Tag Archives: Nigeria

Nigeria – Jonathan says he will return to family home in Bayelsa State if he loses election

Punch

I’ll return to Otuoke if I lose –Jonathan

President Goodluck Jonathan

 President Goodluck Jonathan has said that he will return to his Otuoke home in Bayelsa State, if by default, he loses the March 28 presidential election.

Jonathan, who said Nigeria is not his father’s estate, was however optimistic that he “will not lose the election.”

“If by default somebody wins the election, of course, I will go back to my village. The country is not my father’s estate,” he told the Quatar-based international television station, AlJazeera, on Monday night.

The President denied that he was scared of the All Progressives Congress and its Presidential candidate, Maj.Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, adding that he would win because he had performed well.

When asked what he made of the insinuations in some quarters that the sudden step-up of military operations in the fight against Boko Haram was because he was scared he might lose the election on the grounds of insecurity, he replied , “It is out of ignorance.

“In a political environment, if one party, particularly the ruling party, is going to the left, the opposition would have to go to the right. They must find something. They must have something to tell the people.”

The President, however, explained that Boko Haram   insurgents were able to wreak havoc on parts of the country for long because the military   lacked certain weapons to confront them.

The President noted that with the procurement of modern weapons, the security agencies would rout the terror group soon.

He also denied that he mishandled the threat posed by the sect to the country and that the activities of the group did not start with his administration.

Jonathan, who reassured Nigerians that the rescheduled elections would not be postponed, said the security agencies had not promised to rout out Boko Haram completely before the   elections.

The President however explained that the military would degrade the insurgents to the level that they would no longer have the strength to disrupt the polls.

He said,“That is the key thing. In terms of taking over our territories by the sect,we will retake them and very soon, there will be no part of Nigeria where the insurgents will erect a flag and say this is a Boko Haram territory.

“That we will do but what I am saying is that even if you do that, that does not mean you are isolated from terror attack, but gradually with improvement in terms of technology and monitoring we will able to bring it down.

“When we take over all the territories they are holding, they are becoming weaker, now we will improve our monitoring using superior technologies to monitor their activities. We will begin to pick them and then of course, frustrate their activities. So over the period, it will go. We cannot live with terror. No, we can’t. We will stop it.”

He also dismissed the allegation by some APC senators that he was planning to remove the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission,   Attahiru Jega.

He told his interviewer that he had not even discussed   Jega’s purported removal with anyone.

Jonathan said, “Except somebody is insinuating that the chairman has done something wrong. You cannot change an officer, except the person has done something wrong. Government, whether at the federal or state level, president or governor, does not wake up and change somebody, especially somebody like the INEC chairman; except that person has done something wrong.

“INEC is a very sensitive body. For me to change the INEC chairman, Nigerians and non-Nigerians will ask questions. So, you cannot wake up and change the INEC Chairman.”

Jonathan also dismissed insinuations that corruption had worsened in the country under his Presidency.

The President specifically made reference to an allegation by a former Central Bank of Nigeria Governor, Sanusi Lamido (the current Emir of Kano) that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation failed to remit N49.8bn to the national treasury between 2011 and 2012.

He accused him of blowing the issue of corruption out of proportion.

Jonathan said, “Even the corruption issues –even if you look at the Corruption Perception Index…yes, people talk about corruption now because it has become almost a political issue. And when you move something to the level of politics, of course normally the issue is blown out of proportion.

“Yes, we have cases of corruption but it’s not as bad as people make it to be. Yes, we have cases of stealing; I always say it that, call a thief a thief. I am not staying that Nigeria doesn’t have an element of corruption or stealing.

“Start from ex-CBN governor who said $48.9bn was missing. What is the budget of this country for God’s sake? Our budget has been about N3.something trillion. That’s roughly about $18 to $20bn a year.

“And someone is saying we lose N48.9bn. If we lost that huge amount both federal and state governments would not be able to pay salaries. I don’t know how he came about that figure. The next thing was for him to reduce the figure. Up to this time I don’t know which is the correct accusation.”

