WANTED: A NEW HEALTH MINISTER

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By  Sonnie Ekwowusi

Clearly the current Health Minister Prof Isaac Adewole is not the Health Minister that Nigeria needs at the moment to tackle her serious primary healthcare delivery challenges. Apart from telling Nigerian women that they have a “right” to commit abortion, Prof. Adewole has not demonstrated that he can positively transform Nigeria’s healthcare sector.

Shortly after his inauguration as Nigeria’s Health Minister the first health gift which Prof Adewole offered to Nigerian women was what he dubbed “expanded access to comprehensive abortion care”. As if that was not scandalous enough, Prof Adewole was on Channels TV just last week to market his population control gift. He wants Nigerian families to stop having children. He wants married Nigerian women to be on pregnancy- terminating pills in order to avoid having children.  Prof Adewole is obviously under the influence and sponsorship of the United Nations Populations Funds (UNFPA) and The Guttmacher Institute, two agencies which are notorious in Africa for pressuring African governments to reduce human capital through abortion and contraceptive. Whereas Prof. Adewole has not articulated any serious primary healthcare program that would benefit the Nigerian poor who still lack access to the much-vaunted primary health care system he more inclined in venturing into irrelevant complex demographic issues.

In other words, Prof Adewole has abandoned medicine and the real health needs of the Nigerian people and now meddling with demographic issues. What a paradox ! Is President Buhari not aware that attempts to implement population control policy by successive Nigerian governments have consistently failed. For example, when Goodluck Jonathan was in power he entrusted the then chairman of the National Population Commission (NPC) Festus Odimegwu and twenty-two others with the task of controlling the Nigerian population through birth-control and all that. Chief Odimegwu said something at that time that shocked many people: he said that the NPC did not know the population of Nigeria, and that the various population figures declared in the past by the NPC and government-owed agencies had been based on distorted and fictitious figures presented by the World Bank, United Nations and other international bodies. According to Chief Festus Odimegwu,  “we do not really know our population; that is the truth of the matter. We do our work but politicians interfere and at the end, you do not really know what population or census figures are…”, Answering question from the Punch Newspaper during a courtesy visit to the NPC by a delegation of the UNFPA, Odimegwu said,  “…the population of China is over 2 billion, India is 1.2 billion. Nigeria ranks about the 10th in the world population. If other countries are surviving, I don’t think we will kill ourselves…The important thing is having the resources to make people live a good life. Good living is not determined by the population but by so many other things. If some countries have large populations and are living well, Nigerians can also have good lives.”

Odimegwu is right. Good living is not determined by population but by the seriousness of government to improve the living condition of the people. Certainly Prof Adewole’s new population control policy will bring a bad image to the Buhari government. Therefore, President Buhari should act fast and appoint a new Health Minister to replace Prof Adewole. Prof Adewole clearly lacks focus. What has population control got to do with the urgent health needs of the Nigerian people?. If Adewole is looking for something to control, why can’t he control diseases such as malaria, typhoid, polio, high blood pressure, hypertension and so forth that have been killing many Nigerians. Look at exponential rate with which cancer especially cervical and breast cancer is spreading across Nigeria and killing many Nigerians. Why not set up cancer screening centers across Nigeria? Is the Federal Government not aware that many public health institutions in Nigeria lack essentials drugs? Why budget huge sums of money for population control when you cannot provide ordinary drugs in our public hospitals especially in our rural health centers and clinics in Nigeria? Why not use the money budgeted for population control to pay striking doctors so that they stop going on strike and render diligent medical services in Nigeria.

  Last week I visited a medical consultant friend of mine at the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital (UNTH) Enugu. In the course of our conversation, this diligent doctor informed me that primary and secondary health care systems are virtually non-existent in Nigeria. He regretted that everybody is rushing to Tertiary Heath with utter neglect for community medicine and basic rural medicine that are most beneficial to Nigeria’s numerous rural dwellers. He shocked me with the sad stories of the uncountable children from Enugu, Nsukka, Abakaliki and their environs who die of preventable diseases before they are brought to UNTH.

