May 30, 2008

Obsolete Pesticides in Nigeria

The Banquet Hall of the Hill station Hotel Jos on the 8th May, 2008 hosted a sensitization lecture to farmers regarding the need for caution in handling obsolete pesticides.
In simple terms, pesticides are chemicals used to kill and control pests. They are actually diluted forms of concentrated chemicals.
In dilute forms they kill pests but not man. The accumulated effects on man and environment over time are however, harmful. In view of the harmful nature of pesticides when not handled properly, it is advisable that the right quantity needed is purchased and used without living stocks. Reckless purchase does however end up in large quantities of unused chemicals. These are the category usually referred to as obsolete pesticides.
Though pesticides are diluted chemicals, long exposure of man and the environment to the chemicals leads to accumulated effects that can be harmful to the environment and generations yet unborn. The Koko experience in Delta sate is still fresh in the minds of Nigerians. Recently a goat was born with nine legs in Adamawa state. This is not to mention the almost regular reports of people dying as a result of eating contaminated foods. All this underscores the significance of the workshop.
To minimize chances of becoming a victim to the deleterious effects of obsolete chemicals, one needs to know ways by which he can come into contact with the varieties of pests killers. Exposure can be during application or working with the chemicals, using contaminated food or water, inhaling the dust or fumes in the air, smoking while handling the chemicals. Eating contaminated meat and so on.
Workshops such as these usually end up as mere intellectual exercises for the resource persons. In this very workshop it is doubtful to say that the farmers were well represented. Our farmers are usually uneducated village people. Of the less than a hundred people who gathered in the Banquet Hall of Hill Station Hotel for the workshop, a large percentage was journalists and support-personnel. Billy Achara, a resource person from Alpha Chemicals Limited, however explained that there was nothing wrong with the composition of he participants which included the press, distributors, stakeholders and a few farmers. He said that their intention is to use the press whose duty is to inform and the stakeholders to spread the message beyond the perimeters of he venue for he workshop.

Oil in Northern Nigeria, Nigeria is Possible

Professor Agbaji Emmanuel Ogezi is a lecturer at the Department of Geology and Mining University of Jos. He is also a beneficiary of a professional chair from the Petroleum Technology Development fund (PTDF). On April 25th, 2008 he delivered a lecture titled “Geology, Time, Minerals, Environment and Man”.
Egezi was educated at Amadu Bellow University Zaria where he had a First Degree in Geology. He later attended Leeds University in the UK where he backed an M.Sc and a Ph.D. Besides these degrees, he has been a lecturer for more than thirty years. He thus represents a reservoir of knowledge. Considering the fact that Nigerian Universities have been under funded, it could be said that the likes of Egezi have been under utilized. The professional chair to Nigerian Universities as a whole is thus a respond to a cry from within the country to save such knowledge repository from wasting and from ensuring the nation benefits from the resources spent on training such individuals.
The essence of the lecture, Ogezi said, was to interact with the community. It was meant to tell the community outside the university what researches he has done and how it relates to the community.
The lecturer mentioned a number of benefits of his researches to the immediate community. One is that their research has shown that the Tin ore reserve in Plateau State has not been exhausted. Those explored are only the shallow-seated reserves but deep-seated reserves that can be exploited with technologies that were non-existent in the past are still present in Plateau State. Also in the course of his researches he also carried out the Environmental Impact Assessment. Based on this, he and his team intend to recommend technologies that can be used by women and children such that the hazards they usually get exposed to in the course of mining are minimized. His lecture has also demonstrated that Plateau State is well endowed with diverse solid mineral deposits that need to be carefully evaluated by knowing their exact number and commercial worth.
The Nigerian Economy is dependent almost solely on oil revenue and the country can get into financial trouble in situations where oil revenue fails. Presently the unrest in the Niger Delta is growing in dimension. As at present the Nigeria daily oil export has been cut down by about 20% as a result of the sabotage to oil facilities by the militia groups operating in the region. The area of solid minerals is one surw area that can generate enough revenue to sustain the nation where oil revenue fails. It has however, been left in cold for so long. Ogezi says there has been some progress on the sector and they have been trying to improve on the progress through their interaction with the government. As at now, according to him, there are seven solid minerals government is trying to concentrate on. To move forward however, there must be a law stating the terms of engagement for mining companies so that they will not just be groping in the dark and putting their investment at risk. The laws according to him are now in place and with the current status of government, progress will be recorded.
While answering a question as to whether there is oil in the Northern part of the Country or not, the professor explained that as a result of the professional chair to the University, they intend to carry out further investigation on the Benue Trough with the aim of confirming how true that suspicion is. According to him, the Chad Basin, which is actually an upper extension of the Benue Trough, is known to have petroleum and the lower extension of the Benue Trough and Anambra Basin, gas is known to exist. Also he remembers, as a kid, in Idoma land in Benue State a lot of drilling was undertaken. Thus the PTDF project will involve gathering all these facts and re-interpreting them before he can answer the question in the affirmative or otherwise. As far as he knows however, the types of rocks that host petroleum deposits are there.

