Yahaya Bello
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UN Women Representative to Nigeria’s commendation letter to Kogi Gov. undeserving, faulty, questionable – Emerge Women



“We cannot be advocating for credible elections at the LG level and be simultaneously commending a governor who is stifling that process. For us, the act is illegal and therefore the UN Women’s letter is an endorsement of an illegality’’

Emerge Women, a gender-focused civic organization working across Nigeria and Africa, has condemned in strong terms a letter of commendation to Kogi Gov. Yaya Bello by Mrs Comfort Lamptey, UN Women Representative to Nigeria and ECOWAS for appointing 21 women as deputy chairpersons of the 21 local councils in the state.

The group said the commendation letter was uncalled for and undeserving for mere appointment of women, and not electing them into offices, insisting that it subverts democracy at the grassroots.

Emerge Women is set up to attain gender justice and gender equality in education, health, economic empowerment, social inclusion, and in leadership and decision making processes/positions.

“It is our belief that this act does not deserve commendation from UN Women.

“ Emerge Women wishes to express our grave concern over the recent commendation letter from the UN Women in Nigeria to Governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello and we firmly issue this protest against the letter of commendation and request for courtesy visit to the Executive Governor of Kogi State by Mrs Comfort Lamptey the Country Representative of UN Women to Nigeria and ECOWAS.

“We understand that the reason given for the commendation is the appointment of twenty-one women as deputy chairpersons of all the 21 LGAs in Kogi State, but it is our belief that this act does not deserve commendation from UN Women.

“The laws in Nigeria both at federal and state levels make provisions for the Local Government Chairmen and their deputies to be ELECTED and not APPOINTED.

“So, for the UN Women to celebrate these appointments, regardless of their gender, negates the work that we do to ensure that elections at the LG level are credible.

“This is one of the issues we have with the UN Women’s letter – we cannot be advocating for credible elections at the LG level and be simultaneously commending a governor who is stifling that process.

“For us, the act is illegal and therefore the UN Women’s letter is an endorsement of an illegality. The appointment of deputy LG 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 also subverts democracy. We ask the UN Women, is expediency now better than insistence on the rule of law? ’’ It said in a letter signed by Mrs Mary Ikoku, President, and Hajia Rukaiya Bello, National Coordinator and made available to Persecondnews.

The letter was copied to Mrs Amina J. Muhammed, Deputy Secretary General, United Nations, Oulimata Sarr, Regional Director, UN Women Office for West and Central Africa and Edward Kallon, UN Resident Coordinator.

Officers in the six geo-political zones across the country were also copied.

Emerge Women said instead of commendation for Gov. Bello, he should have been given a letter of condemnation for several human rights infringements on women including a PDP Women Leader who was burnt to death in her house during Bello’s re-election.

“To be clear, the Kogi Governor’s election took the life of a woman- Mrs. Salome Acheju Abuh, a PDP Woman Leader who was burnt alive to death in her house after elections in Kogi State. Another woman in the person of Natasha Akpoti was viciously attacked and violated for seeking election as Governor of Kogi State.

“The Kogi Governor’s Commissioner allegedly raped a young woman in the presence of her 3-year-old son without the Governor reprimanding him. In fact he is still a commissioner in Kogi State! There are many other human rights infringements on women in that State which we cannot recount here.

“In all these, 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.

“We believe the UN Women’s commendation is faulty, questionable and unfortunate given the atrocities committed against women under the watch of the incumbent Governor of Kogi State.

“So long as activists set the bar low, nothing substantive will be accomplished. We cannot say we stand for gender rights and then go out to praise those who brazenly and publicly violate the rights and lives of women.

“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.

“We therefore, expect the UN Women office in Nigeria to reconsider this ill-advised idea of commending the Kogi State Governor.

“We call on all women and right groups in the country and globally to join us in calling on Mrs. Comfort Lamptey, the UN Women Representative in Nigeria to kindly consider withdrawing the Letter of Commendation to 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.

“An injustice to one woman should be seen as injustice to all. We would have marched 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.

“We and other partners in progress would appreciate a response from Mrs Comfort Lamptey, the UN Women Representative to Nigeria and ECOWAS regarding the issues raised in this statement,’’ the women organization states.

On their line of action, Emerge Women said it would be determined by the response from the UN System, especially the UN Women Representative to Nigeria and ECOWAS.

It also said: “Albeit, the commendation is premised on the need to encourage the governor on his appointments of women into political office, this cannot be done in disregard of the larger context of the governor’s actions and inactions.

“Moreover, if that is the compelling reason for the commendation of the governor, it is on record that Rivers State has a woman as her Deputy Governor, female Commissioners, female state assembly member, female Senator, Female Appointees, 1 LGA Chairperson and 22 LGA Vice Chairpersons. To be clear, these women appointments have been in place for many years in Rivers State yet we have not read that UN Women commended the Governor of that state.

“We are now left deeply concerned as to why the recent appointment of Kogi women as LG Vice Chairpersons will attract such a commendation. We have many organizations and women working extremely hard in the country to promote women political participation from institutional perspective, but none is yet to receive commendation from UN Women.

“Under these curious circumstance, It will be difficult to see the UN Women in Nigeria as unbiased.’’

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