“I won’t accept this rubbish and I won’t allow it lying low“, Miss Mercy Igiose, fumed as she faced Mr Johnson Giwa, the estate agent.Giwa is trying to pacify her to accept the refund of her payment for a two-bed room apartment. a rare genetic disorder where you aren’t born with the usual amount of melanin pigment.Melanin is a chemical in your body that determines the color of your skin, hair and eyes. Most people with albinism have very pale skin, hair and eyes.People with this type of health condition are often referred to as `Albinos’ or simply “Persons with Albinism (PWA).Worried by the situation, the Nigerian Government in 2013 formulated the national policy on PWA.The then Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, under whose supervision the national policy on albinism was formulated, said it was in response to the numerous challenges encountered by PWAs in their daily lives.He had said: “In Nigeria, the socio-cultural system with its inherent myths and beliefs has put PWAs at a low stratum in all spheres of life.“PWAs experience psychological challenges due to stigmatisation, discrimination and segregation.“Prior to the implementation of the policy, it was common place to see PWA denied the chance to go to school, get a job, have a family and often face discrimination for their entire lives, simply because of their appearance.The policy seeks not only to protect PWAs from discrimination but also seeks to maximise the talents.“This policy is intended to improve the status of PWAs by harnessing their full potentials and guaranteeing equal access to education, social, health, economic and political opportunities.“It is multi-sectorial and provides a holistic approach to improving the standard of life of PWAs. The Policy is aimed at mainstreaming albinism into every sector of development in Nigeria.“Based on the issues stated above, the rights of persons in this group cannot be disregarded. It is hoped that effective implementation of this policy and its guidelines will guarantee improved conditions of life for PWAs,’’ Adamu said.Unfortunately, in spite of the policy the likes of Iyase, are rather stuck to their stigma and discrimination against PWAs.Sadly, these cases are either not reported as the victims simply keep mute as they seek not to aggravate an already bad situation.The Albino Foundation of Nigeria, an NGO, says only about 12 attacks against people with albinism had been reported in the nation. “Yet, bullying and name-calling are common for children with albinism,’’ it said.It is against the backdrop that the Initiative for Advancement of the Albinism Cause (INAAC), an NGO, recently held an enlightenment workshop in Benin, the capital city of Edo.The convener, Miss Joy Odigie, Executive Director, INAAC, said the workshop was meant to increase awareness about the plight of PWA, especially women, girls, and mothers.This, Odigie said, would equip them with knowledge and skills on how to deal with the challenges they are faced with, especially those fuelling Gender Based Violence (GBV).The workshop had as its theme: “Preventing Gender Based Violence against Women and Girls with Albinism and Mothers of Children with albinism in Benin City, Edo State.’’According to Odigie, women and girls with albinism, especially mothers of children with albinism, face numerous challenges and risk becoming victims of gender-based violence.“Such women suffer not only from discrimination and stigmatisation, but also face physical and emotional abuse, sometimes leading to loss of life.“We have also heard about a case of job denial as a result of skin colour and also refusal to give out an apartment for rent because the family has a child with albinism.“The myth that persons with albinism have supernatural powers and that they can be used for rituals still hold strong in some parts of Edo,’’ she said.According to her, any form of violence targeted against women and girls with albinism is a human rights violation, and perpetrators should be punished.“Women and girls with albinism are humans and, as such, deserve fair treatment from members of the society,’’ she said.“This workshop organised, with support from the Nigerian Women Trust Fund, is to ensure equality and inclusion of women and girls with albinism as well as mothers of children with albinism, to protect their human rights and prevent gender-based violence,” she said.Some stakeholders blame the plight of albinos on cultural practices and myths.Mr Olumide Dosumu, Edo Coordinator, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), says one of the myths claims that having sex would an albino could cure HIV/AIDS.He, therefore, attributed the cases of rape against albinos to this misconception.“It is unfortunate that this has led to the infection of many women with albinism, thereby deteriorating their health condition and psychosexual feeling.