Monthly Archives: May 2014

#BringBackOurGirls: Citizens’ Solutions to End Terrorism

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Citizens’ Solutions to End Terrorism

Crowdsourcing citizens’ solutions to end terror in the aftermath of a bloody weekend in Borno, the Nyanya bombing in Abuja and the abduction of over 200 girls in Borno.

 On Monday, April 14, Nigerians woke up to news of another heart-rending carnage at Nyanya Motor Park after a bomb detonated. Over 100 people were injured and over 70 people died. That same night, over 200 school girls were abducted in Chibok, Borno State. This was enough to jolt most citizens out of nonchalance.

Tired of mere condemnations and the usual blame game, citizens on social media platforms responded to a call for suggestions on ways to combat this surge of terror. Over 1,000 suggestions were received in two days, with the hashtag #CitizensSolutionToEndTerrorism trending on Twitter on both days.

A further review of the suggestions and internal discussions has resulted in 10 key ACTION POINTS outlined below.

  1. FINANCING THE SECURITY APPARATUS

The Nigerian public is concerned that the resources allocated to our security apparatus (N922 billion in 2012, N1 trillion in 2013 & N845 billion in 2014) do not seem to correspond with the results delivered by those at the frontline to prosecute the war against terror. While it is understandable that security operations are mostly classified, citizens believe that some degree of transparency, accountability and disclosure is essential to gaining public confidence and achieving optimal results.

  • Agents on the Field

Citizens are concerned about the size, strength, training, and will of our security agencies to effectively fight insurgents. Similarly, citizens want to be assured that the welfare of our troops is given upmost priority by the government and military leadership. This includes, but not limited to, provision of (1) premium life insurance cover for security agents deployed to fight insurgency, (2) adequate compensation for the families of agents killed in the line of duty, (3) adequate care and support for agents injured in the line of duty, and (4) adequate reward for gallantry. Finally, reports indicate a disconnect between the troops on the ground and the command center. Our ground troops need the most empowering base support functions to be effective with their counter insurgency role and we expect that they are fully supported morally and with adequate resources.

  • Weapons, Intel and Logistics

The misinformation around the abduction of school girls in Chibok raises serious concerns about information sharing within the security agencies. Citizens want to know the technical capacity of our security agents to prosecute the war on terror. Citizens request that an independent committee comprising members of the Senate and House Committees on Defence as well as eminent retired military personnel be established to conduct an audit of the Joint Task Forces responsible for combating insurgency. The objective of the audit should be to ascertain the state of weapons, intelligence gathering and logistics in executing the war on terror.

  1. LOCAL SECURITY GOVERNANCE

While State policing is a contentious topic, we cannot ignore the fact that community policing is operational in various parts of the country. Citizens believe that government and the military leadership have not maximized the opportunity of well-designed local community participation in the fight against terror.

Communities should be encouraged to set up Community Safety Groups / Neighborhood Watch Groups. Community members know their communities better than the security agencies. They need to take an interest and connect with security organisations. There needs to be support and protection for the communities that are supporting the security agencies. 

 Citizens call on government and the military to design a robust plan of action and negotiate a unified template with local communities for participation in security& intelligence gathering. Such a plan should adequately provide for (1) anonymous reporting of suspicious people or situations, (2) protection of informants who feel threatened, (3) rapid response to actionable intelligence, (4) feedback between military and communities, and (5) measures to mitigate abuse of mandate by civilians.

Governors have a critical role to play as they currently support federal security agencies but there is room for more collaboration and streamlining of efforts. This issue of state policing must also be addressed urgently by the National Assembly and the National Conference.

  1. CONCLUSIVE PROSECUTION

Member of Boko Haram’, ‘Boko Haram financier’, and ‘Boko Haram supporter’ are labels that have been thrown around in a political war to embarrass certain citizens. The ease with which these labels are used, especially from the government, belittles the seriousness of the security challenge we face and the attendant death of innocent Nigerians.

The Senator for Borno South was once ‘charged’ for sponsoring Boko Haram and yet the result of the case remains inconclusive. The government has a duty to promptly prosecute alleged sponsors, and must be seen to be serious about it. It is not enough to promise ‘action’ while citizens watch themselves slaughtered daily.  Citizens encourage the executive and judiciary to work closely together on speedy trials for the critical impact of deterrence. Prosecuting at least 5 cases in 2014 would be a major milestone and would boost the confidence of citizens.

