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The Menace Of Child Beggars

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Plastic bowls in hand, often chanting religious texts, growing numbers of child beggars are roaming Nigeria’s second largest city, Kano in a trend that is worrying authorities and residents. The number of child beggars in Kano State has nearly doubled in five years to about two million, the bulk of them wandering the streets of the eponymous state capital.

Fearing a “social time bomb” waiting to explode, residents have started to create pressure groups to stem the tide, but critics worry that the move could backfire and encourage more children from poverty-stricken homes to try their luck. In filthy, tattered clothes, they move from door-to-door across the city, hang around traffic lights or cluster outside expensive private schools asking for food and money.

“The presence of these children is a social time bomb which, if not defused, will certainly consume everyone when it explodes, because these children know nothing about parental care, love and affection and therefore see everybody as an enemy and responsible for their deprivation,” said Kano resident , Abdullahi Yusuf.

He was speaking outside a mall where a group of two dozen children were stretching out their bowls toward shoppers.

For generations, it has been tradition in Muslim-dominated northern Nigeria for parents to send their sons from as early as 6am to local Islamic scholars known as Malam to learn the Koran. Koran lessons are free, but the children must fend for themselves, usually by begging and in some cases through menial jobs.

“Some are dumped with the Malam by their parents who never show up again,” said Jibrin Gunduwawa, a 70-year-old cleric who has been running his Koranic seminary for 30 years. “We don’t have enough for ourselves, so we allow them to go out and beg for food and alms for their upkeep,” said Gunduwawa, who was surrounded by about 80 children who were reciting verses from the Koran on wooden slates, sheltered from the scorching tropical heat by a big neem tree.

Child begging is not unique to Kano, but experts say it exists there on a larger scale than elsewhere in Nigeria.

Sharon Oladiji, a national child protection specialist at the UN Children’s Fund UNICEF said child begging happened all over but was “predominant in the north.”

Senator Eme Ufot Ekaette, who heads a child welfare panel in the National Assembly, said they were called ‘almajiri’ in the north, ‘area boys’ in the south and west, and ‘abandoned children’ in the east.

“We feel very bad about this; it’s a generation lost, a whole generation,” she said. To Ahmed Bello of Nigeria’s anti-trafficking police, the National Agency for the Prohibition of Traffic In Persons, a thin line exists between child begging and trafficking for labour. They are sent not only to beg, but also to work on their teachers’ farms. The children provide free labour for the teachers. It is sheer exploitation.”

Bala Muhammad, who heads a state directorate created to promote morals and good behaviour in Kano, which follows strict Muslim Sharia law, chided parents who have more children than they can afford and see Koranic schools as a means to rid themselves of the extra burden.

He said there had been a “recent influx of thousands of these little boys into the city, some of whom are no older than babies.”

Child beggars sleep rough, often in the open or on floors in crammed rooms provided by their teachers, and sanitation facilities is a luxury. “The situation is becoming more pathetic by the day,” said Aminu Ismail Sagagi, an adviser to the Kano State government on child beggars.

Wealthier residents are forming groups to assist the “hapless” children in an effort to end begging. Seven of such groups have sprung up in recent months, the number Sagagi feels is “grossly inadequate.” They supply seminaries with the basics like food, clothing, sleeping mats, as well as building toilets and boreholes. They also go on campaign tours to the villages encouraging parents not to neglect children they send to Koranic schools.

“We were motivated by the dire social consequences the harsh life these children live will have on society if they are not provided for,” said Adamu Aliyu Kiyawa, founding member of the Almajiri Foundation, as he handed out supplies to a seminary in downtown Kano. Kiyawa warned that with the north notorious for ethno-religious strife, child beggars could provide ready foot soldiers.

“Hungry and angry, these children could easily be mobilised to engage in killings and looting during such crises as an avenue to pay back (society), because they see everybody as an enemy,” Kiyawa said.

Saudatu Sani, a federal legislator from Kano State who formerly headed a parliamentary committee on children’s affairs, agreed. “We, the elite, have to provide for these child beggars for our safety and our children’s safety. The pathetic life they live breeds heartless criminals.”

UNICEF’s Oladiji said the strive to curb such begging signaled “a welcome change in attitude by society to reduce the vulnerability of these children.” Lawmakers say the funds budgeted for child welfare are not enough and are proposing a new national law to curb the trend. But some residents fear that yielding to child begging may only worsen the problem.

“Providing for these children will only compound the situation because such pampering will entice more and more children from villages to the city, and we will be grappling with more than we can handle,” said resident Musa Kabir.

