Nigeria Drops Charges Against Suspects in Oct. 1 Bombings

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Read Time:38 Second

Nov. 25 (Codewit) — Nigeria dropped charges against two suspects linked to twin bomb blasts in the capital, Abuja, Oct. 1 that killed at least 12 people.

Lead prosecutor Cliff Osagie said in court today the state decided to withdraw charges against Ernest Wosu and Emmanuel Pathfinder after concluding investigations about their involvement in the bombings. He did not give further details and declined to speak with reporters after the hearing.

Four others, including Charles Okah, brother of former Niger River delta rebel leader Henry Okah, are still standing trial in connection with bombings that occurred close to the venue of celebrations marking Nigeria’s 50 years of independence from Britain.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan said a day later his government will crack down on those responsible for the explosions.

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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Catholic church shifts ground on condoms, HIV, conception

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Read Time:7 Minute, 46 Second

The position was an acknowledgment that the church’s long-held anti-birth control stance against condoms doesn’t justify putting lives at risk.

“This is a game-changer,” declared the Rev. James Martin, a prominent Jesuit writer and editor.

The new stance was staked out as the Vatican explained Pope Benedict XVI’s comments on condoms and HIV in a book that came out Tuesday based on his interview with a German journalist.

The Vatican still holds that condom use is immoral and that church doctrine forbidding artificial birth control remains unchanged. Still, the reassessment on condom use to help prevent disease carries profound significance, particularly in Africa where AIDS is rampant.

“By acknowledging that condoms help prevent the spread of HIV between people in sexual relationships, the pope has completely changed the Catholic discussion on condoms,” Martin said.

The change came on a day when U.N. AIDS officials announced that the number of new HIV cases has fallen significantly — thanks to condom use — and a U.S. medical journal published a study showing that a daily pill could help prevent spread of the virus among gay men.

“This is a great day in the fight against AIDS … a major milestone,” said Mitchell Warren, head of the AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition.

Theologians have debated for years whether it could be morally acceptable for HIV-infected people to use condoms to avoid infecting their partners. The Vatican years ago was reportedly preparing a document on the subject, but it never came out.

The groundbreaking shift, coming as it does from the deeply conservative pontiff, would appear likely to restrain any public criticism from Catholic conservatives, who on Tuesday insisted the pope was merely reaffirming the church’s moral teaching..

Conservatives have feared that a comment like this would give support to Catholics who want to challenge the church’s ban on artificial contraception in an environment where they feel they are under siege from a secular, anti-Catholic culture.

George Weigel, a conservative Catholic writer, said the Vatican was by no means endorsing condom use as a method of contraception or a means of AIDS prevention.

“This is admittedly a difficult distinction to grasp,” he told The Associated Press in an e-mail. What the pontiff is saying is “that someone determined to do something wrong may be showing a glimmer of moral common sense by not doing that wrong thing in the worst possible way — which is not an endorsement of anything.”

Benedict’s comments come at a time when bishops in the United States are intensely focused on upholding the strictest views of Catholic orthodoxy, emphasizing traditional marriage, natural family planning based on a woman’s menstrual cycle and making abortion the most important issue.

In the book, “Light of the World: The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times,” Benedict was quoted as saying that condom use by people such as male prostitutes was a lesser evil since it indicated they were moving toward a more moral and responsible sexuality by aiming to protect their partner from a deadly infection.

His comments implied that he was referring primarily to homosexual sex, when condoms aren’t being used as a form of contraception.

However, questions arose immediately about the pope’s intent because the Italian translation of the book used the feminine for prostitute, whereas the original German used the masculine.

The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, told reporters Tuesday that he asked the pope whether he intended his comments to apply only to men. Benedict replied that it really didn’t matter, the important thing was that the person took into consideration the life of another, Lombardi said.

“I personally asked the pope if there was a serious, important problem in the choice of the masculine over the feminine,” Lombardi said. “He told me no. The problem is this: … It’s the first step of taking responsibility, of taking into consideration the risk of the life of another with whom you have a relationship.”

“This is if you’re a man, a woman, or a transsexual. … The point is it’s a first step of taking responsibility, of avoiding passing a grave risk onto another,” Lombardi said.

Those comments concluded the press conference, and Lombardi took no further questions about how broadly this interpretation could be applied.

The clarification is significant.

UNAIDS estimates that 22.4 million people in Africa are infected with HIV, and that 54 percent — or 12.1 million — are women. Heterosexual transmission of HIV and multiple, heterosexual partners are believed to be the major cause of the high infection rates.

Benedict drew harsh criticism when, en route to Africa in 2009, he told reporters that the AIDS problem couldn’t be resolved by distributing condoms. “On the contrary, it increases the problem,” he said then.

In Africa on Tuesday, AIDS activists, clerics and ordinary Africans alike applauded the pope’s revised comments.

“I say, hurrah for Pope Benedict,” exclaimed Linda-Gail Bekker, chief executive of South Africa’s Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation. She said the pope’s statement may prompt many people to “adopt a simple lifestyle strategy to protect themselves.”

In Sierra Leone, the director of the National AIDS Secretariat predicted condom use would now increase, lowering the number of new infections.

“Once the pope has made a pronouncement, his priests will be in the forefront in advocating for their perceived use of condoms,” said the official, Dr. Brima Kargbo.

Lombardi said Benedict knew full well that his comments would provoke intense debate. Conservative Catholics have been trying to minimize the scope of what Benedict said since excerpts were published this weekend in the Vatican newspaper.

Lombardi praised Benedict for his “courage” in confronting the problem.

“He did it because he believed that it was a serious, important question in the world of today,” Lombardi said, adding that the pope wanted to give his perspective on the need for greater humanized, responsible sexuality.

Luigi Accatoli, a veteran Vatican journalist who was on the Vatican panel that launched the book, put it this way:

“He spoke with caution and courage of a pragmatic way through which missionaries and other ecclesial workers can help to defeat the pandemic of AIDS without approving, but also without excluding — in particular cases — the use of a condom,” Accatoli said.

The launch of the book, which includes wide-ranging comments on subjects from the sex abuse crisis to Benedict’s belief that popes should resign if physically unable to carry out their mission, drew a packed audience to the Vatican press room. Making a rare appearance, Benedict’s secretary, Monsignor Georg Ganswein, sat in the front row — an indication of event’s significance.

In the book, the pope reaffirms Vatican opposition to homosexual acts and artificial contraception, as well as the inviolability of marriage between man and woman.

