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10 Jul
0

Guidelines for Conducting Elections During the COVID-19 Outbreak in Nigeria – NCDC

In response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, Nigeria has introduced several public health and social measures (PHSM). These include the restriction of mass gatherings, closure of schools, inter-state movement restrictions, mandating the wearing of face masks and requirements for physical distancing. However, as the pandemic continues, countries have eased lockdowns and relaxed restrictions in phases.

This is to enable the continuation of economic activities and provide people with a means of maintaining their livelihood. Despite the pandemic, there is a continuity of essential processes, such as elections, in some countries. In some settings where elections have been conducted without due consideration for public health measures particularly physical distancing, there has been an upsurge in COVID-19 cases.

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has developed this guideline for election processes in Nigeria, in the context of COVID-19. This is to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 cases during elections.

DOWNLOAD FULL GUIDELINE BELOW

Guidelines for Amidst COVID-19  Nigeria

 

 

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07 Jul
0

Job Opportunity for IT Manager at Yiaga Africa

Job Title: Information Technology Manager
Location: Abuja
Type of Appointment: Full Time
Reporting Line: Executive Director
Closing Date: July 21, 2020

 

Yiaga Africa is searching for a highly skilled IT manager with experience in front and back end programming, digital security and IT policy design and implementation. The IT manager will be responsible for developing and designing front end web architecture, ensuring the responsiveness of applications and working alongside a graphic design team for web design features, among other managerial duties. The IT manager will be required to see out a project from conception to final product, requiring good organizational skills and attention to detail.

Job Description

  • Be the custodian of the organization’s IT policy and see to its full implementation
  • Manage and coordinate all IT-related issues including internet data, wireless communications, mobile technology, telephony, security, and computer hardware and software
  • Trouble-shoot and solve problems related to hardware, software, and network
  • Monitor network utilization and implement procedures for network optimization, reliability, and availability
  • Maintains organization’s effectiveness and efficiency by defining and delivering strategic plans for implementing information technologies.
  • Directs technological research by studying organization goals, strategies, practices, and user projects.
  • Verifies application results by conducting system audits of technologies implemented.
  • Contribute to the overall operations and delivery of the organization as a key Management staff.
  • Coordinate and supervise the IT department.

Qualifications

  • Minimum of 10 years working experience as an IT Manager or relevant experience in similar field
  • Proven experience leading and managing large IT projects and rolling out IT infrastructures across various technologies.
  • Strong organizational and project management skills.
  • Proficiency with fundamental front-end languages such as HTML, CSS and JavaScript.
  • Familiarity with JavaScript frameworks such as Angular JS, React, Amber and Ionic
  • Proficiency with server-side languages such as Python, Ruby, Java, PHP and .Net.
  • Familiarity with database technology such as MySQL, Oracle, Django, PostgreSQL and MongoDB.
  • Excellent verbal communication and interpersonal skills
  • Good problem-solving skills.
  • Ability to multitask and manage multiple projects within tight deadlines.
  • Excellent analytical and strategic thinking skills
  • Microsoft Systems Administration/System Engineer certification will be an asset

How to Apply

Interest candidates should forward a one-page cover letter and detailed resume as attached PDF documents to [email protected] on or before July 21, 2020. The subject line of the email application must state the Name of Applicant and title of the position. Only applications sent in the required format will be considered. Only shortlisted candidates will be contacted.

Yiaga Africa is an equal opportunity employer and does not discriminate on the basis of disability, gender, tribe, religion, etc. Qualified women are encouraged to apply.

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07 Jul
0

Job Opportunity for Communications Manager at Yiaga Africa

Job Title: Communications Manager
Location: Abuja
Type of Appointment: Full Time
Reporting Line: Executive Director
Closing Date: July 21, 2020

Yiaga Africa is in search of a self-motivated and experienced communications specialist to join our dynamic team. The Communications Manager will take the lead in designing and implementing the Yiaga Africa communication strategy across diverse program themes and audiences. This entails managing, monitoring, and evaluating corporate communications and dissemination of knowledge products. Specifically, the Communication Manager will lead on content development, editorial responsibility, public engagement, and media monitoring. The Communication Manager will lead a team and be responsible for initiating innovative communication initiatives for public outreach.

