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Although I was quite confident that the Supreme Court would deliver a sound judgement contrary to a popular one in regards to the court challenge from the number one Nigerian opposition party of today, the Congress of Progressive Change (CPC), I could not hold my tears as I pondered over the speech of General Muhammadu Buhari on the verdict on Tuesday December 28, 2011.
My continued main worry for the General is that he so much believes in Nigeria and has often felt that things are not done the right way, thus his resolve at every political dispensation to fight the evil cartels that have held the nation to nothingness in terms of development, unity and peace. Each time he mounts his horse to the warfront; the same men who prepared the horse for him would desert him and dine with his enemies.
The General has been forsaken. But I cannot be sure that he has really realized that the war to change this country towards the right direction is not for Godly, soft-hearted and considerably humane people. Such people much be characterized by qualities that can be the semblance of chameleon, tortoise and in the commonest quote a green serpent in green grass.
I had often refused to believe that there is gentility in the army. I grew up partly in an army barrack and as a small boy, I thought that the army is a set of people built to defend the weak. I also attended Army Day School where we were trained to be not only stubborn in the right direction but to be orderly and manly. So, one feels lost contending with how the General climbed to this enviable position in the army with a civic mind. But I also know that soldiers do never surrender.
What are the General's crimes that he can never be allowed to make a trial in REDIRECTING Nigeria? What did he do wrong while he was the Head of State? Why have all the Generals lost the espirit de corps bond in the military and the security force at large as it regards this lofty-hearted General? Summarily, why is this General fearfully feared by a dreadful cabal?
Many compatriots are undone by the daily ugly development in the country since the return of Nigeria to democratic governance in 1999. Things have continued to worsen. Each government that comes democratically proves to be incapacitated to handle the complexity of the Nigerian nation. Four success democratic government! Is 2015 going to be any different?
After a thorough scrutiny of the General's speech, few points lined themselves up for my admiration. The first is that the nation has not conducted any widely accepted general elections since 1999. Four of such jamborees have been organized. In 2003 and 2007, the elections were also challenged at the Supreme Court and the verdict was not unexpected.
The General says that all Nigerian patriots who witnessed the conduct of the elections knew that the decision of the Supreme Court has always been politically motivated, thus having little judicial content. Therefore, he bitterly posited that the 2011 Supreme Court has proved no better than the Supreme Courts of 2003 and 2007.
Secondly, there was the misconception that a new umpire for Nigeria's elections would make a difference after Professor Maurice Iwu-led INEC announced prepaid results in favour of the ruling party. There was also the misconception that the judiciary was the last hope of the mass. At that time, the Justice Idris Kutigi-led Supreme Court after indiscriminate adjournments, declared the election valid, with three justices dissenting.
Thirdly is the significance of international observers who condemned the elections in no uncertain terms, yet their governments were quick to send congratulatory messages to the presidents from such elections. What do the observers tell their governments?
However, having been part and parcel of the 2003, 2007 and 2011 presidential elections, the General concluded that what happened in 2011 elections superseded all the other elections in the depth and scope of forgery and rigging. The hopes were chartered. Then, another INEC Professor, Attahiru Jega was bought in for the job, and after asking for and getting close on 100 billion naira for the elections including biometric data with all ten finger prints to conduct a thorough electoral exercise, he botched it.
Furthermore, the riots that broke out in parts of the country after the announcement of the 2011 Presidential result was wrongly ascribed to the General. The Justice Ahmad Lemu Panel had a different interpretation in its detailed causes of the reactions from the fallout of the election. As the General stated, the facts were that people were deeply angered and deeply provoked at the wanton conduct of the elections: the snatching and stuffing of ballot boxes, violence unleashed on opposition supporters, use of the police and elements of the army to intimidate injure and kill opposition supporters and flagrant change of results after collation such as in Niger, Bauchi and Kaduna states. Moreover, he asserted, the declaration of 86% - 90% of votes registered and cast in most part of the South-East and South-South states was highly implausible given the general turn-out of 50% - 60% in the rest of the country.
Wonderful how election can be regarded as credible where 100% of votes cast were for one candidate in many constituencies and 90% in some states! No election can be validated if 100% of those registered all cast their votes in favour of the same candidate! Was it for these reasons that INEC refused to release the biometric data? Why then did the Supreme Court turned a blind eye and deaf ear to all these irregularities that have run through all three elections since 2003?
