Chairman’s Opening Remarks on the Occasion of the Celebration of the International Women’s Day Organized by C21st and GIPI at the Bon Hotel Grand Pela, Abuja, March 8th 2017



I am delighted to welcome you to this occasion –the celebration of the International Women’s Day. It is a day that calls to question the essence of life without justice. Justice for the part of humanity, the Female Gender, that has been described over time as ‘poor, pregnant and powerless’. This description is apt when one recalls the plight of women in conflict ridden parts of the world; who as victims of rape, they have high vulnerability to debilitating diseases, limited or no reproductive health rights, poor access to health care, bear the burden of care for legitimate and unwanted children among others. They are simply victims of violence, with attendant traumatic consequences.

Ladies and gentlemen, I invite you to imagine what happens to the girl-child that goes through these harsh experiences. Imagine that as a child, she becomes a mother. Imagine that she is denied parental care. Imagine that her access to education is truncated. Imagine that her life dreams and ambitions are shattered. Imagine her on the street, in the IDP camp or in captivity as a sex slave to her captors. We can go on and on.

Consider the plight of the African woman, in stable but deprived communities. Imagine that the African woman, with her little children, girls and boys have to wake up early and trek long distances to fetch water for household needs. Imagine that she has to fetch firewood from the forest to prepare meals for the household. Imagine that she has to return to the market arena, either as a petty trader, hawker or scavenger; to earn a little to contribute to the family economy. Imagine the hardship she goes through to send her child to school. Imagine the pains she goes through, as the plague of unemployment looms over her husband and educated children. The Gbagyi woman belongs here too.

But she has peculiar experiences. It is this woman that has borne the burden of the nation from Minna to Zungeru; from Jere to Kaduna; from Toto to Abuja since the formation of Nigeria. These places have geo-political relevance as seat of power either to the colonial or federal governments. The wood that she carries on her shoulders has now become her official complaint about balkanization and neglect. She is bewildered as successive governments have misapplied extant laws on land use, the federal character, resettlement, urban renewal to diminish her economic fortunes. It is this woman that lost her children to careless drivers on the palatial highways of Abuja as they returned home from school. She agonizes over the fact that she is told that in Abuja, her entire family does not have franchise for self-governance; she agonizes that there has been a longstanding conspiracy to block her access to means of production and national wealth. In her existential trauma, she cries out needs to be heard.

GIPI remains highly indebted to Ms Della Ilenre for her sensitivity to these issues and utilizing the opportunity offered by the Centre for 21st Century Issues (C21st) to mobilize sponsorship for today’s event from the International Women’s Forum Peru. The case she made was for the Gbagyi Woman –the need to give her a voice. She was inspired by her late father, Pa Alfred Ilenre, may his soul rest in peace. GIPI met him briefly yet he left an indelible mark on us as a true nationalist. In addition, Della has a mentor, Titilope Akosa, Executive Director of C21st who has made invaluable contributions to the success of today’s event. We thank her most sincerely.

Prof. Andrew Zamani


Goodwill Message Delivered By Hon. Minister For Women Affairs ( Nigeria) At the 2o17 International Women’s Day celebration Organized By C21st And Gbayi Indigenous Peoples Initiative


  1. It gives me great joy to be part of this important occasion tagged; “The need to give Gbagyi Indigenous women a voice” aimed at creating awareness for the overall wellbeing of Gbagyi indigenous women in Federal Capital Territory. This seminar as the name implies will serve as a facilitating factor by connecting Gbagyi indigenous women and their community to the national and international frameworks for articulating and enlightening them on the need to advocate for their rights as indigenous people of Federal Capital Territory and to maintain and strengthen their own institutions, cultures and traditions.

2.The Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development has the mandate to co-ordinate all activities that are aimed at protecting and promoting the welfare of all Nigerian women by enhancing their abilities to realize their full potentials in various fields of human endeavours.

  1. It is very important to sensitize and build the capacity of FCT indigenous women on the preservation of their indigenous knowledge and how to use it for the benefit of their communities and the future generations, according to the Sustainable Development Goals 11 (SDG 11) on the need to make cities inclusively safe, resilient and sustainable.
  2. It is quite disheartening to note that Gbagyi Indigenous women lack knowledge, capacity, solidarity and a collective sense to organize an initiative in order to manage their resources. Also, they are the voiceless and less dominant in the city due to lack of political and socio-economic participation.
  3. It is my honest deposition to state that my ministry is already involved in the course of providing an enabling environment that can give women a voice in the society.
  4. In this regards, I sincerely want to assure you that the Ministry of Women Affairs will always identify with such laudable project like this to uplift the status of Gbagyi indigenous women and the overall Nigerian woman.
  5. Finally, I wish to appreciate the effort of the organizers of this great event and also the development partners and other stakeholders for your encouragement towards addressing and breaking the long silence of the Gbagyi Indigenous women of the Federal Capital Territory and helping them to be heard.
  6. Thank you all for listening.











