After President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in the north-eastern states of Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe, army troop reinforcements have begun arriving in northern cities such as Maiduguri and Yola.
It is a long overdue move and I am surprised it took the President this long to declare a state of emergency. The state of emergency means that the army can take greater responsibility for security in those three states. Troops can occupy city centers, take over buildings, and arrest and detain suspects without trial. Two incidents seemed to have tipped the balance in favour of the state of emergency:
1) Boko Haram nonchalantly dismissed the President’s offer of an amnesty. By doing so, Boko Haram seemed to declare its intention to settle its scores with the government on the battlefield, rather than via dialogue. It seems that President dialogue is now ready to meet them on a battlefield rather than in a conference room.
2) The recent Baga attacks which left hundreds of people dead marked a new deadly escalation in the conflict with Boko Haram.
Although Boko Haram has launched attacks across the north and as far south as the capital in Abuja, the three north-eastern states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe in the Kanuri heartland, represent Boko Haram’s support base. It has taken over at least one-third of the local government areas in Borno state. Losing control of its own territory to a terrorist organisation seems to have been the last straw for the government. President Jonathan accused Boko Haram of declaring war against Nigeria.
Excerpts from the President’s national broadcast announcing the state of emergency:
Innocent civilians are likely to be caught in the inevitable shoot-outs between the army and Boko Haram. There are reports that Boko Haram has been forcefully conscripting new members, and threatening them with death if they do not kill in the group’s name within weeks of joining.
Nonetheless the state of emergency will be popular among the general Nigerian population. Many have accused the President of being weak and of treating Boko Haram with kid gloves. This state of emergency will boost his security credentials and demonstrate a willingness to forcefully confront Boko Haram.
Even if the troop surge proves successful, it would offer only temporary respite. Boko Haram can easily slip across the border into neighbouring countries, regroup, and return. Only a long term political and economic solution can permanently end Boko Haram’s violent insurgency.
Good video about the rebuilding of Nigeria’s railway lines between the north and south. There are (to be) three main north-south railway lines:
*Lagos-Kano (already re-opened).
*Port Harcourt in the south-east to Maiduguri in the north-east.
*Another line to be reconstructed by Chinese civil engineers to run from the former capital Lagos, to new capital Abuja, to Kano in the far north.
Great radio broadcast chronicling Chinua Achebe’s 2009 visit to Nigeria. That was his first visit to Nigeria in several years. Achebe was interviewed by the Royal African Society’s Richard Dowden. Achebe’s son Chidi was also interviewed.
The programme discusses Achebe’s horror road accident that left him paralysed from the waist down.
The legendary Nigerian author Chinua Achebe has died aged, 82. Achebe is most well known for his book “Things Fall Apart”. He died in Boston in the USA. Achebe’s death comes shortly after he wrote his memoirs on the Biafran war.
Sincerest condolences to his family. May he RIP.
Think you know lots about Africa? Well, here is a chance to show off how much you really know about Africa. Take the 10 question quiz below. Answers to the questions will be posted here in due course.
NO CHEATING, no use of Google (or other web search engines!), no checking Wikipedia! ;-)
1) In what year did Ghana become independent?
2) What is Africa’s most populous city?
3) Which African country did Yasser Arafat and the Palestine Liberation Organisation flee to after being driven out of Lebanon?
4) Which is the only African country never to have been colonised by a European nation?
5) Jean Bedel-Bokassa was the leader of which African country?
6) Who was Egypt’s first military leader?
7) What is Africa’s largest country?
8) From which country did Paul Kagame’s Rwandan Patriotic Front invade Rwanda in 1994?
9) Who was Nelson Mandela’s non-political profession before he was jailed for life?
10) Which country is Timbuktu in?
Sub-Saharan Africa will be home to seven of the world’s ten fastest growing economies in the next five years. At a recent Thomson Reuters event, U.S. Sen. Christopher Coons joins top African investment managers and business leaders before a live audience to identify key opportunities and ways to address risks, in a panel moderated by Reuters Editor-at-Large Sir Harold Evans. The video features local investors such as Yemi Lalude of Adlevo Capital and Bismark Rewane of Financial Derivatives Company Limited as well as a number of Africa focused foreign investors. Watch the video below.
Good piece by Al-Jazeera on Google helping young entrepreneurs in Nigeria expand their businesses by putting them online. While many legitimate ventures are launching websites and thriving as a result, the country’s reputation for internet fraud remains an obstacle.
In light of the recent Julian Assange controversy, I wrote an article on the Nigerian attempt to kidnap Umaru Dikko and return him to Nigeria to face trial. The article was published yesterday in the UK’s Independent newspaper:
“Umaru Dikko, the man who was nearly spirited away in a diplomatic bag
One of the more outlandish options for Julian Assange’s passage to Ecuador has been tried before. Max Siollun reports
Monday, 20 August 2012
On 31 December, 1983, the elected government of Nigeria was overthrown in a military coup by the country’s army. The new military government jailed several government ministers for corruption and embezzlement while in office. However, the powerful former Transport Minister, Umaru Dikko, fled to London. The military claimed that Dikko used his position as Transport Minister to enrich himself in a series of racketeering scandals. It regarded Dikko as its most wanted fugitive from justice and wanted to bring him back to Nigeria to face trial.
