Nigeria as a nation witnessed one of its worst human tragedies in recent time when an explosion in an illegal refinery in a community in Imo State burnt to death no fewer than 200 people.
Nigerians from all walks of life have been expressing outrage over the monumental tragedy. Their mass burial was conducted late last week, as villagers from Abaezi community in Ohaji/Egbema Local Government Area and neighbouring towns in the State watched in pains, agony as no fewer than 100 out of close to 200 victims were buried after the previous Friday’s explosion at the illegal refinery in Abaezi community.
The mass burial took place eventually at Abaezi forest in Abacheke community in Ohaji/Egbema area, where some locals dug three graves for the mass burial.
Chairman of Ohaji/Egbema Local Government Area, Marcel Amadioha, alongside security agents and officials of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) supervised the mass burial.Mr Amadioha simply said: “The victims buried were those bodies that were burnt beyond recognition.” One of the youth leaders, Ben Marcus, told a correspondent: “Some of the victims were identified by their relatives and were allowed to carry them for burial. Most of the victims came from far and near.”
In a related development, top operators of over 150 illegal oil refineries between the forests of Abaezi and Abacheke communities in Ohaji/Egbema local government area of Imo State with boundary with Rivers State, have reportedly abandoned their sites after the Imo State government had declared one Okenze Onyewoke wanted, after linking him with the Abaezi illegal oil refinery that exploded and killed about 200 lives and damaged vehicles the fateful Friday night.
Not only that, landowners who offered their land in exchange for money to be used for illegal oil refineries had disappeared to nearby states, Rivers State and Bayelsa to take refuge. Accounts have it that many people have abandoned their sites.
In its reaction to the tragedy, the Imo State government through the State Commissioner for Petroleum Resources, Goodluck Opiah, said the government has declared one Okenze Onyewoke wanted so as to use him to serve as a deterrent to others doing the same business. According to Opiah: “The governor of Imo State, Hope Uzodimma has declared the owner of the illegal bunkering Okenze Onyewoke wanted. Anywhere he is seen, he will be arrested and used to teach others doing this business a big lesson.
We sympathize with the families of those who lost their lives in this unfortunate incident. Most of the people who are engaging in this act are from Rivers, Bayelsa and other neighbouring states and it is sabotage for our people to allow this illegal activity to continue.”
Similarly, President Muhammadu Buhari has directed the nation’s security and intelligence agencies to intensify the clampdown on illegal refineries to safeguard the lives of citizens. The president’s directive is contained in a statement by his media aide, Malam Garba Shehu.
The presidential spokesman said the directive followed the reported deaths of scores of people on Friday night after an illegal refinery exploded at Abaezi forest in the Ohaji-Egbema Local Government Area of Imo.
In what he described as a “catastrophe and a national disaster,” the President said responsibility for the loss of lives and property must squarely lie with the sponsors of the illegal refinery who must all be caught and made to face justice.” The President conveyed the condolences and the full depth and range of the nation’s shock and trauma to the families of the victims, the Ohaji Egbema community and the government and people of Imo State.
He urged community leaders, police, and the secret service to never allow the occurrence of heart-breaking incidents in any part of the country again. We equally share in the outrage and concern of the government and people of this country over the monumental tragedy in Imo state. We attribute what happened in the state to the failure of the governments to cater for the citizens.
Callous businessmen have taken to illegal refinery which is a thriving business in the oil-producing states because over the years the Federal Government failed to put the nation’s four refineries in place to meet the oil needs of its people. The repair of the refineries has become a conduit pipe for those in government to rip off the nation. Added to this challenge on hand is the trillions of Naira in budgetary provision for oil importation.
All these underscore the failure of government to meet the basic energy needs of its people. As long as these inefficiencies and waste in governance continue, illegal refineries will boom with attendant disasters.
Flood: Where Federal Government Dropped the Ball
About 31 states of the federation are currently affected by flood. In the list are: Abia, Imo, Rivers, Bayelsa, Kebbi, Adamawa, Anambra, Gombe, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kogi, Niger, Ekiti, Enugu, Delta, Benue, Ogun, Ondo, Oyo, Sokoto, Kaduna, Kano, Kwara, Lagos, Taraba, Yobe, Nasarawa and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
In the front row of the devastation are Bayelsa, which is almost totally inundated, given its low lying topography, so also Rivers, Nasarawa, Kogi and Benue.
