Insights Into The NPA ?—? INTELS Contract Agreement

Abdullahi Abubakar
I read in some quarters that because of 2019 politics, Buhari has directed NPA to cancel Atiku’s INTELS agreement. To be very clear on this, the first letter challenging this agreement was initiated by past administration with a letter dated June 2016 written by former Executive Director of Finance to INTELS for a review of the Service Boats Pilotage Revenue.
This present management came into office in July, 2017. In essence, this is administration is only following up on the initial call for review. I will take you through the contract agreement between the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA and INTELS Logistics which is in two folds for you to judge the party that is being short-changed. The NPA engaged the services of INTELS basically;
1. As Managing Agent for monitoring and collections of revenue from Service Boats Operations in the pilotage districts.
2. Development of Port infrastructure at Onne Ports Complex.
Summarily, the first fold is a 10year contract agreement to manage, especially, logistics of vessels of Oil and Gas related activities amongst others (and over the years, INTELS have monopolized logistics of Oil and Gas related activities). To also collect all money invoiced for service boats operations and other relevant dues invoiced against vessels owners.
In view of the above, the NPA pays INTELS a commission of 28% of total revenue generated. Withholding tax, inclusive. This pricing is outrageous but quite surprising, the NPA hasn’t made it a major issue of contention. For a better perspective, commercial Banks also collect tax on behalf of the government and charge between 0.25% to 1% as commission.
NB: the 28% is deducted at source as dictated in the terms of the contract.
The second fold which is development of Ports Infrastructure at Onne Ports where in August 2013, the Authority, through the Federal Executive Council (FEC) engaged Deep Offshore Services Nig Limited, a sister agency of INTELS, to construct Port infrastructure at Onne Ports Phase 4B for the sum of $2.7bn for a 6years period. Term of this contract is that, recovery of project cost is through amortization process from port charges and Service Boats Operations revenue.
This means, NPA will also remit 60% balance of the 72% left (100% – 28%) for this port development.
Meanwhile, capacity of Phase 3 and 4A earlier constructed by INTELS is evaluated at less than 60% but at a cost 20% higher than initial contract sum because NPA pays cost of funds of Libor + 6 percent.
Important to note, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore and Dredging International Asia Pacific – Daelim Joint Venture signed a contract for $1.8bn for a new port wharf terminal Phase 1. This entails the construction of a new port terminal with 20 deep-water berths having a total capacity of 20million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUS) per annum.
On the flip side, Deep Offshore Services are constructing only 8 deep-water berths for the Phase 4B at $2.7bn. This is almost a billion dollar extra for less number of deep-water berths. Ridiculous!
Perhaps deliberate, there is no clause mandating INTELS to remit any percentage of the Service Boats Operations revenue collections to NPA and on a stipulated date. Hence remittances are based on mutual understanding between both parties. So from 2013, INTELS remitted an average of $3m monthly which represents only about 18% of average revenue collected. Remittance went all-time high in 2014 to an average of $5.6m monthly. It is a cause of worry to NPA that this remittance dropped to an average of $3.6m monthly in 2016. This called for a review by the former management which was followed through until recent approval to terminate the contract.
After reconciliation, Service Boats Operations revenue collected by INTELS from January 2014 when execution of Phase 4B commenced to September 2016 was $510m while sum of $162m which represents about 29% of the total revenue was remitted to NPA within the period.
Worthy of note also, the LAST remittance made by INTELS to NPA was in October of 2016 ?—? one year ago. However, INTELS is owed $674.8m as at December 2016 for executed project cost not yet amortized. The Managing Agent, INTELS is as well holding on to the sum of $128.3m being jointly reconciled revenue as at December 31st, 2016.
Since the Managing Agents, INTELS control the revenue, they went ahead to execute a project at the Onne Ports Complex worth $109m without any recourse to their principal, the NPA. Another thing is, the Managing Agent keep the balance at their disposal for, sometimes, months, with no interest element paid to the principal.
What is it in the reviewed agreement that INTELS is declining to affirm to? The following Standard Operating Procedures were drafted and reviewed for adoption;
1. The NPA is suggesting the balance of 72% be shared between NPA and INTELS in the ratio of 30:70.
2. Two transit accounts be opened with two commercial banks where individual boat operators pay their charges and funds be swept into the TSA account with CBN daily. INTELS get their 28% Commission within 7 days. In the event that NPA fails to pay the commission within the stipulated time, it shall pay INTELS a 0.15% for the outstanding.
3. Since capacity utilization of the completed phase 4B is very low, that further execution be formally stopped and the completed section be put to commercial use to generate revenue for the Authority.
Nothing spurs us to action, else the Civil Society Organizations and other pressure groups would be at the fore front demanding a repeal of this agreement and perhaps, demand a downright payment of outstanding balances.
Abdullahi K. Abubakar is on twitter as @abubakar47i

Meet The 41-year-old Newly Appointed CBN Deputy Governor, Aisha Ahmad

The Presidency on Thursday announced the nomination of Aisha Ahmad, to take over as Deputy Governor Central Bank of Nigeria from Sarah Alade who retired in March.

President Buhari’s spokesman, Femi Adesina, said in a statement that the president had urged the Senate to expedite the confirmation of Ms Ahmad.

“In accordance with the provisions of Section 8(1) (2) of the Central Bank of Nigeria (Establishment) Act 2007, President Buhari urged the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, to consider the expeditious confirmation of Mrs. Ahmad, who would then resume work immediately,” the statement read.

Mr Adesina added that Mr Buhari had written the Senate, seeking the confirmation of appointment of members of the Monetary Policy Committee of the CBN.

He said the appointees were to replace four members, whose tenure expires at the end of this year.

“The nominees are: Prof. Adeola Festus Adenikinju; Dr. Aliyu Rafindadi Sanusi; Dr. Robert Chikwendu Asogwa and Dr. Asheikh A. Maidugu.

“After Senate clearance, the new members of the Monetary Policy Committee are to resume duties next January,” the statement added.


Banking industry feelers say with over 20 years experience with global financial institutions such as Stanbic IBTC Bank, Zenith Bank PLC and Bank of New York Mellon, Diamond Bank PLC, the new CBN deputy governor-nominee, Aishah Ahmad, seems fully prepared for the position.

Mrs Ahmad was born on October 26, 1976, and hails from Niger State.

According to her profile in the most recent annual report of Diamond Bank, Mrs Ahmad was the Head, Consumer and Privilege Banking at the bank. She was previously the Head, Retail Banking Directorate.

She joined Diamond Bank in June 2014 as a Deputy General Manager and the Head, Retail Financial Services Division, overseeing Privilege Banking, Consumer Banking Group, Retail Assets, Cards and Customer Engagement & Insight.

Prior to joining Diamond Bank, Aishah worked with Stanbic IBTC Holdings where she served in various capacities as Head, High Net-worth Individuals; Head, Private Client Services and Deputy Head, Private Client Services between 2009 – 2014.

