Mercy Abang is a reporter and blogger, and writes on politics and current affairs in Nigeria. She is the Managing Editor, Citizens Platform an on-line television and Radio news platform. She is a volunteer and a member of EnoughIsEnough, Nigeria, and She is a media consultant (social/traditional). Her personal blog is: http://abangmercy.wordpress.com/, and she is on twitter at @AbangMercy and facebook: Abang Mercy Banku with URL http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=594698683&ref=tn_tnmn
December 4, 2012
Six months on from an International Lead Poisoning Conference, Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) / Doctors Without Borders warns that time is running out to solve the Zamfara crisis. In a progress report, the medical humanitarian organisation which has been treating lead poisoned children since the start of the crisis, finds that very little action has been taken on any of the agreed action points from the Conference.
Funds to tackle the Zamfara lead poisoning crisis – with a specific focus on the remediation of Bagega village – were promised by the President in May 2012, but have still not been released by the Secretary of the Government of the Federation. Remediation is a process which removes lead from the home environment. In the absence of remediation, children are continually re-exposed to the toxins and medical treatment is useless.
“Bagega is reaching crisis point” said Michael White, “More than two and a half years after the lead poisoning disaster was first discovered, hundreds of children are still awaiting critical medical treatment. MSF is ready and willing to treat these children, but cannot do so until their homes have been environmentally remediated. It’s time to get the lead out of Bagega.”
Remediation was due to begin at the end of October 2012, directly after the last rainy season. The window for remediation in Bagega is closing rapidly, if the process is not started before the end of the year it will be too late before the next rainy season. This could have disastrous consequences for the community – if the funds are not released in November, MSF’s chances of treating lead-poisoning victims in Bagega is drastically reduced.
MSF has been treating victims of lead poisoning in Zamfara since 2010. The medical humanitarian organisation maintains that a successful resolution to the crisis must include a three-pronged approach of professional remediation of affected villages, medical treatment to the most vulnerable victims and the implementation of safer mining practices.
MSF has been collaborating closely with TerraGraphics, an internationally-recognised remediation company that led the successful remediation of seven villages in Zamfara state in 2010.
TerraGraphics, MSF and local stakeholders are all ready to start work immediately upon the release of the funds. Both organisations have been collaborating with Government agencies and ministries to assure there is a system in place that is effective, accountable, transparent and that will guarantee the best outcomes for the communities of Bagega. This kind of collaboration ensures Nigerian participation and ownership of both process and results while assuring accountability and compliance with internationally recognised standards and best practices.
MSF and TerraGraphics have done everything in their power to address this crisis. In the end, the ultimate responsibility rests with the people, and governments, of Nigeria. Only immediate action by the Government can change the situation for the better.
Médecins sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders is a medical humanitarian assistance organisation that has been providing emergency medical services throughout Nigeria since 1971. MSF is not affiliated with any religion, government agency or political party.
Reposted from: http://abangmercy.wordpress.com/2012/11/23/zamfara-lead-poisoning-hundreds-of-children-await-treatment/
August 28, 2012
This ship is sinking, yes – so what do we do?
An address given by Chude Jideonwo, executive director of The Future Project at The Future Awards 2012, Port Harcourt, Rivers
It occurred to me for the first time as I sat in the car’s front seat and felt my father’s cold corpse in the back seat in May 2007. The nurses at the Ikorodu General Hospital had just said no to his body. He had died from heart failure an hour or two before. They needed a police report.
I could hardly believe the utter coldness of it. But I had yet to see – or hear – the worst. Because I am born and bred in Nigeria, I knew that, at 11pm, the body of my dear father might rot if I sat there pondering the inanity of the request or stood up to argue its inhumanity, so I led the convoy to the nearest police station.
There, with the most pointed lack of compassion I had ever witnessed up onto that point, the police proceeded to haggle with themselves over how much they would extract from a 24-year-old who had just lost his father – a father whose dead body was only a few meters away.
As they dropped my father’s body in that unkempt, abominable mortuary (one in which I had to tip the caretaker daily on my way to work so that the corpse would not be left to decompose), I could only think of what an abominable country I was so unfortunate to come from, and to live in.
I recalled that scene as I came across pictures of rotten corpses stacked on each other in a room – victims of June’s Dana Crash [DanaAir Plane crash in Lagos State on June 3, in which all 153 passengers and 10 people on the ground were killed]; “rotting carcasses of human beings stacked on each other, fluids mingling.”
