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Nigeria’s Indebtedness To Igala kingdom

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BY THEOPHILUS ABBAH

*The Main Issue*
For those who clearly understand pre-colonial Nigeria’s political, social and economic setting, the Federal High Court judgment was not a snake bite or the stinging of bees – they are not in any way shocked. For instance, the Ibo nation is not in denial of their ancient, precolonial relationship with the Igala kingdom, and the imprint is not denied in Anambra State where, up till today, there is a sizeable portion of communities with Igala ancestry. Igbo trader sknew that their routes to access the old Kwararafa kingdom ran through the confluence of Rivers Niger and Benue at Lokoja. The river flows through that space into the Atlantic Ocean. Historical evidence bears the fact that Igala kingdom was founded by two brothers, Igala and Bunda (Kakanda). While Igala was based at Idah, Kakanda had his base at Okuta Ihabe, which was to later become a stone market (Ajaokuta). Today, there is a sizeable population of aboriginal Igala, who are led by Onu Igala at Ajaokuta. His reign is older than that of Ebira traditional head in the area.

Several sources state that the Chronicles of Abuja spoke of the extensive influence of Idah over the Abuja territories – Umaisha, Toto, Koton Karfi, and even Abaji. In their work, Narrative of the Expedition to the River Niger, William Allen and T.R.H. Thompson explained that as at 1841, “The Ata was King of the Igala state, with its capital at Idah, at this time an important commercial centre on the Niger, with historic connexions southwards with Benin and northwards with Nupe.” The authors showed how powerful Attah was in 1841, when His Royal Majesty rejected a gift brought to him by explorers from the Queen of England, and refused an offer to travel by boat to England to meet the Queen to discuss trade relations, saying those were activities that ‘servants’ carried out.

Because the sea was the means of transportation and the link between them and Niger Area, European traders had to establish trade and diplomatic ties with the king in control of the great rivers, and, in that era, the king was Attah Igala. To express the depth of the relationship, the colonialists built a seaport and an airstrip at Idah, the headquarters of the Igala State. Before the Nigerian civil war began in 1967, Idah had a thriving seaport, preferred by European traders to the port at Lokoja. The port had to be closed as a result of bomb attacks from Biafra army. The aerodrome constructed at Idah was put out of use because of the war. For traders from Europe, Idah port was strategic for transporting palm oil and palm kernel from Igbo and Igalaland, on the one hand, and for moving cotton from Hausaland to their continent. Even in the 1960s, Idah was a thriving port city. The government of the late President Umar Musa Yar’adua/Goodluck Jonathan awarded a contract to revive the port, but the project was not completed. In the book, Nigerian Perspectives: An Historical Anthology, by Thomas Hodghin, the author alluded to the fact that Igala kingdom stood erect in comparison with the ancient Benin Kingdom, Oduduwa Kingdom, Hausa Kingdom, and the Bonny’s King Opubu.

In the precolonial era, the political arrangement was more like a confederacy. Confederacy is a political system in which different ethnic communities or peoples come under one authority in order to pursue a common aim. The Kwararafa Kingdom was very large, but it was because other ethnic communities, accepted to come under the reign of the Aku Uka, in order to be protected from enemies who might wage war against them. In this way, the ethnic communities around the confluence came under the umbrella of the Attah whose army was powerful enough to protect them from invaders, including Fulani Jihadists, who had swept through Hausaland to install Fulani emirs in place of traditonal chiefs. The evidence of this military might command by the army of Attah Igala is there for anyone to see – in all the territories around the confluence river, there is no emir or emirate. If the Fulani possesses any political power in this area today, it is simply as a result of modern political arrangements.

The indebtedness. An Igala proverb says “a barren woman does not suffer child bereavement.” If the British had paid up the full sum of 700,000 cowries, nobody would have been nagging about ‘Igala imperialism’ in 2020. No matter how rich a man is, he hardly forgets those who are indebted to him. That is what is playing out in the courts today. Historically, the Quaker Society of London, a missionary organization, which had campaigned against slavery sought to use the land from Ajaokuta to Lokoja as a model farm to halt slave trade. Slaves were taken to Europe to work on plantations. The Quakers argued that it would be better for Africans to, in their own country, plant those crops for which they were enslaved in Europe, and export the produce by sea to Europe, instead of being dehumanized as slaves in foreign lands. Those who want to know more about the Quakers can read up the roles these missionaries played in the fight to halt slave trade. The Queen of Great Britain and Ireland signed the Deed, while a representative of Attah also signed. Though the model farm project thrived for some years, it was thwarted by the activities of Fulani Jihadists who raided the farms. But the colonial government used Lokoja as Nigeria’s first administrative headquarters – without paying up the balance for the land. Incidentally, people from all walks of life came to settle in Lokoja under the new political arrangement, which has subsisted up till the present day.

