Raises alarm over food, employment crises

By Victor Ahiuma-Young

PRESIDENT of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, PENGASSAN, Festus Osifo, in this piece, spoke  on Petroleum Industry Act, PIA and  poverty/unemployment,  among others.

PIA

With the signing of the Petroleum Industry Act, PIA, into law, the concern of our association is now centered on the issue of transparency in the manner the Executive arm of Government is handling its implementation process. We have expressed our concern on some areas of the implementation; however, we shall continue to reiterate that we will not compromise on our concerns on the issues bordering on Job security, Staff Pension and Gratuity, Conditions of Service and other social obligations.

We are keenly watching on the planned review of the Act by the Federal Government, coming just a few months after it was signed into law. While reviews are part of strengthening a process or law to make it more effective, we however, warn that such should not be politically motivated.

Poverty/unemployment

The twin evil of poverty and unemployment have been on the increase despite claims by the government that it has made huge investment in social intervention areas using schemes like Trader Money, CBN Anchors Borrowers Scheme, N-Power, Home Grown School Feeding Program etc. The irony is that the huge sums spent on these programs should have seen over 20 per cent of those within poverty line out of poverty; rather many are joining the poverty line with over 83 million Nigerians currently within the poverty bracket. This is indeed scary.

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As a nation that is endowed with huge human and natural resources, our constant ranking among the poorest of the poor countries is disheartening. Hence, we demand that the various levels of government should adopt practical policies and programmes to tackle the twin social vices of unemployment and poverty and immediate review of all government social investment programs with a view to ensuring that those programs actually fulfill their cardinal objectives for its establishment.

Food crisis

The failure of the federal, state, and local governments’ joint operations to effectively tackle the insecurity challenges facing the nation has given rise to a worse form of insecurity, which is hunger. At present, most farmers have abandoned their farmlands as a result of incessant attacks and kidnappings with no solution in sight. This, in turn, has given rise to high cost of food materials which hit an all-time high in 2020. Today, most average families are struggling to feed, if nothing is done drastically, it has the potential to plunge the nation into a serious turmoil.

It is necessary that government secures the farmlands and the farmers as the aggregate food production by the local farmers is the bedrock on which our food security rests. Also, some of the CBN intervention programs in the Agricultural sector should be made more transparent, easy to access and more importantly, available to those who are into agro-business across the value chain.

Corruption

You will agree with me that despite the various measures that were initiated by the present administration to fight corruption, we are still witnesses to the various corruption tales against public officials. One wonders why we have not made the needed impact as can be seen from the 2021 Corruption Perceptions Index released by Transparency International which clearly shows that corruption is on the increase in Nigeria.

The data released to corroborate their findings listed areas and issues which our association has been advocating for changes such as non-compliance and internal control weaknesses in Ministries, Departments, and Agencies, MDAs, security sector corruption, failure to investigate high profile corruption cases and prevent illicit financial flows, IFFs, absence of asset recovery, protection of whistle-blowers and other key anti-corruption legal frameworks as well as the perceived selective justice; judicial challenges and corruption in the COVID-19 response.

With barely one year to the end of this administration, we recommend a holistic review of the structure and personnel of the existing anti-corruption agencies, deployment and use of high-tech equipment to aid the fight against corruption and of critical importance is capacity-building program for the staff of the institutions.

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