But by broadening the condom comments to also apply to women, the pope was saying that condom use is a lesser evil than passing HIV onto a partner, even when pregnancy is possible.

“We’re not just talking about an encounter between two men, which has little to do with procreation. We’re now introducing relationships that could lead to childbirth,” Martin said.

Individual bishops and theologians have applied the lesser evil theory to the condom-HIV issue, but it had previously been rejected at the highest levels of the Vatican, Martin said.

Monsignor Jacques Suaudeau, an expert on the Vatican’s bioethics advisory board, said the pope was articulating the theological idea that there are degrees of evil.

“Contraception is not the worst evil. The church does not see it as good, but the church does not see it as the worst,” he told The Associated Press. “Abortion is far worse. Passing on HIV is criminal. That is absolute irresponsibility.”

He said the pope broached the topic because questions about condoms and AIDS persisted, and the church’s teaching hadn’t been clear. There is no official Vatican policy about condoms and HIV, and Vatican officials in the past have insisted that condoms not only don’t help fight HIV transmission but make it worse because it gives users a false sense of security.

The late Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo famously said in 2003 that the HIV virus could “easily pass through” a condom — setting off furious criticism by AIDS activists.

“This pope gave this interview. He was not foolish. It was intentional,” Suaudeau said. “He thought that this was a way of bringing up many questions. Why? Because it’s true that the church sometimes has not been too clear.”

Lombardi said the pope didn’t use the technical terminology of “lesser evil” in his comments because he wanted his words to be understood by the general public. Vatican officials, however, said that was what he meant.

“The contribution the pope wanted to give is not a technical discussion with scientific language on moral problems,” Lombardi said. “This is not the job of a book of this type.”

___

Associated Press reporters Rachel Zoll in New York, Jason Straziuso in Nairobi and AP Medical Writer Marilynn Marchione contributed to this report.

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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USA: Will Sarah Palin run for president?

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Read Time:5 Minute, 20 Second

Speculation about whether Mrs Palin will run for president is rife

Former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin releases her second book, America By Heart, on Tuesday. In it, she discusses her values, her faith and her identity as an American. But she doesn’t mention the one thing America really wants to know: will she run for president?

Washington DC’s political pundits have been debating, analysing and even scoffing at the idea of a Palin presidency since the moment she burst onto the national stage in 2008.

In recent weeks, Mrs Palin has given some of the strongest indications yet that she will run.

She told Robert Draper in the New York Times Magazine that she was going through the decision-making process right now, consulting her husband Todd and their children about what a presidential campaign would mean for them.

Draper told the BBC he believes she genuinely has not yet made up her mind, but he noted that people who publicly announce they are mulling a run, rarely end up deciding against it.

He doubts she can resist the allure of a presidential campaign.

“She’s a very competitive person,” Draper said. “It would be anathema to her to be sitting on the sidelines in 2012, listening to all these other guys invoking Ronald Reagan, talking about their vision for America and criticising Obama, and not be a part of it.”

Come February 2012, if she is not in the race, Mrs Palin will become just another critic, sniping from her living room – and it’s clear that she’s not ready for her star to be eclipsed by the likes of former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney or Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty.

But, if she does run, could Sarah Palin win the Republican nomination?

Throwing punches

There is a probable path to the nomination for Mrs Palin. She’s a household name and a fundraising juggernaut – two assets her potential opponents can only dream about right no

Mrs Palin’s TV series, Sarah Palin’s Alaska, might ultimately hurt her chances

She has strong appeal among Republican voters in early primary states like Iowa, Nevada and South Carolina. Wins there could create enough momentum to propel her to the nomination.

Scott Conroy, a reporter for Real Clear Politics and author of Palin biography Sarah from Alaska, says that running for president requires the sort of relentless drive he has seen in the former Alaska governor.

“She likes the give and take. She likes to be in the ring throwing punches. She enjoys the combative nature of politics,” he told the BBC.

Still, aside from her core supporters, she has very low approval ratings. Just 35% of independent voters – the group which almost always decides American elections – think favourably of her.

However, Draper and Conroy agree that she could turn low expectations into a strength.

“She is a pretty shrewd person and I think has come to realise, much as George W Bush did, that you can make a pretty good career out of being underestimated. The bar is so low for her that if she walks on to a debate stage and is able to sound coherent, people will be awestruck,” Draper said.

Unorthodox approach

Presidential candidates customarily make their intentions known by February of the year before the election. So far though, Sarah Palin’s approach has been highly unconventional.

She has hired an assorted crew of exceptionally loyal advisers, but none has experience running a presidential campaign. Her staff work out of a virtual office, not a physical one, communicating mostly via e-mail or phone.

She has not ticked any of the boxes presidential candidates traditionally do: creating get-out-the-vote operations in early primary states, meeting with the editorial boards of key newspapers, making deferential calls to the “king-makers” in the Republican Party.

She appears openly wary of the established Republicans with expertise in mobilising voters and supporters. Draper says she was scarred by her experience of 2008, feeling that Senator John McCain’s staff broke her trust.

“She realised that people could be thrown under the bus and she’s very leery of that,” Draper says. “It shows on her. I wrote that she’s haloed in static electricity – she lacks the sunniness of Ronald Reagan who she references constantly. She doesn’t possess that carefree, unbothered optimism.”

Unlike her potential opponents, Ms Palin mostly shuns journalists, communicating largely through social media sites Facebook and Twitter.

“It’s sort of a new mentality for a budding presidential campaign, but it’s something that she has been able to pull off successfully so far,” Conroy said. “She is really changing not only the way that campaigns work but also how potential candidates communicate with the broader public.”

Presidential material?

But for all the promise of her unconventional approach, she still has some significant hurdles to clear.

“She can be thin-skinned and has a hard time taking criticism,” says Conroy. “Most politicians at this level are beyond that.”

Should she declare her candidacy, people really would have to imagine if that woman who climbed a glacier can sit down at a Nato meeting and represent this country well”

End Quote Robert Draper Author, Dead Certain: The Presidency of George W Bush

 

So far, her potential opponents are treating her with kid gloves. They even go out of their way to praise her.

“None of them want to be perceived as slighting her or alienating her grassroots support which is stronger than anyone else’s,” Conroy says.

But once they are in the midst of a heated race, her opponents will no doubt question how she could be ready for the presidency when she resigned halfway through her first term as Alaska’s governor.

