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By:Sunday Lawal

Each year, la Francophonie is celebrated on 20th March among populations who share the French language in about 84 countries scattered on the five continents. In Ghana, the 10th to the 24th of March, 2018 was earmarked for the “Quinzaine de la Francophonie”, during which a number of symbolic events were organised by the francophone embassies in conjunction with the Alliance Française Accra and the Institut Français Ghana.

“Let the festivities begin!”

On what was a night to savour at Alliance Française Accra, a spectacular opening ceremony took place on 10th March in the presence of many guests drawn not only from the Francophone community but the Ghanaian society at large. From state officials to ambassadors, civil society representatives to the ordinary population, people from all walks of life gathered to witness the commencement of this year’s edition of la Quinzaine de la Francophonie, which is celebrated annually to showcase the French language and the diversity of francophone culture.

The occasion set the stage for the convergence of a number of high profile personalities including Hon. Dr. Yaw Osei Adutwum, Deputy Minister in charge of Basic & Secondary Education and Dr. Eric Adja, Director of the West Africa regional headquarters of the International Organisation of La Francophonie. Also present was Ghanaian-born former French international Marcel Desailly, as well as members of the diplomatic corps in Ghana representing Burkina Faso, Belgium, Benin, Canada, Côte d’Ivoire, Congo, Egypt, France, Niger, Mali, Morocco, Senegal and Switzerland, including the ambassador of France to Ghana, François Pujolas.

In his opening address, Dr. Adutwum reiterated the government’s commitment to broaden access to the French language in Ghana and used the occasion to announce the beginning of the “bilingual class” project which is currently being run at the pilot stage in collaboration with the French Embassy. Afterwards, Dominik Coco and his Kako band from the West Indies island of Guadeloupe took over and treated the audience to a composite of zouk, reggae and dancehall music. If anything, there was definitely no shortage of dancing on the night!

When learning French is fun

On 14th March, the finals of the “budding ambassadors” competition for West and Central African zone took place at Alliance Française in Accra.  The occasion put to test the oratory and public speaking skills of the best students selected from various French High schools within the two sub-regions, who were competing for the five available slots at the International grand finale to be held in Paris later this year.

Later that evening, oration took a more relaxed posture as students of the Lycée Français Accra Jacques Prévert mounted the stage one after the other, to show off their prowess in poetry during a spoken word concert. The show was crowned off with a superb freestyle act by the witty-wordy tongue-twisting slam champion Maras, coming all the way from France.

French language and career development

French, like any other language is obviously largely appreciated as a vector of culture. Beyond cultural dissemination however, the French language, ranking third among languages for business, has proven to be a very vital skill on the global occupational scene and it is this facet of the language that was brought to the fore during a job skills application workshop organised on 21st March at Alliance Française Accra.

Students and workers alike came to be part of a very enlightening seminar that sought to shed light on job application procedures in French or Francophone work settings. In view of the fledgling number of French companies now based in Ghana, this job skills seminar focused on French-tailored job application procedures, CV presentation and cover letter writing. Facilitators also used the opportunity to clearly delineate the differences between Francophone and Anglophone recruitment processes, by pointing out certain errors made by anglophone candidates while seeking jobs in French companies.

Speaking at the seminar were the Executive director of the France Ghana chamber of commerce Delphine Adenot-Owusu, Cooperation attaché for French language at the French embassy, Julie Fournier-Angelo, French Educational advisor at the University of Ghana, Nina Duval and Deputy head of the Economic Unit of the Embassy, Virgile Satge. The second part was devoted to one-on-one simulated job interview sessions with participants in order to help them improve chances of gaining employment with French companies.

French and the Arts: It’s Showtime!

On 17th March, guest artiste at last year’s Francophonie festival opening concert, gifted Beninois diva Fafa Ruffino, was once again involved, this time around as a vocal and music coach for the “French Touch” concert. For several months, she dedicated herself to training a group of 12 children to perform French and English songs. These future musical prodigies rose to the occasion and produced some very melodious tunes, delighting their proud parents and audience.

