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Posts tagged ‘West Africa’

‘Unprecedented Mystery’ — US and 9 Other Nations Scour Seas for Missing Jet.

The disappearance of a Malaysian airliner about an hour into a flight to Beijing is an “unprecedented mystery”, the civil aviation chief said on Monday, as a massive air and sea search now in its third day failed to find any trace of the plane or 239 people on board.

Dozens of ships and aircraft from 10 countries scoured the seas around Malaysia and south of Vietnam as questions mounted over possible security lapses and whether a bomb or hijacking attempt could have brought down the Boeing 777-200ER which took off from the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur.

The area of the search would be widened from Tuesday, Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, the head of Malaysia’s Civil Aviation Authority, told reporters.

A senior police official told Reuters that people armed with explosives and carrying false identity papers had tried to fly out of Kuala Lumpur in the past, and that current investigations were focused on two passengers who were on the missing plane with stolen passports.

“We have stopped men with false or stolen passports and carrying explosives, who have tried to get past KLIA (airport) security and get on to a plane,” he said. “There have been two or three incidents, but I will not divulge the details.”

Interpol confirmed on Sunday at least two passengers used stolen passports and said it was checking whether others aboard had used false identity documents.

Azharuddin said a hijacking attempt could not be ruled out as investigators explore all theories for the loss of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370.

“Unfortunately we have not found anything that appears to be objects from the aircraft, let alone the aircraft,” he told a news conference. “As far as we are concerned, we have to find the aircraft. We have to find a piece of the aircraft if possible.”

Azharuddin also said the two men with stolen passports did not look like Asians, but he did not elaborate. Airport CCTV footage showed they completed all security procedures, he said.

“We are looking at the possibility of a stolen passport syndicate,” he said.

About two-thirds of the 227 passengers and 12 crew now presumed to have died aboard the plane were Chinese. The airline said other nationalities included 38 Malaysians, seven Indonesians, six Australians, five Indians, four French and three Americans.

China urged Malaysia to speed up the search for the plane.

“This incident happened more than two days ago, and we hope that the Malaysians can fully understand the urgency of China, especially of the family members, and can step up the speed of the investigation and increase efforts on search and rescue,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told reporters in Beijing.

A senior source involved in preliminary investigations in Malaysia said the failure to find any debris indicated the plane may have broken up mid-flight, which could disperse wreckage over a very wide area.

“The fact that we are unable to find any debris so far appears to indicate that the aircraft is likely to have disintegrated at around 35,000 feet,” said the source.

Asked about the possibility of an explosion, the source said there was no evidence of foul play and that the aircraft could have broken up due to mechanical causes.

Still, the source said the closest parallels were the bomb explosions on board an Air India jetliner in 1985 when it was over the Atlantic Ocean and a Pan Am aircraft over the Scottish town of Lockerbie in 1988. Both planes were cruising at around 31,000 feet at the time.

The United States extensively reviewed imagery taken by American spy satellites for evidence of a mid-air explosion, but saw none, a U.S. government source said. The source described U.S. satellite coverage of the region as thorough.

Hopes for a breakthrough rose briefly when Vietnam scrambled helicopters to investigate a floating yellow object it was thought could have been a life raft. But the country’s Civil Aviation Authority said on its website that the object turned out to be a “moss-covered cap of a cable reel”.

Flight MH370 disappeared from radar screens in the early hours of Saturday, about an hour into its flight from Kuala Lumpur, after climbing to a cruising altitude of 35,000 ft (10,670 metres).

Underlining the lack of hard information about the plane’s fate, a U.S. Navy P-3 aircraft capable of covering 1,500 sq miles every hour was sweeping the northern part of the Strait of Malacca, on the other side of the Malaysian peninsula from where the last contact with MH370 was made.

No distress signal was sent from the lost plane, which experts said suggested a sudden catastrophic failure or explosion, but Malaysia’s air force chief said radar tracking showed it may have turned back from its scheduled route before it disappeared.

The Boeing 777 has one of the best safety records of any commercial aircraft in service. Its only previous fatal crash came on July 6 last year when Asiana Airlines Flight 214 struck a seawall on landing in San Francisco, killing three people.

The passenger manifest issued by the airline included the names of two Europeans – Austrian Christian Kozel and Italian Luigi Maraldi – who were not on the plane. Their passports had been stolen in Thailand during the past two years.

An Interpol spokeswoman said a check of all documents used to board the plane had revealed more “suspect passports”, which were being investigated.

“Whilst it is too soon to speculate about any connection between these stolen passports and the missing plane, it is clearly of great concern that any passenger was able to board an international flight using a stolen passport listed in Interpol’s databases,” Interpol Secretary General Ronald Noble said.

A European diplomat in Kuala Lumpur cautioned that the Malaysian capital was an Asian hub for illegal migrants, many of whom used false documents and complex routes including via Beijing or West Africa to reach a final destination in Europe.

“You shouldn’t automatically think that the fact there were two people on the plane with false passports had anything to do with the disappearance of the plane,” the diplomat said.

“The more you know about the role of Kuala Lumpur in this chain, the more doubtful you are of the chances of a linkage.”

A Thai travel agent who arranged the tickets for the two passengers using the stolen passports said she had booked them on the flight via Beijing because they were the cheapest tickets, the Financial Times reported.

The travel agent in the resort of Pattaya said an Iranian business contact she knew only as “Mr Ali” had asked her to book tickets for the two men on March 1.

She had initially booked them on other airlines but those reservations expired and on March 6, Mr Ali had asked her to book them again. She told the newspaper she did not think Mr Ali, who paid her in cash and booked tickets with her regularly, was linked to terrorism.

© 2014 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

As We Await Jega’s Imperfect Elections In 2015 – By Peter Claver Oparah.

By Peter Claver Oparah

I don’t know what was probably on the mind of Attahiru Jega, the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) recently when he warned Nigerians not to expect a perfect election from his INEC in 2015. I am yet to fathom what message he wanted to send by that apparent admittance of failure before he sets out to deliver what Nigerians have rightly termed a crucial election that will make or mar the fragile country. It is not as if most Nigerian expected a perfect election; not from INEC and most certainly, not from Jega’s INEC that delivered an untidy farce in 2011 and had been delivering more egregious parodies in states it had conducted elections since that sordid show in 2011. Perhaps the high point of Jega’s incapacity to conduct elections in Nigeria was the November 16, 2013 tragedy in Anambra State which merely worked from an answer to a pre-determined question. The nationwide condemnation trailing that anti-climactic election jolted Jega, first to admit the infractions that besmirched the so called election while curiously approving the outcome (as is traditional with his questionable objectivity) and now, to seek to prepare us for the worst in 2015.
Yes, Jega wants to lower the high expectations Nigerians have built for a credible election in 2015.  Yes, he wants to pre-offload the seeming massive umbrage that awaits him should he play a predictable script of mismanaging the 2015 election to favour those that tele-guide him on the job. Yes, Jega was creating a convenient alibi for the predicted failure his INEC plans to shock Nigerians with in 2015 but I don’t think we should allow him such a cheeky escape route. Come to think of it, when did Jega wake up to the reality that his INEC cannot deliver a perfect election after he reveled in the syndicated applause that attended his abhorrent conduct in 2011? When did he wake up to realize that indeed, his INEC, with its present composition and carriage cannot be trusted to deliver an election that will even compete within the regional standard obtainable in West Africa? I ask the last question because Nigerians, I know, will certainly hail Jega and swathe him in flamboyant allure should he deliver an election that nears the standard obtainable in Ghana or even Benin Republic.

After his appointment, Jega was to embark on an expensive voter registration exercise that involved the capturing of the personal data of eligible Nigerian voters. From its face value, that looked a sure bet towards dealing with the virus of multiple thumb printing, which riles the country’s electoral process. It also stood to verify the authenticity of declared results for whenever the thumb printed votes come in contact with the captured data of voters, there is bound to be a scientific filtering to separate the actual votes from the fake votes. What should shock Nigerians was the first observation from curious Nigerians that there was no central server to store the cumulative data captured all over the country. That meant there was no base for the expensive data Jega captured at every polling booth in Nigeria. Also the deliberate manipulation of the voters’ register, as seen in the elections in Ondo, Anambra and Delta Central Senatorial constituency points to the fact that the data that were collated has been seriously compromised and cannot be trusted to form the cornerstone of credible election in Nigeria. Again, there was no known relationship between the data captured and the votes cast. On election day, one needs to present merely his temporary voters card for possible identification and nothing more. What really was the essence of the thumb print that was central to the voters’ registration? With this lacuna, desperate politicians were to corner all the ballot papers and in some cases, one person thumb printed as much as twenty booklets and all were accounted as real votes in the 2011 sham of an election. This was the magic behind the history-breaking 90 to 99 per cent votes the PDP appropriated in the South East and South South States in 2011.

Jega is being clearly mischievous by his latest warning to Nigerians not to expect a perfect election in 2015 and every Nigerian must tell him in unmistakable terms that we expect nothing more than a perfect election from him. If he cannot deliver, let him quit in time for the country to have for herself an election umpire that is ready to claim responsibility for his actions. Yes, let it be clear and candid that we will not accept any more of Jega’s farces again. I can attest that Jega’s INEC cannot conduct a credible election because Jega is too indebted to those that appointed him than disappoint their schemes to corner every election in Nigeria by hook or crook.

