Saturday, September 29, 2012

Nigeria @ 52: Tribune Interviews



Senator Ayo Fasanmi, a First Republic senator, clocked 87 a few days to Nigeria’s 52 independence celebration. The octogenarian who was an aide of the sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, speaks with STEPHEN GBADAMOSI on status of the country, among other national issues. Excerpts:

WHAT were those things that usually marked Nigeria’s independence celebrations when you were growing up?

When Nigeria attained independence in 1960, I was already 35 years old. Then, they would declare public holiday. People were usually happy that Nigeria became independent of colonialists. Anybody who gains freedom is usually happy. And so, we celebrated in the mood of joy.

Your leaders then, yourself and your peers fought for Nigeria’s independence; would you say we are moving towards the Nigeria of your dream now?

My mentor and leader in politics under whom I served period of apprentiship, the one and only indefatigable Chief Obafemi Awolowo, taught us that when you are in politics, you want to serve the people. His watchwords were free education, because of those who could not afford to send their children to schools, free health services and so on. Due to his ingenuity, we have the Cocoa House, Wemabod Estate, the first television station in Africa and so on and so forth. He was a man of action; he was very honest and very dedicated.

But 52 years after, one gets worried. And many of us wonder; is this the Nigeria we fought for?

There is unemployment. Some of the institutions our leaders built are going down. The roads that were built even by colonialists then were solid. But the roads that are being constructed now are being done in order to achieve political purposes. You constructed a road yesterday and, today, you find out that it is falling to pieces. There was a lot of honesty and dedication during our time. There is a difference now; we have exchanged one imperialism for another. We exchanged British imperialism for Nigerian imperialism.

When I was in the National Assembly, we were controlling the entire South-West. When we began the democratic experience again in 1999, we were controlling the six states in the South-West. Four years after, we had lost parts of the states and had one left. You know what has been their lot in those five states. I am happy now that we are coming back now to the old situation. We are getting back to the glorious past.

Are you saying that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) government at the centre has no cause to celebrate independence?

What are they going to celebrate? Are they going to celebrate corruption? Are they going to celebrate insecurity? People are being kidnapped; people are being killed. The Boko Haram thing is there. What are they really celebrating?

Even in the home state of the kingpin of the ruling party, Olusegun Obasanjo, the party is in disarray. So, the PDP has no cause to celebrate, they should be weeping. Nigeria has fallen into bits.

What should be done to make an occasion like this a joyous one for Nigerians?

The progressive elements in this country must come together. There must be a rescue operation. The ship of state is almost submerged, and there must be a rescue operation. In the South-West here, I only pray that we can win Ondo back into the fold. And the regional integration that the people are asking for must seriously be enforced. That is the way I see it. You can see what is happening in the South-West now.

You are referring to the South-West only, besides South-West, what about other parts of the country?

The same is true of other parts of the country.

Why I’m making reference to the South-West is that the South-West is the showpiece. If they were looking for the best governor, they picked from the South-West; they were looking for the next one, they picked from the South-West, then, the region is the showpiece.

And in the other states, what have they got? In most part of the entire North, you cannot go to church. You want to go and serve your God and some mad people, for religious or political reason, starts to wield guns. I don’t even know what to say; there is so much insecurity. Now, government is asking America to help it because of Boko Haram. You are asking them to come back and colonise us again, because we cannot ensure security of our people.

You mentioned America and I know you are aware of other stable countries which have passed through difficult times. Can’t we say Nigeria is also going through the learning process?

Learning process after 52 years of independence? I know that we must start from a point, but the most debilitating factor in Nigeria, which is looking like an incurable one, is corruption. It is like an in-built institution within another institution. That type of thing happens in other countries too, but the degree in this country is terrible.

If we had continued the way Awolowo started in the Western region or if they had allowed Awolowo to become president, or prime minister of Nigeria, the situation would have been different. Nothing works in this country anymore; electricity does not work, pipes are not running with water, the roads are bad, other infrastructure are decaying and even the educational system is not working.

When you were senator, who among your colleagues then can you say made the most impact?

I recall Senator Abraham Adesanya. There was also Senator Adebiyi. In the First Republic, we had Shitta-Bey from Lagos. Some of them are gone, but they were known for their sense of dedication and selflessness. From Kwara State, we had Cornileus Adebayo. There were friends also from the North who could be said to be progressives.

Awolowo said before he died; I remember the last congress we had in Abeokuta; he said people of like minds should be able to come together, no matter the party they belong to. Remember that when Awolowo wanted to contest the Presidency of this country, he had associates from Igboland and from the North. That was the situation.

The people of that time were patriotic. Their purpose in politics was to serve the people. It is only today that you see a boy of 18 years in a Jeep. And I ask: How did he come about the money?

Now, you begin to wonder if the presidential system is not too expensive for this nation. Shouldn’t we now be considering other options? It is either we make the presidential system less expensive and more manageable or we adopt the parliamentary system. But I think what we need, however, more than anything else, system or no system, are people who are committed and dedicated. Politics should not be for wealth.

You just turned 87, what advice do you have for Nigerians to make the country better?

We should review the whole system. Are we really having a federal structure? What is the fiscal policy? Does it reflect the federal nature of the country? Are we not having too much power in the centre?

What I would suggest is that we place less premium on wealth. We should return to politics of life. Awolowo did it many years back. We can now start doing it again. The Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) governors in Ekiti, Osun and Lagos are good examples.

You can see what Rauf Aregbesola is doing in Osun; it is complete revolution. Revolution is not all about arm struggle, but fine character. Fayemi in Ekiti is also putting more premium on service. If they all do that, Nigeria will be better.

We must fight corruption to a standstill and the young ones must imbibe that spirit.

Awolowo said life should not only be in abundant for the people on top, but also for those below.

Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Rules and Business, Honourable Albert Sam-Tsokwa, who represents Donga/Takum/Ussa and Special Areas Federal Constituency of Taraba State, in this interview with Kolawole Daniel, speaks on a number of national issues. Excerpts:

WHAT is your take on the insistence of the House that Ms Arumma Oteh’s sack as Director General of Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) stays?

Our resolution of 19 July, before we proceeded on our annual recess, was based on the fact that the law establishing that commission specifies qualifications which a person must have before getting to that office. The committee found as a fact that Oteh did not and doesn’t have that qualification and recommended that if she doesn’t have that qualification, she should not be in that office and that is what the law says, it is not what the House says. If we are a country that runs democracy based on the rule of law, everybody is equal before the law and the executive, judiciary and legislature should not be seen as violator of the laws they swore to uphold. Even at that, the law was passed by the National Assembly, the law was signed into law by Mr. President. So, we should obey the law we have set down for ourselves as a country. I don’t see any vendetta; in fact I am not aware of any such fact.

As the Attorney-General of the House, often, the executive would refer to resolution of the House as merely advisory; are you not worried about this trend?

There has never been any time Mr. President called the resolution of the House mere expression of opinion. It was Reuben Abati that expressed that view and Mr. President proved Abati wrong by going back on his words in subsidy removal palava. Fuel subsidy was removed 100 per cent on 1 January, but following the intervention of the House which was based on the outcry of Nigerians, we resolved that the fuel subsidy should not be remove and Mr. President wore a human face and revisited the issue.

Mind you, Abati said it would not happen. But the president said it would happen and it happened.

Aside our resolution on fuel subsidy removal, just of recent, the Central Bank of Nigeria governor, Mallam Lamido Sanusi, said there was no going back on introduction of new N5,000 note, despite our resolution that it should be halted. But Mr. President proved him wrong by saying that it should be suspended because the House and the people said no to it.

So, I won’t subscribe fully to saying the executive has been treating our resolutions with levity. Some of our resolutions do not require action, but the one that require action; I think it will not be too fair to say Mr. President has been outright in rejecting them. I think that we are making a headway.

So, are you saying Mr. President is listening to the voice of the people?

Yes he is. I give Mr. President kudos; he has behaved as a statesman. There is nothing wrong in reverting yourself when you discover that you have taken a wrong decision and that is what leaders should be.

In view of what you just said, what will be your word to Mr. President’s aides? My word will not go to Mr. President’s aide because I have no business with them, I don’t know them; they are not politicians, they are businessmen in political uniform.

None of them went out there to canvass for vote. My worry is that I have said and I will repeat it until Mr. President hears me. Mr. President never visited my constituency to campaign for vote; I campaigned for him and I staked my own election for his. I told every person during my campaign; if you are not going to vote for Mr. Goodluck Jonathan, don’t vote for me. They voted for me and for him also.

So, anything I say is in his interest because he will come again and want vote. I want a situation where the people will come and say Mr. President, we want you to contest again because you have done well for us, rather than him coming to beg for vote.

