Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Video - Building a floating school in Makoko

Architect Kunle Adeyemi explains the logistics building houses in the village of Makoko, Nigeria.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Chinua Achebe passes away at 82

Nigeria's literary icon and publisher of several novels, Chinua Achebe, is dead.

Mr. Achebe, 82, died in the United States where he was said to have suffered from an undisclosed ailment.

PREMIUM TIMES learnt he died last night in a hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, United States.

A source close to the family said the professor had been ill for a while and was hospitalised in an undisclosed hospital in Boston.

The source declined to provide further details, saying the family would issue a statement on the development later today.

Contacted, spokesperson for Brown University, where Mr. Achebe worked until he took ill, Darlene Trewcrist, is yet to respond to our enquiries on the professor's condition.

Until his death, the renowned author of Things Fall Apart was the David and Marianna Fisher University Professor and Professor of Africana Studies at Brown.

The University described him as "known the world over for having played a seminal role in the founding and development of African literature."

"Achebe's global significance lies not only in his talent and recognition as a writer, but also as a critical thinker and essayist who has written extensively on questions of the role of culture in Africa and the social and political significance of aesthetics and analysis of the postcolonial state in Africa," Brown University writes of the literary icon.

Mr. Achebe was the author of Things Fall Apart, published in 1958, and considered the most widely read book in modern African Literature. The book sold over 12 million copies and has been translated to over 50 languages worldwide.

Many of his other novels, including Arrow of God, No Longer at Ease, Anthills of the Savannah, and A man of the People, were equally influential as well.

Prof Achebe was born in Ogidi, Anambra State, on November 16, 1930 and attended St Philips' Central School at the age of six. He moved away from his family to Nekede, four kilometres from Owerri, the capital of Imo State, at the age of 12 and registered at the Central School there.

Mr. Achebe was a consistent critic of various military dictators that ruled Nigeria and was a loud voice in denouncing the failure of governance in the country.

Twice, he rejected offers by the Nigerian government to grant him a national honour, citing the deplorable political situations in the country, particularly in his home state of Anambra, as reason.

Below is how Brown University profiled him on its website:

"Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe is known the world over for having played a seminal role in the founding and development of African literature. He continues to be considered among the most significant world writers. He is most well known for the groundbreaking 1958 novel Things Fall Apart, a novel still considered to be required reading the world over. It has sold over twelve million copies and has been translated into more than fifty languages.

"Achebe's global significance lies not only in his talent and recognition as a writer, but also as a critical thinker and essayist who has written extensively on questions of the role of culture in Africa and the social and political significance of aesthetics and analysis of the postcolonial state in Africa. He is renowned, for example, for "An Image of Africa," his trenchant and famous critique of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. Today, this critique is recognized as one of the most generative interventions on Conrad; and one that opened the social study of literary texts, particularly the impact of power relations on 20th century literary imagination.

"In addition, Achebe is distinguished in his substantial and weighty investment in the building of literary arts institutions. His work as the founding editor of the Heinemann African Writers Series led to his editing over one hundred titles in it. Achebe also edited the University of Nsukka journal Nsukkascope, founded Okike: A Nigerian Journal of New Writingand assisted in the founding of a publishing house, Nwamife Books–an organization responsible for publishing other groundbreaking work by award-winning writers. He continues his long-standing work on the development of institutional spaces where writers can be published and develop creative and intellectual community."

Related story: Chinua Achebe Tops Forbes' List of Influential African

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Video - Information Technology to improve Lagos

CNN's Errol Barnett meets Bosun Tijani who wants to improve education with technology.

166 Feared Dead in boat accident

A boat traveling from Oron in Akwa Ibom State to Malabao in Equilateral Guinea, yesterday, capsized at the Calabar Waterways with no fewer than 166 passengers feared dead.

Eyewitnesses said the passengers were traveling in a "giant-sized wooden boat" when it capsized at 40 nautical miles along the coast of Calabar off Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, waterways".

Investigation shows that 45 corpses of some of the victims have been deposited at the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital, UCTH, mortuary.

But Mr David Akate, the Assistant Director, Information, Cross River Emergency Management Agency, SEMA, who confirmed the incident, did not give further details.

The eyewitnesses said the boat was carrying 168 passengers, adding that rescue efforts were still going on.

A marine transporter at the Calabar Inland Waterways, Mr Ikechukwu Egwu, also confirmed the incident. He said the passengers of the boat were mostly Igbo traders who were heading for Gabon, adding that they were mostly from the South East states who headed to Oron in Akwa Ibom to board the wooden boat because it was cheap.

"They are mostly Igbo traders who headed to Oron to board the wooden boat because it was cheaper," he said.

The victims' corpses were being deposited in UCTH Calabar instead of Malabo, where the mishap occurred, because they were believed to be Nigerians

A statement by spokesman of National Emergency Management Agency, Mr Y A Shuaib however said "Nigerian rescuers have recovered 9 bodies while two survivors have been taken to UCTH Calabar", adding that rescue continues.

1,585 Nigerians in Norway prisons for drug trafficking

Leaders of the delegation of Norwegian Intelligence Service and Customs officials, Mr. Kai Arild Holm, yesterday, in Lagos, said no fewer than 1,585 Nigerians were arrested and detained in Norwegian prisons between 2000 and 2012 over drug trafficking offences.
Disclosing this development during the team’s visit to the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, in Lagos,  Holm said the visit to the anti-narcotic agency was to enhance collaboration with Nigerian authorities in counter narcotic smuggling, money laundering and human trafficking.
According to him, “in 2012, we arrested 432 Nigerians in Norway and deported 95 over drug trafficking. We need your help in dealing with the problem of West African criminal networks in Norway. Most Nigerians arrested over drug trafficking are based in Europe. They engage in drug smuggling and launder the money back home.”
Chairman of NDLEA, Ahamu Giade, said the decision to collaborate with the Norway was reached after a meeting with a delegation of Norwegian Police and Customs officials that visited the agency in Lagos, Monday.
He said: “We need to enter into a memorandum of understanding to deepen our collaboration with the Norwegian government. Drug trafficking is a common problem and we need to embrace the principle of shared responsibility in addressing it. The technical details will soon be perfected. This will lead to improvement in arrests, prosecution and assets forfeiture.”
The NDLEA boss who condemned the involvement of Nigerians in criminal activities abroad, promised to take necessary steps in boosting the image of the country.
The steps, he added, included effective collaboration in counter narcotics, financial and assets investigation and anti-drug education.
The delegation will spend some days in Nigeria while  details of the memorandum are being worked out.

