[ Masterweb Reports: Odimegwu Onwumere reports ] - Ahead of 2016 conference of Anglophone Africa Peer Review Workshop on sustainable immunization financing in Abuja, the Executive Director, National Primary Health Care Development Agency, Dr. Ado Muhammed says Nigeria needs about $284 million to accomplish the expected goal in immunization.
Worried by the lack of local vaccine content in the country, the Director-General, National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), Professor Lucy Ogbadu weeps bitterly in Abuja on March 11 2016 over what she sees as Nigeria’s failure to produce vaccines against typhoid and other killer diseases, knowing that, according to her, the good thing about vaccine production is that the same plant can be en suited with different apparatuses to go into to numerous vaccine productions. Hence, she wants to find out the reason owing to the fact that the country was producing vaccines many years ago, but no more. She is bewildered that not a single human vaccine is produced right now in Nigeria.
“This cannot continue, it has fallen within our mandate to act and make sure that the country goes back to producing vaccine” she harangues. “So, we have approached Cuba for this knowing that eight out of the 11 vaccines that are involved in the national immunization programmes in Cuba are produced in Cuba. Even with her third world country status, Cuba has gone far and nothing stops Nigeria from following suit.”
However, in 2012, the then President Goodluck Jonathan had approved the local production of vaccines with the take-off of Biovaccines Nigeria Limited, a joint venture company between Federal government and May & Baker Nigeria Plc, as part of the commitment towards ensuring constant availability of routine vaccines in the country. Media briefing on regeneration of the Federal government Joint Venture initiative with May & Baker Nigeria Plc on local Vaccine production held in Lagos.
“Our job is to revive that entity using our knowledge, expertise and resources to produce and distribute vaccines in Nigeria once again and consequently end the era of 100 per cent dependence on foreign vaccine producers to immunize our citizens against vaccine preventable diseases that ravage our society,” MD/CEO, May & Baker Nigeria Pic, Pharm. Nnamdi Okafor said.
Ogbadu is of the view that aside, Cuba also has a technology of polyvalent vaccine production. She says this means that pair of vaccine can be coalesced into one, therefore saving the receiver-person the suffering of taking several thrusts. She is mindful that with polyvalent vaccine development, one poke of vaccine, different vaccines can be met at the same time.
“Our major priority now is to commence local vaccines production as soon as possible. The Biovaccines business plan is being reviewed and will be presented to the Board as soon the latter is constituted. We plan to commence construction of a new vaccine plant at the new site in Ota, Ogun State with a view to starting production of Yellow Fever vaccines within 18 months,” Okafor added.
Seeking for ways
When Bauchi State was imbued with foreign snakes that got into the country through the massive flooding that enveloped 22 States of the country in 2012, which were noticed in Yuli village river by natives, the government through the Chairperson of Presidential sub-committee on Flood Relief and Rehabilitation, Professor Dora Akunyili (now late), sought for innovative approaches to delivery of vaccines. Samples of the snakes would be taken to establish the type of anti-venom vaccines for them.
“By going into local vaccine production, Nigeria will be putting the health security of her citizens in Nigerian hands. Immunization is a national health security issue. No country can afford to leave the health security of her citizens in the hands of foreign organisations.
“The venture would also save Nigeria substantial savings in foreign exchange and logistics costs of vaccine importation. Currently, the Federal Government spends over N6 billion to import vaccines every year, excluding what is imported by states and local governments,” Okafor said.
Looking for novel approach to help locals get vaccines when in such a situation, leaders on the continent converged on February 29 2016 to invest in local and regional ability for the manufacture of vital vaccines, being that immunization is identified as the best way to prevent diseases.
Dr Patrick Uduje, a Physician at Graceland Hospital, Lagos, said during 2015 World Immunization Week, “Studies show that vaccine preventable diseases are a major contributor to child morbidity and mortality especially in the Sub-Saharan Africa and Nigeria in particular.”
Losses to lack of vaccine
The United Nations Children Fund, UNICEF, clamoured that the country loses about 2,300 under-five year olds every single day with 22 per cent of these deaths caused by vaccine-preventable diseases. Given that, professionals admonished the need for parents to make sure that everything possible is done to enable infants who naturally inherit certain antibodies from their mothers, to begin to build theirs from say six months, when the antibiotics they gain begin to wane.
“The WHO’s statistics reveal that annually, vaccines prevent more than 2.5 million child deaths globally, especially from deaths which could have been prevented through immunization,” Uduje said.