Copyright PUNCH.

Nigeria – Jonathan says talk of him putting together an interim government “treasonable”

Punch

Interim government rumour treasonable, says Jonathan

President Goodluck Jonathan

 President Goodluck Jonathan on Sunday said the insinuations   that he was planning to put in place an Interim National Government instead of ensuring the sanctity of the May 29 handover date amounted to treason.

He said the only ING that could be put in place was that of the military which,   according to him, will not be accepted by Nigerians and the international community.

Jonathan spoke during the opening mass for the plenary assembly of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria   at   Our Lady Queen of Nigeria Pro-Cathedral, Garki, Abuja.

The President again assured all stakeholders in the political process that the general elections would hold on the rescheduled dates of March 28 and April 11 and the winners   inaugurated on May 29.

He said, “There is no way Goodluck Jonathan, elected by the people with a clear mandate, will   go and head an interim government.

“The only ING anybody can constitute is that of the military which, of course, will not be acceptable.

“The Economic Community of West African States, the African Union and the United Nations   won’t accept it. We will not allow Nigeria to be a pariah state again.

“Clearly, the insinuations about interim government, to me, amount to treasonable offence .”

Jonathan also described the recent poll delay as a blessing in disguise.

He said there would have been a monumental loss during the attack by Boko Haram insurgents on Gombe State on February 14, the day the presidential election would have taken place.

The President said, “Look at what happened in Gombe State on February 14 , if the elections had been held, the casualty figure would have been higher.

“It is better for us to conduct elections that will not be contested; elections that are credible, free and fair.

“We believe no criminal element can come and prevent us from conducting our elections.

“I will not do anything that would jeopardise the interest of this nation because of personal interest.

“When I listen to how some of us (politicians) talk… but God is supreme. This nation will survive.”

Jonathan used the opportunity to again thank Christians and indeed all Nigerians, for their prayers which he said, had sustained the country despite its   security challenges

Giving     assurance that the country would overcome its challenges, Jonathan condemned utterances that overheat the polity.

Like Jonathan, the Senate President, David Mark, said the postponement of the polls was “a blessing in disguise.”

Although he did not cite security implication like the President did, Mark stated that the delay had provided millions of eligible voters an opportunity to collect their Permanent Voter Cards.

According to him, if the elections had held on Feb. 14, many Nigerians would have been unable to vote.

The News Agency of Nigeria quoted him as saying, ‘‘I want to be re-elected back but I do not want to go through the back door, I want to be re-elected with many Nigerians accepting that this is their choice.

‘‘Whatever we can do to enable few more Nigerians to vote on their appointed days, I think it is proper that they do it.’’

Mark also restated that   ING   was “absolutely alien to the current constitution “and added, ‘‘We will not allow that.’’

Also at the event, the   Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, Cardinal John Onaiyekan, urged Jonathan to warn his aides and supporters about their utterances.

Onaiyekan also called on politicians to desist from mudslinging that has so far characterised electioneering ahead of the general elections.

He said, “There should not be room for negative campaigns. Personal insults and caricatures should give way to rational discussion of issues that concern us all.

“Truth must be sacrosanct even in politics. Lies, deceit, calumnies cannot move us forward. They are the hallmarks of the bad politics which have not allowed us achieve the high level that we deserve as a nation.

“These are what builds tensions, heats up the polity, spreads dangerous rumours and cause deep distrust among rival political groups. All these   are not in the interest of our people.”

The cleric enjoined politicians to use the opportunity provided via the postponement of the election to mend fences.

President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, said that the theme of the conference, “ Good Families Make Good Nations,’’   challenges every Nigerian to nurture their family.

Oritsejafor appealed to the government to continue to work hard to create employment opportunities for young Nigerians.

He also advised church leaders to ensure that their followers imbibed sound moral values needed to raise responsible families.

The CAN leader said, “We must along with other stakeholders continue to assist in creating an enabling environment for families to grow and mature, respect constituted authority, be honest and love one another.

