Monday, 23 January 2012

Gender equality and equity - can the real woman please stand up

Joachim Ezeji.

It was amazing reading a communiqué the other day which emanated from a Muslim group, the communiqué had advised Muslim women in Nigeria to shun on-going campaigns on gender equality arguing that it is alien and unfriendly to faith and culture.

Ever since reading that report on a local newspaper, I have been very curious to know the red line on gender equality for religious groups such as the Muslims in Nigeria.My interest is deep seated and is intended to be fully discussed here.

However, I am not unaware that the elimination of feminized poverty is a paramount priority for the international community and her local partnerships. I also doubt the ignorance of any educated person or entity on this priority. These priorities are underscored copiously in the Goal 3 of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).The UN Millennium Development Goals, issued by the UN Secretary General in 2001,are a ‘road map’ for implementing the millennium declaration. The MDGs comprise eight goals supplemented by 18 numerical and time-bound targets and 48 indicators intended to improve living conditions and remedy key global imbalances by 2015.Goals 3 calls for gender equality and women’s empowerment. In addition the MDGs address several of the 12 critical areas of concern in the platform for action adopted at the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, namely poverty, education, health and environmental sustainability.

In Nigeria, gender issues in development received little attention in national planning until the declaration of the United Nations Decade for women. Hitherto, a woman’s reproductive, productive and community management roles and potentials were marginalized and left out of the system of national planning. Therefore, development planning since the colonial period has been gender insensitive, as a result of the continuous interaction between the indigenous culture and the inherited patriarchy from the colonial administration, as well as the strong inhibiting effects of traditionalism and capitalist ideologies.

In Nigeria, women make up 49.6% of the nation’s total population (1991 census).They are responsible for the reproduction of the labor force and for producing over 70% of the nation’s food supply. About 13.3% of Nigerian women were employed in the formal sector until the 1980’s.This proportion declined rapidly in the process of economic reconstruction as a result of the rationalization of public and private sector workers and cuts in production capacity in industry. The majority of female workers are in lower cadre occupations. Those in professional and marginal occupations constitute only 18% of that grade of employment. Most Nigerian women are informal sector workers who predominate in micro-enterprises with little or no access to credit, technology and other supports required to build up capital. Indeed, it is estimated that a negligible proportion of women in the formal sector has access to credit; hence the high attrition rate of women’s businesses.
But, can thinking gender lead to effective ways to combat poverty, hunger and disease, and stimulate development that is truly sustainable?

In answering this question, I will like to bring in the effects of water or gender implications of water at the household level. Apart from the health implications of water –related diseases, the fetching of water inflicts a heavy burden in terms of time and effort, especially on women and children in the largely un-served areas of our urban and rural areas. Many of these women have to trek long distances to water sources and then wait for long periods in line to fill their buckets. This is part of the daily routine for millions of Nigerian women and girls, often taking up several hours a day. The involvement of children, particularly girls, in this chore restricts attendance at school, as well as time for play. Moreover, water carrying exerts a toll on women’s health. Water containers typically hold about 20litres of water and weigh about 20 kilograms. Carrying such a heavy weight on the head, back or hip has severe health implications for women, who commonly experience backache and joint pains. In extreme cases, spine and pelvic deformities results, creating complications in pregnancy and childbirth.

In view of the foregoing I make bold to emphasize that water is a critical but often overlooked element in sustainable development including gender equity. According to Klaus Toepfer, the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), ‘...The World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) highlighted that water is not only the most basic of needs but is also at the centre of sustainable development and is essential for poverty eradication. Water is intimately linked to health, agriculture, energy and biodiversity. Without progress in water, reaching the other MDGs will be difficult, if not impossible’’.
Further to this, is the realization that water is a key ingredient in generating rural livelihoods, growing food, producing energy, encouraging industrial and service sector growth, and ensuring the integrity of ecosystems and the goods and services they provide. The position of women in some of these activities is eminent and a matter of daily survival.

Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) recognizes that women play a central part in the provision, management and safeguarding of water, this pivotal role of women as providers and users of water and guardians of the living environment has seldom been reflected in institutional arrangements for the development and management of water resources. The acceptance and implementation of this principle requires policies to address women’s specific needs and to equip and empower women to participate at all levels in water resources programmes, including decision making and implementation, in ways defined by them.

The impact of gender role recognition on water resource policy can be viewed in two broad and fundamental ways; Policy relating to the sustainable management of resources relies on a broad base of stakeholder participation and consultation. The diverse gender roles of men and women in the management and control of water resources require that they are viewed as separate stakeholder groups. And; the development of water resource management policy can impact upon men and women in different ways. Gender-sensitive water resource policy will address the equality of access to the potential benefits of water resource development from the perspective of both men and women. As such, gender-sensitive policy development is a tool by which the interests of marginalized members of society can be incorporated into sustainable approach to water resource management. Beyond water are other concerns such as employment, agriculture and entrepreneurship germane for poverty alleviation and national development.

The prosperity of a nation depends on the efficient utilization of all factors of production, land, labor and capital. Hitherto, the labor of women had been used on a small scale in the formal sector of the economy, a result of the social discrimination in education and training, as well as the gender-based division of labor which is reflected in the formal sector of employment. In Nigeria, women provide an estimated 60-80% of labor input in agriculture, especially in food production, processing and marketing. Many women are farmers in their own right, apart from working on family farms. Although various efforts have been made by several agencies, unfortunately women’s contribution in this regard is not adequately acknowledged in the development of agricultural policy and programmes. This situation must be corrected.

The visibility of women in petty trading gives the false impression that their enterprises are successful and acknowledged. However, a recent assessment of women’s enterprises shows that the constraints to their ability to capitalize and to sustain themselves and their families are enormous. These will have to be removed to ensure the efficient utilization of their labor in those enterprises for socio-economic developments. Poor access to credit, information, appropriate technology, lack of technical skills and poor organization and accounting skills are real problems at all levels of women’s enterprises.

It is now generally recognized that the majority of the world’s poor are women. Goal 1 reflects this by broadening the definitions of poverty to encompass not only income poverty but other dimensions such as lack of empowerment, opportunity, capacity and security. Because many aspects of gender inequality influence the different dimensions of poverty, promoting gender equality in the design of strategies and actions to meet this goal is critical. Gender equality has a direct impact on economic growth and the reduction of income poverty by raising productivity, improving efficiency, increasing economic opportunities and empowering women.

Globally, it is recognized that 90 million of the 150 million children aged 6-11 who do not attend school are girls. Meeting the education goal of the MDG therefore requires that the distinctive conditions preventing girls and boys from attending schools be addressed. Reducing education costs, improving quality, tackling parental concerns about female modesty or safety and increasing the returns to families that invest in female schooling are factors that can overcome social and economic barriers to girl’s education.Goal 2 is the key to achieving Goal 1; eliminating gender disparities in education is one of the most effective poverty reduction strategies.

Women aging 15 and above presently constitute two-thirds of the world’s 876 million illiterates. Working women have less social protection and employment rights; a third of all women have been violently abused; over 500,000 women die each year in pregnancy and childbirth; and rates of HIV/AIDS infection among women are rapidly increasing.

Evidence from countries around the world demonstrates that gender equality is the key to improving maternal and child health and stemming the spread of HIV/AIDS and other diseases. Some 500,000 women, the majority in poor countries e.g. Nigeria etc. die each year due to pregnancy-related causes. Reducing maternal mortality depends on the extent of health care availability for expectant mothers, particularly when dealing with complications. Greater control of income by women tends to lower child mortality even when the households total income is taken into account. Child mortality rates are linked to gender-related norms and customs. Globally, 48% of adults living with HIV/AIDS are women and in many regions women make up the majority of infected adults. Meeting the health goals requires an awareness of the biological aspects of disease transmission and treatment as well as the social and cultural factors that promote or reduce good health. Women cannot achieve empowerment and equality unless their reproductive rights are fully and legally realized.

It is however an irony that the foregoing challenges is taken for granted in Nigeria in particular. Statistics are grossly lacking and were available are largely misrepresented. Curiously, keen observation tend to reveal that the bulk of women currently championing gender equality in Nigeria are either unmarried or no longer in marriage. Some of them may be mothers but certainly not wives. The trend these days stretches from lesbians to same sex partners. But for me I know what it means growing up under Papa and Mama. My mother calls my father 'Mine' while my father calls her 'Oma' (Igbo language for good one).The gains of living and being groomed by both parents is inesteemable. The real woman is my mother and other women like her who adds family values to their lives. Both the man and woman need to tangle to achieve a lot, including procreating and raising the children. Not devisiveness, No!

Last year I was among a study team that visited Nanyuki, a distant dry part of northern Kenya. We were desirous of keeping appointment with a group of locals who comprised mostly of the Masai. On arrival for the meeting, we discovered that these locals have waited all day, abandoning every other engagement just to meet and receive us. In their number was a plethora of very poor and famished mothers. For these Masai natives, most of who scratches for survival on the foot of the Kenya Mountain, wealth and affluence is represented by the number of wives, children and sheep one has. I have never stopped to wonder if these men and women ever think of gender equity or equality and what it portends for them. I am also keen to know how many charities or NGOs that have confronted sincerely the gender inequity trap on their behalf as a poverty alleviation strategy.

I have always insisted that gender as a component of the millennium goals is all about poverty reduction and the mobilization of the productive strength and number of women for community development, growth and productivity. I have canvassed this view in many conferences such as held variously at Ottawa, Canada in 2004; Texas, USA in 2006 and Jos, Nigeria in 2005.I have never stopped raising my voice on this matter. At the occasion of the maiden Nigeria national water and sanitation forum held in August 2006 at Abuja I also maintained this opinion, though my views were rudely cut short by a woman university professor who insisted otherwise, and on her own terms. She saw gender more from the lens of political empowerment i.e. getting more women into high political offices such as the governorship and presidency. I saw her position as being uninformed and biased. She got it wrong!

