Fuel subsidy removal: Jonathan launches first phase of mass transit scheme with 1100 buses

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Abuja, Jan. 9, 2012 (NAN) President Goodluck Jonathan has launched the first phase of mass transit support scheme involving 110 buses, in fulfillment of his promise on palliatives for the fuel subsidy removal.

In his remarks during the launching in Abuja on Sunday, Jonathan said besides ameliorating the suffering of commuters, the scheme would help develop a mass transit culture for the country.

“There is the need for the country to have a robust mass transit scheme to bring down the cost of transportation as it is obtainable in developed countries,” he said.

Jonathan disclosed that there were various programmes in the offing by the government to subsidise the transport scheme in the country.

The President however said the buses would not be managed by government as perceived in some quarters.

“The scheme will be run by private transporters, with government subsidising the scheme to bring down transportation cost,” he said.

Jonathan disclosed that the three tiers of government, namely the federal, state and local governments, were also involved in the scheme with the support of the transport operators.

The President also used the occasion to re-assure Nigerians that the deregulation of the downstream petroleum sector was in their overall interest as government could not inflict pains on the masses.

“I urge our people to ignore the campaign of calumny against the policy by some group who have politicised the issue,” he said.

Earlier, the Minister of Trade and Investment, Dr. Olusegun Aganga, had said the federal government approved N15 billion for the mass transit scheme at zero per cent interest rate.

“The buses will be handed over to mass transit operators in order to make transport available and affordable,” he said.

Aganga disclosed that 50 per cent of the buses were sourced from local manufacturers with a 10-year maintenance agreement.

The Minister said government’s decision to patronise local manufacturers was to encourage industrialisation and provide job opportunities.

“Government is partnering with local automobile manufacturers to increase their capacity to about 5,000 units in the next eight months,” he said.

Aganga also said government was working on a new automotive policy to encourage Foreign Direct Investment in the sector.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the National President, National Union of Road Transport Workers(NURTW), Alhaji Usman Nazif, led his members and leaders of affiliate unions to the event.

Nazif said the union identified with the federal government on the removal of fuel subsidy.(NAN){source}
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About Post Author

Anthony Claret

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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Bayelsa residents shun anti fuel subsidy removal protest

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Residents of Yenagoa, Bayelsa State capital Monday shunned civil society groups protest against the removal of fuel subsidy by the federal government.

The civil society groups under the aegis of Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO) Bayelsa chapter had weekend called for public protest against the subsidy removal and had even gone ahead to sensitize the public not to sit on the fence but to come out en mass to protest against the Federal Government policy which they considered as “anti Nigerian people.”

While the leaders of the civil society groups in the state blamed the failure of the street protest to hold on the refusal of the police to grant them permit for the rally, a senior police source dismissed the claim as untrue saying the command even deployed policemen to provide the civil society groups protection which informed presence of security operatives at take off point of the rally and other strategic locations in the state capital so as to prevent miscreants from hijacking the process.

According to the police source, the refusal of residents to heed the call of the civil society groups stage a street protest may have cause their leaders to turn around to say they were denied permit for the rally.

Informed sources told Vanguard that contrary to claims that the protesters were stopped from holding their rally, some pro subsidy lobbyists Sunday night succeeded in infiltrating the rank of the anti subsidy removal camp and the result was the failure of residents to turn out for the rally.

Aside the pro subsidy removal loyalists dividing the rank of the civil society groups’ members to scuttle the street protest, most residents of the capital city were not prepared to be seen as kicking against the policy of Mr. President whom they considered as one of their own by protesting on the streets.

Though all government offices, commercial banks and schools which were billed to resume yesterday were under lock and keys in deference to the organized labour stay at home directive, market women, retail outlet owners and transporters defied the directive.

It was business as usual in the few markets in the capital city as the traders were going about their normal in spite of poor turn out of customers most of whom stayed in the comfort of their homes to monitor the national strike on television.

Also some of the filling stations defied the stay at home directive of the NLC and TUC by selling to members of the public.

As at press time some of the supermarkets that close shop in the early hours of the day had opened to customers while security patrol of the streets was intensified by the state police command.

About Post Author

Anthony Claret

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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Curfew slapped on Kano city after deadly clashes

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KANO (Codewit) – Officials announced a nighttime curfew for the northern city of Kano on Monday after clashes between police and protesters seeking to storm the governor’s office left two people dead.

“Following the sad incidents in the city today where some hoodlums hijacked a peaceful protest by labour unions, the state government hereby imposes a 14-hour curfew,” Kano state information commissioner Faruk Jubril told journalists.

“Starting from tonight, people are hereby ordered to remain indoors between 6:00 pm and 8:00 am until further notice. This is to ensure maintenance of law and order.”

The police commissioner for Kano state, where Kano city is the capital, said the authorities were forced to respond to the violence.

He confirmed one person killed, seven injured and 23 arrested. A hospital source said earlier that two people died from gunshot wounds in Kano.

Protests were held as part of a nationwide strike that kicked off on Monday over soaring petrol prices in Africa’s most populous nation and largest oil producer.

“The protest organised by the labour unions was going on peacefully and the protesters had the permission of police to march from the labour secretariat to the race course for their rally,” Police Commissioner Ibrahim Idris said.

“Suddenly from nowhere a group of criminals besieged the government house and tried to force themselves in. They overpowered the policemen on duty, who had to seek reinforcements from soldiers to disperse the rampaging crowd.”

About Post Author

Anthony Claret

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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Nigeria: Protest: 7 feared dead, 30 injured in Kano Nine-year boy trampled to death during protests

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KANO (Codewit) – At least five people were shot dead Monday during protests over an oil price hike while a nine-year boy was reportedly trampled to death by a crowd, officials and medical sources said.

Sixteen others suffered gunshot wounds, with most of the violence in the northern city of Kano, where police clashed with demonstrators.

The head of Nigeria’s Human Rights Commission, Chidi Odinkalu, said three people were shot dead in the economic capital Lagos while another was shot in Kano, where a boy also crushed to death in a stampede.

“My understanding is that the nine-year-old appears to have been trampled in what looks like a stampede in Kano,” he told AFP.

Earlier, a hospital source in Kano reported at least two dead — a 25-year-old and 27-year-old — from gunshot wounds, bringing the nationwide toll to up to six.

A union leader accused police of shooting dead a protester in Lagos. Police spokesman Samuel Jinadu confirmed the death and said an officer had been arrested.

Police fired tear gas and shot into the air as thousands of protesters converged on the governor’s office in Kano, the largest city in the north.

Clashes broke out with police who pushed the protestors back as they tried to enter the Kano governor’s office.
Protesters set two vans ablaze and also tried to torch the home of central bank governor Lamido Sanusi in Kano, but were stopped by police.

The office of the secretary of the state government — its highest administrative officer — was also set ablaze, causing serious damage.

The strike came after the government’s deeply controversial move to end fuel subsidies on January 1, which caused petrol prices to more than double in a country where most of the 160 million population lives on less than $2 a day.

