Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo collapses

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, 73, fainted and collapsed at St. Stephen's Anglican Church, Igbotako, Ondo State on Tuesday during the 70th birthday thanksgiving service of Olu Bajowa.

Bajowa, former Commandant, Command and Staff College, Jaji, retired as Major General in 1980.

In the congregation was Governor Olusegun Mimiko, who directed Health Commissioner B. Olatunbosun and his personal physician, C. Adegbule, to attend to Obasanjo.

Obasanjo lost his balance, fainted, and fell on the bench in the front row. The fainting, Daily Independent learnt, was caused by stomach ache and acute pain.

He was taken to the home of Bajowa, who looked worried over the health of his visiting former senior officer.

Obasanjo later rejoined the other worshipers in the church. He appeared woozy, but managed to stay till the end of the service before returning home in Abeokuta.

Other dignitaries at the service included former Governor Olusegun Agagu, Adeyinka Adebayo, and Akin Aduwo. Retired Anglican Bishop of Akure, Bolanle Gbonigi, preached the sermon.

At the reception, Mimiko congratulated Bajowa, describing him as an illustrious son of the state. Mimiko said his administration would always solicit the support and meaningful contributions of eminent sons and daughters of the state who would key into development programmes.

Obasanjo has twice ruled Nigeria, first for three years as military Head of State from February 1976 to October 1979, then for eight years between May 1999 and May 2007.

He has faced some personal misfortunes in recent times. On December 5, former Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose, insulted him publicly by calling him "the father of bastards."

The confrontation took place in Osogbo after a church service where Olagunsoye Oyinlola celebrated his exit as Governor with a thanksgiving service, despite being sacked by the Appeal Court.

At the reception, Fayose greeted other guests, but ignored Obasanjo. When Obasanjo inquired why Fayose did not greet him, he replied, "Is it a must that I greet you?".

Obasanjo then told him, "You're a bastard for saying that." Fayose countered, "You're the father of bastards."

On November 8 at the Lagos Airport, a man suspected to be mentally ill attacked and ridiculed Obasanjo, blaming him for the country's political and economic woes.

The incident occurred at about 8 a.m. when the man forced open the door of a car conveying Obasanjo and jumped into it as he was being driven out in a convoy.

He grabbed Obasanjo, and it took the timely intervention of Air Force officers and security aides attached to Obasanjo to save him from harm.

The attacker was taken to the airport military commander's office and later transferred to the police station.

Airport Police Commissioner, Chris Ola, said: "The incident was a security breach. We have commenced an investigation into the incident to ascertain if there were some people behind the attack.

"We can't ascertain if the man is a lunatic because you can't call somebody a lunatic unless a medical examination proves it. We will take him for medical examination."

Before the incident, the man had wandered aimlessly at the airport.

Daily Independent

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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Video - Attacks in Jos kill 38

A series of explosions and an attack on two churches leave 38 dead in the  Nigerian cities of Jos and Maiduguri.

Related stories: Bombings - calm returns to Jos

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Video - Peace making in Jos

Bombings - calm returns to Jos

Business activities have picked up and normalcy is gradually returning to the city of Jos, the Plateau State capital, following the multiple Christmas Eve explosions that shook the city and the reprisal hostilities that followed.

The streets of Jos which were totally deserted like a ghost town on Boxing Day, as a result of the escalation of violence in a response to the pre-Christmas bombing; is now booming with business activities and movement as residents of the metropolis could be seen going about their businesses in a lawful and peaceful manner.

The officials of the Special Task Force (STF), "Operation Safe Haven", could be seen at designated checkpoints all over the city doing a stop-and-search check on all motorists and cyclists plying the roads. Residents were seen complying with the directives of the STF officials.

LEADERSHIP observed that at Agwan Rukuba, one of the suburbs hit by the explosions, normalcy was gradually returning as shops were open for business and residents were seen going about without fear.

A resident of Agwan Rukuba, Julie Chung, told our correspondent that things were gradually becoming normal in the area.

"I thank God that the situation has been brought under control. Two days ago, this area was like a war zone; who would have thought today that I can move freely without fear in this area," she enthused.

Also at Gada Biyu, the second area hit by three explosions, a heavy presence of STF officials was seen around the area of the explosion to ensure law and order. Residents went about their normal businesses, and traders could be seen displaying their goods.

At the Jos main market, business activities were booming as traders and customers trooped into the market to buy and sell. Also, most shops along the Ahmadu Bello way were open for business.

However, LEADERSHIP observed that at most banks, long queues of customers could be seen at the ATM machines waiting patiently to make withdrawals.

Also in the Jos metropolis, most petrol stations were not open for business; resulting in the long queues present in a few filling stations that were selling the commodity.

Spokesman of the Special Taskforce, Capt. Charles Ekeocha, told LEADERSHIP in a telephone interview that normalcy had indeed returned to the city of Jos, saying, "no case of violence or hostility has been reported today in the city."

Meanwhile, following a manhunt by law enforcement agents for the perpetrators of the multiple bombings in Jos, the Special Task Force (STF) arrested three people with dynamites with the intention to bomb some strategic places in the city.

Parading the three suspects yesterday, the STF public relations officer, Captain Charles Ekeocha, said two of the suspects (names withheld) were arrested at Dogon-Karfe area of Jos city while trying to ignite a dynamite to bomb both residential and other business apartments within the vicinity.

According to him, the third suspect who is from Niger Republic was arrested at Dogon-Karfe with a sickle knife and a dagger found on him. Other items found on the other two suspects included seven unexpended live cartridges, two raps of Indian hemp, dynamite powder, N850.00 and a Nokia handset.

Captain Ekeocha who did not allow journalists to speak with the suspects said the three suspects would be handed over to the police for further investigations, and charged members of the public to regard members of the STF as partners in progress.

Chief of defence staff, AVM Oluseyi Petirin, visited all the areas rocked by last Friday's bomb blast with a promise to get to the root of the incident. He said the crisis in Jos will no longer be treated with kid gloves.

He made this known while addressing people at the spot of the incident at Gada-Biu area of Jos. He assured that perpetrators of the dastardly act would be tracked down.

The defence chief who was overwhelmed by the situation said he saw havoc unleashed to fellow Nigerians by the people.

"My visit today is not a happy one. I commiserate with you on behalf of the Armed Forces," he said.

According to him, government would fish out the perpetrators because "we cannot continue to allow evil minded people to move about freely.

"I want all of you to be patient with the law enforcement agencies and allow them to carry out a thorough investigations. I can assure you that positive results would come out of our investigation," he assured.

Meanwhile, 14 victims killed at the wake of fresh hostilities that broke out on Sunday morning, following the multiple explosions that hit some parts of Jos metropolis, were yesterday buried in a mass grave supervised by officials of Jama'atul Nasril Islam (JNI), Jos North Chapter at the Naraguta burial ground in Jos North Local Government Area of Plateau State.

The mass burial which lasted for about two hours drew a large crowd of sympathizers who came to pay their last respects to the victims.

Speaking at the burial, officials of the JNI stated that the Sunday clash and violence that led to the demise of the 14 victims also left several wounded with various degrees of injuries, and that the casualties injured were presently receiving treatment at various hospitals in Jos.

The escalation of hostilities Sunday morning as a result of the pre-Christmas bombings in some parts of the Jos metropolis caused reprisal attacks and clashes in areas like Anguwar Rukuba, Gada Biyu, Rikkos, Dogon Karfe, Dutse Uku, Tina Junction, Anglo Jos and Anguwar Mai Damisa, and claimed several lives; however, no official death toll and casualties have been given at the time of filing this report.