Though political empowerment is vital in Goal 3, it cannot veil its context and realities. Women who insist on political patronage as gender equality are basically seeking easy routes to the top. They forget so soon that women like Margaret Thatcher, Hillary Clinton, and Gordon Meir got into political limelight years before gender campaigns become rife. I am waiting to be presented with facts that shows gender biasness as a factor which favored women leaders such as the leaders of Liberia and Germany during their elections.

It also remains to be proven how the political patronage of women elites in Nigeria has benefited poor rural or urban women in my native Uboma, Imo State or elsewhere.
As a well trained gender ambassador, I have no doubts that gender empowerment more than many issues also favor the elimination of violence and discrimination against women. It favors a good sense of social well being that ‘waters’ the ground for both men and women equally. I wonder what the Masai or Uboma woman can benefit from all these gender campaigns if not social inclusion and farewell to poverty amongst other things. Amongst these Masai and Uboma women is the real woman. They are not even difficult to be found in many other neighborhoods in Nigeria and elsewhere. It is their wants and deprivations that makes gender concerns relevant in today’s world.

Our society must arise to check the rising insubordination of women to their husbands as well as growing lawlessness in many homes today. Responsible for all these are petty issues such as the insistence of some married women on political engagement against the consent of their husbands. It is a reality that caution has been discarded, simply because a woman is bent on going into politics. It is most worrisome that propelling factors in most of these cases may possibly be by the prodding of a ‘lover boy’ and NOT even the desire to serve.

It is my prayer that Non Governmental Organizations working on these issues will rise to the occasion by calling a spade by its true name. The universities in Port Harcourt and Makurdi that pioneered gender studies in Nigeria should not be found wanting on this matter too.Till we get it right, the gender mission remains a challenge.

First published in 2006

In a hospital at last !

Joachim Ibeziako Ezeji

My procrastination and fears over where to seek medical care in Nigeria because of festering insouciance, unsafety, incompetence and lack of care etc in local hospitals here finally caved in to pressing health needs the previous week. I had to see a doctor fast before it became too late. My body had shown signs of sheer fatigue within that period. Compounding the problem was severe but quiet headache amidst neck ache. All signs and symptoms were too strong to be ignored. I had to see a doctor fast because I was actually afraid.

At the hospital, an unfamiliar one at that, I really could not find my way around. The hospital was simply too big. I mean too big in size though the architecture was simple. The hospital was also very neat and tidy. There were a lot of outpatients but this was not causing delays as each patient was promptly being attended to.

On arrival, I had walked straight to the reception where I requested to be allowed to see a doctor. I was politely asked by the lady receptionist if I was on appointment or otherwise. I replied otherwise. She did not waste time to refer me to the appropriate section where emergency patients like me were taken care of. On getting there, which was centrally situated at another section of the hospital, I met another lady called Esther (not real name) who had the appellation ‘Hospital Clerk’ on a lapel on her chest.

Esther was warm and amiable. She was also friendly and caring. She was available to help, and did not waste time in giving me full assistance. She took my details with panache and proceeded to get my papers ready for one of the doctors on duty to see me. I was then invited to meet a staff nurse. The nurse, a woman who probably was in her early forties was so kind and nice. She requested me to narrate how I was feeling. My answers enabled her to set a draft for the doctor I was to see later.

I did notice that while all these were going on, that all data being extracted from me were accordingly being entered into the computer. There was no manual writing. I realized that Esther never did get off her chair for anything. She simply submitted my file through the internet to the staff nurse who on conclusion forwarded same through the internet to the Dr. Gregory Groetsema.
I was thereafter ushered to meet face to face with Dr.Gregory. The meeting was not a sit-down and face-me meeting. I had to be taken into a special room, more like a theatre. I was made to undress and put on the hospital gown. Then I was made to lie on my back. The doctor further confirmed from me all the information already extracted by the staff nurse before proceeding. He had me had an X-ray, a blood test and then a High Blood Pressure (HBP) check amongst others. It was exhaustive. For the first time in my life (all having been spent in Nigeria), I was receiving a first class medical attention. I was stunned, what a contrast!

What actually stunned me was not only the maximum attention and care on offer here, but the realization that all through the duration of my stay starting from the clerk and to the staff nurse as well as the doctor nobody asked me about money as a pre-requisite. I was neither asked to pay for card nor consultation fee. Money was not placed as a number one thing. I was short of words.
In this state of utter bewilderment, I looked up and saw what beautifully hung afar as the hospital’s Mission Statement. I stretched to read its clearly and legibly written letters.” In the spirit of our founders, St. Vincent de Paul, St. Louise de Marillac, and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, the daughter of Charity Health System is committed to serving the sick and the poor. With Jesus Christ as our model, we advance and strengthen the healing mission of the Catholic Church by providing comprehensive, excellent health care that is compassionate and attentive to the whole person: body, mind and spirit. We promote healthy families, responsible stewardship of the environment and a just society through value-based relationship and community-based collaboration”

O’Connor Hospital has been an integral part of San Jose for more than 100 years, serving the needs of the community with compassion, commitment, and attention to the mind and spirit, as well as the body. Established as a Daughters of Charity hospital in 1889, O’Connor Hospital has a mission of service to the sick and the poor. Throughout its’ history, it has provided compassionate, skilled, and effective care to the ever-changing San Jose community. Only with the assistance of like-minded, community-oriented individuals and businesses and their philanthropic gifts has its growth and effectiveness been assured.

O’Connor Hospital is recognized nationally as a leader in the delivery of innovative and quality health care. Top three garlands in this sphere include; first, being one of the only 22 hospitals in California to receive the “Excellent in Patient Safety and Health Care Quality Award” for its commitment to safety and quality. The award was given jointly by four of the state’s leading health plans, Aetna, Blue Shield of California, CIGNA Health Care, and United Health Care. Second, O’Connor has been designated by the joint commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) as a certified Primary Stroke Centre, and earned the gold seal of approval for healthcare quality. JCAHO certification means O’Connor complies with the highest national standards for safety and quality of care. Third, O’Connor Hospital received the Health Grades Distinguished Hospital Award for Patient Safety. This prestigious designation puts O’Connor in the top three percent of the 4,267 hospitals Health Grades analyzed nationwide for patient safety.

I was at O’Connor recently on the occasion of my recent visit to the United States to receive an award being conferred on me by The Tech Museum of Innovation at San Jose, California. On arrival at the Newark Airport in New Jersey, I felt signs of health unbalance. This persisted and grew to discomfortable heights while at Buffalo, New York. It caused me serious unease even while on an outing at the Niagara Falls.

My flight from Buffalo to Philadelphia was pleasant but my health was an issue. I was sick. I was afraid of myself. This continued even while on transit at the Philadelphia international airport all through the six hours flight to San Francisco. It was horrible. Yes, it was, bearing in mind that I am a bloody common Nigerian with no health insurance in the United States.

All those fears were promptly dispelled at O’Connor. At the hospital, non-possession of insurance did not become a hindrance. I saw professionalism, I saw state of the art equipments, I saw commitment, I felt the care. It was total.

At O’Connor I realized why many Nigerians die prematurely from untimely deaths. I saw the insincerity of our government. I cried, I wept for Nigeria. I craved to see an urgent reformation of our health sector. It was this desire that ignited my earlier question ‘which hospital should I attend’. In O’Connor hospital, I saw one, but ironically in afar land. How many of my brothers and sisters can afford the luxury of the opportunity of benefiting from a hospital as good as O’Connor ?

First published in 2006

Is FUTO better than IMSU ?


Joachim Ibeziako Ezeji
(From the Archive -first published in 2006)
During the previous university matriculation admission exercise, I had met a woman who exhibited enormous zeal to get her first daughter admitted into the university. I was interested to assist and offered to help talk to somebody in Imo State University (IMSU) on her behalf. But the woman, a nurse and a mother of six rejected my offer. She rather implored me not to worry since she has already bribed somebody with the sum of eighty thousand naira (N80, 000) to facilitate a place for her daughter at the Federal University of Technology Owerri (FUTO). I inquired why she had to do so, moreover when the post-UME test for both IMSU and FUTO that her daughter sat for were yet to come out. She retorted “ A aah, I don’t want to take chances o o o h. It is either FUTO or nothing. I don’t like IMSU, none of my kids will ever go there. Ada must go to FUTO”

She however failed to proffer any reason for the strong dislike for IMSU other than it is a state university. Further inquisition revealed to me that her daughter, who already was aged twenty years old, had finished from the Federal Government Girl’s College Owerri. The girl wanted to study Micro-biology and had made a score of 171, the highest in her third attempt to scale the ‘almighty JAMB’.

It is this foregoing that enables me the premise to talk about the general state of education in Nigeria. It is not actually a comparison between FUTO and IMSU but a call for policy reversal on status. This is hinged on the need to promote the cardinal objectives of education at all levels of university education, federal, state or private etc. This is so because Nigeria’s future lies in its people. Investment in people is becoming more important for two reasons.

First, Nigeria’s future economic growth will depend less on its natural resources, which are being depleted and are currently subject to lots of instability and restiveness, and more on its labour skills and its ability to accelerate a demographic transition. Growth in today’s information-based world economy depends on flexible, educated, and healthy workforce to take advantage of economic openness. Accelerating the demographic transition to reduce population growth will require education, especially of women, and widely available contraceptive and reproductive health services.Second, investing in people promotes their individual development and gives them the ability to escape poverty. This again requires education and health care as well as some measure of income security.

