Friday, June 27, 2008

Revisiting the medical salary scale

IN February, the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), one of the affiliate groups under the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), published an article detailing the history of the agitation for a Medical Salary Scale for Nigerian doctors. This came in the wake of a one-day solidarity strike with the NMA which the Association embarked upon. What appears to have been positive strides gained since that time have been overtaken by various events - notably the unfortunate scandal that rocked the Health Ministry and led to the exit of principal officers. In the NMA also, there has since been a change of leadership with inevitable loss of momentum as the new leadership tries to settle into office.

As the NARD holds its Ordinary General Meeting from the 26th to 29th June, 2008, at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, it is imperative that we bring to the fore of public discussion again the urgent need for a Medical Salary Scale. The prime reason why the country needs a special salary scale for doctors is evident: it is a way of stemming the brain drain. It is easy to see why Nigerian doctors flock overseas. According to the Lancet, a foremost medical journal, pay and income could be described as hygiene factors which affect motivation, performance, morale and the ability of employers to attract and retain staff. Low pay results in moonlighting, engaging in other income-earning activities, extraction of informal fees from patients, seeking per diem payments, dissatisfaction, low morale and of course migration.

In the National Health Service (UK), the annual pay package ranges from 32,000 pounds (junior hospital doctor), 40,000 to 70,000 pounds (doctors in specialist training), 80,000 to 120,000 pounds (general practitioner ) to 70,000 to 170,000 pounds (consultants) per annum. The family physician earns more than ten times his Nigerian equivalent, not factoring in the difference in purchasing power and standard of living. In the US, a resident doctor earns between 45,000 and 60,000 dollars per annum, while an attending earns between 135,000 and 300,000 dollars per year. Indeed, in some specialties, a doctor could earn up to 1 to 2 million dollars per annum.

In Canada, the doctor earns averagely over 100,000 Canadian dollars per annum. The Australian dentist earns 40,000 to 100,000 Australian dollars per annum, while for most other specialties the figure is between 90,000 to 110,000 Australian dollars per annum. In Ghana, a house officer earns between 800 to 900 US Dollars monthly; medical officers 900 to 1,100 US Dollars monthly ; senior medical officers 1,200 to 1,300 US Dollars and specialists between 1,700 to 1,900 US Dollars. The average Zambian doctor earns over 17,000 US Dollars per annum. Compare with Nigeria, where the medical officer earns averagely less than 100 US Dollars.

The struggle for a Medical Salary Scale spans over two decades. In 1988, the NMA submitted two memoranda to the Presidential Committee on Brain Drain headed by Justice Atanda Fatai Williams. These memoranda were on remuneration and training of doctors. These were re-echoed in 1990 by the then Minister for Health, Professor Olikoye Ransome-Kuti, in a memorandum to the National Council of Ministers on the introduction of new salary scales for health services personnel.

The Medical System Scale was thereafter briefly introduced in 1991 but was soon overtaken by different wage reviews. The Consolidated Tertiary Institutions Salary Scale (CONTISS) was greeted with a lot of optimism but proved to be a major disappointment. In consequence, NMA and NARD have at different times had to embark on industrial action. Whatever progress had been made was stalled in the wake of the crisis in the Health Ministry. The facts, though, bear only one interpretation: there remains no alternative to the MSS.

Niger Delta, media coverage and conflicting signals

THERE is an ongoing debate in academic and non-academic community, including diplomatic groups about the ability of the news media to influence government policy aimed at resolving conflicts. At the international level, the argument is framed to suggest that sustained media coverage of a conflict usually propels governments to develop policies to resolve the conflict. This is the phenomenon frequently referred to as the "CNN effect", a term derived from the perceived global impact of the Cable News Network (CNN).

CNN's prolific correspondent Christiane Amanpour repeatedly refers to how the sustained television coverage of the Bosnian conflict in the late 1990s compelled the United States to intervene in the conflict, in concert with other member countries of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). Prior to the intervention, Amanpour argued, the United States had ignored the events in Bosnia for three-and-a-half years.

Implicit in this view is the notion that media coverage influences the development of government policy relating to conflicts. However, there is a corresponding question that asks: does lack of media coverage also imply lack of government policy about certain conflict zones? Some senior government officials often contend that media coverage does not really create policy but shapes the situation that facilitates the development of policy. Some people also say that media coverage can influence policy only when there is a policy vacuum. The debate over the ability of the media to influence policy development is as controversial as the questions that it generates.

In the case of the festering Niger Delta conflict, there are a number of questions that easily pop up. One: how much attention do Nigerian news media give to the Niger Delta conflict? Two: has media coverage of the Niger Delta conflict resulted in the development of an effective federal policy toward a resolution of the conflict? Three: has insufficient media coverage of the conflict resulted in the absence of government policy on the Niger Delta crisis? Four: does President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua's government have any clear policy on how to resolve the conflict?

These questions are relevant and even more critical in light of the most recent acts of criminal violence that resulted in the destruction of oil facilities in the Niger Delta region. And there is no indication the militants will stop blowing up oil facilities in spite of the reported offer of a cease fire.

While the media has been up to the challenge of covering the conflict in the Niger Delta, I would argue that the Nigerian media coverage of the conflict has been somewhat episodic. Media coverage of the Niger Delta is sporadic because it lacks consistency and the media tend to follow the crisis as it unfolds. Consider this: if there are no explosions, no abductions, no shootings and no killings in the Niger Delta cities, the region would most certainly disappear from the radar of journalists. But the moment a school child is kidnapped in Port Harcourt or Warri or Yenagoa, the media would encircle that city and cover the event until it loses currency or until another event breaks out in the region or elsewhere.

This type of punctuated coverage is not unique to Nigerian media. The media across the world are known to be crisis-oriented. Wherever a crisis occurs, you can be sure the media will scale all hurdles to cover that crisis. There are two factors that distinguish periodic media coverage of the Niger Delta conflict from sustained media coverage of other conflicts in some parts of the world. The first underlying factor is lack of consistency in coverage. If media coverage is episodic, governments and indeed the general population tend to tune in and tune off in sequence with the tenor of media coverage. The counter-argument is that if the media are relentless in covering conflicts, if the media feed their audiences with regular diet of images of blood and dead bodies in conflict zones, the immediate outcome could be a sharp decline in media audience owing to compassion fatigue - that is, the audience becomes weary of news of disasters, human suffering and pain.

The second factor that accounts for the intermittent media coverage of the Niger Delta has to do with the remoteness of the news location and the international or national significance of the news event. Other than the major cities where the Niger Delta militants stage their sporadic attacks before they retreat to their hideouts, remote or regional areas tend to create accessibility problems for journalists. When journalists manage to reach remote news locations, they don't stay for too long because of problems of access and lack of basic infrastructure.

The international or national dimensions of the Niger Delta conflict are also important in this analysis of the media coverage. The Niger Delta conflict has remained largely a localised conflict in the sense that the kidnappings and killings are restricted to the region. Although some overseas nationals have become victims of abductions and although oil facilities have been hit and continue to be hit by the militants, the focus has shifted to the abduction of local people from whose families the militants hope to reap instant financial dividends before the hostages are released. The blowing up of oil facilities in the past one week has raised the tempo of the conflict. Is there any way out of this logjam? Is there no path to peace in the Niger Delta?

The federal government's fire-fighting approach to the conflict suggests the government has no effective or meaningful policy on the Niger Delta. It is perhaps this absence of policy which the militants have exploited so effectively to unsettle the government. Despite occasional threats to use force to subdue the militants, despite assurances that peace would soon return to the region, nothing really has been achieved.

Since his ascension to the presidential throne, Yar'Adua has been telling the nation that he was committed to peace in the Niger Delta and that he is the man with the key to the resolution of the conflict. Perhaps he is right. Or, may be he is just a false prophet. Before last week's confrontations, the government has been trying to assemble key interest groups in the region, including credible leaders across the country to undertake another brainstorming session on how to douse the conflict. If everything goes well, we may witness the first national conference on the Niger Delta.

But questions persist. How the government plans to resolve the Niger Delta crisis through a national conference is unclear. What is also in doubt is whether the government has an in-depth understanding and appreciation of the chief causes of the conflict. Government officials continue to refer to the crises as mere criminal activities. That misperception of a serious conflict underlines government's nonchalant attitude toward the region.

In the last one week, Niger Delta militants successfully provoked Yar'Adua to the point where his patience snapped and he declared a war on the militants. What has emerged from Yar'Adua's latest reaction to the blowing up of oil facilities in the Niger Delta is that the government is yet to fashion out a way to read and understand the militants. Here is proof. Whenever militants undertake major acts of violence aimed at crippling the production of the nation's chief foreign exchange earner, the typical reaction from the government is to release incendiary comments that further inflame the situation. Militants don't understand the language of threats. And the federal government ought to be aware of this.

The Niger Delta conflict is a national tragedy. Yar'Adua and his advisers have a major challenge in resolving the conflict. The government needs to map out a policy that recognises the key issues in the conflict, an understanding of the nature of the crisis, the modus operandi of the disparate groups, the factors that fuelled ceaseless agitations in the region, the views of community leaders, and why the youth are the most vocal and uncompromising champions of the cause of the Niger Delta. A policy that seeks to resolve the crisis must articulate these elements and lead to a sustainable program of peace in the region and reconciliation with the people.

