Aug 22, 2020

A Letter from a Mathematics Teacher to WAEC


Students writing examinations.

 As a teacher, I have watched unsavoury trends over time, which have pushed me to the wall and coerced me to speak up. It is a trend within the external examination authorities, the West African Examination Council, WAEC, as it pertains to mathematics, which I happen to teach.

So much lies have often been told of how kids of these days hate to read their books. Parents often hide behind these and claim that during their own time, they were serious students. This lie will serve as a pedestal for boastful lies from some parents. I finished secondary school in the mid-eighties. Even then, the level of hard-work among students wasn’t anywhere different from what it is now. The proportion of serious students today is the same as it was back then. It could even be better now because we now have competitions in private schools that have turned up brighter students than in the past. It is the reason why everyone wants to educate his child in a private school.

 I was in the sciences. Mathematics is crucial to the understanding of the sciences. As I mentioned in a preceding paragraph, only a few students were serious during our time. Out of about thirty students of my class back in the mid-eighties, there were only six that passed mathematics with credits or higher grades. That makes it 20% of the students. Those students were hard-working not because their parents pushed them to be hard-working, but because they had a certain degree of maturity that agitated and kept their conscience awake. 

On any day, if you pick any number of students, the same percentage will have the conscience to do what is right at that age without someone compelling them to do so. A certain percentage tidied up their lives by re-writing WAEC some years later, with added maturity.

If you ask yourself sincerely, how many persons studied hard during your set, you are going to come up with a “not many” answer. 

So, why is it that, these days, even when students are well-taught, a whole set would fail the external mathematics examination?

 What Ii will be writing in the following paragraphs is my opinion.  It is left for readers to agree with me or not. The answers I get will either vindicate or incriminate me. Recently, some science competitions have emerged to bring excellent students who rewarded with scholarships. Notable among these are the Olympiad, Cowbell and Insterswitch competitions. What has become clear is that WAEC is getting influenced by these competitions that are supposed to bring out geniuses. A thousand would write the examination, but only a few will come out with pass marks. The trend is creating frustration among hard-working students, their teachers and hurting the nation.

 One of the secrets of why I was successful in secondary school was the revision of past question papers from WAEC. I looked at the question papers to see what we had covered that I could answer, but also what we have covered that I couldn’t answer. I made revisions of what I had learned that I couldn’t answer. I went on to study topics that we hadn’t covered, notable among them were Longitude and Latitude, which I taught myself successfully and now teach my students. Back then, when you pick a question paper, even as a student, you could see that you could pass the examination. I later went to a university and studied in the natural sciences, bagging a first degree as far back as 1992. With all the experience that followed in the more the three decades since my secondary school, I get scared when I pick up a Mathematics question paper to revise with my students today. That is how I learned that something is wrong with the pattern of WAEC mathematics tests these days.

 My students, currently writing the WAEC examination in August due to the Corona Virus pandemic, have already written mathematics on 17th August. After the paper, my best students came out looking disappointed. They are students that I had expected to do me proud. Some of them know Mathematics more than I knew it when I was in secondary school. One of these students had topped Plateau State in a competition that is organized by the Presidency to award a federal scholarship. I became heartbroken, not knowing what else to do, going by the level of hard work we had put in and the number of bright students we were lucky to have in the set. The outcome: I am losing interest in the profession, and the students are becoming frustrated.

It is why I am writing this, to call the attention of WAEC to a pattern of questions in recent years that requires students to struggle to find “expo” because they feel that they cannot pass mathematics examinations on their own. 

Only parents who loved and understood mathematics during their time can understand my position. To corroborate my claim, you have to pick questions of the last decade, for instance, to compare with what you had written during your time if you had written any time before 2000.

We must avoid this national disaster.

Jun 30, 2020

The Challenges of Peace Building in Nigeria

Rev. Samuel Doro. Source: Samuel Doro

The security situation in Nigeria has reached a frightening dimension, complicated by sectarian wars, banditry, kidnapping and outright assassinations. While these are happening, the federal government of Nigeria doesn’t seem to worry much about the situation, further adding insult to injury. The News Tower Magazine decided to visit the Executive Director of the Centre for Peace Advancement in Nigeria, CEPAN, Reverend Solomon Doro, here in Jos. 

