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IMO ABORTION LAW: The crux of the matter

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The Violence against Persons Prohibition Law which was signed exactly on the 2nd anniversary of Governor Okorocha’s Administration (i.e. 29th MAY, 2012) has been a subject of intense acrimony and recrimination among the citizenry in the last few weeks in Imo State. It is pertinent to emphasize that it took the people of IMO state over a year to know that a Law authorizing abortion was existing in the State. After laboring secretly to get the vexatious Bill signed into Law, both the Executive and the Legislature hid it from the prying eyes of the various segments of the society. However, in keeping with the maxim that you can deceive some of the people all the time but not all the people all the time, the radar of the Catholic Archbishop of OWERRI Metropolitan intercepted the surreptitious move during a 2-day Pro-Life Summit on 3rd June, 2013.

What actually happened was that the Catholic Archbishop, His Grace A.J.V Obinna popularly called AMARACHI by his numerous admirers in Imo State hosted a two-day Pro-Life International  Summit in Owerri on 3rd June .The guest of Honour was supposed to be His Excellency, the State Governor,Rochas Okorocha. However, he was  represented by the Secretary to the State Government(SSG),Professor Anthony Anwuka. While delivering a speech on behalf of the State Governor, Professor Anwuka made some revelations which kept a  cross section of the participants  in suspense. He was vehement in faulting the inclusion of Section 40(1)(i) of Imo State of Nigeria LAW No 12 which allows right to medical abortion by women who need it in  IMO State. This salvo from the usually taciturn and laconic academic came to most people as an arrow from the dark. Exuding a swashbuckling, pugnacious and combative visage, the professor and former Vice Chancellor of Imo State University (IMSU) said:”As a Knight of Saint Mulumba(KSM)of the Catholic Church, I will ensure that this portion of the Law is expunged and abrogated soonest…”

He argued that Catholics must and should vote for Pro-Life and that no government should violate this right in whatever form including enactment of Laws. Hear PROF:”Every person should have the courage to preserve life rather than destroy it: medical doctors, pharmacists and all health care givers as well as governments should have a rethink because if they have a life, they should think only about how to keep other lives and not how to terminate these lives at whatever stage….”While he was firing the salvos, a cross section of the participants  in the summit were adjusting their sitting postures in order to  absorb the shockwaves which covered the venue of the  summit like a halo. After his fiery speech, alarm bells started ringing at supra decibel in the nooks and crannies of the State. After stirring the hornets’ nest with his impassioned speech, there was a high degree of curiosity and inquisitiveness from a cross section of the populace to access the ABORTION LAW. So, it was Professor TONY Anwuka who put a pin in the Abortion Law balloon to deflate and defuse it and thus brought out the obnoxious law to the full glare of a citizenry who felt highly incensed that such a toxic was secretly argued and signed into law without any input from the citizenry. On this occasion, the SSG was professorial as he shone like a thousand stars. He was the man of the PRO-Life Summit and this whistle blowing role of the SSG should be applauded by right thinking members of the society. But for this whistle blowing role of the SSG, Archbishop Obinna’s radar would not have intercepted the toxic Law, after all, a similar Law which  was signed  in the administration of Chief Achike Udenwa has eluded the   prying eyes of  the populace including, lawyers, journalists, clergy and others.

When the SSG concluded his fiery speech, His Grace Amarachi Obinna became visibly disorientated. In spite of his effort to maintain his monastic disposition, it was self evident that a battle line had been drawn against those who facilitated the passage of the controversial Law. Hear the archbishop” The assent of the Law by the Governor took the Catholic Church by surprise but we’ll do everything possible to protest against it until it is repealed”. So, dear reader, this is the genesis of the ongoing controversy in regard to “the Abortion Law”. Since the passage of this Law came to the public awareness, there has been an avalanche of attacks against the State Governor who many have called all manner of names. In a radio phone-in programme in HOT FM Radio channel, Governor Okorocha was excoriated and pilloried  as he was called such names as 666, Belzebub,advocate of same sex marriage, Illuminati and sundry shibboleths. The social media (internet, twitter, facebook and the like) have been feasting on this story with untrammeled zeal. A group posted on the social media that the next agenda of Governor Okorocha would be to sign a law to legalize same sex marriage in Imo State. According to this aggrieved blogger, he asked:”Why did Governor Okorocha keep silent when a popular newsmagazine did a front Page cover screaming headline to the effect that the Deputy Governor of Imo State, Prince Madumere, is a Homosexual addict. Imo State is the new Sodom and Gomorrah. If not, why did the editors of the over 20 local newspapers in Imo State fail to give this allegation of homosexuality adequate coverage? They are partnering with Okorocha to create a new Sodom and Gomorrah in Imo State”.

