We, #Choice4Life Advocates – a team of 58 young professionals promoting Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights of Women and Adolescents in Nigeria hereby demand an immediate release of our colleague – Mr. Simon Ateba by the Cameroonian authorities.
We read with utmost shock and dismay the reports of arrest and detention of our colleague – Mr. Simon Ateba. According to media reports, he was arrested on Friday, 28th August, 2015 at the Minawao Refugee Camp and taken to Makolo in the far north of Cameroon and has been accused of spying for the Boko Haram terrorists. When allowed to use his mobile phone for five minutes, Mr. Ateba alerted the world about his ordeal through his social media platforms. He said he has been told that he would be taken to Yaoundé, the Cameroonian capital, and handed over to the secret police to be tried for espionage. His whereabouts has since been unknown and concerns are being raised about his health conditions.
Simon joined our group in November 2014 and has used his media platforms to promote reproductive health and rights of Nigerian women and young girls. Though a Cameroonian, he is a popular blogger/journalist who has worked in Nigeria for more than a decade. He breaks real time news stories using his blog www.simonateba.com and his facebook fanpage has over 15,000 followers. He was a former staff of The News/PM News – a reputable media outfit in Lagos. He has been a resourceful, inspiring and innovative young man who is very passionate about his job.
Our investigation reveals that Simon is implementing a grant from the Nigerian-based International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR) as reportedly confirmed by the Executive Director, Dayo Aiyetan. He had a task to visit the Refugee Camp that accommodates people displaced by the insurgency in Northeast Nigeria and find about their living conditions. His reports, we believe, would have provided information on the sacrifices being made by the government of Cameroon as well as actions that could be taken to improve their living conditions. To us, Simon’s mission to his home country was noble, professional and lawful.
#Choice4Life Advocates consider the allegations by Cameroonian authorities outrageous and bizarre. We also consider his arrest and detention ill-conceived and undeserved given that he had made futile attempt to get permission from the Regional Governor. It is a violation of his fundamental human rights and an attack on the media. Any responsible government is obliged to respect the right to freedom of expression and ensure that journalists are free to carry out their legitimate duties without hindrance, intimidation or threat. We appeal to the African Union and the international community to prevail on the authorities of Cameroon to release him immediately and unconditionally.
We hereby join the Cameroon Journalists Union and other well-meaning groups and individuals to demand that the authorities #FreeSimonAtebaNow!
Dr Laz Ude Eze Blessing Timidi-Digha
Team Lead Communications Strategist
For #Choice4Life Advocates
Plugged into the global euphoria of the 6th Social Media Day, which is annually marked on June 30, Africa for the first time celebrated the Social Media Day with continental pulse using the hashtag #SMDayAfrica.
The Social Media Day Africa #SMDayAfrica celebration is a parallel event with the global Social Media Day launched in 2010 by Mashable – a global technology firm. #SMDayAfrica was organized by the Social Media Awards Africa, #SMAA, as an all-day continent-wide virtual event to commemorate the 2015 Social Media Day from an African perspective with global ambience.
The event which featured eight (8) sessions cutting across diverse sectors and countries of the continent had appearances from leading industry experts with a knack for social media such as Maverick Music Producer, Don Jazzy; HR Expert, Jimi Tewe; Songstress, Simphiwe Dana; Social Commentator, Japheth Omojuwa; Social Media Denizens, Subomi Plumtre and Chioma Chuka; Representatives of the African Media Initiative, AMI; Social Innovators, Yemi Adamolekun and Seun Onigbinde; as well as winners, finalists and nominees of the maiden Social Media Awards Africa #SMAA from across the continent – Ben Kiruthi, Michael Hlatshwayo, Jimi Tewe, Barefootlaw, The Love Tour,Republic of Rwanda Ministry of Youth and ICT, DHL Africa, Stand to End Rape, Adforumco, KCB Group, Afrinolly, #TheNiteTalk, Raha 2.0, Nigeria Trade Hub; amongst other prominent personalities, social media enthusiasts and users across the continent.
The hashtag #SMDayAfrica which started trending in Nigeria within 2 hours of launch had an all-day penetration across Africa reaching over 30million Twitter users. The celebration also had other events at country-levels with active participations by the online community including #SMAA winners, finalists and nominees in Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, South Africa, Uganda, Egypt, Tunisia, and Morocco.
Opening the conversation on the realities of social media usage and practice in Africa, Chioma Chuka posited that although gradual progress is been made on internet penetration across the continent, yet, more needs to be done on digital penetration and local content generation. Chioma urged Africans to be conscious to their online existence. HR Expert, Jimi Tewe, explained that social media is a growing component of online recruitment which Africans need to come to terms with.