As at 2004, the gross total enrollment (percentage of age group) in Nigeria for primary school was 99%; secondary was 35% and tertiary was 10%. The ratio of female to male in primary and secondary at that period was 84% while the adult literacy stood at 67%.Assuming that these figures are a true reflection of the situation as at 2004 in Nigeria, then the following conclusions will aid us understand the scenario much better.

Low primary enrollments seriously undermine economic growth and poverty reduction. Worldwide, no country has enjoyed sustained economic progress without literacy rates well over 50%. On this premise therefore, Nigeria could be said to really be on track. Though the consequences of low secondary and tertiary enrollments are harder to analyze and may be particularly critical in Nigeria. There is increasing evidence of positive backward links between secondary and higher education and other parts of the system, especially teacher education. It was said that it is only in Africa, for example, does the correlation between female education and fertility reduction not kick in until the secondary level. The quality of tertiary education levels is so low that they limit the development of society’s leaders.

Moreover, universities have a potentially greater role to play in Africa, nay Nigeria than in many other regions. They are often the only national institutions with the skills, equipment, and mandate to generate new knowledge through research or to adapt to global knowledge to help solve local problems. Sadly the content and quality of education in Nigeria are also in crisis. Poor quality not only produces poorly educated students/graduates, it also results in excessive repetition and low completion rates at enormous costs. In Nigerian universities, there are serious decline in quality in the natural sciences, applied technology, business related skills, and research capabilities. Rapid enrollment growth in higher education, coupled with declining resources, has significantly lowered quality.

There is every need to scale-up investment in higher education in Nigeria at all levels and tiers, both to train the teachers and managers who will provide the primary and secondary education and to train the scientists and engineers who will underpin the continuing capacities in the country. Higher education is very necessary to train doctors, nurses, natural resource managers, engineers, and other professionals who will implement development goals vital in poverty reduction.

This therefore defines the on-going cardinal objectives of the Nigerian education sector reform as enunciated by the Education Minister as “the restoration of character and learning as foundation for creating and sustaining a good society, for nurturing the mind and for the ability to compete globally”. While further justifying the restructuring of the unity schools in the country by the Federal Government, Mrs. Oby Ezekwesiri said “Our greatest concern is the fact that the federal ministry of education spends an inordinate amount of time and resources on these schools that constitute only 30% of the secondary schools in the country. Out of 6.4million secondary school students, only 120,718 are in the unity schools. The minister has the feeling that this number cannot on any account justify the disproportionate amount of staff and budget allocated to these schools. She insists that this has to be reversed and that we have to do things differently as the current business model can no longer be sustained.

Drawing from the above therefore, I insist that the existing discrimination between federal and state universities be collapsed. Federal funding or monetary allocations should be made to have same reach and effect on both institutions. This has become necessary in view of the deep rooted rot such as sorting of lecturers, bribing for admission, sexual harassment and promiscuity of lecturers and students, examination fraud and cultism etc that are manifest in all universities; federal and state alike. Besides all these, both schools are rendering same service of manpower development for the nation.

If current reforms as being proposed insist that unity schools and polytechnics must give way, then let’s extend it to the universities by abrogating this federal –state disparity and accord all universities equal funding opportunities though with bias to inherent expertise. I think this way because federal universities are no longer what they were conceived to be by their founding fathers. These days to secure admission into most of them, it is has become the norm to grease palms’ of those- in-charge. Merit is no longer a basic hallmark as depicted in the encounter I narrated earlier.

We surely need a reversal of status!

Our Problem, our solution

From the archives (First published in 2007)
During the previous weeks two widely publicized comments on unemployment rate in Nigeria by two political figures caught my attention. I wish to join issues with both of them on the bases of national discussion.
First, I find it absolutely escapist the views of the Hon. Minister of Education on the high level of unemployment in Nigeria. Obiageli Ezekwesiri had heaped the blame on the poor educational system inherited from the colonial masters. She went further to emphasize that the education legacy left behind by the British was not constructed to meet the present demand. In her words “British education left a lot of people in the country educated without any entrepreneurial skills. The British education focuses more on training an individual to be all round gentleman without inculcating in him the necessary entrepreneurial skills to help him take initiatives by himself to survive in a highly competitive world” “The only business the products of the British education system could do was targeted at the public treasury”
I laughed when I read the views of the minister in the paper. I hope those were her personal views and not those of the federal government of Nigeria. The minister’s views raises a lot of questions and are grossly misleading.
It baffles me why for over 46years of National independence we are still not dependent. If Nigeria, is truly independent, then, why those parochial views from a high ranking minister of the federal republic.
Yes, the British were our colonial masters, but then who were our indigenous masters post independence in 1960? If our indigenous leadership failed to see through imperfection in systems inherited from the colonial lords and fail to correct them, whose fault? Have we not amended our constitution severally and have kept tilting our educational system and curricula over the years?
For a whopping four decades and half now, Nigerians, have seen a lot of evolution in the nation’s body polity. Three administrative regions have become 36states.The population has increased immensely from less than 60million at independence to over 120million today. The level of infrastructure has relatively improved from what it was, same for many other things. As at independence we had no indigenous university, but today we have got well over 50 with many polytechnics and colleges of agriculture, education and technology etc.
I do not see the unemployment level in Nigeria as a product of any inherited legacy from any colonial master. If the Hon. Minister insists on that, then permit me to ask why there is little or no professional unemployment in the UK? It is also germane to remind her that UK runs one of the most robust economies in the world. Uk’s educational institutions are spots of intellectual and capacity building attractions to all sorts of people from all races who come from different parts of the world including the United States, Canada, China, Korea, Japan and Africa.
The high unemployment rate in Nigeria is solely the creation of our post-independence leaders. Our leaders refused to plan for the rainy day. It is a product of official but latent insouciance, insincerity and corruption in government.
People with questionable character, lacking in vision and porous integrity have ruled and ruined this potentially great country. Attributing it remotely or directly to colonial rule that ended 46 years ago is not only escapist but mischievous.
Perhaps we need to compare notes. In the UK today students can access loans to go to school and can only pay on securing a job on graduation with a salary of about GBP15, 000 per annum. There are also lots of scholarship grants and bursary. In the UK, most universities are running entrepreneurial studies. Business writing competitions are annual events for students at the university and district levels. Winners are handsomely rewarded with cash as much as GBP40, 000 in addition to the expertise of a coach to groom the enterprise.
In Britain of today, the 13th-19th of November of every year is observed as the National enterprise week. This event is always a nationwide celebration observed to inspire people to turn their ideas into reality. This event reverberates with pump in all universities with activities like workshops and presentations by successful entrepreneurs on critical topic such as; Starting your on business, Business planning, The highs and lows of having your own business, Market research etc. It normally kicks off the local Business plan Competition which is opened to student on either individual or team basis.
There is also the Research Council’s UK Business Plan Competition. The competition is open to researchers based in the UK Higher Education Institutions (HEI’s) or Public Sector Research Establishments (PSRE) from across the whole spectrum of academic research within the remits of the eight UK Research Councils-from the arts and biosciences, to environmental, physical and social sciences to technology. Postgraduates, postdocs and academic staff who have a business idea arising from research and want to develop this further are encouraged to participate. The aim of the competition is to help researchers turn great research into great business.
British banks ranging from Barclays, Natwest and HSBC etc have serious and functional portfolios that work with, encourage and groom entrepreneurs from the idea stage to start-ups and progressively. They have adequate funds to support entrepreneurs and clearly spelt out rules for these supports. Information on accessing this facility is always handy. There is no cutting of corners.
So, what are we lamenting over? The British are very dynamic and have advanced light years ahead. Why are we stuck? Why we are still held 46years behind? These should be the kernel of the matter and not the other way round. I would have been happy to see the minister talk about the mysterious SMIESS funds for SME’s and how possibly to enable graduate entrepreneurs benefit from it without bottlenecks instead of making empty blames.
There is no doubt that Nigeria is still a virgin investment destination. All sectors of the economy need to be maximally developed and this could only be done by entrepreneurs. But they must be groomed and encouraged. Vital sectors that need the ‘invasion’ of entrepreneurs include health, agriculture, aviation, ICT, waste management, water, sanitation, education and news media etc. There is therefore an urgent need to build a collaborative synergy or partnership between the industries and the schools in Nigeria.
The second issue that caught my attention was an interview granted the press by the Deputy Governor of Imo State, Engr.Ebere Udeagu. He had promised on that interview to turn unemployed graduates into employers of labor if elected the Imo State Governor in 2007.
I was desirous to find out how he intended to achieve that in this era of drab political manifestoes. I thank him for his views at least for acknowledging the seriousness of the problem though I was least convinced on the efficacy of his suggestions.
Engr.Udeagu was of the opinion that unemployed youths will be supported with loans to embrace farming. He also saw good sense in setting up industrial clusters to be supported by banks in Imo State. He drew attention to the Imo state government owned redemption farm at Nekede as a model that could do the magic. He admitted being a farmer himself by his ownership of a rice farm.
Unfortunately, the Songhai farm in question suffered a still-birth. It never really took off and has ever remained in coma. It was killed by greed and over exploitation of a sole administrator initially appointed to oversee it. Despite the huge funds available to government and the amount so far committed into the farm, Songhai farm Nekede near Owerri is a very poor replica of the mother farm in Porto Novo, Republic du Benin. At the Owerri farm today, the animators have severely been emasculated, they are ill-motivated, the farm is overgrown with grasses, stores and stocks are empty, the units are no longer functional etc. Moreover how many jobs did Songhai farm sustainably create for Imo youths?
I doubt if Udeagu claims ignorance of the deliberate decay his boss has left the farm after it was severely sucked to death by a man Friday. So, what purpose will it serve as a model? I think the Deputy Governor should privately visit the farm before pontificating from the cozy comforts of his high office.
However I wish to let the deputy governor know that the solution to unemployment is not mass farming. All unemployed youth cannot all embrace farming. People are still entitled to choice and options such as his choice to succeed his boss instead of returning to his rice mill. Should those lacking interest in farming be abandoned because of their options, No!
Let all those interested in agriculture be properly motivated, same for those interested in other areas of human endeavor. There should be a fair and just employment system put in place especially in the public sector. There should also be entrepreneurial education for graduates and undergraduates alike. There should be fewer emphases on politics and its ostentatious trappings. Corruption and graft in government should be extirpated to enable the adequate provision of infrastructure that could support entrepreneurs.
A synergy or partnership with banks is okay but where is the road map? Giving loans or grants to unemployed youths to start business without training and a measure of competence would be wasteful. I have said it before, and will repeat it again that our youths must as a first step be coached on writing business plans as an en route to acquiring entrepreneurial skills. Soft loans or grants should be part of the package but should be duly released in tranches based on the ability of the entrepreneur to meet mutually agreed milestone. Banks and other established companies should be made part of these entrepreneurial activities as a hallmark of their corporate social responsibility to the nation.
Perhaps it is high time we set milestones in this country. We could measure this on number of jobs created. For example, let us know how many new businesses that were started by every bank at the end of each banking year, same for other companies and the government. I will be happy to hear Chief Achike Udenwa, the outgoing governor of my state read a list of small but potentially great private businesses he funded or supported as a gain from his industrialization policy as anchored on his tripod vision. Chief Udeagu can aspire to improve on that with a convincing methodology. I challenge every other governor elsewhere to do the same. This extends to President Obasanjo and even the local council chairmen.
Traveling to China to invite Chinese to come and invest here is a futile exercise, same for invitation to other nationalities because their response may not be timely. It is only our creativity, dexterity and commitment that can timely open up our markets. We have both the human and material capital to do that but they sadly remain to be positively exploited.
Please enough of platitudes!

