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World Humanitarian Day: Nourishing the World with a Milk of Human Kindness

By Sunday Adaji Esq.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love, they say, makes the world to go round. Imagine a world devoid of charities, a world where everyone is to himself. Such a world would be a hell. The extent of reliefs, comfort, support, peace and the breath of fresh air that we enjoy today is as a result of the humanitarian efforts of persons and organisations who take it upon themselves to be their “brothers keepers.” Thanks a million to charities, to civil society organisations, (CSOs), Community Based Organisations (CBO) and individuals who are driven by passion to nourish the world with a milk of human kindness. This is the essence of the World Humanitarian Day, and it is on this note that Lawyers Alert wishes you a Happy World Humanitarian Day. The World Humanitarian Day is celebrated on the 19th of August every year and it is a day set aside by the United Nations to honour humanitarian efforts worldwide and propagating the idea of supporting people in crisis.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) states on its website, www.unocha.org/world-humanitarian-day-2019: “World Humanitarian Day 2019 is set to celebrate Women humanitarians and their undying contribution in making the world a better place.”

In conflict situations, in times of disasters and in times of gross human rights violations, women are among the most vulnerable persons that are worse hit. But it is gratifying to note that women are also among those who are working tirelessly to bring succour to the poor, the destitute and to internally displaced persons (IDP).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nigeria is presently bedeviled with insecurity. The North East of Nigeria is under constant attack by Boko Haram and ISWA (Islamic State of West Africa), as a result of which millions of Nigerians are internally displaced. The North Central part of Nigeria is riddled with herdsmen-farmers clash, as a result of which thousands of Nigerians are displaced. There are also pockets of conflicts in other parts of the country which have negatively affected vulnerable persons. We cannot lose sight of the flood and kidnapping ravaging the country presently.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Over 13 million children are out of school, many of them are in the streets asking for alms. We have the poor, the destitute, the jobless and victims of human rights violation in our midst. All these go to show that there is a lot to be done. As a matter of fact, the Federal Government is doing the best it can to grapple with the situation, but the federal government cannot do it alone. It takes the efforts and contribution of all and sundry to bring succour to millions of Nigerians who are negatively affected by conflicts and disasters in the country.

Lawyers Alert and indeed hundreds of other CSOs are doing the best they can to alleviate the sufferings of the vulnerable groups in our midst. They may still be far from putting an end to the plights of vulnerable groups, but one fact we cannot lose sight of is: THE PLIGHT OF THE VULNERABLE GROUPS WOULD HAVE BEEN WORST IF THERE WERE NO HUMANITARIAN RELIEFS FROM THE CSOs.

Lawyers Alert joins other CSOs, CBOs, the Federal Government, and government agencies, the ECOWAS, the African Union and the United Nations to celebrate women humanitarians who have contributed and who are contributing to make the world a better place to live. To this end, Lawyers Alert acknowledges the humanitarian efforts of Mother Teresa, Helen Keller, Mary Slessor, Florence Nightingale, Wangari Maathai, and others too numerous to mention.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear reader, there is much work to do in the humanitarian field. Government cannot do it alone, Lawyers Alert cannot do it alone, CSOs cannot do it alone. Get up, roll up your sleeves and join these armies of humanitarian persons to work and make the world a better place to live. This is the essence of the World Humanitarian Day.

Once again, Lawyers Alert wishes you a Happy World Humanitarian Day.

 

 

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MY RETREAT STORY

by Elvis Torkuma

1st March to 3rd 2019, Lawyers Alert held her annual retreat. I left Abuja for Makurdi Benue State Capital with Rapheal Didel our hard working Office assistant, Ellen Onougha our legal officer and Blessing Mase our Finance Officer; we were driving in a convoy of four cars with the police escort in front of us, we stopped at Masaka to fuel our cars and then the unexpected happened, my car broke down I did my best but the car did not start, my colleagues drove off as the time was running against us leaving me, Ellen, Blessing and Raphael. Raphael also did his best  by  proffering  suggestions  but it wasn’t helpful at this point  I started  losing hope of traveling  with the car and how to get out of the ugly situation, after few minutes my program Director Miss Roseline Oghenebrume called me to find out if there was any positive development but I told her there is none at the moment, she then asked me to park the car in the filling station and hire a taxi that will take us to Makurdi, I then called my friend who has a taxi but he rather added to my worries as asked me to  pay him N50000, an outrageous money to pay for a journey of 4hrs, Suddenly the police escort team returned with my program director to assist us with bags.  One of the officers then asked me to start the car again I did and the car picked without wasting time  I drove off and had a successful journey without further challenges; we arrived Makurdi at about 6: PM

We got to the hotel  tired,  we were all expecting to have our bath and rest due to the stressful time we had on the road, we got lodged but the hotel was not a good state as there was limited water, the AC’s were not cooling and some TV’s were  not showing. I then saw a written on the toilet door, (WATER IS EXPENSIVE CONSERVE IT); at this point I knew I was in for another unsuitable experience. I managed the small water I saw to bath. In the evening we had a wonderful seat out with my colleagues, we had enough drinks, barbecue and pepper soup with good music. It was a memorable evening after a hectic day.

