attention to the identified recommendations to foreclose the negative projections is paramount. A continental response   under the African Union (AU) architecture, among other regional frameworks, would not be out of place to have concerted system of proactive measures to avert the speculated challenges.

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Editorial

Finding permanent solution to perennial fuel scarcity in Nigeria

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It is no longer news that Nigeria, ranking as one of the highest oil producing countries in the world, continuously suffers from perennial fuel scarcity day in, day out. A trip to the creeks of the Niger Delta will reveal abandoned and operational wellheads of crude oil, a fallout of oil exploration activities.

Some have developed to glorified Christmas trees, typical of the relics of the slave masters, aftermath of the abolished slave trade. A closer look at the Niger Delta Region will uncover communities sitting on oil wells.

Pollution and degraded environment reigns supreme, yet Nigerians are on daily basis tortured with scarcity of petroleum products, especially fuel, popularly referred to as Premium Motor Spirit (PMS).

This is a country where leaders ‘throw away’ our crude oil’ to industrialised nations, only to turn round to buy the same product now refined at exorbitant prices. Governments of other oil producing states like Oman, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, amongst others are more circumspect with resources. But Nigerian citizens wallow in abject poverty under the harrowing experience of high costs of living.

No point being shocked at incessant fuel scarcity when all four refineries in the country are decrepit. No point being shocked when the Nigerian Government is more concerned about election results than election promises. Daily, this administration is on a patience campaign to a religious degree. The doctrine of patience is being used to institute docility in the citizens.

It is not enough to make half-baked declarations in a bid to ‘hit the ground running,’ there should be commensurate efforts. The country’s travails with inflation are directly tied to this. A new ministry without a minister is another symptom of tactless leadership. Again and again, billions are spent on nothing-projects. Over and over, the Government has told Nigerians that Port Harcourt Refinery would resume operations in less than no time, all fantastical pronouncements.

The list of unfulfilled promises are endless. Ironically, the fastest policy by this administration is turning the old national anthem to a new one and buying SUVs for the National Assembly members. Anything short of putting food on the tables of poor Nigerians amounts to failure.

We pray that the next phase of the All Progressives Congress (APC) leadership brings a glimmer of hope for Nigerians. We do not know how they intend to achieve that, but it is in their own interest to do so. No one is impossible to unseat. When the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) held sway in the corridor of powers, they became so power drunk that they boasted to rule Nigeria for sixty years unchallenged. Today, they are peeping from the fringes and dreaming to launch a comeback.

Nigerians are learning from their Kenyan neighbours. 2027 is fast approaching when Nigerians will again file out to cast their votes. The proper thing should be done in terms of good governance. Proper policies should be put in place to harness the abundant human and material resources that abound in this country.

Dangote Refinery should be given adequate support against foreign and local cabals. Also, support for artisanal refineries currently feeding the country with adulterated petroleum products will inevitably turn the fortunes around. This will do the country a lot of good. If we can make substandard goods, we might as well produce the original. It is a matter of commitment, focus and getting priorities right.

Nigeria is capable of incredible feats. The human resource is peerless as evidenced in the fintech industry. What a tragedy to partake in this samara of fuel scarcity. A whole generation of adults deprived of a functioning system will, in no time, turn on the inept leaders. The clock is ticking…

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Editorial

Tinubu’s tax waivers on staple foods, a good omen 

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The decision by President Ahmed Tinubu’s Renewed Hope Administration to remove taxes on staples foods items like rice, maize, beans and other grains will assist in depreciation of the inflation in the country.

The development will reduce pressure on the naira by discontinuing the payment of taxes and levies in foreign currency and prioritising the procurement of Made in Nigeria goods and services by all levels of government.

Precisely, the Federal Government has announced the suspension of duties, tariffs, and taxes on some essential food items imported through land and sea borders.The Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Abubakar Kyari, disclosed this at a briefing in Abuja yesterday.

The listed food items, which include maize, wheat, husked brown rice, and cowpeas, will enjoy a 150-day Duty-Free Import Window. He added that the move was part of the Presidential Accelerated Stabilization and Advancement Plan, which is aimed at achieving food security and economic stability in the country.

The minister stated that the government had been working tirelessly to address the food inflation crisis, which had seen prices skyrocket to unprecedented levels.

He assured Nigerians that the government was committed to achieving food security and ensuring that no citizen went to bed hungry.

He said,  ”The federal government has announced a 150-day Duty-Free Import Window for Food Commodities, suspension of duties, tariffs and taxes for the importation of certain food commodities (through land and sea borders). These commodities include maize, husked brown rice, wheat and cowpeas.”

According to him under this arrangement, imported food commodities will be subjected to a Recommended Retail Price (RRP).

“I am glad to reiterate that the Government’s position exemplifies standards that would not compromise the safety of the various food items for consumption.In addition to the importation by the private sector, the Federal Government will import 250,000MT of wheat and 250,000MT of maize. The imported food commodities in their semi-processed state will target supplies to the small-scale processors and millers across the country.”

The Minister also said the Federal Government had inaugurated the Renewed Hope National Livestock Transformation Implementation Committee to develop and implement policies that prioritise livestock development and align with the National Livestock Transformation Plan.

Dissecting into the decision by Mr. President, the effect lies on reducing the strain on households across the country, which has been exacerbated by the already fragile economy. Addressing the concerns of investors in the real economy..Reducing the cost of doing business for investors, reducing food inflation and Increasing tax compliance by consolidating all consumption taxes into a single VAT system. It enhances less administrative costs by consolidating all consumption taxes into a single VAT system.

