DEFEAT OF SENATOR OLUJIMI’S ABORTION BILL (1)

DEFEAT OF SENATOR OLUJIMI’S ABORTION BILL

By Sonnie Ekwowusi

Senator (Mrs) Biodun Olujimi’s abortion Bill suffered a stunning defeat on the floor of the Senate last week. The Bill is 6 years old. It was born in the Senate in 2010. And since then it has never left the Senate.  Senators in the previous Senates had sponsored the Bill only for the Bill to be thrown out for lack of merit. Irrepressible Senator Chris Anyanwu sponsored the Bill in the 7th Senate but again the Bill was rejected for lack of merit. Now the controversial Bill has staged a comeback in the 8th Senate through Senator Olujimi and has again suffered defeat for lack of merit.  We thank God for the defeat of the Bill. I want to thank former Zamfara State Governor Senator Ahmed Sani for brilliantly pointing out that the Bill violated the provisions of the 1999 Constitution. I want to equally thank Senators Adamu Aliero, Rufai Ahmed, Emmanuel Bwacha and others whose Nays eventually paved way for the defeat of the Bill during its Second Reading. I will advise people applauding the Bill to carry out just a little research or a little reading on the politics behind the Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill from the United Nations in New York, United States, down to different African countries Nigeria inclusive. If the applauders of the Bill will heed this advice and investigate the Bill as aforesaid, I am sure they will have a re-think on the Bill.

To begin with, the title of Bill, the Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill, is very deceptive. The title of the Bill might sound laudable, but it is simply a euphemism for promotion of abrasive western lifestyles that threaten our existence here in Nigeria. Agreed, the Bill contains some laudable sections on the socio-economic and political empowerment of Nigerian women and protections of the rights of the widows and all that but the offensive sections of the Bill are so weighty and damaging that they outweigh any merits of the Bill. The most offensive aspect of  Senator Olujimi’s Bill is that the Bill seeks to incorporate and enforce in Nigeria the provisions of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women 2003 (otherwise simply called the Maputo Protocol) and the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). You will recall that attempts to domesticate Maputo Protocol and CEDAW in Nigeria by virtue of Section 12(1)(2)(3) of the 1999 Constitution have consistently been met with stiff oppositions at the National Assembly. With due respect, I am not sure Senator Olujimi understands the larger negative implications of incorporating Maputo Protocol and CEDAW into our copious laws. I will hereunder explain how the incorporation of Maputo Protocol and CEDAW into our laws will, inter alia, bring about the automatic legalization of abortion in Nigeria. I will also explain in this piece how section 12(c) of Senator Olujimi’s Bill legalizes abortion in Nigeria. That is why I have appropriately entitled this Bill Senator Olujimi’s abortion Bill. I will also humbly and respectfully submit that the Bill contains coded words and phrases to legalize homosexualism and lesbianism in Nigeria and by so doing will render the Nigerian Anti-Gay Law inutile, ineffectual and null and void. Finally, I will offer solution: I will give my candid opinion on what to do with Senator Olujimi’s Bill and whether or not the Bill should be amended and re-presented as the Senate President is proposing.

I don’t know why we cannot learn a lesson from history. Apparently those pushing Senator Olujimi (PDP, Ekiti South) to sponsor the Bill forgot to inform her that a similar Bill sponsored by Senator Chris Anyanwu in the seventh Senate was similarly defeated for lack of merit. Is Senator Olujimi not aware that a similar Bill was sponsored at the Enugu State House of Assembly a couple of months ago and was also defeated for lack of merit?. When will our legislators learn that Nigeria is not yet ripe for the legalization of all these crazy foreign lifestyles such as abortions, gay rights, transgender right, free-animal-sex right and all that nonsense. Coincidentally, on the very day Senator Olujimi’s Bill suffered defeat, the Ohio Supreme Court handed down a decision that the citizens of Ohio should stop using words such as “husband”, “wife”, “father”, “mother” because they are gender bias and not gender neutral. In many parts of America and Europe they are now abolishing separate “Male toilet” or separate “Female Toilet” because they claim that it is gender bias and not gender neutral.

So we should be wary of importing the Western radicalization of the concept of equality between men and women into Nigeria. This radicalization goes back to the French Revolution down to the era of Communism. In her book, the Globalization of the Western Cultural Revolution, Marguerite A. Peters argues, and, I agree with her, that the post-modern approach to the issue of equality finds its echo and application in the struggle for gender equality and that has led to a deconstruction of gender disparities. Using Marxist categories, radical gender feminists argue that women must resemble and behave like men by all means. They argue that womanhood destroys women, and, that domestic chores which women carry out at home make them inferior to men. They advocate for masculinisation of feminism and feminization of masculinity. These strange ideas are causing a lot of madness in America and Europe at the moment. Shall we join them and become mad ourselves?  I do not think so. We in Nigeria are a different people. If the rest of the world is becoming mad we cannot join them. I think our greatest challenge in Nigeria is that we are yet to come to terms with the Western Cultural Revolution holding the world to captive at the moment. Those conversant with United Nations documents or declarations or United Nations deliberations will attest that the United Nations does not come out in plain language to legalize abortion or homosexuality. It does so through a camouflaged or coded or dodgy language. Many of us do not understand that the over-bandied phrase “gender equality” does not mean the normal equality in dignity between a man and a woman. Perhaps we are yet to appreciate that in the United States of America, Canada, United Kingdom and many countries comprising the European Union and even in some Asian countries, the phrase “gender equality” is given a very subjective and pejorative interpretation to mean equality for a number of “genders” The phrase “gender equality” is another euphemism for legalization of homosexuality and lesbianism. “Gender equality” seeks to mainstream homosexuality and lesbianism into all spheres of society: schools, businesses, churches and so forth. Unfortunately the words “gender” and “equality” are not defined in the interpretation section of Senator Olujimi’s Bill. So, what does Senator Olujimi mean by “gender” or “equality”?  As we speak, there are about seven (7) genders recognized at the United Nations. There is male gender, female gender, gay gender, lesbian gender, transgender female, transgender male and bisexual gender. The list could be endless. That is why the Yogyakarta Principles declare that “human sexual orientation and gender identity are integral to every person’s dignity and humanity and must not be the basis for discrimination or abuse” This implies that any government that limits a person’s  same-sex expression or preference is violating that person’s human right. That is why those who criticize same-sex relationships are accused of suffering from homophobia and sponsoring hate language and are currently being sent to jail in the United Kingdom, Canada and other countries.

