Tag Archives: Nigeria

Nigeria – Obasanjo attacks Jonathan over Chibok girls

Premium Times

Olusegun Obasanjo

Photo: Atom Lim

Olanrewaju Oyedeji

Despite efforts and assurances by the Federal Government that it would rescue the abducted Chobok girls alive, former President Olusegun Obasanjo has raised doubts on their possible return.

Mr Obasanjo, who spoke at an event organized by the Staff Club of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, on Friday, said anyone saying the girls would return was simply telling lies.

The programme which was held at the open arena of the staff club, was themed, “An Evening with Obasanjo.”

Mr. Obasanjo blamed former President Goodluck Jonathan for trivializing the distress call to rescue the girls on the day they were captured.

“The former president heard about the kidnap 8am in the morning of the abduction but failed to act until 72 hours later and by then it was too late,” Mr. Obasanjo stated.

“Anyone saying they(Chibok girls) will return is telling lies, maybe some of them will return to tell their story.”

According to him, the failure of the Peoples Democratic Party in the last presidential election is a blessing to Nigeria.

“We tried, but with Jonathan, it was best that PDP should fail to save Nigeria,” Mr. Obasanjo said.

He pointed out that one of the low points of the Jonathan administration was his treatment of issues of importance as politics, particularly that of Boko Haram.

On power generation, Mr Obasajo said there had been no meaningful improvements since he left office.

“Power is still the same way I left it in 2007, railway is same way and other sectors, it was best that PDP stopped ruling us,” he said.

“It was a thing of joy to me that the earlier declaration of 50 years governance for PDP did not come to pass.”

Mr Obasanjo, who was in company with the Vice-chancellor of the university, Professor Fadipe and other notable personalities, also took out time to take a swipe at Professor Wole Soyinka whom he described as “an amateur politician.”

“Wole Soyinka is a patriotic Nigerian, he is a great man but his opinion regarding politics, he always misses it, I have nothing against him,” he said.

Mr. Obasanjo also justified some of the decisions he took on education, saying he would take the same decisions if he had another chance.

“I have no regrets regarding the decisions I took in terms of education including removing free food in our institutions. We had 53 institutions when I came in 1999 but as at the time I left we had 150 institutions,” Mr Obasanjo explained.

“I prefer to have all persons in schools than to have some few persons simply enjoying free food.”

He also stated that he never had a godfather when he contested for president, admonishing young politicians to shun godfatherism and be ready to face hard times in politics.

Nigeria – a century of resilience in an invented country

Review of Richard Bourne’s Nigeria. A New History of a Turbulent Century ( by Keith Somerville

In his preface to this detailed, pithy but succinct history of Nigeria’s first hundred years – dating from Lord Lugard’s decision to join the different British-controlled territories together as one colony – Richard Bourne says that “Anyone who claims to understand Nigeria is either deluded or a liar”. He very modestly claims it is an act of immodesty on his part to attempt to write a history of this turbulent but fascinating period.  But he succeeds in his “immodest” task of tracing how Nigeria has survived and it is, as he says in his very last sentence, because of the resilience of the Nigerian people.  This resilience has been consistently demonstrated in the face of of the self-serving hypocrisy of British colonial rule, the self-interest, greed and arrogance of their own politicians and military leaders since independence, and the huge and unenviable task of creating a nation and national identity from an invented state made up of at least 250 identifiable ethnic groups and with huge disparities in education, culture, religion and development between north and south.

 

If I can’t claim to understand Nigeria after reading this book, not the first but one of the best I have read on the history and development of Nigeria, I would say that I understand what I don’t understand and why I don’t understand it.  One of the major things I don’t understand, and this relates very directly to the resilience and stamina of Nigerians, is why they have tolerated their corrupt, mendacious and hypocritical leaders for so long and accepted the outrageous looting of their country’s massive resources, the wasting of huge human potential and the bombastic claims made by their rulers as they looted the country to amass power and wealth.  Richard Dowden wrote in his Africa. Altered States, Ordinary Miracles  that while Nigeria is known for its sudden explosions of violence, he sometimes feels that people should have fought back more against theft and oppression instead of allowing it to continue.  I certainly feel this after reading Richard Bourne’s book, which sets out very clearly the massive plundering of oil wealth, the scams and graft that characterise politics, public service and the military. No punches are pulled and no words are minced in presenting the level of corruption and the effect that this, along with incompetent management of resources and poor economic planning has had on the wider economy. Oil wealth has been stolen , secreted abroad or wasted on unviable projects, while the rest of the economy has floundered.  Bourne quotes the head of the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture as saying that the oil sector “was killing the economy by failing to add value, especially in building agricultural exports” (p. 263). And it is certainly the case that agriculture has been in decline ever since the start of the oil boom and that Nigeria’s food and export crop production has crashed, while food, fuel and consumer good imports have exploded, all dependent on oil.  Opportunities have not just been lost, they have been flushed away on a tide of oil and now, as oil prices fall, Nigeria has had to appeal to the World Bank and African Development Bank for emergency loans amounting to $3.5bn to make up for falling revenues and squandered reserves.

