Wednesday, October 31, 2012

L.A. Council Moves Forward On Four Proposed Tax Increases


City Council President Herb J. Wesson during a Los Angeles City Council meeting in March. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times / October 31, 2012)

BY KATE LINTHICUM, LOS ANGELES TIMES, NOVEMBER 1, 2012

The Los Angeles City Council moved forward with four proposed tax increases Wednesday, instructing city lawyers to draw up the language for ballot measures that would raise property, real estate, parking and sales taxes.

Council President Herb Wesson said he hopes that only one of those proposed increases ends up on the March ballot and said he will be pushing for the half-cent sales tax hike, which would generate an estimated $215 million to $220 million for the cash-strapped city.

Wesson, who said he asked the council to proceed with all of the ballot measures as a safeguard, said he will be closely watching the results of Tuesday's election, when voters in three dozen California cities will decide local sales tax increases on the ballot.

"I think it will be a big indicator as to how people feel throughout the state," Wesson said, noting that if the response to those proposals is tepid in other communities, he might support putting one of the other tax measures on the ballot.

Wesson surprised community leaders and some of his colleagues Tuesday when he announced that he wanted to increase the sales tax from 8.75% to 9.25%. The proposed change would bring L.A. in line with Santa Monica and Inglewood, but it would leave the city with a higher rate than some neighboring communities, including Burbank, Pasadena and Glendale.

The plan has alarmed some business leaders, who argue that it could drive shoppers away, and some community activists, who complain that lawmakers have fallen into a pattern of raising fees instead of making difficult decisions to rein in costs.

Several council members expressed support for raising the sales tax Wednesday, including Bernard C. Parks, who said the proposal was the fairest on the menu of increases the council is considering.

One proposal would generate $40 million a year by increasing the parking tax from 10% to 15%. Another would generate between $76 million and $103 million by raising the tax on real estate sales. Parking lot operators and real estate agents have fought those proposals, saying they shouldn't have to bear the burden of raising revenue for the city.

Parks complained about a third proposal to charge a $39 parcel tax to fund the Recreation and Parks Department, which has been decimated by cuts in recent years. He said residents in poorer, denser parts of the city would benefit less than those in other neighborhoods.

"The people with the least amount of park space and the most density will come out on the short end," said Parks, who represents part of South Los Angeles. A coalition of community leaders that supports the parcel tax has said they would support a plan that ensured that underserved neighborhoods got their fair share of new park land or services.

Councilman Paul Koretz said he supported putting one large tax increase on the ballot instead of several smaller ones, saying that he thinks voters will understand that lawmakers have done all they can to cut costs.

"We're doing everything that we possibly and legally can," Koretz said, "and yet we still have a hole not of our own making."

Since the economic recession hit in 2008, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the council have trimmed the city payroll by about 4,000 people. Many employees who remained have faced mandatory furlough days, have seen their pay raises postponed and have agreed to pay more toward their retirement benefits.

Villaraigosa has said that he would not support a tax increase unless the council adopted additional cost-cutting measures, including privatizing the city zoo and Convention Center. Wesson said Wednesday that the council will continue to move forward on those initiatives, and he promised to lobby Villaraigosa to warm him to the idea of a sales tax increase.

"We'll sit in a room and maybe argue a little bit and see if we can't work this out," Wesson said.

An outside analyst is expected to deliver a report on Nov. 9 about the economic effects of a sales tax hike. The council is expected to decide soon after on which tax measures to include on the ballot in March, when voters will fill eight City Council seats and elect a new city attorney, controller and mayor.

NMA president charges medical professionals abroad to invest more in country’s healthcare industry




THE president of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Dr. Osahon Enabulele, has called on Nigerian medical professionals abroad to invest more in Nigeria’s healthcare industry in order to redress the phenomenon of medical tourism and poor state of Nigeria’s healthcare system.

Enabulele stated this while speaking on “Investment in healthcare in Nigeria-the role of medical association of Nigerians Across Great Britain (MANSAG) and NMA,” at the 23rd Annual Scientific Conference of the MANSAG that held at Westwood Hall Conference Centre and Hotel, Leeds, United Kingdom from October 20 to 29.

Enabulele while commending the leadership of MANSAG for organising the conference, recalled the historical evolution of Nigeria’s healthcare industry and regretted that despite efforts by Nigeria’s current ministers of health to improve Nigeria’s healthcare system, Nigeria’s health status indicators were still largely unsatisfactory.

This, Enabulele attributed to years of cumulative insults to Nigeria’s healthcare system as a result of poor commitment to the health of Nigerians by the country’s political leaders coupled with their frequent visits abroad for medical care, political instability and policy inconsistency, poor constitutional and legal framework for health, poor government support for the private sector, pervasive quackery and lack of adherence to international best practices and professionalism in the health sector, poor health human resource development and motivation, cancerous levels of corruption and systemic infrastructural decay.

Enabulele emphasized that the poor development of other health-impacting social sectors like education, roads/transportation system, power, housing and water, had done incalculable harm to the health of Nigerians, stating firmly that health status indicators and performance are determined not only by the services delivered in the hospitals but majorly by occurrences at pre-service levels.

To reverse Nigeria’s poor health situation, Enabulele declared that Nigerians (home and abroad) had all it takes to solve Nigeria’s healthcare challenges if the enabling environment and international best practices, as well as good governance and transparent commitment is shown by governments at all levels.

He, therefore, called on Nigerian Medical Professionals to stop lamenting or agonising about the poor state of Nigerian’s health, but to move from the realm of idealism into the realm of realism by joining forces with their colleagues in Nigeria to strategically re-organise the healthcare system through significant investments in health human resource, health infrastructure, health institutions and systems/service delivery and health-impacting social sectors.

Enabulele went on to highlight various areas in which Nigerian Medical Professionals under the aegis of MANSAG could partner with the NMA in the determined quest of the current leadership of NMA to make substantial contributions to the revitalisation of Nigeria’s healthcare system.

Enabulele expressed the hope that through this partnership many of Nigeria’s medical professionals in the diaspora can gradually return home to join forces with their colleagues and compatriots in Nigeria who are daily toiling hard to keep Nigeria’s healthcare system alive in spite of the extremely suffocating and challenging circumstances.

Other speakers at the conference included Nigeria’s Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, the President of MANSAG, Dr. Dilly Anumba, amongst others.

......CHUKWUMA MUANYA (LAGOS); EMEKA ANUFORO (ABUJA)/THE GUARDIAN NIGERIA

Achebe's "There Was A Country," Stirring Up A Desirable Controversy -- By Dr. A.B.C. Nwosu


Prof. A.B.C. Nwosu, Nigeria's former Minister of Health during the Olusegun Obasanjo administration.

PROF. CHINUA ACHEBE'S BOOK TITLED: "There was a country: A personal history of Biafra”, has expectedly stirred up an important but desirable controversy, notably from the disciples of late Pa Obafemi Awolowo.

This was predictable. Achebe, true to his character will be unfazed by the insults and abuses, but will welcome criticisms. A writer of his stature should be used to all these.

In my view, the controversy including the orgy of abuse is desirable because it brings out into the public domain, bottled-up and vile ethnic prejudices. In my view also, it is preferable for such prejudices to be aired rather for them to remain and fester in the innermost recesses of ethnic minds, to be secretly whispered around from door to door, neighbour to neighbour and passed on from generation to generation. Closet ethnicism to me is very dangerous and militates against nation-building.

There are many who believe that certain things are best not said at this time. I disagree. It is best for these things to be said so that brethren and compatriots will be aware of what others truly think of them. Therefore, let the criticisms, insults and even abuse continue to come out into the open so we can better understand ourselves as individuals, and as micro-nations within the macro-nation Nigeria.

“All that rubbish of Biafran children with ribs and swollen stomachs and the rest of it, what did you expect in a war?” - Mr Odia Ofeimun (62).

Three write-ups and interviews, one by Ayo Turton, the national legal counsel to Egbe Omo Yoruba U.S.A and Canada, posted on October 11, 2012 (Sahara Reporters), the second by Mr. Odia Ofeimun, a diehard Awoist on Sunday October 14, 2012, (The Guardian) and the third by Alhaji Femi Okunnu on Monday October 15, 2012 (Tribune) engaged my attention. I was particularly shocked by the anger and language of Mr. Ofeimun who said: “All that rubbish of children with ribs and swollen stomachs and the rest of it, what did you expect in a war?” Mr. Ofeimun has three more shockers from me. One, “If Awolowo did not say that starvation is a weapon of war, he needed to have said so because it is a weapon of war”. Two, “Many of the children who died in Biafra died because their leaders took stupid decisions”. Three, “True, all the Igbo killed in the pogroms in the North are Nigerians, and their families needed to grieve and mourn, but if you want to grieve and mourn, do you slaughter the next generation of your family?” Alhaji Femi Okunnu, who is about the same age as Achebe, says that “It is Ojukwu who used starvation as a weapon of war”. These quotes speak for themselves and I shall not respond to them.

Given the kind of vitriol spewed by Mr. Ofeimun, my recommendation to him is to please write his own “personal history” as Prof. Achebe has done. Mr. Ofeimun is a writer, and we all shall benefit one way or another from his book. Meanwhile, my generation is grateful to Prof. Achebe for writing his book on Biafra because to us, it offers an opportunity for national conversation and catharsis, a kind of cleansing and purging of the Nigerian soul of the evil of pogrom, genocide and mass-starvation to death of millions of innocent Biafran children in a “war of unity”.

