​El-Rufa’i’s Workforce Restructuring: A Pure Adminstrative  Tyranno-Terrorism

Sani IDRIS

At a point, I spare some minutes to meditate, take a recap of events and regurgitate them to help me understand our past destination, the current one and the one in the near or far future. 

It’s exactly four years ago that governor El-Rufa’i rolled the heads of over 22,000 teachers of Kaduna state after a well orchestrated blackmail campaign against them. Demonically, he described all the 22,000 teachers as totally unqualified to teach primary school pupils. I can’t help, but to wonder the IQ measure of Kaduna state pupils. Maybe, they get 130+ IQ . In what he called restructuring exercise, El-Rufa’i organized a purported “competency test” which  was short of credibility and integrity by all standard measures. One  of the questions asked was to write the name of the then American president (Donald Trump). 

That means, if by either anxiety or examphobia a teacher swap alphabets he is gone! What a professional test! But, I don’t think United States of America has ever produced a governor who would contemplate testing the quality of his teachers by asking them to write the name of Olusegun Obasonjo, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan or even the El-Rufa’i’s temporary father, Muhammadu Buhari. 

In fact, not even the name of any president in the world. Otherwise, the governor would have been considered the maddest or the most insane in the history of America. For good four years after the abrupt and illegally advanced disengagement exercise, I have never come across a single index that indicated quality improvement of education in Kaduna state. Why? Because the ‘restructuring’ was not able to answer perfectly the following questions:

Are the disengaged teachers really unqualified to teach at basic level?

Are the replaced teachers really more qualified than the disengaged ones?

Is the teaching/learning environment conducive for quality service delivery?

What is the frequency of training and retraining of the teachers?; 

Are quiz, debate, exhibition and presentation functions sponsored and encouraged by the State Ministry of Education in order to enhance intra and inter schools level of competitiveness? In a more lucid statement,  the exercise is what I termed redestruction. 

Visiting ramshackled schools in Milgoma, Kufena and Shika will confirm to you that El-Rufa’i has been delving in a gutter of purposeless and capitalist oriented leadership. 

Within the same year, El-Rufa’i turned the wheel of his retrenchment vehicle to local government councils were he sacked no less than 4,000 staff leaning on what he called redundancy. Questions emanate therefrom: were all departments and units in LG Secretariats created right from inception without stipulated schedules or were they  rendered unscheduled due to hijacking of such schedules by state  governors? Or has the government of El-Rufa’i lack the capacity to carry out conversion or creation of relevant schedules which could ram well with the existing socioeconomic blueprint of the state? To the best of my knowledge, merging-splitting, scraping-creation are done based on how productively relevant a particular department or unit is in terms of providing needed services for global and local consumptions. This implies that, as core  schedules of a given department or unit go obsolete new ones emerge, thus the need for conversion or creation, which ought to be carried out systematically and cautiously to avert overnight negative consequences typically massive retrenchment. 

Few days to the commencement of Ramadan fasting, the governor laid off up to 4,000 LG staff across the state LG areas. This is in addition to many other intermittent red cards that come in tenths which usually go unnoticed. 

Unreservedly, El-Rufa’i’s adminstrative incompetence, political naivety coupled with untamed tutelage have been defining the current trilemma of Kaduna state workers. Perhaps, being an accidental civil servant who served with little passion and weak commitment, the governor has failed to understand the seed of horror he is sowing today as well as it amoebaid repercussions. I may not like to scratch well beneath the skin, but the most tragic consequences of this mass sacking will be obvious in social insecurity, systemic and collaborative corruption and total lack of honesty in the civil service system of Kaduna state.

