SUNDAY SERMON – RESERVE FORCE

Sunday Sermon – Reserve Force
The military is an instrument of national power. A Reserve Force is an integral part of a nation’s defense capability. A nation without a well defined and active reserve force constituted along several dimensions, including force structuring, mobilization planning, and operational evaluation within the total-force system is like a man without a saving. The effectiveness of the Nigerian military establishment must be anchored on the military doing what it is designed to do, and, do it well. This includes having sufficient numbers of individuals appropriately trained and adequately equipped to respond in a timely way to a likely threat to our national interests. The problems created by the emergence of Boko Haram and the possibility that other similar insurgency groups may spring up in the future is enough for the establishment of a total-force through necessary legislation which must defined what is sufficient, adequate, timely and likely for the overall interest of Nigeria.
The Boko Haram insurgency in northern Nigeria and threat to the national economy arising from oil theft in the Niger Delta coupled with other military operations in and outside the country is already having its tolls on the military with the Chief of Army Staff, Major General Onyeabo Azubike Ihejirika recently complaining of over stretching the military. The military requires mobilization on a scale beyond the numbers of the regular army. Besides, the reliance on volunteer youths which the Nigeria Press hurriedly nick-named “Civilian JTF” is a bad precedent capable of generating more problems than the one we intend to use them to solve.
The dangers of grooming the youths in the art and act of violence cannot be overemphasized. The military manpower constraints manifested in the use of youths in military operations in the north, raising the questions of envisioned debriefing and demobilization of such volunteers. A band of youths raised by the chaos strategists in government in preparatory for elections rigging using the instruments of violence and thuggry is not what we need now.
On the other hand, the Nigerian Legion cannot be said to constitute the Nigerian’s reserve force; a central body for land reserve, naval reserve and air reserve personnel. Far from it, the Nigerian Legion’s enabling legislation and its structural deformity makes it unfit as a reserve force constituency. It also lacks mobilization, deployment and employment capability. Above all, the Nigerian Legion has been infiltrated by quacks, impersonators and fakers who parade as genuine, thus needing total cleansing and reorganization in keeping with the changing times.
It must be pointed out here that our conceived larger force, if we eventually recruit more able bodied men and women into the armed forces as is being planned, will not be large enough to execute the emerging defense strategy in the face of rising security challenges.
One of the promises of democracy is freedom from the burden of maintaining large standing armed forces. Modern day reserve components serve as an integral part of the defense system, prepared to participate in the earliest phases of any crisis. Therefore, before the lessons of the ongoing crisis are forgotten let us consider a standard reserve force for the country. That is, constituency for readiness!