  1. PROTOCOL OF ENGAGEMENT WITH CITIZENS

There has to be a defined protocol for obtaining information and sharing information with citizens. During such cases of domestic terrorism, a public system through which information can be passed between citizens and the security forces must exist. The presence of such a protocol is essential to the protection of Nigerian lives.

It is unacceptable that in the last 4 years, despite many discussions, Nigeria still does not have a functional nation-wide emergency number. The 112 phone number that is being shared is not active in most states as it only works in states that have set up their own emergency services. Furthermore, in light of what happened to Yusuf Omisani, who was picked by SSS agents and kept incommunicado for 12 days, citizens need to be assured that when they share information, they will not be arbitrarily assumed to be members of Boko Haram and intimidated or victimized.

In addition, we suggest a monthly meeting between security operatives and community stakeholders in communities most affected by these acts of violence. We need an alternative that encourages more collaboration and information sharing to bridge the gap of communication. For the larger populace, the National Assembly should host Quarterly Public Hearings to keep citizens reasonably updated on the status of counter insurgency operations.

  1. FOLLOW THE MONEY

The violence is being financed with cash. Terrorism involves the transfer of money in order to fund the procurement of equipment and manpower. The government must make efforts to ensure that financial services such as the banking sector’s Know-Your-Customer initiative is tied to its anti-terrorism strategy. Perhaps, through such efforts, we might be able to cut off their financial supply and trace the sponsors.

  1. IMMIGRATION AND CITIZENS’ IDENTIFICATION

Our borders are porous and Nigerians do have family and allegiances to nationals of Niger and Cameroon. As a matter of urgency, we need to streamline the various types of data we have into a comprehensive database – SiM-Card registration (NCC), Immigration, National Identity Card, Civil Service Commission, Driver’s License/ License Plates (FRSC), Voters’ Register (INEC).  A central database where the identities of all Nigerians can be easily verified must exist in order for Nigeria to significantly make progress in fighting terrorism.

7. RESPECT FOR THE DEAD

Nigeria’s Constitution assures us that the security of lives and property is the primary responsibility of government. Given that lives have been lost to terrorism, the government needs to demonstrate respect for the citizens who have lost their lives in this act of violence. The appropriate agencies of government should within 48 hours of any attack, publish the names of as many victims as possible using formal and informal identification. The National Human Rights Commission should be given adequate resources and support to create and maintain a database of victims of violence.  And, we must learn to remember them as a nation. Reporting victims as mere statistics is dehumanizing our dead brothers & sisters and desensitizing our society, including our children.

 8. RISK CALCULATION AND MITIGATION

For public spaces prone to attacks – markets, schools, and parks – a standard package of protection should be designed to protect citizens. Once made public, citizens can also be vigilant to ensure that their spaces have the required services.

 9. PROMOTION OF PEACE EDUCATION

Government, religious institutions, private sector and civil society groups should invest more resources in promoting peace education. Peace education will help to redress the culture of violence and aggression and inculcate the value of peaceful coexistence and non-violent orientation on every citizen. Peace education should be integrated in the educational curriculum of Nigeria, from primary to tertiary education.

In addition, the problem of youth radicalization and extremism could partly be curbed through proper sensitization and enlightenment programmes using special designed radio and television programmes, jingles and group discussions. A robust countering violent extremism (CVE) programme should be an integral part of peace education. The Nigerian government, civil society groups and the private sector could partner with Nollywood to produce home movies in the three major languages (Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba) designed to specifically counter the narrative, rhetoric and doctrines of violent radicalization or religious extremism. The private sector can play a crucial role in providing financial support for these programmes.

10. SOCIAL WELFARE

  • SPECIFIC PROGRAMMES TO EDUCATE & EMPOWER WOMEN

The world over, there is a clear and direct link between uneducated and unproductive women and poverty. Statistics have it that 2/3 of the 102 million poor people in Nigeria live in the Northern region of Nigeria, where women are the least literate and empowered. The North East & North West zones have half of all the poor people in Nigeria, with more than 50 million people living in abject poverty and the insurgency has widened the gap even more. Incidentally, over half of the women in the North are married off before they attain the age of 16 and commence childbirth within the first year of marriage. Of the 16 million births by girls below the age of 18, 9 out of 10 of them are married. These poor human development indices only portend massive economic development costs for current and future generations.

