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The Pursuit of Green Economy for Niger Delta and Emerging Opportunities for Ex-Agitators

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green economy

By Telema Wilson

Niger Delta region, home to about thirty million people and popularly acknowledged for its rich oil reserves that fetches over 70 percent of Nigeria’s export earnings, is also a rich producer of plantain.

Aside plantain being a widespread staple food, it is a unique delicacy that can be prepared by frying, roasting or boiling. For commercial purpose, it can be processed as plantain chips or into flour which has become a preferred substitute for wheat flour given its high quality nutritional content.

Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) statistics show that Nigeria is a major plantain-growing nation with more than half of its estimated annual production capacity of 2.74 million tonnes coming from the Niger Delta alone. Of the sixteen states classified as plantain producers, nine are in the Niger Delta. These are Edo, Ondo, Delta, Rivers, Cross Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Imo, Bayelsa and Abia states. Coincidentally, they are in the oil-producing region of Nigeria.

Given that plantain grows in abundance all-year round in the Niger Delta, the expectation is that it would constitute a high income generating source for farmers and those engaged in its post-harvest production.

Unfortunately, that has not been the case. That the Niger Delta plantain potential has remained untapped for decades is an ugly statement of fact that is overdue for remedy. This sad story of unexploited wealth becomes very uncomfortable to digest especially when it is tied to a people that have for decades sought fresh narratives beyond reliance on federally-controlled statutory allocations from oil earnings and have expressed resentment over environmental degradation from oil exploration activities.

The huge percentage of plantain lost to post-harvest inadequacies is regrettable.  However, with the recent focus of the Federal Government on green economy for the region through its overhauled Niger Delta Disarmament, Demobilization, Rehabilitation and Reintegration (DDR) programme, a new dawn seems to have arrived.

Specifically, with a fresh economic vision of capturing ex-militants into agro-related initiatives, it is obvious that the present leadership of the DDR programme is offering an optimistic future and narrative that not only gives a sense of real economic hope but demonstrates increased genuine interest of the Federal government in the Niger Delta.

No doubt, the Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta, Brigadier-General Boroh (rtd) has embraced the economic change agenda of the federal government, especially in running a series of new empowerment programmes focused on harnessing the potentials of Niger Delta ex-agitators. What stands out is the newly-introduced tarter pack plantain chip (a.k.a ‘kpekere’ or ‘hunger quencher’) production scheme which it grants Ex Agitators with special equipment like industrial plantain slicing machines, gas-powered commercial deep fryers and sealers. Even though, it is difficult to apply a sweeping narrative to all DDR agro projects, but there is sufficient evidence to affirm that most of the agriculture projects are successful especially the plantain chip production, a highly profitable venture.

The desire of the Office of the Special Adviser to the Presidency on Amnesty to use ex-agitators for industrial production of plantain chips to create value-added plantain products and income-generating opportunities is a welcome development.

Aside this DDR plantain chip production initiative having the capacity to reduce both redundancy and unemployment in the Niger Delta, it comes with huge economic prospects for beneficiaries of the programme.

Presently, the economic transformation of ex-agitators involved in plantain chip production seems to have just begun as the market is enormous. The Boroh-led DDR programme envisages that these products will eventually be exported across West Africa.

For now, the anticipated economic growth from the initiative may not be very noticeable because of the limited scope of the scheme.

However, emerging signals indicate it is a good partners’ approach by the President Buhari-led federal government as it is encouraging entrepreneurship through small business support for ex-agitators.

Certainly, such a quick impact money-earning project will advance peace and security in a region massively rocked by waves of restiveness powered by idle youths before the introduction of Amnesty aspect of the DDR in 2009.

On plantain chip production by Ex Agitators, the realistic forecast should be that with better equipped new entrepreneurs, the Niger Delta can become the biggest exporter of value-added and finished plantain products in Africa. Indeed, if the plantain abundance in the region is fully exploited and well managed, this hitherto hidden treasure may be a major source of wealth that could catapult the region’s fortune as the estimated annual economic gain for Niger Delta runs into hundreds of millions of dollars. However, whether or not the initiative can become Niger Delta’s new engine of economic growth will largely depend on next steps taken.

At the moment, all the economic variables of some Niger Delta ex-agitators becoming exporters are clear. The likelihood of the initiative thrusting the region to the top of trade in value-added plantain products rather than just suppliers of unprocessed raw materials is very high. With such an initiative in place, the economy of the Niger Delta will be driven mostly by agricultural production.

