Nigerian Super Model and Dancer - Amanda Igwe

Read more

Lady Gaga

The controversial Lady Gaga continues to be a rich material for the press and tabloids. After her constant change of appearances and looks, she decided take the famous sexy Marlilyn Monroe as her muse in fashion.

Read more

News Hub

Nigeria loses N132bn annually to malaria – Minister

The Federal Government on Monday in Abuja presented the 2010 National Malaria Indicator Survey report with a declaration that Nigeria loses about N132bn yearly to the disease. The amount is incurred through treatment cost, prevention and loss of man-hours. The Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, said this at the start of the bi-annual meeting of states’ Programme Managers. He lamented that the mosquito-induced disease had added pressure on the already strained health system.

The report, which was unveiled in collaboration with the National Population Commission, aims at providing quality data for planning, decision making and up-to-date information on the impact of interventions for malaria. Chukwu said, “The disease contributes up to 33 per cent of all childhood deaths and about 300,000 lives are lost each year. Malaria affects 70 per cent of pregnant women and is responsible for 11 per cent of maternal mortality.

“Malaria puts pressure on the already-strained health system and Nigeria loses up to N132bn yearly in form of treatment cost, prevention, loss of man hours, among others.” The minister added that following the huge monetary loss, the government and the malaria partnership adopted key strategies for malaria control. He said, “Data is central to everything we are doing,” adding that government and the malaria partnership adopted key strategies for malaria control.” These strategies, he said, included the use of long lasting insecticidal nets, indoor residual spraying and environmental management.

Chukwu emphasised that prevention, rather than control of the ailment, was necessary, adding that the conduct of the survey was predicated on the need to determine the baseline for the full implementation of the 2009 to 2013 National Strategic Plan for malaria control in Nigeria. In her remarks, the National Coordinator of NMCP, Chioma Amajoh, said the survey was the first of its kind in the country with samples taken from all the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. Amajoh said the objectives of the survey included measuring the extent of ownership and use of mosquito bed nets and assessing coverage of the intermittent preventive treatment programme to protect pregnant women. Others are identifying practices used for treating malaria among children under five and the use of specific anti-malarial medications and measuring the prevalence of malaria and anaemia among children from age six to 59 months.

Former Bayelsa State Governor Timipre Sylva facing money laundering charges

Former Bayelsa State Governor, Timipre Sylva, is facing fresh corruption allegations as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), yesterday filed six-count charges against him at an Abuja Federal High Court. In the motion filed by Festus Keyamo, Sylva was alleged to have between October, 2009 and February 2010, converted properties and resources belonging to the Bayelsa State government valued at N2 billion. Within the period, he was also accused of procuring Union Bank PLC overdraft facilities worth N4 billion under the false pretence of augmenting the salaries of Bayelsa State Government. The embattled ex-Governor was further alleged to have converted N380 million, N50 million and N20 million through the Fin Bank PLC account number: 221433478108 of one Habibu Sani Maigidia, a bureau de change operator; First Bank PLC account number: 6152030001946 belonging to Enson Benmer Ltd and a UBA PLC account number: 0480025000418 belonging to John Daukoru, respectively in January and February, 2010.

The offences, according to the anti-graft agency, are contrary to sections 14(1) of the Money Laundering and (Prohibition Act) 2004; and Section 8(a) of the Advance Fee Fraud and other Related Offences Act, 2004. No date has been fixed for the arraignment of the former governor. However, a counsel in the Law Chambers of Keyamo who does not want to be named, told Weekly Trust that Sylva is not in the country now but may eventually be declared wanted once leave of court is obtained.

Keshi unveils 11 home-based for Rwanda

The waiting game on home-based players who will make the Nations Cup qualifier against Rwanda came to a fitting climax on Saturday when the technical crew named the lucky 11 players that will join an equal number of European-based players for the crucial qualifier against the Wasps of Rwanda. It was another painful decision by Head Coach Stepehen Keshi and his crew as they again took time off to explain to the players that they are as good as those that have been chosen for the trip but that not all can make the trip.

“Many are called but few are chosen, just put in more effort and you will be back here soonest”, Keshi told the players after assistant coach Dan ‘the Bull’ Amokachi, named the five casualties. The five players dropped from camp are Sharks goalie, Okemuteh Odah, Warri Wolves midfielder Ossai Uche, Heartland’s striker Izu Azuka, Akwa United’s Solomon Jabason and baby-faced striker Barnabas Imenger of Kwara United.As expected, Warri Wolves keeper Chigozie Agbim leads ten others that includes his club teammates Azubuike Egwueke and striker Sunday Mba, Papa Idris and Reuben Gabriel both of Kano Pillars and Sunshine Stars of Akure skipper Godfrey Oboabona. There is also Juwon Oshaniwa of Sharks of Port Harcourt, Heartland’s Bartholomew Ibenegbu and Obinna Nwachukwu, Rangers International’s diminutive winger, Ejike Uzoenyi. Enyimba of Aba’s hitman Uche Kalu completed the list.

Nigeria’s crude production peaks at about 2.68m bpd

BY Nnena Ezeah with agency reports LAGOS — Nigeria’s crude oil production got a boost, weekend, with the coming on stream of French oil giant’s 180,000 barrels per day, Usan field, offshore in Nigeria. Accordingly, Nigeria crude oil production now stands at 2.68 million bpd, up from 2.5 million pbd as at last week. Total, the operator of the Oil Mining Lease, OML138, in keeping to its promise announced the start-up of production of the in-line with the planned schedule for first oil before the end of Q1, 2012. Usan is the second deep offshore development operated by Total E&P in Nigeria, and is coming on stream less than three years after Akpo. Earlier last week, the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs Allison Diezani Madueke, had hinted at the streaming of the Usan Field, which she said would increase Nigeria’s crude production capacity, just as efforts have been beefed up to open up all the frontier basins for oil and gas activities. The Usan field discovered in 2002, lies around 62 miles (100 kilometres) off the South East Nigerian coast in water depths ranging from 2,461 to 2,789 feet (750 to 850 metres).

The Usan development comprises a spread moored Floating Production, Storage and Offloading, FPSO, vessel designed to process 180,000 barrels per day and with a crude storage capacity of two million barrels. Its size of 1,050 feet (320 metres) long and 200 feet (61 metres) wide makes it one of the largest vessels of this type in the world. President Exploration and Production at Total, Mr. Yves-Louis Darricarrère, stated: “I’m particularly proud to announce start-up of this major project together with the concession holder, NNPC. This project demonstrates the ability of Total, a key operator of large-scale deep offshore developments in the Gulf of Guinea, to lead ambitious projects that will contribute to increase production for the Group and for the country.” “Total, as operator, has introduced a number of technological innovations, among which is a solution that drastically reduces gas flaring and thus minimizes the project’s environmental impact. The development of Usan has involved a record 60 per cent of local content man-hours and thus has contributed to strengthening the know-how of the Nigerian industry in the area of hydrocarbon exploitation in the deep offshore.

The offshore arena, is Nigeria’s biggest hope of increasing oil and gas production, especially with regard to meeting set targets of 40 billion barrels reserves and 4 million bpd by 2020. Prolonged years of militancy in the onshore oil-rich Niger Delta, drove international oil companies deeper into the deepwater terrain in order to meet investment targets. However, fresh investments in the region have been stalled by the delay in the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB. The Usan project has involved an unprecedented level of Nigerian local content, with over 500,000 engineering man-hours and 14 million construction and installation man-hours performed in Nigeria. FPSO construction included an offshore integration of 3,500 tons of locally fabricated structures. In addition, large-scale training and capacity building programs were put in place, raising the skills of the local workforce to the benefit of future projects. Totals wholly owned subsidiary Total E&P Nigeria Ltd. operates OML 138 with a 20% interest, while Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) is the concession holder. Total’s partners are Chevron Petroleum Nigeria Ltd. (30%), Esso E&P Nigeria (Offshore East) Ltd. (30%) and Nexen Petroleum Nigeria Ltd. (20%).

Imoke wins

Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate Liyel Imoke was yesterday declared winner of Saturday’s governorship election in Cross River State. Imoke scored 451,544 votes (90.11 per cent of total votes cast) to beat Pastor Usani Usani of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) who scored 31,026 votes. The returning officer, Prof James Epoke, who is the Vice Chancellor of the University of Calabar (UNICAL) announced the result after receiving results from collation officers from the Local Government Areas at the mini-theatre of the Cultural Centre Complex, in Calabar. In attendance were national officers of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the Resident Electoral Commissioner, Mike Igini and party agents who signed the results among other stakeholders.

There were 1, 242, 916 registered voters. Total votes cast was 501, 117. Of this figure, valid votes cast was 489, 939; 11, 178 were rejected. The results were collated from 17 of the 18 local governments of the state. Election did not hold in Bakassi Local Government due to a court order served INEC late on Friday, restraining it from conducting the election in the area. Twelve political parties participated in the election. Other results are ALP 325, ANPP 2235, APS 172, CDC 197, CPC 705, DFPF 182, HDP 247, LP 1922, PPA 1146 and UNPD 235.

President Jonathan urged Imoke to move quickly to establish a dedicated, purposeful and efficient administration that will help him to consolidate on the laudable achievements of his first term and boost the pace of socio-economic development in the state. Senate President David Mark also congratulated Imoke. Mark, in a statement by his spokesman Paul Mumeh in Abuja, said Imoke’s re- election would be a great leap for the social-economic and tourism development of the state. He urged the governor-elect and his team to reconcile all sections of the state and encourage them to contribute their quota to the development of the state. Speaker of the House of Representatives Aminu Tambuwal advised losers in the election to accept defeat and work with Imoke.

Tambuwal, in a congratulatory message by his Special Adviser on Media and Public Affairs, Imam Imam, said Imoke’s victory reaffirmed the superiority of the PDP over other political parties. According to him, Imoke’s record of achievement in the last five years played a huge part in his reemergence. The people made the right choice in reelecting Imoke, Tambuwal said. Ex-Vice President Atiku Abubakar also congratulated Imoke. He said his “re-emergence with a resounding and convincing margin is a mandate to continue leading Cross River in the direction he has led the state in the last four years”. Atiku added: “Liyel is a performer. I know he won’t fail the party and the people.

Patricia Youmgbo, 17yr old girl flees home over forced circumcision - Video

17-year-old girl, Miss Patricia Youmgbo, has been declared missing by family members after she reportedly fled home to avoid circumcision.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) learnt that the girl's decision to run away from home followed the death of her younger sister, Joy, after she was forced to undergo circumcision on January 15.

An uncle to the missing girl, Mr. Jonah Youmgbo, told NAN that Patricia had fled the family home in Amassoma, Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of Bayelsa since Feb. 14.

Youmgbo said that the two sisters, who lived in Lagos, had came home in December 2012 to spend the Christmas with their grandmother in Amassoma.

He said that the girls’ grandmother and some extended family members had ordered the girls to be circumcised before returning to Lagos.

NAN learnt that it was the decision of the family that led to the forced circumcision of Joy, a development that triggered the excessive bleeding that eventually led to her death.

Youmgbo, who lamented the death of the teenager, said that Joy, who was full of life before the forced circumcision, died from injuries as a result of the crude traditional practice of female genital mutilation.

He explained that the victim, suffered severe excruciating pains for days after the mutilation of her genital before her death.

Youmgbo said that medical reports obtained after the death of Joy, showed that the 15-year-old died of "Post Circumcision haemorrhage''.

NAN learnt that it was the fear of falling victim of the same circumcision that made the elder sister, Patricia to flee the community since Feb. 14.

Youmgbo, who is a brother to the girls’ father, told NAN that a case of missing person had since been reported at the Amassoma Divisional Police headquarters.

He used the opportunity to call on Nigerians and Ijaw people in particular to desist from the “obnoxious” tradition of female genital mutilation.

Job losses: Banks advised to adopt credit analysis

No fewer than 3,000 employees of merged banks have been sent back into the labour market in the last one month.

In spite of that, there are strong indications in the sector that more banks plan to lay off some of their workers under the guise of saving overhead and operations costs.

In January, at least 1,500 workers of former Intercontinental Bank were fired by the management of Access Bank.

Access Bank will succeed the rescued bank from March when the merger is completed.

Ecobank Nigeria Plc also sacked over 1,000 members of staff of former Oceanic Bank Plc for similar reasons.

Ecobank took over Oceanic Bank in a merger.

One of the nationalised banks, Enterprise Bank (former Spring Bank) also eased off 140 members of staff, who it said fell short of the employer’s target.

SATURDAY PUNCH learnt that Skye Bank, Afribank, Union Bank Plc were also planning to trim their workforce, a move that even the Central Bank of Nigeria may not stop.

Since the resurgence of the wave of sacking in the sector early this year, industry watchers have been appraising its effects.

Some cautioned the banks to tread carefully in their bid to save operations and overhead costs so as not to further saturate the unemployed market.

But others argued that corporate downsizing remained the biggest fallout of the period and a legitimate option for business growth strategies.

The Registrar of Institute of Credit Administration, Dr. Chris Onalo, said the problem should be traced to the roots.

He said there was a dire need for the management of banks to be more transparent and less involved in influencing credit appraisal processes.

He said they should rather exercise absolute caution in approving the loan request, which in turn, may qualify their accounts for future debt purchasing or factoring by asset/receivable management organisations.

While he said it was unfortunate that hapless bank workers were the worse for the fallout of poor credit administration by bank chiefs, he made a case for credit analysis.

Onalo said, “A credit analysis is a process that bankers use to determine whether a borrowing applicant should be permitted to borrow money, either in the form of a loan or the generation of debt.”

Tribunal throws out Omehia’s petition

The Election Petition Tribunal in Rivers state has thrown out the petition filed by the governorship candidate of the All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA, Sir Celestine Omehia challenging the victory of Governor Chibuike Amaechi at the last governorship election in the state.

Delivering its unanimous judgement, Chairman of the three member tribunal, Justice Abdulahi Mohadded Liman said “The tribunal must not fail to obey the law. The judgment of the Supreme Court of February 17 is very clear, that the petition must not be retried after 180 days. It is the law and must be obeyed to the letter.

“It will amount to gross judicial impudence to close our eyes to the law. The petition is hereby struck out. The apex court and the legislature may later amend the decision, but for now, we must abide by it.”

It would be recalled that the governorship candidate of the APGA had challenged the victory of Governor Amaechi at an earlier constituted tribunal where he lost but the Court of Appeal later ordered a retrial at the tribunal based on a petition he filed challenging the verdict of the first Election Petition Tribunal.

The reconstituted tribunal yesterday threw out the whole petitions this was after it had struck out some portions in the petition about a week ago on the ground that those alleged to have committed certain crimes during the election were not joined in the suit, an act the tribunal said violated the electoral act.

In Kigali Keshi faces acid test

On Wednesday in Kigali, Rwanda, Super Eagles chief coach, Stephen Okechukwu Keshi, alias Big Boss will have his first real acid test as gaffer of the team since succeeding friend and former team mate, Samson Siasia.

Till date, the former Hawks of Togo handler has played three international friendlies mainly with what could be termed a second string of theEagles drawn wholly from home-based players plying their football trade in the Nigeria Premier League.

These friendlies include the Botswana tie at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium in Benin City, Edo State which ended in a barren draw, the 2-0 win over the Chipolopolo of Zambia at the Ahmadu Bello Stadium in Kaduna prior to the Zambians Africa Nations Cup triumph in Gabon earlier this month and the last against the Lone Star of Liberia in Monrovia which they also won 2-0.

So at the Stade Regional de Kigali Wednesday, a smaller arena to the earlier approved Amahoro Stadium, Keshi will begin his journey into the 2013 Africa Nations Cup, the first in odd number years after CAF changed from the even number years, the last being the just concluded one co-hosted by Equatorial Guinea-Gabon.

From the three friendlies decided, Keshi already has an idea of who among the home-based lads will make the final list of 22 players expected to jet out aboard a charter flight on Monday. He has reserved 11 slots for them after only extending invitations to 11 foreign-based players, including fornmer outcasts, Yakubu Aiyegbeni and Sani Kaita, both of whom fans swore they don’t want in the team anymore after their not too impressive roles at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

As he prepares to name the local boys for the battle today or tomorrow, the Illah-born gaffer is faced with two problems, one which he is already contending with, the hot weather they are expected to face in Kigali. He adjusted his training sessions to hold under the hot Abuja sun so the players will get used to it.

His other worry, which he says he has nothing to do about, is the short time he has to blend the foreign-based players with the local players who are already used to one another as the latest they can join the team is tomorrow or latest by Monday, the same day the team are expected to depart for Kigali.

However, as Keshi ponders on these ‘problems’, former image-maker of the Nigeria Football Association, NFA, Austin Mgbolu, who says that Rwanda will prove tough, has advised Keshi to dare the Kigali weather by fielding players who are ready to fight to the finish.

Speaking in Abuja during the week, Mgbolu advised that he uses more of the home-based players and a sprinkle of the foreign-based he knows will be able to stand the strong weather condition in Kigali since most of the Europe-based players will be coming in from the cold.

“We know the hostile weather (in Kigali) is a factor for him and his lads but I expect him to use more of the home players and a blend of the foreign ones who he knows are able to face the strong weather challenge. I know he knows that his reign and love by the fans starts from this game.

He has been able to put up a team that is gradually bringing back the good conduct and discipline a team should possess. I must say that the technical and tactical display of the team gives hope ahead of the tie. The only thing I saw lacking was the finishing of the attackers which I believe necessitated the invitation of more strikers for the game. The home Eagles have really shown a fighting spirit.