It would be impossible in a short review to do full credit to this book, which is written in an engaging but forthright style and very neatly illustrated with portraits of leading players in the Nigeria drama.  This doesn’t over-personalize what happened over the last century but it does make the history come alive as a history of people and their trials and tribulations.  It is a work of immense research and knowledge, but also personal relationships and engagement by the author, which give it a personality and immediacy.

I enjoyed reading the work and profited from it. If I have a criticism, it is the criticism of the greedy, that I wanted more; more particularly on the origins of Boko Haram in poverty, marginalisation and the complex politics of the Emkirates and Sultanates of northern Nigeria – was it a coincidence that Boko Haram had its origins and main support in the north-east, whose own Born-Kanem empire was overshadowed and eclipsed by the rise of Kano and Sokoto after jihad of Usman  dan Fodio which led to the formation of the Sokoto Caliphate in 1803?  A more explicit examination of why Nigeria has failed to punch its weight regionally, continentally and  globally would also have been welcome. But this Oliver Twist-like desire for more does not detract from my wholehearted recommendation of the book for anyone seeking to know more about the enigma that is Nigeria and the reasons for its survival and for the optimism that many, including Richard Bourne, have that Nigeria’s second century could surprise the world, and Nigerians!

 

Richard Bourne’s Nigeria. A New History of a Turbulent Century (London, Zed, 2015, pp. 250, ISBN 978-1-78032-906-2 pb, £14.99)

 

Keith Somerville is Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies and teaches courses on Propaganda and the Media, and Communications and Humanitarianism at the Centre for Journalism at the University of Kent.  He has just published Africa’s Long Road Since Independence. The Many Histories of a Continent and his book on the political economy of the ivory trade will be published later this year. 

 

 

 

Nigeria – Goodluck Jonathan defends record but won’t speak about arms scandal

Vanguard (Nigeria)

$2.1bn arms deal, others: Why I won’t speak on probes now —Jonathan

By Eze Anaba, Deputy Editor

GENEVA—A confident looking former President Goodluck Jonathan, yesterday in Switzerland  gave a robust defence of his administration and stated why he would not comment on the current arms probe scandal allegedly involving his National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki, and some top politicians in the country.

Speaking at Geneva Press Club on Security, and Development in Africa, the former President said he would not like to comment on the arms probe matter now because his comment could affect witnesses and the judicial proceeding that had been initiated by the current administration.

Jonathan in Geneva
Jonathan in Geneva

He said: “I would not like to comment now because the matter is in court. I cannot comment. Definitely, I will speak. My Comment now may affect witnesses and the judicial process.

“When I was President, I tried to build institutions like the Judiciary and separation of power and the electoral bodies. I should not be the one undermining the process.”

The former President fielded questions on a host of issues such as the Chibok Girls, Boko Haram the economy and corruption and also spoke on why he did not challenge his electoral defeat in court.

Pressed to comment on the huge amounts of money allegedly embezzled by some members of his administration, the former President said: “I have an idea about some of the corruption cases you are talking about. The amount being mentioned in some cases are so huge, sometimes people think I was Nigeria’s President since independence. Sometimes, people just bandy figures. I remember somebody said we lost $49 billion in 18 months.

“The same man who made the allegation reduced the figure to 12 billion. I got forensic experts to probe the books of NNPC to ascertain the veracity of the allegation. I even remember asking the German Chancelor who said if that amount of money was missing in her country, it would be a big issue.

“The truth of the matter is that if we lose such amount of money within 18 months as the allegation said, the country will collapse.’’

Negotiating with fake Boko Haram members
On the allegation that his government negotiated with fake Boko Haram members, Dr. Jonathan said it was not true.

“People come up with all sorts of allegations. The truth of the matter was that we realised that the epicentre of the terrorists activities were in two states – Borno and Yobe, we decided to set up a committee of influential people in those two states to interact with their people to see if they can help in tackling the problem.

‘’We did not negotiate with Boko Haram. The people we negotiated with were militants in the Niger Delta and it was successful.

‘’Even the current President said recently that if they see credible members of Boko Haram, they would be willing to discuss with them. If somebody said we negotiated with fake members of Boko Haram, the person is just playing politics,” he said.

On service chiefs and Chibok girls whereabouts
Asked to comment on the statement that his former service chief who said the Army knew where the Chibok girls were being held and till the end of his administration, the girls were not rescued, the former President said when he heard the comment, he was surprised, adding he invited the service chief for a chat.

He said he would someday make public what they discussed.

On why he did not contest his defeat at the poll, Jonathan said: ‘’I did not contest my defeat because I did not get into politics because of what I will gain. An African President on hearing the margin of defeat, said Jonathan must be tired. I could not destroy what I helped to build.’’