It has been the mantra of those that support the entrenchment of fraudulent elections in Nigeria to argue that there can no prefect election. Again, they freely charge that election losers in Nigeria can never accept defeat. These positions have been proven false by the conduct, outcome and reactions that trailed the June 12 1993 presidential election. Truth is Nigerians know a credible election when they see one and whenever it occurs, even losers will accept the outcome. Perfectness is a relative word and that elections are deemed perfect does not mean it is free from error. Nigerians know this and when they demand a perfect election, they want an election with minimal errors and not one that is deliberately schemed as a farce. A bigger truth is that apart from the 1993 presidential election, all other elections held in Nigeria have been mere concoctions put in place to dupe the electorates and further the ends of corruption and bad governance.

As it is now, Jega’s INEC is fully packed with leading PDP members. The rest are mere nominees of the PDP and President Jonathan. One wonders how a credible election can happen with the upper deck of INEC populated by members of a political party that had sworn to retain power till eternity through every available means. The process and procedures of elections are mere malleable tools at the hands of the PDP to arrive at pre-ordained ends. No foundation for credible election is built on such partial foundation and that is one of the burdens Jega carries and why Nigerian elections remain perpetually shambled with deliberately erected bulwarks stalking it at every end.

But this country has a well thought out report on electoral reform, as recommended by the Justice Mohammed Uwais Electoral Reform Panel. The panel is comprehensive enough as to remove most of the bulwarks that stand between Nigerians and credible election in its report. For understandable reasons, the ruling PDP sabotaged the report because while it stands to guarantee a free, independent and credible electoral organ and process, it threatens the plot by the PDP for perpetual fiefdom. The party rather prefers a system where we wobble through highly manipulated elections, executed according to its wills and by people of questionable integrity and party mercenaries. It rather prefers a situation where it enters the game both as a player and referee. It is within this pliable template that we locate Jega, his shoddy conducts so far and his frustration that gave vent to the recent warning. The question every Nigerian, especially the opposition must ask is whether we must continue to endure the process that threw up Jega and makes room for all his failures and still threaten us with future failures?

Methinks every Nigerian must rise up and tell Jega that we expect him to conduct a credible election in 2015 or find the exit door, if he feels he cannot guarantee that. We have collectively borne the brunt of fraudulent elections far too long that we cannot put up with another deliberately fabricated ruse in 2015. In fact, he should muster the courage and tact to steer off the way so as to enable the country address its electoral woes by strictly applying the Uwais Electoral Reform Panel Report. This must be made clear to Jega and the opposition should ensure that Jega is perpetually kept on his toes so as not to once again, dump another electoral charade on the country’s doorstep in 2015.

Peter Claver Oparah
Ikeja, Lagos.



The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters

Jonathan, Igbos, And The Second Niger Bridge By Frank Onia.


By Frank Onia, PhD

The standard criteria for decisions on infrastructural deployment include need, available resources, competing demands for finite resources, alignment with related infrastructure, incubatory foundation for progressive deployment, social benefits, political patronage, economic benefits, minimization of stress and hardship for the citizens, potentials for stimulating overall economic development, balancing considerations, replacement of obsolete infrastructure, need to embrace emerging and efficient technology, etc, etc. When viewed from an objective prism and against the backdrop of the itemized criteria above, it is long overdue to replace the Niger Bridge at Onitsha, which has verifiably and universally been identified as a deathtrap. This bridge was constructed in 1963, and is the ONLY link between the South-East of Nigeria and the rest of the country (towards the West). This bridge serves as the ONLY access point to Anambra, Imo, Abia, Ebonyi, Enugu, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Benue, and Plateau States, when you approach from Lagos, and, indeed, all the states that formerly constituted the Western and mid-Western Regions, as well as from Abuja and segments of the North.

It is trite to mention that this bridge handles the highest concentration of vehicular traffic in the country, and has served this purpose progressively and exhaustively for fifty years! The exponential growth in population and number of vehicles in the country in the past five decades have added to the pressure on the bridge, with the result that it is nearly collapsing, with the attendant risks for human lives, economic activities, mass psychology, and national development. Citizens from the Eastern parts of the country are the most itinerant in the country, with the evident implication that tens of millions of individuals make frequent trips to their homeland, relying on a safe passage through this same bridge. This assumption of basic safety has been denied them perennially for several years, and is currently being toyed with even further. The significance of this bridge is emphasized during the festive period at the end of each year, when millions of people are trapped and delayed at the bridge for several hours in what should, otherwise, be pleasurable commutes back home. As a country, we have witnessed this for several decades and have failed to do anything about it. When any attention has been paid to the need to replace and expand this bridge, it has been suffused with empty promises, vacuous platitudes, cheap politics, and exploration of the underlying potentials for corruption. The Obasanjo civilian administration played games with the need to replace this bridge for eight years, ensuring that new promises were recycled as elections approached. And, yet, nothing was done.

While the South East, as a Region, contributes very significantly to the development of Nigeria, especially outside Igboland, there is NO single Federal Government institution or semblance of infrastructure in the entire Region. Even though Igbos and their brothers from the South-South are among the most widely-traveled people in the world, there is NO worthy international airport in the larger Region, thereby forcing residents of the Region/s to travel to Lagos or Abuja, before they can travel overseas. Professor Chinua Achebe was involved in a ghastly motor accident near Awka, Anambra State, because he had to travel overseas from Lagos, even though he then resided at Nsukka in Enugu State. This accident cost him his limbs, paralyzed him for life, and hastened his relocation to the United States, where he died many years later.

There are thousands of others who have lost their lives in a similar manner; the additional cost and inconvenience involved in these unnecessary local travels are best imagined, as such travelers must stay in hotels, eat, utilize local transportation, and incur sundry expenses in (mostly) Lagos and Abuja, purely on account of a deliberate State policy to punish Igbo people for whatever reason, While Igbos easily dominate the trading and commercial sectors of Nigeria and West Africa, there is no discernible effort to dredge the River Niger at Onitsha, to enable port activities. The only federal “investment” on River Niger has been the deliberate channeling of the water to the Northern parts of the country, for irrigation activities, while the Onitsha end of the River has been drying up in the  past 20 years, thereby impeding fishing, subsistence farming, and overall economic growth. While Abuja, the North, and other Regions of the country, continue to attract comparatively-significant infrastructural investments and upgrades (for example, the hundreds of billions of Naira being spent to expand the access road from the Abuja airport into the City, as well as the scandalous budget of over N55 billion for the erection of a mere City Gate in Abuja), it is clear that holding the South East down is a Directive Principle of State Policy in Nigeria. No other conclusion is possible from the continued neglect of the Niger Bridge, and the criminal disrespect with which the belated redemptive measures are being packaged. It is noteworthy that the Federal Government funds projects in Abuja and elsewhere directly and does not charge tolls on those roads.

In a society like ours, ethnic agitation for legitimate attention is entirely understandable, hence the tone and tenor of this submission. When our statecraft develops to the stage of objectivity, justice, and fairness, then, possibly our micro-national identities may become muted. The Jonathan Administration has failed both the South-South and South-East by its singular failure to provide basic infrastructure in the two pivotal Regions. The fact that the so-called East-West Road remains uncompleted after all these years, while humongous budgetary allocations have officially been designated to its conclusion, should remain a source of embarrassment for Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, well after his stay in office. Pray, how did a treasonous impostor like Mr. Ibrahim Babangida manage to utilize both federal funds (from oil sales!) and oil futures to build a new federal capital city in Abuja, when the man who literally owns the oil cannot construct the road leading to his hometown, even with a democratic mandate? Shame has only one definition.

As it pertains to the need to construct the second Niger Bridge, a categorical imperative, the same Jonathan Administration is being clever by half, by concessioning the bridge to that veritable purveyor impunity and corruption in Nigeria, Julius Berger Construction. This initiator and exemplar of corruption in Nigeria has since announced that the 1.8 kilometer bridge will cost them N100 billion to construct, as a justification for the sweetheart deal extended to them by Jonathan and his Administration, whereby Julius Berger will install three toll gates on that bridge in perpetuity, ostensibly to recover their “investment”. Knowing Julius Berger and Nigeria, this project will eventually cost N200 billion on paper, when completed. Julius Berger did not bring any foreign investment whatsoever when it left its decrepit office in Wiesbaden, Germany, to emerge on Nigeria’s shores 40 years ago, on the private invitation of the late Major General Shehu Musa Yar Adua, number two man in the erstwhile dictatorship of the perennial fumbler and dissembler, Mr. Olusegun Obasanjo, which lapsed in 1979.

Let it be made clear that a bridge is a road with its foundation in water. Nigerians need to be aware that the same Julius Berger has just paid penalties to the United States Government totaling tens of millions of dollars for specific cases of corruption it perpetrated in Nigeria. The United States Government, which was not victimized, benefited by way of this penalty payment by Julius Berger, while this construction company that has been at the forefront of corrupting public officials in Nigeria for the past 40 years, neither paid any penalty or compensation to the real victim, Nigeria, nor is it being blacklisted or censured in any way.

