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Helping Nigerian Teenage Girls Overcome Anxiety

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By Nuhu Muye

In the last decade, rates of anxiety-related disorders among teenagers in the world have steadily risen, particularly in girls. Researchers and psychologists posit several hypotheses about why these rates are on the rise from digital hyper-connectivity to heightened external pressures to simply a greater awareness, and therefore diagnosis, of mental health concerns.

Whatever the causes, there is hopeful news for parents and teens: first, some degree of stress and anxiety is not only normal but essential for human growth.
And if those levels become untenable, there are tested strategies for reining anxiety back in.

As a guidance counsellor, I have spent decades working with adolescent girls and their families in Nigeria.

In recent years, I have noticed a change in how society views stress. “Somehow, a misunderstanding has grown up about stress and anxiety where our culture now sees both as pathological.” The upshot of that is that we have adults and young people who are stressed about being stressed and anxious about being anxious.

Anxiety is a normal and healthy function, and much of the anxiety that Nigeria teenagers express is a sign that they are aware of their surroundings, mindful of their growing responsibilities, and frightened of things that are, in fact, scary. Adults can make a difference simply by “reassuring them that, a great deal of time, stress is just operating as a friend and ally to them.”

Change and stress go hand in hand even if a change is positive. Teenagers’ lives are filled with change: Their bodies and brains are transforming, they usually switch schools at least once between ages five and 12; their academic workload is increasing, and social relationships are constantly evolving. The anxiety that comes with stretching to face these and other challenges is part of how humans develop strength. When I talk with teenage girls, I use the metaphor of exercise: To develop physical strength, you have to slowly push your levels of physical endurance, building up strength through resistance training. Similarly, you should see (a challenge) as an extraordinary weight-training programme for your mind. You are going to walk out of it tougher and stronger than you have ever been.

Stress, emotion and the teenage girls’ brain sometimes reach levels that impede a teenage girl’s ability to navigate life effectively. Thus, one cautions that an emotional outburst in and of itself is not a reliable indicator of mental health. “If you are raising a normally developing teenage daughter, she will have meltdowns. And there’s nothing you can do to prevent that.”

Of course, when it’s your daughter who is sobbing on the bathroom floor, it’s hard to keep this in perspective. When it’s your kid, it’s terrifying and alot of parents are frightened and paralysed in that moment. They wonder: Is this a sign that something is really wrong or that my kid is really out of control?

This is where a little neuroscience might be helpful, the adolescent brain is very gawky and vulnerable to emotion. That gawkiness stems from the extraordinary brain development that happens in adolescence. The brain is upgrading, but in the same order as it initially developed from the more primitive regions that house emotions to the more sophisticated regions that regulate perspective and problem-solving. The result? “When she’s calm, a teenage girl can out-reason any adult. When she’s upset, her primitive regions can hijack the whole system and take it down.”

When your daughter is emotionally overwhelmed, give her a little time. It’s easy to see a meltdown as a fire that’s about to turn into a conflagration. But a storm is a more accurate metaphor. You can’t stop a storm, but you have to wait it out. But these storms do pass. The brain will reset itself. Don’t try to stop the storm or fix it in the moment.

Instead, sit with her, go on a walk together, watch a funny show, or offer her a cup of tea, advise her. After weathering a few storms successfully, “parents and teenagers get to discover that all by itself, the storm will pass. At that point, either the problem completely evaporates and she moves on, or the girl can now look at the problem with clear eyes, assesses it with her prefrontal lobe back online, and figures out what she wants to do.” Responding instead of reacting to teenage girls is particularly sensitive to the cues they receive from parents and teachers from words to facial expressions. How adults respond to teens’ emotional reactions matters a lot. When adults become anxious in response to a teen’s anxiety, it exacerbates the situation.

