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Displaced Cameroonians struggle in Nigeria || By Catherine Wachiaya

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When armed men stormed into the remote village in south-west Cameroon, they took Agah Rachel’s husband, levelled a gun on him and pulled the trigger as she looked on.
As he fell to the ground, the 27-year-old widow knew she had to act fast. She took off with her sons into the surrounding bush with barely enough time to gather any personal belongings.

Frantic to get to safety, she hid out there for days, together with her elder brother and his family. They eventually made it across the border to neighbouring Nigeria.

“Every day and every night, I’m thinking. I’m thinking about the crisis in Cameroon, about my late husband,” says Agah.

Violent clashes between Cameroon’s military and armed separatists have displaced some 437,000 within the country’s borders and forced about 35,000 like Agah to seek safety in Nigeria. The displaced, the majority of whom are women and children, are mostly from English-speaking areas. They face great hardship in both countries.

Having fled with very little, their presence in already impoverished host communities is straining food resources and already limited health, education, water and sanitation facilities in these areas.

UNHCR has launched an urgent appeal to increase support for displaced Cameroonians who have survived nearly two years of ongoing violence. But of the US$184 million required for UNHCR’s operations in Cameroon and Nigeria – including US$35.4 million needed urgently for critical life-saving assistance to newly displaced Cameroonians – just four per cent has been raised.

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Now living in Adagom refugee settlement, Rachel has found safety but is nagged by constant worry over her children’s future.

“For the nine months we have been here, my sons have not gone to school due to the poor school capacity,” she says. “I don’t have any means to cope, I have no source of income.”

Although UNHCR has added extensions to some schools to cater for more students, the numbers are still too high to accommodate them.

Like Rachel, Emmanuel Apusa barely escaped with his life after an attack on his community in Miyerem, close to the border with Nigeria.

“They came to our village and started shooting,” he recalls. “Right now as I speak, there are corpses rotting in the village there.”

He arrived in Nigeria after a grueling three-day trek through the bush, with some neighbours who also managed to escape.

The settlement hosting Emmanuel – one of three refugee sites hosting Cameroonian refugees – has doubled its capacity of 4,000 and currently hosts more than 7,000 refugees. The numbers have further increased as many refugees who previously lived in the host communities have relocated to the settlements since November.

“The situation is desperate,” says Josiah Flomo, the head of UNHCR’s sub office in Ogoja. Lack of funding is severely limiting our ability to adequately meet the people’s needs in almost all the sectors.”

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Flomo adds that pressure on existing facilities including schools, health centers and water points is mounting and current resources are overstretched.

Many of the recent arrivals lack proper shelter. They are accommodated in large reception halls made of plastic sheeting, and even these are full to capacity.

“The situation is not easy for us,” says Emmanuel. “Look at the population here – we cannot sleep inside this hall, so we sleep outside.”

Rachel meanwhile lives in a borrowed tent. However, the conditions are far from ideal as she shares the medium-sized tent with ten people including her own children, her sister-in-law and her children.

“I put a piece of cloth on the ground for my kids and my brother’s kids to lie down,” she explains.

UNHCR is working closely with the Nigerian government to register all new arrivals and provide basic assistance. This includes the harder to reach refugee population living in the host communities in over 47 villages along the border, who make up over 60 per cent of the refugee population.

“Access to refugees in these areas is very challenging because of the time it takes to get there and poor road conditions during the rainy season,” Flomo explains.

To ease the strain on resources, UNHCR plans to put up new shelters for the arrivals and decongest Adagom settlement. Refugees are already being relocated from Adagom to another site, Okende. However, there are fears that – if the crisis in Cameroon continues – more people will become displaced over the coming months and, with the limited resources, UNHCR will not be able to meet their needs.

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“As long as refugees keep arriving, we will need to take care of them,” adds Flomo. “But we need urgent support to help reduce this desperate situation.”

For most of the refugees, including Rachel and Emmanuel, the struggle to cope with life in exile will continue.

“I am suffering. We are suffering,” laments Rachel. “It’s not easy to leave your country to go and suffer in a different country.”

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Makinde flags off construction of ultra-modern local govt service commission secretariat

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Governor of Oyo State, Engineer Seyi Makinde, on Friday, flagged off the construction of the office complex for the Local Government Service Commission and Local Government Pension Board, noting that those opposed to the project would be silenced when they see the outcome.