Unfortunately name-calling has become a pastime in Nigeria. Some link the defeat of Senator Olujimi’s Bill last week to the Northern agenda to control Nigeria. They say that the Bill was defeated by Northern-Muslim Senators who do not believe in progress. I beg to disagree. The Northern Senators who defeated the Bill were merely acting according to the dictate of their good consciences. The fact remains that Senator Olujimi’s Bill is a bad Bill. Apart from the fact that the Bill is replete with vagueness, ambiguities an imprecision of all sorts, many sections of the Bill seek to impose the damaging western lifestyle on the Nigerian people. Agreed, culture is dynamic: we have to jettison certain Nigerian customs and tradition that portray Nigerian women as mere chattel owed by men. But at the same time we must hold glibly to our identity as a people as enshrined in 1999 Constitution.

THE DECLINE OF AMERICAN CIVILIZATION (1)

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Sonnie Ekwowusi

We all saw the anthropological cataclysm coming. The verdict of the American Supreme Court legalizing same-sex marriage was foreseeable. Given Justice Anthony Kennedy’s gay antecedents and gay pronouncements especially in the cases of Romer V Evans (1996); Lawrence V Texas 2003 and United States V Windsor (2013), the direction of his swing vote last month was predictable. And Justice Kennedy is not yet finished with America. He is poised to write another judgment legalizing bestiality and animalism once the opportunity presents itself.  

What is unfolding before our eyes is the sodomization and gomorrization of America, in fact, the decline of American civilization. President Obama was born for it. He lives for it. Unlike the Martin Luther King lofty dream, Obama dreams of a new gay American civilization. He doesn’t pretend otherwise. Whereas ex-President Bill Clinton used the White House to resolve his complex pelvic issues, Obama has converted the White House into a House of lesbians, homosexuals, Bisexuals, Transgenders, Beastgenders, Transsexuals, Beastsexuals, animalsexuals, and you name it. He converted June as Gay Pride. Obama legalized bestiality or sex with horses (beasts) among American soldiers. He made homosexuality the centre-piece of American foreign policy. For the first time in the history of America, an American gay envoy has been appointed and gay office opened for the purpose of homosexualization of the world thanks to Obama.

In US foreign policies and international relations, Obama, John Kerry and Hilary Clinton have been consistent in advancing gay “rights” among comity of nations.  The US is now a major exporter of gay “rights”. It has recently pressurized Uganda to reverse its anti-gay law. Under the influence of the US, Mozambique has recently decriminalized its anti-gay law. At the moment the US is putting pressure on Kenya to legalized homosexuality. Obama lately has been dating President Mohammadu Buhari (Hopefully not for homosexual “marriage”, although Robert Mugabe is proposing to “marry” Obama). Obama and Buhari are billed to meet on July 20 to discuss issues which include security, economy and Ebola. But fear is being entertained that Obama might trade off US assistance to Buhari government with shooting down Good luck Jonathan’s anti-gay law. Buhari should reject such a trade-off as if it is coming from the devil. Obama has an ugly agenda: he is poised to homosexualize many parts of the world by 2020. His lack of support for the Jonathan government is traced to Jonathan’s anti-gay law.

Surely, the animals in the animal kingdom must be laughing at us by now. In his usual comical mood, the tortoise in particular must be chuckling with laughter and telling other animals, “these humans think they are rational and wise, but see how barbaric and primitive they are. The homosexual practice which we animals have rejected is now being practiced among humans”. The American founding fathers must be turning in their respective graves by now. In the beginning, the gay right movement was unknown in the United States. Even under the common law, marriage is recognized as a contract between a man and a woman.

But the first organized homosexual rights movement in the United States emerged in the 50s. It sought to change the criminal law in United States in favour of homosexual practice. But it was the sexual revolution of the 60s that helped the American gay movement to take its tap root.  Spurred by the campaigns of the American Law Institute Penal Code in 196os, some homosexual started advocating for what they perceived as their right to privacy and to practice their homosexual acts. The first Supreme Court decision to recognize the so-called right to privacy was Grisworld V Connecticut (1965). Later in Lawrence V Texas (2003), the Supreme Court (with Justice Antonini Scalia, Chief Justice William H. Relinquish and Justice Clarence Thomas heavily dissenting) overruled Bowers V Hardwick and held that consensual sexual conduct which including right to homosexuality was part of the liberty protected by substance due process under the fourth amendment of the American Constitution. But subsequent Federal Laws and State laws had differed from Lawrence’s case (supra) and endorsed the traditional marriage between a man and a woman.

At the dawn of American Revolution, the common law concept was adopted and became part of American laws. Suffice it to say that several States in the United States later passed laws prohibiting sodomy in the United States. Penalty for indulging in sodomy included long sentence and long fines. At the dawn of the 19th century and even early 20th century, several States in the United States imposed law against sexual deviant behaviour like homosexuality. For example, in 1970 the Connecticut authority denied driver’s licence to one man who professed to be homosexual.

The Declaration of American Independence is premised on respect for the Laws of Nature and Laws of God. “The equality” meant in the Declaration is equality in human dignity not in barbarism or in animalism. In his book, We Still Hold These Truths: Rediscovering Our Principles, Reclaiming Our Future, Matthew Spalding writes that “ it is important to understand that the philosophical grounding in natural rights does not create a radical and unlimited sense of freedom, as some claim today.

