Category Archives: West Africa

Ivory Coast: Mrs Gbagbo acquitted of crimes against humanity

Reuters

Ivory Coast’s former first lady cleared of war crimes

By Loucoumane Coulibaly | ABIDJAN

ABIDJAN A court in Ivory Coast acquitted former First Lady Simone Gbagbo of crimes against humanity and war crimes charges linked to her role in a 2011 civil war that killed about 3,000 people, state television announced on Tuesday.

The trial, the West African nation’s first for crimes against humanity, was held in an Ivorian court after the government rejected her extradition to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.

Gbagbo, who has often been absent from the trial on complaints of poor health, was not present for the verdict.

Her husband, ex-president Laurent Gbagbo, is standing trial before the ICC on similar charges connected to the brief conflict, which was triggered by his refusal to accept defeat to Ouattara in a 2010 presidential run-off election.

“We are happy. Since the start of the trial we proclaimed her innocence. The prosecution’s case against her was empty,” her lawyer Mathurin Dirabou told Reuters after the verdict was announced.

But Human Rights Watch said the judgement left “unanswered serious questions about her alleged role in brutal crimes.”

“The acquittal … reflects the many irregularities in the process against her,” Param-Preet Singh, Associate Director in Human Rights Watch’s International Justice programme, said.

“The poor quality of the investigation and weak evidence presented in her trial underscore the importance of the ICC’s outstanding case against her for similar crimes.”

Simone Gbagbo had already been tried and convicted in March 2015 of offences against the state and sentenced to 20 years in prison, a jail term that was upheld on appeal this month.

Prosecutors in her war crimes trial alleged she was part of a small group of party officials from Gbagbo’s Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) which planned violence against supporters of Alassane Ouattara, who is now president, to stop him taking power.

“We regret this decision when we think of the many victims,” Soungaola Coulibaly, lawyer for the victims, told Reuters by telephone.

“If Simone Gbagbo is declared not guilty of these acts then who was? … The victims do not understand this decision.”

(Reporting by Loucoumane Coulibaly; Writing by Joe Bavier; Editing by Tim Cocks and James Dalgleish)

Nigeria – 23,000 “ghosts” removed from NHIS roll

Premium Times

23,000 ghost enrolees removed from NHIS

A Hospital

About 23,000 ghost enrolees have been removed from the National Health Insurance Scheme, NHIS, the scheme said on Tuesday.

The removal of the enrolees, who have been enjoying the benefits of the insurance scheme, created disagreement between the NHIS and other health management organisations.

The Executive Secretary, NHIS, Usman Yusuf, made this known in Abuja at the award of ISO/IEC 20000 standard certification to Galaxy Backbone Plc.

The NHIS boss said he worked in collaboration with three other government agencies to remove ghost enrolees who had been enjoying the benefits of the insurance scheme illegally.

He listed the agencies as Galaxy Backbone Plc, Nigeria Communications Satellite Limited and the National Identity Management Commission.

Mr. Yusuf, however, said the exercise has brought a friction between the NHIS and Health Management Organisations in the country.

The NHIS boss said, “I have a crack ICT team and the members have worked with Galaxy Backbone, the NIMC and NigComSat to remove the ghost enrolees.

“For this, the HMOs are fighting me, but we have to make sure that the right people get the money.”

On his part, the Deputy British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Harriet Thompson, said Information Technology had a critical role to play in the delivery of government services to the citizens.

In his contribution, the Minister of Sports and Youth Development, Solomon Dalung, urged ICT professionals to deploy the use of technology to tackle poverty and youth unemployment.

He noted that youth unemployment, if not addressed, was a time bomb waiting to explode.

Mr. Dalung also challenged ICT experts to come up with innovations that would take Nigeria out of recession.

The ISO 20000, an international standard, helps organisations to demonstrate excellence and best practices in IT service management.

The standard ensures that companies can achieve evidence-based benchmarks to continuously improve their delivery of IT services, towards the growth of the society.

Tuareg factions to boycott Mali peace talks

Al Jazeera

Separatist groups vow to boycott talks with the government next week, explaining they are not sufficiently inclusive.

