Kebetkache Women Development and Resort Centre, a women rights organisation, has taken a bold step to promote accountability and transparency in order to address issues of corruption as they affect women accessing social services.
The Executive Director, Madam Emem Okon in an interactive workshop session with the International Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), the Police and other anti-corruption agencies, organised by the body, on the topic: “Gender And Accountability: Promoting Ethics And Integrity,” recently, in Port Harcourt, called on Nigerian citizens to promote ethical standards, accountability, transparency, and integrity so as to engender peace and progress in the country and society at large.
She said that in order to put an end to the high level of corruption in Nigeria, every citizen needs to conduct themselves in an acceptable manner worthy of emulation and commendation, while calling on anti-corruption agencies as well as the media to intensify efforts as much as possible at building consciousness in that direction.
In her response to if it is only women that suffer corruption and social vices in the society, she said: “Of course we know that it is not only women that require social services: such as quality education, functional health facilities, access to clean drinking water.”
She expressed optimism that if every individual in the society begins to address the issue of corruption internally, there would be hope that in the soonest, it would be a thing of the past.
She charged that everyone need to know what is expected of them, noting that some people are made to feel that they are stupid, weak and don’t know what they are doing when trying to promote transparency and accountability, which ought not to be.
“So people need to be encouraged that it is good to have integrity, it is good to be ethical in your profession. I want to charge participants to take the message home that there is hope as there are institutions that are still upholding integrity,” she said.
She called on both leaders and citizens to have a change of attitude, mindset, behavior in whatever they find themselves doing, adding that their actions should be able to build good governance and better society and not to mar it.
“I am not only calling on leaders, but on every citizen, because people takes bribe, because somebody gives bribe, so am calling on everybody to change attitude, mindset, behavior, so that we can have good governance. If we don’t have good governance, we cannot have those services that make life meaningful.
In his paper presentation titled: ‘Entrenching Principles Of Ethics And Integrity In The Workplace,’ the Guest lecturer, a member of the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission, (ICPC) facilitator, Mr Aveyina Peter defined ethics as those moral principles that control or influence a person’s behavior, or the rule or standards governing the conduct of a person or members of a profession.
Peter also defined integrity as simply “doing the right when no one is watching or the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles,” adding that without integrity individuals are untrustworthy.
Peter stated that ethical frame-works are those constitutional laws set out to checkmate activities of individuals, private, as well as public office holders and where the need arises, prosecute any airing member of the society that abuses his/her office.
He explained that public office is a position of stewardship for which an account must be rendered as it is a public trust as well as a national service for which an oath or pledge is made as a sign of responsibility and obligation to the people being served.
Talking about common forms of ethical risks, he advised that people guide judiciously against such risks, adding that ICPC has continued to surmount all those risks to maintain her integrity.
Peter itemised common forms of ethical risks as non-compliance with rules and regulations, conflict of interests, leakage of confidential information, unorthodox recruitment, compromised procurement, favouritism in training and promotion and abuse of office.
He stressed that if people adhere to rules and regulations and boldly doing the right things always, the society would be a better place for all.
The ICPC facilitator emphasised that ethics promote and preserve the well-being of members of the society as well as guide public servants in carrying out their official duties in order to achieve a united, peaceful and progressive nation, whose social order operates on the ideals of freedom, equality and justice.
He said: “It is the duty of every organisation in the public service to align its corporate behavior with the national ethics and goals.
He maintained that integrity in workplace fosters a positive workplace culture, stressing that organisations known for integrity perform better and as well gain more patronage from members of the society.
Also speaking, a Board member, Kebetkache Women Development Resort Centre, Chief Constance Meju commended ICPC for a well packaged lecture on corruption, describing it as a very welcome development, especially as everybody is crying that corruption is on the increase .
Meju stated that everyone needs to really understand what needs to be done and who needs to do what, noting that one of the things that need be done is first of all, everyone must have to check themselves as individuals in order to know how they are contributing to corruption and have a retrace upon realisation.
She condemned the act of over demanding which she said encourages people to take what does not belong to them.
She stressed that peace and progress cannot be achieved in a nation where there is injustice, noting that in order to achieve peace and progress, everyone must imbibe very high level of ethical standards in their day to day activities.
Meju charged public and private office holders to maintain high ethical standards in the discharge of their duties, while also calling on the anti-corruption agencies to ensure there is no sacred cow, but ensure that corruption check is on all.
Noting that Nigerian leaders are servants, she charged them to serve the interest of the nation first and not their own personal interest.