The Swiss embassy, on 22nd March, also welcomed movie lovers at Alliance Française Accra, for the screening of the intriguing romantic drama Le temps d’Anna which was introduced by Mr. Matthias Feldman, the Swiss Chargé d’affaires in Ghana. The film show had been preceded by an inter-tertiary French language quiz won by the Ghana Institute of Languages who beat Accra Technical University, Alliance Française Accra and University of Ghana.

The following day saw various senior high schools meet in the final of the senior high school French drama tourney held at the Regional Centre for Teaching of French (CREF) in the Accra High School. The five senior high schools that made it to this final were Chemu Senior high school (SHS), Nalerigu SHS, T.I. Ahmadiyya Girls School, Kanton SHS and Akwamuman SHS. All the sketches were written and directed by Ghanaian French teachers and their students from the participating schools. At the end of the day, T.I. Ahmadiyya Girls put up a splendid performance to be crowned champions. Among the prizes awarded were screen projectors, home theatres, laptops, dictionaries and school bags. Each student and teacher also received a certificate of participation.

“Francophonie” on display at closing ceremony

In keeping with what has over the years become a popular highlight of the festival, a food fair and artefact exhibition came off at Alliance Française Accra on Saturday 24th March, the final day of Francophonie 2018. Apart from country-specific stands, there was the notable presence of sponsors and partners, namely, Blue Knights Bookshop, Société Générale, Decathlon, Accra City Hotel and the Canadian Embassy. Other sponsors for this year’s programme include the Belgian Consulate, French Embassy, Institut Français Ghana, Total, Bolloré, Ibis Styles, the Daily Guide newspaper and the International Organisation of la Francophonie.

There was also time for winners of the French language writing competition to receive their prizes. Gnoigle Kolani Lambombik, Eric Konlanbik and Isaac Quarshie Ayertey won the first prizes for the “Tout public”, “étudiants spécialistes” and the “étudiants non-spécialistes” categories respectively. The jury’s special prize for “jeune talent” went to Laurdi Sala-Diakanda, a student of Lycée Français Jacques Prévert Accra. The prizes were presented by Madam Julie Fournier-Angelo of the French Embassy and Mr. Robert Atsu Davor, the National Coordinator for Regional Centre for Teaching of French (CREF).

This year’s closing ceremony and indeed the festival as a whole, would certainly have not been complete without the august presence of the President of the Republic of Ghana, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo who delivered his entire speech in French, much to the applause of an audience captivated and inspired by his command of Molière’s language. “We find ourselves in a global climate where the study of [foreign] languages is becoming more and more important.This is one of the reasons why my government has decided to place particular emphasis on the study of the French language across the educational system” he affirmed.

Congolese stand-up comedian, Phil Darwin, then took to stage, relating tales of his numerous adventures across the globe in typical jocular fashion to bring the curtains down on yet another marvelous Quinzaine de la Francophonie.

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There will soon be respite for motorists plying Agege-Pen Cinema axis in Lagos, as State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu assures accelerated completion of the abandoned Pen-Cinema Bridge.

The Governor spoke on Sunday while inspecting ongoing rehabilitation work on major roads in Iju area of the state by Lagos State Public Works Corporation.

Sanwo-Olu, in company of his deputy, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat, said the contractor handling the bridge construction was being prepared for re-mobilisation back on the site.

Expressing concern over the pains residents go through due to regular gridlock on the alternative routes occasioned by abandoned project, Sanwo-Olu said his government would compensate for the discomfort by ensuring timely completion of the bridge.

He said: “I can assure you that we are currently in talks with the contractors handling key road projects in Ikorodu, which are Igbogbo and Ishawo roads, and also a critical project in Agege area, which is the Pen-Cinema Bridge. Our promise is that, if it is not by end of this month; then, by next month, the contractors will be fully mobilised back on sites to complete the work.

“We are particularly concerned about the pain motorists are going through because of the incomplete construction of Pen-Cinema Bridge. We are hoping that the contractor handling the bridge construction, too, will be mobilised back on site. Once we push these three critical infrastructures and get them completed, relief would come to residents in these areas.”

The Governor said the ongoing road repair across the state was an outcome of his Executive Order, which declared emergency rehabilitation of critical roads.