‘‘I am pleading for cooperation, unity and brotherhood; efforts must be made to denounce worldliness, to build families that imbibe godly and enduring values.’’

Also, the Primate of the Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion, Most Rev. Nicholas Okoh, appealed to the Anglican Roman Catholic Commission   to give a definite agenda to the commission.

Most Rev. Ignatius Kaigama, the Archbishop of Jos, and President, CBCN, said the Catholic Church had uses different associations to enlighten its members to shun acts of violence.

Kaigama said that the church had gone beyond political or religious differences in promoting the common good of the nation.

Tenure extension, invitation to anarchy –Reps

The House of Representatives on Sunday re-stated its stance against extending the tenure of the current Federal Government under the headship of President Goodluck Jonathan beyond May 29.

It said keeping the government in office beyond May 29 without conducting elections was an “invitation to anarchy.”

The House spokesman,   Zakari Mohammed, spoke against the backdrop of speculation that Jonathan might still use insecurity in the North-East to request the National Assembly to defer the   March 28 presidential poll by six months.

Mohammed, who spoke exclusively with The PUNCH, noted that the House “as an institution,” took a collective stance against tenure extension to safeguard democracy.

Besides, he said democracy and the institution of the legislature must outlive the present crop of lawmakers.

The lawmaker added,”If we support what is unconstitutional because people say we will benefit from it, what are we doing to democracy?

“We swore to an oath to uphold the constitution; we cannot afford to be selfish because there were people who held these offices before we came in.

“If they had chosen to go against the constitution, they would not have vacated the offices for us.

“Even if we are to benefit mutually (tenure extension), it is an aberration and can only lead to anarchy. That is why say no tenure extension; it is unconstitutional.”

Mohammed observed that the power equation in the House at moment, where the All Progressives Congress members were more in number meant that a proposal for tenure extension would die on arrival.

The APC now dominates the House with about 180 members, while the Peoples Democratic Party, hitherto the majority party with 208 members in 2011, has dropped to around 161.

Speculation of a further postponement of the poll from March 28 have heightened lately, with fears being expressed that Jonathan may rely on the National Assembly to make the extension possible.

A legislative official told The PUNCH in Abuja on Sunday that it “ is likely the government will use the insecurity in the North-East as a ‘part of the country at war’ to request for the deferment.”

“The President will have to rely on the National Assembly, which is the approving authority in this regard,” he added.

The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission,   Attahiru Jega,   appeared not to be sure of the likely turn of events when he told the Senate last week that he could not guarantee the sanctity of the March 28.

Copyright PUNCH.

Nigeria – France to press for UN assistance for anti-Boko Haram forces

Reuters

France to press for U.N. support for Africa force to fight Boko Haram

Photo
Sun, Feb 22 2015

By Abdoulaye Massalaki

NIAMEY (Reuters) – France will support a bid by the African Union to win the backing of the U.N. Security Council for its five-nation force fighting Islamist militant group Boko Haram, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Sunday.

Fabius spoke on a tour of Chad, Cameroon and Niger, countries that have launched operations against the militants who have killed thousands in a six-year war for an Islamic state in northern Nigeria.

“France’s support for the integrated African reaction force is total. France will support a request of the African Union and other concerned countries for a resolution to be voted by the Security Council,” Fabius said in the capital of Niger.

The African Union authorized the force combining Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Benin last month at a summit in Ethiopia. A Security Council resolution could give it a U.N. mandate, say senior African officials.

The force was set up in part because of a perception that Nigeria was failing to defeat the militants, who have launched a string of cross border attacks in the Lake Chad area in recent weeks, as well as killing hundreds in Nigeria.

“It is indispensable that Nigeria engages fully in the struggle against Boko Haram. Clearly, the last few actions of the Nigerian government are encouraging,” Fabius told a news conference.

Nigerian forces backed by air strikes seized the northeastern border town of Baga from Boko Haram on Saturday, the military said.

