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As Teen Cultism Monster Threatens Foundation Schools

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As Teen Cultism Monster Threatens Foundation Schools

The menace of cultism which was once confined to Nigerian tertiary institution campuses has no doubt taken a new trend as it has suddenly held sway amongst primary, and secondary school students and on the streets in various communities across the country.

Disturbed by the hitherto dysfunctional basic education system that could not guarantee effective molding of a total child, the immediate past administration led by former governor Akpabio declared an emergency the challenges bedeviling the foundational school system in Akwa Ibom State.

During that period, many poor homes could not afford fees and other sundry charges, forcing parents to withdraw their children to engage in menial jobs such as house-help and street hawking, while trafficking of minors to far-flung places including Rivers, Anuja, and Lagos boom. Some of the female victims were forced to engage in prostitution.

According to Akpabio, “Some of them were even diverted from their initial destination in Lagos State where the trafficker told the parents to either Ekiti or Ondo States, where they were forced to work in cocoa plantation and marijuana farms”.

Others, he added, were trafficked to other countries like Cameroon and Gabon where their parents could not see them again.

“Before I became commissioner and later governor, I was always ashamed that most menial jobs like house boy, house girl, factory workers, and gatemen, were always the exclusive preserve for Okon, Akpan, Effiong, and Ekaette,” he said.

To address this imbalance, according to Akpabio, “I realized that education holds the key”.

He, therefore, launched a massive education intervention scheme targeted at the basic education system from the primary to the Junior Secondary School (JSS) level, as well as subventions to dissuade the students from the distractions of economic factors.

To stave-off abuses and sexual exploitation of the girl-children, Akpabio was quick to send the Executive Bill (Child Rights Act) to the State House of Assembly,  for the law to be domesticated in Akwa Ibom.

Part of the components of the law was to curtail illicit trafficking of children out of Akwa Ibom and to check straying school children, who roam the streets during school hours, checks by our Correspondent revealed.

Parents, according to the law, were to bear the brunt of their children’s misdemeanors as the culprits were to be arrested, and taken to their homes, where their parents could be identified, arrested, and prosecuted in their children’s stead.

One can say that the free education policy enunciated by former governor Godswill Akpabio and sustained by the current administration of governor Udom Emmanuel has come under the vice-grip of insecurity fueled by activities of teen cultists in the state.

Emmanuel, at the point of receiving the power baton in 2015, vowed to sustain the legacy and significantly improved and sustained the legacy with more innovations in skills and entrepreneurial studies.

Reason for upsurge

Fortnight ago one SS2 student was stabbed to death by his senior in SS3 at Community Comprehensive Secondary School, Aka Offot in Uyo, over alleged refusal to join their cult group.

Also, a similar incident of an SS3 student stabbing his junior colleague from SS2 at West Itam Secondary School, it was learnt, has put the security agencies on their toes as “the two cases are still being prosecuted at the State Police Command Headquarters at Ikot Akpanabia”

Other schools affected by the menace of cultism in the state include Ewet Technical School, Uyo High School, Four Towns Secondary, and others.

But LEADERSHIP Weekend investigation revealed that influx of students, even from the neighbouring states, has over time led to over-enrolment and overstretching of the teaching and learning infrastructures.

“Because of the free education policy that is largely tuition-free, people are cashing in on such freedom to over-flood the public schools’ system, especially the secondary school.

“And some gullible principals collect gratifications in form of cash to admit students, especially those on transfers from other schools at will, without proper check on their backgrounds as to why they left their former schools.

“And the result could be seen in formations of outlaw groups with students becoming gangsters and holding the public schools’ system hostage,” a principal-general Monday Jonah noted.

The fear of the menace of cultism, which has crept into the public Primary and Secondary schools system, has compelled some non-state actors to react by expressing worry over the future of those they described as future leaders.

Future of children could be truncated by the menace – CSOs

A non-governmental organisation committed to good governance, social protection and environmental justice in Niger Delta has expressed fears concerning the future of the young ones.

Speaking in an interview with LEADERSHIP Weekend, the executive director of the Network Advancement Programme for Poverty and Disaster Risk Reduction (NAPPDFR) Alhaji Al Mustapha Emem Edoho lamented that the future of the children could be truncated by the menace.

He stressed the need for strong political will to address the scourge.

Edoho, who spoke amid the incessant killings and violence among students in the state capital, noted that “these ugly developments, have the potential of making nonsense of the free and compulsory education policy of the government at the basic schools’ system.”

