Mrs. Aisha Muhammadu Buhari, hitherto addressed as ‘Wife of the President of Nigeria’, recently changed her title and henceforth will be addressed as First Lady of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. DEBORAH OCHENI reports on the transformation
At the inception of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration in 2015, the wind of change was in the air and political actors took a number of actions to align with the mood of the season.
In order to appear politically correct, President Buhari, who declared himself a “converted democrat” during the electioneering campaigns, offered to drop his military rank of major general. He said he would want to be addressed simply, as President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB) and not General Muhammadu Buhari (GMB), the name tag that really won the hearts of his supporters who were then in search of a “strong man” to rule Nigeria.
Many years before his election, Buhari had shown open disdain for the Office of the First Lady which began during the General Ibrahim Babangida’s regime. Apart from the fact that his own military junta was overthrown by Babangida, his philosophy of having women confined to the kitchen and “the other room” was so strong that his wife (Aisha) had to keep a low profile.
She chose to be addressed as Wife of the President and struggled to remain in the shadows for four years.
However, she seemed to have broken loose with the re-election of her husband for a fresh term. The transformation occurred during an award night and dinner organized in honour of the wives of the outgone and new governors at the Banquet Hall, State House, Abuja.
Mrs. Aisha Muhammadu Buhari, hitherto addressed as wife of the President of Nigeria, announced that she would henceforth be addressed as First Lady of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
In making the declaration, Mrs. Buhari disclosed that it was her choice to be addressed as wife of the President in the last four years.
But according to her, this had led to some confusion, especially among wives of governors, who could not decide whether to be addressed as wife of the Governor or First Lady of the state.
“When my husband was elected newly, I personally chose to be called the wife of the President. But, I have realized that it causes confusion from the states as to whether the wives of state governors are to be addressed as the First Ladies or wives of the governors.
“In the last four years, many of you have impacted positively on the lives of people in your states and even beyond. You have touched lives, your hands have healed the sick and transformed the faces of sadness into those of smiles; you will be remembered and judged positively by posterity and history. I am happy and proud to have associated with you all.
“This event is meant to celebrate the outgoing state First Ladies and welcome those coming to take their places; it is both a mixture of happy and unhappy moment for all of us.
“We need to come together to define our common vision, leading to planning and implementation of activities towards improving the lives of women and children,” she said.
The First Lady presented awards of excellence to the spouses of former Governors for their contributions towards uplifting the living standards of women and children in their respective states through their various pet projects and urged them sustain the tempo.
In her address, the former chairperson of Northern Governors Wives Forum and wife of former Governor, Bauchi State, Mrs. Hadiza Abubakar, expressed her appreciation to Mrs. Buhari for her leadership and guidance throughout their tenure.
Abubakar commended the role played by the Aisha Buhari Foundation towards addressing the health challenge bedevilling women and children in Nigeria, especially the rising cases of drug abuse, girl child education, maternal and child health through the forum.
“I have learnt a lot from this forum because of team work. I have the confidence that tomorrow will be greater than today.” she said.
Also speaking, the wife of former Governor of Imo State and chairperson of Southern Governors Wives Forum, Mrs. Nkechi Okorocha, said that the forum served as a platform for fostering unity among the spouses of Southern Governors, irrespective of political party affiliation.
Okorocha thanked the first lady for initiating the Southern Governors Wives Forum for the purpose of tackling peculiar problems affecting women and children in the region.
Mrs. Buhari presented award of excellence to the wives of former Governors of Bauchi, Gombe, Imo, Kwara, Lagos, Osun, Nasarawa, Zamfara, Oyo, and Ogun states.
The First Lady also used the event to honour the wife of Vice President, Mrs. Dolapo Osinbajo and also presented long service awards to the Senior Special Assistant to the President, Dr. Hajo Sani and Sarki Abba, one of the close aides of the President.
Earlier in the day, the First Lady hosted wives of present and immediate past Governors to a meeting at the Presidential Villa, Abuja. During the meeting, the wife of Governor of Niger State emerged as the new chairperson of Northern Governors Wives Forum while Mrs. Besty Obaseki of Edo State, took over as the chairperson of Southern Governors Wives Forum.
Golfers eulogise Mobolaji Johnson at tournament
It was an emotional night at a dinner to commemorate the 16th Julius Berger Invitational Golf tournament, which held at the IBB Golf and Country Club, Abuja. ADEOLU JOHNSON reports
The real business of the day was to celebrate the conclusion of a golf tournament and present trophies to those who excelled in the game. However, it turned out a solemn event of tributes and eulogies for one of their departed colleagues.
The tone for the evening was set by the Managing Director, Julius Berger Nigeria Plc, Dr. Lars Richter, when he announced the passage of Brigadier General Mobolaji Johnson, a former Governor of Lagos State.
Johnson, whose death occurred in Lagos on October 30, 2019 at the age of 85, served as Chairman of Julius Berger Nigeria Plc for many years.
In a tribute in honour of the departed military veteran and corporate icon, Richter recalled the immense contributions of Gen. Johnson to the development of Julius Berger Nigeria Plc.
According to him, the late former Chairman, joined Julius Berger as a director after his retirement as the first Military Governor of Lagos State.
Johnson later became Chairman of the company in 1996, a position he held until the year 2009 when he retired from the services of the construction firm.
Richter described the tenure of Johnson as Chairman of Julius Berger as very productive, successful and impactful on the business fortunes of the company, saying that his commitment and proactive hardwork laid a solid foundation for the growth of the organisation.
He prayed for the peaceful repose and rest of the departed soul of Gen. Mobolaji Johnson, stressing that the organisation would surely miss his the wise counsels.
A much more emotional tribute to the life and times of the late Johnson came from the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the IBB Golf and Country Club, General IBM Haruna (rtd.), a contemporary of Gen. Johnson in the military.
