Thursday, February 28, 2013

Nigeria Has Lost $400bn To Graft - Ministry Official

Deputy Director of Reforms at the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Dr. John Magbadelo, on Thursday in Abuja introduced a new twist to the recruitment scandals rocking the nation’s federal civil service with a call on anti-graft agencies to probe the process of employment, promotions, postings and deployments in the public service.
Magbadelo said processes in the federal service “are riddled with corruption,” and that the country lost over $400bn to corruption over a period of 33 years between 1966 and 1999.
“The cancerous rot which has continued to impair the growth of potential of this country seems to have defied every therapy. It was estimated that Nigeria had lost to corruption as much as $400 bn between 1966 and 1969. Yet corruption in Nigeria preceded 1966 and has continued ever since even beyond 2007 with greater ferocity and intensity,” he said.
The Ministry official spoke during the public presentation of a book entitled, “Anti-corruption Campaign in Nigeria (1999-2007): The politics of a failed reform” written by a senior lecturer in the Department of Political Science, University of Ibadan, Dr. David Enweremadu.
Magbadelo, who was the reviewer of the book, noted that employment, deployment and promotions were sometimes not given in the public service unless the beneficiary parts with bribe.
While suggesting that the Judiciary should purge itself of graft, Magbadelo also urged the anti-corruption agencies to look into the recruitment process in the civil service in their effort at fighting corruption.
He said, “Corruption in the public service has taken on new forms and this requires that out anti-graft agencies match up with the new manifestations of corruption. In the public service, for instance, aside from outright embezzlement of funds, budgets are often not implemented as approved.
“The accounting officers erroneously believe that they have the right to implement the annual appropriation Acts of their MDAs the best way that suits their fancy. Illegal virement of funds from one vote head to another in criminal breach of the Appropriation Act is a recurring phenomenon in most MDAs.”
He added that the anti-corruption war should be fought with renewed vigour for the country to be great again.
“Our anti-corruption agencies must deepen their collaborative efforts and be proactive in all ramifications. They should frustrate the plans of culprits to impede the wheel of justice through frivolous court injunctions”, he said.
He described the book as a wake-up call to the anti-corruption agencies to beef up their capacities and rejuvenate the confidence of Nigerians in their effectiveness.
Also speaking, the Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission, Mr. Ekpo Nta, who was the chief host of the event, noted that efforts such as the book were what the Commission expected from the academia.
He said, “It’s not a mistake that we are partnering with the academia to fight corruption. If you don’t do well in theory, you won’t have a good practice.”
He added that in as much as he might not have agreed with all the conclusions of the author as an outsider to the anti-graft agencies, the Commission would consider the good recommendations of the book.
Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Alhaji Isa Bello Sali, represented by Alhaji Ibrahim Nikau, said that despite all efforts aimed at curbing corruption, it had remained a cankerworm but the fight against it must be embraced by all if the goals of Vision 2020 more to be achieved.


Guide For Filling Complaints On Rule Breaking By Palm Oil Companies Published


Is that riparian buffer zone along the Kinabatangan River in Malaysian Borneo up to code? Photo by Rhett A. Butler

  Over the past 25 years palm oil production has emerged as one of the biggest drivers of deforestation and peatlands degradation in Southeast Asia.

And there are fears that expansion in West and Central Africa could soon make palm oil a major cause of forest conversion on that continent. o help mitigate the environmental damage caused by palm oil production, in 2004 a variety of stakeholders came together to form the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), a body that sets standards for production.

Yet the RSPO can only be effective when its rules are enforced. With a budget that pales in comparison to the multi-billion dollar industry it aims to police, the RSPO relies partly on monitoring by outside organizations. Accordingly, it has a complaint process for local communities, NGOs, and other groups to report when an RSPO member has broken the rules. new guide published by the Forest Peoples Programme (FPP) aims to facilitate independent monitoring by explaining the RSPO's system for resolving disputes and providing step-by-step guidance on submitting a complaint. FPP says that while the RSPO's complaint system could still be improved, it can still be a tool for addressing abuses by palm oil companies.

"In our view, there remains a wide gap between how the RSPO Complaints System ought to function and what it is actually able to achieve," said FPP in a statement. "We have been encouraging the RSPO to upgrade its process and in the meantime offer this guide in the belief that having access to an imperfect system is better than none."

The new guide comes as the RSPO is working to resolve a dispute between palm oil giant Wilmar and local NGOs over a plantation in Nigeria. According to a complaint filed with the RSPO last year by the Rainforest Resource & Development Centre, local community members are contesting Wilmar's establishment of an oil palm plantation in Cross-River State. Wilmar has so far denied the claims.

The case took a worrying turn earlier this month when Rainforest Resource & Development Centre director Odey Oyama said that he has been placed on a government watch list due to his advocacy against the project.

The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and complaint resolution: Guidance on submitting a complaint for civil society organisations and local communities .

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Essential Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

By Nuhu Ribadu/This Day Thursday, February 28, 2013

I am sceptical about awards in our country. From the national honours given by the federal government, to the honorary doctorates that our universities bestow on individuals, and to the smallest of awards in our clubs and associations, there is too much sycophancy and opportunism in the air. Our most deserving compatriots, who are exemplary in their personal and professional lives, are hardly honoured while crooks, fraudsters and people of questionable characters have ended up being holders of our nation’s highest honours. The situation has become so bad that I have completely lost the appetite for attending award conferment ceremonies.

I am however deeply pleased to learn that the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who is my sister, friend and confidant has been named the winner of the Silverbird Man of the Year award for 2012 following a public poll of prominent personalities across the country. Later this evening, she will be honoured with the award at the Muson Centre in Lagos. I believe she is the right choice and the decision has boosted my confidence in both the station and its people. Ngo, as some of us like to call her, has done so much for our country, her generation and indeed the world that any honour is well deserved. She is a remarkable woman, a committed wife and mother, a great patriot and a selfless professional.
Time and circumstance decide who we meet in life; our hearts decide who we want to retain in our lives; and people’s behaviour determine whether we want them to remain in our lives or not. Although I had known her from afar, I met Ngozi for the first time in mid-2003 after I was appointed Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) by then President Olusegun Obasanjo. Ngozi was Minister of Finance. Sooner than later, I began to interact closely with her after I became a member of the National Economic Team of that administration.
Ngozi’s hardwork, commitment, doggedness, humility, commitment to family value and diplomacy left a lasting impression on me. As I dared and fought the corrupt elements in our country, at great risk to my life and those of my colleagues, Ngozi was one of my greatest supporters. We soon became brother and sister, albeit from different parents, and we have continued to be each other’s keeper even when we find ourselves in different political and ideological camps today.
I am out of the country to honour a long scheduled commitment to a friend. I regret my inability to be present at a sister’s moment of joy and celebration. She deserves my presence and that of my family at the Silverbird award ceremony.
I do not intend to bore you with Ngozi’s accomplishments. A lot has been said and written about that and a lot more would be said at the ceremony. I am writing this aboard my flight just to pass a little message of love and appreciation to a compatriot who has made huge sacrifices in a bid to help remake her badly damaged country. It is just a little note about someone I hold in high esteem.
I respect her even more at this challenging time in our country; a period of huge political, economic and security challenges; a period during which citizens look on to their governments in exasperation and disappointment. In the midst of all these, Ngozi has remained calm, focused and even more determined to help fix her fatherland.
Ngo is an extremely loyal and trusted friend. She stood by me through thick and thin, in spite of high-level pressures to disown some of us. Ngo does not betray her friends. And because of her good nature and kind heart, God has blessed her with a beautiful family, especially her husband who I’m equally close to.
Ngozi is known to always make things happen. She believes that hard work and honesty pay. Ngo is an unrepentant workaholic. She hardly leaves her office before 8 p.m. Even while leaving, she heads home with files to treat. Weekends are never free for this woman. She oscillates between one official engagement and another. It seems that the secret of her many achievements lie in hard work, hard work and more hardwork.
Her brilliant mind is world class, yet she is extremely humble. Her simplicity and humility are remarkable. She has a gift of making people around her comfortable. But what I consider her most outstanding attribute is her leadership quality. During the Obasanjo administration, she led the economic management team with intelligence and maturity. Her leadership qualities combined with hard work and an amiable personality gave her the unique brand she has become in the world today. My observations have convinced me of her genuine and deep love for good leaders and ordinary people all over the world.
In her World Bank office, a beautiful portrait of the Sardauna of Sokoto, the late Sir Ahmadu Bello, occupied a central space on the wall. The portrait was there long before she came to Nigeria to serve in government. I once asked her the reason for exhibiting that picture. She said she admires his leadership qualities and achievements, particularly the positive change he brought to the North of Nigeria.
Ngozi treats others as she likes to be treated. She lives a life of constantly improving herself instead of pulling others down. For her, life is about trust, happiness and compassion. It is about standing up for one’s friends. As a true sister, Ngozi stood by me especially at the time I needed support from the people I consider close to me. For that, I will forever be grateful to her.
One other lesson I learnt from this wonderful woman is that life is too short to be spent nursing animosity or registering wrongs. That helped me to understand better what Mark Twain, the famous American writer, meant when he said “keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions, small people always do that, but the really great ones make you feel that you too can became great.” Ngo, you are great. The echo of your encouraging voice is still vivid in my memory, always starting with you saying ‘Nuhu the Nuhu’. Thank you so much for everything. Let us all congratulate Ngo and learn a lesson or two from her life of service to her country in particular and mankind in general.
My final words for my sister today is the same apt message of encouragement Mother Theresa left for us in one of her famous quotes. It reads, “Life is an opportunity, benefit from it. Life is beauty, admire it. Life is a dream, realize it. Life is a challenge, meet it. Life is a duty, complete it. Life is a game, play it. Life is a promise, fulfill it. Life is sorrow, overcome it. Life is a song, sing it. Life is a struggle, accept it. Life is a tragedy, confront it. Life is an adventure, dare it. Life is luck, make it. Life is life, fight for it.”
•Ribadu was pioneer Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC)

Medicaid Fraud perpetrator [Nnanna Mba] pleads guilty to 10 counts of theft

Tuesday, February 27, 2013

OLYMPIA – In a case involving multiple jurisdictions, tracking the accused to Nigeria and Texas and back to Washington, a man charged with committing roughly $100,000 in Medicaid fraud finally pled guilty to 10 counts of First Degree Theft in Thurston County Superior Court today. Nnanna Mba, formerly of Puyallup, was sentenced as a first-time offender pursuant to a stipulated plea agreement.