The General warns on an emergency situation that looms in the country. To many of Nigerians, the situation is more pathetic when law and order are broken with impunity at any time, while the political leaders feel complacent with verbal promises and theoretical solutions in place of practical actions.
Steps which are known to all Nigerians and which have been proffered by many citizens were re-echoed by the General. These solutions are never new but what is new is that he advocates abolishment of security votes. Other steps to assist in good governance are:
- drastic reduction of the cost of governance in the three tiers of government
- drastic reduction of salaries and especially allowances
- security votes should not be increased as the 2012 Budget has done
- votes for the Armed Forces, Police and Security Services should be transparent and accountable
- foreign travel and estacodes should be stopped for at least six months except for the Presidency, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and medical emergencies
- government house expenses in all the states should be drastically reduced
- foreign travel for state officials should be suspended for a while
- allowances for members of the National Assembly should be reduced substantially while their foreign travels should be stopped
- savings from these sources should be channelled to education, infrastructure and agriculture with emphasis on youth employment through meaningful and practical emergency programmes.
In his words, if all hands are on deck to help save Nigeria from imminent collapse, the country would stabilize. When stability is attained, Nigerians can then come together to discuss the country's structure in a calm and unemotional atmosphere. Are these Biblical and Qur’anic recitations on a seemingly ruined land and people by its people? Hopefully not!
* Parts of border with Niger, Chad, Cameroon shut
* Special anti-terrorist squad to be set up
* Heavy security presence in central town of Jos (Recasts with state of emergency)
Coming nearly a week after radical sect Boko Haram set off a series of bombs across Nigeria on Christmas Day, including one at a church that killed at least 37 people and wounded 57, Jonathan told state television the measures would aim to restore security in troubled parts of Nigeria's north.
"The temporary closure of our borders in the affected areas is only an interim measure designed to address the current security challenges and will be resumed as soon as normalcy is restored," he said.
He added that his chief of defence staff had been instructed to take other "appropriate" measures, including setting up a special counter-terrorism force.
The blasts have raised fears that Boko Haram, a movement styled on the Taliban and whose name means "Western education is forbidden", is trying to ignite sectarian strife in Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation and top oil producer.
Jonathan has been criticised by the opposition and Christian groups for what they said was a slow response to the bombings.
"The crisis has assumed a terrorist dimension," Jonathan said. "I therefore urge the political leadership (in northern local governments) to give maximum cooperation to ensure that the situation is brought under control."
He listed the northern local governments affected by the decree, including a part of Niger state near the capital Abuja, the northern half of the conflict-prone city of Jos, and parts of Yobe and Borno in the remote, semi-arid northeast.
"CRUSH THE TERRORISTS"
Earlier in the day, Jonathan visited the scene of the deadliest Christmas attack, on Theresa's Catholic church in Madalla, on the outskirts of Abuja.
"We will crush the terrorists. If there are institutions ... which are harbouring terrorists, we will deal with them," he told weeping relatives of the victims gathered in the church, amid tight security by dozens of armed soldiers.
Traces of the devastation were still evident, with the church windows shattered and glass on the ground.
National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) spokesman Yushua Shuaib said authorities were on "full alert" for more attacks.
"The government has put security throughout the federation, including near the flashpoints. We are optimistic, but we are fully mobilised," he told Reuters.
The government held an emergency meeting with security officials on Thursday and is also looking at using other channels to stop the conflict, which started as a local northern problem but is fast destabilising the whole country.
National Security Adviser General Owoye Andrew Azazi told Reuters the security services were considering making contact with moderate members of Boko Haram via "back channels", even though explicit talks are officially ruled out.
In Jos, which was also bombed at Christmas, two dozen armoured personnel carriers were patrolling the streets ahead of New Year celebrations.
The commissioner of police for Plateau state, Dipo Ayeni, told Reuters: "We have deployed this tactic of a show of force so that we can celebrate the New Year without any hindrance, and so there should be no cause for panic."
The bombings by the northern-based movement have strained Nigeria's already fractious north-south divide.
"The events that caused Nigeria's civil war are repeating themselves," said Uche Udemezue, an Igbo woman in the southeast, referring to the secessionist war of her people against northern rulers in which more than a million people were killed in the late 1960s.
"The north should know nobody has a monopoly on violence."