Haruna, whose voice betrayed his sense of grief, reminisced on his shared and treasured times with the departed former JBN Chairman, both during their military career and political service, as well as their enduring personal friendship and interest in the game of golf.
He recalled that Johnson was also a pioneer member of the Board of Trustees of the prestigious IBB Golf and Country Club and made immense contributions to the game and the club while he lived.
It was also a moment of overwhelming emotions as other respected veterans at the event, rose from their seats to shake hands and pat Gen. IBM Haruna on his shoulder after the latter’s heart-felt tribute for his friend. Thereafter, a moment of silence was observed for the departed soul by the Board of Directors and Executive Management of Julius Berger, the Board of Trustees and the Executive Committee of the Golf Club and all the participants and guests at the JBN 16th Invitational Tournament Dinner.
Captain of the IBB Golf and Country Club, Mr. Sola Awoyungbo, described the JBN 16th Invitational Tournament as the best ever organised at the club.
He expressed appreciation to Julius Berger Nigeria Plc for its consistent contributions to the development of the game and the club and urged the construction giant sustain the momentum in the coming years.
Trophies and other prizes were presented to winners in different categories during the tournament. Auxiliary prizes were presented to four winning players. The longest drive for men was won by Bruce Spain, who drove at 245 metres. Grace Ihonvwere won the longest drive for ladies at a 202 metres shot. O. Igwe won the prize for the nearest to the pin for men at 2 inch, while M. Nwoye won the prize for nearest to the pin for ladies at 8.4 metres.
The Veteran Men Category prize was won by Gen. Olagunsoye Oyinlola (rtd) a former Governor of Lagos and Osun states, at 39 gross points. The Ladies Division 2 at handicap 19-36 was won by M. Nwoye having grossed 38 points. The prize for the Ladies Division 1 at handicap 0-18 was won by Grace Ihonvwere with 33 gross points.
The prize for the Men Division 3 at handicap 20-28 was won by B. Akindipe with 43 gross points, while the Men Division 2 at handicap 11-19 was clinched by Bruce Spain. Chief J. K. Gadzama, SAN, won Second place in the Division. The Men Division at handicap 0-10 was won by Julius Fadairo, the Competition Secretary of the club.
The highlight of the presentations was when Mr. Mutiu Sumonu, CON, the Chairman of Julius Berger Nigeria Plc, was assisted by the Club Captain, Mr. Sola Awoyungbo, to present the 16th Julius Berger Invitation tournament trophy to the Overall winner, Colonel G. Onyejegbu (rtd.). The overall winner of the Golf tournament thanked Julius Berger for organising the best tournament, promising to be at the tournament again next year.
The event attracted important dignitaries including corporate titans and traditional rulers from different parts of the country.
Scavengers: A new threat in town
Refuse collectors are on the streets everyday looking for any item dumped in the waste bins and backyards. But there appears to be more to their presence. CALEB ONWE reports
‘Baban Bola’ or ‘Mai Bola ‘, are terms coined in Hausa language to describe the activities of street scavengers or literally refer to collectors of refuse.
These set of people are like the proverbial wall gecko that crawl on its belly, yet found everywhere, even in the king’s palace.
On the ladder of social life, these street scavengers, who make a living from filth and have refuse dumpsites as their natural habitat, may be occupying the last position , but they possess the kind of courage that could destabilize even an anthropologist.
They do not just have the courage to ‘crawl ‘ on the walls of the king’s palace, like the reptile, called gecko, but also, and always dare the authorities by crossing into ‘restricted zones’.
Restricted zones are places where the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) do not want them to operate, due to their antecedents of not just constituting a nuisance, but security threats.
According to the extant rules set by the government, they are not restricted to the dumpsites, but now they can be seen everywhere with their rickety carts and humongous collector’s bag.
In the satellite towns and remote rural settlements, they are ‘ kings of the jungle’, because they have a scary boldness to walk into your compound and ransack even the most hidden corners in search of ‘ treasures’.
However, in the highbrow areas of the city, they are seen as “necessary evils,” particularly where the waste disposal firms recruited to keep the metropolis clean have abdicated their responsibilities.
Although these scavengers are barred from the highbrow areas, they still find their way to these places because the occupants of these restricted zones are rich and wealthy and do not have any business with refuse dumps. In fact, out of sympathy, they allow those who want to feast on their waste to do so freely.
Once they cite a ‘treasure’ within a protected area, those of them who have some elements of fear and courtesy, may ask ” make I carry” or ” maigida, me take?”
Many of them will just target an item of value and watch around. Once there is no attention focused on them, such valuable item will disappear into their bags.
Some of them could even muster the courage to confront anyone who dared challenge their activities in a most deadly manner.
The experience of Mrs. Kazeem, a resident of Kurudu, one of the satellite towns in Abuja Municipal Area Council of FCT, lends credence that scavengers pose a serious threat to safety of lives and property. The woman, if not for her bravery, could have lost her wedding gown to these marauding scavengers.
She narrated her ordeal to Inside Abuja thus: “One day, I washed my wedding gown and spread it on the fence of my compound, and all of a sudden, the gown disappeared from there. While I was looking round for it and asking questions on what could have happened, as I was still confused about the sudden disappearance, a thought that Mai Bolas may have taken it came to my mind.
“The suspicion became so strong in my spirit that I decided to ask for the nearest scavengers colony around. When I got information about it, I headed straight to the place, somewhere behind the Army Post Service Estate in Kurudu here.
“On my arrival at the place, lo and behold, my wedding gown was already on display. The boldness with which I confronted the illegal custodian of my gown, forced him to release it without any resistance.
“Though, I recovered my stolen gown, however, my neighbours expressed shock that I was able to dare the dreaded zone. They said it was dangerous to confront the guys there. Thank God that the military has dismantled such a dangerous place within the neighbourhood,” she said.
