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#OurStateOurResponsibility:The Vortex Takes The Lead

Former Singapore minister of state Bernard Chen in his analysis on the function of the media in any society opined that, “the media may not be successful much of the time in telling people what to think, but it is stunningly successful in telling its readers what to think about. It is from this that the society looks different to different people, depending not only on their personal interest, but also on the map that is drawn for them by the writers, editors and publishers of the paper they read”.

Chen’s view clarified that the media through its publications determines public perception on issues in the society and determines how people react to the issues.

Efforts by the Rivers State government to showcasing a positive image of the state was among the issues discussed when the #OurStateOurResponsibility team led by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Information and Communication, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim visited the management and staff of The Vortex Newspaper in Port Harcourt to endorse the campaign for responsible citizenship.

Speaking, Nsirim congratulated the management of The Vortex for maintaining professional competence in its operations at a time newspapering is becoming very challenging in the face of the onslaught by partisan politics and the new media.

Nsirim pointed out that the #OurStateOurResponsibility initiative was a sincere desire to change the false narrative of Rivers state by some section of the media, adding that the media and media practitioners must partner with the state government to protect the collective interest of the state and positively project Rivers State on the National and Global stage.

He said, “There is a calculated attempt to project a negative image of Rivers State in the media and when we join those who perpetrate this, it affects our families and businesses. Our responsibility must be to protect the collective interest of the state”.

The Permanent Secretary charged The Vortex and media professionals to remain objective and ensure that they verify all information before presenting them to the public, adding that, all media programs should be geared towards reflecting public interest and the good of the state.

Nsirim said, “The time has come for the media to lay emphasis on development journalism. In your news, features, editorial and programs, we’ll want to see more emphasis on Our State Our Responsibility campaign. The words, thoughts and actions of our people must reflect the interest of the state”.

He congratulated The Vortex for being the first newspaper to identify with the campaign, and assured of the ministry’s support.

Speaking, publisher of The Vortex Newspaper, Dr. Alpheaus Paul-Worika noted that The Vortex is a patriotic and vibrant newspaper committed to making Rivers State better for all through the reportage of balanced, accurate and unbiased news.

He pointed out that the principle of democracy and civic responsibility enjoy relevance because of a vibrant newspaper culture adding that, The Vortex is determined to raise the bar in newspaper publishing and become the most authoritative newspaper in Rivers State and the South-South.

Paul-Worika said, “We all owe a responsibility to our state to make it better for ourselves and posterity. And as citizens and journalists, it is part of our responsibility to be patriotic. Our mandate in The Vortex is to do things differently in such a way that we stand out as the best newspaper in Rivers state and the South-South”.

He assured of the readiness of The Vortex to partner with the Ministry of Information and Communication it its campaign to protect the interest of Rivers State, and declared; “We are available to support every noble and worthy course. You can count on The Vortex for honesty and brutal frankness. We’ll keep showing we’re responsible in the discharge of our duty without fear or compromise’.

In his remark, Director of Publication, Rivers State Ministry of Information and Communication, Sir. Valentine Ugboma congratulated The Vortex for setting the pace in objective reportage of news and information in Rivers State.

Ugboma described The Vortex as a force to be reckoned with in newspaper publishing in Rivers state, adding that in a short time, The Vortex will be a household name in the state.

He charged the management of The Vortex to remain committed to changing the narrative of Rivers State, assuring of the ministry’s preparedness to partner with the press in ensuring that the collective interest of the state is protected.

The delegation included, Mr. Kenneth Okujagu, Director, ICT. Mr. Fiberesima Oruwari, Director, PRS. Mr. Obu Obele Isaiah, Director of Public Enlightenment and Sir. Valentine Ugboma, Director of Publications.

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NAWOJ: Celebrating, Protecting Women …Against Environmental Pollution

National Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ), in Rivers State were in their elements as they took special stage, combining sensitization on oil pollution in the Niger Delta with relaxation and thanksgiving in the 2019 edition of their annual NAWOJ week

The environmental pollution inherent in the Niger Delta region has remained a cause for concern among stakeholders in the region, and indeed in the entire country. Since the discovery of oil in Oloibiri in 1957 and subsequently in the entire Niger Delta, the level of environmental degradation in the region due to the activities of oil multinationals has inflicted severe damage and disruptions in the lives of the people of the region.

Human and aquatic lives have been affected, leading to untold hardship and hazards in the health and safety of the communities.  

Fallout of the activities of oil drilling, exploration and refining in the region, indicate that women and children suffer more from the pollution in the Niger Delta.

It is on this note that one would appreciate the effort of the Nigerian Women of Journalist (NAWOJ), Rivers Branch which used its 2019 NAWOJ Week to highlight the environmental degradation of the Niger Delta and its impact particularly on women and children.

Chairman of Rivers State branch of NAWOJ, Lilian Okonkwo in her opening remarks at the Ernest Ikoli Press Centre said the organization is the female arm of the Nigeria Union of Journalist (NUJ) established to encourage and build the capacity of women in the journalism profession.

She explained that the 2019 NAWOJ Week titled: Clean the Niger Delta, save our women bordering on the environmental cleanup of the Niger Delta particularly, the ongoing clean up in Ogoni land in a bid to understand the measures initiated to mitigate the impact of the pollution on the women and the children in these areas.

Explaining that women farm and fish more in the devastated and polluted land and water, the chairman sued for concerted efforts towards for the thorough cleanup of the Ogoni areas. She stressed that so much has been said about the project but that not much has been achieved in the implementation process.

Okonkwo called on the Hydrocarbon Protection and Remediation Project (HYPREP) to ensure that it adheres to the project specifications in accordance with the United Nations Environmental Programme report (UNEP) on the cleanup.

Former Commissioner for Environment in the State, Professor Roseline Konya, who delivered the key note lecture at the NAWOJ week was more frontal in observing that the environmental degradation of the region has inflicted on the people both psychological and individual health challenges emphasizing that over the years, oil multinationals had paid little or no considerable attention to mitigating the socio-economic impacts of its activities on the people who own the resources.

The former Commissioner who was represented at the event by Dr. Steve Yenewa described the cleanup programme in Ogoni land as a probable political gimmick, stating that in the last six years of its implementation not much has been achieved.

Prof. Konya while calling for review of legal frameworks for the operation in the oil industry regretted that compensations for polluted environments for host communities have remained insignificant. She also lamented the neglect of women in the scheme of things, as according to her, most communities in the region lack the basic necessities of living including health and drinkable water.

The event also featured the presentation of awards to some organizations that have impacted on the development of women and provided service for public good.

The pet project of Her Excellency, Justice Suzzette Nyesom Wike, the Rivethics, FIDA, CISLAC, and Medical Women Association of Nigeria received recognition for their laudable support of women initiatives.

The success of the NAWOJ Week could be seen in the array of guests and members of the body at the event. One of the important guests in this year’s event was the wife of the Governor of the State, Justice Suzzette Wike who was represented at the event by Mrs Adata Kio-Briggs.

The Governor’s wife described NAWOJ as a shining example of vibrant women professionals who have used their positions to champion the course of the plights of women in the society.

She added that the consequences of the polluted environments in the Niger Delta region have been the various health challenges that have been the lot of the people of the region. 

Justice Wike commended the organization for its interest in the cleanup of the Niger Delta and advocated for concerted efforts towards enhancing the welfare of the women and youths in polluted communities.

