Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Nigeria as the world capital of skin bleaching

Say it loud – I’m black and I’m proud”
– R&B legend, James Brown in his 1968 album.
Can you believe that the World Health Organisation has adjudged Nigeria as the country with the highest number of women who use skin-lightening products in the world? In a recent skin bleaching snap survey conducted by NOI Polls from February 3 – 5, and published on March 18, 2014 in Abuja, the polling agency said the assessment result confirms the submission of WHO on the endemic nature of skin bleaching among Nigerian women.
Recall that a report in The Vanguard newspaper of June 3, 2013 had said the WHO had indicated that 77 per cent of women in Nigeria use skin-bleaching products being the highest in the world. The figure compares with 59 per cent in Togo, and 27 per cent in Senegal.  Asians are facing a similar trend as 4 out of 10 women in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Philippines, South Korea and Taiwan use a skin-whitening cream.
The NOI Polls report reads,   “Latest snap poll results released by NOI Polls have revealed that 64 per cent of Nigerians are of the opinion that skin bleaching has become highly predominant in the country, especially amongst Nigerian females (97 per cent). This finding supports the claim by the World Health Organisation that Nigeria has the highest number of women that use skin-lightening products in the world. The poll further revealed that despite the negative effects of skin bleaching affirmed by 83 per cent  of respondents; the top reasons why people still engage in the practice of skin bleaching are the need to “look beautiful” (35 per cent ) and to “look attractive to the opposite sex” (32 per cent). Skin bleaching was also reported as being mostly predominant amongst Nigerians within the age groups of 18–25 years (48 per cent) and 26-40 years (43 per cent). In addition, respondents identified some of the negative effects associated with skin bleaching to include “skin cancer” (35 per cent) and “skin damage” (25 per cent)”.
After reading the report, I went on YouTube and listened attentively to the “Yellow Fever” song of the iconic AfroBeat musician, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti. In that song released in 1976, the inimitable social crusader using pidgin English as a medium of communication identified different types of fever – malaria, jaundice, hay, influenza, inflation, freedom and yellow – and bifurcated yellow fever into original and artificial.
He then chronicled the different symptoms of the original and metaphorically equated skin bleaching as artificial yellow fever. He also described the signs of the artificial “yellow fever” as well as the damaging effects on the skin. He called bleaching “stupid thing, yeye thing, ugly thing, foolish thing”. I couldn’t agree more with him. With the latest NOI Polls and WHO report on skin bleaching among Nigerian women, it would seem the Abami Eda’s (Fela’s nickname) warning about the dangers of bleaching has gone unheeded. Pity, sad pity!
Let’s do a little dissection of the NOI Polls. I must state categorically that it is not only young girls or ladies that bleach their skins. Older women and indeed boys and men do too. The only difference is that the preponderance is more among young ladies. As rightly pointed out by the NOI Polls, “People of all ages, races, complexions, and social class participate in this global practice regardless of gender or level of education”. Skin bleaching is said to be predominant among youths 18 – 40 years old. Yet, it is not as if they are not aware of the dangers inherent in skin bleaching as respondents were able to identify skin cancer and skin damage as two likely consequences of skin lightening. Why then do people indulge in this dangerous habit? The answer lies in the respondents’ view that people persist in skin bleaching because they believe it makes them look “beautiful and more attractive to the opposite sex”.  This is all balderdash!
From my knowledge of this issue, skin bleaching is a delusional fantasy. Toning or bleaching neither makes the practitioners beautiful or more attractive. Rather, it makes them look repulsive and ugly. I remember we call them derogatory names such as “Yellow pawpaw” or someone with “Fanta face and Coke legs” as they have black patches all over their yellowish skin and when they sweat, they have body odour. I also learnt that in the event of a need to conduct surgery on someone with bleached skin, it’s usually difficult to suture them as the skin would have become very fragile.
 An internet source: listed 14 risks of skin bleaching to include the followings: Dark grey spots; skin cancer; acne; swelling of the skin; thinning of the skin; cataracts; setting down of fat on face, chest, upper back and stomach; increase in appetite and weight gain; osteoporosis; neurological and kidney damage due to high level of mercury used in the creams; psychiatric disorders; severe birth defects; asthma; and liver damage. Some of these side effects could be seen almost immediately while some are seen after a prolonged use of skin whitening creams.
Quite unfortunately, skin bleaching products do not come cheap. Bleaching soaps and creams are expensive yet we have this huge number of Nigerians indulging in it. In case you’re hell-bent on having a flawless and fair skin, my research reveals that there are natural ways of going about it. Some of the means suggested include dietary change, increased consumption of water, use of limes and lemons, and appropriate application of cleansers.
It states that, “Diet is the most important part that you should take care of if you want a flawless skin. Take away all refined food products and replace them with healthy and nutritious ones.  Increase your intake of water. This helps keep the skin free of dehydration and so the look is healthy and unblemished. Take proper care of cleaning your skin. Choose the product that is natural and effective. Pay attention to exfoliating your skin from time to time so that you get rid of the dead skin; lastly, citric acid is natural bleach and will help you have a lighter skin time without any side effect. You can make a face mask with lime juice, few drops of glycerin and flour to make a paste. Apply this on your face and leave for 20 – 30 minutes. Wash with normal water.”
Above all, it is important for those wanting to lighten or bleach their skin whether in a natural or artificial way to first seek counsel with their dermatologist so that their craze for beauty does not turn to disgrace and regrets. As for me and my household, we’re black and proud!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Avoidable Tragedy at Nigeria Immigration Recruitment Exercise