Inside Abuja also gathered from another victim of the marauding scavengers, how deadly and confrotational these deviants could be.
Mr. Linus Ibezim, who lives in Kobi village recounted his ordeal the day he confronted a scavenger, who stole his three-months-old puppies.
Ibezim, who lives in a compound with a low perimeter fence without a gate, said his cross-bred dog gave birth to six (6) puppies which were kept in one corner of the compound.
He noted that usually in the day, the compound used to be lonely, especially on week days when the children were in school and the adults had gone for their businesses.
According to him, nobody knew that a scavenger, who regularly parades the place was targeting the puppies.
“On this fateful day, the Mai Bola believed that everybody in the compound had gone out, and I think he also spent some time around to monitor when the mother of the puppies will move far away from her children.
“This guy succeeded in putting the 6 puppies into his big bag. However, luck ran out of him, as he could not stop the puppies from crying inside the bag. It was the cry of the puppies that alerted a passer-by who raised the alarm that Mai Bola was crying dogs in his bag.
“When people around the neighbourhood gathered, he initially refused to open the bag. He even had the effrontery to question his challengers. But when he was over powered by more people that have surrounded him, he dropped the bag and attempted to run, but was held back.
“I was not at home but people who know that the puppies belonged to me, helped me to recover them. The Mai Bola was flogged and warned not to come to the neighbourhood again for anything,” Ibezim said.
While scavengers consider themselves as legitimate economic forces, the authorities, as well as residents see them as thieves and predators with potential security threats.
Several times, it has been established that these scavengers are prime suspects of vandalism visited on public utilities such as electricity transformers, solar panels for street lights and close circuit cameras as well as man-hole covers on the streets.
Inside Abuja‘s findings showed that scavengers at different times and locations have been fingered in many criminal activities from petty stealing to armed robbery and other forms of crime and criminality.
Many residents have been robbed of their household items, including generators, domestic gas cylinders, pots, plates, chairs and tables by these scavengers.
Spokesperson of the Abuja Environmental Protection Board ( AEPB) Mr. Ibrahim Murktar, said that the operations of scavengers in the city centre, outside approved dumpsites remained banned.
Murktar, who said that offenders are usually arrested and reprimanded, noted that the activities of the scavengers have created a lot of concern, as many cases of vandalism of public utilities are traceable to them.
Special Assistant to the FCT Minister on Media, Mallam Abubakar Sani, recently restated the position of the FCTA that these scavengers were to operate only on approved dumpsites in the suburbs of Abuja.
“Baba Bolas are to operate only at the Gousa, Karshi, Bwari, Gwagwalada, Kwali, Abaji and Kuje approved dumpsites as opposed to moving from one neighbourhood to another collecting waste objects across the city of Abuja.
“In furtherance of the commitment of the Administration to protect and secure lives and property of all residents of the Territory and in accordance with section 35 sub-section 1(i) of the AEPB Act of 1997, which prohibits the collection and disposal of refuse without authorization, the FCT Administration hereby bans scavengers a.k.a Baban Bola from collecting, disposing of refuse, trespassing on refuse bins or similar activities in any part of the Federal Capital City,” he said.
Other factors that have made residents to describe ‘Mai bolas’ as potentially dangerous threat to societal sanity and security, is their inclination to drug abuse.
Inside Abuja‘s visit to some of the scavengers’ colonies around the town revealed that consumption of illicit drugs was very high and done too recklessly.
At one of such places around Jahi district, along the Kado Express Way, these scavengers were seen openly smoking substances suspected to be marijuana.
Some are seen sniffing some substances from bottles.
At these colonies, you only find makeshift tents, heaps of garbages, crowd of people who look quite unkempt with repulsive and nauseating odours.
Most of them have no clear identities. It is also a common sight there to catch a glimpse of those who are under the influence of alcohol and drugs at every given moment.
Apart from the fact that these people are suspected to be vandals of public utilities, woe betides anyone who drives along major roads and do not avoid those of them that move around with rickety carts.
They will block the roads, even highways with their rickety carts, overloaded with garbages, and at every slight annoyance, these fellows could intentionally swerve their carts to damage any car.
Residents complain that many of these scavengers are not only thieves but constitute environmental nuisance.
One of the leaders of ‘ Mai bolas ‘ at their Jahi district colony, Mr. Abdulraman Zakari, though admitted that some of their members were uncontrollably unruly, he claimed that even though they daily live on filth, their business was legitimate enough to earn respect from other members of the society.
Zakari said that they have penalties for any of their members found wanting in any way. According to him, such deviants stand to be expelled from the colony and also handed over to law enforcement agents.
“Our members are doing legal business. We are not thieves but I agree that some of the people here are bad. If we get any report of bad character on any of our members, we will chase the person away. Sometimes, we can also call the police to arrest the person.”
A scavenger, who identified himself as Salisu, claimed that he has never taken people’s property without permission.
According to him, “ I pick up to 200 pieces of different types of materials daily and sell them in bulk to our dealers. They weigh them on a scale and buy them at N50 to N70 per kilo. So, I make N500 to N2,500 weekly.
“We make more money during the rainy season because many of our people travel to the village to do their farm work. So, we are not many,” he said.
Securing the future of young entrepreneurs
Fifteen schools from across four states recently participated in a national entrepreneurial competition. That was after students from the schools were taught skills that would help them run successful businesses. REGINA OTOKPA reports
“In this country, only the high and mighty are being employed. For the low and middle class, where most of us belong, there are no jobs whether you are a graduate of the best university in the country or not. We are all scouting for where to perch, if for nothing else, to get our daily bread.
