Senator Emmanuel Yisa Orker-Jev, served for 12 years as a member of the House of Representatives for Buruku Federal Constituency, Benue State. Among other positions, Orker-Jev, erudite Lawyer, public affairs commentator was Chairman of the House Committee on Business and Rules, a position that made him a central figure in the affairs of the 8th House of Representatives as far as legislative business was concerned.
What is your take on the outcome of the 2019 general elections?
Generally, I would always try to be very careful about the issue of elections
I was a participant and was in my village, in the field.
Well, I can say that as far as my constituency and Benue State at large, the elections were generally free and fair.
It was after the elections, as my result was declared that I started reading else where some forms of manipulations and other forms of untoward processes.
Although the matter is in the tribunal, I rather wait for what the tribunal would say. As a lawyer, whatever happens, it is the interpretation of what happened and would be taken as a final say of the matter.
What was responsible for you defeating Senator Akume in the general election ?
You see election is submitting yourself to the people, they take the decision on you.
I have been winning elections before and I also lose election, so it can’t be that because you won several elections so you must always be winning.
Election is like a referendum on your representation. If you were elected to represent. So it gets to a point when the people would say please another person should come and represent us.
I look at it that way, just because he was a governor for 8 years and a senator for 12 years doesn’t mean he would not one day leave the seat for another person and so he left it for me as the people preferred me this time around.
When the INEC declared you winner, what was on your mind, how did you feel?
Don’t take me as an arrogant person if I tell you I always knew I was going to win this election.
I tell people that if I would have come out against Akume in 2011, I would have probably destroyed my career because he was at the peak of his career, then same for 2015 but I watched the environment, you know I was his follower. I watched the environment and saw at a point I was convinced with myself that he has outlived his usefulness as far as representation is concerned, that was when I made my move and since I made my move every thing on the ground told me I was going to win that election.
So I’m saying this with all sense of humility.
So it was just a confirmation of what I thought would happen.
But humanly speaking I was overwhelmed, it was as the days went by that the whole import of what happened sank into me, and I know also the Nigerian factor would also come in where you would win elections and someone else would be announced. And so when I won, you would notice that there were two days of back and forth, trying to get himself announced that was when the anxiety really set in but after the announcement I got myself that this is it.
What else gave you the confidence and what were the strategies you used to triumph?
It wasn’t an overnight thing, my coming out for the senate. To start with, it was my immediate constituents whom I represented for 12 years, who said look, you would have to go for the senate which was originally supposed to come from our place.
But when he was seasoned out as a governor he went and took a loan from us and the people felt the 12 years of representation were not worth for them that was why they told me to go in for them.
If I would refuse I should forget about House of Representatives, but I didn’t take the decision because I knew Buruku is just one out of seven Local Government Areas in the Senatorial and even if hundred per cent of Buruku voted for me I wasn’t going to become the next senator of the zone.
So I went underground and did my consultation across the remaining six local government areas and everywhere I went the only question mark was weather I would not chicken out if we support you, because they were afraid that since I had been a boy so to say to the man maybe when much pressure is mounted on me would chicken out.
When I convinced them all over that I wasn’t going to be so, I would not put a food forward and take it back again, I started having massive support.
So if there is anything like war chest, it was the confidence of the people that gave me a going forward and not war chest in monetary terms.
It became a straight forward strategy at a point people were coming to me persuading me to go for the race and it became popular even before I made my intentions public.
What is your vision as a senator representing Benue north – west senatorial district?
Let me tell you what I do when I was representing Buruku at the house of representatives. I never went out even though my mission was to upgrade the standard of living of the people.
You know Buruku is nearly hundred per cent a rural setting there is no town in the real sense of the word.
There, my legislative agenda used to be youth and rural development. Along that we were able to attract those that would evaluate and upgrade the standard of living of the people.
So, I never made promises when ever I was going out for an election.
I always submitted myself to the community, visit to let them tell me what their problems are and put them in a paper form that when I go there I would know what to attract to them and not seat somewhere and assume this may be their priorities.
You go to certain communities and assume they lack water and provide water for them they would be happy but would say: if only you asked us, we would have preferred medical facilities here.
So even at the larger environment, I still used the same tactics. A month ago, I put together what we call ‘open assembly’ where members of the constituency and other resource persons were brought together to proffer solutions to each community’s priorities. But generally I’m not happy at the rate of unemployment we have in the State although we can’t give direct employment but can make policies that would affect employment.
