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At least 100 were killed in the Kano co-ordinated bombing attack reported by William Wallis and Tom Burgis, Financial Times of London:
"The scale of the bloodshed caused by a wave of bombings in the northern Nigerian city of Kano began to emerge on Saturday, after Islamist insurgents laid down their most serious challenge yet to the government of Africa’s most populous nation. At least 120 people were killed in Friday’s blasts and subsequent gun battles between insurgents and security forces, according to the Associated Press, which cited records from the overflowing mortuary at Kano’s main hospital. Many others were injured. The police have only confirmed seven. Boko Haram, an armed group whose reach has been is steadily growing beyond its base in the remote northeast, claimed responsibility for the attacks. A series of blasts struck police stations and other administrative offices on Friday, pitching Nigeria’s second-biggest city into chaos. Ancient and sprawling, Kano is a hub for trade, politics and religion in Muslim northern Nigerian and beyond. The latest violence puts fresh pressure on President Goodluck Jonathan’s beleaguered government, which was forced this week to reinstate partially a fuel subsidy following nationwide protests and a general strike that threatened oil production. Local media reported that a 24-hour curfew had been imposed. Such curfews are common in parts of the north, which periodically suffers communal violence, often stoked by politicians."
Victim of bombing (AP Photo/Salisu Rabiu)
late Enenche Akogwu cameraman of Channels TV killed
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan's bungled effort to raise the country's fuel prices to the market rate has hurt his international reputation as a potential reformer and infuriated a population tired of decades of rapacious government.
The nation incurred almost $1.3 billion in economic losses during a nationwide strike that followed Jonathan's announcement Jan. 1 that the government was ending a fuel subsidy that kept gasoline prices low, the National Bureau of Statistics said Wednesday.
In addition, his deployment of troops in response to a protest movement dubbed Occupy Nigeria was widely condemned as residents and prominent people such as Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka and Lagos Gov. Babatunde Fashola, a leading opposition figure, objected to such government action.
"Nigerians are saying enough is enough," said Kunle Amuwo, Nigeria analyst for the International Crisis Group. "Nigeria is a very rich country, but people are very poor. Nigerians don't trust their government because there has been a cycle of broken promises by the government for decades."
Jonathan backtracked and lowered fuel prices Monday, though they remained higher than they had been before the new year. The government set the price at $2.27 a gallon, down from the $3.50 that had set off protests. But he warned that the subsidy would be phased out to provide funding for other expenses, such as roads and education.
The strike, which union leaders called off Monday, and protests, during which about a dozen people were killed in clashes with police, showed deep public disenchantment with a president who grew up in poverty in the oil-rich south and came to power promising to reform Nigeria and deliver a better life for his people. After decades of promises from venal politicians, many Nigerians do not believe the government will redistribute to the poor the estimated $8 billion in annual fuel subsidies, according to analysts.
The fuel subsidy, which reduces the price of fuel for running generators in a country with a poor utility infrastructure, also benefits middle-class and wealthy car owners.
The country is the world's eighth-largest oil producer but imports almost all of its gasoline because it lacks modern refineries. The subsidy is paid to fuel importers to cover the gap between the fixed price and the market rate.
The arrangement contributes to systemic corruption, with shell companies claiming subsidies for fuel never imported, and other importers claiming subsidies for imports to Nigeria, then shipping their fuel to neighboring countries to sell at the market price, according to analysts.
"Many officials or their cronies are involved in the oil market and importing oil. It's a cabal and members of the cabal are sucking Nigeria's wealth through the so-called oil subsidy," Amuwo said. "But even last year, the government overspent the subsidy by at least 30%."
Analysts also warn that investors are unlikely to spend billions of dollars to refine fuel if prices are set below the market rate.
"The subsidy has got to go.... The margins are thin enough as it is," said analyst Kayode Akindele, a Lagos-based partner in the London investment management firm, 46 Parallels.