Another lacuna of the governor manifests in his disarrayed actions and irreconcilable pronouncements. The governor claimed to have improved significantly the IGR of the state, yet, he mortgaged the state by borrowing 350 millions dollars. Paradoxically,  he still connect the mass sack  to his government’s inability to execute other development works. Has the governor forgotten about the borrowed money which he promised to deploy wholesomely and prudently for capital projects, both infrastructural and social? 
I uphold a view that, culture conflict, religious bigotry, and to a good extent ideological decay have played well in deactivating the expected response from the Kaduna state populace. Regrettably, those who voted him for the second term because of his deceitful Muslim/Muslim ticket are now fasting the greatest month of Ramadan with little or no food on their tables. 

I wish the people of Kaduna well but the state is far away from the garden of prosperity and growth and development under the incumbent administration. 
 

Sanii IDRIS

Department of Soil Science, ABU, Zaria-Nigeria

sanidris2000@gmail.com

​Chibok schoolgirls: Pause as a parent, to imagine 2,549 days of pains

By Professor Babagana Umara Zulum

As a father of daughters, I can’t even imagine the pains of having one’s daughter held by terrorists for as long as seven whole years. 

However, I urge parents, especially anyone with a female child to pause for a while, no matter how brief, to imagine how it might feel to have one’s daughter abducted and held for more than 2,549 days so far. Imagine how parents and relations of these girls have been feeling in each of these days. 

Certainly, the mental torture of not knowing the fate of one’s daughter in the hands of Boko Haram is far worse than losing a child.


No parent can ever lose hope in a missing child and having that hope comes with so much pains of anxiety and depression. 

Parents of Chibok schoolgirls have been devastated yet they have demonstrated faith and strength in the hope of reconnecting with their missing daughters. They deserve our continued empathy, our compassion, our support and most importantly, sharing their optimism. 

As a father of all sons and daughters of Borno, I haven’t lost hope that our remaining Chibok schoolgirls and other abducted persons will be safely recovered.

From my series of interactions with the President, Commander in Chief, Muhammadu Buhari, I have seen in him that he is as concerned as the parents of the Chibok girls and all of us. 

Countless times, the President has shown me that he is not losing hope on the Chibok girls. He says to me although a number of our girls were reunited with their parents and are being catered for by the Federal Government, he is not happy until the remaining girls are freed. 

I believe the President and I urge everyone in Borno to sustain prayers for those girls and everyone in abduction to be safely freed, and for peace to be fully and permanently restored in Borno. 
I pray that Allah in His infinite mercy answers our prayers and grant us the peace we have been so desperate to gain in almost 12 years now. 

While we pray, our prayers are being combined with relentless support for security agencies and funding thousands of our recruited volunteers, as we all remain determined in our shared goal to free Borno and all its people.

​How DisCos Are Wickedly, Criminally Overbilling Customers Despite NERC Capping

By; JACOB ONJEWU DICKSON
The recent electricity bills distributed to estimated customers across the country is not only wicked, but criminal.

This was done in flagrant disregard for the capping which the National Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) issued out in February this year.

In view of the aforesaid, the  August and September billings are contrary to the NERC Order “C” of Page 7 of the ORDER NO/NERC 197/2020 titled Order on the Capping of Estimated Bills in the NESI.
The NERC had in February issued order No/NERC/197/2020 on capping of estimated billings in the Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry, thereby placing a cap on estimated bills to unmetered customers. 

This was to protect unmetered R2 (Residential single and 3 phase meters, who consume more than 50kwh per month) and C1 (Commercial single and 3 phase meters, small businesses) customers from estimated and arbitrary billing and hopefully hasten the process of metering. (June 9, 2020) NERC Tweet.

“NERC Nigeria

@NERCNG

The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission has issued notices of intention to commence enforcement action against Seven electricity distribution companies over their failure to comply with the Order 197/2020 on capping of unmetered R2 and C1 electricity customers.

12:55 PM · Jun 9, 2020”

NERC further tweeted that some erring Distribution Companies (DisCos) were sanctioned for not adhering to the capping in June this year.