“The tie is a very crunchy one for him bearing in mind our last encounter there which was not palatable. Moreso, the ranting of their coach, sends a message that he has something up his sleeves which may pull down the Eagles,” Mgbolu said.

Lagos stands still for the Ikemba

Thousands of Lagosians turned out at the Tafawa Balewa Square, Thursday, to pay their last respect to the late Igbo leader, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu.

The colourful event, which began about three hours behind schedule, had the late warlord's colleagues in the army as well as his political compatriots paying their last respect.

"I speak of my commanding officer, Odumegwu-Ojukwu. He was a fine officer, an officer I emulated, whose loyalty you couldn't doubt," said Ike Nwachukwu, 72, a former senator and retired army general.

The funeral ceremony, which precedes the arrival of Mr. Odumegwu-Ojukwu's remains next Monday, began with Lazarus Ekwueme, professor and traditional ruler, leading a choral group for a rendition of the national anthem.

The presentation and breaking of kolanut followed.

There was a military parade in honour of the late Head of State of the defunct Republic of Biafra performed by young cadets from Kings College, his alma mater.

A befitting tribute

Tunji Braithwaite, the chairman of the occasion, reminisced about his acquaintance with the deceased since age eight.

"The thing I want to say today is to correct some wrong impressions about Emeka (Odumegwu-Ojukwu)," said Dr. Braithwaite.

"Some people said that Emeka declared war against his fatherland. There is nothing farther from the truth. "Emeka declared war against lies and corruption. Imagine yourself as the patriarch of your home and there are oppressions and injustices, would you surrender?

"I will not surrender," Dr. Braithwaite said, while also calling for the convening of a national conference to avoid "the fulfilling of some doom apocalyptic prediction of this country."

Uche Chukwumerije, a senator, while apologizing on behalf of Chukwudifu Oputa, the chairman of the Odumegwu-Ojukwu Burial Committee whom he said was "unavoidably absent because he's very sick;" described the Lagos ceremony as "homecoming" for the late Odumegwu-Ojukwu's because it was his "first home."

"If you look at the life of Ojukwu, from his time in Lagos to his stay in the army.... Ojukwu's life mirrors the life and bounds of Nigeria," said Mr. Chukwumerije, the vice chairman of the Burial Committee

Other notable Nigerians paid tributes to the late Igbo hero who passed away last year at 78.

Bola Tinubu, former Lagos State governor, while emphasizing that the deceased "attended the best schools" said that he "chose the path less travelled."

Adeyinka Adebayo, a retired army general and former governor, spoke about their first meeting at a cocktail party in Enugu when the deceased was an Assistant District Officer, before Nigeria's independence. He also explained the various roles played by some notable Nigerians in the army during the 1966 coup and counter-coup.

Pat Utomi, a former presidential aspirant, said he'd rather not praise or celebrate the deceased.

"I stand here to tell the people to send his spirit on an errand," said Prof. Utomi.

Businessman Sonny Odogwu started talking about the people who fought Mr. Ojukwu during the civil war "Obasanjo inclusive, Adebayo (rtd General) confirmed it..." and then paused and switched to something else.

"The social injustice that we vehemently fought against is still there," said Mr. Odogwu.

Others who eulogized the late Ojukwu included Paschal Dozie, the founder of Diamond Bank; Victor Umeh, National Chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA); Rochas Okorocha, Imo State governor; and his Anambra State counterpart, Peter Obi, amongst others.

Also, speaking to Premium Times before the ceremony began, Emeka Anyaoku said "it will take a little while before another Igbo leader emerges."

"His passing has left a great void in, not only the leadership of Ndigbo, but also in the national political leadership of the country," said Mr. Anyaoku, a former Commonwealth Secretary-General.

In his remarks, Debe Odumegwu-Ojukwu while saying that his late father represented "a love for all" as could be testified by the notable ethnic and religious leaders who graced the ceremony; added that another leader would rise to take his place.

"They should try and rule the country without injustice so that Biafra will not rise again. But if such a situation arises, somebody will fit into his shoes," said Debe Odumegwu-Ojukwu, the deceased's first son.

Some drama

The ceremony also witnessed some talking points with Mr. Odogwu, perhaps, providing the most unusual moment when he suddenly dropped his microphone in the middle of his speech.

He later complained that the microphone almost electrocuted him.

"The microphone shocked me and I nearly fell down but Ikemba's spirit said I'll never fall down," said Mr. Odogwu, who was flanked by Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu (Jnr), the second son of the late Igbo leader. The duo later left in the middle of the ceremony.

Various Igbo traders' groups, Igbo groups, and non-Igbo groups did a lap honour to pay tribute to the late warlord. Some Muslim leaders and clerics, led by Jubril Mogaji, the Etsu Nupe of Lagos, embarked on a prayer in the middle of the ceremony after "they've been moved to pray."

Mr. Okorocha, who received a rapturous reception from the crowd, said that the presence of Mr. Tinubu and other eminent Yoruba leaders "has rekindled the friendship between the Igbos and the South West."

Mr. Obi, who gave his speech in Igbo language, paid glowing tributes to the late Ojukwu, the Igbos, and "the Igbo spirit."

Babatunde Fashola, the Lagos State governor, said he had a lot to tell the next generation about Mr. Odumegwu-Ojukwu. "As I considered a befitting tribute, many things flashed through my mind.

"What lessons did we learn from the war?

"What would Ikemba (Ojukwu's title) have wished if he were alive - a broken Nigeria or a stronger united Nigeria?" Asked Mr. Fashola, who is the chief guest of honour.

While delivering an emotionally charged tribute, Mr. Fashola said that his childhood memories of the civil war, when he was barely four, had made him say "never again to war in Nigeria."

"I will tell the next generation that he was a general's general who fought for what he believed in... "Here goes a great man; from where , just where, will another one come?"

Lagos stands still for the Ikemba

AS the ceremony got underway at the Tafawa Balewa Square (TBS), Lagos, traffic in almost the entire metropolis came to a near stand-still yesterday.

The heavy traffic recorded on the Funsho Williams Avenue, Surulere, Lagos Island and Apapa routes were attributed to the final honour staged for the Biafran leader by the Lagos State Government.

All the routes connecting the island with the mainland were completely blocked.

Some road users lamented over the situation which they said kept them on the road for hours. Mr Wale Olagunsoye, an Ikeja-bound commercial driver, while narrating his ordeal in the gridlock from Lagos Island to Costain, alleged that traffic wardens did not control the situation.

“I do not know the cause of this heavy traffic and why the traffic wardens were nowhere to be found to bail us out of this mess,” Olagunsoye said.

Mr Paul Okafor, a businessman, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that he decided to walk from Eric Moore to TBS to pay his last respect to Ojukwu when he was trapped in the traffic congestion.

“Although the traffic is heavy, I have to park my car somewhere at Eric Moore so as to have a glimpse of the remains of Ojukwu who has contributed immensely to the building of this nation,” he said.

Mr Chika Michael, a commuter, said he was disappointed because he had to pay N200 instead of N70 from Orile to the Island, yet, had to get down from the bus to trek a long distance.

Ojukwu was forced to defend his people, says Tinubu

Former Lagos State Governor Asiwaju Bola Tinubu yesterday said the late Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu was forced by circumstances to defend his people.

Tinubu, who spoke at a funeral for the former Biafran leader in Lagos, said besides the three founding fathers of Nigeria- Obafemi Awolowo, Nnamdi Azikiwe and Ahmadu Bello- no other Nigerian has altered the course of history than Odumegwu-Ojukwu.

He said: “After the contributions of our great nationalists such as Nnamdi Azikwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Sir Ahmadu Bello, no single Nigerian has altered the course of Nigeria’s history as the late Ikemba Ojukwu. He was forced by the circumstance of history to defend his people when he believed they faced physical and political annihilation. His reasons were clear to his people and his voice and strong determination reverberated across Nigeria. Ultimately, he altered the course of Nigerian political history in profound ways.”

Tinubu said though the late Ojukwu meant different things to different people, there was no doubt that he cemented his place in history by dint of hard work and commitment.

He said: “Ojukwu was truly a product of the flawed attempt to be a good Nigerian without first being good Igbo man, Hausa woman or Yoruba child. It makes more pragmatic sense to build Nigerian patriotism on those common values and virtues that are not in any way against the values of Nigerian patriotism. If Ojukwu is viewed from that new prism, it would be clear that he was both a worthy Igboman as well as a worthy Nigerian.”

Quoting the words of Robert Green Ingersoll at this brother’s grave, Asiwaju Tinubu said of Ojukwu and his differing perceptions: “This brave and tender man in every storm of life was oak and rock, but in the sunshine he was vine and flower. He was a friend of all heroic souls.”

The former governor of Lagos said Ojukwu was a man of courage who made his voice heard no matter what. He added: “Ojukwu carried on, no matter the situation. His voice was never drowned or silenced on the issues that mattered to him, even in the face of adversity.

“He was rather defined by Igbo nationalism, if not irredentism. But given the turn of events in Nigeria, with its continuous crisis of nationhood and identity, neither Igbo nationalism nor Igbo irredentism would appear illegitimate. “His exploits both on the battle and political fields portray him as a restless soul, constantly engaged with the processes aimed at birthing an egalitarian society. He was a man with a most powerful narrative. An essential Nigerian story, with a career compelling in several respects. Ikemba Nnewi was a brave soldier and great thinker!

“Here was a man born with a silver spoon into the luxury of a high pedestal; given the best education of his time and had the world at his feet, but chose the road less travelled. He immersed himself in the service of the people. A man of scholastic brilliance from Oxford, Ojukwu chose to serve in the Nigerian military. He will be remembered as a fine officer and a gentleman. “ Here was a man who was in step with the passion for his people and love for country. Today we say goodbye to someone who rode several storms of life and was never consumed except by the cold hands of death. The words of Robert Green Ingersoll at his brother’s grave are here appropriate, “This brave and tender man in every storm of life was oak and rock, but in the sunshine he was vine and flower. He was the friend of all heroic souls. He climbed the heights and left all superstitions far below, while on his forehead fell the golden dawning of the grander day”. Ojukwu carried on, no matter the situation. His voice was never drowned or silenced on the issues that matter to him even in the face of adversity. A General’s delight, Ojukwu was courageous and smart enough to know when to compromise, when to negotiate and when to silence the guns and exit. For the sake of his people he entered politics. His foray into politics, which though often controversial, was in tune with the spirit of Nigeria’s multi-party democracy.

”Indeed, the life and times of Ojukwu, in a way, is a metaphor for Nigeria’s unfulfilled nationhood. No matter how Ojukwu tried, history would remember him as an iconic Ndigbo than it would as an iconic Nigerian – and it is doubtful if history would remember any member of his generation for iconic ‘Nigerianness’; or even any from this present generation.

”We all have shortcomings and Ojukwu was no different. Despite Ojukwu’s personal short-comings which by the way cannot be glossed over, he was indeed a great man. His life and travails revealed a nation constantly at war with its constituent parts. Ojukwu is truly a product of the flawed attempt to be a good Nigerian without first being good Igboman, Hausa woman or Yoruba child.”

Eminent Nigerians eulogise Ojukwu

It was showers of tributes at the Tafawa Balewa Square (TBS) Lagos, yesterday as eminent Nigerians trooped to the venue to pay their last respects to the defunct Biafran leader, late Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu.

Prominent Nigerians, such as: Governor Babatunde Fashola, Governors Rochas Okorocha and Peter Obi, National Leader of Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, retired Rear Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu, retired Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe, Prof. Pat Utomi, Dr. Tunji Braithwaite, Gen. Adebayo Adeyinka(rtd), Gen. Ike Nwachukwu(rtd), Senator Uche Chukwumerije, Dr. Kalu Idika Kalu, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, Prof. Anya O Anya, Chief Sunny Odogwu, among others were in attendance. Traders from the eastern part of the country closed their shops in major markets and turned out in large numbers at the venue in honour of the late Ojukwu, whom they described as a great leader of the Igbo.

The beautiful rendition of the national anthem by a coral group led by Prof. Laz Ekweme kicked started the programme at about 1pm. Chairman of the occasion and childhood friend of the late Ojukwu, Braithwaite, described the deceased as a fine officer and a true Nigerian.

Braithwaite, who said his relationship with the late Ojukwu dated back to when he was eight years old, denounced the impression held by most Nigerians that Ojukwu declared war against his fatherland, saying the Biafran leader only waged war against corruption, lies and injustice against his fatherland. He said: “Let me correct the wrong impression that Ojukwu declared war against his fatherland what he declared against was corruption, lies and injustice that’s why we would continue to declare war against lies, injustice and corruption so that we can have a one and better Nigeria.

Gen. Adebayo recalled Ojukwu’s days in the Nigerian Army, saying he lived a most fulfilled life. Gen. Nwachukwu described Ojukwu as a fine officer, who created confidence in those who he came in contact with. “He was an officer who was caring, he showed ability to surmount difficulties. Ojukwu could convince you, using his knowledge to make you do what you did not want to do. He was strictly against injustice”. Renowned businessman, Dr. Paschal Dozie said the period calls for sober reflection from Igbos and Nigerians. “It is a time for Igbos to reflect because what Ojukwu fought for is still here with us and as for Nigeria, the issue Ojukwu spoke for, it is time to fight for it and ensure a united Nigeria”. Chukwumerije said the lives and times of Ojukwu mirrored how far Nigeria has come. “Ojukwu will be excited in his grave for the kind of reception he was given here today,” he said.

Nigeria's human rights chief declares asset

The Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Chidi Odinkalu, today declared his asset publicly. Mr. Odinkalu, whose appointment by President Goodluck Jonathan was confirmed by the Nigerian Senate late last year, declared that he has four bank accounts. Two of the accounts are with Standard Chartered Bank in Nigeria. The first has N94, 000 in it while the other has $11,700 in it.

The other two accounts are in Barclays Bank of the United Kingdom. While one contains £7,752, the other has £4,562. Mr. Odinkalu also has an overdrawn account at the Royal Bank of Scotland. The assets declared also showed that Mr. Odinkalu has a mortgaged 3-bedroom mid-terrace house in Edmonton, and another 4-bedroom semi-detached house in Lekki, Lagos. The human rights boss owns two cars, a Toyota RAV 4 which he purchased in 2004, and a Kia Rio purchased in 2005. He also has a personal pension plan, and shares and stocks worth about N3million. A 27kva generator and a 7.5KVA inverter complete Mr. Odinkalu’s asset.

Mr. Odinkalu, who described the over 10,000 books he has in his library as “invaluable,” is the first public official appointed by Mr. Jonathan to publicly declare his assets. Upon assuming office as President, Mr. Jonathan refused to declare his asset publicly.

The Code of Conduct Bureau which is saddled with the responsibility of collecting asset declarations of public officials also refused to release copies of Mr. Jonathan’s asset declaration. A non-governmental organisation, the African Centre for Media and Information Literacy has pledged to challenge the Code of Conduct’s decision in court.

30 killed in soldiers, Boko Haram gun fight

AT LEAST 30 persons were feared killed in a gun duel on Monday between soldiers and members of the violent Islamic sect, Boko Haram, at the Baga market in Maiduguri, Borno State.

Though the military boasted that it killed eight members of the sect and that no civilian was killed in the exchange, witnesses and medical accounts confirmed that the death toll included women and children.

The Maiduguri incident coincided with a revelation by the arrested spokesman for the sect, Abu Qaqa, that the Boko Haram leaders drive around town in expensive cars that were stolen. Qaqa said that security agents were often intimidated to stop such cars “because they believe only big men have such cars and they are not checked.” The sect members had reportedly stormed the Maiduguri market mid-afternoon on Monday and shot sporadically at traders, apparently to avenge the arrest of their members in the market last week.

The Boko Haram members had accused traders in the market of betraying their arrested members. The sect abhors betrayal and even visit death on any member that reneges. The soldiers under the aegis of the special task force had appeared on the scene to repel the attack on the market. The spokesman for the STF in the zone, Lieutenant Colonel Hassan Mohammed, confirmed the incident. “At about 1:30 (1230 GMT) this afternoon at Baga market of Maiduguri metropolis some gunmen suspected to be members of Boko Haram attacked and shot civilians at the market,” Mohammed, told the AFP.

He said several people had been wounded but that there was “no civilian death at this time”. The military “immediately came to the rescue of the people and safely detonated three bombs planted by members of the sect and shot and killed eight members of the sect.” However, AFP quoted one trader who gave his name as Mairami to have said that six gunmen stormed the food and commodities market and “opened fire indiscriminately. At least 30 people including women and children were killed.” Another trader, simply identified as Gana gave a similar account of the attack in the city which is known as the stronghold of Boko Haram. “The gunmen just opened fire, killing people. I saw three military vans piled with bodies leaving the market. There were several explosions after the shooting,” Gana said.

The attackers had accused traders of collaborating with the military following the arrest last week of a suspected Boko Haram member in the market, witnesses said. Mairami said one gunman shouted angrily that traders had “teamed up with soldiers” to help arrest members of the sect. “‘We have henceforth waged war against you’,” Mairami said the gunman had declared, before spraying bullets on both vendors and customers. Last week, traders overpowered a gunman suspected to be a Boko Haram member and handed him over to the military. Meanwhile, Qaqa, who is being detained by the State Security Service in Abuja, our correspondent gathered, told his interrogators that because the sect leaders drove in expensive cars, security agents often failed to check them.

The Boko Haram spokesman, it was learnt, also gave an insight into the operations of the sect, particularly how it got cars used for suicide bombing. He reportedly told his interrogators that sect members snatched cars used by their leaders and the ones they used for suicide bombing. “Those cars are snatched at gunpoint. We use less expensive ones for suicide ones, while expensive ones are used by leaders, who use them to deceive security agents. “Most of the times, those security agents don’t check those cars because of corruption in the country and the feeling that people using such cars are ‘big men,” he reportedly said.

