A British and Italian hostage have been killed after a botched rescue attempt to free the pair from kidnappers linked to Al Qaeda today.
A British citizen (Chris McManus, aged 28) and Italian citizen (Franco Lamolinara, aged48) have been killed in Sokoto, Sokoto State in northern Nigeria after an attempt by British and Nigerian special forces to free them. McManus and Lamolinara were kidnapped and have been held since May 2011. Initial press reports (and British Prime Minister David Cameron) say they were killed by their captors during the rescue attempt by British and Nigerian troops. However a senior security source in Nigeria has told the Associated Press that the two men died in the crossfire during the rescue operation, perhaps indicating that they might have been killed accidentally by gunfire from the troops sent to rescue them.
None of the British or Nigerian troops were killed but the captors suffered casualties.
Our immediate thoughts must be with Chris and Franco’s families, and we offer them our sincerest condolences. Both families have endured a terrible ordeal, and this is a devastating moment for all of them.
The Foreign Office have been in regular contact with the McManus family since Chris’s capture. I spoke to them just before Christmas and I have spoken to them again with the news this afternoon.
I want to take this opportunity to thank the Nigerian authorities, and President Jonathan personally, for all they have done to help find Chris, and combat terrorism.
I also want to pay tribute to all those, including UK personnel, who worked so hard to try to bring Chris home safely. I am very sorry that this ended so tragically. I ask that the media respect the family’s privacy and allow them time to come to terms with their loss.
Terrorism and appalling crimes such as these are a scourge on our world. No-one should be in any doubt about our determination to fight and to defeat them.”
Babangida wants to be President again….and he is defending his record. He says that Abacha actually saved Nigeria by holding the country together. Although he admits the annulment of the June 12, 1993 election was “wrong”, he says he was judged unfairly and harshly.
See the videos above and below.
Disgraceful scenes from the National Assembly in Abuja. A fight broke out in Nigerian parliament after 11 legislators were suspended for accusing the House of Representatives Speaker (Dimeji Bankole) of corruption. The legislators called themselves “The Progressives”, and demanded an investigation into allegations that Speaker Oladimeji Bankole misappropriated 9 billion naira equivalent of an 11 billion budget from 2008 to 2009. The 11 suspended are:
Dino Melaye, Ehiogie West Idahosa, Independence Ogunewe, Solomon Awhinawi, Austin Nwachukwu and Abbas Anas, Gbenga Oduwaiye, Kayode Amusan, Gbenga Onigbogi, Bitrus Kaze and Doris Uboh.
The EFCC has promised an investigation into the corruption allegations. But we all know what happens to “official investigations” into corruption in Nigeria…
Note that the second video refers to Nigeria as “one of the world’s most tainted countries”.
Pause for thought here….the political crisis that led to Nigeria’s first military coup in 1966 was precipitated by a similarly ugly fistfight in the Western Region House of Assembly between supporters of Obafemi Awolowo and Samuel Ladoke Akintola. The fallout from that fistfight resulted in a state of emergency being declared in the Western Region, a virtual army of occupation being sent there, and a few years later, the army struck. Akintola and many others involved in the crisis were killed by the army in January 1966.
Remember remember, the 15th of January…..
A good article from Reuters with optimistic analysis of Nigeria’s economy: “Investing in Nigeria today is like buying a lottery ticket with a very high percentage chance of winning”.
A quick summary of the major news items of the week. Have a great weekend everyone.
Acting President Goodluck Jonathan Makes His Mark
Jonathan Dissolves Cabinet
Machete Attacks in Nigerian Village
Profile of New National Security Adviser Lt-General Aliyu Mohammed Gusau
Domkat Bali Criticises Jos GOC Maj-Gen Saleh Maina
Aliko Dangote Sacked as NSE President
Acting President Goodluck Jonathan has dissolved the Federal Executive Council (cabinet of ministers). More updates to follow. I suspect this will be a precursor to a cabinet reshuffle.
Another day, and yet more violence in Jos.
News outlet are reporting that several hundred people have been killed in the city of Jos in Plateau State. The New York Times claims as many as 500 people have been killed – so far. Many of the victims are women and children and were murdered with machetes.
What is the Violence About?
Jos has been the scene of much violence recently. The violence is a mixture of religious clashes between Muslims and Christians, politics and the “settler” versus “indigence” dichotomy in Nigeria.
Settlers v Indigenes
Jos lies on Nigeria’s religious “fault line” between the mainly Muslim north and mainly Christian south. The city has a mixed ethnicity population. However there has been tension between settlers and indigenes. The indigenes are the mainly Christian Birom ethnic group and other Christian groups. The settlers are Hausa or Fulani Muslims, who migrated to Jos from further north.