 

Governor Makinde, who maintained that the state government has commenced a gradual rehabilitation of the secretariat complex which, he said, had been left to degenerate over the years, added that the process would not abate until the entire structure was given the desired face-lift.

 

A statement signed by the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Makinde, Mr. Taiwo Adisa, quoted the governor as saying these while unveiling the 3D design for the office complex.

 

The governor maintained that the idea of the office complex came from the Local Government Service Commission itself, while he also noted that in 11 months when the project would be completed, opposition members criticizing the government would be silenced.

 

He said: “It is my pleasure to be here today to flag off the office complex for the Local Government Service Commission and the Local Government Pension Board.

 

This was not my idea but that of the Permanent Secretary of Local Government Service Commission.

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“We thought we should lay our own foundation and start a campaign of regenerating the secretariat. Oyo State had the opportunity of having the very first modern secretariat then and, several years later, it is still those structures that we keep seeing. They were not even renovating them, they were just painting the exterior, only.

 

“We did not do anything for the 100 days in office of this administration but, much later, we released 15million Naira to each ministry to renovate their offices. And I am glad, indeed, that the Secretariat is wearing a new look, not only from the outside but even from the inside. Renovation work is also going on at the Governor’s Office.

 

“In about 11 months, we will be coming back here to commission the edifice. So, I thank the chairmen and chairpersons of the local government areas and the local council development areas, because everybody came together to buy into the vision. And by that your singular action, we were able to raise a substantial amount that is needed for the construction of this structure.

 

“Where I was coming from, we played a little bit of politics but this is governance. When we initially came up with this idea, some people said we were taking money from the government’s purse. I think they will shut their mouths permanently in another 11 months.

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“I congratulate the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Matters and Local Government Service Commission and Local Government Pension Board. It is your idea and baby and we will support you to see to its completion.”

 

In their separate speeches, the chairman of the Oyo State Local Government Service Commission/Local Government Staff Pension Board, Honourable Aderemi Ayodele, and the secretary of the Nigeria Union of Pensioners, Oyo State Council, Comrade Olusegun Abatan, described the flag off of the office complex as historic.

 

Abatan, who praised Governor Makinde for seeing to the payment of about N5 billion in gratuities to retired workers of Ministries, Departments, Agencies and Parastatals,  said that Makinde’s administration was purposeful.

According to him, the administration has so far paid  N1.98 billion to retirees of primary schools while local government retires have got about N3.2 billion.”

 

While speaking, Ayodele commended Makinde for granting the approval to begin work on the office complex, noting that the governor has restored the glory of the local government service commission and pension board through training and retraining.

 

He said that his commission and its pension board had been tenants in the Water Corporation Building for 40 years without any administration deeming it worthy to construct an office complex.

 

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He further stated that in the last one year, the administration, apart from paying 100 per cent pensions to retirees, has been releasing N274 million monthly for the payment of gratuities of retired Primary School teachers and Local Government staff.

 

He noted that so far, the sum of N3.5 billion has been paid as gratuities to retirees by the administration, noting that the efforts of the Makinde government have culminated in the socio-economic development being witnessed in the state.

 

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COVID-19: SON moves to harmonise locally produced ventilators to meet global standards

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The Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) on Wednessday disclosed that it has begun harmonising the production of ventilators developed across the country to conform with the international standards toward containing COVID-19 pandemic.

SON’s Director-General, Osita Aboloma, made this disclosure in a statement in Lagos, following the unveiling of locally manufactured ventilators produced by Federal Polytechnic, Ilaro in Ogun.

SON’s DG, who was represented  by its Ogun Office 1 Coordinator, Mr Jerome Umoru, was at the unveiling.

SON urged various inventors to ensure compliance with ISO 5080601/2/12/3020 and Medical Electrical Equipment part 11 for clinical care.

He noted that adherence to the standard will ensure ease during the process of conformity assessment and product certification.

He stressed  that the certification of locally produced ventilators, air purifiers and hand sanitiser machines would put the nation in its pride of place globally.

“We are partnering with the institute in ensuring that various machines produced in the country meet the required standards so as not to end up in the shelves,” Aboloma said.

He also added that the standards body of the unification was also aimed at saving the nation’s foreign exchange spent on importation of ventilators to fights against COVID-19.

Aboloma advised private sector investment in such innovations to enable inventors to go through the next stages of clinical trials and obtain the Nigerian Industrial Standard (NIS) mark.

