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COVID-19: Nigeria needs epidemic response plan, social protection policy for IDPs – Expert

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Following the need to address the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic across the globe, experts in Nigeria have called for a defined response plan to deal with the crisis in the country.

Kabiru Abbas, the Team Leader for the Support to Coordination of the European Union Funded Interventions in Borno State (SCEUBS) said Nigeria as a country needs an epidemic response plan and social protection policy for its vulnerable citizens.

Abbas made the contribution on Thursday, May 21, during a virtual meeting titled; Protecting the Most Vulnerable: The Case of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) which was organised by the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD).

He said Nigeria ought to have a register of IDPs and vulnerable people to enable the country to target this category of people at all times.

Addressing challenges faced by IDPs in Nigeria, Abbas said in tackling issues of education, a lot more has to be done considering the risks and level of vulnerability of the displaced individuals.

He also said there is a need for relevant education authorities to explore e-learning platforms taking into cognizance the regulations of COVID-19 lockdown.

Abbas said: “There are mechanisms for e-learning, through the education ministry, the state is exploring radio for learning with UNICEF, plan international and Care in Nigeria.”

“Many schools are exploring Whatsapp Platforms for learning. The challenges to remote learning are education and access to digital devices,” he said.

Abbas called for strengthened coordination between development and peace nexus, and the movement from humanitarian to development, collation of data for decision making and the development of remote learning process across the nation.

Also calling for the domestication of the Kampala Convention for IDPs, Abbas said the Federal and State governments should look at the protocols and treaties that need to be put in place to ensure that IDPs can have the right protection they need.

“We need to look at the instrument that will empower the humanitarian and human right agencies to do more,” Abbas said.

Adding that available data on Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in Nigeria has been on the rise due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown, Abbas said survivors of these criminal acts must be supported medically and legally.

Also speaking, the Executive Director of Herwas Community Development Initiative, Mohammed Hassan, said the challenges faced by IDPs during the COVID-19 lockdown includes access to certain materials, water and food as many sponsors are withdrawing. 

Hassan said monthly ratios of food items at most of the IDPs camps are inadequate.

“The accommodations that have been provided by UNHCR are not permanent. So, when it is the rainy season, IDPs may not have where to live in,” Hassan said.

He added: “In one of the camps, in Borno State, about 200 people came in recently and that has added to the pressure. We even have people coming from the Host Communities to stay.”

However, the Borno State Commissioner for Information, Alhaji Babakura Abba-Jato, said the first thing the State Government did at the onset of the lockdown was to embark on sensitization of the public with particular attention to the most vulnerable – IDPs.

He said the state in partnership with the North East Development Commission (NEDC) also, provided hand wash station, hand sanitizers and other basic items needed for the prevention of COVID-19 within the camps.

“To follow the principle of social distancing, people were discouraged from large crowd gatherings. New camps were created to reduce the clustering of people in the IDP camps. Like Gala, Mongono,” Abba-Jato said.

He also noted that while some camps have witnessed an influx of IDPs due to the extension of the lockdown, Borno State Government is doing its best rebuilding some of the communities devastated by insurgency.

“These buildings are being done so that the IDP camps can be decongested. The State Emergency Agencies are also building some shelters to decongest the IDP camps. In addition to that palliatives are being delivered to the IDPs by the Borno State Government and the NEMA,” the Commissioner said.

He further called for sustained collaboration between government and non-governmental organisations in protecting the most vulnerable individual during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The Onus is one the NGOs to bring in a lending hand rather than passing blames we should work towards solving the problem together,” Abba-Jato concluded.

COVID-19 Lockdown: Police Should Consider Rubber Bullets, Pepper Spray – NHRC Boss X-rays Abuse of Citizens’ Rights

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The Executive Secretary of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Tony Ojukwu, has called for the use of non-lethal weapons like rubber bullets, tear gas and pepper spray by officers of the Nigeria Police and other law enforcement agencies.

Ojukwu said the use of such non-lethal weapons in curbing criminality in Nigeria will reduce human rights abuse and extrajudicial killings by officers of the security agencies across various states of the country.

Speaking at a virtual meeting organised by the Centre for Democracy and Development on Thursday, May 21, Ojukwu said the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has brought to limelight, the many issues of human rights abuses against the citizenry.

The event themed, “Human Rights and Law Enforcement During the COVID-19 Lockdown”, sought to critically review the human rights dimensions of the COVID-29 pandemic and government’s attempt to curtail the spread of the disease within the context of activities of security agencies.

Continuing Ojukwu said Section 45 of the 1999 Constitution as amended which talks about the right to freedom of movement, the right to assemble are all the kind of rights have all been affected by the pandemic and the Quarantine Act.