Settlers have limited rights to state facilities such as education, scholarships, bank loans and employment. Being an indigene is a key that unlocks full entitlement to such benefits. Thus settlers are aggrieved because they feel excluded, and some indigenes regard settlers as encroaching on their land.
These differences are amplified by political disputes in Plateau State. The Plateau State Governor, Air Commodore (retired) Jonah David Jang, is a Birom Christian, and a member of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party. His political rivals are the mainly Muslim All Nigeria People’s Party. Thus political rivalry in the state also takes on an ethnic and religious dimension.
Jos residents claim the latest violence was perpetrated by Fulani men who first fired shots to sow panic, then cut down fleeing residents with machetes.
Watch this space. Previous violence in Plateau State forced the federal government to depose the former Governor Joshua Dariye and impose a state of emergency in the state.
Well Yar’Adua is back, and still he has not been seen or heard from in public. We are not even sure that the acting President Goodluck Jonathan has set eyes on him.
There has been a big hoopla about the fact that soldiers were deployed in Abuja to form an escort party for Yar’Adua upon his return. The press has claimed that these soldiers were deployed by the Chief of Army Staff Lt-General Abdulrahman Bello Dambazau without the consent of acting President Jonathan. Some went so far to call it a contained coup against Jonathan.
As usual it is a case of Nigerian reporters not doing their research properly. The Brigade of Guards (the soldiers responsible for the President’s security) have had their own chain of command. The BOG virtually acts as an autonomous army unit directly answerable to the President. They do not take day to day operational orders from Dambazau when being deployed in Abuja. Their deployment outside Abuja would be a different matter.
Dora Akunyili Wades In
*Also make sure you watch the video above to see Dora’s comments.*
Amongst the intrigue though, I would like to draw readers’ attention to an interview with Dora Akunyili (Minister of Information) where she made some very frank comments accusing a “cabal” close to Yar’Adua of virtually holding him, and the nation hostage and putting the country in political turmoil with their selfishness.
“I personally feel worried about how people around the President are handling his health issues. It is not a crime for anybody to be sick, but they have so shrouded his sickness in secrecy that it is beginning to generate issues that should not be there and I believe they are doing what they are doing so that they will continue to actually be in the control….It is for the best interest of the country and even for the better interest of the presidency, if our president comes out to address us. If he is in a position to do so, but if he is not in a position to do so, people around our President should be honest enough to come out and tell us the true situation of the President’s health”
Akunyili’s comments are very telling. She is the Minister of Information yet she is completely in the dark as to the President’s condition. She claims that ministers were not even told of Yar’Adua’s departure abroad for treatment, of his return, nor do they know his current condition.
The interview with Dora at the link below is very instructive as it gives a running hour by hour commentary of what has been going on behind the scenes, and how ministers were apprehensive of their own safety and fearful of a military coup:
“We did not have information that our President was even traveling to Saudi Arabia until we saw it in the news, and when he was in the Saudi Arabia, we hardly got information….We never had a comprehensive channel of getting information that we are sure of and most of the information, sometimes, they don’t add up and it got very disturbing. When they don’t add up, you feel very awkward reporting such information. I believed the information, even though I kept wondering how things can be done better, until when I found that stories told by some of the presidential aide were not adding up, especially stories that are changed when they are told from one person to another.”
President Umaru Yar’Adua has returned to Nigeria after 3 months away receiving medical treatment in Saudi Arabia. Apparently Yar’Adua flew back into Nigeria on Tuesday (February 23) night on board a presidential jet, while members of a government delegation that travelled to Saudi Arabia to see him, flew back to Nigeria in a separate plane, after not being allowed to see Yar’Adua.
Reuters quoted a Saudi official at Jeddah airport as saying “”The president left at 10:22 p.m. (1922 GMT) alone in a plane and another plane carried Nigerian government envoys,” the official at Jeddah airport told Reuters. Al Jazeera has confirmed that Yar’Adua is back in Nigeria, in the capital Abuja. Reuters reported that two presidential planes landed in the presidential wing of Nigeria’s international airport in Abuja.
Return Borne Out of Fear
The timing is very telling. The political mood in Nigeria has been moving toward having Yar’Adua PERMANENTLY declared incapacitated, and the “acting” President Good luck Jonathan has been treated with some hope and optimism with many assuming that Yar’Adua was not coming back, and urging Jonathan to carry out reforms.
Things were not looking good for Yar’Adua: his cabinet ally Michael Aondoakaa was removed as Attorney-General and Justice Minister the same day that Jonathan became acting President. Then the cabinet were become increasingly insistent in demanding to know the state of Yar’Adua’s health. They went to so far as to send a delegation to Saudi Arabia with a mandate to physically see the President to ascertain his condition. Yar’Adua’s return must be viewed in this context. He and his allies are feeling the heat, and are trying to pre-empt any moves that could permanently sideline Yar’Adua from power.
