Africa Thinking Digital To Revolutionise Her Reinsurance Sector

With the proliferation of mobile phones, users of social media in Africa, experts say that the reinsurance sector on the continent is still underutilising technology. Odimegwu Onwumere unearths that reinsurers in Africa are however thinking what the sector might be like in 30 years from now and not what they have in hand; they are thinking digital reinsurance for the future; they are thinking that the social media has impacted the ways of life of their potential target market so they must rise to bridge the digital divide between them and their potential target market in order to stay relevant; they are thinking of a continent where buying insurance will no longer be associated with questions but the big data will provide enthusiastic and accurate predictors of risk

 

{2018 Africa Insurance Summit}

It was a sadistic voice approaching from Kigali, Rwanda. The vicious voice was heard at the 42nd annual general meeting for the Federation of African National Insurance Companies (FANAF) held on February 12 2018. The ferocious voice harangued that re/insurers in Africa were not utilising the Information Communication Technology (ICT), upon that examination has it that approximately 80.8% of Africans own a mobile phone today. The 80.8% is contained in a 2016 data of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the United Nations agency for information and communication technologies. Those who know better said that this was 10% skip from 71% in 2014. Also, Kenyan Insurance Industry Strategy Report arranged by Transector International, September 2017, said that Kenyan mobile saturation was at 88%; Internet penetration was at 90%. Passages from the report buttressed that the country had towering rendezvous on social media of 6 million Facebook accounts; 2 million dynamic users on twitter; 10 million Whatsapp vigorous users; 3 million Instagram and 1.5 million on LinkedIn. When some analysts believed that there were 66 per cent population of Africans without bank accounts, no email address (causing difficulties for reinsurers to control their policyholders), there were over 32 million mobile money subscribers in Kenya. It was noted that the number was on the increase, not only in Kenya, but across Africa.

On the other hand, observers did not mince words in clamouring that Africa sways as the fastest-growing mobile phone market in the world and by 2020, this emerging continent in the reinsurance markets is expected to have 725 million smartphone users, as according to a 2016 report by a trade body representing the welfare of mobile operators worldwide: Global System for Mobile Communications Association (GSMA). According to the GSMA, mobile services gave in 6.7% of the continent’s GDP in 2015 and by 2022, 80% of Africans on the continent will be connected to 5G internet networks.

A 2014 World Bank Group account had opined that digitisation of economies donates to extensive economic growth, individual monetary authorisation, and financial enclosure. Nonetheless, the voice from Kigali was full of fears that apart from the proliferation of mobile phones, reinsurers in Africa were not utilising breakthrough technologies that aid easy services in the re/insurance business in the areas of measuring, controlling, and pricing risk, connecting with customers, trimming down cost, increasing competence, and swelling insurability. They were not utilising Cloud computing, the Internet of Things (IoT), advanced analytics, telematics, the global positioning system (GPS), mobile phones, digital platforms, drones, block chain, smart contracts, and artificial intelligence (AI). These technologies are believed to help in the creation of new products, services and business models.

Still In The Old Way

The supposed underutilisation of technologies on the continent’s reinsurance hurts stakeholders. For the manager life business department at Kenya Re, Peter O Angweny, at the event “The industry is still stuck in the old ways of doing business, which has slowed service delivery.”

The African Union chairman, President Paul Kagame of Rwanda grimaced that glaring obstructions in the sector on the continent reached $75 billion few years ago in the value of contracts, indicating a rough business.

But the Allianz SE CEO Oliver Bäte while at the 44th annual Insurance Conference in Sun City, South Africa, last year believed that in today’s fast changing world, “It’s critical to innovate quickly and to change course rapidly if necessary.

“The insurance industry, like other customer service industries, is transforming because of the all-encompassing impact of digitalisation on our lives.”

Recuperating Economies

In 2016, the continent was not shut down when Cameroon, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Gambia, the Republic of Congo and Uganda launched infertile entrée to social media for their citizens.

This was applicable in Ethiopia, Madagascar and Tanzania, where censorship legislation was fiercely introduced. While this happened, President Kagame feared that Africa had obstructions in the value of contracts to the tendency of $75 billion due to poor utilisation of technology.

But Bäte surmised in a different fora, saying, “While traditional markets, such as Europe, are struggling with their digital transformation process, Africa is digital by nature. Mobile is the fastest growing sector and innovation enabler on the continent with an expected (1.2 billion African subscribers by 2018?)”

Still, Kagame was counting loss in the insurance sector in Africa, whilst officials from German’s Reinsurance Company, Munich Re, expressed ecstasy that the global premium volume reached $5 trillion in 2016 and reinsurers scheme the attraction to resolve at $5.6 trillion in 2018.

 

This is being determined by recuperating economies in a number of proliferating emerging markets using technology.

A Drop In The Ocean

Conversely, investigations revealed that the worth of reinsurance industry in Africa is only $6.8 billion. To opinion leaders on the field, “It is just a drop in the ocean. How can this be turned around?”