The Iraqi War and the Plateau Man

Oil fields across the world have remained the bone of bloody contentions. This, undoubtedly, is due to the fact that oil brings a lot of wealth to whoever owns it. Except in the most developed nations of the world that are capable of generating wealth through other means, oil producing nations elsewhere around the world have had to contain with one crisis or the other. Southern Sudan not only hosts oil but has hosted one of the bloodiest and long lasting wars in Africa until a few years ago when a successful peace deal was brokered. The peace deal nonetheless left in its wake a shattered country that will take decades to rebuild. Angola, one of Africa’s oil producing nations has a similar story to tell. The Niger Delta has seen all forms of crisis including hostage takings, Killings, and sabotage to oil installations just to press hard their demand for a greater control of the oil resources in the region. In the Caspian Sea region, Russia has often used oil to punish its former territories that find common ground with the United States, its rival, on any political issue. The Middle East, the most endowed oil region in the world has been the unstable region. The Gulf of Mexico, the only oil region known to be innocent of human conflict has however been the region of natural disasters that can only be attributed to the fact that nature is indeed capricious. Hurricane Rita and Katrina are some of the most recent natural disasters in the Gulf of Mexico.
It has often been said that when the US sneezes, the world catches a cold. Recent events have however shown that this is no longer exclusive to the US as oil producing regions have shown that whenever they vibrate, the ripple effect travels across the planet. On the 20th March, 2003, the United States of America invaded the nation of Iraq with the aim of discovering nuclear weapons the American Government believed were hidden somewhere in that country. The Government of Iraq was overthrown and the country taken over. Against all these, no weapons were found thereby compelling people to believe that oil is at the heart of the matter. The continued occupation of the country by the invading forces and the regard of the succeeding Iraqi Government by Islamic fundamentalist as a puppet of the US have all contributed to an unexpected escalation of the war. The result is that the war now between the Iraqi and the occupying forces on one hand and the Islamic militia and insurgents on the other hand, has endured since 2003.
Iraq is the second largest oil-producing nation in the world after Saudi Arabia. The war in Iraq has ensured that the daily oil production in that country fell from 2.0 million barrels per day in 2004 to 1.5 million barrels in 2006. The economic principle of “ the lower the supply the higher the price” is never changing. The Iraqi case has proven not to be an exception as oil prices rose sharply to levels unprecedented in the history of the global oil market.
Iraq is not new to disturbing the equilibrium in world oil prices. In 1990, its invasion of neighbouring Kuwait led to short falls in oil supplies such that members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Counties, OPEC, had their daily production quotas raised. This is referred to in Nigeria as the “Windfall”. Nigeria been an OPEC member benefited a lot from the war. The present war has had a mixed outcome for the countries of the world. Oil producing nations have benefited favourably while the result has unfavourable for non-oil producing nations. This is because the oil producing nations have benefited from the increase in the prices per barrel of oil from less than $25 in 2003 to more than $110 at the present. Though the Iraqi war has been the primary cause of the upward rise in the price per barrel, it must be admitted that other factors such as the political instability and industrial unrest in Venezuela and the Niger Delta crisis have also been responsible. The Niger Delta actually comes next. As a matter of fact the May increase from $110. 20 in March to $114 in May was due to damage of oil installations belonging to the shell Petroleum Development Company and the industrial action by the staff of the Exxon-Mobil which cut down the production to less than 2.Omillion barrels per day.
Oil revenue to the nation has thus witnessed a dramatic increase between 2004 and the present. For instance the oil revenue shared among the Federal, State and Local governments was about N197 billion in January 2004. In November 2007 about N334 billion was shared to the same tires of government. This excludes excess crude revenue occasionally shared. This means that there is now more revenue for states across the nation to carry out their developmental activities. Plateau State is not left out. Recent remarks of Governor Da Jonah Jang have revealed that some financial deductions from the accounts of Plateau and Nassarawa States for debt servicing were made in error. By the time it was realized, the remittances were made to Nassarawa State alone. This, according to Jang, was due to the non-challance of the previous Government in the state. Jang said that the last remittance made to Nassarawa state was about $80 million and that when the state cried out the payment was halted pending the rectification of the problem, which will ensure Plateau receives all that is due to it. By the time that happens, it will no doubt add a huge sum to the coffers of the state Government.
As far as the development is concerned, the state and local government authorities are partners. Besides the subventions sent to the state Government, the local government also receive their own subventions from the same source. The increase is, hence not peculiar to the state governments. Thus the money made available to the Plateau man as a result of the Iraqi war and oil field instabilities comes through two inlets and is thus staggering.
It is one thing to have the resources that can be used to change the live of the ordinary man in Plateau State. It is however, another thing to put the money into proper use. It is only a strong political will that can guarantee a prudent use of resources for the state. The political history of Jang as we know it, is an attestation to the fact that integrity is still the most attractive political quality that can be used successfully against political rivals or opponents. Jang was said to have ruled with the fear of Heavens as the Military Governor of Benue and old Gongola States. By the time he retired from the military he was said to have but a single house built in his village at Du in Jos-south. Till today, it is still his only personal house. It is this political pedigree that has seen him through the stormy political climate in Plateau state to eventually place him on the highest leadership throne in the state.
