‘Inter-ministerial collaboration is key to progress in maternal health’—Experts

By Abubakar Jimoh

The Chairman, Katsina State Coalition of Civil Society Organisations, Muhammad Bashir Usman has said inter-ministerial collaboration among the State Ministries of Heath, Information, Education and Women Affairs was paramount to effective and concerted intervention on maternal and child health in the state.

The Chairman made this known during an Executive-Media dialogue organised by Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) aimed at bringing the State’s executives and media under one roof to brainstorm on necessary action for timely release and effective implementation of maternal and child health budget for efficient intervention and maximum impacts on the citizens.

He said: “While successive governments have made several efforts to reduce maternal and child mortality, inter-ministerial partnership and engagement among the health related Ministries, Department and Agencies (MDAs), especially around budget and its implementation is key to efficient healthcare delivery.”

Acknowledging that North West region is faced with serious human resource gaps in the health sector, Usman said Katsina state recorded merely 507 out of 4835 midwifes required to provide maternal health services across the state.

He however, commended the recent policies, frameworks and guidelines initiated by the State Government to improve the situation such as persistent recruitment of additional health care personnel and introduction of health care education across higher institutions, as measures to mitigate high patients-to-doctor ratio in the state.

“The State in recent times has taken drastic step towards mitigating high patient-to-doctor ratio through persistent recruitment of additional health care personnel and introduction of health care education across higher institutions.

“As part of the strategy to create accessible, affordable and improved health care system, especially in the grassroots, Katsina State House of Assembly has taken a step to harmonize the State’s Primary Health Care through a Bill presently receiving legislative inputs,” Usman explained.

According to him, with over 6million population, the state’s maternal mortality rate stands at 634 per 100,000; infant mortality, 22 per 1000; and under-5 mortality, 36 per 1000 live births.

He urged realistic health budget composition through appropriate consultation with communities and relevant stakeholders by the media and civil society groups to promote effective implementation.

Also, Mr. Ibrahim Maiwada representing the State Ministry of Health added that mainstreaming maternal and child health as multi-sectoral issues through prioritized efforts among various Ministries, Departments and Agencies in the state would help in concerted effort to address maternal and child health.

The Snr. Program Officer (Gender and Reproductive Health), CISLAC, Chioma Kanu expressed concerns over impending factors such as information accessibility, lack of fund, capacity gaps and restrictive policies hampering investigative journalism, policy and public awareness on maternal and child health, encouraging full capacity deployment and utilization of Media and Public Relations Department of various Ministries to encourage timely and appropriate information dissemination

The State Ministry of Budget and Economic Planning, represented by Mr. Muhammad Kabir Barau revealed that in 2017 Appropriation Act, the State Government has allocated 8.97% to the health sector, which is an increase from the previous years.

He observed under-performance in part of the established Budget Monitoring and Tracking Committee as an impeding challenge to budget performance monitoring and evaluation in the state.

“Katsina State has received its share of the World Bank’s “Save 1 million Lives” fund and established implementation Committee with maternal and child as a key priority for intervention,” Barau added.

Health Reform Foundation of Nigeria (HERFON) represented by Dr. Sabiu Laidi explained that evidence-based advocacy by civil society groups in the state would assist them to understand, identify relevant facts and figures to effectively advocate and engage policy and legislative process on maternal and child health.

He further advised the media on well-packaged and persistent maternal health programmes by through persistent and innovative coverage and reportage that captivate policy, legislative and public attention towards maternal and child health.

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‘There should be zero tolerance for maternal death’– Perm Sec, KSMoH

By Abubakar Jimoh

“There should be zero tolerance for maternal death in presence of the on-going renewed efforts by the Kano State Government to ensure adequate, accessible and affordable health care services in the state”, the Permanent Secretary Kano State Ministry of Health, Mallam Dahiru Musa has said.

The Permanent Secretary disclosed this during an Executive and Media dialogue on Maternal Health organized by Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) in Kano state to bring the state’s executives and media under one roof to brainstorm on necessary action for timely release and effective implementation of maternal and child health budget in the state for efficient intervention and maximum impacts on the citizens.

He said: “There should be no maternal death. The state has put in place adequate Health Management Information System, which is subjected to periodic review by the instituted Maternal Death Review Committee to ensure qualitative and accurate maternal health data collection and use in policy decision.

“Medical students are through the state’s scholarship engaged on overseas training programmes to bridge the high patients-to-doctor ratio and boost human resources for heath in the state; and established Community Midwifery College in Gwarzo for training of young girls to augment existing skilled birth attendance.

“The State Government has created the State Health Contributory Scheme with an established Agency to administer the Scheme, as a palliative measure to address the emerging dwindling revenue resources from Federation Account to the health sector.”

Musa added that the sum of 50 million naira was recently provided by the State Government to United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) through co-funding arrangement for the procurement of Ready to Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF) to mitigate child death from malnutrition.

Also speaking during the Dialogue, Mrs. Zuwaira Omar, representing CHRICED, however, debunked unfriendly attitudes of some health workers as endemic challenges impeding timely realisation of adequate attendance for health care services at health facilities in the state.

She said migration of the state’s trained skilled health workers to other states or international community at the expense of state’s dire needs for adequate and accessible health care services had hampered efforts at addressing high patients-to-doctor ratio.

Presenting the issues affecting effective utilization of health budget, Muhammad Inuwa Shu’aib noted that maternal deaths account for 32 percent of all deaths among women between 15 and 49 years.

While commending the State Government’s effort at increasing budgetary allocation to health sector, amounting to 12.6% in current year as against 9.7% in 2016, he revealed that the sum of 180, 000,000 naira has been dedicated for maternal and child health services.

He noted: “In the past, the release was on quarterly basis. Some efforts demonstrated to use findings from Operational Research in 2008 played a vital role to influence decision making, where release was reviewed to monthly basis.

