By: Emmy Joe The 2023 governorship election we have been waiting and hoping earnestly for to make a right choice is now around the corner.  As disclosed by Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the 2023 Nigerian gubernatorial elections will be held in 31st out of 36th states on the 11th March 2023- two weeks after the general election. Sequel to the scheduled date for the elections, the governorship candidates  for the two major political parties in Benue State had recently released their  blueprint.  The duo include; The governorship Candidate of All Progressives Congress (APC), Rev. Father Hyacinth Alia, and the governorship candidate of the People Democratic Party  (PDP), Rt. Hon. Titus Uba. Rt. Hon. Titus Uba titled his blueprint as “soil as our oil” and further unveiled “Security and Agriculture as his top priorities when he wins the forthcoming coming election, Demystifying his idea and giving elaboration to his point he stated that his choice of priority areas was informed by the fact that Benue is endowed with rich agricultural soil.“Every section of the country is endowed in a very unique way as such, Benue is endowed with good soil for agricultural activities.” “This informed our decision to choose the slogan. “soil is our oil”, We do not have a bogus blueprint. Our blueprint is anchored on only two critical issues,” Uba said.  He stressed that he would use the state’s natural endowment to develop her. Meanwhile the candidate of the All progressive congress (APC) Rv. Father Hyacinth Alia on his part disclosed via his blueprint released recently which he tagged; ” A Strategic Development Plan for a Greater Benue, He said the document is structured around seven priority pillars, with the acronym SACHIIP, which represents, Security of Lives and Property; Agriculture and Rural Development; Commerce and Industry; Human Capital and Social Development; Infrastructure and Environment; Information & Communication Technology (ICT); and Political and Economic Governance. He stressed that his  services would be in line with the core values of human capital development, accountability, inter-and intra-governmental cooperation, industry, integrity, character, trust and moral courage that adds value to governance if he becomes governor of  Benue state. Fr Alia also promised to build an economy based on functional education, employment generation, agricultural development and growth with a focus on food production and processing in a secured environment that ensures food security, wealth creation and poverty reduction for the state. Taking a critical look at the two blueprints above and giving a comparative analysis on the blueprints, ” whose ideas can drive Benue people to the promised land?” is it the man whose idea is narrowed towards a particular issue? or the man whose idea is directed towards a broad range of issues?, the one that says few words or the one who uses many words? In the part of the people democratic party Guber candidate, Rt. Hon. Titus Uba, questions like this arise when considering the angle he is coming from, in terms of his promises of “Security and Agriculture” as top priorities, Does it means, he is taking another strategic approach in tackling security issues than the one the incumbent Gov. Samuel Ortom has taken so far to ensure security of life in the state? Does it mean governor Ortom has not done enough to ensure security in Benue State?  Would Agricultural development alone be enough to foster development in other sectors in Benue State? Has the small quantity of the agricultural produce in Benue State been well processed and preserved? Do we have adequate facilities and industry for the procession and preservation of agricultural produce in our state to avoid wastage and spoilage as in the case of tomatoes, oranges and mangoes we see every year? How then, can someone ascend a position  overnight to use agriculture as a tool for development when the agricultural sector itself is not yet developed? On his  part, Rv. Fr Hyacinth Alia under the platform of All progressive congress (APC) has revealed several things he will do when he emerges a winner in the forthcoming elections, numerous questions emanate in his multiple promises to the people of Benue state. Yes he touches all the areas that handicapped Benue state for about 36 years of her birth, what’s the possibility of him abiding by all he said and doing them before his tenure elapsed?  What has he done significant in the sector he has formerly worked in that the experience would enhance him to achieve  all he promised if the opportunity is given to him by the Benue people? The situation Benue State found herself now is about a broad range of agendas that would bring emancipation? He has outlined the  “what to do” for  Benue people, how about the “how do it”? like in the case of his opponent who wants to harness agriculture as a tool for Development.  what approach would he use to achieve the seven priority pillars, with the acronym SACHIIP? The capable and suitable candidates that can drive Benue people safely to the promise land is dependent on the possible answer you can craft for the above questions, competence is not found in  either our few words or numerous words, competence is found in individual actions deducing from what he/she had done in the  past especially in the office he has handled in the past. Who Then is our preferred candidate  Rv.Father Alia or Mr. Titus Uba? Benue people, “the ball is now in our court” the way we play it this time around determine our win or lose, this is a clarion call for all Benue sons and daughters to come out and make the right choice this time that we won’t regret it in the next four years  “had I know” is a language of a loser to avoid losing to their selfish, ambitious, pretentious flattering of words which is one of the political ideas as “a game of interest” we must look beyond their words this time around to observe carefully at the actions of the man speaking to us. In any choice you make in the 2023  elections, either through sentiment, tribalism, relativism or bribery, always remember the political thought of Niccolo Machiavelli “the end justifies the means’.

