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BETTAGATE: NEFGAD Threatens Legal Action Against Tunji-Ojo, Insists on His Apology and Resignation

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BETTAGATE: NEFGAD Threatens Legal Action Against Tunji-Ojo, Insists on His Apology and Resignation

By: Michael Mike

Network for Growth and actualization of Viable Development (NEFGAD), a public procurement advocacy group has threatened to take legal action against the embattled Minister of Interior, Mr Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo’s over his involvement in the controversial N3 billion contract awarded by the suspended Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, Dr Betta Edu, insisting that his defense his faulty and unsatisfactory.

The Minister had denied personally benefitting through his company, New Planet Project Limited from the sum of 438.1 million from the alleged controversial N3 billion social register contracts by the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation.

NEFGAD in a statement signed by its acting Head of Legal, Dolapo Obafunmi and released to the media at the weekend in Abuja stated that Mr. Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo who is a shareholder in the New Planet Project Limited contravened section 16 subsection 6(f) of the Public Procurement Act 2007 by failing to accompany documents used in bidding for the contract with an affidavit disclosing whether or not Dr. Betta Edu who is a member of the procuring entity has any pecuniary interest in New Planet Project Limited – the company where Mr. Tunji-Ojo, a cabinet colleague, is a shareholder.

Obafunmi also said that Mr. Tunji-Ojo’s company bid ought to have been disqualified for violating section 16 subsection 8(g) of the same PPA by failing to submit a statement regarding its dominating or subsidiary relationships with respect to Dr. Beta Edu who is acting on behalf of the procuring entity participating in same proceeding.

Obafunmi noted that New planet Project Limited, with registration number 804833 was reportedly registered on March 3, 2009, although the Minister said he has resigned as director of the company since 2019 but he is still a shareholder in the company.

Obafunmi said that the public procurement Act in its bid to promote competition forbids a bidder and or any member of procuring entity from conferring undue advantage to themselves during any procurement proceeding by virtue of their relationships.

He averred that one of the core objectives and spirit of the public procurement Law is to ensure that nation’s wealth is fairly distributed, maintaining that it is a sheer act of undue interference, greed and avarice to have a serving cabinet member interfering in affairs of sister Ministry to an extent of influencing its procurement decision in his favour.

He further maintained that beyond participating in the day to day running of a company, being a shareholder means Mr Tunji-Ojo is a person of control and benefit in the company and by virtue of his shareholding status, he ought to have simply complied with the relevant sections of the public procurement law by declaring his interest in the company simply via a court affidavit.

Obafunmi said ‘’with these blatant breaches, it shows clearly that fundamental principles of public procurement were not followed in the award of the contract, everything about the contract is defective, making it impossible to achieve fitness of purpose or value for money.

He said: “Mr. Tunji Ojo should also know that his cabinet membership is ordinarily influential enough to sway cabinet colleague’s procurement decision in his favour hence calling the Minister to honorably apologise to Nigerians and resign immediately or face legal action.

BETTAGATE: NEFGAD Threatens Legal Action Against Tunji-Ojo, Insists on His Apology and Resignation

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EU, IIDEA engage commissioners of women affairs on gender equality, rights

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EU, IIDEA engage commissioners of women affairs on gender equality, rights

By: Michael Mike

In a bid to advance gender equality and rights in Nigeria, the European Union (EU), in partnership with the International Institute of Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IIDEA) and the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs, has launched a collaborative initiative by organising a two-day conference tailored for state Commissoners of Women Affairs and their Permanent Secretaries.

Laolu Olawumi, the European Union’s Programme Manager on Democracy, Rule of Law and Gender highlighted that the event aims to provide Commissioners of Women Affairs and their Permanent Secretaries with the technical support needed to address and tackle issues affecting women, children, and other vulnerable groups nationwide. Set against the backdrop of International Women’s Day 2024, the conference marks a significant step towards achieving this year’s theme, “Inspire Inclusion.”

Olawumi elaborated that the conference’s structure is designed to furnish Commissioners with the tools required to effectively confront and resolve rights issues. Moreover, the event serves as a knowledge-sharing forum beyond its primary role of offering technical assistance.

Olawumi added that the EU’s support includes ensuring that planning, budgeting, and implementation processes are inclusive. This strategy promotes the full participation of women, children, and persons with disabilities, integrating inclusivity into governance and societal development.

