• Senegal votes on referendum to reduce presidential term

    20/Mar/2016 // 197 Viewers

     

    DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — Senegalese residents on Sunday voted on a constitutional referendum that could see sweeping constitutional reforms including a reduction of presidential powers and terms from seven to five years, on a continent where many leaders try to hold onto power.

     

    More than 5 million people are expected to vote Sunday to determine if 15 reforms will be adopted, according to the election commission.

    The proposed changes include measures to strengthen the National Assembly, improve representation for Senegalese abroad, provide greater rights for the opposition and boost participation of independent candidates in elections.

    "We are a modern African democracy. Today in Africa, many countries impose mandates. Here we are giving referendums for which people can say yes or no," said voter Mamadou Diagne, 58, a human resources representative at an oil company. "It's very satisfying to be a Senegalese today." Diagne said all of the reforms represent advancement.

    President Macky Sall, who was voted into office in 2012, announced the proposed term limits in March 2015, saying he wanted to set an example for other African countries. During his campaign he said he would serve a reduced term. In February, however, the Constitutional Court rejected his proposal to shorten his present term, saying the referendum vote would determine future limits.

    "This referendum is organized to not only establish the rule of law but also deepen our democracy," Sall said after voting in Fatick, about 155 kilometers (96 miles) southeast of Dakar. Senegal's seven-year term was set under the previous president, Abdoulaye Wade, who flouted a two-term limit to run against Sall.

    Sall's effort to reduce term limits is in marked contrast to moves by other African leaders who have pushed to eliminate term limits so they can extend their time in power.

    Marie Antoinette Sene, 51, a businesswoman said she voted "yes" on Sunday.

    "Independent candidates in each election is a good thing ... it's important that all Senegalese have representation," she said. "In contrast, the reduction of the presidential mandate is the one point I don't like." Sene said she supports seven years for the first term, and five for the second.

    Others said they voted "no" because they mistrust Sall, who they say dragged his feet on reducing his own term.

    "Sall promised he would reduce his term, and he didn't," said Cheikh Thiam Dia, 43, a representative of the "no" vote at station. That mistrust extends into other points on the referendum that voters such as Dia worry are too vague.

    Adama Thiam, a civil society consultant, said more discussion is needed to be sure everyone better understands the points in the referendum.


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  • Moamer Kadhafi's legacy still haunts Libya

    20/Oct/2015 // 261 Viewers

    TRIPOLI (AFP) - 

    Four years after Moamer Kadhafi was killed in an uprising, the dictator's legacy continues to haunt oil-rich Libya as it struggles to find its national identity.

    "Kadhafi chose to build the idea of a state around his personality," said Michael Nayebi-Oskoui, senior Middle East analyst at the US-based global intelligence firm Stratfor.

    The dictator ousted and slain in October 2011, "used a military funded by oil to crush any opposition to himself, rather than build state institutions that could survive beyond him," he said.

    "It will be several years if not decades for Libya to create a national identity," he said.

    Libya, a largely tribal nation, descended into chaos after Kadhafi's fall, with two governments vying for power and armed groups battling for control of its vast energy resources.

    A militia alliance including Islamists overran Tripoli in August 2014, establishing a rival government and a parliament that forced the internationally recognised administration to flee to eastern Libya.

    Months of UN-brokered talks to persuade the warring sides to agree to a peace deal and form a national unity government have run aground.

    Taking advantage of the chaos, the Islamic State group has gained a foothold in Libya and people-smugglers are again ferrying illegal migrants from its shores to Europe on rickety boats and contributing to thousands of deaths.

    - Lockerbie bombing -

     

    But the focus remains on Kadhafi, the flamboyant strongman who called himself "Guide of the Revolution" and declared Libya a Jamahiriya or "state of the masses" run by local committees.

    "He will make headlines for a long time because the regime he consolidated will need a long time to be undone," an official with the Tripoli-based government said.

    "Everything he left behind is corrupted: politics, the economy, society even sports, and we need to change from A-to-Z, all the legislation, all the rules and all the instructions," he added.

    Kadhafi was captured and killed by gunmen in his hometown Sirte on October 20, 2011. Three days later transitional authorities announced the "total liberation" of Libya.

    Known for his droning speeches and flashing bedouin-style robes, he ruled Libya four decades after leading a military coup that toppled a Western-backed monarchy in 1969. He died aged 69.

    "There was no institutionalised state in Libya, leading to the chaos after his removal," said Nayebi-Oskoui.

    "He pitched tribes and regions and different ethnic groups against one another for decades, which is why Libyans and the international community have struggled to create a national identity in his absence."

    The expert believes that Kadhafi's name and the consequences of his policies will continue to make news for years to come.

    Last week Scottish prosecutors said they had identified two new Libyan suspects in the bombing of a Pan Am jet over the Scottish town of Lockerbie in 1988, which killed 270 people.

    Scottish media named one of the two suspects as former intelligence chief Abdullah Senussi and the other as Abu Agila Mas'ud.

    Senussi was sentenced to death in July for crimes committed during the uprising along with Seif al-Islam, Kadhafi's son and one-time heir apparent, and seven other people linked to the slain strongman.

    - Chaos and fear -

     

    Mas'ud is reportedly behind bars in Libya, where Senussi has been in custody since 2012.

    Scottish prosecutors said they are suspects in the bombing along with former Libyan intelligence officer Abdelbaset Ali Mohmet al-Megrahi, the only other person ever convicted in the case who died in 2012 protesting his innocence.

    Libya admitted responsibility for the bombing in 2003 and Kadhafi's regime eventually paid $2.7 billion (2.4 billion euros) in compensation to victims' families.

