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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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NDDC Probe: Senate Queries N543m Spent On Security In Six Months

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The Senate has raised the alarm over a total sum of N543 Million spent by the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC as Security Expenditure on Police and security in six months.
According to the Senate, the expenditure record for security showed that this included payment for retained services of private security firms, just as the Management of the NDDC elaborated the substantial risk to life surrounding working for the Commission, thereby justifying the quantum of payments made in this area.
The Upper Chamber taking a swipe at the management of the Interim Management Committee, IMC of the NDDC on why huge amounts were paid to an individual especially AbubakarAbdulmumuni who was paid the sum of N50 Million in one sweep.
The disclosure is contained in the report of the Senator OlubunmiAdetunmbi, APC, Ekiti North led Ad-hoc Committee that Investigated the alleged Financial Recklessness to the tune of N40 billion in the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC by the IMC.
According to the document obtained by our source, the report stated that” the Committee also noted that security risk has been the singular justification for huge cash outflows made on Stakeholder’s engagement, community relations, and distribution of relief. When these costs are pooled, they represent a substantial piece of the Niger Delta Commonwealth, which may have been dissipated into questionable purposes.”
Meanwhile, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs in the 8th Senate, Senator AliyuSabiAbdullahi, All Progressives Congress, APC, Niger North said on Tuesday that there was nothing of mention like contract awards to Senators in the immediate past Senate.
Speaking with newsmen, Senator Abdullahi who is now the Deputy Chief Whip of the Senate, said that as representatives of the people, the onus is on them to attract development in form of Projects to their constituents and constituencies, just as he said that this does not metamorphose into the award of contracts.
According to him, when projects are attracted, it is now the responsibility of the Executive to see to how the projects will be executed for the people, adding,” As lawmakers, in attracting projects, we can lobby and say that these people need Boreholes, need other good things as the dividend of democracy.
“Throughout my stay in the 8th Senate, and to the best of my knowledge, there was no single time the issue of award of contracts to Senators came up. Both at Plenary, Executive sessions and Committee levels, the award of NDDC Contracts to Senators was never discussed.
“You can see that the Report of the Senate Ad-hoc Committee chaired by Senator OlubunmiAdetunmbi, APC, Ekiti North that Investigated the alleged Financial Recklessness to the tune of N40 billion in the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC by the IMC was detailed, it opened up everything and the Report will remain a reference point to the 9th Senate.”
Meanwhile, the Senate has also raised the alarm following a total sum of N248.3 million the NDDC spent on Stakeholder Engagement.
According to the report,” For the period under review, NDDC spent a total of N248.3 Million on Stakeholder Engagement.
Conflict resolution took about N148 Million; another N99 Million was spent on emergency dialogue with the leadership of ex-agitators. These are substantial cash outflows, with questionable actual implementation and value addition.”
Recall that the Senate had on Tuesday, 5th May 2020 begun a probe into alleged Financial Recklessness to the tune of N40 billion by the Interim Management Committee, IMC of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC.

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COVID-19: Nigeria To Resume Int’l Flights In Weeks …Virus Now In 536 LGs As FG Extends Eased Lockdown By Four Weeks