My personal grouse on Governor Okorocha is that he was too quick to tell the global audience that he signed the law in error without understanding its contents or perhaps without reading the document at all. He does not have any justification to say so because, as stated above,some of his aides like Professor Tony Anwuka might have discussed the dangers inherent in signing the LAW. How can a State governor who appointed over 100 political aides, most of them are barristers, tell the world that he signed a law out of ignorance. In Governor Okorocha’s disbanded EXCO, there was an Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice; there was an SSA Legal who is a Law Professor and of course there was the 27 member House of Assembly which is a 100% Christian dominated Legislature. Even, the brand-new Attorney General Barrister Chukwuma Machukwu who was appointed a few days ago was a member of that expanded EXCO. So, with over 100 political appointees made up of all manner of people including comedians, Nolly wood celebrities, and professors of Law, Governor Okorocha’s apology of signing a law by mistake is provocative, unassailable and a barefaced violation of the Oath of Office he took.

A scenario where a governor or President would announce to the world that he signed a Law out of ignorance is scary as it is capable of catalyzing pandemonium and catastrophe in a political ambience. While it is a sign of maturity for politicians to apologize when they blunder, there are apologies and there are apologies. The apology of signing a Bill into Law out of ignorance is not the kind of apology that counts as a virtue. In the first place, we do not know how many of such toxic laws have been signed by Governor Okorocha since he was inaugurated Governor on May 29th, 2011.I am also afraid that there is no evidence to prove that both Chief Achike Udenwa and Chief Ikedi Ohakim were in a state of compos mentis when they appended their signatures to all the Laws they signed when they served as governors of IMO State. More worrisome is that present realities show that even the usually calm and humble Chief Achike Udenwa allegedly signed an abortion Law while he was in office and this fact has just been uncovered-over six years that he left office. If such a meek and humble looking person like Chief Udenwa could surreptitiously sign such a Law, it means that urgent steps should be taken to subject all the laws signed since May 29th, 1999 to date to stringent scrutiny in order to ascertain their integrity. I am now moving a motion that the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Imo State should set up a crack team of lawyers to screen these laws in order to accord them a certificate of integrity.

The imperatives of setting up such a task force become compelling when one considers the fact that the Bakassi people of Cross River State did not know that they were tenants on their own God –given land. If the people of Bakassi had known, they would have mobilized early enough to fight for their right of ownership of Bakassi Land. Today, they are settlers in Odukpani Local Government Area of Cross River State. It is pertinent to emphasize that Bakassi Land was ceded to the Cameroon Republic by General Yakubu Gowon (retd) and not General Olusegun Obasanjo (retd) as is being often reported by some misguided public commentators who probably have an axe to grind with Chief Obasanjo.  Yakubu Gowon ceded the oil rich territories to Cameroon in a bid to stop the Biafra Government from using that area to get military weaponry from the outside world.Again, the Civil War in Nigeria was caused by a communication gap between the Biafran Leader and his Nigerian Counterpart during the Aburi summit in Ghana. After they had agreed and signed to run a confederation system of government, the then Nigerian Head of State Gen Yakubu Gowon reneged on implementing the communiqué on the grounds that he did not understand the implications of the Aburi   Accord which stipulated that Nigeria would be a confederation. These are just a few of the implications of signing into Law a Bill that was not properly scrutinized before being signed into Law. It was Senator Arthur Nzeribe who once said that only a fool does not know when to fight. We must gird our loins now and insist that a Think Tank of crack lawyers is set up to screen all the laws passed in Imo State since 29th May, 1999.If this is not done now ,we  may find out to our chagrin that what happened to the nation of Bakassi may be our portion in the future. This is not a matter of “God Forbid”.

