Tag Archives: women rights

Women and the Benue Killings

By Jerome Mary Uneje

The sound of the whistle pierces through the quiet dark night in the neighbourhood of Ityo Gbenda, a suburb of Anyiin, the headquarters of Logo Local Government Area of Benue State. Everybody is alarmed and tense. A few brave men dare the consequences and rush in the direction of the sound, machetes and spears in hand. The loud sound of the whistle at this time of the night could mean a warning or worse still, an attack within seconds; the few brave men have raced to the home of Pa Agbidye or what remains of it.

To their surprise, it is Orlaade, his rascal drunk of a son, who has had an overdose of ogogoro and is playing pranks. They are livid. How could one be so irresponsible as to alarm the community this way when they were barely returning home since January when the marauding herdsmen attacked the community in the dead of night killing scores and burning homes including the Orlaade’s father’s? One by one they leave, hissing only after abusing the fellow who is neither concerned nor remorseful.

Such has been the fate of the People of Logo, Guma and some other parts of Benue since the January attacks by the killer herdsmen. Though some level of peace is gradually returning, fear and an uneasy calm hang thickly in the air. The January attacks have taken a toll on the State on a multi-sector level ranging from the Government to individual persons.

At the State level, the attacks and killings have caused a lot of economic hardship and sprain on finances. For example, over 5 Internally Displaced Persons Camps have been set up by Government to cater for over 45,000 persons displaced in both Guma and Logo local governments. Through the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), the Government has channelled a lot of financial resources into purchasing relief materials and other necessities for Displaced Persons across the 5 camps. These monies were never budgeted for neither had plans been made in advance for their expenditure. What this implies is that, monies meant for other projects like Health Care, Agriculture and other core areas of social life may have been channelled into addressing this unexpected and unfortunate situation. This will no doubt affect the finances and economic position of the State.

Furthermore, the killings have led to a sharp decline in the aggregate food production in the state. Benue is known as the food basket of the Nation due to the high level of agricultural production the citizens engage in. With over 75% of its Citizens engaged full time in the Agro Industry, the State derives most of its Internally Generated Revenue from farms produce. Guma and Logo are particularly known for their high-level food production especially rice and yam. With both local governments currently displaced, their quota of food production and potential revenues could be lost never to be recovered. This has the potential of leading to famine, malnutrition, loss of income and other domino effects that could be inimical in the long term to general food security in the country.

At the community level, local Citizens no longer sleep with their eyes closed. Daily, the peoples of both Guma and Logo live in perpetual fear for their lives and property. Though operation “Cat Race” has been established by the Nigerian Army, fear still permeates the atmosphere. This state of perpetual fear creates an environment of insecurity, uneasy calm and tension leading to a potentially disastrous situation especially when fed by the ever-spinning rumour mill.

Though a degree of Peace has returned, the trauma of the death of loved ones and destruction of properties still affects the people. Burned houses, granaries, orchards and farmlands are physical reminders of the assault the people suffered on New Year morning of 2018. These sad reminders only make a bad situation worse. Other properties destroyed included shops and business centres. Certainly, feelings of bitterness would be assuaged if perpetrators were at least caught and punished for the irreparable losses especially human lives.

It is a global fact that in any violent conflict, women are usually the worst hit. This attack is no exception. Going by the report of the Benue State Emergency Management Agency, of the over 45,000 people in the 5 camps, approximately 65% or 29, 250 are women.

A major challenge being faced by these women is the loss of Sexual and Reproductive Health Services especially for Pregnant Women. Most of them have lost follow up on Antenatal/ PMTCT services. This loss of follow-up on basic Sexual and Reproductive Health Services posses a significant danger for both mothers and unborn children. Other such services these women have lost access to include Family Planning and HIV and AIDS. The displacement has led them to an inability to continue follow up on their medication and cocktails. As a result, some of them are already taking ill and in danger of imminent death.

The dearth of Sexual and Reproductive Health Services in these camps also affects young girls and women who are sexually active.  The camps provide little or no form of Sexual and Reproductive Health services to this group yet they face a situation where most of them are exposed to sexual demands from males longing to take advantage of their predicament. Already vulnerable, many succumb to these demands even without protection at the risk of unintended pregnancies and or infections. Were adequate Sexual and Reproductive Health Services provided in these camps, or these women and girls not displaced from their homes, the above situation might not arise.

