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Youth And The Crisis Of Unemployment

With developing countries facing acute unemployment in the formal and informal labor markets Youth unemployment is a global concern. In Nigeria young people account for two thirds of Nigeria’s unemployed and underemployed. According to the 2016 Global Youth Development Index, Nigeria ranked 158th out of 183 countries in the domain of employment and opportunities.

One unique feature of the economic growth problem in Nigeria is its inability to create more jobs. Considering the growing youth population, estimated to reach 135 million by 2020, this is a significant concern. The current growth rate of the population, which outpaces rate of employment generation, is indeed a policy consideration in addressing youth employment and productivity as  recent downturn of economic activities further exacerbates the wage employment deficit amongst the youth.

In a nutshell, in Nigeria, thousands of graduates are produced every year but there are no jobs for majority of them. The streets are full of youth hawkers who ordinarily would have found gainful employment in some organizations/government parastatals/ or be self-employed with seed capital from government or finance houses.

With insecurity and electricity, youth unemployment is the third biggest problem confronting our nation today. It is the root cause of poverty, youth restiveness, gangsterism, armed robbery, kidnapping, assassinations, and all sorts of deviant behavior. Among this band of unemployed youths, over three million young boys and girls with NYSC discharge certificates roam the streets of the country in search of jobs that do not exist. Our tertiary intuitions churn out over 200,000 graduates into the job market every year thereby, exacerbating the situation.

Where do we go from here? Youth unemployment will continue to grow unless we turn job seekers to job creators and this is why all stakeholders should join hands to reduce the unemployment rate in the country. Our higher institutions should endeavor to produce employable graduate and those that can create jobs in order to compete favorably with their counterparts around the world. We should go back to technical education and encourage farming. There are so many arable lands across the federation readily available for farming, government can facilitate these land for people to farm.

Nigeria’s youthful population should be an advantage to the economy if well harnessed. In addition to constituting dynamic workforce to produce goods and services, they should also make up the entrepreneurial class to drive the economy. Youths are not assets to waste, and as such strategies and measures should be put in place to ensure that the skills, strength and ideas of our youthful population is harnessed.

Nigeria must see unemployment as a monster debilitating our collective existence. Instead of amassing military arsenal against kidnappers and robbers etc, it is time to fight the root cause which is unemployment. Youths of a nation are the trustees of its posterity and the last line of defense in times of wars and emergencies. They are indispensable human capitals that should be nurtured and preserved for national development.

Many countries have tackled the issue of unemployment using different strategies and methods. China has used the massive manufacturing and export approach, while India is using the service industry to meaningfully engage her massive population.

That youth unemployment in Nigeria is endemic is stating the obvious. Its consequences on both the youth and the entire country cannot be relegated to the background hence the waning of agricultural practices, lingering poverty, hunger, social vices and insecurity

It is worrisome that youths and graduates willing and able to work cannot find a job and as such earn nothing. Such individuals are frustrated, vulnerable and can be used by scrupulous elements in the society to perpetrate all sorts of crime, which they would abhor if they were productively engaged or gainfully employed.

Youth empowerment and development are the magic wands that can change the story, yet it has not been duly explored. It has been and observed that corruption also increases unemployment and that government have a role to put in place measures to salvage the unemployment situation of the country.

Some of these measures should include an audit of the policies and programmes of youth development and empowerment to avoid duplication and streamline spheres of operation. Programmes should not be sacrificed on the altar of political expediency, rather, they should be judged by their abilities to accomplish the objectives for which they were created. Government should get credit institutions to spread their activities beyond the “comfort zones” in which they currently operate, such as local government and National Youth Service Corps (NYSC). Importantly, a sustained education and enlightenment program on job creation opportunities in the country should be put in place.

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Issues

Ten Constituents Get Senator’s Scholarship

Education is a great tool in moulding the future of a society. Because, the more educated a society is, the more advanced it becomes. Due to the significance of education, governments at various levels spend huge amount of money to ensure that a vast majority of individuals get access to basic education at minimal cost.

However, Irrespective of the enormous contributions of the government to education at different levels, not all Nigerians can afford the cost of sponsoring their children and wards to higher institution of learning.

This situation have attracted the intervention of non-governmental organizations, corporate bodies, religious bodies and private individuals who in an attempt to complement the efforts of government provide scholarship to ensure that those who have the desire to further their education but have a challenge of inadequate finance get access to tertiary education within and outside the country.

It is on this note that the Senator George Thompson Sekibo’s scholarship scheme was initiated. The scholarship scheme which is part of the senator’s educational empowerment program has awarded scholarships to students faced with financial constraints to study in any Nigerian tertiary institution of their choices. But for the first time, the scheme took a step further by awarding scholarships to students to study outside the shores of Nigeria.

Sponsor of the scholarship scheme and Senator representing Rivers East Senatorial District, Senator George Thompson Sekibo charged beneficiaries of the 2019/2020 undergraduate scheme to remain committed to their academic activities to get the best results.

Sekibo while presenting letters of scholarship award to ten students of the Les Cours Sonou University Institute, Cotonou, Republic of Benin, Stressed the need to use their time judiciously to achieve academic excellence, noting that hard work and discipline remain the bedrock of success in any endeavor.

He said, “You must strive to be a point of reference in your field. You have a task ahead of you to set records in your departments and you can only achieve that when you work hard and remain focused”.

Sekibo also charged beneficiaries to be worthy ambassadors of their family, the state and Nigeria in Diaspora, adding that they have a task of portraying a positive image of the country on the global stage.

He cautioned them to be regulated at all times, shun illegal activities, be decent and conduct themselves in a responsible manner.

He said, “You must be properly regulated and guide at all times. Conduct yourself in a responsible manner knowing that you’re an ambassador of your family, this state and Nigeria. We will ensure you’re monitored and if found wanting we will not hesitate to withdraw you”.

In his remark, a parent of one of the beneficiaries, Engineer Emmanuel Amatemeso appreciated Senator Sekibo for reaching out to youths who are determined to cause a change but are challenged financially, noting that, the senator was building a legacy that will outlive him.

Amatemeso noted that hard work, dedication and commitment guarantees success in all spheres, and urged the students to take their academic activities seriously. 