Unless they have decided to play the ostrich, all traditional institutions in Kogi State are not ignorant of this historical fact. In Igala, there is a proverb which says, “if you own a property but are afraid to claim it, then it is not yours.” Like every government, the institution of Attah is a continuum. The indebtedness to Attah Igala in 1841 is an indebtedness to Attah Igala in 2020. In the same manner, the debt owed by colonial government that gave birth to the current system of government is a debt that hangs on the neck of the Buhari administration. What the court has asked the federal government to pay Attah Igala is a domestic debt. Though the transaction is over 200 years old, a debt is a debt, unless it is negotiated and written off. It is in this sense that Africans are seeking reparation from today’s Europe and America over slave trade that ended almost 200 years ago. In 2020, Namibians are seeking reparation from German government, for material damages and loss of lives that occurred during Germany’s colonial rule from 1884 to 1915. In America, there are deliberate policies to provide reliefs of all kinds to aboriginal Red Indians, who were displaced for modern America to be established.

In contemporary Nigeria, the Land Use Act gives governors control over land, but if such land is being used for projects in the interest of the public, compensation must be paid to the ‘traditional owners’ of such land. So, why must Attah Igala be shot down for seeking the repayment of an old debt? Some traditional institutions want to appeal the Federal High Court judgment. Not exactly because they have a stake; not because Attah is asking them to be evacuated from Lokoja and Ajaokuta. No. Their intention is to do the impossible – alter history, fight the past. May God grant us wisdom to pick the battles we fight.

Abbah wrote this piece from Abuja.

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Man punches nurse in the face multiple times after his wife is vaccinated for Covid

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Police are looking for a man in Canada they say punched a nurse in the face multiple times, knocking her to the ground after she administered a Covid-19 vaccine to his wife without his permission.

On Monday, around 9:15 a.m., a man walked into a Brunet Pharmacy in Sherbrooke, a city in southern Quebec, and accused a nurse in her 40s, who police have not named, of vaccinating his wife, Sherbrooke Police spokesman Martin Carrier told CNN.

“Right at the beginning, the suspect was very angry, very aggressive, he asked the nurse why she vaccinated his wife without approval, without his consent,” Carrier said. “And he punched her right in the face multiple times so the nurse didn’t have the time to defend or explain herself … and she fell to the ground and the suspect left running out of the drugstore.”

There are no laws in Canada that say individuals need their spouses’ permission to get vaccinated, and it is unclear if his wife had given consent.

The nurse was taken to a nearby hospital by ambulance where she was treated for the “multiple injuries to the face” he said.

As a result of the incident, the pharmacy told CNN partner, CBC, that they suspended vaccinations. CNN reached out to the pharmacy but they refused to comment on whether or not vaccinations were being administered Thursday.

Brunet Pharmacy’s parent company, The Jean Coutu Group Inc., also declined to comment but told CNN they “fully condemn this act which is unacceptable towards the pharmacy teams who have been providing essential services since the beginning of the pandemic.”

Canada has vaccinated 69.8% of its population, surpassing the US by 15.6%, according to data from Our World in Data, seen in CNN’s vaccine tracker.

Although most Canadians have welcomed public health measures and the country has one of the highest vaccination rates worldwide, case counts and hospitalizations are on the rise, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada, especially among younger, unvaccinated Canadians.

Police do not have a name or photo of the suspect or security footage of the incident, Carrier said. They do however have a description of the man and are hoping with the public’s help, they’ll be able to identify him and charge him with assault.

The suspect is described as, 30 to 45-year-old-man, 6-feet tall, medium build with darker skin, short brown hair, thick eyebrows, two small ear piercings on each ear and a tattoo on his hand that appeared to be in the shape of a cross, Carrier said

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NPA vows to upgrade country’s maritime hub status

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Rotimi Amaechi, Minister of Transportation

In a statement issued on Sunday in Lagos by NPA General Manager, Corporate and Strategic Communications, Mr Olaseni Alakija, Bello-Koko disclosed this in Abeokuta, Ogun,  at the first retreat for the reconstituted board of directors.

The theme of the retreat was “Expanding the Frontiers of Service Excellence.”

He noted that investments in modern deep seaports would attract very large merchant vessels with the attendant multiple socio-economic benefits, as well as boost port revenue performance.

The statement said Bello-Koko disclosed that a lot had been done, especially in the last few months, to resolve most of the identified constraints to the efficient movement of cargoes to and from ports.

Such efforts, he said, were in line with the new direction and measures being put in place to actualise NPA’s aspirations,

“Nigeria accounts for about 70 per cent of cargoes imported into West and Central Africa and the country controls an impressive stretch of the Atlantic Ocean.

“Nigeria’s rich aquatic endowments and her border with landlocked nations makes development of deep seaports a huge potential revenue earner for the nation.

“The move towards earning the status of hub in the region is in line with our new vision statement.

“This was adopted at the recent NPA Management retreat with the theme ‘To Be The Maritime Logistics Hub For Sustainable Port System In Africa,” he said.

The statement said the acting managing director described the board retreat as very timely, as it signposts a unity of purpose and shared vision.

According to him, the vision is one in which the executive management works closely with every section, unit, department, division and directorate and embraces an all-inclusive strategic outcome for the organisation with the requisite buy-in of the board.

