Category Archives: West Africa

Nigeria – UN delivers food to starving IDPs in Borno

Punch

UN delivers food to starving IDPs in Borno

The United Nations has made the first food aid delivery to thousands of people displaced by Boko Haram Islamists in the Nigerian town of Banki, where hundreds have starved to death since March, the UN said on Friday.

Officials from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) delivered 30 tonnes of “various lifesaving food items” transported from neighbouring Cameroon, the OCHA said in a statement.

The convoy reached Banki on Thursday and distributed food to the more than 25,000 people in the town, it said.

“An additional 700 kilograms of supplementary food for malnourished children was airlifted from the state capital Maiduguri to Banki on the same day”.

It was the first aid delivery to the thousands of internally displaced in the northeast region in the last four months following deadly Boko Haram raids.

They have been without food and basic supplies and relied on paltry food handouts from soldiers who have been sharing their rations.

Last month a soldier and a vigilante assisting the military in fighting Boko Haram told AFP at least 10 people were dying from hunger every day, highlighting warnings about a food crisis in the Sahel region.

The vigilante said the cemetery in Banki, some 130 kilometres (80 miles) southeast of the Borno state capital Maiduguri, was dotted with 376 graves of displaced people who died of starvation.

The soldier said people had been reduced to “walking corpses” facing imminent death without food aid.

When Boko Haram intensified attacks on villages in the area, residents fled to Banki where a military detachment has been based since they retook it in September.

– Millions in need of food –

The United Nations said in May that 9.2 million people living around Lake Chad, which forms the border of Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon and Niger, were in desperate need of food.

According to the OCHA aid distribution in Banki and other areas recently liberated by the Nigerian military was “scaling up” but more funds were needed to meet the “lifesaving needs” of people affected by Boko Haram violence in northeast Nigeria.

Only 28 percent of the $279 million required by the UN to help those affected by the violence has been realised, leaving a $200 million shortfall.

The Borno state government and aid agencies have warned about acute food shortages in the Lake Chad region as a result of seven years of violence.

Boko Haram’s insurgency has left at least 20,000 dead in Nigeria and devastated infrastructure in the impoverished northeast. The unrest has also displaced more than 2.6 million.

Nigeria’s government has been encouraging people to return home since the recapture of swathes of territory lost to the Islamist militants in 2014 but most are still largely reliant on food handouts.

There have been concerns about high death rates from severe acute malnutrition in camps for the internally displaced, while it is feared some inaccessible areas could be suffering from famine.

A UN official compared the situation with the crisis in Dafur and South Sudan.

AFP

Ivory Coast to hold referendum on new constitution

Reuters

Ivory Coast’s parliament on Friday voted overwhelmingly in favour of holding a referendum on a new constitution that would among other measures remove a controversial nationality clause that contributed to years of unrest and civil war.

President Ouattara pledged during his campaign for re-election last year to scrap the clause, which states presidential candidates must prove both their parents are natural-born Ivorians. They must also have never claimed citizenship of another country.

The motion to hold a referendum was approved in the National Assembly with 233 votes in favour and six against. Seven lawmakers abstained.

The plebiscite is expected to be held in September or October ahead of parliamentary elections later in the year.

However, opposition parties and some civil society groups are against the referendum, arguing that Ivory Coast must make progress towards post-war reconciliation first.

Ivorian nationality became a political issue at the heart of a decade-long crisis that began with a 1999 coup and included a 2002-2003 civil war that split the country in two for eight years.

The West African nation has long attracted immigrants from neighbouring countries, and the clause became a symbol of exclusion, particularly of northerners whose family ties often straddle regional borders.

Ouattara himself was barred from seeking the presidency over what opponents said were his foreign origins before he finally won election in 2010, although his victory sparked a second brief civil conflict that killed more than 3,000 people.

Through the referendum, Ouattara is also believed to be seeking to create the new post of vice-president to take over and complete the president’s term if he were incapacitated or died in office.

Currently, the speaker of parliament is second in line to the presidency, but the constitution states that new elections must be organised within 90 days, a time frame critics say is unworkable.

