Category Archives: West Africa

Nigeria – bomb rocks University of Maiduguri

Premium Times

University of Maiduguri

Many people are feared dead after twin bomb explosions rocked the University of Maiduguri in the early hours of Monday.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but it is believed to have been carried out by the Boko Haram.

Monday’s explosion is the first major onslaught on the university since the insurgency began over seven years ago.

The university’s spokesperson, Victor Isuku, confirmed the explosions but could not provide details.

A source within the university said the first blast occurred at a mosque within the staff quarters at the time Muslim worshippers were busy concluding the early morning prayer.

The second attack was said to have happened near the university’s 5th gate usually used by pedestrians.

A female student, names withheld for security reasons, said her father was just lucky to have stepped out of the mosque before it went off.

“But many of his colleagues like Professor Mani and other senior staffers have either been killed or badly injured. When we tried going to scene of the blast, everywhere was covered with shredded human flesh and blood. Most the bodies are being taken to the Teaching hospital while others were rushed to the school clinic”.

She said soldiers have since taken over the scenes.

The police public relations officer said the commissioner of police has mobilised his officials to the university campus.

Witnesses said the mosque was completely destroyed.

Details to come later…

Nigeria – work to start on Lagos-Ibadan railway in February

Punch

N458bn Lagos-Ibadan new rail project

Rasheed Bisiriyu

The Federal Government will commence the construction of a standard gauge rail line from Lagos to Ibadan next month, the Managing Director, Nigerian Railway Corporation, Mr. Fidet Okheria, has said.

The project, which has been awarded to the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation, is being jointly funded by the Nigerian and Chinese governments, and will cost about $1.5bn (N458bn).

Already, the Federal Government has made its counterpart funds available, while China promises to release its own by the end of this month, according to Okheria.

This is coming about six months after the Federal Government and the CCECC signed an agreement for the project.

The NRC helmsman, who spoke with our correspondent exclusively in Lagos on Friday shortly after receiving a leadership award from the ECOWAS Youth Council, said, “The Chinese government promises that by the end of the month to release its counterpart funds. And the project should, therefore, start in the next one month.”

The new Lagos-Ibadan rail, spanning 156.65 kilometres, is a double line, which is the first phase of a new Lagos-Kano standard gauge line.

The new line, when completed in 18 months, would coexist with the old narrow gauge rail line, Okheria said.

The contract for the 2,733km new Lagos-Kano rail was first awarded by former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2006 at a cost of $8.3bn to the Chinese company (CCECC) but could not be executed due to paucity of funds.

It was re-awarded to the same contractor by the Goodluck Jonathan administration in 2012 for execution in six phases, starting with the Lagos-Ibadan stretch.

Okheria also said arrangements were being finalised to start the construction of the Lagos-Calabar and Kaduna-Kano rail lines.

The Federal Government and the CCECC last year signed the contract for the construction of the Lagos-Ibadan and Calabar-Port Harcourt rail lines after the two parties agreed to cut down the total cost for the projects from $11.917bn to $11.117bn.

The Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, who signed on behalf of the Federal Government, had said the cost reduction for the projects was achieved after the contract was renegotiated by both parties.

“The contract was awarded by the regime of former President Goodluck Jonathan for $11.917bn. When we took over at the ministry, we renegotiated with the CCECC and we succeeded in reducing the contract sum from $11.917bn to $11.117bn and we are able to save $800m after the renegotiation,” he had explained.

Amaechi also said the projects should be completed in two years, adding that the railways would be connected to the seaports.

For the Lagos-Calabar rail line, the minister had said the CCECC would “commence the construction of the first segment with Calabar-Uyo and Aba-Port Harcourt, and this will include all the seaports on this route. But the entire contract covers Calabar, Uyo, Port Harcourt, Yenogoa, Otuoke, Ughelli, Warri, Benin, Agbor, Asaba, Onitsha and back to Benin, Ore, Sagamu and Lagos.”

Copyright PUNCH.