My UNTH consultant friend further shocked me with the stories of how poor children in Enugu, Nsukka, Abakaliki and  their surrounding villages regularly die in their respective homes from preventable illnesses and from lack of simple vaccination and immunization. This is not a peculiar Enugu State tragedy. It is everyday tragedy across the country. For example, if you step outside the South-East and travel to, maybe, the South-West you will find similar ill-health miseries. Take a trip to Borno State, Kano State, Zamfara State or Sokoto State and you will fall short of words to describe the miserable lives of so many women and children who also lack access to basic primary health care. And if you dare visit the Internally-Displaced Persons (IDPs) Camps, you will shed tears after seeing the uncountable number of children and women dying from food and medical starvation.

It is baffling that amid the aforesaid health challenges, Health Minister Prof Isaac Adewole is more interested in population reduction even though is not our priority at the moment. In any case, Prof Adewole was appointed a Health Minister not a population controller Minister. So, why should a Health Minister be exerting his energies in population control matters and leaving unresolved the more urgent primary health care challenges? Is Adewole not aware that due to the exorbitant ante-natal and post-natal bills, many Nigerian pregnant women are still delivered at home by traditional birth attendants and in the process lose their lives?.  Has Adewole forgotten that primary Health care and outpatient clinic services are yet to be decentralized to reach the suffering and dying women in every State, local government, village community and ward community in Nigeria?. If the answers to the above queries are in the affirmative, why is Prof. Adewole seeking alibi in questionable population control issues instead of focusing on the real health needs of the Nigerian people?

It is an absurdity, if not downright stupidity, to argue that the solution to Nigeria’s deplorable health care system at the moment is population control via contraception and abortion. Why do we fail to get our priorities right in Nigeria?. You may ask: what is the business of the Health Minister with population control? Why is UNFPA Executive Director Prof Babatunde Osotimehin always pressuring every Nigerian government to make abortion and contraception accessible even to Nigerian teens in secondary schools?.  You will recall that Prof. Osotimehin pressurized the Jonathan administration to legalize abortion and contraception in Nigeria but failed in that bid. For example, on page 36 of THISDAY Newspaper of November 22, 2012, Osotimehin stated that only investment in abortion and contraception will lead to increased productivity and economic development in Nigeria. Anyway, having failed to get the Jonathan government to legalize abortion and contraception, the same Osotimehin is now mounting pressure on the Buhari government to make abortion and contraception more accessible to a greater number of Nigerians. Two weeks ago Prof Osotimehin approached President Buhari with the aforesaid demand. This is sad. I am sure President is not listening to Osotimehin and his ilk. In a country in which the average citizen suffers from genteel poverty and illnesses, it is illogical to demand that the Buhari government should spend its hard-earned income on stupidities.

Health Minister Adewole argues that population reduction will boost the economy and improve the quality of life for women and children. This is untrue. As I said earlier, the best way to improve the quality of life for Nigerian women and children is through the provision of qualitative health care that is accessible, acceptable and affordable to Nigerian women and children. I still maintain that Adewole is not properly focused otherwise he would have known by now that now is not the best time for population reduction campaigns. We need a more focused Health Minister. Whereas the Buhari government is bent on diversifying the Nigerian economy through people-oriented agriculture in order to come out of the present economic recession, Prof. Adewole is promoting an anti-people population reduction policy. Agriculture thrives on population growth. Thus population growth is not a threat to Nigeria. Instead of seeing population as a threat, population should be seen as a great catalyst for economic growth. The vibrant young people that constitute the bulk of Nigerian population are indeed a vibrant work force that should be used to fast-track Buhari’s agricultural revolution.

In case Prof Adewole does not know, countries like China, Singapore, Bangladesh, India and many Asia countries have reaped enormous demographic dividends from their respective large populations in the last thirty years. The Chinese economy has been growing steadily in the last fifteen years. The Chinese are everywhere today thanks to their huge population. The demographic catastrophe that hit China as a result of its one-child policy has forced China to recently reverse its one-child population policy. Therefore a large population is an asset not a liability. The popular aphorism is that population is power. Population is money too. Small wonder virtually all the big-player telecommunications companies have invested in the Nigerian market. They are obviously reaping huge profit from Nigeria’s large population.

Those familiar with the population control politics in developing countries will attest that it is being done to destroy the human capital in developing countries. But human capital is the elixir of economic growth. A society that kills its children and neglects to fulfill its obligations towards them is obviously heading for extinction.

