Thursday, March 29, 2012

Permanent secretary arrested for N14 Billion pension fraud

A Permanent Secretary in the ministry of Niger Delta, Abubakar Kigo and 5 others were arraigned this morning over their involvement in a fraud in which an estimated N14bn was stolen from Nigeria's police pensions administration.

The accused persons were brought to court by the EFCC in whose custody they had been and arraigned before Justice Mohammed Hamza Bello. All accused persons pleaded not guilty to the 16-count charge leveled against them.

Until his promotion to the position of permanent secretary, Abubakar Kigo was the director of the Police Pension Office and it was during his stint there that he allegedly connived with the others to tamper with the pension funds.

The scam had involved the use of over 3,000 bank cheques to make illegal withdrawals by staff of the police pension office.

Daily Trust

Related stories: Former Delta state governor James Ibori pleads guilty to money laundering

 Video - Government failing to provide pension for the elderly

28 retired police officers die waiting for over due pension

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

2012 London Olympics team Nigeria captain promises lots of medals

The captain of Team Nigeria track and field team currently training in Atlanta, United States, Saul Weigopwa, has assured Nigerians that the team will not only win medals in all the relay events at the London 2012 games, he assured that many of the athletes, including himself, would make the finals of their events.

Weigopwa, an Olympics bronze medallist, in a statement from Atlanta revealed that the coaching tutorials they are receiving from the new national athletics coach, Innocent Egbunike would bring out the best in most of the athletes.

“The training is tough, but we all love it, if we had been training like this in the last few years, I personally would achieve more on the track, and I could have won an individual level medal at the global level long before now”.

Weigopwa revealed that Egbunike’s training is like a marriage of sports science and inspirational speeches,
“Everything is scientific, you are to follow a laid down plan which could not be altered. Daily, there are inspirational speeches from motivational speakers, pastors and Egbunike himself. Then we are all on the same level, the coach and the athletes, we all do the same thing on and off the track”.

The captain of Team Nigeria posits that the only way they could repay Nigeria for the huge financial investment in the team is to win medals in London,

“With the way we are training now, I can assure you that all the relays team would win medals in London. We just need to perfect the technical aspect as a team, but we would all be running well with the training we are doing now, once the technical aspect is perfect, we could win four relay medals. But personally, I know that with this training, I will not only run a new personal best this year, I will make the finals of the Olympics in the men’s 400m, and once am in the finals, anything is possible, I could win a medal. This is our toughest training ever; all the athletes are focused and ready for London”.

Weigopwa on behalf of his colleagues thanked the Honourable Minister of Sports and Chairman National Sports Commission (NSC) Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi and the NSC for making it possible for them to camp and train in Atlanta, “the only way we can repay the Minister and top officials at the NSC and Nigerians generally is to win medals in London and we promise not to disappoint” concludes Weigopwa.

Nigerian Tribune

President Goodluck Jonathan declares Boko Haram menace will end in June

President Goodluck Jonathan assured yesterday that his government will end the menace of Islamic sect, Boko Haram in some areas of the north by the middle of the year. He said the nation's security forces will take total control of the situation.

Jonathan who spoke in an interview with the South Korea's Yonhap News Agency while attending a two-day summit on peaceful use of nuclear energy, with about 51 other world leaders in Seoul, also gave an insight into the problems faced by the Federal Government in 2010 when his predecessor, late President Umoru Musa Yar'Adua was ill in far away Saudi Arabia without formally handing over the reigns of government to him as the then Vice President.

Speaking on the current security challenges facing the country following the Boko Haram Islamic sect's bombing canpaign in some parts of Nigeria, President Jonathan said, the problem was limited to certain areas in the country, assuring the international community that the problem would be seriously curtailed as the nation's security forces would take total control of the situation by the middle of this year.

"In terms of security challenges, we have some parts of the country where we have terrorist attacks, but it does not affect the whole country. We are in reasonable control. We have the belief that in the middle of this year; in terms of security of individuals, we will have full control. The danger is limited to some parts of the country. It does not extend to other parts of country," he further said.

President Jonathan also said during the interview that there were fears of military coup when late President Yar'Adua fell ill and did not formally hand over power to him, (Jonathan) as the then vice president. He said there were fears of a poosible coup as the country wobbled during the uncertainty surrounding the health condition of his predecessor.

He however said that military coup could not have occured because the country was politically stable.

"I was the President during the transition (period). Before I took over, I was vice president. The President (Yar'Adua) was very ill and people thought there would be military intervention. Today, we conducted election. Politically, we are stable," he said.

Assuring potential investors of a conducive environment to do business in Nigeria, President Jonathan appealed to South Korean companies to invest in Nigeria because of her huge economic potentials.

According to Jonathan, "other areas and the public sector have been opened up. Agriculture, in terms of production of raw materials; and other sectors have been opened up. Not just in private airlines but airports, terminal buildings and other sectors.

"Oil sector had been opened up from the beginning. We have very few chemical companies. It is an area these (Korean) companies can invest. Before 2002, telecommunication was a monopoly. Telecommunication has been opened up to other countries. More Korean companies can invest in all aspects of telecommunication.

"There is one key area that I want to emphasize. Nigeria is a very green area for investors. Before this time, during the military rule, you do not know who would be the next president. When a new government came, there were new policies and those policies were not attractive to investors.

"Basically from 1999 to date, we have established democratic government. For investors, Nigeria has strong laws and media. No president can just change laws that can affect investors especially. We encourage investors". He pointed out that he specifically preferred the Korean investors to focus attention on the power sector.

"I want investment in power sector. For now, we are quite low. We want South Korean investors."


Related stories: Video - Who are Nigeria's Boko Haram?

Video - Boko Haram leader declares war on Christians

Video - President Goodluck Jonathan wants dialogue with Boko Haram

Nigerian security forces arrest 5 with 'Al Qaeda-links' over German kidnap

Nigerian authorities have detained five men, including a Mauritanian, believed linked to Al-Qaeda's north African branch over the January kidnapping of a German, two security sources said Tuesday.

Four of the suspects were arrested in a raid on a supermarket in the northern city of Kano owned by the Mauritanian on Thursday, while the fifth was held in a separate raid, the sources said.

"Guns and a laptop were recovered in the store and the documents found in the computer, including an AQIM operation manual, showed that the suspects are linked to AQIM and were involved in the kidnap of the German engineer in January," one of the sources said in describing the supermarket raid.

AQIM is the abbreviation for Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the extremist group's north African arm.

It has not been known to operate directly in Nigeria, though some have suggested links between AQIM and Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram.

German engineer Edgar Raupach was kidnapped on the outskirts of Kano in January. AQIM said last week it was holding the German and that it wanted to swap him for a jailed Muslim woman, a private news agency in Mauritania said.

A video obtained by the ANI agency and seen by AFP showed Raupach, his hands tied behind his back, surrounded by masked gunmen.

Germany has confirmed one of its nationals was kidnapped in northern Nigeria, and the German construction company Bilfinger Berger has said he is one of their employees.

"The arrests are an important lead that could help in resolving the kidnapping of the German," one of the security sources said.

The initial raid on the store was carried out on suspicion that the suspects were tied to Boko Haram, but investigations after the arrests led authorities to suspect they were linked to AQIM and the kidnap, the sources said.

The second source, speaking of the Mauritanian, said "he turned the upper floor of his store into a hideout where he housed his three Nigerian accomplices."