24 Nigerians in Vietnam prisons

The Nigerian ambassador to Vietnam, Mazi Mathias Orji Okafor, disclosed yesterday that no fewer than 24 Nigerians were currently languishing in different prisons in Vietnam.

Okafor, who disclosed this during a Special Business Forum/Interactive Session between the Vietnamese business delegation and members of Enugu Business Community at the ongoing 24 Enugu International Trade Fair, said one of the Nigerian prisoners in Vietnam who was earlier sentenced to 25 years imprisonment, was later handed a life jail when the Nigerian Embassy in the country appealed the judgment.

He warned Nigerians who intended to do business with Vietnam to stay away from drugs.

He warned Nigerians who intended to do business with Vietnam that there was no room for drug peddling in the country and also advised Nigerians residing in the country to stay away from drugs.

The ambassador disclosed that anybody caught with drugs would either receive a death sentence or be given a long term imprisonment.

Vietnam, he further warned, had no mercy for drug peddlers, stressing that anyone indulging in such an illicit trade was doing so at the risk of his life.

Okafor recalled that when he assumed office in Vietnam, he visited all the prisons where Nigerians were incarcerated and gave them his moral support.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Video - How "Oga at top" became an internet meme

Channels TV reports on how the gaffe by the commandant of the Nigeria Security And Civil Defence Corp in Lagos Mr. Shem Obafaiye during a video interview went viral.

Government lifts suspension of Dana Air

Dana Air is to resume normal scheduled flight operations today as the Federal Government yesterday lifted the suspension placed on the airline last Saturday.

The airline operations were suspended by the Federal Ministry of Information over safety issues.

A statement from Joe Obi, the special assistant on media to the Minister of Aviation said the airline is to resume normal operations today.

"Officials of the Federal Ministry of Aviation and the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) met with the Management team from Dana Airlines yesterday in Abuja and deliberated on some safety issues in connection with the operations of the airline. At the end of the meeting, the suspension of the operations of the airline which took effect last Saturday was lifted. The airline is to resume normal operations immediately" he said.

"However, the particular aircraft which had a snag over the weekend is to remain grounded until after its air-worthiness has been recertified by Boeing, the manufacturer of the aircraft" he also said.

Dana Air spokesman Tony Usidamen confirmed they would resume operations today.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Bus park explosion in Nigeria leaves 25 dead

Five explosions at a bus park in northern Nigeria's main city of Kano killed at least 25 people on Monday, a Reuters witness said, in an area where Islamist sect Boko Haram is waging an insurgency against the government.

The coordinated bombing came as an audio tape emerged of a man saying he was the father of a family of seven French tourists kidnapped by Boko Haram militants.

On the tape he read out a threat by them to increase kidnappings and suicide bombings in Cameroon, if authorities there detain more of the group's followers.

Boko Haram, which wants to carve an Islamic state out of Nigeria, has killed hundreds in gun and bomb attacks since it intensified its insurgency two years ago.

The sect and other related Islamist groups have become a threat to Nigeria, Africa's top oil producer, and Western interests there, and are increasingly menacing its neighbors like Cameroon.

The blasts in Kano destroyed several buses in the Sabon Gari area, mostly inhabited by immigrants from Nigeria's largely Christian south, the Reuters witness said. Military and police cordoned off the area after the blasts.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but Boko Haram, which has frequently attacked the city, was a prime suspect. A spokesman for security forces in Kano state, Ikedehia Iwehia, said dead and wounded were being evacuated.

The sect often targets Christians.

"I ran for my dear life and managed to get out of the park after the second blast. Many people are lying dead. See, my clothes are covered in blood," said witness Ibrahim Bello, holding up a blood-soaked shirt.


The French family was kidnapped from north Cameroon last month but is believed to be being held in Nigeria. Boko Haram has a presence in Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger and Chad, where the four meet on the threshold of the Sahara.

Expanding attacks in Cameroon, a major oil, coffee and cocoa exporter, would further destabilize the region.

In the tape obtained by Reuters on Monday and whose authenticity was being checked by the French Foreign Ministry, the man believed to be Tanguy Moulin-Fournier appealed to Cameroon to free Boko Haram prisoners as a condition of his family's release.

"They don't want to enter in conflict with Cameroon. However, if you arrest their men again in Cameroon, they will multiply kidnapping and suicide bombing operations more in Cameroon than in Nigeria," he said.

"We have been detained for 25 days. The living conditions are harsh and hot in the desert. We are losing strength every day and are becoming sick. We cannot stay long like this," he said, adding that his youngest child was only four.

The tape is preceded by a message in the northern Hausa language by a man claiming to be Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau, saying unless Nigeria and Cameroon release prisoners from the sect, the French hostages will never be set free.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabious visited Nigeria and Cameroon over the weekend to discuss the hostage crisis. Eight French nationals are being held in northern Nigeria - the family plus another being held by Islamist group Ansaru.

The proliferation of kidnappings in parts of northern Nigeria and its neighbors have highlighted the growing risk posed by violent Islamist groups to Western interests.

Western governments fear ties with groups elsewhere in the region are drawing Nigerian Islamists towards a more explicitly anti-Western agenda, like that of al Qaeda's north African wing, especially since France launched an operation to flush them out of northern Mali in January.

Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan said on Monday that some of the seven other hostages believed to have been killed by Islamist group Ansaru this month might actually still be alive and the government has been working to rescue them.

Bill Gates cancels trip to Nigeria over Alamieyeseigha’s Pardon

America’s richest man, Bill Gates, has cancelled his scheduled March 27 official visit to Nigeria, in response to the controversial pardon granted by President Goodluck Jonathan to ex-convicts Diepreye Alamieyeseigha and Shettima Bulama, PREMIUM TIMES can authoritatively report today.

Mr. Gates was due in Nigeria March 27 and 28 to meet President Goodluck Jonathan, state governors and officials of the Federal Ministry of Health concerning the aggressive polio eradication campaign his Bill and Melinda Foundation is undertaking in the country.

That trip, authoritative diplomatic sources said, has now been cancelled, two days after the U.S. government expressed disappointment with its Nigerian counterpart for pardoning convicted money launderers and warned it might cut aid meant for the country.

“I can confirm to you that Mr. Gates won’t be coming as scheduled,” one of our sources told PREMIUM TIMES Monday morning. “The body language of Washington D.C. does not support his travelling to Nigeria. The thinking here is that the Nigerian government has high tolerance level for corruption and should be ostracized in all ways possible.”

Our sources said Mr. Gates has already instructed his staff to inform the Nigerian presidency, the secretariat of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum and the Federal Ministry of Health that he was no longer coming.