At this stage, it is important for me to point out to Achebe’s traducers and abusers that his latest book is not about Pa Obafemi Awolowo. It is not about General Yakubu Gowon either. The book, as the title clearly states, is about Biafra and Achebe’s “Personal Account” of what transpired. Achebe was careful and thoughtful to state that it was a “personal history”. The book (333 pages) is about the events, the principal actors, the victims, those that died on the Biafra side, especially the over two million children who starved to death in what the Times of London in its full-page leader of 28th June 1968 described as a “Policy of Famine It is also about those Biafrans who survived, for some of whom the trauma persists till date. Achebe, who was present in Biafra to the end, owed us, a duty to write his story. Others including his critics should write their own stories. We have a right to know what happened.

Chief Ebenezer Babatope has observed correctly that Achebe’s views on Pa Awolowo (and other Nigerian leaders) were lucidly stated as far back as 1983, in his angry booklet titled “The Trouble With Nigeria”. In that book, Achebe took very serious swipes at Pa Awolowo, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and Alhaji Tafawa Balewa and had kind words only for Mallam Aminu Kano. Achebe wrote this book in 1983, almost 30 years ago, so what is new about his views on Pa Awolowo?

There are several facts, which stand out in Achebe’s latest book. I shall dwell on seven of these facts in this write-up. Before I do this, let me point out that enormous literature exists on the subject of the Nigerian Civil War, or Nigeria-Biafra War, if you choose. Indeed, archival materials and pictures have found and are still finding their way to various internet outlets. Continuing to ignore the subject or clinging to the position that certain things are best left unsaid is playing the ostrich and amounts to self-deception.

Fact Number one is that there was pogrom, genocide and mass starvation of innocent children directed against Ndigbo in Nigeria in 1966 and from 1967-1970. The celebrated writer Frederick Forsyth devoted an entire chapter (pages 257 to 271) to this vexed issue. A writer of Achebe’s stature cannot, therefore, ignore this fact. One of the duties of a writer is to tell the truth, especially inconvenient truths. This is also what is expected of an Nze in the Igbo society. And these are precisely two obligations that Achebe has discharged by writing his latest book.

Lest we forget, haunting pictures of Biafra’s starving innocent children abound on the internet; they are also there on front page of LIFE magazine of July 12, 1968 titled: “Starving Children of Biafra War” (pages 20 - 29). Ditto LIFE magazine of 23, 1968 (pages 50 - 52). Mr. Steve Jobs, co-founder of APPLE Computer Company renounced Christianity indignant over the matter of Biafra’s starving children.

By September 4, 1968, a massive airlift of starving innocent Biafran children to Sao Tome was initiated by Caritas Internationalis, the Catholic Relief Agency. This was followed on October 31 of same year by similar airlift of the starving children to Albert Schweitzer hospital at Lambarene, Gabon on the initiative of the daughter of the late Nobel Peace Laureate, Dr. Albert Schweitzer. A statement issued in late 1968 jointly by United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Council of Churches, and Caritas Internationalis was clear that Biafra was its biggest emergency since World War II. And yet ours was a civil war, a brother’s war, a war of unity!

And in case we have forgotten, Mr. Bruce Mayrock, 20 years old of Old Westbury New York, a part-time student of Columbia University, died of burns after he had set himself afire outside the United Nations Headquarters with a sign that read: “you must stop genocide - please save nine million Biafrans”. We shall not say more?

Fact Number Two is that anyone who was in Biafra, that is at the receiving end of the pogrom and genocide, and lost loved ones in those days of starvation of children, and bombing and strafing of churches, hospitals and markets, carries a big emotional scar of those horrific days. This includes Prof. Achebe as is evident from his account of why, when and how he fled Lagos, and his account of the war. To trivialise Achebe’s story, the Biafran story, our story, is wrong and it hurts. To trivialise pogrom and genocide and mass starvation of innocent children is wrong. Genocide dirties the soul and diminishes a nation. Achebe has simply told our story fearlessly and truthfully. We have waited for this book and Achebe has not disappointed us. May God bless him. Others should tell their own stories. And may all Nigerians learn lessons from the past so that we can build a more caring society.

Fact Number Three is quintessential Achebe: He apportioned blames for the pogrom, mass starvation of innocent children and genocide. He singled out General Gowon as the Head of State/military government at the time. He singled out Chief Awolowo as the deputy chairman of the Federal Executive Council and Federal Commissioner for Finance. He singled out the British government and its Prime Minister at the time, Mr. Harold Wilson, and finally the United Nations, and its Secretary General U Thant. Achebe clearly does not subscribe to the concept of “unknown soldier”, and “unknown government officials” so as to be politically correct.

As expected, Achebe’s traducers and abusers have focused their attack mainly on the infamous policy that “starvation is a legitimate instrument of war”, which was very robustly defended by Pa Awolowo on behalf of the Federal Military Government. True to his honest self, Chief Awolowo admitted this and gave his justification. His 140-page book titled “Awo On The Civil War” published in 1981, reprinted 1982, by John West Publishers, Ikeja told his story. This book also contains the verbatim report of the two-day meeting in Enugu in 1967 between Lt.-Col. Odumegwu Ojukwu and Chief Awolowo leading the National Conciliation Committee comprising Prof. Aluko, Chief Mariere and Chief Onyia. Achebe’s abusers should please read this book to know who said precisely what at the Enugu meeting.

With regard to the explosive policy of “starvation as a weapon of war”, more damaging evidence abound especially from non-Nigerian writers. I shall quote one of these in full.

Mr. John de St. Jorre, Oxford-educated and author of “The Brothers War: Biafra And Nigeria” (1972) was explicit. He wrote on pages 243 and 244: “In the federal camp the Hardliners, who included some of the leading soldiers, politicians (Notably Awolowo) and many of the top civil servants who were concerned about the internationalisation and cost of the war, advocated the Quick Kill. For them, starvation was a legitimate weapon of war and Awolowo defended the concept publicly”. He continued: “The moderates of the federal side notably Gowon thought differently. For as Gowon often said, the war was not against innocent Igbo masses but was designed to win them back to the federal side. Nourishing their bodies was one way of retrieving their hearts and minds and it consistently featured in Gowon’s thinking and actions”.

These comments are from John de St. Jorre, not Achebe. Others abound. The books are freely available in Nigerian bookstores. Expectedly Frederick Forsyth’s book: The Biafra Story, also treated this issue exhaustively in Chapter 11, pages 194 to 241. Achebe’s traducers should deal with the evidence and not resort to abuse.

Achebe and Ndigbo do not hate Pa Awolowo as a person. It is noteworthy that Ndigbo and Biafrans do not attack Pa Awolowo for the swift change of the Nigerian currency. What they quarrel with is Chief Awolowo’s robust defence of the Federal Military Government’s inhuman policy of mass starvation as a result of which millions of Biafran children died.

Ndigbo also quarrel with Pa Awolowo and the Federal Government’s policy in 1970 of expropriating Igbo funds lodged in Nigerian banks (after the war of unity had been won and lost) in exchange for the “ex-gratia” award of 20 pounds for each Igbo person who could authenticate his account, no matter the sum in that account. I must emphasise that this “ex-gratia award” was not for every Igbo person who survived but only for those who had bank accounts. Ndigbo lost so much money by this inhuman policy, through which Nigeria saved an enormous amount of money. For Ndigbo, it did not make any sense for Nigeria to further savage Biafra by this 1970 inhuman policy, while at the same time announcing to the world a so-called “Marshall plan type agenda of the 3 Rs”. Ndigbo are intrigued by Pa Awolowo’s defence that he merely approved the recommendations of committees set up on this matter. He was the vice chairman of the Federal Executive Council and Federal Commissioner of Finance. The buck on matters of finance stopped on his table on their way to council. Ndigbo believe that the policies of starvation and 20 pounds “award” (not full payment of one’s legitimate savings) could not have been the handiwork of Igbophilic Nigerians. So much for these.

Fact Number Four is very closely related to and intertwined with the starvation agenda of the Federal Military Government at the time. It concerns the Relief Politics. On this subject, there is also a surfeit of evidence. It is a well-documented fact that the Federal Military Government, the International Committee on the Red Cross (ICRC) and other relief agencies played a cat and mouse game over the ferrying of food to the starving children of Biafra.

It is also a fact that a Nigerian MIG fighter shot down a Red Cross DC-7 aircraft carrying tons of food from Fernando Po to Biafra’s starving children. All crew members (foreigners) died. The aircraft did not carry any arms, simply food supplies.

With regard to relief corridors, the literature is again replete with evidence as to who did what. Achebe’s traducers should read “Biafra: A Facts on File Publication” edited by Peter Schwab: War Of Nigerian Unity, by Sir Rex Niven, and Mr. Kirk-Greene’s two volumes of “Crisis And Conflict In Nigeria”. It will be obvious that both sides had serious reservations and objections to routes proposed by the other being used to military advantage. Certainly, Nigeria flatly rejected third-party guarantees along the proposed corridor as demanded by Biafra; and used its diplomatic and military advantages to frustrate the issue of relief corridor.

For Femi Fani-Kayode, Odia Ofeimun and shockingly Alhaji Femi Okunnu to suggest that Biafra rejected a relief corridor so as to use pictures of starving children for propaganda purposes is extremely wicked of them. Their view is sick and twisted. Nigerians are better than this. Nigerians are not this inhuman and can all work together to build a caring society.

To these sick and twisted minds, I say that Ndigbo abhor the shedding of blood and love their children dearly. Ndigbo have a strong sense of family and loved ones, and the starvation of the children of Biafra is a very sore point with them especially in a “Civil” war designed to unite the country. The starvation of innocent children was most painful and Achebe has soothed our pains by letting it out.

