Category Archives: News

Sporadic shooting in Aba as police block roads to correctional centre, police HQs, harass motorists

There is tension in Aba, Abia state as policemen have barricaded all roads leading to the Correctional centre and the Police Area Command in the city.

It was gathered that there was heavy shooting at the Aba Area Command and another at Bata junction. Residents of the adjoining roads to the two facilities have been barred from leaving their houses while shop owners were forced to leave the area.

Barricades guarded by the Police were observed at Okwu na Uka street, Pound and Hospital roads as well as the area near the Aba General Hospital.

Residents of the city stated that the barricade on roads leading to the Correctional centre and the Police Area Command may not be unconnected with efforts to protect the two facilities from attack by gunmen.

A police source said that the barricades are not unusual considering the recent attacks on police formations in the South-East zone.

Unconfirmed stories has it that the police received a letter from the unknown gunmen and they decided to display a show of force.

Police Public Relations Officer, Abia State Command, SP Geoffrey Ogbonna, was yet to respond to calls and text message made to his mobile number as at press time.

BREAKING: Anambra Govt grants amnesty to 100 prisoners

Anambra State Governor, Willie Obiano has set free over 100 prisoners in the various correctional services in the state.

The Governor granted the inmates the state pardon few minutes ago.

The reason for the amnesty is yet to be known as at press time.

According to Anambra Broadcasting Service, A.B.S, the governor granted amnesty to over 100 prisoners serving various prison sentences in the state.

Pundits believe that the Anambra State Government may have decided to free prisoners to avoid or avert the the likely situation in its closet state, Imo state where rampaging gunmen razed the Nigeria Police Force Headquarters and the Federal Correctional Service in Owerri, freeing thousands of inmates.

BREAKING: Dangote Petitions Trade Ministry To Shut BUA Sugar Refinery Down

A major war has been raging in the Nigeria sugar industry for some time now and the bubbles seemed to have burst with Dangote’s decision to petition the Federal Government asking the Ministry of Trade to shut down BUA Group’s Sugar Refinery located in Port Harcourt.

In the letter dated 28th January 2021 signed by Aliko Dangote himself as the Chairman Dangote Industries Limited, the billionaire claimed that when the BUA Sugar refinery was opened, he warned the Government and they told him that no new refinery would be allowed to operate in Nigeria’. Dangote accused BUA of operating with impunity by contravening the laws as laid down in the National sugar policy by selling its products locally instead of producing for export alone.

BUA in its own defense sent to the Honourable Minister of Trade however clarified issues by stating that the law allows it to sell inside Nigeria. Attaching the enabling permits and approval BUA stated that because of the connivance of the two major sugar manufacturers to hike the price of Sugar during the Ramadan period, the law allows it to sell locally.

BUA also warned that the DANGOTE group and the other major player have not been involved in any backward integration project, rather they depend on 80% raw sugar allocation which is detrimental to the Nigerian economy in long-term analysis. BUA on the other hand has been involved in a backward integration project with BUA’s Lafiagi Sugar BIP set to be completed in 2022.

Over a 250million dollars is believed to have been spent on the export-focused BUA sugar refinery already and it is also employing over 1,000 Nigerians.

Meanwhile, BUA also noted that at the center of this fight to force FG to close the BUA Sugar refinery down is the price war.

Last year, before Ramadan, sugar sold for around 18,000 Naira per bag. But as Ramadan fasting started the price jumped to 30,000 per bag. The people had no choice but to buy it because they needed a lot of it during the period. So the manufacturers were smiling at the bank. BUA group noticed the trend and decided that it had to change. There was no reason to increase the price during Ramadan simply because the demand is high.

Usually, the increase happens about one month to commencement of fasting

When the other manufacturers got across to BUA, Samad Rabiu refused. They put pressure on him, saying it was the right time to make good money but he put his feet down.

After failing to do that, they petitioned the Federal Government that he was breaking the law by selling sugar locally instead of for export.

A source however claimed that already, BUA group has dragged the Trade Minister to court to ensure that the operations of the sugar refinery are not tampered with all because of the desperate attempt by Dangote Group to monopolize the sugar trade in Nigeria.

