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Lessons From BBC Sting Reportage

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Way back in 2007, Idris Abdulkareem, in his musical hey days, set the charts blazing with the number; ‘Mr. Lecturer’, — the ribaldry of the scholarly mentor that turned the female student under his care into some sexual fringe benefit. Abdulkareem’s notes may have only made meaning to those acquainted with daily happenings, as it relates to female students’ ordeal in the hands of lecturers in Nigeria’s ivory towers.
As entertaining though as the lyrics and tune appeared, I could still flip back to the old English era of Geoffrey Chaucer, en route to Canterbury, in Chaucer’s Prologue to Canterbury Tales. In what looked like a distant rebuke of the upright but humble pastor at some rural parish of his days in Catholic England, the litrary guru posed a golden query:” if gold rusts, what would iron do?”
Through the electronics and print, both Idris and Chaucer just re-echoed, by way of official documentation, the untold stories of female undergraduates of tertiary academic institutions. Now, the stunning documentary of the recent ‘BBC Sting Reportage’, has stung everyone into new restlessness over the loud silence on sex-for-mark scandals in our universities and other tertiary institutions.
This commendable journalistic endeavour, effectively beams light on a hidden menace. It reaffirms the fact that the condemnable practice has been around for ages and is more wide-spread and reckless as most care to admit. Unfortunately, it is being protected by conspiratorial silence and institutional conspiracy to protect the culprits on sickly peer esprit de corps.
The height of it is that lecturers now order their victims to book and pay for hotel space for their sexual excapade or fail them if they refused.
From the days of Chaucer in his Cantebury Tales, down to the era of Idris’ musical adventures, the public had been hearing and reading the absurd details of what could best be described as an academic injustice to a folk. The BBC Africa Eye’s lens has merely established a proof that the worrying sexual harassment (or sex- for-marks) of female students by male lecturers is a thriving but damaging practice in tertiary institutions across the nation. It is surely not a pretty one!
Like every research work that needs a sample to be able to draw a conclusion on its population, the two universities so highlighted, though not a good one for the image of their institutions, merely represent the entire tertiary institutions while the concerned lecturers represent their cohorts in the trade across universities.
While the Chaucers may have raised their pens, and the Abdulkareems, their voices, against this injustice without any remarkable attention drawn to their complaints, the finished work of the BBC Africa Eye team leaves the government and the general public inexcusable, should they fail to stem the tide at this critical moment.
The truth is that it is about time to redeem the female folk from the evil claws of the male lecturers who had considered them as their fringe benefits and had preyed on them all this while. That singular but bold act of reportage, as presented by the BBC team, is a reminder to perpetrators of the said evil and the likes, in our academic institutions as a whole, that the days of ‘business as usual’ as regards sexual harassment of female students, is over.
With sexual perverts — preying on students under their care, one wonders where lies the place of the maxim of loco parentis that automatically makes every educator a parent to students under his care. It is for this reason that the Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege, said “the unique student-educator relationship of authority, dependency and trust should never be violated”.
Sexual abuse of female tertiary students must be frontally attacked and stamped out. Universities should be centres of academic excellence, not bastions of sexual perverts.”They owe a special fiduciary duty of care to students under their authority – students who trust and depend on them to shape their future career paths. It must therefore be extremely offensive to a reasonable mind where an educator treats students as ‘perquisites’ of his office,” Orno-Agege insisted.
While the act remains a shame on our conscience as a people, the need to stop it has become imperative. Thus, the sexually harassed must see the window provided by this journalistic feat as a wake – up call to speak out in the event of future harassment. Actor Mhairi Morrison acknowledged this in his reaction to Sadie Jemmett’s album, “Don’t Silence Me”, a music video aimed to be anthem for survivors of sexual assault.
“My hope is for my four-year-old niece to grow up into a world where if something bad ever happened she would know that she has a voice and would not be afraid to use it,” Morrison said.
The writer, therefore, is of the view that Senator Ovie Omo-Agege’s call to parents and youth to support enactment of effective law against sexual harassment in work places and educational institutions is even more apt now than ever. Hence, there is no need postponing till the evening, what the morning can achieve.