By: Gloria Ogine Following the ripple effect of the redesigned naira currency as part of the activities of the Nigerian federal government in the implementation of the Nigeria Cashless Policy, the country is now thrown into an unfortunate hardship, and students are not left out.  As obtainable in other places, the Northcentral University Students, are having more difficulties paddling the canoe through learning.  In addition to academic stress; flipping through pages of books, journals, research works, jostling through the internet for inspiration, and rushing to beat assignment deadlines, Benue varsity students are making harder decisions accommodating long queues at the Automated Teller Machines (ATM) and Point of Services (POS)  terminals waiting forever for cash. Recall that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) through its governor, Godwin Emefiele had on October 26, 2022, announced that it had redesigned  N200, N500, and N1,000 notes.  The Commission went further to give until the thirty-first of January 2023, after which the old notes would cease to be legal tender.  Although the January 31st, 2023 deadline didn’t go well with Nigerians, owing to the scarcity of the redesigned notes.  February 10th was later announced as the new deadline which was still not well with Nigerians Nevertheless, the policy has come to stay despite the cash scarcity.  Students Narrate ordeals.  At the Benue State University, Makurdi, The Middlebelt Reporter observes that students are having a hard time choosing between attending lectures or joining the long queue at the ATM terminals or POS stands.  Either of the decisions is detrimental to their academic performance or stomach performance.  Read Also: In Benue, farmers recount losses as Nigeria’s weak forest policy aids deforestation Most times, long queues don’t have pay-offs; as there isn’t sufficient cash to go around. To worsen the situation, some  POS agents around the university community have heightened their service charges despite stern warnings from the Students Union body.  Like Edwin Oruhu; a final-year student of the department of Zoology said it is frustrating to be cashless on campus, especially since the bandwidth is unfavorable for internet banking. “I could recall paying at a restaurant with my friends and days after, we got back to hear that the transfer wasn’t confirmed. We had to pay again.” Edwin and their friends have had times of being overcharged simply because they had no cash. And they had to pay with their card or mobile transfers.  “Today, a friend and I went to the park after she couldn’t access cash. They were accepting transfers at first but when a particular transaction could not be verified, they stopped and we had to locate another park. we were charged #2000 for a service of #1500 if we use cash.” Gideon Ocholi, a 300-level student of  Medicine and Surgery (MBBS) said,  “As a student, it has affected me in diverse ways including hunger strikes and being stranded” He continued, “I have been meaning to go to the market for the past two weeks but I have not been able to. Do you know why? I don’t have transportation fare. I don’t have #200 for okada.  That’s so sad.”, He lamented. Emmy Joe, a 300 Level Mass Communication student of Benue State University, pointed out that the new naira policy has posed a series of challenges for him but one of these challenges that stands out for him is the difficulty he encountered when paying his school fees. Read Also: Low Christmas as Fuel Price Cripples Travel Hopes in Benue “Ever since the old naira ban and new naira scarcity began, I have been having a series of challenges when it comes to transactions, as it is, payments of user charges can be daunting.  “The new currency saga is no longer something to bear.” He added.To cushion the strenuous difficulties, the Nigerian President, Mohammadu Buhari,  GCFR addressing the nation on February 15th, affirmed that the old N200 naira note alongside the new N200, N500, and N1000 naira notes would concurrently be legal tenders until April 10, 2023, when the old 200 nairas would cease to be a legal tender.

By: David Arome The streets and roadside are gradually turning into a refuse hub with various types of waste. It is so glaring that among other waste indiscriminately disposed of, plastic waste tops the lead. The stance emanating from the waste is enough to make one throw up. The multiplier effects of plastic waste pollution in the environment are already staring at us so hard. The waste plastic and other refuse dump sites are now habitations for rats and mosquitoes, exposing the locals to public health threats. This practice over time led to blockage of drainages, waterways thereby resulting in flooding.   Plastic pollution has recently gained a new global dimension, with Nigeria taking its turn in the emerging environmental public health threat. It is a widespread trend and a more frequent cause for concern. According to the World Population Review of 2021, Nigeria is rated as the 7th largest country in the world for generating plastic waste, amounting to about 5.96 million tons annually, with about 88 percent of the waste generated not being recycled but rather ending up in landfills and waterways. Plastic pollution does not only negatively impact the environment but also the health and safety of human lives.   Residual Impacts of Indiscriminate Disposal of Plastic and Other Waste The usual excitement that comes when it rains, especially with the cold natural climate that accompanied it, turned out to be an unforgettable ordeal for Mr. John. John is one of the residents of the Maraba suburb community. He is a petty trader who sells food stuff in the main market in Maraba. On a Saturday morning, though the cloud cover was heavy and the wind was blowing, he quickly rushed to the market to continue his sale. That same day, it rained heavily, causing flooding and leaving plastic waste littered in the environment. Shortly after the rain stopped, John received a phone call from a neighbor informing him that his house had been flooded. He rushed to the house to confirm the information he had received from his neighbor. On reaching the house, he could not hold back his tears as the flood had destroyed his house and properties. There are many others with similar experiences.  An online survey through a cloud-based platform (Google Form) conducted by David Arome to assess knowledge, perceptions, challenges, and mitigating factors of environmental plastic pollution. The responses of the participants are shown in the chart below: These responses are clear indications that environmental plastic pollution requires a holistic approach to combat the threat as soon as possible.  Nigerians on the streets are also concerned about the environmental threat posed by plastic pollution. Martha, one of the street Nigerians interviewed, also bared her mind on the devastating effects of plastic pollution, such as flooding and littering of the environment. They also blamed the frequent burning of plastic waste on a lack of waste bins and a poor waste management system. They reiterated that the aftermath effect leads to environmental pollution.   Environmental experts across the board have added their voices to the call for scaled-up action to get rid of plastic pollution from the environment. Mr. Chinedu, an environmental expert, emphasized the need for concerted efforts to stem environmental plastic pollution. He stressed the need to intensify awareness-building efforts in communities and embrace proper disposal of plastic waste in the environment. He also urged the public to adopt an eco-friendly approach by not burning plastic waste, rather dispose of it in the plastic trash bins. He calls for policy adjustments that will incorporate a plastic pollution-free environment, strengthen existing structures, and engage the private sector in plastic waste management across the state. Contributory Factors that Trigger Environmental Plastic Pollution The practice of indiscriminate disposal of plastic waste: The trend toward indiscriminate disposal of plastic waste is alarming and worrisome. It has become a usual practice among many Nigerians to throw off plastic waste along the street without having a second thought about what happens to the plastic waste next. In the long run, these indiscriminate plastic wastes accumulate to block the flow of waterways, resulting in flooding, stagnant pools of water that provide a habitat for insects and rodents to thrive and spread diseases, and plastic waste pollution in the environment, among other things. Poor plastic waste management system: the waste management system is far from getting it right, probably due to a shortage of personnel and equipment to mop up the waste collection from communities and strategic waste dumping sites. Furthermore, the lack of waste segregation, particularly of plastic from solid waste, poses a significant challenge, as collected waste is all mixed and disposed of together. Scanty recycling companies: The number of recycling companies is insufficient to match the massive plastic waste turnout. The plastic waste generation in Nigeria annually is estimated at2.5 million tons.  Possible Solution Toward Achieving Plastic Free Environment Continued education and awareness creation on proper disposal of plastic waste, provision of waste bins, timely collection of the waste by concerned waste management authority are key in the drive in achieving a plastic waste free environment. The culture of cleaning your space and proper disposal of plastic waste remain a first line remedy to a clean, safe and healthy environment. Plastic free environment is a call of duty to everyone in support of stemming plastic pollution. The waste management system needs a complete overhaul to meet the current reality in the quest for a clean, safe, and healthy environment. Also, the private sector can partner with the government in the drive for efficient waste management systems at all levels to create a viable working system. The government on its part can provide a policy framework for the efficient control of plastic waste pollution and smooth running of the waste management system. The plastic waste system can turn out to be a new gold mine for Nigeria in terms of creating job opportunities for the teeming populace.  A clean, safe, and healthy environment is a possibility and everyone’s business, not just that of the government alone. A clean environment is a safe environment.   This report was supported by the Africa Data Hub Community Journalism Fellowship.