He said, “It is a thing of joy that in these times when other political office holders seek to gather wealth for themselves and their unborn generations, Senator Sekibo has decided to do the spectacular and we can’t thank him enough. It’s important to reiterate that as students you must conduct yourself in an orderly manner. Success comes when you remain focused and committed to your studies”.

In his remark, chairman of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, in Emohua Local Government Area, Hon. Emeka Orji appreciated the Senator for the scholarship award and charged beneficiaries to represent their family the state and Nigeria and remain committed to the purpose for which they are sent.

He said. “It’s a blessing to have a patriotic and compassionate leader who loves his people and would go at any length in ensuring that they have tangible reasons to smile. Senator Sekibo is a blessing to us and we thank God for all he is doing. To all beneficiaries, you must know the reason you’re sent to study outside the country Remain focused, shun indecency and other acts that would bring you shame”.

Responding on behalf of the beneficiaries of the scholarship award, Mr. Samson Kinikanwo thanked the Senator for his gesture and pledged that he and his colleagues will live up to the expectations placed on them.

He said, “We thank Senator Sekibo for this great opportunity. It is a great privilege and we promise to remain committed to our academic activities to ensure we don’t fail.”

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Front PageIssues

Election Tribunal Judgment And Echoes Of Restructuring

As the Peoples Democratic Party and its presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar file their appeal at the Supreme Court, the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal judgment on the petition against the victory of President Muhammadu Buhari in the February 23 Polls will linger.

To supporters of Mr. President, that simple decision has provided answers to thorny electoral questions and laid to rest the controversy surrounding the 2019 presidential election. To his opponents, however the judgment has created more question than answers- a state of affairs that qualify it for further legal scrutiny.

From commentaries, instead of the judgment to unite Nigerians and promote positive national political discourse, it has succeeded in separating neighbors, and redirect focus on primordial political conversations.

The most frightening paradox about the decision is that while it, in the estimation of some Nigerians announced the arrival of a new opportunity for Mr. President and his team to build a better Nigeria, the tribunal’s pronouncement on the academic qualification requirement marks a departure from our values for hard work and quest for academic excellence. The judgment actually made nonsense of the time-honored belief that education is the bedrock of development.

From all that was observed during this period, it is obvious that the people’s frustration was not only nourished by the ‘seeming timidity’ of the judgment but was fed by several worries.

First, is the belief that the marriage or forceful amalgamation of the Northern and the Southern protectorates on the 14th February 1914, by Lord Fredrick Lugard set the stage for this appalling situation in the country. Some Nigerians, from all spheres put the blame for country’s woes in Lugard’s decision to lump such a huge conglomeration of districts tribes and history.

This notion is further fueled by the inability of successive administrations to recognize that public order, personal security, economic and social progress, and prosperity is not the natural order of things that they depend on ceaseless effort and attention from an honest and effective government that the people must elect.

It is true that sometimes we get discouraged and disappointed with the slow pace of development in the country. At times we talk about how the amalgamation of the North and south has badly impacted us. But Lord Lugard’s ‘mistake’ may not be the only challenge confronting our nation.

We need to study the theory of why some nations are prosperous while others fail remain poor. Nigeria was not the only nation where the British overlords colonized with historical, ethnic and religious differences. India and Sudan are two examples of countries colonized by the British and administered with the same governance model.

The difference is that every nation or institution develops a culture of their own. And the success or failure of such an institution is closely tied to that culture. India upon attainment of independence discovered that such an arrangement maybe more of a burden than goodwill looking at their cultural and particularly the religious differences of the amalgams, so they unbundled the union. Today, India, Bangladesh and Pakistan are three separate countries.

In like manner, apart from splitting into two(North and South), Sudan confronted a challenge that impedes national rebirth, in the person of Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir, founder of the National Congress Party who served as the seventh President of Sudan from 1989 to 2019 Omar al-Bashir had been in absolute power for three decades. But his implacable palate for power sought more days in office. The citizens disallowed him and when he wouldn’t leave in peace in the face of worsening economic woes, a popular uprising took over.

On our part, the British colonial overlords probably intended the protectorates to operate in a symmetrical manner with no part of the amalgam claiming superiority over the other. This arrangement conferred on the fledgling country the form of the Biblical trinity. So, at independence in 1960, Nigeria became a federation, resting firmly on a tripod of three federating regions-Northern, Eastern and Western Regions. Each of the regions was economically and politically viable to steer its own ship, yet mutual suspicion among them was rife. In fact, regional loyalty surpassed nationalistic fervor with each of the regions at different times threatening secession.

While many who believe in the unity of Nigeria may not agree with the campaign of any group or ethnic nationality to dismember Nigeria like India or Sudan, the truth must be told to the effect that neither Lugard nor the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal’s decision is our problem. Rather, the whole gamut of restiveness of youths, whether in the Southeast, South-south, North or Southwest, and resurgence demands for the dissolution of Nigeria stems from mindless exclusion, injustice and economic deprivations?

Even as it’s certain that ‘things are falling apart’ with the country now in its most fragile state since the end of the civil war, leaders have refused to muster the courage to lead toward a better future by studying the different calls for the restructuring of the nation and adopt the already existing template for solving these problems-the report of the 2014 National Conference.

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Issues

…And Governor’s Right Of Intervention

Since Austin Tam-George defected to the All Progressives Congress (APC) he has tried to please the powers that be in the political party and, in fact, the Federal Government. He has elected to fault the actions, even when good, of those he considers enemies of the APC.

Recently, he took on the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, for intervening in the Oil Mining License (OML) 25 conflict, wherein the APC Federal Government renewed the operating license of Shell Petroleum Development Company ( SPDC). He, however, forgot that, last year, he defended Shell and called out Governor Wike over the planned relocation of the supply base of Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company (SNEPCO) from the Oil and Gas Free Zone, Onne, Rivers State, to Lagos.

It is obvious that the former information commissioner was not aware of several efforts that Governor Wike made to stop that relocation. The governor had met with the top management of Shell Petroleum, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Oil and Gas Free Zones Authority (OGFZA) and other relevant stakeholders over planned relocation of the supply base of SNEPCO from Rivers to Lagos. To him, the interest of Rivers State is paramount at all times. He takes actions to enhance the overall interest of the state.

