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TJ: Death and the President’s Man – By Oche Echeija Egwa

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By Oche Echeija Egwa

In every palace, there are constants. Stools, pictures, drawings, songs, and other relics, like the buildings, that remind every one of the historical value of the place. And in almost every palace, there is someone who connects these dots of history. Learned or unlearned in letters, known or unknown outside the precinct, worshiped or disparaged, there is that household name that lights up faces and readily provides guidance and answers on operations and etiquette. Unarguably, late Malam Tijani Yusuf, mostly known as TJ, fitted the picture of the pointsman in the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

Reticent by nature and unassuming in character, TJ was the most popular name in the Villa for many years. Hardly in the limelight, but regularly mentioned, TJ is known among gardeners, stewards and cleaners, Presidents’ and Vice Presidents’ families, and he seamlessly befriends and connects the more visible operational tripods of the Villa; security, protocol and media. TJ knew the Villa history and operations by heart and experience. Since the 90s, he was there when First Families moved into their official living quarters, known as The Residence, and was most likely there when they moved out. TJ knew the joys, tensions and lowest moments of the First Families in the Villa.

He was among the first to be called to work when a President drew his last breath, and was around as Presidents’ moved their personal belongings from the Commander-In-Chief’s Office. He knew when there was a light cut, when taps stopped rushing, and was regularly on hand to ensure decorum and decorations for various ceremonies, including visits by Heads of Government and envoys. TJ was a constant.

For his diligence, TJ had many handshakes with both sitting and visiting presidents. And he made history in the Villa and public service by receiving two national awards. In 2006, he was honoured with Member of the Order of the Niger (MON) by President Olusegun Obasanjo and six years later, 2012, TJ was honoured by President Goodluck Jonathan with Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON). Preceding the awards, Tijani had smiled home with commendation letters for hard work and dedication from former Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar and Archbishop of the Canterbury, Justin Welby.

In a 2014 interview with an in-house magazine, VillaScope, the quintessential workaholic recalled:

“For the two national honours, I was just sitting down in my office then I was called upon that the President had approved that a national honour be bestowed on me.  I didn’t canvass for it, I didn’t go looking for it, I was just doing my job and I didn’t know people were watching. I was just called one day that the President had approved that I be given MON and I was told to bring my Curriculum Vitae. The then Chief of Staff, Gen. Abdullahi Mohammed, also called me and told me about the President’s decision.

“The next one, OON, honestly I didn’t know how it came about. I was just told that President Goodluck Jonathan said that I should be given OON. I was asked if I had a national award before and I responded that I was given MON before. The then Chief of Staff, Chief Mike Aiyegbeni Oghiadomhe, said the President said I should be given another national honour.

“I should think it’s for humility, hard work, perseverance and endurance in doing your work. Honestly, like everyone else, I do my work. I dedicate myself. I do all that is before me, go home and come back the next day to make sure there’s no failure. My thinking is that if there’s failure in this house, then the country will be a failure. I make sure nothing fails.’’

The former Director, who was a graduate of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, graduated with a B.SC in International Studies, and relished his work, especially the private times spent with visiting Heads of Government, like United States President Bill Clinton. According to him, the contacts served as motivation and broadening of horizon, including the local and international trainings, conferences and official visits on the Federal Government’s delegation.

Like a typical public servant, Tijani hardly talked about personal life. But he once gave a glimpse. “All through my primary school I was a class monitor and in secondary school I was a class prefect and eventually became a Senior Prefect. Even in my advanced studies, School of Arts and Science in Sokoto, I was the Secretary of the Student’s Union. I was also the Financial Secretary to the Niger State Students’ Association in 1979 to 1980.  All along, I have been building myself and the society has been building me as well. And when I finished my university, just like a carry over, God has always been with me in leadership.’’

TJ lived a life of sacrifice, friendliness and diligence. As news filtered into the Villa that he passed on after a brief illness, the reality was obvious to every staff and political office holder that certainly a gap had been created.

TJ was a recurring decimal – a human constant — that will surely be missed by all.

 

Oche Echeija Egwa is a Press Officer in the Office of the Special Adviser to the President, Media and Publicity.

 

Environment

Harnessing young peoples potential to mitigate climate action in Nigeria

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Harnessing young peoples’ potential to mitigate climate action in Nigeria

By Dianabasi Effiong, Nigeria News Agency

The Federal Ministry of Environment, in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on Aug. 15 hosted a two-day Regional Youth Climate Incubation Hub for select youths in Nigeria’s South-South Zone.

