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Borno, UN Host High-Level Donor Visit To North-East

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The Borno State Government and the United Nations hosted a high-level delegation of key partners during a one-day mission to Borno State, last Friday, to highlight humanitarian and development priorities in the North-East.

During the visit, delegates from Canada, the European Union, France, Germany, Norway, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States of America as well as the World Bank Group and International Monetary Fund (IMF) visited key locations, and were provided an overview of the coordination and operational challenges related to humanitarian and development programming in the region.

The objective of the high-level visit was to underscore development deficits in the three states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe, and to put a spotlight on humanitarian needs, particularly with regard to access for service delivery, security, and the rapidly escalating food insecurity.

The mission included two parallel visits to Banki, Bama LGA as well as Maiduguri in Borno State.

 In Banki, delegates visited and met with key partners and beneficiaries from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Regional Stabilization Facility.

The high-level delegation discussed the ongoing insecurity in the region, and how the protracted conflict in Nigeria has affected the Lake Chad region, including its neighbouring countries of Cameroon, Niger and Chad for over 10 years.

As a result, over 3.2million individuals are displaced, with 4.4million food insecure people at crisis and emergency levels and millions of civilians subjected to extreme hardships.

In the North-East alone, 13.1million people live in areas affected by conflict, out of whom 8.7million are in need of immediate assistance.

The security situation remains highly volatile with non-state armed groups (NSAGs) continuing to target communities as well as humanitarians, including in areas that were previously considered secure.

Delegates were able to visit the Banki IDP camp and the newly constructed police station and customs office on the border of Cameroon to learn how development efforts were increasing security and supporting the return of normalcy in the community.

Led by the Borno State Governor, Prof. Babagana Zulum, with support from the UN, the mission also provided an opportunity to advocate for humanitarian and development efforts, emphasize the protection of civilians in the context of a challenging and insecure operating environment, and highlighted operational efforts in restoring the dignity of conflict-impacted communities through a people-centred approach paired with durable solutions.

 In addition, the delegation discussed the urgent need to scale-up initiatives around food security, nutrition, protection and livelihoods for impacted populations in desperate need.

“Here in the Lake Chad region, we face one of the most severe humanitarian emergencies in the world. The uncertainty arising from the conflict is hampering normal life making dependency on humanitarian assistance a necessity but an unwarranted norm”, Zulum said.

“While we thank our committed international stakeholders for their strong partnership and generous contributions to the stabilization of the North-East, I urge for continued support from all partners to continue to join us, whole-heartedly, in taking bold steps to promote development in the region”.

In Banki, delegates visited and met with key partners and beneficiaries from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Regional Stabilization Facility (RSF), which uses a community-level approach to enhance physical security and access to justice, rehabilitate essential infrastructure and basic service delivery as well as revitalize the local economy to help communities recovering from conflict build back better.

The Resident Humanitarian Coordinator, United Nations Nigeria, Edward Kallon said, “On behalf of the UN system, I wish to extend a deep sense of appreciation to our international partners for their continued support to the government and people of the BAY states as well as the Lake Chad region.

“The mission today has shown the power in combining development and humanitarian efforts, and it is clear that we must accelerate these contributions and find innovative ways to end this decade-long conflict if we are to meet our global, national and state goals to build back stronger”.

Delegates were able to visit the Banki IDP camp and the newly constructed police station and customs office on the border of Cameroon to learn how development efforts are increasing security and supporting the return of normalcy back in the community.

In addition, delegates were able to have a dialogue with the community-led Stabilization Committee and returnee representatives to hear first-hand from the community about their needs and challenges.

In Maiduguri, delegates had the opportunity to meet with members of the displaced population, and key humanitarian actors, who lead the various sectors of response.

The free-flowing discussions with the delegation were led by Deputy Humanitarian Coordinator, Vincent Lelei, and brought focus to priority concerns of the humanitarian community, as it relates to access, security, protection, freedom of movement and the potential impact of catastrophic food insecurity.

During the visit the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) took the delegation to Muna IDP camp and the Stadium IDP Camp, engaging with IDPs and partners who are supporting the two camps.

Delegates also met at the governor of Borno’s office to have a dialogue with key government actors as well as participate in the launch of a new UNDP report, ‘Assessing the Impact of Development in North-East Nigeria’ which looks at the impact of conflict on development in the BAY states.

