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Marwa’s Creative Fights Against Illicit Drugs in Nigeria

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Buba Marwa Against Illicit Drugs

By Jerome-Mario Utomi

I still recall with vividness how in the year 2008, Nigeria and most Nigerians breathed a sigh of relief as the country was certified by the United States of America (USA) as cooperating in the anti-narcotics crusade for the eighth successive time in 2008, with George Bush, the former President of the US, noting that Nigeria had made significant progress in the counter-narcotics war and had effectively co-operated with the United States on drug-related and money laundering cases.

Although he (Bush) was saying the obvious, and, majority of Nigerians thought that the nation was winning the war against drug trafficking, to Nigerians with critical minds, it was very doubtful if the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) will sustain that record as nobody within the leadership did anything to institutionalize such performance.

Apart from this challenge, the agency then also wore the crest of an underfunded body and was reputed as infamous for the poor manpower it earned from a long period of neglect by previous administrations.

As expected, such euphoria elicited by United States certification was short-lived as events and reports on the nation’s effort in this direction suddenly nosedived unabated.

This negative leadership trend continued until very recently when the former military administrator of Lagos and Borno States, Mr Mohammed Buba Marwa, was in January 2021 appointed as the substantive Chairman/CEO of the NDLEA by President Muhammadu Buhari.

Before the appointment, Marwa had worked as Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee for the Elimination of Drug Abuse (PACEDA) between 2018 and December 2020, along with others to develop a blueprint on how to end drug abuse in Nigeria.

Today, I cannot categorically say that all is perfectly well for the nation in its efforts to liberate its citizens from trading on, consumption of or effects of illicit drugs.

But looking at the present instinct in the country, and exciting progress in this direction, particularly the recent declaration by the head of the agency that N6 billion worth of drugs meant for insurgents were intercepted at the Apapa Port in Lagos State, the situation explains something new and different.

But before then, this piece will add context to the present discourse.

From available records, the fight against drug abuse in the country has been on for a very long time and is backed by so many federal laws.

In fact, it dates back to as far back as 1935. Some of the most important laws against the cultivation, trafficking and abuse of illicit drugs in Nigeria are as follows;

The Dangerous Drugs Ordinance of 1935 enacted by the British Colonial administration, the Indian hemp Decree No. 19 of 1966, the Indian hemp (Amendment) Decree No. 34 of 1979, the Indian Hemp (Amendment) Decree and the Special Tribunal (Miscellaneous Offences) Decree No. 20 of 1984, the Special Tribunal (Miscellaneous Offences) (Amendment) Decree of 1986 and the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency Decree No. 48 of 1989 (as amended by Decree No.33 of 1990, Decree No 15 of 1992 and Decree No. 62 of 1999).

These laws were harmonized as an Act of the parliament, CAP N30 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria (LFN) 2004. This Act established the NDLEA.

But regrettably, these legions of laws neither appreciably provided an effective and efficient strong source of solution to illicit consumption of drugs in the country nor provided useful frameworks comprehensive enough to offer legal solutions to the issues of drug trafficking or its enforcement.

However, presently, with Marwa’s leadership, the country has against all known logic become visibly unsafe for both illicit drug peddlers and consumers. It is no longer business as usual.

Also characterizing Marwa’s administration as exemplary is his being integrated with the approach. He is not class-specific. His recent advocacy/enlightenment campaigns of school children about the harmful effects involving drug abuse and persistent emphasis that those seeking public offices in Nigeria go through harmful drug-related tests are but perfect examples to this claim/assertion.

Comparatively, like the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Goal 3 which is targeted at “ensuring healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages, even so, has the NDLEA developed a sustainable National Drug Control Master Plan (NDCMP) that views illicit drugs from the perspective of public health and education issues while providing a balanced solution to the drug scourge.

Extensively, there are in fact more pragmatic reasons why the nation must join hands with the Marwa led administration to stamp out the proliferation of illicit drugs in the country.

First is that many lives, going by commentaries have before been destroyed as a result of drugs. Many are in psychiatric wards. Many have died. Many have lost their jobs and many have lost their homes.