Unrest in Mali’s north prompted France to launch a military intervention in its former colony in 2013 [File: Joe Penney/Reuters]

Mali’s main Tuareg factions say they will boycott talks with the government next week on implementing a 2015 peace agreement, dimming hopes of attaining peace in the West African country.

The main separatist groups in northern Mali – the Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA) and Platform, a coalition of pro-government Tuareg – said they could not take part in the conference, explaining that it was not sufficiently inclusive.

“We cannot take part in a conference which, far from uniting, risks being divisive,” the groups said in a statement on Saturday.

The 2015 peace accord was meant to draw a line under a conflict that has pitted nomadic Tuaregs in the north against the government in the south.

But the implementation of the agreement has been held up by bickering, while armed groups affiliated to al-Qaeda have exploited the security vacuum to step up attacks.

After months of delays and arguments, there had been some signs of progress in recent weeks with the return of state authority to some cities from which it had been absent since the Tuareg revolt began in 2012.

READ MORE: Mali conflict puts over 250,000 orphans at risk

In April 2012, a nomadic rebel group called the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) seized control of an area larger than France before being ousted by al-Qaeda-linked groups who imposed a strict interpretation of Islamic law on the local population, carrying out amputations and executions.

In January 2013, France launched a military intervention in its former West African colony to stop the rebels’ southward offensive.

Despite continued French troop deployments, a United Nations peacekeeping mission and years of peace talks, Mali remains beset by unrest and ethnic strife.

In recent months, joint patrols by fighters from the various armed factions and the Malian security forces have helped restore confidence, but tensions remain high.

Earlier this month, armed groups surrounded Timbuktu, once a popular tourist destination because of its fabled history of gilded Islamic empires that grew rich on trade connecting Africa’s interior with its Mediterranean coast.

The armed groups were opposed to the return of state authority to the city, and no agreement has yet been reached to allow it to go ahead.

Nigeria – N19bn Paris Club scam: EFCC report indicts Saraki, aides, ex-bank MD

Punch

 

Senate President Bukola Saraki

Eniola Akinkuotu and Leke Baiyewu

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has submitted a report to President Muhammadu Buhari linking Senate President, Bukola Saraki, and some of his aides to the diversion of about N19bn from the N522bn Paris Club refund.

The report also fingered Mr. Robert Mbonu of Melrose General Services Limited.

Mbonu is a former Managing Director of Societe Generale Bank of Nigeria, the commercial bank owned by the Saraki family which was later liquidated.

The Federal Government had, in December 2016, approved the sum of N522.74bn to be paid to the 36 states of the federation as part of the reimbursement of the over-deduction on the Paris Club loan from 1995 to 2002.

The EFCC had sometimes in January discovered that the loan refunds were illegally routed through the account of the Nigeria Governors Forum by the Central Bank of Nigeria.

Upon receiving the funds, the NGF, in an alleged connivance with Saraki, began remitting huge sums to private consultants who then laundered about N19bn.

According to the report, apart from the NGF, others under investigation include the Relationship Manager to the Senate President in Access Bank, Kathleen Erhimu.

Some others under probe and identified as Saraki’s aides include Obiora Amobi, Gbenga Makanjuola, Kolawole Shittu and Oladapo Idowu.

The report alleges that sometimes in December, Saraki introduced the ex-bank MD, Mbonu, to Erhimu.

Others at the meeting were Saraki’s aforementioned aides.

It added that sequel to the meeting, the sum of N3.5bn was lodged into Melrose General Services Company account number 0005892453, domiciled in Access Bank from the Nigeria Governors Forum on December 14.

The report stated that two of Saraki’s aides, Obiora Amobi and Gbenga Makanjuola, were introduced to Access Bank as representatives of Melrose General Services Limited by Mbonu to enable them to make cash withdrawals from the account.

It added that Amobi and Makanjuola made cash withdrawals in various tranches of N5m and N10m.

The report reads in part, “Based on the foregoing findings, it is clear that Robert Mbonu, the Managing Director of Melrose General Services Company and his company were used to help divert proceeds of unlawful activities under the guise of payment for contractual obligations with the Nigeria Governors Forum.

