Monday, 30 December 2013

MEET THE GUY WHO CIRCUMNAVIGATED THE GLOBE WITHOUT TAKING A PLANE




Graham Hughes, a gregarious thirty-four-year-old ginger from Liverpool, recently became the first person to travel to every country on earth without taking a plane. It took him four years. He recently commemorated his accomplishment with aYouTube video—nearing one million views and counting—featuring short clips of him in each of his 201 destinations. (“BURKINA FASO!”) His first passport stamp came in Uruguay on January 1, 2009. That seemed like a good place to start our conversation, too.

Why would you start in Uruguay?

Because it’s the most southerly country that’s still attached to other countries.

Oh, right. You’d actually have to be a bit strategic about this. 

I was strategic. It was like a board game, like Snakes & Ladders except with visas and shipping. I did all of South America in two weeks, got around the Caribbean in a month or two. It was quite easy. Got over to Europe on a cargo ship from Canada, did all fifty states of Europe in two or three weeks. I was doing, like, seven countries a day. And then I hit Africa. I thought it might take me two or three months. By the end of the year I was still in Africa. It was a lot trickier than I thought it was going to be. 

Is that just because the ground transportation isn’t very good?

No, the ground transportation is fine. It’s bureaucracy. It’s visas. I got held up going to the Cape Verde Islands because I got put in jail for six days. [Ed. note: More on this later.] I got held up getting to Sao Tome. The islands were the nightmare. I tried to get to the Seychelles from Madagascar and failed miserably. I had to leave the Seychelles until later. 

Wait. How did you finally get to the Seychelles?

There was one cruise ship that left Europe, bound for Australia, and it hit the Seychelles. It also went to the Maldives, which I needed to get to. The trouble was—the Seychelles are smack in the middle of the high-risk area for Somali pirates. So cargo ships couldn’t take me, because of their insurance. I just got really lucky that it was Costa cruises that was going, and after the Concordia I got in touch with them to see if they wanted a good news story. They agreed to help me out and picked me up in India. This year, that same cruise ship, going down to Australia for the winter season, is going all the way around Africa to avoid that area. That was my one shot.

I wouldn’t have guessed the Seychelles would have been the hardest. 

People ask about Iraq and Afghanistan, but they were easy—I didn’t even need a visa. Iraq, I just turned up from Turkey. The guy sat me down with a map and some tea—he was very polite and friendly—and he said, “This is the area you can travel in. Just don’t go south of here. If we catch you, we’ll arrest you. If they catch you, you’ll be on YouTube getting your head chopped off.” I was like, Okay, won’t be going there. Some border guards were happy just to have something to do, I think. 

You must have been the first tourist some of these guys have ever seen.

I have Visa No. 0085 for Afghanistan. I did learn quite quickly that your best defense when you’re traveling on your own is just having a smile and a good sense of humor and taking it all in your stride. If it takes a day for someone to stamp your passport, it takes a day for someone to stamp your passport. Getting upset won’t change that. What happened to me when I arrived in Brazzaville, Congo, I’d just been on this horrific journey—literally on the back of his meat truck with hundreds of people. My feet were on this rotting carcass of a goat or something, flies all over it… We got stopped at a police checkpoint, and at the time, I was tired, I was frustrated, I had two hellish days of travel. I wasn’t in a good mood, I was angry with the police, and as a reflection of that I spent six days in jail. 

Smile. Got it. Any other lessons from your journey?

My main lesson from all of this: You can’t judge a people by the actions of their government. The friendliest country I went to, by a mile, was Iran. I just wasn’t expecting that. I was on this overnight bus, and this little old Persian grandmother was sitting in front of me, nattering away on a mobile phone. She turned around and waved at me and gave me her phone. I didn’t know what she wanted me to do with it. I said “Hello,” and there was a guy on the other end, perfect English. He said that his grandmother was concerned about me—the bus gets in very early in the morning, and she’s worried that you won’t have anywhere to go or anything to eat, so she wants to know if she can take you home with her so she can cook you breakfast. Faith in humanity, restored. That’s the lesson: People are good. The spirit of common decency is everywhere you go. Maybe I’m just the luckiest motherfucker in the world, but I went to every country, and I didn’t get robbed, I didn’t get beaten up—I didn’t even get ill. 