Notwithstanding, lack of innovative solutions, limited financial capability and insurance wakefulness, proper products for different market segments, easy methods and under-pricing limit growth of profits are factors fingered to be hindering the reinsurance sector on the continent.

Hence, African reinsurers are summoned to hug digital technology. It is believed that this will drive growth in the industry.

Changing From Analogue To Digital

Preparatory to the Organisation of Eastern and Southern Africa Insurers (OESAI) and Insurance Information Bureau (IIB), dubbed Africa Insurance Summit 2018, before the next Africa Insurance Summit in 2019 to be hosted in Accra, Ghana, issues on capacity and resources to instigate the flight towards a double-digit insurance penetration, how the African market will utilise technological modernism to considerably increase insurance penetration, are the key issues raising eyebrows.

Bäte sued for digitalisation in a different presentation, saying, “Digitalisation allows us to gain considerably better insights into our individual and institutional customers and thereby to better serve their needs.”

With this, those who know better are saying that the thinking of reinsurers and insurers who are mostly regarded as conservatives is drastically changing for progressiveness all over the world and the sector in Africa is not exempted.

Critical Success Or Failure

The Chairman, Board of Directors, Law Union and Rock Plc, Remi Babalola, a former Minister of State for Finance, while speaking on the theme “Millennials: Digital Transformation & The Nigerian Insurance Industry” at the 2017 Quarterly Breakfast Meeting of the Chartered Insurance Institute of Nigeria (CIIN), in Lagos, said the millennials have either negative or positive impact on the insurance industry.

Hear him, “The Millennials are either a critical success or failure factor for the insurance industry both locally and globally, depending on how proactive the sector is in harnessing its positive characteristics.

“Proactive adaptation of their lifestyle or behaviour to innovate products by insurers to match their lifestyle needs will significantly change the landscape of the insurance industry.”

The Big Data

Reinsurers in Africa are however thinking of a continent where buying insurance will no longer be associated with questions but the big data will provide enthusiastic and accurate predictors of risk. For example, an authority in the sector in America known as Aviva, where one Andrew Brem is the chief digital officer, the company prices its car insurance using data to find the numerical connection between the purchase of life insurance policies and safer driving, making life insurance policyholders obtain lower quotes unlike in the traditional way where a lot of questions are involved ranging from the type of the car, the location and the driving history.

According to Babalola, “If your brand doesn’t show up in online search, Millennials are not likely to take you seriously. Information available shows that the Millennials have the capacity, and are in fact influencing purchasing decisions as well as how companies conduct business. Insurers must therefore be ready to tailor their marketing strategies to align with the digital natives in order to achieve improved performance.

“We need to be where the customer is, and be part of the conversation where they interact, exchange opinions, and levy complaints. Insurance companies would need to allocate resources to study millennials’ habits and employ effective marketing strategies to sell multiple strands of insurance. Since they engage in a sharing economy, we may need to think of how to insure space and time.”

Reinsurance In Africa In 30 Years

On the continent, reinsurers are thinking what the sector might be like in 30 years from now and not what they have in hand. They are thinking digital reinsurance for the future.

For instance, some reinsurance companies in climes like Hoxton Square in east London are expending millions into innovation and research and building what they call “digital garage” and a company like the Continental Re in Africa is on top of its voice telling practitioners on the continent that retailing is where the re/insurance business is, not in corporate.

What this means is that Africa needs “insurtech” startups in order to challenge the big players in the Americas and Europe, where according to CB Insight, $1.7bn went into insurance startups in 2016, across 173 deals.

The President, CIIN, Funmi Babington-Ashaye, said, “The emerging generation of workforce and consumers are now tech-savvy, and require online real time information on products and their offerings.

“Put simply, the social media has impacted the ways of life of our potential target market, so we must therefore mount to bridge this digital divide between us and our potential target market in order to stay relevant.”

Using Technology For Penetration

With a doctorate in statistics from the University of Manchester in the UK, a Master of Science degree in statistics from Imperial College, London, and a Bachelor of Science degree in statistics and operational research from the University of Manchester, the managing director of Continental Re, Femi Oyetunji was of the philosophy in January this year that while the global reinsurance companies are expected to be coming into the African market, there will be tremendous competition.

But for Bäte, “Insurance companies have much to offer to the African economy. Therefore, digitalisation allows us to gain considerably better insights into our individual and institutional customers and thereby to better serve their needs.

“We believe deeply in Africa’s huge long-term growth potential and we will leverage our global footprint and extensive expertise to strengthen our market position and to attract African talent.”

Oyetunji who is also a Fellow of the Institute of Actuaries, UK, and has attended several management development programmes locally and overseas, expressed dismay that the sector on the continent has not spent profoundly in “brick and mortar meaning we are best placed to leapfrog in technology.” Oyetunji showed apprehension that in the heralded competition that will challenge Africa, the continent can do more if it adopts technology to help the reinsurance on the continent drive penetration.

