Ortom Seeks Northern Governors’ Support Against Child Marriage

child marriage in Nigeria Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State has asked political leaders, especially Northern governors, to join the campaign against child marriage by creating educate opportunities for the girl child instead of rushing them into early marriage.

Mr Ortom made the call in Makurdi, the Benue state capital at a meeting organised by the Minister of Women Affairs, Aisha Alhassan, to mobilise support for sound educational and economic base for women in the state.

The Minister, who sought Governor Ortom’s support against child marriage said that the Federal Government had prepared a 1.6 billion Naira empowerment fund for women in 2017.

She also told the women at the gathering that 40 women had been trained in key areas of trade.

She encouraged them to be prudent with the fund, to enable the government increase the allocation subsequently.

Child marriage has assumed alarming rate in Nigeria, particularly in Northern Nigeria where the practice created national outcry in Katsina State recently.

The campaign against child marriage and women empowerment enjoys massive support in Benue, but it remains to be seen if the support will spread across the entire Northern Nigeria, where child marriage practice is high.

Deadline For Child Marriage

In November, the Canadian government appealed to the Nigerian government to come out with concrete plans to end what it described as huge burden of child bride on Nigeria.

Canadian High Commissioner, Mr Christopher Thornley, made the appeal at a meeting held to discuss more efforts needed to end child marriage.

According to him, two in every five girls in Africa are given in marriage before they attain age 19 and Nigeria has the highest record of such marriages.

“In Africa, two out of five girls are married before the age of 19. In Nigeria, I’m sorry to say this, but I’m also very heartened that we see people here, like yourselves, who are addressing the issue.

“In Nigeria there are more child brides than in any other country. Part of that is that Nigeria is such a huge country. Absolutely the numbers will be high, but there are massive numbers of young girls being married in this country as children,” he told a gathering of government officials, representatives of different organisations and right activists.

After that appeal, the Nigerian government launched a campaign to protect the girl child, setting a deadline to end child marriage.

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo explained that all departments and agencies would be made to ensure compliance as the country has set a 2030 target to totally end child marriage.

The campaign, which is launched alongside 15 other African Union member countries, is to highlight the physical, mental and social effects of marrying a girl before the age of 18.

FG Says It Will Continue To Protect Rights Of The Girl Child

Girl Child, Human Rights
The minister says some cultural stereotypes are inimical to the rights of girls

The Federal government says it has initiated programmes that will enhance the welfare of young children especially the girls and protect them from any form of molestation.

The Minister of Women Affairs, Aisha Alhassan disclosed this on Tuesday during a news conference to mark the 2016 International Day of the Girl Child.

Senator Alhassan said the ministry has embarked on advocacy visits and campaigns for the domestication of the Child Rights Act in all the states of the federation.

She also announced that the ministry has sponsored a bill on Gender and Equal Opportunities at the the National Assembly as well as the launching of the Social Protection Programme to assist indigent children to go to school.

The International Day of the Girl Child is a day set aside to draw attention of policy makers on the need to address the challenges girls face.

Nigeria being a member of the United Nations, joined other countries of the world to mark the day which called for creation of more opportunities for girls and raises awareness of the discrimination they face worldwide due to their gender.

The Women Affairs minister who identified age-longed prejudices and cultural stereotypes that are unfavourable to the girl child , added that President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration is determined to ensure that women take their rightful place in the scheme of affairs in the country.

She reiterated the President’s resolve to ensure the safe return of the abducted Chibok school girls in Borno State.

In line with the theme – “Girls Progress equal to Goals Progress: A Global Girl Data Movement – the minister said attention would be directed to increased data generation and management in planning for the girl child and women in Nigeria.

‘Implement Existing Laws’

Meanwhile some stakeholders have faulted the introduction of new policies and programmes to protect the rights of the girl child. They say why create new policies when existing ones are yet to be fully implemented.

Erhumwunse Eghosa of the SOS Children’s Village, Lagos, said the Nigerian Government should pay more attention to implementing laws that protect the rights of children in the society, rather than creating new laws.

He explained that by empowering the girl child, 40% of the job of development would have been done, considering their roles in all facets of development, starting from their roles in raising kids.

