Once Beaten, Twice Shy

19 May 2013

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There were concerns in the Senate last week over the perceived indifference of both the federal and state governments to imminent flood disaster in the country this year. These concerns arose from the Nigeria Metrological Agency (NIMET) prediction of 100 per cent increase in rain volume in 2013.

Reminiscences of tragedy and untoward hardship brought upon many Nigerians by flood disaster last year looked fresh in the memories of the senators as they addressed the issue with deep feelings. During the disaster, many were killed while thousands became refugees in their native land. Therefore, as the nation moves into another season of rainfall, there were fears in the Senate during the week that what Nigeria experienced last year might be only a tip of the iceberg in view of the recent prediction. This is moreso that governments and relevant agencies have been accused of non-challant attitude towards this prediction of higher rainfall this year.

Hence, as its own show of proactive approach, the Senate mandated its Committees on Water Resources, Environment, Marine Transport and Special Duties to “as a matter of urgency conduct a public hearing on the state of preparedness of the federal and state governments, ministries of water resources, environment, health and National Inland Waterways as well as the National Emergency Management Authority (NEMA) to contain the predicted flooding and excess rainfall and report on a continuing basis to the Senate.”

The chamber also emphasised the need to dredge the coastlines of major rivers and oceans within the country’s inland territories as a result of accumulated sand with a view to reducing the impact of the restriction of water panels. It placed emphasis on a prediction by NIMET that the year 2013 would witness excess rainfall in Cross River, Akwa Ibom, Abia and Ebonyi States “with attendant effect that the resultant water will not have enough channel to flow through to the Atlantic Ocean which will then result in flooding of farmlands, residential houses, drainage to infrastructure and danger to human and marine.”

Farewell to Lake Chad?
The current picture of Lake Chad, a popular tourist attraction which borders four West African countries, as painted in the Senate last week, portrayed a natural phenomenon that may disappear so soon. From its coverage of 25,000 square kilometres in 1960, the lake is now said to have relatively reduced to mere 2,500 square kilometres in 2013, thus fuelling fears that it may finally disappear before the end of this 21st century.

Therefore, the Senate raised an alarm through a motion that if the trend is not quickly addressed, it can result in unprecedented ecological and humanitarian crises in West Africa with far reaching effect on the entire world.  The Lake Chad basin, said to be the fourth largest lake in Africa, with a surface area of about 25,000 squares km in the 1960s, plays an important socio-economic, political and cultural role to over 30 million people. Following the adoption of the Fort Lamy Convention, the heads of four countries bordered by the lake, viz: Nigeria, Chad, Cameroun and Nigeria, in 1964, established Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC). The commission was charged with the mandate of harmonising the activities of member countries for a sustainable management of the resources of the basin.

But senators warned last week that should the lake disappear, poverty in the Northern region would be worsened, while the fragile ecosystem would equally be degraded. They also noted that whereas a huge sum of N5 billion had been spent so far on feasibility study of the lake, the study only revealed that inter basin water transfer is expected to gulp N14 billion. But a senator described the move to award contract of that magnitude to a Canadian firm as wasteful and uncomplimentary.

The Senate therefore urged President Goodluck Jonathan to, in consultation with the Chairman of the Summit of Heads of State and other leaders, forthwith constitute a team of eminent citizens drawn from the member states to embark on a sensitisation programme of selected donors.
The president was also, along with the other concerned leaders, urged to provide the financial and logistic support to the team of the eminent citizens to be charged with such arduous responsibility.

Finally, Achebe Honoured
Given the volume of eulogies and tributes which poured on hands like torrents in honour of the late literary writer, Professor Chinua Achebe, in the Senate last week, Williams Shakespeare’s description of the death of icons seemed justifiable.

Shakespeare, acknowledged as the greatest playwright and poet who ever lived on the planet earth, had remarked that “when beggars die, there are no comets seen, but heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes.” These words aptly captured events in the Senate last week when senators, irrespective of tribe or religion, paid glowing tributes to the memory of Achebe who passed on March 21 in the United States at the age of 82. Yet the senators acknowledged that their encomiums, as rich as it might be, could not match Achebe’s larger than life image.  The Senate’s tributes were coming several weeks after the US Congress had honoured Achebe in one of its plenary sessions.

For Senate President, Senator David Mark, Achebe was a role model, forthright, fearless and progressively controversial patriot who took Nigeria to the highest level.

Recalling that Things Fall Apart,  Achebe’s  flagship book, was first used for West African School Certificate (WASC), in 1966, Mark noted that at such a tender age, Achebe had begun to make a tremendous impact. After more than 30 senators had described him with several superlative words, the Senate passed a resolution, urging the Federal Government to grant the departed novelist a state burial and as well erect a national monument in his honour.

The upper chamber also assigned a delegation to commiserate with Achebe’s family, the people and government of Anambra State. Besides, they implored the federal government to name a major federal highway or street in Abuja as well as a national monument after him, after observing a minute silence in his honour.

In the motion for Achebe’s honour moved by 108 senators, he was described as a world figure and a personality who brought fame and prestige to Nigeria through his numerous literary works said to have become “instruments for his dogged and dynamic activism ultimately seeking a better life for all Nigerians.”

He was also described as a social critic, activist poet and principled personae who denied himself several personal accolades while marketing and exporting Nigerian and African cultures to several countries. 

Further, it was said that despite his incapacity, Achebe continued to be active in his work and intellectual contributions to life, arts and culture in Nigeria and Africa and as well published several works including his latest work titled: ‘’There Was a Country.’’ He was also described as not only a prophet who predicted the 1966 coup in his book, A Man of the People but also as the first African writer who authoritatively wrote African stories, hitherto written by the Europeans as he was said to have told the world that Africans had their own unique way of life that was distinct from that of Europeans.

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