    Kadhafi has left behind a "fractured nation," said Nayebi-Oskoui, who expects that the policies he formulated would "extend for decades".

    The Tripoli government official agreed.

    "He is still remembered despite his death and he will stay present among us until we can overcome the 40 years of chaos he has sown," he said.

    "I hope we won't need another 40 years."

    Outside the walls of Kadhafi's former Tripoli compound, meanwhile, street artists have left unflattering graffiti of the dictator and drawings, including one depicting him in a trash can.

    "We used to be afraid even to look at the compound," said Ahmad, a cigarette vendor who works nearby.

    "Today, things have changed, of course, but the fear we felt still reminds us of him.

    "Generations will pass before we can overcome the fear he instilled in us," he added.

    by Mohamad Ali Harissi


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  • Communications cut ahead of Congo opposition rally

    20/Oct/2015 // 163 Viewers

    Laudes Martial Mbom, AFP | A man holds a placard with a play on words referring to the Congolese president and reading "Sassou enough" during an opposition demonstration in Brazzaville on September 27, 2015.

    Communications were cut in Congo's capital Brazzaville on Tuesday, just hours ahead of an opposition rally to protest against a constitutional reform critics say is a ploy to extend longtime President Denis Sassou Nguesso’s stay in power.

    Mobile Internet services, text messaging and the signal for FRANCE 24's sister radio RFI were all cut, an AFP correspondent said.

    An unusual number of police and members of the gendarmerie were also out on the streets in opposition areas in southern districts of Brazzaville while many shops remained closed, the correspondent said.

    The government had earlier banned all public meetings ahead of Sunday's referendum on a constitutional reform that will determine whether veteran leader Sassou Nguesso can seek another presidential term.

    "In order to allow the electoral campaign to continue without injury or provocation, the government has decided to forbid the use of certain meeting spaces," Raymond Zephyrin Mboulou, communication minister, said in a statement.

    The constitution currently bars the 72-year-old president from running again as there is an age limit of 70 as well as a maximum of two terms.

    Sassou Nguesso has ruled oil-producing Congo Brazzaville, also known as the Republic of Congo, for 32 years in two separate spells in office.

    Tens of thousands of his supporters staged a rally on Saturday to back the constitutional changes.

    Growing tension between the two camps has stoked fears of an outbreak of violence in the country, which was wracked by civil war in the 1990s


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  • Four years on, Gaddafi's legacy plagues chaotic Libya

    20/Oct/2015 // 217 Viewers

     Abdullah Doma, AFP | Smoke rises from buildings in the coastal Libyan city of Benghazi on October 20, 2015 following shelling the previous night

    Exactly four years after Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi was captured and killed in his hometown, his legacy of misrule lives on in his unruly nation. Only now, it’s worse with seemingly no political solution in sight.

    On Monday, Libya’s internationally recognised parliament rejected a UN power-sharing proposal despite international calls on the country’s rival administrations to “immediately approve” the agreement.

    Ignoring the exhortations, the parliament based in the eastern Libyan city of Tobruk refused to sign the deal, noting that the UN had refused to exclude amendments added by the Islamist authorities based in Tripoli. On the western side of Libya’s coastal highway, the Islamist-led government in the Libyan capital issued a statement declaring the deal “would lead to further complications”.

    It’s hard to imagine how the situation in Libya could get any more complicated than it is today. Two governments are battling for power, two rival investment authorities are claiming the oil-rich nation’s revenues, a motley mix of militias are fighting turf wars, the Islamic State group (IS) is widening its Libyan footprint, and human traffickers are sending ever-increasing migrant flows to Europe’s shores.

    “Libya is the largest piece of terra nullius in the world. As of today, there is no sovereignty in Libya,” said Jason Pack, president of Libya-Analysis.com. “After Syria and Ukraine, Libya is the third most pressing Western foreign policy crisis because many of the main threats Europe is facing right now – the Islamic State, migration – are symptoms of state implosion in Libya.”

    Under Gaddafi’s unique and quixotic form of governance, the North African nation was a “Jamahiriya” – a state of the masses – where traditional institutions were abolished and replaced by so-called local self-governance committees. In reality though, all power rested with the Libyan autocrat, who proclaimed himself the “Guide to the Revolution.”

    Four years after the “mad dog of Libya” was dragged through the streets of Sirte and lynched, the absence of democratic and civil institutions is underpinning the country’s failure to establish a unity government.

    Unlike neighbouring Tunisia, where a robust civil society – including trade unions – enabled the country to overcome a difficult transition following the 2011 ouster of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, Libya lacks a tradition of independent civil society institutions. 
    “Gaddafi’s legacy lives on in that rules don’t matter, personalities matter. Power depends on tribes, on people with guns,” said Pack. “Under Gaddafi, everyone passed the buck, only the top guy had responsibility. Libyans today are breaking into factions and each body is willing to make deals with militias and ignore parliamentary practice when it suits them.”

    Too important to fail

    The October 20 deadline for the approval of the UN deal -- which was negotiated by UN special envoy for Libya, Bernardino Leon -- had been touted as a red line for the international community.

    “We are not reopening the text and our hope remains that all sides will agree to the text for the good of the people of Libya,” UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq told the Associated Press, noting that Leon had stressed “that this is the final text”.
    Despite the tough talk, the failure to approve the deal came as no surprise to negotiators, analysts and many Libyans. While the international community is growing weary of Libyan intransigence, there is an overwhelming belief, particularly in European capitals, that the geopolitical stakes of the Libyan crisis are too high to ignore.

    In an interview with Politico last month, Leon broke one of the cardinal rules of diplomacy, admitting that he had a Plan B and a Plan C if his efforts to find a political solution to the problem failed.