Seriously? That might be the most amazing part of all of this. I would have gotten sick after standing on that dead goat for two days. I would have caught something through my feet.

That’s years of going to European music festivals and eating dodgy kebabs.

When you take a flight now, it must seem like a miracle—you’re crossing an ocean in six hours. 

It’s incredible. People moan about long-haul flights. Try taking a meat truck for two days.

How did this all end? From Uruguay to—

Well, I had to make my way back from the South Pacific to South Sudan—the country that wasn’t a country when I started this. On the way back, it almost felt like a victory lap. Everywhere I went, I met up with an old friend of mine, someone I had stayed with or had met traveling. When I went to South Sudan, I met a guy I’d hung out with in Kenya three years before. He had champagne for me. Then I went up to Egypt and met up with a friend of mine, Kendra, from Boston. On the Saturday night, we got together with three local lads she knew, all named Mohammed, and we climbed over the fence into the Pyramid complex. No one was guarding it. We got to the Great Pyramid and we climbed up it. We got to the top, and that for me was the pinnacle of the journey. Below was the city of Cairo, and at about five a.m., the call to prayer started, with one ghostly murmur, and then there was another one and another one, all across the city, just rising up to us. The three Mohammeds got down to pray on top of the Great Pyramid, and that’s something I’ll take with me until the day I die.


Culled from Esquire



Sunday, 22 December 2013

Abandoned without Development: The story of Bishop Kodji Island Lagos



The phrase "Lagos is working" is a common slogan among Lagosians as most government jingles are filled with it. Lagos can be termed to be working with road constructions in key areas of economic importance according to a government officials and other projects which I best termed elitist in nature. Will I say Governor Babatunde Fashola is not working? No he is I believe so. But I am concerned because the poor and voiceless are mostly forgotten as he turns Lagos into a "Mega City". 


My job as a normadic journalist offers me the opportunity to visit some people and communities that are under-reported about in the mainstream media. One of such communities is "Bishop Kodji Island" under Amuwo-Odofin local government area. The Island can be accessed from CMS with a speedboat in less than 30minutes.

                  



After a scary ride onboard the speed boat, I finally arrived this Island surrounded by nearby Apapa Wharf as you can see ship arriving the seaport from the community.


By the shore of the Island, you would be greeted by smoke surrounding the environment. For me that was an environmental pollution and aside that, this was more than what I will discover in this community.


Bishop Kodji Island is made up of seven communities amongst which are Sagbo kodji, Gonure Kodji, Akoponawa, Iredu, Agala Ayedun. 


The population of the Island is estimated at about 50,000. But this population of people can be best described to be alienated from the development ongoing in the Lagos Metropolis. The Island has only one primary school and health centre. No secondary school, no power supply and some elephant projects borehole and solar street lights that packed up immediately after they were commissioned.

Non-functional government installed street lights.


According to the Secretary of the Community Development Association CDA on the Island, Mr. Dansu Peter, the street light only served the community for the day it was launched and stop working after the dignitaries that came for the launch left. Also a borehole installed served us for some months before it stopped working. We don't have any source of water supply on this Island, apart from individuals who sell water they buy from other parts of Lagos.

                                            Individual water seller

                   Non-functional government borehole



                Tankers ready to go in search of water 

           


As I moved round the community, I noticed the poor sanitary conditions as faeces are scattered all around the place. Though it was dry season, I imagined how the community will look like during the rainy season with the faeces everywhere.


                     Faeces littering the ground.