He, however, advocated for a holistic action plan to tackle the problem, noting that “most of these petty crimes are fueled by drug abuse”.

 

Police reacts

The Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Supol Odiko Macdon noted that the police has zero tolerance for crimes and whoever is apprehended engaging in any form of crime will be made to face the full weight of the law no matter the age.

Reacting to the recent developments, he said nobody has the right to take the life of another.

He said: “Early exposure of the children to drugs and other dangerous substances has negative multiplier effects among pupils in an enclosed cluster like the school system.

“The government has a duty not only to provide free and compulsory education for the Students but should be able to provide an effective monitoring process to ensure its functionality.

“The Ministry of Education led by the  Commissioner, Mrs. Idongesit Etiebet, should set up an educational Task Force to monitor, especially the notorious schools, partner with the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) to rid the schools and surrounding environments of drug peddlers and illicit drinks’ sellers.

“Anti Drugs Club and other academic associations should be made compulsory for all students and pupils to belong in order to engage them properly.”

 

Stakeholders identify root causes of menace, seek solution

Disturbed by the problem, governor Udom Emmanuel has placed a ban on no fewer than 64 identified cult groups operating in the state. He also directed the Inter-Ministerial Agency to erect perimeter fences to secure most of the metropolitan schools affected by the cult’s menace.

Besides, Emmanuel warned parents to monitor their children and wards through effective guidance and counseling to shun the evil of cultism.

To effectively address the menace, the State Secondary Education Board (SSEB) summoned education stakeholders drawn from the three Senatorial Districts of Uyo, Ikot Ekpene, and Eket, along with the students across Secondary Schools in the State for a three-day meeting on security infractions threatening the basic system tagged: ‘Insecurity in Public Secondary Schools’.

Permanent secretary Ministry of Education Mr. Asuquo Selong Edem and other stakeholders, who deliberated on the problem, were drawn from the State chapters of the Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT); Parents Teachers Association (PTA); National Parents Teachers Association of Nigeria (NAPTAN), State Secondary Education Board (SSEB), Government officials, educational administrators, and Traditional Rulers.

The conferees, who addressed the forum, mostly heaped the blame on parents and faulted their inability to instill good moral upbringing at home before sending their children and wards to imbibe complimentary learning in an enclosed educational environment.

The Commissioner for Education, Mrs. Idongesit Etiebet noted that governor Emmanuel had massively intervened to address challenges of infrastructure in the sector including perimeter fencing to ward off miscreants and cultists in the habit of degrading the free education policy.

But regretted that “it is appalling that all forms of intra-schools riots, rape, and other vices have combined to bug down the development of the system”.

“No system can survive with insecurity”, she stressed and called for all hands to be on the deck to tackle the menace.

He recalled a specific case of rape of a JS 3 student, chaos by students that led to the closure of some schools, and urged parents to be “security managers” including formations of functional PTAs to be able to confront the menace headlong.

In the same vein, Secretary to the State Government, Dr Emmanuel Ekeuwem, who declared the meeting open, pointed out that “high level of insecurity prevails in our public School system”, and urged parents and other stakeholders to be in the vanguard of addressing the scourge”.

The Chairman of NUT, Comrade Edet Emenyi, also blamed some parents for always looking the other way, while their children and wards thrive in irresponsible life of vices, especially toeing the line of cultism because of peer pressure.

Besides, he accused some of the teachers of belonging to occult groups and other secret confraternities, thereby becoming hamstrung to instill good moral values in the children.

“The parents have abandoned their responsibility in bringing up the chicken in a moral way. Children, who are not properly trained will become vagabonds at home and in society,” he warned.

Calling on the government to sanitize the system, Emenyi pointed out that “most of the teachers are cultists too. I would like the government to arrest the situation.”

“Government has been doing well in terms of security in the school by providing perimeter fencing and other educational facilities. Education is capital intensive, therefore, parents and the PTAs should rise to complement,” she stressed.

The NDLEA State Commander Mrs. Obot Bassey lamented that early exposure of students to drugs pushes the students into cultism.

She urged parents and guardians, community leaders, school management, churches, and other stakeholders to effectively monitor and tutor the young ones on the evil of drug abuse, which she noted, always give rise to their involvement in crimes including rape and cultism.

The Paramount Ruler of Uyo, Edidem Sylvanus Okon, noted that the trends of cultism among students have assumed a new and dangerous dimension, especially in some notorious schools in the metropolis, including the Ewet Technical College and Uyo High School, where cults’ rivalries have often led to fierce and bloody confrontations.