Her new reality TV show, Sarah Palin’s Alaska, is attracting a large viewership in the US. Ms Palin is seen delighting in the rugged beauty of her home state, amid shots of its majestic beauty.

Although some pundits argue the show is a clever, extended campaign ad, Draper says that it could compound perceptions that Mrs Palin is simply not presidential enough. Even people who admire her spunky demeanour are not necessarily sure that is she ready for the world stage.

“Should she declare her candidacy, people really would have to imagine if that woman who climbed a glacier can sit down at a Nato meeting and represent this country well,” Draper says. “Even Tea Party people may take some convincing.”

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: Niger Delta rebel camp busted

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Read Time:2 Minute, 53 Second

The Nigerian army has arrested a rebel gang leader and more than 50 of his followers believed to be behind the kidnapping of 19 people in the oil-producing Niger Delta.

The military said Obese Kuna and his gang had been detained after a shootout in an operation that lasted eight hours when its troops encircled a camp in southern Nigeria’s main oil producing region on Friday.

“The military has him and 51 of his boys and is presently transferring the criminals to Port Harcourt in military-escorted gunboats,” Timothy Antigha, a spokesman for the military taskforce which polices the Niger Delta, said.

The hostages, two Americans, two Frenchmen, two Indonesians, one Canadian and 12 Nigerians, were freed late on Wednesday after being held by Kuna at a camp in Rivers state.

Military crackdown

The armed forces have said they have taken over several rebel camps in the Niger Delta, the heartland of Africa’s biggest oil and gas industry, and that they will carry out more raids to capture gang members.

Mend is believed to have splintered,
particularly over the amnesty [EPA]
 

Unrest in the Niger delta risks undermining the credibility of Goodluck Jonathan, Nigeria’s president, in the run-up to elections next April. Jonathan is the first head of state from the oil region and brokered an amnesty with rebels last year.

Key field commanders of the main rebel group, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend), which claims to be fighting for a fairer distribution of oil revenue, accepted the amnesty.

However, many observers say the amnesty has failed to address underlying issues of poverty and unemployment in the Niger Delta. Rebel leaders given stipends in exchange for turning in their weapons would eventually be replaced by others, they warned.

Mend divisions

Patrick Wilmot, a political commentator on African affairs, told Al Jazeera that while some within Mend accepted the amnesty “in good faith”, others wanted to continue with “their kidnapping and gun-running”.

“The militants now are divided and split, some have accepted the government’s offer of amnesty, others said they did but they were secretly organising the rearmament of the movement in their camps.”

But the rebels were always factionalised and new leaders have started to emerge, including Obese, a former Dagogo gang member. The military wants to ensure such figures cannot gain a foothold by re-establishing camps in the creeks.

Mend also claimed in a statement on Friday that its fighters had ambushed a convoy of Nigerian army gunboats and killed a number of soldiers, but Antigha said he was not aware of such an attack.

Previous campaigns by Mend fighters have cost Nigeria’s oil production, currently averaging around 2.2 million barrels per day (bpd), as much as $1bn a month in lost revenues.

Mend has threatened further attacks but security experts believe a repeat of such a devastating level of unrest is unlikely at this stage, the amnesty and the arrest of several key rebel leaders having damaged the group.

It remains impossible to guard oil facilities fully against sabotage and piracy.

Oil infrastructure in the delta, a network of thousands of shallow creeks opening into the Gulf of Guinea, is extremely exposed with thousands of kilometres of pipeline passing through remote terrain.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

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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Nigera: Power ‘ll return to the people when PDP is dismantled – Rev. Chris Okotie

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Read Time:21 Minute, 44 Second

(CODEWIT) REVEREND Christopher  Oghenebrorie Okotie was born on June 16, 1959 to Francis Idje and Cecilia Okotie, in Ethiope West Local Government Area of Delta State.  He earned an LL.B. Hons in 1984, from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Enugu campus.

He has since then made a showing in the political terrain as he has contested for the highest office twice on the platform of the Justice Party in 2003 and Fresh Democratic Party, FDP, in 2007. He is currently oiling his political machines to hit the roads again for 2011. In this interview with Vanguard, he x-rayed the happenings in the political terrain, the consensus debate, corruption and the 2011 general elections. Excerpts:

Ahead 2011, Nigerians are already witnessing several anti-social problems. What is your reaction to this?

The responsibility of maintaining law and order rests squarely on the laps of government and when you find a situation like this, where safety is no longer guaranteed, it reflects the inability of the government to carry out its responsibilities. And I think that the PDP has come to its waterloo politically because of the fact that they have demonstrated, consistently, their ineptitude and the society is falling apart as a result of their gross negligence and irresponsibility. These are the symptoms of governmental irresponsibility.

The claims and counter-claims of the origin of the deadly weapons discovered at the Apapa ports continue to baffle Nigerians. Some say the consignment was intended for The Gambia, while they had their origin in Iran or whatever. Are you not scared?

No I am not! If we have that situation where the government is not in touch with reality, these things transpire on a daily basis. It is just because they revealed this that they saw these things. I am almost certain that things like this have been going on. The security mechanism that government has put in place has failed and it shows how porous that network is and how unprofessional they have become.

I think that it’s just indicative of the fact that the PDP has lost its hold in the affairs of this nation and it must do the honorable thing, by bowing out so that a new government that will guarantee the safety of Nigerians can be put in place.

Despite all the threatening situations in the political arena, you still came out recently to declare your intention to contest next year’s elections…

These are the reasons why it is imperative for people like me to step forward because you can not operate in a vacuum. If we say that PDP has become totally irrelevant in the political affairs of this nation by the inconsistent ineptitude that they have demonstrated, then we must provide a viable alternative. That is why people like me come out. The only thing they have now is the machinery of government, the incumbency—a divided house.

And like I have said often they don’t have anything to offer this nation ideologically. My position is further corroborated by their disarray and this very disjointed approach to solving the problems of this nation; not realising what is more important; whether it is the politics of the day, the social contract they have with the Nigerian people. This is a good omen for change.

Do you foresee any positive change in the current chaotic atmosphere?

They have every reason to be that way, but we must look beyond the natural in to the extra-terrestrial. There is a terrestrial atmosphere that is superimposed on the terrestrial and only those who have eyes can see. I belong to the ilk of what, is called the ponderous volume, and we understand these things that when change is imminent, the first sign is really found in the celestial realm.

