Friday, November 23, 2018 is one date that will linger in the minds of Rivers people, particularly residents of Port Harcourt, as well as those living and doing business there for a long time. It may be described as the most tragic news of building collapse in the annals of the oil and gas-rich city.
Lately, just when the usual crowd that trooped daily to the site of the unfortunate incident such as families of trapped victims, sympathizers and passers-by have reduced as hopes of finding more bodies dimmed, the unexpected happened. Rescuers pulled out two more decomposing bodies from the rubbles, precisely on Friday, December 7, 2018.
This brings the number of deaths, so far, to 12 while more than 31 persons were rescued alive since that ill-fated incident which affected the mood of the state.
According to Monday Kalio, coordinator of the volunteer works at the site, who confirmed the recovery, the decomposing body of a middle-aged man was found about 3 am, last Friday and deposited at a mortuary in Port Harcourt.
Kalio said, “We have recovered 41 bodies. Ten are dead and 31 are alive,” even as he asked that more hand gloves and nose masks should be provided for the rescuers. But a day after Kalio spoke to newsmen, two more decomposing bodies were found same day, one in the wee hours of the morning, the other in the night.
Rescuers who have been having a hectic time searching for remains of victims complained that some of the equipment used for the rescue operation have gone bad, in addition to not having access to food and water which they said was hindering rescue efforts.
However, about nine heavy-duty equipment remain at the scene where rescue operations are still on-going with workers digging two large holes to the collapsed building in order to gain access into the underground area where some trapped workers are expected to be.
Two of the workers who did not want their names mentioned appealed to the state government and companies to provide more equipment to enhance the rescue operations.
Families of workers still trapped in the collapsed building remained hopeful as some of them who spoke to The Tide commended the rescue work done so far, saying the work attitude of the rescue workers have improved. Although 12 lifeless bodies have been removed from the rubbles, more persons may still be trapped inside the wreckage. But at this stage it might take more than a miracle or another world wonder to find more survivors as rescuers and volunteers are still undaunted in their task of clear, search and hopefully find….
Members of the Rotary Club of Port Harcourt Gateway have been on hand providing social services like food and water for rescue workers and volunteers, assuring that it would continue to give necessary aid to rescuers at the scene of the collapse building.
President-elect of Rotary Club of Port Harcourt Gateway, Arinze Akupue, while speaking to newsmen urged the rescuers to double their efforts in ensuring that more trapped workers, including one of its members, Rotarian Morgan Ekene Ihionu, are rescued.
Akupue said it was disheartening that some family members of those trapped in the rubble were yet to leave the scene several days after the 7-storey building caved in.
The state Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, said recently that initial investigations had shown that the building permit obtained by the owner of the structure in 2014 was for a 5-storey building, but that in September 2018, a permit for a 7-storey building was issued by a government official. Already, the state Commissioner for Urban Development and Physical Planning, Dr Reason Onya, had stepped aside to allow for unimpeded investigation into the cause(s) of the incident.
Despite digging two large holes, rescue workers have not been able to gain access to the underground parts of the collapsed building, though most of the rubbles have been cleared by the worker, even as the perimeter created at the scene have been reduced to allow business owners within the area to have access to their shops and stalls.
Chairman, Port Harcourt Division of the Nigerian Red Cross Society, Mr. Yibotemeka Kalio, said rescuers have two more floors to crack in order to gain access to the underground parts of the failed building believed to be housing more trapped workers.
Kalio said, “The site has been divided into three. The first site we have cleared and we have done searches. On the second side they are cutting off the iron rods. What we have left here now are two floors. That is why they (workers) are cutting off the iron rods so that they can crack and we can go in and do our search and rescue.
Asked about the possibility of finding more victims alive, he retorted, “Honestly and sincerely we are still hopeful. The possibility is still there that we may see some living cases to rescue and then possibly some other cases to recover.”
But who are the casualties of this hapless incident. Like prominent Nigerian author, John Pepper Clark, wrote in one of his celebrated poems ‘The Casualties’ were he made reference to the many casualties (victims, if you like) of the Nigerian Civil war. Indeed the casualties are not only those who died. Neither is it only families of diseased persons nor their loved ones. Though the circumstances seems dissimilar, but war, like accident, the latter been the case of that Port Harcourt collapsed building, usually results in ‘weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth’ if the scale of a 7-storey building collapse with many workers on site is anything to go by.
