Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Catherine Dupe Atoki is first African to win Asian Peace Prize

A renowned Nigerian female rights activist, Mrs. Catherine Dupe Atoki, will receive the distinguished Gusi Peace Prize International for 2013 on November 27 at the Philippine International Convention Center, Manila Philippines. She would be the first African woman to be honoured with the laureate which is considered as the Asian equivalent of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Mrs. Atoki was recently appointed by President Goodluck Jonathan as new director general of the Consumer Protection Council (CPC), a position she has assumed after serving her full tenure as chairperson of the African Union Commission on Human and Peoples Rights (ACHPR). She was also the first African woman to hold that position. According to the organizers, Mrs Atoki was nominated for the Gusi Peace Prize by Justice Yeung Sik Yuen, a former laureate of the peace prize for her significant contributions to Peacekeeping in the field of Human Rights Advocacy of the African Union.

The event which is held annually in the Philippines is said to be mandated by the country's Presidential Proclamation 1476 declaring every fourth Wednesday of November as the Gusi Peace Prize International Friendship Day.

Dr. Evelyn Gusi, chairman of the Barry Gusi Peace Prize Foundation, organizers of the event, who conveyed Mrs. Atoki's nomination for the award in a letter she signed said: "The Gusi Peace Prize Philippines and international committees have decided to award the Gusi Peace Prize International for 2013 to you, Honourable Catherine Dupe Atoki, for your untiring efforts, working for people's amelioration to find peaceful solutions for people's welfare through Human Rights Advocacy in the African Union."

Accepting her nomination for the award, Mrs Atoki expressed appreciation to Justice Yeung Sik Yuen for recommending her and thanked the Gusi Prize Foundation for their work for humanity. "I am indeed delighted for my nomination for this award; I thank the Gusi Prize Foundation for recognizing my modest contributions and as I look forward to receiving the award it is my hope that it would spur me into doing more for my country, the continent and humanity in general", Mrs Atoki said.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Obama skips Nigeria again on trip to Africa

United States president Barack Obama will not be visiting Nigeria as recently speculated in the media. Obama and his wife Michelle will only visit Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania between June 26 and July 3.

A statement by the Office of the Press Secretary in the White House stated this yesterday while clarifying Obama's visit to Africa.

A copy of the statement entitled "Statement by the Press Secretary on the President's Travel to Africa" was made available to LEADERSHIP.

The statement reads in part, "President Obama and the First Lady look forward to traveling to Senegal, South Africa, and Tanzania from June 26 - July 3. The President will reinforce the importance that the United States places on our deep and growing ties with countries in sub-Saharan Africa, including through expanding economic growth, investment, and trade; strengthening democratic institutions; and investing in the next generation of African leaders.

"The President will meet with a wide array of leaders from government, business, and civil society, including youth, to discuss our strategic partnerships on bilateral and global issues. The trip will underscore the President's commitment to broadening and deepening cooperation between the United States and the people of sub-Saharan Africa to advance regional and global peace and prosperity."

This is the second time that Obama is skipping Nigeria from his visit to Africa as the US president had excluded Nigeria during his first visit to Ghana on July 11, 2009.

The US president had alluded his inability to visit Nigeria during the trip to Ghana on the grounds of poor democratic credential and corruption. But the situation is now worse as the aforementioned issues have now assumed a frightening dimension.

On why he decided to visit Ghana then, Obama had said, "Ghana's history is rich, the ties between our two countries are strong, and I am proud that this is my first visit to sub-Saharan Africa as President of the United States.

"And I have come here, to Ghana, for a simple reason: the 21st century will be shaped by what happens not just in Rome or Moscow or Washington, but by what happens in Accra as well.

"This is the simple truth of a time when the boundaries between people are overwhelmed by our connections. Your prosperity can expand America's. Your health and security can contribute to the world's. And the strength of your democracy can help advance human rights for people everywhere".


Office of the Press Secretary


May 20, 2013

Statement by the Press Secretary on the President's Travel to Africa

President Obama and the First Lady look forward to traveling to Senegal, South Africa, and Tanzania from June 26 - July 3. The President will reinforce the importance that the United States places on our deep and growing ties with countries in sub-Saharan Africa, including through expanding economic growth, investment, and trade; strengthening democratic institutions; and investing in the next generation of African leaders.