(Reporting by Ange Aboa; Writing by Joe Bavier; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

Mali – 20 dead in fighting in north

Reuters

Up to 20 people were killed and about 40 others were wounded in the northern Mali town of Kidal during two days of fighting between Tuareg rebels and pro-government militia fighters, health workers said on Friday.

“There are wounded people everywhere. Forty wounded, with four bad cases. One of them was shot in the throat, another in the back, another in the abdomen,” a doctor at Kidal’s main health centre told Reuters, asking not to be named for his safety.

(Reporting by Cheik Amadou Diouara; Writing by Joe Bavier)

Nigeria’s second richest man and his mountain of debt

Premium Times

Mike-Adenuga

ConOil, owned by Nigeria’s second richest man, is being pursued by creditors for a combined debt of over $140.5 million by two foreign and one local companies, PREMIUM TIMES has learned.

Despite making several pledges to pay, ConOil and other companies owned by Mr. Adenuga have reneged on paying the debts, multiple sources in the oil and gas sector have told this newspaper.

Things have got so bad that some of the creditor companies have either commenced or are considering commencing legal actions to force the billionaire businessman to pay up, having exhausted all options to make him honour promises and agreements to do so.

In fact, one company successful secured an interim order from a federal court to place one of Mr Adenuga’s companies under receivership.

The increasing debt profile of the telecom and oil mogul, who increased his net worth by almost $5 billion in the last year, according to luxury lifestyle magazine, Forbes, has hit some of his creditors so hard that they had to shut down some of their operations.

One of such companies is Depthwize, a local oil servicing company, which is owed $40 million by ConOil.

The refusal of the management of ConOil to pay Depthwize, a small drilling contractor, has forced the company to lay off workers and shut down services on two of ConOil’s rigs until the money is paid, those familiar with the matter said.

“Depthwize says it can no longer afford the day to day running cost of working on the rigs,” one source said.

Similarly, American oil and gas firm, Baker Hughes, was forced to lodge a court petition to wind up one of Mr Adenuga’s companies, Belbop Nigeria Limited, over a USD $12.09 million bill they have been trying to get the company to pay.

Baker Hughes argued that in 2009, Belbop awarded it a contract for the provision of directional drilling, MWD/LWD services and supply of drilling fluids and drilling bits, logging cabin and surface acquisition system.

The company told the court that after it duly discharged its obligation and rendered all requisite services, Belbop refused to pay. Baker Hughes said it incurred a liability of $9.4 million in the course of executing the contract.

On April 12, 2016, Babs Kuewumi of the Federal High Court in Lagos placed an interim injunction on the accounts of Belbop, pending the determination of the suit.

The judge therefore appointed the Chief Registrar of the Federal High Court as the receiver/manager of Belbop until the substantive suit is determined.

Mr. Adenuga is also causing multinational oil firm, Total, headache over a $28.5 million debt it owed the French oil giant since 2009.

Although Total is trying to resolve the debt problem without litigation, the refusal of Mr. Adenuga to pay the debt has forced the company to stop work on the OML 136 gas field. Total is ConOil’s technical partner in the project.

At a meeting held with Total in November 2015, it was agreed that ConOil would pay the $28.5 million dollars owed before January 31, 2016.

That meeting, which minutes is in the possession of PREMIUM TIMES, was chaired by Mr. Adenuga and attended by four executives from Total.

But those familiar with the matter told this newspaper Mr. Adenuga’s company was yet to pay up. All attempts by Total to make him release the money have failed, insiders said.

Some said they were baffled by Mr Adenuga’s refusal to pay Total the $28.5 million, which would have seen work commenced on the lucrative oil field.

The OML 136 asset is considered one of the largest gas fields in Nigeria, with a proven reserve of 11 trillion cubic feet (TCF) of gas.

The exploration of the oil assets can boost Nigeria’s economy by creating jobs and would have yielded massive return to Total and ConOil, experts say.