Another effect of the displacement on the Benue woman is the loss of livelihood. Over 75% of women in Benue are farmers or petty traders living in rural areas. With this displacement, the women in both Guma and Logo have fled their homes leaving their means of livelihood.

With the increased pressure on their declining finances, some of these women are resorting to unbecoming methods and means of survival even sex for money in spite of the inherent dangers. Worse still is the fact that they will have little or nothing to fall back on when they return home from these camps.

Yet another effect of this displacement on the Benue Woman is the sharp increase in violations on women’s rights especially Gender Based Violence including battery, rape, assault, intimidation etc. Most of the displaced women within and/or outside these camps have faced one form of violence or the other. Though no specific statistics exist to confirm the number of displaced women violated, our survey has shown that many of the displaced women have experienced one form of violation or the other since the attacks occurred. Gender Based Violence is therefore another effect of the displacement on the Benue woman.

Full scale hostilities have subsided. Peace has since returned to the displaced communities. Pockets of violent attacks are reported here and there but the effects are still there. In order to ameliorate the effects of this conflict on the State and its Citizens, the following is recommended:

  • The Federal Government and the International Development Agencies should increase their aid to the State in providing assistance to the displaced people and in rebuilding homes and properties destroyed by the marauding herdsmen.
  • Deliberate efforts should be made by both the Federal Ministry of Agriculture in tandem with the State Institutions to assist farmers with improved seeds, seedlings and other farming inputs with a view towards boosting aggregate farm produce in Benue State to stave off famine and food shortage.
  • The operation Cat Race and other Security Operatives should intensify their patrols and surveillance in the war torn grassroot communities to establish their presence. This will reduce the level of anxiety and sleeplessness in the communities.
  • On the mass destruction of properties in the affected communities, we strongly recommend the compensation of the affected people of their losses in monetary terms,
  • We also recommend that Sexual and Reproductive Health services be provided in camps and in the conflict zones including the provision of Ante-natal/PMTCT to pregnant Mothers.
  • Lastly, we recommend the monitoring and documentation of the violations of Rights of the displaced women with a view towards investigating the violations and bringing the perpetrators to justice.

As they leave, the leader of the security contingent takes a last, piteous look at Orlaade. He ponders how such a childish act could have rattled an entire community, a situation which would never have arisen prior. He sighs. Such has been the effect of the killings in Anyiin and indeed the entire Benue State.

Jerome Mary Uneje is with Lawyers Alert



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Nigeria Elections: Taraba State Falls Short To Elect 1st Female Governor, Aisha Al-Hassan.

By @MorganWinsorIBT  April 14 2015

Aisha Al-Hassan
Sen. Aisha Al-Hassan (center), the All Progressives Congress candidate of Nigeria’s Taraba state, attends a gathering in the local government area of Ussa on Jan. 21, 2015. News Agency of Nigeria

Many Nigerians thought voters in Taraba state would make history by electing the nation’s first female governor. But Aisha Jummai Al-Hassan, known as “Mama Taraba” by her supporters, lost to her main challenger, Darius Ishaku of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the Premium Times in Nigeria said Tuesday.

As the April 11 election neared, Al-Hassan of the All Progressives Congress (APC) emerged as a leading candidate in the race for the Taraba governorship, making it one of the most contested polls in Nigeria this year. Al-Hassan, an attorney, defected from the PDP and joined the opposition party after she was elected senator for the Taraba North constituency in 2011. She was the Taraba state attorney general and commissioner of justice as well as the chief registrar of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory.

Al-Hassan, a Muslim, pooled a large number of votes from the Gasol local government area as vote counting entered its second day in Taraba, allowing her to surpass the PDP’s candidate, Nigerian newspaper Osun Defender reported.  The lead triggered early celebrations nationwide by those who expected Al-Hassan to become the first female state executive. But as the final results from all 16 local government areas in the eastern state trickled in, Ishaku regained the lead by nearly 64,000 votes and hopes of making history sunk, the Premium Times said.

Nigeria’s election commission is still finalizing the collation of results in Taraba, but is expected to announce the PDP’s victory in the predominately Christian state. President Goodluck Jonathan of the PDP, a southern Christian seeking re-election, also won the most votes in the eastern state against the APC’s candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, a northern Muslim. But Buhari defeated Jonathan nationally by a couple million votes, ending the PDP’s 16-year rule.

culled from International Bussiness Times


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Fact emerging from an investigative report conducted by Daily Trust 13 February 2015; with support of Ford Foundation reveals an inhumane, illegal, and exploitative trend of rape and child trafficking in Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps, especially in North East Nigeria; mostly ravaged by the 5-year Boko Haram insurgency. And what’s more heart-rending is the fact that the evil is being perpetrated by some mindless individuals in consort with camp officials; under the very nose of regulatory agencies feigning ignorance.

