Syndicated News from Niger
Thu, 23 May 2013 08:54:15 GMT
Tue, 21 May 2013 20:22:51 GMT
Tue, 21 May 2013 19:44:12 GMT
Wed, 22 May 2013 13:40:01 GMT
Containing cholera in NigerIRINnews.orgThe Ministry of Health is trying to temporarily shut down the market, which is just next to the River Niger, the suspected source of the contamination. The Health Ministry has also banned anyone from using, or drinking, water from the river, though ...and more »
Wed, 22 May 2013 20:35:18 GMT
Cholera in Niger, measles in CAR threaten childrenCatholic OnlineThe United Nations is keen on stemming the tide of an outbreak of diseases in two African nations. With the sudden introduction of measles in Niger and the measles in the Central African Republic, officials hope to spring into action before an epidemic ...and more »
Tue, 21 May 2013 15:12:20 GMT
Thu, 23 May 2013 09:27:51 GMT
Thu, 23 May 2013 08:14:55 GMT
Two suicide bombers strike in northern Niger towns: sourcesHindustan TimesTwo suicide bombers struck on Thursday at a military barracks and a plant run by French nuclear group Areva in northern Niger, according to military and company sources. The bombers killed themselves and wounded at least four people in the attacks in ...
Thu, 23 May 2013 05:06:20 GMT
Tue, 21 May 2013 19:34:44 GMT
Crisis rocks ANPP in Niger as two factions emergeThe Guardian NigeriaA MAJOR crisis may be rocking the Niger State chapter of the All Nigeria People's Party (ANPP) as two factions of the party have emerged with each claiming to be in a merger talk with the newly formed All Progressives Congress (APC). One of the ...
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Results 1 - 10 of Headlines for Niger
Saturday, February 8th, 2003
: RCN Administrator
Obasanjo may broker truce in Zimbabwean crisis, visits South Africa
From Ndaeyo Uko, Cains, Australia
PRESIDENT Olusegun Obasanjo’s motorcade will take a shorter than usual time to reach the city of Harare, Zimbabwe, where he is expected to hold a series of conciliatory meetings this weekend.
The President is billed to begin a two-day visit to South Africa today, make a stop over in Harare tomorrow and return home on Sunday. He will be accompanied by his wife, Stella, the Foreign Affairs Minister Sule Lamido and his Integration and Co-operation in Africa counterpart, Abimbola Ogunkelu.
Seventy-five per cent of the cars in Zimbabwe have been pushed out of the streets by a crippling fuel shortage.
Although an attempt to reconcile Mugabe to the leader of the main opposition party, Morgan Tsvangarai, is on top of the Obasanjo’s agenda, there are strong indications that the President may put in a word for the beleaguered white farmers trying to edge their way back into
An impeccable diplomatic source confided to The Guardian that some key representatives of the white farmers had been pleading with the Nigerian envoy in Zimbabwe, Wilberforce Juta, to use Nigeria’s influence to beseech Mugabe to modify his land reforms in their favour.
"The feeling I had was that they were trying to reconcile with Mugabe and they wanted Nigeria to help talk to President Mugabe," the source said.
"They will mainly discuss the land question, and I think the political situation in the country will also come up in their discussions," a Zimbabwean Foreign Ministry official, said.
Lamido, who met Mugabe in Harare in January, had also said that Obasanjo would discuss the white farmlands issue.
However, although Lamido, quoted in the Zimbabwe Herald, suggested that Nigeria would take sides with the black government in Harare against the Western anti-Mugabe position, The Guardian learnt that Obasanjo’s role would be a conciliatory one that would involve the white farmers.
According to The Herald, Lamido warned Australia not to be used by Britain and its allies to isolate Zimbabwe in the March Commonwealth Troika meeting. He said the black leaders would look out for their own, just like the white rulers did. He even told reporters that the land reform would remain the way it was - with the Zimbabwean government sticking to its guns.
"If they put their kith and kin ahead, we will put our kith and kin (too)," the paper quoted the Foreign Minister as saying last month.
"The land reform programme is now over," he said, adding: "It’s a case of Zimbabwe’s prosperity, peace and stability."
As a key member of the Commonwealth troika on Zimbabwe, Obasanjo is considered a key and influential figure in the Zimbabwean impasse, widely considered as an African affair. The Harare visit will prepare him for the troika’s next meeting in March to discuss the readmission or expulsion of Zimbabwe.
It is significant that African countries, namely Nigeria, South Africa, Namibia and a couple of other states - Russia and China - endorsed the conduct of last year’s presidential elections that has become the sore point in Zimbabwe’s relations with the West as a fair reflection of the will of Zimbabweans.
Western countries, notably the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia and a number of European Union countries, dismissed the polls as deeply flawed.
Western nations have imposed a travel ban and other "smart sanctions" on the Mugabe regime. "Zimbabwe will be under international spotlight in the coming months as leaders from the two camps in the 54-member body will be shuttling to lobby for or against the full suspension of the southern African country from the Club", The Herald reported.
Obasanjo’s intercession with Mugabe may bring unexpected redemption for battle-weary white farmers disappointed in the inability of the West and the Zimbabwean opposition to come to their aid. While some white farmers have fled to Australia to pursue their businesses, last year’s drought and increasingly tight immigration controls have made emigration unattractive and conciliation a better option.
If President Obasanjo succeeds in brokering peace between the Zimbabwean government and the white farmers, Western countries would be left with no option than to reconsider their sanctions against Zimbabwe.
The source said the main reason of Obasanjo’s visit would however, be to "urge for co-operation and communication between the two main political parties."
One of the key elements of the animosity between Mugabe and Zimbabwe’s opposition leader, Tsvangirai, was the case of an alleged plot to assassinate and overthrow Mugabe.
Tsvangirai, of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), and his two opposition colleagues, this week entered a plea of not guilty on the first day of the treason trial.
Although the political crisis has left a dent on Zimbabwean life and economy, another Nigerian official who visited the country recently found the country "not as bad as the Western media made it look.
