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Equatorial Guinea launches first-ever Corporate Social Responsibility Book

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The book was distributed during the 2nd Gas Exporting Countries Forum International Gas Seminar

The publication highlights key achievements in corporate social responsibility projects within Equatorial Guinea’s oil and gas sector; notable projects include the Bioko Island Malaria Elimination Project, Bioko Biodiversity Protection Program and former Program for Education Development of Equatorial Guinea; the book was distributed during the 2nd Gas Exporting Countries Forum International Gas Seminar and will be further distributed throughout the 2020 Year of Investment international events and roadshows.

Equatorial Guinea’s Ministry of Mines and Hydrocarbons has launched its first official publication documenting the country’s key corporate social responsibility projects, spearheaded by public-private partnerships.

Equatorial Guinea: Achievements in Corporate Social Responsibility in Oil & Gas highlights the impact of investment in social projects on malaria reduction, healthcare, access to clean water and infant mortality rates. Notable projects include the Bioko Island Malaria Elimination Project – which recently received the P3 Impact Award at the 2019 Concordia Summit for its high impact and degree of success; the Bioko Biodiversity Protection Program; the Baney District Hospital Project; the Ver Bien project; Tuberculosis Control Project and the construction of water wells throughout the country.

“On behalf of the Ministry of Mines and Hydrocarbons, the Department of Local Content is honored to create a publication that demonstrates the contributions of the oil and gas sector to the people of Equatorial Guinea, who continue to remain our highest priority. Furthermore, what we have done in the past 25 years, in terms of the elimination and prevention of malaria on Bioko Island, teacher training and access to education, the Program for Education Development of Equatorial Guinea, distribution of clean water to rural communities, the construction of schools and parks throughout the country, and more – speaks to what we can and will accomplish in the next 25 years,” says Jacinto Owono, Director of Local Content for the Ministry of Mines and Hydrocarbons.

The book also focuses on efforts in education and sustainability activities, including training and giving scholarships to students in and outside of the country, as well as the construction of education infrastructure. Key projects include the former Program for Education Development of Equatorial Guinea; the construction of the National Technological Institute of Hydrocarbons of Equatorial Guinea; the construction of primary schools throughout the country and the Books for Bioko project.

Under the official endorsement of the Ministry of Mines and Hydrocarbons, the book includes commentary from H.E. President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, Minister of Mines and Hydrocarbons H.E. Gabriel Mbaga Obiang Lima and Jacinto Owono, Director of Local Content for the Ministry of Mines and Hydrocarbons.

The publication was financed by Kosmos Energy.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of the Africa Oil & Power Conference.

Features

News Analysis: FirstBank accelerates support for SMEs to boost economic growth

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An analysis by Chinyere Joel-Nwokeoma 

The Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SME) sector is, no doubt, strategic and essential to accelerating economic growth and development of countries around the world, particularly Nigeria.

The sector is largely considered the backbone of many developed economies as well as an important contributor to employment, economic and export growth.

A survey conducted by PWC indicated that in South Africa, SMEs account for 91 per cent of businesses, 60 per cent of employment and contribute 52 per cent of total GDP. 

In Nigeria, SMEs contribute 48 per cent of national GDP, account for 96 per cent of businesses and 84 per cent of employment.

Indeed, the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics (NBS) recently confirmed that SMEs have contributed about 48 per cent to Nigeria’s national GDP in the last five years.

According to NBS, with a total of about 17.4 million, SMEs account for about 50 per cent of industrial jobs and nearly 90 per cent of the manufacturing sector, in terms of number of enterprises.

Experts, therefore, believe that supporting the SME sector in Nigeria to flourish is crucial because it creates a growing middle class with disposable income, and in the long run create market opportunities for new investors. 

Given the potential of SMEs to unlock Nigeria’s economic growth, many of them are, however, faced with the challenge of access to credit.

But the good news is that both the federal government and private organisations have for several years taken proactive steps to mitigate this challenge.

For instance, First Bank of Nigeria Limited has prioritised the promotion of the growth of SMEs for the overall good of the country. 

The bank has spent N170.30 billion between 2017 till date to support SMEs in the form of loans irrespective of product type.

As proof of this, the bank has supported 70,703 small and micro businesses over the last three to seven years.

Apart from the direct support, the bank is still partnering the federal government and Fintechs companies to bring banking services closer to the people.

Consequently, First Bank has been providing technology-enabled services and richer user experiences to petty traders to ensure the smooth running of their businesses.

The bank, also as part of the launch of its specialised SME propositions, recently convened an SME Week for its customers and non-customers to participate in a wide range of activities designed specifically for SMEs. 

The activities range from the SME Masterclass themed, “Designing and Implementing a Growth Strategy for your Business,” to specialised one-on-one sessions with renowned business coaches and the launch of seven unique pillars, which make up SME propositions available via SMEConnect.

The highlight of the week was the launch of the SME portal, a platform through which SMEs can access its unique propositions designed to equip them with the essential tools needed for the growth of their businesses.

The SME portal is also designed to help SMEs identify various gaps that hinder their business growth leveraging the bank’s innovative Business Diagnostics Tool, with a view to proffering tailored solutions and creating opportunities for business improvement, profitability and sustainability. 

The bank also conducted an extensive research over the years and identified seven strategic pillars essential for the sustainability and growth of SMEs.

These include: access to infrastructure, access to talent, capacity building, policy and regulation, access to resources, access to market as well as access to finance. 

Commenting on the development, Mr Gbenga Shobo, the bank’s Deputy Managing Director, said FirstBank would remain committed to the development and growth of SMEs. 

Shobo said the bank recognised that the SMEs were the engine of the economy.

“We are committed to ensuring that we leave no stone unturned as we connect with them in their continued contribution to national development in terms of the employment opportunities they create as well as their contribution to the nation’s GDP amongst many economic values.

