Friday, February 28, 2014

Sacking of acclaimed central bank governor Lamido Sanusi scares off foreign investment

When President Goodluck Jonathan suspended Lamido Sanusi, the governor of Nigeria’s central bank, on February 20th, he succeeded in removing an opponent. But over the past week it has become clear that this small victory has come at a steep price. Not only has Mr Jonathan signalled his unwillingness to tackle the rampant corruption that is eating away at his country—he has also scared foreign investors and presented an open goal to his political enemies.

The outspoken Mr Sanusi courted a stormy end to his tenure, due to finish in June, by accusing the state oil company, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), of failing to remit $20 billion in revenues to government accounts. The ministry of finance puts the figure at $10.8 billion. Mr Jonathan says he suspended Mr Sanusi because of “financial recklessness and misconduct” and “far-reaching irregularities” at the bank. But the decision came just days after Mr Sanusi presented detailed evidence to a Senate committee investigating alleged fraud and mismanagement at the NNPC. Most concluded that the suspension was politically motivated.

Investors are spooked, interpreting the decision as a sign of the authorities’ lack of stomach for fighting corruption. Already, $2 billion of the $9 billion in foreign cash invested in Nigerian bonds has moved out; bankers predict more will follow. The naira plunged to an all-time low of 169 to the dollar on February 20th. Sarah Alade, a highly regarded technocrat who will run the bank until June, has pledged to continue to support the currency. But the foreign-exchange reserves she needs to do so have fallen by almost 14% from 12 months ago.

The controversy has a strong political tinge. The Senate’s investigation was prompted by a leaked letter from Mr Sanusi to the president in which he accused the NNPC of violating the law. This put him in conflict with Diezani Alison-Madueke, the petroleum minister and a close ally of Mr Jonathan’s. The NNPC has repeatedly denied the allegations. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria’s finance minister, says an independent audit must establish the truth. Many see her outspokenness as a sign she doubts that Mr Jonathan will hold a credible inquiry. “The key question we need answered is what is the correct amount,” she says. “We need urgent action to bring this to the fore.”

Mr Sanusi’s treatment undermines confidence that this will happen. It is not the first time there has been scrutiny of the NNPC, part of a rotten oil industry whose leakages undermine Nigeria’s macroeconomic stability. Eighteen months ago the former anti-corruption tsar, Nuhu Ribadu, claimed tens of billions of dollars in oil-and-gas revenue had been siphoned off in 2002-12. The president ordered three reports into it, but they never saw the light of day—if they exist at all—and no one was prosecuted. Months later the Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, part of a global lobby for transparency in natural-resource revenues, revealed a leakage of more than $9.8 billion in 1999-2008.

Mr Sanusi’s suspension has also provided ammunition for Mr Jonathan’s political opponents in the run-up to the elections in 2015. The All Progressives Congress, the main opposition party, described it as “the clearest indication yet that President Jonathan…is willing to silence any whistle-blower”. Although acclaimed abroad, Mr Sanusi has a mixed reputation at home. He tackled widespread financial fraud and overhauled Nigeria’s banks during a banking crash in 2009. He has stabilised inflation in single digits and cracked down on money-laundering. But his staff say he has dragged the bank into politics. His blunt outbursts criticising Nigeria’s governance propelled the legislature to propose a bill (which failed to pass) compromising the bank’s independence. Some accuse him of having political ambitions of his own.

The Senate is due to confirm Mr Jonathan’s new choice of governor, Godwin Emefiele, who heads Zenith, a private bank. He is expected to keep quiet and stick to tight monetary policy. “He is hardly seen nor heard—a typical attribute of the central banker the Nigerian establishment prefers,” says Oluseun Onigbinde, an economist at BudgIT, a start-up that publishes Nigerian economic data on social media.

Investors want the stability that came from Mr Sanusi’s policies and which Mr Emefiele supposedly seeks. But they are losing faith in Mr Jonathan’s administration. Thanks to its vast oil-and-gas reserves and the vitality of its 170m people, Nigeria remains hugely attractive. But Mr Sanusi’s tumultuous exit is another instance of the country’s squandered potential.

The Economist

Related stories: Video - Finance minister Okonjo-Iweala talks about alleged missing $20 million dollars

Video - Suspended central bank governor Lamido Sanusi saw it coming

Late M.K.O Abiola's family reject centenary award

The family of the late M.K.O Abiola has rejected the posthumous Centenary award to the winner of the 1993 Nigeria’s presidential election.

Kola Abiola, the eldest son of the late politician and businessman, told PREMIUM TIMES on Friday that the award was “not appropriate.”

“For us, what the government is doing is laudable. But our family will only accept what is appropriate. If what they are trying to give him is a gold award for the centenary, we don’t consider that to be appropriate,” Mr. Abiola said.

“With a gold centenary award, it means we have not left where we were when they tried to rename the University of Lagos after him. We said then that it was inappropriate,” he added.

The Federal Government had shortlisted 100 persons to be honoured with Centenary awards as part of Nigeria’s Centenary celebration.

By turning down the award, the Abiola family joins the families of late activist, Gani Fawehinmi, and late afrobeat maestro, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, who had also rejected the posthumous awards on their patriarch.

Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka is also considering rejecting the award, which is billed to take place in Abuja on Friday.

“I would have preferred that the entire day of infamy be ignored altogether. I’m even thinking favourably of just ignoring the obscenity, then turning up at the counter-event,” Professor Soyinka is quoted as saying.

On Thursday, the family of the late human rights activist, Gani Fawehinmi, said that it would be “inexpedient” for them to receive the award in the face of the latest killing spree by the militant group Book Harm as well as the “putrid odour of corruption” in the alleged mission US20 billion in the NNPC.

Mohammed Fawehinmi, the late lawyer’s eldest son, also said that it would be morally incongruous and psychologically debilitating for the family to stand on the same podium with General Ibrahim Babangida to receive awards.

“In the list of the awards recipients published by the Federal Government, was the name of former military dictator, General Ibrahim Babangida, who as military president, severally detained and tortured our late father,” Mr. Fawehinmi, a lawyer, said.

“In the course of one of such illegal and inhuman detentions, our late father’s cell was sprayed with toxic substances while in Gashua prison in 1987. The cumulative effect of that dastardly action led to our father, a non- smoker, contracting lung cancer which eventually led to his death on September 5, 2009,” he added.

Femi Kuti, the first son of the late afrobeat king, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, said it was unlikely that his family would receive the award from the Nigerian government.

“We have not heard such (of the award) but I can speak for myself, Federal Government should first apologise for the killing of our grandmother and the burning of Kalakuta,” he wrote on his Twitter account.

M.K.O Abiola, the acclaimed winner of the 1993 presidential poll, arguably one of the most free and fair election in Nigeria’s history, died in detention five years later.