So, it is well that he has realised that he surrounds himself with enemies, rather than friends; whoever is not doing what will project your own image positively is not your friend, he is your enemy. If I am going to advise anybody, I will just tell Mr. President to take a second look at the list of his aides and know who are working for him and those who are not working for him; who are working in the interest of Nigerians and who are not working in the interest of Nigerians. He should take a second look at the list of his ministers. Yes, they have signed performance contract agreement, how many of them delivered based on the signed performance contract agreement? We are today just some few minutes from 1st of October and the capital aspect of the budget implementation is below 40 per cent. What are we going to tell Nigerians? What is the president going to tell the National Assembly to get approval for 2013 budget?

So, Mr. President is a good man; he has Nigerian’s interest at heart, but he surrounds himself with people who don’t even know Nigeria, let alone having Nigerian’s interest at heart. He should take a second look at the list of those who surround him.

Do you subscribe to it that Mr. President should come back in 2015?

It is not a question of wanting Mr. President to come back or not. If Mr. President wants to come back, he knows what to do; it is not I who will bring Mr. President or say he should not come, it is the people outside there. What are Nigerians saying? Well, for example, this is my second tenure; I suffered in my first election more than I did in my second election. There are places I went to campaign for my second elections but the people told me that I didn’t need to campaign in their area again because they knew I was contesting again and they had seen what I had done.

This is exactly what I expect people to tell Mr. President. All those people making noise that Mr. President should contest, telling him that constitution says he should contest; constitution doesn’t vote, the people do. So, Mr. President’s vote is going to be determined by how much smile he has put on the faces of Nigerians and how much food he has been able to put on the table of Nigerians. A hungry man outside there will fight back.

So, I will love Mr. President to come back because he is a good man, but how much of his goodness fills the stomach of Nigerians, he knows; I don’t. But it is too early to be thinking 2015; we should be thinking 2015 from 2014.

Sir, you just said that you love Mr. President to come back in 2015. As the House member representing your people, what are those things you can pinpoint that the president has been able to achieved so far?

The only major federal presence in my constituency is the Kashimila Dam and Mr.Presient has been pursuing the execution of that project religiously. But the Kashimila Dam is not a project just for my constituency. The hazard that may come if the Dam fails is national in nature. It is linked with Lake Nyos and any problem with the Lake Nyos now is going to affect the whole country.

I am looking at Kashimila Dam as project of the nation, but I thank God and Mr. President that it is sited in my constituency. We are going to derive a lot of other benefits from it. It is going to generate power and once a power project there is completed, I think we will say bye to blackout. Just as we enjoy the sun for 12 hours, we will enjoy electricity in my constituency for 24 hours. So, that alone is speaking for Mr. President in my constituency and I want him to extend this to other constituencies so that by the time 2015 comes, we will work and win, rather than run and sweat before we win.


Recently, the Chief Medical Director (CMD) of the Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital (OAUTH), Ile-Ife, Osun State, Professor Olusanya Adejuyigbe, spoke with some select journalists after touring the facilities at the hospital complex, on the breakthrough in the health sector, and declared that the hospital can now perform any form of DNA. JACOB SEGUN OLATUNJI was there. Excerpts:

RECENTLY, a Lagos-based laboratory operator, Dr. Afolabi said his laboratory was the only one that got capacity for DNA technology in the country during the DANA air crash. What is your reaction to this sir?

That is not true. Our hospital has been involved with organs from plantation for about 10 years and in the last five years, we have established facilities to carry out Tissue tapping which is part of the DNA analysis. When the DANA Air crash happened, the Honourable Minister of Health who is aware of our laboratory got in touch with me and asked that how do we help and I told him what he could do and he said I should get across to our colleagues in Lagos. We got to talk to them and gave them the address of our consultant in charge but till today he never contacted us.

Let me say a little about DNA technology. One, the DNA is like an identification tag that is individual-specific. If you know your DNA, no other person except probably your identical twin can have the same DNA. You understand what I mean. So, if we can access DNA, we may be able to identify an individual. If we will have records of what it was before or if we have blood relations with whom we share genetic materials. The original set up we have was that we could do it only in blood. We take the blood from the individual, but as we realise many of the victims in the DANA air crash were burnt which means blood was no longer available and this was conveyed to the Honourable Minister, that if blood were available there is nothing we could not do. But then, he advised that we should get the reagent to do it in any body tissue. While we were concentrating on the issues of blood then, that is the common requirement whether for paternity dispute or for tissue merging two people. But we can now even do it in any body tissue because within two weeks after that incident, we arrived at it though it may not be needed often, we have to incorporate that into our armamentarium, and we are now able to do that. We hope very soon we will even go beyond that to be able to do DNA, what we call gene frequency, to identify the genes on the DNA. We have requested from our partners abroad to let us know the equipment needed and that is just it. We funded everything about tissue tapping laboratory and DNA works from our internally-generated money.

Bone-marrow transplant, which is said to be one of the choicest medical means of solving major health problems, has been reportedly done successfully in some hospitals outside Nigeria. What has OAUTH done towards carrying this out?

We have a building, the transplant building, where we can do it with its own dedicated facility, what is holding us back is the hardware to use, and we have trained one of our consultants, Dr Oyekunle, in this technology. He has gone abroad I think twice or more for this purpose. And we can say by the next few years, very soon let me say, we will also be able to do that given our man and material strength.

Why train only one consultant? Why not more, given the size of this hospital and the work that will be available for him to do?

We have identified another younger consultant to train. You know people have their practice interest, he expressed an interest in this area, and we think he can be the nucleus of this project. If he has expertise, with the people on ground he can succeed.

It is not something that we need many doctors to do. We need a lot of support, equipment-wise and laboratory-wise. Except for the transplant centre to become functional, it is one of the things we thought we will be able to do in this financial year; that is why we said in the next one year, we will be able to do that. But we have identified another younger consultant who is likely to partner with him, to be with him.

Sir, there are groups in Nigeria who are less-privileged and they have medical challenges. We have been having problems of even young people now having problems with their hearts and they needed heart transplant and most of them are taken abroad. Is it that this teaching hospital does not have the facilities to do that?

We can’t do heart transplantation now but we can do cardiac surgery because many people go abroad not because of transplantation. They go either because their valves are diseased or some of the vessels are blocked which they will bypass and that is what they call it coronary artery bypass. You bypass the blocked area, if the valve is diseased, you replace the valve. We can do that in this hospital.

Most Nigerians who have problems which request bypass operations still go abroad but you said this hospital can handle such effectively, why do you think this hospital is not being patronised effectively for such operations?

The programme started about a year ago and why are people not patronising us? I have been asked that question several times but I know that those who go abroad as at today in this country are from the upper echelon and they spend their money in many instances, though a few of them may be sponsored by government organisations. On many occasions, for a variety of social reasons, they may prefer to go abroad, not necessarily because of the technical expertise, but as we agree, in many of these countries they go to, social infrastructure is better and they may factor that into their plan. If you are coming here from Akwa Ibom, there is no direct flight, you come by road, whereas if you go from Akwa Ibom to Lagos, you take a plane and go to Calcutta in India, if you take off from Lagos, the person will be in India before the person from Akwa Ibom will arrive here in Ile Ife, that is what I mean by social infrastructure. It is not just about the hospital, it part of this attitude, this act of going abroad is not just on technicalities. The other thing is this, in many of the countries they go to, particularly in the Indian sub-continent, there are already in place infrastructure, the government and the society deliberately support health institutions to attract foreign funds. That is still in the infancy in this country. Like all forms of tourism, the infrastructure to support people leaving their own place to come to your place and still feel at home, is still being developed in this country, like hotels, transportation and so on. It is common to hear people say “if we get there now, there will be no light,” you understand? Unlike other countries, each hospital in our country is like a local government—provide your electricity, water and security, possibly manufacture the tools you use, which in other countries might not be necessary.

Do you think the health sector in Nigeria is properly funded?

To answer in a simple sentence, we are not well-funded. It is not that the government is not trying, we are not there yet but we are making progress. Other countries that we go, they don’t depend solely on government. There are lots of non-governmental funding coming in into the sector to give helping hands, to allow it develop maximally. For example, if I am going to buy an equipment in Nigeria, I will be forced to pay in cash down, whereas a hospital of this magnitude in England would have a relationship with manufacturing company that is based in England, we can lease and pay a sort of rent which would be affordable, so rather than looking for 250million or 300million at a time, all I may need to do is for the first quarter 5 million which may be affordable and the difference is that if there is a new model, they will come and take away the old model and replace it with new model because they also want their equipments used and recycle the old model and possibly resell to Africa.

