I Want Women, Youths To Have Hope – Salamatu Al-Makura

Wife of Nasarawa State Governor and Founder, Mother and Child Care Enhancement Foundation (McCEF), Hajiya Salamatu Al-Makura has proven herself to be a woman of the people and a mother who wants to see that the citizens of Nasarawa state, especially of the less fortunate, are happy.

Through McCEF empowerment schemes, nearly 5,000 beneficiaries -including widows, orphans, youths and vulnerable children in the society have had reasons to smile.

 

In this interview with TMG, she speaks about the visions she has for women and youths, as well as what drives her to want to end the level of poverty in the society.

TMG> We see that your NGO is mostly focused on care for mothers and children. What informed this?

Al-Makura> I became very interested in focusing on mothers and children because they are the centre of every family. Then seeing women on the streets and out-of-school children, I felt if the problems were not addressed, it will increase the issue of poor parenting. As we are well aware, the high rate of unemployment and poverty has degenerated into other anti-social activities such as violent crimes, insecurity, armed robbery, drug and human trafficking, which are very worrisome.

 

TMG> In which areas has the McCEF been able to address these concerns since you set it up and what is the success rate so far?

Al-Makura> Actually, the response to McCEF has been good because of the impact it has had on many families. I always say that it is better for someone to teach you how to catch fish than to give you fish to eat. Now the NGO is a household name where more than 4,000 women and youths who have attended the program, especially in skills acquisition, are being trained in various vocational skills which include: computer operations and maintenance, hairdressing, tailoring, fashion designing, interior decorations and beads making among others.

McCEF has, so far, taken its mobilisation to the grassroots and passed on a lot of information. We have been able to touch areas in the health, education, and economic empowerment sector.

The foundation has contributed positively to the health and education needs of people living with HIV/AIDS and less privileged persons in the society in order to make their future brighter for the overall development of the country.

 

TMG> When it comes to pet projects of the wives of governors, there are some similarities such as: focus on girl-child education, mothers, women’s health,youth and so on. Is there some sort of synergy or agreement amongst you to fashion your humanitarian projects to suit Hajiya Aisha Buhari’s ‘Future Assured’?

Al-Makura> It wasn’t quite an agreement but because we are mothers, we all know that a woman’s focus and primary goal is her family’s happiness. When her family is content, the woman is satisfied. And because we are all committed Change Agents, all of us are working together towards the goal of improving the lives of the neglected in our states.

Poverty, ignorance and illiteracy have been barriers to women in rural areas.

 

TMG> What sort of intervention is being put in place to assist the poor and what method is employed in selecting those who need the assistance?

Al-Makura> The intervention put in place is the strengthening and capacity building scheme where women are trained in skills to be able to produce things they can sell to earn a living, and also improving the IGA by adding value to their existing skills.

On the method of selecting, we use vulnerability metric and indices to pick the most vulnerable. We also conduct a baseline survey in communities to assess those most in need. Because I operate McCEF as an independent organisation, I have my personnel that go directly to the fields to conduct assessments. Basically, I have focal persons on facilities where we carry out our activities.

 

TMG> It is a general perception that funding is a major challenge of many NGOs and that international donors come in to assist if you reach out to them. Is yours also affected by the same and what do you have in place to ensure continuity?

Al-Makura> McCEF, though mostly funded by me as the executive director and founder, I also partner with Nasarawa State AIDS Control Agency (NASACA) to take care of people living with HIV and AIDS (PLHA); International Hospital for Urology and Nephrology (IHUN) to cater for patients with Ovarian Cancer and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), to be able to care for girl-child education. This is quite intensive, because each and every organisation has a budget for every activity.

 

TMG> Youths are some of the most disadvantaged groups today and increasingly becoming a nuisance to society. What advice do you have for parents to avoid this prevailing situation?

Al- Makura> I always encourage mothers to be vigilant and urge them to be observant of their children at home or in company of peer groups. Mothers should keep a tab on where their children are at all times, watch the kind of company they keep and train them so that when they grow up, they will not depart from what you have taught them. That way, they will become great leaders in transforming our society.

 

TMG> Nowadays, you find that marriages do not last long. To what would you attribute this and what advice can you share to have a successful marriage?

