The taboo of menstruating in India

Indian women discuss the impact of a lack of cheap and safe sanitary products

“I will never let my daughter suffer the way I do when I have my period. My family treats me like an untouchable.

“I’m not allowed into the kitchen, I can’t enter the temple, I can’t sit with others.”

There’s a sense of determination in 32-year-old Manju Baluni’s voice. I met her in a remote village in Uttarakhand, a hilly state in the north of India.

In India, there is generally a silence around the issue of women’s health – especially around menstruation. A deep-rooted taboo feeds into the risible myth-making around menstruation: women are impure, filthy, sick and even cursed during their period.

‘Tense and worried’

People believe that menstruating women should not take baths and are anaemic.

A recent study by a sanitary towel manufacturer found that 75% of women living in cities still buy their pads wrapped in a brown bag or newspaper because of the shame associated with menstruation.

They also almost never ask a male family member to buy sanitary towels or tampons.

I grew up in a house full of women, but we still never discussed openly one of nature’s most normal rites of passage.

Girl and boy washing in India
Girls learn to hide their stained unhygienic cloths from men after washing them, says Rupa Jha

My mother used to cut up old bed sheets and hide them in a box, ready to be used by her four young daughters.

The biggest challenge was to dry those pieces of cloth. I have vivid memories of feeling tense and worried about the whole process.

I was taught the trick by my elder sisters – how to slip these stained clothes under other clothes without any men noticing them. We could not risk putting them out in the open under the sun to dry completely.

Felt ‘very dirty’

The result was that they never got properly dry, leaving a horrible stench. The unhygienic cloth got used over and over again.

Lack of water made the cleaning process even more cumbersome and unhygienic. The story has not changed much since then for many Indian women.

Many recent studies show that these practices constitute a serious threat to health. It’s reported that at least one in five girls in India drop out of school due to menstruation.

School girls in India
Some girls stop going to school when they have their period

Fifteen-year-old Margdarshi lives in a remote village in Uttarakashi.

She loves going to school though it means a long difficult trek through very hilly terrain. She never misses her classes, except for last year when she almost gave up her studies after she got her period for the first time.

“The biggest problem was managing it. It still is. I feel embarrassed, angry and very dirty. I stopped going to school initially.”

‘A human issue’

She wants to be a doctor and wonders why boys in her biology class laugh so much when the teacher explains the process of menstruation.

“I hate it. I wish we could be more relaxed and feel comfortable talking about it. This happens to every woman so what is there to laugh about?”

Anshu Gupta, founder of a non-governmental organisation, Goonj, feels that the problem lies in the fact that this has been made into a women’s issue.

Women making sanitary towels in India from recycled cloths
In India women make sanitary towels from recycled cloths

“It’s not a women issue. It’s a human issue but we have just isolated it. Some of us need to come out of this culture of shame and silence. We need to break it.”

Manju
An organisation is working to dispel myths

Trying to ending the silence around the issue, Goonj is one of several groups that are running campaigns to educate people about menstruation and the myths around it.

It works in 21 out of 30 states in India.

The organisation is also making cheap sanitary towels from recycled cloths to help those 70% of Indian women who don’t have access to safe and hygienic pads.

Shattering myths

Other thriving initiatives are also trying to break the taboos around menstruation.

100 Women branding

  • Second year of BBC’s global focus on women and the news
  • 100 women taking part in events and interactive discussions around the world
  • This year’s list has more scientists and more women working in the arts
  • More than one-fifth of the women are aged 25 or under

Menstrupedia, a website run by four Indians, aims at “shattering myths and understandings surrounding menstruation” and features comic books and succinct guides on puberty, menstruation and hygiene management. It receives more than 100,000 visitors a month.

A school dropout from the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu was among the first to start making cheap sanitary pads using simple machines.

A Muruganatham says the sanitary towel has to be “brought out of the closet”.

It is tough being a woman of modest means in India, and it’s not going to change any time soon.

But gradually women have started to take charge of their lives. Many of them are not stuck at home during their period – they can choose to go out, work, or continue with their studies.

Most importantly, they are beginning to talk about it. Without feeling embarrassed.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-29727875

12 questions your next governor MUST answer before election

by sabitu oyegoke

In Kwara state, nobody is writing anybody’s off including the incumbent if they can address key issues that are drawing us backward. Leadership is about making tough decisions, good leaders don’t worry about popularity is about doing the right thing and carrying majority of the people along. Any candidate that cannot tell us what they will do in these key difficult issues will end up as the incumbent. Some of the things I think we need assurances or definitive position of the candidates before the elections are:

  1. Policy clarity: Nigeria and indeed Kwara is run without a coherent policy on key issues. Our next governor should explicitly state his policy on health, education, job creation, infrastructure development, housing, industrialisation, among others. We don’t want 7 point agenda; we need a clear policy formulation about all the key/basic issues.
  2. Pilgrimages: billions of our money is used for these illegal and unconstitutional trips by SELECTED and influential number of Muslims and Christians. Money that is enough in a year to impact positively on our primary school education is wasted every year. What makes it painful is the fact that it is meant for a section of the society. Some people have used it 5 or more times; it is illegal, unconstitutional and unfair for a section of the society to use our money on pilgrimages.
  3. Traditional rulers: I have written before about this institution that is becoming more obsolete and dormant. The sad thing is that there are more cropping up all the time because of politics behind it. I have suggested that the institution needs to reinvent itself otherwise goes into oblivion. The number of Obas in Oyun LGA is enough to make a LG bankrupt and what is their contribution to the society? Most of these Obas get big cars, 5 or more staff and fat salaries without contributing anything back to the society. We need a definitive pronouncement from the aspirants/candidates on how we can get best value for our money invested yearly in this institution or a new model of community participation in sustaining the institution.
  4. Festive gifts: If we have the right to FOI to know how much is been spent yearly on festive gifts by the government you will understand why they cannot perform effectively. It is ludicrous to give gift when you cannot run schools or hospitals effectively. Or when you need money to help people of great ideas in business start-up. There was a government/governor in the north that openly said at the middle of Ramadan that he has spent N1.3 billion on Ramadan. In a state where there is no standard school or programme to help people back to work. What is sad about it is that MAYBE not even N300 million was used for the gift. These are gifts given to the rich not the poorest in the society. Our next governor must tell us definitively what he/she will do about these illegal gifts to the rich and powerful.
  5. Trips abroad: When Lateef Jakande was the governor of Lagos State for more than 4 years he didn’t travel abroad once .. yes, not once. Ask your governor, commissioners, (Dis)Honourables how many times they have travelled abroad in past 4 years. Ask them how much it cost the state interms of flight ticket cost, estacode, hotels and other miscellelous. It may be enough to build new and modern market in Baboko Ilorin. Some of the elected representatives spend more time in London than in Nigeria on our expense. We would need a clear and definitive position from our next governor.
  6. Medical tourism: This is another wasteful expedition on our expenses by rich and powerful in our society. Why would the state covers the medical bill of some people abroad why can’t they work on our health care system to a point that they can use it as well. Billion maybe illegally used for medical check-ups and medical treatment. The level of politician’s prodigality is beyond comprehension. We need to know from our next governor if he/she and his/her family plus all the commissioners and honourables will use the same health care system in the state or continue the hopelessness?
  7. Motorcade: This is not only a waste but craziness. A governor alone can have about 20 cars following him and 5 to 6 police cars within Ilorin. This is a show of shame – nothing more and a big waste of money on buying cars that will eventually be converted to private use, payment of drivers, fuelling and other unnecessary cost that will attach to it. This must stop!
  8. Unnecessary political appointees: The amount of money that goes to pay salaries and other emoluments of political appointees is bizarre to say the least. Can you believe there is a SA for Igbo! Political appointment is now a thank you for involving in campaign or supporting the government on fb. We need a drastic cut on the number of ministry and unnecessary adviser and SA that hardly had audience with the governor. Do your maths and see how much you are wasting on this and see what impact it can make in moving the state forward.
  9. Treat the honourables in the state house of assembly as civil servants: The Honourables should not be treated dishonourably by paying them mega salaries for adding no meaningful value to the polity. How much of our money is going down this drain and how will our next governor address this issue.
  10. Lack of accountability, transparency and openness: dishonesty, ‘stealing’ and corruption is more than ailment but now a cancer. They cannot say otherwise as we know that they are openly corrupt with the number of big cars they ride and big houses across the country and abroad. We need someone who will run an open and inclusive government where for the first time people will have the privilege of using FREEDOM OF INFORMATION to enquiry about government dealings. It is a norm around civilized society why not in our dear state Kwara. Is only dishonest people that will prevent FOI – we need a definitive position from our next governor.
  11. Office of the First Lady: You need to know what the next governor will do with the office of the first (last) lady that is unconstitutional and gulp millions every year? In short, is unconstitutional and should be scrapped.
  12. Communication: this is key in driving change and any leader that is not in touch with his people constantly will not be able to motivate and change mindsets. Leadership is about becoming a change agent, someone that is believable to ask majority to embark on something and get it done. A rallying point who can explain why a tough decision was made and what benefit will the society derive from it. Passionate, charismatic and down to earth approach to problem solving.

We must not allow them to divide us by tribe, religion and LGAs. We must select the best among them .. they are all Kwarans and our focus should be good governance ONLY!

Bukola Saraki led APC must be sacked in Kwara State – Minister of National Planning, Dr. Abubakar Suleiman

The Minister of National Planning, Dr. Abubakar Suleiman, spoke with OLUSOLA FABIYI of Punch Newspaper on national issues, including the plan by the ruling Peoples Democratic Party to wrestle power from the grip of the Senator Bukola Saraki-led All Progressives Congress in Kwara State

You left the university community to become a minister. How will you compare the two environments?

Minister of National Planning, Dr. Abubakar SuleimanThey are different. One is the parlance of theory, the parlance of gestation of ideas, while the second one is the parlance of pragmatism, practice and empiricism. In other words, the university environment is where ideas are being germinated, where theories and principles, ideals are being taught, where what guides the society and how to administer it are being taught. In the outside world, especially government, what we have been taught or the ideas you have imbibed are being implemented and practicalised. My leaving the academic environment and coming to government now gives me the opportunity to practicalise those ideals, principles, theories. If you are into government without ideas, you won’t know where to start from. But here I am, coming from the academia with lots of ideas, with lots of theoretical prognosis and lots of experience. It enables me run the ministry given to me and assists me in meeting the challenges in the ministry and government with ease. It makes my work much easier. The two environments work together.

The National Integrated Infrastructure Master Plan has just been approved by government. When and how will it be implemented?

The implementation is on. As a matter of fact, the 2015 budget addresses the matter. We just met with the state commissioners of planning few days ago and we agreed on the need to put in place coordinating units concerning this. We want to make sure each of them puts this on the front burner. They should also put in place infrastructural plan. We are meeting again soon at Ibadan to discuss this matter.

Are you thinking of having a legal framework and other measures in place to make sure the plan is not abandoned by successive governments?

This master plan took along with it, every stakeholder in Nigeria: the business community, bureaucrats, civil society, civil service and all. They all made inputs. Again, for security purpose and for it not to be jettisoned, we are thinking of taking it to the National Assembly. But for now, it is a policy document that is implementable. But to avoid any attempt to discard it when another government takes over in 2019 after Mr. President, we may decide to give it legal support by taking it to the National Assembly.

What is the current level of collaboration between Nigeria and donor agencies?

We have been having good discussions with them. National panning is not just a commission that plans policy ideas, our agencies facilitate technical assistance. We had a little gap when this ministry did not have a substantive minister, but as soon as I came in, that gap was closed. Quite a number of the grants are ongoing. The only thing I observed was that some of these projects were not coordinated and there were duplications with what they were doing. Projects were being awarded without monitoring.