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The federal government has expressed its readiness to reopen the nation’s airspace for international flights in ‘a matter of weeks’.
This was as it lamented the growing wave of community transmission of Covid-19, saying the virus has now made incursions into 536 out of Nigeria’s 774 local government areas. Consequently, the government has extended the current phase of the eased lockdown by another four weeks while planning towards re-opening of the airspace for international flights.
Also, the 10.m. to 4p.m. curfew, limitation on mass gatherings and virtual holding of government meetings remain in place. It noted that in the last month, the number of states with over 1, 000 confirmed cases increased from 4 to 10 and the FCT.
Chairman of the Presidential Taskforce PTF on Covid-19 and Secretary to the Government of the Federation SGF, Mr Boss Mustapha disclosed this during yesterday’s briefing of the taskforce.
He lamented the increased non-compliance with non-pharmaceutical prevention measures; lack of enforcement of necessary guidelines issued to preserve lives; insufficient engagement by some states with the national response; as well as “a lingering concern about the gap between identified cases and the actual burden of disease; and apathy, fatigue and disbelief combining to challenge public enlightenment, compliance and behaviour change.
“Community transmission is increasing, as reflected in the fact that 536 Local Government Areas – 69% of the total – have reported a COVID-19 case.
“To sustain gains already made, therefore, the PTF recommended to the President, the retention of the current phase of the response with minor changes to address economic, socio-political and health concerns. These measures are further outlined in the guidelines to be elaborated upon by the National Coordinator.
“It is, however, important to inform you that the major changes being proposed are aimed at achieving the following: Gradual re-opening of international air flights within established parameters; Re-opening of rail transportation within established parameters; Granting permission to exit classes to resume ahead of examinations; Allowing civil servants from Grade Level 12 to resume work; and opening recreational parks for supervised exercises.
“After due consideration of the recommendations, Mr. President approved the following: Maintaining the current phase of the National Response to COVID-19 for another four weeks in line with the modifications reflected in the Report; Partnering with States and Local Governments to improve community sensitisation and engagement to the COVID-19 response; Mandating State authorities and the FCT, to enforce non-pharmaceutical guidelines, primarily the use of face masks in public appearance and places; Encouraging State Governments to collaborate with Local Government Authorities to intensify necessary measures such as contact tracing, grassroots mobilisation and risk communication; and Strengthening of collaboration with other mandate groups at Federal/State levels to harmonise the country’s COVID-19 response, on the short, medium and long-term basis”.
National Coordinator of the PTF, Dr. Sani Aliyu on his part said the taskforce has asked the aviation ministry to work towards resumption of international flights in weeks.
Aliyu added that the management of the National Youth Service Corps NYSC has been told to start working towards resumption in the next phases of the eased lockdown.
He said; “The restrictions in the entertainment and education sector as well as other activities that attract mass gatherings such as operation of markets and worship centres, remain.
“Specific to air transportation, domestic operations have already resumed as well as the railways. For international travel, we have made recommendations to the aviation industry to commence the process for opening international airports provided all existing international and local prevention guidelines on COVID-19 are in place.
“We have modified the advice with regards to the arrival for flights. Passengers arriving at the airports for domestic flights are advised to arrive at least one and a half hours before their flights and three hours before international flights when it is restarted.
“There might be requirements for additional infrastructure in some of the airports. What we want to do, and we have made it very clear at the PTF is, we want to reopen as soon as possible but in a safe manner that does not put at risk all the efforts we have made to control this pandemic. Hopefully, the airports would open in weeks, rather than months. That is what we are looking at”, he added.
Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control NCDC DrChikweIheakwazu said the National Council on Health which held its meeting yesterday resolved that the sector must continue to work harder to halt the spread of the virus in order to be able to fully reopen the economy. According to him, until there is a vaccine, workers in the health sector cannot relax in the battle against Covid-19.
“What we collectively agreed was in order for our economy to reopen, in order for our country to restart slowly, in order for the full benefits of the eased of restriction to manifest, we on the public health side have the responsibility to strengthen our response.
“Until we have a vaccine there won’t be a point where we would say, okay, let us relax. That is completely out of the question. The meeting we had today with the Honourable Commissioners of Health was to really encourage ourselves, you know, the motivation to keep going in spite six months of really tough work”, he said.
Minister of Aviation, HadiSirika said the resumption of international flights is not solely an aviation function as the main consideration is the health of the people.
According to him, while the industry would love to reopen fully so as to make money and save jobs, the reality on ground is such that it has to work with relevant stakeholders before reopening the airspace for international flights.
Meanwhile, the Federal Capital Territory Administration FCTA said it will not hesitate to shut down any school within the territory that violates the Covid-19 guidelines recommended for the safety of their students in exit classes who are resuming for their examinations. Chairman, FCT Ministerial Enforcement Task team on COVID 19 Restrictions, IkharoAttah who led the team to inspect some schools within the nation’s capital, stated that the administration cannot afford to expose the students to the danger of contracting the virus, and therefore will not compromise the guidelines for the resumption of the schools.
“Any school that fails to comply, we will do everything within our power to safeguard the students and such schools would likely be shut down through legal processes while the students will have to go and write their exams somewhere else, pending when the school complies with the safety guidelines, and those responsible for the school mismanagement will be brought to book.
“The FCT Minister, Malam Muhammad Musa Bello has been very clear about it, that he is not going to risk the life of any student or teacher. He said everyone must come in within the context of safety”, Attah said.
He noted most of the public and private schools his team visited to ascertain their level of compliance, had shown about 80 percent in their preparedness to the safety of students and teachers in their respective schools, by providing adequate handwashing hand points, sanitizer and decontaminated environment.
“From our own point, it is already encouraging in the sense that the schools we have been to, both government and private, if we assess them at a point of average, you will score them about 85 percent in terms of preparedness. They have complied. You could see hand washing points, hand sanitizers and there was also social distancing in their classrooms”, he said.