__________________________

          By John I. Mgbe
         08032722897
Johnmgbe@yahoo.com

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The Data of Forgiveness

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The Universal Character of Salvation

The most important ingredient in today’s media economy is data. The amount of data available determines how much and how long we can work or play on the internet. Currently, many of the service providers offer unlimited data plans but we know that those “unlimited” plans are not always unlimited. Sometimes, your download speed can get slowed down when you cross a certain point. Today, however, Jesus gives us the divine model of an unlimited plan. It is the unlimited bundle of compassion and forgiveness which never gets slowed downed shut down for maintenance. The theme for this week is that we must learn to forgive without limits no matter the injury committed against us.

In Matthew’s Gospel, today’s teaching on unlimited forgiveness comes after Jesus had told his disciples the parable of the wandering sheep, so it is plausible that some would have wondered among themselves how many times a good shepherd should go after the same sheep if it keeps wandering away. In those days, people believed that forgiveness was limited to three times only – a fourth transgression was not to be forgiven. So, by asking Jesus how many times he should forgive his brother, Peter was probably aiming to increase the limit to seven times. And Jesus makes it clear that we are to forgive others, “not seven times but seventy-seven times” (Matt. 18:22).That means we must dispense an unlimited data bundle of mercy.

In Jesus Christ, we have the forgiveness of a debt we could never pay. Sin is an offence against God and a direct rebellion against his authority and creation. The debt of 10,000 talents mentioned in today’s parable symbolizes the magnitude of the offence that sin causes in God’s eyes, but he is always willing to forgive without limits. However, we can easily cut ourselves off from God’s river of mercy when we refuse to forgive others. We end up restraining God’s mercy and putting ourselves under strict justice. To unfold his mercy without compromising his justice, God leaves each person free to choose between the two. If we insist on strict justice when we are offended, we bring God’s strict justice upon ourselves. But if we offer an unlimited bundle of mercy to others, we draw God’s unlimited data of forgiveness upon ourselves.

The secret to forming a forgiving heart lies in recognizing the evil of our sin and the immensity of God’s goodness in forgiving us. Until we see the ugliness of our ingratitude and selfishness, we will never appreciate the generosity of God’s forgiveness. Let us examine ourselves now to see how much forgiveness we are giving. Is there someone we still cannot forgive even after they have expressed sorrow for their actions? Have we judged someone too harshly because of something they said or did that we did not particularly like? How many times have we failed to help somebody because we are still dwelling on an injury that we suffered many years ago? How many times have we treated someone differently based on preconceived notions or stereotypes? These are some of the factors that shackle us like chains and that disrupt the unlimited data of divine grace in our lives. When we close ourselves off to people or dismiss them based on our preconceptions, mistaken judgments, and prejudices, not only do we make them suffer, we suffer as well.

But it does not have to be that way. Jesus came to free us from and the burden of sin and unhappiness. Forgiveness is like mercury, which runs away when it is held tightly in the hand but is preserved by keeping the palm open. When we lose forgiveness, we lose the ability to give and to receive love because love is the foundation of forgiveness. And since God is the foundation of love, whoever refuses to forgive automatically rejects the love of God. This is the essence of today’s parable and it is highlighted by the contrast between what was owed by each man. The wicked slave owed his master some 10000 talents. In gold terms, that is 350 tons and at today’s price, he owed his master USD21.8 billion. This was way more than King Solomon made in a year which was 666 talents of gold or USD1.45 billion in today’s value (cf. I Kings 10:14). So, this unforgiving servant owed his master what no individual could never payback. In contrast, his fellow servant owed him the equivalent of one talent of gold or USD2.1 million; so a man who was forgiven $21.8b could not let go of $2.1m, and his wickedness landed him in the hands of torturers.

Dear friends, forgiveness is an act of compassion which is expressed in the free choice to pardon one another’s shortcomings every day, and to also pardon ourselves for own mistakes Forgiveness transcends the fear of being wounded again; it is a deliberate act in imitation of the redemptive work of Jesus, the advocacy of the Holy Spirit, and the loving kindness of the Father. The whole point of today’s parable is that our Father in heaven will do the same to anyone who refuses to forgive others. Whoever refuses to forgive is doomed to a life of bitterness, and as the ugly trend continues, the person ends up building invisible walls of resentment around themselves, thereby blocking off not just one’s relationships with other people but with God as well. Forgiveness is not just an emotional expression or a sense of righteousness; it means being merciful not only when there is an explanation or apology, or a promise of amendment from the offender, but even when the offence is deliberate, and the offender is adamant. Forgiveness is a precious gift of grace, which does not depend on the worthiness of the receiver. Forgiveness is what we called to do, and the Lord’s grace is sufficient for us in that regard. Amen.