Arisekola, please don't open the gate

ONE of the challenges arising from the recent death of Alhaji Lamidi Adedibu, the self-styled Godfather of Oyo State politics, speaks to the troubled dynamics of social and class relations in Nigeria as indicated by the present circumstances of the hordes of hangers-on who flocked to his home on a daily basis. Now with Adedibu dead, this strong army of poor people appears defeated. In his lifetime, Alhaji Adedibu provided free food for the masses: everyday, a cow was slaughtered in his compound, soup was prepared and yam flour delicacies were rolled off a busy kitchen line. Anyone who felt the pangs of hunger could stop by and have a meal.

The money that Adedibu had collected from his clients in positions of power and authority, he gave a part of it to the poor, to pay their children's school fees and to attend to their other needs. Even if this was a self-serving method of gaining political relevance and popularity at the grassroots level, Adedibu sustained this twice-a-day free meal programme till the end. And this was the source of his reputation as a philanthropist, his appelation as Alaafin Molete and the description of his brand of politics as "amala politics". Every day of the year, a crowd gathered at his doorstep.

But since his death on June 11, that crowd of hungry men and women looking for food as fuel, has thinned out. The hungry mouths kept converging for a few days after the burial, but when they noticed that Adedibu's 19 children had resolved to close the kitchen, tie up the bags of yam flour, and sanitise the compound and put an end to their father's politics of food, the crowd had to disperse. Indeed, one of Adedibu's children speaking for the family had declared, clearly, that there will be no more free food for the poor in Adedibu's household.

The people were advised to "find their level." The children are not willing to step into their father's shoes. Amala politics is over. It is finished. Its author and exponent is dead; that chapter is closed. And so today, Adedibu's once busy compound has become quiet: no more drummers waking up the Alaafin and serenading him with praise-chants, no more thugs hanging by the gate providing protection for the Godfather; the women who used to cook all day in the kitchen have folded their bulbous wrappers and have hit the road in search of new patrons.

But since as they say, "nature abhors a vacuum", and the stomach is a god that can only be propitiated with food, the courtiers of Adedibu's palace have had to go in search of a new patron who can take care of their needs. And it is to the home of Alhaji Azeez Arisekola-Alao, that they have turned their gaze. Arisekola is another prominent Ibadan citizen, a notable Nigerian businessman, the Aare Musulumi of Yorubaland (the generalissimo of the islamic faith in Yorubaland), and in a much quieter way, also a philanthropist. Besides, the late Adedibu reportedly chose Arisekola as the administrator of his estate and executor of his will.

In their simple understanding, the amala crowd may have concluded that this literally means Alhaji Arisekola is Adedibu's anointed successor and the man to inherit his public and social obligations. Last Saturday and Sunday, they gathered in front of his home at Ikolaba in Ibadan - women and youths looking for financial assistance and food. As reported in The Punch of June 23, 2008, p,10, "a 17-year old boy" wants Arisekola to feed him and pay his school fees. And a widow needs money to feed her children. But the gate to Arisekola's house was securely fastened. The hungry men and women at the gate were told by guards that "they were not instructed to open the gates for anybody without prior appoitment". Undeterred, the able-bodied men and women begging for money and food, returned on Sunday but the gates were still locked.

Adedibu may have opened his own gates for the hungry and the poor, but the scenario at Arisekola's house is closer to reality. There is a huge divide between the poor and the rich in Nigeria, standing within that divide are guards, gates, walls and barbed wires reaching the skies. In the home of every rich man, there is a crowd of beggars waiting to knock on the door, knocking on the gates, but the rich have learnt to keep the poor away. You can't barge in on them unless you have an appointment. They have guards, they have dogs that have been trained to keep intruders and poor - looking people away. Their homes are in isolated parts of the city not in open neighbourhoods like Adedibu's Molete. They have electronic surveillance, some of our rich men even have mini-police stations in their houses, complete with cells and uniformed police men who can charge you for tresspass and lock you up immediately. The only way the poor can gain entrance into those gilded cages where the rich live is as employees in the servants' quarters, or as armed robbers who break down the walls and force their way in with the help of guns. The reality is that the Nigerian rich are prisoners of their wealth. They cannot enjoy it because they are constantly afraid that the poor, looking for food and free money, may tear down the walls.

Can anybody blame Alhaji Arisekola-Alao for locking up his gates and instructing his guards to shut out uninvited and unwanted guests? The man may have been Adedibu's friend in his lifetime, but he is not a politician. He is a businessman. And he probably doesn't like the idea of poor people messing up his well-manicured lawns and polluting his abode with their body odour. Nobody should be surprised if Alhaji Arisekola recruits armed guards to beef up security at his home or if he seeks police protection, and puts up a sign: "Intruders and tresspassers will be shot on sight, Be warned." With their desperation since their patron died, the Amala crowd of Ibadan has now helped to advertise a seemingly positive value of Adedibu's peculiar mess. But this is a comment on the state of the Nigerian society.

There is a growing crowd of poor people out there which feels shut out of the Nigerian system. The crowd exists nationwide, not just in Ibadan. Its members are worst hit by the failure of the Nigerian economy, the specter of galloping inflation, unemployment and the sheer incompetence and ineffectuality of government at all levels. It is government that should be blamed.

The blame belongs to the leaders at all levels who loot the treasury and years after the fact, claim innocence. The villains are those in the positions of authority who fail the people only to erect walls around their homes. It is so comical seeing the Nigerian rich not being able to enjoy their wealth: at the root of this is the failure of enlightenment on their part; in other societies, both the rich and governments help to create a welfare society so the fears of the poor may be addressed. It is so pitiable seeing that many Nigerians, living on less than one dollar per day, face the indignity of having to go to another man's home to beg for food.

The greater danger is that whoever provides that food can use the poor for any purpose at all, and this was the gap that a man like Adedibu took advantage of. He was in that sense as much a creation of the imperfections of the Nigerian state as those he fed were victims. Also in this plane are the boys turned militants in the Niger Delta who are being used by Adedibu-like figures to wage war against Nigeria; also here are the almajiris of the Northern parts who can be asked to go out and cause mayhem by an influential master, whose purposes may not be noble. Perhaps when the rich can no longer sleep in their homes, when their gates and guards and their bullet proof cars can no longer protect them, Nigeria will be forced to address the crisis of poverty not as effect, but as the root-cause of much that is wrong with our politics and society.

In the Adedibu case, a Kano-based cleric, Alhaji Muyideen Ajani Bello, delivering a sermon at the eight-day fidau prayer session for the late Adedibu had advised the rich men and women in Ibadan and Adedibu's children "to open their gates for the jobless, downtrodden masses and feed them." He said: "if you are not careful, armed robbers will increase in Ibadan. Once those that are feeding in Adedibu's house realise that there is nowhere for them to feed again, they will go out and rob houses. For you to avert this situation, be ready to feed these hoodlums and the jobless. Open your houses for people to come and eat, if not armed robbers will begin to burgle your houses." Why should anybody feed others if this were a well-organised society? Many of the people looking for food are not physically challenged ( even if they were?), many of them are educated or are skilful in some ways. They need jobs and opportunities, and guarantees that anyone who is willing to work will find something to do. The true challenge is in turning Nigeria into a land of opportunities where human dignity can be assured.

Nigerians also need a social security system that caters for both the vulnerable and the privileged and raises the quality of life. Because many hungry mouths exist, to be exploited and used for political purposes, that is why there has been so much unedifying talk about Adedibu's likely successors. Institutions of state would still have to be strengthened to provide succour for the helpless, and to check the resort to criminality for either ideological or existential reasons. Leaders must stop stealing money and votes and focus on the people's welfare. It is the failure to do this that will produce the next Adedibu, and the effect on society would just be as bad as the menace of armed robbery that the cleric fears.

Oliver de Coque (1947-2008)

OLIVER de Coque, the handsome, bearded man of music, who died at a private hospital in Lagos on Friday, June 20, was a leading exponent of highlife music and an accomplished artist. His death follows closely in the wake of the deaths of other notable musicians like Sonny Okosun, Sammy Needle and Steve Rhodes. Oliver de Coque whose real names are Sunday Oliver Akanita, was planning to bury his mother when he too succumbed to death.

The story of the remarkable rise to stardom of the artist reads like a fairy tale. Born into humble circumstances, Oliver was largely a self-made man. He attended primary school in his hometown of Ezinifite in Anambra State. For his secondary school education, he proceeded to the Niger Institute of Commerce, Aba, Abia State where he read English, BookKeeping and Accountancy.

He was successful in the Royal Society of Arts examination. Life was not easy for him. At weekends, he and another minstrel entertained on Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) Channel 4 in Aba. He called his music Ekpili. The takings were so small that he had to sell shoes on weekdays to augment his meager earnings. The year was 1965 when Oliver was only 17 years old.

Very soon, the Nigerian civil war broke out. Oliver found himself on the Biafran side. Under wartime conditions he moved from one military formation to the other entertaining Biafran soldiers. In 1970, with the civil war over, he went back to Aba in search of a job, but there were no jobs. By chance he met one Sunny Agaga and his Lucky Star Band who recruited him and took him to Lagos. He soon got tired of the band and joined another group in Oshodi called Friendly Unity Band. As the band was neither friendly nor united, he struck out again, this time with Sule Agboola and his Moonlight Star Band.

This band was to take him to London for four months during which they played only at weekends. During weekdays Oliver did odd jobs that paid handsomely at ?80 a week. With this money in his pocket, he bought himself two guitars, two amplifiers, and a set of drums. Upon his return to Nigeria, he started his own band, the Ogene Sound Super of Africa.