He received a sentence of 90 days in jail with credit for time served and agreed to pay full restitution in the amount of $106,730. Mba operated Pacesetters Medical Equipment.

 In April, the Washington State Attorney General’s Office Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) charged him with 17 counts of theft for billing Medicaid $106,730 for medical supplies that were never given to beneficiaries.

When Mba failed to appear in court for his arraignment, the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) obtained a warrant for his arrest. At the time, sources told Assistant Attorney General Dannette Allen that Mba had fled to his home country of Nigeria. Acting on that information, MFCU coordinated with the Department of Homeland Security to check his travel history.

They learned that Mba had indeed left the U.S. for Nigeria. The Attorney General’s Office coordinated with federal authorities to make sure that he would be apprehended and extradited if he tried to return. When he returned on Dec. 1, federal and state authorities were ready.

Mba apprehended by US Customs and Border Patrol at Houston International Airport and delivered to local police. Mba was extradited from Texas to Washington by the Thurston County Sherriff’s Office and arraigned on Dec. 13, 2012 in Thurston County Superior Court.

  ------Washington State Office of the Attorney General
-------Contact: Janelle Guthrie, Communications Director, (360) 586-0725

Ebonyi State University closed over violent students' protest

Governor Martin Elechi of Ebonyi State has ordered the indefinite closure of the State University Abakaliki, following students' protest on increase in school fees.

The students, mainly of second year, had for the past three days, been protesting the payment of N88, 000 as school fees for indigenes and N128, 000 for non-indigenes; which they paid on admission in 2012.

The protest had been violent as the students resorted to the destruction of school and public properties which led to the arrest of over 80 of them by the State Police Command.

Elechi, who spoke in Abakaliki on Wednesday during an interactive session with some stakeholders on recent events in the state, ordered the university’s vice chancellor to immediately close the school.

``The students should know that university education is not free and cheap as the state university charges the least tuition fee in the whole South East zone of the country. The students should also understand that they don’t have the right to fix fees.

``It is the exclusive right of the school’s management who knows the actual cost involved in running the school,” he said.

--------------DAILY TIMES

Nigeria, Indian armies to collaborate in training, exchange of ideas -- Ihejirika

Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Azubuike Ihejirika, said in Abuja on Wednesday that the Nigerian Army would collaborate with the Indian Army in the area of training and exchange of ideas.

Ihejirika made the statement when the Vice-Chief of Army Staff of India, Lt.-Gen. Krishna Singh, paid him a visit in his office. He said that the collaboration would bring to fruition the decisions reached by both countries’ armies to collaborate, particularly in the area of training.

``I am inspired by the visit and actions will be taken to harmonise decisions reached in the area of cooperation. We had an interactive session this morning and I found our discussion very rewarding,’’ Ihejirika said.

Earlier, Singh described the relationship between Nigeria and India as ``excellent’’ but stressed the need to extend the relationship to other areas between both armies.

 He said the two countries had always had excellent bilateral relations, adding that the relationship became stronger after the signing of the Strategic Partnership Agreement in Portugal in 2007.

--------Daily Times

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

2015: Buhari, Tinubu woo PDP governors

Former military Head of State, Maj. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, and former Lagos State Governor, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, yesterday met in Kaduna to strategise on the possible defection of some Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, governors to the All Progressive Congress, APC.

Tinubu told journalists after the closed-door meeting held at Buhari’s residence in Kaduna that strategy to woo PDP governors was in top gear. Reliable sources at the meeting said the APC leaders were catching on the crisis rocking the PDP and had begun talks with some of the aggrieved governors.

“The meeting centred on the merger. It is part of the confidence-building process. The need to have some of the PDP governors in our fold was extensively discussed.

The meeting was extremely successful,” a source at the meeting said. National Mirror learnt that the duo agreed to personally engage some of the governors, particularly those from the North on the need to join APC.

Ten opposition governors in the newly-formed APC have provided shield for the Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, NGF, Rotimi Amaechi, in his face-off with President Goodluck Jonathan as part of the plot to strengthen the opposition’s camp.

The source added that some of the PDP governors were already in talks with the leadership of APC. But the National Chairman of the PDP, Dr. Bamanga Tukur, said the plot by the APC against the ruling party would fail in 2015.

Tukur also confirmed speculations that PDP governors had been giving him and the Presidency sleepless nights as a result of their combative attitude.

He said with the election of Governor Godswill Akpabio as the Chairman, PDP Governors’ Forum and Chief Tony Anenih as chairman, PDP Board of Trustees, President Goodluck Jonathan could now sleep with his two eyes closed.

“Now I can sleep very well because I know behind, in form of leadership of PDP Governors’ Forum, they are for us. I can tell President Jonathan, if he was sleeping few hours in the night because he does not know how the party is going, he can now go and have siesta,” he said. Anenih also described the APC as a “weak block” that poses no threat to the dominance of the PDP in 2015 elections.

Anenih said: “The merger called APC is not a threat to PDP. We never had a strong opposition, let’s see how strong APC will be and there will be many opposition.

“If you are building a house and you find out that the block you laid yesterday is weak then you go to the same block maker to buy two or three more weak blocks to add to the one that was very weak.

They remain weak; it doesn’t matter whether you are buying more blocks of the same strength, sooner or later the building will collapse,” he added.

The national leader of the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, said the meeting was also aimed at making APC to remain strong. Yesterday’s meeting of two major opposition leaders, which lasted for hours, was third in a series since the merger arrangement last year.

Assuring Nigerians that the merger would work this time round, Tinubu averred that APC was not about Buhari or himself but to rescue the country from imminent collapse under PDP rule.

The former governor added that insecurity, unemployment and massive corruption would end if APC was ushered into power in 2015.

He said: “Wooing some PDP governors to APC, if that is a strategy on our part should I tell you? The fact remains that we must talk to everybody and must woo them. If Bamanga Tukur is interested, let him look through; we will invite him and talk to him.

“APC is a party to stay with, work with and to share the vision of eliminating corruption, ineptitude in governance and lack of employment for our people. “If you are threatened by lack of security, enter an APC, if you have migraine or persistent headache, use APC.
“I am here just to consult with General Buhari on the new APC that has come to be; looking at the various other options for a ‘one man one vote’ in the country.

“The merger will definitely work out this time around. I have been very consistent about it; it is only through strong determination and commitment and the sacrifice of the people; it is not only about us or an individual.

You have a lot of speculations going on this time around, they have even chosen our presidential candidate for us and all of that, to determine all the sorts of things that we do… “But that is the story of people who are already afraid and scared of the unity of purpose that is coming up in the country.

“In essence, we are all committed to democratic principles and values for this country, and to rescue the nation, united body, ready to rescue the nation, one mission, vision, one single commitment to alleviate the problems of the masses.” On his part, Buhari said that his claim that PDP merged with government agencies ahead of 2015 was factual.
He said: “If they are going to counter me, go and study the three judicial or Supreme Court judgements of 2003, 2007 and 2011 and get the hearing on NNPC pension scheme and whatever I said is factual.” Tukur also lambasted the opposition parties, saying many of them are being run like a cult.

Speaking while some PDP governors paid him visit at the party’s headquarters in Abuja, Tukur predicted a two-party system comprising of the PDP and the APC for 2015 general elections.

He also said that the election of Chief Tony Anenih as the chairman of the party’s Board of Trustees (BoT) and the emergence of Governor Godswill Akpabio as the Chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum, means that the party is now repackaged and ready for the opposition political parties in the 2015 elections.

Tukur said that with the plans by the opposition political parties to merge into APC, Nigeria is gradually drifting into a two-party system that would contest the 2015 general elections. Speaking on the implication of the emergence of Anenih as PDP BoT Chairman and Akpabio as the chairman of PDP Governors’ Forum, Tukur said: “It then means that the PDP is a repackaged political party to really face all the challenges ahead of the party as the 2015 draws nearer.

