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.

Climate change awareness campaigns by NGOs need to target large corporations as well as rural communities. By; BAYRON VAN WYK (Minority Africa) — I used to work at an NGO focused on climate change and environmental awareness. I was expected to develop educational and agricultural programmes targeting mostly rural farmers in the Kavango East and West regions to sensitise them to climate change issues. In these regions, subsistence agriculture is the primary source of livelihood for 16% and 31% of the population. the NGO’s programme encouraged local farmers to adopt sustainable agricultural practices. In these regions, there has been contention over oil exploration and discovery. In mid-2021, Canadian-based firm ReconAfrica announced that they had discovered oil in the Kavango East and West regions. Since then, ReconAfrica has started operations for oil production. However, several environmental groups, such as Frack Free Namibia (FFN), have expressed concern over the impact of such activities on the region’s sensitive plant and animal life. Through my work in the Kavango East and West regions, I started to think more deeply about climate change and environmental awareness programmes run by NGOs. I started questioning whom these organisations chose to target. Why are they targeting primarily rural (and poor) communities when it is clear that large corporations are causing the most harm? I approached a few of my team leaders and shared my thoughts. I wanted us to become more involved in addressing concerns in the Kavango East and West regions over oil production. I thought we could be effective by pursuing an environmental campaign with ReconAfrica. The campaign could potentially assist in mitigating the impact of oil production on the environment. My idea was to sensitise some of the staff of ReconAfrica through a workshop on climate change and environmental awareness issues. My team leaders, however, turned down my proposal because they thought it was bizarre to target ReconAfrica for our environmental campaigns. The work we did was to only sensitise rural and poor communities to climate change. However, the reality is that environmental programmes depend on large corporations for financing.  These companies often only fund programmes that target rural communities. Therefore, my team leaders did not accept my proposal. This perpetuates a perception that rural communities are uneducated or unaware of environmental issues. These communities were mostly framed in this way to secure funding from international organisations. This means that the NGO would propose educating rural communities on their environmental impact to encourage them to adopt more environmentally friendly ways of living. This perception perpetuates the belief that rural communities threaten the environment. The dependency of rural communities on wood for fuel and timber is often cited as the underlying cause of this belief. For example, about 75% and 91% of the population rely on wood for energy in the Kavango East and West regions. This is one of the reasons why NGOs primarily target rural communities for climate change and environmental campaigns. The targeting of rural communities is largely unnecessary. These communities have their traditional knowledge about how to deal with the issues of climate change. For example, in November 2021, when I attended a workshop on climate change at the Mashare Agricultural College, the Senior Traditional Councillor for Administration, Alois Gende of the Shambyu Traditional Authority, also stressed this point. In this workshop, we presented a newly developed programme for rural farmers on climate change mitigation primarily focused on encouraging farmers to adopt sustainable agriculture practices. Gende criticised the programme for not including the traditional knowledge of the Shambyu tribe in creating more awareness around climate change and environmental issues. For him, it was like the NGO was imposing specific ideas of climate change that were far removed from the situation of the Shambyu – especially as it relates to their present socio-economic struggles. For example, the Shambyu know when a rainy season or drought would approach them. They rely on observations of their environmental surroundings to predict the weather. Therefore, it does not make sense for the programme to use expensive technology for early warning systems. Instead, it was suggested that people from Shambyu be employed to fulfil such a role. This should be seen in the context of broader socio-economic challenges facing the Shambyu, especially its younger population. There currently are high levels of unemployment in the Kavango East and West regions. About 62.5% and 46.8% of the population are unemployed. Even though subsistence farming exists, most of it is inadequate, leading to food shortages. In the Kavango East and West regions, roughly 92.1% and 89.2% of the population face food shortages. Therefore, it did not make sense for the Shambyu to use technological tools while the local population could be employed and provide such services to the programme. That traditional knowledge systems are generally not included in programmes by NGOs shows that the concerns of rural communities are rarely taken seriously.  This relates to views that regard rural communities as a problem to climate change and the environment rather than as equal partners in contributing to efforts at addressing climate change. It serves to frame rural communities as destructive to the environment, which is based on their present socio-economic challenges. Moreover, it downplays the role played by large corporations in furthering environmental destruction. There have been several cases of companies contributing towards environmental destruction. In 2014 Bosveld Phosphate’s industrial activities in the Kruger National resulted in the pollution of the Selati River. This leads to ill-conceived development programmes by NGOs that do not speak to the aspirations of local communities, resulting in limited socio-economic changes envisioned by these programmes. Therefore, NGOs should include traditional knowledge systems in their programs to ensure more effective results. In addition, large corporations should engage in more introspection and become aware of their role in environmental destruction. Therefore, their financing programmes should be more encompassing and include climate change and environmental awareness in corporations (and not only rural communities). This can assist in strengthening programmes on climate change and environmental awareness. Edited by Cassandra Roxburgh and Uzoma Ihejirika  This story was first published in Minority Africa and appears with permission in this publication. 

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.

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.

The management of the Chukwuemeka Odumegu Ojukwu University Anambra has confirmed the death of three of it’s students. The Public Relations officer of the University Dr Harrison Madubueze, in a statement expressed shock over the incident, Also Read: ReviveOurLibrary: Benue Citizens lament Moribund State Library. “The university management received with rude shock the news of the death of three of our students. He stated that the police have started investigating the incident while assuring that details will be made public when available “However, the security operatives are investigating the matter and at the appropriate time, they will make the findings public” The student who are all females were identified as Obidiaso Chidera (200 level Political Science), Mercy (200 level Pharmacy) and Emmanuella (200 level Business Administration). The students where said to be on Campus after the school vacated on August 24th, 2022 after the second-semester examinations.

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.

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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