About Post Author

Anthony Claret

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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Burial of Dim Odumegwu-Ojukwu concluded and approved the final burial programme

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The first full meeting of the Central Committee on the Burial of Dim Odumegwu-Ojukwu concluded and approved the final burial programme of the icon this evening and addressed a press conference in Abuja. It was decided that the funeral period will run from January 14 to February 12. While burial ceremony activities will hold in over 12 cities in Nigeria, as well as in London and Dallas, USA, his remains will only go to Abuja, Owerri, Aba, Umuahia, Enugu, Awka and Nnewi (in that order). He will be buried at 5pm on Saturday Feb. 3, at Nnewi after a pontifical requiem Mass. (Ikemba had requested that the service be a Latin Mass)
I will brief you almost on a daily basis on the activities.

By Uche Ezechukwu (Member of the Central Committee on the Burial of Dim Odumegwu Ojukwu)

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Anthony Claret

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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PHOTONEWS: Femi Falana and Seun Kuti Join Occupy Nigeria

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Son of afrobeat maestro, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti jointhe mass movement in Lagos protesting against IMF/World Bank induced withdrawal of gasoline subsidy in Lagos.

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About Post Author

Anthony Claret

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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Biafra: A People Betrayed

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THERE is a “Kingdom of Biafra” on some old maps which were made by early white explorers of the west coast of Africa. Nobody is now sure what that kingdom was, what its laws and arts and tools were like. No tales survive of the kings and queens.

As for the “Republic of Biafra” we know a great deal. It was a nation with more citizens than Ireland and Norway combined. It proclaimed itself an independent republic on May 30, 1967. On January 17 of 1970, it surrendered unconditionally to Nigeria, the nation from which it had tried to secede. It had few friends in this world, and among its active enemies were Russia and Great Britain. Its enemies were pleased to call it a “tribe.”

Some tribe.

The Biafrans were mainly Christians and they spoke English melodiously, and their economy was this one: small-town free enterprise. The worthless Biafran currency was gravely honored to the end.

The tune of Biafra’s national anthem was Finlandia, by Jan Sibelius. The equatorial Biafrans admired the arctic Finns because the Finns won and kept their freedom in spite of ghastly odds.

Biafra lost its freedom, of course, and I was in the middle of it as all its fronts were collapsing. I flew in from Gabon on the night of January 3, with bags of corn, beans, and powdered milk, aboard a blacked out DC6 chartered by Caritas, the Roman Catholic relief organization. I flew out six nights later on an empty DC4 chartered by the French Red Cross. It was the last plane to leave Biafra that was not fired upon.

While in Biafra, I saw a play which expressed the spiritual condition of the Biafrans at the end. It was set in ancient times, in the home of a medicine man. The moon had not been seen for many months, and the crops had failed. There was nothing to eat anymore. A sacrifice was made to a goddess of fertility, and the sacrifice was refused. The goddess gave the reason: The people were not sufficiently unselfish and brave.

Before the drama began, the national anthem was played on an ancient marimba. It seems likely that similar marimbas were heard in the court of the Kingdom of Biafra. The black man who played the marimba was naked to the waist. He squatted on the stage. He was a composer. He also held a doctor’s degree from the London School of Economics.

Some tribe.

I went to Biafra with another novelist, my old friend Vance Bourjaily, and with Miss Miriam Reik, who would be our guide. She was head of a pro-Biafran committee that had already flown several American writers into Biafra. She would pay our way.

I met her for the first time at Kennedy Airport. We were about to take off for Paris together. It was New Year’s Day. I bought her a drink, though she protested that her committee should pay, and I learned that she had a doctor’s degree in English literature. She was also a pianist and a daughter of Theodor Reik, the famous psychoanalyst.

Her father had died three days before.

I told Miriam how sorry I was about her father, said how much I’d liked the one book of his I had read, which was Listening with the Third Ear.

He was a gentle Jew, who got out of Austria while the getting was good. Another well-known book of his was Masochism in Modern Man.

And I asked her to tell me more about her committee, whose beneficiary I was, and she confessed that she was it: It was a committee of one. She is a tall, good-looking woman, by the way, thirty-two years old. She said she founded her own committee because she grew sick of other American organizations that were helping Biafra. Those organizations teemed with people ‘who were kinky with guilt’, she said. They were trying to dump some of that guilt by being maudlinly charitable. As for herself; she said, it was the greatness of the Biafran people, not their pitifulness that turned her on.

She hoped the Biafrans would get more weapons from somebody, the very latest in killing machines. She was going into Biafra for the third time in a year. She wasn’t afraid of anything. Some committee.

I admire Miriam, though I am not grateful for the trip she gave me. It was like a free trip to Auschwitz when the ovens were still going full blast. I now feel lousy all the time.

I will follow Miriam’s example as best I can. My main aim will not be to move readers to voluptuous tears with tales about innocent black children dying like flies, about rape and looting and murder and all that. I will tell instead about an admirable nation that lived for less than three years.

De mortuis nil nisi bonum. Say nothing but good of the dead.

I asked a Biafran how long his nation had existed so far, and he replied, “Three Christmases, and a little bit more.” He wasn’t a hungry baby. He was a hungry man. He was a living skeleton, but he walked like a man.

Miriam Reik and I picked up Vance Bouijaily in Paris, and we flew down to Gabon and then into Biafra. The only way to get into Biafra was at night by air. There were only eight passenger seats at the rear of the cabin. The rest of the cabin was heaped with bags of food. The food was from America.

We flew over water, there were Russian trawlers below. They were monitoring every plane that came into Biafra. The Russians were helpful in a lot of ways: They gave the Nigerians Ilyushin bombers and MIGs and heavy artillery. And the British gave the Nigerians artillery too and advisers, and tanks and armored cars, and machine guns and mortars and all that, and endless ammunition.

America was neutral.

When we got close to the one remaining Biafran airport, which was a stretch of highway, its lights came on. It was a secret. Its lights resembled two rows of glowworms. The moment our wheels touched the runway, the runway lights went out and our plane’s headlights came on. Our plane slowed down, pulled off the runway, killed its lights, and then everything was pitch black again. There were only two white faces in the crowd around our plane. One was a Holy Ghost Father. The other was a doctor from the French Red Cross. The doctor ran a hospital for the children who were suffering from kwashiorkor, the pitiful children who had no protein.

Father.

Doctor.

As I write, Nigeria has arrested all the Holy Ghost Fathers, who stayed to the end with their people in Biafra.

The priests were mostly Irishmen. They were beloved. Whenever they built a church, they also built a school. Children and simple men and women thought all white men were priests, so they would often beam at Vance or me and say, “Hello, Father.” The Fathers are now being deported forever. Their crime: compassion in time of war. We were taken to the Frenchman’s hospital the next morning, in a chauffeur-driven Peugeot. The name of the village itself sounded like the wail of a child: AwoOmama.

I said to an educated Biafran, “Americans may not know much about Biafra, but they know about the children.”‘ We’re grateful,” he replied, “but I wish they knew more than that. They think we’re a dying nation. We aren’t. We’re an energetic, modern nation that is being born! We have doctors. We have hospitals. We have public-health programs. If we have so much sickness, it is because our enemies have designed every diplomatic and military move with one end in mind — that we starve to death.”

About kwashiorkor: It is a rare disease, caused by a lack of protein. Its cure has been easy, until the blockading of Biafra.