In his paper, he said one of the ways of tackling terrorism was through education.

“My policy was to fight insecurity in the immediate term using counter-insurgency stratégies and for the long term, I fought it using education as a tool.

‘’As I always believed, if we do not spend billions educating our youths today, we will spend it fighting insecurity tomorrow. And you do not have to spend on education just because of insecurity. It is the prudent thing to do.

‘’It is no coincidence that the North east epicentre of terrorism in Nigeria is also the region with the highest rate of illiteracy and the least developed part of Nigeria.

FG and primary education
“In Nigeria, the Federal Government actually does not have a responsibility for primary and secondary education, but I could not in good conscience stomach a situation where 52.4 per cent of males in the Northeastern region of Nigeria have no formal Western education.

‘’The figure is even worse when you take into account the states most affected by the insurgency. 83.3 per cent of male population in Yobe state have no formal Western education. In Borno state it is 63.6 per cent.

‘’Bearing this in mind, is it a coincidence that the Boko Haram insurgency is strongest in these two states?

‘’So even though we did not have a responsibility for primary and secondary education going by the way the Nigerian federation works, I felt that where I had ability, I also had responsibility, even if the constitution said it was not my responsibility.

‘’Knowing that terrorism thrives under such conditions, my immediate goal was to increase the penetration of Western education in the region, while at the same time making sure that the people of the region did not see it as a threat to their age old practices of itinerant Islamic education, known as Almajiri.

‘’For the first time in Nigeria’s history, the Federal Government which I led, set out to build 400 Almajiri schools with specialized curricula that combined Western and Islamic education. 160 of them had been completed before I left office.

‘’I am also glad to state that when I emerged as President of Nigeria on May 6, 2010, there were nine states in the Northern part of the country that did not have universities. By the time I left office on May 29, 2015, there was no Nigerian state without at least one federal university.

‘’Now the dearth of access to formal education over the years created the ideal breeding ground for terror to thrive in parts of Nigeria but there are obviously other dimensions to the issue of insecurity in Nigeria and particularly terrorism.

‘’You may recall that the fall of the Gaddafi regime in August 2011 led to a situation where sophisticated weapons fell into the hands of a number of non-state actors, with attendant increase in terrorism and instability in North and West Africa.

Partnership across West Africa
‘’The administration I headed initiated partnership across West Africa to contain such instability in nations such as Mali, which I personally visited in furtherance of peace.

‘’With those countries contiguous to Nigeria, especially nations around the Lake Chad Basin, we formed a coalition for the purpose of having a common front against terrorists through the revived Multinational Joint Task Force, MNJTF.

‘’Those efforts continue till today and have in large part helped decimate the capacity of Boko Haram.

‘’Another aspect of the anti-terror war we waged in Nigeria that has not received enough attention is our effort to improve on our intelligence gathering capacity.

‘’Prior to my administration, Nigeria’s intelligence architecture was designed largely around regime protection, but through much sustained effort, we were able to build capacity such that our intelligence agencies were able to trace and apprehend the masterminds behind such notorious terror incidences as the Christmas Day bombing of St. Theresa Catholic Church at Madalla, Niger State.

‘’Other suspects were also traced and arrested, including those behind the Nyanya and Kuje bombings. Not only did we apprehend suspects, but we tried and convicted some of them, including the ring leader of the Madalla bombing cell, Kabir Sokoto, who is right now serving a prison sentence.

‘’But leadership is about the future. I am sure you have not come here to hear me talk about the way backward. You, like everyone else, want to hear about the way forward.

‘’I am no longer in office, and I no longer have executive powers on a national level. However, I am more convinced now than ever about the nexus between education and security.

The Goodluck Foundation
‘’My foundation, The Goodluck Jonathan Foundation, was formed to further democracy, good governance and wealth generation in Africa.

“Of course, charity begins at home and for the future, what Nigeria needs is to focus on making education a priority.

‘’Thankfully, the administration that succeeded mine in its first budget, appears to have seen wisdom in continuing the practice of giving education the highest sectoral allocation. This is commendable.

‘’I feel that what people in my position, statesmen and former leaders, ought to be doing is to help build consensus all over Africa, to ensure that certain issues should not be politicized.

‘’Education is one of those issues. If former African leaders can form themselves into an advisory group to gently impress on incumbent leaders the necessity of meeting the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO, recommended allocation of 26 per cent of a nations annual budget on education, I am certain that Africa will make geometric progress in meeting her Millennium Development Goals and improving on every index of the Human Development Index.

‘’Data has shown that as spending on education increases, health and well being increases and incidences of maternal and infant mortality reduce.”

‘’In Nigeria for instance, average life expectancy had plateaued in the mid 40s for decades, but after 2011, when we began giving education the highest sectoral allocation, according to the United Nations, Nigeria enjoyed her highest increase in average life expectancy since records were kept.

