Posts Tagged ‘National Assembly’

In March, social media woke up to a really startling story: a young girl, a 13-year-old child that had been kidnapped from Bayelsa, taken to Kano state, rechristened Aisha in an apparent conversion to Islam, and married off to a young man. The girl? Ese Oruru. The man? Yunusa Dahiru, aka Yellow.

The contradictory reports in the media were as frustrating as they were ridiculous. First, it was said that she was eighteen, despite her family’s cries to the press to the contrary. Then the poor child was demonized, something about her dating the man, writing him love letters, and being in love with him, like the word of a child on those matters should be acknowledged. Then it was back to the arguments about her age again, and how she was 14 years old and not 13. On and on and on, splashing her face in the papers, in the hearts and minds of Nigerians that choose, very conveniently what to forget, and what to remember and stigmatize others by.

Interestingly, while this was going on, a number of other parents cried out about their teenage daughters getting abducted, married off and raped. Yes, rape because that is what this is. Non-consensual intercourse is rape, compounded in these cases by abduction, and of minors.

Back to Ese Oruru, we were confused with the back and forth that freeing the girl and returning her to her parents threw up. A lot of conversation between her not getting released till HRH, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi gave instructions to that effect because she was in his custody, the Royal’s swift denial, convoluted messaging from the police, on and on.

Amidst hashtags, commentary in the press and extreme pressure on the consciences and sensibilities of people involved in the matter, Ese Oruru was finally returned to her parents in Bayelsa in March 2016; seven months after her abduction, and recently gave birth to a baby girl. A baby birthing a baby, rife with the risk of VVF, and the total disruption of her life as we know it.

Yunusa Dahiru was charged to court too, a five-court charge of criminal abduction, inducing by the use of deception and coercion, illicit sex, sexual exploitation and unlawful carnal knowledge of a minor.

We woke up to reports on the 11th of July that Yunusa, with expensive legal representation, has been released on bail and whisked back to Kano. The news story was garnished with a photo of this abductor and rapist at the airport. The end, literally.

Screenshot 2016-07-11 16.41.23

Some responses came back on how long it took for the alleged abduction and rapist to get bail, the constitution and laws being the problem, rape being a bailable offence, the quality of our laws and the attendant handicap of the judiciary etc.

There were also less sane responses about Ese’s case not being a peculiarity because underage girls get abducted and raped daily, it took three months to secure bail, and then of course the ultimate expressions of ignorance couched as insults or the representation of the matter based on ethnic sentiments.

Both sets of responses ignore the fact that we’re talking about a child. Both sets of responses ignore the fact this case already stinks to high heaven. They ignore the fact that by not speedily prosecuting this case, securing a watertight conviction, and dispensing punishment that is a deterrent to potential offenders, we have lost yet another opportunity to protect our children. We keep failing them.

I have written about child molestation, rape and other crimes against minors before, taking time to narrate not just the horrors the children have faced, but the helplessness the parent feel, and the stark failures of our systems to mete justice.

We have a Child Right Acts that took 12 years (1991 – 2003 after Nigeria signed the convention on the Rights of the child with UNICEF support) to go through the National Assembly, and more than 10 years after that, only 24 states have passed and given gubernatorial assent to the law in their states. That means that our children, the most vulnerable in our society, left unprotected and we do not feel any sense of urgency. Implementation aside, it means that the appropriate legal framework for the protection of the rights of our little ones is still a pipe dream. There is no urgency from the Judiciary or the Legislature whose job is it to empower the courts.

Unfortunately, this sad story probably ends here, and this statement is based entirely on precedent. No rehabilitation for Ese, no clear deterrents for the society because we don’t protect our children. No justice because we have a National Assembly that is filled with self-serving paedophiles who do not agree that people under 18 are children and so will scuttle privately and in public any plans to protect them. A National Assembly with officials who will uphold anything other than the laws they were elected to (and swore to) protect.

While Gambia and Tanzania ban child marriages, Ghana considers raising the age for marriage for girls from 18 to 23; we have popular commentary in Nigeria that posits that child marriage is the preferable, dignified and honourable alternative to child prostitution. The Giant of Africa lagging behind where it matters the most.

We can do better. We must do better. This 8th National Assembly has the opportunity to write its name in the annals of history, and we hope they take it.

First published on Premium Times, and on Future Challenges.

Thinking of what we now know as Enough is Enough Nigeria always leaves me with three feelings

  1. Pride – that I was a part of something whose influence transcends the shores of this country
  2. Despair – that five years after, the issues that gave birth to are still the issues we’re grappling with now
  3. Hope – that there is hope for Nigeria, and our labor will not be in vain.