Presidential spokesperson, Reuben Abati, did not answer or return calls seeking comment. Contacted, the Director General of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, Asishana Okauru, said he would have to check with his staff whether any such communication had come from Mr. Gates’ office. He did not answer or return subsequent calls. Mr. Gates’ office is not opened as at the time of this report as calls were unanswered.

But checks by this newspaper indicate that the U.S. government has dissuaded Mr. Gates from coming to Nigeria.

“The State Department has advised him that Nigeria is not conducive for such visit at this time,” another source said. “We hope that the Nigerian government will get the message and return to the path of sanity.”

The controversial pardon granted Messrs Alamieyeseigha and Bulama had on Friday sparked fierce diplomatic row between Nigeria and the United States, with the Americans threatening to punish Nigeria over Mr. Jonathan’s action and Nigeria accusing the Americans of meddlesomeness.

“We see this as a setback for the fight against corruption, and also for our ability to play the strong role we’ve played in supporting rule of law and legal institution-building in Nigeria, which is very important for the future of the country obviously,” State Department spokesperson, Victoria Nuland, had told reporters in Washington.

“We have made clear to the Nigerians that this puts a question mark on the kinds of work that we’ve been trying to do with them.”

The U.S. is the world’s top donor. In 2012, it spent about $226 million on health and governance programmes in Nigeria. And about $600million has been requested for 2013, according to U.S. government data. That is apart from what American private foundations such as Mr. Gates’ spend on Nigeria’s government and non-governmental organisations.

Mr. Gate is the biggest foreign supporter of the campaign to eradicate polio in Nigeria and has worked consistently with the Nigerian authorities since 2009 over the matter. His foundation has developed a six-year strategy through 2018 that will help combat polio in Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan and has set aside $1billion per annum for the purpose.

The bulk of that money is meant for Nigeria which currently has the highest cases of polio in the world. Mr. Gates’ efforts has seen improvements which helped Pakistan reduce the number of polio cases from 198 in 2011 to 56 in 2012; and Afghanistan from 80 to 35 during the same period.

The situation in Nigeria worsened during the same period, increasing from 62 in 2011 to 119 in 2012.

Mr. Gates last visited Nigeria in November 2012. During that visit, his foundation entered into a four-year alliance with the Dangote Foundation which promised to provide funding, equipment and technical support to the Kano state government to strengthen polio immunisation.

He had scheduled this March’s visit to consolidate that alliance, meet with President Jonathan, state governors and other stakeholders with a view to generally revving up the war against the pandemic.

Nigeria has world's must crime-ridden ISP

The world’s most crime-riddled Internet service provider is SpectraNet in Nigeria, new research has found. It says that 63% of site addresses hosted on SpectraNet’s servers were found to be sending spam—the highest proportion among 42,201 ISPs studied by Giovane Cesar Moreira Moura, researcher at the Centre for Telematics and Information Technology in the Netherlands.

Crime tended to be concentrated in small areas. A single Indian ISP was found to be uniquely responsible for 7% of the spamming website addresses in the world. Twenty of 42,201 ISPs monitored for Mr. Moreira Moura’s thesis created almost half of the world’s spam.

Mr. Moreira Moura suggests that online crime is distributed in a similar way to the real world with higher rates concentrated in particular neighborhoods. The neighborhood model has implications for cyber-security:

The idea behind the ‘Internet Bad Neighborhood’ concept is that the probability of a host in behaving badly increases if its neighboring hosts (i.e., hosts within the same subnetwork) also behave badly. This idea, in turn, can be exploited to improve current Internet security solutions, since it provides an indirect approach to predict new sources of attacks (neighboring hosts of malicious ones).

We contacted SpectraNet for comment but they had not responded by the time of publication.

Dana Air licence withdrawn again

Dana Air has confirmed its certificate of operations has been temporary withdrawn by the Federal Government, and that it is meeting with the Ministry of Aviation today to discuss a way forward.

Dana Air said they were not told the reason they were suspended. However there were repeated calls by the National Assembly not too long ago that Dana's airline license be suspended until investigations into its aircraft that crashed June 3, 2013 killing 153 people onboard and some 10 others on ground, are concluded.

Tony Usidamen, the Head,Corporate Communications, Dana Air said, " Dana regrets to announce the temporary suspension of our flight operations following a directive from the Ministry of Aviation through the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) on Saturday, March 16, 2013; No specific reason was given for the action. A meeting is, however, scheduled between the management of Dana Air, the Ministry of Aviation and the NCAA on Monday March 18, and we will update you as we get more information".

However, the Minister of Aviation's spokesman, Mr. Joe Obi, said Dana's license suspension was based on safety and precautionary issues.

He said one of Dana's aircraft had issues with its battery some two days, adding that even though it's not a serious issue, the ministry does not want to take chances.

Dana operations were grounded after the crash of June 3, 2012 in Iju Ishaga, Lagos. But the Federal Government lifted the ban on Thursday January 3, after the airline completed the re-certification process.

Nigeria will not pay ransom for kidnapped French hostages

Nigeria ruled out a ransom payment yesterday to kidnappers holding seven members of a French family, as France's foreign minister Laurent Fabius held talks with President Jonathan Goodluck on the abductions.

Last month in Cameroon near the north-eastern border with Nigeria, seven French nationals, including four children under the age of 12, were kidnapped by the Nigerian radical Islamist group Boko Haram. A video posted online showed the hostages with the kidnappers saying they were members of the Islamist group.

The group has accused the West of waging war on Islam, and Nigeria of imprisoning its members.

In an exclusive interview with RFI's Julie Vandal, the Nigerian Foreign Minister Olugbenga Ashiru spoke for the first time publicly about the abduction. He said Nigeria will do everything possible to ensure their safety, but that this does not necessarily include negotiations.

"As part of our own policy, we don't pay ransom to terrorists" Ashiru said. Echoing the same sentiment as his Nigerian counterpart, Fabius added "We cannot divulge information or detail. We need to be both determined and discreet".

In addition to the family, an eighth French engineer is still being held by Ansaru, a group considered an offshoot of Boko Haram. He was kidnapped back in December in Nigeria's northern Katsina state.

Despite the video claim allegedly by Boko Haram, analysts say there is still uncertainty as to who is holding the French family. Some experts have suggested that the motive behind this kidnapping is more financial rather than political.

France is warning those who travel to the region of increased risk following the French-led campaign against Islamist rebels in Mali.

U.S.A. disappointed with pardon of Alamieyesaigha

The United States said yesterday that it was "deeply disappointed" over the pardon granted former governor of Bayelsa State Diepreye Alamieyesaigha who was impeached and later convicted of corruption in Nigeria.