An attempt by President Goodluck Jonathan to rename the University of Lagos after the late philanthropist in 2012 resulted in a massive protest by students and lecturers of the institution.

Asked what the family would consider an appropriate honour, Mr. Kola Abiola said, “We leave government to figure that out.”

A source close to the Abiola’s, however, said the family believed the elder Abiola deserve the nation’s highest honour, GCFR (Grand Commander of the Federal Republic), having won the 1993 presidential elections, and laid down his life to usher in democracy in Nigeria.

The family, our source said, is also angry that the government had failed to pay the huge debt it’s owing the late politician’s businesses. They believe the debt is responsible for the collapse of the businesses.

Premium Times

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Nigerians get life in prison for murdering UK soldier

Two Nigerian-born British citizens, Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale, who were found guilty of the murder of UK soldier, Fusilier Lee Rigby, were yesterday sentenced to whole-life and 45-year jail terms respectively.

Adebolajo, 29, and Adebowale, 22, drove into Fusilier Rigby with a car before hacking him to death in Woolwich, South-East London, in May last year.

The judge, Mr Justice Sweeney, said Adebolajo's case was one of those "rare cases" warranting a whole-life term.

According to reports, the two men were absent during sentencing after a scuffle in the dock because as soon as the judge began to sentence them, they started shouting and scuffling with court security guards.

They had to be forced to the ground and were removed from court.

Sentencing the killers in their absence, the judge said they had been convicted on "overwhelming" evidence of the "barbaric" murder of Fusilier Rigby.

Adebolajo was the leader of the "joint enterprise", the judge said, but Adebowale played his part "enthusiastically."

The judge said the pair carried out the murder "in a way that would generate maximum media coverage. He had done absolutely nothing to deserve what you did to him", the judge said.


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Suspended central bank governor Lamido Sanusi takes president Goodluck Jonathan to court

Embattled Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, yesterday, went before a Federal High Court siting in Abuja to challenge the powers of President Goodluck Jonathan to suspend him from office.

In the suit he filed through a consortium of lawyers led by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, Chief Kola Awodein, Sanusi, told the high court that his purported suspension was as a result of some discrepancies he discovered in respect of amounts repatriated to the federation account from the proceed of crude oil sales between the period of January, 2012 and July, 2013.

He maintained that his sin was that upon discovering the financial anomalies, he had cause to inform the National Assembly considering the fact that the revenue of the federation and the national economy was directly affected.

He further insisted before the court that his purported suspension by President Jonathan was aimed at punishing him for the disclosures he made with regards to how revenue that accrued to the federation was being mismanaged.

Sanusi contended that the President did not approach or obtained the support of the Senate, saying his discussions with several lawmakers including Senator Bukola Saraki, confirmed that the decision to oust him from office was unilaterally taken by the Presidency.

Consequently, he urged the court to restrain President Jonathan, the Attorney General of the Federation and the Inspector General of Police, from giving effect to his purported suspension from office as the CBN Governor, pending the determination of his suit.

Besides, he begged the court to make an order of interlocutory injunction restraining the defendants from obstructing,disturbing, stopping or preventing him from in any manner whatsoever from performing the functions of his office as the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria and enjoying in full, the statutory powers and privileges attached to the office of the governor of Central Bank of Nigeria.

In an affidavit he deposed in support of the suit, Sanusi averred: “I have been informed, and I verily believe the information given to me by senator Bukola Saraki to be true and correct that the senate did not give the President any support for my purported suspension and removal from office as the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria”

Sanusi told the court that his interlocutory application was necessary considering the issues raised in the suit, saying delay would entail irreparable and serious damage and mischief on him in the exercise of his statutory duties as the CBN Governor.

He urged the court to exercise its discretion in his favour by granting the interlocutory injunctions as the President’s continued unlawful interference with the management and administration of the apex bank, unless arrested, poses grave danger for Nigerian economy.

It was his prayer that the court should order the maintenance of status quo ante bellum, which he said should be that he should return to his office as the Governor of the CBN.

Sanusi further averred that the actions of the President in suspending him from office was contrary to provisions of the Central Bank of Nigeria Act relating to the appointment and removal of the CBN Governor.

He said his purported suspension, “amounts to unlawful interference in the administration and management of the apex bank and is therefore illegal, null and void.”

He said it would be in the interest of Justice for the court to grant all his prayers.
Meanwhile, the suit, dated February 24, is yet to be assigned to any judge for hearing.


Video - Finance minister Okonjo-Iweala talks about alleged missing $20 million dollars

Nigeria's President, Goodluck Jonathan has ordered an investigation into allegations that 20 billion dollars in public money has gone missing.

The allegations were made by Central Bank Governor, Lamido Sanusi, who discovered the money had disappeared from the accounts of the state run oil company, known as the NNPC, last week.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Video - Nigeria battles infatn mortality

One million babies die each year on the day they are born globally, according to new research by Lancet and Save the Children.

Forty million women are estimated to give birth every year without medical support.

A large number of these women live in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Nigeria is trying to improve its high rate of infant mortality.

Boko Haram school raid leaves dozens dead

Suspected Islamist militants from the Boko Haram group in north-eastern Nigeria have attacked a school and shot some students, the military has said.

Dozens of pupils are reported to have been killed. Police told Reuters that all the dead were boys and that some of the bodies "were burned to ashes".

The attack took place in troubled Yobe state, the military said.

Residents of the town of Buni Yadi said the attackers struck at night, slitting the throats of some students.

They said that others were shot.

Teachers at the remote Federal Government College boarding school in Buni Yadi told the AP news agency that as many as 40 students had been killed in the assault which began early on Tuesday morning.

Hospital sources in Yobe told the BBC 29 corpses had been brought in following the attack.

'Pursuit of the killers'
The military has confirmed that an attack took place on "student hostels" but says it cannot yet give further details.

"Details are still sketchy due to lack of telephone access, and it is still not clear how many students were affected in the attack," Yobe military spokesman Lazarus Eli told the AFP news agency.

"Our men are down there in pursuit of the killers," he said.

Boko Haram, whose name means "Western education is sinful" in the northern Hausa language, has frequently attacked schools in the past.

Scores of people were killed in two attacks last week. In one incident, militants destroyed a whole village and shot terrified residents as they tried to escape.

The failure of the army to destroy the militants has fuelled anger in the north-east, correspondents say.

Thousands of people have been killed since 2009, when Boko Haram launched its campaign to install Islamic law.

Tuesday's attack in Yobe is close to where suspected Boko Haram fighters killed more than 40 students last September.

The latest offensive ordered by President Goodluck Jonathan in May has been blamed for triggering reprisals by militants against civilians.