Nigerian authorities have come under intense pressure over the kidnapping as well as violence blamed on Boko Haram. They also faced criticism after a failed bid to rescue an Italian and a British hostage earlier this month.

The British and Italian hostages were killed by their captors before they could be rescued in a joint operation with British security forces, authorities said.

Nigerian authorities blamed the kidnap of the British and the Italian on a faction of Boko Haram, which had not been previously known to carry out abductions. A purported Boko Haram spokesman denied any involvement.

A security source however had offered an explanation that implicated the group by association, alleging that the mastermind was a man named Abu Muhammad who was affiliated with AQIM and Boko Haram.

The source said the kidnappings were aimed at collecting ransoms which could be used to finance Boko Haram activities, and that in return Abu Muhammad would be given security cover by the group to carry out further abductions.

Abu Muhammad died in custody after being wounded in a raid which led to his arrest, Nigerian authorities have said.

There has been speculation that criminal groups may be seeking to profit from the security situation in northern Nigeria, where authorities have been unable to stop scores of bombings and shootings blamed on Boko Haram.

Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation with 160 million people, is roughly divided between a mainly Muslim north and predominately Christian south.


Related stories: German engineer kidnapped in Nigeria 

 British and Italian hostages killed in Nigeria during failed rescue attempt

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

28 retired police officers die waiting for over due pension

Chief Effiong Orok, the Chairman of Association of Retired Police Officers of Nigeria (ARPON), Cross River Chapter, says 28 pensioners have so far died in the state awaiting the payment of their pension.

The chairman disclosed this on Friday in Calabar to newsmen, saying that many of their members had died without enjoying their retirement benefits.

"We are now appealing to the Federal Government to assist us as many of our members are dead in the process."

"At the centre of the whole episode are the pensioners, whose welfare the whole exercise is all about and who are left in the blizzard of suffering."

Orok appealed to the Federal Government to pay the retired police officers in the country, adding that 28 of their members' names were not on the pay roll.

"Many pensioners whose names were on the pay roll before the biometrics' verification of July 2011, do not see their names in the pay roll again. "

The chairman said that those whose names appeared were paid once in every three months, pointing out that "since the year started, we have been paid once."

Orok appealed to the Joint Senate Committee on Establishments, States and Local Governments, to be more proactive in pension fund matters so that retirees would not be suffering.

"It is our candid opinion that those fraudulent officials who steal pension funds do so because they are not supervised by those the laws give such responsibility. "

He said there was need for government to expedite action on the exercise and cause the money to be released as members were really suffering and dying in silence in their hamlets and villages.

Orok, however, said that the Federal Government should, at the conclusion of the current investigation, review the archaic pension laws as such laws were responsible for the fraud in the system.

"The expected pension law which the National Assembly will make should make pension one of the enforceable rights of the senior citizens with attendant heavy punishment for those who will violate such laws."

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that the Federal Government had, few weeks ago, released N24 billion to settle the arrears of pension of retired police officers.

Daily Trust

Related stories: Video - Government failing to provide pension for the elderly

Health insurance in Nigeria

U.S. embassy in the capital of Nigeria attacked

The United States of America Embassy in Nigeria’s capital Abuja, came under attack yesterday by unknown gunmen.

Details of the attack were sketchy, but it was learnt that the gunmen were over-powered by superior fire of a combined team of  security men on guard at the embassy located along the Diplomatic Drive, Central Business District.

According to reports, several shots were heard within the vicinity of the embassy in the afternoon, when the Ambassador was having a meeting with staff of the embassy. The internal security had to set off the alarm and got everyone to take cover.

It was gathered that as the shooting was going on everyone within the embassy ran for dear life before the situation was brought under control.  Two suspected assailants were apprehended and taken into custody at the end of the incident.

The embassy has been under heavy security watch since the attack on the United Nations Building in Abuja, last year.  It has been heavily barricaded, while fierce-looking security men keep watch around its vicinity.

A terse statement by the US authorities confirming the incident said, “we believe there were shots fired in the vicinity of the U.S. Embassy. The Nigerian authorities have two individuals in custody. We refer you to the Nigerian police for further information.”

Strangely however, the police authorities in Abuja denied knowledge of the shooting and the arrest of the two individuals at the scene of the incident.

When contacted, the FCT Police Public Relations officer, Superintendent of Police Jimoh Moshood, told Vanguard that some senior police officers had been dispatched to the embassy to ascertain what really happened. An Anti-Terrorist Squad and Bomb disposal units were also said to have been deployed to carry out investigations about the alleged shooting incident but they said nothing of such happened.


Related stories: U.S.,Germany, France, Canada Shut Embassies in Nigeria

 Bomb explosion at UN office in Abuja leaves several dead

Video - Who are Nigeria's Boko Haram?

Halliburton bribe suspects walk free after sloppy prosecution by EFCC

The trial of the Halliburton bribery suspects reached an anti-climax yesterday when a high court struck out the case against them because of sloppy prosecution by the EFCC.

Ibrahim Aliyu, Mohammed Gidado Bakari and four companies were standing trial over serving as conduits and receiving bribes in hard currency to facilitate natural gas contracts between 1994 and 2005.

Aliyu, a former Federal permanent secretary, was at the time chairman of contract award committee of the Bonny Liquefied Natural Gas, which awarded the contracts. The four companies are Urban Shelter Ltd, Intercellular Nigeria Ltd, Sherwood Petroleum Ltd and Tri-Star Investment Ltd.

The Halliburton bribery scandal gained international attention over the past years, and it led to convictions of companies and individuals in the U.S.

But the Abuja High Court yesterday said it was striking out the case against Aliyu and the others because of lack of diligent prosecution by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

The accused had not appeared in court since the EFCC filed the case more than a year ago.

A leave for their arraignment was granted by the court on February 17, 2011. However, following their non-appearance to take their plea on January 23, the court warned it would strike out the case if the EFCC failed again to bring them to court.

When the case was called yesterday, Kauna Peziki of the EFCC applied for a bench warrant against the accused and requested for more time to prosecute the case.

In his ruling, Justice Abubakar Sadiq Umar said the prosecution has failed to diligently prosecute the case.

"The court has the duty to discharge its duties diligently; court business is a very serious business. Court should not be turned into a warehouse of keeping moribund cases," the judge said.

"It has been over a year now and still the EFCC is coming up with excuses; the EFCC should know that if it is not ready to prosecute and bring cases to conclusion, it should not apply for leave of court to arraign anybody," he added.

The Halliburton bribery case involved the funnelling of $180 million in bribes to Nigerian government officials to facilitate natural gas contracts valued at $6 billion.

In 2009, former Halliburton subsidiary, Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR), pleaded guilty and admitted that it paid $180 million in bribes to Nigerian officials to win the $6 billion contracts. Partner companies from Italy, France and Japan were also involved.

The bribes - some delivered in a briefcase stuffed with $100 bills - were paid to officials in Nigeria's executive branch as well as the state-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corp, the U.S. Justice Department said.

At various points, huge sums of money were wired through banks in Amsterdam and New York to accounts in Monaco and Switzerland.

In 2010, London lawyer Jeffrey Tesler, who served as conduit for sharing the bribes, and 72-year-old retired sales executive Wojciech Chodan were extradited from Britain to the US to face charges over the Halliburton case.