‘’We moved from an average life expectancy of 47 years before 2011 to 54 years by 2015. I had earlier told you about the connection between education and insecurity.

‘’I believe that it is the job of former leaders and elder statesmen to convince executive and legislative branches across Africa to work together to achieve the UNESCO recommended percentage as a barest.’’

Cameroon – 25 killed in suicide bomb attack on market in far north

Reuters

Two bombers struck the Bodo central market while others hit the town’s main entrance and exit points, the official said.

“There was a quadruple suicide bombing in the village of Bodo this morning. There are around 25 deaths and several wounded,” he said. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.

Cameroonian troops form part of an 8,700-strong regional force created to defeat Boko Haram, which has waged a six-year campaign to carve out a separate state in northeastern Nigeria.

Boko Haram has stepped up attacks outside Nigeria over the past year, including in Cameroon, Chad and Niger, threatening regional security.

Monday’s bombing was not the first time the town of Bodo has been targeted. At the end of December, two female suicide bombers blew themselves up at the town’s entrance.

Officials said at the time that the bombers were trying to access the market but were stopped by local residents. No others were injured in that bombing.

On Jan. 13, a suicide bomber killed 12 people and wounded at least one other in an attack on a mosque in Kouyape in northern Cameroon.

Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Nigeria have all contributed troops to a regional offensive devoted to driving back Boko Haram, and the United States has contributed military supplies and troops for assistance.

(Reporting by Josiane Kouagheu; Writing by Makini Brice; Editing by Edward McAllister and Mark Heinrich)

Nigeria – Shell and ENI to lose key oil block over Etete probe

Mail and Guardian

Shell, Eni in fresh trouble as Nigeria begins moves to withdraw OPL 245 from Malabu, Dan Etete

Former Minister Dan Etete, the man behind Malabu

Former Minister Dan Etete, the man behind Malabu

The Nigerian government is set to retrieve one of Africa’s richest oil blocs from oil giants, Shell and Eni, PREMIUM TIMES has learnt.

Not only will the two oil giants lose OPL 245, should President Muhammadu Buhari approve the recommendations, they will also be fined billions of dollars for illegal activities, including paying money to fraudulent public officials and private citizens in order to secure the bloc.

The retrieval of the controversial oil bloc, estimated to contain about 9 billion barrels of crude, as well as placing heavy fines on the oil giants, is contained in a far-reaching recommendation by the office of the Director of Public Prosecution, DPP, Mohammed Diri.

The recommendation was at the instance of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, who is set to advise the federal government on how to proceed on a controversial deal that is being investigated by authorities in four different countries.

In arriving at its recommendations, the DPP committee, which included lawyers from his office, called for the cancellation of the ‘settlement agreement’ that ceded the oil bloc to Shell and Eni.

Summary of Malabu's history

Summary of OPL 245 history. Source: Global Witness

 

The ‘Settlement Agreement’

Made on April 29, 2011, the settlement deal is made up of three different ‘Resolution agreement’ signed by the parties involved in the OPL 245 saga.

The first, titled “BLOCK 245 MALABU RESOLUTION AGREEMENT” was signed between representatives of the federal government and those of Malabu, which was represented during the discussions by a former petroleum minister, Dan Etete.

The second agreement, titled “BLOCK 245 RESOLUTION AGREEMENT” was between the Nigerian government and officials of Shell and Eni/AGIP; while the third agreement, titled “BLOCK 245 SNUD RESOLUTION AGREEMENT”, was signed by officials of the Nigerian government and Shell.

The immediate past attorney general of the federation, Mohammed Adoke, and immediate past petroleum minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke signed all the agreements on behalf of the federal government. Both are among officials being investigated by Nigeria’s foremost anti-graft agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, for their roles in the scam.

The agreements saw the transfer of OPL 245, first from the Malabu to the Nigerian government and then from the government to Shell and Eni. The agreements also effectively cancelled all previous law suits and judgements related to the case.

It was based on these agreements that Shell and Eni paid a total of $1.3 billion into Nigerian government accounts, which as stated in earlier reports by PREMIUM TIMES, largely ended up in accounts of phoney companies and shady characters.

Cancel the agreement
The committee empanelled by the Attorney General Malami recommended that the agreement be cancelled, describing it as “null and void”, and saying it “should not be given any legal effect by the FGN (Federal Government of Nigeria) as doing so would amount to the FGN condoning and perpetuating illegality.”

One of the reasons the panel consider the agreement illegal is that the ex-convict, Mr. Etete, had no legal authority to negotiate the agreement on behalf of Malabu as he was not a shareholder of the company nor had the permission of the shareholders to do so.

Also, the oil bloc was awarded to Malabu in furtherance of Nigeria’s policy to encourage local companies and part of the conditions for the award was that “foreign participation interest in the blocks (OPL 245 and 214) shall not exceed 40%, i.e. 60/40 indigenous to foreign;” a fact Shell was aware of but chose to ignore.