Addressing a news conference on Monday, the president defended the army's record, saying it had achieved some successes against Boko Haram and that the militants had been contained to a small area of north-east Nigeria close to the border with Cameroon.

He said that Nigeria was working with Cameroon to stop the militants from staging attacks in Nigeria and then escaping over the border.

The BBC's Will Ross in Nigeria says that Yobe has been relatively peaceful this year unlike neighbouring Borno state where at least 250 people have been killed in a series of large scale attacks by the militants.

Our correspondent says that the latest killings show the scale of the task the military still faces.


President Goodluck Jonathan defends suspension of central bank governor

 Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan said on Monday his decision to suspend the central bank governor had nothing to do with the governor's exposing corruption in the oil sector.

Jonathan suspended Governor Lamido Sanusi on Thursday on allegations he had mishandled the bank's budget. Sanusi, due to step down in June, was becoming an increasingly vocal critic of the government's record on tackling corruption.

The move caused a panic selloff in financial markets.

Sanusi had been presenting evidence to parliament that he said showed that state oil company Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) failed to pay $20 billion it owed to federal government coffers, fuelling speculation his suspension was an attempt to silence a whistleblower.

"The suspension of Sanusi has nothing to do with whistleblowing," Jonathan told local journalists in a televised news conference.

"The government normally places you on suspension pending investigation, and when they conclude the investigation, you may go back if there's no case against you."

He said an audit had been done of 2012 and 2013 central bank accounts that has shown several irregularities - the 2013 audit had just come in, which was enough to convince him there was a case against Sanusi, he said.

Sanusi has said he will challenge his suspension in court.

"The president has absolute powers to suspend the central bank governor," Jonathan said. "The president has oversight function over the central bank."

Jonathan denied that $20 billion could have gone missing from state oil revenues, saying he would not even "accept that one dollar should disappear".

The governor's suspicion of fraud in one of the world's most opaque national oil companies brought him into conflict with Jonathan a year before what are likely to be closely fought elections.

Jonathan was already under pressure from several corruption scandals and a failure to quell a four and half-year-old Islamist insurgency in the north that, while more or less contained in one area, appears to be becoming bloodier than ever. More than 200 people were killed in two attacks last week.

Jonathan told the journalists the military had had some successes against Boko Haram and that Nigeria was working with Cameroon authorities to try to prevent the militants mounting attacks on Nigerian soil then fleeing back over the border.

"The communities naturally will feel government is not giving them protection," he said. "But I promise that we will continue to improve."


Monday, February 24, 2014

Video - Suspended central bank governor Lamido Sanusi saw it coming

Ousted central bank governor Sanusi says president is sorrounded by 'incometent frauds

 Nigeria's former Central Bank chief, Lamido Sanusi on Sunday described the president who ousted him as a simple man trying to do well who has been undermined by incompetent and fraudulent aides.

Sanusi was suspended by President Goodluck Jonathan on Thursday over alleged financial misconduct, a move seen by many analysts as politically motivated.

President Goodluck Jonathan and Lamido Sanusi

Sanusi has accused the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) of misappropriating $20 billion (14.5 billion euros), allegations that earned him powerful enemies across the government.

In an interview with AFP in Lagos, Sanusi said many of the people advising Jonathan are sycophants who do not speak frankly or honestly about the extent of corruption in government.

"When you sit with President Jonathan himself he appears a nice simple person who is trying his best to do his best," Sanusi said.

"His greatest failing obviously is that he is surrounded by people who are extremely incompetent, who are extremely fraudulent and whom he trusts."

Sanusi learned of his removal from office while in Niger on Thursday and immediately returned to Lagos, where agents from the Directorate of State Services (DSS) seized his passport.

On Friday, he secured a temporary protective order from the Federal High Court in Lagos barring Nigerian intelligence agents from the DSS or police from arresting him.

"I thought taking away my passport was the beginning of infringement on my fundamental human rights," Sanusi told AFP, explaining why he had already sought court protection.

While no charges have been filed against him, Sanusi said he was prepared for whatever attacks may come.

"That we are here today means that I have taken the decision that I will face the consequences of whatever I do," he said.

He said his "fierce independence" had been an annoyance to the government since 2009, culminating with his sustained, public attack on the NNPC, widely seen as the epicentre of corruption in Africa's top oil producer.

"If I am sacrificed in whatever way, my freedom or my life... if it does lead to better accountability it will be well worth it," he said


Related stories: Central bank governor Lamido Sanusi suspended

Video - Sanusi Lamido's TEDx speech - Overcoming the fear of vested interest

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Central bank governor Lamido Sanusi suspended

President Jonathan has announced the suspension of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi.
This was made known in a statement signed Thursday by Reuben Abati Special Adviser to the President (Media & Publicity.

The statement further Directed that the most Senior Deputy Governor of the CBN, “Dr Sarah Alade who will serve as Acting Governor until the conclusion of on-going investigations into breaches of enabling laws, due process and mandate of the CBN”.

The statement reads thus:

Having taken special notice of reports of the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria and other investigating bodies, which indicate clearly that Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi’s tenure has been characterized by various acts of financial recklessness and misconduct which are inconsistent with the administration’s vision of a Central Bank propelled by the core values of focused economic management, prudence, transparency and financial discipline.

Being also deeply concerned about far-reaching irregularities under Mallam Sanusi’s watch which have distracted the Central Bank away from the pursuit and achievement of its statutory mandate; and

Being determined to urgently re-position the Central Bank of Nigeria for greater efficiency, respect for due process and accountability, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan has ordered the immediate suspension of Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi from the Office of Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria.

President Jonathan has further ordered that Mallam Sanusi should hand over to the most senior Deputy Governor of the CBN, Dr Sarah Alade who will serve as Acting Governor until the conclusion of on-going investigations into breaches of enabling laws, due process and mandate of the CBN.

The President expects that as Acting Governor of the Central Bank, Dr. Alade will focus on the core mandate of the Bank and conduct its affairs with greater professionalism, prudence and propriety to restore domestic and international confidence in the country’s apex bank.

The Federal Government of Nigeria reassures all stakeholders in Nigeria’s financial and monetary system that this decision has been taken in absolute good faith, in the overall interest of the Nigerian economy and in accordance with our laws and due process.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Best selling author Chimamanda Adichie addresses Nigeria's anti-gay law

I will call him Sochukwuma. A thin, smiling boy who liked to play with us girls at the university primary school in Nsukka. We were young. We knew he was different, we said, ‘he’s not like the other boys.’ But his was a benign and unquestioned difference; it was simply what it was. We did not have a name for him. We did not know the word ‘gay.’ He was Sochukwuma and he was friendly and he played oga so well that his side always won.