Why Reinsurers In Africa Need Technology

“For example, by using the mobile phone to sell insurance products we can reach more people,” Oyetunji said. “To some extent African players lack the technical capacity, which is a challenge companies must address. The shortage of skills can be addressed but we are not doing enough.

“In terms of financial capacity, it is hard to build a strong balance sheet when rating is used against us. This is why 60 to 70 per cent of premiums in Africa are expatriated abroad. It thus becomes hard to build a strong balance sheet when everything is going out.”

Perhaps, this was the reason the Continental Re has chosen to center on modification of technology for the 2018 annual CEOs Summit. “This year the focus is on technology because virtually everything these days is governed by technology. Insurance is about information and data and for the industry to fully optimise, it needs technology,” Oyetunji added.

“The challenge is how to turn this potential around. We are pushing for two things – first creating awareness through collaborations, and secondly getting the regulators to understand how the industry can be stimulated to grow. We must aim at doing at least 10 per cent of the global business in 10 years.”

Embracing Insurtech

Besides, from Allianz and Munich Re in Europe to Manulife in Canada and XL Catlin in Bermuda, they are investing heavily into ICT and digital developments, therefore making their African counterparts to be developing hyper-thoughts.

Well, Allianz is aiming to transform into what it characterised by a truly customer-centric, ‘digital by default’ company, “the Group established a Single Digital Agenda which plans to spend over $800 million annually on revamping the 127-year-old business. Through the Single Digital Agenda, Allianz will conduct changes through initiatives built on five pillars.”

In-any-case, the reinsurance markets in Africa will be growing over the years in the area of investing and applying technology in business to harness big data analytics in order to foster productivity. Already in the Americas, a mobile phone is used to signal or other sensors spot that someone is about to trade on a road path where many had been injured or died (for example, on a snow). When this is detected, the insurer warns the person on the dangerous path he or she is taking. In the event where the person does not listen, the insurer would advise the person to as a matter of urgency increase the premium.

Fear For Cybercrimes

Africa has nothing to fear about cybercrimes in the insurance sector no matter that a country like “Kenya lost $171 million – 0.28 per cent of GDP – to cybercrime in 2016, higher than the continent’s average of 0.07 of GDP,” as according to the 2017 Delloite Telecoms Media and Tech Trends report.

The source went further to highlight that upon the loss, “In April 2017, Kenya approved the Computer Cybercrime Bill, 2016, to handle 3,000 cybercrime cases reported every month. The Bill criminalises cyber offences such as illegal access to computerised systems, child pornography and computer related fraud, attracting fines of up to $200,000.”

{The 42nd Annual General Assembly of the Federation of African National Insurance Companies (FANAF)}

This anti-cybercrimes policies are cutting across countries in Africa and insurance firms are not sleeping on their oars and allow their money stolen, but are mounting policies to guard companies from fatalities consequential from cyber assault. For example, insurance broker Aon Kenya initiated the Cyber Enterprise Solution – a property/casualty and internet of things insurance policy – to safeguard businesses from losses triggered by cybercrime.

In a nutshell, insurtech enthusiasts who would price risk accurately in the absence of harassing the buyer with obsolete questionnaires are advised in Africa. It is believed that technology would make the biggest difference in the reinsurance markets on the continent in say, 10 years to come. That time, what the continent’s reinsurers would choose to cover, how to cover it, would change. A case in study is that many people are being introduced to buying insurance online unlike few years back when they did that through a broker.

Odimegwu Onwumere is a Poet, Writer and Media Consultant based in Rivers State, Nigeria. Email: apoet_25@yahoo.com

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Nigerian Journalist Odimegwu Onwumere Wins Pan African Journalist Of The Year Award

Odimegwu Onwuwere, a journalist with AFRICA PRIME NEWS has bagged the Pan African Journalist of the Year Award for the 2018 Pan African Re/Insurance Journalism Awards sponsored by Continental Reinsurance. He is based in Port Harcourt, south-south Nigeria.

{Odimegwu Onwumere making a speach at the awards ceremony}

A statement by Ceciliah KimuyuSenior Account Manager at Continental Reinsurance PLC, said there were three categories of the awards but Onwumere emerged the overall winner.

Onwumere’s winning article titled, Africa emerging new frontier in the reinsurance markets investigates how foreign insurers that once rebuked Africa due to economic instability are now swarming for businesses on the continent because the sector is becoming alluring and dynamic due to unswerving GDP growth.

A Business and Data Journalist with Standard Group Kenya, Otiato Guguyu won the Best Re/Insurance Industry Feature Article for his story, Business of protecting wealth from drought that talks about how an insurance scheme that was introduced in the dry regions of Kenya is cushioning farmers from losses; while Adenike Popoola, Chief Correspondent of Nigeria’s The Punch newspaper emerged the winner for Best Re/Insurance Industry Analysis and Commentary for her article, Foreigners taking over Nigerian insurance industrywhich discusses how the recapitalisation trend is transforming the insurance industry and its expectations in the future.