The committee also sought the cancellation of the agreement based on a resolution by the last House of Representatives, which called for the cancellation and demanded that Shell be“censured or reprimanded… for its lack of transparency and full disclosure in its bid to acquire OPL 245.”

Also, although Shell and Eni claimed they only struck an agreement with the federal government and that they did not know, before the agreement, that the money they paid was going to Malabu, evidence by investigators in Italy and the Nigerian anti-graft agency, EFCC, shows that the oil firms knew the payment was eventually going to Malabu accounts controlled by Mr. Etete, a man once convicted for money laundering in France.

Apart from calling for the cancellation of the agreement, the DPP panel also recommended the full recovery of the money paid by Shell and Eni, describing it as “proceed of crime.”

PREMIUM TIMES had reported how the Federal Government paid over $800 million of the money into accounts controlled by Mr. Etete and how Justice Edis of the Southwark Crown Court in England refused to release $85 million of the remaining sum to Mr. Etete in December.

Infographic---Malabu

In refusing the to release the money, the judge questioned the actions of the Goodluck Jonathan presidency on the OPL 245 saga saying “I cannot simply assume that the FGN which was in power in 2011 and subsequently until 2015 rigorously defended the public interest of the people of Nigeria in all respects.”

Apart from recommending the withdrawal of the OPL 245 from Shell and Eni and calling for the retrieval of the money, the panel also asked the federal government to collaborate with all foreign agencies investigating the deal as well as prosecute all individuals and firms that violated local and international laws in the process.

In its recommendation, the panel also stated that the Federal Government can make “close to $10 billion” from the scandal.

Making money for Nigeria
To make the money, the panel recommended that Shell and Eni be fined at least $6.5 billion (five times the $1.3 billion Shell and Eni originally paid in 2011 the block).

This, the panel stated, should be done “in accordance with the relevant provisions of our laws in conformity with international best practices via the appropriate courts (at) home or abroad as the case may be.”

In other words, from the fine and the amount to be retrieved of the $1.3 billion, the government could make about $8 billion.

Also, in asking that the oil bloc be returned to Malabu’s original owners, the panel asked that the necessary licensing fees, transfer fees, signature bonus, and tax be paid by the firm; while 50 per cent of the rights to the bloc should return to Nigeria after three years based on original intent of awarding the bloc.

PREMIUM TIMES had reported how Malabu was awarded the oil block in 1998 with its shareholders being Mohammed Abacha, son of late military dictator, Sani Abacha, (50 per cent); Kweku Amafegha (the fictional character created by Mr. Etete, 30 per cent); and Wabi Hassan (wife of Hassan Adamu, former Nigerian ambassador to the U.S. 20%).

Human rights lawyer, Jiti Ogunye, had argued that the oil bloc ought to return to Nigeria and Malabu’s registration cancelled since it was based on falsehood.

“Section 190 and Section 436 (b) of the Criminal Code Act is applicable to the conduct of the promoter of Malabu, in that a false representation or declaration was made to induce the Corporate Affairs Commission to issue an incorporation certificate,” Mr. Ogunye said.

“Owing to the false representation, the Corporate Affairs Commission can approach the Federal High Court under Section 563 of CAMA to seek the withdrawal and cancellation of the Certificate of Incorporation of Malabu.”

Awaiting Malami, Buhari
The DPP report was to be sent to the Attorney General last week, a source at his office told PREMIUM TIMES, but was delayed due to Mr. Malami’s trip with President Muhammadu Buhari to the United Arab Emirates.

The report is to be sent this week to both the Solicitor General of the Federation, Taiwo Abidogun, and Mr. Malami, with the latter expected to advise President Buhari on the next steps based on the recommendations.

A source at the presidency told PREMIUM TIMES that the president was keenly following the matter and recently received a report on it from the office of the Vice President, who is coordinating the actions of the AGF, EFCC and Petroleum ministry on the matter.

Both the DPP and the Attorney General, in separate phone interviews, confirmed their offices were working on resolving the OPL 245 issue, but would not comment on the details.

“Malabu is a very sensitive issue and if there’s any resolution, I will have to get clearance before I can speak to the press on it,” the DPP, Mr. Diri, said.

Also, PREMIUM TIMES learnt that Shell was already aware of the government’s moves to cancel the agreement, and was lobbying against it.

However, the oil giant’s spokesperson, Precious Okolobo, declined comments on the matter.

Why Nigeria’s court rulings on elections show need for electoral reform

African Arguments 

The Court of Appeal’s recent string of rulings on disputed elections have raised accusations of political interference.

Voting in Nigeria's 2015 elections. Credit: Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung.

Voting in Nigeria’s 2015 elections. Credit: Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung.