To the poet, Ofeimun, who insists that we should be held responsible for our starving children because we declared “a sovereign state of Biafra”

Without formidable arms, I wish to refer him to another poet Claude McKay (1891 to 1948) and his poem titled: “If We Must Die”. A few lines will suffice:

“If we must die, let it not be like hogs

Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot

While around us bark the mad and hungry dogs

Making their mock………………”.

The circumstances that induced Claude McKays poem were less tragic and horrid than those that led to the declaration of Biafra.

Fact Number Five concerns the acquiescence and the deafening silence of our compatriots, neighbours and friends as the pogrom and genocide unfolded. What can we really say on this? Except to express our amazement and our pain as close confidants, workmates, schoolmates, boyfriends and girlfriends, watched silently, said nothing, did nothing as we were hounded out of Nigeria. I concede that our friends and sympathisers may have been powerless to do something. Therefore, to those like Dr. Tai Solarin and Prof. Soyinka and others who did something, we remain thankful. Perhaps if our friends and sympathisers had found their collective voice, the war may have been averted especially after Aburi and Nigeria may have been a better country by now. We will never know.

Fact Number Six is the infamous role of the British Government under Prime Minister Harold Wilson. Achebe has called him a “villain” and we should let the matter rest, except to remind ourselves that it was Britain that choreographed the pogrom, arms supplies and diplomatic cum economic blockade that frustrated relief supplies to Biafra’s starving children. Prominent Biafrans like Sir Francis Akanu Ibiam renounced his British Knighthood. Dick “Tiger” Ihetu, Africa’s most celebrated boxer to date, renounced his Queens honour. Need we say more?

Fact Number Seven concerns post civil war neglect and marginalisation of Ndigbo and the South-East geo-political zone of Nigeria, and Achebe’s insistence that the neglect persists till today. The evidence on this is weighty and again in Achebe’s favour. Indeed, the well-recorded persistent and unrelenting struggle by the leaders of the South-East in the past two decades to redress their marginalisation in Nigeria, and the current agitation for a sixth state in the zone so as to achieve parity with other zones bear out Achebe’s assertion. Given the economic and political disadvantages of this matter of sixth State in the South-East, Achebe is very right.

I have a most interesting pamphlet by Major-General Phillip Effiong (who signed the Biafra surrender document) titled “Rehabilitation: True or False?”. The pamphlet included Effiong’s detailed letter to the Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, submitted through General Olusegun Obasanjo. The letter addressed matters like relief supplies to survivors; security of lives and property; post-war rehabilitation; the 20 pounds “ex-gratia” award; re-absorption of civil servants; absorption and/or demobilisation of ex-Biafran armed forces personnel, among others. True to his honesty and character, General Gowon commented on the margins of the letter and signed his comments dated January 19, 1970 (19.1.70.) The letter and comments speak for themselves.

In conclusion, let me reiterate that Achebe’s book, Truths, Warts and All, is a very serious book that tells his story of the Civil War. I believe that it has not been an easy book for Achebe to write because he spent over 40 years to reflect on it. Don Burness, one of the reviewers of the book, states that “one senses that this has been a painful book to write and that is why it has taken Achebe so long to write it”. In writing the book, Achebe has discharged his duty to self and community. When the present frenzy subsides, it is my expectation that Nigerians will evaluate dispassionately what Achebe has written because it is precisely how most Ndigbo feel on the subject of the Civil War. It is also my expectation that since Nigeria has trivialised its “Truth and Reconciliation Commission” (Oputa Commission), Achebe’s latest book on Biafra may provide us with an opportunity for national healing. Nigeria needs to come to terms with its past. Nigeria needs a soul to transform effectively into a nation. As the poet, Khalil Gibran, writes: “Pity the nation that is full of beliefs and empty of religion.” “Pity the nation that acclaims the bully as hero.”

“Pity the nation whose statesman is a fox, whose philosopher is a juggler and whose art is the art of patching and mimicking.”

“Pity the nation divided into fragments, each fragment deeming itself a nation.”

Graft in Nigeria: Coalition Gives Jonathan 30 Days to Sack Oil Minister, Try Officials


A coalition of concerned civil society groups in Nigeria, who last May initiated and launched a campaign-End Impunity Now (EIN)- has given President Goodluck Jonathan's Administration a 30-day ultimatum to yield his big axe against corrupt officials in the country's petroleum industry or risk another wild cat mass protest.

The coalition said they are appalled by "the grandiose scale that systemic corruption has assumed in the country; alarmed at the increasingly detrimental and devastating impact of this unchecked systemic corruption on the conditions of existence of citizens, as well as on the state of the national economy; and convinced that the share scale and scope, as well as the catastrophic impact of this endemic systemic corruption is no longer sustainable, and is therefore categorically unacceptable".

Spokespersons of the EIN, Messrs David Ugolor, and Jaye Gaskia, in an online statement to AkanimoReports on Wednesday, said they are demanding for the sack and sanction of Petroleum Resources Minister, Mrs. Dazieni Allison-Madueke as well as the sacking, investigation and prosecution of the boards and managements of all implicated agencies particularly NNPC, DPR, PPMC, and PPPRA.

They insisted that they want the oil minister fired and sanction because she bears direct oversight responsibility for the mess. They are also demanding accelerated prosecution and conviction of indicted marketers and the officials that collaborated with them. The first thing to do is to produce and disseminate publicly a list of all indicted marketers and officials and the amount involved for each.

Government "must determine within a maximum of a month, and through verifiable means, of the actual Daily Consumption Rate [DCR] for petrol for the country; its Combined Daily Production Rate [DPR] from domestic refineries.

"In this regard we note that while the country paid for an average of 59 million liters per day of petrol in imports in 2011, it is speculated that it has also been paying for an average of 40 million liters per day in imports in the course of 2012. Not only were these figures arrived at without any scientific basis and at the whims of marketers; they raise the question of an embedded ‘legitimate’ fraud involving an average of 19 million liters per day in imported petrol throughout 2011".

The coalition said they will continue to hold the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the economy responsible because of her indirect oversight functions, adding, "we continue to also demand for her resignation and for appropriate sanctions".

Back in June, on the road to the second in a sequence of Anti-Corruption National Days of Action [ the first of which was held on April 23, 2012, with the second being held on June 28, 2012], EIN had addressed a press conference and had stated as follows among others;

"We are worried and disturbed by the scale of the rot in the system, which continues to allow criminal acts to go unpunished, the brazen looting of the treasury to go on unabated, while the constitution of the Federal Republic is routinely violated and breached without consequence.

"We are worried and concerned enough as patriotic citizens of our Country to reach the conclusion that something drastic, immediate, and far reaching must be urgently done to end all forms of impunity in the governance of our country, and begin the process of salvaging Nigeria.

"We declare without fear or favour that EIN; we insist that because of the endemic nature and systemic character of corruption in the country that this process of ending impunity begins immediately with the tackling of corruption".

They had gone on to make some key demands including: sacking of the boards and management of the institutions of government implicated in the mind boggling monumental fraud in the management of the fuel subsidy regime for 2011, a fraud which as at the time of the various probes amounted to over N1.7 trillion, and just about 45% of the 2011 federal budget. "We had been clear about the fact that the Federal Ministry of petroleum resources and its minister, as well as the NNPC, DPR, PPMC, PPPRA, bore direct and greatest responsibility in the monumental fraud", the coalition said.

They had also stated clearly that given the manifestation of the complete lack of coordination in the economy and among relevant agencies and institutions with respect to the management of the subsidy fund, combined with the fact that monies were signed and paid out from the federation account without the knowledge or authorization of the minister of finance, who is also the coordinating minister of the economy, that her office bore indirect responsibility for the fraud and barefaced looting of the economy. We had thus demanded the sacking of all officials so implicated, and the trial of those with cases to answer. Additionally we had demanded that all subsidy thieves and those who aided and abetted them should be speedily brought to trial and looted funds recovered.

The mass protest they called to press for these demands on June 28, was met with a show of force by the regime, with the deployment of over 400 armed riot police, with several dozen undercover agents as well as two surveillance helicopters! This by a regime that professes to be serious about fighting corruption is worrisome.

The Present Situation

Nine months after the January Uprising, which was triggered by the rot in the petroleum sector that had made the regime to hike petrol prices; no significant trials have been conducted to any reasonable extent, nor has any significant convictions been gotten.

"We do not even know what the true extent and scale of the fraud was, and how much of the looted funds, if any has been recovered and from whom! And if funds have been recovered, why have those from whom it was recovered not been tried or convicted?

"Instead the pursuit of the subsidy fraud has been undertaken hesitantly, and as if without conviction! A few cases have been taken to court, with charges dropped and refilled, bails granted etc, all amounting to motion without movement. There has been an evident absence of sincerity on the part of the regime to take this to its logical conclusion.

"The clearest evidence of this is that no significant cases have been taken to court yet, the regime had also entered into a ‘no prosecution, no refund’ deal with some indicted marketers before a Federal High Court, only the board of NNPC has been sent on early retirement, with the retention of the chair of the board, the minister, and no investigation of filing of charges against those retired; fundamentally, no single official has been indicted, investigated or taken to court. Yet it is inconceivable that such a scale of fraud would have occurred, with marketers already indicted and implicated, and with all of these happening without the active knowledge and collaboration of some officials.

"What can be deduced from all of these is that this regime lacks the gut and courage to tackle the menace of corruption, and this baffling situation, leaves room for several speculations, the most realistic of which is the assumption that perhaps the regime is both unwilling and incapable of fighting corruption with vigor because as a regime, it is itself entangled and enmeshed in the web of the corruption that is undermining the very foundation of nationhood.

