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Opinion

So, Nigeria Was Good Before?

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So, Nigeria Was Good Before

By
Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha

I often encounter a puzzling question on our historical past from some younger Nigerians, sometimes in the classroom or on social media. They believe that Nigeria had never been good or will never be a good place for citizens to attain happiness, because they were born into a country that has not served them right. There is another category of youths who believe that Nigeria was good before, but our generation spoilt it for them, something like getting to the top and removing the ladder to prevent them from climbing to the top.

When I place this perception against the background of Professor Wole Soyinka’s assertive and philosophical declaration that his was a ‘wasted generation’, I get puzzled too, like some of my bewildered mentees! If his was a ‘wasted generation’ yet managed to produce a Nobel Laureate, where do we place the current youths? I once had a police orderly who did not know that Nigeria fought a war between 1967 and 1970, who knew nothing about Biafra or Emeka Ojukwu or why the Nigerian government rallied other ethnic groups to bring back the Igbo to the federation. The war slogan ‘To keep Nigeria one is a task that must be done’ meant nothing to him. He was born in 1975! The past was a blank to him because no one taught him the history of Nigeria in school. I spent one hour while travelling through Igbo country educating him on the Nigeria-Biafra war.

Of course, this leads me to some serious, disturbing questions: how much of Nigeria do our young people know? If they are not familiar with the history of Nigeria, how can they connect with the future of the country? Why does Nigeria draw a negative for most young people from southern Nigeria these days that they all want to migrate from the country? What is the implication of a disconnect between the past and the present in the minds of people whom we believe may run the affairs of the country in the future? Where did the rain begin to beat us, if I may borrow this expression from Chinua Achebe the great Nigerian novelist? Can an umbrella, can any umbrella still save us from the downpour still pounding our roof?

The title of my essay this week is drawn from a question which a young lady asked on a thirty-five-thousand-member platform which I struggle to mentor on Facebook. Somebody had sent me a post of a Volkswagen beetle car with a receipt which showed that the car was bought for three thousand nine hundred and eight naira, forty kobo only (N3908,40) in 1982. As if that was not surprising enough, one John Evwierhoma commented thus: ‘I paid N3700.00 for mine in 1977 and after three months received a refund of N294.00 when the Price Control Board revised the price down to N3406.00! One commentator, Edafienene Vincent Onoriode, asked: “Price Control Board, supervised by whites or Nigerians? Oghenemine Jane Etseyatse a young lady then asked Mr. John Evwierhoma: ‘Please sir, they returned money to you in this country? So, Nigeria was good before now! The subtexts of the comments and the questions make a poignant point about where we were, where we are and where we shall end up, except something urgent is done!

Was Nigeria good before? Yes, Nigeria was good before. The educational system. Social support. The economy. Belief in the dream of One Nigeria. The Post Office. Road travel. Honesty. Low crime rate. The level of public funds looting was low. Politicians talked about ten percent bribes, not carting away the whole monies meant for project execution. The big truth is that Nigeria can be good again- if we do things right. In the first national anthem we sang in prayer to God, ‘Though tribe and tongue may differ/In brotherhood we stand’ and ‘Help us to build a nation/Where no man is oppressed’. The question before us is whether we have been able to abide by these lofty ideas. We seemed to have jettisoned the ideals as we dropped the anthem. This is the main cause of the disconnect which young people feel with the leadership class in Nigeria.

Youths in all parts of the country feel the harsh and biting economy which has emasculated them and made some of them lose self-confidence. It has made cybercrime crime attractive to some. As earlier observed, some have chosen to flee the country by embarking on the dangerous trip to Europe through North Africa. Unemployment or hunger or insecurity does not understand ethnicity or religion. Despondency as people watch unfolding events knows no religion. How can these young people enjoy the good life which some of us enjoyed in the university?