Nigeria’s presidential election in March 2015 was widely viewed not just as a historic moment for the country – as an incumbent was defeated for the first time since 1999 – but also as free and fair. The same, however, could not necessarily be said of the governorship and state assemblies elections that followed the next month.

In many of those April polls, there were allegations of irregularities. Violence and acts of political subversion were documented in Taraba, Imo and Abia states. Meanwhile, in Rivers State, international observers called for the result’s cancellation and the candidate for the now ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) declared that “no election took place“.

Last month, Nigeria’s Court of Appeal, the final arbitrator in such cases, began making judgments regarding the validity of these disputed elections and ended up annulling many of the outcomes.

On 17 December, the Court nullified the Akwa Ibom State governorship election, which had seen Udom Emmanuel from the now-opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) declared the official winner. A few days later, the Court affirmed the removal of Nyesom Wike (PDP) as governor of Rivers State, calling for new elections to be held within 90 days. And on 30 December, the Court ruled that another PDP governor, Okezie Ikpeazu, had been wrongly deemed the victor in Abia state, declaring the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) candidate the official winner instead.

The Court of Appeal has also made judgements regarding the election of ten senators so far, with seven PDP candidates and three APC nominees having their victories nullified. Several elections for the House of Representatives have also been overturned.

Politics or justice?

Although the Court of Appeal has ruled against the ruling APC in some instances, the fact that the now opposition PDP has suffered the most from the judgements has led some to accuse the decisions of being politically motivated.

PDP spokesman Olisah Metuh has described a “heinous plot by the APC government to use the judiciary and various security agencies to reverse the victories of the PDP”. Meanwhile, Ekiti State Governor Ayodele Fayose has talked of a “seeming collaboration between the APC-led Federal Government and a section of the judiciary”, going as far as to claim the situation was “worse than corruption that the president claimed to be fighting”.

This may not just be sour grapes. Nigeria’s Chief Justice Mahmud Mohammed has on various occasions spoken of political pressure on the judiciary and in March last yearclaimed that there were “unpatriotic citizens” bent on using the courts to manipulate the electoral process. Earlier this month, Mohammed raised some concerns about the electoral rulings too – especially regarding instances in which the Court of Appeal disagreed with the judgements of lower courts – and reminded his counterparts that justice has to be done but also be seen to have been done.

On the other hand, many in Nigeria see the rulings as a fair reflection of the irregularities during the polls. After all, there were many allegations the then PDP government attempted to influence the elections illegitimately, with accusations that a slush fund accrued from the proceeds of oil sales had been set up and that security agencies were being used in favour of the party in key states.

Some observers also note the independence of the courts in Nigeria’s political system.

“The courts have proven they are independent and the President stands by his word that he will not interfere in the process,” Bashir Ahmaad, a member of President Buhari’s media team, told African Arguments. Meanwhile, breaking with some in his party, PDP senator Ben Murray-Bruce said: “The judiciary is shielded from controls and influence of the state and I have confidence in the Nigerian judiciary.”

Yet others argue that the truth may fall somewhere in between the two usual interpretations.

“These judgments are a validation of the reports of local and foreign election monitors. They confirm a generally held view that the elections were marred with irregularities,” says Lagos based lawyer, Jiti Ogunte, but nevertheless concedes that “if PDP were still in control of the Federal Government, the judgments might have been rendered differently”.

Safeguarding democratic progress

State elections in Nigeria are often very high stakes, with governors set to control of budgets sometimes running into billions of dollars and members of the National Assembly reportedly earning annual salaries of over $1 million. And with so much to lose or gain, it is little wonder the elections are so hotly contested and court rulings regarding polls’ validity so significant.

Given this, while many may disagree over the Court of Appeal’s recent rulings, those on both sides of the aisle can find consensus in the assertion that the country needs a more efficient, independent and non-contentious mechanism for judging elections when disputes arise.

Indeed, Attahiru Jega, former chair of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has called for an Electoral Offences Court to be created due to what he called “the perceived slowness of the conventional court system”. Similarly, Auwal Rafsanjani, executive director of Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), has advised the government to urgently overhaul INEC in order to “ensure sanity in the electoral system and restore confidence of the Nigerian voters”.

Along with the many other tasks in Buhari’s in-tray, it seems electoral and judicial reform is yet another pressing priority necessary to consolidate Nigeria’s democratic progress and the citizenry’s trust in the country’s institutions.

Lagun Akinloye is a Nigerian journalist and political analyst. Follow him on twitter at@L_Akinloye.

Nigeria – how Boko Haram funds its ‘jihad’ and how brutalized residents survived

Premium Times

The parish office of St. Pius the 10th Catholic Church, Shuwa

The parish office of St. Pius the 10th Catholic Church, Shuwa

Then came the Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad (Arabic for “People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad) but more commonly known as Boko Haram and dreaded for its terrorism, which many agree completely negates Prophet Mohammed’s teachings.