    According to Politico, Leon explained that Plan A was a full agreement, Plan B would be only a partial agreement, while Plan C involved the possibility of sending boots on the ground.

    The EU has a plan, or two or six

    The EU is also considering a number of scenarios to help Libya strengthen its borders and disarm militias, including relaunching its Border Assistance Mission in Libya.

    An EU document -- which was sent to European capitals on Monday and was seen by Reuters – lists six security boosting options. The choices range from actions possible "regardless of the political situation" in Libya, and others that would require a green light from Libyan authorities once a national unity government is formed.

    These include sending civilians to monitor ceasefires between factions once a unity government is approved. If a peace deal holds, the EU action "would be of modest scale and limited to support to a mediation unit, provision of aerial monitoring and possibly the provision of civilian monitors", the document says, adding a military option would be considered if ceasefires do not prove effective.

    For the moment though, these are simply policy options, which would have to be approved by EU member states.

    And that’s a long step away.

    More than four years after then French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Britain’s David Cameron led the international effort to support the Libyan uprising against Gaddafi, Libya is being ignored if only because the situation in Syria is dominating international concern.

    “The problem is no one has the willpower,” explained Pack. “There is a tragic lack of interest because no one wants to be like [President George W] Bush and [Prime Minister Tony] Blair in Iraq.”

    And so, the impasse looks set to continue more than four years after Libyans rose up to overthrow a tyrant.


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  • Libya's recognised parliament rejects UN proposal for unity govt

    20/Oct/2015 // 212 Viewers

    Libya’s internationally-recognised parliament decided on Monday to reject a United Nations proposal for a unity government, lawmakers said, in a blow to efforts to end the country's perilous political crisis.

    But the House of Representatives (HoR) said it would continue to take part in U.N.-backed peace talks with its rivals, based in the capital, Tripoli.

    Libya is in the grip of a war between the internationally-recognized government and its elected parliament on the one side and and an unofficial self-styled government controlling Tripoli. Each side is backed by rival alliances of armed factions.

    Four years after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi, Western powers are pushing for both sides to accept the U.N. accord, fearing violence has allowed Islamist militants to gain ground and illegal migrant smugglers to take advantage of the chaos.

    The recognised government has operated out of the east of the country since last year when an armed faction called Libya Dawn took over Tripoli, set up its own government and reinstated a former parliament known as the GNC.

    The U.N. proposal came after months of protracted negotiations between delegates from both sides, who have faced pressure from hardliners and from continued fighting on the ground that has halted part of Libya’s oil production.

    “The majority of the HoR members rejected the U.N.-proposed unity government in today’s meeting and called for the peace dialogue to be continued,” the parliament member and its general rapporteur Saleh Ghalma said.

    The parliament spokesman Faraj Hashem confirmed the rejection but said the House of Representatives had not voted on it. “The president of the House, Aghila Saleh, read a statement and left, this is an arbitrary decision,” he told Reuters. The Tripoli-based parliament has not decided on the U.N. proposal.

    The United Nations proposed a national unity government to the warring factions this month.

    Fayez Seraj, a lawmaker from the House of Representatives, would be prime minister with three deputy prime ministers from the west, east – representing the Tripoli and Benghazi administrations - and south of the country.

    One senior figure each from the western and eastern sides would sit on a six-seat presidential council. Ghalma said the House of Representatives had rejected all amendments added by the U.N. special envoy to Libya Bernardino Leon to a draft agreement initialled in July. “We demand to have one prime minister with only two deputies,” Ghalma said.

    The parliament decision comes two weeks after Western powers endorsed the unity government proposed by the U.N. and called on Libya’s factions to accept it.

    (REUTERS)


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  • UN accuses Libya army of seeking to torpedo peace deal

    20/Sep/2015 // 269 Viewers

    © AFP | Libyan troops loyal to Khalifa Haftar sit on an amoured personnel carrier in Benghazi on August 14, 2015
    TRIPOLI (AFP) - 
    The United Nations accused the army of Libya's internationally recognised government on Sunday of deliberately trying to sabotage crunch peace talks with a new offensive in second city Benghazi.

    The UN Support Mission in Libya called for an immediate halt to the offensive announced by controversial army chief Khalifa Haftar on Saturday to give peace talks between the country's rival parliaments a chance.

    UNSMIL said it "strongly condemns the military escalation in Benghazi".

    "The air strikes are a clear attempt to undermine and derail the ongoing efforts to end the conflict at a time when the negotiations have entered a final and most critical stage," it said.

    The announcement of the offensive dubbed Operation Two-Edged Sword came on the eve of a deadline for Libya's rival parliaments to reach an agreement on a UN-brokered plan for a unified government for the North African nation.

    The country has had rival administrations since August last year when a militia alliance overran the capital forcing the recognised government to seek refuge in the east.

    UN envoy Bernardino Leon has expressed hope that the rival sides will finally sign a deal in the Morocco seaside resort of Skhirat later on Sunday after months of rejected proposals.

    UNSMIL called for an "immediate cessation of hostilities in Benghazi and across Libya... to give the ongoing dialogue in Skhirat the chance to successfully conclude in the coming hours."

    Foreign ambassadors gathered in Skhirat on Sunday condemned "the sharp rise in hostilities in Libya... including air strikes against the civilian population in Benghazi".

    "This escalation of violence underscores the urgent need to complete the political dialogue process as soon as possible," said envoys for the European Union, France, Germany, Italy, Morocco, Portugal, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom and United States.