“I wish we were this lucky while growing up to have been exposed or received appropriate orientation on the importance of acquiring an entrepreneurial skill. I won’t want to say I am jealous because during the three weeks National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) orientation camp, I had an opportunity to learn a skill but I never took it seriously.”
Those were the words of Kaycee Ehanmo, as he sat glued to his seat in awe of the creativity of some secondary students who recently participated in the National Competition of Student Entrepreneurship Activity Hub (SEA-Hub), a Pro-Poor Growth and Promotion of Employment in Nigeria Programme -SEDIN, implemented by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH.
After a keenly contested competition judged by presentation, exhibition and audience appeal, Government Secondary Science College, Agaie, clinched the first position while the second position went to Government Model Science College Bida and Government Secondary School,Township, came third.
What started like a joke in Niger State about three years ago, has gradually grown through the years to become an active extra-curricular club, providing practical entrepreneurship training for selected students and teachers in about 300 secondary school in 45 local government areas across four states namely; Niger, Ogun, Plateau and Edo states.
SEA-Hub has the primary aim of building an inclusive and sustainable future for young entrepreneurs in the country, through practical entrepreneurship trainings to build young minds to understand the basics of running a successful business.
Although some secondary school students are exposed to vocational skills, they rarely have the chance of developing entrepreneurial skills and an innovative mind that could help them become self-reliant.
As the nation’s school curricula does not have provisions for developing practical business skills in secondary schools, many Nigerians have become frustrated in the absence of the white collar jobs.
Head of Programme, SEDIN, Detlev Holloh, explained that SEA-Hub has a direct impact on the Sustainable Development Goal and the Agenda 2030 and Goal 3 of the ministerial strategic plan of the Ministry of Education. He disclosed that SEA-Hub was active in 250 secondary schools and 56 per cent of the 14,859 students involved in its activities were girls.
Commending the initiative, the Small Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN), said that the move by GIZ would further aid in addressing the worrisome rate of unemployment and unemployability of Nigerian youths.
Speaking to Inside Abuja, the Director Policy, Partnership and Coordination, Mr. Friday Okpara, who said SMEDAN was running a similar initiative, called for a collaboration to close the employment gap in the country.
“It is not about the capital; before starting a business we have to teach them about entrepreneurship, identifying gaps, closing that gap, providing solutions, developing the mindset of students to appreciate and know the importance of entrepreneurship.”
Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare, said government was working hard towards equipping unemployed youths with the necessary skills to excel. One of such plans is the sponsorship of about 50, 000 graduates on a six months internship programme in various companies and organisations in the country in Work Experience Programme (WEP) aimed at exposing unemployed graduates to work experience and ethics.
Dare stressed the urgent need to invest and empower youths to acquire the necessary modern skills that would prepare them for the future of work. He lamented that many jobless graduates roaming the streets have been denied employment opportunities due to lack of skills and work experience after school.
Dare, who commended the SEA-Hub initiative and the boldness of competing secondary school students, maintained that the future belonged to the youth, who were not only innovative but bold, self-starters and risk takers.
“Very often, most of our graduates are unable to get jobs simply because they do not have work experience. Rather than roam the streets for four years without employment or any experience, we intend to inject between 25, 000 to 50,000 of our youths in the next one year to work for four months or six months in different organisations for some kind of internship.
“It will help you to learn work ethics and if you are lucky, and you excel, these companies can easily employ you full time. I think that if we start early for artificial intelligence, this country can prepare its youths for the challenges of the 21st century in national development.”
Minister of State for Education, Senator Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, said GIZ has proven itself as a dependable ally, following its many programmes. Nwajiuba listed some of the efforts to include payment of fees for internally displaced students in unity colleges, giving hope to the hopeless and granting scholarship to students to develop their entrepreneurial skills.
Nwajiuba, who was represented by the Director, Secondary Education, Mr. Ayodele Adegun, lamented that in recent years, unemployment, gross mismanagement of government resources as well as the global economic meltdown, have posed great challenges to many young Nigerians.
“The entrepreneurial skill for Nigerians by SEA-Hub is ensuring support for the young Nigerian. The ministry will continue to partner with you to improve the lives of young Nigerians and the Nigerian economy,” he pledged.
A decade of preaching, providing family planning services
Nigeria’s growing population and the need to pay attention to the sexual reproductive health of every woman were issues on the front burner as Marie Stopes recently celebrated 10 years of driving family planning services in the country. REGINA OTOKPA reports
It was a night of glitz, fun and laughter, as staff of Marie Stopes International Organization of Nigeria (MSION), family, friends and well-wishers gathered to celebrate a decade of painstaking family planning campaign in Nigeria.
With headquarters in London, MSION is part of the Marie Stopes International Global Partnership, a social enterprise which operates in more than 37 countries across the globe, providing contraceptives with a mission to ensure families and women have children by choice, not by chance.
Since the opening of its first clinic in Nigeria in 2009, MSION has made a notable impact impact on the sexual reproductive health of women by changing the pattern of contraceptive use in the country through its continued provision of long acting and permanent contraceptives, especially for women within reproductive age.
In fact, in 2010, about 12,000 women were said to be using at least one method of contraceptive provided by MSION. This figure shot up astronomically to three million by the end of 2018 with majority opting for long lasting and reversible implant method.
This is good news as Inside Abuja checks reveals that every year, about three million people are added to Nigeria’s population estimated to have hit 201 million. Given the burgeoning population in the country, it was most important for proper and increased investment in family planning and an introduction of appropriate and relevant education to ensure people embrace contraceptive use in order to limit the size of their families through child spacing.
To this regard, MSION has shown commitment to delivering high quality family planning services to women across Nigeria by reaching out to women in urban centres, rural communities and hard-to-reach areas to offer contraceptive services. Within the last 10 years, the organisation has reached about seven million women. Also, through its wide range of reproductive health services, over one million unintended pregnancies were prevented in 2018 alone.