He identified poor parental care as the major driving force stoking restiveness among the young ones in basic schools.

The Paramount Ruler charged teachers to “always bring the non-conformists to the Traditional Rulers Council (TRC) for proper disciplinary action”.

A communique at the end of the last leg of the conference that captured the recommendations on how to address the security challenges confronting the Akwa Ibom public Schools system,  stressed the for all stakeholders, government, parents, schools’ management, and teachers to be in the vanguard of maintaining sustaining the free education policy to safeguard the future of the leaders of tomorrow.

 

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JUST-IN: Buhari’s Nephew Dumps APC

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JUST-IN: Buhari's Nephew Dumps APC

A lawmaker representing Daura/Sandamu/Mai’Adua federal constituency in the House of Representatives, Hon. Fatuhu Muhammed, has dumped the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

 

The lawmaker, who is a nephew to President Muhammadu Buhari, resigned his membership of the party, stating that he ceased to be a member of the APC effective July 15, 2022.

 

The lawmaker’s decision was contained in letter dated July 13, 2022 and addressed to the APC chairman in Sarkin Yara A Ward of Daura local government area of Katsina State.

 

“This is to notify you that I have resigned my membership from the All Progressives Congress (APC) with immediate effect commencing from Wednesday the 13th day ofJuly 2022. Attached herewith is my party Membership Registration Slip with slip No. KT/DRA/10/00002.

 

“While I thank you and the party for the opportunity given to me to serve the interest of the people of Daura/Sandamu/Mai’Adua Federal Constituency while working with the party, accept my best wishes please,” the lawmaker said.

 

LEADERSHIP gathered that the lawmaker might be planning to join the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), even though he was yet to make public a next choice of political party.

 

Recall that earlier in June this year, Hon. Fatuhu decried alleged manipulation of the APC primary election in his constituency, where he alleged change of the delegates’ list, a development he blamed for losing a re-election ticket.

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‘What Kaduna Has Spent On Students’ Scholarship’

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‘What Kaduna Has Spent On Students’ Scholarship’

Kaduna State Scholarship and Loans Board has been giving scholarships to students to study abroad for almost two years now. Why did it take so long to commence the award to students studying in Nigerian tertiary institutions?

I think it is not a case of it taking so long. Between April 2019 and February 2021, we gave out local scholarships to 6,858 students as bursary and we disbursed N675.17 million and each of these students got N109,000. But in February 2021 to March 2021, we suspended bursary and we decided to replace it with Need-Based Scholarship. With bursary, we didn’t have a means of identifying the indigent status of students. So, it was an all-comers affair. It is the policy of Kaduna State Government to award scholarships based on merit and need. The award of Merit-Based Scholarship is straightforward, we give students based on their academic performance. But with the bursary, it was just going to everybody who applied, passed the essay, irrespective of the student’s capacity and capability to pay. That was why we suspended it in March. So, we now decided to come up with the Need and Merit-Based Scholarship modules and government directed that we should come up with a guideline of processing and accessing scholarship.

Before now, awarding scholarship was at the discretion of the Executive Secretary and senior government officials. So, it was necessary to have a standard guideline. I can tell you that we are now the only scholarship board that has an elaborate guideline, where applications have to go through a lot of administrative processes.

 

How are beneficiaries selected for both the Merit Based and Need Based Scholarship modules?

With the Merit Based Scholarship, we did a pilot flag off, we wrote to our state tertiary institutions to give us a list of their merit students who have the minimum GPA of 4.0. We then worked with Social Investment office to access the state social register. The register has about two million people that have been adjudged to be indigent. It is the go-to data, we integrated it into our data base. So, when a student applies with his National Identification Number (NIN), the first thing that the system does is to check if he is on the social register. Once his name is there, the system automatically takes the name of the student to verify if he is a student and he gets paid. But if you are not on the social register and you are applying for a Need Based Scholarship, we will ask you to submit tax documents for economic evaluation, to be able to determine your indigence. But if you are a merit student, it is just your academic record; any student in any Nigerian tertiary institution, that has 4.0 upwards should apply.

So, a lot of students applied but we suspended the process because we needed to come out with a standard guideline that will be the unifier of processing scholarship. And now that has happened. We suspended scholarship award until this time. Now, that we have it, by August we will continue. We have already collated state own tertiary institutions and this payment will start. We have N520 and something million on ground. We are already paying N219 million to state own tertiary institutions and the balance is available for every resident that applies and he is qualified.