Al-Makura> What sustains a marriage is mostly patience. It is not always a smooth journey. The two parties must learn to tolerate one another. In marriage, honesty, trust and respect keep the house stronger. I advise newly-wed couples to have patience with one another. Of course, there are times that challenges will come but when you try to endure, they will pass.

 

TMG> Can you share with us three principles that you live by and apply to your life daily?

Al-Makura> Self-discipline, Hardwork and Honesty. My parents taught me good morals that I can’t do anything without applying these three values. I always make sure I respect my husband’s decisions; I work hard to make sure he doesn’t complain and always open up to him by being very honest with him.

 

TMG> What are your hopes and visions for the people of Nasarawa State?

Al-Makura> My vision for the women and youths of Nasarawa State is to have a society where these particular groups live comfortably and to have an HIV- free society. I also envision a situation where they contribute to the development of the state. I wish to see them getting quality information to enable them take informed decisions in life.

Personality Profile Of Dr. Sanusi Ohiare; The Youngest Executive Director

Sanusi Ohiare was born on 6th of March, 1985 (32), in Abuja, Federal Capital Territory, but originally hails from Adavi Local Government Area of Kogi State, Nigeria.

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He had his primary education at Academy Staff School Suleja, Niger State, before proceeding to the Federal Government College, Kwali – Abuja, for his secondary education.

Sanusi obtained his Bachelor of Science degree in Economics from the University of Jos, Plateau State, where he graduated with a second class honours, upper division (2.1) in 2006.

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He later attended the renowned Centre for Energy, Petroleum, Mineral Law and Policy (CEPMLP), University of Dundee, Scotland, United Kingdom, where he obtained a Master of Science degree in Energy Studies, with Specialization in Energy Finance in 2011;

He also obtained a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree in Rural Energy Development from the prestigious Institute for Energy and Sustainable Development (IESD), De Montfort University, Leicester, UK in 2014, and is currently the only Nigerian with that specialization.

His doctorate thesis was on: “Financing Rural Energy Projects in Developing Countries: Country Case Nigeria” (see https://www.dora.dmu.ac.uk/handle/2086/10462 )

Before his appointment, he worked with the German International Cooperation Agency (GIZ), as a National Advisor on Rural Electrification, under the Nigerian Energy Support Programme (NESP), co-funded by the European Union and German Government.

In this capacity, he provided technical support to the Rural Electrification Agency and Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission; was in charge of data management system and planning for rural electrification; supported the development Mini-grids Pilot Projects and coordinated the Northern states of the programme.

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Some few weeks ago, Sanusi became the youngest appointee of President Muhammadu Buhari; As the Executive Director Of Rural Electrification Fund

Northern Youths Searching For Buhari’s Replacement

Upset by the seeming drift in the nation’s economy and politics, Northern youths under different groups have commenced frantic search for a possible Northern presidential material to back in the 2019 presidential election.

The Northern groups including the Arewa Youth Forum, AYF and the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum, AYCF are being backed by some northern leaders among whom is Dr. Junaid Mohammed.

The bid of the Northern groups is irrespective of a declaration of intent by President Muhammadu Buhari whose first term has been dogged by ill-health and a recession, whose fundamentals, administration officials, claim were inherited from the preceding administration. Buhari had upon his return from a 50 day medical vacation last month confessed to the fact of his ill-health saying, ‘I have never been this sick in my life.’

But for his absence in last Wednesday’s meeting of the Federal Executive Council, FEC meeting, insinuations of his ill-health were beginning to go away. The president, however, bounced back yesterday when he appeared in public for the Jumat prayers in the Presidential Villa.

Asserting the hesitance of the AYF to give President Buhari a full backing in 2019, the president of the group, Alhaji Ibrahim Gujungu, told the press“We have not yet decided on whether it is going to be Buhari or not but we have to continue to support the aspiration of the North to produce the next President of Nigeria so as to balance the loss of power to the South under the Presidency of President Jonathan following the sudden demise of Yar’Adua.

