August 10, 2019

We want the government to put smile on faces of abducted aid workers, Sharibu’s parents — Country Director, ActionAid Nigeria

By  Gabriel  Ewepu

Ene Obi is the Country Director, ActionAid Nigeria, AAN, who has been in the vanguard of championing the course of an egalitarian society, and also a strong advocate on gender based equality, and fight against all forms of injustices.

Obi in this interview expressed her concerns about the situation in the North East as it affects humanitarian services, and also spoke on issues affecting the girl-child, rape, suicide, effective anti-corruption fight and giving all Nigerians sense of belonging.


The issue of girl-child has been on the front burner, which Actionaid Nigeria has been championing to ensure the needful is done in that regard. What do you see the federal and state governments are not doing enough to protect and give the girl-child a sense of belonging?

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The burden here is more about the living conditions and survival of girls in Nigeria and the preferential treatment of boy children in some places. Girls are still being discriminated against in terms of access to educational opportunities, food, and nutrition. In certain places, girls till tomorrow still carry a heavy burden of farm work and housework.

For cultural and religious reasons, girls are married off at early ages, which interfere with their education or acquisition of skills needed for survival. All the archaic beliefs through robust campaign and reorientation must be changed about the value of the girl child. Rapid economic development is dependent upon the elimination of gender bias.

Female education serves as an investment that will help facilitate the achievement of family planning objectives and the production of healthier children. Poor female nutrition contributes to greater vulnerability to disease and to poor physical and mental development. Governments at all levels are urged to have strategic modalities for nutritional improvement for female children and that child labour should be abolished. Early marriage should be outlawed, and parents should be educated about the benefits of later marriage.

A National Children’s Commission (in addition to full implementation of Child Right Act) should be set up for defending the rights of the girl child in an educational, social, cultural, political, and economic context. The Commission should maintain statistics on child survival, and other socioeconomic factors.

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Parents have an important role to play in helping female children achieve the basic necessities of survival and development and in learning about the fundamentals of child development and care. Governments should recruit more teachers who have background Family Life (sex) education and counseling generally. Deliberately, governments must devote more resources to the reduction of the inequalities between boys and girls, change discriminatory laws, establish and increase aid directed to female child survival through counterpart funding.

What is your comment on the recent video footage released by the terrorists who abducted some aid workers, which a female among them spoke about her situation and her colleagues including that of Leah Sharibu?

This is very unfortunate and very sad. The Nigerian government should see that they are released (both male and female) and brought back to their families.

With the development of abducting female aid workers, is ActionAid Nigeria having any plan to pull its female aid workers?

Hazards is everywhere, the level of insecurity is so high right now. ActionAid workers are doing their normal job and making genuine contributions to humanity. What is going on is very unfortunate. The only way to address insecurity is helping to have just and democratic governance to take root devoid of corruption that will release enough funds for state and national development.

What has your organization done and will do to ensure child-marriages and female gentile mutilation are reduced in the country?

ActionAid Nigeria (AAN) is doing so much in this regard. It is a key strategic focus for our existence as an organisation. We have a robust campaign to eradicate the practice because it kills potentials in girls. Not only that, it has sent many of them to their early graves. Some have come down with untold hardship as a result of morbidity induced by child marriage. Interestingly, AAN is the hub and secretariat for the coalition of CSOs working towards the abolition of child marriage and our operations also cover the eradication of female genital cutting and many other traditional harmful practices too.

As an organization that fights for the oppressed and against social injustice what do you think has been obstacles to this corruption fight and what stringent measures can really tackle the monster of corruption in Nigeria?

Some of the challenges in the fight against corruption include lack of a Special Court except for the CCB that has its own tribunal; we do not have special Courts to try EFCC and ICPC cases because of unnecessary delays and adjournments in the usual Courts. A special Court will give speedy trial of corruption leaders and financial crimes cases and can be given justice faster. Lack of Assets Forfeiture Law is another challenge; the Legislature should pass Assets Forfeiture Law quickly.  We also have so many outdated Laws.  The Legislature should be lobbied to amend these obsolete laws in line with modern realities. One of the biggest challenges we also have is the uncooperative foreign stance of other countries: the recovery of laundered money by EFCC from foreign countries is difficult.

Rape has become a big problem coupled with rising cases of suicide, what do you think can be done to arrest the situation?

Though rape is a global phenomenon, the appalling issue of rape has to do with recklessness of the perpetrators, lackluster response of justice administrators and absence of institutional supportive system to help the victims. More worrisome, is that a good number of suspected rapists move freely on the streets after committing the heinous act and should be in jail for life or face castration. Also, is the fact that not much is being done in respect of strengthening our weak laws to incisively deal with the problem.

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What is your message to genuine wealthy Nigerians as poverty and frustration in the country continue to rise?

They need to give back to the society by way of well organised charity work. This will ensure wealth redistribution and reduction of poverty. More people will be lifted out of poverty and case of depression may also reduce. A few of them are trying though, but the rest too should follow suit as governments alone cannot do it.