Mrs. Josephine Effa-Chukwuma, founder of Project Alert, a Lagos-based Non- Governmental Organisation (NGO), has been in the frontline fighting against gender-based violence by holding abusers to account and helping protect victims of such abuse. She spoke to ISIOMA MADIKE on the raging issue of a 15-yearold SS1 student of the Federal Government Girls College, Calabar, Cross River State, who was allegedly abused by a former commissioner in that state.
How did this whole drama start?
It was on a Tuesday, December 11, late in the night, almost 10 O’clock on WhatsApp group I belong to when a lady tag me and said she will like to talk to me. She raised an issue that a girl in Federal Girls College, Calabar, had been sexually abused. The lady said one of the teachers in that school said one of their students that complained of severe abdominal pains had been coming to the medical centre. The girl she said was squatting and vomiting blood. When they interviewed her, she confessed she had an abortion. The girl told them her mother helped her to procure the abortion in September after she came to sign exit to take her away from school. On further interrogation, the girl told them her mother’s boyfriend was responsible for the act. At that point in time nobody knows who the mother’s boyfriend was. The concern was to rush her to the hospital. The school took her to police hospital which was a good thing going to a government facility. And she said that they need a human right organisation to take up the case.
What happened after that conversation with your WhatsApp group member?
That night at almost midnight, maybe 11 pm, I called barrister James Ugbo. I actually woke him up and I said I’m so sorry. The anger of hearing what happened to a little child, not only the sexual abuse, but the abortion which probably was done by a quack doctor made me follow up immediately. I learnt that her abdominal pain was so severe that paracetamol or whatever they were given her in the medical centre on the two time or so she presented is not doing anything and she said she called her mother to tell her that she was in pains and the woman asked her to bear it and that it will go. That is how it was before I called barrister James almost at midnight to narrate what I was told to him and begged him to investigate if it was true or not. The next day in the afternoon he called me back to say ‘madam it is true, she is 15 years and in SS1 class, the abortion was not the first, not the second but the third.’ He said that he met the mother who corroborated the girl’s story. It was at that point that the former commissioner’s name, who is her mother’s boyfriend, was mentioned and I said I really don’t care; let’s do the needful and save this child. The IPO was there so also the mother of the girl and the doctors. That was how the rat race started.
What has happened since then?
The police are investigating the allegation. We are also hearing now that the girl’s womb has been perforated. The girl is still in the hospital but I learnt that the police and the women affairs and development ministry have moved her to a teaching hospital. Everybody knows that we need to be careful and to protect this girl. Unfortunately, child abuse cases have somewhat become a recurring decimal in Nigeria. But instead of concentrating on the message and pay attention to it, people prefer to focus on the messenger. The police have a duty and responsibility to investigate this to the logical conclusion and take action. It doesn’t matter what it is, the impunity has to stop. We are dealing with an epidemic; a child sexual abuse epidemic. What is it with little children that older matured men cannot leave little girls alone? We are following up on the case, the police AIG in that zone, IGP, all of them have been petitioned and we have confidence that the police will do a thorough job in this case.
There is a new dimension to child rape issues now. The mothers appear to be collaborating with their spouses to perpetrate this act. How can this be resolved?
That is where the social welfare department has to step up in its work. I must tell you that a social welfare department as we currently have it, operates, in my view, below expectation. If it’s in an advanced country like the US, for instance, if the social welfare tells the family that they are coming to their house, the fear of that alone is the beginning of wisdom. The social welfare has primary responsibility to ensure that the welfare of children is paramount. If the social welfare is working the way it should work that girl in hospital should not be going back to her mother. It is either the father’s family or foster parents to take good care of her and nurture her upbringing.
HOUSING DEBACLE: NIGERIANS LIVE IN SLUMS, SLEEP UNDER BRIDGES
- ‘Landlords take advantage of this and see themselves as mini gods’
Across the country, low-income earners are still in quagmire, regarding their own houses. This may be the reason stakeholders are worried that despite government claims of formulating policies to provide shelter for appreciable percentage of the citizenry, there are no indicators to justify the claims. The mortgage institutions in the country, according to ISIOMA MADIKE, in this report are also largely inactive
Madam Onyeka Nkemakonam is a widow. She lived in a mini-flat apartment at No 5, Lagos Street, off Akilo Road, Agege, Lagos, with her family for close to six years.