An accomplished guitarist, Oliver learnt his art from a Congolese musician called Piccolo. In 1974 he released his first album called Messiah. It was moderately successful as it sold about 50,000 copies. In 1979, he hit gold and shot into the limelight with his release of People's Club Ka anyi bili be ndu (People's Club, let us enjoy ourselves). The album sold over two million copies at the time. Overnight, Oliver de Coque had become a household name in Nigeria and beyond. He went on to record hit after hit.

Some of the notable hits include Funny Funny Identity, Ugbana, (egret) Easter Special, Ana enwe obodo enwe, (not everybody can own the land), Biri ka mbiri (live and let live), Otimkpu (town crier), Uwa cholu obi umeani (the world wants peace), Olisa kanyi nayo (we pray to God), nnukwu mmanwu (big masquerade - a person of influence and power) and many others. At the time of his death, Oliver de Coque had recorded an astonishing 86 albums.

Many have wondered about the origin of the French-sounding name Oliver de Coque. To this the maestro had no answer. It was just a 'guy' name that stuck. He was a consummate musician, who set out with a message about the beauty of life. His music was for dancing and he was happiest when everyone was drawn to the podium in unrestrained ecstasy. Most of his lyrics were waxed in his native Igbo language and contained philosophic insights into the nature of society. He, like Osita Osadebe, another highlife maestro, engaged in praise singing, often eulogising the self-made millionaires who often promoted the Peoples Club.

He was a kind and generous person; his life was dominated by his music and he used his art to make many people happy; his luxuriant, bushy beard was his trademark.

In addition to his being crowned as the King of Highlife by the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi, in 1994, Oliver received in the same year, an honorary doctor of letters in Music from the University of New Orleans in the United States. He was recently presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Performing Musicians and Employers Association of Nigeria (PMEAN). He also held the chieftaincy title, Ikemba of Ezinifite.

An international artiste, the man with a unique voice and magical fingers will be sorely missed by his many fans that include the high and the lowly of Nigeria and others all over the world.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Zimbabwe TV drops opposition adverts

Zimbabwes public broadcaster, ZBC has said it will no longer carry campaign adverts from the opposition party ahead of next weeks presidential election.

The Movement for Democratic Change said it would appeal against the decision.

Justice Minister, Patrick Chinamasa, defended the move saying international coverage favoured the MDC and never reported the ruling Zanu-PFs position.

Earlier, UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, expressed concern over the political violence in Zimbabwe.

Adding his voice to growing international concern, he said the violence in Zimbabwe could undermine the outcome of the June 27 run-off vote.

Violence, intimidation and the arrest of opposition leaders are not conducive to credible elections,” he told the UN General Assembly in New York.

The MDC said 66 of its supporters had been killed and 25,000 forced to flee their homes in a state-sponsored campaign of violence.

The BBC reported on Thursday that the ban on adverts would not make a great deal of difference, as news bulletins at the state-run ZBC had always favoured Mugabe, only mentioning the opposition in negative terms.

There are no privately controlled radio or TV stations in Zimbabwe and only a few weekly newspapers, which most people cannot afford.

US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, is due to chair an informal UN Security Council meeting on Zimbabwe later on Thursday in an attempt to maintain international political pressure.

On Wednesday, South African President Thabo Mbeki spent his 66th birthday continuing his efforts to mediate between President Robert Mugabe and the opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai.

He held separate talks with both presidential candidates as pressure mounted on Mugabe to curtail political violence ahead of the poll, but released no statement on the talks.

The MDC has criticised Mbekis policy of quiet diplomacy” for failing to hold Mugabe to account.

Official results show Mr. Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, gained the most votes in the first round of the presidential election in March but did not pass the 50 per cent threshold for outright victory.

A senior UN official, Haile Menkerios, earlier met President Mugabe to discuss the political stand-off and what the UN said was the increased suffering of an already vulnerable population.

The UN is prepared to pay to fund election monitors to oversee the run-off vote.

South Africa is opposed to the Security Council having too much involvement, the BBC reported from the UN.

Pretoria argues that it is not for the council to resolve disputed elections.

Earlier, an African poll observer warned that he would not endorse the vote if current levels of violence continued.

Marwick Khumalo, head of the Pan-African Parliamentary observers, told the BBC his team had received horrendous reports of attacks and that the political environment was not conducive to a free poll.

Thousands of opposition supporters have been beaten or worse

But with the vote just days away, there is a growing sense of urgency with political violence beginning to spread from the countryside to the towns, says the BBCs Peter Biles in Johannesburg.

Mugabe has been waging a fierce campaign to extend his 28-year rule since Tsvangirai failed to win enough votes to score an outright victory in Marchs disputed first round.

Kenyan Prime Minister, Raila Odinga, has called for an international peacekeeping force to be deployed in Zimbabwe to ensure a free and fair vote.

It is time for the leaders of Africa to say to President Mugabe that the people of Zimbabwe deserve a free and fair election,” he said.

Rwandas President Paul Kagame has also criticised Mr. Mugabe, asking why he bothers holding an election, if he says he will not respect the outcome, reports the Reuters news agency.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown says he has spoken to the leader of South Africas governing African National Congress, Jacob Zuma, about the possibility of deploying 1,000 election observers from the ANC.

Western observers have been banned, as the government accuses them of being biased in favour of the opposition.

The government has also said it wants to reduce the number of local election monitors, after 50,000 asked for accreditation.

Japanese firm invents water-powered vehicles

ORDINARY water may soon displace petroleum as the preferred fuel in vehicles worldwide if claims by a Japanese firm, Genepax, are anything to go by.

Genepax has announced that it has invented a fuel cell system that uses water to obtain hydrogen. And the water can be from any source - river, rain or tap.

It has made public two devices, a 120 W fuel cell stack and a 300 W fuel cell system that powered what it identified as "REVA-based minicar."

According to Genepax, the little car could run at 80 kilometres per hour using only one litre of water, no matter where it came from - sea, river, rain, among others.

If this is true, says Reuters News, it would solve many problems associated with other alternative options for powering vehicles at once.

"The first one is hydrogen storage. To be kept in liquid state, this gas has to be cooled down to -252.87?C, or 20.27 K, which requires a storage tank that can maintain such low temperatures or, if they get higher, to withstand high levels of pressure.

"In any case, these tanks are expensive and heavy, two characteristics that do not help electric vehicles in anything.

The second one is price.

"The alternative to hydrogen storage is to obtain the gas from common fuels, such as methanol or even gasoline, but the machines that extract it, called reformers, are also expensive, and depending on the source of hydrogen, produce polluting emissions, although less than a combustion engine.

"If hydrogen can be extracted from water, the only byproduct will be oxygen. Ozone damage could also be possible, but catalysts may prevent it. And water is an abundant substance, especially sea water, that can also be used in Water Energy System(WES), as Genepax has named it.

However, Genepax hides one secret, Reuters says: "The secret WES hides is its membrane electrode assembly, which contains a material capable of breaking water down into its basic components (H2O) through chemical reactions."

According to the report, critics claim that this is impossible because it contradicts the First Law of Thermodynamics, which states that "the increase in the internal energy of a system is equal to the amount of energy added by heating the system, minus the amount lost as a result of the work done by the system on its surroundings."

"In other words, the energy that would be necessary to break the water molecules would be higher than what WES would generate for the car's electric engine, hence the energy would come from somewhere else. A battery, for example.

"Unfortunately, there is a good chance Genepax has committed some sort of mistake. If not, it will have created something mankind has been seeking for a long time: the perpetual motion engine.

"Since all the car needs to run is water, and since the product of hydrogen reactions in the fuel cells is also water, the WES system could refuel itself with what it generates and could run forever with the same quantity of water. We hope Genepax has had a major breakthrough, but that does not seem to be the case," said the report.

Honda Motor Corporation recently announced the production of new zero-emission hydrogen fuel cell car.

The FCX Clarity, which runs on hydrogen and electricity, emits only water and none of the noxious fumes is believed to induce global warming.

It is also two times more energy-efficient than a gas-electric hybrid and three times that of a standard gasoline-powered car, the company says.

According to the Associated Press, Japan's third biggest automaker expects to lease out a "few dozen" units this year and about 200 units within three years.

The FCX Clarity is an improvement on its previous-generation fuel cell vehicle, the FCX, introduced in 2005.

A breakthrough in the design of the fuel cell stack, which is the unit that powers the car's motor, allowed engineers to lighten the body, expand the interior and increase efficiency, said Honda.

The fuel cell draws on energy synthesised through a chemical reaction between hydrogen gas and oxygen in the air, and a lithium-ion battery pack provides supplemental power. The FCX Clarity has a range of about 270 miles per tank with hydrogen consumption equivalent to 74 miles per gallon, according to the carmaker.

The 3,600-pound vehicle can reach speeds up to 100 miles per hour.

Executive Vice President of America Honda Motor Company, John Mendel, said at a ceremony that it was "an especially significant day for American Honda as we plant firm footsteps toward the mainstreaming of fuel cell cars."

The biggest obstacles standing in the way of wider adoption of fuel cell vehicles are cost and the dearth of hydrogen fuel stations. For the Clarity's release in California, Honda said it received 50,000 applications through its website but could only consider those living near stations in Torrance, Santa Monica and Irvine.

The world's major auto-makers have been making heavy investments in fuel cells and other alternative fuel vehicles amid climbing oil prices and concerns about climate change.

