Epilepsy: Neurological problem, not satanic infliction

By Odimegwu Onwumere

Over four million persons are estimated to be suffering from epilepsy disorder in Nigeria, said President of Angie epilepsy Foundation, Mrs. Angela Asemota at a public presentation in Benin City, the Edo State capital, with the theme “the Myths and Realities of Epilepsy”.

What prompted the theme, however, was that in the towns and villages across Nigeria, the myths surrounding epilepsy are that it is caused by external forces such as fate, witchcraft, hereditary, demon and so many other external factors. Hence, epileptic patients are isolated and relegated to the background.

Some perceived myths

It is believed that if one makes jest of an epileptic patient, he or she is bound to contract epilepsy. This myth has been there for generations and upon public awareness about the cause of epilepsy, many persons are wont to dispelling the reality.

A case in study is the contemporary research by Springer International Publishing AG, “The belief among Nigerians that epilepsy is infectious is widely reported in the relevant professional literature. This belief, however, has not been subjected to scientific investigation and its magnitude has not been assessed, despite the fact that it is one of the most serious obstacles to the care and rehabilitation of epileptics.”

(Epileptic person: culled from internet)
(Epileptic person: culled from internet)

The study further reported that it interviewed a wide spectrum of the Nigerian population, including medical students and found that most Nigerians, including some medical students, share the belief that epilepsy is contagious.

“They would therefore not eat, drink, or sleep in the same room with an epileptic, or touch him during his fit. The origin of the belief is now lost in obscurity, but traditional healers seem to be its current repository and propagators. The views of the latter are reinforced and sustained by people fleeing in panic from a patient experiencing a grand mal attack,” the report added.

Beliefs across Africa

Across Africa, stigma makes epilepsy difficult to be treated. In South Africa for example, The South African Health News Service on September 10 2014 reported the story of Lusanda Ngwenya, 13, then, who was an epileptic patient that was churlished by relatives and friends.

“I don’t have many friends. Some kids don’t even want to play with me because they believe they can (catch) epilepsy. Living with epilepsy at this age is a challenge because a few people may accept you, but the rest will discriminate against you. Living in a rural community where people still believe in culture and traditional medicine, it’s a challenge,” Ngwenya had said.

The Wellcome Trust Research Programme, Kenya, in 2011, found out in a research it carried, saying that 75 per cent of people suffering from epilepsy in Kilifi of Kenya don’t seek medical treatment.

“Community people have cultural beliefs that epilepsy is caused by witchcraft, evil spirits and curses,” said Dr Caroline Kathomi, coordinator of epilepsy studies at the KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Programme, “Because of the way epilepsy presents itself, people think you are possessed by a spirit, and so we need to raise awareness of the real causes”.

Sieving Myths from Facts

In a public presentation with the title “Epilepsy Truths and Myths: Education is the most powerful weapon”, Dr. Marcelo Lancman, Medical Director of the Northeast Regional Epilepsy Group in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut discussed epilepsy myths and truths.

 

  1. Myth: Epilepsy is contagious.  

Witnessing someone frothing at the mouth still produces fear in many and some persons fear being contaminated if they touch the saliva or the person who is seizing.  There have been reports coming out of Africa in which this is still held as a belief and persons who are seizing are avoided.

Fact: It is absolutely NOT contagious.

 

  1. Myth: You must put something in the mouth of someone who is seizing so that they will not swallow their tongue.

Fact: Many teeth have been broken and even fingers have been lost because of this myth.  There is even the real danger of choking if that which is forced into the mouth of the person having the seizure breaks off. There is absolutely NO need to put anything in the mouth when someone is seizing.

  1. Myth: Someone who is having a seizure should be restrained or pressed to the floor.

Fact: There is absolutely NO need to restrain someone having a seizure. In fact, if you press down on the chest during the seizure, you might limit the air that can come into the lungs and you could cause death or injury. DO make sure the person is safe and away from harmful objects and try to make sure there is something soft under her/his head and is rolled onto her/his side.  

 

  1. Myth: You can’t die from epilepsy

Fact: Unfortunately this is NOT true.  SUDEP (Sudden Unexpected Death from Epilepsy) is a very real concern. Having a very prolonged seizure (status epilepticus) can lead to death.  Scientists estimate that thousands die as a result of SUDEP every year.  Doctors recommend that safety measures include: taking your anti-epileptic medications very regularly, sleeping enough time every night, avoiding alcohol and drugs.  Some parents choose to have a baby monitor to be able to hear if their child is having a seizure.  There are also mattress pads that pick up movements and sound an alarm, oxygen monitors and pillows to avoid suffocation.

  1. Myth: Very few people have epilepsy and I don’t need to worry about it.

Fact: Not true. One out of every 26 people especially in the US has epilepsy.  More people have epilepsy than with autism, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis and cerebral palsy, combined!

 

  1. Myth: Modern science has produced so many new medications that epilepsy is now a solved problem.

Fact: Unfortunately, this is NOT true.  There are a significant number of patients who do not respond to the medications and continue to have seizures.  Science is working hard to develop newer and better medications, surgeries, and other treatments but we’re not quite there yet.

 

  1. Myth: Only kids get epilepsy

Fact: You can develop epilepsy at any age. In fact, a growing number of new epilepsy cases are found in the elderly population (often as a result of another medical problem: stroke, heart condition).

 

  1. Myth: People with epilepsy are disabled.

Fact: This is NOT true.  Many people with epilepsy are quite able to do very well in their academic careers, work, and life.  Just to name a few very visible and successful people living with epilepsy: Supreme Court Judge: John Roberts, musician Neil Young, author Agatha Christie, President Theodore Roosevelt, etc.

Causes and ‘cure’

The Wellcome Trust Research Programme argued that epilepsy affects over 50 million people worldwide with over 80 per cent living in resource-poor settings like Kilifi, Kenya.

“Epilepsy is a brain disorder that early detection and treatment with the right diagnosis medication, couple with the right dosage, positive attitude, exercise and eating right, may be cured and the patient can live a normal life,” Asemota said.

The source said that up to 70 per cent of people receiving treatment for epilepsy, such as the anti-convulsant drugs Phenobarbital and Carbamazepine, eventually become free from seizures.

“But in towns like Kilifi the main problem is getting people to seek treatment in the first place, due to the many myths and stigmas associated with the condition,” reported Wellcome Trust Research Programme.

Education Intervention

Through education intervention more people can become aware that epilepsy is not an infliction by any Gods, fate, hereditary, witchcraft…

In Africa, a gap from 75 per cent down to 50 per cent can be achieved through education in making people to understand the truths about epilepsy.