She lost her husband, Nnamdi, in May last year. After the burial rites of her husband and the mandatory mourning period, Nkemakonam returned to Lagos with her four children, to face new challenges of life without the breadwinner.
Her landlord, sensing that it could be difficult for her to continue with the payment of rent, decided to issue a quit notice to her. She pleaded for time, which she thought the landlord had consented to. But she was wrong. Unknown to Nkemakonam, her landlord had a different game plan.
The man, according to what later played out, might have decided to test the signed tenancy law in the state. He ejected her, along with other tenants with the aid of thugs, a few months after.
One of the tenants, Christopher Johnson, a commercial bus driver, who raised the alarm, said he was at Obalende when someone called to inform him that thugs and fake policemen were at his residence in an apparent move to eject all the tenants in the bungalow building.
“I had to abandon what I was doing at Obalende Park and rushed home. I met other tenants outside the house, their properties and mine had already been vandalised by the thugs,” Johnson narrated to Saturday Telegraph.
According to him, items lost to the hoodlums were clothes, phones, laptop, a travelling bag and N70,000 cash he had been saving to rent another apartment. Other tenants in the house also claimed they lost sums of money ranging from N50,000 to N90,000 to the invaders. Nkemakonam said the N250,000 donated to her to complete her husband’s building at Sango Ota area of Ogun State during the burial of her husband, was also stolen.
The total money lost to the thugs was over N360,000, according to claims the tenants made at the police station, where the matter was reported. Narrating her ordeal to Saturday Telegraph, Nkemakonam said she was in the room when the thugs rushed in, threatened to break her head with a hammer after which they bundled her out of the room.
“They claimed they were from the court with an instruction to eject us. The landlord has been on the run since then,” she said amid tears. Like Nkemakonam, many Nigerians, especially those living in the cities, have tales of woe the other to tell about their ordeal in the hands of landlords.
Many people have had terrible experiences in the hands of landlords whose power seems to be growing unchecked. And since shelter is one of the basic necessities of life, many are determined to acquire this essential need. It has thus become a major concern for both individual and governments in the country.
In fact, the scorecard of any government in the country has, more often, been assessed on its ability to provide housing for its populace. Shelter, indeed, is very important and obligatory in human living. It is imperative for every human being to have a home.
However, the individual financial capacity often hinders the purchasing power, hence, the prevalence of house rent in Nigeria. This may be the reason why most landlords take advantage of this and see themselves as ‘mini gods’.
They believe they have power, which can quickly change the livelihood of any person negatively. However, many of the home occupiers in Nigeria today are largely tenants, who pay for accommodation monthly or yearly. And, the uncontrollable rise in the country’s population, particularly in urban areas has resulted in an unimaginable demand for housing.
The overall cases of landlord palaver over the years are alarming and mind boggling. Most of the landlords today, who hitherto were tenants, do not care about the laws or rules guiding landlords and tenants relationship. The thinking is that the house belongs to them and they are free to make their decisions anytime. Though, government at various levels had come up with difficult landlord/tenancy laws, they have only achieved very little in addressing the problem.
In Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, only the well-to-do can afford to rent an apartment in the metropolis as the costs appear not to be for small salary earners. Judith Nmakwe, a civil servant said: “The rate of accommodation in this city has assumed an alarming dimension; you cannot see a beginner, I mean someone who is trying to start life, settle down in Abuja. A room apartment at the boys’ quarters is what most people can afford here,” she said. There are other views. According to another resident, Ade Adebayo, the FCT is not meant for everybody to settle.
“You cannot compare Abuja with other places in the country. This is the capital of Nigeria and it’s no dwelling place for every Tom, Dick and Harry. However, not all houses are expensive; it depends on the area you choose to live. Many settle on the outskirts where rent is quite reasonable,” he said. But, Lagos and Abuja are not isolated cases.
In Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, Bidemi Babatope, narrated her ordeal in the hands of her 58-year-old landlord. She had earlier paid for two years house rent, but after a year of occupancy, the landlord demanded that she paid more. Reason: Because other landlords had increased their rent. Babatope declined such demand and referred the landlord to his tenancy agreement, which they both signed. That was not enough to dissuade the shylock landlord as he refused to acknowledge his agreement. The consequence was that Babatope was given a seven-day quit notice to evacuate the room.
“He gave me the notice on a Saturday, the following Monday, he started knocking my door early in the morning, telling me that someone had paid for my room and that I should move out in two days’ time. Though I had been busy looking for a room before then, but I couldn’t get one. In fact, I was not financially buoyant enough to do much running around or guarantee a decent house since the man said, he won’t return my money until I move out. “As I was praying the next day, I noticed a carpenter was working on my roof, I thought it was a usual change of a leak in the roof but again, I remembered that my room was not in need of repairs. As I dashed out to find out what was going on, the landlord said he was removing my roof so that I will know that I had overstayed my welcome in the house. Unfortunately for me, rain fell that day and most of my properties were destroyed,” Babatope recounted. Residents of Port Harcourt in Rivers State are also groaning.
They have called on the state government to intervene in the high cost of housing in the city. They said that unless something was done urgently by the authorities to address the astronomical cost of housing in the state, some of them might be forced to relocate to the suburbs. Currently, rent offered for a oneroom “self-contain” apartment goes for between N200,000 and N250,000 per annum while a one-bed flat costs as much as N600,000 in some locations. Likewise, two-bed room is offered for rent at between N600,000 and N700,000 depending on the area.
One of the residents, Kelvin Onwuka, lamented that house rent in the city was fast getting out of the reach of public servants. He said it was becoming increasingly difficult for government employees to live in good houses.
Onwuka, a civil servant, said that housing was a critical social service issue and called on the federal government to enact laws that would regulate housing, especially rents in the country. But, Mrs. Josephine Okenwa, a landlady, attributed the high cost of housing to the rising cost of building materials. She said one way to solve the problem was for government to also regulate cost of the materials. “You cannot expect someone to sell goods below their cost prices; that is what we have been passing through and government knows about it.
The first thing the government should do is to ensure that cost of materials for building is reduced and it can, therefore, address the issue of rent,” she said. Building experts see housing as an economic product over which an average investor wants profits.
It is, perhaps, for this reason that the Lagos State government passed a tenancy law. It was targeted at making life comfortable for its citizenry and safeguarding the low income earners in the state. The law, however, has thrown up endless debate among major stakeholders in the real estate industry. Its provisions made it unlawful for a landlord or his agent to demand or receive rent in excess of six months from a sitting tenant. With the law, it becomes illegal for any landlord to receive more than a year rent from a new tenant otherwise he will be made to pay N100,00 or sentenced to three years imprisonment.
Similarly, it will also be unlawful for a tenant to offer to pay more than a year rent, even though, it allows for the two parties involved (landlord and tenant) to sign a tenancy agreement. But, as plausible as the law may seem, most landlords, stakeholders and property developers have argued that such would never achieve its purpose.
According to them, the Nigerian society has failed to provide sufficient housing facilities for the people. It is argued that the problem of insufficient accommodation should be tackled first before promulgating such laws.
The general case of landlords make Nigerian housing situation looks like a lawless one as they do not care about what the law says concerning their actions and inactions. An Abuja-based Estate Surveyor and Valuer, Ahmed Shehu Dogon-Daji, said that even when rent control laws are available they cannot be implemented because of the refusal of grant to fund research on local building materials through the Nigerian Building Roads Research Institute (NBRRI). He also pointed to the refusal of government to bring the price of cement down because of interest or romance with some manufacturers.
Another Abuja-based property developer and MD, Urban Shelter Ltd, Musa Aliyu, admitted that though the courts are there, absence of rent control laws tend to make all landlords abuse the situation. The Lagos State Publicity Secretary of All Progressives Congress, Joe Igbokwe, also submitted: “Dubious and lazy landlords in the country have no conscience.