In line with the theme of the week, which is to promote the health and wellbeing of the womenfolk, members of NAWOJ devoted the third day of the event for  physical body fitness exercises held at the State NUJ Press Centre and also undertook a visit to the Lavinder Eye Specialist Hospital and Laser Centre along Odili road, in Port Harcourt where Dr Alexzander Pepple and his team conducted eye checks on members of the organization.

Speaking at the aerobics session, the General Manager of Rivers State Television, Pastor Dafini Gogo-Abbey stated the importance of exercise in the healthy living, noting that regular exercise was an antidote to many diseases.

The week ended with a thanksgiving service held at the Gateway International Church in Port Harcourt.

The General Overseer of the church, Rev George Izunwa in his sermon charged NAWOJ to remain undaunted in its efforts of encouraging and promoting the capacity of the women in the Journalism profession.

This year’s NAWOJ Week will remain highly rewarding especially as the event was used to confer awards to deserving individuals and groups. It is also epochal as the forum provided opportunities for the women in the pen profession to interact and jointly voice out their convictions against issues of environmental degradation and the plights of the womenfolk in the Niger Delta.

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As IIJ Strives To Get Autonomy… Manasseh F. Paul-Worika

It was an evening of pomp and glamour as students, management and staff of the International Institute of Journalism (IIJ), Port Harcourt study centre gathered for the 12th annual dinner and award night ceremony of the institute held at the Auto-graph event centre, Sani Abacha Road, Port Harcourt recently.

The occasion which also featured a paper presentation on; “The Media and Nigerian Democratic Experience: A review of the2019 General Elections, Issues and Perspectives, by Dr. Ita Ekanem a former Head Of Department of Communication Arts, University of Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, offered students, alumnus and lecturers of the institute an opportunity to interact and exchange ideas with regards the practice of the journalism profession.

In his welcome address, Dean of student Affairs of the Institute, Mr. Tamunobelema Ezekiel expressed delight at the institute’s resolve of organizing the annual dinner and award ceremony despite the harsh economic climate, stating that the occasion is peculiar to the Port Harcourt centre of the institute as it is the only centre consistent with organizing the annual event.

Ezekiel noted that, the event is pivotal as it offers students of the institute an opportunity to interact with resources persons and those who have excelled n the media industry. Adding that, the question of “Am I in the right place?” asked by students when admitted to the institute would be addressed when they interact with seasoned professionals who have gone through the institute.

He said, “We have brought in resource persons for the students to see. Also all those who are seasoned professionals in the mass communication field and have gone through this institute have been brought closer for the students to see, and the question of “am I in the right place” frequently asked by new students can be addressed.

Ezekiel also noted that the event is organized to present awards to alumnus of the institute who are excelling in their various spheres of influence and lectures who are dedicated and committed to their duties.

He said, “There’s a reason to celebrate graduates of this institute who are representing the institute excellently at various levels and that’s why we are here also. And then to lecturers who have dedicated their time to the moulding of students of the institute, we have to celebrate them”.

Presenting a paper on; “The Media and Nigeria Democratic Experiences: a Review of the 2019 general Elections, Issues and Perspectives. Dr. Ita Ekanem, a former Head of Department of Communication Arts, University of Uyo, Akwa Ibom noted that the irregularities and issues recorded in the 2019 General elections is a clear indication that democracy in Nigeria is on transition. Adding that, there was a clear disregard for the rules of the game by all parties involved.

He said, “Part of the reason for the interest on the 2019 election was the general disregard for the rules of the game by all parties especially the introduction of the military as a partisan and interested party. For example, how can one explain the alleged involvement of the military in stopping collation and declarations of results in Rivers state as well as the killings of Nigerians who put their lives in danger to ensure that the will of the people as expressed in the ballot count. This is why many commentators conclude that we are not yet a functional democracy but one that is transiting”.

Ekanem however noted that, until issues of militarisation, “Ghana bag” money politics, godfatherism, selection of candidates by godfathers, impunity and “winners chop” all mentality is addressed, it is uncertain how democratic tenets can be upheld in Nigeria.

He said “Our recent elections tend to indicate widespread apathy and non-involvement by Nigerians even though the quoted voting figures tend to suggest the involvement of more Nigerians in the election process. The non-involvement by Nigerians owes a lot to severe lack of confidence, intimidation, militarization, godfatherrism, violence and intimidation by politicians. And if necessary steps are not taken to address these issues, it is uncertain how cherished democratic tenets and institutions can exist”.

Ekanem noted that the Nigerian democratic experience requires more education and involvement. Adding that with more participation and involvement, a deeper understanding of issues will begin to emerge giving less energy to arbitrariness and corruption during elections.

“We need to vigorously pursue the good tenets of our democracy and do away with impurity and money politics hallmarks which tend to promote corruption and violence. Also, we need our political office seekers to learn about how politics and organization of elections are done in other climes and discourage such negativities as vote buying, ballot box snatching and electoral violence”.

In his speech, Director of the institute, Dr. Ibituru Pepplle stated that plans are on to make the institute an independent degree awarding institute and no longer affiliated to another university.

He said, “There is an ongoing transformation in Abuja, and in no distant time, this institute will be independent and no longer affiliated to any institution”.

Pepple who lamented the poor state of the institute upon his assumption as coordinator stated that there was so much decay, and all manner of filt in the institute. He accused the leadership of the Nigerian Union of Journalism (NUJ), Rivers State for architecting the decay by employment of unqualified lecturers, encouraging attendance by proxy, promoting corrupt practices, issuance of fake registration numbers etc.

He said, “I met so much decay, rot, and all manner of filt as the union, that is, the NUJ in the state through its leadership were the architects of the decay. Unqualified lecturers were employed, sorting was the order of the day, etc. It is quite appalling, but the truth is, majority of those who were students before I took over the mantle of leadership may not see their original certificates from the University of Maiduguri except the ones under my supervision from the 2010/2011 academic session upwards”

Pepple noted that inspite of all the challenges encountered, the institute under his watch has witnessed a total transformation as the standard of learning and teaching has improved.

Pepple added that although a formal letter has not been written to the institutes head office in Abuja, the event may mark the end of his tenure as Director of the centre as he is taking a bow out of the service of the International Institute of Journalism, Abuja.

He said, “This speech is more like a valedictory one to me, I may not have the privilege to talk with you again, except occasion permits. I am taking a bow out of the service of the International Institute of Journalism, Abuja, though I have not written a formal letter to management but to break it first to you as individuals. Don’t get it wrong, it is better to step aside when the ovation is loudest, than to receive a cold applause”.

In his goodwill message, Dr. Michael Ukaegbu congratulated the management of the institute for putting up an event that aims at creating an avenue for students, lecturers and alumnus to interest amongst themselves. Adding that, it will be beneficial to all parties as critical issues that borders on the right practice of the journalism profession will be discussed.

He called on students to remain focused and committed to their studies to avoid poor grades.

In her goodwill message, miss. Ijeoma Acholonu congratulated the institute for the feats attained in moulding journalists who not only represent the institute in their spheres of influence but also serve as role models to the students.

Calling on the management of the institute to maintain it’s insistence on hardwork, discipline, professionalism and dedication, Acholonu urged students of institute to imbibe traits that will distinguish them whenever they find themselves.