“Sexual based violence against them makes the case a double tragedy,” he said.Persons with albinism, the NHRC boss said, were susceptible to killing for ritual because of the myth that they were potent tool.He, however, regretted that these vulnerable persons suffered discrimination in the society in spite of the abundant laws and documents that guaranteed their rights in the society.“Women and girls with albinism have equal rights and opportunities opened to them just like any other citizen.“There must be assertiveness in demanding for their rights and inclusiveness; there must be well groomed knowledge on issue content of GBV.“Persons with albinism must see themselves as human beings and citizens because the Nigerian constitution has guaranteed their rights,” he said.Similarly, Mrs Agatha Isieke, Executive Director, Women, Youths and Children Advancement Programme, identified society’s attitude towards practices of gender discrimination as the root cause of GBV.She said understanding these contributory factors would help uncover necessary steps to take in addressing the menace.No wonder, stakeholders hived sigh of relief and described as hearth warming, the Minister of Women Affairs, Mrs Uju Kennedy-Ohaneye’s recent disclosure of the constitution of a mobile court to try GBV cases.The minister, at a news conference in Abuja, said the plan was aimed at increasing the visibility of the activities of the ministry in dealing with SGBV issues.Kennedy-Ohaneye said that among the suspects to be arraigned are those still practicing female genital mutilation (FGM).Others, she said, suspected offenders against PWA, adding that the aim was to put an end to the offensive and obnoxious old traditional practice nationwide.The minister said the board of directors of the ministry had given its tacit support to the ministry’s avowed determination of giving women a voice in the society.“This will be done in line with Mr President’s renewed hope agenda”, saying that they would work to allow the poor to breathe and not to be suffocated,” she said.According to her the prosecution of suspects will be in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Justice, Attorney General of the Federation, Ministry of Justice, Nigeria Governor’s Forum, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and security agencies.She said partnering with other organisations was to have an innovative way to enforcing the Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Act 2015, and other laws to guide against SGBV, GBV PWA, and FGM among others.For Odigie, “the minister’s statement is refreshing and promising. But it is expected that government will go beyond rhetoric and effectively implement VAPP Act 2015.It is also incumbent on the media to dispel the misinformation about albinos through factual reportage of whom they are and the challenges they face in the society. (NANFeatures)
Benue First Class Chief, Abu King Shuluwa Dies at 79
From Attah Ede, Makurdi
The Tiv Area Traditional Council has announced the passage of a first class traditional ruler, Tor Sankera, Chief Abu King Shuluwa. He died Tuesday at the age of 79 at the Federal Medical Centre where he was receiving medical attention.
Secretary to Tiv Traditional Council, Shinyi Tyozua in a statement said the departed monarch will be buried February 10 in Katsina-Ala
Shuluwa was Chairman of the Sankera Traditional Council, which comprises Katsina-Ala, Ukum and Logo LGAs as well as member of the Benue Council of Traditional Rulers.
Before his ascendancy to the throne, Shuluwa had a fulfilled career in the public service and politics of Benue state.
He was educated at the famous Government College Katsina-Ala and Kaduna Polytechnic, Kaduna after which he proceeded to the Atlanta University, Atlanta, Georgia, USA where he obtained M.Sc in Social Works.
He was also at the London School of Economics and University College Swansea, Wales, UK for further studies in the course of his civl service career with the Benue state government.
While in the service of Benue state, he was appointed to numerous positions including Chairman, Katsina-Ala LGA, Commissioner for Sports, Youths, Arts and Culture and Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources.
In 1999, he was appointed by President Olusegun Obasanjo as National Commissioner of Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission(RMAFC), a position he held for one term of four years.
The late Shuluwa had an equally engaging career in politics as he played active roles in the formation of the defunct Social Democratic Party(SDP) in the aborted third republic and was a frontline governorship aspirant of the party in Benue state.
Although he failed to clinch the governorship ticket, he became the party’s sole administrator in 1991 and successfully led it s campaign to victory at the polls to return the candidate, the late Rev Fr Moses Adasu as Governor.
He was on the governorship bloc again in the 1999 and 2007 election circles on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, when he again vied for the governorship position without success.