“The FirstBank SME Week is driven to promote the Bank’s SME proposition, thereby having SMEs across the country optimally enlightened on how to plug in. 

“We believe this will help SMEs bolster their contributions to the growth and development of the economy,” he said.

Indeed, the bank’s disposition to SME’s is a clarion call to other private organisations to promote the sector, thereby improving the wellbeing of its operators and the economy at large.

Edited by: Salif Atojoko

(NAN)

 

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NEWS ANALYSIS: Living with disabilities and matters arising

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Living with disabilities and matters arising

A News Analysis by Chioma Chukwuemeka, Nigeria News Agency

Jude is a cripple. He imagines how he can move around with the challenges of dealing with daily engagements that his condition has made unfriendly.

In most occasions, he has to call people around to open an unyielding door of public convenience.

In other times, it may be how to get off his wheel chair to reach for a desired floor of a storey building. His challenges are numerous.

Every year, he hopes to listen to useful development from stakeholders on how living can be made easier for persons with disability.

Observers note that persons with disabilities demand attention for their inclusion in events and activities within the society in line with international provisions.

This will involve creation of avenues within the health sector that would accommodate key issues concerning their basic human rights.

Programme Manager of the Nigeria Association of the Blind Ejiro Okotie says inclusion of persons living with disabilities is a right for everybody and not a privilege.

The National Publicity Secretary of Amalgamated Union of Physically Challenged Persons in Zamfara, Alhaji Shehu Sarkin-Fada, also observes that lepers and other physically challenged in the state face isolation and stigmatisation, the situation he describes as “painful’’.

A man in the eastern part of the country living with visual impairment and paralysis says the position of government at all levels and the society are discouraging in that regard, pleading anonymity.

“Government should enact a law providing a reasonable percentage of job placements for people living with physical disabilities in public and private establishments,’’ he says.

Concerned citizens, therefore, observe that the theme of the last International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) –“Promoting the Participation of persons with disabilities and their leadership: Taking action on the 2030 development Agenda’’ — is purposeful.

According to them, the yearly observance of the day has not been promising as the last edition, going by the sensitisation and actions by stakeholders to effect a change.

For instance, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi  Gbajabiamila calls on different arms of government to make intentional efforts to promote accessibility of persons with disabilities.

He notes that the observance of the day will enable the government to focus on taking action in line with the United Nations 2030 Development Agenda.

“Of all the objectives set out in the agenda, there is none more urgent, more demanding of our commitment and effort, than that which requires us to jointly seek and achieve a drastic reduction in inequality.

“To achieve equal participation, we must be intentional about promoting accessibility.

“As we promote access to education by building schools and hiring teachers, we must make sure also that those classes are accessible to wheelchair users and the seeing impaired are provided with learning tools that work for them,’’ he said.

With this pronouncement from the National Assembly, many governments, civil society organisations and other private sector are beginning to take the lead in supporting the inclusion of persons living with disabilities in global, regional, national and local activities.

In Enugu State, Mr Gab Nnamani, Chairman of Joint National Association of Persons Living with Disabilities, Enugu Chapter People Living with Disabilities (PLWDs), calls for immediate domestication of the National Disability Law in the state to enhance the living condition and opportunities available to their members.

“We are committed to pursuing the domestication of the law in Enugu State and we will not relent in our efforts to do that,’’ Nnamani said.

The chairman also called on the state government to ensure access of PLWDs to public building and places in order to enhance their participation in state and national programmes and events.

In his opinion, Prof. Jibrin Diso from the Department of Special Education, Bayero University, Kano, observes that inclusion of persons with special needs in public affairs and services in the country will bring a lot of change in the life of the persons with disabilities.

He notes that the nation’s education system, which is the cornerstone of transforming the individual citizen into a veritable human capital, the needs of persons with special needs are seldom considered, stressing  that public facilities are rarely built with people with special needs in mind.

For effective inclusion in programmes, Mr Kola Ogunbiyi, Programme Manager of Centre for Citizens with Disabilities, calls on Enugu State government to pass and domesticate the persons with disabilities’ law.

According to him, the law will make the physically challenged partake fully in activities of government and other activities.

Similarly, the Senate has urged the Federal Government to fully implement the provisions of the Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act 2018.

It also urged the Ministry of Works and Housing and other government agencies involved in infrastructure and public buildings to adopt codes and standards that were user-friendly to PLWDs.

Nigeria ratified the United Nations  (UN) Convention on the  Rights of People  With Disabilities (CRPD) in 2007 and its Optional Protocol in 2010.

However, it was only on Jan. 23, 2019, that President Muhammadu Buhari signed into law the Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act 2018 after nine years of relentless advocacy by disability rights groups and activists.

 

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Tackling gender based violence in Nigeria

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Tackling gender based violence in Nigeria

, Nigeria News Agency

Dec. 10 of every year is globally marked as Human Rights Day. The day was proclaimed in 1948 by the United Nations General Assembly, via the Universal Declaration of Human Right.

The day was set aside by the United Nations to affirm the inalienable rights of every human being, regardless of race, colour, religion, sex, language, among others.

Nigeria since 1995, established the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), to promote, protect and enforce human rights issues in the country.

However, even with establishment of the NHRC, the country is still faced with high rate of Gender Based Violence (GBV) problems.

According to the UN, GBV is any act that results in or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such act, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.

GBV, however, is not just about women’s issues, but affects all sexes, even though women are more vulnerable.

Gender based violence in Nigeria remains a challenge, that significantly constraints women’s opportunities, as most of them suffer sexual harassment, physical violence and harmful traditional practices, among others.

According to the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development and the United Nations Population Fund UNFPA, 28 per cent of Nigerian women aged 25-29 experienced some form of physical violence from the age of 15.

And 45 per cent of women who experienced violence, never sought for help or told anyone about the incident due to fear of discrimination or lack of access to help facilities.

