Nigeria: Why Churches Are Target of Bombings – Police
June 30, 2012 | 0 Comments
By Chika Otuchikere*
The Nigerian Police have given reason why places of worship have become the main targets of bombing attacks in the country.
According to a release by the Deputy Force Public Relations Officer, Mr. Frank Mba, most churches have limited protective measures and do not demand any means of identification before worshippers are allowed in.
Mba said the acting Inspector General of Police Mohammed Abubakar has recommended to churches and mosques in the country to institute standard security committees to work with the Police in protecting members against attacks.
According to Mba who said members of the committee should be comprised of volunteers with impeccable background and passion for the safety of fellow worshippers stressed that the background check on the proposed members would be necessary to prevent infiltration by ‘enemies’
Mba named absence of physical security gadgets such as Close Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras as another factor making them to become ‘soft targets’ to criminal elements.
“Churches and mosques are safe heavens and sanctuaries for worshiping and experiencing God’s love, mercy and grace. They are hallowed places and somewhat immune from the troubles, conflicts and violence of the world, including wars.
“However, recent events in Nigeria and other parts of the world, particularly the serial attacks on churches in some parts of the country, appear to have fundamentally altered this age-long view.”
“Churches and mosques provide a pool of large crowd. Consequently, the possibility of mass casualty in the event of an attack is high. This is a big attraction for terror groups.
“Any attack on a place of worship is considered sacrilegious. It will, therefore, elicit mass condemnation and extensive media coverage. Terror groups savour such free and elaborate coverage.
“Because of the sensitive nature of religion, an attack on a church or mosque can easily provoke hatred, suspicion and reprisals amongst the various religious groups.
“When that happens, there could be breakdown of law and order. Such state of lawlessness, even if temporary, fitted into the desire of terrorist organisations.”
The IG also recommended to officials of places of worship, to carry out what he termed “risk assessment and vulnerability surveys” which he said will determine the risk they were exposed to.
According to him, factors to be considered in such assessment should include location, analysis of their neighbourhood demography, size and architectural design, population and access roads.
He advised leaders of Churches and Mosques to consider erecting barriers to keep human and vehicular traffic away from designated areas.
“One of the most effective ways of preventing suicide bombing is to isolate the suicide bomber to himself and prevent him from reaching his targeted audience. Churches and Mosques officials are advised to make conscious efforts to know their members. This will make it easier for them to spot and identify strangers and intruders.
“Churches and Mosques in restive areas must avoid the temptation of isolating themselves from the public or their host community. They must avoid the ‘fortress mentality.
“There is need for perimeter fencing of all places of worship to prevent invaders from gaining cheap access, especially during prayers/services,” he said.
The police boss encouraged officials of churches and mosques to build strong relationship with local police and other security agencies to encourage seamless flow of information.
*Courtesy of AllAfrica.com
Nigeria: Boko Haram’s Endless Onslaught On Places of Worship
June 18, 2012 | 0 Comments
By Osby Isibor,
The Boko Haram sect, once a small outfit pledged only on bringing strict Islamic law to northern Nigeria, has in recent months, shown an increasingly militant agenda with the killing of innocent Nigerians. Such wanton killings have continued to attract the attention of well-meaning Nigerians and the international community. In this report, OSBY ISIBOR, examines the rising status of the sect as an enigma and cautions that the threat of its activities including attacks on places of worship, is unlikely to disappear soon.
For the past one year they have been indulging in a cordinated war, killing policemen and people they believed helped the security services in the fight against them. But the violence has taken on a different dimension with recent attacks on churches.
Boko Haram has staged several more audacious attacks on places of worship in different parts of northern Nigeria, signaling that it is far from finished. A place of worship, whether the Church or Mosque is regarded as a place of refuge but unfortunately the reverse is now the case.
People go to worship God and may never come back alive because of the activities of the Boko Haram targeting worship centres. Unfortunately, the Christian worshippers are increasingly bearing the brunt with most of them being hacked down on daily basis. Nigerians have continued to watch helplessly their loved ones mercilessly massacred and sent to their early graves.
St. Theresa Catholic Church, Madalla in Suleja local government area of Niger State was attacked by Boko Haram on Christmas Day, December 25, 2011. The assault came a year after a series of Christmas Eve bombings in Jos claimed by the Boko Haram left at least 32 dead and 74 wounded.
This signalled the Islamic sect onslaught on Christian worship centres, making it the biggest security threat in Nigeria. Since then attacks on churches have become a trademark tactic of the sect. Several churches were attacked in Borno, Yobe, Bauchi, Kano and Jos among others.
Boko Haram has claimed responsibilities for hundreds of killings in bomb or gun attacks in churches over the past two years. Its leader, Abubakar Shekau, frequently justifies attacks on Christians as revenge for killings of Muslims. At the height of the onslaught on Christian worshippers by Boko Haram, some aggrieved youths last year, were alleged to have avenged the killings of their relatives in Jos during the last Eid El Kabir festivities.
On December 10, 2011 mosques were said to have been burnt in Sapele, Delta State, while the same was also reported in Benin City, Edo State. But the Edo State government have since refuted that report. These attacks received widespread condemnation from well-meaning Nigerians which shows that no one supports the activities of the sect.
Since these attacks began, there have been intensified concerns over the potential for renewed sectarian clashes in Nigeria.
This has also raised fears of reprisals from Christians, even as Christian leaders have warned they will defend themselves if attacks against them continue.
As it were, the people appeared to be fed up with the lackadaisical attitude of government towards the mounting threats being posed by the sect to the country and its people.
They urged Nigerians to take steps to defend themselves from the Boko Haram attacks, while calling on the security agencies to wake up to their constitutional responsibilities. The situation has no doubt continued to attract harsh reactions from critical stakeholders in the country.
The President, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, condemned the attacks in strong terms, saying the Christian community was deeply worried over the killing of innocent citizens and the government’s seeming incapacitation in addressing the situation.
Oritsejafor called on Christians to observe one day national prayer to seek divine solution to the current security challenges in the country. In a statement in Abuja, Pastor Oritsejafor who decried the incessant genocide on innocent Nigerians said prayer remains the only answer to the insurgency in the country. He urged Christians to collaborate with their Muslim counterparts towards the development of the country.
Oritsejafor promised that the church will continue to sensitise members on the need to embrace peace and religious tolerance.
He further called on the government to adopt a new political will and approach in dealing with the menace so as to protect the lives and property of innocent Nigerians.
In his reaction to the recent blasts, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar condemned the attacks on places of worship, cautioning against reprisal attacks. The royal father urged the people to live together as one indivisible entity.
The head of the northern chapter of CAN, Elder Saidu Dogo said, “If care is not taken, it will reach a stage when security of lives and property cannot be guaranteed. Then Christians will be forced to defend themselves against attacks.
We are not calling on Christians to initiate attacks or revenge, but we are calling on them to be on the alert and protect themselves, their family and their household against attack”.
In a sermon delivered before the attacks on Sunday morning worship at Bayero University in April, the Bishop of Owo, Rt. Rev. James Oladunjoye had urged President Goodluck Jonathan to use the army to restore order. “Boko Haram is like a cobra, stroking its head to appease it would not work, as the snake would soon bite”, the bishop said.
In spite of President Goodluck Jonathan declaration of a state of emergency on December 31, 2011 in parts of four states hard hit by the violence, there has been no halt to the attacks. But the question now is, what is the responsibility of the joint military task force (JTF), the security agencies and police drafted to these states?
Are they sleeping on their duties or compromising on their jobs? Can a shadowy group of mindless individuals be bigger than a state? And what exactly does it take the government to put an end to these senseless killings of innocent citizens.
In his address to the nation on the Boko Haram insurgence, President Goodluck Jonathan described the incident as “unfortunate” and “an unwarranted affront on our collective safety and freedom”, adding that Boko Haram would “not be around forever. It will end one day.” He also said that Nigerians must stand as one to condemn them.
Analysts believe that the continued attacks on places of worship have once again brought to the fore the inability of the present administration to tackle the Boko Haram menace.
This rhetoric of government being on top of the situation must stop; government must begin to take action now
Courtesy of AllAfrica.com
iROKOtv, the “Netflix of Africa”, reaches 500,000 subscribers in less than six months
June 15, 2012 | 0 Comments
14 June 2012. iROKOtv, the “Netflix of Africa” and the continent’s first legal online source of Nollywood films, is delighted to reveal that it has recorded over 500,000 registered users in less than six months since its launch. The news comes just months after the company announced that it had secured $8m in funding from US-based hedge Tiger Global, early investors in Facebook.
Headquartered in Lagos, Nigeria and with offices in London and New York and a staff of almost 100, iROKOtv has been groundbreaking in bringing Nollywood to the African Diaspora, with viewers logging on from over 178 countries across the world. To date, over 9.3 million hours of Nollywood movies have been watched on irokotv.com.