“With a repackaged PDP as you can now see, the implication is that it will enable us mobilising our members ahead of the 2015 general elections and face elections and win.
“Most of the people in APC now are original members of the PDP and I can assure that we have commenced talks to bring them back to where they originally belong, which is the PDP. They are coming back, because some of them have told me that their aspirations may not be met in the APC because of the burning ambitions of some individual members.
“They don’t want a party that is being run like a cult. They are gradually commencing a return to the PDP, because the PDP is the only national party in Nigeria. Three of us (Tukur, Akpabio and Anenih) will put our heads together and make PDP move ahead and remain formidable to face the opposition party called the APC.”

Also, Akpabio declared that the party will soon commence the cleansing of Judases in the party who are working against its interest.

Speaking during a courtesy call on the national leadership of the PDP, Governor Akpabio attributed the internal crisis in the party to parochial interests and the huge size of the followership of the party.

He advised those who have been working against the interest of the party to retrace their steps as the fresh internal cleansing that will soon commence in the party will see then out of the party. “His words: You know we are having challenges but the challenges for me, with what we have started now, has always been a function of PDP. What you saw was an explosion. What has happened to PDP is because of self explosion.

“When there is an explosion, where there is treachery, where there is more Judases than you have disciples, we want to have good disciples. We know that even in Christendom when Jesus Christ has 12 disciples there was one Judas, but if the Judas were up to nine then Jesus could have been in trouble, the gospel would have been in trouble today.
“What the PDP is trying to do now is to cleanse its house, to try to identify the ones they called Judas and whisper it to them and said go out, the train is moving and you cannot stand otherwise we will crush you.”

Meanwhile, former Kano State Governor, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau, who is the leader of the All Nigeria People’s Party, ANPP, merger committee, yesterday disclosed that four more political parties have indicated interest to join APC.

Shekarau, who presented the progress report to the National Working Committee, NWC, of the party said beyond the four parties that are being mentioned in the merger, “the committee is in receipt of four other parties that have written to express their interest to be part of the process.”

Speaking while receiving the interim progress report of the Re-building and Interparty Contact Committee yesterday at the party headquarters in Abuja, National Chairman of the ANPP, Chief Ogbonnaya Onu said the APC will clearly show that there is a difference between the ruling party and the progressive coalition party.

He said by the time the manifesto and logo of APC is released, it will be clear the difference between the new party and the PDP is a clear as daylight and darkness.

“When the 2015 contest comes it will be between the conservatives and the progressives and when the people makes their views known it will be clear which of the two they prefer,” he said.

He said ANPP is very committed to ensuring that all major opposition parties come together to work together.

According to Onu, although some people have said that the merger may not succeed like past ones, what we all know that what we are doing presently had never been done before. Onu said this is the first time parties who have many things in common are coming together to challenge the party in power.

He said the merging parties have identical ideological leanings and that contrary to critics views that the merger will not succeed because it is a marriage of strange bed fellows, the merger will succeed.

Onu assured Nigerians that once the APC is registered that the party will not disappoint them, adding the party will protect the interest of the ordinary man.

“We will put the interest of ordinary Nigerians in the affairs of governance because this is what has been causing problem in the country’s governance,” he said.

-------------Obiora Ifoh and Aza Msue/National Mirror

Ghana's Turkson is Irish bookmakers' favorite for new pope

LONDON (Reuters) - Ghana's Peter Turkson is the Irish bookmakers' favorite to replace Pope Benedict, putting a non-European in pole position to lead the 1.2 billion-member Roman Catholic Church for the first time in more than a millennium.

Irish bookmaker Paddy Power offered odds of 11/4 against for Turkson, meaning successful punters would win 11 pounds for every four staked, while Britain's second largest bookmaker Ladbrokes offered odds of 5/2 against.
Turkson would be the first non-European to lead the Catholic church in more than a millennium if he is chosen to succeed Benedict. Italian Angelo Scola is second favorite according to Paddy Power at 3/1 against.

"Pope Benedict quitting leaves a tall hat to fill - let's just hope God gives him a good reference for his next job," a Paddy Power spokesperson said in a statement. "As for the betting, the real action kicks off now."

The new pope will inherit a Church scarred by Vatileaks and by child abuse scandals in Europe and the United States, both of which may have weighed on Benedict's decision to decide he was too old and weak to continue the papacy.

The pope has two days left before he takes the historic step of becoming the first pontiff in some six centuries to step down instead of ruling for life.

Betting on the new pope earlier in February had ranked Nigeria's Cardinal Francis Arinze and Canadian Marc Ouellet alongside Turkson in a three 'cardinal' race.

Some 115 cardinals will enter a closed-door conclave at the Vatican in March.

"While Turkson and Scola are currently out in front, let us not forget those fabled words ‘he who enters the conclave as Pope, leaves it as a Cardinal'," the Paddy Power spokesman said.

Paddy Power said Turkson has attracted the highest number of bets, accounting for 15 percent of the market and is shouldering the biggest single bet of 5,000 pounds ($7,600).

The head of the Vatican's justice and peace department, the Ghanaian has been tipped as Africa's frontrunner in a contest heavy with speculation that a Latin American or African could be elected as chief of the 1.2 billion-strong Catholic population.

While Canada's Ouellet is still in the running at 7/1 according to Ladbrokes, Arinze's standing at both bookmakers has sunk to 25/1.

Paddy Power said that betting on who will be elected as the new pope is set to become the largest non-sporting market in its history. It said it had taken 300,000 pounds on "pope betting".

Dark horses include a fictional character from Irish sitcom Father Ted, the simple-minded Father Dougal McGuire, who has attracted nine more bets than real-life Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes. ($1 = 0.6608 British pounds)

(Reporting by Sarah Young; Editing by Guy Faulconbridge and Jon Hemming)

Jonathan For ECOWAS Summit And State Visit To Cote D’Ivoire

President Goodluck Jonathan will join other leaders of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Yamassoukrou, Cote D’Ivoire on Wednesday, February 27th, 2013 for the 42nd Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government.

While the President is away, the Vice President will hold the forth at the weekly Federal Executive Council meeting.

Ongoing efforts to restore peace, democracy and political stability to Mali and Guinea-Bissau in which President Jonathan and Nigeria are playing key roles will top the agenda of the two-day summit at which a new ECOWAS Chairperson will also be elected.

President Jonathan and other participating Heads of State and Government will also receive and consider the 2012 annual report of the President of the ECOWAS Commission as well as the report of the 69th Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Council of Ministers.

At the conclusion of the Summit on Thursday, President Jonathan will, at the invitation of President Alassane Ouattara, embark on a three-day state visit to Cote D’Ivoire accompanied by the First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed of Kwara State, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, Honourable Isa Hassan, Honourable Nkeiru Onyejiocha, the Minister of Trade and Investment, Mr. Olusegun Aganga, the Minister of State (Foreign Affairs), Dr. Nurudeen Mohammed and other officials of the Federal Government.arious agreements aimed at fostering trade and economic relations between Nigeria and Cote D’Ivoire will be concluded and signed in Abidjan before the end of the visit.ent Jonathan, whose entourage also includes representatives of the Nigerian Private Sector, will also meet with Nigerians resident in Cote D’Ivoire before returning to Nigeria on Saturday.

--------Elizabeth Embu, Daily Times Nigeria

'Fela!' is ferocious, exuberant, but also a little irresponsible

By Mark Kemp/The CLOG, Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Adesola Osakalumi kneeling by Sharen Bradford

Here's what you should not look for if you go see the Broadway smash Fela! at Belk Theater tonight: a linear narrative; songs performed in their entirety; context for some of the thornier details of the life of Nigerian Afrobeat legend Fela Anikulapo Kuti.

Here's what you can expect: ferocious, exuberant, awe-inspiring music and dance; lots of shimmering washboard abs and bouncing booties; a whirlwind of pop-cultural references ranging from Frank Sinatra to John Coltrane to James Brown to Bob Marley to Stokely Carmichael; feel-good displays of revolutionary righteousness. And did I mention ferocious, exuberant, awe-inspiring music and dance?

The big stars of the production, which opened Monday and returns to the Belk tonight for a second performance, are Adesola Osakalumi, who plays Fela with dazzling energy and charisma, and Melanie Marshall, whose rich, angelic voice as Fela's mother steals several scenes. The unsung stars are the musicians of the traveling Fela Band, whose original leader, Aaron Johnson of the Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra, arranged Fela's songs for the stage, turning his extended funk and jazz improvs into digestible nuggets that somehow retain the spirit of the original music. The weakest link in the touring line-up is new member Michelle Williams, the former Destiny's Child singer. She landed the role of Fela's African-American lover Sandra Isadore, who was responsible for introducing the late singer and activist to '60s and '70s American black power figures from Malcolm X to Angela Davis. Williams has neither the dance moves, the acting chops nor the voice - her Minnie Mouse vocals aren't at all believable when she's lecturing Fela on tough, American-style political activism - to pull off such an important role.The setting for the musical is Fela's final show at the Afrika Shrine, a nightclub located at his Kalakuta Republic commune outside Lagos, Nigeria. Throughout the 1970s, the Nigerian military had regularly harassed Fela for his outspokeness about the country's political corruption. Then, in 1977, after the singer released his classic album Zombie - which characterized Nigeria's military troops as brain-dead puppets of the country's dictator-like general Olusegun Obasanjo - soldiers raided Fela's commune, raped many of its occupants and threw the singer's mother, political activist Funmilayo Ransome Kuti, out of a second-story window, causing injuries that would lead to her death two months later.

