For the first time in her chequered history, Rivers
State not only has a woman as Deputy Governor but a female Chief Judge of the State as well.
In this interview with Opaka Dokubo, Mrs Florence Itamunoala, chairperson of the International Federation of Women Lawyers, Nigeria, Rivers State branch, bared her mind on this development and other issues concerning the advancement of women in politics in Rivers State and Nigeria in general Exerpts.
Given the present positions women occupy in Rivers State, would you say women have arrived here?
I wouldn’t say we have arrived by any standard.
We’re very grateful to God and His Excellency because if he hadn’t been on board, we probably wouldn’t have had a Deputy Governor who is a female and a Chief Judge who is a female. I mean those of us who are in Rivers State know that that wouldn’t have been possible at this point in time. So we’re grateful to God and to His Excellency, Chief (Barr) Ezenwo Nyesom Wike but women in Rivers State wouldn’t say that we have arrived.
It’s good that women have started to hold such positions in the state but more than that, we expect more women to come out and go for elective positions, not just the appointive positions.
If you say we have arrived, look at the House of Assembly, how many women even came out to contest and lost?
Not many. So, we’re still very far. Until we have a situation where women are prepared to come out and contest and contend with the men at the same level, we wouldn’t say we have arrived at all.
We are concerned about not just appointment, infact, we want more of elective positions.
What mark have you set for yourselves?
Even if I have to start by talking about the 35% Affirmative Action thing, look at the House of Assembly, what percentage of women do we have there? It’s really bad.
In other areas too, I wouldn’t say we are up to the required standard for now which is the 35%. So there is a lot more to be done by the women in this state. so that we don’t lag behind women in other states.
Are you satisfied with the number of women on the cabinet in Rivers State?
Well, we really hope that when more appointments are made, His Excellency who by God’s grace is favourably disposed to having women on board will help the women to come up to, at least, that 35% mark.
This time around, I think the state is not yet stable with all that the state has gone through. But for the fact that he was able to pick a lady as a Deputy Governor and appoint a Chief Judge, for now, it’s thumbs up for him. I hope that subsequently we will be able to attain that desired goal of 35%.
How do you see this situation beyond Rivers State?
Yes, I know that even our national body made a comment about it (concerning the federal cabinet) that it’s completely unacceptable because it’s too far below the required percentage for women in appointive positions.
The truth is that we can only keep talking, enlightening people. But the way it is, it lies with the person in charge. The much we can do is what we are doing; appealing to them, advocating that more women should be given appointive positions.
What are women doing to take up more elective positions?
A lot of women need capacity building including those of us who are into activism.
I could remember of particular year we were sponsored by an organisation to empower women in politics and that year, by the grace of God, we as an organisation were trained and we were also able to train others.
For example, I remember clearly, the late Mrs Anthonia Membere used to acknowledge the fact that FIDA trained and built her capacity. But unfortunately, such opportunities have not come for a long time now and it costs quite a lot to undertake such ventures.
Apart from her (Anthonia Membere, former member of the Rivers State House of Assembly), there were quite a number of women who thought they didn’t have a chance but were encouraged and had their capacity built by FIDA to come up.
Yes they had a lot of opposition but some progress was achieved even though some of the positions were not very high positions like councillors and the like. But it was a starting point and it was good.
The problem now is to have people who will encourage and empower the association to build the capacity of women. Some of these women actually know that politically they have something to offer but for the fear of stigmatization. Indeed we had to contend with issues of stigmatization of women in politics that year before some of the women were able to come up. So those are some of the challenges we have. But honestly, we feel really disappointed looking at the trend of things now and we realize that there is a need to begin a more intensive drive to empower women to be able to come out for elective positions.
Would FIDA consider sponsoring a woman for an elective position?
Well, that is a very important point to consider but like I said, when you talk about sponsoring a person, it is not enough to identify and pick out a person. You must be ready to back up the person financially and in every way.
And that is where a lot of women have the problem.
But I do know that there are some organizations that are trying to come up now to say that if there’s a viable woman who wants to run for any of such offices, they would be able to, may be, back up the person. We hope that many organizations come up and are actually willing then we will be able to partner with them to sponsor women.
We have to have a willing woman and if we can identify one amongst us who is able, and there are, but the person must be willing, definitely we will be able to bring out the person and sponsor the person. But if not, generally we’re interested in women.
So, wheresoever the woman is coming from, once she is capable and able, we will be willing to sponsor such a person.
Why are female lawyers so few in politics?
I wouldn’t say there’s anything else other than the same problems we have identified that affect women generally all over the world-this issue of the biases against the woman. So whether you’re a lawyer woman or whatever, you’re still a woman.
We hope that, by God’s grace, gradually we will get there.