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Residents of Makurdi, the Benue State Capital, are having low celebrations as they lament the undue cost of transportation from the state.  A development orchestrated by the high cost of Premium Motor Spirits (PMS) has forced many to suspend their yearly travels. At Evergreen filling station in Wurukum makurdi, The middle-belt reporters observes that the price of fuel per litre is N280 while at  Westside filling station Kanshio, fuel had been sold between N300.  However,   black marketers continued to feast, as they pegged the price at  N400 and N450 average John Tavershima said he travels every year during the yuletide from Makurdi to Vandikiya to see her aged mother. In his words,  the transport fair has forced him to suspend the yearly routine. “traveling home yearly to see my mother who stays in Vandeikya has been suspended this year, due to a hundred percent increase in transport fare.   The previous year,  transport fares went between N1,500 and N2,000. However, this year is the worst.  travelers are paying N3,000 for the same trip.  trip” “I have decided to stay back and send cash to my mother though I never loved to do that I have no option this time” Another resident Okwute Dickson 45, from Okpoma Ainu in Oju Local Government Area, said there is an undue increment in the cost of transportation to Oju which was never envisaged.  “The burden which has come with the increment in transport fares is heartbreaking, though I saw this coming I never knew it would get to this stage. He further revealed that the price from Makurdi to Oju was N2,000. while the price presently stands at N3,500,  “I have decided to stay back with my family in Makurdi this year against yearly travel,” he said. “The hardship and suffering due to the current fuel scarcity are enormous, the oil we produce does not count anyway. It pains so hard to be a Nigerian who suffers without a fault. Like every other Nigerian, Dickson is wishing for a better Nigeria as Christian faithful mark the birth of a savior today. “I hope the government does something as soon as possible, to help us that are suffering this hardship” The Department of State Security Service had on the 8th of December,2022 given a 48 hours ultimatum to the oil marketers and NNPC Limited to end the lingering fuel scarcity. Despite the stern warnings, the current reality in Makurdi, and several states do not speak of compliance with the Security Services. 

