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Published On: Sun, May 10th, 2020

Covid-19: Delta’s Readiness, Role Of Police Versus Military

Tommy Onovbiona


By Tommy Onovbiona
LAGOS MAY10TH (URHOBOODAY)-There are great arguments supported by facts, numbers and numerous variables in both Eastern and Western Europe, and North America for and against the constitutional rights of their residents to legally carry arms. Nigeria pre and post independence history is indeed unique, and I will make the arguments in support of our law abiding citizens of legal age to carry some types of gun legally for self defense and for protection of their personal property and life.
Yes, the crime rate in the US is high per capital, despite the second amendment. There are mitigating factors that are too many to go over in this article. What is worth noting is that unemployment in Nigeria is ridiculously high. New job creation is practically none existent. What is the unemployment rate for high school graduates, OND, HND, bachelor degree holders, master degree holders, engineers, lawyers, accountants, PhD holders, MD’s and other trades certificate holders in both Eastern and Western Europe, Canada, America and Nigeria? I know exactly what those numbers were in the US before the Covid-19 virus came. Unemployment in Nigeria is catastrophic on all levels. The problem of unpaid workers is problematic and far reaching in Nigeria. Equal pay for equal work is none existent regardless of your gender, religion, or region of origin. One more thing, nepotism and tribalism remains a nationwide epidemic.
The Nigerian constitution is in immediate need of an overhaul. On Friday, April 10th, 2020 suspected herdsmen invaded a Celestial Church of Christ, Breakthrough Cathedral, Ibusa, Parish I, Oshimili Local Government Area of Delta State, where they shot dead the resident Pastor, Stephen Akpor. It is amazing that these days, most places of religious gathering, churches, mosques and temples in the West and Europe all have armed guards presence. Worshipers of all faiths should have the rights to gather and worship without fear of unprovoked violence, attacks and even death.
The next day, April. 11th, 2020, a mysterious fire razed down the residence of Governor Okowa’s Special Assistant, simply identified as Hon Egbo aka Last Mugu in Ughelli, Ughelli North local government area of Delta State. Let say God, through Governor Okowa will give him much needed resources to bounce back, since property liability insurance is none existent in Nigeria. What bounce back is available to our masses on the street when they need hospital care, or food to eat or electricity to work and earn a living or watch the news during this pandemic lock-down? “None”. Having labored through acquiring a higher education diploma and completing NYSC, what bounce back does our youths have in the labor market? “None”. What do they have to look forward to? “No inspiration “. What human and civil rights provisions is the government making for her citizen that are forsaken? “None”.
Gun rights ought to be for everyone of legal age. Everyone should have the right to defend themselves and their families and their personal property and the life of their loved ones from violent criminals. Carrying a gun is a deterrent, and not the sole answer to all of our problems. It appears that we have a resemblance of freedom of speech, religion and gathering. When put to test, these rights are constantly being threatened. Our healthcare platform is dilapidated, hence international medical tourism is a staple among our Nigerian elite and the top 8% of our society. Our constitutional debate should accommodate social freedom in keeping up with today’s fluid demographics, culture and trends, so that no one individual or group should feel alienated.
Jobs! Jobs!! Jobs!!! must be created in various industries to match our citizens qualifications and skills. Out sourcing jobs to China and other countries must be reduced and eventually eradicated. We as a state and a country must create incentives to home grown companies that meet and exceed both national and international standards.
My political affiliation and my religious beliefs have no bearing on my position to cleanse our great country of corruption. In real time, Governor Okowo was alleged to have allocated a whopping N400m to his daughter’s office of Senior special Assistant on Girl-Child Education, an office with less relevance to the current challenges facing Delta state. These funds handed to our governor’s daughter was not in good faith or judgement. It is a slap to all the other hard working women and mother’s of Delta state. In the middle of this Covid-19, the world has celebrated Easter, Ramadan, and today is Mother’s Day across the world. With that said, I want to wish every woman and mother a happy Mother’s Day! What does this mean? Majority of our top leaders are men. Our women are under served , unappreciated, undermined and yet they persevere through adversities. We owe it especially to our women whom without them there will be no us, to provide them with great medical centers, marketing centers, safety and other great opportunities to thrive. A vast majority of our hard working women keep our homes together and one can argue that they are the gate keepers of our democracy.