Job description

  • Effectively communicate the organization’s vision, mission and brand identity
  • Lead on content management for corporate communications, digital media, websites, newsletters, and other communication tools
  • Develop, implement, and supervise internal and external communication programs
  • Develop and manage relationships with media organizations and partners to secure and grow media online and offline coverage.
  • Responsible for editorial direction, design, production, and distribution of all publications and media productions.
  • Contribute to the overall operations and delivery of the organization as a key Management staff
  • Lead a communications team in the design and implementation of a communication strategy and communication plan
  • Initiate and execute communication research and media monitoring

Qualifications

  • Postgraduate degree in communications, journalism, public relations, digital media or related field
  • Minimum of 10 years’ experience and at least five (5) years in a managerial role
  • Proven experience in leading effective communication teams, impact storytelling and development journalism
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills
  • Outstanding knowledge of best practices in communication and branding
  • Advanced knowledge and experience in social media marketing and engagement
  • Highly experienced in communication research/planning and analytics/measurement of data.
  • Ability to multitask and manage multiple projects within tight deadlines.
  • Excellent leadership, organizational and project management skills and ability to meet deadlines
  • Excellent analytical and strategic thinking skills

How to Apply
Interest candidates should forward a one-page cover letter and detailed resume as attached PDF documents to [email protected] on or before July 21, 2020. The subject line of the email application must state the Name of Applicant and title of the position. Only applications sent in the required format will be considered. Only shortlisted candidates will be contacted.

Yiaga Africa is an equal opportunity employer and does not discriminate on the basis of disability, gender, tribe, religion, etc. Qualified women are encouraged to apply.

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06 Jul
0

FixElectionsNG: Electoral Reform as a Huge Step to Citizens Political Participation – Moshood Isah 

The steady decline in voter turnout in Nigeria remains a cause for concern and calls to question the nation’s 21 years of uninterrupted democracy. After six circles of general elections, citizens are yet to trust the electoral system enough to participate in it. This is rightly so because the system is yet to inspire citizens’ confidence, and this calls for urgent need to fix Nigeria’s election before the whole process becomes a mere transition ceremony.

Recent activities around electoral reform show that all but the major suspects are committed to electoral reform in Nigeria. During a recent citizens town hall on electoral reform, the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) made a commitment that the commission will employ electronic balloting during the Anambra Governorship election coming up next year. This is however subject to assent to the electoral amendment act currently with the National Assembly.

It is also heartwarming to know that the National assembly committee on election matters has set December for the finalization and transmission of the electoral amendment bill to President Muhammadu Buhari for assent. The Attorney General of the federation Justice Abubakar Malami (SAN) has also promised Nigeria that the President will certainly assent to the electoral act provided the act does not breach the constitution.

With barely 31 months to the 2023 general elections, there is no gainsaying that challenges of Nigeria’s electoral process are rife, and it requires leadership and decisive actions from diverse stakeholders to fix. There have been a series of efforts on electoral reforms by the National Assembly and Civil society groups have also proposed amendments to the electoral legal framework. These proposals are contained in numerous election observation reports. Achieving these proposals requires a mindset shift in conceptualizing electoral reforms, facilitating a consensus among key political actors, and building on a consultative process to aggregate the needs and preferences of society.

The question always revolves around the willingness of politicians and the political will of the executive to approve the much-needed revolution in our electoral system. There is also an unending question about the neutrality of security agencies during elections as seen in previous elections where security is used for personal advantage against the will of the people. Various election fora have revealed that politicians are always taking steps ahead of the electoral commission in undermining the electoral process. Also, with the security personnel up for grabs, it becomes even easier to manipulate security apparatus as the nation has witnessed in recent times.

Recall that 3 months before the 2019 general elections, the electoral law was up for Presidential assent, but the president declined. In a letter to both chambers of the National Assembly, President Buhari said passing a new bill with elections close by could ‘create some uncertainty about the legislation to govern the process.’

