Oct 31, 2011

History of Mining in Plateau State, Nigeria

Mineral exploitation in Plateau State is an age-old industry, starting from the pre-colonial extraction and marketing of tin from the upper Plateau to salt and lead-zinc in the lower Plateau that includes some parts of Nassarawa State. Officers of the Niger Royal Company were credited with locating tin deposits of Jos Plateau which and marked the inception of modern mining activities in Nigeria. Foreign metal merchants, mostly British, followed the tin trade route from the North African markets into Nigeria to Plateau where an aggressive and prosperous tin mining industry was established. Subsequently, the multinational companies, which dominated the industry, were joined by small local companies. While the foreign companies congregated under powerful chambers of mines, the local miners formed themselves under a less powerful organization called the “Association of African Miners.”
The tin trade boomed to the detriment of other minerals in the state. There was then the dominance of Nigerian mining activities by British companies with the backing of British banking service and supplies. At the peak of mining, there were up to 120 companies operating. Then, mining was exclusively a private sector affair. During this time, it came to a point that Nigeria was the sixth world producer of tin with a production of 16 000 tones per annum and world’s leading producer of columbite.
The Association of African Miners became heavily handicapped by a myriad of problems, ranging from lack of necessary expertise to a dearth of capital and hence the necessary equipment required for efficient performance in the field. With the aforementioned, the multinational companies piled up and repatriated huge profits while their African counterparts performed sluggishly, resorting sometimes to unorthodox practices but still managing to record success, which sometimes was questionable. The tin mining industry was swept off the Nigerian economic scene by the so-called oil boom.
During this period the government concerned itself with providing the enabling environment and necessary infrastructure in the mines field and collected royalties, rents and related rates which before the mid-fifties were collected by the Niger Royal Company. Before the takeover of the collection, the Nigerian Government has to pay an all lump compensation to United African Company (UAC). Mining operations were effectively monitored by the mines division of the then Ministry of Mines and Power to ensure compliance with the operational and safety guidelines.
In 1972 the government indigenization degree led to the compulsory acquisition of controlling shares in the foreign companies. The foreigners then lost interest in mining operations. The activities of the companies declined slowly until they finally left the mining scene in the early eighties. This led to the merger of major companies to form what is today known as Consolidated Tin Mines (CTM). CTM could not work with the obsolete machineries left behind by the expatriates. The result now is a company struggling to survive. In Zurak area of Wase LGC, some mining of lead/zinc deposits were also carried out and later abandoned. There was molybdenite mine at Kigom Hills near Riyom LGC which could not make any progress.
Also in 1972, the Nigerian Mining Corporation with headquarters in Jos was established to embark on exploitation of industrial minerals. The corporation discovered barytes at Azara in the present Nassarawa State and also established a barytes mine at the locality. This led to the discovery of the same mineral in Langtang South. Kaolin was also discovered at Kuba on the Barkin Ladi- Bokkos road and exploitation commenced in 1988.

Oct 19, 2011

Solomon Lar’s Report on Jos Crisis

Following the Jos Crisis of 2010, President Goodluck Jonathan who was acting at the time, set up the Solomon Lar’s Commission and vowed that he would implement the report of the commission, contrary to the attitude of the government on previous report on he Jos crisis. Goodluck Jonathan did not however live up to his promise as the report of the commission was thrown to the junk basket once again.  The resurgence of fighting sometimes in August this year has compelled the President to again request for the report and others in the past with a view to harmonizing them and implementing them this time.
Former Nigerian Ambassador to Switzerland, Yahaya Kwande is an indigene of Plateau State and who was also a member of the Solomon Lar’s Commission. He was asked recently by the Hausa Service of the German Radio International what essentially is the recommendation of the report. His answers was that the report essentially recommends that certain people who are treated as non-indigenes despite having stayed in Plateau State for decades should be embraced and treated as such.
His response to the question raises one issue and that is the fact that even though the Nigerian statutes demand that a citizen shall become an indigene of a locality other than the state of his ancestral home after staying there for a given period of time, this requirement of the constitution is not adhered to generally in Nigeria, not just in Plateau State. Thus the panel should have suggested that the federal government should revisit the issue with the aim of ensuring that the relevant section of the constitution is respected across the whole length and breath of the country rather than in Plateau State alone.
Ironically, Plateau State is one single state that has respected this angle of the constitution more than many other states in Nigeria. For instance, Wase and Kanam Local Governments of Plateau State are two conspicuous local governments were migrant Hausas and Fulanis are treated equally with all other tribes of the state. In Jos North Local Government of the state, the Hausas are the predominant tribe in eight wards out of a total of twenty one from where they produce representatives to the local council of Jos North. They also send members to the State and National Assemblies from the same local government. In contrast to Wase and Kanam Local Governments Areas however, the metropolitan nature of Jos North, where people looking for better economic opportunities keep coming every single day, makes it difficult differentiate between visiting Hausas and those that have stayed long enough to deserve citizenship.
There are thousands of Plateau indigenes in Lagos, Rivers, Kano, Kaduna and many other parts o the country that have stayed in those localities for decades without becoming indigenes. Likewise, there are tens of thousands of Yorubas, Ibos, Tivs, Ibibios, Ijaws, etc in other states of the federation other than those of their ancestors, who are not treated as indigenes despite staying there for hundreds of years. The Jos crisis should rather serve to remind the Nigerian authorities of the need to revisit the issue across board and not just on the Plateau.