Under the leadership of the Minister of Women Affairs, Mrs. Uju Kennedy-Ohanenye, the conference fostered a meaningful exchange of insights and strategies among state Women’s Affairs Commissioners, bolstering their ability to advocate for gender equality within their jurisdictions.

The event is part of the recently inaugurated second phase of the European Union’s Support to the Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption (RoLAC II) programme implemented by IIDEA and based on the achievements of its preceding phase. At the programme launch, EU Ambassador to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Ambassador Samuela Isopi, stated the necessity of a second RoLAC phase to sustain the momentum and continue the EU’s efforts in supporting the Nigerian governments objective of
Of strengthening the rule of law in Nigeria. “It was clear to the European Union that a second phase of the RoLAC was essential to consolidate the progress and continue the commendable work done on enhancing the rule of law in Nigeria,” Ambassador Samuela Isopi remarked during the launch.

Speaking at the conference, the Imo State Commissioner for Women Affairs, Lady Nkechinyere Ugwu, expressed the significance of the conference, stating, “This conference, courtesy of the EU, is very important to us, as it gives us an opportunity to come together, share experiences, and develop practicable solutions for our work, which focuses on human rights and the protection of vulnerable populations.”

Adding to the discourse, the Commissioner of Women Affairs for Abia State, Mrs. Ngozi Blessing Felix, shared her thoughts: “This gathering is a cornerstone for us in Abia State to forge stronger collaborations and innovate on policies that directly impact the lives of women and children. It is an invaluable platform for learning and exchanging ideas that can be transformed into actionable strategies for gender equality and the empowerment of the most vulnerable in our society.”

Through the conference, the EU aims to empower state ministries of women affairs to develop and implement comprehensive strategies that support their mission and mandate. Additionally, the initiative seeks to build the capacity of state Commissioners and Permanent Secretaries for Women Affairs, enabling them to act as visible and effective advocates for policy, advocacy, and action on rights-based issues concerning women, children, and persons with disabilities.

EU, IIDEA engage commissioners of women affairs on gender equality, rights

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To Protect Everyone’s Health, Protect Everyone’s Rights – Leopold Zekeng

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To Protect Everyone’s Health, Protect Everyone’s Rights – Leopold Zekeng

By: Michael Mike

The enactment of Nigeria’s HIV/AIDS Anti-Discrimination Act – a national law hinged on the protection of the rights of people living with or affected by HIV/AIDS from discrimination based on their HIV status, is indeed progressive. However, to date, only about 18 states in Nigeria have domesticated the Act.
Evidence from the Nigeria PLHIV Stigma Index Survey revealed that 24.5% of adults aged 35-44 and 21.7% of young adults aged 18-24 have experienced stigma and discrimination. In some instances, key populations in Nigeria have experienced discrimination, violent law enforcement practices, arrests and other forms of human rights violations. Violence and discrimination against women and girls also remain pervasive. These violations often shove persons living with HIV and key populations to the margins of society, denying them access to life-saving health and social services, including HIV services.
Globally, 38 countries have pledged to end HIV-related stigma and discrimination through the Global Partnership for Action to Eliminate all Forms of HIV-Related Stigma and Discrimination (Global Partnership). These are hard-fought gains. Nonetheless, Nigeria is yet to formally join the Global Partnership.
However, the unwavering commitments and investments by stakeholders including the Nigerian government, National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), UNAIDS, Global Fund, United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and other partners, have been instrumental in catalyzing progress towards ending stigma and discrimination in Nigeria. Communities of persons living with HIV have also been at the frontline of combatting stigma and discrimination. Recently, the Community of Practice to address HIV-related stigma and discrimination in Nigeria was launched by the Network of People Living with HIV and AIDS in Nigeria (NEPWHAN), Association of Women Living with HIV in Nigeria (ASWHAN) & Association of Young People living with HIV in Nigeria (APYIN). The platform seeks to facilitate capacity strengthening, exchange of best practices and promote synergy amongst stakeholders in addressing stigma and discrimination in health care, education, workplace, justice systems, communities, emergency and humanitarian settings.
When marginalized communities are criminalized or stigmatized, their vulnerability to HIV infection increases, and their access to HIV prevention, treatment, care, and support services is obstructed. Countries that are beating the AIDS epidemic are doing so by repealing laws and policies that discriminate, by expanding human rights for all and by allowing marginalized communities to lead the response.
Public health is undermined when laws, policies, practices or norms enshrine punishment, discrimination or stigma for people because they are women, key populations, or persons living with HIV. Discrimination obstructs HIV prevention, testing, treatment and care, and holds back progress towards the end of AIDS.
We have hope, however, from communities on the frontlines. As Dr. Martin Luther King noted, “Social progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of people.” It is the communities most affected by discrimination that are leading the pushback against the erosion of their right to health, against the right to life. They are uniting their efforts to protect and advance human rights. They need, and deserve, all our support. The rights path strengthens entire societies, making them better equipped to deal with the challenges we face today and those that are emerging.
The right to non-discrimination as guaranteed under Article 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other relevant human rights treaties and standards, is the cornerstone of international human rights law. Having ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and other relevant treaties, the Nigerian government has an obligation to ensure that national laws and policies do not discriminate against people and that all persons including persons living with HIV are protected against such discrimination by third parties.
Furthermore, the Global Aids Strategy requires that all countries including Nigeria create an enabling legal environment by removing punitive laws, introducing and enforcing protective legislations and policies, and eradicating the abuse of criminal and general laws to target people living with HIV and key populations.
Discrimination against anyone is harmful to the health of everyone. For Nigeria to deliver on the promise to end AIDS by 2030, action is urgently needed to advance the protection of the human rights of everyone, everywhere. The Zero Discrimination Day, celebrated around the world every 1 March, presents an opportunity for Nigeria to strengthen its commitment through ensuring the domestication and effective implementation of the HIV/AIDS Anti-Discrimination Act in all states across Nigeria, formally joining the Global Partnership, committing to take actions on HIV-related stigma and discrimination across all six settings; and letting communities lead in addressing stigma and discrimination.
Dr Leopold Zekeng, UNAIDS Nigeria Country Director, writes from Abuja.

