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COVID-19: ‘Women’s concerns remain unaddressed’

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Governments at all levels in Nigeria have been urged to develop specific protection and support for women and girls in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.

This call was made on Wednesday 13th May, 2020 by panellists at Plan International Nigeria’s webinar on the topic: Women, Girls and COVID-19: Issues, Impact and Opportunities for Gender Responsive SocialTransformation.

The panel discussion of five, hosted by Plan International Nigeria’s Country Director, Dr Hussaini Abdu, noted that there has not been sufficient attention paid to issues specific to women. According to the discussants who include the Special Advisor to President Muhammadu Buhari on Social Investments Programme, Mrs. Maryam Uwais, many women, especially those in crisis-affected communities are in double jeopardy as they have to now contend with health issues in addition to the challenges of coping with insecurity and internal displacement.

While the panellists acknowledged that effort had been made by the government to respond to the economic and other social challenges posed by the pandemic, it was also noted that some of the efforts came out late and inadequate, especially as they do not pay attention to issues affecting women.

Other panel discussants, which include the Director, Center for Democracy and Development (CDD), Idayat Hassan; Social Policy Specialist, UNICEF Nigeria, Ramatu Budah Aliyu; Senior Gender Equality Advisor, Plan International Nigeria, Obianuju Osude and Programme Director, Yiaga Africa, Cynthia Mbamalu, observed that some of the concerns noted about the response arose because “We are always a latecomer with slow response”.

“We have a health system that is small and fragile that cannot attend to the need of the people. The pandemic has hit the vulnerability and fragility of our system”, noted the panellists who called for an urgent and strategic response including increase in the budgetary allocation to the health sector.

“We need to declare a national emergency situation in the health sector in Nigeria. Now people with other life-threatening conditions and women in need of special need are being neglected. We need to localise our responses and look inward. The need for stronger public and private collaboration in the health sector” the panellists advised.

Emphasising the grim situation facing women across the country, the panelists noted that “before the pandemic women were already disadvantaged. Now women are more disadvantaged. The health burden and mortality rate of women post-pandemic is going to increase.  The informal sector which is the most affected bears the face of women.”

The special Advisor to the President on Social Investment Programme, Maryam Uwais admitted the need to improve on the response system, admitting that the cash transfer palliative used the social register that was developed before the present health crisis which made it impossible for other needy persons to be reached, she however revealed that the register was being updated to address the existing gaps.

“The social register has not correctly covered the entire country. That process has been on since the cash transfer system began since 2016. It’s a tedious but meticulous process. The social register as the avenue to reach vulnerable people during crisis will make it impossible to reach everywhere.

“The register was done basically with the state apparatus. It is dependent on the political will of the state governors.

“Using it as palliative completely marginalises the communities that have not been reached. I understand the register is being transformed to include areas we don’t have a register yet,” Uwais confirmed.

The CDD Director, Idayat Hassan expressed regrets that many Nigerians still do not believe that COVID-19 was real. “People still do not believe that it (COVID-19) is real. It is still about the distrust in the system. People think it is another oil boom for public officials”, she said. She blamed historical poor accountability and corruption for the lack of trust in government from the people who do not believe that COVID-19 was real but a means for personal enrichment.

She called on government to work harder to get the trust of the people as it was only through the cooperation of the people that the disease would be defeated.

Cynthia Mbamalu of YIAGA Africa and Obianuju Osude of Plan International both lamented how gender blind the government’s response to the pandemic has been.

“Gender sensitive response strategy to the pandemic is what we need right now. We need to be futuristic in our law making and planning because even in the attempt by the legislators to respond to the pandemic, the legislation is still largely like before; it doesn’t address specific needs of women and children,” said Cynthia.

On her part, Obianuju said: “The involvement of women is not coming out as would be expected. We do not have the gender aggregated data on the beneficiaries. There are other women who already have certain conditions before the pandemic such as HIV; we are not seeing a strategy that addresses their concern.”

She further advised that there is an urgent “need to strengthen the protection system for the informal sector where the women are mostly engaged. There is also the need to address the issue of gender concerns in the digital space. This includes issue of capacity and gender transformative messaging.”

UNICEF’s Ramatu Budah Aliyu commended the cash transfer initiative of the federal government which paid significant attention to women-led households but said same could not be said of the food distribution.