He highlighted the need to provide social protection, employment, healthcare and education, with emphasis on the implementation of the laws that would ensure that all these are provided.

Kerry Stresses Need To Pace Up On Girl Child Education In Nigeria

John-Kerry-US-Secretary-of-StateThe US Secretary of State, John Kerry, has urged Nigeria to pace up girl child education to foreclose the risk of turning down growth and development resulting from segregation of an important segment of the population.

Mr Kerry, who said the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is presently committing $10 million to help women in Nigeria make the right choices, said no nation can be lifted to its full potential without engaging its entire population.

At a meeting with Non-Government Organisations in charge of girl child education and protection at the US Embassy in Abuja, he said too many young women in Nigeria are out of school and forced into different kinds of circumstances which must be changed through a gradual but steady progress.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) had last week advised the Federal and State Governments in Nigeria to pay more attention to implementing laws that protect the rights of the girl child in the society, rather than creating new ones that will mortgage their future.

Country Representative of UNFPA in Nigeria, Ratidzai Ndhlovu, gave the advice at the official launch of the Adolescent Girls Initiative organised by UNFPA in collaboration with the Kaduna State government, where she noted that providing women and girls with equal access to education, is not only a fundamental human right, but a necessary foundation for a prosperous and sustainable nation.

The Minister of Women Affairs, Aisha Alhassan, said the ministry will soon launch a campaign against early child marriage and child abuse to sensitize traditional and religious rulers across the country on the dangers of giving out their girls out early in marriage without giving them the necessary education or skills.

According to a report released by UNFPA, the northern region has the highest rate of female illiteracy in Nigeria, and also accounts for negative health outcomes which include the highest maternal mortality and infant mortality ratio.
For instance, the number of girls without education in Sokoto State stands at 78.5 per cent followed by Kebbi State with 75 per cent, while that of Kaduna is 40.3 percent.

Nigerian Government Verifies Claims Of Would-Be Suicide Bomber In Cameroon

Chibok Girls suicide bomber The Nigerian government is arranging to send some members of the Chibok community to neighbouring Cameroon, in order to verify whether a female suicide bomber arrested in Borno state on Friday is one of the missing schoolgirls abducted in Chibok almost two years ago.

A statement on Saturday by a spokesman to the President, Garba Shehu, said that the Minister of Women Affairs, Senator Aisha Alhassan and Nigerian High Commissioner in Cameroon had already swung into action and were receiving a lot of cooperation from the Cameroonian authorities.

It has been confirmed that one of two girls is claiming to be among the girls abducted from Chibok on April 14 2014.

Although doubts have crept into the claim following new information from Cameroon that the two girls were about ten years.

One of the two is also believed to be heavily drugged and therefore not in full control of her senses.

The girls abducted by Boko Haram terrorists were said to be in their final year in the secondary school and were preparing to write their final examinations.

According to Mr Garba, the Nigerian High Commissioner in Cameroon, Ambassador Hadiza Mustapha, had confirmed that the arrested girls may be brought to the Capital, Younde by Monday, at which point the High Commission would seek permission to meet with them.

The Murtala Mohammed Foundation has offered to cooperate with the Nigerian government in sponsoring two parents from Chibok who have been selected to embark on the trip to Cameroon.

The two are Yakubu Nkeki, Chairman of the Parents of the Abducted Girls from Chibok Association and Yana Galang, the group’s women leader.

The Nigerian High Commission will receive the two and will facilitate their access to the two girls once permission to meet and verify their identity is obtained from the Cameroonian authorities.

Nigeria’s First Lady Decries Prevalence Of Female Genital Mutilation

Female Genital MutilationThe wife of the President of Nigeria, Mrs Aisha Buhari, has decried the prevalence of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Nigeria despite international and local efforts to end the practice.

Representing the President’s wife at the official launch of the United Nations support program to eliminate FGM in Abuja, the wife of the Vice President of Nigeria, Mrs Dolapo Osinbajo, called on women to support the global campaign to end FGM.

The Minister of Women Affairs, Mrs Aisha Alhassan, also said that the practice was a violation of the fundamental human rights of women and girls, stressing that it should be discouraged.