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SUNDAY SERMON – CHILD ABUSE

Sunday Sermon – Child Abuse
Child abuse is a term charged with emotion and is ambiguous in its connotation. The parameters are not always closely defined and great confusion can arise as to what constitutes child abuse. Several questions must be posed if a clearer working definition is to be attained and a suitable solution conceived.
What is child abuse? Who is a child? Who is the abuser? What are the effects of abuse on the child, on the immediate environment and on the society at large? What actions can be taken to prevent abuse on the child by the caretaking adult?
Let’s start from where we stopped. A caretaking adult is a person responsible for a child’s welfare. They include but not limited to parents, guardians, foster parents, an employee of a public or residential home, institution or agency or other persons legally responsible for the child in a permanent or temporary (e.g. baby sitters over 16 years of age) capacity who is in loco parent of the time of the child’s inflicted injury.
Child abuse involves the infliction of hurt by caretaking person but can the term be equated with any type of deliberate injury? Can the injury be identified and categorized into a particular type such as moral, physical, sexual, emotional and even, economical? Certainly, it is somehow difficult to determine when an inflicted injury is legitimate due to changing attitude of the society. Besides, the fact that different culture perceive particular injuries differently, at times defining and treating lightly some injuries viewed by other cultures as very serious further complicates the concept of child abuse.
Physical injuries may be identified readily whereas mental or emotional hurts may be difficult to ascertain, yet the later form may be a far more insidious aspect of child abuse. Merely looking at the injury to the child does little to solve connected problems of how it is sustained and is useful only as a diagnosis of impacts not causes.
Another method of attempting a definition of child abuse is to look at the reasons for hurting the child. Deliberate actions to inflict hurt on the child may be promoted by a whole variety of reasons. It may be social, political, economic, personal, sexual, age, intelligence of family stability pressures and so on.
If some of these factors can be alleviated, then help can be given through the agents of law, social services, and medical care services to prevent the action. So the considerations of the reasons for maltreatment of the child are not unimportant. These inflicted injuries may have short term effects on the child while typical emotional or sexual interference upsets are long term. If discovered, the consequential effects on the abuser – the perpetrator of child abuse act – is always apparent through both shame and public censor.
From the foregoing, it is very difficult to arrive at a clear definition of what constitutes child abuse. However, the following considerations are necessary of inclusion in holistic idea of child abuse:
1. The child must be under 18 years old and there must be infliction of an injury or maltreatment.
2. The injury must be proven to have been inflicted physically, sexually, morally, emotionally and any combination thereof.
3. The victim must have been neglected physically and emotionally.
4. The injury or maltreatment must have been administered on the child by an adult (parent, guardian, and friend) or other persons in the loco parents group.
The abuse of children by adults is not a new occurrence. It is a historic continuum rooted in ancient cultures. The practice is as old as man, embedded in the history of mankind and often with societal acceptance.
Infanticide was formally a culturally approved practice in certain circumstances amongst societies. The Hammurabi Code written in approximately 2015 BC established the father as sovereign of family powers. It also adopted infanticide as accepted practice as well as defined a parent/child relationship as a propriety interest. The Hebrews also upheld this practice. At the inception of the Greek Civilization, infanticide of unwanted children, deformed children or children of inferior parents was an acceptable practice.
Practicing infanticide in the form of sacrificing infants to the gods, sales of children into slavery, payments of debts with female infants and giving out of children into marriages are widely practiced in Africa till today.
Several factors have been advanced for this menace including:
a. Illiteracy. Poor educational background of the victims and their parents are contributing factors.
b. Poverty. Poor family background of the victims and their parents are also responsible.
c. Economic Downturn. The level of poverty in the society is very high and the very low standard of living of the average Nigerian is both frustrating and dehumanizing. These factors also combined to promote child abuse.
d. Ignorance. The lack of awareness campaigns on the part of the Government is also responsible for the menace. Government must make efforts to eliminate public ignorance by embarking on aggressive dissemination of information concerning the evils of child abuse. Information is power; information transforms. Information is key to change.
e. Child Trafficking. Due to the excitement attached to traveling abroad, the victims are always carried away by the promise of paradise across the borders and as a result they are misled into slavery, servitude, and all forms of abuse.
f. Unemployment. Due to high level of unemployment in the country, able bodied men and women are frustrated and as a result they are forced to do what they are not supposed to do in order to meet up the challenges of life, including human trafficking, ritual killings, child prostitution, child labour, etc.
g. Poor Policing. Evidence recovered from would-be traffickers revealed that the victims are collected from different locations at different periods with different rosy promises. This makes it difficult for law enforcement agents to nip the evil trade in the bud as both the perpetrators and the victims do everything to evade the prying eyes of law enforcements.
h. Corruption. A contributing factor to poor policing which encourage child abuse in Nigeria is corruption. Corruption undermines performance by lining the pockets of dishonest persons with security funds, taking the forms of bribe, undue gratifications, fraud and even embezzlement. It makes those engaged to serve to turn blind eyes to crimes being committed in their presence. A corrupt environment tends to produce individuals with the whole idea of get rich quick, thereby enhancing criminal behaviours.
While we are of the opinion the Government provides all necessary material and non-material resources for the law enforcement agents to perform their constitutional duties, the leadership should also check corruptions in governance and use the resources at Government disposal to create and offer employment with good conditions of service to citizens.
Aggressive awareness campaign against human trafficking and child labour at the grassroots involving parents, guardians, community leaders, youths etc. is a step in the right direction.
Finally, the Government should address the issue of poverty vigorously. This is because poverty affects all citizens, including the unborn baby in the mother’s womb. War against poverty is the first phase in the war against child abuse! Nigeria: choke corruption to kick-start development!

NIGERIA: LIVING ON LOANS

NIGERIA: LIVING ON LOANS?
The Federal Government has again concluded plans to secure another $3 billion loan from China. The loans to Nigeria include $500 million to build airport terminals in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Kano; and over $700 million to build a hydroelectric power plant in Niger State. It also includes $600 million to build a light railway in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, most of which has already been invested on a project due to be completed early next year.

Although, lending at below market rates to fund infrastructure projects using Chinese firms has enabled Beijing to cement relationships in Africa while subsidising its construction industry, Nigeria’s Central Bank Governor, Lamido Sanusi warned African Governments in March this year that China’s pursuit of raw materials and markets for its manufactured goods on the Africa Continent carried “a whiff of colonialism” similar to that introduced by Europeans in centuries past. An advised which the Minister of Finance Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala vehemently dismissed stressing that she is “not of the school that says ‘look this is colonialism’ … We should be open to whoever wants to invest and help us finance our needs.”
The loans are part of a $7.9 billion external borrowing plan approved by the Nigeria’s National Assembly last year as the Federal Government seeks cheaper external borrowing and limit domestic debt.
Perhaps, top on the list of aims of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and his entourage’s visit to China is to seal the loans deal. According to Okonjo-Iweala, “They (Chinese) want more oil and gas … we have something they want now and they have something we want, so you have grounds for negotiations.” That ground is for the delegation travelling to China on July 7 to discuss China’s interest in our oil and gas on one hand and for us to secure $3 billion loans on the other hand.

