Thursday, January 31, 2013

NIGERIA: House Defers Presentation of Constitution Review Report

The House of Representatives Thursday suspended the presentation of the  report of  the Peoples ‘Public Sessions’ on the review of the 1999 Constitution following protests by some lawmakers over its  content.
The report contains the collated results of the special public hearings  conducted by the House last year across the 360 federal constituencies in the country.
The exercise was a pseudo-referendum geared towards getting the views of the people at the grassroots on aspects of the 1999 Constitution proposed for amendment by the National Assembly.
The House also yesterday passed a motion urging the Federal Government to initiate the process for the conduct of referendum to enable the people of the oil-rich Bakassi Peninsula, which Nigeria has ceded to Cameroon following the verdict of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), to determine their fate.
All was set for the  public presentation of the report, billed to begin at 10 am but the event  was called off after a gathering  of lawmakers and civil society organisations had waited for the commencement of the programme for  more than two hours.
There were speculation that the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF), which has disagreed with the National Assembly on some of the issues listed for review in the constitution, especially on the push for local government autonomy, was uncomfortable with the report and  had infiltrated the ranks of the lawmakers to scuttle the presentation of the report.
The suspended  report contains the voting pattern as well as the verdict of Nigerians on the  autonomy for local government councils, independence for state legislatures, and desirability of state electoral commissions, among others on the constitution review  template.
NGF Chairman and Rivers State Governor, Mr. Chibuike Amaechi, who  was billed to grace the occasion was absent. 
House Speaker, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, who arrived late to the event alongside other principal officers of the green chamber, apologised for the long wait and  announced the postponement.
Tambuwal said the postponement was regrettable but inevitable, adding that there were some issues arising from the collation of the report that needed to be resolved before the report could be made public.
According to him, to do otherwise will create a scenario where some members of the House could disown the report, resulting in a credibility crisis for the entire exercise.
He said: “I will begin by apologising to you collectively and severally for the delay in the commencement of the process. I would like to say that as leaders, we will continue to engage ourselves and in the process of doing that which is right to ensure that what ought to be done or needs to be done is done very well.
“As  leadership, we have reviewed the process so far and realised that we cannot go ahead with this programme today. Just like any other thing associated with humans, there are hitches here and there. Especially here in the House of Representatives where this process has been acclaimed to be transparent thus far, we will not want a situation whereby at this stage there should be any issue that has to do with the total collated results of what needs to be presented to the public today.” 
However, THISDAY gathered that the crisis over the report was caused by the delay by some lawmakers to submit the reports of proceedings from the special hearing sessions in their constituencies on time to the House leadership.
A lawmake told THISDAY that about 10 lawmakers did not submit their reports until last week.
He said: “When the draft was collated, some members raised issues with what was put in the report, stating that this was not what their constituencies agreed on.
“So an extra week or two was given to the members for them to get the correct information and resend to the office of the deputy speaker and the deputy chairman of the Joint Constitution Review Committee of the National Assembly, Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, so that the correct input from their constituencies can be reflected in the final report which will now be presented at a plenary in February.”
The cancellation of the event, however, sparked off an instant protest from the Alliance for Credible Elections (ACE),  one of the civil society organisations, at the event.
ACE Deputy General Secretary, Mr. Asuzu Echezona, who spoke to reporters, alleged that the presentation of the report was an indication that the governors had infiltrated the legislators with a view to scuttling the constitution review.
Echezona said his organisation was part of the team that collated the results of the Peoples Public Sessions and was aware of the position of the various constituencies and the consensus among Nigerians on the constitution.
“We know the stand of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum on this matter.  They have not hidden their stand that they want to truncate the will of the people. Nigerians have spoken and their opinions  should stand on the issue of local government autonomy, electoral reforms, judicial reforms and autonomy for the state Houses of Assembly.
“ We hope that this is not part of the agenda of the governors to truncate the will of the people because Nigerians would resist it,” Echezona said.
But the Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Hon. Zakary Mohammed, debunked speculations of possible external influence on the House.
Mohammed, who addressed journalists on the controversy trailing the suspension of the presentation of the report, said it had nothing to do with the governors.
According to him, the process was suspended  because of complaints by some lawmakers on the collated results and the need for them to have an opportunity to cross check if what was recorded in the report tallied with the voting at the various constituencies.
“We regret that it happened the way it did but of course human beings are not machines. Even machines do skip or malfunction.
“As much as we would have loved to present the report today, we are constrained by the position of things. It is better to delay rather than hurriedly go and err on a document that should stand the test of time,” Mohammed said.
The House also thursday in a voice vote, passed a motion urging the Federal Government to conduct a referendum for Nigerians on the disputed Bakassi territory.
The decision was taken after debating a motion sponsored by Chairman, House Committee on Employment, Labour and Productivity, Hon. Ekpenyong Ayi.
He recalled the October  2002 ICJ judgement, which ceded the territory to Cameroon, saying that despite the judgement and the inability of Nigeria to seek its review, the people deserve to be given a platform to exercise their right to self determination, as provided in Article 1 of the 1966 International Convention on Civil and Political Rights.
According to Ayi, Article 3 of the Green Tree Agreement recognises the right of the Bakassi people when it said that Cameroon after the transfer of authority to it by Nigeria shall guarantee Nigerians living in Bakassi Peninsula the exercise of their fundamental rights and freedom as enshrined in the International Human Rights Law and other relevant provisions of international law.
He expressed concern that in spite of these provisions, the Bakassi people have suffered incessant and blatant violations, frequent extra-judicial killings and incarceration in the hands of the Cameroonian authorities.