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” – Martin Luther King

It is the season of anomie in Nigeria. The country is now in the Hobbesian State of Nature where life is short, brutish and nasty. In the last one week, hundreds of lives have been lost to myriads of terrorist attacks in Katsina, Borno, Benue, and Kaduna States. We are still mourning the loss of these hapless citizens when news broke on Saturday, March 15 that over a dozen deaths had been recorded during the 2014 Nigeria Immigration Service recruitment exercise. Many of the news media put the death toll at between 16 and 23 with several others injured. However the Minister of Interior, Abba Moro on Monday, March 17 put the official figure at 15. Moreover, some of the applicants also lost originals of their academic certificates during the stampede occasioned by poor crowd control.

Is this tragedy avoidable? Are there things NIS could have done different to safeguard the lives of these unfortunate lost souls? What lessons are there to be learnt from this catastrophe by Ministries, Department and Agencies of government and indeed private organisations wanting to conduct recruitment exercises? For the records, it is not the first time that NIS recruitment exercise will turn awry. According to The Nation of July 14, 2008, seventeen persons reportedly died during the nationwide recruitment to the Nigeria Immigration Service and Nigeria Prisons Service. It was reported that eight persons were feared dead in Ilorin, two each in Asaba and Umuahia, four in Enugu as well as one in Bauchi. Many others sustained injuries during the physical fitness exercise embarked upon to weed out applicants. Shouldn’t that have been a useful guide for the  Service? 

This ‘journey to Golgotha’ started some months ago when NIS announced that it was about to recruit new staff into its organisation and asked each applicant to pay N1, 000 to obtain an application form. This demand for payment generated rumpus as it was widely condemned as exploitative of the job-seekers. Nonetheless NIS stuck to its gun and grudgingly the applicants paid. According to the Minister of Interior 522,650 applied for 4,556 job vacancies. In the earlier mentioned 2008 fiasco, over 195,000 candidates jostled for 3,000 available vacancies. Some of the applicants range from Masters Degree holders to those with secondary school Ordinary Level certificate. Does this huge number of applicants tell any story to our government?

Now, what should a sensible organisation have done with the statistics of the applicants for these jobs?  Shouldn’t this figure have occasioned a proper logistical planning?   Rather, we read that the NIS officials who conducted the aptitude and fitness tests for the applicants were overwhelmed.  In many locations, the officials did not have a confirmed figure of the number of those who were expected at their venues. There was also no form of prior identification of pregnant women, nursing mothers and persons with disabilities who definitely should have been attended to specially given their vulnerable nature. Little wonder an exercise that was meant to start by 7am did not commence until about five to nine hours later.

