Andrew, once an industrious farmer from Pulka, Borno Estate, in Nigeria, found his life turned upside down when he was caught up in the conflict with Boko Haram and other armed groups in 2012. Tragically, he lost the lower part of both of his arms in the conflict. The once proud provider for an extended family of four wives and 17 children, was also left with no cattle to farm, stolen by the armed groups.
“Our problems started about 5 years ago when we all fled to Cameroon in search of safety. I was on my way back to the village – following my family – when I was detained and tied up.” Andrew was eventually released, but his arms were severely injured and could not be saved. He managed to return home, where he soon realized the armed group had stolen all 75 bags of sorghum he had left before the escape. “I sold all my assets because I have no means to support my children. I have already lost two of them because of suffering and hunger.”
Andrew, now aged 40, is one of the beneficiaries of Oxfam’s “Unconditional Cash Program”. Thanks to this and the “Cash for Work” programs, people in Pulka and other affected communities are directly benefiting, while also supporting the development of local infrastructure. In total, 600 people are engaged in community sanitation and environmental rehabilitation in return for cash. The 100 most vulnerable, Andrew’s family among them, receive Oxfam’s cash support unconditionally.
Andrew used the money received from Oxfam to buy seeds for growing crops. However, he fears for their safety during the harvest as last year an armed group attacked several farmers and took most of the produce.
“My wives haven’t gone to the farm or fetch water for the past 20 years, as I was able to, but now they’re not even at home, they’re all on the farm.”
Despite having been through so much, he and his family are becoming resilient and have learned to adapt to the challenges. They are fully engaged in what little farming they can do and his children are still studying, even though many schools in Pulka are in ruins.
Andrew explains he received help from people in their community before organizations started the aid programs. He is grateful to Oxfam and the other organizations now helping him and his family.
Culled from OXFAM
Nigeria ranks top in mortality rate attributed to air pollution
-air pollution accounts for about 65,000 deaths annually in Nigeria
-country consumes over 500 million kilograms of firewood daily
Despite increased efforts to sensitise Nigerians on the importance of clean air and the attendant effects of air pollution, Nigeria still ranks top in mortality rate attributed to air pollution.
Air pollution is not peculiar problem to Nigerian as it is a global health challenge, killing about 6.5 million people worldwide.
According to data by healthdata.org, air pollution in Nigeria between 2015 and 2016 ranks number 4 among risk factors that drive the most deaths and disabilities combined.
Though efforts have been made by the government and international agencies to curb the effects of this environmental hazard, it still remains a major public health problem.
With a vast number of its population depending on coal and firewood, access to alternative sources of cleaner air remains a luxury, rather than a public good.
According to a study by The Lancet Respiratory Medicine in 2014, India and sub-Saharan Africa are most heavily affected by “Indoor air pollution deaths (per million people).”
The survey shows that Nigeria has 400-610 Indoor air pollution deaths per million populations.
Though efforts are being made worldwide to fight the duality of climate change and energy poverty especially in India and sub-Saharan Africa, an alarming number of 3.5 million and 4.3 million persons die each year to indoor air pollution, killing more people each year than HIV/AIDS and malaria combined, a report by VOX revealed.
Lung cancer and heart disease are the major health threats posed by the menace of indoor air pollution but it is not treated with the type of urgency and attention given to HIV/AIDs.
In 2017, Senate President, Bukola Saraki, represented by Senator Audu Ibrahim, said about 65,000 Nigerians die yearly to household pollution.
The revelation was made known at the 2017 Nigeria Clean Cooking Forum which was organized in partnership with the Federal Ministry of Environment in Abuja.
According to Mr. Saraki, more than half of the deaths recorded yearly were children.
He remarked “Nigerians consume between 1.9kg to 4kg/day/capita of firewood depending on household size. When applied to the country’s population currently put at about 170 million people, the country consumes more than 500 million kilograms of firewood daily.”
In a report made available to SATELLITE TIMES, the Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA) identified the challenges facing the environment as multifaceted including water pollution, indoor and outdoor air pollution, industrial pollution, biodiversity loss, erosion, coastal and marine erosion and land subsidence, land degradation, drought and desertification, among others.
“Out of all these myriads of environmental problems Nigeria is facing, air pollution is the most common and widespread,” the report cited.