This will make the federal government’s dream of a Niger Delta green economy accomplishable. Also, it would have positive multiplier effect on employment of youths in the region and reverse the culture of reliance on government handouts.

While the big infrastructure projects that drive overall economic growth are being carried out by other intervention organisations like the NDDC and the Ministry of Niger Delta, it is vital to recognize resentments expressed in Niger Delta that the benefits from such do not trickle down immediately to the masses nor offer direct monetary enhancement. The engagement of these agencies in plantain chips production will also assist in offering instant gains for the Niger Delta people and help dismiss the many misconceptions about the present administration’s good intents. Realistically, if this particular DDR programme can be replicated by other government agencies and interest groups involved in developing the region, then that might mean that a viable blueprint for the Niger Delta green economy would have been discovered.

This unique initiative under President Buhari’s administration towards harnessing the untapped potentials of the Niger Delta region’s plantain resources is commendable as it has already indicated positive results as being capable of introducing distinct gross financial gains and freedom from poverty for some ex-agitators.

However, the leadership of the DDR programme should recognize that the work ahead is much as only a minute population of the poor has been covered. As such, the need to dedicate more resources to broaden the scope of this winning initiative to accommodate more persons cannot be overemphasised. It is really unfortunate that women are almost completely excluded from the Niger Delta Developmental Action Plan but this idea of granting starter packs for commercial plantain production chip offers the leadership of the DDR programme an opportunity to redress the disturbing gender imbalance in its empowerment schemes, given that women are globally recognized as the veritable peace and home-builders especially in such a post conflict region.

Telema Wilson, Ph.D, is the Co-ordinator of Activists for Niger Delta Advancement & Positive Engagement. (ANDAPE) and writes from Port Harcourt.

Dipo Olowookere is a journalist based in Nigeria that has passion for reporting business news stories. At his leisure time, he watches football and supports 3SC of Ibadan. Mr Olowookere can be reached via dipo.olowookere@businesspost.ng

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Feature/OPED

Do You Know Ijaw Politicians?

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Ijaw Politicians

By Asiayei Enaibo

Yes, they are great politicians in Ijawland; many have groomed followers with the gospel of hatred, those who managed our poverties with one salary divided to seven. Those that only want to see you serve their children and take over from them while their servants service their grandchildren and in-laws.

Do You Know Ijaw Politicians?

Yes, we have great and eloquent Ijaw politicians that make or support a bill once in four years and give us cups of rice at the end of the year and we call them Messiahs. Are they Messiahs or cups of rice and anti-development politicians?

The last time I saw my village children sent as delegates from their families to collect cups of rice tied in cellophane, and the children too were happy and angry, but they could not say a word, for they do not know what good governance is all about.

We have politicians only in the election period as our youths, including myself, praise them for survival to manage our collective poverty as we clap for their third or sixth term coming!

Ijaws are blessed with great minds as politicians that never brief us on constituency development for four years or twenty years. Once you make such comments, they will hire community-based boys from your area to disarm your pen and break your legs in a ghastly Keke accident when their convoy is coming.

From the Senate down to House of Representatives, to House of Assembly, the lawmakers, their oversight function is to gather enemies, a list of stubborn boys they could starve for objective criticism, blacklist, even though you have community-based policy ideas to show them for them to excel in their business of politics, they will refuse you to come near their homes, locked with iron gates and dogs to attack the Talking Drum.

Empowerment, zero per cent. Once you say something about empowerment, they will go and snap photos at the sales points of Keke and Okada to show us photos that they did empowerment at Abuja, while the people in the villages they are representing have no idea of such empowerment.

Do You Know Any Ijaw Politicians?

Yes, those who have not said anything as a matter of urgent public importance even though flood kills all the children at Bobougbene, yes those that don’t listen to the youths but listen to old ones on money sharing formula in Burutu.

Do You Know Any Ijaw Politicians?

Yes, the few good ones are good but the corrupt familitocracy are more than the public interest. Once they give our children one scholarship, they say it is their personal money. When they were not elected, none had personal money to share, they turn our head against us.

They have never called for a town hall meeting to address us. Once we make such comments, those who call themselves as Ijaw watchdogs that they have given cups of rice, are blindfolded to distract the meeting for their own interests not to allow the meeting to expose their selfish, un-political thinking. They said they have influenced the project to us, the last time I checked, the lawmakers are the same contractors, their grandfathers’ father’s names are the contractors, they partner as an elder brother to corruption whose senior sister is to embezzle the money and abandon the work while they give her negotiated amount to run away. For they are the Messiahs we have as politicians in Nigerian.