The questions are: Given the fact that the applicants were made to pay for the exercise; shouldn’t NIS have outsourced the conduct of the recruitment exercise to organisations like the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board, West African Examination Council or National Examination Council who are experienced at conducting examinations for huge number of candidates?  The Minister of Interior, Abba Moro said the examinations were conducted at the stadiums across the country in order to ascertain that the recruitment exercise was transparent and credible. Arrant nonsense! What credibility can an examination in which there is no proper supervision and candidates were freely copying themselves have?

Shouldn’t Nigerian Immigration Service have conducted the aptitude and fitness tests for different cadre of the job-seekers on different dates over a period of time? Why lump school certificates holders with those with ordinary diploma and then graduates?  I read that screening of applicants was being done at the venue of the aptitude test, this is wrong! (Applicants, apart from possessing requisite educational qualifications, are to be between 18 and 35 years). Screening of eligible applicants ought to have been done in-house and those who are found to be qualified should have been the only one invited for the aptitude test. The so called fitness test should actually be for those who have scaled the hurdle of the aptitude test. In this day of internet, the aptitude test could have even been done online or via telephone. This is not a rocket science for God’s sake! The annoying thing is that the advertised vacancies could have even been shared out to political office holders and top bureaucrats while the tests were conducted  as a smokescreen to fulfill all righteousness.

Most disheartening in this whole episode is the Minister of Interior’s misguided statement of blaming the victim. He was reported to have said “The applicants lost their lives due to impatience; they did not follow the laid down procedures spelt out to them before the exercise.” When you pack people like sardines in an enclosure and did not attend to them on time, how wouldn’t they become impatient? As highlighted above, the stampede and deaths recorded during this recruitment exercise are totally avoidable if the Ministry of Interior and the Nigerian Immigration Service had done better and proper planning.

I am not interested in the setting up of any committee or commission of inquiry to look at the immediate or remote causes of this tragedy. These are already in the public domain. More so, similar panel was inaugurated in 2008, what lessons were learnt from that debacle. I am also disinterested in the crocodile tears of the government officials on this unfortunate incident. My request is for the sack or at least redeployment of Abba Moro from the Ministry of Interior. He has overtly demonstrated his incompetence on this issue. Nigeria Immigration Service Comptroller General, Mr. David Shikfu Parradang should be queried about the poor logistics put in place by his Agency despite the millions of Naira raked in from the applicants. He too should be relieved of his position. NIS should take a proper audit of the number of those who died and those injured during the stampede. The family of the dead applicants should be adequately compensated by NIS. Those who suffer permanent disability as a result of this tragic incident should also be compensated and rehabilitated. The charade of recruitment exercise must be cancelled and a properly organised one conducted.

Government at all levels should heed the early warning signs that the current state of unemployment in the country is no longer sustainable and should therefore come up with better strategy to combat it. A social benefit scheme needs to be put in place that will ensure that unemployed graduates are paid a token (maybe N10, 000) monthly allowance to take care of their basic needs. Government at all levels needs to plug all drainpipes and use the resources of the country to develop it. Our school curriculum also require comprehensive revision to focus more on entrepreneurial education which will make our graduates less craving for white-collar jobs. However, for this to happen, our infrastructural deficit, security and corruption challenges would have to be aggressively tackled in order to create the enabling environment for self employment.   May God give the family of the dead the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss.    

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Lessons for Nigerian pastors from Yonggi Cho’s imprisonment

How are the mighty fallen, and the weapon of war perished! – Holy Bible in 2 Samuel 1:27

The fall of supposed men and women of God is not a new phenomenon.  Even Holy Bible has records of such: Adam, Moses, Judas Iscariot were examples. In contemporary times we have heard about the humpty-dumpty fall of some great men of God. In July 1986,  Marvin Gorman, pastor of the 5,000-member First Assembly of God Church in New Orleans confessed to an adulterous relationship.  In 1987, it was American preacher, Jim Bakker whose illicit affair with his secretary was exposed. In 1988 it was the turn of a world renowned televangelist, Jimmy Swaggart who admitted before his congregation to have patronised prostitutes. As a punishment, the elders of his Assemblies of God Church slammed him with a three-month suspension from his U.S. pulpit, and a two-year rehabilitation period. In 2006, another revered man of God, Tedd Haggard admitted to being a bisexual.  Haggard, a  former president of the National Association of Evangelicals in the United States of America   confirmed that it was  "fundamentally true"  that he engaged in an inappropriate relationship with a 20-year-old male volunteer in 2006. According to CNN report of the incidence, “Controversy involving Haggard first erupted in November 2006, when a former prostitute, Mike Jones, said the pastor had paid him for sex over three years and had used methamphetamine in his presence.