“Although there were some factors—bureaucratic process, poor timing that caused delay in the release of fund up till 2016, delay resulted in more death of pregnant women in the State. Currently, there is consistency in the release of Maternal Health fund particularly in this quarter January-March 2017.”

Shu’aib explained that high maternal and child mortality rates reported for the state could easily be attributed to “the fact that only 13% of deliveries in Kano were attended to by a skilled birth attendant, only 11% of deliveries in the state take place in a health care facility”.

According to him, the state’s Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR) data is 1,025 deaths per 100,000 live births.

Shu’aib added: “The free maternal health is provided mostly in designated secondary health facilities far away from majority of the rural settlements. It is not currently seen as a programme that can go beyond the present health facility-based implementation approach.

“The free maternal health is facing severe operational problems including: inadequate human resource for health, inadequate funding, out of stock syndrome, inadequate infrastructure and lack of participation of the local governments authorities in the provision of free maternal health.

“There is inadequate community involvement and participation in the planning and implementation process which has resulted to a lack of community ownership of the free maternal health.”

He attributed the challenges facing maternal health in the state to inadequate analyzed data for expected target beneficiaries—pregnant women; inadequate projection of costing per head; over dependence on development/donor partners for support on health related issues; low involvement of community existing structures Civil Society Organisations, Community Based Organisations and media in Maternal Health budget process.

Shu’aib He urged formidable effort by the media through evidence-based advocacy and investigative journalism in demanding accountability from relevant stakeholder to sustain existing achievements and enhance judicious utilization of maternal health funding in the provision of adequate, accessible and affordable health care services; and provision of appropriate monitoring system for the procurement and dissemination of commodities with timely release of appropriated fund for maternal and child health interventions.

The dialogue drew over 20 participants representing Ministries of Health, Planning and Budget, Women Affairs, Civil Society Organizations, and the Media.

2019 elections: Experts warn against false news, electoral violence

  • Electoral violence thrives in corrupt and poorly governed environments –Rafsanjani
  • Existing self-interest dominated brinkmanship can fuel electoral violence – Prof. Jega
  • The problem is not democracy but growing inequality, corruption – Prof. Gambari
  • Electoral offences must be appropriately prosecuted – Prof. Jibrin
  • False news as a political bargain: a threat to democracy — Mallam Ya’u
  • CSOs must watch against partisan alliance, widespread division – Dr. Abdu

By Abubakar Jimoh

There are indications that corruption, poor governance and weak institutions could be responsible for the varying degree of electoral violence and insecurity that continue to frustrate efforts at achieving a peaceful and secured country.

These clues were given by a group consisting renowned experts and non-state actors working on good governance at a Civil Society Stakeholders’ Consultative Meeting themed “Arresting the Drift towards Chaos in Nigeria” organised by Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre  (CISLAC) in collaboration with Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) in Abuja.

Speaking at the meeting, Executive Director of CISLAC, Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani) said the existing economic and political instabilities provide a breeding ground for social vices backpedalling peace and security in the country.

He said: “Our volatile democracy accompanied by increasingly unemployment rate and chronic poverty level has exacerbated varying degree of insecurity which continues to frustrate efforts at achieving peaceful and secured society.

“While these challenges are major contributory factors to insecurity in our country, we cannot conceal the fact that insecurity thrives more in corrupt and poorly governed environments with weak institutions.

“Corruption and the government’s failure to address pervasive inequality provide a breeding ground for security threats ranging from terrific insurgency in the Northeast; the militancy in the Niger Delta; the violent crimes of armed robbery, ritual murders, kidnapping, and rape; the cross-border criminal activities in arms, drugs and human trafficking; electoral violence; the ethno-religious conflicts claiming lives and properties; the persistent deaths from road accidents; and poor traffic management and enforcement.”

The Executive Director expressed serious concern over the persistent insecurity threats posing a setback to girl child education, especially in the North-East, where female students feel insecure to attend school as a result of persistent attacks and kidnappings by insurgents.  “To avoid being kidnapped or caught in-between the security forces and the Islamic sect, more female student are forced moving out of the region to much safer parts of the country.”

He bemoaned unpatriotic efforts of political and socio-economic saboteurs who prey on recurring violence conflict between nomadic herders and sedentary agrarian communities

“Violent conflicts between nomadic herders and sedentary agrarian communities have escalated in recent years and are spreading southward, threatening the country’s security and stability. Given the existing level of insecurity, the conflicts are clearly taken fresh dimension which should be exhaustively investigated and prosecuted by relevant authorities.

“It is worrisome that some political and socio-economic saboteurs and other enemies of social integration in most occasions take advantage of the existing instability to fuel precarious attacks on innocent citizens, primarily for their selfish and unpatriotic interest,” the Director said.

He further warned against unhealthy utterances and divisive agitations for separation by different groups from respective geo-political zones in the country with growing threats, precarious verbal attacks and hate speeches which if not holistically addressed may pose grievous challenges to the peaceful-coexistence, unity and diversity of our beloved nation.

“Although Section 39 (1) of the 1999 Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria which provides Nigerian with right to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference, however, related experiences both within Nigeria and across the continent have revealed that freedom of expression if not carefully exercised, occasionally gives room to dangerous speech, which incites violence or genocide,” he added.

Also, the Former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Attahiru Jega warned that while brinkmanship as a deliberate political strategy in electoral politics or diplomatic negotiation, the present deployment of brinkmanship primarily in pursuit of self-interest by political saboteur, if not promptly addressed through appropriate holistic measures by relevant authorities will fuel unwary electoral violence before, during and after elections at all levels.

He said: “The wrong use of brinkmanship in the country, if not rigorously checkmated may provide a breeding ground for do-or-die politics leveraged by ethno-religious and political demagogues in pursuit of selfish political gains.

Prof. Jega recommended formulation, adoption and strict compliance to the electoral code of conducts like “Peace Accord” by various political parties to avert element of bloody political strategies and do-or-die politics in the country; and the creation of formidable and productive means of civil engagement through advocacy and public enlightenment irrespective of individual’s religious and political disparity.