"The most glaring indication that this deduction is true, is the release in the last few days of the report of the Ribadu committee, and government’s lackadaisical and unserious, even disdainful response to it: which is to set up another committee that will review the report of the committee? We have had enough of committees, what is conspicuous by its absence, is any real and concrete action towards implementation of the reports of committees in which huge, but undisclosed amounts of money have been invested! This 'committocracy', seems to us another means of oiling the wheels of corruption, while enabling exposed thieves to cover their tracks!", EIN said.

Dimensions of Corruption and Its Impact

EIN says they remain convinced that the endemic and systemic nature that corruption has now assumed is a major driver of poverty, gross unemployment, particularly of youth, and the associated unprecedented level and dimension of insecurity in the country.

According to them, "a nation that budgets no more than 30% of its resources for capital expenditure, and that never exceeds 60% performance and budget implication, and for which the level of corruption reaches on the average 40 to 45% of its annual federal budget, is incapable of laying the foundations for sustainable infrastructural development let alone meeting the basic needs of the citizenry, and providing basic services.

"It is why there are littered across this country close to 12,000 abandoned infrastructural projects, costing N7.7 trillion, with over N2.2 trillion already paid in mobilisation fees. It is little wonder that the cost of doing business is unsustainably high, capacity utilisation remains perennially low [under 40%], and poverty rate continues to hover above 69% of the population.

"Take the current flood disaster for example; not only was the flood foretold, the scale of the disaster was also foreseen, yet governments at all levels were caught unprepared! This state of unpreparedness can be directly linked to the misappropriation and fraudulent practices implicated in the management of over N400 billion in ecological funds over the previous decade.

"Furthermore, it is our conviction that there is a direct reciprocal relationship between the spike in subsidy fraud and the spike in crude oil theft".

The Basis of the Subsidy Fraud

Continuing, EIN said, "subsidy fraud has its basis in the following, and unless these are addressed, the country will continue to remain captive to the cabal looting our treasury. These are; the fact that we import refined products; the fact that the naira is floated and declines against the dollar; the fact that there has been no scientific mechanism put in place to determine actual daily consumption rate of petrol; and the fact that our refineries are working at below average capacity, and the actual daily production rate for petrol for each refinery is shrouded in misery.

"If we knew the combined daily petrol production rate from our refineries, and also determine the precise daily consumption rate for petrol, we would be able to determine precisely the quantity to be imported and over what period of time. Besides as we improve and increase domestic production capacity, the quantity imported daily would also be declining.
"The major driver of the corruption however, is the impunity that ensures that no one gets caught, and if unfortunately you get caught, no one gets punished".
The Ribadu Committee Report

This is one of the committees set up in the wake of the January uprising, as part of the response of the regime, in the wave of the avalanche of committees, was the Petroleum Revenue Special Task Force, under the chairmanship of Nuhu Ribadu to investigate revenue inflows in the petroleum sector.

The committee, it is now known has concluded its assignment and handed over its report to relevant authorities.

In its findings the committee has further substantiated the claims of massive, unprecedented, endemic, systemic and historic levels of fraud, corruption and impunity in the petroleum sector!

According to the Ribadu committee, this nation has lost over the last 10 years, approximately $29 billion to price fixing and contract scams involving oil and gas corporations. Additionally, Nigeria is owed over $3.00 billion in royalty arrears by oil and gas corporations; while she loses $6.00 billion per annum, at a theft rate of 250,000 barrels of crude oil per day to crude oil theft!

This means that over the last 10 years, Nigeria would have lost a minimum of $60 billion to crude oil theft alone

The implication of the extent of the fraud and corruption that has been exposed in the petroleum sector by the various committees is that in the last 10 years alone, and in just the petroleum sector, "Nigeria has lost the total sum of a minimum of $8.00 billion (the oil subsidy fraud for 2011 alone) + $3.00 billion + $29 billion + $60 billion, amounting to $100 billion or over N16.8 trillion; the equivalent of four annual federal budgets", EIN said.

This, however, means that an amount equal to the total budget for four years has been stolen over a 10 year period. For the coalition, "we can only imagine what the total sum of these grand thefts would have been if we add to this extra-budgetary theft, funds embezzled from the actual appropriation acts over that period.

"We can only imagine what our country has lost in provisioning of adequate basic services and infrastructures; in employment generation, and poverty reduction, if these sums had been available and used for these purposes instead of being stolen".

Irked, EIN pledged, "we shall continue to organise and mobilise popular resistance to corruption, as well as popular action to compel that corruption is frontally tackled.

"In this regard, we serve notice, that if our demands are not met, if there is no convincing movement in the fight against corruption, we shall once again be compelled to call for nationwide mass actions towards the end of November 2012".

......AKANIMO REPORTS/SCOOP MEDIA PRESS RELEASE

EFCC probes VC over contract award


THE Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has begun investigations into the tenure of the Vice Chancellor of the Ebonyi State University (EBSU), Prof. Francis Idike, who has been accused of running the university “like a personal fiefdom and whimsical expenditure of funds”.

Also, the university’s chapter of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU-EBSU), says it would protest any attempt to breach due process in the appointment of a new vice chancellor to succeed Idike whose tenure elapses on November 4, 2012.

A source at the EFCC told The Guardian that the commission was investigating allegations of inflation of contracts during his tenure (November 2009-2012). He stressed that the commission has got leads to unwholesome financial dealings in the university.

“It was based on the nature of the discoveries that we have written to the vice chancellor asking him to furnish us with certain documents relating to some contracts, procurements as well as certified true copies of all payment vouchers and E-payment mandates raised for the payment of such contracts,” the source added.

The source further disclosed that some of the documents demanded from Idike included certified true copies of all documents relating to advertisement, bidding, award and acceptance letters of all contracts from 2009 to date, adding that by the time the commission finishes its probe, Nigerians would change their impression about the fight against graft in the country.

Although attempts to reach the VC failed, a worker in his office admitted that the EFCC’s letter asking for documents for investigation activities was received by the institution.

The letter addressed to Idike was signed by Paul Timibushi for the Head of Operations, South East zone, Enugu, and dated October 4, 2012 with reference number CR/3000/EFCC/EN/BF/TB/VOL. 6/389.

The letter entitled, ‘Investigation Activities: Request for Documents’, reads in part: “This commission is investigating a case in which the need to obtain certain information from you has become imperative. In view of the above, you are kindly requested to provide the following list of all contracts/procurements (completed and ongoing) executed by the university from 2009 to date.

“Certified true copies of all documents relating to advertisement, bidding, award and acceptance letters of all contracts from 2009 to date and of all vouchers/E-payment mandates raised for the payment of such contracts”.

Meanwhile, ASUU-EBSU has condemned insinuations in some quarters that Idike, who retired four years ago at the University of Nigeria Nsukka, Enugu campus, would be reappointed after his first four years in office ends next month, saying that such a move would not augur well for the institution. Chairman of ASUU-EBSU, Prof. Emeka Nwakpu, noted that the alleged move by the Governing Council of the institution to reappoint Idike was wrong, saying that the EBSU Law of 2011 has not yet taken effect.

“You have to appoint before you reappoint; no one has been appointed under that law, let alone reappointed. We have an amended law in place since May 2011. Nobody has been appointed on the basis of that law, so why should they be talking about reappointment? The law has not appointed anybody and so it cannot reappoint. The EBSU Law was passed by Ebonyi State House of Assembly,” he contended, adding that the union would soon make a categorical statement on the matter.

......LEO SOBECHI, ABAKLIKI/GUARDIAN NIGERIA

Gov. Okorocha Orders Closure Of Nudity Clubs In Imo


Gov. Rochas Okorocha of Imo has ordered the immediate closure of nudity clubs in the state, describing their existence as ``strange and devilish’’.

Okorocha, who gave the order in Owerri on Wednesday at the end of the meeting of the state Security Council, said that the operation of nudity clubs debased Igbo culture.

He said that such clubs had compounded the eroding morality of the youths and warned that the government would no longer condone their destructive activities.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that many nudity clubs are operating in the state capital.

The governor also banned under-age persons would henceforth be barred from attending night clubs in the state and warned that any club found admitting such persons or selling alcoholic drinks to them would be closed down permanently.

The governor also ordered the demolition of a house in Oru East Local Government Area and a filling station in Mbaitoli Local Government Area allegedly owned by kidnappers.

Okorocha warned that government was determined to stamp out kidnapping in the state.

He also warned owners of uncompleted buildings in the state to clean and secure them to avoid their being used as hideouts by criminals.

The governor decried the upsurge of secret cults in some secondary schools in the state and warned student cult members that government was poised to deal with them.

He expressed concern over the increase in child trafficking in the state and said that government had taken steps with the security agencies to check the trend.

......LEADERSHIP NEWSPAPER

Tullow Shares Rise After News Of Second Oil Find In Kenya


Visitors tour the oil rig at Ngamia 1 in Turkana where Tullow discovered oil. The firm said in a statement on Wednesday that drilling is on-going and an “announcement of the drilling result is expected in early to mid-November after target depth has been achieved and necessary sampling and analysis has been completed.” Photo/FILE Nation Media Group

*Mwendia Nyaga, another analyst, said Kenya is headed for rapid growth in the upstream oil and gas sector and should get ready to embrace the success and the potential advantages that it will present. “This is exciting news for Kenya. Any investment in the right infrastructure is justified,” added Mr Nyaga on telephone.

*The Twiga South-1 structure is the second prospect to be tested as part of a multi-well drilling campaign in Kenya and Ethiopia.