All of that and more is told in the musical by way of whiplash monologues that switch back and forth in time so quickly it's hard to figure out when the appearances by Fela's mother are apparitions and when they are real. Not that it matters too much. This is theater, and if you want to learn about the real Fela, it's best to enjoy this play for what it is and then go back to Fela's massive discography, authoritative books like Michael Veal's Fela: The Life of an African Musical Icon, and the documentary Fela Kuti: Music is the Weapon.

Don't get me wrong: Fela!, the Broadway musical, is an enjoyable production and I think it's great that mainstream American audiences are finally hearing the Nigerian Afrobeat legend's music and learning a little about his life and work. But what's missing from the production is really, really important stuff: while the play emphasizes the political oppression Fela fought, it glosses over or makes light of his dark sides (for example, he was a raging misogynist who believed women are inferior to men) and it never once mentions that the singer died in 1997, at 58, as a result of AIDS-related complications. (To his final days, Fela denied HIV/AIDS, opposed contraception as "un-African," and went on to father at least three more children after becoming infected with the virus.)
For me, the omission of AIDS, in particular, was a glaring problem in Fela! that extends beyond oversight into irresponsibility. During the song "Who's Coffin Will You Carry," toward the end of the play, the writers and producers (including Jay-Z, Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith) thrust so many important topics into the audience's consciousness - names of exploiters from "Buhari" and Shagari" to "Halliburton," "AIG" and "The World Bank" were literally scrawled onto coffins stacked up on stage for dramatic effect. And yet there was not one mention of AIDS, the real killer of Fela that has been one of Africa's most destructive enemies, killing more people than any military dictator or rogue capitalist.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Man [Michael Ayoade] Jailed For Random Assaults

A man who sneaked up on a teenage girl and a female student and punched them unconscious in two chilling random attacks has been jailed for four years.

Michael Ayoade, 35, of Greengate Street, Plaistow, east London, was caught on CCTV staging the motiveless assaults.

Passing sentence at Inner London Crown Court, Judge Roger Chapple said they were "vicious, unprovoked attacks on young, lone females". He said Ayoade posed a threat of causing serious harm to women.

Having viewed CCTV of both the attacks, the judge said: "These images are indeed worth many thousands of words. The footage captures graphically the shocking violence of these attacks.

"In both cases there was but one blow. In the case of (the 16-year-old) it can plainly be seen from the CCTV footage that the force behind the blow was massive. The ferocity of the blow that you struck to her after running up behind her with full force was truly shocking. In both cases the force of the blow was such as to render the victims unconscious albeit mercifully not for long."

The first attack was at Plaistow Tube station on November 20, 2011, when he hit a 5ft 4in university student in the side of the head, leaving her sprawled unconscious in the ticket hall. Daniella Montieth, who was studying political science and international relations, was taken to hospital with a broken tooth.

Shocking CCTV footage of the second attack was released by police in November last year as they appealed for information. The 16-year-old victim was walking near the Black Lion pub in High Street, Plaistow, at around 12.30pm on November 13 when Ayoade jogged up behind her and punched her in the head. She immediately fell to the ground and was left lying unconscious on the pavement, suffering three broken teeth.

Ayoade, who is originally from Nigeria, had followed the 5ft 5ins teenager for around 800 metres before he struck. Prosecutor Joel Smith told the court Ayoade said she had "looked at him in a rude way", and that he could not go through the rest of the day having taken "an insult from a little person like that".

Ayoade had previously admitted two counts of assault occasioning actual bodily harm, and one count of possession of cannabis after a bag of the drug was found at his home. He was arrested shortly after the second attack.

On Monday he was sentenced to four years for the attack on the teenager, and 19 months for punching the student, to run concurrently. There was no separate penalty for the cannabis charge

---------Cambridge News/United Kingdom

First Ward book proves popular, with interest from across the world

Timothy Bohen says he is surprised by the popularity of his self-published book, “Against the Grain, A History of Buffalo’s First Ward.” His website has been visited by people from as far away as Nepal and New Zealand. File photo by John Hickey/Buffalo News

The response to Timothy Bohen’s book about the First Ward of Buffalo has been, he says, “astonishing.”

Several local publishers Bohen consulted before self-publishing “Against the Grain: The History of Buffalo’s First Ward,” told him that he could expect to sell his first printing of 1,000 copies in three years. Instead, that printing sold out in three weeks.

Now on the fourth printing, and after “well over a dozen book-signings,” Bohen is preparing for a busy March, when St. Patrick’s Day celebrations have people thinking about the community’s Irish roots.

But first, Bohen will appear in the Larkin Square Author Series, speaking informally and signing books from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Filling Station Restaurant, 745 Seneca St., Larkinville.

The link between the Larkin empire and the First Ward was strong, Bohen says. “The Larkin Co. was born in the First Ward on Chicago Street, was raised in the Hydraulics, and was buried [the remains of the administration building] in the Ohio Basin in the Ward.”

Bohen, a Buffalo pharmaceuticals salesman and self-taught historian, became intrigued by the history of the First Ward when he began looking into the proper spelling of his great-great-grandfather’s last name. Along the way, he discovered a fascinating history of blue-collar workers, prominent politicians and successful sports figures, disasters and prosperity, all set in a tight-knit community.

He says the interest in “Against the Grain” came from two groups: “Those who are from the Ward or are descendants of the Ward are the largest segment. There is a real hunger from this group to learn about how their parents, grandparents, or other relatives lived in this unique neighborhood. Also, many people who grew up in the Ward want to share their life with their loved ones or friends.

“The second group includes Buffalo history enthusiasts. This group of people has turned out to be much larger than I initially thought,” he says.

Tom McDonnell, who owns and operates the nonprofit Dog Ears Bookstore and Enlightenment Literary Arts Center on Abbott Road in South Buffalo, says sales of “Against the Grain” have greatly benefited his store, which has also held a couple of book-signings with Bohen.

McDonnell estimates that he has sold some 500 copies of the book, and that many people have been excited to find themselves, friends and family members listed among the 900 names and nicknames printed at the end of the book. “They see that, and then they want to buy the book,” says McDonnell.

Bohen says, “There seems to be something unique about the Ward because of the mystery of this neighborhood,” due to the insular nature of the families, who often knew each other for several generations and also intermarried during the 170-year history of the First Ward.

The fact that the Ward was both an industrial and a residential neighborhood “also makes it unique,” Bohen says. “I am not sure if there would be as much of an interest in a Buffalo residential neighborhood with a history that starts in the 1920s, let’s say.”

Bohen praises other movements to preserve ethnic heritage in the city, including the magazine “Per Niente,” published by Joe Di Leo, which tells the story of the Italian West Side.

During his talk at Larkinville, Bohen will discuss ways in which the Ward and the Larkin Co. interacted.

“They were actually two very distinct neighborhoods, even though they bumped up against each other on Exchange Street,” he says. “Bridges, canals, railroad tracks and the Thruway kept the Ward, the Valley, and the Hydraulics all very distinct throughout most of the 19th and 20th [centuries]. Some areas of overlap include the Larkin Co. Some Ward residents have told me the Larkin Co. was the largest employer of women from the Ward. It was a comfort for these women to know that they could always find a job there if they needed one, and many did.”

Leslie Zemsky, whose title is Larkin Square Director of Fun, says, “We’re excited to hear Timothy’s fun stories about the First Ward and the ways in which they spill over to Larkinville. It’s also a great way to gear up for our upcoming Live at O’Larkin event themed around St. Patrick’s Day.”

The Celtic-themed Live at O’Larkin event will run from 4:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. March 15, kicking off St. Patrick’s weekend.

The free outdoor event will include music by McCarthyizm, Poor Ould Goat and the Greater Buffalo Firefighters Pipes and Drums, as well as dancing by Clann Na Cara School of Irish Dance. Irish coffee, stout and food will be sold at The Filling Station, The Grill, and Square 1 Sandwiches, and the Larkin Square Marketplace will feature a variety of vendors.

As for Bohen, the outpouring of response to “Against the Grain” has kept him busy. He has received more than 200 emails from people offering their own memories and family stories. His website,, has been visited by more than 3,000 users from 48 states and more than 1,000 spots outside Western New York, including Nigeria, Nepal, Ethiopia, Chile, Thailand, Japan and New Zealand.

“Many of them are probably Buffalo ex-pats,” Bohen says. “But it’s extraordinary, that somebody in Nigeria, even a Buffalo ex-pat, would care about the First Ward.”

--------Anne Neville/Buffalo News

The influential Governors’ Forum: Crack Widens

LIKE the dawning of a new day, the uncertainty that surrounded the source of the crisis rocking the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) has finally cleared. And in what appeared to be a perfect prelude to an imperial climax, the arrowhead of the anti-Amaechi splinter group in the Forum, Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State, was crowned Chairman of governors elected on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

For one, the “selection” of Akpabio by his “colleagues and the party” to lead the PDP Governors Forum (PDP-GF) has not only given credence to the words of Eckhart Tolle that, “Humans have learned to split the atom. Instead of killing ten or twenty people with a wooden club, one person can now kill a million just by pushing a button.”