It is knowledgeable that children are prone to diseases such as poliomyelitis, measles, diphtheria, serotype b infection, hepatitis, meningitis, mumps, pertussis, rebella, tetanus, tuberculosis, yellow fever, ad nauseam. Upon the government’s quest to save the environment from preventable deaths, some persons are wont to denying their wards contact with any form of vaccination for the fear that the authorities use the approach to establish heinous practices; some mothers even forget the date they ought to go for immunization of their kids.
“These vaccine preventable diseases account for 17 per cent of global total under-five mortality per year and 22 per cent of child mortality in Nigeria.
“This means that the appropriate deployment of relevant vaccines would significantly reduce mortality and that is why we appeal to parents to immunize their children and wards,’’ Uduje added.
The assemblage of the African leaders with the theme thus, ‘Universal Access to Immunization as a cornerstone for health and development’, made at the African Union (AU) headquarters, Ethiopia, geared towards increasing domestic financial investments in countries across the continent for the conveyance of schedule immunization vaccines in order to regularize Gross National Income for the availability of vaccines through inexpensive and impartial prices to all African countries.
The highlight of this was that if there were local contents of vaccines, the outbreak of the Meningitis C strain in decades that has killed 800 of 12 000 people infected in Nigeria and neighbouring Niger would not have been recorded, while international health officials fought to find Meningitis C vaccines to quell the outbreak from spreading. The World Health Organisation, WHO, showed anxiety that the cases have been rising since 2013. Manufacturers said that they could not produce stockpile five million doses of Meningococcal C conjugate (MenC) vaccine made from a small part of the Meningococcal bacteria, which were demanded by health officials to fight the menace.
“The Bacilli Calmette Guerin (BCG) is administered to a child at birth or as soon as possible after birth. The Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV) is given at birth and also at six, 10, and 14 weeks of age. OPV can also be received any other time, especially during the immunization weeks. Pentavalent vaccine is a combination of five vaccines-in-one that prevents diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, hepatitis b and haemophilus influenza type b, all through a single dose. The vaccine replaced the Diphtheria, Pertusis, Tetanus (DPT) vaccine which is given at six, 10, and 14 weeks of age. Vitamin A is given at nine months and 15 months of age. The introduction of Pentavalent vaccine is expected to prevent nearly 400,000 cases of haemophilus influenza type B , with about 27,000 lives saved annually in Nigeria,’’ said Dr Temi Adekunle, Paediatrician, St. Rapheal’s Clinic, during 2015 World Immunization.
The Delta State Government in 2012 partnered with Pfizer Pharmaceuticals to immunize 2000 internally displaced children between the ages of 2-5 at various camps in the state, when pneumonia wanted to ravage the state. Nigeria battled to produce PCV13 vaccines through the state ministry of Health to vaccinate the children at the relief camps across the state. The then Delta State Governor Emmanuel Udiaghan highlighted that vaccine immunization as well as environmental care were the very means to fight antibiotic resistant pneumonia disease.
Consultant Paediatrician, Dr Olajide Ojo, said, “To lessen the awful rate of pneumococcal infections, which kill 17 children every hour in the country especially among low income earners, Nigerians must espouse improved hygienic lifestyles and increase vaccine intake for their children.”
Odimegwu Onwumere ( Tel: +2348057778358. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org ), is a Rivers State based poet, writer and consultant.
*Photo Caption - As seen.
[ Masterweb Reports: Abdul-Rahman Abubakar reports ] - The Niger Delta Avengers came into existence sometime in March 2016. Since its declaration of economic rebellion against the Nigerian government, the militant group has claimed responsibility for many attacks in the region, telling on the nation’s economy, with no seeming end to the conflict.
Carrot or stick, the Niger Delta Avengers seem to have defied all odds in their avowed bid to cripple the Nigerian economy. President Muhammadu Buhari had in the wake of devastating bombings of pipelines in the oil rich Niger Delta region, warned the armed group of a treatment similar to the one meted on Boko Haram. “I am aware that in the last two weeks, the national grid collapsed a number of times. I hope this message will reach the vandals and saboteurs, who are blowing up pipelines and installations. We will deal with them the way we dealt with Boko Haram.”
If it was meant to be a threat, the president’s warning seemingly buoyed the confidence of the militants and their acts of terror continued. The group sustained its campaign of economic sabotage until recently when again Buhari made a u-turn and asked them to cease fire. That conciliatory call also seems to have fallen on deaf ears. Speaking recently, the president said: “Those of you who have friends among the leadership or even the militants themselves should plead with them in the name of God Almighty to take it easy.”