On February 20, 2014 news filtered out that the pastor of the largest church in the world, David Yonggi Cho of Yoido Full Gospel Church, South Korea had been found  guilty of breach of trust, corruption and tax evasion, and had been  sentenced  to three years in prison with a five-year probation and 5 billion won (US$4.67 million) in fines. The Gospel Herald quoted the 78-year-old pastor as saying that it was the hardest day of his 50 years of ministry when he heard the verdict. "Through this suffering, I've learned a homework. An individual shouldn't possess anything. Besides health, status, fame, authority, money... these are all matters that are outside the body and unworthy of any pursuit." Cho submitted. In the same ruling, Cho's elder son Hee-jun, the former CEO of the church-affiliated local daily Kookmin Ilbo, was sentenced to three years in prison for colluding with his father in the embezzlement scheme.

Are there lessons for Nigerian pastors from all these chronicles? Plenty!  Jimmy Swaggart father was quoted as saying that "It just goes to show that none of us is so high that we can't fall, and maybe that's what God is trying to show us with this." This was after his son admitted to aforementioned wrongdoing in 1988. Very instructive isn’t it?

Some Nigerian pastors whom someone has described as ‘pastorpreneurs’   should take heed. The way some of them carry on God’s business is unworthy. Particularly, the Pentecostal pastors, they have commercialised the Gospel of Christ.  Some of them live in obscene opulence while their congregation wallows in abject poverty. These days there is no more difference between some of our pastors and the politicians. They hobnob with them. They are sponsored on pilgrimage by the government and during festive seasons they receive mindboggling gifts from governments at different levels. At their fundraisers, government makes hefty donations. How then will they be able to condemn government iniquitous policies? Today, the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria and the Christian Association of Nigeria have both become the religious arm of the government in power. This is unbecoming.

It is a fad nowadays to see people using money ‘to key into the prophesies of men of God’.  Where did they read that Jesus encourage people to throw money at His feet during his earthily sojourn? Some men of God will give a laundry list of what to provide for them before they will accede to come and preach the gospel at another church. Nigerian pastors now have bodyguards, bulletproof cars and houses. They demand for tithes, prophet offering, worship offering, welfare offering, first fruit, project offering and all other innumerable offerings. It is an open secret that some of these ‘pastors’ steal the church offerings.  From these offerings, some of them build schools and establish other line of businesses yet their goods and services are not subsidised to enable even the church members who contributed the capital for the business to afford.

One of the Pentecostal pastors told a story of how God ordered him to reject offering of a chief who voluntarily purchased musical instruments for his church many years ago. Am not sure God is being consulted again on which of the offerings to take or reject now as the in-thing is a rat race of who is building the biggest church or who has the largest number of congregants. Another Nigerian pastor was recently celebrated for buying a car worth N120 million while a few others now own private jets. This is happening in a country with about 70 per cent poverty rate.  What insensitivity!

Aside the issue of greed among some of the supposed men of God, it is also on record that some of them mislead their members in their sermons. For instance, they sometime preach against accessing Medicare urging that ‘Blood of Jesus’, Anointing Oil or Holy Water is enough to heal them of their infirmities. Meanwhile, these same pastors or prophets go behind the congregation to receive medical attention when sick.

Daily Mail of  January 10, 2014 reported  that a South African preacher, Pastor Lesego Daniel of Rabboni Centre Ministries made his congregation eat grass to 'be closer to God' before stamping on them. Early this month, Kenyan Daily Post reported that a Kenyan pastor, Rev. Njoh allegedly asked his female congregants to attend church services without panties or bras so "God can enter their bodies easily". The pastor's reasoning was that the undergarments are "ungodly" and people need to be "free in 'body' and 'spirit' to receive Christ". Strange doctrines aren’t they? Though these stories appear incredulous, some ignorant people still believe these fake pastors and prophets. Many homes, marriages and lives have been destroyed by these supposed ‘men and women of God’.