Nigerian officials arrested for Boko Haram attacks

Nigerian authorities have arrested a number of officials, accusing them of carrying out attacks for an Islamist militant group.

The military said they had captured an immigration officer who confessed to being an active member of Boko Haram.

His confession led to the arrest of a number of other officials.

Boko Haram has killed hundreds in northern and central Nigeria since 2009, when it launched a campaign to install an Islamic state.

The group's fighters have bombed government buildings and churches and assassinated Muslim clerics who disagreed with their views.

Their attacks have killed woman and children, Muslims and Christians.

Lt Colonel Sagir Musa said the immigration official was arrested last month while impersonating an army officer.

"He confessed to being an active member of the Boko Haram terrorist sect," said Col Musa.

"He also confessed to having been trained alongside 15 other members of the sect on weapon handling, assassination and special operations in Niger."

Col Musa said his testimony helped the military root out a number of others who had carried out attacks for Boko Haram.

Analysts have in the past said that the fight against Boko Haram was undermined because the Islamist group had managed to infiltrate the military.

Boko Haram shot to prominence in 2009 when hundreds of their members attempted to storm police stations and government buildings in Maiduguri.

The security forces quelled the rebellion and killed dozens of the sect's members, as well as its leader.

Since then, their attacks have been better organised and caused many more civilian deaths.

Nigeria is roughly divided between a largely Muslim north, and the south, where Christianity and traditional religions dominate.

..........BBC News

Sad End Of An NYSC Corper, She Survived Boko Haram In The North To Be Gunned Down In Onitsha

The desire of every young undergraduate in Nigeria is to put on the uniform of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) and be addressed as a ‘corper. But fate was very cruel to 24-year-old Augusta Chizoba Ndukwu of Umufu-Amaimo, Ikeduru Local Government area of Imo State. She was gruesomely murdered by unknown persons at Upper Iweka area of the commercial city of Onitsha, Anambra State.

It was quite sad that Augusta, who had survived a series of hostilities and bombings by the dreaded Islamic sect, Boko Haram, in Adamawa State, where she observed her one-year mandatory national youth service, would painfully meet her untimely death in a place she felt was her home.

Her voice was filled with joy when she spoke to her relatives in Owerri on phone, telling them that she had finally come home. She told them that she was at the luxurious park in Upper Iweka, informing them also that she would join them in Owerri the next morning. But she never lived to see the faces of her loved ones, as she was gruesomely murdered by unknown persons that fateful night.

Daily Sun gathered that the deceased, a graduate of Banking and Finance from the Federal Polytechnic, Nekede, Imo State, was found lying in the pool of her own blood at the notorious fly-over at Upper Iweka on September 12.

According to a family member and the Vice Chairman of Nigeria Union of Journalists, (NUJ) Imo State Council, Chief Chris Akaraonye, Chizoba left Yola, the capital of Adamawa State on September 11 where she was having her NYSC primary assignment. She was travelling to Onitsha en route Owerri but could not get to her final destination that time because it was already late.

Chief Akaraonye further said the deceased, who had boarded a luxurious bus belonging to a popular transport company (names withheld), called her relatives to inform them that she could not make it again to Owerri. She also informed them that she had decided to pass the night at the company’s motor park together with other passengers. However, according to him, the following day, the family of the deceased, including her fiancé, waited in anxiety for the arrival of Chizoba in Owerri but to no avail. They then started trying her mobile line, but it had been switched off.

“At first, we thought she had a low battery. But after waiting for almost the whole day, we realized it was not usual and we decided to make moves to know why somebody that spoke to us at 10 pm last night could not be reached on phone or could not get to Owerri. In the course of our doubts and fears, we started going through different police stations and Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) formations along the Onitsha-Owerri Road to ascertain if she was involved in a motor accident.

It was when we came to Onitsha that we found her corpse at the Onitsha General Mortuary with gunshot wounds to her chest.” In the next morning, early passersby were shocked to their marrow when they beheld the gory sight of a lady lying in the pool of her own blood at the Upper Iweka axis with two travelling bags filled with children clothing and popcorn. One of the eyewitnesses who pleaded anonymity said that the deceased was a victim of ritual killers.

She confirmed that she was found lying at the Upper Iweka flyover with gunshot wounds on her chest and two travelling bags containing children clothes and popcorn beside her corpse. Though the police swiftly said the deceased could be the victim of an armed robbery attack, they also revealed that the bags were planted by the assailants to divert police investigations, stressing that the police had commenced investigations into the circumstances surrounding the murder.

The Campaign for Democracy (CD), South East Zone has reacted to the incident, describing it as a sin against God and humanity. The group called for proper investigations into the matter with a view to unravelling the circumstances surrounding the senseless killing of the deceased. The Chairman, South East Zone, Dede Uzor. A. Uzor condemned the act while calling on the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Abubarka to personally detail a crack team of investigative police officers to look into the death of the corps member. Dede Uzor further questioned the omission of the deceased’s name in the passengers’ manifest and the alleged role that the transport company played when they returned the bags of the deceased to Yola without contacting the police.

Also speaking on the incident, Chairman of Ndigbo Unity Forum, Mr. Augustine Chukwudum condemned the act, describing it as the most wicked act and cruelty ever meted out to any corps member in the history of the state. Mr. Chukwudum also said his group would mobilize to make sure that criminal elements are sacked from the commercial city. He said the presence of such criminals was hindering the development of commerce and industry in the city.

However, policemen attached to the Central Police Station, CPS, Onitsha led by the Divisional Police Officer, DPO, Mr. Abdul Yusuf said they have arrested three persons in connection with the death of the corps member, adding that they were still working to unravel the circumstances surrounding the murder of the deceased.

The police said, though, that it could be possible that the girl was murdered at the park by some criminals who then took her body to the Upper Iweka where they kept two bags containing clothes belonging to a boy of six years just to divert police investigations.

According to the police, the deceased was not a victim of ritual killing.

It was further gathered that the driver of the luxury bus that brought the deceased from Yola to Onitsha on that fateful night, the manager of the transport company and one other person whose identities were not yet known as at press time have been arrested by the police.

They were picked up to allegedly help give insight to the death of the corps member as well as explain how and why the management of the company swiftly returned the bags of the deceased to Yola without informing the police. When contacted, the Anambra State Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Ralph Uzoigwe confirmed that three persons have been arrested by the police to help them in the course of investigations.

He appealed to the general public to help the police with more information that could lead to the arrest of the real killers of the corps member.


NIGERIA: Imo State Weekly, September 28-October 4, 2012



Threatened By Erosion - the Traumatic Experience of Imo Communities

Owerri — APART from periodic political upheavals and serious crimes like kidnapping and armed robbery, Imo State is faced with a number of other problems. Gully erosion is one of them. As at the last count, there are over 401 identified erosion sites scattered in all the 27 local government areas of the State.

NAPTIP Smashes Baby-Selling Syndicate

Peace Asugwo is a teenage mother whose grandmother, Antonia, felt had disgraced the family by getting pregnant out of wedlock. An indigene of Agwa Village in Oguta Local Government Area of Imo State, she was impregnated by her boyfriend, one Johnson.

I’m Ready To Hang My Boots

I feel so great. The award that I won last year was the fourth time I am winning it, and I am very grateful to God for making it possible. It was another way for me being able to confirm that I am still playing well.

ANA Commissions Arts Centers in Owerri

The National Vice President and the General Secretary of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) Mallam Denja Abdullahi and B. M. Dzukogi have called on elders to always give younger ones the opportunity to develop their talents.

Okorocha Calls For Renewed Commitment To Nation’s Progress

Gov. Rochas Okorocha of Imo has called on Nigerians to renew their commitment to the nation for progress and development. Okorocha made the call while addressing children at a match past to mark the nation’s 52nd Independence celebration in Owerri on Monday.

Aba Renewal and Gov Orji's Transformation Agenda

When professional faultfinders lampoon the Abia administration, with not very choice words, about the state of infrastructure in Aba, little do they realise that the level of degradation that has ravaged Enyimba city for decades does not call for quick fixes or cosmetic remedies which they are wont to proffer.

We Got N20m Ransom From Kidnapping —Suspects

The leader of a kidnapping gang operating in Festac, Lagos, Southwest Nigeria, Henry Emenike, 30, has confessed that his gang has made more than N20 million since they started kidnapping people in Lagos two Months ago.

Sad End Of An NYSC Corper, She Survived Boko Haram In The North To Be Gunned Down In Onitsha

It was quite sad that Augusta, who had survived a series of hostilities and bombings by the dreaded Islamic sect, Boko Haram, in Adamawa State, where she observed her one-year mandatory national youth service, would painfully meet her untimely death in a place she felt was her home.