 

A cursory look at the beneficiaries of those who were given cheques on July 20 suggests that only students from Kaduna state owned tertiary institutions were awarded scholarships. Is my assumption correct? If so, when will students from other institutions benefit?

That is not correct because the 6,858 that I told you cut across every institution in the country that applied. But in this new scheme, we started with state owned tertiary institutions but it does not end there. So, every student can apply but the only difference is the bursary that we were giving out before and the scholarship that we give now. One, in the latter, you have to show that you are indigent in your economic evaluation. Two, unlike when we were paying students N109, 000 per session, this time we are going to pay their tuition fees till graduation. Then three, unlike before that we were paying the money to the students, and we had situations where some diverted the money, now this money will go directly to the schools. So, these are some of the highlighted changes that differentiates the Need Based Scholarship from the bursary. So, it is a better one. With bursary, you apply this year and there is the tendency that you may not get it next year.

Like these 1,251 students that have been earmarked to be paid, their money is going to be paid till graduation. The only reason that we will withdraw it is if they fall below the acceptable GPA—for merit is 4.0 and for Need Based Scholarship it is 2.5. Once you step down, we will withdraw the scholarship.

 

Government is a continuum, why is Kaduna State Government in a hurry to pay the tuition fees of students on scholarship, till their graduation?

Yes, government is a continuum but Malam Nasir El-Rufai, the Executive Governor of Kaduna state, has given a clear directive that he wants to pay every tuition fee to the institutions before he leaves this government. He says that he doesn’t want to have any burden of raising the hopes and aspirations of students and getting them dashed under any circumstance. Yes, he believes that government is a continuum but we should help the students and even the incoming government, to at least take this off their shoulders.

 

The Board has been giving out scholarships to undergraduates and post graduate students in the last two years. Can you give a figure as to how many have benefited so far and how much has been expended?

With the foreign scholarship for example, at every point in time, we have over 120 students outside the country – as this set graduates, another comes on board. But at every point in time, you have this number. Those that went in September 2021 and came back, they are currently doing their internship for two years, for Kaduna State Government. And we are posting a lot of them to tertiary institutions so that they can give back by also teaching students. The essence of spending huge amounts of money on them is to allow them study courses that are not available in Nigeria or those that are in short supply.

We have disbursed over N819.79 million as loans to people to finance their education. N2 billion was on ground and out of that, over N800 million has been disbursed to about 509 beneficiaries. This loan gives opportunity for parents to be able to finance their children’s education and pay back over a period of time, especially parents whose children are in institutions that school fees have been increased. Or even parents that sent their children outside the country and got stuck financially, they can access the loan. So, with about 509 beneficiaries, it is also funds that have been unlocked for the purpose of education financing in Kaduna state.

N675.18 million was disbursed from April 2019 to February 2021, to 6,858 students as bursary. Another N524.13 million has been cash backed for payment of merit and need based scholarships in 2022. Tuition fees will be paid directly to schools.   Kaduna State University will be paid N158.53 million for 755 students, Kaduna State College of Education, Gidan Waya will receive N33.45 million for 317 students and Nuhu Bamalli Polytechnic will receive N27.6 million for 179 students. The remaining funds will be spent on Kaduna state students across the country. From 2020 to date, over N1.5 billion has been expended on foreign scholarships. N2 billion was set aside for students’ loans and N819.79 million has been disbursed to 509 beneficiaries. So, over all, over N3 billion has gone into scholarship and over N800 million has been spent on loans. Government has expended up to N4 billion in financial intervention to scholarship. This is unprecedented.

 

How is your Board able to determine that an applicant is a citizen of Kaduna state?

For us, it is not about citizenship; it is about residency. So, even if your state of origin is Kaduna state and you are not resident in Kaduna state, you cannot benefit from the scholarship award. So, it is only for residents and they can come from wherever as long as they are residents and as long as they have stayed a certain minimum number of years in Kaduna, they are residents. We have people like Opeyemi and Co that are in the UK and government is paying their school fees because they are qualified and were residents of Kaduna state.

 

Is it correct to say that one of the conditions attached to sponsorship abroad is that beneficiaries will spend two years teaching in Kaduna state when they complete their studies?