Also, women and girls with disabilities are more likely to experience GBV and less able to escape, less likely to speak up, less likely to be believed and less likely to find help services.

To tackle the issues and garner support to end GBV, Mercy Corps Nigeria, with support from the DFID, initiated the Girls Education Challenge (GEC) Fund, which is implementing the Educating Nigerian Girls In New Enterprises (ENGINE) programme to address barriers to girls’ education and gender inequalities.

The programme is focusing on 18,000 marginalised girls in Kano, Kaduna and Lagos states, as well as the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

It also facilitates Child and Vulnerable Adult Protection in the four states, working with various stakeholders, including federal and state governments, and line agencies.

Under the programme, beneficiaries are trained on reporting protocols for GBV, while families, schools, communities are enlightened on identifying, reporting and managing various forms of abuse and human rights violations when they occur and how to avoid reoccurrence.

Mercy Corps Nigeria, along with Society for Women Development and other relevant stakeholders in Kano, Lagos, Kaduna states and the FCT, are participation in the implementation of ENGINE ll.

Oluwawemimo Onikan, Communication Officer of ENGINE, said the first phase of programme which ran from October 2013 to March 2017, was able to support over 24,0000 marginalised girls between the ages of 16-19 to improve their learning outcomes and economic status in the four states of Kano, Kaduna, Lagos and FCT.

Onikan added that ENGINE ll would run till September 2020 and is providing numerous interventions to ensure that the girl-child is safe.

The interventions include boosting learning; providing opportunities for girls to build functional literacy and numeracy skills, provide them financial support and scholarships.

According to her, the programme also promotes child protection training by building the capacity of community leaders, traditional rulers, teachers, principals and government officials on how to identify and respond to GBV cases.

She noted that people were now more aware and enlightened, thereby helping to break the culture of silence which hitherto emboldened perpetrators of GBV in the society.

Communities and organisations like the Hizba in Kano, vigilante groups have also keyed into the initiative and took it upon themselves to curb the menace of GBV.

Onikan noted that Kaduna State had the highest number of cases reported by survivors, while the state  now have sexual assault referral centres, where they can report and access medical and legal support.

The Nigeria Demographic Health Survey 2013, and ICF International 2014, indicate that 28 per cent of women in Nigeria aged 15–49, experienced some form of physical or sexual violence; 11 per cent experienced physical violence within 12 months prior to the survey.

Also, according to a survey conducted by National Population Commission with support from UNICEF, six out of every 10 children experienced some form of violence.

The survey was conducted on 4,203 children aged 13-24 with 1,766 females and 2,437 males, based on physical violence, sexual violence and emotional violence.

Before the age of 18, one in two children experienced physical violence, one in four girls and one in 10 boys experienced sexual violence, while one in six girls and one in five boys, experienced emotional violence,” the report indicated.

In Kaduna State, 662 cases of abuse against women and children were recorded at the four sexual assault centres in the state, in October 2019 alone.

Out of the 662 cases, 373 were received at Gwamna Awan Specialist Hospital, Nasarawa; 104 at Sir Patrick Yakowa Memorial Hospital, Kafanchan; 114 cases at Yusuf Dantsoho Specialist Hospital, Tudun Wada and 71 received at Gambo Sawaba Hospital, Zaria.

The sexual assault centres provide medical consultation on individual cases and assist with psychosocial management of victims and their families.

Linda John, a GBV survivor in Abuja, said she got married at the age of 18 to a man who promised to send her back to school as she dropped out due to her parent’s poor financial status.

My parents were not financially buoyant and my dad was asthmatic, that is why I agreed to marry the man, hoping that he would send me to school as he promised, but things started changing two weeks after our marriage.

” He started maltreating me and refused to send me back to school. I got pregnant and he locked me up for days without food, I only took water, and as a result I had high blood pressure, “ she said

John said that whenever she escaped to her parent’s house, her husband followed her, and assaulted her and her parents.

According to her, the inability of her parents to return the bride price paid on her by the husband, made her to endure the hardship in order to save her parents from shame.

The survivor, however, commended ENGINE for coming to her community to sensitise and enlighten them on issues of gender based violence, saying it gave her confidence to speak out.

She said that the programme helped her and her family return the bride price to her former husband, and that she sued him for molestation and assault.

” Thanks to ENGINE ll, I am now back in school and I’m doing well,” she said.

Similarly, a community leader in Bwari Area Council of FCT, Mr Akanle Sunday, said members of the community have been suffering different forms of abuse, but were silent due to lack of awareness.

He noted that with the sensitisation by members of the ENGINE ll programme, his community was more aware and enlightened and survivors were able to speak out and get help.

Thanks to ENGINE ll, cases related to gender based violence in my community have dropped by 25 per cent,” he said.

With active participation of stakeholders, GBV would be greatly reduced in the country.

 

 

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Punch and its sinister motives for attacks on President Buhari, by Garba Shehu

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PUNCH AND ITS SINISTER MOTIVES FOR ATTACKS ON PRESIDENT BUHARI

The reported new editorial policy of the Punch Newspapers to address President Muhammadu Buhari as Major General in his official title and refer to his government as a regime instead of administration, comes to us as totally curious and utterly incredible.

The paper claimed that it is changing President Buhari’s official title to General because of his government’s alleged disregard for the rule of law.

Major General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), for that is his title, and he was indeed a Major General, but today retired from that position and now twice democratically elected president of Nigeria – is not the choice of Punch Newspaper’s editors and owners, that is clear.

He is, however, the two-time electoral choice of the voters of Nigeria, those very people who Punch Newspapers described this morning as “lethargic”: a disdaining epithet apportioned to decent, hard-working, everyday Nigerians for not agreeing with, and for not having voted in line with their publication’s editorial and political opinions.