Although Honda Motor Company was the first Japanese automaker to launch a gas-electric hybrid vehicle in the U.S. in 1999, it has been outpaced by the dominance of Toyota's popular Prius.

"Toyota announced in May that it has sold more than one million Prius hybrids, while both the Honda Insight and the hybrid Accord have been discontinued due to poor sales.

"Honda also plans to launch a gas-electric hybrid-only model, as well as hybrid versions of the Civic, the sporty CR-Z and Fit subcompact.

"Toyota has announced that it would launch a plug-in hybrid with next-generation lithium-ion batteries by 2010 and a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle later in Japan this year.

"U.S. carmaker General Motors Corporation plans to introduce a Chevrolet Volt plug-in electric vehicle in 2010. It also introduced a test-fleet of hydrogen fuel cell Equinox Sports Utility Vehicles (SUV).

"Honda has no plans for a plug-in electric vehicle. President Takeo Fukui said he does not believe current battery technology is good enough to develop a feasible car.

"The company has not revealed how much each car costs to make, and it is unclear when, or if, the car will be available for mass-market sales. Takeo has set a target for 2018, but meeting that goal will depend on whether Honda can significantly lower development and assembly costs as well as market reaction to fuel cells," said Associated Press.

13 keys to a perfect first date

Reading dating coach, blogger and author, David Wygant article about the 13 keys to a perfect first date, posted on Monday, November 26, 2007. I stopped to ponder about all his keys. If going by the literal key, do we have such doors here for his keys to open? Maybe you could help me sort out how many of our doors in Nigeria his keys can open.

In his words, “I’ve come up with a checklist of some of my favourite first – date tactics that will leave her glowing at the end of the night. In fact, these are so good, she’ll be texting or calling you within the next 24 hours expecting more of the same!”

I know that lots of men will be interested in these keys, but before you get too excited, I will want us to check these keys on our own Nigerian doors. So, lets start with the keys.

Key 1: It is OK to suggest a drink instead of dinner for a first date. She dreads a potentially boring, four-course ordeal, too!

Check: Does that sound like you or rather not you. Okay, I would not want to take too much time on this. But for sure some doors here can be opened with this key.

Key 2: Always call her by early evening on Tuesday to confirm a Wednesday get – together – it is the polite thing to do and it lets her know that you are already thinking about her.

Check: Be honest now, I want to believe that the spark will still be there so, some of the holders of the key in this part of the world would naturally want to do this. What do you think? I think it is fairly applicable to our doors too.

Key 3: Be sure to leave both your home and work phone numbers. If you do not leave your home number, she might assume you have a wife or girlfriend. If you do not leave any number, she will wonder what game you are playing.

Check: Ten years ago in this part of the world, this key might not be for wooden doors, but marbles. But now thanks to GSM, this key seems like a door opener, though not helping to figure out that part of having a wife or a girl friend. Most Nigerian men tend to know their way around that.

Key 4: If you want to keep the plans a surprise, at least clue her in as to what to wear. You do not want an overdressed, overstressed woman navigating in high heels on a sunset beach walk.

Check: That will not be too bad, but most ladies surprise men instead!

KEY 5: Always listen to what she has to say, and make sure you wait until she is done with talking before responding.

Check: This is one key that most men do not have patience for, talk for most men come spontaneously and honestly most men end up talking more about themselves, what they want, and what they dislike forgetting the lady also need to talk.

KEY 6: Do not assume that just because you are out with a beautiful woman, she knows how pretty she looks — she wants to hear it from you. Do not go overboard, though, or she might think you are insincere.

Check: This key works here too, most times just that the sincerity part of it can be questioned.

KEY 7: Men judge women according to whether they can picture having sex with them; women judge men by whether they can imagine kissing them. White teeth, fresh breathe, great shoes, cell phone turned off, and unchapped lips make her more apt to lock lips with you that night.

Check: This key I am not so sure works here, but it is a possibility.

KEY 8: Do not ask her, “So, what kind of music do you like?” The last 10 guys asked that. Be original and instead fill your iPod with a great mix of music that expresses your style.

Check: That sounds good, but Nigerian first dates rarely start with such except on campuses anyway.

KEY 9: Tip well. Believe me, she will be watching.

Check: This key in Nigerian does not have too many doors to open. Tips at times is seen as being wasteful and unnecessarily generous, and most ladies are indifferent while some just cannot make any sense of it. Some ladies will appreciate it though, seeing you tip a waiter means you are a nice person that acknowledges good service.

KEY 10: Reading body language is simple: If she touches your arm, she is interested. If she touches your leg, she is interested tonight. If she leans away from you the whole night, she is not interested at all.

Check: This particular key was not designed for us. It is part of our culture that a Nigerian girl or lady should be shy or rather very reserved on her first date. So, the fact that she is leaning away from you does not mean that she is not interested, most Nigerian men know that too.

KEY 11: Very small gestures go a long way and show her you are a gentleman. When you drop her off at her house, be sure to wait the extra 30 seconds while she gets inside (and next time you might be going in with her!).

Check: Some men know this key while most feel it is not a very useful one at getting what they want. Some men believe that having the money and sweet tongue will do better in opening the door.

KEY 12: Women need momentum. Without it, they lose interest or wonder if you have lost it, too. Follow up with a phone call the next night. Even more important, ask her out at the end of the date. Do not play games or wait.

Check: This key can work here to an extent, but most Nigerian men see it as the ladies playing games with them. After three dates and the door does not seem to be opening, men here tend to check the next available door.

KEY 13: Never look at another woman when you are on a date. If she catches your wandering eye, you are done.

Check: This sounds more like a warning and I believe it could also work for Nigerian men, just that I trust most Nigerian men to be smart enough as they look at another woman.

Most of David’s keys can work here, but we have to understand that this article is not for you to start trying out these methods on ladies; it is just to enhance your dating whenever you choose to.

The art and science of defining excess crude account

Before the previous administration began to tout the country’s bloated foreign reserves as one of its major achievements, only a few Nigerians were familiar with the term ‘foreign reserves.’ In the last five years, the term has become so popular in public discourse that we are now used to hearing those with rudimentary knowledge of economics pontificating on the nature and purposes of foreign reserves. Yet, there is a clear misunderstanding of the concept, both in terms of its expediency and the justification of those who argue that it should be used to solve all or most of our socio-economic problems.

In addition to its function of improving a country’s credit-worthiness and wealth accumulation through careful management, the purpose of holding reserves is to give apex banks supplementary means to stabilise their currencies from excessive instability and to protect the monetary system from shock.

But the choice or a mix of the main options to which the reserves could be put – current consumption, accumulating them in the short to medium term, paying off foreign debts and setting up a fund for the future – depends on the peculiarities of the concerned economy and on the context of the country’s economic reform agenda.

No doubt, Nigerians have the right to demand for better standards of living through government’s expenditure on value-adding projects that will jump-start the economy, rather than starve the economy of the much-needed fund. However, there is a puzzle yet to be solved by many Nigerians as regards the monetisation of these reserves, which is the main cause of confusion. Unfortunately, only a few of those who have offered explanations on this matter have made some sense.

The controversy reached its peak during the ministerial screening, when the Minister of Finance, Dr. Shamsudeen Usman, then the Deputy Governor, Operations, of the Central Bank of Nigeria, tried to explain the ownership structure of foreign reserves and the reason why the whole reserves, which were then put at $43.6bn, could not be shared. But his bureau de change analogy, which ended with the fact that the only amount available in the Federation Account for distribution (which is the so-called excess crude) was $8.8bn, left many Nigerians more confused. In fact, it would have made the unlearned to think that the whole external reserve issue was a farce.

At a seminar for finance correspondents in Kwara State, the Deputy Director, Foreign Operations Department of the CBN, Mr. J.J. Aluko, had also tried to offer an explanation. He said the CBN reserves, which formed most of what was known as Nigeria’s foreign reserves, were foreign exchange inflows that had been monetised by the CBN and the naira equivalent released to the beneficiaries for their use. He added that once the foreign exchange inflow had been monetised and the naira equivalent released to the customer by the CBN, the foreign exchange no longer belonged to the customer but to the CBN.

According to him, “A greater portion of Nigeria’s external reserves, having been monetised, belongs to the CBN and is called the CBN reserves. This component of external reserves can only be available to an applicant (customer) whenever its equivalent amount in naira is provided by the customer. Federation Reserves represent the portion of external reserves that has not been monetised by the CBN.

“The naira value of such reserves are sterilised in various customer liability accounts and can only be released into the financial system upon receipts of mandates from the beneficiaries. Earnings called the ‘Excess Crude Oil Proceeds,’ which is the difference between the budgeted benchmark price and the actual market price of oil, belong to this component.” But his efforts, though better than Usman’s, did not solve the puzzle.

The Director, Foreign Operations Department, CBN, Dr. Muhammad Nda, had also explained that the excess oil revenue, above the budgeted benchmark price, was saved as a result of a ‘gentlemanly agreement’ among the three tiers. However, this gentlemanly agreement is unlikely to withstand the strains of the convulsions that the Senate’s move to scrap the excess crude account is likely to introduce into the relationship.

It said that the operation of the account, expected to rise to $11bn by the end of 2008, was one of the illegalities inherited from the Obasanjo administration, adding that the excess crude fund should rather be channelled into the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the federation. The June 18, 2008 edition of This Day quoted the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Media and Information, Senator Ayogu Eze, who confirmed the Senate’s determination to scrap the account, as saying that “Section 162 of the Nigerian Constitution provides that all revenues of the government must be pooled and put in the CRF and shared.”

