The recent outbreak of violence in Plateau, which caused an unimaginable loss of people’s lives and property, compel many to wonder if some Nigerians are actually human beings.
Observers say that the sheer scale of violence during the public disturbance was horrendous and could be likened to stone-age barbarism.
Those gory events are behind us now but their echoes keep reverberating.
Last week, clerics of different religious faiths, under the aegis of the Nigerian Inter-Religious Council (NIREC), met in Bauchi for their first quarterly meeting this year.
NIREC was established by the Federal Government to promote peace in the country by creating a better rapport between the different religious groups in Nigeria.
At the meeting, NIREC’s Co-Chairmen, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar, the Sultan of Sokoto, and Archbishop John Onaiyekan, the National President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), emphasised the need to stop the recurring ethno-religious crises in the country.
The Sultan, who particularly expressed concern over the frequency of crises in northern states such as Bauchi, Borno and Plateau, described the trend as “unacceptable”.
He said: “We have witnessed so many loss of lives and property, wanton killings of human beings; we need to ask ourselves why we always have such violence in the northern parts of the country.”
Onaiyekan, on his part, attributed the incessant crises in the country to political, socio-economic rivalries and selfishness.
He noted that the perpetrators of the crises operated under the guise of religion, stressing that NIREC would, however, strive to unmask their real intentions.
“We need to face squarely religious dimensions of the conflicts around us,” Onaiyekan said.
“We must continue to jointly and unanimously condemn the evil behaviour and disorderly conduct of people and groups, who claim loudly that they are acting in the name of their faith or in the name of God”.
“We must sincerely identify, isolate and disown all troublemakers within our ranks.
“Only then shall we be fully equipped to play our positive role of promoting the values of peace, justice, mutual respect and harmony, which both Christians and Muslims profess and preach,” he added.
The archbishop admonished politicians to stop manipulating people to achieve their selfish interests, while advising the people to be wary of those who used religion to pursue personal agendas.
Governor Isa Yuguda of Bauchi State, who formally opened the meeting, shared Onaiyekan’s sentiments.
The governor said that those who killed people were not of God since the two major religions in the country preached against violence.
Yuguda, however, expressed concern over the engagement of youths by some unscrupulous politicians to foment trouble.
A renowned Islamic scholar, Ustaz Idris Kanti, however, stressed the need to take more pragmatic measures to end the incessant religious disturbances in the country.
“Community and religious leaders must educate their followers on the need to live in peace with one another, while allowing peace and stability to reign,” he said.
“Peace building is a collective responsibility and we must contribute towards its achievement,” he added.
Alhaji Muhammed Abdullahi, who is the National President, Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR), urged Nigerians to live harmoniously with each other.
“It is regrettable that such calamities recurred when machineries were being put in place to rebuild Plateau State as a result of past eruptions.
“We as a people must find a common ground to share ideas, knowledge and experiences to achieve peace and rebuild the frontiers and foundations of friendship,” he said
The Sultan had some kind words for CAN for organising a seminar in Abuja recently, where he presented a paper before a largely Christian audience.
He challenged Muslims to organise similar conferences and invite the CAN leadership to present papers, as part of efforts to consolidate the peace initiatives.
Mindful of some criticisms concerning the relevance of NIREC, especially in the face of the recurring crises, the Sultan stressed that NIREC would always strive to accomplish its goal of fostering the country’s peace and unity.
Keen observers hold the view that the criticisms informed NIREC’s resolve, in its communique at the end of the meeting, to urge the Federal Government to punish the perpetrators of the Plateau crisis and other crises in the country.
NIREC said in the communique: “Punishing the perpetrators, promoters and facilitators of the crisis would serve as deterrent to others.”
The council also urged the Federal Government to compensate the victims of the Plateau crisis and other disturbances, to mitigate their losses.
“NIREC also resolved to caution reckless religious preachers who give inciting sermons without regard to the feelings of others and, therefore, fan the embers of religious misunderstanding and disturbances,’’ the communique said
It urged adherents of the Christian and Muslim faiths to adopt dialogue as means of promoting understanding and peaceful coexistence.
The communique stressed the council’s commitment to the pursuit of practical actions that would resolve religious conflicts in the country.
NIREC particularly urged the media to strive to promote issues that would engender the country’s unity and development in its reportage.