He acknowledged that the disaster had impacted farmlands across the 31 affected states, making the 2012 flood incident pale in weight and significance and the present one worst in annals, at least as far as the memories of the victims can take them.
On her part, Sani-Gwarzo’s supervising minister, Sadiya Umar Farouq says approximately 2,776 persons have been injured and 612 persons dead across the country due to the devastating effects of the floods. Putting more numbers to havoc, Farouq said that 181,600 houses have been partially damaged and 123,807, damaged totally. In addition, 176,852 hectares of farmlands she disclosed have been partially damaged while 392,399 hectares are damaged totally.
With the damage, all the crops in the farmlands in the flooded areas of the affected states have all perished, heightening the fear of increased food shortages in the country. In Nasarawa State for instance, the over $15 million worth of Olam Rice Farm, covering 4,500 hectares of land was destroyed alongside some physical farm infrastructure such as dykes, canals and drainage worth $8 million.
In all of these, Sani-Garzo revealed that the interventionist ministry has only been able to reach out to about 300,000 of the victims with food and non-food items. This figure, Farouq clarified, spread across 31 states of the federation.
This is paltry by every measure for a disaster which well-meaning Nigerians have called that it should be designated a national emergency by the federal government or at least that the government sets up a presidential relief committee for the victims’ support.
While no such far-reaching drastic measures was considered, it became rather agonizing seeing that the responses of the national government to the widespread disaster, lacked life and spirit. While federal government’s palliatives are manifestly sparring and slow in coming, the three months period within which President Buhari wants the Minister of Water Resources and his Transportation counterpart alongside state governments to afford him a Comprehensive Plan of Action for Preventing Flood Disaster in Nigeria could be anything but urgent in the face of the deaths and devastation.
Some states at the moment have as many as 12 temporary displaced peoples camps, spread in school premises and worship centres, all crawling with people whose bedrooms can now only be accessed with canoe.
Even a visit to any of the worst-hit states by President Muhammadu Buhari could have sent a signal of empathy to the affected being the leader of the nation. But we saw none of it. Not even to Nasarawa and Kogi-states which are contiguous to the federal seat of power-much less the far-flung Bayelsa, Delta, Anambra, Imo, Kano, Adamawa, Rivers and Benue. This is even as nearby Lokoja, the Kogi State capital, was cut off from the rest of the country by the flood for two long weeks, triggering fuel scarcity and cost additions to the runaway food price inflation in the FCT.
Buhari’s disinterest to empathize with the citizens with a visit ran counter to calls by different groups and tendencies in the country on him to go and fraternize with the broken and bereaved citizens. The Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) which wanted him to come to any of the states of Bayelsa, Delta and Rivers states, to see for himself the level of damage and destruction caused by the flood noted that such aligned with the practice of other national leaders when natural disasters strike their countries and citizens.
DAILY ASSET strongly feels that the federal government underestimated the carnage caused by the flood or perhaps initially felt unconcerned about it, given that Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet) gave early warning about the flood, by pointing to increased rainfall this year and release of water by Cameroonian authorities in its Lagdo Dam which usually inundates River Benue and its tributaries and communities along its flood plains. It needs to be pointed out, however, that no circumstance or reason can excuse a government for leaving its citizens in the lurch or to stew in their own juice.
Apart from the early warning, what was the next proactive measure the federal government took in trying to protect the lives and properties of the citizens in flood endangered communities? The answer is none!
National Defence College Graduates 2,549 Participants in 30 Years – Commandant
The Commandant, National Defence College (NDC), Rear Adm. Murtala Bashir, said the college has graduated no fewer than 2,549 participants from within and outside Nigeria in its 30 years of existence.
Bashir stated this while briefing newsmen on the college 30th Anniversary and Graduation of Course 30 Participants of NDC on Monday in Abuja.
The commandant was represented by the Deputy Commandant and Director of Studies, NDC, Maj.-Gen. Emeka Anumajuru.
He said that 216 of the participants were drawn from strategic Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs); 92 from Nigerian Police and 254 international participants from allied nations.
According to him, among the participants were people who had reached the pinnacle of their career in the various services and MDAs.
The commandant said the college deemed it necessary to mark its 30th anniversary, having been able to record landmark success stories, especially in the remit of its mandate.