I think there is a need to begin to encourage our lawyer women to begin to go out there. May be we’ve not been conscious of it. We‘ ve always advocated for others but on our part, may be, we’ve never considered ourselves as politicians or as those that could go into politics.
We have a few out there, like, by the grace of God, some commissioners in the state as presently constituted are FIDANS.
But having said this, may be, we will begin to look in that direction to encourage our members, not just at the state level, but also at the national level.
Like you said, a lot of people have confidence when they see a female lawyer coming out. So, we will begin to think along that line.
From a woman’s point of view, how do you see the political situation in the region especially?
It’s really pathetic that in this century we’re still faced with such crisis just because of election. But I will call on women as mothers to talk to their children, wives to also talk to their husbands. It does no one any good when blood is shed, when in order to get a position you want to maim, kill, destroy.
It shouldn’t be because if it happens to A today, tomorrow it could happen to B on the other side.
I think it is high time that everyone of us began to aspire to have free and fair elections in the real sense of the word. We must let down our pride, ego and everything. Democracy ought to be about the people choosing their leaders.
It’s really high time we got it right, we want the country to move forward.
Presidency Lists Beneficiaries Of External Borrowing Plan
The Presidency has said that a total of 15 projects, spread across the six geo-political zones of the country, are to be financed with more than $4 billion from multilateral institutions, under the 2018-2021 medium-term (rolling) external borrowing plan.
President Muhammadu Buhari had requested the Senate to approve sovereign loans of $4.054 billion and €710 million as well as grant components of $125 million for the proposed projects.
According to the letter by the President, the sovereign loans will be sourced from the World Bank, French Development Agency (AFD), China-Exim Bank, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Credit Suisse Group and Standard Chartered/China Export and Credit (SINOSURE).
The President’s request to the Senate listed 15 proposed pipeline projects, the objectives, the implementation period, benefiting States, as well as the implementing Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).
A statement by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu said a breakdown of the ‘‘Addendum to the Proposed Pipeline Projects for the 2018-2021 Medium Term (rolling) External Borrowing Plan,’’ shows that the World Bank is expected to finance seven projects including the $125 million grant for ‘‘Better Education Services Delivery for All’’.
According to the statement, the Global Partnership for Education grant is expected to increase equitable access for out-of-school children and improve literacy in focus states.
It further stated that the grant, which will be implemented by the Federal Ministry of Education and the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), will strengthen accountability for results in basic Education in Katsina, Oyo and Adamawa States.
Other projects to be financed by the World Bank are, the State Fiscal, Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability Programme for Results as well as the Agro-Processing, Productivity, Enhancement and Livelihood Improvement Support Project.
The statement said, “The benefiting States for the agro-processing project are, Kogi, Kaduna, Kano, Cross River, Enugu and Lagos with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development as the implementing ministry.
“The objective of the project is to enhance agricultural productivity of small and medium scale farmers and improve value addition along priority value chains in the participating states.
“Similarly, the World Bank is also financing the Nigeria Sustainable Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) project in Delta, Ekiti, Gombe, Kaduna, Katsina, Imo and Plateau States, for the next five years.
“The project, when completed, is expected to improve rural water supply, sanitation and hygiene nationwide towards achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for water supply and sanitation by 2030.
“Under the external borrowing plan, the World Bank-supported projects also include Nigeria’s Covid-19 Preparedness and Response Project (COPREP), under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Health and Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).
“The project, which has an implementation period of 5 years, will respond to threats posed by Covid-19 through the procurement of vaccines.
“Furthermore, no fewer than 29 states are listed as beneficiaries of the Agro-Climatic Resilience in Arid Zone Landscape project, which is expected to reduce natural resource management conflicts in dry and semi-arid ecosystems in Nigeria.
“The benefiting states for the project to be co-financed by World Bank and European Investment Bank (EIB) are Akwa Ibom, Borno, Oyo, Sokoto, Kano, Katsina, Edo, Plateau, Abia, Nasarawa, Delta, Niger, Gombe, Imo, Enugu, Kogi, Anambra, Niger, Ebonyi, Cross River, Ondo, Kaduna, Kebbi, Jigawa, Bauchi, Ekiti, Ogun, Benue, Yobe and Kwara.”
Continuing, it said, “The World Bank is also funding the Livestock Productivity and Resilience project in no fewer than 19 states and the federal capital territory (FCT).
“The China EXIM Bank is expected to finance the construction of the branch line of Apapa-Tin Can Island Port, under the Lagos-Ibadan Railway modernisation project.
“The French Development Agency will finance two projects, which include the National Digital Identity Management project and the Kaduna Bus Rapid Transport Project.
“The digital identity project will be co- financed with World Bank and EIB.
“The Value Chain Development Programme to be financed by IFAD and implemented in Anambra, Benue, Ebonyi, Niger, Ogun, Taraba, Nasarawa, Enugu and Kogi States will empower 100,000 farmers, including over 6,000 and 3,000 processors and traders respectively.