“I can assure you that even though we don’t have any particular candidate in mind as at now, we will intensify the search for a northern leader who will empower the north and revive all the moribund industries there to create jobs for the teeming masses who are now roaming the streets either as IDPs or out-of-school children. “We are currently searching for the candidate of our choice and if Buhari decides to run, we will present him with our blueprint to implement but if he rejects it, we will look for another credible Northern candidate to meet our political demands,” Gujungu said.

He, however, held out a prospect of backing Buhari, but only if the incumbent accepts a blueprint for the development of the North as prepared by the group. Speaking in the same vein, the national president of the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum, AYCF, Alhaji Shettima Usman Yerima, said the group was looking for an alternative upon the failures of the incumbent administration. “We are disappointed”.

Nigerians are disappointed. Sincerely speaking, this Buhari administration is a failure. It is a failure because this is not what Nigerians expected when they were giving him the mandate in 2015.” The northern youth leader also disclosed that there are plans to look for an alternative presidential candidate from the North East to represent the region in the 2019 presidential elections. He said: “I think we are going to bring a new alternative in 2019. We have to bring a new order to the country because we cannot afford to have a president who is not in charge of affairs in the country.

This is coupled with the facts that some of us look at his age and come up with the reservation that it is not a good idea to have a man of his age to be leading a country like Nigeria with population of about 200 million people.

People thought we were undermining him at that time but we said no because somebody of Buhari’s age would find it difficult managing his personal affairs talk less of affairs of a huge country like ours.” He said: “We have nothing against President Buhari personally but we believe somebody of his age should manage less burden. “When you look at global events, the way things are turning around universally, you will agree with me that we need at the saddle, somebody who is in tune with global reality.

We need somebody that would be agile and knowledgeable enough to move round the world with his counterparts

Agency Report ……

 

PMB Suspends SGF, DG NIA

President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered an investigation into the allegations of violations of law and due process made against the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr David Babachir Lawal, in the award of contracts under the Presidential Initiative on the North East (PINE).

 

The President has also directed the suspension of the SGF from office pending the outcome of the investigations.

 

In a related development, the President has ordered a full scale investigation into the discovery of large amounts of foreign and local currencies by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in a residential apartment at Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos, over which the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) has made a claim.

 

The investigation is also to enquire into the circumstances in which the NIA came into possession of the funds, how and by whose or which authority the funds were made available to the NIA, and to establish whether or not there has been a breach of the law or security procedure in obtaining custody and use of the funds.

 

The President has also directed the suspension of the Director General of the NIA, Ambassador Ayo Oke, pending the outcome of the investigation.

 

A three-man Committee comprising the Hon. Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, and the National Security Adviser, headed by the Vice President, is to conduct both investigations.

 

The Committee is to submit its report to the President within 14 days.

 

The most senior Permanent Secretary in the SGF’s office, and the most senior officer in the NIA, are to act, respectively, during the period of investigation.Ggggggggghh

 

 

Health Benefits Of Watermelon Seeds

When you think of the health benefits of watermelon, the seeds probably do not come to mind. You probably think of the sweet, juicy pulp without considering the seed as being beneficial too. The fact is watermelon seeds, whether wet, dry or roasted make a great snack. The United States Development of Agriculture has listed different nutritional components of the seeds.

The seeds are very rich in protein. A cup of dried watermelon seeds contains more than 30percent proteins, which is the 61 percent of the daily – recommended dose. The proteins in the seeds consist of amino acids, tryptophan, glutamine acid, lysine and arginine. Medicine plus state that some health conditions may benefit from additional arginine.

Some of the health benefits from additional arginine include; regulating blood presaure and treating coronary heart disease. Mineral found in the seeds is magnesium.

According to the U.S.A National Institution of Health, magnesium helps to regulate blood pressure and the metabolism of carbohydrate, which has a beneficial effect on blood sugar level. Other important minerals in watermelon seeds are Iron, Potassium, Sodium, Copper, Manganese, Zinc and Phosphorous.

These seeds are also effective in recovering health after illness and sharpening your memory. It can be used too for treating diabetes. By boiling a handful of watermelon seed in 1 litre water for 45minutes, keeping the pot covered. This concoction should be taken every day like tea. Watermelon seeds contain Lycopene which is good for your face and also helps in improving male fertility.

