Nigeria frees 475 Boko Haram suspects for lack of evidence

The freed suspects will undergo rehabilitation before reuniting with their families. The trials are part of Nigeria’s biggest legal probe into the militant Islamist insurgency that has plagued its northeastern region.

Boko Haram militants stand in a queue after surrendering

A Nigerian court has released 475 people allegedly affiliated with Boko Haram due to lack of evidence, the justice ministry said on Sunday.

The release order was issued on Friday.

The freed suspects will be returned to their home states for “proper rehabilitation” before being sent back to their families, ministry spokesman Salihu Othman Isah said.

The court handed a second 15-year-jail sentence to Haruna Yahaya, the first person convicted for the kidnapping in 2014 of the Chibok schoolgirls. Yahaya was also sentenced to 15 years imprisonment last week.

Both jail terms will run back-to-back, the justice ministry said in a statement.

The trials are the latest in a string of mass hearings which began in October at four specially-constituted civilian courts at the Kainji military base in central Niger state.

Read moreTrial of Boko Haram suspects in Nigeria poses legal nightmare

Watch video04:15

Boko Haram conflict threatens food security in Nigeria

Infringing on suspects’ rights

Humanitarian groups have criticized the Nigerian authorities’ for holding the Boko Haram suspects for years without trial or even contact with a lawyer.

Isah said the freed Boko Haram suspects were accused of either belonging to the terrorist organization or for concealing information about the group.

Read moreOpinion: Is Boko Haram really on its way out?

“However, the Prosecution Counsel could not charge them with any offence due to lack of sufficient evidence against them. Therefore, the suspects were released,” he said on Sunday.

In October, 45 people suspected of Boko Haram links were convicted and jailed. A further 468 suspects were let off.

The nearly decade-long insurgency fanned by Boko Haram militants in northeastern Nigeria has caused more than 20,000 deaths and has forced two million to flee their homes. Civilian militia leaders blamed the group for three suicide bombings which left 19 people dead at a fish market in Borno state on Friday.

ap/jm (AFP, Reuters)

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World Stories – Free Chibok Girls in Nigeria

COURTESY: DW

Obasanjo in DW exclusive interview: ‘Democracy is about change’

President Buhari should not run for another term in office, ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo advised in a letter to Nigeria’s head of state in January 2018. In an interview, he told DW why he published the letter.

Watch video03:31

Former Nigerian President Obasanjo on fighting corruption

Nigerian former president Olusegun Obasanjo is known for his public letters to sitting presidents. In 2013 he wrote a letter to Goodluck Jonathan condemning the widespread corruption in Nigeria. This was one of the key areas Muhammadu Buhari vowed to address during his time in office. However, the fight against graft seems to have been tougher than Buhari had calculated. According to Nigeria’s Supreme Court 1,124 corruption cases were brought before the country’s courts in 2017.

Obasanjo also addressed President Buhari’s ill health, which had prevented him from attending to state affairs for several months. The letter came at a time when Obasanjo launched his Coalition for Nigeria movement which he claims is not a political, but a socio-economic organization.

DW: In 2015  you decided to endorse the then opposition candidate Muhammadu Buhari. Now you heavily criticized him in a letter and urged him not to run for a second term. When you think back, was it a right decision to endorse Buhari?

Olusegun Obasanjo: Yes, it was the right decision. With the benefit of hindsight, you will agree with me, if you know what has happened and what has been revealed about the government of Jonathan and those who are with him, in terms of sordid corruption and you will agree that this was the right decision. I believe it that was a decision that was good at that time for our country and our democracy. Because we were able to transition from one party to another party. As a result of that we are consolidating democratic process. It is also the right decision now, for us to see that the man who is taking over from Jonathan has not met the expectation of Nigerians, that’s what democracy is all about. Democracy is about change. But if you think that is not the right decision, then you are not a democrat. But I am a democrat and tomorrow if I take a decision and things don’t work out the way we expect them to work out in a democracy, then you make a change.

One of the biggest promises of President Buhari was to fight corruption. That is his flagship topic. You are now saying that he turns a blind eye on corrupt people in his inner circle. Has Buhari’s corruption fight failed already?

I won’t quite put it that way. I would say he was probably looking outside, he wasn’t looking inside, because if you are fighting corruption [and] corruption is becoming rife then you also have to turn your attention inward.

What would you do differently if you were him in fighting corruption?

I would do what I exactly did before. I set up the two mayor institutions that are being used to fight corruption. I would make sure that the people who are in charge of these two institutions are men or women of integrity and I would look outside and inside because there is no point in fighting corruption beyond you while you have corruption (in front of) your nose.

Would you say is that you were more successful in fighting corruption?

I won’t judge myself. I will leave that to other people.

President Buhari is widely regarded as a man of integrity among most Nigerians. Is he lacking seriousness?

I don’t know which Nigerians you are talking about. Maybe Nigerians of four years ago. Talk to Nigerians today.