Abubakar is of the News Agency of Nigeria

Aminu Abubakar

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Issues

Challenges Of Reporting Nigeria’s Electoral Process

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The Institute for Media and Society (IMS) in conjunction with the European Union Support for Democratic Governance in Nigeria, Component 4A (Support to Media), recently organised a Focus Group Discussion (FGD) on “Trends And Challenges In Fair, Accurate and Ethical Coverage Of the Electoral Process In Nigeria” in a bid to strengthen the media houses. Here, our reporter, Susan Serekara-Nwikhana, attempts an analysis of the main discourses at the one-day event held in Port Harcourt. 

Speaking during his open
ing address, the Executive Director, Institute for Media and Society (IMS), Mr. Akin Akingbulu, stated that the mandate of his Institute was to see that the Media provides fair, accurate and ethical coverage of the electoral process in Nigeria, adding that since the project started they have been working on this mandate and have recorded tremendous results.
He explained that the Nigeria Component, which is also called Support to Media, has four components, namely: To enhance professionalism of the media; To help to strengthen institutions to deepen and diversify the delivery of voter and civic education; To help strengthen the capacity of the regulators, especially the broadcast sector regulator, as to enable it do better on its mandate; and To drive the focus and attention of the media on marginalised groups in society such as women, youths, persons with disabilities for input participation of these particular groups in the electoral and broader democratic processes in Nigeria.
Akingbulu noted that, so far, there has been tremendous progress, adding that they have recorded these tremendous results through forums such as this over the past few years.
He further explained that the media is a critical stakeholder in the Nigeria Component for which reason they have come to Port Harcourt to engage in this activity, which falls under the sub Component, and is working on strengthening media platforms for improved delivery of voter and civic education in the electoral process.   
“We have brought together conscious and strategically important stakeholders to be part of this discussion as we believe that focus group discussion should be small, but qualitative; hence our choice of selection, noting that it is expected that those selected for the focused discussion will do a step-down at their various media houses.
“We trust that we will get the best out of the conversation that we are going to have here. To ensure that activities run well, we have put in place a timber-and-caliber facilitator, a Professor of Communication, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Ifeoma Dunu,” Akingbulu announced.
In her presentation, the facilitator of the group discussion, Prof Dunu stated that it was expected that the discussions would suggest ways to move forward, adding that, for her, it was not just conversation and discussions, but the way forward.
Dunu emphasised that this year is the electoral period in Nigeria, using Anambra State as an example. Looking at democracy and governance in Nigeria, she wondered where Nigeria’s Democracy is today. Is it progressing, retrogressing or stagnated?     
She added that IMS was in Port Harcourt to ensure that all the institutions responsible to the smooth running of the electoral process in Nigeria get it right, remarking that the discussion must find lasting solutions to some of the problems confronting the electoral process in the country.
The varsity don also noted that journalism challenges are part of the core challenges confronting the electoral process as journalists working in both the private and public media houses are faced with poor remunerations which forces them to give biased reportage.
In her contribution, the Chairperson, Nigeria Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ), Rivers State Chapter, Mrs. Susan Serekara-Nwikhana, drew attention to the meaning of democracy as a system of government in which power is vested with the people and exercised by them directly.
She, however, pointed out that in Nigeria the reverse is the case as this power is vested in the legislature, noting that democracy is not being practised in the country.
A staff of Radio Nigeria, Purity FM Awka, Dr Adaora Arah, who also spoke at the event, stated that there were many young broadcasters who engaged in broadcasting without possessing the requisite qualifications to do so. She, therefore, urged the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to beam its searchlight on television and radio stations, especially those operating in remote areas.
Arah stressed that many of them have not gone to communication schools, nor acquired the needed training on what broadcasting is all about before embarking on full broadcast activities, thereby bringing embarrassment to their stations, NBC and the general public.
In his speech, a member of the International Broadcasting Association of Nigeria (IBAN), Charles Maraizu, stated that the only way forward for the electoral process in Nigeria is for it to be centralised as there were many incidences that bedeviled Nigeria’s democracy.
He stressed that there were also voters’ apathy, in which the people were no longer interested to go out and vote as many of them have continued to express fear that their votes no longer count in elections. 
 Maraizu commended IMS for organising the programme and for always being gender sensitive as well as bringing serious-minded people on board for the focus group discussions saying, ‘whenever they do things, they always do it well’.
He advised everyone to generate ideas on the trends and challenges of the media “because, to me, it is not enough to produce gender sensitive media lens glass without representing it by putting it to action”, adding that IMS was always walking the talk and not just talking.
In his turn, the Director of Broadcast Monitoring at NBC, Dr Tony Anigala, informed that his Commission does not deal with an individual when a broadcast station violates the ethics of broadcasting.
He commended the IMS, which has been there over the years, helping NBC a lot during elections, adding that recommendations gotten from IMS platforms help the Commission to do better.
Anigala charged participants to produce positive results from some of the materials which NBC had given out to them and their organisations, while also adding that at any point in time people should tell NBC whatever it needs to do to improve, especially during the electoral process.
Chief Constance Meju, in her goodwill message, stated that marginalisation has been one of the challenges women go through, adding that her group has been pushing for more women to be included in all spheres as long as politics was concerned.
She was of the opinion that, as a way forward, both the private and public media, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Rivers State Independent Electoral Commission (RSIEC), among other institutions should be financially autonomous so that they can independently operate under the ambit of the law without fear or favour.
Meju also appealed that the training be extended to politicians and Nigeria leaders as they have allowed the security system to be too tight to the politics, remarking that governance is not about party. She advocated the retention of the multi-party system in Nigeria.
In summary, the main resolutions reached at the event include:

  • The institutions responsible to drive the electoral process in Nigeria are not strong. 
  • Structures needed for such drive, not in place. 
  • Individuals, journalists in both private and public media houses and relevant institutions should be financially well equipped, so that they can operate independently and within the ambit of the law, among others.
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Issues

Checking Sex Trafficking Of African Women

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For thousands of years and even up to the present, African women have been subjected to acts of slavery, including sex trafficking, forced labour and domestic servitude.
Slavery has, therefore, become a daily happening each and every year, particularly among Africans. Now it seems some persons have turned it into a huge business from which they make large sums of money with no intention to let go any soon. This criminal act towards these victims is mostly perpetrated by their relatives, friends, men or women who pretend to mean well but who harbour evil intentions toward their unsuspecting victims.
The world is increasingly being blinded by the truth so much so that we don’t get to face the reality when a young girl is being trafficked. During the invasion of slave traders, women were used to satisfy their sex needs because such females were deemed to be of little or no importance unlike the men who were forced to perform the harder duties. These ladies were used anytime, any day thereby robbing them of their dignity and self esteem. Unfortunately, this trend has endured till date, more especially among African women.
Let me share the story of a young lady who was once a sex traffic victim. Her name is Ngozi (not real name). I met her in Moscow, the Russian capital, four years ago. She and her baby caught my attention. I was so curious to know who she was because, from every indication, she didn’t strike me as a student.
We started off by exchanging pleasantries after which she asked to know if I was a student, to which I responded in the affirmative. When she said she wasn’t a student, I then realised that my instinct was right, after all.
She was like, I need to tell you about myself unashamedly; an experience that has become a lesson to me and which might serve as a warning to any young girl who clamours to travel out of Nigeria in search of a better life.
Ngozi started narrating the story of how she was taken from Delta State, lured with the offer of travelling to Russia to assist a certain nursing mother from Uganda who was resident in Moscow. Her duty would entail taking care of the lady’s children in her absence.
The woman who travelled down to pick her from Nigeria happened to be a friend to her aunty whom she was staying with then. The two friends had a lengthy discussion together during which the woman assured Ngozi’s aunty that her niece would be well paid and have a good life. In turn, the aunty pleaded that Ngozi be properly taken care of and given the best of life as promised.
Fast forwarding a little, she narrated how her travel documents were processed based on the understanding that she was going for study as claimed by her lady companion in order to avert suspicion.
Ngozi said she was barely 17 years old as at when the woman came to pick her up. Everything sailed through for her at the entry points and they were able to arrive Moscow. But life took a different turn for her in a space of three days. The woman really made her feel comfortable in those few days, but on the fourth day, two hefty men wearing masks came into the apartment at night and whisked her away.
According to the lady, she was not the only one in such a mess as she could hear other girls crying and pleading for help from another cage where they were held. All she did was to cry quietly knowing the uselessness of any loud wailing. Soon, they were given new clothes by the masked men and told to get ready for work.
A new but harsh life began for Ngozi such that she got thoroughly beaten and starved whenever she declined sleeping with her assigned clients. She was forced to sleep with an average of 10 men each day and the money paid directly to the madam in charge of them. All her attempts to escape proved futile. Ngozi’s child came from a Russian man who bought her off from her madam. On the possibility of returning to Nigerian, Ngozi vehemently rejected the idea, claiming that she was ashamed of herself and nothing good could come of her life anymore.