Finally, watermelon seeds are important source of calories and energy.

By: Obinna Madu, FEDERAL POLYTECHNIC, BIDA

The Importance Of Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurship has created millions of good jobs. In a startup work place, jobs often call for creativity and collaboration, leading to personal development. Those exposed to entrepreneurship have higher confidence and greater independence not bound by the hierarchy and restrictions of large corporations. Young entrepreneurs can take on greater responsibility, work flexible schedules and use creative solutions to problem solve.

Therefore, the freedom associated with entrepreneurship comes with certain challenges, leading one into working harder and risking their personal assets in developing their business.

Within the last decade, more and more entrepreneurs are focusing their work on resolving social problems, whether it’s poverty or climate change. These important issues deserve the efforts of these eager entrepreneurs, and their work will benefit society not just through the jobs they created or the sleek product they deliver, but by the people they help. Bangladeshi economist and Nobel peace prize winner, Muhammed Yunus has used entrepreneurship to help the poor of his country since the 1970s. He began giving out micro- loans to others in poverty. The small loans with low interest rates inspired many recipients work their way out of poverty. Today, more than 58 other countries have used these principles to help their poor.

More importantly, entrepreneurs create jobs for themselves but often use their skills and personal initiative to transform their idea to a consumer product or service. Take Microsoft for instance. In 1975, Bill Gates and Paul Allen started their small Software Company with dreams of changing the way we use Computers. They succeeded but not without a great deal of help. Today, Microsoft employs over 100,000 people worldwide.

Two years ago, president Barrack Obama designated November as National Entrepreneurship month because it is such an important face in the global economy. In his research, economist David B. Audretch found that entrepreneurship is a vital contributor to economic growth and prosperity.

This, therefore, made the United States and countries across the world recognize this and are pouring more resources into supporting entrepreneurs and teaching entrepreneurship. In 2012, White House launched Startup America to celebrate  and accelerate the growth of entrepreneurship and pledged $2million over the course of five years to support entrepreneurship in underserved communities and young companies. EU has a project looking to foster entrepreneurship across the European Union.

Finally, entrepreneurship creates jobs that facilitate personal development with their innovative and disruptive ideas.

 

By: Obinna Madu: F

EDERAL POLYTECHNIC, BIDA

 

Nigerian UN Worker Arrested For Robbing Four Banks In New York

A robberies were committed during his lunch breaks at banks within walking distance of the UN headquarters.

A United Nations headquarters employee was arrested on Monday for robbing four banks over a two-month span, The New York Post reports.

Nigerian national Abdullahi Shuaibu, 53, was charged with two counts of robbery and two counts of attempted robbery.

All robberies were committed during his lunch breaks at banks within walking distance of the UN headquarters.

Mr. Shuaibu committed the first robbery on February 27 when he walked into a Santander Bank and demanded that the teller hand him cash, threatening to shoot if the employee did not comply.

In March, he tried but failed to rob a Bank of America. Later that month, he successfully robbed a separate Santander Bank location.

On Monday, Mr. Shuaibu walked into an HSBC bank and passed a note demanding cash to the teller, who did not read the note and asked for identification. He then told the teller he had a gun and gestured to his hand in his jacket pocket.

After returning to work that afternoon, police arrested Mr. Shuaibu. A retired police officer working at the UN recognized the robber from a surveillance photo previously released by the New York Police Department and led the authorities to his arrest.

SAHARA REPORTERS, NEW YORK

Why Student Cultists Are On The Increase

The world is changing, take your time to look around and make the right decision.

 

Gone are the days when one can walk freely on our campuses without being harassed or molested. Gone are the days when children would listen to the advice their parents gave as they gain admission into higher institutions. Gone are the days when students used to focus on their academics and work hard at achieving good grades that will give them a chance at a successful future.

It is often said that the youths are the leaders of tomorrow. Today, the youths, our future leaders, are making the campuses unconducive to walk on, if they no longer listen to their parents and if they cannot focus but instead get involved in cult activities instead of academics. One wonders what kind of leaders the country will have in future.

 

Cultism has become, over the years, a dreaded disease that has eaten deep into the pillars of the solid foundation of our campuses in Nigerian institutions, staring us in the face, daring us to take drastic measures towards its eradication, if we can.