A very much reviewed electoral act will address pertinent issues that will go a long way in improving Nigeria’s elections. For instance, the establishment of an electoral offense body will ensure electoral offenders get prosecuted accordingly. While INEC has the responsibility to prosecute offenders, the commission lacks the technical capacity to achieve that important aspect of elections. This has made it easy for politicians to exploit these gaps to perpetrate violence during elections while going scot-free. But with a much-reviewed electoral act passed into law, electoral offenders including politicians who have monetized the entire electoral process will not go unpunished.

An electoral amendment at this point will not only inspire citizens’ confidence in the electoral process but also go a long way in addressing political party bottlenecks, especially as regards the cost of nomination forms.

Beyond the politicians, the most important stakeholders in the process are the citizens whose votes are expected to decide the winner of elections. It is entirely difficult or impossible to convince citizens to go through the rigors of registration and voting if they are certain their votes will not count. Therefore, taking citizens’ opinion into cognizance when making electoral decisions remain imperative.

The massive participation of Nigerians in the recent “Fix Elections” video campaign on how to fix elections in Nigeria reveals that Nigerians are indeed interested in the electoral process. However, there is a need to push the envelope in ensuring the process is seamless and credible. The good news is that an amendment of the electoral act at this point will not just legalize electronic accreditation using smartcard reader only, but also provide the opportunity for electronic transmission.

These will enable the commission to overcome certain logistic challenges and issues of miscalculation of numbers that were experienced in recent elections. As a matter of fact, electronic transmission of election results would have prevented some of the controversial supreme court judgment.

While indeed we cannot legislate the “do or die” attitude of political actors like the INEC chairman recently said, effective implementation of important electoral laws will go a long way in curtailing electoral excesses in Nigeria. With Nigeria experiencing its 21 years of uninterrupted democracy, the least the nation need is an election that can withstand every test of credibility. Thus, all stakeholders must make a concerted effort in inspiring citizens’ confidence through a sincere electoral reform.

Moshood Isah is a communication expert and credible election advocate.

He is the media officer of Yiaga Africa

Twitter: @Moshoodpm 

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02 Jul
0

#FixElectionsNG: E-Balloting, Prosecution of electoral offenders, Security, Inclusion Paramount to Electoral Reform – Stakeholders

With barely 31 months to the 2023 general elections, the challenges of Nigeria’s electoral process are enormous, and it requires leadership and decisive actions from diverse stakeholders to fix. There has been series of effort to on electoral reforms by the National Assembly and Civil society groups have also proposed amendments to the electoral legal framework. These proposals are contained in numerous election observation reports. Achieving these proposals require a mindset shift in conceptualizing electoral reforms, facilitating a consensus among key political actors and building on a consultative process to aggregate the needs and preferences of society.

It is against this background that Yiaga Africa and its partners hosted the Citizens town hall on electoral reform to address the declining quality of elections and loss of faith in the democratic institutions due to impunity, exclusion and unbridled corruption. If the electoral process is reformed, it will improve the quality of public leadership and governance at all levels and also increase public trust in democracy and democratic institutions.

The town hall provided an opportunity for critical stakeholders to build consensus on electoral reform priorities. Speakers at the townhall include the Chairman of  Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof Mahmood Yakubu; attorney general of the federation and minister of Justice Abubakar Malami; Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Bishop Matthew Kukah; Mike Ozekhome (SAN), minister of State for Niger Delta,Festus Keyamo (SAN), amongst other Civil Society actors.

Amongst resolution that emerged during the town hall include the establishment of an electoral offences body as stakeholders came out strongly on the need to punish perpetrators of violence and violators of electoral laws. Other issues raised include, cost of elections, use of technology and managing political actors.

Speaking at the event, INEC chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, stressed that it is imperative to establish the National Electoral Offences Commission. According to him, this will improve the quality of elections in the country, noting that the nation’s policy on persons who undermine the election needs to be clearly spelt out. He said, “any nation that does not punish electoral offenses is doomed”, saying electoral offenders are becoming more brazen because they are not effectively prosecuted. He stated that though it was the responsibility of INEC to prosecute electoral offenders, the electoral body does not have the capacity to do that because it lacks the capacity to carry out proper investigation.

He decried that fact that, “once an election cycle ends, politicians would devise means of undermining subsequent elections. So, instead of consolidating on the gains of one election, we are always experimenting new ideas to ensure that those who have perfected the art of undermining INEC’s efforts do not succeed.”