“NERC Nigeria

@NERCNG

The Discos are Benin, Enugu, Eko, Ikeja,Kano, Kaduna and Port Harcourt. @NERCNG @nannews_ng @NTANewsNow @AIT_Online @THISDAYLIVE @TheSun @LeadershipNGA @GuardianNigeria

12:55 PM · Jun 9, 2020,” the tweet said.

The power sector regulatory agency in its statement said, “The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission has issued notices of intention to commence enforcement action against seven electricity distribution companies over their failure to comply with the order 197/2020 on capping of unmetered R2 and C1 electricity customers’’. 

Prior to the capping, NERC had done a proposal to Cap Estimated Billing.

NERC proposed to issue an order stipulating the maximum amount that any unmetered customer will pay to the distribution company (DisCo) that provides him or her electricity services.

This amount will continue to apply until the customer is metered by the distribution company. NERC proposes to set this cap at a level that will protect unmetered customers and provide sufficient incentives for the DisCos to quickly meter such customers.

The context of this proposed new regulation is the realization that distribution companies are not doing enough to meter unmetered customers. 

Since the takeover of the network by the preferred bidders on November 1, 2013, there has not been aggressive metering as promised by the preferred bidders. 

This has led to overbilling of customers especially in the face of epikeptic supply of electricity. 

The main reason for low rate of metering has been the inadequate financial liability of the sector. But this excuse is no longer viable as the NERC sought to solve this problem through the Credited Advanced Payment for Meter Implementation (CAPMI) which provides DisCos with the opportunity to finance metering through consumer finance. 

In spite of this innovative financial crowd-sourcing initiative, minimal metering has occurred because DisCos have not been determined enough to meter their consumers.

The Commission therefore needs to provide the incentive for speedy metering of unmetered customers by limiting the amount of revenue that a distribution company can earn from unmetered customers. 

This transfers the cost of non-metering of customers from hapless customers to operators who have the responsibility and capability of metering customers.

Ahead of the capping, a Public Hearing On Proposal to Cap Estimated Billings and to Create an Independent System Operator was held.

The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), in furtherance of its mandate to ensure an efficient and fair electricity market that ensures an adequate, reliable and affordable supply of electricity to Nigerian homes and businesses invited operators, consumers, and the general public to the public consultation to consider for approval by the Commission, two proposals, namely,

(1) A proposal to cap the amount that a distribution company can charge an unmetered consumer until he or she is metered;

(2) A proposal to create an Independent System Operator (ISO) from the Transmission Company of Nigeria.

NERC proposed to issue an order stipulating the maximum amount that any unmetered customer will pay to the distribution company (DisCo) that provides him or her electricity services.

 This amount will continue to apply until the customer is metered by the distribution company. NERC proposes to set this cap at a level that will protect unmetered customers and provide sufficient incentives for the DisCos to quickly meter such customers.

The Commission therefore, needed to provide the incentive for speedy metering of unmetered customers by limiting the amount of revenue that a distribution company can earn from unmetered customers. 

This transfers the cost of non-metering of customers from hapless customers to operators who have the responsibility and capability of metering customers.

There was also a Proposal to Create an Independent System Operator (ISO).

The Electric Power Sector Reform Act mandates the NERC to create and maintain an efficient, transparent and fair electricity market that continuously allows customers access to adequate, reliable, safe and affordable electricity services.

 As part of the features of such a market, the Act prescribes the establishment of an independent system operator (ISO) immediately after substantial privatization on such terms as NERC will indicate. 

The NERC  wishes to unbundle the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) into a Transmission Service Provider (TSP) and an Independent System Operator (ISO). 

The ISO is conceived to be jointly owned by the operators in the market and operate totally independent of government so as to be fully impartial and professional in the dispatch of energy. 

An ISO is a global model that guarantees credibility and confidence in the electricity market such that investors in independent power projects (IPPs) will have no fear of discrimination in the use of transmission network.

The public consultation in view of the above was held at the Hearing Room, Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, Plot 1099 Adamawa Plaza, First Avenue, Abuja on Tuesday, June 2, 2015.