In her speech, the wife of the Senate President, Mrs Toyin Saraki, asked the wives of governors and other politicians to domesticate the programme in their states.

The wife of the Ebonyi State Governor, Mrs Rachel Umahi, who spoke on behalf of other state governors’ wives at the forum, assured the public of their support to spread the campaign against Female Genital Mutilation.

At least 19 million girls have undergone FGM in Nigeria, although the practice is punishable by the provisions of the 2015 Violence against Persons Prohibition Act.

UN To Begin Capacity Training Programme For Women IDPs

IDPsThe United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has unveiled plans to commence a capacity training program for internally displaced women from Nigeria’s north-east.

The Country Representative of the United Nations’ agency, Angele Atanga, told reporters at a press conference in Abuja on Friday that the training was targeted at the internally displaced women to restore their economic independence.

A Matter Of Dignity

“The African Union had come together and adopted a framework which is called the Kampala Convention since October 2009.

“And this framework is to actually form the basis upon which we all, Africans, should refer ourselves in order to take care of those of our brothers and sisters who are displaced in our midst.

“In this regard, UNHCR and the National Centre for Women Development are about to begin a training programme which will focus on training these persons on how to become self-reliant through livelihood training for them to be able to fend for themselves because for us, it is a matter of dignity,” Atanga said.

Methods of Farming

The program is expected to train the women on new methods of farming, crafts, and other technical skills for self-sufficiency.

Meanwhile, the Minister of Women Affairs, represented by Abubakar Gambo, said the program, when implemented, would fast-track government’s rehabilitation efforts of the IDPS and the reconstruction of the north-east.

“The project which is aimed at equipping the female IDPs, with necessary vocational skills in a practical manner that will bring about improvement to the socio-economic wellbeing of the female IPDs and their families will contribute greatly to the Federal Government’s effort in integrating the displaced persons back to the society and rebuilding the north-east,” Mr Gambo stated.

According to the NUHRC at least 1.5 million persons have been displaced in the north-east of Nigeria in the heat of the over 6 years’ insurgency as a result of the activities of the Boko Haram terrorists.


Group Asks Military To Produce Video Footage Of Progress In North-east

Bring Back Our Girls Protest At Nigerian Embassy- MilitaryThe Bring Back Our Girls campaigners have tasked the Nigerian military to substantiate the report of its victory in the ongoing multinational counter insurgency in the northeast, with video footage that will authenticate such reports.

Addressing a news conference in Abuja on Sunday, the group said conflicting reports and lack of evidence had often trailed the claims by the military.

The group said while it fully supports the efforts by the military and government’s renewed commitment to decimate the insurgents through the Multinational Joint Task Force, there is the need to ensure that real progress is being made to bring back peace to the north eastern part of Nigeria.

Its only 51 days less than a year since the over 200 secondary school girls in Chibok, Borno State, were abducted by members of the militant group, Boko Haram and about 300 days since the bring back our girls campaign group commenced their protest for the rescue of the girls.

Nigeria’s general elections were postponed on February 7 on account of the insurgency in the north-east, with the military announcing plans to commence a 6-week multinational offensive, to recover lost territories and decimate the insurgents.

One week after, the Bring Back Our Girls campaign group which commenced a monitoring initiative says claims of victory so far announced must be supported with evidence.

While the group lauded government’s efforts, they raised issues such as the delay in commencing this offensive and the continued suggestion from some quarters that the kidnap of the girls and the campaign for their rescue were scams.

Hopes are high on the on-going multinational counter-insurgency, especially by parents of the abducted girls who have consistently attended the meetings of the group, some who are also internally displaced.

Many of them say they look forward to going back home.



Bring Back Our Girls: Campaigners Take Protests To Presidential Villa

Bring Back Our GirlsThe ‘Bring Back Our Girls’ group in Abuja has asked the Federal Government to increase efforts to rescue the Chibok girls who were abducted six months ago.

They made the call during a protest march in the Federal Capital Territory designed to mount more pressure on the Federal Government to ensure the release of the Chibok girls who have been in captivity for 183 days.

