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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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NASS Passes N10.59trn Budget For 2020 … Jerks Its Appropriation By N264bn, Gives Reason

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The two Chambers of the National Assembly (NASS), yesterday passed the Appropriation Bill of N10.59 trillion budget for the 2020 fiscal year with a view to returning the nation’s budget cycle to January to December.
The Lawmakers jerked up the budget as proposed by President Muhammad Buhari to the tune of N246 billion.
The lawmakers passed the 2020 budget following a clause-by-clause consideration of the report of the Committee on Appropriations of the two Chambers.
Briefing the press after plenary session, the Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriation Committee, Barau Jubril and Stella Odua, respectively, defended the additional N246 billion the lawmakers injected into the budget.
The Chairman described the budgeting process as the best so far because it is the first time the Executive, Senate and House of Representatives came together on a roundtable to agree on a united document as budget of the country.
He defended the N264 billion increase injected into the 2020 budget as not padding of the appropriation bill, but harvested additional revenue, saying the additional fund was brought in conjunction and consultation with the Executive.
Denying that the extra funds injected was padding, Senator Jibrin Barau said the word padding is alien to the 9th Senate because the infusion on additional vote for capital projects was done in collaboration with the executive arm of government.
According to him, the Senate saw avenue to make additional revenue and “just fixed the expected increased revenue to sectors in need of additional revenue”.
He said “In a Presidential system of government, there is room for checks on what any arm of government is doing by the other. President Buhari no doubt presented a perfect budget, but it is our own responsibility as the parliament to critically look at what was presented by the executive and make corrections where necessary.
“During the course of deliberating on the budget, we saw opportunities of where we can get additional income for the government and we deployed them to areas that need further spending.
“The National Assembly has the right to do it and that is what we have done”, he said.
Presenting the report, Senator Barau Jibrin said the increase of N264billion allowed for interventions in critical areas such as national security, road infrastructure, mines and steel development, and health.
A breakdown of the budget, Senator Jubrin said, is that Statutory Transfer stood at N560.5billion, recurrent expenditure-N4.8billion, capital expenditure-N2.5billion, debt servicing-N2.7illionbn, fiscal deficit-N2.3trillion and deficit to GDP of 1.52 per cent.
He pointed out that daily oil production stood at 2.18 million barrels per day, Oil Benchmark stood at $57 per barrel against $55 proposed by the Executive, while the exchange rate stood at N305 per dollar.
Capital Expenditure for Ministries, Departments and Agencies of Government (MDAs) for the 2020 fiscal year are: Ministry of Defence N116,181,290,730; Ministry of Foreign Affairs, N7,608,141,474; Ministry of Information and Culture, N7,555,803,233; Ministry of Interior, N34,035,825,302; Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, N1,722,796,040; Ministry of Police Affairs, N15,959,986,864; Ministry of Communication Technology, N5,919,002,554; and Office of the National Security Adviser, N27,418,469,323.
Others are: Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, N25,188,940,930; Special Duties and Inter-Governmental Affairs, N2,158,620,395; Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, N124,395,096,917; Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning, N4,976,199,925; Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, N38,583,331,761; Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, N24,445,756,678; Federal Ministry of Science and Technology, N62,882,531,566; Federal Ministry of Transport, N121,366,932,571; and Federal Ministry of Aviation, N52,061,533,122.
Also, for the 2020 fiscal year, the Ministry of Power has an allocation of N129,082,499,363; Ministry of Petroleum Resources, N3,337,444,887; Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, N10,431,563,177; Ministry of Works and Housing, N315,563,564,269; Ministry of Water Resources, N91,679,927,042; Ministry of Justice, N3,853,600,220; Federal Capital Territory Administration, N62,407,154,360; and Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, N23,120,350,399.
Others include: Ministry of Youths and Sports Development, N3,735,486,210; Military of Women Affairs, N6,650,300,966; Federal Ministry of Education, N84,728,529,572; Ministry of Health, N59,909,430,837; Federal Ministry of Environment, N12,350,140,731; and Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, N61,085,146,003.
President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, in his concluding remarks after the 2020 budget was passed, said, “when we came in, all of us approved our legislative agenda, and one of the key pillars of this agenda is to take back our budget cycle from the very undesirable cycle that cannot be defined to something that can be defined and bought into by our country and business partners living in and outside the country.
“Today, we have been able to achieve this. It means where there is will, there is always a way. This is something that we have been able to achieve together with the House of Representatives.
“I must give members of the Ninth National Assembly the credit, because we thought it was going to be impossible.
“Let me also commend the buying-in of the executive arm of government. When we continued to preach that we have to receive the 2020 budget estimates before the end of September, it was not easy for the executive.
“I know they (Executive) worked day and night. So it was presented to us on the 8th of October. We have been able to work harmoniously. There is no way we can achieve this without all of us working together.
“I want to commend our colleagues from the opposition. This Senate from the beginning, we said, will be bi-partisan. You have given us all the support that we require, and indeed, this is the way it should be”, Lawan added.
The Senate President also noted that with the recent passage of landmark legislations such as the Production Sharing Contract (PSC) Act, Finance Bills and Public Procurement Bills by the National Assembly, the Executive arm of government is sufficiently empowered to ensure the successful implementation of the 2020 budget.