In futherance to that, on February 20,  2020, the Nigerian Electricity Regulation Commission (NERC) released an Order on the capping of estimated bills in the Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry (NESI) (the Order). 

The Order was enacted pursuant to the NERC’s powers to regulate the NESI, to create, promote, and preserve efficient industry and market structures and to ensure the optimal utilization of resources for the provision of electricity services in Nigeria. In this article, we revisit and discuss important highlights of the Order.

The Estimated Billing Methodology Regulation, 2012

The NERC’s (Methodology for Estimated Billing) Regulations 2012 (Estimated Billing Methodology Regulation) was introduced in 2012 to deter Distribution Companies (DisCos) from issuing to electricity customers arbitrary electricity bills which did not reflect their actual power consumption. 

The Estimated Billing Methodology Regulation classified consumers who can be issued estimated bills into three (3) basic categories.

Customers with faulty meters. This category belongs to those customers which have been issued meters but which are no longer functional.

Customers whose meters cannot be read. This category belongs to those customers whose meters cannot be read by the officials of the applicable DisCo due to inaccessibility arising from locked doors, customers who are not on the premises at the time when the officials of the DisCo come to read the meter, the presence of dogs on the premises of the customer etc.

Existing customers without meters. This category belongs to customers who have not been issued meters by the DisCo and who are directly connected to the DisCos’ distribution network.

However, the Estimated Billing Methodology Regulation achieved little success due to inadequate level of metering and distribution transformers. 
Over 65% of complaints lodged at the customer centres of DisCos together with the subsequent appeals to NERC are as a result of non-provision of meters and unrealistic billing of unmetered customers. To facilitate the metering of electricity consumers, the NERC introduced the Meter Asset Provider (MAP) Regulations in 2018 with the ambitious aim of metering all customers within 3 years.
The Meter Asset Provider (MAP) Regulations, 2018
The MAP Regulations introduced by the NERC in 2018, were issued principally to:
Encourage the development of independent and competitive meter services in the NESI;

Eliminate estimated billing practices in the NESI.

Attract private investment in the provision of metering services in the NESI.

Close the metering gap through accelerated meter roll out in the NESI.

Enhance revenue assurance in the NESI.

As at the end of the fourth quarter of 2019, the NERC had issued permits to twenty-six (26) Meter Asset Providers. 

However, due to a number of factors, including changes in fiscal policy, limited availability of long-term funding and several other constraints, the MAPs and the MAP Regulations were able to achieve very limited success. 

Metering thus, still remains a key challenge for the NESI with only two (2) DisCos having been able to meter more than 50% of their electricity customers as at the end of the fourth quarter of 2019 – Abuja and Benin DisCos. 

Of the 10.3 million registered electricity customers in the NESI, only 37.77% had been metered with the remaining 62.37% remaining on estimated billing at the end of the fourth quarter of 2019.

Hence, it should be on note that the capping released by NERC in February 2020 stops DisCos from billing estimated customers more than 60 kilowatts monthly, which most of them are abusing, riding on the ignorance of electricity consumers.

ONJEWU DICKSON is a Kaduna based journalist

Is Nigeria On The Brink?

OPINION

By; JACOB ONJEWU DICKSON

Happenings over the last few days are alarming and desperately beg for prompt attention.

Pockets of violence have greeted the earlier peaceful EndSARS protests which rocked several major cities across the country.

It is sad that the most populous black nation on Earth has been greeted by such occurrences, gaining roots from alleged injustices that pervade the country over the years.

What started out as a peaceful protest took a new twist over the last two days, leaving behind several questions begging for answers.

This has resulted to trading of blames from several quarters, with the government blaming the opposition and the protesters alleging that sponsored thugs ate responsible for the recent violence recorded in several cities.
Just on Monday, the news of a prison break in Edo prompted a 24-hour statewide curfew in the state.