Some of the lines of that classic poem in no particular order read thus: ‘The casualties are not only those who are dead. ‘They are well out of it. ‘Though they await burial by installment.
‘The casualties are not only those who have lost Persons or property, hard as it is To grope for a touch that some
May not know is not there.
‘The casualties are many, and a good member as well
Outside the scenes of ravage and wreck.
We are all casualties!”
Indeed, the casualties are many! For nothing else, the serenity of Port Harcourt, Nigeria’s Garden City was shattered by news of the collapsed building under construction with many workers trapped in it. People made distress and frantic calls depending on which side of the divide. One needed to have seen how many a resident of the metropolis trooped there from far and near to ascertain if what they heard was true. Indeed, the casualties are many.
Without a doubt, Dr. Onya should be commended for rising to the occasion by stepping down to ensure an unimpeded investigation into the incident. Like the rest of us, he too is a casualty.
Governor Wike himself is a casualty, having cut short his trip abroad in response to a call of duty in his immediate vicinity as the chief security officer of the state, not minding that he has able hands such as his deputy, Dr Ipalibo Harry-Banigo, who in the governor’s absence led relevant members of the state executive council daily to the scene with strong assurances that the state government would institute a probe into the cause of the tragedy.
The state Commissioner for Special Duties, Dr. John Basia, his Environment counterpart, Dr Roselyn Konya, as well as the Commissioner for Health, Prof. Princewill Chike, temporarily relocated to the site of the collapsed building as they were seen there daily attending and responding to issues.
It was gathered that when the governor returned from his trip, he immediately dashed to the scene of the incident with his wife, Justice Eberechi Suzzette Nyesom-Wike, where upon he commiserated with the families of those who lost their loved ones, who, according to him, had gone there to work in order to provide for their families.
Wike described the building collapse as a sad development, saying, “I feel so pained that we have to face this kind of calamity at this time. I commiserate with the families that have lost their loved ones who came to seek their daily bread. Government will do all it can to give them the necessary support.
“I have directed the Attorney-General of Rivers State to ensure that all legal steps are taken to do what is right within the ambit of the law,” the governor stated, even as he ordered the immediate arrest of the owner of the collapsed building, saying that the State Government will bring all culprits to book.
“Whoever is involved, from the owner or the contractor to the officials of the state, they will face the full weight of the law. Government will take steps to acquire this property. We cannot allow this illegality. If you look at the master plan of this area, a 7-storey building is not allowed here,” he said, and commended the construction giants, security agencies and non-governmental organizations for working with the Rivers State Government in carrying out rescue operations at the site of the incident.
Some 24 hours after the governor’s arrest order, spokesman of the State Police Command, Nnamdi Omoni, confirmed the arrest of the owner of the structure, adding that any official of the state government found to have been involved in the incident, one way or the other, would be invited for interrogation and possible arrest.
In the same vein, leader of the Rivers State House of Assembly, Hon. Martins Amaehule, who led other lawmakers to the site of the incident, stated that the state legislature will resume plenary immediately to look into the matter and enact laws that will monitor construction of buildings in the state.
“Investigations need to be carried out and I can assure you that the Rivers State House of Assembly will reconvene to carry out proper investigation to ascertain what happened here. Be assured that in the coming days we will sit and review the situation,” the House leader said.
Already, the governor on Tuesday, December 4, made good his promise of instituting a commission of inquiry led by Justice Adolphus Enebeli to investigate the collapsed 7-storey building during a brief ceremony in Government House, Port Harcourt, with a charge to identify the owner of the building and the holder of the certificate of occupancy, according to a statement issued by the Special Assistant to the Governor on Electronic Media, Simeon Nwakaudu.
To be cont’d.
The governor’s charge reads, “To ascertain/identify the owner, developer and/or holder of the certificate of occupancy over and in respect of all that piece or parcel of land situate and lying at 119 Woji Road, (Plot 80), GRA Phase 2, Port Harcourt.
“Ascertain whether the construction of the 7—storey building on the said 119 Woji Road is covered by any valid or approved building plan and/or whether requisite approvals were issued by the appropriate ministry or agency of the Rivers State Government prior to the commencement of construction “.
The governor also charged the Commission of Inquiry to ascertain whether the architectural, engineering and structural designs of the said building were undertaken by competent and licensed experts in relevant fields.
He further charged the commission to ascertain whether appropriate/necessary tests, including soil tests, were carried out to ascertain the suitability of the site for construction of a building of that size.
