by Virginia DeLancey (04) 62-64
President Buhari Took Extended Medical Leave
President Muhammadu Buhari extended a 10-day medical leave in the United Kingdom, disclosing in a short statement to the National Assembly that it was to enable him to complete and receive the results of a series of tests recommended by his doctors. The President left for London on January 19, but his Special Advisor on Media and Publicity did not disclose when he would return. Before departure, Buhari made a temporary transfer of power to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
The request deepened suspicions among many Nigerians that the president’s health is worse than officials are admitting publicly. His extended leave could further erode confidence in his administration, already under pressures from investors to let Nigeria’s currency float freely to try to revive an oil-driven economy that is at its weakest in 25 years.
While Buhari’s spokesman, Garba Shehu, said that the president is not in any serious medical condition, he declined to give any details of the medical checks and said that there was no expected date of return. This caused some Nigerians to take to social media to demand more details on the president’s health. (Source: Daily Trust [Abuja], 2/5/17; Premium Times [Abuja], 2/5/17; World News [U.S. edition], 2/5/17).
Former Nigeria President Meets U.S. Lawmakers
Former President Goodluck Jonathan met with the U.S. Congress House Sub Committee on Africa to speak on the Niger Delta issue and the challenges facing Christians in Nigeria. The meeting was part of the efforts of the Goodluck Jonathan Foundation to fulfill its mission to promote peace and prosperity in Nigeria and Africa. It was attended by the Chairman of the House Sub-Committee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations, Congressman Christopher H. Smith, and other influential staff of the Committee. (Source: Premium Times [Abuja], 2/2/17).
SERAP Writes Trump, Demands Return of Nigeria’s Stolen Assets
The civil society group Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent an open letter to U.S. President Donald Trump, urging his “Administration to attach and release to Nigeria some $500 million worth of US-based proceeds of corruption traced to former Nigerian dictator General Sani Abacha.” The organization said that, “These proceeds are separate from the $480 million of Abacha-origin funds that have been forfeited to the U.S. under an August 2014 US Federal District Court order. SERAP’s request is fully consistent with the UN Convention Against Corruption, which both the US and Nigeria have ratified.” Article 51 of that convention provides for the return of “corrupt” assets to countries of origin as a fundamental principle. Articles 43 and 47 are also relevant to the request. (Source: Vanguard [Lagos], 2/5/17).
Tuface Calls for Anti-Government Protest, then Cancels It
Popular artist Innocent Idibia, better known as Tuface, called for, then cancelled, a much-publicized February 6 anti-government protest, citing “security challenges.” He initially called for a nation-wide protest of Nigeria’s worsening economic crisis that has seen costs of goods and services rise with many families struggling to survive. Police promised to provide security, then later warned against it, saying that they had “credible intelligence” that other groups were planning counter protests on the same day and at the same venues. They warned that the event could turn violent. As expected then, a group called “I stand with Buhari” announced pro-Buhari campaigns on February 6 and 7.
After the police warning, Tuface announced on Saturday night that he had cancelled the protest, for security reasons. In reaction, Nobel Laureate WoleSoyinka criticized the Nigerian police for planning to stop the anti-government protest, saying, “An unnecessary but important reminder: the battle for the right of lawful assembly of citizens in any cause, conducted peacefully, has been fought and won many times over.”
Despite the cancellation by Tuface and the security warnings, his group decided to go ahead with the protest, saying that the protest had gone beyond Tuface. Other organizers, like the “Enough is Enough” group also said that they would proceed with the protest in both Lagos and Abuja. Debisi Alokolaro, the spokesperson for the group said that the “I Stand With Nigeria/One Voice Nigeria” rally is being staged to protest the corruption and worsening standard of living under the Muhammadu Buhari administration at all levels of government. (Source: Premium Times [Abuja], 2/5/17).
Nigeria Deployed Over 300 Police Officers Abroad in 2016
The Nigeria Police said that it deployed over 300 personnel, including 57 females, for peacekeeping operations across Africa and the Caribbean in 2016. The Director of the Directorate of Peace Keeping, Nigeria Police, said that personnel were sent to Mali, South Sudan, Somalia, DR Congo, Liberia, and Haiti. He said that Nigeria was the largest contributor of female personnel for peace- keeping in Africa, with 22 of the women going to Mali and 36 to Somalia. (Source: Premium Times [Abuja], 2/5/17).
Government to Deploy Drones to Protect Electricity Transmission Equipment
The Transmission Company of Nigeria, TCN, says that it will deploy drones to check vandalism of its transmission lines and equipment in the country. The TCN Managing Director, Atiku Abubakar, said that he is looking forward to the cooperation of the National Assembly to pass laws to deal with vandalism of critical infrastructures. He also said that the vandalism of transmission equipment was responsible for the collapse of some of the transmission lines in the country. (Source: Premium Times [Abuja], 2/2/17).