I’m not too happy that there are no industries but also believe that this mentality of I get out of school, I will get white – collar job needs also to be discouraged by asking the youth to look inwards. Some are already creative, just a little push they would be employers of labour themselves.
So these are the things I think if we partner with the governor, thank God for the first time since my 12 years in the house of representatives, I have a very good working relationship with the governor of the state. Now we are working very well and also with my brother senators in the State, I believe things would be better than ever.
What are your views to resolve the lingering herders – farmer crisis in the state?
Well this is not something that would be done through legislative intervention. In the last assembly as the chairman on the house committee of rules and business, I had a privilege of viewing four bills on ranching and open grazing, and also as a legal adviser of the house, I went through it and the extant laws and told them that considering the position of the legal framework of the land use act, we can’t seat in Abuja and enact a law that would cover the operation of lands across the country, because each land is in the custody of the governors of the respective states.
So if we do a law here and the governor says no, I m not going to deliver any land for the said use, then the project would be useless. So as a result of that advise, all the bills were withdrawn and I gave an interview or was someone thinking alike or my state took up the the challenge and came up with the law providing for ranching in the state. Ekiti did same, Taraba did same. So the federal government can seat along with the governors and put their heads together but the solution would have to be local in each state of the federation.
Like when the RUGA thing came, some states in the north rushed to the villa indicating their interest. However, some are not ready. So this is not something you can seat and give bracket policy that go and impose because it will not work as some states even if they are prepared, that the land may not be there. Some states are heavily populated so the federal government even if they have good intentions, have not thought out well.
It is not one of those things that can be done by the legislature because our hands are tied by the land use Act and it is such that it cannot be amended by the national assembly alone but requires the involvement of the states.
So is not something you can just rush in because the national assembly has a majority, nobody is happy that you now have thousands of people in IDPs camps. Also, Benue state is known as the food basket of the nation and has its farmers in the IDPs camps, that doesn’t augur well for even as survival as a people.
How do you see future of electioneering in Nigeria?
As the Chairman of Business and Rules, I was closely involved in and following what was going on the electoral amendment bill. At a point, it became very clear that for some reasons the President never wanted that bill to be signed before election.
Because four times the bill was rejected and backed up with excuses that were not there in the first place.
So in other bills, sometimes when they make corrections and came we took notice of the corrections and thought it would be signed but on this one, on each successive attempt, new things came up. I told someone that its like the president and his people don’t want the bill.
That amendment was a product of intensive consultation with the public and experts who input their expertise and was seen as correction to our democracy. We believe that now that Mr. President has been declared the winner of the election, if the tribunal affirmed his victory, we are hoping that no such encumbrance again to avoid his signing. I think things would have been much better because now they are beginning to use the same thing which we tried prescribing for which are the reasons why certain things were not done. The beginning of a good government is the election that brought them into the office. If you were rigged into the office, who for some reasons couldn’t be in the office but came in, you could be assured that the fidelity would not be to the people’s interest but to the interest of others than people. For me that is the basis of good governance.
Do you share the view that politicians are spending too much amounts of money on elections? How do we reduce the use of money in our politics?
I share the view that politics is monetized. I know. I was thoroughly harassed during the election, I was asked to bring the money I have been making for the past 12 years in the House of Representatives and the money was not there. I told them if I have been keeping the money I would not have won elections because I’m the first to win elections in Buruku to have ever won any elections not even a councillor has repeated elections. I was the first to repeat any elections, because apart from the projects, I was solving little problems.If you come to me with a problem and and I see its genuine, there is no way I would ask you to go away or push you back. How can I be doing this and still be keeping money somewhere? So if its money it means you would not vote me as the senator, that was what I told them.
But I would agree with you that the rate at which we have monetized our elections, I think is certainly not good for our politics because nobody that is spending millions on elections is not a charity, he would be finding ways of getting back his money.
Otherwise, while would somebody do that and so long as you would continue to have corruption because it should not be so. If someone is going for the state assembly and is spending millions, well, what did you expect to happen at the end of the day? I share in the view of some people who feel that the whole thing is over monetized. The last amendment sought to take care of that but the problem is that how would you monitor that when even INEC is handicapped because even if the parties bring in their reports but would they be realistic? There are no ways of tracking money as some would have money under their pillows dishing out, how can it be tracked or how would INEC or political parties know how much you have spent on elections?
Is the fight against corruption working?
Well I don’t know because a lot of people have different views depending on who you ask, some say is selective, some say is not working at all.
When president Buhari came in people became scared even before he took any step as a no nonsense person but once he came in, he started to look like there are certain things you do and get away it. For instance if you are in PDP and join APC your sins are forgiven to go and sin no more and so the smart ones started taking advantage and so it started to look very unserious of the fight and the steam was no longer there.