Rather, successive Nigerian Governments continue to reward Julius Berger with heavily-inflated contracts, responsibility for maintaining strategic locations like the Aso Rock Presidential Complex and the National Assembly. The same company is constructing the new residences for the Vice-President, Senate President, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, projects that have already gulped close to N60 billion on paper even before completion. To deepen the culture of impunity and complete the psychological humiliation of the illustrious Igbos of Nigeria, the Jonathan Administration, which owes the South-East a second Niger Bridge as well as tangible federal presence, has mortgaged the entire East to Julius Berger by criminally acquiescing in the perpetual exploitation of the teeming people under a most suspicious and fraudulent Concession Arrangement. Where else in the country is a whole Region held prostate and captive in this manner? Where else is the ONLY bridge leading into a Region casually assigned to a criminal enterprise for the exploitation of citizens who have no alternatives?

In this, it must be stated that Jonathan and his Administration are playing a script already tested and fine-tuned by Mr. Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Governor Fashola of Lagos State, wherein residents of the Lekki axis have effectively been hemmed in and subjected to unnecessary and usurious toll charges each time they either access or exit their homes, despite the very significant contribution these residents make to the much-vaunted Internally-Generated Revenue of Lagos State. It is significant that the same Julius Berger is the partner to Messrs Tinubu and Fashola on the bridge toll exploitation project linking Ikoyi and Lekki Phase One. Yet another toll gate ensures that you also cannot get to Lekki from Victoria Island without feeding Bola Ahmed Tinubu and his crony, Fashola’s, insatiable greed and appetite.

It is very clear from this single example that both the PDP and the APC (seeking leprous and blind navigators) are the same in philosophy, orientation, and content; both are fraudulent and self-serving devices.

If our dealers must feel entitled to collecting both public revenue and IGR, and yet charge the citizens for token infrastructure provided in their areas of jurisdiction, all in an environment of opaqueness, arrogance, impunity, and absence of citizen input, it might well be better to sack all governments and share the revenue of the country among the citizens, who are perpetually burdened with the direct provision of basic services, for which Governments exist in the first place. In all of this, these dealers feel perfectly justified in magisterially cornering significant chunks of State resources under various guises, notably the poorly-christened Security Votes.

Regarding the second Niger Bridge, there is NO WAY that a 1.8 km bridge of the best quality, together with immediate access roads, will cost up to N10 billion, yet, we are told that the initial assessment for the bridge is N100 billion. Why must Julius Berger be the only company handling all these projects? What process leads to these awards and appointments? Why are competent and established construction companies all over the world being frustrated from accessing the Nigerian market by Government Officials protecting this small German company, with a small office in their home country? Are they not aware that the unrivaled access given Julius Berger’s engineers and staff is a grave national security risk? What is the role of the National Security Adviser and the DG-SSS, in guiding the government appropriately? Are people now so incompetent or corrupt that they neither know nor care that sophisticated Intelligence Collection devices are installed in all these sensitive locations, with the downloading and processing taking place at the Julius Berger Operational Headquarters at Life Camp, Abuja, under the able supervision of German Intelligence Officials – all of this intrusive and aggressive collection against Nigeria paid for Nigeria. What a country!

Given the identified urgency of the need to construct the second Niger Bridge, you would think that, in the absence of common sense in high places, senior government officials of Igbo origin would be easy and strident advocates of the Federal Government swiftly constructing the bridge as its duty to the people, with an apology to the citizens for the delayed implementation. Some of the referenced officials are the Coordinating, Supervising, and Overseeing Secretary to the Federal Government, His Massive Excellency Mr. Anyim Pius Anyim; the so-called Coordinating Minister of the Economy (in hubris-free English, the Minister of Finance), Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala; the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mrs. Viola Onwuliri; the Deputy Senate President, Mr. Ike Ekweremadu; the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Emeka Ihedioha; the Chairmen of the Works Committees in both the Senate and the House of Representatives; the crisis-ridden and inflated Supervising and Coordinating Minister of Aviation and its Parastatals, Ms Stella Oduah; the immediate past Army Chief, Lt. General Azubuike Ihejirika; the recently-relieved Chief of Naval Staff; Vice-Admiral Dele Ezeoba; the Director-General of the so-called Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP), Mr. Emeka Eze – whose village roads have all been tarred by contractors executing Federal Government contracts; 15 undistinguished Senators from the South East; several dishonorable Members of the House of Representatives; the five state governors of the South-East; ex-this and ex-that, etc, etc.

Even if the objective case fails to penetrate thick skulls, surely the selfish and symbolic motive of garnering solid Igbo votes should impel the urgent construction of that overdue bridge. I say this because expectations have been grossly lowered in Nigeria, to the extent that a 1.8 km bridge could guarantee you bloc Regional votes. Mr. Jonathan could even extend the tokenism by naming the new bridge after Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, in a symbolic gesture of connecting the erstwhile Biafran heartland with the rest of the country. The identified officials are rather satisfied with having Julius Berger construct private homes for them in Abuja and their remote villages, in a well-oiled program of corruption, collusion, and compromise. The definition of shame has still not changed.

If all of this fails, what stops the Governors of the South-East from reducing their greed quotient by utilizing their so-called Security Votes (since kidnappers have taken over the Region anyway!) to construct this vital bridge for their people, and then heap the necessary propaganda guilt on the Federal Government that has been permanently negligent and wicked towards Igbos? The failure to do the right thing, and at the right time, is the bane of the Nigerian society. The complacency of the Nigerian society is yet a latent contributing factor to the charade that is called governance in Nigeria.

Let it be clear, though, that Julius Berger, or any other company so-called, should not be allowed to exploit the people under whatever Concession Arrangement involving a critical piece of infrastructure like the second Niger Bridge. Their so-called investment should and will come to nothing. A bridge built on a fraudulent foundation MUST fall. Citizens must begin to demand their due dessert from pretenders to the throne. A life of surrender, conditioned by endless prayers and exploitation by clerical purveyors of hope, will not suffice in this case.

Mr. Jonathan, his handlers, and cronies from the South-East and South-South still have very limited time to reverse themselves, as well as their deeply-offensive and odious ineptitude and policies, by directly and quickly completing the East-West Road and the second Niger Bridge, without further ado and delay. They could, as always, collect multiples of the real contract value as bribe; someday, the United States Government will extract penalties from the complicit Construction Company. In other countries where non-strategic infrastructure have been concessioned out, the Government acts as the protector of the citizens, setting standards, aggregating public interest, achieving optimal costs, minimizing waste, setting the tariff, and defining the time-frame for toll collection. In Nigeria’s case, both the Government and the so-called Concessionaires are a united usurious entity, exposing the citizens unduly to endemic exploitation. In any case, competing and several alternatives are provided before roads are tolled. Not in Nigeria. Our dealers will do well to study the Latin American model, to understand how this program works.

I have discussed with a wide range of Igbo professionals in Nigeria and overseas, and they are in unison regarding the egregious insult involved in the structure being proposed by Mr. Jonathan, his Minister of Works, and their Administration. They affirm that, rather than accept the so-called concessioning of the Niger Bridge, Igbos should be allowed to float a Municipal Bond or contribute among themselves, to construct the bridge. The implication of this would be a final severance of whatever psychological link Igbos have with Nigeria. It is common knowledge that Igbo people have typically taxed themselves to provide electricity, water, roads, schools, etc., in their communities, through a well-honed self-effort system. They can also construct this short bridge that will save their lives, without the involvement of their politicians and their mentors in Abuja. In the case of the second Niger Bridge, let it be made very clear that the Igbos will not forget or forgive the perpetuation of marginalization, exploitation, and insult under any arrangement that involves the erection of toll gates on that bridge. Indeed, that bridge shall not stand, under the Jonathan paradigm, and Mr. Jonathan will do well not to delude himself that he is guaranteed of Igbo votes in 2015.


The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters

Lagos : Gleaming New City For The Wealthy Leaves Historic City In Dust.

Jan. 21 (GIN) – As developers rush to complete a dream city of soaring glass and steel high-rise buildings, luxury housing for 250,000 amidst a leafy boulevard with ritzy shops and tony restaurants, hopes for a better future are growing dim for the sister city of Lagos, the largest city in Africa with 21 million residents at last count.

Eko Atlantic, the new project, is rising on Victoria Island – now connected by an artificial land bridge to Lagos which sinks deeper into poverty as its neighbor’s income skyrockets.

Lagos, visited by the Portuguese in 1492, was the nation’s capital from 1914 to 1991. Today it struggles with aging infrastructure, unreliable electric power, fierce traffic jams and sprawling slums. Even in posh neighborhoods, sewage bubbles up from open ditches. Companies squeeze their headquarters into moldy midcentury ranch houses and turn off the lights at lunch to rest electric generators.

Two-thirds of the city’s residents live in “informal” neighborhoods, while more than one million of the city’s poor have been forcibly evicted from their homes over the last 15 years.

Eko Atlantic is a prime example of a trend towards walled-off cities for the very rich on a continent that is still home to the world’s poorest.

Writing in The Guardian newspaper, Martin Lukacs warned: “Eko Atlantic is where you can begin to see a possible future – privatized green enclaves for the ultra rich ringed by slums lacking water or electricity, in which a surplus population scramble for depleting resources and shelter to fend off the coming floods and storms.”