“In 2003, the treatment gap was 86 per cent and we are now at 75 per cent due to the epilepsy clinic in Kilifi. Our intervention should bring that gap down as low as 30 per cent. Once we improve the drug supply and knowledge of epilepsy this should all combine to reduce the treatment gap even further because when people see the benefits, they are willing. The key is education, education, education,” concluded the research.

Odimegwu Onwumere is a Poet/Writer; he writes from Rivers State. (apoet_25@yahoo.com). Tel: +2348057778358.

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Food taboos among pregnant women

By Odimegwu Onwumere

Food taboos in the traditional Nigerian homes are a hypothesis of concern. It suggests what a pregnant woman should eat or not. Hence, many pregnant women give up on soothe-foods for those they are advised in favour or against. For example, many avoid sweetening foods to avert developing gestational diabetes. Conversely, some are advised by those they look up to in their homes, to have a little bite of whatever food they crave for in order not to increase anxiety in themselves.

pregnant woman                                                              (Picture: Culled from internet)

This is not only a Nigerian factor. Professor Phil Baker, Director of the National Centre for Growth and Development at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, said, “At the moment, the advice that we give pregnant women is quite general, and it’s quite conflicting from area to area… The long-term objective has to be to get a relatively modest-cost test, in order to be able to give advice to the parts of the world where pregnancy complications are greatest.”

Eating eggs is taboo for pregnant women in the traditional homes. Some forbid eating yam. Alcohol is widely forbidden. In the Yoruba area, statement is that a pregnant woman is forbidden from eating plantain or oranges to avoid having difficulties during childbirth. Another report is that a pregnant woman must not eat straight from the pot (skillet) or else the baby will have dark buttocks; or not drink straight from a bottle or else the baby will be a drunk.

The abstinence from eating eggs by a pregnant woman in Nigeria is said will avoid making the unborn child behave like a chicken. Eating yam is said will avoid making the child too fat. Nevertheless, the traditional Nigerian pregnant woman cannot be said to be primitive with her belief of which foods to eat and not to. Such belief is however not only practiced in Nigeria.

Beliefs in other parts

It is believed in Tanzania that eating fish can result to late delivery, just as it is believed in Jerusalem that eating fish while pregnant can make elegant children. Pregnant women in Japan are advised against eating spicy food because of the philosophy that it can cause a child to be short temper. Eating egg by a pregnant woman in Mexico is believed that it can make the baby have odour. But unlike in Nigeria and Mexico, Philippines advise their pregnant women to eat raw egg before going to labour room, to help grease the birth passage.

On March19 2015, a Nicole Washington submitted to the National Geographic Society, an organisation that has been discussing food since 1888, saying, “In rural Lagos, eating rats is verboten for a woman in the family way, but in western Malaysia, rats, frogs, and other “small” spirits are fine to eat, so long as a husband or close relative does the killing (the baby’s spirit is too weak for larger grub like turtles and anteaters).”

In a documentary by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Daniel Silas Adamson posited on March 25th 2015, saying, “For women in Korea, pregnancy tastes of seaweed soup. In South Africa, many Zulu women are given Isihlambezo, a herbal concoction that can include anything from daisies and milkweed to dried hyrax urine. In Iran, pomegranate juice is popular, and in Senegal it’s a bone-marrow broth.”

On November 26, 2012, Author Altine Mancit Ijogi, wrote that in Ghana, eating cassava is believed will make the babies complexion very light; eating a lot of overly ripe plantain whilst pregnant will cause asthma in the baby; if a pregnant woman eats a lot of palm nut soup, she will be too lazy to push during labour; she may even fall asleep.

“According to a Native American superstition, eating steelhead salmon during pregnancy can make the ankles of the baby weak. The Indonesians believe that eating octopus during pregnancy can cause difficult labour,” said a source.

“In China, women are advised to have light-coloured food during pregnancy; as such food can make the baby fair-skinned. But consumption of dark food products like soy sauce, coffee, and tea, can make the baby dark-skinned.”

Author Ijogi went further, saying, in India, pregnant women are not allowed to eat eggs, papayas and pineapples; they are believed to cause abortion. And if they crave salty food, there is a belief that then it’s a boy. But if they crave sweets, then it’s a girl.

In Guatemala, according to the source, people believe that a pungent concoction made of beer and flavoured with boiled purple onion, can induce a speedy and hassle-free childbirth

Why pregnant women adhere to nutrition

Professor Baker opined that the environment within the womb has long-term inferences not just for the pregnancy but for that baby’s long-term health, and optimising the nutrition for that baby is critically important, narrated Adamson.

“Pregnant women are uniquely vulnerable. Often, they’ve never been pregnant before, and they’re desperate to do the best thing for their child. The idea that they might do something that harms the unborn child is horrifying to them. That makes them vulnerable to marketeers, and vulnerable to scare stories,” Adamson quoted a Linda Geddes.

Whereas this belief of food taboos has for ages kept the different Nigerian homes connected, modern science dispels the aboriginal folk wisdom as belonging to the trash bin. Some studies like a freshly Danish study, it has been suggested to pregnant women to at least take upto five glasses of red wine every week.

After all, “one of the aims of food taboos is to highlight particular happenings, making them memorable,” Washington quoted a Meyer-Rochow, in his input. “And pregnancy is so memorable that it should not be joked with.”

Suggestions

What a child needs is correct nutrition, experts have advised. The idea that how many times a foetus feeds or not, help in its development, has been contradicted.

“Now imagine this: Your daily calorie requirement is roughly between 1800 to 2000 calories. Do you really think that a tiny foetus growing inside you would need those many daily calories to grow and develop? The answer is no. What your baby needs is the correct nutrition.

Unnecessarily piling up your plate with all the food that comes your way is not going to do you or your baby any good,” reported Pregnancy Nigeria, an online advisory for women.

Pregnant women are warned to refrain from using antacids, paracetamol or even acne creams. The idea is that a pregnant woman cannot self medicate at any cost. She is advised to take pills and eat foods that are prescribed by a conventional doctor.

“Self medication can have adverse affect on your pregnancy. Also, many beauty treatments can be harmful to the foetus. Using over the counter medications, self medicating or undergoing harsh beauty treatments could lead to congenital abnormalities in your baby. Many women also give their prenatal vitamins and iron medications a miss as they, at times, aggravate morning sickness,” the source reported.

She is advised to take more rest and stop playing superwoman.

“The hormonal and physical changes that happen within her body during pregnancy demand more rest. Pregnancy is a time when you need special care that is specific to you. What worked for others might not be what you need.

“Here are some things to consider: Ask yourself what kind of birth you prefer and if your doctor and the hospital have the means to support your decision. Birthing is a personal emotional experience and you wouldn’t want it to be ruined by not expressing your desires,” the source added.