CHIBOK GIRLS, UNFPA AND ABORTION (1)

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Sonnie Ekwowusi

Last week, some non-governmental organizations (NGOs) community and religious leaders in Nigeria took the United Nations Population Funds (UNFPA) to task for trying to compound the woes of the pregnant Chibok girls recently rescued from Boko Haram and the internally displaced persons (IDPs) by prescribing abortion to them and sterilization procedures to the rest. In condemning the prescription as an unwarranted inhumane and wicked intervention, the Project for Human Development (PHD), an NGO based in Lagos, argued that what those pregnant Chibok girls and IDPs need at this moment in time is the human compassion of effective medical care, social counseling, rehabilitation and re-integration, not life-risking and violent-wrecking abortion or sterilization (Read, “Group rejects Abortion option for pregnant Chibok Girls”, THISDAY, May 18, 2015; “Group Faults UNFPA over Abortion, Sterilization on Boko Harm victims”, The Guardian Newspaper, May 23 2015, Page 6; “Rescued Girls: UNFPA has abortion agenda, PHD alleges”, Vanguard, May 26, 2015, Page 36; “Don’t abort Boko Harm babies, group pleads”, National Mirror, May 27, 2015, Page 21)

But in a swift reaction last week, the UNFPA and its Director-General Prof. Babatunde Osotimehin stated that the UNFPA was not guilty as charged, but paradoxically Osotimehin went ahead to contradict himself by admitting that the UNFPA promotes “reproductive health” and “modern family planning services” which are other phrases used for describing abortion and contraceptive services. How can Osotimehin be speaking from both sides of the mouth?. In one fell swoop, he denies that UNFPA promotes abortion, but in another fell swoop he admits that UNFPA promotes abortion. In any case, if you google the words, “Osotimehin and abortion”, you will come across Osotimehin’s absurd arguments that African women need safe abortion and contraceptives to slow down population growth, enhance women’s health and reduce poverty. In his article entitled: Planned Families, strengthened Communities (The Guardian, Wednesday, November 28, 2012), Osotimehin writes that studies have shown that investing in abortion and contraceptives “reduces poverty… and gives women a greater say in their households and communities”.

Before commenting on pregnant Chibok girls and the UNFPA, permit me to quickly unmask the UNFPA. This is necessary to highlight the damage being caused in many African countries by the UNFPA. Only last April at the 48th Session of the United Nations Commission on Population and Development which took place at the United Nations Building, in New York City,  a fortified African Group led by Ambassador Usman Sarki, a distinguished and widely respected Nigerian ambassador, courageously stood its ground and refused to be coerced or intimidated by the UNFPA, America, Belgium and other European nations into accepting the inclusion of “comprehensive sexuality education” (CSE) and “reproductive rights” (terms that connote  abortion rights and teen-contraceptive-use rights) as part of  the consensus document. Ambassador Sarki made it clear during the negotiations that unless the UNFPA, United States and European nations were ready to withdraw the vexatious CSE and abortion rights from the text, the African Group was not going to accept and adopt the text.

Now, let me unmask the UNFPA. As its name aptly reveals, the main mission of the UNFPA in developing countries like Nigeria is population reduction or human capital reduction or fertility reduction. The UNFPA tries to achieve this by making what it calls “safe abortion” and “unmet contraceptive” services assessing and affordable to the vast African population especially African teen population. Why is the UNFPA bent on reducing the fertility rate in Africa? On December 10, 1974, the United States National Security Council promulgated a top secret document entitled National Security Study Memorandum 200 (NSSM-200), also called The Kissinger Report.  It was subtitledImplications of Worldwide Population Growth For U.S. Security and Overseas Interests.”  This document was declassified in 1989.  It laid out a detailed strategy by which the United States would aggressively promote population control in developing nations in order to regulate (or have better access to) the natural resources of these countries. In order to protect U.S. commercial interests, NSSM-200 cited a number of factors that could interrupt the smooth flow of materials from lesser-developed countries as it called them, to the United States, including a large population of anti-imperialist youth, who must, according to NSSM-200, be limited by population control. The document identified 13 nations by name that would be primary targets of U.S.-funded population control efforts.  The named countries were India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nigeria, Mexico, Indonesia, Brazil, the Philippines, Thailand, Egypt, Turkey, Ethiopia and Colombia. According to NSSM-200, elements of the implementation of population control programs could include: a) the legalization of abortion; b) financial incentives for countries to increase their abortion, sterilization and contraception-use rates; c) indoctrination of children; and d) mandatory population control, and coercion of other forms, such as withholding disaster and food aid unless developing countries implement population control programs.

NSSM-200 also specifically declared that the United States was to cover up its population control activities and avoid possible charges of imperialism by recruiting some United Nations agencies such as the UNFPA to do its dirty work. Section 30(a) of NSSM-200 states:  “Concentration on Key Countries. … Assistance for population moderation should give primary emphasis to the largest and fastest growing developing countries where there is special U.S. political and strategic interest. Those countries are: India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nigeria, Mexico, Indonesia, Brazil, the Philippines, Thailand, Egypt, Turkey, Ethiopia and Columbia. Together, they account for 47 percent of the world’s current population increase.” NSSM-200 also states “No country has reduced its population growth without resorting to abortion…since abortion is still repugnant to the peoples of Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa and parts of Asia and Oceania, we must mask our desire to legalize abortion by pretending to care about the state of women’s health.  We do this by saying that we want to eliminate “unsafe abortion.”

 In other words, since the word “abortion” is repugnant in the highly-sensitive Nigerian religious culture, the UNFPA avoids using it and instead uses euphemisms or dodgy phrases such as “reproductive health”, sexual and reproductive health services”, “family planning services”, “reproductive health services” which connote abortion and contraceptive services. So when Osotimehin says that the UNFPA promotes “reproductive health”, sexual and reproductive health services”, “family planning services”, “reproductive health services”, he actually means that the UNFPA promotes abortion and contraceptives.

Rethinking Charlie Hebdo: The right to Freedom of expression Vs the duty to respect the beliefs of others.

By Nwala Ijeoma *

In the wake of the events of 7th January, 2015, the world is still in shock and pain. Most of us are really afraid for we do not know what the future holds for our dear “right to freedom of expression”. Before going further, I would like to state, unequivocally, that in no way do I support the use of violence as a way of settling disagreements or reacting to any threatening opinion. The Charlie Hebdo killing was mindless and not well thought- out.

However, when half of the world is pointlessly holding vigils, demonstrations and ‘copping’ trends with the hash tag #JeSuisCharlie, it all becomes disturbing as it shows we clearly do not understand what the right to freedom of expression really is. We are merely following trends on the internet.

