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SERAP Drags Ex-Presidents, Govs To ICC Over 13.2m Out-Of-School Children

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Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent a petition to the Prosecutor, International Criminal Court (ICC), Mrs. Fatou Bensouda, urging her to use her “good offices to investigate whether the problem of out-of-school children in Nigeria, and the failure of the Nigerian authorities over the years to address it amount to violence against children and crimes against humanity within the jurisdiction of the ICC.”
The organization urged Mrs Bensouda to: “Push for those suspected to be responsible for this problem, including current and former presidents and state governors since 1999, who directly or indirectly have individually and/or collectively breached their special duty toward children, and are therefore complicit in the crime, to be tried by the ICC.”
In the petition dated July 19, 2019, and signed by SERAP Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization said: “Investigating and prosecuting high-ranking Nigerian officials and providing reparations to victims will contribute to serving the best interests of Nigerian children, the most vulnerable citizens in our country, and ending the impunity that is denying them their right to education and a life free of violence and fear.”
SERAP said: “These out-of-school Nigerian children have been exposed to real danger, violence and even untimely death. Senior Nigerian politicians since 1999 have failed to understand the seriousness of the crime of leaving millions of children out of school, and have made an essential contribution to the commission of the crime.”
SERAP also said: “The ICC has stated in the Lubanga case that the interruption, delay and denial of the right of children to education is a crime within the jurisdiction of the Court. SERAP believes that the reality for children living in the Ituri region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo is similar to the reality faced by millions of out-of-school children in Nigeria, as the situation is depriving an entire generation of children of their right to education and human dignity.”
The petition read in part: “There is no immunity for crimes under the Rome Statute. The crime of leaving millions of Nigerian children out of school is an opportunity for your Office to show the Court’s commitment to effectively enforce its Policy on Children and other important statements of international criminal justice.
“Putting millions of Nigerian children that should be in school on the street exposes them to violence, including sexual violence, gender violence, abduction, and other forms of exploitation and violence against children, and implicitly amounts to enslavement, trafficking of children, and ill-treatment, three of the eleven acts that may amount to a crime against humanity under the Rome Statute.
“Unless the ICC declares the problem of over 13 million out-of-school Nigerian children as violence against children and crime against humanity, and hold those suspected to be responsible since 1999 to account, the number of out-of-school children will continue to rise, and these children may never receive any formal education at all.
“Nigeria is a state party to the Rome Statute and deposited its instrument of ratification on 27 September 2001.According to Nigeria’s Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), the population of out-of-school children in Nigeria has risen from 10.5million to 13.2million.
“This figure is based on a joint survey conducted in 2015 by the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) and the Nigerian government. Data by the UNICEF also shows that one in every five of the world’s out-of-school children is in Nigeria. However, Nigeria’s former Minister of Education Mr Adamu Adamu has suggested the figure of out-of-school children in Nigeria to be 10,193,918, citing a recent ‘National Personnel Audit’ of both public and private schools in the country.
“According to the former Minister of Education, all of the 36 states in Nigeria are affected by the problem of out-of-school children but the problem is more widespread and systematic in the following states: Kano, Akwa Ibom, Katsina, Kaduna, Taraba, Sokoto, Yobe, Zamfara, Oyo, Benue, Jigawa and Ebonyi states.
“Girls are disproportionately represented among out-of-school children. In north-eastern Nigeria alone, 2.8million children are in need of education-in-emergencies support in three conflict-affected states (Borno, Yobe, Adamawa). In these states, at least, 802 schools remain closed and 497 classrooms are listed as destroyed, with another 1,392 damaged but repairable.”
“Under Nigerian law and international human rights treaties to which Nigeria is a state party, the Nigerian authorities at both the federal and state levels have a legally binding obligation to immediately provide free, universal quality primary education for all Nigerian children, and to progressively provide education at all other levels without discrimination.
“Nigerian authorities over the years have restricted educational opportunities for children with disabilities including by failing to provide equipment such as hearing aids, ramps to school buildings, wheelchairs, crutches, glasses and surgery to children in need, and failing to address educational challenges facing children with disabilities, in general.