In secondary school, some boys in his class tried to throw Sochukwuma off a second floor balcony. They were strapping teenagers who had learned to notice, and fear, difference. They had a name for him. Homo. They mocked him because his hips swayed when he walked and his hands fluttered when he spoke. He brushed away their taunts, silently, sometimes grinning an uncomfortable grin. He must have wished that he could be what they wanted him to be. I imagine now how helplessly lonely he must have felt. The boys often asked, “Why can’t he just be like everyone else?”

Possible answers to that question include ‘because he is abnormal,’ ‘because he is a sinner, ‘because he chose the lifestyle.’ But the truest answer is ‘We don’t know.’ There is humility and humanity in accepting that there are things we simply don’t know. At the age of 8, Sochukwuma was obviously different. It was not about sex, because it could not possibly have been – his hormones were of course not yet fully formed – but it was an awareness of himself, and other children’s awareness of him, as different. He could not have ‘chosen the lifestyle’ because he was too young to do so. And why would he – or anybody – choose to be homosexual in a world that makes life so difficult for homosexuals?

The new law that criminalizes homosexuality is popular among Nigerians. But it shows a failure of our democracy, because the mark of a true democracy is not in the rule of its majority but in the protection of its minority – otherwise mob justice would be considered democratic. The law is also unconstitutional, ambiguous, and a strange priority in a country with so many real problems. Above all else, however, it is unjust. Even if this was not a country of abysmal electricity supply where university graduates are barely literate and people die of easily-treatable causes and Boko Haram commits casual mass murders, this law would still be unjust. We cannot be a just society unless we are able to accommodate benign difference, accept benign difference, live and let live. We may not understand homosexuality, we may find it personally abhorrent but our response cannot be to criminalize it.

A crime is a crime for a reason. A crime has victims. A crime harms society. On what basis is homosexuality a crime? Adults do no harm to society in how they love and whom they love. This is a law that will not prevent crime, but will, instead, lead to crimes of violence: there are already, in different parts of Nigeria, attacks on people ‘suspected’ of being gay. Ours is a society where men are openly affectionate with one another. Men hold hands. Men hug each other. Shall we now arrest friends who share a hotel room, or who walk side by side? How do we determine the clunky expressions in the law – ‘mutually beneficial,’ ‘directly or indirectly?’

Many Nigerians support the law because they believe the Bible condemns homosexuality. The Bible can be a basis for how we choose to live our personal lives, but it cannot be a basis for the laws we pass, not only because the holy books of different religions do not have equal significance for all Nigerians but also because the holy books are read differently by different people. The Bible, for example, also condemns fornication and adultery and divorce, but they are not crimes.

For supporters of the law, there seems to be something about homosexuality that sets it apart. A sense that it is not ‘normal.’ If we are part of a majority group, we tend to think others in minority groups are abnormal, not because they have done anything wrong, but because we have defined normal to be what we are and since they are not like us, then they are abnormal. Supporters of the law want a certain semblance of human homogeneity. But we cannot legislate into existence a world that does not exist: the truth of our human condition is that we are a diverse, multi-faceted species. The measure of our humanity lies, in part, in how we think of those different from us. We cannot – should not – have empathy only for people who are like us.

Some supporters of the law have asked – what is next, a marriage between a man and a dog?’ Or ‘have you seen animals being gay?’ (Actually, studies show that there is homosexual behavior in many species of animals.) But, quite simply, people are not dogs, and to accept the premise – that a homosexual is comparable to an animal – is inhumane. We cannot reduce the humanity of our fellow men and women because of how and who they love. Some animals eat their own kind, others desert their young. Shall we follow those examples, too?

Other supporters suggest that gay men sexually abuse little boys. But pedophilia and homosexuality are two very different things. There are men who abuse little girls, and women who abuse little boys, and we do not presume that they do it because they are heterosexuals. Child molestation is an ugly crime that is committed by both straight and gay adults (this is why it is a crime: children, by virtue of being non-adults, require protection and are unable to give sexual consent).

There has also been some nationalist posturing among supporters of the law. Homosexuality is ‘unafrican,’ they say, and we will not become like the west. The west is not exactly a homosexual haven; acts of discrimination against homosexuals are not uncommon in the US and Europe. But it is the idea of ‘unafricanness’ that is truly insidious. Sochukwuma was born of Igbo parents and had Igbo grandparents and Igbo great-grandparents. He was born a person who would romantically love other men. Many Nigerians know somebody like him. The boy who behaved like a girl. The girl who behaved like a boy. The effeminate man. The unusual woman. These were people we knew, people like us, born and raised on African soil. How then are they ‘unafrican?’

If anything, it is the passage of the law itself that is ‘unafrican.’ It goes against the values of tolerance and ‘live and let live’ that are part of many African cultures. (In 1970s Igboland, Area Scatter was a popular musician, a man who dressed like a woman, wore makeup, plaited his hair. We don’t know if he was gay – I think he was – but if he performed today, he could conceivably be sentenced to fourteen years in prison. For being who he is.) And it is informed not by a home-grown debate but by a cynically borrowed one: we turned on CNN and heard western countries debating ‘same sex marriage’ and we decided that we, too, would pass a law banning same sex marriage. Where, in Nigeria, whose constitution defines marriage as being between a man and a woman, has any homosexual asked for same-sex marriage?

This is an unjust law. It should be repealed. Throughout history, many inhumane laws have been passed, and have subsequently been repealed. Barack Obama, for example, would not be here today had his parents obeyed American laws that criminalized marriage between blacks and whites.

An acquaintance recently asked me, ‘if you support gays, how would you have been born?’ Of course, there were gay Nigerians when I was conceived. Gay people have existed as long as humans have existed. They have always been a small percentage of the human population. We don’t know why. What matters is this: Sochukwuma is a Nigerian and his existence is not a crime.

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Video - Nigeria's anti-gay law denounced

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Nigerian passengers onboard hijacked Ethiopian plane

The Ethiopian Government has said five Nigerians were among the 193 passengers on board the Rome-bound Ethiopian Airplane, Boeing 767 that was hijacked yesterday.

The Ethiopian Minister of Information and Communication, Redwan Hussein, who confirmed this during a news conference in Addis Ababa, said other passengers included 140 Italians, 11 Americans among others.

He apologised to the passengers for the “undue emotional stress and inconvenience they faced in the course of the hijack.“

He said the suspected hijacker, whose name was given as Hailemedihn Abera Tegegn, 31, was under custody pending investigation by Authorities of the two countries.

According to him, the Ethiopian Government and its Swiss counterpart were making effort to expedite the travel of Flight 702 passengers to their intended destination.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Flight 702, with 202 passengers and flight crews left the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa at 12.30 a.m. local time and was due to land in Rome, Italy at 04:40 a.m. local time.

However, the plane was forced to make an unscheduled landing in Geneva at 6 a.m. local time, according to the Airlines statement issued early on Monday.

