SERAP Drags FG To UN Over ‘Exploitative Insurance Scheme For Students’

serapThe Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent an urgent appeal to four UN Special Rapporteurs and the Special Envoy on Global Education over the imposition of compulsory insurance scheme for students of the Federal Government Colleges.

The organisation is asking them to use their  “good offices and positions to urgently request the Nigerian government to immediately and unconditionally withdraw exploitative insurance scheme imposed on the students on the excuse of protection against attack and violence by Boko Haram”.

Those petitioned are: Mr Kishore Singh, Special Rapporteur on the right to education; Mr Chaloka Beyani, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons; Mr Philip Alston, Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights; Mr Ben Emmerson, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism, and Mr Gordon Brown, Office of the UN Special Envoy for Global Education.

In the urgent appeal dated 24 February, 2015 and signed by SERAP Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, the organisation said that it “considers this insurance scheme to constitute an abusive practice and renouncement of the obligation by the government to provide education as a public good. The insurance scheme also flies into face of prohibited grounds of discrimination and amounts to exploitation of the students and parents involved, and a shocking attack on the right of access to education”.

“Rather than expanding public educational opportunities for all Nigerian children especially children from poor families, the government is restricting them, and commercialising education. In its response to the Boko Haram, the government has not prioritised the right of children to quality education. Many Nigerian children are driven to Cameroon as refugees and made to recite Cameroon national anthem as a precondition for attending school,” the organisation also said.

“Imposing a mandatory insurance scheme on students and their parents will also not contribute to better security for the children. Inequalities in opportunities for education will be exacerbated if this insurance scheme is allowed to continue. The government is simply failing in its international human rights obligation to ensure the right to education in a safe and protected environment,” it further stated.

According to the organisation, “under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to which Nigeria is a state party, the government has legal obligation to outlaw discrimination in education based on “social origin”, “economic condition”, or “property”.

The organisation also said that, “Nigerian children have the right to safety in school establishments that are conducive to a positive learning environment. The right to education as a matter of access and quality means that all children have a right to access school and be provided with quality education regardless of the circumstances they live under”.

The organisation expressed “serious concern about the government’s policy asking 125,000 pupils in the 104 Federal Government Colleges to pay a mandatory insurance premium of 5,000 Naira per annum to cover supposed risks against violence and attack by the Boko Haram insurgency. The measure is expected to generate N625 million for NICON Insurance Plc, which the government chose to underwrite the ‘risk'”.

“SERAP is in possession of a circular to this effect which was sent to the schools. According to the circular, “In view of the current security challenges in the country which has impacted seriously on the safety of our students and teachers in Federal Unity Colleges, the Ministry of Education has decided to engage the services of NICON Insurance Company to insure our students. To this end, an Insurance Premium of 5,000 Naira is to be paid once in a year. Students are hereby expected to pay the above amount through the college upon resumption for third term.”

The organisation therefore asked the rapporteurs and special envoy to urgently ask the government to:

1. Immediately and unconditionally withdraw the mandatory insurance scheme for students in Federal Unity Colleges throughout the country, and to return any premium that may have been paid
2. Make every effort to ensure that school children are fully protected throughout all of Nigeria, and to ensure that the Boko Haram and any other extremist groups do not restrict the ability of Nigerian children to realise their human rights and pursue their dreams
3. Ensure that resources for providing quality education to Nigerian children are not diverted and directed towards military expenditure
4. Publicly support and commit to the right of all children to attend school in all parts of Nigeria without fear of violence or attack and without being forced to take a mandatory insurance scheme
5. Preserve education as a public good, and ensure that “for-profit” education through illegal insurance scheme or other similar initiative is outlawed.

The organisation also said that, “education not only helps build responsible citizenship but has an important role in peacebuilding and reconstruction, but most importantly education as an empowering and awareness raising tool can contribute to address root causes of conflicts and prevent their occurrence. The right to education is also essential for future generations to prosper”.

“We also urge the Special Rapporteurs and Mr Brown to request to visit the country to assess the efforts by the government to implement the right to education,” the organisation added.

Ex-UK Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, Pleads For Chibok Girls’ Release

gordon_brownFormer UK Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, has urged terrorist group, Boko Haram to release the more than 200 girls it abducted from Chibok, Borno State about 10 months ago.

Brown made the plea via a statement released on Friday, February 20 after the sect released 158 hostages.

“Now they have released some hostages, they should release them all,” Brown said.