The forum was the first in a programme designed by organisers to cover six zones and further strengthen Nigeria’s position as a member country of the United Nations’ Youth Engagement and Public Mobilisation track at the Climate Action Summit.

The summit is slated for Sept. 23 in New York for participants to offer ideas on ways to stop the increase in emissions by 2020 and “dramatically reduce emissions to reach net-zero emissions by mid-century’’, among others.

The Port Harcourt event, facilitated by Health of the Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), an environmental think-tank organisation, had participants drawn from Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo and Rivers States.

A trending document on UN Climate Action Summit 2019 from the global organisation stated that Global emissions had reached record levels.

It stated: “The last four years were the four hottest on record, and winter temperatures in the Arctic have risen by 3°C since 1990.

“Sea levels are rising, coral reefs are dying, and we are starting to see the life-threatening impact of climate change on health, through air pollution, heat waves and risks to food security.

“The impacts of climate change are being felt everywhere and are having very real consequences on people’s lives. Climate change is disrupting national economies, costing us dearly today and even more tomorrow.

“But there is a growing recognition that affordable, scalable solutions are available now that will enable us all to leapfrog to cleaner, more resilient economies.

“The latest analysis shows that if we act now, we can reduce carbon emissions within 12 years and hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C and even, as asked by the latest science, to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.’’

“Thankfully, we have the Paris Agreement – a visionary, viable, forward-looking policy framework that sets out exactly what needs to be done to stop climate disruption and reverse its impact.

It also stated, sadly, that “the agreement itself is meaningless without ambitious action’’.

The UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, expects from world leaders at the proposed summit, innovative, concrete and realistic plans “to enhance their nationally determined contributions by 2020, in line with reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 45 per cent over the next decade, and to net zero emissions by 2050’’.

In reaction to such expectations, Mr Nnimmo Bassey, an Environmental Justice Advocate and Director of HOMEF, underscored the importance of the Youth Round table on Climate Action to unlock youth innovation in Nigeria’s climate action.

He also told participants at the forum, which included about 70 young people, that they were capable of brightest ideas for solving problems of climate change in Nigeria.

According to him, the greatest action government can take on gas flaring is to stop it and not to reduce it.

“If government can stop gas flaring by the year 2020 it will be a great achievement for the people to be released from the embarrassment on our environmental health and our children’s health,” Bassey said.

He also said that the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) should be put in place to penalise anybody or company that defaulted on gas flaring in Nigeria.

He called on government to take seriously, the ideas of youths on how to tackle climate change and global warming because it encapsulated their future and that of their children.

Also, Mr Sheyifumi Adebosey, a youth activist, told the forum that young people were the second most important group in addressing climate change because it is about their future.

Adebosey, who said that youth action on climate change to protect our environment had national value, also renewed the call for urgency in tackling the global climate change.

Similarly, Miss Anumenechi Stephanie, the Digital Communication Head of International Climate Change Development Initiative Africa (ICCDI), called for government’s collaboration with companies and Non-Governmental Organisations to stop gas flaring.

She said that such collaboration should ensure that gas is used for economic growth nstead of being flared.

Expectedly, the Federal Ministry of Environment, through its Department of Climate Change, charged participants on the imperatives of the event, adding that climate and climate change have become issues of global concern particularly in Third World countries like Nigeria.

Sa’adatu Gambo, a Senior Scientific Officer at the Department of Climate Change, who represented the Federal Ministry of Environment, said that the Department of Climate Change remained Nigeria’s focal point for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The expectation of the organisers were that “there will be an acceleration of key improvement on climate change’’ at the end of the event.

They also expected what they called “creative ideas that are specific, measurable, achievable, bankable, realistic and time bound, which will be harnessed and built from concept stage to actual implementation’’.

Participants also observed that issues of climate change called for emergency in Nigeria and that proactive measures should be taken by the Nigerian government to tackle it.

They also observed that the non-implementation of extant environmental laws and policies continually serve as major setback in the fight for a safe climate in Nigeria

The need to create more awareness among Nigerians, financial investment and transfer of technology to build human capacity and groom basic ideas to mitigate climate crises in Nigeria were also restated by participants at the Port Harcourt event.

The young people engaged in series of brain storming and Focused Group Discussion (FGD) where innovative ideas were proffered.

These included the need for that Climate Change Desk Officers at both Federal and State ministries in Nigeria who should ensure that participants in the Youth Climate Hub were further engaged on climate change issues.

They also recommended that biogas should be generated from household biodegradable waste and bio-digester while effort should be made on recycling in regards to plastic bottle collection and reuse and also waste segregation and separation.