    ? 2015 AFP


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  • Coup supporters attack hotel hosting Burkina Faso mediation talks

    20/Sep/2015 // 210 Viewers

    Pro-coup demonstrators in Burkina Faso on Sunday invaded a hotel due to host talks aimed at hammering out the details of a deal to restore a civilian interim government and attacked participants arriving for the meeting, witnesses said.

    Some of the protesters carried signs expressing support for members of the elite presidential guard, which stormed a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, disrupting a transition period due to end with elections on Oct. 11.

    On Saturday, Benin’s President Thomas Boni Yayi, who is leading the mediation talks along with his Senegalese counterpart Macky Sall, had hinted at a breakthrough in the negations, saying that a "good decision" would be made on Sunday.

    Source: Reuters


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  • Libya Coast Guards Rescue 215 people including 50 women

    20/Sep/2015 // 209 Viewers

    © AFP/File | Illegal migrants sit on a Libyan coastguard board after they were rescued off Qarabulli on September 7, 2015
    TRIPOLI (AFP) - 
    The Libyan coastguard said it rescued 215 migrants Sunday from two boats in the Mediterranean, including more than 50 women, a day after Italy said over 4,500 people were saved off Libya.

    The Tripoli-based government, quoting a coastguard spokesman, said the migrants were of different nationalities.

    "Among them were more than 50 women and an infant ... on board two rubber dinghies in the Sidi Bannour region," 15 kilometres (nine miles) northeast of Tripoli.

    A rescue operation on Saturday by Libyan patrol boats rescued 272 migrants, including 60 women and a five-year-old girl, the coastguard said.

    Those rescued mainly came from North Africa but also included Syrians, it said, adding their boats were intercepted off Sabratah, west of Tripoli.

    "They have been delivered to authorities who coordinate anti-illegal immigration efforts in the region," a spokesman said.

    The Italian coastguard announced Saturday that more than 4,500 people had been rescued off Libya's coast in a single day.

    The operations rescued migrants from nine boats and 12 dinghies. The body of a woman was also recovered.

    ? 2015 AFP


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  • Nigerians not against Biafra - Guy Ikokwu, civil war hero

    21/Aug/2016 // 480 Viewers

     

    Civil war hero and Second Republic politician, Chief Guy Ikokwu, believes that Nigerians must avoid fighting another civil war at all cost. He sees the agitations across some sections of the country as strong call for the adoption and practice of a true federal system of government within one Nigeria. In this interview, he declares that ‘Biafra’ has become a collective project of all sections of the country, warning the Federal Government not to wait until things get out of hand before doing the right things.

    Recently, former President Olusegun Obasanjo raised the alarm that the country has become fractured like never before. Both of you fought in the civil war. Are you alarmed too?

    No, I am not alarmed. Obasanjo’s statement was part of a realistic assessment of the state of the nation. Obasanjo certainly knows more than others because he has been within the system for many years. So, he knows the causes, remote and recent. People don’t know that Obasanjo was a very good friend of the late Major Kaduna Nzeogwu and Major Usman Katsina. They had served together in the North and various segments of the military. People also don’t know that when Nzeogwu died in the civil war, Obasanjo was taking care of his (Nzeogwu’s) mother in the present Delta State until she died. So, Obasanjo has been right within the Nigerian fabric and the Nigerian project.

    The cries we have today are not for disintegration; the cries we have today are for restructuring of the country. The proponents who are fighting for a just cause are in the majority in Nigeria today. From the South-east to the South-south, North-east, North-west, North-west, South-south and North central, there is a consensus of opinions that Nigeria should be restructured. Leaders and members of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) also share the view. So, it is not a question of political difference, it cuts across the politics of the day. It is in the APC manifesto that Nigeria should be restructured. So, it is not a glib talk; it is not something that started last night.
    The Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, is one of those who had seen it all from the academic and economic side of it. He recently asked, ‘how can out of the 36 states in the country today, 28 of them cannot pay salaries. All the 36 states have 36 governors and 36 deputy governors with millions of aides, 36 state assembly speakers, 36 deputy speakers, and state assembly committees of all sorts. In the National Assembly it is the same thing.’ Sanusi said when you go down to the local councils, you would see how much money that was spent on salaries and allowances. He asked what then was left for the development of Nigeria as a nation.
    As a former CBN governor, he was telling the truth. He knew it all; he had seen it all. You can have a reserve of $100 billion but if out of your $100 billion reserve $90 billion is used for recurrent expenditure, what then is left for capital expenditure? Capital expenditure is for development so what are we leaving for our children? How do we give proper education to our children? High level education is what any nation needs to develop. There must be productivity in your technology and in your science if you must develop.
    So, Nigeria has hit the bottom, a situation where virtually all the governments in the country cannot pay salaries. If you don’t pay salaries of workers that you hire, how would those workers feed and maintain their families? What of the multiplier effect and index?
    Now, look at other countries that have used their natural resources properly for the development of their country. See where they are now since 1960 and compare it with where we are now since 1960. I give you an example. Malaysia came here to study how we grow palm trees and produce palm oil. Today we are importing palm oil from Malaysia.
    So, calls for the restructuring of the country are very realistic. It is not something that is just a figment of the imagination. Obasanjo said what all of us know. A majority of our citizens, both low and high level, know that we have been in a crisis of productivity and governance for a long time now. The difference is that it is now on the table of the ordinary man. It is now that the ordinary man is agitated because he can’t afford one meal per day.

    How can we turn the ugly situation around?

    The situation can only be turned around if we change our system. All the countries that have made progress in the last 100 years have done so primarily because they have a system that is able to harness their natural God-given resources. The ones that don’t have such God-given resources fell back on their intellectual manpower. Singapore is in this latter category.

