**Proposes Taxes on Vacant Houses
**Economic Inequality at Extreme Levels
By Adedapo Adesanya
Imposing taxes on vacant houses might go a long way in alleviating the terrible housing challenges faced by Nigerians, this is the standpoint held by Ms Leilana Farha, UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to adequate housing.
Ms Farha made this known on Monday in the nation’s capital, Abuja, while presenting her report at the end of a 10-day fact finding visit to the country.
She expressed concern over the human rights crisis presented by the inhumane living conditions in Nigeria’s informal settlement, which houses 69 percent of the urban population.
Ms Farha noted that Nigeria’s housing sector was in a complete crisis and existing programmes have not been able to address the ever-growing housing need.
She said, “Most residents in Nigeria’s ballooning informal settlement live without access to even the most basic services like running water and they lack any security of tenure forcing them to live in constant fear of being evicted.
“I was shocked to see that the communities most in need of protection and assistance by the state are instead persecuted, harassed, extorted and even arrested and jailed without having ever committed a crime.”
She noted that economic inequality in Nigeria has reached extreme levels and is playing itself out clearly in the housing sector.
The UN Rapporteur pointed out that Nigeria has estimated housing shortage of 22 million units while newly built luxury dwellings are springing up throughout cities – made possible often through the forced eviction of poor communities.
She added, “Nigeria’s housing sector is in a complete crisis. There is no current national housing action plan or strategy. Coordination and communication between federal and state governments seems lacking.”
Speaking on the rent control bill that failed in the national assembly, the UN official said the bill died because it wasn’t ripe.
“The idea of controlling rent caps is hotly debated in many countries. New York just tried to have rent control laws passed; Barcelona is close to getting rent-free as rent is actually frozen for some period of five to seven years.
“So, in many jurisdictions, they have started to impose vacant home tax.
“I support that kind of move from a human rights point of view only where that money from the tax is directly put into the creation of affordable housing.
“In the case of Nigeria, it could be used as a fund to upgrade informal settlements,” Ms Farha stated.
She then urged the government to address the grossly inadequate housing conditions with the urgency and rigour befitting a human rights crisis of this scale.
“A national-level moratorium on forced evictions should be declared by the Federal Government, until adequate legal and procedural safeguards are in place to ensure that all evictions are compliant with international human rights law.”
Ms Farha will present a comprehensive report of her visit to the UN Human Rights Council in March 2020.
Adisa Receives Media Friendly State Lawmaker Award
By Modupe Gbadeyanka
For his contributions to the infrastructural development of his constituency and outstanding achievements as a lawmaker, the member representing Afijio constituency in the Oyo State House of Assembly, Mr Seyi Adisa, has been given the Media Friendly State Lawmaker Award.
The award was conferred on the state legislator by the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Oyo State Council during its press week at the Press Centre, Iyaganku, Ibadan.
Chairman of the NUJ Oyo chapter, Mr Demola Babalola, disclosed that the award was in recognition of Mr Adisa’s outstanding performance as a lawmaker, who has excelled in his calling as well contributed to the development of society.
He said his contributions to the development of his people, communities in his constituency and his senatorial district of Oyo North are laudable.
“You are given this special award of exemplary performance and also awarded as the Media-Friendly State Lawmaker of the Year in Oyo state because we believe you deserve it,” he said.
While receiving the award, Mr Adisa declared his appreciation of the gesture, saying “big thanks to the Oyo State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) for this special recognition and Award of Exemplary Performance that also doubled as an Award for the Media-Friendly State Lawmaker of the Year.
“I do not take this for granted.”
We Will Defend Free Press in Nigeria—US Government Assures
By Adedapo Adesanya
The United States government has promised to do everything possible to defend free press in Nigeria, which it said remains vital to democracy and good governance.
The American government expressed this with a partnership, through its Embassy, with the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) for the first of the six media-focused Town Halls and Workshops in Lagos on Thursday.
The event will also take place across the country in the next several months.
The capacity-building programme will provide a forum for over 200 participating Nigerian editors and leaders of the independent press to discuss and share best practices and to also hear from the United States government.
