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This Girl Child Marriage Brouhaha!



 By Sam Otuonye

Last week, the social media was awash with the story of a certain Kano Alhaji, who was alleged to have recently married a girl of 11 (eleven years).The man alleged to be in his sixties was quoted as saying that they are married because they love each other.”

Could this mean that, marriage is consummated only at the altar of love irrespective of age? Hence, a girl child can be taken into marriage no matter how old she is, and the responses of her biological appurtenances? Expectedly, the issue attracted a can of condemnation, castigation, vilification, opprobrium, vituperation, etc., from many social media activists.

This is one of the many girl juvenile marriage transactions going on predominantly among the Muslim Faithful in Northern Nigeria. Of course, they are only reported when the high and wealthy are involved. As Shakespeare would say (in Julius Caesar) “when beggars die there are no comets seen; the heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes.”

One cannot forget in a hurry how Senator Yerimah of Zamfara State, nearly lost his seat in the Senate some years ago, when his colleagues fiercely tackled him for marrying a minor. In fact,they called him out on the floor of the senate and he had to defend his action rather with a brute force. It is not only him that has travelled this route but some other politicians, businessmen, traditional leaders, etc.

But, is it an acceptable practice in Islam? Does Qur’an support it? From my research, marriage to a girl child is more or less a parochial historical antecedent rather than a modern permissible ethic. Historically, it was the marriage of Aisha at 9 (nine years) to Prophet Mohammad, which many Islamic scholars have attributed to as, a special privilege, given the supreme, superior, and exalted kingdom of Mohammad ., observes that, “Today, many modern Muslim countries have legislated to raise the minimum age of marriage, in many cases to the age of 16 or 18 for girls (though often with loopholes or with ineffective enforcement) and to prevent forced marriage, often in the face of opposition from Islamic scholars”.  

The United Nations regards child marriage as a human rights violation and aims to eradicate it by 2030. A girl is vulnerable to spousal abuse and childhood pregnancy which greatly jeopardizes her health and future. Medically, organizations such as UNICEF warn of medical risks to vaginal sexual intercourse with young girls and young adolescents, including their hips being too narrow to safely give birth. Beyond the medical risks are the social and psychological ones.

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In, a classical Islamic scholar, Ro Waseem, argued against child marriages thus: One of the biggest misconceptions about Islam is that it permits child marriages, and it is therefore looked down upon as medieval, oppressive and illogical by non-Muslims. Shockingly, instead of viewing this as a downright tarnation and disgrace to Islam, Muslims in complete ignorance of the Quran actually defend and support this point of view. If Muslims, themselves, are going to portray such image of their religion, then I really don’t see why they would get agitated with the criticism on Islam”.

Taking a triangular peep into what the supreme Islamic Book says about marriage, from the expose of Ro Waseem, will help the readership of this piece understand and draw cogent conclusions on this epochal issue, even as I highlight the emphatical points therein.

First, what Quran asserts about child marriage: (Quran, 4:6); “And test the orphans (in your charge) until they reach a marriageable age; then, if you find them to be mature of mind/sound in judgment, hand over to them their possessions…”The emphasis here is ‘mature of mind/sound in judgment’.

Second, is the Quran advice to Muslims to marry Monotheists: (Quran, 2:221) it advises that “Do not marry the females who set up partners until they acknowledge. An acknowledging servant is better than one who sets up partners, even if she attracts you. Similarly, do not marry the males who set up partners until they acknowledge. An acknowledging servant is better than one who sets up partners even if he attracts you”.  The high point is ‘until they acknowledge –acknowledgment.

The third is, marriage, as a solemn oath: (Quran, 4:21); It states, “And how could you take it away (marital gift) after you have given yourselves to one another, and she has received a most solemn pledge from you”. The bottom line is ‘a most solemn pledge’.

Deducing from the above points therefore, the child bride lacks mature mind and sound judgment of the marriage venture, lacks knowledge of its intrigues and intricacies, and above all, the solemnity, which is the sincere, genuine, earnest, wholeheartedness and sworn consent to the transaction. All because she is mentally, physically, and socially immature to coordinate and appreciate the package.