She said: “For food aid, male households are the key focus apart from cash transfer from the federal government that uses the social register.”

To address this, she advised that “we need to engage more with the system that our communities know and engage people through them. We need to engage more with women in our communities.”

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METRO

Boy dies in Lagos building collapse, six others injured

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A three-storey building which collapsed Saturday morning at Freeman Street, Lagos Island has killed a child while about six other persons rescued from the rubble are receiving treatment at the hospital.

According to the Director-General of the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, Olufemi Oke-Osanyintolu, body of the boy has been deposited at the morgue.

“The Agency responded to emergency calls on the collapsed building at Freeman Street, in the Lagos Island area of Lagos State. Upon arrival at the incident scene at 4am, a three-storey building was discovered to have totally collapsed on people asleep inside. Six victims have been extricated from the rubble alive while a single male child was recovered dead.” Osanyintolu said.

Residents of the area claimed that the building caved in at about 4.05 am while occupants were still asleep.

They said the building was said to have suffered total collapse leaving its occupants trapped as they were fast asleep due.

Meanwhile search and rescue operation continue at the scene, by the joint rescue team of the Lagos State government

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METRO

Jimmy Johnson: A life of fulfillment

“Until his death this week, Jimmy Johnson or Jimi J as he was known by his peers spent his time in semi-retirement in Abuja contributing occasionally to various artistic productions.”

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The family of Jimmy Johnson, better known as “Okoro” in the popular but rested TV drama ‘The Village Headmaster’ who died on July 8 in a hospital at Abuja has released a comprehensive profile of the veteran art enthusiast, hinting on the burial arrangements for the late actor.

In a statement issued by the family, “Jimmy J” was instrumental to the evolvement of the Nigerian entertainment industry over the years.

The statement reads: 

“Jimmy Johnson’s involvement in drama and theatre arts began in Ibadan in the early 60’s working with Professor Wole Soyinka in the Orisun Theatre Company and the Mbari Artistes and Writers Club a diverse group of University lecturers, writers, visual artists, musicians and actors that also included Soyinka, Ulli Beier, Chinua Achebe, Christopher Okigbo, Mabel Segun, J.P Clark, Christopher Kolade, Lindsay Barrett, Demas Nwoko, Tunji Oyelana, Jimi Solanke and Bruce Onobrakpeya amongst others.  Mbari was described as a magnet for artistes and writers of African descent from all over Africa, America’s and the Caribbean.

“The Nigeria Biafra civil war of 1967-70 disrupted Mbari with many members opposing the war, but some forced into different sides by circumstance.

“After the war Jimmy Johnson threw himself into reconstruction of the country as an Information and Culture Officer in the Civil Service – working first from Enugu, capital of the then East Central State, then in Lagos Nigeria’s former capital – while also working alongside colleagues to rebuild a national identity for radio, television, film and theatre.

“Alongside his day job in government in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s he worked with colleagues in Radio Nigeria, Nigerian Television, former associates from Mbari Club and a new crop of film makers and dramatists to build the bedrock of todays entertainment industry in Nigeria. His generation saw FESTAC 77 – The Second World, Black & African Festival of Arts & Culture – as an opportunity to try and rekindle the spirit of Mbari, and invited Black artistes from across Africa, North and South America, Europe and the Caribbean to Nigeria. However some associates, most prominent being Fela Anikulapo Kuti fell out with the Obasanjo government over what was described as military intervention in FESTAC.

“While still working as a Senior Civil Servant he was later best known for the role of “Okoro” which he played for about a decade in NTA’s longest running TV drama The Village Headmaster.

“In 1984 along with many politicians, and senior civil servants he was locked up in Ikoyi Prison and tried, but acquitted by the Buhari/Idiagbon military regime after the overthrow of President Shagari’s government.

“In twist of fate, President Buhari said of him decades later on a recent birthday that “As one of the pioneers of TV drama in Nigeria and a respected thespian” his “contribution to the movie industry, which ranks second in the world, remains indelible” commending his “sacrifice, patriotism and loyalty to his country and his calling, starting out early on stage and the screen when rewards were very minimal, but pursuing his career with relentless passion and vigour”.

