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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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BENUE CSOs/MEDIA SET 100 DAYS TARGET FOR ORTOM, GOVERNOR ELECT.

INTRODUCTION

Benue Civil Society groups and the Media met on the 30th day of April 2015 to discuss ways and modalities of partnering and engaging with the incoming administration towards the greater good of Benue State. The meeting convened by Lawyers Alert had the following groups in attendance:

  • Nigeria Union Journalists (NUJ)
  • Benue NGO Network (BENGONET)
  • Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN)
  • Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT)
  • Benue Network of People Living with HIV (NEPHWAN).

DISCOURSE

The CSO/Media partnership noted during the meeting that the Akume and Suswam administrations may have achieved more if organized citizens groups had been partnered with. Engagement would have been toward assistance in setting the agenda, collaborating and partnering including monitoring and demanding accountability in a much more effective and efficient manner.

The group then resolved 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. This decision is based on the invitation by the Ortom administration for calling active participation by the citizens.

ISSUES IDENTIFIED

In view of the above, therefore, the partnership after exhaustive discussions came up with the targets indicated below to be possibly achieved by the Ortom administration. They are aimed at helping to set the eventual long term agenda for Benue state.

Finances/Resources

The partnership noted the dire circumstances Nigeria is currently undergoing given the depleting of crude oil reserves and the fact that the country is broke and can hardly finance governance. 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.

  • Manage expectations. 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. This is to manage expectations and propel in the Benue people, the possible desire to assist and help govebnrmnet in any way possible toward achieving progress.
  • 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. This meeting will be for purposes of developing a State Resilience plan for Benue that will address the issue of how Benue will survive the current economic challenges. This is key and critical as it will provide a detailed and planed strategy towards dealing with this most pertinent issue that could derail governance and lead to citizens’ disconnect with the government.
  • 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. An already developed Benue Resilience plan will be presented at the Donor conference. Agriculture, rural roads, electricity and other avenues that could propel rural development are expected to be covered in the plan.
  • 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. When CSOs are leading the charge in awareness creation, more mileage will be won as citizens are distrustful of government believing taxes are usually stolen. The government should additionally implement specific projects especially rural projects like water and health facilities with income generated from taxation and show citizens the fruit of their tax money.

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.

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.

CONCLUSION

The partnership will be meeting with the Governor Elect in the coming days to engage on this and other matters agreed on. The above are  the highlights.

 
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Posted by on May 3, 2015 in Governanace

 

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LAWYERS COME TOGETHER TO PROVIDE LEGAL ASSISTANCE TO KEY POPULATIONS AND VULNERABLE GROUPS

Volunteer Lawyers across 23 states in Nigeria came together in Abuja between the 2nd to 6th of February 2015 to educate themselves on the plight of key population and vulnerable groups in Nigeria at a training organized by Lawyers Alert a human rights NGO, with the support of UNAIDS Nigeria office.

At the end of the meeting, the lawyers numbering over 30, resolved to act under a coalition with the specific mandate of servicing vulnerable groups to include Persons Living with HIV, Persons with Disabilities, Women and other key populations impacted most by HIV.

The Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, Prof Chidi Odinkalu who was present at the meeting, emphasized the anti-human rights effect of discrimination and stigmatization, stating human rights are universal and interdependent. While we may not agree on everything, we must respect the right of others nonetheless he stated. He commended the lawyers for the bold initiative and assured them of the NHRC support at all times.

UNAIDS Country Director, Dr Camara Bilali, who was also present, commended the lawyers for their passion, commitment and sacrifice in terms of free representation of key population. The challenges are enormous in the sphere of policy, laws and other interventions, and lawyers are best equipped to tackle these, given their training, spread and community presence he stated.

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Rommy Mom, President of Lawyers Alert, said he was particularly excited at the prospect of what can be achieved going forward in terms of legal representation to these vulnerable groups by the initiative. He commended his Colleagues for their volunteerism while wishing more lawyers could be coopted from other states going forward.