“Assembling to protest, religious activities have been put on hold due to the nature of the spread of the coronavirus,” Ojukwu said.

He also said that the NHRC has been preparing the minds of citizens as the commission continues to monitor and control the kind of abuses including extortion, cases of torture, cases of extra-judicial killings and harassment of essential workers by security operatives.

The human right scribe said there is need for all active agencies operating during the lockdown to find alternative strategies for reducing human rights violations.

Addressing the need for campaign and awareness, Ojukwu said law enforcement agents must be trained to make informed decisions during the enforcement of cOVID19 regulations.

“Look into the issue of providing rubber bullets, tear gas, pepper spray for police and other enforcement agencies rather than for them to carry ammunitions. These will reduce the abuse and extrajudicial killings,” he said.

Also speaking, a Nigerian researcher at the Human Rights Watch, Aniete Ewang, said while curbing the spread of the deadly COVID-19, the Nigerian government and its agencies need to work towards gaining the people’s trust.

Ewang said the government authorities should provide clear directives and ensure a well-communicated order to guide officers who have been deployed to enforce the lockdown within the confines of the law and international law standards.

She said there is also a need to provide internal oversight which will take the form of accountability during policy while calling for citizens’ collaboration.

“Human right bodies should look into enforcing the idea of responsibility between teams during the pandemic,” Ewang said.

In her address, the Country Director for Amnesty International, Osai Ojigho, said the many challenges witnessed with law enforcement in Nigeria have always been there even before the COVID-19 lockdown.

She suggested that to reduce the cases of rights abuses and gain citizens’ trust, government and law enforcement agencies must be held accountable at all times.

“Accountability starts first internally in terms with the police and other law enforcement agencies, their responsibilities and obligations to the people that they serve, and secondly, in terms of how the authorities see the international obligations that they have signed up to, like the human rights framework,” Ojigho said.

She noted that one of the weaknesses of the law of enforcement structure in Nigeria is the fact that officers who are accused of committing crimes or human right abuses, do not necessarily get punished for it.

She said: “It is good  to note that there has been attempt and we have seen some officers who have been called out, both often times we don’t know what happens thereafter, there is no much information, whether there was a disciplinary measure or whether steps are taken to ensure it never occurred again.”

She said it would be heartwarming to see a law enforcement body in Nigeria which thrives on accountability and service to the people with dignity, recognize that everyone in spite of their status has the right access to justice and how they facilitate it, rather than perpetuating some of the abuses that we have been seeing under this current dispensation.

CSOs and Others Honour Bjorn Beckman in Abuja

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Civil Society Organisations, academics, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Many well-wishers gathered together on Thursday, March 12, 2019, in Abuja to honour Bjorn Beckman an internationalist, a Marxist scholar and a friend of Nigeria, who died in November 2019.

The theme of the memorial colloquium in memory of the 81-year old Marxist scholar is “The Future of Democracy in Nigeria”. 

Beckman was a lecturer at Ahmadu Bello University from 1978 to 1987 and his contribution to radical movements and scholarship in the country is immense.

Mr Kole Shettima, The Board Chairman, CDD, while giving remarks said that Nigerian youths need to be given the opportunity to serve for democracy to be instilled. He noted that Mr Beckman left behind over 750 materials for use by Nigerian students.

Dr Kole Shettima

Also speaking, the chairman of Daily Trust newspapers and chairman of the event, Kabiru Yusuf, described the late scholar as one who taught common values of decency and public-spiritedness and called for the sustenance of the ideas of the late Mr Beckman.

“Bjorn has left us with strong lessons inhumaneness, humility and hard work, I think we should use this occasion to find a way to nurture this common bond and if we can pass it on to the next generation,”

Yusuf said.

Likewise, Dr Jibrin Ibrahim, senior fellow at the Centre for Democracy and Development, on his part, said the late scholar electrified the learning of Marxist political economy with his vast knowledge of the classics and current literature.

Jibrin Ibrahim said Beckman was a profoundly knowledgeable Marxist theoretician with deep knowledge of its methodology. 

“This enabled him to make all of us better students and teachers of the discipline. He had the capacity to guide his students to do research that was both empirically grounded and theoretically sound.” Ibrahim said.

Similarly, Dr Fayemi, Governor of Ekiti State, who was a student of Bjorn Beckman, said that Nigeria must continue to improve the process of democracy. 

The Ekiti state governor said Nigeria will forever be grateful to Beckman for creating a development centred on human values.

Mr Ayuba Wabba, the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, described Mr Beckman as a fearless democrat who was not afraid to speak his mind even in a foreign land. 