Hussein said the act of the said Asylum-seeking co-pilot was in violation of article 32 of the Ethiopian Constitution, which guaranteed the freedom of citizens to travel out of the country.

“It also represents a gross betrayal of trust that needlessly endangered the lives of the very passengers that a pilot is morally and professionally obliged to safeguard.“

He commended the Switzerland Government for the care it provided for the passengers and the prompt apprehension of the suspect, confirming that the suspect allegedly locked the cockpit door when the pilot went to the toilet and hijacked the aircraft.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Chiwetel Ejiofor wins best actor at the 2014 British Academy Film Awards

“12 Years a Slave”, the distressing tale of a man sold into slavery, was the big winner at the Baftas on Sunday, giving the Steve McQueen directed picture a huge pre-Oscars boost.

The film, adapted from Solomon Northup’s 1853 memoir, took the coveted best film prize at a star-studded ceremony at London’s Royal Opera House.

It scored an earlier success when British actor Chiwetel Ejiofor, who portrays free black man Northup as he is kidnapped and enslaved in the United States, walked away with the best actor prize.

Ejiofor said he was “so deeply honoured and privileged” to receive the award and praised McQueen.

“This is yours by the way, I know that, you know that,” he told the director. “I’m going to keep it but it’s yours”.

London-born McQueen used his acceptance speech to thank his “one and only mother” and to highlight the issue of modern day slavery.

“There are 21 million people in slavery as we sit here,” he explained. “I just hope 150 years from now our ambivalence will not allow another film-maker to make this film”.

McQueen’s work beat off competition from crime-comedy “American Hustle”, pirate drama “Captain Phillips”, space sci-fi thriller “Gravity” and “Philomena”, the tale of an Irishwoman searching for a son taken by nuns.

However, “Philomena” did win in the adapted screenplay category. Leading actor Steve Coogan praised the “real Philomena Lee”, revealing that she was in the audience.

Rising star Jennifer Lawrence won the best supporting actress award for her role in “American Hustle” and Barkhad Abdi claimed the best supporting actor prize for his portrayal of a Somali pirate in “Captain Phillips”.

McQueen missed out on the best director award, which instead went to Mexican Alfonso Cuaron for “Gravity”.

Accepting his award, he said: “You can not tell from my accent but I consider myself a part of the British film industry”.

The stellar adventure enjoyed a hugely successful evening, receiving six prizes.

Australian Cate Blanchett paid tribute to late colleague Philip Seymour Hoffman, calling him “a continual profound touchstone”, as she claimed her best actress award for her part in Woody Allen’s “Blue Jasmine”.

“Phil, buddy, this is for you, you bastard,” she said. “I hope you’re proud.”

- Jolie surprise appearance -

The British Academy of Film and Television Arts awards are the highlight of the British film calendar and a useful guide to which way the Academy Awards might go on March 2.

Hollywood stars including Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt rubbed shoulders with British royalty at the glitzy ceremony.

The superstar couple made an unexpected appearance on the red carpet in matching tuxedos and signed autographs for hordes of fans camped outside the venue.

Bafta president Prince William was also at the ceremony, which was hosted for a ninth time by actor Stephen Fry.

He opened proceedings with a tribute to Helen Mirren, who received Bafta’s highest accolade, the Academy Fellowship “in recognition of her exceptional contribution to film”.

Mirren, who has played Elizabeth II on stage and screen, was presented with the award by William, who called her “an extremely talented British actress who I should probably call granny”.

The 68-year-old actress quoted Shakespeare’s Tempest during her acceptance speech.

“We are such stuff as dreams are made on and our little life is rounded with a sleep,” she said.

“My little life is rounded with this honour, thank you very much indeed.”

The British capital has recently suffered freak storms, but conditions were fine if cold on Sunday, allowing stars to dazzle on the red carpet.

Mirren wore a navy blue dress with chiffon sleeves while fellow dame Judi Dench, nominated for best actress, wore a dark velvet gown with turquoise cuffs.

Oscar-winner Emma Thompson arrived wrapped up in a red dress and white coat with a huge furry collar, while “American Hustle” star Amy Adams posed for photographers in a floor-length black gown from Victoria Beckham.

Leonardo DiCaprio, Christian Bale and Tom Hanks, all nominated in the Best Actor category, were also in London for the event.

BAFTAs 2014 winners
Best Film – 12 Years A Slave
Outstanding British Film — “Gravity”
Director — Alfonso Cuaron, “Gravity”
Actor — Chiwetel Ejiofor, “12 Years a Slave”
Actress — Cate Blanchett, “Blue Jasmine”
Supporting Actor — Barkhad Abdi, “Captain Phillips”
Supporting Actress — Jennifer Lawrence, “American Hustle”
Rising Star — Will Poulter
Original Screenplay — Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell, “American Hustle”
Adapted Screenplay — Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope, “Philomena”
Film Not in the English Language — “The Great Beauty”
Music — “Gravity”
Cinematography — “Gravity”
Editing — “Rush”
Production Design — “The Great Gatsby”
Costume Design — “The Great Gatsby”
Sound — “Gravity”
Visual Effects — “Gravity”
Makeup and Hair — “American Hustle”
Animated Feature — “Frozen”
Short Film — “Room 8”
Short Animation — “Sleeping With the Fishes”
Documentary — “The Act of Killing”
Outstanding Contribution to British Cinema — Peter Greenaway
Academy Fellowship — Helen Mirren
British Debut — Writer-director Kieran Evans, “Kelly + Victor”

Biometrics used to tackle fraud in Nigeria

Nigeria has introduced a new system to get over banking and internet fraud. Now banks in the country will use biometrics in an effort to combat money laundering and identity theft. Over the next few months, bank customers will queue up to have their faces and fingerprints scanned to further secure transactions. However, not everyone is convinced that the technology can solve the industry's problems.

Boko Haram kill at least 90 in northeast Nigeria

Suspected Islamist fighters killed at least 90 people in an early morning attack on a village in remote northeast Nigeria on Sunday, witnesses said.

The Boko Haram gunmen surrounded the village of Izge, near the border with Cameroon, spraying it with bullets, setting off explosions and burning down dozens of houses, they said.

"As I am talking to you now, all the dead bodies of the victims are still lying in the streets," resident Abubakar Usman told Reuters by telephone. "We fled without burying them, fearing the terrorists were still lurking in the bushes."

Borno state Police Commissioner Lawal Tanko confirmed the attack but said he had no details of casualties. Another witness, Lawan Madu, said hundreds of residents had fled.

President Goodluck Jonathan ordered extra troops into northeast Nigeria in May to try to crush the insurgents, who want to carve a breakaway Islamic state out of largely Muslim northern Nigeria, where they have killed thousands of people.