Jason Njoku, CEO and Founder of iROKO Partners says: “What an incredible six months it has been for iROKOtv – 500,000 subscribers in under 6 months is an awesome feat for us. We are a relatively young start-up and are super excited to have built up such momentum in such a short space of time.
“The secret of our success to-date is pretty simple; we love what we do, we love Nollywood movies and so do our 500,000 registered subscribers. Content is king and we are unrivalled in what we can offer from our 5,000-strong movie library. The iROKOtv team uploads movies onto the site every single week, so our fans, who we know have a voracious appetite for all things Nollywood, have a constant stream of awesome content at their fingertips.
“Nollywood is a global phenomenon – our fans are scattered all over the world and had previously struggled to get hold of any movies. The iROKOtv platform enables them to watch classic and new films, on a safe, easy to use, beautifully designed site, whether they are on a computer, tablet or on their mobile phone – anywhere in the world. Nollywood has never been so accessible and this is only the beginning for us.”
iROKOtv’s largest markets are the US, UK, Canada and Germany – the site currently has more viewers in London than in Lagos. The West now has a reliable outlet to access Nollywood movies. However, as Africa comes online and broadband penetration surges, it is expected that the site will see considerable growth in traffic from across the continent, which will position iROKOtv as one of the leading sites for aggregating the African Diaspora.
As of 1 July 2012, iROKOtv is introducing a subscription service, where viewers will retain free access to the current catalogue of Nollywood films, but will also be able to watch brand new, exclusive Nollywood releases, uploaded weekly, for only $5 per month.
Launched in December 2011, iROKOtv is a subsidiary of iROKO Partners, Africa’s largest, legitimate distributor of Nigerian film and music entertainment with key partnerships with the likes of Facebook; iROKOtv viewers can login via their Facebook account, and is YouTube’s largest African partner. iROKO Partners is expected to increase its viewers to over 250 million in 2012 across its brands iROKOtv, iROKING (the “Spotify of Africa”), Nollywood Love and iROKtv, Africa’s answer to “E!”.
In April 2012 Tiger Global, a New York-based private equity and hedge fund run by an early investor in Facebook and Zynga, led two $4 million rounds of investment into iROKO Partners, in one of the largest ever fundraisings into a West African tech firm. The funding will continue to be used to build iROKOtv’s library and to continue working directly with Nollywood production houses to buy the higher prices for the online licenses to Nollywood films which enables them to better monetize their content and to reinvest in making more, higher quality productions.
In May 2012, iROKOtv announced that from 1 July 2012, subscribers across the world will have exclusive access to brand new and exclusive Nollywood releases, uploaded weekly for $5 per month and payable by SMS, PayPal or card.
For additional Information Contact
iROKO Partners email@example.com
Jessica Hope +44 203 176 2808
Pelham Bell Pottinger +44 20 7861 3925
Why Nigeria hates SA: Gloves off to be champion of Africa
June 8, 2012 | 0 Comments
By Charles Molele*
Competition over UN, AU jobs and economic rivalries are escalating tension between the powerhouses of Africa’s north and south, writes Charles Molele.
The diplomatic sabres have been rattled; the political fangs have been bared: the tensions between Africa’s powerhouse of the north, Nigeria, and its counterpart in the south, South Africa, have been escalating.
The main reasons are efforts by Abuja to obtain a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council and membership of the G20 group of advanced and industrialised economies. On the other hand, there are perceptions that Pretoria wants to occupy every powerful position in multilateral institutions.
These factors have forced Nigeria to go against South Africa’s attempts to replace Gabon’s Jean Ping with South African Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma for the powerful position of the African Union (AU) Commission chairperson, according to a senior government diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Several South African diplomats and the ministers of foreign affairs in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) are lobbying hard for Dlamini-Zuma to be elected during a re-run of the race slated for July in Lilongwe, Malawi.
But some of the diplomats, who were not mandated to talk to the press, said that Nigeria could spoil the party for South Africa.
They said Nigeria, the largest oil-producing country in Africa, was expected to support Ping, a former Gabonese foreign minister.
It would probably be joined by the Francophone countries of West Africa, which came under the banner of the Economic Community of West African States and the Economic Community of Central Africa.
Earlier this year, Dlamini-Zuma stood against Ping, but neither garnered the required majority to be elected.
Relations between South Africa and Nigeria deteriorated last year after South Africa backed incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo, who lost national elections, during the battle for control of Côte d’Ivoire.
Nigeria’s new administration under President Goodluck Jonathan has also been championing efforts to surpass the size of the South African economy and join the world’s 20 largest economies by 2020. South Africa is the only African member of the G20, and this does not sit well with the Nigerians.
Like Nigeria, South Africa also wants a permanent seat on the Security Council.
In recent months, Nigerians have been complaining about South Africa dominating aspects of their economy, especially in telecommunications. Recently, a South African company opened high-profile shopping centres in Nigeria and several South African banks are eyeing opportunities there.
According to a South African diplomat in the department of international relations and co-operation, Nigeria also hates the fact that many economically depressed African countries rush to South Africa whenever they need aid and donations, something that Nigeria cannot afford to provide. In the past two months, South Africa has given millions of dollars in aid and donations to Somalia ($100-million), Malawi ($35-million) and to drought-stricken countries in the Sahel region, such as Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad (a total of $100-million).
Immigration remains another source of tension between the two countries. The recent deportation of 125 Nigerians for not producing yellow fever vaccination certificates has made matters worse.
Said a South African diplomat: “The tension between the two countries is mainly about who is the most powerful on the continent economically, politically, even militarily.
“They [Nigerians] want to spite us because we have been getting senior positions and membership in multilateral institutions such as the Brics [Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa], Ibsa [India, Brazil, South Africa], the G20, the Non-Aligned Movement and the United Nations Security Council. Nigeria doesn’t like this. Nigeria also wanted to occupy these positions, but they do not have a stable democracy like ours, their economy is not as diverse as ours, and their financial institutions are not as highly rated as ours. Nigeria does not like this.
“Corruption is rampant in their country and terrorism is out of control. The tensions between Muslims and Christians are making it difficult for anyone to operate or conduct business there.”
Political analyst Zamikhaya Maseti said the relationship between the two countries had always been slightly fragile but remained cordial during the era of former presidents Thabo Mbeki and Olusegun Obasanjo.But, Maseti said, the Jonathan administration had repositioned the country as an economic powerhouse capable of playing a dominant role in African affairs.
“I support calls in diplomatic circles that South Africa should withdraw from this AU race because it is causing more harm than unity among African countries,” said Maseti.
“Nigeria believes that South Africa is holding many key positions in the multilateral institutions and should not be contesting for this … in terms of the so-called gentleman’s agreement, South Africa and Nigeria are not supposed to be contesting for these positions in the continental body.”
He added that the “mis-articulation” of the African agenda under President Jacob Zuma had also caused tension between South Africa and Nigeria and many other African countries.
“Many African countries will never forgive us for backing the Security Council resolution which called for a no-fly zone in Libya. That resolution will forever remain a black spot; every bomb that landed in Libya, killing dozens of women and children, did so with our blessing in the eyes of Africa. How do we expect them to trust us now?”
But a senior diplomat in the department dismissed suggestions that South Africa should withdraw from the AU race because of deepening divisions on the continent, and also said South Africa should not have to carry the blame for the UN resolution on Libya – it was an AU decision, and Nigeria and Gabon also voted for it.
“We are not going to withdraw,” the diplomat said. “The region [SADC] has no appetite to withdraw. They believe it’s their time and this is in keeping with the rotational principle of the AU.
“South Africa was approached by SADC to lead the AU Commission and they identified Dlamini-Zuma and we agreed.
“The so-called gentleman’s agreement does not exist. Following the stalemate at the AU summit in January, the Benin president, Thomas Yayi Boni, who is the current chair of the AU, asked about it and there was no answer.
“So this gentleman’s agreement thing does not exist.
“What everybody complained about was that the AU is weak; it is unresponsive to Africa’s problems; it takes time to act; and it’s unable to counter Western hegemony.”
Claude Kabemba, political analyst and an authority on Africa, said Nigeria was comfortable with Ping because he was from a small country and could be dictated to.
“If you have South Africa in the AU Commission, Nigeria is not going to do as it likes because South Africa is an influential country and Africa’s economic powerhouse,” said Kabemba. “That is why they are comfortable with Gabon or small countries in the position.
“It’s all about power relations between two powerful states on the continent. It’s also about who controls what and who is seen as leading the continent.”
Last week, the SADC extraordinary summit held in Luanda reaffirmed its support for Dlamini-Zuma and said: “There was a need to strengthen the AU in order to better position the continental body for the multitude of opportunities and challenges facing Africa.”
Victory for gender equality
In early May, the Pan African Business Forum, an umbrella body with a membership of 350 influential business people and professionals, also endorsed Dlamini-Zuma’s candidature at a press conference in Accra, Ghana.