We will, however, wait and see what becomes of the bill seeking to give legal backing to the operations of the account.

Nevertheless, fixing the budget benchmark well below the actual crude oil price, which enables the country to save, though good for the economy, is a double-edged sword. Is there an assurance that the saved funds, be it foreign reserves or excess crude proceeds, which keep accumulating as a result of favourable oil prices, will not end up boosting private purses? Is there also an assurance that when government succumbs and okays spending, the funds will not be channeled to abandoned projects? Or that they will not end up like the controversial power sector billions alleged to have disappeared into thin air?

Notwithstanding the present squabbles over whether the money should be spent, not spent or saved in a particular account, our leaders need to learn from the past. This is not the first time Nigeria will be experiencing an oil boom. Fluctuating oil prices had resulted in booms and busts in the periods 1974-1976, 1981-1983 and 1990-1991, but the booms were wasted as a result of the greed and corruption on the part of past leaders. And the bogus allocations to both the Executive and the Legislature in the 2008 budget, which are enough to power important projects, have not convinced me that the current leaders have been rid of greed.

Those whose positions may be considered as genuine are the ordinary Nigerians who naturally desire that everything works in the economy. But unfortunately, they have a say in how the country’s resources are spent but lack the power to influence implementation.

Power Emergency: No, To Another Illegality

AN illegality remains one no matter how ennobling its purposes may be. It is worse when the illegality is a wanton affront on sections of the Constitution.
President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua’s proposed power emergency plan falls fully into the sort of unconstitutionality that Olusegun Obasanjo promoted in his eight-year presidency.

The President claims he has agreed with the 36 state governors to withdraw $5 billion from the Excess Crude Oil Account Fund, an illegality Obasanjo created to warehouse funds, in excess of the budget benchmark for the sale of crude oil. The funds are outside the control of the National Assembly, illegal and prone to abuses.

Sections 80 and 81 of the 1999 Constitution are extensive on federal revenues. According to Section 80 (1) All revenues or other moneys raised or received by the Federation (not being revenues or other moneys payable under this Constitution or any Act of the National Assembly into any other public fund of the Federation established for a specific purpose) shall be paid into and form one Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation.

(2) No moneys shall be withdrawn from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation except to meet expenditure that is charged upon the fund by this Constitution or where the issue of those moneys has been authorised by an Appropriation Act or an Act passed in pursuance of Section 81 of this Constitution.

(3) No moneys shall be withdrawn from any public fund of the Federation, other than the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation, unless the issue of the moneys has been authorised by an Act of the National Assembly.

(4) No moneys shall be withdrawn from the Consolidated Revenue Fund or any other fund of the Federation, except in the manner prescribed by the National Assembly. Under Section 81, the President must present his budget to the National Assembly for approval. The President or governors have no constitutional powers to appropriate the Consolidated Revenue Account of the Federation, under any guise. With Sections 120 and 121 of the Constitution, governors cannot expend or allocate state funds outside the approval of their state Houses of Assembly.

Section 162 (3) states: “Any amount standing to the credit of the Federation Account shall be distributed among the Federal and state governments and the local government councils in each state on such terms and in such manner as may be prescribed by the National Assembly.

The Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), has limited powers to appropriate federal funds. Its legal powers are in the confines of the revenue sharing formula. RMAFC’s proposal that the surplus revenue from crude oil sales should be invested in infrastructure is good, but it is not legal.

RMAFC must distinguish between revenue allocation and budgeting. Its proposal confuses both. Any agreements that scuttle Sections 80, 81, 120, 121 and 162 would amount to illegal amendment of the Constitution.

The current setting raises serious doubts about any deep thinking behind the power emergency, which has been in the works for more than 18 months. If the President wants to fund it illegally, what about his trumpeted respect for the law? Nigerians want improved electricity supply, and more. However, unconstitutional application of the federation account to achieve this purpose is illegal, diminishes our democracy and delays compliance with the law.

Options abound. The President should have the entire money left in the Excess Crude Oil Account to be shared among the various tiers of government. These tiers of government, relying on agreements, will appropriate the money through their legislative houses as their stake in the national power programme. It is a form of lending to the Federal Government.

If this is too cumbersome, the President can present a bill to the National Assembly for permission to borrow $5 billion for electricity. It will get accelerated passage and the President can execute his programme legally.

The National Assembly must stop this glaring illegality and spare us probes, years on, to unearth how Yar’Adua abused Sections 80 and 81. If the National Assembly checked Obasanjo, it would have saved scarce public resources now being wasted in probing breaches of Sections 80, 81 and 162, which the National Assembly conveniently ignored for eight years!

Imprisoned by a strange system

PRISONERS are the people we love to keep out of sight, out of mind and out of care. Other than media and sports celebrities with whom society is obsessed in life and in death, very few people care about what happens to prisoners the moment they step into prison to commence their jail sentences. It doesn't matter that there are degrees of offences committed by different prisoners. By virtue of the way they are treated in Nigeria, prisoners are an endangered species (which is indeed something of an oxymoron). And some people like it that way.

In Nigeria, the welfare of prisoners has been neglected for too long. The state does not care about prisoners. The society is even more apathetic about the conditions of prisoners. Among the few people who care, everyone is busy wringing their hands -- what shall we do?

Prisoners in the country are regularly and systematically subjected to emotional and physical abuse by the very system that is expected to look after them. For this reason, prisoners suffer a range of health problems. First, they have to contend with regular rounds of physical abuse and torture. The physical image of a prisoner is an emblem of infamy. That image flags to the rest of society that the prisoner symbolises danger, a person who must be socially isolated. But the psychological tag, the second problem, is the most devastating because it is embedded in the human spirit.

The psychological wound inflicted on prisoners is difficult to heal because it portrays prisoners as irredeemable criminals. The socially reprehensible catchphrase that informs negative public perception of prisoners (and ex-prisoners) is: once a prisoner, always a prisoner. Whether in uniform or out of uniform, this psychological label destroys the prisoner's (or ex-prisoner's) soul. The pain leaves a hole in the heart. In civilised societies, there is some agreement that prisoners who have served time should be allowed to reintegrate into the larger society with minimum fuss. Is our society so unforgiving, so obsessed with stereotyping convicted people?

Stereotyping prisoners carries consequences beyond the personal lives of the prisoners. References to the term "prisoner" reveal a lot about the prisoner's criminal record and perhaps something about the prisoner's family background. For some prisoners, it is not the number of years they serve in prison that counts but the emotional damage that follows them during and after their prison terms. The damage affects the prisoner's identity, their name, their ethnic group, their religious denomination and everything that gives them the identity they wear. Never mind that some people say that a convicted criminal has no name to protect, no image to polish, no heart to rebuild and no reputation to safeguard.

There is also the notion that prisoners don't deserve pity and should never be treated with compassion because some of them committed horrendous crimes against society. This belief undermines the very essence of the prison as a centre for the rehabilitation of the human mind. In some parts of the world, the word "prison" is regarded as anachronistic because it doesn't capture society's objectives for jailing people. In place of the word "prison", a politically correct term has emerged. What we once referred to as prison is now known as "Correctional Services Facility or Department".

Other than people on death row, a correctional services facility is a place where the law and the state seek to correct people's behaviour. It is not a place to inflict mental and physical punishment on people who have been convicted for violating the laws of society. Perhaps more significant, a prison, as a rehabilitation centre, is not a place where people who are serving time for minor offences should be exposed to hardened criminals.

Serving a jail term should be seen as a mechanism for convicted people to be reformed in order for them to rejoin other members of the community when they are released. That's the way it is in some parts of the world. In Nigeria, however, the prison system does not differentiate between prisoners and their degrees of crime. A shoplifter could be dumped in the same prison room with a convicted murderer.

In some prisons across the country, accused persons awaiting trial are forced by our old-fashioned prison system to share accommodation with hardened criminals. Allowing convicted hardened criminals to share the same space with people whose guilt or innocence is yet to be established must be condemned as morally unacceptable. It is like the Nigerian state is deliberately grooming a deadly cocktail of criminals for future harvest.

In law, an accused person on remand is not the same as a convict. However, in the administration of prisons in Nigeria, suspects and convicts are treated as if they are on the same platform, as if society has already prejudged the culpability of those on prison custody. The unintended consequence of this pathetic practice is that, by the time the convicts and the accused persons are released from prison, the system that was supposed to facilitate their mental and physical rehabilitation would have hardened them so much so that they find delight in committing further crimes, some of them odious in nature.

By subjecting accused persons who are awaiting trial to the same harsh and brutal conditions that are reserved (unlawfully) for convicted criminals, by allowing suspects to associate freely with convicted criminals, and by placing suspects in the same holding centres populated by convicted and hardened criminals, we are simply laying a solid foundation for the development of an unstable youth. Even convicts on death row have certain rights. Why shouldn't accused persons be accorded such rights?

Accused persons in prison custody should never be treated as if they have already been tried and convicted. The law operates on the philosophical understanding that everyone is innocent until a court of competent jurisdiction has found that person guilty. The government and prison administrators have an obligation to respect the human rights of accused persons who are awaiting trial. At another level, it is tragic that people who committed minor offences are thrown into the same prison conditions as convicted criminals. In law, there are levels of crime and levels of punishment. A prison system that dishes out uniform punishment to all convicts without regard for the severity of crimes committed by inmates is riddled with injustice.