The Chairman, Savannah Centre for Democracy, Diplomacy and Development, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari called for appropriate assessment of the activities and performance of various agencies of socialisation including religious institutions in the country as a baseline to strengthen individual orientation and re-orientation.

 “We must keep or eyes on the ball, the problem is not democracy but religious and communal violence, widespread corruption, and an excessive presidentialism amidst enduring poverty, unsustainable levels of unemployment among the youth, growing inequality, an eroded state- society compact, and threats to the unity and secularity of the state.

“It is also important we mainstream peace building in Nigeria’s educational curricula to inculcate importance of peaceful building and peaceful coexistence in the formal wall,” the Chairman explained.

Renowned Political Scientist and Fellow of Center for Democracy and Development (CDD), Prof. Jubrin Ibrahim stressed the need to strengthen powers and mandates of electoral institutions at all levels through coordinated engagements by civil society groups advocating for the accelerated establishment of electoral offences commission will help in achieving strong and reliable institutions to effectively man peaceful and credible electoral process.

The Executive Director, Center for Information Technology and Development (CITAD) also the Chairman, Board of Trustees, CISLAC, Mallam Y.Z Ya’u observed emerging use of false news as a political bargain as a threat to democracy and social integration, constituting potential element for electoral violence.

He said: “Widespread perception of marginalisation and inequality in the country provides enabling ground for manipulative contents by unprofessional media outfits and desperate politicians as a medium to satisfy selfish agenda at the detriment of larger citizens.

“The growing culture of partisanship, self-censorship and sensational reporting of political events by the traditional and new media pave way for unprofessionalism in news coverage, content generation and reporting.

He urged collective effort by the state and non-state actors to promote individual orientation and re-orientation with sustained public education to mitigate unwary response to false news and hate speech.

Country Director, Plan International, Dr. Hussaini Abdu, lamented the existing partisan alliance and widespread division among civil society groups in the country that frustrate effort at building formidable synergy against political instability.

He recommended building synergy among civil society groups to advance unified and holistic recommendations to address the growing political instability in the country; and drastic effort by relevant authorities to eradicate chronic poverty in the country through appropriate deployment of education, youth employment, security and infrastructural facilities as tools to engage developmental crisis.

Tobacco Control: Report unlocks progress across Sub-Saharan Africa

By Abubakar Jimoh

As the driving force behind the success of domesticating and implementing tobacco control policies in accordance with provisions of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) across Sub-Saharan African countries, the appreciable interventions by Civil Society Organisations cannot be undermined, especially in sustained advocacy, coalition buildings, service provision, evidence-based information, and monitoring efforts.

A recent report titled “Enhancing the effectiveness of civil society organisations in tobacco control in targeted African countries” published by African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF) has revealed progress in the domestication and implementation of FCTC in most countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Assessing efforts and interventions by the supported civil society groups, the report acknowledges a sustained legislative platform for influencing Tobacco Control regulations by the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) through persistent sensitisation of key actors to finalize regulations for guiding implementation of the National Tobacco Control Act.

According to the report, CISLAC has successfully deployed various viewer-friendly social media platforms in real time legislative and policy advocacy on tobacco control in Nigeria, encouraging other civil society group across Sub-Sahara Africa to follow the trend in social media mobilisation given its limited financial burden in achieving effective domestication and implementation of the FCTC.

On related development, with impressive progress in Tobacco Control, apart from gazetting Tobacco Control Regulations in 2015, Kenya has taken a step further in ensuring graphic health warnings as provided for in the Regulations appear on tobacco packaging.

In order to sustain the recorded achievements in Kenya, the report recommends capacity building for Tobacco Control enforcement teams to effectively enforce the provisions of national law and in view of the forthcoming county specific legislation.

The report bemoans the growing rate of tobacco industry, and the delayed implementation-complaint proclamation of FCTC and other Tobacco Control policies in Ethiopia, calling for appropriate measures to “pre-empt, counter, and discredit interference from the industry”.

It stated: “The directive from the Ethiopia Foods, Medicines and Health care Administration and Control Authority (EFMHACA) in 2015 lacks enforcement mechanisms. The new FCTC- has been delayed. In addition, creation of 100 percent SFEs in universities requires multi-sectoral collaboration from them and outside stakeholders.”

Recounting the achievements on Tobacco Control in Benin, the report commends massive sensitisation of key stakeholders and ministry officials leading to the passage of the Tobacco Control law in September 2017, while recognizing the essential role of the Ministry of Health in advancing Tobacco Control through sustained engagements with media professionals to relay messages, stress risky attitudes and behaviours and denounce illegal practices of distributors and retailers of tobacco products.

Through the advocacy interventions of RAID, Gambia passed the Comprehensive Tobacco Control Act in 2016, consolidating existing laws and regulations with subsequent significant steps in combating tobacco use, and transformation of RAID to a very effect Tobacco Control actor in influencing policy decision.

In Botswana, the report observes the current intervention by ANTI-Tobacco Network (ATN) focusing tobacco industry monitoring, sensitisation of key stakeholders, research and fact-findings on situation analysis on tobacco control to further support resources, structures, key actors and governance issues.

As part of lessons learnt in Tobacco Control interventions across Sub-Saharan Africa, the report notes that the indispensable high level partnership and coordination of all TC actors through exchange platforms had led to a greater impact. “Also crucial are commitment and mobilisation of government authorities, and of religious and traditional leaders in working with CSOs.”

It recommends massive public awareness to de-normalizing tobacco and increase knowledge among people, especially youth, on the negative effects of tobacco use, so as to prevent initiation and to promote cessation.

‘Nigeria accounts for about 70% of the illegal small arms in West Africa’

By Abubakar Jimoh and Vaclav Prusa

There are indications that West Africa is conveniently situated for drug and illegal weapons’ trade between South America and Europe, and Nigeria accounts for about 70% of the illegal small arms in the sub-region.