With so many achievements in 10 years, the organisation didn’t blink in honouring a good number of staff for outstanding performances and for adding value to the lives of women in the country.
However, MSION has lamented that despite its efforts and partnership with government and private healthcare providers in delivering family planning services, about 22 per cent of women who are ready to engage in family planning methods still lacked access to contraceptive methods.
Speaking to Inside Abuja, the Country Director MSION, Mr Effiom Nyong Effiom, advised women on the need to safeguard their health by embracing the use of contraceptives. He stressed that family planning must be seen as a life-saving measure and not a religious or cultural crime.
Effiom said that the organisation was preaching and providing family planning methods to ensure that people could have children because they want to and not because it just happened.
“I could give you a percentile. We found out that about 22 per cent of women of reproductive age, as the last Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey, NDHS shows, desire for a contraceptive method but they are not getting it. So, it is a significant number when you look at that and it means we are failing these women.
“Women must phase their children so that they can recover, be strong and healthy to even contribute to their families. In a case where that spacing is not happening, we are endangering the woman and the family as a whole, because women are the bedrocks of the family. A healthy mother will take care of her family better.
“If your religion quarrels about it – we do not know of any religion that quarrels over it. There is family planning in Afghanistan. Ireland with its largely Catholic faith has made changes. London has also made changes. I do not think it is about religion. It is more of education and information”, he said.
Inside Abuja checks further revealed that besides exposure to unwanted pregnancy, poor sex education is exposing many teenage girls to Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs). According to the 2013 Nigerian Demographic and Health Surveys, (NDHS) in its 2013 report, 23 per cent of Nigerian teenage girls between the age of 15 to 19, were already mothers and five per cent pregnant with their first child, especially those at the rural areas.
Effiom, who stressed that sex education was the right of every girl child, placed more emphasis on the role of mothers in that regard, else, the social media would end up providing the information in a manner that could do more harm than good.
“In traditional society, there is this tendency for people to shy away from educating the girl child on the issue about sex.
“Education is a right that must be afforded to girls. Now, the country has its own guidelines around us but families have a role to play. Giving them information is not bad because if we do not give them the information, the social media will do it.
“I think we should encourage it and at least, we know that those that are informed will not make wrong decisions,” he said.
While calling on government at all levels and international partners to invest more in the area of family planning services, he explained that family planning is not all about population control but the ability to enable women make better choices about their contraceptive right.
“Our mission is to ensure that families and women have children by choice, not chance. Our vision is to create a world in which every birth is wanted. We believe in a world where every mother can enjoy a wanted and healthy pregnancy and childbirth; every child can survive beyond their fifth birthday.”
The Country Director, IPAS Nigeria, Hauwa Shekarau, advised parents still harbouring the belief that their children know nothing about sex to stop deluding themselves.
“The social media age that we are in has given access to almost everything you want so it is better they are taught appropriate comprehensive sexuality education, so they can know how to handle situation. Parents must face reality and stop looking at their children as innocent and know nothing,” she said.
Seeking end to violence against women
Women and girls have continued to be at the centre of physical, emotional and sexual abuse in Nigeria. While this is a sad tale, many women are scared of speaking out. REGINA OTOKPA reports on the changing narrative
“No matter how late he comes home, I must prepare a fresh meal for him. No matter how tasty it is, my husband does not eat stale food. I can’t complain because I am tired of being beaten up almost on a daily basis.”
Despite her striking and enchanting beauty, Mrs Udoka Chiamaka (not her real names) who is married with four kids, has been a victim of all sorts of abuse perpetrated by her husband.
Too scared to seek external help, she told Inside Abuja that each effort by her family and husband’s family to change her husband’s beastly attitude towards her had only ended up in more physical and emotional abuse.
Another lady, Veronica Paschal (not real name), has been suffering immensely in the hands of her baby’s father for no just cause. Living together with their two-year-old son, the young man indulges in phone sex with other ladies to her hearing; he starves her, beats and threatens to throw her out at every slightest provocation.
Also, she has refused to seek help. All efforts to get the man’s family’s intervention proved abortive as she tearfully narrated an incident where his mother told her she was not the only woman in her son’s life.
“I was shocked when she said that because this is a woman I used to send money and gifts to while I was working before her son stopped me. I can’t leave him because I can’t return back to my village and start living with my mum. I also will not want to report him to any NGO, police or human rights organisation because I believe he will change,” she said.
These are just tit bits of what most women pass through. Don’t forget that many women are subjected to what can be described as cultural enslavement, sugar coated with the word ‘taboo’.
The society has continued to frown at many activities a woman does in the name of culture while the men actually go scot free. Somehow, society and the African culture made men superior beings over women and thus, rather than treat a woman with love, care and caution, many men believe they can treat a woman in which ever manner they desire and not be faulted for doing wrong.
Worried over the maltreatment meted out at some women in society, the resident pastor, Dunamis International Gospel Centre, Akure, Pastor Alex Afolayan, said the increasing rate of violence against women and girls in the country has assumed a worrisome dimension.
At the launch of a book; ‘The Woman, her Worth, Warfare and Winning Weapons,’ Afolayan called on the Church and government at all levels to pay the much needed attention on re-orientating men and boys on the value and worth of a woman.
Afolayan told Inside Abuja that he got a mandate from God in 2014 “to go into the world and teach the word intelligently” about the place of women in the society. He said that “the word is powerful, pure and tolerates no indulgence,” stressing that there was the need to change the misguided perception and mentality the society has for women.
“This book is just to reveal the worth of a woman. Nobody hurts what is precious and that is the missing link; we need to emphasize less on gender violence, rather emphasise on women worth and once that is done, violence will naturally disappear.
“The ignorance of the African setting, the rate of literacy in our environment is very low and people don’t know the woman’s worth. Where violence against women is less, it’s because they understand the value, worth of the woman.