The forum said her win would be a victory for gender equality and would give the continent a new impetus for economic development – it would be an important player in world affairs. “Dlamini-Zuma fits the bill perfectly for this all-important continental position,” the forum’s president, Prince Prosper Ladislas Agbesi, told the Ghanaian media.
“What is needed now is an AU chairperson who can not only serve as effective mediator and consensus builder among member states on a variety of issues but also serve to cut through the many vested interests, and point the continent in the right direction when making decisions in all those issues.
“This is where Dlamini-Zuma can be effective for the benefit of the AU continental body and, indeed, for the continent as a whole.”
Department of international relations spokesperson, Clayson Monyela, said: “Relations between South Africa and Nigeria are strong and cordial, both political and economic. In fact, the leadership of the Nigerian ruling party at the highest level is in South Africa this weekend to interact with our country’s leadership with a view to further consolidate the strong ties.”
Approached for comment, the Nigerian ambassador to South Africa, Sonni Yusuf, referred to a media statement he released after reports suggested that Nigeria would back Dlamini-Zuma for the AU post, in which he denied the suggestions.
The reports were based on ambiguous remarks made last month by Nigerian Vice-President Namadi Sambo after a meeting of the Nigeria-South Africa Binational Commission in Cape Town. He reportedly said that Nigeria would support South Africa for positions at multilateral institutions from time to time, whenever the need arose.
*Courtesy of Mail & Guardian South Africa
Nigeria celebrates first home-made warship
June 8, 2012 | 0 Comments
By Will Ross *
After nearly five years in the making, the Nigerian navy ship or NNS Andoni was launched with a colourful event.
At 31m (100ft) long, this is no giant of the seas, but the fact that it was designed and built in Nigeria, by Nigerian engineers, is a great source of pride.
“We are all happy and elated,” said Commodore SI Alade, one of Nigeria’s senior naval officers.
“This is the first time this kind of thing is happening in Nigeria and even in the sub region.”
Moments after stepping on board NNS Andoni, sailor FL Badmus said: “I feel on top of the world.
“I’m proud to have been picked by the naval authorities to serve on this ship.
“We hope this is the beginning of very good things to come and we thank God for it.”
The warship was named after the Andoni people of south-eastern Nigeria – and several chiefs travelled to Lagos to witness the launch – including his Royal Highness NL Ayuwu Iraron Ede-Obolo II, wearing a top hat, a sequin-adorned velvet gown and a brightly coloured necklace.
The ceremony also featured multi-faith prayers, with an imam asking God to “protect and preserve this ship from the dangers of the day and the violence of the enemy”, and a Christian praying: “May she sail with success like the Ark of Noah.”
The event had an interesting twist of symbolism for the guest of honour, Nigeria’s leader, Goodluck Jonathan.
He is from a family of canoe makers – and that he is now the president launching a warship is a sign of how far he has risen.
“This is the beginning of the transformation… and I believe in another 10 to 15 years, we can be thinking about starting a project to take Nigerians into the air,” President Jonathan said.
The NNS Andoni could be key in the fight against militants operating near Nigeria’s oil fields as well as the growing threat of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.
Piracy in Nigerian waters is on the increase and incidents are happening over a wider area, according to the International Maritime Bureau.
There were 10 piracy attacks off the 780km (485 miles) of Nigeria’s coastline during the first quarter this year – the same number reported for the whole of 2011.
“While the number of reported incidents in Nigeria is still less than Somalia… the level of violence against crew is dangerously high,” according to a recent IMB report.
The NNS Andoni is equipped with an advanced radar system and firepower.
“With a speed of up to 25 knots (46km/h), this can quickly go to intercept the pirates,” said Commanding Officer Adepegba standing on the bridge pointing out the ship’s three machine guns and the automatic grenade launcher.
The Nigerian navy reportedly wants to acquire 49 more vessels over the next 10 years. But how many will be home built?
Orders are already in – for three from a French shipbuilder, and six from Singapore.
President Jonathan recently approved the acquisition of two large patrol vessels from China Shipbuilding and Offshore International, a mainly state-owned company.
In an effort to boost local industry, one of the Chinese vessels is meant to be 70% built in Nigeria.
NNS Andoni was dwarfed when a 105m-long frigate steamed past during the ceremony – with all the officers cheering on deck.
NNS Thunder, a veteran of the Vietnam War, arrived at the beginning of the year, a gift from the US.
Eyebrows were raised when it was announced that the monthly fuel bill of the 45-year-old ship would be $1m (£650,000).
When this year’s navy’s $450m budget was discussed at the House of Assembly in January, one senator described the donated ships as hand-outs that could become liabilities rather than assets.
There were also calls for corruption to be plugged.
“Corruption has sucked the blood out of our system. So we have to depend on hand-outs,” one senator lamented.
NSS Andoni’s fuel bill will certainly be lower than NNS Thunder.
‘No indigenous touch’
After parading on the deck, the naval officers took photos of each other with mobile phones – clearly delighted with the new ship.
“It’s a great day. It’s taken over five years but it’s worth it,” said a smiling Kelechi, one of the engineers.
“We came up with the design, the expertise and about 60% of the materials were locally sourced. The engines, generators and navigation equipment came from outside.”
Nigeria is one of Africa’s biggest oil producers, but this has not so much helped as hampered the development of local industries because the country has relied so heavily on imported goods. As he launched NNS Andoni, President Jonathan lamented the decline of industries that had been strong not long after independence in 1960.
“We had Nigerian Airways, the Nigerian shipping line and a number of investments that were doing well. But because there was no indigenous touch, all these died,” the president said.
“We are told that some countries that were on par with us are now building aircraft, choppers and other things,” he said, adding that Nigeria had for a long time not embraced technology.
The president suggested sending the brightest students of engineering to the best universities in the world.
“Then let them come back and work in Nigeria because we cannot continue to be importing. We have a very large market and even what we consume alone is enough to support an industry.”
“We have this market, we must use it,” President Jonathan said – before laying the keel to mark the start of work on the second “Made in Nigeria” warship.
*Courtesy of BBC Africa
One Year of Nigeria’s Goodluck: Nigerian Democracy Is Stable and the Future Bright Says Jonathan
June 2, 2012 | 0 Comments
Today, I remember that day and the processes leading to it with profound gratitude to God Almighty and to all Nigerians who have worked very hard to enrich our journey from military dictatorship to inclusive democratic governance.
2. For the past 13 years, we have remained a stable democracy. We have together demonstrated that the government of the people is an ideal that the people of Nigeria cherish. We have our differences as individuals and as politicians, but we have shown great faith in democracy and its institutions. We have refused to be limited by our differences. Despite reservations about some of our institutions, we have refused to submit to despair. This achievement is a testament to the courage and optimism of the Nigerian people.
3. As we celebrate this year’s Democracy Day, I pay tribute to all the men and women who have made our democratic experience meaningful: the ordinary people who resisted military rule, and have remained resolute in their embrace of democracy; the army of Nigerian voters who, at every election season, troop out in large numbers to exercise their right of franchise; the change agents in civil society who have remained ever watchful and vigilant.
4. I pay special tribute also to all patriots who are the pillars of our collective journey, most especially, our armed forces who have steadfastly subordinated themselves to civil authority in the past 13 years. They have continued to demonstrate a great sense of professionalism. They have discharged their duties to the nation with honour and valour. In a sub-region that has witnessed instances of political instability, authored by restless soldiers, the Nigerian Armed Forces have remained professional in their support of democracy.
5. When General Abdusalami Abubakar handed over the baton of authority to President Olusegun Obasanjo, in 1999, it was a turning point for Nigeria. We did not arrive at that turning point by accident. Many Nigerians laid down their lives for the transition to democracy to occur. Some were jailed. Media houses were attacked and shut down. But the people’s resolve was firm and unshakeable. This is what we remember. This is what we celebrate. On this day, I recall especially the martyrdom of Chief M. K. O. Abiola, whose presumed victory in the 1993 Presidential election, and death, while in custody, proved to be the catalyst for the people’s pro-democracy uprising. The greatest tribute that we can pay to him, and other departed heroes of Nigeria’s democracy, is to ensure that we continue to sustain and consolidate our democratic institutions and processes, and keep Hope alive.
6. Let us individually and collectively, continue to keep the spirit of this day alive. No task is more important. We must continue to do well as a people and as a democracy. We must remember where we are coming from, so we can appreciate how far we have travelled.
7. When I assumed office as Acting President, in 2010, on account of the health challenges suffered by late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, there was so much anxiety in the land. The tone of public debate was febrile. Some persons sought to use the situation in the country to sow the seeds of discord. My primary task at that time was to do all that was humanly possible to ensure stability within the polity. With the support and commitment of patriotic Nigerians from all walks of life, and the grace of the Almighty God, we were able to do so.
