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EDITORIAL

Signing of the AfCFTA

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History was made on July 7, 2019, when President Muhammad Buhari finally signed the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Agreement at the Mid-Year Coordination Meeting of the African Union and 12th Extraordinary Summit of the African Union, holding in Niamey, Niger Republic.

Nigeria has thus become the 53rd African country to sign the agreement, which has already been ratified by 24 countries.

Over the years, African leaders have toyed with the idea of an integrated market on the continent that allows free trade among countries in the continent to strengthen the economies of their respective countries, which have been struggling.

The countries, through the African Union, in 2012, came up with the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which aim is to deepen regional integration.
The ACFTA covers goods and services and has plans for infrastructure, industrialisation, agriculture modernisation and small scale trade, as well as innovation, intellectual property, competition and investment, and is expected to be the world’s largest free trade area since the formation of the World Trade Organisation, with a potential market of 1.2 billion people and a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $2 5 trillion, across all 55 member states of the African Union.

Even though Nigeria was one of the countries that championed the AfCFTA, local labour unions kicked against it as they perceived it to be detrimental to our country’s economy.

Following the protests against it, at a time most African countries had keyed into the arrangement, Nigeria was yet to, as there was a high level of scepticism about it. At the 30th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the Heads of State and Government of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in January 2018, President Muhammadu Buhari had announced Nigeria’s decision to put off the signing of the AfCFTA to allow more time for stakeholders in the country to review and make contributions. The president’s announcement was on the heels of protests by local business groups that the AfCFTA would hurt the economy, which was battling a recession.

It was therefore heart warming when the president recently disclosed that he would be signing the phase one of the AfCFTA. The president’s decision followed the report of the Presidential Committee on the Impact and Readiness Assessment of the AfCFTA. The committee was set up to review the issues that had been raised about the agreement, primary among which was that it had the potential to make Nigeria a dumping ground on the continent.

Presenting the report, committee chairman, Dr. Desmond Guobadia, had remarked that “Our reports show that on the balance, Nigeria should consider joining the AfCFTA, and using the opportunity of the ongoing AfCFTA Phase one negotiations to secure the necessary safeguards required to ensure that our domestic policies and programmes are not compromised.”

While we note that the country needs to consider the AfCFTA carefully, we consider it crucial to economic development and fully endorse it, especially in view of the projection by the the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa that it could increase trade between African countries by about $35 billion, representing more than 50 per cent growth from the current figures. Nigeria cannot afford to exempt from a treaty that holds huge potentials for it, in view if its size, population and position on the continent.

To ensure that businesses in Nigeria benefit from the AfCFTA, we call on the Nigerian government to eliminate barriers such as multiple taxation, epileptic power supply and other issues that make the business environment hostile to operators, to make the businesses truly competitive within the continent and also ensure strict compliance with all trade regulations in the country to guard against dumping.

EDITORIAL

Sexual Harassment in Nigeria’s Tertiary Institutions

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A constant and consistent war is being waged against sexual abuse globally, due to its blistering impact on society. Regrettably, this demeaning phenomenon has permeated the fabrics of most tertiary institutions in Nigeria, leaving innocent female students at the mercy of immoral lecturers, whose stock in trade is to sexually harass and abuse students, young enough to be their daughters and granddaughters.

Even though regulations and measures to curtail the scourge abound, it has become hydra headed and more prevalent by the day, to the chagrin of university authorities.

 

Latest findings show that the commonest form of sexual abuse being experienced by female undergraduates, is grabbing of sensitive body parts by these ‘wolves in sheep’s clothing’, at every given opportunity within and without the premises of tertiary institutions across the the country.

And as the prevalence of abuse is disturbingly becoming greatly alarming, concerned Nigerians insist that there is a serious need to develop appropriate prevention strategies by universities and tertiary institutions to put an end to the moral decadence.

Penultimate week, electronic and print media were awash with the news of a public protest by students of the University of Calabar (UNICAL),  in a sustained effort to put an end to what they called ‘a protracted ongoing sexual abuse and harassment by the university’s Law Faculty Dean’, Professor Cyril Ndifon.

The protesting students had accused Ndifon of sexually harassing them and threatening to deny them graduation, if his demands for sexual ransom were not met. It is on record that this same professor was suspended in 2016 for allegedly raping a law student in his office. However, he sought redress in the court of law and was eventually reinstated. Ndifon is again in the eye of the storm and this time around the aggrieved students are demanding that he must go for sanity to be restored in the faculty.

Consequently, the University of Calabar has since set up an investigation panel to look into the law students’ weighty allegations bordering on sexual harassment, lack of accountability and abuse of office by an embattled Ndifon, who has since been suspended pending the outcome of investigation.

The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Calabar, Professor Florence Obi, had hinted that “management, after observing that the Dean of the Faculty of Law was at centre of all the complaints and aberrations, issued the Dean with a 10-point query to responded to within 24 hours. This was to give him a good opportunity to effectively refute the allegations or state why management should not take the allegations of the students seriously. When responded, his submissions were thoroughly weak and not convincing”. 


Another vexing issue affecting the nation’s tertiary institutions is what has come to be known as “sex for grade”, which is an integral part of sexual harassment, wherein sex is exchanged for grades not merited. This anti-social and unethical behaviour orchestrated and perpetuated by corrupt lecturers has stubbornly become one of the contributing factors to the falling standards of education in the country.

Worse still, it is not only sex that is offered in exchange for grades, students who can afford it buy their way through and come out with ‘superlative results’. It is any wonder that some of these graduates are half-baked; unemployable and lack the qualities and qualifications to hold their own.