“Until his death this week, Jimmy Johnson or Jimi J as he was known by his peers spent his time in semi-retirement in Abuja contributing occasionally to various artistic productions.

“He is survived by his spouse, children, and grand-children including his second child journalist, development and policy expert Rotimi Sankore. His first son Tunde Johnson passed away two years before his death.

“Burial arrangements will be announced soon in line with COVID19 Protocols.”

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METRO

Lawmakers call on Sanwo-Olu to investigate viral video on LAWMA sweepers protest

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The Lagos State House of Assembly has urged Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of the state to investigate those behind a viral video, where some sweepers working the Lagos State Waste Management Authority (LAWMA) were protesting the non-payment of their salaries.

This was contained in the Lagos State House of Assembly Motion Number 22 moved by Hon. Desmond Elliot (Surulere Constituency 1) along with other lawmakers during plenary on Monday 6th July.

The motion was entitled; “Need to Enhance Waste Management In Lagos State.”

Hon. Desmond Elliot stated that the House resolved to commend the efforts of the Lagos State government on waste management in the state.

Elliot stressed that the House condemned those behind the videos that went viral on the issue of non-payment of the salaries of sweepers by LAWMA and that the House called on the Governor and the Ministry of the Environment to look into it and bring the people behind it to book.

The House then called on Governor Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu of the state to direct the Commissioner, Ministry of Finance, Accountant General, State Treasury Office, the Commissioner, Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources, the Acting Managing Director, Lagos State Waste Management Authority and other relevant Agencies to expedite action on the payment of all outstanding allowances of the sweepers.

“Governor Sanwo-Olu should direct the Commissioner, Ministry of Information and Strategy in conjunction with the relevant agencies to sensitize members of the public on the need to dispose their refuse properly and the importance of having waste bin in their respective houses; and mandate the Committee on the Environment to investigate the immediate and remote causes of these irregularities in LAWMA with a view to finding a lasting solution to the matter,” he said.

While stating that the House was mindful of the modern technology means deployed by the state government to ensure a cleaner Lagos, he said that the Governor should mandate the Committee on the Environment to investigate the activities of LAWMA to make their job more effective.

Elliot added that everything was going smoothly before COVID-19, and that with COVID-19, the state suffered a lot over IGRs.

In his comment, the Speaker of the House, Rt. Hon. Mudashiru Obasa stated that there was need to address the issues raised by the staff of LAWMA.

Obasa stated sweepers were employed to sweep Lagos State roads based on humanitarian gesture of the state government, which he said had the alternative of using mechanized ways of removing wastes in the state.

“The state can come up with mechanized ways of removing wastes. We also want to reduce crime, which was why we are doing the job manually.

“We should condemn those behind the video because there are many ways of making their grievances known. The issue started during the break out of COVID-19 and everybody was affected. Those behind the video should be brought to book. We should condemn those going to the media to embarrass the government.

“For those who played roles in the delay of the salaries of the sweepers, the committee could see how they could be held responsible,” he said.

In his contribution, Hon. Rotimi Olowo (Shomolu 1) said that policing the canals and primary drainages in the state required more attention, and that the motion should be supported.

Hon. Kehinde Joseph (Alimosho 2), in his comment, said that the matter should be investigated, but that the government should not stop the salaries of the sweepers in the process.

Also Speaking, Hon. Ajani Owolabi (Lagos Mainland 1) said that Coronavirus pandemic restricted the efforts of the state government to deal with some issues.

Ajani said that the major challenge with wastes in the state had to do with plastic wastes.

“The roads are usually being flooded. We can monetize the plastic waste, and we can call on the Governor to look at this in a way that we can monetize plastic wastes,” he said.

Also contributing, Hon. Gbolahan Yishawu (Eti Osa 2) said that the viral video could not be ignored.

Yishawu then supported the resolve that the money of the staff should be paid.

He added that the sweepers were front line officials that worked during the lockdown, and that the matter should be investigated as suggested in the third leg of the resolve.

Some other lawmakers, who contributed to the motion included Hon. Jude Idimogu (Oshodi/Isolo 2), Hon. Olayiwola Sobur (Mushin 2), Hon. Temitope Adewale (Ifako/Ijaiye 1), Hon. Saka Solaja (Ikorodu 2) and Hon. Adedamola Kasunmu (Ikeja 1).

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