That is when it hit me. We are living like animals in this country. I remember my father – and how he, and I, were treated so terribly because our country does not care for any one.
These Dana Crash dead bodies weren’t victims of a serial killer locked in a room for months or of a brutal civil war with shut-down health-care services – these were citizens of a country, who had just been visited by their president a day before, nonetheless treated in death with relentless disrespect. They had been killed by their country – and it couldn’t even pack their bodies well.
It could have been you, or me. It’s not just that it could have been me. That’s not the worst part. This is the worst part: I could have been the one in that flight waiting for 20 minutes after a fatal crash; sitting there in mind-numbing agony, knowing the plane would soon explode and kill me because I live in a country where emergency services would arrive only about an hour after, and people will die who could have been saved.
That’s the part that gets me. And as I watched officials scramble to protect their irrelevant jobs so that they could make enough money to buy First Class tickets on airlines that might crash and kill their children tomorrow, I realized how hopeless we had become as Nigerians.
So I ask myself; why are we still in Nigeria – a country that does not deserve many of us – even when we have a choice? Why are we not like the generation that left town? Why are we living in a country that cannot protect us, has not supported us, will not satisfy us?
The logical thing to do is to leave fastest way we can; once the opportunity that turns up. But we stay and we come back, because we go better, because it is well, because God dey; because somehow somehow we think we can survive it; maybe even improve it .
But let’s tell ourselves the truth – many of you in this hall have already given up on Nigeria. Many of us are convinced that this ship is sinking, this country cannot change. We do not trust our politicians, but that is even cliché. We do not trust the activists. Everyone is seen as searching for a piece of that national cake. That’s what we have become as a country: an unending race for a part of that cake.
It is difficult to have faith in this kind of country; difficult to tell yourself with a straight face that you are proud of being a Nigerian. Proud of what? A country where accusations fly over bribery and both the accuser and the accused are walking free, where dead men are found in Emir’s palaces, pastors chant songs of war, men go into churches in Jos and gun down hundreds. Thousands die on the highways without acknowledgement, power deadlines are postponed without consequences, a country where its president, accused of lacking transparency, could say to his people ‘I don’t give a damn?’
It is difficult to have faith even when you look at the young people – scrambling for crumbs of the table, buffeted by the need to avoid the poverty of their fathers, changing principle on whim just like those before them; perpetuating scams in the name of advocacy, running businesses long on hype and short on substance. It is difficult to have faith in that kind of country. It is herculean to believe in it. It is almost impossible to be proud of it.
We doubt ourselves all the time, believe in the worst of the other, convinced that they are the enemy, that success is driven by fraud, passion driven by the pecuniary; it’s every man for himself. It is understandable – this is a country where we have placed hopes in so many time and again, and they have disappointed us. We thought we had people with their hearts in the right place, only to find their eyes were always on their pockets.
No, Nigeria, is not a great country. It wasn’t great yesterday it isn’t great today. It can be great, it should be great, it could have been great, and if we sit down and get serious, it will be great.
After the Dana Crash, I gave up hope in this country; I lost my faith, I struggled with my love. But two day later, I was back working for the country, and that is the real story.
It is okay to fall out of love, it is okay to hate that love every once in a while, it is okay to condemn, to criticise, to react, to fight, to protest, to demand; but you must return to loving it, you must return to being pained
It is the reason despite Governor Amaechi spending two hours debating fiercely with us that our generation is only interested in continuing the “chopping”, he decided that it is crucial to get the brightest of that generation here to inspire the young people in Rivers State and across Nigeria – moving it from an idea in 2006 that couldn’t even pay for the hall in which it held to a movement in 2012 that has taken over this Port Harcourt.
It’s because beneath a tough talking governor lies a tender spot for his country and its future – and I see it daily across this country even from the lips of those who curse it. Even in those who appear to be ripping the country to shreds, every once in a while you see that wistfulness for what might have been.
But, this is the good news, it is not too late. I do not come as a prophet of cliché, I come here as a student of history because other countries have done it. This ship is sinking, but it hasn’t yet sunk. As long as we are in Nigeria, as long as Nigerians live in Nigeria and work in Nigeria, and fight for Nigeria, and refuse to give up on Nigeria, there is hope.
