Wednesday, May 6, 2015

This Week in Nigeria: Governor Ibori Pleads Guilty

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Ibori (right) with Yar'Ardua on the campaign trail

This Week: News

Former governor pleads guilty to fraud accusations

Former governor of Delta State James Ibori has pleaded guilty to 10 counts of money laundering and conspiracy to defraud. The one-time presidential hopeful’s case was brought against him by the UK's Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) over accusations that he reportedly stole $250mn from the Delta state treasury. Ibori was arrested in Dubai last year, having fled Nigeria and was extradited to the UK. In 2007, a UK court froze Ibori's assets allegedly worth $35m. The officer in charge of the investigation, Detective Inspector Paul Whatmore said, "We will now be actively seeking the confiscation of all of his stolen assets so they can be repatriated for the benefit of the people of Delta State".

Boko Haram strikes again

The Islamic Sect Boko Haram struck once again on Sunday when a suicide bomber drove his car into the headquarters of Jos state’s "Church of Christ". The attack resulted in two deaths and wounded more than ten. Pam Ayuba, a church spokesman, stated: “The blast killed the bomber and a father and child near the explosion, while wounding others.” The upturn in attacks can be attributed to rising tensions in Jos, a flashpoint of sectarian violence.

Governor Imoke is re-elected

Former minister of power and incumbent governor Senator Liyel Imoke has been re-elected as governor of Cross River State, after receiving 451,544 votes in Saturday’s polls. Imoke ran against 11 other candidates with the closet opponent, Usani Usani of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), receiving 31,026 votes. Imoke passed the 25% threshold in all 18 local government areas, with observers declaring the elections "peaceful".

Five new private universities approved

Five new private universities have been approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC). The Minister of Education, Professor Rukayyat Rufa’I observed that prior to approval the country had a total of 117 universities to serve a population of 158 million. The newly approved universities are - Elizade University in Ondo state, Evangel University in Ebonyi state, Gregory University in Abia state, and McPherson University and Southwestern University in Ogun state.

Increase in oil production

Nigeria’s oil production increased over the weekend when the Usan offshore field finally became active. The facility is said to produce 180,000 barrels a day and is operated by French energy giant Total. The new means of production will raise Nigeria's daily output from 2.3mbpd to 2.68mbpd. Such offshore oil investments could potentially help the government realise its goal of increasing oil reserves to 40bn barrels overall and production levels to 4mbpd by 2020.

Governor contents federal revenue allocation

The Chairman of the Northern Governors Forum, Niger State's Muazu Babangida Aliyu, has declared that the allocation of federal revenue is "heavily lopsided". The governor's displeasure stems from the fact that the government often invests more in oil producing states rather than being commensurate with populations. Aliyu declares,  “Niger State receives an average allocation of N4.2 billion ($26 million) and spends N2.1 billion on salaries and emoluments, leaving government with about N2 billion for servicing a population of over 4 million”. And if nothing is done to change this, the northern region will “forever lag behind”.

This Week: politics

A covert struggle for relevance is once again being played out between former rulers Ibrahim Babangida and Olusegun Obansanjo. The former military men have each held the reins of Nigeria in the past and it was Obasanjo who foiled Babangida’s attempt to regain the presidency in 2007 - by handpicking Umaru Musa Yar’adua and backing Goodluck Jonathan in 2011.

Whilst Obasanjo has enjoyed the title of international statesman and is currently in Senegal as the head of an African Union observer group, Babangida has featured on the state-owned Nigeria Television Authority in recent days, baring his mind on issues such as the new inspector general of police and Nigeria’s security issues. Babangida seems to be in political limbo and while his next steps are uncertain, being a "leader of the North" might be one that attracts him during such a tumultuous period. I don’t think we have heard the last of these two giants of Nigeria’s history.

Calls for a Sovereign National Conference are intensifying each day. A conference of this nature is intended purely for Nigeria’s diverse ethnic grouping to come together in order to find a solution to their continued and turbulent union. The current 1999 constitution written towards the end of military rule is flawed and deficient and a country like Nigeria can do much better. But the real issue is how to do so within a united framework. Due to the internal complexities that have arisen over the years, a sovereign national conference runs the risk of dividing the nation further. Such conferences may further expose the fragility of the union that is Nigeria. The various groups backed by ethnic sentiment might simply engage in biased support, which would inevitably put ethnicities before a united Nigeria. What is at stake is far too much for any major ethnic group to back down from. And those who fear for Nigeria’s break up without a sovereign conference, must harbour the same fear if one were to be convened.

Writer of the week

Nigeria Tribune's Group Politics Editor, Taiwo Adisa writes an interesting and engaging piece titled "S/West: What manner of integration?" A delegation made up of Yoruba leaders, religious groups and elder statesmen paid a visit to President Goodluck Jonathan to protest the marginalisation of the Yoruba Ethnic group in the mainstream of Nigeria’s politics. The article looks at the seriousness of the south-west region and all the political sub-groups in their aspirations to integrate economically and politically in order to reinstate their prominence in the country. The article touches on very valid and interesting points and is a highly recommended read.

"Nigeria-optimism Versus Government Magic" is an article written by Jon Chikadibie Okafo. He had recently returned to Nigeria after a long stint abroad only to come to the realisation that everyday Nigeria and the Nigeria of his dreams were two different things. The write up is emotive, with the stark realities bringing the words to life. The amassing of ill-gotten wealth by those in high places is detailed alongside the scourge of corruption that has seeped into all facets of life and makes this article a view from a serious perspective and well worth the read.

Website of the week

The African Artists’ Foundation (AAF) was established in 2007 as a non-profit organisation dedicated to the promotion of African arts and artists, alongside the promotion of public health issues through artistic endeavours. Based in the commercial capital of Lagos, AAF engages the growing arts community through organising art exhibitions, competitions and workshops with the aim of unearthing and developing talent.

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