The Boko Haram spokesman was said to have stated that it was difficult for disgruntled members to leave the sect. He said that such members were normally treated as traitors.

Four dead in Lagos drivers’ clash


Four people died yesterday in a clash between factions of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) on Lagos Island. Several others were injured. About 20 vehicles were vandalised. But Police spokesman Mr. Joseph Jayeoba said there were no casualties.

He said: “There was no causality. Nobody died and none was injured. But some vehicles were vandalised and some shops ransacked.” A resident, Jide Olabode, said several people were injured in the mayhem, which reportedly started at 2am and lasted about five hours. He said about 60 hoodlums from Isale Eko, allegedly loyal to a faction of the NURTW, stormed Onola, Agarawu and Itafaji on the Island with guns, iron rods and cutlasses, daring youths loyal to the rival faction to challenge them.

Olabode said members of the local vigilance groups started blowing whistles to alert residents. He said the action angered the invaders and they started vandalising and setting vehicles ablaze. It was learnt that the Onola boys retaliated, attacking the other group and innocent people at the Idumota and Adeniji-Adele ends of the Third Mainland Bridge. By the time the police restored peace, four persons were dead and many injured.

Some residents said the attack by Isale Eko boys was to avenge the killing of nine of their members. Anti-riot policemen, Rapid Response Squads and Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs) have been deployed in Itafaji, Idumagbo Avenue and Tom Jones.

Estimated Billings: Electricity Consumers Vow to Resist Tariff Hike

Electricity consumers across the country have raised the alarm over continued estimated billing by the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), notwithstanding that the system had since been outlawed by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC).

They therefore vowed to resist further increase in electricity tariff, except they are provided with prepaid meters. An investigation carried out by THISDAY at the weekend revealed that the current charge for each private resident (flat) in Lagos is N5,535.40. Further investigations showed that most consumers who live in private residential buildings and who use the old type of meters are giving uniform bills, an indication that the PHCN still issues electricity charges at estimated rates.

Some of the customers who craved anonymity blamed the situation on the non-availability of functional meters. Others however posited that where the functional meters are available, PHCN workers do not read them, but chose to issue estimated bills to extort customers. The situation is applicable to consumers in the Northern, southern and Eastern parts of the country, as checks by THISDAY revealed that more than 80 percent of electricity consumers still use the old type of meters, despite the claims by the PHCN that most customers have been provided with prepaid meters. Some of the consumers in Lagos and Imo States alleged that the PHCN might have suspended the issuance of prepaid meters because consumers who use prepaid meters conserve energy and do not incur high bills. Others argued that an average Nigerian using the old meter is paying far above the cost of electricity even with the increase in tariff, noting that government should stamp out the old metering system and ensure that prepaid meters are available to consumers across the country.

They said: “If government is sincere about the issue of estimated billing system, what it should do is to issue a deadline on the use of old meters and mandate the Ministry of Power to and NERC to ensure that prepaid meters are supplied to consumers. In Lagos, some of the consumers vowed to reject any further increase in tariff, except the Power Ministry provides them with prepaid metres before the hike. They argued that where prepaid meters are available” consumers would not complain about the increase in tariff because they would be paying what they consuming”. However some other consumers in their responses to inquiries by THISDAY expressed similar views on the issue and blamed on the inability the NERC to effectively regulate the electricity industry. “How can an electricity industry regulator outlaw estimated billing since the past than six years or more and the PHCN still flouts such directive. What this means is that NERC is just a toothless bulldog”.

Minister of Power, Prof Bart Nnaji had at a recent media chat declared that estimated billing system for electricity, remained illegal and unacceptable. He however noted that the issue could only be properly addressed if electricity users were provided with functional meters. The minister who frowned on the issue said efforts were being made to ensure that prepaid meters get to electricity users across the country. According to him, the chief executive officers of various distribution companies had been tasked on the need to provide customers with prepaid meters.

He pointed out that efficient billing system could only be achieved if functional metering system was provided. “We are addressing the issue of estimated billing. It is not right. But this is something that has to do with metering. So the CEOs of the distribution companies are working to ensure meters are available”, he said. Despite the disconnection procedures for electricity services provided for by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), the agency that regulates the electricity industry, PHCN officials till date charge meter maintenance fees and also carry out unlawful disconnection of power supply to users. The estimated billing system was outlawed in 2007 by the agency.

First Lady solicits bill for widows’ rights

The First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, has urged the female members of the National Assembly to sponsor a bill for the protection of the Widows’ right.

Mrs. Jonathan at the weekend in Uyo at the First National Retreat on Women Development, Peace and National Transformation. The president’s wife noted that many widows were suffering due to ill-treatment from the relatives of their late husbands, saying with the passage of such a bill, the widows will have a right to their husbands’ property.

Representative of Senate President David Mark, Senator Helen Esuene assured women that a bill for the protection of widow’s right would be introduced. Esuene, who is also the Senate committee chairman on Women affairs, said complaints brought to female legislators necessitated their interest in the bill. The retreat, which started on Thursday ended with the adoption of a communiqué by the women.

Maku: why govt can’t go back on new driver’s licence, number plate

Despite increasing opposition, the Minister of Information, Mr. Labaran Maku at the weekend gave reasons why the Federal Government cannot stop the issuance of the new car driver’s licence and numbers plate. Apart from opposition to the new products in some quarters, the House of Representatives ordered suspension of the new licence. But the government has continued with the issuance.

He spoke at this month’s Federal Road Safety Corp’s (FRSC) Road Walk Exercise in Abuja at the weekend. The minister said the new driver’s license and number plate will help check terrorism in the country. The new products, he said, will complement the efforts of security operatives in addressing terrorism in Nigeria.

He said: “Let me commend you on this initiative. For quite a while, we have seen vehicles being used for terrorist attack and sometime it may be very difficult for security agencies to trace them because they did not file proper issuance of licenses therefore people can pick any vehicle and commit huge crime.” “But with your new system, it is quite possible to detect every vehicle, who is the right owner and even if he changes ownership, you can trace it back to the original owner and this has helped significantly in our effort to defeat terrorist attacks that are using a particular vehicle on our road to commit crime.”

He also called on the leadership of the FRSC to remain committed in sensitising the public on rules guiding traffic regulations and road safety in the country. “We have noticed there has been a sharp decrease in rate of accidents on our ways. We have not quite reached there. This is not to increase our ego that we have solved the problem but we still have a lot of public education to do on road safety.” “A number of people simply climbed the steering without proper training and some are able to get licenses.” He pointed out FRSC Corp Marshal Osita Chidoka said the agency is committed to its mandate.

He expressed appreciation to the Federal Government for its support towards realising the agency’s vision of reducing road traffic accident to 50 per cent by 2020. He said: “FRSC has remained a vision of hope and great purveyor of safety on our highways. We are proud of our works in the last 24 years. For the first time, the government has being helping the ordinary masses on the street; people who cannot pay hospital bill and would have died if not for road safety. “In the last 24 years, if we quantify the number of people that have been rescued by the commission, we shall be close to half a million Nigerians. It is the most important contribution of the FRSC.”

Ojukwu: Bianca berates Ohanaeze Ndigbo over visit

The family of late Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu on Monday expressed discontent with Igbo socio-cultural group, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, over the body’s inability to pay the bereaved family a condolence visit since the death of the ex-Biafra warlord.

Late Ojukwu’s wife, Bianca, who spoke for the family in Enugu, noted that the it was unfortunate that Ohanaeze also failed to visit her husband while he was hospitalised in London for 11 months.

She said, “My husband was a dedicated member of Ohanaeze but even at that, the group has not even bothered to find out the arrangements for his burial.” She spoke when the Conference of Democratic Scholars and members of Ohanaeze Ndigbo visited her in Enugu to inform her that an international colloquium on the Ahiara Declaration in memory of Ojukwu would take place at Ahiara Mbaise, Imo State on February 17, 2012.

On the Ahiara Declaration Document, the late Ikemba’s wife explained that it did not need to be upgraded or refreshed, insisting that it had continued to remain as fresh as it was in 1967. She said, “The document was for determination of hope, not just for Biafra but also for the black man anywhere in the world.”

Subsidy beneficiaries fault PPPRA’s allocation

THE way the Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) allocates petroleum products imported by oil companies came under criticism yesterday.

This came as the Senate panel investigating the management of subsidy in the country since 1999 read the riot act to oil firms and marketers in Nigeria. At the resumed hearing of the joint committee headed by Magnus Abe, some of the marketers called for improvement in the allocation of petroleum products to be imported and noted that some of them were importing below the capacity they would have otherwise desired. The Managing Director (MD) of Conoil Nigeria Plc., Abiodun Wahab, who raised some concerns over insecurity on the nation’s high seas, told the panel that his company had applied for as much as 160,000 metric tonnes but had not been able to get that quantity.

He also told the panel that some of the oil firms had to take their vessels to neighbouring countries such as Republic of Benin and Togo because of inadequate storage facilities at the nation’s ports. “We are very clean and we do not engage in any over-payment. As a company, we don’t share products but the facilities that we have at the port cannot take the products that we bring in. We need to split the products but there is a security risk because of the way pirates operate. We had to move to the next port, which is near to us in the neighbouring country. It is because of the difficulties in the jetties.” Noting that some of the importers had been operating below their capacity due to some constraints, Wahab said that Conoil had applied for 160,000 metric tonnes but that had not been approved, adding that some of the things that happened within the system could not be comprehended.

“What happened to subsidy in 2011 was difficult to explain. The way the allocation was handled could not be understood. The rules of allocation were not followed. There are too many people who don’t have business there. If you don’t have any investment there, why come in?” he said. On the way out, Wahab, whose position was corroborated by some other stakeholders in the industry, called for re-classification of the oil companies. “There is a need to do a proper re-classification of the industry. There are extant rules and if they are applied, then the number of importers will reduce drastically. People should face what they are licensed to do”, he said.

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Forte Oil Nigeria Plc also raised the issue of dearth of facilities at the ports, stressing that the situation had forced most of the fuel importers to use ports in neighbouring countries. In his opening remarks, the chairman of the joint committee, Magnus Abe, expressed displeasure over the attitude of some fuel importers who failed to attend the public hearing and threatened that the chamber would not treat them lightly. He said the committee wanted to give the importers an opportunity to state their side of the story.

Abu Qaqa: Boko Haram Members Marry Wives of Suicide Bombers

Further insight into the activities of the dreaded Islamic sect Boko Haram continued to emerge from the interrogation room of the State Security Service (SSS), where the captured spokesman of the group Abu Qaqa has been on a roll on his revelations on the operations of the group.

Qaqa revealed that leaders of the group usually get married to the wives of their members who die on suicide missions under the pretext that they are protecting them from attacks. Also, the disbursement of money to the families of dead members and uneven sharing of funds, especially loot acquired from armed robbery operations have helped to cause disharmony in the group. According to an insider source, who has kept abreast of Qaqa’s confessions to his interrogators, he disclosed that a major source of distrust and acrimony in the group was the sum of N41 million stolen from a bank but was not accounted for by those who had custody of the loot. Normally, Qaqa, was said to have informed his interrogators, the money was supposed to have been shared among five groups: the less privileged; widows of those that died in the Jihad; some was meant for Zakat (giving of alms to the poor and needy); another portion was meant for those that stole in the money; and the balance is kept by the leadership of the group for the prosecution of the Jihad.

“We don't know how this money was spent and nobody dared ask questions for fear of death. Even those that took part in the robberies were also always compelled to pay Zakat from their share to the leadership.” The group’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, Qaqa disclosed, appropriates what goes to the widows, less privileged, for Zakat, and the leadership. “The leadership also shares out the wives of those killed the way he wants and marries some in the name of giving them protection. For instance, he is said to be married to one of Mohammed Yusuf’s wives. “Everyone lives in fear, more of the leadership of the group, than security agencies. For instance, I never for once believed I would be arrested. I thought I was invincible. But now I have realised that if I could be arrested, if Abdullahi Damasak, the spiritual adviser, could disappear (arrested), then it’s a matter of time before everyone is caught,” Qaqa is reported to have said.

Qaqa was one of the high profile arrests made by the SSS over a fortnight ago in Kaduna. He was in the city as part of the advance team to launch attacks on the state and others in North-west Nigeria. His arrest has since revealed some of the operational tactics of the dreaded group, leading to the re-arrest last Friday of Kabiru Abubakar Dikko, alias Kabiru Sokoto, the escapee bomber suspected to have masterminded the Christmas Day bomb blasts in St. Theresa’s Catholic Church, Madalla in Niger State, where about 44 worshipers died. Sokoto was found hiding behind a clothes rack in Mutum-Biu in Gassol Local Government Area of Taraba State.

IG Moves to Revamp Police, Reads Riot Act

The acting Inspector General of Police (IG), Muhammed Abubakar, is leaving no stone unturned to revamp the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) and has instituted deliberate measures aimed at ridding the police of corruption and other vices.

Although some of the measures are not new and have failed to gain traction in the past, Abubakar, like his predecessors, Monday ordered the dismantling of all intra-state and highway road blocks, especially in Lagos and Edo States as well as in the South-eastern states. He also disbanded all squads, teams and other operational or investigating outfits “under whatever name” and directed such groups to collapse into “the original structures recognised by police standards”.

The IG further declared that state anti-robbery squads (SARS) set up by state governments to combat crime in their states had become killer teams, engaging in deals for land speculators and debt collection, while toll stations in the name of checkpoints adorn the highways with policemen shamefully collecting money from motorists in the full glare of the public. Abubakar said the road blocks constitute a nuisance, especially in Lagos, Edo and the South-eastern states. The police boss, who read the riot act in Abuja while addressing assistant commissioners of police (ACPs) whose commands are in charge of operations and Criminal Investigation Departments (CIDs), warned that henceforth he would hold Command Operation Officers and the ACP CIDs personally and directly responsible for operational and investigative misdemeanours occurring within their jurisdiction. According to him, any observed non-compliance to “these directives and subsequent ones which shall be issued from time to time will attract severe sanctions” as his administration would not be frustrated by officers’ non-committal attitude to work, nor would it tolerate indiscipline, indolence, corruption, inefficiency and all the negative tendencies that had brought so much disgrace to the force.

While lamenting that the Nigeria Police had fallen to its lowest ebb and had become the subject of ridicule within the law enforcement community and among the public, Abubakar noted that police duties had become commercialised and were provided at the whims and caprices of the highest bidder. “Our men are deployed to rich individuals and corporate entities such that we lack manpower to provide security for the common man; our investigation departments cannot equitably handle matters unless those involved have money to part with it,” he lamented. He said that it was sad that complainants suddenly become suspects at different investigation levels, following spurious petitions filed with the connivance of police officers. “Our police stations, state CIDs and operation offices have become business centres and collection points for rendering returns from all kinds of squads and teams set up for the benefit of superior officers,” he added.

Abubakar regretted that justice had been perverted, peoples right denied, innocent souls committed to prison, torture and extra-judicial killings perpetrated, and so many people arbitrarily detained in their cells because they could not afford the illegal bail monies the police demanded. These illegalities, he noted, thrive under the watchful eyes of the ACP CIDs and ACP Operations because they have compromised the very soul of their profession. “Our respect is gone and the Nigerian public has lost even the slightest confidence in the ability of police to do any good thing,” he stated. The IG declared that they must purge the system of corruption which cripples and frustrates every honest effort at reforming the police as exemplified in the total failure of the multiple efforts of government at reforming the NPF.

He noted that he was fully abreast of the administrative and operational challenges which they have to encounter in the conduct of their duties and had already begun to address some of them. However, he warned that the problems could not justify nor serve as excuses for the myriad of uncouth and unprofessional conducts of police officers and men across the country. “These attitudes must stop and we must collectively purge the police system of all undesirable elements and criminal tendencies,” he charged. He also directed the immediate release of all persons detained in police cells without lawful justification, and non-detention of persons beyond the stipulated period of 24 hours, except as otherwise permitted by law.

The IG ordered that the ACPs must enforce discipline among their subordinates and cease to encourage patronage over and above merit in the conduct of official affairs. Also, he asked the officers to begin to task Divisional Police Officers (DPOs), Divisional Crime Officers (DCOs) and Divisional Operations Officers on the need to uphold core police mandates within their respective jurisdictions, as it is compulsory for them to “rid our communities of crime and all criminal tendencies”. “As a force, they must step up their actions from being reactionary to being proactive, while evolving strategies that prevent crimes through community service,” he added.

Surveyors hail Akwa Ibom

THE Nigerian Institute of Estate Surveyors and Valuers has described Akwa Ibom State as the fastest growing state in terms of infrastructure development in Africa.

Its National President, Bode Adediji, said the state was growing rapidly in terms of land development, aviation, industry and rural infrastructure. Adediji made the remark at the weekend in Uyo, the state capital, during the 18th J. W. Ekpenyong Memorial Lecture, investiture of a Patron and induction of 21 fellows into the body. He hailed Governor Godswill Akpabio for his vision in taking the state to the next level. The president explained that the executive body of the institution took the development of the state into consideration before it decided to confer the patron award on the governor.

Pregnant Woman Burnt To Death On Third Mainland Bridge

A pregnant woman has died in a commuter bus in Lagos, southwest, Nigeria when the bus caught fire while in motion.

The incident happened at the weekend on the Third Mainland Bridge by Okesuna/Obalende bridge axis, Ikoyi, Lagos State. The 27-LT 35-seater bus filled with passengers suddenly caught fire in motion and a heavily pregnant woman who could not be identified was burnt to death in the process.