Governments, at all levels, need to consciously invest in women, if only to increase productivity, promote sustainable growth, their children’s wellbeing, as well as engender healthy livelihoods and establish peace, stability and security, in all of our rural communities.

In seeking to harness the energies of the youth in a more productive and meaningful manner, a deliberate focus on education and empowerment for women as a significant strategy of concern is critical as they remain the foremost catalysts for rapid growth, peace and development in our country.

  • Creation of Job Opportunities for Nigerian Youth

The Nigerian government must embark on effective poverty alleviation and human capital development programmes in order to empower its large youth population who are most vulnerable to recruitment and radicalization for violent extremism and terrorism.

  • Design and Delivery of Robust Programme for Destitute Children  

The Nigerian government should fund appropriately the National Council for the Welfare of the Destitute (NCWD) to enable the agency formulate and implement robust rehabilitation programmes for destitute children in Nigeria. Government at all levels (federal, state and local), especially working through the NCWD should partner with credible civil society organisations to design and implement effective reorientation programmes to reconnect these destitute children with their parents or provide them the necessary training that will help them function effectively in the society. Such rescue, rehabilitation and reintegration intervention is expedient given the finding that children who were not brought up by their parents are more disposed to using violence in propagating their religious views.  

  • Enhanced Provision of Education and Literacy Programme  

Due to the high level of illiteracy in Nigeria, most young people have become easily susceptible to manipulation and recruitment into criminal and extremist groups. Although the right to education is one of the basic rights of every Nigerians, access and entitlement to this right is hardly attained. To reduce the number of people who are likely to fall prey to radical preaching and recruitment into violent groups, primary & secondary education should be made free and compulsory for every child in Nigeria. Thus, what is needed is for the local and state government to muster sufficient political will to deliver quality and accessible education to more children in Northern Nigeria through enhanced allocation and judicious utilisation of funds in the education sector.

In summary, as we’ve seen in other countries, we cannot overemphasise that insurgency is not restricted to a particular part of the country – it is not a North East or Northern problem. It is trans-border and can move easily. The number of casualties in the last 3 years is estimated at almost 20,000. In the first 4 months of this year, we have lost almost 1,500 Nigerians, especially students, and hundreds of women and children remain unaccounted for.

We call on the Federal Government to ensure that our security agencies are equipped adequately for the task; engage communities; provide a national emergency number; honour the dead; prosecute swiftly and harmonise our databases for ease of identification.

The assurances given by the Federal Government are no longer sufficient and they MUST match their words with visible action to rebuild the confidence of the citizens in the efforts to protect lives and property. Nigerian citizens are desperate to see that we are winning this war on terror and for us, results are defined by the absence of abductions and deaths; cutting off financial flows; capture & prosecution of terrorists, especially before they strike.

We call on Mr President for leadership that mobilises Nigerians to fight collectively against a common enemy. Mr President must extend a hand to ALL stakeholders in this war – governors, political party leaders, the National Assembly, traditional and religious institutions, civil society and citizens – and communicate clearly that this is not about party politics, ethnicity or religion, but about pursuing the common good of ALL Nigerians.

Our hearts go out to members of the Chibok community as we pray for the speedy return of our daughters.

May God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Signed,

NIGERIAN CITIZENS

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The above document was prepared by EiE Nigeria, a coalition of individuals and youth-led organizations committed to instituting a culture of good governance and public accountability in Nigeria through advocacy, activism and the mobilization of the youth population as responsible citizens.  

EiE was supported by CLEEN Foundation, a non-governmental organization with the mission of promoting public safety, security and accessible justice through the strategies of empirical research, legislative advocacy, demonstration programmes and publications, in partnership with government and civil society.

The edited tweets can be found online here –

https://storify.com/EiENigeria/citizenssolutiontoendterrorism#publicize

#Children’s Day: Protection of the Okposi Child is our Priority – by Magnus Eze

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Below is a statement by the Coordinator, Okposi Development Center, Nze Magnus Eze to mark the 2014 Children’s Day

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A Cross-section of Okposi children with their mothers.

For us in Okposi Development Centre, we will stop at nothing in furthering the frontiers of protective environment for the children based on the recognition that all children are entitled to protection – as enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and Nigeria’s Child’s Rights Act 2003. So, we strongly support the call by UNICEF for the collective protection of the child involving the family, community, society and the state.