Doro cites impunity, systemic corruption, widespread crimes and a complacent police force as some reasons why security in Nigeria has worsened. There is also the loss of faith in the ability of the authorities. When this happens, people take laws into their hands. 

Rev. Doro gave details of how religion has played a role in the deteriorating security situation in the country. He cites an example of Jos, where religion has been at the centre of the conflict over the years. He also cites Boko Haram, a religious group that wishes to topple the Nigerian government and set up an Islamic state. There is the Shi’a Muslims issue that has made its contribution to the deterioration of peace in Nigeria. 

Doro noted that, while government officials are supposed to work towards ensuring the separation of religion and state as the constitution requires, they are the ones complicating matters. Instances, according to Doro, include the use of state funds to finance pilgrimages to Jerusalem and Mecca. There is also the purchase of rice and rams to be shared to adherents during the Eid, not forgetting millions spent to feed people during Ramadan. There are also chapels and mosques built within state houses using state funds. While these happen, the state’s anti-corruption agencies look the other way. The Nigerian law allows freedom of religious worship but frowns at the use of state funds to help advance any religion.

Some Nigerians have advocated the creation of state police at the second tier of government since state governors claim they do not have any powers over the federal police. The situation leaves them emasculated on security matters within their jurisdictions. Doro says the idea seems attractive but could turn out disastrous. Nigerian authorities, he says, have a history of using anything at their disposal to fight the opposition. He cites the instance of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission that targets members of the opposition exclusively, despite tons of corrupt officials within the ruling party with grave cases of corruption to answer. 

Doro doesn’t support the government making laws that allow gun ownership. Guns could help rural people to fight against night attackers, but they will prove disastrous in the cities since there are still distrusts among conflicting factions. And since some groups feel that some security bodies are against them, this could lead to a deadly confrontation with the security forces, making things messier. 

On the roles of NGOs and government towards the spread of peace, Doro explained that they are all supposed to work for peace, but the government doesn’t see the meaning of peace the way the NGOs see it. When the government talks about peace, it is talking about the suppression of violence so that people can go about their normal activities. But when NGOs talk about peace, they are looking at human security, which is a reference to good governance. It is because when people live in peace it means that their needs have been fully met. It boils down to good governance. The government forces the people to live in peace, without looking at triggers of conflict. The NGOs try to address the triggers, rather than wait for the conflicts to trigger. Hence, they encourage governments to be embracing by bringing people together to talk about their issues. NGOs, he says, source their finances from donors, mostly abroad, without getting any help from the government at home. The implication is that the home authorities are complacent in working towards the creation of peace. Governments have security votes that never support NGOs working for peace. Instead, the security votes are drain-pipes for stealing state funds, since, by law, they are legal. 

Doro explained that NGOs are facing challenges of folding up because the reckless manner of handling state funds is giving international donors reasons to believe that there is so much money in Nigeria. It is the reason why they are withdrawing their financial supports to poorer nations. Currently, the Government of the Netherland, USAID, the European Union (EU) and the National Endowment for Democracy supports the activities of NGOs in Plateau State. The conflicts in Plateau State had attracted donors, but when Boko Haram insurgency broke out, most of these donors moved to the Northeast corner of the country. In Plateau State, however, NGOs feel that building peace works better when there is relative peace, as it is the right time to get the attention of the people. Plateau State, he says, haven’t reached that point when lasting peace has finally come. It is because there hasn’t been reconciliation yet –no one has come to admit atrocities he had committed and no one has come to pardon persons who committed crimes against them. You still see segregation in schools, markets and living quarters. The farmers-herders conflict has emerged in the villages, and it is getting very complicated. So, Plateau State still has a marathon to run.

According to Doro, one challenge local NGOs are going to face currently is that many of them are likely going to fold up because of Corona Virus pandemic that is negatively affecting the economy of donor nations.  

In the past, NGOs loved working with community representatives such as the hardos (Fulani leaders) and elected legislators. The NGOs, however, realized that these set of people don’t feel the pains of the villagers who are the victims of conflicts in rural areas. Hence, the NGOs have resorted to dealing directly with the victims in rural areas. If it becomes mandatory to talk to the leaders, the NGOs now prefer advocacy, cutting down the cost of its operations. 