*It is the first discovery in block 13T following the Ngamia-1 discovery early this year in Block 10BB.Twiga-1, on Block 13T, is about 30 kilometres west of Ngamia-1.

British explorer Tullow Oil’s discovery of oil in a second Kenyan well pushed the firm’s shares among the top gainers on the FTSE 100 index.

Tullow Oil’s shares rose by 3.7 per cent outperforming the index which grew by 0.3 per cent while the shares of Africa Oil, Tullow’s 50 per cent partner in the Twiga South-1 well also jumped by a similar margin at the Canadian Stock Exchange.

The gains came as Tullow Oil confirmed an exclusive report in Wednesday’s edition of the Business Daily that it had discovered oil at the well, six months after another at the Ngamia-1 well in Turkana. See: Tullow strikes oil in second Northern Kenya operation

“Tullow Oil Plc announces that the Twiga South-1 exploration well in onshore Kenya Block 13T has successfully encountered oil. An announcement of the drilling result is expected in early to mid-November after target depth has been achieved and necessary sampling and analysis has been completed,” the company said in a statement.

Kenya energy officials greeted the news with hope that the discovery, indicated as 30 metres of net pay (depth) by sources, would move the country towards possible commercial production.

“They have discovered some quantities of oil but whose net pay is yet to be assessed. This is significant development for our country,” said Energy permanent secretary Patrick Nyoike.

“This is encouraging progress towards commercial oil confirmation , especially if Twiga-1 ends up being as prolific as Ngamia-1,” said Mr George Wachira, an industry consultant.

Mwendia Nyaga, another analyst, said Kenya is headed for rapid growth in the upstream oil and gas sector and should get ready to embrace the success and the potential advantages that it will present. “This is exciting news for Kenya. Any investment in the right infrastructure is justified,” added Mr Nyaga on telephone.

The Twiga South-1 structure is the second prospect to be tested as part of a multi-well drilling campaign in Kenya and Ethiopia.

It is the first discovery in block 13T following the Ngamia-1 discovery early this year in Block 10BB.Twiga-1, on Block 13T, is about 30 kilometres west of Ngamia-1.

It is understood the oil was encountered at 2,337m against a target depth of 3,114m.

Tullow struck substantial deposits of between 104 metres and 143 metres of net pay at Ngamia-1 at a total depth of 2,340 meters, the largest ever discovery in a single well by Tullow oil in Africa.

......Zeddy Sambu/Business Daily Africa

In Somalia, a comedian critical of Al Shabab is assassinated


Warsame Shire Awale was known for pillorying Al Shabab, Somalia’s Al Qaeda-allied Islamist militants, in radio plays and poems.

BY MIKE PFLANZ/CSM

One of Somalia’s best-loved broadcast comedians and playwrights has died after an apparent assassination shooting, making him the 18th media figure killed in the country this year.

Two young men armed with pistols forced their way into Warsame Shire Awale’s home in Mogadishu and shot him several times as he sat talking to his wife in their garden. He was taken to a hospital but died from his wounds late on Monday.

Mr. Awale was the 18th reporter or broadcaster to be killed in Somalia in 2012, making the country the second most dangerous for journalists in the world this year after Syria.

Awale, 60, was known for pillorying Al Shabab, Somalia’s Al Qaeda-allied Islamist militants, in radio plays and poems, and it is suspected that his assassination was ordered by the group’s radical leadership.

"He was sitting in the garden and I was next to him, we were chatting when suddenly two men armed with pistols came and shot my husband and then they ran off,” Fowziyo Farah, Awale’s wife, tells the Christian Science Monitor. “Really my husband was a nice man, they targeted him for no reason. He never had any threats made against him before. I call on the government to capture the perpetrators.” Another recent killing

Two days ago, Mohamed Mohamud Turyare, a journalist and producer with Radio Shabelle, died as a result of wounds inflicted on Oct. 21 when he was shot in a similar attack.

“I strongly condemn the targeted and persistent assault on Somalia’s media professionals,” said Augustine Mahiga, Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative for Somalia and the most senior United Nations official in the country. “The world is concerned that none of these murders have resulted in conclusive arrests, investigations, and due process or convictions of suspects.”

Awale may have become a target because of comments he made on air about gunmen attacking civilians, the National Union of Somali Journalists said.

He had performed with the band of the Somali Police Force and had reportedly urged people to join their ranks as they struggle to keep order in the face of violent attacks by Al Shabab.

Tom Rhodes, East Africa consultant for the New York City-based Committee to Protect Journalists, echoed calls for greater government action to safeguard journalists’ lives.

"This has been the deadliest year for Somali journalists ever recorded by CPJ,” he said. “This record fatality rate underlines the urgency with which authorities must act to secure conditions in Somalia, especially in the capital."

Osman Gure, director of Radio Kulmiye, where Awale worked, says he spoke to his colleague less than two hours before he was killed and that they were preparing a new play for the radio station.

Mr. Gure blames Al Shabab for the killing, even though a militant spokesman denied that his men were behind the shooting.

“These are assaults against the freedom of the Somali media,” Gure says. “I believe they killed him for expressing his views. They are against any active person who is taking part in the development of the country.”

Senegal launches warrant of arrest for Wade’s son


The Senegalese government has launched an international warrant of arrest against ex-President Abdoulaye Wade’s son in connection with hundreds of millions of dollars he allegedly swindled during his father’s regime.

A leading independent daily L’Observateur reported that the special prosecutor at the newly-established court against illicit wealth Alioune Ndao launched the warrant of arrest on Tuesday evening against Karim Wade.

Mr Karim Wade who is alleged to be residing in Europe is believed to have swindled millions of dollars when he served intermittently as minister of international cooperation, air transport, infrastructure and energy between 2009 and 2012.

Three months ago with the advent of the new regime, Karim Wade faced a preliminary hearing before the court concerning the alleged ill-gotten wealth he amassed from these ministries as well as from funds provided by the Islamic world to facilitate the hosting of a conference by Senegal.

The source said the hearings on 3 and 5 July 2012 led the investigators to discover that Karim Wade held an accounts at one local and another at a regional bank in the tune of $15 million (Sh1.3bn).

The military investigators alleged that Karim Wade had fraudulently acquired the money when he served as minister of air transport.

But the youthful former minister told the investigators that the amount was offered to him by his father, ex-President Wade who is on retirement in Senegal.

Senegal’s justice minister has meanwhile insisted that Karim Wade would have to express himself clearly over that money when he faces the special court upon his arrest or will face jail terms.

The former minister is also accused of several other financial malpractices for which he is expected to be quizzed including the possession of a private jet which he used for several years.

......TAMBA MATHEW/DAILY NATION KENYA

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Los Angeles Lakers New Attitude




The Los Angeles Lakers lost to the Dallas Mavericks 99-91 in its 2012-2013 season opener at the Staples Center Tuesday, October 30, 2012.

In Sudan blast, signs of Iran and Israel's rivalry


KS_Newton -- CAIRO (AP) — A suspected Israeli airstrike against a weapons factory in Khartoum last week points to a possible escalation in a hidden front of the rivalry between Israel and Iran: The arms pipeline through Sudan to Islamic militants on Israel's borders. Mystery still surrounds the blast, which killed four people. But analysts say the incident could indicate Iran is trying to send more advanced weapons via Sudan to Hamas in the Gaza Strip or Hezbollah in Lebanon — and that Israel has become more determined to stop it at a time of increased tensions over Iran's nuclear program.

Consensus has built among Israeli and Arab military analysts that the explosion just after midnight last Wednesday at the Yarmouk factory was indeed an Israeli airstrike as Sudan has claimed. Israel says it neither confirms nor denies being behind it. Sudan, in turn, denied on Monday that Iran had any connection to the factory's production.

In a show of support for the two countries' alliance, two Iranian warships — a helicopter carrier and destroyer that had been conducting anti-piracy patrols off East Africa's coast — docked this week at Sudan's main Red Sea port. The Iranian commanders were holding talks with Sudanese officers as part of the countries' "exchange of amicable relations," Sudan's military spokesman said.

Sudan's Foreign Ministry dismissed allegations of an Iranian connection to the Yarmouk facility, saying "Iran does not need to manufacture weapons in Sudan, be it for itself or for its allies." Experts say that Sudan's value to Iran is not in its modest weapons production capabilities, but in its vast desert expanses that provide cover for weapons convoys bound for Gaza through Egypt's lawless Sinai Peninsula. Israel has long contended that Iran uses the route to supply Hamas. It appears to have struck the supply line at least once before, when a convoy in a remote part of Sudan was blasted by explosions in 2009 — though Israel never admitted to the attack.

The question now is: What would prompt Israel to conduct a bolder strike hitting a Sudanese government facility in the heart of the capital Khartoum? The target may have been 40 shipping containers that satellite images show were stacked in the factory compound days before the explosion. Post-explosion imagery released Saturday by the Satellite Sentinel Project, a U.S. monitoring group, show six 52-foot-wide craters all centered at the spot where the containers had been, the blast's epicenter. The group said the craters were consistent with an airstrike and that whatever it hit was a "highly volatile cargo," causing a powerful explosion that destroyed at least two structures in the compound and sent ordnance flying into nearby neighborhoods.

What was in the containers remains unknown — leaving observers to speculate. Retired Israeli Brigadier General Shlomo Brom, a military expert, said there is a "strong possibility" that Israel had identified an "imminent threat" within the factory. Brom, a research associate at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, said the containers could have been part of Iran's efforts to smuggle "a new category of weapons" to Gaza. The weapons could be "something with air defense capability ... or could very well belong to the category of rockets and missiles, but just larger, stronger, and longer range," he said.