Also in attendance were the Delegates from the Nigerian Labour Congress, Beckman’s wife, Gunilla Andrae; and children; delegates of National Union of Textile, Garment and Tailoring Workers of Nigeria and Amino Kano Centre for Democratic Research and Training.

Traditional leaders key factors in ending Liberia’s culture impunity – CDD, OHCHR

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In a continuous effort to end financial crime, the Centre for Democracy & Development (CDD) in partnership with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and Civil Society Human Rights Advocacy Platform (CSOHRAP) met with traditional leaders in Liberia.

The team who were welcomed to Bomi county by the traditional leaders said the culture of impunity must be ended as a means of addressing economic and war crimes in Liberia. 

It also called for public support for the establishment of the War and Economic Crimes court for the prosecution of major actors of the 14-year civil war in Liberia.

Following its one-year nationwide consultation themed “Effects to Address Past Human Rights Violation of Regional Levels in Liberia” the partner who decried the lack of interest by the Liberia government to prosecute major actors of the civil war said there is need for the promotion of rule of law.

Speaking at a two-day outreach on accountability and justice for past crimes, attended by traditional leaders from Grand Cape Mount, Gbarpolu and Montserrado and the host county, the head of programs for OHCHR, Sonny Onyegbula, said the office is responsible for accountability and promotion of rule of law.

Onyegbula said the OHCHR Liberia Country office through its accountability projects have provided support to ensure that the recommendations of Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) are implemented.

According to him, traditional leaders are Liberia’s most important assets ensuring messages are disseminated to community members.

“We are aware of different myths and falsehood that are mischievously associated with the establishment of Economic and War Crime Courts,”

Onyegbula said.

Debunking some of the misrepresentation of facts on the initiative, the OHCHR programs head said the court when established would not send everyone who took part in the Liberian war to prison.

He said: “Similarly, child soldiers do not bear any responsibility because they were under the direction of a Commander who should account for their action; many countries have established similar courts and underwent justice processes, but it did not lead to any war, Sierra Leone is a very good example.”

In its reaction, the CDD collaborated remarks by the OHCHR that the traditional leaders are key element to ending the culture of impunity and in dealing with issues around justice and accountability.

The centre said it is committed to supporting the promotion of social mobilisation strategies among local and rural traditional leaders and authorities in sub-divisions of Liberia.

According to the centre in dealing with the past, there must room for promoting access to justice, accountability in Liberia.

Also, the CSOHRAP said the outreach is intended for the traditional leaders to discuss with right advocacy groups.

The secretary-general of CSOHRAP, Adama K. Dempster, said the groups will address issues of some violations that took place during the war and those that are still ongoing.

Dempster said the outreach will focus on the implementation of the TRC report and its recommendations to end the culture of impunity across the country to serve as deterrence for others.

He said the rights advocates see the traditional leaders as strong as the national government that can shift things in a positive direction for the betterment of Liberia.

Dempster said since the TRC ended its work ten years ago, nothing has been done to address the culture of impunity.

It may be recalled that a committee headed by Montserrado County District # 4 Representative, Rostonlyn Suococo Dennis signed a resolution last year endorsing the establishment of a war and economic crime court for Liberia.

The resolution which reportedly received over 50 signatures out of the 73 members of the House of Representatives.  However, since the endorsement last year there has been no effort to include the quest of an establishment of a war crimes court on the agenda for debate in plenary of the House of Representatives.

CDD Contributes to Anti-Corrupt Efforts through the Office of Auditor-General of the Federation

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The Centre for Development and Development (CDD), to contribute to the increasing efficiency and effectiveness of the fight against corruption by Anti-Corruption Agencies on Thursday, March 5, entered a partnership with the Office of the Auditor of the Federation (OAuGF).

The centre with the OAuGF signed a Memorandum of Understanding to prevent and reduce the incidence of corruption among public office holders in Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) in Nigeria.

CDD’s Director, Idayat Hassan, while giving welcome remarks expresses the centre’s profound appreciation to The Office of the Auditor’s General and staff present.

“I must thank you, because you have demonstrated that organisations can work together to fight corruption effectively without rivalry or competition” Hassan said.

She said the Nigeria Anti-Corruption Agencies Support initiative Project which was launched officially in July 2019, seeks to contribute to increasing the efficiency of the agencies through targeted capacity building, support on forensics and evidence gathering.

Hassan said the initiative includes information sharing, infrastructure support and coordination among the ACAs.

“CDD’s support to the Office of the Auditor General will promote accountability in government spending as well as fortify existing systems and develop new frameworks to impede leakages in government spending” Hassan reiterates.