Also Gareth Stokes, a seasoned financial journalist working with Commercial Risk Africa (CRA) in South Africa won a special award in recognition of his exemplary contribution to Re/ Insurance journalism and was recommended to become a judge in future editions. Gareth emerged the Pan African Journalist of the Year in 2017 awards.

{Odimegwu Onwumere in a group picture with other recipients and two of the judges}

The winners were announced at a Gala dinner held during Continental Reinsurance’s CEO Summit held on April 9th 2018 in Swakopmund, Namibia.

Speaking at the award ceremony, Dr. Femi Oyetunji, Continental Reinsurance’s Group Managing Director noted, “The Pan-African Re/Insurance Journalism Awards are an extension of our continued commitment to advance excellence in the sector. I am glad this year’s entries not only improved in quality, but they also came from a wider range of countries, and with more diverse insurance topics being featured by journalists. We will be including two new categories in next year’s Awards – for broadcast and online entries, and I would like to encourage TV, radio and online journalists to participate.”

According to the statement,  winners will win a combination of financial and practical training prizes to include… The overall winner will also win a fully-paid trip to attend CRA’s training in London, UK including a one-week internship.

The third edition of the journalism awards received 61 entrants from 15 English and French speaking countries including: Kenya, Uganda, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Ghana, Namibia, Mauritius and Zambia for Anglophones; Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Senegal, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo and Togo for Francophones.

The entries were assessed and evaluated by an independent panel of judges, which comprised of 5 insurance and business media experts: Nadia Mensah Acogny, Journalist, Forbes Afrique; Tony van Niekerk, Editor, Cover Publications; Afif Ben Yedder, Founder, IC Publications; Michael Wilson, Business & Finance Journalist and Kenneth Igbomor, Market News Editor (West Africa), CNBC Africa.

{Odimegwu Onwumere receiving the award from the Director-CEO of Continental Reinsurance PLC Dr Femi Oyetunji}

I have had the honour of being a judge for two consecutive years, and I would like to note that the quality of entries has significantly improved. There were also more contenders for the top scores than there were last year, which is encouraging progress,’’ noted Nadia Mensah Acogny, Chairperson of the 2018 Judging Panel.

Commenting on the French entries, Ms. Nadia said, “There are many excellent francophone journalists on the continent, who should rise and compete with their fellow business journalists by participating in these awards. I would like to encourage French writers to submit their entries for the 2019 awards.”

{Odimegwu Onwumere with the Director-CEO of Continental Reinsurance PLC Dr Femi Oyetunji}

Continental Reinsurance initiated the journalism awards in 2015 to recognise and acknowledge the good work of media on the continent. Journalists are required to demonstrate how their articles raised awareness and understanding of the re/insurance sector in Africa.

Continental Reinsurance is a composite reinsurer, writing business in more than 50 countries across the African continent. Established in 1985 and listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) in 2007, Continental Reinsurance provides support to over 200 insurance companies in Africa with its main offices in Nigeria, Cameroon, Kenya, Côte d’Ivoire, Tunisia and Botswana.  It also has a specialist subsidiary – Continental Property and Engineering Risk Services (CPERS) – registered in South Africa.

Investigation: How Farmers/Herdsmen Conflicts Cause Setbacks To Agriculture

Farmers and Fulani herdsmen crises linger as a chief problem to the development of agriculture among local farmers in Nigeria. Odimegwu Onwumere uncovers that as a result of this, hundreds of thousands of lives, billions of Naira worth of property and farm produce are lost to the clashes, and the authorities seem not stoical in applying lasting restrictive measures against the nuisance

“When we talk to the Fulani herdsmen over the gratuitous destruction of our crops by their cows, they would point guns and arrows at us. And this is why we hardly question them in our farms, because we do not want to die.”

Those were the words of Mrs. Nkechinyere Nwosu, the wife of the Ekwu I of Umuekwune-Ohoro, Igbo-Etche, Etche Local Government Area (LGA) of Rivers State, while leading the women of the community in a peaceful protest recently, to the palace of the monarch to register their plight in the hands of Fulani herdsmen and correspondingly call on Governor Nyesom Wike of the State, not to tarry in saving them and their crops.

Known as nomads from the northern part of Nigeria traversing towns and villages in the southern part of the county with their cattle for the purpose of grazing, some school of thoughts were of the scrutiny that the Fulani herdsmen resorted to violence, when rustlers started making a career of rustling their cows. Investigations by this writer, conversely, showed that the incessant reports by the herdsmen to the authorities in the hands of rustlers, which were attended to with wave of the back hand, pushed them to be carrying arms, not minding that illegal possession of arms is outlawed in Nigeria.

According to a source that would prefer to remain anonymous, “The herdsmen have reportedly encountered cattle rustlers as they move from place to place and made complaints to the relevant authorities who fail to investigate the issue, hence their purported reason for carrying arms about.”

The source further tinted, “During their journey, they frequently trespass farmlands owned by locals in their host communities, destroying crops and valuables. Attempts by farmers to prevent them from causing havoc are met with stiff and violent resistance.