Baga is at Nigeria’s border with Chad, Niger and Cameroon and was the headquarters of a multinational force comprising troops from all four countries. Its recapture was an important victory, one of several in the past two weeks.

Niger will analyse parts of a missile that fell on the border town of Abadam on Tuesday killing 37 people to determine which country is responsible, said Foreign Minister Bazoum Mohamed, adding that France would help in the task. Abadam lies on the border with Nigeria.

Nigerian democracy and stability in the balance – the role for the international comunity

African Arguments

Nigeria: As Democracy and Stability Hang in the Balance, What Is the Role of the International Community? – By Johnnie Carson

Johnnie-CarsonNigeria’s presidential election is heating up and the international community needs to intensify its focus on that country as it moves towards elections on March 28.

The decision to postpone Nigeria’s long anticipated February 14 presidential election was not entirely unexpected.  However, the manner in which it was done and the questionable reason given for the delay underscores what some have described as President Goodluck Jonathan’s weak commitment to democracy and his determination to secure re-election at almost any cost.  The delay may give President Jonathan a slight boost, but it may not be able to secure him a credible and uncontested victory.   The election remains too close to call.

A deeply flawed electoral process will be a disaster for Nigeria. It will tarnish the winner, undermine Nigeria’s image and set back the country’s economic and political progress. But more dangerously, it will almost certainly spark post electoral violence, exacerbate Muslim-Christian tensions and provide an opening for Boko Haram to increase its violence across north eastern Nigeria. That violence is already impacting Niger, Chad and Cameroon and could undermine security and stability in those countries.

As the international community grapples with Ukraine, Syria, Iraq and Libya, it cannot afford to let Nigeria slide off the list of foreign policy priorities. The international community needs to pay heightened attention to Nigeria, particularly over the next five weeks, and to continue to clearly signal its great concern about the direction in which the country is drifting.

President Jonathan Pushes for Delay – and Succeeds

Late February 8, the Chairman of the Nigerian Election Commission, Professor Attahiru Jega, announced that he was officially postponing the country’s presidential and National Assembly elections for six weeks because the military could not provide the necessary security to ensure the safe conduct of the polls.   During his press briefing, Professor Jega emphasized that the Election Commission was fully prepared to carry out the elections and that he was not pressured by the government into postponing them. Although Jega discounted any government pressure on him to delay the vote, the government’s record and intentions are now fairly clear.

President Goodluck Jonathan’s government has been engaged in a concerted effort to postpone the elections for several weeks.  In a January 21 interview in London, Jonathan’s National Security Adviser Sambo Dasuki called for the postponement of the presidential elections to permit additional time for the distribution of the country’s new permanent voter registration cards.  Opposition political leaders and civil society organizations immediately rejected Dasuki’s recommendation and Professor Jega issued a statement reaffirming the Election Commission’s ability to hold the elections as originally scheduled.

Having failed in its first attempt to scuttle the elections, President Jonathan’s team launched another effort to move the February 14 date. On February 5th, President Jonathan convoked the country’s Council of State — a largely advisory group comprising former presidents, generals, judges, and sitting governors — to encourage them to support a postponement of the vote.  That attempt also failed. The Council of State by a clear majority insisted that the elections should proceed on schedule.

With the Election Commission, the Council of State and the main opposition party insisting that the elections should go forward as scheduled, Jonathan played his last card.  National Security Advisor Dasuki, with the backing of Nigeria’s military service chiefs, sent a letter to Professor Jega saying that the country’s military forces were about to launch a major assault on Boko Haram — one requiring all of the nation’s security resources — and, for that reason, the government could not guarantee the safe conduct of the elections. The government needed an additional six weeks to improve the security situation before the presidential balloting could be held.

The Security Situation in the North Was An Excuse, Not A Reason

Although security was the excuse used for postponing the elections, almost no one in Nigeria thinks the military will be able to do in six weeks what it has failed to do in six years in northern Nigeria. In the week since the postponement of the balloting, Boko Haram has carried out several new and audacious attacks in and outside of Nigeria. Most observers believe the reason for the election delay was political not military.