The next day we had aerobics in the morning and then proceeded to the venue of our Retreat which is at NO6, Alhmadu Bello Way Old GRA Makurdi Benue State,Lawyers Alert Head Office. DAY 1 of our retreat was an internal meeting where we discussed issues regarding team bonding, organizational Goal, Vision and Mission this was in a way to better integrate some of our new staff into organizational goal, vision and mission, our Consultant Mrs Hadiza was amazing as she was very diligent in making sure we all understand the goal of Lawyers Alert, Values of the organization and our responsibilities as staff. Then it was it TEA BREAK, another ugly episode. They brought us TEA BREAK, a slide break wasn’t well wrapped and the president Lawyers Alert Mr Rommy Mom was disappointed at caterer. He ended up not eating the food likewise others, although I managed and ate the food. After then we continued with our meeting which was participatory and interactive as almost everybody contributed to issues raised. We had lunch when it was lunch time this time the caterer served us a tasty meal. We later conveyed and discussed on few things and then we closed. As it is rightly said, Work without Play Makes Jerk a dull boy! I was just waiting for evening hangout to refresh myself with cold drinks, meat and good music as usual. We later hanged out as I was expecting, we had enough fresh fish to eat, cold drinks with good music.

 

DAY 2. We continued with our retreat on day 2 with our partners in attendance, our 2018 strategic plan was reviewed along with our partners inputs were made. After reviewing our 2018 strategic action plan we also presented our 2019 annual strategic action plan for our partner’s  to make inputs in other to have a robust and  inclusive action plan for 2019. After an interactive session with our partners, they made lot of inputs into our 2019 strategic annual plan we then harmonized their inputs and make 2019 strategic annual plan a document. After a hectic day with our partners in drafting the  2019 strategic plan I was patiently waiting for evening to come so that I will have a hangout with my colleagues, it was going to be a different  evening compare to others  because we were to share gift. I was not having much money to buy an expensive gift but I bought an affordable gift. We went to back to our hotel after the meeting and later gathered at the hotel garden as usual for gift session, we didn’t factor drinks because we were to club that night at Harley Day Inn, we exchanged gift had light drinks and went back to prepare for the night club. All these while I was waiting to see how some of my colleagues will dance at the club due to their conservative behaviours and perceived  low social exposure, these were my thoughts. We then moved into the club at about 9:PM at the VIP, unfortunately the VIP which could have contain us had cooling problems , we had to move out to regular, to my greatest surprised some of my colleagues I thought were reserve were the ones who actually made the club rock that night. Although Mr Hwande dance steps were from another planet, he was the side attraction for me,  and my program director Roseline danced very well, I saw wonderful dancing steps from many of colleagues, Somto, Ellen, Leslie, Mary and the President Lawyers Alert himself Mr Rommy, It was indeed fun and an amazing experienced.

On Day 3.Our supposed final day of the retreat was a very short we only did the recap of the retreat, we spend few hours doing the recap, what went wrong, what went right and what the way forward. We then had Tea break and lunch within an hour interval. We snapped pictures and closed for that day. Although one thing was certain, evening hangout; we later had hangout as usual, had drinks listen to good music and then we both went in our rooms and slept. My retreat was very memorable I had awful moments and interesting moments which made it a memorable retreat. I must appreciate the management of Lawyers Alert for making our retreat fun and entertaining despite challenges we had in the hotel. The provision of drinks, good meal, clubbing and logistics made my retreat interesting. I am again looking forward for 2020 Lawyers Alert again by the special grace of God. God bless Lawyers Alert and long live our partners.

 

 

Elvis Torkuma is the Project Officer of Lawyers Alert and participated in the 2019 staff retreat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A ONE DAY SENSITIZATION WITH KABUSA MARKET WOMEN ASSOCIATION ON GENDER BASED VIOLENCE (GBV)

Dated 12Th June 2018.

The problem of gender-based violence (GBV) is an age-long problem in our communities which has led to loss of lives, emotional disorder, psychological torture and other forms of human rights abuses.  These violations happen more in rural areas than the urban areas due to poor access to information, inadequate exposure and anti-human rights cultural practices, leading to an anti-social environment for women and children. Market women who ordinarily carry the burden for over 70% of the Nigerian families and are the economic main- stay of most homes suffer the most. It shows in several ways and not necessarily violent – owing to Market women often non awareness of this, it gradually ebb their sense of dignity and consequent inability to raise citizens who fully appreciate their beings in our homes.

Lawyers Alert as a human rights Organization has identified the gap which has put the lives of many women at the risk of suffering violations and other human rights abuses, and is now engaging market women associations across the country to sensitize them on Gender based violence.

The first of this training held with the kabusa market women – Abuja sorboses. The training which started at about 2:30 PM with over fourty women in attendance was held at the market square and it started with an opening prayer by a delegate of the Market Women Leader, after which a welcome address was taken by the Market Women Leader herself. All the participants briefly introduced themselves. Mr. Yemi Agoro took time to introduce Lawyers Alert as an Organization to the women and also talked about the Objectives of the meeting. Ellen Onugha who is our legal officer took time to talk about legal literacy and Sexual Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR). Mr Yemi Agoro and Elvis Torkuma took few minutes to summarize everything in local English in other for the women to understand it better. After the session on legal literacy and Sexual reproductive Health Rights (SRHR), we gave room for comments and questions. The women were excited with our services and many threw questions which we were able to respond to with the rights answers.