She had also worked with other companies such as Zenith Capital Limited as Head, Business Development, Bank of New York Mellon (UK), Synesix Financial Limited (UK), Zenith Bank Plc as Head, Retail Banking Unit, and NAL Bank Plc as Head, Private Banking.

She also worked with First Interstate Bank Plc as Executive Assistant, Treasury Group, Manstructs Group Nigeria Limited as Group Accountant and Z. O. Ososanya & Co.

She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting from the University of Abuja, an MBA (Finance) from the University of Lagos and an M.Sc. Finance and Management from the Cran?eld School of Management (UK).

She is a Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst (CAIA) and she holds the prestigious Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation.

Mrs Ahmad is currently the Chairperson of Women in Business and Public Service, WIMBIZ, and a board member of the SOS Children’s hospital.

She is renowned for her experience in the private banking space having managed many High Net-worth Individuals (HNI’s) throughout her career.

Mrs Ahmad is married to Abdallah Ahmad, a retired brigadier-general, and has two children.

Jail Time Or Death: Pregnant Women In Nigeria Face Unlikely Sentence In Their Hospitals

Mrs Audu, 33, had just given birth to her first child at the Asokoro General Hospital. She was ecstatic and could not wait to take her newborn home but her joy was short-lived.

“We’ve been asked to stay here until we can pay”, looking at her newborn, she said, feigning indifference.

“I need Nigerians to help me out”, she said into the voice recorder and looked resigned again. Audu is a low-grade civil servant in the nation’s capital.

Mrs Audu is one of many new mothers under detention in Nigerian hospitals as a result of inability to settle their medical bills. Her case was quite serious. She suffered postpartum hemorrhage and had received two pints of blood shortly after giving birth.

Up the aisle to the maternity ward of the Asokoro Hospital, a stretch of pregnant women are seen groaning under labour pains and awaiting available beds for delivery.  “All the beds have been occupied in this hospital, the women queue until there’s a bed space available”, a matron who asked to remain anonymous told me.

“As soon as you birth your baby, you are discharged to go home, we need space for others”, the matron added.

The non-implementation of the 2014 National Health Act is a major drawback and reason for the collapse of health facilities, which have turned into trauma centers for most pregnant women. The Act mandates a 1% contribution by the Federal Government from the Consolidated Revenue Fund that will help guarantee a basic minimum health package, which includes free health coverage for pregnant women and children less than 5 years.

A coalition of about 30 civil society organisations and the ONE Campaign, in an open letter to Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari called for more investment in the healthcare sector in Nigeria.

“There is an urgent need to make a quantum leap investment into the health sector in the 2018 budget to at least 7.5% of the national budget and demonstrate good faith in implementing the 1% Consolidated Revenue Fund towards the Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF), as stipulated by the National Health Act 2014.”

Nana Aisha, 34, would be spending her third night at Asher hospital, where she was delivered of twin babies. The hospital, which was situated in Kubwa Abuja, the largest satellite town in Nigeria, and under Bwari Area Council in Abuja has an emergency ward, a maternity ward and a small pharmacy unit.

She is being held against her will due to her inability to pay after a cesarean section arising from complications. She has been abandoned, and yet to hear from her husband ever since he pledged to return to make payments.

Nana Aisha eventually got bailed through the contributions of a female empowerment group, called Ejilogwu women association, she has ceased to become a member of, for about four months before the incident. This was due to her inability to keep up with the required monthly contributions.

Hajiya Jummai who runs the women empowerment group bailed Nana through a micro-finance model where women contribute on a monthly basis to help each other finance their individual businesses or problems.

“We see a lot of this type of situations, that is why we organized ourselves to help each other. We raise money for naming ceremonies, burials and other problems that women face”

The hospital was charging her for the equipment used during her treatment such as bandages, bed-space, hand-gloves and gown. The total amount reached N16,000 (less than $50). The doctor had instructed the gateman and the night nurse on duty not to let her out of the hospital. Nana realized this when she tried to escape.

“We heard that she was detained and her husband had run away because he could not pay the four-thousand-naira hospital bill after her delivery, so we gathered money that afternoon and went to bail her.”

At the Gwagwalada specialist hospital, a government owned facility, I spoke to Ifeanyi Anih, a medical intern who told me that the hospital management has created a deferral scheme.

“We handle all female genital tract issues, and there are a lot of cases where women come in pregnant and require surgery. We have a system that allows them do it on credit to enable them pay afterwards, but the more prevalent case is that they don’t return so we turn it into a bad debt. The finance department actually raises some money as a provision for this.”

This is not the same for private hospitals. Folake Animashaun (real name withheld) who works at one of the private clinics tells me that sometimes they gauge the patient before treatment.

“When we give the patient the cost of the treatment, and we realize the patient cannot pay, we don’t treat them. Sometimes you can tell by their body language, the way they begin to look at each other or complain. In cases like this, we just refer them to a general hospital. Sometimes it’s a critical emergency, we pad the patient, give them pain-killers and wait for them to leave. It’s easier to bear a cost of roughly N2,000 free medications than to conduct a N150,000 surgery and not get the money back.”

Ifeanyi explained to me that the most prevalent cases are pregnant women with complications who have been turned away by the privately owned health centers.
“The largest cases we face here are mostly obstructions during pregnancy. Like when the baby is in the wrong position. We asked them if they can pay for it and they started looking at themselves. The challenge here is that you really can’t treat them for free. There is a framework that comes from the Ministry of health which serves as a guideline for billing patients, and a surgery like that costs about N85,000. Private hospitals collect almost three times that rate.
“The private clinics don’t handle patients who cannot pay. In one case we faced here, they went as far as padding the bleeding woman, gave her one pint of blood and waited for her to leave. She still came here, and yet had no money.”

Nigeria has one of the worst health coverage indicators in the world with less than four percent of the population insured. A far cry from countries like Rwanda where only about 4% are not insured.

Currently, health insurance covers a number of government workers and big private sector organisations. Hospitals charge the people in this category only 10% of the cost of treatment, but the larger population of Nigeria are denied this benefit.

On a daily, Nigerian mothers are detained all over the country; the situation poses a grave threat to the country’s ambitions to achieve universal health coverage (UCH) by 2030, a key aspect of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

According to the terms of UCH, access to safe, quality and essential, affordable health-care services including medicines and vaccines should be available for all.

While Nigeria’s President Buhari enjoys medical treatment abroad, Nigerian government hospitals remain detention facilities for new mothers across the country. The irony is that it has become common to see high-ranking public officials bail out detained mothers in what is pitched to the public as an act of compassion.

As the class divide deepens, public hospitals have become exclusive preserve of the Nigerian middle class while the rich turn to medical facilities abroad. The poor have nowhere to run. The inability of government to provide free maternal services contribute to the grave maternal mortality indicators in Nigeria as pregnant women seek unorthodox medical options or stay at home leading to major complications and death when they eventually make it to the hospitals.
Audu and Aisha consider themselves lucky to be alive in debt as other women in similar situations are never admitted. Most of them die from complications trying to birth their babies.