The facts on OML 25 are very clear. The facility was shut down in 2017 by some persons who were allegedly primed by an interest group. The Rivers State governor made no attempt to intervene since the interest group claimed that an indigenous operator had also applied for the operating licence. In October 2018, the APC Federal Government, through the NNPC, renewed the operating licence of SPDC. This operating licence will remain valid for the next 20 years.

The position of the Rivers State governor is simple. Due process of the law must be observed at all times. The company with the operating licence for OML 25 should be allowed to carry out its legitimate business. He stated that, if the indigenous firm is able to obtain the operating licence from the APC Federal Government, then the state government will fully back it. But at present, the operating licence of the SPDC has been renewed by the APC Federal Government. This renewal was not facilitated by the Rivers State governor. The only thing the governor has done is to continue to promote a conducive investment environment in Rivers State. He has continued to create the right environment for international and local investors to operate. The governor will never lay credence to illegal acquisition of businesses under any guise. There are laid down procedures for operating any oil facility.

The process initiated by Governor Wike was managed by the secretary to the Rivers State government, Dr. Tammy Danagogo. He is an indigene of Akuku-Toru Local Government Area. All stakeholders of the facility participated in the process to ensure that the concerns of the stakeholder communities were duly addressed.

Stakeholder communities of OML 25 and SPDC have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for the re-opening of the closed flow station and the payment of outstanding funds owed stakeholder communities under the extant Global Memorandum of Understanding (GMOU). The MoU signed between Shell and the communities also mandated Shell to pay into a dedicated account the sum of N1.36 billion.

The settlement agreement was signed on behalf of the communities by traditional rulers, youth presidents, chairmen of community development committees and community leaders. Those who signed the agreement include the stakeholder communities of Kula, Belema, Offoin-Ama, Ibie-Ama, Boro and Opu-Kula. Shell and the other stakeholders have played their respective roles in the agreement reached at the settlement meetings facilitated by the Rivers State governor.

Aside from the OML 25, Governor Wike has intervened in several other challenging issues between host communities and business concerns. Most of these issues have been resolved amicably. The governor intervened in the dispute between Mgbuesilaru community of Obio/Akpor Local Government Area and SPDC. The matter has been finally resolved and SPDC has paid Mgbuesilaru community their outstanding debt.

Indeed, on June 13, 2019, Governor Wike met with chairmen of cluster development boards of Asari-Toru, Akuku-Toru and Degema local government areas, oil companies and security agencies at Government House, Port Harcourt. At that meeting, Governor Wike directed the immediate revival of the state steering committee on cluster development boards.

He said: “I will not support any company not to carry out its corporate social responsibilities to their host communities. However, communities must not take laws into their hands. They must not stop production by the operating companies. Such actions will negatively affect the finances of the Federal Government, the state and the local government areas.”

He said, in cases where companies failed to act within the expectations of the communities, the state government would mediate through the steering committee on cluster development boards, which has been inaugurated by the Secretary to the Rivers State Government.

The meeting of June 13, 2019, led to the release of the oil rig of Eroton Oil and Gas Limited by the host communities. Both parties resolved their differences at the meeting.

Issues of development and social services for the state are also being handled by the Wike administration. It is an ongoing process. Kula, like all other communities, has been accommodated by the administration.

As usual, Tam-George feigned ignorance when he accused Governor Wike of collusion with Shell. Is he saying that the APC Federal Government colluded with Shell in renewing their operating license? This is because it was not Governor Wike that renewed the license.

Our country is suffering today because of actions and comments of individuals who dance to every tune, depending on what they have to gain. They never look at the bigger picture. In engaging the process, Governor Wike took into consideration the needs and future of the stakeholder communities of OML 25. He is governor to all Rivers people and he is exercising his mandate for the good of all, Kula inclusive.

•Nwakaudu is SA, Electronic Media to Governor Wike.

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Issues

On OML 25 Protestations

The people of Kula community in Rivers State are quietly rewriting their terms of citizenship with the Nigerian state. And they need our support.

Kula is an oil-rich community that has been the source of billions of dollars for the Nigerian government and for Shell, the multinational company, over the past 40 years.

But despite its stupendous natural wealth, Kula has no pipe-borne water and children die from all kinds of intestinal diseases.

There is no standard hospital in Kula, and studies show that like in most Niger Delta communities, life expectancy in Kula is twice below the national average.

Children sit on bare earth to learn in roofless and dilapidated schools.

As a fishing community, Kula’s once vibrant marine ecosystem is now a paradise lost; a victim of Shell’s remorseless environmental pollution.

The Oil Mining Lease (OML) 25 operated by Shell in Kula is the cruelest metaphor for corporate greed. But Shell is not alone. It is in collusion with a rent-seeking State that seems bent on grinding its own citizens to dust, in exchange for oil rents.

But all that is about to change.

Two years ago, the women of Kula began to occupy the oil platforms, in protest against Shell’s apocalyptic presence in their community, and to challenge the company’s decades-long environmental impunity.

Three decades after the Ogoni uprisings, the showdown in Kula dramatises once again the crisis of Nigeria’s petro-dollar modernity, and our inability to invent a grammar of citizenship based on egalitarianism and respect for community property rights.

But as indigenous people, Belema and other oil-bearing communities have rights which are recognised by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. This momentous Declaration was made on the floor of the UN on September 13, 2007.

Governor Nyesom Wike’s so-called mediation effort on behalf of Shell was dubious and politically tainted from the start, and the Kula community is right to reject it.

How could a Governor goad a long-suffering community to barter its rights in exchange for a fraudulent and exploitative “peace” with Shell?

Governor Wike is negotiating a peace process that allows a rapist to return gleefully to a battered and beleaguered victim.

Why did the Secretary to the State Government, Dr Tammy Danagogo, a sensible man by all accounts, permit himself to be part of such a macabre and cynical plot against the people of Kula?

Since 1999, the Federal Government has allocated over 12 trillion Naira as 13 per cent oil derivation funds to Rivers State.

As Governor, Mr Wike has received nearly two trillion Naira in revenue on behalf of Rivers State, since May, 2015.

What has the Wike administration got to show to the people of Kula, the people of Abua, the Ogoni, the forgotten people of Ogbakiri, Okrika, and other communities in the State, for these oil money receipts?

According to the National Bureau of Statistics, Rivers State has the highest rate of unemployment in Nigeria, and Kula is one of the hardest hit communities.