According to the report, child trafficking is a thriving well run racket in most of the camps where hundreds of boys and girls have been traded off to interested people at N10, 000 – 100,000 depending on the negotiation done by the middlemen. Now, unregistered IDPs are most vulnerable to the acts because their stay and security in the camp cannot be guaranteed. Thus, most of them would jump at the slightest opportunity to get the bare basic necessities of life which could be bait and ploy to get them trafficked. Usually, they are given out as domestic helpers; unmindful of the fact that they are in fact being sold as a chattel. And many of the girls get forcefully ravished and raped in the process by their supposed care-givers; even by male camp officials. Faced with such helplessness and hopelessness, the victims embrace silence for fear of painful reprisal; knowing that the prosecutors are the perpetrators.

However, it is crucial at this juncture to ask: where are the regulatory agencies saddled with the responsibility of catering to the IDPs and fighting child trafficking? What are they doing to combat this ugly face of primitive and barbaric practices? Sadly, from what we gleaned from the report, the agencies are dozing on their official duties. For example, the National Commission of Refugees, the agency empowered by the law to be in charge of displaced persons was found visibly absent in the IDPs camps visited in Borno and Gombe states. Also, the National Agency for the Prohibition of Traffic in Persons & Other Related Matters (NAPTIP) gives a crippled excuse of being “unaware” of the inhumanity and illegality going on in the camps. Even the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), the Police and Governments of affected states all throw their hands up in ignorance of the criminality perpetrated under their umbrella. Nothing can be farther from gross dereliction of duties.

In sum, the dehumanizing circle of child trafficking and rape burning in IDPs camps is a direct fall-out of the insurgency in North-Eastern Nigeria; exploited by mean individuals, aided by camp officials; and encouraged by the gross abdication of duties by regulatory agencies. The way out is for the axe of sanction to fall on guilty persons and agencies. More so, there’s a pressing need for proper documentation and registration of displaced persons in order to aid care-giving measures. Yes, these persons may be displaced, but they are still Nigerians and humans and thus deserve a dignifying life.

………Elvis-Wura Towolawi 

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Posted by on February 25, 2015 in Women Rights and Gender


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Imo State ‘Abortion’ Law: Twists and Turns.

