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By Michael Oleja

iitaNigeria’s rising population, particularly in the cities, coupled with low productivity (yield per hectare) of cassava roots is threatening the country’s cassava industry and could impede the gains made in the sector, putting the country at risk of becoming a net importer of staple crops.
Grown by over 4.5 million people in Nigeria, cassava is a major food crop, contributing to food security and income for millions of people but the productivity of the crop in Nigeria is low—12-13 tons per ha.
“This low productivity cannot support Nigeria in the next 34 years,” according to Dr Claude Fauquet, Director with the Global Cassava Partnership for the 21st Century (GCP 21) while addressing participants at the just concluded workshop with the theme: “Integrated System for an Effective Cassava Production in Africa,” in International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, IITA, Ibadan on Friday (28 October).
“By 2050, Nigeria’s population will rise to 400 million, meaning that we will have more mouths to eat cassava and cassava products such as gari, fufu etc. With the current cassava productivity of 12-13 tons per hectare, cassava cannot sustain this huge population,” Dr Fauquet explained.
Elsewhere in Asia, cassava productivity has hit more than 20 tons per ha and a nation such as Thailand is today a major exporter of cassava products such as starch.
Dr Fauquet said Africa, and Nigeria in particular, has the land, youth and climate to achieve the same feat such as Thailand. “The question is: Why is this not happening?” he remarked.
Besides the rising population, Dr Fauquet noted that urbanization would trigger the migration of more than 50 percent of Nigeria’s population to cities which would leave a labour vacuum in the rural areas – a situation that would further exacerbate the problem of cassava production in the country.
He however said Nigeria could address the challenges by investing in the research for development of cassava along the value chain. Specifically, he said, investments in improved varieties, weed control, best agronomic practices, and mechanization could change the outlook of cassava. “Other areas that need attention include access to credit, markets and cooperatives,” he added.
Dr Fauquet called on the Nigerian government and donors to invest in research and development to put cassava ahead.
Dr Kenton Dashiell, IITA Deputy Director General, Partnerships For Delivery, who represented the Director General, Dr Nteranya Sanginga said cassava is an important crop for Nigeria and it was important that researchers were thinking about its future.
He commended the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for investing in cassava production along the value chain, and called on the government of Nigeria to consider upscaling some of the proven technologies such as cassava mechanization, weed management, improved seeds at IITA, and best agronomic practices to farmers across the country.
Dr Alfred Dixon, Project Leader for the Cassava Weed Management Project described cassava as a “poverty fighter,” emphasizing that investment in cassava would help Nigeria to tackle the twin problem of hunger and poverty, and youth unemployment.
The workshop in Ibadan attracted participants from the private sector, development partners such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and IFAD, and farmer organizations.

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Photo: Premium Times

President Buhari with the freed Chibok girls.

Fatima Kaka, a member of the Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) movement, has urged the Federal Government to hasten the process for the release of the remaining Chibok girls.

Mrs. Kaka made the appeal on Monday in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja.

She also urged the government to hasten the release of other Nigerians kidnapped in the North East.

Twenty one abducted Chibok girls were released on October 12 after over two years in Boko Haram’s capitivity.

Mrs. Kaka said: “We don’t know the number of people in captivity; we just know that a lot of people are in captivity.

“The number available to the public is not consistent; the government should double up its efforts for the release of abducted people in the North East.

“For the remaining 197 remaining Chibok girls, the government has to do everything possible and whatever it takes to get the girls,” Mrs. Kaka said.

She noted that the condition of the 21 girls so far released by the insurgents was not encouraging, adding, “the faster we recover everybody, the better.”

Mrs. Kaka, however, commended the federal government for its efforts in securing the release of some of the girls, saying that their release in batches was in order.

“When people are taken, another thing is the issue of negotiation; they have to come in batches; that is what happens all over the world.

“As long as they are coming out, we are okay, no matter the number at a time but let it just be fast- tracked,” said the the BBOG member.