Responding, Justice Adolphus Enebeli assured the governor that the commission will execute its assignment with the needed timeliness and in line with the law; adding that they will not disappoint the Government and people of Rivers State because the assignment touches the essence of humanity.
Meanwhile, stakeholders in the built industry all supported the governor’s decision to probe the incident, even as they have gone a step further to give expert advice to forestall future occurrences; in addition to commending the state government for its quick response to the incident which according to them saved many lives.
One of such is the Nigerian Institute of Town Planners (NITP) in a nine-point statement jointly signed by Tete Inameti and Emmanuel Ikechukwu, chairman and secretary of the body in Rivers State respectively and obtained by The Tide, as they called for regular audit of building structures in the state to authenticate their integrity.
While noting that though building approval agencies have always been the immediate targets of blame, the NITP said it that the public should realise that approval of building plan is a joint responsibility of all the relevant professionals in the built environment. You see, they too, like other relevant professionals bodies, are casualties.
The statement reads, “We (NITP) have been inundated with distress calls as a result of the collapse of a 7-storey building under construction along Woji Road in GRA, phase 2, Port Harcourt.
“While appreciating the calls from the public and the print and electronic media, the institute commiserates with the Governor of Rivers State, the people of the state and the families of victims of the collapse building.”
The institute noted that the tragic incident is a wake-up call to all professionals in the built environment to demonstrate the requisite professional standards and commitment to put a stop to quackery in the state, even as it called for strict penalties for those responsible for the sad incident no matter how highly placed to deter future occurrences.
The statement reads, “That town planners should be adequately staffed and equipped with professionals in the construction industry for effective routine supervision and monitoring of project sites during and after construction.
“Government should implement the Rivers State Physical Planning and Development Law No 6 of 2003 by establishing Local Planning Authorities in all 23 local government areas of the state, as well as a physical planning board at the state levels of plan approval so as to reduce the workload on the Ministry of Urban Development.
“Construction work should only be carried out by registered contractors and supervised by registered architects, engineers and builders rather than engaging unskilled contractors, while clients should obtain approvals before they begin construction and should not develop at variance with the approved plan,” the state NITP said.
On their part, the Nigerian Institute of Builders called on the State Government to set up a building control agency that will oversee building constructions in the state.
Rivers State Chairman, Nigerian Institute of Builders, Akinola Bammeke in his reaction to the November 23, 2018 tragedy further said, “What has happened is very unfortunate. One of the ways to check this kind of incidents is for the state government to set up a building control agency that will monitor building projects all through the various stages of construction,”
Bammeke also said the State House of Assembly needs to review ‘existing’ obsolete building laws to ensure that only professionals engage in construction of houses in state to avert such incidents.
In the same vein, the Nigerian Institution of Architects (NIA) led by the Rivers State Chairman, Egbuonu Asomba said only a proper probe can unravel the circumstance behind the incident.
Asomba said, “When a building collapses there are so many possible reasons for building collapse. You have to start looking at whether a proper soil test was conducted from the outset.
“Then you should also ensure that the proper design by professionals are involved at the design process. From the design of the building up to sending it for approval.
“I expect a lot more diligence, a lot more participation by every section of the brick environment. The professional architect, the professional structural engineer and every other professional must be involved to ensure that the right thing is done,” the State NIA boss said.
While the various steps taken by the state government so far in getting to the root of the matter are noble, the myriad of professional advise given by stakeholders in the built industry are very important lessons and instructions to the relevant authorities. For now, everyone should hold their horses and heave a sigh of relief, while awaiting the findings/report of the Justice led panel of inquiry; for we are all casualties of Friday, November 23, 2018, one way or the other.
By: Dennis Naku
Mitigating Climate Change Effects Via Legislation
Undoubtedly climate change is one of the biggest threats facing humanity today. Environmental experts also say that Nigeria is vulnerable to the effects of climate change because of the country’s low response capability.
They cautioned that climate change and global warming, if left unchecked, would cause more adverse effects on livelihoods of most Nigerians who are already living in abject poverty.
According to an environmentalist, Oyeniyan Olagunju, Nigeria is highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and must, therefore, as a matter of urgency take steps to reduce vulnerability, build resilience and adaptive capacity.
Olagunju said that while climate change constitutes environmental threat of the 21st Century, the current experience, alongside its adversity, has left Nigeria with no better option than to seek immediate measures to adapt and mitigate impacts.