As a solution to the spread of conflicts across the nation, he suggests the authorities should change the security chiefs. They have failed, he says, and have no reason to be there. Furthermore, there is a need to instil discipline within the police and military in the country. The security issue in Nigeria is domestic and should be in the hands of the police. Sadly, the military comes in and complicate matters, since the two are competing rather than cooperating on security matters. 

For a sense of lasting peace in Plateau State, he suggests that the Plateau State Peace-Building Agency should not only be sustained but should be allowed to work freely by, not only the current government but the others to come after it.


Jun 16, 2020

GUIDELINES FOR THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE N50 BILLION TARGETED CREDIT FACILITY



As part of the measure to reduce the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on businesses in Nigeria, the Federal government of Nigeria through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has introduced COVID-19 support loans for Households, SME and MSME.

The COVID-19 Support fund will be distributed by NIRSAL Microfinance Bank and come with an Interest rate under the intervention is 5% P.A.   (All-inclusive) up to 28th February 2021 and thereafter, the interest will revert to 9% P.A.   (All-inclusive) as from 1st March 2021, follow the steps below for detailed guidelines on how to apply;
ELIGIBILITY

HOUSEHOLDS: For a household to benefit, they must provide verifiable evidence of livelihood adversely impacted by COVID-19 and agreed to allow NIRSAL Microfinance Bank (NMFB) to assess their financial records. Households Can access a maximum of N3 million
Requirements:

· Loan application letter
· Duly completed application form
· Duly executed Guarantor form
· A valid means of ID (national ID, driver’s license, voter’s card or international passport)
· Current utility bill
· 2 recent passport-size photographs
· BVN

MSMEs/CORPORATE ENTERPRISES:
(1) Mini SME (funding between N3m – N10m)
(2) SME Plus (funding between N10.1m and N25m)
Existing enterprises must provide verifiable evidence of business activities adversely affected as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and also agreed to allow NIRSAL Microfinance Bank (NMFB) to assess their financial records.

The Bank will assess the capacity of the customer through the customer’s business history; via total account statement turnover (with NMFB and other banks), however, this would not be the only tool used to determine customer’s eligibility. (Note: Where a review of the customer’s account statement raises fundamental issues, the bank reserves the right to make decisions as considered appropriate).

Requirement:
· Loan application letter
· Duly completed application form
· Duly executed Guarantor form
· A valid means of ID (National ID, Driver’s License, Voter’s Card or International passport)
· Current utility bill
· 2 recent passport-size photographs
· BVN

Loan amount to SMEs shall be determined based on the activity, cashflow and industry/segment size of the beneficiary, subject to a maximum of N25 million.
FOR MINI-SME & SME PLUS BUSINESS PLAN IS REQUIRED
ENSURE YOU STATE AND DESCRIBE HOW COVID-19 NEGATIVELY IMPACTED YOUR HOUSEHOLD OR BUSINESS

ONLINE APPLICATION PROCESS
* Click COVID-19 Household Loan to commence registration with NIRSAL Microfinance Bank
* Click COVID-19 Mini-SME Loan to commence registration with NIRSAL Microfinance Bank
* Click COVID-19 SME Plus Loan to commence registration with NIRSAL Microfinance Bank

NOTE: Your application must show clear evidence of the opportunity or adverse impact as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

OPPORTUNITY: CcHUB Call for Projects – Funding and Design Support for COVID-19 Projects

DOWNLOADS

May 30, 2020

Special Forces and Agro-Rangers to Protect Farms in Plateau State



Sonny Tyoden launching Fertilizer Sales for 2020
The Plateau State Government has announced that Special Forces and Agro-Rangers are to protect farms in Plateau State. This notice was made during the kick-off of the sale of fertilizer and other farm inputs to farmers in the state for year, 2020. The event was held at the Plateau State Ministry of Agriculture’s Warehouse along Bukuru Expressway in Jos South.