One woman stood up and said, she would take it upon herself to educate those who were not present at the meeting. Another woman said initially she thought it was money we came to share to them but what she learnt from us is much more than money. After the feedback session, emphases were made on Lawyers Alert’s pro bono services, mediation, where and how they can access our free legal services and what to do when their rights are violated. This topic was even more exciting and overwhelming to them because even before we could finish this session, we had over six women reporting violations to us at the spot. It was a successful program because from their comments, questions, recommendations and openness to discuss their problems with us at the training ground, we could see that we exceeded their expectations.

 

In conclusion, we recommend more of this sensitization program for market women in other locations because many women do not know their rights and they do not know that these rights can be protected and enhanced. This will lead to more enlightened women in the society and reduction or total eradication of gender-based violence in Nigeria.

 

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LAWYERS ALERT CONTINUES ITS VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN AND GIRLS ENGAGEMENT

In continuation of our project which seeks to reduce and eliminate violence against women and girls, Lawyers alert has added 5 states to its already existing 8, making it a total of 13 states.

As in other states, Lawyers Alert in these new states will meet and create partnership with community women groups, the media and human rights lawyers in each state. The essence is to create rights awareness for women so they can report violations of their rights when it occurs and to recognize violations around them. It is also necessary that the media is sensitized on how best to report gender based violence through the lens of human rights. The last objective is to link these women with lawyers who will provide them with free legal services and where the services required are not legal, to refer them to other service providers.

 

In the last 6 weeks, Lawyers Alert has created partnership with key groups in these 5 states and we are currently liaising with several community women groups who report violations and access free legal services.

 

In Osun state, we are liaising with Community Advancement Initiative for Self-Reliance while in Plateau the partnering is with Center for the Advocacy for Justice and Rights (CAJR). In Niger, the Sisters Closet Counseling Volunteers (SCCV) are our partners as Girls Power Initiative (GPI) work with us in Edo State. Rahama Women Development Programme (RWDP) is our partners in Bauchi State.

Even though the project is halfway implemented, we have recorded an estimated 59 reported violations, with free legal services now being offered to over 42 women.

We have a vision of bringing justice home to women and girls who suffer violations and to also create enough publicity around these harmful practices. The analyzed data will soon be released and this will reveal the number of violations in Nigeria. Someday, we hope that these violations will become a thing of the past.

 

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LAWYERS ALERT RELEASES DATA ON HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS WITH REGARD TO HOMOSEXUALS IN NIGERIA

The report is a compendium of reported violations of sexual minorities in Nigeria between April 2017 to March 2018, with particular focus on Men who have sex with men (MSM). The data used in this report is drawn from inputs made into the online rights violation documentation tool developed by Lawyers Alert (http://colahr.org/lawyersalert/index.php ). The findings in this report cuts across the six geopolitical zones in Nigeria.

Key findings from the Data evidences that Men who have sex with men, MSM, suffer the highest form of violations amongst key population groups in Nigeria. Violations against MSM by State and Non-State Actors concentrated to an all high of 76% as against other groups. Reasons for this are principally embedded in the prevailing laws (especially the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Law 2013

It is also instructive to note that 95% of reported violations/cases were resolved at police stations, with less than 5% going to trial, and even at that, prosecution is not diligent. This appears to validate the often held claim that arrests are basically to harass, intimidate and extort victims with no will for proper prosecution.  It should be added that approximately 75% of victims were supported with free legal representation either by Lawyers Alert or other organizations in Nigeria.

This report builds on our earlier report  that grouped sexual minorities into one group, http://lawyersalertng.org/resources/LAWYERS%20ALERT%20FINDINGS%20ON%20SRHR%20%20%20%20VIOLATIONS%20IN%20NIGERIA.pdf

With support from the Rapid Response Fund, Lawyers Alert customised the online tool to specifically speak to MSM, as against other key populations and other varying sexual orientations. The online tool automatically analyses data along age, location, types, trends etc.

Interventions for MSM actions and possible law reforms cannot be better informed than when situated against the data evidenced in this report.  The documented  violations were verified and  legal assistance proffered. With Nigeria committed to ending HIV, especially against the background of dwindling external funding, such data are very critical for targeted interventions given limited resources.

Lawyers Alert is indebted to several persons and organizations, who referred cases to us, assisted us technically and/or financially in the course of developing and putting up the online tool. We acknowledge the Rapid Response Fund for partnering with us this on work

The full report can be viewed at http://lawyersalertng.org/resources/Data%20on%20MSM%20Rights%20Violations%20in%20%20Nigeria.pdf

 

 

 

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Increase State Resource Allocation on HIV efforts: Lawyers Alert Tells the National Assembly at the Public Hearing on 2018 Federal Budget

The Nigeria Budget Proposals, or better properly called “The 2018 Appropriation Bill”  which encapsulates what and how the federal government will spend Nigeria resources is undergoing debate at the National Parliament.  A public Hearing  held by the Joint Committees of Appropriation  of the Senate and the House of Representatives  for Citizen groups  to make inputs  in helping  parliamentarians make proper resource allocations.
Lawyers Alert made  its presentation seeking  increased HIV funding in Nigeria given especially, the dwindling funding from the International community at the Hearing.  Our inputs follows a year of monitoring violations and related actions in this field in Nigeria, and offering free legal services to victims.