Whither Intergrity?

Joachim Ibeziako Ezeji.

I often get amused whenever I see people; especially those that I hold in high esteem belie my high expectation and perception of them through their low behavior and utterances. I have come to observe these so frequently that I shudder to inquire how many of our people really bother to know how the next fellow feels about their character. This ugly situation cascades down all over the place with little or no exception.

The consequence is that I hardly trust people anymore. But even if you accuse me of being too moralistic, then tell me who actually you can trust between a politician and a banker; a policeman and a motorist ;a civil servant and a trader ; a lawyer and a teacher ; a social worker and a journalist; a nurse and a driver; and; a student and a medical personnel ? Etc. Each of them has a basketful of tricks upon which they seem contented to live in Nigeria of today.

The irony is that many of these people have like the proverbial dog eaten the bone hanged on their necks. Lucid examples to buttress all these are not in short supply. In our society of today, a lecturer sees amorous dealings with his female student as part of the gains of his profession. A journalist sees bribery as a compass that could determine what actually to write. A politician sees deceit, fraud and violence as a footpath to relevance. The civil servant sees graft as a guaranty for happy service. A medical doctor exploits the ignorance and weakness of the sick. Same for a trader who must tell lies as a prelude to making profit etc. Nobody really seems to care anymore!

Recently I was in Abuja on a one week vacation. Throughout the one week I had put up with a friend, an erstwhile schoolmate who presently works in the office of the Auditor General of the federation. Naturally, we had cause to talk over a whole lot of issues ranging from old school events/gist and most importantly his present job. My friend was effusive in telling me how he makes extra money besides his salary.

As a junior auditor he works under seniors who inducted him into the process of making extra money on the job. Going round government establishment for audits was part of their job and it is this assignment that makes the difference. All that mattered wherever or whenever they come around for audit was ‘settlement’. When this happens as was often the case, then the books will be given a clean bill of good health. All short comings and queries are then overlooked. He saw absolutely nothing wrong in these skewed approach to work that enables him to earn extra twenty thousand naira or more on top of his monthly salary. His boss and others who inducted him into the trade for sure earn more!

Some time in the succeeding years, a federal government ministry in the FCT advertised for some senior and mid-level positions for a World Bank sponsored project. Applications came in torrents, as the legions of the unemployed struggled to try their luck. Aptitude test was staged by those concerned not necessarily to whittle down the lot and select the best, No! From the way the way the whole thing evolved much later, it showed that it was done to please the financiers whose conditions prescribed such.

What emerged at the end was a selection of those who never wrote the test. But a collection of mediocre and cheats whose edge was that they had God Fathers in senior ministry officials such as directors, permanent secretaries and ministers only. Those who had none were never considered. Yet most of them are fellow country men who risked the travails of our sullen death trap roads to keep faith with the process that seemed a glimmer of hope.

When Chuba Okadigbo died, accusing fingers were pointed at certain quarters. To buttress the truth, an inquest was made by the federal government for an autopsy. The bereaved family turned it down. Why? They probably reasoned that previous exercises in other similar cases stirred more controversy than resolve any problem. It was overt that they have no confidence in any outcome from such a process. That matter demonstrated the high level of distrust in the polity especially between the citizens and their government.

I love reading Rtd. Justice Chukwudifo Oputa interviews. One of such in a national newspaper few years ago lamented the decay of morality in our society. He had always cautioned various strata of the country on integrity especially the judiciary at all levels.. Juxtaposing the words of this erudite judge you will no doubt cry at the disgraceful conduct displayed during the kangaroo impeachment of some governors by the chief judges of Ekiti, Plateau and Anambra states in 2006.

Enmeshed in this roll of pervasive deficiency in integrity of our day is Justice Okoli of the Anambra State Judiciary who has seemingly opted to play politics than interpret the law. Justice Egbo Egbo and Justice Opene , both of whom have long been dismissed from the bench believed and practiced ‘Ghana must go’ legal erudition. Justice Okoli is happy dancing to the music of the Anambra State house of Assembly who are encouraging him to misbehave and shun the disciplinary directives of the National Judiciary Commission (NJC). On the same pedestal is Mr. Bayo Ojo the attorney general of the federation who has become an alternate court with omnibus powers to interpret judicial verdicts.

Reasons for all these display of perfidy among many professionals in Nigeria speaks volumes of our non preparedness to progress. The way it stands we seem fixated and destined for atrophy. Integrity is a meaningful attribute that must be restored and secured before we talk about nation building and national development. Without it ‘enweghi ebe anyi ji azu aga’ (we are making no progress) and ‘anyi na egbu oge’ (we are wasting our time).

The list is endless. Was accusing fingers not pointed at some graft imbued professionals when, some storey buildings collapsed in Lagos and Port Harcourt last year killing our fellow countrymen?; Was it not FCT personnel who signed out spaces for development knowing fully well that it was not in tandem with the master-plan? Where was integrity when some of these properties were eventually demolished for being out of order with the master-plan? Where is integrity when the Joint Admission Matriculation Board was suspected of compromising its statutory responsibilities?

I am interested to find where integrity still reigns in my country. A look at the top of the pyramid i.e. the presidency shows a behemoth of deceit and chicanery. Was it not Chief Olusegun Obasanjo who conceived but veiled the third term agenda? Is their any integrity in the naked dance of Mr. President and his vice on the PTDF? Where is integrity in the PDP presidential primaries that deceived and coaxed genuine aspirants for a favored stooge?

Where is integrity in the ‘rub my back I rub yours’ relationship existing between state governors and their houses of assembly? I am also searching for integrity in the conduct of local council chairmen who merely wait for monthly allocation without bothering to make impact on their people? The result is bad governance and mal-administration. The poor suffers it most. But must it continue this way? Perhaps a food for thought as we look ahead in the year ahead

Which Hospital Should I Attend?

Joachim Ibeziako Ezeji.

Stories emanating from our many hospitals these days leave much to be desired. This is most especially the case in public health institutions. I am tempted to conclude that it is part of the burgeoning rot in the Nigerian system, but must it continue?

I have had cause in the recent past to attend the Federal Medical Centre in Owerri. My experience at this hospital is most nauseating. I had arrived as early as 9am in the morning of that fateful day, and after due protocols, joined the queue of outpatients waiting to see the doctor. Due to the huge number of outpatients on the queue, it was yet to be my turn even at 1pm.It was most saddening to realize that only one doctor was attending to this huge number of patients. I was disappointed when I discovered this.

Can you imagine, just one doctor for such a crowd in a hospital in a state capital and moreover a federal medical centre for that matter. I was sad but was still patient. At about 1.30pm news came that the doctor was going for break and that we should either wait till he returns or come the next day. Despite this news, I still opted to wait. My patience however ran out when even at 3pm the doctor was yet to be back from his break. An hour later, which was at about 4pm, one of the nurses on duty lousily came to announce that the doctor won’t be returning anymore and that we should come back the next day. I felt like crying, what a shame!

It was very painful to recall that on the queue with me on that day were very poor patients who were really sick and had traveled from remote locations to see the doctor and possibly seek solutions to their ailments. I pitied them and wondered what callous system we have in place in this country. I had little option than to leave but with a promise never to seek medical attention in that hospital anymore. In addition to the time lost being on that queue was also the money paid for card.

When I later shared my experience with a friend who works in the laboratory section of the hospital, he called me ‘anya ura’ (a fool) and said that I should have tipped (bribed) one of the nurses who would have facilitated my seeing the doctor without any delay.

Yet, even while at the laboratory section I had noticed how employed officials were hawking their trade. Both the student attachés and full time staff of the centre were all over the place prowling on visitors for patronage. They simply wanted anybody to patronize them and have they run your tests for you. Of course they never cared if you were for that or something else.