Odimegwu Onwumere is a Poet/Writer; he writes from Rivers State. (apoet_25@yahoo.com). Tel: +2348057778358.

 

War against the voices of the poor masses

By Odimegwu Onwumere

The persistent struggle for a fair treatment of the rich and poor, particularly the way each camp voices out in a lopsided society, continues to challenge the populace. Not only it is complex to understand the voices of the poor by the rich, it gets more cumbersome applying human rights measures under the constitution to soften the differences.

The rich commands the voices that turn lives and the society around irrespective of how the press in Nigerian democratic dispensation captures the situations. This highlights the fact that some draconian measures commonly applied by the rich against the voices of the poor in Nigeria, are systemic and unconstitutional. It comes to what will be referred to as freedom of the press being no longer a guaranteed right for all citizens, but the rich.

There is a serious glitch here. It is because the press is not allowed as it should be to do its job in search of information and place its findings where they ought to be for diligent sense making. Nigeria in a democratic setting knows the importance of the “rule of law” and “due process” for playing professional roles to enable order and meaning to foster.

As this is not auguring well, it is critical; it is supposed to be said that the face of the press is being routinely manacled. Nigerians notice that their popular citizen journalists are being scuffled to flee. Underlying the scenario is the power of the rich to control the voices at play. The rich are not rethinking their undemocratic actions against the voices of the poor for the betterment of Nigerian people. The rich do not buy the notion for free and fair categories of press work being indispensable to the growth of democracy in Nigeria.

The Rich use falsehood against the Poor

What Nigerians have observed is rather the use of horrid and malevolent falsehood, indeed, a bludgeon of political opposition in the country, to humiliate the poor masses. For example, Mr. David Mark was the former Nigerian Senate President and a very influential person in Nigerian legislative politics. As part of measures to further the roaring voices of the minute rich against the immeasurable number of poor Nigerians, David Mark some years back on a Thursday, July 26 2012, called on the authorities to checkmate the use of social media in the country.

Nigerians have asked why? What was he insinuating if not to render the free electronic press to be outlawed? He was thinking that silencing the citizen journalism will offer him and his likes a selective journaling right to discuss issues of his own interest for Nigerian people in his own terms.

Criticism hurts but it brings at the same time some painful corrections and reflections for improvement. Given the alarming utterance from David Mark, the masses saw his grey move as insulting and going back to the dark ages. David Mark’s intention was to frustrate the dynamics of public criticism of government. Mark’s hindsight was that the media in foreign voices has been so hypnotised by influential people to chastise the government with voices for change and opportunity for good life. He proffered to let leaders live without the ills of their respective societies being hoisted in the air. It was Mark’s view to make the situation believable as a fad in Nigeria.

How the Rich use the media

Since journalism is a pool of voices of the masses, the rich has always advanced a clampdown on the voices of the poor. The rich has taken over the television, radio and print, which in the past constituted sundry forms of mass media outlets.

In this era of the Internet, the rich choose and decide which voice should be heard. The rich see their own voices as well-reasoned against the clattering voices of the poor. One may see the voices of the poor on a national issue as a sense of crowd mentality as opposed to the voices of the rich regarded as democratic voices. But it is ironic that only the rich go into politics and occupy positions of authority to speak for the vulnerable poor. Yet the poor are politically systemic and searchingly left desperate. Being poor is to become incredibly an inexpressible being.

Having said that, the rich systematically stereotype the voices of the poor as degrading popular opinion on the one hand, but the voices of the rich as supreme for action on issues on the other hand. Success is measured by what voice one can render. Only those who have amassed wealth and achieved a good quality of life can talk, the rest are to listen. The rich see the voices of the poor as not speaking at the right time, no matter the technological activism characterising the democratic sphere.

Is it not self-evident to say that the mass voices represent the oppressed population from the oppressor voices of the rich that are mostly heard on issues that affect everyone? Is it not the rich that move forward along with the political development compass by dragging on the poor masses to follow?

The Rich control the means

Modernity is not an infraction of being heard and counted but so it appears for the rich on the contrary. Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Podcasts and so on, comprise the digital communication skills, yet, not even the clanging voices of the poor masses on the social networks have saved Nigerians from tumultuous politics of the few rich.

Cases where the few rich in the political arena read emails from the masses but quickly consider those emails as no useful voices but theirs must matter at will. The practices and changing moves of the rich are endless. The rich would prefer spending hours on the phone with their fellow rich people on grey areas of concern and in turn decide on what issues become law or not.

Nnabugwu Chioma, a sociologist echoing Karl Max, said that those that control the means of production consequently are those who control thought production too. The media is owned by the bourgeoisie (the owners of the means of production) and the media is the strongest weapon employed to control the thoughts and activities of the oppressed and vulnerable poor.

He added that the media defines the world as it is and helps to sustain the status quo ante. The bourgeoisie, owner of capital, determines who is heard and who is not. With the media they suppress every voice critical of the status quo. Even writers who are too critical of the established bourgeois culture don’t get published or advertised by the media. That is why you can be yanked off the social network if your thoughts are way off the mainstream.

Mark of inequality

It is obvious that the Internet technology has been in the world for decades now and statistics has shown that 4.4 billion people around the world are yet to have access to the internet. In earnest, the number represents the infinitesimal account of poor people from the huge data whose voices are not heard in this digital era. It is noticeable that the number of people who were connected to the internet, but are disconnected due to poverty, as it is a crying shame. Voice is heard of the capable only. Pay per voice matters.

A commentator on Ken Taylor’s work, a philosophical analyst, titled, Political Activism in the Digital Age, said, “Digital tools are definitely a mark of inequality; so how reliable is cyber activism to achieving certain goals? Not only that the fact of the cyber tools being so incredibly unstable and in constant evolution, it naturally causes generational gap regarding the use of these tools. Social and political activism mediated by the use of cyber tools from the comfort of one’s couch is surely happening, but could it be that we are facing an elitist type of activism that represents only a certain cyber elitists?”

As part of measures to show that the oppressed masses cannot influence the congress, the world witnessed when the European Union fingered Google Inc., of hostility on its market strength. What follows was the EU being bent on looking into suggestions to mirror the biggest Internet Companies in the world, just a week following the accusation.

In a report by Amy Thomson and Stephanie Bodoni of Bloomberg Business of May 4 2015, “The European Commission proposed rules for the technology industry with implications for everyone from room-sharing website Airbnb Inc., to e-commerce and search companies like Amazon.com Inc., and Google.com establishments.