On a cool evening in October 2021, Apev Iorliam, 27, alongside others, had just written their final examination as an undergraduate student at Benue State University, Makurdi. Mr Iorliam had promised himself what the final excitement would look like. He would, first of all, allow his parents to feel the euphoria of having a graduate in the family. Soon, he would be united with his family as an Industrial Chemistry graduate – or so he thought as he embarked on the journey from school. He wouldn’t stop smiling as the Peugeot car conveying him alongside others from Makurdi to Degu Gbinde accelerates.  At the other end, Apev Isaac, his father, was phoned by Benjamin Awen, Mr. Iorliam’s friend, earlier to inform him that his son is on his way home. They were preparing to receive him but the joyful anxiety was soon cut short. Mrs. Ngodoo Apev received a call from a bystander who saw her number as Mr Iorliam’s last dialed. Her beloved son is dead. “That was how my world came crashing within a second,” she said. “The pain was the highest I have witnessed in my life. It gets to me especially when I see corp members and other graduates. It reminded me of a dead vision. My joy of motherhood got slimed and the pain would remain forever” It all began in High-level park, makurdi. Everyone was seated. The makurdi-Awajir-Oju route is around 150km, estimated to be about two hours, thirty minutes journey.  Mr. Iorliam knew this would take longer than estimated, considering the deplorable state of the road. What he never envisioned was being a victim of a failed road. It had rained the previous hours heavily and the road was flooded. About halfway into the journey, the car plunged into a ditch, leading to a fatal accident. To Mr. Iorliam’s family, it was not just an accident. It was a light turned off. “Tragic is nothing compared to how I want to describe it,” Mrs. Apev laments.   Mr. Iorliam is one of the many who have lost their lives on the famous Awajir-Oju road.  Farmers lament The deplorable state of the road is reputed to have thwarted businesses. It is the only road connecting various communities like Degu Gbinde, Shangiev, Bonta all in Konshisha Local Government of the State, and Ukpute, Ainu-Ette, Ukpa in Oju Local government.  “Benue state is the Food Basket of the Nation as a slogan has undoubtedly been abused. Lack of access roads is one of the many factors contributing to hunger in the state.” Isaac Ode, a 52-year-old farmer said. The farmer, from Ukpute community, has had his farm produce waste for lack of access road to a good market.  Apart from his large cassava farm, Mr Ode has a lot of palm trees that normally should give him enough money if there was a good road to transport them to markets. “I can’t suffer myself anymore to prepare palm oil for others to reap the profits. I can’t possibly transport them to town and only those who have the means buy from me at a cheaper price and later resold”  “We farmers in this communities have seen it hard. On several occasions, we hired a pick-up van to convey our goods to the market, and we often ended up spending more than we earned. Because of the bad road”  Igbegi Okoli, 47, is a motorist who normally plies the Oju-Awajir through Makurdi. He narrates his ordeal using the road on one occasion when robbers took advantage of the bad portion to waylay him and his passengers. “One Sunday evening I set out for Makurdi. Ordinarily, it should have been a 2 hrs journey. It had rained heavily and the road was bad.  “About one hour into our journey, we got robbed along the Shangiev area. I was with passengers who also got robbed.” “I am still paying for the waybills that got robbed on the way. I may not know the monetary value of everything that was robbed but about two hundred nairas belonging to customers were collected that night.” “It was a painful experience. I tried to escape but the road betrayed me” I have been more careful with the road especially when it is getting dark.” Unlike Mr Okoli, who was robbed along the road, Onwanyi Idekpa, 37, from Ukpa, a retail roadside fruit seller couldn’t keep the frustration that comes with the hike in the price of her goods. She’s afraid she might fade out of the market soon. “You can’t imagine how much we pay to bring these oranges here,” she pointed to a mini bag of oranges on the floor.”  “A bag of this orange and garden egg used to be eight thousand. It is now fifteen thousand Naira. How much would you sell it?” Road project would have made the difference In 2019, the government of Benue State budgeted one billion Naira (1,000,000,000) for the construction of the 52.0km Awajir-Oju road. It was meant to ameliorate the pains, the struggles of those who use the road. UDEME could not ascertain how much had been released for the project as state officials declined comments and failed to respond to official request. If completed, the road has the potential of opening up economic activities for farmers along the Oju axis.  The project was under the supervision of the Ministry of Works, Transport and Energy.  Although farmers were optimistic that the construction of the road will boost economic activities; this hasn’t materialised.  When this reporter visited in November, he found the road in a deplorable condition, nowhere near completion.  On the 52 km Awajir-Oju road are graven portholes, in some cases, these holes are deep and are very difficult to drive through.  Contractor Unreasonable. A 52-year-old resident, Maria Udenyi, said only a portion of the road was worked on. “Only about 8 to 9 kilometres was graded from the Oju main market to Ainu/Ette”  At the Awajir-Oju junction, there is a metal sign post depicting that the road construction was handled by Chinese company “CGGC Global Projects Nigeria Limited.”  Multiple calls made to the company’s contact were unanswered. Despite Promises, ministry fails to respond  After several attempts to speak with the commissioner for the ministry of works, Transport and Energy, this reporter was redirected to Engr. Alex Ornya, the Director of Civil Engineering at the Ministry of Works, who demanded a formal request for information.  A Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request sent to the ministry on November 9 is yet to be responded to well after the seven days’ response window stipulated by the law. This story was supported by the Udeme project of the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID)

The Liberalist Centre for Education, a Nigeria-based libertarian think tank promoting pro-freedom ideas for human flourishing, has trained journalists on pro-freedom reporting. Themed “Prompting a Free, Prosperous Society Through Pro-freedom Reporting”, the event lasted for two days, held on Friday, 28th October and Saturday, 29th October at Ilorin, Kwara State. The training which focused on educating the public about the ideas of liberty through pro-freedom reporting was part of the centre’s Journalism for Liberty project funded by Atlas Network, a non-profit organisation that secures individual’s rights to economic and personal freedom through its global network of think tanks. Its other partners in this project include Face of Liberty International, African Students for Liberty and Cheetahs Policy Institute. Speaking with the Programme Director, Johnson Sanni, he said coupled with the training, the project also includes launching a news magazine that focuses on publishing pro-liberty articles. “Our aim is to establish a media platform that uses investigative stories, in-depth features, and engaging op-ed articles to inform and expose the adverse effects of excessive government’s powers and ways through which individual liberty and free market are impeded. “After this training, these fellows shall become contributors to our news magazines and advocates of liberty through their reports,” said Sanni. Recall that the Liberalist Centre opened applications for mid-career journalists and writers with interest in the ideas of individual freedom, free market and limited government for their Journalism for Liberty Fellowship 2022. While speaking on the training sessions, Abdullah Tijani, the Executive Director, stated that the training was aimed at exposing the journalists to the ideas of liberty and the journalistic skills needed for reporting to promote the ideas. “The training was an eye-opener for the participants,” he said. “It enlightened them on the ideas of freedom which serves as the basis upon which the philosophy of libertarianism is built.” Speaking with one of the journalists, Adedayo Muhammed-Bashir said the training gave him an insight into the true ideas of liberty. “Majorly, it was all about who we in the society and who we should be in respect to how to identity and protect our rights and freedom. “And there was a clear definition of what liberty is and what freedom is, while comparing what positive right and negative right is all about. It was really an interesting and insightful session,” he added.

After days of consistent rainfall some areas in the capital of Benue state have been flooded with goods worth millions lost. Some of the area flooded are Gyado Villa, Wurukum Market and Achusa all in the capital of the state. Some individuals who were affected lamented that the flood in Makurdi has become a yearly scenario with goods worth millions lost every year. Also Read: ReviveOurLibrary: Benue Citizens lament Moribund State Library. Mr Emeka who deals with Clothing at the Wurukum Market recounting his losses stated that “in the past three years I have lost goods worth 2 Million Naira due to the incident that occurs every year, the government should stand up to stop this yearly occurrence” Onah, a student of Benue State University Makurdi who could not hold back his tears while sharing his experience criticized the government for failing to provide ‘critical infrastructures’ in the state “the government has failed to provide critical infrastructure at every level, the school is on strike we are still losing our properties due to flooding if the government provides drainage system the yearly occurrence and losses could be averted” “the government should also provide enough hostel facilities for students like me on campus which will help (us) students cope with unnecessary loss of properties” Also Read: Strike: FG Drags ASUU to Industrial Court. A popular humanitarian in the state Ukan Kurugh also expressed that the “political will” of the government to solve the problem of flooding is low in the state. He also claimed that houses have been built on waterways by politicians in the state. In 2017 the government through professor Osibanjo pledged to dredge River Benue and create more drainages in the capital to address the situation