EXCLUSIVE: ‘Indian Super Speciality hospital is trafficking doctors’

New Delhi:  In what comes to be a shocking revelation, India’s leading Super Speciality hospital has been allegedly involved in trafficking of doctors. A group of Indian doctors have alleged that their passports were snatched and salaries were also denied by the hospital authorities.
The Indian doctors were hired on a contractual basis by the hospital authorities to operate at their facility in Nigeria’s capital Abuja. The doctors were promised salaries and perks in accordance to their contract that was signed in India.
One of the doctors, Rajiv Sharma, signed a two-year contract with the hospital in Nigeria – a branch of the Indian Super Speciality hospital in New Delhi - in February 2012, and joined work in March 2012. But, he resigned in September 2012, citing his ordeal at the hands of hospital authorities.
When asked about his resignation, Dr Sharma said, “The management of the hospital took away my passports, a few days after we landed in Abuja, which was never returned.” In his resignation letter, he said, “The salary is not even paid….I have been recruited into modern slavery.”
While going through his ordeal, Dr Sharma said, “When I tried to complain against the dictating management to higher authorities, they started threatening me with dire consequences.” “In fact, the complaint to the Indian High Commissioner in Nigeria Mr. Mahesh Sachdev came no good, as he advised us to take our complaint back,” he added.
Dr Sharma, while recalling his meeting with the Indian High Commissioner, said: “I was shocked to see the attitude of the respected commissioner after he said that it’s very normal in Nigeria. He told us that it was Nigeria and not Switzerland, where things would work in your favour.”
With no option at their disposal, Dr Sharma alongside another colleague approached the federal court in Nigeria  and sought help from the Ministry of External Affairs in India, alleging their employers have confiscated their passports and denied them three months’ salary.
The hospital authorities have admitted that the doctors’ passports had been kept at the time they joined for safety purposes, but denied any wrongdoings. They also confirmed that they have received a show-cause notice issued by the Nigerian court.
“We take the passports of employees as a routine safety measure, since the hospital facilitates their visa applications and immigration. We are responsible for them here..." chairperson of the Indian Super Speciality hospital, Achla Dewan, was quoted as saying by Indian Express.
Dr Sharma claims that the hospital authorities in Nigeria – operating under the command of the chairperson – have been threatening doctors of dire consequences if they speak about the issue to anyone. “The doctors were also pressurized to over-charge the patients in Nigeria in order to benefit the hospital,” he added.
A similar case was reported by the Nigerian media last year, when a female patient was charged for her Fibroid operation at the same hospital. The reports suggest that the doctors did not remove the Fibroid from her body but charged her for the same. She finally realized of the wrongdoing after getting herself looked up at another hospital.
When asked about this case, Dr Sharma revealed that the doctors are not the problem there; it’s the hospital authorities that govern their practice. He said that the doctors are just trying to survive the ordeal at the hands of the hospital authorities.
Dr Sharma, hopeful of justice, said: “The Indian Super Speciality hospital is trafficking doctors to Nigeria. They are luring the doctors into their high-end nexus in order to serve their own purpose. I just want to put an end to the horrific ordeals being faced by the doctors.”
The Ministry of External Affairs is reportedly trying to follow the case in Abuja but there was no official comment from their side.
(The name of doctor mentioned above has been changed on request)

Did The Ndani Collaboration Put Nigerian Retail Markets On A Platform?

VENTURES AFRICA – In keeping with its status as one of the most exciting fashion destinations in the world, Selfridges & Co launched Ndani, the Nigerian Fashion Project, in December 2012.

Any self confessed shopper will have spent a huge portion of their disposable income in Selfridges & Co, an international award winning department store in the United Kingdom with a “open to the world” philosophy. With an “up and coming”, busy and modern technology approach to retail, it has been embracing the multicultural UK society and more importantly, it’s’ biggest financial spenders.

Home to a large African Diaspora, the UK is a popular travel destination for Nigerians visiting friends and relatives, going on holidays or conducting business. More economically, it has become a shopping Mecca. In February last year, sales to Nigerians were up 50 per cent from 2011 in London shops. 

Selfridges & Co reported that their spending was up by over a quarter in 2011, and that Nigerians have been among its top 10 overseas shoppers for the past five years.

“Africa is growing from strength to strength and particularly in the last 12 to 18 months we’ve seen Nigeria come through incredibly strongly,” explains Sue West, director of operations at up-market London department store Selfridges & Co.

Whilst poverty in Nigeria is declining, only a small slice of Nigeria’s population can afford consumer goods, with most purchases coming from the very low end of the price spectrum. But consumption is steadily rising. According to the EIU report, by 2030, Africa’s top 18 countries could have a combined spending power of $1.3 trillion.

An Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) report entitled “Africa: Open for Business,”  forecasted a nearly 4% real GDP growth for Sub-Saharan countries Angola, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa for 2012, with average growth expected to hit 5% a year from 2013 to 2016. This steady progress has given rise to a growing middle class. Approximately 310 million people in Africa are classified as middle class according to a 2011 report by the African Development Bank, driving demand for products like mobile phones, televisions and fashion.