It shows “in particular, that the EU’s executive arm will examine whether extra regulation is needed to curb Web companies’ market power, according to a draft of the proposal obtained by Bloomberg. The language echoes a separate four-year-old EU probe into Google’s power over the Web, which is looking at allegations that the company favors its own services and paid ads over rivals.” Can technology as power be limited to creating opportunities for voices of reason and participation?

Clampdown on the media

Conversely, the Nigerian military in 2014 clamped down on newspapers in what it tagged as “routine security exercise.” To suppress the voices of the poor from knowing what the elites said in the newspapers, thousands of copies of Leadership and Daily Trust Newspapers were confiscated in Minna, Niger and Sokoto State areas. In the South-West, distribution vans of The Nation Newspapers were impounded to unleash the melancholy of clash of interests.

Many Nigerians were surprised when the presidency of Goodluck Jonathan defended the military’s actions, while at the same time it exonerated Jonathan from giving such a censorious order. It came to knowledge that the Federal Government disallowed circulation of newspapers in the Federal Capital Territory and many parts of the country, apart from the cities mentioned above.

It is of note that The Punch Newspapers of June 7, 2014, pointed out how “Armed soldiers stormed the newspaper distribution centre at Gariki, ‘Area One’, Abuja, marching out marketers of media houses, distributors and vendors. They prevented marketers from off-loading newspapers from distribution vans that brought the newspapers to the centre. The soldiers searched each of the marketers, distributors and vendors, before allowing them to enter the centre.”

The Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Newspaper Distributors in Abuja, Oladipupo Moses, according to a document, said, “The distribution vans in custody of the soldiers included those of The Guardian, Leadership, Thisday, Daily Trust, Sun, Pilot, Newswatch and The Mirror. The soldiers, led by an officer in a green tracksuit, said henceforth, all the distributors and the vendors must operate with identity cards.”

The Rich suppress every voice critical of the status quo

Disturbed by such acerbic act of the soldiers, the Reporters Without Borders rebuffed the arrest of Journalist Tukur Mamu, with the controversy that followed the arrest with a warrant issued by an Abuja judge at the behest of FCT minister.

Calling on Journalist Mamu’s release, the international body involved said that the journalist’s arrest and initial transfer to an unknown location, constituted a grave violation of freedom of information, and for that reason, “we call for this journalist’s immediate release, urging the authorities to make public the charges against him.”

In October 2007, the publisher of a private newspaper, Weekly Events, in Akwa Ibom State, Jerome Imeime was arrested by men suspected to be agents of the State Security Service, (SSS). Imeime was charged with sedition, over a story critical of a local state governor. The masses question the audacity and hope of the press freedom in these situations.

Furthermore, “… it was the second time this year events were targeted by suspected government agents or supporters over its critical coverage of Governor Akpabio, according to CPJ research. In June, 15 armed men stormed the paper’s printing plant and seized about 5,000 copies of an edition alleging a criminal indictment against the governor. The authorities concerned denied their involvement in the raid,” as reported by the Committee to Protect Journalists.

The international group added that in June 2006, the Director Imo Eze and Editor Oluwole Elenyinmi of the bimonthly Ebonyi Voice were jailed for two months on sedition charges over a story criticizing the governor of southeastern Ebonyi. The same month, African Independent Television (AIT) presenter Mike Gbenga Aruleba and senior Daily Independent correspondent Rotimi Durojaiye were also arrested and charged with six counts of sedition over a story about the Presidential Jet. The charges were the subject of a pending appeal by the defense before Nigeria’s Federal Court of Appeals, on the grounds that they are unconstitutional, argues the lawyer, Femi Falana.

War against the voices of the poor masses

The occupation of oppressing the voices of the poor by the rich perhaps earned Nigeria a ranking at 115 out of 179 countries in the 2013 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index. As if that was not enough, on Wednesday March 25, 2015, the Nigerian military arrested two journalists working for news television, Aljazeera, in Maiduguri, Borno State.

The journalists whose names were given as Ahmed Idris and Mustafa Andy were later accused of loitering in areas where combat operations were still going on.

As part of measures in the war against the voices of the poor masses, a source said that the Nigerian military had, last year, cautioned journalists against unofficial movements in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe States, where it was fighting Islamic extremist sect known as Boko Haram.

What was experienced under the presidency of Jonathan against the voices of the poor masses was a play compared to what the Nigerian media experienced under the presidency of Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.

In 2008 alone, Yar’Adua had publishers and editors from the Leadership Newspapers arrested. Sources said, “The newsmen were arrested by the police less than 24 hours after they had been interrogated by the SSS who in the recent past, shut down and arrested the journalists at Channels TV in September; arrested also were the Nigerian political bloggers Jonathan Elendu (who cannot leave Nigeria) and Emeka Asiwe (who has not been heard from since his arrest in October of that year).”

Prior to the arrests, the editors and journalists at Leadership Newspapers were interrogated by the Inspector General of Police, Mike Okiro, who ‘invited’ them to the Police Headquarters in Abuja. The journalists were then also ‘invited’ by the SSS, which reports directly to the President, for further interrogation over the course of several days, the source said.

Channels T.V, and a popular programme on African Independent Television (A.I.T), was proscribed by the Federal Government. In all of these instances, the offences of the journalists, editors and their newspaper houses, were not made known.

A Lagos-lawyer, Mr. Festus Keyamo, said in a public representation on the matter, that “The irresistible conclusion we can draw is that the Yar’Adua administration has refused to be an Open Regime where the flow of information is always guaranteed, leading to all kinds of speculations by the Press.”

Courts are not best equipped to defend the poor. There are cases were petty criminals are sent to long terms in prison while the rich who pilfered the public coffers are allowed to walk the street free. “Upholding the rule of law at all times” is certainly not for the rich. The rich gamble with the law to live above it.

The Rich do not respect Due Process

When the late President Yar’Adua was heading to Saudi Arabia for the ‘Hajj’, in 2008, for the purpose of protecting the voices of the rich, Nigeria’s military superiors were relieved of their jobs on allegations of coup attempts against the president within hours. The president’s party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), made the disclosure. The bane of the story was that the government did not want the poor to know that their president’s health had deteriorated. There and behold, instead of the supposed hajj mission it turned out that he was in Saudi Arabia for imperative kidney surgery, which the government, nonetheless, covered up.

This type of information handling will not happen in USA, Canada, Britain, Germany, Belgium, Australia and France among others where voices consist in the rule of law and the right to be informed in a democratic space. Inability to handle criticism does not mean that the press operators must be shut down and become incarcerated. President Jimmy Carter of USA just gave a press interview today (see CNN, Aug 20, 2015) explaining his health and prognosis of having a malignant cancer spread to his brain and treatment regimens planned for him. The history of his family with pancreatic cancer was highlighted. Can this happen in Nigeria with the press eager to track down the information for dissemination? Denial or refusal to reveal the state of health of a public officer is sufficient to call out the person on charges of lying, a felony, a crime that will make a political wave of pundit irascibility and criticism.