It has also widened the chasm in the umbrella NGF, and reinforces the suspicion that the Presidency is not comfortable with the NGF leadership and desires to have a firm control of the body.

While Nigerians grapple with so many questions like why the PDP governors would have their forum while still enjoying the leadership of the umbrella NGF, Akpabio said the formation of the PDP-GF is in line with the emerging political realities in the country and the need for the party to consolidate its hold as the front runner on the Nigerian political landscape.

He told Journalists at the State House in Abuja, immediately after his selection, that it was “a revaluation and the need for us to restrategise and make the party stronger. We will not work in conflict with the Nigeria Governors Forum… it is not a competition; it is only in the interest of the party. It is a step in the right direction.”

The creation of this splinter group, according to political pundits, has succeeded in tearing the NGF apart, as it has become clear that the president wants to have a hold on the Governors Forum using the party machinery.

“The party is supreme and every member of the party is answerable to her guidance.

He insisted that the interest of the PDP Governors would be extensively protected. Suffice it that the PDP governors meet after every meeting of the NGF and, of course, Amaechi presides.

Therefore, the Chairman of the NGF, who is a member of the party, would have to respect the position of the PDP-GF Chairman, who is his leader, as far as the almighty party is his platform.

Chairman of the NGF and Governor of Rivers State, Rotimi Amaechi, reportedly stormed out of the four-hour meeting on Sunday night, called at the instance of President Goodluck Jonathan, when it became clear that he (Amaechi) was out of favour, and a parallel Governors Forum to ensure this was in the offing.

In recent weeks, he has faced series of attacks from some notable good ‘boys’ of the president, both in the South-South region and within the NGF.

Prelude to the general meeting of the NGF scheduled to hold at the Rivers Governors Lodge (perhaps, for the last time during Amaechi’s tenure as governor), there are indications that he would be removed as the chairman of the Forum.

Sources at the Pro-Amaechi Camp have finalised arrangements to ask him to step aside and not contest again but to sponsor another candidate outside the president’s faithful. The most likely candidate, if their strategy succeeds, would be Rabiu Kwankwaso of Kano State, who is also known for his radical stance on issues.

Among the pro-Change Camp, who has indicated interest in bearing the mantle are Gabriel Suswam of Benue, Ibrahim Shema of Katsina, Isa Yuguda of Bauchi and, of course, the already “selected Chairman,” Godswill Akpabio.

Inside sources told The Guardian that, “the other three governors would step down for one if it appears that the pro-Amaechi camp has a strong backing.”

At his inaugural interaction with the press at the Presidential Villa, after his selection, Akpabio said the NGF is supposed to have another body with the semblance of a Board of Trustees, which would check, from time to time, perceived excesses of a sitting-in chairman.

This is a strategy by the Pro-Leadership Change group. The plan is to ensure that their men are strategically placed to represent their interest, at that level and in the Executive body of the forum where Akpabio said there are vacancies like the “vice chairman and others.”

But as at last night, Governor Suswam was reportedly lobbying the governors of other political parties, who, he believes, “have the key to the success or failure of any candidate.”

These governors have vowed to ensure that they take most of the key positions, including the vice chairmanship, for which Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo State is the preferred candidate.

According to Benjamin Wada, an aide to former Governor Abubakar Audu of Kogi State, “the crack in the House of PDP Governors now has exposed the desperation in our leaders. They are ready to descend down the road of shame naked without looking back to see if their enemies are watching.”

“It is a good opportunity for the opposition parties to look carefully and pick the loopholes in the PDP house and make up for 2015, now that it is obvious Jonathan is interested,” he said.

As Wada queried: “If the Chairman of the (Governors) Forum, Amaechi, is arrogant and dictatorial (as alleged), are they just knowing it at the twilight of his tenure? The fact is that the president wants him out and they are all just acting a script. We are not fooled, but it is certainly not in the interest of the PDP.”

It is interesting to note that Akpabio had denied that there was a move to remove Amaechi at last Thursday’s meeting.

According to him: “What you heard was rumour; that was not what we discussed at the Forum. We discussed the need for us to fill all the positions in the Forum: the position of vice chairman and others, and also form a BoT. We will fill up the positions at the Monday (yesterday’s) meeting.”

Meanwhile, the communiqué at the end of the meeting, said: “Forum exhaustively discussed the administration of the Forum and resolved that all the organs of the Forum be made functional at the next meeting.”

What has become clear from the foregoing scenario is that, the desire of the pro-Leadership Change group may be fulfilled and Rotimi Amaechi would cease to Chair the Governors Forum even before his tenure expires in May.

Indeed, according to sources, all PDP governors were advised to toe the decision of the party, which is the ouster of Amaechi. But would their yarning to be in total control, as it has become obvious, come to pass?

Certainly, the pro-Amaechi Camp also has the numbers, as at the last count and a ‘Plan B’, to ensure that the PDP-anointed do not have their way.

When there is a crack in the wooden bed, the bed bug finds a place to habitat. And as watchers of the polity wait expectantly, the crack in the house continues to widen, and the bed bugs maybe having a field day in the days to come.

---------Karis Tsokar/ Guardian Nigeria

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Recruitment Scandal: About 700 Police Officers Dismissed – IGP

The Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mr Mohammed Abubakar, has said that no fewer than 700 police officers were dismissed from the force due to recruitment scandals in 2012.

Abubakar made this known when he answered questions from newsmen after a town hall meeting in Yola.

“Last year, about 700 police officers were dismissed from the service following their involvement in recruitment irregularities and other related offences.”

The IGP said the force had zero tolerance for corruption, hence any officer found wanting was dealt with.

He said that a special unit was created to restore dignity and instill discipline among the officers.

“In order to help the force to fish out bad eggs, this is my telephone number – 08109009000,” Abubakar said.

He said he was ready to answer any call or receive text message at any time for complaint, advice or support.

He further warned against the misuse of the number by feeding the force with false information   ---------Ikenna Agu, Daily Times, Nigeria

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Babangida Aliyu And 2015 Presidency

Niger State governor, Dr. Babangida Aliyu, last week perhaps confirmed the speculations of pundits that he is indeed interested in the presidency come 2015.

Aliyu, leader of the Northern Governors’ Forum last week in what could be summed as the justification behind his ambition declared that President Goodluck Jonathan reached an agreement in 2011 with Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leaders and governors to serve only one term as president.

This declaration was made last week Saturday during a live radio programme, Guest of the Week, on Liberty Radio (91.7), Kaduna, has already ignited the race towards the 2015 presidential poll, as the governor had now become one of those to watch.

Aliyu during the media chat said the rumoured interest of Jonathan in seeking a second term in 2015 should be taken as a mere speculation.

His word: “I recall that at the time he was going to declare for the 2011 election, all the PDP governors were brought together to ensure that we were all in the same frame of mind.
“And I recall that some of us said given the circumstances of the death of President Umaru Yar’Adua and given the PDP zoning arrangement, it was expected that the North was to produce the president for a given number of years.

“I recall that at that discussion, it was agreed that Jonathan would serve only one term of four years and we all signed the agreement.

Even when Jonathan went to Kampala, in Uganda, he also said he was going to serve a single term. “For now, President Jonathan has not declared a second term ambition and we must not be speculating based on those who are benefiting from the campaign.

“I think we are all gentlemen enough so when the time comes, we will all come together and see what is the right thing to do.” Meanwhile, the presidency has denied Aliyu’s comments that PDP governors signed an agreement with President Goodluck Jonathan prior to the 2011 presidential elections that he would only run for a single term.

Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters, Dr. Ahmed Gulak, who made the presidency’s position known in Abuja stated that Jonathan did not sign any agreement with anyone and advised the governor who is rumoured to be nursing a presidential ambition to go about his pursuit without making what he called “frivolous allegations” against the President.

He said, “President Goodluck Jonathan did not win the presidential election in Governor Aliyu’s state, Niger. Anybody who has a presidential ambition, it is such a person’s constitutional right to have ambition.

Aliyu’s comments came at a time there were speculations that the party was planning to foist the candidacy of Jonathan on the party and make him the sole candidate of the PDP for the 2015 poll. In that case, the party would skip primary election for that office.
It has been alleged that the party’s top hierarchy of the party had agreed to amend its constitution to accommodate the new thinking. But denying the speculation, the party’s national publicity secretary, Mr Olisa Metuh, said there is no truth in the account.
He said: “I can tell you that under the constitution of this party, and the way we run our programmes, we are going to have primaries in 2015. We are completely unaware of any move to change the constitution of the party.

“The constitution that we have, which was passed at the last national convention, provides that we must have state and national convention.” Metuh, however, maintained that party could amend its constitution if it wanted to do so.

According to him, “A constitution can be amended at any time if the members decide to do so, or when the need arises.

I’m just telling you what the law is at the moment. Even the constitution of the country is being amended; the constitution of the party can be amended if they (party leaders) decide to.”