Okorocha lays foundation stone of 5,000 housing units

GOVERNOR Rochas Okorocha of Imo State at the weekend laid the foundation stone for 5,000 Diaspora Village Housing Units. The event took place at Azara, Obiato, Mbaitoli Local Council of Imo State. According to the governor, the houses to be built in partnership with Imo persons residing in other countries would be fitted with facilities comparable to those in other advanced countries, urging the hosting communities to guarantee the security of those who would reside there.

Imo Govt Implements Teachers Special Allowance

The Imo Chapter of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), on Sunday said the state government had implemented the Teachers Special Allowance (TSA) of 27.5 per cent of basic salary.

NCF Holds National Women's Cricket Championships

The 3rd National Women's Cricket Championship and the maiden edition of the Regional U-17 Boys Championship will end this weekend to mark the end of activities of the Nigeria Cricket Federation in the3rd quarter.

ANA Commissions Arts Centers in Owerri

The National Vice President and the General Secretary of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) Mallam Denja Abdullahi and B. M. Dzukogi have called on elders to always give younger ones the opportunity to develop their talents

Owerri Diocese Synod Holds Oct 4

THE first session, 19th Synod of Anglican diocese church will hold between October 4 through October 7 at Holy Trinity Anglican Church, Obazu Mbieri, Mbaitoli Local Council of Imo State.

Iwuanyanwu Dismisses Igbo Presidency In 2015

A Peoples Democratic Party leader in the South-East, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, on Thursday dismissed the possibility of a president of Igbo extraction emerging in 2015. The former presidential aspirant said this at a press conference in Owerri, Imo State, where he advocated the inclusion of zoning of political offices in the constitution.

Hostages rescued by Imo police

Officers of the Imo State Police Command has rescued two kidnapped victims, a man and a woman. The victims were abducted in the early hours of Thursday along Control Junction in Owerri.

Rediscovering the Igbo

BEFORE Reverend George T. Basden arrived in Onitsha at the turn of the 19th century, the Igbo people of South Eastern Nigeria had long been “discovered”. Thanks to the apocryphal “discovery of the embouchure of the Niger” by the Lander brothers.

‘Shipping Business Key To Nigerian Economy’

The Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Ziakede Patrick Akpobolokemi, has stated that shipping business remains a key sector for the country to harness her enormous potentials in the maritime sector.

Gov Okorocha lays foundation for hotel in Okigwe

The Imo State Governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha has reaffirmed his administration’s commitment to develop Okigwe, to bring it out of the of underdevelopment it suffered in the hands of past administration. He said this at the foundation laying ceremony of the proposed ’5-star Princess Hotel’ in Okigwe.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Gigi Chao whose tycoon dad Cecil has pledged $65 million to any man who can marry her, has 200 marriage proposals

Gigi Chao, the lesbian daughter of Hong Kong shipping tycoon Cecil Chao, has had 200 wedding proposals. Picture: Facebook

The lesbian, whose tycoon dad has pledged $65m to any man who can make her his wife, has had 200 marriage proposals and even nude pictures of suitors.
Gigi Chao, whose father Cecil owns Cheuk Nang (Holdings) Ltd, said she has received marriage proosals from Nigeria, Bulgaria and Turkey.

"People are contacting me on Facebook, by email, on Twitter. It's ridiculous. I can't sort out the serious proposals from the half-hearted ones. I can't make head or tail of it," she told The Telegraph UK in an interview in Hong Kong.

Gigi, 33, said she had about 200 proposals and her followers on Twitter, YouTube and Facebook had risen by 1500 after her father's $65 million pledge become public.

Gigi, 33, entered a civil partnership with her girlfriend of seven years Sean Eay in a ceremony in Paris five months ago, but her 76-year-old father did not accept it and states she is single. Same-sex marriage is not allowed in Hong Kong.

Gigi, who is executive director of her father's company, received contact from men who say they want love and seek a date and men who are send more confronting greetings.

There have been nude photos and financial statements. She has had proposals from places such as Oklahoma, Nigeria, India, Turkey and Bulgaria. Numerous bankers have contacted her.

Gigi Chao has said her father's $65 million pledge to any man who could win her heart, was "touching".

"Some of them had obviously done their research, you know, gone on my Facebook and looked at my background," Gigi told Telegraph UK.

"Some of them are quite poetic."

She also said that her father's pledge was "touching".

"At first I was entertained by it, and then that entertainment turned into the realisation and conviction that I am a really lucky girl to have such a loving daddy, because it's really sweet of him to do something like this as an expression of his fatherly love," she said.

She said she knew that her father would go public denying the her lesbian partnership, she did not know he would offer the reward. "I think the HK$500 million really came as an afterthought."

"It's not that he can't accept me," she said. "It's that he can't accept how society would view me and the status that it would incur. Marriage is still a form of social status. I do understand him. I understand why he's doing this."

"But I don't appreciate getting 1,500 emails."

Ms Chao also talked about her sexuality and her relationship with Sean Eav.

"I'm very happy when I'm with her," she said.

The daughter of a Hong Kong billionaire says she had been bombarded with marriage proposals – and even nude photographs – from as far as Nigeria after her father offered £40 million to the man who could woo her.

Gigi Chao, daughter of property tycoon Cecil Chao, entered a civil partnership with her girlfriend of seven years in a ceremony in Paris five months ago.

But Mr Chao, 76, has told the South China Morning Post that reports of his daughter's civil ceremony were "false". He announced the HK$500 million dowry earlier this week.

It has sparked a deluge of offers. Speaking on Thursday Ms Chao, 33, said she had received about 200 proposals and that the number of people following her on Twitter, YouTube and Facebook had jumped by 1,500 since her father's announcement.

"People are contacting me on Facebook, by email, on Twitter. It's ridiculous. I can't sort out the serious proposals from the half-hearted ones. I can't make head or tail of it," she told The Daily Telegraph. Ms Chao, an executive director of her father's company, Cheuk Nang, said that in addition to receiving enquiries from gentlemen who say they are looking for love and ask her out on a date, she has received some introductions that are less conventional. Some hopefuls have attached nude photos of themselves or provided information about their financial situations. She has received proposals from all over the world, including Oklahoma, Nigeria, India, Turkey and Bulgaria. Numerous bankers have contacted her.

"Some of them had obviously done their research, you know, gone on my Facebook and looked at my background," she said. "Some of them are quite poetic." But far from getting angry at her father, she said she was "touched".

"At first I was entertained by it, and then that entertainment turned into the realisation and conviction that I am a really lucky girl to have such a loving daddy, because it's really sweet of him to do something like this as an expression of his fatherly love," she said.

While Ms Chao knew that her father would go public denying the union, she did not know he would offer the reward. "I think the HK$500 million really came as an afterthought."

Even though Mr Chao has not accepted the union, Ms Chao said she loved her father and that they had a good relationship. "It's not that he can't accept me," she said. "It's that he can't accept how society would view me and the status that it would incur. Marriage is still a form of social status. I do understand him. I understand why he's doing this."

She added: "But I don't appreciate getting 1,500 emails."

Ms Chao, who also runs Haut Monde Talent, a model management and PR firm, met her partner, Sean Yeung, who also goes by Sean Eav, while they were working together.

Ms Chao she was drawn to Ms Yeung because she was straightforward, not manipulative, honest, had strong family values and cared about her friends deeply. "I'm very happy when I'm with her," she said.

Ms Chao, who has dated men and women, said she has always been open and honest about her relationships to her family.However her mother has not accepted her sexuality. Ms Chao recalled that when she told her mother about a relationship with a girl when she was 16 years old, her mother "banged her head against the wall, literally". Although they have become more visible in recent years, members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community in Hong Kong are still largely not accepted by the vast majority of the population.

Ms Chao believes gay rights are picking up, but said work was still needed on the social mentality.

Mr Chao is not so conventional himself. He made headlines in 2003 when his Rolls-Royce caught fire while he and his girlfriend were inside.

The tycoon has never married and once claimed to have had "intimate relations" with about 10,000 women.

civil partnership with her girlfriend of seven years Sean Eay in a ceremony in Paris five months ago, but her 76-year-old father did not accept it and states she is single. Same-sex marriage is not allowed in Hong Kong.

Gigi, who is executive director of her father's company, received contact from men who say they want love and seek a date and men who are send more confronting greetings.

There have been nude photos and financial statements. She has had proposals from places such as Oklahoma, Nigeria, India, Turkey and Bulgaria. Numerous bankers have contacted her.