Hassan in her remarks commends government agencies that have agreed to work together to block leakages in the nation’s financial system.

Again, she adds that, “The synergy between the Office of the Auditor-General for the federation and other ACAs is timely in the fight against corruption and will prove most beneficial to the country”.

Hassan urged MDAs to use the medium to encourage President Muhammadu’s administration in the Anti-Corruption agenda and also to fast track the process of getting the audit bill passed into law in line with international global practices.

In agreement, the Auditor General of the Federation, Mr. Anthony Ayine says he is indeed grateful because this ceremony marks the beginning of a more robust engagement with CDD.

To fight corruption, Ayine tasks agencies to re-establish the culture of transparency and accountability.

Ayine said: “The Auditor- General for the federation, has been implementing several reforms initiatives, anchored on five-years strategic development plan, including the repositioning of the supreme audit institution in Nigeria to deliver more impactful results, and effectively hold public agencies to account.”

He assured that his team will work with CDD to develop a work plan, budget and timelines to structure the delivery of activities, which encompasses capacity building, provision of essential infrastructure, media and communication management as well as interface with members of parliament and other critical stakeholders.

As a final point, Mr Ayine says he hopes that the CDD will give its maximum support to the OAuGF to help deliver impactful results, for the benefit of the people of Nigeria.

CDD Trains Anti-Corruption Agencies on Media and Strategic Communications

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The Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) engaged the International Press Center (IPC) on Tuesday, February 25, to train 18 officers from various Nigeria’s Anti-Corruption Agencies (ACAs) on Media and Strategic Communication.

The three-day training which took place in Keffi, Nasarawa state’s capital city was carried out successfully under a project implemented by the CDD with support from MacArthur Foundation.

The training brought to the fore, experts to learn and improve communication strategy among core anti-corruption agencies in Nigeria.

It also availed the communication experts the opportunity to learn global best practices while engaging the public in the fight against corruption in Nigeria by the agencies.

Representing Idayat Hassan, CDD’s Director, Lukman Adefolahan, welcomed the participants and the facilitators to the event.

Mr. Adefolahan giving a background of the Nigeria Anti-Corruption Agencies Strengthening Initiative Project said the training will help the officers improve communication and information sharing among anti-corruption agencies and the general public.

He explained that the training which targets the communication departments of the ACAs will help participants improve on communication for development, especially in the fight against corruption in Nigeria.

Also speaking, Lanre Arogunade, director of International Press Centre urged participants to know that there is nothing that cannot be improved upon and to ensure effective communication.

Arogunade urged communicators to know their audiences, the messages they intend to communicate to the audience and the best channels for every message.

Fatima Shaibu who spoke on improving the delivery of public information on anti-corruption crusade, charged participants to use proper channels to communicate to their audience.

She urged the ACAs communication officers to understand that their primary audiences are those who the organisation’s mandate affect directly, while their secondary and tertiary audiences all vary with works and vision of the different organisations.

“When you know you primary, secondary, and tertiary audiences, the organisation can be able to know what channel of communication suits the agencies,” Shuiabu said.

Emphasizing on some strategies for effective communication, David Ajikobi, the Nigerian Editor for Africa Check urged for collaborative storytelling.

Ajikobi said communication experts must endeavour to “tell issue-based stories, work with a proactive media agenda, leverage on multi-media storytelling, and finally the communication language”.

According to him, “for public organisations to achieve effective communication, they should be able to explore new strategies or build upon existing ones; you could take your conferences to the online space.”

Continuing, Ajikobi urged the officers to, “have webinars sessions, triangulate data evidence, crowdsource information, communication professionals and organizations can also use WhatsApp for business to reach out to loyal or find new ones and have direct engagement with them”.

Since fake news, disinformation and misinformation are inevitable while working in the online space, David taught intensively fact-checking procedures.

Defining Fake news as completely fictional, deliberate and a dangerous tool which could mar the progress of anti-corruption agencies, Ajikobi said agencies must be able to fact check information.

He further explained that social media is a visual image as communication specialists could always make use of visuals to pass some of their messages to their audience.

“Social media is playing an important role in our jobs, surveillance and the fight against corruption across the globe,” he added.

Adejoke Fayemi of the African Independent Television spoke on the effective broadcast communication and engagement.

Mrs. Fayemi says “broadcast communication is a process of transmitting carefully crafted and creative messages to influence millions of people simultaneously. Storytelling is a process we must learn as communication people; it is the process of reaching out to the audience. Hence, we must creatively tell our stories through multi-media.”

Meanwhile, participants shared success stories on how CDD’s support to ACAs have helped in the fight against corruption in Nigeria.