Beauty has turned to ashes in Adamawa. Peace has turned to deaths and destruction in Borno. Pride has turned to humiliation in Yobe. Yet, humanity still stands in these states in Nigeria’s northeast.

What kind of life goes on in these lands when you never know where and when Boko Haram will strike again, even as the troops of the Nigerian Army have continued to regain control of these towns and villages?

The Defence Headquarters had on February 28 announced that it had dislodged the extremist sect and retook many communities it captured in Adamawa and Yobe states. Military officials said many insurgents were killed and others arrested during the battles for the liberation of those communities, while arms and ammunition were recovered.

We travelled to some of these communities to meet residents, and experience, first hand, the monumental destruction that Boko Haram unleashed on their people.
Mark, aged 43, resident of Michika in Adamawa State recalls vividly when the insurgents invaded the town at about 10.45am on Sunday, September 7, 2014:

“I was in my house when they came into the city and I escaped and ran for over eight kilometeres into the farm and onto the mountains.

“We escaped through the corn farms to the mountains. Some people hid in the corn farms for three days without water and food,” he said to PREMIUM TIMES.

Mark found his way to Gombe, which is 328 kilometres from Michika, where he joined other escapees to flee to Singagali, Sinakwande and Tillijo mountains bordering Nigeria and Cameroon.

Michika is no longer in the grips of Boko Haram. Mark returned there weeks after troops recaptured the town.

His house was not torched. But he said, “I found that my house was used as a clinic by Boko Haram medical team because they abandoned different types of drugs, infusions and equipment there. Some of the drugs were still in their cartons,” adding, “An old woman who could not run when the insurgents took the town said she was treated in my house when she took ill.”

The insurgents occupied Michika for seven dreadful months maiming and killing men, capturing young girls and married women and raping them with horrifying recklessness.

Townsfolk alleged that they killed Christian boys who refused to convert to Islam and Moslem boys who refused to fight on their side, and took away children to Sambisa Forest to train them as fighters.

Mark said boys, aged between eight and 10, who were captured by the insurgents, returned brandishing AK 47 assault rifles and shooting at their relations.

“If you see the aggression displayed by these little children, you would feel sad about how Boko Haram took away their innocence and planted violence and hatred in their hearts,” Mark said with a shudder.

“But we are ready to rebuild our town and live together as we did before the enemies came in and stole our joy.

“Christians had no problems with Moslems here and by God’s grace, we will not fight our Moslem brothers because of the crimes of evil men,” Mark said.

Shuwa

Residents said Boko Haram invaded this community thrice in 2014. The first time in February and the second in March.

Bala, a resident who witnessed it all said the insurgents first arrived in the community with six Russian-made armoured tanks that day in February, at about 6.30 pm; destroying anyone and property in sight.

“They were shooting everywhere as they drove through the town. We fled into the bush and they went away just to come back when we returned and started killing our people again,” he recounted, his voice shaking.

After the initial assault on the town in which 13 persons were killed, Bala said the insurgents moved to Bazza, where they wreaked further havoc.  Not done, they re-entered Shuwa and moved out again before coming back to occupy the land and descend the residents.

“When they entered our town, we ran to Baza and when they came to Baza, we fled into Cameroon. We are neighbours to Cameroon. They stole from the people and loaded their vehicles and drove to Krichinga which is about eight kilometers away.

“Six months after that initial attack, they came again and occupied the town. It was during the occupation of the town in November 2014 that they blew up several houses, shops and places of worship.

“They occupied the town for three months and we fled to Lasa and from there to Bau and to Yola.”

 In the terrorists heaven

Imagine that the terrorists, during one of their forays into Shuwa, tricked the people that they were “friendly.”

Said one resident, “They told us they did not come to harm us and asked us to stay in our houses. But a few days after, they went from house to house, killing people and taking our wives and our girls away to live with them.”

“After taking our wives and daughters away, they ordered that those of us, fathers, who could not read Arabic Language should be killed. So many people were killed,” said Suleiman, one of the residents.

“They arrested my friend Joseph and me and threatened to take us to Sambisa Forest and kill us if we cannot read Arabic. At that time, the military was approaching and the jetfighters were flying all over the place. They ran away with us to Gulak and were hiding so that the jetfighters will not locate them.

“At Gulak they said anybody who cannot read Arabic should be carried to Sambisa. That was how they carried many of our people to Sambisa. Because my friend and I read Arabic, they allowed us to go. But those they took to Sambisa have not returned.”

Another resident, Shuaibu, a Catholic, has a different account.  According to him, while in church on September 7, 2014, news filtered in that the insurgents were closing in on Shuwa. So, the priest prayed for the congregation before urging them to go home and remain indoors. “I was standing outside our house with my mother, discussing how people from neighbouring villages were running away when suddenly, we saw heavily armed men coming in a Toyota Hilux and some motorcycles,” he recounted.

“They were shouting ‘Allahu Akbar,’ and we wanted to run into the bush and one of them on the motorbike told us not to run. They said they were looking for people who registered with them and collected their money,” he added.

