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My friend, Isa Gusau — A Tribute,

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My friend, Isa Gusau — A Tribute,

By: Kashim Shettima

There couldn’t have been a more poignant last chapter to a man’s life than my final text exchange with him. He reached out on December 31, 2023, to draw my attention to a Qur’an recital competition in Damaturu, Yobe State, stating that it transpired without deserving prizes. In his typical fashion, he outlined interventions that could align with the noble ambitions of the reciters and organisers. What he didn’t say this time around, while preferring the cloak he wore to redirect our concerns away from his health and towards others, was that he was on the brink of existence. He was in a hospital bed far away from home.

About a year earlier, Mallam Isa Gusau visited me at home in Abuja, and I couldn’t help but notice his sickly physical transformation. He opened up about his health struggle only when I insisted. I disagreed with his philosophy of not wanting his health to be the subject of interest in his line of work. However, he followed the direction we suggested for medical intervention and returned to prioritizing his job. With him, it’s always duty first, and that drive for excellence was once a source of trouble for us when we were on opposite sides of the table.

In 2007, when I assumed the role of Commissioner of Finance in Governor Ali Modu Sheriff’s government in Borno State, Mallam Gusau was the Daily Trust correspondent and later Bureau Chief covering the Borno-Yobe axis. He had been a problem for the government before my arrival. Fresh out of the private sector, I conducted sentiment analysis of my new station, and this inviolable reporter was a recurring problem in our efforts to manage the perception of the state and the government’s commitment to the people, especially during the critical phase of an ideological invasion in the North-East by a group that has since become the global calamity known as Boko Haram.

I had always admired objective contrarians and critics, and it didn’t take long to understand why Mallam Gusau’s journalistic overtures had been a nightmare for the government. His principles were as unyielding as ancient mountains, deeply rooted in the bedrock of his conviction as a chronicler of state affairs. I found myself compelled to acquaint with the fearless man.

Ms. Kwapchi Bata Hamman, who was then a reporter at NTA Maiduguri, became our eyes on him and eventually our bridge to him. She, along with the late Zubairu Maina Shani, a fellow Commissioner in Governor Sherrif’s government, formed our troika to untie the Gordian knot that was Isa Gusau. That one man could stir us this much, stand up to us with no fear or susceptibility to compromise, was a credential like no other. So, I knew just then that I wanted to be friends with such a man, a rebel with a noble cause.

Our destinies aligned sooner than I had expected. In 2011, when I was sworn into office as the Executive Governor of Borno State, I knew immediately that I must be surrounded by perceived trouble-makers if I were to make a difference, and Gusau easily came to mind. I was unconcerned about his origin, only what he was bringing to the table. I have always seen a leader who functions in an echo chamber as a tragedy.

Mallam Gusau agreed to be my spokesperson, testing the political divide that his path had crossed as a journalist. He mastered the art of shaping perceptions, traversing lengths unknown to me at the time. He was invested in the well-being of his colleagues and those he serves, and distinguished himself as a mediator and bridge builder in resolving office conflicts. Only many years later did I discover the depths to which he went to protect me, skilfully managing or quashing crosses without seeking the spotlight or credit.

Along with his team, he breathed life into the communication of government policies in Borno State, making us realize that even the finest idea or policy by the government is doomed to fail without strategic communications. Their legacy turned Borno State into a viable landmark on the topography of governance in Nigeria. He explored traditional and new media to dispel every attempt to caricature the state, whether in mischief or honest ignorance.
Gusau’s loyalty to friends, matched only by his competence and devotion to duty, sets him apart. This sense of responsibility led him to decline an invitation to serve as a commissioner in his home state, Zamfara, choosing instead to stay with his friends in Borno State. He played a central role among the multicultural aides that we assembled, contributing to our service to the people.

In that inclusive team of ours, where Borno State was warmly embraced as home, was Lanre Obadiah from Kwara State. Kester Ogualili and Victor Izekor were from Anambra and Abia State respectively. Christopher Godwin Akaba, an Urhobo man from Delta State, and Jack Vicent Fidelis, an Igala man from Kogi State, were also valuable members. Expanding our connections to neighboring states, Ahmed Ishaq Ningi from Bauchi State and Usman Majidadi Kumo from Gombe State were part of this dedicated ensemble.

The team was valorised by Mallam Gusau, who also served as my Special Adviser on Strategy while overseeing communications. It’s not surprising that he’s the longest-serving adviser in the history of the state. He praised your triumphs and intervened when you erred, always having the perfect books for every scenario he painted. This book-exchanging culture made him a refuge and a mirror. So, I had no speck of scepticism in recommending him for employment as an adviser to Governor Babagana Umara Zulum, whom he served for four and a half years after advising me for eight years.

Until three weeks ago, when I brought this up, Governor Zulum himself had no idea that Gusau was a leading voice advocating and justifying my choice of him as a successor. He never mentioned this to his new principal, just as he was always reluctant to divulge his health history. This lifestyle, which we opposed and came to acknowledge as the depth of his fidelity to duty, was, to him, a way to never curry favour and pity.

In a twist of fate, Isa Gusau, once perceived as a provocateur during his radical years, found himself forging unexpected alliances in a profound display of irony. Without accommodating compromises, he reconciled with those who had once deemed him a problem. The crescendo of this surprising journey was reached when he, against all odds, entered into matrimony with the sister of none other than Sen. Ali Modu Sheriff. This unexpected union not only symbolised the mellowing of Gusau’s feuds or differences with others but also cast a vivid contrast onto the canvas of his life.

What also never made the news was his philanthropy, reaching from the younger generation to the elderly. His generosity extended to the procurement of vehicles for media personnel and correspondents working in the hinterlands of Southern Borno. There was a poignant moment when he generously handed over his only vehicle to an indigent journalist colleague. I became aware of this act of kindness when I witnessed him trekking to his residence, a stone’s throw away from the Borno State Government House.

This incident invoked thoughts of Adam Grant’s acclaimed work, “Give and Take,” which categorises humanity into two reciprocity styles: Givers and Takers. Givers, characterized by their altruism, quietly assist others without seeking the spotlight, while Takers are driven by greed, desiring more than they contribute. The book celebrates legendary figures like C.J. Skender, the late Stu Inman, and George Meyer as quintessential Givers. Undoubtedly, my dear friend, Isa Umar Gusau, belongs to the distinguished category of these selfless and beautiful souls.

The void left by Gusau’s demise, as he departed from the sphere of his influence, transcends Borno State. It even extends beyond those who had feared his honesty. His loss is immense for the entire nation, which requires courageous advisors around our public office-holders, and for the humanity he served until his last breath on Thursday, January 11, 2024. May Allah repose his soul and comfort all those he left behind. Ameen.

Senator Kashim Shettima was the Executive Governor of Borno State between 2011 and 2019, and Nigeria’s current Vice President.

My friend, Isa Gusau — A Tribute,

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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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