When contacted, Total’s spokesperson, Charles Ogan, in an email to PREMIUM TIMES, said the matter was an “obvious internal administrative subject.”

Also, ConOil is engaged in a decade-long dispute with British oil firm, Vitol, over its alleged failure to pay a $60 million debt incurred from lifting of cargoes of refined petroleum products.

Vitol secured a court judgement in the UK in respect of the debt but has been unable to enforce it in Nigeria because ConOil got a stay of execution from a Nigerian court.

ConOil’s financial problems, PREMIUM TIMES gathered, may have been caused by Mr Adenuga’s slowness in taking advantage of potential money earners for the company.

For instance, in 2005, ConOil was granted exploration licence for OPL 257 by the federal government, but the company surprisingly left the block fallow until its licence expired. Now it is asking the government for a two-year extension of its expired licence to enable it explore the field.

On January 22, 2016, Taiwo Olushina, the managing director of ConOil, wrote a letter to the National Petroleum Investment Management Services (NAPIMS) blaming insecurity, high cost of drilling and technical hitches for its failure to explore the field before the expiration of the licence.

“Having attended to technical and financial challenges peculiar to ultra -deep offshore blocks, this approval will provide us with ample time in drilling three identified prospective locations in preparation for further development towards boosting national oil and gas reserves and production,” the letter read in part.

The spokesperson for Mr. Adenuga, Bode Opeseitan, could not be reached to comment for this story. He did not answer or return calls seeking comment.

Another spokesperson ducked when approached by this reporter to comment for this story.

Despite being identified by Truecaller app, Mike Oduniyi told PREMIUM TIMES that we had reached a wrong number and promptly terminated the call.

Tax palaver and bad loan

Mr Adenuga’s companies have also had tax issues in the recent past. In 2009, the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) sealed the Lagos offices of ConOil, and Continental Oil and Gas, another company owned by the businessman, over the non-remittance of $610 million tax to government.

Last month, seven years after his companies were first sealed, the FIRS shut the Lagos offices of Globacom, the second largest mobile telephone company in the country, owned by the billionaire, for allegedly failing to remit Value Added Tax worth N24.3 billion.

Earlier in February this year, the Osun State Internal Revenue Service (OIRS) sealed the offices of the telecommunication firm in the state for failing to pay outstanding taxes and other levies in respect of mast/base stations and laying of fibre optics.

The state said several meetings were held with the company’s representatives in the past three years to resolve the issue, but that the company failed to comply.

The Asset Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON) also listed Mr. Adenuga as one of the country’s biggest debtors for a N2.4billion loan his real estate company, Convenant Apartments Complex Limited, took from Wema Bank.

AMCON acquired the loan from the bank in 2010, after Convenant Apartments failed to pay up, authorities said.

Nigerian soldiers missing after clash with Boko Haram

Premium Times

Nigerian soldiers missing after Boko Haram ambush

FILE PHOTO: Recapture of Mubi Town

An unknown number of Nigerian soldiers are yet to be accounted for after an ambush by Boko Haram insurgents in a community in Borno State, the army has said.

The army said it was battling to save the lives of 19 other soldiers injured during the clash on Thursday.
Operatives of the Civilian-JTF, embedded with the military squad, were also badly injured in the deadly encounter in a village called Nguro Gongon.

The spokesman of the Nigeria army, Sani Usman, said the injured soldiers have been evacuated to Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, while a rescue team was deployed to go searching for the missing soldiers.

He did not say how many soldiers were missing.

“Today morning, troops on clearance patrol at Guro Gongon village and environs to rout out remnants of Boko Haram terrorists hibernating therein, destroyed the terrorists’ makeshift camps and recovered quite a number of weapons, equipment and foodstuff in the process,” Mr. Usman, a colonel and acting director of army public relations, said.

“The recovered items include 1 Gun truck mounted with an Anti-Aircraft Gun, a MOWAG Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC), 1 Rocket Propelled Grenade Tube, 1 Light Machine Gun, 3 AK-47 rifles and motorcycles.