The worst sufferers there were the children of refugees, driven from their homes, then driven off the roads and into the bush by MIGs and armored columns. The Biafrans weren’t jungle people. They were village people—farmers and professionals and clerks and businessmen. They had no weapons to hunt with. Back in the bush, they fed their children whatever roots and fruit they were lucky enough to find. At the end, a very common diet was water and thin air. So the children came down with kwashiorkor, no longer a rare disease. The child’s hair turned red. His skin split like the skin of a ripe tomato. His rectum protruded. His arms and legs were like lollipop sticks.

Vance and Miriam and I waded through shoals of children like those at Awo-Omama. We discovered that if we let our hands dangle down among the children, a child would grasp each finger or thumb—five children to a hand. A finger from a stranger, miraculously, would allow a child to stop crying for a while.

A MIG came over, fired a few rounds, didn’t hit anything this time, though the hospital had been hit often before. Our guide guessed that the pilot was an Egyptian or an East German.

I asked a Biafran nurse what sort of supplies the hospital was most in need of.

Her answer: “Food.”

Biafra had a George Washington — for three Christmases and a little bit more. He was and is Odumegwu Ojukwu. Like George Washington, General Ojukwu was one of the most prosperous men of his place and time. He was a graduate of Sandhurst, Britain’s West Point. The three of us spent an hour with him. He shook our hands at the end. He thanked us for coming. “If we go forward, we die,” he said. “If we go backward, we die. So we go forward.” He was ten years younger than Vance and me. I found him perfectly enchanting. Many people mock him now. They think he should have died with his troops.

Maybe so.

If he had died, he would have been one more corpse in millions.

He was a calm, heavy man when we met him. He chainsmoked. Cigarettes were worth a blue million in Biafra. He wore a camouflage jacket, though he was sitting in a cool living room in a velveteen easy chair. “I should warn you,” he said, “we are in range of their artillery.” His humor was gallows humor, since everything was falling apart around his charisma and air of quiet confidence. His humor was superb. Later, when we met his second-in-command, General Philip Effiong, he, too, turned out to be a gallows humorist. Vance said this: “Effiong should be the Number two man. He’s the second funniest man in Biafra.”

Jokes.

Miriam was annoyed by my conversation at one point, and she said scornfully, “You won’t open your mouth unless you can make a joke.” It was true. Joking was my response to misery I couldn’t do anything about. The jokes of Ojukwu and Effiong had to do with the crime for which the Biafrans were being punished so hideously by so many nations. The crime: They were attempting to become a nation themselves. “They call us a dot on the map,” said General Ojukwu, “and nobody’s sure quite where.” Inside that dot were 700 lawyers, 500 physicians, 300 engineers, 8 million poets, 2 novelists of the first rank, and God only knows what else — about one-third of all the black intellectuals in Africa. Some dot. Those intellectuals had once fanned out all over Nigeria, where they had been envied and lynched and massacred. So they retreated to their homeland, to the dot. The dot has now vanished. Hey, presto.

When we met General Ojukwu, his soldiers were going into battle with thirty-five rounds of rifle ammunition. There was no more where that came from. For weeks before that, they had been living on one cup of gari a day. The recipe for gari is this: Add water to pulverized cassava root. Now the soldiers didn’t even have gari anymore. General Ojukwu described a typical Nigerian attack for us: “They pound a position with artillery for twenty-four hours, then they send forward one armored car. If anybody shoots at it, it retreats, and another twenty-four hours of bombardment begins. When the infantry moves forward, they drive a screen of refugees before them.”

We asked him what was becoming of the refugees now in Nigerian hands. He had no jokes on this subject. He said leadenly that the men, women, and children were formed into three groups, which were led away separately. “Your guess is as good as mine,” he said, “as to what happens after that,” and he paused. Then he finished the sentence: “To the men and the women and the children.” We were given private rooms and baths in what had been a teachers’ college in Owerri, the capital of Biafra. The town had been captured by the Nigerians, and then, in the one great Biafran victory of the war, recaptured by the Biafrans. We were taken to a training camp near Owerri. The soldiers had no live ammunition. In mock attacks, the riflemen shouted, “Bang!” The machine gunners shouted, “Bup-bup-bup!”And the officer who showed us around, also a graduate of Sandhurst, said, “There wouldn’t be all this fuss, you know, if it weren’t for the petroleum.” He was speaking of the vast oil field beneath our feet. We asked him who owned the oil, and I expected him to say ringingly that it was the property of the Biafran people now. But he didn’t.

“We never nationalized it,” he said. “It still belongs to British Petroleum and Shell.” He wasn’t bitter. I never met a bitter Biafran. General Ojukwu gave us a clue, I think, as to why the Biafrans were able to endure so much so long without bitterness: They all had the emotional and spiritual strength that an enormous family can give. We asked the general to tell us about his family, and he answered that it was three thousand members strong. He knew every member of it by face, by name, and by reputation. A more typical Biafran family might consist of a few hundred souls. And there were no orphanages, no old people’s homes, no public charities and, early in the war, there weren’t even schemes for taking care of refugees. The families took care of their own, perfectly naturally. The families were rooted in land. There was no Biafran so poor that he did not own a garden.

Lovely.

Families met often, men and women alike, to vote on family matters. When war came, there was no conscription. The families decided who should go. In happier times, the families voted on who should go to college to study what and where. Then everybody chipped in for clothes and transportation and tuition. The first person from the area to be sponsored by his family all the way through graduate school was a physician, who received his doctor’s degree in 1938. Thus began a mania for higher education of all kinds. This mania probably did more to doom the Biafrans than any quantity of petroleum. When Nigeria became a nation in 1960, formed from two British colonies, Biafra was part of it—-and Biafrans got the best jobs in industry and the civil service and the hospitals and the schools, because they were so well educated. They were hated for that—perfectly naturally. It was peaceful in Owerri at first. It took us a few days to catch on: Not only Owerri but all of Biafra was about to fall. Even as we arrived, government offices nearby were preparing to move. I learned something: Capitals can fall almost silently. Nobody warned us. Everybody we talked to smiled. And the smile we saw most frequently belonged to Dr. B. N. Unachukwu, the chief of protocol in the Ministry of Affairs. Think of that: Biafra was so poor in allies at the end that the chief of protocol had nothing better to do than woo two novelists and an English teacher, He made lists of appointments we had with ministers and writers and educators and so on. He sent around a car each morning, with a chauffeur and guide. And then we caught on: His smile and everybody’s smile was becoming slightly sicker with each passing day. On our fifth day in Biafra, there was no Dr. Unachukwu, no chauffeur, and no guide.

We waited and waited on our porches. Chinua Achebe, the young novelist, came by. We asked him if he had any news. He said he didn’t listen to news anymore. He didn’t smile. He seemed to be listening to something melancholy and maybe beautiful, far far away. I had a novel of his, Things Fall Apart He autographed it for me. “I would invite you to my house,” he said, “but we don’t have anything.” A truck went by, loaded with office furniture. All the trucks had names painted on their sides. The name of that one was Slow to Anger. “There must be some news,” I insisted.

“News?” he echoed. He thought. Then he said dreamily, “They have just found a mass grave outside the prison wall.” There had been a rumor, he explained, that the Nigerians had shot a lot of civilians while they’d held Owerri. Now the graves had been found. “Graves,” said Chinua Achebe. He found them uninteresting.

