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Thursday, December 28, 2017

No safe place left for Nigerian children – UNICEF laments

With the unleashing of over 135 child-suicide bombers on Nigeria northeast, and increase across the world, the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) has lamented there is no more safe places left for children, reports NaijaAgroNet.

UNICEF in its latest submission on the state of suffering by Children made available to NaijaAgroNet, UNICEF Director of Emergency Programmes, Manuel Fontaine, said that in northeast Nigeria and Cameroon, Boko Haram has forced at least 135 children to act as suicide bombers, almost five times the number in 2016.

NaijaAgroNet also gathered that millions more children are paying an indirect price for these conflicts, suffering from malnutrition, disease and trauma as basic services – including access to food, water, sanitation and health; as they were denied, damaged or destroyed in the fighting.

Also in the Central African Republic, UNICEF said that after months of renewed fightinga dramatic increase in violence saw children being killed, raped, abducted and recruited by armed groups.

Over 2017 in the Afghanistan, almost 700 children were killed in the first 9 months of the year, while in the Kasai region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, violence has driven 850,000 children from their homes, while more than 200 health centres and 400 schools were attacked. An estimated 350,000 children have suffered from severe acute malnutrition. 

In Iraq and Syria, UNICEF said, children have reportedly been used as human shields, trapped under siege, targeted by snipers and lived through intense bombardment and violence.
Children in Myanmar, Rohingya region, UNICEF said, suffered and witnessed shocking and widespread violence as they were attacked and driven from their homes in Rakhine state; while children in remote border areas of Kachin, Shan, and Kayin states continued to suffer the consequences of ongoing tensions between the Myanmar Armed Forces and various ethnic armed groups.  
For the South Sudan, NaijaAgroNet reports that conflict has seen to a collapsing economy which led to a famine declaration in parts of the country, more than 19,000 children have been recruited into armed forces and armed groups, and over 2,300 children have been killed or injured since the conflict first erupted in December 2013.
Whereas in Somalia, estimated 1,740 cases of child recruitment were reported in the first 10 months of 2017.
Just as in Yemen, nearly 1,000 days of fighting left at least 5,000 children dead or injured, according to verified data, with actual numbers expected to be much higher. More than 11 million children need humanitarian assistance. Out of 1.8 million children suffering from malnutrition, 385,000 are severely malnourished and at risk of death if not urgently treated.
UNICEF calls on all parties to conflict to abide by their obligations under international law to immediately end violations against children and the targeting of civilian infrastructure, including schools and hospitals. UNICEF also calls on States with influence over parties to conflict to use that influence to protect children.

NaijaAgroNet recalls that across all these countries, UNICEF works with partners to provide the most vulnerable children with health, nutrition, education and child protection services.

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Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Rivers, Shell sign MoU on gas supply

The Rivers State Government and Shell Nigeria Gas (SNG) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the distribution of gas to industries in the Greater Port Harcourt area and its environs, reports NaijaAgroNet.

The MoU, NaijaAgroNet gathered, sets out broad terms and conditions to guide co-operation between the two parties in the development of new gas distribution opportunities in the Greater Port Harcourt area and its environs in addition to its existing gas distribution network in the State.

"The agreement is key in the efforts of the government to boost industrialization in Rivers State," said Richard Hart, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources, who signed for the government. "We believe that the agreed terms in the MoU will lead to the signing of the "Build-Operate-Own-and Transfer" (BOOT) agreement early next year so businesses can begin to reap the benefits of a steady source of energy."

SNG Managing Director, Ed Ubong who signed for the company said the partnership was an opportunity to further promote gas as a more reliable, cleaner and cost-effective alternative to liquid fuels in the Niger Delta.

"Gas is the key to boosting industrialization. It is no coincidence that states that currently do well on internal revenue generation have also encouraged the use of gas to boost industrial output, which in turn provides employment and improved livelihood. SNG is grateful to the Rivers State Government for the foresight and co-operation in the signing of the MoU, and will reciprocate the gesture by taking every step to fulfill its obligations in the agreement," he said.

Also commenting on the significance of the MoU, Country Chair, Shell Companies in Nigeria, Osagie Okunbor reiterated the leadership role of Shell in the domestic gas market.

"For more than 50 years, Shell has been in the forefront of the campaign to develop and monetize Nigeria's huge resources and it is good to see SNG continuing in the tradition to grow the domestic gas market and also help to improve lives and earnings in Rivers State," Okunbor said.

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Monday, December 18, 2017

Nigerian stakeholders get FPMAWG

The Nigerian stakeholders have setting up the Family Planning Media Advocacy Working Group (FPMAWG) as part of efforts at advancing their commitments on issues of family planning in the country, reports NaijaAgroNet.

The FPMAWG executive committee includes Chioma Umeha – Chairperson, Angela Onwuzoo - vice chairperson, Mayuwa Adeniran – Public Relations Officer (PRO), Bukola Ajiboye – Secretary, Ijeoma Ukazu - Assistant Secretary, and Appolonia Adeyemi as Financial Secretary.

Setting up the FPMAWG in Lagos, the Associate Director of Reproductive Health and Family Planning (RH/FP) at Pathfinder International office in Nigeria, Dr. Habeeb Salami, defined advocacy as “organized, deliberate, systematic, and strategic process intended to bring about a new or revised social or economic policy or programme.”