Attacks in and around the capital - including one on the U.N. headquarters in August that killed at least 24 people - suggest Boko Haram is trying to raise its jihadist profile. (Additional reporting by Tife Owolabi in Jos and Anamesere Igboeroteonwu in Onitsha; Writing by Tim Cocks; editing by Tim Pearce)
The International Monetary Fund is nudging Nigeria and some other African countries to remove fuel subsidies, a report by UK-based news agency Reuters said yesterday, calling into question claims by Nigerian authorities that they are acting independently in their bid to deregulate the downstream petroleum sector. One of the countries under IMF pressure, Ghana, yesterday announced ending fuel subsidies, as the government of Nigeria pushes ahead to implement the policy next year. Officials have said their plans to end subsidy were not being influenced by any foreign power.
But Reuters reported yesterday: "Ghana, which joined the club of oil producers in West Africa last year, has come under increased pressure from the International Monetary Fund to remove the fuel subsidies. "The IMF has urged countries across West and Central Africa to cut fuel subsidies, which they say are not effective in directly aiding the poor, but do promote corruption and smuggling. The past months have seen governments in Nigeria, Guinea, Cameroon and Chad moving to cut state subsidies on fuel."
Spokesman for Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Mr. Paul Nwabuiku, insisted yesterday that Nigeria was not under any IMF pressure to remove fuel subsidy. "Refer to what the Managing Director of IMF said when she visited Nigeria. She said that Nigeria is an independent country and cannot be influenced by the IMF to do anything. Nigeria is not owing the IMF, we have not taken any facility from IMF," he told Daily Trust.
During her recent visit to Nigeria, IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde said President Jonathan's 'Transformation Agenda' "is an agenda for Nigeria, driven by Nigerians. The IMF is here to support you and be a better partner for you." It is estimated that by the time fuel subsidy is removed, price of petrol will jump from N65 per litre to about N140 per litre.
Government officials said over N1.3 trillion is used annually to subsidise fuel products, which they said was not sustainable. No provision has been made for subsidy in the 2012 budget. Ghana for the second time in twelve months reviewed upwards the prices of petroleum products yesterday.
Ghana's National Petroleum Authority yesterday announced that the recent upward adjustment was necessitated by government's decision to withdraw subsidies on petroleum products in 2012. The last increase in pump prices of petroleum products was in January this year. The adjustment was by 20 per cent. Global crude oil price then was $92 per barrel and this increase is to reflect the current world market price of about $107, authorities said.
The Chief Executive Officer of the National Petroleum Authority, Mr. Alex Mould, who made the announcement, said government's decision was informed by the rising cost of crude oil in the global market."As you are aware crude oil prices when the last build up was done on the 4th of January, 2011 and for one year, government has been able to keep stable the price at the pump and I believe it is in that respect that the review be done and the pump price passed on to the consumer for full cost recovery," he said.
Mould said the cumulative effect of the rise in crude oil prices this year and the about 5.7 percent depreciation of the cedi meant a 25 percent increase in cedi terms in the cost of procuring crude oil and petroleum products since January. He said Ghana has spent about 450 million cedis ($276 million) on fuel subsidies in 2011. The price change effective from December 29, will see the cost of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) increase by 30 percent while petrol and diesel will go up 15 percent at pump. Mould said the NPA would be monitoring crude oil prices and will not to increase or decrease pump prices if the average crude price stay within the $107-110 per barrel range. He assured that government had taken palliative measures to reduce the effect of the increase on the people.
Standard and Poor's (S&P) the compassing powerful rating agency brought a smile to the faces of President Jonathan's economic team by lifting the country's credit rating from stable to positive. According to AFP news agency, "It also reaffirmed its B+/B long- and short-term issuer credit ratings for Nigeria, the continent's most populous nation." This is a good news for President Jonathan and his economic team principally Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Minister of Finance and Lamido Sanusi, Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the country apex reserve bank.
This upgrade of the country’s economic outlook to positive will enable the country to continue with its on going reforms and to justify the removal of fuel subsidy. The country‘s administration can use it as a leverage to assure investors and capitalists that the country is moving in affirmative direction. The Nigerian economic team will be strengthened on its battle against the rising inflation and the softening of naira.