He continued: “Protected by guards, guns, and sky-high real estate prices, the rich will shield themselves from the rising tides of poverty and a sea that is literally rising… This is climate apartheid.”

Nigerian environmental activist Nnimmo Bassey added: “Building Eko Atlantic is contrary to anything one would want to do if one took seriously climate change and resource depletion.”

The developers, a pair of politically connected Lebanese brothers who run a financial empire called the Chagoury Group, received a 78 year-seal of ownership of Eko Atlantic to recoup their investment.

The Clinton Global Initiative, meanwhile, calls Eko Atlantic “one of the most inspiring and ambitious civil engineering projects in Africa,” according to the U.S. mission in Nigeria website.  Last year, former President Clinton participated in the ground breaking ceremony as did Ambassador Terence McCulley, and Consul General Jeff Hawkins, among others.

Woman To Lead Embattled Central African Republic As New President

Jan. 21 (GIN) – To the sound of cheers from the National Assembly building, the Transitional National Council of the Central African Republic on Monday tapped Catherine Samba-Panza, mayor of the capital city of Bangui, to be the country’s interim President and first woman to hold the post.

As the new leader of a country gripped by a ferocious sectarian war, Catherine Samba-Panza, 58, issued a call to the fighting groups, asking her “children, especially the anti-Balaka, to put down their arms and stop all the fighting. The same goes for the ex-Seleka. . . I don’t want to hear any more talk of murders and killings.

“Starting today, I am the president of all Central Africans, without exclusion.”

Born in Chad to a Cameroonian father and Central African mother, Ms. Samba-Panza is a former businesswoman, corporate lawyer, and insurance broker.  She also led a reconciliation effort during a previous civil war.

Paul Simon Handy, of the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) in South Africa, called her “a president who can unite both the country and the political elite” but warned: “I am afraid that this process will take longer than her period in office as interim president.”

The Central African Republic has been devastated by brutal fighting since a coup in March 2013 removed the unpopular president Francois Bozize. He was replaced by Michel Djotodia who suspended the constitution. Djotodia resigned this month under intense international pressure as the death toll mounted to over 1000 people and observers feared a genocide was in the works.

According to a New York Times report, “The state no longer exists in the CAR. Civil servants do not go to their offices, taxes are not collected, all the schools are closed. There is no budget, no army, no police force, no Parliament, no judges, no jails.”

Against these odds, Samba-Panza, no political novice, ran a successful campaign and beat seven other candidates for the post. Among them were two women and two sons of former presidents.

Now, her primary task will be to prepare the nation for elections in the coming year.  In addition she will need to temper the extreme animosity between the Christian and Muslim groups in the country.

Central African Republic has to hold a fresh election by February 2015 at the latest. France, however, wants the election to be held this year. Current law excludes the interim president from running.

“Everything we have been through has been the fault of men,” said Marie-Louise Yakemba, in a press interview. Yakemba, who heads a civil-society organization that brings together people of different faiths, added: “We think that with a woman, there is at least a ray of hope.”w/pix of Pres. Samba-Panza

Africa Was A Point Of Pride For Martin Luther King Jr.
By Rush Perez

Jan. 21 (GIN) – At a speaking engagement at Western Michigan University on Dec. 18, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. recalled his first trip to Africa with his wife Coretta to attend the independence day celebration of the new nation of Ghana. The couple was invited by the new President, Kwame Nkrumah.

“We were very happy about the fact there were now eight independent countries in Africa,” he said. “But since that night in March, 1957, some twenty-seven new independent nations have come into being in Africa. This reveals to us that the old order of colonialism is passing away, and the new order of freedom and human dignity is coming into being.”

Later, on Dec. 10, 1965 he gave a powerful speech at Hunter College in New York City, where he attacked the Apartheid regime of South Africa, as well as the governments of Rhodesia (today Zimbabwe) and the Portuguese control of Mozambique and Angola.

True to form, Dr King utilized powerful language to make his points, beginning first with a deconstruction of the popular narrative of Africa at the time.

“Africa has been depicted for more than a century as the home of black cannibals and ignorant primitives….Africa does have spectacular savages today, but they are not black. They are the sophisticated white rulers of South Africa… whose conduct and philosophy stamp them unmistakably as modern day barbarians.”

He went on to call for an international boycott of South Africa.

After the independence day ceremonies in Ghana, Dr King said in a radio interview that: “This event, the birth of this new nation, will give impetus to oppressed peoples all over the world. I think it will have worldwide implications and repercussions–not only for Asia and Africa, but also for America….It renews my conviction in the ultimate triumph of justice and that somehow the universe itself is on the side of freedom and justice. So that this gives new hope to me in the struggle for freedom.”


Jan. 21 (GIN) – An accomplished and much-admired news writer from Ghana was recalled as “the face and voice of Africa – a new young, enterprising, international connected, ambitious Africa, with a can-do attitude.”

Komla Afeke Dumor passed unexpectedly this week at age 41 from cardiac arrest at his London home.

“He was not a praise-singer,” noted BBC Africa editor Solomon Mugera. “He was determined to present a balanced story, warts and all, and to show the human face behind the headlines.”

Dumor was a BBC World News presenter and the host of the Focus on Africa Program. He joined the BBC in 2006 after working for a decade as a journalist in Ghana. He was so popular in his home country that many Ghanaians changed their profiles on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter to show a picture of him.

After moving to TV in 2009, he anchored live coverage of major events including the funeral of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il,  the wedding of Britain’s Prince William and Kate Middleton, and the death of Nelson Mandela in December.

Born in 1972 in Accra, Komla Dumor received graduate degrees from the University of Ghana and Harvard University.

Even as a number of African countries were being heralded as among the world’s fastest-growing economies, Dumor wanted to dig deeper, recalled Mugera.

“He knew that a select few were wining and dining in five-star hotels and driving the latest luxury cars, while in the same neighborhood there were families struggling to live on $1 a day.”

The Media Foundation for West Africa, a regional independent, non-governmental organisation based in Accra, shared their deep condolences for the loss of “one of Africa’s best journalists.”

“Komla raised the standard of journalism in Africa, and brought a lot of pride to many Ghanaians and Africans when he joined the BBC Africa Service and later, the World Service…  He was an an illustrious journalist and a trailblazer for many young journalists in Ghana and Africa as a whole. .. We have indeed lost a talented gem in journalism, Komla, damirifa due! Rest in peace!” the statement concluded.

In the words of Nigerian author Chimamanda Adichie:  “We have lost a star. Go well my discussant brother.”

Dumor leaves a wife, Kwansema Dumor, and three children. w/pix of K. Dumor

The evil killings of Boko Haram terrorists: in the name of one Nigeria?.


HISTORY has always had a way of repeating itself. But has humanity learnt from the enduring intricacies,

intrigues and social-cultural dynamics of history, worldwide?
As a creationist and believer in the Universal Creator, the Supreme Sovereign God, who whatever names your dialectical domain, insists upon, the lives of human beings are sacrosanct and sacred. But does the continual killings, very many gruesome and dehumanizing suggest so? In a very plain and simple language, the answer is capital NO, NO, NO! Are all these being condoned in the dispirited ‘spirit’ of one Nigeria?
Why has the government of the day seemingly appearing incapable of, protecting Nigerians and the borders of Nigeria? It is increasingly becoming much clearer that the belief and humane aspiration of late Major Gideon Orkar (Nigeria Army), of 1992 aborted coup was one of the very best dispensations that should have happened to Nigeria and its people. The Nigerian people are not being protected from the evil surges and scourges being meted out by the BOKO HARAM SECT on Nigerians. What’s more, my people, the Igbos are continually receiving the heaviest the blows (destructions of lives), due to our uncurbed flair to universally exist and live among our ‘fellow brothers and country men/women’.

What, we are currently witnessing with increased tempo and ferocious intensity is representative of such belief. From South-eastern to South-western Nigeria, the country has borders, but we’ve known that some percentage of the hoodlums, masking as radical religious insurgents and protectors, teachers and missionaries of Islam inflicting these heinous aberrations crossed from the borders, of all Northern states – those States that late Major Gideon Orkar, had conscionably, wanted cut off from the rest of the country, for peace and progress to return to Nigeria. Today, have we known better than 1992? Today, have we known better than 1967-1970? (DIM IKEMBA – CHUKWUEMEKA ODUMEGWU-OJUKWU, YOU LEAVE FORVER in my heart). Today, we have know why the Late Chukwuemeka Kaduna Nzeogwu and the rest of the young, intelligent and well educated officers (Majors Emma Ifeajuna –an Olympiad, Philip Alele, Adegboyega, Okafor and others etc) did what they did, in order to set the country free, from the colonial and oligarchic manipulations, feuds, evil polices and institutionalized dominances of blatant and some times, surreptitious machinations to ‘tame’ and ‘Islamize’ the southern part of Nigeria. Yes some good things happened by the presence of the Brits and others that followed and even before, but the singular act of amalgamation submerged us with more harm than the good, whether intended ort impromptu! The Igbos would have been better off, without the Brits action.