He also said that advocacy involves setting of actions undertaken by a group of committed individuals or organizations to introduce change or obtain support for specific policies, programmes, legislation, issues or causes, precisely on Family Planning.

Salami urged FPMAWG to seek to draw and sustain the attention of critical decision makers at national, state and local and community levels on an issue of common interest to an individual, or a group of individuals or organizations, with the goal of getting these issues addressed in a mutually beneficial manner.

FPMAWG, he said, is a group of committed individuals who share a common social, political and economic interest over an issue.

“Willing to work together to change the FP situation,” he said.

Salami equally pointed out that advocacy groups could be very influential, but their influence is informal because they do not hold or control power, but try to influence people who either hold power or who may hold power, such as a candidate for an elective office, to support the positions the group is committed to.

“Advocacy groups are important players in local, state, federal, and even international social economic milieu,” he said, thus as diverse as the people and ideas they represent.

He urged for partnership with like-minded individuals or groups, noted that essentially, FPMAWG should advocate to national and local leaders that Family Planning needs high-level attention and improvements in quality and access.

Therefore, he encouraged FPMAWG to ensure the usage of the power of the media through deploying various platforms.

“Influence and make the political, policy, legal and community environments more suitable for FP,” he said.

Positing that qualities of a good and effective media AWG is predicated on the passion which he described as critical, even as membership is constituted from diverse team who are truly and genuinely committed to FP and willing to push for a change in that direction.

In her acceptance speech, the FPMAWG chairperson, Mrs Chioma Umeha assured stakeholders that her team will be up and doing in contributing their quotas to improved family planning in the country and solicited for support and understanding of all, especially the international partners.

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Pix: A cross session of stakeholders at the inaugural meeting.

War over Edo cement holdings: BUA says Dangote claims stink

The war of words has continued between BUA group and Dangote group over claims on its cement holding in Edo State, just as BUA says Dangote claims stink, reports NaijaAgroNet.

The Group Head, Corporate Communications, Otega Ogra told NaijaAgroNet that latest claims 
by the Management of Dangote Group which is being syndicated to various new publications related to the ownership and operations of BUA’s mining sites in Obu, Okpella, Edo State, fall short of facts.

This latest statement by Dangote Group, Ogra noted, stinks of desperation in its continued attempt to disregard the judicial process and scheme a viable competitor out of business as has been their legendary antecedent. We thus wish to reiterate once again that whilst we do not want to join issues with anyone on this matter as it is currently before a court of competent jurisdiction, we are however compelled to use the opportunity presented by Edwin Devakumar’s reckless statements to clarify the cycle of misinformation being proliferated.

Specifically responding to Edwin Devakumar of Dangote Group’s claim of BUA operating on ML2541 in Okene, Kogi State, “we wish to restate that BUA does not have any operations whatsoever in Okene, Kogi State where the purported ML2541 is situated. Our Mining operations are limited to Obu-Okpella, Edo State for which licenses ML18912 & 18913 were issued and revalidate by the same ministry in a publication.”

These licenses, he said, have been owned, operated and fulfilled by BUA and its predecessors-in-title since 1976, as it is also a notorious fact that “we have exercised total control and possession over the mining area covered by the above mining leases since 1976 when we operated under the name of Bendel Cement Company Limited. We are thus wont to excuse Edwin’s claims to a lack of basic knowledge and understanding of the geography of Nigeria but he will be better served if he seeks professional opinion in critically understanding the geography of Nigeria or he should otherwise refer to documents from the boundary commission which clearly delineates boundaries within Nigeria.”

BUA group therefore asked, “Why is Dangote, an international company which is also listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange, so averse to letting the rule of the law and judicial process take its course? The court has maintained that Status Quo be maintained (This includes BUA’s current ownership of our mines in Edo State) but the management of Dangote Group Dangote, as has been their strategy in the past to other companies in competition with them, is still seeking to out-muscle competition through backdoor means rather than let the court decide. If anyone is not satisfied, they should write to the courts as an independent arbiter for an interpretation of “maintaining status quo” rather than spread misinformation in the court of public opinion.

“It is public knowledge that neither Dangote nor AICO or anyone for that matter can claim ownership of ML2541 as was stated in a court injunction by a Federal High Court sitting in Lokoja in suit FHC/LK/CS/25/2017 between Alhaji Mohammed Otaru Adeika & Ors. Versus AICO Ado Ibrahim and Company Limited, Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel, The Mining Cadestre Office and Dangote Industries Plc. How then can they continue to claim in obvious disregard of that court order that the ML2541 belongs to them?   No one is above the law.

“The antecedent of Dangote Plc in trying to outmuscle competition is not in doubt. Various cases abound within and outside the cement industry – one of which was their taking over of the limestone deposits of another competing entity in the south-south region of Nigeria until they ceeded him 25 per cent of their company. This was in turn resold to them for hundreds of millions of dollars. Or is it the case of Ibeto whose business was almost driven under but for the prompt intervention of the then late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. Or is it the case of Polo House Jetty Tincan previously owned by his uncle, Usman Dantata, whose License was revoked by NPA and reallocated to Dangote on the same day in order to prevent a sugar refinery to be sited there by a competitor.