When Jesus Christ was born, the astrologers were the first to see him, outside the realm of religious. They saw the sign and it was very clear to them that something unusual has happened. We are seeing things that God is showing to us that change is imminent; that PDP has expired. So, it portends good things for the nation.  Like the former Head of State, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, this will be the third time you’re coming out for the highest office in the land and some Nigerians think you’re really not serious. What is your response?

I don’t know what they mean by that. If a man can risk his life, invest his money in venture that is perilous and can deplete funds so quickly that you wonder if you will ever had any; I think that, to my mind is an indication of seriousness. Maybe what they are expecting me to do is to join PDP or one of the big parties. If we do that then we shut the avenue for change.

When change comes, it must be people who have not been contaminated by the virus of PDP or some other political party that has not really demonstrated any commitment. I think that my constant re-emergence in the political scene is a political attestation to the fact that I am determined that victory is the only solution to our situation. Maybe because your platform which is Fresh Democratic Party has refused to merge with other known and big political parties because some of your admirers would have wanted you, Pastor Tunde Bakare, Mr. Femi Falana, Prof. Pat Utomi et al, to go to the Senate and develop your political wings from there…

They are entitled to their opinions. This is a free country and I can accommodate that. But this is the way I see it, each man has a calling. Some might be thinking the way to attain a certain position is to be in a certain place, I agree with that but that is not my calling and the modus operandi that I received.  There was no indication that President Olusegun Obasnjo would come out of prison to become Nigeria’s president.

Same goes for Dr. Goodluck Jonathan. He did not show any sign that he had the grace to attain to where he is today. I believe there is a divine hand that is arranging things for this nation and when the time comes, He will orchestrate things in such a way that whoever He has exalted will emerge. The most important thing is that I have consistently maintained my position. Adherence to principle evokes respect. If this was not commitment or tenacity I would have joined another political party and moved on to build a political career; but mine is not a career but a calling that is targeted and to that extent I cannot change it.

There are rumours that your closeness with retired General Ibrahim Babangida might develop to a working relationship between you and him towards the 2011 election….

Where did they discover that there is a closeness between me and Babangida?

Perhaps, because the ex-military president endorsed your candidacy in 2007 and Nigerians feel that there may be a merger of some sort or a kind of affiliation…

My philosophy is malice towards none and charity for all. I have often said that people like Gen. Babangida and Gen. Obasanjo are living ancestors of our political genealogy. They are men that have been called upon at critical moments and periods in the history and evolution of our nation. I respect them a great deal. Babangida is probably the greatest political mathematician we have in the nation today; it is just unfortunate for him that he had certain misadventure in the process of articulating his political philosophy in the past and only the Nigerian people that can determine if they think him worthy or not.

I believe that they represent the older generation and for Nigeria to move forward, we must go for a generational shift. We must adopt a paradigm shift and I will be glad to have their support, because it is in combining the past with the present that we can sensitise the future of the greatest possibilities. So, it will be a welcome development if any of them consider Rev. Chris Okotie to be their president. That is the only position for me. I am only seeking to lead this nation because I believe I have the answers to the problems.

Peradventure Babangida gets the PDP ticket and wants Rev. Chris Okotie to be his running mate, will you accept the offer?

My answer will be negative; not because I do not consider him worthy enough; but because he is antithetical to my vision. If my vision was that of penultimate leadership, I will join him or any other party. I would have taken that kind of responsibility a long time ago. I have had overtures made to me at that level.

But this has nothing to do with power; it has nothing to do with a political career, rather it has to do with the salvation of the nation. It is very critical that a man like me should take a position of responsibility for Nigeria to become what it must become in the 21st Century. I will wait. Like Abraham Lincoln said, I will study and wait perhaps my time will come. That is what Lincoln said; but I will modify that to say; ‘I know my time will come.’

Lets us assume, for instance, that on account of IBB’s age, he is unable to run his full tenure which automatically will make Okotie, the next president. Won’t that be acceptable to you?

On what platform?

Any one, because as things are now, he may or may not get the PDP ticket…

That is unpredictable. It’s only the PDP that will determine that, but I am just saying that if he wanted to run under another platform he would go through all the trouble with the PDP. I think that if he ever emerge on the platform of PDP, I would not have been in that political party, not because I think my party is better, or some political xenophobia but because of the fact that the ideology and philosophy of that party is oppressive to the Nigerian cause. So, I cannot be the one, saying that my mission is to save Nigeria and align myself with the very enemy of Nigeria. Very, very unlikely! Although, when you are a servant of God all things are possible.

Will you work with Mallam Nuhu Ribadu?

I will work with anybody if it will set Nigeria free in the spirit of a pan-Nigerian philosophy. The only fear the people have is that he is being traumatised by what happened to him when he became a victim of the law. And when that happens except you re-examine yourself, there is the tendency to come out with a certain level of vengeance but I don’t think Nigerians need that now. What we need is reconciliation and amelioration.

The elections are around the corner and there are attempts to amend the electoral act and part of the proposed amendment states that any political party that does not win, at least, one seat at the local government level would loose its licence. How do you react to that?

It never ceases to amaze me the level of parochialism that people will degenerate to in an attempt to secure political longevity. It is amazing that, we call this a democratic setting and yet we are even tolerating and accommodating laws that are totally antithetical to that philosophy. What right has a body like INEC to decide for the Nigerian people which political party they will belong to. How can you judge a political party by its success at the polls.

It takes years to develop a political philosophy and ideology; particularly in a nation where free and fair election are alien to the political culture. It is this irredentist philosophy of PDP wanting to make Nigeria a one-party state that is causing this kind of medieval approach to democracy. If INEC or whoever that is making such a law, is sincere they would have said they were not willing to financially support any political party that has not shown or demonstrated a certain level of support.

But for you to say that you would deregister a political party just because it has not acquired enough votes at a given period, to my mind, defies any logical reasoning; because most of these parties are young parties. I think that it is biased; because it makes no sense at all. How much has INEC given to us?

In a period of one year, INEC gave probably about N12 million maximum. It cannot be argued that political parties are established because of the money they get from INEC. That cannot be true; because INEC requires that each political party should have an office in Abuja; and the rent alone takes half of that; then think of the staff and all others you have to do. It cannot be motivated by pecuniary motive. I think that is a very presumptuous thinking and it would be challenged in the court. It is an infringement on our fundamental human rights. We will wait and see. Do you have confidence in Prof. Attahiru Jega’s INEC to conduct a free, fair and credible election next year?