These hints are contained in 20-pages report titled ‘CrimeJust: Fact Sheet Nigeria’ published by Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) under the aegis of Criminal Justice project supported by the European Union (EU) implemented by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in partnership with INTERPOL and Transparency International.

The report which aims at raising policy consciousness on the dreadful impacts of Organised Crime and enhancing the capacity of relevant authorities to effectively devise appropriate countermeasures reveals that Nigeria stands at the centre of a number of transnational crimes.

According to the report, the existing porous borders have not only paved ways for free flow of arms in and out of Nigeria but also contributed to increasing number of violent conflicts, constant human and drug trafficking which remain a challenge to authorities within and outside Nigeria.

The report observes that the broken political system, corrupt law enforcers and social environment are contributory challenges to many criminal activities as socially acceptable, thereby putting Nigeria at the epicentre of highly internationalised and organised crime. “The established linkage between the worst forms of criminality at an industrial scale and the political elite is widely observed and documented both in Nigeria and internationally.”

Narrating the networks in Organised Crime, the report traces drug trafficking and other serious crime to high public officials including the police and the army. “Political Exposed Persons and individuals within the Nigerian police and armed forces do not only assist criminal activities but also sometimes run illegal activities including drug and human trafficking and weapons smuggling.

“Drug trafficking, money laundering, arms manufacturing and arms trafficking, human trafficking, advance fee fraud, armed robbery and commercial kidnapping, piracy, pipeline vandalism and cybercrime are forms of organised crime with significant Nigerian involvement nationally and internationally.

“Allegations of corruption, heavy-handedness, and politicization have dogged the Nigeria Police Force,” it recounted.

The report discloses that drug trafficking remains a thriving business and serious issue with a global dimension of Nigerian involvement, noting that networking Nigerian gangs operate from Brazil and other South American countries though Europe and South East Asia with no fewer than 30% of the foreigners arrested across Germany, Italy, Switzerland, and Portugal were from West Africa, mostly Nigeria.

On human trafficking related crime, the report explains that vast and porous borders have exacerbated human trafficking routes from Nigeria through North African countries in the Sahara via the Mediterranean Sea to Europe.

“These vast borders have proven to be very difficult to control. The porosity of Nigeria’s borders has serious security implications for the country.

“With the porosity of Nigeria’s border, the security of Nigeria is threatened by the flow of arms, criminals, terrorists, drugs and thriving illegal human trafficking operations.

“Law enforcement agencies and security services are poorly organised, ineffective and, frequently, too corrupt to control the influx of drugs and other transnational crime to enter and exit Nigeria,” the report noted.

As related to reporting of abuses by security establishment, the report observes that frequent verbal and physical threats and repeated crackdown on whistle-blowers, journalists and activists persistently obstruct accessibility to public information increasing public disillusion about meaningful participation in governance.

The report further bemoans rivalry and overlapping roles amongst the law enforcement agencies with resultant poor coordination in the fight against Organised Crime, stating that the lingering inability of the agencies to exchange information and data results in incomplete evidence from prosecution in complex cases of organised crime, and poor conviction rate.

Buhari and the six new laws

In December, 2017 President Muhammadu Buhari assent to six different bills that brought to limelight specific laws that will henceforth abolish a devastating practice in the nation’s health care emergency response system, eradicate the use of torture to extract confessional statements in investigation process, ensure adequate financing for NDDC to effectively pursue its objectives, establish a coordinating national institution to through rigorous research detect and prevent cancer diseases, among others.

By Abubakar Jimoh

As Nigerians prepared for the New Year celebrations, the nation witnessed the much awaited development from the executive arm with President Muhammadu Buhari signing into law six different bills.

The new laws which include Compulsory Treatment and Care for Victims of Gunshot Act, Anti-Torture Act, Niger Delta Development Commission (Establishment) Amendment Act, National Institute for Cancer Research and Treatment (Establishment) Act, Federal Capital Appropriation Act, and Federal Capital Territory Water Board (Establishment) Act, came at the moment when the nation had shifted focus and attention from the overarching political issues that dominated the 2017, primarily for the Xmas and New Year celebrations.

This piece takes a look at specific challenges or situations that triggered the promulgation of each Act giving cognisance to some explicit provisions.

Compulsory Treatment and Care for Victims of Gunshot Act

Given the countless number of innocent victims who have lost their lives to deliberately instituted bureaucracy with resultant rejection or delayed in treatment, the Act if effectively implemented will put to rest one of the most worrisome public health issues in Nigeria. The law addresses notable inadequacies obstructing treatment of gunshot victims leading to unnecessary loss of lives.

Apparently, at legislative level, the passage of the Compulsory Treatment and Care of Victims of Gunshots Bill was fast-tracked in response to the increasingly rejections and deaths of gunshot victims by Nigeria hospitals.

While as a legal framework, the Act which was sent to the Senate for concurrence by House of Representatives, sought to ensure that all victims of gunshot wounds receive necessary treatment from medical workers and assistance from security agencies.

Whatever the drive or consideration informing the practice of rejecting patients with gunshot wounds is indeed a pathetic admission that in Nigeria, the dignity due human life is often denied.

The awful practice which demands innocent victims who have been shot by robbers or hit by stray bullets to first secure a police report before going to the hospital for treatment has led to many avertable deaths.

Commending the legislative and the executive arms on the speedy passage of the bill and the subsequent Presidential assent, Executive Director of Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani) said the law was paramount to oust cold-hearted practices and in giving a legal backing to the rapid treatment of the innocent victims of gunshot by Nigeria hospitals.

“We regret that many innocent lives have been lost through the degrading practice. It would be de-service to request police report before treating an innocent victim who undergoes varied degrees of dreadful pain. We also commend the National Assembly and Presidency for bringing the Act to the limelight.”

He added: “The Act is in in agreement with Section 20 of the National Health Act 2014, which forbids a health care provider, health worker or healthcare establishment from refusing a person emergency medical treatment for any reason.”