 

By: Nneka Amaechi-Nnadi, Abuja

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Wike, Building Legacy For Tomorrow -Nsirim

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The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Information And Communications, Rivers State, and Commissioner-designate, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim, says the State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike is building lasting legacies for tomorrow through the various developmental projects going on across in the state.
Nsirim said the traffic gridlock being witnessed in major roads across part of the state, was due to the concerted efforts by the state Chief Executive’s transformation policies which, he said, havw turned the state to a construction site.
He, therefore, urged residents and visitors to the state, to bear with the State Government and not worry about what they see around, saying that it is the vision of the NEW Rivers mantra to place the state on the trajectory of leadership and governance.
Nsirim, said this while declaring open a two-day workshop for Universal Basic Education Board (UBEC), State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), and Heads of Public Relations (PR) and protocol being hosted by the RSUBEB in Port Harcourt yesterday, with the theme, “Bridging the Gap and Breaking New Grounds in UBE Public Relations/Protocol Practice”.
He described the role of PROs and Protocol officers in basic education management in the country as very strategic and urged them to improve on their professional competencies in order to drive the programmes in their various boards.
“Your roles in basic education is very strategic.There are new strategies being introduced by government to ensure that basic education receives a boost in the country”, he stated
Nsirim also urged them not to see the workshop as an avenue to make new friends, but to improve on their proficiency in order to bring in various stakeholders into the activities of the board .
“What ever opportunity and duty you find yourself, see it as a service to God and write story of prosperity”.
Also speaking, the Chairman of the state SUBEB, Ven. Fyneface Akah, said the workshop was a unifying event that offers a moment of exchange of ideas and skills as well as orderliness among the Public Relations Officers and Protocol managers in order to streamline the way of doing things.
According to him, the workshop will help them on how to get the public to know and understand the workings of the board, adding that they have much work to do in making people understand the activities of the board.
In his own speech, the head, UBEC Public Relations and Protocol, Abuja, Mr. Ossom M. Ossom, who read the good- will message of the UBEC Chairman, said “Public Relations and Protocol practitioners owe it a duty, especially to Nigeria’s school-age population, to use every available opportunity in drawing the attention of all UBE stakeholders to the fact that our country cannot afford to berth and pass through the coming decade as largely uneducated entity and with the largest population of out-of-school children in the world”.
Earlier in an interview with newsmen, the Head of legal and Public Relations, SUBEB, Barr Karibi T. George, said “Public Relations is the live wire of every organization because it builds on the corporate image and reputations of organisation to build public Confidence”.

 

 

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We’ll Monitor Commissioners’ Performance -RSHA …As NUJ commends Wike on Nsirim’s Appointment

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The Rivers State House of Assembly has finally confirmed the nomination of 13 Commissioner-nominees sent to it by the governor, Chief Nyesom Wike.
The confirmation was finally done after debate and sitting to scrutinize complete tax certificate and clearance of one of the nominees, Mr. Sylvanus Nwankwo.
Speaker of the House, Rt. Hon. Ikuinyi-Owaji Ibani said it was the constitutional mandate of the legislature to screen and confirm Commissioner-nominees; hence, it was not a witch-hunt on any of the nominees.
Debate on whether the nominees should be confirmed after they appeared on the floor of the House on Tuesday started when the Leader, Hon Martin Amaewhule, described all the nominees as, “fit and zealous” persons with requisite qualifications.
In the same vein, Hon. Matthew Dike of Tai Constituency said, “The Commissioner Nominees sent to this Assembly are landmark. It is full of men and women of proven integrity “.
On his part, Hon. Michael Chinda of Obio/Akpor Constituency 2 submitted that the Assembly will beef up its oversight on them, and therefore urged the nominees to be alive to their duties or bow out.
Chinda insisted that performance is key, saying that the House will monitor the activities of the screened and approved Commissioner nominees.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), Rivers State Council, has commended the Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike for appointing their past State Chairman and two times Press Secretary to the Governor, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim as Commissioner.
Chairman of the State NUJ, Stanley Job Stanley, in a chat with The Tide, said the union is excited that after few years a professional communicator has been chosen to serve the state.
Though the nominees, who have been screened and confirmed by the Assembly, are yet to be sworn in and assigned port, folios, the NUJ Chairman expressed confidence that Nsirim will man the Information and Communications Ministry which he (Nsirim) had been a Permanent Secretary in the past three years.
“We are happy for the appointment because as a union, we have been advocating that professionals be appointed to man the Ministry.
“It will be a boost to the image of the NUJ because Nsirim was our former Chairman and for a very long time we have been longing for press/government relations to be cordial,” Stanley stated.
He described the appointment of the Permanent Secretary as well deserving, urging him to use his good offices to boost journalists/ government relations in the state.
Pastor Nsirim was among the 13 Commissioner-nominees screened and confirmed by the Assembly on Wednesday.
Nisirm, a Permanent Secretary of the State Ministry of Information and Communications until his nomination as a Commissioner, is currently the State Chairman of the Nigeria Institute of Public Relations(NIPR).
He has in the last six months championed a statewide image advocacy campaign tagged,” Our State, Our Responsibility.”

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