Though this year’s World Environment Day, 5 June 2021, is gone and past, some of its importance would remain visible in the ecosystem, especially in relation to preventing, halting, and reversing environmental damages to our ecosystems. In Lagos, as in other major cities of the world, the Day was commemorated with landmark activities. In commemoration of World Environment Day, Acting U.S. Consul General Brandon Hudspeth on Saturday participated in a tree planting event with students of St. Savior’s School, Ebute Metta, Lagos.
The event was organized by members of the Young Africa Leaders Initiative (YALI) under the auspices of the Mandela Washington Fellowship Alumni Association, with the support of a public diplomacy grant of the U.S. Consulate General. As part of the activities to commemorated the Day, Hudspeth, alongside General Manager of the Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA) Dr. Dolapo Fasawe and Assistant Director at the Lagos State Ministry of Environment Folasade Adeyoju, joined the students to plant a tree on the grounds of the school.
Hudspeth noted that the tree planting activity underscores the U.S. government’s commitment to supporting initiatives that raise awareness about the importance of protecting the environment.
“We are thrilled that our YALI alumni are partnering with St. Savior’s School for today’s tree planting activity. Children have the potential to be powerful agents of change. By focusing on school-aged children, giving them tools and knowledge to change behaviors, future generations will be better prepared to care for the environment,” Acting Consul General Hudspeth said.
He expressed optimism that the involvement of the students in the tree planting activity will shape their perspective about environmental conservation and restoration of our ecosystem. He also acknowledged the positive impact of work performed by the YALI alumni to build linkages between different communities and government institutions in Nigeria to promote environmental conservation efforts.
“Our main goal is to implement a campaign that will involve community members, local organizations, and government institutions to inspire and educate Nigerians on the importance of a clean environment for human health and a strong economy,” Hudspeth added.
In her remarks, LASEPA General Manager Dr. Dolapo Fasawe lauded the schoolkids and their teachers for their commitment toward protecting the environment. According to her, tree planting plays an essential role in mitigating the impact of climate change. “Planting trees is one of the most important things we can do to contribute to the health of the planet,” Dr. Fasawe noted.
Responding, Head Teacher, St. Savior’s School, Ebute Metta, Mrs. Lawrencia Izedonmwen, expressed the commitment of the school to promote environmental education and responsibility by creating awareness and empowering schoolchildren in its host community.
Following the tree planting activity, YALI alumni members moved to the Sabo-Yaba community of Lagos for a clean-up exercise as part of activities marking World Environment Day.
The diplomatic missions of Canada, the European Union (Delegation to Nigeria), the Republic of Ireland, the United Kingdom and the United States of America have expressed their disappointment over Nigeria government’s ban of Twitter.
According to the diplomatic missions, the action of the Federal Government contravenes the fundamental human right of freedom of expression and access to freedom of information.
In a joint statement, the diplomatic missions said, “We convey our disappointment over the Government of Nigeria’s announcement suspending #Twitter and proposing registration requirements for other social media.
“We strongly support the fundamental human right of free expression and access to information as a pillar of democracy in Nigeria as around the world and these rights apply online as well as offline. Banning systems of expression is not the answer. These measures inhibit access to information and commerce at precisely the moment when Nigeria needs to foster inclusive dialogue and expression of opinions, as well as share vital information in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The path to a more secure Nigeria lies in more, not less, communication to accompany the concerted efforts of Nigeria’s citizens in fulsome dialogue toward unity, peace and prosperity. As Nigeria’s partners, we stand ready to assist in achieving these goals.”
Media Rights Agenda (MRA) and the International Press Centre (IPC) have condemned the Federal Government’s indefinite suspension of Twitter in Nigeria and threatened to lodge a formal complaint before the appropriate agencies of the African Union (AU) and the United Nations (UN) if the Government does not immediately rescind the ban, arguing that the action is an unjustifiable violation of the rights of all Nigerians to freedom of expression and access to information, while also contravening the relevant instruments of both bodies.
In a statement issued in Lagos, the non-governmental organisations condemned the Government’s action as a violation of international norms and standards, citing the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights’ Resolution 362 on the Right to Freedom of Information and Expression on the Internet in Africa, adopted on November 4, 2016 at its 59th Ordinary Session; the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa, adopted by the Commission in November 2019, at its 65th Ordinary Session; and recent UN Human Rights Council resolutions touching on the matter.