The statement released by the head of public relations at the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment Olajide Oshundun has confirmed that the Federal Government has dragged the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to Court over the current seven months strike. He stated that the decision was made after negotiations with the union failed, Also Read: Three Students Found dead in Anambra. The government wants the court to order the University Teachers back to classrooms while the issues of disputes are handled by the court. The letter which was signed by senator Chris Ngige the Minister of Labour and Employment on Friday, September 8 2022 is asking the court to determine the legality of the current strike by the Union. In addition, the government is requesting the interpretation of the entire section 18 of the LFN 2004. Other requests include the interpretation of section 43 of the trade dispute act CAP T8 LFN 2004, determine if ASUU members member are to be paid during the period of the strike. “Determine whether ASUU has the right to embark on strike over disputes as is the case in this instance by compelling the Federal Government to employ its payment platform and determine the extent of the union’s demands since 2020. Also Read: ReviveOurLibrary: Benue Citizens lament Moribund State Library. The Union embarked on strike since February 14th, 2022 to press home their demands which include the renegotiation of the 2009 agreement, the acceptance of UTAS over the current used IPPIS, payment of Earned Academic Allowances. Others include the constitution of the visitation panel and the revitalization of public universities and the proliferation of State Universities.

Benue State citizens have lamented and begun to trend the #ReviveOurLibrary over the deplorable condition of the state library located in Makurdi, the Benue State capital. Also Read: Three Students Found dead in Anambra. Several netizens of Benue origin have taken to social media to reminisce about the good old days when the library was still in use and in good shape. According to Agagbe Kelvin, the library was instrumental in getting them prepared for West Africa Examination Council WAEC, National Examination Council, and NECO. “I remember how this library serve myself and many others preparing for WAEC and NECO examinations, with just an ID we got then,(that even enable some of us to open bank accounts as at the time) gave us access to numerous resources and text plus the most sought past questions and syllabus”. According to Kelvin, it is impossible to be called leaders and be informed if the place of research and reading is inaccessible. “Today images of this resource center is rather an eyesore, under whoever care, the state library has gone moribund, if as a state we are not reading and researching, how can we lead and be informed” He, therefore, called the attention of the State Governor, Dr. Samuel Ortom to Revamp the library. “I, therefore, call the attention of the Governor, Dr. Samuel Ortom, to #ReviveOurLibrary” “We must build a sound generation and keep an informed citizenry” He continued.

By Manasseh Mbachii Benue State chef, Victor Tartenger has embarked on a remarkable 135-hour culinary journey to set a new Guinness World Record for the longest cooking marathon by a single individual. Victor who is popularly known as Naira-Victor began his cook-a-thon on Tuesday, February  27, 2024, in Makurdi the Benue State Capital, and is scheduled to conclude on Sunday, March 3rd, 2024 The record-breaking attempt by the Benue Born Chef is coming after Alan Fisher, an Irish restaurant owner, and chef based in Japan, broke the cooking marathon by an astonishing 119 hours and 57 minutes to displace Nigerian Hilda Baci’s who held the record from May 2023 till November 2023  Chef Victor, who hails from the Food Basket of the Nation, aims to push the boundaries of culinary endurance with the intention to share 70% of the food cooked during his days in the kitchen with the Internally Displaced Camps within the State. Confirming the record-breaking attempt Guinness World Records indicated that Victor Tartenger received approval from the GWR on December 17, 2023, to set a new cooking marathon record in Makurdi Benue State of Nigeria to cook for about 120 hours plus to dethrone the award-winning Chef Irish Alan Fisher. Nigerians eagerly awaited the outcome, as hundreds of supporters were seen at Tiger Bar in Makurdi Benue State to witness Naira-Victor’s extraordinary cooking marathon in setting a new Guinness World Record. The recent attempt by Victor is among several others that have attempted to break the record after Hilda Baci did in May 2023.