But in the same year, the Federal Government withdrew charges earlier filed at a high court in Abuja against Tesler as well as Julius Berger Nigeria Plc, George Mark, Hans George Christ, Heinrich J. Stockhausen and Bilfinger Berger GMBH.

Chodan pleaded guilty in December 2010, while Tesler also pleaded guilty in March last year. They were sentenced last month, along with ex-KBR chief Albert Stanley, who was also convicted in the bribery scam. Tesler, 63, received the harshest punishment of 21 months imprisonment.

In a reaction to the Abuja court ruling that stuck out the case against Aliyu and the others yesterday, the EFCC said it would consult with its legal team on the way forward.

"EFCC will study the ruling and seek legal advice from our counsel on the way forward," spokesman for the commission, Wilson Uwujaren, told Daily Trust.

Daily Trust

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

EFCC drops charges against Dick Cheney

KBR former CEO sentenced to 30 years in prison for bribing Nigerian officials

Monday, March 26, 2012

German engineer kidnapped in Nigeria


The kidnap of a German engineer, Edgar Fritz Raupach, in Kano has developed into a knotty issue for Nigeria’s security agencies, following claims that it was carried out by Al Qaeda.

THISDAY learnt that hitherto, the security agencies worked on the theory that Boko Haram was the only terrorist group in Northern Nigeria, but indications are now very strong that this may not be true.

It was even believed that Boko Haram was working in conjunction with Al Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), a faction of Al Qaeda.

Raupach, who works with Dantata and Sawoe, was abducted from one of the company's road building projects on a bridge on the outskirts of the city since January 26.

A purported spokesman of Al Qaeda later said the group was responsible for the kidnap and the group is now demanding that German authorities should release a Muslim woman, Oum Seif Allah Al Ansari, who they said was being subjected to inhumane treatment in a German prison.

Boko Haram is not known to carry out kidnappings and promptly denied claims that it was responsible for the kidnap and eventual deaths of a Briton and an Italian in Sokoto State early this month.

The kidnap of Raupach has led to a manhunt mounted by a combined team of security operatives in the country.

The police said they had no immediate "clear suspicions" as to who were behind the kidnap.

However, AQIM, based in North Africa, last Wednesday, declared that it was responsible for the abduction.

The statement by the group was published by a Mauritanian news portal, Nouakchott Infor-mation Agency website, a medium which has always been used by the group to send messages. The statement published on Wednes-day by the AQIM is demanding the release of Al Ansari

THISDAY gathered at the weekend that Nigerian security chiefs are concerned about the latest development especially the link with Al Qaeda.

They have launched investigation into the Al Qaeda claim and the “swap” demand by the group. They are also looking at the possibility of the faction having a different command structure.

Meanwhile, there was a reported excitement in the camp of Boko Haram leader, Sheikh Abubakar Shekau, over the reported death of a factional militant leader, Abu Mohammed.

Intelligence sources confirmed to THISDAY last night that the Shekau group indirectly helped with the information that led to the location of the hostages held by the Mohammed group in Sokoto, although the rescue operation failed as the two foreigners were killed by their captors.

The Shekau faction of the Boko Haram might have inadvertently given the intelligence that led to the arrests of Mohammed and his “fellow traitors” in Adamawa, Katsina, Kaduna, Sokoto and Kebbi States during a Shura Council (the highest decision-making body) meeting in Layin Hanwa, Zaria, and the subsequent failed rescue mission in Mabera Estate in Sokoto.

Mohammed broke away and ran a faction of the Boko Haram until he was arrested March 7, 2012 after a gun battle with security agents.

He died March 9 from gunshot wounds. Other suspects may be taken to court next week.
Security sources said Mohammed’s men appeared well-trained and organised, with weapons and armoury that security agents were still trying to unravel their origin.

This sophistication of the faction, apparently aided externally, readily showed in their ability to keep the two hostages away from the extensive security hunt for 10 months.

This dents the claim by the security agencies that they had acquired equipment that could track terrorists anywhere in Nigeria.

This Day

Related stories: British and Italian hostages killed in Nigeria during failed rescue attempt

Murderers of British and Italian hostages explain their reason for killing them 

Five hostages taken from oil rig 

Nigeria loses $20bn in oil theft yearly

Every year, Nigeria loses about 40 million metric tonnes of petroleum products amounting to about $20 billion (N3 trillion) to crude oil theft and illegal bunkering, Mr Leke Oyewole, a Senior Special Adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan on Maritime Affairs has said.
Oyewole made this known in Lagos, on Sunday, in an interview on a Channels Television programme tagged ‘Sunday Business’.

He said the loss was sequel to sharp practices characterised by numerous leakages, adulteration of products, as well as diversion of refined imported products by some of the players in the upstream and downstream sectors of the oil and gas industry.

The presidential aide, who stated further that the estimated loss was what obtained as of 2009, said diversion of petroleum products to neighbouring African countries by fuel importers amounted to a drain on the nation’s foreign exchange, adding that employment opportunities were being left to nationals of countries where fuel was being imported.

He pointed out that it was in order to put a stop to the revenue haemorr-hage arising from these leakages that President Goodluck Jonathan was resolute on the deregulation of the oil sector.

“Deregulation will allow investment in refineries, which will in turn create jobs in Nigeria and pave the way for export of products to other countries around us.

“Nigeria cannot claim to be poorer than Ghana or Chad where fuel is sold for about N170 per litre. Total removal of subsidy will enable the government to save more money for capital projects. Beyond that, it will minimise smuggling of the products across borders,” he said.

According to him, the porous nature of the country’s waterways also provided a lee way for unscrupulous importers to short-change government, by not paying duties to relevant government agencies.

“Our waterways are currently not so well monitored by the relevant maritime agencies. For instance, most of the vessels bringing products to Nigeria do not pay a dime to government, either though the Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), the Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA) or Customs. This constitutes serious revenue losses to the economy,” he added.

The presidential aide said although Customs had been told not to collect import duties from vessels coming into the country, its officials had the task of rummaging the vessels, adding that NIMASA and NPA ought to collaborate to address issues in the offshore operations in the oil industry and mitigate the insecurity arising therefrom.

Nigeria Tribune

Related stories: Shell raises concern on unprecedented oil theft in Nigeria 

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Nigerian government signs deal with U.S. electric company GE

The Federal Government and GE Energy, weekend, signed a Memorandum of Understanding, MoU, for a $10 billion to be invested in various power plants with combined capacity of 10,000 Megawatts, MW.

Minister of Power, Prof. Barth Nnaji, insisted that the cost had not been padded or inflated in any way, as globally, it costs $100 million to generate 1,000MW of electricity.

Some sections of the media had reported that GE was constructing a 10,000MW plant in Nigeria.

But, at the agreement signing at the Nigerian High Commission in London, Prof. Nnaji, told journalists that GE only agreed to take up at least 15 per cent equity in each of the plants to be constructed.

He noted that GE's support was the highest expression of investment support for government's target to achieve 40,000MW generation capacity by 2020.

He said: "To have a company willing to work with us on delivering 10,000MW is a show of confidence in Mr President's vision. Even if the equity is one per cent, it is still significant because it will take us somewhere. And, with 15 per cent, Federal Government will provide the balance."

He clarified that government will not be involved in any of the projects, but will provide guarantees for the private sector participants.

According to him, "The local content will be huge because GE and any other foreign investor must have local partners."

Previous agreements

He explained that what government and GE had signed after a meeting with President Goodluck Jonathan in Abuja, was a series of general agreements for support in various sectors of the economy including power, transportation especially rail, and health.