Gen. Sameh Seif Elyazal, a former Egyptian army general, said his understanding was that a strike was carried out against short-range missiles being assembled in the factory "under Iranian supervision," bound for the Hamas and Hezbollah militant groups. He said that his analysis was based on "private conversations with Israeli officials" that had been conveyed to him through others. He did not elaborate. Elyazal said Iranian-made weapons smuggled through Sudan reach Hamas militants in Gaza and Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon. "Iran wants to put Israel under pressure from the north, through Hezbollah and from the east through Gaza," he said. Iran has long backed Hamas, which took control of the Gaza Strip in 2007.

Iran's relations with Hamas have been strained after the Palestinian militant group this year cut its ties with Syria — Tehran's biggest Arab ally — over that country's bloody civil war. Iran has since cut back some aid to the group, but a senior Hamas leader visited Tehran last month and Hamas officials say the group's military wing in particular continues to receive funding from Iran. Iran "has sought alternate routes" for its arms shipments to Hamas after Israel cracked down on maritime lanes direct to Gaza that Tehran previously used, said Michael Eisenstadt, Director of the Military and Security Studies Program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. The Sudan route "complicates matters for Israel," he said.

Hezbollah is another possible destination. But despite the civil war, Syria is believed to remain the primary route for Tehran to supply its powerful Shiite guerrilla ally in Lebanon. Iranian arms shipments gain added significance amid the dispute of Iran's nuclear program, which Israel and the U.S. contend is aimed at producing a bomb.

Israel has held out the possibility of attacking Iranian nuclear facilities. Iran denies any intention to build a bomb and has warned it will retaliate for any Israeli attack — raising fears Hezbollah, Hamas or other Iranian-backed militant groups would carry out strikes on Israel. Speaking to Israel Radio after the Wednesday explosion in Khartoum, Israeli Vice Premier Moshe Yaalon said "there's no doubt that there is an axis of weapons from Iran via Sudan that reaches us, and not just us."

The contentions surrounding last week's explosion also point to the close ties between Iran and Sudan, dating back to the 1989 coup that brought President Omar al-Bashir to power, when Iran's Revolutionary Guard helped supply him weapons. Though wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged atrocities in the western Sudanese region of Darfur, al-Bashir visited Tehran most recently in August for a Nonaligned Movement summit.

Iran has made significant investments in water and engineering projects in Sudan. China is the main arms source for Sudan's government. But Iran, which signed a military relations deal with Khartoum in 2008, is also a supplier. Notably, Khartoum appears to receive Iranian drones to use in its multiple domestic wars against rebel groups, said Jonah Leff, who monitors Sudan for the Small Arms Survey. Rebels shot down two such drones, in 2008 and in March this year.

An Iranian role at the Yarmouk facility remains uncertain. The facility, which opened in 1996, was touted by Sudan as a source of pride, showing its weapons manufacturing capabilities. Still, the factory only produces ammunition. Leff said there is no evidence Iranian weapons are being assembled there, suggesting it was beyond the facility's capabilities. But, he said, workers from Yarmouk have traveled to Iran for training.

There have also been reports of Iranian experts residing at Yarmouk, said Hani Raslan, an expert on Sudan at the Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo. Raslan also said he suspects the strike was aimed at weakening the Iranian arms smuggling network. Fawaz A. Gerges, who heads the Middle East Center at the London School of Economics, says the strike has its symbolic aspect as well, allowing Israel to "flex its muscle and capacity and will to strike." "Regardless of what particular weapons were destroyed, Israel sent a message to Sudan and to Iran," Gerges said.

Sovereign Wealth Fund: One Right Step for Nigeria


Angola has just established a Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF) shortly after Nigeria’s $1billion SWF. Goddy Egene writes that Angola’s move shows that Nigeria took the right decision in the first place.

President Goodluck Jonathan’s signing of the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) bill into law in 2011 marked a positive step towards the establishment of the Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF) in Nigeria.

A SWF has proven to be a veritable form of investment for the future, especially for countries that depend largely on commodities and raw materials such as oil and other mineral resources as their main source of revenue like Nigeria.

Although the law has been signed since last year, the Board to manage the SWF was only constituted recently. The delay in the full take-off of the fund has been due to opposition from some state governors who had contested the establishment of the fund.

The Opposition

Some of the governors, who foresaw the Excess Crude Account (ECA) as a regular source of funds, believe that the establishment of SWF would affect the ECA and thus deny them access to funds.

However, defending the SWF, the Coordinating Minister of the Economy and Finance Minister, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, declared that the fund would save money for future generations, fund infrastructure and defend the economy against commodity price shocks. She added that SWF would make Nigeria more attractive for investors.

Angola’s $5bn SWF

But while Nigeria is still slow to commence the operations of the SWF, Angola, Africa’s second-biggest oil producer, is starting its SWF with $5 billion in assets to ease the impact of commodity price volatility that prompted an International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan three years ago.

Known as The Fundo Soberano de Angola (FSDEA), it is to be managed by a three-member board led by Armando Manuel, an adviser on economic issues to President Jose Eduardo dos Santos.

According to Manuel, FSDEA investments would include financial securities and stakes in infrastructure and hospitality projects and other industries that may exhibit strong growth in sub-Saharan Africa.

“It is an evolution of the resources fund that had been proposed using 100,000 barrels of oil a day and it’s from this perspective we hope the fund will grow,” he said.

Before Nigeria and now Angola, three other African countries had established SWFs. The countries are Mauritania, Equatorial Guinea and Algeria.

History of SWFs
In general, the first SWF in the world was established in Kuwait in 1953, as a means of helping to stabilise the economy from fluctuating oil prices. In 1956, the Gilbert Islands (now Kiribati), established the revenue equalisation reserve fund to manage profits from phosphate mining.

After Kuwait and Kiribati, the next major SWFs were created in the 1970s, in the wake of the oil stock. But the most recent wave of SWFs’ establishment started in the 1990s with the Norwegian government’s pension fund-global in 1990, after which the trend has continued till today. And within the last five years, some countries such as China, Iran, Russia, Qatar, and United Arab Emirates, have established their own SWFs.

However, the world’s biggest SWF is operated by Norway and has $582.9 billion under management at the end of 2011, according to the Sovereign Investment Lab at Bocconi University in Milan, Italy.

Analysts believe that the Nigeria SWF should swing into action without further delay, considering the tortuous journey and the benefits derivable from the fund.

Aganga’s Role

The establishment of the SWF in Nigeria is actually the brain-child of former Minister of Finance and current Minister of Trade and Investment, Olusegun Aganga.

The SWF is based on the Santiago Principle-with three investment baskets – the Nigeria Infrastructure Fund; the Future Generations Fund and the Stabilisation Fund.

With the benefit of hindsight and convinced by the urgent need of the country for a “special buffer” to jump-start its economic regeneration, Aganga initiated a research into the workability of a SWF in the Nigerian environment.

He used international research experts and under his watch, the framework for the establishment of the SWF was designed before he posted to the ministry of trade and investment, which was newly created.

Explaining the concept of how the fund would work under the Santiago Principle, Aganga, at that time, said the Infrastructure Fund would be used in bridging the nation’s infrastructure gap by investing in the development of critical infrastructure across the country.

“Notably, 10 per cent of this fund will be devoted to agriculture and regional government-sponsored development projects that will promote economic development in under-served sectors or regions in Nigeria,” he said.

On the Future Generations Fund, Aganga said it would be used to build an inter-generational savings base by investing in longer term assets that generate returns to accumulate wealth for future generations of Nigerians.

On the other hand, the Stabilisation Fund, he explained, would be used to protect the country’s budget by providing a stable, last-resort source of finance during periods of fiscal deficit.

Benefits of SWF

“However, the Stabilisation Fund will ensure the smooth functioning of government and delivery of key services during periods where revenues from petroleum sales are less than the level anticipated and approved by the National Assembly,” he said.

According to Aganga, with the establishment of the SWF, Nigeria will join other OPEC states and more than 50 other natural-resource-rich countries, which together manage over $3 trillion in sovereign assets, in having a national savings plan for managing natural resource wealth.

Speaking on efforts to convince the governors, he said, “We actually took our time to make sure that we did everything that we needed to do. I actually made representations to the governors at the National Economic Council at least four times. Each time we discussed it, we looked at areas where we needed to be flexible.

“We looked at their concerns and we structured it in a way to accommodate all the concerns. They had input into it. And when we decided to set up the fund and set aside $1 billion, we went round every governor for a yes or no answer, and the consensus was ‘set up the fund, set aside $1 billion,” he added.

Despite the initial opposition by the governor’s forum, some of the governors commended the establishment of the SWF, saying it was a brilliant idea.

For instance, the Governor of Niger State, Aliyu Babangida, had said the SWF would aid sustainable growth and development in Nigeria.

“The Minister of Trade and Investment, Olusegun Aganga, is the founder and father of SWF in Nigeria. He is one of those few patriotic and visionary Nigerians, who is very passionate about the economic transformation of this country.

“His appointment by President Jonathan, first as the Minister of Finance, and now as Minister of Trade and investment, has resulted in the introduction of policies and reforms that have helped to put Nigeria on a sound footing to attract local and Foreign Direct Investment across all sectors of the economy. Had it been that we established the Sovereign Wealth Fund 50 years ago, we would have gone very far,” he said.

With the board and management in place, the SWF is set to begin operations.

Need to Patronise Domestic Markets

However, stockbrokers have said the domestic market should be considered when the decision to invest the fund would be made. According to the President of Chartered Institute of Stockbrokers (CIS), Mr. Ariyo Olushekun, the fund should be well-utilised, especially the future generation aspect of the fund.