I enjoin every man and woman to see the protection of the child as a collective responsibility. We must do everything to provide protective environment for the Okposi child. From the depth of my heart, on behalf of the Executive Governor of Ebonyi State, His Excellency, Chief Martin N. Elechi, CON and his supportive and caring wife, Josephine, I wish Happy Children’s Day to all our kids. Love you irreversibly. Enjoy your Day our dear children; you are our precious GOLD! Thank you all and God Bless!

[Magnus Eze] #MezieOkposi: Okposi, My Beautiful Home!

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Court Area, Enuakwa, Okposi, Ebonyi State.

Okposi clan, the nerve centre of Ohaozara/Onicha/Ivo Federal Constituency of Ebonyi State is made up of two Development Centres (Anuagata and Okposi Development Centres). The Community is unarguably one of the most vibrant and progressive communities in Igbo land.

With a highly sophisticated population, the semi-urban community plays host to a Federal Government Secondary School, a Police Post and several other Public Institutions. Okposi land; consists of eight major villages (ezin’asato), three autonomous communities of Okposi, Mgbom N’Achara and Okposi Okwu and divided into four Wards. It’s people are predominantly traders and farmers but also has many highly educated professionals in different fields of endeavors. It is worthy of note that Okposi produced the First Education Minister in Nigeria (Hon. Aja Nwachukwu) and First Professor in Ebonyi State (Professor Aja Okorie).

Okposi is secure and our people are very welcoming and hospitable to visitors. Have you been to Mmahi Salt Lake from where Ebonyi’s name “Salt of the Nation” was derived? I shall always play my part to ‪#‎MezieOkposi‬.
If you love Okposi and proud of this land, please share this on your timeline.

Nze Magnus Aja Eze is an aide to the Governor of Ebonyi State, serves as the Coordinator, Okposi Development Center. Tweets @Majeze

#BeatMalaria: ARFH’s Success Story on Community Management of #Malaria in Northern Nigeria

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Role Model Caregivers: The Real Heroes of Community Management of Malaria in Northern Nigeria

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Hajia Hajara Sule

Hajara Sule is a trained Role Model Caregiver (RMC) living and working in Shatta Community in Bosso Local Government Area (LGA) of Niger State in Northern Nigeria. She is one of the heroes of the RMC initiative of the Association for Reproductive and Family Health (ARFH), where community volunteers are trained in prompt Community Case Management (CCM) of Malaria for vulnerable groups. ARFH is a Sub Recipient to the National Malaria Elimination Program (NMEP) on the Global Fund (GF) Round 8 Phase 2 Malaria Project.    Hajara, like other RMCs, provides services around her home and community and serves as a liaison between her community and the primary health facility (PHC) to which she is attached. She provides prompt treatment and care for children under-five years with fever and has provided services to over 300 children in her community. She refers adults, especially pregnant women to health facilities to receive appropriate Ante Natal Care (ANC) services and engages in community mobilization and sensitization on malaria prevention activities. She is one of the 525 RMCs trained by ARFH across the 25 LGAs of Niger State who have achieved the mandate of bringing care to vulnerable groups as close to the home as possible.

Each month, Hajara visits the local PHC to get anti-malarial medicine. She is able to provide proper account of medicines and treatments; her husband who is more educated supports her with documentation. She feels highly motivated by the support of her husband and her community. “My husband has been very helpful, he even helps with house chores whenever I am busy with my clients”, she says. Many women in Shatta come to Hajara for other health related issue and she promptly refers them to the Primary Health Centre. ARFH collaborates with local CSOs to provide supportive supervision to Hajara Sule and other RMCs in the community in Niger State.

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She has shown an exceptional level of commitment to Malaria prevention interventions which include improving the use of Long Lasting Insecticidal Treated Nets (LLIN) by encouraging mothers to hang their LLIN at night thus reducing cases of malaria in the community. She educates women on practical ways of reducing breeding sites for malaria in the environment. In her words “I visit homes, ensure their LLIN is properly hanged, encourage pregnant women to visit facility and also educate women especially on keeping their environment clean”. This according to her has helped in the reduction of malaria and increased uptake of ANC services in her community amongst pregnant women. In the words of the community leader, Hajara’s activities have helped to educate community members on early identification of symptoms associated with Malaria, increased prompt access to treatment and overall reduced Malaria related deaths particularly amongst children. She also helps in mobilizing women groups to participate at the quarterly community coordination meetings where health and other issues are discussed. She plays a major role in developing the content for the community coordination meetings drama presentation by organizing and directing role plays on Malaria Prevention to educate members of the community.