Leader of the group and a former Minister of Education, Mrs Oby Ezekwesili, met with a stiff resistance when security agencies stopped them from gaining entrance into the gate leading to the Presidential Villa.

The group had vowed that it was a protest march that must take them into the seat of government no matter the circumstances but arm-totting security men were on hand to stop them.

On the other hand were government officials who came out to receive them at a certain point not very close to the Presidential Villa which was the original destination of the ‘Bring Back Our Girls’ protesters.

What looked like an altercation ensued between the leader of the ‘Bring Back Our Girls’ group and the female ministers when the Minister of Water Resources, Mrs Sarah Reng Ochekpe, challenged Mrs Ezekwesili on why a former minister should be leading the protest march.

However, responding to the group’s demands, on behalf of the Federal Government, Minister of Women Affairs, Hajiya Zainab Maina, assured the ‘Bring Back Our Girls’ group that government was not resting in the efforts to rescue the girls.

Also among the protesters were parents of the missing girls who could not hide the agony they have faced all the days their girls have been in captivity.

Mark Claims Yerima Blackmailed Senators To Vote For Child Marriage

Senate President, David Mark, has accused Senator Ahmed Yerima, who is at the centre of the child marriage controversy, of blackmailing the Senate to reverse a move to delete a section of the constitution that appears to support child marriage.

Mr. Mark made this known on Wednesday while receiving a high-level team including the Minister of women affairs, Zainab Maina, and chairman of the Nigerian Human Rights Commission, Chidi Odinkalu, who protested the Senate’s failure to delete the section.

“Let me also talk to my own brothers and sisters who are Senators, who were probably blackmailed. That is the fact, because it is in the open that I cannot also hide it and nobody can hide it,” the Senate President said as he affirmed his stance.

“They were simply blackmailed, and on that day, if they didn’t do what they did, nobody knows the outcome or how the consequences will be today, because the people outside can say this man, you are Muslim and didn’t vote for something that is of Islamic interest, because if we don’t hit the nail squarely on the head, we may never get it right” he further explained.

He stated that the Senate was poised to remove the section from the law in the first place until members were blackmailed by Mr. Yerima by his claim that an alternative decision would be un-Islamic.

Mr. Yerima’s call on Islamic law on age of a girl child in marriage compelled the Senate to repeat the vote which had already passed the required mark.

The second vote was defeated, leaving the section intact. The section says a woman married shall be deemed to be of age for the purpose of renouncing citizenship. But many Nigerians fear the section sanctions girl marriage and have asked that it be removed.

Mr. Mark said Senators were not ’paedophiles’ and would reconsider the contentious section.

“We wanted to remove it but it failed, we were a total of 101 Senators, 85 voted and I think about six or so abstained. There were hardly any dissenting votes but once it got mixed up with so many other issues, it didn’t get the required 73 votes anymore.”

“So, first of all, I think the castigation outside is done out of misunderstanding but because a religious connotation was brought into it, which is a very sensitive issue and you must agree with me that in this country, we try as must as possible not to bring issues that involves faith to the floor of the Senate and indeed the chamber, we keep religion completely out of it because what is good for a Christian is also good for a Muslim.”

“The good of the country is for everybody and not for a particular religious sect. I think the bottom line is, when people get more educated, then we can do a re-think and probably, if the Senate agrees, go back and see whether we can get the required number once more, because that is the solution” he added.

Other members of the team that met the Senate President on Wednesday included wife of former Chief Justice of the federation, Maryam Uwais; former Vice President of the World Bank for Africa and former Education Minister, Obiageli Ezekwesili; former women minister, Josephine Anenih; and other top gender activists.

The group asked the Senate to revisit the section and delete it.

“The Senate must remain impervious to emotional, religious reasoning, and focus on the aggregate social good which will protect and enrich the lives of half of the nation’s population,” Minister of women affairs demanded.

“We enjoin the Senate leadership to use every avenue within its rules of procedure to cause a revisit of the vote on Section 29(4) (b). The overwhelming reaction of Nigerians against the outcome of the vote on 16 July, 2013 is a clear and unequivocal indication that women, and indeed diverse and significant constituencies of Nigerians, have concerns for the specific and general implications of the decision of the Senate to retain Section 29(4) (b).”