Helping girls weather stress storms can be excruciating for parents, and she understands the almost primal desire to alleviate the pain, solve the problem for them or remove the stressor such as letting them stay home from school if they are anxious about a test. But avoidance feeds anxiety. Girls often feel stressed because they overestimate the difficulty of a situation and underestimate their ability to deal with it. When they avoid a situation, they miss the opportunity to correct that perception and recognise their own strength. Thus, these two words will be helpful in helping to keep teens in the driver’s seat: “stinks” and “handle.” The concept of “stinks” is a very simple phrase that cuts right through it. It says, ‘I hear you and I’m just going to sit here for a moment and acknowledge that what you are up against isn’t that great. However, empathy goes very, very far in helping them contain what is upsetting them.

Often, there is no simple solution to a stressor, so the next step may simply be acceptance -acceptance of the situation and of their strength to persist through it. It’s the ability to say to yourself, ‘This stinks, but this is something I can handle.’ While on the other hand, the word “handle” is empowering. Girls learn that “by enduring this, she will be able to endure more down the line. She can build up her capacity to handle unpleasant situations.”

Build in recovery time for teenage girls strength training, “you can’t just lift weights day after day after day.”  In order to get the full benefits from the workout, your muscles need a chance to recover and repair. The same holds true for the brain. If teens accept that some level of stress is inevitable, they can spend less time worrying about stress and more time focusing on how they can build in recovery time.

“The good news is your mind recovers a lot faster than your muscles do. But you need to restore yourself so you can go right back in for another workout. Your job is to figure out how you like to recover. What’s the system that really works for you?”  For some teens, playing sports gives them the reboot they need to focus on academics. Another student might benefit from a watching a 22-minute episode of a sitcom, playing with peers, going on a walk or listening to a favourite music playlist.

Having conversations with stressed-out teens about this type of downtime redirects the attention away from the stress and towards the recovery. Students can’t always control the stressors in their life, but they can have a say over how they choose to restore themselves. Researchers and psychologists have shown that the restorative power of sleep is a deprivation that reveals the simplest explanations for the rise in anxiety-related concerns. “Sleep is the glue that holds human beings together.”

The research is unambiguous: When we are sleep-deprived, we are less emotionally resilient. The first question many clinicians ask teens who come in for anxiety is, “How much sleep are you getting?” If they are consistently getting less than seven or eight hours, that’s the first line of intervention. “Teenagers need nine hours a night, middle-schoolers need 10, and elementary students need 11.”

When it comes to sleep, small changes can make a big difference, including completing as much homework as they can during the school day, making judicious choices about how much time they spend on any given assignment, and monitoring social media use in the evening. “Technology is very hard on sleep.” “I’m not anti-social media, but it makes a tremendous difference for teens to not have a phone and computer in the bedroom at night. Teenagers have texts waking them up.”

Because of the melatonin-suppressing effects of blue light emitted from Smartphone screens and other devices, I encourage teens to turn off social media notifications well before going to sleep. But it’s not just the blue light. “Girls will often see something on social media that will keep them up at night and if you ask them, they’ll usually admit this.”

Within that context, adults can offer teenagers empathy, grounded perspectives and a vote of confidence as they work through challenges, helping them aim for courage and not avoidance.

Brave is a positive word, it’s something we aspire to be and built into the word is the understanding that the person is scared and yet they are doing something anyway. Scared is here to stay. Anxiety is part of life. It’s not our job to vanquish these feelings. It’s our job to develop the resources we need to march forward anyway.

*Muye sent this piece from Dutsen-Kura, Minna

COVER

2023 Election:  99 Panels Sat over Petitions – Dongban-Mensem

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By David Torough, Abuja

The 2023 general elections might have come and gone but its memories would continue to linger long in the minds of Nigerians.

The President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Monica Dongban-Mensem, on Monday revealed that 99 panels were set up to sit on election petitions in 2023.

Dongban-Mensem, made this known on Monday in Abuja at the opening of a- two-today workshop to review the 2023 Election Petition Tribunals/Court and Appeals.

The workshop was organised in partnership with the International Foundation for Electoral System (IFES), Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC).

Others are the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) , the UK international Development and the European Union.

The workshop, she said, was organised to ensure that the country‘s electoral process excels and also to learn from errors made and ways to proceed in the process better.

”The need to review the judicial process that preceded the election 2023 was very important. It was a very difficult task, very challenging at the same time.