On the cost of running elections, the INEC chairman lamented that the commission has been dragged to court over 2000 times, adding „most times we need to hire lawyers. “He said, ‘’Some of the cases are not intended by people who filed them, but we have to hire lawyers. Elections are expensive because we also conduct bye-elections including senatorial elections. We have six senatorial district elections to conduct and we continue to spend on these elections, he said.

Prof. Yakubu however called for attitudinal change which he said cannot be legislated   saying, if politicians continue with the attitude of cutting corners and encouraging thuggery during election, no amount of electoral reform would guarantee free, fair and credible election.

Speaking on the controversy surrounding the assent to the electoral act, Attorney General of the federation, Abubakar Malami said President Muhammadu Buhari will certainly assent to the electoral act provided there are no breaches against the constitution.  While describing the electoral process as a system that is evolving positively, Malami said there is room for more improvement.

He said, ‘’as at 1999, the system was unpredictable and very chaotic which is gradually becoming a thing of the past. Pre-election matters in 1999 can be in court for seven to 10 years. At the moment there are legal frameworks on the conduct of electoral matters. ‘’We understand the need for cooperation between the judiciary, legislature, and the executive and we will continue to stress this,’’ he added.

He said the current administration is collectively trying, as much possible, to enhance the quality of the system by way of empowering INEC, building capacity and ensuring that sanity, accountability are brought to bear through legal framework, judicial intervention or executive intervention.

Speaking of political inclusion of women in political process, entertainer, Omoni Oboli decried the marginalization of women in what she described as the country’s “dirty politics” characterized by violence. According to her, “Women have been greatly marginalized. It’s very disappointing that even till now, we don’t want women in key elective positions. They’re mostly appointed into offices not elected,” she said.

“And when it comes to financing for instance, a lot of women won’t even bother to come out because they know they don’t have what it takes to pull through. Most of the people that are financing politics are men and they are pretty much going to finance people that they think would win. So, these are the problems women are facing when it comes to politics.

According to her, “If we ensure that our electoral processes are free, fair, inclusive and save, more women would come, more of them would want to get into politics.”  Reechoing this thought, Chief Executive Officer of Women Trust Fund, Mufuliat Fijabi further reiterated the need for an electoral reform that is inclusive of women. She said, often times we only look at credibility and fairness of elections, but we don’t look that the inclusion part of the it, especially the inclusion of women.

On the marginalization of People Living with Disability, Cobhams Asuquo, Nigeran-born songwriter said the electoral system has been designed in such a way that a lot of people with disabilities have not been able to exercise their civic responsibilities. He said this is a major concern because going through the electoral act, you’ll discover where people living with disabilities are mentioned but it is at best not inclusive.

Senior Lawyers and  Civil Society actors also wade into the discussion calling on electronic ballot system, internal party democracy and prosecution of electoral offenders. For instance, a senior lawyer, Mike Ozekhome, Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), said INEC ought to be independent in line with Section 153 of the constitution just as he noted that electoral offenders should be barred for contesting an election for a period of 10 years or above to serve as a deterrent to others.

Benson Oluguo, the Executive Director of CLEEN Foundation also raised concerns about the rising cases of electoral violence saying, in raising politicians remain key drivers of violence during elections.  Also, Chair, partners for electoral reform, Ezenwa Nwagwu who decried what he described as the hijacking of political parties where elected organs within political parties have not been allowed to function effectively. He said, activities of political parties have become transactional saying, those who intend to run must pay huge sums of money, & the delegate system is compromised as well. “The Executive eventually take partial ownership of the running of party conventions. This gives a leeway for the entire process to be anything but independent”, he said.

Other speakers include, Director of Enough is Enough Nigeria, Yemi Adamolekun who also reechoed the need to introduce technology in Nigeria’s election. Idayat Hassan of the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), Akin Akingbolu of the International Press Centre amongst others further helped pushed the envelope on electoral reform in Nigeria.