Federal Government to Remain Within the International Criminal Court
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs maintains that the Federal Government will remain with the International Criminal Court (ICC). In January, during the 28th African Union (AU) summit in Addis Ababa, the AU called for collective withdrawal of its members from the Court because they were not fairly treated by it. However, Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, said that Nigeria’s stand on the issue had not changed. He explained that there was a strategy adopted by the AU for collective withdrawal from the ICC to which Nigeria did not subscribe. According to him, Nigeria and others believe that the court has an important role to play in holding leaders accountable. Senegal and Cape Verde also made it clear that they were not going to leave, as did Zambia, Tanzania, Liberia, and Botswana, while a number of other countries requested more time to study the decision before making a decision. In 2016, Burundi, South Africa, and The Gambia declared their intention to withdraw, while Namibia, Kenya, and Uganda were contemplating withdrawing.
African countries have repeatedly criticized the court as an inefficient, neo-colonial institution of the Western powers to try African countries. The criticism is supported by the fact that 9 of the 10 situations under investigation, with three others under preliminary investigation, involve African countries. (Source: Daily Trust [Abuja], 2/1/17).
Nigerian Air Force Makes Catastrophic Error
A Nigerian military jet mistakenly bombed a camp for internally displaced people in the town of Rann on January 17. Initial reports indicated that the accident killed at least 70, including nine humanitarian workers, and injured more than 100. Later reports indicated that 112 had been killed and 97 were injured. The fighter jet struck twice while hunting for members of Boko Haram. The Nigerian air force has launched an investigation into the strike. (Source: Time, 1/30/17; This Day [Lagos], 2/3/17).
Five Nigerian UN Officials are Killed by Cameroonian Bandits
The Adamawa State Commissioner of Land and Survey, Ibrahim Mijinyawa,has attributed the death of five Nigerian officials on a UN team to inadequate security escort. Bandits attacked the officials who were on a trip to Koncha area in Cameroon for a border demarcation exercise. A recent International Court of Justice ruling ceded some Nigerian communities to Cameroon.
The gendarme security men attached to the UN team had engaged the suspected bandits in a gun battle when a second group of gunmen attacked the officials, killing all of them. (Source: Daily Trust [Abuja], 2/3/17; Vanguard [Lagos], 2/2/17).
Borno Governor Orders Arrest of Anyone Linked to Boko Haram
The Borno State Governor has charged security operatives to arrest anyone linked to Boko Haram, even if they are his children. He stated this in a seven-minute video broadcast on February 2. His state is the most affected by the Boko Haram insurgency.
Some public officials in Borno, including a local government chairman, have since been arrested by the military for alleged links to the terror group. Despite losing a large chunk of their former base in Sambisa forest to Nigerian forces, Boko Haram still carries out attacks on military and civilian targets. (Source: Premium Times [Abuja], 2/3/ 17).
Niger Delta Villagers Lose UK Court Bid to Sue Shell Over Pollution
A British court has blocked Nigerian villagers’ attempt to sue oil giant Shell for allegedly polluting their fishing waters and farmland. Two communities in the Niger Delta, Ogale and Bille, claim decades of oil spills have ruined their homes and wanted their case heard in the UK. However, the high court in London agreed with the Anglo-Dutch company’s argument that the case, affecting more than 40,000 people, should be heard by local courts in Nigeria. The villagers have repeatedly said that they will not get a fair hearing in Nigeria.
Igo Well, a spokesman for the multinational’s subsidiary, the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC), said that it was a myth that the communities could not get justice in their home country, as claims are about the operations of a Nigerian company in Nigeria. He maintained that it is about incidents related to sabotage, illegal refining, and crude thefts.
Neither of the communities, who say that repeated spills since 1989 have meant that they do not have clean drinking water, farmland, or rivers, are ready to give up. King Emere Godwin Bebe Okpabi, ruler of the Ogale, said that the decision must be appealed, not just for the Ogale, but for many other people of the Niger Delta. He emphasized that Shell is simply being asked to clean up its oil and to compensate the communities it has devastated.
In 2014, another community in the delta, Bodo, took Shell to court in the UK over an oil spill. The case was settled by Shell which provided an unprecedented $84 million payout to the Bodo community. The difference in the latest case is that the Nigerian subsidiary SPDC has refused to submit to a UK jurisdiction. (Source: BBC, 1/26/17).