She appealed to the government not to jeopardise the prospects of the abducted girls to excel in life. (NAN)


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Photo: Premium Times


Government officials and other authorities in Nigeria have raped and sexually exploited women and girls displaced by the conflict with Boko Haram, Human Rights Watch said Monday.

The rights group said in a statement that the government was not doing enough to protect displaced women and girls and ensure that they have access to basic rights and services or to sanction the abusers, who include camp leaders, vigilante groups, policemen, and soldiers.

Human Rights Watch said in July, it documented sexual abuse, including rape and exploitation, of 43 women and girls living in seven internally displaced persons (IDP) camps in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital.

The victims had been displaced from several Borno towns and villages, including Abadam, Bama, Baga, Damasak, Dikwa, Gamboru Ngala, Gwoza, Kukawa, and Walassa. In some cases, the victims had arrived in the under-served Maiduguri camps, where their movement is severely restricted after spending months in military screening camps.

“It is bad enough that these women and girls are not getting much-needed support for the horrific trauma they suffered at the hands of Boko Haram,” said Mausi Segun, senior Nigeria researcher at Human Rights Watch. “It is disgraceful and outrageous that people who should protect these women and girls are attacking and abusing them.”

Four of the victims told Human Rights Watch that they were drugged and raped, while 37 were coerced into sex through false marriage promises and material and financial assistance.

Many of those coerced into sex said they were abandoned after they became pregnant. They and their children have suffered discrimination, abuse, and stigmatization from other camp residents. Eight of the victims said they were previously abducted by Boko Haram fighters and forced into marriage before they escaped to Maiduguri, the group said.

Women and girls abused by members of the security forces and vigilante groups – civilian self-defense groups working with government forces in their fight against Boko Haram – told Human Rights Watch they feel powerless and fear retaliation if they report the abuse.

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analysisBy Sakariye Cismaan

The fact that 99% of Somalis don’t have the right to vote is just one deficiency of the ongoing process.

After various delays, Somalia’s elections are now underway. Four regional states have now completed the election of their Upper House members. The selection of the 275 members of the Lower House is awaited. And if all goes according to the latest schedule, the president will finally be appointed on 30 November.

This stage has not been easy to reach. Since the electoral process was agreed to and signed into law in May 2016, there have been several delays. And it is likely that there could be more before the process is completed.

While trying to remain positive, these postponements have raised concerns amongst both Somalis and the likes of the UN and European Union, which warned the delays “put in question the Somali authorities’ unequivocal commitment to the electoral process”.

But why have the elections faced repeated interruptions and why are many Somalis and observers getting increasingly wary about the process and how it is being run?

1) 99% of Somalis don’t get a vote

The first thing to note about Somalia’s (s)elections is that they’re not one-person-one-vote. That had been the hope for this year, but this ambition has been pushed to 2020. Instead, the voting is being done by just 14,025 people, picked by clan elders and divided up into electoral colleges.

This is a step forward from 2012 in which parliamentarians were chosen by 135 traditional leaders, but a huge distance away from universal suffrage. The vast majority of Somalis are mere observers in the process.

2) The process has seen a rise in intimidation of the opposition and media

There has been a surge in reports of harassment of political activists and opposition leaders as well as arbitrary detentions of journalists, the arrest of the editor of a Mogadishu newspaper Xog-Ogaal being the latest.

This has raised fears that the election is not being played on an open and fair footing.

3) Somalia wasn’t really ready, allowing elites to take advantage

After a quarter of a century of conflict, Somalia has yet to rebuild the electoral infrastructure needed to ensure the elections are free and fair.

Moreover, before the country could start the elections, it has had to complete its federalisation process. This has involved establishing new regional states and the last remaining one to be created – Hirshabelle – proved a particularly big obstacle amidst political disputes. The election date had to be pushed back twice before the state was finally established.

The details of how exactly the election process is to work has also become a source of political wrangling. This has allegedly opened the election up to manipulation from within, leading to disputes between rival figures. There are allegations, for instance, that allies of the president have worked to ensure his supporters dominate the electoral colleges that will choose parliamentarians.