United Nations secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, has condemned the attacks that broke out in parts of Nigeria on Christmas Eve and reportedly killed at least 30 people and injured more than 70 others.

Mr. Ban Ki-moon "condemns these deplorable acts of violence, especially at a time when millions of Nigerians are celebrating religious holidays, and supports efforts by the Nigerian authorities to bring those responsible to justice," his spokesperson said in a statement.

The secretary-general also conveyed his condolences to the families of the victims and to the government and people of Nigeria.

The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination had recently called on Nigerian authorities to tackle the underlying causes of repeated outbreaks of ethnic and religious violence in Jos.

"Ethnic hatred must not be allowed to foment in Nigeria," said human rights expert, Anwar Kemal.

He urged the government of Nigeria "to take all the appropriate measures to immediately stop the ethnic violence, to protect the victims, and to avoid the repetition of such killings in the future."

Dr. Jean Ping, the African Union Commission chairperson on Sunday in Addis Ababa condemned Saturday's terrorists attacks in two states of Nigeria.

A statement issued by the Communication and Information unit of the AU Peace and Security Council said the chairperson was shocked and sad at the two incidents that occurred on the same day.

"The chairperson has learnt with shock and sadness of the string of bomb attacks that hit Jos, the North Central State and the attack on Churches in Maiduguri on Dececember 24, which resulted to the killing of 38 civilians while dozens were wounded", it stated.

Ping condemned in strongest terms "these cowardly terrorists attacks, which could not be justified under any circumstances".

The Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Plateau State chapter, has also strongly condemned the Jos attacks and commended the prompt intervention of the government and the security men for rising to the occasion.

It viewed the explosions as a dangerous dimension to the act of hostility that had been in vogue in the state capital for a while and called on both the state and the federal government to carry out proper investigations on the blast.

The council charged those in position of authority to stop paying lip service to the crisis which is gradually becoming a norm in the state, adding that the situation deserved drastic action with punitive measures on those found involved no matter who they were.

In a related development, the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO) has also condemned in strong terms the recent attacks on innocent Nigerians, saying the attack was is a terror against humanity and against the right of the people to life, own property and engage in lawful economic activities in the state.

CLO, in a statement issue in Jos signed by its executive director, Steve Aluko, and made available to LEADERSHIP, said the multiple bomb blasts is the act of terror perpetrated in a systematic way to provoke another round of killings in the state.

Ulama Elders Council in a statement it issue and signed by the Sheikh Balarabe Dawud, chief imam of Jos, and Mohammed Lawal Ishaq, chairman and secretary respectively, decried the continued proliferation of illegal arms in Plateau State and the lack of adequate response from the appropriate quarters to deal with the situation, noting that these serious security challenges which required drastic measures were ignored.

According to the council of elders, stories of arrest of people with illegal arms abound but nothing is heard of what government has done with them, calling on the security agencies to do all things possible to protect the lives and property of citizen anywhere they found themselves.

In the same vein, the senator representing plateau north senatorial zone, senator Gyang Dantong described massive bomb explosion on Christmas eve as barbaric and satanic, regretting that the incident was coming at the time when the peace efforts of the federal government and other stakeholders have started yielding results in the state.

The lawmaker expressed dismay at the utterances of some politicians in recent time saying that they reflect the desperation and the quest for power at all means stressing that power comes from God.

He called on the youths in the state to distance themselves from those whose stock in trade is to cause confusion in order to attain power in the state.


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Video - Peace making in Jos

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Nigerian Embassy in Ivory Coast attacked

The Nigerian embassy in Cote d'Ivoire was, yesterday, attacked by yet to be identified armed groups in Abidjan.

This came after West African leaders led by President Goodluck Jonathan asked embattled President Laurent Gbagbo to step down from power. Nigeria had offered to harbour Gbagbo should he agree to go into exile.

Following the attack, Nigeria has evacuated all its diplomats from that country saying it will bring out its other citizens there.

Foreign Minister, Odein Ajumogobia, told reporters, yesterday: "Arrangements are also being made to evacuate Nigerian citizens in that country. We had to evacuate all our diplomats because our embassy in Cote d'Ivoire was attacked."

Cote d'Ivoire is locked in a dispute after incumbent Laurent Gbagbo claimed victory in the presidential election on November 28 which the outside world says was won by rival Alassane Ouattara.

Ajumogobia did not say when the attack on the embassy took place or who carried it out.

Pro_Gbagbo security forces used live rounds, last Thursday, to put down street protests by Ouattara supporters but Gbagbo's government has denied using excessive force.

West African leaders, however, urged Gbagbo to "yield power with dignity without further delay," weeks after the country's disputed presidential runoff vote as international pressure mounted on him to step down. The regional bloc, ECOWAS, said Gbagbo's demand that thousands of United Nations peacekeepers leave the volatile country "would further heighten tensions and worsen the plight of the vulnerable."

The UN refugee agency said, yesterday, that some 6,200 people already have fled the country's post-election violence. The rebuke from neighbouring nations carries added weight because Gbagbo's representatives have dismissed similar calls from former colonizer France and other Western nations as foreign interference.

Also, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Aliyu Idi Hong, told the BBC that it would be willing to let Gbagbo go into exile in Nigeria. But an ally of Gbagbo has warned UN peacekeepers they could be treated as rebels if they remained in the country after being told to leave.

Gbagbo accuses the UN of siding with his rival Alassane Ouattara and ordered them out of the country.

The UN says Ouattara won last month's poll and has urged all parties to recognise him as president. It has extended the mandate of its 10,000_strong force by six months.

Gbagbo's Interior Minister, Emile Guirieoulou, said of the UN mission: "If, against our will, they want to keep this force in our country, we won't co_operate with them. And if they choose to have authorities other than the legal authorities of the country, they become part of the rebellion."

He also dismissed reports of a mass grave in the main city Abidjan, stressing "It's lies. All that to get some sympathy."

On Monday, UN special envoy to Ivory Coast Choi Young-jin said the UN had been prevented from investigating the reports. The UN also says it has received hundreds of reports of people being abducted by armed men at night. Some have later been found dead.

The United Nations, France, the United States, the European Union, the African Union and West African regional bloc ECOWAS have urged Gbagbo to admit defeat and step down.

ECOWAS heads of state are due to meet on Friday in the Nigerian capital Abuja to discuss developments in Ivory Coast.


Monday, December 20, 2010

R. Kelly rocks Abuja

International R&B act R. Kelly Saturday night thrilled music lovers in the Federal Capital Territory as he dished out his famous tracks to the fun-starved Abuja audience who came out in their thousands to witness his performance.

The American pop artiste, who also performed alongside Nigerian acts notably MI, Tuface Idibia, Terry G, Asa, among others, rendered a scintillating performance that elicited wild chants from the mammoth crowd of fans at the Old Parade, Ground, Area 10, Garki, Abuja, venue of this year's Star Mega Jam music fiesta.

The Abuja show was a continuation of the annual music fiesta that started in Lagos two days ago with a similar performance at the Lagos Polo Ground organised by Nigerian Breweries Plc, brewers of Star Lager Beer.

Security men at the venue of the event had a tough time trying to contain the surging crowd which eventually overwhelmed them.

R. Kelly also showed love to his fans by dishing out gift items and repeating songs demanded by thousands of his female fans which sent them into frenzy.

But 10 persons were feared dead and 20 others injured during a stampede at the Old Parade Ground, Area 10, Garki, Abuja, venue of the show.