Don Jazzy and Simphiwe Dana, however had a point of difference on whether or not music artistes need to be signed to a record label, considering the growing popularity of digital collaboration – see conversation here.
Sterling Bank Plc, lead sponsor of the Social Media Awards Africa #SMAA, explained that the future of banking on the African continent is social, which, the bank says it is taking the lead in innovating the path and pattern towards the social media boom. The innovative #Onecustomer financial institution which has clearly set the pace in social banking, participated actively and engaged stakeholders for an hour’s session entitled: ‘The Social Media Story: Me and My Bank.’
Relating governance with social media practice in Africa, Seun Onigbinde of BudgIT and Yemi Adamolekun of Enough Is Enough, agreed that although social media tools are viable in advancing governance and accountability processes in Africa, they however cannot in isolation pull through on the desired social needs of the continent, hence, the need for offline and online convergence.
Citing emerging trends such as digital jobs and cloud computing, experts raised the need for Africans to acquire requite digital skills in order to be effectively relevant in the globalized world. They also challenged the African continent to influence and develop itself through local content production and distribution.
Subomi Plumtre challenged African businesses to be more social, leveraging the power of cost-effective social media tools and platforms
Wrapping the all-day TweetChat, was the relationship session tagged: E-Relationship: Love through the web. Gist, Gossip and Tips, anchored by #TheNiteTalk – @LtCaezar, winner of the 2014 #SMAA hashtag of the year award.
As the maiden continental celebration of the world Social Media Day, #SMDayAfrica has succeeded in establishing an African perspective to social media, through robust virtual engagement, education and entertainment.
In coming years, it is hoped that the Social Media Day celebration in Africa will be bigger and broader, towards enriching continental good.
Conversations and other activities of the #SMDayAfrica celebration can be followed via: @sma_africa on Twitter or through Storify.
The Social Media Day Africa #SMDayAfrica is to recognize and celebrate social media’s impact on Africa’s communication and growth, blending the African perspective with global ambience.
This day is marked annually on June 30th in consonance with the global Social Media Day celebration as launched by Mashable, a global tech and social media firm.
The Social Media Awards Africa #SMAA is a premier continental initiative poised to recognise and reward excellence, creativity and impact in the use of social media tools and platforms by individuals and organisations.
The Social Media Awards Africa is an initiative of Development Diaries and sponsored by Sterling Bank Plc.
Bullet Point Short History of #VAPPbill Sojourn at NASS
- First introduced as Violence Against Women Bill at the National Assembly (House of Reps) on March 28, 2002; sponsored by Hon. Florence Eya
- After 11 years, the bill having been harmonized with other related bill and renamed Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Bill; sponsored by Hon. Abike Dabiri was passed by the House of Representatives on 14th March, 2013.
- Passed by the Senate on 5th May, 2015
- Harmonized copy transmitted to the President on 21st May, 2015.
- #Choice4Life Advocates released Press Statement on 24th May, 2015 calling for an immediate Presidential Assent on the bill.
- The #VAPPbill was signed into law by President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan on 25th May, 2015.
To Download a copy of the #VAPP Act; click on #VAPPAct2015.
#VAPPbill was assented to 24hrs after the release of this Press Statement.
VIOLENCE AGAINST PERSONS PROHIBITION BILL – A CALL FOR PRESIDENTIAL ASSENT
A Press Statement by #Choice4Life Advocates – 24th May, 2015
After a thirteen-year sojourn at the National Assembly, the Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Bill was passed by the Senate on 5th May, 2015. It was earlier passed by the House of Representatives on 14th March, 2013. While the bill awaited legislative action, thousands of Nigerians fell victim to various forms of violence and many lost their lives. Now that the bill has been passed by both chambers of the national assembly, harmonized and transmitted to the president, we call on President Goodluck Jonathan to further pen his name in the history books by assenting to it immediately.
Sexual violence, a crime the VAPP bill seeks to address appears to be on the rise in recent times. Adolescents and youths, particularly young girls are the main victims of this form of violence. Unfortunately, 52% of victims do nothing about it (National Demographic Health Survey 2013) due to minimal support structure on ground. Domestic violence, female genital cutting, electoral violence, and many others have also caused tremendous damages in our national polity.
Troubled by the sufferings of these victims who hardly ever get justice or support, the #Choice4Life advocates, a group of young Nigerians from diverse ethno-religious and professional backgrounds joined the advocacy for the passage of VAPP bill into law. For the past 13 months that we led the #Choice4Life campaign via social media, television and radio, we observed a high acceptance of the bill by Nigerians.
We believe that it is a pleasant coincidence that the bill got passed at a time many girls and women who are victims of Boko Haram terror are being rescued from captivity in Sambisa Forest. They are victims of physical, emotional and sexual violence and will benefit greatly from the provisions of the bill when assented to.
