Minister Kitt on two - day visit to Nigeria
The Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs with special responsibility for Overseas Development and Human Rights, Mr Tom Kitt T.D., is currently on a two day visit to Nigeria. Minister Kitt is representing the Irish Presidency on this visit, which is the first substantive Irish Ministerial visit to Nigeria in over 25 years.
Yesterday, the Minister visited a school for children with special needs and a primary health care clinic in the outskirts of the capital, Abuja. The school and clinic are run by two members of the order of the Daughters of Charity from Belfast - Sr. Geraldine Henry and Sr. Brenda Hunter. Both the school and clinic provide important health and educational services to a very poor and under-resourced part of the capital and have received funding over a number of years from Development Co-operation Ireland totalling over €100,000. The Minister, during his tour of the school and the clinic, announced additional funding of €10,000, to be spent on enhanced physiotherapy facilities for the children.
Minister Kitt spoke of the school's strong connection with Belfast, which is commemorated in part of the centre being named after Gavin Brett, a Belfast school boy who was murdered during the troubles. His family established a charity named after him, which has raised large sums of money for good causes, one of which is the school in Abuja which now bears his name.
The Minister, at a function for the Irish community in Abuja yesterday evening, paid a warm tribute to, “the enormous good work which has been done by Irish religious in Nigeria down through the years.” The Minister took the opportunity to announce to the group, funding for three new projects run by Irish Missionaries in Nigeria.
Minister Kitt, will today lead an EU delegation in a meeting with the Nigerian Foreign Minister, Mr. Olu Adeniji, to discuss political relations between Nigeria and the European Union.
Note for Editors:
Irish missionary involvement in Nigeria dates back to the 1860s and as recently as the mid seventies, Irish missionary numbers totalled over 2,000. Currently, there are approximately 300 Irish missionaries working in the country. DCI funds a number of projects in Nigeria focusing on primary health and education and on human rights and democratization.
Nigeria is the most populous African country with a population of over 130 million - one on every five sub Saharan Africans is Nigerian. Nigerians also make up the largest of the new immigrant communities in Ireland. Nigeria, despite great oil wealth is one of the poorest countries in the world on a per captia GDP basis with over 70% of the population surviving on $1 a day or less. Long periods of military government and deep rooted corruption have left deep scars on the political landscape. Since the restoration of democracy in 1999, President Olusegun Obasanjo has led the country. President Obasanjo visited Ireland on an official state visit in June 2002.
Details of project funding announced by MoS Kitt:
The first project is the construction of a permanent, secure and self sustaining complex for the Centre for the Enhancement of Human Dignity. The Centre is being run by Fr. Kevin O’Hara of the St. Patrick’s Missionary Society. A sum of €75,000 has been granted for this project. The new complex will provide the Centre with a base where incidents involving violations of human rights, democracy and the rule of law can be investigated, documented and challenged, in order to promote and protect these basic fundamental rights of the 2.6 million people living in Ebonyi State. The centre will also provide a venue for the training of community based trainers on conflict management and provide a stable and accessible organisational base for the centre’s 27 local branches.
The second project which is approved is for the Daughters of the Holy Spirit. €43,416 has been granted for the construction of an additional building to provide three classrooms, a library, computer room and science laboratory for the Holy Spirit Nursery and Primary School in Oyo State, run by Sr. Margaret Hanrahan.
Funding was also granted to the Gaudiem et Spes Institute here in Abuja, run by Rev. James Sheerin from St. Patrick’s Missionary Society. €10,000 will be spent on an extension of the Institute which provides for human, pastoral and spiritual development for people from all over Nigeria. Top