“In appreciation of this, I will like to crave the understanding of the board with regards to the executive management’s limitations in actualising some of our goals and objectives, which I am sure distinguished board members must have noticed in the course of the tour of ports that preceded this retreat,” he added.

The NPA boss informed the board that recent interventions made by the authority had led to significant improvement in terms of ship and cargo dwell time at the ports.

He, however, explained that some of the benchmarks which were yet to be achieved were dependent on “externalities and variables” that required concerted inter-agency actions.

He said that NPA, despite dogged efforts, has yet to optimally achieve the said benchmarks due to systemic administrative constraints and red-tape.

He enumerated the constraints as conflicting directives from the agencies operating within the ports and reporting to different supervising ministries with jurisdictional overlaps and duplications of functions.

He informed the board that concerted efforts were being made to expand NPA’s revenue streams, in addition to revenue from traditional port operations.

According to him, unlike the practice in sister Francophone countries where government funds the dredging of ports, the NPA was responsible for funding its.

This, he said, has put a lot of strains on its resources and capacity to invest in critical port infrastructure.

“We are facing decaying port infrastructure, for example, sections of the quay aprons or walls at the Tin Can Island Port, Onne, Delta and Calabar Ports are collapsing and require huge funds to repair them.

“With the increasing pressure to remit more revenue to the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF) of the federation, it has become very difficult to have sufficient funds to attend to these decaying facilities.

“There is then the need to explore alternative funding sources outside the traditional port service offerings,” he stated.

Bello-Koko explained that the authority was blessed with prime real estates which could serve as alternative funding sources outside the regular budget.

“NPA has a lot of high value landed properties in Onne, Snake Island, and Takwa Bay that are designated free trade zones.

* Apapa Wharf

“They are mostly allocated but burdened by poor arterial road network and other infrastructure to make them attractive for private investments which would bring good revenue to the authority and the Federal Government.

“Management will need the support of the board to drive the process of alternative revenue sources to actualise the lofty aspirations of the authority,” he said.

The Acting MD also disclosed that management had opened correspondence with some multilateral financial institutions such as the French Development Agency (AFD), African Development Bank (AfDB), European Investment Bank (EIB) and Sanlam Infraworks (a Central Bank of Nigeria approved fund manager for InfraCorp).

He explained that these were all part of plans to access long term low interest credits for port infrastructure upgrades and expansion.

“In making the Nigerian seaports more business friendly, we have been able to deploy technology to address the perennial traffic gridlock that has been frustrating the conduct of business around the Lagos ports corridor.

“A software application code named “eto” is gradually restoring sanity to trucking business despite the initial teething problems and resistance by vested interests hitherto profiting from the chaos.

“The authority has accredited 33 private truck terminals within the Lagos area, in addition to the Lily Pond Truck Transit Park and Tin Can Island Port Truck Transit Park, to ensure trucks do not park indiscriminately on the access roads.

“The trucks would only be allowed to transit to the port after obtaining electronic tickets via the “eto” call-up platform and the authority is collaborating with the Lagos State Government to ensure enforcement and compliance with the e-call up system, he said.

He added that other solutions being implemented was the push to link all seaports to the national rail network, as well as optimise the use of the inland waterways through the transfer of cargo or containers via barges.

Bello-Koko said that currently the authority was streamlining barge operations to ensure efficiency, safety and cost effective cargo delivery for increased port revenue.

He said that the Bonny Seaport project in Rivers, boosted by two major railway projects, would massively transform the economic landscape of the country, particularly the South-South and South-Eastern regions.

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BREAKING: Former CBN Deputy Governor Obadiah Mailafia Dies at 64

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A former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Dr. Obadiah Mailafia, has passed on at the age of 64.

Mailafia, who was a columnist with The PUNCH was said to have died at midnight after a brief illness.

The former deputy governor, who was the Presidential candidate of the African Democratic Congress in the 2019 election, was a known government critic and had advocated for public sector and exchange rate reforms.

Mailafia was born on December 24, 1956, in the Sanga Local Government Area of Kaduna State.

He later graduated top of his class at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, in 1978 with a First Class B.Sc.Honours Social Sciences degree (Politics, Economics, and Sociology). He also has an M.Sc. from the same institution.

He subsequently won a French Government Scholarship to France, where he earned a Certificate in French Language and Civilisation from the University of Clermont-Ferrand in 1985.

Mailafia later proceeded to the United Kingdom as a Foreign and Commonwealth Office Scholar at Oriel College, earning a DPhil from the University of Oxford in 1995.

He joined partisan politics in 2018 amid the rising killings in Southern Kaduna.

Despite losing, he remained an ardent government critic and got into trouble with the regime of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), when he alleged that a northern governor was a Boko Haram commander.

This earned multiple invitations by the Nigeria Police Force, forcing him to recant his statement.

In his last interview with The PUNCH, Mailafia said the refusal of the CBN to sell foreign exchange to bureau de change operators may not yield the expected result because corrupt bankers would frustrate it while the BDC operators were being shielded by a “Jigawa cabal”.

He had also lamented that Nigeria was operating a “dollarised” economy which was hampering economic growth.

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