The President will meet with a wide array of leaders from government, business, and civil society, including youth, to discuss our strategic partnerships on bilateral and global issues. The trip will underscore the President's commitment to broadening and deepening cooperation between the United States and the people of sub-Saharan Africa to advance regional and global peace and prosperity.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Video - Nigerians react to Manchester United Alex Ferguson's retirement

Nigerians react to the announcement of Alex Ferguson retiring as Manchester United's manager.

Video - Baby trafficking syndicate arrested in Imo state

Nigerian police say they have rescued six pregnant girls from child traffickers who were planning to sell their babies Two men and a woman have been arrested in the case, which is the second so-called baby factory to be uncovered in a week. Last Friday, 23 girls and four babies were found in a baby factory in Umuaka, Imo State in eastern Nigeria and are now being looked after in a state care home.

Video - Battle for Northern Nigeria

The Nigerian army is back on the offensive. Its target: the armed group Boko Haram. And this time it is determined to defeat them. Nigerian troops have deployed fighter jets, helicopter gunships and thousands of soldiers to take back territory the group seized in northeastern Nigeria. 

This week, President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in three states. The offensive has been welcomed by many who have seen Boko Haram's violent campaign kill around 2,000 people since it began in 2009. But rights groups have called for restraint. 

They say they have documented cases of abuse by Nigerian forces in the past, including summary executions and random shootings. So, just how much of a danger is Boko Haram to Nigeria? And is military action the best answer? To discuss this, Inside Story, with presenter Jane Dutton, is joined by guests: Doyin Okupe, a senior special assistant to President Jonathan on Public Affairs; Vicki Huddleston, former US ambassador to Mali and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for African Affairs; and Lucy Freeman, the deputy director for Africa at Amnesty International and author of the report Nigeria trapped in the cycle of violence.

Boko Haram has access to anti-aircraft weaponry

The Nigerian military said on Friday that it destroyed weapons, including anti-aircraft and anti-tank guns, owned by insurgents in Borno State.

The military said in a statement that advancing troops of the Special Task Force have destroyed some terrorists' camps sited in the forests of Northern and Central Borno.

The statement was issued in Abuja on Friday and signed by Brigadier General Chris Olukolade, the Director of Defence Information.

In his nationwide broadcast on May 14 while declaring a state of emergency in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe, President Goodluck Jonathan directed the Chief of Defence Staff, Admiral Ola Ibrahim, to deploy more troops to the three states. The president said the insurgents were not only carrying out violent acts but had commenced the process of excising some part of the Nigerian territory for themselves, and were mounting strange flags.

Mr. Olukolade noted that heavy weapons, including anti-aircraft and anti-tank guns, were also destroyed in the process.

He said the special operations, which preceded troop movement, resulted in the destruction of many of the insurgents' weapons.

Logistics, it added, such as vehicles, containers, fuel dumps and power generators were also destroyed.

It said that "the casualties inflicted on the insurgents in the course of the assault will be verified during a mop up."

According to the statement, the Defence Headquarters is quite satisfied with the progress of the operation and the fighting spirit of participating troops. It urged the Special Task Force to sustain the tempo.

Meanwhile, border posts have all been manned by security personnel to prevent escape or infiltration by the insurgents.

Security sources earlier told PREMIUM TIMES that at least 20 members of the insurgents were killed in the Sambisa forest operation.

Sambisa, a forest that spreads over a distance of 300sq km from Damboa up to Gwoza, Bama and the Cameroon border, has been a hideout and training camp for the extremist Boko Haram sect. The camp was first discovered early this year when a military raid was launched there.

Military shut down telecommunications in Maiduguri as part of attack on Boko Haram

Residents lamented the collapse of telecommunications services in Maiduguri.

There has been a partial telecommunications shut down in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital over the State of Emergency declared in the state by President Goodluck Jonathan.

Residents of Maiduguri, the Borno state capital woke up on Friday to realise that what they thought was a minor problem with mobile telephone services the previous day was actually a deliberate action by the mobile networks, who are believed to be complying with directives from the Nigerian military.

Though the Nigerian military has officially kept mum on the telephone shut down, a top security official said the networks were put off as part of strategy to demobilize the insurgents in the state.