Punch’s editorial today is, however, entirely in line with holding and exercising the right of free speech and freedom of the press, as my friend and colleague, Femi Adesina said earlier today.

Femi, Special Adviser, Media and Publicity said the fact the Punch can insult the President in a front page editorial and they go home to sleep, peacefully, is the best testimony to the prevalence of the freedom of the press and of expression in the country.

To quote him, “rather than being pejorative, addressing President Buhari by his military rank is another testimony to free speech and freedom of the press, which this administration (or regime, if anyone prefers: it is a matter of semantics) has pledged to uphold and preserve.”

In countries around the world where this right does not exist, newspapers do not publish articles such as the one Punch did today; nor do they get to express political opinions contrary to that of government. The exact freedoms Punch claims are missing are self-evident here – in print, on the internet – for all Nigerians and the whole world to see.

There is nothing wrong with expressing contrary opinions to this government – nor being in opposition to the president: this is the right of very Nigerian.

However, calling for the armed overthrow of the democratically elected administration is a different matter entirely: this Punch has in no way done – but others who they seek to defend, have.

There is the difference. Punch: oppose the government as much as you want to.

We welcome your contribution to the debate. But we ask you not to throw insults at the good voters of Nigeria for not agreeing to your choice at the last election.

Oppose in good humour: for that is the mark of the true democrat – that which you purport to be.

It is not within the power or rights of a newspaper to unilaterally and whimsically change the formal official title or the designation of the country’s President as it pleases.

It is unprecedented and absurd in our recent political history. The Punch never changed President Olusegun Obasanjo’s title from the President to General Obasanjo, despite the latter’s refusal to comply with Supreme Court judgment, ordering him to release N30 billion of Lagos State local councils funds.

When General Ibrahim Babangida who wasn’t democratically elected assumed the title of President, why didn’t the Punch challenge him or address him by any title it so desired?

In fact, IBB closed media houses for several months and years, including Punch.

But the paper didn’t stop addressing him as President, despite the fact that he wasn’t elected.

It is obvious that the Punch newspapers are playing partisan opposition politics which has nothing to do with journalism.

The Constitution of Nigeria recognises the President as the formal official title of the occupant of that office. Can the Punch newspapers, in their hubris address the President as Prime Minister as it pleases?

Is it within the paper’s responsibility or power to change the official title of the man who occupies the office of the President? Does that mean any newspaper is free to address the Comptroller General of Customs a Colonel rather than his official title?

The Punch newspaper should separate journalism from partisan politics. What it is embarking upon is purely political and it is designed to play to the gallery and cause confusion.

Punch Newspaper’s double standards in cuddling some of our past dictators and their open contempt for President Buhari clearly show that the paper has sinister motives for its current curious editorial judgment. Its personal hatred for and animus towards President Buhari should not be allowed to becloud its good judgment.

Garba Shehu is theSenior Special Assistant to the President

(Media & Publicity)

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Features

NJ Ayuk’s book Billions at Play: The Future of African Energy and Doing Deals now available in Spanish

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NJ Ayuk

NJ Ayuk’s Amazon best-selling sophomore book, Billions at Play: The Future of African Energy and Doing Deals is now available for purchase in Spanish.

The English version of the book was launched early last month and has since become a huge success on the African continent and abroad.

With a foreword by H.E. Mohammad Sanusi Barkindo Secretary-General of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) who describes the book as “a detailed roadmap” of how Africa can utilize its petroleum resources to fuel the growth and development of its economies, Billions at Play takes the public and private sector to task in areas where they fall short in managing and developing the energy sector as a key driver of economic growth.

From the onset, in the first chapter titled It’s High Time for African Oil and Gas to Fuel a Better Future for Africans, author NJ Ayuk takes a frank approach in revealing the fortunes, misfortunes and areas of improvement in the management of the sector.

“Petroleum resources have always represented opportunity for Africans. Again, the problem has been a failure to leverage those resources wisely to develop and capitalize on their value chain, and to protect the interests of everyday Africans where oil and gas revenue is concerned,” writes Ayuk.

The book features chapters on the importance of empowering women to take leadership roles in the sector, the rise of natural gas a key solution to the continent’s power supply issues, the importance of intra-Africa cooperation, local content policy development and implementation, the significance of good governance and American investment in Africa’s oil and gas sector.

“Among other things, Ayuk believes Africans need to have better control of their resource wealth—specifically the riches that lie in the continent’s largely unexploited oil and gas basins. At the same time, he knows Africa is not completely ready to go it alone,” reviews Ann Norman, General Manager for Sub-Saharan Africa at Pioneer Energy.

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Economy

Expo 2020 in Dubai: What Benefits to Africa?

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Mohammed Dansanta Rimi, Nigeria Ambassador to the United Arab

Emirates (UAE) delivering a letter to Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum,

Chairman of the Expo 2020 Dubai Higher Committee in Dubai to confirm Nigeria’s participation.

Expo 2020 in Dubai: What Benefits to Africa?

, Nigeria News Agency

As countries plan to showcase their potential at the Dubai Expo 2020, the show promises to be an invaluable platform for all African nations to strengthen not only their relationship with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) but with the rest of the world.

The Expo, the first to be held in the Middle East, will hold within the Dubai South District on a site that is 4.38 square kilometres.

It is close to Al Maktoum International Airport and easily reached from Dubai International Airport, Abu Dhabi International Airport and Dubai, Abu Dhabi Cruise Terminals.

Approximately 2 square kilometres will form the Expo gate area, while the remaining 2.4 square kilometres will feature supporting amenities, including the Expo 2020 Village for participants and staff accommodation, warehousing, logistics, transport nodes, hotels, retail and a public park.

The Expo 2020 Dubai coincides with the UAE’s 50th anniversary in 2021, marking an important milestone for the UAE. Over the past 50 years, the UAE has impressed the world with its rapid growth and amazing achievements.

