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A Prayer for Divine Intervention

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Professor Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha

O! compatriots and kinsmen, when storms destroy the farmlands relentlessly for seven weeks, termites eat the crops for seven weeks, our children die in the hands of kidnappers while serving the nation, earthquakes shake the land at night and in the day, terrorists walk the land at night and in the day, bandits rule the nights, kidnappers rule the day, herdsmen carry AK-47s to harass the innocent of the land, herdsmen seize farmlands that do not belong to them, when the government says we should cede our lands to foreign herdsmen so that we may live, young men slaughter ladies, harvest their body parts, rape their mothers for ritual money when so-called pastors bury live human beings in their altar in your name, when non-state actors rule some states, when injustice sits in the court of justice, death becomes a second skin, it is time to run to the divine for restitution, for divine intervention.
To whom do we cry, who do we call, when bandits become an alternative government, stronger than the army of the land, stronger than the government that claims we elected them? Do we still have the moral right, are we qualified to still call on you when there is so much pollution in the land when blood touches blood? Do you have a controversy with us? O God of Jeremiah Awolowo, God of Benjamin Azikiwe, God of Balewa, what have we done to deserve this plague that calls itself a government, a government which stays supine in the cold luxury of Abuja while scoundrels snuff out lives with reckless ease? Is this a curse on us your poor children for rejecting good governors for ethnic jingoists? Is this a visit of the serpents which you unleashed on the stubborn Jews at Mount Hur during the exodus? When shall we have a Serpent of Brass? When shall the messiah come? Who will save us from the apostates in power? Who Lord, who? Who do we cry to when an Imam is suspended from the altar because he cries aloud about the failure of the State to stop killings?
Our nation bleeds. Our hearts fail us for fear. Too many strange things are happening in the land. There is food. There is meat. Yet, some of us kill human beings and eat flesh? Fierce looking young men and women seize informal power in some parts of the land and impose their own rule, spilling the blood of the innocent? Even during the civil war, we did not live in such hopelessness. Is this the apocalypse so long in prophecy? My pastor assures me it is not yet the Great Tribulation. If this is not the Great Tribulation yet we are gnashing our teeth, the sea is boiling, the mountain is melting already, what would the Day be when you shall throw us out of the land? It is not a story to tell. It is not a good story to pass on. What must we do O Almighty father! A goat does not suffer the pains of parturition when elders are around! Who do we cry to when the locusts eat our food and decimate our farms? Who, Father, who?

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Dear Father, Devil is on the loose, Fire is on the loose, this could be our noose unless we cut the noose! Someone loves the noose, he rigidly fiddles for the noose, because he has nothing to lose, if we all face the noose, for the noose is the news he has for the mews of mewing children. Our necks are tightened by the black noose, black patriots cry about the noose, even white strangers cry about the black noose, yet fat messengers of the noose indolently remain on the loose to praise the hands of the noose till the raging fire of the noose consumes us with herdsmen’s noose. Who shall tell the news of the noose?
They said they would change the land. They said they would provide a power supply. The gods of Abuja said they would bring down the cost of gas. They even promised to end the reign of terror. They promised to end Boko Haram. But they have become Boko Haram to the hungry citizens of the land. They refused to call black, black; they gave it another name. They refused to brand the terrorists of the northeast as terrorists. They branded the boys in the east as terrorists and outlawed their organisation. Killers roam the land, protected by some unwritten codes of dishonour! Who shall save the land? O Lord God, arise and save your children.
So it was Chinelo, the nation’s young daughter, trained as a medical doctor, ready to leave the land to pursue her dream was bombed to death by bloodthirsty hounds. She was shot. Posted her picture. Called for help. Attack dogs of the gods in Abuja called her names. And she bled to death. Will her blood not haunt the land if her killers walk the land with impunity? What makes the gods of Abuja believe that their reign should continue in post-2023 elections? Why should they show their faces on the ballot? To deceive the people? Do they think we are morons? Is that they believe our votes will not count? That the result of the elections written already? O, Lord! Have mercy on us and send down the rain!

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Everything has got its time and season. Let this be the time for restoration. Let the locusts go away. The suffering in the land has a distended stomach. It can eat up everybody except your mercy comes from above. Save us that we may be saved. Help us that we may be helped. Heal us that we may be healed. If pregnancy could be hidden, we would hide this one. Who gave them the power to ruin lives in such an impudent manner? Who gave them this nonchalance over what matters to your children who cry to you daily? Is that an affliction from you?
Arise o Lord, arise as in Mount Perazim. Arise and bring succour to the land. Overturn, O Lord, overturn, and overturn and let your Mercy sit on the throne in the land. We have no one but thee!

Professor Hope O. Eghagha, Department of English, Faculty of Arts, University of Lagos, Akoka Lagos, NIGERIA

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UN chief warns of ‘catastrophe’ from global food shortage

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UN chief warns of ‘catastrophe’ from global food shortage

The head of the United Nations warned Friday that the world faces “catastrophe” because of the growing shortage of food around the globe.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the war in Ukraine has added to the disruptions caused by climate change, the coronavirus pandemic and inequality to produce an “unprecedented global hunger crisis” already affecting hundreds of millions of people.

“There is a real risk that multiple famines will be declared in 2022,” he said in a video message to officials from dozens of rich and developing countries gathered in Berlin. “And 2023 could be even worse.”

Guterres noted that harvests across Asia, Africa and the Americas will take a hit as farmers around the world struggle to cope with rising fertilizer and energy prices.

“This year’s food access issues could become next year’s global food shortage,” he said. “No country will be immune to the social and economic repercussions of such a catastrophe.”

Guterres said U.N. negotiators were working on a deal that would enable Ukraine to export food, including via the Black Sea, and let Russia bring food and fertilizer to world markets without restrictions.