Our Ellen Onugha, Legal Officer, made the presentation of behalf of Lawyers Alert

Find Below full text of Lawyers Alert presentation.

RESPONSIVE BUDGETING: HIV AND AIDS INTERVENTIONS IN NIGERIA:  BEING A PRESENTATION OF LAWYERS ALERT NIGERIA, AT A PUBLIC HEARING OF THE 2019 BUDGET BY THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY

PRESENTED THIS 28TH MARCH 2018

Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa with an estimated 175 million inhabitants. Research in 2013 showed that HIV constitutes a major public health concern in Nigeria and that the country has the second largest burden of HIV in Africa with an estimated 3.4 million people living with the virus in 2013.

Global Fund, an international financing organization that aims to attract and disburse additional resources to prevent and treat HIV and AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, had invested a total of 24 grants in Nigeria since 2003, as part of efforts aimed at tackling the HIV threat. Indeed, as at June 2015, a total of 1.43 billion dollars had been disbursed for HIV programs.  Despite these investments however, in Nigeria, Global Fund faced a number of challenges leading to the sub-optimal grant performance shown below:

  • Poor quality health services including treatment disruptions
  • Inadequate monitoring and evaluation including poor data quality
  • Low financial absorption
  • Fraud, corruption or misuse of funds
  • Poor financial efficiency and reporting
  • Inadequate principal recipient governance and oversight.

Owing to these challenges, Global Fund reduced its funding to Nigeria, thereby making the management of HIV programs, ordinarily capital intensive, even more problematic.

In 2014, the federal allocation to health constituted just 6% of the national budget and was predicated to decline in the future. It has. Currently, state level allocations for health tend to be at an average of 3%. As at 2014, HIV intervention was underfunded by 4 billion dollars. This means there are presently minimal financial resources to make investments in health to significantly alter the course of HIV in Nigeria.

As a result of this paucity in funding the following results have been recorded:

  • Approximately 160,000 (one hundred & sixty thousand) people died from HIV and AIDS related illnesses in Nigeria in 2016.
  • About 220,000 (two hundred and twenty) new infections were recorded.
  • Out of 3,200,000 (three million, two hundred thousand) people living with HIV in 2016, ONLY 30% have access to antiretroviral therapy.
  • Only 21% of the estimated 270,000 (two hundred and seventy thousand children, ages 0-14 years) in Nigeria living with HIV have access to antiretroviral treatment.
  • Children, especially females, dropping out of school to cater to the needs of infected parents who are sick.

Simply put, the number of people living with HIV and those affected by it, is now disproportionate compared to the funds budgeted for treatment. This is a tide which must be stemmed and quickly too.

Note that an estimated 1.8 million children have been orphaned by AIDS, thereby taking a huge toll on their health, safety and wellbeing. In many instances, elderly grandparents, many of whom tend to be struggling with physical infirmities and financial challenges of their own, have to bear the responsibility for these children.

Incidentally, the National Strategic Framework, 2017-2021, aims (amongst others) at ending AIDS by achieving zero new infections and zero AIDS related deaths. This goal can only be described as utopian at the moment owing to the meager funds allocated to curbing the scourge.

2021 is just 3 years away. What successes have been recorded in tackling HIV? Do we have a tragic case here of “one step forward, two steps backwards”?

The adage “Health is wealth”, has never been more apt than it is now. Our biggest resource in Nigeria at the moment does not lie in the ground in the form of black gold, NO. It lies on the surface of the earth in the form living breathing beings, you and I, who form the bulk of the wealth of this great land. It lies in our human capital. Safeguarding the health of all Nigerians, especially from problems such as HIV, is therefore a task that the Federal Government must embark upon with all sense of urgency.

Of what use would any other achievements be if we were all too sick to benefit from them? If health, and by association, HIV and AIDS programs, are not adequately funded and managed with a view to prioritizing the well-being of citizens, all other budgets would amount to nothing because there might actually be no Nigerians left to enjoy them.

It is therefore imperative that this National Assembly pay heed to the neglect in this sector and take steps to redress the shortfall in funding. This is critical given that international support has drastically dropped as cited above. Failure to do this by the National Assembly could translate to an inability to meet the goal of the National Strategic Framework within the proposed time frame of 2017-2021.

Lawyers Alert therefore, seeks a proved and specific funding, beyond the health sector, for HIV and AIDS interventions by provision of adequate anti-retroviral therapy to enhance access for persons living with HIV. In addition, we seek adequate provision of commodities and services to promote absolutely free testing including the provision of effective mother to child transmission Medicare.

The National Assembly is so urged.

Thank you.