“SERAP notes the launch by your Office in 2016 of the Policy on Children, which aims to send ‘a firm and consistent message that humanity stands united in its resolve that crimes against children will not be tolerated and that their perpetrators will not go unpunished.’ The policy aims to assist your office in its efforts to robustly address these crimes, bearing in mind the rights and best interests of children.
“SERAP notes also that at the launch of the policy you stated among others that, ‘a crime against a child is an offence against all of humanity; it is an affront to our basic tenets of human decency. Children are our greatest resource, and must be protected from harm so as to reach their full potential. We, at the ICC, intend to play our part through the legal framework of the Rome Statute’.
“This statement is entirely consistent with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Nigeria is a state party and shows that children will not be invisible in the exercise of the jurisdiction of the ICC, and that your office will extend its work to ensure the well-being of children, including millions of out-of-school Nigerian children.”
“The Rome Statute’s sensitivity towards children’s issues is clearly demonstrated in Article 68(1) to the effect that the court must ‘have regard to all relevant factors, including gender and the nature of the crime, in particular, where the crime involves sexual or gender violence or violence against children.’ Under Article 54(1), ‘the Prosecutor shall take into account the nature of the crime, in particular where it involves violence against children.’
“SERAP is seriously concerned that the problem of out-of-school children is widespread and systematic, cutting across the 36 states of the country and Abuja, and spanning many years since 1999. The problem of out-of-school children has had catastrophic effects on the lives of millions of children, their families and communities, akin to violence against children under the Court’s Policy, and crimes against humanity as contemplated under the Rome Statue.
“The Rome Statute in article 7 defines “crime against humanity” to include “inhumane acts causing great suffering or injury,” committed in a widespread or systematic manner against a civilian population. “The common denominator of crimes against humanity is that they are grave affronts to human security and dignity.
“The consequences of throwing millions of Nigerian children that should be in school out on the street are similar to those of the offences in article 7(1)(k) of the Rome Statute. Senior government officials know well or ought to know that their failure to prevent millions of Nigerian children from roaming the street will expose the children to violence, deny them their human dignity and exacerbate the growing insecurity in the country.
“SERAP considers the apparent failure of successive governments and high-ranking government officials to prevent widespread and systematic problem of out-of-school children as amounting to complicity under the Rome Statute.
“This crime against Nigerian children has continued to rob our children of their innocence, childhood, and often, tragically, resulted in their untimely deaths, denying Nigeria of its future potential and of its greatest resource.
“The national authorities of the Court’s States Parties form the first line of defense in addressing the crimes against children, as they shoulder the primary responsibility for the investigation and prosecution of perpetrators of the crimes. But successive governments in Nigeria have been unwilling or unable to address the problem of out-of-school children, and end the crime against humanity.
“SERAP believes that substantial grounds exist to warrant the intervention of the Prosecutor in this case. Pursuant to the Rome Statute, the Prosecutor has power to intervene in a situation under the jurisdiction of the Court if the Security Council or states parties refer a situation or if information is provided from other sources such as the information SERAP is providing in this case.
“SERAP, therefore, urged the ICC Prosecutor to: Urgently commence an investigation ‘proprio motu’ on the widespread and systematic problem of out-of-school children in Nigeria since the return of democracy in 1999, with a view to determining whether these amount to violence against children and crime against humanity within the court’s jurisdiction.
“In this respect, we also urge you to invite representatives of the Nigerian government to provide written or oral testimony at the seat of the court, so that the prosecutor is able to conclude since available information whether there is a reasonable basis for an investigation, and to submit a request to the Pre-Trial Chamber for authorization of an investigation”.
The ICC was also asked to, “Bring to justice those suspected to be responsible for widespread and systematic problem of out-of-school children in Nigeria; and urge the Nigerian government to fulfil its obligations under the Rome Statute to cooperate with the ICC; including complying with your requests to arrest and surrender suspected perpetrators of the widespread and systematic crime of leaving millions of Nigerian children out of school, testimony, and provide other support to the ICC Compel the Nigerian authorities at the Federal and State levels to ensure that millions of out-of-school children are afforded their right to education, access to justice, and ensure reparations to victims, including restitution, compensation, rehabilitation and guarantee of non-repetition”.