The Rich do not reverence the constitution

On March 28, 2014, a veteran journalist and associate editor with The Sun Newspaper, Mr. Ebere Wabara was abducted in his Lagos home, in a Gestapo-like manner, by police officers from the Abia State Police Command on the orders of Abia State Governor, for sedition.

In their continuous pursuit to be suppressing the voices of the poor, the rich wouldn’t abide by the dictates of many legal pundits, who have said that, the Law of sedition, agitation or rabble-rousing is a historical-object of imperial rule that passed away with colonialism. The rich would not listen even as foremost constitutional lawyer, Professor Itse Sagay (SAN), said the Court of Appeal abolished the Law over two decades ago.

“Sedition is a colonial law, which went away with colonialism. It was a law meant to protect the government from being brought into disrepute. Now we have a constitution, which guarantees the right to freedom of expression. As such, the law of sedition can’t co-exist with the provisions of the constitution on freedom of speech and expression. The Court of Appeal declared over 20 years ago that sedition has ceased to exist and that is the way it must be,” Professor Sagay said.

Human rights barristers like Fred Agbaje and Festus Keyamo, in their split capitulations enormously accede to Professor Sagay.

“The law of sedition, which is grounded in Section 61 of the Criminal Code, is one of the colonial laws Nigeria inherited. It must be treated as a replaced, rejected and discarded law. Under this seditious law, any publication that brings the government into disrepute is actionable. But in the State vs. Nwankwo in 1983, the Court of Appeal in Enugu declared the law as not only contrary to the constitution of Nigeria, particularly the provisions on freedom of expression, but also one law that can no longer stand the test of modern jurisprudence,” argued Agbaje.

On the part of Keyamo, “The court was vehement in its assertion that Nigeria is no longer the slave-yard that colonialists thought it was. The Court of Appeal has placed a nail on the coffin of the law. Where a writer exceeds his bounds, there should be a resort to the law of libel, for in fact, criticism is an indispensable right in a democracy.”

Innovation

This dissertation has basically shown the importance of understanding Nigerians right to hunt for information and disseminate the same for performance, knowledge and empowerment. Nigerians have a right to express themselves in various ways as provided by the constitution of Nigeria. Freedom of press is a democratic tool. Public officers, elected and appointed, must be ready to allow professional story tellers, entertainers, and information writers to do their own side of the service of delivering insights, flashing out and correcting abuses, as well as fostering issues of public engagements for growth. It is not right to hinder information for that will amount to obstruction of knowing and growing competently. Mankind grows with what it knows.

Government is not a secret institution and political gladiators must from this submission understand that. Government workers must be aware of the fact that criticism brings correction and improvement and must be considered as part of doing one’s job for public interest and advancement.

A governor or a president who terrorises the press with libelous actions is not ready to work in good faith. To avoid criticism that will derail a government, the government needs to govern well and critically explain well all details of government programs and actions. A government should have nothing to hide.

The oath of office calls for leading in truth and to the best of one’s ability. So why get scared when the press is scrutinising what a government is doing or has accomplished to inform the governed? Nigerians call for a zero tolerance of hiding information for constructive education and empowerment of the people.

Odimegwu Onwumere is a Poet/Writer; he writes from Rivers State. (apoet_25@yahoo.com). Tel: +2348057778358.

As Ngige laments about jobs cut

By Odimegwu Onwumere

In the labour front something called jobs cut is fetching primacy. It is becoming a phenomenon across the world – from America to Africa and from the United Kingdom to United Arab Emirate – the story is the same. It is hitting Nigeria dangerously due to the economic slump that the country is experiencing. This has pushed the Federal Government through the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, to complain.

{Chris Ngige}
{Chris Ngige}

What Ngige has made Nigerians to understand is that there is dearth of job opportunities in the country no matter the language he had used to qualify this menace. He made this disclosure on January 16 2016 at the investiture ceremony of Otis Anyaeji as the 30th President of the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE), where he was represented by Mr. James Ocholi.

The ball of the game does not actually fall in the hands of organised private sector that Ngige admonished not to cut jobs, but on the fact that Nigeria is not operating a profitable and working system. Everything collapses with any passing and successive governments in Nigeria. If Nigeria was working as a sovereign state in truth and in spirit, Nigerians would not be asking for or cutting jobs indiscriminately.

Imagine that a minimum wage of a worker in the country is N18,000! This worker has to buy food, water, pay school fees, health and sundry issues with this money that cannot even feed a pet in Europe per day. And the Federal Government does not in earnest, provide or contribute to the essential amenities that are basic needs of the citizens. Imagine the state of our interim and highways; they are pit-of-hell. They have collapsed a lot of individual businesses especially in the South-South-East zones, due to their impassability.

It would be pertinent to say that even though that jobs cut is becoming a global phenomenon, governments outside Nigeria are doing their best to keep their citizens cheerful. These countries create jobs in national parks, monuments, wilderness areas and other public lands, growing high-tech and services industries. But in Nigeria, it is either you are a politician or forget it.

One thing that the successive governments in the country have not taken cognizance of is their ignorance that the economy in key measures of growth – employment, population, and personal income – are no longer created in the old order, but are today knowledge-based in the apparent civilised and developed world. A country like America is today seen as a place to be. But that did not just happen. The successive American governments worked hard to be where the country is today and did not build America by making verbal pronouncements like Nigerian politicians are wont to doing at every rolling tape.

In a report, “How Public Lands in the West Create a Competitive Economic Advantage” by Headwaters Economics, we were meant to understand that in America, “Higher-wage services industries, such as high-tech and health care, are leading the West’s job growth and diversifying the economy; entrepreneurs and talented workers are choosing to work where they can enjoy outdoor recreation and natural landscapes; increasingly, chambers of commerce and economic development associations in every western state are using the region’s national parks, monuments, wilderness areas and other public lands as a tool to lure companies to relocate; high-wage services industries also are using the West’s national parks, monuments, wilderness areas and other public lands as a tool to recruit and retain innovative, high-performing talent.”

It would be a greedy demand to ask a country like Nigeria that does not even have birth and death rate data what its employment data is in the 21st century. But for-instance, investigations revealed that the West’s employment grew by 152 percent compared to 78 percent for the rest of the country from 1970 to 2010. According to the Headwaters Economics report: “This western job growth was almost entirely in services industries such as health care, real estate, high-tech, and finance and insurance, which created 19.3 million net new jobs, many of them high-paying.”

