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Emmanuel Onwubiko: coronavirus, “hunger virus” and human rights

I grew up in the then quiet city of Kafanchan in the state of Kaduna, unaware that there is a possibility that my neighbor slept on an empty stomach. This is because, although we had grown up in an average family, the fact that we had the privilege of having parents who were full-fledged hardworking traders and who prioritized instead of good nutritious food for their children, made life a little It is more bearable and comfortable. even if it is not very comfortable.

The closest I had as a school boy to meeting a hungry contemporary was in my early high school days in a kindergarten that this particular close friend often found pleasant to spend almost every afternoon at home and share my part of the school with me. Lunch generously prepared by Caroline, my sweet mom, who at the same time got so used to seeing my friend that she started saving double portions for me and my friend.

One day, out of curiosity, I told my friend that we will go directly to his house, since I don’t want us to go to my house until night, since I would like to go on foot to the nearby fruit farm. collect some ripe mangoes for us.

At first he hesitated, but noticed that I was referring to my words, so my friend admitted it and we went directly to his house. We arrived at his house exactly when it was lunchtime and to our surprise he had no food for him because his mother told us that he felt that since he was used to spending the afternoons at my house he thought we would. Eat at my house

At that time, my friend opened to tell me that since his father retired from the Nigerian railways and his tips and pensions have not been paid, he has been hard on them and requires commitment, endurance and hard work. from the mother to feed the family in the best possible way. My friend later told me it was hunger and poverty that motivated him to commit to school so that he can get a good grade to continue his studies if he can get the state scholarship to get his highest qualifications. study in order to save his family from their perennial hunger and poverty.

This same situation of not having good nutritious food to eat is the fate of millions of school-aged children who reported the federal government’s decision to start school feeding programs, which has been affected by corruption and inefficiency. The history of mass corruption has always been the problem with virtually all government obstetrician interventions to control the widespread effects of poverty and mass hunger in Nigeria.

It is also true that large-scale corruption in the implementation of school feeding programs and the transfer of conditional money from the current administration have failed as spectacularly as their predecessors, such as the previous federal administration’s POVERTY Relief Scheme. to address the high incidence of mass poverty and hunger on earth.

Two academics, Isa Aminu and Timothy Onimisi, wrote that: “Concerned about the continuing rise in the level of poverty, successive governments have formulated one policy or another to tame social unrest. But the level of POVERTY has continued to rise. The unfortunate state of poverty in Nigeria led the World Bank (1996) to describe Nigeria as a paradox. This is because Nigeria is a country of immense wealth with human and material resources, but its citizens continue to wallow in extreme poverty. By 1999, the World Bank estimated that Nigeria had earned $ 300 billion from oil. Between 1999 and 2011, the country obtained around $ 300 billion in oil and gas. ”

The systemic corruption mentioned by the aforementioned duo has even become a hydra-headed monster since the arrival of the current administration led by President Muhammadu Buhari.

The total lack of transparency and accountability in the financial affairs of the NNPC state has led to constant losses since 2015, just as the federal government has continued to borrow heavily from all types of places and in doing so ensuring that poverty and hunger can never decrease because the loan practice to cover recurring expenses and the claim to build infrastructure, while these funds are diverted, is the fastest way to perpetuate poverty and hunger in Nigeria. Below is a prominent Nigerian newspaper on the massive mismanagement of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) since the current administration came to power in 2015 and the President became the oil minister with his late boss. of Cabinet, Abba Kyari, as Prime Minister. board and another relative of the late chief of staff as chief executive officer of the group after the other Borno-born GMD, appointed by Buhari, retired.

The newspaper told us that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) reported losses in the N551.46b region from January 2015 to December 2018, reports The Guardian.

Details of the financial records published on the company’s website revealed that the domestic oil company has failed to repeatedly deliver the expected profits as its subsidiaries, notably refineries, headquarters operating costs and other weapons have left huge deficits. .
The company recorded a loss of N267.14b in 2015. The figure stood at N197b in 2016. In 2017, its balance sheet data showed operating losses of N82b, while a deficit of N5.46b was recorded for January and August. from 2018.

While the company has ruled out key details, such as Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) Ltd’s taxes and figures, it has not worked consistently compared to other domestic oil companies in Africa and other parts of the world.

Although the company recorded a trade surplus of N80.57 billion last year, the operating deficit recorded only by the nation’s refineries increased by 39% to N132.5 billion in 2018.

Compared to the previous year, the data showed that the refineries recorded a loss of N95.09b.

