In view of the continued farmer/herder conflicts in the North Central (Middle Belt) and other parts of Nigeria, some experts recently gathered in Abuja to brainstorm on the way out. REGINA OTOKPA was there
The workshop was focused on the Socio-Ecological Analysis of Farmer-Herder Conflict in Nigeria and the Sahel. It was organised by the Forum on Farmer and Herder Relations in Nigeria (FFARN), otherwise known as Search for Common Ground (SFCG) in Abuja.
For some years now, FFARN has been working with key stakeholders to find a permanent solution to the violent conflicts between farmers and herders in the Middle Belt region of Nigeria.
The recent stakeholders’ conference was convened on the heels of the suspension of the Ruga Settlements Programme floated by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) and the controversies trailing the policy.
Project Leader, FFARN, Ms. Olubukola Ademola-Adelehin, who addressed discussants at the opening session, identified that part of the controversy that the Ruga Settlement Programme generated was due to poor or inadequate communication. She stressed that the Federal Government needed to communicate its policies aimed at addressing the herders and farmers conflict clearly and in a way that people listening could understand it.
Ademola-Adelehin said that for a policy to gain acceptance, the citizens must be made to also see the benefits they could derive at the personal level, community level and even to the country as a whole.
She said that a permanent solution to the conflict would require an economic and developmental plan that is able to integrate the interest of the farmers and herders. According to her, any proposal from government must be in a way that it’s integrating the livelihood of farmers and pastoralists because when these are separated and treated in isolation, there would be suspicion of exclusion and marginalization by certain stakeholders.
She further explained that the essence of the workshop was to identify key issues driving the farmer-herder conflict and the parties involved in the conflict. The discussions from the workshop, she said, would guide policy makers at the local, state , national and even international levels to have a holistic view of the conflict in order to make appropriate interventions.
“This forum is very unique as it brings in together experts from academia, from practitioners and policy to look critically and analysis on policies that can inspire government to look at these issues holistically and want to put in peace structures to ensure that the issues are addressed,” she said
Executive Director, West African Network for Peace building (WANEP), Chukwuemeka Eze, noted that the Ruga policy was introduced within the context of divergence of opinion, multicultural background, and more importantly within a context of trust deficit.
Eze, who is the co-lead Facilitator, stressed that it was important that before policies were introduced, the education that goes into the content of the policy and the workability of the policy should be made clear to everybody from the moment of policy design.
“In so doing, people understand the processes and people are able to make inputs, so that when it gets to the public domain, those who are supposed to challenge it or the beneficiaries will be on the same page,” he said.
Eze also advocated that government should also work to see the inclusion of women in discussions ahead of policies aimed at addressing the conflict.
“The process of inclusivity means that nobody should be left behind. Women constitute over 50 per cent of the world population and anybody under the illusion that they should be left out of the peace building process in any community is actually making the process itself difficult. The impact of conflict on men and women are different and when talking about gender based peace building approach, everybody is important,” he said.
Peace Building and Developmany Adviser to the United Nations (UN) in Nigeria, Mr. Zebulon Takwa, regretted that the ongoing clashes has caused the Federal Government billions of Naira which could have been deployed to key sectors of the economy.
Takwa observed that the farmer/herder conflict in Nigeria was avoidable but lamented that the investments on peace building in Nigeria and Africa as a whole has been rather too little. He said that there is a strong need to work harder within the limits of the available resources to prevent future conflicts.
In charting a new way out of the mess, Takwa recommended the use of the Socio-Ecoligical Analysis, which has been missing in most of the recommendations for a sustainable solution to the farmers and herders relations.
“Prevention can come during conflicts. Government should prevent further killings, the toxic discussions between communities around it should be prevented. Government should engage inclusive discussions to get workable solutions,” he said.
Takwa also called on all Nigerians to be part of the peace-building processes. According to him, a peaceful society is the responsibility of all. “When we have the spirit of inclusivity, the spirit of accepting one another, we will begin to look at things differently.”
At the end of the three-day programme, FFARN briefed journalists on the contents of the four policy briefs through which it recommended key solutions to the protracted farmers and herders conflict. The policy briefs, which encourages seeking a common ground in the Farmers and Herders Relations in Nigeria include: ‘Past is Prologue: Criminality and Reprisal Attacks’; ‘The Implications of the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law on Farmer-Herder Relations in the Middle Belt Region of Nigeria’; ‘Responses to Conflict between Farmers and Herders in in the Middle belt of Nigeria: Mapping Past Efforts and Opportunity for Violence Prevention’; and ‘Seeking Security and Stability: An Analysis of Security Responses to Farmer-Herder conflict in the Middle Belt Region of Nigeria’.