We were also meant to understand, “Western non-metropolitan counties with more than 30 percent of the county’s land base in federal protected status such as national parks, monuments, wilderness, and other similar designations increased jobs by 345 percent over the last 40 years. By comparison, similar counties with no protected federal public lands increased employment by 83 percent. In 2010, per capita income in western non-metropolitan counties with 100,000 acres of protected public lands is on average $4,360 higher than per capita income in similar counties with no protected public lands.”

This is how a country is run! Not the Nigerian government that is bent on rigmarole. Does the Nigerian government not know, for example, that high quality global journalism requires investment? How much has it invested in this area? Yet, the Ministry of Labour and Employment was calling for a stop in jobs cut, when the government is lackadaisical is providing serious job opportunities. When other countries’ salaries are rising, Nigeria is still battling with jobs cut and whether to pay the minute N18, 000 minimum wage or not.

A proof of global salaries increase was contained in “Global Salaries to Continue to Rise in 2015”, thus, “Employees in Africa are expected to see the highest rate of increase in 2015 at 8.0%, up from 7.4% in 2014.” While Aon Hewitt, the global talent, retirement and health solutions business of Aon plc, revealed that most employees around the world received pay increases in 2014 and can expect to receive comparable increases in 2015, Nigeria is yet battling on the direction her government was to navigate to, let alone, increasing salaries and creating job opportunities.

Aon Hewitt’s 2014 Global Salary Increase Survey, stated through its Yanina Koliren, global compensation surveys and solutions leader, “This year, improved GDP projections and lower unemployment rates for most countries meant good news for many employees around the world. Employers are competing aggressively for talent, particularly in some regions of the world, and they recognize pay is a key factor in attracting and retaining top employees.”

It would be palpable to notify the government of Nigeria that a country like Gambia as at 2012, was not battling with jobs cut; Gambian workers rather demanded 120 percent salary increment. That was coming when their Nigerian counterparts were suffering from jobs cut and salary reduction. However, Nigerians of goodwill like this writer are of the hope that Dr. Chris Ngige will not fail to drop his footprint in the present ministry he occupies, the same way he developed Anambra State when he was governor.

Ngige should understand that making the ministry formidable cannot be achieved by an accident. He needs researchers, writers and forecasters that will be providing him with the current culture, management concepts and successful businesses in the labour and employment ministries around the world to enable him achieve an all-encompassing labour and employment ministry in the country.

Odimegwu Onwumere is a Poet/Writer; he writes from Rivers State. (apoet_25@yahoo.com). Tel: +2348057778358.

Ngige, factionalised NLC and leadership failure

By Odimegwu Onwumere

In the international best labour practices many policies to arrest the contemporary socio-economic challenges are being formulated. The best of all are rules that see to the treatment meted out to people at work places which include basic human rights, respect for health and safety, and remuneration, amongst other rights. Whether Nigeria is following the international labour level, which standards have been integrated into a-variety-of conferences and proposals, is not certain with the incessant squabbles at the labour organisations in Nigeria.

Dr. Chris Ngige
{Dr. Chris Ngige}

The Minister of Labour and Productivity, Dr. Chris Ngige addressed newsmen at Abuja, in December 2015, where he said that the leadership of the ministry had plans to revive the National Labour Advisory Council, NLAC. He said that the aim was to put to front burner international best labour practices in the country. His views were that with the Council, there will be a boost in reviewing labour laws in Nigeria.

That was coming after the beggarly Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, under the watch of its supposed president, Comrade Ayuba Wabba had signed a congratulatory message it sent to Nigige early December 2015. It was, perhaps, after the letter that Ngige saw the need to make his love for the NLAC known.

While the NLC congratulating with Ngige might be nice, what had the NLC been doing over the years to revitalize the NLAC, when it saw that it did not meet over the years, as it stipulated in the congratulatory letter? There is more to politics than the titular NLC under Ayuba yearns to be representing the interest of workers in the country. This is the NLC that had a botched election riddled with allegations of rigging early 2015 that was congratulating with Ngige and proffering solutions on how Ngige can achieve best labour practices. Hooey!

It is obvious that as Nigerians dismissed the leadership of NLC to have lost it, they have not said the obverse. Truth be told, the NLC in the present times has not been living by example. So, it was a feint for it to advise a respectable Labour Ministry and Productivity on what to or not to do. Since it could not conduct a transparent election, where did it learn to be transparent, free, fair and peaceful from to lend a voice to the Labour and Productivity Ministry? This is where Ngige has to be careful in choosing those that will man the affairs of the NLAC should it come on ground.

Nigerians have noticed that the present crop of NLC leadership is marred by interference by politicians. Initially, it was the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC). Against this backdrop, development had been embarrassed. Ngige should be weary of the NLC that took a decision at its conference last year to clear one of the aspirants, president of the Nigeria Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) Najeem Yasin for deputy president, to contest the election, having earlier been disqualified by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) president (Nasir Fagge)-led credentials committee.

Media reports said, “Yasin’s clearance to contest the election was said to have thrown up another unconstitutional scenario when the president of the Nigerian Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), Igwe Achese, who was vying for the position of president stepped down and declared support for another candidate, the general secretary of Nigerian Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE), Joe Ajaero, and then he (Achese) also being cleared to run for deputy president.”

In the light of that, there is a beaming leadership failure in the NLC. The outgone executive leadership led by Abdulwaheed Omar was a disaster. He allowed political elements to be interfering in sensitive issues as Labour matters, raising morality and integrity questions in the leadership of the NLC to bay. It is palpable that the NLC has not put its house in order; so, why coming to advise Ngige on what to do with the NLAC?

Just on Friday, January 8 2016, the leadership of the NLC asking Ngige to constitute the NLAC, early December last year, failed to resolve the leadership crisis rocking its congress. The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reported that the committee, headed by leading labour leader Hassan Summonu, failed to reach an agreeable resolution to end the crisis, in Lagos. While Ayuba is at one end posing as the authentic NLC president, Mr. Joe Ajaero is at one end addressing Summonu that he was disappointed over, what he said was the uncommitted attitude of some of the congress members to the reconciliation.

Hear Ajaero in the letter sent to Summonu: “We had believed that all of us were genuinely committed to speedily working through the process to reach acceptable compromise. The reconciliation is expected to assist the aggrieved parties build a new and vibrant movement and not pseudo outcomes that might further undermine Nigerian workers and weaken the NLC. We re-emphasis that we may no longer be found available at the table any longer if these meetings continue beyond the end of January 2016.”