Receiving his award as a distinguished alumni of the institute, Executive chairman of Obio/Akpor local government area, Hon. Prince Solomon Abel Eke expressed delight at the developmental strides witnessed in the institute. He appreciated the management of the institute for deeming him fit as a recipient of the coveted award, stating that he remains a proud ambassador of the institute.

Other awardees were; Mrs. Ilanye Jumbo, Miss Dumotein Oriye, Mr. Otaria Beregha-Apoko, Eze (Amb) Alex Ovunda. Nwokamma (Eze Owhnuritananya I of Mgbuhie rumuekpe), and Dr. Ibituru Iwowari Pepple.

In his closing remark, Dr. Michael Ukaegbu appreciated all those who honoured the event despite the challenging demand of time, and prayed God bless them all.

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Parliamentary Democracy, The Change We Really Need. Manasseh F. Paul-Worika

In the wake of 2019 General elections, some members of the 8th national assembly had initiated a discourse on the relevance of the parliamentary system of government to the Nigerian polity. As it were, the intense pre-election anxieties of the time precluded a thoughtful examination of that proposal. But now that the elections have virtually come and gone, and we have a new dispensation, it is necessary to reopen the conversation on that noble idea.

I wouldn’t know the number of people who really took time to reflect on the preparations, campaigns and tours of the presidential candidates of the major political parties in the 2019 elections. But I can tell that I was almost brought to tears as I watched great Nigerians straining themselves, moving from Sokoto to Calabar, Kano to Lagos, just to secure votes for their parties. Incidentally, from practical observation, it is obvious that the Nigerian masses are not really enthusiastic about a presidential candidate they may never come across in flesh all their lives.

The interest of the electorate, in most cases, is the extent to which the presidential candidate of a political party is impressed upon them by the local political elites. The masses are more interested in the candidates in their immediate environment whom they can assess with greater scrutiny; representatives they can physically behold, if not always, at least once in a while.

So, just for a moment imagine that we were running a parliamentary system of government. All the expenses and labour committed to such criss-crossing of the country by the various presidential candidates would have been saved for some other ventures. What Buhari, Atiku, Moghalu, Sowore, Durutoye etc needed to do was to simply campaign within their federal constituency or Senatorial zone, as the case may be, where they have direct relationship with the people.

Off they go to Abuja as members of the National Assembly, where any one of them could be chosen by their fellow parliamentarians as the Prime minister of the country. This does not only save the cost of that expensive countrywide campaign, but more important, the nation is availed the services of these great Nigerians.

Think of the quality of ministers that would come from such assembly. Imagine we had in our parliament the likes of Buhari, Atiku, Moghalu, Sowore, Charles Soludo, Donald Duke, Pat Utomi, Raji Fashola, Oby Ezekwesili, etc. Even if the best among them do not emerge as ministers, one can be sure that such calibre of men and women will not sit idly by and watch incompetent persons occupy the driving seats of a parliament in which they belong.

When we put this in perspective, it stands to reason that, in a parliamentary system, every constituency would wish to send their best materials to the parliament. Even the most formidable godfathers would vie for a seat in the assembly, instead of populating such positions with their cronies. That is to say, only the best from each zone would come to compete in our assemblies.

Indeed, if you do a critical appraisal of Nigeria’s political history, you would realize that our best politicians, some of whom we still adore to this day, blossomed in the parliamentary system of government; NnamdiAzikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo, Ahmadu Bello, Tafawa Balewa, Michael Okpara, Dennis Osadebay etc.

I recently watched a video  clip on the official speeches of Tafawa Balewa, Nigeria’s first and only Prime Minister. Wonderful! Honestly for a while, I thought I was watching an Oxford-trained British Statesman. His thoughts, accent and carriage were impeccable. After seeing a Nigerian leader manifest such brilliance about sixty years ago, I couldn’t help but wonder why we have failed to build upon the outstanding performances of our founding fathers. Then I remembered our ill advised recourse to a bogus presidential system of government, operating with a unique Parliament, with all its costs and duplication of functions. A presidential system that only concentrates power in one man, thereby engendaring mediocrity and dictatorial proclivity.

Even in appointment of ministers, an elected office holder would always have a greater sense of responsibility to the electorate than a political appointee whose loyalty is first to his boss, the authority to whom he owes his appointment. As it were, in a Parliament system, all the ministers will come from the elected members of the Parliament. None of them will be intimidated by the Prime Minister, being that the prime minister is simply first among equals and can easily be replaced by his colleagues.

 Indeed, parliamentary government fosters a spirit of give and take. Not the current “Winner takes all”attitude that breeds a culture of desperation and fight to finish. On some occasions in a parliamentary system, no one party may be able to secure sufficient majority to form a government. Such situations compel an inevitable resort to compromises and alliances.

The beauty of this arrangement comes in bold relief when you recall that ours is a multi ethnic society where only inter-group understanding and cooperation can guarantee true national development.On the contrary, once a president is in power, his opponents can go to hell for all he cares. He simply looks forward to the next cycle of elections or just sits and watches his defeated opponent contend with the vagaries of litigation.

Political opponents are not enemies but brothers and sisters who just have a different vision of governance. Imagine the many members of the opposition parties since the advent of the presidential system in 1979, that government never had the opportunity to tap from their knowledge and passion for service: Aminu Kano, Waziri Ibrahim, Tunji Braithwaite, Olu Falae, Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu etc. Same is applicable at the state level. If we had a parliamentary government when these eminent persons were contesting for Presidency or governorship, they probably would have all ended up in the assembly, contributing their quota to the development of their fatherland.

You can see how the presidential System of government stifles the collective potentials of a people.Permit me to add that the variant of parliamentary government I have in mind should be tailored to our Nigerian reality. There should not be a bicameral legislature that would give room for two unnecessary arms of the parliament. Nigeria does not need such luxury now. One chamber is enough. It could be modelled in line with the Federal constituencies or senatorial zones, or a structure that collapses both Chambers to form just one parliament.

In the same vein, the proposed model should be without a ceremonial president like we had With Dr.Nnamdi Azikiwe in the first Republic of the 1960s. A Prime minister operating without a ceremonial president would save cost and help avoid not just irreconcilable differences between the president and the prime minister, but a situation where executive tendencies will begin to build around the office of the ceremonial president, with creation of subordinate offices, multiple aides and an endless coterie of advisers.

It is reassuring to note that some of the vocal proponents of the parliamentary government in the 8th National Assembly succeeded in their re-election bid. Let’s hope they will, in the 9th assembly, form the vanguard of a Nigerian movement for a comprehensive review of the current constitution. And, by so doing, engrave their names in the chronicle of a rejuvenated Nigerian Nation.

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Requiem To A Parsonage …Victor, Engineer, God’s Steward. Manasseh F. Paul-Worika

Saturday, April 27th 2019 was like no other day and not even this year’s synod meeting of the Niger Delta Diocese and the state-wide sanitation exercise could detract from its significance as people from all walks of life trooped to Bolo Town in Ogu/Bolo Local Government Area of Rivers State to pay their last respect to a real man of peace and steward of God, Engineer Victor Josiah Orisa who had answered the master’s call to return home and was laid to rest amid lamentation and testimonies.

Late Engr. Victor Josiah Orisa, a trained professional engineer was in the building industry for over twenty years and demonstrated proficiency in various departments of the industry, including Project Supervision, Project Management, Human Resource Management and Public Health Engineering. He was a member of Nigeria Society of Engineers, Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN) and Nigerian Institute of Civil Engineering (NICE), Port Harcourt Branch .