Flooding along the banks of River Benue has brought yearly disasters to the people of Benue State in north-central Nigeria, especially to the residents of Makurdi, Tarka, and Otukpo Local Government Areas of the state. The Benue State Emergency Management Agency stated in 2022 that a total of 134,797 people were displaced by floods in the state, after 18,349 houses and farmlands were submerged.  The annual plight of the residents has largely been due to the failure of the government at the federal and state levels to control the floods or mitigate their impact on the people and the environment. The federal government had allocated some flood control projects to the state that would have mitigated the impact of flooding, but the projects have failed to address the main issues despite millions spent. In Makurdi, the government, during the administration of Muhamadu Buhari, awarded contracts for the Idye Basin flood control project. at a cost of N700 million. But floods have continued whenever the rains are heavy in Makurdi.  In its 2022 budget, the Benue State Government also listed some projects it planned to execute to reduce the impact of climate change in the state, especially flooding. However, the government did not execute the projects, thus abandoning the residents to their misery. According to the budget document, such projects include Erosion and Flood Control at Hudco Quarters, budgeted at N10,000,000; Ecological Projects at N1,210,000,000, with N13,113,249 released in 2021, Engineering, Design and Construction of Drainage N18,000,000 Water Pollution Prevention and Control: Solid Waste and Dumpsite Management, N51,905,600, was budgeted in 2022, while N5,651,900 was released in 2021 for the project. During the tour of Makurdi, Tarka, and Otukpo, which are highly affected by flooding in the state, no project was seen by the reporter The 2021 budget shows that the state government paid N18,765,149 to contractors for different projects aimed at mitigating the flood disasters, while N1,289,905,600 was voted for similar projects in 2022. The Idye Basin flood control project in Makurdi appeared to have worsened rather than reduced flooding. Before the construction of the flood protection drainage, the residents said water never flooded their households. But since the project was executed, water has always found its way into their houses and farmlands. For Johnston Ejoga, 60, from Ohimini local government and a resident of Makurdi for the past ten years, the 2023 flood will always stick in his memory. He narrated how he woke up one day in July and found his room flooded by water. Johnston explained how his home appliances, which he had brought in from the United States of America, were destroyed that night.  He said the flood had destroyed the fence before entering the main compound of the house from the major road. “It was a terrible experience. I woke at night when I discovered the water had reached my waist level. I was shocked because it had never happened like that before. “I think the drainage built here is the worst anyone can imagine; when it rains, the whole road gets flooded, and when the water doesn’t see a road to pass through our houses, it becomes its refuge.” The major areas that have flooding to contend with in the state are Hudco Quarters, Wurukum, Gyado Villa, Wadata, and Innongun. In the 2021 budget, the Benue State government captured Hudco quarters but neglected other areas of the state capital which had witnessed severe flood incidents Around Gyado Villa, despite the yearly flooding, the government failed to initiate a project to control the flood. The government’s negligence extends to Wurukum, where existing drainages were blocked while other areas in the settlement do not have drainage. In Innongun Makurdi, water has always had its way into the houses of the residents, as it was mentioned that the constructed drainage was not able to accommodate the passing water that overflows to residential buildings, worship centers, and hospitals. The major failure, according to the residents, was the government’s inability to construct drainages to take the heavy volume of water that flows around the community during rainfall. A victim of the flood Grace Ogaba 60, from Ado, residing in Makurdi, said her health deteriorate after not having a place to sleep for more than two weeks when the flood took over her houhold “When the incident happened,  I moved my properties into one of the rooms and ran to safety. We stayed for more than two weeks there, and the worst that happened was not having a place to sleep or good food to eat.” Grace said the cold she caught through sleeping on the ground has resulted in her health challenge, which has forced her to resign from her job. “In my last visit to the hospital, I was told that I had gotten myself infected with pneumonia. When the incident happened, I was not able to carry any reasonable clothes when we ran to safety. Unfortunately,  when we returned, my house was broken into, with almost all my belongings taken away. For now, I am waiting to feel better so I can start from square one.” The Worst Hit in Makurdi The 2022 Benue floods led to the loss of lives. The Idye Basin flood control project was initiated to control water flow in the Benue State capital to reduce the incidence of floods and the loss of life and properties. But the failure of the project drove Mercy to the Tse Yandev IDP camp.  “I have lived here for a few years now; there is nothing at home for me to return to. I will better stay here and feed on my cloth sewing skills until help comes.”   For physically challenged Yougha Yakubu, 65, who manages to farm as a resident of Hudco Quarters in Makurdi, escaping with her five children was tough. She narrated how the flood water soaked her food storage and swept off her farm. “What I and my family survived with is the food storage we kept away from the house, and the small vegetable farm we had was washed off as well The experience I had was not one I would love to remember, but I thank the almighty that I’m alive.” She explained that escaping to a secure environment before the flood disaster was difficult, despite government initiative. “The government had asked us to move away from here, but it was not easy to leave the house to become a refugee in a camp. Even when the flood got worse and we left for safety, getting basic amenities like food and water was challenging. Lamentations in Tarka Tarka Local Government Area has benefited from projects worth N386 million from the federal government for flood and erosion control. But rather than stopping the situation, the residents have had a tough time dealing with rains in the local government headquarters, Wanune  The residents of Cach Mandela and Iorva Jime have been feeling the impact of the failed projects, with water running off the drainage and accumulating in their houses, which was not happening before the project execution. When the reporter visited Wannune, it was noticed that the drainages constructed under the Amper Flood Hazard and Erosion Control project could not hold the water. Climate change has posed a threat to education as well. Soundmind Secondary School in Tarka Local Government Area has had a difficult experience with students staying away for safety reasons when floods constantly take over their school during the rains. Collins Duger, 28, a university student from the community, explained how he has seen academic activities put out for days because of heavy flooding in the community. He explained that farmers have had their share of destruction with the concentration of water on farmlands after intensive rainfall. Collin explained that farmers have lost a reasonable amount of farm produce in the Wanune Community, while households have been affected by property losses Narrating the ordeal, Terwase John, a 65-year old commercial farmer in Wanune, had his rice plantation washed off in Tarka Local government. “When you work hard and there is nothing to show for it, it is always painful. I planted a large portion of rice, which has been my source of income for years. When the 2022 rains came, 90 per cent of the farm was washed off. He said the disaster affected his income and the education of his three children, who almost lost a term in school. Terdoo Aku, 55, a farmer in Guma, had his life turned into something he had not predicted. “My maize farm was destroyed,” he said  He explained how a better picture of the scenario could not be painted because of the time of the reporter’s visit, and he noted that the incident had given him the worst setback of his farming career, which dates back so many decades. Terdoo explained how the portion of land has been cultivated for decades, while such an issue has never been experienced before. Expert speaks The founder and executive director of Securecycle Environmental and Climate Change Initiative, Emmanuel Kilaso, has blamed government policies for the worsening climate change impact in the country. He explained that the numerous natural resources in the country have not yet been able to reflect on the growth rate. “Nigeria, a nation endowed with abundant natural resources, is facing an increasing threat from the impacts of climate change. Unfortunately, the failure of the Nigerian government to address environmental issues effectively has exacerbated the challenges, leading to a ripple effect that affects the entire nation.” “The absence of robust climate policies and effective implementation strategies has left Nigeria vulnerable to the intensifying impacts of climate change. Without comprehensive frameworks, there is insufficient guidance for sectors like agriculture, infrastructure, and health to adapt and mitigate the effects,” he said   Emmanuel blamed the climate crisis currently experienced in Nigeria on other issues such as deforestation and land degradation while emphasizing that the poverty level in the country has increased the practice of such practices, which are against sustainability. “The government’s failure to address rampant deforestation and land degradation exacerbates climate-related challenges. The hardship and high cost of living will spur citizens to go back to the traditional source of energy for cooking because it is cheap and easily accessible. The loss of forests not only contributes to carbon emissions but also reduces the country’s resilience to climate impacts such as flooding, droughts, and soil erosion. This also impacts the amount of rainfall and the quality of air that we get.”   He suggested that the government can curb the current climate crisis in the country through investment in critical sectors, such as “adequate investment in infrastructure, including well-designed and maintained drainage systems, flood control measures, and resilient urban planning, is essential. A government with the right attitude would prioritize such infrastructure projects to reduce vulnerability to flooding.” Millions Affected By Flood Impact  Data from the United Nations has revealed that floods in Nigeria have continued to impact a huge number of people in the country, with the 2022 incident killing 662 people while 3,174 were injured, displacing about 2.5 million, and destroying 200,000 houses. According to the National Emergency Management Agency, the flood has affected a huge number of people in the country, with 159,157 affected while 48,168 have sought refuge in different camps. The figures were revealed by the director-general of NEMA, Mustapha Ahmed, in October 2023. State Government Laments Failing to Give Spending Details  In October 2023, the state government, through the Commissioner for Works and Housing, Mr. Itiza Imojime, disclosed that the state authorities had given the go-ahead for the structures obstructing the passage of water to be demolished. “The State Executive Council has approved the demolition of all illegal structures and those built on waterways in Makurdi,” he said. As of December 2023, no structure built on waterways has been demolished by the state government, despite the October threat. Despite the lamentation, a Freedom Of Information (FOI) letter sent to the Ministry of Water Resources in Benue State […]