Ending Violence Against Women and Children

 

By Joshua Nwachukwu

Reliving the tradition that was started in 2010, the organisers of the International Conference on Women and Children held its 5th conference from the 12th to the 14th of November 2015 at the Nigeria Institute of International Affairs (NIIA), Victoria Island, Lagos.
The conference which is a gathering of world-class intellectuals brought together policy makers, members of the Bench and the Bar, Academic Dons, youths, religious leaders and secondary school students. The theme of this year’s discussion was “Global Approaches to violence against women and children: identifying the triggers, remedies and policy frameworks”.

In her opening remarks, the Wife of the President, Her Excellency Hajia Aisha Muhammadu Buhari highlighted the appropriateness of the conference theme in the struggle to eliminate global violence against women and children. Hajia Buhari stressed the importance of the family which serves as a healthy safe-net in protecting both women and children. She also called for the-invigoration of the institution of the family. She stated that abortion remains the greatest violence against women and the unborn children thus it should be avoided. Concluding, she reminded the audience that the Child’s Right Act remains the benchmark for assessing the rights of children and that the various legislations which propose to end violence against women and children like the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act 2015 should be accompanied with multiple enforcement strategies.

The Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon Mudashiru Obasa , who arrived punctually to make his opening remarks and to declare the conference open, praised the organisers of the conference and promised to continue to support the conference as his immediate predecessor in  office did. While declaring the conference open, he admonished that violence against women should be tackled with caution since some of the reported cases have turned out to be false. He also encouraged girls to dress decently since indecent dressing could trigger violence.
In her opening remarks, the wife of the Governor of Lagos State, Mrs Bolanle Ambode challenged the international community to be more pragmatic in protecting female persons and children.
The topics discussed during the three-day conference ranged from rape, challenges of bringing rape suspect to justice, Girl- Child Marriage, Sex and child Trafficking, Role of the law and lawyers in ending violence against women and children, pornography, violence and child nurturing, imprisonment of pregnant women and nursing mothers, empowerment of women: a strategy for reducing poverty and violence to women,  United Nations Peace Keepers: Protectors or Predator, the presentations and discussions of these topics left the audience enchanted and deeply informed on the current state of things.

Being a conference on women and children, the organisers of this conference have always wanted to give a voice to children. So during the three-day conference, the pupils from Whitesands School Lekki, Dominican College Mafoluku, Somerset College Surulere and Lagoon Secondary School Lekki participated in the Children Discussion Panels. The themes for the Panel Discussion were: “when does domestic violence occur: when should we say No and How should we say no” and “ are working children different from non-working children of the same age” The audience were really impressed and shocked at what came out from the mouths of these students mouth. Students from Dominican College added colour to the event with a splendid Art Play which they presented dramatizing domestic violence. The Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, though in a hurry waited to watch the children perform and he was greatly impressed by their performance. On the second day of the conference, Dominican College presented a cultural dance which left members of the audience thrilled.

In my paper on the connection between pornography and violence, I stated that a comparative study of rape rates in the U.S,A., Scandinavia, Britain, Australia and New Zealand found a connection between the availability of  pornography and the level of rape. In Australia, the uniform crime data actually support the case for an increase in rape rates after the liberalisation of pornography.

One Discussion Panel which elicited many comments from the conference participants was the Discussion Panel of the Office of the Public Defender(OPD), Lagos State Ministry of Justice. The Panel gave us an insight into the workings of the OPD in Lagos state. It reiterated that the Office of the Public Defender offers Pro bono services to indigent persons,they also have a toll free number. The Panel of the OPD was so good that some participants from other states asked OPD if they could come and help the OPD in their respective states function optimally.  Officials from the National Emergency Management Agency of Nigeria (NEMA) also did well in educating us on the Internally-Displaced Persons(IDPs) Camps in Nigeria and how they are trying to eliminate violence against women and children in those camps .At the end of this conference, it was resolved that it is not enough to make laws against violence: efforts must be made to enforce the laws. Also highlighted was the role the Police Force plays in curbing violence. Many called for proper education of the police in the handling of rape victims and victims of crimes in Nigeria. Unfortunately the police were not there to defend themselves. Also highlighted was the need for religious organisations to be careful in handling cases of violence and they should not be more interested in protecting the church’s image or name.

All in all, the conference was fun, educating, eye opening, and it also created a room for networking. What a powerful message that was passed at the conference. We discussed ways to counter assaults on the family including pornography, cohabitation, divorce and marriage-substitutes; and promoting pro-family policies that build a renewed culture of strong marriages and healthy loving families. We discussed proper , parenting, and family living as the hope for the future.  It would be impossible to capture in this article what I learned  at the conference. I will be forever remember the message of hope passed at the conference. I will forever remember the concrete ideas for strengthening homes, and the strategies suggested for promoting public policy that secure and protect families.