The Federal Government’s efforts to curb the atrocious killings, burning and maiming of our citizens must be stepped up. The Ministries of Interior and that of Defense must evolve an urgent, massive policy of wiping, not containing BOKO HARAM. Every man is borne with dual or even multiplicities of capabilities, including the right to self-defense and inflict harm on others around – a possible case of ‘hidden/floating insanity’ inherent in humanity. Enough of the killings of the Igbos, all around the country! I’m definitely not in favour of BOKO HARAM killings people of other tribes/nations, including theirs, but let them stop the killings of the IGBOS, like the Kano Luxury Bus Park detonated by a vegetable vendor using his wares as a disguise, and ended up killings so many Igbos travelling to different parts of the country, especially the East. Of course, the perpetrators were aware that that Motor Park belonged to the Igbos and made the choice in order to maximally destroy the lives of my innocent and hardworking people! We cannot afford it any longer. NDI-IGBO, ZONU ONWE UNU!

Make no mistake about it: As a creationist, humanist an human rights/environmental activist, I believe in the workability of a very huge, multi-ethinicized, but progressive and equitable country, such like China, India, The United States of America, Brazil and even Nigeria. But like I’ve stressed elsewhere, the recognition of the rights of the minorities for independence or adoptive of self-rule remain a fundamental and cardinal unalienable reality, no matter what part of the world, it’s obtainable! So those calling for my throat to be slashed, simply because, I resist the inordinate aspirations of a sect that threatens the continuity of Nigeria as a country should remind themselves of these hard facts!
Every generation has always been endowed with mouth-pieces, even when they are being submerged by the selfish overtures of the strong in the strong in the society or those that derive dark pleasure in killing others and burning down properties. The proverbial tortoise had always cherished bigger society, when it time to work, and verse versa in moments of eating. But for me, I’m believe in both the principles of hugeness at work and that of eating or sharing: Live and let live, but if any desires to cut my slash his throat, not mine; for frivolous sentiments driven by religious conquest, domination and blood-letting, then, I shall be the first to pre-empt such.

When the British colonial masters invaded what is now known as the country of Nigeria, in the late 18th century A.D, what was paramount in their modus operandi, was commerce and profit and gaining of territory, by peace, coercion and even battle/war, where necessary. Had they recognized that the Igbos (lately we know that they knew) are a branch or branches of Israel, they would have left us alone to thrive as the second Israel in West Africa (Eden) and by now, The Edenic (African) Continent would have been lighted up! But alas, the choice to amalgamate us with the rest of the country has been subjecting us to continuity of draw-backs, stagnations and even despair.

The nearly four thousand years of the Igbos existence in the current Igbo Land and other Igbo culture areas, however, ad engendered a huge country, yet again, without boundary! But one day, the Igbos, under whatever political appellation must have its own definable country, recognized by the whole world, just like our brothers in Israel proper, Haiti and other parts of the world (south India, East Africa, the Mid-Atlantic States/Islands, Brazil etc) where they are scattered, BOKO HARAM or not. May we take a minute or two and revisit the ageless affirmation by one of the greatest of truer leaders of the World, Former President (Dr.) Nelson Madiba Mandela, speaking in 1964 at the trial that saw him sentenced for 27 years: “I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons will live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It si an ideal for which I hope to live for and to see realized. But my lord, if it needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die for.”

The difference in my ideal and that of Madiba is, that I choose not to be killed by the uncircumcised barbarians, parading themselves as hackers of innocent peoples’ necks in the void and absence of true knowledge, espoused by the wisdom of God the Creator, as in Judaism and Judeo-Christian religions. Their fundamentalists’ naked display of religious bigotry and hate must be receiving the right publicity, until their evil ideals are withered! And I hope to be alive to see that change duly effected, one day. Like my brother, Emefiena Ezeani, aptly rendered it, in his Book, ‘IN BIAFRA AFRICA DIED, The Diplomatic Plot’, the light and rays, which the Biafran Country would have helped and engendered the true illumination of the Continent, got extinguished and aborted. For over four decades now, we are still groping with the utter savagery and dire destruction at the face of greatness!

Prince Uzor
Secretary General/Founder
Cotonou, Benin Republic
(On-line/Hard copies publication series)

Source: Radio Biafra.

Mo Ibrahim Ranking, Federal Government And ASUU Strike By Anthony Kola-Olusanya.

By Anthony Kola-Olusanya

On July 1st, 2013, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) embarked on an industrial strike to force the federal government of Nigeria (FG) to implement the 2009 Agreement, which the later had signed with the union. The agreement, which was largely about the revitalisation of the university education system in Nigeria, is anchored on FG’s massive fund infusion into Nigeria’s publicly funded universities (federal and states owned). Like previous agreements, the FG decided it wasn’t going to honour the 2009 agreement. This decision not to honour and respect an agreement it signed with ASUU was based on two reasons which includes; a flimsy excuse that the Nigeria’s economy will shut down, should the FG implement the content of the 2009 Agreement. Secondly, on the arrogance that the FG will appear weak should it implement the agreement it had signed with ASUU in 2009. It is suffice to say that the FG took this decision after it had conducted the needs assessment towards implementation of the 2009 agreement through two separate committees like 2009 ASUU\FGN Agreement Needs Assessment Committee and ASUU\FGN 2009 Agreement Implementation Committee. The later committee would round up its work later in 2011 with a commitment from the President and other stakeholders on the FGN side promising that there would never be a strike in the nation’s public universities for a long time.

While the university teacher strike was going on, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation published its 2013 Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG) in October. Established in 2007, the IIAG is the most comprehensive collection of quantitative data on governance in Africa. The index is compiled in partnership with experts from a number of the continent’s institutions. It also provides an annual assessment of governance in every African country. The IIAG provides a framework for citizens, governments, institutions and business to assess the delivery of public goods and services, and policy outcomes, across Africa. The index is classified into four categories namely; safety and rule of law; participation and human rights; sustainable economic opportunity and human development. Today, the IIAG is recognized as the barometer for measuring government performance in Africa.

Overall, the index ranked Nigeria in 41st position out of 52 countries in Africa in relation to governance and leadership in Africa. The implication of this present ranking is that Nigeria ranked 9th when we talk about countries without good leadership and lacks good governance. The sad point of the ranking is that many countries like Liberia, Sierra Leone among others who are just coming out years of civil war, ranked above Nigeria. Besides the overall ranking, Nigeria also showed poor ranking in other specific arrears.
Within the West African sub-region, Nigeria also ranked a dismal 16th position out of 19 countries, overall in good governance and leadership. Of note is the country’s ranking in education, and human development, which are both sub-components of human resource development (HRD). Nigeria ranked 30th and scoring 49% below the African average (52.9) and lower than the regional average (52.5) for West Africa, in provision of education to its citizens.

With respects to human development, Nigeria ranked 33rd in Africa, scoring 52.7%, a score considered lower than the continental average (58.3) and 43.4 below than the regional average (52.5) for West Africa respectively. Before going any further, it is instructive to note that at the top three positions in Africa are countries Nigerians would categorize as small nations like Mauritius (82.9%), Botswana (77.6%) and Cape Verde (76.7%) in first, second and third position respectively. Whilst the top three leaders at the west African sub-regional level includes Ghana (66.8%), Senegal (61%) and the island nation of Sao Tome  and Principe (59.9%). At the bottom of the table on the continent are Somali and Chad at the sub-regional level.

What is responsible for these countries’ success in Africa and West Africa? Both Mauritius and Ghana cannot  and do not earn as much as Nigeria, but unlike the self-acclaimed giant of Africa, the small African country – Mauritius education budget hovers around 13-15% of the annual budget in 2013. Ghana on her part allocated 33% of annual budget to education during the same period. What this suggests is that these two countries placed huge emphasis on human capital development since only an adequately-funded education sector can guarantee as well develop the much needed human capital that will help transform these countries. Sadly, Nigeria’s 2013 allocation to education is only a paltry 8% of the annual budget. In essence, the IIAG leading ranked countries at both the continental and sub-regional levels are doing some things which Nigeria is not doing; especially when one considers the federal government (FG) much vaunted commitment to ‘transformation agenda’ and the so-called vision 20:2020.

An assessment of the Mauritius economy revealed a concrete demonstration towards national development. It is an understatement to say that Mauritius has a strong human capital foundation developed through consistent and equitable investment in human development. The goal of the island country is becoming a knowledge economy. This goal is not impossible given that education is free and has been expanded in recent years, in order to create further employment opportunities and ensuring inclusive growth. Return on investment in education, shows that around 90% of entrepreneurs are Mauritian nationals, and businesspeople had the human capital, education and knowledge needed to exploit market opportunities. Interesting too Mauritius is one of the least corrupt African countries. On the contrary, the latest values of Human Development Index (HDI) which provides a country’s measure of human capital development (in areas such as income, health, and education) show that Nigeria is ranked 156 with the value of 0.459 among 187 countries. The value places Nigeria in the bottom, meaning that Nigeria is considered to have low level of human development. The comparative value for Sub-Saharan Africa is 0.475 and 0.694 for the world average and this places Nigeria a little below the continental average with an HDI of 0.471.

Comparatively, two issues among others speak to Nigeria’s dismal overall performance on the continent and in the sectional areas of education and human development in this year’s IIAG rankings. One is the lukewarm posture of the FG lip service to educational development. Second is the gross underfunding of the educational sector. These two issues underscores our poor performance even areas in which Nigeria is noted to be doing well in forty–fifty years ago. As well, both issues are directly linked to the ongoing ASUU strike which is about to enter the sixth month. Another pointer to this dismal performance is that no serious country desirous of meeting its developmental goals don’t allow its university teachers to go on strike to pressure government to do what governments in other sister African countries do without pressure or prompting of any union.