 

Watch Full Video Below

Citizens TownHall on Electoral Reform 

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29 Jun
0

2023 Elections: Citizens and electoral stakeholders set agenda for electoral reforms

On Tuesday, June 30, 2020, civil society groups will host a Live TV and virtual citizens’ townhall on electoral reforms. The townhall is an opportunity for stakeholders to build national consensus on priority issues for electoral reforms through an inclusive and collaborative process. The townhall is hosted by Yiaga Africa and its partners with support from the European Union. The program will broadcast live on Channels Television (DSTV channel 254 and GOTV channel 95) and Radio Nigeria network service on June 30, 2020 from 6:00pm – 9:00pm.
As Nigeria continues its efforts to entrench democracy, the threats to democratic consolidation have become more insidious resulting in a sharp decline in electoral integrity. Since the 2019 general elections, every off-cycle election conducted by the electoral commission reinforces the fragility of Nigeria’s political system and the imperative of electoral reforms. These reforms if undertaken will improve the quality of public leadership and governance at all levels and also increase public trust in democracy and democratic institutions. This is why Yiaga Africa and its partners believe any meaningful reform should address five key agenda namely; strengthen democratic institutions like INEC, political parties, judiciary; guarantee electoral justice; reform political behavior and practice; sanitize the candidates’ nomination process and lastly, protect the integrity of the process.

The National Assembly began the process of amending the electoral legal framework by introducing bills to amend relevant sections of the Constitution and Electoral Act. In March 2020, the electoral commission released its electoral reform agenda containing over 30 proposed amendments to the 2010 Electoral Act. The agenda contains key priorities for reforms which include; strengthening the financial autonomy of the electoral commission; conferring INEC with the power and conditions for suspending elections; new timelines for campaigns and candidate nomination; disqualification of unqualified candidates; review of election results declared under duress or made contrary to electoral guidelines; diaspora voting; electronic accreditation of voters, improved oversight on political parties amongst others. Civil society groups have also proposed amendments to the electoral legal framework. These proposals are contained in numerous election observation reports. Achieving these proposals require a mindset shift in conceptualizing electoral reforms, facilitating a consensus among key political actors and building on a consultative process to aggregate the needs and preferences of society.

It is against this background that Yiaga Africa and its partners are hosting this live TV and virtual town-hall to promote a national conversation on electoral reforms as the nation prepares for the 2023 general elections. The town hall is an opportunity for critical stakeholders to build consensus on electoral reform priorities. Speakers will be drawn from INEC, National Assembly, Political Parties, Security Agencies, Civil Society, Citizens, Academia and the entertainment industry.

To ensure public participation, the citizens’ townhall will be livestreamed on Channels TV and Yiaga Africa’s pages on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter via #FixElectionsNG. Citizens can send their questions and comments before or during the townhall to Yiaga Africa via SMS or WhatsApp to 09038007744 or email – [email protected]

The event is organized within the framework of the EU Support to democratic governance in Nigeria (EU-SDGN) programme with the following EU-SDGN partners; the Albino Foundation, International Press Centre (IPC), Nigerian Women Trust Fund (NWTF), CLEEN Foundation, European Centre for Electoral Support (ECES), Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC), Westminster Foundation, National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), BBC Media Action, Institute of Media and Society (IMS) and Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ).

–END–

Itodo Samson
Executive Director, Yiaga Africa

For media inquiries please contact: Moshood Isah, Communication Officer, +234 (0) 703 666 9339, [email protected] Learn more about #WatchingTheVote at www.watchingthevote.org or on social media on Facebook at facebook.com/yiaga.org or on Twitter @YIAGA.

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15 Jun
0

Voting Amidst COVID-19: Stakeholders Call for Adequate Security, Enforcement of Safety Precautions for Edo, Ondo Polls

In a bid to facilitate public debate on the impact of COVID-19 on the upcoming Edo and Ondo Governorship elections, Yiaga Africa and Civil Society partners hosted a citizens townhall to harness citizen input into the INEC policy on elections in the context of COVID-19.  The town hall aired on Channels TV highlighted stakeholders’ perspectives on the decision of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to go ahead with the elections despite the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic.

Recall that INEC released its Policy on Conducting Elections in the Context of the Covid-19 Pandemic in Nigeria. The purpose of the policy is ‘to enable officials and staff of the Commission to understand and respond adequately to the challenges of conducting elections in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and its health and financial implications, and to provide a guide for engagement with stakeholders during elections’. The policy will regulate the conduct of the upcoming governorship elections in Edo and Ondo and rescheduled bye-elections. INEC is consulting with relevant stakeholders to solicit feedback on the proposed policy.