Akindele said that besides the subsidies, Jonathan must deal with a bill designed to reform the oil industry that has been bogged down in parliament for years. The bill has made little progress because of powerful vested interests, including government oil officials, opposed to reform and transparency in the industry, he said.
Akindele, like others, said the government's overnight decision to ditch the subsidy exposed popular anger.
"Initially it was a shock because all of a sudden the subsidy was removed on Jan. 1 and the price of food and transport took everyone by surprise," he said. "But what you see is that people don't trust the government. People were saying cut government spending and cut government wages and we don't need 40-car convoys to carry government ministers around."
Amuwo said Jonathan must follow through with his campaign promises to regain citizens' trust.
"Jonathan made very beautiful speeches when he was campaigning and Nigerians said Jonathan is coming to power to change things," Amuwo said. "But now people are saying the Jonathan government is a chip off the old block, despite the promises he made to Nigerians."
Says governors pushed for the policy
The Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has denied being the brain behind the fuel subsidy removal policy which led to a nationwide strike and protests.
In an interview with BBC, Okonjo-Iweala laid the idea at the foot of governors, who she said had been pushing for the fuel subsidy removal even before she joined the Jonathan-led administration. She also denied claims that the World Bank and IMF influenced the government’s decision, saying they “have nothing to do with this, absolutely nothing!”
“This is an internal government decision and President Jonathan has made it very clear. Remember, six months before I came, the governors have all pushed for subsidy removal,” she said.
“Subsidy removal has two decades of history, almost every government from Babangida to Obasanjo has tried, so it is not Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.”
Sources say that the governors traded the subsidy removal policy with the government’s establishment of the Sovereign Wealth Fund which was established to mop up the excess crude funds which the governors shared with the federal government, monthly.
The director general of the Governors Forum, Ashishana Okauru, said although he does not “know who did what first”, the issue of fuel subsidy removal “has been on the table” at the governors’ forum.
He however denied that the governors made the decision in consideration for their support for the Sovereign Wealth Fund.
Meanwhile, the Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi, on Tuesday in Port Harcourt, said that the removal of fuel subsidy would rescue the country’s economy from collapse.
“If you we don't support the President to remove oil subsidy, we will not even be able to buy clothes because the dollar will escalate to N250 per dollar,” he said.
“That is what the thing is going to. So, the President is not a wicked man, he is on a rescue mission. I will plead with labour to sympathise with both the governors and the President, even assume that we are bad people, for once trust us.”
Source: EMMANUEL OKUBENJI (Daily Times NG)
As racism and oppression against Black Africans gained momentum in the newly established Union of South African, Pixley ka Isaka Seme a visionary leader in 1911 appeal to all non- European ethnic groups in South Africa to unite together. Pixley ka Isaka Seme rallying words - "Forget all the past differences among Africans and unite in one national organisation" led to the formation of the African based liberation organization named South African Native National Congress (SANNC) at Waaihoek Wesleyanchuch on 8 January 1912. The first elected president of the newly formed organization was John Dube and with company of many intellectuals including Sol Plaatje, an author and a poet the fight against racism and oppression took a more focused dimension.
South African Native National Congress (SANNC) was later renamed African National Congress (ANC) in 1923. With promulgation of Apartheid system of government, African lands and Rights as citizens were taken away. The struggle for gaining of full rights of South African citizenship was not an easy struggle and there were many lows and highs encountered by ANC. But one of the greatest achievements of ANC was internationalization of the struggle that made the civilized world to come together and to reject apartheid government of South Africa. It was not an innocent and bloodless struggle for many lives were lost, properties destroyed and the innocence of a nation was lost forever.