This article was written as part of the 2017 BudgIT Media Fellowship

Mercy Abang is a Freelance Journalist, focusing on development Journalism – She doubles as a media fixer with Sunday Times of London, BBC, Aljazeera and a former Stringer with the Associated Press – She tweets at @abangmercy.. She is the 2017 United Nations Journalism Fellow and budgIT Media fellow for 2017

Defying The Odds: A 14 Year Old Nana Yaa With Autism Turns Model

Across the world, we are looking for inspiring stories that defy the odds, ones which can show us that challenges are just catalysts to discover our true self.

One of such stories can be told of our very own, 14 year old Nana Yaa Ohenewaa Kuffour, who is nonverbal and has autism but despite her condition is determined to become one of the most inspiring people on earth.

With a condition such as autism, Nana Yaa has turned her life around with the support of her family, discovering an inner potential that could also earn her spots among super photo models to have lived in this part of the world.

With a special photo session directed by celebrated Ghanaian Photographer Kwaku David & Photo Model, Afi Antonio, Nana Yaa churned out amazing poses that could make for that of a supermodel.

With an inspiring mum and mentor, Mrs. Mary Kuffour, who is a Professional teacher, now a special needs teacher and an early interventionist for children with speech and language difficulties, Nana Yaa is ready to turn her hobby into a career.

Born a healthy baby, her mother shared how difficult it was for her to discover the health condition of her daughter when she turned 5 but now their story is about to turn a new face of glory.

Autism Spectrum Disorder, which is popularly referred to as Autism, is a range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication, as well as by unique strengths and differences. It is now known that there is not one autism but many types, caused by different combinations of genetic and environmental factors.

FULL TEXT: President Buhari’s Speech At The Ongoing UN General Assembly #UNGA

Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari, has addressed the 72nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA 72) in New York, United States.

Read the President’s speech below:……………….


Mr. President,

Fellow Heads of State and Government,

Mr. Secretary-General,

Distinguished Delegates,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

On behalf of my country, Nigeria, I congratulate you Mr. President on your election and Mr. Gutteres on his first General Assembly outing as our Secretary-General. I assure you both of my country’s solidarity and cooperation. You will indeed need the cooperation of all member States as we are meeting during extra-ordinarily troubled and dangerous times. Let me also thank former Secretary-General Mr. Ban ki Moon for his service to the United Nations and wish him peaceful retirement.

Mr. President,

The previous year has witnessed many far-reaching developments. Some of the most significant events include the Iran Nuclear Deal, the Paris Climate Change Agreement and, of grave concern, the North Korean nuclear crisis.

Mr. President,

I must also commend the UN’s role in helping to settle thousands of innocent civilians caught in the conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. In particular, we must collectively thank the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany under the commendable leadership of Chancellor Angela Merkel and the Governments of Italy, Greece and Turkey for assisting hundreds of thousands of refugees.

In an exemplary show of solidarity, the international community came together within my own region to assist the countries and communities in the Sahel and the Lake Chad regions to contain the threats posed by Al Qaida and Boko Haram.

We thank the Security Council for visiting the countries of the Lake Chad Basin to assess the security situation and humanitarian needs, and for pledging assistance to rebuild lives and livelihoods. Indeed, in Nigeria we are providing relief and humanitarian assistance to millions in camps and those afflicted by terrorism, drought, floods and other natural disasters.

In the last year, the international community came together to focus on the need for gender equality, youth empowerment, social inclusion, and the promotion of education, creativity and innovation. The frontiers of good governance, democracy including holding free and fair elections, and enthronement of the rule of law are expanding everywhere, especially in Africa.

Our faith in democracy remains firm and unshaken. Our regional organisation ECOWAS came together to uphold democratic principles in The Gambia – as we had done previously in Cote D’Ivoire.

Through our individual national efforts, state institutions are being strengthened to promote accountability, and to combat corruption and asset recovery. These can only be achieved through the international community cooperating and providing critical assistance and material support. We shall also cooperate in addressing the growing transnational crimes such as forced labour, modern day slavery, human trafficking and cybercrime.

Mr. President,

These cooperative efforts should be sustained. We must collectively devise strategies and mobilise the required responses to stop fleeing ISIS fighters from mutating and infiltrating into the Sahel and the Lake Chad Basin, where there are insufficient resources and response capacity is weak.

This will require strong UN cooperation with regional organisations, such as the African Union, in conflict prevention and management. The UN should continue to take primary leadership of the maintenance of international peace and security by providing, in a predictable and sustainable manner, adequate funding and other enablers to regional initiatives and peacekeeping operations authorized by the Security Council.

Mr. President,

New conflicts should not make us lose focus on ongoing unresolved old conflicts. For example, several UN Security Council Resolutions from 1967 on the Middle East crisis remain unimplemented. Meanwhile, the suffering of the Palestinian people and the blockade of Gaza continue.

Additionally, we are now confronted by the desperate human rights and humanitarian situations in Yemen and most tragically in the Rakhine State of Myanmar. The Myanmar crisis is very reminiscent of what happened in Bosnia in 1995 and in Rwanda in 1994.

The international community cannot remain silent and not condemn the horrendous suffering caused by what, from all indications is a state-backed programme of brutal depopulation of the Rohingya inhabited areas in Myanmar on the bases of ethnicity and religion. We fully endorse the call by the Secretary-General on the Government of Myanmar to order a halt to the ongoing ethnic cleansing and ensure the safe return of the displaced Rohingya to their homes in safety and dignity.

In all these crises, the primary victims are the people, the most vulnerable being women and children. That is why the theme of this session: Focusing on People: Striving for Peace and Decent Life for All on a Sustainable Planet” is most apposite.

While the international community grapples to resolve these conflicts, we must be mindful and focus on the widening inequalities within societies, and the gap between the rich and the poor nations. These inequalities and gaps are part of the underlining root causes of competition for resources, frustration and anger leading to spiralling instability.

The most pressing threat to international peace and security today is the accelerated nuclear weapons development programme by North Korea. Since the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, we have never come so close to the threat of nuclear war as we have now.

All necessary pressure and diplomatic efforts must be brought to bear on North Korea to accept peaceful resolution of the crisis. As Hiroshima and Nagasaki painfully remind us, if we fail, the catastrophic and devastating human loss and environmental degradation cannot be imagined.

Mr. President,

Nigeria proposes a strong UN delegation to urgently engage the North Korean Leader. The delegation, led by the Security Council, should include members from all the regions.

The crisis in the Korean peninsula underscores the urgency for all member states, guided by the spirit of enthroning a safer and more peaceful world, to ratify without delay the Treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons, which will be open for signature here tomorrow.

Mr. President,

I end my remarks by reiterating Nigeria’s abiding commitment to the foundational principles and goals of the United Nations. Since our admission as a member state in 1960, we have always participated in all efforts to bring about global peace, security and development. Nigeria will continue to support the UN in all its efforts, including the attainment of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

I thank you.