The council also urged the government to take tangible steps to alleviate poverty in the country via the provision of steady electricity, good roads, basic infrastructure and a good health care system.
Many observers have been commending NIREC for its efforts to evolve proactive measures that would stem ethno-religious conflicts, particularly in the northern part of Nigeria.
They, nonetheless, argue that the council’s recommendations should not be ignored by the country’s political leaders, who should be willing to demonstrate the requisite political will to act on them.
Adamu writes for NAN
…Creates Two New Offices In Govt House
The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike has announced the creation of two new executive offices to guarantee efficiency and effectiveness of activities at the Government House, in Port Harcourt.
The governor’s action was made known in a statement signed by the Special Assistant on Media to the Rivers State Governor, Kelvin Ebiri in Government House, Port Harcourt, last Monday.
The terse statement reads, “To ensure activities are functioning efficiently and effectively, the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike has announced the creation of the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, Government House, Port Harcourt.
“The Deputy Chief of Staff will be in charge of the Logistics, Correspondence of the Governor and Legal Matters.
“Similarly, he has also announced the creation of the Office of the Special Adviser on Aviation”.
Accelerating Gender Parity In Nigeria
In virtually all societies, women are in an inferior position to men. Sex or gender determines more rights and dignity for men in legal, social and cultural situations, These are reflected on unequal access to or enjoyment of rights in favour of men.
There are also the assumption of stereotype social and cultural roles.
In Nigeria, gender inequality has been for decades in spite of modernization and the fact that many females have done better than men in many spheres.
Analysts are convinced that gender inequality is largely influenced by religious and cultural beliefs, as some cultures and religions still hold strongly that women are the weaker vessels created mainly to be home keepers and child bearers.
Analysts are also worried that gender inequality negatively affects status in all areas of life in society, whether public or private, in the family or labour market.
Although the Global Gender Gap Report 2018 by the World Economic Forum (WEF) shows some progress amongst the 149 countries that were indexed, the progress toward closing the gender gap is slow, because it will take 108 years to close the gender gap and another 202 years to achieve parity in the workforce, according to the report.
The report benchmarks the 149 countries on their progress toward gender parity across four dimensions – economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment.
A number of initiatives have been made by corporate organisations and governmental and non-governmental organisations to address gender imbalance in Nigeria.
One of the latest is the launch of First Women Network (FWN) by the First Bank of Nigeria Ltd., in commemoration of the 2019 International Women’s Day (IWD).
IWD is celebrated globally every March 8 to recognise social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.
The celebration is also a call to action for accelerating gender parity.
The global theme for the 2019 celebration is “Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change” while the theme for the social media campaign is “#BalanceforBetter”.
According to the bank, the FWN initiative is an avenue for career management and mentoring for women to enable them to balance their career with private endeavours.
The aim, according to the bank, is to address gender gap and increase women representation in its senior and executive levels, as well as encourage women to tap into opportunities and contribute to nation-building.
The bank’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Dr Adesola Adeduntan, explains that First Women Network is targeted at the banks’ staff and customers, among others.
He believes that women can achieve more if given the necessary strategic support, hoping that the initiative
will increase the bank’s productivity and profitability.
Adeduntan notes that the initiative is also a demonstration of First Bank’s adherence to the Central Bank of Nigeria’s Sustainable Development Goals which mandate increased women representation in all banks.
The sustainable goals require that the financial services sector should adopt a quota system to increase women representation on boards to 30 per cent and that of senior management level to 40 per cent by 2014.
Adeduntan is optimistic that the FWN will address six key area – career management, personal branding, mentoring, welfare, financial planning and empowerment.
He is convinced that the initiative will address gender disparity at the workplace.
“It is commonly agreed that gender parity is an essential factor influencing the advancement of institutions, economies and societies.
“Studies have shown that gender parity in corporations promotes increased performance and returns on investment.
“The need to invest in composite women empowerment and enhance their contributions at senior management levels to achieve organisational goals cannot be over-emphasised,” the CEO says.
For him, it is paradoxical that the presence of women in paid employments continues to increase, yet the progression of professional women to positions of leadership and management remains slow.
“Gender gaps persist in economic opportunities and political participation in many countries.
“This is part of the reasons for this women network initiative,” he notes.