"What we are doing is the culmination of a series of work done, some behind-the-scenes, and some in the open. With the meeting between President Jonathan and the Chairman of GE last month in Abuja, there was a narrowing of areas of focus for the country and GE to collaborate on specific areas of focus.

"Accordingly, GE developed MoUs specific to the various sectors, and today, the MoU we are signing relates to power alone."

Agreeing that $10 billion was very ambitious in the face of cash crunch at the international capital market, Nnaji said with GE's cash and government's bank guarantees, the projects will become more bankable, as investors can approach financial institutions to raise funds.

He noted that the relationship between the Nigerian government and GE was a long-term one, as the energy company has moved from just being a supplier of power equipments in Nigeria, to an equity investor.


Related stories:  Canada to invest in Nigeria's power sector

President Goodluck Jonathan promises steady power before May 2015

Nigerian government gives foreign airlines ultimatum

The Federal Government yesterday gave all foreign airlines operating in the country a 30-day ultimatum within which to dismantle the fare regime that sees Nigerian passengers paying higher fares than other passengers in West Africa.

Aviation Minister, Princess Stella Oduah, who issued the ultimatum in Abuja last night, said the 30-day ultimatum would start today.

This came on a day the Ministry of Aviation also sought the cooperation of the National Assembly towards the enactment of a Passengers' Bill of Rights.

It could be recalled that in the wake of the impasse between British Airways and Arik Air regarding the denial of landing slots of the latter at London Heathrow airport, the ministry had, in addition facilitating the landing rights of Arik Air in Heathrow, waded into the huge fare disparity in the sub-region and demanded fare parity from British Airways, BA, Virgin Atlantic Airways, VA, and other international airlines operating in the country.

BA and VA had particularly asked for more time to conduct its own study on the alleged fare disparity, promising to report back to the Ministry last December.

But worried by the obvious delay tactics on the part of the two British carriers, Aviation Minister, Princess Stella Adaeze Oduah, weekend said any international airline operating in Nigeria which failed to dismantle the fare imbalance and other sharp practices within the next 30 days would be banned from operating in Nigeria.

She said: "We are seriously concerned and worried by the reluctance to restore parity within the region by the foreign airlines.

They have been using all kinds of delay tactics; this is unacceptable and will no longer be tolerated. Nigerian passengers do not deserve this kind of exploitation and we are willing and ready to stand up to their rights."

Oduah said Nigeria remained an important and lucrative route for the international airlines, warning that anyone not ready to treat Nigerians with equity and dignity would be barred from operating in the country.

"In the interim, we encourage Nigerian travellers to avail themselves of other competitive alternatives while we try try to address and resolve this issue once and for all," she said.

A source had told Vanguard that government's action was informed by the delayed tactics deployed by the British government on the need to resolve the issue of unequal fare regime of British carriers in their Nigerian operations, compared to what holds in other countries on the West Coast.

Government had always banked on the fact that once the two British carriers were made to toe the line, other international airlines would follow their footstep on the issue, especially considering the historical links between Nigeria and Britain.

Vanguard gathered at the weekend that the latest withdrawal of slots from Arik Air on its Abuja-London Heathrow operations, which led to the airline's suspension of flight on the route yesterday, further infuriated the government.

The British government had in the last quarter of 2011 asked the federal government to give it till December 31, 2011, to conduct a study on the fare regime of both British carriers on Lagos-London and Abuja-London routes, in relation to that of other countries in the sub-region, but failed to meet up with that deadline and called for an extension of time which, according to sources, was to enable it buy time while the two carriers continued operations unhindered.

The British government had begged for a negotiation in the heat of the row caused by the shabby treatment of Arik Air at Heathrow, when government threatened to shut down British Airways operations on Lagos-London route.

A source told Vanguard weekend that government was no longer disposed to the delayed tactics being employed by the British government, especially in the light of the resurgence of Arik Air's problem at Heathrow earlier in the month.

Announcing a re-suspension of its Abuja-London flight penultimate week, Arik Air had said: "From the inception of the route in November 2009, Arik Air has been in a slot-lease agreement with a UK carrier, leasing arrival/ departure slots on the Abuja/ London route at Heathrow.

"At the end of the summer schedule (October 2011), the UK carrier that Arik Air was in the slot-lease agreement with for this route advised the airline of its intention to sell the company and began to wind down its contractual arrangements with Arik Air. Without these commercially arranged slots, Arik Air was forced to suspend operations at the start of the winter schedule (2011).

"Immediate discussions were held by the respective governments to resolve the long-existing and underlying anomaly in the BASA. As an abridgement, the UK authorities facilitated the temporary continuation of the commercial lease of these slots in support of Arik Air's Abuja/ London, Heathrow operation.

"This interim solution was only available up until 25th March (2012). Unfortunately,despite the best efforts of both governments, there has been no solution found. The situation remains as it was at the end of October 2011 with Arik Air having no landing/arrival slots after March 2012 thus forcing it to suspend the route.

Although Aviation Minister, Princess Stella Oduah, could not be reached weekend to know what action government was taking in the next two weeks, sources at the Ministry said the operations of both British carriers might be shut in Lagos in the interim, in view of Arik Air's problems at Heathrow, and shut completely should the British government fail to respond to Nigeria's quest for a dismantling of the current fare regime which is unfavourable to Nigerians.

The Aviation Minister's aide, Mr. Joe Obi, had told Vanguard three weeks ago that though the British negotiating team on British Airways and Virgin Atlantic Airways fare structures appealed for extension of time, on the expiration of the December 31, 2011, deadline, which was acceded to, the Nigerian government would not wait indefinitely because of the urge with which Nigerians want the issue settled.

He also said the matter bothered on public interest which government was in a hurry to resolve in the

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Aviation is putting finishes touches on a proposed Passengers' Bill of Rights which it hopes to present before the two chambers of the National Assembly soon.

The ministry, which is very optimistic that the National Assembly will lend its usual cooperation towards the swift passage of the bill, believes air passengers will have a fairer deal once the bill is passed into law.

One of the salient provisions in the proposed bill stipulates that a passenger has a right to demand compensation if his or her flight is delayed for more than one hour, out-rightly cancelled or where a passenger is denied boarding without any reasonable cause.


Related stories: Nigerian government condemns foreign airlines' practices

Nigerian government moves to restrict British airways flights to Lagos 

Friday, March 23, 2012

Nigerian woman sets all time trafficking record by ingesting 5 pounds of heroin pellets


A Nigerian woman set an unenviable world record for amount of ingested heroin ever recovered when she tried to smuggle five pounds of heroin in 180 pellets into the U.S. The previous record was four pounds of heroin ingested in 100 pellets.

Los Angeles Times reports airport authorities at the Dulles International Airport, say that 52-year-old Bola Adebisi ingested an incredible 180 thumb-sized pellets filled with heroin. Daily Mail reports airport officers became suspicious when she was questioned after arriving on March 14 on Ethiopian Airlines flight 500 from Adis Ababa.

Adebisi claimed she was visiting her brother in the U.S., but she was unable give details of her "brother" and his address. A routine pat-down showed that her belly was suspiciously rigid, and an X-ray revealed to astonished officials that she had in her stomach 180 thumb-sized pellets with a total weight of five pounds.