Some people would argue that even if he was selective once one has done wrong he should be penalized not minding which party he belongs.
The Secret to Raising Children with Special Needs Without Exhaustion
Raising a child with special needs in Nigeria can be extremely tiring for most parents. They also have to deal with strange ideas and theories about what caused their child’s condition, which leads to being excluded from society.
In a recent interview with DAILY ASSET News Editor, Prosper Okoye, the Executive Director of Elsali Care Foundation, Goodnews Emeka-Agadah, discussed the severe consequences faced by these children and shared her secret for managing the stress of caring for them, among other topics.
What is your foundation about?
Elsali Care Foundation was born out of a passionate drive that began during my national youth service days.At that time, I encountered parents with children who had special needs, and many of them were unaware of their child’s condition or the care they required. Consequently, they would confine their children at home, awaiting their eventual death.
I was able to offer assistance in some cases due to my familiarity with the conditions affecting such children, as I had a cousin who had a child with cerebral palsy, a kind of special need. Regrettably, society has yet to comprehend the distinctiveness of these children. My cousin lost her marriage due to her child’s condition, as people attributed the child’s condition to her own wrongdoing, claiming it was retribution catching up with her.
After completing my service, I joined a non-governmental organization that catered to orphans and vulnerable children, but they provided no support for children with special needs.
Upon observation, I discovered that there are numerous such children in society, and their parents are struggling. Many of these parents are unaware of their child’s condition or where to seek help. It was at this point that I told myself, “I possess significant knowledge about this condition, so let me step in and assist them.” That is how the foundation was established.
We advocate for these children since they are vulnerable and unable to advocate for themselves. We are consistently present for them, providing them with protection. Our primary focus is helping these children realize their potential.
Because we’ve known that when they receive proper care from an early age, there can be a significant improvement that enables them to maximize their potential and lead fulfilling lives.
We offer them clinical therapy, educational support, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and behavioral therapy.
We also aim to incorporate vocational support, as it is through this avenue that they can acquire skills to become more valuable members of society. However, currently, we do not possess the capacity to do so.
How can we identify a child with special needs?
Special needs is a term that encompasses both physical and neurodevelopmental disabilities. In our foundation, we primarily focus on children with neurodevelopmental disabilities, such as autism, Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), learning disorders and others.
In more concrete terms, although very unfortunate, society often perceives children with special needs as unintelligent because some may have difficulty speaking, while others may exhibit hyperactive and destructive behaviors.
Regarding physical disabilities, we refer to children who are physically impaired, deaf, or nonverbal.
How do you support orphans since you don’t have a home in your facility?
Apart from the special school center, the foundation takes part in community programs. During these programs, we come across some children who, just by looking at them physically, we know need help. And when we dig deeper, we find out that their parents have passed away, and they live with their relatives.
These are another group of children we work with. We assist them through the relatives they live with. For those who are not attending school, we help them get back into school.
Honestly, when it comes to providing for their nutritional needs, I must say we do very little due to lack of funds.
They appear undernourished, but in our small way, we provide them with some provisions through their caregivers because you can’t talk about children without considering their caregivers.
What has the journey been like so far?
We’ve been working behind the scenes since 2013, and we have many memorable success stories. Actually, every child we help is memorable because when we first meet them, their situation is very sad.
Sometimes it’s so bad that we can’t help but cry, especially when we see their parents’ tears and frustration.
Most parents tell us that their child was born healthy, just like any other child. But around the age of one or two, the child starts losing all their thinking and learning abilities.
The parents feel very frustrated and wonder if it’s some kind of magic or curse from their village. But after talking to them, they start to understand over time.
Despite the financial burden and surprisingly, the negative attitude from the public, we keep going because of the many successes we’ve achieved over the years.
For instance, when we go to some places to raise awareness about this condition, we often face rejection because people think these special children don’t belong there.
But they don’t understand that other children, in fact everyone else should learn how to relate to and treat children with special needs.
These children face discrimination from their own relatives and other children who should be their friends.
Some schools don’t want to accept them, and even when they do, they keep them separate from the other children.
We object to this unfair treatment and try to make people understand that they need to think like the special child does to understand why they act the way they do.
We have an amazing story of a 15-year-old child with Down syndrome. When he first came to us, he couldn’t do anything. We started helping him by teaching him to use the toilet because it was so bad that he would eat his own waste if left alone.