The stampede was said to have started at about 11.15pm when loud noises that sounded like explosions were heard at the venue of the annual music fiesta five times.

Going by recent bomb explosions in the nation's capital, some of the victims who were mainly youths concluded that it was another bomb explosion and ran helter-skelter, while others standing on the podiums and other makeshift constructions began falling on one another.

Some of the victims who spoke with THISDAY gave different versions of the incident.While some said the noises sounded like gun shots, others thought the sounds were those of firecrackers popularly referred to as "knockout".

"We heard a loud sound and we started running and I remember that I ran into something and the next time I found myself in the hospital. My friends took me to the hospital," a victim of the stampede told THISDAY.

A member staff of the Garki General Hospital, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in the absence of the Chief Medical Director of the institution, confirmed that many injured young men and women were brought to the hospital Saturday night but could not tell if there was any loss of life.

"There were many of them who were brought here yesterday, both young men and females, some with head injuries. There were more that 20 of them but I am not aware of their conditions now," the source said.Most of the victims, it was gathered, were treated for varying degrees of injury.Spokesman of the Federal Capital Police Command, Moshood Jimoh, said there had been no formal report lodged with the police in connection with the incident.

"The incident was not reported to us. We do not have any formal report lodged before us of such a thing. If people were injured or killed, nobody has reported to us. I do not have any information on that," he said.

This Day

R Kelly performing in Nigeria photo gallery

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Friday, December 17, 2010

EFCC drops charges against Dick Cheney

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) said yesterday it had dropped all charges against former U.S Vice-President Richard Dick Cheney and other U.S. officials involved in the Halliburton bribery scandal. It, however, said that the charges against Nigerian officials remained and would go on in court.

The EFCC chairman, Mrs Farida Waziri, disclosed this while fielding questions from journalists, during the U.S. Ambassador's working visit to the headquarters of the anti-graft agency in Abuja. She said the case had been peacefully settled out of court and she would make the details available soon.

However, LEADERSHIP reliably gathered that the settlement came on the heels of a pre-bargain meeting held earlier this week between some U.S. officials and their Nigerian counterparts, including the EFCC. The U.S. had agreed to pay the sum of $250 million to the Federal Government to secure their nationals from going through the rigours of trial and further scandal in Nigeria.

Halliburton Incorporated has been in the news for offences bordering on economic and financial crimes and offering gratification to some Nigerian public officials for the purpose of assisting the corporation to secure the award of the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) contract in Bonny Island, Rivers State, between 1994 and 1995,when Dick Cheney was serving as the President, Halliburton Inc.

Meanwhile, the U.S. envoy, Terrence McCulley, had warned the leadership of the EFCC not to interfere in the conduct of the 2011 general election, but to play a neutral role in the forthcoming exercise by desisting from anything that would warrant being used by some desperate individuals or groups against their opponents.


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Nigerian Banks

Monday, December 13, 2010

Wikileaks - Pfizer funded dirt-digging

CNN's Christian Purefoy explains the controversy over leaked cables involving drug trials by Pfizer in Nigeria.

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Wikileaks - U.S. had intelligence on Boko Haram attack

One of the United States diplomatic cables released by internet whistle-blower, WikiLeaks, has revealed that US had intelligence on last year's attack by the Boko Haram sect in some parts of North-east Nigeria before the attack was launched.

The cable dated June 29, 2009, which originated from the Secretary of State, with reference no 09STATE67105 and classified secret/noforn, was tagged, "Nigeria-Extremists believed to be planning a massive terrorist attack".

The cable, which described leader of the sect, Muhammed Yusuf, as "Nigerian Taliban", said the group was operating with unspecified extremist groups to launch a massive surprise attack on some piece of critical infrastructure, government officials, security agents, and members of the public who are opposed to its doctrines.

The cable also expressed US concerns about recent activities surrounding extremists associated with the "Nigerian Taliban."

Yusuf was reportedly killed in police custody on July 30, 2009, hours after he was captured by security agencies. his group, which has a doctrine that forbids western education, launched massive attacks on Borno and Bauchi states last year.

In the US diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks, it was also revealed that well-trained veteran Chadian extremist, Abu-Mahjin, who has limited ties to al-Qa'ida associates, also visited Nigeria to facilitate the operation and was seeking more funds for that purpose.

What was however not stated in the cable was whether the intelligence was shared with the Nigerian security agencies or was just meant to warn the US mission and American citizens in Nigeria of an impending attack that may affect American interest.

Text of the cable reads "26. (S//NF) Nigeria - Extremists believed to be planning a massive terrorist attack: (S//REL TO USA, FVEY) Tearline states, Unspecified extremist groups, suspected to be operating in concert with Nigerian Shi'ites, Salafiya, or Muhammad Yusuf's Nigerian Taliban are reportedly planning to launch a massive surprise attack on some piece of critical infrastructure or against high-profile targets within Nigeria. Probable targets of this attack include top Nigerian Government officials or security agents. Members of the general public, who might be opposed to the attackers' doctrines, were also believed to be possible targets. This planned attack is reportedly aimed at sparking sectarian clashes across Nigeria.

"27. (S//NF) DS/TIA/ITA cannot immediately corroborate the current threat with additional intelligence. While no connection can be made between this threat and previous reports, DS/TIA/ITA is concerned about recent activity surrounding extremists associated with the Nigerian Taliban.

"28. (S//NF) A well-trained veteran Chadian extremist, Abu-Mahjin (Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (TIDE) number 24350378), who has limited ties to al-Qa'ida associates, recently travelled to Nigeria. He may be planning to conduct or facilitate a terrorist operation."

According to the text from May 1, "An Islamic extremist named Abu-Muhjin has recently been in northeast Nigeria. It is likely that he will be joined by other Islamic extremists in the coming weeks."

More recent tearline stated, "Nigerian-based probable Chadian extremist Abu-Mahjin is keen to obtain more funds in connection with some sort of nefarious activity (possibly terrorism related) he is engaged in. However, it is not clear when he will receive this additional finance." Little more is known about Abu-Mahjin's apparent efforts to organize a near-term operation.

"29. (S//NF) Though neither the Nigerian Taliban nor its more militant subset -- Tanzim al-Qa'ida group -- has ever attacked Western interests, they have discussed targeting foreign embassies in the past. In 2007, they reportedly plotted to attack the U.S., British, and Israeli embassies in Abuja, according to a single source that remains unsubstantiated. (Appendix sources 17-19)".

This Day

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Friday, December 10, 2010

Video - Peace making in Jos

Making peace has never been an easy job for the governments. A more difficult issue has always been to bring justice in order to make people trust the government.

In this episode, the peace making efforts and the amount these efforts have succeeded is reviewed with Press TV's Danjuma Abdollahi reporting form Jos.

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WikiLeaks - Yar'Adua family took millions in bribes

Former First Lady Hajia Turai Yar'adua, the then Chief Economic Adviser to the President Tanimu Yakubu and the then Group Managing Director of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation [NNPC] Lawal Yar'adua took millions of dollars in bribes on every oil tanker that was lifting oil from Nigeria, according to allegations contained in American State Department cables leaked by the online whistle blower Wikileaks.

Similarly, then Attorney General and Minister of Justice Michael Kaase Aondoaaka was said to have told a visitor that he would only sign a document if he was given $2 million immediately, with another $18m to be paid to him the next day.

The cables stemmed from discussions held in Abuja on January 27, last year, between the then American Ambassador to Nigeria Robin Sanders and Shell Petroleum Corporation's Regional Executive Vice President for Africa, Ms Ann Pickard. Shell's Government Relations Representative Peter Francis attended the meeting.