Triggered By Poverty & Fear: Maiduguri Mother Willing To Donate Her Daughter To Boko Haram

By Mercy Abang

Over 134 suicide bombings have occurred since 2009 when Boko Haram unleashed a campaign of terror on Nigeria’s northeast region. According to research by Combating Terrorism Center at West Point and Yale University, at least 244 of the 338 attacks since 2011 where gender is identifiable, have been young girls under the age of 7 – 13.

And the trend does not seem to be ending soon.  On August 6th, 2017, the Nigerian Army issued a statement appealing to religious and traditional leaders in communities within the region to help dissuade people from donating their daughters or female wards, to the terrorists for indoctrination and suicide bombing missions.

It came off as one of the many announcements made to the media that the public has become numb to over time because of the series of unabated killings by Boko Haram.

Beyond the surface however, it reflected the disturbing state of situation in Northern Nigeria and Nigerians moved on like everyday tales in recent years since the beginning of insurgency. “The statement became expedient in view of recent revelations by some intercepted female suicide bombers during interrogations”, the military wrote.

37-year old Hadiza is a mother to three girls and a missing boy; she loves her children but is willing to offer her teenage daughter to the insurgents for the monetary benefit.

“I can’t say NO to the insurgents, can you?” she asks, speaking in Hausa with the help of a local interpreter who doubled as a fixer. “What has government done for us since we’ve been displaced?”

Hadiza is a nervous wreck, uncoordinated for most of the interview.  Hadiza and her husband were displaced after the deadly attacks on Biu in July 2015 that left 78 persons killed including the insurgents.

Hadiza’s home was raided along with other residents but they hid themselves in the bush as the terrorists looted and torched houses, carting away food produce. That attack forced them out of their home and they walked kilometres from home and slept in the bush for more than six nights to avoid being killed – that journey led them to finally move and settle in Maiduguri.

Boko Haram has killed more than 20,000 people and forced some 2.7 million others including her family to flee their homes since 2009.

Like every other woman in the neighbourhood, she has been through trauma and is a victim of the crisis that has forced her out of her home.   She lights a smoke while seated in the wooden chair shaking her legs constantly and can easily be mistaken for a crackhead.

“I have lost everything, I can’t feed these kids – we hear accounts of stolen foods and items sent to those of us suffering but who are those taking it back? The wealthy”.  Aisha sobs.

“And you think Boko Haram will come here (pointing to the other lady by her side) and any one of us will say NO”?

As disturbing as her accounts may sound, the remarks by Aisha are not so much in contrast to the statement issued by Brigadier General, Sani Kukasheka Usman- Director Army Public Relations.

The military described the motive for some parents donating children to Boko Haram as barbaric and unacceptable, but not for Hadiza. Cases abound like hers, where the insurgents paid off the parents in exchange for their daughters and in less diplomatic situations, threatened with death. At every point of questioning Hadiza, she kept asking who is protecting them from the insurgents?

“It was discovered that most of these hapless minors were “donated” to the terrorists sect by their heartless and misguided parents and guardians, as part of their contribution to the perpetuation of the Boko Haram terrorists’ dastardly acts against the Nigerian society and humanity” – The army statement read.

It appealed to Nigerians to have a responsibility and obligation to “collectively mold our children and wards and define a better future for them rather than condemning them to death by the criminal Boko Haram terrorists and their sympathizers through suicide bombings”.

For Hadiza , the conversation isn’t much about a home, care, or future, it is about the perils of living in the present “It is a war zone here, you survive”, she tears up.

The story of Hadiza can be likened to most of the families in the community, with no breadwinner; she begs to survive along with her kids and refused to move to the IDP camp miles away. She says “staying out here means I can eat whenever I want to but in there you eat once in a day and you’re not sure when the food will be served”

“The place is chaotic” she added.

According to her, she was a one time Biu resident before moving to Maiduguri. Hadiza said her family narrowly escaped the night the insurgents raided their community sometime in 2015 –“they burnt all the houses and left with our farm produce”.  Speaking through an interpreter, Hadiza recounts, as she shrugs, in attempts to put up resistance ignoring the stare from her husband who looks on from the window of the crudely built shack where they reside.

Hadiza’s husband didn’t want her to grant this interview for fear of getting killed in the process, but she insisted.

Hadiza  and her husband were farmers back in Biu – the farm provided not only subsistence but also a little cash crop – now too scared to continue. She said the idea to begin a small farm to survive has again been suspended as a result of the resurgence of terrorist’s activities.

Poverty and Inequality have been blamed for most of the Boko Haram crisis in the Northeast and Hadiza, also a victim of the insurgency suffers same fate of poverty – willing to trade her child for same reasons.

Earlier in the year, the Borno State government warned of the massive baby boom factory in Gwande area of the state – women selling babies for money to survive.

Oxfam, in its 2017 latest report entitled, “Inequality in Nigeria, Exploring the Drivers,” presented an alarming picture of the Nigerian economic situation, stating that 112 million Nigerians are living in abject poverty.

Presenting a picture of extreme inequality in Nigeria, Oxfam argued that the combined wealth of the five richest Nigerians, put at about $29.9 billion, could end extreme poverty in the country. According to the report, economic inequality was a key factor behind the conflict that had led to the severe food crisis in Nigeria’s North East states, especially as the UN estimates that about five million people in North East Nigeria will suffer from severe food shortages this year.

Analysts have suggested varied reasons for the Boko Haram crisis but poverty and inequality remain the prevalent factor. In Northern Nigeria for instance, unemployment and underemployment is still at the highest levels as compared to Southern Nigeria. According to UNICEF report released in year 2015, Nigeria accounts for 10.5 million out of school children, of which the North alone is responsible for 8 million of that number.  For instance, the former Central Bank of Nigeria Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, blamed the rise of Boko Haram partly on the way revenues from the nation’s Federation account are shared. Sanusi, now an Emir in Kano, argued that the sharing is done in such a manner that disadvantaged the North.

He maintained “there is clearly a direct link between the very uneven nature of distribution of resources and the rising level of violence”.

On 2nd August 2016 there was a crack in Boko Haram that led to two factions between Abubakar Shekau and Abu Musab al-Barnawi.

Security analysts believe that al-Barnawi is the son of Boko Haram’s original founder, Mohammed Yusuf, and was previously the spokesman of Boko Haram under Shekau. He is said to have been responsible for most of the deadly attacks currently being carried out by the sect and the abduction and killings of oil workers and some lecturers from the University of Maiduguri.

“Al-Barnawi has the capacity to carry out attacks on a larger scale” according to an Abuja based security expert who doesn’t want his name mentioned in this report.

The resurgence of the terrorist activities forced 70 lecturers teaching at the University of Maiduguri to resign and also forced then Acting-President Yemi Osinbajo, to order military chiefs to move to Borno, in a bid to “scale up their efforts”.