There were heated debates on the policy documents, particularly on aspects that tended to hold the media partly liable for the perennial conflict. The media was blamed largely for allegedly giving the conflict an ethno-religious colouration. Media practitioners were accused of consistently profiling the Fulani herdsmen as the aggressors and the crop farmers as victims.
However, the media acquitted itself at the roundtable with facts, figures and empirical evidence that most newspaper houses as well as radio and television stations have been reporting the conflict with due regards to upholding truth and social responsibility.
Unveiling FCT’s demographic, health survey report
The Federal Capital Territory(FCT) recently unveiled the 2018 National Demography and Health Survey (NDHS) report in Abuja. DEBORAH OCHENI reports
In the modern world, decision making is based on data, especially data of good quality. Such data are essential for national governments and institutions to accurately plan, fund and evaluate development activities.
It is against this background that the National Population Commission, FCT, Abuja, officially launched the 2018 National Demography and health survey (NDHS) report in Abuja.
The launch, which was organised by the National Population Commission (NPC) in collaboration National Malaria Elimination programme of the Federal Ministry of Health was aimed at providing health information and data to Nigerians.
The indicators, from the report, cover areas such as fertility, family planning among married women within the age of 15-49, maternal health care among women within the age of 15-49. It also covers Child Health, Nutrition, Child Mortality; death per 1,000 live birth, Malaria, Domestic Violence among age 15-49 and Female Genital Cuttings.
Speaking at the event, the Supervising Commissioner, Federal Capital Territory, National Population Commission, Alliu Datti, stated that the 2018 Nigeria Demographic and Health survey (NDHS) is the sixth Demographic Health Survey conducted in Nigeria since 1990.
“The survey provides up-to-date estimate on basic demographic and health indicators in the entire country, including the FCT, Abuja. The National Population Commission worked in close collaboration with the National Malaria Elimination Programme (NMEP) under the Federal Ministry of Health across the 36 states and the FCT towards accomplishing the survey report,” he said.
Datti disclosed that a total of 41,821 women aged 15 – 49 in 40,427 household and 13,311 men aged 15-59 in one third of the sampled households were interviewed representing a response rate of 99 per cent of women and 99 per cent of men.
“I am pleased to say, innovative approaches were used in the conduct of the 2018 NDHS. It has engendered high quality height and weight measurement from children and women. A new biomarker checklist was introduced to ensure that no important tasks were missed and I am pleased to inform you that these new improved process piloted here in Nigeria including FCT have been adopted as standard procedure in DHS surveys by other nations, especially Africa,” he said.
According to Datti, the result of the survey shows a number of significant outcomes such as: Two per cent of women and two per cent of men aged 15 and above have difficulty or cannot function in at least one domain of disability such as seeing, hearing, communicating, walking, etc. In addition, nine per cent of women and 10 per cent of men have some difficulty in at least, one domain.
“The data gathered on disability will be of significance to the social development statistics in planning for the wellbeing of persons living with disabilities in the country. Nigeria, including FCT, also piloted genotype testing of children ages 6-59 months for sickle cell diseases for the first time in a DHS survey anywhere in the world,” Datti said.
According to him, basic development indicators are essential for an accurate picture of a country’s development status as a government cannot build schools without knowing the number of children that need to be enrolled.
Inside Abuja learnt that the (NDHS) is conducted every five years to provide all planners, especially those in the health sector, with reliable up-to-date demographic and health information and data in Nigeria.
Territorial Director, National Population Commisison, Bello Suleiman, said the survey would be used to measure progress in other related human and social development indices, such as skilled birth attendance, antenatal care coverage, contraceptive and many others.
According to Suleiman, the survey is a fundamental geo-data base that represents a frame for all kinds of surveys that would be needed not just for the census but for academic and political use.
“Politicians who want to put up project in a community will know exactly where such project is needed with data available in this report and same goes to educational, health and other sectors.
“Enumeration Area Demarcation (EAD) which simply means splitting of an LGA into a smaller unit of Area with an identifiable geographical boundary, for the purpose of being counted by a pair enumerators during any census has so far being done on Kwali, Abaji, Gwagwalada and Bwari.
“The Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC) is so massive because its population is nearly that of smaller states like Jigawa, Bayelsa and so on. When it comes to data collection, it is always hectic for us but this time around, we are using EDA which is just a mobile phone for household data collection. We are also using satellite imaging that has a very high resolution to pick any object. We are going to return every structure.