The Executive Director however, urged the legislative and the executive arms to as well take into cognisance adequate security of lives and property from the increasingly illegal arms flow into the country to mitigate persistent gunshot in complementing the exiting efforts.

Lamenting the evils perpetrated through the practice, Olu Onemola, Aide to the Senate President, Bukola Saraki said: “Having a system in place that forces both the good and the bad people who have been shot to first request police reports before going to the hospital, makes the innocent people among them victims of circumstance; victims of the hospitals, who refuse to treat gunshot victims without police reports; victims of the police, who oftentimes do not process these requests in a speedy manner; and victims of Nigeria’s current laws that make police reports mandatory for both law-abiding citizens and criminals alike.”

Also, a public health physician, Dr. Ben Akharaiye said the Act was a right step in saving Nigerians from unnecessary and preventable deaths. “The idea of waiting for police reports before treatment is an obsolete idea by our past leaders. It is in itself inhuman to say the least. Image the lives that have been lost in this country because of the long wait for police report, or even an outright denial by health facilities.

“What we have continued to reiterate then was that it is most like an innocent person that is shot than armed robbers, because these robbers or assassins are the ones holding the guns. Only few of these victims are armed robbers or assassins as the case may be,” he explained.

A provision of the new law mandates every person, including security agents to render required assistance to any person with gunshot wounds. This includes ensuring that the victim is taken to the nearest hospital for adequate treatment. It preserves the fundamental rights of gunshot victims by mandating that no person with a bullet wound shall be subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment and that no person with a gunshot wound shall be refused immediate and adequate treatment by any hospital in Nigeria — whether or not an initial deposit has been paid or not.

A report by Small Arms Survey revealed that as at 2007, the number of small arms and light weapons in Nigeria were estimated at between 1 and 3 million.

While the law as a curative measure remains paramount to save lives of the victims, relevant authorities must not lose sight of the preventive and stringent holistic measures to curtail illicit arms flow into the country that paves way for persistent shooting of innocent citizens.

It would be recalled that a 2015 resolution of the United Nations Security Council noted with concern that “illicit transfer, destabilising accumulation and misuse of small arms and light weapons in many regions of the world continue to pose threats to international peace and security, cause significant loss of life, and contribute to instability and insecurity.”

Anti-Torture Act

Nigerian security forces have hitherto been regarded among the crudest in the world as a result of the intentional use of excessive force and extra-judicial killing, verbal attacks and psychological intimidation reportedly mounted on a suspect to extract confessional statements and killing of robbery suspects without judicial trial.

The Act which criminalises torture and other inhuman treatments is a turning point in the effort of government and civil society groups to check impunity and high-handedness in the society.

While commenting on torture in part of Nigerian Police, Law Mefor, a Consulting Psychologist regarded police brutality as one of several forms of police misconduct, which include false arrest, intimidation, racial profiling, political repression, surveillance abuse, sexual abuse, and police corruption.

Mefor wrote: “Police brutality is closely related to torture. Torture could actually be an extreme form of police brutality. Technically, the term ‘police brutality’ is now generically used to cover all government security agencies – police, prisons, military, name it. One aspect of torture that must engage our attention here is psychological torture, which is less well known than physical torture and tends to be subtle and much easier to conceal.

“In Nigeria, these forms of torture are everywhere you have government security agencies operating, especially the police and the prison. The police cells and prisons are punitively run in Nigeria to inflict maximum psychological damage. If it is not intended, then, it has become a huge achievement by default.”

Similarly, in August 15, 2013, a report published by the Vanguard Newspapers accused the deployed Joint Task Force—both military and police in the Northeast of widespread atrocities ranging from summary executions, arbitrary arrests and torture.

In another 2014 report titled Welcome to Hell Fire – Torture and Other Ill-treatment in Nigeria published by Amnesty International revealed that countless people have suffered, and continued to suffer torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment (hereinafter ill-treatment) in the hands of the Nigerian security forces, including the police and military.

The report observed torture and other ill-treatments as routine practices in criminal investigations in Nigeria, adding that suspects in police and military custody across the country are subjected to torture as punishment or to extract confessions as a shortcut to ‘solve’ cases – particularly armed robbery and murder.

According to the report, many police sections in various states, including the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) and Criminal Investigation Division (CID), have “torture chambers”: special rooms where suspects are tortured, such chamber are sometimes under the charge of an officer known informally as “O/C Torture” (Officer in Charge of Torture).

Also, in a report titled Nigeria: Navigating Secrecy in the Vetting and Selection of Peacekeepers published by CISLAC, it was revealed that sexual exploitation and abuse and human rights violations by members of the Nigeria Armed Forces have been rampant with no proactive responses by the concerned institutions to deal with the situation in a systematic manner that would win the confidence of the public.

The report notes inadequacies in the training for peacekeepers particularly the police curriculum which it regards as “severely undeveloped” with critical gaps in areas that are vital to effective policy, such as forensics and crime management, special victims, human rights and information technology.

In addition, incidents of torture are not uncommon at home, workplace and public places. Many lives are lost to extra-judicially killings from torture with the culprits go scot-free without facing justice.

Against this background, the Anti-torture Act penalises every act of high-handedness by individuals towards their subordinates, servants, or people in custody in the case of criminal suspects under investigation.

The law protects the rights of the potential victims of such ill-treatment and would enable the punishment of the responsible individual(s), thus, ensuring there will be no impunity.

It stresses that freedom from torture is a non-derogatory right with no exceptional circumstances, whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war; internal political instability, or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification for torture.

The law criminalises torture as an act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him/her or a third person information or a confession; punish a person for an act he/she or a third person has committed or is suspected to have committed.

More importantly, various provisions of the Act make it a state policy to ensure that the rights of all persons, including suspects, detainees and prisoners are respected at all times; and that no person placed under investigation or held in custody of any person in authority shall be subjected to physical harm, force, violence, threat, intimidation or any act that impairs his will.