“Many of the violence against women are not reported; many women see it as a right to be bashed which is very wrong and if any woman wants to speak, they say it’s a taboo. So, the society also needs some attention. It’s a serious crime our mentality should be shaped.
“The church is also not doing enough on women issues; more needs to be done. This is an area that needs attention and should be looked into urgently by the church, the government and everybody in society.,” he said.
Chief of Staff to the Deputy Senate President, Dr Otive Igbuzor, who was a guest at the event, maintained that there were a lot of misconceptions surrounding the place and role of a woman in the church.
He explained that although the bible noted that men must love and provide for their family, the contributions of either the man or wife to the family was not a yardstick for disrespect or misbehaviour as by virtue of marriage, they had become one with inseparable roles.
He however enjoined women to submit to their husbands regardless of their high positions in the church or society.
“There are many misconceptions about the place of the woman in the church. The believer of the 21st century is facing a lot of challenges of perception because of the bad eggs supposedly the men of God and what they are doing gives an erroneous impression but this book puts in proper perspective the place of a woman, the role of a woman in the body of Christ, in the family and society.
“Women who think they have more money than their husbands and therefore are misbehaving must retrace their steps, live in harmony with their husband whether the husband has more money or not.
“The basis of life is not money. The amount of money every human being needs to live life is very small money and should not be the basis of relationship. Women should submit to their husbands; men should love their wives. When men love their wives, the wives submit to them and when women submit to their husbands, their husbands love them,” Igbuzor said.
Gridlock: Motorists urge FCT to provide alternative route
Motorists plying Lokogoma- Galadimawa road in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) have called on the FCT Administration to create alternative roads for commuters to ease the daily gridlock on the road. News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the construction of a bridge at the Galadimawa roundabout of the road was causing gridlock during rush hours and on Tuesdone days when a particular church holds its worship. Mrs Bintu Satome, a Civil Servant complained that she gets to the office late almost on a daily basis due to ongoing construction work on the road. “I leave home early everyday but always get to work late.
“I have been living at Lokogoma in the last 10 years but the gridlock caused by the ongoing construction work is embarrassing. I plead with the government to create alternative routes for us. “There are alternative routes at Gaduwa and Gudu that also leads to town, the contractors can also work on those roads to be used as alternatives pending when they would complete the Galadimawa bridge project.’’ Mr Godwin Seruta, a school bus driver, told NAN that he found it difficult to take the pupils to school daily due to congestion on the road. He said: “parents now bring their kids to the school by driving against traffic but yet the children come late to school.’’
Mr Yusuf Mohammed, a senior civil servant, also decried the congestion on the route, complaining that the traffic officials were not doing enough to address the situation. Mr Gora Wobin, the FCT Sector Commander, Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), told NAN that the heavy traffic on the road was caused by construction work on a bridge at the Galadimawa roundabout. Wobin said another major cause of the traffic was the activities of some Churches in a garden close to the roundabout. “It’s more hectic on Tuesdays because there are some worshipers who come to the garden to pray, but in other days there is free flow of traffic.
“Issues of religion are something else but I have plans to meet with the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Chairman, FCT, to see what can be Tuesdone about it. “When you are controlling traffic, someone might think that you are giving preference but in traffic control, you will give preference to where the traffic is heavy to decongest it faster. “The work too is an issue, assuming this overhead bridge has been concluded, what we are seeing now would not have happened. We would have only been standing here to monitor the excesses of the motorists.’’
Keeping abandoned babies alive
The recent discovery that unidentified persons were frequently giving birth and throwing the babies away on the streets of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT ) was not just disturbing, but has put some pressures on the authorities. CALEB ONWE reports
The scenario has a resemblance of the biblical story of Moses, but absolutely different in intent.
Baby Moses was born at a time when Pharaoh promulgated an obnoxious decree, ordering the killings of all new babies born by Hebrew women who were then migrants in Egypt. The intention was to cut down on their rapid population growth which made them potential threats to their host country.
While baby Moses was put in a basket and taken to the river bank to escape the destructive sword of Pharaoh’s killer squad , his sister watched over him, until Pharaoh’s daughter came to bath on the River Nile and ordered his rescue and rehabilitation. By sheer providence, Moses was eventually rescued and returned to the safe and warm embrace of his biological mother, whom Pharaoh’s daughter hired to take care of the boy.
In Abuja, the babies are usually products of unwanted pregnancies and of parents who are too poor to fend for their young ones. The babies are usually wrapped in cellophane bags to suffocate them. Sometimes, through divine intervention, the fortunate ones among the abandoned babies find themselves in foster homes. More curious is the fact that these abandoned babies have no birth deformities of any sort.
They look cute and innocent, yet abandoned by the road side, perhaps to be devoured by dogs.
A visit to Gwako Orphanage and Children’s Home, located in Gwagwalada Area Council of Federal Capital Territory, where some of these abandoned babies are currently being provided with some parental care, would evoke sympathy.
Workers at the orphanage home, being civil servants and on the payroll of the government, have the responsibility of caring for these children.
While those responsible for the birth of these children have demonstrated a high level of callousness and are running away from the consequences of their behaviour, the society is now struggling to provide a lifeline for these children.
Minister of State, Federal Capital Territory, Dr. Ramatu Tijjani Aliyu, who recently visited the Orphanage at Gwako, did not hesitate to demonstrate empathy for the children.
Like every responsible mother, she was attracted by the cuteness and innocence of one of the babies. Holding the baby in her arms, she almost broke down in tears at the sight of such a wonderful gift from heaven, abandoned at the roadside by unidentified persons.
While looking into the eyes of this baby who was already named after her by the Social Development Secretariat, one could imagine that a motherly bond has already been established.
Aliyu admonished Nigerians on her interest in raising children, especially the girl child in such a way that they become assets to the society.