Rise of terror
Several militant groups sprung up in the Niger Delta a few months ago, with the Avengers as the most daring. The group declared insurrection against the Nigerian state in March, 2016 and since then has destroyed oil installations in Bayelsa, Delta, Edo, Akwa Ibom and Rivers states.
The group, like many before it, based its actions on accusations of government’s indifference to issues of development in their region. The major aim of the Avengers is to cripple the nation’s economy by halting oil exploration and export. After a few weeks break, they resumed hostilities this week, bombing more pipelines.
On Monday night, the group blew up two manifolds operated by the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC) at Batan community in the Warri South-West Local Government Area of Delta State. Two other trunk lines, belonging to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) in the area were also bombed by the militants. Another oil well, operated by Chevron Nigeria Limited at the Makaraba village of Gbaramatu Kingdom, was also attacked. In a coordinated attack, the Niger Delta Avengers destroyed several oil wells at about 10.35pm and 11.20pm on Monday night. Military sources, who confirmed the attacks, said the Trans-Forcados Pipelines were major trunk lines feeding the Shell Forcados with crude.
Before the recent attacks, the Avengers have blown pipelines belonging to Shell, Chevron, NNPC, NPDC and several oil majors operating in the region.
The situation has forced some of the oil companies to shut down operations in the area. The militants have also asked oil companies to suspend exploration. The action of the group has pushed up prices of crude oil in the international market from below $40 per barrel to about $50 per barrel. Nigeria is presently losing about 140,000 barrels of crude daily translating to a loss of $6.72m (about N1.3 billion) due to the attacks on oil installations by Niger Delta Avengers.
An oily situation
Aside the heavy loss in revenue accruals to the federation, sustained attacks on gas pipelines has led to drop in power generation. In the past few months, electricity generation had dropped to ‘zero megawatts’ several times. Most parts of Nigeria and of recent Ghana are experiencing power shortages as a result of economic sabotage by the group. Activities of the Niger Delta Avengers and other militant groups in the region is telling hard on the fragile Nigerian economy, which depends largely on oil resources for revenue and electricity that powers local productions.
The federal government had initially planned a major military offensive to tackle the situation. Troops were massively deployed, heavy arms and ammunition were moved including fighter aircraft and hostilities were to commence. Apparently after realising the dangers of a full-blown war in the region, government has adopted conciliatory approach in dealing with the militant groups in the Niger Delta.
Unlike in the case of Boko Haram, a full scale war in the oil rich region could complicate the country’s economic woes. Military action could damage more installations. Hence government’s dangling carrots rather than wielding a heavy stick. President Buhari, clearly, prefers dialogue in resolving the matter as against hostility.
Conflicting objectives, clashing demands
The Niger Delta Avengers claim to be fighting for the development of the region, yet several of its conditions for a truce are on issues outside the area. At one breath the group sounds as being motivated by the plight of the ordinary citizens in the oil communities, in another breath, they are political and at times secessionist.
The group’s conditions for peace expose the multi dimensional reality of the group’s agitation. The conditions include; immediate implementation of the report of the 2014 National Conference report, failure of which Nigeria will forcefully break-up; President Buhari, the director-general of the State Security Service and the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate in Bayelsa State, Timipre Sylva should apologize to the people of the Niger Delta region and family of Late Chief DSP Alamieyesegha for killing him with intimidation and harassment because of his party affiliation; the ownership of oil blocks in Nigeria must reflect 60% for the oil producing people and 40% for the non-oil producing people and the only Nigerian Maritime University sited in the most appropriate and befitting place - Okerenkoko in Delta State, must start the 2015/2016 academic session immediately.
Other conditions are that the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi should apologize to the Ijaws and the entire Niger Delta people for his careless and reckless statement about the location of the University in Okerenko. Also, that Ogoniland and all oil-polluted lands in the Niger Delta must be cleaned up, while compensation should be paid to all oil-producing communities; Radio Biafra director and Independent Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) leader, Nnamdi Kanu, should be released unconditionally; the Niger Delta Amnesty programme must be well-funded and allowed to continue to run effectively, All APC members indicted for corruption should be made to face trial like their counterparts in the Peoples Democratic Party and all oil multi-nationals and foreign investors should observe this demands, as their business interest in the country will be first targeted.
Apparently emboldened by the posture of government, the Niger Delta Avengers have threatened more attacks, after having warned oil workers and expatriates to leave the region or risk attacks. The group has vowed to cripple the economy by achieving ‘zero oil production’ in the region, and their most recent attacks point to their achieving their deadly goals.