Ms Pickard told Ms Sanders that corruption in the Nigerian oil sector was worsening by the day, and that "very interesting people" who were not in the oil industry were lifting oil cargoes.

According to another cable sent to Washington by Ambassador Sanders, then Acting President Goodluck Jonathan told her last February that he would not stand in the 2011 presidential elections, saying he only wanted to put in place the structure for national elections. He however added that "if they want me to run, that will be something to consider at that time."

Jonathan also told the American envoy that PDP chose him as President Umaru Yar'adua's running mate because he was from the Niger Delta area. He said, "I was not chosen to be vice president because I had good political experience. I did not. There were a lot more qualified people around to be vice president, but that does not mean I am not my own man."

Jonathan also described a mid-February meeting of the Federal cabinet as "disastrous," saying there was "yelling and screaming" at the meeting and that the cabinet was totally dysfunctional. His plans to dissolve it on February 24 were however aborted by Yar'adua's sneak return to the country that morning, he told Sanders.

In the same despatch to Washington, Sanders reported that Jonathan told her he blamed the political crisis following Yar'adua's hospitalisation to four people: Turai Yar'adua, Chief Security Officer Yusuf Mohamed Tilde, ADC Col Mustapha Onoedieva and Chief Economic Adviser Tanimu Yakubu. He also said then Agriculture Minister Abba Sayyadi Ruma and then FCT Minister Mohamed Adamu Aliero were providing a second tier to the bubble.

Jonathan also revealed in the cables that former military ruler general Abdulsalami Abubakar, who he described as one of his closest advisers, was attempting to involve other former rulers to convince the Yar'adua family to get the ailing president to resign. He said that would be easier than getting the cabinet to pass a resolution declaring Yar'adua to be medically incapacitated.

According to the leaked cables, the American ambassador put pressure on Jonathan to sack INEC chairman Professor Maurice Iwu. She said US technical assistance for Nigeria's elections cannot continue unless Iwu was removed. She also urged Jonathan to distance himself from former president Olusegun Obasanjo, of who he was said to be a surrogate, and to end perceptions of himself as a local regional leader. Jonathan promised her that he would do so.

Yet another leaked American cable reported that an unnamed Kano-based real estate developer and "long-time Mission contact" told the Americans that Yar'adua's associate Alhaji Dahiru Mangal smuggled illicit items into Nigeria.

The contacts however said that Mangal ceased his illegal activities when Yar'adua appointed him a special adviser.

The American cable also described a man who approached another person in a car with a State House plate number and asked for a N250 million bribe on behalf of Hajia Turai Yar'adua. The envoy however said there was no evidence to prove that Turai sent the man.

Daily Trust

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Thursday, December 9, 2010

WikiLeaks cables: Shell's grip on Nigerian state revealed

The oil giant Shell claimed it had inserted staff into all the main ministries of the Nigerian government, giving it access to politicians' every move in the oil-rich Niger Delta, according to a leaked US diplomatic cable.

The company's top executive in Nigeria told US diplomats that Shell had seconded employees to every relevant department and so knew "everything that was being done in those ministries". She boasted that the Nigerian government had "forgotten" about the extent of Shell's infiltration and was unaware of how much the company knew about its deliberations.

The cache of secret dispatches from Washington's embassies in Africa also revealed that the Anglo-Dutch oil firm swapped intelligence with the US, in one case providing US diplomats with the names of Nigerian politicians it suspected of supporting militant activity, and requesting information from the US on whether the militants had acquired anti-aircraft missiles.

The latest revelations came on a day that saw hackers sympathetic to WikiLeaks target MasterCard and Visa over their decision to block payments to the whistleblowers' website.

The website's founder, Julian Assange, spent a second night in jail after a judge refused him bail prior to an extradition hearing to face questioning over sexual assault charges in Sweden.

Campaigners tonight said the revelation about Shell in Nigeria demonstrated the tangled links between the oil firm and politicians in the country where, despite billions of dollars in oil revenue, 70% of people live below the poverty line.

Cables from Nigeria show how Ann Pickard, then Shell's vice-president for sub-Saharan Africa, sought to share intelligence with the US government on militant activity and business competition in the contested Niger Delta – and how, with some prescience, she seemed reluctant to open up because of a suspicion the US government was "leaky".

But that did not prevent Pickard disclosing the company's reach into the Nigerian government when she met US ambassador Robin Renee Sanders, as recorded in a confidential memo from the US embassy in Abuja on 20 October 2009.

At the meeting, Pickard related how the company had obtained a letter showing that the Nigerian government had invited bids for oil concessions from China. She said the minister of state for petroleum resources, Odein Ajumogobia, had denied the letter had been sent but Shell knew similar correspondence had taken place with China and Russia.

The ambassador reported: "She said the GON [government of Nigeria] had forgotten that Shell had seconded people to all the relevant ministries and that Shell consequently had access to everything that was being done in those ministries."

Nigeria is Africa's leading oil producer and the eighth biggest exporter in the world, accounting for 8% of US oil imports. Although a recent UN report largely exonerated the company, critics accuse Shell, the biggest operator in the delta, and other companies, of causing widespread pollution and environmental damage in the region. Militant groups engaged in hostage-taking and sabotage have proliferated.

The WikiLeaks disclosure was today seized on by campaigners as evidence of Shell's vice-like grip on the country's oil wealth. "Shell and the government of Nigeria are two sides of the same coin," said Celestine AkpoBari, of Social Action Nigeria. "Shell is everywhere. They have an eye and an ear in every ministry of Nigeria. They have people on the payroll in every community, which is why they get away with everything. They are more powerful than the Nigerian government."

The criticism was echoed by Ben Amunwa of the London-based oil watchdog Platform. "Shell claims to have nothing to do with Nigerian politics," he said. "In reality, Shell works deep inside the system, and has long exploited political channels in Nigeria to its own advantage."

Nigeria tonight strenuously denied the claim. Levi Ajuonoma, a spokesman for the state-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, said: "Shell does not control the government of Nigeria and has never controlled the government of Nigeria. This cable is the mere interpretation of one individual. It is absolutely untrue, an absolute falsehood and utterly misleading. It is an attempt to demean the government and we will not stand for that. I don't think anybody will lose sleep over it."

Another cable released today, from the US consulate in Lagos and dated 19 September 2008, claims that Pickard told US diplomats that two named regional politicians were behind unrest in the Rivers state. She also asked if the American diplomats had any intelligence on shipments of surface to air missiles (SAMs) to militants in the Niger Delta.

"She claimed Shell has 'intelligence' that one to three SAMs may have been shipped to Nigerian militant groups, although she seemed somewhat sceptical of that information and wondered if such sensitive systems would last long in the harsh environment of the Niger Delta," the cable said.

Pickard also said Shell had learned from the British government details of Russian energy company Gazprom's ambitions to enter the Nigerian market. In June last year, Gazprom signed a $2.5bn (£1.5bn) deal with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation to build refineries, pipelines and gas power stations.

Shell put a request to the US consulate for potentially sensitive intelligence about Gazprom, a possible rival, which she said had secured a promise from the Nigerian government of access to 17trn cubic feet of natural gas – roughly a tenth of Nigeria's entire reserves. "Pickard said that amount of gas was only available if the GON were to take concessions currently assigned to other oil companies and give them to Gazprom. She assumed Shell would be the GON's prime target." Pickard alleged that a conversation with a Nigerian government minister had been secretly recorded by the Russians. Shortly after the meeting in the minister's office she received a verbatim transcript of the meeting "from Russia", according to the memo.