He said the reprieve the residents got, as telecommunications were restored late on Friday morning, will be "for some few hours."

He said the grounded GSM networks were part of the military strategy to slow down the communication of the Boko Haram who are spread in camps in the forest of Sambisa, Mafa, Wulgo and Kirenowa axis of Borno State.

All major national telecom carriers, MTN, GLO, ETISALAT and AIRTEL were grounded, leaving residents confused especially as there was no official information either by the network providers, the state government, or the military. Many of the residents would not speak officially for security reasons.

The Spokesman of the Joint Task Force, Sagir Musa, declined comments as he told journalists that he would not be making comment on the military operations in Bono for now.

Meanwhile, troops were, up to Thursday night seen arriving the town via roads and air; even as jet fighters were also said to have been deployed to the state.

Though the State of emergency situation has not changed the normal life of the residents, there seems to be apprehension in the state as to how the soldiers would conduct themselves.

Babagana Alkali, an accountant with Borno State Government told PREMIUM TIMES that his fear is the soldiers' conduct.

"The State of Emergency is a welcomed development, but our problem here in Nigeria is soldiers don't adhere to the rules of engagement. If soldiers can discharge their duties professionally to ensure that peace is restored in Borno and Nigeria at large, no one would complain.

"But the problem is when soldiers are attacked and one of them got killed, they start harassing innocent people, maiming and killing them, while the culprits go free," he said.

Also, some schools in Maiduguri have remained close since Wednesday.

"We are keeping the children at home to study the state of emergency situation. We can't guarantee their safety until we study the way soldiers conduct themselves, then we can open by next week Monday," a proprietor of one of the schools in the Borno capital said.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Video - State of Emergency declared in Nigeria

Goodluck Jonathan, the Nigerian president, has imposed a "state of emergency" in three states in an attempt to curb the increasingly violent attacks by armed group Boko Haram, saying the level of violence called for "extraordinary measures".

The decision comes after a spate of attacks on security forces and government targets by armed group Boko Haram in its northeast stronghold this month.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Nigerian Judge gives Iranian 17 years jail sentence for arms trafficking

Justice Okechukwu Okeke of the Federal High Court in Lagos monday sentenced an Iranian national, Azim Aghajani, and his Nigerian counterpart, Ali Jega, to 17 years imprisonment each for their involvement in the importation of firearms into Nigeria.

Justice Okeke while delivering his judgment, held that he was not in doubt that the 13 containers loaded with arms were imported into the country, contrary to the claim by the accused persons that the containers contained building materials meant for construction in Banjul, the capital of The Gambia.

The judge, who will be retiring in five days, also declared that the federal government through its lawyer succeeded in tendering before the court emails of the transactions between the convicts.

According to him, "It is my opinion that the moment the security started closing in, the story started changing.

"I sympathise with the second accused person because of the role he played because he thought he was helping his friend.

"It is my view that the accused made a false declaration on the bill of lading. If the goods were truly construction materials, the accused persons should have stated so in the bill of lading.

"There is no doubt that the accused persons and their collaborators deal in the unlawful importation of arms."

The court also ordered that the jail terms would run concurrently from February 1, 2011 when they were first arraigned.

Justice Okeke also directed that the container loaded with firearms be forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria.

But shortly before the sentencing, the counsel to the convicted Iranian, Chris Uche (SAN), had prayed the court to temper justice with mercy, explaining that the defence had cooperated to ensure the speedy disposal of the case.

The lawyer also prayed the judge to exercise his discretion in convicting the accused.

Uche also said: "It would serve no useful purpose in keeping the first accused in Nigerian prisons. I urge your lordship to order his immediate repatriation to his country."

While aligning himself with the submission of the senior advocate, the counsel to the second accused person, Aliyu Musa Yauri, said his client became a convict in his bid to make ends meet, adding that a sentence against the second accused was a sentence against his entire family.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Nigeria bans film exposing corruption in the oil industry

A film documenting corruption in the management of oil profits has been banned in Nigeria.

"Fuelling Poverty" examines the mismanagement of Nigeria's oil wealth in the context of protests against fuel subsidy suspensions in 2012.

Produced in partnership with Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), filmmaker Ishaya Bako told Media Rights Agenda (MRA) that the film examines "real issues, on everyday life."