In your letter, you wrote that Buhari has a poor understanding of the dynamics of internal politics. You also said that he is weak in understanding and playing in the foreign affairs sector. Your critics are saying that they have the impression that you [feel you] are a moral authority and that you are the only person who understands how to run this country. What do you say to that?

I won’t answer them. I will reserve it as my right as a Nigerian.

You said in the past that you would pull out of politics. How does that go together with the new coalition movement?

A movement is a movement. It’s not a political organization. It’s a social, economic organization. And I have said that if that movement turns political, I will withdraw from it.

But you write that the two biggest parties in the country are unfit to run Nigeria. Do you hope to provide an alternative?

No, I would not stand in the way of that movement. If it decides to become a candidate sponsoring organization then it will become political and I will withdraw from it.

It is not yet clear who the members will be. And the names that got a lot of attention were the names people already know former governors, members of the [opposition] PDP (People’s Democratic Party). Some people have the feeling that it is not going to be a new innovative movement but think that it’s old people in new clothes.

If that is what you hear then you are hearing it wrongly. There are thousands of Nigerians inside Nigeria and outside Nigeria who have never been in politics and are members of this movement. It’s not old wine in a new bottle. It’s new wine in a new bottle.

Olusegun Obasanjo served as Nigeria’s president from 1999 to 2007, as well as Nigeria’s military ruler from 1976 to 1979. He has taken on the role of a senior diplomat, which has in the past included negotiating the release of the kidnapped Chibok girls and serving as a special UN envoy to resolve the crisis in eastern DRC. He quite the ruling PDP party in 2015 and  recently launched the Coalition for Nigeria movement.

The interview was conducted by DW’s Africa correspondent Adrian Kriesch.

Watch video03:48

Fighting corruption in Nigeria: What has Buhari achieved?

COURTESY: DW

The Islamic State: Dawn of a new Caliphate in Nigeria?

 

Opinion, Nigeria,

Gabby Ogbechie. The Property Gazette 

Nigeria, the largest country in the West African sub-region, in terms of population, and the richest in economic terms, owing to the abundance of Crude oil and Gas reserves in its Niger-Delta or south-south region, is currently experiencing an influx of, or invasion by heavily armed militants (terrorists) whom the Federal Government described as ISIS, suggestive of an imminent, planned uprising that would inevitably culminate in the establishment of another Islamic Caliphate in Africa.

It is no longer news that the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq has been so degraded and depleted, and all its territories in Syria and Iraq recaptured that one would presume that both the Caliphate and ISIS as an ignoble entity are finished. Moreover, attempts by Al-Shabaab to establish an African caliphate have been creditably resisted by the Somali government.

However, the obnoxious fact that stares the world in the face is that the leadership of ISIS, notably Abu Bakar al Baghdadi and his close and immediate associates, with a few exceptions, are well and alive. With some state sponsors of terrorism in the Middle East still willing and able to make things happen for the cause of jihad and Islam, Baghdadi could be anywhere right now. And no one, it seems, not Syria, not Iraq, not Russia which ascribes to itself alone, the credit of defeating ISIS and bringing the Syrian war to a close; and certainly not the United States which dithered and redrew the ‘’red-line’’ several times before the emergence of President Trump, is interested in either capturing or having Baghdadi neutralized.

Aside from having so many countries in the Middle East that would readily host him, an option, for Baghdadi, could be the establishment of another caliphate. In terms of where an alternative caliphate could be situated, Asia is simply out of it; predominantly Islamic countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Pakistan, etc. would not allow it under the open glare of the world, especially the United States.

With options for the relocation of its caliphate running thin, it is not inconceivable that ISIS may, once more, turn its gaze towards Africa, having some years back been expelled from Mali by France. And the obvious choice of the country where it would find support and sustenance is Nigeria from which Boko Haram had hitherto pledged allegiance.

Moreover, unlike Chad which banked on the support and assistance of its erstwhile colonial master France to come to its rescue, Nigeria does not currently have any Defence Pact with any of the world powers to come to its assistance. If anything, most Nigerian leaders have leaned towards the OIC, the Organization of Islamic Conference, and like most African countries, had out-rightly declined participation in Africom (African Command Defense Pact ), a joint African and American force to be headquartered in any African country. At the time in question, circa 2009, under the President George W. Bush administration, Muammar Gadhafi of Libya led the resistance against the establishment of Africom in Africa for the purpose of fighting terrorism.