Your ministry recently sealed a N3.3bn pact with the European Union for the 2015 elections. Can you explain the type of agreement you had with the commission?

The money is not in cash, it is a facility and it is for the Independent National Electoral Commission. They are not giving us any cash, but technical support for training, vehicles, and all that. We are not getting any cash from the union.

You are from the same ward with the former governor of your state, Senator Bukola Saraki, who is a member of the All Progressives Congress but, you are a member of the Peoples Democratic Party.

The fact that we are from the same ward is not a problem to me, it is not also a challenge to me, I think it is more of a challenge to the APC because they are in government. Theirs is a situation dating back to some years while mine is a crusade over oppression on the people of the state. My appearances on various fora, my analysis of issues and what I stood for over the years, people know me with them. They know I want a change not only in Kwara State but in the entire country. Bringing me on board all of a sudden sends a signal to them that things might not be easy for the APC government in the state. I’m a prominent person who has been there for years.

What do people know you for?

As a teacher and as a student union president, as a leader of many organisations in the state and the community, as someone who has refused to join the status quo in the state because I don’t believe in that status quo. This is a status quo that is very oppressive, very anti-people and anti-value system in Kwara. For years, I rejected pressure on me to join them. I’m a popular person from this ward and the APC may not get it right from this ward, the local government and the state. It is something I have been waiting for and I have it by the grace of God and my people. It is a challenge to forge ahead, but to them, it is, ‘how do we confront this challenge.’

You are going to vote at the same polling unit with Bukola Saraki in 2015, at the end of the election how would you feel if as a minister you lose your polling unit?

Politics is a process and a means to an end. I don’t see that as an ultimate gain or the end of life. But again, I don’t see the possibility of losing my ward to Saraki. I don’t see it at all. Most people today that are contesting and are in government in the state met me on ground. I’m a man of the people. I’m highly principled. I have made contributions to my society especially through the younger ones. People were hoping that this man would be our governor, senator and minister with what I have done for them. I don’t know the number of students I have admitted and graduated from universities without knowing who their parents were. I don’t know the number of people I have given employment . So, I don’t see myself losing that polling unit. As I said earlier on, the reception and enthusiasm that followed my emergence is a testimony in my ward and my state. After the reception and in order to prove a point about whether I have a grip of my ward or unit, I went beyond just moving in the ward to even entering the enclave of the APC leader and what we experienced that day in terms of the rousing welcome given to us in Agbagi, if election is taking place tomorrow, not only will I win my polling units, the entire polling units for the ward will be for the PDP. The Ilorin people will tell you the reception I got was only seen during the era of the late Senator Olusola Saraki. It was not a rented crowd. It is a genuine love and concern. Elderly people were shedding tears and weeping, listening to my speech. I spoke on things that touched their value system. With the little months I have spent as a minister, coupled with what I did as a lecturer, the people are convinced the end had come for the APC in the state.

Go to the place and see the light I have provided on the street where the APC leader lives. You can only get this from a committed person. I’m not asking for votes, but just a change. This can only come by voting out the government in the state.

Doesn’t the movement by PDP members to the APC mean the PDP had never been beneficial to the people of the state?

The people in the state that made PDP a wrong party for the people of the state are the same people who have now moved to the APC. The fact I’m presenting here is that we have to remove the Saraki institution. The people of the state are saying that institution, whatever it will take us, must leave Kwara. They must be driven away from Kwara. It is that institution that has left the PDP and moved to the APC.

But Bukola has been winning elections in the state…

No, he has not been winning. Bukola as a person has only conducted one election which was 2011. The other ones were backed up by his father.

Are you saying the people voted for his father and not him?

Yes, the father gave him the structure. The only election he did was in 2011.

He defeated his father…

Bukola was the outgoing governor that time. He was the governor in charge and if someone wins election, you don’t look at the victory election from the results from the rural areas, look at it from the urban areas. Whatever votes you have from there is a true picture of what obtains. Bukola as a sitting governor in 2007 won marginally from Kwara Central. The urbanized part of this is Ilorin South, Ilorin East, Ilorin West, especially Ilorin West and South. The other one is Asa Local Government Area, which you cannot even access easily due to bad roads and the topography of the area. From Ilorin where Bukola hails from as a sitting governor who wanted to install a governor and who wanted to be a senator, Bukola lost, his party lost, his candidate lost in his local government as declared by the INEC. In Ilorin West, his party won marginally with less than 2000 votes. In Ilorin East, it was very marginal. The only place they were able to get votes was Asa where the cooking was done.

Are you saying if Saraki returns to the PDP today, people like you will go to the APC?

One, Saraki cannot return to the PDP. That road is closed. The hypothesis should not come up at all. I’m telling you the PDP at the federal level has realised that. The era of admitting people anyhow is gone. If you come to the PDP now, there are some screening exercises you have to undergo.

You mean in Kwara?

Not only in Kwara. Anyone coming to us as a burden will not be taken. Those who will come as a liability will not be accepted. Kwarans have seen PDP as a platform they can use to get freedom. We have told the party at the federal level not to consider such an idea of bringing these people back to the party. So, the possibility of bringing such people back to the party is zero.

You talked about liberating Kwara from the grips of the Sarakis, yet one of them, Gbemi, is angling to become a governor on the platform of your party. Isn’t this a contradiction?

As far as we are concerned, Senator Gbemi Saraki is with us as a lady who has in date with the cause of Kwara. As such, we will be following the cause of retrogression if we turn her back. From what she has demonstrated, from what we know, from what she told us, and from her activities so far, Gbemi Saraki is a born again person. The one that wants to follow the trend is the one we are trying to annihilate.