“What are you writing now?” said Miriam.

“Writing?” he said. It was obvious that he wasn’t writing anything, that he was simply waiting for the end. “A dirge in Ibo,” he said. Ibo was his native tongue.

An extraordinarily pretty girl named Rosemary Egonsu Ezirim came over to introduce herself. She was a zoologist. She had been working on a project that hoped to turn the streams into fish hatcheries. “The project has been suspended temporarily,” she said, “so I am writing poems.”

“All projects have been suspended temporarily,” said Chinua, “so we are all writing poems.”

Leonard Hall, of the Manchester Guardian, stopped by. He said, “You know, the closest parallel to what Biafra is going through was the Jews in the Warsaw ghetto.” He was right. The Jews of Warsaw understood that they were going to get killed, no matter what they did, so they died fighting.

The Biafrans kept telling the outside world that Nigeria wanted to kill them all, but the outside world was unimpressed.

“It’s hard to prove genocide,” said Hall. “If some Biafrans survive, then genocide hasn’t been committed. If no Biafrans survive, who will complain?”

A male refugee came up to us, rubbed his belly with one hand, begged with the other. He rolled his eyes.

“No chop,” we said. That meant, “No food.” That was what one said to beggars. Then a healthy girl offered us a quart of honey for three pounds., As I’ve already said, the economy was free enterprise to the end.

It was a lazy day.

We asked Rosemary about a round, bright-orange button she was wearing. “Daughters of Biafra,” it said. “Wake! March!” In the middle was a picture of a rifle.

Rosemary explained that Daughters of Biafra supported the troops in various ways, comforted the wounded, and practiced guerrilla warfare. “We go up into the front lines when we can,” she said. “We bring the men small presents. If they haven’t been doing well, we scold them, and they promise to do better. We tell them that they will know when things are really bad, because the women will come into the trenches to fight. Women are much stronger and braver than men.”

Maybe so.

“Chinua, what can we send you when we get back home?” said Vance.

And Chinua said, “Books.”

“Rosemary,” I said, “where do you live?”

“In a dormitory room not far from here. Would you like to see it?” she said.

So Vance and I walked over there with her, to stretch our legs. On the way, we marveled at a squash court built of cement block—built, no doubt, in colonial times. It had been turned into a Swiss cheese by armor-piercing cannon shells. There was a naked child in the doorway, and her hair was red. She seemed very sleepy, and the light hurt her eyes.

“Hello, Father,” she said.

All of Owerri seemed out for a walk on either side of the street in single file. The files moved in opposite directions and circulated about the town. There was no place in particular for most of us to go. We were simply the restless center of the dot on the map called Biafra, and the dot, was growing smaller all the time.

We strolled past a row of neat bungalows. Civil servants lived there. Each house had a car out front, a VW, an Opel, a Peugeot.

There was plenty of gasoline, because the Biafrans had built cunning refineries in the bush. There weren’t many storage batteries, though. Most private cars had to be started by pushing.

Outside one bungalow was an Opel station wagon with its back full of parcels and with a bed and a baby carriage tied on top. The man of the house was testing the knots he’d tied, while his wife stood by with the baby in her arms. They were going on a family trip to nowhere. We gave them a push.

A soldier awarded Vance and me a salute and a dazzling smile. “Comment ça pa?” he said. He supposed we were Frenchmen. He liked us for that. France had slipped a few weapons to Biafra. So had Rhodesia and South Africa, and so had Israel, I suspect.

“We will accept help from anyone,” General Ojukwu told us, “no matter what their reasons are for giving it. Wouldn’t you?”

Rosemary lived in a twelve-by-twelve dormitory room with her five younger brothers and sisters, who had come to see her over the Christmas holidays. Rosemary and her seventeen-year-old sister had the bed. The rest slept on mats on the floor, and everybody was having an awfully good time.

There was plenty to eat. There were about twenty pounds of yams piled on the windowsill. There was a quart of palm oil for frying yams. Palm oil, incidentally, was one of two commodities that had induced white men to colonize the area so long ago. The other commodity was even more valuable than palm oil. It was human slaves.

Think of that: slaves.

We asked Rosemary’s sister how long it took her to fix her hair and whether she could do it without assistance. She had about fourteen pigtails sticking straight out from her head. Not only that, but her scalp was crisscrossed by bare strips, which formed diamonds—strips around the hair in the pigtails. Her head was splendidly complicated, like a Russian Easter egg.

“Oh, no, I could never do it alone,” she said. Her relatives did it for her every morning. It took them an hour, she said.

Relatives.

She was an innocent, pretty dumpling in a metropolis for the first time. Her village hadn’t been overrun yet. Her big, cozy family hadn’t been scattered to the winds. There were peace and plenty there.

“I think we must be the luckiest people in Biafra,” she said.

Rosemary’s sister still had her baby fat.

And now, as I write, I hear from my radio that there was a lot of raping when the Nigerian army came through, that one woman who resisted was drenched with gasoline and then set on fire.

I have cried only once about Biafra. I did it three days after I got home, at two o’clock in the morning. I made grotesque little barking sounds for about a minute and a half, and that was that.

Miriam tells me that she hasn’t cried yet. She’s tough about the ways of the world.

Vance cried at least once, while we were still in Biafra. When little children took hold of his fingers and stopped crying, Vance burst into tears.

Wounded soldiers were living in Rosemary’s dormitory, too. As I left her room, I tripped on her doorsill, and a wounded soldier in the corridor said brightly, “Sorry, sah” This was a form of politeness I had never encountered outside Biafra. Whenever I did something clumsy or unlucky, a Biafran was sure to say that: “Sorry, sah!” He would be genuinely sorry. He was on my side, and against a bloody trapped universe.

Vance came into the corridor, dropped the lens cap of his camera. “Sorry, sah! said the soldier again, We asked him if life has been terrible at the front. “Yes, sah!”he said. “But you remind yourself that you are a brave Biafran soldier, sah, and you stay.”

A dinner party was given in our honor that night by Dr. Ifegwu Eke, the commissioner for education, and his wife. They had been married four days. He had a doctor’s degree from Harvard. She had a doctor’s degree from Columbia. There were five other guests. They all had doctor’ degrees. We were inside a bungalow. The draperies were drawn.

There was a Danish modern sideboard on which primitive African carvings were displayed. There was a stereo phonic phonograph as big as a boxcar. It was playing the music of Mantovani. One of the syrupy melodies, remember, was “Born Free.”

There were canapes. There was a sip of brandy to loosen our tongues. There was a buffet dinner, which included bits of meat from a small native antelope. It was dreadful in the way so many parties are dreadful: Everybody talked about everything except what was really on his mind.

The guest to my right was Dr. S. I. S. Cookey, who had taken his degree at Oxford and who was now provincial administrator for Opobo Province. He was exhausted. His eyes were red. Opobo Province had fallen to the Nigerians months ago. Others were chatting prettily, so I ransacked my mind for items that might encourage Dr. Cookey and me to bubble, too. But all I could think of were gruesome realities of the most immediate sort. It occurred to me to ask him, for instance, if there was a chance that one thing that had killed so many Biafrans was the arrogance of Biafra’s intellectuals. My mind was eager to ask him, too, if I had been a fool to be charmed by General Ojukwu. Was he yet another great leader who would never surrender, who became holier and more radiant as his people died for him?