”A total of 99 panels were set up with three judges sitting in each of them drawn from high courts.

”That was a huge number of judges taken out of our judicial system and dedicated to the electoral process.

”This workshop is important because we are dedicated and committed to ensuring that our electoral process excels.

”We want to learn from our errors, we want to discuss what we found as wrong with our legislation during this election having tried and applied the provisions.

”We are now in the position to say whether or not those provisions can actually move our electoral process forward” she said.

She expressed appreciation to the justices of the court of appeal, judges of the high courts and customary courts; she also thanked development partners for their commitment.

Similarly, the Attorney General of the Federation and minister of justice, Lateef Fagbemi, Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) in his remarks, commended the judiciary for the stabilising role it plays in the electoral process as a nation.

He noted that the Court of Appeal in particular, plays a more pivotal role in shaping and strengthening the electoral jurisprudence, through the exercise of its constitutional mandate in that regard.

”I would like to note that the vision of this workshop which is targeted at promoting judicial excellence, electoral integrity, and democratic governance, accords with the vision of the current administration in the areas of advancing judicial reforms and good governance.

”I am confident that the array of diverse and esteemed judicial icons, legal minds, electoral experts, and other stakeholders will no doubt satisfactorily dissect the issues arising from the theme of this workshop.

” I therefore look forward to the resolutions of this workshop to provide further guidance for me in my commitment to enhancing the quality of administration of justice and adherence to democratic principles in our country.

”Once again, I extend my heartfelt appreciation to the President of the Court of Appeal, IFES and PLAC for the vision, leadership, and dedication to promoting judicial excellence and electoral integrity.

”I also commend all our noble lordships who served either as Chairman or members of the various election petition tribunals/courts, for their hard work and commitment to the course of justice and national development” he said.

The chief justice of Nigeria (CJN) Justice Olukayode Ariwoola noted that political matters always tend to occupy the front burners of the adjudicatory activities.

He added as all existing electoral laws have placed some time frame within which they must be heard and decided.

”So many things have been thrown up in the course of the various adjudications that took place at the different tribunals and courts that we now have to serve on our workshop table for intense rumination and digestion, as it were.

”This workshop is no doubt coming at the most auspicious time. It will, undoubtedly offer us the rare opportunity to review those things that we may have done at our various levels which may not have been done with the best of intention and professionalism.

” Like they always say, it is better late than never. Every given opportunity in life offers us a free ticket to do something novel and more impactful, especially misapplication of discretion.

On his part, executive director, Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre Clement Nwankwo, said the outcome of the judgments was preserved by the citizens’ matters.

He noted that when the election umpire fails the judiciary should stand to correct.

” Review of the past election is very important, review is meant to make us know how to move next time.

”As judges, I know you are guided by the law, the perception and interpretation make the judiciary more prominent.

”You should be able to look at what was done, the judgments given and the decisions taken to ensure that it will be seen as justice,” he said.

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Mutfwang Declares War against Land Invaders in Plateau

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From Jude Dangwam, Jos

The Governor of Plateau State, Caleb Mutfwang has declared that the state would not surrender any of its land to any violent body or group.

Mufwang reiterated his commitment in providing adequate securities to farmers across troubled communities in order to boost food production in the state.

He said this while addressing Berom Nation at the 2024 Nzem Berom Cultural Festival held at the famous Rwang Pam Township Stadium at the weekend in Jos, the Plateau State capital.

Mufwang said the State plays a key role in contributing to national food security and as such machineries have since been put in place to safeguard farmers in this year’s farming season.

“Plateau people are not beggars; if nobody supports us, we don’t ourselves. This resilience kept us together over the years despite the attacks.

“And that is why today; the contribution of the people of Plateau State to the national food basket cannot be underestimated. If not for food that comes from Plateau State, Nigeria will go hungry.

“In the coming days, we will stand shoulder to shoulder to resist those who seek to decimate us, we will stand shoulder to shoulder to protect the land that God has given us for inheritance. Though the giants may be on our way to hinder but God will give us victory, God will be with us as He has always over the years,” he stated

He added, “this year, we are making arrangements to beef up the security around our farmlands, I therefore urged you to go back to the farm, we will not surrender the farmlands to anyone.