The federal and state governments must do some deep thinking about this and take some practical steps. It is not about reinventing the wheel. There is enough literature on this subject that can engage any government that is ready to work. Massive construction projects will stimulate the economy and create jobs. Paying twenty thousand naira to young people is a mere stopgap. Such monies will not last beyond a week. It is like free money. Such funds should be channelled into production or manufacturing. Small loans with starter packs which can engage over ten million youths in a year will also help the situation. Office jobs are not the real thing. Good as opening more universities is, it could be counterproductive if not properly handled. It simply defers the evil day and feeds the ego of politicians that they established higher institutions in their time in government. Where are the jobs for them after graduation? Skills acquisition should be the focus as some state governments have done. Exhortations do not work on people who go about hungry because there are no sources of income. The youths want to see a government that cares about them. I see a lot of young people who want to work hard and make a success of it. But the environment is suffocating.

It is an urgent situation. The generation of men and women controlling political power currently can only ensure the continued existence of Nigeria if we prepare the youths for the task of self-reliance, independence, and competence. But the message from political leaders right now is conflicting. Mixed messaging is dangerous. Nigeria was good before. Nigeria can be good again, even better if we take that path. The current challenges should prepare us for a radical transformation.

Professor Eghagha can be reached on 08023220393 or heghagha@yahoo.com

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Opinion

Counterterrorism, Technology, And Development In Africa

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Counterterrorism, Technology, And Development In Africa

By Toyin Falola
Undoubtedly, Africa has a persistent issue with insecurity. Terrorist groups like Boko Haram and Al-Shabab have continued to endanger the security of people’s lives and property as well as the survival of democratic governance in Africa. Unsurprisingly, the threat of terrorism has put Africa’s collective development and growth in even greater jeopardy. Due to the fear of investing in countries affected by terrorism, economies have collapsed. As statehood in some of these impacted countries slowly deteriorates, political advancements have also been hampered. Lately, discussions have focused on how crucial it is for African governments to stop this threat and nip terrorism in the bud. Africa is experiencing a rise in terrorism, which in addition to other humanitarian disasters, has caused mass migration and the loss of lives and valuables.

One of the key factors contributing to the domination of insurgency is the frailty of political institutions in most African countries. The blunt truth is that terrorism grows when the government is unwilling to combat it. Take the case of Nigeria as an example, the government’s longstanding unwillingness to engage in tactical warfare with Boko Haram has blown the destructive activities of the terrorist group beyond proportion, creating fertile ground for other insurgents to rise, and daily, it becomes even more complex to eradicate them. Repeatedly, worries have been expressed about the predicament of African countries in the face of internal and international terrorist attacks, as well as concerning potential repercussions for African political states, most of which have been labelled as weak or failed states.

READ ALSO: Youths’re Energised To Choose Right Leaders In 2023 – Kukah

While different state actions have been carried out against terrorist groups, the lack of robust democratic institutions in Africa is a significant barrier to the success of counterinsurgency efforts across the continent. African nations have been unable to work together to combat insurgency due to acrimonious politics. A close examination of leadership structures in African nations reveals that most of them are unsuccessful. How would this lead to success against the rebels in nations where the state and the people are constantly at odds? Internal conflict hinders African democratization and fosters rebel domination in return. It is sadder that democratic leaders also take advantage of their nations’ security to run for political office. Regrettably, most African leaders now place fighting terrorism at the top of their list of political priorities just because it commands a lot of emotions that can sway elections in their favour and not because they genuinely want to tackle it. Most African states’ security structures are, in fact, relatively flimsy. In many nations, domestic conflict further expands security gaps and creates the conditions for the insurgency to flourish.

In debates about terrorism, technological progress is unavoidable. Terrorists in Africa are developing, thanks to technical advancements. Terrorism and counterterrorism rapidly assume a new shape in their operations and subject engagement due to the expanding global instrumentalization of technology. Although both countries and terrorist organizations are modernizing their operation methods, there is evidence that many terrorist organizations in Africa are rapidly creating technical solutions to enhance their lethal operations. The internet, especially, is one technical tool feared for its potential to significantly impact global security. Policymakers are concerned about how communication networks like the internet may be used to carry out terrorist activities. Internets, specialized websites and social media platforms are frequently used in conjunction with secured networks to set up chat rooms for talks and activity monitoring, produce disinformation that could incite panic and conduct recruitment in Africa. Today, terrorist organizations like Boko Haram, Al-Shabab, and others use untraceable video and audio recordings to broadcast attacks, demand ransom for hostages, and engage in other despicable activities.

