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Why the Water Resources Bill Must be Rejected

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Mike Owhoko Clean Water

By Michael Owhoko, PhD

There are strong indications that the National Water Resources Bill 2020 will soon be reintroduced at the National Assembly.

If passed into law, communities and people living along waterfronts in the country, particularly Niger Delta Region, Lagos State and other aquatic areas in the country will be deprived of their major source of livelihood, fishing.

Besides, the 13 per cent oil derivation fund from offshore fields accruing to littoral states may also be forfeited to the federal government. Over 80 per cent of riverine communities play host to offshore acreages in the Niger Delta region.

The bill aims at conferring ownership, control and management of surface and underground waters on the federal government. Implicitly, all waters in stream, lake, sea, river, underground (boreholes), river beds and banks found in and around any community in Nigeria become the exclusive preserve and property of the federal government, bringing water under the exclusive legislative list.

Therefore, it will become illegal for people living in the coastal areas to carry out fishing or use the river for any other purpose without authorization and permission of the federal government, the new owner of all water bodies in the country.

Besides, no persons or companies will be allowed to discharge wastewater in the river without the authorization of the federal government. The process is to be managed by Nigeria Water Resources Regulatory Commission.

Part of the commission’s responsibilities is to grant permission or licence to water users for a particular period of time upon payment of a fee. The commission, which has the power to renew, suspend or cancel any licence that has been issued, also has the obligation to determine the cost.

This means the poor riverine community dwellers must apply for a licence, pay the required cost and obtain approval before they can carry out commercial fishing activities or any other business in their own ancestral territorial waters. Any community that fails to meet these criteria will be penalized for illegal encroachment.

Besides, such riverine communities, particularly those without landmass, who use the bank of the river for domestic activities like washing, and occasionally for other purposes, will pay for discharging waste into the river.

The flaws and toxicity of the bill can further be viewed from its contravention of the supreme court cases affirming powers of state governments over inland waterways and physical planning, aside from the Land Use Act which vests ownership of land on state governors. The bill is an interloper designed to arrogate state powers.

From the content, it is obvious the bill is evil and men and women of good conscience with fear of God must rally round to ensure it is rejected, otherwise, history will record them as accomplices to this wicked plan to deprive communities in the coastal areas of their territories, fishing business, and means of livelihood.

The riverbank of a coastal community is an extension of its territory. In law, whoever owns the land, owns the resources therein, and this principle is supported by the Ad Coelum Doctrine.

How do you expropriate the territory belonging to a riverine community and forcefully give it to a regulator, an outsider, for commercial purposes?

The occupation of the riverine communities is fishing, and this is what they know, and do for a living, either as subsistence or business. Through this means, they provide food, shelter, clothing, education, and other necessities of life for themselves and their dependents.

If the source of livelihood of these helpless coastal communities is taken away, what will they depend on as humans? It is absurd for a government that has failed to provide for their welfare and security, will now use the law to dishonestly dispossess them of their territorial waters, and source of livelihood. Indeed, the bill is a study in malevolence administration.

All through my adolescent years in Warri, I lived practically by the river where we carried out fishing exercises from where money was generated for upkeep. By this proposed bill, what will millions of families in the riverine areas whose lives depend on fishing now do to survive?

God, in His infinite mercy, knows why He provided a natural habitat for every community with means for survival. Those in the Sahel region are known for raising livestock. Those in the rainforest are gifted for farming while those in the coastal areas are noted for fishing.

Every community is endowed, thus, to deprive the coastal communities of their trade is to undermine their existence and fundamental human rights. Water, like land, is God’s gift to man as part of his heritage. Depriving him will be tantamount to distorting celestial orchestration.

Government must get its priority right. A country that is faced with mounting misery index (inflation and unemployment), insecurity, corruption and capital flight, resulting in acute poverty and frustration, cannot be making water resources a priority.

There are enough existing laws on water resources. The Water Resources Act, River Basin Development Authority Act, Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency (Establishment) Act and the National Water Resources Institute Act are already in place.

A law that seeks to strip a people of their heritage, properties and sources of income with the capacity to push them deeper into an abyss of poverty cannot be said to be in the country’s national interest, except for reason covertly to advance the course of sectional interest.

Reintroducing a bill to the 9th National Assembly that was once rejected on national interest by the 8th Assembly is suspect.

Like the botched Rural Grazing Areas (RUGA) Bill, the desperate push for the passage of the Water Bill by vested interests in the core north is a snare to have a hold on the country’s waterfronts across the country, particularly in the Niger Delta areas.

And the drive behind the temerity and confidence with which the purveyors of this Bill are calling for its passage is anchored on their belief that they will have their way at the National Assembly due to the country’s demography and political delineation structure that are unjustly skewed in favour of the North.

Quest for sectional domination without consideration for equity and justice within the context of national interest puts the unity of the country at risk and pushes it to the brink.

As equal stakeholders, it is imperative to respect the boundaries of one another as the absence of this will engender distrust and disunity.

The people of Niger Delta who play host to the largest bodies of water in the country, have suffered for too long, and do not deserve further oppressive policies.

It is enough anguish to declare oil resources in the region as national assets, and gold otherwise, while the Niger Delta people alone bear the burden of the hazardous effect of oil exploration and production.

It is enough anguish for the riverine oil communities to pay for fuel above pump price due to the failure of the Petroleum Equalisation Fund (PEF) established to administer uniform fuel prices across the country to leave them out of their network, explaining why the person in Bodinga, Sokoto State, buys fuel cheaper than the person in Epebu, an oil-producing settlement in Bayelsa State.

It is enough anguish living in dilapidated houses in the riverine oil communities engendered by poverty and the impact of seismic blasting and corrosion arising from activities of oil exploration.

Funding rehabilitation of infrastructure in the riverine oil communities by oil companies as currently being done for the North East Region will not be a bad idea.

The oil companies, based on directives from Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), currently make annual budget provisions for the funding of the rehabilitation of schools, houses, hospitals and other infrastructure destroyed by Boko Haram in Borno State and other parts of the North East Region.

Rather than look for ways to ease the burden of the riverine oil areas and people living along the waterfront, the government is sponsoring a Bill that will multiply their yoke. The bill should be rejected, trashed and thrown out.

Dr Mike Owhoko, journalist and author, is the publisher of Media Issues, an online newspaper based in Lagos

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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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