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Edo, Ondo Polls: Disrupting Timelines Could Cause Constitutional Crisis -INEC

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The Independent National Electoral Commission INEC has lamented the growing resort to violence and incendiary remarks by political actors ahead of the Edo and Ondo governorship elections, warning that any disruption of the process could alter the electoral timelines thereby leading to a constitutional crisis.
“The Commission has observed with deep concern the escalating levels of violent actions and incendiary statements by political parties, candidates and their supporters in the run-up to the Edo and Ondo Governorship Elections”, INEC said in a statement by National Commissioner and Chairman of its Information and Voter Education Committee, Barr. Festus Okoye.
According to the Commission, these actions include the destruction of opponents’ campaign materials such as billboards, violent campaigns, and the use of offensive language.
INEC urged regulatory bodies in the area of security and the media to scale up enforcement in order to safeguard the electoral process.
The electoral umpire said it is important for political parties, candidates, and their supporters to keep in mind that there are extant laws and regulations that they must adhere to during campaigns, warning that the Commission will not shirk its responsibility to enforce the rules of the game.
“Consequently, parties and candidates must on no account underestimate the resolve of the Commission to enforce the rules and regulations and apply appropriate sanctions against those who choose to break them. The Commission remains determined to conduct peaceful elections in the two States and in the outstanding National and State Assembly bye-elections.
“Political Parties must realize that Edo and Ondo Governorship elections are taking place at a time of a global pandemic and the Commission is working assiduously to observe and comply with all health and safety protocols issued by the Commission and health authorities. With the pandemic taking its toll on the citizenry, the people of Edo and Ondo States must be saved from the added burden of violent and raucous elections. Political Parties must remember that Edo and Ondo Governorship Elections have strict constitutional and statutory timelines and threats of violence or actual violence can disrupt those timelines and create a constitutional crisis.
“The Commission will continue to engage stakeholders in the two States on the need for free, fair, safe, and peaceful elections, given that it has committed enormous public resources in preparing for the elections. Therefore, the Commission will view gravely any disruptive actions by political actors.
“Going forward, the Commission will work with and collaborate with the security agencies to contain all incidents or threats of violence before and during the elections. Regulatory agencies with roles in the elections, especially those dealing with insecurity, hate speech and abuse of mass media, must step up their activities and ensure that all those that break the law are held to account.
“The Commission wishes to reassure the people of Edo and Ondo States of its determination to conduct credible and safe elections in the two states.
The Commission shall not hesitate to discontinue the process should the actions of political actors lead to cogent and verifiable threat and/or breakdown of law and order before or during the elections”, the Commission added.

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