Though the Nigerian Army is offering a reward of the sum of Five Hundred Thousand Naira  (N500,000.00) to anybody who provides information about suicide bombers. Young girls are allegedly still being used in carrying out deadly attacks in the troubled Northeast region.

This article was written as part of the 2017 BudgIT Media Fellowship

Mercy Abang is a Freelance Journalist, focusing on development Journalism – She doubles as a media fixer with Sunday Times of London, BBC, Aljazeera and a former Stringer with the Associated Press – She tweets at @abangmercy.. She is the 2017 United Nations Journalism Fellow and budgIT Media fellow for 2017

Child Marriage Will Cost The World $4tn By 2030, Researchers Warn

Ending child marriage could add more than $4tn to the global economy, curb population growth and transform the lives of millions of young women worldwide, claim researchers.

A study by the World Bank and the International Center for Research on Women, the first to quantify the financial cost of the practice, suggests that eradicating child marriage would save governments money while enabling girls to complete their education and get better jobs.

“This research provides crucial evidence showing that child marriage doesn’t just impact the lives of the 15 million girls married every year, but also has a major negative impact on the economic development of the countries in which these girls live,” said Lakshmi Sundaram, executive director of Girls Not Brides, a coalition of organisations committed to ending child marriage.

Though the global child marriage rate is in decline, every two seconds a girl under the age of 18 becomes a bride. Niger has the world’s highest child marriage rate, with 76% of women married before reaching 18. In India, more than 26 million women became brides before 18.

Across the 25 countries with the highest number of child marriages, one in five women aged 18-22 had her first child before 18.

The researchers suggest gains in annual welfare costs from lower population growth could eventually reach more than $500bn a year.

Ending child marriage, a target of the sustainable development goals adopted by the UN in 2015, would have major benefits for governments and donors, said Suzanne Petroni, a senior director at the International Center for Research on women.

“One of the ways in which we thought we could potentially affect more significant change by governments and donors was by helping them understand the bottom line – what does child marriage cost to their economies?” said Petroni, one of the report’s authors.

“And as finance ministers and others saw the findings and realised there is actually a financial cost to our country’s development as a result of child marriage, they might take it more seriously and provide investments to end the practice.”

The report is based on three years’ research using national surveys, international statistics and interviews, and was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, and the Global Partnership for Education.

Looking at data from 15 countries with high child marriage rates, the report found that a girl marrying at 13 will have 26% more children over her lifetime than if she had married at 18 or later. Researchers calculated that ending child marriage would reduce national fertility rates by 11%.

The study estimated that ending child marriage would save billions of dollars each year, reaching $566bn by 2030 due to reduced population growth. Fewer deaths and reduced stunting among children under five years old would also save billions. Ending all early childbirths could save up to $708bn by 2030.

Ending child marriage would also improve women’s expected earnings, as girls are likely to leave school when they marry.

Benefits would be felt particularly strongly in poorer segments of populations, said the researchers, as young girls in poverty are more likely to marry early than girls from other socio-economic groups.

The Guardian

Truly Niger 2017 Summit: “Impact Investing For Advancing Agricultural Economy And Innovation”

By Fodio Ahmed

The coming of Governor Abubakar Sani Bello has paved way for Niger State to experience high and continuous economic growth and development. The Niger State 2017 summit is an important modulation point for Niger State, where it can ensure that, the economic growth is more broad-based.

The Summit, it was gathered that, will highlight the most proactive and promising approaches to responsible investment and show examples of investments that have been made to generate a measurable social and environmental impact alongside financial returns. Key components of the summit discussions will include :

• The identification of viable investments that meet both Financial and Social/Environmental Impacts

• Finding Innovative Funds and Deal Structures

• Understanding what criteria makes an enterprise “Social”

• Strengthening the linkages Between Social Enterprises, Entrepreneurs, Investors and Innovation Networks

• Creating a clear regulatory framework

The summit will firther showcase the state’s adoption of the new way of doing business, with a team that will harness the power of the capital market, it is expected that their entry will deliver social and environmental change before the end of the administration.

The Purpose and Objectives of the #TrulyNiger Summit 2017 include but not limited to ; to showcase the state’s most promising companies with the ability to create social and environmental impact in the state.

Furthermore, the event aims to strengthen Niger’s position as the “go to” location for impact investing, in particular, the summit has the following objectives :

• Providing a platform where the impact investment community can share ideas, connect and network.

• Showcasing case studies, guides, information and all tools required for successful impact investing.

• Becoming the lead “go to” location in developing an Impact Investing market in Nigeria.

• Creating new opportunities for developing the market and creating new opportunities for impact investing.

Expected personalities for the summit are ; Governor Abubakar Sani Bello, His Excellency, Professor Yemi Osinbajo , GCON, Ag. President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Hajiya Rahmatu Mohammed Yaradua, Rt. Hon. Ahmed Marafa Guni, Speaker of the Niger State 8th House of Assembly and Chairman Northern Speakers Forum,

Others are General Olusegun Obasanjo (rtd) GCFR, Former President, Federal Republic of Nigeria, HRH, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji (Dr) Sa’ad Muhammadu Abubakar III, Alh. (Dr) Yahaya Abubakar CFR, the Estu Nupe, Chairman, Niger State Council of Traditional Rulers, Alh. Aliko Dangote, President/CEO Dangote Group, Mr. Segun Oloketuyi, Managing Director, WEMA Bank Plc,
Also expected at tge summit include Mr. Tony Elumelu, United Bank for Africa, Alhaji Ibrahim Aliyu – Chairman, North South Power Company Limited, Col. Sani Bello, Chairman, Mainstream Energy Limited, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar (rtd), former President, Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Monisola Bakre: Is The UK Government Forcefully ‘Adopting’ A Nigerian Child

A Nigerian man, Ayo Bakre has raised an alarm over the curious illegal detention and absurd adoption of his young son in the United Kingdom.

According to Bakre, the issue started in 2012 when his wife, Shade travelled to London with their son Monisola, who was less than one year old then. Since their departure five years ago, the story has taken bizarre turns in what ended in an unjust, if illegal  ‘adoption by the UK government’ under the pretext that the mother could not take care of the child. Now the UK government is about to deport the mother to Nigeria but without her child.

Ayo Bakre who has two other children with Shade (Moyosore and Morolayo), told Osun Defender that  “Sade had travelled to London on holiday in 2012 with Monisola who was less than 12 months then. While in London, Monisola got injured and was taken to an hospital for treatment but the social workers claimed the degree of the injury is non-accidental. Because of this, the mother was charged to court for attempted murder, child trafficking, etc. but she was subsequently cleared of this by the court in Bromley. 

“However, the judge says she cannot release the boy to her on the ground that in the opinion of the court, she cannot take care of the boy. After a long legal battle, our son was adopted by a court decision.  

“As a father, this does not go down well with me and I have told the mother not to make any attempt to return to Nigeria without bringing my child. I don’t understand this decision in anyway. We have never declared to court in any manner that we cannot take care of our son. I am saying it loud and clear regardless of the consequences that my son Monisola must be brought back home. The mother dares not come back home without bringing Monisola. 

