Thursday, January 31, 2013

Nigerian farmer wins case against oil corporation Shell in Dutch court

For Royal Dutch Shell, it was a case of win some, lose some Wednesday as a Dutch court ordered its Nigerian affiliate, Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), to pay damages to a Nigerian farmer for oil pollution.

The court, however, dismissed four other claims filed against the parent company, in which the plaintiffs were seeking compensation from the oil giant for the pollution of their farmlands and destruction of their means of livelihood.

Four Nigerians and an interest group, Friends of the Earth, had filed the suit in 2008 in The Netherlands, where Shell has its global headquarters, seeking reparations for loss of income from contaminated land and waterways in the Niger Delta.

In its ruling, The Hague Civil Court held that the Royal Dutch Shell could be held partially responsible for pollution in the Niger Delta, saying the company should have prevented sabotage at one of its facilities.

The court ruled that SPDC should be held responsible for a pipeline leak poisoning farmland in the Niger Delta, as it had failed to take adequate measures to prevent sabotage.

The judges ordered SPDC to pay an unspecified amount as compensation to 52-year-old Friday Akpan for breach of duty of care by making it too easy for saboteurs to open an oil well head that leaked on to his land.

"Shell Nigeria should and could have prevented this sabotage in an easy way. This is why the district court has sentenced Shell Nigeria to pay damages to the Nigerian plaintiff," the judges said.

Yesterday's judgment was believed to be the first time a Dutch court has held a multinational's foreign subsidiary liable for environmental damage and ordered it to pay damages.

In its official reaction to the ruling, SPDC Managing Director and Country Chair, Shell Companies in Nigeria, Mr. Mutiu Sunmonu, said the company welcomed the court verdict that all spill cases were caused by criminal activity.

The court ruled that the four oil spills at Oruma, Goi and Ikot Ada Udo between 2004 and 2007, which have been the subject of litigation, were caused by sabotage.

However, only in the case of Ikot Ada Udo that the court ruled that SPDC could have prevented the sabotage by plugging the well earlier enough.

In this particular case, it was established that saboteurs opened the valve above the surface with a wrench.

But the Dutch court rejected the case brought by other Nigerian farmers and the environmental pressure group, saying the leaking pipelines were caused by saboteurs, not Shell's negligence.

The court accepted Shell's argument that the spills were caused by sabotage and not poor maintenance of its facilities, as had been argued by the plaintiffs.

They said they could no longer feed their families because the region had been polluted by oil from Shell's pipelines and production facilities.

The pollution is as a result of oil spills in 2004, 2005 and 2007, they said.

Reacting to the judgment afterwards, the parent company said it was "happy" with the verdict.

It said it would pay compensation, adding that it did not lose the case. "It was not an operational failure. The leak was the consequence of sabotage," Royal Dutch Shell's Vice-President for Environment, Allard Castelein, said.

He said Shell would negotiate the amount of damages with the farmer, but that an appeal could postpone the outcome of those talks.

Akpan, the farmer who won the compensation and has 12 children, said he was very happy with the judgment.

"I am not surprised at the decision because there was divine intervention in the court. The spill damaged 47 fishing ponds, killed all the fish and rendered the ponds useless. I had borrowed the money from the agriculture loans board and had no way to pay it back," he told Reuters in Port Harcourt.

"Since then, I have been living by God's grace and on the help of good Samaritans. I think this will be a lesson for Shell and they will know not to damage people's livelihoods," he added.

Friends of the Earth spokesman, Geert Ritsema, said they would appeal against the acquittals "because there is still a lot of oil lying around. These sites need to be cleaned."

SPDC, which has been ordered to compensate Akpan, in its reaction, said the vast majority of oil pollution in the Niger Delta was caused by oil thieves and illegal refiners and acknowledged that the problem had affected the daily lives of the people of the oil-rich region.

Sunmonu stated that the company also "welcomes the court's ruling that all spill cases were caused by criminal activity."

"This causes major environmental and economic damage, and is the real tragedy of the Niger Delta. SPDC has made great efforts to raise awareness on the issue with the government of Nigeria, international bodies like the UN, the media and NGOs. We will continue to be at the forefront of discussions to find solutions," he said.

He explained that for SPDC, no oil spill was acceptable, adding that Shell is working hard to improve its performance on operational spills.

Ivorian football star Emmanuel Ebue berates Nigeria on twitter ahead of Nations Cup draw

Galatasary of Turkey and Elephants of Cote d'Ivoire defender, Emmanuel Eboue, has boasted that his country will eat the Super Eagles of Nigeria like 'super fried chicken' when they meet on Sunday in one of the quarter finals matches in the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations holding in South Africa.

Eboue, who through his twitter handle @TheRealEboue, congratulated Nigeria shortly after the Super Eagles defeated Ethiopia to reach the knock-out stages but was quick to caution Nigeria not to celebrate to much as the Elephants are coming for them.

The former Arsenal player maintained that Eagles were no match to his side. His first tweet read: "Congrat to Nigeria. Don't celebrate too much cuz we are coming for you. We are going to eat you like fufu".

Minutes later, the Ivorian defender tweeted again: "Sorry guys, point of correction. We are going to eat Nigeria like #SuperFriedChickens."

From then on, it has been an unending tweet tirade on not just the Eagles as a team but Nigeria in its entirety, a situation that has seen some twitter users arguing that Eboue was being impersonated.

Some of the tweets read:

"@TheRealEboue I see ppl saying I hv pride by saying we wud eat Nigeria like fried chickens, it's not pride guys, it's hardwork & passion 4 my country"

"@TheRealEboue: In Nigeria team, some of your best strikers like martins, yakubu & odewinge are not in the team. Why? No peace, passion, & humility"

"@TheRealEboue: Ivory has some of the top players in d world, and when our country calls. We go. We go back home and play. Nobody is a big boy. So shut it"

"@TheRealEboue: A country where mikel obi is your best player & captain . Out of 150million people. You sure have a problem super chickens"

"@TheRealEboue: With all due respect 2 mikel, he is a good player but not Okocha, Samson,yekini,Oliseh, adepoju. Your football association is a joke"

"@TheRealEboue: When keshi was in Togo, he dropped adebayor. He is in Nigeria and drops the best player. He is a manger he should be able to work on their ego"

@TheRealEboue: I have said enough on this matter. I was so angry. Speak to me when your national television can broadcast the game. Have a good day

@TheRealEboue: Keep fooling yourself and calling yourselfs the giant of africa. You are nothing but the soil of Africa we all work on now.

@TheRealEboue: You guys are jokers. Your institutions are comedy clubs. You have so many resources & man power yet you are always falling short.

@TheRealEboue:Oh sorry Nigeria, I even heard your country owns the first African television and you cannot even televise the game to the masses

@TheRealEboue: Drogba, Yaya,kolo, Zakora, gervinho,KaLou, and myself and all other players. We are all the same. One unity and family. Country comes 1st

@TheRealEboue: I have said enough on this matter. I was so angry. Speak to me when your national television can broadcast the game. Have a good day

@TheRealEboue: If we don't beat you in the game, it means you are lucky. But trust me, we are going to deal with you so much , you would be eating grass

@TheRealEboue: Why don't you speak to your NFA that cant grow a good soccer academy & produce players to last for a decade instead of new faces every week

@TheRealEboue: Blame me, i don't care. I would say my mind. You can even blame me Ghana can show the game to the masses and NTA cannot . Cover your face

TheRealEboue: My last word for Nigerians . Do not cry for me , cry for yourselves. In the true spirit of sport , I love you all . Don't get too emotional."

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Video - Farmers await verdict in historical case against Shell for oil pollution

A group of Nigerian farmers will find out on Wednesday if they have won a four-year legal battle against another oil giant, Shell. They took the company to court in the Netherlands, accusing it of releasing pollution and destroying their crops.

First successful kidney transplant done in Nigeria

Gabriel Onogwu, 20, from Benue, has become a symbol of hope for patients with failing kidneys across the country, after successfully undergoing a transplant.

His surgery in December is the first recorded in Abuja, done by a team of surgeons at View Point Hospital, a private clinic in the suburb of Gwarimpa.

Gabriel's transplant was funded by Nafs Kidney Foundation, a philanthropic group run by Suleiman Sulu-Gambari.

For days after the surgery, he walked around with a mask across his nose to ward off germs that could compromise his immune system and force his body to reject the kidney donated by his elder brother.

Weeks later, the SS3 student of GSS, Karu is out of hospital and attempting to return to what his life was before his surgery.