This is the archetypal NLC under Ayuba and Ajaero. It would be pertinent, however, to lend advise to the Labour and Productivity Ministry that the NLAC should not be limited to advise. Referral to that was in 2011, Trade unions and the Namibia Employers Federation were worried that there should be a widened role for the Labour Advisory Council, which was limited to advise. All over the world, such Council as the NLAC is meant to promote social dialogue; to advise the Minister of Labour on a wide range of matters, which are not limited to ‘Advise’ but on matters relating to labour and unemployment. But sadly, the NLC has failed woefully in these areas but in-fighting!

While the then Namibia Minister of Labour, Immanuel Ngatjizeko inaugurated the 11th Labour Advisory Council in Windhoek, and drew its membership from the National Union of Namibian Workers, the Trade Union Congress of Namibia, the Namibia Employers’ Federation (NEF), the Namibia Employers’ Association and the Government, as was established in terms of the Labour Act; Nigerians are not sure where Ngige will draw the membership of the Council from. Certainly, not from the factionalised NLC!

Instead of drawing inspiration from the Trade Union Congress of Namibia, the Namibia Employers’ Federation (NEF); the NLC is bent on playing politics. Whereas the Namibian Labour Act stated that “the council has the duty to investigate and advise the Labour Minister on collective bargaining, national policy concerning basic conditions of employment, and the prevention and reduction of unemployment”, the NLC is bickering offer leadership tuzzle. Hogwash!

NLC

(NLC members in a procession)

Not minding, the Labour and Productivity Ministry headed by Dr. Ngige should know that hardly is there any country still operating in the old order as regards labour matters. In “Reinforcing Regional Rights: Labour and Migration”, we were meant to understand that regional labour and migration rights remain an understudied policy area, hence Ngige should consider opportunities for new policy initiatives and labour policy coordination, whether they have to be regional or still federal; but what will matter most are initiatives and policy that will contribute to the building blocks for national analysis and should not be left for the bickering and tinkering NLC to decide.

This is because of the encroachment of Globalization. This phenomenon has uncovered workers, their employment and wages to the dynamics of the worldwide economy and global rivalry. Therefore, Ngige should understand that Globalisation has made workers to be more mobile, “both sector-wise and geographically”. The source said, “Globalization also has posed diverse challenges to national socio-economic policies, including labour policies, as the boundaries of “national jurisdiction” and national policy spaces have become less clear.”

Odimegwu Onwumere is a Poet/Writer; he writes from Rivers State. (apoet_25@yahoo.com). Tel: +2348057778358.

 

(Pls, publish and share anywhere in the world with credit given to the writer).

Gov. Ortom and forgiveness of criminals through amnesty

By Odimegwu Onwumere

Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State wants the residents to feel a sense of importance through his amnesty programme. He wants the people to stand for freedom and justice. He wants to crack down on lawlessness that once characterised the state before he came in as governor.

The convivial Senior Special Assistant on Media to the governor, Mr. Terver Akase in a public presentation last year exposed that many parts of Benue were in turmoil with traits of violence before the emergence of his principal as governor. Akase opined that Benue State was an Opera of violence, armed robbery, kidnapping, political killings, thuggery and cultism.

The irony, according to Akase, was that the economy of the state was being pummeled as investors and others were fleeing the state for a safe ground elsewhere. Therefore, when Ortom mounted the saddle and took oath of office on May 29, 2015, he declared the amnesty programme to give the lawbreakers a new lease of life to live and be better citizens.

After the first expiration of the amnesty programme in August 2015, in September the governor raised the flag of devoutness on amnesty and granted some persons who were illegally in custody of arms and ammunitions forgiveness. When he saw that some persons this year were in the patio to surrender their dubious acts especially in the Benue South Senatorial District, he gave in and lengthened his Olive Branch to them.

samuel ortom

(Governor Samuel Ortom)

Governor Ortom has been garnering support and kudos from far and near with this singular act. From the youth, elders and traditional rulers the song on their lips is that the governor is one who wants his people to be responsible citizens devoid of breaking laws. The Idoma Traditional Council is today thanking Ortom for having a listening ear to the plea it made in Otukpo during a security meeting he had with stakeholders where the traditional council pleaded with him to extend the amnesty.

It is observable that in a situation like this, not all would show support. And the governor was once irked that some persons did not support the programme when it was freshly generated till its expiration and here they were pleading with him for extension; something he has obliged and is calling on all others who still have illegal arms to willingly surrender and sin no more. It was not certain why some persons had arms in the state. Perhaps, due to the frequent clashes the farmers in the state were having with herdsmen.

However, the governor has curtailed the clashes and is moving to meet his counterpart at the Nasarawa State Government to find a lasting solution to the clashes between herdsmen and farmers. What would happen to the persons who have refused to surrender their illegal possession of arms is contained in the statement that the governor made on May 29, 2015 at IBB Square, Makurdi.

“We will move decisively against our youths and their patrons who have chosen a living out of unbridled acts of terror and thuggery. Government will no longer be a shield for these youths and those who patronise them. Whoever they may be and no matter how powerful they are, they will be brought to account. We call on all unlawfully armed persons who have been terrorising innocent citizens to immediately surrender their arms, be free and get integrated into our reform programme, or we shall pursue them down to their holes,” Governor Ortom had said.

What stands the governor out in the programme is that he is not just making verbal pronouncement; he set up a committee that would oversee the programme some days it was made public. Today, the programme has recorded a major feat with the likes of an infamous gang leader whose name was given as Terwase Agwaza (aka Ghana) who was bent on terrorising parts of Benue and Taraba States surrendering to the programme with what media report said was with a huge amount of arms and ammunition – 84 assorted riffles and 770 rounds of ammunition.

It is evidence that the governor is not leaving any stone unturned in making sure that the programme was a success. His budget for the programme this year amounted to some millions of naira to make sure that the once notorious elements were rehabilitated and given a fresh air to be engaged in money-spinning ventures that are legal. It would, therefore, behoove Governor Samuel Ortom and his counterparts in the neighbouring states to form a joint of “Truth and Friendship Commission” just as the neighbouring countries with Nigeria are forming in the fight against terrorism.

There should be transparency, accountability and sustainability in the programme to make it achieve the aim it was formed. There should be a regular audit, just as companies carry out environmental and social audits. There should be documentation for every undocumented person residing in Benue State to help fight criminals that might be threatening the state again in the name of gangsterism.

 Odimegwu Onwumere is a Media Consultant; he writes from Rivers State. (apoet_25@yahoo.com). Tel: +2348057778358.

 

Ortom rekindles hope in 2016 Budget

By Odimegwu Onwumere

“When we came in, we met a mismanaged and comatose economy characterized by deficit treasury and high debt profile, huge arrears of salaries and retirement benefits, dwindling income from the Federation Account, falling oil prices, volatile exchange rate and high unemployment.”