In Rivers State, Demonstration school teachers have not been paid for four years by the Wike administration. All scholarships and bursaries are cancelled, and the State’s per capita school dropout is the highest in the region, under Mr Wike’s watch.

It takes a particular kind of moral blindness for a Governor to trade off the future of the children of Kula, the way Mr Wike seeks to do through his dangerous collusion with Shell.

Last week, the elder statesman, Chief E.K. Clark, was alarmed enough to publicly condemn Mr Wike’s outrageous gamble in Kula.

The people of Kula are right to take their destiny in their own hands. They have history and natural justice on their side.

As they try to reclaim their ancestral dignity, the Kula community needs our support. And they need the moral comradeship of the United Nations.

•Dr. Austin Tam-George is a former Commissioner for Information, Rivers State.

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Issues

Oil Bunkering: Threat To National Security, Niger Delta Dev.

Crude Oil has remained the mainstay of the nation’s economy, while the Niger Delta region responsible for its production is bedeviled with many challenges. While many unemployed youths in the area have continued to find solace in oil theft, the Federal Government has continued to grapple with the loss of revenue due to illegal oil bunkering and pipeline vandalism.

Surprisingly, no solution appears to work as oil thieves get bolder even when their colleagues are arrested and prosecuted, and engage different strategies to outsmart security personnel. In the Niger Delta, it is common to see thick smoke in the early hours of the day; an indication that oil theft through artisanal refining is going on.

More worrisome is the allegation that some security personnel, expected to fight illegal oil bunkering, are enmeshed in the act ostensibly for pecuniary gains. Findings also indicated that some communities where oil thieves carry out their nefarious activities give the perpetrators support by refusing to reveal their identities to security personnel who have the determination to work.

Stakeholders are of the view that the success in the ongoing fight against illegal oil bunkering depends on the willingness of the government to fish out collaborators in the Army, Police, Navy and the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, who have the mandate of putting an end to the current onslaught against Nigeria’s critical assets.

Deputy National President, Trade Union Congress, Chika Onuegbu, speaking recently, noted that the nation loses between 200,000 and 300,000 barrels of oil per day to oil thieves, adding that a country that currently uses half of its revenue to service loans should not allow its crude oil to be stolen by greedy Nigerians.

Onuegbu, who is a former TUC chairman in Rivers State, said, “Oil theft/bunkering has three issues; first is the economic loss. The country loses a lot of money equivalent to between 200,000 and 300,000 barrels per day. If you multiply that by the oil price, you will see how much that translates to.

“The second is that illegal bunkering in Nigeria has now given rise to illegal refineries and we no longer hear about selling the crude. The oil thieves now refine them locally. Based on the way they are doing it, they are destroying the environment, including polluting the air. The Port Harcourt soot is an issue. This air pollution from illegal refining is traceable to the government’s inability to protect its critical assets.

The third one is that “anywhere there is illegal activity going on, it does not go on alone; it goes with other sophisticated crime like gun running and other crimes. If this continues, those making huge money from these activities will one day combine and overrun the country’s military. After all, our military is heavily underfunded. It is a major issue.”

As a do-or-die business, the masterminds are armed to the teeth. This is why 350 persons, comprising security personnel, NNPC workers, and host community members, have been killed in the last three years by organized syndicates associated with the mayhem in the oil sector.

In an interview with The Vortex, Comrade Fred George, a Niger Delta Rights Activist, noted that it would be difficult to stop illegal oil bunkering in the oil-rich region when the government has not been able to solve the problem of unemployment, adding that while the government is wavering on the establishment of modular refineries, the youth, who are aware that the crude oil in Niger Delta is being stolen, have joined in the act.

He said, “The people talking about oil theft are aware of how it started; it has been an age-long thing and from the days oil was found in the country. The Niger Delta youths have found out that Nigeria’s crude oil is stolen on the high sea when they entered the creeks. They noticed that the oil companies are also involved in the stealing of oil. Unfortunately, the government do not have the capacity to know the quantity of the oil that leaves the shores of the country and only relies on the figures given to it by such oil firms. My concern as a Niger Delta person is that I am sympathetic to the devastation done to our environment.”

“There is no way you can stop the Niger Delta youths from oil bunkering until the problem of unemployment is solved,” George cautioned.

Also, Dean of Student Affairs, International Institute of Journalism, Port Harcourt study centre, Mr. Tammy Ezekiel, suggested the rapid industrialization of the Niger Delta region as a solution to the massive involvement of youths in the area in oil theft.

He said since the Niger Delta youths are denied employment, it is not surprising that some of them have taken to illegal oil bunkering, not minding the devastating effect on the environment.

Ezekiel, however, urged the Federal Government to adopt new strategies to fight vandalism to get enough revenue to run the nation’s economy.

He said, “I am aware that in many Local Government Areas, you will see the ‘boys’ doing oil bunkering openly. The Federal Government should ensure the rapid industrialization of the Niger Delta. You cannot tell a child not to eat fish without providing an alternative for him. The economic situation has forced the youth to venture into enterprises that is criminal and leaves a devastating effect on the environment. Government can do more in ensuring that the youths are productively engaged to avoid the menace of illegal oil bunkering”

Chairman of the Ad-hoc Committee of the National Economic Council on Crude Oil Theft, Prevention and Control, and Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, has called on stakeholders to join forces and work towards tackling the menace of crude oil theft currently on the increase in Nigeria.

Obaseki stated that in the first six months of 2019, Nigeria lost about 22 million barrels of crude to oil theft, cautioning that if nothing was done to curtail the ugly trend, the figure could double by the end of the year.

He said oil theft and pipeline vandalism were beginning to pose a threat to the national economy.

In its June 2019 Monthly Financial and Operations Report, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation announced a staggering 77 per cent rise in cases of oil pipeline vandalism across its network of pipeline infrastructure. The report indicated that 106 pipeline points were breached, which was an increase from the 60 points vandalized in May 2019.

Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, had accused the General Officer Commanding, 6 Division of the Nigerian Army, Port Harcourt, Major General Jamil Sarham of running an oil bunkering team but the allegation was debunked by the Army.

Also, the spokesman for the Joint Task Force, Operation Delta Safe, Jonathan Eromosele, dismissed allegations from the Niger Delta environmental rights activists that the military was involved in oil theft.

Eromosele said there were rules and regulations guiding the operation of the military, adding that no officer had been caught in the act.