He was an influential politician and political strategist, whose capacity to electrify the crowd at campaign rallies was unmatched by his peers. He played various other roles in the politics of Benue state and the nation at large.
When the Sankera First Class Chieftaincy stool was created in 2019, he became the first occupant of the revered stool, the position he occupied until his demise.
He is survived by his wife, Mrs Elizabeth Shuluwa, a retired Permanent Secretary and former Commissioner of Agriculture in Benue State, children and grand children.
NBS and the Task of Delivering Reliable National Data
By Okeoghene Akubuike
The role of data in the national development of a nation cannot be overemphasised, it is the bedrock on which policies that have a meaningful impact are developed and sustained
The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) is the agency responsible for the gathering and management of official statistics for Nigeria.
The NBS meant to coordinate statistical operations of National Statistical System in the production of official statistics in all the Federal Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), State Statistical Agencies, and Local Government Councils.
The NBS responded to this in various ways, including its monthly and periodic release of socio-economic statistical data on all aspects of development in Nigeria.
However, on many occasions stakeholders have disagreed with NBS.
In 2021, then Minister of Labour, Dr Chris Ngige disputed the unemployment data in the country as released by NBS, questioning the agency’s data collation methodology.
The Labour Force Statistics report published by the agency had shown that the unemployment rate jumped from 27.1% in Q2 2020 to 33.3% in Q4 2020.
“We have a virtual meeting of the National Economic Advisory Council with the World Bank to look at Nigeria’s modalities for employment statistics data collection.
“There has been a little confusion there as to the accuracy of data generated by the NBS.
“So, we want to align everything tomorrow. The World Bank says the NBS methodology doesn’t conform with the global standard, especially the ILO format of arriving at such Employment Index.’’, he said.
He spoke while receiving the leadership of the Chartered Institute of Personnel Management (CIPM) in his office.
As part of its efforts to do things better, NBS recently held a National Stakeholders’ Workshop on the Production of National Strategy for the Development of Statistics (NSDS) Phase III 2024-2028 in Abuja and Uyo.
The objective of the workshop is to assess the National Statistical System (NSS) at the national and sub-national level, harness inputs and proffer recommendations for the development of NSDS.
It was held in collaboration with the World Bank under the Fiscal Governance and Institutions Project (FGIP)
The NSDS is a strategic document for the development and management of statistics.
The Statistician-General of the Federation, Mr Adeyemi Adeniran, at the workshop promised to build a stronger and more vibrant statistical system that would ensure the economic development of the country.
He said that it was crucial to forge a robust strategy to guide the growth and development of the system that would be responsible for producing the data that the country would depend on.
Adeniran who is also the Chief Executive Officer of the NBS said the 2024-2028 NSDS would serve as a guiding light to steer the country towards a modernised and transformed statistical system.
“Statistics, often hailed as the ‘silent language of governance,’ form the bedrock of an informed and thriving society. They guide policy formulation, resource allocation, and progress evaluation.
“Let us recognise that statistics go beyond mere numbers; they articulate the narrative of the situation in society, inform decisions, policies, and programmes, and pave the way for a brighter future.
“The accuracy and quality of our statistics are paramount. We must continuously strive for excellence in data collection, analysis, and dissemination to maintain the trust and confidence of our data users and policymakers.
“We will continue to work together to build a stronger and more vibrant statistical system that is capable and well-resourced to produce and facilitate the use of data in our progress toward sustainable development“, he said.
The Minister of Budget and Economic Planning, Sen. Abubakar Bagudu, said the new NSDS would bridge existing gaps and challenges in the statistical system, as he called for a robust, and inclusive national statistical system in Nigeria.
“Over the years, the NSDS has played an instrumental role in enhancing the quality, relevance, and accessibility of statistical data in Nigeria.
“It has also provided the necessary guidance for the systematic and coordinated development of statistical activities in our great nation.”
“It is our collective endeavour to ensure that the new NSDS not only addresses the strategic issues of the past five years but also anticipates and adapts to the evolving statistical landscape.”