It was one email, one random Friday afternoon. Late President Yar’adua was terminally ill, unavailable to lead the country, and so many ‘leaders’ arose and plundered, taking turns to rape an already battered country. No one could ascertain whether he was alive or dead, no one had access to him, and there was no talk of a succession plan because some people had sworn they would rule by proxy.

And then I got that email from Chude, asking “where is the outrage;” wondering how Nigeria’s youth demographic, about 65% of Nigeria’s 150 million strong population, was going to stand by and do nothing while evil doers ensured there was no Nigeria left for us. My favorite line from that email was, “We are in the majority. We have the power to actually make change happen. So what is our excuse? What will we tell our children – that we lay down and took whatever they hit us with?”

We couldn’t have been more than 20 copied in that email that led to the ‘Enough is Enough’ protest to the National Assembly on the 16th of March 2010.

Photo credit: Enough is Enough Nigeria

Photo credit: Enough is Enough Nigeria

I remember the nights leading to it; the nocturnal meetings, and the letters we wrote. I remember all of us having to make the decision not to join the ‘Save Nigeria Group’ rally which held around the same time, refusing to be the ‘pop culture element’ but making a statement of our own. I remember reading up on the possible things that could go wrong during a protest, and gathering tips like onions countering the effects of teargas. Now that I think of it, I wonder what would have happened if we really had to use onions on the day.

And so on this day, exactly five years ago, I was at my cubicle at the BBC, having received a stern warning from my late aunt (God rest her soul), not to join any protest. Matter of fact, she’d made me wear a skirt and heels to work so I wouldn’t be able to go.

At 9am, my colleagues Alkasim and Matilda, disappeared from the office for various reasons, but I stayed, trying to be obedient. By 10am another colleague asked me to leave because I wasn’t being useful; that’s how restless I was. I caught a cab home, changed into trousers and my Enough is Enough tee (which I still have), and ran to Eagle Square.

The most beautiful rainbow kissed the clouds that morning, and I remember a few of us getting emotional because God was literally smiling down on us.

And then we set out, voices and placards raised, demanding that our government keep the promise they made about 6000MW of electricity, and stop the fuel crisis that was the stuff of legend.

There were many moments I will never forget from that morning, like Dele Momodu pushing through the human barrier the soldiers formed on the way to the National Assembly, Audu Maikori almost getting shot, and the absolutely scorching sun. I also remember musicians like Omawumi and others leading us in song, and I remember almost falling out of one of the trucks. I remember the Sergeant-at-Arms saying he wasn’t aware of our gathering and procession, when he had in fact received a letter days before. And yes, I remember Alkasim, Matilda, and I almost getting queried for leaving the office.

Photo credit:

Photo credit:

From ‘Enougha Enougha’ on Facebook, Enough is Enough was registered (in a very roundabout way that still makes me smile), and through the Register, Select, Vote, and Protect (RSVP), #ShineYourEye, #OurNass, election debates and monitoring, Revoda, etc. continues to work with other organizations (local and international) to ask questions of our leaders, and demand some sanity in the chaos that is sometimes us.

That protest laid the foundation for the #OccupyNigeria and #BringBackOurGirls movements, simply because it showed that young people are aware, care, and dare to force good governance from those who have the privilege to serve.

Here’s a big happy birthday to EiE, to the inaugural board and leadership, and to Yemi Adamolekun, who has steadily steered this ship through it all. May our oil never run dry, our arms never go weary, and may we see this Nigeria we dream of sooner than later.

Happy birthday!

On the 28th I was introduced to Hadiza, organizer of the #BringBackOurGirls march slated for the 30th, in Abuja. Idea was to march from Unity Fountain to the National Assembly and the National Security Adviser’s and drop off letters asking questions but more importantly demanding a cohesive, maybe even coherent communication of whatever strategies they have to bring back the over 200 girls kidnapped from Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, in Borno on the 14th of April.

I blogged about it on the 29th, short post explaining why I was going to be a part of the protest, forgetting one important thing – my darling mother reads my blog. She rang that night and called me ‘Chioma’ (the name reserved only for times I have erred), and I started wondering what sin I might have committed. Then she mentioned she read my post (uh oh), and somehow I convinced her I would be fine.

The morning of the 30th I woke up pumped, really excited, uncertain, and a bit worried at the same time. I’d heard of the protest by Polytechnic students and how they got tear gassed by the police. I also know a couple friends who were arrested the day they protested the deaths in the tragedy called the #NISexam earlier in April. Somehow, I knew this would be incident-free but I was ready for anything to be honest.