8. On May 6, 2010, following President Yar’Adua’s death, I assumed office as substantive President. I subsequently presented myself as a candidate for the 2011 Presidential elections, with a promise that under my watch, the elections would be free, fair and credible. We kept faith with that promise. On May 29, 2011, I was sworn in as President, the fifth elected leader of Nigeria since independence. The success of the 2011 elections and the international acclaim that it generated was due to your patriotic zeal and commitment. I will like to seize this opportunity to thank all patriotic Nigerians who stood by us, and have remained unwavering in their support.
These Nigerians understand one thing: that we all have a duty to protect and promote our country, and that this country belongs to all of us. Electoral contest is about values. We must not lose sight of those values that strengthen us as a people. As long as I am President, I will do my utmost to continue to work hard in pursuit of the common good.
9. There are challenges, yes, but we are working hard to address those challenges. And, by God’s grace, we will succeed. My confidence is bolstered by the results which we have achieved in different sectors within the last twelve months.
10. Our democracy is stable. Its foundation is strong and firm. Its future is bright. Last year, I had spoken about the policy of “one man one vote, one woman, one vote, one youth, one vote”. I am glad to see that the Nigerian people in all elections have continued to respect the principle of fair play. Since this administration came into office, we have gone to great lengths to strengthen our democratic institutions, particularly the Independent National Electoral Commission. There are still persons who believe that elections should be violent and unhealthy, but they are in the minority. They will not derail our democracy because the majority of Nigerians will not allow them to do so.
11. Following the spate of violence, in some parts of the country, after the 2011 elections, our administration set up a committee on post-election violence to among other things, investigate the causes and nature of electoral violence and make appropriate recommendations. We will be guided by the White Paper, on that committee’s report, in dealing more firmly with electoral violence and fraud. This will include the establishment of Electoral Offences Tribunals to deal speedily with established cases of electoral violence. We cannot afford to treat the success we have recorded with our democratic experience with levity. Electoral reform is central to our administration’s transformation agenda. I urge all political parties to embrace this reform.
12. Our successful elections, last year, opened new vistas for Nigeria’s foreign policy. More than ever before, Nigeria’s achievements have generated a lot of international goodwill and recognition. We have continued to build on this by further showing leadership in the sub-region and the African continent. Under my watch as Chairman of the sub-regional body, ECOWAS, and subsequently, Nigeria was in the forefront of the efforts to ensure democratic stability in Niger, Mali, Guinea Bissau, and particularly at a critical moment in Cote d’Ivoire. Our foreign policy process has proven to be dynamic and pro-active. Nigeria’s place is secure among many friends in the comity of nations. We are building on that friendship to open up opportunities for foreign investments in the Nigerian economy and to provide necessary support for the vibrant community of Nigerians in the Diaspora.
13. We will continue to work hard, to turn domestic successes into a source of motivation for greater achievements in the international arena. We are fully aware that it is only when our people are happy and confident that they would be in a good position to walk tall in relating with others.
14. Today, I want to talk about what we are doing and what we have done. I want to reassure you that we are making progress. But we can also do a lot more. We must. And we will.
15. Our economic outlook is positive. When I assumed office last year, there were still fears about the impact of the global economic recession, and implications for investments. Many Nigerians were worried about the growing rate of unemployment. In order to set Nigeria on a sound and sustainable path toward economic growth, this administration unveiled a set of priority policies, programmes, and projects encapsulated in the Transformation Agenda. These programmes and policies are aimed at consolidating our budget, fostering job creation, engendering private sector-led inclusive growth, and creating an enabling environment for businesses to thrive for the ultimate betterment of the lives of Nigerians.
16. Today, progress has been made. The country’s credit rating is positive, in contrast with many nations being downgraded. In2011, our economy grew by 7.45%. As at mid-May 2012, our foreign exchange reserves had risen to $37.02 billion, the highest level in 21 months. We have stabilized and improved our fiscal regime. We brought the fiscal deficit down to 2. 85% of GDP from 2.9% in 2011. We reduced recurrent expenditures from 74% to 71% and reduced domestic borrowing from N852 billion in 2011 to N744 billion in 2012. We cut out over N100 billion of non-essential expenditure and increased our internally generated revenue from N200 billion to N467 billion.
17. For the first time in over a decade, we now have a draft Trade Policy which provides a multi-dimensional framework to boost our trade regime and facilitate the inflow of investments. We have generated over N6. 6 trillion worth of investment commitments. The total value of our trade is also much higher than the value estimated the previous year due to deliberate government policies. To facilitate the ease of doing business in Nigeria, we have a policy in place to make visa procurement easier for foreign investors, with safeguards to prevent abuse.
18. The goal of our administration is to ensure that every Nigerian can find gainful employment. Given my dissatisfaction with the prevailing unemployment situation in the country, our administration has embarked on an ambitious strategy of creating jobs and job-creators through the launch of several initiatives mainly targeted at the youths and women.
19. In October 2011, we launched the Youth Enterprise with Innovation in Nigeria Programme, designed to encourage entrepreneurship and provide grants for small and medium scale enterprises. Over 1, 200 Nigerian youths have benefitted from this initiative. We have also launched the Public Works Women and Youth Empowerment Programme, which is designed to employ 370,000 youths per annum, with 30% of the jobs specially reserved for women. Let me make it clear here that our You WIN programme is designed to nurture and mentor young entrepreneurs to become major players, employers and wealth creators in business.
20. We are gradually reducing the footprints of government in business activities through privatization, liberalization and deregulation based on our recognition that the private sector should be the engine of growth in our economy. To ensure that the private sector is well positioned for this task, our administration has embarked on key structural reforms in the Power Sector and at the Ports.
21. To improve reliable power supply, our administration is judiciously implementing the Power Sector Roadmap, which is at an advanced stage, to fully privatize power generation and distribution while reducing the cost of electricity to rural households and the urban poor.
22. The commitment of this Administration to the provision of regular and uninterrupted power supply remains strong and unwavering. We all agree that adequate and regular power supply will be the significant trigger to enhance this nation’s productive capacity and accelerate growth. It is for this reason that I remain optimistic that the reforms we have initiated, the decisions we have taken so far and the plans we intend to faithfully prosecute will yield the desired results.
23. To underline this commitment, three weeks ago, I convened a special session on Power and gave specific instructions on the fast tracking of gas production and delivery to ensure improved availability of power. I also directed that the power sector reforms must continue on schedule and that privatization of the sector must be completed according to plan.
24. Our approach is two-pronged: First, is the immediate repair of power plants, as well as transmission and distribution infrastructure in the short term. The second is the building of institutions and the provision of enablers to attract investors. We have revived and are accelerating the completion of the National Integrated Power Projects. We are also building about 4000km of transmission lines and hundreds of sub stations. We have completed the design for the construction of both Mambilla and Zungeru Hydro power plants which will add about 3, 000 MW to the national grid.
25. By mid 2010, the national power output was about 2, 800 MW. By the end of 2011, we reached a peak of more than 4, 000 MW. A National Gas Emergency Plan has also been launched to redress the problem of gas supply which are essentially due to poor planning.
26. For long-term power availability, we have strengthened a number of key institutions such as the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, the Bulk Trader, the National Power Training Institute of Nigeria, and others. We are also working with the World Bank to provide guarantees for gas and power providers. The signing of MOUs with World Leaders in power equipment – General Electric of USA and Siemens of Germany as well as US and China Exim Banks for financial investment, is a clear indication of the level of confidence which the world investment community has in our power sector road map.
27. In addition, the privatization programme has attracted expression of interest from 131 companies across the globe. Our decision to bring in the private sector is clearly intended to achieve our target of generating and distributing sufficient and reliable power within the shortest time possible. With the measures we have put in place, we will surely achieve success in transforming the power sector.
28. We have also focused our efforts on Ports and Customs reforms to ensure efficiency in the handling of ports and port-related businesses. Our administration has streamlined bureaucratic activities at the Ports by reducing the number of agencies from 14 to 7. We have also reduced the time for the clearance of goods from about a month, to seven days, with the long-term objective of ensuring that cargoes are cleared within 48 hours in line with international best practice. In the meantime, our ports, for the first time, now open for business for 24 hours.
29. In the Oil and Gas Sector, our Administration has charted a new course that will ensure enduring transparency and accountability. We are re-drafting the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) to ensure it meets the aspirations of all Stakeholders given the current realities and future expectations in the global energy landscape. Work on the PIB will be concluded in June 2012 and formally submitted to the National Assembly. Additionally, Special Task Forces dealing with Governance and Control, Petroleum Revenue and National refineries are finalizing their work to ensure probity across the oil and gas sector, and self-sufficiency in refined petroleum products.
30. In the Downstream Sector, the Nigerian Content Development Act, since inception in 2010, has boosted the local production of line pipes, in-country fabrication tonnage and engineering support services. As a result, retained in-country spend has grown from approximately US $1bn to a current estimate of US$4bn, and over US$3 billion Foreign Direct Investment has been brought in for upgrading and building new yards, altogether generating over 120,000 direct and indirect jobs.