“The facts of the matter as far as we are concerned are that BUA’s operations are in Obu, Okpella, Edo State and not Okene Kogi. We once again ask that all parties should wait for the court to resolve the issue. We will not be cowed or intimidated and will continue to seek redress through the proper legal channels,” BUA group submitted.

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Saturday, December 16, 2017

CLI restates commitment to healthier, safer and cleaner Lagos

The Cleaner Lagos Initiative (CLI) has restated commitment to a healthier, safer and cleaner Lagos with the session with stakeholders hosted in Ikeja, stressing government determination to promote recycling, reports NaijaAgroNet.

This, NaijaAgroNet gathered, was top on the agenda of the stakeholders meet, where CLI explained the plans and technicalities outlined by the Lagos State Government to effectively manage solid waste in the state, private enterprises and environmentalists in attendance.

Speaking at the forum, the Managing Director of SWM Solutions, Mrs. Tolagbe Martins told participants that the interactive forum provided an opportunity for CLI to shed light on several issues that were misunderstood by many Lagosians, while it also enabled the stakeholders to understand the practical approach as well as factors they could contribute to the success of the initiative.

According to her, the forum helped on explaining the roles played by the Lagos State Waste Management Authority (LAWMA), newly established agency; Public Utility Monitoring Assurance Unit (PUMAU) and that of Visionscape, the Waste Collection Operator assigned by the state to collect residential waste.

Mrs Martins explained that LAWMA had been repositioned to focus majorly on regulation of Waste Collection Operators, while PUMAU would coordinate the billing, revenue collection and enforcement of the Public Utility Levy (PUL), a rate charged by government from each property/house for collection and disposal of their waste. This rate is expected to replace the monthly bill charged by PSP operators, now referred to as Waste Collection Operators (WCOs).

Further, she said the issue of marine waste, which is also a major concern of the state government is receiving attention as there is strategies for integrating same into the long-term plan.

"The Cleaner Lagos Initiative is mainly funded by the Trust Fund through the PUL collected, so the cooperation and support of Lagosians and residents in the state will go a long way to help the state government in achieving a healthier and safer environment for all," she added.

Some of the stakeholders at the session included Olawale Adebiyi, CEO of Wecyclers; Chioma Ukonu, Cofounder/COO, Recycle Points; Felix Abayomi, Founder/CEO, Wildlife Conservation and Protection Initiative; Olayinka Jones, Development Consultant, Community Conservation & Development Initiative (CCDI).

Reacting to some queries, by the stakeholders on the immediate action of the government in dealing with heaps of waste dotting different parts of Lagos, Mrs. Martins explained that Visionscape has been carrying out regular deep clean activities across the state in a bid to drastically reduce waste in black spot areas that were dumped indiscriminately around the city, while also ensuring that the waste bins located in areas of the state are promptly emptied.

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Pix: Mrs. Tolagbe Martins, Managing Director of SWM Solutions (middle); Chioma Ukonu, Co-founder/COO of RecyclePoints (left) and Olawale Adebiyi, CEO of Wecyclers (right) at the Breakfast Meeting organized by Cleaner Lagos Initiative  (CLI) to familiarize environmentalists with the waste management agenda of Lagos State Government, held on Tuesday in Ikeja, Lagos.

Dangote vs BUA: Atta family derides Mines Ministry over false claims

… Drags Fayemi, Dangote to court over contempt
The last may not have been heard over the mess created by the Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel Development as the ruling Atta Omadivi Family of Okene in Kogi State has described the recent ministry’s publication bequeathing the contentious Mining Lease ML 2541 to Dangote Group as desperate move, reports NaijaAgroNet.

The family, NaijaAgroNet gathered, also said that it depicts a ‘reflection of desperate, reckless, irresponsible and partisan conduct of the ministry’ which has continued to flout all court injunctions related to the contentious lease.

NaijaAgroNet recalls that the Executive Chairman/CEO of BUA Group, Abdulsamad Rabiu had petitioned President Muhammadu Buhari on December 4, 2017 in a letter titled “A Cry for Help: Wanton Abuse of Power by a Serving Minister Geared at Sabotaging Operations of BUA Cement,” affirming that the Ministry was taking sides with Dangote Group to claim ownership of the mining site ML2541 in Okpella, Edo State. The Ministry had replied in a statement signed by its Permanent Secretary, Mohammed Abass stating that Mining Lease ML 2541 in Okene, Kogi State belongs to Dangote Industries Limited and that BUA has been illegally mining the site.

But in a press statement signed by Prince Mahmoud Atta on behalf of the Atta Family expressed disdain over the Ministry’s hasten conclusion in their publication stating that suit FHC/LK/CS/25/2017 between Alhaji Mohammed Otaru Adeika & Ors. Versus AICO Ado Ibrahim and Company Limited, Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel, The Mining Cadestre Office and Dangote Industries Plc pending in Federal High Court in Lokoja will determine who owns the contentious site.

Prince Atta wonders why the Ministry has special interest in Dangote to openly and illegally bequeath them ML2541 under contention in competent Court, describing the act as tantamount to contempt of the court.

Stressing that the court had ordered that no one can claim ownership of ML2541, Atta said neither Aico nor Dangote owns ML2541 as wrongly declared by the Ministry adding that the Mining Lease remains nontransferable until the suit is determined.