The policy drew reactions from health, legal and logistical perspectives among stakeholders and the general public with apprehension on the possibility of conducting credible elections amidst the pandemic. During the citizens town held on Wednesday 3RD June, the National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee of INEC, Mr. Festus Okoye insisted that the commission cannot postpone the date slated for both polls. According to him, the commission is going ahead with the election to avert constitutional crisis. He said, the commission has a mandate to conduct election based on the constitutional provision of Nigeria or it will lose the right to conduct such election.

As part of the plans to protect citizens during the polls, INEC has also said it will enforce the use of facemasks at voting areas. However, Okechukwu Ibeanu, INEC national commissioner on logistics, disclosed that facemasks bearing insignia would not be allowed in the voting centres because it would constitute campaign materials.

Another major stakeholder in the Edo polls and incumbent Governor of Edo state, Godwin Obaseki declared readiness to provide adequate security to citizens before, during and after the election. While appearing during the townhall via video call, Obaseki said the security of lives and property of the people is one of the major priorities saying that the comprehensive security architecture in the state would cascade down to the communities where voting will take place.

The Governor said, “the important thing about what we are doing is we are being transparent, we are being upfront with the challenge and we are developing responses – isolation and treatment centres – to make sure we cope. But most importantly, we are emphasizing on public enlightenment to transmit the message of precautionary measures in containing the spread of the coronavirus”.

“Since we made the use of facemasks compulsory in Edo, we have made facemasks available for local government areas, religious organisations and different societies. We will still continue to ensure compliance because study shows that use of facemasks is an effective means of curtailing the spread of the virus,” he said.

Also reacting to the issue of the use of Facemasks during the meeting is the head of advocacy at the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) Henry Ewononu who raised concerns on possible disenfranchisement of citizens who cannot afford face masks.

He said, “I fear that the INEC policy that states it would only provide face masks to election officials while voters are to come along to the polling units with their own face-covering could lead to the disenfranchisement of citizens and low voter turnout,”

He, therefore, urged the commission to provide face masks for every voter on election day. In contrast, Adele Jinadu, a professor of Political Science, emphasized on the need for the society to share responsibility with INEC, saying the provision of face masks by INEC to every citizen on election day would not feasible.

On his own part, human rights activist and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Femi Falana   predicted a low voter turnout in Edo and Ondo elections saying he does not expect more than 500,000 voters in each of the state.

As regards Face mask, he insisted that the country cannot allow the churches and NGOs to carry out the responsibilities of the government. He said, If INEC insist that every voter must wear a face mask then the commission must go beyond the guidelines to make it work as we cannot rely on churches and NGOs to provide masks.

“We are not talking of hundreds of million (naira) here,” Mr Falana added. “If INEC is going to make 500,000 (masks) at N200 (each), we are talking about hundreds of thousands (naira) not millions as INEC had said. “The elite needs to understand that there are some people who are going through excruciating poverty and these people cannot afford face masks of N200,” he said.

Other stakeholders including political parties and other CSO also raised concerns on conducting a credible election calling for adherence to all safety guidelines ahead of the elections.

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CIDBtownhall
14 Jun
0

Citizens’ Townhall: Stakeholders Share Contrasting Views on Control of Infectious Diseases Bill

In response to the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic the National Assembly is considering the passage of the Control of Infectious Diseases Bill and the National Health Emergency Bill. However, there have been contrasting opinions about the viability of the bills and if they provide a robust legal framework for managing national health emergencies. This informed the citizens’ town hall hosted by Yiaga Africa and other Civil Society Organizations with support from the European Union to access expert and stakeholders opinions on if the bills safeguard human rights and public health.

Stakeholders during the citizens’ town hall aired on Channels Television on Monday 8th June shared contrasting views about the bill, especially as regards existing Acts that could serve similar purposes. The Quarantine Act of 1926 and the Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC) Act of 2018 are such existing legislation that could serve a similar purpose rather than the new proposed bills. Stakeholders also raised the contentious aspect of the bills that have to do with the right to liberty, freedom of association and assembly, arrests without warrant of violators amongst other concerns raised.