I do blame the good ones that are afraid of bad ones not to contest to rule us with great ideas, innovative laws that can project our rural riverine areas to tourist centres. We have great minds in Ijawland, the old good ones are poor, the young good ones are poor, they can’t buy a vote, for our society sells vote to buy poverty. Some have already exchanged their franchise for 20 cups of rice come 2023.

Look at them, we have Urban Development Commission everywhere, but no Riverine Rural Development Board and nobody is saying anything. They gather and only laugh with their colleagues, no policy, Where is great Comrade Joseph Evah, who has done this to us?

How Do We Reform Them Now?

First, we should hold them accountable with a blueprint whenever they are coming to our communities for campaigns, itemize what they can do for us in black and white paper and use Egbesu to swear, once they fail us, let what happened to Abacha happen to them. Amen!

Let us hold them to brief us in a town hall meeting on what they could bring to our communities in a yearly budget. If they fail, we go to their national office with placards as a vote of no confidence to withdraw our mandate in protests. Yes, we can.

Yes, it is a good point, we do not have light, no politicians care in our area, we don’t have drinkable water in the Ijaw area, no elected politicians care, we don’t have good schools, the appointees are afraid to tell the governor.

We don’t have roads, they said our places are difficult terrain.

Our mothers give birth in the canoes while paddling to the cities to deliver in the hospitals, then we call such children names like “Arukazi.”

The year 2023 is around the corner, they hire all the 200HP engine boats to go to the difficult terrains to buy votes, the good, the ugly and the evils, many have listed the stubborn boys to beat the writers, many have planned hired boys for rigging, then vote-buying, four years equal to N2,000, N10,000 for the future of a whole family. I blame our mothers and women with political Asoebi clapping for N500 on daily basis at the end no empowerment. Eyorotuooo.

Do You Have Great Politicians In Ijawland?

Yes, one half-bridge as a legacy project for twenty years, they are the best coming again. Let us prepare to buy ‘Ongu,’ that ancient water reservoir and cry into it to fill it with tears so we could have water to drink.

Arise youths of conscience, let us watch over our future as 2023 comes around.

Someone has already listed his father’s enemy once he becomes a governor, they will suffer, a premeditated plan to suffer the masses as if they are God.

Good leadership is a manifestation of public development.

Look around you and where you are representing, don’t allow your praise singers to deceive you as Darkness and Light are known to humanity at all levels.

Asiayei Enaibo, the Talking Drum of the Niger Delta, writes from GbaramatuVoice Media Centre.

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Moving Day Madness

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Moving Day Madness

Moving to a new home is exciting, but it can be stressful, too. A move requires so much planning that it can feel overwhelming but, by being organised you can turn it into a smooth, even enjoyable, process. Planning is key – this is definitely one of those times that it pays to be super organised. Follow these tips from Aisha Pandor, CEO and Co-founder of SweepSouth, to keep the stress at bay on moving day.

Make a list

A checklist helps you to keep track of everything, making it less likely you’ll forget something. It also allows you to tick off tasks as you complete them, giving you a sense of accomplishment and motivating you to keep going if you start getting tired of packing.

Plan the move as far ahead as possible, and sort out any admin you can in the run-up to the actual day, such as changing your Wi-Fi details and informing your insurance of your new address. Check to see if they’ll insure your possessions while you move.

Packing hacks

“Start packing well ahead of time, labelling each box on top by writing the name of the room it’s intended for, along with bullet points of what’s inside,” advises Aisha. Safely store fiddly fixtures and fittings like screws and brackets in sealable plastic sandwich bags, and stick appliance and gadget wires down with tape to prevent them from dangling about while being moved.

Use bin bags to make transporting clothes easier – slip hangers with clothes on into a large bin bag and tie a few hangers together with a rubber band for easier carrying. Pack precious items like jewellery, important documents, and laptops into a separate bag that you take in your own car.

Finish packing the day before

It sounds obvious, but don’t compromise on this one, says Aisha. “You’ll thank yourself when the movers arrive and you don’t have to rush around getting last-minute things sorted. And don’t underestimate the small items. You may think they’ll be easy to pop into a box just before the movers arrive, but these small tasks could end up wasting valuable time.”