U.S.-Based Human Rights Lawyer Sues Government Over Chibok Girls
A U.S. based human rights activist and lawyer, Emmanuel Ogebe, has gone to federal government court to ask for $5 million for defamation over the status of 10 Chibok girls schooling in the U.S. The defendants in the suit are the Attorney-General of the Federation and the Minister of Women’s Affairs, Hajiya Aisha Alhassan, and her ministry. In the suit, the plaintiff accused Hajiya Alhassan of stating at a news conference that the ten Chibok girls his organization took to the U.S. are not in school.
Mr. Ogebe stated that in June 2014, he and some humanitarians of Borno State conceived a study abroad project to assist the abducted/escaped Chibok school girls after observing during a US Congressional fact-finding trip that nothing was being done for them individually or as a group. According to him, he created a legitimate NGO, the Education Must Continue Initiative (EMCI), to provide quality education for the escaped Chibok school girls and other victims of the insurgency. He further said that through the EMCI, 10 of the escaped school girls of Chibok were granted admission and full scholarships in the U.S. and were subsequently taken to the U.S. where they were enrolled in and began school within a week of their arrival, with the plaintiff duly authorized as their Guardian by their respective families. However, according to the plaintiff, the Minister of Women’s Affairs stated that the girls were not schooling in the U.S. The plaintiff is asking the court for the sum of $5,000,000 as exemplary and aggravated damage. He is also asking for an order of perpetual injunction, restraining the defendants from further defaming his character. (Source: Leadership [Abuja], 2/3/17).
U.S. President Reinstates “Global Gag Order”
During his first week in office, President Trump signed an executive order to stop federal money going to international groups which perform or provide information on abortions. Known as the “Mexico City Policy” or “Global Gag Rule” by critics, it was no surprise that he reinstated it. First introduced by Ronald Reagan in 1984, it has become a game of policy ping pong between Republican and Democratic presidents.
Supporters of the ban say that it protects the fundamental right to life. But, some health workers in Africa say that when it was last put in place under George W. Bush in 2001, it had far-reaching consequences. They say that women who did not have access to contraceptive services were getting unintended pregnancies which increased the number of unwanted pregnancies, which sent them to backstreets to have unsafe abortions. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), unsafe abortion is one of the five main causes of maternal mortality, accounting for 13% of cases.
The Trump order goes further than previous Republican administrations, which only targeted reproductive health services. According to the organization Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), with the removal of funding from organizations that also deal with malaria and other child health issues, the policy could threaten progress on many fronts, including efforts to reduce HIV-related deaths and new infections, and decrease childhood mortality through malaria prevention, treatment provisions, and immunization programs. (MSF does not receive U.S. funding, so it is not affected by the policy).
Some of the largest organizations in Nigeria that will be affected by the ban include Marie Stopes International, the International Planned Parenthood Federation regional office in Africa, and USAID. (Source: BBC, 1/28/17).
Chukwumerije Holds Fifth Edition of Night of Spoken Words in Abuja
In his continued determination to revive poetry, an aspect of literature that has been relegated to the background in the country, Dike Chukwumerije’s Night of Spoken Words was scheduled for February 11, at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja. Addressing journalists recently, Chukwumerije said that the introduction of performance poetry was aimed at bringing a bit of intellectualism into entertainment. The 2011 Abuja Literary Society Poetry Slam winner explained that performance poetry is not the simple recitation of poems, but it is a modern and energetic form of poetry that combines the disciplines of traditional poetry with the power and charisma of dramatic performance, including the fusion of poetry with dance, with drama, with music. He believes that it is easier to grasp than written poetry. He said that the current show would chronicle the history of Nigeria from 1914 to date, using essentially twenty poems that are seamlessly linked by dance, drama, and music.
According to Chukwumerije, he has been organizing similar events twice a year since 2013, when he brings up-and-coming performance poets from around the country to the stage in Abuja for a 2-hour show. (Source: This Day [Lagos], 2/6/17).
Film Producer is Arrested for Attempted N10 Million Fraud
Detectives from the Lagos State Police Command arrested a prominent Yoruba film producer, Seun Agbegbe, over a N10 million fraud. Agbegbe was arrested after he attempted to dupe a Bureau de Change (BDC) operator of N10 million at the Gbagada area of Lagos. A witness said that the CEO of Ebony Productions had gone to the Bureau with his cronies to perpetrate the act, claiming to want to change some dollars into naira. Instead, he tried to swindle the BDC operators, who raised the alarm and thoroughly beat him before the police whisked him away.