Los Angeles Times reports Steve Sapp of the Customs and Border Protection, said: “We were kind of shocked and surprised at the sheer number of pellets she ingested. We usually see men twice her size ingest about half of what she did.”

According to International Business Times, Adebisi broke a previous record for ingested drugs set on March 30, 2011, by another Nigerian man, 46-year-old Yomade Aborishade of Lagos, Nigeria, who was arrested for ingesting four pounds of heroin in 100 pellets.

The lady was taken to the hospital where overnight, she passed out all the pellets containing heroin worth an estimated 150,000 pounds.

Christopher Hess, director of Customs and Border Patrol for Washington D.C. said: "The amount of pellets and heroin this woman ingested is incredible, a serious health risk, and very troubling if these numbers become the new normal."

Authorities say drug mules often attempt to smuggle heroin and cocaine, and sometimes ecstasy by swallowing latex balloons, often condoms or fingers of latex gloves or other special pellets filled with the drugs and later recovered from feces. It is a medically dangerous way of smuggling small amounts of drugs and a mule can die if a packet bursts or leaks before exiting the body. Statistics from 2003 show over 50% of foreign females in UK jails were drug mules from Jamaica, with Nigerian women making a large contribution to the balance.

Adebisi, according to MSNBC, will be prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia.

Digital Journal

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Nigeria in the top percentile of malnourished countries in Africa

Nigeria ranks among the top countries with high number of malnourished children in Africa, surpassing Ethiopia, Managing Director of the United States Agency for International Development, Tim Prewitt, has said.

He said this yesterday in Abuja at a forum of USAID/Maximizing Revenue and Key Enterprises in Targeted Sites (MARKETS) family nutritional support programme which started in 2008.

The MARKETS was to address food insecurity and malnutrition in orphans and vulnerable children households through direct distribution of food supplements and enterprise nutrition and homestead skills for care givers.

Prewitt said more than one billion people, nearly one-sixth of the World's population, suffer from chronic hunger, with 3.5 million children dying every year. He said the number of stunted children in the world will be 450 million in the next 15 years.

Speaking, the Programme Manager of the project, Bassey Archibong said that malnutrition in Nigeria is a growing problem which is strongly linked to social and economic issues.

Archibong said: "Nigeria has more malnourished children than Ethiopia. States in northern Nigeria have the highest numbers of malnourished children in the country. Also, orphans and vulnerable children whose families have been infected or affected by HIV/AIDS are particularly vulnerable to food insecurity and malnutrition.

"Nearly 1.2 million children in Nigeria are orphaned as a result of AIDS, and more others are vulnerable because their families are affected by HIV/AIDS."

He said that over 70,000 malnourished orphans and vulnerable children have been reached.

He said that care givers from orphans and malnourished children households who participated in the training, gained practical cross cutting skills in micro enterprise nutrition and homestead farming.

"As a result, participants now understand the relationship between income and nutrition, which is critical to ending the cycle of poverty and malnutrition. Sixty percent of participants reported savings for the first time while 77 percent of care givers now have homestead farms up by 24 percent from what it was before training," he said.

Daily Trust

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Nigeria's finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala in the running for chief of World Bank

Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is to run for the position of the next World Bank chief, it emerged on Friday.

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan made the announcement in Pretoria on Friday - the day nominations close in Washington for the top post of the international body.

"We are very proud as Africa and certainly this constituency to confirm that the Minister of Finance of Nigeria is going to be a candidate for the president of the World Bank," said Gordhan, ahead of a constituency meeting of the World Bank between South Africa, Angola and Nigeria.

Okonjo-Iweala is serving a second term as finance minister and has worked in a senior post at the World Bank for several years.

Gordhan described her as being "very experienced" and that she holds eminent academic qualifications.

"She would be a candidate of choice not just on the African continent but well beyond as well," said Gordhan.

The constituency meeting between South Africa, Nigeria and Angola forms part of the world body's three sub-Saharan constituencies out of a total of 25 constituencies. Gordhan's meeting with Okonjo-Iweala and Angolan Planning Minister Ana Dias Lourenco began yesterday.

Gordhan added that the G20 had made a decision that future processes for the selection of heads of international finance institutions like the World Bank need to be open, transparent, democratic and merit based.

"We believe that the candidature of Minister Okonjo-Iweala enables those that are going to make this decision in Washington to have before them an eminently qualified individual, who can balance the needs of both developed and importantly, developing countries; [and] also provide a new vision and sense of mission to the World Bank and its relevance, particularly to developing countries across the globe," he said.

South Africa and Angola have committed themselves to mobilise support for the Nigerian minister through the various bodies to which they belong on the continent. The countries will garner support for her candidature at next week's meeting of the continent's finance ministers in Addis Ababa, as well as at the BRICS summit where South Africa will encourage members to support her candidacy.

The World Bank is expected to choose its next leader before the Spring meeting in late April.

Asked about other nominated candidates, Gordhan said the US was expected to field a candidate later today.

"We've heard the name of a Columbian academic and former Finance Minister Jose Antonio Ocampo and Prof Jeffrey Sachs has made himself available. There could well be last minute surprises that we are unaware of," noted Gordhan.

Okonjo-Iweala said she hoped the contest she faces will be merit based and that those nominated apply their best minds in the interviewing processes.

"I hope that the best candidates come forward. I consider the World Bank [as] a very important institution for the world, particularly developing countries deserving of the best leadership. I look forward to a contest of very strong candidates. Am I confident? Absolutely," she said.

She further noted that it would be premature for her to lay out her vision for the World Bank.

Current president of the institution, Robert Zoellick, announced in February that he will step down at the end of June.

Among some of the issues discussed by the constituency is the World Bank itself, the kinds of programmes with which it is involved and the extent of the programmes that relate to food and fuel crises, as well as the issue of sustainable development and the modernisation of the World Bank.

"We've been reflecting on how some of these programmes relate to our countries and the continent more broadly and how we could encourage the World Bank to find ways of becoming more relevant to promoting development on the African continent," said Gordhan.


Related stories:  Video - Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala speaks to CNN's Richard Quest about her bid for World Bank top job

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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Video - Religious tension in Nigeria

CNN's reports on how Muslim efforts to impose Sharia law on Nigeria are causing conflict.

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Nigeria lead in the 2012 Africa Movie Academy Awards nominations

Nigeria received 52 nominations on 17 March 2012 in Banjul, Gambia for the Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA), Africa’s most prestigious awards for filmmakers.

South Africa was a close second with 45 nominations, followed by Ghana with 17, Kenya with 14, Uganda with 5, Tanzania with 3, and Algeria, Cameroon, Guinea, Rwanda, and Zimbabwe.

There were also nominations for films linked to the Diaspora in America, Canada, France, Germany, Guadalupe, Italy, Jamaica, and the UK.

AMAA received 328 entries from across Africa, up from 220 in 2011. This includes 134 feature films, 88 short films, 57 documentaries and six animations. 43 entries came from Africans in the Diaspora, with the other entries coming from 23 countries across the continent.

South African surfing film Otelo Burning scooped the most nominees (13), followed closely by South African film noir How 2 Steal 2 Million (11) and Nigeria’s Benin-set historical epic Adesuwa (10).  Ghana’s civil war film Somewhere in Africa has seven nominations, as does the Nigerian-South African xenophobia-themedcoproduction Man on Ground, whileKenya’s Rugged Priest has six.


