By Dipo Olowookere
More than 12,000 refugees returned to north-eastern Nigeria from Cameroon in the month of May, with 1,800 returning in just one day early last week, the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, has disclosed.
In view of this, the agency has promised to step up its response.
It was gathered refugees are arriving to difficult conditions in the town of Banki, some 100 kilometres southeast of Maiduguri and just inside Nigeria.
Though returns have dropped significantly since last week – with only 24 coming back on Monday – the UN arm said it was concerned as Banki was already hosting a large population of nearly 45,000 internally displaced people, and is far from ready to receive such large numbers.
Spokesperson of UNHCR, Babar Baloch, disclosed that the decisions to return were being taken by refugees themselves – people variously cite difficult conditions at Cameroon’s Minawao camp or the need to be back for the farming season. The refugees also organize their own transport.
In Banki, and also at nearby towns where people are hoping to head, humanitarian access is very limited and largely dependent on the availability of military escorts. As most returnees are still unable to travel onwards to their home villages where security remains uncertain, there is a pressing need for additional land for more shelter and other facilities at the IDP site.
People are having to sleep alongside their few possessions in the open. In the absence of cooking fuel many are burning plastic. Sanitation is a major worry too as what is available cannot serve the number of people in the site. There is little separation between areas for washing clothes and ablutions. With little or no drainage system at water collection points, and the incoming rainy season, the risk of waterborne disease is great. UNHCR and the government of Nigeria have alerted the refugees in Cameroon that such rate of returns are a strain on the few existing services and create a new emergency for which the response capacity is very limited.
“UNHCR and our partners in Banki are doing what we can, given difficult circumstances, to improve conditions both there and in other areas that returnees are seeking to reach such as Gwoza which lies further south of Banki. Plastic sheeting is being provided and some 1500 emergency shelters are under way along with non-food aid kits. Currently food aid is an urgent need and we are appealing to other humanitarian partners to come forward with additional expertise and help,” Baloch stated.
On March 3 UNHCR, with the governments of Cameroon and Nigeria, signed a Tripartite Agreement aimed at facilitating voluntary returns. The objective and purpose of the tripartite agreement is to ensure that returns comply with international standards.
The situation in Nigeria and Cameroon is part of a wider displacement crisis in the Lake Chad Basin that has displaced over 2.7 million people, including some 210,000 Nigerian refugees into neighbouring countries. As of mid-May, 96,000 of these were registered as being in Cameroon. UNHCR is monitoring the situation on both sides of Nigeria’s border with its neighbours and we continue to urge all countries in the region to allow safe haven and asylum procedures to all those in need. Taking into account the security constraints, UNHCR has started strengthening presence in border entry points for better monitoring and reporting.
SweepSouth to Battle Fichaya, Others for Market Share in Nigeria
By Adedapo Adesanya
Johannesburg-based SweepSouth, the home cleaning service startup that was launched in 2014, is looking to hijack some customers from its competitors in Nigeria by offering quality services.
SweepSouth allows people to book home cleaning services at affordable prices and connects them with cleaners they call SweepStars, who are carefully vetted and are professionals with extensive experience in home cleaning.
Traditional domestic service agencies in Nigeria are mostly informal, and people who use these cleaners often have to find them by asking around their neighbourhood but the problem with this approach is that it is difficult to know if the cleaner is experienced.
Things are about to change as SweepSouth’s value proposition will help its customers find a cleaner in minutes and will deliver the best services.
The startup’s expansion in Nigeria is led by its new country manager, Ms Awazi Angbalaga, an operator who has worked across industries in the past eight years.
Ms Angbalaga noted that SweepSouth has been test-running its services in Nigeria for the last two months and that the uptake has been exciting.
“Although we’ve largely been testing out our service here, we have already had our first 300 bookings, and the feedback we’ve received backs our belief that our proposition is compelling to Nigerians. While we’re growing our bookings every week, our focus continues to be providing the best service to our customers,” she said.
At the moment, SweepSouth charges a base fee of N3,400 ($8) for cleaning a one-bedroom apartment and around N7,500 ($18) for cleaning a 3-bedroom apartment. The pricing is at par with what is obtainable with traditional domestic service agencies, which is important for a service which is aiming for mass-market adoption.
But SweepSouth will face competition from those traditional domestic service agencies and newer startups such as Fichaya which are now targeting Nigeria’s young working-class population.
Remote work and a growing class of young tech workers, who are willing to pay gig workers for services that make their lives easier, are powering the home services industry. Other startups in this space even offer home-cooked meals and laundry.