There is virtually no state of the art hospital or medical facilities in Delta State, a state governed by a medical doctor. The available hospitals to my knowledge are short of medication, medical equipments, electricity and medical staff. The hospitals lack constant and stable electricity supply. The hospitals are deficient in every way and lacking most basic comfort, competence and convenience that every patient deserves as indigenes of Delta state and Nigerian. These are the reasons why our elite and affluent citizens will always indulge in medical tourism. Salaries are not being paid. In this period of covid-19 pandemic, I doubt if there are any hospital in the state that is capable of handling any major health crisis. Governor Okowa earlier on designated 10 hospitals as Coronavirus isolation Centers. What do these hospitals have to offer Covid-19 patients? Perhaps his Excellency can provide all Deltans with a specific list of what these hospitals have to offer. Do we have enough Covid-19 test centers, test kits and reagents, ventilators and proper isolation facilities across Delta state? The answer to any of these questions is a resounding “No”. What a shame that Delta state government did not have covid-19 testing center until two weeks ago when it managed to established one. Before then, suspected covid-19 patients were tested at Irrua, Edo State. Who are we fooling? Why must we always settle for mediocre projects and agendas? Ribbon cutting ceremonies are now meaningless.
Not so long ago, it would be recalled that sometime in 2013, an organisation put together an international consortium to design, finance and construct a state of the art hospital with 1687 bed hospital facility to be known as the ABUJA MEDICAL CITY. As part of the project, the international consortium was to upgrade and equip all the government hospitals in Nigeria as well. The project was presented to the then Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, the senate committee on health was then headed by Senator (Dr) Ifeanyi Okowa, who is presently the Governor of Delta state. The house committee on health then was headed by Hon. Ndudi Elumelu who is currently the minority leader of the House of Representatives.
My take here is that if Dr Ifeanyi Okowa failed to advance what he gained at the meeting at the federal level then, what has prevented him from implementing this concept in Delta state? One great health infrastructure in Delta State can be a game changer for all Deltans and Nigeria at large. Five years after being in office, Delta State health infrastructure is gone from bad to worst now that Covid-19 is here and spreading. Delta state has money, capacity, and the vision already laid out at Governor Okowa’s door step in 2013, but Abuja Medical City was not implemented. Just recently, Governor Okowa was alleged to have giving his daughter N400m amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. That whooping sum our Governor voted for his daughter’s pet project could have been used to lay the foundation for a level three state of the art hospital in Delta State. N400m that belongs to all Deltans could have been used for Covid-19 aid.
Reports equally alleged that Okowa’s second term in office is loaded with unqualified relatives. Even if they are qualified, to avoid the appearance of nepotism, why not appoint other qualified persons who are not related to our beloved Governor? How much transparency should we beg for? If it is not nepotism, it will be tribalism. I appreciate a good fact base argument from anyone and once again we can always agree to disagree. Democracy is about the people, government for the people by the people. So if you are in agreement with me, then all these great ideas should be put in our next ballot and let the electorate / the great citizens of Delta and Nigeria decide.
With this in mind, let us not be sidelined by intimidation and oppression. Things may get worst before they begin to get better. Let the right to bear arms debate begin. We can even put it in the ballot and let the people decide. I am happy to debate the merits of my position with anyone. European and American history set aside, the history of the 2nd amendment in the US is long. However, what I know about Nigeria and why I am pro gun for the electorate is conscience awakening. Great things will continue to elude us, if we lack the fortitude and courage to dare challenge the status quo. My friends, my fellow Deltans and Nigerians, I pray that we can begin to act on actionable progressive ideas and agendas. Let us put our house in order, develop our healthcare system and put an end to medical tourism. Here is a noble idea, The Federal Government, on Monday, May 4th, 2020 confirmed the receipt of $311m looted by the late military dictator, Gen. Sani Abacha. The said loot was repatriated from the United States and the Bailiwick of Jersey. So can’t we use this $311m to build one great hospital with full back up solar power system that our President will feel comfortable to patronize or use it as cash palliative to our citizens earning less than hundred thousand Naira monthly? Ok now I humbly digress.

