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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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School building collapses in Ejigbo, no casualty recorded

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By Kareem Hassan, Ikotun

A three-storey building has collapsed in Ejigbo.

The building, located at 15 Ansarudeen Street, Ile-Epo Bus Stop, Ejigbo was housing a private school.

According to the Director General of the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, LASEMA, Dr. Femi Oke-Osanyintolu who confirmed the incident,  the building collapsed at about 8:15am.

Witnesses said prior to the collapse, the building had shown signs of distress and the school was planning to renovate and refortify the structure.

The three-storey building has two wings conjoined, the wing that collapsed has seriously affected the second wing as visible cracks can be seen on the walls, pillars and decking.

Dr Oke’-Osanyintolu saud: “Fortunately, nobody was trapped, no injuries and no fatality has been recorded. Responders to the incident scene are LASEMA, LASBCA, Police (Ejigbo Division),”

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Lagos, FG seek partnership for infrastructural development

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The Federal Government and Lagos State Government have found a common ground to address degeneration of infrastructure in Festac Town – a federal housing estate situated in Amuwo-Odofin area of the State.

The resolve by the two parties to jointly confront the inordinate property development and facility deficit in the housing estate was the outcome of a meeting, held on Wednesday, between Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu and the Managing Director of the Federal Housing Authority (FHA), Senator Gbenga Ashafa, signaling an end to the lingering disagreement between the State and the Federal Government over the matter.

Ashafa led top officials of FHA – a department in the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing – on a courtesy visit to the Governor at the State House in Alausa. FHA’s Executive Director for Business Development, Hon. Abdulmumin Jibrin, was in attendance.

The FHA team presented four partnership requests to the Lagos Government, among which include knowledge sharing and technology transfer, cooperation on infrastructure delivery and quick resolution of development crisis in Festac Town.

Sanwo-Olu said the State Government took land administration and property development as critical, stressing that his administration’s urban renewal project was being implemented with the objective to open up remote communities for healthy living and investment drive.

The Governor described development crisis in Festac Town as “unpleasant”, pointing out that the population growth and influx of people led to the degeneration of the neighbourhood. He also said failure of oversight on activities of property developers in Festac Town distorted the original master plan of the area.

He said: “Festac Town as it is today is not what it looked like from 1970s to 1990s, given the degeneration of infrastructure and the unpleasant development observed in the community. The original master plan did not consider population growth, which reflected in the calibre of allotees that got the property then. As a result of lack of monitoring and enforcement, people took advantage of this weakness to build indiscriminately on every available space.

“I think we can still correct this irregularity and regenerate the entire area for healthy living and business, now that the Federal Housing Authority is headed by a highly knowledgeable indigene of Lagos. Once the Federal Government is ready, Lagos State will cooperate fully and work through our Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development on agreed plan. We are ready to give waiver on statutory issues that may aid the progress of this move. Lagos is not the owner of the estate but we have a sense of duty to prevent the depreciation of the asset on that corridor.”

The Governor also conceded to FHA’s request to collaborate in the area of technology transfer, pledging to work with the federal housing agency to raise its capability by creating electronic solution that would further ease allocation of property, land administration and approval of survey plan.

He added that the State would be willing to work with the federal housing agency on estate property development in the Lagos East and West senatorial districts.

Sanwo-Olu praised President Muhammadu Buhari and Minister for Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola, SAN, for the choice of Sen. Ashafa as the head of the federal housing agency, noting that the FHA boss’ tenure as Executive Secretary on Land Matters in Lagos boosted the value of land and property in the State.

The Governor said: “We want you to succeed in this new assignment you have taken up, because we believe that you have vast knowledge in land administration matters. Development is critical to us in Lagos, and we will be willing to cooperate with you for more development. We are convinced that your tenure will bring about solution to challenges the nation faces in land administration.”

Ashafa, a former Senator representing Lagos East, said FHA was ready to resolve all lingering crises delaying the re-modelling and regeneration of Festac Town, expressing confidence that the mid-way approach adopted by the agency would yield positive outcome for the both Governments and residents of the estate.

He described his meeting with the Governor as “productive and fruitful”, pledging to take the discussion further.

He said: “ All the four issues we presented were taken in by the Governor positively. With some of the relevant cabinet members in attendance at the meeting, we will be engaging in further discussions on how to go about our plan for urban regeneration in Lagos.”

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Lagos East bye elections :Tokunbo Abiru emerge APC candidate

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By Timi josh

The immediate past Managing Director of Polaris Bank,Mr Tokunbo Abiru on Thursday emerged candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the Lagos East Senatorial bye election, scheduled for Oct.31.

Abiru emerged at the party’s primaries conducted across the 72 wards in the five local government areas in the senatorial district.

The council areas that make up the senatorial district are Kosofe,Ibeju- Lekki, Ikorodu,Epe ,and Somolu.

Alhaji Ibrahim Masari, Chief Returning Officer,said 111,551 party members voted to affirm Abiru as flagbear of the party.

He said the affirmation was necessary as the former bank boss was the only contender for the ticket.

“We are here to affirm the nomination of our candidate in the person of Mr Tokunbo Abiru.

“As you all know,there was no contest , however;we have done the affirmation starting from the wards,local governments up to the senatorial

“The total number of accredited voters ,111,551;total votes cast ,111551;valid votes ,111,551and invalid votes,none.None because we did direct primary.

“This is to certify that Tokunbo Abiru,having scored the highest total number of votes ,is hereby declared winner and returned elected”,he said.

Addresing media, after the declaration, the State Chairman of the party,Alhaji Tunde Balogun,commended the process,describing it as transparent and free.

He said the successful adoption of the consensus approach during the primaries showed that the party operated based on understanding and discipline of the constitution.

“The process has been thoroughly and meticulously done in line with the constitution of our party.

“In the constitution of APC ,we have the two options for selecting our candidates,which are consensus and contest.

“So Lagos APC decided to use the consensus approach and that is proper and constitutional .

“We are happy with the outcome and the understanding of our members ; it all shows APC is a great party”,he said.

Balogun described Abiru as a formidable candidate ,saying the party had absolute confidence in him to win the election.

He said the party would prepare well for the election to ensure emphatic victory.

The Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC)declared the senatorial seat vacant following the death of Sen.Bayo Osinowo on June 15.

Also, present at the collation centre are the party state excos state chairman Mr Tunde Balogun , state legal adviser that hon Gbamgbala Hakeem, central vice chairman, atipka kaoli, vice lagos east, hon Ogunyemi Lanre secretary, hon sunny Ajose, vice chairman lagos west, party spokeman seye oladejo, deputy spokeman hon abiodun salami

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