What remains to be seen is if government will press on further with the view of stopping the violence and destruction perpetrated by the group. But with dialogue and peaceful means to an end to hostilities seemingly not being agreeable to the Avengers, Nigerians remain in suspense as to the end of the violent reign of the group.
*Photo Caption - As seen.
[ Masterweb Reports: Tarisai Mandizha reports ] - The Ministry of Tourism and Hospitality Industry has called on religious organisations to complement government efforts in promoting peace in the country. In an interview with NewsDay yesterday, Tourism and Hospitality Industry deputy minister Annastacia Ndhlovu said the church has a big role to play in maintaining peace in the country by complementing government’s efforts.
“As the government ministry responsible for tourism in the country, we are calling upon all the churches to maintain peace in the country. I also call on the churches in the country to help government consolidate the economic gains which have been achieved through tourism,” she said.
“Before any big testimony, there is a big test and the church has to practice what they preach. This just gives people to show their capacity. We have seen how much religious tourism in Nigeria has helped the tourism sector to grow.”
According to official statistics of the 10% of people that enter Nigeria, 6% will be going to the Synagogue Church of all Nations led by Temitope Balogun Joshua, 3% will be attending Chris Oyakhilome’s church, while the remainder (1%) will go to other churches.
Ndhlovu said in the case of Nigeria, it showed how important religion was in the prevailing environment, but it only thrived through a peaceful environment.
“All the churches and every peace-loving Zimbabwean, we are calling upon them to complement government efforts to maintain peace, which is a fertile ground for development,” she said.
Her remarks come at a time the church was actively involved in mobilising citizens to assert their rights.
A cleric, Evan Mawarire, was instrumental in mobilising support for yesterday’s stayaway against the deteriorating economy.
Ndhlovu encouraged Zimbabweans to cultivate a holiday culture through promoting domestic tourism.
She said tourism players should come up with packages tailor-made for locals and also encouraged schools to promote tourism development.
“We have all seen how the religious sector benefits. For example, recently, we have witnessed the Women Conference by Seventh Day Adventist Church, a conference by Uebert Angel, conferences being held by Walter Magaya’s Prophetic Healing and Deliverancy Ministries and when such events take place, the economy benefits,” Ndhlovu said.
“We want to see how we can tap into the bulk of the religious tourism in Zimbabwe. Even domestic tourism is benefiting from this. People come to Harare every week, and all these are benefits which are coming from the religious sector.”
*Photo Caption - Map of Zimbabwe
[ Masterweb Reports: Olalekan Waheed Adigun reports ] - Humans call God for different reasons. Some are purely altruistic while some are selfish. This explains why I wonder if my God is the same one others call upon. Some people imagine God to be essentially weak, hence in need of whom to fight for Him. Others see God as a Being that is somewhere and nowhere at the same time. They “believe”, often without knowledge. Why worship a God you know nothing about His nature? These are some of the questions that baffle me anytime I see some of our so-called “religious” people.
To the very religious ones amongst us, asking questions concerning God or probing deeper into religious issues can be seen as heresy. “Why do you call the name of God in vain?” They query.
Just recently during one of the matches in the on-going UEFA EURO 2016, I witnessed an argument in a soccer viewing centre during a match between Iceland and Portugal. There arose the argument about who is a better player between Christiano Ronaldo (who features for Portugal) and Lionel Messi (who is in far-away South America). It was obvious those in Ronaldo’s support were fans of Real Madrid and those supporting Messi were FC Barcelona fans. These arguments which soon turned to insults amazed me because none of these people could produce their club membership cards if asked to. They scream at the top of their voices, but no one is listening. They “fight” in defence of their respective clubs, but make no difference. In the name of their clubs, these people will go the length to “prove their point”.
It is not just religious ideologues that cause problems – state-imposed atheism was a defining feature of brutal 20th century regimes led by despots, like Joseph Stalin (Soviet Union), Josip Broz Tito (Yugoslavia), Mao Zedong (China), and Pol Pot (Chile) among others, which resulted in the suffering and murder of millions. Tens of thousands of Russian Christians alone were executed for their beliefs by atheists intent on purging religion from the Soviet Union. If all these happened, and were caused, promoted and executed by men, the problem may not be totally religious after all!
Recently, a mild drama erupted in the State of Osun over the interpretation of a Court judgment on the question of the wearing of hijabs in the state-owned public schools. The state’s chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), in response, directed Christian students to wear their church robes to school should the school implement the court judgement. Even without doing a simple research on the matter, the online media went agog with the pictures of less than 10 students of the Baptist High School, Iwo in Church apparels. It was equally alleged that some CAN leaders in the state escorted the students in compliance with their “order”. They were there to monitor the reaction of the teachers to the strange mode of dressing of their children.