In messages Friday on Twitter, the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria, through its handle @USEmbassyAbuja, said "The #USG is deeply disappointed over the recent pardons of corrupt officials by the GON. #Nigeria." It was followed by another which states: "We see this as a setback in the fight against corruption. #Nigeria"

The pardon to Alamieyeseigha, who is a political confidant of President Goodluck Jonathan, has continued to attract wide condemnation. Jonathan once served as Alamieyeseigha's deputy. His impeachment marked the start of Jonathan's rise in Nigerian politics.

Embassy spokeswoman Deb MacLean told the Associated Press yesterday that officials had no further immediate comment.

Meanwhile, Nigeria's foreign ministry has summoned a top U.S. diplomat to explain why its embassy posted critical comments on Twitter over a presidential pardon given to a former governor convicted on corruption charges.

A statement issued yesterday night said Nigerian officials filed an urgent request to speak to the U.S. deputy chief of mission over what it described as "meddlesomeness."

Friday, March 15, 2013

America concerned with rising crime rate in Nigeria

The United States of America, USA, has expressed concern at the rate crime is spreading in Nigeria.

The American government lamented the worsening crime rate in coastal areas and the free movement of Islamic extremists between Mali and Nigeria.

The US ambassador to Nigeria, Terence McCulley, and his Consul-General,Mr Jeffrey Hawkins, spoke at different fora.

The US ambassador said Islamic extremists have continued to move freely between Nigeria and northern Mali, despite the ongoing French military operation there against them.

The Consul-General on his part said his government was concerned with the growing incidence of criminal activities off Nigeria’s coast. Hawkins, who said this at the closing ceremony of the 2013 Nigeria Maritime Expo, NIMAREX 2013, yesterday, in Lagos, said there seemed to be ineffectual security response to the growing criminal activities.

The ambassador, speaking in Abuja, said as extremists’ shootings, bombings and kidnappings of foreigners continued unstopped across northern Nigeria, halting the violence remained a top priority of the Washington government.

He, however, declined to answer questions about alleged US plans to operate a drone base in neighbouring Niger.

“Officials have seen reports for years” about fighters from the radical Islamic extremist network, Boko Haram, travelling to Mali to receive training there, said McCulley, speaking to journalists on a telephone conference call.

Boko Haram, the main force behind the continuing guerrilla attacks against the Federal Government, is believed by analysts and officials to have ties to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, which operates in Mali, and likely received training and weapons from them.

Nigeria needed to attack the group on multiple fronts

“Nigerians feel that there is a link between extremist activity in the Sahel and their internal extremist insurgency,” McCulley said. The ambassador said Nigeria needed to attack the group on multiple fronts, both militarily and by alleviating northern Nigeria’s crushing poverty and lack of opportunities for its growing, young population.

Respect for human rights

McCulley also said Nigeria needed to “respect human rights” while fighting extremists. Human rights officials have long accused the country security forces of illegally detaining people for months without charges, using torture and even summarily killing suspects.

French troops, with the help of Malian soldiers, have been fighting Islamic extremists who took over the main towns in northern Mali in the weeks after a coup toppled the nation’s government last year. Despite their efforts, it appears extremists continue to be able to simply disappear into local populations and move freely across the region, where desert borders remain loosely patrolled.

Plan by Obama to establish military base in Niger

In his bid to stop that flow, US President Barack Obama announced plans in February to establish a military base in neighbouring Niger to stage drone flights across the Sahel region. While US plans initially called for the drones to be used to gather information about Islamic extremists in Mali, the drones could be used elsewhere in the region.

In the northern states, there has been growing concern and suspicion about the US intentions in the region, despite the ongoing violence.

When asked about the drones, McCulley largely declined to comment, though he said Nigeria’s government had not posed any questions to the US regarding the drone programme.

Crime situation is worsening — US Consul-General

US Consul-General said “both the available data and the anecdotal evidence suggest that the crime situation is only worsening.

“We have difficulty seeing how it is going to get better in the near-term without major improvements in institutional collaboration and a marked increase in political will,” Hawkins said.

The Consul-General said that the bodies expected to protect and defend the maritime commerce were instead perceived to be undermining it. Hawkins said that indeed it could be agreed that there was a huge problem. He said Nigeria had a lot of potential, but the challenge was realising the potential.

He said more than anything else there must be an increase in the political will to effect substantial and sustainable positive change in Nigeria’s maritime environment.

Impetus to do things transparentlyhas been lacking

“Many interlocutors have asserted to us that this is the biggest hurdle. The impetus to do things differently, transparently, effectively and in line with global best practices has been lacking,” he said.

Hawkins said Nigeria should emulate other countries that had the same problem in the past and had successfully tackled it.

11 percent of maternal deaths in Nigeria caused by malaria

Malaria is responsible for 11 per cent of maternal deaths in Nigeria, Jhpiego, a non-governmental agency and an affiliate of John Hopkins University, said on Thursday.

The Country Director of the organization, Emmanuel Otolorin, said in Abuja that about 20 per cent of children who die before the age of five die of malaria.

"Eleven per cent of women who die in pregnancy and childbirth, die because of malaria, about 20 per cent of children who die before the age of 5 die because of malaria, so malaria is a big problem; in fact, there are more deaths from malaria in Nigeria than deaths from HIV, leprosy, tuberculosis all put together.

Mr. Otolorin said that there is the need to create awareness so that more pregnant women and children can gain access to malaria commodities.

"As you know, malaria is a major cause of maternal mortality, and newborn mortality globally and particularly in Africa and more specifically in Nigeria.

"There are very simple interventions that have been identified by WHO and in the global bodies for controlling malaria in pregnancy, but the problem is that in this country, a very low percentage of pregnant women access such interventions," he said.

Mr. Otolorin said there should be a strict adherence to twice dosage of malaria treatment for all pregnant women to reduce maternal mortality from malaria.

"Every pregnant woman should take an anti-malaria drug at least twice in pregnancy, whether or not she has symptoms of malaria, because we know that when they don't have symptoms of malaria, they have malaria parasite in their blood.

He said malaria parasite can cause anaemia, can damage the placenta and reduce the exchange of food and oxygen between the mother and baby so that the baby is starved while in the stomach.

The Jhpiego Country Director said pregnant women must take anti malaria drugs once they start to feel the baby moving.

Prevention of deaths from malaria

The country director said that early recognition of persons who have clinical malaria is possible with the use of rapid diagnosis tests so as to prevent deaths from malaria.

He said about 50 per cent of persons being treated for malaria actually suffered from symptoms of fever, and that treatment should begin with artemisine combination therapy.