Meju added that they should also remember that they are in position of power because people put them there and as such they are accountable to the people, adding that they make themselves ready to answer questions, operate an open door policy and be transparent to the people.
She appealed to Nigerian leaders to lead the way that the people should go, noting that leadership is ‘do as I do not do as I say’.
According to her, “Nigerian leaders must ensure that all the sectors function optimally by releasing the needed money that should go to all the sectors as well as ensuring that the people use money judiciously for the purpose it is meant. Everybody should do what is expected of them. If you are in the power sector give us light, if you are in the education sector upgrade our schools, so that we don’t need to send our children out to study abroad. Let everybody go to school here and have quality education.”
Meju maintained that education is very vital and as such it is important to check and monitor what is happening in the educational sector, adding that there is so much corruption as teachers are not teaching the students, thereby making them come out half-baked and as a result can’t defend their certificates which in turn makes the future blink.
She said: “In future we may not just be talking about corruption, we need to make our children employable, we need to make them people that can compete favourably with people from other parts of the world.”
Rape, Assault Allegation: NAWOJ Wants Unbiased Investigation
The Nigeria Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ) has called on the Kogi State Government to ensure accelerated and unbiased investigation of the alleged act of assault and rape committed by the state’s Commissioner for Water Resources, Mr Abdumumuni Danga.
The association made the call in a statement signed by its National President, Mrs Ifeyinwa Omowole, in Abuja, and made available to The Tide, last Monday
It would be recalled that in a video, which had gone viral on social media recently, a beauty queen, Elizabeth Oyeniyi, alleged that Danga abducted, assaulted and forcefully had sex with her over a Facebook post.
According to the victim, she had earlier appealed to the commissioner to assist his family member, who is also a friend of the victim, on her Facebook wall in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown.
Oyeniyi, however, explained that the commissioner got enraged with the post and ordered some boys to pick her and his sister from Okene to Lokoja where the commissioner personally flogged them and raped her.
She further alleged that her phone was smashed and the commissioner intimidated her to recant her Facebook claims through a make-believe video in which she apologised and spoke nicely of him.
Although, the state governor has reportedly suspended the commissioner and ordered an investigation into the matter, human rights organisations, civil society groups, including the National Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN), have all called for justice.
However, NAWOJ in its statement, urged Kogi State Governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, to ensure that objective and unbiased investigation is carried out promptly on the allegation and the accused adequately punished, if found guilty.
“While the media is awash with false information that the commissioner had been suspended, NAWOJ reliably learnt that the commissioner was yet to be suspended and no punishment had been meted out to him.
“Although a probe has been initiated by the state Governor, Yahaya Bello, NAWOJ wishes to urge the panel and the governor to fast-track the probe and not unduly delay it.
“It is worthy of note that many days after this allegation, the said commissioner is yet to deny the allegation against him, pointing to the fact that he may be guilty as alleged.
“NAWOJ also notes that although the victim has already indicated interest to seek legal redress, the onus still lies on the state government, if it is not complicit, to take a decisive action against the erring commissioner.
“Governor Yahaya Bello must take a clear stance to be against violence and assault on women by taking a decisive action against the commissioner, an action that would serve as a deterrent to others with similar traits,” the statement read in part.
The association, therefore, called on the state governor to ensure that the accused is made to step-down as a public office holder so that he does not intimidate the victim or her family.
It added that other women groups and lawyers would be rallied to ensure that Oyeniyi gets justice.
“We can no longer have people in authority who should be custodians of the law breaking same laws with impunity and yet attempting to hold onto supposedly honourable positions,” it stated.
Stories by Susan Serekara-Nwikhana
COVID-19: Women Journalists Urge Gender-Sensitive Approach
The Rivers State chapter of the Nigeria Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ), has called for the implem-entation of a gender-sensitive approach in the management of the efforts to contain Coronavirus in the state.
A statement by the state Coordinator of NAWOJ, Mrs Lilian Okonkwo-Ogabu, in Port Harcourt, argued that such policy should make adequate provisions for women participation in the process, particularly because women play critical role in the affairs of society.
The statement reads, “During situations like the COVID-19 pandemic, women make essential contributions as leaders and frontline responders.
“But they are also hit harder by the health, economic and social impacts of the novel outbreak.
“At this time, there is no doubt that women are at increased risk of infection, domestic violence and loss of livelihoods, and have less access to sexual and reproductive healthcare services as healthcare systems become overstretched.