Issues, it seems, that are too real for the National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB) to want to share. In a letter dated 8 April 2013, the NFVCB states that "Fuelling Poverty" is not permitted to be distributed, aired or exhibited, due to contents that "are highly provocative and likely to incite or encourage public disorder and undermine national security", according to MRA.

The film was released in November 2012, but was only banned when Bako submitted a request to show the film publically, the Associated Press reported.

In NFVCB's letter to Bako, the young filmmaker was warned that "all relevant national security agencies are on the alert" to ensure that he does not exhibit or distribute the film, said the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

"Instead of banning the documentary 'Fuelling Poverty,' authorities should look into the important questions it raises about corruption and impunity in the country's oil sector and at the highest levels of government," said CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita from New York. "We urge Nigeria's National Film and Video Censors Board to overturn this censorship order."

Contrary to the NFVCB's intentions, however, the ban has only increased the popularity of the documentary. News reports cited by CPJ says that activists have been sharing the film on social media since the ban was issued; as of 24 April the video has over 57, 000 views on YouTube.

The film has also gained international recognition. CPJ notes that "Fuelling Poverty" was screened at the 20th New York African Film Festival this month. It also recently won "Best Documentary" at the 2013 African Movie Academy Awards.

Media Rights Agenda is still seeking to understand the reasoning behind the ban.

On 18 April, the group submitted a Freedom of Information request to the director-general of the NFVCB, asking for detailed information about the decision-making process that led to the ban.

Bako himself is also considering appealing the board's decision, says CPJ.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

About 1 million Nigerians live in London, England

Mayor of Brent, London, Micheal Adeyeye, has disclosed that the population of Nigerian immigrants in London has hit over 1 million people.

Meantime, Governor Babtunde Fashola of Lagos and Mayor of London, Mr. Alderman Gifford stressed the need to strengthen bilateral ties between Lagos and London.

The duo who spoke during a courtesy visit by the Mayor at the State House, Alausa, Ikeja, said that the population of Nigerian and United Kingdom immigrants in both cities have showed that the bilateral ties between both countries was age-long.

Speaking in an interview with Saturday Vanguard, Adeyeye, one of the three councillors in London, said that "Lagos is like London because it is full of people with diverse ethnic background.

"That is why we all need to work together so that we can all gain effectively from each another. We have a large community of Nigerians in London, and the population of Nigerians living in the city is over 1 million. This was what we got from the high commission."

He noted that "this was the reason why there was need to foster business relation between the two nations particularly Lagos and London. And all our efforts would be geared towards ensuring that the partnership grows from strength to strength."

He expressed joy over the ties, saying "I am happy that this is happening between Nigeria and UK. We all know that there is an age long relation between the two countries."

Fashola, in his speech said that London and Lagos have made tremendous progress in various sectors of their economy, saying,"I believe that with this, we can learn from each other's success."

The governor said; "Today, Lagos is now dealing with challenges of becoming a global city state in the sense that there are several opportunities in the state. And it has become an attractive destination for the world.

"And as we move towards improving our economy in Lagos, there is need for us to strengthened our bilateral ties especially with United Kingdom," he said.

Speaking earlier, Mr. Gifford said "London is a very great city but we realised that London must strengthen its relation with other countries especially Nigeria because there are many Nigerians living in the city. "And this could be further explained by the five commercial banks out of the 250 commercial banks in the city owned by Nigerians," he said.

According to him, "We have a lot to explore but we believe that to achieve this, it must be done by allowing equal partnership. We believe that the economy that would grow in the next 50 years will be coming from an economy that has great base with a better financial market. If we are going to survive, we must work with these economies. And Lagos is among these economies that have been identified."

Nigerian couple arrested for child trafficking

The Nigeria Police Special Fraud Unit, SFU, said it has apprehended two suspects who "stole" twin babies and planned to travel with them to the United States.

Adenuga and Elizabeth Soyibo were reported to the police by the U.S. Consulate where they had applied for American visa, the SFU said in a statement released Monday.

According to the statement, their application was deferred on the suspicion that their babies appeared not to belong to them.

The consulate ordered a DNA test to ascertain the biological relationship between the babies and the couple.

