If indications from two separate but related events that were held last December are anything to go by, then one of Nigeria’s most vulnerable groups may be on the verge of experiencing better times. The events, hosted in two separate states/regions and separated by a 20-day interval, held at a time when self-splurging by many young Nigerians was at octane levels, and saw young men and women behind an NGO that caters to the welfare of underprivileged widows and their vulnerable children, passionately putting the widows’ needs above their wants.
The NGO, CBA Foundation, its dedicated and passionate staff, supporters and donors came out in their numbers on two dedicated days in December to give widows in selected communities in Lagos and Anambra a treat during the festive season. The Lagos outreach benefitted, in a unique way, widows in six communities in Ibeju-Lekki, namely: Badore, Iberekodo, Museyo, Magbon Alade, Okunola Ilado and Magbon Iga.
CBA Foundation seized the opportunity of the outreach to launch a new initiative it tagged Social Enterprise Initiative. The Initiative, which is aimed at ensuring the long-term sustainability of all efforts to protect and promote the welfare of widows as well as their children, is to cater to the financial, mental and physical health needs of beneficiaries. The Initiative is to provide comprehensive support, including health interventions, skill acquisition, business set-up, food and drinks, clothes and shoes, and general support for all affected widows.
The Founder/CEO of CBA Foundation, Mrs Chinwe Bode-Akinwande explained the reason for the Foundation’s shift to the new Initiative: “We have been doing outreaches and it has been non-stop, but the essence of this Social Enterprise Initiative is for the widows to have something that will sustain them even for a longer period, something that will give them hope, knowing that they have a sustainable source of livelihood and activities that remind them that they need to keep going.”
Continuing, she reveals when the idea for the new initiative began: “When the lockdown came last year , we realised that there was a need again to have something sustainable for these women. With the Social Enterprise Initiative, we identify the skills they need to possess, and what they are passionate about, we also empower them with the necessary training and then set them up with all they need for the business. At the end of the day, they won’t have to wait daily for the CBA Foundation to give them food or clothing.”
Mrs Bode-Akinwande noted that the Initiative had been informed by a rigorous analysis of the data in their database, gathered over the years on widows whom they have reached out to and the support they have been receiving from both individual and corporate donors. She said that they had dimensioned all the critical issues from widows with critical needs, where the Foundation needed to begin its interventions, to widows who needed to be set up in business and to several widows’ children who needed to be reinstated back in school.
She also remarked that plans were underway at the Foundation to take the skills acquisition training further, beginning with adire-making (tie and dye). She announced that the Foundation would have a line of products that would be its adire pattern, displaying its unique signature. When sold, a percentage of the profit would be ploughed back into the Foundation as a constant stream of income.
The idea, the Foundation CEO stressed, would inspire the widows who show a keen interest in adire-making as they would be involved and exposed to its value chain which is essential to optimising their execution after their training. So, the adire-making training followed with tutorials on the step-by-step processes involved in it, materials needed and how to identify them, necessary safety precautions, various tie and dye techniques, packaging and distribution and how to make a living from adire-making.
For widows with impaired vision at the event, they were able to have free consultations with an ophthalmologist, get free eye tests and free reading glasses, courtesy of a partnership between FirstBank and Vision Spring. What followed when beneficiaries had the free reading glasses fitted and could see clearly were scenes similar to ones where people had experienced supernatural miracles. The ecstatic joy was palpable.
Take 59-year-old Hassanat Oyewunmi, for example. Tears of joy rolled freely from her eyes as she remarked that her farsightedness challenge had been addressed. She confessed excitedly that she felt “better, much better now with the glasses, and I can even see everyone clearly. It is good to know that we are not forgotten.”
Olabode Sadiat, 62, could not contain her joy as she wore her glasses and pointed in the distance, while indicating that she could see everything in her line of sight. She had suffered from a blurry vision that made reading her Bible difficult. “Nothing is more painful than not being able to read your Bible,” she had noted following the medical intervention.
The widows also received food, drinks, clothing and other materials that were distributed during the outreach. They were also given a final charge by Mrs Bode-Akinwande in which she reminded them that they were not alone and could always count on the support of the CBA Foundation.
In all, 165 widows across the six communities of Ibeju-Lekki benefitted on 4th December 2021 when the Lagos outreach was held. The Anambra outreach, on the other hand, benefitted 75 widows from four communities in the Nnewi area of the state. The outreach in Anambra was held on 24th December 2021.
Food items and financial empowerment constituted the bulk of the support CBA Foundation gave the Anambra widows to celebrate the festive season. The Anambra initiative has enjoyed tremendous support from a donor who has been consistent over the past four years. The Founder of the Foundation expressed gratitude to the donor while remarking that the outreach was being embarked on “at this festive season, so the widows can at least have something to eat and share with their loved ones.”
She continues: “We give hope to the hopeless. We are driven to support underprivileged widows to have a positive outlook on life despite the problems they experience by losing their loved one, mostly the breadwinner of the family.”