These internal rows have contributed to delays as well as increased tensions between competing politicians and between the electoral bodies and clan elders.

4) Trust in the election bodies is low

There are two bodies overseeing these elections – the Federal Indirect Election Implementation Team (FIEIT) and the State-Level Indirect Electoral Implementation Teams (SIEITs) – and both have been accused of being partisan.

When it was originally appointed, the FIEIT’s members included cabinet ministers, which led to concerns about its impartiality. International partners urged the government to reappoint the body, but the new make-up of the FIEIT still has a former president’s adviser as its chairperson. There are similar concerns regarding the SIEITs, which some have accused of being run by surrogates of politicians running for office.

5) The 30% woman quota isn’t as straightforward as it seems

The National Leadership Forum (NLF), the body that decided the electoral process, ostensibly agreed that 30% of seats in both houses of parliament would be reserved for women. This is hoped to mark a big step forwards for gender equality in a deeply patriarchal society.

However, it is clans and sub-clans that are required to put forward lists of nominees that meet this 30% quota, and many have been reluctant to do so. For instance, FIEIT had to return the lists of Upper House candidates to three of the four regional states that put them forward after they failed to meet the criteria, adding to delays.

The FIEIT seems prepared to ensure the quota is met, but even if the clans do meet the requirement, their recalcitrance in doing so is indicative of the difficulties female politicians are likely to face once in office.

6) Warlords could return by the ballot box

Worryingly, nominations to the Upper House have included some known former warlords. Abdi Awale Qaybdiid was put forward in Galmudug; Mohammed Said Hersi Morgan (known as ‘the butcher of Hargeisa’) was nominated to represent Puntland; and Abdifitah Mohamed Ali was a candidate for Jubbaland.

This led the UN to write to these regional administrations, urging them to reconsider, and stating: “A rejection of parliamentary candidates who have been implicated in some of the country’s worst human rights abuses will reaffirm Somalia’s commitment to end the culture of impunity in the eyes of its own citizens and the world at large.”

However, these concerns have been dismissed, with parliament in Galmudug saying it was too late to raise these issues and calling on the UN to respect the choices of the people. This means some of Somalia’s new decision-makers could include individuals heavily implicated in some of the country’s most notorious human rights abuses. This could have been avoided if there had been stronger eligibility requirements for candidates.

7) It’s unclear if people understand the new system

Somalia’s election involves several reforms to the political system and many people have not been sufficiently educated about the new arrangement. For instance, several interviewees who spoke to African Arguments in Galmudug, including clan leaders and members of regional state parliament, lacked a clear understanding of how the electoral process works and of the difference between the Upper and Lower Houses of parliament.

If the election is to be meaningful and the new systems of governance to be effective, its essential that political leaders – not to mention the broader population – understand how they operate.

8) Security is fragile

For a country still emerging from a quarter century of conflict, security is a vital concern. The Islamist militant group Al-Shabaab has launched a number of high-profile attacks in recent months, expressed their determination to disrupt the process, and threatened elders who participate in the election. The group still looms over the process and could unsettle it over the coming weeks.

This will especially be the case given that the AU peacekeeping force AMISOM is overstretched. When Galmudug asked for the deployment of extra forces, for instance, the request was not fulfilled in time for the Upper House election, leaving the regional state to rely on its own under-trained and underfunded forces.

A new hope?

For the reasons above, Somalia’s ongoing electoral process is highly imperfect and precarious. But despite these challenges, the elections do provide some hope for the future. Just the ability to hold elections in all federal states as opposed to just in Mogadishu, as was the case in 2012, is cause of celebration.

But this is just the latest, small step in the right direction. And the opportunity it provides can only truly be seized if lessons are learnt and if the myriad deficiencies of the process are not dismissed as minor defects, but examined, understood and addressed.

Sakariye Cismaan is a political commentator. Follow him on twitter at @SakariyeCismaan.

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