APC government in Kwara State has not been fair to Kwara people. We are aware of the allocation that goes to Kwara. We are aware of the special intervention fund that goes to Kwara, we are aware of the amount of money in the name of Sure-P that goes to the state and when you look at these and the development on ground, you will know that the state is in trouble. Also, we are aware of the draconian policy embarked upon by the state in the name of urbanisation that takes land from the people, commercialises it and hands it over to outsiders. There are many public owned companies that belonged to the state. Almost 80 per cent of these public-owned companies or firms have been taken over by some cabal in the state and these cabals are members of the APC.

With the crisis in your state, how is your party going to wrestle power from the APC?

Democracy is about competition. Seeing about 13 people coming for governorship position in the party means it is a party to beat; it is not like the APC where one man will sit down and decree someone as the sole candidate for governorship, others for House of Representatives. They say endorsement is part of democracy.

But not by one person. Democracy is about election and when one person makes decision for others, it becomes autocracy, monarchy or dictatorship and if not checked, will lead to tyranny. What we have in PDP in Kwara state is democracy. I’m a product of democracy because President Goodluck Jonathan called the stakeholders together and I was chosen.

If Gbemi wins the governorship primary and goes ahead to win the election, she will become the governor.

So it shall be! If the majority decides she shall be the governor and she goes ahead to win the primary, we are going to support her.

Where then is the cry for liberation from the grips of the Sarakis?

If the people decide that Gbemi Saraki is their choice, that means that they have seen a new thing in her. It could be a gender issue. Or maybe she has been able to prove certain mettle, it is okay. In her, I want to believe she is a newborn person who now identifies with the people. It is not the same Gbemi as a senator or as a member of the House of Representatives. She sits at home with them and sees to their welfare now.

At the end of the day, if APC wins in Kwara, how would you feel?

If they win genuinely in the state, that’s democracy at play. But it will be sad because it will be a bad thing. It will be the beginning of another four years of suffering, anger and hunger for the people. I don’t think the people of the state will give their votes to the APC. If it happens, it will be a tragedy. The people of the state and the PDP are however ready for them. They dare not rig. Look at the array of the people in the PDP now, they are ready now to defend their votes. People are battle-ready. They should not rig the election because Kwarans are ready.

http://kwarapdp.com/bukola-saraki-led-apc-must-be-sacked-in-kwara-state-minister-of-national-planning-dr-abubakar-suleiman/

School absence guidance issued by head teachers’ union

Boys standing in the sea.

New guidance for head teachers in England on the situations in which pupils can be given time off during term time have been drawn up.

A crackdown has seen a rise in fines for unauthorised absences, but parents have said the rules are confusing.

The guidelines has been drafted by the head teachers’ union, the NAHT.

Funerals, weddings and religious events will count as acceptable “exceptional circumstances” but cheaper holidays will not be “a good enough reason”.

Writing in the Sunday Times, Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said the current system had caused confusion among heads.

He said the new guidance – which reportedly has the backing of Education Secretary Nicky Morgan – would also permit time off to see parents returning from duty with the armed forces, and for children with disabilities or special needs who are suffering a family crisis.

Until September 2013, heads in England could grant up to 10 days’ leave a year for family holidays in “special circumstances”. But now head teachers can grant absence outside school holidays only in “exceptional circumstances”.

Mr Hobby said: “The trouble is, we have no consistent definition of an ‘exceptional circumstance’. This has led to confusion and a sense of unfairness. Two-thirds of the heads we surveyed found this guidance problematic,” he said.

‘Lost learning’

He said the NAHT guidelines would help identify an “event whose timing cannot be controlled and which are great emotional significance to the families involved”.

But Mr Hobby said pupils should not be given “extended leave” either side of an event.

He said there had been 60,000 fines handed out to parents for removing children without approval and not all were holidaymakers.

Last week, the Local Government Association said the new rules do not recognise the complexities of family life and head teachers should be allowed to take a “common-sense approach” to term time holidays.

Mr Hobby said: “So what about allowing holidays in term time simply because of the cost? I’m afraid these just don’t fit the bill. It’s not a good enough reason to damage an education. You cannot easily make up the lost learning at home, and falling behind in class can put children at a permanent disadvantage.

“Those who work in schools share your pain. Many are parents themselves and pay these prices, too. We must tackle this. The government should work with the holiday industry to find a way through.”

Local authorities are obliged to instigate fines and enforce legal proceedings on behalf of schools in cases of unauthorised absences.

Parents who take children out of school during term-time can receive automatic penalty notices of £60 per child. This rises to £120 if not paid within 21 days.

Parents who fail to pay could face prosecution and a maximum fine of £2,500 or a jail sentence of up to three months.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-29776179

Surgeons transplant heart that had stopped beating

Transmedic machine
The console where the heart is “reactivated” is being called the heart-in-a-box machine

Surgeons in Australia say they have performed the first heart transplant using a “dead heart”.

Donor hearts from adults usually come from people who are confirmed as brain dead but with a heart still beating.

A team at St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney revived and then transplanted hearts that had stopped beating for up to 20 minutes.

The first patient who received a heart said she felt a decade younger and was now a “different person”.

Hearts are the only organ that is not used after the heart has stopped beating – known as donation after circulatory death.

Beating hearts are normally taken from brain-dead people, kept on ice for around four hours and then transplanted to patients.

‘Significant development’

The novel technique used in Sydney involved taking a heart that had stopped beating and reviving it in a machine known as a “heart-in-a-box”.

The heart is kept warm, the heartbeat is restored and a nourishing fluid helps reduce damage to the heart muscle.

The first person to have the surgery was Michelle Gribilas, 57, who was suffering from congenital heart failure. She had the surgery more than two months ago.

“Now I’m a different person altogether,” she said. “I feel like I’m 40 years old – I’m very lucky.”

There have since been a further two successful operations.

Prof Peter MacDonald, head of St Vincent’s heart transplant unit, said: “This breakthrough represents a major inroad to reducing the shortage of donor organs.”

It is thought the heart-in-a-box, which is being tested at sites around the world, could save up to 30% more lives by increasing the number of available organs.

