Boko Haram Recruits Over 3,500 Children as Fighters
By Dipo Olowookere
More than 3,500 children, most of whom were aged 13 to 17, were recruited by non-state armed groups like Boko Haram between 2013 and 2017 and have been used in the ongoing armed conflict in northeast Nigeria, UNICEF said today ahead of the fifth anniversary of the Chibok abduction.
The UN children’s agency said that these numbers are only those that have been verified, while the true figures are likely to be higher.
In addition to these children, 432 children were killed and maimed, 180 were abducted, and 43 girls were sexually abused in north-east Nigeria in 2018.
Meanwhile, more than 100 of the abducted Chibok girls remain missing.
The anniversary of the abduction, marked on 14 April, is a grim reminder that widespread abductions of children and grave violations of children’s rights continue to take place in the north-east.
“Children should feel safe at home, in schools and on their playgrounds at all times,” said Mohamed Malick Fall, UNICEF Representative in Nigeria.
“We are calling on the parties to the conflict to fulfill their obligations under international law to end violations against children and to stop targeting civilian infrastructure, including schools. This is the only way we can begin to make lasting improvements in the lives of children in this devastated part of Nigeria.”
Since 2012, non-state armed groups in northeast Nigeria have recruited and used children as combatants and non-combatants, raped and forced girls to marry, and committed other grave violations against children. Some of the girls become pregnant in captivity and give birth without any medical care or attention.
UNICEF continues to offer its support to the Government of Nigeria in its strong efforts to protect the country’s children. UNICEF works with the Borno State Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development and other partners to support children who have been rescued or escaped from captivity.
In 2017 and 2018, UNICEF and its partners provided community-based reintegration services to more than 9,800 people formerly associated with armed groups, as well as vulnerable children in communities. These services help to trace children’s families, return them to their communities, and offer psychosocial support, education, vocational training, informal apprenticeships, and opportunities to improve livelihoods.
Bayelsa Guber: Confusion as Sylva Quits as Minister of State for Petroleum
By Adedapo Adesanya
The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Mr Timipre Sylva, has reportedly resigned from the President Muhammadu Buhari administration.
According to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), the Minister submitted his resignation letter to President Buhari in Abuja on Friday.
It is widely believed that Mr Sylva has the intention to contest the governorship election in Bayelsa State and will participate in the forthcoming All Progressives Congress (APC) primary election that is likely to hold anytime in April.
Mr Sylva had governed former President Goodluck Jonathan’s home state, Bayelsa, for one term and has constitutional rights to contest for another tenure of four years.
The Minister’s Senior Adviser on Media, and Communications, Mr Horatius Egua, has not denied or confirmed his boss’ alleged resignation, claiming he had not seen the resignation letter or be officially informed of the development.
Mr Sylva governed the state under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) between 2008 and 2012 but switched alliances with the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Recall that n 2007, a member of Action Congress (AC), Mr Ebitimi Amgbare, filed a suit to challenge his victory.
Mr Amgbare took the case all the way to the appeal court in Port Harcourt, and on April 15, 2008, that court overturned the decision of the Bayelsa State Election Petitions Tribunal and declared Mr Sylva’s election to be invalid.
This occurred despite the fact that the Bayelsa State Election Petitions Tribunal had previously ruled in Mr Sylva’s favour.
The five judges on the appellate court came to a conclusion without dissent and issued an order mandating that Speaker, Mr Werinipre Seibarugo, be sworn in to replace Mr Sylva in his role as acting Governor, with a new election to take place within the next three months.
On May 24, 2008, a new election was held, and Mr Sylva, who was standing again as the PDP candidate, was elected with an overwhelming majority of the votes, receiving 588,204 of around 598,000 total votes.
However, in 2012, his tenure was terminated by the Supreme Court, with an acting governor appointed to oversee the state.
President Buhari appointed the politician on August 21, 2019, to replace Mr Ibe Kachikwu, who earlier held the position.
Since the President self-appointed himself as the Minister of Petroleum, Mr Sylva is officially recognised as the junior minister.
He oversaw many developments in the Nigerian energy space, including the landmark Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) 2021, as well as driving President Buhari’s Decade of Gas initiative.
Enrol in Micro Pension to Escape Old Age Poverty—PenCom Tells Traders, Others
By Adedapo Adesanya
The National Pension Commission (PenCom) has urged artisans, traders, and other self-employed people to enrol in the Micro Pension Plan of the commission to guarantee themselves a functional retirement plan and avoid old age poverty.
This was the crux of the points made by the Head of Corporate Communications of PenCom, Mr Abdulqadir Dahiru, in Enugu on Thursday.
He stressed the importance of the Micro Pension Plan to Nigerians in the informal sector and those working in organizations with less than three employees.