P.M.NEWS learnt that some of the passengers who managed to escape sustained injuries and were rushed to nearby hospitals, while the driver of the bus and his conductor fled the scene of the incident to avoid being lynched by an angry mob. The cause of the fire outbreak could not be ascertained as at press time, but eyewitnesses at the scene of the incident told P.M.NEWS that the runaway driver of the bus with registration number XQ 257 SMK loaded passengers from Obalende Motor Park enroute to Iyana Oworo-Bariga area. It was reported that fire suddenly broke out from the engine and spread to other parts of the bus. The fire intensified and before the driver could stop the vehicle, the passengers had started jumping out of the bus through the windows.

In the process some of the passengers caught fire, including the pregnant woman who was at the front seat. While others sustained injuries in the process, the pregnant woman was burnt to death as she could not jump out of the bus. When P.M.NEWS arrived the scene of the incident, the badly burnt corpse was laid on the ground beside the partially burnt vehicle. A survivor of the incident who pleaded anonymity told P.M.NEWS that the driver of bus was not the cause of the incident, insisting that the engine of the bus suddenly caught fire. “The vehicle was in good condition when we left the park before the fire broke out from the engine,” he stated. The burnt vehicle has been towed away by the police at Dolphin Division to their station, while the corpse of the victim has been deposited in a mortuary.

FG to review pact on Lagos-Ibadan road, others

THE Federal Government has promised to review the concessioning of major highways such as the Lagos/Ibadan Expressway and Benin-Ore Road with a view to speeding their reconstruction to enhance the socio-economic development of host states and the nation.

According to a statement, President Goodluck Jonathan made the promise yesterday at the official commissioning of Dangote Cement Manufacturing Plant at Ibese, Ogun State. He praised the government of Ogun State for making its land conducive for business investment and lauded the contribution of Alhaji Aliko Dangote, Chairman of Dangote Group of Companies to the economic development of Nigeria. President Jonathan noted the importance of the new cement plant towards addressing the unemployment situation in the country and reducing the pressure on foreign exchange occasioned by importation of the product.

He restated the determination of his government to transform the country by providing enabling environment for private investment. Ogun State Governor Ibikunle Amosun, appealed to the Federal Government to save the Lagos-Ibadan and Sagamu-Benin-Ore expressways, which he described as the busiest in Africa and of strategic importance to the economy of Ogun State and Nigeria in general.

FRSC debunks rumour over number plate, driver’s licence

CORPS Marshal of the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), Mr. Osita Chidoka yesterday debunked insinuation that both the N15,000 and N6000 fees being charged for the new number plate and driver’s licence respectively go directly to the Commission’s coffers.

According to him, both revenues go directly to the respective state governments, where the two items are obtained. Speaking at a press briefing in Lagos, Chidoka noted that the high number of fake driver’s licences in the country and the need to have an accurate database, informed the introduction of the new number plate and driver’s licence.

Chidoka urged Nigerians to show understanding on the matter, insisting that the allegations by certain individuals that the new scheme was intended to defraud Nigerians is not true. “Every Nigerian, including myself and all officers of the FRSC, must pay N15,000 for a new number plate and N6000 for a new driver’s licence. There is no exception. I have just applied for a new number plate in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), and for the past two weeks, I have not got it. This is because the states issue the numbers, not the commission. All we do is to capture the data of the applicants.”

Chidoka also explained that the features on the new driver’s licence were fraud-proof, a fact he affirmed had been attested to by the American and Italian governments. He averred that some Italian officials came to the commission to verify facts in respect of the new driver’s licence and were impressed by the features. He also noted that the American government was cooperating with the FRSC and had even provided some funds to assist the commission.

The FRSC boss admitted that some consultants and individuals had devised means of manufacturing fake old driver’s licence in large quantity, which were then issued to unsuspecting Nigerians. “So far, about 44 per cent of those that have applied to us for driver’s licence renewal have been discovered to have fake ones. But from now on, nobody who obtains his licence through us will get a fake one.”

Chidoka also revealed that some Nigerians who tendered fake driver’s licences abroad as a means of identification had ended up in trouble. His words: “Some Nigerians tender fake licences abroad, and when European officials contact us as the issuing authority to verify the authenticity of the licence, I have had cause to tell them that the licences are fake. And when this happens, whoever tendered the fake licence ends up in trouble because it is an offence to tender a fake document. But then, some of these Nigerians are innocent because they did not know that what they took as a genuine driver’s licence is indeed a fake one.”

FG, others target 50m kids in fresh anti-polio immunisation

UNDETERRED by the security challenges in some of the polio endemic states in the country, the Federal Government, in collaboration with the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations Children Education Fund (UNICEF), will tomorrow begin a three-day nationwide Immunisation Plus Days (IPDs) targeting 50 million children under the age of five with bivalent Oral Polio Vaccine (bOPV).

The government has also promised that the security challenges raised by the Boko Haram sect will not stop the polio immunisation campaign in the affected states, even as it set up a special team to cover the sensitive states.

Nigeria is one of the three polio endemic countries that have not been able to stop the transmission of the Wild Polio Virus (WPV). The other two countries are Afghanistan and Pakistan. India was among the endemic countries until last month. The polio endemic states in Nigeria include Kano, Kebbi, Jigawa, Yobe, Borno, Katsina, Zamfara and Sokoto. To ensure that some children are not missed out during the IPDs, avoid low quality rounds and shortage of routine vaccines, the government, with assistance from CDC and WHO, has deployed Geographic Information System (GIS) and the Geographic Positioning System (GPS) to identify unreached children and monitor efficiency of vaccinators. The government is also stockpiling enough vaccines to cater for the routine immunization needs of the country till September 2012.

Routine vaccines in Nigeria include those for tuberculosis, whooping cough, measles, yellow fever, polio, measles, diphtheria/pertussis/tetanus (DPT) and poliovirus. GIS is a tool that captures, stores, analyses and presents data linked to location(s). The technology has been applied widely in such fields as archeology, geography, cartography, urban planning and land surveying. GPS is used to track the position or where a health worker is at any particular time. It is to be used to monitor the compliance of the vaccinators during IPDs. GIS was adopted in Nigeria to further improve operational quality of supplementary immunization activities (SIAs) after a pilot study was carried out in November 2010 to determine the feasibility of using the technology to support both implementation and monitoring of SIAs.

According to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), additional technical support, including 11 consultants (short-term contracts) and 11 CDC Stop Transmission Of Polio (STOP) consultants have arrived in Abuja and have been deployed based on assessment of security concerns. Executive Director, National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr. Gana Ado Mohammed told The Guardian yesterday, ahead of the nationwide immunisation programme scheduled to hold from Saturday to Monday, that “for this round, we are going to use 63 million doses of bOPV to reach 50 million children nationwide. Unlike previous rounds, we want to make sure that we get the best quality of our campaign. This time around, we are going to partner the missionary institutions and traditional leaders.

“We are also going to partner with WHO, UNICEF, and CDC and make sure that every vaccinator that is selected from a community is somebody who is matured, hardworking and competent because the essence of IPDs is that you should be able to administer a potent and safe vaccine on a child who is under-five. So we are going to screen the vaccinators and make sure that only the best will be selected. We are working closely with CDC on GIS and they are also helping us in technical assistance with a large number of very competent supervisors under the CDC STOP.”

Federal Government to Review Road Concessions

President Goodluck Jonathan Thursday promised that the Federal Government would review the concessions for some roads in the country.

Jonathan made this remark at the inauguration of a new six million-metric ton per annum cement plant built by the Chinese construction company, Sinoma, and a 112.5 megawatt power plant set up by German engineering firm, Siemens, in Ibese community of Ogun State on behalf of Dangote Cement Plc. The president, who arrived the premises of the new plant, which is the third integrated cement factory owned by the Dangote Group in Nigeria, at exactly 3.40 pm, was responding to the remark made by the Governor of Ogun State, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, on some of the very bad roads in the South-west and South-south regions of the country.

“I thank the governor for making mention of some of the road projects. The government hurriedly entered some agreements with some groups and we will review such agreements. “We will also make sure that the rail system begins to work; the idea is to transport cement and other heavy materials by rail because it is cheaper and it will make our roads last,” the president said.

He also warned politicians and other stakeholders in the country to avoid playing politics with sensitive national issues that border on the development of the country. He stressed the need for Nigerians, especially the political class, to separate politics from serious issues of nation building in order to achieve a more formidable Nigerian state.

“There is time for playing politics and there is time for promoting national development; we must work together to see how we can move the country forward. “Whenever you call me to come and commission new investments, I will come again because these are the kind of stories we want to hear in Nigeria. We are tired of hearing that there was a bomb explosion in Maiduguri and Bayelsa. We want to leave a better country for our children to inherit,” he said. Jonathan commended the private sector for its contribution to policies and programmes that would help to move Nigeria forward, explaining that some policies would be painful at first but no government would want to make its people suffer. “In the year 2002 when the backward integration policy was introduced for cement, it would have seemed that it was a bad policy and people might have fought against it, but now the story is different as we would soon enter the books as a cement exporting nation and not just an oil exporting country,” he said.

The president restated the intention of the Federal Government to strengthen the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) to make sure Nigeria is not a dumping ground for all kinds of products. “Nigeria will no longer be a dumping ground for substandard products from other countries. We will also encourage local production in order to control the quality of items consumed in the country.

“For example, the importation of fertiliser and rice will soon be a thing of the past. There is no justification for the importation of rice into the country. Rice is just a grass that grows everywhere and we should be able to produce enough not just to feed ourselves but also for export,” he said. While commending the Dangote Group for the establishment of the cement plant, he said if more actors in the private sector introduced initiatives to create jobs, the challenge of unemployment would reduce in the country.

“Our greatest problem in the country is the number of unemployed young men and women and anybody that helps that situation should be commended and encouraged. “Today, Dangote has created 7,000 direct jobs and when you add other jobs that will be created by the distributors for sales girls and sales boys and all other indirect jobs from this initiative alone, you will see that over 10,000 people will be taken off the unemployment line,” he said. In his remarks, President of Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, said the event was historic because it would see Nigeria transiting from being the world’s number one cement importing nation to one that is self-sufficient and a net exporter of the product.

He attributed the achievement to the Federal Government’s backward integration policy for the cement sector. “It did not just happen overnight, rather it was a government policy that has brought about this transformation in the cement sector,” he said.

“The aggressive expansion of Dangote’s local production capacity at our plants is to ensure that there is always adequate capacity to meet local demand and export, so that this country never again has to import cement to meet its requirements. “This investment alone has created both direct and indirect jobs for 15,000 people,” he added. In his welcome address, Amosun said the government was resolute and determined in its commitment to promote industrialisation in the state by turning its natural and mineral resources into finished products.

He described Ogun State as the largest cement producing state in Africa, adding that the state was ready to key into the Federal Government’s resolve to make Nigeria an economically diversified country especially in promoting agriculture. “We are ready to take advantage of the value chain that agriculture can produce that will lead to wealth and most especially jobs creation, and regardless of all the challenges being faced today in Nigeria, the country will come out more united, stronger and more prosperous,” he said.

Boko Haram: Former Minister cautions ex-militants against reprisal attacks

PORT HARCOURT— FORMER Minister of Tourism, Alabo Graham- Douglas, has appealed to former militants in the Niger Delta to resist the urge to carry out reprisal attacks over killings of Christians by Boko Haram terrorists in the North.

Speaking yesterday in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, at a peace concert organised by Association for Non-violence in the Niger Delta/Niger Delta Ex- agitators Forum, Graham-Douglas noted that the era of militancy in the region was over. Appealing to the youths to take advantage of the Federal Government’s amnesty programme, he said they should ignore any call to take to violence. He said: “As a father, I will tell you that you have passed the state of militancy. Nobody should tell you to go back to the trenches because of what some people are doing in the name of Boko Haram.”

Facilitator of the concert and president, Association for Non-violence in the Niger Delta, Mr Kennedy West, said he was elated by the peace that had returned to the region. He said youths took to militancy to protest the neglect of their areas by past administration and enjoined the Federal Government to create empowerment opportunities for youths in the region to have them productively engaged. He also called on the Federal Government to establish more seaports in the region and appealed to members of the Boko Haram sect in the north and Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, MEND, to eschew violence.

Islamic Bank, Jaiz, Opens Doors to the Public

After months of controversy generated by the introduction of the non-interest banking in the country, also known as Islamic banking, Jaiz Bank Plc quietly opened its doors for business on Friday, January 6, 2011 in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

The bank, which has its head office in Kano House, Central Business District, Abuja, has been offering banking services for about a month, ditto its branches in Kaduna and Kano which were also opened simultaneously. The commencement of interest-free banking business has obviously ended months of speculation and suspense associated with the birth of a new form of banking in the country. Indeed, the controversy surrounding interest-free banking may have caused Jaiz Bank to open without the usual pomp and ceremony associated with conventional banking marketing gimmicks, to herald commencement of business.

Jaiz’s eventual emergence follows repeated failures in the past to begin operations more than five years after it launched itself into the public consciousness to raise funds from the capital market. The bank, which has as one of its promoters a former chairman of First Bank of Nigeria Plc, Alhaji Umaru Mutallab, was actually incorporated on April 1, 2003 as a public limited liability company with an authorised share capital of N2.5 billion. The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) eventually announced on June 20, 2011 that it had issued Jaiz Bank an approval-in-principle to operate as an Islamic bank - the first financial institution to be so licensed. It was thereafter, given six months to comply with the apex bank’s capitalisation requirement, among other criteria, in order to receive the final licence.

But much furore arose from the introduction of Islamic banking last year when the CBN Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, lent his support to the project, arguing that it was no different from conventional banking, with the non-interest banking service as a product niche. Controversy, however, was stirred when he said banks that offer such products would have to adhere to the tenets of Islamic commercial jurisprudence and must have a Sharia Advisory Committee THISDAY, however, learnt that Jaiz Bank may have hastily commenced business under pressure and may not have been fully prepared to market its presence in the Nigerian economy. This, it was gathered, has impacted on the bank, resulting in the low patronage in its Abuja banking hall which was unusually quiet when THISDAY visited Wednesday.

When this newspaper visited the bank’s head office which also houses its Abuja branch, there were only two banking product offerings: the corporate account and individual current account while other offerings such as internet banking and saving accounts, among others were said to be on hold for now. Sources at the bank said it intends to also operate the children’s account, fixed deposit account as well as offer a range of services including internet banking and ATMs among others. The CBN’s decision to introduce Islamic banking in the country had been greeted with criticisms from members of the public, especially Christian leaders who suspect that it was a ploy to Islamise the country.

Amidst the heated debate, some persons had suggested that the word “Islamic” be replaced with a more receptive phrase such as “non-interest” banking in order to douse the anxiety of those who were uncomfortable with it. THISDAY checks further revealed the CBN has also encouraged the amendment in the nomenclature for Islamic banking by using the phrase, “non-interest banking” more often. But a marketer with the bank, who would not want to be named said: “Whether you call it non-interest or Islamic banking, the fact still remains that the principles cannot be changed because our model is firmly rooted in Islamic principles.”

But there are yet other hurdles to cross for Jaiz and other non-interest banks to follow suit. The source added that Jaiz is at the moment running skeletal services because it still needs to get some approvals from the CBN before it can proceed full steam ahead. The source further explained that a good number of Nigerians were yet to fully comprehend the basic principles of the institution, adding that some still see the bank as strictly an Islamic affair. According to him, the bank would not be interested in investing in start up businesses and would also shun “unethical” ventures such as prostitution, beer-selling business, gambling, and cigarette manufacturers, among others.

Although Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of the bank, Alhaji Mustapha Bintube, could not be reached for comments, the source said the bank’s operations would be consistent with the principles of Islamic law (Sharia) and its practical application through the development of Islamic economics which prohibits fixed or floating payment or acceptance of specific interest (usury) or fees for loans. The source also admitted that further public enlightenment would be needed to create awareness so Nigerians could take advantage of interest-free services to actualise their target economic objectives. But whether Jaiz has fully started commercial services or not, by opening its doors, a definitive statement has been made: Islamic or non-interest banking has become a reality in Nigeria and has come to stay.

Fed Govt appoints Ribadu chairman of Petroleum Task Force

To ensure transparency in the petroleum sector, the Federal Government yesterday appointed former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, as the chairman of a 21-man Petroleum Revenue Special Task Force. It was not immediately clear if Ribadu has accepted the appointment or not.

The choice of Ribadu was announced in a statement in Abuja by the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Mr. Goni M. Sheikh. The statement said: “Consistent with the policies and promises of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan’s administration, and underpinned by the yearnings of the people of Nigeria for transparency in the Petroleum Industry, the Honourable Minister of Petroleum Resources has set up a Petroleum Revenue Special Task Force designed to enhance probity and accountability in operations of the Petroleum Industry.

“The Petroleum Revenue Special Task Force, is charged with the following terms of reference: ·To work with consultants and experts to determine and verify all petroleum upstream and downstream revenues (taxes, royalties, etc.) due and payable to the Federal Government of Nigeria;

·To take all necessary steps to collect all debts due and owing; to obtain agreements and enforce payment terms by all oil industry operators; ·To design a cross debt matrix between all Agencies and Parastatals of the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources; ·To develop an automated platform to enable effective tracking, monitoring, and online validation of income and debt drivers of all Parastatals and Agencies in the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources;

·To work with world-class consultants to integrate systems and technology across the production chain to determine and monitor crude oil production and exports, ensuring at all times, the integrity of payments to the Federal Government of Nigeria; and, The statement said the Task Force will “submit monthly reports for ministerial review and further action.”