Hajara is proud of her role and achievements, in her own words, ‘I am happy and privileged because many women look up to me in this community’. As a Role Model Caregiver, she is readily accessible even at odd hours when the local PHC is closed for the day. Hajara hopes to inspire other women to become change agents and active promoters of positive health seeking behaviours. She is one of ARFH’s community heroes, whom though receive only a stipend for transportation, is passionate and making a great difference in her community.

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Hajara attending to a client in her community.

Founded in 1989, the Association for Reproductive and Family Health (ARFH) is a leading indigenous non-profit organisation in Nigeria committed improving the quality of life of underserved and vulnerable communities by promoting access to quality health care and harnessing community capacities for sustainable development. ARFH is a Sub-recipient to the National Malaria Elimination Program (NMEP) on the Global Fund Malaria grant and supports (in Phase 2) Adamawa, Bayelsa, Niger, Osun and Oyo States.

Tweets @ARFH_nig. Website – http://arfh-ng.org/

 

[Uwom Eze] #BringBackOurGirls #ChibokGirls: Shame on Us!

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Dr Uwom Eze

It’s been overwhelming on every front. We grapple daily with manmade problems in our part of the world. Sometimes, it appears there is no possible end in sight to this malady in this lifetime. The alleged abduction of over 200 Chibok girls preparing for exams in their school by mindless and unconscionable group of deviants called Boko Haram, and the subsequent management of the sad incident by concerned authorities, say much about our state of “suspended animation” as a people. 

The Government: Mixed messages and apparent lack of coordination and incompetence characterized the reaction of government at all levels to this incident that rather required strong leadership, decisiveness and urgency. It was not until about three weeks after the event that it was put on the front burner at the highest level of governance. It is inconceivable that a whole generation of children will be so violated in such brazen manner and it was only met with apparent feeble reaction from the authorities concerned. Indeed, leadership inspires confidence and this seems to be grossly lacking from the local government where Chibok is located to the central government in Abuja. We have seen how nation states respond to disasters and events of even less calamitous proportion as this carnage that has been going on in Nigeria especially in the North East of the country. This deranged and phantom ideological drive pursued by Boko Haram and their sponsors has been allowed to fester for too long. The populace can only look onto government vested with all the resources and powers of the state for succour. The failure of government is underscored by the present situation regarding our abducted children, and subsequent massacre of hundreds of hapless civilians by Boko Haram within the same geographic area shortly after the abduction of the girls. Our security apparatus appears feeble in the face of real change. Securing the lives and property of citizens, which is a primary function of the State, appears to be guaranteed only for a few “elites” whose relevance to any national discourse is their undue access to the wealth of the nation and unfair share of the same, often through corrupt means. Daily complaints, images and videos of either the police or military officers or paramilitary agencies brutalizing and maltreating ordinary citizens are on public display and most time they get away with it. Now that duty calls for real maintenance of law and order, protecting citizens from marauders and protecting the territorial integrity of the nation, all manner of excuses are being served for the abysmal failure so far in curtailing the onslaught of Boko Haram. 

Civil Society Organizations(CSOs) and NGOs: CSOs and NGOs could do more than merely staging protests at major cities, mainly Lagos and Abuja, and other state capitals in safe places. Their research department (if any) should be able to present facts and figures about the state of Human Rights abuses and other issues militating against our civilization in this part of the world. Simply “going with the flow” may give them some visibility but does not help the cause of the downtrodden who are under the crushing weight of injustice and abuse, not only from Boko Haram but also from some institutions and agencies of the State. Relevant CSOs and NGOs should do more research, undertake fact finding missions and carry out activities that directly impact victims of crisis of this nature. We all know the noble activities of Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders) and other charity organizations which step into fields of needs to help save real lives and positively impact the course of events. Our CSOs and NGOs in Nigeria concentrate around Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and other big cities and talk about “struggle” in the comfort of safe cities, and they appear to seize on any latest trending events, like the Chibot incident, to showcase some façade of relevance. There were no demonstrations on the street until after three weeks of the girls’ abduction. Where were the CSOs and NGOs before the somewhat belated “Bring back our Girls” campaign? That action came about 3 weeks late. With no concrete trace of these girls and with other catastrophic events engaging the attention of the world, soon another topic will replace the current interest. More focus, continuity and follow up on issues should be the modus operandi of CSOs and NGOs as certain events have basic underlying factors, and until such factors are rigorously addressed, we’ll keep going through a revolving door as presently is the case.