31. Capacity utilization of existing domestic refineries has greatly improved from 30 to 60 percent. We have commenced the phased plan to return the refineries to 90 percent capacity utilization with the expected completion of the rehabilitation of Port Harcourt refinery by the end of 2012, to be followed by Warri and Kaduna refineries in 2013.
32. In the Upstream Sector, the April 2012 commissioning of the Usan Deep Offshore Field has increased crude oil production capacity by 180 thousand barrels per day. Also,Government continues to support the National Oil Company, NPDC, by assigning 55% equity in 8 divested blocks which has resulted in increase in reserves from 350 million barrels to 2.1 billion barrels and 160, 000 barrels of production. We have also made significant progress in gas infrastructure development, investing close toUS$1bn for the construction of some 1000km of pipelines, gas supply growth and stimulation of gas industrialization. Between now and the third quarter of 2013, Final Investment Decisions (FIDs) will be made on gas-based industries, such as the petrochemicals and fertilizer plants at Koko, the Central Processing Units(CPF) in Obiafu/Obrikom, and the gas growth projects. Also, the sum of N11 billion is provided in the 2012 Budget for Hydro-Carbon exploration in the Lake Chad Basin.
33. The Gas Revolution initiative will fully support and sustain domestic power, whilst creating Africa’s largest gas based industrial park, which on completion will underpin the creation of over a million jobs and attract over US$16 billion in Foreign Direct Investment. To protect the gains of these initiatives for all Nigerians, we are aggressively addressing the increasing incidents of crude oil theft and other criminal activities in the sector.
34. As a deliberate move, our goal is to transform Nigeria from a mono-modal economy, to a diversified one. The sector that we are focusing onto diversify our economy – and one in which Nigeria has huge comparative advantage – is the agriculture sector. Agriculture accounts for about 40% of our GDP and over 70% of all employment. Increases in agricultural productivity will drive down rural poverty and revive our rural economy.
35. In this regard, we are aggressively pursuing an agricultural transformation agenda. Agriculture is no longer a development programme. We are now treating agriculture as a business, one that can generate wealth and create jobs for millions of our youths.
36. We have implemented major reforms in the sector, notably in the fertilizer sub-sector. We have ended the practice of Federal Government procurement and distribution of fertilizers. This we did because only 11% of farmers get the fertilizers that are bought and distributed by government. The old system encouraged rent seekers to collude and deprive farmers of access to fertilizers, while some of the fertilizers ended up with political farmers and in neighbouring countries.
37. Now, the procurement and commercialization of fertilizers and seeds have been fully deregulated to the private sector. We have ended the culture of corruption in fertilizer procurement. We must also end the era of food imports. Nigeria spends over 10 billion dollars every year importing wheat, rice, sugar and fish alone. This is unacceptable.
38. Our agricultural transformation agenda is directed at promoting local production, substituting for imported foods, and adding value to our locally produced crops. We are recording successes already. Government’s policy to ensure rice self-sufficiency by 2015 is already paying off. New rice mills are being established by the private sector to mill locally produced rice. Ebony Agro Industries located in Ikwo Local Government Area of Ebonyi State has rolled out its high quality parboiled rice. In Kano, Umza rice mill has taken off and can hardly meet demand, while in Benue State Ashi rice has hit the market. Consumers are buying more of Abakaliki and Ofada rice too.
39. To further accelerate the local production and milling of high quality rice, government is facilitating the import and installation of 100 new large scale integrated rice mills across the country. This will allow Nigeria, for the first time in its history, to have the capacity to mill all of the rice that we consume.
40. Our cassava policy is working, as we accelerate the pace ofutilization of cassava to create markets for millions of our farmers. Our goal is a bold one: we will make Nigeria, which is the largest producer of cassava in the world, to also become the largest processor of high value cassava products in the world.
41. To further encourage cassava utilization and value-added products, government will support corporate bakers and master bakers across the country to use high quality cassava flour for baking. Last year I announced an increase in tariff and levy on wheat.
To encourage the cassava flour inclusion policy, I now direct that part of the levy and tariff on wheat be set aside to support the promotion of high quality cassava flour and composite cassava bread. This will include support for needed enzymes, technical training and equipment for corporate bakers and master bakers, as well as accelerated cassava production.
42. We have also secured markets for cassava outside Nigeria, and for the first time ever, Nigeria will export this year 1 million metric tons of dried cassava chips to China. This will earn Nigeria 136 million US dollars in foreign exchange. Last week we also successfully started the commercial use of feed grade cassava grits, produced locally, for use in our poultry industry.
43. We are reviving our lost glory in cocoa, with massive distribution of 3.6 million pods of high-yielding cocoa varieties for farmers all across the cocoa growing states of the country. The pods will be provided free of charge. We are reviving cotton production in the North, as well. I have directed that all seeds for cotton should be provided, free of charge, to all cotton farmers.
44. Let me reiterate my personal passion and commitment to driving the agricultural transformation for Nigeria. The prosperity of Nigeria must start with improving the living standards of our farmers, and revitalizing rural economies across the nation. The newly inaugurated Agricultural Transformation Implementation Council, which I personally Chair, will further drive our continued revolution of the sector. Our goal is to add 20 million metric tons of food to our domestic food supply by 2015 and create 3.5 million jobs. To achieve this, the appropriate infrastructure to support all-year round farming through irrigation is being rehabilitated and developed across the country.
45. We must use our population to create markets for what we produce. We must grow local, buy local and eat local. To promote this, I have directed that all official functions of government serve local foods, especially our local rice and cassava bread and other foods. In the State House, I am faithfully keeping to my promise of eating cassava bread and local rice.
46. Our administration is committed to the rapid and beneficial development of our country’s Minerals and metals potential. In the last year, we recorded remarkable achievements in Mines and Steel Development. We increased the number of investors in the mining sector due to the transparent manner in which titles are now issued on a “first come-first served and use it or lose it basis.”
A total of 2,476 active mineral titles were issued compared to 666 titles issued out in the previous year, thereby reducing, significantly, illegal mining activities. About 350, 000 additional jobs were created, arising from the activities of newly registered operators. We have initiated a programme to support private steel production outfits. This has resulted in an increase in production figures for steel and other metals to over 1 million tonnes.
47. It is our collective desire as Nigerians to improve the standard of education. We are particularly aggressive in addressing this challenge. As a former school teacher, I know that it is not enough to create jobs; we must develop human capacity, and train a generation of Nigerian children with better competencies and skills. This will grant them the edge that they require to compete in a skills-driven global economy, and by extension, strengthen our national competitiveness index.
48. I want every Nigerian child to have an opportunity to receive quality education and acquire useful skills. We are reforming the education sector from basic to tertiary level. The Federal Government recently launched the Almajiri Education Programme to reduce the number of out-of-school children which currently stands at about 9 million. Similar programmes will soon be introduced in various parts of the country. At the tertiary level, it is the policy of this administration that every State will have a Federal University.
49. To this end, we have established within the last year, nine (9) new Federal Universities and licensed nine (9) new private universities, bringing the total number of universities in the country to 124. Even with this, there is still the challenge of getting adequate admission space for prospective undergraduates. While we are addressing this, the Federal Government is also conscious of the fact that our universities need to be better equipped, particularly with well trained teachers. Government is, therefore, working on a programme to provide scholarships for Nigerians who are interested in academics, to enable them obtain their Doctorate degrees within and outside the country.
50. In addition, the Federal Government has launched a Special Presidential Scholarship Scheme for our best and brightest brains. We are selecting the best out of our First Class graduates in various disciplines, especially engineering and science. They will be sent for post-graduate studies in the best universities in the world, with the expectation that this will lay the foundation for a desirable scientific and technological revolution that will take Nigeria into Space in the not too distant future.
51. One of the first steps taken by this administration was the creation of a Ministry of Communications Technology. Its mandate includes the design of programmes and initiatives to deploy ICT as a driver of sustainable growth and the training of skilled manpower. For our country to remain relevant, we need to adequately educate our people, as it is through education that we can turn our people into assets that can help Nigeria compete globally, and create jobs in the new knowledge economy.
52. By the same token, the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs is providing training opportunities for the youths in the Niger Delta. In the past year, a total of 704 youths have been sent for training, abroad and locally, in various fields of endeavour, including agriculture, petroleum engineering, commerce, tourism, and maritime studies. Nine skills centres are being built, one in each of the nine states of the Niger Delta; three of them will be completed this year.
53. An efficient and affordable public transport system remains a priority of this Administration. Our transformation agenda in the road sector which seeks to deliver better and safer roads to Nigerians, as well as to link the six geo-political zones in the country with dual carriageways, is very much on course. There has been increased construction activities in the ongoing dualisation of Abuja–Abaji–Lokoja Road, Kano–Potiskum–Maiduguri Road; the Benin–Ore–Shagamu Expressway; the Onitsha–Enugu Expressway; and the construction of the Loko–Oweto bridge, across River Benue.