"Some of them had obviously done their research, you know, gone on my Facebook and looked at my background," Gigi told Telegraph UK.

.........NEWS COM AU

Jet Manufacturers Target Nigeria as Airbus Launches ACJ319

Aircraft manufacturers and lessors have designated Nigeria as fastest growing business jet market and it is envisaged that in the next five years it would overtake South Africa following a report by Forbes that Nigerian wealthy spent $6.5 billion on business jets within the last five years.

Apparently positioning ahead of that growth, Airbus has launched its business jet, Airbus ACJ319 in Nigeria, targeting the West African market. Built to compete with Bombardier and Boeing business jets, Airbus ACJ319 has distinguishing feature as it has the widest and tallest cabin of any business jet, delivering unequalled comfort, space and freedom of movement – as well as the ability to carry more people.

The Airbus ACJ319 operated by COMLUX crew was received at Nnamdi Azikiwe International airport Abuja by Cita-Triax Aviation Limited last weekend. According to the Sales Director, Americas and Africa Airbus Corporate Jets, Laurent Goutal, the aircraft has seating capacity for 19 passengers and is available for VIP charter.

“ In daytime, the cabin provides tables at which to work, a lounge area for discussions, and the privacy of two offices. At night, many of the seats convert to beds and the offices to bedrooms, making the best practical and productive use of space,” h said.

Goutal explained that like all Airbus corporate jets, the Airbus ACJ319 features intercontinental range, allowing it to fly nonstop throughout Africa – as well as to reach much of the world with a single stop.

He said: “Any corporate jet can save you time and money by making you more productive, but only Airbus corporate jets can do so with more capacity, capability and comfort, making them increasingly the preferred choice of companies, individuals and governments around the world. For customers that want to carry even more people farther, we also offer corporate jet versions of our modern wide body family, which have ‘nonstop to the world’ range.”

Goutal added that Airbus corporate jets have excellent reliability – a tribute to their airliner heritage – as well as being backed by a comprehensive worldwide support network.

“And with more than 470 Airbus customers and operators around the world, Airbus corporate jet clients invariably have access to maintenance facilities in their own country – often a key issue, especially with governments,” he said. He disclosed that Airbus has sold some 170 corporate jets to date, saying that its aircraft are the only ones flying on every continent, including Antarctica, highlighting their versatility. Customers comprise of companies, individuals and governments, in roughly equal measure.

Speaking in the same vein, Chairman of Cita-Triax Aviation, Cliff Ogbede, said, “Airbus Corporate Jet came to Nigeria to demonstrate their trust in the Nigerian market which we are committed to its aviation sector development through provision of desired corporate flying comfort, promotion of safety standards and training/manpower development. We will continue to support Nigeria in their economic growth and transformation by providing aircrafts that suit any operation.”


Malawians unite to ‘reject’ visa-free status to Nigerians

By Patricia Masinga, Nyasa Times, September 28, 2012

The debate if Malawi should allow free visa status with Nigeria has hit a common consensus. Respondents to the debate flighted on Nyasa Times has revealed a BIG NO to the proposal made by President Goodluck Jonathan during his recent and first ever visit to impoverished Malawi.

Of over (80) comments on the article titled: ‘Malawi Dabate: Should Malawi allow Nigerian citizens visa-free status?’, only 3 say YES and only 2 seem not decided and give reasons for or against, whilst the rest have sounded a BIG NO!

One comment in vernacular Chichewa says: “Ife atsikana apa Malawi tikuti yes. Tiwone zina Amuna aku Malawi are too too PRIMITIVE. Kaya azitipha tizifa titanjoya!!!!” meaning ‘We girls of Malawi say yes. We want a change because Malawian men are primitive. Whether they will kill us we would have enjoyed first’.

However, many people’s sentiments are laced with allegations that Nigerians are ‘crooks’, ‘corrupt’, and only want to come to Malawi to make money and not share a common socio-development agenda.

“Malawi has got enough of home grown crooks. We don’t want a flood of additional Nigerians who are known for their enterprising crooked brains. No,no,no,” posts one.

He is supported by another reader who shares an issue that took place in Kenya involving Nigerians titled ‘Kenya to switch off ‘fake’ mobile phones’ with the link

He wonders: “Can our Banana government follow suit please? At first it may look a bit irrelevant but the point is that fakeness can never last. Nigerians are a fraud and we don’t want fraudsters converging in our beautiful country, The Warm Herat of Africa. By the way who will travel to 9ja to meet Boko Haram? This is definitely a parasitic relationship. The question should be that: shld we kick the ussss of all 9jas out of Malawi: the answer is a resounding YES. Maybe she is angling to go that side after retirement to be closer to this man!”

A more sober comment by another reader tries to level the human balance, arguing: “Nigerians are Africans and Malawians are Africans too so why not.”

“There is a reason for instituting visas, and there are also reasons for implementing a visa application procedure. If we can be sure of Nigeria’s passport issuing system, then yes, we can issue them visas in Malawi on entry, however, if there is little we know about Nigeria, then let them get visas before starting their journey.

“During Kamuzu’s time we could travel to most European countries even to Canada without a visa, because we were renown for being uncooked. But now apart fr SADC region, we need visas everywhere. Actually Nigerians need a visa to travel to any other country in the world because of their crookedness,” another reader writes in support of the YES team.

He is supported by another who further argues: “Most of the fear about Nigerians is based on the inferiority complex of Malawians in front of Nigerians. We feel inadequate in terms of business and other issues. Once a Nigerian settles in an area he immediately beats the Malawian businessman. We have always lost against foreigners (INDIANS, CHINESE, LEBANESE, BURUNDIANS) and even Kamuzu had to chase Indians from villages to town. This inferiority complex is the one now making us hate Nigerians because we feel impotent business-wise in front of them. Instead of restricting Nigerians from coming in why can’t we change our archaic, slow business habits. When are we going to compete with others? Is it by keeping foreigners away?”

He is however quickly challenged by another reader who says: “Comment 28!! No one is saying Nigerians should not come to Malawi. Some of us object to the idea of wholesale entry into a country. You complain about the price of visa to enter Nigeria, you are proving our point, Nigerians are crooks, how can a visa cost up to K200,000, unless corruption is involved.

“A lot of Nigerians have Malawian passports, how many Malawians do you know have Nigerian passports? In fact I might go as far as asking, how many Malawians really want to go to Nigeria, apart from Joyce Banda? Malawians want to go south, Botswana, RSA,Namibia etc but Nigeria? Maybe…

“Don’t you wonder why Malawi and Nigeria have never had resident representatives? (High commissioners?) and you want visas abolished?

“I do not think there is anyone in this whole wide world that does not put Nigeria in the top 5 of countries with the most crooked citizens in the world, and you want them to have a free hand in Malawi, because you want to sell them cassava. How sad.”

During his visit, President Jonathan attended the official launch of a cassava production initiative alongside President Joyce Banda.

A more sober reader contributes that: “I have never commented on Nyasa Times and I thought I would never. But the gravity of the issue, I need to do so. Nigerians should need visa to enter Malawi if we really love our country. What Nigeria has done to Malawi to guarantee no visa? We need to assess critical the benefit of doing so. I think that’s why Malawi is poor and yet it has resources. If you go to Israel, China, Japan,…… name them, the first questions will be related to are you a Nigerian?

“What do you make out of that. Am not saying Nigerians should not come… they should come but they should apply for visa first. What is so special with Nigeria now? We should not sell our country because we have no forex. Let us love Malawi, the warm hear of Africa?” he advises.

Another strongly puts his/her foot down, alleging that: “These people want to enter freely in Malawi so that they can fraud Malawi Passports to travel to UK for their dirty business to give Malawi bad name; NO = ndakana, NO;ndakanitsitsadi, NO; kwam’tuwagalu.”

Lastly, for an interesting conclusion on the matter should perhaps be the following comment.” I like the unity displayed in the comments against Nigahs. We need to stand proud and not allow these opportunists to sell us short. Malawi united we stand!”

There are a number of Nigerians already resident in Malawi and conducting business, most of whom are blamed for rising corrupt practices, crime and social disorder involving marriage breakages.

But there are also those Nigerians that are held in high esteem including those pursuing religious ministry across the country.

Nigeria’s Jonathan visited Malawi for the first time from Sept. 10 to sign two treaties during a two-day official visit to Malawi. Foreign Affairs Minister Ephraim Nganda Chiume then said: “These are treaties on trade and the economy and exchange of human resources,” adding there were about ten treaties Malawi and Nigeria were set to sign by the end of the year “but the two were ready for signing now while experts are still fine-tuning the rest.