On Tuesday, the burning of a Police Station in Lagos State and the alleged stabbing to death of a policeman who tried to escape the raging inferno at the station, with earlier reports of the injuring of several Police personnel of the Rapid Response Squad in the state prompted Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu to declare a 24-hour curfew in the state.
Before the dust settled, disturbing news came out of Jos, the Plàteau State capital that hoodlums had a field day burning vehicles and other property, too much a sad news from one day!

Reports from Abuja, the nation’s capital on Monday were worrisome that several cars at Apo were set ablaze by hoodlums.

The situation is beginning to take regional and religious dimension with the North feeling like the protest is targeted at ousting President Muhammadu Buhari.
Several statements from Northern based groups on Monday, frowned at the protest.

What Nigeria needs now is peace, without which there can be no development.

With the recent happenings it seems a mirage. However, all hope is not lost as the President needs to act fast to save the country from chaos.
Fact remains that sustained Injustice is a precursor for agitations, which often turn violent.

Mr President should in his wisdom, address the nation at this trying times and seek ways to calm frayed nerves
If possible, convene an emergency conference of strategic stakeholders like civil society organisations, youth groups, clergy, labour leaders and representatives of the government.
Facts remain that several are agitated, following rising cost of food and essential commodities.

It behoves on the leaders to act fast to save the degenerating situation from aggravating.

The protesting youth on their part should also know that breakdown of law and other will be detrimental to the country as it would affect everyone, with no one immune to the adverse effects should things get out of hand.
Nigeria is ours to build. Caution should be the watch word.

Jacob Onjewu Dickson is a Kaduna based journalist.

​How PEFMB Under Bobboi Is Advancing, Stabilizing Nigeria’s Gas Industry

By IBRAHIM MADA

Since it was established by Decree No. 9 of 1975 (as amended by Decree No. 32 of 1989) the Petroleum Equalisation Fund Management Board (PEFMB)  has lived up to its billing and even if recent, surpassed expectations.

On establishment, the board was charged with the primary responsibility of reimbursing petroleum marketing companies for any losses suffered by them, solely and exclusive, as a result of sale of petroleum products at uniform prices throughout the nation.

In view of that, the Petroleum Equalisation Fund Management Board (PEFMB) has advanced progressively in pursuing and implementing programmes that align with the focus of the Oil and Gas industry, a development that has been further consolidated on since present Executive Secretary, Ahmed Bobboi came on board.

Keying into the legislative Charter of the Board as provided by Decree No9 of 1975 as amended by Decree No. 32 of 1989 (now Chapter 352 of the Laws of the federation 1990), it is also expected to ensure that the Uniform Pricing Mechanism works effectively throughout the country. 

To apply the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as they affect the Uniform Pricing System, vis-a-vis degree No. 9 of 1975 (as amended by Decree No. 32 of 1989), establishing the Fund and the Board, in ensuring that each existing marketing company complies with the laws regarding the management of the transportation equalisation process, the board has evolved pragmatic approaches that have ensured stability throughout the country. 
Such strategies include  equalising the transportation differentials.

The areas that pertain to the downstream  sector include the passage of the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB) and the 

deepening of domestic gas utilisation & consumption and overall monetization of the 

gas resource.
Achievements of the board led by its present Executive Secretary, Ahmed Bobboi so far.

1. Improved Collection and Remittance of Outstanding Bridging and Other Allowances: 

uninterrupted payment of Marketers Claims to ensure efficient distribution and 

availability of petroleum products; and support of Marketers’ business operations. 

PEFMB operations have remained uninterrupted during the ongoing COVID-19  pandemic, with sustained payments to Marketers’ to ensure availability of petroleum 

products nationwide, price stability and support micro-economic activities.

2. In alignment with the HMoS’s initiative for deepening gas penetration, domestication, utilisation and consumption, PEFMB proactively commenced 

evaluation of the provision of administrative support for infrastructural development 

in the downstream sector. 
The organisation is also exploring and establishing  programmes that will support the FG’s drive for job creation, establishment of small 

and medium scale businesses. 