The Ndani project was collaboration between Selfridges & Co and Style House Files, which was to help the retailer engage with its growing number of Nigerian customers.

The Lagos-based fashion company opened the installation, giving Nigerian designers a chance to widen their market and showcase their creations outside the West Africa. Ndani, backed by Guaranty Trust Bank, presented the very best Spring-Summer 2013 pieces hand-picked from the runway shows of the most outstanding designers on the Lagos Fashion and Design Week schedule.

Omoyemi Akerele, director of Style House Files, says that Nigeria is an emerging market, with Nigerians are among the five biggest spenders at the department store.

“This will give our designers a platform, an opportunity for their pieces to be in Selfridges & Co, that’s a dream come true,” says Akerele. “For Selfridges & Co, on the other hand, it would endear their Nigerian customers — and not just Nigerian customers, African in general — more to the brand.”

Is this the beginning of bilateral fashion trade, between Nigeria, or Africa and the United Kingdom? Will Selfridges & Co benefit from the Ndani collaboration with the Nigeria local industry beacons like the Style House File, who can offer local knowledge and contacts? Or will it need more installations in the flagship store before it opens its store in Abuja? It looks like there are exciting prospects ahead.

-------Ventures Africa

Nigeria Records Zero Case of Polio in Two Months

Health Minister, Onyebuchi Chukwu
Nigeria has attained an outstanding feat by recording no incidence of poliomyelitis in the last two months.
Speaking with journalists in Abuja yesterday after meeting with President Goodluck Jonathan, the Director General of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency,  Dr Ado Mohammed, said the committee on the eradication of polio had stepped up its efforts to totally eliminate the disease from the country  in the next two years.
“What we told the president is that in the last two months, Nigeria has not recorded a single case of polio. What this means is that no child has been paralysed in Nigeria in the last two months. This is a major achievement,” he said.
“Secondly, we also shared with the president the global good analysis which is done by the World Health Organisation (WHO) which shows that the population immunity has increased in Nigeria from 50 per cent to 80 per cent. What this means is that even if the polio Virus finds itself in any location, it may not be able to paralyse a child and even if it paralyses a child, other children in those places would be secured. Population immunity has improved,” he said.
He noted that certification exercise by the WHO has revealed that the country is winning the battle in the fight against polio.
He said his team is working hard to ensure that the president’s assurance that Nigeria would exit as a polio endemic country in 2015 is met.
On what is being done to insulate Nigerian children from the infection of Nigerien children as a result of the immunisation exercise conducted under the auspices of the Bill Gates Foundation, Mohammed said “we are fortifying our borders. We don’t want to export polio and we don want other countries to export polio to our country. We have established thirty six border posts immunisation on all the major borders.
“What this means is that any child below five that is coming not Nigeria must b immunised and any child below five years that is going out of Nigeria must be immunised. We have trained Nigerian immigration service and custom officers to handle these. We are fortifying our borders to ensure that no case of polio comes into Nigeria and no case of polio is exported out of Nigeria,” he explained.