54. Work has been slow on the East-West road due to budgetary constraints, but government will discharge all liabilities to contractors before the end of June, and funds for the remaining part of the year, will be provided to accelerate the pace of work. In other parts of the country, about 21 other road projects are in different stages of completion. These include the Yola–Numan road, Aba–Owerri road, Owerri–Onitsha expressway, Oyo–Ogbomosho old road, and the Gombe-Potiskum road. Many others are at different stages of completion.
55. Government is also currently rehabilitating about 3,000 kms out of the3,505 km existing narrow gauge rail lines across the country. The Lagos-Kano corridor will be completed this year, while the Port Harcourt-Maiduguri corridor, which has equally commenced, will be completed by the end of2013. We have also commenced the construction of the Abuja–Kaduna segment of the Lagos–Kano standard gauge rail lines, while the Lagos–Ibadan segment will be awarded this year. The Itakpe–Ajaokuta–Warri standard gauge rail line is nearing completion with the entire tracks completely laid.
56. To enhance sustainability in the rail sector, this Administration has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with General Electric (GE) to establish a locomotive assembly plant in the country. Our goal is to make Nigeria a major hub in West and Central Africa.
57. Within the last 12 months, we completed the capital dredging of the Lower River Niger from Warri (Delta State) to Baro (Niger State) to boost our inland water transportation. This year, work will commence on the dredging of the River Benue in addition to the construction of River Ports at Baro (Niger State), Oguta (Imo State), and Jamata/Lokoja, (Kogi State). The Onitsha River Port in Anambra State, equipped with modern cargo handling equipment, has been completed and I shall be commissioning the project in the next few weeks.
58. The Aviation sector remains pivotal to our economic growth. Within the last year, we have developed a road map for the restoration of decaying facilities and infrastructure, some of which had not been attended to since they were first constructed over 30 years ago. Currently, we are renovating airports across the country and have begun the development of four new international terminals at Lagos, Port Harcourt, Kano and Abuja. We have also reviewed our Bilateral Air Service Agreements to ensure improved service delivery, and more customer-friendly processes. We are working to ensure that within the life of this Administration, the aviation sector in Nigeria will be transformed into a world class and self-sustaining provider of safe, secure and comfortable air transportation.
59. Globally, the role of women in governance has assumed great significance. In Nigeria, it is also widely acknowledged that women who constitute about half of the Nigerian population are great and invaluable assets, in both the public and private spheres. On our part, we have demonstrated serious commitment in further empowering women and projecting their role in public life. Out of the 42 members of the Federal Executive Council, 13 are women, heading major Ministries of Government.
60. Last week, I appointed the first female Chairman of the Federal Civil Service Commission. In the Armed Forces, female cadets have been admitted into the prestigious Nigerian Defence Academy, an institution that was hitherto an exclusive preserve of men. The first set will graduate in 2016. This year, we reached a significant milestone as the Nigerian Air Force produced the first Nigerian female combatant pilot. Our administration will continue to empower women and the girl-child as a focal point of our Transformation Agenda.
61. More than anything else, health matters. We are upgrading the country’s tertiary health facilities to bring them up to international standards. We have increased funding for health-related MDGs. We are also committed to reducing maternal and infant mortality, and to eradicating polio completely by 2014.
62. I want to reassure all Nigerians that this administration remains committed to waging a sustained battle against the menace of corruption. In the last one year, we have taken specific steps to reduce opportunities and avenues for corruption, and to strengthen the capacity and integrity of our institutions. For example, our ports reform programme has reduced the number of agencies at the ports which hitherto frustrated the speedy clearance of goods at the ports. We have also cleared the stretch of trailers and lorries blocking the Apapa Expressway. We have put an end to the fertilizer and tractor scam that once dominated the agricultural sector. Our review of the pension payment system has also blown the whistle on corrupt practices which are now being addressed.
63. Within the last one year, we set up a committee to identify leakages and waste in the Ministries, Departments and Agencies. I am confident that the implementation of the recommendations of that committee will help to eliminate corruption channels within the system, and improve the efficiency of the public service. In January, we announced a policy of deregulation in the downstream sector, but this was misunderstood by naysayers and reduced narrowly to a fuel subsidy removal initiative, whereas the policy was designed to completely eliminate the grand corruption in the downstream sector, and create the necessary incentives for private sector investment.
64. We have strengthened the leadership of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC). Both agencies are being re-positioned for more effective service delivery. We will continue to strengthen the law enforcement and anti-corruption agencies for optimal performance. We will also need the support of our courts. The courts have to do more.
65. Terrorism, a new menace, totally alien to our way of life and culture, has reared its head and is posing a serious challenge. My thoughts and prayers go to the victims of the terrorist attacks, and their families.
66. As President, it is my solemn duty to defend the Constitution of this country. That includes the obligation to protect life and property. We are doing everything possible to check the menace of terrorism. In this regard, we are determined to review some of the existing laws, to further strengthen the national counter-terrorism strategy. Coordinated joint action among our security agencies has now assumed greater importance. We have developed a new security architecture to strengthen the security environment.
67. I wish to reassure every Nigerian that we will confront this threat against our collective peace and security, and bring the perpetrators to justice. We will confront the few misguided persons who falsely believe, that through violence, they can impose their agenda of hate and division on this nation of good people. We must confront all those who think they can derail us by engaging in indiscriminate violence and mass murder, perpetrated in places of worship, in markets and public places, against the media, and security personnel. Nigeria is a nation of resilient people. We will never yield to the forces of darkness. Nigeria will never, ever, disintegrate.
68. Let me end this address at the point where I began. What matters most to all of us, is Nigeria. It is what binds us together. We have a duty to be loyal to our country. If we believe this to be a sacred obligation, it will not matter whether we are Christians or Muslims, or politicians, irrespective of political parties or divide. It really will not matter whether we are civil society agents, social activists or union leaders. What matters is Nigeria. This nation exists because we are one. We must, therefore, remain as one family, and work together to defend our country.
69. Within two years, it would be exactly 100 years since the Northern and Southern protectorates were amalgamated and Nigeria was born. We need a lot more introspection, even as we look forward. We must take steps to heal the wounds of the past and work together, as a people with a shared destiny under one flag. We must strengthen our collective memory, draw strength from our history, and build bridges of unity to take our country to greater heights.
70. This is what we should do. And we must. As a starting point, we must draw strength from our history and work to ensure that the labour of our heroes past is not in vain. It is partly for this and other reasons, that I have directed, as part of the activities marking today’s Democracy Day, that all due processes should be initiated for the building of a Presidential Museum in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory. This Museum will document the lives and times of Nigeria’s Presidents and Heads of Government since 1960, and remind us, by extension, of the high points of our national history.
71. It is also in this regard that the Federal Government has decided that late Chief M.K.O. Abiola be honoured,for making the ultimate sacrifice in the pursuit of justice and truth. Destiny and circumstances conspired to place upon his shoulders a historic burden, and he rose to the occasion with character and courage. He deserves recognition for his martyrdom, and public-spiritedness and for being the man of history that he was. We need in our land, more men and women who will stand up to defend their beliefs, and whose example will further enrich our democracy. After very careful consideration, and in honour of Chief M.K.O. Abiola’s accomplishments and heroism, on this Democracy Day, the University of Lagos, is renamed by the Federal Government of Nigeria, Moshood Abiola University, Lagos. The Federal Government will also establish an Institute of Democratic Studies and Governance in the University.
* NATIONAL ADDRESS BY PRESIDENT GOODLUCK EBELE JONATHAN, GCFR, ON DEMOCRACY DAY, MAY 29, 2012
THE CONVICTION OF CHARLES TAYLOR: THE SHAME OF AFRICA.
May 12, 2012 | 0 Comments
By Chief Charles. A. Taku*
Writing in the Virginia Journal of International Law, (volume 48-Number 3-Spring 2008 at page 543) Professor Iontcheva Turner stated that “the legal and political conceptions of international criminal trials are ideal types. To some degree, all law is political….. Even at trials which are not exclusively political, there are instances in which political and adjudicative purposes clash and one must be prioritized above the other”. This statement of fact aptly
describes the humiliating choices that inform the disproportionate focus of International Tribunals and Courts on Africa. The just concluded trial and conviction of Charles Ghankay Taylor falls squarely within this perspective.
Charles Ghankay Taylor was arrested in Nigeria on the 29 March 2006 and transferred to the Special Court for Sierra Leone. He made his initial appearance on the 3rd of April 2012. I was the first lawyer that Professor Vincent Nmehielle the then Principal Defender at the Special Court contacted to act as his duty counsel during his initial appearance. It was not possible for me to play that role because I was then the lead counsel for Major Morris Kallon. Morris Kallon was the indicted deputy leader of the Revolutionary United Front for Sierra Leone (RUF) who against the overwhelming opinion of most of the RUF combatants, accepted on the recommendation of regional ECOWAS leaders, to join Issa Sesay the interim leader of the Movement on the incarceration of Foday Sankoh to sign the Lome Peace Accord.