He said the insurgents drove straight to Michika without hurting anybody or destroying any property on the way. However, he said the insurgents deceived the people into staying back while stationing their men in strategic locations ready to launch a brutal attack.

“I stayed in our house located by the roadside for four days. On the fourth day, my grandfather and I were feeding the animals when the insurgents went from house to house attacking people.”

“They had taken positions near our house and before we knew it, I heard a loud knock on our door and I looked out of the window and saw them outside. I ran to the backyard and jumped over the fence. They pursued me and asked me to stop running but I did not stop.

“Three of them pursued me into the bush and at a point it was as if they were going to catch up with me. I don’t know how they lost me because the initial distance between me and them was about five metres.

“I was wearing a green T-shirt. I guess it was not possible for them to shoot while running after me. I fell down and started crawling and they lost trail of me.”

When the insurgents retreated after the initial attack on the town, Shuaibu, who said he was watching from a tree top in the bush, sneaked back to his home, collected his credentials and those of his siblings and fled.

He went back to the bush and trekked several kilometres under the cover of trees and farmlands until he got to a point where he boarded a vehicle to Yola.

But back in the village, the elderly folk who could not run away were at the mercy of the terrorists.

The story of Shuaibu’s 86-year-oldgrandfather is ironic. He was said to have been taken hostage by Boko Haram for over a month. He was later freed but killed where he sought refuge.

Says Shuaibu, “I did not come back to see my grandfather alive. He was killed near the mountains while trying to run to safety with the credentials he carried from the house.”

“He was not killed by Boko Haram. He was killed by our people who were taking refuge in the mountain area. They had warned that people should not approach the area in the night and so they saw him coming from afar, they thought he was an insurgent and they killed him with five other people who were trying to escape with him.

“Only my old mother and I are left of my family now. We came back to find that they stole everything we had but fortunately, they did not burn our house.”

Madagali

One of the survivors of the carnage, Ayuba, said the insurgents went totally berserk in Madagali, demolishing almost everything in sight – worship places, private homes, shops and markets. They also stole everything of value including furniture, cattle, sheep and goats.

He said the insurgents spent a day during its first incursion into Madagali, a situation he said made residents who had fled to safety to return.

“When they came the second time, I was writing exam in school. My parents and sibling had fled before Boko Haram took our town but two of my closest friends were killed,” he narrated.

“I was told that they were caught while attempting to run away and asked to denounce Christianity.”

Based on the account of some of the elderly community members who witnessed the killing of the youth, the duo remained adamant and told the insurgents they would not deny their religion.

“I learnt my friends told the insurgents they would not reject Christ and the insurgents asked one of them to go but as he made to leave, they shot him in the mouth and he died instantly,” he said.

“My other friend was tied on the hands and legs and asked to convert to Islam and he refused. They cut his throat with a sharp knife.”

After the Nigerian Military reclaimed Madagali, the residents returned to find rubbles where their homes used to stand.

Ibrahim, 28 year-old resident of Madagali said he ran through the bush to Lassa and crossing the Lassa River, trekked to Mararaba Mubi, a distance of over 100 kilometres.

“Madagali was attacked on the day the Nigerian Military armoured tank fell into a ditch along the road here. When the military removed the tank and went away with it, that night, Boko Haram went to Michika and burnt houses,” said Ibrahim.

“We came back to our houses thinking nothing will happen. When we were least prepared, they came again and destroyed everything we had. We escaped into the bush and ran to Lassa. After we crossed the Lassa River, we were told the area may also come under attack.

“That was when we fled again through the bush to Mararaba Mubi from where I borrowed a phone and called my brother in Abuja to inform him of what had happened.”

His brother, he said, begged one of his friends in Yola to come down to Mararaba Mubi and convey them to safety.

Ibrahim said Boko Haram forced aged parents and grandparents who could not run to join Islam and started teaching them how to recite the Holy Quran.

“They killed my aunty and many of my relations. In my village, Wure Ganji Walle, they killed more than 27 persons,” he continued.

“It was when we came back that we did their full burial rites.   If not for the help of the bishop, we don’t know what would have happened to us.

Boko Haram took everything we had. They stole our clothes, mattresses, furniture and food.”

Even after the Nigerian Army drove them out of Adamawa towns and villages, residents say the insurgents still sneak in to kill and steal foodstuff from the people.

“It is less than 15 minutes ride on a bike from here to Sambisa Forest where they are now hiding,” a resident, who would not give his name, said.

“They are monitoring what is happening here and could launch an attack anytime. But they are not as bold as they were because of the presence of soldiers and local hunters, who provide security here.”

Although they are still struggling with the pain inflicted on them by the insurgents, Mark, Ayuba and Ibrahim told PREMIUM TIMES they have refused to give in to hate but are determined to rebuild their towns and villages and live happily again.