Nigeria’s High Commissioner to Australia, Dr Roufai Soule, said he found very few foreigners in Harare. British Airways seemed to be the only Western airline flying into the country. "The country’s GDP has fallen by 66 per cent," Soule, who is also an economist, said.
Although Roufai would not discuss his mission in Harare, a source close to his office hinted that he was there "in an informal capacity" to exchange notes with the Nigerian High Commissioner there on how to handle the Zimbabwe issue at their respective posts.
White Zimbabweans in Australia had also contacted the Nigerian High Commission asking the mission to make a representation to the Nigerian government for the restoration of their farmland.
Even after independence from white rule, 4,500 white farmers clung to about 70 per cent of Zimbabwe’s best arable land, leaving the overwhelmingly black population with the remaining unproductive lands.
Obasanjo’s planned visit to South Africa on May 6, last year, was called off following the Kano air crash which claimed many lives.
Tuesday, February 4th, 2003
: RCN Administrator
Obasanjo consoles Bush over shuttle tragedy
PRESIDENT Olusegun Obasanjo has commiserated with the government and people of the United State of America on the Columbia shuttle tragedy in which seven astronauts died.
In a message of condolence to President George Bush on behalf of the people and government of Nigeria, Obasanjo expressed feeling of loss and sadness at the tragedy.
The letter read in part: "The five men and two women astronauts represent, not just for America but for the entire world, the unrelenting efforts to serve mankind through the conquest of visible and invisible frontiers.
"They gave, so the world can continue to gain."
Obasanjo asked President Bush to convey to the families of the astronauts the deep sorrow felt by Nigerians at the tragedy "which will be unravelled, and which will not stop the progress of the American space programme."
He assured Bush that Nigerians were one with Americans "at this hour" and prayed that "the Good Lord will console you and the families of the departed astronauts".
Monday, February 3rd, 2003
: RCN Administrator
Explosion rocks Lagos
10 buildings collapse
21 feared dead, 60 injured
Obasanjo, Tinubu, others visit scene
By Ben Ukwuoma, Idowu Ajanaku, Tunji Oketunbi, Yinka Aderibigbe, Chukwuma Muanya, Wole Shadare and Alex Olise
TRAGEDY struck again in Lagos yesterday with a mysterious explosion rocking the densely populated Idumagbo area of the city and vibrating through Victoria Island and Ikoyi. Instantly the explosion claimed at least 20 lives and left about 4 houses in ruins.
What started as a bright, tranquil Sunday suddenly turned chaotic and bloody. A reign of tears then ensued as the dead and the broken were being brought out of the ruins.
Several people were still trapped as at last night, while about 60 were being treated for various degrees of injuries. Some of the injured victims have been referred to the Orthopaedic Hospital, Igbobi in the state.
President Olusegun Obasanjo flew in to the state yesterday evening to personally assess the extent of the tragedy while the governor, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, called for calm.
The explosion came barely a week after the first anniversary of the January 27, 2002 bomb explosions in the state, in which about 1,000 people were reported dead.
It was not clear as at last night if yesterday’s explosion was caused by a bomb or domestic gas, as variously claimed by the residents.
The effect was devastating. A four-storey twin-building on Numbers 12 and 28, Idumagbo Avenue, was reduced to rubble and an extensive damage was recorded in neighbouring area, including Ikoyi and Victoria Island which were badly shaken.
The explosion is believed to have occurred at the ground floor of 12, Idumagbo Avenue, which housed Prudent Bank Plc. Six other buildings in the areas, which similarly housed banks including Oceanic Bank Plc, NBM Bank Plc and First Atlantic Bank Plc, were equally shattered.
Also badly affected were about six other four-storey buildings on Pedro Street, directly behind Idumagbo Avenue.
A team from the police bomb disposal unit was at the scene yesterday to identify the cause of the explosion.
Thick smoke billowed while the louvres of many houses around the area were shattered.
The death toll from the incident is expected to rise as many people were still trapped in the rubble.
Roads leading to the street were sealed off by the police to prevent looting by urchins, commonly called Area boys.
Thousands of people ran helter-skelter amid fears that more buildings in the neighbourhood might give way as a result of the explosion.
The scene was like a war front. Residents, apparently not satisfied with the response of the state, threw stones at the detachment of the police that came for the rescue mission at about 2.p.m.
Men of the Federal Fire Service, the Nigerian Red Cross and other agencies, were on hand to lend helping hands.
Wailings were the order of the day as tears flowed freely at the sight of blood.
One of the residents, Mr. Lukman Tijani, told The Guardian that the explosion happened at about 11.15 a.m.
He said: "I was inside the house washing my clothes when suddenly, I heard a noise, like a bomb. By the time I came out, smoke had taken over the area. I only managed to come out and join the people rescuing the victims".
One of the early callers at the scene was the state’s Health Commissioner, Dr. Leke Pitan. He expressed shock at the impact of the explosion and declared the area a "disaster zone" and appealed to residents to vacate their homes, because of the likelihood that such buildings might give way as a result of the impact of the explosion on them.
Like the January 27, 2002 explosion, many women ran barefooted, crying and shouting the names of their children who apparently might have gotten missing in the confusion that followed the explosion.
Dr. Pitan said that the incident was unfortunate coming only a few days after the first anniversary of the Ikeja bomb explosion in Lagos.
His words: "The impact of the explosion has caused pain and anguish for the people."
Other government officials who visited the scene included Mr. Dele Alake, Commissioner for Information, Mrs. Kemi Nelson for Women Affairs and Mr. Kayode Anibaba, the Planning Commissioner. The state government immediately set up temporary accommodation for the displaced persons on Glover Street, by the City Hall.
Also at the scene were Mr. Funso Williams, Lagos State People’s Democratic Party (PDP) governorship candidate and the state chairman of the party, Alhaji Murtala Ashorobi.
Mr. Emmanuel Ijewere, the president of the Red Cross who supervised the rescue mission said he could not give the number of those who died in the incident.
Besides, Ijewere said the situation called for caution.
