Nigeria News update

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Nigerian Navy soldiers have rescued all the 32 crew and passengers of a sunken boat along the Bonny waterways in Nigeria’s Niger Delta oil region, a naval spokesman said in a statement on Sunday.

Lt. Olabisi Way said the passenger boat was heading towards Port Harcourt, the Rivers state capital, from Bonny on Saturday when it developed a problem.

”At a location off Dawes Island, the boat started taking in water. At the point of sinking, the naval gunboats came to their rescue, and conveyed the passengers safely to Port Harcourt,” he said in the statement.

Due to the incessant activities of militants, waterways are routinely patrolled by the Nigerian Navy component of the Joint Military Task Force deployed to help maintain peace in the restive region.

Gunmen suspected to be militants have abducted the father of the Secretary to the Government of Delta State in Nigeria’s restive Niger Delta oil region, the local press reported Monday.

It said the 76-year-old pa Arthur Okowa was taken away by three gunmen who arrived in his residence at Boji-Boji Owa in the Ika East Local Council area of the state Sunday, after he returned from church.

The kidnappers reportedly tied up a little boy who was with the old man before taking the man away to an unknown destination.

Though the police has launched an investigation into the kidnapping, no group has claimed responsibility for it.

It was the second case of kidnapping in the region in the past three days.

On Friday, the father of a legislator in the Rivers state House of Assembly (parliament) was kidnapped by unknown gunmen in the capital city of Port Harcourt.

Rivers police command spokesperson Rita Abbey identified the lawmaker as Victor Ihunwor, and said Victor’s father, Paihunwor, was relaxing in front of his house in the Dioubu area of the oil city when some gunmen abducted him at about 8 pm local time.

Kidnapping is now common in the oil region, but most cases of abduction end peacefully with the release of the hostage, usually after the payment of ransom.

Anxiety and apprehension have gripped the political circle in Nigeria’s South-west Ondo State ahead of the expected judgment this week by the state governorship election petition tribunal sitting in state capital, Akure.

Apprehension heightened Saturday as speculations became rife that the tribunal might deliver its verdict Tuesday, the privately-owned Punch newspaper reported Sunday.

The candidate of the opposition Labour Party (LP), Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, is challenging the declaration of Dr. Olusegun Agagu of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as the winner of the 2007 election by the Independent National Electoral Commission.

Although the paper has not confirmed the actual judgment date, it said that there were indications that the petition might be determined this week.

The Ondo State Council of the Nigerian Union of Journalists, according to the paper, has been asked by the tribunal to forward the names and passport photographs of journalists expected to cover the Nabaruma-led panel.

It reported that the police had also begun preparations for the judgment, saying that the State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Charles Dawodu, held a meeting with c hairmen and secretaries of eight registered political parties, including the cha i rmen of the PDP and the LP.

The Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Mr. Adeniran Aremu, said the meeting was centred on how to ensure a peaceful atmosphere in the state before, during and after the tribunal verdict.

Several Nigerian state governors have been removed by their state election petition tribunals since the general elections last year, but their elections have either been confirmed by the higher court or their removal affirmed, in which case they had to feature in fresh elections.

All the governors who have been subjected to fresh elections so far have won and returned to their posts.

Local and international observers have described the 2007 general elections as the worst in the country’s history.

Three soldiers and one civilian were feared dead after the boat in which they were travelling was attacked by suspected militants along the Nembe Creek in Bayelsa state in Nigeria’s oil producing Niger Delta region, military sources said Saturday.

The Commander of the Joint Task Force (JTF) in Bayelsa, Lt.-Col. Chris Musa, told newsmen in Yenagoa that the soldiers were returning from Brass, which hosts a military base and several oil facilities, to the Bayelsa capital (Yenagoa) when their boat was ambushed.

He said the bodies of the soldiers and the civilian had yet to be found.

The attack came a few days after suspected militants attacked a house boat in nearby Rivers state, causing a gun fight in which five persons, including a navy soldier, were killed.

Bayelsa is the home base of the region’s largest militant group, Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), which last Saturday called off its unilateral ceasefire to protest Britain’s offer of military support to the Nigerian government to battle the gunmen in the oil region.

The Committee on Drugs, Narcotics, Financial Crimes and Anti-corruption in Nigeria’s upper legislative house (the Senate) has rated the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Offences Commission (ICPC) low in the fight against corruption, according to the privately-owned Punch newspaper.

The committee’s reservation, according to the paper, is contained in the Senate’ s report on the committee’s activities from June 2007 to June 2008.

The committee held that the ICPC needed to be revamped, so as to be more proactive and result oriented.

According to the committee, other anti-corruption bodies — the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency (ND L EA) — have proved to be better performers than the ICPC where Justice Emmanuel A yoola replaced Justice Mustapha Akanbi as the ICPC boss in 2006.

“The committee members observed that the ICPC has not been proactive like the EF CC and the NDLEA, and as such needs redirection if it must achieve the purpose for which it was established,” the report said.