President Jonathan appears to have lost ground in his re-election bid. Many Nigerians have become increasingly disenchanted with the government’s inability to reduce corruption, improve public services and defeat Boko Haram in the north. With opposition leader Muhammadu Buhari consolidating his support in the north and making surprising inroads across the south western part of the country, President Jonathan’s inner circle were growing increasingly nervous about his ability to win a credible first round victory. Pulling the plug on the elections would give them time to recalibrate his campaign and to increase his chances of victory.

Money and political maneuvering — not a military victory in the north — will be at the center of Jonathan’s renewed efforts. Jonathan has substantial campaign funds and rumours abound that his party will use those funds to bribe voters, to buy up voter registration cards and to encourage political defections from the opposition. Reports are already circulating that Jonathan’s party intends to set up dummy community development programs to provide small micro enterprise ‘grants’ to those willing to turn over their voter registration cards.

There is also growing concern that the government will use the country’s security forces to influence the outcome of the elections, much as it did in the gubernatorial election in Ekiti state in June 2014 when soldiers detained and arrested opposition party leaders on the eve of the poll and then harassed and prevented their supporters from voting. Some observers believe the Ekiti gubernatorial election was a dry run for what will occur in some states during the presidential elections.

The elections remain too close to call and will probably go down to the wire, which increases the need for the Election Commission to carry out its responsibilities effectively, transparently and without additional political pressure. It also requires both of the principal parties and candidates to play by the rules and for democratic nations in the global community to remain engaged and vigilant.

The International Community Can and Should Do More

A flawed electoral process is not in the interest of Nigeria, its neighbours or the international community. A close and disputed election will almost certainly spark significant and possibly widespread violence, especially should Buhari lose. It will also exacerbate tensions between Muslims and Christians, generate greater distrust toward the government in Abuja and create an opening for an upsurge and expansion of Boko Haram violence. Over the long term, there will be serious consequences for the country’s democracy.   A widely disputed election which has the appearance of being rigged will undermine public confidence in the institutions of democracy and its elected leaders and will perpetuate the notion that politicians can steal elections with impunity.

Given Nigeria’s importance and the high stakes at play in this election, the US should make Nigeria a high priority for the next three months. It should step up its efforts to encourage a fair, transparent and peaceful election.  While Secretary of State John Kerry has already made one important trip to Nigeria, the US could do more. With five weeks left before the first round of voting, the White House still has time to engage. A visit by National Security Advisor Susan Rice, who knows Nigeria well, would be a powerful signal of greater White House concern and increased presidential interest. President Obama should also call Jonathan and Buhari to underscore the importance the US attaches to its relations with Nigeria and to urge both candidates to act responsibly during the course of the elections. The White House should also actively encourage the leaders in Britain, France and the EU Commission to step up their calls and support for a transparent and free election.

At a minimum, the U.S. should:

  • Underscore its concerns about the delay in the elections.
  • Reiterate strongly that the new election date of March 28 should not be changed again.
  • Reaffirm US intentions to monitor the electoral process closely.
  • Announce that the US will impose visa bans on anyone who is involved in vote rigging or election-related violence and that the  ban will extend to their spouses and children, including those studying the US.
  • Strongly encourage the UK, France, Germany and the Scandinavian countries to     undertake similar sanctions  against those individuals who undermine the electoral process.

Unless he drops the ball, the United States should stand up for the independence and integrity of the Chairman of the National Election Commission. The success of Nigeria’s elections will hinge to a great extent on the work of Professor Jega and what he says in the immediate aftermath of the March 28 vote.  Although Professor Jega bowed to the will of the country’s security chiefs in postponing the elections, there are persistent rumors that President Jonathan’s senior advisers are angry with the Election Commission Chairman and are planning to replace him either before or immediately after the current election.   Professor Jega is not the problem, and the U.S. should speak out now against any attempt to discredit him or prematurely force him from office.