The Plateau State Deputy Governor, Professor Sonny Tyoden, who represented Governor Lalong noted that this year, the state awarded a contract for the purchase of sixty thousand bags of 50kg NPK 20.10.10, 45,000 bags of 50kg of Urea, 30 metric tons of maize, 15 metric tons of rice seeds, 7.5 metric tons of cotton seeds and 5250 litres of growth boosters.  He gave prices as follows:

1.     NPK 20:10: 10 at N5000 per bag of 50kg.
2.     Urea at N15000 per bag of 50kg.
3.     Growth boosters at N40, 000 per litre.
4.     Maize seed at N428 and N1605 per 2 kg for different varieties.
5.     Rice seed at N6500 per 25kg bag.
6.     Arewa cotton seed at N4200.

Farmers wishing to purchase any of the inputs are to go to the nearest store in their respective local governments, get allocation papers and pay the equivalent to of what they are purchasing to an agent of Staling Bank at the location. The evidence of payment is then presented to the store keepers who then supply the product.

The governor noted that committees have been assigned to monitor the sales to ensure transparency, warning seriously against any diversion, as there will be dire consequences in cases of violations of the procedures the authorities have outlined.
According to the governor, the administration is working hard to encourage the use of tractors. Currently, the use of tractors in the state is at a dismal ratio of 0.2 tractors per 1000 hectares as against the global standard of 22 tractors per 1000 hectares. His government, he says, is providing a combined subsidy of 40% –30% from the state government and 10% from the local governments – for any farmer wishing to own a tractor.

In March, the authorities procured 1500 irrigation pumps for the purpose of boosting dry-season farming. He referred to the cooperation of his regime with the Lake Chard Research and the Potato Research Institutes that led to the growth of wheat and barley which weren’t grown in the state previously. 

Due to the potential of the grazing reserves in the Southern Zone of the state, the state has been enlisted in the Livestock Resilient Support Project of the World Bank. He also encouraged farmers to join cooperative groups to benefit from a range of loan facilities the Federal The government makes possible through the Central Bank.

The state government, determined to encourage large-scaled agricultural practice, is reacquiring 90% of the ownership of Barc Farms, with the intention of handing it over to a private body with the capacity to use it in large-scale farming efficiently.

The event was hosted by the State Commissioner of Agriculture, Dr Hosea Finangwai with support from his colleague at the Information Ministry, Dan Manjang. There was also the Gbong Gwom Jos, Da Jacob Gyang Buba, who called the government’s attention to the issue of security in farms. Also in attendance was the Chairman of the State Association of Local Governments of Nigeria, ALGON, and the chairman of the host local government area.

Dr Finangwai noted that the sale started slightly later than it used to due to bottlenecks caused by the incidence of the coronavirus disease. For the same reason, there were a handful of farmers in attendance at the launch. At fertilizer distribution centres, he says, there will be hand-washing/disinfecting facilities, decongestion and insistence on the use of face masks.  

Dr Finangwai voiced his gratitude to the Association of Nigerian Governors, headed by the Plateau State Governor, for their decision to exempt farmers from the lockdown due to the critical nature of their work. According to him, the exemption brought about a reduction in post-harvest losses of perishable farm produce.

Finangwai praised the governor for counterpart funding he has paid to support the Potato Value Chain Program, the Rural Access and Marketing Program (RAAMP). The commissioner further thanked the governor for his unbowed support to improve the process of farm inputs sourcing and sharing for the farmers and the revival of Agricultural Services and Training Centre, ASTC.

The ALGON Chairman announced that, at their own levels, they will be replicating what the state government is doing to help farmers. During the occasion, the chairman of the host local government, Jos South, unveiled a huge painting of the governor.


May 22, 2020

Finangwai Dreams Big for Plateau State

Dr Hosea Finangwai. Source Dr Finangwai

There is that saying that “the things that people desperately seek are always with them.” If you ever had the chance to visit a vegetable market in Plateau State, you get a profound feeling that the solution to Plateau’s economic woes is hidden in vegetables grown in the state. Sadly, the little things that authorities ought to do to help this come to fruition often fail to materialize. Besides, prosperity is not just about the economy, schools and roads. Prosperity is also about physical beauty and decency of our public places; people judge you by the way you appear. Thus, the markets need to be organized to look decent.  