“However, the gallant soldiers basking on the recorded success, returning to their defensive locations, ran into an ambush by a group of Boko Haram terrorists who came to reinforce their fleeing comrades. The troops fought back gallantly killing several of the insurgents.

“Sadly however, 19 soldiers and 3 civilian JTF members were wounded in action while a few others were missing in action.

“The wounded have been evacuated and are responding to treatment, while a search and rescue party comprising of Special Forces personnel has since been dispatched to establish contact with the missing in action troops, some of whom, as at the time of filing this report, have started returning to their defensive location.

“It is pertinent to state that, no stone would be left unturned until every person involved in the operation has been accounted for,” he said.

Gambian opposition leader Ousainou Darboe jailed after taking part in protest

BBC

Protesters in Banjul, Gambia, following the death of an opposition figure - April 2016AFP Protests were held in Banjul after an opposition politician was allegedly killed in custody in April

The Gambia’s opposition leader Ousainou Darboe and 18 others have been jailed for three years for taking part in an unauthorised demonstration.

In April, they were part of a group protesting about the alleged death in custody of an opposition activist.

Rights group Amnesty International described the sentences as part of the “continuing downward spiral for human rights in Gambia”.

President Yahya Jammeh has in the past dismissed criticism of his record.

Political tensions are rising in the country in the run-up to elections in December, says the BBC World Service Africa editor James Copnall.

Mr Darboe and many of his supporters from the United Democratic Party (UDP) took to the streets in Serrekunda, near the capital, Banjul, on 16 April, demanding the release of their colleague Solo Sandeng “dead or alive”.

He had been arrested, along with other activists, two days earlier, and it was alleged that he had died in custody after being beaten.

Mr Sandeng has not been seen since and Amnesty International says he was killed.

President Yahya Jammeh of Gambia attends the 44th summit of the 15-nation west African bloc ECOWAS at the Felix Houphouet-Boigny Foundation in Yamoussoukro on March 28, 2014.AFP President Jammeh has ruled The Gambia since a coup more than 20 years ago

The judge found that Mr Darboe did not have permission for the demonstration and sentenced him, and the 18 others, on six charges relating to this.

Reports from the court says the convicted activists sang the national anthem after they were sentenced.

In a statement, the UDP called the trial a “farce” and described the verdict as a reflection of “a corrupt and discredited effort to arrest, torture and persecute innocent citizens”.

In an interview in May, President Jammeh said it was “common” for people to die in detention or while under interrogation.

He said UN chief Ban Ki-moon and Amnesty International could “go to hell” for asking for an investigation.

Nigeria – Buhari’s wife to sue Fayose over Halliburton claim

Punch

Fayose, Aisha
Fayose, Aisha

The wife of President Muhammadu Buhari, Aisha, has sued the Ekiti State Governor, Ayo Fayose, for alleging that she was one of those indicted for involvement in the Halliburton multi-million dollar scandal.

The President’s wife had on many occasions denied involvement in the scam with a threat to sue Fayose if he did not stop dragging her into a fraud she knew nothing about.

A former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Ibrahim Lamorde, had also declared that Aisha was not one of Nigerians mentioned in the scam or indicted for the scandal.

The EFCC investigated the scam during Lamorde’s tenure as the anti-graft boss.

But in spite of these, Fayose had insisted that the President’s wife was involved in the fraud in which Nigeria lost huge sums of money, alleging that the Federal Government’s anti-corruption war was selective and politically-motivated.

The governor claimed that Aisha Buhari was named in a document that stated she was one of those indicted in the celebrated scandal.

However, a Nigerian online medium, Premium Times reported on Wednesday night that Mrs. Buhari had dragged Fayose to court for maligning her name.

Premium Times stated that it had exclusively obtained the court summons, dated July 20, 2016, that Aisha filed against the governor.

When our correspondent contacted Fayose’s lawyer, Mr. Mike Ozekhome (SAN), on Wednesday night to confirm whether his client had been served the summons or not, his telephone number had been switched off.

Copyright PUNCH.