In addition to the Chairman of the Election Commission, two other government organizations will be crucial to ensuring the honesty and integrity of the electoral process.   They are the security forces and the Resident Election Commissions in each of Nigeria’s 36 states.

Nigeria’s military leaders should stay out of politics and avoid being used to advance the political agenda of one party over another. Equally, Resident Election Commissioners who work with, but are in some ways independent of the National Election Commission, must remain impartial, guard against election fraud and ensure the integrity and credibility of the vote. Like the senior leadership in the military, some of these local election officials will come under heavy pressure over the next several weeks to do things that are simply not honest. The US and the UK should make it clear to the leaders of these two institutions that their actions during the electoral process will also be monitored closely and if they are caught engaging in activities that undermine the electoral process they will be subject to the same visa and financial sanctions as political party leaders.

The March 28 contest will be very close, but it is important for the international community to support the democratic hopes and aspirations of millions of Nigerians and to speak out against any efforts to undermine the democratic progress that Nigeria has achieved over the past fifteen years. If the credibility of these elections is seriously challenged by a large majority of Nigerians, the results will be marked with violence and civil unrest rather than joy and peaceful celebration. The damage to Nigeria’s image, its economy and its democratic trajectory could be serious – setting back the country’s fight against poverty, corruption and Boko Haram for years. The consequences of a bad election will not only impact the 177 million Nigerians, it will also have a ripple effect across West Africa and the 350 million people in the West Africa region.

The next six weeks are not a time for complacency and inaction as the international community looks at Nigeria. They are a time for continued action.

Amb. Johnnie Carson, Senior Advisor, United States Institute of Peace and Senior Fellow, Jackson Institute, Yale University.

Nigeria – military and government say no going back on election date

Punch

No going back on election dates –Military, President

Chief of Defence Staff, Air Marshal Alex Badeh

 President Goodluck Jonathan and the Defence Headquarters have assured Nigerians that efforts were being intensified to ensure that the general elections were held on March 28 and April 11 as scheduled by the Independent National Electoral Commission.

Their assurances came barely 24 hours after INEC Chairman, Attahiru Jega, said he     was not in a position to guarantee the sanctity of the new election dates.

Jega, who was at the Senate   to brief members on the electoral body’s preparedness for the elections had been asked to state categorically if the dates were sacrosanct.

Avoiding being committal, he replied, “I have said consistently that there are things under the control of the electoral commission and there are things that are not under the control of the electoral commission. For things that are under our control, I can give definite and categorical assurances….“There are certain questions that we are not really competent to answer. Certain questions should be directed to the military, they can answer them better.’’

But Jonathan, while inaugurating four naval platforms at the Naval Dockyard in Lagos on Thursday, said,   “We must conduct our elections as scheduled by INEC because within this period, we are convinced that we will return to a time when the activities of extremists will not affect our elections.”

He added at the   ceremony that was attended by the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice- Admiral Usman Jibrin; the Chief of Army Staff, Maj. Gen. Kenneth Minimah;   the Chief of Air Staff, Air Vice-Marhsal Adesola Amosu, and the InspectorGeneral of Police, Suleiman Abba, that he was optimistic that the military would soon end insurgency in the North-East.

He added, “Let me use this platform to promise my good countrymen and women that we will rout Boko Haram. We are working hard day and night and I have directed that Nigerians be briefed regularly.

“The technical capacities of our men in the air force and army have been improved and we are pleased with what is happening. We commend the Chief of Defence Staff and all the services for what they are doing. We also commend other senior naval officers and ratings for this event.”

In Abuja, the Director of Defence Information, Maj.-Gen. Chris Olukolade, told The PUNCH that the military was doing everything possible to   ensure that the elections were not delayed again.

He, however, advised other stakeholders to work to achieve the country’s objectives.

“The military will continue to work frantically towards the nation’s desire to achieve the peaceful and conducive atmosphere that will enable normal socio- economic and political life including elections to take place,” Olukolade said in an SMS.