This poses a danger, as only a handful are saying what needs to be said. As John Stuart Mill said, “the right to swing my arms in any direction ends where your nose begins .” This quote or versions of it are also attributed to a few other writers such as Holmes Jr., and Abraham Lincoln. One might be curious enough to ask, ‘why should there be an end to my right to swing my arms? They are, in fact, my arms and why shouldn’t I be minded to do what I please with it?” If you have asked yourself this, you are not alone. This has been the basis of one of the most heated legal arguments; whether morality is and should be a part of law?

To answer the first set of questions, a version of the expression spoken by an anonymous judge might be told. A man was arrested for swinging his arms and hitting another in the nose. He asked the Judge if he did not have the right to swing his arms in a free country and the judge replied “your right to swing your arms end just where the others man’s nose begins.” Even the law abhors careless misstatements and acts or omissions that end up hurting others- causing damages, according to law. Therefore, we are all encouraged to exercise care and caution in all we do.

If you still choose to ask, what then does morality have to do with this argument? I will reply with a few questions too. Are we not being moral, when we choose right instead of wrong? Are we not being moral when we think of what our actions will cost our neighbors? Are we not being moral, when we lend happiness to others instead of sadness; when we encourage rather than put people down; when we say kind words and not harsh ones; when we criticize, to encourage improvement and not insult and mock; when we prevent a stranger from dying in whatever little way we can instead of walking away and most of all, when we love one another? Do we all not need love? Are we afraid of the word ‘morality’ because it might denote that we are affiliated to one religious order or another, and we cannot have that? A neighbor is any person who may be reasonably affected by our actions and inactions whether or not he is in close proximity to us.

Morality is the very fabric of this universe. But is it even desirable that all rights must have an end or limit? Morality will say YES! When we exercise complete and absolute freedom or rights, we, too, become despots as we will be merely living out our own selfish and uncontrolled passions without, for a second, thinking of how it affects our neighbor. Because, while you have a right to swing your arms in public ,in a jolly manner, as an expression of excitement or whatever, you must, however, stop when you walk into a crowd so that you do not injure anyone. Yes, morality places a heavy (worthwhile) burden on us when we exercise rights because for every right, there is a corresponding duty.

Now where does the right to freedom of expression end? I say it ends when the feelings and beliefs of others are at stake. Yes, we have a right to say and express our opinions without fear of being put down or fear of violence of any kind but do we do not also have a corresponding duty to respect the feelings and beliefs of others when we seek to express ourselves? Isn’t there ever a thing as “sticks and stones may break my bones, but your words almost killed me”? Should we go on proclaiming rights and forgetting that corresponding duties weigh heavily upon on the ‘right-holder’?

I am not a Muslim but I believe that Muslims are entitled to their own beliefs and so are Catholics, Buddhists and atheists. We have no right, under the toga of freedom of expression, to jest Mohammed, Jesus or any religious character or event which a religion holds dear and sacred. We have no right, to say words that would hurt our neighbors. We have no right, whatsoever, to intimidate a religion by mocking the ideals of that group. The word ‘respect’ is being used so little today.

The Charlie Hebdo editors did not ask to be killed but this does not make them martyrs. They did, however, provoke reactions from people by hurting them continuously with their publications. What most people know of the Charlie Hebdo Story is that they got killed because they were journalists expressing their right to freedom of expression. What people do not ask is, did he carry out the duty that came with that right. He deserves to be mourned as dead people should but he should not to be treated as a saint. But because he is dead now, we will not point fingers.

I am sure that when those zealots set out to kill the Charlie Hebdo editors on the 7th, they did not know that today the world would be celebrating them. In fact, if they did, I am sure the editors would still be alive today. They did not also understand that by that singular action, they have further put other Muslims and Islam in a more difficult position in Europe. This is to show you that they felt murder was the only way to ‘defend’ their faith since religion in the twenty-first century is foremost perceived as undesirable and a threat and very little is done to prevent the senseless mockery of religious beliefs. Violence is in no way an answer to any question or opinion, no matter how threatened we may feel by that opinion. I am not insensitive to fact that men just died, but I am also sensitive to fact that the editors of Charlie Hebdo exhibited courage when they chose to continue with satirical, ‘insensitive’ and often vile publications despite threats against them. They are, however, not saints as the world would like to believe because they chose to disrespect the feelings and beliefs of others.

So, no, I am not Charlie, #JeSuisNePasCharlie. I am Nwala Ijeoma and I do not condone mindless violence or mindless expressions against another’s belief. I have the freedom to say what I want but a duty not hurt my neighbor whenever I chose to express myself.

*Nwala Ijeoma is a law student at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka

NOW THE WORLD CAN LEARN FROM AFRICA

Dr. Ameyo Adadevoh

By. GREGORY NNAM*

The first case of Ebola in Nigeria was confirmed in Lagos on July 20, 2014. The disease entered the country through an infected Liberian diplomat Patrick Sawyer who had reportedly come to Nigeria to seek medical attention. The days that followed this confirmation were thick with media reports on the apocalyptic projections of health experts and political commentators who had admitted the possibility of an epidemic. In fairness, the experts should not be blamed for their early convictions because with the conditions in Nigeria it would have been unwise to infer the contrary. Nigeria had for a while been standing on the edge of a precipice. The health system management was in ruins. Poor facilities, lack of trained professionals and lack of organisation all added up to make the condition grim and the unstable socio-political landscape snuffed out whatever hope there might have been for an improvement. Even the outbreak of Ebola in neighbouring West African countries drew only a passing attention from the government and the media alike. Therefore when the disease came calling the country was almost unprepared. As if to confirm our worst fears, Patrick Sawyer died 5 days after his arrival in Nigeria leaving behind a number of infected persons. Before long, the initial fears of the people spiraled into a nationwide panic. In the midst of the confusion, every kind of wrong information was spread and sadly it led to the loss of some lives. Unlike other diseases the country has had to contend with, the high population in the country presented a perfect condition for the transmission of the disease from Lagos to other parts of the country. The situation was dire and therefore needed an immediate and well directed response. Thankfully the Nigerian government was on hand to provide this response.