The cable concludes with the observation that the oil executive had tended to be guarded in discussion with US officials. "Pickard has repeatedly told us she does not like to talk to USG [US government] officials because the USG is 'leaky'." She may be concerned that ... bad news about Shell's Nigerian operations will leak out."

Shell declined to comment on the allegations, saying: "You are seeking our views on a leaked cable allegedly containing information about a private conversation involving a Shell representative, but have declined to share this cable or to permit us sufficient time to obtain information from the person you say took part in the conversation on the part of Shell. In view of this, we cannot comment on the alleged contents of the cable, including the correctness or incorrectness of any statements you say it contains."


Related stories: Nigeria to charge Dick Cheney in $180 million bribery case, issue Interpol arrest warrant 

Video - 50 years of oil spill in Nigeria

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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Dawanau food basket

A trip to Northern Nigeria's Dawanau grains market, the largest of its kind in West Africa.

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Peter Osaze - Life is good at West Brom

Eagles' striker Peter Osaze Odemwingie said that he is enjoying a new lease of football life with English premier league side West Brom.

The Edo-born workaholic striker, disclosed that waking up every morning and going to training at West Brom is something that he looks forward to, because it was such a thrilling experience.

"I look forward to training, the players the manager everything is okay and we are doing well getting good results. This makes me happy here," said Osaze.

Osaze made a last minute move from Lokomotiv Moscow in the summer transfer window. He was an instant hit with West Brom scoring six goals from eight games so far. He netted a brace last weekend after a three weeks injury lay off.

"I'm glad West Brom is doing well in the league. We are getting good results against the top teams and we hope to finish well at the end of the season," added the striker.

His good runs at West Brom no doubt have attracted interest from bigger clubs. And this is why coach Roberto Di Matteo vowed to do everything to keep Osaze and other players who have propelled West Brom from a struggling side to contenders for a middle of the table finish.


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Monday, December 6, 2010

Kidnappers abduct 65-year-old grandmother

A 65-year-old grand mother and wife of a Saudi Arabia-based gynaecologist, Mrs. Idowu Ogunleye has been kidnapped from her residence in Akure, the Ondo State capital by three armed bandits.

This was coming as the Nigerian Medical Association, NMA, in the State gave the Ondo State Government 48 hours within which to secure the release of the woman.

The association in a 'Save-Our-Soul' letter addressed to Governor Olusegun Mimiko and signed by Dr Adetan Oluwatoyin and Dr I. J Adebose, chairman and secretary respectively, lamented that the latest case was the second involving wives of senior medical practitioners in the state with an intention of extorting money.

The grandmother was playing with her grand children at her No 2 Ogunleye Street, Ijoka, Akure, when she was abducted at about 7pm.

However, the acting Police Public Relations Officer, PPRO, Wole Ojogo said the kidnappers would soon be brought to book, adding that the family should not negotiate with the kidnappers.

Eyewitness account said the three armed men came to the house on the pretext that they had a message for the victim.

According to the source, she was the only one taken out of the six people in the house at the time of the sad occurrence. Her husband, Dr Idowu Ogunleye is currently working outside the country.

Kidnappers demand for N100m

Vanguard learnt that the kidnappers have been in contact with the victim's family through phone calls and have initially demanded for N100 million naira which was later reduced to N50 million.

The family has, however, told the kidnappers that they could not afford such huge amount.

A family member said yesterday that since the woman who was neither a political office holder nor any of her siblings had been taken away since November 25. She has not been allowed to communicate with members of the family.

The family said they suspected an insider's job as the woman was a full time housewife while the husband was a private practitioner.

Meanwhile, the NMA stated that the kidnap of doctors and their relatives was a strange things in the state.

"Your Excellency, we need to emphasize that as the Chief Security Officer of this state, our lives and property are in your hand.

"When it concerned the politicians, the government was there, for journalists, the whole nation was involved and now that it involves doctors' relatives, we do not expect anything less", the NMA said.

The NMA therefore called on the government and security agencies to act fast in order to secure the release of the abducted Mrs Ogunleye, whose abductors initially requested for N100 million ransom but later reduced it to N50 million.

"We need a safe, peaceful and conducive environment for us and our family member to be able to guarantee our continual, undisturbed contribution of our quota to humanity and the healthy living standard of the people of this state.

"We need to state that we desire the resolution of this crisis within the next 48 hours in order to guarantee that all doctors in this state will be in the best psychological frame of mind to go about our normal duty of saving lives", NMA added.

The NMA emphasized that the approaching Yuletide particularly, requires that security should be beefed up in this state.


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Thursday, December 2, 2010

Nigeria to charge Dick Cheney in $180 million bribery case, issue Interpol arrest warrant

The energy services company Dick Cheney ran prior to becoming Vice President of the United States was atop the tongue of liberals each time it was awarded a contract in Iraq.

Now the company's name, Halliburton, is being spoken somewhere else: Nigeria.

According to a story filed late Wednesday, Cheney will be indicted in a Nigerian bribery case as part of an investigation into an alleged $180 million bribery scandal.

"Last week, Nigeria arrested at least 23 officials from companies including Halliburton, Saipem, Technip and a former subsidiary of Panalpina Welttransport Holding AG in connection with alleged illegal payments to Nigerian officials. Those detained were all freed on bail on Nov. 29," Bloomberg News' Elisha Bala-Gbogbo wrote.

"Authorities in the West African nation are probing Halliburton, Saipem and Technip for the alleged payment of $180 million in bribes to win a $6 billion liquefied natural-gas contract," Bala-Gbogbo added. "Panalpina is being investigated for illegal payments it allegedly made to Nigerian customs officials on behalf of Royal Dutch Shell Plc."

The prosecuting counsel for the country's Economic and Financial Crimes Commission said that indictments will be handed down in the next three days and that an arrest warrant for Cheney "will be issued and transmitted through Interpol."

Adds Bloomberg, "Obla said charges will be filed against current and former chief executive officers of Halliburton, including Cheney, who was CEO from 1995 to 2000, and its former unit KBR Inc., based in Houston, Texas; Technip SA, Europe’s second-largest oilfield- services provider; Eni SpA, Italy’s biggest oil company; and Saipem Construction Co., a unit of Eni. Obla didn’t identify the former officials whom he said held office when the alleged bribes were paid."

A spokesman for Cheney declined to comment.

The US Securities and Exchange Committee probe focused on the deal as early as 2004.Wrote The Washington Post at the time:

"The Nigerian project, started in the early 1990s, was worth almost $5 billion to TSKJ, a partnership that included a KBR predecessor, as well as companies from France, Japan and the Netherlands.

At issue are payments made to Tristar, a Gibraltar company that had a consulting arrangement with a corporation formed by TSKJ to "administer the contracts and execute the work" in Nigeria, a Halliburton spokeswoman said in response to questions.

KBR, the engineering and construction subsidiary of Halliburton, was formed when Halliburton acquired Dresser Industries Inc. in 1998. It was a combination of Halliburton's Brown & Root and Dresser's M.W. Kellogg Co. Officials from the SEC and Cheney's office declined to comment.

Early on Thursday, Halliburton said they hadn't seen the new charges, but still denied their involvement.

"Halliburton's oil-field services operations in Nigeria have never in any way been part of the LNG project and none of the Halliburton employees have ever had any connection to or participation in that project," Tara Mullee Agard, a spokeswoman for the Houston-based company, said in an e-mailed response to Bloomberg.