We also did many other therapies with him, and within just a few months, he started improving some of his behaviors. We even managed to help him stop using diapers.
There are other numerous success stories like this one. Indeed, just knowing that we could help a child and ease the burden for their parents brings us a lot of happiness and fulfillment.
What exactly could cause a child who is born without any issues to experience regression?
It is a neuro-developmental issue. It’s similar to when we have malaria and experience certain symptoms. For some children with autism, we notice these symptoms, which we refer to as red flags, as they grow up.
It is a condition that exists within them and influences their behavior, not something caused by external factors like their village people.
Some regressions can be attributed to a lack of essential vitamins or the presence of excessive mercury in their bodies. Others may be linked to low levels of certain microorganisms.
While ongoing research is being conducted, some regressions can be traced back to genetic conditions.
Additionally, problems during delivery, such as improper handling or prolonged labor, can also contribute to regression. The age of the parents can also play a role. Older parents have a higher likelihood of having a child with Down syndrome.
How do you cope with exhaustion while taking care of these children?
The issue of children born with special needs is of utmost importance to address as a matter of public concern. Approximately 10 out of every 50 children born each year are likely to have some form of special needs.
Furthermore, it is expensive and challenging to solely provide care for these children, even for parents with substantial resources.
We face numerous challenges as an organization, but the primary one is the lack of public awareness, which leads to stigmatization.
We require assistance in raising awareness to inform the public that these children with special needs are just as human as anyone else. They have emotions and experience pain.
Additionally, there is a need for improved implementation of policies by the government. While laws and policies exist to prevent discrimination, there is a lack of mechanisms for effective implementation.
Furthermore, we lack sufficient personnel in this field. Several individuals have come to work and volunteer to help the children, but they often cannot stay due to the demanding and strenuous nature of the work. In some cases, it is because the remuneration is not adequate for them, but we can’t help it because of the unavailability of funds.
For me, what prevents exhaustion is the love I have for what I do. If I were not motivated by financial gain, working with children with special needs would still be a job I would choose and strive to excel at. I see them as my own children.
However, I cannot do this job alone; we need stakeholders to assist us in extending these services to rural areas and other hard-to-reach places.
We require funds to train and motivate individuals to join us in the mission of reaching out to these special children, as it is not their fault that they were born this way.
It is also crucial to train parents on how to raise these children.
We must raise awareness in society to create more inclusive opportunities in schools, workplaces, and all other spheres of society.
We need more partnerships.
Children with special needs can grow up to become professionals, although they may lean more towards artistic pursuits and display greater inventiveness. Many celebrated musicians and footballers, such as Ronaldo, were actually children with special needs. Therefore, early interventions are crucial as the brains are still developing.
Japa Syndrome: Reflection on the Current Situation – Dr. Emeka
In light of the soaring cost of living as a result of petroleum products’ hike in price and other economic woes, many Nigerians have embarked on a quest to leave the country in search of greener pastures abroad. In this interview with Prosper Okoye, the news editor of DAILY ASSET, migration expert Dr.
DAILY ASSET: Japa has become a daydream for most people.How has this impacted migration in Nigeria?
Dr. Emeka Obiezu: It is evident.The entire migration trend revolves around sustaining one’s livelihood and fulfilling their dreams. We refer to this as the driving force behind migration. The primary reason people leave or desire to leave is because they are living in an unfavorable environment and they believe that another place offers better prospects and the fulfillment of what they lack in their current situation. Nigeria has consistently witnessed a migration trend driven by economic motives, such as the lack of opportunities, unemployment, job insecurity, and even threats to personal safety and property. This is not unique to Nigeria; it is a common feature in migration trends worldwide. Out of the 281 million international migrants, 169 million are labor migrants who move primarily due to economic reasons. This means that there are either no immediate job prospects or their current employment is unsatisfactory or lacks job security. It could also involve changing jobs that motivate their move. The trend suggests that if the economic conditions in their home country improve, the migration curve will decline. However, if the opportunities remain stagnant, the graph will also remain stable, and if the lack of opportunities increases, the migration outflow will rise accordingly. Therefore, the concept of “japa” is merely a way of encapsulating the prevailing economic conditions in Nigeria and the lack of opportunities that drive the migration curve upward. Although there are other factors involved, they are intertwined. For instance, the anticipation of the outcome of the 2023 election has already instilled fear and anxiety, leading to uncertainties about the future for many Nigerians. This intensifies the desire to find a better place before the situation worsens or they become trapped here. Unfortunately, the outcome of the election did not improve matters. The implications of the political landscape reverberate through the economy. As you can see, even someone who had no prior plans to travel suddenly wants to leave this week, as the resources they have, including transport fare, are no longer sufficient. This has a ripple effect on every other aspect of life.