Chiefs, churchmen and a lawyer met at the Waaihoek methodist church in Bloemfontein, and the founding South African Native National Congress (SANNC), the forerunner of the ANC, is born. John Langalibalele Dube, centre, is the first president. Pic: creative commons- Wikepedia
Among the lowest points in the struggle was 1960 Sharpeville massacre of young people and this buttressed to the world how ruthless and cold the system was. Karen Allen of BBC news recalled the massacre with this chilling description: "Thousands of protesters had gathered in Sharpeville, just south of Johannesburg, to protest at the use of the infamous passbooks, or "dompas", that every black South African was expected to carry and produce on demand. It governed a person's movement, was a tool of harassment and was one of the most hated symbols of the apartheid state. Sixty-nine men, women and children were gunned down on that day, killed when police officers opened fire on the crowd. The police station - where they had gathered - is now a memorial to the dead."
The highpoint of ANC struggle was the unbanning of ANC and the release of political prisoners including Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu and many others from the famous Robben Island prison. The climax of the ANC struggle was the releasing of Mandela and his subsequent election as the first Black president of non-racial South Africa in May of 1994 after spending 27 years in prison. The ANC as a political party and liberation organization deserved the greatest praise and acknowledgement for the defeat of apartheid South African government and its management of victory. To the credit and maturity of ANC victory became the univeral freedom for both the oppressed and oppressor, white and black, poor and rich.
ANC celebrates 100yrs
There were also unsung heroes, men and women of goodwill all over the world that never sleep nor stop fighting until the evil apartheid was declared death and irreversible. It was truly a collective effort of the good people of the world that refused to be quiet that eventually brought about the collapse and eradication of apartheid.
There has been successful transfer of power since President Mandela has been at herald affairs in South Africa. And each of the successive presidents has done a fairly decent job in trying to right the wrongs of the nation without upsetting the system. Although some will not evaluate it in more positive light given the quantity of poverty in the country, others may even accuse them of being timid and have lost their focus and direction. But all things being equal, it can be a delicate dance being that the majority poor Black masses are hurting but at same time the minority whites were engulfed with fear and anxiety.
The president that came immediately after Nelson Mandela was another intellectual and financial guru named Thabo Mbeki; he was good with the economy. Mbeki appointed both black and white technocrats to his government including the finance minister Manuel Trevor, that helped him to balance the budget and rein in spending. Mbeki appointed Tito Mboweni as the governor of the Central Bank of South Africa, who kept the rand currency healthy and strong, while at same time held down inflation. Mboweni tenured at the South African Reserve Bank was a success story for his monetary policy application reassured investors and business community.
The current President Zuma has shown a great leadership especially in the economy and management of emerging social crisis of restlessness among the youths. Due to his radical days during ANC struggle, many people were worried especially business community that he has socialistic inclinations. But to the surprise of many he is relatively conservative in spending and economic management. He held down inflation with the spearhead of good fiscal policies and the appointment of Gill Marcus, a conservative financial banker as governor of the Reserve Bank and this has solidified Zuma's new found fiscally conservative principle . Under the leadership of Zuma, South Africa has become the latest member of the BRICS - a powerful trading organization of emerging super nations. South Africa is also a member nation of G-20, the only African member of the esteemed group.
Thabo Mbeki Pic:EPA
With resolute and confidence, ANC has matured into a ruling party from their victory and has shown a great ability to lead a multi-racial South Africa. Nelson Mandela, the conscience of the struggle deserved a great respect and honor on the way he directed the affairs of the nation as the first Black president of South Africa. Mandela displayed of no remorse and bitterness to his fellow South African whites was a mark of maturity and statesmanship rarely seen in the annals of history. He taught the world that peace-making is a virtue and the once enemies can co-exist together and peacefully sought out their differences and work together to build a peaceful and prosperous nation. It has not been easy but the legacy he put forward has become a foundation for building a great, non-racial and prosperous South Africa.
With freedom and victory comes great responsibility. ANC cannot afford to sit on its laurels for as the ruling party it has a daunting task of rewriting the wrongs of yesterday. This is an enormous task because of how sensitive and delicate racial relationship in South Africa has become. The liberated Black majority has been overwhelmed with poverty and depravity rooted in the defunct apartheid structure, while whites were riddle with guilt and anxiety on the apparent loss of their ruling class status. ANC as the governing party together with the government leadership needs a strategic outlook and plan to successfully tackle and solve the problem.