“It is comprehensive data collection. That is why I call it data revolution. It will be needed by all agencies even the security because it’s difficult to police a community where you don’t have data,” he said. Suleiman noted that the survey will enable stakeholders to identify the particular areas that require priority attention.
A decade of celebrating elderly people
Graceful Ageing Fellowship (GRAF) recently celebrated 10 years of giving a new meaning to life of elderly persons in Nigeria. REGINA OTOKPA reports
In Nigeria, you don’t find too many government programmes targeted at the aged and senior citizens, who have contributed their own quota directly or indirectly to nation building. Yet, there are millions of elderly people spread across different communities, who served the nation in different capacities but have apparently been forgotten by the society.
However, individuals from the age of 50 and above are in need of defined rights and privileges primarily to provide special care and services to make the latter parts of their lives more beautiful and interesting in order to ward off depression and prolong their lives.
Filled with deep passion to change the narrative, Senator Eze Ajoku started the Graceful Ageing Fellowship (GRAF) International, 10 years ago. It began precisely in October 2009, from New Estate Baptist Church with persons within the age bracket of 50 years and above. The programme was designed to encourage old people to look after themselves, so as to live a happier and healthier life without visiting the doctor on a regular basis.
In a bid to expand the frontiers of the programme, a series of activities were lined up to commemorate its 10 years anniversary.
It featured several activities to boost welfare and healthy lifestyle as well as the spiritual, physical and emotional wellbeing of aged men and women.
Speaking to Inside Abuja, Ajoku explained that his diabetic condition opened a new chapter of running with a vision of rallying older persons to a lifestyle that actively involves exercises, socialising with others and eating right to prolong their lives.
“A lot of people have certain ageing sicknesses and they are ignorant of what to do about it. Many Nigerians are diabetic and hypertensive but they don’t even know until they suddenly slump or something happens but with GRAF, a lot of the members have known what to do and what to expect.
“In Abuja alone, more than 10,000 persons have passed through our teachings here and I am glad it is paying off. In 10 years, we have done very well and many Nigerians have benefitted from our experience and our mentorship.
“When Nigeria begins to grow and rights are defined for our people, older people will have a cause to rejoice. But for now, no older person, no senior citizen has any right or privileges in this country and it is a shame.
“Part of the things that kills older persons is loneliness. We are looking for areas that will benefit the older persons to be healthy.,” he said.
According to Bisi Abiola, healthy living in Nigeria is confronted with a number of issues such as; the absence of a national policy on ageing, granting of pensions only to the formal sector, being viewed as a sense of burden, lack of proper healthcare/insurance and lack of age friendly services.
She, however, charged the older persons to take responsibility for their welfare and wellbeing by; taking a daily walk, eating healthy and getting adequate sleep daily. The elderly, she said, should also indulge in reading newspapers daily, go for regular medical checkups, socialise and get a good laugh regularly.
“The belief is that old and aged persons should be taken care of by their family. We should forget about the government and do it ourselves by eating right and exercising,” Abiola said.
A former Minister of Women Affairs, Mrs. Josephine Anenih, observed that while the older generation in Nigeria have handed over a good structure to the younger generation, older persons in the country were suffering from a lot of isolation.
“In Nigeria, we have four sets of vulnerable people; the women, the children, people living with disabilities and the elderly. The country has Ministry of Women Affairs, they have laws to protect children, they have laws for the disabled but nothing for the elderly people. So, we are pushing for an Old People’s Commission to look after the issues that concerns the elderly persons.
“Organisations like GRAF gives the older persons an opportunity to socialise which is very good for their health as it prolongs their lives to live more healthy and happier in the society, ” she said.
Indeed, if these elderly citizens have invested their youthful and active years contributing to the socio-economic development of Nigeria, their mental and physical health as well as the financial well-being should be of concern and a collective responsibility.
Traffic team issues 7-day ultimatum to illegal motor parks in Kubwa
The FCT Ministerial Traffic Task Team has issued a seven-day ultimatum to operators of illegal motor parks in Kubwa area to relocate.
Chairman of the team, Mr Ikharo Attah, gave the ultimatum after a meeting with the motor park owners and traders.
Attah said that the measure was to ensure sanity in and around Kubwa, which was one of the populated Abuja outskirts.
Attah told operators of the park that the exercise was not a plan to hurt them but to ensure free flow of traffic in line with the FCT Minister, Muhammad Bello’s plan to ease traffic logjam in Abuja.
“We are carrying out a total clean up of Kubwa town: illegal motor parks will not be allowed to remain. We want the people to have and enjoy a special motor park terminal.”
“The continued trading on the road corridors in Kubwa is causing grilock in the axis and must be addressed.