The law listed as part of the actions that constitute torture to include systematic beatings, head-banging, punching, kicking, striking with rifle butts, pumping on the stomach, food deprivation or forceful feeding with spoilt food, electric shock, cigarette burning, burning by electrically heated rod, hot oil, acid, forced to assume to fixed and stressful bodily position, sexual abuse and any other acts.

Niger Delta Development Commission (Establishment) Amendment Act

The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) as “an interventionist Commission” was established to address socio-economic, environmental and political problems that have engulfed the Niger Delta region.

Funding gaps are major setbacks hampering the Commission’s activities. This triggered a resolution by Advisory of the Commission in September, 2014, calling for the need to urgently address the funding challenges facing the Commission so as to reposition it for better service delivery to the people of the region.

Amendment to the Act strengthens weak provisions in the Principal Act and removes obvious impediments, particularly in the area of funding and reposition the Commission to carry out its mandate effectively.

It clarifies certain provisions in the Principal Act and provides for prompt remittance of funds due to the Niger Delta Development Commission, as well as penalties for delay or default.

With provision of new subsections to ensure prompt remittances to the Commission, the Commission’s financial burden will be reduced.

National Institute for Cancer Research and Treatment (Establishment) Act

The rising deaths from cancer related diseases in Nigeria has gained a widespread attention of the governments, individuals and stakeholders with recent available data showing accelerating rate of cancer diseases in the last five decades.

A report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) discloses no fewer than 10,000 related deaths while about 250,000 new cases are recorded from cancer annually.

Consequently, the National Institute for Cancer Research and Treatment (Establishment) Act was introduced to give dedicated attention to the dreadful disease through an established institution that will provide national leadership in cancer research, control and treatment; guide scientific improvements to cancer prevention, treatment and care; coordinate and liaise with the wide range of groups and healthcare providers with interest in cancer as well as make recommendations to the government about cancer policy and priorities.

The Act provides for the establishment of the National Institute for Cancer Research and Treatment Board with the power to erect, provide, equip and maintain research centre, training schools with state of the art facilities as are necessarily suitable for or required for any of the objects of the Institute; encourage and provide for research at the Institute; accept gifts, legacies and donations which are consistent with the objects of the Institute; enter into contract as well as acquire and hold movable and immovable property.

It also empowers the Board to create a central online database for statistical analysis to create access by both public and private individuals with a view to attracting donor agencies; establish a department of telemedicine for collaboration with peers both within and outside Nigeria.

Federal Capital Territory Water Board (Establishment) Act

Over the years, accessibility to adequate, accessible and affordable water supply remains a major challenge in some parts of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) with persistent outcries by the residents that people living in the satellite towns of Abuja lack access to potable water.

The FCT has a huge number of people suffering from inaccessibility to safe drinking water. With over 3.5 million population as at 2016, according to City Population, some FCT residents have reportedly resulted in buying a 20-litre-jerrycan of water from water vendors in their neighbourhoods, while others experience long queues before fetching water from nearby boreholes.

The Federal Capital Territory Water Board is the sole agency charged with the responsibility of producing and supplying potable water in the FCT. The board is faced with the challenge of making potable water accessible to the teeming residents of the city centre, satellite towns and over 800 communities.

The new law charged the FCT Water Board Establishment with the responsibility for providing safe, adequate and affordable water supply services to the residents of the FCT, Abuja.

It is also to collaborate with the other authorities responsible for water resources management to secure efficient use of water resources for the conservation and protection of the water resources of the Territory and the nation.

Apart from providing safe , adequate and affordable water supply service to the residents of FCT, based on the new law, the Board shall collaborate with the others authorities responsible for water resources management to secure efficient use of water resources for the conservation and protection of the water resources of the Territory and the nation.

Other mandates of the Board include to ensure the supply of adequate and potable water throughout the Territory at reasonable charges; management and maintain all capital works, water services facilities and new water service assets in the Territory; identify and implement project for delivery of water supply service which may be undertaken with private sector participation; manage and maintain existing waterworks within the Territory particularly to the various Area Councils and maintaining limited supervising capacity and intervention over these Area Councils operations.

Federal Capital Appropriation Act

This Act provides for the issue out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federal Capital Territory the sum of N64,276,476,002 out of which N12,799,413,161 is allocted to Personnel costs and N7,599,158,687 for Overhead Costs, while the balance of N43,877,904,154 is allocated to Capital Expenditure.

Under provisions of the Act, the Director of Treasury of the Federal Capital Territory Administration may, when authorized to do so by Warrants signed by the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, pay out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the FCT during the financial year ending 31st December, 2007 the sum specified by the warrants not exceeding the aggregate of N64,276,476,002.

The Act requires amounts appropriated to be made from the Consolidated Revenue Fund only for the purposes specified in the Act with all revenue accruing to the Territory other than the Statutory revenue distribution shall be paid into the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federal Capital Territory.

Jigawa: Frequent complications from pregnancy, childbirth major causes of maternal mortality

COMMUNIQUÉ ISSUED AT THE END OF A ONE-DAY LEGISLATIVE AND MEDIA DIALOGUE ON MATERNAL HEALTH ORGANIZED BY CIVIL SOCIETY LEGISLATIVE ADVOCACY CENTRE (CISLAC) WITH SUPPORT FROM THE MACARTHUR FOUNDATION, HELD AT ROYAL HOTEL, DUTSE JIGAWA STATE ON 18TH MAY, 2017.