Defending the consideration of the bill, Senator Chukwuka Utazi who sponsored the Nationa Health Emergency Bill in the Senate insisted that the bill is very necessary and timely because there are gaps that are existing and we need to fill them. He said the bills are opened to reviews and improvement in order to ensure Nigeria has a legal framework to tackle pandemic. According to him, there is a need for a legal framework as the country cannot continue to depend on executive order saying we are in a democratic system and not a military regime.

The Nigeria Medical Association also quizzed the need for the bill and the urgency in which the National Assembly intend to pass the bill. The association also interrogated the public outcry about the bill and what can be done to assuage the anxiety of the people. Speaking through its head of advocacy Henry Ewunono, Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) argued that Nigeria needs a strong law to handle health emergencies that will in one way or the other curtail liberties of citizens. He however said if the National Assembly has decided to proceed with the bill without consulting, the NMA would not be part of it.

Also speaking during the Townhall is Bukky Shonibare, Executive Director of Girl Child Africa who also argued that Nigeria needs a bill to control, manage the spread of infectious diseases in Nigeria. She said the Quarantine act of 1926 is archaic and can no longer serve the interest of Nigerians, especially with current realities.

Despite the need for the bill, she asked that ‘to what extent does it promote, protect or respect human rights. As a matter of fact revealed that having done an analysis of the bill, at least seven fundamental human rights guaranteed by the constitution is being violated by the bill. She said the bill must also protect the vulnerable groups like women, People Living with Disability, Older Women amongst others. The bill according to her even if it’s going to infringe on human rights must be reasonable, necessary, and proportionate.

Echoing similar thought, founder and chief executive officer of Cedar Seed Foundation, Lois Auta said, when it comes to Infectious Diseases, Persons With Disabilities (PWD) are most vulnerable. Despite having over 20 million PWDs in Nigeria, they are not considered in the Infectious Diseases Bill in terms of accessibility to health care and others, she said.

Human rights activist and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) Femi Falana, who joined the meeting via Skype described the bill as illegal saying the bill is superfluous, unnecessary, unwarranted and unconstitutional therefore it should not be passed. He posited that the bill is bound to fail ‘because if it is passed, it is going to be challenged.’ ” I would like to suggest that the National Assembly to seek sound legal advice so that we do not waste precious resources on a law that is likely to fail or declared null and void,” Falana said.

On her own part, Aanu Rotimi, Program Manager, Health Reform Foundation said, we must look at this issue from a holistic point of view looking at if the bill addresses preparation for health emergencies rather than just responding to health emergencies. She also asked if the bills build a health system that is resilient and looks into the future and not about now.

She raised concerns about the existing legal framework on health emergencies that are not being implemented. According to her, we need to analyze why previous similar legislation is not working instead of adding more to it.

Also, Osai Ojigho, Country Director of Amnesty International in Nigeria questioned the legality of the bill. She said beyond the infringement of human rights, the part of the bill that says a person could be forcibly arrested, quarantined, and vaccinated is worrisome noting that it cannot be challenged by anyone.

“You cannot even take it to the court for review, you cannot challenge the power of the Director-General which means that your right for a review doesn’t even exist, no individual or institution should have such power,” Ojigho noted. She said on the part of Amnesty International, the bill as it is should not stand, and that AI demands a complete overhaul.

Legal practitioner Ayo Obe said the National Assembly should have consulted with the NCDC to identify existing gaps before coming out with a proposal of the bill saying they are putting the cart before the house. She, however, agreed with the position of reviewing the legislation act or come up with either and an amendment to the NCDC or a replacement to the quarantine act.