Qualifying the development as a reality to worry about is that, according to the World Drug Report, released by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), June 26, 2019, stated that about 35 million people are estimated to suffer from drug use disorders and who require treatment services.

With this revelation, it is evident that the consumption of drugs in amounts and methods not authorized by medical professionals has presently become the greatest killer of humanity. And perfectly characterize as correct the recent claim/statement by President Buhari that the danger posed to the country by illicit drugs was worse than those of insurgency, banditry and other threats to the stability of the country.

“Let me say that this war is more deadly than the insurgency we have in the north-eastern part of the country or the acts of banditry in the northwest or the acts of kidnapping that transcends all the geopolitical zones of this country because it is a war that is destroying three generations because I’ve seen clips of where grandparents are on drugs, parents are on drugs, and by extension, their wards, their children are on drugs’.

That is not the only danger.

A 2018 survey report on drug use in Nigeria by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health conducted by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) and the Centre for Research and Information on Substance Abuse (CRISA) with technical support from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), and funded by the European Union (EU) under the 10th European Development Fund (EDF) in, “Response to Drugs and Related Organized Crime in Nigeria, among other things, observed; that the past year prevalence of any drug use in Nigeria is estimated at 14.4 per cent or 14.3 million people aged between 15 and 64 year and high when compared with the 2016 global annual prevalence of any drug use of 5.6 per cent among the adult population.

In the same vein, World Drug Report 2018 indicated also that psychoactive substances excluding alcohol, overall was higher among men in Nigeria, Drug users the report added was most common among those who were between the ages of 25 and 39 years, while the rates of past-year use were lowest among those who were below 24 years of age. Cannabis was the most commonly used drug followed by opioids, mainly the non-medical use of prescription opioids and cough syrup.

This is not by any means a good commentary. Yet, the situation says something else.

It was also revealed that living with an active drug abuser –for example, a husband automatically makes the wife a passive substance abuser, of which the adverse effect resulting from such an arrangement in most cases appears more pronounced on the passive abuser.

Away from impact to the physical dependence, the mountain of evidence suggests that the person using a drug over a period of time would have developed an intense reliance on drugs, often to avoid difficult withdrawal symptoms. The person will often crave (strong desire) to use the drugs despite the damaging consequences to their physical, mental and social wellbeing.

Drug users can also experience psychological dependence in which they believe it is necessary to use a drug to function sometimes just at social gatherings or all the time.

This challenge from what experts are saying is further nourished by our not being ready as a nation to confront the underlying cause(s) of drug dependency and other associated behaviours.

Our unwillingness to collectively assist the abusers to focus on un-learning such negative behaviours and in its place develop the required skills and positive attitudes to achieve a drug-free society is currently preached the world over exacerbates the challenge.

Very regrettably, in abandoning this responsibility, one fact we fail to remember is that drug dependence is not based on a personal weakness or lack of morals on the part of the abuser but a chronic relapsing medical condition- a reality that, in my opinion, qualifies these people for our love and not vilification or abandonment.

For a better understanding of the plights of the abusers, we must begin to imagine what it would look like if those drug abusers were to be from our families. We can imagine ourselves participating in the funerals of our dear ones that passed on, no thanks to substance abuse.

Sincerely, our failure to love and care for these drug addicts in our society, make us more socially sick than the abusers.

But then, Nigerians must pray and support Mohammed Buba Marwa’s quest to defeat the proliferation of illicit drugs in Nigeria.

Jerome-Mario Utomi is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He could be reached via jeromeutomi@yahoo.com/08032725374.

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Islamic Estate Planning: Protect Your Family and Leave a Legacy

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Islamic Estate Planning

By FBNQuest

Islamic estate planning involves the distribution of your assets that serve to preserve, manage, and distribute them after death according to the principles of the Shari’ah.

According to the Islamic ordinance, those principles are significant in planning for dependents and represent an investment in the afterlife.

Islamic inheritance laws organise your wealth ownership and assets to ensure fairness and justice after your passing. Instead of leaving the tough decisions to grieving family members, you can arrange the gifting of your assets in advance. This creates a streamlined process for the distribution of the inheritance to all family members.