Inspite of the security and social problems confronting Nigeria, including the Boko Haram endless bombing and the looming removal of the fuel subsidy the premier credit rating agency S&P still has faith in the country's economic outlook and the on going reforms by President Jonathan 's administration. The agency reiterated that, "The Nigerian government under President Goodluck Jonathan has been undertaking several important reform initiatives and is tightening its fiscal and monetary stance," and continued to emphasized that the "The authorities have restructured and strengthened the banking sector, and we expect economic growth to remain strong. We are revising our outlook to positive from stable ..."
L-R Madueke, Okonjo-Iweala, Sanusi
AFP agency further reported that, "Economists and government officials view the move as essential to allow for more spending on the country's woefully inadequate infrastructure and to ease pressure on its foreign reserves.Nigerians however view the subsidy, designed in part to hold petrol prices at 65 naira per litre ($0.40, 0.30 euros), as their only benefit from the nation's oil wealth.Nigeria's central bank head Lamido Sanusi has also led sweeping bank reforms seen as having pulled the sector out of crisis. Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is a highly respected former World Bank managing director. However, the country has also seen worsening violence blamed on Islamists and warnings from the Christian population that they will defend themselves against further attacks. Standard & Poor's noted concerns over the situation.Nigeria relies tremendously on the oil industry for revenue, and the ratings agency pointed out that crude exports accounted for 72 percent of current account receipts in 2010."
This endorsement from S&P is goodwill gesture to the country’s administration that has many challenges coming its way. Most especially the Boko Haram's nightmare and its determination to shake and destroy the stability of the emerging economic power of this West African nation. The rampant, senseless and ceaseless bombings from this radical organization pose a great threat to the security and wellbeing of the nation. And without relative peace and stability; ample and comfortable environment the flight of capital and investment becomes more imminent. Therefore the upgrade is an approval by S&P on the monetary and fiscal policies employed by the administration to grow and stabilize Nigeria's economy.
While scores of explosions have occurred in the delta in recent years, they have mainly targeted oil installations and have not taken on a sectarian dimension. "A locally made low-capacity explosive was thrown into an Arabic school in Sapele at 10:00 pm yesterday," said state police spokesman Charles Mouka. "It was thrown from an unidentified moving car ... Six children and one adult were wounded."
Nigeria was hit by several Christmas bombings blamed on Boko Haram (AFP/File, Sunday Aghaeze)
Heavy violence broke out in Damaturu last week (AFP, Aminu Abubakar)
The children are between five and eight years old, he said, and had been at the school, which has about 50 students, for evening Arabic and Koranic lessons.
Christian leaders have urged authorities to take action against spiralling violence blamed on Boko Haram, with deep frustration over their seeming inability to stop attacks despite heavy-handed military crackdowns. A Christian leader in Nigeria's north has warned that "religious war" could result if the problem is not addressed, though he urged Christians not to retaliate.
On Wednesday, a coalition of Nigerian Pentecostal churches said they will defend themselves if authorities do not protect them from attacks, though an official stressed they were not advocating taking up arms. "In the year 2012, if these unprovoked attacks continue, and Christians remain unprotected by the security agencies, then we will have no choice but to defend our lives and property," the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria coalition said.Nigeria's top Muslim spiritual leader met President Goodluck Jonathan on Tuesday over the Christmas attacks and afterward said the violence did not signal a religious conflict.
"I want to assure all Nigerians that there is no conflict between Muslims and Christians, between Islam and Christianity," Sultan of Sokoto Muhammad Sa'ad Abubakar told journalists. "It's a conflict between evil people and good people. The good people are more than the evil ones, so the good people must come together to defeat the evil ones, and that is the message."
President Jonathan meets Sultan of Sokoto
President with vice President of Nigeria
Jonathan did not speak publicly after the meeting, but his national security adviser urged Christians to avoid retaliating over the Christmas bombings.
"Retaliation is not the answer, because if you retaliate, at what point will it end? Nigeria must survive as a nation," Owoye Azazi said. Violence had been raging even in the days before the Christmas bombings, especially in the northeastern cities of Damaturu, Potiskum and Maiduguri. Most violence attributed to Boko Haram has occurred in the northeast. In Damaturu, an estimated 90,000 people were displaced, an emergency official said, while a police source and rights group earlier said up to 100 were feared killed. "We advised the displaced against moving into any temporary camp for security reasons, therefore most of them are sheltering in the homes of friends and relatives in the city and neighbouring villages," said Ibrahim Farinloye of the National Emergency Management Agency.