” I have appealed to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a letter dated 17th of August, 2015 to help me in this unfortunate situation I found myself but I am yet to get any response. His siblings at home keep disturbing me almost on a daily basis that they want to see their brother but each time they say they want to talk to their brother, confusion always sets in.”

The case leaves many questions unanswered as Shade’s family has threatened to report Ade to the police for insisting that the mother must return only with Monisola, his son. This has raised  the question of whether the boy was actually adopted or if any shady dealings are playing out

“I don’t care if my wife’s family reports to police because they threatened to do so when I told them their daughter dares not return home, if my son is not released. I am not about the story in UK; all I want is Monisola must be brought back or else the consequence for Shade might be too severe”, Bakre said.

Blogging Is More Lucrative Than Banking, Says Laila Ijeoma, CEO, Lailasblog

In the Nigerian blogosphere, Laila Ijeoma commands a lot of respect, not just because she owns; an entertainment website that reports trending Nigerian news read by millions monthly. 

On June 30, 2016, Laila took a bold step of abandoning her over N5million per annum bank job to become a full time entertainment blogger; risking everything to take a gamble on her passion.

She traded her lucrative job to pursue what was still at that time, just a hobby she was passionate about, but today, the decision has become one of her best turning points. 

In a chat with Vanguard Saturday Woman, she says she has no regrets a year after taking this huge leap of faith as she now has all the time to focus on her family and continue to grow her blog even bigger.

Why did you dump your bank job for fulltime blogging? 

I started blogging as a joke in 2012; I wasn’t looking for money because I was already gainfully employed at that time. All I wanted was an outlet to share my life with Nigerians, inspire them with my stories. So I started a Facebook group called, ‘True love for my man’- that should be around 2010. That was the first social media account I used to gather people together and we chatted about love and heartbreak. My big dream had always been to have a top Nigerian talk show, so I later started a show on radio. I eventually had to put it on hold because it was so demanding. 

Being married, a mum to 3 boys, working at the bank, there was a lot to do in just 24 hours every day and the whole schedule nearly ‘killed’ me, so I had to drop the radio show. Along the line, I discovered blogging through a colleague at the bank where I worked; he owned a blog, after he introduced me to it that fateful day, I got hooked. I realized I could reach out to people through it with much less stress compared to a radio show. I told him I would love to have mine and he helped me set it up.

I didn’t even take it serious then. But as I kept on sharing stories, and I read comments from my audience, I knew this was what I was born to do. I have always been a science student in school, I knew nothing about blogging, and I had zero celebrity friends, zero celebrity sources for my stories but I didn’t let that stop me.

How difficult was it juggling being a banker, blogger, wife and mother of three boys? 

It was a crazy, hectic schedule! On a daily basis, I woke up 4am; go to bed sometimes 12 midnight. And the next day, I still have to go to work. No excuses. I was able to run my life like that for four years because I was purely fuelled by passion. I just love blogging, there’s this irreplaceable, beautiful joy it brings me.

As with every new venture, the beginning is usually slow.

How long did it take for your traffic to skyrocket?

It took about 6 months after I made the first post on my blog for my traffic to start skyrocketing.

Did the traffic immediately translate to money for you? 

No it didn’t. My traffic didn’t translate to so much money till 2014. That was the year this particular company contacted me and ran an advert with me that lasted for a full year and changed my life.

Would you say blogging is lucrative in Nigeria? 

As long as you are a passionate blogger, as long as you are in blogging because you enjoy what you are doing, as long as your blog, its concept, its contents are original, not a rip off of another blogger’s website; blogging is the best thing that can ever happen to you.

The rewards will blow your mind! It’s already an open secret that blogging can make you a billionaire. You get lots of free stuff from brands too. People just call you up. They want to advertise on your website and they are handing out their products and services to you for free so you can review them and share with your readers.

Then you have the best reward; you are recognised as a voice that can start a change. You are respected. People want to read what you have to say about a situation. Readers are so addicted to your blog that they wake up in the morning and can’t wait to read what is on Laila’s Blog today. As a blogger, you can comfortably work from home in your pyjamas.

So you prefer blogging to banking?

I did banking for 10 years in one of the best banks in Nigeria and I enjoyed it. But I wasn’t self-fulfilled, I wanted more. Again, I was already blogging for over 3 years alongside my day job.

Truth is as time went on, it became harder running my blog, bank job, family and taking care of myself efficiently. I wanted to wake up in the morning to the joy of knowing that all I had to do for that day was write about the trending stories in Nigeria and not miss any story just because it happened while I was offline.

I also wanted to spend more time with my very supportive husband and children every day.

How would you compare your income now to when you were a banker? 

It has been tremendously rewarding, spiritually, family-wise, and financially. You know with a steady day job, you don’t have to worry about getting your paycheck at the end of the month. There are days I worry- what if I don’t make money this month?

That was why before I quit my bank job, I made sure I saved up my salary and had at least 6 months’ salary set aside. I actually had a full year salary saved up before I made the leap and resigned.

If you don’t plan properly, things can actually go wrong and your dreams won’t come out the way you planned them; you will fail and life will become miserable. I’m so glad I conquered my fears of what if something goes wrong and took the leap.

My friends, family, parents thought I was crazy when I first mentioned it. But after they saw I wasn’t going to quit blogging and that I had prepared for the worst; they rallied round and supported my decision to leave banking. Having them behind me made me stronger and I left.

Any regrets so far? 

None whatsoever; my income tripled. My kids wake up in the morning they see mummy. Mummy takes them to school, mum brings them back, mum tucks them into bed every night, mummy helps them with their school assignments, things I couldn’t do before.

I love what I do now and it gives me so much joy. I just miss my former colleagues once in a while.

What are the challenges you face as a blogger, especially those peculiar to the Nigerian blogosphere? 

My biggest challenge is internet network; there are times I wake up to blog and I discover my internet isn’t as fast as I need it to be. Sometimes, it’s entirely down so I can’t even blog.

Second challenge is power; a laptop is to a blogger what the Bible is to a Pastor. Laptops can only work if they are charged. Because I am online at least 18 hours daily, I spend a lot on fuel for generators.

What stands you out from other bloggers? 

You can be very sure that out of the over 50 stories you read on Laila’s blog in a day, at least 50% are our original stories. Again, we deliver stories as they are happening. You will read breaking news, trending stories first on Laila’s blog before they appear on other websites.

In your estimation, what’s the future of blogging in Nigeria in the next five years? 

With a computer today, anybody can build a global business from his/her bedroom, with a bit of creativity and sheer determination. Every day, we have over a hundred new bloggers coming online. Vlogging is now a huge thing!

Five years from now, I see more younger people doing big things, conquering boundaries, becoming millionaires through blogging in Nigeria.