In parenthesis, the students’ dressing as seen in the picture only reminds me of my days at the famous Awo Hall, Obafemi Awolowo University, where Aro (Display of mild lunacy) was common. I remember vividly situations where students will, in full religious garments, dance to remixed gospel songs to the excitement of those watching. How dare you stay in Awo and talk about boredom?
What was expected of the state leadership of CAN was to have filled an Appeal challenging the suit filed by the state’s Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria (MSSN). Things would have been made easier had some people not played dangerous politics with religion in and out of the media. There are Christ-like ways of doing things. I guess this was why Mahatma Gandhi noted how he loves Jesus Christ but detests Christians!
It is in the light of Section 10 “Prohibition of State Religion” of the 1999 Constitution that some people argue that Nigeria is a secular state. As a matter of fact, the phrase “secular state” is not used anywhere in the Constitution. Worse still, there is no reported Nigerian case so far where the said section 10 has been given judicial interpretation to the best of my knowledge. The argument put forward by some of us, including those who should know better on the question of “secular state” in Osun is discomforting.
Let us take it that truly, Nigeria is a “secular state”. Does “secular state” mean the individuals in the state are “irreligious”? Does it mean that the Governor of the state should have or hold no religious belief? Or that the people themselves should be averse to all religions? The answer to all these questions is NO. The “secular state” is strongly a Machiavellian concept that gained frequency during the Renaissance when the Church played too much role in political matters to the discomfort of many Italian nationalists. If we agree that the 1999 Constitution envisaged a “secular state”, then the Christian and Muslim prayers at public or state functions, including schools are illegal. The state sponsorship of Pilgrims to Holy Lands will then be illegal. These make no sense if we place much emphasis on the so-called secular state!
As I write, I am not aware that Osun state government has an official religion in compliance with the vexed Section 10 of the 1999 Constitution which states: “The Government of the Federation or of a State shall not adopt any religion as State Religion.” The wearing of hijabs as far as I know was abandoned by the State government sometimes last year, but the MSSN took it upon itself and approached the Courts to interpret Section 38 which states inter alia:
(1) Every person shall be entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom (either alone or in community with others, and in public or in private) to manifest and propagate his religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance.
(2) No person attending any place of education shall be required to receive religious instruction or to take part in or attend any religious ceremony or observance if such instruction ceremony or observance relates to a religion other than his own, or religion not approved by his parent or guardian.
Taking the light of Section 38(2) cited above deals with a situation in which the schools teach the doctrines of a particular religion, which the pupils are forced to take. Since the schools are not on record to have denied anyone their right to entry, no section(s) of the Constitution is violated in our opinion. Save for those who only intend to make mountains out of molehills. The use of religion as the basis for assessing a governor, just because he is of a different belief, only make issues unnecessarily complicated.
It was recently drawn to my attention that the state Government itself as no qualms suspending the issue of wearing hijabs in schools. In my considered opinion, the state government should halt the implementation of the Judgement on the issue. The role of the (online) media is everything but noble over the sensationalising of the robe-wearing students. The state’s chapter of CAN must divest itself of the dangerous politics it is playing with education and religion. The state government should convey an inter-faith dialogue, which will include even the traditional religious worshipers in the state.
If the proposals above are accepted, then I think people will stop calling and using the name of God in vain.
Olalekan Waheed Adigun is a political risk analyst and independent political strategist for wide range of individuals, organisations and campaigns. He is based in Lagos, Nigeria. His write-ups can be viewed on his website http://olalekanadigun.com/ Tel: +2348136502040, +2347081901080
Email: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
*Photo Caption – As seen.
[ Masterweb Reports: Isiaka Wakili reports ] - President Muhammadu Buhari has told the Niger Delta militants that the unity of Nigeria is not negotiable. He spoke at the Aso Rock Presidential Villa in Abuja today when the residents of the Federal Capital Territory paid him a sallah homage.
Buhari said those who were around between 1967 and 1970 when a former head of state General Yakubu Gowon was preaching the one-Nigeria message understood that the unity of the country is not negotiable.
The president called on the militants destroying oil and gas installations in the restive Niger Delta region to embrace peace and give the government a chance.
Buhari also urged those who stole public and all those still in possession of money that does not belong to them to return the funds in order for them to experience peace.
The president warned that if they refused to do so, the government would continue to pursue them.