Jesse Jackson of the US (C back) stands behind South Africa President Jacob Zuma
Democracy is an expensive form of government and it is not sustainable in a sea of poverty. South Africa under the leadership of ANC has demonstrated that it has the potential to become one of the richest nations under the sun. And the nation of South Africa can lead Africa to a better tomorrow. This is not the time to allow internal bickering to get hold of ANC. The greatest advantage ANC enjoyed is that it has men and women of goodwill that believes that Africa can rise again and become a productive continent that can determine its destiny without begging for a handout. ANC is strategically position to change not only South Africa but the entire continent for good. That must be the desire and vision of ANC, therefore ANC should provide the moral compass to a great nation and a great people.
ANC does not have the time to be timid, visionless and to wallow in corruption because if it chooses to go slow, the people of South Africa will not accept it. Only time will tell whether the blood and sweat deposited in the bank of liberation is redeemable. Happy 100 years anniversary!!!
Africa Political and Economic Strategic Center (Afripol) is foremost a public policy center whose fundamental objective is to broaden the parameters of public policy debates in Africa. To advocate, promote and encourage free enterprise, democracy, sustainable green environment, human rights, conflict resolutions, transparency and probity in Africa. http://afripol.org
1. This is the second time in two weeks I will address you on the deregulation of the downstream petroleum sector. In the last seven days, the nation has witnessed a disruption of economic activities. Although, the economic imperatives for the policy have been well articulated by government, the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) went ahead to declare a nationwide strike.
2. There was also near-breakdown of law and order in certain parts of the country as a result of the activities of some persons or groups of persons who took advantage of the situation to further their narrow interests by engaging in acts of intimidation, harassment and outright subversion of the Nigerian state. I express my sympathy to those who were adversely affected by the protests.
3. At the inception of the deregulation policy, Government had set up the Justice Alfa Belgore Committee to liaise with Labour and other stakeholders to address likely grey areas in the policy, but despite all our efforts, Labour refused the option of dialogue and also disobeyed a restraining order of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria.
4. However, following the intervention of the Leadership of the National Assembly, and other well-meaning Nigerians, Labour accepted to meet with government, but this yielded no tangible result.
5. It has become clear to government and all well-meaning Nigerians that other interests beyond the implementation of the deregulation policy have hijacked the protest. This has prevented an objective assessment and consideration of all the contending issues for which dialogue was initiated by government. These same interests seek to promote discord, anarchy, and insecurity to the detriment of public peace.
6. Government appreciates that the implementation of the deregulation policy would cause initial hardships and commends Nigerians who have put forth suggestions and credible alternatives in this regard. Government also salutes Nigerians who by and large, conducted themselves peacefully while expressing their grievances. Let me assure you that government will continue to respect the people’s right to express themselves within the confines of the law and in accordance with the dictates of our democratic space.
7. Government will continue to pursue full deregulation of the downstream petroleum sector. However, given the hardships being suffered by Nigerians, and after due consideration and consultations with state governors and the leadership of the National Assembly, government has approved the reduction of the pump price of petrol to N97 per litre. The Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) has been directed to ensure compliance with this new pump price.
8. Government is working hard to reduce recurrent expenditure in line with current realities and to cut down on the cost of governance. In the meantime, government has commenced the implementation of the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment projects: including the Federal Government- assisted mass transit programme which is already in place, and job creation for the youth.
9. Furthermore, the legal and regulatory regime for the petroleum industry will be reviewed to address accountability issues and current lapses in the Industry. In this regard, the Petroleum Industry Bill will be given accelerated attention. The report of the forensic audit carried out on the NNPC is being studied with a view to implementing the recommendations and sanctioning proven acts of corruption in the industry.