Religion: There is nothing that has posed more threat to our existence in the 21st century than religion, religious “leaders”, their extreme views and bigotry followership. We are constantly inundated by the silly notion that all these stark atrocities and criminality are committed in the name of some god by followers who obviously have no faith in the ability of their god to fight for its own integrity. How could the sheer bestiality of beheading fellow human beings, other killings and wanton destruction of lives and property be a mandate of god? Unfortunately, religious “leaders” who claim not to share this warped mindset do not come out clearly in totally condemning in strong term this anomie and to posit what exactly their stand is on such issues. Tacit support and ambiguous comments flow from their places of worship, usually breeding grounds for more deranged extremities who take on their communities that have given them a fair chance for survival otherwise they would not be around to wreck havoc. Whatever people choose to believe in should be within their private purview and should, by no mean, be imposed on other people. Killing in the name of religion or god has become a worldwide scourge and when one takes a closer look, it could be seen that most depraved parts of the world cling to religion and extreme sentiments. One cannot rule out disillusionment, lack of leadership and accountability, and corruption as underlying factors pushing significant population of young ones to the cliff. Religion and religious leaders should rather provide some moral compass for citizens to embrace the essence of our common humanity, charity, compassion and community ethos. Sadly, corruption, egocentric vestiges and vain pursuit of fame and relevance have also engulfed the religious bodies and their leadership, and the followers have become pawns in the fatal chess game that people have been made of, all in the name of god.

International Community: Terrorism knows no border and has no friends or foes. It is a scourge that only seeks to inflict terror, pain, destruction and disorganization and carve a niche to launch from one part of the world to another. It took the international community so long a time to acknowledge the danger posed by Boko Haram not only to Nigeria but also to the entire global village. Suddenly, everyone is talking about Boko Haram and their activities in Nigeria some weeks after the abduction of these girls (and subsequent massacre of hundreds of local population in one fell swoop shortly after the abduction), as if this monster has just evolved from outer space. Thousands of people have been killed since this madness began and property of unquantifiable proportion destroyed with massive displacement of local population and Human Rights abuses, yet there was no obvious coalition of any international effort to stem the tide. Now the world appears to have taken notice of Boko Haram at an advanced stage of this cancer. Summits, offer of intelligence assistance and other measures that should have come earlier (and would have been cheaper in cost) have now been deployed when clearly Boko Haram has been allowed to take an undue advantage of the present situation with over 200 girls and other human shield still in their custody. When politicians with over-bloated sense of entitlement (combined with apparently tepid government) were playing political and religious games with Boko Haram insurgency, the world did not seem to be keen on stepping in to arrest the downhill to perdition and save ordinary citizens who are caught between a rock and a hard place.

All of Us: Often we are so busy trying to care for our immediate families, and sometime amassing personal wealth for generations yet unborn, to reckon that it is only in preserving the common good of the present that the future has any chance for survival. If we ignore our neighbours because we are not directly affected, it is only a matter of time before our own abode is invaded. Looking out for the interest of our neighbours and communities is one of the best and sustainable ways of looking after our own interest. We have not stood up enough to call our “leaders” to account and stand our ground against evil being perpetrated in our communities by people we can clearly identify; people who have conferred on themselves the cloak of “untouchable” because they can perceive our docility; and people who have taken advantage of us because we have failed to appreciate and demand our common heritage in this nation state; and people who have exploited us in the name of god and other divisive elements because we have allowed ourselves to be manipulated into antagonizing our diversity which is the very flavor of humanity. We’ve allowed ourselves to be led into that misguided path of fighting for god when any god should have unlimited ability to fight for itself; we’ve indulged in self delusion that we could solve our problems by simply wishing it away rather than by taking responsibility for our actions, interactions and other activities in building a viable community; we’ve become so dependent on “outside help” that we have failed woefully to account for the relatively vast resources at our disposal.

There is still so much we do not know about the abducted Chibok girls. Basic information like the actual number of missing girls and their identity is still a subject of controversy and contradictions. We do not seem to have any demonstrable capacity for excellence, professionalism and accountability on display in this situation. Chibok is a metaphor for our collective shame.