“As advocates for gender equality, the health and rights of girls and women, NAWOJ in Rivers State calls on multinationals, government at all levels, humanitarian organizations and well-meaning individuals to apply gender lens to all COVID-19 responses, having in mind that women are playing outsized role responding to COVID-19 as frontline healthcare workers, media workers, caregivers at home and as mobilizers in their communities, and as such, more vulnerable.
“While the pandemic lasts, NAWOJ Rivers State is of the view that if we truly want to deliver health, wellbeing and dignity for all, girls and women must be at the centre in the emergency responses or palliative delivery.
“Above all, let’s be safe by taking precautions, be smart by staying informed, and finally, be kind by supporting each other”, she added.
Stakeholders Reflect On Women’s Day Celebration
All over the world International Women’s Day celebrated on the 8th of March every year, as a focal point in the movement for women’s rights. The Executive Director of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Initiative, Loretta Ahuokpeme, identifies this day as one dedicated to honoring the achievements of women across the globe in the social, economic, cultural, and political spheres throughout history.
For her, it is typically a day for women from different backgrounds and cultures to come together to fight for gender equal opportunity, access and women’s rights. “Gender parity is a statistical measure that looks at women and men through their income, education, and work hours, among other points.
“ This sociological matrix helps researchers understand how society is progressing or retrogressing in specific areas. It’s also an important tool for policy makers striving towards equal opportunities and access.”
Of course, the global celebration of International Women’s Day is a time for reflection on how far women have come, advocacy for what is still needed, and action to continue breaking down barriers. With over a century of history, IWD is a growing movement centered on unity and strength.
And that strength can be drawn from Women supporting their kind in all facets of life. Be it in farm work, health related matters, technology, homes, religion, workplaces, business and above all, representations in communities, local government, states and national decision making levels. Women have always been known to stick together over the years. What changed along the line?
Women have very strong social ties and a mind to achieve anything they agree to do which is why we must work together to eliminate all forms of discrimination, marginalisation and segregation against us and exclusion of women in peace building.
Violence against women is real and women are the drivers of this violence by keeping quiet in the face of such acts or supporting and insisting that those activities be carried out to the latter. Men made these cultural and traditional laws and policies and women are the custodian and drivers of them. From harmful widowhood practices, early marriage, female genital mutilation, to rape, gender discrimination in homes
For us to achieve gender equal opportunities and access, we must stand together by believing in the same things and working towards the elimination of all cultural, religious and social harmful activities towards women. We must promote women representation in all fronts because it is only women that can present women issues better and press that our issues be given serious attention.
Women at the rural areas must be adequately engaged and advocated to for the desired effects and impact. Laws, conventions and policies must be broken down and translated into local dialects and explained to all for women to understand how our roles have to be improved and to men for them to understand the laws against those harmful practices.
Women Political aspirants must advocate to other women in position of authorities as well as women in business who can give financial backing to their aspirations and ambitions. We must also start thinking about crowdfunding and sourcing for our women political aspirants who are genuinely ready to serve. Women in Politics and positions of authority must also adopt women mentees so that at the end of their tenures or when they expire by way of natural end, there will be people walking into their shoes to take over and continue from where they stopped.
For the Chairperson, Nigeria Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ), Rivers State Chapter, Mrs Lilian Ogabu-Okonkwo, this year’s international women’s day which marks 25 years of Beijing Declaration and action, is the most progressive roadmap for the empowerment of women and girls everywhere .
It also marks the 5 years milestone in the drive to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted in 2015 and the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations Security Council Resolution UNSCR1325 on Women Peace and Security adopted in 2000.
Reacting to this years theme; “I am Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Right, she said there is need for everyone to galvanize efforts to mobilize nation and global action as to achieve gender equality and human rights of all women and girls.
Okonkwo pointed out that the celebration is used to reflect on progress made by women as well as to call for change and celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played extraordinary roles in life.
However, she regretted that despite all moves, achievement is yet to be recorded in the 12 critical areas of concern of the Beijing platform for action, adding that real change has been agonizingly slow for the majority of women and children.
In all, the Executive Director, Kebetkache Women Development and Resource Centre , sees the “need for women at all levels, including the top, to change the dynamics, reshape the conversation, and make sure women’s voices are heard and heeded to, not overlooked and ignored.”
Okonkwo believes that for positive change to be achieved, every woman ought to break barriers, smashe stereotypes, disrupts the system and speak up for equality, demands justice and fights for human rights, among others.
By: Susan Serekara-Nwikhana
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