OPEN LETTER TO APGA ANAMBRA STATE, BY DR. HARRIS CHUMA-ODILI, OGENE IGBO

Chuma-Odili

EXTRACT:

“From the standpoint of the APGA grassroots activists, critical stakeholders, and faith based organizations who had scrutinised the activities of Nze Akachukwu Nwankpo in comparison to the other governorship aspirants in Anambra and have found out that we need a man, that is straightforward, honest, industrious, energetic, knowledgeable, intelligent, proactive, visionary, courageous, tested, trusted, reliable, and credible to add value to Anambra State and re-engineer the creative and entrepreneurial skills of our people at this auspicious moment of back-to-land.

“A good governance compliant, Nwankpo, will ensure all the elements of good and creative governance will be used to enhance and unleash growth and development opportunities on Anambra State. Nze Akachukwu Nwankpo is electable and unimpeachable with a rich and robust socio-cultural background, charismatic and influential God-Given Skills, added to a highly developed human and interpersonal skills required for attracting people of value to make the business of development smooth sailing.

“My dear Honorable National Working Committee of the APGA. The credibility and authenticity of the primary election all lies in your hand. I will as a matter of fact implore the APGA NWC to as a matter of fact ensure the primary election is free, credible and provision of a smooth level playing ground for all the aspirants.
It may interest you to know that any election that is not free and fair risks negativity in compromising party loyalists, stakeholders and supporters and it encourages sparking further conflict.”

OPINION: FIGHTING INSECURITY-WHEN WE MUST SUPPORT THE POLICE

Okali

By Ifeanyi Okali

The police as the foremost law enforcement agency oftentimes come under fierce attack and destructive criticisms as a result of unprofessional conduct of few persons who have continued to portray the force in a bad light.

Most often also, when they deliver incredible milestone in an effort to make the rest of us and our entire family sleep with our eyes close, it faintly make headlines in the newspapers. Irrespective of the angle from where we may view them, the police are the number one law enforcement body and the first point of protection for the civil populace.

Have you thought of a situation where you are being randomly harassed, molested and trampled upon, yet no organ or instrumentality of the state to lay you complains to?

Have you imagined how often we will be at the mercy of those wielding iron fist and physical power in the absence of the police?

Interestingly, the force is made up of our brothers, sisters, friends, fathers and uncles. They are no strangers but part and parcel of the society. They are humans and as such feel the same way we feel.

They receive and feel all social problems bedeviling us in one way or the other. They go to the same market with us, send their children to the same school with our children, use the same road with us and live in the same neighbourhood with us. In all these, they put their lives at risk to ensure the corporate security and protection of the weak and strong, the rich and poor and indeed all manner of people.

There is hardly a day a policeman does not get killed in the course of performing his tasking duty of protecting us. In Abia our state for instance, the recent vicious series of attacks launched against officers and men of the force really got the governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu concern when he declared and demonstrated total support to ensure that the criminal elements behind the unjustified killing of policemen and stealing of their rifles are apprehended and brought to book. He did not stop there. He went ahead to place a bounty on the killers to aid their easy arrest. From Aba, to Omobo, Isuikwuato to Ohafia, Ukwa and indeed virtually all parts of the state, the stories leave a sour taste in the mouth.

Even with the constant felling of their colleagues, these gallant officers and men ensure they do not rest on their oars in protecting our lives and investments. While this intervention is not aimed at deodorizing the police of their ailings, it is important to state that appreciation for excellent work is a virtue and indeed a morale booster. The peace we enjoy in the state today is largely on the account of the vigilance, commitment and sacrifices of men of the Nigerian police and other security agencies who stake their lives for the country they love.

Kidnapping and arm robbery that was in the past a recurrent decimal across the state has largely reduced. The Isuikwuato Akara road that was a den of criminality has now become a safe haven, creating the leeway for our people to move about their legitimate businesses without fear of harassment and intimidation. The constant attacks on POS operators around Aba and Umuahia is rapidly on the decline. We cannot forget in a hurry how Miss Ezinne Iroh, a 23-year-old POS operator in Aba was callously killed in cold blood by a deadly gang after robbing her. She was just one of the many who were dispatched to early grave by these blood-thirsty men of the underworld. Cheeringly, the police have launched an aggressive manhunt against them and indeed dealing them series of bloody nose. This is commendable and worth our support. A number of them have been arrested and cooling off at the moment, waiting for their day in court.