We cannot ever lose that pain that we should feel for a country that continues to fail us. No matter how disappointed we are in our country, we cannot abandon it. We cannot use Nigeria as an excuse to fail Nigeria.
Pehaps we should handle Nigeria the way a mother handles a drug-addicted child – with tough love sometimes, with deliberate gentility at other times; demanding at one time, encouraging at the other.
Listen guys, we are all we’ve got, and this should be the Turning Point Generation.
I don’t come here to excite you; I come here so we can encourage one another. I come here to remind us that, after all said and done, you and I are still here. And ‘cause we are still here, we have no choice but to keep working.
Let’s keep the faith. If we stumble, let’s rise. When we fall, let’s rebound. Let’s refuse to let Nigeria go, let’s insist that it must work. Let’s keep working until it changes; let’s keep changing until we tear down these walls.
Because we can. Because we have no choice. Because we love this land.
God bless Nigeria.
Reposted from: This ship is sinking, yes – so what do we do?.
August 16, 2012
Van Persie Bruhaha and the Child
It is ok to keep talking and ranting on social media about failed government policies and programs, it is also cool to get a little angry over Van Persie’s decison to switch between clubs even when many believed he was absolutely loyal to Arsenal.
I want us to tweet, facebook, and use as many social media platforms we can access to deliberate on saving the child.
The alarming facts over maternal mortality is troubling, a situation where each day 144 Nigerian women die in childbirth, which is equivalent to one death every 10 minutes.
I attended a function organised by Save The Children in Abuja and for the first time I realised the Nigerian woman is at the receiving end, the girl child is clueless about reproductive health issues.
Only 3% of females complete secondary school in the Northern zonesof Nigeria and for a state like Kebbi, 94% of 15-24 year old have no knowledge of contraception.
This has resulted in Nigeria topping the map on global maternal deaths as a rate of 10%.
I am sure someone is wondering why did she state her article with Arsenal and Manchester, how is maternal deaths our problem? Whatcan we do? Do we look like the health minister? Or are we (Social media users)President Jonathan?
Let me answer some of the assumed FAQ’s. I need you and I to talk about the health hazards of our mothers, our wives and our sisters. As long as the stakes remain high, by the time you are done reading this article today, 700 Nigerian babies would have died.
Overhalf of all women in the North are married by the age of 16 and are expected to bear a child within the first year of marriage, if the women are provided with good health facilities as their counterparts in Norway, we would have achieved success.
Did you know that Norway is the best place to be another? Your tweets, blogs and facebook posts can make the difference.
So you know, Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country, highest annual number of maternal and newborn deaths across the continent.
Each year, 40,0001 women die during pregnancy and childbirth,and over 250,000 babies die in their first month of life. Haemorrhageand hypertension are the leading causes of maternal deaths, and for newborns,complications during childbirth, preterm birth, and infections contribute to hundreds of thousands of lives being needlessly lost.
The country has to scale up the proportion of births attended to by qualified midwives, which is now below 40 per cent. We should tweet about the issues surrounding why the maternal health index in Nigeria still looks bad amidst the efforts by Civil groups.
Social media has been a success believe it or not, it has served the voice of the voiceless and can be used to protect the Nigerian mother and child from preventable death if we bring the issues Maternal health to the fore.
“The Internet has been the most fundamental change during my lifetime and for hundreds of years.” – Rupert Murdoch
“When you give everyone a voice and give people power, the system usually ends up in a really good place.” -Mark Zuckerberg
Yes we can and we should give the Nigerian Child and mother a voice.
Please join the campaign to #SavetheChildren #Maternalhealth #Nigeria .
Posted from: http://abangmercy.wordpress.com/
July 17, 2012
Dozens of shacks built on stilts have been demolished in Makoko, where wooden canoes are a common form of transport.
The BBC’s Will Ross in Lagos says it is not clear whether all houses in the area are to be destroyed.
Makoko is one of Nigeria’s best known slums. Many residents are fishermen and some have migrated from neighbouring Togo and Benin.
It featured in the 2010 BBC film Welcome to Lagos, which angered the Nigerian government, accusing the film-makers of showing Nigeria in a negative light.
A letter was served on residents last week, giving them 72 hours to vacate their properties.
Several told the BBC they did not know where they and their families would sleep.
Our correspondent saw men using machetes to chop down the stilts of the wooden homes, while police watched from nearby boats.