 
 

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AMPLIFYCHANGE VISITS LAWYERS ALERT

A representative of AmplifyChange, Mr. Patrick MccLure paid a working visit to the Abuja Office of Lawyers Alert located at Area 11, Garki Abuja. The visit which took place on the 27th day of November 2017 afforded both parties the opportunity to discuss organizational and project issues, particularly as it involves gender based violence. Discussion also covered our partnership and other areas of interest. The President of Lawyers Alert, Mr. Rommy Mom who spoke on continued collaboration and partnership noted that Lawyers Alert maiden reports on SRHR violations in Nigeria was a joint collaboration by the organizations. AC pic

Patrick McClure and some Staff of Lawyers Alert

 
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Posted by on January 4, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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Lawyers Alert sensitize Journalists on Sexual Reproductive Health Rights

The training was organized by Lawyers Alert for journalists as part of a sensitization and advocacy drive within the media community. The objective is to educate journalists on the subject of SRHR and how they can effectively report violations of same and also getting the participants to cascade knowledge gained to other journalists.

Facilitators at the training were:

  1. Rommy Mom, Esq. – President, Lawyers Alert.

2.  Mrs. Abubakar Abubakar – Director, UNFPA.

3.  Charles – Director, UNAIDS.

SRH, HIV & GENDER ISSUES IN NIGERIA

Facilitator – Zubaida Abubakar, UNFPA

Topic – “SRH, HIV and Gender Issues in Nigeria.” (Focus: Key Populations)

She began by acknowledging the vital role journalists play as watchdogs of the society in ensuring the protection of Human Rights. “We need to engage the media,” she enthused, “our work is based on evidence. Children and girls are mostly victims of SRHR violations. They are victims of rape, violence, etc. We have to educate them and the media can help achieve this.”

To buttress her claims that children and teenage girls were the most vulnerable in terms of SRHR violations, Mrs. Abubakar reinforced her facts with statistics shown below:

  • In Nigeria, girls particularly between the ages of 18-22 years of age are likely to get pregnant before marriage. The North has a preponderance of early marriage.
  • Female hawkers are particularly vulnerable to rape.
  • Owing to poverty, religious and cultural issues, girls are married off at the young ages of 9-22. They are most at risk of HIV and Vesico-Vaginal Fistula, a condition that frequently occurs when underage girls give birth. Nigeria has up to 600,000 cases of VVF. Girls with the condition tend to be stigmatised and isolated.
  • 47.6% of illiterate girls get pregnant early. They have no idea of the use of contraceptives.
  • Maternal and child mortality rate is high in Nigeria: For every 100,000 births, 576 infants die, while approximately 111 of the mothers die in childbirth.

Consequences

On the consequences of the violations of the SRHR of girls, Mrs. Abubakar pointed out that:

  • There is no opportunity for their being educated (attending school).
  • The vicious cycle of poverty is continued.
  • They are isolated.
  • 25% of the girls whose SRHR are violated contribute nothing to the economy.

What to Address

On what to address, Mrs. Abubakar explained

  • Girls should be kept in school to discourage child marriage.
  • Girls who do not get formal education should be empowered through vocational skills.
  • The health and well-being of children should be prioritised.
  • Girls should be trained in the use of contraceptives.
  • There should be a conducive environment for children and girls.
  • Keepers of the traditional institutions should be enagaged in these efforts to obtain their support which could in turn influence parents to change their beliefs.
  • Children and girls should be given comprehensive HIV education.
  • Young people should be co-opted into the information dissemination process.
  • Social could also be a useful tool in this effort.

UNFPA Projects

On the projects being carried out by UNFPA, Mrs. Abubakar noted:

  • 4,150 are being supported with the help of Canada. In Nigeria’s North, UNFPA provides support in the education sector. In Lagos (the suburbs of Lagos State), out of school children are being supported by training them in vocational work. 270 of the girls were able to impact 20,000 others.
  • Campaign launched last year to end child marriage in Nigeria.
  • A forum was set up to educate various communities on the negative effects of early marriage.
  • UNFPA collaborates with local NGOs to carry out their work with ongoing projects in Kaduna and Kebbi States.
  • Support is being provided for girls suffering from VVF

EFFORTS AT ENHANCING SRHR REPORTAGE IN NIGERIA

Facilitator – Charles, UNAIDS

Topic – “Efforts at Enhancing SRHR Reportage in Nigeria.”

Mr. Charles introduced a five-page news report culled from The Associated Press, which he distributed to all participants titled: “Rampaging Sudan Troops Raped Foreigners, Killed Locals.” Using the news report as a yardstick for measuring reports on SRHR, he asked participants to read the report and critique.

Most participants condemned the detailed style of reporting. They were of the view that The Associated Press was so detailed in the reportage that within days of publication, Sudanese citizens were able to identify victim of the gang rape perpetrated by 15 South Sudanese soldiers.

A participant, (a female journalist with the Daily Trust), was of the view that the victim’s identity ought to have been protected in line with the ethics of the profession. Though her name was withheld, the description of the location and the race of the victim, were so vivid that Sudanese citizens had no problem identifying the victim.

A few of the participants, however, had a dissenting opinion. One of them was of the view that the detailed reportage was what led to further investigations.

The Facilitator left the critiquing to the professionals only pointing out the following issues:

  1. The news is about sexual violence in the context of armed conflict.
  2. Giving tips (reports) to journalists helps with exposing SRHS violations.