The group as called for the establishment of environmental clubs and advocacy for target groups and also creating certain social documentaries on climate change in local dialects.

According to the “Youth Climate Incubation Hub’’, `Apps should be available to map vulnerable and non-vulnerable areas to climate change impact’ and solar panels should be made more affordable for the people.

The young people also called for Mangrove reclamation and tree planting, especially indigenous species and economic crops.

They said: “There is need for government at all levels to stop paying lip service and amplify action on climate change policy  implementations.

“There should be a massive advocacy campaigns on the impact of climate change; the inclusion of climate change education in our curriculum at the various levels of learning in Nigeria.’’

According to the group, youths voices should be further amplified and their creative ideas on climate change harnessed.

They also stressed the need to strengthen existing structure to integrate women and marginalised groups’ participation in all levels in climate action in Nigeria. (NANFeatures)

 

 

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Feature: 10 Years Without Argungu International Fishing and Cultural Festival  

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10 Years Without Argungu International Fishing and Cultural Festival

By Ibrahim Bello, Nigeria News Agency

Stakeholders are worried that for 10 years the Argungu International Fishing and Cultural Festival has not been celebrated. The festival usually staged in March of every year held last in 2009.

It attracts fishermen from Niger Republic, Chad, Benin Republic and Cameroon.

Infrastructure at the venue of the festival are at great state of decay because of the abandonment.

The Argungu Grand Fishing Hotel by the side of  the Matan Fada River, where the event normally takes place is in a bad state.

The pavilion and its environs are over grown with weeds, indicating inactivity.

Alhaji Hussaini Makwashi (Sarkin Ruwa), the `chief of  fishermen,’ in the area, who  also overseers the Matan Fada Fishing River, pleaded that the festival should not be allowed to die.

He recounted the history of the festival, which he says dates back to 1934.

 

 

Makwashi said that it started during the reign of Muhammadu Sama, as emir of Argungu.

He said that the emir invited Sultan Hassan Dan-Muazu as a way of cementing relationship and fostering unitybetween the Fulani people and the Kabawa people.

.Makwashi  said that Dan-Muazu slept in Argungu, making him the first sultan to pass the night in the area.

“The emir sought the opinion of his people (Kabawa ) to know what to do in order to impress the sultan.

“The people came up with the idea of organising a grand fishing festival to entertain the sultan who was the first sultan to visit the area.

“That proposal resulted to more stronger ties between the Fulani and Kabawa people and even gave birth to inter-ethnic marriages between the two ethnic groups who were once sworn enemies,” he said.

Makwashi said that fishermen in the area had incurred losses as a result of the suspension or stoppage of the fishing festival.

 

“It is disheartening that this colourful and wealth generation event, which tourists from within and outside the country attend will just be abandoned like that.

“We were told some years back by the government that the event was put on hold because of the deteriorating security situation, especially when Boko Haram activities were devastating.

“And you know the festival attracts large number of people who come in their thousands to watch the events.

” We reasoned with them at that point in time, but now we have overcome such threat as we have no Boko Haram fear or attacks,” he said.

He lamented the economic difficulties faced by the  fishermen and their families, adding that they depended on the festival to get money to feed their families and sponsor their children to schools.

He said that the festival hosts over 30,000 fishermen from different places and countries, stressing that many people depend on the festival for their livelihood.

“We call on Gov. Atiku Bagudu, to fulfill his promise of reviving the fishing festival and also renovate the dilapidated structure at the fishing village,” he pleaded.

Alhaji Musa Argungu, a fisherman, said it had not been easy for the fishermen for the past 10 years. He said that the stoppage had caused them great economic havoc.

“This has been our business and we do it to earn ourliving, no one will be happy when he wakes up and discovers his means of livelihood is stopped.

“Whenever the fishing event holds, we earn reasonable amount of money that will solve many monetary challenges of our families, including money to `marry off’ our daughters.

” Put yourself in our shoes and imagine life without such an income for 10 years.

“Do you know that in a good day at the climax of the festival, we could get as much as N50,000 to N70,000 and in just one day,” he said.

Argungu pleaded with the government to revive and restore the lost glory of the event.

Alhaji Aminu Abubakar, Chairman of  Kebbi Hoteliers’ Managers Association, said the managers had lost huge source of revenue due to delay in holding the festival.

“We have over 30 functional hotels in the state and we have been managing them well, should the festival be staged tomorrow, we are ready for the visitors.

” The business, if not because of  non-governmental organisations that do come for workshops and trainings as well as wedding events, the hoteliers may close down their businesses.