DAILY ASSET: What could be the implication of this trend?
Dr. Emeka: There are so many things that could come out of it. One is to look at it in terms of nation-building. If we have a high percentage of workforce outflow, then it would adversely impact the nation-building of the country in terms of jobs and quality of job. What is really disheartening is that the rise in the flow rate is higher for skilled workers and professionals. Like I heard one of the doctors’ associations demanding the new president to declare a state of emergency in the health sector, and that is just them. The labour union is on the street, and so many other sectors are also crying of losing their best. One of the presidential candidates use the term from consumption to production, so I don’t know if the skilled work population leaves whether we would achieve production against consumption. Well, the one sitting now did not campaign on that, so that may not be his concern. There is always a flip-up from the other end, Nigeria benefits so much from the diaspora engagement. We hope, this is a question of hope because diaspora remittances translate to the desire of the diaspora to contribute to nation-building and the availability to do that. We have had a good report in terms of how our diaspora is interested in giving back to the community, and so if we still maintain over $23 billion as our inflow from our diaspora, maybe this number of people that are going out may increase that poll in terms of higher remittances coming back home. If the diaspora also ventures from their different field it can also reflect in nation-building in such a way that it does amount to a complete loss.
DAILY ASSET: How would you evaluate the Nigeria Migration System?
Dr. Emeka: Our lives as migrants and actors of migrants are characterized by dynamics. We live in the moment; in other words, today speaks for itself. Not that we have cut off completely from our past, but we use today to judge how the past was utilized well, and whether the present is active enough or the future is venturing at all.
Having been in the migration sphere in the last few years, I could, in fairness, identify progress in the management of migration in Nigeria. In other words, there are more conscious efforts by actors to come together. The coming together of different stakeholders to think through what could be the best options for situations around is helping us to gain more insight and experiences from people who have worked in different spaces of migration outside our own space. It also helps us to squarely address the issues at hand. Nigeria has also come up with instruments to help in the management of migration. The policies that were made before 2018 are being reviewed, and some action plans have been developed for their implementation. Some have even gone a step further by establishing memoranda of understanding and operating procedures that would guide implementers. Migration governance instruments are a key element in managing migration. When we have all those instruments that we can fall back on, it helps both the implementers and the advocates to have something to refer to, either to push for more things or to measure what has been done. So, in that direction, I would say yes we have made progress. But, have we done enough to say that we have our migration issues under control? Not yet. I think what needs to be desired in that direction is what I call committed ownership of the migration issues in terms of framing the question, designing the plan, and following through with the implementation. Somehow, it would be fair to say that our migration governance is reactive. The reason I say that is because what we do now is spurred by what others do, particularly international partners, either governments or international organizations, who raise issues and we follow suit. For instance, the major trend in migration governance up until now has been the issue of return, readmission, and reintegration. This is because the Western world is trying to clean their environment of what they call unwanted persons, that is, migrants who are in irregular status. Because they want to push them away, they get in touch with us saying they want to return our people and ask what they should do to accomplish that. Then we tell them to design a package that when they come back, it will help them reintegrate into economic activities and others. They buy into it for their own interest and begin to design various projects and programs around it. That is what we have been pursuing for a number of years now, which is why I can say that it is reactive. Another reactive aspect of it is when our people are stuck in Libya or some other place, and then we rush in to see what we can do about it. However, we could have taken proactive migration governance that looks at the development issues that are the root causes of this movement. We have not done enough because it requires political will, which has to translate into the financial budget. We have experts who design policies, but they end up in the political space because there is no political will to implement them. Somebody says political will is simply defined as putting your mouth where your money is or putting your money where your mouth is. In other words, if I say this, there is something to back it. I would want to see an intentional act done by Nigeria’s migration governance, to say in the next quarter, we are going to do intentional advocacy or policy that will align with the government’s national development policy plan to say, “Do this or do that,” and we can observe the number of people it would help prevent from migrating. For instance, we can consciously create specific job opportunities targeting demographics that we know are prone to migrate and provide them with those opportunities. By doing so, we can assess how many would benefit from it and how many would choose not to leave. If we begin to implement such measures, we can say that we are holding our migration governance to a radical, proactive approach that allows us to design it instead of merely following the fallout from other places.
DAILY ASSET: There appears to be a deliberate effort by certain countries to keep Nigerians away from their country. What are your thoughts on this? And how can one leave wisely, as you always advise?