Dr. Asantewa Olantunji, director of programming of The Pan African Film Festival, headed this year’s jury, which included June Giavanni, programmer for Planet Africa at The Toronto International Film Festival; Keith Shiri, founder and film curator at the London festival, Africa at The Pictures; Dorothee Wenner, a curator at The Berlin Film Festival; Shaibu Husseini, an actor, dancer and The Nigerian Guardian arts journalist; Steve Ayorinde, editor-in-chiefof The Daily Mirror;  Ayoko Babu, executive director of The Pan African Film Festival; Dr. Hyginus Ekwuazi, a film scholar and critic; and directors Berni Goldblat and John Akomfrah, OBE.

Only films produced and released between December 2010 and December 2011 were eligible.

The winners will be announced at a glittering ceremony on 22 April 2012, hosted byHeroes star Jimmy Jean-Louis. For the first time, the awards will be held in Lagos rather than Bayelsa in Nigeria.

“Our theme this year is Africa Rising,” says founder Peace Anyiam-Osigwe. “Africa’s economies are consistently growing faster than those of almost any other region of the world and our film industries are following suit. With the success of last year’s AMAA winner, Viva Riva!, all of a sudden there’s this great excitement about the potential of the African film industry, which isclearly demonstrated in this year’s diverse nominees.”

For more information, keep an eye on

AMAA founder Peace Anyiam-Osigwe is available to discuss the nominations, the upcoming awards, and the power and potential of African cinema.  


The Following are Key Trailers:

Otelo Burning

How 2 Steal 2 Million


Somewhere in Africa

Man on Ground

Rugged Priest




Jamaa – Uganda

Look Again – Kenya

Maffe Tiga – Guinea

Braids On Bald Head – Nigeria

Hidden Life – South Africa

Mwansa The Great – Zimbabwe

Chumo – Tanzania

The Young Smoker – Nigeria



African Election – Nigeria/Germany

Beyond The Deadly Pit – Rwanda

Awa Ogbe: An African Adventure – Algeria

Dear Mandela – South Africa

White& Black; Crime And Colour – Tanzania

The Niger Delta Struggle – Ghana

There Is Nothing Wrong With My Uncle –Nigeria

How Much Is Too Much – Kenya



Toussanat Louverture -France

Ghetta Life -Jamaica

High Chicago – Canada

Elza – Guadalupe

Better Must Come – Jamaica

Kinyanrwanda – USA



The Education Of Auma Obama – Germany

White Wash – USA

Almendron Mi Corazon – Guadalupe

All Me: The Life And Times Of Winfred Hubert -USA



John Doe – USA

White Sugar In A Black Pot -USA

The Lost One -USA



The Legend on Ngog Hills – Kenya

Oba – Nigeria

Climate Change is Real – Kenya

Egu – South Africa

Chomoka - Kenya



Mystery Of Birds – USA/Nigeria

Housemates – UK/Nigeria

Ben Kross – Italy/Nigeria

Paparazzi Eye In The Dark – USA/Nigeria/Ghana



Somewhere in Africa – Ghana

Phone Swap – Nigeria

Otelo Burning – South Africa

Adesuwa - Nigeria

How 2 Steal 2 Million – South Africa



The Captain Of Nakara - Kenya

Adesuwa – Nigeria

Rugged Priest -Kenya

Somewhere In Africa - Ghana

Queens Desire – Nigeria



Rugged Priest – Kenya

State Research Bureau – Uganda

Adesuwa - Nigeria

Somewhere In Africa – Ghana

Shattered - Kenya



Otelo Burning – South Africa

Alero’s Symphony – Nigeria

Adesuwa - Nigeria

How To Steal 2 Million - South Africa

Somewhere In Africa – Ghana



Behind The Mask - Nigeria

Somewhere In Africa – Ghana

Adesuwa - Nigeria

State Research Bureau - Uganda

Otelo Burning – South Africa



State Of Violence – South Africa

Otelo Burning – South Africa

How To Steal 2 Million - South Africa

Man On Ground - South Africa

Algiers Murder - South Africa



1. How To Steal 2 Million - South Africa

2. Otelo Burning – South Africa

3. Rugged Priest – Kenya

4. Masquerades - Ghana

5. Man On Ground –South Africa/Nigeria



1. Algiers Murder – South Africa

2. Man On Ground – South Africa/Nigeria

3. Unwanted Guest – Nigeria

4. How To Steal 2 Million- South Africa

5. Otelo Burning – South Africa

6. Alero’s Symphony - Nigeria



1. Ties That Bind – Ghana

2. Mr & Mrs – Nigeria

3. How To Steal 2 Million – South Africa

4. Otelo Burning –South Africa

5. Unwanted Guest -Nigeria

6. Two Brides And A Baby – Nigeria



1. Unwanted Guest -Nigeria

2. Family On Fire – Nigeria

3. Alero’s Symphony – Nigeria

4. Adesuwa – Nigeria

5. Phone Swap – Nigeria



1. Chumo - Tanzania

2. State Of Violence – South Africa

3.  Family On Fire – Nigeria

4. Otelo Burning – South Africa

5. Asoni - Cameroon



1. Rahman Junior Bande (Behind The Mask) - Nigeria

2. Tsepang Mohlomi  (Otelo Burning) – South Africa

3. Reginna Danies (Bank Job) – Nigeria

4. Benjamin Abemigisha (Jamaa) – Uganda

5. Racheal Nduhukire (Jamaa) – Uganda

6. Ayinla O. Abdulaheem (ZR-7) – Nigeria



1. Neo Ntatleno (State Of Violence) – South Africa

2. Ivie Okujaye (Alero’s Symphony) – Nigeria

3. Iyobosa Olaye (Adesuwa) – Nigeria

4. Martha Ankomah (Somewhere In Africa) – Ghana

5. Thomas Gumede (Otelo Burning) – South Africa

6. Sihle Xaba (Otelo Burning) – South Africa



1. Rapulana Seiphemo (How To Steal 2 Million) – South Africa

2. Fana Mokoena (Man On Ground) – South Africa

3. Hafiz Oyetoro (Phone Swap) – Nigeria

4. Okechukwu Uzoesi (Two Brides And A Baby) – Nigeria

5. Godfrey Theobejane (48) – Nigeria

6. Lwanda Jawar (Rugged Priest) – Kenya



1. Terry Pheto (How 2 Steal 2 Million) – South Africa

2. Ebbe Bassey (Ties That Bind) – Ghana

3. Empress Njamah (Bank Job) – Nigeria

4. Ngozi Ezeonu (Adesuwa) – Nigeria

5. Thelma Okoduwa (Mr & Mrs) – Nigeria

6. Omotola Jalade Ekeinde (Ties That Bind) -Ghana



1. Menzi Ngubane (How 2 Steal 2 Million) – South Africa

2. Majid Micheal (Somewhere In Africa) – Ghana

3. Chet Anekwe (Unwanted Guest) – Nigeria

4. Jafta Mamabolo (Otelo Burning) – South Africa

5. Karabo Lance (48) – Nigeria

6. Wale Ojo (Phone Swap) – Nigeria

7. Hakeem Kae-Kazim (Man On Ground) –Nigeria/South Africa



1. Nse Ikpe Etim (Mr & Mrs) – Nigeria

2. Yvonne Okoro (Single Six) – Ghana

3. Ama K. Abebrese (Ties That Bind) – Ghana

4. Rita Dominic (Shattered) – Kenya

5. Uche Jombo (Damage) – Nigeria

6. Millicent Makheido (48) – South Africa

7. Kudzai Sevenzo-Nyarai (Playing Warriors) – Zimbabwe



1. Lancelot Oduwa Imaseun (Adesuwa) – Nigeria

2. Leila Djansi (Ties That Bind) – Ghana

3. Bob Nyanja (Rugged Priest) – Kenya

4. Charlie Vundla (How 2 Steal 2 Million) – South Africa

5. Khalo Matabane (State Of Violence) – South Africa

6. Akin Omotoso (Man On Ground) – South Africa/Nigeria

7. Sara Bletcher (Otelo Burning) – South Africa



1. State Of Violence – South Africa

2. Adesuwa  – Nigeria

3. Otelo Burning – South Africa

4. Rugged Priest – Kenya

5. How 2 Steal 2 Million – South Africa

6. Ties That Bind – Ghana

7. Man On Ground – South Africa/Nigeria


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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

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Nigerian immigrants have highest level of education in the U.S.

