By Adeleke Saheed
A gender focused Civic Organisation- Emerge Women Development Initiative (EWDI) has petitioned the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, also known as UN Women over a recent commendation letter from the UN Women in Nigeria, to Governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello.
The Civil Organization in the petition dated 28th January 2021; titled – “RE: Letter of Commendation and Request for Courtesy Visit by Mrs Comfort Lamptey, UN Women Representative to Nigeria and ECOWAS to HE Mr Yahaya Bello, Executive Governor of Kogi State” expressed grave concern over the move.
In the petition signed by the group’s Executive Director- Mary Ikoku and National Coordinator Hajia Rukaiya Bello, alongside eight other officials of the group, Emerge Women described as unconstitutional the basis for commending the Governor.
“We understand that the reason given for the commendation is the appointment of twenty-one women as deputy chairpersons of all the 21 Local Government Areas in Kogi State, but it is our belief that this act does not deserve commendation from UN Women.”
The Petition stressed that relevant laws of the country were unequivocal about the election and not appointment of Local Government Chairmen and their deputies and as such, the UN Women celebration of the appointments, regardless of their gender, negates the work done to ensure that elections at the local government level were credible.
Ikoku and her team believe “the appointment of Deputy Local Government Chairpersons rather than supporting them in running successfully in free and fair elections weakens the agenda on gender mainstreaming into leadership and decision-making positions.”
“It is on record that Rivers State has a woman as her Deputy Governor, female Commissioners, female state assembly member, female Senator, Female Appointees, one LGA Chairperson and 22 LGA Vice Chairpersons,” Emerge Women noted.
It added that many organizations and women that were working extremely hard in the country to promote women political participation from institutional perspective, had not received commendation from UN Women.
“Under these curious circumstances, it will be difficult to see the UN Women in Nigeria as unbiased,” it submitted.
The Petition alleged that the last Governorship election in the state, took the life of Mrs Salome Abuh, a Peoples Democratic Party Woman Leader, who was burnt alive to death in her house.
Another woman Natasha Akpoti was viciously attacked and violated for contesting the Governorship seat.
It equally alleged that there were many other human rights infringements on women in Kogi State including allege rape of a young woman in the presence of her 3-year-old son by a current Commissioner in the state without the Governor reprimanding him
“In fact he is still a commissioner in Kogi State,” according to the petition.
According to EWDI“the UN Women office in Nigeria never issued a press release to condemn these sad events nor offered a statement seeking justice for the women.”
“The UN Women’s commendation of Governor Yahaya Bello “is faulty, questionable and unfortunate given the atrocities committed against women under his watch.”
“We are pained that UN Women, an organisation we hold in remarkably high esteem as promoters of women rights globally and partners in progress has embarked upon this compromising and sycophantic adventure in Kogi State.”
“UN Women can ask to meet with Kogi State officials for a discussion without demonstrating such sophistry and sycophancy; writing such letters and making such pronouncements do significant and irreparable damage to the struggle for gender equality, equity and justice.”
Call to withdraw commendation
The women group then called on all women and right groups in the country and the world at large to join it in calling on Mrs Comfort Lamptey, the UN Women Representative in Nigeria to kindly consider withdrawing the Letter of Commendation to the Kogi State Governor and a cancellation of the planned visit as a mark of respect for all the women who were victims of political violence and injustice in the last Kogi State Governorship Elections.
It concluded that an injustice to one woman, should be seen as injustice to all.
“We would have matched to the UN Office in Nigeria to register our protest but due to the Covid-19 situation in the Country, we have resorted to online actions starting with this release,” it stressed.
The group noted that it would appreciate a response from the UN Women Representative to Nigeria and ECOWAS regarding the issues raised, adding that the next line of actions will be determined by the response from the UN System, especially the UN Women Representative to Nigeria and ECOWAS.
Other officers who signed the petition are Dame Victoria Onwubiko- Emerge Women South East; Gloria Umukotete- South South; Princess Jumoke Owoola- South West; Toluse Kuburat Oludoun- North Central; Ambassador Rukaiya Muhammad- North West; Hajia Amina Idris- North East; Ambassador Ojineme Enakeme- Youths Coordinator; and Obiajulu Ugwu- States Coordinator.
The EWDI is working across Nigeria and Africa to attain gender justice and gender equality in Education, Health, Economic Empowerment, Social Inclusion and in leadership and decision making processes/positions.