 

Sylvia ThankGod-Amadi

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Opinion

Africa And Protection Of Children’s Rights

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Africa’s foremost sage and rights activist, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, on 2nd August, 1996 groaningly emphasized, “Africa is renowned for its beauty, its natural heritage and prolific resources – but equally, the image of its suffering children haunts the conscience of our Continent and the world”. Similarly, at the launch of the Blue Train, Worcester Station, South Africa on 27th September, 1997, Mandela ardently expressed, “The true character of a society is revealed in how it treats its children”. Yet again, at a luncheon hosted by the then United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan, another pride to the Continent at the Special Session of the UN for Children, New York City on 9th May, 2002, Mandela exploded, “History will judge us by the difference we make in the everyday lives of children”.
From these remarks, Mandela aristocratically, foresightedly fixated his eyes on the future of the society considering children as the leaders of tomorrow. Orchestrating the garbage-in, garbage-out recipe, invariably – whatever investment made in a child today extensively determines the society’s future. Unfortunately, the wellbeing of children particularly in African countries leaves much to be desired. The pertinent question precisely to leaders is; what future is in view vis-à-vis investment in children in the society outside their own?
To lend a hand, the pathetic conditions children in most public schools find themselves cannot be overemphasized. The psychological effects alone are awful. Some pupils even sit on bare floors owing to shortage of chairs. That’s where there are actually classrooms. Above all, children’s hawking defiantly to Article 28 of United Nations Convention on Child’s Rights (CRC) particularly during school sessions poses another question for parents, guardians and governments. Calculably, the Convention hit thirty years this year, 2019.
For emphasis, Article 28 states, “All children have the right to a primary education, which should be free, and different forms of secondary education must be available to every child. Discipline in schools should respect children’s dignity. For children to benefit from education, schools must be run in an orderly way – without the use of violence. Any form of school discipline should take into account the child’s human dignity”.
Correspondingly, an Italian renowned educationalist, Maria Montessori (1870-1952) remarkably avowed, “Early childhood education is the key to the betterment of society”. Could this consequently imply the society is deservedly reaping what it sowed by oversights of some fundamentals in the past? For example, the number of children and teenagers consistently participating in protests in the recent times in Nigeria’s federal capital is worrisomely, a pointer to out-of-school large population. The ugly situation unconsciously presents a clue of high numbers of supposed pupils and secondary school students roving the streets. Concisely, this is abysmal failure on the system.
By Article 1 of the CRC, “Everyone under the age of eighteen has all the rights in the Convention”. Article 2 elaborately provides, “The Convention applies to every child without discrimination, whatever their ethnicity, gender, religion, language, abilities or any other status, whatever they think or say, whatever their family background”.
The CRC is the first legally-binding international agreement setting out the civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights of every child, regardless of their race, religion or abilities. The provisions and principles of the CRC guide UNICEF in its operations with 54 Articles and three Optional Protocols. Equally, the Convention spells out the basic human rights that children everywhere have: the right to survival; to develop to the fullest; to protection from harmful influences, abuse and exploitation; and to participate fully in family, cultural and social life.
An Optional Protocol on the other hand, is an accord that complements and adds to an existing human rights treaty. For this reason, only States that have already agreed to be bound by a parent treaty may choose to be parties to optional protocols. However, it is fundamentally pertinent to note that whilst the Convention protects children from harmful and exploitative works, it doesn’t prohibit them from helping out at home in ways that are safe and commensurate to their age. Notwithstanding, under no circumstances would children’s work jeopardize any of their other rights, particularly the right to education.
The Unitarian Universalist – United Nations Office (UU-UNO) through its “Every Child is Our Child” (ECOC) programme has supposedly recorded laudable feats in ensuring that vulnerable children reach their full potential by providing them with opportunities to attend school and receive all necessary medical attention.
Splendidly, UNICEF–Nigeria has been in the lead of avid crusades on the protection of children’s rights in the country especially through public enlightenment programmes. Similarly, President Muhammadu Buhari’s Primary School Pupils’ Feeding Programme; a policy for promoting child-education is a booster. From investigations, the feeding-programme has remarkably, strategically increased the population of pupils in schools it is operative. Nonetheless, a lot still needs to be done. Government at all levels should make it a priority to provide standard learning environments alongside competent teachers and teaching materials.
Commendably, the Inner City Mission; an arm of Christ Embassy Church, established and efficiently manages a standard school – The Inner City Schools for indigent children in the society. Other corporate organizations can considerately join forces as a social responsibility. The bad news – any untrained child may turn into a terror later against the entire society including the trained ones, thus, an undesirable convergence point.
Permit me to sum up with Nelson Mandela’s remarks in 2003 at the University of Witwatersrand, South Africa. The noble said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”. Conceivably, the Boko-Haram and other deadly sects in Nigeria may not have come into existence if past leaders did the needful by making child-education appealing in the society. Possibly, amongst the sects today could have been scores of eminent medical doctors, lawyers, scientists, professors and other professionals had the governments avidly promoted child-education accordingly.
Umegboro is a public affairs analyst.