Had a good brunch, dressed in my most comfortable Reeboks, and started walking from my sister’s house to the road for a taxi when I saw something I will never forget, a woman strangling a baby who couldn’t be more than 11 months old. I froze. She was screaming something (in Hausa) at a man who had just alighted from a bike and was trying to snatch the baby from her.

I crossed over to their side of the road, collected the baby (who had been staring blankly), and then the child started to cry. In between comforting the child and trying to find out what the matter was, I learned that the man is a Police officer (a Corporal), while the woman is his ‘wife’, and the mother of the baby. A bit of a story of how the man wasn’t providing for them and his son (born by another woman), and so she was going to kill the baby and then kill herself.

By this time I was in tears too. Got it together enough to scold both of them, and restrain the woman from inflicting more bite marks on the man (he showed me his chest with bites like he’d been attacked by an animal), promised to help the woman I’d help her start a business if I came back and that child was still alive, and I left. All of this took about 45 minutes.

Got in a taxi and sobbed all the way to Unity Fountain. How does a mother get so frustrated/disillusioned/distraught that she tries to kill her own child?

Got to Unity Fountain, super heavy police presence, SSS dudes trying to infiltrate the crowd (pretty unsuccessfully because they couldn’t have been more obvious), and loads of international press.

Oby Ezekwesili showed up early – she’s a woman and half – and she stayed till the end!! Dang! I was inspired, impressed, encouraged, all of those and more, all at once! She addressed the crowd, and we set off marching to the National Assembly. It started drizzling and she asked if we would melt under the rain, or if we were made of salt. No to both questions so we continued marching. We were joined halfway by the Commissioner of Police for the FCT Joseph Mbu and all I could think as I looked at him with his Bulletproof vest was, “so this is the person who didn’t let Governor Amaechi of Rivers drink water and drop his cup abi?”

We got to the National Assembly gate and we weren’t let in, by this time we were all pretty much soaked to our knickers. Madam Oby said if they didn’t let us in we wouldn’t leave and so we sat on the floor, in the rain. I had tears in my eyes that I couldn’t explain.

Shortly after the heads of the National Assembly (Senate President, Speaker of the House of Reps and his Deputy) drove to the gate, and addressed us, getting wet in the process. All political statements – if you’ve heard the government react to a tragedy you already know half of what they said.

Letter delivered, we marched back (it didn’t stop raining) to Unity Fountain. By the way, Titi Atiku Abubakar, wife of former Vice-President showed up at the National Assembly to join us, I only noticed because her bodyguard tried to push @_yemia to make way for his Principal. Of course Yemi wasn’t having it, and Titi herself asked the bodyguard to leave her alone. Overzealous animal.

Femi Falana walked back with us from the National Assembly, and maybe it was just my cynicism on overdrive but he was loudest for the cameras. We sang a bit more, Hadiza read the statement which had been handed in, there were a few words from relatives of the girls (the leader of the Chibok community kneeling down and thanking us for coming out for them reduced me to tears again), and then it was time to go. It was still raining.

Was really nice to meet @rotexonline, @AbdulMahmud1, @Bellanwa, @SuperGirlTimidi, @ChineEzeks, and @aishajana, tweeps I’ve interacted with but never met, and nice to see @elnathan, @alkayy, @abangmercy, @saratu, @OjaySays, @Xeenarh and of course, @_yemia.

One bowl of hot amala and ewedu after (thankful to the guy who helped us drive Mercy’s car out of the mud, and to Ojay for his jacket – I was shivering), and it was home (and there was no power), getting warm, and then drained (physically and emotionally), bed.

Last thought on my mind? That little girl.


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Protests and visible discontent are an integral part of any democracy. Agreed?

Today, Thursday, the 26th of September 26th at 10 am, Enough is Enough Nigeria, United Action for Democracy, Say No Campaign, ReclaimNaija and other organisations will meet at the National Assembly (in Abuja) to make 5 demands of our representatives. The demands and the rationale are summarized below:

1. Immediate comprehensive breakdown of their budgetary allocation of N150 billion for 2013. They have been very vocal that the N150 billion is not only for salaries but the entire National Assembly structure.The Economist magazine says they are the 2nd highest paid parliamentarians in the world.There is no authoritative breakdown of what the N150 billion pays for.We want them to provide this breakdown.
2. An account of the N1 trillion received since 2005 before the next recess in December. N1 trillion is a lot of money.Have Nigerians gotten value for money?They have to tell us.
3. Functional contact information – numbers, email addresses and physical addresses of their constituency offices.We demand the names of at least two contact people attached to the numbers and email addresses. Our representatives must be reachable!
4. ALL voting records on ALL constitutional amendments. Nigerians have a right to know how their representatives honored their wishes for changes to the constitution.
5. We demand that the attendance list for each plenary be made public. Pictures show both chambers relatively empty on plenary days, yet members are quite opposed to suggestions that they work part time.How many people actually attend plenary and contribute to discussions?Are Nigerians getting value for money?