A resident and women leader on the Island Mrs Ronke Akanwo laments the harsh conditions many pregnant women face in the area. "We have only one health center and this can barely cater for the health need of our people. If a woman has to give birth at night, we don't have any facility to attend to such emergencies. So most women on this Island, depend on traditional birth attendant and most times don't bother attending antenatal care. Sometimes we have lost both mother and child due to complications from childbirth delivery. We just depend on God and pray for labour pain not to start at odd hours of the night", she explained.


                   Fish processing shades.


The major occupation of residents in the community is fishing and this was evident as I came to discover the smoke in the community was as a result of women smoking fresh fish that would be sold in the market. I visited some of the fish processing shades and could barely stand the smoke as my eyes became watery almost immediately. But I wondered how the women were coping with the smoke on a daily.





From the Island, I could noticed the community was surrounded by many big factories like Flour mills, Dangote sugar, Bua sugar, Ladol, Folawiyo amongst other. So I believed most of the youths will be working in those companies. But I was shocked to find out that they were not when I asked.



The situation on the Island could best be termed "OYO" meaning on your own. The residents depend on generators popularly called I pass my neighbour, they buy water from tank owners who buy from other communities, one primary school and health centre! All for a 50,000 population! 


          The only primary on Bishop Kodji Island.


Residents on the Island appealed to the Lagos state government to remember them as they execute projects in other parts of the city because they voted massively during the 2011 election for the present administration. "We are Lagosians", they lamented.



Friday, 20 December 2013

Celebrating the Yuletide with the Hearing-Impaired



Though located in Meiran, a suburb town of Lagos, Brighter Future School for the Deaf  is a breathe of fresh air to many. I visited the school as they celebrated there End of the Year Party.

The school owned and managed by Deaconess Adedoyin Beyioku-Alase who also has a hearing impairment, caters for children  from 3 years to when they can enroll for secondary school.



She explained that though it is not easy for most parents to allow their children stay in the school boarding facility but it helps the children to learn and socialize with their peers. 

According to Deaconess at an early age we teach the children sign language as this would enable them to communicate as they grow.

"Though in our society people are religious. Imagine when a parent keep blaming witches for their child been deaf. They should rather think of how to change that child's life for good. There is ability in disability. But parent need to support and create an enabling environment for their deaf children to grow and aspire  to greater heights".


Some parents at the Xmas party shared their heart breaking moment when they had to part with their kids who enrolled in the boarding school but were happy they did because of the great change in their children. 

One of the mothers, Mrs Shade Ogundipe "after discovering my three years old daughter was deaf, I was devastated. But a friend encouraged me to visit and enroll my child in this school. It was not easy for my family especially my husband but today I see a bright future ahead of her. Parents with deaf children should ensure they invest in educating their children because been deaf is not the end of that child's dreams and aspiration".

                                                 MC of the Christmas party and his interpreter
A teacher and interpreter of sign language, Mr. Muyi Subairu appealed to the Lagos State government to employ more teachers that can communicate with deaf pupils using sign language as this would improve the performance of deaf students in their academic work. 

He expressed displeasure at the situation in some government-owned where deaf students are been lectured by teachers who come to the class speaking to deaf students. That is not fair. Can you give newspaper to a blind man to read?, he asked.

There are thirty-one government-owned schools in Lagos state operating inclusive education for people with disability but investigation reveals that most of the schools lack teachers who have been trained in special education.

The children entertained guests with drama, dance performance and display of there intellectual ability. Also in attendance was a deaf dance group called The Refuge.






                   The Refuge Dance Group Entertaining Guests at the Christmas Party

   A hearing impaired student Interpreting what was communicated to her in sign language


Eradicating Wrong Perception on HIV/AIDS and People With Disabilities


Since its discovery of HIV/AIDS in the 1970s, there has been a myth that sexual relations with a physically disabled person would rid an HIV infected person of the virus. Coupled with this fallacy is the fact that persons with disabilities (PWDs) are often sidelined due to their inability to access necessary information.

This prompted the State Accountability and Voice Initiative (SAVI), a programme-initiative funded by the Department for International Development (DFID) of the UK government, designed to support responsible, accountable and inclusive State-level governance in Nigeria to organised a stakeholders forum with civil society groups and Health institutions to address the challenges PWDs are faced with and proffer solutions.