While the company gained 2,046 tons in 2015, it spent N2.313t, leaving a loss of N267.138b. Its headquarters registered the largest loss of N162.736b, while its supply and distribution arm for products, the Pipe and Product Marketing Company (PPMC) came in second with a loss of N162.06b, followed by a combined loss. from N82.09b of its three refineries. .

In 2016, the financial and operating report showed that the company had gained 1,726 tons, but had recorded an expense of 1,923 tons. Only the losses of its refineries amounted to N78.95b.

Most of the company’s losses over the past four years indicate that The Guardian came from its headquarters, refineries and a growing recovery from the import of petroleum products.
However, The Guardian noted that while the country is struggling to report earnings, Arambo from Saudi Arabia posted net income of $ 33.8 billion in the first six months of 2017 only. Sonangol from Angola made a profit $ 68 million in 2016. Despite paying $ 853 million in third-quarter damages, Brazilian Petrobras made $ 7 billion in 2018.

Most stakeholders, who expressed concern about the situation in various interviews with the newspaper, said that the abundant losses would continue without holistic reforms in the nation’s oil sector.

While the lack of reforms is allegedly robbing the country of around N3t in foreign investment, stakeholders have insisted that government interference in the company’s affairs, consumer subsidy for petroleum products and the covered system that is being managed by the company would continue to limit potential NNPCs. This administration has accumulated a legacy of theft, opacity and lack of transparency in the functioning of the NNPC, which is the largest resource that generates foreign income for the country. Corruption in the NNPC is inherent in the government’s inability to adequately implement measures to combat the twin social twins of poverty and hunger on earth affecting more than 100 million families.

Two years ago, a government official gave an idea of ​​why the POVERTY mitigation plan hasn’t worked in the country for decades.

In that 2017 report, the media stated that the federal government said that the undue influence of political patronage and godfather syndrome were among the factors that frustrated the country’s poverty alleviation intervention.

In addition, the report says the presidency is concerned about what it has described as “a weak association between the three levels of government”, although it recognizes that no one level can tackle poverty issues on its own.

The head of the National Social Security Coordination Office, under the responsibility of Vice President Peter Papka, revealed it to Kano, noting that the federal government was dissatisfied with the level of impact of its initiatives in reducing poverty in the poor and vulnerable despite the disbursement of enormous resources.

“While public spending on poverty reduction interventions is increasing, there has not been a corresponding increase in people from poverty, but rather people are getting poorer.

“We have observed weak monitoring of the performance of the people who manage it, poor coordination and inappropriate targeting of poverty reduction programs,” he said.

He also regretted that the program was managed through the top-down identification of the poor.

Papka, who spoke at the opening of 180 community trainees for the social safety net program in Kano, said the new agency collaborated with the state government to ensure proper implementation in the 15 local councils. selected in the state.

The first phase of the pro-poor program under the vice president’s office is underway in 11 federation states. The selected trainees are currently undergoing a four-day capacity development on how to identify the vulnerable and the poor, who would benefit from the social security intervention.

However, this open confession that corruption has consistently frustrated poverty alleviation efforts among millions of Nigerians has not been addressed and addressed by relevant anti-corruption agencies, showing that government officials can deliberately overlook the big problem. of corrupt practices on a large scale. thwart efforts to reduce hunger and poverty in the country.

The emergence of the CORONAVIRUS PANDEMY IN NIGERIA has amplified the colossal corruption situation of federal government officials who cannot explain how billions of dollars were spent on the social investment program. This led to what Ooni de Ife, the respected traditional ruler in southwestern Nigeria, called the high rate of HUNGERVIRUS.

The claim that HUNGERVIRUS kills more Nigerians than CORONAVIRUS is objectively accurate. In 2019, Nigeria became the world capital of POVERTY. In October 2020, Anup Shah wrote that the causes of hunger are related to POVERTY.

The writer asked us to consider the following: over 9 million people worldwide die each year from hunger and malnutrition. 5 million are children; About 1.2 billion people are hungry (calorie and protein deficiency); Between 2 and 3.5 billion people are deficient in micronutrients (lack of vitamins and minerals); However, around 1.2 billion suffer from obesity (excess fat and salt, often accompanied by deficiencies in vitamins and minerals).