It is significant to note that the RUF was never defeated in the battle field after ten years of combat pitting them with a combined force of ECOMOG, UNAMSIL, Soldiers of the Sierra Leone Army, and Executive Outcomes Mercenaries from South Africa, the ULIMO rebel forces from Liberia and substantial Military support from Britain. It is also significant to note that the Sierra Leone war was brought to an end through substantial co-operation from Charles Taylor who on becoming the President of Liberia convinced the RUF to lay down arms and embrace the peace process. It was therefore, through the courage and good will of Charles Taylor, Morris Kallon and Isa Sesay that the Lome Peace Accord was negotiated and signed. That accord reserved the position of Vice President of Sierra Leone for Foday Sankoh the RUF leader and all the combatants who took part in the conflict were granted a general amnesty. A series of betrayals by the UN Personal Representative, President Tejan Kabbah and some regional leaders like President Obasanjo of Nigeria, prevented the amnesty clauses in the Lome Peace Accord as well as the positions reserved for Foday Sankoh and the RUF from been implemented. This treacherous position was endorsed by the Special Court for Sierra Leone; a hybrid International Court whose mandate was to bring justice and reconciliation to Sierra Leone. Because of this, the execution of its mandate is adjudged by many observers to be mitigated.
There can therefore, be no gainsaying that the trial and conviction of Charles Taylor like that of Isa Sesay and Morris Kallon , architects of the Lome Peace Accord that brought peace and stability in Sierra Leone and the sub region in total disregard of the Lome Peace Accord and the amnesty it granted is an act of betrayal that justifies the criticism often made, that the exercise of international justice on the African continent against Africans has other motivations that are inconsistent with the interests of the people it purports to serve. It is further safe to state that the setting up of the Special Court for Sierra Leone and the trial and conviction of Charles Taylor like that of Morris Kallon and Isa Sesay does not contribute to peace and security in the sub region. Rather, it is the combined effect of the implementation of the amnesty clause in the Lome Peace Accord at national level by both President Tejan Kabbah shortly before the General elections when it was obvious to him that his chosen candidate Solomon Barewa ( Solo B) of the Sierra Leone Peoples, Party ( SLPP) was about to lose and President Alex Koromah shortly on assuming office in releasing from Pendemba Road Maximum Security Prison thousands of combatants that brought peace to Sierra Leone. The integration of some these combatants into the National Army and Police and the implementation of the recommendation of the widely acclaimed Peace and Reconciliation Commission that was organized after the war, helped in no small way in the national healing that brought peace to the country.
The Special Court for Sierra Leone despite these convictions remains largely unpopular among a large component of the Sierra Leonean population who are alarmed about the colossal sums deployed to secure the conviction of persons they perceived as bringing about the peace and stability they enjoy. Added to their disillusionment is the fact that Chief Hinga Norman the widely revered former Vice Minister of Defence who fought tenaciously against the rebels when President Tejan Kabbah fled to Guinea and Foday Sankoh whose ideology in “Foot Paths to
Democracy” remained popular among the rural and urban poor and students died in prison in circumstances which they can never totally come to terms with. For a majority of Sierra Leoneans, the amount of money spent in conducting these trials should have been used to solve the myriad of development problems that the country is facing as well as to alleviate the pain and suffering of the victims of the unfortunate conflict, most of who still live in abject penury.
The conviction of Charles Taylor for the alleged assistance provided to the RUF for Sierra Leone ignores the fact that the indictment against the leaders of the RUF alleged that they received assistance from a number of regional leaders each with a personal agenda in fueling the conflict that had little or nothing to do with diamonds as alleged in the indictments and found in the judgment. These included Blaise Campaore of Burkina Faso and Colonel Khadafi of Lybia. In this regard, it is informative to know that several conflicts that have afflicted the sub region and beyond were largely inspired by the Liberian and Sierra Leonean conflicts. In the Ivory Coast, some of the combatants that fought or who are fighting in those conflicts were trained or took part in these conflicts.
In the above regard, one can safely state that the ghost of the Sierra Leonean war and the traitorous arrest, indictment and trial of Charles Taylor and the RUF leaders despite the Lome Peace Accord significantly influenced the tactical and strategic decisions that Alasane Ouatarra and Blaise Campoare made during the proxy war to control the soul of Cote D’Ivoire. This was largely responsible for the fact that no peace accord between the belligerents would have worked as they preferred to fight and win at all costs; even it meant mortgaging the sovereignty of the country for that purpose. For them and many more in the continent pointing to the Lome Peace Accord, they surmised that it is a pure waste of precious time to rely on Peace Accords which may not be worth the pieces 0f paper on which they are written and signed.
The trial of Charles Taylor like several ones pending before the ICC was not intended to be in the interest of Africa; let alone Sierra Leone. A primary focus of the initial investigation that led to the creation of the Special Court conducted by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had nothing to do about diamonds or war crimes. Like the case of Saddam Hussien, in which US intervention was largely informed by reliance on forgeries concocted by an exiled political opponent, the initial investigations into the Sierra Leonean Case were initiated based on false information provided to the US authorities that Morris Kallon, Isa Sesay and Charles Taylor had links to Al Qaida which was alleged to have assisted them in their war efforts. When the investigations found no such links, a justification for the investigations had to be found, hence the creation of the Special Court to try these individuals, their role and contribution in the peace process notwithstanding.
The trial and conviction of Charles Taylor has been hailed by supporters of the International Criminal Court and boasted its focus on Africa. Although it deprives Moreno Ocampo the ICC Prosecutor the lime light in his selective crusade to focus prosecutions entirely on the African continent in ways which wrongly portray the continent as the reservoir of international criminality, it has nevertheless provided justification for such humiliating spotlight on this troubled continent.
But the trial and conviction of Charles Taylor comes at a price to international justice in particular and international law in general. A close study of the judgments delivered by the Special Court in the four trials that that it
conducted, portray a failed attempt to develop and fit the facts and the law into varying legal principles and jurisprudence developed in other International Tribunals in the most unprincipled and incoherent manners imaginable. For example, the most ridiculous extension by the Special Court on the RUF of the basic form of criminal liability of Joint Criminal Enterprise introduced into International Criminal Law as a form of individual criminal responsibility in the Tadic Case at the ICTY in which criminal intent ( the mens rea) was no longer found to be an element of individual criminal responsibility was ignored or abandoned in the Taylor Judgment, although the pleadings, the facts, the law and forms of criminal liability were very similar. Taylor thus was convicted on secondary forms of criminal liability, namely aiding and abating making its ridiculous for anyone to request and impose a sentence against him that surpassed that inflicted on primary perpetrators.
In Liberia, the prospects of the conviction of Charles Taylor must have played a role in President Ellen Sirleaf denting the democratic profile she brought to office in resorting to autocratic methods of retaining power in the last election. Her complicity in rendering nugatory the accords that saw Taylor leave power for Nigeria in acceding to pressure from the United States to request Nigeria to hand Charles Taylor to be prosecuted may again lead her to
attempt to influence the poll at the end of her mandate to favour a candidate who will provide her the type of protection that will shield her from Prosecution for the support she admitted providing Charles Taylor during the guerrilla war he waged inside Liberia and then betraying him thereafter. In this regard, the reasons for which she requested a trial in The Hague far from Liberia may not be wished away with the conviction and possible imprisonment of Charles Taylor in England. To her surprise and that of many others, Charles Taylor may continue to influence the politics and policy of Africa, the sub region and Liberia on International Justice for a very long time to come.
Considered separately or in aggregate, far from mobilizing African people and governments and to support international justice, in particular justice at the International Criminal Court where two African Heads of State and prominent political leaders are perceived to have been selectively indicted, the conviction of Charles Taylor will rather radicalize opposition to the ICC. In Kenya, for example, the ICC Prosecutor Moreno Ocampo has been criticized by a significant segment of the population for carrying out a shoddy investigation with a political dent. Many accuse him of acting as if Kenya has surrendered its sovereignty to the ICC and that the entire process has been politicized.
It is due to the destabilizing effect of the ICC process and the abrasive approach of its Chief Prosecutor towards the investigations and statements made by him concerning matters of national sovereignty in Kenya and its potential for destabilizing a major African Nation at war in a volatile sub region that has motivated the East African Community Heads of State to follow on the heels of the African Union in urging that the treaty of the East Africa Community be revised to give the East Africa Court of Justice, criminal jurisdiction to try the Kenya Case rather than the ICC. The African Union has expressed its radical opposition to the indictment of President Bashir at the ICC and most of its members have publicly declared that they will not co-operate with the ICC in executing its warrant against the Sudanese President. Uganda on its part took the same position on the arrest and handing over of its citizens, including Joseph Kony of the Lord’s Resistance Army to the ICC preferring to try them at a Special Division of the High Court of Uganda established for that purpose.