To break into the market, SweepSouth may also look to provide additional services such as its SweepSouth Connect, which links people with a wide range of professional artisans. SweepSouth Connect is already available in Kenya and South Africa.
The startup did not confirm if it will launch its Connect service in Nigeria but it stressed that for now, the focus is to reach mass adoption and provide exceptional service to customers.
At the moment, customers can only make bookings from the SweepSouth Nigeria website, but the startup shared that it will launch its app this month. The app will improve customer experience across the entire process from booking to leaving reviews for the SweepStars they’re matched with.
Buhari Loses Suit to Challenge Electoral Act at Supreme Court
By Adedapo Adesanya
The Supreme Court has struck out a suit filed by President Muhammadu Buhari and the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Mr Abubakar Malami, challenging Section 84(12) of the Electoral Act.
On Friday, the case was expunged on the grounds that it lacks the jurisdiction to entertain it and is an abuse of the court process.
A notice for the judgment delivery was served on President Buhari and the National Assembly on Thursday, inviting them to appear before the court today for the judgment.
The President and the Minister of Justice had filed a suit at the Supreme Court, seeking an interpretation of the controversial clause in the Electoral Amendment Act 2022.
In the suit filed on April 29, President Buhari and Mr Malami, who are the plaintiffs, listed the National Assembly as the sole defendant.
There have been several debates regarding Section 84 (12) of the amended Electoral Act 2022 which was assented to in February.
Upon assenting to the act, President Buhari had asked the National Assembly to delete the contended clause, however, the parliament declined the president’s request.
Section 84 (12) of the legislation holds that “no political appointee at any level shall be a voting delegate or be voted for at the convention or congress of any political party for the purpose of the nomination of candidates for any election.”
In their suit marked SC/CV/504/2022 and filed on April 29, 2022, President Buhari and Mr Malami sought an order of the apex court to strike out the section of the Electoral Act, which they argue was inconsistent with the nation’s constitution.
According to the court document, the plaintiffs contend that the Section 84(12) of the Electoral (Amendment) Act, 2022 is inconsistent with the provisions of sections 42, 65, 66, 106, 107, 131, 137, 147, 151, 177, 182, 192 and 196 of the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, (as amended), as well Article 2 of the African Charter on Human and People and Peoples Rights.
The plaintiffs further contended that the constitution already makes provisions for qualification and disqualification for the offices of the President and Vice President, Governor and Deputy Governor, Senate and House of Representatives, House of Assembly, Ministers, Commissioners, and Special Advisers.
They urged the Supreme Court to make: “A declaration that the joint and or combined reading of section 65, 66, 106, 107, 131, 137, 147, 151, 177, 182, 192 and 196 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, (as amended), the provision of Section 84 (12) of the Electoral Act, 2022 which also ignores Section 84(3) of the same Act, is an additional qualifying and/or disqualifying factors for the National Assembly, House of Assembly, Gubernatorial and Presidential elections as enshrined in the said constitution, hence unconstitutional, unlawful, null and void”.
However, in its decision on Friday, the Supreme Court held that President Buhari, having assented to the bill on February 25 2022, cannot turn around to challenge the same act.
In a unanimous judgement delivered by Justice Emmanuel Agim, the court said allowing the suit to have its way will amount to approbating and reprobating at the same time and no court of law shall allow that.
The apex court unanimously agreed that President Buhari lacked the jurisdiction to bring the suit before it because of the nature of the reliefs sought.
London Police Arrest Ekweremadu, Wife Over Organ Harvesting
By Adedapo Adesanya
The London Metropolitan Police has announced that it arrested a Nigerian national, Mr Ike Ekweremadu, and his wife, Mrs Beatrice Nwanneka Ekweremadu, for allegedly conspiring to bring a child to the United Kingdom for organ harvesting.
In a statement on its website, the Met Police wrote that “Beatrice Nwanneka Ekweremadu, 55 (10.9.66) of Nigeria is charged with conspiracy to arrange/facilitate the travel of another person with a view to exploitation, namely organ harvesting.
While the statement did not, however, give further details about the suspects, the age and description given match that of the former Deputy Senate President and his wife.
“Ike Ekweremadu, 60 (12.05.62) of Nigeria is charged with conspiracy to arrange/facilitate [the] travel of another person with a view to exploitation, namely organ harvesting.”
As at press time, neither Mr Ekweremadu nor his aides have issued a comment about the development.
But the police added that “both [have] been remanded in custody and will appear at Uxbridge Magistrates’ Court later today.
“The investigation was launched after detectives were alerted to potential offences under modern slavery legislation in May 2022.
“A child has been safeguarded and we are working closely with partners on continued support. As criminal proceedings are now underway we will not be providing further details.”
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