I think he is capable, given the right circumstance and that if he is not pressured by government. The confusion that we have seen so far, no matter what they say, has come from the PDP. And they definitely will blame the chairman for it, because that is the way they operate—the signs are there already. President Goodluck Jonathan has shown the same commitment to his party than to the nation. It is government of the PDP, by the PDP and for the PDP and not the Nigerian people.

His prevarication when it came to signing the law in the first place…how long it took him and he was just delaying; the usual filibuster when they are not really decided at to which way to go. It is characteristic of PDP and it surprises nobody. The Nigerian people have woken up and we are going to see something new in the coming year, God willing.

How do you see the current hoopla over consensus candidate ahead of the PDP convention?

I think it is a very healthy development because PDP is too strong as a political party to be dismantled by the Nigerian people. It is hydra headed; it is an octopus. It must implode from within, because it is only a divided house that cannot stand. So, when you begin to see these cleavages then we can breathe a sigh of relief that finally this political monolith is being dismantled.

That is what is necessary at this time. If Nigeria will become a great nation in the 21st Century and make an impact—and all the conjecture that I see on how we can become a great nation before 2020—-the beginning of that journey must be the dismantling of the PDP.

Because as long as they are in government, it will be a retrograde journey and Nigeria will be perambulating in the wilderness of retrogression. We cannot take a step forward. I believe it is a good development that there is internal wrangling within it. It is a very good sign for Nigeria and I pray that it will be carried to its logical conclusion, so that they can be fragmented and pluralised become free.

Talk about freedom for Nigerians, won’t you see recent legal decisions that upturned PDP electoral victories in some states as the needed tonic the nation is clamouring for?

No! That is the judiciary. The Nigerians spoke from the beginning that these are the men they voted for, but the PDP, as a political party, ignored them, hijacked and disfranchised the Nigerian people. And it is only because of the judiciary that we are seeing a ray of hope that democracy is intact.

But I am saying that terminologically, democracy by itself deals with the people and I believe that power will go back to the people when PDP is dismantled. It is not a question of personality; it has to be done from within and the entire structure of the party must be pulverized. They are the ones who have held this nation in the place of political transition and they do it with impunity. I believe that judgment has come and it will begin in the house of PDP.

Is it healthy that we have over 60 political parties in the country?

It can be million! What it means is that the democratic space is open to all and sundry. A political party is a gathering of men and women who have a certain ideological posture and when such posture is codified and formally registered by the enabling authorities, it is christened a political party. When people say we have so many political parties, I say why is it a problem?

In a country of 150 million people and the political parties are just 60 why is it a problem? In a proper democracy you can have three political parties ruling in a state like Lagos—when you have one party controlling the south, another central and yet another controlling the north, depending on what is it that appeals to the electorate. But because the current situation is a threat to the octopus that desires to consolidate power in the hand of a few, who have hijacked the entire democratic process. It doesn’t make any sense. If we don’t have money to support them let the parties support themselves. So. It is not an issue.

What is the FDP’s blueprint to tackle the nation’s economic problem?

Each time people ask me that question, I tell them that my father was a polygamist. At the time that I was in the primary school he was earning something about 740 pounds a year and he had several children. We never lacked one day.

He managed to cope even though he was not an accountant. We all went to school and there was food on the table. The problem of our nation is not an economic issue, because there are various concepts and theories in all our universities. It is dependent on our leaders to decide on the one that will soothe the nation. But the greatest motivation for the well being whether it is economic or political is empathy, concern, compassion for the people. Once you are concerned about the people, then you will evolve a concept for the economy that concerns the people.

I have often said that our philosophy is Messiahnicism, meaning sacrifice.

It is a concept of political government that sacrifices for the people. In other words, we will never engage in concepts like austerity measures because then you are asking the people to make further sacrifice; but once you prioritise the people above everything else then your economic policy must target them in their pursuit of affluence.

When I attended a town hall meeting in 2007, I listened to then minister of finance and I was impressed by the presentation but they didn’t have the political will to pursue it. When CBN governor, Charles Soludo indicated that the naira was going to be deregulated, President Yar’Adua took offence, even though it was handed down to him by his predecessor. We are not interested in academic concepts of how to tackle the economy.

To my mind they avail nothing. We are going to show in practical terms that we care for the people; and organise the forces of demand and supply to enhance the living standards of the Nigerian people. That is what we are going to do.  The reason why past economic blueprints have failed is because the Nigerian people have not been given proper priority.

If you ask the initiators of such economic concepts, they will quote some academic dissertations which will explain what they are trying to do. The bottom line is that they are not concerned about the people. If they were they would do otherwise. We are different. We have said from the beginning that human capital development is our priority because that targets the people.

You have to elevate the development and motivation of the people to a level of strategy. It must be cardinal to us and if that is so, you will deal with the things that concern them like education, healthcare, social security as a safety net, revamping the pension scheme, transportation and housing. These are the things that affect the people directly.  The Fresh Democratic Party had had difficulty in aligning itself or getting into any kind of coalition because we feel that there is an ideological discrepancy between us and most of the political parties. When I become president, the difference will be clear.

The PDP has led us and has taken the nation to the precipice, the doldrums. They have failed the nation consistently and so we cannot afford to follow PDP and expect anything different from what we have today. Isn’t that a classical definition of insanity?—doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result? The time has come and change is inevitable and I believe that the God who took Obasanjo from the prison to the Aso Rock, who made it possible even for Dr. Jonathan to be where he is today, that same God will orchestrate things so that Okotie can deliver Nigeria permanently. We will certainly declare a state of emergency in the education and health sectors.  How will you approach the power sector?

That has been a perennial problem. You can’t even take one step without finding out what is wrong in the area. The important thing is that we don’t really know what is going on there. Nobody can tell you exactly what is going on in the sector because the statistics that they give are all fictitious. So, we have to look in there and find out what is going on and tell Nigerians the truth.

In the first six months, I think we will be able to identify the problem because if you don’t investigate a problem you can’t solve it. Towards the end of Obasanjo tenure he awarded contracts and Yar’Adua did not care about these things and till today we don’t know what is happening there. That is why I say it has become so mysterious; why is it so impossible to generate enough power for a nation like this? It is a conundrum. We have to find out why, because it cannot be money. We have enough money and only a thorough investigation can reveal to us the demons that are involved in the power sector.