Why Nigeria? One may be tempted to ask

In terms of perception, Nigeria, a member of the Organization of Islamic Conference which the erstwhile military President, Ibrahim Babangida foisted on the nation, is largely divided in terms of ethnicity and religion: In the core north, you have the north-west states of Sokoto, Zamfara, Kebbi,and Niger made up of Muslim Hausa-Fulani, and Kwara state which was mostly Yoruba, but was subsumed into Hausa-Fulani oligarchy through the imposition of an emir by the settler Hausa-Fulani; north-central Hausa-Fulani states of Kano, Katsina, Jigawa, Bauchi, and Gombe who are Muslim, and Kaduna, whose south-end is peopled by the Christians that are currently being subjected to ethnic cleansing. *

The north-east states, consisting of Adamawa, Bornu, Taraba and Yobe states which are peopled by mostly the Junkun and Kanuri, and within which zone Boko Haram birthed its insurgency with a view to forcefully converting the indigenous people to Islam, are non-Muslims; the middle-belt, mostly Christian states of Benue and Plateau, and mostly Muslim Nasarawa state peopled by the Hausa-Fulani, and Plateau, Benue and Kogi states peopled by the Igarra, Tiv, Idoma, Egere and settler Fulani.

The south-east states, namely Abia, Anambra, Enugu, Imo, and Ebonyi are Christian Ibo states; the south-west, Yoruba states made up of Ekiti, Lagos, Ondo, Osun and Oyo are two-third Christians, and the rest Muslims; and the south-south states of Cross River, Akwa-Ibom, Rivers, Bayelsa, Delta and Edo states consist of a hotchpotch of Ibos, Efik, Ibibio, Edo, Urhobo, Itsekiri and Ijaw are mostly Christians. Incidentally, the south-south states are the most deprived, despite the fact of being the cash-cow of the economy from where oil and gas are extracted.

The core Fulani-Hausa north who have been in power in the Federal Government for over 80% of the life of the republic, have foreclosed the option of including religion on Census menu because that would have revealed the percentages of Christians, Moslems and Traditional religionists within the land space of the federation.

Since the north-west and north-central are the core Muslim states; the middle-belt states mainly Christian; the north-east mainly Christian and partially Muslim; the east and south-south Christians; the west, mainly Christian and partially Muslim, it is ridiculous to have Nigeria referred to as a Muslim country. In objective truth, Nigeria, although politically dominated by the Muslim Hausa-Fulani, is by no dint of the imagination a Moslem country.

As the whole world now knows, one of the most vicious, Islamic terrorist groups the world has seen is Boko Haram, which translates into ‘’Western Education is forbidden.’’ As should have been expected, the Boko Haram insurgency did not emanate from the predominantly Muslim states; it was conceived within the north-east where the cattle-Fulani settlers settled, mainly in Bornu state.

In more ways than one, the plot of the ethnic-religio crises in the process of imploding was hatched by the British colonialists who, in spite of their experience with the Palestinian quagmire which neither the Balfour Declaration, the Oslo Accord nor any other conceived solution could solve, went ahead to create the deadly Christian-Islam country named Nigeria, instead of creating two separate countries; one in the north and the second in the south. For the frivolous reason of cutting its administrative costs, the British merged the Northern and Southern Protectorates, which had neither cultural nor religious ties into one huge imminently explosive country.

The Boko Haram Quagmire

It was in 2002/2003 in the last days of the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidency that the nation and the entire world heard the stirrings of Boko Haram. First was the incident when this small band of Islamic fundamentalists attacked a Police unit in Maiduguri in Bornu State; killed some policemen and carted away small arms. Several of such incidents, such as attacking churches and few mosques followed until the major event which marked the arrival of the Boko Haram insurgency; the attack and bombing of the UN building in Abuja during the inception of the Goodluck Jonathan administration in 2006.

The Olusegun Obasanjo administration did virtually nothing to stamp out the insurgency because the inception of Boko Haram coincided with the period it was engrossed in its ‘’third term agenda.’’ Just like he did with the institution of the Sharia Islamic Law in Zamfara State which he later characterized as ‘’Political Sharia’’; ignoring it as if it wasn’t happening, he ignored this ogre at its incipient stage when it would have been wiped out relatively easily, and progressed to the stage when attacks occurred almost two or three times every week all over the northern states.

Up to date, it is estimated that over 25 thousand souls have been wiped out; thousands of homes burnt; scores of villages destroyed; and millions displaced through the terrorism Boko Haram unleashed on the nation and adjoining countries such as Cameroon, Chad and Niger. Boko Haram’s abduction of nearly 300 adolescent schoolgirls from the Federal Government Girls Secondary School from the small town Chibok, with the active connivance politicians bent on discrediting the Goodluck Jonathan Administration was what finally announced Boko Haram to the world, and unleashed the #BringBackOurGirls movement.

Typically, the thoroughly organized slaughter which political correctness in Nigeria define as ‘’herdsmen/farmers’’ clashes usually begin with Fulani herdsmen trespassing into farmsteads, destroying the huts constructed by farmers, and then proceeding to chopping yam and cassava tubers into tiny bits for the consumption convenience of their cattle. If unfortunately such farmers dare to challenge such herdsmen, their usual reaction is to shoot such farmers for having the temerity to question their actions. From there, they usually bulldoze their way into the village or town; destroy and set as many homes as they can on fire. As residents of such home struggle out of their burning homes, they are met with gunfire.
As Nigerians were adjusting to a new life of seeing churches, markets, mosques, motor parks and police stations firebombed, leading up to the elections which brought the President Buhari government to power, another rude awakening came by way of incessant killings by the itinerant ‘’Janjaweed militia’’ locally known as Fulani herdsmen. Prior to this latter day development, the nation had gotten used to the so called ‘’Fulani herdsmen/farmers clashes’’ in Plateau and Benue States especially, but of a sudden, about a year to the general elections which was headlined by the Presidential election, the Fulani herdsmen began to unleash terror in most middle-belt, north-east and southern non-Muslim states; and have been observed to be upping the ante towards the 2019 elections.