"I feel great, normal, just the way I used to feel before my kidney failed" he says. This time, his mask is off as he speaks to Daily Trust. But the reporter who met him had a nose mask on. "I am very, very happy to have my life back."

Millions of Nigerians are not so lucky. Many are as young as 18 years, and are coming down with chronic kidney disease (CKD) -- the gradual loss of kidney functions. Leading figures from the National Association of Nephrology indicate up to 32 million kidneys in Nigeria are failing.

When a kidney is compromised, the body loses it greatest natural filter--and with that the ability to remove toxins from the body. Prompt treatment is dialysis--a procedure that imitates the function of the kidney to remove toxins and waste from the blood. It is effective, but it also expensive.

"They deserted us"

Experts worry that the age of Nigerians facing failing kidneys is falling. Gabriel's age at 20 makes him a poster child for the poster. His situation worsened in 2011 when "he started complaining of sever headache," recalls his mother Comfort Onogwu.

"He was healthier and fatter than we knew him. We could not look at him like that. We took him to hospital, did twenty something tests before they realized it was kidney failure."

It took nearly a year, but Gabriel was finally placed on dialysis in June 2012. Each dialysis session cost N20,000 and required up to three pints of blood (blood is the medium used in dialysis). Gabriel estimates the weekly cost of his kidney management at around N150,000--money his family couldn't afford.

"It affected my family more, because getting that amount of money every week was not easy. We couldn't continue with [three dialyses] weekly, so we had to reduce to twice weekly." Experts recommend three dialyses a week as optimum, but Gabriel's sessions dropped to just once a week eventually.

"Our relations couldn't help again. They deserted us. Help was coming from people we had never met, neighbours--helping with lots of test."

Gabriel started treatment at Asokoro General Hospital, then was moved to National Hospital. A transplant was the only option left when he came onto Nafs' radar at View Point "in a very, very pathetic situation and in severe pains," says Nafs founder Sulu-Gambari.

"When they were told the options of treatment and the financial implications, which obviously the family was nowhere capable of financing; I asked the management how we could assist."

The option was a transplant, and the choice was between the US at N16 million and India at N8.5 million. View Point, which has been doing minimal-invasion surgeries since it started, agreed it could do the transplant for N5 million but it didn't have every equipment needed.

"The foundation took it upon itself to acquire some equipment from London to enable them perform the surgery," says Sulu-Gambari. The acquisition was outside the N5m agreed upon, but the extra spending is being considered down payment for future surgeries for indigent patients.

Nafs has opened an account at the hospital through which anyone can directly fund future transplants. A second kidney transplant for a 50-year-old patient is scheduled for some time in March.

"The whole idea is not to assist only one person. We want it to be a continuous thing whereby other indigents that cannot afford it, the foundation will be able to step in to help. For us to have good result and sustainability, we have to be able to part with money."

Nearly 16 surgeons hovered over Gabriel in the theatre, headed by Dr Nadey Hakim, director of kidney and pancreatic transplant, Imperial College, University of London, with some 2,000 successful transplants under his belt.

The foundation has defended using a top brain in kidney transplant as a means of teaching local doctors to carry out future transplants on their own. It also plans to invite surgeons from as far as Maiduguri, Kano and Abuja to sit in on the next transplant.

Giving hope

The emphasis on chronic kidney disease is for a reason, says Sulu-Gambari.

CKD is not only a painful but expensive condition for patients and their families. "The cost of haemodialysis in government hospital is about N2 million in one year; in private hospitals, it is N4 million."

"If you have a successful kidney transplant, the patient becomes 100 percent, cured, he goes back to his normal life. That is the joy in it, as against diseases such as cancer whereby you spend so much money and the outcome is not pleasant.

"This one, if the transplant is done successfully then you are 100 percent sure the patient will enjoy a happy life and that happiness gives me great pleasure."

It has also immense publicity "and a lot of interest in the hospital," says View Point chief medical director, Dr Hauwa'u Bello-Gambari. "More people are coming in, trying to find out what else we can do, and patients with kidney problems have been coming too."

But Bello-Gambari says View Point "wouldn't be limited by kidney problems alone."

There have been few recorded successful transplants in other major hospitals, but that it is also possible in smaller, lesser known hospitals is a lesson for larger teaching hospitals--a lesson the foundation wants noted. It is also one score in favour of Nigeria in the rush to stem trips abroad for medical procedures.

Comfort Onogwu insists her family could never afford medical bills for any treatment abroad, and a transplant back in Nigeria still isn't cheap either.

"I never dreamt I could one day go for this transplant," says Gabriel. "My family cannot even raise half a million naira." But he's back home with a new kidney to show for it.

Daily Trust

Victor Moses takes Super Eagles to Nations Cup quarter finals

Chelsea star, Victor Moses was instrumental to Nigeria's two nil victory over Ethiopia Tuesday to qualify for the quarter final match of the on-going 29th Africa Cup of Nations here in Rustenburg, South Africa.

Twice, goal-bound Moses was viciously hacked down in the box for the Super Eagles to earn deserved penalty kicks that ensured that cup holders, Zambia who played a goalless draw with Burkina Faso in the other game of the Group C at the Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit, were eliminated.

It took 80 minutes of the tension soaked encounter before respite came the way of Nigerians who were already on the edge as the scoreless result was a clear signal of elimination of the Super Eagles from the contest.

But Moses, who until Tuesday has not been able to reproduce his Chelsea form for Nigeria stole the show, earning two spot kicks and scoring both to set up a quarter final pairing with the Elephants of Cote d'Ivoire on Sunday.

The first of the infringement on Moses happened in the 79th minute as he collected a pass from the left flank. He waltzed into the box and headed for a one-on-one with Basa Sisay Bancha in goal for the Walya Antelopes of Ethiopia. One of the defenders tripped the Chelsea forward for Moroccan centre referee, Al Ahrach Bouchaib to point to the centre of the box for a penalty kick. Moses sent the ball to the wrong side of the keeper for the first goal on the 80th minute.

On the dot of 90 minutes, rampaging Moses was again tripped, this time, by the goalkeeper. Bancha was given a second yellow card and a second penalty awarded to Nigeria to seal Eagles qualification for the quarter final stage of the 29th edition they played the first two games with shared honours.

Speaking at the post match conference Tuesday night, Coach Stephen Keshi whose job has been on the line following the two draw results said that he needed the victory for Nigerians who have prayed and stayed with the team despite the sluggish start to the campaign.

"The victory is for all Nigerians who have stayed and prayed for us to win a game here. I know the quarter final game on Sunday is going to be a different ball game, we don't want to talk about that now," observed the coach who two players, John Mikel Obi and Ambrose Efe were selected as Fair Play award and Most Valuable Player award winners.

Keshi admitted that the Ethiopians were a difficult team to play, as they refused to come out from their half of the field.

"They choked the middle and made every effort to ensure that one or two players were always on any Nigerian player with the ball. They relied on counter-attack but were read the game right and ensure that we put pressure on them that resulted in the two penalty award," said the Super Eagles gaffer who savoured the victory long into the night with his players.

For the victory and qualification to the quarter final, each Super Eagles player is to pocket $30,000 for their efforts.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Nollywood movies to debut on American cable networks

A welcomed innovation in the entertainment industry is here, as Nollywood movies will now be available on major cable television networks in the U.S. courtesy of Brandcast Media, Inc. Nollywood, the leader in the African movie industry, is currently the third-largest producer of feature films in the world, ranking only behind Hollywood in the United States and India's Bollywood as number two.

Viewers of Time Warner, Cox, partners and affiliate cable television networks will now be able to watch Nollywood movies On-Demand starting February 1st, 2013. This will be a boon to millions of cable subscribers of various cultural orientations in the U.S., Canada and the Caribbean.

Nollywood cable films

With the addition of Nollywood movies to Cable TV content, Brandcast Media, Inc. aims to generate crossover appeal through the exposure of this unique content to over 40 million North American homes. The movies are carefully selected high quality titles that will end the usual buyer's remorse viewers experience with some Nollywood movies they purchase without preview.

There will be no endless parts, just one complete uninterrupted movie viewing experience. With Cable, Nollywood fans that usually watch the movies online will have no concerns about Internet speed or buffering, just when the viewer is being captivated by the movie. About 80% of the movies to be shown on 'Nollywood Hits' have never been seen.

Some of the high quality productions to be featured on Nollywood Hits On Demand include 'Somewhere in Africa', 'Mind Games', 'Unwanted Guest', 'Married But Living Single,' etc., and will feature notable actors in the Nollywood Industry such as Genevieve Nnaji, Van Vicker, Funke Akindele, Majid Michel, Joke Silva, Omotola Jalade Ekehinde, Yvonne Nelson, and so many more.