It will however be recalled that in July 2011,President Jonathan indicated that he would be sending a bill to the National Assembly to elongate the tenure of office of the President and Governors from the present four years.

As against the fouryear term elected officers currently enjoy, the bill would propose a single term of six years for the President and Governors. It was also stated that President Jonathan’s tenure would not be affected as the amendment would only take effect from 2015

According to a statement issued by the President’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, the proposed bill “is borne out of a patriotic zeal, after a painstaking study and belief that the constitutionally guaranteed two terms for Presidents and Governors is not helping the focus of governance and institutionalization of democracy at this stage of our development.”
It was also contained in the statement that the President is “concerned about the acrimony which the issue of re-election every four years generates both at Federal and state levels.”
It will also be recalled that discordant tunes trailed Jonathan’s proposal of a sixyear single term as many suspected the president had hidden agenda.

Former governor of old Kaduna state, Alhaji Balarabe Musa at the wake of the proposal said if accepted, the proposal could alter the 2015 elections. “If his proposal is accepted, you will be surprised that before 2015, he will declare another intention to declare for 2015 Presidency.

If the PDP could not accept the zoning system, they would definitely not accept excluding Jonathan in 2015. “So, what will happen is that just like he did in 2011, he will do in 2015. He has not demonstrated any confidence that he will complete his current tenure and he is already talking about 2015.

This government is controlled by money powers. “He could want to use money to achieve his agenda but Nigerians should ensure he doesn’t bastardise our constitution and Nigeria’s politics. He has already bribed the governors and the National Assembly by saying they too should benefit and that tells you he has a hidden agenda.”

In his own view, the governorship candidate of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in Niger State during the last general election, governorship candidate in Niger State, Bawa Bwari, said the problem with the six year- single tenure has to do with elongation, and not the concept.

“It’s the elongation there that is the problem. What do you want me to say? For any responsible government, there are so many issues that should be a priority.

This issue of single term tenure is a distraction. If it’s for patriotic reasons, it will be good but there is a question mark for first term governors.

Secondly, Nigerians don’t trust Jonathan because of what happened with zoning. People will not believe he is doing it for patriotic reasons.” Aliyu overtime, according to analysts been seen a predictable voice among the Northern governors against the second term ambition of Jonathan.

In May last year, The 19 northern governors including Aliyu defended the Presidential candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change, in the last poll Major- General Muhammadu Buhari, on the latter’ s comment on Jonathan’s administration.

Buhari’s party had described the Jonathan administration as the “most corrupt ever,” in response to the Presidency and the Peoples Democratic Party’s attacks on his person over a comment in which the retired General threatened bloodshed in 2015 if the government dared rig the elections.

The northern governors said Buhari’s comment was in order, observing some other Nigerians had made worse comments. Aliyu, during a question-and-answer session with journalists after the Forum’s meeting in Kaduna, noted that Buhari had only sought to keep the Federal Government on its toes in order to ensure a freeand- fair election in 2015.
He noted that Buhari’s statement was subject to different interpretation and cautioned eminent Nigerians against further inflammatory statements that could heat up the polity.
He said, “In a democratic system every individual has his ways and there are many of us whose ways of communication are quite different from others. Give the same statement to somebody, he may have used a different vocabulary.

“Again, certain facts are understood, that if this happens that would happen, I think it is a natural thing to do. Maybe those who may be too concerned have not looked at what other eminent Nigerians have been talking about.

“I saw one that said Nigeria is going to be Somalianised. I saw another one who has been talking like there would be war tomorrow. That statement should be taken on its own value.
“All of us who are involved in elections political parties, contestants and voters themselves – we must all be careful so that there would be a semblance of good in whatever we do.

But, again, like I said, certain people are so much in that position, they should be careful with certain vocabularies they use. So, both ways let’s take it on our own strides and ensure that future elections are seemed to be transparent and are seemed to be good.”

Aliyu’s outburst makes him the second governor being viewed as eyeing the presidency after his Jigawa State counterpart, Sule Lamido, who is said to have been nominated by former President Olusegun Obasanjo.

The former President, it was gathered had also tipped Governor Rotimi Amaechi as Lamido’s running mate.

It will however be recalled that last month, Aliyu said that he had not declared for the 2015 presidency and also dismissed the purported commencement of his presidential campaign as untrue.

He made the clarification in Minna when he received the Ethiopian Ambassador in Nigeria, Mr Ali Abdul Sulaiman, and the new Vice Chancellor of the Federal University of Technology, Minna, Prof. Musibau Akanbi.

He disclosed that the PDP at the national level had barred aspirants from all campaigns for the 2015 general elections till 2014, adding that he was complying with the directive as a loyal party member and law abiding citizen.

He explained that it was the National Youth Leader of the party, Alhaji Garba Umaru, who incidentally was from Niger, who led a delegation to Plateau to thank the PDP members in that state for voting for him during the national convention of the party.

“This has now been misconstrued as a presidential campaign flag off by me,’’ the governor said. At that time, Aliyu, said his clarification of the situation was not an indication that he was afraid to contest for the presidency when the time comes.

“If it is God’s will that I would come out, believe me I am not afraid I will come out because what will be will be but I am not out yet.’’

US Sends Troops Into Niger To Set Up Drone Base

New York Times, Sunday, February 24, 2013

Opening a new front in the drone wars against al-Qaeda and its affiliates, US President Barack Obama announced that about 100 US troops had been sent to Niger in West Africa to help set up a new base from which unarmed Predator aircraft would conduct surveillance in the region.

The new drone base, located for now in the capital, Niamey, is an indication of the priority Africa has become in US anti-terrorism efforts. The US military has a limited presence in Africa, with only one permanent base, in Djibouti, more than 4,800 kilometres from Mali, where insurgents had taken over half the country until repelled by a French-led force.
In a letter to Congress, Obama said about 40 US military service members arrived in Niger on Wednesday, bringing the total number of those deployed in the country to about 100 people. A military official said the troops were largely Air Force logistics specialists, intelligence analysts and security officers.

Obama said the troops, who are armed for self-protection, would support the French-led operation that last month drove al-Qaeda and affiliated fighters out of a desert refuge the size of Texas in neighbouring Mali.

Niger, one of the poorest countries in the world, signed a status-of-forces agreement last month with the US that has cleared the way for greater US military involvement in the country and has provided legal protection to US troops there. President Mahamadou Issoufou last month voiced concern about the spillover of violence and refugees from Mali, as well as growing threats from Boko Haram, an Islamist group to the south, in neighbouring Nigeria.

French and African troops have retaken Mali's northern cities but about 2,000 militants have melted back into desert and mountain hideaways and have begun a small campaign of harassment and terror, dispatching suicide bombers, attacking guard posts, infiltrating liberated cities or ordering attacks by militants hidden among civilians.

"Africa Command has positioned unarmed remotely piloted aircraft in Niger to support a range of regional security missions and engagements with partner nations," Benjamin Benson, a command spokesman in Stuttgart, Germany, said.
Benson did not say how many aircraft or troops would be deployed, but other US officials say the base could eventually have as many as 300 military service members and contractors.
For now, US officials said, Predator drones will be unarmed and will fly only on surveillance missions, although they have not ruled out missile strikes.
US officials would like to move the aircraft eventually to Agadez, a city in northern Niger that is closer to parts of northern Mali where cells of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and other militant groups are operating.
The drone base will join several small airstrips in Africa, including one in Ethiopia, used for surveillance missions by drones or turboprop planes designed to look like civilian aircraft.
A handful of unarmed Predator drones will fill a desperate need for more detailed information on regional threats, including the militants in Mali and the unabated flow of fighters and weapons from Libya.
As the United States increased its presence in Niger, Russia sent a planeload of food, blankets and other aid to Mali on Friday, a day after Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned of the spread of terrorism in North Africa, which Russia has linked to Western intervention in Libya.
Russian officials have pointed repeatedly to the unrest in North Africa and the political turmoil in Egypt as evidence that the Western-supported Arab spring has created a dangerous and chaotic situation and potential breeding grounds for terrorists.

Theresa May's tough immigration rules defied by top judge

By David Barrett, Home Affairs Correspondent
Telegraph UK., Saturday, February 23, 2013

The country's most senior immigration judge has openly defied the Home Secretary by insisting that Parliament’s attempt to get tough on human rights abuses by foreign criminals is outweighed by the European Court.

In a key ruling, the head of the immigration courts said measures introduced by Mrs May last summer to stop criminals claiming the “right to family life” were overridden by judges’ previous decisions on such cases at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

Mr Justice Blake also said that “little weight” should be given to Mrs May’s immigration rules in cases involving criminals with children because they were overruled by international agreements and a previous law passed by the Labour government.

As reported by The Telegraph last week, Mrs May is due to introduce laws to strengthen existing measures over concerns that judges were not taking them seriously. The measures are supported by The Telegraph’s “End the Human Rights Farce” campaign.

The judge made his criticisms of Mrs May’s laws in a ruling which allowed a criminal with 30 convictions to stay in Britain, even though the Home Office had tried to deport him.

The case was written as a “reported determination”, meaning that other immigration judges will have to follow its example when deciding other similar appeals.

Olufisayo Ogundimu, a former drug dealer from south London, persuaded the court that he should not be removed to Nigeria, where he was born, because he had fathered a child here and has a baby on the way with another woman.