But some Islamic scholars have argued that the age of the girl is not important as long as her body weight and size (fatness) are capable of withstanding the marriage romance. This position is rather self-serving, unconscionable and wicked. It smacks of lust rather than the mutual beneficial relationship a true marriage is intended to achieve.

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Now, let us look at what some intellectual compendiums and Psychologists have to say about age, as captured in last week’s article of this writer, published in the Advocate News of March 13 and National Star of March 14, 2023, titled; ‘Under-age Voters: A call for Sympathy’.

Age is the length of time that a person has lived or thing has existed. Collins English Dictionary defines age as the state of being old or the process of becoming older”. It added: humans grow wiser with age. Psychologists define age as a combination of physical, psychological, biological, and social maturity. They further divided age into four types: Chronological Age – which is the age calculated based on the year of birth; Appearance Age –the way one looks; Biological Age –the age that is measured by the body’s vital organs at a cellular and molecular level; and Psychological Age – this is associated with behavioral and thought processes. Fairly speaking, a girl child does not possess any of these categories to qualify her for marriage.

Physically, she is still very tender and fragile. Psychologically, her behavioral and thought processes are immature. Biologically, her vital organs, cells and molecules are still developing and infirm. And socially, she is not capable to undertake contractual agreements and consents, be it legal, marital, etc.

This scenario becomes more strategic and exhilarating, captures Age as “a period of human life, measured by years from birth, usually marked by a certain stage or degree of mental or physical development and involving legal responsibility and capacity.” This obviously, includes the age of marriage, etc.

The burning and poignant question is: Are these under-age girls mentally mature? Are they physically developed? Are they legally responsible to grant marriage consent, since the extant laws and the Constitution of the land have accorded them the status of a minor? The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended, Section 29(4)(a) defines “full age” as the age of eighteen (18) years and above. Hence, anybody who is below the age of 18 years is a minor, a child or a juvenile.

According to Child Rights Act (2003), (which is a law that guarantees the right of all children in Nigeria), a child is anyone below the age of 18. The part 111 (three) of the Act stipulates that teenage girls in Nigeria should not be married before the age of 18. Unfortunately, some states in Nigeria have not domesticated this all-important Act, particularly in the Northern part of the country. Even the states that have done so are yet to enforce it so that it can work.

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More pathetic is that, the same 1999 Constitution that pegs full age at 18, conversely harbors a conflicting clause in section 29(4)(b) which asserts that, upon marriage a girl is to be regarded as an adult regardless of the child’s age when she is married. This runs counter to section 29(4)(a) of the same Constitution that fixes full age at 18 and above. I would want to hope and believe that the framers of this aspect of the Constitution did not factor in their self-serving motives, otherwise, the contradiction would not have been necessary; criminalizing it outright would have sealed the deal.

In 2017, the Pew Research Center reported Nigeria as having a whopping 3.3 million child marriages; the third largest after India and Bangladesh. In 2020, the number grew to 3.74 million, according to Statista. Mr. Mausi Segun, African Director at Human Rights Watch, has advised Nigerian states to adopt, implement, and align existing laws with the provisions of Child Rights Act, which criminalizes marriage before the age of 18 and protects girl’s rights.

Child marriage, no matter the side of the coin, is a violation of the rights of the girl child. It is violence meted out to the juvenile bride. These rich old grooms purposefully, flagrantly and ruthlessly invade their ego, pride, value, conscience, privacy, dignity, confidence, morale, psyche, and general ethos. And this should not be allowed to fester. Governments at all levels must strengthen their laws and close-up all loopholes. NGOs and International Agencies should rev up sensitization programs, particularly in the North, where poverty, hunger, illiteracy and insurgency have put the monster on the increase. Adult men should reserve some respect and dignity for themselves and develop some conscience and consciousness to do to others as they would have others do to them. Child marriage equates child abuse. It is callous. It is anachronistic.



Ogbuku as a Change Agent in Niger Delta Development



Dr. Samuel Ogbuku, MD, NDDC

By Ifeatu Agbu

The rapid development of the Niger Delta region, which is the core mandate of the Niger  Delta Development Commkisison, NDDC, got an impetus when the current Management, led by Dr Samuel Ogbuku, mounted the saddle at the Commission’s headquarters on January 5, 2023.