Within government ministries and departments, there is so much talk about imminent prison reforms, including programs designed to assist in the rehabilitation of prisoners. But these talks are never transformed into practical action. The first challenge for prison reforms in Nigeria must address these inequities. There must be morally and legally acceptable standards for the treatment of prisoners and the administration of prisons.

Over the years, Nigerian prisons have developed a nasty reputation as the torture chambers commonly associated with despotic regimes. Every month, ex-prisoners recount chilling accounts of their experiences in prison. All the accounts are remarkably unambiguous: our prisons are overcrowded; there is no programme for the welfare and healthcare of prisoners; and prisoners are poorly fed.

At the conclusion of the Federal Executive Council meeting in early October 2007, the Federal Government commended itself for raising the daily allowance of prisoners from N150 for each prisoner for each day to N200 per day. It was the kind of charity you would not expect from your enemy. There is poverty in the land and there are many people who can't afford one decent meal per day but, for goodness sake, N200 naira per day can't buy a reasonable meal for anyone in Nigeria, not to mention prisoners. That decision by the Umaru Musa Yar'Adua government exposed the mean-spirited nature of the government, including its uncaring attitude toward the welfare of prisoners.

Comprehensive and urgent reforms are overdue in the prisons. Reforms that focus solely on the decongestion of prisons cannot take effect without corresponding reforms in the criminal justice system. These must also include a reduction in the number of days that suspects can be held in prison custody before they are charged or tried in court. The obligation is on the police to conclude on time investigations that would lead to the prosecution or discharge of accused persons. There are too many people in prison custody in Nigeria who shouldn't be there.

A nation of angry teachers

IT used to be said that a teacher's reward is in heaven. Not any more. Nigerian teachers are no longer looking up to the Heavens to help them. They want their reward here and now. No teacher will agree to be deceived with that old wives' tale about how it is more rewarding to suffer on earth in exchange for a life of eternal bliss in a place called Heaven. No one has seen Heaven, and its existence is real only to the religious. And so we find on our hands, at the moment, the rebellion of the Nigerian Union of Teachers, the umbrella body for school teachers in publicly owned primary and secondary schools. On June 13, the teachers ended a three-day warning strike, which resulted in the closure of public schools in many states of the federation, and the suspension of the on-going secondary school, NECO, final year examinations.

The teachers felt obliged to suspend the warning strike because the Federal Government had promised to implement a new and enhanced Teachers Salary Scale (TSS). This is simply a pay rise, negotiated with the Federal Government, and agreed upon since 1991, but which the government in its usual manner had refused to implement. Before June 13, the NUT promised to embark on "the mother of all strikes". Now less than a week later, the teachers are back to the trenches. They have announced a seven-day ultimatum, now extended by another seven days, following the intervention of the Senate Committee on Education. The NUT enjoys the support of the Nigeria Labour Congress, which has vowed to ask all Nigerian workers to support the teachers and shut down the country possibly. A major crisis is in the offing in the education sector. The teachers sound inconsolable.

Why are the teachers still at war with the Federal Government after they had been told that a directive has been given for the payment of TSS and that there is enough money in the budget to take care of this? We confront here an interesting aspect of the Nigerian paradox. The teachers' position is summed up in the following statement attributed to Chief Onem Nelson Onem, the NUT President: "... we say that if you want to pay, that there must be a circular, but there is nowhere salaries are paid by mere use of mouth. But when are you going to pay? Give us the time and give us enabling circular." Nobody, not just the NUT, trusts Nigerian public officials when they make promises or comments on matters of state policy.

A declaration even by the Presidency that a certain course of action will be taken in public interest is immediately thrown into the dust-bin of cynicism by affected stakeholders. The Nigerian government is notorious for not honouring agreements. The NUT is on strike over an agreement that was reached in 1991! In 1996, the same Federal Government had directed that the TSS should be implemented but this was not done. Agreements? Ask the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), the umbrella union for university teachers which is also having a running battle with the Federal Government over a long list of issues. In better-organized societies, public officials are regarded as men and women of honour who can make promises and stand by them and who can be held accountable even on the strength of their words of mouth. The NUT is saying clearly that Nigerian officials cannot be trusted.

Its leaders are complaining about the arrogance of the Minister of Education and officials of the Federal Ministry of Education. So they want a circular, a written commitment and directive by the Federal Government. At a meeting with the Federal Minister of Education, the powerful Minister of Education had reportedly told NUT officials that he wished them good luck with their proposed strike. He had reportedly told them also: "I am not bothered". The teachers say: "we are bothered". They should be. Nigerian public officials are poor communicators. They aggravate situations that could otherwise have been handled through careful dialogue. The Federal Minister of Education, Aja Nwachukwu, and his team should be held responsible for provoking NUT members into the present round of intransigence. Dialogue, not arrogance, is what is required.

But the NUT should also not overstate its case. Teachers at the primary and secondary school level, particularly in the public schools are among the worst paid set of workers in Nigeria. Ministries of Education at the state level treat secondary school teachers badly, holding on to their salaries for months; primary school teachers are worse off. School teachers deserve better wages. No doubt about that. They need to be motivated. Certainly. Official talk about the professionalisation of teaching must become concrete in form of the deepening of capacity to ensure more qualitative service delivery. These are serious issues. But the problem with the public school system is not all about the Teachers Salary Scale, as the NUT appears to be making out. By insisting on pay rise and pay rise alone and promising an Iraqi-war like operation in the school system, the protesting NUT members sound as if with more money in their pockets, all the problems in the public school system will disappear.

The NUT, in seeking public sympathy for its cause, should broaden and refine its message. What does the NUT think about the state of the schools? What is the NUT saying about the classrooms that are collapsing, and the non-availability of teaching materials including chalk and duster? Public schools have gone so bad in all parts of the country, even the teachers in those schools send their children to private schools. Once upon a time in this country, headmasters and principals had their own children on the pupils' enrolment list in the same schools where they worked. But today, both the teachers and the rest of society are avoiding public schools which have become training grounds for future miscreants and criminals. The nature of the tragedy was illustrated the other year, when a group of primary school pupils murdered their teacher for daring to reprimand a student who was cheating in the examination hall. The children accused her of desecrating a Holy Book and they descended on her until she lay dead.

Other teachers and the school Principal were helpless. What is the NUT saying about this tragic situation, whereby school pupils, barely out of their diapers have already tasted human blood, right on the hallowed grounds of a school? The NUT's voice must be heard on this and other issues relating to standards. UNESCO and the Federal Ministry of Education reckon that over 11 million Nigerian children of school age are out of school. Nigeria is far behind in meeting the medium-term Millennium Development Goals on access to education for all. At this rate, by the year 2020, Nigeria would still be facing a serious crisis in the education sector. There is a growing skills deficit in the country, a reflection of the creeping reduction in the quality of human capital and national competitiveness; the long-term effect is that Nigeria cannot be counted among the world's best 20 economies in 2020, with such a national manpower crisis. What does the NUT think? Even when its members get more money; this challenge will remain and the teachers who want heaven, here and now, must be willing to play their part.

The education bureaucracy in the public sector is organized for failure, and former Minister for Education, Oby Ezekwesili had drawn attention to this through the reform programme that was initiated during her tenure but the bureaucrats resisted the reform, and diluted the message, and promoted the more controversial aspects of the reform agenda. A reform in the nature of a state of emergency is long overdue in Nigeria's education system. NUT is complaining rightly about the arrogance of government officials. To be added to this, as footnote, however, is the seeming lack of commitment on the part of public school teachers particularly the state level. It is still possible to come across some diligent teachers within the system mostly in the model and unity schools, but generally, in many of the public primary and secondary schools, a combination of angst and frustration has driven the teachers into the habit of indifference. They arrive late, they leave early, they leave the children to their own devices. There are school teachers, struggling to make ends meet, who spend more time, running a business on the side: those who are not running a barbing salon or a pepper soup joint, operate okada or kabukabu in the evening hours. No time to prepare school lessons. Many of the teachers are unhappy with the job because they'd rather be an oil company employee, or a bank executive.

The monetisation of the Nigerian value system has destroyed the dignity of labour. Professionalism is measured only in terms of the size of the pay packet. The teachers of old, in this same country were happy to be seen to be contributing to the future of the country by helping to mould lives; today, teachers are angry with a country that demands so much, and offers little in return. Ironically, an enhanced teachers salary scale may provide fresh motivation, but it does not guarantee better performance. Making the public school system more functional, more performance-oriented will require a review of the national education philosophy, a restructuring of the curriculum and a re-definition of national manpower goals.

Further, it is not exactly clear who the target of the NUT's anger is? The NUT is heaping all blame on the Federal Government, and in so doing, it is openly side-stepping the principle of federalism. Teachers who work in state-owned schools should direct their grievances to the states. Education is on the concurrent list. But the NUT is insisting on making a good case, the bad way by arguing that its agreement with the Federal Government should be binding on the states. The body wants the Federal Government to issue a circular compelling the states to pay the new Teachers Salary Scale. The error in this logic had been pointed out before now to the NUT and its allies, but they continue to push a position that belongs to a unitary system of government. They are only being clever by half, knowing that in the present structure of education funding, the Federal Government has already by itself taken on states' responsibilities, even if this has not been backed with performance.