“Boko Haram are piling cruelty upon cruelty by failing to free the girls,” Brown, who is now the U.N. Special Envoy for Global Education, added.

The abduction of schoolgirls from Government Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State on April 14, 2014 sparked global outrage, offers of international assistance and a worldwide social media campaign with the Twitter hashtag #BringBackOurGirls.

He said there would be no let up in the campaign to find and free the girls, adding that if they are not released by the first anniversary of their captivity a vigil will be held at the United Nations in New York on April 14.

FG Enrols 2400 School Children As Safe School Initiative Kicks Off

Safe_School_Initiative2400 school children in the three states under emergency have been enrolled to begin the first phase of the Federal Government’s Safe School Initiative Programme which kicked off on Thursday with N435 million.

Addressing journalists after a meeting with the Safe School Initiative Steering Committee, the Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said the Federal Government selected 800 children from each state with the consent of their parents to be given full scholarship in other selected unity federal colleges across the country.

She also noted that the federal government is determined to ensure that the initiative would bring hope for many of these parents and children in the violence torn areas whose sense of safety have been shattered.

This is coming more than six months since the news of the abduction of over 200 Chibok school girls first emerged and many school children in the affected areas were not able to go to school for fear of more terrorist attacks.

President Jonathan kicked off the Safe Schools Initiative Programme with a start-off fund of 3.2 billion Naira on June 17.

After a meeting between President Jonathan, former British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown and governors from the three least educationally developed states in the north, the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, told reporters that the fund would help ensure that children in schools in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States got educated in a safe environment.

Explaining the initiative and the fund to journalists, Dr Okonjo-Iweala said that Mr Gordon Brown, who was also an envoy of the Secretary-General of the United Nation on children, was expected to also assist in raising some funds in addition to the benchmark set for the programme.

She said that a total of 100 million dollars was the targeted amount needed as take-off grant for the Safe Schools Initiative Programme by the Federal Government and the international community for Nigerian schools.

The former British Prime Minister has the backing of the United Nations and the international community on the project which will also take care of the Chibok schoolgirls abducted by the Boko Haram sect in April when they are released.

Mr Brown had been in talks with the United kingdom, Norway, the United States and the European Union to raise additional funds to help in the massive reconstruction work that is expected to kick-off.

The funds received by the Nigerian government are believed to be the outcome of Mr Browns talks with the countries and organisations.

The FEC also appealed to well meaning Nigerians and philanthropists from, in and outside the country, to continue to make contributions to the Safe Schools Initiative to show that Nigeria is not alone in the fight against insurgency.

The World Must Act Immediately To Stop New Phenomenon Of Terrorism- Jonathan

JonathanPresident Goodluck Jonathan said Wednesday in New York that the world must act immediately to stop the troubling new phenomenon of terrorists and foreign fighters attacking and trying to hold parts of sovereign nations.

Addressing the United Nations Security Council High-Level Meeting on the Threat of Terrorism to Global Peace and Security, President Jonathan said that the international community must also do more to support countries like Nigeria which are in the front line of the war against terrorism.

“There is no doubt that foreign fighters have added a troubling dimension to this emerging phase of terrorism. From targeted attacks by al Qaeda a few years ago, we now have mobile bands of thousands of terrorists sweeping across vast areas, destroying lives, and even attempting to hold territory. This is unacceptable; we must act now.

“We must capitalize on the commitment and evident determination of the Security Council to seek more innovative responses to the threat of terrorism and in particular to the growing menace of foreign fighters.

“The Council should be concerned about the existence of sources of arming and funding terrorists. Evidence has shown that Boko Haram, for instance, is resourced largely from outside our country.

“We must also commit to ensuring that countries which are in the front line of this challenge, receive adequate support from the international community.
“Only by united action and firm resolve can we check this raging threat to humanity, and also build the enduring structures that will resist their re-emergence,” President Jonathan said.

The President told the Security Council that his Administration continues to confront the menace of terrorism with unrelenting determination and that the Federal Government has also evolved initiatives to alleviate the plight of people in affected communities.

“Nigeria knows too well the destructive effects of terrorist activities. Over the past five years, we have been, and are still confronting threats posed by Boko Haram to peace and stability predominantly in the North Eastern part of our country.

“The costs are high: over 13,000 people have been killed, whole communities razed, and hundreds of persons kidnapped, the most prominent being our innocent daughters from Chibok Secondary School, in North East Nigeria.