Islamic estate planning is essential in the life of Muslim faithful. Indeed, if you pass away as a Muslim without a proper plan for your assets, you may be breaching the bequest guidance stated in the Holy Book, which serves as an instruction manual for a Muslim’s life.

However, many are not concerned with making an inheritance plan, even though a failure to make one could trigger intense family debate and hinder the transfer of some assets to specific beneficiaries.

According to the guiding principles of Islamic estate planning, after covering the funeral expenses and debts owed by the deceased, a person may designate up to one-third of their wealth.

This discretionary giving is known as the Wasiyyah. However, there are limitations to this discretionary giving.

For example, Wasiyyah cannot be given to someone already receiving a share under the Islamic inheritance laws. The Wasiyyah is most commonly given to charity or to care for distant relatives who cannot provide for themselves.

The residual two-thirds is the Mirath and is reserved for the Islamic heirs as ordained in the Holy Book. Primary beneficiaries are those who will inherit some of your wealth, provided that they are alive and Muslim. These are your spouse, children, and parents, and they receive a fixed share of the wealth.

Secondary beneficiaries are those whose share of the inheritance is contingent on whether other primary beneficiaries are still alive. These may include siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, and other relatives. It is vital to appreciate the rights and obligations relating to an estate.

In preparing to bequeath an inheritance, it is crucial to organise your wealth in a manner that will make assets acceptable for consideration in an Islamic estate plan.

In this regard, investments should be screened for compliance with Islamic estate ethics, and investments in interest-bearing assets are disqualified.

Instead, it would help if you endeavoured to invest in increasingly popular Sukuk bonds. You should consider Mudarabah Investment accounts as substitutes to fixed deposit accounts and subscribe to a family takaful policy instead of a life insurance policy in your saving plans.

As for pension assets, you should opt for a multi-fund structure with an option to invest in Shari’ah-compliant instruments.

Zakat, the third pillar of Islam, is a compulsory giving required from every financially stable Muslim. Those who have acquired wealth are obligated to respond to people in need and give back to the community. This response could include sponsoring widows or the education students and organising in a charitable Trust as part of an Islamic estate plan.

Therefore, you must consult a professional estate planner to assist with setting up a Trust arrangement where 2.5% of your assets/wealth is set aside annually for Zakat.

Several other tools can be used to organise the transfer of assets to a specific beneficiary. They include Hiba (making gifts), Waqf (setting up an endowment or trust), Wasiyya (transfers by donation), and it is appointing a Wasi or guardian for living dependents. Getting it right requires a thorough understanding of the principles of Islamic estate planning and the various assets available to achieve compliance.

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Governor Okowa’s 2023 Presidency; an Objective Analysis

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Governor Okowa's 2023 Presidency

By Jerome-Mario Utomi

This piece stemmed from three recent developments in the country. First is the latest argument by development minded Nigerians that the nation’s perennial leadership haemorrhage/crisis is aggregated by a successive deficiency in leadership vision and in some cases made worse by public officials’ understanding and interpretation of problems with clarity but lacking in political will to see through or implement solutions. A development that has made the nation in dire need of a system that works, a government that caters for its citizens, especially the youths, secures lives and property while bolstering the economy.

The second and very germane is the Southern Governors Forum insistence that the presidency must shift to the southern part of the country come 2023, coupled with the recent decision by the main opposition party in Nigeria, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), to zone the position of the national chairman of the party to the north.

As we know, it is a political principle embraced by major political parties in Nigeria that each time the national chairman of a political party emerges from the north, the presidential candidate of the same party, usually, emerges from the south where the likes of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State hails from.

Thirdly and most essential has to do with the fresh call by the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, Mr Ndudi Elumelu, on Mr Okowa to contest for the presidency of the country in 2023.

The Minority Leader, who spoke at the installation of Rotary Club’s 2nd President for 2021/2022 Rotary Club Year (Club of Asaba Downtown District 9141), pointed out that Governor Okowa should serve as the President of the nation so that he can replicate his achievements in massive infrastructural and human capital development in Delta State at the national level.

He stressed that Governor Okowa was endowed with the capacity and proficiency to rescue the nation from the misrule of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and reposition her to the path of peace, unity and economic prosperity.