This does not in any way imply that the rot in the university system is total, because there are exceptions. Such exceptions are institutions, which stand out by insisting on doing the right thing. For instance, they have appearance (dress) code for their students. They insist that skirts and gowns worn for lectures must be below the knee as well as encouraging minimal jewelries. Wearing of sleeveless shirts, blouse, gowns and crop tops, miniskirts, micro miniskirts, tight fitting trousers and skirts are prohibited. These measures are in place to prevent temptation during and after lectures.

DAILY ASSET strongly believes that the primary objective of any tertiary institution worth its salt, is to nurture students to be the best they can be and should ultimately be able to impact  positively not only on their immediate environment but also on the larger society, because academic competence and personal qualities are at best meant to imbibe the spirit resourcefulness, hard work and excellence, for the overall good of the society. These qualities and qualifications cannot be attained in an atmosphere of oppression and subjugation where sexual harassment and violence reign supreme.

For sanity to be restored in our citadels of learning, randy lecturers must be shown the way out!

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EDITORIAL

Nigeria’s Olympic Eagles

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Nigerians, especially the country’s football followers have been expressing concern over the dwindling fortunes of the country’s Men’s Olympic soccer team, usually referred to as the Dream Team or the Under-23 Eagles. It was another disappointing moment for the country when Nigeria failed to qualify for 2024 Olympics holding in Paris  after suffering  defeat to Guinea on March 28, 2023.

Nigeria’s Under -23  National Team   were defeated 2-0 by Guinea in the final qualifier for this year’s Under -23 Africa Cup of Nations  holding in Morocco.
Second-half goals from Algassime Bah and Alseny Soumah sealed the fate of Nigeria in an encounter decided on a neutral venue, in Rabat, Morocco.
Guinea therefore booked their qualification for the AFCON final round after they recorded a 0-0 draw in the first leg decided in Abuja. As a result of their elimination, the Eagles will not play at the 2024 Paris Olympic Games, a competition their predecessors won gold in Atlanta, Georgia in 1996, and silver in Beijing, China in 2006. This will not be the first time Nigeria will fail to make it to an Olympic football final, where the country has made great impact as a force to reckon with in the quadrennial event. The team also failed to qualify for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo after failing to progress beyond the group stage of the Under-23 AFCON. The 2023 Under -23 AFCON will be hosted by Morocco between June 24 and July 8, 2023.The top three teams at the tournament will qualify for the 2024 Summer Olympic men’s football tournament. The fourth placed team will play the Asian Football Confederation–CAF playoffs to decide the final slot at the Olympics Qualification.

Morocco qualified automatically as hosts. The following eight teams qualified for the main tournament: Morocco (hosts), Egypt, Congo, Gabon; Ghana, Guinea Mali and Niger.  For most Nigerians, August 3rd 1996 would be etched forever in the memory of African football custodian and even more so for soccer-loving Nigerian fans who celebrated with glee the country and indeed the continent’s historic first soccer gold medal win at the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games in Atlanta. Prior to the feat of the West Africans at the quadrennial games in Atlanta, African teams had laboured to win any kind of medals dating back to 1920 when Egypt were the first to represent the continent in the Olympic Football Tournament (OFT).The Pharaohs lost the third-place classification to the then East Germany at the 1964 Games in Tokyo while other notable  headlines included  that of  Zambia which hammered Italy 4-0 with a famous hat trick scored  Kalusha Bwalya in one of their preliminary group matches at the1998 Games in Seoul; and there was also a historic Bronze medal for the Black Meteors of Ghana at the Barcelona 1992 Olympics Games.

Four years after Ghana’s feat in Spain, Nigeria went inches further when her national Under -23 team, proudly tagged the Dream Team, in reference to the assemblage of some talented players by Dutch coach Jo Bonfrere won  the soccer gold medal with spectacular success  in Atlanta, USA.In their memorable outing in Atlanta, the Nigerians’  game against the South Americans, Brazil, in the semi-final  was regarded as the final-before-final and by 78th minute, the peerless Brazilian complete with the like of Ronaldo, Bebeto were leading Nigeria by 3-1. But the West Africans had other ideas as they turned the tide with barely quarter of an hour left of regulation time. But why have the successive Nigerian teams not able to meet up or reenact the spectacular successes of their predecessors, especially the 1996 side under the guidance of Coach Jo Bonfrere and the 2006 under Coach Samson Siasia. The answer is not far-fetched. The Nigerian Football Federation [ NFF] of those times were very committed to ensuring the success of the national teams .The players’ welfare, organization of friendly matches and above all the appointment of reputable coaches were given utmost priority. These, unfortunately are not the case with the present NFF, especially with the poor leadership exhibited by the Amaju Pinnick regime the high point of it was the failure of Nigeria to qualify for Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup, among other failings. We are therefore enjoining the present NFF under the leadership of Ibrahim Musa Gusau to x-ray some of the problems facing the team, as well as other squads under their stable to make the country’s football regain its pre-eminence in continental and world football.

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EDITORIAL

Flood: Where Federal Government Dropped the Ball

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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.

While it is estimated that over 700 Nigerians, mostly women and children have drowned in the flood, Nigeria’s Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management, through its Permanent Secretary, Nasir Sani-Gwarzo, while announcing federal government’ flood mitigation action plan, mid last month, put the human casualty estimate at more than 500, with 1,500 injured and about 1.
4 million displaced.

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!

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