 

Dr Uwom Eze is a Consultant Pathologist and expert in Forensic Medicine. He blogs on topical national issues – http://www.uwomeze.blogspot.com

[Oluwabusayo Sotunde]: 30 Things You Need To Know About Abortion And Maternal Death In Nigeria

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According to WHO, abortion is defined as the discontinuation of a pregnancy before the attainment of viability, while unsafe abortion is defined as a procedure for terminating unwanted pregnancy either by persons lacking the necessary skills or in an environment lacking the minimal medical standards or both.

You really need to know about the following;

  1. Abortion is a highly emotional and controversial issue in Nigeria.
  2. In Nigeria, abortion is restricted and only permitted to save the life of the mother.
  3. Nigeria has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world. (Maternal death/mortality is the death of a woman while pregnant or within 42 days of termination of pregnancy, irrespective of the duration and the site of the pregnancy, from any cause related to or aggravated by the pregnancy or its management but not from accidental or incidental causes).
  4. The recent WHO Statistics, Nigeria (and India) accounts for 1/3 of the global maternal mortality death.
  5. At least 760,000 abortions occur in Nigeria annually, mostly outside legal parameters.
  6. In 2010, Dr Obasanjo-Bello, chairman of the Nigerian Senate committee on health said Nigerian women have about 500,000 abortions every year. Guttmacher institute claims the number is as high as 610,000.
  7. From 3,000 to 34,000 women die yearly from unsafe abortion in Nigeria.
  8. Most abortion providers in Nigeria are poorly trained and the market is largely unregulated because of the country’s restrictive law.
  9. Victims of unwanted pregnancy seek clandestine (unsafe) abortion mostly because abortion is restricted in Nigeria.
  10. Poverty and traditional beliefs often drive women to seek quackery abortion services in Nigeria – leading to high mortality rate in Nigeria.
  11. Only half (1/2) of young Nigerian women surveyed in a 2005 study had heard of contraception.
  12. Lack of access to contraceptive and safe abortion services leads women in urban and rural areas in Nigeria to give birth to unwanted children.
  13. While 2/3 had had sex, only 11 percent of the surveyed Nigerian women had used contraceptive (and this is prevalent among its young people).
  14. For every 1 young girl that has died as a result of unsafe abortion, 20 others are impaired for life.
  15. One in four women (25%) having abortions experience serious complications and only 9% (about one third of those with complications) seek treatment.
  16. Complications of unsafe abortion are often life threatening.
  17. Restrictive abortion legislation in Nigeria has been identified as one of the major factors of its high mortality death rate and this has continued to endanger the lives of women.
  18. Abortion law in Nigeria is too restrictive and therefore, does not conform to fundamental human rights (see Penal Code: 232, 233).
  19. In Nigeria, abortion is legally restricted and carries a legal penalty of up to 14 years imprisonment for both the provider and the patient.
  20. Nigeria’s abortion law does not make provision in the case of rape, incest, and other form of sexual abuse.
  21. Of the 36 states in Nigeria, only Imo state has permitted abortion in cases of rape, incest or mental/physical health consequences for the mother.
  22. Abortion legislation remains controversial because of the country’s culture and religiosity. In 2012, Nigeria was identified as the second most religious country in the world by Gallup Poll).  
  23. Despite restrictive legislative law on abortion in Nigeria, abortion takes place anywhere, everywhere in Nigeria and mostly by quacks – contributing to the risk of women reproductive health.
  24. To reduce maternal mortality rate in Nigeria which is caused largely by unsafe abortions, the Women’s Rights Advancement and Protection Alternative (WRAPA) and Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) with support from the Department For International Development (DFID) has amalgamated 9 different Bills to create the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Bill (VAPP Bill). The Bill is currently awaiting approval of the Senate for it to be passed into law.

25. When the #VAPPbill is passed into law, it may help to reduce maternal deaths arising from sexual violence.

5 Truths You Should Know About Abortion:

  • Abortion is a completely preventable cause of maternal suffering & death
  • The cheapest procedure for unsafe abortion is the deadliest and many people opt for the cheapest.
  • The burden is heavy but it has been lifted in many developed countries.
  • Access to contraceptive can lower high mortality rate.
  • Less restrictive laws can lower mortality rate by 70 percent –prevent unnecessary deaths, unsafe abortion and HIV/AIDs.