The ICC has so far adopted an inconsistent and unprincipled position in respect of the principle of complementarity enshrined in article 17 of its Statute in favour of the State Parties in whose territory crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court might have been perpetrated. In the case of Libya which neither has an effective government nor a functional judicial system, Mr. Ocampo supported by the super powers and NATO member states that might have perpetrated war crimes and crimes against humanity in the executing of the so-called responsibility to protect mandate of the Security Council has all long been willing to apply the principle of complementarity in favour of the so-called National Council of Lybia to investigate and prosecute alleged crimes perpetrated in its territory, in particular the trial of Seif Islam who is still in the custody of tribal forces.
Given that the so-called National Council and the intervening states bear the greatest responsibility for international crimes perpetrated by rebels who were under their mandate, to defer to National Council for Lybia to investigate these alleged crimes is like asking it to investigate itself and its accomplices and criminal bands under its effective command. The murder of Khadafi and alleged Black African Mercenaries allegedly perpetrated by rebel forces under the command of the National Council and Tribal Militias deserve to be investigated and prosecuted by the ICC if it still has a modicum of respect and independence after all prisoners of war are in the hands enemy power, but not of individual or military units who captured them. It is trite law, that irrespective of the individual responsibilities that may exist, the Detaining Power is responsible for the treatment given them.
This principle of international law is applicable to Libya and Ivory Coast where the French Army and the so-called Patriotic Forces allied to Alassane Ouattara were proximate to and conducted armed combat in areas in which alleged rebel units close to them perpetrated egregious violations and international crimes against soldiers hors de combat, a civilian population or civilians not taking part in the armed conflict. However, but for the orders handed down by the Pre-trial Chamber, the Chief Prosecutor evinced every effort to limit his investigation of the Ivorian Case to the arrest, humiliation and indictment of President Gbagbo and the potential indictment of his wife and people close to him while sparing Alasane Ouatarra, the Warlord Soro and others who perpetrated crimes against humanity on a wide and systematic scale in the North and areas of Abidjan and acts of documented Genocide in the West.
In the Kenyan Case, supported by the USA and Britain, the Chief Prosecutor of the ICC has persistently taken the position that Kenya does not have a functional judiciary capable of trying the four Kenyans against whom charges were confirmed and they committed to trial. Paradoxically, the US and Great Britain have consistently called on Kenya to try pirates who have rendered international sea navigation in the Indian Ocean almost impossible although these are international crimes as well. This unprincipled position towards the same country and its judicial and political institutions can only be motivated by political motives. And these political motives cannot be in the best interest of the country concerned.
Under the ICC statute, the Office of the Prosecutor is supposed to act independently in conducting investigations. That independence has so far not been demonstrated in the selective manner in which the Prosecutor has focused on Africa since the ICC was created. The ICC has conducted preliminary investigations on cases in Palestine, Sri Lanka, Latin America, Europe and Asia but has been shy to even submit application
before the Pre-trial Chamber for permission to investigate. In the case of Libya, Ivory Coast, Uganda, Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo, based essentially on human reports and information obtained through intermediaries .He filed applications to intervene in these African Internal Conflicts because it was convenient for him to do or because it served the interests of super powers as critics have alleged. Interestingly, he has evinced little efforts to debunk his critics and rather persists in perpetuating the selective potentially destabilizing involvement in African internal conflicts.
This conduct has given the ICC and international justice a bad name and reputation on a continent which otherwise overwhelmingly supported the creation of this court and desperately needs it in its fights against impunity which for half a century has provided neo-colonial dictatorial agents the ammunition to perpetrate their rule on the blood of the impoverish masses of this troubled continent.
Africa therefore deserves an International system of justice that is just, equitable, credible and not the tools of neo-colonial imposition that presently passes for International Criminal Courts. For these reasons, a judgment rendered against Charles Taylor which should have been hailed throughout the continent is regrettably seen from the above perspective and this is a setback in the desired fight against impunity and thus very sad indeed.
* Chief Charles A. Taku, a Traditional Ruler and Advocate of the Supreme Court of Cameroon, is a Counsel at the ICC and a Lead Counsel at the UNICTR, and at the Special Court for Sierra Leone
Piracy Is A Threat To The Entertainment Industry In Africa
May 12, 2012 | 0 Comments
-CEO Chima Movie Empire
By Pandita Njoh Eta
As the movie industry led by Nigeria surges by leaps and bounds in Africa, it faces a number of challenges. With marketing and quality as some of the concerns, the biggest of them all seems to be piracy says Augustine Chima head of the Chima Movie Empire. It is a veritable canker warm and needs concerted action from all stake holds to curb its nefarious influence on the sweat of the hard working men and women of the industry. In the industry for years, Chima Movie Empire is the all-in-one solution for movie production, celebrity networking, movie sales, marketing and much more. To its credit are several Nollywood projects driven to unimaginable heights with record sales and profits. We continuously evolve with Nollywood and other competitive markets and possess the required knowledge and experience to deliver distinctive masterpieces says Chima in a chat with Pan African Visions.
PAV: Could you introduce Movie Chima Empire to us and the kind of services that it offers?
Augustine Chima: We offer a variety of services to talented people out there, ranging from; managing actors, actresses, artists, models, to movie production. Also organizing events, premieres, beauty pageants, showcasing products throughout different models. Both home (Nigeria) and abroad.
PAV: In a world of competition, what makes the services offered by Chima Empire stand out from what others do?
Augustine Chima: The entertainment industry is a very competitive one, thus we never compromise quality, for that is what we strive for. We go for exceptionality and try our very best to get the best quality product needed by the consumers. We reach for the needs of the consumers so we can be on the right track. We also, get feedback from the consumers, by carrying out surveys to self evaluate and be sure of what we do.
PAV: You are based out of the continent, how are your operations in Africa managed in a way that positive results are achieved?
Augustine Chima: We are able to accomplish this by partnering with home based organizations and production houses such as Dolce entertainment. Also, we have a crew back in Nigeria that handles the affairs there. We also organize a yearly Miss Abuja pageant
PAV: A major threat to the entertainment industry especially in Africa is piracy, is there anything Movie Empire does to fight this, any solutions you have in mind on how to fight this and make sure the hard work of people in the entertainment industry is well rewarded?
Augustine Chima:Piracy is a ‘canker’ worm that is killing the entertainment industry especially the African movie and music industry. It is something that cannot be completely eradicated but can be reduced. It is like rat; the more you discover new traps for it, the more it discovers new ways of stealing your corn. Organizations have been created to bring producers and marketers together to help join forces in fighting against this particular problem that is deeply affecting us all. Some film makers have completely given up on the fight against it, but these organizations are there to help encourage them in the fight. Also joining forces with bigger industries such as Hollywood who are more advanced in doing this by giving awards to those fighting against this , and also forums to educate filmmakers on new strategies to benefit for this change, has been a great help. We really call on those involved in acts like this to be aware of the damage and loss they are causing on the industry, because some of them do this out of ignorance.
Also we want to inform them of the detriments and consequences involved when they are caught in such an act. There range from huge amounts of fines and jail time. Thus beware pirates!!!
PAV: May we know some of the biggest projects that you have worked on and who are some of the people who have impressed you most in the world of African entertainment?
Augustine Chima: Great faces in the industry such as Enebeli Elebuwa, Olu Jacobs, Pete Edochie, Ramsey Nouah, inspire me. I love to identify myself with people of great vision, image and, statue, they are a big encouragement to you even in your low moments. My first co-production was far from home, featuring, George Kalu, Fred Idika, Regina Askia and Ramsey Nouah. Subsequent productions include busted life, which is going to theaters in Nigeria this summer ,we are currently working on a new project called ‘ true life addictions’, great movie line.
PAV: How would you size up the African movie industry as a whole, there seem to be complains that there is a decline in quality with everyone doing their own thing from acting, to producing etc without adequate training, your take on this.
Augustine Chima: The complains are genuine. Nollywood and the rest of the African movie industry is struggling to fight these bad wolves in sheep clothing who don’t value good and quality work. Some people just do things and call it movie. As like every other career movie making, acting, entertainment as a whole is a calling, and when you are called, God gives you the potential for it. But people with no calling just want to do it, and that is the problem.
PAV: Based on your experience what are some suggestions on how the African movie industry could improve itself to the level where it can comfortably compete with the rest of the world?
Augustine Chima: Quality is what we are striving for. Movie makers should be able to attend forums, critics, summits, festivals and keep the training and learning process going. This is one career that is always evolving, and therefore all these work together to bring success. Partnering with other national and international companies to get bigger success than there is now. The government should continue to support us with the funds that are needed. Sponsors are also greatly appreciated, award shows such as the NAFCA, should continue, as it encourages all the movie makers. Producers should be involved with movies of good story line to keep the flag of the industry flying. Adequate training is what we all need in this industry, thus I encourage everyone to go get trained in their individual domains.