From day one, Ogbuku and his team were confronted with the daunting challenges of development in the Niger Delta region. However, the challenges spurred them to begin to look for new ways of achieving results. That inexorably led to the decision by the Commission to begin to do things differently.

In charting a new course, the Commission had to use new strategies, which emphasized transparency and accountability.

The new trajectory takes into account the vision of the NDDC, which is to create an enabling environment for the sustainable development of the Niger Delta region. The Management is also guided by the Commission’s mission, which is: “to facilitate the sustainable, even and rapid development of the Niger Delta, into a region that is socially stable, politically peaceful, economically prosperous and ecologically regenerative.”

The paradigm shifts at the NDDC did not come by chance. It came from good leadership. According to General Collin Powell, former Chairman of the US Joint Chief of Staff [1989-93] and the first African American to be appointed Secretary of State, you have to appoint the right calibre of people to deliver good results.

For him, “the organisation doesn’t really accomplish anything. Plans don’t accomplish anything either. Theories of management don’t matter. Endeavours succeed or fail because of the people involved. Only by attracting the best people will you accomplish great deeds.”

The Executive Management team in NDDC today appears to be hitting the right notes. This started with the solid foundation laid during a four-day Board and Management Retreat at the Ibom Icon Hotels and Golf Resort, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State. This set the tone for a new and re-invigorated journey.

Indeed, the management signaled that it would not be business as usual as it would enthrone transparency in its operations and reverse the resource-curse syndrome in the Niger Delta region.
At the end of the retreat, participants resolved that the NDDC should prioritize key sectors that would have huge impact on the standard of living of the people of the Niger Delta, namely: infrastructure, education, health and agriculture; the NDDC should pay particular attention to the security of lives and property and the protection of the poor and weak in the society; the NDDC should improve its youths and women empowerment programmes; the NDDC should consider implementing legacy projects that have the potential to benefit the people of the region, reduce poverty and improve the conditions of living of the people.
The stakeholders resolved to intensify efforts towards fast-tracking the development of the Niger Delta region. Along this line, they agreed to revisit and review the Niger Delta Regional Development Master Plan, which expired in 2020, to provide sustainable focus for the region.
They further resolved: “That the NDDC in its determination to take the region to greater heights shall engage in Public Private partnership arrangements with State Governments, International Oil Companies (IOCs) as well as International Donor Agencies with a view to executing mega projects for the region.”

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To truly make a difference, the management adopted new methods to effectively drive sustainable development in the region. Thus, it decided to espouse the Public Private Partnership, PPP, model to provide alternative sources of funding for key development projects and programmes.

Consequently, a Management Committee on Public Private Partnership was constituted by the NDDC on January 18, 2023. The Commission observed that the only outstanding partnership it has entered into since inception was with respect to the construction of the Ogbia-Nembe Road. The 27-kilometre road, which connects 14 different communities of Bayelsa State, was constructed in partnership with Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC.

That multi-billion flagship project illustrates the kind of challenges confronting the Niger Delta. It cuts through the mangrove swamps with many bridges and 99 culverts.

To further explore the possibilities presented by a PPP model, the Commission organised a PPP summit in Lagos on April 25. At the Summit, with the theme: “Rewind to Rebirth,” the Commission signed a Memorandum of Understanding, MOU, with a United States-based firm, Atlanta Global Resources Inc., AGRI to build a railway network that will connect the nine states of the Niger Delta region.

The NDDC management had previously engaged the Nigerian National Petroleum Company, NNPC, Limited to propose a partnership for speedy development of the Niger Delta.

The Group Managing Director of NNPC Limited, Mr. Mele Kyari, agreed to co-fund some of NDDC’s projects tailored towards infrastructural development of the Niger Delta region. The partnership overture to the NNPC came on the heels of similar moves to get the hands of the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited.

Again, the Commission engaged the members of the Oil Producers Trade Section, OPTS, of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry during their recent meeting in Lagos. According to Ogbuku, the management “recognizes that the OPTS, which embodies the IOCs, is a critical stakeholder of the NDDC, that is second only to the people of the region.”

Obviously, the NDDC alone cannot handle the task of developing the Niger Delta region. The Commission needs the support of all stakeholders to achieve the goal of developing the region. NDDC funds alone cannot fully develop the region. It needs the partnership of IOCs to achieve this.