It said that it was not aware of the challenges facing the commission in the fight against corruption and called on it to wake up to its responsibility.

The Senate committee said it would continue to assist agencies in the fight against corruption and financial crimes irrespective of the odds.

The committee said it was working on the amendment of the EFCC Act, adding that it would also undertake the amendment of the ICPC Act 2000 and NDLEA Act as contained in the Laws of the Federation 2004 to make them more effective in their operations.

Nigeria’s main opposition party, the Action Congress (AC ), has said the agreement between Britain and Nigeria to set up a ‘security training force’ to help battle the militants in the Niger Delta will worsen the crisis in the oil-rich Nigerian region.

And in London, Nigerians in the diaspora have advised the British Prime Minister , Gordon Brown, not to involve Britain in turning the Niger Delta into another Iraq or Afghanistan.

In a statement issued in Abuja, Nigeria’s federal capital city, Sunday, by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the opposition party said the p act should be rescinded immediately, while the ongoing efforts to employ ‘dialogue’ to resolve the crisis should be pursued, especially now that the planned jamboree, tagged ‘summit’, had been dropped.

It said the violence in the region was only a symptom of a more deep-rooted problem, caused by years of neglect “of the goose that lays the golden egg” by successive governments, many of which only paid lip service to efforts to lift the oil

producing communities from poverty and environmental degradation.

“Britain is putting the cart before the horse by its unnecessary and incendiary offer of military assistance to Nigeria to quash the militancy in the Niger Delta . This strategy amounts to curing the symptoms of a disease instead of the disease itself. It cannot work,” AC said.

“We are perplexed at the reason behind Britain’s offer of military assistance, a t a time the militants have shown they could have their way even with the massive military deployments in the region.

“There is no doubt that Britain was not driven by altruism in taking that decision, but by enlightened self interest. Or may be it is pay back time for the Brit s , after all Baroness Lynda Chalker backed Yar’Adua’s controversial election at a

time local and international observers tagged it the worst in the country’s history,” the party said.

AC praised Nigerians in the Diaspora who demonstrated in London against the ‘Greek Gift’ from Britain during President Yar’Adua’s visit to Britain this past wee k , saying their views are shared by millions of their compatriots at home who believe that only a just and fair approach can help resolve the crisis in the Niger Delta.

“We have said it before and we will like to repeat it, that there can be no military solution to the Niger Delta crisis.

“Therefore, all genuine friends of Nigeria should come in with ideas on how to provide jobs for the millions of unemployed youths in the Niger Delta; reverse t h e years of environmental pollution that has wiped away the people’s means of livelihood; provide quality education for the youths and social infrastructure for the impoverished oil communities.

“Anything short of these prescriptions will not work, even if Britain deploys its entire military to the Niger Delta!” AC warned.

In their petition to 10 Downing Street, the official residence of the British Prime Minister and to the Nigerian High Commission in London, Nigerians, under the

aegis of the Ijaw Peoples Association (IPA), urged Britain to commit President Umaru Yar’Adua’s government to implement the Master Plan for Niger Delta, as the ultimate roadmap to peace and stability in the oil-rich region, with a clear timetable.

Nigerians from various ethnic nationalities such as the Urhobos, Yorubas, Akwa Ibomites, Isokos and Ogonis participated in the protest, which started at about 1 0 am London time Saturday from the Trafalgar Square.

The protesters proceeded to the centre of power in London where a protest letter for President Yar’Adua was handed over to the Nigerian High Commissioner to Britain, Dr. Dalhatu Tafida, for onward transmission to Nigeria.

The protesters proceeded to the centre of power in London where a protest letter for President Yar’Adua was handed over to the High Commissioner, Dr. Dalhatu Tafida, for onward transmission to Nigeria.

The IPA President, Mr. Roland Ekperi and Chairman, Ijaw National Congress (INC) (Europe), Dr. Felix Tuodolo, were at the head of the protest march.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) has said it will intervene in securing the release of the two German construction workers who were kidnapped in Nigeria’s Niger Delta oil region 11 July.

In a statement e-mailed to the media Sunday, MEND said its intervention was because ”from all indications, the inept Nigerian security forces have been unable to make any progress towards their freedom”.

”We consider such criminal acts as a duty for the law enforcement agencies as practised in every part of the world and, as a rule, (we) never get involved. However, this case will be an exception to the rule because the men are involved in construction of infrastructure in the Niger Delta region,” MEND said.

Niger Delta’s largest militant group said it had ”located and identified the culprits and will begin negotiating with the kidnappers in the hope for a safe and unconditional release of the captives”.

The construction workers, with the construction company Julius Berger, were kidnapped while they were inspecting a project being handled by the company along Emohua road, some 15 kilometres from the Rivers state capital, Port Harcourt.

The company is handling the ongoing expansion of the East-West road that runs through the heart of the Niger Delta region.


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