The breakthrough has been welcomed around the world.

The British Heart Foundation described it as a “significant development”.

Maureen Talbot, a senior cardiac nurse at the charity, told the BBC: “It is wonderful to see these people recovering so well from heart transplantation when, without this development, they may still be waiting for a donor heart.”

Liver warming

Liver machine
This machine keeps the donor liver functioning at body temperature

Similar methods of warming and nourishing organs before transplant have been used to improve the quality of lung and liver transplants.

James Neuberger, the associate medical director at the UK’s NHS Blood and Transplant service, said: “Machine perfusion is an opportunity to improve the number and quality of organs available for transplant.

“We look forward to more work being carried out to determine the impact of this technology on increasing the number of organs that can safely be used for transplant and on improving the quality of those organs.

“It is too early to predict how many lives could be saved through transplantation each year if this technology were to be adopted as standard transplant practice in the future.”

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-29751880

Twenty-four European banks fail EBA stress test

Cashier counting euro notes

Twenty-four European banks have failed stress tests of their finances, the European Banking Authority has announced.

The banks now have nine months to shore up their finances or risk being shut down.

They include nine Italian banks, three Greek banks and three Cypriot banks.

The health check was carried out on 123 EU banks by the EBA to determine whether they could withstand another financial crisis.

The review was based on the banks’ financial health at the end of 2013.

Ten of them have taken measures to bolster their balance sheets in the meantime. All the remaining 14 banks are in the eurozone.

The worst affected was Italian bank Monte dei Paschi, which had a capital shortfall of €2.1bn (£1.65bn, $2.6bn).

BBC World Service economic correspondent Andrew Walker says concerns about banks were a central element in the eurozone financial crisis and in some countries, their weakness remains a factor holding back economic growth.

‘Robust’ exercise

Four UK banks were subjected to the EBA test: Royal Bank of Scotland, HSBC, Lloyds Banking Group and Barclays.

None of them failed the test, but Lloyds passed narrowly, with capital under adverse scenarios of 6.2%, not far from the 5.5% benchmark.

At the same time, the European Central Bank (ECB) carried out an overlapping survey of 130 banks.

The ECB said 25 banks had failed its test, but 12 of those had already taken remedial action.

The European Commission welcomed the results of the EBA and ECB assessments.

It said they had been “robust exercises, unprecedented in scale and among the most stringent worldwide”.

It added that they represented an important step towards an operational Single Supervisory Mechanism, which is a key component of the EU’s planned banking union.

“Yet there is no room for complacency,” the Commission said in a statement.

“Rigorous and timely follow-up actions to the results of the exercises will be absolutely crucial,” it added.

Analysts said the results of the tests were much as expected. “The first impression is that there are few surprises,” said Max Anderl of UBS Global Asset Management.

“The document refers to many of the ‘usual suspects’, mainly in Greece, Portugal and Italy,” he added.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-29777589

12 questions your next governor MUST answer before election

by sabitu oyegoke

Elections are around the comer and both the new and old politicians will be asking for our votes and support. We should always ask the incumbent why they have not achieve much and ask the new politicians what they are going to do differently. The excuse for the present government tied with low Federal allocation and poor but improve IGR. Yes, there is nothing bad if we improve in generating IGR yearly but the main problem is about prudence, honesty and judicious allocation and use of our monies.

In Kwara state, nobody is writing anybody’s off including the incumbent if they can address key issues that are drawing us backward. Leadership is about making tough decisions, good leaders don’t worry about popularity is about doing the right thing and carrying majority of the people along. Any candidate that cannot tell us what they will do in these key difficult issues will end up as the incumbent. Some of the things I think we need assurances or definitive position of the candidates before the elections are:

  1. Policy clarity: Nigeria and indeed Kwara is run without a coherent policy on key issues. Our next governor should explicitly state his policy on health, education, job creation, infrastructure development, housing, industrialisation, among others. We don’t want 7 point agenda; we need a clear policy formulation about all the key/basic issues.
  2. Pilgrimages: billions of our money is used for these illegal and unconstitutional trips by SELECTED and influential number of Muslims and Christians. Money that is enough in a year to impact positively on our primary school education is wasted every year. What makes it painful is the fact that it is meant for a section of the society. Some people have used it 5 or more times; it is illegal, unconstitutional and unfair for a section of the society to use our money on pilgrimages.
  3. Traditional rulers: I have written before about this institution that is becoming more obsolete and dormant. The sad thing is that there are more cropping up all the time because of politics behind it. I have suggested that the institution needs to reinvent itself otherwise goes into oblivion. The number of Obas in Oyun LGA is enough to make a LG bankrupt and what is their contribution to the society? Most of these Obas get big cars, 5 or more staff and fat salaries without contributing anything back to the society. We need a definitive pronouncement from the aspirants/candidates on how we can get best value for our money invested yearly in this institution or a new model of community participation in sustaining the institution.
  4. Festive gifts: If we have the right to FOI to know how much is been spent yearly on festive gifts by the government you will understand why they cannot perform effectively. It is ludicrous to give gift when you cannot run schools or hospitals effectively. Or when you need money to help people of great ideas in business start-up. There was a government/governor in the north that openly said at the middle of Ramadan that he has spent N1.3 billion on Ramadan. In a state where there is no standard school or programme to help people back to work. What is sad about it is that MAYBE not even N300 million was used for the gift. These are gifts given to the rich not the poorest in the society. Our next governor must tell us definitively what he/she will do about these illegal gifts to the rich and powerful.
  5. Trips abroad: When Lateef Jakande was the governor of Lagos State for more than 4 years he didn’t travel abroad once .. yes, not once. Ask your governor, commissioners, (Dis)Honourables how many times they have travelled abroad in past 4 years. Ask them how much it cost the state interms of flight ticket cost, estacode, hotels and other miscellelous. It may be enough to build new and modern market in Baboko Ilorin. Some of the elected representatives spend more time in London than in Nigeria on our expense. We would need a clear and definitive position from our next governor.
  6. Medical tourism: This is another wasteful expedition on our expenses by rich and powerful in our society. Why would the state covers the medical bill of some people abroad why can’t they work on our health care system to a point that they can use it as well. Billion maybe illegally used for medical check-ups and medical treatment. The level of politician’s prodigality is beyond comprehension. We need to know from our next governor if he/she and his/her family plus all the commissioners and honourables will use the same health care system in the state or continue the hopelessness?
  7. Motorcade: This is not only a waste but craziness. A governor alone can have about 20 cars following him and 5 to 6 police cars within Ilorin. This is a show of shame – nothing more and a big waste of money on buying cars that will eventually be converted to private use, payment of drivers, fuelling and other unnecessary cost that will attach to it. This must stop!
  8. Unnecessary political appointees: The amount of money that goes to pay salaries and other emoluments of political appointees is bizarre to say the least. Can you believe there is a SA for Igbo! Political appointment is now a thank you for involving in campaign or supporting the government on fb. We need a drastic cut on the number of ministry and unnecessary adviser and SA that hardly had audience with the governor. Do your maths and see how much you are wasting on this and see what impact it can make in moving the state forward.
  9. Treat the honourables in the state house of assembly as civil servants: The Honourables should not be treated dishonourably by paying them mega salaries for adding no meaningful value to the polity. How much of our money is going down this drain and how will our next governor address this issue.
  10. Lack of accountability, transparency and openness: dishonesty, ‘stealing’ and corruption is more than ailment but now a cancer. They cannot say otherwise as we know that they are openly corrupt with the number of big cars they ride and big houses across the country and abroad. We need someone who will run an open and inclusive government where for the first time people will have the privilege of using FREEDOM OF INFORMATION to enquiry about government dealings. It is a norm around civilized society why not in our dear state Kwara. Is only dishonest people that will prevent FOI – we need a definitive position from our next governor.
  11. Office of the First Lady: You need to know what the next governor will do with the office of the first (last) lady that is unconstitutional and gulp millions every year? In short, is unconstitutional and should be scrapped.
  12. Communication: this is key in driving change and any leader that is not in touch with his people constantly will not be able to motivate and change mindsets. Leadership is about becoming a change agent, someone that is believable to ask majority to embark on something and get it done. A rallying point who can explain why a tough decision was made and what benefit will the society derive from it. Passionate, charismatic and down to earth approach to problem solving.

We must not allow them to divide us by tribe, religion and LGAs. We must select the best among them .. they are all Kwarans and our focus should be good governance ONLY!

Kwara State is not owned by any dynasty – Jani

Billionaire businessman and chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party, Alhaji Jani Ibrahim is one of the frontline aspirants contending for the governorship ticket of the party in Kwara.

In this interview, Ibrahim reviews the political situation in the state and the agenda before him. Excerpts:

You recently picked up the Expression of interest for the governorship primaries in PDP. What are your chances?

The form was actually picked up by some well-meaning Kwarans on my behalf; those who have been clamouring for my participation in the political process. We have consulted widely and I can tell you that there is a ground swell of support for our cause.

Jani: Changing permutations

I am under no illusions that the desired political change in Kwara will be an easy process. Everyone knows the battle will be hard, because no one relinquishes power voluntarily.

But PDP will certainly reclaim Kwara come 2015 because the people are tired of the present government, make no mistake about that. The signposts are there and the change cannot wait, it must not wait, and it will not wait another 4 years.

Who is your Godfather in Kwara politics?

I do not have a Godfather because I do not believe I need one. I believe that Godfatherism is nepotism, it robs a people of opportunity to identify and elect the best amongst them. Because the leaders that emerge are appointed by the Godfather and not through the popular choice of the people, they owe their obligation to the Godfather and not to the people.

They are answerable to the Godfather; they do not feel accountable to the people because they were not put there by them. They serve the bidding and interest of the Godfather, and are not touched by or accept blame for the poor living conditions of our people.

We have ceased to anoint candidates in Kwara PDP and I can assure you that every candidate will have a level playing field as we have no Godfather problem in the party. The people of Kwara will become my Godfathers and Godmothers if I am elected into office. That way I will be responsible to them and use the assets of the State, its resources, fertile lands and natural resources in the most efficient ways possible for the common good of all our people.

Do you agree with those who say that the Saraki dynasty is dead in Kwara?

Kwarans are not unmindful of the contributions that Dr. Abubakar Olusola Saraki, the Wazirin Ilorin, and former Senate Leader who was widely regarded by most Nigerians as the ‘Strongman’ of Kwara politics, has made in the lives of Kwarans both economically and politically.

However, Kwara State is not an empire or private dynasty of the Sarakis so the argument about whether their Saraki Dynasty is alive or dead in the state is not an issue. Kwara State is part of Nigeria, owned by the people and governed by whosoever receives the mandate of Kwarans and not by any particular family or any Dynasty.

And secondly, we do not have a caste system where the aristocrats lord over the common class.

Kwarans are now politically savvy and are seriously agitating for a total cleansing of the political terrain, exorcism on the evil demon called Godfatherism, removal of all forms of Oil used in anointing our political leaders and the freedom to fully participate in the political process without fear of retribution.

Today the drums of political freedom can be heard strongly in every street, town hall, village and hamlet in Kwara. So no Godfather or Godson will be allowed to dictate to our people anymore, because ruling Kwara is nobody’s birth right. We are all tired.

Why would someone like you with your rich background, the immediate past president of the prestigious Alumni Association leave all that for politics?

When I survey the State with the eyes of a business person, see opportunities all around, but the reality on ground today is widespread poverty. Going by the goals we have been able to accomplish in Lubcon with our very modest means, well-wishers of the State have over the years and at various instances been urging me to come in and make a difference. As a true patriot who could no longer sit by and watch things fall apart before our very eyes, I have responded to their call.