 

Cultism in Nigeria institutions can be traced back to 1953 at the University College Ibadan. It was formed by Professor Wole Soyinka, Ralph Opara, Prof. Olumuyiwa Awe, Nathaniel Oyelola, Ikhehare. Aig-Imokhwede, Pius Oleghe and Sylvanus Egbuchie. Their ideology of forming the group was aimed at protecting the interest of students, to maintain good behavior among students of different social and economic class, to fight against injustice placed on them by lecturers and the school authorities.

 

Their idea was based on patriotism and as altruistic as it was, it was not regarded as a secret cult, it was known as the Pirates’ Confraternity or the National Association of Seadogs. But today, the reasons for the establishment of confraternities are in view dimensional as cult members now kill, endanger the lives of poor students, rape female students, abuse lecturers as well as destroy school properties worth millions of Naira.

 

Cultism, which started in tertiary institutions, has over time, spread its colorful and enticing wings in virtually all institutions in Nigeria, including secondary and Primary schools, drastically affecting the standard of education.

 

Nowadays, secondary and primary school children now engage in cult activities more than those in tertiary institution. Our homes are no longer safe as cult activities are now done in the street by secondary school students who migrate and continue in higher institutions.

 

The entrenchment of cultism in Nigerian institutions has completely made life unsafe for both staff and students. Lecturers are constantly under threat from cultists to give them the pass grade, regardless of their performance in examinations, failing which violence would be visited on the lecturers. Also, some lecturers are being forced to award good grades to students who do not perform well in class quiz, attendance tests or examinations.

 

Furthermore, lecturers are attacked openly and disgracefully beaten or killed when they insist on hard work for passing exams. Not a few female students have been harassed and molested by cultists, whose amorous advances they had turned down or those who have had a quarrel with their female friends, (many girls who are friends with cultists use their influence to oppress other students). On many occasions, some of the female victims had to withdraw or defer their admission from such institutions when the dangers became too much to bear and risky.

 

Both intra-cult and inter-cult clashes negatively affects students in so many ways. It has led to do much violence on campus, often resulting in loss of lives or students wounded. It sometimes leads to rustication or expulsion, incarceration or, in both the guilty and innocent students falling victim due to the company of bad friends.

 

Cult clashes on campuses usually result in loss of infrastructure and other resources, and the funds that would have been expended on the provision of other facilities and infrastructure on campus are used in the replacement of damaged ones. The negative result of this is reduction in the standard of education as there would not be enough money to purchase good learning facilities.

 

The dizygotic twin of cultism and violence has shaken the essence and foundation of Nigeria’s institutions of higher learning as the psyche of students and the peace of the campus are adversely affected.

 

In order to stop this menace, higher institutions in Nigeria should ensure that the security system of their school is very tight in order to checkmate the activities of students and also to fish the bad eggs out, if any student is found guilty.

 

As part of orientation, institutions should ensure that seminars or workshops are organized for the new intakes, as they are the targets of confraternity groups. Students’ hand books should be shared among the students stating the school rules and regulations guiding the school.

 

Government should ensure that there is enough security readily available in both our primary and secondary schools in order to have students oriented on the dangers of cultism as they are the ones most in danger.

If cult activities can be checked from the grassroot level, our campuses will become safer for all to dwell in.

 

Furthermore, parents should advise their children about the dangers of violence as they are the first agents of socialization whom the children learn good behavior from. Parents should be steadfast in eradicating cultism on our campuses.

 

Lastly, students should try to stay away from bad influences. Say ‘no’ to cultism because the world is changing; take your time to look around and make the right decision.

By: MARYAM ADELEKE, FEDERAL POLYTECHNIC, BIDA

 

HRH Sanusi: Chibok And The Mirror In Our Faces

Full text  of the speech by Kano Emir, Muhammadu Sanusi II at the first annual lecture on Chibok Girls, He used the occasion to raise gender issues  and also drew attention to the grinding poverty in Northern Nigeria

 

Emir Sanusi: Frank message at Chibok event

 

It is a great honor for me to have been invited to speak on this landmark occasion of the third year of the atrocious and barbaric attacks in Chibok that led to the capture of hundreds of young girls from the school. In three years Nigerians have been horrified by this act and the consequent crimes of forced marriages, forced labour and may be even sale into slavery. Let me begin by congratulating my sister and friend Oby Ezekwesili and all the other sisters and brothers in BBOG who have kept this issue alive and remain committed until we see all the girls back.