Since after that discouraging experience, I have alternatively resorted to private clinics. There is no doubt that the level of service on offer in private clinics is better than those in public hospitals but the snag here is the cost. Prohibitive cost in these clinics makes even primary health care unaffordable for many, especially the poor, this thus constitutes my primary reservation.

Most of these private clinics are harboring ‘no nothings’ as both nurses and medical doctors or officers. Added to this is that tendency for shylock profiteering. By this I mean that the level of service often given is inversely proportional to the fees charged. There are no doubts few exceptions. In Owerri we know clinics that see their work as a service to humanity. We know them but they a very few.

Is it therefore surprising, that chemists and pharmacy shops are thriving even on fake drugs? This should not surprise you any longer because many people now find it affordable and convenient to simply walk up to the next shop to buy anti-malaria drugs like ‘fansidar’ or request for a mixture that will ease their weakness and make them available for productive chores even with the high risk of buying fake or killer brands.

How about the traditional and herbal practitioners? Their trade booms because they are cashing in on the existing lacuna in the formal health sector. Moreover the average Nigerian is a traditionalist.
As I talk about our hospitals, I also remember tragic events that make urgent revolution in the health sector most urgent. Last year my friend Amadi lost his wife in a hospital. It was a case of maternal mortality. The woman was pregnant, and died just few minutes after delivery. She had for 9 months attended the same hospital for ante natal clinic. The essence of the ante natal was to safe guard safe delivery. But this was not to be as she was at the point of delivery diagnosed to have acute malaria. The outcome was death for the innocent woman. Then tell me the essence of all than routine checks during the ante natal because when it mattered most that was defeated.
Three weeks ago, Kalu who is another friend of mine took his sick mother to another clinic in Owerri when the woman showed signs of debilitating physical fitness. She was having high blood pressure with series of persisting weakness and fatigue. At the hospital the poor woman was virtually abandoned by those supposedly paid to administer her at the center. She died three days after.
This then brings to the fore the recent case of negligence recorded at the Federal Medical Centre, Asaba Delta State. The consequence of that negligence was maternal deaths for four pregnant women.
The outcry from that dastardly event forced the Federal Government of Nigeria to terminate the appointment of the Medical Director, Dr. G.O. Ebo and other varying sanctions to others found culpable in the scandal. The Minister of Health, Professor, Eyitayo Lambo while briefing the press on the Government recommendations of a white paper said the Centre recorded 4 maternal deaths within a space of thirty days (one month).Prof. Lambo lamented that he came to know of the unfortunate incidents only from the Newspapers report of July 14, 2006, after he directed that, any such occurrences in any tertiary Health Institutions must be brought to his office within 48 hours.
The punishment according to Lambo was part of the effort to stem the unsatisfactory trend in tertiary Health Institutions and in the public interest. He further stated that the administration’s determination to deliver qualitative service to Nigerians, in the spirit of Health Sector Reform Programme, was unwavering and must be steadfast about it.
It is also within current memory that the former Medical Director of Lagos University Teaching Hospital was retired from service on similar negligence in the case of Baby Eniola who contacted HIV/AIDS through blood transfusion in the hospital.
It is not my intention to go on chronicling these failures or to dwell on the poor state of most of these hospitals, their names not withstanding. Dr. Azubike Nwaeje, the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) chairman, Anambra State Chapter said so much on this recently. He revealed to a national newspaper that the General Hospital Onitsha where he is the Chief Medical Officer is rotting away because of lack of care and attention by successive administrations.
Built in 1965 by the then Dr. Micheal Okpara’s administration of the Eastern region. Dr. Nwaeje said nothing functions in the hospital.
In his words “The plant house is not functional and most times we conduct our operations in the theatre with lanterns. The hospital was once accredited, but it has now lost its accreditation because there are no facilities. The former Governor of the state, Ngige did his house-manship in this hospital in 1975, and when he came we thought he would do some thing to uplift the hospital and earn it accreditation but to no avail. As I am talking to you now, there is no borehole anywhere here and the stores are empty”, he said.
Without any fear of contradiction I make bold to generalize this situation in many hospitals in Nigeria be they state or federal owned, primary, secondary or tertiary classified. Many people who run these hospitals are afraid to speak out like Dr.Nwaeje. Yet millions of naira is budgeted yearly for health to no avail.
This now brings me closer home. Amidst all these unsettling issues are claims that Imo State has an effective health care delivery system comprising hospitals and paramedical centers. These medical establishments which are located in different local government areas of the state are categorized into five main groups: Government owned Specialist Hospitals, General Hospitals; Voluntary Agency Hospitals (Missionary Hospitals); Community Owned Hospitals; and, privately owned hospitals.
Also, there are claims that the Imo State Health Care Delivery Scheme has adopted a grassroots approach through the establishment of rural basic healthcare centers and village primary healthcare centers in all the Local council areas. The efficiency of these centers if at all in existence is no doubt in doubt when viewed against a number of factors. Top of them is corruption; then, the lopsided nature of state government attention on development which ‘favors’ Orlu zone over Okigwe and Owerri zones; the inertia of doctors to ply their trade in rural areas and the comatose state of infrastructure existing in most of these communities. In most cases there are no access roads to these communities. This is worsened by sheer scarcity of clean drinking water etc.
In discussing these issues I make bold to suggest that the incoming administration in Imo State should consider free medical services to persons aged below 16 years and those of 70 years and above as a priority.
They could set up a state health insurance scheme where indigenes will contribute as little as N100.00 monthly and receive Free State medical services surpassing private medical services from public clinics and hospitals.
It is lamentable that despite our wealth and huge incomes as either a state in Nigeria or a country, especially from petroleum resources our people especially the poor suffer in silence over ailments that are curable and those, which are manageable. The result in most cases is declination of human productivity, poverty and deaths.

Free medical services for those aged below 16 and those above 60 is workable and should be explored in Nigeria. Imo State can herald it and serve as a model for others to emulate. Also, all those aged above 18 years but who remain in full time education, could also enjoy free health services but for those who are out of education but gainfully employed, the medical insurance will be their avenue to receiving state funded medical attention.

I don’t see anything utopian in this suggestion after all a whopping sum of more than $380bn has either been stolen or wasted by Nigerian governments since independence in 1960.The EFFCC boss Mallam Ribadu said this much to BBC recently. This was also corroborated by the World Bank President Mr.Paul Wolfowitz in an international conference recently. I am currently researching to know the percentage of this amount that came from Imo Sate.

My nostalgia with public and private hospitals may not go away quickly until something tangible is put on the table. I have a somewhat feeling that this may not be early in coming even as a new government sets to take the centre stage soon. This is so because no concrete or convincing talk has been made in this direction up till now by any of our legion of aspirants to political offices. I am listening attentively and would be appreciative to hear something good in this direction. Please let that politician who has something to offer say so now, else my and of course that of a million others, prevarication on which hospital to attend continues.

Urban Poverty in the Niger delta environment

Joachim Ibeziako Ezeji

The Niger Delta, the world’s third largest wetland, is the main source of foreign exchange earnings for Nigeria. Since 1975, more than 90 per cent of Nigeria’s export earnings have, on average, been generated from the region’s oil resources. However, the Niger Delta as represented by its big cities remain the filthiest and most unregulated in physical sanitation terms.

Today, public health concerns associated with industrial pollution, high population density and poorly managed on-site sanitation systems has become a critical subject. A recent local study conducted in the Niger Delta by RAWDP; a non-governmental organization has revealed that the hydraulic loading rate of on-site sanitation in the Niger Delta is rising rapidly. This negatively impacts groundwater as high hydraulic loading, greater than 50mm per day, caused by on-site sanitation systems and high population density often overcomes barriers posed by vertical separation or soil media.

Most worrisome is the fact that the region is a coastal area with a sensitive ecosystem. This is further worsened by unmitigated industrial pollutions which contaminate water with nitrates, manganese, pesticides, lead, copper, sulfate, heavy metals and unstable pH. The immediate result of this situation is a threatened water supply source (ground, surface and rain) which causes serious ailments to the people and worsens their impaired productivity and environment. Here, 95% of the population depends on contaminated open water sources such as streams, lakes and rivers. 70% of the people are also without access to appropriate sanitation. Also, many households are unable to afford to send their children to school. For those children who are fortunate enough to attend school, 20-25% are often absent due to intestinal illness or caring for the needs of other sick family members. In this part of the country, 20% of children under the ages of five die every year from effects of drinking unsafe water.

The general situation is an irony of water, water, water everywhere but none good enough to drink. Over 10 million people found in the oil-bearing Niger Delta are vulnerable to these concerns. The persistent restiveness and recent hostage-taking in the region underscores the uncomfortable dimension the situation has assumed. The ad-hoc response of both the government and oil companies by sinking different water boreholes has not improved the situation. The fragile nature of the environment, coupled with the flawed process of awarding such water contracts have often resulted in poorly developed water systems that were never sustainable. Few successful water schemes are increasingly becoming vulnerable and problems such as incrustation of calcium carbonates, iron manganese and bacteria slimes on inner linings of casing materials, threats of improperly flushed-out drilling particles such as bentonites and polymers etc, and cuttings from annular space between well screen and formation walls are still persisting.

Other problems such as contamination from leachate plumes and organic growth from oxygen intake during pumping combine to make clean drinking water a scarce commodity in the entire area. As of today many abandoned and comatose boreholes dot the entire landscape.

Presently, the establishment of a waterborne sewerage system is not even a priority to the government because of reasons best known to it, while the environmental regulatory laws have not been well enforced. On the other hand, little efforts are known to have been made to build new latrine or sanitation systems in public places such as markets, motor parks and railways.