To date, Fulani herdsmen have surpassed Boko Haram in terms of the number of people killed in the non-Fulani states. A very important aspect of these attacks is that as soon as they enter farms, after destroying the barns and whole farmsteads, they condition such farms for imminent grazing by setting the farms and bushes on fire under the notion that the past season’s bushes and brushes must give way for grass to grow unhindered with the first rains. The great Nigerian novelist, Cyprian Ekwensi detailed the havoc Fulani herders wreak on land in his epic novel, Burning Grass. Were the lessons outlined in that book to have been taken to heart by successive governments, the current menace would have been avoided. 

While it is commonplace to find whole villages and communities entirely razed by herdsmen, village heads, important personalities are kidnapped and ransomed before they are released by herdsmen. A former Head of Service and Presidential Candidate, Chief Olu Falae was kidnapped by Fulani Herdsmen; his farm ransacked; and some of his farm workers slaughtered and lots more beaten up and wounded. It took the intervention of the Buhari administration before Olu Falae was released. The Obi of Ubulu-Uku was abducted, and after ransom money was paid, he was still killed. 

As lately as on 6th instant, Governor Ortom of Benue had his farm destroyed. Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue state has disclosed that his farm located at his village in Gbajimba, the headquarters of Guma local government area has been attacked by Fulani mercenaries destroying the farm products.

The governor who disclosed this while fielding questions from journalists at the government house in Makurdi also said that the corpse of a policeman who was killed by armed Fulani herdsmen and dumped in the bush had been discovered by the traditional rulers in Guma and handed over to the police authorities in the state.

Governor Ortom regretted the continued unwarranted attacks on people of the state despite the relocation of the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Ibrahim Idris on the orders of President Muhammadu Buhari to the state saying the quantum of destruction on his farm cannot be ascertained as manager of the farm had run away for his dear life leaving the entire farm at the mercy of the invaders.

The testimony of a former member of the Federal House of Representatives from southern Kaduna sums up the whole gamut of the scourge of Fulani herdsmen. He said among many other things that whole villages and communities in southern Kaduna are being systematically subjected to ethnic cleansing, and denied every imaginable amenity by the Federal and State governments, while making such amenities available to the settler Fulanis who are gradually taking over their land. Furthermore, because Christians and churches are the primary targets of fundamentalism, the Church, which has remained taciturn and mealy-mouthed has been forced to start speaking up. While the Pastors of most of the big churches have kept mum, a few have been speaking out, irrespective of what it may result to. Among the few who have been vocal against Fulani herders’ killings are Rev. Issa Buba, Joseph Okechukwu, etc.Ben Murray-Bruce

 

On his part, Senator Ben Murray-Bruce, speaking in the Senate Chamber, informed the Senators that there were developments within the polity that defied explanation. He stated that they were all in shock to hear Senator Marafa voice his agitation over the presence of heavily armed strangers who may not be Nigerians in Zamfara state. He went as far as stating that it didn’t make sense for the Senate to pass resolutions time after time and yet nothing gets done. (Please watch). He further wondered that with the incessant killings in the north-east, middle-belt, south-east, south-west and south-south by marauding Fulani herdsmen, Nigeria was fast becoming a ‘’lawless country’’. 

On the 6th instant, a report on Daily Post online stated that a former minister of Aviation, Femi Fani Kayode has reacted to the killing of Officer-in-Charge of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS, Saki Unit in the Oyo State Police Command by Fulani herdsmen.

The SARS boss was reported to have been macheted to death by the Fulani herdsmen during an operation in a forest on the Saki-Ogbooro Road in Oke-Ogun area of the state.

Reacting , Fani Kayode said law and order had been broken in the country as no one was safe, even security agents, from Fulani herdsmen whom he described as ‘bloodsucking’.

On his official twitter page, he wrote: “A SARS police officer was cut into tiny pieces with machetes by Fulani terrorists in Saki, Oyo state yesterday. Law and order has broken down and even our security agents are being targeted and slaughtered in open daylight by these bloodthirsty and bloodsucking Fulani herdsmen.‎”

On a personal note, many people in the Press and the Social Media have consistently reported an obvious build-up of strange people all over the south. On the average, one finds that for every street on property security personnel, there are on the average well over five to ten others who either loiter around, or have become itinerant cobblers, tailors, etc. Many believe that what we are witnessing is the rapid deployment/spread of Boko Haram and Islamic fundamentalist terrorists all over the country, by whom, no one seems to know.