According to Atta, “The frequency of the publication is reflective of desperate, reckless, irresponsible and partisan conduct of the Ministry in clear violation, disregard and suppression of a subsisting court order dated June 15, 2017 in respect to the transfer, operations and ownership of the purported Mining Lease ML 2541.

“We hereby inform the general public that the existence, validity and ownership of ML2541 is a subject matter in suit No. FHC/LK/CS/25/2017 between Alhaji Mohammed Otaru Adeika & Ors. V. AICO Ado Ibrahim and Company Limited, Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel, The Mining Cadestre Office and Dangote Industries as defendants before Honourable Justice M. Sani of the Federal High Court, Lokoja Kogi State.

“We wish to state that the Honourable Minister of Mines and Steel Development the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry and Dangote Industries Plc are acting in violation of a subsisting order of injunction of the Federal High Court Lokoja, Kogi State restraining them by themselves servants agents assignees transferees or other third parties from parading themselves as the holders of ML2541 pending the determination of the substantive suit.

“For the purpose of clarity, we wish to restate again that the court was explicit in its order that no one can parade themselves as the holders of ML2541 pending the determination of the suit. As such, neither AICO nor Dangote can’t lay claim to the ownership of ML2541 as the ministry said in its offending publication. Neither is the Mining Lease transferable until the determination of the suit brought against them by our family.

“It is unfortunate this action and conduct is being perpetrated in a democratic dispensation that touts the rule of law. We have continued to insist that the purported transfer of ML2541 to Dangote Industries by Messrs AICO Ibrahim is in clear contravention of Nigerian Mining Act 2007 which the Ministry claims to be upholding in its publication.

“The publications by the Ministry seek to overreach the matter before the court and consequently we have instructed our solicitors to protect not only our interests but the sanctity of the court and the judicial process, which include bit not limited to commencing contempt proceedings against the parties in violation of the orders of the court” he said.


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Friday, December 15, 2017

Modern slavery: SDGs & unending African malaise?

Recent exposure of internally African modern slavery markets calls for joining of forces beyond the African Union and European Union joint summit in Abidjan, writes REMMY NWEKE.
 
Preamble:
Historically, the slavery in Africa dates way back prior to 1793. A visit to the Badagry suburb in Lagos and slavery gateway, would leave any discerning mind a wet chronicle; how the community leaders then sold a human being for a ceramic cup and some for a bottle of hot-drink, equally known in the local parlance as foreign ‘gin’, yet another for a goldsmith design, that will not be of value either to be adorned at occasion or move about easily due to its weight.

From Badagry in Lagos to somewhere in Kumasi in Ghana, the story was definitely the same, then you find the slave trade outlet after agonizing stay and dehumanizing in the section of point of no return.

At first when I visited Badagry and Kumasi, my assumption was that we have and must put this kind of histories in the past and sojourn with the present in order to make progress as required, hence, when DigitalSENSE Business News made its debut a few years ago; the cover reflected on “How tech-giants promote child-labour” by some of the mobile device manufacturers in the same cheap labour with bottom design being to highlight the implications of that being a modern day slavery.

And as the world progressively develop in the areas and applications of the information and communication technologies (ICT), one thinks that such news as 21st century slavery or still modern slavery should have become a bygone over half a decade later.

40 million in modern slavery:
Defined as modern ways of exploitation ranging from forced prostitution and forced labour to forced marriage and forced organ removal, as well as human trafficking, debt bondage, descent-based slavery and child slavery, according to antislavery.org.

But latest data from a recent report by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and Walk Free Foundation, in collaboration with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) which came in two parts, showed that some 40 million people are currently in modern slavery and 152 million in child labour around the world, aged between 5 and 17, within the 2016 alone.
NaijaAgroNet also gathered that this new data revealed that the United Nations (UN's) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly on goal 8.7, will not be achieved unless efforts to fight modern slavery and child labour are radically augmented.

In addition, NaijaAgroNet reports that the new estimates indicated that women and girls are disproportionately affected by modern slavery, accounting almost 29 million, or 71 per cent of the overall total. Women, they said, represent 99 per cent of the victims of forced labour in the commercial sex industry and 84 per cent of forced marriages. 

The research revealed that among the 40 million victims of modern slavery, about 25 million were in forced labour, and 15 million were in forced marriage. While child labour remain concentrated primarily in agriculture with 70.9 per cent, almost one in five child labourers work in the services sector, whereas estimated 11.9 per cent of child labourers work in industry. 

The ILO Director-General, Mr Guy Ryder, noted that the message his office sent with the latest research findings alongside its partners, remain very clear; “the world won’t be in a position to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals unless we dramatically increase our efforts to fight these scourges. These new global estimates can help shape and develop interventions to prevent both forced labour and child labour.” 

The Founding chairman, Walk Free Foundation, Mr Andrew Forrest, pointed to the fact that as a society humanity still have 40 million people in modern slavery, on any given day shames mankind. “If we consider the results of the last five years, for which we have collected data, 89 million people experienced some form of modern slavery for periods of time ranging from a few days to five years. This speaks to the deep seated discrimination and inequalities in our world today, coupled with a shocking tolerance of exploitation. This has to stop. We all have a role to play in changing this reality – business, government, civil society, every one of us.” 