“Suffice to apprise that all payments received by Melrose General Services Company from the NGF have hitherto been diverted directly via cash withdrawals and indirectly through transfers by Gbenga Peter Makanjuola, Kolawole Shittu and Oladapo Joseph Idowu, who are principal aides to the Senate President.

“Furthermore, other payments from Melrose General Services Company have also been linked to companies that Dr. Bukola Saraki has interest in and carries out transactions with.

“This includes the sum of $183,000, which was transferred to Bhaska Devji Jewellers, Dubai, a company Dr. Bukola Saraki had repeatedly made payments to.

“Also, the sum of N200m was transferred to Wasp Networks Limited that subsequently transferred the sum of N170m to Xtract Energy Services Limited, a company that routinely made deposits into Dr. Saraki’s Access Bank US Dollar Domiciliary account.”

The report concludes that a prima facie case of conspiracy to retain the proceeds of unlawful activities  and money laundering, contrary to sections 15(3) and 18(9) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act 2004, could be established against the aforementioned suspects.

“Additionally, investigation into their personal accounts is ongoing,” it adds.

When contacted, the Special Adviser to the Senate President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Yusuph Olaniyonu, who spoke on behalf of Saraki, said he would not react except he sighted the report.

“Send the report to me and I will be able to read it and contact the necessary people. If I don’t see the report, I cannot react to it in abstract. Send me the report if you want our reaction,” he said.

The spokesman for the EFCC, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren, confirmed that investigations were ongoing into the Paris Club scam.

He, however, said he did not know the specifics of the investigations.

“I can only confirm that there are investigations but I don’t have details,” Uwujaren said.

Copyright PUNCH.              

Gambia to set up truth commission to probe Jammeh’s rule

BBC

Yahya JammehAFP  Yahya Jammeh first seized power in a coup in 1994

The Gambia will set up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate abuses committed during ex-President Yahya Jammeh’s rule, the justice minister has said.

The finances of Mr Jammeh would also be investigated, Abubacarr Tambadou added.

People would be encouraged to confess to crimes, and victims would be offered compensation, he said.

The former regime was accused of widespread torture and enforced disappearances during its 22-year rule.

There were also unconfirmed allegations that more than $11m (£8.8m) went missing from The Gambia’s state coffers following Mr Jammeh’s departure in January.

He fled to Equatorial Guinea in January after regional troops entered the tiny West African state to force him to accept defeat to property developer Adama Barrow in elections the previous month.

“A Truth and Reconciliation Commission with appropriate reparations for victims will be set up within the next six months and public hearings will be expected to commence by the end of the year,” Mr Tambadou said in a statement.

Former intelligence chief Yankuba Badjie was arrested in January, making him the first of Mr Jammeh’s security officials to be taken into custody by the new government.

No official reason was given for his arrest.


Five notorious cases for The Gambia’s TRC:

  • Opposition member Solo Sandeng allegedly beaten to death in detention in April 2016
  • Journalist Alagie Abdoulie Ceesay allegedly forced to drink cooking oil and beaten unconsciousness in detention in July 2015
  • Ex-army chief of staff Ndure Cham allegedly ordered to dig his grave and shot dead in 2013 for plotting coup
  • Journalist Ebrima Manneh missing since he left his newsroom on July 2006
  • Newspaper editor Deyda Hydara shot dead in his car in December 2004

Jammeh’s inglorious end


After his election victory, Mr Barrow pledged that his government would not seek vengeance against officials of the former regime, and would instead set up a South Africa-styled Truth and Reconciliation Commission to heal wounds of the past.

In a 2015 report, campaign group Human Rights Watch said Mr Jammeh’s regime “frequently committed serious human rights violations, including arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance, and torture against those who voiced opposition”.

Torture methods included the “electroshock of body parts, including genitals and dripping melted plastic bags onto the skin”, it said.

The regime relied heavily on its intelligence agency to target opponents, and was also accused of running paramilitary hit squads.