According to him, climate change has negatively affected Nigerian economy, with various observable impacts, ranging from significant reduction in agricultural productivity to increase the morbidity and mortality rates.
“The energy sector is not left out, because climate change has impacted the hydropower plants which are sources of electricity for the country.
“Others like the transportation, tourism and manufacturing sectors are affected which in turn pose threat to the overall economy,’’ Olagunju said.
He said that a study conducted by the Department for International Development (DFID), confirmed that climate change would cost Nigeria between six and 30 per cent of its GDP by 2050, with estimated loss of between 100 billion dollars and 460 billion dollars.
“Currently, the erosion of low-lying coastal and non-coastal regions of Nigeria results in persistent buildings collapse, with attendant loss of lives.
“Of important concern also are the drying lakes in Nigeria, especially the Lake Chad, which is at the junction of Chad, Cameroon, Nigeria and Niger, as a valid reference point,’’ Olagunju said.
A recent report by the Institute for Public Policy Analysis and Management revealed that by 2020, Nigeria stands to lose 11 per cent of its GDP to climate change in absence of an aggressive climate policy to sustain the social and economic development in the country.
Rep. Sam Onuigbo, the lawmaker representing Ikwuano /Umuahia North/Umuahia South Federal Constituency of Abia State, in the House of Representatives, said that there was need to domesticate global instruments, in order to combat the effects climate change in Nigeria.
Onuigbo expressed worry over the absence of a legal framework on climate change, which he identified as critical for the conservation of nature and protection of the country’s natural resources and environment.
He also expressed dismay that the Climate Change Bill, which he sponsored while he was the Chairman, House Committee on Climate Change, during the 8th National Assembly, did not receive presidential assent after its passage.
“I have not given up on the Climate Change Bill because I have been able to rework it and represent it, and I am happy that the bill has gone through first reading in the House of Representatives,’’ the legislator said.
He expressed optimism that the reintroduced bill would receive presidential assent with a view to aid in mitigating the effects of climate change in the country.
“With the awareness that we all have shown in matters concerning climate change, ecology, and how we can work towards sustainable development, I am optimistic that this time there will be good advisers around Mr President.
“It is important to tell him why it is absolutely important to sign the bill,’’ Onuigbo said.
He emphasised that the bill still focuses on mainstreaming government actions and responses into policy formulation and implementation and the need to establish the national council on climate change.
The lawmaker said that besides proposing for a council, the bill also proposes an agency to drive efforts to checkmate the devastating effects of climate change in the country.
Onuigbo, who is also the Vice-President of Globe International (Africa), promised to work with other legislators to initiate policies and bills that would ensure reduction of ecosystem degradation and Green House Gas emissions.
Globe, is legislators’ organisation that supports parliamentarians to develop legislative response to the challenges posed by development.
Onuigbo, however, pledged to use his position to draw international and national attention to the strengthening of Globe in Nigeria, in order to provide added urgency to the country’s drive to protect the environment.
He said that President Muhammadu Buhari had made a commitment to the cause by signing the Paris Agreement on Climate Change on September 22, 2016, “and committing severally in many international discussions that Nigeria must address climate change issues.
“It is hoped that by the end of my tenure, natural capital governance would have been worked into government policies and financial permutations and projections.
“It is also hoped that more attention will be paid to renewable energy sources,’’ Onuigbo said.
He called for increased awareness to sensitise people to understand the need to do away with activities that impact negatively on the environment.
While pointing out the need to do away with non-degradable materials, Onuigbo canvassed for the adoption of improved agricultural systems for both crops and livestock.
A lecturer in the Department of Demography and Social Statistics, Federal University, Birnin Kebbi,Mr Abbani Yakubu, stressed the need for government and relevant stakeholders to extensively fund researches in climate change.
According to him, it is very necessary because climate change affects all.
“It impacts on our daily lives and affects food security, which the government is trying to achieve in the country.
“Research is very integral to solving climate change problems.
“We need to understand the extent to which it is affecting human lives.
“Efficient database management system on climate change occurrence and related events should be developed, in order to ensure effective and timely response to climate change incidents in Nigeria,’’ Yakubu said.
It would be recalled that the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said that the world must cut its carbon dioxide emissions to net zero by 2050 in order to prevent global warming of 1.5°C, or likely more, above pre-industrial levels.