Civil War: Rethinking Obasanjo's New Sermon

By Chuks Oluigbo/Guardian Nigeria
Recently, precisely on January 18, former President Olusegun Obasanjo urged Nigerians to put the pains of the civil war behind them in the interest of the continued corporate existence of the country, saying it was worrisome that over four decades after the civil war ended, Nigerians were still mourning and groaning about the events around the 30-month war.
Obasanjo, who spoke in response to comments earlier made by Ben Gbulie, a colonel and one of the speakers at a grand civic reception organised by the South-West chapter of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to welcome the former president home after his resignation as the chairman of the party’s Board of Trustees, said it was unnecessary and inimical to the corporate interest of the country for people to continue to prolong the healing process by their attitude and comments.
He said, “I believe the time has come when all of us in this country should put the civil war behind us…. How many years has the war been over now? January 1970, 43 years. If after 43 years we are still mourning and groaning about the civil war, I wonder. The Second World War ended in 1945 and the combatants became the best of friends less than 10 years after, I just believe that we should put the civil war behind us.”
On the face of it, the above statement by Obasanjo should be commended. Indeed, it is high time. Forty-three years is such a long time for any wound, no matter how deep, to have healed. Only that Obasanjo’s statement sounded like dismissing a crucial part of our history with a wave of the hand. The former president missed a crucial point: deep wounds don’t just heal; they are treated, and with the right medication, else they become infected by tetanus. Then you won’t just have the wounds to contend with, you will also be battling with the severe muscular spasms and contractions that go with tetanus – and this seems to be the point where we are right now.
The question to ask is: what genuine efforts have successive administrations in Nigeria made since after the civil war to heal the wounds of Nigerians – not just the Igbo, but all Nigerians, because as John Pepper Clark aptly captures it in his beautifully-crafted poem “Casualties”, we were all casualties, Biafrans as well as other Nigerians, only the degrees varied.
Much has been written about the attempt by the Yakubu Gowon administration to reconstruct, rehabilitate and reconcile. But commendable as Gowon’s efforts were, one thing that comes out very clearly is that they were half-hearted. To quote Paul Obi-Ani: “The post-war reconstruction of Igboland was shoddy. There were no genuine efforts on the part of the victorious Federal Government to assist the Igbo people towards the rebuilding of their war-damaged infrastructure…. The little assistance the Federal Government extended to the Igbo was mere window-dressing and inadequate to prevent thousands of them from dying of starvation immediately after the war” (Post-Civil War Social and Economic Reconstruction of Igboland: 1970-1983, p.125).
But besides Gowon’s efforts, recall that the Shehu Shagari administration granted state pardon to the former leader of Biafra, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu. That was a step towards true reconciliation.
But what would have been the most effective effort towards total reconciliation was the setting up by the Obasanjo administration, on June 14, 1999, of the Human Rights Violations Investigation Commission (HRVIC), otherwise known as Oputa Panel, to investigate human rights abuses that took place from January 15, 1966 (when the first military coup occurred) to May 28, 1999 (the day before the last military handover to civilians). The seven-man commission, headed by Chukwudifu Oputa, a retired justice, began its sittings on October 23, 2000, and by May 21, 2002, submitted its “interim report” in six volumes to then President Obasanjo in Abuja. Seven days later, on May 28, the panel submitted its “main report” in 60 large boxes.
Unfortunately, when former military president, Ibrahim Babangida, was summoned by the Oputa Panel, he refused to appear, and instead went to the Court of Appeal where, on October 31, 2001, he got a favourable judgment that the Oputa Panel, lacking legal backing, had no right to summon him. The Federal Government appealed to the Supreme Court.
Further, on June 3, 2002, IBB filed a suit at the Federal High Court asking it to stop President Obasanjo from implementing the report of the Oputa Panel. The suit, jointly filed with Halilu Akilu, former director of Military Intelligence, and Kunle Togun, had as defendants Obasanjo, the Attorney General of the Federation, and Oputa and his commission.
Finally, on February 3, 2003, the Supreme Court ruled that the panel had “no powers to summon witnesses outside the Federal Capital Territory”, and further “that the 1999 Constitution made no provision for tribunals of inquiry”. This development ended further action on the Commission’s reports.
But how have commissions of this nature functioned elsewhere? For an answer, let’s look to South Africa. Following the abolition of apartheid in South Africa, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was set up, headed by Desmond Tutu, former Archbishop of Cape Town, where witnesses who were identified as victims of gross human rights violations were invited to give statements about their experiences, and perpetrators of violence could also give testimony and request amnesty from both civil and criminal prosecution. It was generally seen as a crucial component of the transition to full and free democracy in South Africa.
But the important thing about the TRC was that it was backed by law: it was set up in terms of the Promotion of National Unity and Reconciliation Act, No. 34 of 1995, and had the mandate to bear witness to, record, and in some cases grant amnesty to the perpetrators of crimes relating to human rights violations, as well as reparation and rehabilitation. Despite numerous criticisms, the TRC is generally considered to have been successful.
But not so in the case of the Oputa Panel. Till date, as shocking as the revelations in the panel were, the reports are still gathering dust in the shelves. Why? Because the Commission that produced the reports had no legal backing.
So, why was the Oputa Panel not backed by law? With all his international exposure, was it possible that Obasanjo did not recognise the fact, ab initio, that such an important commission required legal backing to be effective? While the sittings were going on, many far-sighted Nigerians raised concerns that the panel might as well end up as “a toothless bulldog” – all barks and no bite. But the Obasanjo government kept mute, until the panel met a dead-end. Which also raises the question of whether Obasanjo truly, genuinely intended to reconcile all aggrieved sections of Nigeria for the “corporate existence of the country” that he is so very much concerned about now – because he ended up, through the Oputa Panel, reopening old wounds that were already gradually healing, leaving the totality of Nigerians dripping with fresh blood. He had a chance to change the course of history, but he bungled it.
As recent as May 2011, Matthew Hassan Kukah, secretary of the Oputa Panel, who is now the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto, reportedly expressed worry over the non-implementation of the final report of the commission. Speaking at the launch of his book, Witness to Justice: An Insider’s Account of Nigeria’s Truth Commission, in London, Kukah recalled that the commission did offer concrete suggestions on how to alleviate anxieties across the country, such as communal violence, religious crisis, culture of impunity and illegal detentions of people, saying: “My argument is that the inability or unwillingness of government to deal with very practical processes, especially the ones that arose from the findings of the Oputa Commission, is likely to have an impact on the politics of Nigeria.”
So, while sharing in the former president’s desire for true healing, it is also pertinent to point out that it doesn’t just happen; it is initiated and pursued to a logical conclusion. That is also why there are concerns each time a Nigerian leader mouths the mantra that Nigeria won’t break up without backing it up with concrete action to ensure that the country stays together.