Other members of the panel are Mr. Steve Oronsaye (Deputy Chairman); Mallam Abba Kyari; Ms. Benedicta Molokwu; Mr. Supo Sasore, SAN; Mr. Tony Idigbe, SAN; Mr. Anthony George-Ikoli, SAN; Dr. (Mrs.) Omolara Akanji; Mr. Olisa Agbakoba; Mr. Ituah Ighodalo; Mr. Bon Otti; and Prof. Olusegun Okunu.

Others are Mallam Samaila Zubairu; Mr.Ignatius Adegunle; Mr. Gerald Ilukwe; Rep. of FIRS (Ex-Officio); Rep. of FMF Incorporated (Ex-Officio); Rep. of HAGF/HMJ (Ex-Officio); Rep. of OAGF (Ex-officio); Rep. of DPR (Ex-officio); and Rep. of NNPC (Ex-Officio).

Dantata is dead

Kano businessman-Abdullahi Sanusi Dantata has died in a German hospital, it was learnt last night. Alhaji Dantata, until his death, was the chairman of Dantata and Sawoe Construction Company. He was an uncle to business mogul Dr. Aliko Dangote. In a statement last night by the Director of Communication and Strategy in the Kano State Government House, Alhaji Baba Dantiye, Governor Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso said Alhaji Dantata would be sorely missed because of his contribution to the economic development of the nation. A former classmate of the late the late Dantata, Dr. Junaid Mohammed, said the deceased was “an astute businessman, who made his mark.”

Sam Aluko, 82, dies of cancer

Foremost economist, teacher and politician Prof. Samuel Adepoju Aluko is dead.

Generally regarded as “a man of principle”, Aluko died of cancer yesterday at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newscastle, United Kingdom. He was 82. He was a teacher of teachers, with many professors of Economics passing through him at the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University), Ile-Ife, where he was the first Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences.

He was economic adviser to the late Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha. He was economic adviser to Second Republic Governor of Ondo State Chief Adekunle Ajasin as well as the military government of Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar.

He is credited with the idea of putting the excess funds from the increase in the pump price of petrol during the Abacha years into a dedicated account and the subsequent formation of the Petroleum Trust Fund. He also facilitated the introduction of the Value Added Tax (VAT). Aluko travelled to the United Kingdom for medical check-up month, accompanied by his wife, Joy. A family member, Mr Isaac Sedowo, who spoke with reporters at the late Aluko’s home in Akure, the Ondo State capital, said arrangements for the funeral would be announced by the economist’s eldest son, Bolaji, a professor who is the Vice-Chancellor of the Federal University at Otuoke, Bayelsa State. He said the late economist complained of general weakness of the body before he travelled. Sympathisers across the country were at the late Aluko’s home to register their condolences.

The late Aluko hailed from Ode-Ekiti, Ekiti State. He was born into the family of Fagbohun Aluko in August 17, 1929. He attended St. Mary’s School between 1936 and 1940 for his elementary education before moving to Emmanuel School in Ado-Ekiti. The late Aluko attended the Christ’s School in Ado-Ekiti before undergoing a private study in Economics with the University of London where he came out with a Second Class Honours. Prof Mobolaji Aluko, eldest son of the late Economist, described his father as an exemplary father, saying he was “a father per excellence”. Also, frontline Economist, Bismark Rewane described the deceased as one of the oldest Economists who contributed a lot to the orthodox Economic thinking. Mobolaji said on the telephone last night that his late father was known outside home the same way he was known at home; a principled individual. Recalling fond memories of his father, Mobolaji said he was interested, and contributed to the success and growth of his children, particularly his grand children. “He had about 20 or so grand children. He always wanted them around him,” he said.

Mobolaji recalled his last moment with his father, saying though he was ill before enbarking on his trip to the United Kingdom, “we did not think he would die. He had cancer and fought it. You know, like every illness, one will hope to get over it.” But he died. He died of cancer. But he died peacefully in the presence of his wife. “I spoke with him two days ago. A saw him to the airport on Saturday, January 14, the day after the strike was suspended. His trip to the UK was actually delayed by the strike. “He traveled on the evening of that Saturday. He died at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle,” Mobolaji said.

He said his late father was passionate about the country, but died a sad man because of the current state of affairs in the country. “He loved Nigeria and was so passionate about the country. He was concerned about its growth. He died a sad man because of the situation of things in the country. He was always complaining about the current state of affairs before he died,” Mobolaji said. Rewane, Managing Director, Financial Derivatives Limited, described Aluko as bold, fearless and one of Nigeria’s traditional Economists. The last time we heard about him was during the Abacha days. But in the old days, he had very divergent views and contributed a lot to the ways of traditional Economics and growth,” he said.

Obasanjo can’t lead Ogun PDP to victory — Okupe

Former presidential spokesman, Dr. Doyin Okupe, has said former President Olusegun Obasanjo has erred politically and his leadership style cannot aid the development of the Peoples Democratic Party in Ogun State.

Okupe, who spoke on Monday in Ijebu-Igbo after he was appointed the party’s Acting Leader, said his disagreement with his estwhile boss was to ensure that the PDP in the state did not die. Okupe, who served as Obasanjo’s Special Adviser on Media Matters, said though Obasanjo remained a national leader with numerous achievements, his political interests and leadership style were inimical to the survival of Ogun PDP.

The ex-president, who is also the Chairman, Board of Trustees of PDP, is believed to have pitched his tent with the Chief Bode Mustapha-led Transition, Reconciliation and Congresses Committee set up by the South West zonal leadership of the party to conduct the forthcoming congresses of the party. But members loyal to the Chief Dayo Soremi-led state Executive Committe of the party met at Ijebu-Igbo on Monday to discuss the way forward for the party, its proposed congresses as well as the court order which restrained the PDP National Secretariat from dissolving the state leadership. Okupe attributed the crisis in the party to deceit and selfishness of some notable leaders. He said the PDP national leadership was also handicapped to resolve the feud, apparently not to upset the former president.

He said, “The party in Ogun State has more or less factionalised again into three unequal units. This (Soremi) is the largest of the units and in fact, the mainstream. “The chairman of BOT is not a small person in any political party. Chief Obasanjo is the chairman of BOT, so you cannot ‘rough-ride’ over him anyhow even if his demands are undemocratic or unreasonable. “We just feel that what is right needs to be done, irrespective of who is doing wrong. That is the only basis of disagreement. Obasanjo is our leader; we have a lot of respect for him, we are proud of his achievements. But politically, he has erred; that’s the truth. At the meeting which had in attendance Mr. Buruji Kashamu, the members also endorsed Senator Ayodeji Otegbola as the party’s Grand Patron while Chief Zaccheus Oyekunle was appointed Chairman, Elders Forum.

Falae, Nwabueze, Utomi advocate national conference

Prominent Nigerians under the aegis of National Summit Group on Monday in Lagos called on President Goodluck Jonathan to urgently convene a national conference to address the country’s myriad of problems.

The personalities including the convener of NSG, Prof. Pat Utomi; former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief Olu Falae; former Peoples Democratic Party Chairman, Chief Audu Ogbeh; former Kaduna State Governor Balarabe Musa; a lawyer, Prof. Ben Nwabueze; and Secretary of the group, Tony Uranta, said the government could not continue to shy away from the conference. They urged the government to restructure the country towards true federalism as witnessed in the First Republic. Speaking on the occasion, Utomi said they were called to rescue the country from the looming danger by charting the way forward.

He said the fragile unity binding the country was under threat, adding that poverty, insecurity, poor management of resources, poor leadership and greed had become the order of the day. Utomi said, “We need a state constitution where individual will develop at its own pace like what was in operation in the 60s. “The present Nigerians do no longer trust their leaders because of long abandonment and profligacy of their wealth with impunity. Therefore at a time like this, the country needs to sit down to discuss on how we are going to move forward.”

Falae noted that what the country had in 1960 was a good constitution but for the intervention of the military. “We had a federal covenant in 1960, which the military took away. We must find the covenant again and the only way to do this is through a national conference because there is only one sovereignty, and it resides with the people. If they don’t want us to have a sovereign conference we will continue to gather in this way as it will serve as our moving train.”

Musa lamented that the country was gradually moving towards a failed state in all its facet of life. He regretted that during the First Republic, the country was privileged to be governed by responsible leaders accountable to the people and their well-being paramount to them. He added that the same could not be said of the current leaders. Musa said, “Though First Republic leaders were conservative, but they were nationalistic, credible and dignified, but today’s leaders, despite the claim of sophistication, have nothing to offer us in terms of credible leadership.

“That is the root of our crises. In spite of our riches, we are one of the poorest on the continent, ravaged by disease, poverty and illiteracy. The only way forward is to go back to the beginning where we have started so that we can start all over again to build a country of our dream.” On his part, Nwabueze said the country was faced with fundamental challenges which must be tackled to avoid anarchy. Nwabueze noted that there was no substitute for national conference, adding that the country must be ready to sit down at a roundtable conference and decide the bases of their national unity.

A former Chairman of Peoples Democratic Party Audu Ogbeh regretted that instead of Nigerians to be their brothers’ keepers, they killed themselves. Ogbeh said, “How do we find ourselves in this mess? How come we suddenly find ourselves importing all manner of foodstuffs to the country including toothpicks to the tune of N20bn? “How is it that the local government has collapsed because the money that was allocated to them did not get to their hands? How is it that everybody has turned into sycophants and could not tell the government the bitter truth”?

Uranta noted that the initiative came out of genuine concern about the trend of event in the country particularly the issue of insecurity and the need to let eminent Nigerians discuss the way forward. He said the dialogue would be the seed on which national conference would germinate, noting that anybody who went against such a lofty arrangement was an enemy of the country.

A former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode, and Clark disagreed on the decision of the government to send troops to Lagos in the wake of subsidy removal protests. While Clark in his remarks described the idea as welcomed in view of the situation which he claimed was getting out of hand, Fani-Kayode faulted the move saying such could have applied in trouble prone areas of the country, instead of Lagos. “There is a distinction between putting soldiers on the streets of the Niger Delta cities that are burning, at least in the north where the Boko Haram group is wrecking havoc,” Fani-Kayode said.

PDP Holds National Convention March 24

Barring any last minute changes, the national convention of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) will hold on Saturday, March 24. The tenure of the present National Working Committee (NWC) of the party ends on March 8. But it may be extended to enable it organise the convention.

This is coming as the Governor of Bauchi State, Mallam Isa Yuguda, has been rallying the support of governors from the North for the national chairmanship aspiration of the acting National Secretary of PDP, Dr. Musa Babayo. Also yesterday, the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Prof. Ahmed Alkali, said he had consulted sufficiently with all stakeholders to enable him declare his aspiration for the office of the national chairman of the party. The NWC had last week postponed the meetings of the party’s Board of Trustees (BoT) and the National Executive Committee (NEC) to enable it offer solidarity for the Adamawa State governorship election which took place on February 4.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had fixed the gubernatorial elections in Adamawa, Bayelsa, Sokoto and Cross River States for February 4, 11, 18 and 25 respectively, which clashed with the previously planned national convention scheduled for February 25. But it was gathered that after an emergency NWC meeting last week, the national convention of the party was rescheduled for March 24. The party is said to have informed INEC of the new changes and the reason for the changes. According to NWC members who spoke to THISDAY, the ward congresses and the local government congresses are expected to kick off in the first week of March, to be followed by the states and zonal congresses in the states and six geo-political zones of the federation.

THISDAY learnt that the NWC after meeting with President Goodluck Jonathan and other stakeholders of the party agreed that it would be better to hold the national convention as quickly as possible since the tenure of the present NEC is expected to elapse on March 8 this year. According to informed sources, the decision to hold the national convention on March 24 was informed by the lack of provision in the PDP constitution for a caretaker committee.

As such, in order to avoid a constitutional crisis, INEC accepted an early national convention. INEC’s decision to accept a month’s extension for the Abubakar Kawu Baraje-led NWC was deemed a compromise following explanations by the party to the commission that its earlier dates for ward, local government and states congresses clashed with INEC dates for governorship elections in Adamawa, Bayelsa, Sokoto and Cross River States. As campaigns for the office of the national chairmanship of the party gather momentum, Yuguda has stepped up campaigns for the acting national secretary to become the new national chairman of the party.

THISDAY was reliably informed that Yuguda has been projecting and selling Babayo to all the Northern governors elected on the party’s ticket. The Bauchi State governor, it was gathered, has been to Taraba, Gombe, Adamawa, Kano, Kaduna and Jigawa States campaigning for Babayo. Also, the party’s National Publicity Secretary, Alkali, has said that he has concluded his consultations on his ambition to contest for the office of the national chairman. According to Alkali, “We have concluded our consultations and my state government and members of the National Assembly from my state are solidly behind me to contest for the office of the national chairman of PDP.”

Ex-militants bomb hotel in Delta

WARRI – EX-MILITANTS undergoing training under the Federal Government Amnesty Programme, Monday, bombed a hotel, (name withheld) , Osubi in Okpe local government area of Delta State, which served as their temporal home since last year.

The ex-militants alleged that the consultant was colluding with the management of the hotel to deprive them of their entitlements and shelled the hotel with dynamites.

The hotel management and a source close to the consultant, Generic College, however, described the allegation as unfounded. It was gathered that the ex-militants were not interested in staying in the hotel or undergoing any training and what they simply wanted was for the consultant to give them money meant for their hotel accommodation and other allowances. It was gathered that for some months running, it had been a running battle between the consultant and the recalcitrant ex-militants. When Vanguard visited the hotel, it was discovered that a section of the two-storey building collapsed as a result of the bombing. Several rooms were affected and the debris of the shattered blocks, doors and roof were all over the place.

Delta State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Ibrahim Mamman Tsafe, Director of SSS in the state, Area Commanders of Police in Ughelli and Warri visited the scene of the incident, Monday. The Joint Task Force on the Niger-Delta, Anti-Terrorism Squad and Anti-Bomb Squad were said to have made some arrest as the time of our visit but the details were not available. An official of the hotel who spoke to Vanguard said he got a report at about 4.00 am on Monday that the hotel was collapsing and rushed down to the hotel, only to find the ex-militants in a “war” mood.

Egious Chikoore, 16-year old boy goat rapist caught after ‘sounds of distress

The owner of the goat Mr David Mutunha said he caught Chisare in the act with his goat after he heard sounds of distress coming from the animal. Residents in Ward 28 in Norton were left stunned by the bizarre incident which happened on Saturday night.

Police Spokesperson, Superintendent Andrew Phiri confirmed the arrest of Chisare and said the suspect is expected to appear in court this Monday. Last month a 34 year old Chirumhanzu man appealed to police for help after being ordered to pay lobola and marry a goat he was allegedly caught having sex with. The animal’s owners assaulted him before dumping the animal at his homestead and demanding lobola.

The man identified as Dziva admitted being found in the Sithole family’s goats’ pen but dismissed allegations he had been intimate with the animal. “It’s only a suspicion, I was not caught red-handed but they (Sithole family) claim that their goat is pregnant and they are demanding that I pay for that. If they found me in there, does that mean I was being intimate with their goat?” A local headman said the matter had since been referred to the chief. In August last year, a 16-year old boy caused a stir in Buhera for satisfying his sexual desires with chickens, calves and goats. At least three chickens and one calf died within a month after the sexual encounters.

The teenager, Egious Chikoore confessed that he only gets sexual gratification from animals. “I have been intimate with the chickens and goats nearly every day. Sometime I target the calves in the kraal when everyone retires to bed,” he said.

Egious, a school drop out was employed by Mbuya Ester Chitendere as a herdboy. Chitendere, narrated how the bizarre incident began. “I employed Egious in April and his duties were merely to herd my stock since I am aging. The problem began when several of my chickens mysteriously went missing after attending my brother’s memorial service.” “We hunted for the chickens but failed to locate them only to find one behind the main bedroom. We were not suspicious although its backside was wide open. A few days after the incident, I discovered that several chickens were ill but we failed to identify the sickness.”

“We opted to slaughter and feasted on the meat,” she said. Mbuya Chitendere says within a week, she mysteriously lost one of her healthy calves after seeing it showing the similar symptoms. “The calf died within a week.” “It was not easy to inform my daughter Simbisai, who resides in Britain as she would be heartbroken. “It had stopped feeding and its eyes had changed into a whitish colour.”

“We threw it away but I was really troubled for losing my stock in such a mysterious manner.” However, the beans spilled when Mbuya Chitendere noticed one of her chickens battling to walk. Mbuya Chitendere smelt and detected fresh human semen all over the chicken’s nether hole. “I placed the chicken in a basket and asked Egious about it but he declined. “Yaichururuka hurume.” (human semen was oozing from it) “I rushed to Egious’s aunt who stays in the neighbourhood and she could not believe her eyes.” Egious eventually admitted he had a lust for fresh chickens, cattle and goats, but not on a braai stand.

Insecurity may stall anti-polio crusade, vaccines shortage persists

THERE are fears that the menace of Boko Haram sect in the northern states may prevent execution of another round of Immunisation Plus Days (IPDs) scheduled to hold between February 9 and 13 across the country.

Meanwhile, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) has reported one new case of the Wild Polio Virus type 1 (WPV1) in Kano, bringing the current number of polio cases in Nigeria to 58. The development came as investigation revealed that the shortage of vaccines for childhood killer diseases in Primary Health Care (PHC) centres across the country, caused largely by the last year bombing of the United Nations building in Abuja, has persisted.