The VAPP bill provides a robust legal framework needed for justice and rehabilitation of the rescued girls. It will also boost the confidence of the citizens in our country and will serve as a legal protection of citizens against all forms of violence regardless of sex, age, culture, tribe or religion.
We hereby salute the 7th National Assembly for passing this bill into law. We also commend well -meaning Nigerians, organizations and development partners who have championed the cause of this bill for the past 13 years.
By signing this historic bill, Mr President would have written his name in gold as one who gave life to a law that will protect millions of Nigerians particularly the women whom he cares so much about. #PGEJSignVAPPbill to save lives! God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria!!
Dr Laz Ude Eze
Team Lead, #Choice4Life Advocates
The number “13” signifies 2 major times during the sojourn of the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Bill which was passed by the Senate on Tuesday, 5th May, 2015. #VAPPbill spent a total of 13 years at the National Assembly having been read for the first time on the floor of the House of Representatives on March 28, 2002. Also, it got passed on the 13th month since a team of Nigerian youths known as #Choice4Life Advocates resolved to use social media to advocate for the passage of the bill. 32 persons started the group on April 3, 2014; the number increased to 42 in October and 54 in November 2014. The Team Lead of the group is Dr Laz Ude Eze (a public health physician) while Mr. Francis Anyaegbu (a youth development consultant) and BigMo of @WazobiaFMAbuja are Co-Leads.
This is how some of the advocates reacted to the news of the passage of #VAPPbill;
“YAGAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA… I’m overjoyed” – @KoloKennethK
“Congratulations to everyone. This is a great news for us all. We should move to the next line of action immediately, which is to Lobby Mr President to Sign. ” – Olalekan Badmus @Weabless
“The #VAPPbill has been passed!!!! #Choice4Life we did it!!!” – Pharm. Mukhtar Ijaiya @Mukhtar_Dotun
“Congrats on the passage of the #VAPPbill! Great work! Well done. So what’s next? Presidential assent abi?” – @toluogunlesi
“Cooooorrrrrect!!!!!!!!!!!!! Ehen. Now the sense is made.” – Jeremiah Agenyi @JerryAgenyi
“#VAPPBill Yaaay!” – Nze Sylva Ifedigbo @nzesylva
“Beautiful. Am so sure the president will sign it before leaving the office.” – Jennifer Amadi @AmadiJen
“VAPPBILL passed. Positive news. More ahead… #choice4life” – Franklin Uzor @franchl
“This is really great news. We should all be proud to have contributed, in every small way to this 🙂 And thank you to Ipas and partner organizations who have broken their backs for all these years pushing this. Posterity will remember you kindly! Now to Presidential assent & implementation” – Dr Chijioke Kaduru @dr_kaduru
“13th yr in NASS, 13th month of #Choice4Life Advocacy; & #VAPPbill got passed on my wife’s birthday!
I’m extremely excited!” – Dr Laz Ude Eze @donlaz4u
“This is great news. Well done all!” – @BukkyShonibare
“Yesssss!!! Together we made it. Unto the next one, staying positive of Mr President’s assent.Cheers team!” – Dr Hamid Adediran @doctalk01
“Best news today VAPP Bill Passed by the Senate” – Uche Chuta @nnabros
Follow the hashtag #Choice4Life for more reactions.
Nigeria’s return to demographic governance in 1999 provided the context for renewed vigour around the demand for legal frameworks and mechanisms. This translated into several draft legislations in form of executive and private member Bills being articulated and presented to the National and in some cases State Houses of Assembly. In may 2002, the legislative Advocacy Coalition on Violence Against Women (LACVAW) with support from the International Human Rights Law Group now LAWGROUP, articulated and submitted to the National Assembly, a Bill titled the Violence Against Women (Prohibition) Bill, 2003 but the Bill was not passed during that legislative session. In 2008, concerned about the consistent failure to realize a legal framework to addressing the increasing prevalence of violence in Nigeria, and with support from DFID defunct security, Justice and Growth Programme, the Coalition coordinated by Women’s Rights Advancement and Protection Alternative (WRAPA) and International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) Nigeria; undertook an audit of Bills submitted to the National Assembly to extract and harmonize those that particularly bear relevance to the issues of violence against women. This was followed by intensive advocacy and campaign activities which were hyped during the 2009 international commemoration of 16 Days activism of violence Against Women. The campaign has been sustained by the media support it has generated and its endorsement by the citizens of Nigeria, most critically by key actors in the National Assembly, government, the judiciary, leaders of faith based and traditional institutions.
In April 2014, a group of passionate young Nigerian professionals led by Dr Laz Ude Eze known as #Choice4Life Advocates resolved to use social media to promote Women Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (WSRHR) including advocacy for the passage of #VAPPbill. The campaign has since gained momentum on social media.