AP Interview: Ahmadinejad pushes new world order

ranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaks during an exclusive interview with Associated Press editorial staff during his visit to the 67th session of the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2012 in New York.

NEW YORK (AP) — After an hour of fielding questions about Syria, sanctions and nuclear weapons, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had enough. Now, he said, it was his turn to choose the topic — his "new order" which will inevitably replace the current era of what he called U.S. bullying.

Continuing his hectic pace of media appearances and diplomatic meetings, Ahmadinejad presented an air of boredom when it came to the hot topic on everyone's mind — Iran's nuclear program and the possibility of impending war. Whether it was feigned or sincere, he said he would much rather be talking about his vision of what the next world order might be.

Conveniently, it would be an order in which the U.S. and the traditional powers play a smaller role and every country has equal standing (though the state of Israel, he often predicts, will soon become a historical footnote).

"God willing, a new order will come and will do away with ... everything that distances us," Ahmadinejad told The Associated Press in an interview Tuesday, speaking through a translator. "All of the animosity, all of the lack of sincerity will come to an end. It will institute fairness and justice."

He said the world was losing patience with the current state of affairs. "Now even elementary school kids throughout the world have understood that the United States government is following an international policy of bullying," he said. "I do believe the system of empires has reached the end of the road. The world can no longer see an emperor commanding it."

The interview was held on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly — Ahmadinejad's last as president of Iran. He was to address the assembly Wednesday morning. He also discussed solutions for the Syrian civil war, dismissed the question of Iran's nuclear ambition and claimed that despite Western sanctions his country is better off than it was when he took office in 2005.

Earlier Tuesday, President Barack Obama warned Iran that time is running out to resolve the dispute over its nuclear program. In a speech to the General Assembly, Obama said the United States could not tolerate an Iran with atomic weapons.

Ahmadinejad would not respond directly to the president's remarks, saying he did not want to influence the U.S. presidential election in November. But he argued that the international outcry over Iran's nuclear enrichment program was just an excuse by the West to dominate his country. He claimed that the United States has never accepted Iran's choice of government after the 1979 Islamic revolution.

"Everyone is aware the nuclear issue is the imposition of the will of the United States," he said. "I see the nuclear issue as a non-issue. It has become a form of one-upmanship." Ahmadinejad said he favored more dialogue, even though negotiations with world powers remain stalled after three rounds of high-level meetings since April.

He said some world leaders have suggested to him that Iran would be better off holding nuclear talks only with the United States. "Of course I am not dismissing such talks," he said, asked if he were open to discussions with the winner of the American presidential election.

Israeli leaders, however, are still openly contemplating military action again Iranian nuclear facilities, dismissing diplomacy as a dead end. Israel and many in the West suspect that Iran is seeking to acquire nuclear weapons, and cite its failure to cooperate fully with nuclear inspectors. Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.

Ahmadinejad also proposed forming a new group of 10 or 11 countries to work to end the 18-month Syrian civil war. Representatives of nations in the Middle East and elsewhere would meet in New York "very soon," he said.

Critics have accused Tehran of giving support to Syrian President Bashar Assad in carrying out massacres and other human rights violations in an attempt to crush the uprising against his rule. Activists say nearly 30,000 people have died.

Ahmadinejad said the so-called contact group hopes to get the Syrian government and opposition to sit across from each other. "I will do everything in my power to create stability, peace and understanding in Syria," Ahmadinejad said, adding that he last spoke with Assad one year ago over the telephone.

Earlier this month, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi announced the formation of a four-member contact group with Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. But Saudi Arabia so far has not participated. Ahmadinejad denied Iranian involvement in plotting attacks on Israelis abroad, despite arrests and accusations by police in various countries. He also vehemently disputed the U.S. claim that Iranian agents played a role in a foiled plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States last year.

Ahmadinejad will leave office next June after serving two four-year terms. He threw out numbers and statistics during the interview to show that Iran's economy and the lives of average Iranians have improved under his watch. Since his 2005 election, he claimed, Iran went from being the world's 22nd-largest economy to the 17th-largest; non-petroleum related exports increased sevenfold; and the basic production of goods has doubled. Median income increased by $4,000, he said.

"Today's conditions in Iran are completely different to where they were seven years ago in the economy, in technical achievement, in scientific know-how," Ahmadinejad said. "All of these achievements, though, have been reached under conditions in which we were brought under heavy sanctions."

Iran has called for the U.S. and its European allies to ease the sanctions that have hit its critical oil exports and left it blackballed from key international banking networks. It was not possible to immediately verify most of Ahmadinejad's figures and claims. The CIA's World Factbook says Iran was the world's 18th largest economy last year, as measured by its gross domestic product. It said Iran's "GDP growth remains stagnant" and that the country "continues to suffer from double-digit unemployment and underemployment."

But the Factbook credited Ahmadinejad with spearheading a law to reduce state subsidies that drained the budget and mostly benefited Iran's upper and middle classes. On other matters, Ahmadinejad said he had no knowledge of the whereabouts of Robert Levinson, a private investigator and former FBI agent who vanished in Iran five years ago. He said he directed Iranian intelligence services two years ago to work with their counterparts in the U.S. to locate him.

"And if any help there is that I can bring to bear, I would be happy to do so," he said. He also claimed never to have heard of Amir Hekmati, a former U.S. Marine who is imprisoned on espionage charges in Iran. Hekmati was arrested while visiting his grandmothers in Iran in August 2011, and his family has been using Ahmadinejad's visit to New York to plead for his release.

In spite of Ahmadinejad's assertions on the importance of dialogue and respect for others, he has presented a hard line in many areas in this week's media appearances. He refuses to speak of the state of Israel by name and instead refers only to the "Zionists." And when asked on Monday about author Salman Rushdie, he made no attempt to distance himself from recent renewed threats on the author's life emanating from an Iranian semi-official religious foundation.

"If he is in the U.S.," said the president of Iran, "you should not broadcast it for his own safety."

Associated Press writers Edith M. Lederer and Wendy Benjaminson contributed to this report.

Nigeria suspends Hajj flights over women deportation

Nigeria has suspended all Hajj flights to Saudi Arabia after the authorities there deported more than 170 women who had arrived without a male escort.

About 1,000 Nigerian women intending to make the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca have been detained since Sunday.

A Nigerian government delegation is going to Saudi Arabia to complain.

There has been an understanding in the past that Nigerian women are exempt from travelling with a male relative - a requirement for women on the Hajj.

Nigerian diplomats say the agreement between the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria and the Saudi authorities allows visas to be issued for Nigerian women going to Mecca as long as they are accompanied by Hajj committee officials.

BBC Nigeria correspondent Will Ross says it is not clear if this action was taken as part of an effort to clamp down on people entering Saudi Arabia illegally to work.

We're not happy about the situation - other than the Hajj we would not be interested in coming back to Saudi Arabia but unfortunately it is the holy land to us Muslims”

Bilkisu Nasidi Would-be Nigerian Hajj pilgrim

Since Sunday, hundreds of Nigerian women - mainly aged between 25 and 35, according to Nigerian diplomats - have been stopped at the airports in Jeddah and Medina.

Bilkisu Nasidi, who travelled from the northern Nigerian city of Katsina, told the BBC that hundreds of women had been sleeping on the floor, did not have their belongings and were sharing four toilets at the King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah.

She said she was part of a group of 512 women being deported to five states in Nigeria on Thursday.

With many of them now facing deportation, she said the atmosphere at the airport was not good, and the women felt "victimised".

The main problem was that their surnames did not correspond with those of their husbands or male guardian on visa documentation, she said.

It is a common practice for Muslim women in Nigeria not to take their husband's name.

"Honestly both governments are to blame, ours and theirs. They're telling us that our government has been aware of what are the requirements for the visa application and granting our visas," she told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme

"We're not happy about the situation - other than the Hajj we would not be interested in coming back to Saudi Arabia but unfortunately it is the holy land to us Muslims and we will have to look beyond the treatment and come back."

Nigeria's vice-president met the Saudi ambassador to Nigeria on Wednesday and gave him a 24-hour ultimatum for the situation to be resolved, the BBC's Chris Ewokor reports from the capital, Abuja.

The deportations have heightened concerns that the situation is threatening to develop into a diplomatic showdown, he says.

Nigeria's speaker of the House of Representatives is leading a government delegation - to include the foreign affairs minister - to Saudi Arabia in an attempt to resolve the situation.

More than two million Muslims are due to converge on Mecca for this year's Hajj, which is set to culminate over a four-day period somewhere between 24-29 October depending on lunar observations.

The Hajj is one of the pillars of Islam, which every adult Muslim must undertake at least once in their life if they can afford it and are physically able.