“This is a major clean up of Kubwa town; you can see sundry nuisance all over. The exercise is all about sanity and not to hurt anyone.”
Mr Bello Kaka, Head of Enforcement, Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB), in a remark, said that there was no going back on the exercise.
Kaka said that the board would soon start prosecuting those that failed to obey the extant laws.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), reports that the team held sensitisation meetings at NYSC junction, Kubwa, NNPC and Oando filling stations, Maitama Ultra modern market and Dutsen-Alhaji market gate.
FCTA, WAEC partner to sanitize examination processes
The Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) has expressed its readiness to partner with the West African Examination Council (WAEC) in improving examination processes.
This disclosure was made when a delegation of the Nigeria National Committee of the West African Examination Council (WAEC) led by its Chairman, Hajiya Binta Abdulkadir, visited the Minister, Federal Capital Territory, Malam Muhammad Musa Bello.
During the visit, the minister pledged that his administration would support the successful hosting of the annual meeting of the National Committee in Abuja as well as all other activities of the Committee geared towards improving examination processes in the country.
Bello reiterated the administration’s commitment to the development of education in the territory and noted that FCT places great premium on the welfare of its teachers.
He disclosed that the salaries and allowances of teachers, like all other staff in the FCT were paid and their promotions always effected as and when due.
Abdulkadir acknowledged that FCT had been supportive of the Council’s activities.
She also formally invited the FCT Minister to declare open the 57thAnnual Meeting of the Nigeria National Committee of WAEC and present the Endowment Fund Book Prizes to the three Best Schools in the FCT in the WASSCE for 2018.
Julius Berger boss, 50 others bag NIQS Fellowship
Managing Director, Julius Berger Nigeria Plc, Dr. Lars Richter, was at the weekend, awarded the Fellowship of the Nigerian Institute of Quantity Surveyors, FNIQS.
He was represented by the company’s Director of Corporate Development, Mr. Tobias Meletschus.
The Western Regional Manager of the company in Lagos, Mr. Alexander Bauer, also bagged the NIQS Fellowship at the same event.
A former Governor of Bauchi State and a fellow of the NIQS, Alhaji Ahmadu Adamu Mu’azu, described Julius Berger Nigeria Plc as a highly professional organisation which has been central to infrastructural development, particularly the roads sector in Nigeria.
Mu’azu, who was Chairman of the Investiture ceremony, recalled his encounter with Julius Berger when he was the Governor of Bauchi State.
“I am full of gratitude to the Institute, our Institute, the Institute I belong to for this unique event. I congratulate all the recipients of the NIQS Fellowship, especially the MDs and CEOs of the construction companies for their awards which they rightly deserve.
“I recall a case in point to underline what I mean. When I was Governor of Bauchi State, I wanted to construct good roads for the State. I stressed myself and drove all the way to Abuja to Julius Berger to see the then MD of the company. I think he was Mr. Marks (who is presently the Vice Chairman of Julius Berger). I got there and filled the visitor’s form and waited to see him. When we eventually met in his office, I introduced myself and told him I wanted good roads for Bauchi. He was very delighted, and professionally so. I am delighted to say that Julius Berger did a very great job in Bauchi. They should and must continue their good works as they remain central to road infrastructural development in this country. Other construction companies in this country should be doing same,” Muazu said.
President, Nigeria Institute of Quantity Surveyors, Obafemi Oluwole Onashile, said the Investiture events were strategies designed to expand the coast of the NIQS as “the success of contractors and their companies is always in the interest of the NIQS.”
He said that the status of the awardees at the event was a statement being deliberately made by the Institute to show that they are major players in that direction. Onashile explained that the readiness of Julius Berger, and others to share in the vision of the NIQS in the areas of employment and training of Quantity Surveyors is commendable.
“They have always discussed with us on how to improve efficiency in our professional practice. They are ready to collaborate with us in these areas. These among others informed their respective selection for the award of our NIQS Fellowship to them,” he said.
Chairman of the NIQS Fellows Forum, Anthony Ndah, eulogised Julius Berger Nigeria Plc for its contributions to the construction industry in Nigeria.
“Julius Berger’s constant contribution to development and support for NIQS remains insurmountable. Fellowship of the Institute is the highest gratitude we have for all who identify with the aspirations of the NIQS,” he said.
Other Fellowship awardees at the NIQS Investiture ceremony included the CEO/Managing Director of Cappa and D’Alberto PLC, Mr Giovanni Mello Grand and the Group Managing Director of ITB Nigeria.
Also, no fewer than 50 other members of the Institute were awarded the NIQS Fellowship at the event.