They rely on houses they built 30,40 years ago to pay school fees for their children and children of their concubines in Nigeria and abroad.” As it stands today, many Nigerians still rest their heads under the bridge in the dark hour. Such people, who cannot afford a house rent, are left to sleep in the cold at night, exposing themselves not only to the vagaries of the weather but other dangers. Less privileged tenants also live in uncompleted buildings.
These kinds of people are exposed to hazards both night and day. There are others too, who often consider themselves lucky but live in the slum where all forms of inhuman act tivities abound. They inhabit the slum because they cannot afford the cost of a decent accommodation. The efforts of the federal government, particularly the National Assembly and state assemblies to propose rent control legislation have met with unrealistic fantasy. This is as a result of the failed situation on the supply side of the real estate market and the failure of the existing and subsisting rent control legislation and home ownership schemes to address the problem of housing in Nigeria. Housing generally has not ranked high on the scale of priorities for social spending by successive administrations in the country.
This may be the reason efforts at providing low-cost housing have been minimal, despite the creation of the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN) in 1977, as shanty towns and slums are common sights in urban areas leading to overcrowding. It has been estimated that about 85 per cent of the urban population live in single rooms often with eight to 12 people per room, making living conditions very dehumanising. Former MD, FMBN, Gimba Ya’u-Kumo, said that lack of a robust mortgage financing system in Nigeria had made rate of home ownership in the country one of the lowest in Africa. Ya’u-Kumo noted that mortgage credits accounted for less than five per cent of total lending portfolio of Nigerian banks and just about 13.5 per cent of mortgage lending by Primary Mortgage Banks (PMBs).
According to him, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) supervision report 2008 revealed that 90 per cent of housing developments in Nigeria were selffinanced through personal savings for periods upwards of 10 years. He said that housing not only satisfied the basic human need for shelter, but a key component of economic growth and development. He pointed out that provision of housing was not only a key driver of economic development, but that it formed a substantial part of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of most developed countries.
“The supply gap for low and medium income groups is huge, reaching a crisis level in some cities in the country. This is heightened by the rapid urbanisation of the population,” he added, noting that the World Bank had predicted that the housing problem in Nigeria would become even more acute by the year 2020 if adequate measures were not taken. In his contribution, Prof. A.O. Olotuah of the school of Environmental Technology, Federal University of Technology, Akure, said: “The Nigerian housing is fraught with a plethora of problems, especially for low-income earners, who incidentally constitute the majority of the population. Fundamental to this is the lack of access to housing finance by this segment of the society.”
In Nigeria, like in many other developing nations of the world, housing problems are multi-dimensional. The problems of population explosion, continuous influx of people from rural to the urban centres, and lack of basic infrastructure required for good standard of living have compounded housing problems over the years.
Access to this basic need by the poor, who constitute the largest percentage of the world’s population, has remained a mirage, which needs to be critically addressed. Perhaps, this may be the reason why President Muhammadu Buhari’s Independence Day Speech on October 1, hinted on what the government intends to do in the real estate sector. He said: “We have initiated the National Housing Programme.
In 2014, four hundred million naira was voted for Housing. In 2015 nothing. “Our first budget devoted a whooping N35.6 billion to the housing sector. Much of the house building will be private sector led but government is initiating a pilot housing scheme of 2,838 units uniformly spread across the 36 states and FCT.
This initiative is expected to reactivate the building materials manufacturing sector, generate massive employment opportunities and develop sector capacity and expertise.”
Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, unveiled the plans by the federal government to deliver mass housing for Nigerians. He said that 360 houses would be built in three states through Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement in the first phase, develop “Rent to Own” housing scheme for those who cannot afford mortgage and incorporate a new housing model into the National Building Code.