More details soon....
*Photo Caption - President Muhammadu Buhari
[ Masterweb Reports ] - Abia State Governor, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu, will remain in office as governor of the state, pending the conclusion of matters in courts. This was the decision of Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court Abuja, who adjourned hearing to Thursday on the application for Stay of execution by Governor Ikpeazu against Abang's ruling in favour of Uche Ogah.
Justice Abang also said that the enrollment order he gave to uche Ogah was not an enforceable order.
He thereafter adjourned hearing till Thursday, 7th July, on Ogah's application seeking to vacate the order by Justice Chibuzo Ahuchaogu of Abia State High Court, that restrained the Chief Judge of Abia State from swearing him in.
In a related development, a Federal high court sitting in Owerri, has reserved ruling for Friday 8th of July in a suit filed by Mr. Friday Nwosu against the eligibility of Abia state governor, Okezie Ikpeazu.
*Photo Caption - Governor Okezie Ikpeazu.
[ Masterweb Reports: Misbahu Bashir reports ] - A man believed to be the oldest primary school pupil in Kaduna State is dead. Danjuma Aliyu, also called AbdulMunim, died in his house in Kachia town on Friday, after complaining of stomachache, his eldest son, Yahaya AbdulMumin, told Daily Trust by telephone.
“My father complained of stomachache after washing his car on Friday few minutes after 11am. He was supposed to prepare for afternoon classes which starts by 12noon and ends by 4pm but was told to stay at home until his condition improved. He died while lying down after taking some medications. The funeral prayer was conducted around 3pm after Jumu’at,” Yahaya said.
Danjuma, popularly called Sarkin Lambu enrolled into the Local Education Authority Primary School 2, Kachia in 2015 after Governor Nasir El-Rufa’i declared public education free. He said he was not allowed to obtain western education by his parents when he was of school age and started schooling at the age of 63 years.
Danjuma was admitted into primary one class where he sat on the bare floor to take lessons with classmates as young as his grandchildren. He was later promoted to class two.
The school headmaster, Ahmed Zubair, gave positive remarks about Danjuma while he was in class one. “He was doing well in his class and participated in group activities with other pupils,” Zubair had told Daily Trust.
Danjuma was survived by a wife, 12 children and 14 grandchildren.
*Photo Caption - Late Danjuma (middle) in class with his classmates
[ Masterweb Reports: Press Release For Immediate Release ] - Igbo Mandate Congress (IMC) after full discreet investigations into the events of May 29th and 30th Biafran Heroes Day Celebrations do hereby condemn the murder of innocent persons by officers and men of the Nigerian Army, Navy and Police.
Igbo Mandate Congress though has divergent views over the Biafran agitations from IPOB and MASSOB, do hereby condemn the massive use of force on unarmed civilians commemorating the annual Biafra Day Celebrations at St Francis Catholic Church, Nkpor and Onitsha environs in the early hours of May 30th. In the event, even passer bye and those going about normal businesses were gummed down.
Igbo Mandate Congress inquires and investigations suggest that over seventy persons are either dead or missing since the event occurred. Other persons, numbering over hundred sustained various degrees of injuries while hundreds are still being held at at SARS Awkuzu, State CID Onitsha and Army Barracks. IMC views it improper that even some wounded were abducted from hospitals and abandoned to die.
IMC wishes to state that these events are exactly what aggravated the security situation in the North East, and drew sympathizers for Boko Haram especially when gross human rights abuses followed the fight against terror. . With some families of victims inundating IMC members with inquiries, complaints and request for assistance and some efforts to rehabilitate few traumatized, IMC views with alarm the rate at which this murderous spree is spreading hatred among the people more than whatever IPOB protests had done.
Igbo Mandate Congress believes that there is nothing special in the Biafran Heroes Day Celebration to warrant such a security onslaught. People whose families were murdered by the Nigerian State in the 30 Month old civil war have been commemorating the event with some sort of prayers in churches and village squares especially among communities with heavy death toll over the years. Therefore, any security information that the Biafran Day celebration is a national threat is fake, mischievous and misleading and those who gave it are the real enemies of Nigera.
Igbo Mandate Congress believes that people of South East Nigeria who wish to protest, commemorate or remember their slain young ones in that unnecessary genocidal war are free to do so as enshrined in the Nigerian constitution and any encroachment therein is an affront on their liberty.
IMC expects the military authorities to prosecute those who opened fire on harmless persons as a deterrent. They should stop further harassment of people who are seeking for Biafra. Igbo’s are yet to reach a consensus on the Biafra issue and as such indiscriminate arrest, murder and torture of innocent people is only causing those standing on the fence to take strand.