This stake-holders meeting provided a platform for people with disabilities under the Lagos State Civil Society Disability Policy Partnership to discuss and proffer solution to issues and challenges related to HIV/AID.

Dr. Dan Onwujekwe, a Senior Research Fellow at the National Institute of Medical Research (NIMR), in his lecture brought attention to the fact that HIV/AIDs can bring about disability as it attacks the immune system which can cause blindness in some instances or even paralysis. 

He further stated that most of the PWDs are some of the less privileged ones in our society hence, information dissemination should be targeted at these groups while bearing in mind the different disabilities with its various peculiarities. 

The Coordinator of the Nigerian Association of the Blind HIV/AIDS and sexual Reproductive Health Project for Blind Adolescents and Youths, Miss Ejiro Okotie said that the issues of confidentiality, discrimination and stigma were the reasons that prevented PWDs from disclosing their status and seeking help.

Also Chairman of the Nigerian Association of the Blind Dr. Opeoluwa Akinola, pointed out that no vital provisions such as alternative means of communication and transportation have been put in place to help PWDs who visit health centers.

He expressed hopes that through more sensitization programme, the society would be enlightened and fallacious belief that PWDs were immune to HIV/AIDs as perceived by some people would be corrected.

The Secretary of the National Association of the Blind Dr. Bukola Adebayo, emphasized the importance of Sex Education to children and adolescents as a preventive measure against HIV/AIDS. He added that there was need to recognize the issues and challenges faced by people with disabilities in the society.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

LOW PRICE TARIFFS AND QUALITY OF SERVICE REMAIN KEY TO CUSTOMER RETENTION






The Yearly Special Edition Telecoms Poll results released by NOIPolls Limited has revealed that the majority (63%) of mobile phone owning adult Nigerians currently use two or more phone lines in 2013, this is down from (74%) in 2012. Findings indicate that the proportion of adult Nigerians using one line has increased by (11%) in 2013. Also half of the respondents (50%)rated the services of their main network provider as good while 55% affirmed they are getting value for money from their main network provider.  This proportion (55%) has remained constant over the two year period, however those that claim they are not getting value for money increased by 8-points in 2013. The key factors used by customers to define value for money were “network/ service quality” and “price tariffs”.  Other topline results show that only (2%) of respondents have ported since the beginning of the portability drive, (26%) of respondents (majority) see the promotions of MNOs as fake (up by 22-points in 2013) and, in order to generally improve the quality of telecommunication services in Nigeria majority of respondents(60%) suggested that “Network operators should be mandated to improve on their services”. These were the key findings from the Telecommunications Snap Poll conducted in the week of December 9th 2013.
 
The Nigeria telecommunication sector has witnessed significant growth over the years and remains one of the best and fastest growing sectors of the Nigerian economy. The industry is ranked the largest and fastest growing telecom market in Africa and among the ten fastest telecommunication growth markets in the world. As at September 2013 the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) estimated a total of 121,271,218 subscribers and a teledensity of 86.62 in Nigeria.
 
The industry which contributes about 8.53% to the GDP (March 2013) has recently experienced a slow growth rate and series of challenges ranging from poor quality of service to steep competition. This implies that service providers rely heavily on price tariffs to gain market share and dominance leading to a perceived fall in the quality of service and an increasing rate of dissatisfaction amongst users.
 
Against this background NOIPolls conducted this special edition poll on the quality of telecommunication services in Nigeria to explore the mobile phone usage patterns, quality of services provide by telecommunications providers and recommendation to improve the quality of services. The result presented is the second in series of annual telecommunication polls conducted by NOIPolls; the first was conducted in 2012.
 
Respondents were asked a series of specific questions, the first question sought to establish the mobile phone usage pattern of Nigerians. Respondents were asked: How many phone lines do you currently use? Responses showed that majority of the respondents (63% in total) currently use more than one phone line compared to 37% who currently use only one phone line.
 
