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."


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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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