The NIQS Fellowship Investiture ceremony was attended by the Institute’s members across the country. It was preceded by the NIQS 2019 Annual General Meeting held at same venue.
Drug abuse: Resident doctors take campaign to Wuse market
Resident doctors in Federal Capital Territory (FCT) on Wednesday embarked on campaign at Wuse market, Abuja, to educate traders and shoppers on the dangers of drug abuse.
The campaign was led by Dr Roland Aigbovo, the President, Association of Resident Doctors, FCT, as part of activities to mark the association’s Health Week.
He said that many people resort to substance abuse to ease off stress, adding that “people now take refuge in drugs to cover up stress, believing that once someone is high, he or she will forget their problems.
According to him, global burden of mental health disorder is projected to reach 15 per cent by the year 2020.
“This had resulted in suicide, a lot of people had taken their lives as a result of drug abuse.
“You will agree with me that suicide is alien to African culture, we are not used to taking our lives no matter the stress, unfortunately, things are changing.
“The medical profession is not left out of this menace because this year alone, between January and June, close to four doctors took their lives.
“If those that have been trained to provide people with healthcare become patients to the extent of taking their lives, it is a source of huge concern.”
He said that the residents doctors embarked on the campaign to draw government and public attention to mental health issues. (NAN)
FCTA mulls establishment of agro-industrial processing zone
Minister of State, Federal Capital Territory, Dr. Ramatu Tijjani Aliyu, has said that the FCT Administration would remain committed to the establishment of a Special Agro-Industrial Processing Zone.
Aliyu disclosed this when a delegation of the Africa Development Bank (AfDB), led by the Senior Special Advisor to the president of AfDB on industrialization, Prof. Banji Oyeyinka, visited her in Abuja.
She noted that the agro-industrial processing zone was part of the efforts geared towards achieving Mr. President’s agenda of lifting 100 million youth out of poverty through the agricultural value chains.
The Minister noted that Abuja, the nation’s capital was becoming an important business hub in Africa and therefore needed an agro-processing zone that would help government’s diversification policy in agriculture.
The minister assured the people that provision will be made for the programme in the proposed year 2020 budget, adding that the FCT Administration will earmark up to 500 hectares of land for the facility.
She explained that the Administration will leverage on the strides of the Federal Government’s Ease of Doing Business, the new network of roads and rails and the expanded world class Abuja Airport. According to her, the FCT is traditionally strong in livestock, rice (cereals), horticulture, tubers, vegetables and varieties of economic trees.
“The FCTA is committed to the Special Agro-Industrial Processing Zone and we will demonstrate our readiness in ensuring that the first zone is set up here in our corridor. As the seat of power to the largest economy in Africa, the FCT-SAPZ will be a thing of pride to Mr. President.
“I look forward to briefing Mr. President soon that the FCTA is taking up the challenge to being the first to implement the SAPZ as a step towards achieving his agenda of lifting 100 million youth out of poverty”, she said.
Earlier, the leader of delegation, Prof. Banji Oyeyinka, lamented that Africa has huge production lag when compared to Asian countries, warning that if Africa fails to improve, the continent would remain at the level of subsistence farming.
Oyeyinka noted that postharvest losses is extremely high in Africa and called on FCT Administration for the establishment of the Special Agro-Industrial Processing Zone that will create jobs for over 20, 000 youths.
He revealed that AfDB had identified six zones in Nigeria for the establishment of SAPZ, but not on geopolitical basis, just as he identified lack of political will by the previous administration as major setback for the takeoff of the project in Nigeria.
A World Children’s Day with music
November 20, 2019 was a remarkable day at Government Day Secondary School, Garki, Abuja. That day, UNICEF Nigeria took ace music producer, Cobham’s Asuquo and other artistes to interact and dance with children. REGINA OTOKPA reports
Music they say, is one of the things that rules the world. In Nigeria, the old and young alike, would easily sway to the sound of any type of music whether they know it or are listening to it for the very first time.
Such was the situation at Government Day Secondary School, Garki, when the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and some top Nigerian artistes debuted the song ‘For Every Child’ to commemorate the 2019 International World Children’s Day and 30th anniversary of the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC). The World Children’s Day was first established in 1954 as Universal Children’s Day and is now celebrated November 20 each year.
‘For Every Child’ has a rich blend of unique voices and lyrics starting from Niniola, Chidinma, Umar Sheriff, Timi Dakolo, TuFace, Cobham’s Asuquo and not forgetting the children who are proud to be a ‘Nigerian Child.”