Added Bloomberg: "Halliburton Co., the world's second- largest oilfield-services provider, said it hasn't seen any amended charges by Nigerian authorities who plan to indict current and former employees in a bribery scandal."

The Raw Story

Related story: EFCC drops charges against Dick Cheney

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Nigeria on cyber crime top ten list

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) yesterday said Nigeria is now ranked third among the top ten sources of cyber crime in the world just as it said over $557million were lost globally to cyber criminals in 2009.

Speaking yesterday at the first West African Cybercrime Summit in Abuja, EFCC chairman Farida Waziri said after the United States with 65 per cent of cyber criminal activities and the United Kingdom with 9.9 per cent, Nigeria is the next hub of cyber criminals in the world with 8 per cent.

According to Farida, 22 per cent increase in cyber crime was recorded globally between 2008 and 2009.

She said the statistics is frightening as only 20 per cent of the West African population has access to internet connectivity adding that it may well mean that the crimes may increase as internet access is increased.

Meanwhile, Vice President Namadi Sambo has said it was wrong to blame only Nigeria of being source of fraudulent emails in the world.

Sambo, who spoke at the summit, said Nigeria does not have the bandwidth and regularity of power to realistically generate such volumes of cyber-malfeasance for it to earn such high ranking of being the third internet crime perpetrator.

The vice president, who was represented by Minister of Police Affairs Adamu Maina Waziri, said many Nigerians are victims of cybercrimes perpetrated by non-Nigerians.

Daily Trust

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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Video - Gold rush triggers world's deadliest lead poisoning

CNN's Christian Purefoy reports on the business behind the worst-ever recorded lead poisoning outbreak in Nigeria.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Father bathes daughter in acid

Her name is Comfort Sunday, but she is presently in dire need of comfort. Indeed hers is the heart-rending story of a young girl who was  declared a witch and member of a secret cult by some members of her family.

And in a bid to compel her to confess to  being guilty as charged, she was bathed with an acidic substance by her father, James Sunday.

As a result, Comfort was not only disfigured but has become a horror figure, a far cry from her former beautiful self. Here she tells her story, while pleading with relevant authorities and indeed all Nigerians to rally to her aid.

I am Comfort Sunday; I am 14 years old and  in Junior Secondary School 1, Akwanga South. I played volley ball and I am a fast runner. I will like to be a scientist when I grow up. I presently  don’t have any of my past pictures; I had to tear all of them because they no longer represent who I am.

Some two years back, when we were on holidays, my dad said I should go and help my maternal grandfather on the farm. He lives somewhere not far from here. But my grandfather said that he did not need help on the farm at that time. He said I should return after a week or so to help one of his daughters (my aunty) harvest beans.

So I left to visit one of my sisters who was staying with  my paternal grandfather. I was to spend my holidays there. I stayed for a few days. I returned home one Friday so that I ccould attend a wedding on Saturday before going to my maternal grandfather to help his daughter on the farm.

When I came home that Friday, I saw a fresh grave behind our house. I asked what happened and was told that my grandfather  who had not been too well, fell ill and died. That it was his grave. I wept so much, because he was a very good Baba to me. He loved me very much. Anything I asked of him, he tried to give me.

Then the following day, being a Saturday, my father’s sister, Aunty Barmani, came with one pastor from Abuja. She works in Abuja. I don’t know  what kind of  work she is doing.

She and that pastor called me. They asked me if I was in the secret cult. I told them that I am not in any secret cult. I told them that I don’t know anything about secret cult.

The pastor  came with a bag. I don’t know what was inside. He asked me several questions, but I told him I don’t know anything about what he was asking me. He then called my sister aside. My sister came back and told me that I was in the secret cult.

The pastor left that afternoon. Aunty Barmani slept in the house.

But, early in the morning, she woke us up for prayers. It was then she told us that I was in the secret cult; that one of my grandfathers who lives at Alushi should come and hear about what she has found out about me.
Later, the grandfather came with one of our brothers. Barmani told them that I was the one that killed my grandfather. My father was very angry with me. He ordered me to pack my things  from my other grandfathers’s house and return home.

I did so. After about two weeks of my return, one of my step brothers took ill.  His name is Abel, and he is five years old. My father said that I was the cause of my brother’s sickness. But I said I was not the one.

The next day, I went to school. But I was very sad, so I returned home. The next morning, around 4 o’clock, my father woke me from sleep. He said that I should escort him to the village.

My step mother woke up and ask where we were going, and my father told her that we were going to the village. We left and followed the path that passed through the home of Mary Ewungulu (a member of the Nasarawa State House of Assembly).

As we walked on my father asked me when we would be writing our exams. And I told him it would be next Monday. He was carrying something in a bag. I didn’t know what was in the back. We arrived an uncompleted building that night. It was the only building around the place. He then told me that it was the village we were visiting. And I said I have never been to this village.

He said I should sit down.  At that point I became afraid. He looked at me and shook his head. He then started folding his trousers. He then opened the bag and removed a container with some liquid in it. He poured some in a cup and gave it to me. He said if I was a witch and I drank it I would vomit. That If I was not, I would not vomit.

I said I was not a witch. I took the cup. I first tasted it with my tongue and the thing burnt my tongue. So I refused to drink it, and I poured it away. He said I must drink it, but I refused. So he held me and we struggled.

I started to run, and he was pursuing me. As I was running, he threw the liquid on my hands  and my legs. I felt it burning my skin. I ran very fast, and then I hit  something and fell. That was when he reached me. He grabbed and pulled me up, and I started begging him to have mercy on me. I told him that If I was a witch, he should take me to our Reverend Father to pray for me. But he dragged me back to the uncompleted building. When we reached there, he poured  the liquid on me again. By now my hands and legs were burrning, and my back too. He said I must drink the liquid. I said I would not. He started forcing me to drink, but I refused.

He was shouting: “You must drink this”! But I pleaded with him, saying: “I don’t want to drink it, please Baba “.

When he could not force me to drink it, he splashed  the liquid in the cup he was holding on my face. I started shouting. He poured  some more on my body and I started running, not seeing where I was going.

I opened my eyes, and it was already getting bright. I saw a man riding Okada. I ran to him and begged him to help me. As he was asking me what happened, my father emerged from the bush. I ran back in the direction of the remote house. From there I managed to get back home.

When my stepmother saw me, she gave me water to bathed with.

I could not talk at this point. My step mother thought that I was beaten. But, some boys around our house told her that it was acid that was poured on me. I don’t know who told them. There were some dark, round swellings on my face and body.

My father returned home and found me. He called me into the room. When I went in he started to cry. He said that I should forgive him. I told him I had forgiven him.

He then took me back to my grandfather at Alushi and left me there. He said he did not want my mother’s people to see the way I was looking. He never visited me again. I don’t know how long I was there. But one day, one of my mother’s brothers came; his name is Luka. He works at Our Lady of Apostle (OLA)  Hospital.

He heard what happened so he came to see   me.

When my uncle  saw me, he was very angry. He went to our house and made trouble for my father. He threatened to deal with my father if he did not treat me. The following day, my father came with two men, who gave me injection. I think they were doctors.

But, the growth on my face and body only seemed to increase the more. Then one retired doctor came again, gave more injections and rubbed the places with engine oil. I felt no improvement

I was taken to a pharmacist who gave me another injection. The next day I was taken to one Sister Franka. She is a Police woman.

She was to pray for me. The woman told me that I was a witch; that I was  a wicked person. While, there, our most senior sister, Alice who is a teacher, came there. I don’t know the name of her school. She said that if she ever saw me at home, she would not allow me go to sleep; that  she would pour petrol on me and burn me.  I ran to one Ibo man who is a pastor by name, Pastor Chukwu. His house is on the way to Wanba. I told him about my problem.

