Daily Trust (Abuja)

29 June 2012

Nigeria: Matters Arising From This Year's Widows Day

Photo: Leadership
Nigeria: Widows and divorcees at a mass wedding organised by the Kano state government this year. (File Photo)

As more numbers of the dead is being counted daily from the insecurity situation in the country, so also is the number of widows and orphans increasing.

Just one dead security personnel or civilian could sometimes be found to have left behind as many as five widows, over 20 orphans and hundreds of dependants, either related by blood or not. Most of these widows and orphans have no means of livelihood and are left in abject poverty, neglect and sometimes resort to begging to survive. Some lose their children to illness, the youths among them become susceptible to the wiles of the rich while politicians induce them with little money to cause further mayhem.

The process of collecting the deceased's death benefits is herculean, running into years, bribes and sexual gratification are demanded from the dependants and some will end up never collecting anything which end up in the private pockets of those who are supposed to process/pay the money or entitlements.

Speaking on the issue, President of Gathering of the Eagles, a faith-based non-governmental organization caring for widows and orphans, Pastor Ishola Foluso Emmanuel, said the high rate of violence and insecurity in the country is daily increasing the number of widows and that is why several widows of different faiths gathered at the Eagles Square in Abuja last Saturday, 23rd June which is the International Widows Day to pray for peace and unity in the country.

It was a tense atmosphere as the widows wept and prayed, with some recalling how their husbands, other loved ones and fellow Nigerians were brutally killed.

They unanimously said they want peace in the country, called on aggrieved persons to forgive, and people attacked to avoid reprisals and leave vengeance to God .

The widows carried placards proclaiming among others that, "Widows Crying for Peace and Unity", "Let us Shun Violence", "Let's Rebuild the Nation", "Stop Victimising Widows, "We are Already Victimized by Nature" and "Divided we fall", among others.

Minister of Information, Mr Labaran Maku, who attended the prayer event urged the widows to cooperate with security agencies, diligently monitor the activities of their children and team up to work irrespective of faith as one people, one nation, one God.

He decried situations where someone is killed in one part of the country and people in another part to retaliate on innocent people around them just because they share the same faith or tribe with those they perceived as the killer(s) of their own.

He said attacks, reprisals. and counter attacks will only make the plan of people who want to incite conflict between the two major religious faiths in the country to succeed, stressing that without peace there can be no development.

Earlier, Pastor Ishola whose NGO organized the event urged government to do more for widows. He said government should build training centres for them, empower them with source of livelihood and also mak provisions for them in the annual budget. He said till date no one knows how much government specifically allocates to widows in the annual budget.

He said: "Generally, widows are assisted by their relatives, NGOs, faith-based organizations among others with nothing really tangible coming from government. Many widows are being harassed and arrested by environmental officials daily because they cannot afford shops and have to hawk."

He urged the general public to show love and care for widows and orphans around them saying being charitable does not always mean opening your wallet but also opening your heart.

Director, Legal Services of GEM, Barrister Bola Adebiyi said there is need to pass a law that does not just protect widows from harmful widowhood rites but gives special recognition to the plight of widows and their children and also addresses specifics such as giving a deadline on when a deceased's gratuity should be paid to his family; a review of the Pension Act to address needs of widows and orphans; excluding widows from letters of administration as the cost sometimes exceeded the amount the deceased left in the bank; and giving widows more days of compassionate leave to cope with trauma, among others.

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InFocus

Nigeria: Zamfara State to Fund Widows' Marriages

Nigeria: Widows and divorcees at a mass wedding organised by the Kano state government this year. (File Photo)

The Commissioner for Women and Children Affairs says government has concluded plans to assist widows to fund their marriages in order to reduce the burden they face. Read more »