Nigeria's main opposition leader Muhammadu Buhari accused the ruling administration on Monday of lacking competent leaders to tackle its security woes, after Christmas Day bombs on churches by Islamist militants killed more than two dozen people.Muhammadu Buhari, a northerner and former military ruler who lost a presidential election in April to incumbent Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian southerner, told a Nigerian daily that the government was slow to respond and had shown indifference to the bombings. The attacks, described by the country's top broadsheet daily Thisday as "Nigeria's blackest Christmas ever," risk reopening old wounds and reviving tit-for-tat sectarian violence between the mostly Muslim north and largely Christian south, which has claimed thousands of lives in the past decade. The Boko Haram Islamist sect, which aims to impose sharia, Islamic law, across Africa's most populous country, claimed responsibility for three church bombings, the second Christmas in a row it has caused carnage at Christian houses of worship.
he most deadly attack killed at least 27 people in the St Theresa Catholic church in Madalla, a town on the edge of the capital, and devastated surrounding buildings and cars. Security forces also blamed the sect for two explosions in the north targeting their facilities. Officials have confirmed 32 people died in the wave of attacks across Nigeria, though local media have put the number higher.But the church bombs are more worrying because they raise fears that Boko Haram is trying to ignite a sectarian civil war in a country split evenly between Christians and Muslims, who for the most part co-exist in peace. "How on earth would the Vatican and the British authorities speak before the Nigerian government on attacks within Nigeria that have led to the deaths of our citizens?" Buhari said in the statement published by Punch newspaper on Monday.
"This is clearly a failure of leadership at a time the government needs to assure the people of the capacity to guarantee the safety of lives and property." At a church service in the St Theresa church to mourn the dead there less than a day earlier, a priest in white and red robes conducted a prayers while around 200 mourners sighed, chanted and sang solemnly. Some wept. The burnt out cars that had littered the scene the day before had been removed and replaced by half a dozen military jeeps. Ten 10 armed soldiers dismounted from each of them to cloak the church in a heavy security presence.
"I've never cried before, but yesterday, I cried," St. Theresa's priest, Father Isaac Achi, said. "This morning, I cried, but with all of you around today, I'll not cry again. Yesterday more than 40 army men protected me while I slept."
Buhari said the government needed to do more than spend more on security to deal with the problem, echoing concerns by analysts that more needs to be done to address the sense of alienation in the poorer north of Nigeria that breeds militancy. Jonathan called the attacks "unfortunate" but said Boko Haram would "not be (around) for ever. It will end one day," a response that some Nigerians found short-sighted.He often declines to comment on Boko Haram attacks at all, or when he does describes it as a "temporary" problem that will blow over in time.
A few hours after Sunday's bomb in Madalla, blasts were reported at the Mountain of Fire and Miracles Church in the central, ethnically and religiously mixed town of Jos, and at a church in Gadaka in the northern state of Yobe. Residents said many were wounded in Gadaka.A suicide bomber killed four officials at the State Security Service in one of the other attacks in the northeastern town of Damaturu, police said. Residents heard two loud explosions and gunfire in the town. The attacks, which came a few days after clashes between security forces and Boko Haram killed at least 68 people, and the surge in violence suggested increasing evidence of coordination and strategy by the group. National Security Adviser General Owoye Azazi said in the church attacks were premeditated but urged Nigerians to go about their business as usual, while remaining vigilant.
"This is not a fight between security forces and some dissident elements. It is a conflict between some misguided extremists in our midst and the rest of society," he said.
Benedict condemned the attacks as an "absurd gesture" and prayed that "the hands of the violent be stopped." The pope, speaking from his window overlooking St Peter's Square in Rome, said such violence brought only pain, destruction and death. The United Nations, the European Union and the United States condemned the bombings which they described as terrorist attacks, pledging to help Nigerian authorities in the fight against extremists.
(Additional reporting by Tim Cocks in Lagos, Tife Owolabi and Buhari Bello in Jos, Mike Oboh in Kano, a correspondent in Maiduguri and Philip Pullella in Vatican City; Writing by Tim Cocks and Bate Felix; Editing by Mark Heinrich)
International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Christine Lagarde called today for greater efforts to shield African countries from the crisis affecting developed economies, and to promote inclusive growth on the continent to create jobs and fight poverty. In a keynote speech to economists, academics and private sector representatives in Lagos, Nigeria, Ms. Lagarde said the IMF would stand by its African members through times of economic uncertainty.