It was learnt that the Ogun State Government, through its Border Health Project, is collaborating with Lagos State on joint polio advocacy day. A Weekly Polio Update published by GPEI notes that the new polio case in Kano “ is the most recent in the country, with onset of paralysis on December 13, 2011. Insecurity remains in Kano. The security situation continues to be assessed on an ongoing basis.” According to the report, the situation has also affected the additional technical support, including 11 consultants (short-term contracts) and 11 United States Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Stop Transmission of Polio (STOP) consultants scheduled to arrive in Abuja early February. The GPEI, however, said pre-implementation activities are underway for another round of IPDs billed for February 18 to 21. The dates for the March supplementary immunization activities (SIAs) are set for 17 to 20.

Towards meeting the target date of polio eradication, the global partners are looking for ways to supplement human resources at the field level. The CDC is therefore seeking short-term and highly qualified health professionals to join their STOP Teams for three-month non-salaried field assignments. Ogun State Health Commissioner and former health communications officer of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Dr. Olaolu Soyinka, said: “This Saturday, February 11, both Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State and Governor Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State are going to do a joint polio advocacy day in Adodo Otta, Iroko, Abule Iroko in Akinde town. That is right on the border. They are actually going to do joint advocacy session and kick off the immunization date specifically to highlight the importance of focusing on border areas.”

Reacting to the shortage of vaccines at most PHC centres, Soyinka said: “Shortage of vaccines is a federal problem. We at state levels cannot procure vaccines. So all those vaccines for childhood illnesses are procured at federal level by the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA). Sometimes it is because of global shortage. “Other things sometimes cause stock-outs like problems at the ports and the recent nationwide strikes against fuel subsidy removal, even things like the UN house bombing in Abuja. It caused some vaccines shortage as well. So it is something that is beyond the control of the states.”

Jonathan, others urge peace, prayer at Maulud Nabiyy

FACED with security challenges that threaten to tear the nation apart, political leaders have used the commemoration of the birthday of Holy Prophet Muhammed to urge Nigerians to embrace peace and tolerance.

The prophet’s birthday, known as Maulud Nabiyy, is being celebrated by Muslims today. Political leaders, who yesterday called for the emulation of virtues that would foster the nation’s stability, included President Goodluck Jonathan, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, his deputy, Emeka Ihedioha and state governors. President Jonathan pledged that “in the coming months”, his administration would “curb corruption, eliminate waste and redirect national resources” to identified high priority areas such as public infrastructure, power supply, transportation, agricultural development and education. He said that this would be to implement policies that would have “a direct and positive impact on wealth creation and employment generation.”

In his message to the Muslim faithful, Jonathan assured Nigerians that all his actions shall continue to be “motivated by a burning desire to significantly improve the lives of the people of this country within the tenure of my administration.” In the message to “My dear Compatriots”, President Jonathan tasked all Nigerians to collectively reflect on the virtues and ideals, which the Holy Prophet Muhammed (SAW) exemplified and taught. The full text read: “I greet you all, especially our Moslem brothers and sisters, as we commemorate the anniversary of the birth of the Holy Prophet Muhammed (SAW). “As we celebrate the anniversary of the Prophet’s birth, I urge all Nigerians to collectively reflect on the virtues and ideals which he exemplified and taught. The proper internalisation of these virtues and ideals will undoubtedly benefit our nation immensely as we confront current security and developmental challenges.

“I sincerely believe that we will make much faster progress towards the realization of our shared vision of a strong, united and prosperous nation if more of our people imbibe the Prophet’s lessons of peace, peaceful co-existence with others, tolerance, honesty, selflessness, sincerity, justice, equity and fairness to all. “My administration greatly appreciates the untiring effort being made by our religious and traditional rulers to foster national unity and promote the peaceful coexistence of all Nigerians in the face of current challenges and I urge them to do more in this regard. “I also seize the opportunity of this occasion to assure all Nigerians once again that my administration remains fully committed to the successful implementation of its agenda for national transformation.

“We shall continue to do all that we can in the coming months to curb corruption, eliminate waste and redirect national resources to identified high priority areas such as public infrastructure, power supply, transportation, agricultural development, education and other sectors that will have a direct and positive impact on wealth creation and employment generation.

“I thank you all for your continuing support and understanding in spite of being called upon to make additional sacrifices for national development recently. “Remain assured that all my actions as President are motivated by a burning desire to significantly improve the lives of the people of this country within the tenure of my administration. With your support and God’s guidance, I will succeed. “May God Almighty continue to bless, guide and protect our dear country. I wish you all happy Eid-El-Maulud celebrations.” Tambuwal enjoined Nigerians to imbibe the virtues of tolerance and love for one another, as there are enough examples for mankind to learn from the life and teachings of the Prophet Muhammed.

In a message to commemorate this year’s Maulud Nabiyy issued by his Special Adviser on Media and Public Affairs, Imam Imam, Tambuwal said tolerance and love for one another were essential components for the building of peaceful and stable societies. He said Nigerians should use this year’s celebration to pray for the country, adding that they should also reflect on the ideals of peace, unity, harmony and selflessness taught by all religions in order to build a stable nation. . “With peace, tolerance and brotherly love, we can build a country of our dream. We should therefore eschew all forms of vices as we continue our march towards unity, development and self- sustenance,” he said.

. Ihedioha called on all Nigerians to use the occasion as an opportunity to re-dedicate themselves to the ideals of nationhood and increase their commitment to the tasks of nation-building. In a message yesterday, Ihedioha shared the joy of the event and congratulated all Muslims on the occasion of the birth of Prophet Muhammed, urging them to continue to show love towards all citizens in the spirit of good neighbourliness. He enjoined Muslim faithful to emulate the teachings and practice of the Holy Prophet and to pray for the continued peace and unity of Nigeria, especially at this trying period.

The Deputy Speaker decried all manner of religious and political intolerance, noting that Nigerians, irrespective of creed or cradle, owe each other a duty to contribute positively towards building a great and united country that would be the pride of everyone. “We must always be guided by the fact that our individual and collective strength as a country is better amplified in our diversity and we must do our best within our God-given abilities to make Nigeria a strong, united and prosperous nation,” he said.

. Ekiti State Governor Kayode Fayemi enjoined Muslims to pray for the restoration of peace in every part of the country as they celebrate the event. The governor noted that the absence of love and lack of consideration for fellow beings accounted for the gale of violence in the country, adding that it was important for Nigerians to imbibe the spirit of love, peace, unity and tolerance which Islam preaches.

In a goodwill message by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Olayinka Oyebode, Fayemi urged Muslims to continue to draw examples from the life and teachings of the Holy Prophet Muhammed, adding that the society could be safer, better and more progressive if Nigerians learn to love one another. Governor Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State on his part called on Nigerians to imbibe the spirit of peaceful co-existence among themselves. . The governor gave the admonition in a special message issued in Ibadan by his Special Adviser on Media, Dr. Festus Adedayo. He urged Nigerians to be their brothers’ keepers and live together in one love, saying that it was only in an atmosphere of peace and tranquility that the nation could make ample progress.

While preaching forgiveness of trespasses among neighbours and Nigerians in general, Ajimobi said that if Nigerians did not harbour grievances against one another, it would be easier to lead a people who live together in peace. In an apparent reference to the Boko Haram insurgency in some parts of the country, which has claimed several lives and destroyed property, the governor said that the Islamic religion abhors shedding of human blood under whatever guise.

ACN Rejects February 25 Date For C’River Governorship Polls

THE Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in Cross River State has rejected the February 25 date for the Governorship election in the state, even as the State Elders Forum has endorsed Senator Liyel Imoke as their sole candidate for the polls.

Armed with various placards, the ACN members matched through the streets of Calabar chanting, ‘what we are saying is on April 14 we stand, on April 14 we stand.’ Their placards read, ‘Jega did not consult with us on February 25 date, INEC what a hurry, Jega why the haste April 14 is ideal.’

The uncoordinated peaceful protest ran into a hitch just outside the Ernest Etim Bassey Press Centre, 3rd Avenue in State Housing as they were halted by the State police Commissioner Mr. Samson Wudah and his team that demanded that they should disperse since they had no police permit to allow such a procession.

The State Chairman of the ACN Mr. Hilliard Etta who claimed he was at the press centre to have his lunch said in an interaction with the police and some journalists that they were on a peaceful protest and apologized for not obtaining clearance before embarking on the street protest.

The state Police Commissioner said they (Police) were out to maintain law and order and insisted that the ACN must respect the law on public procession or rally. Accordingly the ACN members dispersed.

Meanwhile, in a communiqué issued at the end of their Emergency Meeting held at the Pyramid Hotel, Calabar, the Elders Forum in the state who spoke through the former Military Administrator to Kwara State, Col. PAM Ogar, said the general performance of the former Governor since 2007 when he assumed the office clearly define the quality of developmental programmes across the 18 Local Government Areas of the State. “The Forum reviewed the general performance of Senator Liyel Imoke of Cross River State since the assumption of office in 2007 and passed vote of implicit confidence in him based on his sterling leadership qualities manifested in his phenomena infrastructure and people-oriented programmes,” the communiqué stated.

They called on all the stakeholders on election matters to ensure free, fair and credible polls for which Cross River State is known for. On the general insecurity in the country, the forum expressed deep concern over insecurity situation especially, the continued destructive activities of the Boko Haram Sect which has resulted into loss of lives and properties.

The forum condemned the activities of Boko Haram in their entireties and called on the Federal Government to take appropriate steps to ensure the security of live property for all Nigerians wherever they reside.

They expressed satisfaction with the performance of the President Goodluck Jonathan toward the actualisation of the transformation of his administration.

Minister Alerts on Dangers Of Cancer

AN alarm has been be raised by the Health Minister Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, that except stringent measures were put in place that about 84 million persons may die from cancer –related ailments globally by 2020.

Chukwu, disclosed this yesterday in Abuja at a press briefing ahead of this year’s World Cancer Day with the theme: “Together it is possible” where he also revealed that about US $9million counterpart funding had been paid by government in its collaboration with the International Atomic Energy Agency(IAEA) for the treatment of the disease.

In order to unite the world in the fight against the global cancer epidemic, the United Nations set aside February 4 (today) every year to mark World Cancer Day. The annual event draws attention to easing the global cancer burden by preventing the ailment and raising the quality of life for people diagnosed with cancer. He said, “For emphasis, we need to remind ourselves of the grim statistics of the morbidity arising from the cancer scourge. One in every two men and one in every three women will have a cancer diagnosis in their lifetime; this is a reality.” Quoting the World Health Organization,(WHO), he stated that “7.6million died globally as a result of cancer in 2008 and 84million will die by 2020, if preventive measures are not taken now.”

According to him, the staggering figure accounts for 13 percent of all global deaths adding that unfortunately, most of the cases fatally occurs in sub-Saharan Africa. Chukwu added, “In Nigeria, breast cancer is the commonest cancer. It also constitutes 40.3 percent of all female cancers. This is followed by cervical (17.3 percent), ovarian cancer (3.7 percent), lymphomas and skin cancer (3.1 percent) and 2.1 percent prevalence respectively.

In males, prostate cancer however is the commonest in men with 29 percent prevalence, followed by colorectal cancer (7 percent) or lymphomas (6.8 percent), depending on the geo-political zones. Liver cancer follows as the third commonest (4 percent) and skin cancer (3.8 percent).” Speaking on the technical partnership with the IAEA which, according to him, is ongoing he disclosed that government “has paid US $9m counterpart funding for the procurement of cancer treating equipment.”

It is expected that by 2015, many federal hospitals will have Radiotherapy and Nuclear Medicine facilities to manage cancer effectively. They are Lagos University Teaching Hospital; University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, Enugu; Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital, Zaria; University of Benin Teaching Hospital and Uthman Danfodio University Teaching Hospital, Sokoto.

Others are the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital; University College Hospital Ibadan; University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital; Federal Medical Centre, Gombe and National Hospital, Abuja.

Nobody Can Stop You, Jonathan Assures Dickson

AGAIN, President Goodluck Jonathan has echoed his support for the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Bayelsa State, Mr. Seriake Dickson in next Saturday’s governorship election, as he assured him of victory.

The last time the President spoke on Dickson’s candidacy was when the national leadership of the party paid him visit at Aso Rock soon after former Governor Timipre Sylva filed a suit against PDP, seeking that he be declared be the authentic governorship candidate of the party.

On that occasion, the President told the party stalwarts not to be intimated by Sylvia’s action. The President, who spoke yesterday at the handing over of the PDP’s flag to Dickson at the main bawl of theState sport complex in Yenagoa, lamented the poor level of development in the state. According to him, every society needs development, which is the essence of governance.

He said as a deputy governor under Chief DSP Alamieyeseigha, they started what was supposed to be the tallest building in the Niger Delta region, a five-star hotel with international conference centre that can host any capacity of meeting, but regretted that the Sylva administration abandoned the project.

“As a governor, I continued with that project, which was supposed to an historical monument , but today it has been abandoned by the Sylva administration,and has now become a monument of disgrace.”

Jonathan assured Bayelsans that with the Dickson as governor that things would soon turn around for the better.

The Acting National Chairman of the party, Alhaji Kaoje Barage, while presenting Dickson to the electorate , used the occasion to debunk claims of controversy over who is the authentic flag bearer of the party.

Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF), Mr. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State, who alongside his Akwa Ibom State counterpart, Chief Godswill Akpabio, accompanied the President and Vice President Namadi Sambo to the campaign, saying as South-South people, they have to continue to support the President and urged the electorate to vote for PDP in the election.

The Acting Governor of the state, Mr. Nestor Binabo, assured the PDP supporters that, they (Bayelsa PDP members) as a people, have sorted out their differences and called on them to vote for the PDP candidate.

Human Rights Watch blasts Nigeria's Ibrahim Gambari for hugging President Al-Bashir

Human Rights Watch has petitioned Nigerian diplomat, Ibrahim Gambari, the joint African Union-United Nations special representative, for attending the wedding ceremony of Chad’s President Idriss Deby on January 20, 2012 in Khartoum, where he hugged the wanted Sudanese President, Omar al-Bashir.

The wedding of President Deby and daughter of Sudan’s Janjaweed militia leader, Musa Hilal, took place in a top hotel in Khartoum and was attended by a host of dignitaries led by President Omar al-Bashir.

“As you know President al-Bashir is subject to two arrest warrants issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes committed in Darfur, including war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide,” Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, said. UN guidelines limit UN officials’ interactions with individuals indicted by the International Criminal Court, such as President al-Bashir, to “what is strictly required for carrying out UN mandated activities.”

“Attendance at a wedding ceremony cannot, in our view, be justified as “strictly required," Mr. Roth said in a complaint letter to UN Secretary General on Thursday. The human rights group said Mr. Gambari’s presence at the wedding brings the UN’s credibility in disrepute and sends a “terrible message” to victims of war crimes in Dafur

“Indeed, images of Mr. Gambari embracing President al-Bashir have been widely circulated, showing Darfuri victims that the head of UNAMID socializes with suspected war criminals,” Mr. Roth said.

President al-Bashir is wanted by the ICC for war crimes in Dafur region, Sudan. He has several bans, sanctions and an arrest warrant hanging on him and UN guidelines forbid the presence of UN representatives in any ceremonial or similar occasion with persons indicted by international criminal courts.

“Interactions of a ceremonial nature with President al-Bashir should be avoided, including courtesy calls, receptions, photo opportunities, attendance at national day celebrations and so on,” UN guidance states in relation to President al-Bashir.

The UN’s guidelines seek to deny President al-Bashir, and others wanted for serious international crimes, the legitimacy that may come with such ceremonial interactions.

It is also reported that Sudan’s defence minister, Abduraheem Hussein, also attended the ceremony. The ICC prosecutor on December 2, 2011 requested an arrest warrant for Hussein on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Darfur.

The UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations has however replied Human Rights Watch saying Mr. Gambari “attended the wedding at the invitation of President Deby … [and had] no control over the guest list.”

But the rights group insists that given the significant likelihood that President al-Bashir would attend the event, proper due diligence on Mr. Gambari’s part would have avoided this situation, and the resulting harm to victims in Darfur and the UN’s reputation.

FG restates commitment to develop inland waterways

The Federal Government has restated its commitment to develop the nation’s Inland Water Transport System into a cheaper and efficient mode of transportation.

The objective, according to the Minister of Transport, Sen. Idris Umar, is to meet up with international standard that provides alternative and complimentary services to other modes of transportation in Nigeria.

He stated this in Abuja while inaugurating a Committee for the Development of Inland Water Transport System in Nigeria. In a statement signed by the Assistant Director, Press and Public Relation Unit, Mr. Abiodun Oladunjoye, the minister charged the committee to identify factors inhibiting sustainable IWT in Nigeria and proffer solutions to them.

He tasked the panel to carry out visitation to the communities engaged in Inland Waterways Transportation with a view of identifying the challenges faced by those communities and proffer measures of mitigating them. Umar asked the committee to, among other functions, provide historical background of Inland Water Transport (IWT) in Nigeria; identify all navigable rivers and creeks in Nigeria, including their roles and potential for IWT.

Other functions include: prioritising the rivers/creeks for revitalisation based on their economic viability; identify the ingredients for eliciting private sector-led participation in IWT in Nigeria and also recommend how best to utilize the river channels/creeks for maximum economic benefits of the nation. The committee, chaired by the Director of Maritime Services, Mohammed Nagogo, has most members drawn from the private sector, officials of the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) as well as some officials of federal and state ministries of transport.

AU links Africa, World Bank improved ties to Ezekwesili

NIGERIA’S Oby Ezekwesili has been identified as the architect of the improved relationship between Africa and the World Bank by the African Union (AU).

The AU, which praised Ezekwesili for representing the continent well at Bretton Woods’ institution as African Region Vice President, said she had done an excellent work in the organisation.