UNFPA DENIES PUSHING FOR ABORTION IN NIGERIA

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Since the terrorist group Boko Haram began their onslaught in 2009, several thousand have been killed and more than 2,000 women and girls abducted.

Since April this year, the Nigerian Armed Forces, with assistance from Cameroon, Chad, and Niger, have forced Boko Haram to be on the defensive. This has enabled the Nigerian government to reclaim several territories previously under the control of Boko Haram. These renewed military efforts have led to the rescue of over 678 women and girls.

After their rescue, the UNFPA’s Executive Director, Prof. Babatunde Osotimehin disclosed that about 214 of the girls are at various stages of pregnancy while many others are still undergoing screening for various diseases and infections. This disclosure, for the first time aroused a national debate as to the status of abortion in Nigeria.

Several pro-life groups accused UNFPA of pushing for abortion and sterilisation for the rescued girls and called rather for the abortion of the thought. (Group Faults UNFPA Over Abortion, Sterilisation On Boko Haram Victims, Rescued girls: UNFPA has abortion agenda, PHD alleges, Don’t abort Boko Haram babies, group pleads.

In a similar vein, the Chairman of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) Health Committee, Most Rev. Anselm Umoren urged that the children should not be aborted and that the Church was as ready as always to help in the healing, rehabilitation and resettlement of the victims. He assured that the church will assist the women in the children’s upbringing after the delivery.

Also, the Bishop of the Diocese of Lagos West, Church of Nigeria(Anglican Communion), Rt. Rev james Olusola Odedeji, faulted the plan to carry out abortions on the girls. He reiterated that the church condemns abortion of nay kind and for any reason.

From the social fora, it is clear that it’s not only UNFPA and the foreign media that want the girls to abort their children, but many individuals and Nigerian NGO’s agree with the idea.

After the backlash from several quarters, the UNFPA through its director, Prof. Babatunde Osotimehin, swiftly responded that the agency does not promote abortion but encourages reproductive health and supports the provision of modern family planning services. He also explained that UNFPA offers psycho-social counselling to internally displaced persons, including women and girls, but certainly not abortion.

This is clearly a lie; realising that the term abortion is repugnant to the cultural and religious views of many Nigerians. The United Nations and its agencies which include UNFPA always use euphemisms like “sexual and reproductive health” and “modern family planning services” in their documents, but it is an accepted fact that this includes abortion.

On page 36 of In its state of the world population 2014, UNFPA, concurring with a statement from the WHO, complained that millions of adolescents and young people lack access to sexual and reproductive health information and services, and to complement this knowledge, young people require a wide range of sexual and reproductive health services, including for the prevention of adolescent pregnancy, ………….safe abortion care. It is worth noting that Prof. Babatunde Osotimehin wrote the foreword of this document.

One of the resolutions of the Bali Global Youth Forum Declaration 2012, which was organised by UNFPA was that “governments must provide comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services that include safe and legal abortion…………..’’.

Also it is on record that the 48th session of the Commission on Population and Development (CPD) which took place in April of this year, for the first time in history ended without an outcome document. Because the African group objected to the multiple references in the propose text to comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) and reproductive rights (a term used to promote abortion). Prof Osotimehin who participated was said to have been disappointed.

So who is Prof. Babatunde Osotimehin fooling?

It is clear that anyone calling for the girls to abort their children doesn’t have the girls’ best interest in mind. Since rather than focus on how best to rehabilitate and reintegrate them into the society, by offering them free maternity homes and rehabilitation centres where they can give birth to their babies safely and decide later on how to take care of them, they intend to make these girls pass through the excruciating trauma of abortion.

Apart from the trauma, Dr. Awotoya Waheed a member of Doctor’s Health Initiative (DHI), disclosed that girls who have abortion at an early stage are at high risk of having breast and cervical cancer later in life, and Jerry Okwuosa added that, “it is scientifically proven that a girl that aborts her first pregnancy before 18, her chances of getting breast and cervical cancer increase by 260 percent.”