"The Consulate invited them when it received the result of the DNA which revealed that the babies do not belong to the couple as both lack the genetic marks that must be contributed to the child by the biological parents," said the statement, signed by Ngozi Isintume-Agu, SFU Public Relations Officer.

During investigation, police detectives travelled with the couple to Port Harcourt where Mrs. Soyibo claimed to have delivered the babies in a small, private house.

"On getting to Port Harcourt, the woman claimed she could no longer identify or locate the place. She also stated that she has no antenatal record anywhere as she did not attend any," the statement said.

The couple stated that they paid a woman N1.8 million to administer 'Agbo', a local herb, on the man to boost the sperm count and on the woman to produce the babies.

"Both suspects claimed they can no longer trace the woman whom they paid the sum of N1.8 million for the 'Agbo' and the delivery of the baby.

"They also could not produce anyone who knew about the conception and subsequent delivery of the babies," the statement added.

The police said that the suspects would appear in court soon.

Friday, May 3, 2013

James Ibori denied appeal for jail term reduction

The former Delta State Governor, James Ibori, Thursday lost an appeal before a London court for a reduction in his jail term following his conviction for money laundering-related offences.
Justice Anthony Pitts of the Southwark Crown Court had sentenced Ibori last year to a 13-year jail term, after he had pleaded guilty to charges that he embezzled £50 million during his eight-year tenure as governor of the oil-rich state.

Ibori’s legal team had based its argument for a reduction in his 13-year jail term sentence on some purported promise by Justice Pitts that he could sentence Ibori to a jail term of not more than 10 years if he pleaded guilty to the charges filed against him.

However, the Court of Appeal dismissed the argument, saying the promise was not emphatic enough to support the plea.

There was a mild drama in the case as a team of the Court of Appeal justices previously empanelled to hear the appeal was changed at the last minute.

The justices, led by Lord Justice Brian Henry Leveson, who were previously scheduled to hear the appeal were replaced on Wednesday by a new panel of justices, which presided over the case yesterday.

Lord Justice Antony Edward-Stuart, who led Lord Justice Treacy and Peter Collier QC in the ruling, held that Justice Pitts’ promise of a lower sentence for Ibori could not be relied on for a successful appeal as it was not “emphatic enough”, according to agency reports of the court proceedings.

He said even though Ibori’s counsel had “legitimate expectations” based on Justice Pitts’ insinuations of a 10-year sentence, the Southwark Crown judge did not emphasise or commit to a 10-year jail term for Ibori if he entered a guilty plea.

He ruled that there would be no need for a long trial of the appeal as the justices had already familiarised themselves with the grounds of the appeal and had read the submissions of both sides.

After the counsel had addressed the court briefly, the judges retired into the chamber and came back some 15 minutes later to deliver their judgment.
Justice Edwards-Stuart, in rejecting the argument, said a money laundering offence should attract close to the maximum 14-year sentence.

Ibori in February 2012 had pleaded guilty to 10 charges of fraud and money-laundering offences.
His case was heard in London after prosecutors argued that although much of the fraud was perpetrated in Nigeria, some money passed through Britain and British banks.

During his trial, the London court was told how the proceeds of the fraud were used to buy six foreign properties and a fleet of cars, although the judge said the total amount stolen might in fact be “in excess of 200 million pounds”.

The biggest single fraud involved misappropriating $37 million in fees when under Ibori, Delta State’s stake in V-Mobile, the precursor to one of Nigeria’s telecoms companies, Airtel Nigeria Limited, was sold and the funds diverted.

Eligible for parole halfway through his jail term, Ibori is likely to be released from prison in three-and-a-half years, having served one year since his conviction, a year beforehand while awaiting trial in London, and a year in Dubai from where he was extradited to Britain.

Despite the court’s rejection of Ibori’s appeal, the former governor is still expected to appear in person at the Southwark Crown court for a three-week confiscation of assets hearing starting on September 16, 2013.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Video - Military denies death toll in Boko Haram fire fight

Al Jazeera has obtained evidence that the number of people killed in recent fighting between Nigerian security forces and an armed group in the north could be far higher than officially reported. The Nigerian Army is standing by its claim that no more than 36 people died when its soldiers fought with Boko Haram fighters in Borno state. But locals and aid organisations say as many as 200 people were killed in the violence.