"The distribution of Nollywood movies on major Cable networks in the U.S. is the next logical stage in the growth of the Nollywood Movie Industry. It's a dream come true for the many talents in the industry and the vindication of a culture often marginalized in the western market; a real chance for bilateral acculturation and the consequent achievement of crossover appeal for the movies as a cultural export from Africa. Now the world will see the real life and style of Africa in the comfort of their homes". - Perry Umoh, President & CEO, Brandcast Media Inc.

As a legitimate global distribution channel, Nollywood on major cable television networks will be an emergent answer to Nollywood's rampant piracy and lack of investment and theatrical release interest. Nollywood's presence on U.S. cable network giants will impact positively the industry's revenue growth and address existing piracy issues. These select Nollywood movies will be available On Demand at $3.95 each.

Video - Interview with the directors of Nigerian boarding school movie ZR-7

Boko Haram agrees to ceasefire

The Jama’atul Ahalis Sunna Lida’awati Wal Jihad Islamic sect, popularly called Boko Haram, Monday again said it had agreed to a ceasefire with the Federal Government to pave the way for dialogue.

This will be the second time in months that the group has supposedly called for an end to hostilities, which was predicated on certain conditions being met, and had handpicked a committee that was to be headed by former military head of state, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari, to hold discussions with the Federal Government.

However, two persons, who claimed to be representing the major faction of the group led by Sheikh Abubakar Shekau Monday met with the press in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital.
Based on the sect’s antecedent, this is the first time anyone associated with Boko Haram is coming publicly to claim affinity with the dreaded group. On other occasions, communication with or through the media has been conducted via teleconferencing.

But in a swift reaction to the sect’s offer, the Federal Government Monday restated its condition for dialogue, adding that it was in the process of appraising the terms given by the sect.

Coincidentally, just as the representatives were calling for a truce, there were reports that eight persons, including a deputy treasurer of a local government area in Borno State, were in the early hours of Sunday killed by gunmen.

One of the two persons, who met with the journalists Monday, introduced himself as Sheikh Abu Mohammad Abdulazeez Ibn Idris, the commander in-charge of North and Central Borno of the sect.

He said the decision on the ceasefire came after meetings were held with the Borno State Governor, Alhaji Kashim Shettima.

In the interview with journalists in Hausa language but translated to English, Idris said: “I, Sheikh Muhammed Abdulazeez Ibn Idris, the second commander-in-charge of southern and northern Borno, after Imam Abubakar Shekau of Jamaatul Ahjlil Sunna lidawati wal Jihad, otherwise known as Boko Haram; for sometimes now, we the members of Jamaatul ahlil Boko Haram sunna lidawati wal jihad (otherwise known as Boko Haram) have recently had a meeting and dialogue with the government of Borno State, where we resolved that given the prevailing situation, there is the need for us to ceasefire.

“We, on our own, in the top hierarchy of our movement under the leadership of Imam Abubakar Shekau, as well as some of our notable followers, agreed that our brethren in Islam, both women and children are suffering unnecessarily.

“Hence, we resolved that we should bring this crisis to an end. We therefore call on all those that identify themselves with us and our course, to from today lay down their arms.”

He further said: “Let every member who hears this announcement relay it to the next member who hasn’t heard. We have met with the Borno State Government on two occasions and the fallout of the meeting is to ceasefire.
“Presently we are going to comply with the ceasefire order and by the time we are done with that, then government security agencies can go ahead to arrest whoever they find carrying arms or killing under our name.”

Idris noted that the sect was aware of the fact that some criminals had infiltrated the movement and attacked and killed people in the name of Boko Haram, adding, “We have also told the government to try to live up to our demands that our members in detention should be released.

“We hope the government will not betray us this time around, because we all know that it was because of the continued detention of our members that this crisis has continued for this long.”

He however warned that should the government fail to meet the terms of the ceasefire, the sect would be forced to resume hostilities, while admitting that the group was fractionalised.

He said: “There is a faction within us, but the larger faction of our movement is the one in support of this ceasefire. Moreover, once top members of our group, including Imam Abubakar Shekau, are in support of the need for a ceasefire, other smaller factions can be dealt with easily.

“This message, by the Grace of Allah, comes directly from the office of Imam Abubakar Shekau, the supreme leader of Jamaatul ahlil Sunna lidawati wal Jihad.”
When contacted to confirm if the governor had been in meetings with the sect, the Special Adviser to the Governor, Media and Communication, Alhaji Isa Umar Gusau, said the governor had always insisted on dialogue with the group and has always tried to reach out to its leadership.

He said: “Well, I am just hearing from you, but you will agree with me that the issue is that of national security. I am not competent to speak on national security issues.
“We have a security council in Borno State; I am not a member of that council and, of course, you know as much as you will also agree with me that no governor will speak on such critical security issues, so I cannot speak on the matter.

“But what I know, which you can also confirm as journalists concerning the activities of the governor, is that from the day he became a governor-elect, even before he was sworn in, he was the first to speak on the need for dialogue as the best way out.
“Governor Shettima has been very firm and consistent in his belief as he has regularly advocated that unless we want to engage in an endless war, the best way out of the crisis is through dialogue towards a peaceful resolution.”

The governor's spokesman added: “I can confirm to you that Governor Shettima has consistently been exploring different ways to establish means of negotiating for fruitful dialogue to end the challenges.

“Anytime someone is killed, be it a civilian, security personnel of any member of the sect, Governor Shettima is deeply pained. He hates to hear that someone lost his or her family member, no matter who that person is.

“He believes that the life of every Nigerian is worth preserving. It is the hope and prayers of Governor Shettima that not just peace but indeed sustainable peace is reclaimed in Borno and the rest of Nigeria in the quickest time, because like he says, that no society can thrive without peace,”

Though Gusau did not confirm that his principal had met with the members of the sect, but investigations by THISDAY revealed that the governor has held two meetings with representatives of the sect and other major stakeholders, including security agencies at the Government House, Maiduguri.

Reacting to the sect’s offer to end hostilities, the Federal Government said Monday that it may soon re-visit the issue of holding discussions with Boko Haram.

A highly placed government official, who pleaded anonymity, dropped the hint to some State House correspondents Monday, saying the Federal Government was working towards appraising the negotiation terms given by the sect.

According to the source, the government was likely to be receptive to the sect's demands if it announces a unilateral ceasefire.

He said although the government was desirous of brokering peace, it was not in a rush to embrace the olive branch being waved by the sect.

The official, who said the government had not taken a formal position on the matter, added: “From our experience, the sect is not reliable and their word cannot be taken at face value.

“All facets of governmental apparatus would be consulted before a final decision is taken on the matter. We are not in a hurry to jump at their offer.”

He reiterated that although the incumbent administration was committed to the peaceful resolution of the problem, it was not going to negotiate with any group from a position of weakness.

He stressed that government would not relent in its employment of proactive security measures in order to safeguard the lives and property of Nigerians.

But in an incident certain to raise doubts over the sincerity of the sect, eight persons, including a deputy treasurer of a local government area in Borno State, were killed in the early hours of Sunday by gunmen.

The eight persons were killed in Gajigana community in Magumeri Local Government Area of the troubled state about 55 kilometres away from Maiduguri, the state capital.

According to residents of the town, the assailants stormed the village around 3 am and killed the treasurer, a woman and six other persons.

The gunmen were said to have selected some household in the community and carefully carried out the assassination of the eight persons.

Mallam Musa Grema, a resident of the town who spoke to journalists on the phone, said he saw eight persons, including three young men when the bodies were brought out for burial.

Joint Task Force (JTF) spokesman, Lt Col Sagir Musa, confirmed the attack on the community in a text message to journalists but did not give the exact number of victims affected by the attack.

He said: “Gajigana community in Magumeri Local Government Area of Borno State was attacked by unknown gunmen at about 3am on Sunday. Information revealed that lives were lost, the exact numbers cannot be ascertained now.”

A rescue worker also confirmed the killing of the eight people.
In a related development, Northern elders have called on the Federal Government to grant amnesty to members of the Boko Haram sect, adding that insecurity, a breakdown of the education system, massive illiteracy and leadership failure were part of the problems bedevilling the region.

According to a communiqué issued after a two-day summit in Kano by the Northern Development Focus Initiative (NDFI), they urged President Goodluck Jonathan to seek dialogue with Boko Haram and grant its members amnesty just as the Federal Government had done with the Niger Delta militants.