Later, the writer hinted that although hunger affects most of the global community, we must realize that food waste is also high because we don’t have to; In the UK, a surprising 30-40% of all food is never eaten; Over the past decade, the amount of food that the British have thrown away has increased by 15%; Overall, £ 20 billion worth of food is thrown away each year (about $ 38 billion); In the United States, 40-50% of all ready-to-harvest foods are never consumed; Of the food that eventually arrives in homes, about 14% is wasted, resulting in approximately $ 43 billion in waste; If food reaching supermarkets, restaurants and coffee shops is added to the family figure, this waste increases to 27%; In Sweden, families with young children throw away about a quarter of the food they buy.

As for Africa, the researcher said that in some parts of Africa a quarter or more of the crops deteriorate before they can be consumed. More generally, the big losses in developing countries are mainly due to the lack of technology and infrastructure, as well as insect infestations, microbial growth, damage, high temperatures and humidity.

The impact of this waste is not only financial. Environmentally this leads to; Waste of chemicals such as fertilizers and pesticides; More fuel used for transportation; More decomposing food, creating more methane, one of the most harmful greenhouse gases that contributes to climate change.

The importance of the above analysis is to serve as a quick reminder to the Nigerian government that the GOVERNMENT’s purpose is to provide services and policies which, if meticulously implemented, could lift millions of Nigerians out of mass poverty. This theme brings us to the wider question of government responsibility in our aspiration to end poverty, hunger and inequality.

Anne-Marie Slaughter has rightly concluded and I agree in her brilliant presentations that the three responsibilities of any government are to PROTECT, PROVIDE AND INVEST IN PEOPLE.

He wrote that the oldest and simplest justification for the government is like a protector: protecting citizens from violence.

Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan, observes the writer, describes a world of incessant insecurity without a government that guarantees the security of law and order, protecting citizens from each other and from foreign enemies.

The horrors of a poor or no government to provide that function it has declared are exposed globally in the many fragile states of the world and in essentially ungoverned regions.

This writer will quickly list today’s Nigeria as one of those with high crime rates, corruption among officials, law and order disruption, violence and general collapse of basic health infrastructure that the Coronavir pandemic in Nigeria highlighted with the disappearance of the chief of staff of President Muhammadu Buhari, who for five years has failed to improve even the presidential health structure within the limits of the President’s office with an estimated amount of over N50 billion in the last five years planned and released.

The aforementioned writer said that the idea of ​​government as a protector requires taxes to finance, train and equip an army and police force; build courts and prisons; and to elect or appoint officials to approve and implement laws that citizens must not violate.

As for foreign threats, the government as protector requires the ability to meet and manage other governments, as well as to fight against them.

It then follows the concept of government as a supplier: government as a supplier of goods and services that individuals cannot provide individually for themselves. Government in this conception is the solution to the problems of collective action, the means by which citizens create public goods for the benefit of all, but they are also subject to problems of free movement without a certain collective compulsion.

The basic economic infrastructure of human connectivity, he said, belongs to this category: physical means of travel, such as roads, bridges and ports of all kinds, and increasingly virtual means of travel, such as broadband.

All this infrastructure can be, and generally is initially, provided by private entrepreneurs who see the opportunity to build a road, say and take a toll on users, but the capital required is so large and the public benefit so evident that, in the end, for example, the government takes over.

A more expansive concept of government as a provider is the welfare state: government can mitigate citizens’ inability to support themselves, particularly in the vulnerable conditions of youth, old age, disease, disability and unemployment due to economic forces at the beyond his control, he claimed.

The future of the government is based on these fundamentals of protection and supply.

The government he believes will continue to protect citizens from violence and the worst vicissitudes of life, said the author and I absolutely subscribe to this.

He recalled that tech journalist Gregory Ferenstein interviewed the best Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and concluded that “they want the government to be an investor in citizens rather than a protector of capitalism.” They want the government to fund education heavily, promote more active citizenship, seek binding international trade alliances and open borders to all immigrants. “In the words of Alphabet President Eric Schmidt:” The combination of innovation, empowerment and creativity will be our solution. ”

These views are what really constitutes a government and Nigeria is no exception under the principles of fundamental rights in chapter four of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in 1999, as amended, such as the Law on Life; the right to civil liberty; Right to freedom of association; Arbitrary freedom of detention and illegal arrests and freedom of religion.

Therefore, how the government fights against the internal forces of corruption within the government system will determine how to combat the twin evils of hunger and poverty, as well as institutionalize respect for the rule of law and human rights.

Judging by how badly the government has managed the redistribution of palliatives and relief to the Nigerian people during this CORONVIRUS trouble season, it is clear that we have a big problem in our hands and these problems that paralyze development must be clinically attacked and controlled in so that good governance can flourish even after the CORONAVIRUS PANDEMY IN NIGERIA.

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