Both Lagos and Anambra outreaches were in some sense CBA Foundation’s way of giving underprivileged widows a “December to Remember” treat. Of course, that treat would at best be modest compared to how people who were not in any known vulnerable categories took care of themselves and themselves alone. Even with the best of intentions, CBA Foundation could only work with donations received from donors and supporters at a time of the year when most (young) people were dedicating more resources to the self-splurging that December has come to represent.
While it may not be in one’s place to dictate to others how they should spend the money they have worked so hard to make, one cannot help but try to point them to ways they could better dispense their hard-earned cash that would be in their enlightened self-interest. Or what sense is there in spending on oneself so lavishly and ostentatiously as though spending was going to go out of fashion at any moment only to provoke the have-nots to make one the target of their misdirected anger in a society that is largely dysfunctional?
A similar question should be addressed to the government and public officials: What sense is there in expending huge public resources on projects that have no direct bearing on the welfare of vulnerable groups when it only widens the gap between the haves (including public officials) and have-nots and exacerbates the conditions that heighten security concerns among the haves? At what point will the government, public officials and the privileged class start acting in their enlightened self-interest by committing genuine efforts to narrow the gap between those who have and those who can only wish?
It is high time public officials and the privileged began building strong coalitions and partnerships with groups and organisations that have been working to protect and support as well as advocate for the vulnerable for years now. They must begin to key into and support the organisations’ laudable initiatives that show great potential in helping to narrow the frightening gap.
CBA Foundation’s Social Enterprise Initiative represents one of such laudable initiatives. It is a well-thought-out initiative capable of transforming the existing arrangement for care and support of vulnerable groups such as underprivileged widows and their children and taking their welfare to the next level. The Government, individuals as well as corporate organisations must join hands with the Foundation if the Initiative is to have any chance of success.
Through its avowed commitment to “touching lives, giving hope…” not in mere words and empty promises but genuine and visible action on the ground (see ample examples captured on its website), CBA Foundation has already demonstrated its readiness to do more with more support. It has shown that it is living true to its #CareIsAction DNA and can thus be trusted with more support. The Social Enterprise Initiative, therefore, enlists all to send an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org to partner with the Foundation in the drive to take the welfare of underprivileged widows to the next level where its long-term sustainability is guaranteed.
$221m Spent By Nigerians on Foreign Education Between Dec 2021 & Feb 2022 – CBN Reveals
In the wake of incessant strike actions by academic and non-academic unions in Nigeria, Nigerians have found solace in studying abroad to get adequate education.
The Central bank of Nigeria (CBN), in a recent report, has now shown that Nigerians spent nothing less than $220.86m on foreign education in three months (between December 2021 and February 2022).
According to the CBN data on the amount spent on educational service under the sectoral utilisation for transactions valid for foreign exchange for December 2021 to February 2022, in December 2021, the bank spent $90.67m on foreign education. Later in January, it spent a total of $60,202,730.84 on foreign education, while a sum of $69.9m was spent in February 2022.
According to a report by Punch, the CBN has not yet published the amount it spent in March, April and May, but has noted that the amount it indicated in December 2021 and January 2022 “might be subject to change in future.”
“This data from the apex bank shows that Nigerians remitted more than $220m to foreign academic institutions in three months without a notable “reciprocity” in form of inflows from foreign sources to the local education sector,” Punch reported.
The huge net dollar outflows has a two-way effect on the countries economy – an underinvestment in domestic education and creating pressure on the naira exchange rate. This is as a result of high demands for dollars to pay foreign educational institutions which affects Nigeria’s foreign reserves and increases pressure on the exchange rate.
Investors King gathered that over 70 thousand Nigerians were studying abroad as of 2018, according to the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation. This is the highest from an African country.
During an interview with the media, National President, Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics, Dr. Anderson Ezeibe, said the failure of the government to adequately fund education in Nigeria has negatively impacted the sector.
“You go to tertiary institutions and you see dilapidated buildings, lecturers and students alike are not happy, students do not have access to good equipment for practicals, at the end of the day, the system continues to churn out half-baked graduates.
“The only solution to this is for the government to invest fully in the sector. If we operate world-class schools in the country, there will be no need for people to go to other countries to obtain a good education”, he said.
The Convener, Reform Education sector, Olubunmi Olusanmi also noted that there is a need for the government to speedily increase its investment in the education sector.
“Education is the bedrock of any nation, you cannot neglect that sector and say you want to focus on infrastructure. Nigerians go to other countries to avoid some of the drama that goes on in our local schools. Talks of strikes have been annual festivals and we have all seen it as normal.
“We cannot continue to go on like this. The truth is that many individuals who have the resources or who can struggle to get the resources will continue to go out and get better quality education. The government needs to do better.”
NCAA Alerts Airport Operators over Hazardous Weather, Calls For More Caution
The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has called for more caution from pilots, airlines and airport operators, especially with regard to the hazardous weather prompted by the rainy season.
The Directorate of Aerodrome and Airspace Standards revealed this in an advisory document signed by the Director-General, NCAA, Captain Musa Nuhu.