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SSANU, NASU Threaten Warning Strike Over Unpaid Arrears

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The Senior Staff Association of Nigeria Universities (SSANU) and Non-Academic Staff Union of Universities (NASU), University of Jos, have threatened to embark on warning strike next Monday, if the Federal Government does not pay their N30billion unpaid arrears.
The Chairperson of ASSANU and Chairperson of Joint Action Committee (JAC), Esther Ezeama disclosed this, yesterday, during a peaceful protest at the premises of University of Jos, Plateau State.
She said the staff are protesting the poor condition of service, non payment of arrears accumulated to N30billion and noted that Federal Government has being paying lip service to their plights.
“If Federal Government does not look into our matter we will be going for a compulsory five days warning strike, after that we will go for indefinite strike if our demands are not made.
“We have being on this struggle since 2009 and government is no other willing to meet their demands, it has being promising them and failing, we are saying enough is enough. We want them to do something urgent to arrest the situation.
“We want the National Assembly, the office of the Accountant General, the National Universities Commission (NUC) should all put their heads together to resolve our problem before the system is shut down.”
The staff, who were protesting and holding placards with inscriptions reads, “Government must stop lip service, Federal Government should pay us our N30billion arrears, Federal Government must respect NIC judgment on staff school” among others.

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Gunmen Kill Scores, Raze Houses In Ogoni Communities

