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Governors’ wives, stakeholders seek 6 months maternity leave policy

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Nigerian Governors’ Wives Forum (NGWF)

The Nigerian Governors’ Wives Forum (NGWF) and other stakeholders on Tuesday called for the implementation of six months maternity leave policy to facilitate exclusive breastfeeding of infants in the country.

Dr Olufolake Abdulrazak, wife of the Kwara state governor, representing the NGWF, stated this during the launch and press briefing ceremony in commemoration of the 2023 World Breastfeeding Week organised by the Federal Ministry of Health and other partners in Abuja.

The theme for this year’s celebration is “Enabling Breastfeeding: Making a differenece for Working Parents.’’

Mrs Abdulrazak said the forum will partner with others to champion the advocacy, which will improve the health and wellbeing of the mother and child, as well as eliminate malnutrition in the country, thereby reducing child’s mortality rates.

She noted the challenges mothers face in navigating their work schedule and providing the best care for their children, stressing the need for implementation of policies that will ensure babies were exclusively breastfed for the first six months and complementary fed to atleast two years.

“ Breastfeeding plays an integral in the healthy development of infants and we must all come together to create an enabling environment that support and encourages this natural practice.

“In the NGWF, we are wholeheartedly dedicated to championing the cause of breastfeeding and improving the lives of women and children across our nation.

“ We are proud to announce that we have taken a significant step forward by signing a statement of commitment to provide support through effective advocacies for improved nutrition in the country.’’

While advocating for realistic budgeting, timely release of funds for nutrition, she said the NWGF was committed towards creating awareness on the importance of exclusive breastfeeding, establishment of creches in workspaces and advocating for six months paid maternity leave.

On issue of prevalence of malaria, she disclosed that Kwara state went down to 20 per cent, which was lower than the 26 per cent at the national average level.

Dr Nemat Hajeebhoy, UNICEF’s Chief Nutrition Officer, said a child’s development is not completed at birth, but rather breastmilk facilitates the completion of the development, especially the brain.

Hajeebhoy, added that the Convention on the Child Rights, stipulates their rights to access to adequate nutrition, which begins at birth within the first hour of breastfeeding, which was essential as the first immunisation.

“It is the act of breastfeeding and the breast milk that enables the growth for babies. The child’s development is not completed at birth, it is the breastmilk that helps the completion especially in and brain development.

“ So enabling mothers and babies to be together once the child is born is no longer in her womb is each of our responsibility,’’ she said.

She, explained that Nigeria had over 18 million employed women, but only nine per cent of the organisations offer breastfeeding support, hence the need for employers to implement policies that would promote breastfeeding.

“We are asking employers to offer six months maternity leave, set up safe spaces in the offices so that a mother can go and breastfeed her child and offer some flexible working arrangement.’’

Also, Dr Walter Mulombo, Country Representative, World Health Organisation (WHO) said the 2023 WBW theme aim to raise awareness and galvanize action that enable breastfeeding in the workspace.

“ Enabling breastfeeding and supporting working parents is crucial for promoting optimum breastfeeding practices and ensuring the health and wellbeing for both infants and mothers.

“Support for breastfeeding increases women’s work motivation, attendance, satisfaction and productivity.

“ It also provides vital health and nutritional benefits for children with positive lifelong impacts. Women shouldn’t be left to choose between breastfeeding their children and their jobs,’’ he said.

Dr Osita Okonkwo, Country Director, Nutrition International, said the organisation with supports from partners in 2022 distributed over 20 million vitamin A across to states and has earmarked over 22 million to improve nutrition and reduce prevalence of child and maternal mortality.

Mr Adebiyi Folorunsho, Permanent Secretary, FMoH, while highlighting the benefits of breastfeeding, said only nine per cent of organisations in the country have workplace breastfeeding policy.

Folurunsho, represented by Mrs Boladale Alonge, Director in the ministry said breastfeeding provides energy, nutrients for child’s development and prevents the burden of malnutrition infectious diseases and mortality, while also reducing the risk of obesity and chronic diseases in later life.