    Meanwhile, these countries are federations, not unitary. They have diverse ethnic and religious groups just like Nigeria. Nigeria is an amalgam of a lot of diverse interests but it is an amalgam, which if you harness individually and properly, could give rise to more beneficial productive aspects of the land. However, the military deceived Nigeria by saying that we had a federal government both in 1979 and 1999. It is a lie! What we have is unitary federalism.  And our historians and constitutional eggheads say that such a contradiction is a fallacy. The constitutions that the military gave to us right from the Gen. Aguiyi-Ironsi era were military constitutions. These military constitutions are absolutely illegal. They are contradictions of what we call normal constitutional tenets. Sovereignty belongs to the people, not to the military. Therefore, the issue of system is that we need a truly federal government. We need a true fiscal federation so that there would be sustainability and the ethos of development.

    In a truly federal system of a parliamentary nature, you find that the head of government is not a one-man show. And because it is not a one-man show, he is subject to party discipline. Today, there is absolutely no head of government in Nigeria that is subject to party discipline. It is not so in a parliamentary system. A minister or commissioner in a parliamentary system can take over from the president or the governor if the president or governor loses a vote of confidence. Therefore, the president or governor in a parliamentary system is very careful so as to retain the confidence of a majority. This majority are delegates of the people who have the sovereignty.

    So, the kind of restructuring in your mind is a return to the parliamentary system?

    Yes, we should return to the practice of regional governments in a parliamentary system in Nigeria, which was the system in place before and after independence until the creation of the 12 states structure by General Gowon shortly before the civil war. Under the system, Nigeria had more rapid development. In fact, when they started, Eastern region was less developed than the others. But within a very short time, the East overtook the others and was developing at a minimum of 10 per cent per annum. It was just like China which developed at the minimum of 12 per cent.

    The new system should be in such way that the regions will be contributing to the centre, not the centre contributing to the regions or the states. Today, all the states go cap in hand to Abuja every month to get some palliatives. Have you ever heard of the centre bailing out the states so that they can pay salaries until now? It is ridiculous; it is a contradiction of federalism. It never happened when we practiced the parliamentary system under regional governments. This current system encourages corruption. But the parliamentary system will reduce it and there will be more growth. Now, how would there be more growth? This is what we say should be in the new constitution of Nigeria. The new constitution must have a clause which says that any appropriation bill should have at least 60 per cent for capital expenditure and 25/30 per cent for recurrent expenditure. But today, the reverse is the case because there are constraints. If we go into the details you will find that we are in real mess.

    You mentioned that the present system encourages corruption. What is your take on the anti-corruption crusade of the current administration?
    Unitary federalism, which we are practicing encourages corruption because it allows for very little accountability. It is a system that is dictated by one man so there are no checks and balances. If you go back to the last 16 years of governance in Nigeria, the Executive lobbies the Legislature to pass the budget. But as soon as the Legislature passes the budget, it becomes the property of the Executive. At the federal level, it is the property of the president and his wife. It is in their bedroom that they will deal with oil blocks, infrastructure, and make disbursements. Ditto at the state and local council levels. No minister or commissioner in that government can query the president or governor. If the EFCC should probe all the governors across the political parties in the last 16 years, there is hardly one of them that it would not find to have embezzled billions of public money. So, if President Buhari wants to wipe out corruption, it should be holistic. Some of the suspects, in order not to be probed, have decamped to the president’s party so they can be protected. The EFCC knows them, so why are so many of them not being probed? Why have those already probed not been fully tried? Why have they not been sentenced? Why has government not collected the monies that they stole? That is what the ordinary man is asking.

    President Buhari basically has two agenda. One is to fight against insurgency. We support him 110 per cent. Buhari also has a penchant inbuilt in him to fight corruption. His election slogan was that if we don’t kill corruption, corruption will kill Nigeria. We support him on the issue but the methodology is a different matter. The theory is correct but how to implement the theory is a different thing. If you want to wipe out corruption, there is no country in the world that can wipe out corruption 100 per cent. What you do is you reduce corruption by dealing decisively with culprits in accordance with the law. Therefore, any issue of corruption must be dealt with holistically. We applaud him for being determined to deal with the corruption of the last administration. But he must also deal with the corruption of the previous governments and we have records that go back to 1979. The people are still alive and the money that they accumulated corruptly is still around us, further corrupting our system. He should order the anti-graft agencies to take those people on.

    Do you think the National Assembly has the capacity to effect some of the reforms you have advocated?

    The National Assembly (NASS), to some extent, can do it. The issue is now on the front burner and the hue and cry is everywhere. I’m still talking about restructuring. The media has helped, and the media is still helping by putting it on the front burner and not waiting for the latter day because the latter day is total disintegration. So, it should be done; there is no excuse. Obasanjo knows this; Gen. Akinrinade knows this, likewise Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi, Tanko Yakassai, David Mark, Atiku Abubakar and many others that have voiced their concerns. Let me add that even President Buhari also knows this.

    Former President Goodluck Jonathan placed the report of the 2014 National Conference before David Mark, the former Senate president (never mind Buhari says the report is in the archives; it is in his own bedroom archives).  The National Assembly has made copies of the report available to members in preparation for the planned amendment of the constitution. Recall that the 7th NASS amended the constitution but the amendments were not implemented because Jonathan refused to sign the document. So, those former amendments and the report of the 2014 National Conference should be taken. Then any new proposal on the basis of what we have seen or what we are learning that is applicable to us as a people should also be added to them and discussed during the new amendment process. The NASS should also involve the civic society for their input. It’s only when that is done that we can have a semblance of what the people want in the country called Nigeria.