Investors King recalls that NIMET had earlier predicted early March to be the start of the rainy season in the southern states, while April/May and June 2022 will be the start of the rainy season in the central and northern portions of Nigeria.
“Flight crews/operators and ATCs shall ensure strict adherence to aerodrome operating minima.
“Pilots shall exercise maximum restraint whenever adverse weather is observed or forecast by NIMET.
“Pilots /flight crew members shall obtain adequate departure, en-route and destination weather information and briefing from NIMET aerodrome meteorological stations prior to flight operations”, the advisory noted.
The agency asked all parties to follow safety laws to the letter since infractions would be taken seriously, while travellers were urged to be patient and understanding, as their safety is more paramount.
Prior to this, Investors King earlier reported the projections of a fresh fuel crisis, following the revelation of a shortage in supply to the Nigerian Aviation by the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC).
Investors King gathered that the product costs N598 per litre in Lagos, N642 in Kano, N640 in Kaduna, N627 in Abuja, N635 in Enugu and Anambra, and N628 in Port Harcourt as at Monday.
Also, airlines have already begun delaying flights and raising rates around the country as a result of the shortage.
Air Peace, Dana, and United Nigeria Airlines’ economy one-way fares from Lagos to Abuja, Owerri, Port Harcourt, and Asaba have climbed to between N55,000 and N70,000.
Air Peace, Azman, and Max Air fares from Lagos to Abuja, Kano, and Kaduna have increased from N50,000 to almost N65,000.
N-Power And Its Bitter-Sweet Experience
N-POWER was initiated to be a solution provider to curb the high rate of unemployment and poverty in Nigeria. However, so far, it has been a bitter-sweet experience for beneficiaries of the programme.
Investors King gathered that the monthly stipends of these beneficiaries are now unable to meet up with the economic situations in the country.
Recall that President Muhammadu Buhari, under the Social Investment Programme (SIP) and through the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, had said the programme was built to address the issues of youth unemployment and help increase social development, targeting youths between the ages of 18 and 35. Designed to be community-based, the exercise is to allow one million volunteers in different streams of batches.
Affirming this, Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Umar-Faroug had said: “It is a well-known fact that N-Power programme is a critical part of the National Social Investment Programmes domiciled in the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development (FMHADMSD) and designed to achieve the national objectives of poverty reduction and job creation”.
With the national minimum wage standing at N30, 000, N-Power beneficiaries are usually paid the sum of N30,000 monthly.
However, during the 2022 Worker’s Day celebration, Edo state Governor, Godwin Obaseki approved N40, 000 minimum wage for Edo state workers. The governor said the decision was to “cushion the hardship being experienced by the workers, particularly the effects of rising food prices.”
Investors King recalls that in the fourth quarter of 2015, prior to the commencement of the programme, unemployment rate in Nigeria was 12.1 per cent. However, in 2018, the rate rose to 14.23 per cent.
Currently, unemployment rate in Nigeria stands at 33.3 per cent while youth underemployment is at 42.5 per cent.
In 2021, Farouq stated that the Federal Government has approved an additional 400,000 youths have been approved for the Batch C1 programme. Since this announcement, beneficiaries have not been able to register for this Batch C2.
Several reasons have been responsible for this, from wrong deployment of Place of Primary Assignment (PPA) to delay in monthly payment.
N-POWER had severally apologised to beneficiaries over the non-payment of their stipends. It had earlier said on its official Facebook page that payment for Batch C1 have been initiated and crediting of accounts will begin, including outstanding payments.
But later, N-Power posted that network glitch was responsible for the subsequent delay.
“We did not intentionally redeployed N-power Batch C1 Beneficiaries, not at this point.
Therefore, the sudden CHANGE OF PPA and all PROCESSING PAYMENT recently changed to FAILED reading system error as encountered was as a result of NETWORK FAILURE.
“There is no cause for Alarm as our team are working to rectify it. Once that is done, your payment will be reinitiated. Please be patient,” N-Power said.
However, different reactions trailed this latest announcement. To many beneficiaries of the programme, a delay in the payment of their stipends amounts to delay for the Batch C 2 intakes.
One of the beneficiaries, SAYEDADAMADAMS said: “Why is it that the same network glitch did not fail and make their five-months paid into their accounts.”
Others lamented that the N30,000 stipend has not been able to sort their expenses due to the growing economic challenges in Nigeria.
One of the beneficiaries, Oluwafunmilayo Oluwatobi Adegun told BBC that the stipend is small, adding that the government is supposed to increase the stipend from N30, 000 as that the amount has not been able to solve anything in this country.
She said: “Many of the beneficiaries have families that depends on them to pay school fees.”
She further faulted government’s decision to disengage N-Power beneficiaries after their expiration of one year and advised that they should provide other engagements for beneficiaries.
“Government is supposed to put concrete plans in place so that the beneficiaries will not be stranded after the programme. N-Power without proper exit plan is meaningless,” she continued.
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