“I must commend Governor Okowa for his selfless service and sacrifices that have led to unprecedented massive infrastructural development in our dear state as well as a better living standard for our people.

“Governor Okowa is a rare gift not only to Delta State but also to our nation Nigeria, at large. I firmly hold that he is endowed with the capacity and proficiency to serve our nation at the topmost level so that he can replicate the successes recorded in our state at the national level.

“I sincerely call on him to make him available to serve the nation again. He deserves to be the president of this country, come 2023,” Elumelu stated.

However, despite the popularity of this opinion, it will be antithetical to support a movement based on sentiment or allow sentiment to determine our actions. Therefore, in line with the Christian Holy Book, the Bible, admonished in 1 John 4; 1 that we do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

It will, for reasons, be of considerable significance to place this call under objective analysis to fundamentally help electorates make informed decisions ‘as the ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all’.

To perform this function well, it will necessitate the following posers; Is Governor Okowa capped with vital leadership capacity needed to tame the nation’s perennial ‘leadership haemorrhage/crisis aggregated by a successive deficiency in leadership vision and made worse by public official’s understanding and interpretation of problems with clarity but lacking in political will to see through or implement solutions? Has Governor Okowa truly achieved massive infrastructural and human capital development in Delta State? Has he indeed and in truth demonstrated selfless service and sacrifices as claimed by Mr Elumelu?

Again, going by Elumelu’s claim, another question would be at the federal level, are there signs of misrules on the part of the APC led federal government that calls for Okowa’s attention to reposition the nation to the path of peace, unity and economic prosperity?

Again, on May 29, 2015, amidst cheers and jubilation from the marmot crowd that attended his swearing-in ceremony at the Cenotaph in Asaba, Okowa, going by media reports, told his audience that, “As a government, we are committed to the building and consolidation of a state in which there shall be more employment opportunities, a flourishing agriculture and agribusiness sector, effective health and educational systems, renewed urban infrastructure and enhanced security and peace to bolster economic growth and development.”

Now, looking at the past six years of his administration, it will elicit the question as to how well has the Governor brought these promises to fruition? Also, at the national level, how relevant is Governor Okowa when it comes to issues of national urgent importance? As the current Governor of Delta State, what particulars can Okowa led government point at to convince Nigerians that he can effectively administer the federation?

In providing answers to these nagging questions beginning with the last question, it must be fundamentally underlined that separate from the fact that Delta State, to use the words of Governor Okowa, is a microcosm of Nigeria because she is populated by different ethnic nationalities and has had inter-ethnic conflicts/clashes, fatal boundary disputes, especially over oil-bearing land, and political tensions, a case that in my views qualifies a governor of such state to effectively lead the federation, Governor Okowa, as subsequent paragraph will show, since assumption of office on May 29, 2015, demonstrated that for the leader to distinguish himself, he has to be a shining light and as such, he should be in a position to break the retrogressive tendencies that subsist in doing what one does not wish to do.

To capture this claim well, this piece will further x-ray/classify the achievements of Governor Okowa’s administration into two.

First, achievements at the state levels which has to do with policy objectives/programmes implementation aimed at creating jobs and wealth (wealth creation and employment generation), economic diversification, the democratization of the education sector, infrastructural development, re-jigging/provision of the state’s security architecture in the state, engagement of the youths in productive enterprise, nurture of entrepreneurs and leaders, promotion of communal peace and development of a database of employment and unemployed youths for planning purposes. The second focuses on his unrelenting nation-building efforts at the federal level.

Evidence abounds that the Governor in pursuance of these objectives compressed his programmes into a five-point agenda which is encapsulated in the acronym SMART.

The SMART agenda means Strategic wealth creation projects and provision of jobs for all Deltans; Meaningful peacebuilding platforms aimed at political and social harmony; Agricultural reforms and accelerated industrialization; Relevant health and educational policies and; Transformed environment through urban renewal.