– Elvis –Wura Towolawi

Literally, peace and tranquility has eluded the Executive and Legislative arms of Government in Imo State for passing into Law the Violence against Persons (Prohibition) Bill which was sponsored by Mrs. Stella Ihuoma, the Majority Leader and Member representing Ahiazu Mbaise State Constituency in the State House of Assembly. The Church (especially the Catholic Church), being the people-power-base has been pitched against the State Government for making such an ‘obnoxious and immoral’ law which to them is an explicit endorsement of murder infanticide; and in turn would encourage promiscuity among the people. Predictably, Governor Rochas Okorocha cowered to ‘holy threats’ and apologized in a politic fashion to the people feigning ignorance of the purport of the Law, and further appealed to the law makers not only to amend the law but to delete the ‘controversial section’ completely from the Law. (See: Daily Trust News, Wednesday September 4, 2013). On the other side of the scale, the Legislature has alleged in defense of the Law that the House was misunderstood and misconstrued by the people, as the intent of the Law was to “address all forms of violence against women”. However, what is of import to one is: the status of abortion when juxtaposed against women’s reproductive rights and well-being; and more so, the desirability to season moral agitation and speculation with reason for balance, equity and equality in this variegated world of ours.
Fundamentally, section 40 (G) (i) of the Violence against persons (prohibition) Law, Imo State of Nigeria stands at the root of the brouhaha. It provides,
Every woman shall have the right to enjoy reproductive rights including the right to ‘medical abortion’ in case of sexual assault, rape, incest or where the continued pregnancy endangers the life or the physical, mental, psychological or emotional health of the mother.
Clearly, from a plain reading of the above provision, it shows that ‘medical abortion’ is permissible for women as a furtherance of their reproductive rights on several grounds: ‘sexual assault’, rape’ incest’ and ‘health – related basis’. That is, women by the Law are conferred with the right to have an abortion where the pregnancy resulted from acts of ‘sexual assaults, rape, incest’ or where the ‘continued pregnancy’ imperils the life and well-being or health of the woman or mother. The long and short of the provision is that it affirms women’s rights to exercise reproductive decisions; and that includes in certain cases – abortion.
The question of abortion is a thorny subject in view of the fact that it is an admixture of morality autonomy and individual liberty and freedom; and this explains why those who take only the moral or religious stance, view and attitude never address and appraise it fairly and reasonably. (See: Abortion, Ignorance, Hypocrisy & Religion/ Abortion, being the termination of foetus before it grows into a full-fledged baby or person has drawn a lot of venom, vituperations and vexation, both of religious, moral and social colouration. Prolife proponents have argued that the life of a human being starts at conception; it is sacrosanct and sacred because from the beginning it involves the creative force of God and remains forever (See: Fr.Nnabuihe Iwuala/ And since man cannot play God and create life, it is tantamount to murderous criminality to cut short a budding flower of life for whatever reason. To them, it amounts to an infringement of the right to life of the growing baby, and worst when perpetuated by the mother, the carrier of the life. But pro-choice advocates have placed the woman in the burning triangle – her right to decide what happens to her body. Are foetuses to be more prized than the well-being of women? Are foetuses really entitled to the right to life against their mothers?
When the decision in Roe v. Wade was handed down, women’s rights activists and hard-line feminists celebrated the supposed triumph of feminine independence. Now, Roe v. Wade is a United States Supreme Court decision that invalidated any state law that prohibited ‘first trimester’ abortion on grounds that it violated the guarantee of personal liberty and the right to privacy implicitly guaranteed in the First, Fourth, Fifth, Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments. Though it came with some fanatical acts ending in deaths, and protests by anti-abortionists, thousands of American women who once sought ‘black market’ abortions’ used to die before Roe, and now such number of women don’t die. (See: Carole Joffe, Roe v. Wade and Beyond: Forty Years of Legal Abortion in the United States/
More so, pro-choice adherents believe that a woman should be entitled to exercise reproductive rights: to decide what happens to her body – whether to have a child or not. By restricting women from exercising such rights, they are invariably deprived of personal liberty, privacy and freedom; besides, unwanted and unplanned pregnancies and children impend the chances of women bettering their lots in life. Many women have suffered unprintable trauma, shame and odium from rape, incest and sexual assault leading to pregnancies. Without an abortion, they will be scared and ruined for life; trapped in the pit of bastard-parenthood with unspeakable impact on the socio-psychological growth and maturation of the off-springs. Should a woman keep a pregnancy when her life is at stake? Shouldn’t at least ‘medical abortion’ be allowed to save the woman and take a lesser evil? The thrust of the pro-choice argument is dimensioned on women exercising and enjoying their reproductive rights in a safe, legal and free atmosphere; not as slaves – baby factories!
Are foetuses “persons” deserving protection against the scalpel swiped at them to further the interest and rights of the mother? Are foetuses entitled to the right to life at the stage of their development? These are nagging queries upon which the whole abortion law controversy turns on. Well, to the pro-choice mouthpiece, foetuses are “mere appendages”; works – in – progress.
Foetuses are taken not to have acquired the distinctive traits of human personality in spite of their striking resemblance to man, say like other primates. That is, until they are delivered, full, bouncing and crying, they are not entitled to the right to life which can be asserted against the mother. In line with this position, Mary Ann Warren, a Philosopher and Core pro-choice advocate argues thus:
A woman’s right to protect her health, happiness, freedom, and even her life by terminating an unwanted pregnancy will always override whatever right to life may be appropriate to ascribe to a foetus…
So much for the heat generated by both sides of the divide. And Truth being a double-edged sword should be wielded with care lest fanaticism seeps in, blind reason and plunge us into an abyss of unreason, primitive dogmas and beliefs. The route to Truth is like a circle, one does not get there walking on a straight well-trodden path.
It is a universal truth that every being and thing is contained in a seed; a tree a forest; a foetus – human race. So whence does the irrational idea that a foetus is no human until it leaves the mother’s womb and thus can be killed at will to satisfy the ever-evolving taste and desire of women? Yes, there are still births and miscarriages, but a woman shouldn’t be allowed to exercise any indiscriminate reproductive rights pertaining to abortion; well, except on health grounds. Foetuses have the right to grow into full-fledged persons capable of enjoying and exercising inalienable rights – hence, the women’s right over her body should be tempered to accommodate another’s right to life inexorably intertwined with hers. Perhaps, the use of safe contraceptive is a better way to control “unwanted pregnancies”. And any Law that gives women unlimited right to procure an abortion at her caprice is genocidal. But let it be punctuated here that pregnancies had by rape, incest and sexual assault are damaging to the women and children. Thus, concession would be given on those gender-based grounds to allow an abortion in order to save the face and future of violated women. Consequently, the violence against Persons (Prohibition) Law of Imo State of Nigeria is a good piece of legislation aimed at alleviating the burden of abused women folk in Imo State.
The people should add to the lens of religion, reason and human rights (women’s rights). Maybe, it would become clearer why the Law should stay, unamended until tested in the furnace of experience. I say no more…