Bonus:

“The more restrictive legislation on abortion (is) the more likely abortion (is) to be unsafe and to result in death.”- (WHO).

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Oluwbusayo Sotunde is a #Choice4Life Advocate, the leading team of Youth Voices on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights of Women in Nigeria.. She tweets @BusayomiSotunde

[Laz Ude Eze]: #BringBackOurGirls and Restore their #Health

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It has been a month since over two hundred girls were forcefully taken away from their school in Chibok, Borno State by Boko Haram – the terrorist group which has been leading callous and bloody insurgencies against the government and people of Nigeria since 2009. This abduction which has inspired the #BringBackOurGirls campaign and sparked a global outrage against the terrorist group marks a water shed in the struggle to end an insurgency that has cost the country so much in terms of lives and properties as well as its global image. While the military which in recent days has been receiving pledges of support from across the globe continues to comb areas in that axis for the girls who I remain confident will be brought home alive, one area that has not enjoyed so much prominence in public discourse on the matter is the health of the abducted girls after they’ve been brought home.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines “health” as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. It goes without saying that our missing sisters and daughters will not be in a state of COMPLETE physical, mental and social wellbeing when they are rescued. It is important therefore that in addition to the rescue efforts, we begin to make concrete plans for their rehabilitation without which our highly commendable efforts to save the girls would not have been complete. Let me shed some light on the possible health challenges that #ChibokGirls may face. Their abduction has subjected them to an unimaginable physiological trauma and emotional instability. When released, they will most-likely suffer Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Their immediate families, schoolmates, members of their community and many concerned are also undergoing terrible mental stress and also at risk of developing PTSD and other associated adverse mental health issues. As already reported in the media, they may have been raped multiple times by their abductors. The outcome of such sexual violence could be contraction of sexually transmitted infections (STI) including HIV/AIDS or unwanted pregnancy. In the case of unwanted pregnancy, the only option available, by our current laws, is for the girl to carry the baby till term and deliver. It’s traumatic to imagine that any of these girls will give birth to a child fathered by their abductors, but this is a possibility, except abortion laws are made less restrictive.

Furthermore, the girls may be malnourished; malnutrition weakens the immune system and would make them vulnerable to various forms of ill-health. The place they may currently be kept is not likely to be of good hygienic condition and given the terrain in that part of the country, their access to water may be limited. They are therefore prone to having skin infections, dehydration and at risk of developing kidney stones. The water available to them may be of poor quality, thereby making them vulnerable to water-borne diseases. They may be exposed to harsh weather conditions, exposed to mosquito bites and at risk of having malaria. If any of them sustains skin injury, it is at risk of being infected by tetanus. Untreated tetanus usually leads to death. The more our abducted sisters stay in captivity, the more health risks they’re exposed to.

Someone was telling me that it is inchoate to be discussing these possible health challenges when the girls are yet to be found. I argue that it is not. As a public health physician, I focus more on prevention. Our system failed to prevent the abduction of these girls; failure to make concrete plans to address possible health challenges they may encounter would amount to failing them twice. It may be disastrous if we fail to put structures in place to address the health challenges of these girls, their families, friends, schoolmates and their communities. It is the responsibility of the Government of Borno State with necessary support from the Federal Government to ensure that this happens. I advocate that trauma management machinery consisting of professionals in clinical medicine, psychiatry, psychology and all other associated fields be already put in place for this purpose.

It is noteworthy that a statement issued recently by #Choice4Life Advocates (a group of young Nigerians that promotes Women Reproductive Health and Rights) expressed concerns about the health of the girls. The group which I also belong to made a 5-point demand including the urgent passage of the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Bill (#VAPPbill). Passage of #VAPPbill is also a key demand of the #BringBackOurGirls Campaign. It has been passed by the House of Reps and passed First Reading at the Senate. I join the call for the Senate to expedite action and #PassVAPPbill. The bill when it becomes law will provide protection for vulnerable people like children, physically challenges, women and poor people who are usually victims of violence.

As we continue to support our military with prayers to #BringBackOurGirls, I humbly request that government at all levels provide leadership and put plans in place to Restore their Health and support each of them to make #Choice4Life. God bless Nigeria.

BBOG

I and my fellow #Choice4Life Advocates remain committed to the #BringBackOurGirls Campaign until the girls return to their families alive.