Take the wealth creation and employment generation, as an illustration, the Governor himself recently but succulently captured his achievements in this way; “we have a deliberate policy to tackle youth unemployment through skills training and entrepreneurship development programmes. I believe that the way out of the unemployment quagmire is to equip the youth with the technical know-how, vocational skills, values and resources to become self-employed, as distinct from one-off empowerment. This is what my administration has done by instituting various skills training and entrepreneurship development programmes, which include: Skills Training and Entrepreneurship Programme (STEP); Youth Agricultural Entrepreneurs Programme (YAGEP); Graduate Employment Enhancement Programme (GEEP); Rural Youth Skills Acquisition Programme (RYSA); Girls Entrepreneurship Skills Training (GEST); and Women Entrepreneurship Skills Acquisition Programme (WESAP).”

These programmes he said are trainee-centred and service-oriented. The sectors and activities covered include agriculture, agricultural value chain services, vocational skills-based microenterprises and cottage enterprises.

Furthermore, the training and mentoring processes aim beyond raising entrepreneurs to produce leaders and managers that have high levels of personal responsibility and effectiveness. I am pleased to let you know that after six years of faithful implementation of these programmes, we have trained and given business support packages to several thousands of youths.

Following the success of these interventions and other efforts in promoting technical education, Delta State was ranked the Best State in Human Capital Development in the 2017 States Peer Review by the National Competitiveness Council of Nigeria.

Also in 2020, Delta was adjudged to be the Second Least Poor State, coming only after Lagos, Nigeria’s business hub, according to the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

From the above observations, it is obvious that he (Okowa) in my view is a Presidential material the nation needs to exit the unemployment crisis and economic retardation. However, in order not to be accused of indulging in hasty conclusions, this piece will go beyond the Governor’s wealth creation and employment generation prowess, to x-ray his efforts in other sectors.

To Be Continued.

Jerome-Mario Utomi is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He could be reached via jeromeutomi@yahoo.com/08032725374.

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The Effects of Home Loans on the Cost of Living Post-COVID

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Home Loans on the Cost of Living

COVID-19 has been a disaster for many people globally, one reason being the effect of the pandemic on the cost of living.

As the cost of living is rising while wages remain stagnant, it’s becoming apparent that many people are struggling to pay off their existing commitments. As a result of such obligations, more and more people seek refinancing options to lower their mortgage rates and reduce monthly expenses.

This post will cover how COVID-19 has affected home loan rates and the part it plays in the rising cost of living.

How Has COVID-19 Stressed Out The World Economies?

While it’s inevitable that no country can escape the effects of a global pandemic, some countries have weathered the storm better than others. For example, as you can see in the image above by Compare The Market Refinance Quotes, the US, Australia, and Denmark seem to be the least financially stressed of world economies, with manageable home loan rates being a significant factor. This has allowed these countries to cope with the negative effects that COVID-19 has had on the cost of living.

Other countries may be able to copy the decisions made by these governments to help restore their economies. Nevertheless, many individuals of these countries and others still find it challenging to pay their bank loans and mortgages.

How Are Home Loans Affecting The Cost Of Living Post-COVID-19?

In March 2020, many countries worldwide implemented a debt moratorium to alleviate household debt burdens due to the coronavirus pandemic. These moratoriums have already expired in many places, which raises some tough questions regarding what additional policies should be adopted to address the pandemic’s lingering effects.

With people facing the challenge of prioritizing their payments, especially when considering the rapid increase in inflation that many countries are experiencing, many have turned to various financial tools such as refinancing to get them through these difficult times.

What Is Loan Refinancing?

Loan refinancing is when you take out a new loan to replace the old one. There are many reasons why you might want to refinance your loans; you may not be happy with how much money you are spending each month on your monthly payments, or maybe you have another loan with a higher interest rate that will save you money in the long run. In these uncertain times, refinancing is becoming more popular.

However, it’s important to note that refinancing only works if you have good credit and still owe some of the original balance of your original loan. Not all types of loans can be refinanced, but here are five loan types can:

  • Student loans
  • Credit card balances
  • Auto loans
  • Mortgage
  • Various bank loans

In conclusion, the effects of home loans on the cost of living are pretty significant for many people, not just in the US but also worldwide. This has caused many to use refinancing as the cost of inflation rises.

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