 READ ALSO: Gunmen Kidnap Over Three Policemen

Terrorism in Africa has a detrimental effect on the socioeconomic and political developments of the region. However, it has been demonstrated that successful counterterrorism has benefited, or at the very least can improve, the socioeconomic and political environments on the continent. Like every other continent, Africa has experienced significant terrorist activity. The effects of terrorism, however, have affected Africa far more than other, more developed continents. Terrorism still exists on the continent of Africa despite the efforts of various African nations and regional and international organizations to combat it. The failure of the different counter-terrorist strategies launched to maintain long-lasting peace on the continent has exacerbated the continent’s underdevelopment. Despite security issues, Africa lags behind other continents in scientific, social, and political progress.

These reasons are why it has become paramount for African counterterrorism efforts to keep up with technological advancement. Due to the unique characteristics of each nation, the specific insurgent groups, and the nature of operations, counterterrorism battles in Africa assume diverse forms and employ varied techniques. Departments, institutions, and programs have been established in countries to address the crime afflicted by terrorism. In addition, several laws, regulations, and directives have been passed to guarantee the success of counterterrorism initiatives and tactics. Technology and new technologies are used to acquire additional intelligence and prepare for counter operations.

READ ALSO:  “Cut Soap For Me!”

Creating powerful political institutions is the first transition stage African nations must go through. A nation’s political structure has a significant role in determining its security architecture. Launching counterterrorism investigations and conflicts between the political class and those in important leadership positions with access to resources and intelligence that could jeopardize government efforts is the second transition stage. As a result, corruption and money laundering are curbed, closing doors to money that may be readily transferred to fund terrorists. Additionally, collaboration with the public is required to create a community policing operation. By acting as informants and providing the necessary information to security personnel, citizens would be involved in the security architecture of African states. African nations must also calm ethnic tensions that could lead to domestic conflict because internal weakness in a nation creates favourable conditions for insurgency growth. Insecurity in Africa stems from internal crises that aim to undermine people’s safety and the African state’s coherence. Therefore, individual African states must organize more effective counterterrorism policies.

For this to be accomplished, effective political leadership and corporate governance must be ingrained at the internal level of the African state. Each African state administration must understand that defeating terrorism requires teamwork and must demonstrate the capacity and willingness to achieve victory. This is because if internal conflicts are permitted to persist and damage the political structure, it will pave the way for external forces to invade. African nations must fortify political institutions in their particular domains to achieve a change in the security architecture. Also, African governments must work together with other nations to implement counterinsurgency strategies. The African Union and regional organizations like the ECOWAS must intervene to maintain Africa’s peace and security. African nations must cooperate on forward-thinking projects to reach a common goal.

READ ALSO: God When?

The trajectories of political and economic progress have been significantly impacted by security issues brought on by internal conflict, civil wars, and terrorist acts. In light of the continent’s security issues and other difficulties, and to address the problems that are slowly destroying the continent, African political leaders must use the opportunity to restructure the continent’s democratic system. The promises made by African leaders to develop counterterrorism technology development plans must also be reaffirmed. Establishing strong democratic and political institutions in each African state is crucial to transform Africa into a safe continent free from terrorist attacks and other types of danger. These institutions must be capable of using the military and diplomacy to combat terrorism.

Lastly, the effectiveness of the actions and policies put in place by the individual governments of African countries will significantly impact the future trajectories of counterterrorism and security in the continent. For African nations to effectively battle terrorism and firmly establish peace and security throughout the continent, better political institutions must be built, alliances with militarily stronger states must be formed, and counterterrorism policies and actions must be well coordinated. African nations must build strong political leadership and corporate governance in the battle against terrorism to overcome the insecurity dilemma brought about by terrorists in their continent. Only then can the fight against terrorism in Africa be won.

. Excerpt from a Keynote Address, International Conference on “Counterterrorism, Technology and Development in Africa”
September 22, 2022
Stellenbosch University and Obuda University.