Abortion is illegal in Nigeria, so publicly stating that the girls should have an abortion is an indirect call for the abortion law to be repealed. As such, it is clear that several interests groups (western countries, the UN and its agencies) want to exploit this situation to legalise abortion in Nigeria. This is an unholy tactic that is not unknown to pro-lifers. It was used in the United States in Roe v. Wade 1973, and many more countries. This same tactic was also tried this year in Paraguay and Uruguay. So we have to be alert.

I realise that these girls’ pregnancy was as a result of rape and violence, which excludes any form of consent or choice on their part. It is very painful no doubt. But this pain should not blind us to a medically established fact that these women are carrying human beings, who are the weakest and most innocent of the parties involved and who also have a birth right to be born. The wrong has been done, but we must realise that two wrongs can’t make a right and that violence cannot be erased with more violence.

The value and dignity of life should not be downplayed or defined by age or circumstances under which one was conceived. In fact it is trite knowledge that these external factors do not define the future of a child. These children can grow up and be of help to the society at large.

As such we should all realise that both the girls and their unborn children are victims of Boko Haram barbarism and they both need access to all necessary medical efforts and also the support of the state and society. It therefore follows that resulting to abortion makes us no different from members of Boko haram sect, who derive joy in harming innocent, harmless and weak citizens.

We must resolutely state that never, never does killing a person resolve a problem, and abortion in this case is no different.

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.

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

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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.

Meriam Ibrahim, is finally released

Pope Francis meets with Meriam Ibrahim and her baby girl, Maya.

 

About two months ago, I wrote a post asking for your prayers for the release of Meriam Ibrahim, who was sentenced to death by the Sudanese government for marrying a Christian and for refusing to denounce the Christian faith.

Thanks to your prayers she has been released.

Today she and her family met with Pope Francis . Among other things the Pope thanked her for her testimony

As we celebrate her release, we still have to pray for  more persons who are being persecuted for the sole reason that they are Christians.

Examples include: Asia Bibi who is languishing in a putrid cell in Pakistan, and also Christians in Mosul

LETTER TO BOKO HARAM

 


 

By     Sonnie Ekwowusi

Greeting: With the certainty that you live among us and often read this page, Oh! Boko Haram, I have decided to communicate you through this medium with the hope that the words of this letter, as poor as they may be, may not only penetrate the depth of your heart but may find a dwelling place in your inner being leading to the immediate release of the abducted Chibok girls and cessation of violence and killings in Northern Nigeria.

Boko Haram sponsors, supporters and sympathizers both in and outside government or in the Nigerian military, home or abroad, my greeting. This letter is equally addressed to you.

Know you brethren, that among the universal fundamental rights of humanity which Islam stipulates that must be observed and respected in all circumstances and at all times is sacredness of life. In Islam, human blood is sacred and cannot be spilled anyhow. The first and foremost basic right in the Holy Quran is the right to life. “Whoever kills a human being without justification like manslaughter or corruption on earth, it is though he had killed all mankind” (Holy Quran; 5:32). “Do not kill a soul which Allah has made scared except through the due process of law” (Holy Quran; 6:151). Islam abhors human slavery and abduction. In the words of the Prophet (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him), “There are three categories of people against whom I shall myself be a plaintiff on the Day of Judgment. Of these three, one is he who enslaves a free man, then sells him and eats this money”.  The life, property and honour of non-Muslims (dhimmis) are to be respected and protected in exactly the same manner as those of Muslims. God Almighty has stipulated in the Holy Quran 4: 93, “Anybody who kills a believer deliberately will receive as his reward (a sentence) to live in Hell for ever. God will be angry with him and curse him, and prepare a dreadful torment for him”. According to the Prophet (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him) Muslims who kill non-Muslims (dhimmis) will not even smell the fragrance of paradise. The Holy Quran stipulates that, “there should be no coercion in the matter of Faith” (Holy Qu ran 2:256).

Although Muslims are enjoined to invite people to embrace Islam and spread Islamic teachings, they are not enjoined to do so by force or through terrorism or through abduction. It is the obligation and duty of Muslim community to enjoin its members to shun wickedness and evil (Holy Quran 3:110). Islam recognizes that all human beings are brothers and sisters. That they are descendant from one father and mother and therefore should not be killed. According to Holy Quran 5:3, “Do not let your hatred of a people incite you to aggression”.  Islam teaches that no harm should be done to the civilian population during a war or conflict. The instruction of the Prophet (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him) on this is this, “Do not kill any old person, any child or any woman”, “Do not kill the monks in monasteries” and “Do not kill the people who are sitting in places of worship”. Once upon a time during a certain war, the Prophet (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him) saw a corpse of a woman lying on the ground and he said, “She is not fighting. How then came she to be killed?”. From this it could be easily deduced that civilian population who are not involved in war or any strife should not be killed.