In its 2019 seasonal rainfall prediction, the Nigeria Meteorological Agency (NiMet), said that it would be another hot year.
The mean annual variability and trend of rainfall over Nigeria in the last six decades, depicts several inter-annual fluctuations that have been responsible for dry and wet years or extreme climate events, such as droughts and floods in many parts of the country.
NiMet also predicted that, as a result of these climatic conditions, incidences of malaria and other diseases will be higher in areas with temperatures ranging between 18 °C to 32 °C and with humidity above 60 per cent.
“More worrisome is the increasing knowledge that the country will be subject to consistent changes in rainfall and temperatures in the not-so-distant future.
“Hotter and drier conditions would likely exacerbate droughts and heat waves and hamper agricultural production, particularly rain-fed agriculture, which many Nigerians rely on for their livelihoods,’’ a farmer, Mr Ndifereke Akpan, said.
While identifying that agriculture accounts for around 23 per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product, Akpan said that progress could be hampered if the trend was not checked.
“Unless we take action, these trends are likely to jeopardize hard-won progress.
“Already, climate-induced conflicts are exacerbating fragile security situations, with flashpoints mainly in the middle belt of the country.
“Climate change, therefore, poses a significant threat to Nigeria’s development ambition of meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and could stunt and even reverse the progress that has already been made,’’ Akpan said.
With enforceable legislation in place, Nigeria will effectively mitigate the adverse effects of climate change and global warming.
Uwadileke writes for the News Agency of Nigeria.
Lest We Forget Dim Ojukwu
Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, a man of reputation and influence, warlord, people’s general and leader died in a London hospital on November 26, 2011 after he was struck with a complicated stroke. He was given a state-cum-military burial on March 2, 2012 by Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, former President of Nigeria. It is now eight years since he took a bow, bade us goodbye and departed this mortal world after he had played his parts in the affairs of the Igbo nation and Nigeria.
Ojukwu was an exceptionally intelligent, dauntless and courageous leader. He was the first Nigerian to be enlisted in the Nigerian military with a Master’s degree, the first African to pass the Joint Services Course at Latimer, England. He was the first military instructor of the Nigerian Army, the first Nigerian Quartermaster-General of the Nigerian Army, the first Military Governor of the Eastern Region and the first regional leader in Nigeria to confront, challenge the Federal Government of Nigeria and prosecuted a war that held Nigeria captive for 30 months over the perceived injustice meted on Ndigbo and the massacre of people of Eastern Nigerian extraction nationwide.
He was a defender, a crusader and advocate of justice, people’s rights and good governance in Nigeria. So, his absence for the past eight years is seriously felt by all who admired his doughty spirit, especially now that the issue of Biafra, a country he attempted to create out of Nigeria, is fully resurrected and is making wave in the world. Who knows what would have been his contribution and moral support to Biafra and its agitators. What would have been his stand on controversial issues such as rural grazing areas (RUGA), restructuring, Ibo presidency in 2023, Python dance which is reported to have claimed many innocent lives of Ndigbo in Umuahia. We missed all that. Infact, we are short-changed by his death.
Chief Ralph Uwazuruike, Ojukwu’s bosom friend and a man who kept the spirit of Biafra alive, said few days after the death of Ojukwu that when he heard that he was stricken with the dreaded stroke, he and some members of the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) went to his Casabianca residence in Enugu to see him, to commiserate and wish him speed recovery. He said when they got there and saw Ojukwu, he was really in a bad state. He said he hailed him (Ojukwu) as usual with all his intimidating chieftaincy titles, such as Ikemba Nnewi, Dike Dioranma Ndigbo, Eze Igbo Gburugburu and other titles, he did not respond to any. He said he was alarmed. He then joked and told him that he was a handsome man. It was then he responded by asking whether he would be handsome in the coffin. Uwazuruike said that he was shocked and devastated by such a response. Thereafter, he asked Ojukwu what he meant by being handsome in the coffin, there was no response. The MASSOB leader said it was then he knew that Ojukwu would not survive. Ojukwu eventually died in the United Kingdom where he had gone for a medical treatment on November 26, 2011.
Truly, Ojukwu became handsome in the coffin. As a historian, what was paramount in Ojukwu’s mind in his sick bed was how people and history would place or perceive him as regards his involvement in the civil war that claimed millions of lives and destroyed properties worth billions of naira. That was why he asked his friend Uwazuruike whether he would be handsome in the coffin. However, people and history proved kind to him. He was eulogized, idolized, honoured and dramatized while in the coffin. Ojukwu was, indeed, handsome in the coffin.