"I don’t want to blame anybody or group. The first thing now is to save the lives of those trapped", he said.
Hoodlums, and idle hands engaged the police in a struggle to gain entrance to the affected banks. Although they were eventually contained, the distraction delayed efforts to put off the surging flame.
The Lagos State Accident Emergency Services, Red Cross, Lagos State Transport Control Agency, fire services were also at the scene in an attempt to rescue victims.
At the General Hospital, Lagos Mortuary, it was learnt that 16 dead bodies had been deposited by the Lagos State Accident Emergency Ambulance Service.
The situation was not different at the out-patient department, where doctors, nurses and other auxiliary workers were battling to treat patients with injuries which ranged from lacerations, burns, head injuries to bone dislocations.
President Obasanjo rushed to the city, to personally assess the damage.
The President, who arrived at the Murtala Muhammed Presidential lounge at about 5.30 p.m., wore a gloomy look and was accompanied by the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Tafa Balogun. He declined comments from journalists.
But Balogun pledged to unravel the cause of the explosion.
He expressed sympathy to the bereaved families, saying: "What happened was very, very unfortunate and we sympathise with their families."
President Obasanjo who was dressed in a grey caftan, supported himself with a walking stick, following the injury he sustained last week after a game of squash, hurriedly entered his waiting black Mercedes Benz official car and departed for the scene of the incident.
He had arrived aboard a Falcon Presidential aircraft, marked 5N - F90. He was due to return to Abuja yesterday.
Some of the witnesses who spoke to The Guardian at the scene of the explosion said the house, Number 12 Idumagbo Street, where the explosion occurred was the family house of the former deputy Governor of Lagos State, Alhaja Sinatu Aderoju Ojikutu.
A witness said: "The incident happened at about 11.15 am when we heard the sound of an explosion. We believed it was a bomb that was planted there, and before we knew it, the whole building collapsed on people and the adjourning buildings also followed suit."
On the conviction that it was a bomb that was planted, one said: "It is only a bomb that could explode the way it did, bringing down almost four buildings."
Another story had it that it was as a result of gas explosion that was ignited by unknown persons.
There was an increasing fear from residents that more buildings might be affected because of the closeness of buildings to each other in the neighbourhood.
It was a pitiable sight as people wailed uncontrollably, when more bodies were retrieved from the debris and charred remains of people were quickly taken in an ambulance to the mortuary.
As at 4.20 p.m., men of the Federal and State fire services were battling to put off the fire from spreading to other buildings and to rescue trapped persons.
Also, the presence of the police and men of the fire service prevented looting and brought fire from the explosion under control as street urchins, popularly called area boys almost took advantage of the chaotic situation to loot.
The Lagos State government, touched by the loss of lives, has declared a state of emergency in the affected area to ensure that nobody is affected in case of further explosions.
It equally directed that massive fire extinguishing equipment be brought to fight the raging inferno.
An occupant of the one of the affected buildings, who simply gave his name as Tajudeen, amid wailing, gave an account of how he survived the blast.
His words: "I was about entering the building (12 Idumagbo) when I heard a big bang blowing up to the third floor of the building. Suddenly, I saw the house crumbling like a pack of cards. I ran like I had never done before. Not quite long, three other buildings also came down."
Lagos State Governor, Bola Ahmed Tinubu whose entire cabinet was mobilised to the site, expressed shock at the incident.
In a four-paragraph statement, personally signed by him, the Governor expressed concern over the incident.
The Permanent Secretary, Lagos General Hospital, Dr. Olayide Ogunsulire, told The Guardian that dead bodies had been deposited at the mortuary, while 50 others were on admission in the hospital. About 40 others had been treated and discharged. Most of the victims suffered head injuries.
She also revealed that one of the casualties, a lady, who suffered spinal cord injuries, had been referred to Igbobi Orthopaedic Centre. Some others were moved to the Ikeja General Hospital, which served as a back-up.
The wife of the governor, Mrs. Oluremi Tinubu, on a visit to the Lagos Island General Hospital, donated N50,000 to facilitate the medical treatment of the lady who suffered spinal injuries. She promised to give similar relief to other victims.
Ogunsulire gave assurance of proper treatment for the victims, adding: "We have enough medical personnel on ground and so far, we have been able to contain the emergency."
But the cause of the explosion was yet to be ascertained as at yesterday evening. The state’s Information Commissioner, Mr. Dele Alake, who spoke to journalists at the scene, said: "We are still trying to verify the real cause of the explosion. For now, it is certain it was a blast or explosion. But what I cannot tell you now is whether it was a bomb blast."
President Obasanjo and Governor Tinubu, who were also at the scene, gave assurance that a panel would be raised this morning to unravel the cause of the explosion.
The President also condoled with the bereaved families, while assuring that efforts would be made to rescue those still trapped.
The state’s Police Commissioner, Mr Young Arebamen, has ordered anti-riot mobile policemen and men of the State Criminal Investigation Department (SCID) Panti, Yaba, to ensure adequate security around the commercial centres, especially banks, to forestall looting by hoodlums.
He urged Lagos residents to be calm as rescue operators continued their work at the blast site.
Various people besieged the Lagos Island General Hospital, apparently to check whether their relations were involved.
The Guardian saw at the hospital, eight dead bodies from the blast site that were deposited. The cause of death was mainly head and limb injuries.
As at the 8p.m, about 12 critically injured persons were still being brought into the hospital from the site.
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Thursday, January 30th, 2003
: RCN Administrator
Air France names Lagos as hub
By Wole Shadare
AIR France has concluded plans to make Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos its own hub centre in the whole of Africa.
If this materialises Lagos airport will serve as a centre of activity for the connection of flights to African and European countries by Air France.
Besides agreement has also been reached between Air France and another leading domestic airline Bellview to connect passengers to their different destinations within the West Coast and within Nigeria.
Etienne Meyer, station manager Air France (Nigeria) while briefing reporters at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos said that the principle of the hub was to develop a two-way connections, that is, international and domestic destinations.