In a statement issued in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia after the just-concluded AU summit but made available to The Guardian on Wednesday, where the continental body’s officials and those of the World Bank met, the AU Commission said Ezekwesili through her fruitful efforts had improved the relations between the World Bank and Africa. The AU chairperson, Dr. Jean Ping from Gabon, thanked Ezekwesili (former Nigeria’s education minister) for the excellent job she had done to improve relations between the World Bank and Africa. “We understand the challenges you may have encountered in the process and appreciate your productive focus and tenacity,” adding that the AU Commission hoped that wherever you go, you will not forget Africa.”

In her response, Ezekwesili thanked Ping for receiving her delegation despite his tight schedules. She said as VP at the World Bank, “improving relations between the bank and the AU was the most natural thing for me to do.”

According to her, “dealing with Africa as a true partner and not simply dictating policy to the continent is the right approach. It was not easy but I am proud of what we accomplished by working together and I promise that my successor will continue in the same vein.” She is leaving the World Bank in May this year. Ezekwesili said “this is a good time for Africa, as all the key macroeconomic indicators suggest. Africa and the AU must continue to drive the agenda, with more emphasis on economics than politics.” The AU statement said “the purpose of the meeting was to follow up on the theme of the summit, “Boosting intra-African trade” and “review ways and means of enhancing and maximising the effectiveness of World Bank support for the AU and Africa, in that respect.”

10 teaching hospitals to get cancer treatment facilities

TEN teaching hospitals in Nigeria are to benefit from a N1.44 billion ($9 million) project supported by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to procure cancer-treating equipment.

Beneficiaries of the project to be completed in 2015 are the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Idi-Araba; University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital (UNTH), Enugu; Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital (ABUTH), Zaria; University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH), Benin; Othman Danfodio Teaching Hospital Sokoto (UDUTH), Sokoto; University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital (UPTH), Rivers State; University College Hospital Ibadan (UCH), Ibadan; University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital (UMTH); Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Gombe; and National Hospital (NHA), Abuja.

Health Minister, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, told The Guardian that currently linear accelerators for treating cancer are available at LUTH, UNTH, the National Hospital in Abuja, UBTH and UDUTH, Sokoto. He said Cobalt machines also used for treating cancer are available at UCH, FMC Gombe and ABUTH.

Chukwu, who spoke on efforts of the Federal Government to tackle the menace of the disease ahead of the 2012 World Cancer Day tomorrow, explained that the IAEA partnership with the government would improve services in the designated hospitals. The minister said the government had also invested more funds on the prevention of cancer through immunisation with Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine and Hepatitis B vaccine for cervical and liver cancer. Chukwu hinted of plans to incorporate the HPV vaccine into the National Programme on Immunisation to prevent at least 40 per cent of cancer.

He said: “During the 2011 World Cancer Day commemoration, 300 indigent girls were immunised at the launch of HPV vaccine. These girls have successfully completed the three doses and many more will be immunised during the forthcoming 2012 Nationwide Cancer Awareness and Screening campaigns at the local government level.” Chukwu said three comprehensive cancer screening centres were established at the UPTH, National Obstetric Fistula Centre, Abakaliki in Ebonyi State and the Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Gusau, last year. “They are equipped with mammography machines, Cryoprobe systems, ultra sound scans, video-culposcopes and ELIZA machines for Prostatic Seminal Antigen (PSA) analysis (for prostate cancer), to increase access to cancer screening services in three geopolitical zones,” he said.

The minister said the Ministry of Health would complete the project in the remaining geo-political zones in 2012, as part of its updated Action Push Agenda of the Ministry. The United Nations (UN) sets aside every February 4 to mark the World Cancer Day to unite the world in the fight against the global cancer epidemic. The yearly event draws attention to easing the global cancer burden by preventing the disease and raising the quality of life of people. The theme for 2012 edition is “Together it is possible.”

Al-Mustapha, Shofolahan Appeal Death Sentence

Twenty-four hours after he was sentenced to death by hanging by Justice Mojisola Dada of the Lagos High Court, the former Chief Security Officer (CSO) to late Head of State, General Sani Abacha, Major Hamza Al-Mustapha, has filed an appeal against the judgment at the Court of Appeal in Lagos.

He described his conviction as unreasonable, unwarranted and a clear travesty of justice.

In the notice of appeal, which was filed at exactly 2p.m. yesterday, Al-Mustapha wants the appellate court to set aside the judgment and discharge him of all the count charge of conspiracy to murder and murder. Justice Dada had in a judgment which lasted for about seven hours on Monday, sentenced Al-Mustapha to death by hanging for conspiring with others to kill Alhaja Kudirat Abiola, wife of the presumed winner of June 12, 1993 Presidential election, Chief MKO Abiola.

Justice Dada had, while handing down the verdict, held that the prosecution successfully proved that Al-Mustapha and a former protocol officer to Abiola, Lateef Shofolahan, conspired with others to kill Kudirat on June 4, 1996. But Al-Mustapha and Shofolahan are insisting in the notice of appeal filed on their behalf by their lawyer, Olalekan Ojo, that Justice Dada erred in law by arriving at the conclusion that they conspired to kill Kudirat. While Al-Mustapha’s appeal was anchored on four grounds, that of his co-convict (Shofolahan) was hinged on five grounds.

In ground one, Al-Mustapha submitted that the lower court erred in law by holding that the contradictions in the evidence of Barnabas Jabila (a.k.a Sgt Rogers) and Mohammed Abdul (a.k.a Katako) were immaterial, when the same judge had earlier held that both Sgt Rogers and Katako recanted their evidence-in-chief under cross-examination, and also when the prosecution had conceded in its final address that the two key witnesses were not credible, having repudiated their earlier testimonies.

al-Mustapha to die for Kudirat’s murder

THE sensational life of Hamza al-Mustapha, former Chief Security Officer (CSO) to the late Gen. Sani Abacha, crashed yesterday at a Lagos High Court.

He is to die by hanging for the murder of the late Chief Moshood Abiola’s wife, Kudirat.

Also sentenced to death by hanging is Lateef Sofolahan, the late Mrs Abiola’s aide.

Justice Mojisola Dada found them guilty of conspiracy and murder of the late Mrs Abiola, who mounted a spirited opposition to the annulment of the June 12, 1993 election - Nigeria’s freest and fairest ever – which the late Abiola won.

The judge, in the judgment she read from 9. 50 am to 4.40 pm, held that the prosecution proved its case against the defendants beyond reasonable doubt. The court punctured all the evidence by the defendants, describing them as afterthought and an attempt to wriggle out of a difficult situation. “The prosecution’s evidence is manifestly reliable as having proved the ingredient of conspiracy and murder of the late Kudirat Abiola on June 4, 1996 against the defendants.

“The defendants are hereby sentenced to the mandatory sentence, according to Section 319 of the Criminal Code of Lagos State. They are to die by hanging until pronounced dead,” the judge held.

Justice Dada, who came down heavily on the defendants, described al-Mustapha as a liar and an individual who thought he was untouchable. She described Sofolahan as a leech and greedy individual, who willingly betrayed his benefactor. The court held that al-Mustapha “felt obliged to silent any voice against the government of his boss”. “He manifested himself in such a way that he thought nobody could touch him.”

The judge described Sofolahan as “a willing tool, a gold digger, a Judas Iscariot, who sold his master”. “It is his greed that took him to Sarkin Sasa to fulfill his ambition to romance with government as a leader of delegation at the Abacha rally. “Members of the Abiola family did not know they were habouring a viper, a friend in the open and an enemy in the secret. He deliberately sacrificed Alhaja Kudirat to meet his personal greed. Blood tasty traitor.

“It is amazing that those who shed blood are those who dread death most,” the judge said. Justice Dada held that the claim by al-Mustapha that his schedule as the CSO was to repel, contain and manage any threat to the seat of power, the president and his family, a responsibility which informed the establishment of the Strike Force, supports the prosecution’s claim that the late Mrs Abiola was killed because she was perceived as a threat to the government.

On the videos showed in court about some pro-democracy leaders in Aso Villa, the court held that they were distractions and extraneous to the fact of the case. The court also held that all al-Mustapha’s evidence detailing events that occurred after Kudirat’s death were irrelevant to the case. The court wondered how al-Mustapha knew that the late Chief Bola Ige was compensated with a ministerial appointment for the role he allegedly played in the events leading to Abiola’s death when he (al-Mustapha) was not a member of the Federal Executive Council.

On the defendants’ claim that they never conspired as they only met each other for the first time at the 100 million - man match in Abuja, the judge held that evidence by the prosecution proved otherwise. She said the evidence by the second prosecution witness, Barnabas Jabila (Rogers), that al-Mustapha handed him a sophisticated weapon and that by first prosecution witness, Dr. Ore Falomo, that the bullet found on the deceased was a special bullet supported the claim of the prosecution. Justice Dada, whose voice remained firm and strong, held that al-Mustapha’s claim that he handed Rogers his gun for cleaning after a gaming exercise was an afterthought.

On the defendants’ argument that the court should discountenance the evidence by Rogers and Katako on the ground that they recanted, the court, relying on the Principle of Remedial Law doctrine, held that the fact that the witnesses denied their earlier statement was not enough for the court to cancel them. The judge held that it was for the court to compare and juxtapose the circumstances and motive behind the change of mind. The court will indiscriminately analyse the fact and circumstances under which the testimonies were made.

She held that the contradiction in the evidence of Katako and Rogers as regard when the killing actually took place was immaterial as the evidence by Falomo that the murder took place between 7am and 8 am gave credence to the fact that it occurred in the morning. The court faulted al-Mustapha’s claim that his trial was part of the plan by the authorities to persecute him because of the sensitive documents and video recording. The court observed that since al-Mustapha did not say he legitimately obtained the video recordings he claimed to have sent to former President Olusegun Obasanjo, he obtained them illegitimately.

Justice Dada said the evidence before the court was weighty and showed that the duo conspired and killed Abiola on June 4, 1996, near the Ikeja end of the former Lagos-Ibadan Toll Gate. The judge said that the prosecution proved beyond reasonable doubts that the duo met between March 1995 and June 4, 1996 to plot the murder of the pro-democracy campaigner. She said that the court believed the evidence of the first prosecution witness, Barnabas Jabila (a.k.a. Sgt. Rogers), that the murder was plotted at the National Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos.

Dada also said that the court believed Jabila’s evidence that Al-Mustapha gave him (Jabila) his personal gun to shoot Mrs Abiola inside her white Mercedez Benz Beast, near the toll gate. Justice Dada said: “The second defendant willingly handed over Kudirat Abiola to her killer. The court is a fact-finding tribunal which must be seen to be doing its work without any bias and ambiguity. “The first and second defendants jointly agreed to kill Kudirat Abiola. The defendants are found guilty of conspiracy and murder. “The evidence is so weighty that the court has no doubts. The defendants are, therefore, found guilty, as charged.

“The light shines in darkness and darkness comprehends it not. Those who shed blood are those who fear death most. “The defendants are accordingly sentenced to death by hanging, until they are proved dead.” The prosecution team led by the Solicitor-General of Lagos State Mr Lawal Pedro, expressed satisfaction at the judgment. But the defence team, led by Mr Olalekan Ojo, said it would appeal against the judgment, which was delivered under tight security.

Boko Haram: UN, AU support Jonathan

President Goodluck Jonathan on Sunday received the support of the United Nations and the African Union Commission in his administration’s bid to put an end to the violence unleashed on the country, especially in the North, by members of the Islamic sect, Boko Haram.

The UN Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Ki-Moon; and the AUC chairperson, Dr. Jean Ping, gave Jonathan the bodies’ backing in their separate remarks at the opening of the 18th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Ki-Moon said the UN was working closely with the AU to address terrorism, illicit drug trafficking and the rise of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, all of which he called transnational challenges in West Africa.

He said, “With respect to Nigeria, I am deeply troubled by the indiscriminate and unacceptable violent attacks. No cause justifies terror. “We stand in solidarity with the authorities and the people of Nigeria for democratic and accountable governance.” The UN scribe urged African leaders to adopt a preventive approach to human rights, saying the Arab Spring took many by surprise with traditional indicators showing that the countries were stable or doing well.

He said below the surface of the indicators, there were deprivation, exclusion and abuse, among others. “Events have proved that repression is a dead end. Police power is no match for people power seeking dignity and justice.

“The women and men protesting in streets and public squares across the region are both an inspiration and a reminder. “A reminder that leaders must listen to their people, that all of us must do more,” he added. Ki-Moon said though trade and investment were crucial for development, Africa’s future also depended on investments in civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.

He identified one form of discrimination which, he said, had been ignored or even sanctioned by many states for too long as discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Ping, on his part, regretted that over the past months, the continent has witnessed a resurgence of terrorism, particularly in Nigeria. “I take this opportunity to reiterate the strong condemnation by the AU of the criminal attacks perpetrated by Boko Haram and other terrorist groups, and to reiterate our support for the efforts of the government of Nigeria,” he said.

He said although considerable progress had been made in the areas of creating an atmosphere of peace in the continent, there was still a long way to go in order to fully live up to the commitments made. He said the violence and contestations which often mark elections in Africa remind the people of the continent this fact, sometimes in a tragic manner.

President Goodluck Jonathan: It’s difficult to get Boko Haram for talks

PRESIDENT Goodluck Jonathan on Thursday said members of the violent Islamic sect, Boko Haram, were difficult to negotiate with because they lacked identity.

Jonathan said this during an interview conducted by Reuters in the Presidential Villa.

The violent Islamic sect launched coordinated attacks on Kano on Friday over killing of 186 people. Jonathan said, “If they clearly identify themselves now and say this is the reason why we are resisting, this is the reason why we are confronting government or this is the reason why we destroy of some innocent people and their property … then there will be a basis for dialogue.

“We will dialogue, let us know your problems and we will solve your problem but if they don’t identify themselves, who will you dialogue with?” (sic) He, however, added that talks with the group could be difficult because the Islamic sect doesn’t have a clear public figurehead that could be invited for talks. “If anybody invited Osama bin Laden (to talks), he wouldn’t have appeared … Boko Haram, if you invite them, they will not come. They operate without a face, they operate without a clear identity, so it is difficult to interface with such a group.

“That is the greatest difference between Boko Haram … and the Niger Delta issue. There is no clear thing to say: this is what we want.” While deconstructing the problem, the President told his interviewers that the North’s high unemployment pushed many youths into the ranks of the sect. He said, “Military confrontation alone will not eliminate terror attacks. Our commitment is to make sure our irrigation programmes are all revitalised so most of these young people are engaged in productive agriculture and … will not be free for them to recruit.

“There is a lot of evidence, there are linkages … no doubt about that. Meetings are being held in North Africa, the movement of people in these places have been monitored and noticed. The level of involvement and probably in terms of funding and equipment, I do not know.” Asked to comment on the recent warning by Professor Wole Soyinka that Nigeria might be headed towards a civil war, the President replied that this was unlikely. “There is no way Nigeria will go into civil war. These are different situations,” Jonathan said, adding that violence in modern day Nigeria was conducted by “pressure groups” using it to intimidate and threaten rather than full blown armies.

As for the service and security chiefs, the President said, “They are trying. Terrorism is new in Nigeria, and since it’s new, the security services have to change their methods. You cannot change methods overnight. But we will do more.”

The journalists asked the President if he subscribed to the widespread idea that some northern politicians disgruntled at the election of a Christian southerner were trying to destabilise his government.

He said, “I will not rule out that maybe some politicians get close to some members of Boko Haram, but I will not say that Boko Haram is a political group trying to undo Goodluck Jonathan.

“I cannot say it’s because a southerner and Christian is president that the Boko Haram saga comes up.” On the fuel subsidy crisis, Jonathan said reports of corruption in the oil ministry and elsewhere were being investigated. He, however, said that he would not sack anyone in the ministry until he saw proof of misconduct. He said, “Nigerians are angry about certain things government has not been able to conclude very quickly … You cannot sentence a person without trial. “I believe that before the end of February, I’m very hopeful, we’ll submit it to the national assembly.”

At Last, FG Withdraws Troops from Lagos Streets

Troops deployed on Lagos streets about a forth night ago by the Federal Government to quell the street protests against the removal of petrol subsidy were Tuesday withdrawn. THISDAY gathered that the pull-out was ordered by Defence Headquarters, Abuja.

Consequently, the armoured tanks stationed at the Gani Fawehinmi Freedom Park in Ojota and at other centres, including Agege, Falomo, Agboju, Ijora, Costain and Ojuelegba in the state had disappeared Tuesday morning.

The presence of the soldiers had generated heated controversy, which many argued, was a calculated attempt by the Federal Government to frustrate and quell further protests of the petrol subsidy.

The Defence Headquarters had, in a statement, claimed that the soldiers were deployed on the request of Lagos State government. But the state government described the claims as false and an attempt to create unnecessary confusion on the issue in the minds of Lagosians.

Some Lagos residents, who spoke on the troop withdrawal, hailed the directive of the Defence Headquarters, saying that their continuous presence was fast becoming an embarrassment to the nation in the wake of serious security threats in the Northern part of the country. An official in charge of the Ojota bus park, who pleaded anonymity, said though the soldiers did not harass passersby, their presence was tantamount to putting a square peg in a round hole.

According to him, “…we have lost over 150 innocent Nigerians to the Kano bombings, and here you have soldiers who look poised for war, sleeping all day. If they were deployed in Kano, we could not have had that kind of devastating incidence. I welcome the decision to withdraw them.” He said Lagos “is peaceful and will always remain peaceful, they (troops) will be more useful in the North”.