Engr. Orisa, loved God and worked with delight in the Lord’s Vineyard, the church.  He was nurtured by his mother who had influenced his enrolment in St. Gabriel’s Anglican Church, Bolo choir at a very tender age where he became the youngest chorister at the time. He was one of the founding members of the Men Christian Association as it was then called in St. John’s Anglican Church, Bishop Johnson Street, Port Harcourt, alongside Late Oyibosia Ediyekio, Sir (Chief) I. N. Ohia, Late Chief J. J, Arugu, HRH F. B. Orukari, just to mention a few.

He held several positions like Auditor, Ex-officio and in 2015, he was elected as Financial Secretary of the Association, a position he held diligently until the association was re-christened as Christian Men Fellowship. Thus, he became the first Financial Secretary under the new name.  Over the years, he was financial adviser to many Father’s Day Planning Committees.

Until his death, he was a very active member of St. John’s Anglican Church, New-layout, Port Harcourt. His contribution to the construction of the new church building and the body of Christ speak volume of his commitment to God’s work. He was a proponent of personal development and believes that the race of perfection cannot be finished.  Nurtured by his mother to love God and serve the Church, his love for God and His work was so strong that it is beyond mere coincidence that he died in the church on Mothering Sunday, 31st March, 2019.

Activities for the burial of the parsonage  began on Wednesday 24th April 2019, with a service of songs held in his honour at St. John’s Anglican Church, Bishop Johnson Street, Borokiri, Port Harcourt and climaxed on Saturday 27th April 2019 with a day vigil and funeral service at St. Gabriel’s Anglican Church, Bolo.

Giving a testimony of late Engr Victor Orisa’s Christian life, Sir. Engr. Nathaniel Iboroma noted that the deceased was committed and faithful in the service of God and was also a founding member of the Men’s Christian Association (MCA), now known as Christian Men’s Fellowship (CMF).

He said, “The CMF and indeed the church has lost a hero. He was not just a founding member of the fellowship; he was a vibrant and active one. His critical analysis of issues and suggesting solutions is one attribute we will ever remember him for. He invested so much of his time and skills for the growth and sustenance of CMF. But we take solace in the fact that heaven has received him”.

Speaking in behalf of the in-laws, Mr. Joe Ayotamuno described the deceased as a man of peace and honor. He noted that the late Engr. Orisa was a blessing to the family and pointed out that his fatherly counsel will be missed.

He said, “Words cannot describe how heavy our hearts are. Engr. Orisa showed us immense love, gave us counsel, provided exemplary leadership and stood by the family during her trying times. We attest to the fact he was very disciplined, God-fearing and devoted to his creator and surely all he showed us will live on”.

On his part, Mr. Dan Fiberisima Oruwari, speaking for the Oruwari family described the deceased as a man of discipline and courage. He pointed out that late Orisa held dearly the principle of timeliness which distinguished him from others. He added that the deceased made education a priority in the family, taking it upon himself the role of sponsoring those who were willing to get formal education.

Speaking for the children, Engr. Mrs. Emiline Temple described late Orisa as a worthy father who sacrificed all in his pursuit of a better life for his children, adding that, he never looked down on anyone, but provided a level ground for all including his female children to attain excellence.

She said, “He was not just a father in words, but in action. He valued education and ensured he sacrificed everything to ensure me and my siblings got the best of education and today it is paying off. He was a great man, a father anyone would pray to have and it is our confidence that the seeds he has sown will continue to grow and produce great fruits”.

Reverend Friday Ogbonna, in a message titled, “What will people say on your last day” admonished Christian faithfuls to live a life worthy of emulation as they go about their business on earth.

Taking his reading from Acts 9:37, Ogbonma urged Christians to emulate the life of Dorcas in the bible who dedicated her life to the service of God and humanity and by so doing, made a good name for herself.

He further urged Christians to remain committed to the things of God and shun sin at all times as that alone guarantees a place in God’s kingdom and prayed for the bereaved family, asking God to comfort them and fill the vacuum created.

In his closing remark, Elder Pius Oruwari appreciated those who have stood by the family in their times and also honored the ceremony irrespective of the challenging demands of the time and prayed God to reward them all.

Late Orisa was laid to rest in his country home with family, friends and associates all bidding farewell.    

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Press Freedom Day: Beyond Defending Media Practitioners. Manasseh F. Paul-Worika

World Press Freedom Day is celebrated on May 3rdeach year. The day was proclaimed as such by the UN General Assembly in 1993 acting on the recommendation of UNESCO, is to “celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom; assess the state of press freedom throughout the world; defend the media from attacks on their independence, and pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the line of duty.”

Importantly, World Press Freedom Day is a day of support for media which are targets for the restraints, or abolition, of press freedom. Stressing the importance of Press Freedom Day, Director-General of UNESCO, Auderey Azoulay said, “Press Freedom is the cornerstone of democratic societies. All states, all nations, are strengthened by information, debate and exchange of opinions. At a time of growing discourse of mistrust and delegitimization of the press and journalism, it is essential that we guarantee freedom of opinion through the free exchange of ideas and information based on factual truth.”

The theme for this year’s World Press Freedom Day is “Media for Democracy: Journalism and Elections in Times of Disinformation.”

Ensuring the safety of journalists is the primary way by which we can foster the independence and freedom of the press, as crucial for democracy. Such a goal is also vital to ensure public access to information.

According to the International Federation of Journalists, in 2018, at least 94 journalists were killed. The 2018 data indicates an increase from the previous year which had 82 fatalities. The most dangerous countries for journalists in 2018 were Afghanistan with 16 fatalities and Mexico with 11, followed by Yemen with 9, Syria with 8 and India with 7.

The data, presented by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), identifies slightly lower number of fatalities at 80 (with 49 deliberately killed and 31 killed while reporting).

The RSF report further confirms that three journalists were reported missing, 60 held hostage and 348 detained. RSF names Afghanistan as the most dangerous place for journalists with 15 fatalities, followed by Syria with 11, Mexico with 9, Yemen with 8 and US and India with 6 each.

Despite the difference in figures, both agree that 2018 witnessed an increase in such fatalities and the level of threat to journalists.

The serious threat to journalists’ safety is characteristic of conflict areas. However, the mentioned reports feature many countries without reputations for active armed conflicts. Places like Mexico, US or India. In the US for example, four journalists employed by the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland were killed on June 28, 2018, when a man walked in and opened fire.

Recent years have shown that even strong and stable European countries do not escape violence against journalists. For example, in October 2017, Daphne CaruanaGalizia, a Maltese journalist exposing government corruption and misconduct by Maltese politicians and Panama Papers, was murdered in a car bomb attack in Malta, a place considered to be peaceful and safe. 19 months later, Maltese investigators are still not close to expose those responsible for the act.

Aside from fatality rates, it is crucial to emphasize the high numbers of journalists being detained because of their investigative work. According to RSF, in 2017, more than half of the world’s imprisoned journalists are being held in just five countries: China (with 60 imprisoned), Egypt with 38, Turkey with 33, Saudi Arabia with 28 and Iran with 28.