Dr. Emeka: I can explain that with a simple example. If you want to visit a friend, what would be the wise thing for you to do if I ask you that question?
DAILY ASSET: I don’t answer questions (chuckles).
Dr. Emeka: Alright. The wise thing to do is to call up your friend and confirm if they are available. Then the person will inform you how to get to their house and any specific instructions, such as having dogs in the house and how to ensure they don’t come after you. You would also discuss the duration of your visit and the purpose of your visit. All these details should be discussed and agreed upon before you embark on your journey. That is the right way to visit someone, even if it is a family member.
Migration is a human right for every person. You can move whenever and for any reason you want to move. However, entering the place you are going to is also the human right of another person. They need to know who is coming, what they are coming to do, and how long they intend to stay. Therefore, for this action to be completed, there must be a relationship between the person who is moving and the person receiving them. That is why we advise that the wise way to move is to obtain all the necessary documents that will enable the migrant to do so legally and safely.
So, how do you begin? Firstly, you need to identify yourself by obtaining a passport. With your passport, let’s say you, as a Nigerian, want to go to Country B. In order to enter Country B, you need to inquire about the requirements set by Country B for entry and the purpose of your visit. Based on that, they may inform you that you need a work visa, for example. To obtain a work visa, you will be given the requirements, and once you fulfill them, you can obtain the visa at the embassy of Country B.
However, having a visa to enter the country does not automatically guarantee your entry. The immigration officer at the border needs to confirm your identity and the purpose of your visit. They may also specify the conditions and duration of your stay. For instance, if you are given a 30-minute stay, it is your responsibility for the sake of your dignity and credibility to leave once the time is over. If, for any reason, you decide to overstay, thinking that the place is comfortable and you prefer to stay a bit longer, you would be violating the agreement and entering an irregular status.
The issue of a deliberate effort to prevent people from entering certain countries is one of the reasons why irregular migration thrives. If I want to enter your country and you don’t want me to, I may be unable to obtain a visa or face harsh conditions if I do. In such situations, someone may approach me and suggest an alternative way to enter the country without going through those procedures. This creates opportunities for individuals engaged in smuggling operations. However, it doesn’t benefit anyone. It doesn’t benefit the country, nor does it benefit the migrant involved. It exposes the migrant to various dangers and makes it difficult for the country to manage its resources.
As migration actors, we urge countries and everyone involved in the migration issue to make the pathways for regular migration as accessible as possible. Furthermore, we appeal that for those who are already in a country and are in an irregular status, instead of detaining or deporting them, opportunities should be created for them to regularize their status. This approach preserves their dignity and enables them to contribute positively to their home country and help those they left behind.
DAILY ASSET: Are there strategies in place by the government or civil society associations to assist those affected by conflict and victims?
Dr. Emeka: One of the primary elements of migration governance is to protect migrants throughout the entire migration process, from their decision to leave to their eventual return. The human rights of migrants are of utmost importance, and we work towards ensuring their protection. This is because they are human beings and every individual’s rights should be safeguarded regardless of their status. There are several measures in place. For refugees, there is the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees that provides protection. For migrants, there is a convention on migrants’ rights and the rights of their families. The International Labour Organization has established labour policies to prevent discrimination and promote fair recruitment, among others. Nigeria has also signed international conventions and developed national policies and programs to protect migrant workers. One example is the establishment of NAPTIP (National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons). Their responsibilities include combating human trafficking, rescuing and protecting victims, and prosecuting offenders. Some instrumental policies include the National Migration Policy and the National Policy on Labour Migration. These initiatives provide opportunities for protecting migrant workers and preventing exploitation in various ways.
DAILY ASSET: How effective are these policies?
Dr. Emeka: The effectiveness of these policies depends on the individuals and entities responsible for their implementation. The challenge we face with policies is their execution, and this is not unique to Nigeria. It is a global governance issue. Some actors may argue that policies are put in place by the government but do not lead to any tangible outcomes. However, as advocates, we see these policies as a means to hold the government accountable. We persistently push for their implementation until at least one migrant receives the intended protection. To some extent, the Nigerian government is improving its efforts to protect migrants, particularly those who are returning. We are establishing bilateral relationships with other countries to ensure that there are no detentions, reduce deportations, and provide opportunities for voluntary return with dignity. Therefore, the implementation of these policies is gradually taking shape.
DAILY ASSET: The increasing number of returnees is a cause for concern. Does your organization engage in any initiatives to support their reintegration into society?