According to him, the college has the mandate to train selected senior military officers, their counterparts from strategic MDAs and the police to be able to operate at the strategic level within and outside the country.
“We insist our participants understand how to use the entire gamut of elements of national power to be able to achieve strategic objectives.
“That, in a nutshell, is the mandate of the college and that is what we strive to achieve since 1992 that the college was established.
Bashir said that NDC was a key arm of National Defence Diplomacy because of its level of interaction between the college and members of the armed forces from foreign countries.
He said the college could pride itself in advancing the nation’s defence diplomacy and ultimately the national foreign policy of Nigeria.
According to him, the college, too, is a centre of excellence in the conduct of peace support operations as a strategic level.
He added that NDC was a key partner in AU and ECOWAS in advancing peace support operations, particularly as regards the theoretical components that advance the missions at the strategic level.
The commandant also said that NDC could pride itself in corporate social responsibility in its host communities such as Ushafa in terms of provision of infrastructures, medical outreach, schools and even scholarship.
He said that series of programmes had been lined up for the 30th anniversary such as sports, humanitarian activities and award night as well as graduation lecture and graduation course 30 participants.
According to him, so many of the participants have been service chiefs in their armed forces.
“This year will be honouring two of them who are current service chiefs from Burkina Faso and Uganda.
“So, when you graduate participants who rise to the position of service chiefs in their respective countries, of course you have a link to those countries because we will monitor their progresses and they remain part of us. (NAN)
In Support Of The Ban On Open Grazing
After years of indecision, procrastination and dilly dallying, the Federal Government last week took a firm decision to ban open grazing of cattle across the country. The implementation of the ban will however take-off on a pilot basis in five states of the Federation-Benue, Taraba, Plateau, Nasarawa and Zamfara.
The decision was taken by the National Economic Council (NEC) after its meeting in Abuja on Wednesday.
Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, who made the decision public on behalf NEC also said the Council equally banned the free movement of cattle and other animals across the Nigerian border from other West African countries, regardless of the relevant protocol of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) which guarantees free movement of people and goods within the sub-region.
We welcome the decision of NEC even though it is coming late in the day when the country has witnessed unnecessary spilling of blood from incessant clashes between Herdsmen and farmers nationwide.
The clashes which have become a national security concern, it is hoped will abate since the Herdsmen will by the new decision adopt to ranching which is the global best practice in animal husbandry.
We are even the more happier that the decision was not based on political or religious sentiments but a product of the report of the technical committee earlier set up by Council under the chairmanship of Ebonyi State Governor, David Umahi.
Umahi’s Committee traversed the states where the farmers-Herders clashes have been most prevalent, i.e Benue, Taraba, Nasarawa, Plateau and Zamfara states. During the fact-finding visits, the Committee met with all stakeholders including farmers, security agencies, state governors, leaders of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) and Miyetti Allah Kautal Horel, among others.
In all the meetings, ranching was canvassed as the most enduring solution to the bloodletting occasioned by the farmers-Herders clashes. The Committee was therefore, left with no better option than recommend the ban on open grazing of cows.
The NEC decision has at long last vindicated the Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom and his Taraba state counterpart, Darius Dickson Ishaku, both of who enacted the anti-open grazing law as a panacea to the frequent violent clashes between farmers and the Herdsmen. It can be said therefore, that the two governors understood the issues and the best solution and indeed acted appropriately. It is to their credit that NEC arrived at the same solution the two governors proffered several months earlier.
While we commend NEC for the courage to take this decision, the security agencies especially the police and the Department of State Services(DSS) must immediately commence the enforcement of this ban otherwise the Federal Government decision would pass as one of the rhetorical statements commonly associated with politicians when confronted with difficult situations.
As has been severally argued by experts, Nigeria with a little over 26million cattle should have no problem operating ranches since countries like India, Brazil, Argentina and the US with upward 100million cattle have long practiced ranching.
What more, animal scientists have since established that the nomadic cows produced less milk and poor quality meat compared to those kept in ranches.
The Federal Government should live up to its words to provide subsidies for animal husbandry as recommended by the Umahi Committee.
In our view, the subsidies should come by way of
If the NEC decision is properly implemented, Nigeria would have just began the journey towards a profitable and healthier cattle rearing business through the ranching model.
Most importantly, the NEC decision banning the free movement of
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