At the end of the 3 day training the lawyers resolved to come together under a Coalition of “Lawyers for Rights of Vulnerable Groups” for the purpose of legal aid and other interventions on behalf of Persons Living With HIV, Persons With Disabilities, Women, Sex Workers, Sexual Minorities, etc.

A Participant from Maiduguri in Borno state, Barrister Merama Balami, and Barrister  Abigail Dahiru from Gombe, in Gombe state stated not minding the insurgency, they will work within the spaces provided to also reach out to Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, within the context of key populations.

Participants were presented with certificates at the end of the training.

The Coalition resolved to hold an inaugural meeting in the very near future to develop a strategic plan to guide them in the first three years of their work.

 

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Passage of the HIV/AIDS Anti-Discrimination Law: Matters Arising

By Jerome, Uneje Mary

Since the advent of HIV and AIDS in Nigeria in the early 90s, it is estimated that over 3 million people are either suffering from the scourge or lost their lives . 2.5 million Children have been made orphans amidst other damning statistics. People Living Positively (PLP) often suffer untold hardships, discrimination and even stigma. This discrimination takes place mostly at work places, places of worships, neighbourhoods and other social units. The media is awash with stories of employment termination, marriage refusal at worship places, forced tests been conducted on suspected persons amongst other forms of discrimination.  “HIV/AIDS related stigmatization and discrimination remain a big challenge threatening the fight against the epidemic and the achievement of Millennium Development Goals in Nigeria.

Experts and pundits alike in the HIV/AIDS sector have always claimed that the most effective and efficient measure that will address and put paid to the issue of discrimination and stigmatization of PLP in Nigeria is the passage of the HIV/AIDS Anti-Discrimination Law. This however had been a running battle between Civil Society, PLPs versus Government Officials responsible for the passage of the law. This culminated in a Civil Society/PLP protest at the national assembly in Abuja 2013.

The signing of the HIV/AIDS Anti-Discrimination Law by the present administration of President GoodLuck Jonathan is relevant, important and most of all commendable. This newly signed Law is committed to stopping all forms of stigma and discrimination against People Living Positively. The law also makes provision for the prevention of discrimination and also access to healthcare services. It also seeks to protect the rights and dignity of People Living with HIV and AIDS. The importance of this law cannot be overemphasized enough.

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As a Pro-Human Rights Organization, we at Lawyers Alert have always been involved in the clamour for the passage of the law both at the state and the federal level. This is to enhance the protection of the rights and privileges of vulnerable persons based on their health status. We therefore, wholeheartedly support and commend the signing of the HIV/AIDS Anti-Discrimination Law.

As commendable as this has been, a lot still needs to be done. Experience has shown that laws in Nigeria are always passed but hardly implemented neither are there adequate measures put in place for their implementation. This sad situation negates the essence of such laws. We therefore, hope that this law will not suffer the same fate given the stiff challenges faced during the struggle for its passage. In the light of the above, we therefore emphasis on the need for proper implementation of the law across the country.

There is also need for the passage of the law across all the federating state assemblies. This is necessary as some states fail to replicate or domesticate laws that have been passed at the federal level for reasons best known to them. An example of such is the public procurement act of 2007 of which only a handful states have so far domesticated.

Most of all, there is a strong need for the law and its provisions to be made available in a simple and easy to comprehend language to the people. The passage of a law is one thing and its understanding by the people is another. Both are two sides of a coin. Where a law is neither understood nor made available by and to the people, such law is bound to fail on arrival. Therefore there will be a strong need for government to make the law available to the people in a language and manner that will be most understood by them.

The media, civil society and other relevant stakeholders are hereby enjoined to contribute immensely to the widespread and assimilation of this law to the people especially at the grassroots where there is ignorance and widespread of HIV/AIDS.

In conclusion, the signing of this law is a huge contribution towards the reduction and consequent elimination of all forms of discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria. We therefore, commend the government for such a noble and courageous act. We also hope that our recommendations will be adequately implemented so as to ensure that the spirit and the letter of the anti-discrimination HIV/AIDS law as signed will lead to the elimination of all forms of discrimination against people living positively.

Jerome, Uneje Mary  is  the  Program Officer, Lawyers Allert

 
 

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