He, however, lamented that the money appropriated for housing sector was grossly inadequate. Former Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Bello Adoke (SAN), added his voice to the housing debacle when he noted that Nigeria with a population of well over 150 million people requires housing unit per annum. According to him, this is to replenish decaying housing stock, as well as to meet rising demand and avert a further crisis in the sector. Ms Ama Pepple, former Minister of Housing and Urban Development, also pointed out that Nigeria was facing a national housing deficit of over 17 million units.
She was blunt in saying that the country required additional one million housing units a year to reduce the national deficit with a view to averting crisis in the year 2020 and beyond. In like manner, former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, believes that housing defines culture, style and provides the much needed security, even as he urged the three tiers of government to intervene in the building construction sector. He said the intervention, which should be in the form of direct construction of houses, was necessary for the sake of the low-income earners, who were in need of mass housing.
One time president, Nigerian Institute of Quantity Surveyors, Agele Alufohai, also said there was the need for an evolution in the mortgage system with a view to strengthening the build- ing construction sector. He stressed the importance of a viable mortgage system that could strengthen home ownership, and urged government participation in the process through the creation of an enabling environment.
“If we have a mortgage system where the rent you pay will lead to owning a house, then we talk of low-income housing. Elsewhere in the world, you pay rent to mortgage institutions and between 20 and 25 years, you become a landlord and move from being a tenant. Government has to move in to provide the enabling environment by encouraging mortgage origination.”
His former counterpart in the Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers, Emeka Eleh, equally said tenants would have a better deal if the supply of homes increases since, according to him, the nation’s housing sector is ruled by landlords. “I believe the solution to our housing problems may not even be short term. We have to deal with the problem: access to suitable and title land on which people can build. There are statistics on how badly we are doing in that area,” Eleh added.
OPEN DEFECATION:How we eat, drink our ‘shit’ without knowing, says 80-year-old Ibadan trader
‘Shit’ in the open is a huge challenge in the country. About 24 per cent practice this according to findings from the 2018 WASH National Outcome Routine Mapping (WASH NORM) survey. The practice contaminates water, food supplies and makes it one of the most deadly issues the nation faces nowadays. ISIOMA MADIKE, in this report, looks at efforts to get 47 million Nigerians to use the toilet and end open defecation in 2025
Alhaja Suliat Ogunbola, 80, is one of the aged traders at Ogbere Idi Osan Market in Ona Ara Local Government Area of Oyo State. Ogunbola is in pains, though not as a result of her old age. She is unhappy because the environment where she ekes out a living looks more like a slum. And beneath the relentlessly slummy surface of the market lies a kind of moral discomfort. The drainage ditches are smelly and blocked with faeces, which she said, often overflows when the rains come, into shops and pathways, such that the vicinity is wholly composed of human waste.
Ogunbola described it not only as an eyesore but a shame to find human faeces litter such a public place. She told Saturday Telegraph that she, like the other women in the market, are willing to use toilet facilities and save themselves the agony of spending the money they don’t even have in treating all manners of diseases in hospitals.
It is because we can’t find a decent toilet to use, she said, that makes them resort to their old ways of defecating without qualms. Ogunbola said: “No bi our fault. Yes, we have toilets in this market, but no water to flush after use.
That is the reason why we now use our bowls which we empty at a more convenient time in the derelict public toilet at the other end (pointing to the location) of the market where we don’t pay any money. “Who does not want to use a decent toilet? Let the government provide a more decent one and make sure there is water supply to prevent us from contracting disease while trying to defecate. Don’t forget we are women and could easily contract disease from dilapidated toilets. Some of us urinate anywhere we can find a space and get infected in the process.
This way flies feast on our faeces and bring them back to our foods and water. My son, we eat and drink our ‘shit’ in this market without knowing.”She pleaded that the state or local government should come to their aid and do the right thing to save them from dying prematurely. Another trader, a 70-year-old widow, Felicia Akindele, also expressed worry over the spate of open defecation in the market. The traders who spoke to Saturday Telegraph during a visit to the market recently, said the development poses hazard to their health and businesses.
“It is obvious that more toilets need to be built to cater for our needs and that of our customers and I think this has been a major challenge for us,” Akindele, who equally lamented scarcity of water for usage in the available toilets, said. However, the only good toilet in the market was built by private initiative.