The chief executive officer wants employers of labour and the entire society to encourage women to advance, excel and contribute optimally in workplaces and communities.
Mr Abiodun Famuyiwa, group head, Products and Marketing Support, promises that First Bank will continue to promote female entrepreneurship for national growth and development.
“We recognise that promoting female entrepreneurship and independence is key to economic viability of every home in the country,” he says.
According to him, FWN is a further demonstration of the bank’s commitment to women empowerment after the launch of FirstGem in 2016.
He is satisfied that FirstGem is providing opportunities for women to achieve their financial goals and aspirations through with access to support funds, free business advice, specialised trainings on business development and insight on business development.
For Mr Lampe Omoyele, managing director, Nitro 121, an integrated marketing communications agency, points out that courage is important in addressing gender imbalance.
“For gender imbalance to be resolved, there has to be courage, vision, values and character,” he says.
He is convinced that women should have courage and confidence in taking risks within organisations.
Omoyele advises that women must not play the victims.
“Ultimately, whether you are a female or male, what is going to sustain you is your character and values.
“You need to have values; character is important in the balance that we live to, and it sustains you as you move into the future,” he adds.
The Chief Executive Officer, Standard Chartered Bank, Mrs Bola Adesola, wants women to take advantage of FWN to make their lives better.
She urges women to aspire to grow in their endeavours and refuse be limited because of their gender, stressing that they should use all resources at their disposal to grow.
For the bank chief, FWN is not a silver bullet to creating the first female chief executive officer of First Bank, but about opportunity.
“So, it is important that as women, we take advantage of it,” she urges.
Ms Cecilia Akintomide, independent non-executive director, FBN Holdings Plc, is dissatisfied that Nigeria is still far in gender balancing.
Akintomide says Nigerian women are still being restricted from working in some places and owning some property.
According to her, restrictions are rendering 50 per cent of Nigeria’s population – mainly women – economically unviable.
A First Bank customer, Mrs Ifeyinwa Okoye, lauds the FWN, and urges the bank to ensure that its customers – the secondary target of FWN – benefit from it.
Okoye describes women as critical to economic growth and development but regrets that many women were lagging behind in their endeavours because of gender inequality.
She wants the banks to enlighten its customers on FWN for maximum results.
“If you empower a woman, you empower a nation.
“Empowering women is especially effective because the benefits are felt throughout the whole community,” she argues.
Analysts call for more strategic support for Nigerian women to enhance gender parity.
By: Chinyere Joel-Nwokeoma
Joel-Nwokeoma is of the News Agency of Nigeria.
Covid-19 Vaccination: Role Of Local Leaders
It was a matter of time, but Covid-19 vaccination has already started to generate heated arguments following a hint that the Federal Government could start sanctioning anybody who refused to be vaccinated.
Dr Faisal Shuaib, Executive Director, National Primary Health Care Development Agency, NPHCDA, disclosed this at a recent press conference in Abuja. He, however, said that implementation was dependent on availability of the vaccines.
“The Presidential Steering Committee and the Federal Ministry of Health are exploring ways of making vaccines more available to all Nigerians, including federal civil servants and corporate entities.
“Once these vaccines are made equitably available to all Nigerians, then we will need to have a frank discussion about justice, fairness and liberty that exist around vaccine hesitancy.
“So, you have a right to refuse vaccines, but you do not have the right to endanger the health of others,” he said.
Already, attempts have been made by two states – Ondo and Edo – to make Covid-19 vaccination compulsory, especially for public servants and members of the public who wish to gain access to certain places.
These places include religious worship centres, banks and public buildings.
However, those attempts and the suggestion that the Federal Government might sanction those who refuse vaccination have been criticised by some trade, professional and religious associations.
The Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) and Joint Health Sector Union (JOHESU) that kicked against the compulsory vaccination, said that government should rather embark on advocacy and persuasion, than coerce citizens into getting vaccinated.
The spokesman for JOHESU, Mr Olumide Akintayo, said the policy would only be sensible if there were enough vaccines to inoculate eligible citizens.
Akintayo stated: “If you are thinking of it in terms of responsibility, it makes sense; but practically, we all know it is an impossible task.
“ If all the doses that have been sent to Nigeria since this outbreak is less than 10 million, how do you enforce that kind of policy in a country of over 200 million people?