HUMAN RIGHTS DIMENSION

Facilitator – Rommy Mom (Lawyers Alert President)

Topic – “Human Rights Dimension on Violations of SRHR,”

Citing the cases of the FSWs in Abuja and the suspected gay people in Gishiri village, in Abuja, Lawyers Alert intervened, Mr. Mom emphasized the need to protect key affected populations. To buttress his point, he cited the case of a Customs Officer who was accused of theft in a market in Jalingo, Adamawa state and subsequently beaten to death. It was only after the mob action that his identity was revealed.

Mr. Mom rounded off his session with a quote he once saw in a prison in a prison he visited. The placard read: “A society is judged by how it treats the weakest among them.”

QUESTION AND ANSWER SESSION

The issue of homosexuality in Nigeria is a touchy one especially since the country has enacted laws criminalising same sex relationship and marriage. It was no wonder therefore that the following questions came up:

Q – “If I heard you clear, you mean you offer free legal services to homosexuals?”

Rommy Mom – “Yes, if we offer 10 free legal services to victims of SRHR violations, including homosexuals.”

Q – “How do you marry this with the Nigerian laws which prohibit homosexuality?”

  1. M – “Years ago, in Gishiri village, a pastor mobilised a mob to attack some persons alleged to be homosexuals. They broke into their houses, assaulted them, took them to the police station, and they were detained. This to the Pastor and his believers was in keeping with the law. We urge you however to examine the process. It is an offence to break into a persons’ home, assault the person etc. Yet we choose to ignore this. It is so much as the law, the process. We don’t violate rights, in getting to the end of the law. Lawyers Alert is about rights of ALL. Remember again, it is the court that determines culpability at the end of the day. The law does not permit any person to break the doors of people on ground of suspicion of being homosexual. It is the court that will determine the guilt of any person alleged to have committed a crime. Homosexuals, like other groups be they Female Sex workers, Persons Living With HIV, Persons who use Drugs etc are the vulnerable people in the society. How we treat and relate with them is different with coloration of stigma and discrimination. Ours is to focus on the rights of these key population groups.”

Q – “Do you also offer services to children and victims of domestic violence?”

  1. M – “Yes, we offer free legal services to children and victims of domestic violence. A 10-year old girl was raped recently. Her mother could not afford to pay transport fare. We offered her free legal services and we also paid for her transport fares.”

WAY FORWARD

On way forward, all participants agreed that:

  1. We should keep journalist informed as journalists are human beings and not ghosts that should know everything that happens in the society.
  2. Outcome of meetings should be shared. It could be visual, audio or text.
  3. Lawyers Alert could organise meetings to keep journalists informed.

CONCLUSION

Mr. Mom thanked all participants and assured them that the training just held was just one of many more to be held, and that from time to time, Lawyers Alert will hold refresher trainings for those in attendance.

 

 

 

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ABDUCTED AND RESCUED WOMEN: LAWYERS ALERT AND SCAIN PARTNER TO SEEK SOLUTION TO RESCUED WOMEN’S DILEMMA EVEN AS BOKO HARAM STILL KICKS

Nigerians were generally jubilant when news of the rescue of large groups of women abducted by Boko Haram broke. Prior to that many had been under the impression that the Chibok girls were the only casualties of kidnap attacks. Those people probably had not kept up with the news as there were weekly reports of such abductions long before the Chibok scandal ever made international headlines. However, owing to the peculiar circumstances of those abducted (predominantly illiterate), their stories, like those of so many others in the North East particularly, became a subject for mournful head-shaking accompanied by a vigorous lack of action on the part of the then Goodluck Jonathan administration. After all, compared to the scenario where entire villages were decimated by the marauders with no consequences, the matter of random abductions seemed to pale in comparison.

The rescued women ranged from children, to young adolescents, adults and the aged. All had been subjected to gruesome hardship while most had been sexually molested or suffered some form of slavery through the duration of captivity. All were traumatised. While some chose to brave the challenges and returned to their original communities, many have had to be accommodated in IDP camps owing to the lack of safety in their communities and their own fear of returning there. Others fled their states and are living on the run in other parts of the country where their safety is equally a matter for debate. Though some of the rescued women have been housed in IDP camps, their situation is quite different from those of other IDPs having been taken and kept against their will by terrorists. This is not intended to demean the sufferings of the other IDPs but the circumstances for both sets of women are distinct and require different approaches.

The rescued women should, by now, be receiving adequate mental and psychological care and counselling to checkmate the damage done from the dehumanising treatment meted out to them in captivity. There is also the possibility, which has so far not really been explored, that some of these women may very well be Boko Haram sympathisers now having been brainwashed into accepting the violent ideology preached by these terrorists. Known as Stockholm syndrome, the possibility of a captive developing a bond with their captor is a common occurrence and could pose a further security threat.

Incidentally, these camps which should ordinarily have been a safe haven for these rescued women has thrown up unique challenges with some totally unanticipated. It is common to hear of soldiers in conflict situations taking advantage of women sexually but what about the civilian population drawn from government etc that have been put in charge of administering these camps? Investigations reveal that officials of a certain government agency have been found wanting in the discharge of their duties. Not only have the women accused them of withholding relief materials except when offered sexual gratification, the same officials have also been accused of brutally raping these same women, a good number of whom are already pregnant, nursing mothers or have suffered one of form of trauma or another at the hands of their captors. As soon as the stories started filtering out, government’s response was to restrict access to the IDP camps to such an extent that the entire process is now mired in huge wads of red tape thereby discouraging external eyes and ears.