 

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Opinion

‘No Work, No Pay’: Oppressors’ Law

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'No Work, No Pay': Oppressors’ Law

By Tony Afejuku
“No work, no pay” has since gained currency as never before in a kind of obviously puzzling manner that has befuddled me as drink befuddles a drinker it makes stupid but I am not a drinker of drinks that should make me stupid. I am a drinker and eater of ideas, thoughts, notions, concepts, curiosities and more and more remedies, and conditions and desires that make it hard and impossible for me to bow the knee. Nothing befuddles me. Yet I must utter this confession: the “No work, no pay” remark that has protruded from the protruding tongues of the men and officials of protruding stomachs in government and outside government seems to perplex me. The phrase or remark has been particularly popularized in a very, very bastardized manner since ASUU has declared its popular strike of more than seven months now as “total, comprehensive and indefinite.” Of course, some television pundits, newspapers’ reviewers and anchors who have lately made remarks that mark them as our oppressors’ megaphones have reminded us that “No work, no pay” is an “extant law” – whatever they mean or meant by that. ASUU has rightly and correctly countered the oppressors by saying and insisting that “No pay, no work” is its members’ fundamental human right. This countering remark of ASUU’s supreme lords titillates me immeasurably. But this for now is foreign to my declaration here. And my autobiography hopefully anchors here.

What, indeed, I am challenging and will always join ASUU and the Nigerian worker to challenge is the declaration of our oppressors that “No work, no pay” is part of our law – extant or not extant. I don’t need to be a labour law lawyer or labour law expert to descend on the “formulators” or “champions” of “ No work, no pay” which did not emanate from collective bargaining in a formal meeting between ASUU and FGN’s representatives. All the utterers of the remark in the endeavour to threaten and cage ASUU members to submission are nothing but boon-dogglers. But much more seriously they are members of the mediocre, unimaginative, materialistic class exploiting and humiliating the working class. In this country in particular many of them who, as a matter of fact in Marxist terms and thought are bourgeois, prefer to close their eyes and ignore the reality of the circumstances of the Nigerian working class. The “No work, no pay” remark they have uttered and declared as an “extant law” is the “law” of the bourgeoisie which this class enacts or promulgates to make the worker perpetual and forever victim of its onslaught. The bourgeoisie class consists of capitalists, manufacturers, bankers, and other employers of labour within and outside our central and states’ governments. What I am saying or have said is the unholy relationship between the worker and his/her bourgeois exploiter and oppressor is not new.

READ ALSO: Reflections On ASUU And The Constrictors

What the many bourgeois in our central government in particular find strange is the tough and strange resistance that the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has mounted against them. In fact, for a long period of seven months plus ASUU members have defied the oppressors who have deprived them of their salaries of serfs and slaves in their feverishly and wickedly pale wisdom of “No work, no pay.” The bourgeois government is taken aback by ASUU’s rare power, courage and consciousness of resistance. Indeed, this rare power, courage and consciousness of resistance that welds the members of the union together in a manner that suggests that they were prescribed a seasoned doctor’s effective medicine, has inflicted their oppressors, each one of them, with an unusual and spectacular borborygmus. What a constraining rumbling of each one’s stomach of cavalier discomfiture!

READ ALSO: NANS Rejects Court’s Ruling Against ASUU

And clearly for ASUU, hunger has turned out to be a tonic that is or that has become more than a curative tonic. It has become milk of resistance. It has imbued each typical member of the union with an anger, a desire, a wish, a joylessness, an un-happiness, an intolerance, in short a longing not to bow the knee. If Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980), the “hugely influential French philosopher, novelist, and playwright” who in 1964 rejected the Nobel Prize in Literature was invoked and requested in his grave to say a word or two on the character of ASUU he would probably have said that “there’s gold not mud in your veins, pride not servitude.” My dear and very dear readers, ASUU, I must say is Nigeria’s King of Resistance. ASUU’s law promotes a supreme act of generosity towards every state and shade of colourful justice. ASUU’s reputation as a resister of fascism and the mind-set of the exploiter and oppressor has spread throughout the world. You better believe me!