Experts on topics such as journalistic standards, identifying bias, and conducting fact-based investigative reporting to better inform the Nigerian public will be provided.
Delivering keynote remarks at the opening programme in Lagos, the US Ambassador, Mrs Mary Beth Leonard discussed the challenges faced by Nigeria and other democracies across the world and highlighted democracy’s greatest strength: the ability to improve upon and reinvent itself.
She quipped that when belief in democracy, good governance and elections are restored, Nigerians will want to be a part of that system and will defend it.
Ambassador Leonard noted, “Our hope is that in this forum today is that you will lead and serve as catalysts for further discussions on countering disinformation; increasing transparency; solution building; and encouraging media literacy and their contribution to a democracy that is accountable to its people.”
The US government is committed to initiatives that build media capacity in Nigeria, she added.
According to her, for years, the US Mission has funded partnerships that promote Nigeria’s democratic governance, unity and stability by improving government transparency and accountability, the rule of law, free and professional media, as well as civil society capacity and engagement.
On his part, the General Secretary of NGE, Mr Iyobosa Uwugiaren, said, “At the end of the project, we expect to see a pool of Nigerian editors, senior journalists and media managers, who will be galvanised and committed to the highest ethical standard and to take robust actions towards this.
“Editors who will be committed to the promotion and protection of the right to an independent press, freedom of expression and deepening democratic space; and constantly projecting issue-based governance in defence of the mass of the Nigerian people.”
The Town Halls and editor workshops are supported through a grant from the US Embassy’s Public Affairs Section in Abuja to the NGE.
In addition to Lagos, the programmes will take place in Kano in January 2022, then Yola, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Enugu will follow in subsequent months.
780 Children Abducted for Ransom in 2021—Amnesty Nigeria
By Adedapo Adesanya
Amnesty International Nigeria has reported that about 780 children were abducted for ransom in 2021 with 61 still in captivity months after the mass abduction by bandits.
The group in a statement noted that many schools shut down indefinitely because of rising insecurity, saying that Nigerian authorities are failing children.
Amnesty Nigeria explained that months after their abduction during mass attacks on schools which also terminated the education, thousands of children in captivity are experiencing horrific and degrading treatment at the hands of bandits.
The organisation explained that children in orphanages, schools and places of worship are often abducted and held in captivity for weeks, sometimes months depending on when or if the demands of their abductors are met.
It added that children in school buses or walking to schools are also sometimes ambushed and abducted for ransom.
Speaking on this, Mr Osai Ojigho said, “School children in some parts of northern Nigeria are constantly at the risk of death or abduction. More than 780 children have been abducted for ransom since February 2021 during mass attacks on schools or religious institutions, with some of the children killed during the attacks.
“Parents of the abducted children or the school authorities are sometimes made to provide food and clothing for the children while in captivity.”
Amnesty noted that the future of thousands of school children in Northern Nigeria remains bleak as hundreds of schools in some states have been closed indefinitely due to rising insecurity. Many children abandoned education due to the psychological trauma of witnessing violent attacks or living in captivity.
A primary school teacher who teaches in the community, where 317 school children were abducted on February 26, 2021, in Jangebe LGA, Zamfara state told Amnesty International that insecurity has drastically reduced school attendance, as children are afraid of attending schools even when forced by their parents.
A 15-year-old boy, who sustained an injury while escaping mass abduction in his school, told Amnesty International that he would not be returning to school, whenever it reopens.
“If school reopens, I won’t go back to the boarding school, I will rather become a day student elsewhere. Anytime I remember what happens I get scared; it’s disturbing, I want all the children most especially my cousins to be rescued.
“When education institutions are targeted or attacked, the damage and consequences can be major and far-reaching. The protection of children’s lives is paramount, and the Nigerian authorities have a duty to ensure that the country’s educational sector is not further threatened by the abductions, intimidation and killing of school children,” Mr Ojigho said.
Section 27 of the Child Rights Act prohibits the abduction of children. Having ratified the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, Amnesty noted that Nigeria has an obligation to take appropriate measures to prevent the abduction of children and to guarantee children’s right to education.
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