In her remarks, the Head of Cooperation of the EU delegation to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Ms Cecile Tassin-Pelzer, said, “Today’s high-level visit to Borno State, including Banki, has been a great opportunity to reassert the EU and the international community support to the implementation of the Lake Chad Regional Stabilization Strategy.

“To date, the EU and its member states have committed around €56million through the UNDP Regional Stabilization Facility. This is a concrete illustration of Team Europe’s contribution to the stability of Nigeria and the wider region”, she added.

As communities attempt to recover, resilience can only be built when both humanitarian and development efforts are combined through the humanitarian-development peace nexus.

While root causes of the conflict are many and varied, priority must be given to address these challenges.

This high-level visit provided key donors with the opportunity to gain an in-depth understanding of the urgent need for continued support to assist conflict impacted communities in North-East Nigeria recover.

Also speaking, the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Ms. Catriona Laing, said, “I am glad to have had the opportunity to visit communities in Borno and meet with Governor Zulum to understand the situation on the ground. It is vital we ensure the safety and dignity of displaced people, act now to tackle worsening food insecurity, and support stabilisation efforts.

“The UK is providing a comprehensive package of support to the region, including lifesaving humanitarian aid for conflict-affected people and support for the Regional Stabilisation Facility”.

“We are grateful to our partners on the ground who directly implement programmes made possible through U.S. humanitarian assistance totaling over $1.45billion over the past 6 years. There is no substitute for seeing and hearing from local residents and displaced families who are finding ways to live under the most austere conditions” the U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, Ms. Mary Beth Leonard, added.

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Minister, CSO Want Justice System Reviewed

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Stakeholders in the judicial system have called for a review of laws that punish the poor people far more often and more harshly than the wealthy, through pretrial detention and cash bail.
The stakeholders made the call at a national conference on justice system with the theme ‘Nigerian Criminal Justice System: The Criminalisation of Poverty in Nigeria’, in Abuja, last Thursday.
The conference was organised by a civil society organisation, Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre (RULAAC) to examine Nigeria’s dysfunctional criminal justice system, which they said unequally and disproportionately affected the poor and the most vulnerable in the society.
Minister of Women Affairs, Mrs Pauline Tallen, said it was imperative to review the justice system to support people faced with economic obstacles, rather than incarcerating them.
Represented by an Assistant Legal Adviser in the ministry, Mrs Kenechi Umeh, Tallen frowned at laws that incarcerate people who are unable to pay debts, fines, bail bond, accentuate poverty rather than solve it.
“Criminalisation of petty offences such as prostitution, common nuisance, alms begging, street hawking, environmental offences and neighborhood disputes accentuate poverty among the poor and vulnerable.
“There is need to re-evaluate and improve awareness on the impact of the justice system as it relates to petty offences, including applying standards and principles of human rights in protecting the poor and promoting equality and fairness”, she said.
Tallen also advocated a well thought-out poverty alleviation programmes that entail technological skills acquisition, vocational training, micro-lending intervention solutions as panacea to poverty.
Also speaking at the conference, the Executive Director, RULAAC, Okechukwu Nwanguma, said that the event was put together with a view to putting an end to the criminalisation of petty offences in Nigeria.
He said this was necessary because the criminal justice system in the country disproportionately affects the poor.

Nwanguma noted that there were situations where people were sent to jail for stealing yam while ‘big men’ who steal huge amount of money get away with their crimes.

He said, “The notion of criminalisation of poverty manifests more in law enforcement than other sectors.

“Whether it is the police providing security cover for the demolition of settlements inhabited by the poor who are thereby rendered homeless while the settlements from which they have been displaced are apportioned to the rich or task forces enforcing bans on street hawking or Okada riding, or on the use of pedestrian bridges.

“While it may be justifiable to demolish certain settlements or enforce certain bans, as long as the legal procedures are followed, the poor are often the victims of law enforcement excesses in the course of the enforcement of these state or federal laws or rules and regulations.

“The poor constitute the majority of those who end up in prison for being unable to pay bribes for bail at police stations’’.

The RULAAC Director also noted that the poor constitute the majority of persons awaiting trial and who may never have the chance to appear in court again after the initial arraignment, as they may be forgotten by the system.

“Petty crimes committed by the poor attract more law enforcement action than big crimes committed by the rich.

“More often, the rich have the means and ways and can hire Senior Advocates or buy their ways through.