He added, “It is not possible for the military to be involved in illegal oil bunkering. There are laid-down rules and regulations guiding our operations and everybody is aware of these rules. If anybody is caught flouting the rules, he knows that there are sanctions. No military officer is involved in illegal oil bunkering.”

Illegal bunkering activities promote the violation of Nigeria’s territorial waters by ships, which enter without permit and are intercepted by the Navy. In March 2014, the Commander of the Nigerian Navy Ship Pathfinder, Godwin Ochai, reported the arrest of 22 Chinese and impounded four ships at Onne in Rivers State.

Ochai said, “When our troops went on board the alien ships, they discovered that the four ships had no immediate document, neither did the 22 crew members have passports.”

Sadly, it is the local environment that has created the fertile ground for this business to thrive. Transparency is lacking in the management of Nigeria’s oil resources. Some international oil companies doing business in Nigeria have exploited it in their operations. To contain illegal bunkering, experts suggest a survey of small and medium oil tankers that frequently anchor offshore the Niger Delta and mapping of the main illegal bunkering hotspots.

Ending illegal bunkering activities requires urgent action, not rhetoric. Countries with such a challenge and huge oil infrastructure have used technology to do the work as devices are deployed to pipelines to detect any form of breach. The Navy needs to be better equipped with more boats for effective patrol, just as the Nigeria Air Force requires more helicopters for aerial surveillance.

The full wrath of the law should be unleashed on the criminals by diligently prosecuting them. The country’s failure to demonstrate this power over the years is why these international rogues have taken it for a ride.

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Front PageIssues

Rugalisation, Fulanisation And National Security

The Rural Area Grazing policy (RUGA) introduced by the President Mohammadu Buhari administration may have been suspended but the controversy it generate among ethnic and religion groups in Nigeria has made the initiative, one of the most contentious proposals of any government in Nigeria.

The RUGA controversy virtually polarized Nigeria’s federating units. Each group interpreted RUGA in various contexts, taking irreconcilable positions which evidently portrayed the deep differences existing among ethnic and religious groups. It also tended to epitomize how any government in the country can palpably throw the nation into crises if it failed to take cognizance of the facts of issues that are germane to good governance and national unity.

To some northern states and their elite, the RUGA project is in the right direction and should be supported to allow the herdsmen the right to carry out their business of cow rearing wherever they desire; in line with the freedom of movement provisions of the Nigerian constitution.

The southern states however out-rightly rejected the policy purporting that the initiative portends danger. The crises generated by the policy among the component states and regions in the country cannot be far-fetched in view of the activities of herdsmen, who have become quiet fastidious in unleashing violence and killings on the people in various communities of the country.

In the last four years, the Mohammadu Buhari administration have pursued policies and inactions that seem to give the fulani ethnic and the herdsmen leverage over other groups and business in the country. This is why the states in south view the initiatives of RUGA or rugalisation as a suspicions plan by the administration to fulanize and Islamize the entire country.

Many Nigerians have in the circumstance become quiet agitated and have questioned the interest with which the Buhari government tended to promote what ordinarily is the private business of cow owners and its employees (the herdsmen). The Buhari Administration mooted the idea of setting up and creating what it termed cattle routes in all states of the federation and when this initiative failed, it proposed the establishment of cattle colonies and then ranches, with over N2.5billion already budgeted. These cattle routes were designed to give herdsmen unfettered access and movement along established routes to be designated all over the country.

To many Nigerians cattle ranches and cattle colonies are a subject which only the proponents of the initiatives will have to explain to Nigerians.

What is however worrisome is why the federal government under the present administration would want to elevate the welfare and protection of herdsmen and Fulani interests against other sectional and national interests.

The last four years has seen the administration pursue the project which seeks to ensure that herdsmen and their cattle get unfettered visibility in all communities in the country inspite of the reported mass of violence and other atrocities which has been associated with their presence in many parts of the country.

Does RUGA represent part of the purported strategy towards the fulanization project in Nigeria, for which many Southern and some Middle Belt States have expressed trepidations? It may not therefore be out of place to assume that the stiff opposition to the project by states, ethnic and religious groupings may have been borne out of the apprehension that the government led by President Buhari, a Fulani, may be deliberately and unwittingly adopting these proposals as a means to entrench the herdsmen into all communities and as a ploy to extend fulani and Islamic influence all over Nigeria.

With the antecedents of the fulani in their aggressive and conquest-minded nature, it will be impossible for any community to openly accept them as neighbors judging from reported cases of kidnaps, violence, rapes and unwarranted slaughtering of innocent citizens allegedly linked to them.

The ugly event over the murder of Afemfere Leader, Rubben Fasoranti’s daughter showed the angst of many prominent Nigerians on the menace of the herdsmen and the helplessness the nation has found itself.

The much more disturbing is the report that the herdsmen have formed armed vigilantes groups in some communities in brazen disregard for constituted authorities in the states.

Unfortunately, the present administration in the country do not view these issues and allegations as a threat to the unity and cohesive existence of the nation and have not taken decisive action against perpetrators of these crimes. The cries by Nigerians that the heinous and killer-herdsmen be classified by the government as terrorist groups have fallen on deaf ears.

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo recently highlighted the consequences and likely implications of the violent activities of herdsmen and bandits to the nation’s unity; when in his popular letter to President Buhari, he stated that the herdsmen and famers clash had festered because the government had treated issues of violence by the herdsmen with cuddling gloves instead of using the hammer.

In his words, “today the menace has developed into banditry, kidnapping armed robbery and killings all over the country”.

The former President also expressed dismay that the unfortunate situation indicates that the criminality by the herdsmen is being perceived as a “Fulani menace unleashed by Fulani elites in different parts of the country’, stressing that many Nigerians and foreigners have continued to attach vicarious responsibility to the President Buhari who is a Fulani elite and of course, the captain of the ship of Nigerian state!

Without doubt the former President is a living legend of the Nigerian state and it is important that issues raised in the documents be not glossed over no matter the perception the government may hold about the author.

Fulanization and Islamization of the country is an ominous time-bomb waiting to possibly dismember the nation, if urgent steps are not taken.

Like the former President stated virtually all sections of the country have voiced their opposition to the promotion of divisive and anti-people policies which have the potentials for national upheavals. RUGA is a disaster and unless those promoting the nepotic and prebendalistie invectives stopped totally, the Rwanda experience may not be far from us.