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Imo Deputy Governor’s giant strides towards revitalizing agriculture

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Imo Deputy Governor's giant strides towards revitalizing agriculture
By Joy Opara

The increasing cost of Agricultural products in Imo State in recent times has continued to be a major source of concern to the citizens of the state.

A critical appraisal of the development of Agriculture in this state reveals that successive governments had neglected this major sector of the economy, over three decades now, and this has adversely affected the revenue of government.

In line with the vision of the “shared prosperity” government of the Hope Uzodinma administration, the revolution of agriculture is among its cardinal programmes for which a high powered committee (on agricultural master plan for Imo State) has been set up.
For the purpose of resuscitating all moribund agricultural industries and facilities in the state, it is not surprising that this committee is headed by a world class Professor of Agriculture and Deputy Governor of Imo State, Prof. Placid Njoku.

The need to diversify the economy cannot be over-emphasized. It is a well known fact that there is no better and more sustainable means of diversifying the economy than through agriculture. It would be recalled that after the inauguration of his committee, the deputy governor went into action, first by visiting all moribund agricultural facilities in the state, which included Adapalm in Ohaji/ Egbema LGA, Avutu Poultry farm in Avutu, Obowo LGA, Songhai farms, Okigwe road, Owerri, ADP farms in Nekede, Owerri West. Others are Acharaubo farms in Emekuku, Owerri North, Imo Rubber Plantation in Obiti, Ohaji/ Egbema, amongst others.
Prof. Njoku in one of his speeches during the tour described agriculture as the economic base of most countries of the world. Considering the dwindling oil revenue, he said it should be a source of worry to people of good conscience that the vision of our founding fathers to generate revenue, food security, economic advancement, industrialization, employment and eradication of poverty was destroyed by successive governments.
The Deputy Governor, who not only is acknowledged as one of the greatest professors of Animal Science, a renowned Agriculturist and former Vice Chancellor of a leading University of Agriculture, the Federal University of Agriculture, Umudike, made it clear that the present government led by Governor Hope Uzodinma is desirous to return agriculture to its former glory.

The Ikeduru-born technocrat and farmer per-excellence said that the 3R Mantra of this administration namely: Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Recovery is a base for making the dream of Imo State as the food basket of the nation come true.

Noting that government is a continuum, the deputy governor promised that his committee will build upon what is already on ground by rehabilitating the ones that could be rehabilitated and bringing in new facilities where necessary to ensure that the passion of the governor towards agricultural revival is achieved.

Meanwhile, in most of the establishments visited by the committee, it was discovered that indigenes of the communities had badly encroached into the lands and converted them to personal use. Investigations by the committee revealed that agents of some past governments in the state connived with the communities to make it possible, for their personal aggrandizement.

The deputy governor, whose humility has become legendary pledged his total support to the Governor, Senator Hope Uzodinma whom he described as God sent to right all that were done wrong by the previous administrations in the state. He called on all to give this administration the needed support to rewrite the history of Imo State in gold, especially the agricultural sector.

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Child Abuse: A case of betrayal of reciprocal trust

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Child Abuse: A case of betrayal of reciprocal trust
By Christian Uzoukwu

Some years ago, while as a kid, I fell out with my father due to an occasion of sheer disobedience and on that very day, I was given no food and was ultimately battered by hunger. Child abuse includes both acts of commission and omission on the part of parents, guardians as well as care-givers.

These acts have led to a lot of actual and threatened harm meted out on countless number of children. In 2014, the WHO made an estimate of 41,000 children (under the age of 15) that are victims of homicide and other related offences. This estimate, as expounded by this world body is grossly below the real figures due to the views of the society in relation to corporal punishment experienced by children. Girls are always most vulnerable to different forms of child abuse during unrests and in war-thorn territories.

Cases of child abuse can be established in some deadly human vices such as child trafficking, child labour, forced adoption as seen in the one-child policy prevalent in China. In the Asian country, women, by law are only allowed to have one child. Local governments would sometimes allow the woman to give birth and then they would take the baby away stating the mother violated the one child policy. Child traffickers, often paid by the government, would sell the children to orphanages that would arrange international adoptions worth tens of thousands of dollars, turning a profit for the government.