The government set up isolation wards and treatment centres in Lagos and equipped the health ministry with specially adapted mobile communication systems to trace the contacts made by sawyer. Prior to the outbreak of Ebola, Nigeria already had teams in place to investigate the outbreaks of Lassa fever and Cholera. There were also about 100 Nigerian doctors being trained in epidemiology by the US Centre for Disease control. These formed the health team that spear-headed the attack on Ebola in the country. Although the disorganization in Nigeria’s disaster management system presented a challenge, the health operatives were able to trace 100% of all primary and secondary contacts linked to the first Ebola case. The health team handled the treatment of the Ebola patients and the monitoring of the suspected carriers of the virus. It is unclear what had informed the decision of a certain Ebola patient who ignored the treatment centres in Lagos and sought medical assistance in Port-Harcourt. The patient got what he came for but not without infecting the doctor who was treating him, further expanding the coverage area of the virus. The health ministry swung into action and with a robust financial and technical backing from the government 98.9% of all primary and secondary contacts of the first patient in Port-Harcourt were found and isolated for observation. According to a report by the US Centres for Disease control and prevention, about 900 people-nearly everyone who had contact with patient zero (Patrick Sawyer) were identified, interviewed and monitored with approximately 18500 face to face visits conducted by investigators of the Nigerian centre for Disease control and the Ministry of Health. This without doubt is a vivid manifestation of a high level of dedication and diligence. These two virtues unfortunately are gradually becoming extinct in modern societies largely because of the comfort-seeking lifestyle led by many. This African example speaks eloquently of the benefits of these virtues. With renewed efforts by the health team a good number of the patients responded to treatment and before long there were recorded cases of 11 complete recoveries out of the 19 diagnosed cases.

The widespread misinformation that resulted from the chaos witnessed in the early stages of the disease’s outbreak was effectively nullified by the government’s public enlightenment initiatives. The media was awash with announcements, shows and jingles that threw more light on the nature of Ebola, its prevention and the efforts made in its control. The government banned indefinitely all inter-state movement of corpses to restrict the spread of the disease. Within a few weeks of relentless efforts all cases of Ebola in Nigeria were under control. It came as no surprise to any when on October 20, 2014 Nigeria was declared an Ebola-free nation after 42 days without any new infection. The WHO allows 42 days to pass before declaring a country Ebola-free because this period represents twice the length of time required for any infected person to manifest symptoms of the disease (window period). Besides this, the WHO requires that active surveillance must be in place to detect “chains of transmission that might remain hidden”. Three days earlier neighbouring Senegal was declared Ebola-free after a less serious battle with the virus.

During a media briefing, the WHO labelled the effective control of Ebola in Nigeria “a spectacular success story”. Besides the literal implication of this statement, it also means that the rest of the world especially those countries still struggling to control the virus can indeed learn from Africa. Without in any way claiming that Africa has the best expertise or structures for disease control, it should be noted that the experience of Nigeria and Senegal can serve as a template for charting the path for the control of the disease globally. The efforts of various governments both within and outside Africa to control the spread of Ebola in countries like Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea even though inadequate is still worthy of commendation. Without doubt, if efforts are increased and adequate machineries are put in place very soon the world will be Ebola-free.

* Gregory Nnam, studies at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka

PROTECTING NIGERIAN CHILDREN

By Sonnie Ekwowusi

What is happening to us in this country? Why should anybody in his right senses target the Nigerian young for destruction? I can’t believe what they are doing to the Nigerian young. While we are still lamenting that Chibok girls have not been released and that many children are victims of Boko Haram senseless murder, some people are meeting in Abuja and corrupting children. We are losing our sense of public shame in this country, and, this, for me, is a big tragedy. Last week the so-called 3rd Nigeria “family planning” Conference was staged at the Sheraton Hotels, Abuja. From all intents and purposes, the Conference was supposed to be a Conference on family planning but the Conference ended being a very big public scandal: it ended up being a Conference to assist Nigerian children and Nigerian minors to have access to all sizes of condoms, and contraceptives and literature on permanent sterilization Vasectomy, deprovera female sterilization (Tubal Ligation), injectable contraceptives, IUCD, postinor2,Lo-femenal, norplant, suction tubes etc.

At the Youth pre-conference sponsored by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) which took place a day to the Conference, a video animation was shown to young Nigerians on how to effectively practise “safe-sex” using the condoms and other contraceptives. The young people also watched another video animation of other young people sharing knowledge and experience on issues related to condom use and contraceptive use. The UNFPA created a social media campaign code-named “No Hoodie No Honey” posted on twitter aimed at supplying condoms and contraceptives to young Nigerians including Nigerian minors. The UNFPA was out to coerce young people into believing that “safe-sex” is their right and therefore they shouldn’t be ashamed to practice “safe sex” even if the different cultures and religions teach otherwise. For example, one of the inscriptions on the No Hoodie No Honey roll up stand posted on twitter reads: “Lets push for easy access to the female condom and that a woman may buy condoms without being shamed”

First: this advert is tainted by fraud and deception. The advert that condom protects its user against infections and against HIV is a fraudulent advert. Scientifically, no condom is safe proof. Every condom has naturally-occurring holes that put its user in serious jeopardy. Because condoms are not safe, the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON) has enacted a law that every condom advertised in Nigeria must carry the following Health Risk Warning Clause: “Be warned: condom is not 100 per cent safe: total abstinence or faithfulness is the best option”. The “Gold Circle” condom carelessly and indiscriminately used in Nigeria has been banned in Ghana. On 20th July 2005, Ghana’s Food and Drugs Board (FDB) issued what it called “Consumer Alert on “Gold Circle” Brand of condoms to the effect that the Gold circle condoms do not have adequate physical strength and therefore likely to break during use. Therefore the FDB directed all Ghanaian pharmacies, licensed chemical shops and other outlets that had stocks of “Gold circle” brand of condoms to remove them from their shelves and return them to their sources of supply. I don’t know when the “Gold Circle” condom would be banned in Nigeria.

But assuming condom were effective, condom-use promotes sexual promiscuity and pre-marital pregnancy because of the false sense of security it generates in users. And sexual promiscuity, by definition, spreads sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV.

In any case, condom “safe-sex” is not the first priority of the average young Nigerian in the street: the first priority of the average young Nigerian is to settle down in life-to secure a good job, earn a good salary, have a roof over his or her head and marry a good wife or a good husband later. If the organisers of the Abuja conference were really and truly interested in helping the Nigerian young, why didn’t they organise a job-creation conference or a skill-acquisition Conference or farming Conference to boost food production instead of  a condom Conference?. Is condom food that young Nigerians must eat to stay alive?