The PEFMB is also a member of the National Gas  Expansion Programme Committee.

3. The Federal Executive Council (FEC) approval for implementation of the Downstream  Automated Fuel Management System (DAFMIS) is ongoing. DAFMIS is a solution  that will enhance delivery, monitoring and management of the downstream  petroleum products, serve as a data repository and credible source of information 

for national planning and economic development.

 In partnership with the Nigeria  Customs Service and identified Stakeholders, the DAFMIS technology has been  successfully tested and was able to track live position of petroleum products from a  Lagos loading depot to a retail outlet in Daura, Katsina state. Despite the pandemic  and associated delays, the various workstream have continued to function, albeit  virtually.

4. In support of the FG and in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the PEFMB  presented palliatives to the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster  Management and Social Development to provide succor to the less vulnerable in the society. Donations were also made to the First Lady, Hajia Aisha Buhari’s Future  Assured initiative, for distribution to the less privileged.

5. The PEFMB has commenced the exploration of the provision of railway, and riverine  & mountainous equalisation.

6. Recognition of the PEFMB as Fund Managers by the National Council for  Hydrocarbon.

7. Capacity Building: With the aim of instituting a world class service delivery  organisation and the grooming of a crop of highly skilled, competent, committed and disciplined leadership, PEFMB has made considerable investment in the development  of staff with highly tailored, good quality training opportunities. 
This is also in  alignment with the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB), in preparation for  future responsibilities. 
The organisation also promotes and encourages self development through the provision of an online training platform.

PEFMB aims to consolidate as well as seek new and better ways of creating value  and claiming values with a vision of covering the field, from white products to  stimulating economic activities in the Downstream Hydrocarbon sector in a sustainable way.

The legislative Charter of the Board as provided by Decree No9 of 1975 as amended by Decree No. 32 of 1989 (now Chapter 352 of the Laws of the federation 1990) are:-
To ensure that the Uniform Pricing Mechanism works effectively throughout the country. To apply the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as they affect the Uniform Pricing System, vis-a-vis degree No. 9 of 1975 (as amended by Decree No. 32 of 1989), establishing the Fund and the Board, in ensuring that each existing marketing company complies with the laws regarding the management of the transportation equalisation process. 
A flash back into why the board was established would make one recall that available records show that  between 1974 and 1975, most petrol service stations nationwide were characterized by long queues due to frequent severe shortages of petroleum products. 

The problem was compounded by the haphazard way marketers priced the product on the basis of transportation cost incurred by them. 

In an effort to solve the problem, the Federal Government set up an inter-ministerial committee comprising of the then Ministries of Mines and Power, and Transport, the Nigerian Ports Authority, the Nigerian Railway Corporation and the Petroleum Products’ Marketers to examine the situation and make appropriate recommendations.
The committee observed that the only variable element in the provision and the sale of petroleum products at uniform price nationwide was the transportation cost. 

It therefore, blamed the limited local refining capacity and inadequate distribution facilities for the problem. In line with the recommendation of the committee, Government introduced the Uniform Pricing System. 

In cognizance of the inequality in the transportation cost of distributing products throughout the country, the Petroleum Equalization Fund (Management) Board was established. 
So far, Nigerians are better off for it as the pump price in Bayelsa and Borno and all over the country remain the same.

Buhari lacks the powers to restructure Nigeria –Yakasai

Elder statesman , Alhaji Tanko Yakasai , on Monday said the President , Major General Muhammadu Buhari ( retd .) , lacks the constitutional powers to restructure Nigeria .

He advised proponents of restructuring to channel their energies towards ensuring their representatives in the State and National Assemblies perform their statutory functions by providing the necessary legislative structure required to restructure the country .

Yakasai who spoke in a telephone interview with our correspondent in Abuja said , “The President does not have the powers to restructure Nigeria .

“He can initiate a bill just like every other Nigerian and send the same to the National Assembly for necessary action .