“Most times, the farmers are overpowered, injured and killed, while others are evicted from their homes. Sometimes, the herdsmen are accused of taking these opportunities to steal, rape, raze houses and kill innocent members of the communities they pass through.”

Against this backdrop, a former Military Head of State, Abdulsalami Abubakar, at a forum organised by Search for Common Ground, Nigeria, in collaboration with Abdulsalami Abubakar Institute for Peace and Sustainable Development on October 30, 2017, said that Nigeria loses 13.7 billion dollars annually as a result of farmers-herdsmen conflicts in Benue, Kaduna, Nassarawa and Plateau States.

{Abdulsalami Abubakar}

Farmers And Their Ordeals

While some women and men farmers who have encountered Fulani herdsmen in Igbo-Etche have stories of alleged rape, killing, destruction of their crops meted out to them to tell, the senator representing Nasarawa West Constituency in the National Assembly, Senator Abdullahi Adamu equally noted in a public presentation, saying that disputes between famers and herdsmen typically arise from disagreement over the use of possessions such as farmland, grazing areas and water.

A former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Chief Olu Falae experienced this “disagreement over the use of possessions” when he was abducted by some Fulani herdsmen during his 77th  Birthday on September 21, 2015, at his Ilado farm in Akure North Local Government Area of Ondo State. Sources said that until the conviction of the abductors in April 2017 in the persons of Abubakar Auta, Bello Jannu, Umaru Ibrahim, Masahudu Muhammed, Idris Lawal and two others, Falae was released after paying N5m ransom four days after his abduction. Farmers in Igbo-Etche nonetheless believe that the herdsmen have ulterior motive, because they prefer their cows feeding on crops than grass. This, however, has led to incessant complaints by the villagers.

Cry Of Farmers Across The Country

Across the country, farmers have been lamenting the deadly stumbles-upon with Fulani herdsmen in their farms. Many of the farmers weep about the sorrowful attacks the Fulani herdsmen have made as a career against them.

For example, in Ogun and Oyo communities, especially in Yewa North Local Government Area of Ogun State, there has been heightened tension for over 12 years, when herdsmen numbering nearly one thousand started using the Eggua boundary every December to April for grazing.

In most cases, the herdsmen authoritatively venture into homes of their host communities and open the barns to feed the cows with maize, yam, cassava and others found in the barns. Like the women of Igbo-Etche, if the inhabitants of Ogun and Oyo communities ask questions, the herdsmen would pull out their guns and cause troubles.

{Woman crying after 13 were killed in Taraba herdsmen reprisal attack}

School Farms Not Left Out

Then-again, just in September 2017, the Vice Chancellor, Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba Akoko, Ondo State, Prof. Igbekele Ajibefun lamented what he described as illegal moves by the Fulani herdsmen in grazing their cattle in the institution’s farm sites.

Ajibefun disclosed this while speaking at a security forum organized by the “Ondo State Police Command to interact with stakeholders including security agencies, heads of institutions, royal fathers, religious leaders, artisans, students, farmers, cattle rearers, hunters and other concerned persons and groups, in Akoko South West Local Government area of the State.”

In his words, “We are aware that the issue of security is very complex. And because we don’t want to make it more complex, we have been trying to manage our experience with Fulani herdsmen each time they intrude on our campus.

“It is a very bad situation the way they invade our farm and destroy the place. I would like to appeal to our security agencies to come to the aid of the university by finding a lasting solution to the problem.”

Heads Roll For Cows To Feed

Reason for this is not farfetched: In some views, the Fulani herdsmen when interviewed have said that they’d no option than making sure that their cows feed.

The outcome of this is in the statistics provided by the Institute for Economics and Peace, saying, “1,229 people were killed in 2014, up from 63 in 2013 and Benue State seems to be the hardest hit in the farmers and Fulani herdsmen conflicts in recent times.

“Barely five days to the end of Governor Gabriel Suswam’s administration in May 2015, over 100 farmers and their family members were reportedly massacred in villages and refugee camps located in the Ukura, Per, Gafa and Tse-Gusa local government areas of the state.”

It was further noted that in July 2015, “Suspected herdsmen attacked Adeke, a community on the outskirts of the state capital, Makurdi. Last December, six persons were killed at Idele village in the Oju local government area. A reprisal attack by youths in the community saw three Fulani herdsmen killed and beheaded.”

Counting Of Damages Continues

In some localities like Asa, Agon-Ojodun, Ayetoro, Ogunpa, Kodera and Igbonla, the locals said that they have been sacked in many occasions by the herdsmen when they resisted them feeding their cows with their farm produce.

From Ayete, a lethargic town in Ibarapa North Local Government Area, Oyo State, to the 10 local government areas in Oke-Ogun, the story is the same. In many occasions, the authorities’ interventions have yielded little or no result.

The House of Representatives had encouraged all stakeholders to an open hearing in order to tackle what it once illustrated as “incessant clashes between herdsmen, farmers and their host communities’’.