Mr Dahiru noted that about 90 per cent of workers in Nigeria were in the informal sector, adding that this category of workers had no pension protection for old age and with the increase in people living long, there is a risk of old age poverty.
According to him, the Micro Pension Plan provides workers in the sector the opportunity to easily register and contribute in a flexible manner and in a safe and secure environment for their pension at retirement.
“The Micro Pension Plan is a flexible plan, where the artisans, traders and even a woman that sells fried beans cake (akara) can register with and agree on a periodic amount she/he would be contributing according to her/his earnings.
“The contributors, within this flexible Micro Pension Plan for all Nigerians in the informal sector, can even draw out 40 per cent of what they have saved for emergency demand.
He said the remaining 60 per cent would remain and await the retirement plan proper.
“So, it is a means of savings also for those in the informal sector and where they could fall back to and get financial assistance to keep their daily engagements going,” he said.
He noted that PenCom was desirous to ensure Nigerians in the informal sector enrolled and registered in the plan, adding that it had started sensitisation of the plan to communities, marketplaces, public gatherings, associations, and trade fair grounds across the country.
Mr Dahiru also urged Nigerians to embrace PenCom’s acquisition of residential mortgages (residential houses) scheme for Retirement Savings Account (RSA) holders.
He said the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had approved 34 mortgage banks to work with the PenCom and Pension Fund Operators in providing mortgage financing to contributors to the Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS) with their RSA balance.
The PenCom spokesman said that the commission was determined to implement the scheme for the contributors to ensure that RSA holders have houses of their own at retirement.
Mr Dahiru noted that for contributors under the Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS) to be eligible to use their RSA balance for the acquisition of residential mortgages, they must have contributed for five years (60 months) cumulative of employer and employee’s mandatory contributions.
“The same thing applies to the contributors under the Micro Pension Plan; even married couples, who individually met the eligibility criteria, were also eligible,” he said.
Explaining the limit for equity contribution that qualified a contributor, he said that the maximum allowed was at 25 per cent of the RSA balance.
He added that where 25 per cent of the RSA balance was more than the equity contribution, the RSA holder could only access the amount equivalent to the equity contribution required.
“Where 25 per cent was not sufficient for equity contribution, RSA holders may utilise Voluntary Contribution (VC) in line with the Voluntary Contribution guidelines,” he said.
He expressed the hope that the mortgage financing incentive would help to grow the number of contributors into the CPS scheme.
Google to Extend Financial Services Verification Program to More Countries
By Modupe Gbadeyanka
Tech giant, Google, has promised to extend its financial services verification program to more countries after bringing 11 nations into the scheme as of 2022 as part of efforts to protect its users from fraud and scams, which it said increased in the year under review.
The financial services certification program requires advertisers to demonstrate that they are authorized by their local regulator to promote their products and services.
This measure adds a new layer of security against fraudsters and further safeguards people from financial scams.
According to Google, actions are quickly taken when coordinated threats are identified, with additional restrictions put in place to block the ability of fraudsters to harm consumers.
“Over a one-month period, we blocked and removed tens of thousands of malicious advertisements and took action against the accounts associated with the bad ads.
“Overall, in 2022, we blocked or removed 142 million advertisements for violating our misrepresentation policy and 198 million advertisements for violating our financial services policy,” a blog post from the reputable platform on its 2022 Ads Safety Report said.
As for the efforts to prioritise child safety, Google said it has always blocked harmful ads targeted at young kids, especially by filtering “mature ad categories such as sexually explicit content and ads for gambling, alcohol and pharmaceutical drugs.”
“When it comes to designing products and creating policies, one of our top priorities is to ensure the safety of kids and teens around the world.
“This includes blocking ad targeting based on age, gender or interests and preventing additional age-sensitive ad categories from serving to teens. We began rolling out these changes in Europe and completed that process globally last year.
“We also now prohibit ads promoting dating apps, contests and sweepstakes, as well as weight loss products to people under 18,” it further disclosed.
Commenting on how it has tackled misinformation, Google said the reliance on its platform for the hunt for credible information influenced the creation of “policies against harmful health claims and demonstrably false claims that could undermine trust and participation in elections.”
“In 2022, we blocked ads from running on over 300,000 publisher pages that violated these policies and blocked over 24 million policy-violating ads from serving.
“In addition, we blocked and removed over 51.2 million ads for inappropriate content including hate speech, violence and harmful health claims and 20.6 million ads for dangerous products or services such as weapons and explosives,” it stated.
Looking ahead to 2023, the search engine said it would continue to provide a safe and trustworthy ads experience for users.
“As 2023 continues, we will stay diligent in our efforts to combat abuse across our platforms while helping advertisers and publishers grow their businesses,” it assured.
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