This act came less than two months after he was arrested and detained by the police at Ikeja Police Division for allegedly stealing nine I-phone 6s valued at N2.4 million from the Kaaltex Innovation Consultancy at Computer Village, Ikeja. He pleaded “not guilty” to that charge and was granted bail in the sum of N1million and two sureties in like sum by the court, after which he was whisked away to Kirikiri Minimum Prisons. After his release, he went to Malaysia for vacation with plans to come back before his case was to be heard in court. Apparently changing his mind, he came back early, only to be embroiled in the fresh scandal. The investigation is said to be ongoing. (Source: Daily Trust [Abuja], 2/3/17; The Guardian [Lagos], 2/3/17).
Wizkid Bags U.S. Award for Writing Drake’s “One Dance”
Nigerian music sensation and Starboy Music Worldwide boss, Wizkid, earned another international award from The American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP), an American not-for-profit performance-rights organization that protects its members’ musical copyrights by monitoring public performances of their music.
The award was given to Wizkid in recognition of his role as the writer of Drake’s hit single “One Dance” which featured Wizkid and Kyla. The song, which is on Drake’s album “Views”, was nominated at the Grammy Awards in the “Album of the Year” category. It also occupied the number one spot on the Billboard Hot 100 Charts for 10 weeks in a row.
Wizkid and Drake have displayed a high rate of musical synergy ever since their first encounter on Wizkid’s single, “Ojuelegba,” which also featured UK rapper of Nigerian descent, Skepta. (Source: Premium Times, [Abuja], 2/3/17).
First Nigerian Women’s Bobsled Team Hopes to Make History for Africa
Three Nigerian-American women are making history, creating Africa’s first bobsled team and aiming to go to the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea. Driver Seun Adigun, brakewoman Ngoze Onwumere, and Akuoma Omeoga all come from elite track and field backgrounds. Adigun and Onwumere competed for the University of Houston and Omeoga was an athlete at the University of Minnesota.
Adigun, who is a chiropractic doctoral candidate, became interested in bobsled after she competed in the 2012 Summer Games in London and saw some of her teammates make the switch to the winter sport. While training and competing with the American bobsled team last year, she learned that Nigeria was interested in expanding its winter sports program but did not have winter athletes and that no African country had ever been represented in bobsled. She gained a release from the American team upon request so that she could develop the Nigerian program—a difficult choice to make.
Adigun recruited Onwumere and Omeoga, whom she met through track and field, and convinced them to join her in creating the bobsled team. She said that Nigeria is supportive of them. She also feels confident of the team’s strategy of qualifying for the 2018 Winter Olympics, calling their goals very realistic. Their biggest problem right now, however, is that they do not have a sled. Since launching a GoFundMe page in November, the team has raised more than $10,000. In the meantime, they have been using a homemade sled called The Mayflower. Adigun said that she spent three days hammering and drilling and sawing to put the wooden sled together. The women still need to complete five races on three tracks by next January to qualify for the Olympics. (Source: CBS News,12/17/16; Global News, 12/13/16).
Nigeria’s “Super Polygamist” Dies at Age 93
Muslim cleric Alhaji Mohammed Abubakar Bello Masaba died at the age of 93 in Bida, Niger State. Referred to as the “Super Polygamist,” various sources reported that he had married 86 wives and had 170 children by 2008. News correspondents later reported that he had 130 wives, some of whom are pregnant, and 203 children, as well as many grandchildren and “an army of dependents” by the time he died in January, 2017.
His personal assistant said that Masaba was a godly man, that he had never in his life sought medical attention in a hospital, and that he did not use Western medicine either for himself or his followers. He believed in divine medication from Almighty Allah. (Sources: Daily Trust [Abuja], 1/30/17; The Guardian [Lagos], 1/30/17).
Groups Aim to Prevent Construction of Highway Through Rainforest
Pressure is mounting to prevent the construction of a six-lane highway through the rainforest in Cross River State. The road would be 162 miles long with 6 miles of cleared land on either side. Conservationists say that the construction would displace at least 180 indigenous communities and slice through a national park and adjoining forest reserves that provide habitats for some of the country’s most beleaguered species, including the endangered Cross River gorilla, chimpanzees, forest elephants, and pangolins—the world’s most poached mammal, whose scales are prized in traditional medicine.
As now planned, and approved by President Buhari, the road would cut through several protected areas such as the Cross River National Park, Ukpon River Forest Reserve, Cross River South Forest Reserve, Afi River Forest Reserve, and Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary. These sites are home to various threatened species.
Seeking to persuade Nigerian authorities to halt the project, reroute it away from protected areas and community forests along the border area with Cameroon, or rehabilitate existing highways, the Wildlife Conservation Society has launched an international campaign. By mid-December, it had generated more than 100,000 petition signatures according to officials from the organization. John Calvelli, Executive Vice President of the organization, said that he was hopeful that further dialogue between Nigerian authorities and conservationists could lead to a mutually agreeable resolution. (Source: Chicago Tribune [Chicago], 12/21/16).