However, explorations revealed that just in February 2016, “40 more people were killed (as a result of a clash between herdsmen and farmers in Benue State); about 2,000 were displaced and not less than 100 were seriously injured.”

The source added, “Most recently, more than 92 Nigerians were massacred by suspected Fulani herdsmen in Benue and Niger states. Also, before this time, there have been reported attacks by the Fulani Herdsmen in southern states of the country, including Enugu, Ekiti and Ondo States.”

Calling Herdsmen To Leave

There is a belief that some farmers in some communities across the country have said that they do not want the herdsmen in their communities. This, though, has generated some rebuttals suggesting that since every Nigerian has a right to reside in any part of the country without prejudice, the call against Fulani herdsmen is uncalled for.

According to a source that would not want the name mentioned, “The solution is not for the herdsmen to leave the communities. There are a lot of political intrigues attached to the development and some people create mischief out of it.”

The source enthused that some elements want to create an impression that the clashes between herdsmen and farmers are prevalent in the present administration forgetting that from time immemorial, before democracy, herdsmen and farmers have been fighting.

Among All Odds

Some communities and their traditional rulers are not sleeping on their oars in making sure that agriculture is boosted in the country, no matter the over $13.7b that have been reported lost to farmers and herdsmen conflicts yearly.

The Otaru of Auchi, Alhaji Aliru H. Momoh, Etsako West Local Government Area of Edo, even with the fears of farmers and herdsmen clashes, braced up on Sunday, June 18 2017, to advise all the 25 village heads in the kingdom to influence their wards, to embrace farming. In the highlight of this, Momoh motivated that his traditional council had donated 5,000 hectares of land: Being their support to the federal government agricultural project, in order to revolutionise agriculture.

According to the monarch, “We have allocated some hectares of land to the Federal Government for the planting of cashew, cassava, maize and groundnut, and we are expecting them to come and inspect the land.’’

Checks revealed that over 200 women have been encouraged in Auchi to go back to agriculture in the tone of N5 million. According to Momoh, “Because of the Fulani herdsmen issue, we gave out some money to farmers to ease them of the threat of Fulani herdsmen who threaten them in the farm.”

Dissenters Over Ranches

In making sure that the stalemate between farmers and herdsmen are resolved across the country, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Audu Ogbeh had assured that some States, which included Plateau, Kaduna, Kano, Gombe, Katsina, Taraba, Niger, Adamawa, Jigawa, Sokoto and the FCT, among others, had provided hectares of land for the business of ranches to control clashes between farmers and herdsmen in their States.

According to the Honourable Minister, “The way forward is to strive to attain self-sufficiency in animal protein by checking constant exposure of our cows to long distance trekking in search of pasture which affects their productivity.

“This administration has therefore set out to establish ranches to be planted with high quality improved tropical grass and legume species. We shall provide irrigation for all year commercial fodder production to enhance settlement of pastoralist and ensure cattle, sheep and goat improvement through an expanded breeding programme that would use artificial insemination.’’

But Dr Mohammed Ahmed, a former Chief Executive Officer of the National Veterinary Research Institute, Vom, Plateau, was afraid that a typical Fulani herdsman wouldn’t accept the initiative.

According to him, “Ranches are capital intensive; government must ensure that there is enough water and all-year-round grass for grazing. The herdsmen must also be encouraged to cut grass in the rainy season and store same for use during the dry season in addition to being educated on how to manage limited space.

“I am not sure that the typical Fulani man in Nigeria will happily embrace a ranch, but with the current realities, settling them in one place is the best way out, especially if they can have what they want where they are settled.’’

While government has taken a move for ranches, Alhaji Sale Bayeri, the spokesman of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders’ Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) in Plateau, the sunshade body of the Fulani herdsmen, said, “The herdsmen will not accept ranches; we shall prefer to explore our traditional grazing routes/reserves.”

That was contained in a media chat last year with MACBAN’s National Legal Adviser, Mohammed Bello Tukur, saying, “stakeholders should rather demarcate routes and cattle resting points with support from technical and financial partners.”

According to the source, “MACBAN rejects the setting up of ranches and supports the establishment of grazing reserves; we want government to create a ministry of livestock development to ease the establishment of the reserves.’’

Chief Audu Ogbeh {The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development}

Local Farmers Must Be Included In Ranches

Some farmers nevertheless said that if government wants the scheme to succeed, local farmers must be included.

In the views of Sen. Jerry Useini representing Plateau South, “We just woke up and heard that cattle ranches will be established in parts of Plateau. Such decision cannot be popular because no one was consulted and neither was any wide enlightenment carried out.’’

This was even as Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau said, “No human policy or plan can be perfect, but we want those with reservations about the ranches to suggest something better. It is not enough to just oppose what is being worked out since what we are doing is in the interest of peace.’’

According to Mr. Timothy Golu representing Pankshin/Kanke/Kanam in the House of Representatives, “Ranches are far better than grazing reserves if we are to check incessant clashes between farmers and herdsmen, but we must be able to listen to what the ordinary farmers feel about what is being worked out.