A search through the internet failed to reveal any strike action by the university teachers in the IIAG top countries on the continent. In the West Africa sub-region for example, the university teachers across Ghana on Monday, August 1, 2013, embarked on a nationwide industrial action to protest unpaid market premium. The notice of strike served on the Ghanaian government prompted an emergency meeting of the Fair Wages and Salaries Commission (FWSC) was called in order to avert the strike. In addition, the deputy minister in charge of tertiary education, Okudzeto Ablakwa would later assured university teachers their outstanding premiums will be settled. The strike action was resolved within a few days. What we see in this approach and prompt response by Ghanaian authorities when compared to Nigeria’s is an example of good governance and leadership. Little wonder Ghana is attracting students from all over the world including Nigeria to her universities.

Meanwhile, rather than provide leadership by either preventing or resolving the strike, FG has continued to play the roulette game with future of the teeming youths in public universities across the country. Instead of addressing the issues of non-implementation of 2009 agreement it signed with university teachers’ union, the federal government has continued to behave like the proverbial ostrich that buries its head in the sand by pretending that all is well with the public universities system. Although, President Jonathan in November had personally intervened in the fifth month of the strike, events following the meeting with ASUU have further exposed FG’s unwillingness to respect and be bounded by its own proposal.

At this juncture, it is necessary for the FG and President Jonathan to know that Nigeria didn’t get this all-time low in one year. The crisis of the educational sector, vis a vis university education and by implication human development occurred as a result of the decades of neglect, massive funding cuts as well as gross under-funding has been with us for many decades. The same way, I would like to note that Mauritius, Botswana and Cape Verde did not just appear as African top three countries, but after years of serious planning and commitment towards greatness. President Jonathan needs to be aware that sacking all university teachers in one day does not portray him and his regime in good light. Indeed, for a government who is laying claim to a transformation agenda built on the back of the vision 20: 2020, mass sacking of university teachers will not only deny Nigeria the much needed human capital, his transformation agenda and vision 20:2020 will also suffer monumentally.

So rather than waste time sacking the university teachers, the federal government and President Jonathan need to be concerned about how to improve Nigeria’s position on the IIAG from 2014 and beyond. The FG need to stand up and confront the monster called under-funding that has reduced the once enviable Nigeria’s public universities to a shadow of itself by huge funds towards the revitalization of universities. Doing this, will lead to cascade of gains for the country, for which the FG and indeed President Jonathan can celebrate. Chief among the gains will be brain-gain for the universities. Furthermore, Nigerian universities will become the place to go for Nigerian youths who are daily leaving the country for study abroad never to return and the nation would have saved the best for human resource for the country.  In addition, foreign students will also return to Nigerian universities with the educational sector reaping some foreign exchange from the international students.

I have concentrated on the educational sector and indirectly university education because of the multiplier effect of such benefits investment for any country desirous of growth and indeed greatness. The successes and gains of investing in education including universities would naturally reverberate through the whole system in unimaginable ways. Finally, I urge President Jonathan to sit again with ASUU and resolve this crisis once and for all. Mr. President Sir, ASUU’s demands which includes adequate funding to revitalize the university system, progressive increase of budgetary allocations to the education sector to 26 per cent, transfer of Federal Government property to universities, setting up of research and development units by companies are strategic to Nigeria’s growth and development.  Therefore, there can be no other alternative than to resolve this lingering crisis, except you, Mr. President, and indeed your entire administration is satisfied with Nigeria’s continued ranking among the lowly performing governments of the world.

Anthony Kola-Olusanya is a teacher and citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters

New, Aggressive HIV Strain Causes AIDS Faster.

A new and more aggressive strain of HIV discovered in West Africa causes significantly faster progression to AIDS, researchers at Sweden’s Lund University said Thursday.

The new strain of the virus that causes AIDS, called A3/02, is a fusion of the two most common HIV strains in Guinea-Bissau. It has so far only been found in West Africa.

“Individuals who are infected with the new recombinant form develop AIDS within five years, and that’s about two to two-and-a-half years faster than one of the parent (strains),” said Angelica Palm, one of the scientists responsible for the study based on a long-term follow-up of HIV-positive people in Guinea-Bissau.

Recombinant virus strains originate when a person is infected by two different strains, whose DNA fuse to create a new form.

“There have been some studies that indicate that whenever there is a so-called recombinant, it seems to be more competent or aggressive than the parental strains,” said Palm of the study published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases.

The strain was first discovered by the Swedish team in Guinea-Bissau in 2011.

According to researchers, the speed with which A3/02 leads to people falling ill from AIDS does not impact on the effectiveness of medication on infected individuals.

“The good news is that as far as we know the medicines that are available today are equally functional on all different subtypes of variants,” Palm said.

The study warns that such recombinants may be spreading fast, especially in regions with high levels of immigration, such as Europe or the United States.

“It is highly likely that there are a large number of circulating recombinants of which we know little or nothing,” said Patrik Medstrand, professor of clinical virology at Lund University.

Some 35.3 million people around the world are living with HIV, which destroys the immune system and has caused more than 25 million deaths since AIDS first emerged in the early 1980s, according to the World Health Organisation.

Existing treatments help infected people live longer, healthier lives by delaying and subduing symptoms, but do not cure AIDS. Many people in poor communities do not have access to the life-giving drugs, and there is no vaccine.


© AFP 2013

Crises have slowed down economic development – Jonathan.



President Goodluck Jonathan, yesterday, lamented that the crises in some parts of the country has slowed down economic development. He stated this while being presented with the 2013 Africa Peace Award from the United Religions Initiatives URI, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja. According to the president, internal stability is essential for the development of the country saying that, “there can be no meaningful economic development where people are fighting.”

Jonathan said: “Even when countries are fighting at the end of the day they will still come to the dialogue table to resolve. Problems could hardly be resolved through the barrel of the gun. Even if you have the most sophisticated weapon to fight, you will still come to negotiate otherwise you can never live in peace.

“If you go to the Southern part of this country you hear about kidnapping and if you go to the North you have the issue of Boko Haram. For us to develop our country we must all embrace peace. There is no way the government can perform magic when the people are shooting guns, because economic growth and development is in the hands of the private sector.”

The President added: “There cannot be economic development without peace. For you to develop economically there must be peace and political stability. So the leadership of African Union and ECOWAS have changed and we believe that we must help ourselves and help our states and govern our states the way it should be governed. If there are crisis we should intervene and that has been helping us significantly.”

The president who dedicated the award to Nigerians promised that he will continue to focus on providing the enabling environment in the country for businesses to thrive.

He said: “This award is dedicated to my people and my country Nigeria. We couldn’t have been qualified for this award if my people did not encourage me. In Nigeria God has given us that unique privilege to be fairly more robust than some of our African countries and we are one of the African countries that the whole work look up to, to assist in one way or the other. So this award is for Nigeria and not for Goodluck Jonathan.

“We would continue to do our best. For me as an individual, I will continue to play my role in spite of the challenges. Let me use this unique opportunity to call on all Nigerians and all the people of the world to embrace peace. You cannot talk about development when you are fighting,” the President emphasised.

The Regional Director of URI, Ambassador Mussie Hailu while presenting the award to the president said it was in recognition of President Jonathan’s immense contributions to religious harmony in Nigeria and peace keeping operation under the United Nations.

According to him, “we have been following with great interest the great role the President play in his country, West Africa and Africa as a whole since he took office as President of Nigeria. We commend his leadership qualities in West African sub region in particular as ECOWAS Chairman and also lauded the current transformation agenda of his administration.”

Source: Radio Biafra.

Nigeria The Underperformer The dangerous mix of corruption and poverty, by Walter Carrington.


A former United States ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Walter Carrington, speaks on the challenges of corruption in Nigeria and the mismatch between growth and poverty as it relates to the much touted VISION 202020. He admonishes Nigerians to rise and harness the plethora of potentials in the country for the common good while not leaving behind the womenfolk.

I am transported to a time some sixty years ago, when I too, was an eager student about to graduate into an uncertain world. The Second World War had recently ended and the Cold War, pitting the United States and Western Europe against international communism, had even more recently begun. There was genuine fear that, with both sides possessing nuclear bombs, a deliberate or accidental launching of one of these weapons might start an unbreakable chain of retaliatory actions which would result in the annihilation of most of the world’s population.

That was the world that I left university to enter. But there was a more optimistic world yearning to be born. The First World War had led to the break up of defeated Germany’s African empire. There were many here on the Continent and in the Diaspora who believed that the Second World War had so weakened the victorious allies and emboldened their colonial subjects that the time for African liberation could not be far off. How fortunate I was that, when I was just a fortnight further along my life’s journey than most of you are on this day, I made my first visit to the continent of my ancestors. Two weeks after receiving my first university degree in 1952, at a convocation such as this, I was on my way to Senegal as one of eight American delegates to an international youth and student conference which was to be held in its capitol, Dakar. There I met many young people who in less than a decade would join with older freedom fighters to haul down the British Union Jack and the French Tri-coleur from their government buildings and replace them with the flags of their newly independent countries. Some of you may have noticed that I did not mention another major colonial power – Belgium. The delegation from their largest colony, the Congo, included but one African. Congolese until 1954 were allowed to receive no more than a basic primary education unless they were studying for the priesthood. As a result, at independence in 1960, there were only 17 university graduates in a country with a population of 13 million. That’s fewer than the number of you sitting in any one of the rows before me today.

