It is quite sad that while the terrorism and criminality in the North-Eastern part of the country seems to be abating, there is a resurgence of violence going on in some parts of Benue State. Today, the Agatu ethnic group in that state have suddenly been turned into the Tutsis of Nigeria.
Last week, this column featured the story of the imminent collapse of the Lagos Cardiac and Renal Centre (CRC), located within the premises of the Lagos State General Hospital, Gbagada. Less than 24 hours after the story was published last Wednesday, workers at the health facility downed tools. One of their grievances was that the management of the facility that owes them about six months’ salary arrears was not prepared to pay them. Instead, the workers were being subjected to threats of dismissal or other punitive measures aimed at covering up the management’s inability to meet up with its financial obligations to the staff.
The management responded by intimidating the Indian members of staff. They were told that if they embarked on any strike action, they would instantly be deported back to India. That warning sent jitters through the spines of the expatriate workers. As for the Nigerians among them, the management quickly reached out to the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) in Ikeja, from where they brought in mercenaries who were to replace the Nigerians. But the mercenaries ran into hitches as they could not operate the machines at the renal centre. Stalemate.
This is the sort of cat and mouse game that has been going on at the medical facility for quite some time. The bottom-line is that the management put in place at the health facility by the concessionaire, Renescor Health LLP, a consortium of international health experts saddled with running the centre, has actually messed up the place. Like this column said last week, the centre is on the brink of collapse due to the fact that the concessionaire lacks adequate working capital to properly manage the facility. And as a way of cutting corners, those at the helm of affairs at the facility have resorted to diabolical management practices bordering on blackmail, intimidation and strong-arm tactics to cow the workers who have been bearing the brunt of the inadequacies at the hospital.
A few months ago, some of the patients visiting the hospital were so moved by the plight of the workers that they embarked on a protest march to the Lagos State House of Assembly. Surprisingly and most unfortunately, all they got was that they were asked to go and put their grievances on paper and submit to the Assembly. Since the protesters were renal patients who were merely moved to sympathy by the injustice being meted out to the staff by the management of the centre, all they simply did was to go in search of other places to do their dialysis while the rot and decay in the facility continue. As it is, the only thing that can change the misfortune of the health facility is for the Lagos State governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, to focus his binoculars on the activities of the hospital and rescue it from an impending doom.
Away from the CRC, the re-run election in Rivers State came up last Saturday, March 19, 2016. Now the election has come but not gone yet with the cancellation or postponement of election in eight local government areas. Even with the deployment of a large contingent of security personnel to ensure peace during the election, the exercise still recorded widespread violence and killing. In the run-up to the election, it was quite obvious that there was tension everywhere as political gladiators from the two major political parties – the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) – were busy fanning the embers of discord and acrimony all over the place.
The questions are: Why is the government treating the Agatu people as second class citizens? How are the Fulanis getting their catche of sophisticated weapons with which they wreak havoc all over the place? Who are the unseen hands behind this brigandage?
Since the return of democratic governance in the country in 1999, peace seems to have taken flight in Rivers State. During the election in 1999, politicians in that part of the country were alleged to have armed the bad boys in the creeks who were turned into political thugs to unleash terror on political opponents. After the elections, these bad boys were not disarmed by their pay masters and were abandoned. In a bid to survive, the boys organised themselves into cartels of militants and that witnessed an escalation of political and economic agitations in the Niger Delta region. The late President Umaru Yar’Adua’s government invented a masterstroke by introducing the amnesty programme. As a prelude, there was an arms mop-up in which the militants were required to voluntarily submit their arms. The exercise recorded a huge success.
Though the amnesty programme is still in place, more arms have been pouring into the region thereby worsening the already bad situation in that region. The result is the spate of violence and killings all over the region, particularly the Rivers-Bayelsa axis. During the last election in Bayelsa, it was the same story of bloodbath. In the case of Rivers, the politicians have consistently shifted the blame on cultists operating in the state. But there is no gainsaying that their godfathers and sponsors are some unscrupulous politicians who want to remain relevant in the politics of the state through unfair and foul means. These politicians have ensured that the politics that should have ushered in the greatest good for the greater number of people has now become a huge nightmare tormenting the people. This is very disheartening. Therefore, to restore peace and tranquillity to the state is an admittedly uphill task the security agents must do urgently before things get out of hand.
There are too many trouble spots in the country. It is quite sad that while the terrorism and criminality in the North-Eastern part of the country seems to be abating, there is a resurgence of violence going on in some parts of Benue State. Today, the Agatu ethnic group in that state have suddenly been turned into the Tutsis of Nigeria. Remember the genocide in Rwanda in 1994 in which the militiamen of the Hutu ethnic group targeted members of the Tutsi tribe and moderate Hutus claiming thousands of innocent lives. It is like the whole episode is being re-enacted in Nigeria, this time, between the nomadic Fulanis and the agrarian Agatu tribe in Benue State. And the grazing routes for the herdsmen’s cattle, remains the bone of contention. This is the underdevelopment and double-standard we are talking about in Nigeria.
In other climes, herds of cattle are confined to ranches, but here they are allowed to roam freely, destroying crops and farmlands with impunity. All of a sudden, the Fulani man that was hitherto known to be moving about with a stick now parades AK-47 rifles and other lethal weapons with which he terrorises villagers as he moves his cattle from one community to another, destroying other people’s source of livelihood in the process. And the government has been slow in taking action to stop this growing genocidal attack on the hapless Agatu people. The questions are: Why is the government treating the Agatu people as second class citizens? How are the Fulanis getting their catche of sophisticated weapons with which they wreak havoc all over the place? Who are the unseen hands behind this brigandage?
And just as we are left to ponder the dilemma facing the Agatu race, Nigeria scored an international mark in criminality last week. The scene was at the National Mosque in Abuja. That day, Dr. Abdullahi Bin Abdul, the Executive Secretary of the World Muslim League in Saudi Arabia who was in Nigeria and had been accorded the honour of leading last Friday’s Jumaat Service at the National Mosque, lost his phone to some smart guys who defied the heavy security cordon around him to strike. Since stealing is a very serious offence in Saudi Arabia, perhaps, whenever the thieves are apprehended, they could be “repatriated” to Riyadh for trial so that they can taste firsthand, the Saudis’ religious extremism. Period!
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