Times change and people change too, physically and psychologically. Hence we are not supposed to base our prophecy of the leadership direction of the Governor on events that were recorded decades ago. Perhaps Jang was naïve and lacked ideas as to what to do with the type of public resources his colleagues personalized. There is wisdom of basing our prediction on the events of today.
Late Police Commissioner, Joseph Gomwalk was the first indigenous Governor of Plateau State. He is not only revered because of his mark as a pioneer Governor of the state but also remembered, as the most distinguished Governor Plateau State has ever known. In a nutshell, he holds the best administrative record of all past leaders in Plateau State. During the 31St anniversary of the dead of Gomwalk, Jang did not hide his admiration for Gomwalk. In other words Jang sees himself as a protégé to the pioneer Governor. Protégés always follow in the footstep of their role models, eventually living a life comparable to that of the role model or even beating their records.
Since real democrats managed to salvage Nigeria’s democracy from the embers of military leadership in the late 90s, only a few Governors have been heard to talk about finances saved for the states despite projects undertaken. Atahiru Bafarawa at the verge of living office in Sokoto State, in 2007 declared N13billion left over. Umaru Yar’Adua was also said to have left some billions of naira in the coffers of Kastina State. These they declared at the end of their second tenures. In Plateau state Jang saved N6billion in less than one year. This is a demonstration of an amazing transparency that is rare in present day Nigeria.
The ordinary citizen in Plateau state, over the decades, has been oppressed by the absence of quality education for his children, scarcity of potable water supply, poor state of health facilities, lack of jobs, irregular salary payments and denials of certain allowances to the civil servants, a limited number of roads and the poor state of existing roads. So far we have seen a genuine and unprecedented effort to address these woes. For example the state government has commenced the payment of pension and this includes civil servants that retired as far back as the 1970s. Since Plateau state was created in 1976, the message is that all the administrations before that of Jang have failed to address these problems. This is an indication that the combination of factors needed for the prosperity of Plateau state are within the tips of our fingers and these of course, are the political opportunity, will and the resources.
Prophesy of prosperity for the state based on the favourable consequence of the Iraqi war may however, not materialize if certain factors fail to play out favourably. Industrial actions by the workforce in the state have become critical in deciding the future direction of the state. This is because labours have continued to lay ambush to public finances since the issue of the consolidated salary took centre stage. If labour is able to sway the state authorities to yield to all their demands, it is likely that the expected infrastructural, social and economic changes of the state may not become a reality. According to the Governor, yielding to all the demands of the workforce will leave the state with a lean purse that cannot adequately support the dream of the authorities for the Plateau man.
The second factor is the possibility of the restoration of peace in the troubled oil regions of the world. The Iraqi war has shown that peace may be by the corner as the level of violence is receding and Moqtadar El Sadar, the Shiite Islamic cleric and commander of the Mahdi Army that has engaged the US and Iraqi Armies in some of the most fierce battles in Iraq has increasingly expressed his willingness to engage in peace talks. As a matter of fact the oil production level has risen above pre-war levels. In addition to possibilities of stability in Iraq, the Nigerian Government has not rested on its effort to successfully broker peace in the Niger Delta.
One factor that has however shown signs of spurring the increase in oil prices is the rapidly growing economies of China and India. If the continuous demand for oil to support these economies becomes persistent, it is unlikely that prices will drop.
Since the increase in oil prices affected non-oil producing nations negatively, the idea of the use of fuel such as ethanol to supplement oil supplies became very appealing. The success of this may force prices down. The use of grains to produce ethanol has however, led to global food crisis. So far, demonstrations due to increase in food prices has been recorded in Haiti, Ivory Coast, Egypt, and Senegal this year. The continued production of ethanol from food crops such as sugar cane, potatoes, corn, cassava and so on depends on whether the world food production can improve enough to feed the hungry and at the same time serve as raw material for the production of the bio-fuel.
Another factor that can frustrate the realization of the changes the huge financial resources can bring is the problem of corruption especially at the local government level. The local government has had corruption as its greatest woe. Corruption is largely responsible for the problem of zero allocation that has made it impossible for many local governments to pay salaries between 1999 and 2003. When it eventually became possible for local administrations to pay accrued salaries, most council chairmen were non-challant to addressing the problem. Following the inauguration of the State Government on May 29, 2007, the authorities acted gentlemanly when it ensured it used its influence to sway local governments into paying huge portions of the unpaid salaries. If the State Government can sustain that control on the local governments, the ordinary Plateau man should be able to enjoy the benefit of the huge financial resources the Iraqi war has placed in the coffers of the state.