“Please let all other stakeholders, including politicians, electoral officials and the media also work honestly and conscientiously to achieve the nation’s objectives. After all, security, as the saying goes, is everyone’s business,” he added.

Before Jonathan and Olukolade spoke, some Senators said that going by Jega’s statement, there was the need   for the service chiefs to be invited by the Senate to reassure Nigerians that there would not be further extension of the elections.

The   lawmakers, in   separate interviews   in Abuja,   said the INEC chief’s comment had raised concerns by   many Nigerians that the polls might be shifted again.

The Senators are Aisha Al-Hassan, Babafemi Ojudu, Babajide Omoworare; Bukola Saraki and Ita Enang.

Al-Hassan said, “since Jega   said it was difficult for him to guarantee the sanctity of the poll dates, the service chiefs should be invited to convince Nigerians that the situation in the North -East would be controlled before the poll dates.”

Saraki said, “It is still back to that issue of security which he has said he doesn’t have the powers neither does he have an answer. Since he said we should direct that question to the appropriate quarters,   I think that further emphasises what we were saying.

“The National Assembly still needs to bring the service chiefs to give us the assurance.”

On his own part, Enang said, “On the question of security for the elections, each person has his own duty,   INEC says it is prepared and if we have concern about any other agency, it is for us to interact with that agency.”

Omoworare and Ojudu said the best way to avoid tension over Jega’s position was for the service chiefs to appear before the senate and give firm commitments.

Also on Thursday, the Trade Union Congress and two prominent lawyers – Femi Falana and   Jiti Ogunye – in separate interviews with our correspondents, warned that Nigerians would resist a further delay of the polls.

The TUC   President, Bala Kaigama, noted that there were court judgments that barred the military from polling units.

He said, “The security agencies requested six weeks, and Nigerians have decided to tolerate the six weeks. We hope that after the six weeks, they will not call for an extension.

“Nigerians will not tolerate another extension. Let them work within the committal they made to INEC. They should work within the six weeks they asked for. They should ensure that after the six weeks, the elections are held in the country.”

Falana and   Ogunye faulted   Jega’s claim that he could not guarantee the holding of the elections without security assurance by the military.

They argued that his position ran contrary to   recent court judgments barring the involvement of soldiers in the conduct of elections in the country.

Falana said, “I wish to state, without any fear of contradiction, that by virtue of section 215 of the 1999 Constitution, the maintenance of internal security, including law and order during elections, is the exclusive constitutional responsibility of the Nigeria Police Force.

“It was therefore erroneous on the part of   Jega to state that only the military could guarantee security during the forthcoming elections.

“Once INEC has discharged its constitutional duty of fixing election dates, the onus is on the Police to provide security and maintain law and order. Since election is not a military duty, the Police Force is at liberty to collaborate with other law enforcement agencies like the Nigeria Customs Service, Nigerian Civil Defence Corps, Nigerian Prisons Service, etc.”

Falana recalled ,   “In the last couple of weeks, in two separate judgments, both the Federal High Court and the Court of Appeal ruled that the armed forces have no role to play in the management of elections in Nigeria.”

Ogunye   said, “Jega perhaps meant to say that he and his commission were ready for the elections on their part but that INEC does not have the power over security.

“Jega ought to have been guided by the previous decisions of our courts – the Federal High Court in Sokoto and the appeal panel on the election petitions on Ekiti State governorship election – which have both said the military has no role in the conduct of elections.

“The police and other civil authorities are to provide security during civil exercise like elections.”

Also, the President of Nigerian Voters Assembly, Mashood Erubami, who described Jega’s statement as sensitive, said, “Determination of our election timetable by the military under a civilian administration is unacceptable.”

Copyright PUNCH.

Nigeria – defence spokesman says army has recaptured 11 towns and killed 300 Boko Haram

Punch

We’ve recaptured 11 towns, killed 300 insurgents –DHQ

Recaptured towns

The Director of Defence Information, Maj. Gen. Chris Olukolade, has said that troops of the Nigerian Army and personnel of the Air Force have killed over 300 fighters of the Boko Haram sect.