Mr. Otolorin also spoke on the importance of sanitation, stressing that water-logged areas is a breeding ground for malaria.

"Sanitation is key because breeding ground for mosquitoes needs to be eradicated, swampy areas, anywhere water can collect, especially during the raining seasons; collection of water in bottles, plastic bottles, pots and pans, and so on.

"Once you have stagnant water, the mosquitoes can lay their eggs there and they grow, and then you have mosquitoes coming out of breeding ground very close to our houses.

"So you need to clear the surroundings, you need to make sure that you don't have containers that harbour stagnant waters around; these are part of the environmental control for preventing malaria," Mr. Otolorin said.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

100,000 babies born annually in Nigeria are HIV positive

A recent report has shown that between 50,000 and 100,000 of babies born in the country yearly are carriers of HIV.

The report was released on Tuesday in Abuja, when the Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, hosted the National Steering Group of the Global Plan towards the Elimination of New HIV Infections among Children by 2015 and Keeping their Mothers Alive.

The group was constituted by President Goodluck Jonathan in April 2012 to help mobilise national leadership for global plan on eliminating mother-to-child transmission, implementation and keeping their mothers alive.

The NSG has since been working across states of the federation, seeking to end transmission of the scourge.

In her presentation, entitled, ‘Update on eMTCT in Nigeria,’ the National Coordinator (HIV/AIDS Division) in the Federal Ministry of Health, and member of the group, Dr. Evelyn Ngige, said global target was to reduce the number of new HIV infections among children by 90 per cent and reduce the number of AIDS-related maternal deaths by 50 percent.

According to the report, while the current population of HIV positive persons in Nigeria stands at 3.1million, the number of births in the country annually is six million.

Besides, while HIV prevalence remains 4.1 per cent, the population of HIV positive pregnant women annually in the country is put at 229,480.

The report said, “Fifty-eight per cent of women attend Ante Natal Care, at least once; 45 per cent attend, at least, four times; 35 per cent of births occur in health facilities; 39 per cent deliveries by skilled birth attendants, while HIV babies born annually are between 50,000 and 100, 000.”

The report also indicated three bottlenecks, which it attempted to address.

They are strengthening human resources for health; improving efficiencies in the HIV commodities; and supply chain management and improving early infant diagnosis.

Outrage over pardon for Alamieyeseigha

President Goodluck Jonathan came under heavy criticism yesterday over his granting of state pardon to convicted former Governor of Bayelsa State Diepreye Alamieyeseigha.

Jonathan presented a request for approval of the pardon to the Council of State which held a meeting at the State House in Abuja yesterday.

Although there was no official announcement on the outcome of the meeting, a member of the council who attended confirmed to Daily Trust last night that the pardon was granted to Alamieyeseigha and six others.

The others were the late General Shehu Musa Yar'Adua, former Bank of the North managing director Mohammed Bulama, retired General Oladipo Diya, the late General Abdulkareem Adisa, Major Bello Magaji and Muhammad Biu.

Daily Trust learnt that Jonathan told the council members that the Bayelsa Traditional Rulers Council on Monday submitted a request to him for a state pardon to Alamieyeseigha.

Alamieyeseigha, who served as governor of Bayelsa State with Jonathan as his deputy from 1999 to 2005, was impeached and later convicted for corruption. With the state pardon, he is now freed of the constitutional ban from holding public office in the future.

Yar'Adua, Diya and Adisa were convicted of plotting a coup against then Head of State General Sani Abacha in 1995. Yar'Adua died in prison in December 1997, while Adisa died several years after he was released from detention.

Under section 175 of the constitution, a state pardon is granted by the president after consultation with the Council of State.

It says: "(1) The President may -(a) grant any person concerned with or convicted of any offence created by an Act of the National Assembly a pardon, either free or subject to lawful conditions; (b) grant to any person a respite, either for an indefinite or for a specified period, of the execution of any punishment imposed on that person for such an offence; (c) substitute a less severe form of punishment for any punishment imposed on that person for such an offence; or (d) remit the whole or any part of any punishment imposed on that person for such an offence or of any penalty or forfeiture otherwise due to the State on account of such an offence.

"(2) The powers of the President under subsection (1) of this section shall be exercised by him after consultation with the Council of State."

'Encouraging corruption'

Senior lawyers, politicians and activists yesterday condemned the grant of pardon to Alamieyeseigha, saying it was an indication that Jonathan was not serious about the fight against corruption. They said also the inclusion of six others in the pardon list was a mere smokescreen.

Former Kaduna State Governor Abdulkadir Balarabe Musa said the pardon has shown that Jonathan has abandoned the fight against corruption.

"What is the justification for the pardon? Are they too old to stay in the prison where they belong? This is unfortunate particularly at this period when the government is talking about the fight against corruption," he said.

"This simply means that President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan has abandoned his anti corruption crusade. It has a political manoeuvring."

President of the Civil Rights Congress, Comrade Shehu Sani, said he was in support of the pardon for Yar'Adua and the others but that it appeared they were on the list as a smokescreen to re-launch Alamieyeseigha into politics.

"I'm in support of pardon for Shehu Musa Yar'Adua, Oladipo Diya and co but I know they were simply used as a smokescreen. They were given pardon in order to give credibility to the pardon but the exercise was done because of Alamieyeseigha," he said.

Lawyer Festus Keyamo, in a statement last night, said the pardon for Alamieyeseigha "typifies the height of insensitivity of this government to the feelings of Nigerians about the war against corruption."

He added: "This pardon by the President teaches no bitter lesson to thieving and corrupt public officers. It encourages corruption at the highest and the lowest levels of public office and the decision itself is corruption per excellence."

Another lawyer, Bamidele Aturu, said if the pardon is truly granted, it "will signal the end of the existing phony war against corruption."

Former president of the Nigerian Bar Association Rotimi Akeredolu said the pardon does not rule out the fact that Alamieyeseigha has committed a crime which would still hold against him.

But lawyer Mike Ozekhome said the pardon "cleansed" the ex-convict of any "sin."

He said, "The stigma of being an ex-convict has just been totally washed away and such a person can contest elections. He is taken in the eye of the law that he has never committed any offence.

"Anyone who will blame President Jonathan for giving Presidential pardon to his former boss, who brought him out of the classroom, such will be living in a dream world of unreality. It is only natural that the President will want to pardon his former boss who has always been there for him."

In his own reaction, Barrister Yahaya Mahmud (SAN), said Jonathan has the constitutional power to pardon anybody in consultation with the council of state, as provided by section 175 of the constitution.

Constitutional lawyer Fred Agbaje said the pardon would promote integration and unity among diverse groups.