It is important to stress time after time that ASUU is in the bad and black book of the ruling bourgeoisie because of the union’s quest for the absolute in terms of its purposes for our public universities. Primarily for this reason the lord-less lords of the manor have denied members of ASUU their richly and rightly deserved due. In fact, the hollow lord-less lords are determined to employ their possessed power of coercion which possesses them to turn our intellectuals into a class of classless workers to be continuously undermined. Through the payment of ASUU members “proletarian” wages regardless of their academic and intellectual worth, standing and solid degrees, the average politician in political power today wants our dons to understand that each one of them is now no more a don but a mere “worker” who is a “wage earner” to whom the ridiculous “law” of “No work, no pay”, must apply. All kinds of laughable excuses and reasons are being tendered to make this impossibility possible. Or am I building castles in Alor-land?

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Even assumed liberal journalists, and newspapers’ reviewers (who clearly are conservatives), especially in the electronic media are seemingly accepting the situation. I can vividly remember and recall two or so in our television houses. This past Tuesday, one of them whom I have nicknamed “Let-us-be-realistic” on account of his repeated use of the phrase to make pointless points about lack of resources to meet ASUU’s legitimate demands, had a field-less field-day because no one was in his almighty studios to counter him. Did ASUU steal Nigeria’s oil which on a daily basis many officials in and outside government steal? And why must we be devoting our sole attention to petroleum-and-gas to generate and re-generate our economy that corruption that is corruption has disabled? Is ASUU responsible for this? And why can we not pay real interest in agriculture to sustain our economic, educational and medical growth and advancement, for instance? And the wastages of the tax-payers’ monies on frivolities, did ASUU cause or inspire them? Journalist-and-newspapers’-reviewer “Let-us-be-realistic” would prefer to ignore the criminal and uneconomic reality that ASUU did not create. Perhaps I should here relate the news to all those who care to know that your country my country our country, the giant of Africa, is not “ranked among the top 10 countries with the best educational system in the Dark Continent,” as Biodun Busari recently reported in Vanguard Online. Are you surprised? You better don’t be – as I deliberately spare you sumptuous details of the report. We have seen nothing yet. The useless “No work, no pay” policy of this government that is killing and crushing the dream and future that are our dream and future will eventually crush the mode of action of the grand-off-springs of this deceitful divide-and-rude and rule-and-divide government’s dramatis personae. They are too dumb to know this fully because they think it won’t happen. How eyeless they are in their pompousness! But why do I speak where no one has my kind of eyes? Why do I speak where no one has my kind of ears? O Thot! O Nietzsche! I invoke you dear, dear, dear Masters as I am losing my cool! May ASUU reject and decline the enemies of the masses and of our tax-payers’ doctrine of coerced submission to a situation and reality of wretchedness! Let this sentence be a reminder that you are the real and authentic King of Resistance in the land. To death you won’t starve – despite your current kingly pain. Hooray! Hooray! Hooray! Thunder!!!

Afejuku can be reached via 08055213059.

 

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Opinion

Police: Fear Of Witches And Law Enforcement In Benue

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Police: Fear Of Witches And Law Enforcement In Benue State
Dr Leo Igwe

By Leo Igwe
On Saturday, September 17, 2022, officers from the state police command took over the premises of the Greenbelt Hotel, the venue of a seminar on witch persecution in Benue. The Advocacy for Alleged Witches (AfAW), a non-governmental organization that works and campaigns to end witch persecution in Africa, organized the event. Witchcraft accusations and related attacks are pervasive in Benue. Recently, the mob attacked and almost killed a woman in the state, following an accusation of causing sickness and the eventual death of a young man through witchcraft. Some relatives rescued her and took her to a safe location. The police did not intervene. In parts of Benue state, a witch-finding group, Okinibi, attacks, strangles and stones to death suspected witches. AfAW organized the event to sensitize the Benue public, and draw attention to these human rights abuses.