He said that statistics would play a vital role in assessing the implementation of the Federal Government’s policies and projects.
“Hence, strengthening the statistical system is paramount to evaluating the current position and subsequent progress of the current administration”, he said.
Biyi Fafunmi, NBS’s Director, ICT, said to effectively review the last NSDS and facilitate the development of an inclusive new one, the bureau had engaged sets of consultants.
Sen. Yahaya Abdullahi, Chairman, Senate Committee on National Planning and Economic Affairs, called on the Statistician-General to deploy methodologies in data gathering and processing.
The private sector is crucial in data gathering, processing and usage and Mr Dakuku Peterside, urged NBS to ensure that its data are reliable.
Dakuku Peterside, former Director-General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency said `statistics is the compass that guides us in the labyrinth of national planning and development`.
“The NSDS is not just necessary but crucial, as a well-developed statistical system is essential for effective governance. It empowers policymakers with accurate and up-to-date information to make informed decisions.”
Peterside called on the NBS to pay attention to climate change in the development of the new strategy, saying that climate change has an impact in almost every sector such as health, transportation, and agriculture.
Utz Pape, the Lead Economist and Lead Poverty Team at the World Bank said it was important to look at the national statistical system in an integrated way.
According to him, it is important not to stop at the federal level but move vertically to the state level to have an integrated statistical system.
“This is why it is really important to not just think at the federal level but think about the states and how this can become an inclusive and integrated national statistical system based on data”, he said.
Prof. Olusanya Olubusoye, a professor of economics, University of Ibadan, in an inaugural lecture delivered at the University of Ibadan, had canvassed that to attain genuine national development and progress, political leaders must harness the power of statistics.
In his lecture titled “From Data to Wonders: Unlocking the Extraordinary Powers of Statistics”, Olubusoye described statistics as the golden thread that weaves through the fabric of knowledge, progress, and innovation.
The role of data and statistics in national development cannot be overemphasized. The NBS has a pivotal role to play in the availability of reliable data of every aspect of the nation.
Stakeholders agree that the NBS can achieve this through an improved, robust, inclusive, well-developed national strategy which would help build a stronger and reliable statistical system. (NANFeatures)
Oil and Gas: What Lessons for Nigeria from Russia?
With over 200 trillion cubic feet (tcf) Nigeria has the largest gas reserves in Africa. It is ranked 9th globally.
Given our high dependence on oil and gas for industrial and domestic energy the global transition from carbon fuel to sustainable energy sources poses a significant threat to Nigeria’s economy.
Most African countries, including Nigeria, are still facing energy availability problems as their energy consumption is several times below the world’s average.
Experts estimate that Africa will account for over 60 per cent of global population growth by 2050.
In view of urbanisation experts forecast that Africa will experience significant economic growth to be accompanied by two-fold increase in natural gas demand.
Nigeria, Africa’s largest Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) exporter lacks access to energy and since gas is the energy transition fuel, it is only logical that its development, availability and utilisation be enhanced.
Natural gas offers effective solutions to major areas of activities causing air pollution, including power generation, transport and household applications.
It can replace coal in power generation and oil products in transport; as for household applications, natural gas substitute Biomass (firewood) which according to experts account for up to 45 per cent of Africa’s energy mix
Apart from being used for cooking, transportation (in vehicles), heating and powering machines, industries among others, the gas is also a valuable raw material for the production of fertilisers.
A trip to Russia by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on the invitation of its state-owned, Gazprom Energy Company revealed that partnering and emulating Russian Gas Projects and Gazprom’s competencies along the entire value chain of gas business is paramount for Nigeria’s gas development.
Russia has the largest proven natural gas reserves in the world, worth 47.8 trillion standard cubic meters. Iran and Qatar follow, with more than 30 and 20 trillion cubic meters.
Gazprom, its state-owned energy corporation, established in 1971 with sales of over 120 billion dollars is ranked as the largest natural gas company in the world and the largest company in Russia by revenue.
NAN discovered that the company operates many active oil, gas and condensate fields with cluster of producing gas wells, comprehensive gas treatment unit, booster compressor station, and transportation and power infrastructure.