But the Islamists simply retreated into the remote, hilly Gwoza area bordering Cameroon, from where they have continued to mount deadly attacks that increasingly target civilians.

Jonathan faces an election in a year's time, and the persistence of Boko Haram's 4-1/2-year-old insurgency despite an costly military operation against it remains a major headache.

Last week, Boko Haram fighters in trucks painted in military colors killed 51 people in an attack on the Konduga local government area.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Nigeria slumps in FIFA ranking

Nigeria’s senior national team has dropped six places to 47th in the latest Fifa world ranking released on Thursday morning.

The African champions were adjudged the 41st best football playing team in the world according to the ranking released earlier in January.

Despite finishing in third position at the African Nations Championship in South Africa, Stephen Keshi men fell down the ladder in the monthly rituals by Fifa.

Cote d’Ivoire remain at the summit of African football with 841 points which put them in the 23rd position while CHAN runners up Ghana dropped 13 places to be ranked the 37th best team in the world and fourth in Africa.

Algeria moved to the second position on the continent after amassing 819 points which places them in the 26th spot in the world.

Spain, Germany and Argentina hold the first, second and third spots in the world respectively as 2014 Fifa World Cup hosts Brazil moved to the ninth spot in the world.

The next ranking will be released on March 13, 2014.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

President Goodluck Jonathan sacks ministers

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has sacked four ministers, in the latest shake-up ahead of elections next year.

Outgoing Aviation Minister Stella Oduah, a close ally of the president, is the most high-profile sacking.

She has been embroiled in allegations of corruption, which she denies, after her ministry spent $1.5m (£1m) on two bullet-proof luxury cars.

Mr Jonathan's party is divided on whether he should seek re-election.

The governing People's Democratic Party (PDP) has been hit by a wave of defections to the opposition All Progressive Congress (APC), which has cost the PDP its majority in the House of Representatives.

Several state governors have also switched sides.

Last month, Mr Jonathan also sacked all his military chiefs over their inability to end the Boko Haram Islamist insurgency in the north.

As well as Ms Oduah, Mr Jonathan also sacked the minister of police affairs, the minister of the Niger Delta, home to the country's huge oil wealth and the state minister of finance.

Correspondents say it is a surprise that he has replaced Ms Oduah, as she was instrumental in raising funds for his last election campaign.

BBC Hausa's Aliyu Tanko says the recent wave of sackings shows that President Jonathan wants to be surrounded by popular people, not those tainted by scandal, in case he decides to seek re-election.

He is also trying to exert his authority to address his image as someone who is being controlled by more powerful figures, our correspondent says.

Mr Jonathan has said that he would only serve one term after his election in 2011 but there is a widespread belief that his allies are preparing for him to stand for re-election.

President Goodluck Jonathan declares administration will leave a better Nigeria

President Goodluck Jonathan said yesterday that his administration will bequeath to Nigerians, a better Nigeria in all sectors than he met it when he assumed office.
He spoke yesterday at the launching of the Nigeria Industrial Revolution Plan (NIRP) and the National Enterprise Development Programme (NEPED) at Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa.

According to the President, the Nigeria Industrial Revolution Plan and the National Enterprise Development Programme will help to fast track the attainment of the goals of ensuring a strong economy and industrial base of the country.

He said the launch of the programmes were “targeted at transforming Nigerian businesses and changing the lives of the ordinary people. It will accelerate inclusive growth and job creation and save the drain on our reserve caused by importing what we can produce locally.

”The Nigeria Industrial Revolution Plan, the National Entreprise Development Programme will also increase the impetus for our national transformation agenda by ushering in a new era of value addition, enterprise development and indusrialisation. I sincerely believe that the Nigerian economy must be developed into one of the most elements of national transformation.

That is why we have been resolute in executing the Nigerian agenda for economic reform. Our track record in this regard is stronger every year. Just coming into office we have consolidated Nigeria’s fiscal position.
“We have launched the boldest transformation of the agricultural sector and we are well on the way to increasing Nigeria’s food production by 20 million tonnes per annum.

“We have fundamentally reorganise the power sector by privatising 11 distribution and four generating companies and bringing in private sector capital and expertise. We have upgraded faciities within the Nigerian Aviation sector to standards never seen before in this country and we have started rail services that had been dormant for over 20 years.

“Our road network have also received unprecedented attention and improvement in the last three years. It is our expectation that the Nigeria Industrial Revolution Plan and the National Enterprise Development Programme will be major additions to these landmarks achievements,” the president said.

Describing the NIRP as the “the most ambitious industralisation programme ever pursued by our nation,” President Jonathan said the programme is aimed at accelerating investments in areas where “Nigeria’s comparative and competitive advantages can be better harnessed.”

He listed such areas as the processing of food and agricultural products, metals and solid mineral processing, adding that these sub sectors were prioritized because they will also generate jobs and tap into existing markets and demands in Nigeria.

“In each of these sectors we could become number one in Africa and in the top ten globally because of our competitive advantage,” the president said .
Jonathan added that the Nigeria Industrial Revolution Plan will also address the problem that has persistently limited manufacturers.

“It will build up industrial infrastructure, pioritise power for industrial use, reduce borrowing cost and mobilise funds to the real sector. The benefit of NIRP will boost the annual revenue earned by Nigerian manufacturers by up to N5 trillion per annum. We will leave Nigeria better than we met it,” the president said.


Video - Evicted residents of Badagry, Nigeria demand compensation

Tens of thousands of people whose homes were demolished allege mistake by police, who in turn say they own the land. The police say they own the land but those evicted say the police acted by mistake.

Related stories: Video - Homeless battle in Makoko

Video - Building a floating school in Makoko

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Dangote Sugar boosting Nigeria's economy

The Minister of Trade and Investment, Dr Olusegun Aganga, has disclosed the readiness of the federal government to partner with private sectors as panacea to achieving President Goodluck Jonathan's transformation agenda.

The minister made the disclosure during a facility tour of the Savannah Sugar Company in Numan Local Government Area of Adamawa State, adding that the federal government is poised to providing the enabling environment and adequate infrastructures for Nigeria's industries to thrive.

Aganga said he was in Numan to see the transformation drive being embarked by the Savannah Sugar company and according to him after the site seeing he has no option than to appreciate the Dangote Sugar Company for a job well done and its immense contribution towards the development of the country's wealth both in human and economic development.

He said the Sugar company has created presently 4100 job opportunities for Nigerians and is planing an expansion to Taraba states where it has acquired 50,000 hec tres of lands adding that the FG is collaborating with company to ensure that this dream is achieved .
The minister believed that before 2015 the Sugar company would create four hundred and eighty thousand employment opportunities for Nigerians.
Aganga revealed that he was surprised at the level of progress made by the company within a short period of time saying that with the development he
expects the economy of the area to be seriously revamped which will
serve as a precursor to solving youth restiveness in the area.