The participants from the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) boasted that with the support, the commission has been able to pilot 12 states for tracking of constituency project.

“With the support, we have been able to push through more state,” a communication officer from the ICPC said.

For the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), through the CDD’s support, the agency has been able to create more awareness on the its anti-corruption fight.

Similarly, officers of the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) said they have received up to 60 computer systems which personnel now use in the IT department.

They said attending the training have helped the agency improve its anti-corruption interventions. 

The Office of the Auditor General of the Federation says despite being new to the process, a lot of impacts have been recorded due to CDD’s intervention. 

Among participants at the training are communication experts from TUGAR, EFCC, ICPC, NIETI, PACAC, NFIU among others.

Former Minister Amina Mohammed, Others Celebrate Kole Shettima at 60

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A former minister of Environment and deputy secretary-general of the United Nations, Amina Mohammed, on Wednesday, February 12, joined scores of Nigerians to celebrate Kole Shettima, the Africa director of the MacArthur Foundation. At a dinner which was hosted by the Centre for Democracy and Development took place in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city.

L-R: Dr Kole Shettima, Africa Director, MacArthur Foundation and Amina Mohammed, Deputy Secretary General of United Nations

Mohammed while speaking at the event, described Shettima as a friend and colleague every individual need in their lives.

She said: “We thank God for Kole, he makes you believe that there is always hope and that there is always a solution to every challenge.”

“And today is just reminding us how important that for all of us; the quality of the friendships of our lives and what we all stand for,” Mohammed added.

She also wished the celebrant good health and more wisdom more capacity to improve more people especially the youths.

Saddatu Mahdi, WRAPA

A citation by the Signature TV and read at the occasion by Saddatu Mahdi of WRAPA described Shettima as “a study in humility.”

Shettima studied Political Science at the University of Maiduguri, Ahmadu Bello University Zaria and the University of Toronto.

He taught at the University of Maiduguri, University of Toronto and Ohio University before joining the MacArthur Foundation in 1999.

Having been published in several academic journals including Africa Development, Shettima is on the board of several civil society organizations including Center for Democracy and Development, CUSO International and Speakers Corner, and a current Visiting Professor at Yobe State University, Damaturu.

He was state coordinator, and the national education coordinator of Women in Nigeria; Coordinator of the Working Group on Nigeria, Toronto among many others.

Professor Adele Jinadu, a lecturer of Political Science

In his keynote address, Professor Adele Jinadu, a lecturer of Political Science and a former executive director of the Centre for Advanced Social Science (CASS) said Dr Shettima believes in the collective intellect of the Nigerian populace to bring about the desired change in the country.

Jinadu said having a strong passion for democracy and good governance, Shettima has ever remained supportive of scholarships for the improvement of the society.

“Kole has never shied away from pushing and encouraging us towards a united and a better society. The second thing that he has done or that he represents is his passion for democracy and democratic governance” Jinadu said.

Further wishing the celebrant more fruitful years ahead, Jinadu urged Shettima to continue being a great man of intellect and hope to the younger generation.

Section of guests at #KoleAt60 celebration

Also, eulogising the celebrant, the country director of Action Aid, Ene Obi, said Shettima’s steadfastness and dedication to the working-class people and to the less privileged are unprecedented.

“Dr. Kole has been a strong pillar of support for all of us and I can attest to that,” Obi said.

Dayo Olaide, Deputy Director MacArthur Foundation

The deputy director of the MacArthur Foundation, Dayo Olaide, said Shettima is an outstanding human being. 

Olaide said there is no kind of challenge you take to the celebrant without getting a solution from him.

“You can’t approach Kole with a problem and leave that office without a solution or at least a hope that, yes, it can be solved.”

“And I think for all the young people that are here with us today, this is a message for you. The world has enough bankers, enough economists, what the world is looking for are solution providers,” Olaide said.

Section of guests at the birthday celebration of Dr. Kole Shettima

In his address, the celebrant said it is really difficult for him to respond to all the love and felicitation he has received so far.

Shettima said: “It is really difficult to say anything in this kind of occasion because when I got a text that this was going to happen, I immediately said, no because the governor of my state has asked me to go to Damaturu.”

Shettima said the executive director for the Centre for Democracy and Development, Idayat Hassan, had called to inform him of his needed presence at the dinner.

“And of course, Idayat said she has cancelled the governor and I said Idayat, you simple director is cancelling a governor. I definitely never anticipated that this was going to happen,” an all grinning Shettima said.

“In fact, what we planned was for Amina’s birthday. I’m really privileged to be hosted by these wonderful Nigerians who believe in the country, humanity and service to the ordinary citizens of this country,” he added.