“We contribute a lot to the employment generation in the state, as whenever the festival is to take place, we increase the number of our staff or employ ad hoc staff, ” Abubakar said.

The manager appealed to the government to quickly  organise the event to enable them get more patronage.

Alhaji Shu’aibu Aliero, the Permanent Secretary, Kebbi Ministry of Information and Culture, noted that the festival had not been held for 10 years.

Aliero said that whatever the reasons people outside the government circle might give other than the following reasons could be described as figment of their imagination.

“The festival is suspended due largely to security situation in the country.

” We are living witnesses to the deteriorating security situation in the country that ranged from Boko Haram, kidnapping, cattle rustling and banditry.

“Though Kebbi has been adjudged as one of the most peaceful states in Nigeria, the fact remains that the state has borders with states like Zamfara, Sokoto, Kaduna and Niger, that have intermittent security challenges.

” Furthermore, there is the issue of climate change; it is observed that the low water level of Matan Fada River cannot allow the climax of the festival to take place over the years, because fishes are believed to be no longer there due to the absence of free flow of water from its tributaries,” he said.

According to him, the government waited for security situation to improve and for the water level to rise to enable her make preparations for the festival.

The permanent secretary said that the security situation had improved and the water level had risen, which prompted the state government to start preparations for the festival to take place either this year or early 2020.

Alhaji Umar Bena, Director of Tourism in the Ministry of Commerce, Industry, Co-operative and Tourism, also attributed the suspension of the event to security challenges.

” You see, basically security concern in the country is the main reason why the ceremony has not been held for 10 years.

“Argungu Fishing Festival is an international event; people from different parts of the world assemble in Argungu; it will be too risky to hold such an event in an uncertain security situation,” he said.

Bena expressed optimism that the event might soon hold because of the improved security situation in the country.

(NANFeatures)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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President Buhari’s remarks during meeting with Northern Traditional Leaders

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5.     Let me on this note commend your Royal Highnesses for your concern and contributions through numerous messages to me. We welcome every such expression of concern in our overall efforts to address any challenges.

6.     We are determined to step up action against crimes of kidnapping, banditry and other forms of unlawful and criminal attacks resulting in needless deaths plunging our people to untold hardship.

10.   These policies and programmes include a robust revamping of police intelligence gathering capacity and the significant boosting of the numbers of security personnel in our local communities. This in specific terms will include recruiting more police officers and doing so whenever possible from their local government areas, where they would then be stationed in the best traditions of policing world-wide.

11.   Working with the State governments also, we intend to improve the equipping of the police force with advanced technology and equipment that can facilitate their work. To drive this, I recently created a full fledged Ministry of Police Affairs.

12.   As I said during my meeting with the Traditional Rulers from the South-West, directives have been issued to the appropriate federal authorities to speedily approve licensing for States requesting the use of drones to monitor forests and other criminal hideouts.

13.   We also intend to install CCTVs on highways and other strategic locations so that activities in some of those hidden places can be exposed, more effectively monitored and open to actionable intervention.

15.   Your Royal Highnesses, this Administration is determined to enforce the law, prosecute law breakers and secure an atmosphere of peace for all Nigerians wherever they live and also protect our communities from all forms of crimes. This is both in our interests as an administration and the interests of all Nigerians.

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Feature: Ebonyi Tackles Poor Enrolment, Launches Bring Back Out-of-School Children Campaign

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Ebonyi Tackles Poor Enrolment, Launches Bring Back Out-of-School Children campaign

By Obike Ukoh, Nigeria News Agency

When Ebonyi was created in October 1996, it was the only state in southern Nigeria that fell into the league of educationally disadvantaged states.

The pioneer military administration initiated policies to lift the state out of illiteracy. But when Gov. Sam Egwu mounted the saddle as the first civilian governor, he declared free compulsory primary and secondary education.

Ebonyi also established its own university and college of education. In spite of the policies initiated to boost education, regrettably a recent UNICEF report listed Ebonyi among the 17 states in Nigeria having the lowest school enrolment.

Also, a recent survey carried out by some educational institutions indicate that there are more pre-school children out of school than those attending classes in Ebonyi.

This index was arrived at by the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS 2011) in collaboration with UNICEF, National Bureau of Statistics, National Household Demographic Survey (NHDS 2013) and Education Management Information System (2011) of Ebonyi Ministry of Education.

According to the survey, only 43 per cent of Ebonyi pre-school children are currently attending any form of organised school system, while 57 per cent are out of school.

Worried by the development and to boost enrolment, the Ebonyi Government in collaboration with Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) and World Bank, recently launched the Better Education Service Delivery for All (BESDA), for out-of-school children in Ebonyi.