France Will return Another Seized-Artefacts Of Nigerian Origin

ASIDE the Nok statuettes returned to Nigeria by the French Embassy in Abuja on Tuesday, another set of artefacts of Nigerian origin  — also illegally exported to France – will be presented very soon, French Ambassador, Jacques Champagne De Labriolle has disclosed.
De Labriolle stated this during the presentation of the Nok terracotta pieces seized in France in 2010. The artefacts were collected on behalf of Nigeria by the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation at Reiz Hotel, Abuja.
De Labriolle stated: “Let me announce that we will meet again in a few weeks from now, when we will return another statuette, which was seized by the French Customs in another development unrelated to the first one. This statuette is not a Nok terracotta statuette, but a soapstone statuette of Esie origin.”
Earlier, he argued that the return was “made in accordance with international law, and within the framework of a French policy aiming at fighting illegal imports, and especially illegal imports of cultural goods.”
it was also explained that the statuettes were seized in France, by the French customs near Paris, in August 2010.
The return was coming about six months after another set of Nok terracotta pieces of Nigerian origin were intercepted by the Home Security Investigation of U.S. Although the seized works in U.S. were yet to be returned to Nigeria, it is believed that “technically, we are in repossession since the works are already in custody of Nigeria Consulate in U.S.“
Minister of Culture and Tourism, High Chief Edem Duke traced the collaboration between Nigeria and France to the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the prohibition of illicit trade in Cultural property and the 1995 UNIDROIT Convention on stolen and illegally exported cultural objects.
“Nigeria and France have collaborated under the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the prohibition of illicit trade in Cultural property and the 1995 UNIDROIT Convention on stolen and illegally exported cultural objects over the years,” Duke stated. He submitted, “the return of these Nok pieces is yet another attestation to the collaboration between Nigeria and France in Cultural and Heritage matters spanning over several decades.”
The Director-General of National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM), Mallam Yusuf Abdallah Usman traced the history of most of Nigerian artefcats illegally acquired abroad.
“There were two waves of collection of Nigerian Artifacts.  The first wave was during colonial period first by invading forces of imperial Britain such as the Benin Punitive Expedition of 1897 and later by western anthropologists who carried out field work in various parts of the country.  The second wave of collection was in the 1960s and 1970s when the civil war provoked large exodus of our artefacts through our borders with neighbouring countries.”
Usman described the returned artefacts as the “third wave” of looted objects, “The flight was from Togo.  In all likelihood therefore, these artifacts left this country in recent times.
“This brings us to the 3rd wave of exodus of Nigeria artifacts which is the illegal excavation and looting of heritage, archaeological sites and museums by unscrupulous Nigerians and their foreign collaborators.”
On the current effort of the NCMM to stop further illegal movement of Nigerian artefacts, Usman disclosed that “at the onset of the present management of the NCMM under my humble leadership, the issue of looting of archaeological sites by illegal diggers reduced due to the use of a multi-pronged approach.  Within the last three years, the Commission has embarked on several sensitization programme involving law enforcement agencies, media, local communities and traditional rulers at Abuja and Kaduna and also in the rural areas especially at Nok and Janjala.”
Recalling the seizure three years ago, De Labriolle said “They were found in the personal luggage of a traveller coming back from Africa. It was quickly established that these art works had been illegally taken away from Nigerian territory.
“At the time of the seizure, nobody knew where the statuettes exactly came from. They were later analysed by several French experts, coming from a famous French museum (Musee du Quai  Branly), from the French Museums Directorate of the Ministry of Culture, and from the Research and Restoration Laboratory of the also famous Louvre Museum. These experts were eventually able to determine their origin.”  The artefacts are estimated to be as old as between 1400 BC and 700 BC or 3000 years old.
De Labriolle noted that under the French policy against illegal importation of artefacts, “the French Customs and the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs have worked together so that the seized items be returned to Nigeria, as the country of origin of the seized goods.” This he stressed, was  aimed at “reinforcing the cooperation with the country of origin in the common fight against trafficking.”
-------Tajudeen Sowole/Guardian Nigeria

Jonathan Cannot Fix Nigeria’s Vehicle - Fashola

By Shuaib Shuaib and Tony Amokeodo/Leadership Newspapers

Lagos State Governor Babatunde Fashola (SAN) has declared that President Goodluck Jonathan-led federal government lacks the requisite knowledge and capacity to tackle Nigeria’s problems, saying that there is the need to effect a change at the centre in 2015 for the country to achieve positive development.
Fashola, who stated this during an exclusive interview with a team of LEADERSHIP editors in Abuja yesterday, was giving the rationale behind the ongoing merger talks by his party, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN),  and the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) towards dislodging the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) at the centre  in 2015.
Explaining that their push for political alignment was not only to seize power but to use it to better the lives of the people, he likened Jonathan’s government to an unskilled auto mechanic who consistently failed to correctly service a vehicle, causing it to continuously break down, a fallout that would necessitate the owner to try another technician.
“You buy a car and it breaks down and you go to a mechanic and he fixes it in the morning, and it breaks down again in the afternoon. You go back in the evening, he fixes it but it doesn’t take you home. You go and call him again; he tosses it up and says you should come back by 6am the next day.
“You take it at 6am and it doesn’t take you home. Are you going to stay with that mechanic?” he asked.
“Nigeria needs a new mechanic. The country’s problems need a new pair of eyes and pure heart that can see, and clearer minds that can articulate the problems better. That is the heart of the matter. It is now left for the electorate to decide whether they are satisfied with this mechanic.” 
Fashola insisted that the desire of the ACN and CPC to take power at the centre was to utilise it according to the general wish of Nigerians, who want the country’s myriad problems fixed immediately.
He described the ACN as an issues-based party which had a lot to offer, which is why it has consistently defeated the PDP in Lagos since the return of democracy 13 years ago.
“In Lagos, the PDP has been failing since 1999: in 2003 it failed, in 2007 it failed, in 2011 it failed again. The most interesting thing is that the margins get wider in Lagos due to the improvement of services,” he said.
He further said that, with ACN’s recurring victories and exemplary leadership across the six states it controls, its leadership was taking proactive steps to salvage Nigeria from PDP’s misrule at the national level by going into a merger with the CPC ahead of the 2015 general elections.
Fashola gave the assurance that the ACN, with its issues-based outlook, would take Nigeria to the Promised Land, just like what is happening in United States, saying that “elections without debate won’t give value and the electorate needs people who understand their problems without pretence.”
He noted that the Democrats in the US openly articulated the issue of tax while the Republicans were vague and the people swung to the side that convinced them.
“Anybody who wants to serve us must understand our problems; that’s why in America you have to debate before election. Lagos is a good example,” he stated.
Governors not against Jonathan – Fashola
Fashola also refuted the insinuations in some quarters that the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) was working against the President Jonathan.
Citing the ongoing suit on Excess Crude Account, the Lagos State governor said that the governors’ occasional disagreement with the president on certain issues was in the interest of the country.
The governor further canvassed for a proper economic management through innovation and tourism, saying they were the key to crime prevention.
He also called for a diversification of the economy since ‘what works today may not work tomorrow’.
“Thirty years ago, our economy was trading. The most prosperous people in our society were dealers. That was the economy of that time and it has changed. The new economy has emerged,” he said.