In performing its many functions in a democratic society, the press derives its general power and support from Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which unequivocally guarantees the right to freedom of expression to all human beings: that,

“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold without interference and to seek, receive and Impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

Although freedom of expression is a universal right, it is a special collective right for the journalist. In a democracy, for instance, if the journalist is denied this right, which is exercised through freedom of the press, the entire electorate is denied their right to information on the goings-on in their constituencies. Consequently, democracy can neither grow nor be consolidated.

The press is an indispensable part of any liberal society or democracy. It can, in fact, be described as the ‘oxygen of democracy’. In addition to its numerous other functions, the press is the principal tool for the dissemination of information on politics in this Information Age, ensuring that society is adequately informed to enable the people understand political issues and effectively participate in politics and the democratic process.

The press is also expected to be the watchdog of the society, keeping an eye on political leaders who are governing with the mandate of the people. In this regard, it serves as the mechanism for ‘watching’ political office holders, with the aim of encouraging them to pursue the fundamental objectives of the state. In addition, the press does not only set the political agenda, it also purveys and moulds public opinion by providing the platform for the expression of opinions that could enhance participation in the public sphere and enhance democratic principles.

The Nigerian Constitution has always obligated the press to perform the statutory roles of upholding the fundamental objectives of the state as well as upholding the responsibility and accountability of the government to the people. Sections 21 and 36 of the 1979 Constitution and 22 and 38 of the 1989 Constitution guaranteed freedom of expression and statutory roles for the press, while such guarantees are enshrined in Sections 22 and 39 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).

Specifically, Section 22 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) guarantees freedom of expression by giving everybody the right to own any medium of communication, while Section 39 states the statutory roles of the press in upholding the accountability and responsibility of the government to the people.

In spite of these constitutional provisions, there is no clear indication of strong and special forms of protection for the press to carry out its constitutional obligations without interference, threats to life, or extra-judicial repercussions.

In fact, in Nigeria, Section 39 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), which gives the press the statutory role of watchdog, is curtailed by Section 45 of the Constitution that unequivocally states that the role of the Press as provided in Section 22 can be abrogated by any law reasonably justifiable in a democracy.

Nigerian press has faced several challenges since 1960 but no challenge has been more of a problem than the menace of military rule and threats to the freedom of the press and the capacity of the press to fulfil its mission as the voice of the voiceless and defender of the oppressed. So serious is press censorship in Nigeria that between 1903 and 1998, there have been 29 anti-press legislations in the books. No other industry has been confronted with such a degree of official antagonism.

Perhaps, this is why many media professionals believe that there is no absolute freedom for the Nigerian press as there have been many instances of brutalization of journalists and impunity against the press in Nigeria. Even the Freedom of Information Act that supposedly gives the press and individuals the freedom to gather information does not enhance absolute freedom of the press because some sections of the Act indirectly curtail free access to information.

It is incontrovertible that the functions of the Press cannot be performed without the guarantee of the safety of journalists and media workers. Indeed, The safety of journalists is essential to the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, as well as the right to development.

Freedom of the press, in its true sense, protects journalists and other media professionals from all forms of impunity. Thus, a high degree of press freedom is essential for building inclusive-knowledge societies and democracies and for fostering dialogue, peace and good governance Strong freedom of the press is essential to ensure the safety of journalists and to eradicate impunity and violation of human rights. Without freedom of the Press and adequate safety for journalists, it is impossible to have an informed, active and engaged citizenry. In a climate where journalists are safe, citizens find it easier to access quality information. Therefore, the special protection that strong freedom of the press should provide journalists and media workers should be holistic to include preventive, protective and pre-emptive measures.

Sadly, such freedom of the press, and the safety it should guarantee for journalists, is still largely a mirage. Instead, the Controversy on whether or not freedom of the press should be distinct from the general freedom of speech or expression remains unabated. In Nigeria apparently, the paradigm is that press freedom is derived from the freedom of expression, and, therefore, the press does not need any special protection. This position might be the explanation for why the Press continues to operate in dangerous environments. Thus, journalists all over the world, and particularly in developing countries like Nigeria, continue to work under risks of intimidation harassment, violence, arbitrary arrest, kidnapping and even extra-judicial killings.

As Nigerians joined the rest of the world to mark the day with President Muhammadu Buhari felicitating with journalists, there should be greater understanding for the duties and responsibilities of journalists and the need to ensure that press freedom becomes a culture in the interest of the greater good of Nigeria.

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Drug Trafficking: Death As Reward. Blessing Aseminabo

Drug trafficking, an illegal trade involving the cultivation, manufacture, distribution and sale of substances subject to drug prohibition laws, remains a global menace that has eaten deep into the fabric of our society with the old and young being guilty of the crime.

All over the world the trade in hard drugs is a serious felony punishable by law. In Nigeria, under the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency Act of 1989, any  person who without lawful authority exports, transports or otherwise traffics in drugs popularly known as cocaine, LSD, heroine or any similar drugs is liable to life imprisonment. While in countries like Saudi Arabia, china, Thailand, Singapore, Philippines, capital punishment (death Sentence) is the reward for drug trafficking offences.

Despite various harsh drug laws around the world, Methamphetamine, Amphetamine, Cannabis, Heroin, Opium, Cocaine, Ecstasy and Hallucinogens (which are all hard drugs) continues to be smuggled and supplied on a daily basis by unscrupulous individuals through various channels including airplanes, ships, animals, tunnels, sandbag bridges and human beings without fear of the consequences involved.

Sadly, Africa particularly Nigeria occupy an ignoble position in the malady.

In 2007, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) produced a special report on cocaine trafficking in West Africa, which began with the sentence “West Africa is under attack”, noted that “drug money is perverting fragile economies and rotting societies”, and concluded that several states in the region were at risk of being captured by foreign or local criminal networks.

No doubt the aforementioned is the case of Nigeria where the emergence of drug cartels and couriers have attracted a great attention of global authorities.

In 2018 alone, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) recorded a total of 5,377.125 kilograms of drugs impounded at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport (MMIA), in Lagos, compared to 1,266.40 kilograms seized in 2017.

A Nigerian woman, Kudirat Adesola Afolabi, was executed by the Saudi Arabian government early this month for drug peddling in the country. But a more disheartening report was that of Wahid Somade, who was also arrested in Jeddah airport, Saudi Arabia, shortly after Kudirat was executed, for smuggling about 1,138g of cocaine, which is an obvious sign that such a person as in the case of most traffickers place lust for easy money above value for life.

Besides, the question of how these smugglers were able to beat Nigerian securities to get to Saudi Arabia without detection needs be answered.

It could be recalled that in September, 2016, three Nigerian Hajj pilgrims were arrested in Medinah, Saudi Arabia for being in possession of cocaine, which provoked suspicion and resulted in the ban of lifting of intended pilgrims from the Ilorin International Airport in 2017, which according to investigation was identified as the major staging point of drug trafficking from Nigeria to Saudi Arabia.

Reports indicate that more than 20 Nigerians are still on death row in Saudi Arabia, even as eight had been executed.

No doubt greed and lust for quick money has turned desperate individuals into drug peddlers and tarnishing Nigeria’s image in the global village especially with the fragility of our economy.

However, it is imperative to note that poor security checks and airlines/ground handling firms at our international airports also contribute to the  menace.

Although scanners exist at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja; Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos; and Mallam Aminu Kano International airport, Kano, investigation reveals that other airports lack such screening facility. In most cases, checks on passengers and luggage are carried out manually. Besides, most of the scanners employed to check drug trafficking have become obsolete, thus, traffickers device various means to take advantage of such weakness.