Undoubtedly, the 2020 #EndSARS protest was an eloquent testimony that the police need to do more in the area of checkmating extra-judicial killing, flagrant human right abuse, extraction of ‘confessional statement’ through duress and torture as well as bribery. This was not only necessary but its speaks volume to the humongous power citizens wield in making their voices count in matters that challenge them and wave unanswered questions in their face on daily basis. Of course, this was followed by prompt action from the police top hierarchy that announced the immediate dissolution of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) accused of largely perpetrating most of the abuse of human rights against citizens.

An effective policing system requires the active support of all citizens through prompt provision of intelligence report. Without the support and collaboration of the community, the police cannot perform magic to serve the populace better. The fear overtime has always hinged on the protection of the identity of those who volunteer information to the police. The new, reformed police under the leadership of IGP Adamu Mohammed have never hidden their willingness to give all citizens who assist with information with the maximum identity protection. This they have demonstrated and continue to uphold.

While we were all at home at the peak of COVID-19, these security agencies were out there protecting us. A little act of kindness, like the provision of non-pharmaceutical interventions such as face mask, hand sanitisers and whatever we have to encourage them is all they need to let them know how much we cherish and appreciate their good work. As stated earlier, it is true that few bad eggs may have soiled the image of the force with adversarial behaviour. However, it will be an unfair judgment to slam all policemen with the paintbrush of bad eggs.

Our state Abia is really becoming extremely unconducive for criminal elements to perform their evil enterprises. The tempo can be sustained if all citizens offer maximum support by knowing who their neighbours are and what they do. Well-to-do individuals as well as corporate bodies can assist by donating patrol vehicles so that security can be enhanced in our society. Alhaji Aliko Dangote and others have set the pace in this regard.

Office equipment such as tables, computers, to pens and rulers can be a very significant support in helping the police serve us better.
Lastly, security is the duty of everyone and we must not lose our guard by leaving it at the doorstep of the Police, Army, Civil Defence, Immigration, Customs etc alone. A peaceful, secured and safe society can only be made possible when the people own their security.

Ifeanyi Okali writes from Ohafia, Abia state.

OkomuOil: Endangering Okomu National Park and Edo future

Tony Erha

Since about 35 years of a troubled existence as a former Wildlife Sanctuary and now Okomu National Park (ONP), the inestimable conservation enclave hadn’t suffered deadly violations as had been unleashed on it by the Okomu Oil Palm Company PLC (OkomuOil for short), under over two decades of tenacious stay by Dr. Graham Hefer as its Managing Director.

Surely, conservationists and villagers of the host communities of ONP, OkomuOil and others would readily be flabbergasted that Hefer, a South African immigrant to Nigeria, had supervised the extensive plundering of ONP by OkomuOil, a gigantic multinational plantation firm and Nigerian franchise of Socfin, the Octopus agro-allied conglomerate which was originated in faraway Belgium and Luxembourg in Europe.

Indeed, the plundering by the Hefer’s OkomuOil had encouraged the selfsame loggers and poachers, who Hefer, recently turned around to condemn as the real violators of the park.

Through choreographed and monotonous insertions of a news item that competed for choice spaces in the Nigerian media, Hefer, in a rather sanctimonious overcook attempted to misinform the public and whitewash his company. Titled “Another Lucky Elephant Rescued For National Park By Okomu Oil Palm PLC”, it added a sub-title, “…MD calls on Govt. to rescue Park and forest reserve from illegal loggers, total lack of law”.

Hefer was said to have “led a team of his staff to rescue a second elephant on behalf of the Okomu National Park, the first being in October 3, 2019”. He also appealed to “the Nigerian Government and other relevant authorities to rescue the Park and forest reserves from illegal loggers and others who have cultivated the habit of desecrating the natural habitat”.

ONP is a globally acclaimed conservation centre and valuable ecotourism destination, managed by the National Park Service (NPS), a Federal Government’s agency.

ONP is the last vestige of a (“protected”?) lowland rainforest habitat; the smallest in size amongst the old seven national parks, until recently when more of the parks were created. The park 200 sq. km by size and is situated at Okomu-Udo, in Ovia South West Local Government Area of Edo State, on about 50 minutes road distance from Benin City, the state capital. It is very rich in biodiversity and other attractions, with the said endangered African Lowland Rainforest Elephant (Loxodonta Africanna cyclotis), as one of its unique fauna flagships.