By: Manasseh Mbachii  On the 15th of November, 2010, IDS Limited, a construction company, was contracted to design and to construct the Cancer Screening Centre for the Benue State Government for an initial contract sum of N111 Million naira and later revised to N138 Million naira due to delay by the government in honouring contract agreement.  The project which was to last for a duration of 12 months was supervised by the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development. The contractor told this reporter that  a payment of 77 million naira, representing 70% mobilisation fund, was released between November 15, 2010 to March 2012 under the administration of Senator Gabriel Suswam.  However, the construction of the Cancer  Screening Centre was not completed due to delay in the payment of outstanding fees as agreed by the contractor and the Benue State Government.  In November, 2015 the wife of immediate past Benue State Governor, Mrs. Eunice Ortom announced that her husband, Samuel Ortom would complete the Cancer Screening Centre Project initiated by his predecessor. Mrs Ortom made this disclosure while speaking at the 2015 breast cancer awareness campaign held at the Benue State University Teaching Hospital, Makurdi. On the 16th of July, 2016, Mr Tahav Agerzua, who was at the time, Special Adviser to Mr Ortom on Media and ICT announced that the Ortom administration had released N80 million for the completion of the project.  Investigation by this reporter however revealed that out of the N80 million reported to have been released, only N34 million was paid to the contractor, IDS Limited. Details of the payment made available to this reporter shows that the contractor received N12 million naira on the 26 October, 2016, and N22 million naira on the 14th of June, 2019.  Terver Akase, media aide to former governor Samuel Ortom could not provide answers when questioned on the remaining N46 million released by the Ortom administration, after previously directing this reporter to contact the project contractor for details. The cancer project which was aimed at reducing medical tourism embarked upon yearly by citizens of the state has over the years received budgetary allocation from the Benue state government. For instance, in 2021 and 2022 the state budget, about N12 million was approved for the completion of the cancer project. Findings by this reporter however revealed that the approved N12 million naira was not released to the contractor. When this reporter visited Pauline Maka Women Development Centre, Jonah Jang Crescent, High Level Makurdi, where the cancer project is located, it was observed that the cancer centre is completed but not in use for the purpose it was built. This reporter observed that the project is now housing Family Worship Centre, a church owned by Pastor Sarah Omakwu. It was also observed that the cancer project is in a dilapidated state, having some of its windows fallen off and electrical appliances disconnected. When contacted, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, Joy Adole said the project has not been handed over to the ministry. “The cancer centre has not been handed over to us. We have drawn the attention of the current administration to the project. The contractor however said the government is still owing him. And, until his outstanding balance is paid before handing over the project to the ministry,” she said.  When the contractor, Architect James Ugo was contacted, he explained he was contracted to design and to construct the Cancer Screening Centre for the Benue State Government under the Ministry of Women Affairs & Social Development, on 15th November 2010.  He said, the contract was awarded for N111 Million, and revised to N138 Million naira due to delay by the government in honouring the contract agreement.  “Cancer Screening Centre is the project I was involved in from the inception. I was requested by the former First Lady, Yemisi Suswam to design and to construct. The initial contract sum was N111 million naira, and revised contract sum is N138 million naira. My outstanding balance from the contract sum is N15 million naira, and outstanding claims from the last time I calculated is N18 million naira due to delay in honouring valuation certificates as per contract agreement. In total, the government is owning me N33 million naira,” he said, adding that the balance keeps increasing. Mr James further revealed that he leased the cancer centre to Family Worship Centre, Makurdi Branch adding that the government should determine and honour outstanding claims amounting to N33 million as per agreement.  “Since dilapidation has set in due to non-use of the facility, the government should prepare a dilapidation schedule and re-award the contract as a renovation contract to us or any other Contractor. However, we give our word that, if paid our outstanding claims, we can go ahead and renovate the building at no additional cost to the government. When the government is ready, I will ask the people to leave, repaint, wash and clean. If there is anything that has fallen anywhere, I will just touch it and handover the keys,” he concluded. How Woman Dies in Benue From Cancer Sickness Mr James who lost his wife, Margaret Ugo, to endometrial cancer in 2021, said he never knew his wife would be a victim of cancer after he was commissioned to execute a cancer project adding that if cancer screening centre was in operation, it would have saved his wife’s life. “My wife, Margaret Ugo died of endometrial cancer in 2021, so I know the importance of cancer screening centre. Before this project was commissioned, there was a cancer awareness organised at Aminu Isa Kontagora. I never knew that I was going to be a victim of cancer after I was commissioned to execute a cancer project. The project that would have saved my wife’s life. By the time she was diagnosed with cancer, she was already bleeding,” he said. Cancer has remained top of the list of diseases that are indiscriminately reducing the welfare and wellness of persons across the world, particularly, in developing countries like Nigeria. Statistics provided by the World Health Organisation’s 2020 report shows that cancer tops the list of killer diseases with nearly 10 million deaths. Nigeria has one of the highest cancer mortality rates in the world, with approximately four out of five cases resulting in death, according to the Global Cancer Observatory. A cancer patient who did not want her name mentioned said it took months before she was diagnosed with cancer. She said there was no special cancer screening centre, so it was difficult to diagnose. “My husband never knew what was wrong with me. We moved from one hospital to another until I was diagnosed with cervical cancer in Abuja. I am now receiving treatment at Federal Medical Centre, Makurdi.”  He said. Chief Press Secretary to the Benue State Government, Tersoo Kula, said he would get back to this reporter on what the current government is doing to complete the centre. “We shall get back to you,” Mr Kula said but he hasn’t as of press time.   This report was produced under the UDEME project of the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID). Edited by Kemi Busari.