The communiqué stated: “Since security is the responsibility of the Federal Government as enshrined in the constitution, all northern states affected by the security crises should compute all monies expended by them for re-imbursement by the Federal Government.

“A judicial commission of inquiry should be set up to establish the remote and immediate causes of ethno-religious conflicts and prevalent insurgency.
“All persons identified to be involved in sponsoring, benefitting or involved in all forms of terrorism and insurgency be prosecuted.

“Federal Government should set up a Northern Nigeria Restoration, Reformation and Rehabilitation Programme to absorb repentant Boko Haram insurgents unconditionally and a special committee of respected northerners should immediately embark on a sympathy and solidarity tour of all states affected by insecurity in the North.”

According to NDFI, Jonathan, Vice-President Namadi Sambo and northern governors have failed to show sympathy for most states ravaged by the Boko Haram insurgency.

The communiqué also revealed that the summit also advocated the death penalty or life imprisonment for indicted corrupt officials in the public and private sectors.
The communiqué was signed by a former governor of the defunct North-western state, Alhaji Usman Farouk, and chairman/secretary of NDFI, Dr. Sadiq Umar Abubakar.

Pension scammer who stole N1.4b Billion set free after paying N750, 000 Fine

One of the eight civil servants charged with alleged misappropriation of N33 billion from the Police Pension Office was yesterday set free by an Abuja High Court under a plea bargain deal with the EFCC.

John Yakubu Yusuf, the Chief Accountant of the Police Pension Office, was yesterday sentenced to two years imprisonment on three counts with option of N250, 000 fines on each.

He is also to forfeit to the state the sum of N325 million and thirteen choice properties in Abuja and Gombe, Gombe State. He paid the total of N750,000 in fines immediately and was allowed to go home.

Yusuf pleaded guilty to the charges after an amended 20 counts charge, filed to accommodate two additional suspects Mrs Uzoma Cyril Attang and Christian Madubuike, was read to them by the EFCC.

Those on trial who pleaded not guilty are Atiku Abubakar Kigo, the Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Head of Service; Esai Dangabar, a retired director at the Aviation Ministry; and Ahmed Wada, a former deputy director of the Police Pension Office and now director in the Federal Ministry of Sports.Others are: accountants Sani Habila Zira, Veronica Ulonma Onyegbula.

Yusuf, who is an accountant and the former assistant director in the Police Pension office, was accused in count 18 of the charge of misappropriating the sum of N20.154 billion alongside Kigo, Dangabar, Wada, Zira and Onyegbula.

In count 19 and 20, the EFCC accused him of pilfering the sum of N1.3 billion and N1.7 billion respectively.

Besides the formal termination of his appointment after being suspended since the trial commenced in March, 2012, Yusuf is also to forfeit to the state the sum of N325 million cash and thirty two choice properties scattered in Abuja and Gombe, Gombe State respectively.

Earlier, counsel to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Rotimi Jacobs (SAN) objected to the option of fine urging the court to give custodial sentence against the convict.

Reacting to the ruling, Yusuf's counsel Maiyaki Theodore Bala told newsmen that his client will pay the fine of N750, 000 immediately because it is an order of the court.

Meanwhile, the court has adjourned to February 26 for continuation of hearing in the other accused persons charged on 20 counts along with Yusuf over alleged N33 billion Police pension fraud.

Related stories: Nigerian pension fund found stashed in UK bank

Permanent secretary arrested for N14 Billion pension fraud

Monday, January 28, 2013

U.S. doesn't need Nigeria's oil

Nigerians whose pastime is bickering over oil resources may soon find out that what they consider as the goose that lays the golden eggs will no longer give them the resources to steal from. Oil may soon be selling for far below the 1982 price level. No thanks to President Barack Obama who, during his first term inauguration urged Americans to find a solution to the country's continued dependence on external oil. Five years down the line, America is almost self- sufficient in oil production and is now turning down offers from traditional suppliers.

America is one country where when the government decides on a line of action, it follows through. But in Nigeria, for over two years now, the issue of the Petroleum Industry Bill passage has been with us without progress. While others are busy finding alternative to crude oil as means of energy, Nigeria's policymakers are busy stealing the little resources available to diversify the economy. Shamefully, just last week, former President of Botswana said at Daily Trust Forum that it amounts to criminal negligence for Nigerian leaders to continue to steal the people's resources entrusted to them through corrupt practices.

Last week, the news wire services were awash with reports that the United States, the highest importer of Nigeria's crude now gets so much crude from its own shale deposits that Canadian exporters to US are selling as far afield as Europe, showing how deeply the U.S. energy revolution is transforming global oil flows. As recently as 2011, close to 100 per cent of Canada's crude exports went to its neighbour, the United States, according to the U.S. Government's Energy Information Administration (EIA).

But trade and shipping sources said more than two million barrels of light crude from Canadian offshore oilfields have gone to Europe in the last month, a taste of what is to come. The change is due to technological advances the U.S. expects will bring 900,000 barrels per day (bpd) record jump in its oil output to 7.3 million bpd in 2013, from places like the Bakken shale deposit in North Dakota that now feeds U.S. East Coast refineries served by Canada.

While this revolution is taking place in the international oil market, Nigeria's federal executive arm of government is at war with federal legislators on the right budget benchmark for crude oil, but the oil market equation is fasting changing against Nigeria. While the executive favours the use of $75 per barrel, the legislators pegged the budget at $79. Both parties will soon discover that they have been too optimistic about the international oil market. From the look of things, both sides should review the budget and reduce the benchmark to $60 per barrel.

US refineries' traditional supplier, Nigeria, is to seek alternative customers and is feeling the pinch of the new Canadian competition in its established European markets. Besides Canada, other traditional suppliers to US market will seek customers in Europe and Asia. If most suppliers of crude are now to face a shrinking market in Europe, one thing is sure, the price of crude will nosedive southward, meaning a crash in prices of crude. This apparently will derail the 2013 budget, no doubt.

Hitherto, US oil reserves have been too expensive to recover using old technology. New technology of a drilling technique called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in which water, sand and chemicals are forced deep underground to drive out trapped oil and gas, have allowed access to millions of barrels of U.S. oil that were previously unattainable. This shale oil is sweet - meaning it has low sulphur levels and is suitable for U.S. refineries - like the Canadian and Nigerian oil it is supplanting.

To the average American oil trader, Shale oil is making its way to the east coast of the United States by rail instead of shipping from long distance, so this is backing out offshore sweet east coast Canadian and Nigerian production. For oil traders, the profit margin had widened sufficiently for arbitrage as it allowed for a nominal profit of nearly $1 million on 600,000-barrel shipment.

The question is, where is Nigerian NNPC seeking new markets? Apparently as it is with Nigeria, they have gone to sleep until one day, they find that there is no market for Nigeria crude. What then will happen? Federal allocation to states will dwindle, salaries will remain unpaid, Federal Government will borrow and borrow to finance the budget, the deficit will grow wider and the private sector will be crowded out of access to credit.

The scary thing is that rising U.S. shale oil output has already started re-routing flows of Nigerian and Algerian light sweet crude oil which used to flow regularly to the United States. U.S. imports of light, sweet crude will fall to virtually zero by 2014, an executive of French energy company, Total's trading arm predicted in October.

This progressive upheaval in crude oil patterns has prompted European refiners to look at changing their slates - lists of suitable crude oil grades for use as feedstock -- to adapt. Traders said that the extra volumes of Canadian crude arriving

in Europe have depressed prices for Nigerian grades, which have fallen around $1 since early December.

Nigeria's Federal Government functionaries, governors and legislators who have been feeding fat on the proceeds of crude sales should be ready to drink the crude when it returns unsold.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Nigeria draws with Zambia 1-1 in Nations Cup

Finally the clash of the Titans has come to an end with both teams holding to a draw. The champions couldn't out-wit the Super Eagles of Nigeria.

This game will be remembered as a tale of two penalties. Mikel's woeful first-half effort that should have put Nigeria ahead, and the Zambia keeper stepping up with an inspired strike to earn a point.

90' +3 Yellow Card Uwa Elderson Echiejile

86 " Yellow Card booked by Emenike for Nigeria

84" Goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene scores for Zambia

83" Onazi makes minimal contact with Mayuka on the edge of the box and it was a baffling decision, but it stood all the same as a penalty

73" Yellow Card booked by Emmanuel Mbola

64" Yellow Card booked by No. 19Nathan Sinkala for Zambia

56" Eminike Jersey No. 9 scores for Super Eagles of Nigeria the striker is played through by Mikel with the Zambia defence in shambles and fires home, beating Mweene at the near post.