"These are challenging times for the global economy. The dark clouds of risk are gathering, and Nigeria and others in Africa will need to watch them carefully," Ms. Lagarde said. "While these problems might seem a world away, without action, the world economy could be swept into a downward spiral of collapsing confidence, weaker growth, and fewer jobs. And in today's interconnected global economy, no country and no region is immune to these risks."
Ms. Lagarde said progress over the past decade-reduced budget deficits and public debt; lower inflation; and stronger foreign exchange reserves-had put sub-Saharan Africa on a fundamentally stronger footing to face the food and fuel crisis of 2008 and the global financial crisis that followed. An effective response from policymakers had ensured most countries in the region were able to maintain critical spending on health, education and infrastructure and allowed their economies recover quickly to the growth levels of the mid-2000s. Nevertheless, those crises took a toll on Africa's efforts to reduce poverty, she said.
"The potential for greater volatility in commodity markets could cause further disruptions, with winners and losers within the region," Ms.
Lagarde said. "Faced with these risks, my main worry is that many countries do not have as much capacity to absorb shocks as they did three years ago. Added to that, the global slowdown could be more pronounced this time around. Policies need to tread a fine line between defending against the global slowdown in the near-term, while also preserving fiscal resources for investment in much-needed infrastructure that will help promote employment and growth."
Ms. Lagarde stressed the IMF's commitment to help its African members navigate the troubled waters ahead. "The IMF is here to support you and be a better partner for you. I am committed to a deeper, more fruitful dialogue, with the IMF listening even more carefully to your needs. This will help us serve you even more effectively," she said. "We have also been working hard to reform the IMF's governance structure so that emerging market and developing countries have a greater voice in the institution. And, so we can be truly representative of our membership.
"For those countries that need it, we have boosted our concessional lending capacity and made our lending instruments more flexible, with greater protections for social spending. We are also redoubling our efforts to provide quality technical advice," she added. "We can also play an important role, through our four, and soon to be five, regional technical assistance centers in Africa, of facilitating a sharing of expertise between countries."
Pope Benedict XVI's Christmas pleas for peace around the world were brutally ignored in Nigeria, where an explosion Sunday claimed by Muslim extremists ripped through a Catholic church during Mass. Authorities say at least 25 people were killed by the explosion at the St. Theresa Catholic Church in Madalla, near the Nigerian capital, Abuja. Boko Haram, a radical Muslim sect waging a sectarian fight claimed the attack and another bombing near a church in the restive city of Jos.
The locations of the bomb blasts in Nigeria.
A crater left by the blast on Christmas Day AJE
A victim is tended to by medics in an ambulance following a blast at a Catholic church near Nigeria's capital Abuja, December 25, 2011. credit VOA
Police bomb experts gather around the car used in the explosion at St. Theresa Catholic Church at Madalla, Suleja, near the capital Abuja in north central Nigeria, December 25, 2011. Islamist militant group Boko Haram said it planted bombs that exploded on Christmas Day at churches in Nigeria, one of which killed at least 27 people on the outskirts of the capital. AP
A car destroyed by the explosion in Madalla, near Abuja AJE
The St Theresa Church where the attack killed at least 25. AJE
A burnt police truck in north-eastern Nigeria, next to a road sign reading 'Allah the Eternal'. It was destroyed by a bomb during a series of attacks in November claimed by Islamist group Boko Haram. Photograph: Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP/Getty Images
Pope Benedict XVI kneels in prayer as he celebrates Christmas Mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Saturday, Dec. 24, 2011. AP
The assaults come a year after a series of Christmas Eve bombings in Jos claimed by the militants left at least 32 dead and 74 wounded.Benedict didn't refer explicitly to the bombings in his Christmas Day survey of the world's trouble spots, delivered from the sun-drenched loggia of St. Peter's Basilica. But the Vatican issued a statement denouncing them as a sign of "cruelty and absurd, blind hatred" that shows no respect for human life.
Elsewhere, Christians braved lashing rains and wind to celebrate Christmas Mass in Jesus' traditional birthplace on Bethlehem's Manger Square. St. Catherine's Church is attached to the smaller Church of the Nativity, which is built over a grotto where the faithful believe Jesus was born.
"We wanted to be part of the action," said Don Moore, 41, a psychology professor from Berkeley, Calif., who came to Bethlehem with his family. "This is the place, this is where it all started. It doesn't get any more special than that."