However now that Yar’Adua is back, what next? Is he healthy enough to resume as President? Will Jonathan stand aside for him? Things are heating up….
Another day, another political storm in Nigeria. The latest story doing the rounds is a 5 page memorandum submitted by the Information Minister Dora Akunyili to her fellow ministers in the Federal Executive Council in which she highlights the growing political vacuum caused by the absence of President Yar’Adua (70+ days and counting…).
In her memo she forthrightly tells the FEC that the time has come to vest the VP Jonathan with the powers of acting President. Below is the full text of Dora’s memo…..
STATE OF THE NATION
1. I want to start my humble submission by stating that I am a 100 per cent loyalist of President Yar’Adua. He appointed all of us because he trusts us and wants us to help him to run government effectively and efficiently. Mr. President has given all of us seated in this chamber the opportunity to serve our nation as members of this council.
I believe that in the choice of all of us, as individuals and group, Mr. President must have considered our ability to guide him aright to serve our people better, promote and protect the constitution in line with the oath of office taken before him in this chamber by each and every one of us. President Yar’Adua is very dear to me just as he is to all of you.
2. We are all aware of what has been happening in Nigeria, especially as it concerns the issue of making the Vice President an acting President. There have been debates for and against.
3. Some have argued that there is no vacuum and that it is okay for the Vice President to function as Vice President, not as Acting President pending the return and recovery of Mr. President. For the proponents of this theory, I want to remind them that Permanent Secretaries had been waiting to be sworn in for over two months now. Consequently, many ministries are without Permanent Secretaries including my ministry.
As it is today, the Vice President cannot take any document to National Assembly. In a very desperate situation like the recent Jos crisis, the Vice President deployed troops to Plateau, but many have openly said that he does not have the right because there cannot be two Commanders-in-Chief at a time.
4. Just recently, Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta, MEND, has opted out of the amnesty and resumed hostility. They argued that they have been kept in limbo since the President took ill and they appeared to have been abandoned since nobody could talk to them or keep the promise made to them. Our economy is once more being threatened.
5. The past Chief Justice of the Federation swore in his successor for the first time in the history of our nation. The power vacuum at that level has also compounded our ‘poor image’ at the international level because of our failure to rise to international expectations, commitments and engagements that require the presence of our President.
Many of those opportunities have existed in the past 70 days that I do not need to recount. I do not need to repeat the uncomplimentary statements made by United States, United Kingdom and EU concerning the current state of affairs in Nigeria .
6. There has been persistent agitation by the public for members of the Federal Executive Council to do something. Nigerians expect us to rise to this challenge on behalf of our President as the leader of this administration. Some eminent citizens have spoken. They include former Heads of State and others who have served our nation in various capacities.
The Senate has also taken a position of which we are all aware. The looming crisis in the system is over boiling. Our hard earned democracy is being threatened by the day.
Threat to democracy
7. What went wrong? We love our President but we should remember that he is not infallible. Before he left Nigeria he had a moral and constitutional obligation to officially inform the Senate and hand over the mantle of leadership to the Vice President pending his return and recovery. That did not happen. Yes, the mistake has been made by our Boss and our brother.
Mr. President is ill and did not choose to be sick. But while we continue to pray for his recovery, we should try to right the wrong.
8. Some have argued that he left the country in a hurry. This argument has been punctured by the fact that he signed the Appropriation Bill for National Assembly. If he could sign the Bill, why did he not sign a letter for Vice President to act on his behalf until he is well enough?
9. We have a local proverb that says that “A goat does not get strangulated by the rope used in tying it when an adult is present.” We are all in a better position to know that the polity is overheated to a frightening level. Posterity will judge us harshly if we do not positively intervene to resolve this logjam.
10. I wish to call on the Federal Executive Council to act now in the best interest of our dear President and our dear Nation.
We also need to save ourselves from shame because our stand is becoming very embarrassing. He has been away for about 70 days now, even if he returns tomorrow, is it not better for him to rest and recover before taking over from the Vice President?
11. We need to do what is morally right and constitutional for the President to officially hand over to the Vice President to function as Acting President. If he does not, we can evoke whichever aspect of the constitution that should make the Vice President an Acting President.
On the other hand we can take advantage of the 14 days ultimatum by the court which will expire on Friday. When the President resumes duty as soon as he recovers, by the grace of God, he takes over his position.
12. I am not saying that President Yar’Adua should resign or condemn him for being sick. He did not choose to be sick. We will continue to pray for him, but all I am saying is, let us encourage him do the right thing so that our hard earned democracy will not be truncated. Anybody who feels otherwise is unfair to our President (who has been preaching the rule of law), and utterly unfair to our country.
13. The name of our President and all his achievements are being rubbished by this unfortunate debacle. The President and his family are also being put under undue pressure which will not help his recovery.
14. If we fail to act now, history will not forgive us. I rest my case.”