Dr. Emeka: The reason why numbers are highlighted in the media is because there is now a structured process in place for documenting and managing these returns. These efforts are aimed at organizing the return processes. Reintegration is a crucial component of the return process, enabling individuals who have completed a migration cycle to reintegrate into their local communities in a sustainable manner. The goal is to ensure that they do not face the same fears or economic and political pressures that compelled them to migrate in the first place.
This is known as sustainable reintegration, and it begins even before the person returns. They are made aware of the conditions in their country of return and are provided with orientation and available opportunities. These opportunities may include education, vocational training, and business training. We focus on both individual and community reintegration. Individual reintegration addresses the specific needs of each person and follows their journey until they are able to rebuild their lives in a sustainable manner.
Community reintegration involves bringing together a group and engaging the receiving community. The community plays an active role, designing and managing projects that address the needs of potential migrants and aim to reduce irregular migration.
As a civil society organization, our network comprises over 240 organizations, many of which are grassroots actors. These organizations implement various projects, such as providing shelters. In fact, the first male shelter designed to receive returnees was built by a member of our network, the Patriotic Citizen Initiative. Our members collaborate with the government based on their areas of focus. Some provide psychosocial support, guidance, shelter, family tracing, and monitoring of the reintegration process. Together, they form the return and reintegration working community within Nigeria’s migration governance framework. This collaboration occurs at different levels, including the federal level, monitoring and evaluation groups, and other governance structures that bring actors together to coordinate our activities.
DAILY ASSET: There have been allegations that shelter homes for returnees in Nigeria are poorly managed, and that individuals who leave these shelters are worse off than when they entered. What is your honest assessment of the shelter homes in Nigeria?
DR. Emeka: If these are mere allegations, they should be treated as such unless there is substantial evidence to support them. Therefore, I won’t comment directly on those specific allegations. However, it is important to recognize that institutions are operated by human beings, and there may be instances where human weaknesses such as neglect or abuse occur. It is crucial to ensure that both civil society organizations and government actors maintain oversight of these centers to prevent any form of abuse or compromise of the beneficiaries. From my personal experience, the shelter homes I have worked with have been exceptional in their operations.
DAILY ASSET: Alright, is the Nigerian Migration policy keeping pace with the current migration reality?
Dr. Emeka: The Nigerian migration policy was formulated in 2015, and it did not anticipate the specific circumstances of 2023 since it could not predict the future. Therefore, it served the purpose at the time of its creation. However, the policy was not designed to be permanent and unchangeable. It included provisions for review, allowing for adjustments based on evolving policies. The review process is currently underway, taking into account the present experiences and dynamics of migration trends. This review has involved a wide range of actors contributing to the development of different processes. The ultimate aim is to address both evident and underlying issues related to migration. It is important to acknowledge that as human beings, our actions are limited by our knowledge and vision. Nonetheless, we strive to do our best and ensure that our policies align with the realities we are encountering.
DAILY ASSET: Finally, what would you recommend that the new administration prioritize?
Dr. Emeka: My advice is for all Nigerians, whether it’s the government or individuals, to work towards building a better Nigeria. The current state of migration reflects the fact that Nigeria is not favorable for many people, and we cannot deny this reality. It is not unpatriotic to acknowledge that Nigeria is not favorable to many individuals. Having experienced Nigeria outside of the country, I have witnessed the longing and regret in the eyes of those who left and wish they had stayed. They left because Nigeria is not favorable to them. It is the responsibility of everyone, whether in private or public spaces, to contribute to creating a favorable environment. Key aspects to address include security, job opportunities, social life, social services, social insurance, and everything that ensures basic comfort for individuals. This is my suggestion and recommendation to all Nigerians. We cannot achieve this overnight, but if people observe a clear direction of progress, it will be encouraging and may dissuade some individuals from undertaking forced migration. Our ultimate goal is to make migration a choice, not a necessity. Currently, it is viewed as a necessity because people feel trapped and believe that if they don’t leave, they don’t know what will happen. We are desperately seeking any opportunity to escape the limited space we feel confined in.
Next Plateau Governor must Epitomize Gomwalk – Tanko
As political activities leading to the 2023 General Elections are on top gear in Plateau State, Honourable Sati Tanko, Special Adviser to Governor Simon Lalong in this Interview with Jude Dangwam gave a hint on the kind of a new governor the state needs come 2023. He expressed worry that the State falling into the hands of political godfathers
Plateau State has seen different qualities of governors.