“We are trusting God that security will begin to move round and make sure that our people go to the farm and return safely. By the grace of God, we will continue to work with the security agencies on ground and make sure they do their jobs better and better.” He noted

He commended the Berom Nation for their doggedness and determination to add value to their society with the launching and fund raising for the building of a training hub to complement government efforts as a people.

The Governor further appealed to citizens of the state who have gotten fertilizer not to resale them but make good use of the fertilizers on their farms, adding that the state is expecting a little more from the federal government and only verified farmers will have access to them.

Mutfwang promised to redeem the pledges made four years ago to the Berom Nation by the last administration of Simon Lalong at the turn of N25mn.

He equally announced his personal support to the “Wurom Legacy Trust Fund” to support the training of 75 young women, and 75 young men at the Hub respectively.

The President of the Plateau State Council of Chiefs and the Gbong Gwom Jos, Da Jacob Gyang Buba appealed for adequate protection of his people as they returned back to their ancestral land to cultivate which were earlier displaced from.

“Our people have gone back to their lands to continue the age-old traditions of farming. We will appeal that the security works with the government of Plateau state to ensure protection for the people so that we can produce the food that we will need to sustain our lives, not only in Plateau state, but in Nigeria as a whole,” he stated

The Royal father lamented that prices of food have been so disturbing because the demand has kept rising on a daily basis with the supply being shut down by the displacement of locals at various locations in the state.

“The food supply has been shut, not because our people are lazy, but because of the insecurity. And so we will appeal for security so that we can continue to farm and feed our people accordingly.

“We will also appeal to the government to ensure the peaceful coexistence of the people of Plateau State. But like I said, the lands that each ethnic nationality occupies was given by God,” Buba reiterated

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Again, TAJBank Wins ‘Best Islamic Bank Award’

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By Tony Obiechina, Abuja

TAJBank Limited, Nigeria’s fastest-growing non-interest banking services provider, has won the Islamic Finance News’ (IFN’s) “Best Islamic Bank in Nigeria 2023”, beating other nominees from across the global geopolitical zones in the competition.

The IFN’s Organizing Committee stated that the award was conferred on TAJBank in recognition of its superior value-adding, world-class products and innovative service delivery to non-interest banking customers globally.

In his acceptance speech, the bank’s Founder/CEO, Mr. Hamid Joda, commended the IFN’s Committee for the global recognition, saying “the Board and management of TAJBank are grateful for recognizing our bank as an emerging frontline player in the global Islamic banking landscape and my humble self for the IFN Award for 2023.

“As we keep saying, these awards and several others TAJBank has received in the past three years will further encourage us to do more in surpassing the expectations of our growing customers in terms of quality products and service delivery for invaluable value-addition to them and their businesses”, Joda added.

Also commenting on the IFN 2023 awards, the bank’s Co-Founder/Executive Director, Mr. Sherif Idi, lauded “the IFN for the award and our customers for their growing confidence in TAJBank to deliver superior products and services with, in some cases, personalized touches to confirm to them that our only interest is in them.”

The IFN Organizing Committee commended the TAJBank for hard work, persistence, and innovative strategies that enables the bank to make giant strides despite the whirlwinds in the Nigerian economy.

The selection of winners for the 2023 IFN competition was conducted by the IFN Organizing Committee with support from the Redmoney Group, the foremost global provider of specialized Islamic financial media services across three core divisions of events, publishing, and training.

It would be recalled that TAJBank had won the BusinessDay newspaper’s ‘Islamic Bank of The Year’ awards for 2021, 2022 and 2023 and before then clinched the Leadership newspapers’ ‘Bank Of The Year Award’ in 2020, amongst other laurels since it commenced operations three years ago. 

In recognition of the non-interest lender’s strict compliance with global best practices, particularly in information security standards in all areas of its operations, TAJBank in 2022 received the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) certification and three International Standards Organization (ISO) certifications by the Certification Partner Global (CPG), namely ISO 27001, ISO 22301, and ISO 20000 on Information Security, Business Continuity, and IT Service Management Systems.

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