As 158 children gets brand new accommodation, school building
EU Ambassador, Isopi commissions Complex
Promises to support in fight against maternal, infant mortality
By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuj
With strong resolve to give vulnerable Nigerians social justice and hope, ActionAid Nigeria, AAN, Friday, handed over N141, 719, 721.49 to Vine Heritage Home, VHH, in Gwagwalada area of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, to give succour to children who survived infanticide.
Speaking during the handing over ceremony, the Country Director, AAN, Ene Obi, said the former place the children were kept in Kuje area of Abuja, became to congested, as the number of survivors increased including those of them growing up, the project was conceived to enhance the issues of hygiene, proximity to their school, and better nutrition pending when they will be reunited with their families.
She also disclosed that the European Union, EU, supported and funded the project, and also did groundbreaking for the project to commence in 2020.
She said 57 communities practice infanticide in Abuja Municipal Area Council, Abaji, Kuje, Kwali, and Gwagwalada of the FCT, which they believed that children born as twin or multiple-birth, babies who grew upper teeth, those born as albinos, with birth defects, those whose mother died during or after delivery are labeled evil and must be killed, and they really killed them, but all shrouded in secrecy on the alter of twins as they called it.
The facilities at the complex include a storey-building dormitory, an auditorium, a block of classrooms, water supply facility, a perimeter fence, a wash area, and others.
But still need donations from well-spirited Nigerians and organizations to help with furniture, bed and beddings, babies’ milk/infant formula 123, foodstuff, laundry soap, petroleum jelly, toiletries, diapers, sanitary pads, clothing, footwear, school sandals, school uniforms, kitchen cabinets, bookshelves, medical support, kindergarten learning aids, generator plant,solar system, gatehouse, CCTV cameras, books, electricity, a Coaster bus, and others.
She said: “Since 1996, Vine Heritage Home, VHH, has been a haven of survivors of infanticide, as of 2019, when we began Mobilising Actions Towards \ the Abolition of Infanticide in the FCT (MATAI), projected funded by the Europena Commission, EU.
“The goal of MATAI project is to contribute to the protection and promotion of rights of children in Nigeria. To achieve this, we ensured the implementation and monitoring of existing legal and policy frameworks that address infanticide practices in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
“We also raised awareness in the FCT on infanticide practices, especially among practising communities. Finally, we also established mechanisms to safeguard unborn babies and infants susceptible to being victims of infanticide, as well as those that are currently ostracized at the VHH.
“This is the reason we are here today! Vine Heritage Home (VHH) has been rescuing these children, and 158 of them currently reside at VHH in Kuje, Abuja. Following the assessment that the current living space is not conducive for the children and their caregivers, ActionAid Nigeria, with funding from the European Union and support from a few corporates and individuals, built this new Complex for the benefit of the children; to enhance hygiene, proximity to school and better nutrition. Compared to the former Home, this new complex consists of a school, dormitory, play area, cottage farm, and washrooms, to mention a few.
“ActionAid Nigeria is delighted to officially hand over the New Vine Heritage Complex to the VHH children and their caregivers today. Indeed, the journey of a thousand miles starts in a day, and the journey of constructing this home began on the 6th of February 2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic, when the former EU Ambassador visited this site to carry out the ground-breaking ceremony to flag off the construction of the complex.
“The building was completed within two years regardless of the pandemic and its after-effects which include inflation that heightened the prices of construction materials, to mention a few. During the construction, the other challenges we faced were security concerns in the hinterlands and accessibility to the site and project communities during the rainy season.
“For transparency and accountability purposes, the total amount expended on building this new VHH complex is estimated at NGN141,719,721.49.”
According to her, “Out of which the EU provided NGN80,000,000 and ActionAid also contributed NGN50,644,921. By way of Corporate Social Responsibility, NGN4,574,800 was donated by AIICO insurance, NGN2.1million by Tangerine Africa, NGN2.2million by ADUVIE International School, NGN200,000 by Hawthorne Suite, NGN500,000 by Yaliam Press and a total of estimated NGN1.5million was received from individual donations through ActionAid’s Community Sponsorship Initiative.
“In addition, ActionAid staff also contributed NGN300,000 which was used to purchase a vegetable farmland nearby.
“We specially want to acknowledge the caregivers at the VHH, the visioners, Pastor Stevens Olusola Ajayi, his wife, Dr. Mrs. Chinwe Stevens and the entire staff for their resilience and commitment to humanity by doing the right things despite the odds. Today’s landmark achievement is just a step forward in the fight to end infanticide in Abuja and Nigeria; there is still a lot more to be done.”
However, she pointed that there were challenges but through it all, AAN was able to surmount the challenges.
She also mentioned some other achievements with the MATAI Project, which included; the set-up, training and strengthening of child protection structure at the community and LGA levels to handle issues bordering on the welfare of children; a mechanism for safeguarding children in the communities and those currently ostracised at VHH was also created by raising awareness on the availability of legal instruments that promote the rights of children; social development officers from the 5 focal area councils were trained on the enforcement of the existing laws, case management and the projection of the voices of the VHH children through the participation of four of them at the FCT Children Parliament.
However, according to the Country Director, the MATAI project will officially close out by June 2022, but assured that AAN will not to leave the VHH.
On securing the lives of children and the facility, she said, “All of these things we have done are with the Area Councils. We will continue to work with the police and other security agents to protect the children and the facility.”
Meanwhile, the Head of the European Union, EU, Delegation to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Ambassador Samuela Isopi, who commissioned the Complex, said, “Today is our day of joy, I don’t see a better way to celebrate Children’s Day in Nigeria and that is why we are here today. From our side we are saying that you cannot deny children from their basic rights to life.
“And I am very glad European Union is ready to support the project which is about construction about the complex for this children that was abandoned but is also project to be for the communities and government agencies, stakeholders; community leaders to try to put an end to those practices.
“I congratulate them for the results they have achieved, and this is a dream come through, your dream and our dream may be in a few years is that there will be no need for this fund, and children will be with their families.”
She also made it known that, “The European Union, we just launched our new programme for the next seven years and of course human development for the very first time is one of the pillars of our programmes, and we will fight this back this to a halt to reduce maternal mortality which is in Nigeria, and also the second which is basic education, and we will continue to work together on this two issues.”
The visioner, VHH, Pastor Stevens Olusola Ajayi, said, “I don’t call my children underprivileged but I call them over-privileged children because the privileges they have today I did not have it when I was growing up.
“So God gave me the privilege to bring them up from being killed to where they are today.
“I want to appeal to communities and other persons in Nigeria, some communities children have been badly treated. No child is evil, no child is a witch, God called them His heritage to humanity.
“So this project, the ripple effect of it will reach other communities in Nigeria where this is going on.”