He said that if he allowed me stay with him, people may start gossipping about it. The pastor, however, went  to our Reverend Father and told him about me. The  Father promised to  help treat my wounds, but  told the pastor to take me to the police station.

At the station, the pastor wrote down what happened to me.My father was invited to station. He was put behind the counter.

My  father spoke in our language and told me not to say that he poured something on me. But one of the police men happen to come from our area and understood what he said. He was very angry. He told the other police men what my father said. They started beating my father and later locked him up.

The police men said that I should call any of my mother’s relations. So, we called Luka. The DPO said that Luka should take me with him. But, Luka was also angry. He said that my father never allowed me to visit him. That my father had killed my mother when I was small. That my father should just go on and kill me too.

I had to return home. But my father was eventually taken to Lafia Police Station. He later returned. I was told that one of his nephews who is a lawyer, stood bail for him.

I have forgiven my father  because it is good to forgive people. But I want to go back to school. Please tell the government to help me. I want the public to help me too. I don’t want to live like this.

All attempts to meet the father for his side of the story were not possible, as he  played hide-and-seek with Vanguard Metro team.

When Vanguard Metro visited the Divisional  Police Headquarters, Akwanga, its Divisional Police Officer (DPO), Mr Damon Peters (SP)  confirmed the case. He told Vanguard Metro that the case was brought to the Station before he was posted to Akwanga.

He brought the case file, and corroborated all that Comfort told Vanguard Metro.

On why the suspect was still moving free, he said: “The case is now with the Criminal Investigation Department in Lafia. I cannot say he is free of the charges yet. But, this Station has no more hand in that case. The only place you can get more information is in Lafia”.


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Human trafficking, child labour equivalent to slavery, says NIS

The Nigerian Immigration Service has decried the reactivation of slavery and slave trade through human trafficking and child labour with international networks where Nigerians have been traffickers and victims as well.

As a result of the high frequency of trafficking in persons and child labour, the service said the practice has caused the stigmatisation of Nigerians in world view and has become a huge embarrassment to the nation.

The service praised the legal commitment of the country in establishing the National Agency for the Prohibition of Traffic in Person and other Related Matters as well as ratifying the flurry of legal frameworks for the combat against traffic in person and the child rights Act.

It, however, regretted that its hands were tied by the "legal and administrative limitations as well as inadequacies as veritable partners "of the sole body set up to combat the crime because the Immigration Acts of 1963 and other legal documents have not adequately accommodated the security challenges of trafficking persons and child labour.

Disclosing the development in a communique in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, after the Immigration Stakeholders' Conference, it said "the situation has thus intensified the call by the NIS for among other things, the establishment of immigration courts to take care of these security presentations.

Further, the service said there was "the need to make all the country's 147 approved land border control posts operational, in order to checkmate irregular migration, human trafficking and trans-border crimes.

The communique reeled out scores of constraints "mitigating against the performance of the NIS, including inadequate funding, lack of opportunities for the personnel to administer visa in many of Nigeria's diplomatic missions abroad.

There is also the present challenge of the service to reduce the influx of irregular immigrants, most of whom are of the Asian extradition into the country by way of quota trafficking. Also, the need to fully computerize NIS with regards to the expatriate quota administration".

Participants agreed that "there is need for attitudinal change on the part of security operatives, particularly immigration officers which will enhance the rights and dignity of Nigerians and indeed all immigration publics in a democratic environment".


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Government charges Charles, Henry Okah for kidnapping

The federal government has charged Charles Okah and his brother Henry Okah for the abduction of nine expatriate oil workers in the restive Niger Delta this year.

According to papers filed in the magistrate court in Abuja yesterday, Henry Okah, who is on trial in South Africa over the Nigeria Independence Day bombings, was shown as being at large.

Charles, arraigned with three others at a magistrate court in Abuja, was accused of "criminal conspiracy, criminal intimidation, threat to lives and causing grievous bodily harm."

They were accused of kidnapping and abduction of nine expatriate oil workers of Addax Oil at the Bonny Anchorage in Rivers State this year.

The kidnapped workers according to the prosecution counsel Charles Osagie are four Indians, three French men and two Russians.

Charles and three other men denied taking the hostages, as all the accused pleaded not guilty when the charges were read to them by court officials.

The magistrate Mrs Oyebola Oyewunmi ordered that they be remanded in State Security Service custody until December 24th.

Charles was arrested last month over the Indepe-ndence Day attacks in Abuja. His brother remains in custody in South Africa and is accused of masterminding the car-bombings that killed 12 people and left several others injured.

The oil workers were freed last week in a raid of militant camps in the Niger Delta spearheaded by the Joint Task Force. Nineteen oil workers were rescued unhurt in the military operation.

This Day

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Friday, November 26, 2010

Video - Lagos running out of space

The city of Lagos, Nigeria, is running out of space, but a land reclamation project could help tackle the problem. 

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CNN does special on Lagos

Lagos to overtake Cairo as Africa's most populous city

With a projected 12.4 million inhabitants in 2015, Lagos is set to become Africa's most populous city, ahead of Cairo's 11 million inhabitants. The projection was contained in a report released on Wednesday by the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT).

The report urged African nations to prepare for massive urban population growth, the UN correspondent of the News Agency of Nigeria.

According to UN-HABITAT, Cairo, home to 15 per cent of Egypt's population is presently ranked Africa's most populous city with 11.1 inhabitants, ahead of Lagos's current population of 10.9 million. However by 2020, Kinshasa's 12.7 million would also have overtaken Cairo's then 12.5 million population.

Also, Kinshasa will be the fastest-growing city in absolute terms, by no less than four million, a 46 per cent increase for its 2010 population of 8.7 million.

The report said Lagos was the second fastest with a projected 3.5 million addition, or a 33.8 per cent increase.

"Dar es Salaam, Nairobi, Ouagadougou, Cairo, Abidjan, Kano and Addis Ababa will all see their populations increase by more than one million before 2020," it said.

With the average for the 10 proportionally fastest growing cities put at about 51 per cent, the report said, Abuja, Bamako, Luanda, Lubumbashi and Nairobi are projected to grow at rates between 47 peer cent and 50 per cent over the current decade. Similarly, Dar es Salaam, Kampala, Mbuji_Mayi and Niamey are projected to grow between 50 per cent and 57 per cent.

Joan Clos, Executive Director of UN_HABITAT, said: "urbanisation is here to stay and within a few decades Africa will be predominantly urban.

"The issue now is for regional and national governments, local authorities and all other stakeholders to pull together to ensure the efficient management of urban agglomerations.

'Smart urban policies could help spread the benefits and lift the continent out of poverty.

The report, entitled "The State of African Cities 2010: Governance, Inequalities and Urban Land Markets", highlighted some positive developments on urbanisation in the continent.

It noted the general reduction in the number of slum dwellers across Africa and the potential of urban corridors across the continent to drive growth, especially of land-locked countries.

However, the report warned that Africa would suffer disproportionately from the effects of climate change and that accurate counting of slum dwellers is very difficult, because many poor people move between urban and rural locations in search of work.


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Documentary on rebranding Nigeria

Pope benedict honours Obi

Catholic Pontiff, Pope Benedict XVI,  has bestowed an honour on Anambra State governor, Mr. Peter Obi.

The award is said to be in appreciation of Obi’s selfless, remarkable and distinctive contributions to human development and nation-building.