It is also necessary to state that traffickers do not work in isolation as they find allies in some airports and ground handling firms Staff to push through and compromise security checks.

A recent preliminary investigation has revealed that some airline staff collude with baggage handlers to tag names of innocent travelers on bags containing illicit drugs on out-bound flights, leading to the arrest of innocent passengers by security agencies on arrival at their destinations.

According to Brig-Gen. Buba Marwa (retired), chairman, Presidential Advisory committee on Elimination of Drug Abuse (PASEDA) during a stakeholders meeting at the Murtala Muhammed International airport, Lagos, on Thursday, 11th April, regarding a recent incident at the Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport (MAKIA), where a passenger who was arrested in Saudi Arabia denied ownership of a bag.

“There exists a criminal syndicate collaborating with greedy officials of some airlines at MAKIA, notably Ethiopian and Egyptian Airlines, who connive to check in drug-laden bags, using passenger’s particulars without their consent or knowledge”, he said.

Thankfully, through the closed circuit television camera at the Kano airport, the National Drugs Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) officials were able to discover the said criminal practice with proofs that the victim who was already detained in  Saudi Arabia was innocent.

It is therefore necessary for more stringent measures to be employed to sort out these bad eggs and for justice to take its cause. There is also need for airport security facilities to be fitted with high technology scanners capable of detecting hard drugs, which will help reduce interface between passengers and officials of agencies at airports in order to curb corrupt practices while also improving service delivery.

Aggressive advocacy on the implication of drug trafficking should be launched. Nothing should be left out in the fight against drug trafficking in order to save Nigerians, rewrite Nigeria’s sad narrative on illicit drug peddling.

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Autism: Bridging The Gap With Assistive Technologies

People all over the world celebrate Autism Awareness Day, on April 2nd, every year, to raise awareness for those with autism.

Autism is a disability that affects how people perceive the world and interact with others. That is how they see, hear and feel the world around them.

Autism is a spectrum condition; as it affects individuals in different ways such as learning disabilities, mental health issues and other conditions.

Approximately one in six children have autism and more than 6 million people in the world live with an autism spectrum disorder.

Much progress has been made to support autistic people. However, there is still discrimination of autistic people in the society. The majority of autistic people continue to be victims of marginalizations, and abuse that lead to low self-esteem, inferiority complex and timidity.

There have been several efforts by both individuals and corporate organizations to tackle the issue of autism. Prominent of which is “Autism speaks”; an American non-governmental organization dedicated to promoting solutions, across the spectrum and throughout the life span for the needs of individuals with autism and their families through advocacy and support; increasing understanding and acceptance of people with autism spectrum disorder, and advancing research into causes and better interventions for autism spectrum disorder and related conditions.

In Nigeria, a lady, Miss. Omotoke Olowu has taken the challenge to establish “The Autism Awareness Place” to create more awareness about the autism spectrum and advocate for an all-inclusive society where autistic individuals would participate in all societal activities without any form of discrimination and marginalization.

Speaking with The Vortex, Olowu explained that it remains the job of everyone in the society to create awareness about the autism spectrum to support autistic individuals and also assist in ensuring inclusiveness.

She said, “We have a lot to do to create awareness on autism. Autistic individuals find it difficult seeing the world from our perspective and that hinders their relationship with the rest of us. We cannot fold our hands and watch the discrimination these individuals face in our society and we have to stand up to the fight against all forms discrimination against autistic individuals”.

“Everyone needs to join the campaign as we create more awareness about the autism spectrum; it’s not a business for one person alone, but with a collective strength we can help support autistic individuals and help bridge the gap with society”, she added.

Olowu noted that with the help of volunteers, her organization has been able to carryout sensitizations and campaigns, aimed creating awareness about the autism spectrum and also pursue an all-inclusive society for autistic individuals.

She said, “We have more awareness this year than we had last year. People are getting to know more about autism spectrum and are becoming more willing to assist autistic individuals in societal activities. We’ve been able to achieve this through our social media platforms, door-to-door campaigns, road walks, and other channels”.

“As an organization, we have also supported children with autism through our initiative for free screening, art, craft and training. Our primary focus is on how we can integrate these children into school settings, partnering government at various levels; and all of this is in an attempt to end the stigmatization and discrimination of autistic people”, she added.

Autistic persons should be embraced, celebrated and respected. However, discrimination against autistic children and adults is more the rule rather than the exception. In many countries, particularly in Nigeria, autistic persons lack access to services which would support, on an equal basis with others, their right to health, education, employment, and living in the society. When available, services are often far .

Autistic persons are particularly exposed to professional approaches and medical practices which are unacceptable from a human rights point of view. Such practices  justified many times as treatments or protection measures, violate their basic rights, undermine their dignity, and go against scientific evidence.

In an interview with The Vortex, Mrs. Lydia Okocha, a psychologist in Port Harcourt explained that autistic individuals should be handled with utmost respect and not exposed to all forms of unfair treatments in the disguise of medical practices.

She said, “Autistic children and adults face the proliferation of medicalized approaches relying on the over-prescription of psychotropic medications, their placement in psychiatric hospitals and long-term care institutions, the use of physical or chemical restraint, electro-impulsive therapy, etc. This may be particularly harmful and lead to the deterioration of their condition.

“The autism spectrum should be understood from a broader perspective, including research. We call for caution about enthusiastic attempts to find the causes of autism and ways to “Cure” autism through sophisticated but not necessarily ethical research. Autism as a condition is very critical and the practice and science of medicine should not be used to cause the suffering of people”. Mrs. Okocha added.

The situation in Nigeria seems to be the same as in 1943 America when children with autism were thought to be schizophrenic, mentally retarded, and when maternal deprivation and spiritual causation held sway as explanations for etiology. In many parts of the country, particularly in rural areas, persons with autism and disabilities are thought to be possessed and evil.

The level of awareness about autism is pathetically low. There is a little bit of awareness amongst the medical community, but mostly to the extent that they know the symptoms and manifestations of “infantile autism”. Majority do not know that autism spectrum disorders have forms (e.g regressive autism), some don’t believe the condition is treatable and nearly 70% have no clue as to where to refer cases and or what to do even when sure about a diagnosis. We still have medical doctors who say that autism is rare, foreign and “oyibo” wahala (white man’s problem).

Many children in Nigeria with autism are either not diagnosed or misdiagnosed. They either end up being hidden at home or “lucky” to be clubbed with the deaf, dumb or mentally retarded children. In rural area where there are no psychiatric hospitals, majority end up on the streets as insane fellows.

The legal framework necessary to support individuals with autism is another deficit area. The trend in most parts of the world is that “No child should be left behind”, “Every disabled child matters”, “No exclusion”, “free basic education to all”. However, the narrative in Nigeria is such that one may get the impression that society and the government are saying, “Autistic children are hopeless economic liabilities or you must be deaf, blind or physically handicapped to deserve any support”.

There is no recognition of autism as a disability and nothing; absolutely nothing is available to meet the needs of those with the condition.

The worst hit are millions of families in the rural areas where there is hardly any school for typical children talk less of facilities for challenged ones.