Posted from: http://abangmercy.wordpress.com
June 24, 2012
Violence has been deregulated. The Christians do it. The Muslims do it.
Article By: Elnathan John
I interrupt the ‘How To’ series to say one thing. I am angry. Very angry. So if you want to laugh or have started your day happy stop right here. If your wife has given birth to that bouncing or jumping baby or if you are celebrating your husband’s finding God and quitting drink and womanizing, find something else to read. Now.
I am angry. My dear Kaduna is on fire again. This time, it isn’t a cartoon, or blasphemy, or elections. It was Christian boys going crazy over the bombing of churches. I refuse to use the word that newspapers are using. Reprisals. The word is simply too noble to describe the stupidity of the action. A reprisal requires some sort of target, some thought. Killing a man who is as afraid of bombs as you are isn’t reprisal. Killing your neighbor or the guy you buy meat from isn’t reprisal. That is just plain cowardly. It is like a man who beats his wife because his boss shouted at him at work. It is like a child who kicks his dog because his mother made him wash his own socks.
I also refuse to say, like some do, that the boys who started killing innocent passersby are not Christian. That Christianity is a religion of peace that does not condone violence. The fact is, if a man who professes Christianity kills in the name of protecting Christianity, it is a Christian who attacked. Simple. Just like I think if a man professes Islam and attacks a Church in the name of his religion you cannot try to separate him from his religion.
So now, violence has been deregulated. The Christians do it. The Muslims do it.
Instead of holding inter-religious dialogue after crises like the one in Kaduna, I have a better idea. Come to Abuja at night. Do a documentary of all the posh-club-going, expensive-alcohol-drinking, fancy-sport-car riding stupendously rich residents of Abuja. Show the stupid poverty stricken people of Kaduna how every act of money-induced decadence usually involves both Muslims and Christians. Show them how stolen money is shared equally between Muslims and Christians. Show them how, between a rich and corrupt John and a rich and corrupt Alkasim, you cannot find religion. Only schemes to get more money and power. Show them and let them bury their heads in shame because while they burn and kill, people are getting rich, having sex, eating and drinking. Show them how over bottles of expensive wine, Muslims and Christians blaspheme each other’s religions and hi-five about it. I tell you, this is better than any religious reconciliation.
I am angry. Not because I really need to go to Kaduna and get my microwave but can’t. Not because I am worried for my parents. I am angry because we are blind. Blind to the fact that we are helping to fulfill the prediction about our 2015 breakup. Do we need another prophet to tell us that our real problem is not Boko Haram but our government? Do we need a magic practicing priest to tell us that a President who tells us pointedly that first the guys blowing us up are running the country with him, and next that we are in God’s hands, needs serious help? Should we not be teaming up with those who are comrades-in-poverty to ask serious questions about legislators who, through legal allowances and salaries are among the richest in the world, but still find it necessary to supplement that income with bribes?
Away from the Presidency, should we not be asking our Governors questions? Should my people, the ones who have risen up in defense of their religion and churches not ask why the Southern part of Kaduna City where mostly Christians live is about the worst place to live in Kaduna? The militant boys in Gonin-Gora who are always ready to block the Kaduna-Abuja expressway and slaughter unsuspecting Muslim passengers and motorists when they feel aggrieved, should they not ask why there are no roads in the area, even though their Governor is a ‘Christian’? Should they not ask why parts of that community have not had electricity for months, some parts even for over a year? Should they not be demanding water?
I am angry. That in 2015, these same boys will rise up to demand the re-election of their brother and son, who has not improved their lives in any way. That they cannot see that there is really no difference between a Christian Governor and a Muslim one especially if they are PDP Governors; that there is no difference between a Muslim President and a Christian one.
I am on the phone to my parents several times a day. They too, who live around some of the boys who started the killings after the bombs, are afraid of reprisals by Muslims. Everyone is afraid.
If Nigeria fails it will not be strange. It will be a failure by design. Orchestrated by our successive governments with the complicity of all of us, Muslims, Christians, Traditional worshippers and Atheists.
Posted from: http://abangmercy.wordpress.com/
March 26, 2012
CNPP raises alarm over plan to rig 2015 polls
The Conference of Nigeria Political Party (CNPP) yesterday raised the alarm over what it called a ploy by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)’s plan to rig the 2015 election.