Plateau State should be expecting a leader that will be tolerant, not fanatical about tribe or religion and must be a leader that will carry all the tribes in the state along.I said this because this idea of minority, majority dichotomy has always shown it’s ugly heads in the various leaderships we have had over the years as a state and it has not done us any good.
During the Chief Solomon Lar period when we were together with Nasarawa State, we didn’t see such division along tribes or religion, the dichotomy was about the Southern and Upper Plateau, there was no primodial sentiments as it is now.
Unfortunately, when Solomon Lar left power unceremoniously, because of the coup that toppled him, led by the current President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria President Muhammadu Buhari.
Plateau State has been devastated by a lot of crises. We have lost a lot of properties; we have lost our senses; we have lost our unity; we have lost the umbilical code that bound us as a people. Why? Because tribalism has eaten deep into the fabric of our politics. Religion has eaten deep into the fabric of our politics. We have preferred primordial interest to state interest that will unit us and build our economy.
The kind of leadership I will want is a combination of all the leaders that we had. We must have a leader with the spirit of J.D Gomwalk. Why did I say so? It is because the leadership spirit of late Gomwalk was to go out there and get. It was a competitive spirit that struggled within the then 12 states of the Nigerian nation.
That is why he brought the now University of Jos; he brought Benue Plateau Radio; The Nigeria Standard Newspaper among others. Yhat was the spirit. Solomon Lar came and had the maturity of tolerating all the various tribes of the former Plateau, covering the present day Nasarawa State.
Virtually everybody was contented. He was able to bring all the tribes through his programme of emancipation that he developed and he succeeded in emancipating all the downtrodden tribes of the Plateau. Those tribes that were suppressed by feudal lords were emancipated and that was maturity.
We had Ambassador Fidelis Tapgun whom I consider as a stateman in his own right. He was coming from the bureaucratic setting, as a Permanent Secretary who had worked with so many military governments in the country. So, he knew Plateau State inside out because he was a student of Solomon Lar and he was able to marry some of Lar’s programmes by building schools, and paying the SSCE registrations fees for students among other things in the larger Plateau State and people appreciated those programmes because of the poverty level at that time.
It got to the time of Joshua Dariye who was coming from the economic background as an accountant. He came in with his welfarist package and there was no hunger in the land, lifting up the standard of living of the citizens and I think he did well. The building and commencement of academic activities at the State University Bokkos is a credit to him, an institution that has raised so many people today.
When you talk of Baba Jonah David Jang, he is stubborn to some extent. Stubborn in the sense that he did not allow other factors make his thinking overlap. He remained focused on what he want to achieve. So those factors that wanted to not just pulled him down per say but to change his thinking saw him as a very stubborn leader.
Infact he is a man that came with a kind of programmes for Plateau people. But because of the forces that were and the insecurity that time, Baba Jang became a fighting bull with the Federal authority given the power that be at that time and they tagged him recalcitrant, but to the masses of Plateau State I think he did his best too because he was able to introduce a kind of nationalism that today you find it in the minds of natives of Plateau State.
Lalong came with his peace mantra and I think, to a greater extent he has succeeded because there are no more ‘No Go Areas’ as we had before now. Business and social night activities are going on now than it used to be. Although there are pocket of attacks in hinterlands but the Lalong administration has been able to stabilize the security situation within the Jos-Bukuru metropolis.
So, the kind of leader that I would want in 2023 is someone with the combination of all the attributes of these leaders that saw each playing his part in the best way he can. But above all, somebody that can bring us unity is important, somebody that can tolerate, somebody that can build infrastructures and bring out the best in our institutions in the way they function that’s the kind of leadership I desire.
I want a leader that will focus on peace, somebody who will address our education, the agriculture, somebody who will give the desired energy to our commerce by building our economy to make Plateau economically viable. We have always been considered as a civil servants state, so I want a leader that will come and change that narrative.
Across political parties, do you see such an ideal leader amongst the aspirants for the governorship seat come 2023 in Plateau State?
For the first time in the history of Plateau State, I can see from the array of aspirants both in the ruling party and the opposition parties who can bring this to bear. Because I can see that they have a very rich credentials, and to be fair to them, there is no one that can not govern Plateau State given their credentials.
What are your fears in the whole politicking leading to the choice of the ideal leader come 2023 considering the arrays of aspirants?
My fears is about the money bags! We don’t want money bags to hijack our political system. Where people will plant surrogates and psychophants or cohorts, at the end of the day they will be answerable to their godfathers and not the people of Plateau State. That’s my fear about the kind of leadership that is emerging. I rather want a leader that will emerge from the true reflection and the aspiration of the people of Plateau State!
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