“The loan facility to be provided by European ECA/KfW/IPEX/APC will be spent on the construction of the Standard Gauge Rail (SGR) linking Nigeria with the Niger Republic from Kano-Katsina-Daura-Jibiya-Maradi with a branch to Dutse.
“The specific project title, Kano-Maradi SGR with a branch to Dutse, has an implementation period of 30 months and will be implemented by the Federal Ministry of Transport.
“The Chinese African Development Fund through the Bank of China is expected to provide a loan facility of $325 million for the establishment of three power and renewable energy projects including solar cells production facility Phase 1 & II , electric power transformer production, Plants 1, II, III and high voltage testing laboratory.
Fintiri Commences Work On PDP Nat’l Convention
The Chairman of the National Convention Planning Committee of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Rt. Hon. Ahmadu Fintiri, has commenced work.
Fintiri, who is also the Adamawa State Governor, assumed his new office at the PDP headquarters in Abuja, on Saturday, with a pledge to ensure a smooth convention for the party.
Fintiri’s Press Secretary, Humwashi Wonosikou, said in a statement that Fintiri had hit the ground running towards ensuring a flawless convention for the main opposition party.
According to him, he assumed duty at the PDP Legacy House Abuja, which is to serve as the secretariat of the Convention Committee.
He said the 2021 convention organising committee chairman expressed satisfaction with the state of facilities at the Legacy House and reiterated the determination of his committee to deliver a process that would produce an acceptable National Working Committee to lead the party to victory in 2023.
The Convention Committee, which has Bayelsa State Governor, Senator Douye Diri, as deputy chairman, was inaugurated on Friday.
The National Executive Committee (NEC) of the PDP had earlier, on September 9, 2021, announced Fintiri as the party’s convention planning committee chairman, with Oyo State Governor, Mr Seyi Makinde as Secretary.
2023: Group Warns Against Corruptible Candidates
The Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership (CACOL) in Collaboration with the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) has taken its ongoing voter education to Epe, Lagos State, in the move to ensure a free and fair election in 2023.
The anti-graft group, in a statement made available to newsmen on Saturday, said that it had organised a one-day consultative meeting with residents of Epe division during which it warned them to guard their votes jealously in the 2023 elections and ensure that corruptible candidates would not be voted into power.
Presenting a paper titled, ‘Prioritising Anti-Corruption And Accountability Issues During The Upcoming 2023 General Elections In Lagos State’ at the chamber of Epe Local Government Area, CACOL chairman, Comrade Debo Adeniran, lamented that corruption had flourished so much in Nigeria and eaten deep into the country’s economy, hence the hardship and sufferings in the land.
He said the solution that Nigerian citizens could proffer to the menace was to ensure that frontline contestants for the office of the Governor and State House of Assembly would be to articulate their anti-corruption stance and plans to tackle corruption, improve transparency and citizens’ involvement and other governance challenges.
Adeniran said since the Nigerian constitution did not permit independent candidates to run for elective offices, the voters should vote for the political party, whose candidates would be accountable, transparent and genuinely fight corruption.
He condemned the rate at which lawlessness had been thriving in the country generally due to high levels of corruption.
He lamented the high level of youth’s involvement in cybercrime, popularly known as Yahoo-Yahoo, even as he described as worrisome the situation where many parents had been seeing the crime as legitimate work, noting that such parents encouraged and supported their children to succeed in the illegal work.
Adeniran maintained that if care was not taken, the soonest, corruption would be viewed and accepted as a normal way of life, and the future generation might not see anything bad in corruption.
He opined that the negative effects of that would destroy things far beyond the current hardship being experienced across the country.
Mr Adeniran also frowned at the rate at which kidnapping was fast becoming a money-making venture in Nigeria.
He pointed out that both the rich and the poor had become vulnerable to kidnapping, because some people kidnapped for ritual or to harvest organs, or to get the ransom and some others kidnapped for fun.
He said if the poor had known before now that they would be victims of kidnapping when the rich were the only targets, they would have taken necessary steps to end the illicit act.
He advised the people to be proactive in fighting corruption, stressing, “You need to take community action against anyone who wants to use your own lives to over-fatten his own.
“You have the right to demand your entitlements from your representatives in government. If you don’t speak against their reckless spending and corruptible acts now, they will eat up all your entitlements with theirs. Your power is your vote and by voting them into offices, you have given them all their needs.
“It is, therefore, their duty to serve you well; and not embezzle our general wealth.”
The CACOL chairman advised that in order not to be incorruptible, everyone must acquire skill as means of legitimate livelihood, explaining that since no religious book taught and encouraged people to get involved in corruption, it must be shunned by all Nigerians.
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