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Apparently, this prompted the management to step up the collaboration with various stakeholders, including the state governments to end the era of duplication of projects and promote harmony.

The NDDC boss noted that it was important to enhance collaboration between state governors, the NDDC, and other critical stakeholders to drive development through the monitoring and execution of regional projects.

Interestingly, steps are already being taken to strengthen the relationship between the Commission and the State Governments of the Niger Delta, to make them partners and not competitors.

These engagements have improved the visibility and broadened the scope of NDDC’s partnerships. In recognition of this fact, Ogbuku said that “stakeholders’ engagements were critical to the commission’s effectiveness. “We have, therefore, met with the civil society groups, traditional rulers and community leaders.

The traditional institution, being a highly revered group, was given due attention. Thus, the management visited the Olu of Warri, Ogiame Atuwatse III, in his palace in Warri, Delta State and the Amanyanabo of Okochiri, King Ateke Michael Tom in his palace in Okochiri, Okrika Local Government Area

To consolidate on the engagements, the management inaugurated a 2024 Budget Committee to interface with stakeholders in the budget process. The committee was charged with identifying the vision of the NDDC as an interventionist agency in order to prioritise the allocation of available resources.

Ogbuku assured that the Commission would produce a budget that would capture the present realities in the region, insisting that the document must have a clear vision. “This way, in implementing the it, there will be proper guidelines and it will not be distorted when it gets to the National Assembly. To achieve this, the NDDC must have a stakeholder’s conference to reach an agreement,” he said.

The NDDC boss maintained that the 2024 NDDC budget will be an inclusive budget that largely accommodates the interests of stakeholders in the Niger Delta region.

He said: “Stakeholders will have an opportunity to tell the NDDC the kind of projects they want in their areas of operations, so that they can be included in the budget. That is the plan for the NDDC budget for 2024. Henceforth, NDDC will capture every stakeholder in its budget; state governments, the IOCs, traditional institutions, everybody should be included in it. It will be an all-inclusive budget of the people of the Niger Delta.”

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However, before coming up with the all-inclusive 2024 budget, the Commission had to deal with what the Managing Director described as a dysfunctional situation. “We met a situation where the Commission had no approved budget for 2021 and 2022.” Thankfully, the budgets for the two years, as well as that of 2023 have now been passed by the National Assembly.

With the budget in place, more projects and programmes will begin to roll out. In the light of this, the new concept developed by the Commission to work with the Niger Delta Chamber of Commerce in the training of youths and young entrepreneurs in the Niger Delta region, has every reason to succeed.

The plan, according to the NDDC boss, was to collaborate with the Niger Delta Chamber of Commerce to support Small and Medium Enterprises in the Niger Delta region.

He said: “For the new scheme to be successful, it will revolve around a Niger Delta Chamber of Commerce that will strengthen young entrepreneurs in the region. The goal is to stop a situation where youths will be at home and be receiving stipends. Hence, the Commission is changing its Youth Volunteer programme to Youth Internship Programme where youths will be attached to organisations for one year to learn skills.”

In the area of education, the NDDC under Ogbuku interacted with Vice Chancellors of four universities in the Niger Delta region and the dominant issue on the table was how to begin partnerships that will encourage research to help in finding solutions to some of the problems bedevilling the society.

Ogbuku said that partnering with universities in academic research will make it possible to produce life-saving vaccines, as well as finding lasting solutions for medical and social problems.

The Management also held a meeting with contractors working for the Commission and called for cooperation from them to resolve issues around the burgeoning debt profile of the Commission.

To find a solution, the NDDC leadership says it is willing to accept solutions that will lead to the reduction of the Commission’s debt profile.

As part of the measures taken to address the challenges posed by a huge debt profile, the Commission started reviewing all disilting contracts before payments were made.

Today, the NDDC has sufficiently watered the grounds for public, private partnerships to flourish alongside contributions from stakeholders to bring about economic prosperity, as well as ensure social and political stability in the Niger Delta region.

According to Ogbuku, the NDDC is assuming its rightful position as a vehicle to drive the socio-economic development of Nigeria’s oil-rich region.