 It is now commonplace to witness succession battle in some so called Pentecostal churches. Some of these spiritual  leaders sue one another over who is the right successor; some others engage assassins and charms to settle scores with fellow disputants. Is this the example Jesus laid for us to follow? Am scared for the afterlife of some of our ‘pastorpreneurs’ whose motto is ‘do as I say, not as I do’. Isn’t it said that example is better than precept?

I am by no means alleging that all pastors and prophets are evil or ungodly but it will seem that lack of strict regulation of the profession has made it a safe haven for all manner of riff-raffs, vagabonds and touts who lay claim to harkening to divine call when in reality they take to preaching when they couldn’t get any better employment. I heard a story that some pastors-in-training were caught cheating in a written examination meant to test their Bible Knowledge and spiritual prowess. Sad, very sad!  For the few genuine men and women of God, I urge you to remain steadfast and be careful. I leave you with the word of God in 1 Corinthians 10:12 which says: “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.”





Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Before we all go deaf from noise pollution

Have you ever visited a local market or a motor park in Nigeria lately? Have you noticed the bedlam, I mean the din? The hooting of vehicles, music blaring from the loudspeakers mounted by those selling compact discs and DVDs as well as those doing one form of sales promotion or the other, the noise from the generators, etc. Anytime there is no public power supply, I have no rest in my house as everyone in the neighbourhood is likely to put on their generators. The noise from these contraptions usually set me on edge.  Noise pollution is actually causing more havoc to humans than we are cognisant of.
Noise is one of the nine sources of pollution. Researchers identified eight others as air, water, thermal, personal, soil, radioactive, visual, and light pollution. An online source, Green Living, explained some of them as follows:  Causes of air pollution include vehicle or manufacturing exhaust; forest fires, volcanic eruptions, dry soil erosion, and building construction or demolition. Sources of water pollution include increased sediment from soil erosion; improper waste disposal and littering and leaching of soil pollution into water supplies. Soil pollution sources include hazardous waste and sewage spills; non-sustainable farming practices such as the heavy use of inorganic pesticides; strip mining, deforestation, and other destructive practices and household dumping and littering
Other types of pollution include personal pollution which is the contamination of one’s body and lifestyle with detrimental actions. This may include excessive smoking, drinking or drug abuse; emotional or physical abuse; poor living conditions and habits and poor personal attitudes. Radioactive contamination include nuclear power plant accidents or leakage; improper nuclear waste disposal and uranium mining operations. Thermal pollution may be caused by power plants; urban sprawl; air pollution particulates that trap heat; deforestation and loss of temperature moderating water supplies
Noise pollution which is the crux of this piece refers to undesirable levels of noise caused by human activities that disrupt the standard of living in the affected area. Researchers say indoor and outdoor noise pollution sources include car alarms, emergency service siren, mechanical equipment, fireworks, compressed air horns, grounds keeping equipment, barking dogs, appliances, lighting hum, audio entertainment systems, electric megaphones, and loud people. Experts warn that noise pollution can cause annoyance and aggression, hypertension, high stress levels, hearing loss, sleep disturbances and tinnitus which can lead to forgetfulness, severe depression and at times panic attacks. In animals, noise can increase the risk of death by altering predator or prey detection and avoidance, interfere with reproduction and navigation, and contribute to permanent hearing loss.
The Lagos State Government took a commendable step in 2010 by banning religious houses in the state   from mounting outside speakers. The level of noise pollution allowed in the state is between 55 decibel during the day and 42 to 45 decibel at night.  In February  2012, officials of the Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency shut  seven churches and later in May of the same year, three churches and two mosques within the metropolis were shut down  for violating the laws of the state against noise pollution. News report named the affected churches as the Lord’s Chosen Charismatic Mission Church, Anthony Village; Christ Chosen Church, Onipanu and Evangelical Apostolic Church, while the mosques are Darusalam Mosque at Sabo, Yaba and Ayegbesin Mosque at Mafoluku, Oshodi. The General Manager, LASEPA, Rasheed Shabi, was quoted as saying that the development was as a result of petitions filed to his office by residents who had complained about the blazing noise pollution from the churches and mosques.
While I recommend all other states in Nigeria should take a cue from Lagos State and take legal steps to control noise pollution in their states, however, a lot of sensitisation needs to take place to educate Nigerians on the causes, effects and solutions to noise and other forms of pollution.   In a recent interview with the News Agency of Nigeria, Dr. Olawale Ogundiran, an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist said that more Nigerians are being exposed to hearing complications due to noise pollution. Ogundiran, an audiologist at Ladoke Akintola University of Technology Teaching Hospital, Osogbo, said with industrialisation and increase in noise pollution from vehicles and worship centres, the average Nigerian requires regular check up. He said cases of noise-induced hearing loss were on the increase, attributing this to late appearance of victims to medical examination.
 “In the offices, at home, at churches, in the mosques, many of us unknowingly harm our eardrums. Even while in cars, some people turn up the volume of music to an embarrassing level to have a fake feeling of enjoyment. With time, such a person may start experiencing a slight headache occasioned by vibrations in the eardrum which may eventually lead to hearing defect or total loss of hearing”, the audiologist explained.
Ogundiran recommended ear plugs or noise muffler for workers in noisy factories. He also advised against exposing babies to noise at worship centres and social events while warning Nigerians to guard against prolonged use of head set while listening to loud music.
The National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency as well as state and local government environmental protection agencies need to belt up and partner the National Orientation Agency and the media to sensitise Nigerians on the dangers of environmental pollution and how to avoid it. Beyond the use of traditional mass media, as individuals, we can use the social media (Twitter, Facebook, SMS) to educate other people who may be unaware of the dangers inherent in the nuisance of noise pollution.  Before we all go deaf or die prematurely from noise pollution, let’s all join hands to fight it.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Salami treatment for Sanusi