Not only is access to the IDP camps now extremely restricted, quite a few of the camps have been disbanded and moved to parts unknown practically overnight. Additionally, the trauma of being molested by those who are supposed to be protecting them has led these women to a place of general suspicion of the motives of any outsiders desiring to help.

Their situation is dire. In addition to physical and mental health challenges, a good number are pregnant and some do not want these babies. Now that access to them is so severely limited, what happens? Will we be facing cases of infanticide as babies mysteriously die or get discarded by mothers who do not want them? Away from this troubling scenario, we also encounter the dilemma of stigma and discrimination, a very real danger as these women struggle to overcome the shadow of Boko Haram.

This issue of stigma and discrimination is one which must not be taken lightly. These women face the challenge of being ostracised by their communities even if they do return. In the event they do not, they cannot live in the camps indefinitely, what happens to those who, after the camps are disbanded, cannot go back to their communities? What about those who have fled their states of origin and are currently living in illegal IDP camps in other parts of the country? What provision are the governments of those states making to ensure their safety and possible resettlement?

These are just some of the challenges Lawyers Alert and SCAIN, are trying to get answers to with support from the Urgent Action Fund for Africa, UAFA. So far, a meeting of crucial stakeholders has been held with a view to charting a direction, with hopes of passing resolutions to the authorities. The aim is to impress upon government its role in this crisis and also proffer solutions for the women rescued from the captives. The document will be available for public consumption on this page as soon as it is fully developed and submitted to relevant authorities.

 
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Posted by on August 27, 2015 in Women Rights and Gender

 

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REPORT OF CSOs VISIT TO BENUE STATE, GOVERNOR- ELECT, DR. SAMUEL ORTOM.

By Asan Gabin Bennedict

The Coalition of Civil Society Groups in Benue State paid a courtesy visit to the Governor-Elect, Dr. Samuel Ortom at his residence in Makurdi the State Capital. The CSOs presented quick win targets for the Governor-Elect to address within his first 100 days in office.

Presenting the document titled: “Benue CSOs/Media Coalition 100 day in office target for Dr. Samuel Ortom, Governor-Elect, Benue State of Nigeria”; the Team-leader Mr. Rommy Mom, said setting 100 days target for the incoming administration to meet has become imperative for the civil society in the state, as it is believed that meeting these targets will set the administration on the path of achieving the much needed expectations of the citizens of the state. Mr. Mom thanked the Governor-Elect for the invitation to input and partner towards the much needed development in the State.

The Team-leader noted with regret that,  had the Civil Society Groups in the State partnered and engaged previous governments in the State in setting realizable agenda, and monitoring same and demanding accountability in a more effective and efficient manner, the State would have progressed much more development wise. He said the least the CSOs could do is their resolve to promote and protect the mandate given to the incoming Ortom administration by the people of Benue State by engaging actively with the new government

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Mr Rommy Mom presenting the 100 days Target Document to Ortom.

In his response, the Governor-Elect Dr. Samuel Ortom, thanked the CSOs Coalition in the State for harkening to his call to all citizen to participate and make meaningful contributions to his administration. He assured the CSOs of his administration’ zero tolerance for corruption and an open door policy that will enhance accountability. He promised opening up space for government/CSOs collaboration, partnership and engagement. By so doing, he promised to reduce the agenda of the Civil Society into actionable point for ease of implementation and monitoring.

The Governor-Elect reiterated the fact that he holds noting sacred as the mandates given to him to govern the State and he promise to do so with the fear of God and respect for the people of the State who are the mandate givers. He further acknowledges the fact that he is human as such susceptible to human frailty and imperfection and call on CSOs to be disposed to advising and correcting his government objectively for maximum gain by the State.

SUMMARY OF ISSUES SET-FORT BY THE CSOS FOR THE GOVERNOR-ELECT TO ATTAIN WITHIN HIS FIRST 100DAY IN OFFICE 

FINANCES/RESOURCES

Reliance on federal allocations is now almost a call for a death sentence on the state. Federal allocations are insufficient to take care of salaries, outside of other recurring expenditure.  There will be zero finances for infrastructure and other projects.

In the circumstances, it must be acknowledged that Benue is in a deep pit that would need some filling. Given the above situation, the partners set up the following targets for the new administration.

  • Within the first 100 days the Ortom government should endeavor to inform the Benue people of the true and actual state of finances of the state in plain language and explain the challenges that lay ahead. 
  • In the first 100 days, the administration should convene a technical meeting regarding the state of Benue’s finances to be attended by indigenes of Benue knowledgeable in economics, development, and resource generation. 
  • Within the first 100 days, the Ortom administration should convene and hold a Donor conference in Benue for the four big players in development (World Bank, EU, UNDP and the DFID) for the possible channels of synergizing and partnering with a view to proffering solutions to the challenge. 
  • Tax Regime is an area that was also looked into by the CSO/Media partnership. The resolution for the Ortom administration is to, within 100 days, address the issue of BIRS with a view to regaining its lost glory. In getting citizens to pay their taxes in a dignified and humane manner rather than in a thuggish manner, community groups should be co-opted to help in addressing and creating awareness on the need for people of Benue to pay their taxes. 