To bring this about, they hatched a plot to kidnap him off the streets of London. Nigerian intelligence services and undercover agents (with the help of several Israelis who were alleged to be members of Israel’s intelligence agency, Mossad) tracked Dikko to a house in west London. After placing the house under surveillance, the agents decided to strike on 5 July, 1984.
Moments after Dikko emerged from the house, two men burst out from a van parked outside the house. They grabbed Dikko and bundled him into the back of the van. The team inside the van included a doctor who injected Dikko to render him unconscious.
Dikko’s kidnappers locked him in a large crate labelled “diplomatic baggage” and addressed to the Nigerian Ministry of External Affairs in the then capital city, Lagos. They claimed diplomatic immunity for the crate’s contents, and drove him to Stansted airport to place him on a waiting Nigerian cargo plane.
Unbeknown to the kidnappers, Dikko’s secretary had glanced out of her window just in time to see her boss being bundled into the van outside his house, and she dialled 999.
The kidnap was initially thought to be the work of criminals and was referred to Scotland Yard’s anti-terrorist squad. The Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was also informed.
The British government ordered customs officials at airports, ports and border crossings to be vigilant when inspecting Nigeria-bound vessels. One customs officer at Stansted airport was especially vigilant. Although the Nigerian cargo plane was minutes from taking off with Dikko on board, he ordered the crate to be opened. Nigerian intelligence officials and diplomatic staff protested that the crate could not be opened as it was protected by diplomatic immunity.
The customs officer called anti-terrorist police. They cordoned off the area and evacuated airport staff. Customs then opened the crate with armed police watching. Inside the crate, they found Dikko unconscious, next to the doctor who had injected him. The doctor had accompanied Dikko in the box to top up his anaesthetics and ensure he did not die during transit.
Armed police surrounded the Nigerian cargo plane on the runway, arrested its crew and refused to allow the plane to take off. They also arrested the Nigerian officials and Israelis who drove the crate to Stansted, and several members of Nigeria’s High Commission in London.
The Nigerian and Israeli governments always denied any involvement in the affair. Foreign intelligence involvement became apparent only when the sophistication and daring of the Dikko kidnap was revealed.
The kidnap caused one of the worst-ever diplomatic crises between Britain and Nigeria. The Nigerian High Commissioner was declared persona non grata in London, and the head of Nigeria Airways narrowly escaped being arrested by British police. Diplomatic relations between Nigeria and Britain were suspended for two years. The controversy also weakened Nigeria’s war on corruption, as Britain rejected a subsequent formal request from Nigeria to extradite Dikko and other Nigerian politicians in the UK who were wanted in Nigeria on charges of corruption.
Four men were convicted of kidnapping Dikko (three Israelis and a Nigerian) in a trial at the Old Bailey, and were jailed. All were released and returned to their countries after serving their sentences. After regaining consciousness in hospital, Dikko remained in Britain for over a decade.
Max Siollun is a historian and the author of “Soldiers of Fortune: Nigerian Politics Under Buhari and Babangida“.
Nigeria is developing a number of new golf courses. The Cross River State government is investing over $200 million in constructing a new golf course, with the aim of growing its popularity and giving tourists something to do!
Golf is a sport/hobby that requires expensive equipment to play. In a country with many high net worth individuals, golf could potentially boom…
South Sudan is celebrating its first anniversary as Africa’s newest state. However a year after euphoric independence celebrations – is it a familiar story of dashed hopes? It is still in conflict with its northern neighbour Sudan. It is engaged in an economic conflict over oil with Sudan.
Its government is accused of corruption, its people are poor and its leader Salva Kiir commited a diplomatic faux pas by keeping U.S. President Barack Obama waiting for over half an hour for their first meeting.
Meanwhile Sudan has its own problems. It lost 75% of its oil revenue when South Sudan seceded, and its leader Omar Al-Bashir is wanted for war crimes.
KEY FACTS ABOUT THE TWO SUDANS:
- South Sudan broke away from Sudan and became a new independent country in July 2011 after a referendum.
- Before then the mainly Christian south of Sudan had been at war for several years with the mainly Muslim north of Sudan. More than 2 million people died in this war.
- Despite independence, military tensions between the two Sudans remain high.
- Oil provides South Sudan with 98% of its revenue; yet it remains one of the poorest countries of the world.
- In April 2012, South Sudan decided to halt oil production in the disputed border area.
- Without the income from oil production, South Sudan has no money to improve the lives of its people.
- One-fifth of the people in South Sudan are suffering from chronic hunger.
Graphic on South Sudan (from Africa Confidential):