The Dubai Expo 2020 wants to motivate people to carry that innovative spirit forward for another 50 years.

With 25 million visits expected, Expo 2020 will create millions of opportunities for positive change, as nations come together to

solve some of the biggest challenges facing us all.

The people attending will come from all over the world, with 70 per cent expected to be international visitors, the highest proportion in World Expo history. 30,000 UAE resident volunteers from a range of nationalities and backgrounds will ensure visitors have the time of their lives – returning again and again.

By participating, African businesses have a chance to join a community of Expo’s buyer and supplier network. Africa’s non-oil trade with Dubai has been growing steadily over the last decade, accounting for 10.5 per cent of the emirate’s total non-oil foreign trade in 2018.

According to UAE Federal Customs Authority data, for the first half of 2018, non-oil foreign trade volume with the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region amounted for AED 138.6 billion; trade with East and Southern Africa totalled AED 28.9 billion; and trade with West and Central Africa AED 27.8 billion.

The organisers of the World’s Greatest Show, said that majority of countries in Africa had publicly announced their participation, adding that each participating country, regardless of size, population, wealth or perceived influence, will have its own pavilion at the Expo.

Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea, Lesotho, Liberia, Senegal,

Sierra Leone, Somalia and Togo are among Africa countries that have already confirmed their participation in the Expo.

Nigeria has the highest population in Africa and is a traditional trade partner for UAE with non-oil trade between the two countries

amounting to 1.3 billion dollars in 2016.

Mr Mohammed Dansanta Rimi, Nigeria’s Ambassador to the UAE had since delivered a letter to Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman of the Expo 2020 Dubai Higher Committee, confirming Nigeria’s participation in the Expo.

The Ambassador said: “We want to show the world how we are working to improve the lives of our youth and people, while opening up our economy and encouraging foreign investment – and the Expo will be the ideal platform for us to do so.’’

Al-Maktoum, confirming Nigeria’s participation in the Expo said: “People and innovation are at the heart of World Expos, which is why we are delighted to welcome Nigeria’s participation.

“Expo 2020 will be the first World Expo to be held in the developing world, and will be for the developing world; so, we look forward to working with Nigeria and other confirmed African countries on our journey to 2020.’’

Similarly, Mr Reem Ibrahim Al Hashimi, Minister of State for International Cooperation and Director-General of the Expo added: “As director-general of Expo 2020, I have no doubt to say that the Expo will offer an opportunity to take our relationships (with Africa) to new heights.

“Our Expo visitors are expected to be primarily international coming from all over the world – including Africa.

“Almost all African nations have confirmed their participation and we are working closely with them to curate and programme exhibitions that are meaningful to contribute at all levels.’’

But, according to the organisers, no fewer than 192 countries have confirmed participation, as well as companies, non-governmental

organisations, businesses and educational institutions.

The organisers, who spoke recently to some selected African journalists in Dubai, said that the six months celebration of human

brilliance and achievement will inspire everyone to create a better future for all.

According to them, Africa and South Asia (MEASA), African countries and everything they have to offer will be accessible to the

whole world in new and unexpected ways.

“From discovering what the future holds for the world’s youngest country, South Sudan, and tasting Ethiopia’s next big super-grain, to investing in Kenya’s croton nuts, energy industry, learning about Nigeria’s Economic Recovery Growth Plan 2017-2020, and preserving the continent’s intangible cultural heritage, there will be no barriers to connecting minds at Expo 2020 Dubai.

The Expo 2020, a once-in-lifetime experience, they added will be a time to create and renew connections and deepen through 2020 and beyond, a time to be awed by the spectacular events programme, and a time to do business.

“The show which will open to the world between October 20, 2020 and April 10, 2021, will also move away from traditional geographical clusters and band together countries facing similar challenges and will  focus on `Opportunity, Mobility and Sustainability’, which is the sub-theme of the Expo.

“This involve ensuring jobs, education and healthcare for all; easy and equitable access to transport and ideas; and balancing development with preserving the environment for future generations.

The sub-themes also form part of commitment to advancing the 2020 Global Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),’’ they said.

“The African Union (AU) has been identified as a body that will play a critical role in promoting Africa’s growth and development at the forthcoming Expo, with the AU already embodying Expo 2020’s theme: ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the future’, will showcase to the world the power of collaboration in building a more prosperous and integrated Africa.

“Already, with a collective effort of the 55 AU member states to implement Agenda 2063 – a blueprint for delivering Africa’s goal for

inclusive and sustainable development, also involves addressing issues in agriculture, transport, science and technology, health,

information and communication technology, as well as those relating to legal and financial matters.’’

It said that among the 25 projects selected in Expo 2020’s Global Best Practice Programme, 15 have a direct impact on some of the biggest challenges facing Africa, noting that Africa and the UAE had enjoyed a long friendship, steeped in a shared culture and trade ties that date back centuries, and which still define their mutually respectful relationship.

Analysts believe that Africa is the future of global economic growth. And while other continents see slow to negative growth in their economies, Africa countries’ economies are growing at double digit level.

So, African participation in Expo 2020 is seen as an important element for the success of the mega event.

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Features

FEATURE: Gender-Based Violence: Do men suffer same?

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Gender-Based Violence: Do men suffer same?

Aliyu, Nigeria News Agency

Gender-Based Violence (GBV) is any violence directed at an individual

based on his or her sex or gender identity.

It includes physical, sexual, verbal, emotional and psychological abuse,

threats, coercion and economic or educational deprivation, whether

occurring in public or private life.

Whoever the victim is – man, woman, girl or boy — GBV undermines

the health, dignity, security and autonomy of victims and it remains shrouded

in a culture of silence.

An overview by UN Population Fund (UNFPA) which places more emphasis

on the female gender, however, states that violence against women and girls

is one of the most prevalent human rights violations in the world.