“We must carry the farmers and traditional rulers along in carving out the affected areas. We must carefully work out and ensure payment of compensations; otherwise we shall only be breeding another recipe for even worse crises.”

Against this influence, the Minister of Interior, retired Lt.-Gen. Abdulrahman Dambazau was of the view that herdsmen and farmers’ gridlocks are a threat to national peace.

According to him, “The effect of this conflict has been loss of life, dislocation of people and communities and the disruption of socio economic activity. Even more importantly, it is a threat to the integrity and peaceful co-existence of the Nigerian state. The objective, therefore, is to identify any laws and regulations that impact on the conflict; this will in turn inform the design of a definitive policy intervention.”

On the contrary, the authorities have done little or nothing to arrest the farmers and herdsmen standoffs. Once more, the standoffs have infused fears into the women and men farmers in the areas to attend to their farms, thereby causing a setback to their agricultural productivities. This is due to unyielding peace agreements that some states have signed in respect to farmers and Fulani herdsmen conflicts. There’re also the rejected cattle ranches proposed by the Major General Muhammadu Buhari government.

However, for Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue, “The ranches remain the generally acceptable practice and will serve as the permanent solution to the unending clashes between the herdsmen and farmers.’’

Odimegwu Onwumere Makes Finalist In West Africa Media Excellence Awards

By G.U Chukwu

At the maiden edition of the West Africa Media Excellence Awards held on Saturday night, October 28 2017, at the Mövenpick Ambassador Hotel, Accra, Ghana, your dogged and multiple award-winning journalist Odimegwu Onwumere emerged finalist with his article published in The Nigerian Voice, Nigeria.

Onwumere emerged finalist in the Anti-Corruption Reporting Category. According to a statement issued by a three member judges of the awards in the persons of Ms. Sophie Ly who is an experienced Senegalese journalist, media trainer and media development expert; Mr. Lanre Idowu who is an accomplished and highly respected Nigerian journalist, editor, author, publisher, media owner and trainer; and Ms. Elizabeth Ohene who is a veteran Ghanaian journalist, over 400 published stories that were sent in by journalists from 12 countries across West Africa, 15 journalists made the finalists from six categories.

Conversely, in the well competed awards, Jesusegun Alagbe of The Punch, Nigeria, won in the Anti-Corruption Reporting Category.  But Onwumere was elated that his name was not among those who entered for the awards but were not finalists, adding that having made a finalist showed that he is doing better in his chosen career than the poor leaders in Nigeria.

He added that objective journalism pays better than an oppressive government anywhere in the world, especially such that Nigerians have come to endure in the recent times in the name of democracy.

Onwumere said that objective journalism is hated by oppressive leaders but journalists inclined in objectivity in their reportages would stop at nothing to expose the highhandedness of the looting leaders and keep in touch with the different communities of their ill behaviours.

He, therefore, called on moneybags and the authorities to help journalism and journalists in this clime by pumping in money to sustain them. He, nonetheless, thanked those who have helped in one way or the other in making him the renowned journalist he has become today.

G.U Chukwu, Owerri.

October 30 2017.

How A Lady Embarrassed A Man For Approaching Her

BEYOND RELIGION AND CULTURE: Her gait was enchanting much as it was alluring when Kelvin my friend who was riding a bicycle on the cool evening saw the abundantly beauty on Saturday, September 30 2017, crossing the dangerous Oyigbo Express Junction, Rivers State, where security men stationed at this place have turned to terror of a sort, after the IPOB’s September 12 imbroglio.

He then made a move. The young lady suspected to be in her middle 20s was a beauty to behold, but her carriage was a misplaced one. “Hello, lady,” Kelvin said on getting to her, walking side by side now, with her. The lady kept a long face and neither replied Kelvin.

“Goodeveing, Lady,” Kelvin added. The lady in a very low but arrogant tone replied. “Goodevening,” she said.

“Thanks,” Kelvin replied. “I could not resist, at least, coming closer to you when I saw you passed somewhere, along this road.” The lady was yet to respond. Kelvin was rolling his bicycle by that hands and had followed the lady to a distance. “Stop embarrassing yourself,” the lady later talked and kept her long and pride-full self.

“That’s an overstatement,” Kelvin retorted. “What is the embarrassment in seeing a lady and walking after her?” Kelvin asked, but the lady did not say a word.

“Is it that you don’t like men coming after you or you are looking down on me because I’m coming to you with a bicycle?” Kelvin asked. The lady was a bit remorseful on hearing Kelvin spoke. She turned and looked at Kelvin, but this was the point he had to turn back. “I will be leaving now, so that I don’t embarrass you further,” Kelvin said, and left.

When Kelvin narrated his ordeal in the hands of the lady to me, I did not need a soothsayer to conclude that she was in her arrogant self because Kelvin didn’t come to her in a Venza or the other. But Kelvin she looked down on was well educated, mannered and stunningly wealthy.