........BBC NEWS

Anger Over Amnesty Program

Niger Delta militants handing in their weapons. Some of their leaders say thousands have been excluded from the government amnesty programme. Image: Hilary Uguru/IRIN

LAGOS, 27 September 2012 (IRIN) - The Nigerian government plans to integrate 3,642 additional former Niger Delta fighters into its amnesty programme, but some ex-militia leaders have denounced the move, saying it excludes the bulk of their disarmed men and will create disagreements and crisis among them.

The plan will bring to 30,000 the total number of ex-combatants of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) participating in the two phases of the 2009 Presidential Amnesty Programme, said Daniel Alabrah, the programme’s spokesman.

The programme has drastically reduced militancy, gun battles among the rebel fighters, foreign oil worker kidnappings and insecurity in the Niger Delta region, where several multinational oil companies operate.

But some rebel chiefs claim that 30,000 other ex-fighters have been left out. Since 2010, the leaders have been demanding a third phase of the amnesty deal, which Alabrah said is not planned.

“We are not comfortable with the 3,642 slots allocated to us…We have agreed that we should mount more pressure on the federal government to increase the number of beneficiaries,” said Ramsey Umukoro, leader of the group of former fighters demanding a so-called ‘Third Phase Amnesty’.

“The number allocated to us cannot take all the ex-militant commanders and their followers in the region. When it happens in this manner, there will be a crisis within the group. It will cause misunderstanding among us,” Umukoro told IRIN.

Buying peace

Alagoa Morris, an activist in the Environmental Rights Action and Friends of the Earth conservation groups, argued that the amnesty programme was not designed to address Niger Delta’s socio-political and developmental problems, but was a method of buying relative peace with the aim of obtaining unhindered access to oil.

“The underlying political priorities driving the amnesty process were narrower than the comprehensive intentions would suggest. The emphasis seems to be more on the immediate objectives of disarmament and demobilization to ensure uninterrupted flow of oil than on a sustainable reintegration process,” Morris told IRIN.

He said that there is no infrastructure or other social development for local communities. Those who suffered injuries at the hands of the militants have not been compensated.

“The general feeling that violence is being rewarded more than those who apply peaceful means to issues is being fronted by some who have seen the amnesty programme as nothing but encouragement of Niger Delta youths to take to arms,” he explained.

A total of 26,358 former MEND fighters have benefitted from the amnesty programme; many have been trained to be welders, carpenters, electricians or other skilled workers for renouncing violence. Many former MEND fighters who downed weapons in the amnesty deal are able to afford a decent standard of living, and some ex-militia commanders are said to be close to senior state officials, even receiving police security and huge allowances.

But those who have not been integrated into the programme remain mired in deep poverty, and some are reported to have returned to oil theft, pipeline vandalism and piracy.

“Life is not easy. Times are hard. I had to travel to my village… to work on one of the building sites. It took me almost four months to have enough money to pay for my one-room apartment,” said former fighter Tamuno Yeri.

Movement divided

Meanwhile, those left out of the amnesty programmes movement into two competing factions. Umukoro, who worked for an ex-militia leader and was arrested in 2011 for blowing up an oil pipe, leads one faction. The other is headed by Kaithy Sese, who claims to have initiated has Third Phase Amnesty in 2010.

“Many groups have sprung up because the third phase of the amnesty will soon be actualized,” said Umukoro. “I’m the authentic leader of the Third Phase Amnesty [movement] for freedom fighters in Niger Delta.” He claimed that the government is behind the divisions in the movement.

But Sese said he was more worried about the plight of some 20,000 former fighters and 500 ex-militia leaders whom he said have been left out of the amnesty programme.

“We are not fighting each other, but fighting the federal government to integrate us in the amnesty programme. I don’t want to fight my brother [Umukoro]. Our condition is bad.”

There are worries that some disgruntled former militants could resume insurgency in the Niger Delta creeks, but amnesty spokesperson Alabrah said that the security forces in the region would remain vigilant.

“What we know is that security agencies in the Niger Delta are aware of the situation and will carry out their duty to check pipelines to ensure law and order in the Niger Delta. Any person who runs afoul of the law would be dealt with accordingly.

“If they clash with security agencies, it is not our business. If they... make threats, are we to start begging them not to go back to the creeks? We are not going to beg anybody if he feels like going back to the creeks,” he said.


Lagos-Abuja Rail Road, Others Gets 16.2 Billion Naira

Image: Courtesy of Daily Times.

NIGERIA: In the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided Wednesday, September 26, 2012, by Vice President Namadi Sambo who sat in for President Goodluck Jonathan who is meanwhile attending the 67th UN General Assembly in New York, series of contracts were approved in the amount of 16.2 billion naira for feasibility studies on the construction of a high speed rail line from Lagos to Abuja; rail line from Benin, Edo State to Abakiliki, Ebonyi State; a rail line from Zaria to Sokoto; an interstate freeway from Benue to Enugu, a 6.97 billion naira under the Universal Basic Education Intervention Funds for contracts to print and distribute 16 million English, Mathematics, basic and technology text books to Primaries three, four, five and six.

Also the FEC meeting announced that the feasibility studies for the light rail from Lagos to Abuja is anticipated to be done with, in seven months. “We will not hesitate to deal with any erring head of public Schools who indulge in diversion of books meant for public schools," the Minister of Information Labaran Maku said, adding that "the books are meant to be distributed free to pupils and students in such schools.” However, money for the books, Maku said, are derived from the 15% of the 2% from Consolidated Revenue Funds, CRF approved for the purpose on 27th of 2008 as intervention fund for the procurement of instruction materials to enhance the Universal Basic Education in Nigeria public schools."

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Clinton On The UN Commission On Life-Saving Commodities And Contraceptive

Former President Bill Clinton accompanied by Jens Stoltenberg, Prime Minister of Norway and Goodluck Jonathan President of Nigeria, speaks to reporters on the UN Commission on Life-Saving Commodities and Contraceptive Implants during the 67 th session of the General Assembly at United Nations Headquarters Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2012. Clinton and other world leaders announced Wednesday that prices for long-acting contraception will be halved for 27 million women in the developing world through a new partnership. The deal will help avoid almost 30 million unwanted pregnancies and save an estimated $250 million in health costs, the partnership said. By slowing down the pace of births and avoiding medical problems such as premature births, the partnership said about 30,000 maternal deaths and 280,000 child deaths can be avoided. Image/Credits: David Karp, Associated Press

British Prime Minister David Cameron Pledges 12 Billion Pounds In Foreign Aids

British Prime Minister David Cameron has pledged a package of 12 billion pounds in foreign aid for developments in the third world countries including Nigeria. But here is what I see as a hiccup and disturbing.

According to Trevor Tavanagh of the London Sun, the British Department of International Development gave Nigeria 171.5 million pounds to help improve education, as well as family planning and immunization services, they say could be a welcome relief in a country where the majority of the population still earn less than one pound a day.

As it goes, the lingering issue has been how much of this money was actually utilized for the purpose of the aid. It was also pointed out that Nigeria is one of the world's major oil suppliers, pumping out about 2.2 million barrels per day with a GDP of 256 billion pounds, ranking Nigeria the 30th largest in the world and 3rd in Africa.

Question here is, does Nigeria still need these kind of aids from around which funny books have been kept and projects the aids were meant for not carried out? And how could foreign aids be effected where widespread scandals of bribery and corruption have not been eradicated?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Men without testicles might live longer, study suggests

According to a new study, women might have a longevity advantage over men: They lack testosterone and other sex hormones that men have. (Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

Want to live to 100? A new study suggests that, for men, your testicles might be holding you back.

Korean eunuchs — men who had their testicles removed — outlived their contemporaries by as many as 14 to 19 years, suggesting that male sex hormones somehow act to shorten the male human lifespan, according to a new historical study of records spanning from the 14th century through the early 19th century.

The finding, reported Monday in the journal Current Biology, argues for something called the "disposable soma theory.” The idea is that since animals have limited access to energy, there is a natural trade-off between reproduction and the maintenance of the body's cells.

But evidence for the theory has been limited, and some strong counter-evidence exists: Numerous studies in mammals have shown that restricting caloric intake can lengthen the lifespan of some animals — though sometimes such animals become infertile, a fact that may favor the disposable soma hypothesis.

If the theory were true, South Korean researchers figured that it could be seen in humans by looking at the production and circulation of male sex hormones. That makes eunuchs a nice group to study, since the testicles are responsible for much of that work.

The study authors used an historical document from the early 19th century called the Yang-Se-Gye-Bo, which is a genealogy of eunuchs who worked in the palace and served the nation’s royalty. The researchers were able to identify 81 eunuchs in the document for whom they could identify birth and death dates. Then they cross-referenced the information with other historical Korean documents, including the Annals of the Chosun Dynasty, to ensure the data were accurate.