The fund notes that such violence knows no social, economic or national

boundaries and adds that an estimated one in three women in the world

will experience physical or sexual abuse in her lifetime.

However, GBV as the name connotes, is any violence on an individual due

to his or her gender identity, men inclusive.

Against the backdrop of the annual 16 Days of Activism Against GBV declared

by the UN from Nov. 25 to Dec. 10 to bring to light various acts

of violence and abuse against men, women, boys and girls, News Agency of

Nigeria seeks to find out if men also suffer same and why they keep mum.

With the 2019 theme — “Orange the World: Generation Equality Stands

Against Rape’’, the 16 days of activism is a call for global actions to increase awareness, galvanise advocacy efforts and share knowledge and innovations toward dealing with abuse cases.

Malam Ya’u Umar, a 57-year-old civil servant in Abuja, then narrates

what he calls“psychological trauma suffered by many married men.”

He says it is not only women, girls and boys that suffer GBV, noting that

married men especially suffer it “as exhibited by some wives in many

different forms.’’

He explained that from the definitions of GBV, which include emotional and

psychological abuse, “many married men are also suffering in silence.”

Umar says culture plays a great role in silencing men suffering from

domestic violence, as they cannot openly speak about it.

The civil servant, who said he would not want to go into details of the things

some men go through in the form of violence in their homes, added that “culturally and religiously, a man is the head of the home and as such, should not be heard as being violated in his house.

“Culture sees it as something unimaginable, and as such, the men will rather continue to endure in silence; but these are things that actually happen; many family members can attest to that.

“I don’t think any man can openly say that he is being assaulted by his wife or by a woman; no man will ever come out to say that his wife or a woman beats him; right from childhood, boys are made to know that girls/women are the weaker sex.”

Another man, Mr Donatus Nnamoko, a 48-year-old businessman residing in Abuja, said “I almost abandoned my family due to my wife’s nagging; the psychological and emotional abuse was too much for me to bear.’’

He explained that even though his wife is educated and earning salary, her nagging behaviour subjected him to psychological trauma and anxiety “and many times, I felt like just absconding from home.

“Even though we have now ironed out our differences, anytime I remember

those days, I begin to think differently about her.

“I had to report her to both families, where we were summoned for meeting and we discussed at length and both of us spoke our minds on everything happening between us.

“We were then warned and we swore to an oath not to cause trouble again and I want to believe she has now changed.’’

For Mr Adebayo Aina, a lawyer also based in Abuja, said violence against men had been happening for ages, “but the attention on it has been very low; and the men do not speak about it due to culture or maybe stigma.

“Even though it happens to women more than men, many men are also undergoing some form of torture.’’

He explained that many husbands suffer psychological abuse in homes, narrating how his wife tried to poison his children against him.

He said that “some women are troublesome and can do anything to make life unbearable to their husbands; especially when they ask for something and are not granted or suspect the man is into extra marital affairs.

“Some women can tell the children all sorts of things that can make them to even hate their father; many women display such attitude, which is very bad and can divide the family.

“Do you know that many men resort to hanging out with friends and the bar because of their wives’ attitude?, many of us will like to go home and rest after work, but cannot do that because of some women’s nagging.

“Many times I felt like running out of the house because of the `dangerous’ look my wife gives me when I return from work.’’

He added that “the unfriendly look’’ would just send the man thinking about what he did wrong, “and that kind of trauma can cause high blood pressure, as the woman keeps eyeing without any explanation.

“That kind of trauma is a huge abuse because the man will not be able to concentrate.’’

Aina said that even though he is a lawyer, he never handled any abuse case against a man, as many see it as a family matter “which the men would not want to make public.’’

He added that although it had been happening and the men kept enduring in silence, there was need to bring it to the fore, just like the advocacy against abuse of women and girls “so that men too would have peace of mind.’’

He urged the media to also focus and report cases of abuse against men, so as to find lasting solution to it, “in form of a law, establishment of special court to try such cases or emphasis on the use of family to tackle the matter.

“Once there is a law to protect men against abuse, it will deter suspected culprits.’’

He, however, encouraged men who felt violated to feel free to speak out and not to feel ashamed so as to avoid psychological trauma, which might cause diseases or send men to early grave.

He said “men also experience gender abuse but do not shout about it; I hope it would not get to a time that they would carry placards to protest against the aggressors.”

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FEATURE: Nigeria’s border closure: The pains, gains and challenges

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Nigeria’s border closure: The Pains, gains and challenges

, Nigeria News Agency

Nigeria shares international boundaries with the Republic of Benin to the west, Cameroon and Chad to the east and Niger, to the north.

Apart from these official borders, the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) says more than 1,400 illegal border routes exist in the country as smugglers routes, creating security challenges.

The comptroller-general of the service, Mr David Parradang, says that although the country has only 84 approved land border control posts, there are also more than 1,400 illegal borders in the country.

But Nigerian authorities note that the porous borders have resulted in crisis in economy sector that has been affecting the development of the country.

So, in August, Nigeria authority announced and enforced the closure of its border with the Republic of Benin.

The operation under the codename “Ex-Swift Response’’ was a collaborative security operation involving the Nigeria Immigration Service and Nigeria Customs Service together with Nigeria Police Force and the Armed Forces.

President Muhammadu Buhari attributes the partial closure of Nigeria’s border with Benin Republic to the massive smuggling activities, especially of rice, taking place on that corridor.

He expresses great concern over the smuggling of rice, noting that it threatens the self-sufficiency already attained due to his administration’s agricultural policies.

Similarly, the Comptroller-General of Nigeria Customs Service, retired Col. Hameed Ali, says that the closure of Nigeria’s borders was undertaken to strengthen the nation’s security and protect its economic interests.

Ali also observes that closure would stem the influx of smuggled goods, especially rice and tomatoes into the country, insisting that the closure has significantly increased revenue from import duties.