More importantly, most contraceptives are deadly. A Study that has been carried out have shown that a woman who takes birth control pills before her first child is born has at least 40% of increased risk of developing breast cancer and that a woman who has taken the pill for four or more times prior to the birth of her first child has a 72% risk factor in developing breast cancer. In October 2011, the New York Times published an article entitled Contraceptive Used in Africa May Double Risk of H.I.V. This article was based on a cohort study by prestigious medical Research journal The Lancet that clearly stated that “the risk of HIV-1 acquisition doubled with the use of hormonal contraception especially the injectable methods.” In addition to the HIV-related effects of this product, there is also the doubled risk of breast cancer demonstrated by various studies like the extensive research done by the Fred Hutchingson Cancer Research centre, Seattle and published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) in February 2012, with the research team stating clearly after their studies : “We found that recent DMPA (Depo-Medroxyprogesterone acetate a.k.a Depo-Provera) use for 12 months or longer was associated with a 2.2-fold increased risk of invasive breast cancer.”

It is sad that most foreign NGOs and agencies are coming to Nigeria to exploit our children to their own gain. The UNFPA, for example, has become notorious for distributing condoms and contraceptives among Nigerian teens. And the government appears to have shut its eyes to this atrocity. This cannot continue. Now is the time to stand up and protect our children if we want them to have a stake in bright future.

FLAWS IN THE NATIONAL HEALTH BILL 2014 – Sonnie Ekwowusi

nationa 2

There are too many troubling national issues in Nigeria today competing for space that one runs the risk of even overlooking the most critical issues that require urgent attention. For example, the National Health Bill is a very critical national issue requiring urgent attention. Health is wealth. It is only when you are alive that you can, for example, discuss politics, economy, Boko Haram and all that. Dead men don’t speak from the grave. It is inconceivable that in this age of astonishing medical breakthrough many Nigerians are still dying of preventable diseases. That is why the country’s health challenges, like the controversial Obamacare, merits eloquent public commentary.

You may be well aware that the Senate has passed the National Health Bill 2014 into law. Likewise the House of Representatives. The two Houses are now set to harmonize the Bill before sending it to President Jonathan for his assent.

But sadly enough, the National Health Bill 2014 (NHB 2014) is flawed. Little wonder it is mired in the most simmering controversy. First: the NHB 2014 is not substantially different from the controversial National Health Bill 2008 and National health Bill 2012 which the late President Umaru Yar’Adua and President Jonathan respectively refused to sign because they were adjudged to be perverse, discriminatory, inchoate and self-serving. Second and most importantly: the NHB 2014 is completely at variance with the agreed conclusions at the stakeholders’ Public Hearing on the National Health Bill. You will recall that on Monday 11th February 2013 the Senate organised a Public Hearing on the NHB 2014 at Room 231 of the Senate Building. It was well attended by different stakeholders which included the Nigerian Medical Council (NMA), National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives (NANNM); Association of Radiographers of Nigeria (ARN); society of Physiotherapy (NSN); Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria; Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists of Nigeria (AMLSN); National Association of complementary and Alternative medicine; Health Reform Foundation of Nigeria; Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria; Institute of Health Administrators of Nigeria, Nigerian Phisioterpahy Association of Nigeria. The Public Hearing was chaired by Senator Arthur Ifeanyi Okowa, medical doctor, principal sponsor of the Bill, Chairman Senate Committee on Health and a man of exquisite eloquence.

Prior to the commencement of the Public Hearing, Senator Okowa reassured all stakeholders present that their inputs will be accommodated in the final National Health Bill to be adopted by the Senate. And in all fairness, Senator Okowa truly gave all stakeholders the opportunity to make their respective submissions. While some stakeholders wanted some sections of the National Health Bill to be amended, re-couched, delimited or expanded to accommodate their interest, others wanted some sections of the Bill endorsing trafficking in human organs to be entirely expunged from the Bill.

First, the Senate Health Committee should be commended for prohibiting the manipulation of any genetic materials, including genetic material of human gametes, zygotes or embryos, import and export human embryos, as well as conduct any experimentation for human cloning and other purposes.

Having said this, it is very unfortunate and a big paradox that the Senate and the House of representatives have inserted sections 48, 49, 51, and 53 into the NHB 2014 which are aimed at legalizing trafficking in human organs and trading in human tissues like female eggs cells and so forth. Specifically, section 48 (2) “a person shall not remove “tissue” which is not replaceable by natural processes from a person younger than eighteen years”. Obviously this means that a person can remove tissue replaceable by natural processes from persons who are nineteen years and above. This is sad. Section 49 is ambiguously couched and could be greatly abused. It states that a person shall use “tissue” removed or blood or a blood product withdrawn from a living person only for such medical or dental purposes as may be prescribed. To worsen matters, the word, the interpretation of the word “tissue” is not provided in the interpretation section. Sections 51 and 52 are too wide and could lend themselves to great abuse as well. “Removal of tissue” is unqualified. It could mean anything.

You see, we live in an age of high trafficking in human beings and human organs. At the moment Nigeria is one of the leading countries in the world in human trafficking. The statistics are mind-boggling. Not infrequently, it is reported that uncountable number of Nigerians especially young girls and children are trafficked to many unknown destinations where they are used as sex slaves or forced to do all manner of degrading labour. It is on record that some female students of some Nigerian universities are selling their eggs. Sections 48, 49, 51 and 52 will further fuel greater trafficking in human organs and tissues in Nigeria  There is no doubt that it would be difficult for the authorities to resist the manipulations and financial pressures of unscrupulous groups that stand to gain from trafficking in human eggs, tissues and all that. This is a multibillion dollar business worldwide which is very difficult to check or handle especially in a country like Nigeria with ineffective police system and judicial checks or any effective regulatory agency.

Therefore to effectively guard against the said abuses, sections 48, 49, 51 and 53 of the NHB 2014 should be re-couched to expressly and unambiguously prohibit trafficking in human organs and any form of trading in human tissue. Consequently, President Jonathan should withhold his assent to the NHB 2014 pending the rectification of the aforesaid palpable flaws in the Bill. Anything short of this is unacceptable.