While oxides of nitrogen (NOx), sulphur (SOx) and carbon monoxide (Co) remain the major pollutants affecting the environment, the report identified two (2) major sources of air pollution which are; man-made (burning of fossil fuels- natural gas, coal, burning of waste, bush burning, energy production, etc) and natural sources (forest fires, volcanic eruptions, wind erosion, pollen dispersal among others.)
According to the report, air pollution has adverse effects on both the environment and on health. Smog, acid rain, greenhouse effects and global warming are some of the effects of air pollution on the environment.
On the other hand, the health challenges cannot be overlooked as indoor/household air pollution accounts for about 65,000 deaths annually in Nigeria. Top on the list of these challenges are – breathing problems, inflammation of the respiratory track causing coughing, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cardiovascular disease, infectious diseases, vector-borne diseases such as malaria, yellow fever, encephalitis, lyme disease, among others.
Government action to curb air pollution
When SATELLITE TIMES contacted NESREA on what measures it had put in place to curb the adverse effects of air pollution in Nigeria, the Director, Environmental Quality Control (EQC), Mr Simon B. Joshua said that Nigeria is signatory to and has ratified various international conventions, treaties and protocols.
The creation of NESREA as a parastatal of the Federal Ministry of Environment (FME) in 2007 is part of governments move to pay attention to the environment as the agency is “charged with the responsibility of enforcing all environmental laws, guidelines, policies, standards and regulations in Nigeria. It also has the responsibility to enforce compliance with provisions of all international agreements, protocols, conventions and treaties on the environment to which Nigeria is a signatory,” the report made available to this paper read.
Though policies like the National Vehicular Emissions Control Programme (NVECP) and National Generator Emission Control Programme (NGECP) have been put in place, 60% of air pollution in Nigeria is attributed to emissions from transportation and generators.
Medical opinion on the implications of air pollution
SATELLITE TIME contacted a medical doctor, Terry Debo who gave his professional views on the factors that lead to air pollution, symptoms of diseases and the need for health education.
According to him, sources of air pollution (especially for indoor air pollution) vary but the most common in Nigeria are caused by cooking fuel or sources of energy for cooking like firewood, gas, charcoal and stoves that use kerosene, and bush burning.He said that these sources of energy or fuel release carbon monoxide that is harmful to the body.
Corroborating NESREA’s report, Debo said another major source of air pollution that affects people especially in urban areas in Nigeria are generators. He said that the substances that are emitted known as carcinogens are harmful to the body especially to the blood.
“Because carbon monoxide binds more with haemoglobin than oxygen when an individual is exposed to air pollution, oxygen cannot be transported easily this in turn begins to affect tissues in the blood. The body system begins to fail which can lead to brain death and actual death itself,” Debo said.
Symptoms of lung and heart diseases
According to Debo, the most obvious symptom is cough. If you have a cough that lasts more than three weeks, it is something that should give you a reason to go to the hospital. Chest pain is another symptom, he added.
When asked if the early signs are reversible, he said yes.
“For people who live around poorly ventilated environment, active smokers, or exposed to cooking fuel that emits toxic by- products, when they notice these early signs, they shouldn’t hesitate to see a doctor as early as possible.
“Investigations like chest X-rays would be carried out and if picked early, some of them can be abated with medications. Lifestyle changes also play a very crucial role in abating these diseases.
“Some people know the effects of these problems but they do not care. But with proper health education on these factors will help a lot because some people are outrightly ignorant. People need to know that they are affected directly or indirectly,” he concluded.
Yelwan: A community where trees are classrooms
As the number of out of school children surge across the country, many communities with no presence of educational infrastructure, now turn to tree shades as learning centre. Satellite Times visit to communities in Nassarawa State reveal the harrowing experiences of children who travel several kilometers every day to get education.
Sa’adatu Umar is 15-years old. Her first school experience was July 2016, then; she was 14. Like other children in Yelwan community, education is an unnecessary luxury. No child is enrolled into formal school in Yelwan, parents looked eager to put their wards into school but there are no schools in the community. The closest primary school is about 5 kilometers away on a bushy, lonely and dangerous path.
“We only need a normal classroom to be built for our children” says Mallam Adbulahi, the community head of Yelwan. Abdulahi points to an open space where community school can be sited.