That was the touching statement from Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State on 31st December 2015, while presenting this year’s budget to the people of Benue State at the state’s House of Assembly.

Governor Samuel Ortom
(Governor Samuel Ortom)

He expressed his values and aspirations to the people; unlike the ordeal he said that he encountered from the budget of the government that he succeeded which was half way into realization. Regarding that, the governor on assumption of office projected to the House and got approval for a complementary budget only to enable his government attend to urgent needs of governance.

Today, the people could see that Ortom’s 2016 budget is not just a collection of numbers. The governor was of the view that since he inherited a “general sense of hopelessness and inability” from the government he succeeded, he would do everything possible to restore confidence in the people about government, by making sure that the very basic necessities of life as enshrined in the Constitution, are given the people and the visitors of the state alike, who turned out en masse during the 2015 governorship election and voted for him.

It is evidence that when the governor started in office, he made sure that two-month salary was paid. Critics had thought that the governor was in for frivolities, but that singular act has seen to many people in the state who were in for trouble by possessing illegal firearms embracing the amnesty programme of the governor. While counting, it has become obvious that about 800 possessors of illegal weapons have surrendered for peace in the state. Different types of weapons and thousands of ammunitions have been surrendered.

It is essential to say that the governor is one that has phobia for recession. Against that backdrop, he knew that the civil service is the backbone of most families and of the economy, therefore he obligated that the civil service does not spiral downwards with months of accumulated money. He had talked to the Honourable House and the House granted approval to enable the government key into the funding issues provided by the Federal Government through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) specifically for payment of salaries.

In the words of the governor, the CBN approved only part of the state’s N69 billion application which the government made to clear salary, gratuity and pension arrears and released N12, 503,000,000.00 and N15, 509,000,000.00 for only salary arrears for state and local government civil servants respectively. These releases have since been accessed and payments of arrears of salaries to state civil servants has been completed at the state level while that of the local government is 85% completed, the governor had said.

It is part of the governor’s move to create a conducive environment in the state that those who had embraced the amnesty programme were to see themselves taken to a psychoanalysis programme that includes a return to school, skills acquisition and integration into intelligence gathering network, the authorities had said. The sum of N250 million had been budgeted in 2016 for the programme which could be subject for review as time progresses.

Ortom who has been perceived as a diehard peace maker had made sure that the squabbles that were the everyday case with farmers and herders were curtailed. There is confidence for those who want to further their education to do so, as the governor moved to restructure the School of Nursing and Midwifery, Makurdi. There is turnaround maintenance at all levels in the state with the preparation to defeat the nursing school’s lost glory since three years now, by making sure that it is reaccredited.

Those at Assembly could see the completion of the Complex is on-going. There is provision for counterpart funding obligations; taps are running again in Otukpo and Katsina-Ala. It is all development in the Ortom’s administration. School of Nursing and Midwifery is about to be completed while work is on-going on the Daudu-Gbajimba road and Yam Flour Mill at Katsina-Ala while the process of handing over the Wannune Tomato and Mango Processing Plant to a core investor is at an advanced stage, the authorities had enlightened.

Governor Ortom’s budget is for the future of the people for the creation of jobs, education and hope. While presenting the 2016 budget for consideration and appropriation to the Benue State House of Assembly, Ortom who is an unflinching believer in Jehovah relished with ecstasy by giving Jehovah the glory, honour and adoration for the opportunity given him by the electorates to serve the state as governor.

The governor was of the belief that Benue State must be redeemed in all aspects with positivity since there is a Benue to save and should not be allowed to sink with one single source of income for its development. He would not like a situation where the state goes over a financial oblivion; he wants the state be enlivened with much strength and peace without borrowing the entire money for the development of the state.

Building trust, confidence and credibility between the government and the people of Benue State are Ortom’s keyword because the All Progressives Congress, APC, has come to the state, not to chant ‘change’ as a mantra, but to make sure that it is experienced in all aspects of developmental endeavours in the state.

One characteristic that stands Ortom out is that he is civil. A thorough review of the budget, the outcome is that he is enmeshed in discipline and confidence. Transparency, accountability, justice, fairness, integrity, discipline, selflessness, integration, forgiveness, restitution and reconciliation are his bylines.

To any corrupt individual or group, Benue State is not the place to practice, according to the governor, because his administration has zero tolerance for corruption. Ortom has clattered it the umpteenth time that he would not be at peace with anybody or group caught diverting public funds. To him, the person would be sanctioned with the appropriate measures as enshrined in the laws of Nigeria and the constituted laws decreed in Benue State.

The governor does not see himself to achieve much without the support of other tiers of government in the state – the legislature and the judiciary. He has given hope to the people of the state and their visitors alike by creating a conducive environment for business devoid of rancour and skirmishes. There is hope for the private sector.

Governor Samuel Ortom has demonstrated with the 2016 budget the desire to make tough choices and soft landing for the welfare of Benue State. He has demanded for a more efficient, effective government. His budget calls for more hands on the desk to tackle poverty in the state. His gear up to fight corruption and put the state on the track of sanity, his government instituted commissions of inquiry to discover income and expenditure from June, 2007 to the end of May, 2015.

The good-natured and hardworking Senior Special Assistant, Media, to the governor who hails from Agbeede, Konshisha Local Government Area, Mr. Terver Akase recently said that his principal would stop at nothing to fulfill his electioneering campaign promises to the electorates of which the governor has shown in his budget.

There’s the Justice Kpojime Commission of Inquiry that was set up as a fact finding Commission aimed at making sure that all the people accused of pilfering the state’s coffer in one way or another are heard from and if found guilty later, the commonwealth of the Benue people they stashed away would be returned and appropriate measures taken to avert reoccurrence of their dastardly act.

However, the governor had said that the projected aggregate expenditure for fiscal year 2016 is one hundred and thirty-three Billion, three Hundred and ninety-four Million, ninety-two Thousand and six Hundred and ten Naira (N133,394,092,610.00) Only. This figure represents a marginal decrease over 2015 approved budget of 1.48%, he had opined.

He added, saying that this fiscal year 2016, his government is proposing a total of Sixty-five Billion, nine Hundred and sixty-one Million, nine Hundred and ninety-six Thousand, and four Hundred and seventy Naira (N 65,961,996,470.00) only as recurrent expenditure. This figure represents 49.45% of the total budget estimates for 2016, he had enthused.

Odimegwu Onwumere is a Media Consultant; he writes from Rivers State. (apoet_25@yahoo.com). Tel: +2348057778358.