The February 20, 2014 removal of CBN Governor Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, four months to the end of his term of office, reminds me of how President Goodluck Jonathan unjustly dealt with the former President of the Court of Appeal, Honourable Justice Isa Ayo Salami. This recent Salami treatment of Sanusi is ill-timed and a bad omen to all anti-corruption whistleblowers. Why the haste? I am of the opinion that the suspension was aimed at scuttling the on-going National Assembly investigation into allegations levelled against NNPC by the suspended governor of CBN. It would be recalled that SLS had accused the NNPC of non remittance of huge sums of money into the federation account. The initial amount was about $49b and more recently, after some financial reconciliation between the NNPC, Ministry of Finance and CBN, the disputed sum came to about $20b. Sanusi also accused NNPC of providing subsidy on Kerosene when the administration of erstwhile President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua had written a memo for this to be stopped.
I commend SLS for coming out boldly to expose this act of impunity being committed by NNPC. Sanusi would be remembered for his many reforms of the banking sector among which is the sanitisation of the banking and the wider financial sector through the sack of some banks managing directors in August 2009; the introduction of cashless policy, the biometric registration of bank customers and the know-your-customers policy for banks.
The reasons for the suspension given by government, should this be true, then the board of the CBN should have been dissolved alongside the suspension of the governor. This is because, Sanusi has always claimed that he has the approval of the CBN Act and the bank’s board to make all the donations made to schools and victims of terrorist attacks. Moreover, we learnt the FRCN report of June 7, 2013 that indicted SLS had found both the governor and the deputy governors culpable- why were his deputies left off the hook with one of them even being made acting governor?  By making a scapegoat of Sanusi, a lot of government officials who want to expose acts of corruption are being cowed from speaking out. The last may not have been heard about this case.
Sanusi may have talked himself into trouble giving what many believed are unguarded statements that he made during his explosive tenure (remember the allegations he made against the National Assembly that they spend 25 percent or thereabout of the national budget, a claim NASS vehemently refuted). For me, Nigerians will remember Sanusi Lamido Sanusi as a courageous person who believes in speaking truth to power, not minding whose ox is gored. But definitely, he is someone the establishment loves to hate.