By Adedapo Adesanya
*Internally Displaced Persons Hit 2 million in September
The United Nations through its World Food Programme (WFP) has warned that it may soon be forced to cut food rations to more than half a million women, men and children in north-eastern Nigeria.
This was disclosed by WFP’s Regional Director for West Africa, Mr Chris Nikoi, in a statement over the weekend, explaining that there was a need for urgent funding to continue life-saving operations in crisis-ridden Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States.
The WFP director stated that the cuts would come just as severe hunger reached a five-year high in the country, in the wake of years of conflict and insecurity, noting that the situation had been worsened by the socio-economic fallout from COVID-19, high food prices and limited food supply.
“Cutting rations means choosing who gets to eat and who goes to bed hungry. We are seeing funding for our life-saving humanitarian work dry up just at the time when hunger is at its most severe,” the director stated.
Mr Nikoi warned that if at least $55 million was not received in a matter of weeks, WFP would have no choice but to cut food rations and reduce the number of people it serves, where assistance is already prioritised for the most vulnerable as early as November.
“Our food assistance is a lifeline for millions whose lives have been upended by conflict and have almost nothing to survive on. “We must act now to save lives and avoid disruptions to this lifeline,” Mr Nikoi added.
He said that the number of Internally Displaced People (IDP) forced to flee their homes in search of safety in northeast Nigeria had been rising steadily, reaching a new all-time high of over 2 million in September 2021.
The WFP director said that current food security analyses showed that 4.4 million people in northeast Nigeria did not know where their next meal would come from, and over 1 million children are already malnourished.
He cited continued attacks on communities by non-state armed groups, harsh lean season conditions amid an economy dealing with the fallout from the COVID-19, as portending great danger for the people.
Mr Nikoi added that high food prices and a severe reduction in household purchasing power had also contributed to a bleak outlook for the most vulnerable people in northeast Nigeria, warning that despite increasing needs, WFP may soon be unable to sustain life-saving operations in the conflict-riddled north-east.
FG to Distribute 4 million Meters in First Quarter of 2022
By Adedapo Adesanya
The federal government will begin a fresh round of prepaid meter distribution in the first quarter of 2022 to four million Nigerian households.
Tagged Phase 1 of the metering plan, the meters will be sourced from local manufacturers who have already started bidding for the contract compared with the previous phase where the meters were imported.
The previous phase dubbed Phase 0 of the mass metering exercise began in 2020 and had targeted one million households.
It was revealed that funds for the new batch of meters are being provided by the federal government and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
The World Bank has also pledged to support the project with additional meters to close the wide metering gap in the country.
The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) had introduced the Credit Advance Payment for Metering Implementation (CAPMI) after the 2013 privatisation exercise as a way of closing the metering gap in the power sector.
The scheme, however, failed as most consumers who paid did not get metered due to funds being trapped in an escrow account.
As a result, the Meter Asset Providers (MAPs) was introduced following CAPMI’s failure to meet the target.
And just like CAPMI with its many challenges, the MAPs’ meter rollout was slow-paced due to lack of funding, prompting an intervention by the federal government with the National Mass Metering Programme (NMMP), still with little or no changes.
The 11 electricity distribution companies were able to distribute just a little over 200,000 meters under the MAPs in the just concluded phase.
However, while electricity consumers who can wait for the federal government free meters under the NMMP are at will to do so, those who cannot, are permitted to apply for metres under the DisCos MAPs.
Business Post understands that consumers will get a refund with electricity units from the respective DisCos in charge of their area.
SERAP Sues FG for Shutting Down Telecommunications
By Adedapo Adesanya
The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has filed a lawsuit asking the court to restrain the federal government and its ministries and agencies from shutting down telecommunication networks in any part of the country.
In the suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/1323/2021 filed at the Federal High Court, Abuja, SERAP is asking the court to “determine whether the shutdown of telecommunication networks in any part of Nigeria by the Buhari administration is unlawful, and a violation of the rights of access to correspondence, freedom of expression, information, and the press.”
SERAP is also asking the court to “determine whether the shutdown of telecommunication networks in any part of the country is inconsistent with the principles of legality, proportionality and necessity, and the rights of access to correspondence, freedom of expression, information, and the press.”
The suit, which has been assigned to Honourable Justice Ahmed Mohammed at Court 4, is fixed for hearing on January 11, 2022.
President Muhammadu Buhari and the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Mr Isa Pantami are joined in the suit as Defendant by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).
SERAP is arguing that, “Large-scale shutdowns of communication networks are a form of collective punishment. Shutdowns exert significant chilling effects, with direct implications on participatory democracy, whose existence depends upon an active and informed citizenry capable of engaging with a range of ideas.”
