U.N.I.T.E. Reaches Abuja!

U.N.I.T.E. launched its first program in Abuja, the capital city of Nigeria, last week. The program was a big success – with an audience of 50 youth from the NGO Youth Ablaze, and support from the United States Embassy – it was a landmark for a youth-centered approach to bridging environmental and criminal justice curriculum for youth in Abuja.

Here is the press release from the United States Embassy in Abuja:

Untitled2abuj2United States Diplomatic Mission to Nigeria, Public Affairs Section
Plot 1075, Diplomatic Drive, Central Business District, Abuja. Telephone: 09-461-4000. Website at http://nigeria.usembassy.gov



Abuja, Nigeria
March 21, 2013

American Fulbright Scholar Organizes Training for Youth 

Abuja – A youth justice program from Lagos, Nigeria, known as U.N.I.T.E. (You and I Teach Each Other) will take place in Abuja for local youth on March 23rd, 2013.

The training in Abuja will involve 50 youth from the local youth NGO Youth Ablaze.  American Fulbright Scholar Erica Licht of Justified Outdoors is organizing the training, in collaboration with Youth Ablaze, and with support from the United States Embassy.

You are cordially invited to cover this training which will take place on Saturday March 23rd, 2103 from 9am to 3pm at the Conference Hall, National Centre for Women Development, Tafawa Balewa Street, Central Area, Garki, Abuja (opposite Central Bank of Nigeria, Headquarters).

U.N.I.T.E. is a youth justice and environment program aimed at empowering youth through curriculum related to criminal justice, environmental and experiential education. Through peer-to-peer education, group discussions and workshops participants learn life skills to promote their engagement with positive behavioral development, as well as leadership in their communities.

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Other relevant information about U.S. policies and programs in Nigeria can be found on our website: http://nigeria.usembassy.gov.          


U.N.I.T.E. Abuja Group – 50 participants with Cultural Affairs Officer William Strassberger, United States Embassy and Facilitators Erica Licht, Onyedika, and Faith Eches


U.N.I.T.E. Abuja Facilitators and Organizers: Erica Licht, Onyedika, and Faith Eches


Opening Talk at U.N.I.T.E. Abuja


Name Game Ball Toss



Partner Stand Up



Yoga at U.N.I.T.E.!



U.N.I.T.E. Ojota participants explore Triangle pose in front of their school


This week at U.N.I.T.E. we had the special pleasure of having Dayo of Dayoga join us for a yoga and mindfulness session at Ogudu Secondary Grammar School. The Ojota U.N.I.T.E. participants loved the experience, and all left the programing smiling, and sweating!, from our wonderful session under the sun on the field behind the school.

At the end we connected what we experienced in yoga back to the original objective of U.N.I.T.E. – to learn practices to connect deeper with ourselves and to think before we act. Through yoga we can develop self control in situations of conflict as well as practices for releasing tension and maintaining positive peace throughout our daily lives. Participants left the session with a diagram of the Sun Salutation so that they continue to practice at home, and hone the movements they learned with Dayo.

Please read this beautiful reflection on the session by U.N.I.T.E. Assistant Facilitator, Vweta Ariemugbovbe:

Yoga; U.N.I.T.E.-ing our Mind And Body
Vweta Ariemugbovbe. March 14th, 2013.

Breathing, graceful, fluid and well orchestrated movements, positive energy from the Sun, peace and serenity – these are words synonymous with yoga.

Being in control of our emotions starts with breathing right and Yoga is one form of exercise that promotes and teaches correct breathing techniques.

I first picked up Yoga during my first visit to India. When Erica brought Dayo, a yoga instructor, to come lead the fitness section of the U.N.I.T.E program, it was really amazing as it brought back fond memories – of meditation, balance and healthy breathing.

We began to relax and just breathe as he led us through basic and more difficult asanas.

Yoga is very key to U.N.I.T.E because it helps relax our minds and bodies. A relaxed mind and body means being in better control of our decisions and actions; it means being in tune with nature; it also means that we are unlikely to make rash decisions that could hurt ourselves or others which could prevent us from being on the other side of the criminal justice system.

Thinking before we act, before we speak and having a calm disposition helps us make well-thought and productive decisions. And these are just some of the very many benefits of Yoga!


Check out some great photos from the session below!


Reaching up to the Sun



Grounding ourselves on the Earth


Yoga Instructor Dayo Adegoke of Dayoga


Line of Women Warriors!

Line of Women Warriors!


Triangle – even in her school uniform!


Triangles in front of the school


Closing Thanks with Dayo, followed by ‘Pass The Breath’


Pass the Breath

Reflection on UNITE by Program Partner, CSP/DPO Agbonika

I am delighted to share this thoughtful piece by CSP DPO Monday Agbonika of Central Lagos Island Police Station. Adeniji Adele, on his work with the U.N.I.T.E. Youth program. In addition to his role as CSP and DPO, Agbonika is the Program Site Coordinator for U.N.I.T.E. Lagos Island, and mobilizes all of the youth participants who have engaged with the program over the last two months.

Monday Abonika, March 13th, 2013:

I personally got interested [in U.N.I.T.E.], because I saw a connection between the Area Boys problem in Adeniji Adele and the environment.  I have always subscribed to the view of the Area Boys being victims of the environment in which they find themselves.  

For instance, I feel that young persons growing up in Lagos Island are exposed to all kinds pressure from their peers and a lack of personal space. They strive to survive in the keenly contested space as the congestion makes them all to spend a great deal of time on the streets.  This is because of an absence of enclosed compounds where they can play around, rest or even play tennis or swim like their counterparts in Ikoyi and Lekki.  This culture encourages and promotes them to adapt tough, typical, Lagos Island ‘area boyish’ traits which will allow them to pass easily without harassment.  

So you can see my interest when Erica approached me with her project.  We have had several sessions with the youth, including area boys.  She plans to take the youth to Lekki Conservative Centre where she will take them through exercises that will make them have a real encounter with nature.  I am optimistic that this will:
1. Bring the youth closer to the police.
2. Give police the opportunity to pass important messages to the youth.
3. Foster a better relationship between youth and police.
4. Make the youth to trust police.
and 5. Change their attitude toward crime.

You can read more about Monday’s fabulous work as a pioneering DPO of police in this feature article in the Wall Street Journal from September 2011, “In Nigeria A Cop Takes on the Cops.” The article specifically profiles him, and his work in his former station of Isokoko in “carrying out what critics call mission impossible—policing Nigeria’s police.” This article was also highlighted on the Wall Street Journal Blog in a piece called, “Monday Agbonika: Policing the Police in Lagos.”

JustifiedOutdoors Interview on Silverbird TV

Please watch the full interview with Erica Licht of Justified Outdoors that aired on Nigeria’s Silverbird TV on Tuesday, February 5th, 2013.
Credit: Interview and Production by “Global Perspectives” Host Aghogho Oboh