However, while the government claims to have acted in the best interests of the economy and Nigerians, some Nigerians and citizens of neighbouring countries most affected by the closure, continue to express worry about it, calling for an immediate reopening of the borders.

Some economists believe that the decision to close the nation’s land borders could be painful to the concerned neighbouring countries, considering the relationship with them.

According to them, one of the immediate gains of the closure could be a stop to the dumping of goods from European markets in Nigeria.

They are of the opinion that the action would go a long way in protecting our local manufacturers and producers.

They describe it as policy that would address and redefine relations with our neighbours in a win-win situation.

But critics insist that border closure is an economic aberration as most countries don’t usually close their borders for trade-related reasons.

According to them, the closure has the potential to disrupt the economic lifelines of many traders who depend on legitimate cross-border trade.

Irrespective of this, Emir of Kano Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, says that the decision to close border is part of the measures to preserve foreign policy in the national interest.

“Last time, I was critical of Nigeria’s refusal to sign the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (ACFTA) and recently I have been in support of the decision to close the border.

“Nigeria is 70 per cent of the population of West Africa and if we have an industrial policy that is aimed at protecting the productive sector of Nigeria, it is a fair competition.

“We cannot allow our neighbours to open their doors to this unfair competition and through the back door undermine our industry.

“It is not about smuggling petroleum or rice; but in 2017, the Republic of Benin was the world’s second largest importer of tramadol — an opioid pain medication that is being abused — to U.S.

“So closing the borders, I hope is not a permanent solution but what I hope is that is an opportunity to sit down and agree on rules and then opens up the borders.

“It is extremely important to have a Foreign Policy that is ready to take very firm decision to protect the national interest against dangerous trade activities,” Sanusi observes.

Sharing similar sentiments, Ghana’s former President John Mahama has lauds the creation of a joint-security taskforce on the borders of Nigeria but warns that the continued delay is harming the economies of the West African region.

Mahama believes that the greatest volume of trade in West Africa takes place in the Lagos – Abidjan corridor.

“I believe that an ECOWAS meeting of the Heads of States should discuss the issues and it could lead to the resolution of the problem.

“So, closing your border is the simplest thing to do; any country can say I’m closing my border to imports from my neighbours, but it doesn’t help to build the kind of integration we are trying to build in West Africa,’’ he said.

He also expresses the fear that by the time the borders are re-opened, some businesses that rely on each other’s export may have collapsed.

Economists note that one of the immediate consequences of Nigeria’s action is the backlash it will have on Nigerian traders in Ghana.

They allege that more than 400 shops owned by Nigerians have been closed for flimsy excuses that were, hitherto, overlooked.

Nigeria Union in Diaspora also alleges that Nigerian traders in Accra are being harassed and victimised.

In spite of this, authorities in Nigeria, having observed the encouraging changes in the economy, recently foreclosed re-opening of the nation’s borders.

For instance, the Federal Government says 95 per cent of arms and ammunition inflow to Boko Haram insurgent group, kidnappers, killer herdsmen and bandits has gone down considerably.

Minister of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed says border closure against importation of foreign goods and illegal immigrants will remain, observing that 296 illegal immigrants have been arrested.

According to him, the decision to close the borders is taken to secure the country which has been confronted by numerous trans-borders economic and security challenges.

“These challenges range from banditry, kidnapping, smuggling, illegal migrants and proliferation of light weapons, among others.

“The preference for foreign goods, especially food items such as rice, has continuously impoverished our farmers and adversely affected domestic government policies supporting the agricultural sector to enhance food security.

“It is, however, disturbing that some neighbouring countries circumvent the ECOWAS protocol on transit.

“ECOWAS protocol on transit demands that when a transit container berths at a seaport, the receiving country is mandated to escort same without tampering with the seal to the border of the destination country.

“Experience has shown that our neighbours do not comply with this protocol. Rather, they break the seals of containers at their ports and trans-load goods destined for Nigeria,’’ he said.

The minister, who expresses satisfaction with success so far recorded by the joint task force, observing that the singular decision has reduced importation of foreign goods, increased revenue generation and enhances security.

“On the economy, the partial closure of the borders has curbed the smuggling of foreign rice into the country, in addition to other prohibited items.

“Our series of interactions and engagements with Rice Miller Association of Nigeria since the commencement of this exercise has shown that the border closure has enhanced more production and milling of Nigerian rice.

“Patronage of local rice has increased and farmers are expanding their farms as well as engaging more hands.

“Border closure has also impacted positively on revenue generation which in turn will be used to build more infrastructures and develop critical sectors of the nation’s economy.

“The border closure has also curbed diversion of petroleum products from Nigeria to neighbouring countries,’’ he said.

Mohammed says further that 95 per cent of illicit drugs and weapons that are being used for acts of terrorism and kidnapping in Nigeria is through porous borders.

“Our conclusion is that the arms and ammunition these terrorists and criminal elements are using no longer gain access into the country.

“The drugs which affect the health and wellbeing of Nigerians have equally been reduced,’’ the minister said.

He assures the public that government, through diplomatic channels, would continue to engage the nation’s neighbours to agree to comply with the ECOWAS Protocol on Transit.

According to the minister, goods that are on the prohibition list to Nigeria, such as rice, used clothing, poultry products and vegetable oil, should not be exported to the country.

He also notes that the closure has provided a unique platform for the various participating agencies to jointly operate together, thereby strengthening inter-agency collaboration and reducing animosity.

He insists that the purpose of border close is to promote a secure, peaceful and prosperous Nigeria.

Mohammed, therefore, calls on all Nigerians to be patriotic by patronising local rice to help the country to attain self-sufficiency in local rice production and boost the economy.