The second aspect according to him was from the domestic routes to be connected to the international. He said the hub would also offer maximum connecting opportunity for passengers.
Meyer also revealed that Air France had entered into agreement with one of the major domestic airlines Bellview since it operated into the West Coast. He added that Bellview would in turn connect Nigeria passengers to their different destinations in Nigeria from Lagos airport.
His words: "The idea of the hub is to offer maximum connecting opportunity for passengers."
The other aspect of the hub, he added, was the easiness in connecting, arguing that "when you check in through the departure, you check all the way through. You don’t have to worry about getting your boarding pass and the carrying of luggage.
The station manager revealed that in the Charles de Gaule Airport in Paris, air France had over 570 opportunity of connections per day which according to him was good for airline "so we started using the idea of what happens in Paris and to use it for Lagos as I am sharing this with Mr Hakeem Noibi (Airport Manager, Murtala Muhammed Airport.)
To him, he decided to use the same recipe and to see if Air France could attract people to come to Lagos to connect and in order to do so "we need a test and Air France has signed first agreement with Bellview airline and the idea is to say let us put it to practice on a test scale, let us say 6-10 passengers per day," said Meyer.
The idea he reiterated was to really make it work, adding that if it worked well, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and other authorities concerned could well develop it so that if it worked out well other airlines might also invest in it.
"For example, today (Thursday) we had five passengers connected, instead of the tarmac, we are putting a shuttle to take care of all the hassles associated with travelling.
Wednesday, January 29th, 2003
: RCN Administrator
Nigeria’s first satellite to be launched in Russia
Xinhuanet 2003-01-29 01:52:35
LAGOS, Jan. 29 (Xinhuanet) -- The launching of Nigeria’s first satellite scheduled for July is to take place in Russia, a high-ranking official announced Wednesday in the capital Abuja.
Robert Borofface, director-general of the National Space Research and Development Agency (NSRDA) of Nigeria,made the remarks in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria, saying that the 15 Nigerian engineers being trained abroad on satellite technology would return home as from the end of February.
Borofface said the Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. would assist as the technical partner in launching the satellite.
Reacting to fears being expressed in some circles over the ability of Nigerian engineers to launch and maintain the satellite,Borofface said,"we have the technical know-how to do it."
"This is the reason why we sent the 15 engineers abroad to train and specialize in this technology, and I want to tell you that we are going to be assisted by the Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. in launching this first one because that was the agreement," he said.
"After this first launching, Nigeria will not need any assistance in launching subsequent ones," he stressed.
"Nigerians are intelligent and we can excel in so many fields as long as the enabling environment and facilities are provided," he added.
The Nigerian federal government had in July 2001 formally adopted a national space policy with the objective of launching its own satellite and space research programs.
The NSRDA in early 2002 said the country would launch its first satellite in June 2003. Enditem
Tuesday, January 21st, 2003
: RCN Administrator
Buhari: A Fundamentalist’s frightening bid
By Vincent Obia and Eze Ekuma-Ibe,
Daily Independent, Lagos
The January 7 presidential primaries of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) was nearly marred by the walkout by five aspirants protesting that the outcome had been fixed by party leaders from a section of the country. General Muhammadu Buhari was elected in the midst of this controversy, and now has the ANPP ticket for the April 19 polls. He polled 4,328 votes of the total votes cast by the 6,000 delegates who took part in the ANPP primaries, ahead of Yaya Abubakar who was the only one of Buhari’s 12 rivals who did not step down before the poll.
The five protesting aspirants – Rochas Okorocha, Harry Akande, Pere Ajuwa, Edwin Ume-Ezeoke, and John Nwodo – had accused the party leadership of manipulating the process.
But Buhari peremptorily dismissed the allegation. He said the aggrieved aspirants have themselves to blame for their inability to agree with the ANPP leadership to streamline the aspirants to an “appropriate” number. In an interview with British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), the general who was military head of state between January 1, 1984 and August 27, 1985, said: “Those five who staged a walk out refused to (withdraw), and they incidentally come from the same part of the country. Instead of blaming themselves for not reaching a conclusion among themselves, they turned round to blame others who made the sacrifice and withdrew from the race”.
The consensus, the aspirants refused to reach, apparently, was how to clear the stage for a northern candidate who would oppose President Olusegun Obasanjo in the April 19 election. Northern emirs, and elders have been accused of being the brain behind what has been called the “imposition” of Buhari. Alhaji Saidu Mohammed Dansadau, the ANPP Senate leader seemed to lend credence to this allegation when he said in press statements, “I had the ambition of becoming the national chairman of the party. But the emirs asked me to step down because they wanted the presidential candidate to come from the North, and the chairmanship should go to the South. I had conceded the chairmanship so that we give it to the South.” Umaru Shinkafi, Lema Jibrillu, Yusuf Ali, and Dauda Birma, all presidential aspirants withdrew on the strength of those regional arguments, virtually leaving Buhari to emerge unopposed.
Buhari joined the All Peoples Party (APP), which metamorphosed into ANPP, in April last year to pursue a presidential ambition. He withdrew from the Board of Patrons of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) in October. For the past year, Buhari has been the subject of much controversy. Critics have attacked him for allegedly having a past that is incompatible with democratic norms, especially in a multi-ethnic, multi-religious entity like Nigeria. The acerbic tirades about the politics of the general blew up when he was quoted as instructing Muslims in the country to vote only a presidential candidate who subscribes to the faith.
But Buhari defended himself. He claimed that a reporter who did not understand the Hausa language he used had misquoted his statement at a book launch at Uthman Dan Fodio University, Sokoto.
“What I did say clearly was that the people are lucky that the new Constitution has allowed everybody to practise the religion of his choice. Now, since it is in the constitution, it is therefore right for them to choose people who will lead them properly. Whoever they are, if they don’t lead them properly, let them jettison them and choose good people,” Buhari explained in a press interview.