“The fund should be invested in the Nigerian market. It does not make sense for Nigeria to take funds out of its own economy and deposit such funds with investment banks abroad or for them to be invested abroad, because that would mean that they will be using the fund to develop such economies.

“We should use our savings and our reserves to develop our own economy. In any case, we have heard of countries that even lost major part of their funds in the process of sending the funds abroad,” he said.

He cited Libya, he said, reported to have lost about 80 per cent of its SWF to foreign markets. “We do not want to do that here in Nigeria, therefore, we should use our funds here to develop our economy,” he declared.

......THIS DAY

Man [Abiola Akintunde Mathews] pleads guilty to manslaughter in stabbing

17-year-old Mariak Jok died on September 6, 2009 after stabbed by Abiola Akintunde Mathews

They both came to Canada hoping for a better life. But a chance meeting on a downtown Winnipeg street — fuelled by alcohol and some heated words — would result in both their dreams being dashed.

Abiola Akintunde Matthews, 37, has pleaded guilty to manslaughter for the September 2009 stabbing death of 17-year-old Michael Mariak Jok.

Matthews returned to court Tuesday for sentencing and faces deportation back to Africa upon his release from prison. The Crown is seeking a 12-year prison term, while defence lawyer Josh Weinstein has asked for seven years.

Queen’s Bench Justice Karen Simonsen has reserved her decision until later this year.

"I am deeply sorry for your loss, from the bottom of my heart," Matthews told the victim’s family in court Tuesday. "I know I caused much pain for your family. I really feel what happened every day, taking the life of a young man."

The tragic incident began when Matthews and a friend were driving through the neighbourhood when they spotted Jok and a group of his friends walking down the street, court was told. There was no apparent prior history between the two men.

Matthews’ friend shouted a crude remark towards some young women in the group. That prompted an angry Jok to walk up to their vehicle and pour out a bottle of beer he was carrying on the car. He also threw the empty bottle towards Matthews, who responded by getting out of the car carrying a knife.

One of Jok’s friends then took off his belt and began swinging it, striking Matthews who slashed him in the cheek with his knife. Jok then lunged towards Matthews, shoving him. Matthews responded by stabbing Jok once in the throat, causing massive blood loss that caused his death.

Matthews fled the scene but later confessed his crime to a friend, who reported it to police several days later.

Matthews has been in custody since his arrest and is expected to be given double-time credit of more than six years because it pre-dates legislative changes outlawing the practice.

Jok was a Grade 12 student at Miles Macdonell Collegiate who came to Canada in 2004. Family members say he spent his early life in Ethiopia and dreamed of attending university in Canaday. The teen attended a youth group at St. Matthew’s Anglican Church and was an avid soccer and basketball player.

"We came here to make a life," said a friend, Matthew Joseph, 20. "He was too young to die at this early age."

.....Mike McCintyre/Winnipeg Free Press

African Development Bank Group : African leaders urged to invest in jobs, infrastructure and protecting development gains


Opening an unprecedented gathering of experts in Kigali, present and former African Heads of State urged business, community and political leaders to help turn the continent's impressive growth into economic opportunities for ordinary citizens.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame, inaugurating the country's first African Economic Conference, said, "In Rwanda, we understand that politics and economics go hand in hand and we have made a conscious and deliberate choice of inclusive development based on our political reality. By and large, they have produced positive results. Growth has been consistent and poverty levels considerably reduced by 12 per cent from 56.9 per cent to 44 per cent in five years."

Organized each year by the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the title for this year's African Economic Conference will be "Inclusive and Sustainable Development in an Age of Economic Uncertainty".

Africa has weathered the economic crisis and achieved considerable advances in the area of poverty reduction and human development. However, the region is still home to high levels of poverty, hunger, unemployment and inequality in political voice and access to resources.

"Over the first decade of this century, with the exception of 2008, Africa experienced exceptional economic performance and growth in GDP per capita," said Helen Clark, the UNDP Administrator. "But there is a way to go in many countries to translate that growth into higher human development.

Deliberate policy measures and targeted investments are needed to make growth not just fast, but also inclusive and sustainable."

Participants on the opening day said that the key issue for the continent was to shift from commodity-based to innovative, diversified economies at a time when foreign direct investment, aid and remittances were drying up.

Donald Kaberuka, the President of the African Development Bank, underscored the need for long-term solutions. He suggested that Africa's growth should include doing research on solutions on how African countries could internally finance their development, and learning from what has gone wrong globally to redesign their policies.

Africa must invest in quality education in order to stop children from inheriting poverty from generation to generation, said Kaberuka.

"This is how you stop children from inheriting living conditions of debt, and once you do that you have stopped the transmission of poverty," he told an opening session.

"Inclusive development must include equity, equality, popular participation not only in politics but also in the economy itself and then of course there must be transparency, and all those things that make the governed believe and have confidence in those who govern them," added the Former President of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo.

Participants at the conference also said that protecting communities from food and fuel price volatility, climate change and political instability required putting in place bold measures for social protection, including insurance, credit and employment schemes.

The African Economic Conference is organized as a series of open thematic debates, combined with sessions that review policy research from across the continent. The conference provides a uniquely open forum for political leaders, academics and emerging talent from the continent to discuss solutions to Africa's pressing development issues.

......NEWS 4 TRADERS

Armed robbers kill 20 in northern Nigeria: official


KANO, Nigeria — Armed robbers shot dead 20 people on Tuesday in northern Nigeria's Zamfara state, an area plagued by violent clashes between vigilante and criminal groups, an official said.

"Twenty people were killed today and two others were badly hurt by a gang of bandits in a raid on Kaboro village," state government spokesman Nuhu Salihu Anka told AFP.

"The bandits stormed the village and began shooting indiscriminately," he said of the attack in a remote area roughly 120 kilometres (75 miles) from the state capital.

After several people had been killed, the area's chief appealed to the gunmen to stop firing but they turned their weapons on him instead, according to the spokesman.

"The robbers shot (the chief) dead and then went door to door seizing cash and other valuables before fleeing," Anka said.

A gang of robbers killed 23 people in the nearby villages of Dan-Gulbi and Guru in June, in a raid where some of the victims' throats were slit.

The June slaughter was reportedly carried out by gunmen seeking revenge against a community militia.

Locals said at the time that the vigilante force, which had grown tired of repeated robberies in the area, had killed several people they accused of being gang members.

Raids in Zamfara have previously involved scores of attackers. Up to 80 gunmen riding on motorcycles were reported to have carried out the June massacre, while in January, around 100 robbers killed and then burned the bodies of 15 traders as they returned from a market in another state.

Northern Nigeria has also been hit by waves of attacks by radical Islamist group Boko Haram, but the worst violence has been concentrated in the northeast and central north.

Northwestern states like Zamfara have largely been spared by the extremist group and there was no indication that Boko Haram was involved in the latest attack.

Deadly communal and ethnic conflicts often occur in Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation and largest oil producer with some 160 million people and 250 ethnic groups.

Last month, armed robbers opened fire on a group of people as they left pre-dawn prayers at a mosque in Kaduna state, killing about 20 people.

Those killings were reportedly sparked by an ongoing rivalry between a community protection force and a group of thieves active in the area.

The scale of the violence in Nigeria's mainly Muslim north, including attacks blamed on Boko Haram, has prompted scathing criticism from activists, who accuse President Goodluck Jonathan's government of failing to protect the population.

...AFP

Shuttle Endeavour On Display




In what had taken a nationwide competition, three days of cross-country flight and a behind schedule jam-packed Los Angeles Streets 12-mile trek, the Shuttle Endeavour arrived its destination October 14, 2012 and formally opens on display today, October 30, 2012, where it's temporarily set up at the Samuel Oschin Space Display Pavilion. Museum visitors won't be able to go inside Endeavour but can navigate the flight deck and mid-deck by using a touch-tone display. Also on display is the Endeavour's zero-gravity toilet at the science center. Ehirim Files Images

Monday, October 29, 2012

Mitt Romney, The Spoiled Brat




In this May 18, 1964, Associated Press file photo, Gov. George Romney and his son, Mitt, look out over the New York World's Fair grounds from the heliport after attending a Michigan breakfast at the Top of the Fair Restaurant. The governor and a large delegation from Michigan are here for Michigan Day at the fair. At right is part of the Chrysler exhibit and behind them is the Ford exhibit. Long before Mitt Romney became the millionaire candidate from Massachusetts, he was his father' son, weeding the garden in the upscale suburb of Detroit where he grew up. He hated the chore. But he idolized the man who made him do it _ George Romney, the outspoken, no-nonsense, auto executive turned politician

Jonathan Orders Ribadu Committee to Submit Report Friday


Mallam Nuhu Ribadu

President Goodluck Jonathan has directed the Petroleum Revenue Special Task Force, headed by former Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, to submit a comprehensive report to him on Friday.

The 21-member committee is among three others set up by the Federal Government in the wake of the nationwide protests that trailed the deregulation of the downstream sector of the oil industry that led to the rise in the pump price of petrol from N65 per litre to the initial price of N141 per litre.

Two other committees set up by the Federal Government in the wake of the protests to examine other aspects of the country’s petroleum industry are to also present their reports to the president on Friday.

They are the committee established to design a new corporate governance code for ensuring full transparency, good governance and global best practices in the NNPC and other oil industry parastatals headed Mr. Dotun Sulaiman and the committee headed by Dr. Kalu Idika Kalu, which was charged with conducting a high-level assessment of the nation’s refineries and recommending ways of improving their efficiency and commercial viability.

The other panel, a special task force to fast track the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) into law, chaired by former Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, has since submitted its report, paving the way for the president to send the revised PIB to the National Assembly in July.