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WEEKEND DIGEST ON ANAMBRA TAX MATTERS: Focus on new Vehicle Card License System for Anambra State



Front view of the proposed vehicle card license for Anambra State.

In a digital economy, there is potential to enhance productivity, increase income and improve social well-being by creating job opportunities in new markets, as well as boosting employment in some existing occupations. Key benefits of the digital economy include the expansion of business opportunities, the creation of new employment opportunities, the enhancement of public service, etc.

Two days ago, the Anambra State Internal Revenue Service (AiRS) through the State Motor Registry held a meeting with stakeholders in the Transport Sector comprising the Operation Clean and Healthy Anambra (OCHA) Brigade, Federal Road Safety Corps, Representatives of DSS, State Police Command, Civil Defense, etc. The essence of the meeting was to introduce to the Stakeholders the new Vehicle Card License System being proposed by the Anambra State Government. The meeting took place at the Training Hall of the Revenue House, Awka.

The new Vehicle Card License system will replace the former paper documents and will help the State government and the vehicle owners checkmate the activities of illegal revenue operators who issue fake vehicle documents to unsuspecting motor vehicle owners. The new Vehicle Card License will be accompanied by a sticker.

The card has unique security features such as a QR code embedded in it that brings out the particulars and information about the vehicle and the owner when scanned. The QR code will enable the easy authentication of the card as all particulars of the vehicle are contained in this unique card.

The card which is green and white is unique to Anambra State.

Back view of the proposed vehicle card license with a QR code embedded on it

Effective take-off of the new Vehicle Card License system in Anambra State is Monday, May 22, 2023.

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In the case of loss, the card can be replaced if the owner reported the loss to the management. The card is free of cost.

This is a new project that will ease problems associated with the manual system of registering vehicles in Anambra State. We all should accept it, support it and benefit from it.


• Sylvia Tochukwu-Ngige is Head, Taxpayer Education, and Enlightenment Team, AiRS

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The Mathematical Ozekhome



By Sam Otuonye

“Consequently, as regards this raging ruckus and scrimmage as to whether the 25% votes required by S.134 (2)(b) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) is applicable to the FCT, Abuja, I have now decided to navigate further, some uncharted routes, by going mathematical to find X.” (Mike Ozekhome).

The legal silk, Prof. Mike Ozekhome (SAN), went beyond borders and treaded where many students, graduates, and even teachers, dread. Mathematics is in enemity with many students, particularly, Law and Humanities. Prior to the new University admission requirement of a credit in English Language and Mathematics across all courses, Mathematics was not a compulsory subject for applicants of Law and Humanities. If you were not good at mathematics you definitely did not have any bearing with Science and Business courses. You are automatically consigned to Arts and Law. But, a case of exception must be made here; as not all Law and Arts students were weaklings in mathematics. Few that knew mathematics still chose those courses for the love they had for them – Ozekhome may be one of those in this category.

According to Albert Einstein, “Pure mathematics is, in its way, the poetry of logical ideas.Prof. Ozekhome brought pure mathematics to bear on the 25% FCT status dilemma, with lucid logical ideas that elevated reasonable man test and left no discerning person in doubt as to its nitty-gritty. He deployed the mathematical anatomy of BODMAS (Bracket, Of, Division, Multiplication, Addition and Subtraction) to plot the legal cum logical graph of his perspective on the subject matter. He was responding to a piece written by a Lawyer, Dr. Kayode Ajulo, on the raging controversial constitutional interpretation of the 25% votes requirement in the FCT, Abuja, in the February 25, 2023 Presidential Election.

While many legal luminaries have argued that FCT should not attract special attention as regards the 25% votes spread; for electoral convenience, I guess, Prof. Ozekhome insists otherwise. He argued: “Had the law makers intended that the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, will be treated simply as a “State” and no more in section 134(2)(b) of the Constitution, they would have simply stopped there. There was no need to specifically add the new phrase “AND the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja”, as in section 134(2)(b). The Constitution would simply have provided for “two-thirds of all the States in the Federation”, and stopped there. But, it did not.” He supported his argument with diverse law reports and courts judgments.