Libya Slave Market exposed:
Then, came, the news on Libyan Slave Market in the northern Africa. The fact is that most Africans remain divided with some sympathizing with the victims who have to journey via the unpleasant route to Libya with hope of making it to Europe.

The alarming aspect is that most victims that got trafficked actually paid to be exported via Libya and often ended up being stranded without any food or money, hence some end up in doing drugs, prostitution and odd jobs after being sold between $400 and $600 in order to survive. From most stories, told by the surviving returnees, they paid initially between $1000 and $6000; for self-export into slavery.

As at the time of filing this report, some 6,000 Nigerians have been repatriated back home with everyone having ugly stories abound, while the Nigerian High Commission in Libya, said some Nigerians, even refused to go home.

Freely become slave:
NaijaAgroNet reports that another school of thought disputed if what is happening in Libya Slave Market is precisely a slave trade? According to the proponents of this thought, some of the victims voluntarily paid about $6,000 each, to reach the shores of Libya for onward movement to Italy and other European cities, where they look forward to being secured and revel in a so-called better life ... regrettably, “From there they became victims of their own choices. Nobody came into Nigeria or Ghana or Cameroon to pick them as slaves; rather they went there by themselves and with their own money, but their ‘Points men’ and ‘points women’ had invariably other ideas in their heads.

Also, the proponents considered these victims as not more than slaves who are only fit to work menial jobs in the family homes of Europeans, and for that their traffickers tagged them with the price of $400 each for the Europeans to buy and herd them to their homes for domestic chores!
These proponents insisted that a quick conversion of $6,000 into Nigerian Naira will tell you that these "slaves" were never poor people by any equation, because the amount here is about N2.6 million spent by each "slave" to freely become "slaves" in Europe, and by simple reckoning, poor people have no such cash in any part of the world.

This school of thought was saddened on the so-called modern slavery story, because evidences have shown that in some communities in Nigeria, “it is the parents or families that raise such huge sums for their children, especially for daughters, to go to Italy or other European cities to become sex slaves and send large sums of dollars home. At best, the above narration is not slavery since it was not forced one; rather a deliberate consent to be sold into slavery."

Whereas appreciating the United States-based Cable News Network (CNN), they posited, it's good that CNN broke the story of this self-induced slavery, and it's also good that Nigeria's federal government sent in aircrafts and brought back home her own contingent of ‘rich slaves.’

Can AU & EU summit mitigate?
This story, directly or indirectly influenced the outcome of a summit of African Union (AU) and European Union (EU) in Cote d’ Ivore capital, Abidjan, setting a goal of immediate repatriation of some 3,800 migrants languishing in a camp near Tripoli. They also insisted on stamping out horrific abuse of African migrants, some of them Nigerians, in Libya where thousands are suffering in a vast, lawless territory. Just as head, AU Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat noted, there are hundreds of thousands more estimated about “400,000 to 700,000,” who are stranded. Yet, experts pointed out a daunting array of hurdles including from extracting migrants in perilous situations, to giving them incentives to stay back when they return home.

For the International Organisation for Migration Europe Director, Eugenio Ambrosi had told AFP by phone from Brussels. “It is a step in the right direction. It is a little bit too much to think it will solve the slavery issue, but it would definitely mitigate (it) to some extent.” Emphasising that the summit also showed there was now ‘international watchdog pressure’ that could be brought to bear on the criminal gangs but it must be ‘sustained.’

The drive proclaimed at a meeting on the summit sidelines organised by French President Emmanuel Macron, which gathered eight other EU and African countries as well as the AU, EU and United Nations representatives; hinting that the UN-backed Libyan government of Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj had identified and granted access to the worst camps to enable the returns of people who want to go home.

Dealing with traffickers & punishment:
Additionally, the Macron group decided to work with a task force, involving the sharing of Police and intelligence services, to “dismantle the networks and their financing and detain traffickers,” he said, even as they pledged to freeze the assets of identified traffickers, while AU will set up an investigative panel and the UN could take cases before the International Court of Justice.

While saluting this as progress, commentators pointed to big practical problems, which begin with the need for African countries to respond rapidly to the need for travel documents so that evacuees can leave quickly.

“Something has to be done for people in this situation, obviously. But from an operational and logistical point of view, the evacuations are very complicated,” said Matthieu Tardis, a researcher at the French Institute of International Relations in Paris. Adding, “Doing it on a major scale raises the question of cooperation with the Libyan authorities and of their authority across the country. On top of that, it’s hard to see how you can walk into unofficial camps and other places to evacuate migrants, especially when they are controlled by traffickers.”

Unofficial camps:
Libya’s UN-backed Government of National Accord is opposed by a rival administration in the east of the country, backed by strongman Khalifa Haftar. Just as there is the question of support for those who go home — an influx that adds to a poor country’s economic and social burden.

For Yves Roland Houeto, the coordinator of an Ivorien Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) called the Pan-African Association of Children and Young Workers (AACYW), said he saw no signs West African governments were ready to offer serious economic prospects to keep the young at home.

Governments cannot just offer returning migrants some money and supplies when they land back in their country’s airport. As said by Houeto “As soon as their supplies and money run out, they will leave again,” noting that in Grand Bassam, a coastal city of 80,000 people less than an hour’s drive from Abidjan, that every month, around 10 young people leave the area for Europe.