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Opinion

Who Needs Labour Strike?

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Barring any last minute intervention, members of the organized labour will on Monday, September 28, commence an indefinite strike action over the recent adjustment in prices of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) and electricity tariff.
The workers under the umbrella of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) faulted the increase of the price of PMS from the official N145 per litre to N151.56 and almost a 100 per cent increase of electricity tariff, saying it will add to the excruciating hardship in the country. The labour unions further argued that the hike, coming in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, was not only ill-timed but also counterproductive.
Knowing how our life in Nigeria revolves around these two key items, one can imagine the ripple effect the price adjustments will have on virtually every aspect of our economy. Some prices of food items and other commodities have already skyrocketed, transporters have increased their fares, property owners will definitely increase their rents. School owners will also take a cue and ambush parents with adjusted fees when schools eventually resume. Of course, all these make nonsense of the paltry N30, 000 recently added to workers’ salary which some state governments are still finding it difficult to pay.
However, given the federal government’s reasons for the latest price increases, it will be advisable the leaders of the labour unions reconsider their decisions to down tools as the government seems to mean well for the nation this time. According to President Muhammadu Buhari, the COVID-19 pandemic which had affected economies globally, compelled his administration to make some necessary far-reaching adjustments for long-term gains.
He said government’s fixing or subsidizing PMS prices, would mean a return to the costly subsidy regime with the potential return of fuel queues, adding that there was no provision for fuel subsidy in the revised 2020 budget and assured citizens of the government’s determination to remain alert to its responsibilities by preventing marketers from raising prices arbitrarily or exploiting them.
The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, had earlier explained that removal of subsidy was not a political decision but had become inevitable, especially with the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic, the low crude oil prices and curtailing of Nigeria’s production output by OPEC, which had constrained government’s revenue. “We have cut production to 1.412 million barrels, which has halved our earnings,” he disclosed.
These are convincing, cogent reasons for the price adjustment if you ask me. Nigeria does not exist in isolation and so is bound to be affected by global occurrences, particularly in the oil sector which is the mainstay of our economy. It has been severally argued that as long as the nation continues to export its crude oil only to import the refined oil for our huge local consumption, we shall continue to leave at the mercy of international oil price determinants. Meaning that the current N151.56 per litre might not be the last price increase because if crude oil price goes up or down, it will reflect at the pumps.
Indeed, it’s baffling how an oil producing nation like Nigeria, Africa’s largest oil producer with about 200 million population and an estimated 12.8% annual demand and consumption of petroleum cannot boast of a single functional refinery.  Records have it that the country has spent about $25 billion in turnaround maintenance of the existing major refineries vis-à-vis Warri, Port Harcourt and Kaduna refineries in the past 25 years, yet the facilities are still moribund. Thousands of workers at these refineries go to work, earn salaries and allowances and are duly promoted for doing nothing; not because they do not want to work but because the plants are down.
Over the years back, the Federal Government has issued 45 licenses to private companies for the construction of refineries, including modular refineries. All the licenses issued till date have a combined capacity to refine 2.15million barrels of crude oil a day and we were told that the refineries, when completed, will turn Nigeria into West Africa’s refining hub and cut billions of naira spent yearly in importing refined products. Apart from Dangote refinery, said to be coming on stream soon, not much has been heard about others.
Rather, we continue to thrive in the business of exporting our God-given crude oil to other countries that may not be blessed with the natural resource, but have patriotic, selfless leaders, who consider the good of their countries above every other thing and have invested enormously on infrastructures like refineries to make lives better for their citizens. An analyst once likened what happens in Nigeria’s oil sector to a farmer who after planting, nurturing and harvesting his yams, takes them to a faraway community to sell at a giveaway price. He later goes back to the same buyer who has cooked and pounded the yam to buy food to feed his family at an exorbitant price. Can this farmer be considered to be wise?
So instead of embarking on strike just for the sake of it and making the already bad situation worse for the citizens, labour leaders  should come up with ideas on how to  have functional refineries in the country, dialogue with the government on best ways to implement those plans. They should constantly engage the authorities on this. They can give the government an ultimatum on when to get the agreed plans executed so that the issue of fuel importation will be a bygone in the country. Failure of the government to keep to the bargain, labour can take whatever legal action to press home their demands and they will definitely have the support of many Nigerians.
So instead of insisting on reversal of the petrol pump price which might not be in the best interest of the citizens and the nation, the labour unions should see to it that all governments’ plans to cushion the effect of the subsidy removal are carried out. They should ensure that the nationwide roll-out of cleaner and cheaper alternative to petrol; the introduction of new funds for Nigerians at cheaper rates by the Central Bank of Nigeria; the adequate monitoring of the prices to ensure that marketers do not reap off the populace and other palliative measures promised by the government should be effectively implemented.