Oct 6, 2011

Removal of Fuel Subsidy: Is it a priority?

The deeply upsetting subject of the removal of fuel subsidy has re-emerged again. Whether people against it will win this time remains to be seen. It is obvious however that a lot of Nigerians are against the removal due to the general belief that life will get harder. In view of the complexity of our problems, there is the need for us to examine whether the removal of fuel subsidy is a priority at this point in time or not.
During his campaign, Mr. President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, made a number of promises to Nigerians. At this point in time, it is too early to expect Mr. President to have fulfilled these promises. If the issue of subsidy removal becomes successful however, it will be his first milestone. Sadly, it was not a campaign promise. Thus the issue of the removal of the subsidy is Mr. President’s personal and hidden agenda. T Priority number I: OUR LEADERS MUST BE SINCERE AND SELFLESS.
One argument in favor of the removal of fuel subsidy is that it has been abused by two major categories of Nigerians. These are the fuel importers and their NNPC accomplices on one hand and smugglers, who cross over to neighboring nations to sell at higher prices after enjoying the subsidy of government, on the other. It is good that we have been able to identify these criminal activities. We can only proof that there is a criminal if one has been arrested. How many NNPC officials have been jailed for an offence they are known to commit? Priority number II: OVERHAUL THE JUDICIARY FOR EFFIECIENCY.
It is said that Nigeria’s petrol pump price at N65 per liter is the cheapest in the world. There is nothing wrong with this as other nations are the best in other areas. Nigeria should lead other nations in some areas too. In other nations, governments have regular allowances such as social security or welfare, usually paid to unemployment citizens. In Nigeria we don’t have this. Thus fuel subsidy is welfare or social security in disguise. Priority number III: NIGERIA SHOULD LEAD OTHER NATIONS IN AT LEAST ONE AREA.
It is said that the withdrawal of fuel subsidy will save about a trillion naira that can be used to improve the lives of Nigerians in other areas. Fuel subsidy is meant to cushion the lives of ordinary Nigerians and it is doing it. Priority number VI: WE SHOULD LEARN TO SEE ISSUES PROPERLY.
Nigeria’s electricity has not improved yet. Millions of Nigerians have been able save their jobs by the use of electric generators that run at N65 per liter. These jobs can be lost by the withdrawal of fuel subsidy since businesses thrive only when the output is higher than the input. Priority number V: THE NIGERIAN GOVERNMENT MUST WORK TO PROTECT EXISTING JOBS.