10. Let me assure Nigerians that this administration is irrevocably committed to tackling corruption in the petroleum industry as well as other sectors of the economy. Consequently, all those found to have contributed one way or the other to the economic adversity of the country will be dealt with in accordance with the law.
11. My dear compatriots, I urge you to show understanding for the imperatives of the adjustment in the pump price of petrol and give government your full support to ensure its successful implementation. I further appeal to Nigerians to go back to work and go about their normal duties as government has made adequate arrangements for the protection of life and property throughout the federation.
12. Government will not condone brazen acts of criminality and subversion. As President, I have sworn to uphold the unity, peace and order of the Nigerian State and by the grace of God, I intend to fully and effectively discharge that responsibility. Let me add that we are desirous of further engagements with Labour. I urge our Labour leaders to call off their strike, and go back to work.
13. Nigeria belongs to all of us and we must collectively safeguard its unity.
14. Thank you. God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
GOODLUCK EBELE JONATHAN, President, Federal Republic of Nigeria.
"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character." – Martin Luther King
THE TEXT: Martin Luther King's Address at March on Washington August 28, 1963. Washington, D.C. :
I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation. Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.
But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.
In a sense we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds." But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check -- a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.
It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.
But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.
As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied, as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating "For Whites Only". We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.
I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.
Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.
I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.
This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, "My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring."
And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!
Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!
But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"
Celebrated Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has called on religious leaders to quell rising sectarian tensions in the country as it wrestles with a national strike and tit-for-tat violence by Islamist and Christian groups. A wave of deadly attacks against churches, carried out by members of extremist Islamist group Boko Haram, has resulted in retaliation by Christians, including the burning of a mosque and school in the southern city of Benin.
"Christian leaders must continue to preach peace and togetherness so that Christians do not retaliate," Adichie told the Guardian.
"Muslim leaders must strongly and repeatedly condemn the violence against Christians and make it clear that Boko Haram does not represent Nigerian Islam," she said.
Her Orange prize-winning book, Half of a Yellow Sun, documented the Biafran war of 1967-1970, which killed more than a million civilians through both fighting and starvation. Boko Haram, whose name means "western education is forbidden", emerged in Maiduguri, in Nigeria's north-east, in 2002. Since then it has mainly carried out attacks on Christians in northern or "middle belt" states.
The organisation remains mysterious, but in an interview with the BBC in 2009 its leader, Mohammed Yusuf, who was subsequently killed by Nigeria's security services, expressed a number of unorthodox theological views.
He said "western-style education", which ran contrary to Islamic teaching, included the idea that the Earth was a sphere and that rain was a result of evaporation and condensation.
Boko Haram operates against a wider background of sectarian strife in Nigeria, whose Muslim population is concentrated in its north. The middle belt city of Jos, where various ethnic and religious groups merge, has experienced some of the country's worst religious violence. In November 2008 about 700 people were killed in riots following disputed local elections which degenerated along sectarian lines.
"Of course I completely understand the rage and pain of Christian southerners whose relatives are murdered in the north, and whose shock and mourning are worsened by the weakness of the government's response," said Adichie. "But the vast majority of northerners are as horrified by the killings as anyone else and have nothing to do with them."
Nigeria's president, Goodluck Jonathan, said in a speech on 8 January that "the situation we have in our hands is even worse than the civil [Biafran] war". In the same speech, he revealed that he thought Boko Haram had sympathisers in various arms of government and the judiciary. Responding to his comments on the war, Adichie said: "I think that is a mere rhetorical flourish. What matters to me is that our president has publicly said that Boko Haram has backers and supporters in the national assembly. If he has this knowledge, why has nothing been done to and about these supporters of terrorism?"
Nigerian workers took to the streets on Friday for a fifth day of strikes over the lifting of the fuel subsidy, after trade unions broke off talks with Jonathan and said they would not restart until Saturday. The government scrapped subsidies on petrol imports at the beginning of the year, more than doubling the pump price to about 150 naira (60p) a litre, and sparking bitter protests across the country.
