Not too long ago, Okija Shrine in Anambra State was in the news. The reason everyone talked about it then was that several human heads and skulls were found in that shrine. However, in a characteristic Nigerian style, the case just ended without any major breakthrough as both the print and electronic media suddenly stopped talking about it.
Most recently, Anambra State was in the news again following the discovery of about 30 dead bodies in Ezu, a river in the state. Daily, I read many newspapers daily, listen to news on different radio and television stations to keep abreast of events in the country and, for all I know, I just cannot remember when it was reported that a boat capsized on that river as a result of which all those travelling in it died.
I am not a pessimist, but going by the past records of the Nigeria Police which has consistently failed to probe past similar incidents like the Okija case to a logical end, it will not be out of point to say this case may die just like the other ones. From road accident to fire outbreak and to targeted assassination, 2013 has so far witnessed many deaths for which Nigerians are already feeling that this is not the best way to start a new year.
But why should incident of this nature happen again when in the last two years the Nigerian security forces have got the largest portion of the nation’s budget? Meanwhile, whenever the same set of Nigerian security forces go outside the shores of the country, they perform excellently so much so that they win laurels, awards and commendations. This brings to question who the true beneficiaries of the huge budgetary allocation are.
Currently, a huge N349 billion was allocated to defence in addition to N311 billion to police formations and commands in the 2013 budget awaiting presidential assent. Indeed, the amount these two institutions got in the 2012 budget was over N800 billion. Notwithstanding, the country is daily drifting away.
At this juncture, I want to strongly believe that the huge allocation to defence in the federal budget is nothing but a charade. If truly this allocation gets to our security forces, whether the armed forces, police, state security services, or immigration service, there should not be this level of insecurity in the country.
This becomes necessary because it is on record that whenever the Nigerian armed forces and police are truly motivated, they produce fantastic results as has been the case when they go on international assignments. Therefore, why are they finding it difficult to secure their country where their economic interests and family members reside? The only explanation I have is that on paper, they get huge allocation, whereas in reality what they get is inconsequential. The case of the Police College at Ikeja is a good example. With almost a trillion naira allocation in the 2012 budget, why was the place not renovated until Channels TV exposed the rot in that school?
The implication of the wanton waste of lives is immeasurable for family members, business associates and the nation at large. BusinessDay Research recently found out that thousands of people born in Nigeria would not see the four walls of a primary school. If you doubt our findings, you will have to juxtapose the number of Nigerians born some years back with those who eventually attended primary schools. The gap is so huge.
The increasing rate of death, especially among married people, comes with a higher price for the economy in view of the fact that their death increases the number of orphans, widows and widowers in the country. For those who are entrepreneurs among the deceased, their businesses will automatically die with them and that will add to the rate of unemployment in the country. Orphans are left at the mercy of the Almighty God. This is because our social lifestyle has changed from community-based to an individualistic type as everyone is only interested in the affairs of the immediate family members. Worsened by lack of social nets, the fate of the orphans and widows now hangs in the balance.
To a larger extent, the recurrent incident of group deaths as witnessed in Okija Shrine and Ezu River affects the image of Anambra State and its people. How does the current administration in the state win the heart of investors? Who will come to a state where people die mysteriously? The onerous task is on the people of Anambra as they just have to put up their own strategy so that horrific incidents of this nature do not happen in the state again.
While the police investigation is still on-going as usual, the National Emergency Management Authority (NEMA) swung into action by looking at the ways to prevent an outbreak of diseases among towns and villages that depend on the river in question. It is a known fact that the economy of towns and villages are built around rivers and forests, for farming, drinking, fishing and transportation. River Ezu is no exception.