According a statement by the Special Adviser to the president on Media and Publicity, Dr Reuben Abati, the demand for the reports of the panel is in furtherance of the administration’s commitment to transparency, probity, and accountability in the petroleum sector.

The Ribadu committee, which was set up in February 2012, was required to, among other tasks, determine and verify all petroleum upstream and downstream revenues (taxes and royalties, etc,) due and payable to the Federal Government and to take all necessary steps to collect all debts due and owed; to obtain agreements and enforce payment terms by all oil industry operators. It covers the year 2002 to the present.

Part of the Ribadu panel report, published in the media last week, had reported Nigeria’s loss of tens of billions of dollars in oil and gas revenues over the last decade from cut-price deals struck between multinational oil companies and government officials.

The 146-page document provides new details on Nigeria’s long history of corruption in the oil sector, which has enriched its elite and provided the oil majors with hefty profits while two thirds of the people live in poverty.

Although the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, confirmed last Tuesday that she had received the report last month but that it was a draft and the government was still supposed to give its input. But the report submitted by the Ribadu committee was marked “final.”

The report concluded that oil majors - Shell, Total and Eni - made bumper profits from cut-price gas, while Nigerian oil ministers handed out licences at their own discretion.

This, while not illegal, did not follow best practice of using open bids. Hundreds of millions of dollars in signature bonuses on those deals were also missing, Reuters reported.

The presidency, however, has said that it will not any government official indicted by the Ribadu panel report.

It also reiterated the commitment of Jonathan to fight corruption, stating that it is with respect to this that he had directed that the report be submitted to him on Friday.

A statement by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, Dr. Doyin Okupe, said the president had neither seen nor received any copy of the Ribadu Committee Report.

“Essentially, what appears to have been irregularly released prematurely to the media is a draft copy which still requires full assent of all members of the committee and clarifications and due process from the originating Ministry before the official handing over to the presidency,” it added.

......MUHAMMAD BELLO/THIS DAY, OCTOBER 30, 2012

Artemis Wins Trial Over California $4 Billion Junk Bonds


(LOS ANGELES) - Francois Pinault’s Artemis SA holding company won a trial over $4.33 billion in profits and interest sought by the California insurance commissioner from a junk-bond portfolio sold to French investors in 1991.

A federal jury in Los Angeles today rejected the claim that if not for a conspiracy by the French investor group, then- Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi, the conservator of Executive Life Insurance Co., would have accepted a bid in 1991 for the insolvent insurer’s assets from a group of guaranty associations that would have kept the profits from a junk-bond portfolio in the company.

The case, which first went to trial in 2005, dates back to the sale of failed Executive Life, at one point the largest California life insurer, and its junk-bond portfolio to a unit of Credit Lyonnais SA and a group of French and Swiss insurers organized and secretly backed by the French bank to avoid regulatory restrictions on the bank owning an insurer.

Artemis, the company through which Pinault controls PPR (PP) and its luxury goods brands including Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent, acquired part of the junk-bond portfolio in 1992 and a controlling stake in the rehabilitated insurance company. Artemis is the only one of the French defendants that didn’t settle with the insurance commissioner.

French Investors:

California claimed the profits that the French investors made from the junk bonds, which “went through the roof” after Garamendi sold them for $3.25 billion to Credit Lyonnais’s Altus unit, rightfully should have gone to Executive Life policy holders and the guaranty associations that made up shortfalls for some of the insured.

Lawyers for Artemis said during the trial that Garamendi never would have accepted a bid that would have kept the junk bonds, which caused Executive Life to collapse in the first place, in the rehabilitated insurer.

Garamendi in 1991 rejected the bid by the National Organization of Life and Health Insurance Guaranty Associations, or NOLHGA, because it would have left the policy holders exposed to the “toxic” junk bonds, Artemis lawyers said. The Altus bid was the only bid that offered cash for the junk bonds and took the risk out of the insurer, they said.

Lawyers representing current California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said during the trial that, had Garamendi known that Credit Lyonnais was lying to him and secretly buying the insurance company as well as the junk bonds, he would have accepted the NOLHGA bid.

The case is Garamendi v. Altus Finance SA, 99-02829, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Los Angeles).

......EDWARD PETTERSON/BLOOMBERG NEWS, LOS ANGELES

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Nigeria: Constitution Review Set For Public Hearings




The constitution review is now up for public hearings as the House of Representatives is said to have concluded its arrangements to review the 1999 constitution. According to the Deputy Speaker of the House, Emeka Ihedioha, the purpose of the public hearing would be to get the review closer to the people, and in addition, "various institutions, political parties" and and the general public have been invited to contribute their views. Tabled for national discourse would include among others: the six zonal structures, creation of states, funding and creation of local governments, indigenization, residency and citizenship. Image of Emeka Ihedioha courtesy of Daily Times.

I see revolution coming –Okoh


GODDY OFULUE/PUNCH INTERVIEW

The Primate/Head of Anglican Church in Nigeria, The Most Revd Nicholas Okoh, in this interview with GODDY OFULUE, warns that the rich in Nigeria will be targets of attack in a revolution if quick preventive steps are not taken

As a soldier, you fought during the civil war on the side of the Nigerian Army, with the war slogan, ‘To keep Nigeria one is a task that must be done.’ Do you still believe in that slogan, especially now that some Nigerians have advanced reasons why the country should split into independent states?

Yes, I still strongly believe in that slogan, I believe that Nigeria should remain one country. There are a lot of gains that come with diversity.

But those calling for a split argue that it’s been woes all the way.

What is happening now is that the diversity is being mismanaged; diversity is being misconstrued to mean that you don’t have to work but you can eat, especially as there is only one source of income. So, you don’t have to do anything as long as every month, people gather at the centre to share money.

But my belief is that even if we remain one and we continue this process of sharing money, we cannot be a great country; we need to go beyond that and work. Every segment of the country must be doing something and contributing to the economy.

It is because of this sharing-money mentality that people are asking for so many states. If states have to depend on what they gather, you will see that there will be less demand for the creation of states.

Would you then agree with those who blame the elite squarely for Nigeria’s woes?

I think all of us are to be blamed. The elite have not led well; the poor man also has practised wickedness. The four students who were burnt alive, that was not done by the elite. The killing of students in Mubi was the handiwork of poor people who have surrendered themselves to be manipulated by the elite. That they surrendered themselves to be manipulated is another evil. The railings on the bridges have been dismantled and yet these things were put there for public benefit. So, it is not just the elite. If you go to the market, you see how they have manipulated measures, all to maximise profit. So, it is both the elite and the so-called poor in our society. As far as all of us are concerned, there is a moral failure and our values have vanished.

What solutions would you proffer?

The solution to Nigeria’s problem is that, firstly, we should all appreciate the fact that if we continue to tear Nigeria the way we are tearing it, it will collapse; and when it collapses, all of us will suffer for it. The West African sub-region cannot contain us; we will all become refugees in our own places. You can’t go to Ghana, you can’t go to Benin, you can’t go to Cote d’voire, these places can’t contain us. So, it is in our common interest to sink our differences and behave ourselves.

The people who think they can force Nigeria to become an Islamic state should realise that it is an unattainable goal because people cannot just sit down and allow themselves to be turned into what other people desire.

Some Nigerians believe the convocation of a sovereign national conference will provide the solutions. Do you subscribe to this?

I don’t know what name it may be called, but a discussion forum is necessary.

Some say one of the solutions lie in the creation of state police…

Some say it (state police) is not due; but I believe that if checks and balances are put in place and we pursue it with open mind, it is practicable. They should have an unbiased mind; that is what I mean by an open mind. They should work out the operational mode; the relationship between the state police and the federal police; the roles of governors should be defined and state police commissions should be established to give operational guidelines and to ensure that the guidelines are followed. We will benefit more from the state police than we are benefitting from the federal structure.

When you have state police, the criminals will not have hiding places again because those who are going to be recruited already know the terrain. The national police commission will give state police what to do and what not to do.

There is nothing as permanent as change but in Nigeria, we are afraid of change. Why should we be afraid of change? Let’s practise it first and fine-tune the rough edges as we go on.

Look at what the vigilance group in Osun State accomplished by rescuing the wife of the Speaker of the state House of Assembly, who was abducted. I’m telling you the police would not have rescued that woman, but the vigilance group did because they are already familiar with the terrain.

Again, I believe that with state police, the accidental discharges by unknown police will no longer be there. If you shoot anybody, they will trace you to your family house. And this fact will prevent police officers from messing up.

What do you think is the major cause of the rising wave of violent crimes in the country?

One is lack of the fear of God. There is no meaningful teaching of religious knowledge in our schools again. Government should make the teaching of religious knowledge compulsory to restore the fear of God in the land. There is no sanctity of life again.

The second one is unemployment. Let there be employment. The devil uses idle hands. Most of the crimes in our land are committed by our graduates, highly educated graduates. Some of the okada riders are graduates.

I’m afraid of bloody revolution in the land. We’re sitting on a keg of gun powder, if they don’t take care of unemployment. Look at the sophisticated weapons being used by Boko Haram. Where are they getting them from? Look at the bombs they are using, even locally-made bombs. If there is revolution in the land, the rich will be the first target. So, we should take care of unemployment.

On the Boko Haram attacks, what is the church leadership doing to protect Christians?

Well, our charge is that Christians should defend themselves. The first law of nature is self-defence and self-preservation. They should not get involved in reprisal because the Bible says ‘thou shall not kill.’ But they should protect themselves from attacks, killing and maiming. They should protect themselves. God does not oppose self-protection.