HEALTH

The Benue health sector is in a crisis. It is an emergency. There is a dearth of nurses with current statistics at 1 nurse to approximately 60 patients as against 1 nurse to 3 patients. As it were, the School of Nursing in Benue has lost its accreditation a while back, and can no longer produce nurses. As retirement takes its toll, the vacuum is in one word, frightening. The school of health technology that produces community health assistants is gradually becoming a curse. The Assistants now set up quack clinics in the hinterlands and hurry citizens to their deaths, capitalizing on the absence of nurses and doctors.

The story is no different with Doctors. The medical school in Benue state university suffered the same fate as the School of nursing and to date is unable to produce doctors, though recently accredited.

Persons living with HIV are left behind regarding access to healthcare and other such services.

The Ortom administration should therefore, in 100 days, seek to:

  • Aggressively commence the process of halting the rot in the healthcare system by the development and implementation of a clear plan to address the issue of accreditation of the school of nursing through the provision of a well-equipped educational facility.
  • Appoint technocrats into positions in the health sector and not politicians.
  •  Develop a health master plan that will involve civil society. 

AGRICULTURE

Benue State which is “The Food Basket of the Nation” has become a food basket without food; an empty food basket. This remains so despite the fact that the soil and weather are naturally suitably regulated to support a wide variety of arable and plantation crops, livestock, forestry, wild life and fishery products.

The Ortom administration should therefore, in 100 days, seek to:

  • Timely distribution of herbicides, insecticides and fertilizers and improved seedlings to farmers across the State.
  •  Government should encourage partnership with land owners and carry out massive land clearing for cultivation.

PEACE, SECURITY AND JUSTICE

There is an urgent need to redeem the peace and security situation in Benue State. This is the only sure way of entrenching development and enhancing the living condition of the Benue people. Unfortunately, these fundamentals for livelihood have become a scarce commodity in the State.

The Ortom administration should therefore, in 100 days, seek to:

  • Set up a peace and reconciliation committee with a mandate of peace building and advocacy for harmonious co-existence amongst communities across the State, borders and neighbours.

A community-policing scheme will be evolved in conjunction with the State Police Command, Local Vigilante Groups, the National Security and Civil Defence Corps, who will be trained on relevant community policing techniques.

  • The immediate resolution of the dispute between government and the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria with the view of preventing the incessant industrial strikes by the union to enhance access to justice and speedy prosecution of offenders.
  • The unsatisfactory working conditions of judicial staff, including non-payment of salaries, which is responsible for low morale, should be addressed by the government peremptorily.
  • The State Executive Council should initiate a Bill for a law prohibiting public grazing in the state with a view to bringing to rest the crisis between herdsmen and farmers in Benue State

WATER AND SANITATION

The importance of water in all the fairs of human endeavour cannot be overemphasized hence the aphorism: “water is life”. Government should prioritize water supply in quality and quantity.

The Ortom administration should therefore, in 100 days, seek to:

  • Government should setup a committee to assess the cost of reticulation of water in Makurdi and urban areas in order for the public to have a firsthand cost will put the Greater Makurdi Water Works to maximum use.
  •  Government should establish community health clubs in primary and secondary schools to deepen the culture of sanitation.

CITIZEN’S WELFARE

The Benue resident is today almost living a beggarly life owing to lack of resources. This is because the state is one where most salaried workers are employed by the government which then proceeds to deprive them of salaries for months at a time.

In 100 days therefore, the Ortom administration should:

  • Endeavour to pay outstanding salaries by at least 70%. We shy away from insisting on 100% given the dire financial circumstances of the state.
  • Provide refuse bins across the state especially in commercial areas and markets to stem the spread of diseases through waste and dirt. In the long terms an incinerator to burn waste should be installed in large towns in Benue state.
  • The issue of the Makurdi Greater Water Works should be spread open to the Benue people to unravel the mystery of 16 years of work on a water project that has never yielded tap water. The people have a right to know and thereafter be realistically expectant regarding the next steps.
  • Cost of governance should be drastically reduced starting with the number of people on the entourage that follows the Governor to Abuja or on other trips. At present the Benue person funds each Abuja trip by over N15m per trip for the Governor. These huge amounts if reduced drastically can be plowed into the economy of the state over a period of time.
  • The incoming administration is called upon to make appointments based on expertise, merit and skills and resist the urge to patronize party members if Benue is to forge ahead.
  • Closely related to 5 above is the suggestion that the number of ministries be reduced and merged to enhance efficiency, financial probity and an all-round better administration.

SPORTS

All over the world sporting activities have become economic development means order than the leisure it use to be. With the teaming crop of unemployed youth the development of this sector will enhance employment/economic development of the State and curtail crime amongst youth.

In 100 days therefore, the Ortom administration should:

  • Government should set up a committee to resuscitate sports activities in all public & private primary and secondary schools in the State.
  •  Government should direct all LG Councils to initiate, adequately fund and prudently manage sports clubs to enhance sports development.
  • Government should encourage the private sector (companies and individuals) to form sports clubs for sports development.
 
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Posted by on May 18, 2015 in Governanace

 

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