AFCON: Cash Boosts Ego-Tripping Eagles

In addition to $500,000 bonus for each goal scored by the Eagles promised by its sponsor of the tournament, Guinness Nigeria PLC, the ego-tripping Eagles will be paid $15,000 each if they win their wasa with the Elephants at the evening Kasua inside the Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace, Rustenburg, South Africa  on Sunday, February 3, 2013. For reaching the quarters beating Ethiopia 2-0, each player pocketed $30,000 cash. Billionaire Aliyu Dangote has not disclosed his package for the Eagles as part of the drive to boost the team's ego for chances to the finals Sunday, February 10, 2013 Eagles won after all the pledges and promises...Money Talks

NNPC says 12billiion Dollars Trans-Saharan gas pipeline project still on track

The 12 billion dollars Trans-Saharan gas pipeline project is on track, Tumini Green, the acting Group General Manager, Public Affairs Division, NNPC, said on Thursday in Abuja.
When functional the Trans-Saharan gas pipeline is expected to deliver Nigerian gas through Niger Republic to Algeria and Europe.
Green said the project was ongoing contrary to speculations that it had been abandoned. ``The project is ongoing in spite of the numerous challenges threatening to stall it.
``The Memorandum of Understanding between Nigeria and Algeria has been signed; feasibility study for the project has been concluded and the process of laying pipes from Calabar through Kano is about to begin,’’ she said.
Green said that the NNPC was already exploring various Public Private Partnership initiatives to source funds for the project, adding that the relevant authorities were already working on a holistic approach to the project.
She, however, called for the quick passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill currently before the National Assembly in order to fast track the actualisation of the project.
``The project is still on but I can assure you that the quick passage of the bill will go a long way in fast tracking the actualisation of the project.’’
------DAILY TIMES, January 31, 2013


Convicted Nigerian terrorist Henry Okah will work with the country's government to bring peace to the region, the High Court in Johannesburg heard on Thursday.

"Mr Okah will work with the Nigerian government in the peace processes," said Okah's attorney Lucky Maunatlala, as he argued for a postponement of his sentencing.

"We can't take the threats that were made lightly. He [Okah] feels that he will be able to assist the government and calm the situation down."

Maunatlala was arguing for the sentencing to be postponed to give enough time for witnesses to come from Nigeria and America to testify in mitigation of sentence.

He was referring to threats allegedly made by the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend) on January 23, that the South African judiciary should "stay away from events that happened in Nigeria or else some South Africans will pay dearly for it".

However, Judge Neels Claassen told Maunatlala that Okah should prove his influence and tell whoever made the threats to retract them.

"If he has the influence for them to withdraw those threats, then I can believe he has the power to help in assistance to resolve disputes," he said.

Okah's wife, Azuka Okah, sat in court dressed in white and with sunglasses. She shook her head and put her head in her hands a few times during proceedings.

State prosecutor Shaun Abrahams opposed Okah's application for a postponement, saying he was "playing for time" and that a day had been wasted.

He argued that Okah, who claimed he was never given a chance to provide his side of the story, should take the stand and testify.

Claassen postponed the matter to Friday at 10am. He said Okah's attorney had to take the stand to explain what communication there had been with potential witnesses to guarantee they would come to South Africa.

"I want to hear what steps were taken to get hold of witnesses and in what way they will argue in mitigation," Claassen said.

He would only be able to rule on the application after gaining clarity from Okah's attorney.

On January 21 Claassen found Okah guilty of engaging in terrorist activities, conspiracy to engage in terrorist activity, and delivering, placing, and detonating an explosive device.

He said the State had proved Okah's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Claassen said Okah's failure to testify meant the evidence against him remained uncontested.

Twelve people were killed and 36 injured in two car bombs in Abuja, Nigeria, on October 1, 2010, the anniversary of the country's independence. Okah was arrested in Johannesburg the next day.

He was also found guilty on terrorism charges relating to two explosions in March 2010 in the southern Nigerian city of Warri.

Claassen found no evidence that Okah did not head Mend, which claimed responsibility for the blasts.

Okah denied any involvement in the blasts and said the charges against him were politically motivated.