The excited students, who grabbed the lyrics in no time, could not help but display different dance steps. Adding more flavour were the UNICEF Country Representative, Mr Peter Hawkins and UNICEF Education Specialist, Azuka Menkiti, who stormed the dance floor to celebrate with the students.
The highlight of the one hour event was a dance competition among the students. The two winners got a Techno Spark phone each.
Addressing the students, Hawkins, who quoted a part of the song said, “When a child is born, they have a right. You are the light, you are the dream and you are the hope for tomorrow and for Nigeria.”
He said that the song provided children a platform to reflect on their future, their aspirations and the contributions they can make to the country.
He advised the students to take their studies seriously and aim for the top so they could find their voice and use it for the good of the society. Hawkins said that as children, once they are educated, they are given the ability to contribute their quota to the community.
“When a child is educated, he can avoid situations that can endanger him as regards his health and future as a whole,” he said. Making reference to this year’s theme ‘Children of Today, Our Keepers Tomorrow,’ Hawkins called on the Federal Government, relevant stakeholders and individuals to give priority to the education of every child in Nigeria. According to him, this could be achieved through increased investment and funding to ensure better equipped schools, adequately trained teachers with sufficient support, so that the poorest families are not forced to pay for their children’s schooling.
“Every child especially a Nigerian child is born with a talent, is born with a future and it’s for us to create a platform so that they can perform, can inspire and be a part of the future of this country.
“Priority should be given to the education of the child as it forms the basis of defence for them in knowing and standing for their rights in the society. When a child is educated, he will be given the ability to contribute their quota to the community; when a child is educated, he can avoid situations that can engender them as regards their heath and their future as a whole,” he said.
Hawkins, who commended the efforts and hard work of teachers worldwide, pledged his organisation’s support in promoting the rights of children in Nigeria. He reaffirmed the need to value and recognise the rights of children in every community.
The United Nations Secretary General, Anthonio Gutteres, whose address was delivered at the occasion, urged every government in the world to build, advance and recommit to putting children first. He noted that all governments must ensure every child has a right and it was up to the present generation to demand commitments and actions were fulfilled by governments and communities.
He described the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC) as a veritable instrument which all countries should subscribe to guarantee the future of the children.
“It has become the most widely ratified human rights treaty in history and has hoped to transform children’s lives around the world but still, not every child gets to enjoy a full childhood; too many childhoods are cut short. Around the world, children are showing us their strength and leadership, advocating for a more sustainable world for all,” he said.
On his part, Cobhams Asuquo called for equal and better treatment of the Nigerian child and maintained that Nigerian children were all that was right with the country. He however added that that every Nigerian child has the chance and opportunity to re-write all that was wrong with the country.
“You are all that is right with Nigeria because you all have the chance to rewrite all the wrongs the previous generations have committed. I envy you all because you have the chance. Greatness is achievable for all Nigerian child; you have a chance to make it better,” he said.
Speaking to Inside Abuja, one of the students, Alfred Jason, said with his exposure to the CRC, he presently knows more about his rights as a child and thus, can no longer be intimidated by any one.
“I do know that I have some rights as a child but I am better informed with what I learnt from the programme today and so I am glad to be a part of this event,” he said.
Although Apere Maltina got to know about the CRC for the first time, she has become an advocate for child’s rights, calling on the Nigerian government to support every Nigerian child, especially those on the streets, access to quality, free education.
“I see children like me hawking on the streets instead of going to school and I always wish our government will do something about it,” she said.
She added that children have rights which should be respected and given.
Bridging unemployment gaps through hospitality
Recently, BON Hotels revealed it would open over 22 hotels with Nigerians as part of its contributions to increase investment and reducing unemployment in Nigeria. REGINA OTOKPA reports
Nigeria’s unemployment rate has been predicted to reach an alarming rate of 33. 5 per cent by next year. Currently, it stands at 23.1 per cent and underemployment at 20.1 per cent.
With such a frightening situation which could turn catastrophic if decent jobs are not created for the nation’s burgeoning population, it has become imperative for all hands to be on deck to create more job opportunities to gainfully engage the millions of Nigerians roaming the streets in search of job.
Just as they say, little drops of water make a mighty ocean. This huge task calls for a collaborative effort by everyone who wishes Nigeria well either as citizens or foreigners, an indigenous company or foreign investor(s), to help prevent the growing unemployment crisis from escalating any further.
Executive Director, BON Hotels International West Africa, Bernard Cassar, recently described Nigeria’s hospitality and tourism sector as an untapped possibility that could further help engage unemployed Nigerians. According to him, Nigeria required increased investment in the hospitality and tourism sectors of the economy as a way of reducing the high rate of unemployment in the country.