Recently, the Federal Government of Nigeria, the State Governments and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) obtained loans totaling $4.8 billion, $3.39 billion and $1.5 billion respectively in order to finance welfare and development of the country. Those loans were secured at the time of high crude oil prices which made majority of Nigerians to question the basis of the bourgeoning debts in their name. Besides, investigations also revealed that the authorities concern secured the loans before going to the National Assembly to seek approval. Perhaps, this, accounted for the Senate Committee on Local and Foreign Debt headed by Ehigie Uzamere warning against the reckless borrowing of money which would enslave future generations of Nigerians.
What has President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan’s administration done with all the loans taken so far, as it appears that majority of Nigerians cannot point to any on-going projects to justify the mountains of debts being stacked up in their name?
Conversely, it is not the loan that worries; it is how the money is going to be spent if they are actually needed? Can they be utilized for the purpose advanced? We have a government which is as reckless in its public spending as it is shameless in its silence over some of the financial scandals already exposed to the Nigerian public. It threw away more that N2 trillion fuel subsidy scam last year and the N4.4 trillion collected by the MDAs between 2006 and 2009 which was not remitted into the Federation Account has remained shrouded in mystery. The Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) also reported that oil companies failed to pay into the Federation Account about $10 billion from 1999 to 2008. The Nuhu Ribadu-led Petroleum Revenue and Special Task Force revealed that the nation was short-charged to the tune of almost $100 billion. What happened to all these monies? Are all the people indicted in the case of Siemens, Halliburton, pension scheme, ghost workers and other scandals not walking freely? The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) which was involved in the illegal withholding of the N4.4 trillion diverted from the Federation Account by the MDAs is daily cooking up issues such as sacking 50% of civil servants, banning all socio-cultural and religious organizations and so on to divert attention of Nigerians. All are frantic efforts to cover up the role of the apex bank in the illegal release of N2.3 trillion for fuel subsidy in 2011, when actually N245 billion was appropriated. What an illegality?
Yet the Federal Government wants N1.8 trillion loans from array of sources including China, International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the World Bank. Apart from its conflicting figures we were told that only a meager N29 billion oil subsidy scam was recovered. The revenue from the privatization and commercialization processes have not only remain unaccounted for by the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) but our moribund refineries, the steel industry, transport and energy facilities have continued to be drain pipes on the nation’s economy in the hands of corrupt government officials. The $12.4 billion gulf war oil windfall was public money used to fill the pockets of individuals. What a shame?
The reckless manner in which the Excess Crude-Oil Account (ECA) is being managed also call for caution. The governors are not only demanding for the release of the $1billion ECA funds, a week after the three-thiers of government shared about N567.70 billion from the same account. The speed with which the Federal Government withdrawn $1 billion from the same ECA account in December to pay subsidy to oil marketers even when the dust raised by oil subsidy scams is still high in the air leaves more to be desired. What happened to the N161 billion supplementary appropriation that was approved by the National Assembly late last year for the government to take care of the shortfall in the fuel subsidy budget? If NNPC owes major foreign oil traders, including Glencore and Mercuria about $3.5 billion is the $1.5 billion loan and the mortgaged 150,000 barrels of crude oil daily (as long as the debt lasts?) meant to offset this “pointless” debt? Who is fooling who?
Again, if according to People’s Democratic Party (PDP) National Publicity Secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh, the approved external borrowing of $7.9 billion in the 2012 budget covered expenditure over a three-year period ending in 2014, why is the PDP-led government asking for more loans (payable in 40 years) with the intention of rising Nigeria’s loan profile now?
It is not enough for the Senate to merely warn against creating debt burden for future generations of Nigerians but to ensure that they stop the excessive borrowing. We are aware that during the President Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida’s IMF loan debate Nigerians chorus a louder NO to the loan abracadabra but the government nodded silently and went behind to collect the loan at the detriment of Nigerians. Nigeria exited the Paris and London Club at great pains in 2005. Why dragging Nigeria back to that unfortunate economic era when Nigeria groaned under the debt burden? Must we always live on credit? Is Nigeria cursed to live on loans? As representatives of the people, the National Assembly must act decisively to check this frivolous but wicked borrowing. A borrowing ceiling should be pegged by appropriate legislation and enforced, and any breach thereof (without necessary amendment) be made impeachable offence. This is the only way to check the excesses of our leaders who are bent on amazing wealth at the expense of the nation.
Those outside the country who may get to know how reckless our leaders are will certainly hesitate to give the money except those interested in enslaving this and future generations of this country; or, the kill-and-divide-cabals who would not mind milking a dead cow to satisfy their greed. The political leaders of China and other countries to whom we may be looking for help do not live in luxury as do our political leaders in Nigeria. What rights have we then to call on them to help? How can we convince them that we really need the money when we show that we live in extravagance?