Because there is no welfare programme in Nigeria in terms of Government funding for the special educational and professional services needed by these children, the burden is on parents. The few affluent ones prefer to send their children abroad. If they must reside in Nigeria, they prefer to bring in experts from South Africa, USA, UK and so on who would work with their children ALONE! Often times, the cost of bringing in such experts would otherwise be more than sufficient to train 30 local therapists.

The world’s most influential autism associations like Autism society of America couldn’t have succeeded were parents not actively involved. The IDEA (individual with Disabilities Education Act) was a product of intensive parents’ network and campaign. In Nigeria, efforts at forming viable parents group and professional groups are constantly being muffled by greed and class ego.

Nevertheless, Autism Associates and other likeminded groups appear serious about making a difference and we believe that there is hope for the over 190,000 children in the country who are yet to be diagnosed.

But the government can do more in ensuring an all-inclusive society for autistic individuals through establishments of specialized schools for them and provide occupational therapist in public schools, health care coverage for individuals with autism and a change in the educational curriculum to accommodate their peculiar needs.

And in line with the theme for the world Autism awareness day 2019 which says, “Assistive Technologies, Active Participation”, we need to focus on what kind of assistive technology can be produced or provided to improve the participation of children and adults with autism to foster inclusiveness in Nigeria.

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Revisiting The Fundamentals Of Building Collapse

Cases of building failures and collapse in Nigeria has reached an alarming and lamentable stage. It is a disaster comparable to flood disaster, earthquake and aircraft considering the magnitude of lives and property lost. Building failure is mostly observed in big cities where there are multiple numbers of houses, a typical example of which is Port-Harcourt, Lagos and Abuja.

Failure of structure is not a strange thing in the construction industry but it is never designed to happen. Incidents of collapsed buildings, collapsed bridges or other structures of various types are not peculiar to Nigeria alone. But, the continuous report of collapsed buildings in Nigeria needs to be checked urgently.

An informal survey conducted by the Nigeria Institute of Buildings (NIOB) has revealed that more buildings may have collapsed during construction in Lagos state than in the rest of the country put together over the past 45 years. There are similar cases of collapsed buildings across the country.

Buildings are structures that serve as shelters for man, his properties and activities. They must be properly planned, designed and constructed to obtain desired satisfaction from the environment. The factors to be observed in building construction include durability, adequate stability to prevent its failure or discomfort to the users, resistance to weather, fire outbreak and other forms of accidents.

Failure is an unacceptable difference between expected and observed performance. A failure can be considered as occurring in a component when that component can no longer be relied upon to fulfil its principal functions. Limited deflection in a floor that causes a certain amount of crack/distortion in partitions could reasonably be considered as defect but not a failure, whereas excessive deflection resulting in serious damage to partitions, ceilings and floor finishes could be classed as a failure.

Failure in buildings could be of two types, namely: cosmetic failure that occurs when something has been added to or subtracted from the building, thus affecting the structure’s outlook. On the other hand, structural failure affects both the outlook and structural stability of the building.

Major structural failures of buildings are currently well known in Nigeria because many are described in the print media. These failures become known to the public, because someone is killed or seriously hurt, not just to discredit the structural engineer, the builder and the other professionals involved in the case of the collapsed buildings.

The collapse of a seven-storey building in GRA, Port Harcourt on November 23 last year killing scores of persons remains one of the tragic experiences that characterizes the dangers of building collapse. The building crumbled, taking innocent lives, leaving many homeless, devastated and traumatised with so many still in shock of the incident.
Months after, precisely 14thth March 2019, a three-storey building in the Itafaji area of Lagos Island collapsed, killing school pupils and leaving so many injured. This was another tragic event as many where put into mourning and devastation.

Days after the tragic event in the Itafaji area, another building at Oko Arin, Lagos Island collapsed, although it was one of the buildings marked for demolition by the Lagos state government.

These incidences within the last six months reveals that emphasis should be placed in addressing the issue of building collapse before it causes more havoc in our society.

According to a Structural Engineer, Chinenye Douglas, causes of building failures in Nigeria are attributed as follows; 50 per cent of the causes owing to design faults, 40 per cent to fault on construction site and 10 per cent to product failure. Building failures could be as a result of defects under any or all of the stages in design approval of drawings and the supervision/construction stage. Almost all the tragic incidents recorded in Nigeria have been blamed on either the developers for failure to comply with building regulations, or professional builders, architects and engineers, as well as government agencies whose duty is to ensure compliance.

Douglas suggested that the overturning of structures owing to heavy wind loads, sliding of structures due to lateral loads are major types of failures of buildings. In addition, he categorised the following as the major causes of structural failures: environmental changes, natural and man-made hazards, improper presentation and interpretation in the design.

A building accessories dealer at the popular building materials section of the mile 3 market, Mr. Sunny Oboko lamented the use of fake/substantial products by builders as the cause of the rising cases of building collapse in Nigeria. To him, site engineers and contractors must ensure that materials used for construction purposes meet the requirements set internationally and locally.

He said, “the major cause of the building collapse lately is the use of fake materials for building. People for their selfish benefits divert resources given to them to get quality buildings materials, purchase inferior materials and then the result is what we see now. If contractors can do the right things, I believe we’re half way to solving the issue at hand.”

Those who are usually first accused of professional negligence are the architect, structural engineer, the contractor and planning authority officials. The inability of the architects and especially the structural engineer to properly carry out his own part of the work to see to the fact that the right number and sizes of reinforcements are used often times lead to collapse of buildings.

The inability of Town Planning Authorities to ensure that architectural and structural designs (and structural calculations) conform to design principles before approvals are given can also be attributed to structural failures. From past occurrences, the town planning authority that ought to enforce its development control regulations can hardly be seen to be firm in enforcing its regulations, so that the incidences of collapsed buildings are prevented or abated. Some officials of the planning authorities sometimes compromise their position and allow developers/landlords to recklessly contravene development control regulations.

Added to this dimension is the very slow pace at which the planning authorities enforce the law. During construction, the consultants and the contractors must have competent persons on site to monitor work as it progresses, failure to do so could lead to bad or poor workmanship and therefore results in structural failure. Often, developers and landlords of collapsed building try to cut corners in the use of materials for construction. They deliberately deviate from what was approved for them and begin to contravene in the process of construction.

In addressing the issue of building collapse, remedial actions need to be put in place which could be used as preventive measures. Preventive actions are those that are taken when design and construction standards are appropriately stated, adhered to and tailored by the professionals and the planning authority officials.

In order to reduce the problems of collapsed buildings to a manageable proportion, the following preventive measures are proposed:
i) Stringent penalties should be applied for those responsible for collapse of buildings, particularly when loss of lives is involved.
ii) Town Planning Authorities should be adequately staffed and equipped with professionals in the construction industry. For effective monitoring of projects during and after construction.
iii) Continuing professional development should be emphasised by both the professional bodies and the government on modern trends in the building industry. To keep members of the building industry abreast with new trends in construction.
iv) Government should provide an enabling law for the training, and effective control of artisans and craftsmen in the building industry.
v) Government should screen those getting involved in housing projects. For any structure more than a bungalow, a structural engineer must be involved.
vi) Construction work should only be carried out by registered contractors and supervised by registered architects, engineers and builders rather than engaging unskilled contractors.
vii) Clients should obtain approvals before they begin construction. At the same time, they should work with the approved drawings and specifications. Any alterations should be approved before their implementations.
viii) To promote the safety of buildings therefore, a holistic approach is required whereby all relevant outfits and organisations must be involved apart from the recognised professional bodies.
ix) A regular audit of defective structures must be carried out and such structures marked for demolition should be demolished before it causes havoc on lives and properties.
x) Government at all levels should intensify public enlightenment, placing emphasis on how building disasters could be prevented rather than managing situations which might be costlier.