By: Manasseh Mbachii The Nigerian climate has been irregular over the years, alternating between periods of extremely dry or rainy seasons and seasons of drought and excess flooding, which affected agricultural activities and caused a loss of shelter. Economic sectors such as agriculture, fishing, and forestry are more predisposed to the adverse effects of climate change. The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) disclosed that flood disasters in 2022 left 2.4 million persons displaced and 662 lives lost. Overview of climate in Nigeria Nigeria has a tropical climate with two distinct seasons: wet and dry. These seasons have varying lengths of rainy and dry seasons, depending on the geographical location. For example, the southern part of Nigeria has a longer period of rainy season (March to November) than the northern part (May to September). The dry season is prevalent in the north, coupled with high temperatures that may reach an average monthly value of 38 degrees Celsius, while the mean temperature in southern Nigeria hovers around 32–33 degrees Celsius. In the north, the harmattan wind, which is a dry and hot wind, blows longer than it does in southern Nigeria. Causes Of Climate Change In Nigeria Although natural hazards like volcanic eruptions contribute to climate change, scientists have now discovered that certain human activities are also responsible. Environmental scientists associate climate change effects with the depletion of the ozone layer in the atmosphere. The ozone layer prevents the heat from the sun from reaching the earth at high intensity. The ozone layer is depleted when certain gases are released into the atmosphere by humans and natural factors. These glasses are carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, chlorofluorocarbon, and similar. These greenhouse gases contribute to global warming, where the heat from the sun is trapped on the earth’s surface. This gradually leads to excess heat, depending on the depletion level and quantity of the gases emitted over time. Human activities Emission of greenhouse gasses from vehicles: Some vehicles emit greenhouse gases such as sulphur dioxide and carbon monoxide from their exhaust. Burning of hydrocarbon products: This releases carbon dioxide and other gases into the atmosphere. Deforestation: This refers to cutting down trees, usually for agriculture. Trees form a protective barrier against the heat from the sun, and cutting them down affects this purpose. Industrial emissions: Industrial activities and equipment produce greenhouse gases that are emitted into the atmosphere instead. Climate Change Effects and Nigeria Low crop yield: In Nigeria, crop production depends on location and climatic conditions. Crops that need rainfall to grow are abundant in the south, while those that don’t need rainfall grow more in the north. Excess rain and drought associated with climate change affect the natural distribution of crops in Nigeria and reduce their production in large quantities to meet the population’s demand. For instance, climate change may cause stunted growth of crops grown in Northern Nigeria because these crops don’t thrive in soils flooded with water from excess rain. Likewise, some crops cultivated in southern Nigeria may wither during prolonged drought periods because these crops need rainfall to grow. Food shortage: Food scarcity is a consequence of low crop yield, which is characterised by inferior quality and quantity of food crops because of harsh climate conditions. Therefore, food crops are poorly distributed to other geopolitical zones where they don’t grow. For instance, tomatoes are produced in large quantities in the north, and if this declines due to unfavourable climatic conditions, other locations in Nigeria will experience reduced supply. Reduced livestock production: Livestock animals like goats and cows feed on grass to grow. and their products, such as beef or milk, are affected when these animals don’t feed well. Irregular climatic conditions destroy the farmlands these animals graze on. Also, flooding promotes the growth of pests that attack these farm animals and further depreciates their overall commercial value. Loss of income: Agriculture is one of the major contributors to the Nigerian economy and a source of income for some Nigerians. These individuals are either rural dwellers who are full-time farmers or urban dwellers who are part-time farmers. Climate change destroys farmlands and hinders income generation from agriculture and livestock farming at national and personal levels. Public health crisis: Climate change increases the burden of diseases in Nigeria, especially malaria. Mosquitoes breed in stagnant waters, and they spread to cause malaria. Life-threatening malaria complications are common among all individuals, young and old. This can put a strain on areas such as public health and nursing. Also, wildfires and dust storms occur during drought, and these environmental hazards cause respiratory illnesses in some individuals. Climate change increases the number of diseases and causes preventable deaths among Nigerians if left unchecked. Decreased hydroelectric power supply: Nigeria generates a significant amount of power from its hydroelectric dam, Kainji Dam. Climate change causes unpredictable rainfall and drought patterns that reduce the water level in Kainji Dam and other smaller ones.

OUR REPORTERS

Jairus Awo

Jairus Awo is a Nigeiran Muiltimedia public interest journalist. He believes in the power of the media as a catalyst to development and societal growth. You can tip him an idea on [email protected]

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