I also see blogging in Nigeria becoming more professional. I am a registered member of this CAC registered bloggers’ association called The Guild of Professional Bloggers of Nigeria.

Aside blogging, any future plans? 

I have this huge passion for taking care of orphans and vulnerable children, kids under the age of 18 years who are at high risk of lacking adequate care and protection. Right now I have 10 under my care, children my husband and I take care of. We have plans of taking that number up a notch.

Any tips for upcoming bloggers who look up to you? 

One Mr. Mohammed Mustafa Ahmedzai once said ‘The easiest job on earth is starting a blog but the toughest job is maintaining it.” And this is simply because patience matters in blogging, and most upcoming bloggers don’t have that!

Experienced bloggers will tell you that you should only start to think about making money from your blog at least after 6 months of blogging. But every day, I get emails from new bloggers with 1-2 month old blogs asking you how to apply for Adsense.

These new bloggers apply for AdSense and most times, they are rejected and you see them quit blogging.

From the day anybody starts blogging till the day he/she ends her blogging career, there are lots of problems you’ll face. Solving these problems and moving ahead is not easy as it sounds! And that’s another reason upcoming bloggers quit blogging easily.

So my first tip for them will be to have patience. Without it, their eyes shall not see the billions blogging can drop in their bank accounts. If your main reason for blogging is money and you have no patience for earning it, then you’re not going to earn from blogging at all!

What’s your biggest wish in life?

I wish to make the world a better place by saving abused and vulnerable children and making sure their oppressors get severely punished for their wickedness. 

Today, August 12 is also Laila’s birthday.

How Much Do Presidents And Candidates Need To Tell The Public About Their Health? – LA Times

Hillary Clinton, 68, was recently diagnosed with pneumonia, and the public didn’t know about it until two days later, when she abruptly left a Sept. 11 memorial ceremony feeling unwell and needing to be helped into a vehicle.

If Donald Trump, 70, were elected, he would be older than any previous president at the start of his first term — and, like Clinton, he hasn’t released detailed records about his healthbeyond a doctor’s letter. Both candidates promised Monday to release more detailed medical records soon.

But the idea of presidential candidates, or sitting presidents, disclosing their health history is relatively new. And though recent presidents have released detailed updates about their health, there is no law mandating disclosure.

America has a rich history of presidents and presidential candidates hiding their healthproblems from the public, sometimes successfully and sometimes with serious consequences.

What have recent presidential health disclosures looked like?

The report for President Obama’s most recent physical examination, in February, by White House physician Ronny L. Jackson is two pages long.

It lists basic vital information such as his height, weight, body mass, resting heart rate and blood pressure, as well as numbers from laboratory tests for his cholesterol, glucose and vitamin D levels, among other information.

The report also lists the results of tests for Obama’s physical and neural health, lists the medication he is taking (which includes the occasional use of nicotine gum) and says he drinks alcohol only occasionally.

“All clinical data indicates that the president is currently very healthy and that he will remain so for the duration of his presidency,” the report concludes.

A similar report for George W. Bush in 2006 was four pages long and included a lengthy medical history.

What have Trump and Clinton’s doctors’ letters looked like?

In 2015, Clinton released a two-page letter from her doctor that discussed Clinton’s medical history, including her hypothyroidism — a type of hormone deficiency — and the concussion she suffered in 2012 after she was weakened by a stomach virus and dehydration.

The letter also disclosed her blood pressure, respiratory rate, cholesterol levels, as well as her exercise habits, which include yoga, swimming and weight training.

“She is in excellent physical condition and fit to serve as president of the United States,” wrote Dr. Lisa Bardack, chairwoman of internal medicine at CareMount Medical in Mount Kisco, N.Y., who has been Clinton’s physician since 2001.

The letter released by Trump’s doctor in December is four paragraphs long, and said Trump had had no significant health problems over the last 39 years.

The letter gives figures for Trump’s blood pressure and his prostate blood test, says he takes 81 milligrams of aspirin and a “low dose” of cholesterol-lowering statin daily, and variously describes Trump’s health as “astonishingly excellent,” “extraordinary” and “excellent.”

“If elected, Mr. Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency,” said Harold N. Bornstein, a gastroenterologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York who has been Trump’s physician since 1980.

Why does it matter?

Nearly half the presidents in the nation’s history have had significant illnesses or injuries while in office, including most of the presidents since the start of the 20th century, according toacademic research on presidential health. Many of those presidents hid their health problems from the public.

Grover Cleveland had a secret surgery for oral cancer during his second term in 1893, survived and served until 1897, and his surgery was not revealed to the public until 1917, nine years after his death.

Woodrow Wilson had a serious stroke in 1919 that in effect ended his ability to run the country, yet his condition was kept secret. His wife, Edith, quietly took over his work until his term ended in 1921.

Wilson’s successor, Warren Harding, didn’t have much better luck: In poor health for years, he died in office in 1923 while traveling in San Francisco. His wife declined to have an autopsy done.

Paralysis caused by polio did not prevent Franklin Roosevelt from taking office and serving with distinction starting in 1933. But by Roosevelt’s fourth campaign in 1944, his health was failing. He won and then died of a cerebral hemorrhage in April 1945, leaving Vice PresidentHarry Truman to finish World War II.

Dwight Eisenhower had a well-publicized heart attack during his first term in 1955. Doctors weren’t sure whether he would survive a second term, but he ran for reelection the next year, won and lived until 1969.

Among other health problems, his successor, John F. Kennedy, had Addison’s disease, an adrenaline deficiency, which his team denied during his 1960 campaign — a lie that may have helped Kennedy win the razor-thin election against Richard Nixon. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963.

Lyndon Johnson, Kennedy’s successor, flouted that type of discretion. After Johnson had gall bladder surgery in 1965, he lifted up his shirt to show reporters his scar.

How much should candidates disclose?

Since vice presidential candidate Thomas Eagleton dropped out of the 1972 presidentialrace after the disclosure that he had been hospitalized for depression, “the health status of presidential candidates has been seen as fair game by the press,” George J. Annas wrote in a 1995 article for the New England Journal of Medicine.

Health disclosures by modern presidential candidates, although generally standard since then, are still sometimes an uneven affair. Democratic hopeful Eugene McCarthy refused to release his medical records in 1976, calling them private.

Bill Clinton resisted releasing his health records during his first run in 1992, leading the New York Times’ doctor-reporter Lawrence K. Altman to declare that the Democrat had been “less forthcoming about his health than any presidential nominee in the last 20 years.”

Clinton continued to resist releasing his full records during his reelection in 1996, which led Republicans to repeatedly raise questions about whether he was hiding a secret health issue. His opponent, Bob Dole, issued detailed medical results and made his doctor available for an interview.

Obama initially released a one-page letter from his doctor in 2008 with no supporting documents, then later released lab tests and echocardiograms. His opponent, John McCain, gave reporters several hours to review 1,200 pages of health records.

The release of health records has not been standardized practice compared with the release of tax records, which is common for candidates (with the notable exception of Trump, who has declined to release his).