RULE OF LAW AS BULWARK OF DEMOCRACY

imagesBy Sonnie Ekwowusi

No matter what anybody may say, the most recent  Federal High Court Judgments, notably, the judgment declaring as unconstitutional the Federal Road Safety Commission’s newly-imposed number plates on motorists in Nigeria; the judgment ordering the House of Representatives members who defected from the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to the All People’s Progressive Congress (APC) to vacate their seats; the judgment declaring as illegal the toll collection on the Lekki-Ikoyi Suspension Bridge; the judgment ordering the Federal government and its agents to pay a whopping sum of N50 million to the former Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi as exemplary damages for illegal detention and seizure of his international passport  have, to a certain extent, helped in restoring the waning confidence of the people in the Nigerian judiciary, the merits or demerits of the judgments notwithstanding. The judgments have also shown that the rule of law is the bulwark of our democracy.

 Agreed, appeals have been lodged against most of the judgments. Even if the appeals succeed in the future and the judgments reversed, the point has been made that those who manage the affairs of their fellow men should always abide by due process. Put differently, the rule of law is a pre-requisite for the sustenance of the Nigerian democracy and for good government to thrive in Nigeria.

So, let the judicial activism go on. Excited by the judgments declaring the newly-imposed number plates and thetoll collection on the Lekki-Ikoyi Suspension Bridge unconstitutional, most members of the public now reckon with the judiciary as that  vital thread that knits human society together. It has dawned on them that with some measure of courage and, of course, persistence, they could successful tackle the scandalizing oddities and illegalities making Nigeria look like one lawless country. We live in a country in which one man can wake up one morning and unilaterally impose any law on the people without first ascertaining whether the law attunes with the social reality in Nigeria. Somehow we have grown accustomed to tolerating all sorts of illegalities including illegal killing of human beings. For example, the 2014 Amnesty international Report on Nigeria alleges many illegal killings in the North-East of Nigeria and other human rights abuses. But even in the absence of Amnesty International Report, the magnitude of gross human rights abuses across the country could be disturbing. Just take a look at any Police Station around, and you would probably find a suspect being subjected to one torture or the other. Imagine Mr. Ebere Wabara, The Sun Newspaper Associate Editor and Special Assistant, Media to Dr. Uzor Orji Kalu, abducted in front of his wife and children two weeks ago. The journalist was reportedly arrested in his Surulere residence and whisked off to Umuahia by the Abia State Police Command on ground of alleged seditious publication. If this report is true, then something seriously needed to be done to stem the tide of human rights violation in Nigeria. It will be naive to think that the actions of government are always guided by law to promote the Common Good. In his appraisal of the English form of government in Common Sense, Thomas Paine writes that government is a necessary evil. French political economist and philosopher Federic Bastiat, stresses in his classic bestseller, The Law, that most government activities are legalized plunders. According to him, the greatest threat to personal liberty is when a government turns against those whom it is meant to protect.  Of the ancient philosophers, Plato was particularly hostile to democracy because he felt that democracy could be abused to the detriment of the governed whose interests it is supposed to protect.  It was to guard against the abuses in democracy that Plato wanted the experts, the enlightened or the guardians, as he called them in the Republic, to be in charge of politics.

Point being made is that we should not readily assume that government is conscious of its proper roles in society and is out to promote the rights and welfare of citizens. That’s why the people must be vigilant. The people should be ready to go the extra mile in righting a perceived legal wrong. Nothing is to be gained by being passive. Interestingly, the aforementioned judgments are all judgment of the Federal High Court which hitherto had been slow in advancing judicial activism in Nigeria. So, impelled by their sense of justice, the Nigerian judges should be unafraid of delivering judgments detestable to the government. They should be unafraid of doing what has not been done before, for in the words of Master of Rolls Lord A. T Denning in Parker V Parker, “if we never did a thing which has not been done before we shall never get anywhere”. If the Nigerian judiciary fails to make our political leaders accountable through law, we would continue to have misfits and nincompoops in office as leaders.

 

Being an untried system of government, constitutional democracy in Nigeria is challenged from within by greed, corruption and pursuit of personal interest. Therefore, the rule of law is the ultimate safeguard of our constitutional democracy.

 

Labeling to Silence

 

By Nwachukwu Egbunike

Also I cannot but ask: where were you all when this bill went through the first, second and third readings in the Senate and House of Representatives respectively? Has the talk about this bill not been on for the past three to four years? But as soon as the president gave his assent to the legislation, we have been singing non-stop.

The shattering chatter in Nigerian blogosphere that followed the presidential assent to Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Bill 2013 is yet to fade out. Gay marriage is a sensitive issue and expectedly, there has been dissent and praise from Nigerians. However, as is wont in Twitter Nigeria, the dissenters have been quite vocal and have left none in doubt about their views. They have raised their voices in anger and have tried to label those who disagree with them or cow them into shameful silence.

Let me make it clear right from the outset – I do not hate gays [actually I try not to hate anyone – be they polygamists, bigamists or whatever] but I support the law. I have no wahala with what two men/women do in the privacy of their rooms. It’s just that I prefer that they keep it to their rooms but when they decide to marry, I think it becomes public business. And when it becomes public business, I reserve the right to comment, a right which our dissenters and new defenders of unfettered conjugal freedoms would want to deny me. And they try to do this with a vehemence which I find offensive.

The position on Twitter of these advocates of unfettered rights to all forms of connubial arrangements can be summarized thus; anyone who supports this bill is ignorant and needs to be “educated”. However, this education by our Gnostic-like intellectuals spares no fools and by necessity is achieved via arrogance. For the simpletons who are so daft to accept this legislation, do so because they are prisoners of religious superstition. The slurs have been creative: it goes from “hypocritical bigoted bigot” to “fanatical religious moron”. I have stumbled on others like: arsenic homophobe, close-minded, barbaric dim-wit, etc. The list is endless.

It’s a matter of love and we have been told that it’s vile to deny marriage to gays. However, marriage is not available to all who are in love. Loving a person does not give you the right to marry them. A man cannot marry a woman who is already married; a woman who loves two men cannot marry them both. Besides, allowing gays to marry will not stop marriage discrimination for two consenting adult siblings or a mother and her son. The same applies to the over-hyped expression of sex being between two consenting adults. What happens when those ‘adults’ are two siblings or a father and her daughter?