    Don’t you think that representatives from the northern part of the country where there is no consensus in support of restructuring will frustrate any motion towards that on the floor of the NASS?
    We have been fighting Boko Haram for how many years now? Boko Haram is from the North-east. It started from there but it is the resources of the whole country that government has been spending to fight them. Has it ended? The answer is No. Is the NASS not concerned about what is going on? They are very much concerned because it is our resources that are being depleted. If oil price goes down to $20 per barrel, how would members of the NASS get their money? The price of a loaf of bread now is from N200 upwards. When a loaf of bread starts costing N1000, there will concerns. You can’t shut your eyes to realistic issues. Whether you are North, East, South or West, all of us would be victims. The people who might not be victims are the so-called billionaires who can buy a loaf of bread for N5000. So, when the concerns become universal, there would be a collective search for solutions. It is a question of time. Sovereignty, which means real action, belongs to the people. When the people say enough is enough they mean it.

    You are a respected elder statesman from Igboland. You are talking about restructuring but the agitation by members of the Independent People of Biafra (IPOB) is for total separation. What is your take on that?

    If Nigeria disintegrates there will be Biafra. When I say Biafra I don’t mean the old Biafra of the late Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu. Biafra means (and those who don’t know it should know now), conscience. Like Noble Laureate Wole Soyinka said recently, Biafra is an attitudinal matter. Biafra is self-determination. What the South-south people, the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA), are talking about for their self-determination is Biafra not territorial Biafra. People should understand that. They are talking about Biafra of the conscience, Biafra of justice, and Biafra of self-determination that sovereignty belongs also to them and that they should get their own side of it. Go to the South-west, what Afenifere is talking now is Biafra. Afenifere is saying that if Nigeria is going to disintegrate, they want their own Biafra; they want their own self-determination. So, Biafra as self-determination, applies to South-west, South-east, South-south, North-east, North-west and North central.
    When the late Saudana of Sokoto, Ahmadu Bello, was governing the entire Northern region as premier, he used proceeds from groundnuts to build great universities. Then, the North had economic sustainability. In the West, the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, used proceeds from cocoa to build the first television station in Africa. And Nigeria can still produce more cocoa than Ivory Coast, which survives on proceeds from cocoa, or equal them. In the East, we had rubber and palm oil plantations. Today, Michellin has gone; they had factories here, but they don’t produce tyres anymore in Nigeria. But we have the rubber, we have the raw material. We can start exporting it or we will establish factories that will manufacture better tyres for our vehicles. Why do we have to import virtually everything we need in this country?
    So, when you have a system that encourages the economy of self-reliance of all the component parts of Nigeria, using the mineral resources available to them to do exactly what God says they should do, that is Biafra. During the civil war, we were refining crude oil into petrol in the bush for 30 months and distributing to cars and whatever. For aircrafts there was an element that was added during the refining process to get aviation fuel that the jets used. This was done sustainably by a part that believed in itself, in its own technology and in its own advancement for almost three years. So, if all parts of Nigeria can exercise their right to self-determination, there will be healthy competition and sustainable development.

    Do you think this is achievable under a united Nigeria in the face of growing separatist agitations?

    The separatist agitations are against unitary federalism as our system of government. The separatist agitators are calling for a true federal system of government within one Nigeria. The Afenifere of the West is an army of the Yorubas. Are you deceived by it? It is an Oduduwa army and security apparatus.  You have it in IPOB, the militants in the Niger Delta and so on. Are you waiting until everybody starts fighting each other before you do the right things? The country would go into abyss if that is allowed to happen.

    So you believe that IPOB, for instance, is not serious with its quest to have a country called Biafra?

    They are our children. Ohanaeze Ndigbo is one imperial institution of all Igbos; it doesn’t matter who you are. Ohanaeze believes in justice, equity and fair play. Ohanaeze believes in the autonomy of federating units and that these units should subscribe to the centre for what the centre should do for the country. What are the things the centre should do for the country? They should be in charge of foreign affairs and protection of territorial integrity. They should also have a central police, but the component units should be allowed to have state police with the two complementing each other. That is what operates in the U.S. and it makes them to grow rapidly. Nigeria can also move fast if we do the right things. Last year, Nigeria was ranked as the largest economy in Africa. Last week, we heard that Nigeria has gone below, that South Africa has taken its place. The next you will hear, if care is not taken, is that Nigeria is below Egypt. And before you know it we will be fourth or fifth on the ladder. You see, we are going down. Is it when we reach the drains that people will begin to ask what happened or how did we get there?
    Today, most Nigerians who have their thinking faculties say that the price of Nigeria’s crude oil should not rise to $100 in the immediate future.  When we reform let it go up. Let it rise when we know how to use our cocoa, rubber, cotton, etc. We are dormant because we run a mono economy. Everything depends on oil and yet the communities where you get the resources are not benefitting. Let the economy remain depressed for the next two years so we can recycle Nigeria and move forward as a country.

    You witnessed the build up to the civil war and eventually went to the battle front on the side of Biafra. What do you expect leaders of the country to be doing at a time like this?

    Ojukwu, before he died, said ‘please don’t fight another civil war. Do all you can to rectify any anormaly. Shout and protest but don’t fight another civil war’. It’s on YouTube and we have shared it with members of the IPOB. That is why the disobedience of the boys is very civil and not armed. But you see some people provoking them by killing them and so on.

