The United Nations Population Funds (UNFPA), has raised concern that the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) may be forced on women and girls in some communities during the COVID-19 lockdown.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations (UN) define FGM as “any partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or any other injury of the female genital organs for nonmedical reasons”.
Programme Coordinator and Head of UNFPA, Cross River Sub Office covering South-South and South-East of Nigeria, Mr Kenneth Ehouzou,disclosed this during a tweet chat on the correlation of FGM and COVID-19 organised by an NGO, Wave Foundation.
Ehouzou said the restriction of movement during this pandemic exposes more female to the practice, makes it difficult to track the practice and create more awareness on its devastating effects on the survivors.
“The surveillance of communities is practically impossible and practices could be going on in different communities with impunity.
“FGM may be forced on some women and girls by family members due to lack of social support as a result of this disruption of life to suppress the spread of COVID-19.”
According to him, inadequate or lack of support services increase the risks for women and girls FGM survivors who may likely need attention during this emergency situation.
“This risk is much worse as health support may be limited or non-existent in some cases, especially in states where there are cases of COVID-19, with good number of health workers were either staying at home or not willing to attend to cases due to the fear of contracting the COVID-19 disease.
He, however, explained that existing structures and platforms at the state and community levels had already been set up by the joint UNICEF-UNPFPA FGM program on ending FGM.
“We have community-based child protection committees, community surveillance to monitor communities that have declared abandonment of FGM, delivery of social and legal services to girls by multiple disciplinary team/stakeholders as well as continuous advocacies and community sensitisation.”
Also, a medical expert, Dr Jennifer Braimah, CEO Intensive Rescue Foundation International, an NGO, says FGM affects the physical, mental and sexual health of women and girls.
Brainah added that the practice also pre-disposes the survivors to infections, such as genital abscesses, diseases such as hepatitis B, urinary tract infections, bacterial vaginosis and others.
The expert also disclosed that survivors might have problems with their sex life due to the extra scar tissue from the FGM which may cause pain, especially during sex leading to a lack of interest in sex, vaginal dryness, and lower overall satisfaction.
She added that it may lead to depression and anxiety, painful and prolonged menstrual periods, urinary problems, Vesico Vaginal Fistula (VVF)
Brainah, therefore, stressed the need to create more awareness on the effects of FGM practice, form a coalition of advocates against FGM at the community level, as well as report parents and cutters, who attempt to carry out the practice.
On her part, President, Wave Foundation, Mrs Lola Ibrahim, said the FGM practice was recognised as a human rights violation, hence the need to stop the practice as it affects the health, physical and mental well-being of the survivors.
Ibrahim therefore stressed the need for the government to implement the exit law banning FGM practice to deter others from engaging in the acts.
Eid el Maulud: FG Declares Thursday Public Holiday
The Federal Government has declared, tomorrow, as public holiday to celebrate this year’s Eid el Maulud.
Eid el Maulud is the Muslim celebration of the birth of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him).
The Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, announced this in a press statement released by the ministry’s Director of Press & Public Relations, Mohammed Manga.
The minister urged Muslims to “imbibe the spirit of love, patience and perseverance which are the virtues of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).”
He also urged all Nigerians to use democratic means to tackle some of the issues confronting the country.
Pay Amnesty Contractors Now, Or…, Ex-Militants Warn
Following the non-payment of verified Presidential Amnesty Programme contractors from November, 2019 to date, and the rumours making the round on the alleged plans by President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration to scrap the programme, aggrieved ex-militants in the Niger Delta region have indicated interest to join the ongoing #EndSARS protests and use the platform to ask the National Security Adviser to the President, Maj-Gen Babagana Monguno (rtd) to facilitate the payment of all contractors within 48 hours, and also give account of his stewardship on the amnesty office.
Sources said that the ex-agitators may be preparing to unleash more hardship on the economy in the coming days, should the NSA’s office fail to oblige them their requests.
Speaking on a live radio programme monitored by The Tide in Yenagoa, last Monday, leader of the Third Phase of the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP), ‘General’ Ebi John, lamented the pains the ex-militants in the region were going through as a result of the non-payment of contractors handling various training and empowerment schemes of the programme.
He reiterated that the most critical part of the programme was the reintegration of the ex-agitators into civil life, which according to him, would enable them have sustainable sources of livelihood in line with the amnesty deal.
John said the Amnesty Office deliberately stopped payment of verified contractors since last November, which has resulted in the suspension of the training and empowerment of the ex-agitators, adding that the action was a clear indication that the rumoured plans to scrap the PAP by the present APC-led administration was true.