The holy town of Bethlehem is no stranger to violence. Like the rest of the West Bank, it fell on hard times after the Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation broke out in late 2000. Although civil affairs in the biblical town on Jerusalem's southeastern outskirts are run by Palestinian authorities, security control remains in the hands of Israel, which built a barrier around three sides of the town to keep Palestinian attackers out.
Palestinians say the barrier has badly hurt the local economy, which depends heavily on tourism, by severely restricting movement in and out of the town.
But as the violence has subsided, tourists have returned in large numbers. On Saturday, turnout for Christmas Eve festivities in Bethlehem was at its highest since the uprising began driving tourists away. An estimated 100,000 visitors streamed into Manger Square on Christmas Eve, up from 70,000 the previous year, according to the Israeli military's count.
The Holy Land and the entire Mideast were very much on Benedict's mind as he delivered his traditional "Urbi et Orbi" speech (Latin for "to the city and to the world").
Speaking just a few hours after celebrating a late-night Christmas Eve Mass, Benedict said he prayed that the birth of Jesus, which Christmas celebrates, would send a message to all who need to be saved from hardships.
He said he prayed that God would help the Israelis and the Palestinians resume peace talks and "bring an end to the violence in Syria, where so much blood has already been shed." He called for international assistance for refugees from the Horn of Africa and flood victims in Thailand, among others, and urged greater political dialogue in Myanmar, and stability in Iraq, Afghanistan and Africa's Great Lakes region, which includes Congo, Uganda and Rwanda.
Governor Obi of Anambra State and his administration deserves unequivocal applaud on transferring 1,040 schools back to the original owners. It is important to highlight such an important and affirmative move by Obi's administration to show that we are all committed to the truth and a better Anambra state. When the government of Governor Obi misplaced his steps in governance, it should not be neglected or left un-criticized. But at same time when he put up a sound policy he should also be acknowledged and commended. All of us who cares for Anambra’s development and wellbeing must be consistent and committed to truth and justice. And we will not hesitate to call it the way we saw it and let the chips fall where they may. This time around Governor Peter Obi got it right.
The constructive criticism of the government of Obi cannot be perceived by his administration as bitterness towards the governor. When mishaps, bad policy and poor workings of the government are shaded from the light of the day everyone becomes complicit to the process. And that is not healthy for the emerging democracy in the state and in Nigeria. That is why it is necessary to give kudos to the governor on his recent move to restore the schools to the original owners.
Vanguard newspaper reported that, "The N6 billion will be shared among the Catholic Church, Anglican Church and remaining government schools in four installments. In the first installment, the Catholic Church, which owns a lion’s share of 453 schools, will receive over N762 milion, while its Anglican counterpart will get over N498 million. The remaining public schools not taken from the churches will share over N489 million out of a total of N1.75 billion. The second and third installments will gulp N1.25 billion each, while the fourth and last installment will cost the government N1.75 billion."
L-R Barr. Ezenwo Nyesom Wike, the Hon. Minister of Education; Most Rev. Dr. Christian Efobi, Archbishop of the Niger Province of the Anglican Communion; Gov. Peter Obi; Most Rev. Dr. Valerian Okeke, Metropolitan Archbishop of Onitsha Catholic Province; and the National Chairman of APGA at the return of 1040 schools to the missionaries by the Governemnt of Anambra State. credit: nigeriamasterweb
Majority of the schools were owned by religious institutions notably the Catholic and Anglican Churches. The remaining schools were owned by non-profit organization and private organizations. At the end of Nigerian civil war the then government of East Central State in the cloak of the implementation of the Universal free Education took over schools owned by private and religious institutions.
Since the takeover of the schools by the government the management was below the standard benchmark. The high benchmark quality set by Christian’s administration and management was relegated to poor quality and poor results. The worst of the all is the emergence of social breakdown and social ills epitomized by gangs, hazing, criminality and nefarious activities. The former schools of notably high morality, decency and uprightness later decomposed and metamorphosed to den of robbers, prostitution and moral delinquency.
As those schools became government owned the teaching and upholding of Christian mores, values and customs were abandoned. The saturation of student's minds with worldly and mundane values subsequently brought the total breakdown of the requisites values needed to sustain a decent and law abiding societies. The government was not interested in improving the moral integrity of the pupils and students and the large segment of the student body became wayward and criminals. In religious settings the study of Christology was richly emphasized that became the basis to build an orderly society.