Yes, they will spend two years giving back to community as the government deems fit. Some of them will teach, others will work in our Ministries, Departments and Agencies. They will need to identify a transformational project that they will execute. They went to study abroad and they have learnt best practices and everything. So, they learnt new things. So, they are expected to identify a gap in wherever we post them to. And together with the MDA, Scholarship Board and the beneficiaries, we will agree on one particular project that each one will embark on within the period of those two years. So, that is their contribution to the development of the society.

 

SCHOLARSHIP Facts

-N675.17 million was disbursed from April 2019 to February 2021, to 6,858 students as bursary;

-Another N525 million has been cash backed for payment for Merit Based students in 2022;

-From 2020 to 2021 date, over N1.5 billion has been expended on foreign scholarships;

-N2 billion was set aside for students’ loans and N819.79 million has been disbursed to 509 beneficiaries.

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Rolling Back Malaria With Nets

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Rolling Back Malaria With Nets

The statistics are scary and they point to some kind of national health emergency. One in every four malaria patients in the world lives in Nigeria and one out of four global malaria-related deaths is recorded in this country. According to the latest World Malaria Report, “four African countries accounted for just over half of all malaria deaths worldwide: Nigeria (31.9 per cent), Democratic Republic of the Congo (13.2 per cent), United Republic of Tanzania (4.1 per cent) and Mozambique (3.8 per cent).’’

Approximately, this translates to 200,000 deaths in 2021 and over 60 million people are infected by the disease yearly. In addition, an estimated US$1.1 billion is lost yearly due to malaria related absenteeism and productivity losses according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Besides, the disease is responsible for high death rate among under-five children and pregnant women.

The casualty figures, rate of infection and loss of man-hours and financial resources to malaria are quite huge and the government has been battling the disease. Over the years, there have been several campaigns to stop the spread of malaria, such as the Zero Malaria Campaign, Roll Back Malaria Campaign, all advocating for the use of Insecticide-Treated Nets.

On July 6, Governor Nasir El-Rufai flagged off the distribution of over five million nets in Kaduna state. The governor had admonished recipients not just to collect the nets but to sleep inside them. As a practical demonstration, His Excellency and his wife, Arch Hadiza Isma El-Rufai, lied down in an Insecticide Treated Net during the flag off. After the event, Ministry officials, Development Partner and 10,000 adhoc staff went out to the nooks and cranny of Kaduna state and distributed nets in all the 23 local governments.

In addition, the Team interacted with journalists on how to use the nets and the behavioral changes that are necessary to keep malaria at bay. Specifically, they paid advocacy visit to the Special Adviser to the Governor on Media and Communication, Mr Muyiwa Adekeye, on July 20, where members of the Team highlighted their successes and challenges. Led by Dr. Hajara Kera, the Director for Public Health in the Ministry of Health, the Team gladly said that Kaduna state has almost completed the distribution of these treated mosquito nets as at July 19,2022, having distributed 92% of the 4.5million. Dr Kera disclosed that the distribution of nets was not a one-off intervention of Kaduna State Government, towards battling malaria. According to her, the Ministry of Health has been undertaking seasonal malaria chemoprevention campaigns for targeted children in the state, early diagnosis and treatment of uncomplicated malaria and management of severe ones.

In fact, during the flag off, the Commissioner of Health, Dr. Amina Mohammed Baloni, was more elaborate about government’s efforts towards the fight against malaria. She said that Kaduna state has built a robust partnership with international and national donor organizations, and it is also one of the 13 Global Fund (GF) supported states in Nigeria for the elimination of malaria. Besides, the state has also achieved 68% refill rate order for all antimalarial commodities and there has been a reduction of malaria test positivity rates from 60.3% in 2020 to 37.2% in 2021. In addition to these, through its Health Supplies Management Agency, KDSG has procured anti-malaria commodities worth about N300 million, as part of its commitment to the counterpart fund obligation to the State Malaria Elimination Programme of about N900million.

Significantly, other Ministries, Departments and Agencies are collaborating with Ministry of Health, according to Dr Baloni, to end malaria in Kaduna state. In this regard, the Ministry of Public Works and Infrastructure is also supporting the campaign to end malaria, by completing and clearing drainages along roads to reduce the breeding sites of mosquitoes in communities.

However, the fight against malaria is largely in our hands, especially if we adhere to basic hygiene, clear our environment of stagnant water where mosquitoes lay their eggs and above all, sleep in Insecticide Treated Nets. According to statistics, nets ownership has risen to 80% but only 30% of those who collect the nets actually sleep in them. This has to change.

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