Zambia Nigeria

44% Possession 56%

10(4) Shots (on goal) 6 (5)

12 Fouls 15

2 Corner kicks 3

2 Off-sides 1

5 Saves 10

2 Yellow cards 3

Video - President Jonathan talks to Al Jazeera about sending troops to Mali

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan says rebels in Mali must be contained, or it could threaten the security of Africa.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

President Jonathan believes citizens are happy with progress made in power supply

President Goodluck Jonathan has said that his government has done well in turning around the deficit in the power sector and that he believes that Nigerians are pleased with his government.

Speaking in an interview with Christiana Amanpour on CNN last night, Jonathan expressed surprise at her suggestions that 60 per cent of Nigerians were still without stable power supply three years after he had pledged, in another interview with her, to make improvements.

Jonathan also dismissed the notion that the existence of Boko Haram was as a result of government misrule and that the activities of the security agents were aggravating the situation, driving people to the sect, adding that "we should not play politics with Boko Haram."

He also said that if the terrorist rebellion in Mali was left unchecked, it would not only affect Africa but may have repercussions for the rest of the world.

On the power sector, he said, "I would have hoped you would ask an ordinary Nigerian on the streets of Lagos, Abuja or any other city on this issue about power. That is one area that Nigerians are pleased with. And with our commitment, it is working."

Speaking further, he said, "Even if you have the money and the political will to do so (provide stable power), you cannot do it over night. We are working very hard and I promise here that by the end of this year, power will be stable in Nigeria. This is something that has been a problem for years. You cannot correct it overnight."

But available figures showed that while the generation of power peaked in the second half of 2012 to about 4,321megawatts, it did not translate to stable power supply for Nigerians as there were still challenges in the distribution and transmission of generated power.

Available data and PHCN sources have also said that the generation of power which peaked in September had since been declining steadily.

When Amanpour queried Jonathan on the issue of corruption and crude oil theft going on at a massive scale under his administration, estimated at 400,000 barrels daily and $7billion a year, he shifted blame away from his government and challenged the international community to stop buying stolen crude oil from Nigeria. He said the stolen crude was not refined in Nigeria but in refineries in other parts of the world.

Also speaking at a different occasion in Davos, Switzerland, Jonathan warned that if terrorists in Mali were not contained, there would be a spill over effect on some western and African nations.

According to a news agency report, Jonathan told the World Economic Forum yesterday that terrorists "always want to create crisis" and "that's one of the reasons why we will have to move fast."

A military coup in March 2012 led to the takeover of northern Mali by Islamist militants, who recently started moving south, threatening the rest of the West African country.

Jonathan thanked France for sending in troops and aircraft to push back the terrorists.

He said the crisis in Libya, where a weak government is struggling to maintain control, had made things worse in Mali since weapons and fighters from Libya had joined the Mali extremists.


Related stories: Electricity supply increases to 20 hours per day in Lagos

President Goodluck Jonathan says Nigeria will conquer current challenges

ACN says that government must refurbish Police Colleges

The Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) has expressed the hope that the promise by Police Affairs Minister, Caleb Olubolade, that the government will restructure and refurbish police training institutions across the country, is not a hoax designed only to douse the nationwide anger generated by the Channels TV expose on the rundown Police College in Ikeja.

''If this is one of those ploys to divert attention from a burning issue and then continue with business as usual, the government is in for a rude shock, because Nigerians will definitely hold the Jonathan Administration to its promise to refurbish the police training colleges,'' ACN said in a statement issued in Oyo yesterday by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed.

''To convince Nigerians that this is not the usual government gimmick, the minister must give a time frame within which the government will redeem its pledge. This promise cannot be open-ended if it is to be credible,'' it said.

ACN also queried why the government has chosen to intimidate Channels TV, which decided to expose the rot at the police college in Ikeja as part of a strategy to forge a public-private partnership to help raise the resources needed to refurbish the college.

The announcement by the management of the TV station ''postponing'' the forum, which it had planned to hold in order to actualise its plan, is a direct result of President Jonathan's unnecessary and inexplicable anger at the station, when he should have channelled his energy into reversing the rot.

''Yes, Channels TV has not said publicly that it was forced to 'postpone' the forum, but any discerning person knows the TV station had to retrace its steps after no other personality than the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria left it in no doubt that its public service initiative was meant to 'embarrass' the Administration.''

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Video - Comparison of the Lagos Police College in Nigeria and the Miami Police College in America

And here is the Police College of Miami, USA below:

Related stories: President Goodluck Jonathan shocked at decrepit state of police college in Lagos

Four army officers dismissed from military for rape

The Nigerian Army has dismissed four soldiers who were involved in cases of abduction, rape, extortion and assault.

The Commander, Guards Brigade, Brig-Gen Emmanuel Atewe, disclosed this Tuesday at a media briefing at Aguiyi Ironsi Cantonment, Abuja.

Atewe, who was represented by Maj. Peter Elayo, said the allegation was broadcast in one of the nation's broadcast station, Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN) on Jan 14, 2013.

The soldiers were later handed over to police for prosecution.

Following the incident, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) had called on the Chief of Army Staff and the Commissioner of Police for the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Command to investigate the allegations that some men in Army uniform abducted and raped some women in Abuja under the guise that they were prostitutes.

The Executive Secretary NHRC, Prof. Bem Angwe further requested that the two concerned security agencies to update the commission with any action taken on the subject matter to enable it take further necessary action in line with its mandate.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Video - World's largest football jersey unveiled by Guinness in Nigeria

A Guinness world record has been set in Lagos, Nigeria for the world's largest football Jersey.

Super Eagles draw to Burkina Faso 1-1 in Nations Cup

Nigeria Monday night, marked their return to Africa Cup of Nations with a fumbling 1-1 draw with Burkina Faso in a Group C match at the Mbombela Stadium

In a largely uneventful game watched by vuvuzela-sounding fans, Emmanuel Emenike edged the Nigerians in front in the 23rd minute but sloppy defending by Godfrey Oboabona and Joseph Yobo gifted the Burnikabes a precious and well deserved draw, after Alain Traore equalised in the last minute of injury time.

For most period of the game, the Eagles looked out of sorts as they failed to stamp authority in a match that a first half goal ought to have given them the confidence to play better than they did. Save for Mikel, the others were making textbook errors. Mikel was voted man of the match. The goal by Emenike was the only silver lining that the Nigerian could hold on to.

It was a real poacher's goal from the Spartak Moscow forward, who dived to poke the ball home from close range ahead of the onrushing Burkina Faso goalkeeper Abdoulaye Soulama, after a deft knockdown from strike partner Brown Ideye.

But after the goal, the Eagles threw caution into the wind as they were booked for reckless fouls. The likes of Fegor Ogude, Efe Ambrose, Nosa Igiebor, Mikel all got booked by the Algerian referee. Efe pulled a defender's shirt and this earned him the red card.

The one man advantage paid for the Burkinabes, who mounted pressure on the Eagles and deservedly got their equaliser in the 94th minute.

Jonathan Pitroipa got clear in the penalty area but the chance looked to have been wasted as he put in a poor cut back while falling over. But the centre back pair of Yobo and Oboabona, then got in each others way, allowing substitute Alain Traore to expertly place his shot past Vincent Enyeama.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Mother throws child in river

A 30-year-old mother, Yidiat Bakare, has been sentenced to five years in prison by an Osogbo Magistrate’s Court for throwing her three-month-old baby into a river in Ifon-Osun community, Osun State.

Yidiat was said to have thrown the baby into the river to express her grievance following a disagreement with her husband, Amodu Bakare.

According to the charge sheet obtained on Friday by our correspondent, the offence was committed on January 10, 2013 at about 4pm.

The woman, who pleaded guilty to the offence when the charge was read to her, urged the court to temper justice with mercy.

Police prosecutor, Mr. Oladoye Joshua, said her behaviour resulted in the death of the baby, stressing that the offence was punishable under Section 325 of the Criminal Code, Cap 34, Volume II, Laws of Osun State of Nigeria 2003.

Yidiat’s lawyer, Mr. Jimoh Daramola, urged the court to be lenient in its judgement, describing the incident as a personal tragedy to the mother.

After listening to the positions of the prosecution and defence counsel, Magistrate Olusola Aluko found Yidiat guilty.

The magistrate described the crime as unacceptable and heinous.

Aluko said, “People should exhibit restraint during disputes. It is always good to seek amicable resolution of conflicts at all times.