In its reaction, the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) last night said the presidential pardon for Alamieyeseigha was "laughable and tribalistic."

CPC spokesman Rotimi Fashakin said the decision was akin to granting posthumous pardon to the likes of notorious armed robber Lawrence Anini.

"There is a better way to show solidarity with one's boss than this utterly reprehensible action.... This is another proof that the Jonathan regime is not averse to corruption," Fashakin said.

Secretary General of the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP), Willy Ezugwu, said, "This is saddening.... This has also confirmed that the president is hobnobbing with corruption and that Nigerians should not put their hope on him to move the nation forward."


There was confusion earlier yesterday as to whether the pardon was granted. News filtered early in the day that the council of state was meeting to ratify a memo by Jonathan in which he was seeking to grant a pardon for Alamieyeseigha.

At about 7.50pm, the Federal Government-owned News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) sent out a news alert, saying the Federal Government had granted "state pardon" to Alamieyeseigha and the six others.

But 17 minutes after, NAN issued another alert saying: "Kindly disregard earlier SMS on state pardon for Alamieyeseigha and six others. Thanks."

A member of the Council of State, who confirmed that the pardon was granted, said the council also discussed and approved two new nominees for two Federal executive bodies.

The council meeting was attended by former leaders Yakubu Gowon, Shehu Shagari and Ernest Shonekan, as well as many state governors. But former President Olusegun Obasanjo, former President Ibrahim Babangida and former head of state Muhammadu Buhari did not attend the meeting.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Seven foreign workers killed by kidnappers

Security operatives in Bauchi State yesterday said they were still investigating allegations of the killing of seven expatriates kidnapped in Jama'are Local Government Area of Bauchi State.

Last month seven expatriate workers of Setraco Nigeria Limited were kidnapped by unknown gunmen. An Islamic Group called Ansaru claimed responsibility for the abduction of the seven expatriates that included five Lebanese, one Briton and one Italian.

Police Public Relations Officer, ASP Hassan Mohammed Auyo told Vanguard, "Police have no evidence that the expatriates were killed. We are still investigating the matter and the veracity of the information pasted on web site allegedly by the group".

Reliable top security sources in Bauchi told newsmen that they heard about the killings of the expatriates as everybody heard about it, adding: "We are still making our enquiries to get the correct information, because we did not carry out any rescue operation either jointly or separately. We are still monitoring the situation".

However Britain, Italy and Greece confirmed yesterday, that it was true that the militants might have killed the hostages, which they condemned as barbaric and cold-blooded.

The Ansaru group on Saturday announced the deaths of all the expatriates abducted from a construction site of Lebanese company Setraco on February 16 in Bauchi.

Ansaru, considered an offshoot of Nigerian Islamist Boko Haram, backed up its claim with "screen captures of a forthcoming video showing the dead hostages," SITE, an intelligence group said.

According to SITE, "the group stated that the attempts by the British and Nigerian governments to rescue the hostages, and their alleged arrest and killing of people, forced it to carry out the execution."

Police, last month, said the hostages were four Lebanese, one Briton, a Greek citizen and an Italian, while the company said the Middle Eastern hostages included two Lebanese and two Syrians.

Ansaru said it had carried out the kidnapping to avenge what it called 'atrocities by European nationals against Islam.' The victims-- three Lebanese citizens and one each from Britain, Greece, Italy and the Philippines-- were all employees of a Lebanese construction company, Setraco.

UK, Greece, Italy react

British Foreign Secretary, William Hague, said all the hostages were "likely to have been killed" by their captors.

"This was an act of cold-blooded murder, which I condemn in the strongest terms," he said, expressing his determination to work with the Nigerian authorities "to hold the perpetrators of this heinous act to account, and to combat the terrorism which so blights the lives of people in northern Nigeria and in the wider region."

The Italian Foreign Ministry in a statement branded it "a horrific act of terrorism for which there is no explanation except barbaric and blind violence.

"No military intervention to free the hostages was ever attempted by the interested government," it said, adding that the killings were "the aberrant expression of a hateful and intolerable fanaticism."

The Greek foreign ministry said: "Available information suggests that the Greek citizen abducted in Nigeria alongside six nationals of other countries are dead.

"Based on the information we have, there was no rescue operation."

'Our motives'

In an e-mail sent to journalists announcing the kidnapping two days later, Ansaru said the motives were "the transgressions and atrocities done to the religion of Allah... by the European countries in many places such as Afghanistan and Mali."

Ansaru has been linked to several kidnappings, including the May 2011 abductions of a Briton and an Italian working for a construction firm in KebbiState, near the border with Niger.

The victims were killed in March 2012 in neighbouring SokotoState during a botched rescue operation.

It also claimed the December kidnapping of a French engineer in KatsinaState, bordering Niger. The victim's whereabouts remain unknown.

Seven members of a French family, including four children, were also abducted last month in Cameroon, and Cameroon authorities said they were then taken over the border into restive northeastern Nigeria. Their whereabouts also remain unknown.

Meanwhile, Britain's military said, yesterday, that its warplanes recently spotted in Abuja were there to move soldiers to aid the French intervention in Mali and not to rescue foreign hostages kidnapped by the radical Islamic extremist group.

The extremist group partially blamed the presence of those planes as an excuse for killing seven foreign hostages.


Friday, March 8, 2013

Video - Deadly meningitis outbreak in Nigeria

A fresh outbreak of suspected cerebrospinal meningitis has killed more than 100 in north-west Nigeria and dozens more elsewhere in the country.People in the town of Jabo ave never seen anything like the past two weeks. They have just buried 60 people. The cause of the latest outbreak is unknown and health workers have treated people based on the symptoms they have shown.The government says medical teams have been deployed to carry out an immunisation and education programme and more epidemics are expected.

Nigeria plans to ban lesbians from football

The world football governing body has queried Nigeria over the attempt to ban Lesbians from the Nigeria Women Professional League, NWPL.

The football governing body, FIFA, has written to the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF, requesting clarification over statements by the Chairperson of Nigeria Women Professional League, Dilichukwu Onyedinma, about a planned ban of lesbians from the league.

The ban proposed by the NWPL would contravene FIFA's anti-discrimination policies; and the world governing body has sent a letter to the Nigerian FA asking for clarification.

"Any player that we find associated with it [lesbianism] will be disqualified," Ms. Onyedinma exclusively told PREMIUM TIMES in an interview.

"We will call the club chairmen to control their players and such players will not be able to play for the national team.

"There are particular clubs that don't even want to hear about it and once they hear it the players involved will be sacked," she said.