Summary:
Of immediate commendation must be given to government and people of Uganda for accepting to habour some of the victims from Libya, pending their final repatriation to their home countries. And given the scenes above, there is a lot to be done by the governments and African Union Commission, especially in enthroning good governance in most African countries.

Until such a time, the situation in Southern Cameroun needed to be nipped on the bud. It will also send the signal that AUC is ready alongside the sub-regional organisations, the International Labour Organisation (ILO), Walk Free Foundation, and International Organization for Migration (IOM) to work the talk. Of course, with the support of European Union, so as make the youth see the reality on ground rather than propaganda and the time to start was like yesterday, that is, if we intend to make inroads into the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals 8 - Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all; in combination of 8.7 – which centres on forced labour.

Therefore, it’s imperative to agree with the earlier submission that unless efforts to fight modern slavery and child labour are jointly tackled and radically too to complement each other, any effort towards this may be in vain.

And time to start is now, after all, because, at this time it cannot be said to be a stitch in time that saves nine, but efforts at remedying  the situation is and must be commendable, whilst determinations to make the required change on modern slavery, must start from the homes and immediate societies, backed by good governance as its bedrock.

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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Dangote in fresh mining mess, attracts N2.7bn fine

A Federal High Court sitting in Lokoja, Kogi State Capital has ordered Dangote Group, Dangote Cement Plc, Obajana Cement Plc, Dangote Industries and their subsidiaries in a judgement against them, to pay the sum of N2,697,125,000 billion in a mining dispute brought against Dangote by a mining firm, Quest Two Enterprises Ltd, reports NaijaAgroNet.

In his judgment, the trial judge Justice Ayua of the Federal High Court, Lokoja averred that the Dangote General Manager, Mr. Victor Mohan, who was also the sole witness admitted under cross-examination that his employers, Dangote Group, effectively shut down operations of the company by dismantling power lines belonging to the company and disrupting their operations. Despite agreeing to pay compensation for these acts to the plaintiffs, the judge also noted that the defendants failed to live up to the terms of the agreement to pay any compensation to the plaintiffs.

The court also dismissed Dangote’s counter-claims that the actions of the plaintiff amounted to trespassing on their mining lease area. He consequently declared that Dangote should pay the sum N2.7billion as damages and issued a Garnishee order Nisi against 21 banks to satisfy the judgment debt.


This new development comes as Dangote is fiercely battling another mining dispute with cement giant, BUA Cement, in which the Chairman of BUA recently wrote an open letter to the President claiming that Dangote in collaboration with the Ministry of Mines & steel illegally entered its Mining areas with a view to disrupting and sabotaging operations at BUA’s Okpella cement plant despite a court order restraining Dangote and the Ministry from claiming and or moving to the site. The cases comes up for hearing shortly at the Federal High Court in Benin.

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Cerebral harmattan & failure of African tea leaves

Commentary@NaijaAgroNet:
If you live and work in my side of Africa, as in the wild wild West, you know what time of day it is. The Harmattan has arrived, as in very fine particles of dust blown by an easterly/north-easterly wind from the Sahel. It will hover in a gritty daze, for weeks (usually between December and February but with global warming and climate change ....) over everything.

Extreme weather - wintry storms, freezing fog patches and a blitz of amber weather warnings - in former colonial Britain, the advent of the Christmas season and cheap airfares. Means the cousins, nieces, nephews and their friends from the Diaspora, those who have papers and can travel without imminent fear of Mr. Trump's dawn immigration tweets or a sudden turn in the Brexit negotiations, will soon invade Ghana. Adding further to the traffic, the noise and the stress.

The top ten performing currencies on this continent at some point in 2017, were: the Egyptian Pound; the Eritrean Nakffa; South Africa's Rand; Botswana's Pula; the Moroccan Dirham; Zambia's Kwacha, the Sudanese Pound, Ghana's Cedi (you know?!!), Tunisia's Dinar and the Libyan Dinar. In Accra, for the duration of the dizzy season, the exchange rate for pounds, dollars, euro, anything of value, except of course African currencies, many of which you can't give away even as a joke, will fluctuate.

Fortunately, the Diasporans have no staying power, they will depart by the second week of January 2018, weighed down by the double effects of our national diet of complex carbohydrates - kenkey, banku, brodi, apem, banku, akple, tuozaafi - and the pyramid of debt that comes from the onslaught of cousin/auntie/uncle coming to 'greet. Cynical Ahasporans like me will apply shea butter to our parched skins and lips, with a wry smile. This harmattan too shall pass.

Athritis

I also have a soft spot for older men. They do have to be gentlemen, in possession of bifocal glasses, their own teeth, able to move freely, arthritis can be managed. Said older man must be non violent. Physically as well as in publicly expressed thought. Lest my position hardens.

An older man worthy of a second look, is the Speaker of the 7th Parliament of Ghana's Fourth Republic, Professor Aaron Mike Ocquaye. We are co equals, only, in terms of our abbreviated physical height. Whilst I am probably taller, the Right Honourable Ocquaye's resume is much more impressive.

A former Member (twice) of Parliament for Dome-Kwabenya - a constituency in Accra - , he was elected the Second Deputy Speaker of Parliament (2009 - 2013), served as Ghana's former High Commissioner to India (2001 - 2004) and was Minister of Energy, briefly, then Minister of Communications (2006-2009). Mr. Speaker is also a lawyer and an author who has published severally on matters politics and human rights. I am unreliably informed, that he has recently added ordained clergy to his towering list of accomplishments.