That defence by the former Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF) boss did not convince many. Bertrand Yunus, a civil rights activist, feels “that admixture of religion and the choice of who to vote to lead the people speaks volumes for Buhari’s Islamic political gospel, because the country’s constitutions in the past had always allowed for free practice of religion.”
The 1999 Constitution in section 275(1) states, “There shall be for any state that requires it a Sharia Court of Appeal for that state.” Section 277(1) states, “The Sharia Court of Appeal of a state shall, in addition to some other jurisdiction as may be conferred upon it by the law of the state, exercise such appellate and supervisory jurisdiction in civil proceedings involving questions of Islamic personal law which the court is competent to decide in accordance with the provisions of subsection (2) of this section.” Section (2) specifies the jurisdiction of the Islamic court as covering issues as marriage, inheritance, guardianship, etc.
But section 10 of the Constitution prohibits state religion, stating, “The Government of the Federation or of a state shall not adopt any religion as state religion.”
Whatever defenses to sectional inclination Buhari might have tried to put up seemed to be blurred by the remarks of his acting campaign coordinator, Alhaji Suleiman Ahmed, during the general’s formal declaration for APP, April 25 last year at his hometown, Daura in Katsina State.
Ahmed was quoted as saying, “From today, I want you to note that our own son has agreed to salvage us, to free us from bondage. So, come 2003, we people of the North should go out and vote en-block for Buhari. There should not be any issue of whether you are in APP or Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Election in 2003 is simply a struggle between the North and South.” Buhari did not dissociate from those comments by his aide.
There have been questions as to how Buhari would affect ethno-religious cohesion in the country, if he becomes president, given his regional posturing. He was one of the most important voices of support for the introduction of Sharia in some Northern States. In fact, following the introduction, Buhari called for a nationwide application of the Islamic law in Nigeria. This earned him widespread condemnation.
The Campaign for Democracy (CD) in a statement, August 2001, stated, “Were some sinister motives not at stake, we would have assumed that Buhari possesses enough intelligence to know that it is stupid to call for the laws of religious sect to administer justice in a multi-religious state like Nigeria.”
CD went ahead to question,” Why did he not promote Sharia during his rule? What major contributions he has made to the development of Islam?” Dr. Lateef Adegbite, Secretary-General of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, tries to explain some of the questions raised about Buhari and the Islamic legal system. Adegbite tells Daily Independent that the unprecedented momentum of Sharia agitation and introduction at a time when a Christian, and a southerner is the President is only a “mere coincidence.” He explains that there had always been Sharia in Nigeria, and that what the northern governors did in their states recently was only an expansion of the existing Islamic law to include some new offences.
In the words of Adegbite, “The Sharia that was in Nigeria before the British came was full Sharia. When the British came, it was still full Sharia up to the time Nigeria became independent.” He said at independence, the country introduced partial Sharia in which “certain offences were removed from the Sharia in operation, just few of them. Now, it was only these few offences that were being brought back in some parts of the North by the governors.”
On the call for nation-wide application of Sharia, Adegbite says southern Muslims also want the Islamic legal code as it is practised in some states of the North. “But it cannot be full Sharia, at least, to start with, it has to be civil Sharia covering matters relating to matrimony, child welfare, distribution of estate and property, etc,” he adds. Adegbite believes Buhari has said nothing offensive by advocating a nation-wide application of Sharia, but says neither Buhari nor anybody in Nigeria can make the country an Islamic state. This is against widespread fears that Buhari, if he becomes President, could turn the country into an Islamic state.
Many believe Buhari’s professed preference for the North and the Islamic religion came out very vividly during his military government. He picked a fellow northerner, Tunde Idiagbon as deputy, the only time in Nigeria’s history that the first two citizens would come from the same part of the country.
Obasanjo in his book Not my will, describes Buhari as one who is “by nature taciturn and an introvert. But he took any work given to him very strongly, and if he failed at whatever he did, it would not be because he did not put in his best, in fact, his very best.” Former military president, Ibrahim Babangida, in his address announcing the palace coup that toppled Buhari in 1985 said Buhari was a very rigid fellow, and that his inflexibility was not good for an heterogeneous and multi-ethnic nation.
Those who know Buhari say he is one who never gives up on whatever he believes in. Perhaps it was Alhaji Balarabe Musa’s reply to the general’s quest for reconciliation over the June 1981 impeachment of the first executive governor of Kaduna State that captures this aspect of Buhari very vividly. Musa was quoted in press reports that the tone of Buhari’s letter of “forgiveness for something he may have done to me…is not only fascist, it is an irony because Buhari himself doesn’t forgive.”
Buhari is, no doubt, putting in his very best in the struggle to become Nigeria’s President in April. But what does his presidency portend for the country.
Samuel Igwilo, a public affairs commentator, feels “Buhari’s ethnic and religious constituencies are notorious for their fundamentalism and fanatism, and however anyone sees it, these would be on the increase if he becomes President, given the new religious awareness following the introduction of Sharia in some states of the North.” For Igwilo, such were the kinds of inclinations that brought some countries to full religious states, with unsavory consequences for their populations.
Sudan has been enmeshed in over almost two decades of sectarian war. John Garang, a former army officer with Sudan armed forces, formed the Sudan Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA) in 1978 to lead the Christian and animist South in the war against the Muslim, Arab-speaking North. Several rounds of negotiations between the Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement (SPLM), SPLA’s political wing, and the National Islamic Front (NIF) government in Khartoum has failed to produce a peaceful resolution of one of Africa’s longest wars.
Algeria is another country that has not known peace since attempts to turn the country into an Islamic state were thwarted, after the government annulled an election, which the Islamic Salvation Front was poised to win.
Observers tend to agree that religion becomes explosive when mixed with politics especially in a multi-religion or secular state. The effects are usually uncontrollable. With Buhari’s somewhat tough religious stance, it seems apparent that a lot of work need to be done to narrow the differences in order to eliminate any obstacles that could derail the democratic process.
Sunday, January 19th, 2003
: RCN Administrator
Nigeria, US Sign Treaty on Crimes
From Ify Isiekwenagbu in Abuja
Nigeria and the United States of America on Wednesday exchanged the instrument of ratification of the treaty on mutual legal assistance on criminal matters.
A statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the exchange for both countries was carried out in Abuja between Nigeria’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and the United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Howard Jeter.
The treaty, which is expected to provide relevant instruments to enhance mutual cooperation in the fight against modern trans-national organised crime was signed in Washington D.C. on September 13, 1989.
The crimes covered under the treaty include drug trafficking, financial fraud, terrorism and human trafficking.
According to the statement, the minister said that the assistance envisaged under the treaty would include among others, the provision of documents, records and evidence, execution of requests for searches and seizures, obtaining of testimonies of witnesses and other forms of assistance.
The minister, the statement further noted, described the treaty as a "veritable instrument in the continued efforts of the present administration to sanitise the system and create a solid foundation for a transparent, more accountable and corrupt free society, which is a basic ingredient for attracting foreign investment and economic development."
Thursday, January 16th, 2003
: RCN Administrator
Ekwueme wants PDP to order fresh primaries
From John-Abba Ogbodo, Abuja
AN indication of a looming crisis in the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) emerged yesterday with former vice president and one of the defeated presidential aspirants of the party, Dr. Alex Ifeanyichukwu Ekwueme, demanding a fresh national convention to pick the party’s flagbearer for the April 19 general elections.
In two separate statements by his campaign organisation, Ekwueme yesterday noted that the Electoral Act has now been amended to allow additional 30 days for the submission of candidates’ list by political parties, a development which has made it possible for the PDP to accommodate his request.
One of the statements was signed by the Director-General of Alex Ekwueme Campaign Organisation, Alhaji Isyaku Ibrahim and the other by its Director of Media and Publicity, Prince Tony Momoh. Based on what they perceived as irregularities, especially at the presidential primaries and "given that the Electoral Act has now been amended to allow thirty days more for submission of list of candidates by political parties", both statements demanded that PDP should arrange for a new convention to elect a flagbearer.
Ekwueme particularly faulted the position of the party’s national chairman, Chief Audu Ogbeh, that the convention at which he (Ekwueme) and two other aspirants lost to President Olusegun Obasanjo, was free and fair.
At the convention, held from January 3 to 6, President Obasanjo polled 2,642 votes out of the 3,542 delegates, Ekwueme got 611, while former Kano State Governor Alhaji Abubakar Rimi received 159 votes. Former national chairman of the party, Chief Barnabas Gemade, had 17 votes.
While Gemade conceded victory to Obasanjo and embraced the victor, Rimi noted that his loss was partly due to the fact that the party had earlier zoned the office out of his geo-political place of birth.
But Ekwueme rejected the result outright, arguing that the delegates were intimidated to vote for the President. He complained that the ballot papers were serially numbered, a situation which would enable the party leadership determine how the delegates voted.
The former vice president also noted that the names of the aspirants on the ballot papers ought to have been in alphabetical order, which would have put him first, Gemade second, Obasanjo third and Rimi last. President Obasanjo’s name was first on the ballot papers.
Ekwueme had again argued that the convention would not have recorded the apparent success that was being ascribed to it, if the aspirants had not insisted that the venue earlier picked by the party’s leadership, the Abuja International Conference Centre, was not conducive, being an enclosure.
The former vice president added that the Eagles Square venue later agreed to by the party leadership, was far better being an open space.
But Ogbeh, while receiving the formal report of the primaries from the Convention Committee chairman, Chief Tom Ikimi last week in Abuja, criticised Ekwueme over the objections.
Ogbeh argued that Ekwueme was behaving like a typical bad loser who had to find faults even in such a transparent exercise. The party chairman said the leadership had paid for the use of the Eagle Square 10 days before the election, which explained why it was easy to shift from the conference centre to the square.
He argued that the choice of the conference centre was primarily to address the fears of Ekwueme and other aspirants who might have complained that an open place could be hijacked by miscreants and political thugs. Ogbeh added that but when the aspirants insisted on using the Eagles Square, the party leadership acceded to their request.
He also disclosed that the ballot papers were numbered to check malpractices as some unscrupulous persons might independently print the papers with a view to rigging the elections.
But in its statement yesterday, the Alex Ekwueme Campaign Organisation through its Director-General, Isyaku Ibrahim, said the January 6 election did not produce a popular presidential candidate as envisaged by the party.
He said: "We want to state in all sincerity and honesty that an unpopular candidate who was not chosen by the people was foisted on the PDP and the nation at Eagle Square on the 6th January 2003 and Chief Audu Ogbeh knows that. That we consider very tragic for democracy and the transition process."
Alhaji Ibrahim also called for a review of all primaries of the party "at all levels to ensure transparency and the people’s will," adding: "Anything short of this shall not be accepted by our organisation."
Ekwueme’s chief campaigner also recalled the previous election of the party at which Gemade emerged winner over a founding member of the party, Chief Sunday Awoniyi. Describing the election as a "charade," Ibrahim urged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to publish its report on the Gemade victory.
The statement also declared: "As our leader, Dr Alex Ekwueme is a distinguished statesman whose impeccable moral high ground and credentials are well known, our fight is therefore predicated on these virtues. A line has now been drawn between those morally bankrupt members of the PDP who were party to the fraud at Eagle Square and those of us who share the ideals of Dr Ekwueme."
It added: "We wish to assure all our numerous supporters nationwide that we are making consultations with other political parties and other presidential candidates of like minds. In the end, whatever decisions we arrive at, will be in the overall interest of the nation and our teeming supporters."
Another statement by Prince Momoh also faulted Ogbeh’s claims that the primary election was free.
It said it was "sad, unfortunate and depressing" that Ogbeh " would ignore the substance of the issues raised by Dr. Ekwueme and resort instead to personal (ad hominem) attacks."