So I turned to cement. I remained cement through the rest of the evening, and so did Dr. Cookey; Vance and Miriam and I had a drink in Miriam’s room after the party. Owerri’s diesel generator had gone off for the night, so we lit a candle.

Miriam commented on my behavior at the party.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I didn’t come to Biafra for canapes.

What did we eat in Biafra? As guests of the government, we had meat and yams and soups and fruit. It was embarrassing. Whenever we told a cadaverous beggar “No chop,” it wasn’t really true. We had plenty of chop, but it was all m our bellies. There was a knock on Miriam’s door that night. Three men came in. We were astonished. One of them was General Philip Effiong, the second funniest man in Biafra. He had a tremblingly devoted aide with him, who saluted him ten times a minute, though the general begged him not to. The third man was a suave and dapper civilian in white pants and sandals and a crimson dashiki. He was Mike Ikenze, personal press secretary to General Ojukwu.

The young general was boisterous, wry, swashbuckling, high as a kite on incredibly awful news from the fronts. Why did he come to see us? Here is my guess: He couldn’t tell his own people how bad things were, and he had somebody. We were the only foreigners around. He talked for three hours. The Nigerians had broken through everywhere. They were fanning out fast, slicing the Biafran dot into dozens of littler ones. Inside some of these littler dots, hiding in the bush, were tens of sands of Biafrans who had not eaten anything for weeks and more. What had become of the brave Biafran soldiers? They were woozy with hunger. They were palsied by shock. They had left their holes. They were wandering.

General Effiong threw up his hands. “It’s over!” he cried, and he gave a laugh that was ghoulish and broken.

He was wrong, of course. The world is about as un-shockable as a self-sealing gas tank.

We didn’t hear guns until the next afternoon. At five o’clock sharp there were four quick peals of thunder to the south. The thunder was manmade. No shells can our way.

The birds stopped talking. Five minutes went by, and they began talking again.’

The government offices were all empty. So were the bungalows. We were waiting for Dr. Unachukwu to take us to Uli Airport, the only way out. The common people had stayed to the last, buying and selling and begging— doing each other’s hair.

They, too, stopped talking when they heard the guns. We could see many of them from our porches. They did not start talking again. They gathered together their property, which they put on their heads. They walked out of Owerri wordlessly, away from the guns.

Dr. Unachukwu, our official host, did not come, and did not call. It was spooky in Owerri. We were now the only people there. We didn’t hear the guns again. Their words to the wise were sufficient.

Owerri’s diesel generator was still running. That was another thing I learned about a city falling silently: To fool the enemy for a little while, you leave the lights on.

Dr. Unachukwu came. He was frantic to be on his way, but he smiled and smiled. He was at the wheel of his own Mercedes. The back of it was crammed with boxes and suitcases. On top of the freight lay his eight year-old son.

I have written all this quickly. I find that I have betrayed my promise to speak of the greatness rather than the pitifulness of the Biafran people. I have mourned the children copiously. I have told of a woman who was drenched in gasoline.

As for national greatness: It is probably true that all nations are great and even holy at the time of death.

The Biafrans had never fought before. They fought well this time. They will never fight again.

They will never play Finlandia on an ancient marimba again.

Peace.

My neighbors ask me what they can do for Biafra at this late date, or what they should have done for Biafra at some earlier date.

I tell them this: “Nothing. It was and is an internal Nigerian matter, which you can merely deplore.”

Some wonder whether they, in order to be up to date, should hate Nigerians now.

I tell them, “no.”

About Post Author

Anthony Claret

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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Nigeria: The Fuel Subsidy debate

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Read Time:16 Minute, 44 Second

It was a torture watching the widely televised town hall meeting on government’s plan to remove what it terms subsidy on petrol. I am sure the organizers wanted to present the impression that it was an engagement between Nigerians and proponents of the policy; on that count, they failed woefully. Aside from few interventions, there was hardly any thorough and clear position in defense of the mass of poor Nigerians who will be adversely affected by increased cost of petrol. Instead, there were escapist caveat and conditionalities, ‘if you must remove fuel subsidy, you must do this and that’. I was particularly shocked when Ben Bruce was introduced as the Advocate- in- Chief of poor Nigerians! When did that transformation happen?

Watching the Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo Iweala show slide after slide to prove her point, I could not help but conclude that we had returned to the era of economic growth on graphs and bar charts alone, with no corresponding indicators on the price of Garri or Rice in the market. She argued that the ‘landing cost’ of a litre of petrol is N139, that fuel subsidy in 2011 will cost the government N1.4trillion; that that figure amounts to 30% of Nigeria’s revenue, that Nigerians consume between 35million and 40million litres of petrol daily etc. However, what the Finance Minister carefully failed to mention however is what constitutes ‘landing cost’ of petrol. That term becomes relevant in the first place because the government has failed to improve the refining capacity of Nigeria. So rather than move crude oil directly from the oil fields in Nigeria to refineries in Nigeria and then to filling stations in Nigeria, the crude oil is moved from the oil fields, to sea ports where it is transported across the ocean, to distant lands, where duties are paid, tax is paid, profit margins are added, jobs are created and salaries are paid.

Refined products are again moved across the ocean at high cost to Nigeria for consumption. Why does this happen? Because we have failed to build new refineries or service existing ones. This is not to say that monies have not been allocated and doled out for the periodic turn around maintenance of the refineries, indeed it has, and in billions too! But because the government has given those maintenance contracts to the very same people who import refined products into the country! Is there any doubt as to why the refineries are not working? And why have new refineries not been built? Simple, because ‘government has no business in business” at least that is the view of the Honorable coordinating Minister. So rather than take the matter of building new refineries as top priority by the government, with realization that oil is the mainstay of the Nigerian economy, from 2000, the government licensed 20 new refineries to be constructed by private investors. None has done as much as placed the foundation 11 years later!

About the quantity of petrol consumed daily in Nigeria, I am at a complete loss. A few weeks ago, it was quoted as 32 million litres. Imagine my shock when the Finance Minister gave the figure as between 35million and 40million litres! Wow! Our population must really grow rapidly or someone is being funny with figures, and why won’t they inflate the figures, the whole cost of subsidy depends on how much fuel Nigerians consume daily. A few months ago, the ‘Comrade’ Governor Adams Oshimhole, (who by the way was on the government side in this debate) had cause to question the consumption figure presented by the government. He had said, “the number is crazy, even if all Nigerians are drinking petrol the way we drink pure water.  How many litres do we consume? Who is taking what”? I couldn’t have said it better!

The government was at least bold enough at the meeting to admit that the consumption figure was incorrect. The CBN Governor (when he wasn’t threatening and muscling Nigerians with Economic doomsday) clearly stated that the figure has been inflated on account of petrol neither imported nor supplied to the filling stations, but for which monies are paid. He barely fell short of admitting that the government has not really been subsidizing Nigerians, but itself and its friends. After all, who grants licences for the importation of petrol?

