Nigerian woman uses "celebrity status" to support ordnance safety efforts
LAGOS, NIGERIA - Nigeria's Reigning "Most Beautiful Woman in Nigeria 2002" is supporting children's safety information programs for clearance of unexploded ordnance.
"Children need to pay close attention when you play or walk around the Cantonment." Chineye Ochuba said . "You need to be watchful for unusual things, particularly if they are made of metal."
Ochuba took time out of her busy schedule to speak to several student groups at Ikeja Military Cantonment School about the dangers of unexploded ordnance in and around the site of 27 Jan fires that resulted in hundreds of deaths and injuries. She went on to tell the youngsters that they should not touch any strange objects and that, if they find something, they should tell someone in authority.
"Tell your teachers if you are in school," said Ochuba. "If you see something away from school, tell your parents, or tell a soldier or a policeman. You can tell your older brother or sister. Be very careful. There are dangerous things laying about that can hurt or kill you."
Ochuba also reassured the children that the explosions that they were hearing during school each day were "…controlled by experts. They will not harm you. They are necessary so that the soldiers can pick up the dangerous things. Then you can get back to your normal lives and be safe."
After speaking to a large assembly of children, Ochuba visited several classrooms to speak to smaller groups. Capt. William McMillan and Sgt. First Class Eddie Huey, both U.S. soldiers from the 96th Civil Affairs Battalion, accompanied her. McMillan and Huey have made numerous trips to the school to talk to speak to students about unexploded ordnance.
"We've spoken to over a thousand children in the past two weeks," said McMillan. "But there was something special about today. Miss. Ochuba really had their attention. They listened very carefully and never took their eyes off of her."
Ochuba is also working on a public service announcement for Nigerian television. In it, she will present information to children and their parents that will help them avoid becoming injured or killed by unexploded ordnance. This public service announcement is being underwritten and produced by Silverbird Productions.
When asked why she chose to speak out on a topic like unexploded ordnance, Ochuba indicated that she wanted to use her position as 2002's Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria to help as many people as she could.
"We all saw what happened on January 27," said Ochuba. "I don't want to see anyone else hurt because of these things...especially a child."