It denied the allegation, insisting that it upheld the law.

Nigeria – Shell to start clearing up 2008 oil spill

Reuters

Global Energy News | Fri Mar 24, 2017

LONDON The head of a group helping organise Shell’s (RDSa.L) clean-up efforts in an oil Delta community in Nigeria said on Friday he was hopeful clean-up work after two spills in 2008 could start in April.

Royal Dutch Shell agreed in 2015 on a 55 million pound settlement with the Bodo community after accepting liability for two pipeline leaks due to corrosion that contaminated their land. [reut.rs/2hTxctf]

But progress to clean up the spill has been slow after Shell said members of the community had denied it access in August 2015 when work was set to begin. A community

After months of wrangling, the parties have reached agreement and clean-up work is set to start in April, said the chairman of the Bodo Mediation Initiative (BMI), a programme started in 2013 by the Dutch ambassador to Nigeria.

“Hopefully we should be able to go to site and start the clean-up next month,” BMI Chairman Inemo Samiama told Reuters.

The BMI is mediating between Shell’s Nigeria subsidiary Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) and the Bodo community. It also includes representatives from the United Nations Environmental Programme, the local government, the Dutch embassy and several non-governmental organisations.

“SPDC remains fully committed to ensuring clean-up takes place and will continue to work with the BMI to implement a remediation plan for Bodo area,” said a spokesman for SPDC.

Samiama said Shell had appointed international contractors to carry out the clean-up work. Once it commences, the first step would be to remove oil from the water surfaces before restoring landscapes that were damaged by the spill, he said.

“We are hoping this time around we are going to start this clean-up once and for all and get this job done,” Samiama said, adding the entire clean-up process will take several years.

(Reporting by Karolin Schaps; Editing by Edmund Blair)

UNHCR criticises Cameroon for forced return of Nigeria refugees

BBC

An aerial picture taken on February 14, 2017 at Monguno district of Borno State shows a camp for internally displaced people.AFP  Many returnees are ending up in camps in Borno state

The UN refugee agency has criticised Cameroon for the forced return of hundreds of refugees to north-east Nigeria after they had fled from the Islamist Boko Haram insurgency.

The UNHCR said forced returns had “continued unabated” despite an agreement earlier this month.

Under the deal, any returns would be voluntary and only “when conditions were conducive”.

Cameroon has rejected the accusation and said people returned willingly.

According to the UNHCR, more than 2,600 refugees have been forcibly returned to Nigeria from Cameroon this year.

Many are unable to go back to their villages in Borno state for security reasons and have ended up in camps for displaced people.

In some cases, the UNHCR said, people had been returned “without allowing them time to collect their belongings”.

UNHCR spokesman Babar Baloch spoke of “chaos” in the returns process and said “some women were forced to leave their young children behind in Cameroon, including a child less than three years old”.

Many of the returnees are now settled in the Banki camp for internally displaced people.

UNHCR staff also recorded about 17 people who claimed to be Cameroonian nationals, who it said had been deported by mistake to Banki.

Cameroon's army forces patrol near the village of Mabass, northern CameroonImage copyright AFP
Image caption Cameroon says Boko Haram militants have infiltrated, disguised as refugees

It is common in the region to find people who have no documentary proof of their nationality.

Cameroonian Communications Minister Issa Tchiroma told the BBC’s Focus on Africa programme: “I strongly deny this accusation” of forced returns.

He said the Cameroonian army had been working “hand-in-hand” with the Nigerian army against Boko Haram and any civilians who had returned to Nigeria had done so of their own accord.

“This repatriation has taken place willingly,” he said.

The Cameroonian authorities have previously said Boko Haram militants have been entering the country disguised as refugees.

Militants have carried out a number of attacks in northern Cameroon in recent years, often using suicide bombers.

The UNHCR said forced return constitutes a serious violation of the 1951 Refugee Convention and the 1969 OAU Convention, both of which Cameroon has ratified.

It called on Cameroon to honour its obligations under the conventions and continue keeping its borders open so as to allow access to territory and asylum procedures for people fleeing the Islamist insurgency.