Human and Civil Rights Violations By The Law Enforcement (Police And the Military) – Covid-19 lockdown

More on our rights to arms. The culture of our military especially our soldiers has not evolved with time since the military regime days. I am not sure where and how our deployed soldiers get their matching orders. For them to continue to intimidate unarmed civilians routinely is a gross violation of our civil rights. Our military is unable to defeat Boka-Haram or the Fulani herdsmen because they are heavily armed and over matched. Armed robbers continue to terrorize law abiding citizens daily. With the lockdown, there is no elecriciy supply, you cannot refrigerate any perishable food items and no money.This resulted in people becoming desperate, hence they prey on our most vulnerable. Perhaps I won’t be angry with them if they were robbing the wealthy 10%, that are well off citizens, financial institutions and flourishing businesses. Why rob those suffering like yourself? Why rob the poor? Why intimidate the helpless? I do not condone any act of violence or oppression or intimidation, but if you must, please target those that matter.
In 2003, as we left Muritala Mohammed International Airport, Ikeja, Lagos we ran into heavy Lagos traffic. Every vehicle created their own lanes and the highway turned into a bottle neck. From a far distance behind us, I could hear siren blasting with blue lights flashing. My initial thoughts were, it was probably an ambulance coming, so we all tried to create a part for this emergency ambulance motorcade to pass through. As the motorcade got closer, it became clearer that there was no medical emergency. There was no ambulance; it was an impatient VIP coming through with mobile escort. Guns were drawn and ‘ koboko’ and baton were used in clearing the way. The baton hit our vehicle and dented the hood and the koboko scratched off the paint on the passenger side and doors. I went through a range of emotions including anger. If I had a gun, I may have used it against the mobile escort team in retaliation for the unnecessary damage they caused to our vehicle. This practice is still occurring in 2020?
In April, during the unset of lockdown, innocent civilians were forced to swim in a diseased infested gutter in Warri, Delta State by some soldiers who alleged that the citizens were breaking the lockdown ordinance. How can the Governor justify the actions of these soldiers? Our soldiers and military cannot be allowed to be the judge and jury in any vibrant democracy. Countless armed robbers are operating as I write in Lagos, Sango-Ota areas and all across Nigeria now in the aftermath of the lockdown. These thugs are hungry and angry, so they match on from house to house stealing any and everything from unarmed residents. They can do this because they know that their victims are not armed. They can do this because they know that their victims don’t have any security protection. What about the kidnappers? I can go on and on disclosing various kind of crimes in Nigeria. My position is that, every human being has the right to defend what is theirs. No human being has the right to oppress, exploit a fellow human being. We all must be giving the right to “stand our ground” and protect what is rightfully ours.
In 2020, our government must do everything within its power to protect and restore dignity to all citizens period. How can we advance the ball in health care, energy, security, good roads, transportation and employment as peace loving Nigerians? The answer is to let our infrastructure compete with Europe and the West. Create new industries and have qualified Nigerians contribute to our workforce and to our communities. It is the humane thing to expect from our leaders. Dr Okowa please it is not too late for you to build a 1,000 bed trauma hospital in Delta State. For God’s sake you are a medical doctor, do the right thing for our people. The government can fund housing estate well equip with constantelectricty supply plus solar energy and Hotels and a market place all on one site. This can be your legacy for Delta and Nigeria will take notice, your excellency sir.

POLICE & ROAD SAFETY:

Protect and serve. Enforcement of traffic laws, civil, domestic matters, and make arrest judiciously, these are the universal creed of a true police department.
It is clear that the Nigerian Police Force has failed as a federal institution. They are not vested in the “LGA” communities that they serve. How do we address this matter? It can be address through “Decentralization” and sharing of a “National Data Base of information”
The entry level requirements for the police men and women should be raised and customized to each LGA communities that they serve. Each LGA community must conduct a national Standardized physiological profile on each enlisting potential police cadet and officers. They must all be thought ethics 101. Starting salary should be above living wage, clear road map for advancement and provide them with a decent retirement package and strong disciplinary action for rogue and corrupt policemen and women. The LGA communities that they serve will be responsible for their salaries and benefit packages. So the salaries and benefit packages will vary between each LGA based upon the LGA revenue capacity and the cost of living. Smaller LGA’s can merge with other nearby LGA’s to create a bigger revenue stream and may look to their state government for financial assistance as needed.
So how does each LGA generate revenue? Each LGA can tax business owners, landlords and local workers. They can also set fines and levies for traffic infractions, fines for not complying with local ordinances and rules. The fund raised should be supervised. No one should be able to bribe our law Enforcement men and women if we pay them enough and they know that they have a career that is worth having. We need to take the “Federal Role” out of our police force. This approach is worth trying now. There is no such thing as a perfect police department but as a society we must provide them with guidance, capacity, financial rewards and recognition that will make it challenging for bribery to fester and reduce the numbers of rouge and corrupt police men and women serving our LGA communities. Equip our police men and women with body cameras as standard issued along with their uniform. It must be turned on to record any and every encounter with the public. Failure to do so may lead to disciplinary action including termination. The general public has ready access to video recording on their smart phones and they can go live feed and or post any such recordings. So it is only fair that our police men and women remain transparent in all their dealings. The job that they do is a noble one with hidden dangers, so we must compensate them adequately. Their Basic training and psychological assessment should be the same across the nation.
For example Ethiope West LGA starting salary may be slightly higher than that of Igbara LGA because of the demographics, cost of living and other variables. The police should be a noble and selfless profession with great rewards, incentives, and retirement. When the communities that they serve pays majority of their salaries and benefits equitably their sense of responsibilities to their communities will improve. When bribery is hovering the question is, will that officer have a lot to lose and demonstrate the fortitude to just say “NO” to bribery? When choosing between your professional career and bribery becomes difficult, you will begin to see fewer corrupt policemen and women. The police force should be treated as the first responders that they are, by meeting majority of their needs in payroll. The Airforce, the Army, the Navy, the prison guards, can continue to be under the Federal government umbrella. Road safety and the police force should rightfully be under both the LGA Communities and the state government.

Tommy Onovbiona writes from the United States

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