In the statement signed by MRA’s Executive Director, Mr. Edetaen Ojo; and the Executive Director of IPC, Mr. Lanre Arogundade, the organisations noted that in its Resolution 362 of 2016, the African Commission has expressed concern at the practice by African States of “interrupting or limiting access to telecommunication services such as the Internet, social media and messaging services.”
Besides, they said, the Declaration of Principles also provides in Principle 38 (1) and (2) that “States shall not interfere with the right of individuals to seek, receive and impart information through any means of communication and digital technologies, through measures such as the removal, blocking or filtering of content, unless such interference is justifiable and compatible with international human rights law and standards” and that “States shall not engage in or condone any disruption of access to the internet and other digital technologies for segments of the public or an entire population.”
The organisations also cited the UN Human Rights Council resolution on the promotion, protection and enjoyment of human rights on the Internet, adopted at its 38th Session in July 2018, in it asked “all States to address security concerns on the Internet in accordance with their international human rights obligations to ensure the protection of all human rights online, in particular freedom of opinion and expression, freedom of association, and privacy, including through democratic and transparent national institutions, based on the rule of law, in a way that ensures freedom and security on the Internet so that it can continue to be a vibrant force that generates economic, social and cultural development.”
In addition, they noted that in its latest resolution related to the matter, which was adopted at its 45th Session in October 2020, the Council has also unequivocally condemned “measures in violation of international human rights law aiming to or that intentionally prevent or disrupt access to or dissemination of information online and offline, which undermine the work of journalists in informing the public, including through practices such as Internet shutdowns or measures to unlawfully or arbitrarily block or take down media websites, such as denial of service attacks” and called on “all States to cease and refrain from these measures, which cause irreparable harm to efforts at building inclusive and peaceful knowledge societies and democracies.”
The organisations called on the Federal Government to urgently take steps to comply with these internationally agreed norms and standards and retrace its steps from its current path, which puts Nigeria in danger of becoming a rogue nation that is constantly violating international human rights law as well as the principles of international law.
Ojo, said: “The Government’s claim on the persistent use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence is not only unsubstantiated, but is clearly bogus and illogical. The pertinent questions here are: who is the government accusing of using the platform for activities capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence? Is it the owners of Twitter that are posting such tweets? Is it foreigners using the platform for such activities? Or is it all Nigerians who are on Twitter or some of those Nigerians who use Twitter? The Government needs to be specific on this.”
According to him, “If some Nigerians on Twitter are using it in a manner that displeases the Government, how is banning Twitter for all Nigerians, in contravention of international norms an appropriate response? And if the government is convinced that people should not be allowed to post whatever they like on Twitter, no matter how divisive, hateful or inciting, why was the Government itself so angry when Twitter deleted a tweet by President Muhammadu Buhari, which it adjudged to be in violation of this same principle? Why did the Government opt to embark on this highhanded response which violates the rights of all Nigerians to freedom of expression and access to information instead of appealing Twitter’s decision on President’s Buhari’s post or challenging it in a judicial forum?”
Similarly, Mr. Arogundade said: “On the surface the government claims it is fighting Twitter but in reality what it is doing is waging war against its own citizens by infringing on their fundamental and socio-economic rights despite their being constitutionally guaranteed. If anything, the threat by the Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), to prosecute anyone that disobeys the ban is indicative of the fact that if this government has its way all social media platforms would be shut down because they have become veritable avenues for citizens to express their disaffection with its acts of mis-governance”.
Arogundade added that, “the ban does not show that the government is serious about the welfare or economic well-being of the citizens otherwise it would have given due consideration to how the decision would disrupt businesses that are transacted by many individuals and corporate bodies on Twitter and affect investor confidence in the Nigerian economy before rushing to make the announcement.”
By Funmi Falobi
As Nations of the world grapple with climate change issues, it can no longer be denied that climate change affects everyone – from lifestyle to food security and standard of living. In some climes, there is connection between climate change and poverty, while it could be climate change and insecurity as could be seen in Nigeria, the acclaimed giant of Africa.