Some gay rights campaigners, including the Federation of Gay Games, the European Gay and Lesbian Sport Federation (www.eglsf.info), Football v Homophobia, and AllOut (www.allout.org) also said they had written to FIFA President, Sepp Blatter, about the alleged ban.

"The organisations sending this letter believe that FIFA must now take firm action," said the campaigners in a statement.

It will be recalled that former Super Falcons Coach, Echuria Uche, made similar remarks in the last 2011 Women's World Cup in Germany and was promptly reprimanded.

The Nigerian Football Federation is yet to officially react to the FIFA query. The NFF spokesperson, Demola Olajire, said the federation would release a statement soon on it.

Homosexuality and other same sex acts are not legal in Nigeria. Nigerian lawmakers are also working on a law that would criminalise it despite condemnation of the proposed law from Western governments and agencies.

Wole Soyinka advises anti-gay bill legislators to go back to school

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Penalties for late payment of salaries and pension to be introduced

The House of representatives yesterday moved a bill for An Act to Prohibit Late Payment, Non-Payment and Underpayment of Workers' Wages, Pension and Emolument in Nigeria and Prescribe Penalties for Violations and for other Matters Connected thereto.

The minority leader of the House Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila ACN, Lagos sponsored the bill saying "it is only here in Nigeria that we hear workers that toil morning and night to meet their family obligations, we hear of workers that have not been paid for months and it is impossible to say that we want to fight corruption yet we lay the foundation for corruption. How can expect a man that has not been paid for several months not to be corrupt?"

Continuing, Gbajabiamila said a percentage of with held salaries should be penalties served and can be incremental over time.

Contributing to the merits of the bill Hon. Samson Osagie, ACN Edo said " it is the duty of a responsible parliament to protect its people from hardship, therefore it is important to criminalize employers that with-hold, underpay and violate the terms of contract of employees"

The committees on Public Service, Labour Employment and Productivity have been are to take further legislative duties and report back to the House.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Nigerian government to give Nollywood N3 billion grant

The federal government at the weekend said it has packaged a special programme known as Project Nollywood with a grant of N3 billion to aide the film industry scale beyond the achievements it has in the past 20 years in the country.

This is just as Akwa Ibom State Governor and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governors' forum, Godswill Akpabio has declared that he has endowed the Goodluck Jonathan Prize for the best actors and actresses in Nollywood.

President Goodluck Jonathan who announced the N3billion grant made available to the industry at a dinner to mark 20 years of Nollywood at the State House, Marina, Lagos, noted that it was part of his administration's transformation agenda in the industry.

According to him, Nollywood would one day exceed the oil sector which the country depends heavily on if the special programme which will be flagged off in April is handled properly.

Jonathan said, "I assure you that this administration will continue to give Nollywood every support and assistance to take the Nigerian movie industry to greater height of success. I invited the private sector to this dinner because I believe that they can also support the efforts to further develop the overall value chain of the industry.

"Encouraged by the feedback we have received from you on our administration's support for Nollywood, we have further designed a programme known as Project Nollywood to support the key components of the industry's value chain through a dedicated grant totaling N3billion.

"It will include capacity development fund and funds to support the industry's infrastructure. The scheme which will be launched in the first week of April, will be managed by the Ministry of Finance in collaboration with the Ministry of Culture and Tourism."

The President added that he has already directed NEXIM Bank and the Bank of Industry to put in their best in investing in the industry by way od loans.

Nollywood, Jonathan observed, had made remarkable achievement within the 20 years period it has existed, which stakeholders must not rest on their laurels to identify with.

He stated further: "It is always said that getting to the top may be hard, but remaining there may be more challenging. Our producers, script writers, actors, actresses and others who work in the movie industry must continue to work with zeal to further improve on the quality and content of their production".

He said the Nollywood industry has been offering employment opportunities to thousands of Nigerians directly or indirectly.

The President said although Nigeria's national income is currently dominated by oil sector, he believed that Nollywood could challenge the sector.

He promised that the Federal Government would work with stakeholders to tackle the problems of infrastructure and piracy facing the industry, noting that if laws were required achieve this, members of the National Assembly would assist.

Meanwhile, Governor Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State has started what he called an endowment of the Goodluck Jonathan Prize for the best actors and actresses in Nollywood.

The chairman of the People's Democratic Party Governors' Forum announced that he will commit the sum of N50 million for the award, even as he asked the leadership of the industry to come up with the group that will coordinate the award.

Akpabio said, "I am the chairman of the newest forum in the arena of politics, the PDP Governors' Forum. The first set of disciples of the President. We felt we must come together and rally support for the President, especially for his uncommon transformation agenda. Nollywood has come of age at 20. When the history of the success of Nollywood is being told, President Jonathan's name will be mentioned.

"No leader in the country has supported creativity like Jonathan. There is no way you can ever fail as a President of the country because you never discriminate. We won the African Cup of Nations during your tenure. You may end up winning two world cups because the boys will be improving.

"You invest in gas and power. East-West Road will soon be delivered. Your enemies will never laugh at you; whatever you do, you will succeed because you are a child of destiny".

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Aliko Dangote is now 43rd richest man in the world

Cement mogul, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, moved up 33 places from the 76th position, which he occupied on the list of richest men and women in the world compiled by US-based Forbes Magazine last year, to emerge the 43rd richest man on earth in 2013.

According to the magazine, Dangote was valued at $16.1 billion in 2013 and retained his position as Africa's richest man for the third year in a row.

The second Nigerian on the list is Michael Adenuga Jnr, with a net worth of $4.7 billion. Adenuga occupied the 267th position on the Forbes list and is the fifth richest man in Africa.

Speaking exclusively to THISDAY last night, Dangote said his target is to enter the exclusive league of top five richest men in the world in the next four years.

Currently, the top five positions are occupied by Mexico's Carlos Slim with a net worth of $73 billion, followed by Microsoft founder Bill Gates, who is valued at $67 billion.

Following closely on their heels are Spanish billionaire and owner of Zara clothing chain Amanco Ortega with a net worth of $57 billion; US investment guru, Warren Buffet - $53.5 billion; and Oracle's Larry Ellison - $43 billion.

Dangote, who has massive investments in the cement, sugar and real estate sector, had an eventful year in 2012.

In October, he sold off controlling interest in his Dangote Flour Plc to Tiger Brands of South Africa and pocketed $190 million in cash. In February, his Dangote Sugar Refineries acquired a 95-per-cent stake in Nigerian sugar producer Savannah Sugar in a bid to maintain its dominant position in the local sugar industry.

He also did the ground breaking for the 2.8-million-ton fertiliser plant in Edo State at a cost of $1.7 billion and when finished, will be the largest in the world. The plant is scheduled for completion in three years' time.