“As daunting as the challenge may be, we have faced it with unrelenting determination, mobilising all the resources at our disposal to ensure that the scourge of terrorism is rooted out of our nation. In addition to our counterterrorism efforts, we have evolved initiatives to alleviate the plight of the population in the affected communities.

“These include a holistic effort through the Presidential Initiative for the North East (PINE) which is aimed at providing immediate relief and fast tracking the infrastructural re-development of the region. It also has as a core goal, an integrated effort at achieving the de-radicalisation of potential terrorist recruits.

“We have also launched a Victims Support Fund which has already raised about 500 million dollars of the expected minimum of one billion dollars in direct support of the victims of acts of terrorism. This is in addition to the Safe Schools Initiative championed by Mr. Gordon Brown, former British Prime Minister and currently the UN Special Envoy for Global Education which is being rigorously supported by Nigeria’s Federal Government,” he said.

Safe School Initiative: Finance Minister Meets State Governments

Okonjo-Iweala on Safe SchoolThe Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, says the Federal Government’s Safe School Initiative is targeted at restoring confidence in the nation’s education system in the North Eastern part of the country.

This is owing to the insecurity in the region where over 200 schoolgirls were abducted in April and several other children have been out of school.

Dr Okonjo-Iweala, who spoke at a meeting of the committee of the Safe School Initiative in Abuja, said that the initiative would also carter for the rehabilitation and equipping of schools affected by the activities of insurgents.

“I think it’s worth noting that the idea for this initiative predated the incident in Chibok and that former Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, has been discussing this with the President for some months before now but the incident we had crystalized the need to move quickly.

“The reason is that our Chibok girls, whom we will not relent until they come back, must also come back and find a new environment that is different from the ones they left, where boys and girls are not intimidated and where the environment is more conducive to learning”, the Minister said.

The meeting had in attendance the Governor of Borno State, a representative from Adamawa State, the Minister of State for Education and representatives of the National Emergency Management Commission.

Jonathan Inaugurates Safe Schools Initiatives Committee

jonathan-goodluck-Nigeria-PresidentPresident Goodluck Jonathan has inaugurated the steering committee for Safe Schools Initiative, pledging the resolve of his administration to tackle insurgency headlong.

In his speech at the inauguration, the president said that Nigeria was passing through stress orchestrated by the violence being perpetrated by members of the Boko Haram sect and that security operatives were doing everything possible to get rid of it while the Federal Government will approach the solution holistically.

The idea of a safe school came up during the World Economic Forum on Africa held in May.

The international community had pledged to assist the Federal Government to go beyond just the rescue of the abducted Chibok Girls to security of schools mostly in the north.

The committee, which is co-chaired by the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and a former British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, also has Aliko Dangote, Nduka Obaigbena and governors of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe States among others as members.

President Jonathan pointed out that the excesses of the Boko Haram sect were of serious concern to him.

He said the Safe Schools Initiative was one of the areas where his government was intervening.

He decried the high rate of school dropout which he said had risen to 70 per cent in some states, insisting that the figure was not acceptable to his administration even as children in Borno State were no longer willing to attend school because of the fear of terrorists attacks.

“From statistics, the dropout of students at the basic level of education is quite high. The basic level is the primary and secondary. The dropout at that level is too high.

“Some states are fairly okay with one or two per cent. But some states are as high as 70 per cent. If the dropout rate of students at the basic level is as high as 70 per cent, that means that only 30 per cent goes to school. That is terrible.

“In Borno State today for example, children, especially girls are not going to school because of the risk they face from terrorism and violence. This is not acceptable,” he said.

On June 17, the Safe School Initiative programme kicked-off, with the Nigerian government and the private sector providing a start-off fund of 3.2 billion Naira. Half of the amount was provided by the private sector.

Explaining the initiative and the fund to journalists, Dr Okonjo-Iweala said Mr Gordon Brown, who was also an envoy of the Secretary-General of the United Nations on children, was expected to also assist in raising some funds in addition to the benchmark set for the programme.

She said that a total of 100 million dollars was the targeted amount needed as take-off grant for the Safe School Initiative Programme by the Federal Government and the international community for Nigerian schools.

The initiative was agreed on at the World Economic Forum on Africa, after over 200 girls were abducted from their dormitory in Chibok, Borno State by members of the Boko Haram terrorist group on April 14.

Counter-terrorism military troops are making efforts to rescue the girls.

The fund for the safe school initiative will be inaugurated  on July 16.