The statement reads further: "One of the points raised by Ekwueme concerned the format of the ballot papers used for the convention. Audu Ogbeh has not denied that he assured the aspirants that he was personally taking charge of the production and custody of the ballot papers and would so take charge until it was time for voting. In the circumstances, the following points are relevant:
"The essence of the secret ballot is that the way any individual, or a group of individuals, have cast their votes should be impossible of identification. Therefore, any distinguishing mark on a ballot paper by which a voter or group of voters may be identified should render that ballot paper void. At the PDP 2003 Convention, ballot papers were serially numbered with ballot papers Nos. 1 to 95 going to Abia State, 96 to 207 going to Adamawa State, and so on. It was therefore possible, by inspecting the ballot papers after the voting to discover how Abia State or Adamawa State or any other state voted even if it was not possible to identify how each individual within those states voted.
"The question, which Audu Ogbeh must answer, is this: Why were the ballot papers numbered thereby compromising the integrity of the electoral process? Some PDP secretariat staff have suggested that the numbering was intended to prevent forgery. This is indeed laughable. The cardinal principle of secret balloting is that all the ballot papers must be identical and PDP had always observed standard in previous elections. Why, Chief Audu Ogbeh, were the ballot papers numbered? This is the question begging for an answer."
On the arrangement of aspirants’ names in the ballot paper, the Ekwueme organisation said: "It is also relevant to note that in the previous PDP nomination election in 1999 and in all INEC elections, names of candidates and/or names of political parties have always been arranged in alphabetical order. In the present instance, the order would have been Ekwueme, Gemade, Nwachukwu, Obasanjo, Rimi. But Audu Ogbeh decided to put Obasanjo’s name as the first on the ballot paper, why?
The statement further read: "It should be noted as all the ballot papers used for the presidential primaries had distinguishing marks (each had a serial number), they were all void and therefore no valid votes were cast at the convention. Given that the Electoral Act has now been amended to allow thirty days more for submission of lists of candidates by political parties, the PDP must arrange for a new convention where voting will be strictly by secret ballot."
And it concluded: "Specific answers should be given to the issues raised by Ekwueme instead of diversionary statements about integrity and character. If Audu Ogbeh now has conflictual problems about his own integrity or character, he is to be pitied rather than blamed because the present dispensation has witnessed an unmitigated debasement of values, encapsulated in the belief that everybody has a price."
But the party’s deputy national publicity secretary, Alhaji Abdulraheem Adedoyin, last night ruled out any fresh convention, stressing that every opportunity was given to all the aspirants to exercise their franchise during the convention.
Adedoyin expressed surprise at Ekwueme’s demand, saying that the party had earlier commended the aspirant for his spirit of sportsmanship.
He said: "We will not go for any fresh convention. The chairman has spoken, the party has spoken. We have given them opportunity to test their popularity and we believe that the party members have spoken through their delegates and expressed their preference of President Olusegun Obasanjo."
Adedoyin added: "There is nothing in our rule that the ballot papers must be arranged in a particular way. Their reaction is surprising. We had thought that he was a good sportsman."
The PDP spokesman declared further: "The party is not looking the way of any other convention. We are putting an elaborate arrangement in place for the campaign for the general elections. The convention has been adjudged by both local and international observers as free and fair. What else does anybody want? We have put the convention behind us."
Wednesday, January 15th, 2003
: RCN Administrator
Issues that will shape 2003 presidential polls
By Eze Ekuma-Ibe,
Daily Independent, Lagos
January 2003 has witnessed an unprecedented harvest of presidential primaries. This trend was occasioned by the January 11 deadline given by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to all political parties to submit the names of their contestants.
The ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) blazed the trail in nominating its presidential flag bearer. In a tension soaked convention marked by high wire intrigues, incumbent President Olusegun Obasanjo clinched the party’s presidential ticket, beating Dr. Alex Ekwueme, Alhaji Abubakar Rimi, and Chief Barnabas Gemade.
PDP was quickly followed by the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), which nominated General Muhammadu Buhari, a former head of state as its presidential candidate. The convention which threw up Buhari was marked by protests from five other aspirants: Chief Edwin Ume-Ezeoke, Chief John Nwodo (jnr), Chief Pere Ajuwa, Chief Rochas Okorocha, and Chief Harry Akande, who walked out of the convention arena. They alleged that Buhari’s candidature was imposed on them without consultation.
Other presidential candidates who have been nominated by their various parties include: Senator Ike Omar Sanda Nwachukwu for National Democratic Party (NDP), Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu for All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), Senator Jim Ifeanyichukwu Nwobodo for United Nigeria Peoples Party (UNPP), Mrs Sarah Jibril for Progressive Action Congress (PAC), Yahaya Yusuf of the African Renaissance Party (ARP), and Dr. Authur Nwankwo for People’s Mandate Party (PMP).
With the extension of the deadline for the submission of names of contestants as a result of the amendment to the Electoral Act 2002, there are indication s that more parties may present candidates for the April presidential polls. Meanwhile, a number of issues will determine who will emerge as Nigeria’s next president among the horde of presidential candidates gunning for the exalted office.
The interesting thing about Nigeria’s constitution and the electoral laws as it concerns candidates for elective positions is that they must aspire to any office on the platform of a recognised political party. Therefore, the political party is a very strong factor that will determine who succeeds in the presidential poll. At present, there are 30 political parties in the country but out of these, only few have nominated candidates for the presidential election. Of the few, it is evident that only the older parties that have established structures all over the country will make appreciable impact in the polls. Today, the PDP controls 21 states out of the 36 states in the federation. The ANPP controls nine while the Alliance for Democracy (AD), which is yet to nominate a presidential candidate, controls the six states in the South West. With this permutation, the game favours the ruling PDP given that its incumbent governors will do anything possible to deliver their states to the party. Again, its position as the party ruling at the centre gives it an edge as it will maximize the advantages of incumbency.