Packing is a tiring task, so hire hands for the other big chores associated with moving day, like cleaning. Empty houses are always dirtier than you’d expect, so book a cleaning service through SweepSouth Connect for both the old and new – meaning your old space will be left spotless once the last box has been taken, and you’ll be moving into a sparkling clean home.

Assemble a moving-day survival kit

Pack a box of essential items to see you through the day and your first night, and keep it in your car for easy access. Consider these items: a phone charger, screwdriver, sharp knife for opening boxes, glasses and mugs, a kettle, provisions to make hot drinks, cleaning cloths, bin bags, washing up liquid, toilet rolls, and a small medical kit. It’s also a good idea to have an overnight bag with toiletries, a hand towel, pyjamas, a clean change of clothing, and sheets to hang over bedroom windows in case the curtains aren’t up yet.

Be safety conscious

Take every precaution you can to keep you and your moving team safe. Don’t overpack boxes, dispose of any dangerous liquids, and make sure that appliances like lawnmowers are cleaned and emptied of fuel. On the day of the move, prevent accidents while boxes are being moved by keeping a clear pathway so that you can walk through without tripping over objects while carrying something heavy in your arms.

Pace yourself

Moving days are tiring, so make sure you get a good night’s rest before. Start the morning off with a good breakfast, and stop for lunch, so that you keep your energy levels up. Keep a few bottles of water handy for yourself and the movers – a hydrated moving team is a happy and efficient team, says Aisha.

Create a playlist ahead of time. Music is a mood booster, and listening to music you love triggers feel-good chemicals that make you happy and less anxious. If you don’t have time to collate a playlist, type terms like ‘Happy Hits’, ‘Mood Booster’, or ‘Good Vibes’ into Spotify and slot into a bouncy, energetic playlist. Move over, moving-day blues!

Do a final walk-through

Walk through the house one last time before you go, doing a close inspection of each room. It’s also worth taking some photographs so that you have a record of the state of the property.

Moving days always take longer than anticipated, and you’ll no doubt be exhausted by the end of it. “Have realistic expectations of how much you can achieve in one day,” says Aisha. It’s unlikely you’ll be able to unpack everything by the first night, so take a well-deserved break and recharge. And, finally, order some lovely takeaways to celebrate the first night in your new home – your tired body will thank you!

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Bravery Absenteeism in Developing Countries

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rural market Developing Countries

By Nneka Okumazie

A difference between developed countries and others is fear. There are many developing countries in the world where the people are afraid to try things that would make them progress, almost prompting the question that who taught them to fear?

Fear is the thing in the face of many, preventing them to do anything beneficial for the good of their society. Usually, many are not afraid to do things of close-ended self-interest, but it is not this kind of courage that moves society forward.

What it takes to develop a society is largely courage, from different corners and people independently, as part of their own effort to their society.

This is different from those who keep blaming the government like the government can do anything successfully if everyone is still thinking selfishly.

Fear is the economic machine of developing countries. It is their politics, security, food, etc. It takes fear to take money belonging all and embezzle. It takes fear to take bribes or give. It takes fear to be involved in corruption, any kind of fraud, etc. It takes fear to instead of aspiring for development for all, to aspire to be or stay the rich of the society or believe the only way is to leave, or there is a problem with a place other than the people there.

There is always this must not happen, cannot take it, but, what if it happens, the worse or what if things go wrong and stay so?

The things to have and show, or the things to be and display are meaningless, get old and anyone anywhere can get them with or without equal status, efforts or duration.

There are people who have done everything to be in the right status – but death or something else came and it all went away. The person who didn’t have it, whom they would still have been better than were things okay for them, or if they were still alive, continues on and does not miss that thing others had and felt it’s the greatest.

Progress is beyond one bridge somewhere or some infrastructure, but what it takes is what everyone has to do.

This, for any society that puts fear first, or that assumes that status or to be comfortable is the right thing to do is already a miss or loss.

Fear gets transferred to the next generation, including how they ensure that what they impose is not rule of law, but how to fear what would bring progress.

Fear from everyone in a society cannot make them dare, even to the risk of death, because to many, having a thing is the meaning of life, not the purpose of good change to become to society.

[2 Samuel 23:20, And Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, the son of a valiant man, of Kabzeel, who had done many acts, he slew two lionlike men of Moab: he went down also and slew a lion in the midst of a pit in time of snow:]

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