Pressure is mounting on Jonathan to reach a deal. Nigeria's main oil union has threatened to shut down output from Africa's biggest crude producer from Sunday if the government does not reinstate the subsidy. Adichie believes the root of Nigeria's problems is not sectarianism, but a crisis of governance.
"Right now, all over Nigeria, from Kano in the north to Port Harcourt in the south, people are protesting the same things: the increase in fuel prices and the lack of basic government services.
"Nigerians have divisions but they are largely united in their dissatisfaction with and distrust of their government. "The divisions we see today would, in my view, be greatly reduced if people had regular and affordable electricity, good roads, affordable transportation – all of which are political problems."
David Shariatmadari is deputy editor of Comment( The Guardian) is free. His Twitter name is D_Shariatmadari
A nationwide strike and demonstrations have unleashed years of pent-up frustrations in Nigeria over its kleptocratic leaders, and the rage has grown even stronger across social media this week.
Twitter users shared pictures of dead protesters while others broke down the oil-rich nation’s 2012 budget figures, comparing funds allocated to the president and vice president’s offices with the cost of living of the average Nigerian. Hackers have targeted government websites, while others criticized local news coverage of demonstrations in nation where journalists often accept bribes from those they cover.
“I think the government has opened a can of worms and we are now picking each one at a time,” said Kola Oyeneyin, 31, an entrepreneur who uses Twitter to give protest updates.
Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets across Africa’s most populous nation to protest the government’s removal on Jan. 1 of a subsidy that had kept gasoline prices low for more than two decades. Overnight, prices at the pump more than doubled, from $1.70 per gallon (45 cents per liter) to at least $3.50 per gallon (94 cents per liter). The costs of food and transportation also doubled in a nation where most live on less than $2 a day.
President Goodluck Jonathan insists the move was necessary to save the country an estimated $8 billion a year, which he promises will go toward badly needed roads and public projects. But the president, who used Facebook to announce he would run in the nation’s presidential elections last year, has faced increasingly angry comments on his own profile where most offered praise in the past.
Protesters — who joined the current nationwide labor strike under the hash-tagged slogan of “Occupy Nigeria” — say the government is in no position to ask people to sacrifice in a nation with extravagant government spending and a history of widespread theft of billions by military rulers and politicians.
Nigeria, an OPEC member nation producing about 2.4 million barrels of crude oil a day, is a top supplier to the U.S., but virtually all of its petroleum products are imported after years of graft, mismanagement and violence at its refineries.
“They (the government) are saying that they need to save. OK, but do you need to save by making us pay for your waste?” Oyeneyin asked.
The country only recently passed a Freedom of Information bill granting, in theory, public access to documents. But the nation’s budgeting remains opaque at best in a nation that operated for years under an official secrets act that made unauthorized release of government information an imprisonable offense.
“People are now more informed about what’s going on and it won’t be long before we have an open and transparent government,” said Ngozi Sulaiman, a businesswoman who was sending photos to her Blackberry contacts from a protest in a posh Lagos neighborhood.
However, social media also has spread false information about government resignations in recent days as well. Text messages circulating the country also fed a rumor that a radical Islamist sect planned to infiltrate and bomb demonstrations.
A group of hackers also have attacked a series of government websites over several days, including the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on Friday.
Eager to calm public anger, government-aligned groups have published front-page newspaper advertisements for days trying to sell Nigeria’s more than 160 million people on the idea that money saved by removing fuel subsidies will go toward needed projects. While Nigeria has an unruly free press, underpaid journalists often accept so-called “brown envelope” bribes slipped into briefing documents at news conferences. And at least one private news channel in the country has gotten calls from government officials asking it not to broadcast live images of a daily demonstration in Lagos that drew more than 20,000 people on Friday alone.
Criticism of news on the state-run Nigerian Television Authority also sparked a protest outside its Lagos headquarters by more than a thousand people Thursday. The channel aired a short story on the protest 43 minutes into its nightly broadcast, after a host of pro-subsidy removal stories and commercials.