At least, he had about 5 different storeys. Each is not less than 2 decks. He had some companies and what not. A young man in his early 30s. “The lady, perhaps, didn’t know the meaning of embarrassment,” I consoled him. “I think it was expected of her to have told you that she’s married or not interested in your overtures than the other way she took.”

It is pertinent that we learn how to approach people and how to respond to people. Pls, what kind of lady is this?

Odimegwu Onwumere is a Poet, Writer and Media Consultant based in Rivers State.

How Being A Journalist Saved Me From Nigerian Police

BEYOND RELIGION AND CULTURE: The notorious security agents stationed at the popular Oyigbo Express Junction in Rivers State after the September 12 IPOB impasse apprehended me today (September 25). The reason was that I stopped and was rolling my bike by hand just near one of their vans. They said that I ought to had stopped somewhere that was not even well defined in their language to me. They later asked me to pack my bike but one of them, on looking critically at the ID card on my crest, said, “So, you are a pressman. You are among those talking rubbish at LUV FM of our excesses here.” I kept quiet. But one of them seemed to know journalists better. “Leave him to go, these guys are dangerous,” he told his colleague. I was still quiet. Later, I took my bike and left. When I got to my family house and narrated this story, neighbours praised my job as my rescuer. “If not, those police guys would have asked you to bring 10k before you will pick your bike,” one of the neigbours said. “What the police and SARS are doing at that Oyigbo Express Junction is pure extortion ranging from seizing people’s phones, arresting and molesting innocent people in phantom search for those that disarmed some of their colleagues of 3 guns and burnt their car.” The stories of heinous things the security agents are doing at the Oyigbo Express Junction were much. The stories reminded me of a brother, Wonder Generator, who saw me early in the morning and was telling me of how the SARS seized his bike simple because there was no plate number on it and asked him to go and bring 10k.

Odimegwu Onwumere is a Poet, Writer and Media Consultant.

{PRESS RELEASE} Wike: When Are We Going To Hands Down In Oyigbo?

PRESS RELEASE 

Wike: When Are We Going To Hands Down In Oyigbo?

Four days from today would make it two weeks that a special security agents were stationed at Oyigbo, Rivers State, precisely, at the popular Express Junction, after the September 12 2017 supposed impasse in the area that was fingered to be an IPOB affair.

{Wike During 2015 Rivers Guber Campaign}

Even before the security agents came to the place, the least chaos that erupted had settled down and the residents were out for their normal businesses. However, the rather prolonged stay of the security agents at the Express Junction makes it look like there is a war going on in the area, which should not be so.

If you are riding a bike, you are forced to roll it by the hand to pass the Express Junction. Pedestrians are not left out of the security nuisance: They are forced to hands up while crossing the Express Junction.

And the question is – how long are we going to see this in Oyigbo? – a place that has been as peaceful as the cemetery from the time immemorial. The worrisome aspect of it all is that the security agents are converting the Express Junction to what we are yet to understand: The often shots of gun in the air by the security agents are embarrassing just as they do not send good signal to the Government of Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State.

If there was a cult rival in Oyigbo, that would have been a different thing. The idea would have been that the security agents must fish out the culprits before they retreat to where they were deployed from. But in this case, Oyigbo is peaceful before and after the September 12 bottleneck.

I hereby call on the office of Governor Wike to call the security agents to order, to allow residents and passersby to walk freely without any form of molestation by the security agents.

It does not add up that Oyigbo residents should be raising their hands up before they walk the Express Junction. In a sane clime, this security method does not represent the wish of democrats in a democracy.

The practice by the security agents can be attributed to pure intimidation given that in a democracy, the “people shouldn’t be afraid of their government,” one Alan Moore, V for Vendetta would say, “Government should be afraid of their people.” But in Oyigbo, the people are being intimidated to be unnecessarily afraid of the government, which invariably was not the mindset of Governor Wike.

We should not allow anti-intellectualism and anti-democracy become a recurring decimal in the political sphere in this country. Let the governor read Mahatma Gandhi, “What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or in the holy name of liberty or democracy?”

Notwithstanding, if the security agents must stay, let the residents and passersby be allowed to walk freely without raising their hands up and the motorcyclists, not rolling their motorcycles by hand before they cross the Express Junction.

The continued mandating of people to raise their hands up and motorcyclists to roll their machines by hand, do not achieve positive gains to the government of Governor Nyesom Wike, but a bad name.

Oyigbo is not known for charlatanic maneuvers, so the residents shouldn’t be subjected to ridicule and inhumane features in the name of security checks. Let the governor withdraw the security agents to allow people go about their normal businesses. The security agents’ presence at Oyigbo Expressing Junction is not only intimidating the residents but also halting individual businesses.

Odimegwu Onwumere is the Coordinator, Concerned Non-Indigenes In Rivers State (CONIRIV). Mobile: +2348032552855. Email: apoet_25@yahoo.com

Date: September 22 2017.