On the issue of infringement on fundamental human rights of freedom of movement, Ayo Obe a legal practitioner said if a person has an infectious disease, then the person should not be allowed to go about and infect others. “To say it is against the fundamental human rights doesn’t really answer the question because we all don’t want to be infected,” Obe said

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10 Jun
0

For Uwa, Jennifer, Barakat And For The Other Women To Come – Amara Okolo

It is no longer news how rape is a canker-worm eating deep into the Nigerian society. Every day we see stories and news reports of women of all ages, getting raped, sexually harassed and abused either in their workspaces, schools, in public, and in what should be regarded as the safest place of refuge—in their homes. With the advent of social media, these stories get more coverage than they would have in the past. We recall especially the Busola Dakolo interview, and how that changed the perspective of these stories to not just dwell in ‘unknown’ faces, but to be experienced by people who have social celebrity status and affluence. For as long as we know, the Nigerian woman has been blamed for issues arising from rape cases; focusing on what she wore, what she did or where she went before the incident. There have been very few times where the actual rape has been placed on the rapists who are the criminals. Always, the victim bears the brunt of the crime, and she is either chastised by the public or worse, by her family or even the family of the rapist.

Then in May 2020, young Uwa Omozuwa was viciously raped and murdered in a church, and Barakat Bello was raped and stabbed to death behind her own home in Ondo State. Two young women with promising futures cut down in the prime of their lives. The question now comes again to mind: if women are indeed the ones to blame for our rapes, why is it then happening in supposed places of safety and refuge? Why did it happen in a place that Nigerians constantly allude to holiness? As a deeply religious nation, we revere the Church as a sanctuary that is meant to protect us. This was why I believe Uwa went to the Church to read—of all the places in the world where a woman can feel safe, the Church seems to be the only logical place that would provide such safety. Because from the moment a girl-child is born, she is subjected to the despicability of men who commit these hideous acts. Barakat was murdered at the back of her own home, a familiar place she was aware of, where she was supposed to feel safe. But no, apparently that was not safe enough. Where else can women go? Where can we stay safe, away from brutality subjected to us? The home has lost that sanctuary for us, the school is filled with pedophiles, the public in general is an open mouth with teeth waiting to devour us. Where else would a woman feel safety but in the House of God, where it is constantly preached that we are made to feel whole? And yet, even there, surrounded by the ambience of its quietness, these rapists found their way to rape and torture a young girl to a brutal death.

We are no longer going to pretend that this will go away, or worse yet, that it is just like every other rape case that will be forgotten. Sexual violence in Nigeria is something that must be addressed, tackled, choked at the throat with all vehemence. Every day, young girls and women are living in unimaginable fear of dying in the hands of rapists. And if we are fortunate to live, we are being subjected to harrowing futures of mental degradation and torture from the psychological trauma lived. We are beginning to get tired of asking security authorities to protect us from these perpetrators who are roaming our society and causing havoc and grief to our women and families. We are tired of being hashtags, tired of being subjected to ruin because of the virility of men who cannot control themselves. We will begin to call out rapists amongst our society and will subject them to the same ruin that they have inflicted on their victims. You will see us, hear us, and will suffer for your crimes both at the full extent of the law and at the morality of justice within the society and its people. We will no longer be silent; no longer just become a body that is subjected to pain and destruction.

The Nigerian society must learn to listen to women, it must learn to protect women and girls. So much respect and acknowledgement is given to motherhood, but before we become mothers we are women first, young girls who must grow in safety and dignity. We deserve to live as free as you would accord your sons. Our rights to our bodies and speech need to be protected. When women say no, we mean no—accept the consequences of your actions when you do not obey or respect women’s demands. For the voices of Uwa, Barakat and the thousands of girls and women who die at the hands of rapists every day, we say enough is enough. Something must be done. We stand against this cancer eating deep into our society and its system, and with one voice we at Yiaga Africa stand together to join the demand for;

#StateofEmergencyGBV

#JusticeforUwa

#JusticeforBarakat

#JusticeforJennifer

#WeAreTired

#ProtectOurGirls

#NoMeansNo

#NoExcuseforRape

Will you stand with Women and Girls in Nigeria?

Amara Okolo

Lawyer, Author & Masters Student at Vermont College of Fine Arts, United States. She is also part of the Media team in Yiaga Africa.

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07 Jun
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Citizens Townhall on Electoral Reforms

As Nigerians continue to call for #FixElectionsNG, watch out for the upcoming live TV and virtual citizens townhall on electoral reform as the nation prepares for the 2023 general elections.

Join the Citizens’ Townhall on Channels TV
Tuesday, 30th June from 6 pm

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER

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