“The baby sent to the grave does not know whether the parents were quarrelling or not. This crime is unacceptable and heinous.”

He thus sentenced Yidiat to five years in prison with hard labour without an option of fine.


Related stories: Video - Man arrested for killing his 4 month old son for ritual

President Goodluck Jonathan shocked at decrepit state of police college in Lagos

Shocking discoveries by President Goodluck Jonathan during his unscheduled visit on Friday to the Police College, Ikeja, may lead to a major shake-up in the Nigeria Police Force and the Ministry of Police Affairs, findings by The PUNCH have revealed.

A Presidency official, who spoke to one our correspondents in confidence, on Sunday, said, “The picture being painted is that of total neglect of the police training colleges, including the one in Ikeja.

“But the fact is that some money was budgeted for those colleges. How has the money been spent? There will be a probe and anybody found wanting will be sacked.”

Already, sources said top officials at the Ministry of Police Affairs, the Police Service Commission, and the office of the Inspector-General of Police have been put under scrutiny over the condition of the PCI.

It was also gathered that the DIG ‘E’ Department, Mr. Marvel Akpoyibo, who oversees training in the Nigeria Police, might be called upon to give explanations on the “unacceptable magnitude” of rot in the police training schools.

Jonathan, who could not hide his anger during the visit to the PCI en route Cote d’Ivoire for the ECOWAS Summit on Mali, said that the rot , being televised as a documentary on a Lagos-based privately-owned Channels Television, was meant to tarnish the image of his administration.

The documentary was said to have informed his unscheduled visit to the college.

“This is a calculated attempt to damage the image of this government. The Police College, Ikeja, is not the only training institution in Nigeria,” he had said.

His questions on who got Channels to film the depreciation in facilities caused by years of sustained decay were not answered by the embattled commandant of the college.

A confidant of the President said that Jonathan was of the view that those appointed to occupy sensitive positions had failed to do their jobs.

The President’s visit coincided with a wedding reception being held at the Police College.

There were fears that the police college had long deviated from the standard norms associated with a police formation .

It was learnt that the field of the Police College was being rented out to the public for ceremonies ranging from weddings, funerals and sundry social activities. The proceeds from such rentals hardly appear in the college’s books nor do they reflect in the maintenance of facilities in the school.

Also, those in charge of the PCI were alleged to place priority on such rentals at the expense of serious training programmes in the school.

The Police Public Relations Officer of the PCI, Mr. Agu Genny, however, said he did not know if money was paid to the college for renting the field as it was not under his responsibility.

“I don’t know how much or if money is paid for using the field because it is not my responsibility. That question should be directed to the officer in charge of finance or the commandant of the college”, he said.

Like the proceeds from the rentals, monies realised from billboards, including spectacular boards that are rented by advertising agencies, are not accounted for.

An officer, who declined to give his name because of the sensitivity of the scandal, said, “Look, for many years outdoor advertising agencies have always erected their spectacular billbords in our premises.

Video - 30 human bodies found in river

Over 30 dead bodies, all male, were (yesterday) found floating on Ezu, a river at the boundary between Anambra and Enugu states.

The decomposing bodies without any noticeable body mutilations or injuries could not be identified by the people of Amansea community who live in the area on Anambra state side of the divide.

Eyewitnesses told Channels Television that the bodies were discovered in the early hours of the morning when they went to fetch water.

Anambra and Enugu states Commissioners of Police who visited the area said investigation will commence to unravel the mysterious incident.

The river is the only source of water for the five communities of Amansea, Ebenebe, Ugbenu, Ugbene and Oba-Ofemili and the development had caused a lot of discomfort to the people.

Anambra State Commissioner of Police, Bala Nasarawa, who shuddered at such inhuman and ugly incident, said investigation in to the matter will commence immediately while his Enugu counterpart, Musa Daura, maintained that Enugu and Anambra enjoy relative peace and so could not decipher where the corpses were coming from.

Daura wondered how the avalanche of dead bodies got there because he had not heard of any communal clash whether in Enugu or Anambra where many people were killed".

Anambra State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Lawrence Ikeafor, also wondered where the dead bodies could be coming from as there are no communal clashes within the state or even in neighboring Enugu state. He however advised the villagers not to fetch water from the river until the bodies are cleared and buried.

Nigerians in UK prisons to be sent home

Nigerians serving in various prisons in the United Kingdom will soon be sent back home to serve their jail terms following a bill to that effect now waiting for President Goodluck Jonathan's assent.

The Clerk of the National Assembly Salisu Maikasuwa forwarded the bill passed by the lawmakers to the President in December last year.

Under the new bill, Nigerians serving in UK jails will be repatriated home without their consent.

THISDAY on Sunday had exclusively reported in August last year that the prisoners' exchange programme entered into between Nigeria and UK was suffering a hitch because of the domestic laws in Nigeria, which oppose forceful repatriation.

Of the 571 Nigerians serving in UK prisons as at August 2012, only 40 of them were said to have agreed to return home to serve out the remainder of their sentences.

One prisoner was repatriated to Nigeria in May last year from the UK and is serving out his term at an undisclosed prison in the country.

However, according to THISDAY investigations, the larger majority were stalling the transfer as they know their repatriation home to serve out their jail term could not be effected without their consent.

The newspaper had reported that the 1963 Prisons Act would have to be amended to pave way for the transfer by removing the issue of consent.

If President Jonathan signs the amendment bill into law, at least 350 of the Nigerian prisoners in UK would be eligible for without consent return to Nigeria.

Eligibility is determined by the seriousness of the offence for which a person has been jailed and the amount of time he has left on his sentence.

The Head of Political Section of the British High Commission in Abuja Paul Edwards told THISDAY at the weekend that the Senate and House of Representatives passed the amendment bill after they were convinced the bill does not seek to return prisoners convicted for minor offences such as failure to pay parking fines.

Earlier at a press briefing in Abuja on Friday, British High Commissioner to Nigeria Dr. Andrew Pocock had said the legislation was in an advanced stage.

Presently the agreement between the two countries is that a prisoner must consent to being returned to his country, a condition, which Nigerian prisoners in the UK have exploited to refuse to be sent back to serve out their sentences.

The major reason for the refusal stems from the fact that most prisons in Nigeria are in deplorable conditions and are not fit for human habitation.

Britain therefore demanded that prisoners be transferred to prisons that meet human rights standards where the rights of the prisoners would be respected.

To reduce the unnecessary burden on its taxpayers and ensure that the prisoners are put in prisons that meet minimum standards, Britain reportedly committed £500,000 to train prison guards and to fund an ongoing prison officer exchange programme.

It also built an extra wing at the Kirikiri Prisons in Lagos and provided the funds for the construction of a guard tower for the extra wing after officials discovered that the building was not being used.

An additional £1 million was also allegedly earmarked for ensuring the smooth implementation of the agreement.

At an earlier interview with THISDAY, Edwards had said it makes more sense for a prisoner to serve out his sentence in his home country where he has a family support structure.

"Some of the works we have been doing is to ensure that there are prisons where their human rights would be respected," he had said.

The Minister of Interior, Comrade Abba Moro, had also said earlier the prisoners' exchange programme was not effective because of some factors, which included the domestic laws in the country opposing forceful repatriation, the issue of prisoners' consent, unwillingness of Nigerian prisoners abroad to serve in prisons at home and the obsolete 1963 Prisons Act.

He said the act was inimical to any meaningful reform of the prison system.

Henry Okah found guilty of terrorism

Nigerian terrorist Henry Okah was found guilty of masterminding two car bombings in Abuja, by the High Court in Johannesburg on Monday.

Handing down judgment, Judge Neels Claassen said the State had proved Okah's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Claassen said Okah's failure to testify meant evidence against him remained uncontested.

Twelve people were killed and 36 injured in the car bombs on October 1, 2010, the anniversary of Nigeria's independence.

Okah was arrested in Johannesburg the next day.

He apparently leads the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, which claimed responsibility for the blasts.

He was found guilty on Monday of engaging in terrorist activities, conspiracy to engage in terrorist activity, and delivering, placing, and detonating an explosive device.

Okah also faces terrorism charges relating to two explosions in March 2010 in the southern Nigerian city of Warri.

South Africa has tried him as part of its international obligation, as the Nigerian authorities had not applied for his extradition, according to the prosecution.

After the guilty finding, Okah was taken to the court holding cells under heavy police guard.

When his wife became emotional a friend comforted her, before they left the courtroom.