There are more than 200 children who are not enrolled in school, the request to site a school in the community has not been heeded, the community have written to Keffi Local government, they have appealed to prominent politicians in neighbouring town who only visits during election, no one has responded to their call for educational shelter but determined to give hope to the children, the community heads tasked each household a sum of 1000 naira per month. This contribution enabled them purchase writing materials – black boards, mats and a 3,000 naira stipend to a volunteer teacher.
With no shelter yet, about 200 yearning children who had never been to school are excited to have a chance at education even if it is offered under the shades of trees. “About 90 children rushed to take a front spot at the ‘new’ Yelwan primary school on the first day of school’ remarks Adbulahi, an elderly community head.
Even Abdulahi, not sure of his own real age but wished he had a chance at education, he explained how his lack of education had cost him a decent life. “If I had attended school, I would have been a big man today” Abdulahi said through an interpreter. Every strand of his wrinkled face bares his pain “I now know the value of education and we are determined to get this children education” said Abdulahi.
The ‘new’ Yelwan School is sheltered under two large trees. The two large trees represent class A and class B.
When Satellite Times asked the Musa Muazu, the social welfare officer at the Keffi Local government, he admitted that the local government had received requests for shelter but there were no funding for the request. “We are aware of the situation here, when we got their request and visited, we decided to make recommendation to the State Universal Basic Education, SUBEC.” Said Muazu.
Yelwan community is a reflection of the poor state of education in Keffi, many public schools visited were in dilapidated conditions with overcrowded classrooms, poor ventilation, open or leaking roof. There is deficiency of both physical and mental infrastructure. The teaching staff too are least qualified, delivering lecture in local Hausa dialect.
In Keffi, the sight of children wandering barefooted in torn clothing and clutching empty stained food bowl dots the town. For a state that has signed the Child Right Law, it is disturbing to observe an open disregard for that law. It appears that families are only concerned about their own children and government about politics, not the people.
Knowing the power of traditional institutions, Muazu through the Social Welfare Department once engaged the Emir of Keffi, one of the most revered traditional ruler in the state “We are using our traditional rulers to ensure that children go to school, no matter the condition of the school, we will play our role and hope that the government will play their role of providing infrastructure” he said, narrating how the Emir of Keffi has become an advocate of child education.
As reported, a man had shipped 27 children into Keffi from Katsina under the guise of enrolling them into an Islamic school. However, his real intention was to make the children make money for him. So he put them out on the street, handed them a bowl each and issued a daily target for food and money.
Luck ran out on him after he physically abused one of the children. The news got to the Social Welfare Officer who reported the incidence to the Emir of Keffi. The outraged members of the emirate council ordered a public punishment to serve as a deterrent. The man was whipped in the public and the children were withdrawn from the street and reunited with their parents in Katsina.
Like Yelwan, Abugye community too has no school shelter. This community is in Keana local government, lafia, Nassarawa State.
The road to Abugye community is rough and dangerous. This community seats in the heart of a thick forest. There are no electricity, no clean water, no medical centre and no access to mobile telephone signal.
Abugye is home to more than 300 school age children, some of whom have been withdrawn from school because of the pain of travelling 3 kilometers to the nearest school.
“You can live here without money” says Yahaya Ibrahim, 37, the spokesperson of the community who claim he has not used money for exchange of any goods or services. “I have not used money for more than 2years, everything we need is here” he enthused.
The community may have everything they require for their nomadic lifestyle but it is lacking in the essentials for building their minds and their future. They lack schools for their children.
Adama Yahaya treks 3 kilometers everyday to school. She hurriedly makes her way through the rocky; narrow path that leads to the nearest primary school in Abugye, a fulani community in Keana Local government area of Nassarawa State.
Adama is 7 but she does the chores of an adult. Her day begins as early as 5am. She accompanies her young mother to the stream to fetch water, she combs through the woods to fetch fire wood and by 7am, she begins a long journey to school.
Adama is one of the few girls in the community whose parents refused to withdraw from school. “She is very smart” says her 37 years old father of 8 children. “I want to become a teacher, so that I can teach a lot of children in my community” Adama said with glittering smile.
Satellite Times learnt that many children of school age do not attend school in Abugye community because of the long distance and the fear of exposing the children to reptile attack.
The rate of child neglect and abandonment in Keana is high; it gives an idea of the real situation in Nigeria.
In 2003, the Child Right Act was signed into Law; it was also domesticated in about 24 States of the federation.