Sanwo-Olu said the repair was being carried out in six segments, pointing out that the highways and arterial carriages were captured in the first set of repair across the state.

He said repair work would begin on roads captured in other segments in succession. The Governor urged commuters to be patient while the repair is being carried out.

He expressed satisfaction on the level of work done, while assuring that the road rehabilitation would be ongoing to until 100 major roads marked for repair in all Local Government Areas across the state get done.

Sanwo-Olu said his administration would continue to be responsive to the challenges confronting the people, assuring the actions of his government would focus on bringing relief to taxpayers.

“We have risen up to the expectations of Lagosians and we believe there is still a lot more to do. It is a work in progress. But we can feel the immediate relief that are coming to residents of all the areas where the rehabilitation work is being done currently,” the Governor said.

Also joining the Governor during the inspection is the Head of Service, Mr. Hakeem Muri-Okunola, and General Manager of Lagos State Public Works Corporation, Engr. Daramola Olufemi.

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EDITORIAL: Healthcare Reforms in Nigeria; A Mere Political Statement Lacking Commitment



By  Manny Ita

Nigeria has since her independence in 1960 had a very robust verbiage or policies by successive gobernments on health reforms but with very little progress or success recorded in what might well be a lack of political will in reforming the health sector.
Over 90% of the Nigerian population are without health insurance coverage. The inability to effectively address the country’s numerous public health challenges has contributed to the persistent and high level of poverty and weakness of the health system.
Political instability, corruption, limited institutional capacity and an unstable economy have also been major factors responsible for the poor development of health services in Nigeria. Households and individuals in Nigeria bear the burden of a dysfunctional and inequitable health system – delaying or not seeking health care and having to pay out of pocket for health care services that are not affordable.
The health challenges of the country include:
National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS),
National Immunisation Coverage Scheme (NICS),
Midwives Service Scheme (MSS)
Nigerian Pay for Performance scheme
After many attempts at implementing legislation on health insurance since 1960, NHIS, although established in 1999, was eventually launched only in 2005 with the goals to ensure access to quality health care services, provide financial risk protection, reduce rising costs of health care services and ensure efficiency in health care through programmes such as the: Formal Sector Social Health Insurance Programme (FSSHIP), Mobile Health, Voluntary Contributors Social Health Insurance Programme (VCSHIP), Tertiary Institution Social Health Insurance Programme (TISHIP), Community Based Social Health Insurance Programme (CBSHIP), Public Primary Pupils Social Health Insurance Programme (PPPSHIP), and the provision of health care services for children under 5 years, prison inmates, disabled persons, retirees and the elderly.
The NHIS was expected to provide social and financial risk protection by reducing the cost of health care and providing equitable access to basic health services with the most vulnerable populations in Nigeria including children, pregnant women, people living with disabilities, elderly, displaced, unemployed, retirees and the sick.
Free health care services and exemption mechanisms are expected to provide financial risk protection for the most vulnerable populations but evidence suggest that they are ineffective and have failed to achieve this aim.
The maternal mortality ratio for Nigeria remain quite high at 814 per 100000 live births according to 2016 World Health Statistics. Across the country, pregnant women and children under five years are generally charged fees when accessing health care services, despite the federal government’s declaration of free health for pregnant women and children under five years in 2005.
The Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole in 2016 announced the Federal Government’s plan to provide free health services to 100 million Nigerians in the next two years. Under this new health agenda, pregnant women across Nigeria are expected to enjoy free maternal and delivery services at the primary health care (PHC) level.
Unfortunately, Free health care services and exemption mechanisms often arise as campaign promises of political actors to the electorate and fall short in meeting the health needs of the most vulnerable populations. According to Nigeria Demographic Health Survey (NDHS) in 2013, over 60% of pregnant women aged 15-49 deliver their babies at home without any antenatal care visits. In rural areas, this value reaches 76.9%. The situation is critical in North East and North West regions of Nigeria where over 79% of pregnant women age 15-49 deliver their babies at home. Over 60% of pregnant women in Bayelsa, Plateau and Niger deliver at home rather than a health facility.
The cost of health care and the low quality of care by the public have been argued to be the reason for the poor utilisation of maternal and child health services in Nigeria.