The protests will continue to be swayed by social media, despite low incomes, as Nigeria has the continent’s top mobile phone market and is estimated to have the largest online audience in Africa.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.
A possible end to the ongoing nationwide strike action was in the offing last night after the Federal Government agreed to temporarily revert to the pre-New Year price of N65 per litre of petrol.
At a marathon meeting attended by President Goodluck Jonathan, organised labour, the leadership of the Senate and the representatives of state governors, labour was given two options for the reinstatement of the N65 per litre price of petrol. The first option is to revert to the pre-New Year price on the condition that the subsidy regime would be completely removed in April.
The second option is to allow the N65 selling price of petrol and withdraw 80% of the subsidy in March, meaning that petrol would sell for N120 if the current price regime remains in force.
No agreement yet — Labour
At the end of the meeting last night, labour said although compromise was being made, It has not reached an agreement and that strike continues today. All the parties would however meet again on Saturday when labour is expected to make up its mind on the options put before it.
Yesterday’s meeting was at the instance of the leadership of the Senate which had earlier held two meetings with organised labour and another with the Federal Government. Among those present at the meeting which commenced at 6.30 pm last night were Senate President David Mark; his deputy, Senator Ike Ekweremadu and Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba.
The Senate President shuttled periodically yesterday between Aso Rock and his residence where he hosted labour officials as he sought to mediate the differences between both parties.
The Nigeria Governors Forum, NGF was represented by seven governors at last night meeting. Those in attendance were the Chairman of the NGF, Mr Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers); Mr Gabriel Suswan (Benue); Mr Babangida Aliyu (Niger); Mr Liyel Imoke (Cross River); Mr Adams Oshiomhole (Edo); Mr. Babatunde Fashola (Lagos) and Mr Peter Obi (Anambra).
The Labour delegation included the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Mr Abdulwaheed Omar and the President of Trade Union Congress, TUC, Mr Peter Esele, while Mr Tunde Aremu of ActionAid, represented Civil Society Organisations, CSOs.
They arrived the venue at exactly 6:30 pm, about two hours after the trio of President Jonathan, representing the Executive arm, the Senate leadership, and the governors forum had been meeting.
Labour sustains protests
Meanwhile, as the series of meetings were being held by representatives of government and labour, the labour movement and its civil society allies sustained their mass protests across the states of the federation and Abuja yesterday to mark the fourth day of the strike which has grounded commercial and social activities.
The protest which also recorded unprecedented turn-out at the Federal Capital Territory, kicked off from the Berger Roundabout at about 10:45am from where the procession marched through Wuse Market, Zone 3 and 7 before it terminated at Area One junction.
It was characterized by the usual fanfare that greeted the protest since it commenced, with protesters dancing to the tunes from some musicians.
Peter Esele, TUC President exploited the opportunity of the fourth day rally to dismiss Federal Government’s accusation that labour was threatening the peace of the country.
He said labour and the coalition of civil society groups involved in the protest had nothing against the authority of President Goodluck Jonathan, but that they fault the deregulation policy which in their evaluation does not go down well with the masses.
He also dismissed allegations that politicians were wrongly exploiting the rallies to their advantage, saying they would effectively use the peaceful rallies to achieve their demands.
His words: “They say we are creating problems for this country, let us make one thing clear here, we have nothing against the presidency. All we are fighting against is the deregulation policy”.
Economic activities in Abuja were low, with transporters conveying passengers to some locations in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), most of the banks remained closed for business, while most of the ministries’ staff were yet to comply with the directive to resume work.
Yet the government of President Goodluck Jonathan is steering through these hazards, giving Nigeria a chance to cast off the instability, poverty and corruption that have long plagued this country. And Nigeria’s powerful governors, for the moment, are coalescing around the reform agenda.