The fact that the Legislature and the administration had been considering the Grazing Bill which tends to elevate the ‘’rights’’ of cattle and their owners above that of the average citizen by according proprietary rights to graze to cattle over user rights by citizens, and that the Federal Government had remained taciturn over the menace of Fulani herdsmen, and finally, President Buhari’s resolve to create ‘’Cattle Colonies’’ in every state emphasized the impression that the government valued the life of cattle above human life.

The only positive development in all of these is that the President finally spoke concerning the vexatious subject. He tweeted:
The recent killings in Benue, Adamawa, Taraba, and Zamfara states are all regrettable, and saddening. But even more importantly, I am very much aware of all the issues at stake, and doing my best to ensure that justice is done and the security of lives and property guaranteed.
56 replies96 retweets93 likes
The security agencies have standing instructions to arrest and prosecute any and all persons found with illegal arms. In addition, quite a number of arrests have been made so far, in relation to the killings, and all these persons will be duly prosecuted.
32 replies90 retweets102 likes
Bukola Saraki
The Nigerian Senate, in its bit to halt the embarrassing state of killings within the economy, convened a two-day Security summit. The Senate President, Senator Olusola Saraki tweeted:

”Following the spike in the bloodletting over the New Year period, today, the Senate convened a #SecuritySummit to review the entire security architecture of the country”.

In his opening address, he said amongst other things:

”The spike in the bloodletting over the New Year period injected another note of urgency into the matter, and further served to augment the mandate of the Committee, whose members suspended their recess to conduct a fact-finding visit to Benue State, scene of one of the recent killings. From that visit on 12th January 2018, the Committee had a report ready for the Senate upon resumption on 16th January. It was on the back of that, that we passed the Resolution to organise this Summit – to review the entire security architecture of the country. I would like to thank the members of the Committee – Chaired by Senate Leader, Distinguished Senator Ahmed Lawan – for their hard work and commitment to this national assignment, and the expedient manner in which they discharged their functions.

The sharp increase in murderous violence, over and above the relatively manageable level of insecurity that has plagued our country for some time, jolted us out any last vestiges of complacency or denial. There can be no denying the horrific reality in many parts of our country today. People who should be neighbours are turning on one another and taking up arms. These attacks and reprisal attacks are an intolerable cycle of hell that must be broken. Killings, kidnappings, mayhem and general lawlessness cannot be the new normal. We must take this country back and restore order.”

The implication of a Nigerian Islamic Caliphate

The foremost implication of an islamic Caliphate being established in Nigeria means firstly a replication of the Syrian situation multiplied five-fold. However, whereas Europe and the world welcomed Syrian and Iraqi refugees with open arms, no one is willing or ready to welcome refugees from another ”Muslim country” given the current notion that the refugee path has become an avenue for Muslim invasion of Europe.

We must decide as a nation whether which we treasure more; our ethnic and spiritual affiliations, or the continued existence of our nation.

 

Full text: General Babangida’s statement on President Buhari’s government

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Former military leader, Ibrahim Babangida, has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to stand down after his first term in 2019.

In a statement Sunday, Babangida expressed dissatisfaction with the performance of the government and the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC.

He also backed calls for restructuring, especially devolution of powers.

Mr. Babangida said Nigeria has taken too long to find the right leadership, and told the president it is time “when personal ambition should not override national interest.”

“In the fullness of our present realities, we need to cooperate with President Muhammadu Buhari to complete his term of office on May 29th, 2019 and collectively prepare the way for new generation leaders to assume the mantle of leadership of the country,” Mr. Babangida, who led Nigeria as an army general between 1985 and 1993, said.

“While offering this advice, I speak as a stakeholder, former president, concerned Nigerian and a patriot who desires to see new paradigms in our shared commitment to get this country running. While saying this also, I do not intend to deny President Buhari his inalienable right to vote and be voted for, but there comes a time in the life of a nation, when personal ambition should not override national interest.”

The public statement comes over a week after former President Olusegun Obasanjo made a similar call, harshly criticising Mr. Buhari’s performance.

READ THE FULL STATEMENT BELOW:

PRESS STATEMENT

TOWARDS A NATIONAL REBIRTH.

In the past few months and weeks, I have played host to many concerned Nigerians who have continued to express legitimate and patriotic worry about the state of affairs in the country. Some of them have continued to agonize about the turn of events and expressly worried why we have not gotten our leadership compass right as a country with so much potential and opportunity for all. Some, out of frustration, have elected to interrogate the leadership question and wondered aloud why it has taken this long from independence till date to discover the right model on account of our peculiarities. At 57, we are still a nation in search of the right leadership to contend with the dynamics of a 21st century Nigeria.

Having been privileged to preside over this great country, interacted with all categories of persons, dissected all shades of opinions, understudied different ethnic groupings; I can rightfully conclude that our strength lies in our diversity. But exploring and exploiting that diversity as a huge potential has remained a hard nut to crack, not because we have not made efforts, but building a consensus on any national issue often has to go through the incinerator of those diverse ethnic configurations. Opinions in Nigeria are not limited to the borders of the political elite; in fact, every Nigerian no matter how young or old, has an opinion on any national issue. And it is the function of discerning leadership to understand these elemental undercurrents in the discharge of state responsibilities.