In addition, health spending in Nigeria is low and this is responsible for the over-reliance on out of pocket payments for health care services.
Despite its launch in 2005, NHIS covers less than 10% of the Nigerian population leaving the most vulnerable populations at the mercy of health care services that are not affordable. This means the most vulnerable populations in Nigeria are not provided with social and financial risk protection. Poor people constitutes about 70% of the Nigerian population. They lack access to basic health services, which social and financial risk protection should provide, because they cannot afford it.
CBSHIP was expected to meet their health needs as well as provide social and financial risk protection to this group, which mostly reside in rural areas. As evidenced in the high rate of out of pocket payments for health care services , poor people financially contribute more to health care than official care and funds programmes in Nigeria. Out of pocket payments for health care services limit the poor from accessing and utilising basic health care services.
The quality of health care services delivered is poor and remains a huge source of concern. Most of the PHC facilities that are supposed to meet the health needs of the poor and rural dwellers are in a poor state due to poor budgetary allocation.
In trying to solve these issues, healthcare in the country must be tackled headlong in order to stem the detyeriorating development therein, which could portend grave danger for citizens of the country in the no-ditant future.
Policy makers and political actors need to devise health care reforms to address the lack of social and financial protection for the poor and vulnerable populations. Part of this reform is the expansion of the NHIS. States should be mandated to provide health insurance coverage to all residents. Making health insurance optional for states over the years has affected the ability of the NHIS to increase the level of coverage for the people.
While the mandatory CBHI scheme is being scaled-up as a supplementary measure, state governments should enrol poor residents in a private health insurance plan and bear the responsibility of paying the monthly premium per person to Health Maintenance Organisations (HMOs). It is not enough to have a national health insurance policy, it is important to ensure that health insurance coverage is provided to the poor and most vulnerable populations as a matter of the human right to health.
Although the NHIS Act made provision for children, who constitute the largest population in Nigeria, many children still have to pay for health care services in spite of being born into poor families that do not have the ability to pay for health care services and suffer financial hardship as a consequence. The free health policies and exemption mechanisms provided by some states, targeted at children, pregnant women and the elderly, are not social and financial risk protection policies, as these groups are largely responsible for the cost of health care with the free health care programme barely covering their basic health care services.
Another way of providing social and financial risk protection for poor and vulnerable populations is by establishing a legislative framework for a UHC scheme and setting aside funds for it. Evidence from Thailand has shown the effect of UHC schemes through PHC on expanding access to health care for the poor and vulnerable populations.
Political actors, policy makers and all stakeholders in the health sector should establish a government funded social and financial risk protection scheme through a general tax financing system for the poor and vulnerable, and invest in basic infrastructure for health care in rural areas for quality health care service delivery. UHC schemes are important in addressing the problem of poor coverage, limited access to health care, and poor quality of health care services.
Nigeria is yet to adopt innovative ways to protect the poor and vulnerable populations against financial risk of ill health. It is important to guarantee by law the right to health care of all citizens in Nigeria. Although the National Health Act (NHA) that was signed into law in 2014 stated that all Nigerians are entitled to basic minimum package of health care services, it is not clear if the provisions made in the NHA are capable of achieving UHC in Nigeria. In addition, the NHA is yet to be implemented over two years after its signage into law.
Some low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) have been able to provide social and financial risk protection schemes for poor and vulnerable populations as a matter of the human right to health. Therefore, there is a need to provide social health protection schemes targeted at these groups in Nigeria. The poor and vulnerable populations should not become impoverished because of failure to obtain much needed health care services. Governments must reduce out of pocket payments for health care services by households through the adoption of a tax financed non-contributory UHC scheme.

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Protest Rocks Alausa Over Supreme Court Verdict On Agidingbi Community



Scores of community leaders and residents of Agidingbi area of Ikeja on Thursday embarked on peaceful protest against the judgment of Supreme Court which awarded ownership of 398 acres of landed property in the community to a traditional land-owning family, Akinole-Oshiun.