Gazprom is the main supplier of natural gas to the country and to other countries. Under its Gas Infrastructure Expansion and Unified Gas Supply System, gas is supplied to millions of households and public utility enterprises.
The Russian government is also committed to its All-Russia Gasification Programme which started in 1960 and had promoted clean energy and energy security till date, according to Mr Buzin Vyacheslav, Diretor-General, JSC, Gazprom Distribution.
Vyacheslav said the total length of Gazprom’s Gas Distribution Networks transmitting gas to end consumers was more than 800,000 kilometres.
“To make clean energy widely available to Russians, Gazprom is actively bringing gas to cities and villages, by building gas pipelines stretching from major gas trunk lines to the land plots of consumers.
“Gas infrastructure expansion is the most ambitious socially significant project of Gazprom that helps improve the living standards of people and the main benefits of pipeline natural gas are convenience of use, eco-friendliness –reliability and cost efficiency.
“Uninterrupted delivery and safety are the main principles of Gazprom as regards gas supplies, both construction and operation of gas infrastructure facilities are performed in compliance with stringent requirements.
“Pipeline natural gas is the cheapest energy source available in Russia today. For instance, gas prices for the population are regulated by the government which makes them as affordable for households as possible“, he said .
According to Vyacheslav, gas infrastructure expansion is a powerful driving force behind the development of regional economies.
“Owing to the access to pipeline gas, availability, larger tax payments; growth of employment and increase of living standards and better environmental conditions are achieved,’’ Vyacheslav told NAN.
He also said gas infrastructure is being expanded extensively across Russia, adding that by 2030, gas networks will be present in all places of Russia where it is technically possible.
Vyacheslav said for Nigeria to achieve gasification, technical and technological designs are involved to ascertain the cost.
He said it would also involve geological survey to identify rocky areas which might not be penetrated hence other options could be applied.
The energy company had expressed readiness to partner African countries, including Nigeria on gas technology, infrastructure and development, according to Dobycha Nadym, Mr Dimitry Stratov, its Deputy-Director General, Prospective and Development.
Prof. Stanley Onwukwe, an Oil and Gas Expert, said it was unfortunate that Nigeria had the resources and projects like the National Gas Development Strategy, Trans Sahara Gas Pipeline Project among others which were yet to be fully harnessed.
Onwukwe said Russia was proactive and had supplies gas to almost all the western world.
Onwukwe, a professor in the department of petroleum engineering, Federal University of Technology Owerri, said there were blueprints established for gas developmental projects to thrive in the country but lack of political will hampered such projects.
“Nigeria has Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) already being used in Benin, most cars in the state are running on CNG.
“Initially the conversion of vehicles was free but they later started collecting almost a million naira which put people off.
“Such should be replicated nationwide while CNG refill stations should be established in various places for refilling but no such thing.
“The problem is not to have your vehicle’s engine converted for natural gas use but to see where to refill if you are on transit.
“It is a global village; just that the government does not have will power to implement such developmental projects after contract award,’’ he said.
He said the facility including gas base infrastructure for industries were necessary for distribution of gas but required proper investment and finance.
Dr Chijioke Ekechukwu, an economist said it would take a strong political will and implementable policies for Nigeria to attain such feat as Russia including having all our vehicles converted to CNG.
According to Ekechukwu, piping gas to homes is also possible if the supply is guaranteed.
He said it would be win-win to have policies in place towards achieving this, especially the fact that we have an abundance of gas.
“Only recently, the Nigerian government inaugurated a committee to convert cars and buses from petrol and diesel to CNG engine that can be used by these vehicles.
“We have an abundance of this gas, which is flared and wasted. Gas consumption both at home and by vehicles is climate friendly and should be encouraged,’’ said.
Also speaking, Mr Yusha’u Aliyu said Russia and EU have an excellent working policy on energy production and consumption, saying that technological advances also added value to their efforts.
“Gas is cost effective and environmental friendly. We have to develop a strategy and culture of commitment and efficiency to thrive,’’ he said. (NANFeatures)
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