Igbo Mandate Congress warns that if these unnecessary onslaught on harmless protesters is not halted, a group deadly as Boko Haram will soon arise to team up with the Niger Delta Avengers in wrecking havoc on the people.
IMC has been in the forefront of bringing a level of consensus between relevant authorities and disappointed Biafran people of the South East. IMC had engaged other groups within Biafra and the ruling APC on ensuring peace and dialogue and also deploying contacts to ensure that Igbos gets fair share of budgetary allocations and appointments, with some levels of successes. IMC will not want this fragile peace in the South East to be destabilized by trigger happy persons.
Therefore, IMC, after thorough investigations, have discovered that there was no use of force whatsoever by the protesting groups and at no time were the armed forces personnel endangered, especially at Onitsha, Nkpor, Enugu and Nsukka events. Igbo Mandate Congress condemns the desecration of sacred places of worship by security forces. Invasion of churches at Nsukka and Nkpor is much uncalled for. IMC asks the military authorities to show temperance and apologize for these unwarranted provocations. IMC condoles with families of the bereaved and asks Federal Government to pay adequate compensation to families of slain and injured.
Igbo Mandate Congress hopes that this indiscreet se of arms against civilians will not occur again.
Rev. Obinna Akukwe
Director General, Igbo Mandate Congress (IMC)
*Photo Caption - Some of the victims
[ Masterweb Reports ] - 100 Nigerians who were selected for the Mandela Washignton Fellowiship, President Obama’s initiative to strengthen Young African Leaders, left Nigeria last week to the different top American universities where they are currently undergoing the Fellowship program. On Saturday, June 25, rumour of the death of one of the students flew around. The gossip was quelled by a letter from the Department of State and made available to Masterweb News Desk which read:
Dear Mandela Washington Fellowship Host University partners,
It is with a very heavy heart that I write to you to let you know that earlier today, a Mandela Washington Fellow, Jean Paul Usman from Nigeria, has passed away after a tragic accident during a hike. Jean Paul was studying civic leadership at Virginia Tech.
Jean Paul was a shining star who will be missed. I know that your fellows will begin to hear the news and we wanted you to have some basic information at hand so that you can assist them to process this. As there are 100 Nigerians in the program, it is very likely that many knew him or were friends with him. For all of us, this is simply horrifying news and we are so very, very sorry.
The U.S. embassy has notified the family. We, at both IREX and ECA, are available to assist you should you have any questions or concerns. I know this is extremely difficult for all of us.
Branch Chief, Mandela Washington Fellowship
Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs
U.S. Department of State
Nkechi Udegboka, a fellow participant from Nigeria in the same program with Jean Paul in an interview with Masterweb said 24-year-old Paul was a vibrant young man. She said the deceased ( John Paul Usman - as she called him in the interview) hailed from Kogi State and was a final year student at University of Ilorin, Kwara State.
According to Udegboka, Usman led many initiatives which included: President of UNESCO Clubs; Coordinator for the Pan African Youth Network on the culture of Peace Nigeria, Ambassador for the Center for Ethics and Self-Value Orientation among others. He was also an award winning creative artist according to her.
In order to honour Usman, the 2016 Mandela Washington Fellows in various American universities have set aside Wednesday, June 29 for memorial service to be held in every institution at 7pm and dress code would be white.
*Photo Caption - Late Jean Paul (John Paul Usman) - Not sure of the discrepancy in name. Inscriptions by fellow program participants.
[ Masterweb Reports: Abdullahi Tasiu Abubakar reports ] - Currently a Romanian school drop-out has more chances of getting a job in the UK than a Nigerian PhD holder. Skilled Nigerians could gain a lot under the proposed system. David Cameron’s fantastically foolish decision to hold a referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union has cost him his job, shaken the opposition Labour Party and sent shockwaves across the world. Nigeria is not immune.
The UK prime minister had wanted to use the referendum to shut up the Eurosceptics within and outside his Conservative Party. Instead he is now likely to hand over the party and the country to them. As one commentator, John Crace, says, “He’d gambled the future of the country for an internal party squabble and he’d lost.”