    Only recently they started releasing some of them that were being incarcerated. Some are still being incarcerated even when the courts have granted them bail. We do not believe in another civil war. We believe that civic actions will eventually lead us to a solution, the aggregate of which would come from the people. Restructuring used to be a dirty and innocuous word a year ago but it is no longer. I now hear it everywhere. There is a thunderous yes to restructuring everywhere it is mentioned now. When you have that kind of hilarious cry, people who say they are deaf their ears will open. And their ears will open more because the economic situation is bad. They can see it with their own eyes. Many world powers are now advising Nigeria to change the system because the people want it. Any government that doesn’t have good ears would soon hear. - DAILY SUN


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  • The Latest On The Attack On A Hotel In The Malian Capital Of Bamako

    21/Nov/2015 // 284 Viewers

    The U.S. State Department says one American was among at least 19 people killed an attack Friday at a Radisson hotel in Bamako, Mail.

    The department is declining to immediately identify the American victim out of respect for the family.

    Secretary of State John Kerry is offering “deepest condolences to the families of the deceased and injured” in the assault.

    Kerry says the U.S. Embassy in Bamako stands ready “to provide support to the Malian government in the investigation” of the incident.

    He says, “These terrorist attacks will only deepen our shared resolve to fight terrorism.”

    10:48 p.m.
    A top army official says 22 people including the attackers were killed in the siege of a hotel in the Mali capital of Bamako.

    Army Cmdr. Modibo Nama Traore said late Friday night that there appeared to have been two attackers, both of whom were killed.

    He said a Malian gendarme was among the dead. He added that five people were injured including two Malian police, and that 126 people were safely evacuated.

    9:14 p.m
    At least two Canadians are safe after Islamic extremists stormed the Radisson Blu hotel in Mali’s capital.

    A clerk for the House of Commons and an employee of Quebec’s national assembly were both in the hotel at the time of the attacks.

    Patrice Martin, acting deputy principal clerk, in Mali on a diplomatic support mission was unharmed in the attack according to Commons spokeswoman Heather Bradley.

    Earlier, a spokesperson for Quebec’s national assembly said Maxime Carrier-Legare was also safe.

    8:55 p.m.
    The United States says it is trying to verify the location of all American citizens in Mali after the deadly attack and siege at a hotel in its capital, Bamako.

    National Security Council spokesman Ned Price says the U.S. condemns the attack in the strongest terms and commends the bravery of the Malian, French, United Nations and U.S. security personnel who responded to the situation and prevented even worse loss of life.

    He says the U.S. is “prepared to assist the Malian government in the coming days as it investigates this tragic terrorist attack.”

    8:24 p.m.
    The death toll in the Mali hotel siege remains murky with France’s defense minister Jean-Yves Le Drian saying 18 people are dead at the hotel along with one Malian soldier killed in the fighting.

    It wasn’t immediately clear if the hotel dead included the gunmen.

    The French report of 19 dead is lower than the 27 dead initially reported by the U.N.

    A U.N. official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the operation was still ongoing, said a number of different casualty figures have been reported and the organization is working with authorities on the ground to get an exact number.

    —Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations
    7:33 p.m.
    Germany’s foreign minister says four of his country’s citizens survived the siege in Bamako unharmed.

    Frank-Walter Steinmeier says no Germans are known to have been injured in the attack

    He paid tribute late Friday to Malian security forces and French forces who supported them in freeing the hostages.

    Steinmeier said “today’s terrorist attack makes clear again that there’s still a long way to go before Mali is stabilized and that Islamic terrorism in the region hasn’t been defeated yet.”

    He also reiterated that Germany is prepared to increase its involvement in Mali and the region. Germany currently has nine soldiers in Mali as part of the Minusma mission, and 200 as part of the EUTM training mission.

    7:19 p.m.
    A spokeswoman for Quebec’s national assembly says an employee of the institution was among the hostages freed after Islamic extremists stormed the Radisson Blu hotel in Mali’s capital.

    Noemie Cimon-Mattar said Friday Maxime Carrier-Legare was in the hotel but is now safe.

    She said Carrier-Legare has been working as an adviser to an association of francophone parliaments since 2011.”

    6:40 p.m.
    UN mission spokesman Olivier Salgado says two attackers in the Mali hotel siege have been killed but he cannot yet confirm that operation is over. Security forces are going from room to room checking for more casualties.

    Another U.N. official says initial reports from the field indicate that 27 people were killed in the attack on the Radisson Blu hotel in Mali’s capital. It is not clear if that total included the bodies of the attackers.

    The official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the operation is still ongoing, said 12 bodies were found in the basement and 15 bodies were found on the second floor.

    The official stressed, however, that operations are ongoing and that the building had yet to be totally cleared.

    —Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations
    6:20 p.m.
    U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is condemning “the horrific terrorist attack” at the Radisson hotel in Mali’s capital and expressing hope that it won’t derail implementation of the peace agreement in the troubled West African nation.

    Ban’s spokesman, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric, says the U.N. chief noted with concern that Friday’s attack took place “at a time when the peace process is making good progress,” and signatories were in Bamako to attend a meeting,

    He says Ban is expressing “full support to the Malian authorities in their fight against terrorist and extremist groups” and sent condolences to the bereaved families and the many injured.

    Dujarric says a U.N. peacekeeping force has been assisting Malian authorities in handling the crisis.

    Dujarric said the three U.N. staff members in the hotel during the attack “were safely evacuated.”

    4:55 p.m.
    Malian state television is reporting that no more hostages are being held at a luxury hotel after a daylong siege by Islamic militants.

    National broadcaster ORTM, citing security officials, said 18 bodies were found at the hotel so far and that no more hostages were being held.

    It was not immediately clear whether the attackers were still inside.

    Gunfire continued into the late afternoon, and Malian army commander Modibo Nama Traore said operations were continuing.

    4:30 p.m.
    An extremist group that two years ago split from al-Qaida’s North Africa branch and led by Moktar Belmoktar claimed responsibility for the attack, in a recorded statement carried by Al-Jazeera. The group said it wanted fighters freed from Mali’s prisons and for attacks against northern Malians to stop.