Speaking to Inside Abuja at the formal launch of its new hotels, he disclosed that due to the desire of BON Hotels Group to add more holistic value to Nigeria as a country and to the hospitality and tourism sector, the organization would in the next three years, establish 22 new hotels across major and secondary cities, with about six springing up before the middle of next year.
Cassar, who noted that BON’s vision for Nigeria was to put 6,000 beds across the country, maintained that the organization was expanding beyond the 10 hotels it has presently in the country. He argued that tourism in Nigeria does not only gives jobs, but it is an import aspect of the diversification of the Nigerian economy.
“The BON Hotels group, which currently has 10 operational BON hotels in Nigeria, will open another 22 hotels and residences in the next few years in major cities and secondary towns, with five hotels opening within the next four months.
“The tourism landscape of Nigeria has long been dominated by business travellers and many of these travellers have stayed in traditional, multinational hotels with a run-of-the-mill approach to hospitality, but one group set sights in this area a few years ago and changed the approach to hospitality expansion in Africa.
“Our ethos has always been to add value, create tourism circuits and expand the hospitality sector into all regions holistically and, in so doing, extract value,” he said.
Cassar further explained that besides adding major developments and massive investment into Nigeria, BON Hotels has a Nigerian as a shareholder and was adding massive employment with about 50 per cent of its executives as Nigerians trained by the Hotel over the years.
“Our shareholding is partly Nigerian. It is interesting because we have the utmost confidence in Nigeria as a country. We will continue to try to add value because the only way to extract value is to have the honest approach to trying to add value holistically.
“We believe in Nigeria. We think that the opportunity is great. We believe there are so much untapped possibilities and we want to tap into those possibilities as Africans because the survival of Africa will be by Africans, ” he said.
Also speaking to Inside Abuja, the Chief Executive Officer, BON Hotels, Guy Stehlik, harped on the importance of honesty in the hospitality and tourism sector. Stehilk said that BON Hotels was set up in 2014 to among other things, bridge that gap.
“Honesty was something that was lacking in the industry but something that we believe is the founding value that we want to base our business on. We have got three principles; good people, good thinking, good feeling.
“We are honest, which is why we are the fastest growing hotel business in Africa.
“We recognise the potentials that this country has and the advantage we have got is a Nigerian shareholder, we have got Nigerian executives, we are training Nigerians to become our general managers.
“Since the inception of our hotel group, we have always advocated for investment in Africa by Africans, and being able to work with such talented groups of people across the continent makes us not only hopeful, but assured of the exponential growth of the hospitality industry throughout Africa,” he said.
Raising health concerns about Kunu, Zobo drinks
Two popular local beverages sold on the streets are believed to have high nutritional value for both men and women. However, an investigation into their preparation and packaging has raised some health concerns. CALEB ONWE reports
‘Kunu’ is a drink made from millet, guinea corn and other locally sourced ingredients , while ‘Zobo’ is a drink produced from the hibiscus flower.
These beverages are produced in what could be described as local brewery methods and packaged in used water bottles, and sometimes in cellophane bags.
Although they are produced mostly by women of northern extraction, these drinks have become delicacies enjoyed across all cultures in Nigeria.
Kunu has different types, depending on the choice ingredients. For those who are from Northern Nigeria, Kunu jada and Kunu aya are preferred delicacies.
On the other hand, Zobo is a drink that may not have a southern Nigerian origin, but is beginning to make an essential part of their occasional menu.
These drinks are hawked on the streets, shops and other market outlets. They are also taken to offices, hospitals, and schools.
An encounter with a middle aged woman, popularly known as Madam Christy, revealed that the business has a lot of profits, even though not a medical experts, she also said that both Kunu and Zobo have a lot of nutritional values.
Madam Christy noted that she has been in the business for more than seven years and have used the proceeds to contribute significantly to the up keep of her family.
According to her, she makes up to N30,000 every month after her expenses. The only challenge she faces is running away from Environmental Task Force that does not want her to sell her wares under the shade of a tree by the roadside where she uses as her outlet.
“I have been selling Kunu and Zobo here since 2012 and I make up to N30,000 from the business. The problem we have is the Environmental Task Force that is always coming to chase us,”she said.
Inside Abuja’s check revealed that though the business is thriving and providing sucour to many households, especially women who don’t want to be dependent on their spouses, one thing that is common among the producers and sellers, is the ignorance about the health concerns associated with the production and packaging processes of these drinks.
Public health experts have said that no matter how thirsty one may be or in need of some food supplements, one must apply some caution before patronizing that daring Kunu or Zobo seller who often strolls into offices and building construction sites and other public places to hawk their products.