Jos Crisis and Corruption

The American Government was recently quoted as saying that corruption is the single most important reason why the Nigerian government will not be able to end the current state of insecurity in the country.
Many times, people have been told that what has prolonged the Jos crisis is the fact that many people reap bountifully each time there is an outbreak of fighting in the Tin City. How this happens is not exactly clear to most members of the public.  Recently, a Nigerian daily newspaper publication reported that the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) has resettled one million victims of the Jos crisis in neighboring Bauchi State.
The report turned out to be about the first tangible proof that some people are indeed benefiting from continuous fighting in a city that was once the most peaceful in Nigeria. According to the 2006 population census in Nigeria, Jos North where the resettled person where said to have come from has a total population of 437,217. There is no way all the residents of Jos North would have been resettled in Bauchi. The total population of Plateau State as a whole is 3.2 million based on the very population census. What the report is saying is that a third of the population of the state was resettled in Bauchi State. The culprit here is NEMA that must have given this figure to justify its bogus expenditure. The journalist who wrote the story without cross-checking the figure is also a potential accomplice.
Government departments or agencies are not the only ones benefitting from persistent fighting in Jos. It will surprise people to know that many religious leaders are beneficiaries of perpetual fighting on the Plateau. The impression one gets from the behavior of religious leaders in the aftermath of conflict in Jos is that they see it as a period bountiful harvests. Relief materials usually do not just come from the different tiers of government but also from non-governmental organizations, local and international, women groups and many others.  These relief materials are given through these religious leaders. Of course, there have often been suspicions that the supplies don’t eventually percolate down to the bottom which is the reason why the donors insists on giving their donations before television cameras. Other religious leaders form non-governmental organizations, design websites on which they upload some of the goriest pictures and absurd statistics on the degree of destruction of lives and properties, all with the aim of wining the sympathy of financial donors. There is no doubt that the only way these fraudulent NGOs can be sustained is by persistent fighting in Jos.
One can say without any fear of contradiction that one fundamental source of irritation to Nigerians is the dire absence of discipline within men of the Nigerian Military such that the force is one sad repository of corruption in the coutry. You see this in the way they abuse the rights of ordinary and ignorant Nigerians by intimidating them in order to extort money, getting involved in matters that should be the exclusive jurisdiction of the police just to be able to take bribes from the situation, violation of traffic laws and general molestation of members of the public. The Nigerian Army should have been a model of discipline to be copied by other Nigerians. This has undermined the ability of the force to carry out its function optimally.
Since the killings in the village of Dogo Na Hauwa in Jos South in early 2010, it became necessary to post soldiers in nearly every village or along the roads leading to the villages in a manner that attackers cannot invade any village and stay below the radar. Despite these security measures, the attacks continued non-the-less. The proximity of security outposts to scenes of a good number of the attacks are such that the solders cannot claim not to have been alarmed by the sounds from the automatic weapons that are often used. The military men have never been successful at preventing a single case of these night attacks to give us the news at dawn. This is despite the frequency of the attacks.  In one incidence, it was alleged that an ID card belonging to a military man was said to have been recovered from the scene. This has led people to conclude that the solders are accomplices in the killings and that they take bribes to get involved or turn a blind eye to the killings. This has led some villages start rejecting military outposts in their localities. Recent involvement of men of the Nigerian Army in the kidnap of Michael Obi, the father of ace footballer John Mikel Obi confirmed that the men of the Nigerian Army have indeed been secretly involved in shady dealings.
Our military friends who made money during ECOMOG operations in Liberia in the 90s often confessed to us the horrible things they did to make the money. It is a tradition among peace-keeping missions that conflict and chaotic situations provide opportunities to make money particularly where there is corruption or the absence of order within the ranks. In the DRC too, India troops to the United Nations peace keeping delegation are known to have exchanged weapons in return for gold.  In the case of Plateau State, it is believed that soldiers either give their weapons for hire or are themselves hired as mercenaries. A friend of mine told me he ran into a meeting of soldiers and Fulani cattle herdsmen on the way to his farm after Gero village in Jos South.
There are emergency lines that the public is supposed to call when in distress. These lines are direct lines to the different Joint Task Force (JTF) squads working to enforce peace. In a situation where members of the JTF are accomplices to a particular attack, one could imagine how it will seem for a victim to call any of these lines.
If the Federal Government feels it can end the killings in Plateau State by simply throwing military and financial resources at the problem, then it is making a dire error such that the new command structure put in place to end the crisis will end up like the ones before it. What the government in Abuja needs to do is to enforced discipline and order and the NEMA report provides an opportunity to demonstrate what it can do and that it is truly committed to ending the blood bath in Jos.
For long, it has become apparent that corruption has undermined all previous efforts at restoring peace in Jos and Plateau State at large. Corruption should not be tolerated where it concerns even a single life. What we lose when peace is gone is far more than what corrupt officials “lose” when there is peace. We should understand that each time we fail to act, the world watches and our reputation gets messier. Problems are not solved by ignoring them.