These killer herdsmen we are told, migrated from the Sahel region and to interestingly turn around to plant them in communities in Nigeria especially in the southern states speaks volunces.  It should not matter to any Nigerian, if as it is that President Buhari is the Grand Pation of Myetti Allah or MACBAN, what should be important to all Nigerians is that national interest and the unity of Nigeria must not be subsumed under any form of parochial, ethnic, religious or business interest. Nigerians should not be portrayed to the would as a country of cattle rearers. All businesses and professionals must enjoy equal opportunity of peace as enshrined in the Nigerian constitution.

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Front PageIssues

Majority Of Nigerians Are Poor

President Muhammadu Buhari’s speech at the two-day Presidential Retreat for ministers and senior Government officials.

After two days, we have come to the end of a successful retreat. However, you will agree that our work is just beginning.

These last two days have been very instructive for me personally, because I have had the opportunity to know many of you new Ministers-Designate better. I was also pleased to see that you have all equally enjoyed debating and deliberating on the various challenges before us over the next 4 years.

Ladies and Gentlemen, majority of our people are poor and are anxiously hoping for a better life. A Nigeria in which they do not have to worry about what they will eat, where they will live or if they can afford to pay for their children’s education or healthcare.

Our responsibility as leaders of this great country is to meet these basic needs for our people. As I mentioned yesterday, this Administration inherited many challenges from our predecessors to mention a few: A country in which 18 local governments in the Northeast were under the control of Boko Haram

Decayed infrastructure in which our rail lines and roads had severely deteriorated; A rent seeking economy that depended largely on oil revenues and imports. Significant unpaid pensions, subsidy debts, legacy contractor debts. I can go on and on.

In our first term, we laid the foundation to rebuild our country. We recaptured those 18 Local Governments previously held by Boko Haram, whose activities are now limited to sporadic attacks against soft targets.

Our investments in road and rail infrastructure are without precedent, and many of you can attest to this. We also focused on diversifying the economy from oil towards agriculture and industrialization.Despite reduced revenues from oil and gas compared to past governments, we have broadly addressed many of the legacy debts they left behind.

Whilst we have obvious successes to celebrate, the challenges ahead are significant as you would have observed in detail over these two days. Nevertheless, from the quality of the deliberations, it is clear that solutions to our problems are well researched and have been well articulated.

We have discussed solutions relating to addressing Insecurity; Macroeconomic Stability; Agriculture and Food Security; Energy Security for Petroleum products and Electricity; Transportation and Critical Infrastructure; Industrialization and SME Development; Human Capital Development; Social Inclusion; Anti-Corruption; Housing Financing and Consumer Credit.

Public service is not easy work, and at times it can be thankless. I am therefore charging you all to see this opportunity to serve as an honour, to give your best to deliver on this mandate, for a more prosperous Nigeria, not for some, but for all Nigerians.

You will find that working collaboratively and purposefully will enable us to achieve quicker results, recognizing that four years is not a very long time. For the new Ministers, make sure you engage and benefit from the experience of the older Ministers and former Governors in the cabinet.

In terms of coordination, kindly ensure that all submissions for my attention or meeting requests be channeled through the Chief of Staff, while all Federal Executive Council matters be coordinated through the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.

I would like to thank the Office of the SGF for coordinating this successful Presidential Retreat. I would also like to thank the National Assembly leadership, the Party Chairman, Chairman of the Governors Forum, and resource firms, for the active engagements and contributions.

Once again, the challenges that lie ahead of us as a country are significant. But I have no doubt in your individual capacities and our collective patriotic commitment to deliver a better Nigeria for us, our children and a brighter future for all.

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Issues

Rape, Character And Legal Issues. Grace Ketefe

The issue of rape as a prevailing social scourge in Nigeria once again took the front burner of public discourse within the past few days, on the heels of a disclosure by Busola Dakolo, the wife of Singer Timi Dakolo, that she was raped by a popular Nigerian cleric, Pastor Biodun Fatoyinbo.

In the allegation made on Youtube last Friday, which has gone viral on the social media, Busola alleged that Fatoyinbo, who is a Senior Pastor of the Commonwealth of Zion Assembly church, had raped her on two occasions 20 years ago, when she was a 17-year-old teenager.

The matter has set the social media on fire and generated a controversy that has also polarised the public opinions into two inexorably opposing camps. On one hand, some Nigerians are so outraged by the alleged scandal that they insist Fatoyinbo be stripped of his ecclesiastical dignity, shamefully removed from office and prosecuted for rape.

On the other hand, we have those expressing some seemingly primordial sentiments anchored on the imperative of shielding “a man of God” from undue scandal. Some are even blaming Busola for raising the issue after 20 years of silence. They would rather wish she remains mute forever, instead of rocking the boat.

This matter has already culminated in two simultaneous protests held by some anti-rape activists at the headquarters of the COZA Church in Abuja and the Lagos State branch of the church at Mobolaji Bank Anthony Way, Ikeja on Sunday, June 30, 2019.

My attempt in this piece would be to address the issues spawned by this development against the backdrop of the direful scourge of rape as a serious social problem in Nigeria. Thus, I would not focus on the dramatis personae in the instant saga nor would I vouch opinion on the veracity, or otherwise, of the allegations, much less apportion any blame.

I think issue number one here should be to determine whether or not it is apposite to bring a charge of rape after a very long time, perhaps even many decades after the incident must have allegedly happened. In the instant case, the question is one of the few interrogatives that form the substratum of the main discourse.

There is no gainsaying the fact it is highly desirable for the victims of rape to disclose the assault immediately it occurs or as soon as possible. This has many advantages, including making it more viable for perishable evidence to be observable for forensic purpose and thus, easier to secure conviction.

Secondly, justice is a meal that is best served hot. Not only is the cliché, justice delayed is justice denied very pertinent here, early disclosure would also mean that a serial rapist is checked early in his “career” and thus denied the opportunity of unleashing his full sinister potentials on the society.

Be that at it may, we must also understand that rape is a peculiar crime because of the psychological and socio-cultural issues involved. Delay in making a disclosure or bringing a formal accusation of rape should be gleaned from the socio-cultural perspective, which stacks high odds against the female gender as regards norms in sexual matters.