Another official, who simply identified himself as Tajudeen, said the deployment of the soldiers was uncalled for and that the decision was politically motivated to pit the state government against the people.

He said: “I have been asking what they were deployed here to do and people said it was to prevent the breakdown of law and order. What sort of breakdown is that? We have never had issues warranting such intervention in the last one year, even during the protests in this park, people were peaceful, and there was hardly any cause for alarm.”

2 Cops Igba Isaac, 33 and Abya Chashe, 36, Paraded With 9 Robbery Suspects

Two dismissed police officers, Igba Isaac, 33 and Abya Chashe, 36, have been arrested and paraded with their nine-man suspected robbery gang members.

Before his dismissal, Abya was an officer at the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, while Igba was a corporal, formerly attached to Abattoir Police Station, Agege, Lagos, Southwest Nigeria.

The dismissed officers were arrested with their gang members by the Lagos State Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) led by SP Abba Kyari. They were arrested after an operation in Langbasa, Ajah where they stole laptops, plasma TV and a red Toyota Camry car.

Though they had a successful operation at their victim’s residence, the suspected robbers’ problem started when one of them, Ratti Edet, fell in love with the house maid of their victim. He was said to have dropped his mobile phone number with the house help after robbing her boss.

He started a relationship with the maid on phone and both of them eventually scheduled an appointment, but unknown to Edet, the police got wind of the development and swooped on him.

After his arrest, he gave the police clues that led to the arrest of the other suspects. In his confessional statement, Edet said the two police officers (Igba and Abya) are members of his gang and they supply the ammunition used in their various operations. Some of the items recovered from the suspected robbers include stolen laptops, two pistols and 20 round live ammunition.

P.M NEWS gathered that the suspects were aided by Adamu Garba, the guard of their victim in Ajah. Adamu said he liaised with the robbers to rob his boss because his boss offended him.

Garba said: “I was involved in the robbery because I was not happy with my boss. He accused me of stealing and called the police, but they did not find anything on me. It was my brother, Aliu, I met in a Mosque that linked me with the robbers.”

In his confessional statement, one of the dismissed policemen, Isaac, said poverty and frustration forced him to join the robbery gang. “I was a Corporal and served last at Isokoko I Abuja. I am married with a child. I joined the force on 1 May, 2003 and was posted to Isokoko in October 2010. I have a family to take care of and the pressure to make a living led me to the gang. I am ashamed of myself now,” Igba said.

Another member of the gang, Josiah Oriabare, 38, also said he joined the robbery gang because of poverty.

“I was a driver and I live at 5, Kosoko Street, Oke-Ayo. I had planned to stop this on 31 December, last year, but I didn’t because I needed money,” he confessed, adding that a man called Obinna introduced him to robbery.

NAFDAC To Man New Mega Drug Distribution Centres

As part of the multi-dimensional approach towards fighting drug counterfeiting, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), has decided to deploy some regulatory officers to man the new Mega Drug Distribution Centers buil...

Rotary celebrates India’s first polio-free year, but cautions the job is not yet finished

EVANSTON, USA, January 12, 2012/African Press Organization APO/ — Rotary members worldwide are cautiously celebrating a major milestone in the global effort to eradicate the crippling disease polio: India, until recently an epicenter of the wild poliovirus, has gone a full calendar year without recording a new case.

16 youths arraigned for alleged attack on emir’s palace

Sixteen youths, who allegedly attacked the palace of the Emir of Bauchi during the protest against petrol subsidy removal, have been arraigned at a Bauchi Chief Magistrate’s Court in Bauchi, the state capital.

The court, presided over by Alhaji Isa Mohammed, heard that the youths were charged with mischief, inciting, public disturbance and possession of dangerous weapons at the emir’s palace.

The charges are contrary to sections 114, 326, 3, and 7 of the Penal Code and the state’s laws on thuggery. Corporal Anna Yakubu said: “The accused were arrested with dangerous weapons by policemen on patrol after the suspects had incited disturbance. One of the accused, Yahaya Garba, allegedly had two sharp daggers. Fifteen of the suspects pleaded not guilty after the charges were read to them, but Mallam Yahaya Dauda pleaded guilty to the charge.

Counsel to the accused, Usman Darazo and Jibrin Jibrin, applied for bail for the accused. It was granted though Yakubu opposed it. Dauda was sentenced to six months’ jail with an option of N5,000 fine on each charge. The 15 accused have been granted bail after the payment of N50,000 with a surety, who must be a ward Head and owner of landed property worth N500,000. The case has been adjourned till January 30.

Lagos seeks NRC’s co-operation on drainage expansion

The Lagos State Government is seeking the cooperation of the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) in its drive to expand the drainage channels across the state.

Its Commissioner for the Environment, Tunji Bello, made the disclosure yesterday during an assessment tour of on going cleaning of drainage inspected and construction of channels around Ikeja and Ifako Ijayie Local Government Areas.

Bello identified two major spots in the drainage as having challenges with the rail lines. He listed them as Elere collector drains and Shogunle -Oshodi system channels. The commissioner said that consultations were ongoing between the state and the NRC management. He assured the people that the government will do all within its power to ensure the timely completion of the project.

His words: “We are always in contact with the railway authority, the deputy commissioner of police in charge of railway has been assisting us on this. Particularly affected is our work force. Most of the time our workers are arrested while they are working on the drains along the rail line. Yesterday, we got a call that some of our workers cleaning the drains along the rail line were arrested because they were cleaning and discharging the silt along the rail line.” The commissioner stressed that beyond the assistance from the police, the cooperation of the railway authority was required. “Some of the expansions and the culvert we want to cross over need their approval and in some cases we need their engineers to protect the rail line and guide us well,” he said

. According to Bello, the government has constantly de-silt the various channels and embarked on expansion of others across the state to enable it tackle flood during the raining season.

“I cannot say there won’t be flooding. Even in develop society they still expect flooding due to climate change. And if people who develop technologically are experiencing flooding who are we to say that there won’t be flood, but what we are doing is to open up the channels and ensure that we reduce the incidence of flood during raining season.”

Niger revokes contract for NYSC orientation camp

THE Niger State Government has revoked the contract for the construction of the new permanent site for the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) orientation camp.

The revocation order followed a State Executive Council (EXCO) meeting yesterday in Minna, the state capital. The construction of the orientation camp, located in Paiko, Paikoro Local Government Area, was awarded in May, last year, with a six-month completion period. But it has not reached halfway when it was revoked. Justice Commissioner Bawa Wuse told reporters after the meeting that N42 million of N115,435,134 had been paid to the contactor, who has abandoned the site without completing the job.

He said efforts by the government to get him back on site proved abortive. The commissioner said the contractor claimed that he had no financial ability to continue the work and that he would only return to site after further payment. Wuse said the demand is contrary to the terms of the contract. He said: “The Niger State Government has revoked the contract of the contractor engaged to build the NYSC permanent orientation camp in Paiko. The government has realised that the contractor does not have the financial strength to complete it. The government had earlier given him N42 million, as stated in the contract and, since he cannot complete the rest due to financial constraints, the government has decided to revoke the contract.” The commissioner said the government would take legal action against the contractor to recover part of the advance payment, estimating the job done at N20 million. Commissioner for Health and Hospital Services, Yahaya Dan’Sallau said the government has established a N67.6million Renal Dialysis Centre in the Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (IBB) Hospital in Minna.

He said this is against the backdrop of the high number of kidney patients who are referred to hospitals outside the state. The commissioner, who was represented by his Permanent Secretary, Dr. Ibrahim Chindo, said eight dialysis machines, treatment machines and a water supply plant have been installed at the centre.

He said the facilities are fully operational with adequate manpower to operate them. The commissioner said five kidney patients have been treated at the centre. He added that the Federal Ministry of Health has begun the training of health workers on the management of malaria and how to use the malaria test stripes procured by the state government.

Amosun’s wife to reward best SS3 students

SECONDARY students in the 20 local councils of Ogun State with the best results in the 2012 May/June West African School Certificate Examinations (WASCE) will enjoy free trips’ sponsorship by wife of the state governor, Mrs. Olufunso Amosun.

The initiative is designed to encourage the students in all the state-owned schools to take full advantage of the free education scheme introduced by Governor Ibikunle Amosun. In a statement yesterday, the Special Assistant on Media to the Governor Idowu Sowunmi, said the programme, tagged: “Uplifting SS3 Results in Ogun State” provides for the best student in the examinations from each council to accompany Mrs. Amosun on a free recreational trip to the United Arab Emirate (UAE).

Mutilated body of hunchback dumped in bush

The body of 24-year-old Ade Dowo, a humpback, who has been declared missing since January 13, has been found mutilated and dumped in a a bush at Ago-Alaye in Odigbo Local Government Area of Ondo State.

Speaking with News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Odigbo, near Ondo on Tuesday, a source close to the victim’s family, who declined to be identified, said that Dowo went missing on Friday morning. “Ade was an Senior Secondary School (SSS 3) pupil in a private school who lived with his parents at Bashorun Quarters at Ago-Alaye area in Odigbo,” said the source. The source also alleged that a “very pretty” girl passed the night with Dowo on that fateful Friday night. “It was suspected that four assailants used the girl as bait and as Ade was seeing her off around 5 a.m. they pounced on him and took him away to an unknown destination,” the source told NAN.

The mother of the deceased, Mrs Lydia Dowo, said that Ade, whom she described as very brilliant in his studies, was her only son out of six children.

“I went through series of ordeals to bring him up; he only started walking at the age of 12, the only place he goes to is his school or on short errands,” she said. The Divisional Police Officer in Odigbo, CSP. Adekimi Ojo, who confirmed the incident, said that one of the four suspects had already been arrested. “The hump of the deceased was removed which leads us to believe it was used for ritual purposes, the suspect we apprehended led us to the body,” he said. “The corpse has been deposited at the mortuary of a private hospital in Ore. Our investigation into the case still continues,” the DPO said

ASUU, FG move to end strike in two weeks

An end appears to be in sight to the nationwide strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities as parties involved in the dispute are said to have reached understanding.

A source in the Ministry of Education told our correspondent in Abuja on Wednesday that the Federal Government was putting finishing touches to meeting some of the “reasonable” demands of ASUU. The source, who craved anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media on the issue, noted that government was determined to end the deadlock within a “week or two.”

He explained that most of the issues would have been resolved before now but for the nationwide strike embarked by Labour and civil society groups over the removal of fuel subsidy.

He said “On our part, we have been working round the clock to end the strike, which we are hopeful will end within a week or two at the most. “I can confirm to you that government has already agreed to meet some of the reasonable demands of ASUU like the reconstitution of boards and councils and the issue of the legal framework regarding the retirement age of Professors and the like. We are making reasonable progress.”

National President of ASUU, Prof. Ukachukwu Awuzie, in a separate telephone interview with our correspondent in Abuja, confirmed that progress was being made. He explained that discussions started before the nationwide strike began.

According to him, the leadership of ASUU has met with government at the ministerial level as well as at the level of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation. He said, “Some understanding has been reached. Every party is interested in ending the dispute and we are working towards achieving this.”

Commercial activities pick up as normalcy returns to Osun, Ogun, Oyo

Osogbo – Commercial and other socio-economic activities resumed yesterday across many states of the federation, including the South-West as labour Monday suspended its strike over the removal of subsidy on petrol. Banks, public institutions and schools came alive in the zone as residents took to the streets in pursuit of their daily engagements.

In Osogbo, the Osun State capital, the state Secretariat witnessed a heavy presence of workers as many were seen at their duty posts while others discussed in groups. Ministries monitored included Home Affairs, Youth and Sports, Environment, Office of the Head of Service and Office of Secretary to the State Government. Some workers were seen dusting their tables and chairs while those in Parks and Gardens’ section of the Ministry of Environment were busy wetting flowers and trees within the secretariat. Mrs. Sherifat Olagunju (Environment), Mrs. Phebean Ejalonibu (Home Affairs), Mrs Ruth Ogundare (Office of the Head of Service) and Mr. Bode Otegbola(SSG’s Office) commended government and labour for the quick resolution of the dispute.

They said that they were happy and ready to work for the development of the state. Investigations revealed that normalcy had returned to all federal and state establishments in Ogun State. Workers gathered at Kuto round-about as early as 7.30 am waiting for Gateway Workers’ Transit buses to convey them to the state secretariat at Oke-Mosan.

Only a few of the buses were available to convey the workers as many of them were on queue at the NNPC mega station waiting to buy fuel. Many of the workers came late for work complaining of heavy traffic on some of the major highways while lamenting the high cost of transportation. Normalcy also returned to Ibadan following the suspension of the strike as banks, schools, markets and other private and public institutions opened for business. Workers in both the state and federal establishments also resumed normal duties. Some respondents, who spoke said they were delighted that labour and government were able to reach a compromise on the issue.

Damola Aderibigbe, a civil servant, said he had not expected the strike to last as long as it did. He said: “It is good for everyone that we have gotten to the end of this now so that we can focus on salvaging the losses incurred from the long strike.”

Schools fail to resume in Ogun

ABEOKUTA – CLOSE to 48 hours after organised labour suspended the nationwide strike over hike in the pump price of petrol, most students in both public and private schools in Ogun State are yet to resume as ordered by the state government.

The few that showed up lamented the high cost of fares. Also, workers including teachers who resumed duties decried the hike in fares as terrible. Similarly, most car owners now use commercial vehicles to go to their places of work.

In Abeokuta, schools like Premier Grammar School, Lafenwa High Schools both in Lafenwa, as well as St.John Anglican High School, Kuto, Reverend Kuti Memorial Grammar School and Nawairu-deen High School, Isabo, recorded very low turn-out of students.

A cross section of students who spoke to Vanguard, blamed the high cost of fares for the inability of their colleagues to turn up.

According to Olumide Ayinla, a student of Premier Grammar School, he decided to go to schools because his residence was close to the school. But his friend, Kola Adebona, who lives in Oke-Ilewo, claimed he went through tough times before he getting to to the school.

He said: “Initially I spent N140 to and fro, but, now I have already spent N180. I don’t think my parents can cope with this.” Findings showed that in Sagamu and Ijebu-Ode, high fares forced many of the students to trek, resulting to lateness.

Meanwhile, many filling stations in the state yesterday shut their stations against desperate motorists who besieged their stations for petrol. Vanguard observed that many of the filling stations had notice of “No Fuel” placed at their gates.

Kano NLC stages street protest

Organised Labour and civil society organisations in Kano State yesterday staged a protest rally, despite the directive by the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) President Abdulwaheed Omar that the strike over the hike in the pump price of petrol by the Federal Government had been suspended. Prior to the suspension of the strike yesterday, the NLC President had directed all workers to observe the industrial action at home and avoid street protests and rallies.

Thousands of protesters gathered at Zaria Road, Naibawa, in the Kano metropolis, where they made bonfires and mounted road blocks. Some miscreants were still on the streets, obstructing vehicular and human movement.

Police Commissioner Ibrahim Idris had told The Nation in a telephone chat that he was shocked by the attitude of the youths. He said the state NLC Chairman Alhaji Isa Yunusa Danguguwa would be invited on the matter. The police chief immediately drafted a team of policemen to the scene to restore order.

As at the time of filling this report, Kano metropolis was calm though business activities were still at a low ebb. Some residents expressed happiness that the strike had been suspended, hoping that further negotiations between Labour and the Federal Government would yield better result.

“In fact, I want to tell you that we are very happy that at last, the Federal Government and Labour have come to an agreement that can ease the suffering of the masses. “For the fact that President Goodluck Jonathan has shifted grounds and brought the price down to N97, there is hope that he may finally succumb to the yearnings of the masses,” Alhaji Sharu Gwammaja, a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chieftain, told The Nation.

Speaker Of The House, Aminu Tambuwal Homeless, As Official Residence Sold To Dimeji Bankole

Not many people would believe that the incumbent Speaker of the House of Representatives,Aminu Tambuwal is still homeless 6 months after he assumed office as Speaker.His palatial official quarters located in the A wing of the Apo National Assembly Quarters was allegedly sold to his predecessor in office,Dimeji Bankole as a parting gift from the Presidency.

Sources gathered that the official residences of the ex-Speaker as well as that of the Senate President were sold to the 2 of them at give-away prices as part of government monetization policy despite the fact that such buildings did not come under the programme.

Eyebrows were said to have been raised by those who knew the implication of the sales but the government still went ahead with it.The controversy however became more obvious a few months ago when a member of the Speaker alleging that the House leadership wanted to pay hundreds of million of naira to rent the same apartment which was sold to the former Speaker at about 100 million naira.

The House members were allegedly furious not with the illegality of selling the house but also the fact that their former leader was trying to give out the house to his successor for such a huge amout.Already,the project of building another new official residence for the Speaker is captured in the new budget for the Federal Capital Territory Authority,(FCTA) the body responsible for the building of such structures..

Meanwhile,the new Speaker,Aminu Tambuwal still sleeps in his old apartment which has been renovated.

We gathered that it is not only in the issue of accommodation that the incumbent Speaker has had to forgo his comfort,without making noise.

According to reports,he is using the cars used by former Speaker,Patricia Etteh early in her tenure as Speaker in 2007.It was reliably gathered that the immediate past Speaker,like all his colleagues went away with his official cars as they are also sold to him at cheap amount.

Tambuwal is said to have decided that given the furore that the purchase of cars had generated in the past,it would be out of place for him to buy one now.Based on this,he alleged told the National Assembly leadership that he would patiently wait for the cars for the various committees of the House to be purchased with his own.

Sponsored Ad

Read more

Want more News?

Follow us on Twitter
Join us on Facebook

Contact us at

Latest Additions