“So, criminal justice in Nigeria, just like human rights violation, has a social class bias targeting mainly the poor and the most vulnerable in Nigeria.

“We think that the criminal justice system that criminalises the people needs to be addressed”, he added.

Nwanguma, therefore, said it was imperative to reform the  judiciary system to become fair and just, while also ensuring speedy dispensation of justice and equal protection to both the poor and the rich, without discrimination.

The keynote speaker, Prof. Chidi Odinkalu, who spoke on the topic ‘Criminalisation of Poverty in Nigeria, the Dimension, Effects and Solutions’, said that criminal law and its institutions provide the framework to which lawful society defends itself and its values.

Odinkalu stressed the need to train the judiciary, decriminalise the polity and empower citizens to create a more egalitarian society.

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Ondo Pastor In Police Net Over Kidnap Of 77 Persons

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A pastor in one of the Pentecostal churches in Ondo State, David Anifowoshe, and his assistant have been arrested for allegedly kidnapping 77 persons.
The victims include 54 adults and 23 kids.
Anifowoshe, who is the pastor of Whole Bible Deliverance Church, located in Valentino Area of Ondo West Local Government Area of the state, was arrested by the police when some people in the neighbourhood raised an alarm.
According to sources in the area, the victims were found in an underground apartment of the church last Friday evening.
The Tide learnt that the pastor and his assistant camped the victims in the church under the pretence that they were waiting for the second coming of Jesus Christ.
Parents of the children were said to have forcefully mobilised themselves to the church, inviting the police to arrest the pastor and his assistant.
Some of the children and their parents were also said to be attending the church prior to the incident.
According to sources, the police promptly stepped into the situation by arresting the culprit and other members of the church following a tip-off by parents who reported the case to the police in Ondo town.
The incident has also gone viral on social media. In a 40-second video, children were seen in a patrol vehicle of the police who rescued them.
“They have kidnapped children found in the underground cell of a church in the Valentino Area of Ondo. The pastor and some members of the church have been arrested and were also in the patrol van of the police”, a voice said in the video.
Ondo State Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Funmilayo Odunlami, who confirmed the incident while briefing journalists in Akure, said the parents raised the alarm and the police sprang into action.
Odunlami urged the people to remain calm, assuring that the command had begun proper investigation into the matter “and the mystery behind the crime would be unraveled”.

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Sen Akwashiki Donates N10m To CAN

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Senator Godiya Akwashiki (APC-Nasarawa North) has donated N10 million to the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Nasarawa North Chapter.
This, he said, was to enable them purchase land and 18- seater bus for the association to offer special prayers for the nation and perform its work effectively.
Akwashiki, who is the Chairman, Senate Committee on Employment, Labour and Productivity  made the donation at the end of a three-day CAN Summit in Akwanga on Sunday.
He said that the donation was part of his continued commitment to the development of the church and the society at large.
“I have heard your request on land for your permanent secretariat, a bus and office equipment to enable the association function effectively.
“I want to give you N5 million for the purchase of land and N5 million for the purchase of 18-seater bus, making N10 million.
“If you bought the land, I want you to start the foundation immediately as I will continue to support religious activities to succeed,” he said.
Akwashiki assured of his continued commitment to provide infrastructure across his senatorial district for improved standard of living.
“I will continue to provide roads, electricity, hospitals, schools, empowerment and employment, among others, in order to make you and other people happy at all times,” he said.
The lawmaker however advised the CAN leadership to carry all members of the association along while taking decisions concerning the association.
“I want to advise that you consult well if you want to take any decision concerning CAN,” he said.
The senator urged them to pray for him to succeed as well as to pray for unity and peace of the country.
Earlier, Rev. Ogbonna Akuma, the CAN Chairman, said that the summit was aimed at uniting and promoting peace amongst members of the association.
He restated their continued commitment to preach the message of unity, peace, progress and development to its members and other Nigerians at all times.
The chairman appreciated Akwashiki and other personalities for their positive contributions to the development of the church and the society at large.
He, however, identified their challenges to include land, bus and office equipment, among others.
The Tide source reports that the summit featured presentation of merit awards to Akwashiki; Sen. John Danboyi; Mr David Abuluya, President, Eggon Cultural and Development Association (ECDA); and Chief Adams Nangba, the District Head of Wakama, among others .

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