This warning has become very imperative in view of the rising cases of infectious diseases afflictng people in the country.
Experts say that contrary to the popular belief “that diseases do not have power over Africans,” careless consumption of poorly prepared food and drinks could put one’s body in harm’s way.
According to these experts, Kunu and Zobo are produced most of the time, in dirty environments. Their producers are essentially poor rural women, who live in the rural communities and suburbs where access to clean water is a luxury.
Above all, most of the plastic bottles used in packaging these drinks are sourced from waste dump sites.
The scavengers, who warehouse these pet bottles pick them from many unimaginable places such as gutters, road sides and waste bins where their original users had dumped them. In some cases, producers of these beverages source for these used pet bottles directly from hospital wards after patients suffering from different ailments had used them.
It goes without saying that these used bottles do not undergo thorough washing before they are used to package Kunu and Zobo for sale to the public.
Inside Abuja learnt that these bottles that are already used and thrown away can never be free from germs and other micro organisms without them being thoroughly washed and sterilized.
Maryam, a young girl in her early thirties, is popularly known as ‘ Mai Kunu ‘ because she sells Kunu around the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing Headquarters, Mabushi, Abuja. She believes that once she washes her containers ( bottles ) with clean water and detergent, they are free from all germs.
This aggressive marketer of Kunu, unwittingly admitted that she buys used bottles from scavengers, who pick them from the refuse dump site, but argued that she takes time to wash them before reusing them.
“I used to buy these containers (bottle) from Mai bolas ( scavengers) but I have to wash them with water and detergent. I don’t know about the germs you are talking about.
“Sometimes, we go to big hotels and restaurants to pick the bottles, which we use . I have been into this business for more than two years and my customers have not come to me with any complaint about any health issue,” she said.
Dr. Remigius Obinatu, Head, Environmental and Occupational Health Division of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT ) Public Health Department, argued vehemently that these recycled water bottles could become serious health harzards to those who drink these local beverages.
“The hygienic conditions of these bottles used and thrown away are of great concern; they can never wash it completely to make them devoid of contamination from bacteria infection causing organisms. That is why when people buy Kunu or Zobo and drink, they could become victims of food poisoning, either because the container that was used was not properly washed or because of the conditions of the surrounding where it was prepared before going into those bottles. The drinks are only safe if these containers have been properly washed and sterilized,” he said.
Obinatu noted that having once suffered from food poisoning himself, he has always used his professional expertise to advice people to be careful what they consume.
He noted that unless these used bottles were properly sterilized, they can never be free from ” radicals ” that are accumulated in the body, and at the long run cause illness.
He said that sometimes, these people who produce Kunu and Zobo, go to hospital environment to pick used water bottles, without knowing if they were used by patients that suffered from communicable diseases. According to him, sometimes these bottles may have been used to collect human urine or faeces as specimens for examination in the medical laboratory. Yet, when they are thrown into the dustbin, Kunu and Zobo sellers will pick them up to reuse without proper sterilization.
“Even breweries and bottling companies that depend on recycled bottles, use chemicals to wash their bottles and still sterilize them, but most of the local people who re-use these disposable bottles don’t sterilize them. So, it is a serious hazard to those who will buy the Kunu, Zobo or whatever is inside to drink.
“Some people even go to hospitals to pick these bottles, not caring whether they were used to collect human excreter or other specimen before they were thrown away. It has to be discouraged,” he said.
Obinatu also raised serious concerns about the practice where Kunu and Zobo drinks are packaged in the bottles and kept under the sun. According to him, when it is heated up, the chemicals in the bottles could react with the drinks to cause cancer.
“Another concern is that these bottles are plastics. Most of them when they are exposed to sun and are heated up so much in the sun, they can release some radicals that are not good to human health. Some of them are carcinogenic. So, when they are heated up and they form bubbles and mix up with what people drink, on the long run, it will accumulate in the body and could cause cancer or other new diseases.
“People are drinking death from these bottles because we are not sure that they can sterilize the bottles very well. People should be careful about what they put into their mouth. They should exercise caution at all times, they should buy things from certified places.
“They should ensure that those who prepare such things have gone through medical test and are certified food handlers. Actually, all food handlers in FCT are supposed to be screened every six months. This includes Kunu, Zobo makers and those that run restaurant or even other food centres.
“These food handlers are supposed to be screened to ensure that they are not harbouring food related infections that can be transmitted through foods, drinks and water. Those who are found with such infections are to be treated and some of them are asked not to handle public foods until they are certified fit”, Obinatu said.
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