    The group, known as the Mourabitounes, was formed in 2013 after Belmoktar left al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb and fused with a Malian militant group. The statement issued Friday said the Mourabitounes had attacked in coordination with the “Sahara Emirate” affiliated with al-Qaida.
    3:20 p.m.
    United Nations deputy spokesman Farhan Haq says U.N. “quick-reaction forces” have been deployed to the siege area at the Radisson Blu hotel and are supporting Malian and other security forces.

    But he said that U.N. peacekeeping troops are not conducting operations. He said the United Nations had a few staff members in the hotel at the time of the attack but they are all safely out.

    Separately, the French Defense Ministry says a unit of French soldiers has arrived in Bamako in support of Malian security forces. It did not specify how many soldiers were involved.

    France has 3,500 troops operating in Mali and four other countries in the Sahel region as part of a five-nation counterterrorism operation codenamed Barkhane.

    2:55 p.m.
    A U.S. military official says at least six Americans have been evacuated from the Radisson Blu hotel.

    U.S. military personnel already stationed in the country have been helping take people from the hotel to safety.

    Col. Mark R. Cheadle, a spokesman for the U.S. Africa Command, says the U.S. military hasn’t received any other requests for help responding to the attack, but that the United States will continue assisting the French with intelligence and surveillance in Mali.

    French Prime Minister Manuel Valls meanwhile is expressing his support for Mali, France’s former West African colony, saying it is a country “that fights jihadism so bravely.”

    2:45 p.m.
    France’s national gendarme service says “about 40” French special police forces are taking part in the assault on the Radisson Blu hotel.

    A spokesman for the service who was not authorized to be publicly named said the forces are permanently based in Bamako, primarily to secure the French Embassy.

    He said they are currently “playing a supporting role” alongside local security forces.

    —Nicolas Vaux-Montagny in Paris
    2:25 p.m.
    A spokesman for the U.S. Africa Command says U.S. military forces stationed in Mali are helping to secure the scene of the hotel attack in Mali.

    Col. Mark R. Cheadle says American military personnel “have helped move civilians to secure locations, as Malian forces work to clear the hotel of hostile gunmen.”

    U.S. State Dept. spokesman John Kirby says Americans “might be present at the hotel,” and that the U.S. Embassy in Bamako is working to verify this.

    1:30 p.m.
    The Brussels-based Rezidor Hotel group that operates the Radisson Blu Hotel in Bamako when the assault began says 125 guests and 13 employees are still in the hotel.

    Separately, Germany’s foreign minister says that two Germans who were taken hostage in the hotel have been set free.

    Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told reporters on Friday during a visit to Zambia that is unclear whether any other Germans were in the hotel, the dpa news agency reported.

    1 p.m.
    Malian state TV says 80 people who were in the hotel in Bamako when the assault began have now been freed. The special forces were continuing their operation to end the standoff.

    Earlier, the Brussels-based Rezidor Hotel group that operates the Bamako hotel said the assailants had “locked in” 140 guests and 30 employees in the attack on Friday.

    Malian troops reacted quickly. As people ran for their lives near the hotel along a dirt road, the soldiers in full combat gear pointed the way to safety. Within hours, local TV images showed heavily armed troops in what appeared to be a lobby area.

    12:35 p.m.
    President Barack Obama says he’s monitoring the situation playing out in Mali.

    Obama made the brief comment about hotel attack after a meeting in Kuala Lumpur with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak. He didn’t offer any additional details.

    The White House says Obama was briefed about the attack by his national security adviser, Susan Rice. White House officials say Obama has asked to be kept updated about new developments.

    12:20 p.m.
    Malian army commander, Modibo Nama Traore, says Malian special forces have entered the hotel and are freeing hostages “floor by floor.”

    He says at least 30 hostages have been freed already and that Malian security forces are trying to make contact with the assailants.

    Traore says at least one guest earlier reported that the attackers instructed him to recite verses from the Quran before he was allowed to leave the hotel.

    12:15 p.m.
    Air France says 12 members of one of its plane crew who are staying at the attacked hotel in Bamako are all safe.

    Air France spokeswoman Ulli Gendrot told The Associated Press that the “the crew is in a safe place.” She said the 12 included two pilots.

    12:10 p.m.
    French President Francois Hollande says France is ready to help Mali with all means necessary in the wake of the hotel attack in the capital, Bamako.

    Hollande asks all French citizens in Mali to make contact with the French Embassy there “in order that everything is made to offer them protection.”

    In Belgium, Foreign Minister Didier Reynders said there were four Belgians registered at the attacked hotel but it’s unclear if they were taken hostage by the gunmen or not.

    Reynders also said there are “15 hostages who have been freed after an intervention” but didn’t provide more details.

    11:57 a.m.
    Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita has cut short its tip to Chad where he was attending a meeting of G5 Sahel.

    The Mali presidency said on Twitter that Keita will be back to Bamako “in the next hours.”

    Meanwhile, France’s national gendarme service says about 50 elite police troops are en route from Paris to Bamako.

    A spokesman for the service who was not authorized to be publicly named said they are heading Friday from two different units of special police forces trained for emergency situations.

    —Nicolas Vaux-Montagny in Paris
    11:52 a.m.
    Air France has cancelled its Paris-Bamako flight after gunmen attacked a hotel in the Mali capital.

    Air France spokesman Ulli Gendrot said the “3852 flight has been canceled.” It was due later Friday.

    The attackers seized about 170 hostages on Friday morning at the Radisson Blu Hotel.

    A Malian military official has said at least three people are confirmed dead in the attack and that more than 100 hostages are believed to be held.

     

    Source: AFP


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