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No fewer than 10 people were killed and property worth millions of Naira destroyed when gunmen, suspected to be cultists, invaded Okwale and Taabaa communities in Khana Local Government Area of Rivers State.
The Tide reports that the first attack was launched about 6pm in Okwale community on Tuesday leaving, at least, four persons dead with the residence of one Chief Monday Abueh and others touched by the rampaging gunmen.
Also, similar violent attack was carried out in Taabaa community on Wednesday morning with about five persons killed; while the assailants razed the Palace of the Paramount Ruler of Taabaa, M.S.K Nule and burnt cars packed in the compound, three generator sets and other valuable properties.
The incident also spilled over to Nyokuru community in Khana, where the daredevil hoodlums set fire on the residence of the President, Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), Comrade Legborsi Pyagbara, just as it was further leant that three policemen were injured.
It was not exactly clear what led to the invasion and sporadic gunshots as residents of the area ran in different directions and into the bushes to avoid being hit by bullets.
Recounting the incident to newsmen, the Paramount Ruler of Taabaa, M.S.K. Nule said efforts by the community to have a police checkpoint near the area has been unsuccessful, saying, “”This morning (Wednesday), some cult boys invaded Taabaa through our neighbouring community called Luekum. They entered into the community at about 6am. They moved straight to my palace and burnt down the entire place. And some ancestral properties of the palace were removed by the hoodlums before they set the buildings ablaze.
“They moved from my palace into the community, where they killed five people, four indigenes of the community and one outsider (stranger) who ran away from Kpor for refuge in Taabaa. They burnt people’s cars; my elder brother’s was also burnt.
“When those people came into the community, we ran and reported to the policemen at a police checkpoint in Taabaa along East-West Road. They were over 20 policemen at that checkpoint, with three Hilux vehicles and their private cars as at the time of the attack.
“They (policemen) told us that their duty is to protect the East-West Road and not the community; that we should call the Commissioner of Police, Mustapha Dandaura. The whole people in the community were there begging them but they insisted that it is not their duty to protect the community, except directed by the CP,” Nule narrated tearfully.
Nule revealed that he had written a petition to the State Police Command when he got wind of a planned attack on his community, saying, “While the operation was going on, I also called the Police Public Relations Officer, DSP Nnamdi Omoni and reported to him.
“There has never been any crisis in the community since 2014 that the community had such experience,” Nule said, just as he called on the state government and security agencies to intervene and return normalcy in the area.
In her account, a resident who did not want her name in print for fear of being identified and attacked said, ”At about 6am this morning (Wednesday), I was preparing to travel to Port Harcourt. As soon as I got to the road, everywhere was dried; nobody was seen on the road and is a busy area. About 15minutes later, somebody came on a bike and asked me to run that the whole village is under siege. They said some militants have entered the community and that they have started killing people.
“I ran back to the house in safety. By the time the gunmen left the community, they have killed about five people, burnt cars and houses. Our Highness’ house was burnt and another building was also burnt. After they left my community, they went to Nyokuru, and we are not sure of the number of persons killed there. They invaded Okwale yesterday (Tuesday) evening and killed some people. They burnt cars and houses in the community, and one person was taken alive”.
A male resident of Taabaa told The Tide that “From 8am to 9am on Wednesday, some group of boys came to our community and started chasing people and shooting. We ran into the bush.”
Meanwhile, the member representing Khana/Gokana Constituency at the House of Representatives, Hon Dumnamene Dekor has promised to support security agencies to ensure that the perpetrators of the attacks were unmasked and made to face the law.
Dekor, who stated this after he visited the affected communities and the hospital where the injured policemen were being treated, said, “I understand in Okwale, there are about five persons killed; four corpses have been recovered; one person was taken alive. In Taabaa, five persons killed, several cars burnt, houses destroyed and it is quite sad.
“While thanking the security operatives for the swift way they acted to prevent loss of more lives and property, I want to call on them to improve on the security, especially in Khana Local Government Area.
“For those who carried out this dastardly act, everything is being done to unmask them and bring them to book,” the federal lawmaker stated.
Commenting on the incident in a statement, MOSOP expressed sadness over what it termed “unjustified attacks”, and called on security agencies to ensure that peace returns in the area.
The statement issued by MOSOP’s Publicity Secretary, Sunny Zorvah reads, “MOSOP receives with sadness reports from some Ogoni communities of the sudden emergence of violence and killings carried out by members of some cult groups in the area.
“Reports say the renewed violence, which took place in Okwale on Tuesday (yesterday), spilled over to Taabaa and Nyokuru communities, all in Nyokhana district in Khana LGA of Rivers State.
“MOSOP is pained over this unjustified attacks leading to the burning down of the house of the MOSOP President, Comrade Legborsi Pyagbara, in Nyokuru community.
“The movement also feels distressed over reports of the killing of about four persons early today (Wednesday) and razing of the palace of His Highness, “Chief Nule (Jnr) in Taabaa community, and yesterday’s killing of scores of persons and attack on the residence of Chief Monday Abueh and others in Okwale community by cult gangs.
“This ugly situation demands urgent and thorough actions by the security agencies and every necessary action required of the government.
“We call on the police and the Special Joint Military Task Force to ensure the return of peace to the troubled communities, go after perpetrators of this barbaric and retrogressive onslaught on the communities, but without hurt on innocent persons.

 

Dennis Naku

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‘FG Not Committed To Ending Gas Flaring’

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The Environmental Rights Activist, Nnimmo Bassey, has stated that the Federal Government lacks the commitment to bringing gas flaring by companies to an end.
Bassey, who is the executive director of Environmental Rights Action, stated that if the government was ready to end gas flaring that it should ensure that companies pay fines for gas flared.
The activist spoke in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, yesterday, at the Youth Climate Incubation Hub, organized for youths of the South-South zone by the Federal Ministry of Environment with support from United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
Bassey said that the government has not shown enough commitment to ending gas flaring in the nation, noting that the process requires a lot of investment.
He said: “We need to get youths active in the issues of climate change. We need to place Nigeria on a better foothold for the future. We are losing our habitat and our environment. So, we are for restoration of mangrove forests. If we are serious about tackling global warming one of the ways is tree planting.
“The only problem is that the government is not ready. If the Federal Government is committed to make companies pay fine for the gas they flare, the menace will be stopped. We have to take steps to stop global warming and climate change. Gas flaring has been going for over 62 years now and that is the primary thing that needs to be tackled.
“The deadline to end this malady is 2030, some of us feel it is too far. We are feeling that the deadline should be 2020. We should end it next year. It is achievable we should only be ready to invest.”

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