Community Bitter With NIPSS Kuru

The vision of the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, (NIPSS) in Kuru, Vom is “to be the apex centre of policy, research and reflection for a better Nigerian and human society”. If however the allegation of its host community, Kuru, is true then that vision statement simply confirms the reality of the statement that “action speaks louder than words”.
According to Da Pwajok Dangal, the village head of the immediate host community of NIPSS, the presence of the institute in his domain is more of a curse than the blessing they thought it was going to be. The sins of
NIPS S against his community constitute a grave betrayal of the trust the community had for the institute. First, no single subject of his has received compensation for any of the more than 270 plots of land on which the institute stands. To add insult to injury, the institute is a brazen violator of the government practice of conceding positions in the lower cadre to the host community. More than 90% of the positions at that level are dominated by people outside of the host community. The situation is the same when it comes to casual menial jobs.
Da Dangal became the Village I-lead of the very community in 1974 following the demise of his father in 1973. It means he oversaw the acquisition of the land on behalf of his community. Since NIPSS was founded in 1979, it is therefore his responsibility to keep pursuing the case, but he is not even treated with esteem when seen in the premises of the institute. For him the issue has thus become too low to get under and too high to get over as his subjects are now looking at him with suspicion.
The situation of he Kuru community as a whole is that of a victim of robbery and cheating or that it is a reflection of the underlying intentions of government agencies whenever there is an issue of land between government and the people.
In addition to the land hosting NIPSS, the land on which the Police Staff College and the Federal School of Soil Conservation (all founded in 1974) were built, have all not been paid for. Government institutions are not the ends in themselves. They are means to an end. This ends, like the vision statement of NIPSS states, is creating a better Nigerian and human society. The scenarios in Kuru, however are not just a reflection of the non-challance of the institutions to the difficulties of the people but a conscious, albeit a covert intention of impoverishing the people and its unborn generations: No land to cultivate and no money to by food. The future direction thus points to that of eternal underdevelopment and misery.
NIPSS is a by-pass for the most powerful people in the country. The immediate past and pioneer Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, is presently attending the regular course of the institution. This underscores the significance and prestige of the institution; leaders of the country do pay a visit to course participants. The vice President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan attended the inauguration of the present course participants. The refusal of the institution to pay compensation for the land is indirectly an insult to all Members of the National Institute (Mni) and the nation at large.
When confronted, the Public Relations Officer (PRO) of NIPSS, Mrs. Mariam Amodu rather than paint a transparent photo of events, chose to refer the News Tower to a publication of the Punch Newspaper that implied the institute is not owing the community a dime and she was not ready to say anything other than “we are not owing them anything”. Since the issue is sensitive, it is expected that the institute will show evidence of compensation or an agreement in which the community agreed to give the land for free.

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