Impacts Of Mecury On Human Health And The Environment

In our efforts as human beings to improve our standard of living, we consequently increase our industrial activities. These activities release pollutants into our environment.One of these pollutants that are toxic to human health and the environment is mercury.

Mercury is an extremely poisonous chemical element with symbol Hg. Though it can be changed into solid or gas at suitable temperature, it is the only metal that is liquid at room temperature. In its physical state, mercury appears appealing in shiny silver-white form and it conducts electricity due to its very high surface tension.


Mercury exists naturally through volcanic activity, weathering of rocks, that is, the normal breakdown of minerals in rocks,and water movement. It also occurs through human activities such asartisanal small-scale gold mining (ASGM); a prevalent mining process in Nigeria, coal-fired power plants, industrial fugitive emissions, oil and gas processing industry and cement production. These are major activities thatemitmercury into the atmosphere and release it into soil and waterthereby causing environmental pollution in Nigeria.

Mercury can be used to make scientific instruments such as thermometers and barometers. Also, because of its ability to conduct electricity, it is used in electric switches and as relays in equipment. The vapor in mercury is used in streetlights and fluorescent lamps.  Mercury readily combines with other metals like gold, zinc and silver to form alloys; also called amalgams. These amalgams are used to create dental filings, prolong the life of dry battery cells made with zinc and used to help extract gold from its ore.

Other sources of mercury includeskin-lightening products, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, industrial boilers,agricultural fertilizers, waste disposal and incineration.


Health Impacts   

Mercury is a major public health concern because it is inimical to human health.  Exposure to the toxic element and its compound can cause damage to the brain, disrupt the nervous system and affect the lungs, kidneys and eyes. It also results in allergic reactions such as headaches, tiredness and skin rashes. Even in small amounts, mercury impacts the reproductive organs negatively by causing sperm damage, birth defects and miscarriages.

Nearly all fish and shell fish contain traces of mercury but some have higher concentration that may be harmful to pregnant women; however, for dietary purpose, pregnant women can still eat fish and shell fish that are low in mercury.

Additionally, the continuous use of skin lightening products that contain mercury poses a high health risk to people who use them. The accumulation of mercury in the body through the skin can damage the liver and kidney.

Environmental Impacts   

Mercury and its compound are non-biodegradable. So, they persist in the environment for an extended period killing important microorganisms in the environment.

Mercury is significantly harmful due to its ability for long-range transportation. It can travel globally through air, soil and water bodies.

Mercury and its compounds also have adverse impact on the environment as they bio-accumulate in the ecosystem. Mercury accumulates in organisms through different transmission pathways like the food chain.


Role Of Nigerian Government 

Nigerian government through the Federal Ministry of Environment is involved in a variety of activities to phase out mercury. These include promoting use of clean energy in industrial activities, enforcing the proper use and disposal of mercury containing products,discouraging the use of mercury in gold mining, developing laws to protect the health of Nigerian citizens and finding lasting alternatives to the use of mercury containing products.

In order to phase out mercury, Nigeria became a signatory to the Minamata convention on mercury; a global environment treaty, on 10th October, 2013.  The convention is aimed at promoting the “use of alternatives and Best Available Techniques (BAT) and Best Environmental Practices (BEP) across a wide range of products, processes and industries where mercury is used, released or emitted.”  This, in the end, will help protect human health and the environment from anthropogenic emissions and releases of mercury and its compound.

The government in a series of strategic plans and with support from Global Environment Facility (GEF), United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) is working assiduously to implement the Minamata Convention Initial Assessment (MIA) project. This will assist Nigeria to assess its institutional capability, identify gaps in policy and legislative framework, identify intervention sources and raise awareness among relevant stakeholders. The success of the MIA will serve as a basis for the country to ratify the Minamata convention requirements.

To further the course of raising awareness among Nigerian citizens, the Federal Ministry of Environment at a recent workshop in Lagos engaged the media and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) on the Minamata convention on mercury. The awareness raising workshop was to enlighten participants on the Minamata convention, and develop strategic and realistic tactics to disseminate information on mercuryto the populace.

The role of the media and NGOs cannot be over-stressed as the sector is the mouthpiece of the people, if fierce awareness is raisedsuch as it was done with NAFDAC number on products during Professor Dora Akunyili’s tenure at the agency whereby illiterates and educated people became aware of the importance of NAFDAC’s certification on a product, Nigeria is on a good path to fulfill its obligation to the ratification of the Minamata convention while also contributing to the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals 3, 6, 9 and 14.


Ms Damilola Adeoye

Program officer,

Centre For 21st Century Issues