It is claimed that you still have some business relationships with the Sarakis and that you may be fronting for them. How true is this?  (laughs) Its funny the types of stories that people come up with, you cannot but marvel at how they make up all sorts of tales.

My relationship with Senator Bukola Saraki dates back to our secondary school days at Kings College Lagos where he was my junior, and being from the same state, he naturally came under my wings.

We have political differences stemming from the different views we hold on the role of government, the manner in which it carries out its mandate and its overall relationship with the people. This has however not affected our relationship as friends.

I believe that the present government which he installed has not delivered the expected democracy dividends to our people.

In all of Senator Bukola Saraki’s eight year tenure as governor, I was not appointed into any position in his cabinet, was never nominated for any Federal appointment, so it baffles me when people say I am fronting for him. I run a business that is about the second largest employer of labour in the state, I have been privileged to head the alumni association of the most prestigious institution in the country… My question to them is “What do they think I would be offered to make me front for someone and take orders from the person on how I run my government? Is it position, is it money or what?”

I would also like to point out that I am an Independent Director in Heritage bank, my appointment was approved by the Central Bank to ensure adherence to best practices and to help reposition the Bank and enhance its smooth take off. And Independent Directors do not own shares in the bank as per CBN guidelines.

Sir, finally, what will Kwarans expect if you emerge from the PDP primaries and eventually become their Governor in 2015.

Apart from some of the key areas I have already highlighted, I would very importantly like to change the way government works by making it less bureaucratic and more accessible to the people. Transparency and accountability will be our watch word; we will make our budgets public, hold town hall meetings and publish regular accounts to ensure that the governed have access to what their leaders are doing. We  will give every Kwara child a stake in the promise and future of our dear State. We will agree high learning outcomes for our schools and ensure that qualified teachers are engaged to deliver on them. We will put enabling infrastructures in place, provide entrepreneurial and vocational training for our young people so the State becomes a beehive of sprouting businesses that will provide gainful employment opportunities for our people. In today’s rapidly changing world where the most valuable skill you can sell is your knowledge, a good education is no longer just a pathway to opportunities, it is a prerequisite for survival. We will work to expand opportunities and not bureaucracy, to empower people so they can live a fulfilled life in Kwara. We will make agriculture attractive for our youths to ensure food security and prosperity. So I urge Kwarans to rise up to usher out yesterday’s government, and bring in a new government that can meet today’s and tomorrow’s needs

– See more at: http://www.vanguardngr.com/2014/10/kwara-state-owned-dynasty-jani/?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=facebook#sthash.DNumNNp4.dpuf

N200 was all I got after winning African title — Joe Lasisi

   Joe Lasisi

Joe Lasisi is African light heavyweight champion, WABU champion and the undefeated Nigerian champion but one major regret in his life is not winning a world title. He tells KAZEEM BUSARI how his dream almost came to reality

At what age did you get into boxing?

I started boxing at the age of 18 in Alakoro, Lagos. Many of my mates were going into football and table tennis at the time but my interest was in boxing because my elder brother, Ayoola, was a boxer and I tagged along whenever he was going to training. He was my role model. I would hide in a corner, watching him and his friends train, but later I started joining them to train properly.

Were you not seen as a bully among your classmates when you started?

I didn’t let anyone at school know I was boxing. It was not part of school’s sports; by then there were only athletics, football and table tennis. My parents mustn’t know I was into boxing, they wanted us to focus on education. Besides, the school I attended was Catholic and they frowned at any form of aggressive sport. My father didn’t know I was boxing until he heard my name on the radio and watched me on television. When I was still courting my wife, she didn’t also know I was a boxer. I was afraid she would see me as a violent man and leave me. Whenever she was coming to visit me, I would conceal my boxing kits under the bed until she left. She only got to know after we married.

Do you ever look back and wished you had another life?

I thank God for what He has done for me. If not for boxing I would not be known by anyone. The sport brought fame to me and my family. I tried not to disappoint my country whenever I was at international events. I had a wonderful life as an active boxer, and I’m still enjoying the benefits even when I retired. Why would I desire a different life? I’m not saying things wouldn’t have been different if I chose a different career but it has been rewarding for me.

But many boxers still complain that professional boxing is not lucrative in Nigeria. Does it mean there was money in the sport in your time?

There was no money; what we had was interest in the sport. What motivated us was the desire to win and be seen as champions. It was not only in boxing; the footballers also played with passion to win. Things are very different nowadays. There’s no longer passion in sports because they all want to earn big money. I’m not saying it is wrong, I just don’t think it should be the basis for going into sports. This is why we have mediocrity in Nigerian sport. Everybody is looking for what they can get from the country not what they can win for her.

The 1981 National Sports Festival in Benin was your last amateur outing. You didn’t win any medal for Kaduna State, which you represented, yet you stood out at the competition.

I was expecting to be selected by the national coaches for the 1982 Commonwealth Games. That was why I put up my best. That was the first time I fought Jeremiah Okorodudu and knocked him out in the second round while the former Bendel State Governor (Samuel Ogbemudia) was watching. It was at that event that the famous Roland Omoruyi of Bendel State was also beaten by Sani Mohammed. But both Sani and I were not selected for the Commonwealth Games while Okorodudu and Omoruyi made the team. By that time, not many people knew me in Lagos because they thought I was Hausa. Even Okorodudu made fun of me before the fight but I did my talking in the ring.

You fought Okorodudu again in 1985 and in 1988, and there were controversies that you hypnotised him with juju to win the contest.

Why was Okorodudu the only one that complained I used juju against him? He was a bad loser and didn’t want to admit he was no match for me. I was way better, I trained better, and I was discipline. He should have focussed on what made him fail in our first professional fight before he challenged me again in the USA for the second fight. Some people, including my manager, didn’t want me to fight Okorodudu because I was preparing for a world title, but he insisted he wanted to beat me. I knew I was going to beat him and I was determined to put an end to the stories he was peddling about, so I accepted to fight him. Nobody told him to surrender when the punches became too much for him to bear. I think I earned his respect from that day.