Olukolade said in a statement on Wednesday that the insurgents were killed during a combined operation of the Air Force and ground forces put in place to liberate 11 communities captured by the Boko Haram sect.

According to him, the communities liberated by the troops are Monguno, Gabchari, Abba Jabari, Gajigana, Gajiram, Damakar, Kumaliwa, Bosso Wanti, Jeram and Kabrisungul.

He said that troops had commenced a cordon and search operation in the areas involved in the latest operation.

He stated further that some of the terrorists and their weapons were captured by the troops.

Olukolade also said that the military captured “five different types of armoured fighting vehicles, an anti-aircraft gun, about 50 cases of packed bombs and eight different types of machine guns, five rocket-propelled grenade, 49 boxes of various types and calibres of ammunition, as well as 300 motorcycles destroyed in the fighting.

He added that “a total of six Hilux vehicles including those mounted with anti-aircraft guns were also destroyed.’

The Defence spokesman said that two soldiers lost their lives while ten others were wounded in the encounter with the terrorists.

Olukolade said that various phases of highly coordinated combined operation involving the Air Force and ground forces were ongoing in the mission area within and outside the country.

Meanwhile, about 30 civilians were killed when an unidentified airplane dropped a bomb on a Nigerian border village, military sources based nearby in Niger said on Wednesday.

“We don’t know whose plane it was. We understand that the victims are residents who were gathered for a ceremony but who were mistaken for terrorists,” said a military source based in the town of Bosso in Niger.

He added, “Around 30 people perished.”

Copyright PUNCH.

Nigeria-Boko Haram – unexplained airstrike kills mourners in Niger

This is a poorly written and constructed story as it jumps about, but the reporting of the deaths of the mourners in Niger in an unexplained airstrike is important in the context of the conflict with Boko Haram.KS

 

BBC

Thirty-seven people have died in an air strike in southern Niger during military operations targeting Boko Haram, local officials say.

They were attending a funeral ceremony in Abadam village on the border with Nigeria when an unidentified plane began dropping bombs.

More than 300 militants were killed in north-east Nigeria during the operation, the Nigerian army says.

Two soldiers lost their lives and 10 more were wounded in Borno state.

Nigerian defence spokesman Chris Olukolade said that a number of Boko Haram fighters had been captured and weapons and equipment seized.

The number of militant deaths has not been independently verified.

A military official told AFP news agency that an air strike had hit a mosque in the village of Abadam.

The deputy mayor of Abadam, Ibrahim Ari, told the BBC that a plane had dropped three bombs. One struck a group of mourners sitting in front of the residence of a local chief.

He added that more than 20 people had been injured during the incident.

It is not yet clear who was responsible for the bombardment, but Nigeria has denied responsibility.

“It’s not to my knowledge and there has not been any report from our people of such an incident,” said Dele Alonge, a spokesman for Nigeria’s air force.

BBC Map of Borno State in Nigeria

‘Desperate response’

Niger has been the target of bombings in the past, blamed on Boko Haram since it widened its brutal insurgency.

Thousands of civilians and soldiers have been killed during the group’s campaign for a breakaway Islamic state.

Handout from Nigeria's Defence Ministry of vehicle captured from Boko Haram fighters Nigeria has released images of vehicles and weaponry it says it captured from Boko Haram

Niger, Chad and Cameroon have recently formed a military coalition with Nigeria to help combat the threat.

Nigerian forces have been accused of overstating enemy casualties in the past.

But the two-day operation against militants in Borno State had inflicted “massive casualties”, Mr Olukolade said.

He told the BBC he was not surprised Boko Haram was continuing to carry out attacks despite “heat” from coalition troops.

“What you see are elements of their desperate response to the ongoing onslaught on their various camps and locations.

“It is expected and it will be contained accordingly,” he added.