Mr Justice Blake said in his ruling on Ogundimu’s case that the immigration rules “did not affect the circumstance” when considering the right to family life, which is guaranteed by Article Eight of the Human Rights Act.

In such cases he said that the way to interpret Article Eight was not to consider Mrs May’s rules as most important, despite them being passed with cross-party support by Parliament.

Specifically regarding one of Mrs May’s rules which was designed to mean that having a child in Britain would not strengthen a criminal’s case against being deported, the judge said: “Little weight should be attached to this rule when consideration is being given to the assessment of proportionality under Article Eight.”

Instead, he said the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and part of an immigration Act passed by Labour in 2009 took precedence.

Dominic Raab, the Tory MP who has campaigned for tougher rules, said: “This chronic judicial legislation has undermined public protection and usurped the democratic will of Parliament.

“We now have around 200 Article Eight cases a year, so it is vital and urgent that Parliament amends the law to mandate deportation and brush aside these spurious challenges to the rule of law.”

Ogundimu, 28, arrived in the UK 22 years ago. Tracked down by The Telegraph at his girlfriend’s flat in Chislehurst, south-east London, he said that he was pleased at the decision made by the Immigration and Asylum Upper Tribunal.

“It’s totally wrong to send people back like that because their family lives are here,” he said. “If people are a danger to the public and doing serious offences then send them back, but with me, yeah, I’ve got a criminal record but did not do anything serious.”

He came to Britain aged six in 1991 with his family. Ogundimu first appeared in front of the juvenile courts aged 14 for obtaining property by deception.

He has 30 offences on his criminal record, including an eight-month prison term for possession of cannabis with intent to supply, in 2008.

In 2010, the Home Secretary decided that Ogundimu should be sent to Nigeria to protect the public. Ogundimu fathered a son with a British woman in 2004 and the court heard that he looks after the boy occasionally.

It also heard that Ogundimu is now in a relationship with the mother’s cousin, who is expecting his baby, which was conceived after deportation proceedings began.

The Home Office argued that Ogundimu was not in a “genuine and subsisting relationship” with his son or his girlfriend and that his removal would not breach Article Eight.

He was arrested for possession of cannabis in October 2012, for which he received a caution, but now claims he is trying to lead a blameless life.

Ogundimu moved back in with the mother of his child in June 2010 after being in prison. The judge said that he admitted doing so to convince immigration authorities that he had a genuine family life. He left her for his new girlfriend a year later.

After hearing evidence from Ogundimu’s current partner, the court decided that they were in a genuine relationship and the criminal was also playing a beneficial role in the upbringing of a nine-year-old step-daughter.

Mr Justice Blake’s ruling also indicated that the new rules on applying Article Eight should not be imposed retrospectively, even though Mrs May set out that they should.

The immigration rules say a criminal should not be deported if he or she has a British child and “there is no other family member who is able to care for the child in the UK”.

The judge undermined this by saying: “We doubt whether it is in any child’s best interests to lose the contact and support with a caring and devoted parent simply because someone else can be found to care for them.”

A Home Office spokesman said: “The Government has made clear its intention to bring forward primary legislation to prevent foreign nationals remaining in the UK through abuse of the Human Rights Act.”


Friday, February 22, 2013

Ekiti N5, 000 Monthly Stipend To Indigent Elders: Measuring The Impacts

Since its inception on October 25, 2011, the Ekiti State government Social Security Scheme for the elderly has been under serious scrutiny by various stakeholders in the state, who were in doubt of the government’s ability to execute it. MUYIWA ADEYEMI, Head South West Bureau, who has been monitoring the implementation of the scheme writes in this report that the government has not only been faithful with the implementation of the scheme but that it has also positively impacted on the economy of the rural communities.

THE joy of the elderly people that gathered at the All Saints Society Hall in Ilawe Ekiti last week Wednesday was palpable. They smiled to receive government officials that came to monitor their welfare and health. Some were seen in groups exchanging banters and discussing how Ekiti State government had in the last one and half years turned their lives around for better even when they had become weak to contribute to the economic development of the state. From a distance, another set of aged women led a song to acknowledge the gesture of Governor Kayode Fayemi, which they all chorused and there was a deft silence as the officials started to call their names.

These aged people are the beneficiaries of the Social Security Scheme of the state government. They congregate at the hall every month to receive their monthly stipend of N5, 000. From the appearances of the over 3, 000 beneficiaries monitored in Ilawe, Aramoko and Ido Osi, they are truly indigent aged people who see the stipend as a lifeline saving them from hunger and abject poverty.

Pa Rufus Idowu, 87, is from Oke-Omo, Idofin quarters in Ilawe Ekiti. He said he had stopped going to farm about 20 years ago because of ill health and old age and depended on his son, Damilare, who was the breadwinner of the family for survival. But Damilare died in 2006 in a ghastly motor accident along Lokoja-Abuja road and since then he had to rely on friends and relations to survive and at times support from them would not come.

He said: “Since the death of Damilare, I had lost hope of living any meaningful life. In fact I had been praying to God to take my life; you know it is an abomination to commit suicide here. When one of my friends came and invited me to register for this scheme, I was reluctant because I don’t trust politicians, but he insisted that I should give it a trial. I went for the enumeration and when I told officials the story of my life, the youth corps members that conducted the exercise gave me N2, 000 from their purse. And since then I have been collecting N5, 000 every month without working for government.”

Asked if the stipend is enough to feed him for a month, Pa Idowu, who lost his wife about nine years ago said, “in this rural community, it is sufficient to feed me. Most times I still save up to N400 per month because I don’t drink alcohol. But my fear is how long the government will pay us this money because we don’t render any service to them. But the only thing we can do is to continue to pray for Governor Fayemi and the people paying us.”
For 80-year-old Mr. Obafemi Awoluyi of Okemedo Ikere road, the scheme has been the best thing to happen to him in his old age. He said he was fortunate to be among the first set of beneficiaries and since then he and his wife have been able to feed well without having to wait for their children or relatives. With gratitude to the government, Pa Awoluyi said he would have wished the scheme were extended to his wife.

He said: “This is a big money for a peasant farmer like me. Even when I was still strong to go to farm, I knew the quantity of yam I sold to make N5, 000. But now, I don’t have to work before I get money to feed. But I would have been happier if my wife is benefitting from the scheme.”

Speaking on why his wife was exempted from the scheme, he said she just clocked 64 in January this year and the scheme is for 65 years and above but pleaded with government not to hesitate to replace his name with that of his wife whenever he died.

“Please help me plead with the government to transfer my stipend to my wife because I am old and may die anytime. I am making this plea because I know two people that have died but the stipend was not transferred to their wives or children,” he pleaded.

Radiant looking 75-year-old Juliana Awelewa from Aye quarters in Ilawe-Ekiti is an exceptional woman with business acumen. She said immediately she started to collect the money, she decided to go into selling of GSM recharge cards and have been making profit of between N3, 000 and N3, 500 per month.

According to her, “I was a farmer cultivating yam and cocoyam but because of age I had to stop farming. But when I started collecting this stipend, I thought of what I could do with it and I went for recharge card. In the beginning the profit margin was insignificant but now I make up to N3, 500 profit. So, I am having up to N8, 500 which is sufficient to feed me and my grandchild staying with me.”

She continued: “Since the death of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, we never thought we could have a government that would cater for the poor but Governor Fayemi is a God sent politician to banish poverty and put smiles in the faces of the old people. This is the first time we are feeling the impact of government and this gesture is coming without asking for any obligation from us. But we shall continue to pray for him because once he remains our governor our survival is guaranteed.”

To Pa Oluwatoba Agbasola, the stipend is not only sufficient for his feeding, he also has enough to buy hot drink to keep his body warm. “After eating in the morning whenever it is raining or the weather is too cold, I will buy a sachet of Chelsea hot drink that keeps me warm. I drank local gin (ogogoro) before but Fayemi has changed that with our monthly allowance,” the 78-year-old man said.

Not less than 20,000 indigent elderly people have been benefitting from the Social Security Scheme of the state government since it formally took off in Ise-Ekiti, the headquarters of Ise/Orun Local Government Area on October 25, 2011, where Fayemi distributed cheques to beneficiaries. The scheme is being supervised by the State Ministry of Labour, Productivity and Human Capital Development which was created by the governor to generate more jobs for the unemployed and improve the living standards of the less privileged.
To make the enumeration and screening exercise a success, the Ministry held consultations with the local government caretaker committee chairmen, traditional rulers and ward development officers in the 16 Local Council Areas. A workshop was also held for 400 members of the Ekiti State Youth Volunteer Corps who served as enumerators for the exercise.

The Permanent Secretary, Ekiti State Ministry of Labour, Productivity and Human Capital Development, Mrs. Funmi Ajayi, told The Guardian last week while monitoring the payment of the stipend that about 500 out of 20,000 beneficiaries have died in the last one and half years and disclosed that the Ministry is already working on how to replace them.

She said that the programme was very dear to the governor who most times ensured that the stipend was paid even before civil servants collected their salary. She added that the Ministry at inception of the programme devised a method to ensure that they take the cash to the doorstep of the beneficiaries through what she called Community Cash Programme (CCP). Ajayi said the process to select the beneficiaries was thorough because it was meant for the indigent elderly people that are not receiving pension or having children that will cater for them.