After hearing Ngozi’s story and comparing with other accounts I had heard previously in the media, I was so broken and asked myself questions that might appear unexplainable but which definitely have answers: Why are young ladies in their early ages of 15-40 years, still being trafficked every year? What measures are being applied to stop the rise in sex trafficking cases in Africa? Why is the government not paying adequate attention to human trafficking? Why are there no seminars or platforms created to educate and possibly discourage the average young lady who wants to risk her life by travelling to such countries? And lastly, why are they mostly trafficked to Middle East countries?
Now, let’s start with the first question. Like stated in the first paragraph of this article, young ladies have always been victims of sex traffickers and also major targets because they are young and energetic.
Also, most of the girls trafficked are either orphans, people from poor homes or those who are desperate to have a better life by all means and who do not care about what happens to them afterwards.
On the second question, it can be said that the men and women who take these women overseas from Africa are most likely to have connections with a human trafficking syndicate. Just like the narcotics business, it is extremely difficult to identify those in charge. In the event that something goes wrong and a leader is apprehended, a fresh link is created immediately for the business to continue.
For the third question, we understand the fact that the government has a lot of responsibilities to handle; but regardless, women trafficking is an important issue too. It is a threat to society, trafficking is an important issue too. It is a threat to society, a threat to Africa and also to the girl-child. We appreciate the role being played by the Nation’s Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking In Persons (NAPTIP) but such monster as this deserves utmost attention and should be critically followed with all amount of seriousness.
The fourth question harps on the need for platforms to be created to discuss and enlighten potential victims of such illicit trade. We now live in a world that has gone digital and where information on any topic is readily accessible. But unfortunately, most of the less privileged young women still need to be properly taught about the so-called ‘countries with great opportunities’ which they hope to travel to and make quick money.
They should also be schooled on how to easily identify any person(s) who is coming around with the aim of deceiving them into travelling abroad for good jobs and better living standards.
On the frequency of trafficking women for sex in Middle East countries, I want to believe that it is as a result of the handsome monetary reward. Ladies who are trafficked to Arab countries often end up in wealthy families where they are mostly maltreated by their bosses and the entire household. These young women are usually placed on faulty contracts which subjected them to such households for life. They are bought from their traffickers with huge sums of money and forever remain as slaves or sex objects in which ease they are sometimes used to also generate revenue from pornographic video productions. And whenever these girls attempt to escape, having had enough, they are either killed or some other tragic fate befalls them.
Some of the effects of sex trafficking on African women who had been victims include, but are not limited to: loss of self worth, misery, self pity, living in fear, hunted by past experiences, loss of confidence in society and psychological trauma.
Sex trafficking can be checked if young women look out for early danger signals as already stated. Other measures that can be taken are as follows:
Young ladies should take note of false appearances and suspicious behaviours. Most fraudsters appear to be decent while some even belong to the same religious or ethnic group with them. They may even be the people such girls see daily who usually look harmless.
Parents and guardians should not just give out their daughters to people they barely know on the claim of providing them a better life elsewhere.
Government should ensure that once caught, tried and sentenced, any perpetrators are adequately punished if only to serve as deterrent to others.
And finally, the country’s borders should be under constant watch because these traffickers can always improvise means of transporting their victims out of the country or locally without the awareness of security officials. Some even pay their way through.