When our cerebral Right Honourable Speaker took the Oath of Office on January 7th 2017, he stated publicly "I need to remind the new MPs that the highly procedural nature of Parliament calls for an equally high level of commitment to the rules and procedures of the institution. Serious learning will therefore have to be undertaken to sharpen your competencies in order to function optimally." Polite speak for 'grow up, get a grip and get on with it'.

I could commend and comment on how happily I received the speed with which the Ministry of Foreign Affairs publicly clapped back and shut down the Right Honourable Ocquaye for granting a recent interview during which he apparently unilaterally, welcomed the singular decision of US President Donald Trump, recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. I will not.

As I offered, I have a spot, it is hardening, quickly though, for a certain type of older man. Especially when he needs serious learning to sharpen his competencies in not projecting his personal opinion in a way that is not optimal and can publicly undermine the functioning official government position. Our Embassy will stay in Tel Aviv, as will the Embassies of the European Union. And Russia.

Democracy is Tiring and Required

Another older man who warrants a 'no you did not' is Tanzania's President John Pombe Joseph Magafuli, note he has two biblical names. A former Minister of Livestock and Fisheries, a former Minister of Lands and Human Settlement, he too was a Member of Parliament. Character is like pregnancy, it will always out.

As President, Magafuli has made a maverick name for himself by defying the odds. This is the man who banned luxe public celebrations of national holidays including his inauguration, this is the man who walked into a government hospital, found victim citizens prostrate on the floor and apparently issued firing letters to the absent senior management. Magafuli has also recently pardoned a number of prisoners, including a father and son convicted of raping 10 school girls. In June 2017, Magafuli also spoke publicly in support of a ban on pregnant girls from attending school.

I will not say something about this older bespectacled African leader as well. What I will do is present comments attributed to the Director of an Arusha based civil society organisation, Community for Children's Rights. Ms Kate McAlpine has been quoted as saying President Magafuli's pardon of the 2 pedophiles, demonstrates his "lack of understanding of violence against children." She is also quoted in the same report as stating "he has a blind spot when it comes to recognising children as victims."

Welcome to the Harmattan, the impending invasion of the Diasporans and a word to men of a certain vintage in paid public office. Older and acting up in public is undignified, unwelcome, unjust and can be dangerous. Careful, Grandpa. Dinosaurs are extinct for a reason. They failed to read the tea leaves and the weather. You could end up in Serbia.
Courtesy: Nana Yaa Ofori Atta who contributed this from Accra, Ghana. NanaYOforiAtta@gmail.com

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Thursday, December 7, 2017

Over 14m adults malnourished, on the rise



Over 14.3 million women and men in the countries of Europe and Central Asia region are still malnourished according to the Food andAgriculture Organisation (FAO) latest study, reports NaijaAgroNet.

FAO said, the State of Food Security and Nutrition in Europeand Central Asia 2017, analyzes a range of food security and nutrition indicators to assess the countries’ progress towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal 2 (End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture) by 2030. It appraises dietary energy supply, nutrition indicators such as stunting and wasting, anaemia, overweight and obesity, as well changing diets and their impact on different population groups.

After tremendous progress in recent years, the situation in the region now appears to be stagnant. The prevalence of undernourishment remained almost unchanged in the Caucasus and Central Asia according to the report which was presented at a Regional Symposium on Sustainable Food Systems for Healthy Diets.

“Poverty remains the single, most important obstacle to food security,” said Vladimir Rakhmanin, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Europe and Central Asia. “But there is a clear path forward. The Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs, provide a powerful framework for tackling the challenges faced by the countries of Europe and Central Asia.”

To better appraise the drivers and features of food insecurity in the region, FAO’s report includes the new Food InsecurityExperience Scale (FIES), which serves to complement the analysis of progress against Sustainable Development Goal 2 (SDG2) indicators on food security and nutrition. Providing more timely and comprehensive analysis, the new methodology shows that 14.3 million adults in the region suffered from severe food insecurity during the period 2014-16.

Yet, to fully assess the situation the nutrition data collected by the World Health Organization (WHO) is key, the report noted. Malnutrition in one or more of its three main forms – undernutrition, overnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies – is present to varying degrees in all countries of the region, the report states.


“Often all three coexist, in what is called the ’triple burden’ of malnutrition,” said FAO senior policy officer Ariella Glinni, principal author of the report. “It is not unusual for countries to experience high rates of both child undernutrition and obesity. Micronutrient deficiencies and overnutrition in children, women and men have become two major food security and nutrition concerns across the region.”

Isaac Oyimah/GEE

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Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Precision agriculture market to reach €4.2 billion by 2021

A new research report from the M2M/IoT analyst firm, Berg Insight, has revealed that the global market for precision agriculture solutions is forecasted to grow from € 2.2 billion in 2016 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 13.6 per cent, reports NaijaAgroNet.

The report also revealed that with the CAGR of 13.6 per cent, its expected to reach about € 4.2 billion in 2021.

According to Berg Insight, a set of technologies are applied in precision farming practices, which are aimed at managing variations in the field to maximise yield, raise productivity and reduce consumption of agricultural inputs.