Other striking examples of child abuse are the various forms of violence against the girl-child which involves infanticide, sex-selective abortions, female genital mutilations (FGM), sexual initiation of virgins in some African cultures, breast ironing in some parts of Cameroon – involving the vicious use of hot stones and other tools to flatten the breast tissue of girls who have attained the age of puberty. As if those were not enough, female students are also subject to maltreatments in countries like Afghanistan and Pakistan. This is not to talk of recurring kidnapp of female students in some parts of Nigeria, as we saw in the case of Dapchi and Chibok schoolgirls.

Based on simple analysis, child abuse can be defined as “all forms of physical and/or emotional ill-treatment, sexual abuse, neglect or negligent treatment or commercial or other exploitation, resulting in actual or potential harm to the child’s health, survival, development or dignity in the context of a relationship of responsibility, trust or power”.

This definition by WHO also falls in line with the definition propounded by the United States Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, which says that child abuse are acts of commission. This commission includes “words or overt actions that cause harm, potential harm, or threat of harm to a child”, and acts of omission (neglect), meaning “the failure to provide for a child’s basic physical, emotional, or educational needs or to protect a child from harm or potential harm.

In Nigeria, most cases of child abuse have become cumbersome due to the fact that these acts of abuses are regarded as mere punishments to unruly young ones and by so doing, should be justified and doesn’t call for any further discussion and/or scrutiny. According to various statistical studies and researches, child abuse is a vast societal cankerworm and has four profound tentacles viz:

Physical Abuse: this involves undue hitting, beating, kicking, shaking, biting, burning, strangling, insertion of pepper into the eyes and pubic regions of children, maltreatments from house-help(s) and seniors at boarding/day schools, suffocating and forcing children to live in unwholesome conditions.

Sexual Abuse also includes persuading a minor into acts of sexual intercourse, exposure of the child’s private parts, production of child-related pornographic contents and actual sexual contacts with children.

Psychological Abuse of children can be seen in cases of excessive scolding, lack of proper attention that children should be receiving from their parents and guardians, destructive criticisms and destruction of a child’s personality.

Neglect of children can also lead to children dropping out of schools, begging/stealing for food and money, lack of proper medical care for minors and realities of children looking like ragamuffins.

Consequently, the causes of child abuse can be judiciously related to sex, age, personal history, societal norms, economic challenges, lack of Rights’ Protection Agencies, parents battling with traits of alcoholism and family size. These causative agents of child abuse can bring untold effects upon the society at large and these effects can be emotional, physical and psychological as the case may be, giving rise to individuals with dissociative lifestyles.

Furthermore, the treatment of individuals who have been malformed with respect to the abuses they experienced abinitio, can be a long process because it involves behavioral therapy and other forms of neoteric therapies. Treatments of psyche-related problems are not just a one-day process due to the long-lasting effects of abuses on various conscious mental activities. It is also noteworthy to point out that, prevention is always better than cure and holding fast to this true reality, entails that agencies who have the responsibility of protecting the rights of children must continue to do the needful which requires proper oversights of parent-child relationships.

To conclude this piece therefore, we must agree that untold hardships have been a great challenge for children especially in Africa and some parts of Asia. Children with long histories of abuses turn out to become societal misfits. To this end we encourage that: Children should be given a free platform to express themselves on many topical issues and issues relating to their existence.

Children should also be allowed to freely ask questions on any issue, no matter, how weird it seems to be.

Governments should make regulations outlawing societal norms and values that might amount to child abuses.

Corporal punishments by parents, guardians and care-givers should be discouraged at all levels, thereby making parents/guardians/care-givers who seem to be incorrigible, to face the full weight of justice enshrined in the law of the land.

Education system (both conventional and unconventional) in Nigeria should be able to train up young ones into becoming critical, analytical and evaluative individuals with a view of defending the vulnerable.

And again, since children are said to be leaders of tomorrow, it is pertinent to note that to secure their future, their present existence must be cherished and protected.

Christian Chimemerem Uzoukwu
08100029867 / 09025760804
Admin Critical Thinkers’ Forum.

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