When the findings are compared with those obtained from 2012, it is observed that fewer Nigerians now use more than one phone line in 2013(63%) than in 2012 (74%). This is evident based on the observation that there was a significant 11-point increase in the proportion of Nigerians that currently use only one phone line from 2012 (26%) to 2013 (37%). This can be tied to the observation that the network providers currently have comparatively similar price tariffs; in addition many subscribers that have previously tested various networks have now settled on 1 main line to use.
 

Niger State Launches Safe Cooking Energy Programme



The Niger State Government has launched the Safe Cooking Energy Programme. The programme seeks to extend the benefits of safe cooking energy to half a million households and small businesses over the next three years.

With support from USAID, Niger State has already installed highly efficient wood stoves in twenty six of its boarding secondary schools. This has reduced wood use by school kitchens to more than 80% and saves money and the health of cooks in school kitchens.

Niger State has approximately 1.2 million households, of which 73.6% households use firewood for cooking. Nearly 60% of these gather wood from the forests while about 15% buy them from the market. Only 22% of families use kerosene for cooking in Niger State. Less than 1% of households in Niger State use cooking gas. This situation causes a number of negative sanitary, economic, environmental and gender implications.

The newly launched Niger State Safe Cooking Energy Programme will replace traditional use of fire wood in the rest of public institutions with efficient wood burning technologies. It will build a stove production plant in the State and create over one thousand five hundred new jobs. The programme will empower women by training them to produce and sell stoves. It will also reducethe deforestation.

According to Dr. Mustapha Lemu, the Commissioner for Science and Technology, "Niger State will indigenise efficient wood burning technologies and this will contribute to industrial growth in the state. The programme will contribute to the transformation agenda of the Government of Niger State by stimulating economic growth and reducing impacts on health and environment", he said.

The Safe Cooking Energy Programme is a partnership between the Niger State Government and USAID, the Nigeria Infrastructure Advisory Facility and the Nigerian Alliance for Clean Cookstoves. The Nigerian Infrastructure Advisory Facility will provide technical assistance to the implementation of the programme.  USAID is already financing a project to extend the benefits of clean cooking to secondary schools in the State, while the Nigerian Alliance will provide financial resources to support the state in planning and expanding the programme.

In his presentation, Ewah Eleri, Executive Director of International Centre for Energy, Environment and Development and a Team Leader at the Nigeria Infrastructure Advisory Facility, "We have lined up a solid partnership of donors to support the Niger State Government in its ambition to eradicate the harmful consequences of traditional cooking with wood. With our support, the state will become a model for clean cooking in Nigeria".

Niger State pioneered the efficient wood stoves technology in 2010 through a project in Government Girls Secondary School, Bida. Since then there has been an increasing national attention to issues of wood use for cooking in schools and other public institutions in the country.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Agip begins oil spill clean up in Bayelsa: NAN





The Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC) on Monday began the cleaning of crude discharged into the Atlantic Ocean from its oil export terminal off Bayelsa coastline on 27 November.

Residents along the coastline said that spill response workers deployed by Agip were seen in the waterways and along the coastline.

They said that workers deployed to the sea used plastic materials called 'boom' to keep the floating oil from spreading.

Eni, the Italian Energy firm and parent company of the NAOC, had said that it was investigating the cause of the oil discharge as the National Oil Spills Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) had reported the spill to the company.

Residents of the affected fishing settlements complained that NAOC officials had not contacted them to know the extent of damage the spill had caused to their fishing activities.

The Chairman of Bayelsa Chapter of the Artisan Fishermen Association of Nigeria, Mrs Elizabeth Egbe, told NAN that the oil leak had forced 3,000 fishermen to suspend fishing.

Also speaking, the President of the Ewoama Community in Brass Local Government Area, Mr Ebipre Omubo, expressed regret over the alleged insensitive posture of the firm to the plight of the fishing communities.

"Our community is seriously impacted by the oil spill from Agip's platform on the sea, thus disrupting our fishing activities.