There was an unprecedented outpouring of affection and admiration for him. There were celebrations everywhere in Nigeria and beyond. Even the truth about the Nigeria-Biafra Civil War and the patriotic roles he played to avert it was told for the first time in 42 years after the end of the war. Everyone who spoke unanimously agreed that he was a man of peace, vision and foresight. They consented that his postulations as enunciated in the Aburi Accord was the finest and the greatest for the unity and development of Nigeria.
They averred that if the then Federal Government had abided by the accord, there wouldn’t have been a civil war and that Nigeria would have been a better place to live in today. The restructuring of the country which Nigerians are clamouring today was a major menu in the Aburi Accord. So, what Ojukwu saw many years back is what Nigerians are seeing and agitating today. What a visionary and foresighted leader? Again, they agreed that he was an enigma, the people’s general and a leader whose exemplary leadership virtues should be emulated by all Nigerians.
He was exonerated from being among the coup plotters nor supported the January 1966 coup that shutdown the corrupt First Republic and led to civil war. He was the commander of the Fifth Battalion of the Nigerian Army stationed in Kano where he succeeded in ensuring that the coup plotters and their cohorts did not infiltrate the. That remarkable achievement earned him the respect and admiration of the then Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero, and his subjects. It also earned him an enduring friendship with the Emir and people of Kano.
Ojukwu was honoured by the Nigerian military during his burial. They carried his lifeless body from Abuja to Owerri, Aba, Enugu, Awka and kept vigil throughout the burial. Ojukwu, no doubt, deserved the honour. He brought dignity, honour and prestige to the Nigerian military. Apart from being one of the few Nigerian military officers that built the Nigerian military, Ojukwu brought respect to the force when as a Master’s degree holder (obtained from the prestigious Oxford University in England) and son of a millionaire he joined the military as a lowly ranked soldier.
Before then, the military was largely seen as an institution for school dropouts and wayward children. But Ojukwu’s enlistment erased that erroneous notion and encouraged many educated Nigerians to join the military. So, he deserved whatever honour and respect the Nigerian military accorded him during the burial. He was a great man in all ramifications.
Ojukwu, a charismatic leader, was born in Zungeru, now in Niger State in 1933 to Sir and Lady Louis Philip Odumegwu Ojukwu, the first African millionaire. In 1944, at the tender age of 11, Ojukwu was admitted into the prestigious Kings’ College, Lagos after completing his primary education at St. Patrick’s Primary School, Lagos. And in 1946, two years after, and at the age of 13, the brilliant boy was sent to England where he enrolled in Epsom College, Surrey, to continue and complete his secondary education.
On completion of his secondary education, he was admitted into an elitist Oxford University, United Kingdom. Strong and determined, little Ojukwu shunned the comfort of his millionaire father’s home, ignored the devastating British cold weather, strange environment and ubiquitious white faces, persevered and graduated with a Master’s degree in Modern History.
He returned to Nigeria in 1956 and joined the civil service of the colonial government of the then Eastern Region as a district officer. A year after, precisely in 1957, the restless Ojukwu left the civil service and joined the Nigerian Army; thus becoming one of the first university graduates to be enlisted in the Nigerian military. There, he made a super and brilliant military career and left a unique imprint on the sands of time.
Ojukwu was an elder statesman and politician. He was the founder, political leader and presidential candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in 2003. His party came third among the 30 political parties that participated in the elections. Former President Goodluck Jonathan honoured him with a state-cum-military burial. By that, he partially ended the civil war and equally endorsed General Yakubu Gowon’s famous declaration of No victor, no vanquished. The final fulfillment of all this will, indeed, be when an Igbo man is elected as president of Nigeria, 50 years after the end of the civil war.
Former Nigerian leader, General Ibrahim Babangida, in his tribute to Ojukwu, said that the election of an Ibo man as president of Nigeria would gladden Ojukwu’s spirit. No doubt, Ojukwu’s death marked the end of an era in Nigeria.
Ogbuehi, a freelance journalist, wrote in from Eagle Island, Port Harcourt.