 

As we remember the girls captured in Chibok three years ago, we must remember that they constitute only a fraction of the victims of this insurgency. I would urge BBOG, while you keep this issue of Chibok on the table, to broaden your message to cover all girls and boys abducted by BH, and also draw attention to the condition of girls and women in our society in general.

 

To give you an idea of the extent of this problem, as at today, in Dalori 2 IDP camp near Maiduguri alone, there are over 1,500 BH-abducted girls who are either pregnant or carrying babies, who have been freed by the military. Hundreds of orphaned children are being carried away to unknown destinations and they are all gone into oblivion due to society’s neglect. It is therefore critical, for the BBOG to gain much broader support in the populace and be more effective, to use the dramatic case of the Chibok girls as a referent and a plank, but not the exclusive focus of its struggle. Our interest should be in Bringing back all our girls. But after these girls are brought back, shall we ask ourselves as well: where are they being brought back to? What kind of society? How much better is the “normal” environment we all take for granted than Boko Haram camps?

 

These questions ultimately force us to face the reality that the kind of society we have created in fact is the root cause for the emergence of groups like Boko Haram and occurrences like the Chibok tragedy.

 

All my life, I have been engaged deeply with the question of women and the oppressed and marginalized groups in our society. I have come to accept, like you, that remaining committed to this discourse is a risky and potentially costly venture in this environment. The elite consensus is about a culture of silence and complicity, where everyone remains in his or her comfort zone, and where the voiceless majority are allowed to remain where they are.

 

The argument, it seems, is why should you care about poor rural women when you are able to educate your own daughters in the best schools in the world? Why should you hold up a mirror to our faces, expose our unclean underbelly and remind us of the brutish life to which, over many decades, we have subjected a large mass of our population?

 

Our colleagues and compatriots among the elite do not like statistics. Numbers are disturbing. I recently gave a speech in which I said the North-East and North-West of Nigeria are the poorest parts of the country. This simple statement of fact has generated so much heat the noise is yet to die down. But what really are the facts? The oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) and the UNDP in 2015 published data on the incidence of poverty in Nigeria showing that, on average, 46% of Nigerians are living in poverty. This is based on the UN’s Global Multi-Dimensional Poverty Index which focuses on Education, Health and Living Standards. Although this average is in itself bad, it masks even more serious internal inequalities and incidences of extreme poverty by region and gender. So for example the South-West of Nigeria has less than 20% of its population living in poverty while the North-West  has more that 80% of its population living in poverty. In the North-East the figure is 76.8%. Over 90% of the people in Yobe and Zamfara States are living in poverty compared to 8.5% in Lagos and around 11% in Osun and Anambra states.

 

The response to this speech has been a barrage of personal attacks and insults aimed at silencing any voices that dare shine the light on the society to which we are saying Bring Back our Girls. There are those who believe these attacks are aimed at discrediting me personally but even if that is the objective it will not work. I can only be discredited by what I have done and not by insults and lies on the Social-media. And in any event, personal criticism has no impact on the issues.

 

These attacks are aimed at diverting attention from the issues raised and all of us who are involved in this struggle must remember a few things. We are dealing with an anti-intellectual environment, and with people whose failure has bred a sense of insecurity which leads to incomprehensible, almost insane, reactions to simple advice. Secondly, that these problems are deep-seated and have been there for a long time so changing mind-sets will be a difficult and painful process. Finally we must never succumb to the temptation to join our opponents in the gutter. You may say what you like about me for as long as you like, so long as you address the issues. As Michelle Obama famously said: “when they go low, we go high”.

 

Instead of hiding these statistics and being scared of repeating them, what we need to do is bring out even more of these data. These are already published and easily verifiable but not often discussed in the public space. But these data help us understand what poverty means for girls and women.