“The girl child is given a large space and encouraged to realise her potentials. We are going a step further through sensitisation and getting them to know that they are special.
“Packages will soon come and everyone will know that the girl child is in the heart of the FCT Minister.
“The girl child has suffered all kinds of oppression from tradition, religion and the belief that the girl child should not be heard, for she is a weaker sex. It is important for the girl child to realize your potential and this can only be done through mentoring.
“Mentorship and mentoring is fundamental to the development of the girl child, starting from parenting to successful women in all endeavors of life. The girls must be taught by their parents to identify a role model from their teachers or neighbourhoods,” she said.
The Minister, while pledging more support for the upkeep of the children, also said that security would be beefed up around the location of the Orphanage to prevent unauthorised persons from gaining access to them.
Acting Secretary of FCT Social Development Secretariat, Hajia Safiya Umar, who expressed concern over the moral decadence in the society, vowed that her office will continue to provide sucour to any baby found alive on the street.
Umar, who almost wept while receiving two new born babies recently found in Sauka village, along the Airport Road, and were brought to the Social Development Secretariat, said the situation reveals how deep the moral standard of the Nigerian society had deteriorated.
She noted that only recently, two babies, a Female and Male, were found and brought to the secretariat by Good Samaritans at different times and have since been named for identification purposes after the FCT Minister of State, Hajia Ramatu T. Aliyu and the FCT Perm Secretary, Sir Christian C. Ohaa, respectively.
Inside Abuja learnt that the woman in an effort to curtail the ugly occurrence had even admonished young ladies and women who find it difficult to abstain from premarital sex to explore and cultivate the use of “condom” .
She noted that the uncontrolled sexual activities were often leading to unwanted pregnancies and subsequent abandonment of babies to the government.
“Naturally, no responsible government will fold its hands and watch babies and innocent children being left to die by their supposed biological parents because they suddenly realized they no longer want the same child they have incubated for nine good months to live.
” So, we shall keep accepting the Children in our Homes and after the mandatory period of 3 months in our homes, we shall make them available for fostering and possible adoption for interested applicants/adopters” , she said.
According to her, the FCT Administration will soon unveil a mechanism which will address and curtail to the barest minimum the incessant and alarming rate of child abandonment in the FCT.
“We shall apprehend these category of culprits, those that require rehabilitation will receive same while others will be compelled to assume some level of responsibility in the upkeep of the Child with government. Those that have the means to cater for the child but chose to abandon will be taught how to be responsible.”
A free breast cancer screening for women
The 2019 World Cancer Day turned out an opportunity for Nigeria to highlight the scourge of cancer and what could be done to save thousands of women who needlessly lose their lives from breast cancer every year. DEBORAH OCHENI reports
The Federal Ministry of Health, working with Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development and MedicAid Cancer Foundation are intensifying campaign to make free cancer screening services available and increase awareness towards importance of early detection of cancer.
For two days, the National Hospital, Abuja, was a beehive of activities as a lot of women trooped there to undergo free breast cancer screening. It was organised by the Federal Ministry of Health, Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development and MedicAid Cancer Foundation, as part of activities commemorating this year’s World Cancer Day. The exercise was designed to make free cancer screening services available and increase awareness on the importance of early detection of cancer.
Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Dame Paulline Tallen, who was part of the celebration said that the aim of commemorating the day was to create awareness and sensitize the populace to help in fighting this deadly disease in Nigeria. The theme for this year’s celebration is ” I am and I will” while the ultimate goal is to ensure a significant reduction in the number of cancer patients by 2020.
According to Tallen, women have the right to enjoy the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health that could enhance their well-being and ability to participate in all areas of public and private life. She noted that Nigeria alone contributes about 15% of the estimated 681,000 new cases of cancer that occur in Africa, adding that there are more than 100,000 new cases yearly with high fatality ratio.
“The most dangerous cause of premature mortality among women apart from maternal death is breast and cervical cancers, making both cancers a major health problem for women and the nation in general.”
She lamented that women sometimes accept ill health as their lot in life, often ignoring painful and unbearable symptoms because in their culture, a woman is expected to endure without complaining or because taboos and myths have led them to belief that the health problems emanate from some sort of reproachable behaviour on their part.
The minister stressed the need to track efforts, measures and policies with a view to identifying gaps and recommend appropriate strategies. She said that it was important to address cancer problem through a multi-sectoral approach to improve reproductive and other health issues as contained in the National Gender Policy (NGP).
Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, said that there is an estimated 102,000 new cases of cancer in Nigeria every year. Of these new cases, he said, breast and cervical cancer account for more than 50%.
Specifically, cervical cancer is responsible for the incidence of about 27.2/100,000 and an estimate of about 14,943 cases diagnosed annually with late presentation at health facilities causing death of about 8,000 women annually in Nigeria.
“Breast cancer is the second most common cancer in the world with an estimated 1.67 million new cases diagnosed in 2012 (25% of all cancers) while cervical cancer is the fourth with an estimated 528,000 new cases in 2012. Of this value, a greater percentage occur in less developed countries like ours,” he said.
Ehanire said the aim of celebrating the World Cancer Day was to create awareness on breast cancer, promote prevention, early health seeking behaviour and better prognosis/outcome where treatment is required. Beyond the talks on health education, he said, the women would undergo examination and some will be screened further depending on the findings. According to the minister, the poor statistics was largely due to lack of awareness, late presentation, poor health seeking behaviour, financial constraints, religious/traditional beliefs, inadequate experts to manage the disease and insufficient/inadequately equipped cancer managing centres.
To reverse the trend, he said, government is responding headlong to the challenge of this menace. Among other measures, the Nigeria National Cancer Control Plan 2018 -2022 was developed and launched in 2018 to guide all cancer activities in Nigeria.