PREAMBLE:

Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) organized a One-day Legislative and Media Dialogue on Maternal Health. The Dialogue aimed at bringing Jigawa State’s legislature and the media under one roof to brainstorm on necessary legislative action to address current maternal health funding challenges in the state for effective, efficient and affordable maternal and child healthcare delivery in the state. The meeting drew over 20 participants representing State House of Assembly and the Media. After exhaustive deliberations on various thematic issues, the following observations and recommendations were made:

Observations:

  1. The Jigawa State House of Assembly has fully mainstreamed the state’s Civil Society Group participation in legislative processes.
  2. The State House of Assembly has embarked on persistent community outreach as monitoring and evaluation process to harmonise feedback on communities’ perspectives on the implementation of legislation.
  3. The State House of Assembly exhibits and encourages political accountability and transparency through involvement of stakeholders’ participation and contribution including the civil society groups in legislative process.
  4. Inadequate infrastructural facilities remain impeding challenge to maternal healthcare accessibility, especially across grassroots in the state.
  5. Apart from frequent complications from pregnancy and childbirth, other reasons for the high maternal mortality in the State include low Anti-natal care coverage which stands at 20.1%; low professional and facility based delivery rates which stands at 5.1% and 4.5% respectively; and low modern contraceptive prevalence rate standing at 0.2%.
  6. Capacity gaps among the Legislative and Executive arms in appropriation process and development of memo to access budgetary allocation delay release of the allocation for timely maternal and child health interventions.
  7. While the State records high rate of severely acute malnourished children, the State House of Assembly has set up a committee to devise innovative approach to mitigate the malnutrition challenges in the presence dwindling donors’ resources.
  8. The State Assembly had increased budgetary allocation to nutrition from N270million to N300mllion in the 2017 Appropriation Act.

Recommendations:

  1. Strengthen the State Government and Local Governments working relationship to promote accessibility to maternal healthcare facilities and services, especially in the grassroots.
  2. Establishing an enabling platform for health sector program managers and State House of Assembly Committees on Health and Appropriation to critically look at the health budget and proffer either to increase or make changes on priorities health needs.
  3. Creative and innovative media to support maternal and child health investigative journalism and documentaries on case studies as an advocacy tool in decision making.
  4. Re-creating Civil Society Liaison Unit of the State House of Assembly to foster smooth participation of Civil Society engagement and encourage accountability platform.
  5. Creating a legislative budget and research Department in the State House of Assembly to be coordinated by legislative experts on budgetary processes as a feedback mechanism to harmonise citizens’ inputs to inform legislative decision in Appropriation process.
  6. Strengthen capacity in memo development and presentation to access maternal health budgetary allocation.

Call to immediate action:

  • State House of Assembly to ensure adequate funds are allocated to health sector.
  • State House of Assembly to track the Ministry of Health budget through adequate oversight activities to ensure funds are judiciously utilized.
  • To bridge capacity gaps in the legislature and media.
  • State House of Assembly to re-create a CSOs Liaison Office to enhance legislative-CSOs working relation.
  • State House of Assembly to create a Budget and Research Office in Assembly.
  • The media to design and air programmes, drama, jingles to raise policy and public awareness and consciousness on maternal and child health.
  • Media to strengthen collaboration with legislature and civil society to promote effective implementation of budgetary allocation to maternal and child health.
  • Media to set agenda for maternal health issues through free-airtime programmes.

Signed:

  1. Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani)

Executive Director, CISLAC

  1. Musa Sule Dutse

Chairman Appropriation Committee, Jigawa State House of Assembly

  1. Tijani Zakari

Secretary, Committee on Education

  1. Anas Abdullahi

Radio Jigawa

African Society and Western Civilisation

By Abubakar Jimoh

African society has a cherished culture and enviable values apart from its heroic past. The modern civilization is said to have emanated from the practices in the ancient Africa.

Looking critically at African society today since the emergence of the colonialism on our shore with the so-called Western civilization, it would be observed that the values put in place in the past by our forefathers seem to have been eroded.

In the past, individual without any form of education guided his activities by acceptable norms prevailing in the society. The society too had some norms and practices that the individual must strictly observed or faced some forms of punishments and sanction which might lead to banishment.

During those periods, the societal requirements varied from one society to another including code of dressing, customs, ethical behaviors and courtesies. Apart from these, other things that were highly cherished in African culture were the issue of responsibility, commitment and resilient that it was not just easy to marry without the groom demonstrating the ability to sustain the bride through his works and earning. The woman too should be chaste, untouched by any other man except her husband after the wedding. The society then easily disowned those who ran fouls of the traditional code of conducts.

The word “Civilization” is a universal term that has diverse meanings to different people. It is generally used to characterize a society that has high level of culture and social organization but which witnesses both positive and negative phenomena strange to African value. Of course western civilization is touted for eradication of cultic practices of past human sacrifice for rituals and killing of twins, there are more and more African values that need to be protected and preserved.

The western civilization promotes half-nakedness in the name of fashion, and near nudity in the name of modeling and beauty pageant. The craze to imitate these practices by African girls and women promoted cases of sexual assaults and rapes in the society. Our boys too are more concern about number of girls they have and designers’ clothes in their shelves instead of textbooks.

High institutions are now popular love nests where our students on campuses are mostly heartbroken by infidelity or rejection from their partners. Love affairs instead of academic pursuit have becoming the subject of attraction. This negative and dangerous trend has in one way or the other resulted to psychological trauma, lack of concentration and hence poor academic performance among students.

The high level of morality on our campus is an iceberg as reminiscent of the larger society. African men now marry not on socially acceptable behavior but on the physical beauty which at long resulted to non-satisfactions, and misunderstanding between several couples. The concrete example is the ongoing daily increase in extra-marital affairs, involving both men and women searching for happiness but, unknowingly end up in broken-homes.

African society which its humble beginning and cherished heritage, gives us an opportunity to promote our values, culture, in universally acceptable way. We should also try to be ourselves and not in any way be carried out by the awful imported cultures that could jeopardize or tarnish the good image of our beloved society. A reasonable effort should be made to understand and see the word “civilization”

Abubakar Jimoh
abujimoh01@gmail.com

Needless Agitations to Regulate the Social Media

By Abubakar Jimoh

Recently, the decision of the Nigerian Senate to regulate the social media platfoms through a Bill smartly titled “Frivolous Petitions Bill” has received serious response, mostly condemnations both within and outside the country.