Please share with your networks and join us if you can! Our Nass 7 Our Nass 6 Our Nass 5 Our Nass 4 Our Nass 3 Our Nass 2 Our Nass 1

That’s why we’re marching today.

More information can be found here –

Our ‘Honorables’ tearing at each other….

Some days are good; others are sad, others are ‘not so good’ while some are downright nasty. Today is one of those. It’s amazing the way life goes; a woman gets pregnant, carries the baby for the full term successfully (without any issues) and then dies on the delivery table (for whatever reason). That’s nasty.

A friend of ours wanted to be a doctor, desperately. He got into university, scaled the first year examinations easily and then was faced with the ‘devil’ called 2nd MBBS. One peculiar thing about the MBBS exam is that there are three courses, and you must pass at least two to move to the next class where you resit the one you didn’t pass. If you pass only one, you repeat the year, and there is a limit on how many times you can repeat a class. Ok? So my friend wrote the exams like four times and failed, in different degrees; bottom line is that at the end of the day, he was still in his original class…

He wrote the exam the fifth time and the day the day the results were released, he was in a village on one of these community outreach visits, teaching best health practices, etc. when his phone rang the first time, the second, third and ninth times, he nearly had a coronary, and didn’t pick out of fear. He finally did and was told he passed all three exams! To add to it, some oil scholarship they applied for years before had come through and his name was on the list pasted outside the Student Affairs Office! Talk about blessings in baskets. Home boy took permission from the coordinators, and then took a bus back to the campus, promising not to believe till he saw for himself. On the way, he had an accident.

Yes, an accident; I’m sorry, there was no way to sugar coat that. My story doesn’t end there though. The accident was ghastly yes but he didn’t die. He was rushed to the hospital lucid but bleeding profusely. The issue then became who would sign for the blood for transfusion, was there blood in the bank at all, what his blood group was, who would pay the deposit, on and on and on, till he died.

Let us leave the overwhelming lapses in the medical sector, forget about the tears I shed that day (and I’ve heard I have a lot of cry in me), and face the truth: ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. We can’t keep running around the issues when our mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters and getting swallowed up by the day by monsters that range from unemployment, delayed (or totally withheld) pensions, corruption, police brutality, death traps (a.k.a roads), child abuse, even PHCN is an issue! At some point (and I daresay that point is now), we have to call it. We have to say we are tired of a lying and thieving leadership that tells the youth to eschew violence on the one hand but with the other hand signs away tax payers money to import weapons for the same youths. Bear in mind that we’re not even talking about the violence they perpetuate themselves.

In the recent past we’ve been inundated with reports of our lawmakers behaving like they didn’t read their job descriptions; as if they were elected (or rigged) into the National Assembly to take advanced classes in warfare, with promises to air the practicals on international TV! Or did they just get the wrong document?

The National Communications Commission recently submitted a budget of 13billion naira to the National Assembly; it was found out later to be in error and the actual budget, 800million. NCC said it was a typographical error. Are you kidding me? It must have been a magical typo to have successfully eluded a whole commission, from the person who typed, to the person that approved! Haba!

Still on budgets, Niger Delta Development Commission submitted their own budget with a whopping 90million allocated to marriages and funerals. Oh My God! Even if everyone in the whole NDDC planned to get married on Monday and die on Tuesday, they still wouldn’t need that much! After ten years of existence and the monies sunk into the Commission, what tangible development can we point to? What justification do they have to even include marriages and funerals in their budget; or did they get the wrong document too?

Still on the front burner is the fracas between the number four man in the country and the Chief Executive Officer of Ogun State over who should take the glory of commissioning a road that neither of them started, and took 10 years to finish. Let’s leave the major embarrassment both of them were and note that the Speaker showed up at the event in a convoy of 16 cars. Again, someone must surely have handed him the wrong document on how the human body should function because I am a fairy, and even I cannot divide myself into 16 cars!

I could go on and on and on but I won’t waste your time and mine, neither do I want to spoil your day. Enough is enough people, Wafi pesin go talk say, ‘it haff do’! Posterity will judge every young person who doesn’t register to vote and put an end to this insanity. Posterity will judge every young person who partakes of their blood money to the detriment of a vulnerable, less privileged brother or sister. Posterity will most definitely judge; because we live in out-rightly nasty days.