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He reiterated SON’s support toward sustaining local production of essential materials to fight the COVID-19 pandemic through quality assurance.

“In our efforts to address the ongoing pandemic, we have diligently assigned officers to inspect the ventilators and alcohol-based hand sanitisers under production.

“We have one common standard for each product. We want to ensure that what we are producing meets the standard and once it does, we will certify it.

“We will also continue to monitor activities so that they do not rest on their oars in producing quality goods.

“I have presented a copy of the Standard to the Rector of the Federal Polytechnic, Ilaro, and it is the ‘golden rule,” he said.

SON promised that the moment the institute was able to meet the basic parameter on requirements, certification of the innovations would be fast tracked.

“SON is ready to partner with all technical institutions, especially those involved in the production of life saving equipment and materials at this time.

“This is so that their products will meet minimum requirements of the relevant Nigerian Industrial Standards (NIS), and undergo certification under the Mandatory Conformity Assessment Programme (MANCAP) scheme,” he said.

The SON director-general revealed that in no distant time, consumers would be empowered through product authentication scheme to determine the quality and conformance of products at the point of purchase.

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He said that those without necessary certifications would be rejected.

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Just In: Makinde distributes palliatives to persons living with disabilities

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Oyo State governor, Engineer Seyi Makinde on Wednesday distributed palliatives to persons living with disabilities in the state, declaring that his administration will ensure that they are not short-changed in the scheme of things.

The governor, who stated this at the Governor’s Office, Secretariat, Agodi, Ibadan during the distribution of palliatives to PWDs, maintained that pretenders and impersonators will never again be allowed to take what rightly belongs to PWDs in the state.

A statement by the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Makinde, Mr. Taiwo Adisa, indicated that the distribution of palliatives to PWDs is the third phase of the palliatives distribution in the state, with the state having distributed palliatives to 90,000 poorest of the poor households as well as the distribution of seedlings, herbicides, pesticides  and other farm inputs to 10,000 farmers in the first and second phases.

In his speech, the governor reiterated his promise to set up an agency for persons with disabilities, noting that his administration has not forgotten its commitment in that regard.

He added that the agency will be in place before the administration’s second anniversary in office.

He said: “When I walked in here this morning, I thought of the pictures in my archive. We have all met. We have all taken pictures together. So, you are not new to me and I am not new to you. It is just the continuation of the relationship that we started, even before I became the governor of this state.

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“The bottom line is that, before now, we went into the records and we saw that every time you say you are putting up a programme for the people living with disabilities, you only have 20 per cent of the data being correctly presented. About 80 per cent will just be able-bodied people taking benefits that belong to the people living with disabilities. But we have been able to crack that and solve it. So, never again will pretenders or impersonators in Oyo State take what rightly belongs to people with disabilities.

“When we said they should bring names of persons living with disabilities for them to be included in the administration at the local level, some people thought we would not check. So, they brought the names of able-bodied people. We called and asked around and discovered that it was the names of able-bodied people that were submitted. So, we removed their names.

“I want to use this opportunity to thank you for your support during the election and the present administration. We made promises during the electioneering and promised to involve you in every facet of this administration and we are on that path.

“This is the third phase of palliatives distribution. The first stage is for the poorest of the poor amongst us. We distributed palliatives just like this to 90,000 households. Some who are farmers called me and said we should give them seedlings to increase their productivity when they get to their various farms. We listened to them and, in the second phase, we distributed seedlings to the farmers.

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“Now, this is the third phase, which is for the vulnerable within us and it will be for 30,000 households. So, we are flagging it off with yourselves because you are among the vulnerable in our society.”

Governor Makinde, who stated that he was aware that his promise to set up an agency for PWDs has not been fulfilled, said the promise will come to fruition, as he has kept a record of all the promises he made during the electioneering.

He implored the PWDs to continue to adhere to the directives of the Oyo State Task Force on COVID-19.

Speaking in the same vein, the Executive Adviser to the governor on Agribusiness, Dr. Debo Akande, said the event was a reflection of Governor Makinde’s commitment to ensuring equity and equality in the running of the state, adding that with the governor, all citizens and residents of the state are equal.

He maintained that the food security and emergency committee, which is in charge of palliatives distribution, did due diligence to ensure that all persons present at the event had their data checked and clarified.

 

 

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