Reasons associated with such failure have largely been traceable from environmental and technical shortcomings to insouciance, ignorance, corruption and idiocy. Most worrisome in the entire region is the absence of any functional public utility to meet the water and sanitation needs of the people, where in existence, like in Owerri (Imo state) and Uyo ( Akwa ibom states) ,supplies are epileptic and marginal, depriving millions of households of clean water supplies. The result is an avalanche of water vendors hawking potentially unclean water via kiosks, trucks and carts.

There is no gain saying the fact that after 66 years of oil exploitation in the Delta, poverty remains a serious problem among the people, and social capital is broken. It is an irony that the goose that lays the golden egg stand to miss the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) unless immediate scalable interventions are designed and urgently put in place.

There is no debating the consensus that water is one of the most strategic of natural resources. It is intertwined in everyday life of human beings in myriad ways, and its importance as a driver of health, food security, and quality of life, and as a pillar for economic development is unique.
The following trends involving water are now more or less evident:
1) The scale of the problem is increasing from local to global.
2) As a consequence of pollution of sediment, soil and groundwater, the impacts as well as results of possible remediation appear after a significant delay.
3) At any given location several superimposed problems have to be addressed, which is not an easy task-especially if unforeseen effect are considered etc.

The foregoing is in cognizance of the fact that groundwater is susceptible to coliform contamination which can be caused by effluent from on-site sanitation, septic pits, and latrines, or due to improper handling of livestock manure. In fact, sanitary condition is closely related to coliform contamination. Groundwater contamination by coliform could pose a threat to human health, causing problems such as diarrhea.

In Ho Chi Minh city, recent studies report that coliform has been detected not only in shallow aquifers but also in deeper aquifers. As the shallow and deep aquifers are interconnected at many points beneath the city, coliform contamination can potentially spread into the deeper aquifer under certain conditions. In this regard, both shallow and deep aquifers in the city need to be closely monitored.

Threats posed to public health by the very poor collection and disposal of solid waste and human excreta in the Niger delta states of Nigeria is real. This is heart breaking when viewed against the huge financial allocation/receipts from the Federal allocation in the region. Rivers state government alone, since 1999 has received over two hundred and eighty six billion naira (N286 billion); Imo State has received over N88billion while Delta has over N350 billion and Abia N76 billion etc.

The worsening sewarage situation in Port Harcourt city alone constitutes a great threat to all, whether you live in government house; glass house or sky scrappers. Presently in the city, the hub of the oil rich Niger Delta, and the industrial hotspot of Nigeria, there are no in-built underground waste disposal system. Residents hire private septic tank sanitation operators to dispose their waste. Till now there are no properly designated places to dispose these wastes efficiently. Belated efforts by Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) to develop an integrated waste treatment plant around the city are presently enmeshed in legal hiccups between them and the host community. The situation is further worsened by erratic water supply, very vital at impacting effective sanitation, and lack of coordinated planning by the authorities. The result is a sum tragedy of a grossly debased environment that is impairing public health and productivity, and expanding mass poverty.

Yes, urban poverty is real and this from many facets is underpinned by poor sanitation. Painfully, the regulation of the sanitation market, harmonization of appropriate dump site or the establishment of a waterborne sewerage system is still not on the boards. The huge population in Owerri, Uyo, Port Harcourt, Calabar, Warri, Aba Yenagoa etc still relies on scattered initiatives anchored on pour flush toilets, soak-pits and quasi-septic tanks etc.
It is only time that can tell how far this ugly situation could be improved.

The unmaking of an oil city.

Joachim Ibeziako Ezeji
On the Nigerian political map, Port Harcourt is a beautiful city. This is decipherable from its geographical features. Rivers State where Port Harcourt is the capital city is host to the Oil and Gas Free Zone, which serves oil and gas industries in the West African sub-region. It also has a petrochemical plant, two refineries, a fertilizer plant, and the nation's second busiest seaport, the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) and other multinational oil companies.
Because of the strategic location of Port Harcourt, the city has for decades, been home to hundreds of expatriates working in the oil and gas sector. This informed the decision to commission an international airport to open the region to increased domestic and international air traffic. Flight operations between neighboring African and European countries such as Cameroon, Sao Tome and Principe, Togo, Benin Republic, Ghana, Britain, France and Germany take place at the airport. Importation and exportation of oil and gas exploration, materials and equipment are also airlifted through the airport.
But that tends to be the best story of Port Harcourt, the industrial hotspot of the Nigerian oil industry. The comatose state of public utilities, heavy traffic, poor level infrastructure, common-place environmental pollution, ineptitude in city governance and now high rate crime and insecurity is already the defining line. The continuing rate of kidnapping of people for whatever reasons gives me enormous concern.
Painfully, June 2007 marks the 51st anniversary of the discovery of oil in Nigeria. Although oil exploration began in Nigeria in 1938 around the Owerri city area, when Shell d'Arcy (later Shell BP) obtained a license, it was not until June 1956, that that company discovered oil in commercial quantity at Oloibiri (in present Bayelsa State). Export of crude oil started in 1958.
As at today, there are, in the Niger Delta, 11 oil companies operating 159 oil fields and 1, 481 wells; all with a strong presence in Port Harcourt city. In a recent report, titled "Ways of Using Oil Boom for Sustainable Development" published by the African Development Bank (ADB), Nigeria's total earnings from crude oil was put at $600 billion (or about N84 trillion) in the past 45 years. That should translate into over N1.8 trillion per annum for 45 years.
Today, Nigeria has degenerated into a mono-cultural state, with oil as the mainstay of the national economy. Oil reserve in Nigeria is estimated at 22 billion barrels which, at current production level of 2.7 million barrels per day (official figure), will be exhausted in less than 24 years. Nigeria is the world's sixth largest oil producer. Other Third World oil-producing states, such as Saudi Arabia, Libya, Venezuela, Indonesia, Azerbaijan and Kuwait, have used their oil wealth to transform those countries into modern states.
Now 51 years old, the advent of oil discovery means different things to different people. To the beneficiaries of the oil industry, mainly those who have held the reins of Federal and State power over the years, the discovery of oil in Nigeria is a blessing. However, to the overwhelming majority of the citizens of Nigeria, particularly those of the Niger Delta, the discovery of oil is a curse.
Gas thermal stations in the Niger Delta account for 50 per cent of Nigeria's electricity supply; even so, half of the community has never seen electric light. The landmass in the Niger Delta is desiccated and rendered unsuitable for agriculture; the water mass is polluted and rendered unsuitable for fishing. The people wring their hands in utter frustration, watching helplessly as over 87 per cent of the revenue from oil is taken away to found new towns and develop existing ones outside the Delta region.
The inhabitants of the area experience scorching heat daily from endless gas flaring, an established cause of leukaemia. According to industry sources, Nigeria accounts for over 78 per cent of all the gas flared in Africa and 25 per cent of the world's total! Unconfirmed reports have conservatively put the quantity oil stolen on a daily basis from the Niger Delta at 200,000 barrels.
In a recent report, the World Bank stated that the Niger Delta is the least developed part of Nigeria in terms of social infrastructure and modern facilities, yet since the early seventies, about 95 per cent of export earnings come from the petroleum resources of the Niger Delta. On a national scale, Nigerians are some of the poorest human beings on earth, living, on the average, on less than one dollar per day, despite the huge revenues derived from oil daily, monthly and annually.
Sadly at this stage of our development the oil industry in Nigeria is witnessing a rash of militant organizations in the Niger Delta. This has been precipitated by a number of both remote and immediate factors such as the death and execution of some environmental rights activists, such as Isaac Boro, Ken Saro-Wiwa and others, the arrest and detention of some, like Asari Dokubo, and the impeachment of DSP Alamiesigha as governor of Bayelsa state.
With over N80 trillion in 45 years, Nigeria, given good leadership, should boast of the best hospitals in Africa, the best primary, secondary and tertiary institutions, a network of good roads and bridges, etc. such as we have in the aforementioned oil-producing nations. Absolute want of good leadership has been the rub. Successive Federal and State Governments have failed to use oil as a catalyst for national development and have paid lip service to education, with the net result that capacity building remains a mirage.
Writing in his regular weekly column on the issue Reuben Abati had posited that the current crisis in the Niger Delta in form of the transformation of that region into a mini-Iraq with aggrieved citizens taking oil workers hostage, and demanding ransom as if they were disciples of Osama Bin Laden is the inevitable outcome of the failure of the Nigerian state and the professional political class to address the politics of oil.
It can only get worse and it will. It would appear that the youths of the Niger Delta have finally discovered how best to treat and beat the Nigerian state. In the past weeks, they have kidnapped many oil workers; a total of about twenty. They have seized two vessels, and attacked three flow stations.
Reuben had emphasized that each time radical militants of the Niger Delta seized oil flow stations, kidnap oil workers and inflict punishment on Nigerian security forces, the international price of crude oil shoots up. The daily production output of the oil companies in the Delta drops, and so Nigeria loses revenue. Oil theft is made easier, and perhaps more important for the purpose of the militias, the international community focuses afresh on the problems of the Niger Delta. Their action is dramatic.
The effect is even more so. Shell which depends on the Niger Delta for ten per cent of its global oil production, as well as the other oil majors are already used to crises of this nature. There can be no doubt that they consider violent attacks on their processes and installations, part of the price to be paid for doing business in Nigeria. Shell has evacuated over 300 of its staff. Chevron has suspended some of its operations. But they will return either as partners of the Nigerian state or of the commanders of the Niger Delta, depending on how the coming showdown is resolved.
The main challenge lies in how six, seven years into civilian democracy, the Nigerian government has not been able to make any progress in the Niger Delta. The situation in that region worsened during military rule especially under General Sani Abacha who unleashed a regime of terror and repression on the people, killing Ken Saro-Wiwa, the MOSOP activist and eight others. Abacha turned the people against one another and sacked communities.
There was some respite under General Abdusalami Abubakar whose main contribution was to organize fresh elections and hand over to civilians. But with the return to civilian rule in 1999, it was expected that there would be ample opportunities for addressing the injustice, the abuse of human rights, the repression and the exploitation which had driven the people of the Niger Delta to the wall. Unfortunately, the response of the Obasanjo administration has been characterized by a disconnect between form and substance.
The impact of all these to Port Harcourt the major city in the entire region is worrisome. There is no doubt that Port Harcourt should be a replica of Abuja FCT, but this is regrettably not the case. Port Harcourt is the capital of Rivers state Nigeria. The city is predominantly an urban community with a population of about 2.5million people. The people are mostly civil servants, oil company workers, students, entrepreneurs, the unemployed and traders with an average household income of US$4.50 per day.
Current infrastructure provision in the city is below average. There are open and well paved tarred roads in the city’s outer areas but beyond them are adjoining streets and pathways that are subject to regular flooding which often make them impassable. There is erratic supply of electricity. Current domestic water demand varies from 15 to 30 l/person/day, but supplies have grossly been insufficient because the utility providers have long gone comatose, leaving such services to mostly semi-skilled entrepreneurs who are cashing-in on the parlous situation to make big money.
In Port Harcourt city privately owned and operated water schemes dot the entire landscape, with owners selling the water to residents via water trucks, carts and kiosks etc. The same situation applies to the provision of sanitation services. Private and Privately owned sanitation trucks and personnel are putting up efforts but these have not really met much success.
The sanitation situation in Diobu in particular is hugely abysmal. Here, open defecation is still rampant and common. During wet period i.e. rainy season, some people especially women and children “shit and wrap” their excreta in their homes, only to throw them into runoffs. Where these ‘wraps’ end up remains an open guess. Further exacerbating the poor situation of sanitation is the fact that Diobu hosts a major market that is patronized by thousands of people from and beyond Port Harcourt every week. This naturally keeps the neighbourhood busy everyday.
A preliminary assessment recently conducted by an NGO, RAWDP to appraise the poor sanitation in the Diobu area in particular, and the entire city revealed shocking facts. Aside the facts that the market lacks toilet facilities, over 85% of households in Port Harcourt share sanitary facilities, like toilets. This is very common in densely populated or ‘face –me, I-face-you’ buildings. In such places, yard latrines are common with a user ratio of 50 persons per latrine (toilet) per day; only few households have separate and detached personal latrines.
Aside the filthy status of most of these latrines, an obvious consequence is the high filling rate of the pits. To the residents, it does not matter, because they can easily tax themselves or contribute to raise the fee for the dislodging service. Most yard latrines in Port Harcourt are emptied on the average, 5 times a year. Most of them are also shallow because of nearness to ground water, the area being a coastal region. In some other places, make-shift latrine structures are common. These structures are constantly dirty and smelly with lots of flies.
The many Pour flush latrines in the city are generally unkempt because of persisting water scarcity. Another disturbing and shocking revelation is that the two Local Government Councils responsible for the city has no defined strategy for meeting the sanitation needs of a big urban city such as Port Harcourt. There are of course established units such as the Public Health personnel at the councils, responsible for among others, routine inspection of households; but efficiency of these units are seriously in doubt. Beyond the existence of these units, the councils lack broad initiatives on sanitation.
No concerted effort or plan to build new toilets in public places or mobilize the city is in the offing. The councils are yet to see sanitation as a priority. Most schools, motor parks, markets and even churches do not have a functional toilet. Where they existed, they are filthy and over used.