The NUT was led in its early years by nationalists, by men and women who wanted better welfare for teachers but who were also very strong advocates for national progress. The present crop of NUT leaders should not give the impression that they will adopt any strategy at all, fair or foul, just because they are dealing with state officials who cannot be trusted to play fair. NUT leaders have said for example that they will mobilize teachers in private schools to join the NUT strike whenever it is declared. Where is the connection? Owners of private schools are not duty bound to pay exactly the same rates as government.

The loser in all of this is Nigeria. The public school system is bad enough as it is, further disruptions within it can only worsen the situation. Government must show a keener interest in the public education system. A scrappy public education system robs the average citizen of the right to education, and significantly of access to opportunities for self-advancement. Nursery, primary and secondary school education provide the foundation for the country's manpower creation process. Its violation imperils the nation. The Federal Government must re-open dialogue with the Nigerian Union of Teachers and the states, currently playing possum in the matter, must show interest.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Hurdles for new states

STATE creation is a political exercise. It is not amenable to logic, just as non-creation of states is also politics. The constitutional encumbrances to state creation show this.

The fact that only the military, through decrees, has been able to create states emphasises the depth of the politics it involves. Agitations for more states have begun, for many, it is the only item of interest in amending the Constitution.

Constitutional provisions for state creation are so tedious that the consensus is that new states are impossible. Enormous resources would be required, and the political backing to get a state is almost forlorn.

Section 8 lists the conditions for creation of a new state. The area that wants the state would produce a request that has the support of –– at least two-thirds majority of the senators and members of the House of Representatives; the House of Assembly; and the local government councils in the area. The two-thirds majority of people from where the request originated should support the request through a referendum.

The result of the referendum requires a simple majority approval of the existing 36 states supported by a simple majority of members of the Houses of Assembly. If the area is able to secure two-thirds majority of members of each House of the National Assembly, it has a state.
Some consider these conditions too stringent. Are they meant to ensure no new states are created?

There is also the stiff consideration of what to offer other states to get their approval to create a new state.

Ethnic issues, fears of domination, creation of new minorities who would be oppressed in the new states are some of the reasons that would quench the agitations, though they may be strong cases.
No argument for new states makes much sense, except that politics itself runs without reasons. People want political offices, appointments and opportunities are only available through platforms like states and local governments. They want states to fulfil these ambitions.

Constitutional provisions like federal character have increased the importance of states for those who use politics to corner national resources, mostly for themselves. New states will create vacancies for governors, deputy governors, legislators, judicial officers, top civil servants, commissioners, local government chairmen, ambassadorial, ministerial and board appointments.

Thugs, contractors, and thieves would have more places from which to operate. While they may not be at the forefront of these agitations, they too have interests in the matter.

Senate President, David Mark has added a new requirement: the new state must be viable. If he pursues that line, many states should be shut down. The bigger problem is that there is no constitutional way of measuring “viability.”

Agitations for states are reactions to the oppressiveness of governments of exclusion that have alienated the people, as well as some members of the political class. Most state agitators, if they tell the truth, would confirm they want to be oppressors, rather than the oppressed.

Illegal funding of legislative committees

The recent directive of the Presidency to the effect that federal ministries and agencies must, henceforth, stop offering funds and acceding to financial requests from members of the National Assembly or its committees to carry out their activities is expected. It is coming at a time the N300 million unspent health ministry allocation is causing ripples in the country.

According to the circular issued by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Ambassador Babagana Kingibe, it is illegal for ministries and agencies to buy vehicles for National Assembly members or grant loans to them as the legislature has an independent budget to carry out its functions.

In recent weeks, the people of Nigeria have been inundated with the scandal on how ministry officials and their National Assembly collaborators shared N300 million which the ministry of health could not spend in the 2007 budget. Of this amount, the Senate Committee on Health as well as its House of Representatives counterpart received N10 million each for the purpose of facilitating a capacity training tour.

The unsavoury development has already led to the sack of Prof. Adenike Grange and Mr. Gabriel Aduku who were Minister of Health and Minister of State for Health respectively. They are currently standing trial on charges brought against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). The ghost of the N300 million is also haunting Senator Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello who, as chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, collected N10 million from the ministry of health.

The propriety or otherwise of national assembly committees collecting money from the ministries they are supposed to oversee on the excuse that such money is meant for capacity building or for training purpose has been a matter for heated debate. But the preponderance of opinion seems tailored towards the burden which such gratification poses on the supervising agency. The reasoning is that when a national assembly committee which is supposed to oversee the activities of a government department or parastatal collects money from such a department or agency to do its job, it compromises itself.

Chances are that it would, henceforth, lack the moral authority to ask necessary questions or query the actions or inactions of such a department.
In fact, many believe that a situation where government agencies offer funds to National Assembly Committees amounts to outright bribery. It is for reasons such as this that Grange and Aduku are being tried for financial crime, among other charges.

There is no doubt that there was nothing in our statute books before now that suggested that legislative committees are at liberty to receive gratis of this nature from the executive branch of government. It is just that Nigerians have a way of circumventing the rules and treating such acts as normal.
It is situations such as this that have now implicated those who have been charged by the EFCC. It is therefore necessary for government to issue a clear directive on this illegal practice so that defaulters will no longer pretend as if they are ignorant of the law or the rules and regulations. For this reason, the directive from the office of the SGF is in order and very welcome.

Before now, there have been a lot of abuses in this regard. Many untoward things have taken place between the executive and legislative arms of government. Where there were supposed to be checks and balances, there have been compromises and undue fusion of roles. This is most reprehensible. It negates the essential ingredients of the principle of separation of powers.

Even though this practice was commonplace before now, those who have been abusing the system were still quick to pay lip service to public service and the job they were assigned to do. We have had enough of this brazen deceit. We just hope that the trial of those who have been arraigned over the N300 million scam will serve as a deterrent to others who may want to toe their dishonourable path. But the directive from the Presidency on the issue will tie the loose ends so that future violators will not seek alibi on the altar of ignorance.

Escalating price of diesel

The nation’s march to industrialization might be heading to the rocks if nothing is urgently done to halt the rise in the pump price of diesel. Before the recent leap in its price to a record high of about N135 per litre, diesel was sold at about N90 per litre.

The effect of this unofficial increase is already telling on the industrial and transport sectors of the economy that depend solely on diesel for their operations. Individual consumers are also ill at ease with the situation.

According to reports, industrialists are already groaning over the escalating price of diesel in view of the fact that their machines run on diesel on a daily basis given the near absence of electric power supply.

Reasons advanced for the ugly development range from the poor performance of the nation’s refineries at Warri and Port Harcourt to the fact that most of the functional refineries are performing below their installed capacities. As a result of these pitfalls, they have been unable to produce both the Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) and diesel at the same time.

The situation is so bad that marketers who had stationed their tankers for weeks at both refineries have been unable to load the product owing mainly to non-availability. There are also fears that the nation may run out of supply of diesel if the few marketers currently selling run out of stock.
We therefore call on the government to quickly intervene before the situation gets out of hand. Leaving the matter unattended to would definitely lead to hike in prices of goods and services. Such a trend is likely to worsen the rate of inflation in the country.

The economic crisis the situation would degenerate to, if left unchecked, would have deleterious effect on other sectors of the economy. Therefore, the government should work assiduously and make our electricity to work at optimum level. If the nation’s power generating utility had been up and doing, there would be little or no need for industries to run on generators.

The current sharp rise in the price of diesel might be a reaction to the increasing rise in the price of crude oil in the international market. But Nigeria’s case is made worse by the low performance of our existing refineries and our dependence on importation of refined petroleum products, including diesel.
It is ironical that a major producer and exporter of crude oil like Nigeria would depend on importation for its domestic petroleum products needs.

The government’s silence on the matter is dangerous. It is a flagrant display of high insensitivity to a national need that borders on our industrial growth and development. The government, rather than keep mute on the matter, should explain to Nigerians what is responsible for the hike in price of diesel. Nigerians deserve the right to be told what is really happening.

To halt the increase in the pump price of diesel, government should strive to make our refineries to work at installed capacity. It should also create the enabling environment for private refineries to come on stream. Above all, it should overhaul the nation’s refineries especially through the Turn Around Maintenance scheme with a view to making them efficient and productive.

Address teachers’ demands

The recent 3–day warning strike embarked on by primary and secondary school teachers in the country to press for the implementation of a Teachers Salary Scale (TSS) deserves the urgent attention and intervention of the appropriate authorities and all lovers of education and the young in Nigeria. The strike, which kicked off on Wednesday, June 11, 2008, led to the suspension of teaching in all primary and secondary schools in the country.It also caused an abrupt postponement of the on–going Senior Secondary School CertificateExaminations (SSSCE) of the National Examinations Council (NECO).

The strike followed the 21–-day ultimatum given to the Federal Government to conclude negotiations with the teachers over the implementation of the TSS. A last ditch effort to stave off the strike on June 10 ended in a deadlock as the Federal Government declined to issue a circular to the state governments to implement the TSS. Public school children were found loitering around while the strike lasted even as the umbrella body of teachers, the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), has threatened a full–blown strike if its demands are not met.

The problem of the poor remuneration of school teachers has remained legendary and intractable over the years. The problem, this time around, may be more protracted as the Federal Government has declined to compel the state governments to implement the TSS as demanded by the NUT.
The Minister of Education, Dr. Igwe Aja–Nwachukwu, on June 11 described the teachers’ resort to a nationwide strike as unnecessary because the Federal Government could not compel the states on what salaries to pay their teachers because secondary and primary school education, under the 1999 Constitution, is on the concurrent list, thereby making the running of schools and the payment of teachers, at that level, the responsibility of the states and local governments.