To Protect Everyone’s Health, Protect Everyone’s Rights – Leopold Zekeng

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ECOWAS Court Fines Sierra Leone $25,000 for Violent Police Crackdown on Demonstrating Students

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ECOWAS Court Fines Sierra Leone $25,000 for Violent Police Crackdown on Demonstrating Students

By: Michael Mike

The ECOWAS Court of Justice has ordered the Republic of Sierra Leone to pay $25,000 as compensation to Mohamed Morlu, a Sierra Leone citizen, for violating his fundamental human rights.

Morlu had sued the Republic of Sierra Leone after he sustained a gunshot wound during a students’ protest in March 2017, at which officers of the Sierra Leonean police force fired shots to disperse the demonstrators.

Delivering the judgment, Justice Edward Amoako Asante declared that the Respondent state violated Mr. Morlu’s right to security of the person, freedom from torture, the right to an effective remedy contrary to the provisions of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Convention against Torture.

The Court ordered that the government must pay for any upcoming surgery needed to remove the bullet from the gunshot, which is still stuck in the Applicant’s abdomen. In addition, the Court ruled that the government must quickly investigate, find, and prosecute the officers who shot the Applicant during the student protest and take measures to properly train its law enforcement officers on crowd control.

Morlu was a student at Njala University in Bo City, Sierra Leone, in March 2017 when a four-month strike by lecturers at the University disrupted academic work. On 23 March 2017, students at the University went on a third protest march to present their grievances to the Ministry of Education. In an attempt to disperse the demonstrators, officers from the Operation Support Division (OSD) of the Sierra Leone Police Force fired shots into the crowd, injuring Morlu and other students.

Morlu was hospitalized, underwent surgery, and later sought medical treatment in Ghana due to complications from the bullet.

In its defense to the suit at the ECOWAS Court, the Respondent State asserted that the protesting students blocked roads and obstructed traffic. The police tried to contain the situation but were met with resistance from the students, some of whom pelted the police with stones. In the ensuing escalation, the police fired some warning shots, one of which accidentally injured the Applicant. The Respondent, therefore, denied that it violated Mr. Morlu’s human rights.

In the judgment, the Court rejected the Respondent’s claim that Morlu was injured accidentally, finding that the firing of live ammunition into the crowd of protesting students by the police was unjustified. The Court also upheld the Applicant’s case that he suffered torture and that the Respondent failed to provide effective redress by investigating, identifying, and prosecuting the perpetrators.

The panel of judges were Justice Edward Amoako Asante, Judge Rapporteur for the case, and Justices Gberi-Bè Ouattara and Sengu M. Koroma.

ECOWAS Court Fines Sierra Leone $25,000 for Violent Police Crackdown on Demonstrating Students

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