Meeting with the president and his economic team in Abuja last week, in the midst of protests against the subsidy removal, confirmed my view that the Nigerian government has an unprecedented opportunity to clean up its act and win back the support of a long-suffering population. The president spoke of taking the tough medicine necessary to build the foundations for long-term growth. His lead economic architect is Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, newly returned from a top spot at the World Bank.
I don’t envy their task. At 155 million people and rising, Nigeria is the world’s eighth-most-populous country and one of the hardest to govern. The country is deeply splintered, with more than 250 ethnic groups, 500 languages, a stark and sometimes violent Muslim-Christian divide, and a population now evenly divided between urban and rural areas. If these fracture lines were not enough, corruption is rampant, income inequality is sky-high, poverty and disease are pervasive, and the youth population is bulging, with half of all Nigerians under the age of 20.
I’ve advised dozens of countries, including Nigeria, on economic development and public health, and very few come close to Nigeria’s scale and complexity of challenges. Yet just as other large and complicated developing countries such as Brazil and India are now making breakthroughs in poverty reduction and economic growth, Nigeria could become the surprise winner of the coming decade. It is filled with talented and energetic people, fertile agriculture, and vast energy resources.
Oil-dependent Nigeria exemplifies the infamous “resource curse.” When an economy depends excessively on one or two key resources like oil, gold, or diamonds, politics all too easily descends into megacorruption and a brutal struggle over the resource earnings. To add to the curse, foreign governments and companies often amplify the corruption. Nigerian courts recently convicted the U.S. oil-services company Halliburton of massive corruption committed while the chief executive was none other than Dick Cheney.
Oil exporters like Nigeria very often keep domestic oil prices low as an easy sop to powerful local interests. Nigeria’s oil prices were among the lowest in Africa until the subsidies were abruptly ended Jan. 1. According to the government’s estimates, the oil subsidy in 2011 amounted to a staggering $8 billion, roughly 4 percent of G.D.P. (the equivalent share of G.D.P. in the United States would be $600 billion per year). Nigeria’s well-to-do households, with their cars and large diesel generators, and also some adroit oil smugglers, captured much of the subsidy.
Protesters demonstrating against fuel prices in Lagos, Nigeria, on Monday.
The government ended the subsidies to redeploy the 4 percent of G.D.P. toward long-term development needs, including health, roads and power. The reform logic is sound. Using the 4 percent of G.D.P. in a strategic manner can do far more for Nigeria’s poor and the country’s long-term growth than haphazard giveaways of cheap oil.
Yet the fury at the government’s removal of the oil subsidies has been huge, with strikes, violence and political uproar. The removal of subsidies creates short-term pain for many social groups, and considerable short-term fear. The government’s actions are easy targets of the political opposition. The public understandably frets that the government might simply steal the budget savings, since governments have stolen so much of the oil wealth in the past.
The fears of corruption are absolutely understandable, but glimmers of hope — that this time will be different — are also in the air. When Nigeria won relief on its external debt in the mid-2000s, the savings on debt service were actually redirected to meaningful social investments in the states and local governments. The government is now promising to turn the outlays on subsidies into outlays on specific and closely monitored investments in health care, infrastructure, job training and other areas.
To share the pain, the president has ordered cuts in top salaries in the government, and special programs for mass transit to help poor workers over the hurdle of higher transport costs. The government should also tax high-income individuals in order to raise revenues for urgent pro-poor investments and a fairer society.
Civil society is on the alert. Labor unions, Occupy Nigeria and other social groups are on the streets protesting the subsidy cuts. More importantly, they are demanding transparency and honesty from a national government that has offered far too little of these virtues over the past half century.
If the president and his team carry through on their plans for bold, honest, equitable and transparent reforms, they are well placed to usher in a new day for Nigeria. Skepticism is running high, but so too are cautious hopes that finally, this decade, Nigeria will join the ranks of the world’s most dynamic emerging economies.
Jeffrey D. Sachs is director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and author of “The Price of Civilization.”