After the postponement Okah, dressed in a blue, red and white striped shirt, and jeans, turned to wave at his wife, before about 20 heavily-armed police officers escorted him back down to the holding cells.
-------Citizen/South Africa

Nigeria Starts Dismantling Its Plane 'Graveyard'

 Lagos, Nigeria, January 31, 2013

Workers have begun dismantling the abandoned airplanes left to rot at airports across Nigeria, a nation with a troubled history of crashes and mismanaged airlines.
Nigeria Plane Graveyard.JPEG
A worker looks out from the fuselage of an... View Full Caption
The work has started in Lagos at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, where passengers coming into Africa's most populous nation have long seen the abandoned planes when landing there. Henry Omeogu, director of airport operations for the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, said Thursday that he hopes workers will dismantle all the aircraft within the coming weeks.
Omeogu estimated there are at least 65 abandoned planes at Nigeria's airports, ranging from small jets to a massive Boeing 747 in the northern city of Kano. The work comes as Nigeria struggles to overcome a past filled with airline disasters and corruption in the aviation sector.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

NCO Inductee's Army Journey Took Her From Nigeria To Bagram

By Maj. Charles Patterson, Task Force MED-A, Publi Affairs 

Sgt. Ibilola Animashaun, a supply sergeant in the 582nd Medical Logistics Company, after emigrating from Nigeria to the United States, walks beneath the crossed sabers along with 24 other noncommissioned officers assigned to Task Force Medical-Afghanistan at the NCO induction ceremony held at Bagram Air Field, Jan. 25. Maj. Charles Patterson, Task Force MED-A Public Affairs

PARWAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan - Supply Sgt. Ibilola Animashaun emigrated from Lagos, Nigeria to the United States in the 1990s, took the oath of citizenship while serving in Iraq, and continues her promise in Fort Hood’s 582nd Medical Logistics Company, 61st Medical Battalion (Multifunctional), 1st Medical Brigade. 

Friday, she and 24 other noncommissioned officers swore another oath at an induction ceremony at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan. 

After pinning the rank of sergeant a year ago, the ceremony was special for Animashaun. 

“Now I can say I am an NCO,” she said. “Now the recognition, knowing the history of it and being inducted into the (NCO) Corps is outstanding.” 

An induction ceremony, like the one hosted here by Task Force 14th Medical from Fort 

Benning, Ga., is an Army tradition that marks the beginning of an NCO’s service in the Corps. The inductee is sponsored by another senior NCO, passes under the arched sabers, signs the register and recites the Noncommissioned Officer’s Charge to start his or her journey. 

“I’m looking forward to leading and mentoring Soldiers,” she said about her career. “It is about motivating Soldiers to become better.” 

The mission of taking care of Soldiers has not changed, but the career field is showing signs of change. Parallel to taking care of Soldiers and their Families, the priority mission echoed by guest speaker and Task Force Medical-Afghanistan’s Command Sgt. Maj. Alexis King, there remains a growing need to strive for self-development in today’s army. 

“I’m all about education. I’m all about self-development. I’m all about motivation – self-motivation,” Animashaun said. “I’m looking forward to the challenge to set myself apart.” 

And setting herself apart may be the path to furthering her Army career while the future force is requiring smaller numbers of NCOs. In the face of these challenges, the ceremony meant something deeply personal to Animashaun. 

“I hope that one day (my daughter) will be able follow in my footsteps. I wish she was here to see this,” she said. “She would be proud of me.”

The Title Is going To Nigeria: Emenike

IVORY Coast and Bafana Bafana are in dreamland if they hope to clinch the 29th edition of the Africa Cup of Nations finals.

Speaking after their 2-0 win over Ethiopia at Royal Bafokeng Stadium on Tuesday night to qualify for the quarterfinals, Nigeria striker Emmanuel Emenike said they were equally hungry to end their Afcon title drought.
The Super Eagles last won the Afcon title back in 1994 in Tunisia with their current coach Stephen Keshi serving as captain.
"The game against Ethiopia was our toughest to date in this tournament. They are a good team but we played as a unit to advance to the knockout stages," said Emenike, who has scored twice in this tournament.
"The focus is now on the quarterfinal match against Ivory Coast here in Rustenburg on Sunday. It's one hell of a game that everybody has been waiting for. We are going to recharge our batteries after the win over Ethiopia.
"Ivory Coast have an array of big-name stars, but names do not play. It's all about commitment on the day. They have top players like Yaya Toure, Didier Drogba, Gervinho and Didier Zokora but we are ready. As a team we have been watching all their games; they have not been impressive," said the former Mpumalanga Black Aces striker who is now based in Russia.
Ivory Coast are chasing their first Afcon title after 21 years, while Bafana, who meet Mali in their quarterfinal in Durban on Saturday, won it on home soil in 1996.
Emenike said: "Just like Ivory Coast, Bafana Bafana are in for a big surprise if they think they will reclaim the title.
"The title is going to Nigeria this time round. We will definitely be in the final on February 10 (at the National Stadium) and will be crowned winners."
Nigeria's Class of 1994 included Keshi's assistant Daniel Amokachi, Emmanuel Amunike, Sunday Oliseh and Jay Jay Okocha.