Gambia – Jammeh holds on as talks fail

BBC

Gambian President Yahya Jammeh welcoming Nigeria's leader, Muhammadu Buhari, to BanjulREUTERS Gambian President Yahya Jammeh welcomed Nigeria’s leader, Muhammadu Buhari, but talks broke down

The Gambia’s President-elect, Adama Barrow, has left the country after talks failed to persuade President Yahya Jammeh to step down.

Nigeria’s president flew to Banjul to try to broker a deal but Mr Jammeh would not relinquish power.

Mr Barrow is now heading to Mali, where he will meet West African leaders attending a summit there.

The former estate agent wants to resolve the transitional deadlock so he can be sworn in next week.

President Jammeh’s term ends on Thursday.

The African Union has said it will no longer recognise Mr Jammeh’s rule beyond this point.

Adama Barrow and Yahya JammehREUTERS/AFP Adama Barrow (left) beat Yahya Jammeh (right) in December’s election

Nigerian leader Muhammadu Buhari had flown to The Gambia’s capital, Banjul, to try to broker a deal, as the region fears the consequences of a non-peaceful transition.

Ecowas, a 15-nation bloc of West African states that organised the delegation, has it said it would consider removing Mr Jammeh using military force if he refuses to step aside.

Mr Barrow is travelling to Mali with the Ecowas delegation for further discussions this weekend.

Mr Jammeh had initially admitted defeat after the December election. But shortly afterwards he called for the result to be annulled.

The 51-year-old leader seized power in the country in 1994 and has been accused of human rights abuses, although he has held regular elections.

A lawyer for Mr Jammeh filed a request with the Supreme Court on Thursday, asking for an injunction to block Mr Barrow’s swearing-in.

The Supreme Court is unable to hear the challenge until May because of a shortage of judges, and Mr Jammeh says he will not step down until then.

There are growing fears that the uncertainty could cause a refugee exodus.

Thousands of Gambians, mostly women and children, have already crossed the border into neighbouring Senegal and further afield to Guinea-Bissau, where they do not require a visa, officials say.

Mr Barrow won 43.3% of the vote in December’s election, compared with Mr Jammeh’s 39.6%. A third candidate, Mama Kandeh, got 17.1%.

Barrow leaves Gambia with Buhari and other West African leaders

Premium Times

Adama Barrow

President Muhammadu Buhari and other West African leaders have tactically taken Gambia’s president-elect, Adama Barrow, into safety after a botched attempt to persuade President Yahya Jammeh to voluntarily cede power after he lost the 1 December election.

Mr. Jammeh’s tenure ends January 19. And both ECOWAS and the AU have said he would cease to be leader of West Africa’s smallest country by January 20.

President Buhari flew out of Banjul with Mr. Barrow on Friday, en route to Mali, for what was called crisis talks in hopes of ending the nation’s political impasse. Thousands of Gambians themselves are leaving the country over fears of a possible military intervention to resolve the impasse.

Reports say the president-elect would remain in neighbouring Senegal until inauguration day when West African leaders would escort him to Banjul swearing-in.

The Nigerian President had led a three-nation delegation to Banjul earlier in the day, which his foreign minister, Geoffrey Onyeama, admitted had not succeeded in getting Mr. Jammeh to step down.

Mr. Jammeh has made clear he will not stand aside until the country’s Supreme Court decides on his legal challenge seeking to annul the results of last month’s polls, which he initially conceded losing.

The Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS), a 15-nation bloc, has repeatedly called on Mr. Jammeh to respect the result of the vote that delivered Mr. Barrow to victory, and step down after 22 years in power.

“The ECOWAS team has decided to depart Banjul tonight in the company of president-elect Barrow headed for Bamako, Mali,” Nigeria’s foreign minister Onyeama told journalists.

Ghana’s former president John Mahama; Liberian leader Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and Mr. Buhari have spent the last month attempting to cajole Mr. Jammeh into ceding the presidency.

Mr. Onyeama expressed West Africa’s “determination to find a peaceful solution that accords with the constitution of The Gambia and also reflects the will of the Gambian people,” and said this was best served by Barrow meeting representatives from all ECOWAS member nations.

West African heads of state gathered in Bamako for the Africa-France summit on Saturday.