Your victory against Okorodudu also earned you a nickname ‘Smoking Joe.’

Yes. My fans coined the nickname from my first name Joseph. They actually said I was smoking hot with my punches; it wasn’t that I smoked cigars. During my fights, I usually didn’t smile or show any form of familiarity with my opponents or anyone around. My fans recognised my tough mien.

You won the African Boxing Union light heavyweight title in 1986 but it didn’t appear anyone had defeated you to claim it back.

I won the title after beating Lottie Mwale of Zambia in Lusaka in what I still consider the toughest fight of my career. It was the toughest because Mwale was better and I fought with raw talent. He almost won the bout but I took him out in the eighth round to claim the title. For some funny reasons, I didn’t get the belt until 10 years later when I successfully defended it against Onebo Maxime in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. I still have the belt with me.

You eventually had your chance to win the WBA world title in 1989 but you lost to Virgil Hill.

I lost that fight due to politics of the sport. I was planning on fighting for the IBF or WBC title but I later got to know it was the WBA title. Nigerians regarded the WBA title as apartheid belt and inferior to the first two. I didn’t have any support from Nigeria as I headed for the fight. We were only four Nigerians at the venue of the fight and, even then, I put up a good show. The referee, however, had a different plan because he counted me out on technical grounds. It was later reported that the ref stopped the fight because I was bleeding, that was not the truth. In fact, I was on the verge of winning as my opponent was showing signs of exhaustion. The funny thing was Virgil was like a brother to me. We were sparring partners and also family friends. Before the fight, I sought support from the Nigerian embassy in New York but nothing came from them. I had to buy pieces of cloths to sew the Nigeria flag on the day of the fight. If I had died during the fight, the Nigerian government would have asked who sent me to go and fight. They would have denied me. But if I had won, they would have celebrated me, even when they refused to support me.

Boxing doesn’t get as much support as it had in the past. What do you think is the problem?

The government officials don’t really support sport in Nigeria; the support you see in football exists because of what they would gain from it. They don’t support other sports because they don’t get as much money from them. Let me tell you one secret. When I won the African title in 1986, the promoter game Mwale $10,000 but I got N10,000 from the contest. People were just cheering me as champion but they knew little of what we earned in Nigeria. Out of that money, the boxing board got 10 per cent, the coaches got theirs, and I paid some other monies here and there. At the end of the day, I had just N200 in pocket when I got home in Kaduna. Even with that, I was extremely proud; what I wanted was to be famous with the fight and I got it. But when I relocated to the USA, I had the best experience in boxing. My first fight earned me $50,000. By that time, that was big money. But that money was not lucrative enough for me to relocate permanently to the USA. I thought of the tax I had to pay, how I was going to fend for my family and every other thing.

Many of us waited endlessly to see Joe Lasisi versus Bash Ali before you retired.

That fight would not have happened. It’s like telling Bash Ali to come and commit suicide. Bash himself tactically dodged the challenge. I wanted to fight him, we had almost concluded the arrangement but some thugs didn’t want the fight to hold.

You were planning a boxing programme for the youths recently. How has it gone?

I’ve not been able to conclude the groundwork for the programme. I’m actually setting it up because I don’t want the young generation of boxers to go through similar things I went through in my career. They need to be guided and nurtured so that they can reach their peak at the right time.

Do you see Nigeria winning gold at the next Olympics?

It will be difficult; I think that will be impossible. If we must win any medal at the Games, then we should have at least five of our boxers among the best in the world. Winning bronze at the Commonwealth Games does not mean we can repeat such feat at the Olympics; we’re going to have more contestants there than at Glasgow. The other boxers are training with the best coaches around the world and using the best facility. What do we have in Nigeria to prepare our boxers? The coaches don’t know anything, the facilities are terrible, and the boxing associations are underfunded. I went around the stadium recently and I was almost shedding tears when I saw the deplorable state of the boxing gymnasium. It’s terrible.

http://www.punchng.com/sports/sportlight/n200-was-all-i-got-after-winning-african-title-joe-lasisi/

Paralysed man walks again after cell transplant

 A paralysed man has been able to walk again after a pioneering therapy that involved transplanting cells from his nasal cavity into his spinal cord.

Darek Fidyka, who was paralysed from the chest down in a knife attack in 2010, can now walk using a frame.

The treatment, a world first, was carried out by surgeons in Poland in collaboration with scientists in London.

Details of the research are published in the journal Cell Transplantation.

BBC One’s Panorama programme had unique access to the project and spent a year charting the patient’s rehabilitation.

Darek Fidyka, 40, was paralysed after being stabbed repeatedly in the back in the 2010 attack.

He said walking again – with the support of a frame – was “an incredible feeling”, adding: “When you can’t feel almost half your body, you are helpless, but when it starts coming back it’s like you were born again.”

Prof Geoff Raisman, chair of neural regeneration at University College London’s Institute of Neurology, led the UK research team.

He said what had been achieved was “more impressive than man walking on the moon”.

The treatment used olfactory ensheathing cells – specialist cells that form part of the sense of smell.

OECs act as pathway cells that enable nerve fibres in the olfactory system to be continually renewed.

In the first of two operations, surgeons removed one of the patient’s olfactory bulbs and grew the cells in culture.

Two weeks later they transplanted the OECs into the spinal cord, which had been cut through in the knife attack apart from a thin strip of scar tissue on the right. They had just a drop of material to work with – about 500,000 cells.

About 100 micro-injections of OECs were made above and below the injury.

Four thin strips of nerve tissue were taken from the patient’s ankle and placed across an 8mm (0.3in) gap on the left side of the cord.

The scientists believe the OECs provided a pathway to enable fibres above and below the injury to reconnect, using the nerve grafts to bridge the gap in the cord.

http://www.punchng.com/news/paralysed-man-walks-again-after-cell-transplant/