Currently compounding the situation of things in Port Harcourt city is the growing spates of hostage taking. Having lived in Port Harcourt I am afraid that these novel criminal activities will crumble the city and bring the oil industry to its knees. I am also panicky on the best panacea to be used in quelling the problem. Already foreigners have been advised to desist from travelling to Port Harcourt and its parts because of the near inevitable personal risks linked to kidnapping.

I look forward to a new Port Harcourt and hope that all those in charge could respond to the degenerating situation in a most sustainable way.


Water Supply: Community participation is the key.

By Joachim Ibeziako Ezeji

‘’ The Karonga water project in Malawi provided communal hand pumps to a population of 60,000. It included a four year maintenance phase after installation during which the project team maintained a high profile in the community and provided capacity building support. In 1997, two years after all project support ended, 95% of the hand pumps and boreholes were working, with 75% working ‘’well’’. Communities repaired their hand pumps and purchased spares when they needed them’’.
This project till date is a good example of successful water projects to development workers globally especially those working in the water and sanitation sector.

Based on a review of several sources, the financing gap for meeting Millennium Development Goals water and sanitation targets in Nigeria is approximately given as water is Naira 200 billion while sanitation is Naira 150 billion. Also based on available information, current budgets for water supply represent a small fraction of the financing requirements. The most significant budget allocation is at the federal level. It was estimated that over the period 2000 – 2005, allocations averaged some 4 billion Naira per year.

Actual releases are more difficult to determine but are known to be somewhat less. Available information indicates that secured financing covering the period 2005 - 2009 from major external support agencies such as the EU, DFID, JICA, UNICEF etc. is in the region of Naira 18bn. The actual figure may be somewhat less if the co-financing requirements of government are taken into account.

However, far beyond the financial requirement for such projects, the involvement of the community in all stages of any proposed water supply and sanitation programme in Nigeria is very crucial and should no longer be overlooked. Fairness and equity should be promoted through multi-stakeholder participation using appropriate participatory tools.

In view of this, it should be brought to the attention of the government at all tiers of governance in Nigeria, the many examples of community water and sanitation projects that were built and ended up being abandoned or broken down soon after commissioning. This was because the needs of most of those communities were taken for granted. ‘Top down Approaches’ was used and this meant that communities were given whatever projects the government thought fit. Those communities were never really consulted and their real ‘’felt’’ needs were never identified. This resulted in unwanted projects which were neglected and became ‘white elephants’.

Current realities demand the involvement of a community at all stages of a project. This is important in order to ensure that the community owns the project and willingly takes responsibility for it. The era of project implementation in which experts and officials made all decisions and the community were directed as to how they should participate is gone. Such projects are often products of poor participatory planning and design processes because the government or donors merely bring it, fixed support packages and work to tight schedules, often only ‘’informing’’ community (male) leaders, and lacking time and resources to engage in true consultation and capacity development.

It is important to highlight that the community is the end user of the proposed project. End user’s needs, especially those of poor women and men are at the basis of integrated needs-based planning processes that are cost-effective, socially equitable and environmentally sustainable. Community involvement is therefore essential to ensure genuinely sustainable projects particularly water and sanitation projects. In order to make sure that projects are sustainable, there is every need to identify clear steps in the project implementation process that will engage the community.

The involvement of the community in the proposed service provision will enable their commitment to it. The sustainability of the project will therefore depend on the quality of cooperation by the community at the various stages of the project implementation and even afterwards. However, it is often a challenge in many places to ensure long term sustainability of community participation and management. The Nigerian government and her development partners have a task to overcome this challenge by listing relevant strategies for community involvement and its approaches during project identification and design.

Effective participation in development projects affords communities greater control over decisions affecting their lives. Nigerian rural communities should no longer be denied such opportunities. By incorporating their ideas and values into the planning process, the prospects for appropriate and valued outcomes, and hence sustainability, are also much improved.

Community involvement in this case could be either through Community participation, Community management, Demand responsive approaches, Social marketing; Right based approach and partnership. If for example, the community participation approach is used then vital participatory tools will include processes that can enable the building of self esteem, sense of responsibility, increased awareness of problems/issues and options for change and capacity to change their own lives etc. The expected outputs therefore are decisions and solutions that are identified and implemented for greater common good in the community.

However, and to effectively achieve this, it is suggested that the community be involved in all stages of the project such as; First, Project identification stage; at this stage, community needs can be identified by assessing their development priorities. What do they really need at the moment? Or is their another immediate pressing need? Such need identification could be made using a variety of approaches like the Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA).

Second, Feasibility, design and planning; the important principle for community involvement in this phase of the project is to understand and collectively correct problem area and chart a way forward. It is imperative to ensure that the community takes part in site selection, survey, environmental impact assessment and many other investigations or discussions forming part of the feasibility and design. This may mean spending time explaining the design to key members of the community. The design must also consider community preferences and practices. Issues like capacity assessment, cost sharing and other relevant information are extracted or unveiled at this stage.

Third, construction, the roles of who should do what should be clear at this stage. Typical community roles during construction may include labour and/or gifts to labourers. The management committee and possibly other members of the community should be involved in measuring and approving the work carried out. This gives some level of project control to those involved.

Fourth; Operation and maintenance; the community should have a greater role and responsibility in the management and operation of the project; this is so because the community is the principal beneficiary. However, the operation and management of a water supply and sanitation requires awareness, skills and experience that many communities may lack. Community capacity may therefore be strengthened so that they can manage such new projects with ease. This stage has often richly demonstrated to bring immense benefits in terms of increased ownership and sustainable management.

And fifth; monitoring and evaluation; there is need to assist the community to develop suitable system for monitoring the performance of the water and sanitation infrastructure. This is important for management, re-adjustment or introduction of new approaches towards improving the new project when in use.

The adoption of community participation or management does not imply that the users must carry out all repairs and maintenance. No! only that they are responsible for ensuring that it gets done. It is also germane to emphasise that the way forward lies not in assigning all responsibility either to government or the community, but in matching community capacity to the capacity of government to provide an enabling, supportive environment.

Natural Gas: To flare or not to flare

Joachim Ibeziako Ezeji

I am not really enjoying the current debate amongst environmental stakeholders over the flaring of natural gas or otherwise. I have this nauseating feeling that this is uncalled for. It is uncalled for because the government policy on the environment should naturally be binding on all stakeholders. The issue of fixing and unfixing deadlines to gas flaring is risky.