Nigerian immigrants have the highest levels of education in Houston and the nation, surpassing whites and Asians, according to a Census data bolstered by an analysis of 13 annual Houston-area surveys, Leslie Casimir of the Houston Chronicle reports.

David Olowokere, originally from Nigeria and the chairman of Texas Southern University’s department of engineering technologies, told Casimir that holding a master’s degree just wasn’t good enough for his people back home. So he got a doctorate. His wife, Shalewa Olowokere is a civil engineer and hold a master’s degree.

According to a 2006 American Community Survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, 17 percent of all Nigerians in the U.S. hold a master’s degree, 4 percent hold a doctorate and 37 percent have a bachelor’s degree. In comparison, 8 percent of the white population in the U.S. hold a master’s degrees, 1 percent hold a doctorate and 19 percent have a bachelor’s degrees.

The Nigerian numbers are strikingly high, Roderick Harrison told Casimir. He is a demographer at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a Washington D.C. think-thank that specializes in researching black issues.

However, Stephen Klineberg, a Sociologist at Rice University who conducts the annual Houston Area Survey, suspects the percentage of Nigerian immigrants with post-graduate degrees is higher than the Census data shows.

According to the latest Census data there are more than 12,000 Nigerians in Houston. This is a figure sociologists and Nigerian community leaders say is a gross undercount, as they believe the number is closer to 100,000.

Out of all the Nigerian immigrants Kleinberg reached in his random phone surveys in 1994 through 2007—a total of 45 households—40 percent of them told him they had post-graduate degrees.

The reasons Nigerians have more post-graduate degrees than any other racial or ethnic group is largely due to the Nigerian society’s emphasis on mandatory and free education, Casimir reports. After immigrating to the U.S., practical matters of immigrations laws get in the way. The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 made it easier for Africans to enter the U.S., but mostly as students or highly skilled professionals—not through family sponsorships, Kleinberg said.

Houston Chronicle

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Boko Haram suspends talks with government

Boko Haram yesterday said they would no longer accept overtures for dialogue with the Federal Government because the botched efforts through Dr. Ibrahim Datti Ahmad confirmed government's lack of sincerity.

A purported spokesman for the group who goes by the nom de guerre Abul Qaqa told journalists in Maiduguri in a teleconference that the collapse of Dr. Ahmad's efforts was a vindication of their long-held belief that government was never sincere in its offer for talks with the sect.

Datti, who is president of the Supreme Council for Sharia in Nigeria, issued a statement on Saturday, saying he was pulling out of efforts to broker a truce with Boko Haram because of alleged insincerity of the government, citing leakage of the talks.

Yesterday, Abul Qaqa confirmed that Dr. Datti had approached them through freelance journalist Ahmad Salkida, who on Sunday denied being part of any "imaginary" talks with Boko Haram.

Abul Qaqa said the sect, which calls itself Jama'atu Ahlis Sunnati Lidda'awati Wal Jihad, was sceptical of the Datti overtures because of previous disappointments.

"We have said it severally that the Federal Government is deceiving Nigerians and the world and we know that they will never be ready for dialogue," he said.

"Almighty God has told us repeatedly that the unbelievers will never respect the promises they made. As such, henceforth, we would never respect any proposal for dialogue. In fact, we have closed all possible doors of negotiation. We would never listen to any call to lay down our arms."

He added: "The truth is that we have been doubtful on the seriousness and purposeful commitment of the government. It was the Datti group that thought the Federal Government could be trusted. They approached us and said we should give them a chance and we did, unfortunately, they have been disappointed."

Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for wave of deadly attacks in the North, including suicide bombings in Abuja, Jos, Maiduguri, Madalla and Kano.

Its deadliest strike was in Kano on January 20, but security sources claimed that series of top-level arrests has considerably weakened the sect.

Abul Qaqa said yesterday the sect would continue its campaign until it achieves an Islamic state.

"We are calling on all Muslims in this part of the world to accept the clarion call and fight for the restoration of the Caliphate of Usman Danfodio which the white man fought and fragmented.

"The white man killed prominent northern Islamic clerics and emirs and also replaced the white Islamic flag with the Union Jack. We want all our people to come together and restore our lost glory," he said.

There was no immediate comment from the Federal Government over the latest statement by Boko Haram.

Daily Trust

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Video - President Goodluck Jonathan wants dialogue with Boko Haram

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Foreign oil workers in Nigeria highest paid in the world

A typical oil and gas executive in Nigeria earns nearly half a million dollars (about N80 million) a year, chalking up the biggest premium for working abroad over salary levels in Britain, research released yesterday showed. Those who have watched developments in the country with keen interest said the high pay is possibly responsible for risk appetite of foreigners who prefer to work in the creeks during the days of militancy in the Niger Delta.

According to George Olodo, a social commentator in Lagos, such a pay could make anyone defy the high level of risk to work in a very risky area.

But Oteme Uzeme, a retired oil worker, wondered why the pay for expatriate should be that high in Nigeria, which is relatively less risky than Iraq and even Libya.

A typical senior oil and gas employee in Nigeria will receive a supplementary country premium worth 45 per cent of base pay, taking the total salary of $454,400 a year, a study by the Curzon Partnership recruitment consultants showed.

This trumps packages for executives working in Libya or Iraq, who could expect a total salary of around $354,900, the research found, said Reuters.

Oil and gas workers from developed nations working in Nigeria are paid well because of the number of projects that need international staff, local skills shortages and big cultural differences, the firm said.

"Whilst Lagos is an exciting and well established place to work for expats, oil and gas companies recognise that the incentives have to be high, because life as an expat in Nigeria is so different from countries with broader industries and higher standards of living," Helen Di Mauro, a partner at the Curzon Partnership, said.

Oil industry executives in Indonesia can expect a premium of 40 per cent in Indonesia, 35 per cent in Ghana and 30 per cent in Libya, Kurdistan or Egypt, the research found.


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Canadian based Cable network to broadcast Nollywood content

Hollywood has officially lost its title as second largest film industry in the world after Mumbai, India's Bollywood to Nigeria, West Africa's Nollywood, according to a survey taken by UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) in 2009.

The growing global popularity of African films around the world has created a demand for African content on television.

In April 2012, for the first time on Canadian cable television, Canadians will be able to access and watch African movies, drama-series and entertainment programming on African Movies and Entertainment Television (AMET TV) in partnership with independent Canadian broadcaster, Channel Zero.