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Posted by on September 25, 2013 in Human Rights, Women Rights and Gender


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Why It’s Hard to Believe Abortion is Wrong

by Laura on July 18, 2013

I used to not think about abortion – at all. It just wasn’t on my radar.

Then I started considering the Catholic Church and one of my real objections is that I didn’t want to believe abortion was that wrong. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I thought it was wrong but I wanted to think it was a legitimate, if regrettable, personal decision which I had no business interfering in. I didn’t want to believe that abortion killed a living human being. I definitely didn’t want to change my beliefs.

It’s such a massive issue. If every tiny embryo and fetus is actually a human person, albeit still growing (but then who isn’t?), then what is happening all over the world is nothing less than infanticide on an industrial scale. It would be the sort of wholesale slaughter of the most vulnerable and innocent. At a conservative estimate, there were about 42 million abortions last year. That’s seven holocausts every year. What do you even do with that?

Changing our beliefs is a very scary thing to do because it demands we change our lives too. If I start believing abortion is wrong, then that requires I do something. If I believe that abortion is the killing of an innocent and precious human being, then I have to treat it like that. But what could I possibly do? What could possibly be enough?

So I give out all the excuses. I don’t want to impose my beliefs on others (even though that means I’m not even living my own beliefs). I don’t want anyone to think I don’t care about women (even while baby girls are being killed at far higher rates precisely because they are girls). I don’t want to be distracted by politics when there’s evangelism to do (even though Christ says what you do to the least of these, you do unto me).

But that’s exactly what they are: excuses. Because if abortion really is the evil we say it is, then there is no effort, no expense, no sacrifice too great to try and stop it. But I am a selfish person and I am fond of my own comfort. It’s so much easier to assume it’s not so bad than to believe that something so evil could be happening all over the world – let alone that we must do something about it.


It would be scary enough if it changing our beliefs changed our future actions but it also changes the way we see and understand our past. That’s so scary because our very identity is rooted in the stories we tell about ourselves – who we are, where we come from and what we value. Our narratives shape our identity.

We don’t want to believe abortion was wrong because what does that say about us?What sort of people condone – and even encourage – the killing of children? We think we are so enlightened and good but if abortion is wrong, then at the centre of civilisation is an unimaginable evil. How could we let that happen? How can so many vulnerable and hurting women be taken advantage of like that? How could our society treat precious children as disposable and modifiable commodities? How can we – who preach love and peace and tolerance and equality – commit seven holocausts every year without blinking an eye?

Maybe some people get a perverse delight out of believing that society is corrupt, but I don’t. Who would want to believe that? It’s not exactly a pleasant thought. If given the choice I’d rather believe all is well than find myself implicated in the silence over murder of innocents, along with the very people we should be able to trust: our world leaders, doctors, international aid organisations – our parents and grandparents who passed these laws.

And yet, I must believe the truth, regardless of the consequences. An embryo or fetus is a person with such much dignity as you or I. Why? Because it is human and it is alive. That makes it a human being, even at the earliest stages of development, and all human beings deserve the right not to be killed. That right “trumps” every other right.


The pro-life argument is that simple.

But its consequences are massive, which is why we would prefer not to believe it is wrong.  It’s hard, but I think you and I both know that “but I don’t want to” is the crappiest reason around. We know that… we just have to start acting on it.

But it makes me ask two questions.

Firstly, what can I do? I know I must do something. One cannot be apathetically pro-life. That should be a contradiction in terms because if life really is at stake, then what is more important?

Secondly, what can we do to make it easier for people to change their beliefs? Is there anything we can do? How do we explain how all this happened? How do we make the consequencesslightly easier so that can it be that tiny bit easier for people to change? Or is it always meant to unimaginably shocking – precisely because it is? What do people think?

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Posted by on July 18, 2013 in Uncategorized


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