When we find out, we will cast them out. As a reverend gentleman I thought your priority would have been how to deal with corruption or you don’t see it as the monster that has militated against meaningful progress of this country? Definitely, but corruption is not something you can deal with even in the first three years. You cannot eradicate corruption by punition alone. Punitive measures are the last resort.

For you to eradicate corruption, you have to change the entire environment. To take a wicked man or a sinner to heaven; he can’t operate there. You take a fish out of the water, he cannot operate. There is an element that is conducive to this aberration and until you deal with it, ordinary punitive measures would not solve it. For you to see the death of corruption, it must start from the beginning or the bottom and not from the top. First you have to create an enabling environment for Nigerians to pursue their dreams and aspirations and a level playing field for them and there is a mechanism of the law where everybody is equal.

Because when you have double standards you can’t deal with corruption. When a minister can steal and gets away with it but the truck pusher steals and you take him to prison you cannot solve the problem. So, it has to begin at that level where the standard of living has to be enhanced in such a way that it is above subsistent level.

When people are now entitled to a house, food on the table, provided with basic amenities by the government, then they can build on these things themselves and then you started working towards the eradication of corruption. Punitive measures will be the final aspect of the battle.

It is something we have to do gradually, changing the psyche of the Nigerian people. This re-branding thing they are talking about is totally misplaced. You cannot  re-brand something that is already corrupted. To re-brand is not an outward thing, it is an external thing. It begins with the abstract, because as the man thinketh so he is.

Telling Nigerians they are so, so and so, when their reality is contrary to what you’re saying makes the whole thing absolute jocularity. We are going to address corruption from a more practical perspective so that we can actually transform the Nigerian from within and connect him back to his government, so he can trust his leadership. When the connection is there, the resourcefulness of the Nigerian will begin to manifest, because the Nigerian is very resourceful. They just have not been inspired.

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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USA: TSA chief says no change in screening policy

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Read Time:2 Minute, 24 Second

The head of the Transportation Security Administration on Sunday acknowledged that new full-body scanners and thorough pat-downs can be invasive and uncomfortable, but he said that the need to stay a step ahead of terrorists rules out changes in airport screening procedures.

John Pistole told CNN’s “State of the Union” that, despite the public uproar over new screening techniques, “we are not changing the policies” that he said were the best ways of keeping the traveling public safe. TSA screeners, he said, are “the last line of defense” in protecting air travelers.

Pistole’s comments came after President Barack Obama on Saturday said he understood people’s frustrations and had asked TSA officials whether there’s a less intrusive way to screen U.S. airline passengers.

Obama said he had told the agency that “you have to constantly refine and measure whether what we’re doing is the only way to assure the American people’s safety.”

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said she thought “everyone, including our security experts, are looking for ways to diminish the impact on the traveling public.” She told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that “striking the right balance is what this is about.”

However, when asked on CBS’ “Face the Nation” if she would submit to a pat-down, Clinton responded: “Not if I could avoid it. No. I mean, who would?”

But Pistole stressed that that balance now requires steps to confront “a determined enemy” that has proven adept in devising new ways to conceal weapons. “We know through intelligence there are determined people, terrorists, trying to kill not only Americans but innocent people around the world,” he said.

Pistole was shown videos of people being patted down where the screeners touched the breasts of a woman, felt into the pants of another person and felt the crotch of a man. He said all three cases were proper and that the gloves of the screener who felt inside the pants were then tested for explosive trace residue.

A Nigerian man was accused last Christmas of trying to set off a bomb hidden in his underwear aboard a flight from Amsterdam.

“Clearly it’s invasive, it’s not comfortable,” Pistole said, while adding that very few people receive the pat-down. People who go through the new advanced imaging machines available at some 70 airports are usually not subject to pat-downs, he said.

Passengers have also objected to the advanced imaging machines because they produce a virtually naked image of the person’s body. The screener, who sits in a different location, does not see the face of the person being screened and does not know the traveler’s identity.

“Clearly, if we are to detect terrorists who have proven innovative, creative in the design and implementation of bombs that are going to blow up airplanes and kill people, we have to do something to prevent that,” Pistole said.



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: Mosque Attack Signals a New Round of Violence

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Read Time:1 Minute, 2 Second

Abuja (codewit) – At least two persons were killed and a child was injured on Friday when members of suspected Boko Haram Muslim sect attacked a mosque packed with worshipers in northern Nigeria.

Shots were fired into a crowd of about 1,000 Friday worshipers at the Gomari Jumat mosque in Maiduguri by two men who came on a motorbike wielding assault rifles.

“Two suspects and 11 others have been arrested in relation to the attack and other killings in the area,” Borno State Police spokesman Lawan Abdullahi said.

According to Abdullahi, the attackers are suspected to be members of Boko Haram sect, which denounces Western education as sacrilegious and may have been culpable for killing several policemen and local politicians recently.

Last week, gunmen killed a soldier and wounded another at a restaurant in similar manner. Violence by members of the group led to the death of over 800 people last year.

Leader of the group – Muhammed Yusuf – was captured and killed by the Nigerian military on July 30, 2009. The sect wants to enforce Islamic law across Nigeria and in the process has burnt churches, attacked police stations and a prison and clashed with security forces in the northern states of Bauchi, Borno, Kano and Yobe.

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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Amos Adamu’s Travails: the Consequences of Greed and Corruption

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Read Time:9 Minute, 23 Second

(Codewit.com)On Saturday 16 October 2010, Complete Sports magazine did a poll to its readers titled: “Is Dr. Amos Adamu A Curse Or A Blessing To Nigerian Football?” I took my time to trawl through all the comments and feedback left by Nigerians.

The result? The overwhelming majority of respondents concluded that, Dr Amos Adamu, erstwhile (now suspended) Nigerian representative on the Board of FIFA, world football’s ruling body, was not only a curse to Nigerian football, but was also a disaster waiting to happen. And happened it did eyes wide open to the Government of Nigeria.