 

By: Calista Ezeaku

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Opinion

Edo Poll: INEC Presents Certificates Of Return To Obaseki, Shaibu

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The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), yesterday presented Certificates of Return (CoRs) to the winner of last Saturday’s governorship election in Edo State, Governor Godwin Obaseki, and his running mate, Mr Philip Shaibu.
The Tide source reports that the ceremony took place at the Collation Centre, at the State headquarters of INEC in Benin.
The Edo governorship election Returning Officer, Prof. Akpofure Rim-Rukeh, had on Sunday declared Obaseki of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) winner of the governorship election in the state.
Rim-Rukeh had declared Obaseki winner after polling 307,955 votes to defeat his closest opponent, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, of the All Progressives Congress (APC) who garnered 223,619 votes and 12 other candidates.
The INEC National Commissioner in charge of Edo, Bayelsa and Rivers, Mrs May Agbamuche-Mbu, presented the certificates of return to both the governor-elect and the deputy governor-elect.
Agbamuche-Mbu said that the presentation of the CoRs was a statutory obligation of the commission which must be carried out within seven days after its declaration of a winner.
“This occasion is only made possible because of the successful conduct of the governorship election last Saturday, September 19.
“INEC, I believe, has played its humble part but we have always maintained that a successfully conducted election is a collective effort, and so it has proven to be,” she said.
In his acceptance speech, Obaseki thanked God and Edo people for a peaceful election, adding that history had been made in the state.
Obaseki said INEC’s National Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, should receive most of the accolades for his steadfastness and ability to withstand pressure, adding that using his intellect in introducing technology for the election should be hailed by all.
“Despite all the criticisms, the ability of INEC to view results as the counting is taking place in polling units is one innovation we will implore INEC to maintain and improve on”, he said.
“Because it has introduced different element of transparency in the way we conduct election in Nigeria
“I am using this opportunity to extend a hand of fellowship to my brother, Osagie Ize-iyamu, and other colleagues in the APC to work with us to move Edo forward.
“On a specific note, I want to use this occasion to call on former National chairman of the APC Adams Oshiomhole that the fight is over, to come and join in building the house where he was part of laying the foundation.
“We have no malice; the only thing we disagreed on is on the approach in moving Edo forward.’’
Obaseki, who also commended President Muhammadu Buhari, said the president would be remembered as the father of democracy in Nigeria.
“This is because he had a choice to ensure and insist that his party wins in the state but he rose above partisan politics, and insisted the right be done,” he said.
According to him, I want to finally thank his royal majesty, Oba of Benin, Oba Ewuare II, for his fatherly role, for the prayers for peace, and for being that symbol we all look up to.
Earlier in his address, the state Resident Electoral Commissioner of INEC, Mr Johnson Alalibo, said the ceremony was just another fulfilment of the provisions of the law.
“My joy knows no bound as I am standing here to present this welcome address, having conducted an election without any loss of life,” he said.
Alalibo commended the candidates, security personnel and the entire people of Edo for their display of professionalism and maturity during the election.
According to him, this election has already been adjudged as one of the best and it shall so remain in the annals of our history.

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