Our society is one, which unfortunately subjects the victim of rape to undue trauma of re-victimisation, ostracism and stigmatisation. Many young ladies have been shunned by suitors just because they had been violated against their wish. Thus, many victims have chosen to remain silent instead of exposing their predators for the fear of unwitting backlash by the society.

This is one reason why we need to exercise some measure of understanding if victims do not make disclosures for many years until some prevailing circumstances force or embolden them to come out eventually with the truth.

As a matter of fact, I believe that those that come out at all should be encouraged and lauded for the act of courage. Unlike in the West, the cultural orientation in Nigeria and, perhaps, many other African countries, does not support sincere act and principles stance that inspire women to disclose sexual abuse and exploitation. Rather it seems to conduce more to suppressing such disclosure than encouraging it.

One positive thing under this head is that our criminal jurisprudence does not discriminate against the delay in bringing criminal prosecution. The principle of laches and acquiescence in civil law does not apply to criminal cases and since rape is a crime, an accused person can be prosecuted at any time for the alleged crime. So, delay does not bar institution of criminal proceedings, no matter the time span between the commission and the day of reckoning.

The second issue that stands out for comment on the matter is the issue of fair hearing. It is the basic concrete on which the entire superstructure of justice rests and it cannot be ignored. So, in spite of seriousness of the matter at hand, any informed person with more than a dilettante’s knowledge of human rights should know that nobody should be “hanged” on the basis of an accusation levelled in the social media, especially when the alleged predator has vehemently denied the allegation.

Section 36 (1) of the 1999 Constitution unequivocally guarantees the freedom to fair hearing to every person when it provides thus: “In the determination of his civil right and obligation, including any question or determination by or against any government or authority, a person shall be eligible to a fair hearing within a reasonable time by a court or other tribunal established by law and constituted in such a manner as to secure its independence and impartiality”

Note the that the Constitution in the above quote does not say a person should be given fair hearing by a court of social media, but by “a court or other tribunal established by law”

We should, therefore, refrain from calling for the head of anybody yet simply because we are outraged by the severity of the allegation. I think what is appropriate is that we sustain the agitation and make advocacy for state intervention so compelling that the law enforcement agents would be left with no other option to wade into the matter and investigate same until the truth is unraveled and justice is done.

A corollary to be above submission is to interrogate the legal and moral propriety of the protests held by anti-rape protesters on Sunday at the premises of the COZA churches at both her Abuja headquarters and the Lagos branch. To start with, human rights activists have the legal and moral rights to stage protests to convey their grievances against any aberration of law and order, including any issue that impinges or impacts negatively on human rights. However, this protest in this instance should be engineered in such a way to draw the attention of the police authorities and pressurise them to invite the pastor for interrogation, which might lead to prosecution if a prima facie case is established against him.

Therefore, it would appear that the more appropriate venue for the demonstration should have been the Police headquarters in Abuja with the placards conveying clear messages that the police should wade into the matter. After all, rape is a crime and every crime is committed against the state and not just the victim.

The statistics on the incidence of rape in Nigeria really paints a really shocking and pathetic story. The National Violence Against Children Survey carried out in 2014 by the Federal Government of Nigeria established that: 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 10 boys in Nigeria experience sexual violence before the age of 18 years.

About 84 per cent of females and 61 per cent of males in Nigeria who experienced sexual violence before age of 18 years do not know where to seek help.

Only four per cent of girls and two per cent of boys in Nigeria received help after experiencing sexual violence.

That being the reason why we should always allow the law to take its course by ensuring the guilty are punished; we should not be treating cases of rape with any form of sentiment.

In the final analysis, although the matter is left for the court of law to decide the culpabilities and liabilities of the parties in this case based on its findings when the matter eventually comes before it, I think I will still stand by Busola Dakolo, for the simple reason that she courageously came out to make allegations many in her position would be too afraid to make.  Courtesy Punch

Ketefe is an Executive Director of Cece Yara Foundation

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Front PageIssues

Addressing The Menace Of Rape Culture In Nigeria. Manasseh Paul-Worika

Rape stories have become so regular in the news and social media in Nigeria as sexual violence is a common phenomenon worldwide. But it is hurting and needs to be addressed seriously. Data available suggests that in some countries one in five women report sexual violence by an intimate partner and up to a third of girls report forced sexual initiation. Sexual assault encompasses a range of acts including coerced sex in marriage and dating relationships, rape by strangers, organized rape in war, sexual harassment (including demands of sex for jobs or school grades), and rape of children, trafficking of women and girls, female genital mutilation, and forced exposure to pornography.

It is important to understand the ramifications of sexual assault, as not only a physical act, but could also be verbal or visual sexual abuse or any act that forces a person to join in unwanted sexual contact or attention. Sexual assault is also not discriminatory to gender. Both males and females are affected but studies have shown that the number of female sexual assault victims (and assault perpetrated by males) is far greater than male victims.

Studies have also documented female offenders of sexual assault whose victims may be of male or female gender including children, adolescents and adults; the motivation for the female offender being the same as that of their male counterparts: power and control. It could be that “disbelief “ attitude by the society and even of health professionals to the occurrence of male sexual assault and the unlikelihood of the male victims themselves to disclose sexual abuse make the subject and research into male sexual assault to lag behind that of the female.

In recent days, social media has been awash with conversations revolving around this divisive topic, from accusations of revered celebrities to victims bravely narrating their experiences. These stories date back decades, revealing that rape is not a new phenomenon in Nigeria. The Violence Against Persons’ Prohibition (VAPP) Act states, “Rape is non-consensual penetration of a person’s vagina, anus, mouth or body parts with an object, penis or other body part.”

Rape is born out of the deliberate or non-deliberate notion that the victim’s body is that of the perpetrator’s to take whenever they please. It is often used as a tool to punish, shame, debase, subdue or control the minority who do not conform to a perceived acceptable social norm, from “testing” virginity or “having a share” of an allegedly promiscuous woman to “curing” a homosexual.

When a society fails to protect victims and punish perpetrators, then it iterates this claim. This, thereby, entrenches this form of sexual assault as a norm and pseudo-benefit only available to the perpetrators. While there may be a general understanding of the meaning of rape, the issue of consent is often a cause for debate.