NIGERIA: Horror In Ebonyi Over Land Dispute: 8 Persons Abducted, 45 Houses Torched

One of the damaged buildings. Vanguard 
THE recent outbreak of crisis between the people of Adadama Community in Abi Local government area of Cross River State and Ndiagu Amagu Community in Ikwo LGA of Ebonyi State over unclear issues relating to land acquisition and usage, weekend, took another dimension as eight persons were reportedly abducted while 45 houses belonging to Amegu community were allegedly destroyed by hoodlums from Adadama community.
Vanguard Metro learnt that the two communities in Ebonyi and Cross River states have been embroiled in a land dispute for more than 100 years. Since the recent hostilities in the area broke out, lives have been lost while several properties worth billions of Naira.
Addressing newsmen at the government house, Abakaliki, the Deputy Governor of Ebonyi State and Chairman, Interstate Boundary Committee, Mr. Dave Umahi, an Engineer, alleged that eight persons from Ndiagu Amegu Ikwo in Ikwo LGA of Ebonyi State have been abducted between January, 2013 and now.
“I have continued to make reports to the Deputy Governor of Cross River State. The corpse of one of the abducted persons Mr. Omoti Ogbonnaya was found recently. His body is still in the mortuary, while no trace of the remaining seven persons have been made even as I speak to you.
At the moment, a total of 45 houses belonging to Amegu people were razed down by the people of Adadama,” he claimed. The Deputy governor urged the people of Amegu Ikwo to remain calm and law abiding as the state government had taken necessary steps to ensure peaceful resolution of the crisis.
“The security agencies have been mandated to deal severely with anybody who attempts to breach the peace in any part of the state. We assure Amegu people that the state government will not abandon them as long as they do not take laws into their own hands. The State Emergency Management Agency is further directed to step up its relief efforts to the displaced persons in the affected communities of Ebonyi state,” he said.
When Vanguard Metro visited the troubled area, it was gathered that women, children, youths and elderly persons from both communities had deserted their homes. Youths from the area were seen keeping watch to avoid further attacks. Similarly, security operatives sent to protect lives and properties in the area were seen several kilometres away from the buffer zone, instead of pitching their tenths in the heart of the area to forestall further crisis.
Recounting their ordeals, Mrs. Caroline Uguru, 67 and Mr. Ukwa Nwankwo, the Chairman Ndiche Umuomara community described the incident as unfortunate.
“It is unfortunate that this is happening; we have been living with the Adadama people for more than 100 years now. Though there have been skirmishes between the two communities, it has never taken this dimension. Our children are being abducted every year and killed and houses burnt.
Our youths could no longer fold their hands and watch while their parents, relations and siblings are abducted and  never seen again. We no longer sleep with our two eyes closed. The same thing applies to the people of Adadama because the communities are suspicious of each other.
The question on the lips of many people today is “will this war ever end? We can no longer fish in our ponds. Our women can no longer go to the farm without being abducted and our youths who are supposed to be useful now keep vigil at the border area for fear of being attacked by  Adadama people.”
Continuing, the duo said: “They claimed we killed their people; let them show pictures of those that were killed. They claimed we attacked them; it is unfortunate that the people who have chased us out of our land and occupied it would turn around to accuse us. Why are they crying more than the bereaved? All we are asking is that they should stop abducting and killing our people, we are peace loving people and we want peace”.
Ebonyi accuses C-River
Meanwhile, the Ebonyi State Deputy Governor has accused Cross River State of showing lackadaisical attitude toward the resolution of the crisis. . He called on the National Boundary Commission, NBC, to urgently initiate a meeting of the two states, so that the issue could be holistically discussed and solution quickly reached to avoid escalation of the dispute. According to Umahi: “It is necessary to point out that Ebonyi state and Cross River State are not at war.
Rather, there has been a long standing land dispute between Amegu Ikwo in Ebonyi state and Adadama in cross river which dates back to 1927. While the Amegu people insist that Adadama people are the aggressors as they have consistently encroached on Amegu land well outside the boundary mutually fixed by the two sides as late as 1912 which is the “Ugoli. We are however told that Adadama people are claiming a different boundary location far from the Ugoli, which was established by the two communities.
“However, I wish to categorically state that Ebonyi state government has continued to make concerted efforts toward a peaceful resolution of the land dispute in spite of the provocations, attacks, harassment,
abductions and killing of Ebonyi people by hoodlums from Adadama. It is regrettable however that in spite the numerous letters I have written to the Deputy Governor of Cross River for the two states to meet and discuss the issues affecting their border communities, there has been no response from them.
Apart from the letter of 11th December, 2011 to the National Boundary Commission to constitute a joint team of officials of both states and NBC to do ethnographic study of both states to avoid mistrust and hostilities, we have done several reports on the problem without results.
“It would seem that the NBC has abandoned its earlier attempt to do ethnographic study of the area following threats from Cross River state indigenes to the Commission not to step feet into the disputed area. We hereby call on the National Boundary Commission to expedite action to permanently resolve the boundary dispute. Given the current situation, we urge the National Boundary Commission to urgently call a meeting of the two states so that the issues can be discussed.
It’s unfortunate —C-River
Reacting, the Cross River State government said it was unfortunate that Ebonyi State was joining issues instead of proffering solution to the crisis affected both communities.“It is unfortunate that Ebonyi state government should be joining issues on this matter. As it stands, who are the people that have been displaced as a result of the crisis? The Hon. Member representing that area in Cross River state was on a peace mission when they were ambushed.
------Peter Okutu/Vanguard January 31, 2013