Pope Benedict XVI approved the recognition on the recommendations of the Bishops of the Association of Episcopal Conference of Anglophone West Africa, AWCAWA.

The pontifical honour was conferred on behalf of His Holiness by His Grace, Archbishop Joseph Ukpo of Calabar during the 6th convocation of Catholic Institute of West Africa, CIIWA, Port Harcourt.

The governor, whose award was received by the State Commissioner for Works, Mr. Calistus  Ilozumba, thanked His Holiness for the award which, he said, would inspire the governor to do more for humanity.

Established in 1981 by the Catholic Bishops of Anglophone West Africa, CIWA has a tradition of “pioneering inculcation within the framework of contextualizing theology.”

Created with a dual pontifical and civil charter, there are currently plans to elevate the institute to an ecclesiastical university.

Speaking on Governor Obi’s acceptance of the award against his perceived reluctance to accept honours by organizations and communities, Senior Special Assistant to the governor on Communications, Mr. Ifeanyi Ubabukoh, said every rule had an exception.

“The governor is mindful that he is still at work; some awards are genuine and  will inspire him to work harder; some others are anything but noble and  will only distract him,” he said.


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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Video - 50 arrested for kidnapping

The Nigerian army has arrested at least 50 militants suspected of involvement in kidnappings of oil workers.

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Five hostages taken from oil rig

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Video - Guns, drugs, seized in Nigeria

CNN's Christian Purefoy reports on the containers of drugs and weapons seized in Nigeria.

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Cocaine and politics

London court jails Ibori's wife for five years

Former first lady of Delta State, Chief (Mrs.) Theresa Nkoyo Ibori has bagged a five-year jail term for money laundering.

Reports monitored on yesterday said a London jury in her Southwark Crown Court trial returned a guilty verdict against her.

Mrs. Ibori was found guilty on two counts of money laundering while her husband's United Kingdom (UK) lawyer, Mr. Bhadresh Gohil, who was on trial with her, was also found guilty on all counts of money laundering. He has been remanded in police custody.

Gohil will be sentenced after the conclusion of another trial involving the laundering of proceeds of V-Mobile shares by James Ibori, Henry Imashekka, David Edevbie and former Akwa Ibom governor, Victor Attah. The trial, according to the report, will open on Monday.

The court had, in a previous trial, sent Ibori's sister, Christine Ibori-Ibie, and his mistress, Udoamaka Okoronkwo-Onuigbo to jail. They will be joined in jail by Mrs. Ibori.

UK authorities are also awaiting final outcome of an appeal against an extradition ruling against Ibori, in the United Arab Emirate.

In the course of the trial, attempts by Mrs. Ibori's lawyers to make her escape justice failed at her prosecutors painted a detailed portrait of her detailed role in her husband's looting of public funds. The prosecutors also implicated Emmanuel Uduaghan in the multiple fraudulent deals through which Mr. Ibori looted the treasury.

Lead prosecutor Sasha Wass, told the jury that Mrs. Ibori paid £2.2 million pounds in cash for a swanky home in Hampstead less than two years after her husband's inauguration as governor. Wass told the jury that not only did Ibori obtain the house by fraudulent means but also that Mrs. Ibori was aware of it since her husband put her in charge of the transaction.

The Crown prosecutors described the fraudulent acquisition of the Hampstead property as the beginning of Mrs. Ibori's rise to extreme wealth.

Wass asked the jury to consider the Iboris' criminal record, including their conviction in the UK for alleged petty theft a few years before Mr. Ibori maneuvered his way into the governor's mansion in Asaba. Prosecutors also laid out how US authorities investigated Ibori's million-dollar deposit in a US bank in 1994. She told the jury that US law enforcement agents concluded that Ibori lied when he claimed to have received the funds for consultancy work. Earlier, Ibori had forfeited $400,000 out of the $1 million to the United States (US) government.

A legal analyst in court said the prosecution "did a superb job of portraying Mr. and Mrs. Ibori as a tag-team criminal partnership." He added: "Money is seized in the US only when there's probable cause -or what UK law calls reasonable suspicion."

UK prosecutors told the jury that Ibori was asked to provide evidence of the legitimacy of the funds, but he opted to part with a huge chunk of it in order to settle the case. Ms. Wass said the transaction marked Ibori's entrance into the criminal big leagues. She also observed that contrary to Mrs. Ibori's attempt to deny knowledge of Ibori's criminal activity, the former First Lady was fully aware of her husband's illicit financial deals in the US as well as the UK.

Ms. Wass reminded the jury that Mrs. Ibori went along with her husband's decision to falsify his date of birth in order to conceal his criminal past and convictions in the UK. Under cross-examination, Theresa Ibori had acknowledged that she found her husband's action to be wrong, but said it was against the tradition in her adopted culture to challenge him. However, Ms. Wass reminded the jury that Mrs. Ibori had indeed challenged her husband on other issues.

Prosecutors revealed how Mr. Ibori made misleading declarations of his assets. He did not declare his foreign bank accounts. In 1999 he only declared his homes in Nigeria as well as a flat in Abbey Road, St Johns Wood area in London. For cash in bank, he declared a debt of more than N1 million while cash in hand was about N400, 000 thousand. In 2007, Mr. Ibori declared another house in London, but understated its value. Even though the house was worth £3 million, Ibori declared it as worth £300,000.

Prosecutors accused the former governor, with his wife's knowledge, of systematically misstating the value of his property. They also told the jury that, by 2007, Mr. Ibori had added three more properties in the UK as well as homes in Texas and South Africa. He also had established a series of off shores trust funds in safe haven islands for himself, his wife and children. Yet, in his assets declaration form in Nigeria, when he was asked to indicate cash abroad, he entered "non-applicable."

Ms. Wass revealed how Mr. Ibori established several companies, including MER Engineering, and used them as fronts to award contracts to himself. Ibori's companies also received contracts and revenues from the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation.

Investigators accused Emmanuel Uduaghan, who prior to 2007 served as secretary to the state government (SSG), of facilitating the illicit deals. Most of the contracts that went to one of Ibori's front companies -Sagicom, Rivbed or Sigares - were heavily over-inflated. Prosecutors revealed that most of the contracts were for N1.8 billion or above, including for the supply of fine wine and beverages.

Ms. Wass said Ms. Okoronkwo was responsible for transferring the proceeds out of Nigeria where the funds were invested for Ibori. Ms. Okoronkwo was also often used as a conduit to pay for Ibori's properties in the UK. It was revealed that, by the end of 2003, Okoronkwo had deposited more than £3 million in the trust fund that was meant to benefit Theresa, her children and Mr. Ibori. Sagicom was the corporate vehicle Okoronkwo used to channel the funds.

Prosecutors showed that Ms. Okoronkwo engaged in forgery of documents on her computer that Mr. Ibori then signed. The forged documents were meant to deceive bankers in the UK as well as safe havens around the world. Ms. Wass said Okoronkwo worked for both James and Theresa Ibori, dismissing Mrs. Ibori's suggestion that she and Udoamaka were fighting over Mr. Ibori. Instead, according to Ms. Wass, the two women helped the same man to siphon money that belonged to the people of Delta State and Nigeria.

On a day filled with legal drama, including defense protests that the prosecution had unfairly tarred Mrs. Ibori by tying her to the convicted Udoamaka Okoronkwo, prosecutors also pressed their case against Ibori's attorney, Bhadresh Gohil. Mr. Gohil, who decided not to testify after observing the methodical way the prosecution dismantled Mrs. Ibori during cross-examination, was described as Mr. Ibori's launderer-in-chief.

Daily Champion

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