The African Union said there would be “serious consequences” for Jammeh, without elaborating, if violence or disorder were to break out as a result of the deadlock.

And Mohamed Ibn Chambas, head of the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel, said Friday that ECOWAS would ask the security council to approve the deployment of troops to The Gambia if Mr. Jammeh refuses to cede power.

There are just five days left of JMr. ammeh’s five-year term, but he warned the international community on Tuesday that “undue external interference” was unnecessary.

The Supreme Court is unlikely to sit and hear his legal challenge before May, ratcheting up tensions with Mr. Barrow, whose inauguration is due Thursday.

GAMBIANS FLEEING

Meanwhile the prolonged political uncertainty and fear of unrest has pushed thousands of Gambians across the border into neighbouring Senegal and further afield to Guinea-Bissau.

Tibna Sambe Na Wana, the national coordinator for Guinea-Bissau’s refugee commission, said more than 1,000 Gambians had crossed into the country, where they do not require a visa, in recent days.

“It is clear that the total number is far higher than a thousand and rising daily,” Na Wana said.

Women, children and the elderly made up the greatest numbers, the official said, with more than 500 passing one border post near the town of Jegue in three days.

“They say they are scared of a military escalation,” Na Wana added.

In Senegal, the UN’s refugee agency said “several thousand people” had crossed into the southern Casamance region from The Gambia, especially children.

Senegal and The Gambia have deep ethnic and linguistic ties, and most families have relatives living across the border.

“Most arrivals in Senegal are Gambians and Senegalese who have been working or living in The Gambia,” said Liz Ahua, UNHCR’s representative for West Africa in Dakar, but added Africans from several other nations were also crossing.

A nation of fewer than two million people, The Gambia already accounts for the highest number of migrants per capita of any nationality crossing the Mediterranean on smugglers’ boats to Italy.

The effects of the crisis were further scrutinised across the continent in Addis Ababa, where the African Union (AU) declared it would no longer recognise President Jammeh as head of state on January 19, regardless of the Supreme Court case.

Citing “the inviolable nature of the outcome of the presidential elections held on 1 December 2016 in The Gambia,” the AU called on Mr. Jammeh to respect the constitution and cede power to Barrow on that date.

Mr. Jammeh has said he wants to wait for the Supreme Court to sit and hear his case, but the Gambian Bar Association said Friday his term could not legally be extended except through a referendum altering the constitution.

The president has few allies and has faced almost universal condemnation for clinging to his post.

The Nigerian House of Representatives said Thursday the country should consider offering him asylum.

NAN/AFP

Nigeria – five students and two staff kidnapped from Ogun State school

Reuters

Gunmen kidnapped five students and two staff, including a Turkish national, from an international school in Nigeria’s southern state of Ogun, police said on Saturday.

The kidnappers, who abducted the six Nigerians and Turkish staff member late on Friday, have not made contact with police or school authorities and no arrest has been made, Ogun police spokesman Abimbola Oyeyemi said.

“We have deployed police operatives and are making serious efforts to release the victims unhurt and bring the culprits to book,” he said.

In September, Ogun state police rescued two kidnapped Chinese nationals who were working for a quarry company.

(Reporting By Anamesere Igboeroteonwu, Writing by Paul Carsten, Editing by Angus MacSwan)

Nigeria – troops repel Boko Haram attack in Borno

Premium Times

FILE PHOTO: Nigerian Army troops clearing Boko Haram enclaves along Bitta to Tokumbere, Sambisa Forest, Borno state

FILE PHOTO: Nigerian Army troops clearing Boko Haram enclaves along Bitta to Tokumbere, Sambisa Forest, Borno state

Troops of the Nigerian Army on Friday repelled an attack by Boko Haram fighters on their location in the northern part of Borno State, killing no fewer than 10 of the terrorists, authorities said.

According to the spokesman of the Nigeria Army, Sani Usman, a Brigadier General, the insurgents attempted an attack on troops location in Kangarwa village of Kukawa local government.

Kangarwa is situated around the locations where the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) is currently prospecting for oil in the shores of the receding Lake Chad.

Following the disrupting activities of Boko Haram in that strategic region, the Nigeria military had established the 119 Battalion and the 133 Special Forces Battalion of 7 Brigade to fortify the area.