Still, more than 10 million children are out of school in Nigeria, the rate of abandonment, high incidences of child abuse, public and institutional disregard to the rights of vulnerable children and neglect remain constantly on rise.
Inside the N50 billion Sunti sugar project
The presence of the President, Mohammadu Buhari, at the commissioning ceremony last week in Niger State spoke volume of the importance of the Sunti sugar project to the Nigerian economy. An initiative of Flour Mills of Nigeria, the sugar production facility is visibly one of the largest agro-allied investments in Nigeria.
Located in Mokwa, Niger state, the Sunti Golden Sugar Estate (SGSE) Limited is a wholly owned subsidiary of Flour Mills and features a sugar factory and cane production allotment. At full capacity the estate and mill will produce about 1,000,000 metric tonnes of cane and 100,000 metric tonnes of sugar annually.
Enclosed within a 35-kilometer dyke, the production facility area is 15,100 hectares, with a cane area that features a maximum output of 10,000 hectares. The dyke provides flood protection from the River Niger. The estate features the state-of-the-art irrigation system that will ensure efficient cultivation of sugar cane, with infrastructure that includes drain pumps, pump stations, and a power grid.
The sugar estate is the purest representation of the Federal Government’s Nigerian Sugar Master Plan which comes with an ambitious backward integration program that intends to set Nigeria on the path to self-sufficient sugar production. At capacity Sunti Golden Sugar Estates will replace about $100 million that Nigeria spends annually importing sugar. Demand for labor created by this project has led to 3,000 currently employed people with a projection of 10,000-strong workforce as development proceeds.
The estate has brought infrastructure benefits to the surrounding community, with 28 communities in total taking advantage of a new 30-kilometer road in addition to expansive road networks that provide a variety of access routes to the homes of the indigenes. Drains, culverts, and flood-protection walls have also been constructed.
The 50-billion-naira investment in Nigeria’s sugar value chain provides a concrete example of the effort to reduce sugar importation, save billions in foreign exchange, boost local capacity, and reduce unemployment by putting thousands of Nigerians to work in the agricultural and industrial sectors, which is very much aligned to President Buhari’s policy thrust and agenda.
Speaking after a tour of the sugar farm, the President said “Projects like the Sunti Sugar Estate are in tandem with the vision and objectives that we set out to achieve when this administration instituted the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP). While, our focus is steadfast on delivering on our policy goals of tackling corruption, improving security and rebuilding the economy; more than ever, government will work in close partnership with businesses to strengthen investments in agriculture, power, manufacturing, solid minerals, and the service sectors”.
The Chairman of Flour Mills of Nigeria Plc. Mr. John G Coumantaros said his organisation’s mantra “Feeding the Nation, Every day,” is at the heart of the company’s strategic decisions on what they produce, how and where factories are set up, the level of care that is put into products, and how they interact with host communities and the wider environment.
The site of the sugar project was acquired and compensation paid to host communities by the then President Shehu Shagari in 1980. Though sugarcanes were produced, they were never processed within the facility. The Federal Government in a privatization exercise sold the investment to an organization who in turn sold it to Flour Mills of Nigeria Plc, the current owners.
The construction of the plant commenced in 2011. The existing plant undertakes pre milling, milling and processing of sugarcane while refining is carried out in Lagos. The site which lies along the banks of River Niger measures 17 hectares out of which 3 hectares have been cultivated with sugarcane to feed the plant. Besides the plant and the farm is the staff quarter which is located closely to the plant.
Speaking on the composition of the facility the plant engineer, Benjamin Chima Alisigwe, talked about the pre milling house, milling house and process house. A digital laboratory ensure quality control. In the pre milling house are the Weigh Bridge, hydraulic grab, silo (offload), chopper, leveler, fiberizer, equalizer and magnetic separator. The mill house consists of mill one to four. At mill four, the finest juice is extracted, by-product as bagasse is separated and sent to the power to power their boiler. Finally, the juice is filter through sand catcher before it is conveyed to the process house.
Dignitaries at the commissioning ceremony included the Niger State governor Abubakar Sani Bello; governor of Kebbi State, Abubakar Atiku Bagudu; CBN Governor, Godwin Emefile and Minister for Trade and Investment, Okechukwu Enalamah. Others were Prof. Jerry Gana; Nigeria’s Ambassador to Greece; Etsu Nupe Yahaya Abubakar and representatives from Dangote group amongst others.
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