In addition, the National Strategic Plan for Prevention and Control of Cervical Cancer (2017 -2021) has been launched to regulate cervical cancer management and seven (7) Federal Teaching Hospitals have been designated Oncology Centres and are being upgraded with state-of-the-art equipment/machines such as brachytherapy, CT scan, Simulators etc, to manage all types cancers.
These centres are located at the Usman Dan Fodio University Teaching Hospital (UDTH), Sokoto; Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital (ABUTH), Zaria; National Hospital, Abuja; University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital (UNTH), Enugu; University of Benin Teaching Hospital ( UBTH), Benin; University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan and Lagos University Teaching Hospital(LUTH), Lagos.
Founder, MedicAid Cancer Foundation, Dr. Zainab Shinkafi Bagudu, said cancer was a very complicated and expensive disease to treat, stressing the need for more screening centres and support to women in order to tackle the scourge. Similarly, the Chief Medical Director of the National Hospital, Dr. Jeff Momoh, said early detection was the key to cancer control, regretting that most people visit hospitals too late and that may lead to death.
“The purpose of cancer awareness is to encourage people to go for regular screening to enable early detection and treatment. Once you are 35 and above, you should endeavour to visit the hospital at least once a year to get tested,” he urged.
Sadiat Haruna, one of the women that came for the free screening, commended the efforts of the organizers and urged that such programmes should be held on monthly basis, so that those who can’t afford the financial implication of the screening on their own would be able to know their health status and take appropriate action before it was too late.
Aliyu leads campaign against open defecation
Minister of Federal Capital Territory, Mallam Muhammad Musa Bello, has directed the Minister of State, Dr. Ramatu Aliyu, to lead an aggressive campaign against the rising spate of open defecation in Abuja.
Bello, who expressed worries that open defecation may undermine efforts towards having clean and healthy water for public use in the territory, said his administration was partnering with the private sector to provide solar powered public toilets.
He said this when the Minister of Water Resources, Engr. Suleiman Adamu, led top officials of his ministry on advocacy visit to FCT.
Bello said that those perpetrating open defecation in the FCT, had no genuine excuse as water supply which is an essential ingredient in sanitation was not really an issue in the territory.
“As you know, we have enough water at the Lower Usuma Dam, which is annually supplemented by the basin transfer from the Gurara dam under your Ministry. And we have the water treatment plants, which is adequate for the needs of the Capital city for a reasonable enough period of time to come.
“The main challenge is being able to reticulate and distribute the water to other newer phases of the FCT and I am pleased to say that we have a system of about six major water tanks under construction now and we are introducing projects that would bring in pumping stations to be able to supplement the water pressure,” he said.
Earlier in an address, Minister of Water Resources, revealed that the World Bank has concluded arrangement to loan Nigeria $350 million in order to address its WASH challenges in six states of Nigeria to end be open defecation by 2025.
He lamented the fact that 47 million Nigerians practice open defecation, 57 million lack safe water while 130 million use unimproved sanitation. He said one in every 4 Nigerians defecate openly, 1 in 2 persons in the North central defecates in the open, which includes FCT.
While he decried the fact that access to basic water supply stands at 67.9%, he noted that the campaign was aimed at ending open defecation in Nigeria.
According to Adamu, 43.5% have basic sanitation services, 76.8% in FCT have access to basic water supply, 24.5% in Abuja have hand washing services.
He urged the FCTA to declare a state of emergency on open defecation with clear communication of state plans to participate in the national Water Sanitation and Hygiene( WASH) fund and encourage private sector participation in the road map for elimination of open defecation.
Commemorating 30-years of democracy in Czech Republic
A week-long photo exhibition to commemorate 30-years of freedom and democracy in Czech Republic has opened in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the opening ceremony of the event organised by Embassy of Czech Republic held on Thursday at the Thought Pyramid Art Centre.
The exhibition captioned “1989 as seen by Photographers”, is a collection of photos that chronicle the historic Velvet Revolution of 1989 as citizens struggled to overthrow dictatorial communist regime in Czechoslovakia.
It features protests, persons oppressed by the communists and the acclaimed Lennon Wall, among other significant occurrences and monuments.
It also highlight the Charter 77 movement, led by Vaclav Havel, playwright and last President of Czechoslovakia from 1989 until its dissolution, and then first President of the Czech Republic from 1993 to 2003.
The opening ceremony was attended by Nigerian government functionaries, heads of institutions and members of the diplomatic community.
In his opening address, Mr Marek Skolil, Ambassador of Czech Republic to Nigeria, said the exhibition was to illustrate and reflect on the courage, sacrifices and examples of those who chose to resist dictatorship in non-violent manner.
He added that the celebration of the country’s three decades of democracy would further resonates peaceful calls and aspirations for freedom and good leadership across the world.
“Another part of the exhibition reminds us of the exodus of Germans from Eastern Germany, which took place few months before the Velvet Revolution.
“It was a sign that after 40 years, the communist empire in Eastern Europe was definitely crumbling.
“After 30 years, there is no doubt that the events of 1989 in Czechoslovakia and in the rest of central and Eastern Europe changed our continent for good.
“Another message for everyone is that you should never give up, and whenever people feel they are not happy about a situation, they should do something about it in non-violent ways,” he said.
NAN reports that the Velvet Revolution or Gentle Revolution was a non-violent transition of power in what was then Czechoslovakia that occurred from Nov. 17 to December 29, 1989.
Dissidents, including students, held popular demonstrations against the one-party government of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia.
The protest brought about the end of 41 years of one-party rule in Czechoslovakia and the subsequent dismantling of the command economy and conversion to a parliamentary republic.
In June 1990, Czechoslovakia held democratic elections after four decades of dictatorial communism and on Jan. 1, 1993, Czechoslovakia split into two countries, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
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