The wakeup call by Hefer though suitable, appeared lacking, coming from OkomuOil, a conservation-unfriendly business concern and a boss, who professes to love ONP and nature conservation principles, but soon reverses to do the opposite. Once beaten twice shy. If after confessing to conservation niceties and the overriding need of protecting the park in the past, OkomuOil sooner go ahead to plunder the same, what is the exactness to trusting the latest display of fickle love by its boss?

Firstly, it was outright falsehood that the multinational company “saved a distressed Elephant for the park on October 3, 2019”. Instead and evidently, OkomuOil was serially condemned by a preponderant public and a key civil society group, the Coalition Against Landgrabbing and Deforestation (CALD), after a thorough investigation that workers of the company did attacked with cutlasses and cudgels, the said Elephant, which strayed into its newest plantations, the original home and wandering range and buffers of the park, which the company had grabbed and converted into oil palm plantation. This led to the death of the Elephant at the park’s quarantine, where it received medication. (“Okomu National Park’s Elephant” ThisDay: December 7, 2019: 12/07/okomu-national-park-elephant/)

Dr. Heifer as the boss, brought about the ‘casual workers’ rule, where thousands of OkomuOil’s workforce, especially the unskilled, are hazardously employed by contractors. They are un-gainfully employed, even without ‘pensions’ and willfully sacked, as against the labour laws. The army of sacked and new casual workers, who swell the population of the host communities, easily resort poaching in the park and illegal logging, where the company fails to train them to imbibe conservation principles and support the park.

Again, Dr. Hefer was off-point that the recent Elephant was trapped in the mud, inside the park, as he sought for praises over its exaggerated accounts of helping the park’s management to bring the bulldozers and other earth moving equipment to rescue the Elephant! Was the Elephant a mountain to be bulldozed? A photograph clip of the endangered Elephant would purely show that it wasn’t stuck in a pit in the park, but one bulldozed and not de-silted by OkomuOil, on the same land it had grabbed and turned into a new plantation. Instructively, there are no bulldozed pits in the park’s main land.

Revealingly, OkomuOil had been the most violator of the park and plunderer of the park and Edo forest reserves. For instance, a tiny stream is all that separates the park and the old oil palm plantation of the company (to the left from its main entrance), making the open to poaching by its workers.

If not grandstanding, how come that Hefer, who assisted the company to grab and convert over 16,000 hectares of the original designate land areas and buffers of the park, that it bought from the Iyayi Group of Companies, is the same accusing others of desecrating the park? If Hefer and his company want to be taken seriously for making genuine and redemptory outbursts, they should hand over to the park and the host communities of Okomu forest and the Owan forest zone the 13,750 hectares of lands, which Iyayi sold to it, wherein about 8,000 hectares of the land revoked by Sdo State Government, was from Okomu forest reserve. (See Edo State Government of Nigeria Gazette No. 16 Vol. 19 (page 48-50), published on 5th November, 2015)

Irrefutably, OkomuOil is the single largest driver of land-grabbing, deforestation and livelihood loss in Edo State, regarded as the highest incidence of the just-mentioned threesome scourges, amongst the 36 states of the Nigeria country. Of the total 1081 sq. km land area of the now depleted Okomu Forest Reserve, that was the largest rainforest reserve in Nigeria, OkomuOil alone had the rare benefit of having been ceded with vast land areas and the other vastness it had grabbed from it, in addition to the over 16,000 hectares of Iyayi’s grab.

Had the state government properly catalogued and protected Okomu and other forest reserve estates of the state, OkomuOil would not cash in on the loophole to grab and destroy Okomu and the threesome forest reserves of Ehor, Owan and Ora-Iueleha-Ozalla (sometimes called Owan Forest Zone), thereby causing acute deforestation and livelihood losses to the villagers, the land owners.

Which other forestry laws did Dr. Hefer want government to establish, when he exhibits daylight impunity, by his refusal to obey existing state and federal laws, with his company’s slipshod operations in Okomu locale and Owan forest zone, where it had forcibly established its so called Okomu PLC Oil Palm Extension II? And isn’t a sheer mockery of the Nigerian jurisprudence, which tended to prostrate to the whims and caprices of a foreigner, on Nigeria soil? Has Nigeria submitted her sovereignty to him?

