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Expert calls for social investment to empower orphans, vulnerable children

 By Menidin Egbo


Responding to a courtesy visit by Rev. Nicholas Kins Iloh, retired cleric of the Lutheran Church of Nigeria, an environmental expert, Engr. Olu Andah Wai-Ogosu advocated for thorough and productive grooming of orphans and vulnerable children (OVC), who, according to him, should be also assisted up to attainment of secondary school education in Nigeria. Wai-Ogosu has, over the years, attained outstanding recognition through contributions to human development and promotion of a healthy environment, having served two times as national president of Nigeria Environmental Society (NES).

 The former NES boss observed that even those vulnerable groups of children who cannot make it to secondary school education level, surely, “need to be supported with life skills in vocational, craft and artisanal capacity development, to enable them live productive life of enhanced benefit to Nigeria and the general human society.”

Rev. Nicholas Kins Iloh, who visited the former NES president on Thursday, January 21, 2021 in Port Harcourt, told the renowned environmentalist that there is increasing “challenge of a number of orphans and vulnerable children who are neglected and not receiving attention from members of the public”.

Rev. Iloh currently runs an institution that is dedicated to taking care of educational development of orphans and vulnerable children in Eteo community of Eleme Local Government Area of Rivers State, an experiment that is attracting attention from multiple stakeholder groups that focus on development support across every segment of the society.

The retired cleric and his wife, Ofonime, established in 2003 (under registration of Rivers State Ministry of Social Welfare and Rehabilitation) the Center to provide development-care services for OVC. Having registered under federal government law as “Luther Welfare for Children At-Risk Development Centre (LWCARDC)”, since March 30, 2017, the duo of Rev of Iloh and his wife are successfully running the Centre in collaboration with various stakeholders to advance OVC development and care-giving as a cost-free service. Operations under the affairs of the Eteo-Eleme based OVC-focused centre have so far created room for about 183 at-risk children to be in school for up to senior secondary education level.

Engr. Wai-Ogosu who currently runs Environmental and Chemical Services Company in Port Harcourt and Calabar, responded with very strong passion to Rev. Iloh’s account of the plight of distressing conditions of OVC cases as one instance of social indictment against the society at large. Wai-Ogosu called for direct effort for enhancing opportunities for OVC-based support by members of the general society. According to him, such opportunities abound, and are waiting for well meaning Nigerians to get involved through social investment. 

The former NES President observed that OVC-based support can be focused on offering multiple sets of empowerment around livelihoods based skills for building a sustainable living and advancement for OVC individual cases and the general society respectively. The prospects for creating a promising future to orphans and vulnerable children remain largely broad for many stakeholders to explore, said Engr. Wai-Ogosu.

In reacting to the need for giving enhanced support to OVC cases under the present challenges, Engr. Wai-Ogosu also stretched that skill empowerment in areas such as radio presentation, disco jokey (DJ), and events organizing could be extended to include encouragement for applying for university education through the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board examinations (JAMB). The environmentalist recommended that opportunities for pursuit of university education by OVC cases should not be ignored. He rather emphasized that those brilliant and capable orphans and vulnerable children should be “encouraged through target advocacy that can link up to philanthropists’ attention with aptly identified need for university-level educational support”.

The seasoned environmental expert was down-to-earth in urging Rev. Iloh and his institution (LWCARDC), and similar social support bodies, to use appropriate campaign and similar strategies to call for sponsorship of OVC cases in Nigeria. The Lutheran cleric had also informed the former NES president that there is obvious low level of concern shown to OVC cases by members of the Nigerian general society.

While commending Luther Welfare for Children At-Risk Development Centre for the valuable humanitarian service targeted at supporting the welfare and educational development of OVC in Rivers State, Engr. Wai-Ogosu pointed out that post secondary school education for OVC cases should be given prime attention. “Am glad to see this humanitarian service of [your] Centre taking place in Ogoni,” Engr. Wai-Ogosu told the retired Lutheran cleric, while expressing nostalgia for the virtually lost tradition of community social care-giving that once functioned as prominent culture of volunteer service among the people of Nigeria.

According to Engr. Wai-Ogosu, cooperation and mutual support, including: building ties under extended family systems, responding to neighbourhood support, caring for people in need, and especially using mutual encouragement to build stronger community strength, resilience, peace and harmony once defined the character of Ogoni people. He expressed concern with worry over currently experienced “divisive inclinations that only tend to create and establish alienations that retard progress in the larger society”.

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