Gov. Dave Umahi said that the best way to safeguard the future of individuals, their children’s future and have a peaceful “evening’’ is through education.

The governor also stressed that good education will also preserve the future of children.

Dr Hamid Bobboyi, Executive Secretary of UBEC, commended Umahi for ensuring that education was the best business in the state.

“The governor has also seriously funded education in the state as he offset the state’s three years counterpart funds of UBEC, and also embarked on massive educational infrastructure development,” he said.

He noted that issue of out-of-school children had been a major problem in Nigeria as the 2015 survey put the figure at 13.5 million.

“Latest surveys, particularly in 2017 gave it as 10.8 million and the national personnel audit which UBEC undertakes discovered that the number has reduced to 10.1 million.

“These numbers should, however, not comfort us, but worry us, as there is no reason a country like Nigeria should have such number of out-of- school children,” he said.

Prof. Gidado Tahir, National Project Coordinator of BESDA, said the project was funded by the Federal Government through a credit it offered as grants to affected states.

“Education for out-of-school children is anchored on a simple operation and mechanism and seeks answers to three fundamental questions.

These include: “How many children is a state able to bring to school, is the state able to keep these children in school and are these children acquiring learning of high quality?”

Dr Steve Odoh, the Commissioner for Education, said that the state government would continue to collaborate with stakeholders in the education sector to sustain the ongoing campaign against low school enrolment in the state.

Odoh restated that Ebonyi was among the 17 states in Nigeria listed by UNICEF as having the lowest school enrolment.

He said that the bring back out-of-school children campaign must be sustained in order to achieve the goal of the campaign.

Odoh noted that an uneducated person would become a menace and security threat to the society in future, adding that no effort would be spared in ensuring that every Ebonyi child received the best education at affordable cost.

He said: “The issue of bring back out-of-school children is a reaction to our low school enrolment rate; and when we talk about enrolment, we are looking at the number of children we enrolled into our basic education.

“Seventeen states have been identified as having challenges with child enrolment into the basic education; Ebonyi is among the states, and the only state in the South-East, this is not a good record for our state.

“So, it is our responsibility as stakeholders, as concerned parents, traditional rulers, council chairmen and councillors, to think of a permanent solution to the challenges.

“The issue is not what the governor will tackle alone; it needs our collective intervention, a concerted effort by all stakeholders to ensure that by September, when the new academic session begins, that we can change the narrative.

“No matter what we do as a ministry or what the governor does as a government, the children are with their parents; and hence, their sense of responsibility must be brought to bear on this initiative to ensure sustainability.”

Odoh insisted that the campaign would focus on building stronger synergy with the stakeholders to ensure that children of school age were not allowed to hawk on the streets or taken to Onitsha or Lagos to serve as house helps when they should be in school.

“We don’t want our children to hawk anymore; taken to Onitsha or Lagos to serve people. We don’t want our children to go to farm, while they should be in the classrooms.

“The truth is that we don’t want what is happening in some parts of the country to start happening in our state because, if we do not educate the children now, they will become security threat to society tomorrow,” the commissioner noted.

Chief Hyacinth Ikpo, the Chairman, Ebonyi Universal Basic Education Board (EBSUBEB), said that Ebonyi Government was making every effort to ensure that all children of school age living in the state, but are not in school were taken back to school.

He also reiterated that an uneducated child is a potential danger to the society, stressing that all efforts must be made to ensure that education was made not only accessible but also affordable to every citizen of the state.

The EBSUBEB boss said that there was no accurate statistical data of the number of school age children who are out-of-school, but noted that government had set machinery in motion to come up with reliable statistics.

“We don’t have for now any reliable data of the number of out-of-school children in Ebonyi, but government has mapped out programmes and strategies to know the number who are out-of-school and get them back to school.

“Part of the strategy is the setting up of committees at the 171 wards in the state.

“And part of the assignment of the committees, especially at the ward level is to go from house to house, conduct census of number of children in a particular household, how many are of school age, who are not in school,” Ikpo said.

He explained that at the end of the exercise, we will be able to know how many children who are of school age that are not in school and how to get them back to school.

“As a responsible government, we will not spare any effort to ensure that we provide functional and qualitative education to all the citizens of the state,” Ikpo said.

He added that the out-of-school children taken back to school would enjoy scholarships, free school feeding, uniforms and other incentives.

“Under the programme, government will provide school uniforms, exercise books, text books as well as free school meals to the children,” Ikpo said. (NANFeatures)

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President Buhari’s remarks at swearing-in of SGF, Ministers

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