But while Mr Cameron licks his well-deserved wounds, the world would have to deal with the mess he created. The huge tumbles in global stock markets seen last Friday may be just the beginning. The worst case scenario would be a 2008-like global financial crisis and its subsequent recession. If that happens, Nigeria would be in turmoil because unlike the 2008 crisis, which it withstood because she was awash with petrodollars then, this time around her economy is in a shambles. A further disruption could mean economic collapse, Boko Haram’s resurgence, Niger Delta Avenger’s anarchy and Biafra separatists’ chaos…
But hold your breath, this scenario is actually avoidable. First, Brexit needs not to lead to global economic crisis. Financial institutions are more regulated now, banks more capitalised and the system more equipped to deal with the situation. Second, the hysteria that first greeted the exit vote, with some EU officials asking Britain to quickly go, is now being replaced by more measured reactions. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said nasty divorce would help no one. United States Secretary of State John Kerry is also mediating to avert unnecessary dispute. So it is not all doom and gloom.
In fact, handled cleverly, the UK’s decision to leave EU would be beneficial to many countries, including Nigeria.
First, a Britain that is committed to doing trade with non-EU countries and freed from the restrictive EU trading codes will natural turn to its traditional trading partners, such as Nigeria, for greater business opportunities. This would be mutually beneficial for the two countries.
Secondly, the main weapon Brexit campaigners used to persuade people to vote for exit was the uncontrolled EU migration to Britain. Former London Mayor Boris Johnson and Justice Secretary Michael Gove, who led the campaign, argue persuasively that Britain will benefit more if it adopts an Australian-type points-based non-discriminatory migration system which gives equal opportunities to both EU and non-EU citizens to work in the UK. Under this system, Nigerians, having English as their second language, will have more chances of getting UK work permit visas than say Romanians. Currently a Romanian school drop-out has more chances of getting a job in the UK than a Nigerian PhD holder. Skilled Nigerians could gain a lot under the proposed system. Of course, there is a negative side of this, in the form of possible brain drain against Nigeria. But there would be good remittances from those Nigerians. So what Nigeria may miss in their services at home, it will gain in the hard currency they would be sending home, which is highly needed now.
Thirdly, student visa is another area where Nigerians are bound to gain from Brexit. It is becoming increasingly difficult for prospective Nigerian students to get visa to study in the UK mainly due to British government’s desperation to meet immigration targets in the face of mounting EU migrant figures. Since the UK, under the existing system, cannot control EU migration, David Cameron’s administration decided to put several visa restrictions for non-EU citizens to achieve his pledge of reducing immigration figures to “tens of thousands a year, not hundreds of thousands”. And as he fails to meet the target year after year, his government keeps adding new restrictions and making it more difficult for non-EU students to have opportunities to study in the UK.
Worse still, as part of that restriction scheme, the government abolished a post study visa programme, which grants two-year permit for students to work in Britain after their studies. It was a very effective system which didn’t only help the UK economy to get the services of the skilled manpower, but also enabled the graduates to gain valuable work experience and recoup the money they invested for their study before returning to their countries. The new system being proposed by Brexiteers looks set to restore this programme. Many Nigerians would gain from it. Of course, British universities, too, would earn more money and greater cultural capital from a more liberal student visa system.
Another area of potential benefits for Nigerians is the predicted fall in UK house prices as the result of quitting the EU. If this happens, many Nigerians residing in the UK including students who collect huge money from their parents for rents will get some relief. But, of course, wealthy Nigerians who own mansions in Central London may be among the losers, too. And those who stole Nigerians’ money and stashed it there would equally see the value of their ill-gotten wealth lose its value.
Away from the economy, Brexit could have other consequences on Nigerians, some of them negative. There is fear, for instance, that Brexit campaigns which were partly pursued on highlighting the dangers of immigration would heighten xenophobia and put Nigerians residing in the UK in trouble. While this could be a possibility, it is unlikely to be as serious as being feared. Nigel Farage, the leader of the United Kingdom Independent Party (UKIP) who is accused of promoting anti-migrants narratives, is not going to govern post-Cameron Britain. And his supporters aren’t going to be in charge of the UK streets. He and his supporters did play a role in winning the referendum, but they are marginal in the main structure of British establishment. And frankly, Britain is overwhelmingly a tolerant society; Brexit won’t change this.
But the wind of separatism that seems to blow along with Brexit is also being seen as a potential negative impact on Nigeria. The separatist revival coming from the Scottish nationalists who were angered by the ‘Vote to Leave’ may embolden Nigerian separatists to step up their own campaigns. The Niger Delta Avengers have already capitalised on Brexit to make this point. In a tweet they sent yesterday they asked President Muhammadu Buhari to do “just like what David Cameron of Great Britain did” and allow for a separation referendum in Nigeria. But given that Cameron himself is already regretting his action, no one would want to emulate him.
*Photo Caption - As seen.