 

According to published research:

 

1. Over 70.8% of women in North-West are unable to read and write compared to 9.7% in the South-East zone;

 

2. More than 2/3 of 15-19 year old girls in the North are unable read a single sentence compared to less than 10% in the South;

 

3. In 8 northern states, over 80% of the women are unable to read and write

 

4. Only 4% of females complete Secondary schools in Northern Nigeria;

 

5. 78% of adolescent girls are in marriages in the North West, 68% in the North East and 35% in the North-Central-these numbers clearly mirroring the poorest regions in the country. The statistics in the other zones are 18% in SS, 17% in the SW and 10% in the SE.

 

6. Apart from the huge loss of productivity and incomes caused by the lack of focus in education, especially for girls, adolescent marriages have led to serious social and health outcomes. One Nigerian woman dies in childbirth every 10 minutes. The NE zone has maternal mortality rate of over 1,500 per 100,000. This is more than five times the global average. I can go on and on.

 

These statistics are not flattering. And they speak to a truth that is inconvenient to most of us. But the culture of silence must end. We have a problem. In fact we have an existential crisis. And all of us in this country, politicians, intellectuals, Emirs and traditional rulers, religious leaders, businesses, NGOS have to come together to solve this. The real patriots in the North are those who are honest enough to accept this reality and insist on change.

 

The consequences of ignoring this crisis are unimaginable. And I wonder if the public generally recognizes this. It is a vicious cycle. Children of educated mothers are 50% more likely to survive beyond the age of 5, and educated mothers are more likely to send their own children to school. Meanwhile every extra year of education for the girl child could increase her earning capacity by 10%. Infants born to a mother under 18 suffer from 60% higher risk of dying in the first year of their life when compared to infants born to a mother aged 19 or older. Girls who become pregnant below the age of 15 in poor countries have double the risk of maternal death and obstetric fistula than older women. In addition, girls under age 15 are 5 times more likely to die from maternity related causes than women under 20.

 

The statistics that are provided therefore represent the tragedy in the lives of real human beings. This problem is most severe in the NW and NE but the North-Central zone also fares worse that the three zones in the south.

 

Let me state at this point that the issues faced by women go beyond girl-child education, early marriage and poverty. Educated women still have to deal with issues of equal opportunities in the work-place, and unwritten but no less real gender discrimination.

 

As Governor of Central Bank and Chairman of the Bankers’ Committee I forced the question of addressing the gendered work-place to the fore. We officially adopted a policy of aiming for at least 50% of employees of banks and the CBN being female by 2014. Also to address glass ceilings we pushed for at least 40% of Senior Management in the CBN and banks, as well as 30% of the Board of Directors being female.

 

By the time I left Central Bank I had ensured that the myth that women were only good enough to run Human Resources and Medical Services which are more suited to what is called, rather condescendingly, their “nature”. In addition to these two departments, I appointed women as directors in charge of core technical areas in the Central Bank including Banking Supervision, Risk Management, Consumer Protection, Internal Audit, Branch Operations and the Governor’s Special Adviser on Environmental, Sustainability and Governance Policies.

 

By deliberately pushing for the promotion of outstanding and highly competent female staff, we showed the Industry what could be achieved by women. We also developed and launched in 2013 a N220 billion MSME development fund with a condition that 60% of it is to be devoted to female entrepreneurs and businesses. I declared 2012 as ‘’the year of women economic empowerment’’ and trained NDIC and CBN employees and Management Staff on sustainability and gender. Also, in collaboration ILO, we launched FAMOS (Female and Male Operated Small Business) toolkit specifically to measure how financial institutions serve their female clients.

 

I am going over this now to make the point that my engagement with issues of gender and opportunity for women did not begin when I became emir, and my current engagement with forced marriages, domestic violence, arbitrary divorce, property and maintenance rights for women etc. is not new. It is also not a politically-motivated attack on any group.

 

The point I seek to stress is that BBOG needs to transform itself from a group defined by the narrow focus on an incident, to one that addresses the broader social reality of African women, and particularly women in Nigeria, especially the North.

We all claim to be horrified by what BH has done. We all call this primitive and barbaric. They forcefully took young girls out of school, forced them into marriages without their consent or love, impregnated them and turned them into mothers at a young age and exposed them to serious health risks, may be inflicted beatings and verbal abuse on them.