That first trip to Africa was to change the direction of my life. Before I was 30 years old I had traveled twice to Africa at a time when few members of my generation in America had been here even once. My second trip was to Nigeria leading a group of students on a program called the Experiment in International Living. It occurred the year before Nigeria’s Independence. We traveled throughout the country living with Nigerian families in Lagos and Ibadan in the West; Enugu and Port Harcourt in the East; and Kano and Kaduna in the North. Regrettably, Ilorin was not a part of our itinerary. That trip tightened the hold Africa had on me which I had first felt at that youth conference in Dakar. I embraced the opportunity offered to me by administration of John F. Kennedy to help set up the Peace Corps in Africa. I would spend the next six years living in Sierra Leone, Tunisia and Senegal and then most of the following four years traveling from Washington to towns and villages throughout the continent overseeing the work of development being carried out by a dedicated group of young Americans.

1960, when Nigeria and most of West Africa became independent from British and French rule, was the beginning of a decade of great expectations. I remember coming back to Africa in 1961 to establish the first Peace Corps program in Sierra Leone. What great hopes there were that West Africa would become the model for the rest of the continent. East and Southern Africa had been held back by their white settler populations from achieving independence peacefully. I remember that I used to jest that every country in West Africa should have an image of a mosquito emblazoned on their new flags. For it was that malaria bearing insect which had caused this region to be christened as the “White Man’s Grave” driving Europeans to search for greener, healthier pastures on the other side of the continent in which to settle down with their families.

Much has changed in Africa from those days of my youth more than half a century ago, but so much more needs to be done. The end of colonialism brought about governments of the people; each country’s first elections brought about government by the people, although in too many cases not for long, as authoritarian presidents for life and military dictators took over. The return of democracy once again gave Africans the right to decide by whom they would be governed and for how long. But elections, even when free and fair, rarely brought about governments that were for the people. Rather they tended to be for the elites; for the rich and those who hoped to become rich through government contacts and contracts.

Throughout Africa we hear slogans such as “African Renaissance” and “Africa Rising.” On this day of celebration for you graduates and your families I suppose that I should be upbeat and commemorate a bright new Africa into which you are about to emerge. But to do this would, I fear, only contribute to a sense of complacency about the condition of the overwhelming majority, not only of your fellow country men, but also of all who live on this continent. No, I would rather instill in you a sense of urgency. For this is not just a day of celebration but also of preparation. In order for you to do your part in making this world a better place you must understand the world that awaits you.

First of all I ask you to ponder a perplexing paradox. Africa is the world’s richest continent in terms of natural resources and yet by all measurements developed by the United Nations its peoples are the poorest. In terms of education, health, and most standards of living they lag behind the rest of mankind. Why, oh why, should this be so? A few Africans may indeed be rising but too many others are falling. The old maxim that the rich get rich and the poor get poorer seems all too true as the gap between Africa and the rest of the world grows ever wider.

The latest Human Development Index of the United Nation Development Program better known as the UNDP was released in March of this year and lists the world’s 46 lowest ranked countries. 37 of them are in sub Saharan Africa. All of the bottom 26 are African with the single exception of Afghanistan. All rate lower even than Haiti. Out of 187 countries surveyed, oil producing Nigeria is ranked 153, the lowest, by far, of any non African member of OPEC. Indeed, with the exception of Angola (which ranks 5 places higher than Nigeria) all other members, including war ravished Iraq (107), are included in the ranks of the more developed. Your neighbor, Niger, at 187 has the dubious distinction of coming in last.

The UNDP’s Index, in arriving at its rankings, surveys life expectancy, mean and expected years of schooling, gross national income per capita, standards of living, quality of life, and child welfare. What it does not disaggregate is the status of women about which I will have more to say later.

An earlier UN report in 2007 predicted that in little more than a year from now, in the year 2015, nearly a third of the world’s impoverished will be black Africans. This would be a significant increase from one fifth fraction which was the case in 1990.

The proponents of the Africa Rising thesis point to the significant economic growth experienced by some countries on the continent during a time of economic retraction in much of the developed world. Growth indeed there was although often from a rather low base. Nigeria’s was impressively a little above 6 and a half percent. But how much was this a case of growth without concomitant development? According to the latest IMF estimates Nigeria has the second largest economy on the sub continent with a GDP or gross domestic product of 270 billion US dollars behind only South Africa whose GDP is 375 billion. Thus Nigeria, the 7th largest country in the world by population, has only the 40th largest economy by GDP. It is overly dependent on an oil and gas sector which provides 70% of its federal revenue, but is the source of a much smaller percentage of jobs than agriculture which employs 70% of the country’s labor force. But Nigeria suffers, as do so many other highly endowed extractive natural resource countries, from what economists label as the “Dutch disease” whereby other sectors of the economy such as agriculture and manufacturing are relatively ignored.

At Independence in 1960 Nigeria’s annual agricultural crop yields were higher than those of Indonesia and Malaysia. Today they have dwindled to half as much. The fact that Nigeria’s current yield per hectare is less than 50 percent of that of comparable developing countries dramatically demonstrates how much Nigeria has abandoned its once promising agricultural sector. Until Nigeria is able to rely less on capital intensive sectors of the economy and more on labor intensive ones it will be difficult to see how it will meet its ambitious goals to make the country one of the world’s twenty most important economies. Diversification is urgently needed to make the economy less vulnerable to downswings in petroleum prices. Even when oil prices were historically high the national unemployment rate, instead of falling, rose from 21percent in 2010 to 24 percent in 2011. As the African Development Bank report pointed out, Nigeria’s recent economic growth has been mainly driven by the non oil sector because of high consumer demand. The cruel irony is that whatever Nigeria and others in Africa might do to improve their economies their efforts in the short run could be undone by a renewed global financial crisis. As I was writing this there was still much uncertainty over the consequences that might ensue if the United States failed to meet its international debt obligations. Thus this continent remains at the mercy of a world financial order over which it has little or no influence.

Those of you who will be earning a university degree this week are among the most privileged of your generation. Over twenty million young people between the ages of 15 to 35 are unemployed. An overwhelming number of them do not have the education you have received. They are part of a burgeoning army of unemployed even as the economy is growing.

You however will become a valued part of Nigeria’s unmatched pool of human resources. No country on this continent has historically had such a richness of human capital. Unfortunately, during the days of military dictatorships so many of your best and brightest fled abroad. Students overstayed their visas and professionals remained abroad, so reluctant were they to return home. As a result over 3 million Nigerians live and work in the United States and Canada to say nothing of the large numbers in the United Kingdom. They everywhere excel in their contributions to all sectors of our society. I have said many times to American audiences that I regard Nigerians as the most accomplished immigrant group in the United States. What made Nigeria the country that I looked up to for so long was the fact that it produced some of the most educated, most talented black people to be found anywhere on earth.

My country and others around the world profit from Nigeria’s greatest export – her accomplished people. I often ask Nigerians who are legally in the U.S. why they remain.

The two major impediments to going back which they cite are their fears of the omni presence of corruption and the growing absence of security. They cringe whenever they hear Nigeria belittled on television comedies because of 4 1 9 schemes. They have so much to contribute to their homeland and ways must be found to create the environment which will invite them to return and reverse the brain drain which does so much damage to the body politic.
A cure must be found for the corrosive cancer of corruption. I congratulate you, Vice-Chancellor Ambali, for the University’s Anti-Corruption and Monitoring Unit. Your address on the Occasion of the Public Presentation of the ACTU Handbook two months ago is one of the best that I have read. With your indulgence I would like to repeat a few of your words which cannot be heard too often.
As we all know, corruption is the most terrible monster that confronts Nigeria but we must all work hard to tame this monster. In other words, I am certain that virtually all the problems associated with governance would be removed if we can all summon the courage to tackle corruption and banish it from our activities. Development doesn’t have a bigger enemy than corruption and the development of Nigeria is hinged on ridding our polity and politics from corruption and corrupt practices.
I salute this university’s motto of character and learning – probitas doctrina. It is an axiom fit for a whole nation to adopt. But I regret to say that I have seen too many good people of high character yield after putting up a good fight. Which is why efforts must be redoubled to create an environment in which character and virtue are rewarded and not scorned. Now, I know from my Sunday School days that being faced with temptation can be good, for if you can resist it you will be that much stronger. But let us not put too much temptation in their path. All of you, old and young alike, have a duty to do all you can to make the society in which these students and those who come after them matriculate is a society in which getting rich quickly is no longer a cherished goal; in which corruption is to be shunned and not envied; a society in which freedom and democracy flourish.