Ahead of the COP26, the United Nations Climate Change conference, the British Council is taking measures to bring to fore the issues of climate change around the world, its effects as well as proffering solutions to mitigate the effects through education, arts and culture and English language.
Thus at a webinar held on Thurday, June 3, 2021, tagged: “Climate Connection: Conversation for Change”, the British Council brought together participants across the world, to draw attention on climate change and its impact on the ecosystem, humanity and the world at large.
Panelists at the online summit include: Stevie Spring, Chairman of the British Council; Ahmed Yassin, the co-founder of Banlastics Youth Initiative in Egypt, advocating environmental values and awareness around the use of plastic in Alexandria; Alison Tickell, Founder, Julie’s Bicycle, a leading organisation bridging sustainability with arts and culture; Rishika Das Roy, a British Council Future Leaders Connect alumna and current Technical Policy Consultant at Oxford Policy Management, based in India; Christopher Graham, teacher, educator and writer, founder of ELT Footprint, a 2020 ELTon winner.
In her opening remarks, Alok Sharma MP, COP26 President-Designate, said the aim of the climate connection is to use education and technology in creating awareness about climate change issues. “There’s need to give learner language skills to help youths on climate change, to tackle specific issues caused by climate change hence the conversation that will lead to COP26,” she said.
The summit submitted that young people are leading the initiative on climate change to build a better planet. Young people are therefore called upon to work together across the world in order to protect the planet for future generation.
The panellists opined that the issues of climate change affect every nation and every hand must be on deck to tackle the challenges and that now is the time to act.
“West Africa has a big problem with plastic bag. There are issues on how to dispose plastic bags. There is need to train teachers on how to dispose plastic in schools,” said Christopher Graham.
“Climate change issues in Egypt include pollution and sea level challenge. There is need for Africa to join the treaty, connect the government not to wait for conferences every year. There’s need to trade climate change like a very important thing. We need to act,” Ahmed Yassin said.
While emphasising the need to start the climate change awareness with the young generation, Graham declared: “There must be agenda in every classroom in the world. The local culture must have local content to engage schools, school boards and community around schools.”
On her part, Alison Tickell stressed the need for people to engage policymakers in order to implement policies toward sustainability of the environment.
“People must use social media, write to their politicians and make some noise. Culture is diverse. Culture policy needs to catch up with specific local content. The culture can speak to the people. We need to lobby for everyone to have access to mother earth,” she said.
Rishika Das Roy also advocated for behaviour change in order to mitigate the impact of climate change in the world.
According to her, “We need to develop, grow but we can do that through different technologies. There must be behaviour change from civil society trickling down to the people. We must engage, educate and communicate.”
In general, the experts were optimistic of a better future of climate change.
The summit also had a guest appearance from Neil Gaiman, award-winning author who also encouraged participants to join hand in championing the cause of climate change in the society.
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) awarded a three-year, $2.05 million grant to Washington, DC-based Gallaudet University to support initiatives to advance education, employment, and life opportunities toward the empowerment of deaf, hard of hearing, and deafblind children and youth in Nigeria.
In collaboration with its partners, the Nigerian National Association of the Deaf (NNAD) and Wesley University, Ondo, Gallaudet will manage the implementation of the Strengthening Education Systems and Local Capacity of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Nigerians (Deaf-E3) activity.
Deaf-E3 activities include: Capacity building: Discovering Deaf Worlds, a U.S-based international deaf advocacy organization, and NNAD will conduct an initial needs assessment and stakeholder survey to identify NNAD’s organisational capacity priorities and design training modules to enhance the advocacy, leadership, and organisational capacities of NNAD and its stakeholders.
Also, training educational professionals on multimodal/multilingual pedagogical approaches to education. This research-based activity will identify best practices and identify effective training methodologies and assessments, with the goal of producing a pedagogically deaf-centric, barrier-free, and multimodal/multilingual educational programming for deaf children. The activity will produce two manuals on multimodal/multilingual approaches that can be used by educational professionals nationwide.
Similarly, promoting best practices related to general and educational interpreting within a Nigerian context. A working group of deaf leaders and Nigerian Sign Language (NSL) interpreters will create and disseminate guidelines to effective communication by enabling deaf consumers and NSL interpreters to work more collaboratively.