About 10 police officers were in the court, with another four outside while the case was being heard. The main road in front of the court was also closed.

Sentencing is expected on January 31.

Related story: Video - Henry Okah trial resumes in South Africa

Friday, January 18, 2013

Video - New Nigerian TV series Gidi Culture

The series, it shows the lives of several young people from different walks of life as they relate to each other under various climates of prosperity and privation often associated with life in Gidi (Nigeria).

The show’s protagonist, Halima Dan-Ladi Adebayo, is a naïve upper class Nigerian attending graduate school in New York City. When a grave accident occurs in her apartment, Halima’s divorced Mother, Mariam Dan-Ladi, coerces her daughter to return to Nigeria indefinitely and attend the Lagos Business School. Life in Gidi exposes Halima to a whole new world she never knew existed.

Will she ultimately succeed in this challenge of familiarizing herself with Gidi Culture and come to terms with her new reality? Or will she plummet into bad company and fall prey to the enmity amassed by some of Nigeria’s frustrated youth? Only time will tell as life unfolds in “Gidi Culture.”

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Nigeria deploys military aircrafts to Mali

Chief of Air Staff Air Marshal Alex Barde yesterday disclosed that the Nigerian Air force will today commence the deployment of Nigeria war planes to check the activities of Islamist fighters in Mali.

Barde who stated this in Enugu when he paid his maiden visit to Enugu Airforce Unit, added that the action was in compliance with President Goodluck Jonathan's directive that a military contingent be sent to assist the country of Mali to contain the jihadists liked to terror group, Al Qaeda.

He said: "As I speak to you now," he said, "our air planes have arrived in Port-Harcourt. In fact, I'm on my way to Rivers State now and tomorrow morning we are beginning our deployment to Mali and that's what I am going to witness.

"I am going there to bid them a sort of farewell and go-and-fight-well greetings as they depart.

"We expect them to do what Mr. President directed that we do; he has directed that we should go and assist Mali in repelling the jihad fighters there because you know that if they finish with Mali the next thing will be to come to Nigeria.

"So we are going there to fight them and also protect our borders.

He explained that his maiden visit to Enugu unit was to talk to them on his vision for the Nigeria Air Force.

According to him, "We must use innovative technology because we have spent so much money buying equipment and each time they are bad we have to send them to the manufacturers for repairs. We have the know how, we have the personnel; we have professionals in the Airforce and we cannot too continue buying and not repairing."

Related stories: Nigeria deploys 900 troops to Mali

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

World Bank says poverty has reduced in Nigeria

The World Bank has praised economic policies of the present administration declaring that it has led to slight reduction in the country's poverty index from 48 to 46 percent.

Speaking when he visited President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday, World Bank's vice president for Africa, Mr Mouktar Diop, said Nigeria's economic indicators remained positive even times of recession.

He said "at the time when the economy is going down, we have seen that Nigeria has been keeping a growth rate which is rather significant. So, I was here to hear from the President's priority and discuss other issues such as how poverty has been evolving in the country and what we can do to accelerate the reduction of poverty.

"Our work recently has shown that there is slight reduction in the level of poverty in Nigeria moving from 48 to 46 percent. The trend is good. It needs to be accelerated obviously. What we discussed are the policies that we can put in place to accelerate the pace of poverty reduction in Nigeria."

Diop said the World Bank has decided to intervene in Nigeria's energy crisis saying, "We decided at the World Bank to put up a task force which will include private sector branch to support the reform. It is good that the reform is really making progress. I was with the main players of the power sector today, and they were all happy with the reform process so far."

On his part, Jonathan said though some of the reforms were not easy to push through, his administration would continue to do its best towards ensuring sustainable growth in the country.

"We will continue to do our best. We would have had more robust growth by now but for the global economic recession. With your continued support, we will certainly achieve more," the president said.

Jonathan said that with the continued support of the World Bank, other international institutions and investors the Federal Government will achieve an even higher growth rate for the national economy.

Nigeria deploys 900 troops to Mali

The Defence headquarters in Abuja will today commence airlifting of over 900 soldiers deployed to Mali for peace keeping operations.
The soldiers will work alongside troops from Benin, Ghana, Niger, Senegal, Guinea, Burkina Faso and Togo to assists the Malian military reclaim towns in the northern Mali captured by militants recently. France has already stationed 800 troops in Mali. A Nigerian, Major General Shehu U Abdulkadir has assumed work as Force Commander in Mali.
Director, Defence Information, Colonel Mohammed Yerima, said at a media briefing yesterday that "President Goodluck Jonathan approved the deployment of battalion (776 soldiers). In the next 24 hours (today), a company (150 soldiers) will be deployed while the remainder will be deployed later. Already, the Force Commander, Gen. Abdulkadir, is on ground in Mali. Also, technical teams of Nigerian army, air force are already in Mali to facilitate the eventual full deployment of fighter aircraft and support element."
He said the deployment followed the request of the Malian government and UN Security Council resolution 2085 of December 2012.
Military sources in Abuja said Air Force C-130 planes will be used to transport troops and equipment to Mali.
Meanwhile, the EU High Representative Catherine Ashton, said in a statement yesterday that "The European Union remains committed to supporting international efforts to protect democratic government, the rule of law and the territorial integrity of Mali."

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The first lady Patience Jonathan flown back to Germany for medical reasons

Wife of President Goodluck Jonathan, Mrs. Patience Jonathan, was on Monday flown to Germany for what a Presidency source said was for a check-up.

Fears over Mrs. Jonathan’s health spread last year when he was away from the country for weeks.

She was said to be in critical condition in a German hospital.

Although she looked pale, she denied being admitted to any hospital when she finally returned on October 14, 2012.

Her husband later confirmed that she was sick but had recovered.

The President’s wife had to cancel a thanksgiving service and reception she initially planned in honour of former Kaduna State Governor Patrick Yakowa and ex-National Security Adviser Andrew Azazi, and others, who died in a helicopter crash in Bayelsa State on December 15.

Although an online news portal, Saharareporters, reported that Mrs. Jonathan was flown out of the country, a Presidency source told our correspondent that she only travelled on Monday for a check-up.

“You will recall that since she returned last year, madam has not travelled out of the country. This trip is just for a check-up, nothing more. Any report that she had been hurriedly flown abroad is far from the truth,” the source said.

Patience attended the inter-denominational service held as part of activities marking this year’s Armed Forces Remembrance Day at the National Ecumenical Centre, Abuja on Sunday alongside her husband and mother-in-law.

She looked healthy throughout the service.

Efforts to get her media aides for comments on the telephone were unsuccessful at press time.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Video - Lake Chad left out to dry

Once counted as the largest water reservoir in Africa, Nigeria's Lake Chad is rapidly shrinking due to excessive use and climate change. The lake supplies water to four different countries but it could dry up by the end of the century. Efforts to solve the problem and replenish the lake's water, however, are stuck in the pipeline.

Suspected mastermind behind media houses attack arrested

Barely 24 hours when a top suspected Boko Haram terrorist was arrested in Abuja at a former National Assembly Lawmaker, the Joint Task Force, JTF, "Operation Restore Order," said, Sunday, it has also arrested one Mohammed Zangina, a high profile Boko Haram Commander and Shura Committee member who reportedly co-ordinated the bombings of Thisday and The Sun newspapers last year at the Government Reserved Area,GRA, Maiduguri.

In a statement in Maiduguri by the JTF spokesman, Lt Col. Sagir Musa the JTF said, the suspect was in Maiduguri to plan several deadly attacks against civilians and security personnel any moment from yesterday.

Meanwhile, all major roads leading to churches and other strategic locations were cordoned off for several hours by JTF operatives, yesterday, resulting to traffic gridlocks for hours during and after Sunday services. The JTF, however, said Mohammed Zangina a.k.a Mallam Abdullahi or Alhaji Musa, was the leader of North Central and Coordinator of most of the suicide attacks and bombings in Abuja, Kaduna, Kano, Jos and Potiskum.

Sagir further insisted that Zangina was a key member of the Shura Committee of the Boko Haram who was among those declared wanted with a bounty of N25 million placed on him by the JTF on November 23, 2012.

Sagir added that he survived several security manhunts on his hideouts in Abuja, Kaduna, Kano, Jos and Potiskum town of Damaturu, the Yobe State capital which has remained centre of attacks and killings. The spokesman said Zangina's arrest was effected by JTF troops following a special operation conducted in GRA, Maiduguri.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Nigeria ranked 20th saddest country in the world

The influential Forbes Magazine, has listed the country as ranking high in global index for harbouring one of the world's saddest people, saying the country's leadership must move from corrupt practices and official profligacy to render quality leadership to the people.