Sanusi also mentioned smuggling of petrol into neighbouring countries as another factor that has led the increased consumption figure. According to him, Nigerian petrol is sold in Benin Republic and elsewhere and that this has been facilitated by bribery of government officials who aid and abet the process. And so? Does it make economic sense to punish Nigerians with increased fuel prices because government officials are corrupt and because the government has failed in its statutory duty of guarding the borders? I couldn’t help but recall that this same argument had in the past provided basis for the Obasanjo administration to increase the price of fuel. Are they now admitting that effort under the supervision of Mrs Iweala failed too?  How are we then sure this new effort will work? Does it not make economic sense to say that when prices go up in Nigeria, prices in Benin Republic will go up even higher? Doesn’t it also follow that if that is the case, there will be higher profit in sending imported fuel to Benin Republic rather than Nigeria? If that happens, will we not return to the same old situation of petrol scarcity which will drive up the cost of petrol in Nigeria?

It was also interesting listening to the Finance Minister on litres of petrol Nigerian car owners need. She obviously did this in an effort to show that the beneficiaries of fuel subsidy are higher income earners. If that was the intension, I was not convinced. For one she dwelt only on petrol usage by car owners and its effect on transportation. She carefully failed to mention the fact that perhaps equal or higher quantity of petrol is used daily in Nigeria to power millions of generators for living houses and businesses. Why? Because government has failed to provide power.

When Mrs Allison Madueke talked about the thousands of jobs that will be created when the subsidy ends, again she failed to mention the millions of jobs that will be lost when the price of petrol goes up. Does it not make economic sense to say that barbers, tailors, hairdressers and millions of small scale businesses will either fold up when they can no longer afford to power their businesses or they will increase prices for their services accordingly? Does she not also know that 90% of Nigerians who live on less than N320 a day will not be able to afford higher costs?

I couldn’t help but note that Mrs Allison cited the example of China as a country that closed it borders for twenty years only to emerge economically more viable and almost at par with the United States. Wow! That was a real shot on the leg! When China closed its borders as the Minister recalled, the government of China took charge of all aspects of the economy, regulated every sector. Isn’t that the exact opposite of what Madam Allison is proposing?

At least twice in the debate, mention was made of success in the deregulation of the telecommunications industry. What was not mentioned is that NITEL lies dead now, that revenue that should have accrued from it is lost, that thousands of staffs have lost their jobs. It was also not mentioned that the profits from the new telecom carriers are not ploughed in Nigeria but are drained to other countries!

After that it was the turn of the revered Central Bank Governor. I score him a pass in inciting fear. All the talk of how the Nigerian economy will collapse like Greece etc if fuel subsidy is not removed, did the trick. But on second thought, is he not aware that any person who lives on less than $1 a day as 70% of Nigerians are according to him is living in a collapsed economy? The truth is that for the vast majority of Nigerians, the economy collapsed long before the global financial crisis, and as they say, ‘he that is down needs fear no fall’. For these Nigerians, increased fuel prices will not only mean a worsened economy, but outright annihilation.

Sanusi further provided details as to how the ‘landing cost’ of petrol got so high. According to him, the government also has to pay for real and phantom demurrage by importers. Well isn’t this happening because the ports have become a cesspool of ineptitude and corruption? And who is to blame other than the government.

As the government has done severally in the past, Sanusi also blamed the entire situation on a ‘cartel’ in the oil industry that is adept at circumventing the process at every point. To this I ask again, since you know the cartel, why not just deal with it in accordance with the law? Because I could swear I saw one or two of them sitting at the front row observing the proceedings! Talk of insincerity.

Speaker after speaker reeled what they considered facts as to how foreign investors will flock into Nigeria as soon as deregulation takes place. Again we are back to the same old rhetoric about foreign investment, that same elusive agenda that kept President Obasanjo globetrotting for a good chunk of his term in office. So where are all the foreign investors?

It is not my place to educate our esteemed economists in government on the rudiments of investment, but I dare to do so. Investment thrives in an environment where it is secure. No investor wants to put his money in a clime where security is very much a challenge, where they run the risk of being kidnapped or worse still have their facilities bombed. On that count, Nigeria is not a favourite destination. Again, investors consider factors such as power supply and other infrastructure. No investor want to set up a business in a place where he will have to generate his own power, drill his own water etc. Given these facts, if any investor where to brave the challenges and set up a refinery in Nigeria, does it not follow that his production cost will be much higher than in other parts of the world? Does it not also follow that fuel prices may go up rather than go down as a result of higher production cost which itself is occasioned by government’s failure to provide basic infrastructure and security? I am sure our distinguished government officials are aware of this facts but choose to keep it off the table of discourse.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the meeting was when the government officials sought to showcase what government will do with the extra income. Extra income? Is there going to be extra income accruing to the country when subsidy is removed? The government says yes. But the same government officials say Nigeria has been borrowing to finance the subsidy, Sanusi even gave figures. Now, think about it. If we have been borrowing to fund subsidy, it simply means that government will stop borrowing for that purpose, but will not be saving extra income. Someone is definitely not telling the truth.

The government says it plans to fund power supply, agriculture, maternal health, etc. To this I cannot help but reflect. What happened to the billions pumped into the power sector all these years? When it was revealed that there was corruption, who was put on trial? And agriculture, maternal health? All you have to do is take a look at all the loans Nigeria has received on behalf of these sectors, what has come off it? The government is quick to respond that this time will be different, that Nigerians should trust the current team of ‘experts’. Maybe Nigerians should trust them the way we trusted them when crude prices went record high, the way we trusted them when with the excess crude account, the way we trusted them when they promised that $1billion will be saved annually and channelled into health care after the debt buy back deal in 2005. Talk of trust.

The government promises this time will be different. A team of ‘reputable’ Nigerians will be drafted into a committee which will oversee the use of the subsidy savings. To this I am certainly not swayed, going by their definition of reputation in the last national merit award jamboree!

All the debaters on the government side spoke so much about confidence in this new team of experts headed by Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo Iweala. They begged Nigerians to trust them. Trust? Let’s go a bit into history. In 2005/2006 when Nigerians were opposed to paying $12 billion at one go to the Paris Club of creditors, to write off debts which at best could be described as odious, they asked Nigerians to trust them. The same Ngozi Okonjo Iweala was Finance Minister at the time. Nigerians were promised that about $1billion will be saved annually from that exercise and that money will be plough into the same sectors which they are mentioning again! So what happened to that effort? Just to jolt your memory a bit, remember the following quotes?

“The recent debt relief extended to the country by the Paris Club was another indication that the country’s economic reforms were working”

PRESIDENT OLUSEGUN OBASANJO
Daily Independent, Thursday, July 7, 2005, Page A3

 

“The link between debt-relief-induced resource availability for the improvement of economic and social infrastructure such as access to health, education and water on one hand and the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2015 on the other is a natural one.”

Debt Management Office of Nigeria

“There is nothing like freedom-freedom from debt and the image that the debt relief and exit from Paris Club debt give to Nigeria . The debt relief has brought benefits to Nigerians and that it first represents a direct saving on debt-service repayment, interest, surcharges and other fees. It also improves the country’s worthiness in the global community and builds credible financial confidence for transactions. More investment would start to flow into Nigeria knowing we are no more classified as a bad and doubtful debt country. The debt relief is expected to create jobs and new wealth with new investments, which would translate into improved standard of living”

PRESIDENT OLUSEGUN OBASANJO
The Comet, Friday, July 22, 2005.