Earlier I mentioned the role of women. They are estimated to carry on about 70% of economic activity in Africa but they own but a paltry two percent of the land and are woefully under employed in the formal work force. And they are, in so many other ways, continually discriminated against. They remain victims of ancient patriarchal customs.
Half of your generation are women as, of course, are 50 percent of all Nigerians. Yet their participation in the workforce is extremely low. Only 33 percent of Nigerians who are employed in the formal sector are women. No nation can long endure and prosper which wastes the talents of so many of their citizens. President Jonathan has done better than any of his predecessors in bringing women into the top ranks of his government. A third of the members of his cabinet are women and he has appointed the first female Chief Justice. Yet, too much of the old sexist culture remains in the country. It is an anchor holding back its progress. Women’s family inheritance rights in too many states remain subordinate to those of their brothers even if the boys are younger than them. Too often they are sexually harassed on the job. No task will define the moral fiber of your generation more than your willingness to be committed to do as young people around the world are doing – rejecting sexism and seeing that women in law and custom enjoy equal rights to dignity and opportunity. No nation can prosper utilizing manpower alone. The freeing up of women’s power is essential to progress.

Nigeria has been too long an underperformer on the world stage. It has ceded to South Africa the pride of place as Africa’s leading spokesman. When the G-8 or other gatherings of the world’s most powerful nations occur it is more often to Johannesburg that they call than to Abuja on those all too rare times when they seek an African perspective. In its second century as more than a geographic entity, Nigeria, must at last realize its full potential. Even now, as woefully neglected as it has been, its manufacturing sector produces a large proportion of West Africa’s goods and services. What it has done for the region it can certainly in the years ahead do for the entire continent. You are indeed the giant of Africa. Your population of close to 170 million dwarfs all others. You are, by far, the continent’s largest and most appealing market. Surely Nigeria can raise the future amount of its exports to members of the African Union beyond its current level of 11 percent. Africa’s success is crucial to Nigeria’s own. Even if it accomplishes all of its 2020 goals by 2050 it will find it difficult to long prosper as an oasis in a desert of impoverished countries. It will become the attraction for massive illegal immigration as has the United States to its poorer neighbors to the South or has Europe to the peoples of the poorer countries of Africa, India, Pakistan, and the Caribbean. That is why it is in Nigeria’s enlightened self interest to be concerned as much about the plight of its neighbors as it is of its own. Those are the responsibilities that the members of the club of the world’s most powerful nations which Nigeria wishes to join must shoulder.

Nigeria has the potential to be in fact the giant of Africa which it has always thought itself to be. Its agricultural output is already second to none on the continent and 25th in the world. By making it more of a priority Nigeria could become a major player on the world’s commodities market. It must refine at home more of its 37 billion proven barrels of oil which is the world’s sixth largest reserve of crude oil. Its 187 trillion cubic feet of proven natural gas is the eighth largest gas deposit in the world. Its flaring must be stopped and the gas harnessed to meet the country’s mounting energy needs. The pipelines carrying oil and liquefied natural gas must be better protected for both ecological and economic reasons

The second century must be dedicated to diversifying this economy away from its overdependence on oil and to adding value to Nigeria’s treasure trove of the other natural resources lying beneath its soil. This can be done by sending not raw materials abroad but rather enhancing their value at home through a revitalized manufacturing sector, which refines and finishes the more than thirty different minerals lying beneath the nation’s soil.
The question must now be asked, why is Africa’s most endowed country, which earns $57 billion dollars a year in oil revenues not yet able to solve its persistent problems of electric power and infrastructure? The African Development Bank report has summed it up thusly:

“After decades of neglect, infrastructure in Nigeria is in a dilapidated state. The ranking of overall infrastructure is very close to the worst rank in Africa. Power supply is erratic, roads are in a state of disrepair, and the railway infrastructure is in a poor state. The erratic supply of electricity has continued to plague every aspect of the economy and it is viewed by the Federal Government of Nigeria as the bedrock of the country’s future growth, if addressed. Billions of dollars have been spent on the power sector by various administrations but without success because of mismanagement and implementation problems. However, with the political will to tackle mismanagement in the infrastructure sector and the desire to find a solution to the infrastructure problem in the country, there have been some improvements in the state of infrastructure in the country.”
Let me turn now to the great moral shame of our time – the persistence of poverty. Towards its elimination the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank promulgated in 1999 a Poverty Reduction Strategy Program (PRSP). Those two agencies have over the years ruffled nationalist feathers in a number of developing countries because of the austerity and conditionality requirements which they have imposed. Nigeria has not filed a PSRP progress report since 2007. It has enacted instead its Transformation Agenda 2011-2015 It is imperative that poverty reduction be a major goal of the agenda and not a marginalized one as it appears to have been so often in the past in too many countries. If not, then progress will be limited and the plight of the poor will become even more hopeless. One of the most important challenges your generation faces is to find ways to address continuing inequality so that all Nigerians are able to benefit from economic growth.

One hundred years before I first came to Nigeria in 1959, on the eve of your Independence, one of my heroes, the father of Black Nationalism, Martin Delany, in 1859 on the eve of the American Civil War came to these shores in search of a homeland for the enslaved sons and daughters of Africa held in captivity in America. He wished to see a great state built in Africa. As he put it: “a nation, to whom all the world must pay commercial tribute.” Sailing aboard a ship owned by three African merchants he arrived in Abeokuta. His one-year stay resulted in the signing of treaties with western Egba Chiefs giving American blacks the right to settle in their areas. The agreements were never followed up because the Civil War broke out just as Delany returned to America. He served as a medical doctor in Abraham Lincoln’s army which ended slavery and resulted in blacks becoming citizens of the United States.

I speak to you now, on the eve of Nigeria’s second century and in the twilight of my years, as more than an in-law who first came to Africa as a student in search of my heritage and returned four decades later to find my destiny in my lovely wife – Arese.

I speak to you young people as an octogenarian optimistic enough to believe that I will still be around to see Nigeria become the fulfillment of Delany’s dream of a great African state to whom the world must pay tribute.
Yours is the pivot generation. One that can and must turn Nigeria around as mine and the one that followed changed America forever. Nigeria is calling you. Heed her call so that in the words of your National Anthem ‘The labors of your heroes past shall not have been in vain.”

Being extracts from the UNILORIN Convocation Lecture, ON THE DAWN OF NIGERIA’S SECOND CENTURY: CHALLENGES TO A NEW GENERATION, by WALTER C. CARRINGTON, O.F.R., former United States Ambassador to Nigeria, delivered last Monday.


Al-Qaida Releases ‘Credible’ Hostage Video.

DAKAR, Senegal — Al-Qaida‘s north African branch has released a video purporting to show seven kidnapped Westerners, the Mauritanian news agency ANI reported on Monday, footage France’s foreign ministry deemed “credible.”

The hostages are four Frenchmen kidnapped from a uranium compound in northern Niger exactly three years ago along with a Dutchman, a Swede, and a South African who were abducted from Timbuktu in northern Mali in November 2011.

“Based on an initial analysis, the video seems credible to us and provides new proof of life of the four French hostages kidnapped in Arlit [northern Niger] on September 16, 2010,” foreign ministry spokesman Philippe Lalliot said, adding that the footage was being authenticated.

In the video, released to the Mauritanian news agency ANI, Frenchman Daniel Larribe introduces himself as the head of the French group and says he was kidnapped by al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

ANI reported on its website that he was speaking on June 27 and said he was in good health.

The video includes statements from Arribe’s compatriots Pierre Legrand, Thierry Dol and Marc Feret as well as South African Stephen Malcolm, Dutchman Sjaak Rijke, and Swede Johan Gustafsson.

“Of course we react positively every time we see that they are alive and in relatively good health,” said Legrand’s grandfather Rene Robert.

AQIM is currently thought to be holding eight Europeans hostage, including five French nationals.

Philippe Verdon, who was kidnapped in Mali in 2011 and found dead earlier this year, was executed with a shot to the head, according to French prosecutors.

Dol, Larribe, Legrand and Feret — mostly working for French public nuclear giant Areva and its subcontractor Satom — were kidnapped on September 16, 2010.

Daniel’s wife Francoise Larribe was also captured but was released in 2011.

A fifth French hostage, Serge Lazarevic, was kidnapped along with Verdon in the night of November 24, 2011 at their hotel in Hombori.

Their families have insisted they were not mercenaries or secret service agents.

French President Francois Hollande said in July that France was “doing everything” to bring the hostages back but “will not talk so as not to complicate a situation which is bad enough.”

In the video the French hostages reportedly urge Hollande’s administration as well as family members to work for their release.

“I am in good health,” Larribe was quoted as saying by ANI in a brief statement that also referenced France’s intervention in Mali earlier this year.

France sent troops into its former colony Mali in January to repel a sweeping Islamist occupation by groups linked to al-Qaida including AQIM which was threatening an assault on the capital Bamako.

AQIM grew out of a movement launched in the late 1990s by radical Algerian Islamists who sought the overthrow of the Algerian government to be replaced with Islamic rule.

The organization linked to al-Qaida in 2006 and has spun a tight network across tribes, clans, family, and business lines that stretches across the vast Sahel region abutting the southern Sahara desert.

During the nearly year-long 2012 occupation of northern Mali — which borders Mauritania — AQIM and its allies Ansar Dine (Defenders of Faith) and the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) used ANI as a conduit for information.

Threats to retaliate against the French-led military intervention which ousted the Islamists have also filtered through ANI and other sites boasting a vast network of informants and correspondents in the Sahel region.

© AFP 2013

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