Another critical area the federal government must focus on is the transport sector. To address reduction in transport fares, Tinubu can subsidise fuel prices thereby reducing fuel prices to lower transportation costs.

The government should invest in efficient transport systems: Encourage modern, fuel-efficient vehicles and public transport infrastructure and regulate transport fares by establishing fare controls to prevent price gouging.They Should promote alternative transport modes: Encourage walking, cycling, and public transport use. Support transport cooperatives: Empower transport unions to negotiate better fares.

Improving road infrastructure to reduce travel times and costs by maintaining roads and encouraging competition by  fostering a competitive transport market to drive fares down.Offering of subsidies or discounts for vulnerable groups.

The Minister of transport should as a matter of urgency modernise and formalise the transport sector to reduce inefficiencies and engage Public-private partnerships to Collaborate with private operators to improve services and reduce costs.

By implementing these measures, Tinubu can help reduce transport fares, making transportation more affordable and accessible for Nigerians.

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Editorial

The scourge of ghost workers and absenteeism in Nigeria’s civil service

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The recent exposé concerning Nigerian civil servants receiving salaries while living abroad has brought to light a pervasive culture of corruption and neglect within the system.

President Bola Tinubu’s directive for these absentee officials to refund unlawfully obtained salaries marks a step in the right direction, yet it only scratches the surface of a deeper-rooted issue.

This newspaper believes that the blatant misconduct going unchecked for years reflects systemic failures within Nigeria’s civil service. The case of a Nigerian taxi driver in the UK admitting to still receiving payments as a junior government official two years after leaving Nigeria is not an isolated incident; it symbolises a broader lack of accountability and oversight enabling widespread corruption.

Dr. Folasade Yemi-Esan’s assertion of Nigeria’s civil service as the “best in the world” appears hollow in the face of such scandals. In reality, Nigeria’s civil service has become a bloated, inefficient bureaucracy more akin to a welfare scheme than a productive government arm. This inefficiency contrasts sharply with the high-performing civil services of other nations where excellence and integrity attract top talent.

President Tinubu’s call for accountability is commendable but must be backed by concrete actions. Mere salary refunds are inadequate.

A thorough investigation is essential not only to identify absentee workers but also to hold accountable the supervisors and department heads complicit through negligence or connivance. Only comprehensive accountability can begin to restore integrity to the system.

Furthermore, the issue of ghost workers and absenteeism is just the tip of the iceberg. Corruption permeates various aspects of Nigeria’s civil service, from inflated contracts to outright embezzlement.

The recent exposure of flaws in internal auditing by Civil Society Organizations and the Auditor-General is a stark indictment of the current state of affairs.

The mandated establishment of internal audit functions across government entities has failed to curb corruption, highlighting the need for a systemic overhaul addressing cultural and ethical deficiencies enabling such malpractices.

To truly reform the civil service, Nigeria must take bold steps. Firstly, a comprehensive audit is imperative to root out ghost workers and fraudulently retained personnel. Implementing a robust digital identity management system will prevent future fraud.

Secondly, recruitment and promotion within the civil service must prioritise merit, competence, and integrity over political connections or seniority. This shift will attract and retain capable personnel essential for efficient public service delivery.

Lastly, both civil servants and the public must shift their mindset regarding the role of government jobs, moving away from personal enrichment towards a commitment to public service and national development.

As President Tinubu rightly emphasised, the civil service is crucial for effective governance and public trust. A dysfunctional civil service not only impedes governance but also erodes trust in government institutions.

Nigeria’s future hinges on transforming its civil service from a hotbed of corruption and inefficiency into a driver of national development. The scandal of absentee civil servants drawing salaries abroad is a wake-up call demanding comprehensive reform addressing root causes rather than just symptoms.

Nigeria must confront its civil service crisis boldly and resolutely, committing to lasting change. Only then can it aspire to a civil service truly deserving of global recognition for performance and integrity, rather than mere rhetoric.

Nigeria’s civil service is at a crossroads. The recent revelations of civil servants drawing salaries while living abroad have exposed a deep-seated culture of corruption and negligence.

The truth is that Nigeria’s civil service has become a bloated, inefficient bureaucracy that serves more as a welfare scheme than a productive arm of government.

To truly reform the civil service, Nigeria must take bold and decisive steps. First and foremost, there must be a comprehensive audit of the entire civil service to weed out ghost workers, absentee staff, and those who have fraudulently remained on the payroll.

This should be followed by the implementation of a robust digital identity management system to prevent future occurrences of such fraud.

Secondly, there needs to be a fundamental shift in the recruitment and promotion processes within the civil service.

Merit, competence, and integrity should be the primary criteria for both entry and advancement, rather than political connections or seniority. This will help attract and retain the calibre of talent needed to drive efficiency and innovation in public service delivery.

Lastly, there needs to be a fundamental shift in the mindset of both civil servants and the general public regarding the role and importance of the civil service. The notion that government jobs are opportunities for personal enrichment must be decisively challenged and replaced with an ethos of public service and national development.

Nigeria’s future as a prosperous, well-governed nation depends on its ability to transform its civil service from a den of corruption and inefficiency into a true engine of national development.

The scandal of civil servants drawing salaries from abroad is a wake-up call that Nigeria can ill afford to ignore. It is time for a comprehensive overhaul of the civil service, one that addresses not just the symptoms but the root causes of its dysfunction.

Only then can Nigeria hope to build a civil service truly worthy of being called “the best in the world” – not in empty boast, but in actual performance and integrity.

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