One thing that cannot be wished away in the Nigerian polity is ethnicity. The history of the country underscores the fact that politics in the country has always pandered to ethnic considerations. Right from the First Republic, the voting pattern of the people of Nigeria, irrespective of party affiliations, has always tilted towards ethnic lines. In the line up, we have President Obasanjo, who is a Yoruba; Buhari, who is Hausa; Nwachukwu, Ojukwu and Nwobodo, who are Igbo. Already, the South West geopolitical zone, under the control of AD has tacitly endorsed the candidacy of Obasanjo. In fact, it is for this reason that the AD has not produced a presidential candidate. Given this scenario, the President is like to enjoy the bloc vote of all Yoruba.
In the North, Buhari’s candidacy is gaining wide currency. The age long feud between him and General Ibrahim Babangida was recently buried when at the palace of Sultan Muhammadu Maccido of Sokoto, peace was brokered between them. This is coming when Buhari has been nominated as the ANPP candidate. Observers say this is a move to ensure that the North presented a common front to wrest power again from the South.
The case in the South East is however peculiar. With three candidates coming from the same zone, it is unlikely that any of them will court victory.
All the same, this factor is not absolute on its own. What we might experience is the overlap and interplay of the ethnic and party factors. For instance, the South South zone, which has no candidate, is one of PDP’s stronghold. With the likes of Chief Tony Anenih, President Obasanjo is sure to coast home in victory. Furthermore, the President’s promise to re-open the issue of Onshore/Offshore bill will boost his chances in the zone.
The North Central zone will be keenly contested. The only two states controlled by ANPP in the zone are Kogi and Kwara. Niger, Benue, Nasarawa, and Plateau are PDP states. With the newfound love between Buhari and Babangida, who comes from that zone, Obasanjo will find it a hard nut to crack.
North West is another zone the ANPP will hold sway. It controls Kebbi, Sokoto, Jigawa, and Zamfara states; while the PDP controls Katsina, Kano, and Kaduna. Incidentally, it is the zone that Buhari comes from and the caliphate is favourably disposed to his candidacy. The states controlled by PDP in the zone such as Kano might find it difficult to sweep the votes given the face off between Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso and Speaker Umar Ghali Na’Abba and Alhaji Abubakar Rimi, who are opposed to the re-nomination of the governor.
The North East zone might see the PDP and ANPP running shoulder to shoulder. It is the zone that produced Vice President Atiku Abubakar. However, if the ethnic sentiment is played up, Buhari may spring surprises in the zone given also that the ANPP controls three out of the six states in the zone.
The South East, controlled by PDP may not vote massively for its own sons in the race. Despite the popularity of Ojukwu, not many Igbo would want to vote for him in an election. Nwachukwu is not regarded as a full-blooded Igbo man as he tends to have his romance with the North, while Nwobodo is seen as a spoiler. Meanwhile, Buhari’s role while heading the Petroleum Special Trust Fund (PTF) will definitely stand against him in the zone despite the fact that he has Dr Chuba Okadigbo as his running mate. It is alleged that the zone did not benefit up to five per cent from the PTF while some other zones got as much as 25 per cent.
Also, Obasanjo performance in the zone has attracted criticism. But for the last minute award of the Onitsha/Owerri road, the people had complained of neglect. Therefore, what will count here is party affiliation. The South East governors are poised to deliver the zone to the PDP.
Religion is also a major factor that will determine the polls. This singular factor has been responsible for major conflicts in some parts of the country. Buhari is known as a strong advocate of the sharia legal code. A statement was once credited to him to the effect that no Northerner should vote for a Christian. This is one area he will need to deal with before he can secure a vote in the South. Conversely, the Northerners would naturally vote for a Muslim, more so when the sharia is in vogue in the area.
From the factors considered, the battle line seems drawn between Obasanjo and Buhari. The ability to exploit these factors will determine who will carry the day. For now it is still dicey, anything can happen considering realignment of forces going on.
Tuesday, January 14th, 2003
: RCN Administrator
Swiss to give Nigeria files on late dictator’s alleged money laundering
GENEVA - Swiss justice authorities will hand over to Nigeria files they built up in a money-laundering investigation of the West African nation’s late dictator, Gen. Sani Abacha, a leading official said Tuesday.
Daniel Zappelli, chief prosecutor of Geneva canton (state), told reporters the move was necessary because all the surviving principal suspects lived in Nigeria.
"The Nigerian government prefers not to let them leave the country," Zappelli said. "It comes down to a choice between a trial in Geneva without the accused or a trial in Nigeria in the presence of the accused."
He did not identify the individuals involved. However, those under investigation in the case include Abacha’s son Mohammed and his widow Mariam, along with several business associates.
"We will continue the procedure in Switzerland against people who are in Switzerland," Zappelli said in reference to the suspected middlemen.
The Abacha case follows similar action last November when Switzerland handed over files to Mexico from the money laundering investigation of the brother of former Mexican President Carlos Salinas. Geneva investigators said they had done what they could and that further work was needed in Mexico to clarify the origin of money allegedly stashed by Raul Salinas, which Swiss officials believe came from drug traffickers.
Nigerian authorities released Mohammed Abacha from prison in September after three years awaiting trial on charges of embezzling billions of dollars in state funds.
President Olusegun Obasanjo ordered the release after negotiations with officials from Abacha’s home state of Kano and pressure in Nigeria’s predominantly Muslim north to release the late dictator’s son ahead of this year’s presidential vote.
Abacha, who ruled Nigeria from 1993 until his death from an apparent heart attack in June 1998, is accused of looting some US$3 billion from state coffers, much of it state oil revenues. Not all the assets have been traced.
In 1999, Nigeria asked Switzerland to help investigate and the Swiss froze some US$730 million in bank accounts.
British authorities found traces of some US$1.3 billion allegedly handled by British banks on behalf of Abacha’s family and friends. Money also was discovered in Liechtenstein, Luxembourg and Jersey.
Under an out-of-court settlement reached last April between Nigerian authorities and the Abacha family, Nigeria was to get back US$1 billion from banks worldwide, with the family receiving US$100 million banked before Abacha’s term of office.
But the deal collapsed in September. Nigerian government attorneys said Mohammed Abacha failed to sign the necessary documents.
Zappelli said he hoped the deal would be revived. "But we have no influence and we can’t give anyone any orders."