"This is why we are calling on Agip to come to the aid of the community with relief materials and compensation.

"As far as this spill is concerned, the attitude of Agip toward the impacted communities remains unacceptable.

"I am aware that the fishermen at Mbikiri in Twon-Brass, Okpoama, Odioama and Dieama are seriously affected too," Omubo said.

Meanwhile, the spokesman for NAOC, Mr Tajudeen Adigun, could not be reached for comments on the development as several calls and text messages put to his mobile phone, for an official response, were also not answered.

Copyright NAN


Monday, 2 December 2013

Germany seizes Congolese wood in strongest EU action yet against illegal timber trade

 


German authorities have seized two batches of illegal timber from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The seizure is the strongest case of enforcement of an EU law banning the trade in illegally sourced timber which took effect in March 2013. The government action was triggered by a tip-off from Greenpeace.

“This sends a strong signal to all loggers and their buyers in Europe to steer clear of dodgy business.We urge German authorities to conduct a full inquiry and not let the companies involved off the hook,” said Danielle van Oijen, forest campaigner at Greenpeace Netherlands.

EU countries must increase efforts to implement and enforce the European timber regulation, said Greenpeace. Illegal timber will continue to enter the EU market, unless strong action is taken against those who break the law.

The seized timber is from the endangered wengĂ© tropical tree species. It was logged by Lebanese-owned Bakri Bois Corporation (BBC) in the DRC.The BBC logs were taken to the Belgian port of Antwerp in April 2013 for Swiss-based timber trader Bois d’Afrique Mondiale and were eventually placed on the EU market by three German timber companies.A separate batch ended up in the Czech Republic for processing.

“Illegal and destructive logging must stop for the sake of the forests and the millions of people who depend on them. The Congolese government shouldcancel BBC’s illegal concession contract and investigate and prosecute anybody involved in a suspected falsification of official documents. Not one splinter of illegal wood from the DRC must find its way to Europe,” said Raoul Monsembula, country coordinator for Greenpeace Africa in the DRC.

The timber was logged under an illegal concession contract, according to a government-approved report by independent DRC forest observer Resource Extraction Monitoring. A joint field mission by Greenpeace Africa, Global Witness and local NGOs confirmed these independent reports and found other cases of irregularities.


The UNFCCC COP. 19 Summit in Warsaw Poland, made a head way in reducing global carbon emission through the United Nation Reducing Emission from Deforestation and Forest Degradation UN REDD.

#Malawians mock #Zuma by MABVUTOJOBANI



Malawians mocked South African President Jacob Zuma describing him as uncivilised for remarks he made recently.

While trying to justify e-tolls for roads in South Africa, Zuma said: “We can’t think like Africans, in Africa, generally. We are in Johannesburg, this is Johannesburg. It’s not some national road in Malawi”.

This has not gone down well with many in Malawi that I caught up with.

“This is the time Mr Zuma needs a real quick shower and wash his mouth and clean up,” said Richard Mhone, a Lilongwe resident

“This man Zuma has no civility…he is a disgusting character who acts like a spoiled child,” said Martin Zulu saying he watched Zuma on E-TV.

“Just because Malawi is a poor country does not give Zuma the platform to insult us…it’s very unfortunate for a head of state to utter such remarks,” said Elyeazer Kandoche.

Bright Sonani, a political journalist described Zuma’s remarks as disgusting.

“How can he stoop so low and drag Malawi into this. His job is to convince South Africans about the E-Toll and not to justify it by using Malawi,” he said. “This is disguting.”

“Zuma must understand one thing and that is apart from the white minority running his economy, Malawians are among the few black Africans working in key sectors and are helping to build his country. For that reason, he should have the decency and maturity to acknowledge that,” said Edgar Banda, a businessman in the commercial city of Blantyre.

Gift Trapese, a well known government critic and activist said: ” Mr Zuma should have known that South Africa is a leading country on the continent and his leadership should reflect that maturity and seriousness. His statement is nothing short of being xenophobic.”