He added that breastfeeding mothers are also protected them from chronic diseases including breast and ovarian cancer, Type 2 diabetes, as well as increase productivity at the workplace and saves monetary expenses.

“Evidence has shown that women need adequate time and support to practice optimal breastfeeding. Lack of support in the workplace is one of the reasons, why women stop breastfeeding early,’’ he said.

The representatives from the Federal Ministries of Women Affairs, Labour and Employment, Humanitarian Services, Disaster Management and Social Development, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), as well as other stakeholders were present at the event.

UNICEF said seven out of 36 states provide six months of fully paid maternity leave while only 34 per cent of children aged zero to six months are exclusively breastfed as recommended.

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Job Losses, Factory Closures Loom As Unsold Goods Pile Up — MAN

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AGAINST the backdrop of sustained pressure in the foreign exchange market and high cost of production, the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, MAN has indicated that inventory of unsold goods is escalating to levels now threatening the existence of companies operating in the production sector of the economy with attendant job losses.

Findings show that as of the weekend the foreign exchange market had recorded over 254 per cent plunge in the value of the naira since flotation of the currency by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in June 2023.

Recall that the naira traded for N471 per dollar in the official I&E market on June 13, 2023 before the floatation of the currency, but exchanged for N1,665.50 to a dollar as at February 23, 2024 on the Nigerian Foreign Exchange Market (NAFEM), indicating a depreciation of more than 253.6 per cent over the eight-month period. The forex crisis is also stoking inflation, and coupled with high energy costs, purchasing power has continued plummet, stifling demand for goods.

Speaking on the impact of this development on the manufacturing sector, Director General, MAN, Segun Ajayi-Kadir, said: “There are reports that across the board, many warehouses and plants of many manufacturing firms are stockpiled with unsold goods manufactured last year. “The development is as a result of the devastating effects of the exchange rate crisis, inflation, fake and sub-standard goods, smuggling and other macro-economics challenges.”

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CBN Lifts Ban On BDCs, Introduces New Operational Mechanism

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In a major development aimed at financial stability and strengthening the naira, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) plans to resume its weekly intervention in the country’s foreign exchange (FX) market through the Bureau de Change (BDC) operators.

In 2021, the central bank, in a bid to achieve its mandate of safeguarding the value of the local currency, ensuring financial system stability, and shoring up external reserves, announced the immediate discontinuance of foreign currency sales to Bureau de Change (BDC) operators in the country.

However, the resumed intervention, which would reportedly commence today for funding as well as Tuesday for collection, will see the apex bank inject FX into the subsector in a bid to rescue the naira from further depreciation against major currencies, particularly the US Dollar. The collection will be at designated CBN branches in Lagos, Abuja, Kano, and Awka, while details of the naira accounts to be credited for funding bidding will also be made available today.

CBN is also expected to publish the list of eligible BDCs to benefit from its funding using certain compliance criteria.National Executive Council of Association of Bureau De Change Operators of Nigeria (ABCON) hinted on the latest developments through a memo to its members over the weekend.

The association also warned members that it will no longer be business as usual under the new supervisory regime of the central bank, as any infringement or infraction would result in outright revocation of license and prosecution.

ABCON said through the association’s various engagements with the central bank, in conjunction with ABCON’s strategic partners, CBN had agreed to its request, under the bank’s supervision, to inject liquidity into the market through a weekly intervention beginning today.

CBN assured ABCON that the new circular on the Revised Regulatory and Supervisory Guidelines to BDCs, which was introduced over the weekend, was only a draft exposure that required the association’s inputs before the release of the final guidelines by the apex bank.

To that effect, the letters of the guidelines were not cast in stone, the association’s leadership told its members, who had been worried over the sweeping reforms in the document, which, among other things, prescribed N2 billion and N500 million minimum capital for national and state BDCs, respectively.

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