“I will urge proponents of restructuring to send proposals to the national assembly and put pressure on their representatives to do the needful .

“We need to follow the necessary procedure to achieve desired goals . We are currently running a constitutional democracy which requires dialogue and consultation.

“Whatever the issues are, we can approach our legislators and ensure that our voices are heard .”

The Second Republic Presidential Liaison Officer noted that Nigeria and Nigerians will be the better for it if issues were debated and agreements reached .

COVID-19 and High Rate of Conception, Unplanned Pregnancies

Opinion

By Ajani Bless-me Oluwatobi

Nigerians should be concerned about high rate of conception and unplanned pregnancy at this time of lockdown against the Corona Virus Disease (COVID-19) in the country. Though, it might seem that Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) should be the least of our worries during this COVID 19 outbreak, however learning from the Ebola experience, outbreaks such as this increases the risk of the vulnerable population – internally displaced persons, women and girls – to teenage pregnancy, unplanned pregnancy, Sexually Transmitted Infections, Rape, gender-based violence and Domestic violence.
The coronavirus pandemic is affecting the global economy and basically disrupting the world order, and as the days go by and the weeks unfolds, we have continually seen how the unexpected situation affects every aspect of our lives, with many issues taken for granted becoming major dynamics of the life of individuals and communities.
I am sure the question is who thinks about sexual activities when people are getting sick and some are dying from COVID-19. Learning from the Ebola experience, outbreaks such as this increases the risk of the vulnerable population – internally displaced persons, women and girls – to teenage pregnancy, unplanned pregnancy, Sexually Transmitted Infections, Rape, gender-based violence and Domestic violence.”

The social distancing policy, which is the only reasonable thing to do at this time, involved closing down schools, markets etc., hence, makes a lot of people including young people very idle. Consequently, adolescent girls and vulnerable women end up in various compromising situations. For instance, the young girl that find school as a safe space is back in the house with that abusive uncle, neighbor or stepfather; that woman who intentionally spends most of her time selling in the market to avoid engaging in sexual activities with her husband especially for fear of pregnancy is now stuck with him at home, while young people in relationships are more likely to engage in consensual sexual activities this period.

We should be concerned about high rate of conception and in turn unplanned pregnancies at this period. What is our role in making sure everyone is informed of the right options to take up as regards their sexual and reproductive health? This is also a reminder to us that social distancing or the stay at home policy is not a license to perpetuate gender-based violence, rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment and domestic violence and bad habit of having sex without a proper plan to prevent unplanned pregnancies and Sexually Transmitted Infections.
Also, it is crucial that we all take responsibilities for our sexual needs during this time. Married/co-habiting couples who are not on a long-acting contraceptive/family planning method should remember to stock up on condoms. Young people should endeavor to abstain at this time and if you can’t, get handy condoms and emergency contraceptives. The reality is, this is not a good time to have unplanned pregnancies because the pressure of the pandemic on the health system will affect/disrupt routine Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) services such as family planning, ante-natal services, post-abortion care services, immunization services etc.
In addition, government agencies and parastatals should reiterate to the public the implications of perpetrating sexual, domestic and gender-based violence at this time. In addition, they should ensure availability of non-prescriptive SRH commodities such as condoms, emergency contraceptives pills(ECPs) and post-exposure prophylaxis at pharmacies across the country. So these services can easily be accessible to people in their neighborhood hence mitigating the possibilities of increased SRH issues after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Finally, as young people, we should endeavor to make good use of this period by engaging in productive self-development activities such as reading a book, trying out new hobbies, digital skills or even documenting your Social Distancing experience. You will be amazed how your writing skill would have improved by the end of this period. Also, remember to pick up SRH products at any closed Pharmacy or Primary Health Center close to you.

Ajani Bless-me Oluwatobi is a
Family Planning 2020 (FP2020) Youth Focal Point, Nigeria
For Development Communications (DevComs) Network and) Nigerian Urban
Reproductive Health Initiative (NURHI II).