Many have wondered the significant of “Social Media Bill” to speedily command such legislative support of the Upper Chamber and scaled through the second reading within short time, unlike other important Bills that would have served the best interest of common Nigerians like National Health Bill (now Act) which laid dormant in the Assembly for more than a decade before it was successfully passed into law by the 7th Assembly; Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB); Protection of Persons with Disabilities Bill; Anti-torture Bill; 2010 Electoral Act Amendment Bill; Whistle-blower Protection Bill; Gender and Equal Opportunity Bill; among others.

With due consideration for human rights implications of the “Social Media Bill”, by legal provisions, there are relevant national, regional, continental and international laws protecting individual’s freedom of speech and expression. For instance, section 39 (1) of the 1999 Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria states: “Every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference.”

The section continues: “(2) Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (1) of this section, every person shall be entitled to own, establish and operate any medium for the dissemination of information, ideas and opinions.”
Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) provides: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

Similarly, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (also known as the Banjul Charter) is an international human rights instrument that is intended to promote and protect human rights and basic freedoms in the African continent. Article 9 of the Charter provides for every African citizen right to receive information, and the right to express and disseminate his opinions within the law.

In recent times, the advent of social media has exposed majority of Nigerians to different interactive platforms where difference kind of unfiltered information is exchanged, making significant impacts in individuals’ orientation, behavious as well as political policy and decision making.

In 2001, Cass Robert Sunstein, an American legal scholar and professor at Harvard Law School, observed the essentiality of social media when he wrote that the social media has become a powerful medium which may affect voting behavior of its potential to provide direct and cheap access to the production and consumption of current information at any part of the world without editorial filtering.

The practicality of Sunstein’s position was evident in Nigerian 2015 general elections where social media effectually became accountability platforms leveraged upon by both Nigerians and international community for education, sensitization and monitoring of electoral processes. Without doubt, social media has received both national and international commendations for its contributions to the successful conduct of the general elections.

At pre-, during and post-elections, social media platforms were largely deployed by individuals, civil society, professional groups and other independent bodies, for education and sensitization to promote well-informed citizens about political affiliation, candidates and their party manifestoes, thereby ensuring appreciable participation and interaction in the electoral processes. It also fostered constructive inter-personal relationship among voters despite their political disparity and socio-cultural diversity.

In this case, social media platforms like facebooks, Youtube, twitter, blogs, instagram and online newspapers provided enabling platforms for people to air their thoughts on various political candidates through diverse political discourses and debates.

It would not be a surprise when in 2014, the European Parliament could not conceal but to articulate the importance of social media when it noted that the platform has rapidly grown in importance as a forum for political activism in its different forms. “Social media platforms, such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube provide new ways to stimulate citizen engagement in political life, where elections and electoral campaigns have a central role. Personal communication via social media brings politicians and parties closer to their potential voters.

“It allows politicians to communicate faster and reach citizens in a more targeted manner and vice versa, without the intermediate role of mass media. Reactions, feedback, conversations and debates are generated online as well as support and participation for offline events. Messages posted to personal networks are multiplied when shared, which allow new audiences to be reached,” the Parliament noted.

The social media platforms were largely utilized for varied submissions and contributions to the Presidential and Gubernatorial candidates’ political debates, as individuals, civil society, among others were disallowed from direct questioning of the candidates. For instance, the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) under the aegis of Partnership for Advocacy in Child and Family Health (PACFaH) had leveraged on the social media platforms created by the Presidential Debate Committee to submit questions, contribute and monitor issues affecting child and family health in the country such as Routine Immunization, Nutrition, Family Planning and Management of Childhood Killer Diseases.

Following the successful conduct of the general elections, social media platforms provides enabling opportunity for individuals, civil society, media and professional groups to hold politicians accountable to their promises (as contained in campaign manifestoes), roles and responsibilities.

More importantly, despite the commendable contributions by women to the nation’s political development, since democratic rule in 1999, women are under-represented in all key political decision making bodies in Nigeria including National and State Houses of Assembly. There are several barriers to women’s involvement and advancement in formal ‘representative’ politics. These barriers are socio-cultural norms and values; women’s smaller share of economic and power resources; and women’s role in the family.

Meanwhile, the importance of social media in enhancing effective women’s involvement and participation in political process and decision making has been demonstrated in a study titled “Women in decision-making: The role of the new media for increased political participation”, conducted by the European Parliament in 2013 where different online practices were assessed for their ability to encourage women to be more involved in political decision making.

The study reveals that social media tools are used by women to develop a ‘public self’ and build confidence in public debate. It also shows that social media platforms majorly provide women with the opportunity to: “Network with other women; Create on line selves which build confidence; Appeal to other women and peers through styles and issues that are directly relevant and attractive; and Provide alternative power bases which might be of interest to mainstream politicians”.

In advanced society, social media are deployed by the legislatures to maintain constructive interface with constituents, civil society, and the media primarily to: identify the political constraints, opportunities for the legislatures and develop strategy for engagement; inspire support for legislative issue or action; create new ways of framing an issue or policy narrative; share expertise and experience and recommend new legislative approaches; enhance the legislators’ capacity to improve in their activities; transfer capacity for more clearly designed better interventions; make tracking and monitoring more effective; fasten progress in enacting relevant legislation for sustainable development; and enhance space for constituents, civil society and the media interaction and participation in the legislative activities.

Social media platforms have been adopted by several legislative houses across the world as effective dissemination mechanisms for legislative information and activities to encourage public participation, promote transparency and well-informed citizens about emerging developments in the legislature. Instead of imposing needless restriction on the social media, the Nigerian legislatures should constantly utilize the platform to disseminate timely information about their actions and budget to the public, educate the citizens on legislative process, gather constituent feedback and act upon suggestions. This will enable the legislators to command public confidence and enhance effectiveness in the conduct of legislative works.