Comrade Micheal Alogba Olukoya, President of National Executive Council, National Union of Teachers (NUT) criticized the handover and said: “It is a parody and travesty of governance that as the world moves progressively toward mass education through public funding, the Governor of Anambra State is all out to returning education to elitist project, undeserving for the children of the poor masses.” But that is not necessarily the prevailing case.
It must be noted that Christian schools had a history of taking care of the poor and will not abandon the children of poor masses but rather help to direct them in better direction for a successful lives. Also, there were naysayers and cynical individuals that believed Governor Obi did not turn over the schools for benevolent reasons. They were adamant that the Governor Obi could not pay the new lawful approved minimum wages; therefore he transferred the responsibilities to the private sector.
But in supposedly federal system of government, decentralization enables the state government to make the best possible decisions without interference from outside. Anambra state has decided to give back schools to the original owners and that is their prerogative and that’s how federalism works. The government has been in the control of these schools for over forty years and has not improved the moral integrity and well-being of the poor masses. Let's give the private sector the chance to try something new and creatively original that may have better answers to the societal problems.
Governor Peter Obi turning over the schools is justifiable in a democratic society that needs the growth and development of a strong private sector. The reality is that he handed the schools to the original owners and he deserved the kudos for his thoughtful act.
Nigerian authorities were putting emergency measures in place on Thursday to prevent an oil spill from a Royal Dutch Shell facility, the biggest leak in Nigeria for more than 13 years, washing up on its densely populated coast. Tuesday's spill, which Shell said happened while a tanker was loading oil, has led to the complete shutdown of the company's 200,000 barrel per day (bpd) Bonga facility, about 120 kilometers off the coast of the West African nation. Shell's pipelines in Nigeria's onshore Niger delta have spilled several times, which it usually blames on sabotage attacks and oil theft, though it did not in this case.
"It's comparable to what happened in 1998 with the Exxon Mobil spill, in terms of the quantity that has been spilled, it's the biggest since then," Peter Idabor, director of Nigeria's National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), told Reuters by telephone from the capital Abuja.
An oil spill on the shores of the Niger Delta swamps. Shell has said the recent oil spill is likely to be worst in a decade. Photograph: Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP/Getty Images
Image by: HANDOUT / REUTERS
In 1998, some 40,000 barrels leaked from a ruptured Mobil pipeline off the coast of Nigeria. "We have in the region of 20,000 barrels that has been spilled into the environment ... and is clearly moving to our coastline," Idabor added. He said 210 tons of dispersants were on the way to deal with the spill and that oil booms - containers made from sheets of plastic that trap the oil to stop it reaching the shore - had been deployed. "We are a lot more prepared than we were in 1998," he said. But he added that local fishermen living along the coast had been advised to move away. "For the fishermen who are there, there is a lot of wave action. Of course, our advice would be for them to move away up to areas of water less affected."
The Anglo-Dutch oil major said "less than 40,000 barrels of oil" had leaked into the ocean in this latest spill. The flow of oil had now halted, a company spokesman said on Wednesday. Around half of the spilled oil had now dissipated due to natural dispersion and evaporation, Shell said in a statement on Thursday. Bonga accounts for around 10 percent of monthly oil flows from OPEC member Nigeria, the continent's largest exporter of crude oil, according to Reuters data.A Shell spokesman said on Thursday there is not yet any restart date for the field and that it will not resume production until after both an investigation and any necessary repairs have been completed.
"To accelerate the clean-up at sea, we are deploying vessels with dispersants to break up the oil sheen at sea. We are mobilizing airplanes that will support the vessels in this operation," Shell's country chairman in Nigeria, Mutiu Sunmonu said, after apologizing for the leak the previous day. The oil major's website has a series of photographs taken at the site, showing a rainbow-colored oil sheen on the ocean's surface. BP's Macondo well ruptured in April last year, causing nearly 5 million barrels of oil to spew into the sea in what was the worst U.S. marine oil spill.
Bonga was due to load around 161,000 bpd on five tankers in January, according to oil loading programs and its closure has boosted prices for other Nigerian crude grades. A U.N. report in August criticized Shell and the Nigerian government for contributing to 50 years of pollution in a region of the Niger Delta which it says needs the world's largest ever oil clean-up, costing an initial $1 billion and taking up to 30 years.
(Editing by James Jukwey)