To commemorate its fourth year anniversary, The Witness Newspaper, on Sunday, October 24, launched a non-governmental organization, ‘The Witness Newspaper Foundation’, a humanity platform dedicated to supporting the vulnerable in the society.
Unveiling the initiative at the prestigious Lagos Continental Hotel (formerly Intercontinental Hotel), Victoria Island, Lagos, managing director of the newspaper, Mr. Julius Akpovire Enyeh, said the foundation will in its first year focus on boosting the wellbeing of widows, vulnerable children and the aged in the society.
The formal unveiling was attended by current and past governors, lawmakers, captains of industry, media personalities, clerics, among other important dignitaries.
Disclosing the foundation’s terms of reference, Mr. Enyeh said the initiative is a corporate social responsibility initiative of the newspaper and it is aimed at complementing the efforts of other corporate organisations and improving upon the tasks of other non-governmental organisations.
He said, “The sole aim of this foundation is giving back to our society by finding ways to ameliorate the suffering of widows, vulnerable children, and our neglected aged fathers and mothers.
“The statistics out there concerning the number of vulnerable children, women and the aged are alarming. But we have to start from somewhere and take one step at a time.”
While stating that The Witness Foundation would lift 100,000 widows, vulnerable children, and aged in the first year of operation, the newspaper boss stressed that the focus would be on education, empowerment and health improvements.
Urging for support from individuals, public and private sectors, among others, he affirmed the commitment of the foundation to be transparent and accountable, stressing that its books will be open to the public for regular updates.
In his speech, the immediate past-governor of Delta State, Dr. Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan, who was also the chairman of the occasion, commended the initiative, advising that more private organisations should join the fray in supporting government at all levels to empower the vulnerable in the society.
Uduaghan who bemoaned the defiance against human capital development in the country, stressed that the majority of the crises seen in the society are offshoots of the neglect of HDI by governments and institutions.
He said, “When a governor builds a road, there is a huge ceremony for commissioning. But there is an aspect we do not pay attention to, that is human capital development. We don’t take it seriously. And any governor that pays attention to that area, doesn’t seem like he is working.
“Every government must take human capital development seriously. This is why we must commend this foundation because it has aggregated major areas of HDI by seeking to enhance the widows, vulnerable children and the aged.
“Look at the suffering aged in the society, sometimes you ask, what about their children? Or was it that they didn’t pay attention to their children when they were young? Even though some of them did, we also have irresponsible children becoming irresponsible adults. We must discourage people from abandoning their parents.”
Raising the alarm on the number of out-of-school children in Nigeria, which he pegged at over 13 million, the former governor recounted the efforts of his administration to ensure the easing of the financial burden of school children on the parents by introducing free education at both primary and secondary school levels.
While calling for support and collaboration for The Witness Newspaper Foundation to touch many lives, he assured that its operation and affairs will be transparent enough.
In his address, Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who was represented by Mr. Olumide Shogunle, commended the initiative, just as he promised the state’s readiness for partnership with its different skills acquisition centres and agencies.
Also, the speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Mudashiru Obasa, who was represented by Hon. (Engr.) David Setonji, Chairman, Committee on Information, Strategy and Security , assured that the legislature would soon institute a private member bill on the aged, just as he urged support for widows and vulnerable children.
In his goodwill message, the managing director of Ecobank Nigeria, Mr. Patrick Akinwuntan, who was represented by the bank’s chief financial officer (CFO), Mrs Ibukun Oyedeji, congratulated the management of the news outlet, just as he promised support for the initiative.
Assisted by other dignitaries, former Governor Uduaghan formally unveiled the foundation’s logo. Other notable personalities that greeted the event included: Mr. Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, director-general of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA); Dr. Adaeze Udensi, Executive Director, Titan Trust Bank; Pastor and Pastor (Mrs) Mary Olayinka of the Watchtower Christian Assembly; Comrade Ayodele Adewale, immediate-past chairman, Amuwo Odofin Local Government Area; Dr. Victor Adoji, former governorship aspirant in Kogi State; Mr. Ramon Nasir, Group Head, Media Relations, United Bank for Africa (UBA); Mr. Abdul Imoyo; Group Head, Media Relations, Access Bank Plc; Mr. Jide Sipe, Group Head, Marketing & Corporate Communications, Ecobank; Mr. Austin Osokpor, head, Media Relations, Ecobank; Mr. Ibukun Coker, head of Strategy & Corporate Planning, Unity Bank Plc; Mr. Matthew Obiazikwor, Group Head, Corporate Communications, Unity Bank Plc; Mr. Ayodele Aminu, managing director of New Telegraph Newspaper, among others.