“Our findings indicate that Monguno, who is the National Security Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari, is the brain behind the non-functioning of the programme because of his secret agenda of eventually scrapping the Presidential Amnesty Programme”, he said.
“The United Amnesty delegates are sending a message to Monguno that his plans to further loot funds meant for the programme, coupled with his secret plot to scrap the programme are now clear to the entire Niger Delta people, particularly the ex-militants, and we will resist it with our blood as usual”, the ex-militants noted.
“The non-payment of contractors/vendors by the Amnesty Office since November, last year, is a ploy by Monguno to cleverly scrap the Presidential Amnesty Programme, as beneficiaries of the programme no more undergo skills training because of the backlog of monies the office is owing contractors.
“We are calling on the Nigerian government to call Monguno to order in the next 48 hours, and prevail on him to pay all verified contractors to enable the beneficiaries of the Presidential Amnesty Programme to return to their various training centres to continue with their training and empowerment schemes without further delay”, they reiterated.
“If the government fails to address this appalling situation within the next 48 hours, we shall have no other option than to go back to the creeks and take actions that will compel the Presidency to react appropriately, immediately”, they restated.
The ex-militants called on President Muhammadu Buhari to order Monguno to hand over everything that concerns the PAP office to Col Milland Dixon Dikio (rtd) to enable him begin to act as the substantive coordinator of the programme, saying that their demands should, as a matter of urgency, be met within the next 48 hours or else, they would go back to the creeks where they came from.
The ex-agitators hinted that information reaching them from reliable sources has it that the new amnesty boss cannot pay anyone because his hands are tied, saying that, “Col. Dikio (rtd) does not have any control over financial matters in the office, as approvals are made by the NSA, who is the one running the office”.
Meanwhile, the Chairman of the Amnesty Vendors’ Forum, Mr Samson Graham, had recently hinted that the Amnesty Office allegedly stopped paying contractors since November, 2019, for inexplicable reasons, saying that the contractors cannot continue their training and empowerment schemes without funds.
The sources quoted Graham to have appealed to the Presidency to facilitate the payment of verified contractors to enable them return to the various training centres to continue their job, explaining that his forum has a large number of registered vendors from the Niger Delta region.
Efforts to reach the Coordinator of the Presidential Amnesty Programme, Col Milland Dikio proved abortive as at the time of filing this report.
Ariwera Ibibo-Howells, Yenagoa
WTO: 106 Countries Back Okonjo-Iweala
The 27 European Union member states have backed Nigeria’s former finance minister, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, in her bid to become the first African and first female director-general of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
The EU member states are France, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, and Sweden.
The latest support for Okonjo-Iweala’s candidacy brings the number of countries officially endorsing her to 106 out of the 164 states that comprise the WTO.
The 55-member African Union had earlier officially supported the former World Bank director over her sole remaining opponent, Yoo Myung-hee of South Korea.
Okonjo-Iweala had also won the goodwill of a group of Caribbean and Pacific States as well as others from Asia.
Earlier, the European Parliament had endorsed Okonjo-Iweala to head the WTO, saying she was well-equipped to do the job.
The Parliament had subsequently written the EU to support the Nigerian candidate.
The WTO’s consultation process ended, yesterday, and the new leader is expected to be named in November but an EU official said that the EU would publicly announce its support for the 66-year-old economist, according to AFP.
The final winner between the two women would replace Brazil’s Roberto Azevedo and former director-general of the 25-year-old global trade organisation.
The initial pool of eight candidates for the WTO’s top post, which has been whittled down over two rounds of consultations, had included three Africans – Nigeria, Egypt and Kenya.
The third and final round of consultations seeking to establish consensus around one candidate, ended, yesterday, with the announcement due in early November.
If Okonjo-Iweala is confirmed, she would join the WTO at a difficult time, with the world facing a deep post-Coronavirus recession and a crisis of confidence in free trade and globalisation.
A trade war is brewing between the world’s anchor economies – the United States and China – and the European Union would see G7 member, Britain, leave its single market at the end of the year.
The US President, Donald Trump, faces a tough battle for re-election on November 3, but under his leadership, Washington’s relationship with the WTO has suffered.
His administration has appealed a WTO ruling that faulted US duties imposed on hundreds of billions of dollars in Chinese goods.
Usually, the WTO Appellate Body would have three months to rule on any appeals filed.
But that process has been complicated since the WTO Appellate Body – also known as the supreme court of world trade – stopped functioning last December as the US blocked the appointment of new judges to the panel.
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