I say so because the issue of stopping or not stopping gas flaring in Nigeria appears to be running on a roller coaster track, with alarming swoops downwards followed by exhilarating zooms upwards, and none of the riders quite sure what is going to happen next.

It is already stale news that Africa possesses abundant natural resources. That the abundance of these natural resources is yet to transit into economic well being to Africans is totally a different discuss. It is a fact that Africa possesses 99% of the world’s chrome resources, 85% of its platinum, 70% of its tantalite, 68% of its cobalt, and 54% of its gold, among other minerals. The continent has significant oil and gas reserves; the extent of which has not been definitely measured. It produces more gem quality diamonds than anywhere else.

The numbers speak for themselves; in 2006, annual FDI rose to a historic high of US$38.8bn, a record growth of 78% from 2004. According to the UN World Investment Report, the serious FDI cash was concentrated in a few industries, notably oil, gas and mining. And six oil- producing countries- Algeria, Chad, Egypt, Equitorial Guinea, Nigeria and Sudan – consumed nearly half of it.

But beyond the economic benefit; is the sheer inability of many African governments to manage the accruing environmental problems associated with exploration and development of these natural resources. Governments seem to be keener on the revenue coming into its purse than the general well being of the host environment.

In South Africa there are some environmental issues that have not really caught the attention of the government but the academia is now pushing it and this is the release of uranium into the atmosphere as well as the volume of tailings that is created with the mining of uranium.

According to Prof. Judith Kinnaird who is also a geologist and lecturer at the University of Witwatersrand it is a serious concern that much uranium is being lost to the environment, through the burning of coal that contains uranium, which according to her should be raised as an issue in intensifying debate on the reintroduction of nuclear energy.

There are many environmental issues that the government in Nigeria is yet to come to terms with in the oil and gas industry. One major environmental issue that the release or the reckless burning of gas into the atmosphere; another is the release of radioactive isotopes and chemicals in the processes of exploration and drilling. Both as well as many others are still continuing.

Despite the serial complaints by all oil producing communities and the global campaign against global warming; is the news that the government is granting further extension to gas flaring in Nigeria’s oil rich Niger Delta. Nobody is doing anything at the moment about any palliative for all those whose health, livelihood and well being is being threatened as a result.

The technology of gas capture and storage should at this moment be impressive to the government. I say so because stopping gas flaring through gas capture and/or storage is imperative towards preventing the release into the atmosphere of gas so produced.

Gas from oil exploration is, of course, a key contributor to climate change, and the single biggest industrial source of gas emission is the burning of fossil fuels to exploit oil and produce energy.

The technology of gas capture and storage should be welcomed as a Best Environmental Practical Option. Already in Saskatchawan Canada, a carbon-capture and storage demo-plant has been built. This was a direct follow-up of the unsettling announcement by the United States Department of Energy of what was officially termed a restructuring of its futureGen Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) project.

With the support of the Canadian Federal Government, the Saskatchawan Province undertook a C$4billion CCS demonstration project. CCS is directed at preventing the release into the atmosphere of CO2 produced by the industry.

Globally, fossil fuel account for some 33% of all carbon dioxide emissions caused by human activities. And, among fossil fuels, the biggest producer of such emission is coal. A single large power plant can generate 8million tons of carbon dioxide every year.

The idea of CCS, which if successfully adopted, would allow coal-fired power stations to remain in operation- and even for new ones to be built. This, in turn, would keep the coal mining as well as oil exploration industries in business. The alternative would be the phasing out of coal-fueled electricity generation and, with it, the phasing out of coal-mining and oil exploration worldwide.
A coal-fuelled power station with CCS could have 80% to 85% fewer emissions than one without CCS. With CCS, the carbon dioxide would be captured before it could be released into the air, and the sequested.

Sequestration would involve conveying the carbon dioxide, whether in gaseous, liquid, or supercritical form, by pipeline and/or road tanker and/or ship, through storage sites, to a location where it could be securely stored. The catch is that this sequestration has to endure for a very long time, indeed, - at least centuries, if not millennia.

And it must never be able to leak out in large quantities over a short period, for if it were to do so, it could cause large-scale suffocation. In theory- and, currently, in limited practice – the carbon dioxide can be injected into permeable geological formations, surrounded by impermeable rocks, such as deep saline formations, exhausted oil and gas reservoirs, unminable coal seams, and even abandoned coal mines etc.

The Federal Government and the National Assembly committees on Oil and Gas can explore the CCS option as well as many others and implant same into the prevailing policy in order to protect the environment and safeguard public health, livelihoods and general wellbeing.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Engaging Civil Societies for Sustainable Development.

It has become necessary to talk about the work of civil society organizations in our communities and their engagement by the government in the delivering of good governance or the so called dividends of democracy. This discussion has become vital in the face of development demands across the globe.
Government and people across the world are re-discovering, and attaching more importance to civil society. This realm includes NGOs, but extends well beyond them to encompass people’s organizations, trade unions, and human rights bodies, associations of business and professional people’s organizations and so forth. All may be found in the domain termed civil space, and thus are called Civil Society Organizations (CSOs).

Civil Society is the collective noun, while “civic group” are the individual organizations that constitute the sector. The myriad of civic organizations in civil society include, but are not limited to non-governmental organizations (NG0s),people’s and professional organizations, trade unions, cooperatives, consumer and human rights groups, women associations, youth clubs, independent radio, television, print and electronic media, neighborhood or community-based coalitions, religious groups, academic and research institutions, grassroots movements and organizations of indigenous peoples. Where there is no civil society, there can be no political society.

Civil Society is that realm between the household and the state, populated by voluntary groups and associations, sharing common interests and largely autonomous from the state. Within the core of the concept are intermediate institutions and private groups that thrive between the realm of the state and household such as voluntary associations, charities, religious associations, social clubs, professional groups and trade unions. NGOs and the media also fall within the list.

Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) however differ from this pack by being private, voluntary, non-profit organizations or social enterprises that operate primarily to enhance the social and economic well being of a community. In making this distinction, I make bold to emphasize that not every organization in civil society necessarily plays a positive role, or reflects genuine associational life that is relevant to sustainable development.

Some CSOs lack positive purposes or authenticity, or both. Moreover, civil society is not necessarily a place of harmony. Competition and destructive conflict can take place in this realm. But by the same token, civil society can serve as a place to vent grievances, open channels of communication and thus to build a basis for social harmony.

Poverty reduction outcomes can be broader, deeper, and more sustainable where appropriate stakeholder groups in civil society help design, steer, and otherwise participate in them. Those actors can reinforce public sector institutions, while not substituting for them. CSOs therefore have instrumental value with respect to the development targets, although they should not be viewed as mere instruments or contractors.

Organizations representing key constituencies in public life, including independent and credible organizations that monitor, analyze and report trends in public life, possess increasing capacities to stimulate open processes of public and private sector policy-making. The adoption of open and responsive, honest and competent governance by the government; such approaches can and should promote and involve active and responsible citizens, and other key civil society actors.

CSOs can (for example)contribute to good governance by focusing of their attention on issues that can inform and alert citizens, thus improving the quality of popular participation in the framing of public policies and managing of public resources, programs and institutions ; their active presence can help channel and amplify claims in defense of the rule of law and protection of human rights, thus reinforcing public support to an enabling legal framework ; their monitoring and reporting of policy issues and performance of public institutions can help improve transparency and accountability; their raising of awareness and understanding can promote checks and balances and practices of the public and private sectors, thereby building-up public confidence in intentions and competences, and curb tendencies towards corrupt, mal-administration etc; an independent media (radio, television, written and electronic press)can promote public understanding of key issues, build the stock of human capital and contribute to citizen participation in governance.

Civil Organizations can often help fight material poverty and exclusion, often in alliance with the public and private sectors. Those CSOs possessing either specific sectoral knowledge and skills, or broad public legitimacy or responsive bodies can improve outcomes for well being and equity by providing access to local information and know-how for problem solving and opinions that improve project design; empowering poorer, more remote or otherwise excluded people to claim and negotiate access to public resources; enabling people to participate in market economies with greater powers as producers and consumers; promoting private sector development at the local level (for example, through the delivery of micro-finance services and support to micro-entrepreneurs and informal sector workers);developing and domesticating innovations that can be scaled up by others; delivering appropriate services to local communities or specific social categories that regular public service bodies are unable to reach; empowering poor women and men to articulate their views, priorities and strategize to overcome their marginalization and poverty; serving to distill best practices and documenting lessons learned from local, national and regional experiences.

CSOs can help people become active agents of their own development rather than passive recipients. They can serve as interlocutors helping to build a shared sense of ownership and commitments to the development process and of responsibility for seeing them realized and sustained. They can help improve communication and collaboration across public/private boundaries, and across social, economic and political frontiers within regions and beyond.

Sadly it remains to be seen how open and generous the Nigerian government could be in engaging the civil society. It is glaring that pretences of the highest order in this regard already exist at the federal level. The situation at both the state and local levels is nothing to write home about. A reason for this is the inertia of government to be transparent because of the parochial interest of its officials. Also responsible for this is the failure of the government to admit that relevant or even superior skills exist in civil societies more than what is often found within the public or civil service. Government should also be made to admit that democracy is all about popular participation of diverse groups and should NOT be limited to only political party members. The consequence of such recalcitrance is unmitigated corruption and poor performance by the political office holders and their lackeys. It is germane to call on the national assembly as well as other legislative houses to come up with relevant laws that will broadly define the modus operandi for the engagement of other well informed well trained and highly skilled groups like the civil societies especially the NGOs. Till governance is made a multi-stakeholder process which recognizes and incorporates the inputs and roles of the civil society; the much trumpeted eldorado may remain utopian.