Police officers were at the hotel premises as early as 8 am, before the organizers arrived. They said that the Commissioner of Police (CP) instructed them to stop the event. They ordered all participants to leave the premises. Efforts by the organizers to get the CP to allow the event go ahead were unsuccessful. One police officer from the state investigation bureau told the organizers that they got some intelligence that the seminar was a meeting of witches, and were instructed to stop it. A meeting of witches? An officer said that the police considered the meeting a security breach. The police officers could not disclose the source of their intelligence; they seized the conference banners and took away other event documents. The decision by the police to disrupt and stop a seminar on witch persecution under the pretext that it was a meeting of witches was unwarranted. It was a demonstration of fear and ignorance of the law and constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

READ ALSO: People With Dementia Are Not Witches, They Need Care – AfAW

First, the CP and the police public relations officer were all duly informed about the event; they were in touch with the organizers before the program. The police could have called to seek clarifications if they had any concerns. But they did not. Again, there is nothing hidden about AfAW’s campaigns and activities. Information about the programs of AfAW, rescuing and rehabilitating victims of witch persecution, is out there online and offline, in print and electronic media, and can easily be accessed. Soft copies of the event banners, which they seized, are online, and contain telephone contacts that police authorities could reach for more information. Fear, prejudice, and willful ignorance motivated the actions of the police and their lack of diligence should be excused.

The police misdirected resources and intelligence, and ended up stopping an event that should have been held. The police equated a meeting to address human rights abuses in the name of witchcraft to a meeting of witches. Is that not absurd? Who should the police institution blame for their lack of proper understanding and their inability to distinguish a meeting of witches from a meeting to address abuses linked to witchcraft beliefs? One female police officer said that she swore not to step her foot at the venue where ‘witches’ were meeting. A senior police officer noted that he did not see the ‘alleged’ in the name of the organization until the day of the program. He claimed that once he saw the name ‘witches’ on the poster, he concluded that the event would not hold.

It is pertinent to remind the police that Nigerian law does not recognize witchcraft, and under the law, witchcraft accusations are criminal acts; identifying somebody as a witch is an offense. So by calling the AfAW event a meeting of witches and wizards, the police violated the law. They transgressed because they branded the organizers and participants at the event witches. By criminalizing witchcraft accusations, the law tries to forestall miscarriage of justice and other horrific abuses that result from allegations of witchcraft in societies like Nigeria, where witchcraft fears and anxieties are pervasive.

Now, let us address another pertinent issue. What if witches planned to meet in Benue, what if the AfAW event was indeed a meeting of witches and wizards as some imagined? Is it within the powers of the police to disrupt or stop such a gathering? The answer is: No. The police do not have such powers. And here are the reasons. The police are a constituted authority and should act in line with their mandate as prescribed by the law. The Nigerian constitution has outlined the functions of the police. So, police interventions should be guided by the provisions in the constitution, not by the religious or belief whims and caprices of police officers and politicians. The constitution recognizes the right of every Nigerian to meet, associate, and assemble. The police must act to protect, not deny these rights, including the rights and liberties of Nigerians who describe themselves as witches, Satanists, and occultists to meet and assemble. Yes, the police should act to protect the rights of witches.

READ ALSO: Witch Hunting: Torturers Should Not Get Away With Their Crimes – AfAW

Some people would argue that this is a contradiction, especially in a situation where identification of and as a witch is a crime under the law? No, it is not. Nigerian law is an evidence-based law. The law does not recognize witchcraft or witches because there is no evidence for witchcraft or witches. Witchcraft is not a justiciable crime; witches do not exist. Witches are not persons; they cannot be citizens, and cannot obey or break the law. The meeting of witches, which the police in Benue came to stop or disrupt last week, is not recognized in the constitution. There is no evidence that such meetings hold or are held anywhere. So, the police, by stopping – pretending to be stopping, or disrupting any real or imagined meeting of witches, act ultra vires, that means, beyond their powers. As shown by what happened at Green Belt Hotel on Saturday, witchcraft fears and anxieties are pervasive in the Nigerian police force, and these occult fears are hampering the ability of the police to effectively combat crimes and atrocities linked to witchcraft beliefs. Witchcraft fears cause the police to misinterpret the law and misapply the limited police resources. Witchcraft is superstition, and witches are imaginary entities. The police should learn to act in deference to the letters and spirit of the law and constitution of Nigeria, not based on fantasies and fears of witches and wizards.

Dr. Igwe directs the Advocacy for Alleged Witches, which campaigns to end witch persecution in Nigeria.

 

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