According to SERAP, “The Buhari administration has constitutional and international legal obligations to enable access to the Internet for all, as access to the Internet is inextricably linked to the exercise of freedom of expression and information.”
SERAP is also arguing that, “Access to information, the ability to exercise the right to freedom of expression and the participation that internet and telecommunication networks provide to all sectors of society is essential for a truly democratic society.”
“The rights to freedom of expression and information may be restricted only in specific circumstances. Restrictions on these rights must be provided by law, proportionate, and necessary for respect of the rights or reputations of others or for the protection of national security or of public order, or of public health and morals,” SERAP said.
The organisation is also arguing that, “While the authorities have a legal responsibility to protect, ensure and secure the rights to life and property, any such responsibility ought to be discharged in conformity with constitutional and international human rights standards.”
“The suspension of internet and telecommunication networks in Zamfara and Katsina states is particularly egregious, and suggests a disturbing trend, especially given the escalating repression and restriction of civic space in Nigeria. Shutdowns should never become an entrenched practice in the country,” SERAP further stated.
The suit filed on behalf of SERAP by its lawyers, Kolawole Oluwadare and Kehinde Oyewumi, read in part: “Internet and telecommunication shutdowns amount to an inherently disproportionate interference with the rights to freedom of expression and information. Necessity requires a showing that shutdowns would achieve their stated purpose, which in fact they often jeopardize.
“In their 2011 Joint Declaration on Freedom of Expression and the Internet, four special mandates on freedom of expression emphasised that ‘Cutting off access to the Internet, or parts of the Internet, for whole populations or segments of the public can never be justified, including on public order or national security grounds.’
“The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights has affirmed the principle of non-interference with access to internet and telecommunication networks and stressed that States including Nigeria ‘shall not engage in or condone any disruption of access to the internet and other digital technologies for segments of the public or an entire population.’
“In June 2016, the UN Human Rights Council condemned ‘measures to intentionally prevent or disrupt access to or dissemination of information online in violation of international human rights law.’ The Council called on all States, including Nigeria, to refrain from and cease such measures.
“The rights to freedom of expression and access to information are protected by Section 39 of the Nigerian Constitution, 1999 [as amended], Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights both of which Nigeria has ratified.
“These rights must be protected online as they are protected offline. Access to the Internet is a fundamental right. Access to the internet is also a necessary precondition for the exercise and enjoyment of other human rights online and offline.
“Shutdowns generate a wide variety of harms to human rights, economic activity, public safety, and emergency services that outweigh the purported benefits. Any shutdown has the potential to affect millions of internet and telecommunication users, and those on the margins of society are most impacted by it.
“The suspension of the internet and telecommunication networks in Zamfara and Katsina states, without any legal justification, is inconsistent with the principles of necessity and proportionality. The suspension is a form of collective punishment of Nigerians resident in these states.
“The imposition of any restrictions should be guided by the objective of facilitating the right, rather than seeking unnecessary and disproportionate limitations on it. Restrictions must not be discriminatory, impair the essence of the right, or be aimed at causing a chilling effect. Internet and telecommunication shutdowns fail to meet all of these conditions.”
It would be recalled that the NCC recently ordered service operators to suspend all telecommunications networks in some states, including Zamfara State, and at least 13 local government areas of Katsina State purportedly to check criminal activities including terrorism.
Enugu Disco Launches App for Seamless Services
By Adedapo Adesanya
In furtherance of its quest to consistently enhance customer experience and deliver seamless services, the Enugu Electricity Distribution PLC (EEDC) has launched a new mobile app known as EEDC Connect to better serve its franchise states.
The multi-functional application is designed to enable customers to interface and access the company’s services with ease.
Some of the services the new app will offer include payment of bills, prompt request for support, viewing of payment history, registering complaints and viewing your logged complaint to ascertain its current status.
According to the Head of Corporate Communications, EEDC, Mr Emeka Ezeh, the company has embraced information technology as a tool to make its operations efficient and transparent, both for the company and its customers.
To get started, customers are expected to download EEDC Connect on their mobile phones from the Google Play Store, register and obtain a One-Time Password (OTP) which should be keyed in to complete the process.
The launch of EEDC Connect is coming barely two weeks after the company introduced its Online Bill Download Portal, a service that allows its customers to conveniently view/download their energy bills right from the EEDC website and make payments without necessarily waiting to receive the physical copy of their bills.
Mr Ezeh reiterated that the introduction of these initiatives is part of the company’s ongoing automation processes aimed at achieving efficiency and improving customer experience.
The Enugu Disco is responsible for the electricity distribution activities of the five south-eastern states including Enugu, Ebonyi, Imo, Abia and Anambra.
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