 

We are all horrified. Really. But let us pause a little. These things that horrify us, do they not happen every day in every village in northern Nigeria and some parts of the South? Do these girls complete their education? Do they all grow up and give their consent to marriage when they are old enough to? Does domestic violence not happen?

 

It is often not the fault of the girls or their parents. What do they do if there are no educational and health facilities made available to the poor? So the discourse on gender has to be looked at in the context of the discourse on poverty and governance. And this is why many people are not comfortable. The fact is that poverty in the North and in Nigeria, is not inevitable but a result of decades of failed social policy. It is only by recognizing this and accepting it that we can even hope to make progress. If we do not, then the society to which these girls are brought back will be no better than where they are now.

 

Let me conclude with a few remarks. Anyone who challenges a system or fights for the voiceless must be ready for a serious backlash. Character assassination, slander, blackmail and intimidation are the normal tools employed by those who defend and profit from the status quo.

 

The poor people for whom you fight are voiceless by necessity. Those of us who are fortunate to be part of the elite and who choose not to speak for them are voiceless by choice. We want to protect ourselves and our loved ones from the pain of being insulted and abused on social media. We want to hold on to the small comforts of our status. We want access to power and to be seen as friends of those in power and members of our inner-circle. We are afraid of being destroyed by ruthless state machinery. We have a morbid fear of being isolated, of not belonging to an exclusive club close to power.

 

The reality is that everything in this world is fragile. Life itself will come to an end and we lose money and position and loved ones all the time. The only thing we have control over is who we are, what we stand for, what we represent. Being a coward or a sycophant will not add one day to your life or one day to the term of any of the things you hold dear. The worst silence is that which happens in the face of injustice. Do not be intimated. Do not be silenced. Do not betray your conscience or sell your soul. Do not fear any human being. Stand up and take all the bullets that are fired at you but never kneel down. If you have to die, please die standing and not on your knees. Most important, ignore the noise. Do not defend yourself too much against personal attacks because they want your person, not the issues you raise, to be discussed. I know it is tough, I go through this every day, but I have learnt that after all the insults and blackmail the issues remain and will not disappear until they are addressed. That is your task, put these issues on the table and do not walk away until they are resolved.

 

Thank you for your kind attention and we pray that Allah return all our girls and boys safely to a better society.

 

*Muhammad Sanusi II, CON Sarkin Kano

 

 

 

NAN …..

 

Turkey: Trump Applauds Erdogan’s Referendum Win

U.S. President Donald Trump has congratulated Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on his victory in Sunday’s referendum that gave him sweeping new powers.

 

The U.S. president’s phone call contrasts with concern by European leaders who have pointed out how the result – 51.4% in favour of the changes has exposed deep splits in Turkish society.

 

Mr Erdogan has rejected criticism from international monitors who said he had been favoured by an “unequal campaign”.

 

“Know your place,” he told them.

 

The narrow victory was ruled valid by Turkey’s electoral body, despite claims of irregularities by the opposition.

 

On Monday, Turkey extended the state of emergency for three months. The measure, introduced after a failed coup last July, was set to expire in two days.

 

The call from Donald Trump was pre-arranged and the focus was Syria – but the congratulations for President Erdogan’s victory means the U.S. president joins leaders from Qatar, Guinea, Djibouti and the Palestinian militant movement Hamas to voice the opinion, while those in Europe have been far more cautious.

 

It will delight Erdogan supporters, who will see it as legitimising the president’s victory.

 

But it will dismay opponents, after Mr Erdogan’s fiery tirades against the West and the damning verdict of international observers.

 

It also exposes a split between the EU and U.S. on Turkey: Mr Trump opting for realpolitik while Europe urges the unpredictable Turkish leader to reconcile a divided country.

 

And it will reiterate similarities between Presidents Trump and Erdogan on issues like democratic norms and press freedom – though the Turkish president has of course dealt with them in a far more extreme way.

 

Ultimately, President Trump was perhaps aiming to win favour in Ankara, given that the two sides have fundamental disagreements over Syria.

NAN. …

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