Here are some excerpts:  Adamu has used his power negatively on Nigerian football; Adamu is our problem and curse to our football and sports in general; Amos Adamu has proven over time to be a very mediocre fellow who is content with being (over the years) a government apologist and squandered several opportunities he has had to change the fortunes of football in this country; He is a curse, because of his selfish interests against that of Nigeria; Amos Adamu has been more of a problem than blessing to  Nigeria’s football. He needs to be removed; Adamu has successfully taken the advantage of his connection with FIFA to enslave everyone involved in NIgeria Football, Isn’t that a curse?; He is the head of that cabal holding our football to ransom; Adamu is a blessing to Nigeria’s football, but let him quit for Odegbami, Okocha, Tijani Babangida, Taribo, Kanu, young ones to run our football house; Amos Adamu is not just a curse to Nigeria’s football, but an oracle that is killing Nigeria football; Adamu is a curse to Nigeria football he has spent too long in Nigeria football administration; Amos Adamu is simply the obstacle impeding the success of Nigeria football, not until we get rid of him, Nigeria football might never know peace; Adamu is using his ill-gotten money from All African Games, COJA 2003 to fund the crisis. He is the bane of Nigeria football. His arrest and prosecution is long overdue

And of course, we have several positives for him: To me, Adamu is a blessing to Nigeria football, no matter what is happening now; Now Dr. Amos Adamu has shown himself as a patriotic Nigerian after solving all these problems, so he is a blessing; Dr. Amos, is a political sagacity in sport; Our football administration is not efficient. Therefore Dr. Amos Adamu is a blessing to intervene; Adamu is not the problem, try and pray for our NFF; Amos Adamu is indeed a blessing to Nigerian sports while disregarding those charlatans calling him a curse; Adamu is a blessing to African, football not only Nigeria; He is a respected sportsman in Nigeria. He has done so much for   Nigeria football and he should be honoured. Thumbs Up for Dr. Adamu.

So much for that! Now that FIFA has decided to suspend him after their investigations into allegations of bribe-soliciting by two FIFA officials including Amos Adamu of Nigeria, it is now up to us to see the good or bad of Amos Adamu.

With his suspension, the conclusion is that he was guilty. To me, knowing his long history of corruption, mediocrity and mis-management, his guilt was never in doubt when the shit hit the fan, and his most recent misdemeanour  was spread all over the pages of the newspapers and internet. What surprised me was his naivety and greed. Greed is something else. Of course if you are greedy, inevitably you will be corrupt. Greed has no end. Once you are greedy, you will always be greedy. Even repentance does not solve the vice. Greed is such that you have to be punished, because it is one of the seven deadly sins. It must not go unpunished.

In our Pidgin English, what happened to him was as a result of “long-throat”. Na long-throat kill am! I am not one to dance on a dead man’s grave, but this man deserves all humiliation that come his way.

Adamu has been riding rough-shod over Nigeria’s sport for almost 20 years. He was Director General of the Nigerian National Sports Commission for ten years before being redeployed in November 2008. Prior to that, Adamu was the Director of Sports of the ministry for 10 years.

Amos Adamu holds a doctorate degree in physical and health education. He was a university lecturer before joining the National Institute of Sports (NIS). He was appointed the Sole Administrator of the Nigeria Football Association in 1992. After success (success?) in this position, he was then posted to the Federal Ministry of Sports as Director of Sports Development and was involved in the administration and organization of the 1999 FIFA World Youth Championship in Nigeria and the Nations Cup in 2000.

In December 2000 Amos Adamu was named President for the Organising Committee for the 8th All-Africa Games (COJA) held in Abuja, October 2003, in the newly constructed Abuja Stadium. Adamu advised the government to sell this stadium immediately after the games in order to forestall the vandalisation typical of publicly owned buildings. Subsequently, there was controversy about the conduct of the games organizers.

In 2005, Amos Adamu was picked as a member of the organizing committee for the first ever World Cup Finals in Africa to be hosted in South Africa 2010. In 2006, Adamu led the transformation of the Sports Ministry to the National Sports Commission (NSC). Adamu became an Executive Committee member of the Federation of International Football Associationand the Confederation of African Football. In April 2007, Amos Adamu became the President of the West Africa Football Union.

In May 2008, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Sports and Social Development in Bayelsa State told members of the Senate Committee on Sports that problems with sports in Nigeria included corruption and dominance by a “cabal” led by Dr. Amos Adamu. In July 2008, Dr. Amos Adamu announced that the Nigeria Sports Commission had initiated an inquiry into allegations of corruption in the local league. The result of that inquiry is still to be made public.

On 6 November 2008, President Umaru Yar’Adua ordered the removal of Dr. Amos Adamu from the post of Director General of the National Sports Commission. Adamu, the Director General of the National Sports Commission was eventually redeployed to the Ministry of Special Duties after the removal of erstwhile Minister for Sports and Chairman National Sports Commission Abdulrahman Gimba, in a cabinet reshuffle. No reason was given. As of January 2009, Adamu was a member of FIFA’s 24-man executive committee. He was scheduled to appear in a Nigerian court to press a claim for £2.3 million damages he had laid 15 months earlier against a newspaper that published allegations of corruption. In August 2009, Adamu stated that problems in Nigerian sports since his redeployment had vindicated him. (Of course, he will say that, wouldn’t he?).

On 17 October 2010, nemesis and the prayers of patriotic lovers of Nigerian sports caught up with him, when it was reported in the UK Sunday Times that he allegedly agreed to receive £500,000 in order to influence the voting procedure with his vote for the 2018 FIFA World Cup bid. He denied any wrong doing. An investigation by FIFA banned him and Reynald Temarii from soccer administration.

Adamu just showed the stupid and crazy way officials steal in Nigeria – stealing without sense (not that I condone stealing with smartness). It is well known that FIFA itself is a corrupt body, from the head (Sepp Blatter) to the Board members. The CAF President Issa Hayatou is rogue as well, and he is Adamu’ Godfather.

Credit should be given to some upright Nigerian journalists like Olukayode Thomas and Patrick Omorodion who have been crusading for years that Adamu is corrupt, and some of whom have suffered the consequences by losing their jobs, as pressure was applied by Adamu on their editors.

Over the years, I have also written and published several articles on this corrupt, highly-placed, influence-wielding and totally ineffective and glory-seeking Nigerian sports official, (“Nigerian Football And Sports: Amos Adamu’s Influence And The Recent NFA Elections – Another Step Backwards”; “Re: Amos Adamu To Investigate Corruption”; “Re: Where Are The Super Eagles?”; “The Death of Nigerian Sports And A Walk Down Memory Lane”; “The Super Eagles, The NFA And The African Nations Cup”) and I will say I am vindicated too.

