Gifty Nuako has just turned 18, an age when a young person stands on the threshold of life. Instead, her future looks bleak.
Last December, she became pregnant — “a mistake,” she says in a whisper.
She wanted to have an abortion, but her boyfriend’s family refused.
Today, in the back streets of Jamestown, one of the poorest neighbourhoods in the Ghanaian capital Accra, the teenager hides her barely rounded stomach under a long skirt and scarves.
“Now I can’t work, I can’t go back to school. I don’t know what to do any more,” she said.
Unwanted teenage pregnancy is a major problem in Ghana, simultaneously disempowering girls and entrenching them in poverty, say campaigners.
Activists estimate that nearly one woman in seven in the country becomes pregnant before the age of 19.
And, they say, anecdotal evidence suggests the numbers soared last year after the authorities closed schools to help curb the spread of Covid.
“Schools were a form of protection,” said Sarah Lotus Asare, who volunteers with disadvantaged teenage girls.
The schools also gave a sense of purpose to many girls — a crucial compass point that was taken away when education was shut down.
“Many found themselves idle, without adults to supervise them,” she said.
Classes reopened in mid-January after a 10-month closure — one of the world’s longest continuous educational shutdowns prompted by the coronavirus crisis.
– Contraception –
While teenage sexual activity increased during the school shutdown, the vast majority of girls in Ghana do not have access to birth control.
According to a study by the Ghana Health Service in 2020, only 18.6 percent of sexually active adolescents use contraception.
Often, abortion is not an option either.
In this conservative and religious country, pregnancy termination is illegal except in cases of rape, incest, foetal impairment or danger to the mother’s physical or mental health.
Ghana’s lack of sex education is also a problem, said Esi Prah, a member of the NGO Marie Stopes, which works with the government to develop family planning.
“The sexuality of young girls is still stigmatised here,” she said.
“Ghanaians in general are rather hostile to the idea of sex education. There is a tendency to think that it encourages sex between teenagers and that the best contraception is abstinence.”
In 2019, an attempt by the government and the United Nations to implement a sex education programme sparked an uproar.
The initiative was attacked by conservative and religious groups, who denounced a “satanic” attempt to promote “LGBT values”. The programme was ultimately abandoned.
– Poverty roots –
Poverty is a cause of unwanted teen pregnancies, and unwanted teen pregnancies become a cause of poverty, say, campaigners
Forty-six per cent of Ghana’s population was already living below the poverty line in 2017, and last year the pandemic plunged the country into recession.
“Some parents cannot take care of their children,” said Theophilus Isaac Quaye, a local elected official in the district of Chorkor, south of Accra.
“And then their daughters are forced to follow men who offered them money. This is not their fault. In order for them to survive, they have to follow these men.”
“The major reason for girls getting pregnant, it’s poverty,” Asare said.
School regulations do not formally prohibit young mothers from returning to school after childbirth, but in reality, it is very rare for them to return.
Fearing stigma or needing to support themselves, most teenage mothers quit their studies and find work.
Lacking qualifications, they often take up menial jobs and thus find themselves even deeper in the poverty rut.
“When you get pregnant, you realise the situation becomes worse,” said Asare.
“You couldn’t support yourself and now you have another mouth to feed.”
Obaseki raises alarm over Nigeria’s rising debt profile
Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo state on Wednesday raised an alarm over the country’s rising debt profile, stressing that the situation is more critical now because of the huge amount borrowed to service the ailing economy.
The governor raised the alarm during a meeting with the Transition Committee members at the Government House in Benin City, the Edo State capital.
Obaseki also observed that the major oil giants like Chevron and Shell no longer invest so much oil as was obtainable in the past.
The investment banker further noted that Chevron is now one of the world’s investors in alternative fuel, just as he disclosed that Shell intends to pull out of Nigeria.
According to him, “In another year or so, where will we find this money that we go to Abuja to share every month? Last month, we got FAAC for March. The Federal Government printed an additional ₦50 to ₦60 billion to top-up for us to share.
“We say remove subsidy, they say no. This April, next week again, we will go to Abuja and share. By the end of this year, the total borrowing is going to be in excess of ₦15 to ₦16 trillion.
“My worry is that we will wake up one day like Argentina, the naira will be ₦1,000, ₦2,000 and will be moving because we don’t have money coming in. You are just borrowing, borrowing and borrowing without any means or idea of how to pay back”, he added.
UK Medical Trip: Buhari needs not transmit power to Vice President Osinbajo, Presidency insists
The Presidency on Tuesday insisted that it is unnecessary for President Muhammadu Buhari to transmit power to the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo.
The Senior Special Assistant to President Buhari on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, stated this while featuring on Channels Television’s Politics Today.
President Buhari had earlier departed the Presidential Villa for the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja at about 2:30pm after which he proceeded to London for a routine medical check-up.
Speaking further, Garba argued that President Buhari has not contravened the laws of the land by not transmitting power to Vice President Osinbajo while away from the country for a number of days.
According to him, “Buhari will continue from wherever he is,” Shehu argued when asked if the President had transferred duties to the vice president.
“The requirement of the law is that the President is going to be absent in the country for 21 days and more, then that transmission is warranted. In this particular instance, it is not warranted”, he continued.
The Presidency had also informed that the President was expected back in the country in the second week of April.
Army Recruitment: I mentioned 50 Million youths in error, Tinubu clears the air
National Leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC),Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu has informed that he made an error while calling for more youths to be drafted into the Nigerian Army in a bid to adequately tackle the nation’s security challenges.
While advocating for national employment and giving an inference for a security policy that could stem the tides of insurgency, Tinubu asked the Federal Government to recruit 50 million youths into the Nigerian Army.
The former governor of Lagos state while addressing guests on Monday at the 12th colloquium organised in his honour, he noted that the recruitment move will help restore peace within troubled regions and stop miscreants from recruiting young people to do their biddings.
Tinubu has however stated on Tuesday that contrary to comments made at the colloquium in Kano where his 69th birthday was celebrated, his intended recommendation was to have fifty thousand (50,000) youths recruited into various national security agencies, including the Nigeria Police Force and the Nigerian Army.
According to a communique issued by his media aide , Tunde Rahman, “Asiwaju seeks the expansion of security personnel by 50,000 for the armed forces, not the N50 million that was mentioned in error. It was an accidental verbal mistake of which we all commit from time to time especially when reciting a series of large numerical figures.
“He did not mean N50 million, which is almost a quarter of our total population.
The crucial matter is that Asiwaju rightly observed that such strong recruitment would serve the twin-purpose of helping to tackle unemployment while at the same time enhancing the security of every Nigerian.
“Please forgive any confusion due to this innocent error. The most vital thing is that he set forth a wise and timely approach that would help us face two of today’s stiffest challenges.
“It is in the spirit that we hope you view and assess his proposal for it seeks to provide a way for more youths to participate in building a greater, safer and more prosperous country”, the communique added.
It also noted that the APC chieftain canvassed the urgent need to combine employment and national security policy by the recruitment of 5 million youths in all aspects of nation-building, ranging from infrastructural development to agricultural modernization.
Tinubu,as contained in the statement believes the more job opportunities are presented to youths, the less some of them will be tempted to delve into illegal and dangerous activities.
As part of this overall approach, the former Senator believes that eligible youths should be recruited into the armed forces, police and other security agencies to augment the functional capacity of Nigeria’s security apparatus, thus ensuring the better security and safety of the people.