In the past, particularly in colonial times, there were successful efforts at market organizations. In Bukuru, Jos South, for instance, the market was organized to have units for every basic trade. There were huge warehouses for grain storage, a decently built slaughter and units for the sale of the slaughtered animals, tailoring, vegetable... There was also the famous abattoir around Dogon Karfe. Since then, nothing of that nature has been built, despite population growth even while existing ones are in a state of rot. 

The chaos in the vegetable market and abattoir were the reason why the News Tower visited the Honourable Commissioner of Agriculture in Plateau State, Dr Hosea Finangwai. But the conversation got bigger than we had hoped. The News Tower was trying to bring the attention of the commissioner to the idea of organizing emerging markets like that of Building Materials for decency, modernity and easy navigation. So, we asked the commissioner what plans he has for this year, 2020. 

Dr Finangwai brought to our attention the fact that a reasonable growth plan in the short term isn’t feasible. It is the reason why his emphasis is on compiling the data of farmers and their activities and drawing a policy program upon which growth in the agricultural portfolio would be hinged. When that is done, the government will then unleash its development program fully.

Concerning the creation of a policy document, the commissioner said he intends to hold a summit of those that matter in the sector this year. Eventually, the ministry will ensure the cooperation of the Plateau Agricultural Development Program, PADP, The College of Agriculture Garkawa, the Agricultural Services and Training Centre (with offices across the state), and the Home Economic School in Riyom. These bodies are either agricultural training providers or service providers or both. And, since the administration wants to move agriculture in the state from subsistence to wealth creation, these bodies will be used to train the farmers who will then be supported to get loans from the Nigerian Incentive-based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL). 

Taking agriculture in Plateau State to a higher pedestal must involve extraordinary measures. Hence, the Ministry has identified varieties of certified seeds that have already been given to farmers. In the potato value chain, there is the idea of diffuse light stores to preserve the perishables until a favourable market day, processing units, life kiosks, tissue culture laboratories to clean our varieties to produce brands that are highly viable and resistant to diseases, thereby getting rid of challenges like potato blight. The commissioner also talked about the Gramin Agricultural Markets program to help farmers sale their goods locally as is done in India. More than seven hundred rural roads and about one hundred and fifty-six tarred roads will be constructed to enhance connections between the farms and the markets. 

The efforts will also involve the promotion of commodity associations. In this regard, the government in connection with the commodity associations has started working to help in the preservation of agricultural produce in cold rooms, which ASTC has in three locations in Plateau State that includes Vom, Kuru-Jenta and Tenti Green. The commodity associations have been mandated to find lands to be used as commodity markets, where farmers can deposit their goods in the cold houses, especially when markets aren’t favourable. It will help to discourage large gatherings, especially when social distancing becomes imperative. 

Dr Finangwai said he did lead a delegation to visit the honourable Minister of Agriculture, Mallam Sabo Nanono. The aim was to seek support in helping the Plateau State Government to set up cold houses. Still, with preservation, the commissioner said his ministry has proposed to the governor to encourage members of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTWh) to see the possibility of integrating cold vans into their fleet for the transportation of the perishable agricultural product to distant locations. His ministry is awaiting the response of the governor.

About the abattoir, the commissioner agrees the conditions are squalid; there is a paucity of water so that butchers have to use water niggardly. But there is also the reality of butchers slaughtering sick animals and selling them to people. Hence, the Plateau State Ministry of Agriculture is working with the Chairman and Secretary of the Butchers union to fix the ugly situation. But, the ministry is also looking at the prospect of handing the abattoir over to a private body, to avoid the I-do-not-give-a-damn behavior that often runs public agencies down. 

Regarding Kara Market in Bukuru, the administration has entered into an MOU with Harati. All this is aimed at making Kara market an international cattle market. Kara market was “built” by the administration of late Solomon Lar, during the second republic between 1979 and 1985, but has never really taken off. If it works well, according to the commissioner, the program will be replicated in the central and southern zones of Plateau State.



May 1, 2020

How to Become a Billionaire


By Yiro Abari High


Billionaires, their businesses and private lives often make interesting topics of conversations. They are powerful and influence lives in many ways. But above all, they stir others, creating in them a hunger for success. This way, a lot of people want to become billionaires.    