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Stakeholders restate rejection of Hate Speech Bill at Editors’ Conference

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Stakeholders restate rejection of Hate Speech Bill at Editors’ Conference

Bello, Nigeria News Agency

Stakeholders who participated at the

 

15th All Nigerian Editors’ Conference (ANEC) held in Sokoto, were unanimous in their rejection and condemnation of the Hate Speech Bill before the Senate.

They said that the bill was unnecessary, as everything needed to punish perpetrators of hate speech was taken care of by extant laws and legislations.

The bill was sponsored by Deputy Chief Whip, Sen. Sabi Abdullahi (APC-Niger North).

The bill which prescribed death penalty for offenders, also sought for the establishment of a National Commission for the Prohibition of Hate Speech.

A similar bill was earlier presented to the Senate in March 2018 for consideration, but did not make it to third reading.

Leading the pack at the 15thANEC, Chief segun Osoba, former governor of Ogun, described the bill as direct confrontation of the code of conduct instituted by the Nigeria Press Organisation (NPO), made up of the Nigeria Union of Journalist (NUJ), Newspapers Proprietors’ Association of Nigeria (NPAN) and Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE).

“I don’t think we deserve this hate speech bill, we fought for those who are in political offices now. You all fought, many of you were killed, many of us were sent to jail.

“The social media is not part of us, we are trained journalists, we have our code of conduct instituted by the NPO, for which the NUJ, NPAN and Guild are all members. We have our standard, we are not part of social media.

“I don’t know why anybody will want to make a law to punish those of us who are part of those who fought for the independence of Nigeria, and we all fought for democracy we all enjoy today, the media was very strong when the issue of return to democracy was on the table,” he said.

The former governor said when he was defamed by Fame magazine and Punch newspapers in 1993 and 2001 respectively, he personally went to court to clear his name.

“When I was governor in 1993, Fame magazine wrote that I have 19 personal cars; immediately Abacha sent us packing in Nov. 17, 1993, the first thing I did was to go to court.

“I sued the magazine for label, at the end, the magazine apologised.

“In 2001, Punch wrote that I had a child as a governor out of wedlock, I also went to court.

“I am saying all this to show that in our laws, there are enough provisions for anybody to go to court if he or she felt injured.

“So I want to plead with you, that we should fight, let the current provisions of our laws take care, we must not let this hate speech bill go through.

“If it will mean to lobby the senators, I offer myself to the Guild to lead you as a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), I hope the senators will be sensible enough.

” We fought for democracy and independence, we shall also fight this one and by the grace of God, we shall overcome,” Osoba said.

In the same vein, Gov. Aminu Tambuwal, of Sokoto State, complained of gradual erosion of our laws.

” Our laws are now being obeyed more in the breach, freedom of speech and association are under severe attacks.

“Let us move against the anti-hate speech bill that prescribed death penalty for offenders, this is quite scary, indeed some people question the true intention of the bill.

“There are enough provisions in our laws to deal with people whose actions can undermine national unity and cohesion. Such draconian legislation has no place in constitutional democracy like ours.

“The media must therefore remain vigilant, you have a responsibility to educate and mobalise Nigerians to defend this hard earned democracy.

“We cannot operate democracy like a military dictatorship, the storms are gathering, we must join hands to checkmate anti-democratic elements,” Tambuwal said.

On his part, NGE President, Mustapha Isah, said editors were not in support and would never support fake news and hate speech, as NGE members are trained professionals.

“But we will not accept any move to surreptitiously curtail press freedom. The social media space, just like any other ecosystem, is being abused by some people.

“But we wish to place on record and to remind the promoters of these bills, that there are laws already in existence to deal with such infractions. We shall not shy away from testing these extant laws.

“Besides, we expect the government to work with critical stakeholders in the media industry to address these challenges,” Isah said.

In a related development, the NUJ also rejected the bill.

Mr Christopher Isiguzo, the NUJ President, spoke during a courtesy visit to the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed.

He described it as plan to silence the media and perceived political opponents if eventually passed.

Isiguzo also expressed worries about recent events, adding that most actions taken were targeted to silence journalists.

 

” These threats and attacks against the media are aimed at inducing fear and self-censorship and these should not be allowed if our democracy is to flourish,” he stated.

Former military President, Ibrahim Babangida, described the bill as an “eye service.”

He spoke in Minna, when he hosted the NUJ president.

Babangida said there was no basis for the bill, because no one can deny Nigerians their fundamental rights of freedom of expression.

“I am surprised that this bill has resurfaced. There is no basis for this now. We are developing; we should be allowed to develop. If we make mistakes people can be cautioned. If somebody goes off, you have the right to call him to say, no, we don’t want this.

“Unless people are able to express themselves, those in government or in authority will not know what is happening in the country.

“If somebody makes hate speech, put him in the gallows and not shoot him. It is crude and out of tune with the 21st-century reality. It could have happened, maybe some 300 years ago, but not now.

“I am with you on this. I will also talk to those of us who could be in a position to bring sanity to bear on some of these things. if we had their type of media, I think they should be jailing you all by now. But today, the country is better for it,” he said.

The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), on its part, described the bill as ploy to “gag Nigerians.’’

CAN President, Samson Ayokunle, in a statement, called on the National Assembly to drop the bill and focus on legislations that could address insecurity, deplorable infrastructural deficit and general welfare of the people.

“The bill has generated misgivings and criticisms that they have led to uncommon tension and fears among citizens.

“Having looked at all sides to the debate, CAN is calling on the National Assembly, particularly the President of the Senate and all distinguished senators to discountenance the bill and put off completely any contemplation to pass it to law, as sincere lovers of the nation.’’

In what appears to be response to CAN’s appeal, the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, said the Senate won’t pass the proposed bill.

Lawan made the disclosure in response to a detailed written protest letter against the hate speech bill and anti-social media bill before the senate by the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, HURIWA.

He said legislators would listen to the pulse of Nigerians who have rejected the bill and will do exactly as they demanded.

 

 

 

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