He expressed satisfaction and added that he was please with the remarkable progress made by the company which has even surpassed the benchmark required by the FG to seal a pack with the sugar company.

"I am delighted to say that Dangote Sugar Company is setting the pace
of industrialization in the country which entails their commitment in
hiring senior hands". He said.

He lauded the effort of Dangote Sugar Management whom he said through
diligence gave life to a company that was on the verge of liquidation
within a short time leading to the creation of about 4,100 direct jobs.

The Group Managing Director (GMD) of Dangote Sugar, Mr Graham Clark
during his remark said Savannah sugar has lived up to its billing in
discharging its social responsibility through building of schools,
housing estate and encouraging out grower scheme where thousands of
families were affected.

He said apart from that, the company has provided direct job
opportunities to the residents of its host communities whom serve as
the workforce of the company as according to him majority of people
working for company are members of its host community.

Clark said the company remains resolute at ensuring that the cardinal
objectives of the Federal Government in reforming the industrial
sector which will lead to massive job creation is pursued vigorously
which informed the company's drive to upgrade its operations.

McDonald's looking at potential in Nigeria

McDonald’s Corp. is looking at potential new markets in Nigeria and the rest of Africa after the world’s largest restaurant chain entered a new Southeast Asian country for the first time in more than two decades, reports Bloomberg.

McDonald’s will look at a number of nations for restaurant locations in Africa, which is expected to be part of the fast-food chain’s future growth strategy, chief executive officer, Don Thompson, said on Monday in an interview in Ho Chi Minh City. On February 8, the Oak Brook, Illinois-based company opened its first restaurant in Vietnam, where it’s trying to catch up with rivals including Burger King Worldwide Inc.
“We’re looking at the opportunities that Africa may yield,” Thompson said.

“We’re in ongoing dialogue to build appropriate relationships” on the continent. “There’s quite a few countries across Africa we want to look at, but Nigeria clearly is a large country that has opportunity,” he said.

The company is looking to developing nations for expansion. The chain posted fourth-quarter profit that was little changed from a year earlier as U.S. same-store sales fell. Sub-Saharan Africa’s economy will expand 6.1 percent this year, compared with global growth of 3.7 percent, according to the International Monetary Fund.

Nigeria’s economy has expanded an average of 8.2 percent annually since 1999, pushing its per-capita income as of last year to $1,725 from $310 in 1999, according to IMF estimates. Nigeria has a population of about 170 million people, the most on the continent.

Africa is home to the world’s youngest and fastest-growing population, McKinsey & Co. said in a 2010 report that estimated household expenditure in the continent would expand to $1.4 trillion a year by 2020.

Burger King last year opened its first restaurant in South Africa and said that it would look to open outlets in Botswana, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe, without specifying a time period. There are 29 Burger King branches in Vietnam, according to Bryson Thornton, a spokesman for the Miami-based company.
McDonald’s new 350-seat branch in Vietnam marks the company’s first new market in the region since Brunei in 1992. In Africa, McDonald’s has outlets in Egypt, Mauritius, Morocco and South Africa.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Video - Fungus resistant bean boost cocoa production in Nigeria

Farmers in Nigeria have boosted cocoa production, thanks to a new kind of fast-growing, fungus-resistant bean. The new type of bean reaches maturity in 18 months instead of four to five years like other types of beans. The government wants to double production to 500,000 tonnes by next year. But farmers say not enough is being done to increase yields.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Nigerians in UK prisons not happy with prisoner exchange plan

Some Nigerians serving various jail terms in the UK have kicked against the recently signed Prisoner Transfer Agreement between Nigeria and British governments.

Dr Dalhatu Tafida, Nigeria’s High Commissioner to the UK, on Tuesday in London confirmed this in an interview with the Europe Correspondent of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).

Tafida said that some of the prisoners have expressed concern over returning to the country to complete their terms, citing poor prison facilities and stigma as main reasons.

While explaining the framework of the agreement, the envoy said that the prisoner transfer was not an automatic exercise whereby those in jail would return home immediately.

According to him, transfer will not be voluntary but decided by both governments.

Nigeria and UK in December 2013 signed the agreement which will make it possible for prisoners to return home and complete their terms.

The agreement is yet to be ratified by parliaments of the two countries.

Also, Tafida said that there had been a decline in the number of Nigerians in jail across the UK.

“In 2008 when I assumed office, there were 800 Nigerians serving various terms; but today, the figure had dropped to about 390.”

He attributed the development to less crime, adding that “those who finished their term were released”.

“Similarly, those without papers are returning home voluntarily as life is tough here,” he stressed.
Tafida further said that as many as 40 people were usually repatriated monthly under the UK-Nigeria repatriation programme.

PM News

Related story: Nigeria signs prisoner exchange deal with the UK

Retired Nigerian Olympian athlete sentenced to life in prison

Ambrose Monye and Andre Gouws were sentenced to life in prison by the High Court in Pretoria on Wednesday for the murder of Chanelle Henning.

Judge Johan Kruger said Monye and Gouws were callous, cold-blooded killers who only confessed their guilt to Henning's murder to save their own hides.

Henning was gunned down by two men on a motorcycle shortly after dropping her son off at a creche in Faerie Glen in the east of Pretoria in November 2011.

Former policeman Gerhardus du Plessis and his friend Willem Pieterse later pleaded guilty to the murder and were each sentenced to 18 years imprisonment.

Nico Henning was arrested in December last year shortly after Gouws testified that Henning had offered him R1 million to murder his "troublesome" wife, with whom he was involved in a custody battle.

He is due to appear in the Pretoria Magistrate's Court again on a charge of murder on June 3, but no date has yet been set for his trial.

Monye on Monday followed suit when he admitted that he had acted as middle-man and roped in the hitmen for the murder of a woman he had never met after Gouws offered him R50 000.

Kruger said Henning's murder had been a contract killing, preceded by a conspiracy to murder and had been characterised by cold-blooded disregard for the life of a young woman and mother of a young child.

The services of contract killers had been obtained while the main instigator, Gouws, attempted to remove himself as far as possible from the execution itself by making use of a middle-man, Monye.

He in turn moved in the shadowy underworld of drug dealing and was well-placed in obtaining the services of hit-men.

"We live in a society where violent crime, in various forms, has almost become the order of the day and where peace-loving members of society are pestered by violent criminal deeds of almost unbearable proportions.

"The courts must heed society's outcries that violent crime must be dealt with in ways which will serve as a deterrent and prevention to potential and real criminals."

Kruger said Henning's murder was particularly of a cold-blooded, calculated and devious nature.

"The murder was executed on an unsuspecting young woman and mother of a young child who did neither of the two accused any harm, who was leading her own life and minding her own business, unaware that ill-intended men were planning to kill her.