Nigeria is a country blessed with tremendous human and natural resources, but corruption, lack of good governance has left the nation impoverished so that currently Nigeria ranks as the 13th poorest nation in the world. This ugly trend can be reversed with good governance, transparency and integrity on the part of Nigerian politicians and top government officials.
The National Assembly, traditional rulers, religions leaders, leaders of thought, women and youths organizations, students and the general public should rise up to say NO to more senseless loans. The issue should be seen as very serious matter of State. They border on good governance, accountability, transparency, and diligent management of State resources and national development. This is an opportunity to properly place these matters. Let us not miss it. We must stop this borrowing jamboree! Apart from the economic implications of debt burden, our leaders should as a matter of urgency consider both the immediate and remote security implications of living on loans. Colonialism has no relations. Colonialism has no human face.

We say No to any plan to return this country to pre-Paris and London Club days. Stop committing Nigerians to debt. Enough is enough!

Sunday Sermon – Human Trafficking

Sunday Sermon – Human Trafficking
Trafficking in persons particularly women, girls and children, for the purpose of sexual exploitation and forced labour has become a global phenomenon with far reaching implications. It is estimated that around 500,000 women are trafficked from poorer regions of the world to Western Europe alone per year.
Several factors account for the desire of women to look for work in other countries. Among these are women’s unequal rights and access to formal labour, oppressive traditions, women’s restricted abilities to gain power over their own lives in their countries and for want of a better standard of living arising from what is popularly called “feminization of poverty”.
Evidence abounds that a growing number of women who want to search for work abroad are deceived by traffickers into leaving their countries, believing that they will work as dancers or hostesses or they will be placed in other gainful employments but really end up not only performing services such as prostitution, pornography, “escorts” etc. Nevertheless, in most cases they also live under slave like conditions where their fundamental human rights are abused by the profiteer pimp.
For those involved, trafficking, especially in women has become a very lucrative trade. The United Nations estimates that they make more than $7 billion annually from trafficking in human beings.
Trafficking in human beings particularly women and children, is now variously conceived and approached as:
• A moral problem
• A criminal problem
• A migration problem
• A human rights problem
• A public order problem
• A labour problem and
• A public health problem
Trafficking in persons is an international phenomenon, requiring international cooperation to combat the menace. Consequently, available resources are now being mobilized while rehabilitative measures are being put in place at all levels for victims of trafficking. But the truth of the matter is that while trafficking in women especially for sexual exploitation is a recognized international crime that is generating high profits with relatively low forms of risks for traffickers, the devastating effects on the victims and their countries have not been receiving due attention. Today thousands of women and children are being trafficked from developing countries and Central and Eastern Europe to Western Europe and brought into conditions in which their basic human rights are violated. Yet only few cases are reported while convictions of traffickers are rare. Public concern and global awareness have however increased. Thanks to Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), the United Nations and the Council of Europe, but more need to be done to stop the menace.
While there are evidences that trafficked persons, particularly women, come from almost all over the world, it is also very clear that some regions have more victims than others and some countries suffer more harm than others.
Significantly, Nigeria, Ghana and Morocco in Africa have been identified, with Brazil and Columbia in Latin America, the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean and the Philippines and Thailand in South East Asia, as countries which appear to be particularly affected.
Evidence also abounds to prove that there is well established link between certain sources/victims and host/beneficiary countries. The flow is mostly towards the industrialized countries with varying degrees of involvement.
It is clearly understandable that Nigeria is a victim of women trafficking and other forms of trafficking mostly for sexual exploitations including forced labour, servitude and slavery. Some recent developments have also revealed that human trafficking is also undertaking for ritual purposes and organ transplants and others.
The penalties for human trafficking are also abusively low while there are virtually no provisions for rehabilitation and compensation of victims of trafficking. The economic losses to the country whose citizens are trafficked are also not considered; neither are there any provisions for redress of the several injuries associated with citizen’s trafficking. If reparation is not possible for slavery and other inhuman exploitation perpetuated by Europe as the world progress on the Civilization Continuum, there is NOW need for Human Trafficking Host Nations (HTHN) to compensate Human Trafficking Source Nations (HTSN) for obvious reasons stated above.
Similarly, there is therefore an urgent need to tackle this “contemporary manifestations of slavery and organized crime” on a holistic basis, taking into account its diverse dimensions as moral problem, criminal problem, migration problem, human rights problem, public order problem, labour problem and public health problem.