The opposition parties, in a statement by its National Publicicty Secretary Osita Okechukwu, said: “It is our considered view that unlike Governor Nyako, Nigerians are not going to ask President Jonathan, who to vote for in 2015 nor concede; more so when he had said he is not running and indeed the Supreme Court latest judgment on tenure had shut him out from running. The judgement ruled stating that no person shall be governor or president for more than eight years.”
The statement said: “Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP) alerts Nigerians and international friends of Nigerian democracy who have invested heavily in our fledgling democracy that the PDP, in the name of National Convention to elect its National Executive Committee (NEC), has flagrantly against the best traditions of democracy; flagged-off the rigging of the 2015 general elections with guided election.
“Our strident alarm over commencement of rigging of 2015 is predicated on the fact that PDP is the mirror, poster and sign post of current Nigerian democracy to un-discerning observers and the outside world.
“The world mirrors Nigeria from the actions and inactions of the PDP, the party has defined the bad image of the country for the worst; having been in control of the Federal Government in the past 13 years and in government in 23 of 36 states of our dear country without commensurate results.
For the avoidance of doubt, can any reasonable person expect the PDP which rigged and bastardised internal democracy, …stop vote rigging?”
Courtesy: The Nation
Posted from: http://abangmercy.wordpress.com/
March 16, 2012
Governance a threat to Nigeria’s Climate
The WIKIPEDIA encyclopedia, to choose a commonly accessible definition, defines good governance as an indeterminate term used in development literature to describe how public institutions conduct public affairs and manage public resources in order to guarantee the realization of human rights.
[a] Governance describes “the process of decision-making and the process by which decisions are implemented (or not implemented)”.
[b] The term governance can apply to corporate, international, national, and local governance
[c] Or to the interactions between other sectors of society.
For the most part of Nigerian society as far as I can recall from 1999 when the democratic transition started, public institutions have failed in the management of public resources; therefore there has been absolutely no respect for human rights. In essence what is practised in Nigeria is opposed to the above definition of good governance which is BAD GOVERNANCE.
So I don’t get you all confused about the subject matter, I am talking governance as it affects the environment – not until the public institutions become effective and efficient, the Nigerian environment is threatened. Gas flaring releases toxic components into the atmosphere and contributes to climate change. Why the lack of political will to stop gas flaring? By flaring gas, Nigeria wastes US $ 2. billion per year.
The Niger Delta environment can be broken down into four ecological zones: coastal barrier islands, mangrove swamp forests, freshwater swamps, and lowland rainforests. This incredibly well-endowed ecosystem contains one of the highest concentrations of biodiversity on the planet, in addition to supporting abundant flora and fauna, arable terrain that can sustain a wide variety of crops, lumber or agricultural trees, and more species of freshwater fish than any ecosystem in West Africa.
With the rather poor state of governance by the Nigerian state, the region could experience a loss of 40% of its inhabitable terrain in the next thirty years as a result of extensive dam construction in the region; the carelessness of the oil industry has also precipitated that situation. On the other hand, about 35 million plus people in northern Nigeria are suffering from the effects of desertification, the menace is posing a serious threat to the nation’s economy, food security and employment. The Northern part of Nigeria is endowed with a large expanse of arable land that has over the years proved a vital resource for agriculture and other economic activities. But the Sahara desert is advancing south wards at the rate of 6.0 percent every year.
Consequently, Nigeria loses about 350,000 hectares of land every year to desert encroachment. This has led to demographic displacements in villages across 11 states in the North. It is estimated that Nigeria loses about $5.1 billion every year owing to rapid encroachment of drought and desert in most parts of the north. Rather than end poverty in Nigeria, I see a rapid increase in poverty. I am one of those that believe and see hope for the Nigerian economy but again for now poverty is written all over and if allowed to continue with unfriendly government policies and corruption, Nigeria will be no more.
So I am clear, a nation with 60% poor people and poor governance, you will expect felling of trees, burning of bushes for farming, erosion of the surface of the earth through wind storms and movement of sand dunes which will eventually result in desert encroachment.
So far, the Nigerian State has not been sufficiently mobilized to understanding the dangers of changing climate, but with good governance, the 160 million Nigerians can rise to the challenge to tackle the challenges ahead. The need for good governance cannot be overemphasised as it affects all factors of a given nation;the Nigerian environment is threatened as a result of bad governance.
Post from: http://abangmercy.wordpress.com/