Mr. Usman said troops foiled the attack with the support of the Nigerian Air Force which promptly deployed Intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance planes.

He said troops dealt the attackers “a decisive blow”.

The attack lasted hours, from the evening of Friday to late night, as troops battled to repell the Boko Haram fighters until the airforce jet came to bolster the offensive by ground troops, Mr. Usman said.

“The resilient troops repelled the incursion and in the process killed 10 insurgents and wounded several others,” he said.

“They recovered, 1 Pulemyot Kalashnkova Machine (PKM) Gun, with 67 rounds of ammunition, 1 AK-47 Riffle with 18 rounds of ammunition, 2 AK-Rifle top covers and 3 Dane Guns with 1 cartridge.

“Others include, 1 Rocket Propelled Grenade Tube with 3 bombs, 1 Rocket Propelled Grenade charger and smoke grenade, 1 Hand Held (HH) Motorola Radio an antenna, 1 copy of Holy Quran and Boko Haram terrorists flag.

“Unfortunately, three soldiers paid the supreme price in the course of the encounter, while 27 soldiers sustained various degrees of injuries. The bodies of the gallant soldiers and those injured have since been evacuated for treatment.”

The Nigeria military had in December 2016 announced the fall of Sambisa Forest, which was known as Boko Haram’s deadliest hideout.

Authorities at the headquarters of the Theatre Command in Maiduguri have consistently assured that troops would not relent on aggressive mop-up operations to rout “remnant Boko Haram terrorists”.

They described recent attacks and suicide bombings by the terrorists as signs of desperation by the “weakened” insurgents.

Gambia – African Union will not recognise Jammeh after 1th January

Reuters

By Aaron Maasho and Lamine Jahateh | ADDIS ABABA/BANJUL

The African Union will cease to recognise Yahya Jammeh as Gambia’s president as of Jan. 19, the date he is due to hand power to the winner of the December election, the AU’s Peace and Security Council said on Friday.

Jammeh, whose authoritarian rule began with a 1994 coup, lost the Dec. 1 election to Adama Barrow by a slim margin. He initially conceded defeat but a week later contested the result and called for another poll. He now refuses to give up power.

Whether Gambia can install Barrow as president is seen as a test for African democracy in a region accustomed to power changing hands at the barrel of a gun.

In a statement issued after a meeting in the Ethiopian capital, the council also warned of “serious consequences in the event that his action causes any crisis that could lead to political disorder, humanitarian and human rights disaster, including loss of innocent lives and destruction of properties”.

In the past, the AU has often talked tough but backed away from any action that might lead to further conflict. However international pressure on Jammeh is growing.

A delegation of West African officials including Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, Liberian leader Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Ghana’s President John Mahama arrived in the capital Banjul on Friday.

They will try to persuade Jammeh on behalf of regional bloc ECOWAS to make an honourable exit, rather than risk dragging the country into crisis or civil war.

“Only God knows whether Jammeh will accept to step down,” Buhari said.

While ECOWAS has voiced its commitment to seeking a peaceful solution to the impasse, it has also hinted at possible military action if Jammeh stays on beyond the end of his term next week.

“This talk is very, very crucial because it is on the basis of this talk that everybody can now begin to see which option to take,” said Nigerian Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama, also part of the delegation.

Diplomats and the Gambian opposition are trying to persuade Jammeh that he would come to no harm if he stepped down.

Nigeria’s lower house on Thursday voted to offer Jammeh asylum.

Mai Ahmad Fatty, a senior member of Barrow’s coalition, said Jammeh would be entitled to the usual benefits afforded past heads of state, including an office of his choosing, bodyguards and luxury vehicles.

He also sought to play down the possibility of legal action against Jammeh, whose rule has been marred by the imprisonment and torture of opponents, rights groups say. Critics have called for his prosecution.

“If there are any crimes against President Jammeh, we cannot say so because the crimes must be proven in a court of law. But at the moment, we are not talking about that,” he said.

(Writing by Nellie Peyton and Tim Cocks; Editing by Janet Lawrence)