If you have been around for some time and have, at one time or the other, tried business, it should probably have given you an idea on how successful businesses are built. Billionaires become profoundly rich because they build successful businesses. So, you don’t just set out wanting to become a billionaire. I think that it is saner to set out wanting to become a successful businessman or woman. If your business becomes successful and you sustain the growth, then you are on your way to becoming a billionaire. 

The paths to becoming a billionaire are many and complex, but most billionaires achieved that status by searching to find a service or goods that are needed but which no one offers. If you find yourself offering services or commodities, then you are on your way…

There are certain services that couldn’t be provided because it required a technology that no one was able to invent. If you are able to invent such a technology to provide that service, then you are on your way to becoming a billionaire, especially if the technology solves a problem to millions of people. This is the case with Bill Gates of Microsoft Corporation. In the case of Jeff Bezos of Amazon, he did not invent the internet. He hatched the idea of selling things via the internet and was able to make it work. Currently, there is a search for Corona Virus cure or a vaccine. If you can find it, then you are on your way.

The Igbos in the south-east of Nigeria have the highest number of entrepreneurs in black Africa. They have a tradition of travelling to remote corners of the earth, where a lot of people wouldn’t want to live. It makes them the only suppliers of goods in that locality, helping them to build their businesses easily. There is an element of sacrifice here. So, you must not necessarily invent something like Bill Gates or hatch a unique idea like Jeff Bezos to get extraordinarily rich. You can simply buy a product to sell in a place where no one else sells it. 

But, if you find yourself in a place where a commodity or service is provided by many, you still can become rich buy studying the business landscape to see gaps that you can take advantage of and be ahead of the others. By doing this, you end up suffocating the other businesses, becoming a sole supplier. Aliko Dangote’s businesses supply what has been supplied by others. He, however, delivers the goods to depots across the country, cutting out middlemen and bringing down prices that ensure he stays ahead in the competition. 

Talent is part of it. Bill Gates has talent. When he was asked how he became so wealthy, he said, “I was lucky to be born with a certain amount of talent.” As said before, you don’t set out wanting to become a billionaire. You should set out wanting to build a successful business. Most times, the success of the business puts a lot of capital into your hand with which you can venture into any area where you see an opportunity that simply requires capital. You could have a talent for music, use it to generate capital and then put the capital to other businesses that generate even more money than music. Sean Puffy Combs, aka, P Diddy, is an example. He is truly the wealthiest Hip Hop artist, but not all the wealth comes from music. Music was just a stepping-stone. There is also Jay-Z who is venturing into other businesses after raising millions through music.  

You could also get rich by luck. If, for instance, your ancestors own land that turned out to be underlain by gold in a nation where the law favours the landowner in a way, you could get astonishingly rich. You could marry a wealthy woman that gives you a start.

But there is destiny. Destiny could say that you will never become a billionaire. In that case, you will do all these things and still see yourself getting even poorer, especially if you lack connection or some powers stand against you. There could be a war coming to disrupt your effort. There could be weak laws that leave your business unprotected. It is why businesses are like flying birds looking for the right place to land.

But like they say, winners never quit and quitters never win. Even when there is frustration while you are doing the right thing, it would be only wise to keep doing what is right. Those creating stumbling blocks aren’t God. The challenges could just be part of your story but not the whole of it. 

Apr 29, 2020

A New Drug to Treat COVID-19 Has Been Discovered

By Yiro Abari High
New Cure for COVID-19
A drug, remdensivir, has been shown to demonstrate a “clear cut” ability to treat the Corona Virus infection.  The news was broken by Dr Anthony Fauci, a member of the US White House Task Force for Corona Virus.

Remdensivir has proven to be better than Placebo, which has been used to treat COVID-19 till now.  While the recovery rate for Placebo is 15 days, it is 9 for remdensivir. The death rate for Placebo is also higher compared to that of remdensivir.

According to the report, remdensivir was developed in the efforts to find a cure for HIV/AIDS, but has not been used to treat any disease till now.

The American authorities have, as a result of the development, swung into action with regard a piece of legislation to authorize the use of the remdensivir to treat COVID-19.  

A Letter from a Mathematics Teacher to WAEC

Students writing examinations.   As a teacher, I have watched unsavoury trends over time, which have pushed me to the wall and coerced me to...