This is contained in the annual development analysis index that was released on Thursday culled by LEADERSHIP from the Magazine's website, stating that citizens of the country ranked 20th amongst their counterpart sampled across the globe, thus making the country one of the worst country to live in.

Nigeria also shares the same unenviable position with several other African and Asian countries of the world with the war torn Central African Republic topping the chart as the country harbouring the saddest people in the globe.

Below are the first 20:

1. Central African Republic

2. Republic of Congo

3. Afghanistan

4. Chad

5. Haiti

6. Burundi

7. Togo

8. Zimbabwe

9. Yemen

10. Ethopia

11. Pakistan

12. Iraq

13. Liberia,

14. Angola

15. Sierra Leone

16. Guinea

17. Ivory Coast

18. Sudan

19. Mozambique

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Video - Russia wants Nigeria to release arrested sailors

The Russian government Wednesday called for the immediate release of the 15 sailors arrested by the Nigerian Navy for allegedly smuggling arms into the country.

Nigerian authorities intercepted a ship and arrested its Russian crew on October 23 last year after they found 14 AK-47 riffles guns and 8,500 rounds of ammunition on board.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said the sailors were facing a court case initiated "under false pretexts" and that Nigeria broke a promise given to Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, that the men would return to Russia before the New Year.

"We expect that this time around, the Nigerian partners will stick to their word and release the Russian sailors in the nearest time without additional conditions and further delays," Reuters quoted the ministry as saying in a statement Wednesday.

The sailors, who had been kept in navy custody since their arrest in October, were handed over to the police last Monday.

"On Monday, we handed over the crew to the police as we have completed preliminary investigations," spokesman for the Western Naval Command, Lieutenant Commander Jerry Omodara said on telephone, adding that "The ship and the weapons are still in our custody."

The Moran Security Group, the Russian company that owns the confiscated vessel, called the accusations "groundless" and urged Nigeria to release the sailors.

Five dead in Lagos oil barge explosion

At least five people were feared dead and many injured in the late hours of the morning Wednesday, as an oil barge offloading products at the MRS Jetty located at the Tin Can Island Port, Apapa Lagos exploded into flames.

The high degree explosion, which happened at about 11.30 am shattered glass doors and windows of buildings as far as 500 metres away from the jetty, including the administrative building of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Ports and Cargo complex and a branch of First Bank situated over 500 metres away from the scene.

Our correspondent gathered that the incident occurred after a barge, a small ship bringing in fuel from the mother ship and offloading into the MRS tank farm was improperly handled. The Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) confirmed the barge was bearing petroleum motor spirit (PMS) commonly known as fuel.

When LEADERSHIP visited the MRS complex at 12.30pm, business activities at the port have come to a halt, with people settling in small groups and discussing the incident, which was said to have caused stampede at the port.

Officials of MRS were not available for comment and the place was filled with security operatives who barred newsmen from entering the facility. Our correspondent however sighted officials of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), fire-fighting vehicles belonging to neighbouring Integrated Oil Services and the Lagos State Fire Service, which came in at 1.26pm.

An eyewitness said he saw at least five lifeless bodies wrapped in white cloths and taken away to an unknown morgue before he was asked to leave the premises.

Willem Auret, who witnessed the blast from a ship on its way to Snake Island in Apapa, said he saw a tanker barge catch fire at about 11:00 local time (10:00 GMT). "The fire started slowly and then expanded into chaos, exploding more than once," he told the BBC.

"After the initial explosion, which I caught on camera, there was a secondary explosion," he said.

It took about an hour and a half for the port authorities to arrive on the scene, he said.

"First one tugboat arrived... then several others joined it in an attempt to extinguish the fire. They seem to have the fire under control now."

Nema's Akande Iyiola told the BBC that the oil depot at Tin Can Island port where the explosion occurred was owned by the petroleum company MRS Oil.

"I felt the explosion from where we are," Charles Osagie, who works at an import-and-export office in the district, told AFP.

Stephen Keshi picks his Super Eagles squad for Nations Cup

Eagles Coach, Stephen Keshi, Wednesday night released the list of Nigeria's team to the 2013 African Nations Cup. The list was released even as the friendly match between the Eagles and Cape Verde was still on.


Goalkeepers: Vincent Enyeama (Maccabi Tel Aviv, Israel); Austin Ejide (Hapoel Be'er Sheba, Israel); Chigozie Agbim (Enugu Rangers, Nigeria)

Defenders: Elderson Echiejile (SC Braga, Portugal); Juwon Oshaniwa (Ashdod FC, Israel); Joseph Yobo (Fenerbahce, Turkey); Efe Ambrose

(Celtic FC, Scotland); Azubuike Egwuekwe (Warri Wolves, Nigeria); Kenneth Omeruo (ADO Den Haag, Netherlands); Godfrey Oboabona (Sunshine Stars, Nigeria)

Midfielders: John Mikel Obi (Chelsea FC, England); Nosa Igiebor (Real Betis, Spain); Ogenyi Onazi (SS Lazio, Italy); Obiora Nwankwo (Calcio Padova, Italy); Fegor Ogude (Valerenga FC, Norway); Reuben Gabriel (Kano Pillars, Nigeria);

Forwards: Ahmed Musa ( CSKA Moscow, Russia); Emmanuel Emenike (Spartak Moscow, Russia); Victor Moses (Chelsea FC, England); Sunday Mba (Enugu Rangers, Nigeria); Ikechukwu Uche (Villarreal FC, Spain); Brown Ideye (Dynamo Kyiv, Ukraine); Ejike Uzoenyi (Enugu Rangers, Nigeria).

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Italian sailors kidnapped in Niger Delta

Pirates have freed three Italian sailors they abducted from a ship off Nigeria last month, the foreign ministry said in a statement Wednesday.

“Our three sailors are free and will soon return to Italy,” Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi said in a statement, while the ministry said the Italians would be flown back into the country later Wednesday.

The armed pirates abducted the sailors after attacking the MV Asso Ventuno some 40 nautical miles off Nigeria’s Bayelsa state on December 23.

“We’re well, they treated us well,” sailor Emiliano Astarita told his father Franco by telephone on his release, ANSA news agency said.

The ministry gave no details of a fourth sailor, thought to be Ukrainian, who was abducted with them according to Italian media reports.

Terzi thanked the Nigeria authorities who he said had collaborated closely with the Italian foreign office to free the sailors.

Such kidnappings occur regularly off Nigeria’s oil-producing Niger Delta region, with hostages typically released after payment of a ransom.

The ministry would not comment on whether a ransom was paid.

Video - Obasanjo talks to CNN about Boko Haram

Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo talks to CNN about security in Nigeria and the threat posed by Boko Haram.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Nigeria says same sex marriage ban is irrevocable

Senate President, Senator David Mark, at the weekend said the bill prohibiting same sex marriage was irrevocable irrespective of pressure from some sections of the international community and human rights activists demanding the legalisation of same sex marriage in the country.

In a statement signed by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Paul Mumeh, Mark said besides banning same sex marriage, the act also makes homosexuality a criminal offence punishable by imprisonment of not less than 14 years.

The Senate President made the disclosure while addressing the Catholic faithful and guests at the civic reception in honour of the Cardinal John Onaiyean in Abuja.

He said: "We will not compromise on this. I want to invite you all to join the crusade of decency in our society. There are many good values we can copy from other societies but certainly not this one (same sex marriage).

"We have to prove to the rest of the world, who are advocates of this unnatural way that we Nigerians promote and respect sanity, morality and humanity. Every individual is a product of the union of a man and woman."

He acknowledged the cordial relationship between the Nigerian state and the Church, and pledged that the National Assembly would continue to do all within the law to ensure religious freedom and peaceful co-existence in the country.

Mark added that the National Assembly would continue to support religious programmes that have positive bearing on Nigerians but was quick to condemn in the strongest possible terms religious intolerance or extremism.

He therefore enjoined spiritual leaders to continue to pray for good governance, peace and security which are major challenges in our society today.

In a remark, Cardinal Onaiyekan expressed appreciation to the Pope Benedict XII, the government and people of Nigeria for their prayers and support especially since his elevation to the Collage of Cardinals, saying he will continue to be a crusader for peace and unity of the nation where every citizen have a sense of belonging.

Earlier, the chairman of the reception organising committee, Rev. Father Innocent Jooji, noted that Onaiyekan a worthy soldier of Christ has brought honour to the nation with his elevation to the College of Cardinals.