Following Black History Month's celebrations, and being reminded of the crucial contributions to society by African descendants in Canada, it would appear as though the great honour would be reflected with positive images on television.

Unfortunately, Canada has lagged in representing programming that showcases and targets its African, Caribbean population on television.

The need for presenting African culture is evident with the approval for a second Afrocentric school in Toronto.

Whether in cultural appreciation, education or entertainment, AMET TV's main mission is to make African content accessible to Canadians who have been neglected as consumer audiences.

Starting on April 29, 2012, AMET TV will broadcast African Movies and Drama Series on Cable Networks: Rogers Channel 122, Bell Canada Channel 207, Videotron Channel 614. AMET TV programming line up is as follows: Every Saturdays; African Music Videos Show between 6pm to 7pm, African Drama Series between 7pm to 8pm, African Movies between 8pm to 10pm and every Sundays, African Gospel Vibes between 2pm to 3pm.

The Moment

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Monday, March 19, 2012

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A Nigerian company introduces Africa's answer to the iPad, the Inye.

Related stories: Tech expert Saheed Adepoju featured in WIRED 

Video - Building broadband in Nigeria

Arik Air suspends stops Abuja-London flights

Arik Air said it is suspending its daily service between the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, and London Heathrow Terminal 4 effective from March 25. This follows the inability of the airline to secure slot allocation.

It is the availability of slots that empowers an airline to undertake flights at a particular time and land at a particular time. Arik Air has been battling with this issue since it commenced service from Abuja to London Heathrow Airport.

Nigeria and Britain had been renegotiating the Bilateral Air Services Agreement (BASA) to ensure reciprocity on the route.

Arik Air said it was compelled to suspend its services on the route following the inability of the UK and Nigerian governments to come to agreeable terms on the BASA. Under the terms of the BASA, Arik Air was allocated seven frequencies per week in respect of the Lagos/ London, Heathrow service and seven per week for the Abuja/ London, Heathrow service. That is a total of 14 frequencies out of 21 available for Nigerian carriers under the BASA.

However, an anomaly exists between access to slots in the respective countries with the Nigerian government matching the allocation of slots with frequencies, thereby giving UK carriers unfettered access to its full complement of 21 slots at Abuja and Lagos airports.

However, this is not reciprocated in the UK with the authorities drawing a distinction between allocation of frequencies and access to slots, claiming that an application for landing slots at UK airports is a process separate from the BASA entitlement.

From the inception of the route in November 2009, Arik Air has been in a slot-lease agreement with a UK carrier, leasing arrival/departure slots on the Abuja-London route at Heathrow.

At the end of the summer schedule (October 2011), the UK carrier that Arik Air was in the slot-lease agreement with for this route advised the airline of its intention to sell the company and began to wind down its contractual arrangements with Arik Air. Without these commercially arranged slots Arik Air was forced to suspend operations at the start of the winter schedule.

Immediate discussions were held by the respective governments to resolve the long-existing and underlying anomaly in the BASA. As an abridgement, the UK authorities facilitated the temporary continuation of the commercial lease of these slots in support of Arik Air's Abuja-London, Heathrow operation. This interim solution was only available up until March 25, (2012).

Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of both governments, no solution has been found. The situation remains as it was at the end of October 2011 with Arik Air having no landing/arrival slots after March 2012, thus forcing it to suspend the route.

Dr. Michael Arumemi-Ikhide, group CEO/president of Arik Air, commented on the suspension of the Abuja-London route: "Whilst it is regrettable to have to suspend our services between Abuja and London, we simply could not continue with the route due to the restrictions placed upon us in accessing arrival/departure slots in to UK airports.

It is an unfortunate situation and one that we felt was being resolved at government level and we hoped that an agreement would have been reached before the start of the summer schedule. Due to the stalemate we are therefore forced to suspend this route.

"We support any dialogue that will take place in the future between the governments on this issue and we stand ready and waiting to commence when asked to and when we feel that the imbalance had been satisfactorily redressed. Our main priority is our passengers and it is disappointing to discontinue such a critical route and reduce capacity between the countries which gives less availability to the Nigerian traveller.

However, we would like to assure our customers that we are fully committed to the UK market and will continue as normal on the Lagos-London Heathrow route with our flagship A340.

When contacted, the SA, media, to the minister of aviation, Mr. Joe Obi, said that the ministry is studying the development and would issue a statement in due course.


Related stories: Arik Air hostess arrested for smuggling cocaine

Nigerian government moves to restrict British airways flights to Lagos 

Friday, March 16, 2012

Nigerian government begins talks with Boko Haram

Nigeria's government and Islamist group Boko Haram have been in indirect talks to end deadly violence blamed on the extremists, two sources familiar with the discussions said Friday.

"There have been preliminary talks between a Boko Haram-appointed intermediary," a senior security official told AFP on condition of anonymity, adding that Boko Haram has set out terms for a temporary ceasefire.

A diplomatic source said there have been contacts between Nigeria's government and Boko Haram through intermediaries.

The security official said Boko Haram has proposed a three-month truce if all of its detained members are released and if the government halts any further arrests. He said the government was looking at the proposal.

Government officials either declined comment on the information or could not be reached.

Boko Haram has been blamed for scores of shootings and bomb blasts, mostly in northern Nigeria, which have killed more than 1,000 people since 2009.

It claimed responsibility for an August suicide attack at the UN headquarters in the capital Abuja which killed 25 people and for coordinated bombings and shootings in Nigeria's second city of Kano on January 20 which left 185 people dead -- its deadliest assault yet.

The group had initially claimed to be fighting for the creation of an Islamic state in northern Nigeria, but its aims and structure have since become less clear, while its attacks have grown increasingly deadly and sophisticated.

Calls have mounted for talks to take place, with Nigerian authorities seemingly unable to stop attacks blamed on Boko Haram that have shaken Africa's most populous nation and largest oil producer.

While there have been no attacks on the scale of the Kano carnage since January, sporadic violence has continued, including bombings of police stations and attacks on checkpoints.

The group is believed to have a number of factions, but the indirect talks were said to be with the main branch of the group led by Abubakar Shekau.

Last week's killing of a British and an Italian hostage in northwestern Nigeria was blamed on a splinter faction of Boko Haram, though many have expressed doubts over the group's alleged involvement.

Boko Haram had not been previously known to carry out kidnappings, and a purported spokesman for the group has denied responsibility.

There has been intense speculation over whether Boko Haram has ties to outside extremist groups, including Al-Qaeda's north African branch.

Diplomats say such links have been limited to training for certain Boko Haram members and that there has been no evidence of operational ties.

According to the security official, one of the intermediaries for the indirect talks was a northern cleric trusted by Boko Haram.

"The problem is not about the sect's readiness for dialogue, but winning their trust and confidence that the government is genuine in its intentions because they still have the fear of betrayal and back-stabbing on the part of the government," the official said.

"The leaders are afraid that they could be arrested once they come out for direct talks. The major hurdle is to win their confidence that nothing will befall them if they show their faces."

The diplomatic source could not provide details, but said there had been "real contacts" between the government and Boko Haram through intermediaries.

A previous attempt to engage Boko Haram in talks early last year failed when Boko Haram objected to the demand that they surrender their arms as a condition for a peace agreement that would have involved an amnesty, the security official said.

Those talks were mediated by a former state governor, he said.

Nigeria's 160 million population is roughly divided between a mainly Muslim north and predominately Christian south.


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