Equally, collaborating with USAID and its partners to increase capacity to engage with deaf, hard of hearing, and deafblind stakeholders nationwide.
This activity was inspired by Dr. Isaac O. Agboola, a beloved Gallaudet alumnus, faculty member, and dean who passed away in 2017. Dr. Agboola had a long-held dream of self-determination for the Nigerian deaf community.
“Dr. Agboola wanted to bring Gallaudet home to Nigeria, and Deaf-E3 fulfills that wish,” said Dr. Khadijat K. Rashid, Gallaudet’s Interim Dean of the Faculty.
“Gallaudet has welcomed students from Nigeria for many years, and in fact, there are more Gallaudet alumni from Nigeria than from any other country outside the U.S. and Canada. We look forward to building on these relationships, and to collaborating with deaf, hard of hearing, and deafblind leaders and community members in Nigeria to foster awareness, advocacy, education, and employment.”
Chidi Olujie, President, the Nigerian National Association of the Deaf, said, “I extend my great appreciation to everyone who worked on this project. We would not have come this far without our shared commitment to creating a conducive learning environment for deaf Nigerians and their families. We expect this project to have a long-term, positive impact on the Nigerian deaf community’s education, empowerment, and employment.”
Gallaudet University, federally chartered in 1864, is a bilingual, diverse, multicultural institution of higher education that ensures the intellectual and professional advancement of deaf, hard of hearing and deafblind individuals through American Sign Language and English.
By Funmi Falobi
No doubt, women, children and people with disability are the most vulnerable groups in any society. Many a times, their rights are often infringed upon while many do not have access to justice. In the case of arrest, detention and trial, these vulnerable groups suffer human rights infringement.
In order to bring to the fore the injustices vulnerable people go through and ensure that their rights are protected, the Rights Enforcement and Public Law Centre (REPLACE) with support of Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption (ROLAC) has held a consultative meeting with civil organisations on “Access to Justice for Vulnerable Persons.”
The seminar focused on the importance of the Police Duty Solicitor Scheme (PDSS) and how to ensure the scheme become effective and implemented across the country to ensure access to justice for women and people with disability.
According to the Executive Director, REPLACE, Felicitas Aigbogun-Brai, there is need to change the narrative on how the police treat women and PWDs arrested. “In detention, there should be provision of sanitary pad for women. The way you treat a woman is different from man. People should be treated with dignity,” she said.
She explained that the seminar became imperative in order to get the input of people on the field in providing legal services for women, PWDs based on their knowledge and to give robust document to the police.
On how PDSS has effected change in the legal system, Aigbogun-Brai said “there is now Family Support Unit in Lagos police. There is a slight change in how they treat victims of domestic violence and sexual offences, but for others, no change.”
Similarly, Chibogu Obinwa, ROLAC Gender Specialist said the organisation believes in human rights especially that of women and PWDs, hence, the need to look into the PDSS and see how it would assist the work of legal service providers and civil society organisations in ensuring access to justice for vulnerable people.
Delivering her speech, Legal Aid Council, Lagos State Coordinator, Iyabo Akingbade declared that a lot has happened in the legal system in Nigeria and that the police are now on their toes.
Represented by Grace Adenubi, Assistant Director, Legal Aid Council, Akingbade said the essence of the Police Duty Solicitor Scheme is not to monitor the police but to ensure that there is compliance with the rights of the people and to promote legal and human rights of suspects, and not to torture them while in detention.
While stressing that there should be consistence and awareness, she stated that there is police advisory committee to ensure the scheme works, such as “to ensure the law works and that ‘bail is free’ is not only on paper. Doing so will put the police in better light and someone will not be afraid to go to the police station”, she noted.
“Police duty is to cooperate and ensure the scheme works. They are to give access to meet and interview the suspects. Solicitors are to look at the cell environment, whether their rights are being infringed upon. There should be a follow up to know compliance,” she said.
In broadening the discourse, participants were divided into groups to formulate a communique on guidelines for the police on women, PWDs in detention as well as legal service providers.
The organisers noted that communique from the group activities would serve as part of the training document for civil society organisations, the police and senior officers at the station level to spread the awareness to other officers.