It supposed to be a decent convenience but for lack of water in its compartments to flush after use. The borehole within the vicinity which should serve the toilets has broken down and those charged with maintenance of the facility seemed unperturbed about it. For Ogunbola, “we had been forced to improvise on the water scarcity by bringing water along from home every day for our convenience.
I found this routine very tough to do at my age but it is still better for me than to risk my health.” A few other traders said they had to also make do with their bowls to avoid direct use of the toilets. “I use a bowl for my convenience and then pour the waste into the toilet thereafter.
The three functioning toilets at the market cater for over 200 traders, in addition to customers, which is not even gender-sensitive,” another, who declined to give her name, said. Yet, Abimbola Oderinde, a principal environmental health officer in the local government, who was sighted at the market, told Saturday Telegraph that her office was pleased with the health condition in the market. According to her, “we do sensitise the traders on the need to maintain hygiene at all times and they adhere.
She however, blamed some of the traders she said, flouts the rules to defecate in the open market. This reporter visited the market as part of a two-day media dialogue hosted in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital by the federal ministry of information’s child rights bureau in collaboration with The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), with the theme “Clean Nigeria: Use the toilet campaign”. Strange as the testimonies may sound, they represent typical scenarios in several communities, as poor living conditions and the dearth of sanitation facilities are peculiar features of many neighbourhoods across the country.
A major outcome of the lack of sanitation facilities is open defection which, according to Chisoma Okpara, Chief scientific officer and acting coordinator for the clean Nigeria campaign, usually provokes the outbreak of waterborne diseases such as cholera and dysentery, particularly among the children. But Ogbere Idi Osan’s Market is not alone in this mess.
At the Kosofe-Ketu community a few days ago, a young man dashed out of his room with clenched teeth, pulled open his zippers, took a quick look to his right and left, retired to a small bush by the school building, and dropped off lumps of smelly faeces. His action surprised no one, for it is a tradition of sort in this part of the mega city. In virtually every open space in and around the neighbourhood, heaps of faeces literally jostle for space with human beings.
From the homes, they are wrapped up in newspapers and launched from windows, scattering into a spatter mess. It piles the streets as though they are articles of ornament. Yet, no one seems to bother about it. “This is how we do it here.
You can hardly find a toilet in most homes and where you find one, it is untidy; not good for any decent use. Most times, what you find is a makeshift toilet in which wooden plank platform are constructed with buckets under it.
The sight of such is quite disgusting. For all these, we consider it convenient and comfortable doing it in the open, and since it suits us, it should not be anybody’s headache,” said an elderly man, who declined to give his name.
He added: “This practice is common in this community, especially in places where toilet facilities are a luxury. When nature calls, everyone responds differently.” The old man’s excitement, many believe, is simply a collective adaptation to extreme hardship. He, like many others in the Kosofe community, were born and bred in that ghetto.
Though, he and his likes seem to have a fascination for defecating in public places and in bushes, they are not alone in this act and Kosofe is definitely not an isolated case. It is a common practice in the city of Lagos.
But, such behaviour, according to some, clearly portrays the level of helplessness and frustration in most Nigerian communities. Many of the families living in Nigeria, especially in villages, do so at a heightened risk of hygiene-related diseases. This is due to poor infrastructure and inadequate toilets.
As a result, open defecation is very common, with many families regularly using river banks as open air toilets. These highly unhygienic practices put the communities at a high-level of risk in relation to a range of water borne diseases. Many families are simply unable to build functioning toilets due to a lack of resources and knowledge on safe hygiene practices.
Incidentally, lack of safe water, according to Bioye Ogunjobi, WASH specialist for UNICEF Nigeria, has contributed to this menace in recent time. This may be the reason wh y he harped on improving access to potable water and toilet facilities which, he believes will largely reduce open defecation. Curbing this nuisance will, he further said, check morbidity, avoidable diseases and improve the quality of life.
Sadly, efforts by government to provide public toilets and enforce sanitation habits have been vitiated by igno by some Nigerians. Preside