“You don’t just come up with policies that are not backed by common sense; you don’t just say things because you want to talk. It would have made some sense if the vaccines are available for everyone.”
The General Secretary of the NMA, Philips Ekpe, said citizens could not be forced to be vaccinated against Covid-19 the same way they had the right to reject medical treatment.
Rather than being forced, he said Nigerians should be made to understand the need to be vaccinated.
According to him, although they cannot be forced, citizens who refuse vaccination should stay in their houses so that they don’t endanger others.
He said: “The Federal Government needs to make people understand the reason why they need to be vaccinated. They have the right to say no. You cannot force people. People have the right to say no to medical treatment.
“But you should let them understand the dangers of not getting vaccinated.
“For example, if you want to travel out of the country, if you are not vaccinated, you will not be let in. The reason is because the other country you are going to won’t want to endanger the lives of its citizens.
“Let them understand the importance, but then if they refuse, they should stay in their houses and not go out and endanger others.”
Experts believe that properly communicating the advantages of being vaccinated, through the use of existing structures, such as religious and cultural institutions, would yield better results than subtle threats.
Communication connotes persuasion, even on occasions when the purpose of a piece of communication is not to persuade, there is still the need to win over the audience to accept the message.
In this era of fake news, and when the social media is awash with conspiracy theories against vaccination, persuasion must first be deployed to get the attention of citizens.
The burden increases tremendously when there are cultural and religious stereotypes which could prevent many adherents from accepting that being vaccinated is safe.
This challenge is not peculiar to Nigeria. In the U.S. for instance, vaccine hesitancy is responsible for over 90 per cent of all Covid-19 related hospitalisation.
Getting some Americans vaccinated has been so challenging that many people have been offered monetary incentives to convince them to get vaccinated in an unusual case of persuasion.
In Nigeria, where religious and traditional leaders are custodians of faith and culture respectively, they wield great influence on devotees and those institutions can be deployed to boost vaccination drive.
Historically, religious and traditional rulers often employ the cognitive process of persuasive communication to change an entrenched social perception or public opinion hindering required public support for relevant people-oriented policies.
Leaders have the influence to subtly appeal to the target to listen, accept, comprehend and act.
Therefore, before considering the stick, government should first explore the use of carrot.
Religious and traditional leaders can help in giving correct messages on vaccination as well as being role models, making sure that they and their loved ones too are vaccinated.
Faith-based and culture-based organisations can also collaborate with other leaders to sensitise communities on the benefits of vaccination and to also dispel the many myths and disinformation about it.
King Bubaraye Dakolo of Epetiama Kingdom in Bayelsa has been putting this practice to use, since vaccination was first rolled out in Nigeria in March.
“The arrival of the vaccine brought a huge relief to our kingdom. I mobilised my people to carry out awareness campaigns in the various communities to guard against apathy.
“My council chiefs and I led by example in being vaccinated early. When the people saw that, they were fully convinced that the vaccine is not harmful.
“We made it clear to our people through town hall meetings that the vaccine is safe and is designed to save humanity.
“We equally reminded them how some persons who refused to be vaccinated for poliomyelitis in the past are suffering the consequences of their actions today,” the traditional ruler said.
According to the WHO Covid-19 Dashboard, Nigeria had administered 4.4 million Covid-19 vaccine doses as at Aug. 31, 2021. Out of that number, 2.9 million Nigerians have been fully vaccinated, according to the NPHCDA.
With a fairly efficient vaccination structure, owing to many years of immunisation against polio, the Nigerian government should activate collaboration with religious and traditional bodies in its vaccination drive.
Experts, including health professionals and public administrators, believe that involving these leaders in advocacy and public enlightenment will lead to more people accepting to voluntarily get Covid-19 vaccination.
Of course, with just a paltry 0.7 per cent of the population vaccinated, the key indicator for any punitive measure for avoiding vaccination will be subject to availability of the vaccines.
However, to achieve the goal of vaccinating 40 per cent of its 200 million population before the end of 2021 and 70 per cent by the end of 2022, Nigeria will need more than availability of vaccines.
There has to be the acceptance and willingness of the majority of its population to be vaccinated.
One of the crucial and effective way to achieve that is to work with religious and traditional leaders.
By: Kayode Adebiyi
Adebiyi writes for News Agency of Nigeria.
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