The various professional bodies in the building industry have a duty to constantly educate and remind their members of the ethics of the profession. The enactment and implementation of the National Building code has no substitute, with this, construction of buildings will be effectively regulated. If the recommended preventive measures are taken seriously, then the issue of collapsed buildings in our society will be ameliorated or completely eradicated, as is the case in the developed nations.

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Renewing War Against Racism, Supremacist Ideologies. Blessing Aseminaso

A war over our racism was averted a couple of days in Lagos as news spread that a Chinese restaurant that outlived Blacks from eating or entering was operating in Nigeria. Although the management of the restaurant denied the claim and the Lagos State Government also debunked the insinuation. The possibility of such racial discrimination in Nigeria had already provoked concern.

 Racism, xenophobia, and intolerance are problems prevalent in all societies and have hindered progress for millions of people around the world. Racial ideologies which are mainly judgments about “who is worthy, who is decent, who belongs, and who doesn’t”, has been practiced for centuries in various forms.

In recent years these have dominated the news with reports of struggles for civil rights, demands for equality, police brutality, etc.

In South Africa, a recent picture showing black and white kids sitting at separate tables, with the blacks seated at the back of the classroom in an elementary school has not only outraged parents, but have reminded many of the days of apartheid a system that promoted racial segregation and oppression in the country.

In Tanzania, there’s been a high rate of Albino killings associated with witchcrafts and racism. Albinos are treated as subhumans because of the colour of their skin.

In the same vein, refugees as well as migrants in Libya are on a daily basis trafficked, used as slaves and in some cases murdered to retrieve vital organs.

No doubt the increasing outcry of such cases, calls for a global concrete effort to curb the menace; which is why the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination  serves as an opportunity for men and women and the whole United Nation System to renew their commitment to building a world of justice, equality and dignity, where racism has no place.

The 2019 theme; “Mitigating and Countering Rising Populism and Extreme Supremacist ideologies” seeks to address stimulators of hate crime and violence.

Scholars are recognizing that nationalist populism is now a prominent fixture in the new politics of the 21st century that cuts across a variety of ideological, geographical and historical contexts.

It is argued that populism is the expression of politics as the general will of the people above all else, but the truth is that populism does not always reflect the core beliefs of political actors.

Late Kofi Annan former secretary-general of the United Nations described populists as “charismatic individuals or fake prophets, promising simplistic solutions to people’s grievances through radical policies that dismiss institutions and laws as either irrelevant or inconvenient”.

Populism is a position adopted by politicians whose objective is to be elected and eventually re-elected in office. It is a political strategy to mobilize support by making promises to launch program that are appealing to voters, if elected. It can be described as anti-establishment sentiments that are driven by unemployment, corruption, and income inequality, leading to social divisions that are being exploited by populist actors to galvanize the working class.

Nationalism and populism offer no real solutions to the complex challenges societies face, but instead sow seeds of resentment and anger in those who feel powerless and unrecognized, which in turn harvests hatred and violence.

Many Nigerians who felt tired about the “so called corruption” under Goodluck Jonathan’s regime, embraced with open arms the anti-corruption and change agenda campaign by president Muhammadu Buhari during the 2015 election, which also included securing lives and properties of citizens, restructuring the economy and creating employment for the youths.

Although the president’s administration has kept its promises of fighting corruption and continued in the fight against the Boko Haram militants, it has however not met the economic needs of the country that can positively impact the living conditions of citizens especially the poor.

Besides, available statistics show unemployment has worsened over the last four years, alongside the horrors of violence by Fulani herdsmen across the country, which is one of the reasons citizens must be cautious of populist appeal not just in Nigeria but globally.

On the other hand, lack of respect and dehumanization of others are hallmark of extreme supremacist thought and behavior. Extremism takes in different social and political contexts. It can be used as a tool by those in power in authoritarian regimes to suppress unpopular, opinions or groups, and can as well stem from the society as a whole on the promotion of common values of pluralism and a desire to combat ideologies that would threaten those values.

A typical illustration is the exportation of extremist religious ideologies to historically pluralistic Muslim societies such as the northern regions of Nigeria, which constitutes a component of extremism evident in the Boko Haram killings of Christians. Quite ironic is the fact that perpetrators of such genocide have a strong ideological justification for their actions.

The murderous christianophobic terrorist attacks on churches and communities in the region is a terrible reminder that racism kills. An example is that of Leah Sharibu, a Nigerian Christian teenager who was abducted in February 2018 alongside 109 students at Government Girls Science and Technical College Dapchi, by the Boko Haram militant group.

According to reports, the 109 girls were freed by the terrorists following negotiations with the Nigerian government in March 2018, but without Leah who is still held hostage till date because of her refusal to deny her faith.

This hostility is not limited to Christians as Muslims in some parts of the world suffer same treatment. A recent incident is that of the terrorist attack on two mosques that occurred on Friday, the 15th of March 2019, which claimed the lives of about fifty-nine persons in New Zealand.

No doubt ideas of racial superiority and supremacy have caused wars, oppression, exploitation, and horrific suffering. Perhaps the reason Iriana Bokova posits that “it is a poison that diminishes individuals and societies, perpetuates inequality and feeds anger, bitterness, and violence”.

The celebration today, thus aims to remind us all of racial discrimination and its negative consequences, as well as help people to remember their obligation and encourage determination to combat such actions for the benefit of the nation and the world at large.

It is imperative to state that tribalism also constitutes racism. In Nigeria today, where tribalism has been elevated to dominate national discourse, control how people think, talk and determine what they oppose or support, most conflicts have been motivated by ethnic competition promoted by political elites, embraced by youths and the elderly, and even passed from one generation to another. This has resulted to a number of issues such as cultural and value deviance, fragile political structure, poor leadership and frequent ethno-religious crisis that has  birthed groups like the Ijaw Youth Congress(IYC), the Movement for Actualizatin of Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), Arewa Forum, Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND), etc.

The constant reference to tribal differences has not only affected the youth’s ideology, but has also created a legacy of hate and intolerance, exposing the nation to conflict experiences with loss of lives and properties.

As we celebrate the World’s day against racism, it is necessary that we understand and preach the spirit of oneness and equity in our nation; be it Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa or Ijaw. We must recall that “humanity is a single family brought together by shared aspirations and a common destiny”, with potential gains in sustainable development. Using the late Nelson Mandela’s determination to bridge divides despite all challenges; we can as well play roles to help ensure that people from diverse cultures and backgrounds have the same opportunities to participate in all spheres of life.

Antonio Guttere, Secretary-General of United Nations said “the concept of ‘us’ and ‘them’ be eliminated, as it is time that all nations and all people live up to the words of the universal declarations of human rights”. Extreme supremacist ideologies must be countered everywhere and every time it happens because change begins with you and I, as the fight starts in the mind of each of us, and must be conveyed in every means possible. Besides, the world needs to be informed of the negation of nationalist populism.

Education and awareness creation is therefore imperative if we truly desire to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination. “The world community, particularly children and youth, need to be taught that racism is a vice and not a value”, and must be removed in the mind and thoughts of mankind.

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