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This piece is not intended to join issues with the legal gurus and their arguments, as yours truly, is not a lawyer, but to highlight the assiduous essence of academic and professional excellence – studying to show yourself approved. The Holy Book asserted in 2 Timothy 2:15, “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needed not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” Apostle Paul was admonishing Timothy to employ diligence and accuracy in his work for God. Many professionals find it difficult to go beyond their normal peripheral professional routine. They are not in-touch with the axiomatic expressions of ‘out-of-the-box’, ‘going beyond borders’, ‘breaking limits’, etc. They have remained static, stationary and sedentary over their years of professional practice and career. Across all professions, there seems to be a striking redundancy in research and development. And this scenario erodes our value as a people, because you cannot develop beyond what you know.

In his expose, titled; “Finding the BODMAS X in the Mathematics of 25% of the FCT, Abuja”, Prof. Ozekhome said; “My deep research has just thrown up a judgment where the court was called upon to interpret and translate 1.00 to percentage. The Honourable Justice Nelson Ogbuanya of National Industrial Court, in resolving the mathematical legal question, held that “1.00 of an amount means one whole number and not a fraction; and when converted to percentage, it means 100% and not 1%.” This shows that he went beyond the ordinary to exhume evidential proofs. Daniel said in the Holy Book (Daniel 9:2)”In the first year of his reign (referring to Darius) I Daniel understood by books the number of the years, whereof the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in desolations of Jerusalem.” Professional and academic excellence is: Study and Research. Simple!

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When Ozekhome said, “Mercifully, I am very proud to announce to Ajulo and others that going by my well known antecedents which are self-evident (simply google me), I do not belong to such a lowly class of ego-masseurs. I am certainly not one of those cheap obsequious fawners, brown-nosers, or toady characters that hang around political merchants and buccaneers of corridors of power”; was he exhibiting pride, haughtiness and bravado? I do not think so. He is simply a man that has shown himself approved. And, who can lower his shoulders!

It takes resilience, consistency, hard work and doggedness to achieve outstanding feats. From the authority he asserted in his write-up, it does not appear to me that he hired a Number Expert to distil the figures and formular for him. He seems to be one of those students that mathematics did not intimidate. He wrote; “But, the variables must, nonetheless be ascertained before proceeding to conclude or ascribe a fixed figure in a given arithmetical equation. It is this inability to ascertain the variable figure that usually makes some students afraid of, and intimidated by, mathematics.”

He was indeed charitable by his choice of words, … some students…” The fact is that many students hated mathematics perfectly well. Those days in Secondary School, mathematics class used to be scanty as most Arts students disappeared into other classes holding English, Literature, Government, etc. They used to evade mathematics class with swagger, oblivious of thefact that no knowledge is a waste. One of the definitions of ‘Education’ which interests me most is that which says that,Education is knowing bits of everything but more of one to earn a living. Mathematics is central to every profession and career no matter how little. Those in the Arts (like Ozekhome) that refused to run away from it but learned a bit of it are harvesting and harnessing the benefits today. They are showing themselves approved of their workmanship more than most of their colleagues. And there is nothing anybody can do about it.

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Nigeria is known for brandishing certificates, both genuine, fake and bought, even as our academic value is continually being eroded, particularly in the public schools –primary, secondary and tertiary. The public sector places certificates above competence and capacity. That does not suggest that certificates are to be discouraged, but it must add corresponding competenceand capacity value. Most of the job recruitments in government circles are done without proper interviews. They do not constitute strong interview panels and Human Resources Consultants to screen the applicants. They draw the recruits/employees from the legislative, executive, judiciary, political appointees, ethnic, and nepotistic lists. Sometimes, the jobs are sold for personal gains or as official revenue generation.So many civil and public servants do not even understand the fundamentals of the jobs they are doing. Even, some of the applicants (who are graduates) cannot write the application letter for the job they seek to do. So sad!

Our dear country, Nigeria, must shift away from this odious narrative and embrace the global best practices in education and skill acquisition. Research and Development (R&D) must be given a place of priority in our Education System, with cutting-edge facilities and technological infrastructure. And, for the Constitutional legal legend; Chief, Prof. Mike A.A. Ozekhome, SAN, CON, OFR, FCIArb, LLM, PhD, LLD, D.Litt, I join the knowledge-seeking people of Nigeria and the world over, to salute your erudition.

• Otuonye, writes from Enugu                                       

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