They found that the eunuchs lived to be around 70 years old on average, while non-eunuchs who lived alongside them with similar social and economic status lived to be between 50 and 55 years old — a difference that was striking and unlikely to be due to chance.

The researchers use the finding to explain another common observation: The fact that women generally live longer than men, which they say may be because women lack the same quantities of hormones like testosterone.

While it is possible that working in the royal palace contributed to the eunuchs’ longevity, the researchers did their best to control for this by comparing them to men in the royal family, who, according to the Annals of the Chosun Dynasty, rarely made it to 50 years of age.

The small group of eunuchs studied included three centenarians — well above the statistical averages seen today across the developed world. Japan has only one centenarian for every 3,500 people; the U.S. has one in 4,000, according to the study.

The evidence is compelling that the eunuchs lived substantially longer than their peers. But any biological explanation remains hard to confirm, in part because it is impossible to know whether other aspects of their lifestyle — including potential dietary choices or physical exercise — might have contributed to their longevity.

So while it is clear that something about the eunuchs allowed them to live long lives, it remains to be determined whether it was their lack of testicles alone.


Feds take marijuana dispensary crackdown to L.A.

Federal officials took their war on medical marijuana dispensaries to Los Angeles on Tuesday, raiding several shops and issuing warning letters to dozens more.

Officials at the U.S. attorney's office said it was the first large-scale federal action taken against cannabis shops in the city and said more would probably follow.

“We couldn’t do all of L.A. at once,” said Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the office. “There’s just too many stores.”

The crackdown adds a dramatic new element to the already tense fight over the fate of medical marijuana dispensaries in the city. And it underscores the stern stance of the federal government that the sale and distribution of cannabis is illegal, no matter what cities do to try to regulate the industry.

Over the last year, federal authorities have targeted pot businesses across California, including a high-profile raid at a marijuana trade school in Oakland, where proceeds on medical marijuana are taxed.

The Southern California effort began last October in Orange County and has since moved east into the Inland Empire and north into Los Angeles County. “Now we have arrived at the city of Los Angeles,” Mrozek said.

On Tuesday, prosecutors went to court to file civil asset forfeiture complaints against the owners of three Eagle Rock properties for allowing three commercial marijuana stores to operate: “Together for Change Collective,” “House of Kush,” and “ER Collective.”

The Drug Enforcement Administration also executed federal search warrants at three other locations in downtown, Boyle Heights and Silver Lake.

Mrozek said authorities have mailed out warning letters to the property owners and operators of 67 other Los Angeles marijuana dispensaries, mostly in Eagle Rock and downtown, giving them two weeks to comply with federal law. Another marijuana business, believed to be the only one in Huntington Park, was also told to shut down.

The actions come as city officials and medical marijuana activists are gearing up for a ballot measure fight over the fate of a recent city ban on dispensaries.

The City Council approved a ban on the storefront sale of marijuana this summer, saying each of the estimated 750 pot shops operating across the city must close. The ordinance would allow for small groups of patients to grow and share the drug.

But before the ban went into effect, activists seeking to strike it down saw their challenge qualify for the ballot. That means the City Council now must choose whether to repeal the ordinance, replace it with a modified version or let voters decide. Several council members, including Jose Huizar, who pushed for the ban, say they intend to put the referendum on the March 5 ballot, when voters will choose a mayor, city controller, city attorney and eight council members.

Huizar, who represents Eagle Rock and much of downtown, cheered the federal crackdown and called on state legislators “to create a better way of providing access for seriously ill patients while removing the scores of profiteers and recreational users who currently dominate the market.”

Huizar and others complain that California’s law guaranteeing patients safe access to medical marijuana is too vague in how the drug should be regulated.

In the early days of President Obama's tenure, Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. announced that prosecutors would not target medical marijuana users and caregivers as long as they followed state laws. But as the risk of prosecution diminished, storefront dispensaries and enormous growing operations proliferated in California, often in defiance of zoning laws and local bans.

Last year, California's four U.S. attorneys announced that they were taking aim at large-scale growers.


At UN debate, Nigerian leader praises UN, regional roles in maintaining peace

25 September 2012 – The United Nations’ urgent assistance is crucial in order to bring peace and security to West Africa, Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan said today at the General Assembly’s high-level debate, while also acknowledging the role played by regional organizations in stemming the continent’s violence.

“The overall security situation in the West African sub-region should continue to be a matter of interest and concern to the rest of the international community,” President Jonathan declared n his address to the General Debate of the Assembly’s 67th session, taking place at UN Headquarters in New York.

“Although ECOWAS [the Economic Community of West African States] is taking measures to address the situation in Mali, particularly in the north, the urgent assistance of the United Nations and the support of other partners will be needed to build on recent gains to secure peace and stability in Mali and across the sub-region,” he stated, adding that West Africa could “ill-afford renewed insurgency.”

Fighting between Government forces and Tuareg rebels broke out in northern Mali in January. The instability and insecurity resulting from the renewed clashes, as well as the proliferation of armed groups in the region, drought and political instability in the wake of a military coup d’état in March, have led over 250,000 Malians to flee to neighboring countries, with 174,000 Malians estimated to be internally displaced.

President Jonathan noted that Nigeria had committed itself to the attainment of regional peace and security and was doing so in close coordination with the UN, African Union and ECOWAS partners, particularly in Mali, where Nigeria and ECOWAS are working in concert to prevent the country’s conflict from spilling over its borders.

In addition, he also highlighted Nigeria’s assistance to the Transitional Government in Guinea-Bissau as it works towards national reconciliation and the organization of credible elections following its unconstitutional change of government earlier this year.

Turning his focus to the issue of regional cooperation, the Nigerian leader emphasized that it had been “a key factor” in tackling West Africa’s security challenges, singling out Nigeria’s bilateral agreements with neighbouring Cameroon, Niger, and Chad.

“We are confident that these measures will stem the flow and access to small arms and light weapons, which have indeed become Africa’s weapons of mass destruction and the most potent source of instability,” he added.

Along with President Jonathan, scores of the world’s heads of State and government and other high-level officials are presenting their views and comments on issues of individual national and international relevance at the Assembly’s General Debate, which ends on 1 October.


67th United Nations General Assembly (Photo Essay)


US President Barack Obama addresses the 67th UN General Assembly at the United Nations headquarters in New York, September 25, 2012. Obama on Tuesday demanded "sanctions and consequences" for atrocities in Syria and said President Bashar al-Assad's rule must come to an end. "The future must not belong to a dictator who massacres his people," Obama told the UN General Assembly in a keynote address. EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/GettyImages

NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 25: Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria addresses the 67th UN General Assembly meeting on September 25, 2012 in New York City. The annual event gathers more than 100 heads of state and government for high level meetings on nuclear safety, regional conflicts, health and nutrition and environment issues. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

President Macky Sall of the Republic of Senegal addresses the United Nations General Assembly, Sept. 25, 2012. (Ozier Muhammad/The New York Times)

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon addresses the 67th UN General Assembly at the United Nations headquarters in New York, September 25, 2012. Ban Ki-moon said Tuesday that the Syrian civil war is a "calamity" that now threatens world peace and demands action by the divided UN Security Council. EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/GettyImages

U.S. President Barack Obama greets U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon (C) before addressing the 67th United Nations General Assembly at the U.N. headquarters in New York September 25, 2012. REUTERS/Keith Bedford

Members of the Iranian delegation (L) listen to US President Barack Obama addresses the 67th UN General Assembly at the United Nations headquarters in New York, September 25, 2012. Obama on Tuesday demanded "sanctions and consequences" for atrocities in Syria and said President Bashar al-Assad's rule must come to an end. "The future must not belong to a dictator who massacres his people," Obama told the UN General Assembly in a keynote address. EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/GettyImages

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon (R) shakes hands with Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez during a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the 67th United Nations General Assembly at the U.N. headquarters in New York, September 25, 2012. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

South Africa's President Jacob Zuma addresses the 67th session of the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York, September 25, 2012. REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine

Rwandan President Paul Kagame takes a seat after addressing the 67th session of the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York, September 25, 2012. REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine

First Lady Michelle Obabma(C) listens the speech of US President Obama at the 67th United Nations General Assembly meeting September 25, 2012 at the United Nations in New York. DON EMMERT/AFP/GettyImages

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton shakes hands with U.N. Special Envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi (R) during the 67th United Nations General Assembly at the U.N. headquarters in New York September 25, 2012. REUTERS/Keith Bedford