Dangote said he intends to ramp up cement production at his plants in the next four years from the current 16-17 million tonnes in Nigeria and Ghana to 100 million tonnes from new output coming from sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East.

Last year, the business man stepped up his philanthropy, giving over $100 million to causes ranging from education to health, flood relief, poverty alleviation and the arts. He also acquired a yacht, which he named after his mother, Amiya.

Adenuga owns Globacom - Nigeria's second largest telecommunications firm, Conoil and some stake in Sterling Bank Nigeria. He founded Globacom in 2003.

It has 24 million customers in Nigeria, operates in the Republic of Benin, Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire.

His Conoil Producing is one of Nigeria's largest independent exploration companies, with a production of some 100,000 barrels of crude oil per day.

Other famous people on the Forbe's list include, Google co-founder and CEO, Larry Page, with $23 billion, is 20th on the list. Fellow Co-founder, Sergey Brin, is 21st with $22.8 billion.

Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, is 66th on the list with $13.3 billion, while Oprah Winfrey is the 503rd person, with $2.8 billion. Many of the billionaires give millions in philanthropy every year.

Mystery bodies found in river were dumped by police

Dozens of bodies found floating in Ezu River, at the border between Anambra and Enugu states, were men seized and extra-judicially executed by a deadly police special anti-robbery squad, a civil society network has said in a report.

The International Society for Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law said its findings showed the bodies were those of illegally arrested members of the public, robbery and kidnapping suspects, and members of the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra, MASSOB.

The victims were executed without investigation, prosecution, and sentencing, the non-governmental organization, which has carried out several reports and evaluation of police abuses, said.

The unidentified bodies were first found on January 19 as villagers of Amansea, the community near the river, went early morning to fetch water from the community's only drinking source.

The horror has shocked the nation and the world, but surprisingly the federal government has yet to make a pronouncement on the case.

While the villagers said the bodies numbered more than 30, police insists they were less than 20.

MASSOB had earlier claimed the bodies were those of its members who went missing months after police took them into custody. Police has denied the claim.

The International Society for Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law said it spoke with several relatives of missing family members, and community sources which pointed at the SARS, a deadly unit of the police often accused of abuses.

"What are the whereabouts of the nine MASSOB activists transferred to SARS from the Onitsha Area Command since 8th day of December, 2012? Were they granted interim bail? If yes, who were their sureties and where are the records with which they were granted bail," the group asked in a report signed by its chairman, Emeka Umeagbalasi.

"Were the detainees arraigned in either courts of inferior records or in courts of superior records? If yes, which divisions of the courts in Anambra State and at what dates?

"What was their fate after the courts' charges or arraignments? Were they granted bails or remanded in prisons' custodies? If yes who were their sureties or which prisons or police stations were they remanded and by which courts and dates? Are they still being detained by SARS without being charged to, or arraigned in courts? If yes, which of the SARS units are they being detained?"

The group called on the federal government to make a categorical statement on the case, and order investigation while ensuring payment of compensation to the families involved.

Video - Aftermath of river contaminated with dead bodies

Friday, March 1, 2013

Henry Okah's sentence postponed to March 18

Judge Neels Claassen of Johannesburg High Court in South Africa has postponed the sentencing of a terror suspect, Henry Okah again to the March 18, 19 and 20, Channels Television reports.

Although the judge had said he would not allow any other postponement, he said he had to do this in order to give Okah's new legal team time to get used to the notes left by the old legal team.

The new team led by Gerrit Miller requested for the time, following the withdrawal of the former team led by Lucky Multulanla.

But the prosecution had described the request as a ploy to delay the delivery of justice while Judge Claassen went ahead to grant the plea because, as he said, he didn't want to force the new team.

If the hearing was held yesterday, witnesses from Nigeria and the United States would have testified in a bid to mitigate the sentencing of Okah following the request of his former attorney, Mr. Multulanla at his last appearance on February 1 to give witnesses time to get to South Africa to testify.

Okah intended calling at least five people to testify. He was found guilty in January of 13 counts of terrorism, including engaging in terrorist activities, conspiracy to engage in terrorist activities, and delivering, placing, and detonating an explosive device.

The charges related to two car bombs in Abuja, Nigeria, in which 12 people were killed and 36 injured on October 1, 2010, the anniversary of the Nigeria's independence, and another two explosions in the southern Nigerian city of Warri, earlier in March 2010.

Seven suspects released in lynching case of university students

A Port Harcourt Chief Magistrate, Mr. Emma Woke, Rivers State, has discharged seven out of the 18 suspects, arrested in connection with the killing of four students of the University of Port Harcourt on October 5, last year at Omuokiri- Aluu, Rivers State.

Magistrate Woke, who discharged them after reading an advice from the Director of Public Prosecution, DPP, yesterday, said the seven suspects were arrested by the police on grounds of mere suspicion. According to the DPP, no case of murder was established against them.

The court said the seven were released based on the advice of the DPP. He read out the advice before discharging the seven. According to the advice, the seven suspects were charged to court based on mere suspicion.

The seven are Cynthia Chinwo, George Nwadei, Ekpe Daniel, Gabriel Ochie, Endurance Edet, Lucky Agwurum and Finebone Jeffrey, aka Soso

The DPP, in the advice, said: "It is a trite law that suspicion, no matter how strong, cannot take the place of legal proof without concrete evidence to substantiate it, and as such, they were victims of circumstance and, therefore, charging and prosecuting them will be an exercise in futility."

The DPP also advised that charges against seven others, who were not charged to court but arrested by the Police, be dropped because no charge of murder was established against them, adding that the police should arrest five others on the run.

The advice further read: "The charge against them should equally be dropped and they should be released forthwith from custody."

Meantime, the Paramount Ruler of Omuokiri-Aluu community, Alhaji Hassan Walewa and 10 others, are to face a fresh charge for failing to prevent a felony. According to the DPP, no charge of murder was established against them.

"Your original case file will be retained to enable us file information with proof of evidence for the avoidance of doubt, against Lawal Segun, ex-Sergeant Lucky Orji, Ikechukwu Louis Amadi, aka Kapoon, David Chinasa Ogbada, Abiodun Yusuf, Joshua Ekpe, Abang Cyril, Alhaji Hassan Welewa, Okoghiroh Endurance, Ozioma Abajuo and Chigozie Evans Samuel in the state High Court."

It will be recalled that four students of University of Port Harcourt, Tekena Elkanah, Lloyd Toku Mike, Chiadika Biringa and Ugonna Obuzor, were mobbed to death on October 5, last year before a cheering crowd at Omuokiri-Aluu.