He also called for debt relief for poor countries to help keep their economies afloat and for the private sector to help stabilize global food markets.

The Berlin meeting’s host, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, said Moscow’s claim that Western sanctions imposed over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine were to blame for food shortages was “completely untenable.”

Russia exported as much wheat in May and June this year as in the same months of 2021, Baerbock said.

She echoed Guterres’ comments that several factors underlie the growing hunger crisis around the world.

“But it was Russia’s war of attack against Ukraine that turned a wave into a tsunami,” Baerbock said.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken insisted that Russia has no excuse for holding back vital goods from world markets.

“The sanctions that we’ve imposed on Russia collectively and with many other countries exempt food, exempt food products, exempt fertilizers, exempt insurers, exempt shippers,” he said.

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Bandits release Zamfara wedding guests after payment of ransom

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Bandits release Zamfara wedding guests after payment of ransom

Local and federal highways in the North-west have become vulnerable as bandits continue to ambush and abduct travellers.

The gunmen who abducted 29 people returning to Zamfara State from Sokoto State where they had gone to attend the wedding of colleagues have released them after the payment of an unspecified ransom.

The victims, who were mostly dealers of mobile phones and phone accessories at Bebeji Communication Market (Bebeji Plaza) in Gusau, the capital of Zamfara State were abducted in Sokoto 13 days ago.

Secretary of the GSM Dealers Association in the state, Ashiru Zurmi, confirmed the release of the victims but didn’t give details.

One of the victims reportedly died in captivity.

Though the amount paid as ransom to secure the release of the hostages has not been revealed, Abdullahi Lawal, whose brother was among those abducted, said their relatives were asked to make donations. He said his family raised N33,000 while the phone sellers’ association “provided the remaining money.”

“Every family was told to gather N400,000 while the members of the plaza and their colleagues in the state provided the remaining money. Some family members were able to raise the money in full, but we couldn’t. I took the money to the plaza and I was told that they were still negotiating with the bandits” he said.

He said he didn’t know how much was given to the bandits “but I’m happy that my brother is okay,” he said.

From N5m to N700,000

A phone accessories seller, Sharhabilu Muhammad, told PREMIUM TIMES over the phone that the officials of the phone dealers association negotiated with the bandits to reduce the ransom they originally demanded to release the captives.

“You know that the initial money they said was N5m for each of the captives but our officials kept negotiating with them (bandits) until they reduced the money to N700k,” he said.

When asked about the person who reportedly died in captivity, Mr Muhammed said his identity has not been revealed.

“We don’t know because even the bandits didn’t tell but we’ll surely find out when they (captives) arrive at Gusau tonight,” he added.

The police command spokesman, Mohammed Shehu, didn’t respond to calls and SMS sent to him on the development.

Backstory

PREMIUM TIMES reported that the wedding guests were abducted when bandits opened fire on the two buses they were travelling in a few kilometres after Bimasa in the Dogon Awo junction, Sokoto State.

They were returning from Tambuwal town in Sokoto State where they had attended the wedding of a colleague, Jamil Umar.

The captives were travelling on a Toyota Coaster bus belonging to the Universal Basic Education Commission UBEC and another bus owned by Gusau Local Government.

The bandits had demanded a ransom of N145 million to release the 29 hostages.

Bandits have been terrorising North-west states and a part of North-central Nigeria, killing and displacing hundreds of people and rustling domestic animals.

Travelling on federal and local highways is becoming dangerous as bandits block roads, abduct and kill motorists.

Major federal highways including Abuja-Kaduna, Gusau-Sokoto-Birnin Kebbi, and Birnin Gwari-Kaduna have become travellers’ nightmares with attacks and abduction or killing of travellers becoming a daily occurrence.

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Reps demand review of public officers’ salaries, allowances

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Reps demand review of public officers’ salaries, allowances

A motion seeking the intervention of the House of Representatives in the conflict between the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Tanko Muhammad, and Justices of the Supreme Court, over issues bordering on welfare and working conditions suffered a setback on Thursday.

While the House called for a general review of salaries and allowances of all political office holders and public servants, the members were divided over which committees should handle the task.

The Chairman of the House Committee on Judiciary, Onofiok Luke, had moved a motion to seek the intervention of the chamber in the crisis rocking the apex court and better welfare package for judicial officers across the courts.

Luke, who moved the motion titled, ‘Need to Address the Deteriorating Working Conditions of Judicial Officers,’ prayed the House to urge the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission to upwardly review the remuneration of judicial officers in line with present economic realities.

The lawmaker prayed the House to urge the Federal Government to increase the budgetary allocation of the judiciary for the upcoming fiscal year and provide special intervention funds for the development of the arm

He further prayed the House to mandate the Committee on Judiciary to ensure compliance and report back within six weeks for further legislative action.

While the lawmakers were making amendments to the prayers, the Deputy Speaker, Ahmed Wase, called for an upward review of the welfare package of all public office holders.

Wase, who stated that he appreciated the memo from the Justices to the CJN, noted that only the RMAFC had the responsibility to review remuneration of government officials.

The Deputy Speaker made reference to a part of the motion that read, ‘The remuneration of judicial officers was last reviewed in 2008 by the RMAFC when the official exchange rate was N117.74 to $1, whereas the naira has considerably depreciated.’

Wase partly said, “I think this particular element does not affect just judicial officers, maybe because they cried out now. I don’t think it is right that we have to wait every time until people write letters of complaints and there is protest before we begin to do the right thing.”

Rephrasing Wase’s proposed amendment, Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, said: “The DSP’s amendment is that we should not isolate the Judiciary and all those enumerated constitutional bodies and public office holders. They should be reviewed; a comprehensive review based on all the things that Hon Luke said – the exchange rates and this and that.”

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