Community Policing or a Caricature

In simple terms, community policing refers to the participation of members of a community in the fight against crime.
Criminals are members of the society and reside within the community. If members of the community are involved in the fight against crime, it implies that there will be no hiding place for criminals. In community policing, members of the community are expected to watch out for criminals or criminal activities in their communities and report same to the police, who will then swoop on the criminals.
Nigeria is a nation where nearly everything is either rhetorical or political. There was a time when rapid response approaches where the in-thing around the world. We adopted it too. Funny enough, Nigeria is the only place where a rapid response squad can sometimes have an operational vehicle without fuel in it. Now that we are hearing about community policing in the developed nations of the world, we have decided to also have it without taking time to do what it takes for such a tactic of crime fighting to succeed.
There are cases of financial swindlers better known as 4-1-9ners who live among the people. When reported to the police, the security agents come, arrest them and release them almost immediately even though their deeds are obvious. This is the single most important reason why 4-1-9 has thrived in Nigeria.  Since the public has come to see the police and criminals as partners in progress, the feeling is that if you report a criminal to the police, the security men will in turn reveal your identity to the criminal who  comes back to hunt you.  This evil tradition has eroded any faith the public would have had in the Nigerian Police. It is the reason why the police ought to have known that community policing will work only when certain things are in place.
The case of the Niger Delta is a conspicuous and ideal scenario where community policing has failed because the public lacks faith in the police. In their frustration, the police sometimes resort to dealing with innocent citizens in the belief that they are aiding the hoodlums.
When members of the fundamentalist Islamic militia, Boko Haram, discovered that coming out to confront the police in an all out battle will not work for them, they resorted to undercover approaches where they sporadically lunch attacks on victims and then disappear into the public.  In view of how deadly they are, killing the police, other Islamic preachers who don’t roll with their religious philosophy and anybody who stands in their way in any way, the public has learnt to remain safe by standing on the fence. This has worked frustrate community policing at a time when it is, more than ever, desired.   
For a government that loves and holds their citizens in high esteem, the police is one organization that should have enjoyed utmost attention. Successive governments have sadly failed to see it that way leading gradual and total decay in the Nigerian Police.
The force has been so ignored that the best materials from our schools consider themselves too superior to spend their lives in a force that is not respected by the people it is meant to serve.  The outcome is that people who eventually sign up for the force are mostly those who don’t seem to have an option because they have not been able to compete for the most enviable jobs. Still this problem is complicated by absence of best practices in recruitment exercise where politics and godfathers determine who gets taken rather than merit..
One outcome of the challenges with which the force is faced is the ignorance that runs through the ranks. The ignorance in many police personal is so grim that many policemen are of the superstition that criminals are sometimes invincible that facing them will only amount to a senseless risk of ones life.  Ironically, the police are an organization where a strong belief in laid down principles and intelligent research is fundamental to the success of its operations.
It has been said that corruption is one bedrock reasons why the Nigerian Police has grossly underperformed. People are susceptible to corruption when they are underpaid to a point where they can not afford the basic needs of life. Members of the Nigerian Police will also want to live in better homes, place meals on their tables and with ease, enroll their children in good schools, drive cars and avoid been seen as societal failures. Most police officers cannot afford all these with legitimate incomes and feel cheated by the rest of society. Thus they set up road blocks not for the sake of enforcing the law but to generate enough to enable them meet their routine demands of life. The twenty naira (N20) policemen receive at check points is the reason why somebody can beat checkpoints with contraband, such as bombs or dangerous weapons and eventually hurt the society. Naturally, there is that tendency to overlook the real issues once bribes are the preoccupation of their minds.
The Nigerian government must be interested in what goes on within the Nigerian police force. To this end, their professional needs should be provided regularly and not only when there is increased social instability or increased criminal activities. The men of the Nigerian Police must attend and pass the relevant courses in the profession. Furthermore, promotion should be based on excellence and the ability to apply the things learnt in their trainings rather than just passing the courses or serving for a long time. 

BBC Pidgin and the Beauty of Pidgin English

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