WHERE WE ARE.

There is no gainsaying the fact that Nigeria is at a major crossroads at this moment in its history; the choices we are going to make as a nation regarding the leadership question of this country and the vision for our political, economic and religious future will be largely determined by the nature or kind of change that we pursue, the kind of change that we need and the kind of change that we get. A lot depends on our roles both as followers and leaders in our political undertakings. As we proceed to find the right thesis that would resolve the leadership question, we must bear in mind a formula that could engender national development and the undiluted commitment of our leaders to a resurgence of the moral and ethical foundations that brought us to where we are as a pluralistic and multi-ethnic society.

Nigeria, before now, has been on the one hand our dear native land, where tribes and tongues may differ but in brotherhood we stand, and on the other hand a nation that continues to struggle with itself and in every way stumbling and willful in its quest to become a modern state, starting from the first republic till date. With our huge investments in the African emancipation movements and the various contributions that were made by our leadership to extricate South Africa from colonial grip, Nigeria became the giant of Africa during that period. But having gone through leadership failures, we no longer possess the sobriety to claim that status.

And we all are guilty.

We have experimented with Parliamentary and Presidential systems of government amid military interregnum at various times of our national history. We have made some progress, but not good enough to situate us on the pedestal we so desirously crave for. It is little wonder therefore that we need to deliberately provoke systems and models that will put paid to this recycling leadership experimentation to embrace new generational leadership evolution with the essential attributes of responsive, responsible and proactive leadership configuration to confront the several challenges that we presently face.

In 2019 and beyond, we should come to a national consensus that we need new breed leadership with requisite capacity to manage our diversities and jump-start a process of launching the country on the super highway of technology-driven leadership in line with the dynamics of modern governance. It is short of saying enough of this analogue system. Let’s give way for digital leadership orientation with all the trappings of consultative, constructive, communicative, interactive and utility-driven approach where everyone has a role to play in the process of enthroning accountability and transparency in governance.

I am particularly enamored that Nigerians are becoming more and more conscious of their rights; and their ability to speak truth to power and interrogate those elected to represent them without fear of arrest and harassment. These are part of the ennobling principles of representative democracy. As citizens in a democracy, it is our civic responsibility to demand accountability and transparency. Our elected leaders owe us that simple but remarkable accountability creed. Whenever we criticize them, it is not that we do not like their guts; it is just that as stakeholders in the political economy of the country, we also carry certain responsibilities.

In the past few months also, I have taken time to reflect on a number of issues plaguing the country. I get frightened by their dimensions. I get worried by their colourations. I get perplexed by their gory themes. From Southern Kaduna to Taraba state, from Benue state to Rivers, from Edo state to Zamfara, it has been a theatre of blood with cake of crimson. In Dansadau in Zamfara state recently, North-West of Nigeria, over 200 souls were wasted for no justifiable reason. The pogrom in Benue state has left me wondering if truly this is the same country some of us fought to keep together. I am alarmed by the amount of blood-letting across the land. Nigeria is now being described as a land where blood flows like river, where tears have refused to dry up. Almost on a daily basis, we are both mourning and grieving, and often times left helpless by the sophistication of crimes. The Boko Haram challenge has remained unabated even though there has been commendable effort by government to maximally downgrade them. I will professionally advise that the battle be taken to the inner fortress of Sambisa Forest rather than responding to the insurgents’ ambushes from time to time.

THINKING ALOUD.

In the fullness of our present realities, we need to cooperate with President Muhammadu Buhari to complete his term of office on May 29th, 2019 and collectively prepare the way for new generation leaders to assume the mantle of leadership of the country. While offering this advice, I speak as a stakeholder, former president, concerned Nigerian and a patriot who desires to see new paradigms in our shared commitment to get this country running. While saying this also, I do not intend to deny President Buhari his inalienable right to vote and be voted for, but there comes a time in the life of a nation, when personal ambition should not override national interest. This is the time for us to reinvent the will and tap into the resourcefulness of the younger generation, stimulate their entrepreneurial initiatives and provoke a conduce environment to grow national economy both at the micro and macro levels.

Contemporary leadership has to be proactive and not reactive. It must factor in citizens’ participation. Its language of discourse must be persuasive not agitated and abusive. It must give room for confidence building. It must build consensus and form aggregate opinion on any issue to reflect the wishes of the people across the country. It must gauge the mood of the country at every point in time in order to send the right message. It must share in their aspirations and give them cause to have confidence in the system. Modern leadership is not just about “fighting” corruption, it is about plugging the leakages and building systems that will militate against corruption. Accountability in leadership should flow from copious examples. It goes beyond mere sloganeering. My support for a new breed leadership derives from the understanding that it will show a marked departure from recycled leadership to creating new paradigms that will breathe fresh air into our present polluted leadership actuality.