From the foregoing, it is crystal clear that your killings and abduction are against the teachings of Islam and the Prophet. He who fights against Allah will incur the wrath of Allah the Almighty. My dear Boko Haram; fallen is Northern Region, a region once renowned for its touches for lighting up darkness, now becoming the dwelling place of demons. The sepulchral silence and mourning darkness that has eclipsed Borno State  is so palpably intimidating and frightening. Maiduguri is now the “city of blood”, a beehive of every foul spirit and hateful bird, a citadel of horrendous crimes, evocative of the crimes that led to the downfall of Sodom and Gomorrah and the old Roman Empire. Among the sins which led to the downfall of Sodom and Gomorrah and the old Roman Empire were great harlotry, unbridled violence, killings of human beings and self-indulgence. However before the terrible punishment could befall Sodom Gomorrah and the Roman Empire the people of God inhabiting those places were told to flee them. In the same fashion, some Northerners including the Northern elites are fleeing the North today to escape the punishments that would descend on the North as a result of your idolatrous absolutism.

My dear Boko Haram; remember that one of the most powerful prayers that Allah answers quickly is the prayer of innocent children. Now the abducted Chibok girls are praying that the blood of children that has been split in the North would come back upon the North so that the North will know no peace and progress until the blood split in the North is avenged. Violence begets violence. Murder begets murder. Abduction begets abduction

Therefore to  avert the incoming wrath, let the abducted Chibok girls regain their freedom forthwith. Then sheath your sword. Put an end to your violence. The obligation to avoid inflicting physical or psychological harm on others is a cardinal ethical principle in Islam. For the Prophet (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him) said, “He who causes harm will be harmed by Allah and he who acts in a hostile manner will be treated in a hostile manner by Allah”( Jami al-Tirmidhi, No. 1306)

 

LET’S STOP THE WAR AGAINST WOMEN

 

It is surprising that in a world where freedom and human rights are held as condiciones sine quibus non  to peaceful co-existence, the war against the person and dignity of women seems to be thriving and annoyingly its  is growing unchecked.

Almost every week we hear of inhumane acts committed against women in the world, ranging from rape, assault, murder,  etc simply because they are women.

Last week Friday there was a shooting rampage in Isla Vista, Calif by Elliot Rodger’s and the reason for this, is his perceived idea that girls reject him. In his words he says:

“I don’t know why you girls aren’t attracted to me but I will punish you all for it,” the killer warned, according to a transcript of his now-removed YouTube video, “Elliot Rodger’s Retribution.” “It’s an injustice, a crime because I don’t know what you don’t see in me, I’m the perfect guy and yet you throw yourselves at all these obnoxious men instead of me, the supreme gentleman. I will punish all of you for it … On the day of retribution, I am going to enter the hottest sorority house at UCSB and I will slaughter every single spoiled, stuck-up, blond slut I see inside there.”

Also, yesterday a  25 years old Pakistan pregnant woman identified as Farzana Parveen was stoned to death by nearly 20 family members for marrying a man against the families decision.

Arranged marriages is the norm among conservative Pakistanis, and it is on record that  hundreds of women are murdered every year in so-called honor killings carried out by husbands or relatives as a punishment for alleged adultery or other illicit sexual behavior.

Also we know of Meriam Ibrahim who was sentenced to death in Sudan for refusing to denounce her Christian faith. She has been in prison for over 4 months shackled to the floor of a cell.

At the point of her sentence she was  pregnant but she gave birth to a beautiful baby girl yesterday morning.

Back home in Nigeria we are aware of the over 200 secondary school students who were kidnapped last month by Hoko Haram.

These inhumane treatments  infringe on women’s inalienable rights.

We have to shout from the roof tops- both males and females- that women have a

Right to life

Right to religion

Right to marry a husband of their choice

Right of expression

Right to be woman

Right to have children

Which ought to be recognized, respected, protected and defended

We all have to, in our little way to fight for the rights of women, these affected women may not be our mothers and sisters, but if we love and respect our mothers and sisters then we should realize that they are all the same and they too need our love and support.

Martin Luther King Jr once said, “our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter

The war against women matters lets not keep silent.