Full Title of the Bill
A bill for an act to eliminate violence in private and public life, prohibit all forms of violence in private and public life, prohibit all forms of violence including physical, sexual, psychological, domestic, harmful, traditional practices, discrimination against persons, and provide maximum protection and effective remedies for victims and punishments of offenders.
What is it about?
The Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Bill 2011is a proposed legislation which defines violence, seeks to eliminate violence in private and public life, prohibits all forms of violence, sexual, psychological, domestic, Harmful traditional practices (HTP), discrimination against persons and provides all round protection and effective remedies for victims as well as punishment of offenders.
What the Bill Seeks to Do
It seeks to eliminate or reduce to a minimum the occurrence of gender based violence in the Nigerian society especially in homes, public spaces or even in conflict situations. It therefore protects the Right of Nigerians against violence especially violence against women. It aims at addressing the gaps in current laws on violence in private and public spaces. Specifically, it is aimed at responding to old and emerging forms of violence in particular, gender based violence.
Legal and Social implication of the Bill
it criminalises violence against ALL persons, providing matching penalties for offences in order to halt the high level of impunity of offenders in private spaces, especially domestic violence in all its ramifications.
What makes the Bill Acceptable?
It is a gender neutral thus affirming the fact that all persons suffer some forms of violence and thereby responds to concerns raised on the focus of women only.
It identifies and defines all forms of violence in line with the reality and experiences in Nigeria and the county’s obligations under international and regional treaties especially CEDAW, the African Union Protocol on the Rights of Women and Rome Statue.
It consolidates and realigns the provision of the Penal Code/Criminal code/Evidence Act etc to respond to current forms of violations in all circumstances.
It provides for institutional arrangements to facilitate and enhance access to justice and support for survivors of violence
It clearly allots specialized roles for the institutions such as social welfare departments, hospitals, religious institutions, the police and other law enforcement agencies.
Partners and Supporters of the Bill
Members of the Senate and House of the Representatives relevant Committees massively supported by other members of the two Chambers, the Ministry of Women Affairs, Developments partners especially the DFID, UNFPA, UNICEF, UN Women, Ipas, and ActionAid, the National Human Rights Commission , the Nigeria Police Force, national and private owned print and electronic media, the entire membership of LACVAW, WRAPA Raising Her Voice Project Partners and indeed all Civil Society Organizations and individual working on women’s human rights.
Status of the Bill
The Bill was passed by the House of Representatives in March 2013. It passed 2nd Reading at the Senate on October 16, 2014 and went through a successful public Hearing at the Senate in March 2015. It is awaiting 3rd (final) Reading at the Senate and transmission to the President for assent.
Structure and Scope of the Bill
The Bill is laid in 7 parts including its schedules while it has about 318 provisions in 51 major sections, it is a product of an inclusive and consultative process and presents a harmonized legislation that incorporates 9 other Bills presented before the National Assembly of Nigeria from 1999 to 2008
Summary Provisions of the Bill
Section 1 6
Defines and punishes the offences of rape, willfully inflicting physical injury on another by means of any weapon, substance or object, coercion, willfully placing another in fear of physical injury, compelling another to engage in any conduct or act detrimental to the physical or psychological well-being of the person and Female Genital Mutilation.
Section 7 8
Punishes act of frustrating investigation and prosecution of offenders under the Act and wilfully making false statements with the aim of initiating investigation or criminal proceedings under this Act.
Concerns forcefully evicting a marriage partner from his/her home or denies access except pursuant to a court order, confining or depriving a person of his/her liberty, causing mischief or destruction or damage to property with intent to cause or knowing that it is likely to cause distress or annoyance, forced financial dependence or economic abuse, force isolation or separation from family and friends, emotional verbal and psychological abuse.
Section 15 16
Punishes harmful widowhood practice, abandonment of spouse, children and other dependent without sustenance
Section 17 18
Punishes stalking and intimidation of another
Concerns spousal/partner battery, harmful traditional practice, substance attack and administering substance to stupefy or overpower another.
Punishes political violence and violence by state actors
Punishes incent and indecent exposure of genital organs
Provides for offenses under the act
Concerns the jurisdiction of courts and issuance of protection order
Calls for the registration and defines the powers of service providers and protection officers, provides for the appointment of coordinator for prevention of domestic violence and defines dangerous sexual offenders.
Provides for the establishment of regulatory Body to be known as Agency on violence Against Persons while expanding the mandate of National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons and other related matters (NAPTIP) to act as interim regulatory body pending the setting up of the Agency.
Deals with consequential amendment to review obsolete and discriminatory laws by its general savings and repeal
Deals with interpretation of terms and concepts as used in the Act
Credit to: #Choice4Life; LACVAW