The minister insisted that the Federal Government would not negotiate teachers’ salaries for state governments because it could not determine their ability to pay. He urged the teachers to negotiate the TSS directly with their individual state governments while the Federal Government concerns itself with the payment of the new salary scheme to teachers in the Federal Government Colleges.

Aja-Nwachukwu, who spoke to journalists after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting in Abuja, said the government was not disturbed over the warning strike as it had no mandate to direct state governments on the salaries they should pay to teachers under their jurisdiction but could only act as arbiters in the negotiation.

The resort to a nationwide strike by teachers, which left schools closed and sent schoolchildren home, is a sad development. The disruption of the NECO examinations, so soon after the recently concluded West African Senior Secondary Schools Certificate Examinations (WASSCE) examinations were severely marred by a spate of cancellations and postponements on account of leakage of examination question papers, is regrettable.

It is unacceptable that school children in Nigeria are made to bear the brunt of government’s dithering over the problem of proper funding of education. What the recent strike points to is the levity with which issues pertaining to the education of children in the country has been handled over the years and up till the present moment.

But education, in our view, is too important an issue to be fiddled with for any reason at all whatsoever. The statement of the education minister that the Federal Government is not bothered about the strike is, therefore, unacceptable and inexcusable. Our view is that the federal government should be sorely troubled by any problem that will keep Nigerian children out of school when they should be at their desks.

Nigeria cannot afford any instability in the education sector, with its deleterious effects on the psyche, morals, discipline and ultimate academic performance of pupils at this time. The federal government should therefore work for a quick resolution of the impasse through proper arbitration between the state governments and the NUT to ensure the implementation of the TSS across the country.

Everything should be done to avoid a full–blown teachers’ strike, even as government works harder to address the other problems of poor funding, dilapidated infrastructure and other facilities in schools, to provide an enabling environment for learning. We also enjoin teachers to give good service for the money they earn. The imperative of a solid educational foundation for Nigerian children to be able to operate in an increasingly competitive world cannot be over-emphasized.

The World Book Day

On April the 23rd 2008, I had the privilege of participating in a round table discussion on education at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs in an event organized by the Pulitzar Reading Club of Nigeria. Professor Grace Alele Williams was also a Special Guest at that event and performed the Investiture of Professor Joy Ogwu as patron of the club. Professor Ogwu however couldn’t make it but was ably represented.

The deputy governor of Lagos State also sent her representative. Notwithstanding, the event was low keyed as many of the invitees didn’t show up. Apart from the NTA, the press was not present either to cover the event. The whole thing brought to the fore the stark reality of Nigeria today in so far as education is concerned. It is a sad pointer to the low value we ascribe to education in this country. As I reminiscence on the events of that day, I kept asking myself, what is the purpose of education and where have we missed it as a nation?

Education I believe has a two-fold function of culture and utility in the life of man and society. Education must make a man to be more effective to pursue the legitimate goals of his life with adroitness. Similarly, education must enable a man to think scientifically and logically in order to discern the truth from the lie, the facts from the fiction and the real from the unreal and to liberate him from the morass of propaganda and the legions of half-truths.

To think decisively and for oneself is quite difficult indeed, thus education must equip a man with the ability to think resolutely and incisively as well as think intensively, critically and efficiently. There are people with the mistaken belief that education should help them to oppress the disadvantaged, and to supply them with great ends rather than means to an end. I agree with Martin Luther King Jr that: Education which stops at efficiency may prove the greatest menace to society. The most dangerous criminal may be the man gifted with reason but with no morals…We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character-that is the goal of true education. The complete education gives one not only the power of concentration, but worthy objectives upon which to concentrate. The broad education will, therefore, transmit to one not only the accumulated knowledge of the race but also the accumulated experience of social living.

Perhaps it is more appropriate to even first of all define what education is: The word education is coined from the word educate which in turn is derived from the Latin word ‘educo’ meaning to educe, to draw out, to develop from within. In Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill argued that: An educated man is not necessarily, one who has an abundance of general or specialized knowledge. An educated man is one who has so developed the faculties of his mind that he may acquire anything he wants, or its equivalent, without violating the rights of others. In the preceding paragraphs he had said that knowledge is not power but potential power and it becomes power only when, and if, it is organized into definite plans of action, and directed to a definite end.

He then said it is this missing link in all systems of education known to civilization today that may be found in the failure of educational institutions to teach their students how to organize and use knowledge after they acquire it. There is no disputing the fact that our educational system is lying moribund today due mainly to inept governance over the years and partly to a society that has come to place more value on paper qualifications than on quality training. Since 1985, government has repeatedly cut down budgetary allocation to education and has even stopped subsidizing it.

The 191 countries including Nigeria that ratified the UN Convention on the rights of the Child are under legal obligation to provide free and compulsory primary education to all. In the same vein, the 1997 Addis Ababa Convention sponsored by ECA, UNICEF and the World Bank stipulates that primary education and basic health services should either be free or heavily subsidized, but again and again, Nigeria has defaulted on this promissory note. Our States and Federal Institutions of Higher Learning have become mere consulting rooms. Government especially from the last Administration has increasingly embarked on commercialization of education with granting of licenses to corporate individuals and organizations including the churches.

The emerged private universities had done nothing but worsen the System with tuition fees between N400, 000 and N600, 000 that over 80percent of Nigerians cannot afford. The church whose traditional purpose from God is to imbue men with the bread of hope, faith and love has been more culpable in these respects. About 90percent of Nigerians received less than N400, 000 per annum and each family has at least three children. How can they afford to send even one of their wards to these schools with such salaries? Such is our society today.

History tells us that nations neither developed nor integrate into global markets without first equipping their citizenry with the requisite skills provided by education. Moreover, education is a fundamental human right; if not the most human of all human rights because it is reading and writing that set human beings apart from all other creatures. Without it, the people will be held down, intellectually starved and mentally retarded. Natural resources will not develop us; only human capital development will. These account for why Africa, though home to 40 percent of the world natural resources remains the poorest continent. I submit that the Millennium Development (Education) Goals or the Vision 2020 will be a mirage if we don’t re-define our values as a nation and change our perspective on education.

The new Customs Service

The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has, in recent weeks, witnessed two major changes. The first was the removal of Elder Jacob Gyang Buba as the Controller General of Customs and his replacement with Alhaji Hamman Bello Ahmed. Buba was removed in controversial circumstances following allegations that bordered on misappropriation and misapplication of funds. He is currently being probed by the House of Representatives for these and related allegations.

The second is the restructuring of the NCS into four departments, namely, Corporate Support Service, Strategic Research and Policy, Tariff and Trade and Enforcement, Investigation and Inspection. The restructuring followed government’s acceptance of the recommendation of the World Customs Organisation (WCO’s) strategic plan to review the structure put in place through the 2004 Presidential Committee on Customs.

To lend impetus to the restructuring, a new management team headed by the Controller General himself has been put in place, while eight Deputy Controllers General were retired. The overall objective is to see a new customs service that will readily meet the demands of the 21st Century.
We welcome these changes in so far as they will advance the fortunes of the NCS. The service, over the years, has been saddled with stories of corruption and sharp practices. The impression most members of the public have of the service is that of a money spinner whose fortunes are largely drained and appropriated by its officers and men.

However, the story was expected to change following the declarations and avowals made by the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo on anti-corruption. It was on the basis of the need to wean the service of its old ways that the then government set up the Presidential Committee on Customs. The structure put in place then by Buba and his team may have made its impact. But it would appear that it left a number of loopholes which still needed to be plugged. This, no doubt, has necessitated the recommendation of the WCO that the 2004 Presidential Committee on Customs be reviewed. The new customs under Alhaji Ahmed can be said to be the logical outcome of government’s acceptance of the WCO recommendation.

We wish the new customs boss and his management team well in their new assignment. They have a responsibility to succeed where their predecessors failed. The problem with most government departments is not really the absence of sound ideas to drive them but the lack of commitment on the part of those who should get those ideas to work.

There is no doubt that the Presidential committee which operated under Buba made some recognisable effort to re-position the customs service especially as it concerns contraband goods, but if the idea did not go far enough or bring about the much expected positive changes, that could be traced to the lapses in the system they operated. The new management under Ahmed should therefore learn from the mistakes of the past.

The new team should see the responsibility entrusted upon them as a historic one. Let us, for once, experience a new day in the service. They should therefore regard their assignment as a sacred duty to the nation. We expect them not to abdicate this responsibility. In an economy that is desperate for growth, a well managed customs service can deliver the much needed boost which Nigeria’s economy needs. The new management team should therefore strive to leave a legacy of hope on which a new customs service can be built.

While welcoming Alhaji Ahmed, we note with dissatisfaction the decision by government to sack his predecessor, Elder Buba. Going by what the public have been made to understand, Buba has charges of corruption levelled against him. But none of the allegations have been proved as yet. At best, they are sill at the level of investigation .

We therefore expect that Buba should be assumed to be innocent until the contrary is proved. Consequently, he should not have been sacked. But the pronouncement made about him carries a stigma which should have waited until he is found guilty. What Buba deserves at this stage should have been a suspension pending the conclusion of investigations. As it is now, the former Customs boss has been assumed to be guilty even before he is proved to be so. Such indecent haste should not be applied in public service or any human endeavour for that matter.