Fishing Out The Ritualists
It would be obvious to a growing number of Nigerians by now that much of the violent crimes in the country, from murder to kidnapping and armed robberies, have much to do with some fetish rituals. A most recent case of car-snatchers in Eleme axis of Rivers State can be used as an example, because there was a confession pointing towards working in collaboration with witch-doctors. Ritual murder of a young girl by an undergraduate student also pointed towards the involvement of a ritualist and sponsor as accomplices.
Witch-doctors and ritualists go far beyond what an average Nigerian would know. Without being uncharitable or alarmist, there is a need to look into the activities of numerous religious sects operating as visionary and exercise ministries. To say the least, there are witch-doctors and ritualist, using religious applications as platforms of operation. Was there not a case of a “clergyman” and “after-birth placenta pepper soup”?
Investigations into the exploits of witch-doctors and various brands of ritualists, in relation to their associations with criminal groups, reveal shocking details. The first issue has to do with a propensity to acquire some power, coupled with an illusion of invincibility. In agberolingo such power of invincibility is known as “Odeshi”. Unfortunately, those exploring and promising such extra-normal power engage in a number of activities whose end-results they know nothing about.
But they go on, heedlessly!
Those who heedlessly explore the psychic world without knowing its nature expose themselves and other people to serious dangers, one of which is the possibility of insanity. Thus, toying with psychic power, for political, economic, religious or criminal purposes, usually lead to unpleasant end. Actually there are centres of energy of various natures which anyone can make contact with, but the rule is that only the pure can reach-out to what is pure or noble.
At best, what witch-doctors, ritualists and other impudent explorers of the psychic world encounter and deal with are usually inferior and dark energy centres. Fascination with what is unusual and curious cause many gullible people to be carried away by the illusory nature of the psychic world. One rule is sure over there, namely: There is no free meal, neither can anyone get what he is not qualified to get. The only thing easy to get is illusion or clouding of consciousness.
Therefore, dabblers into the psychic world for whatever purposes, do a great deal of harm to themselves and others too. When those who do so are clergy men and women, there is the possibility of dragging the image of religion into the mud. Serious seekers of the light of truth do not associate with juggling fiends of the psychic world, because no wise person would go for mud when gold is not far to fetch. One has to know the differences and values.
There is a need to suggest that stricter regulations be placed on establishment of religious houses as well as proselytism. Possibly, preachers and operators of all visionary, miracle and healing ministries should be licensed, inspected and subjected to regular audit. As for various categories of witch-doctors, ritualists often mentioned by criminal gangs as their accomplices or consultants, they should be prosecuted. They are known to demand for human parts, including placenta of nursing mothers taken immediately after delivery. If there is no demand for human parts, then, there would not be ritual murder for the purpose of obtaining such parts. Similarly, the murderers are merely killer agents for faceless monsters who believe in money and power as chief goals in life. Quite often such monsters are rarely accessible or prosecuted.
The illusion of wanting to get something without paying an equivalent price for it is an issue which all stakeholders in human development process must jointly emphasize at every opportunity. Similarly the fact that dark and impure forces thrive where people hold such illusions about life is a reality which explains the sad rate of spread of evil propensities. Of the laws governing life hardly is there any which stipulates that anyone can get away with any wrong doing, not even when a visionary, exorcist or a marabout claims that such law can be annulled. People are simply gullible.
Arising from the illusion that natural laws can be annulled by those who claim to have a power to do so, may gullible people rush to those who make such claims? While we may not be able to stop anyone or groups of persons from making claims about possession of unique powers, those making such claims should be licensed and taxed as they operate. Authentification and verification of such claims would also be necessary before they become legal for public patronage.
A great deal of harm had been done by dabblers, intruders and fake practitioners in every sphere of human activities. In the case of the unseen and known, there is a need to protect the gullible public from harms which can arise from such charlatans. While the laws prescribe freedom of belief and association, there should be strict provisions to checkmate extremities and abuses. Such extremities and abuses include disturbing and noisy nocturnal ritual and hallucinations under the name of freedom of worship. Ban on noisy worship is necessary.
Undoubtedly, activities of ritualists which include witch-doctors, marabouts, religious and cult groups, who engage in various orgies, are going into extremities that should be put under control. The current hard and difficult times in the country should not be a licence for ritualists to exploit the gullible masses to practise their trade for a fee. Some demand weird items for exorcism.
More importantly, the police should intensify activities in this direction by fishing out ritualists of the criminal hue and place a check on other groups to ensure that the public remains protected. Despite the difficult nature of such a task, ritualists of all kinds pose real dangers to society.
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