 

“It has become increasingly obvious that efforts towards the achievement of the MDGs cannot be separated from the issue of granting substantial debt relief”.

ALAHJI ATIKU ABUBAKAR (TURAKIN ADAMAWA)
VICE PRESIDENT, FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA

 

” The debt relief will now provide the Federal Government and the state enough funds to embark on viable development projects with direct bearing on the citizenry. I am totally not in support of the Federal and state governments hence forth going for foreign loans for a project that can never see the light of the day in addition to projects that are not viable or those that cannot bring economic gains”

ALHAJI MOHAMMED DANJUMA GOJE
EXECUTIVE GOVERNOR – GOMBE STATE
Daily Independent, Friday, July 15, 2005. Page A5

 

“This great and singular achievement will reduce the debt servicing burden on the National Treasury, thereby translating into the availability of more financial resources that could be channeled into vital areas such as education, health-care delivery, agriculture, water and power supply.”

OTUNBA GBENGA DANIEL
EXECUTIVE GOVERNOR – OGUN STATE
Thisday, July 28, 2005 page 48

 

” The fact that we have this debt reduction and we will be able to pay-off the balance of whatever is left will leave Nigerians free, to start on a new slate I mean it will be like a second independence, a rebirth, if you will, given us the freedom to focus squarely on our economic activities. It means that generations who would have been paying these debts in future will not have to pay it. And I think that is something that our children will appreciate and thank the President and thank the team and thank every one who has contributed to these all”.

DR. NGOZI OKONJO-IWEALA
HONOURABLE MINISTER OF FINANCE
NTA Live Network Programme, June 30, 2005

 “The real gain of $18 billion debt relief granted Nigeria by the Paris Club is the generation of economic activities in the private sector of the country. With this development, Nigeria could now experience new improved and greatly enhanced private capital flow into the country”.

AMBASSADOR ISAAC ALUKO-OLOKUN
SSA NEPAD (EXTERNAL)
Thisday, Sunday, July 17, 2005.

 “The $18 billion written off Nigeria ‘s debts which is almost two third of the nation’s total debts, could be the largest ever debt write-off by the Paris Club. The debt relief package should help the country’s goal of reducing poverty by making available some one billion dollars of debt service payment for improvement in social services including health and education. The comprehensive debt treatment, if fully implemented, has significant implications for debt sustainability, ongoing economic reforms and poverty reduction efforts, as well as removing the debt overhang, which has created uncertainty for private sector investment in the country”

ALHAJI MANSUR AHMED

DG, NIGERIAN ECONOMIC SUMMIT GROUP (NESG)
Nigerian Tribune, Thursday, July 14, 2005. Page 11

 

“The deal will help to change the lives of millions of people in Nigeria . It will mean more schools, more teachers and better health services for a country which has the biggest population in Africa . The deal is major step in bringing about a better future for a country in which seven million children receive no schooling at all and one in five dies before their fifth birthday”

RIGHT HONOURABLE HILARY BENN
INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT SECRETARY – UK

 

“If the money is to be used for immunisation, she (Mrs. Amina Ibrahim, SA to Finance Minister expected to monitor the utilisation of the funds to be so freed)  and her team would make sure that children are actually being immunised. If it is for the purchase of books for school children, it would be tracked to be sure that the pupils actually receive the books. If it is for building of classrooms, it would be so identified,”

DR. NGOZI OKONJO-IWEALA
HONOURABLE MINISTER OF FINANCE

Six years after the furore, the government admits we are back in crisis, external debt has risen to $5.633billion and domestic debt stands at N5.313trillion. I ask, what became of the $1billion savings? The economic team pleads “no comment”!

In all, what the advocates of oil subsidy removal have failed to show is what the actual cost of subsidy will be if government where to sit up to its duties, if all the channels of fraud and leakages are sealed. They have also failed to admit that it is the failure of government that Nigeria after over 5 decades of oil cannot refine to meet domestic needs. They certainly failed to prove how ordinary Nigerians will survive the crunch which will be engendered by increased fuel prices. What they definitely failed or chose not to understand is that for the ordinary Nigerian, the ‘temporary pain’ which they claim the policy will bring simply cannot be endured. Nigerians have been pushed to the wall for too long only two choices are left; drill the wall and disappear forever, or fight back. Your guess is as good as mine.

Finally, an advice to government: fight corruption, arrest, prosecute and get offenders to return what they have looted, cut the huge recurrent profile like the N1billion proposed for feeding the President and Vice President in the 2012 budget and those costs which makes the National Assembly consume 25% of Nigeria’s total overhead budget as Sanusi once informed us. I dare say, there will be savings enough to ‘build critical infrastructure’ and ‘create safety nets’.

Ken Henshaw is the National General Secretary of Nigeria’s United Action for Democracy (UAD).

About Post Author

Anthony Claret

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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My Neighbor, The Terrorist

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Read Time:6 Minute, 25 Second

Last week, President Goodluck Jonathan finally made his most direct response thus far to Boko Haram’s plague of violence. The president’s declaration of a state of emergency in designated local government areas in four states – Borno, Yobe, Plateau, and Niger – has earned a spectrum of reactions running from guarded praise to derision.

 

Mr. Jonathan should be given his due. The man has done, for now, his best. But the situation is so dire that his best is clearly far from enough.
 
Before our very eyes, parts of Nigeria have been transformed into mini-Baghdads and Kabuls. If you stand in a crowd in many a town in the northern part of Nigeria, chances are that the man or woman standing next to you is, quite literally, a ticking explosive. In traffic, the car in front of you or behind you, or to your right or left, may well be a vehicular bomb seconds away from detonating.
 
In such a situation, life is nasty, brutish and (potentially) short. Worse, circumstances of such extreme volatility and unpredictability mean that fear – a crippling brand of fear – is a constant companion to life. The psychological cost to citizens compelled to live in a constant state of fear is incalculable. If people perceive themselves to be under a death sentence, or believe that death lurks round the corner, then hyper-fear is bound to emerge as society’s condition and most significant emotion.
 
I got an illustration last week during a telephone conversation with a friend who resides in Abuja. Asked how he and his family were coping in the aftermath of the horrific bombing of a church on Christmas, this friend said they were holed up at home. “I don’t think any of us will go to a crowded place any time soon,” he said.
 
Those who trade in the tools of terror relish such responses. They win when their would-be victims cower in the (merely relative) refuge of their homes.
 
When the terrorists of September 11 flew hijacked planes like missiles into New York’s Twin Towers, then President George W. Bush appealed to Americans to be vigilant, but to go about their normal business. He made the point that the terrorists would have won only if Americans radically altered their routines in reaction to the terror attacks.
 
For the most part, Americans heeded their president. It is, we must admit, a different matter when the Nigerian president – or some other government official – implores citizens to be at ease. The US responded to September 11 by instituting a series of counter-terrorism measures within and outside their border. The country is technologically equipped and boasts some of the world’s most knowledgeable anti-terrorism experts. It was able to identify, and cut off, some of the sources of cash for their nemeses. Last year, America’s special forces tracked down Osama bin Laden in his Pakistani hideout and killed him.
 