A study by Dr Neil Malamuth, a psychologist on sexual aggression at the University of California finds that perpetrators are aware that they engaged in sexual relations without consent but do not agree to the use of the word, rape. The University of Michigan Policy and Procedures on Student Sexual and Gender-based Misconduct and other Forms of Interpersonal Violence defines consent as “a clear and unambiguous agreement, expressed outwardly through mutually understandable words or actions, to engage in a particular activity.”

Simply put, consent is given when someone agrees, gives permission or clearly says “yes” to sexual activity with another person. It is important to note that consent must be voluntarily given, should not be assumed and can be withdrawn at any point in time, even during sexual intercourse.

In every sexual situation, one should never assume that consent is granted. If you are unsure, ask. Consent should not be assumed by body language, appearance, marriage, previous sexual activity, gender, silence, lack of response or incapacitation. The consumption of alcohol or use of other drugs can render a person incapable of giving consent.

Violation of these rules of consent provide grounds for sexual assault. However, there seems to be an existing belief that when a woman says no, she really means yes but is playing hard to get. Propagated by both genders, social media has shown that this belief is predominant among the youths.

This begs the questions: Is saying no not enough? Does this statement require further justification and explanation? “Why did she visit him? What was she wearing? A big woman like you got raped?”

There are cultural practices that society engages in that excuse or otherwise tolerate sexual assault. These practices are counterproductive to eliminating sexual violence from our society, begging the questions about what rape culture really entails and how it presents itself.

Emilie Buchwald, the author of Transforming a Rape Culture, notes that when society normalises sexualised violence, it accepts and creates rape culture. In rape culture, excuses are drawn up to “justify” sexual assault and unwanted advances, but no amount of revealing dressing or past sexual behaviour ever warrants or permits a man to help himself to sexually violating a woman.

Rape culture is all around us, permeating our society at individual levels and in institutionalised, structured ways. This culture is enabled by but not limited to the objectification of women’s bodies, the blurred lines between sexual attraction and assault, the concealment of rape, social indifference to the plight of survivors and their family, victim-shaming, the blind trust towards family members and members of religious bodies and the weak legal framework that fails to deter repeat offenders.

In a rape-tolerating society like Nigeria, blaming the victims of rape is commonplace, with victims often cast as the enabler of the act. This inevitably subjects some victims to silence, forcing them to face the burden alone. In some cases, they are simply not believed or threatened into silence.

Social media has become a useful tool of engagement for survivors of different forms of assault to speak up. Hinging on its advantage as a platform for the #MeToo campaign, its advent has seen the heightened movement of people addressing issues that would have remained buried.

Following in this line, Nigerians on popular social media platforms have witnessed an outpour of rape allegations. Yet, social media is limited by its own strength. Accusations become their words against the defenders’, turning it into a battle for whose story sounds more convincing and is more empathic. But this applies to reality as much as social media.

In 2013, the Nigeria Police recorded 1,788 cases and 1,827 in 2015, with the numbers still on the rise. Of this number, there have only been 18 convicted rape cases. Activists believe that the crime is grossly underreported owing largely to the aforementioned culture of silence and some perpetrators being relatives.

Amaka, a school teacher, posted some time ago on social media that one of her students, a six-year-old, had revealed that her father was always putting his hands into her “wee-wee”. Amaka thought she was doing a good job when she informed the mother of the student. Her fight came to an end when the mother of the child shut her up for attempting to destroy her marriage and withdrew her child.

A recent Poll reveal that 33% of victims admitted that the perpetrators were family relatives and neighbours, 49% knew children between the ages of seven and 12 who were raped, 78% reported the case to the Police, but the cases were not acted upon.

Yet the law is clear on rape. Under the Criminal Code, the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act (VAPPA) of 2015, and Child Right Act, rapists are sentenced to life imprisonment, attempted rape gets up to 14 years imprisonment and gang rape, a minimum of 20 years. More so, the Penal code sentences rape perpetrators to up to 14 years and seven years for gross indecency.

VAPPA also states that a 12-year-old found guilty of rape can be sentenced to 14 years imprisonment. Although the law gives room for justice for victims of rape, it is clear about what it doesn’t consider to be rape, like marital rape. According to the Lagos State Criminal Law, a legally married man cannot rape his wife unless she has proof of violence.

In Africa, 5 to 15 percent of females report a forced or coerced sexual experience. Statistics have it that 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men have reported experiencing rape.

A medical doctor in the AIDS Prevention Initiative (APIN) of the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital (UPTH), Dr Abiye Esther Harry, noted that rape cases are reported to tertiary hospitals about 2-3 times a week. But she states that there are no rape kits readily available in public health centres forcing personnel to makeshift kits.

Only three in every 1,000 sexual assaults worldwide result in a conviction and, of that number, only three percent of rapists ever serve a day in jail. These numbers do not take into account the cases that go unreported and lead to other damaging assaults like rape or even murder. No one can rationally call this an acceptable level of service to sexual assault survivors. It is instead a profound failing.

Sexual violence negatively affects a victim’s physical, mental, sexual and reproductive health. A 2013 analysis by the World Health Organisation reported that “women who had been physically or sexually abused were 1.5 times more likely to have a sexually transmitted infection.” These forms of violence can lead to depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, sleep difficulties, eating disorders, emotional distress and suicide attempts.

A story was told of Tunde a JSS 1 student who was raped by his family’s house help for the first time. He claims not to know what he was doing but it became a routine and soon he was an expert. A secret he has never told his family, he argues that it might be the reason he is addicted to sex.

Sexual violence will and does shatter families, destroy communities through stigma, shame, displacement and rejection.

It is time for activists to take the conversations out of conference rooms and billboards into homes, schools, offices, churches, hospitals and markets. These are the places where we will find survivors, parents, potential victims, potential perpetrators and perpetrators of rape. We need to do away with this system that espouses the idea of woman as a possession and develop instead a society where ethical sexuality is promoted and supported.

Take a cue from the Kenyan No Means No Worldwide initiative, which worked to provide empowerment-defence training to citizens to reduce and prohibit sexual harassment, recording a 51% decrease in the incidence of rape among trainees.

Social leaders must also be conscious and deliberate in order to avoid perpetuating rape culture but rather enforce equality measures and anti-sexual harassment language, actions and environments in the workplace, via mediums and society. Rape, in any form, is a serious matter that should neither be joked about nor treated lightly.

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