My intervention in the governance process of Nigeria wasn’t an accident of history. Even as a military government, we had a clear-cut policy agenda on what we needed to achieve. We recruited some of the best brains and introduced policies that remain some of the best in our effort to re-engineer our polity and nation. We saw the future of Nigeria but lack of continuity in government and of policies killed some of our intentions and initiatives. Even though we did not provide answers to all the developmental challenges that confronted us as at that time, we were not short of taking decisions whenever the need arose.

GROWING INSECURITY ON OUR HANDS.

The unchecked activities of the herdsmen have continued to raise doubt on the capacity of this government to handle with dispatch, security concerns that continue to threaten our dear nation; suicide bombings, kidnappings, armed banditry, ethnic clashes and other divisive tendencies. We need to bring different actors to the roundtable. Government must generate platform to interact and dialogue on the issues with a view to finding permanent solutions to the crises. The festering nature of this crisis is an inelegant testimony to the sharp divisions and polarizations that exist across the country. For example, this is not the first time herdsmen engage in pastoral nomadism but the anger in the land is suggestive of the absence of mutual love and togetherness that once defined our nationality. We must collectively rise up to the occasion and do something urgently to arrest this drift. If left unchecked, it portends danger to our collective existence as one nation bound by common destiny; and may snowball into another internecine warfare that would not be good for nation-building.

We have to reorient the minds of the herdsmen or gun-men to embrace ranching as a new and modern way to herd cattle. We also need to expand the capacity of the Nigeria Police, the Nigeria Army, the Navy and Air Force to provide the necessary security for all. We need to catch up with modern sophistication in crime detection and crime fighting. Due to the peculiarity of our country, we must begin community policing to close the gaps that presently exist in our policing system. We cannot continue to use old methods and expect new results. We just have to constructively engage the people from time to time through platforms that would help them ventilate their opinions and viewpoints.

THE CHANGE MANTRA

When the ruling party campaigned with the change mantra, I had thought they would device new methods, provoke new initiatives and proffer new ways to addressing some of our developmental problems. By now, in line with her manifesto, one would have thought that the APC will give fillip to the idea of devolution of powers and tinker with processes that would strengthen and reform the various sectors of the economy. Like I did state in my previous statement late last year, devolution of power or restructuring is an idea whose time has come if we must be honest with ourselves. We need to critically address the issue and take informed positions based on the expectations of the people on how to make the union work better. Political parties should not exploit this as a decoy to woo voters because election time is here. We need to begin the process of restructuring both in the letter and spirit of it.

For example, I still cannot reconcile why my state government would not be allowed to fix the Minna-Suleja road, simply because it is called Federal Government road, or why state governments cannot run their own policing system to support the Federal Police. We are still experiencing huge infrastructural deficit across the country and one had thought the APC-led Federal Government would behave differently from their counterparts in previous administrations. I am hesitant to ask; where is the promised change?

LOOKING AHEAD

At this point of our national history, we must take some rather useful decisions that would lead to real development and promote peaceful co-existence among all the nationalities. We must be unanimous in what we desire for our country; new generation leadership, result-driven leadership, sound political foundation, demonetization of our politics, enhanced internal democracy, elimination of impunity in our politics, inclusiveness in decision-making, and promotion of citizens’ participation in our democratic process. The search for that new breed leadership must start now as we prepare for 2019 election.

I get worried when politicians visit to inform me about their aspirations and what you hear in terms of budgetary allocations for electoral contest does not cover voters’ education but very ridiculous sub-heads. A typical aspirant in Nigeria draws up budget to cover INEC, Police, Army and men and officers of the Civil Defense, instead of talking of voters’ education, mobilization and sensitization. Even where benchmarks are set for electoral expenditure, monitoring and compliance are always difficult to adhere to. We truly need to reform the political system. And we must deliberately get fresh hands involved for improved participation.

We need new ways and new approaches in our political order. We need a national rebirth. We need a rebranded Nigeria and rebranded politics. It is not so much for the people, but for the institutions that are put in place to promote our political engagements. We must strengthen the one man one vote mantra. It is often ridiculous for me when people use smaller countries in our West Africa sub-region as handy references of how democracy should be. It beggars our giant of Africa status.

The next election in 2019 therefore presents us a unique opportunity to reinvent the will and provoke fresh leadership that would immediately begin the process of healing the wounds in the land and ensuring that the wishes and aspirations of the people are realized in building and sustaining national cohesion and consensus.

I pray the Almighty Allah grant us the gift of good life to witness that glorious dawn in 2019. Amen. I have not written an open letter to the President, I have just shared my thoughts with fellow compatriots on the need to enthrone younger blood into the mainstream of our political leadership starting from 2019.

SIGNED FOR AND ON BEHALF OF GENERAL I.B.BABANGIDA, GCFR.

PRINCE KASSIM AFEGBUA

MEDIA SPOKESMAN.