"Murder is always utterly repugnant but the murder of Chanelle Henning remains an act beyond any reasonable comprehension."

He said he had no doubt in his mind that society demanded that the prescribed minimum sentence -- life imprisonment -- be imposed in a case such as this.

Kruger described Monye's role in the murder as "cold-hearted and callous beyond words".

"To him it was a faceless person to be killed, someone he knew nothing or very little about, but whom he wanted killed for personal gain regardless of the consequences.

"...It displays a total lack of even the most basic respect for the sanctity of human life," he said.

Gouws had first-hand knowledge of his victim and his claims that he had been "manipulated" by Nico Henning were not convincing.

He said the mere fact that Gouws had decided to spill the beans on Henning did not alter the seriousness of the crime or his moral blameworthiness.

"His conduct is inexcusable and speaks of a cruel and skewed mind.

"In this case the element of inter-personal knowledge (of his victim) adds to his moral blameworthiness. The scheme to have Chanelle Henning killed was designed by him," Kruger said.

The judge dismissed argument by both the defence and State that the accused's confessions amounted to substantial and compelling circumstances and justified lesser sentences than life imprisonment.

He said it was clear that the two had been motivated not by remorse, but by self-preservation.

"The envisaged prosecution of Henning and the proposed role to be played by the two accused in that process do not constitute substantial and compelling circumstances," he said.

He found that neither of the accused had shown any remorse for what they did.

"What is glaringly absent from Gouws's statement as well as from his oral evidence is any form or expression of regret or remorse. Not a word has been uttered by him in that regard.

He found that Monye's confession and expression of remorse was an afterthought and not sincere.

Henning's parents expressed satisfaction about the sentences, but said they still had a long road ahead of them with the trial of Nico Henning and that only their faith carried them through.

Gouws's mother Lenie was in tears and tightly hugged him. She did not want to speak to the media. - Sapa


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Nigerians seeking asylum in Netherlands due to anti-gay law

Amid fears that the number of Nigerians seeking asylum in gay-friendly countries would rise, the Royal Embassy of the Netherlands in Nigeria has confirmed that it has received some applications for asylum by some Nigerians who fear persecution and a backlash following the signing into law the anti-gay bill by President Goodluck Jonathan.

The embassy in an email to THISDAY, however, said it was neither involved in processing any application for asylum seekers nor does it have the power to grant asylum to applicants.

Since late last year when Jonathan assented to the Same-sex bill, Nigeria has come under criticisms from the United States and some European countries for criminalising same-sex unions.

Responding to concerns of a possible upsurge in the number of applicants seeking to flee Nigeria in the wake of the anti-gay clampdown, Netherlands said it could not predict whether there would be a rise in the number of those who want to flee Nigeria because of the new dispensation, adding that doing so would be mere speculation.

It however noted that even if there was an increase, it was expected to decrease as applicants become more aware about the modalities for asylum seekers in the Netherlands.

The email, which was received from the embassy, read: “The embassy has received a small number of applications for asylum by Nigerians. It is not possible to apply for asylum at the embassy. We inform the applicants likewise but we do not register the number of applications made.

“At this stage, it is not possible to make predictions. That would be speculation.  However, when people become increasingly aware that it is not possible to apply for asylum at the embassy, one could expect a decrease. The embassy is not involved in the asylum process, neither in the application nor in the determination of the authenticity of claims.”

Also, a diplomat at the Canadian High Commission told THIISDAY that although there had been no significant increase in visa applications to Canada in recent times, asylum seekers could only obtain such privileges in Ottawa, on arrival in Canada.
“We cannot grant asylum to anyone here on any grounds, that is the prerogative of Ottawa. Such a Nigerian must have already satisfied regular visa requirements and must have travelled to Canada, he or she as the case may be, can now apply to stay back for fear of persecution upon return to Nigerian.

“But there would be investigations to ascertain if the person is gay and not just making claims,” the diplomat said.

Canada was one of the most vocal countries to condemn Nigeria's anti-gay law.
The Head, Political Section of the British High Commission in Abuja, Mr. Paul Edwards, also told THISDAY that it was too early to determine whether the law would have any impact on the number of asylum seekers.

In an email responding to THISDAY enquiries, Edwards said: “We cannot say at this stage whether the Act will have any impact on asylum claims. Asylum applications are assessed on whether a person can demonstrate that he or she faces genuine persecution in their country of origin.”

The Information Officer of the US Embassy in Abuja, Ms. Rhonda Ferguson-Augustus, said it was the duty of the US Department of Homeland Security to review asylum applications on a case-by-case basis.

“... and due to privacy concerns, we cannot comment on these cases,” she added.
An official of the embassy also confided in THISDAY that there was no truth in reports that the embassy was already experiencing an increase in visa applications from asylum seekers on such grounds.

“The law is relatively new, so we have not experienced such increase, but we expect to have applications from asylum seekers who wish to escape the hostilities soon. People seek asylum for matters less serious than this, so we expect that the increase would happen,” the official said.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Government has accused western nations of double standard over the new law banning same-sex marriages.

Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs, Prof. Viola Onwuliri, said such criticisms stem from the “double standard” of the West.

Speaking to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on the sidelines of the just concluded AU summit, Onwuliri said the president signed the law in the interest of Nigerians and democracy.

“What happened in Nigeria is democracy in action and it will really be unfortunate that people who are talking about democracy when they now see democracy work, they want us to go against democracy,” she said.

“Is democracy for picking and choosing? When it suits them, they want us to have good governance and democracy, but when it does not suit them, they want us to go against the democracy that has been put in place.

“The National Assembly took a decision, the National Assembly is the face of democracy in Nigeria, they are the representatives of the people, they form the voice of the people and they have spoken,” she added.

On the situation in South Sudan and the Central African Republic (CAR), the minister said Nigeria strongly backs the AU and regional groups’ role in demanding the return of peace and stability in the regions.

“Nigeria has taken a position on the need for peaceful resolutions in conflict situations in Africa, safety of lives and property and ensuring that women and children are safe in conflict areas,” she said.

The minister acknowledged that there had been demands for Nigeria to contribute troops to the African-led International Mission (MISCA) in CAR.
“The decision (to deploy troops to CAR) is for the president and commander-in-chief, but it’s not something new to us because Nigeria has been involved in peacekeeping since the 1960s,” she said.

This Day

Monday, February 3, 2014

Video - Nigeria determined to provide support for local farmers

Nigerian farmers have said they are suffering major losses because of illegal rice imports.But the government has developed a scheme to stave off the country's reliance on imported rice.It will supply farmers with improved seeds and fertiliser and hopes to phase out imports in three years.Up to 60 percent of the country's agricultural land is currently untouched due to a lack of farming skills, access to fertiliser and money to cultivate crops.