Also I cannot but ask: where were you all when this bill went through the first, second and third readings in the Senate and House of Representatives respectively? Has the talk about this bill not been on for the past three or four years? But as soon as the president gave his assent to the legislation, we have been singing non-stop. This is democracy, if you want to change this law, join a political party and contest for HOR or Senate from your constituency. After all, 2015 is the year for general elections.

Besides, this law was not made ex nihilo! The pro-gay lobby has been voracious for quite some time now. This bill, to my mind is a reaction – perhaps an over-reaction – but a reaction nonetheless to this lobby. Going by the oft-repeated logic by the dissenters, gay marriage is the least of our problems in Nigeria – corruption and reliable electricity supply are the more pressing problems and these should have occupied the attention of legislature and the executive. Arguing like this is very unhelpful since it is tantamount to saying that all other pursuits of government must be put on hold because we have not yet killed corruption or attained constant electricity? Nothing else should matter, just these two. Arguments like this ignore the multidimensionality of governance and the possibility for a government to pursue multiple targets at the same time.

And it’s quite appalling reading misrepresentations like “14 years in prison for being gay in Nigeria!” Gosh, and from those who should know better that the jail term is not for being gay, but for contracting a same-sex “marriage”. Google is your friend, use it – the bill is here, download and read it.

Let me emphasize that not everything that has an emotional appeal is right, or culturally suitable or biologically proper or in consonance with social norms. And the spirit of all laws derives from the meeting point between these influences from culture, biology and social norms. Wisdom, they say is a bag, let each person carry his own.

Nwachukwu Egbunike is a writer, he authored “Dyed Thoughts: A Conversation In and From My Country” and he blogs at http://www.feathersproject.wordpress.com/

A JOYFUL CHRISTMAS .

By Sonnie Ekwowusi

All man’s strivings on earth are inevitably, a search for happiness albeit many search for happiness in the wrong things. The young, the old, rich, poor, destitute, socially-dislocated, footballer, prisoner, freeman, manual worker, intellectual worker and all are all searching for happiness in their respective life endeavours. Not even human adversity can stultify the overflowing joy of the human spirit. Every time I re-read “As I Lay Dying” by Richard John Neuhaus I always marvel at the triumph of the human spirit over suffering. In that book, Neuhaus vividly recaptures that cheerfulness can be compatible with human suffering. In his epic book, The Consolation of Philosophy, Ancius, Boethius writes that human adversity and physical confinement do not diminish human freedom and human happiness. Reading Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk To Freedom, one cannot fail to appreciate that the 27 gruelling years which he spent in physical confinement in prison did not diminish his inner freedom, human spirit let alone his boisterous cheerfulness. Many years ago I visited the Kirikiri Maximum prison Lagos, in company with some young lawyers. It was a Sunday afternoon when prisoners are allowed to have some recreation within the prison including playing the game of football. As the prisoners were coming out from their respective prison cells or dungeons, we spotted out a very cheerful young prisoner among them wearing a stylistic haircut. Before we could utter a word, the other prisoners pointed at him and said to us; “he is innocent, he is not supposed to be here”. I wonder the fate that has befallen that cheerful young prisoner today.

I have heard it said several times that the poor-street beggars and destitute and others in that category-are the happiest people in the world. Pope Francis corroborates this in his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium. Lamenting how the misplaced reliance on technology have led to the sorrow of many people, Pope Francis says that it is among the poor that we encounter people who are truly and really happy.

So, everyone longs for happiness. But as I said earlier, many look for it in wrong things. For example, the murderer who murders another believes that by committing that horrible act he could attain happiness. On my way back from the Badagry High Court two weeks ago, I met a soldier who narrated his recent encounter with young Boko Haram fighters in Maiduguri, Borno State. “Those young Boko Haram boys are prepared to die. Even when you catch them and torture them they will not reveal anything to you, said the military man. Obviously those Boko Haram boys believe that the only way they can be happy is to maim and kill those whom they have been sent to maim or kill.

Now that Christmas is here many will be seeking happiness in the orgy of self-deification, capricious expenditure and militant consumerism. To them, pleasure is happiness. At Christmas all sorts of vices start rearing their ugly heads: the commercial bus driver drives recklessly; the trader swindles the hapless customers; the worker embezzles his employer’s money; the kidnappers lays siege to the country highways to kid Christmas travellers. The motorists cruise at prohibitive speed. Everywhere, there is disorder as many searching for happiness busy themselves in buying and selling. Instead of seeking joy in the true meaning of Christmas, many seek it in drunken orgy. Asked how he would celebrate the Christmas, a driver wasted no time in answering that he would be inside the green bottle on Christmas Day, meaning that he would drink himself to stupor on Christmas Day.

This is certainly not the message which Jesus preached with his humble birth in Bethlehem. The self-sacrificing service of Jesus, Mary and Joseph at first Christmas is a spur to mankind to be less self-centred and attend to the needs of their fellow men and women. There are many Nigerians suffering from illness, frustration and poverty. Therefore, this Christmas is a good time to reach out to these suffering Nigerians and share the joy of Christmas with them. More importantly, Christmas affords many families the opportunity of reuniting and sharing the warmth and love of a family.

Following the selfless life of Jesus, our political leaders should bring light to the dark land; hope to the hopeless; justice to the oppressed and integrity to the wasteland. The people, on the other hand, should eschew vices of greed, avarice, laziness and corruption. It is no use blaming the leaders for being corrupt when the people condone injustice and corruption. Beyond complaining that Nigeria is not good, the people should get up and do something to bring about an honest political leadership. It is no use sitting down and gossiping without doing anything to assist in remedying the many injustices and wrongs committed in the land. Evil thrives when the so-called good people sit back and do nothing.

Today this column intones the Nunc Dimittis as it signs off for the Christmas vacation, to return, God willing, in January 2014. Thanks for the company in this tortuous journey of trying to clothe the naked public square. Obviously the road this year has been strewn with thorns and thistle, but as St. Josemaria Escriva writes in The Way of the Cross, “Where the hand feels the prick of thorns, the eyes discover a bunch of splendid fragrant roses”. We live in sad world, but with the smiles on our faces we can rid the world of its sadness and melancholy.

Wishing you and your family a joyful Christmas