“While solutions such as auto-guidance and machine monitoring and control via on-board displays today are mainstream technologies in the agricultural industry, telematics and Variable Rate Technology (VRT) are still in the early stages of adoption. Interoperability between hardware and software solutions remains a challenge, although standardisation initiatives led by organisations such as Agricultural Industry Electronics Foundation and AgGateway make progress,” part of the report read.

For them, the most major agricultural equipment manufacturers have today initiatives related to precision agriculture although strategies vary markedly. Leading vendors of precision agriculture solutions include the world’s largest manufacturer of agricultural equipment Deere & Company, followed by the US-based precision technology vendors Trimble, Topcon Positioning Systems, Raven Industries and Ag Leader Technology.

Hexagon further holds a strong position in the positioning segment through its subsidiary NovAtel. Major providers that specialise in data-oriented applications and agronomic services are the Monsanto subsidiary The Climate Corporation, Canada-based Farmers Edge and the newly formed DowDuPont with its Encirca services. A group of companies have furthermore emerged as leaders on the nascent market for in-field sensor systems. These include Davis Instruments, Pessl Instruments with its METOS brand, Semios, Hortau, AquaSpy and CropX.

“The traditional industry boundaries within the agricultural sector are slowly beginning to blur as agricultural equipment and precision farming solutions are becoming parts of broader systems”, said Fredrik Stålbrand, IoT Analyst, Berg Insight.
Partnerships and consolidation among agricultural equipment manufacturers and precision technology companies marked the theme of the last decade, but alliances are now expanding in scope among OEMs, input producers, software companies and agronomic services providers.
“The market is today evolving into a thicket of interlocking relationships that create complex competitive dynamics. Investments in APIs along with open IT architectures will be key to support the level of flexibility needed in the digital ecosystem that is emerging within the agricultural industry”, concluded Mr. Stålbrand.

Isaac Oyimah/GEE

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Tuesday, December 5, 2017

WECA left behind in global HIV response - UNICEF

After over four decades into the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) epidemic, four in five children living with HIV in West and Central Africa are still not receiving life-saving antiretroviral therapy, NaijaAgroNet reports.
This is coming as AIDS-related deaths among adolescents aged 15-19 are on the rise, according to a new report released Tuesday by the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF).

NaijaAgroNet also reports that while acknowledging progress in several areas, the report Step Up the Pace: Towards an AIDS-free generation in West and Central Africa, jointly published by UNICEF and UNAIDS, shows that West and Central Africa is lagging behind on nearly every measure of HIV prevention, treatment and care programmes for children and adolescents. In 2016, an estimated 60,000 children were newly infected with HIV in West and Central Africa.

Disclosing this to NaijaAgroNet, UNICEF’s West and Central Africa Regional Director, Marie-Pierre Poirier, described as tragic that so many children and adolescents today are not receiving the treatment they need just because they have not been tested.

“We need to make better use of innovations to increase early diagnosis and improve access to HIV treatment and care for children. For example, the point-of-care technology diagnostic brings testing closer to where children attend health services and self-testing can be a good option for adolescents who may be more comfortable with it,” Poirier said.

The region’s coverage of life-saving antiretroviral therapy among children living with HIV, Poirier said, is the lowest in the world because many countries have limited capacity to perform the tests needed for early infant diagnosis of HIV. Without knowing a child’s HIV status, his or her family is less likely to seek the treatment that could prevent the tragedy of a child’s death from AIDS-related illnesses.

The situation is worse among adolescents. The annual number of new HIV infections among those aged 15–19 years in the region now exceeds that of children aged 0-14 years. These new infections occur mostly through unprotected sexual contact and among adolescent girls. Equally concerning, according to the report, is that West and Central Africa has recorded a 35 per cent increase in the annual number of AIDS-related deaths among adolescents aged 15-19 years — the only age group in which the number of AIDS-related deaths increased between 2010 and 2016.

With the region’s youth population expected to grow significantly within the coming decades, especially in countries like the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Nigeria, the numbers of children and adolescents becoming infected with HIV and dying from AIDS is likely to remain high, unless the HIV response – both prevention and treatment – improves dramatically.

The report highlights that the 24 countries that make up the West and Central Africa region are home to 25 per cent of children aged 0–14 years living with HIV worldwide.

“Leaders of the region have endorsed a Catch-Up plan aiming to triple the number of people on treatment in the region – including children – by the end of 2018, the key issue now is to accelerate implementation,” said Luiz Loures, UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director. 

“Countries should urgently put in place more effective strategies for early infant diagnosis of HIV, and start reducing inequity in children’s access to treatment.”

The report proposes key strategies that will enable countries to accelerate progress in curbing the spread of disease. These include:
1.    A differentiated HIV response focusing on unique epidemiological and local contexts in each country and community.
2.    The integration of HIV services into key social services including health, education and protection.
3.    Community ownership and local governance of the HIV response including working with families, better placed to help reduce stigma, access prevention and treatment.
4.    Investment in innovations to remove barriers to scale-up including new diagnostic and biomedical approaches such as point of care diagnostics, HIV self-testing and pre-exposure prophylaxis.


UNICEF announced last week that at the current pace of progress, the global 2020 Super-Fast-Track targets to end AIDS among children will not be achieved.

Isaac Oyimah/GEE

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