By Solomon Umanah
Policy makers and other stakeholders in Nigeria have beenurged to evolve policies and programmes aimed at advancing the economic empowerment of women as panacea for strengthening local governance in the country.
The Akwa Ibom commissioner for women affairs and social welfare, Dr Ini Adiakpan, who made the call during a courtesy visit on her, recently, by participants of the Senior Executive Course 44 of 2022 Study Group 3 of the National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies(NIPSS), Kuru, near Jos, reasoned that such policies, if adopted, would strengthen family ties thereby building structures of growth and development, which she maintained, would exert immense economic leverage on the grassroots thus strengthening local governance in Nigeria.
Adiakpan, who described local governance as “fundamental”to the sustenance and consolidation of democratic rule advocated what she termed, “bottom-up approach” in governance where people’s interest and welfare were given topmost consideration as opposed to over lordship.
She said the theme assigned to NIPSS’ 2022 study group, “Strengthening Local Governance In Nigeria: Challenges, Options, and Opportunities,” was a reflection of some of the activities handled by her ministry which, she noted, were geared toward strengthening the capacity of the family as the bedrock of the society.
Adiakpan further stated that in line with her ministry’s core mandate of facilitating, accelerating, as well as coordinating activities and programmes aimed at promoting and strengthening the economic, educational, health and human rights development of the socially disadvantaged persons, including women, children, elderly and the physically challenged in the state, the ministry had consistently created awareness for the inclusion of women in leadership and decision making process at all levels; and spearheaded the provision of social welfare services and capacity building for women organizations through funding and linkages.
Others were timely implementation of Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) law and the Child Rights law; mediation on family disputes and resolution; deliberate distribution of resources to women and people living with disabilities, as well as coordination of affinity groups and co-operative organisations as a way of promoting modern financial assistance in line with the global cashless policy.
The women affairs boss enumerated other activities of her ministry to include the education of orphans, especially those currently accommodated in five government homes across the state; establishment of Sexual Assault Referral Centres(SARCs) in the three senatorial districts of the state for free treatment of sexually abused women and children; handling of matters relating to destitute displacement and lunatics; co-ordination of matters affecting the physically challenged, deaf, lepers, albinos and the blind; sensitisation and mobilisation of women against harmful cultural practices and legislation.
She pointed out that the various activities carried out by her ministry had impacted positively on governance and the lives of the people of the state in particular and Nigerians in general.
The commissioner lauded Gov Udom Emmanuel and wife,Martha, for their gender-friendly disposition which, she noted, had given women equal opportunities in governance at the local government and state levels.
The leader of the team, Brig. Gen. C. F. J. Udaya (rtd), said the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS) was Nigeria’s apex think tank whose major mission was to proffer solutions to the various challenges confronting the country.
He said participants of the current study group were mandated by President Muhammadu Buhari to come up with workable solutions that will assist in the strengthening of local governance in the country.
Udaya said the Presidential mandate with the theme, “Strengthening Local Governance In Nigeria: Challenges, Options and Opportunities,” was the basis for the team’s visit to Akwa Ibom with a view to gathering facts and other vital information that would assist them in the compilation and subsequent presentation of the final report to the President in November this year.
He further disclosed that the institute, in trying to interrogate the subject matter, divided the course participants into seven study groups where they are mandated to undergo study tours within Nigeria and other African countries, while the rest of the participants were assigned for international findings with a view to obtaining information on the issue in focus which, he noted, would further assist the group to come up with a comprehensive report, hence the team’s visit to the ministry.
The leader of the 15-member team thanked Adiakpan for the warm reception accorded them and solicited cooperation.
The visit also featured interactive session between the course participants and the ministry, as well as presentation of plaque by the participants to the women affairs commissioner.