4th February, 2018.

Courtesy: todayng

Fighting corruption in Nigeria: What has Buhari achieved?

In 2015, Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari vowed to eliminate corruption in the country. While experts have praised the government’s initial measures, many Nigerians feel that little progress has been made in the last three years.

Watch video03:48

COURTESY: DW

Herdsmen shoot at NAF fighter jet in Adamawa

Olaleye Aluko, Abuja

 Gun-wielding herdsmen have fired at the Alpha Jet and the EC 135 Helicopter deployed by the military in an attempt to resist the interventions by the Nigerian Air Force in the troubled communities of Numan and Demsa Local Government Areas of Adamawa State.

The herdsmen, who were dressed in black, reportedly attempted to bring down the fighter aircraft which were flown to fire “only warning shots” and not to kill any of the attackers.

Our correspondent had reported two weeks ago that the NAF, on the invitation of the Nigerian Army in Adamawa, deployed some fighter aircraft to support the ground forces in stopping the crisis.

The NAF Director of Public Relations and Information, Air Vice-Marshal Olatokunbo Adesanya, who confirmed the deployment of the air assets, had said it would be “a continuous exercise.”

The police in Adamawa State also confirmed attacks by the rampaging Fulani militia on Dong and Lawura villages in the Demsa LGA, saying that many buildings were razed, scores were killed while many other residents fled the communities.

The police also said six police officers were killed in the attack between herdsmen and farmers.

Our correspondent learnt on Wednesday from a top air force source on the operation that the herdsmen attempted to bring down the aircraft.

He said, “A lot of damage had been done in Numan already by the gunmen before the fighter aircraft moved in. We actually caught the gunmen doing more damage and they needed to be stopped. So, we fired warning shots ahead of them. They were with a vast number of cows and they moved the cows under a shed as they set more buildings in the area on fire.

“At some point, the gunmen actually started firing at our aircraft.  There was a bridge on that way to Jalingo, Taraba State, where they finally ran to. The Alpha Jet was not asked to bomb them. It did not actually carry bombs. We were on an internal security operation and a fundamental principle of such operation was the use of minimum force.”

The air force’s spokesman, AVM Adesanya, confirmed that the NAF aircraft sighted a large number of hoodlums.

He said, “Our intervention was based on a request by the 3 Division, Nigerian Army. It was not a full deployment. We rather diverted our air assets from the bases in Maiduguri, Borno State, and Yola, Adamawa State.

“When our aircraft were called in, they sighted a large number of hoodlums. The hoodlums were dressed mostly in black. They were obviously causing mayhem. The whole idea was that the aircraft flew at low passage to cause the hoodlums to disperse.”

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Courtesy: PUNCH

Oil companies Shell and Eni to stand trial in Italy over Nigeria bribes

The two oil giants and key directors are to stand trial in what may be one of the biggest corruption cases in history. It relates to bribes paid in Nigeria for the purchase of an offshore oil block.

A Shell floating oil production unit off the coast off Nigeria

A judge in Milan has ordered Eni, Shell and current and former Eni directors to stand trial on accusations of corruption in the 2011 purchase of the OPL245 oil block in Nigeria estimated to hold 9 billion barrels of crude.

The CEO of Italian energy concern Eni since 2014, Claudio Descalzi, and his predecessor Paolo Scaroni are among 11 individuals indicted over the alleged bribes paid to secure the oil license for $1.3 billion (€1.09 billion).

The Italian company denied wrongdoing: “Eni’s Board of Directors has reaffirmed its confidence that the company was not involved in alleged corrupt activities in relation to the transaction,” according to a statement issued by the company on Wednesday.

In the trial scheduled to start next March, prosecutors allege the two companies paid $1.1 billion into a Nigerian government account and the money was then distributed as payoffs. Just $210 million from the deal is believed to have reached the Nigerian government.

Biggest case ever?

While corruption in Nigeria and around energy producers has been revealed in the past, a trial centered on the current CEO of a major oil company is almost unprecedented.

Shell said in a statement that it was “disappointed” by the judge’s decision and that it would be found there was no case against Shell.

Eni and Shell are also facing criminal charges in Nigeria where former president Goodluck Jonathanand his oil minister allegedly took bribes. In Europe, Dutch investigators visited Shell’s offices in 2016 as part of their inquiry into the case.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said “mind-boggling” sums have been stolen from state funds.

“The Nigerian people lost out on over $1bn, equivalent to the country’s entire health budget . . . They deserve to know the truth about what happened.” – our co-founder in the @FT on biggest corporate bribery trial history https://twitter.com/FT/status/943496123037122561 

Co-founder of anti-corruption NGO Global Witness, Simon Taylor, said in a statement: “They deserve to know the truth about what happened to their missing millions.” and that the Milan trial would “act as a warning to others who see corruption as a route for quick financial gains.”

Watch video01:13

Shell, ENI face graft charges over Nigeria deals

jm/jil (AP, AFP)

COURTESY: DW

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