No such luck, flair or resources for Nigeria. Last Thursday, Mr. Jonathan held an emergency meeting with his top security team. Emerging from the meeting, Inspector-General of Police Hafiz Ringim waxed with sobering truth. “Well, we are all worried,” 234next.com reported him as stating. “Terrorism is not an easy matter at all…as you are aware, it is a very new phenomenon here.” Mr. Ringim continued: “We have not had this kind of thing before and we are just having it now, so we are all scrambling to find our feet and face it squarely, that is what we are doing.”
 
That’s a confession that Nigeria’s security agencies lag behind the Boko Haram aggressors. It would be unfair to blame Mr. Jonathan or the current inspector-general for Nigeria’s state of unpreparedness. Nigeria is paying the price for years of negligence. We should have modernized our police years ago. We ought to have instituted high standards of equipment, personnel and training for our main law enforcement agency. Instead, we permitted the Nigeria police to develop into a caricature, its officers adept only at disrupting traffic with their ubiquitous roadblocks and haranguing road users to “drop” compulsory tithes of N20 and above.
 
Nigeria is a heedless country, its leaders and citizens impervious to the lessons of their own troubled history. We fought a war that claimed more than a million lives, but continue to behave as if we didn’t. Nigeria has had a long history of bloody sectarian flare-ups, but neither the police nor the other arms of the security services took the time to develop an effective manual for tackling the scourge.
 
Here we are, then, on the cusp of what could trigger another chilling war – and we are bewildered, perplexed, clueless. Mr. Jonathan’s selective declaration of a state of emergency is as unlikely to contain the Boko Haram threat as a man who uses his spittle can stop a raging fire. Yet, that may well be the best that the president can do – for now.
 
234Next reported Mr. Ringim’s assurance that the police “had made a lot of gains in combating the [Boko Haram] menace.” In the police honcho’s words, “We are prepared more than ever before and I want to assure you on this.” To underscore his confidence, the IG stated: “If we had not done what we did in Yobe, if we had not done what we did in Kaduna, indeed if the Nigerian Police Force had not done what we did in Kano…the story would have been a different one.” And then this: “l assure members of the public that the Nigerian Police Force and indeed all other security agencies are now ready more than ever before to face the challenges.”
 
I doubt that many Nigerians are tempted to take the IG’s assurance to the bank.
 
It being a New Year, there’s a sentimental part of me that so desperately wants to hope that the tag team of the police and the other security agencies will figure out the Boko Haram puzzle. But there’s hope, and there’s delusion. If it is true that Al Qaeda has linked up with Boko Haram, given that many young men recruited by the group are more than happy to martyr themselves for the prize of seventy-two virgins, and given the penchant of Nigerian officials for issuing assurances that can’t be backed with action – one must remain skeptical.
 
It’s comforting that Mr. Jonathan spoke about unspecified forthcoming measures. It’s true that evil exists in the world, including the evil of those who kill in God’s name. Yet, we should not altogether dismiss the notion that Boko Haram is, in part, a monster birthed by a country where a gluttonous few have driven the majority to a state of animalized degradation.
 
As Jonathan weighs how to proceed, he would do well to confess that he’s overwhelmed by the scale and character of the incubating disaster. He should then become a voice championing that long-deferred national conversation to discuss whether Nigeria means enough to sustain the faith, loyalty and commitment of its constituent groups.
 
I wish all my readers a dream-fulfilling New Year.
 
Email:  (okeyndibe@gmail.com“>okeyndibe@gmail.com)
Please follow me on twitter @ OkeyNdibe

About Post Author

Anthony Claret

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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Iran reports nuclear progress as sanctions loom

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Read Time:3 Minute, 47 Second

TEHRAN (Reuters) – – Iran announced a nuclear fuel breakthrough and test-fired a new radar-evading medium-range missile in the Gulf on Sunday, moves that could further antagonize the West at a time when Tehran is trying to avert harsh new sanctions on its oil industry.

U.S. President Barack Obama signed a law on Saturday imposing tougher financial sanctions to penalize Iran for a nuclear research programme that the West suspects is aimed at developing nuclear weapons.

The move could for the first time hurt Tehran’s oil exports, and the European Union is due to consider similar steps soon.

As tensions have risen, Iran threatened last week to close the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow Gulf shipping lane through which 40 percent of world oil flows, if sanctions hit its oil exports.

At the same time, it signaled on Saturday that it was ready to resume stalled international talks on its nuclear programme.

It says the programme is completely peaceful and, in what Iranian media described as an engineering breakthrough, state television said Iran had successfully produced and tested its own uranium fuel rods for use in its nuclear power plants.

The rods were made in Iran and inserted into the core of Tehran’s nuclear research reactor, the television reported.

Iran is trying to develop its own nuclear fuel cycle to power reactors without international help. Western countries are skeptical of some of Tehran’s engineering claims but say they fear Iran’s enrichment of uranium to make fuel could eventually lead to it producing a weapon.

SABRE-RATTLING

In what has become part of a pattern of saber-rattling in recent weeks, Iran is finishing a 10-day Gulf naval exercise.

Deputy Navy Commander Mahmoud Mousavi told IRNA state news agency it had successfully test fired a medium-range surface-to-air missile equipped with “the latest sophisticated anti-radar technologies.”

Iran has apparently delayed pre-announced plans to test its long-range missiles during the drill, saying the weapons would be launched in the next few days. Its long-range missiles could hit Israel or U.S. bases in the Middle East.

The United States and Israel say they have not ruled out military action against Iran if diplomacy fails to resolve the dispute over its nuclear programme.

Western analysts say Iran sometimes exaggerates its nuclear advances to try to gain leverage in its stand-off with the West.

The U.N. Security Council has already imposed four rounds of global sanctions on Iran, but Russia and China have refused to back sanctions that would seriously affect Iran’s oil industry, so the EU and United States have taken measures on their own.

Just how far the latest U.S. measures will go could depend on how Obama decides to implement them.

The U.S. defense funding bill, approved by Congress last week, aims to reduce the oil revenues that make up the bulk of Iran’s export earnings. Obama signed it in Hawaii on Saturday, where he was spending the Christmas holiday.

If enforced strictly, the sanctions could make it nearly impossible for most refiners to buy crude from Iran, the world’s fourth biggest producer.

POSSIBLE WAIVERS

However, Obama asked for scope to apply the measures flexibly, and will have discretion to waive penalties. Senior U.S. officials said Washington was consulting foreign partners to ensure the new measures did not harm global energy markets.

Despite its missile tests, war games and threats to close the Hormuz Strait, Iran has also made conciliatory gestures, saying it wants to resume talks with major powers, stalled for a year, about its nuclear research programme.

Western officials suggest the offer may be a stalling tactic to avert sanctions and buy time for more nuclear progress.

Iranian media reported on Saturday that nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili would write to the EU foreign policy chief to say Iran was ready for talks.

A senior Western diplomat in Tehran, who asked not to be identified, said the stepped-up Iranian threats show “that they are worried about losing petrodollars, on which more than 60 percent of the economy depends.”

The rising tensions are having an impact at home. Iran’s currency has nosedived in recent weeks as ordinary Iranians have moved money from savings accounts into gold or foreign currency.

The price of staple foods has increased by up to 40 percent in recent months and many critics have put the blame on increasing isolation brought about by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s economic and foreign policies.

(Writing by Peter Graff; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

About Post Author

Anthony Claret

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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