Although 96% of respondents in a 2004 Gallup poll said the president’s health was “important,” 61% of respondents said presidents should have a right to choose to keep their health records private like everyone else.

Without a legal mechanism to force disclosure for such records, “you really need the public to hold them accountable,” said Robert Streiffer, associate professor of bioethics and medical history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

But the bar for disclosure should be high, Streiffer said. He defined the threshold as “a condition that has a significant chance of seriously undermining the person’s ability to perform the core competencies of the presidency if they are elected.”

Former White House physician Lawrence C. Mohr said that althought “the American people are entitled to know the health status of their president and presidential candidates … the release of any medical information has to be the decision of the candidate and not the doctor.”

If disclosure happens, Mohr said, “the information should be accurate, it should be complete, it should be timely, and it should include whatever medicine is being prescribed, and the physician should offer some prognosis about how long it will take to get well.”

Mohr, who was a White House physician during the Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Clinton administrations, said public understanding was also an important part of disclosure.

“Just because a president has an illness doesn’t mean that’s a disqualifying factor if that illness can be effectively treated,” Mohr said, pointing to Roosevelt’s long years in office.

The things that are really important, Mohr said, are not the name of the illness or the specific diagnosis, but whether the president can think clearly, act appropriately and communicate effectively.

Editor: This article was first published on LA Times on September 13, 2016. To read the story on LA Tines, CLICK HERE

Youth And Women Inclusion: Complementing Efforts By Speaker Dogara And The House Of Representatives

“This Bill is in the interest of the youth whom we must empower, because if we empower them, we are empowering the future generation” – Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara, on the Not Too Young To Run bill.

“Not too young to run!”

“Not too young to run!”

Chants rent the air in the House of Representatives as Members waved fliers. Any onlooker, oblivious to what was going on, would think that young people in their dozens had somehow managed to infiltrate the chamber and take over proceedings. The date was Thursday, 27th July and the Green Chamber was packed full. It was a special occasion. The highlight of legislative work; for what could be more important than the process of amending the nation’s guiding document, Nigeria’s operating manual, the Constitution?

With bated breath, youth advocates waited. There had been rumours earlier that day that the House was planning to kill the bill which had the potential to finally secure political representation for Nigeria’s teeming youth population. The Senate had already voted in favour of the Bill, and so tensions were high. Were young people’s hopes about to be dashed? Was the political class about to prove notions about deliberately suppressing young people right? Would Speaker Dogara go back on his promise? Was the House going to let us down?

For months, youth and women advocates and Civil Society Organisations lobbied; they paid courtesy visits to principal officers of both chambers of the National Assembly, attended public hearings, approached legislators personally, and executed media campaigns with the aim of gaining public support and building momentum. Although the demographies differed, their mission was the same. All they wanted was to secure political representation for women and young people who, incidentally, make up the bulk of the Nigerian population but are grossly underrepresented in governance. They play active roles at grassroot level during campaigns, yet, are barely able to successfully aspire to political office and appointive positions for a myriad of reasons.

For young people, the Constitution currently places the minimum age for standing for elective office at 30. The exclusion is, therefore, not only due to societal norms which may be combatted via reorientation, but also actively enabled by legal constraints. Many opine that this provision is inherently discriminatory, and anyone with a sense of justice would agree.

For women, the challenges are many. There are cultural and quasi-religious norms which restrict women’s aspirations. These are in addition to systemic inequalities so deeply entrenched that it requires very strong will, an extensive network and enormous resources to break the glass ceiling. Most Nigerian women simply do not have these resources and are therefore relegated to wearing aso-ebi, clapping, singing and dancing at campaign grounds in support of the candidacy of their male counterparts who do not have such restrictions to do battle with. Young women face a particularly dire predicament, as they are further restricted by law.

The Legislature is the arm of government where every Nigerian can lay claim to direct representation. Representatives are elected to both chambers in terms of population and equity, and this is why the House of Representatives is often referred to as “the House of the People”. “The People” include youths and women and in recognition of this, Speaker Yakubu Dogara threw his weight not only behind Nigerian youth’s quest for representation, but also Nigerian women’s demands for equity.

Before the lobbying for inclusion even began, Speaker Dogara had, during a meeting with student leaders from higher institutions across the country, declared his unwavering support for youth inclusion in governance. It therefore came as no surprise that the Not Too Young To Run Bill was granted expeditious consideration by the House when it was eventually presented by Hon. Tony Nwulu.

From meeting with women members of State Assemblies to the courtesy visit by the Not Too Young To Run team, Speaker Dogara demonstrated a deep sense of compassion and justice, listening keenly to everything advocates had to say.

The demands were as follows: young people asked for a reduction in the age of eligibility for elective offices and the introduction of independent candidacy into the nation’s electoral process, in the hope that this will go a long way in circumventing the often torturous political party process. A process which many have decried as being needlessly expensive and, ironically, undemocratic. Women asked for affirmative action: a set percentage of ministerial appointments (at federal level) and of commissioners (at state level).

The importance with which the Speaker and the House as a whole considers youth issues was also demonstrated with the speedy response to public outcry following reports that the Not Too Young to Run Bill had been excluded from the report of the Committee on Constitution Review. Speaker Dogara assured Nigerian youths that he had made a promise and that promise would be kept.

Yet, many were doubtful.

This doubt did not last for long as the House voted overwhelmingly in support of independent candidacy, reducing the age of eligibility, and affirmative action for women at both federal and state levels.

The only clause pertaining to political representation which failed to scale through at the House was the one which would confer indigeneship on women, thereby enabling them contest for office where they are married. Although this failed to garner the required number of votes, the Speaker called for a second round of voting, in hopes that more numbers would be gotten and the clause would eventually scale through. Alas! This was not meant to be.

The special consideration given by Speaker Dogara has been commended by many gender advocates, who believe granting a second vote provided further proof of his support for the gender equity campaign, especially as this courtesy was not extended to any other clause.

It is imperative that these efforts be sustained as the fight for inclusion now proceeds to state level. Having won the first round at the National Assembly, youth and women advocates must organise and engage at state level with as much vigour, if not more.

The advocacy must now go to state assemblies and a media strategy which entails crafting messages in support of the aims and objectives should be implemented. Local languages should be used in driving the points home, and public debates need to be held across states in order to generate discussions on youth and women inclusion in governance.

The Dogara-led House of Representatives has fulfilled its promise and now is the time for us all to ensure that these efforts are complemented, so that the Nigerian political space may be truly representative.

[Writer’s note: As an advocate for gender equity and youth representation in politics, and one who fits into both the youth and women demography, it has been an honour to watch my principal make good on his promises and fully support the campaign for youth inclusion and gender equity.]


Rinsola Abiola is SA (New Media) to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara, founding PRO of the All Progressives Youth Forum, Ag. President of the APC Young Women Forum, and a Youth Representative on the APC’s Board of Trustees. She writes from Abuja.

Send this to a friend