Besides the stipend, the aged people in Ekiti State also enjoy free medical care in all government hospitals. These gestures, no doubt, have increased the life span of elderly people in the state.

A community leader in Ido who spoke to The Guardian on the effect of the scheme said government has been able to record success on the programme because it does not have political colouration. He said there was even a protest from the members of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) that more members of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) benefitted than ACN members in the programme.

According to him, “the effect of this programme goes beyond feeding the aged; it has impacted positively on the macro economy of our community. As at last count, not less than 200 aged people from this small community are benefitting from it, meaning that about N1 million is coming here every month because they spend the money to buy food and occasionally GSM recharge cards. We noticed that food items sell more and farmers are happy because people have cash in their pockets to buy their produce.”

A government source disclosed to The Guardian that about five states had sent their officials to Ekiti State to under study how the government has been implementing the welfare scheme said to be first of its kind in sub Saharan Africa despite the lean purse of the state.

Speaking on why government is spending so much on the aged people, Fayemi had noted that, “it is painful to note that across the length and breadth of Africa, poverty visibly walks on the street with impunity. Of the many identifiable strands of poverty that is confronting the developing world is the one associated with old age when one’s strength and vitality is lost and the bones are irredeemably weakened. Not too long ago, those who fall in this vulnerable category, the aged, were taken care of by a social system that is effective in making life more enjoyable though with little to share. Today, civilisation has eroded the system; it is now everyone to himself and God for us all. In the process, people lived the latter part of their lives in abject poverty with attendant diseases, emotional breakdown and frustrating social disaffections.

“Even if it is impossible to re-enact, in absolute terms, the good old days of fending for our elderly through our extended family system, it is the determination of this government to reduce old age poverty significantly. This is the essence of this scheme designed to provide for our people in their old age in various communities in the state.”


Thursday, February 21, 2013

Kim Kardashian Played A Fast One On Us

All roads led to the Eko Hotel and Suites last Sunday for Dare Art-Alade’s show tagged ‘Love Like a Movie’. To be candid, I am not really a fan of Dare’s music but I just had to be there to see a much-hyped show! It was just the hype that made me journey to the venue. I just wanted to see what would make the show different from what has been the norm.
As with most Nigerian shows, ‘Love Like a Movie’ did not start on time. The red carpet did not end until past eight while the main show did not begin until a quarter to nine. I am sure that most people who attended the show were there just to see and maybe hear Kim. They all waited anxiously as the event unfolded.
Eventually, Kim showed up. It was indeed love like a movie when Kim Kardashian came on stage, spoke for a few seconds and disappeared behind the stage. That was the first and last we saw of her. Nothing was heard from Kim till the one-hour show ended. It was sad.
As expected, the topic trended on Twitter. In fact, I got different messages on my BB about people’s angst with such a brief appearance from Kim. Jeremy Weate wrote in an online article titled ‘Kim Kardashian does Lagos’ on thus: “And then Ms Kardashian appeared, said, ‘Hey Naija’ and vamoosed. The rumour was that she’d been paid 500,000 Benjamins for the honour of mixing with the petro-class. She arrived on Saturday evening (on Air France), and left within 24 hours (someone Instagrammed her back at MMIA). Prole class tickets were apparently N100,000 ($640), although quite a few got in gratis on the guest list.
“The Lagos elite blows money at puffery, while most of Nigeria suffers. It’s the same as it ever was. I recall Carlos Moore railing against the Gowon era on his trip to Nigeria a couple of years ago – how Lagosians were partying while bodies were lying unburied in the street. Gowon was famous at the time for saying that the problem in Nigeria was not money, but how to spend it.
Reflecting a little on the unfolding disappointment in Lagos, I couldn’t help but think that the narrow slice of KK the audience was granted reflects a cargo cult/import economy/colo-mentality that dresses its shame in dandified arrogance. Last year, Hugh Masekela played at the Motor Boat club. I was lucky to be there (I think I paid N15,000 for the privilege). People chatted noisily throughout. The great jazzman could hardly hide his disgust.”
For me, I think the fault is not Kim’s but that of the show organisers who perhaps did not brief her properly on what they expected her to do, although the radio jingles that preceded the show told us she would co-host the show with Dare.
Maybe we have to define what hosting means at this juncture. Dare was the host because he conceived the idea, planned it with his team and he lives in Nigeria. Kim was invited by Dare, that means Dare was her host, right?
So if Dare was her host, do we then say she also hosted Dare? It would have been right to say she co-hosted the show with Dare if they had both appeared on stage to talk to the audience or sang together or even acted a scene of the ‘Love Like a Movie’. But that was not the case. Kim just came on stage to introduce the show in a sentence and left. Dare was not on stage with her.
Well, we need to cry over spilt milk because Kim used American sense for us. She outsmarted us all. Like Weate concluded in the article: “As the disgruntled tweets flowed out on my timeline, I thought of Special K, comfy in her jimjams, the plane rising gradually above the Atlantic, safe from all Lagos harm, smiling to herself that she’d actually 419’d the 419ers. And I went to bed with one final thought: oil turns all who touch it completely insane.”
-------Funke Osae-Brown, Business Day, Friday, February 22, 2013

As The Presidency Eludes Nd'Igbo

Between 2011 and now, thousands of articles have been published by Igbo writers, journalists, thinkers and their counterparts alike on the never ending simmering issue coupled with the facts and logic about the need for an Igbo presidency. I, too, have been part of the pieces over the years, and I have been weary of pointing out that the Igbo presidency should not be a life and death situation and, should not be the only option for Igbo to start building bridges. Though some made valid points while most in that instance threaded on a must Igbo presidency as a national right by way of waiting. The following article by Emeka Mamah for the Vanguard about 12 years ago and when the Fourth Republic had just begun should remind us something must have been amiss in that quest; and from my point of view, we have not gotten close ever since. Question is: what's the problem and how come?

Ohanaeze Seeks New Party For Igbo Presidency

By Emeka Mamah, Sunday Vanguard, July 01, 2001

Igbo people last week intensified their bid to actualise their dream of
producing the nation’s president in 2003 as the Elders Council of Ohanaeze
(Mkpuke) approved the formation of a broad based political party with strong
Igbo backing to facilitate the ambition.

Sunday Vanguard sources disclosed that Igboezue Cultural Association (ICA), a
member-group of Ohanaeze, sponsored the motion for the formation of the new
party at the meeting of the elders council in Enugu last Sunday night.

In moving the motion, the National Leader of Igboezue Chief Chekwas Okorie was
said to have informed Ohanaeze that the formation of a political party with Igbo
initiative was easiest way for Ndigbo to realise their ambition of contesting
the presidency by the year 2003.

"The only way Ndigbo can contest the presidential election in 2003 is for them
to float a national political party with Igbo initiative" Chief Okorie was said
to have insisted.

Earlier in a letter to the chairman of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Justice Ezebuilo Ozobu,
Chief Okorie was said to have urged the organisation which is the umbrella
association of accede to the request for Ndigbo to form the party because it was
the only option left for the Igbo to contest the forth coming presidential

The letter which was entitled "Re: the formation of a national political party
with Igbo initiative" and dated June 22, 2001 partly read:

"The leadership of Igbozue Cultural Association, brainstormed for several weeks,
and arrived at the conclusion that the only way Ndigbo can contest the
presidential election 2003 is for them to float a National Political Party with
Igbo initiative. We articulated in reasonable detail why we considered the
formation of such a party as the only option in our memorandum of 23rd May,
2001. We concluded the memorandum by urging Ohanaeze to seize the initiative and
provide the leadership necessary for the realisation of the presidency
objective. We stressed that time was of essence. We are worried that uptill this
date, Ohanaeze has not responded to our memo one way or the other."

We are now under the pressure of time, since signals emanating from INEC
headquarters at Abuja indicate that application for the registration of new
political parties shall commence from first week of September 2001, and the
registration of voters for all the elections leading to the 2003 presidential
election shall take place in the month of October, 2001.

It is with the highest sense of history and patriotism that we request Ohanaeze
to give Igboezue its esteemed blessing and support to proceed with our programme
of providing a political platform that shall ultimately present an Igbo
presidential candidate to the Nigerian electorate if for any reason the umbrella
pan Igbo socio-cultural organisation does not want to be directly involved in
the exercise. We sincerely expect that the leadership of Ohanaeze Ndigbo shall
not have any difficulty in acceding to this modest and minimum request.

We venture to state, that it will be a tragedy of monumental moral and
psychological devastation, if the popularly acclaimed decision of Ndigbo under
the auspices of Ohanaeze to "contest the presidency of Nigeria in the next
dispensation" turns out to be a mere political gimmick and posturing, as is
being speculated by other Nigerians who continue to take Ndigbo for granted.

It was said that the meeting which was presided over by the chairman of Ohanaeze
Ndigbo, Justice Ozobu approved the proposal to float the new party.

The association was also said to have set-up a committee to work out the
modality for forming the new party and present the report at the next meeting of
the elders council for onward presentation to the general assembly of Ohanaeze.