Why did Okomu Oil often ridicule and ignore the Environmental Impact Assessment Law, especially by disobeying severally directives from the Federal Ministry of Environment, on two letters to Dr. Hefer, by the Environment Minister dated 8th January, 2014 (Ref: FMEnv/EA/ 2712/Vol.1/82 and the other dated 22nd December, 2015 (Ref: No FMEnv.123:271/Vol.1/28), that it must follow the due processes of acquiring the Owan forest lands? Is it not shameful that OkomuOil now parades the same EIA certification, even though it burgled the due process?

Yet, OkomuOil craves for lofty praises over its tokenistic or mere cosmetic activities, which it often amplifies as justifiable Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) offers to the park and host communities, despite excessive annual dividends from its huge investments in oil palm and rubber plantations, premised on the forest reserves, including the gigantic processing industry situated in Okomu forest.

Amusingly, Hefer, in the same media commentary flaunted the Roundtable Sustainable Palm (RSPO) certification as authorization to commit such heinous atrocities against the ONP treasure and poor Edo communities, in the same manner of the outlaw Apartheid of Dr. Hefer’s South Africa, where lands are still wrested from the local owners, by fastidious settlers.

Alas, the OkomuOil boss had also audaciously poked to our faces that a certain Billy Ghansah, a Ghanaian and Operational Director that goaded the grabbing of lands from the Owan Forest Zone, is the same who had also been recruited to obliterate the Okomu National Park, so that the company’s oil palm and rubber trees could take over the sacred land.

Those who destroy a global monument, like the priceless Okomu National Park, grab and terminate the people’s land heritage are destroyers of their pride and future.

Tony Erha, a journalist, conservationist and Forest Certifier of the International Tropical Timber Organisation (ITTO), writes from Benin City, Edo State.

Abia State Govt shuts down pry school in Nnamdi Kanu’s community over bomb scare

Abia State Government has closed down Union Primary School, in Afaraukwu, Umuahia North of Abia State, the home community of Nnamdi Kanu. The action became necessary owing to a bomb scare in the school.

According to a statement signed by Chief John Okiyi Kalu, the state Commissioner for Information, the Government is currently working with relevant security agencies in the state to unravel the source and nature of suspected explosive devices found at the school.

He said “While initial examination of the devices show evidence of corrosion leading to suspicion of the materials being relics of the civil war era, we are awaiting definite official report from the EOD squad of the Nigeria Police who are currently investigating the incident.

“Meanwhile, necessary measures have been taken to protect the pupils and staff of the school with security sweeps ongoing while the school is temporarily closed.

“Governor Okezie Ikpeazu has directed security agencies to embark on proactive checks in other vulnerable locations out of abundance of caution.

“While we are grateful to God that there is no harm to life or property, we urge citizens and residents to continue to maintain vigilance and report suspicious situations to security agents”.

Recall that the state government recently declared a dusk to dawn curfew in the metropolitan towns of Aba, Umuahia, Ohafia and Arochukwu in the state due to the rising cases of insecurity in the geopolitical zone.

FG Counters Edo State Govt, Says National Sports Festival To Continue

The Federal Government has dismissed that the ongoing National Sports Festival taking place in Edo State will continue.

Recall that the Local Organising Committee of the sports festival had announced on Wednesday night that the game will ‘abruptly’ end today (Thursday) owing to paucity of funds.

But the Federal Government on Thursday morning dismissed the position of the LOC, saying the festival had just been flagged off, and will continue as planned.

In a statement signed by Assistant Director Press, Ministry of Youth and Sports Development, Ramon Balogun, countered the position of the Edo State government.

The statement read, “The Ministry of Youth and Sports Development has clarified that the 20th National Sports Festival, Edo 2020, is going on as planned with competitions going on as scheduled.

“The Ministry and the Main Organizing Committee for the festival are unaware of any plans or threat by the Edo State Government to shut down the sports festival as there has been no official meeting or communication that relayed such information.