We can only hope that before the end of the three-year suspension period of Adamu, some level of sanity would have returned to our football at the home front, and will serve as a lesson and deterrent to others in this country who see Sports as a means of making stupendous money, and that the right people will be in the right place, to save our moribund and comatose sports, especially football. We have been sick and tired of Adamu’s interference and stranglehold on Nigerian sport for 20 inefficient and corruption-ridden years. His greed, which knows no bound, has been his downfall, and I am pleased to say, it serves him right. I am someone who has been expecting him to come a cropper for a long time, and he has.

Now that the shit has hit the fan for him, because typically of a greedy man, he would never know when to stop, we may now know how much Adamu made from COJA 2003 when he was the main man in charge, including some highly-placed people in Obasanjo’s government who put a new meaning into “scamming the government”.

The files must be re-opened to ascertain the truth and the EFCC had better have the will and determination to verify them. It is a shame for Amos Adamu to be indicted by FIFA’s disciplinary committee. It is also a shame for our country, Nigeria, that such a highly placed official should be ensnared in such a naïve way, but the positive side is that God is taking out these corrupt people ruining our country one by one. The people Adamu forced on us in the NFF are now facing a battle not to be prosecuted and sent to jail by the EFCC. Do I shed a tear? No way! Them what has gets!

Amos Adamu has brought the name of the country into further disrepute, and should be made to face the consequences and the punishment back home in Nigeria (He has been out of the country since the story of his most recent, and I hope, final gross misconduct broke), and let the whole world know that we are serious about eradicating corruption.

Nemesis will always catch up with the greedy and the corrupt. It’s just a matter of time. Long-throat no good at all!

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 tops in school enrolment in US

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Read Time:1 Minute, 36 Second

Nigeria still leads other Sub Saharan African countries, whose citizens are studying in the United States, a statement by the US embassy in Abuja said yesterday.

According to the statement, a total of 6,568 Nigerians were enrolled in regionally accredited institutions in the US for the 2009/2010 session. The statement, which attributed its source to the Institute for International Education (IIE) annual Open Doors report on the flow of international students to the US said, “Nigeria has maintained its position as the number one country in Sub Saharan Africa for sending the largest number of students to the U.S.

“Nigeria’s increase contributed to the worldwide increase of 2.9% to 690,923 international students in the United States, and helped minimize sub-Saharan Africa’s decrease of 1% over the past year. A total of 6,568 Nigerian students were enrolled in regionally accredited institutions in 2009/10.”

The US Mission’s EducationUSA Advising Centres (EAC) in Lagos and Abuja, according to the statement, celebrated International Education Week (IEW) between November 15 and 19, 2010. The embassy said that, as part of its contribution, the Abuja centre will host several activities, including undergraduate and graduate essay writing workshops and session with selected secondary school students, parents, and teachers.

IEW is a joint initiative of the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education to promote programmes to prepare Americans for a global environment, and attract future leaders from abroad to study, learn, and exchange experiences in the United States.

The U.S. Mission’s EducationUSA Advising Centre (EAC) promotes U.S. education by providing students and parents in Nigeria with unbiased information and counsel for study in U.S. universities and colleges.

Some of the services provided include guidance on the U.S. college application process, standardised testing, student visa requirements, and pre-departure orientation.

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: 19 oil hostages released in military raid

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Read Time:3 Minute, 11 Second

LAGOS, Nigeria – A military raid freed 19 hostages held in Nigeria’s oil-rich southern delta Wednesday night, a negotiator said, striking a stunning blow to a resurgent militancy in a region vital to U.S. oil supplies.

The negotiator, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity, said the operation freed seven expatriate workers kidnapped Nov. 8 from an oil rig working an offshore field for London-based Afren PLC. Another seven Nigerian hostages came from an attack carried out Sunday on an Exxon Mobil Corp. rig operating nearby. The origin of the remaining hostages remained unclear Wednesday night.

Others kidnapped included workers for construction company Julius Berger Nigeria PLC.

The negotiator spoke on condition of anonymity as the operation to free the hostages was still ongoing. An Afren spokesman declined to immediately comment Wednesday night, and officials with Exxon Mobil did not immediately return a call for comment.

Those kidnapped from the Afren rig include two U.S. workers, one Canadian, two French and two Indonesians. Among those hostages are James Robertson of Silver Creek, Mississippi, and Canadian Bob Croke of Newfoundland.

Robertson’s mother, Brenda Robertson, told The Associated Press that her family received word of her son’s release hours ago and have been celebrating ever since. She said her 47-year-old son was a father of four children and had previously warned his family about the possibility that he may become a hostage in Nigeria’s restive southern delta.

“He said, ‘Mama, don’t worry because all they want is money and they’ll take care of us,'” Brenda Robertson said. “I gave it over to God and he took care of it.”

The French Foreign Ministry issued a statement Wednesday night saying it welcomed the release of the two French hostages, calling the moment “a happy ending.”

New Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie “would like to warmly thank all those who contributed to this release, in particular the Nigerian authorities,” the statement said

A contingent of militants who claimed they belonged to the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, also known by the acronym MEND, said they kidnapped the foreign workers. Militants began a campaign of pipeline bombings and high-profile kidnappings in the region in 2006.

Militants in the delta, a region of winding creeks and mangroves about the size of Portugal, want more oil money to come to an area still gripped by abject poverty and pollution after more than 50 years of oil production. However, nebulous ties exist between militants, criminal gangs operating in the area and wealthy politicians who benefit from oil revenue in the region.

Lt. Col. Timothy Antigha, a military spokesman, said Wednesday night an operation to attack militant camps was ongoing in the region, but declined to comment further.

Nigeria, an OPEC-member nation, has seen its oil production rise to 2.2 million barrels a day since a government-sponsored amnesty program last year offered cash pay outs and the promise of job training to former fighters and commanders. The nation’s Bonny light crude remains popular with U.S. refineries as it can be easily refined into gasoline.

Despite the amnesty, a contingent of MEND fighters continued a campaign against the government, detonating two car bombs in the delta in March. Another set of car bombs claimed by the group exploded in the country’s capital during an Oct. 1 independence celebration, killing at least 12 and wounding dozens more.

Since the attack, South African authorities arrested Henry Okah, an alleged gunrunner long thought to be an organizer of MEND-branded attacks. Okah now faces terrorism charges stemming from the October bombing.

___

Associated Press writers Shelia Byrd in Jackson, Mississippi, and Angela Charlton in Paris contributed to this report.

___

Online:

Afren PLC: http://www.afren.com

Exxon Mobil Corp.: http://www.exxonmobil.com

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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