By: Osepken Muzan
Miss Muzan is a Nigerian medical student in Russia.

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Issues

Customs And Dynamism At Seme Border

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The pains cum hardship believed to have been occasioned by the Nigeria‘s international land border closure seemed incomparable to the dynamism and operational progress that have characterised the reopening of the borders.
Enlightening Nigerians, through the media, on the positive exploits of his leadership team associated with border reopening to their progress, the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) Seme border area boss, Comptroller Bello Mohammed Jibo, stated that his area command situated at the ECOWAS Joint Border Post, Seme-Krake Borders, has since the pronouncement of the reopening of land borders to date by the Federal Government, performed creditably.
He maintained that during the course of its sustained tempo in the fight against smuggling, the Command intercepted a total of 232 (Two Hundred and Thirty Two) parcels of cannabis sativa. In line with the dictates of the Service towards promoting inter-agency collaboration, cooperation and its unequivocal zeal towards the fight against drug trafficking, the Command  handed over the aforementioned seized drugs with duty paid value of N2,933,358.40 (Two million, Nine Hundred and Thirty Three Thousand, Three Hundred and Fifty Eight Naira, Forty Kobo) only to the Commander, NDLEA Special Command Seme.
According to Jibo, officers and men of the Command had in their various operations taken the full advantage of the Service’s renewed strategies to continue the fight against smuggling, leading to remarkable interception of 705 (Seven Hundred and Five) items, with a duty paid value of N409,851,533.14 (Four Hundred and Nine Million, Eight Hundred and Fifty One Thousand, Five Hundred and Thirty Three Naira, Fourteen kobo).
The Area Controller itemised the seizures as 5,568 bags of foreign parboiled rice (50kg each); 3208 jerry cans of Premium Motor Spirit (25 liters each); 79 units of smuggled vehicles; 294 cartons of frozen poultry products; 131 parcels of cannabis sativa; 798 cartons of tomato paste; 3 cartons of sugar; 6 cartons of slippers; 305 pairs of used shoes; 30 cartons of Nescafe; 19 cartons of non-alcoholic wine; 10 cartons of cigarettes; 12 cartons of herbal soap; and 2 sacks of condoms; adding that the  landmark achievement was an indication that officers and men of the Command were not losing their guard in detecting and streaming the tide of the nefarious activities being perpetuated by daredevil smugglers.
“In the wake of Federal Government pronouncement on the reopening of land borders, the Command harnessed all revenue compounds in line with the new operational guidelines with a view to projecting revenue base of the Command and facilitation of legitimate trade,” he said.
The Customs comptroller disclosed that in export, the Command recorded a trade volume of 348,827,775 (Three Hundred and Forty Eight Million, Eight Hundred and Twenty Seven Thousand, Seven Hundred and Seventy Five) metric tons of exported goods with the free on board (FOB) value of N4,277,047,153.92 (Four Billion, Two Hundred and Seventy Seven Million, Forty Seven Thousand , One Hundred and Fifty Three Naira, Ninety Two kobo) and a NESS value of N21,384,443.67 (Twenty One Million, Three Hundred and Eighty Four Thousand, Four Hundred and Forty Three Naira, Sixty Seven kobo).
Jibo explained that a whopping sum of N80,774,807.22 (Eighty Million, Seven Hundred and Seventy Four Thousand, Eight Hundred and Seven Naira, Twenty Two kobo) was raked into the Federation Account (federal government coffers) during the period under review emanating from 0.5% ETLS, 1% NESS, Baggage assessment and  reassessment of  trapped trucks;  stressing that the Command was yet to receive imports from third countries, as there are  clearance procedure disputes to settle between importers, agents from Nigeria and Benin Republic authorities, including the shipping  companies, declaring that the Grand Total for the seizures and revenue stood at N490,626,431.36 (Four Hundred And Ninety Million, Six Hundred And Twenty Six Thousand, Four Hundred And Thirty One Naira, Thirty Six Kobo).
The comptroller explained that in line with the Comptroller-General’s  reform agenda which sees the welfare of officers as paramount, the Command benefited from different welfare initiatives from the management of NCS, including the construction of 32, 30 and 16 man ranks and files barracks accommodation to cover the inadequacy of accommodation in the Command; pointing out that there was also ongoing renovation of Deputy Comptroller’s quarters as well as the new upgraded terminal to accommodate consignments, in the event that the private bonded terminal cannot handle the volume of consignments coming into Nigeria.
“In a bid to sustain the existing cordial relationship with the host communities, the Command through corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiative, constructed a modern convenience at the International Park, J4, in Seme Badagry West Local Government to assist travellers both local and international. The convenience was handed over to the Chairman of the Local Government Council for effective utilization,” he stated.
The Seme Customs boss stated that the Command was partnering with an NGO named Community Football Foundation for the establishment of a football club named Badagry United; which has already been registered with the Cooperate Affairs Commission (CAC) and Oba Akran of Badagry, De Wheno Aholu Menu-Toyi 1, was also presented with the Certificate of Grand Patron while the new team was accorded royal blessing and support.
Comptroller Jibo who personally led media practitioners on an inspection tour of some multi-million naira worth of trade facilitation equipment put in place by the NCS at the Seme Border also maintained that effective and efficient community relations was being maximally fostered by his leadership, leading to a befitting collaboration with traditional leaders as well as representatives of other sister government agencies.
On whether the Command has the operational capacity to contend with effective implementation of the new government directives that imports into the country must be fully containerised henceforth, Comptroller  Jibo explained that it was only goods imported from developed countries that were to be received in containers while ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme products generally referred to as ETLS goods were still receivable in  trailers and trucks; stressing that more uitra-moderm scanning machines have been acquired and installed for the command to boost its examination capacity and efficiency.
The well attended media briefing which was co-ordinated by the Command’s Public Relations Officer, Mr. Hussaini Abdullahi took place recently at the Seme conference room of the Service.
Ikhilae is a Lagos-based public affairs analyst.

 

By: Martins Ikhilae

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