The possession order is said to cover a large section of the Lateef Jakande Road, Acme Road, Fagba Close, and other streets around the area, totaling over 2000 buildings.

The protesters, who marched from Agidingbi to House of Assembly complex in Alausa, said Akinole-Oshiun family, which is the judgment-creditor in the case, had already given them seven days ultimatum to vacate their houses, urging the government to quickly intervene to avert bloodshed.

They displayed placard of various inscriptions such as “There is no ancestral link between Akinole and Agidingbi Land, Land Grabbers are enemies of Lagos State,” among others.

Leader of Ojodu Legislative Arm, Hon Wasiu Bolaji-Seidu who is also a community leader in Agidingbi said the news of the possession order came to the community as a big surprise as nobody from the area was served with the court process that led to the judgment.

He said: “On Friday, they (judgment-creditor) brought a judgment and placed it on our houses and said they have taken over the entire Agidingbi land. The issue is Agidingbi was not mentioned in the judgment; nobody from Agidingbi was part of the case and I don’t know how you will enforce a judgment against a person that was never part of the case.

“Agidingbi has been in existence for over 200 years ago. I was born and bred in Agidingbi; my forefathers were born and bred in Agidingbi and I don’t see any reason why somebody will just wake up and say they are the owner of the community.

“I am over 50 years; my father lived for over 90 years in this community before he died; my great grand-father died at the age of 150 years and I don’t know where Akinole is coming from and we have people like Habibatu Mogaji who was the Yeye-Oba of Agidingbi; we have Femi Okunnu who is our father in the community and we don’t know where Akin-ole came from.”

He particularly urged the State Government to activate the provisions of the Anti-Land Grabbing Law of the State, and prevent the matter from degenerating into a full blown crisis.

“To the best of my knowledge, I know that Lagos State has enacted a law duly signed by the Governor prohibiting land grabbing in the State because this is a clear example of such case. That is why we are here to call on the Lagos State House of Assembly to look into it and find a lasting solution, failure of which there will be bloodshed,” Bolaji-Seidu said.

Also speaking, Baale of Agidingbi, Chief Ganiyu Ayinde Haruna, said they were embarking on the peaceful protest to call the attention of government to the silent crisis that is brewing in the community.

Narrating how it all began, Haruna said: “On Friday last week, we woke up to see people posting possession order on our property and we don’t know these people. We have been living here for several years and the issue is we don’t know this family that is laying claim to ownership of our land.

“We have never heard any relationship with this Akinole family and so it is surprising to us. Nobody knew anything about the court case. I mean how can you enforce court judgment against a party that was never part of the case?  We are peaceful people and we are urging the Lagos State Government especially Governor Akinwunmi Ambode and the House of Assembly to intervene urgently in this matter because we don’t want bloodshed in our community.”

Also speaking, an 83-year old resident and Iyalode of Agidingbi, Evang Dorcas Faworaja said her great grand-parents were born in the area, therefore the claimant cannot just come from anywhere and lay claim to the community.

Receiving the protesters, Deputy Majority Leader of the Assembly, Hon Olumuyiwa Jimoh commended them for conducting themselves peacefully, assuring that the House would look into their case.

“Let me assure you that we are going to look into your petition without any fear or favour and I can assure you also that you will receive judgment at the end of the day,” Jimoh said.

Agidingbi Community leaders presents their petition on the Supreme Court judgement to the Deputy Majority Leader, Lagos State House of Assembly, Hon. Jimoh Olumuyiwa Wahab (2nd right) on Thursday, 2nd May, 2019

Agidingbi residents and community leaders protest against a Supreme Court judgement on their properties at the Lagos State House of Assembly, Alausa on Thursday, 2nd May, 2019

Agidingbi residents and community leaders protest against a Supreme Court judgement on their properties at the Lagos State House of Assembly, Alausa on Thursday, 2nd May, 2019

Agidingbi residents and community leaders protest against a Supreme Court judgement on their properties at the Lagos State House of Assembly, Alausa on Thursday, 2nd May, 2019

Agidingbi residents and community leaders protest against a Supreme Court judgement on their properties at the Lagos State House of Assembly, Alausa on Thursday, 2nd May, 2019

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