“The Honorable Minister, Permanent Secretary and Directors are on ground in Benin City where the Festival is holding, and it is expected that the Edo State Government would formally invite the Ministry for a meeting should any urgency exist around the National Sports Festival or communicate officially with the Main Organizing Committee for the festival. The Ministry has no such communication.

“For the records, the Edo State government due to the cost implications of postponements occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic requested financial assistance from the Federal government through the Ministry of Youth and Sports Development.

“The Ministry has since been at work to secure the financial assistance which it believes is being processed. The MYSD and EDSG are determined to deliver a successful National Sports Festival.”

Breaking: LOC set to end Edo National Sports Festival for lack of funds

Barring any further change of plans, the ongoing National Sports Festival, Edo 2020, may be called off at noon tomorrow.

This is coming barely 24-hours after a lavished opening ceremony was held in Benin, Edo State capital.

In a statement released Wednesday night by the Project Manager, Media & Communications, Edo 2020, Ebomhiana Musa the local organising committee said it no longer had funds to prosecute the festival.

“The Local Organising Committee, Edo2020 regrets to announce that it will end the games abruptly tomorrow, Thursday, April 8, 2021 for lack of funds,” the statement noted.

Musa in the statement said the decision to discontinue with the Festival was taken at an emergency meeting held Wednesday evening.

The Committee said it had to take this hard decision due to lack of funds having expended its reserves to kick start the games.

It said the federal government had not redeemed its pledge to support the host state financially for the cost of postponements.

“So, we are left with no option than to end the games at noon tomorrow,” Musa noted.

Airline firms encouraging passengers to fly without IDs could lead to serious security issues in Nigeria–Patrick Eholor

NSA Babagana Monguno, Min of Aviation Hadi Sirika and Eholor

Frontline civil society activist, Comrade Patrick Eholor has expressed worry over the illegal hoarding and hiking of airline tickets by airport and airlines staff.

Eholor, who said the development was very dangerous and could jeopardize the security of travelers and even that of the country, said the ticketing offices at airports sell off tickets to themselves with fictitious names, only to resell them at extortionary rates to passengers without verified identities.

Eholor who narrated his own experience while traveling from Abuja to Benin, said terrorists could take advantage of the development to hijack aircrafts and even engage in suicide bombings with planes loaded with passengers.

He therefore called on the National Security Adviser Babagana Monguno, as well as the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika to as a matter of urgency, address the problem before it endangers the lives of travelers.

His words: “I was supposed to return to Benin with a one way ticket, as I was coming to Benin from Abuja this morning. When I called, a ticket that’s supposed to be sold for N35,000 have been hiked to N140,000 and N200,000 respectively.

“What they are doing is to compile fictitious names and use them to buy off all the tickets. After buying them, it becomes scarce, and when you come in, they will tell you there is no ticket available.

“This development has been ongoing in the Nigerian airlines industry, and everyone is keeping mute, but for the sake of the international community and people in diaspora, we have a lot banditry, armed robbery, Boko Haram and insurgency.

“If the criminal elements take up this development, Nigeria is finished. This is because people are buying tickets with anonymous names and traveling with them. The airline authorities don’t check IDs anymore. People are checking in with lighters, people are checking in with firearms, and the airport authorities don’t care. What they care about is the money. They don’t know who is flying in their planes. We won’t want what happened in 9/11 to happen in Nigeria, God forbid.

“Our national security system have been infiltrated by bandits, Fulani herdsmen and other criminals.

“I am crying out once again, I don’t want to be the Nostradamus of our time. So the national security adviser need to wake up and check what’s happening on our airlines and ensure there is safety of passengers against possible hijack or bombing.

“They must investigate and find out those who are boarding our aircrafts without IDs, and those who are selling tickets to them without finding out who they are or what their identities are, for the sake of money.

“Passengers must carry verifiable identities like the national ID card or international passports. Enough is enough.

“What they are doing is very dangerous, and I am calling out that something must be done about it on time. If we do not value our own lives, we should just be aware that there are Americans flying our planes locally, there are also Europeans traveling in Nigeria.

“Our National Security Adviser must be aware of this, the FBI must be aware of this, the CIA must be aware of this, the military and police intelligence must be aware of this, and this development must be terminated now.

“I am a frequent flyer, our security operatives at the airports are so porous, and this need to be checked now”,he warned.